and I still got the woman, Lord, I'm so awe-struck.
To have a good time dancing 'round here.
When I was walking round in a whiskey fog?
How'd she still love me when I was broke down?
got me a Bible, got me some worth,
Why, it's the best feeling down here on earth!
Got a good God, and those stars flung from His hand.
"I brought plenty of water if your son gets thirsty," Colton offered. "How's this?" He set his
He did notice a new kid. He was hard to miss when he made a spectacular play at first base and hit a triple. She seemed to be cheering for him. The boy did have the same color of hair. In fact, he might be the one who his Emmet had mentioned he wanted to hang out with.
"I can feel my desperation to get away from your ribbing," he groused.
"Go on. Go sit by her. It looks like she needs a friend," Blake urged.
"You go sit by her then," Colton growled.
"I can't. I'm married. But if my Sally were here, she'd go sit by her. It's too bad she's working today. It's a shame all these other women would rather gossip about her than talk to her. They've always been jealous of her flawless beauty and even more flawless character." Blake sighed like it was the most terrible thing in the world to leave Sarah by her lonesome.
"You said it. She's flawless. Always has been. Always will be. Me? I'm the polar opposite."
"Here's five bucks that says you won't go over there and sit by her, buddy. What do you say?"
"Make it ten and you're on." Colton glanced back over at her.
"Okay, ten and I'll buy pizza for us all after the game," Blake grinned.
"You're on!" Colton sighed.
Though Colton no longer gambled at cards, the two friends often bet each other on little things just like when they were kids. It was just a thing they did.
"Wish me luck. I'm going in." Colton took a deep breath, folded up his chair and walked directly over to where the woman sat.
"Do you mind if I sit here"
"It doesn't matter to me one way or the other," she said without looking at him. Then when she glanced his way she said, "Colton? I didn't realize it was you."
"Do you mind then?" He had paused while setting up his chair.
"No, not at all."
"So which one is yours?" he asked her.
"He's playing first base. His name is Rem, short for Remington."
"Nice name. That was a great play he made earlier. He also can really hit well too. I'm sure the team is glad to have him along this year."
"So, which one is yours? Wait, let me guess...the pitcher, last game?"
"Yeah, now he's playing second base. But how did you guess?"
"I noticed his determined look before he let loose with his pitch. Something looked familiar, but I didn't place it until I saw you here."
"A determined look, huh. I guess you saw that a time or two when I was determined to get you to go out with me."
She laughed. He couldn't believe she laughed. It made her face almost radiant. He wished it could be his one goal in life to make her laugh, but of course that wasn't really possible.
"I guess I was really terrible to you way back then."
"Uh, yeah. I still have scars on my heart from all the times you refused me flat out."
"Yeah, right. You never had a short supply of girls to date."
"But none of them were you," he said softly.
"Thanks. Sometimes a girl needs to hear a kind word," she said, but she wasn't smiling any more.
He wondered what had broken her heart. It made him clinch his fists. But just then someone on the other team hit a home run over the fence. "Wow, you don't see that every day." The game was tied up.
"That's Rem's goal, to hit one over someday," she confided.
"I think it's every kids dream who loves baseball," he said. "I know I always wanted to. It makes me wonder if I hadn't been drinking so much or sucking on those cigarettes, if I would have been in better shape to hit one out. My downward spiral was already beginning my senior year. I still don't know how I graduated. I'm glad you never let me date you. I wasn't worth it back then."
"And you are now?" She was seeking what was inside him now by giving him a piercing look.
He did not look away. "I hope I'm a better man now. No, I know I'm a better man now, thanks to God. I've been clean and sober for three years, but wasted a lot of years before that. I'm just glad my kid still likes me."
"I'm glad to hear that. It means a lot to a young man to have his father take an active interest in his life. I wish Rem...never mind."
"You wish Rem's dad took more of an interest in him? Is that what you were going to say?" He glanced down at her hand. She was not wear a wedding ring. So, we're both divorced, I guess.
I never thought we'd end up like this, did you?"
"No. Marriage was supposed to be forever." She gave a disgusted laugh.
"I'm sorry yours didn't, for Rem's sake as well as for yourself." Colton went on, "I earned my divorce. I was a terrible husband. She put up with a lot before she got rid of me."
"Who did you marry?"
He remembered how his ex-wife would needle Sarah and make fun of her for not running with the crowd. "I guess she wasn't very nice to you back then. Wow, I haven't thought of high school this much since we were there. I guess seeing you today has brought it back. I must say, you look even prettier now, though I don't know how that can be because I always thought you the most beautiful person I'd ever seen." He hadn't meant to say that. What was in his mind just slipped out. Now she'd probably put up her barriers like she used to.
"Thanks again, Colton. I guess you're making my day. I don't hear that kind of talk much any more."
"Well, you should because it's true," he said in the gravel of his voice looking down, too sheepish to look up at her.
She yelled out just then to her son who caught a hard hit ball toward first base.
"That was a great catch. Your Rem is a player!" Sarah looked over at him and smiled with a light in her eyes. He went on, "You remember Blake, don't you? He's the one who led me back from the gutter to a relationship with God." Colton kept the conversation going.
"Yeah, I remember you two were close friends."
"Well, he's taking Emmet and I out for pizza after the game. I wonder if you and Rem would want to go with us. I know my son has mentioned wanting to hang out with Rem. I just didn't know he was your son. I guess they have several classes together."
"Sure," she looked at him cautiously. "If Rem's up for it. Who did Blake end up marrying?"
"You remember Sally? She got called into work today, but is usually here cheering Max on even if he's sitting in the dugout the whole game."
"Sally was always nice. I liked her. She was a grade behind us, wasn't she?"
"Yeah, something like that. She's sure stood by her man. They even act like they like each other now and then."
"That must be nice," Sarah said under her breath.
Colton knew this wasn't the time, but he wanted to hear Sarah's story. All he could muster now was, "I was sorry to hear about your sister Emily. I can't imagine how tough that must have been."
"It doesn't get much tougher. But thanks for saying that. It helps to know others remember her too. I miss her."
They both were quiet for awhile. It was a lot to process seeing each other again.
As soon as the game was over, Colton sprinted over to Blake. "The bets off. Don't you dare say anything about it cause she's going to pizza with us. That's all the winning I care about right now."
Blake punched him in the shoulder. "Way to go, dude. I'll buy the pizza and you can get the sodas."
It was a surprisingly comfortable time with all of them visiting. The boys sure seemed like they hit it off as a trio of buddies. He even overheard Rem telling his mother, "I like Max. Even though he does get much play time, he's always cheering us on. And Emmet, he's just cool."
Colton glanced over after that and saw she was wiping away a tear.
"Are you alright," he whispered?
"Yes, just so very grateful. This was a tough move for Rem to make away from where his dad lives and from all his old friends, but your boys are making it so much better for him. I'm just thankful."
"Say, Blake and I go to the Harvest Fellowship. If you don't have a church yet, you'd be welcome. Our boys love the youth group there. It would give Rem a chance to meet some other good kids too."
"Maybe we'll try it. We've visited around, but haven't settled on any one church yet," she said.
"Max, we got to go. Your mom will be home soon," Blake said as he picked up what was left of the pizza in one box."
"Thank you for the pizza, Blake. It was nice catching up with you and meeting your son."
"Sure thing. I know Sally will be anxious to see you again. She always liked you," he said. "Maybe we can all go to a Giants game sometime."
"I know our boys would all really like that." She sounded agreeable.
Blake winked at Colton behind her back and put his thumb up in the air. After they were gone, Rem begged his mom, "Can Emmet come over tonight? We want to play video games."
"I don't know..."
"His dad can come over too," he said grinning looking between Colton and his mom.
"Sure, we'd love to come over, if it's okay with you, Sarah," he added. He just had jumped in with both feet hoping he wouldn't get shot down.
Sarah hesitated for a moment and his heart sank. Then she said, "Sure." She gave him her address and her phone number so he could add it in his phone. She actually took his as well saying, "You never know when the players' parents might need to contact each other."
Colton didn't care. He didn't know when he'd been so happy.
As the two guys played on the game system in Rem's room, Sarah and Colton got passed the nervous stuttered conversation as it gradually turned into a natural flow. Colton told the longer version of his story, of his months in rehab and his conversion. How fortunately his business was safe in Blake's hands, his partner. Their nursery and landscaping business had grown with the housing boom. Even when that slowed, by then they had enough commercial contracts to keep them busy. But how his wife had found someone else by then.
"But enough about me. I want to know about you, Sarah. Life has been hard, hasn't it?"
"After the divorce, I needed to move back home to my dad's house to help make ends meet. He's gone over half the year in his motorhome anyway. Eventually I'm going to need to go back to work. My insurance will be running out soon, and I can't do without that." She nervously ran her finger around the rim of her water glass before opening up more. "When my sister got sick, we found out she carried the same gene as our mother. I was found to have the inherited gene mutation as well. I'm just glad I have a son and don't have to worry about passing this horrible thing down to a daughter."
Colton's heart about pounded out of his chest. He couldn't bear to think of her with cancer. "What does that mean for you?"
She took a deep breath and then said it. "The doctor advised me if I wanted to live to raise Remington, I needed to have a bi-lateral mastectomy as a preventative measure. So that's what I chose even though my husband said he would divorce me if I did, that he couldn't love me if I was mutilated like that, that I wouldn't be a whole woman anymore, that I was disgusting to even consider it. He was gone as soon as my surgery was scheduled. I'm pretty sure he already had his next, more perfect woman picked out. My dad had to come to be there for Rem and me, even though I hated to put him through it for the third time having lost my mother and my sister already. Wow, I haven't told this to anyone else. So there's my sad tale. I'm no longer the whole package, you see. End of story."
Since he couldn't go punch her ex in the face, he wanted to go over and put his arms round her, but it was too soon. So he clenched his fists instead.
As she sat on the edge of the couch, Sarah was bent over hugging herself tightly as in grief. "So what you see is fake, just form-fitting foam, just so you know. They are gone. So far I haven't opted for reconstructive surgery. I'm waiting for the results of my last scan to make sure I'm cancer free before I decide what to do."
"Sarah, I don't know how that creep can live with himself and still call himself a man. A real man would never run out on you. You deserve so much better than that."
"I don't know about that. I guess it's fairly common among those who go through it to get divorced. He said that men prefer an unaltered female landscape, shall we say. It's just how it is. I'm resolved to it. My dad's been great, but he's getting older. I'm glad he's out having some fun on the road with his friends away from my drama for awhile. Rem's been great too. It does my heart good to see him just have fun tonight. So thanks for letting Emmet come over."
"I wasn't so much thinking about the boys having a good time as I wanted to spend time with you, Sarah."
She wouldn't look at him, but her cheeks were flushed. "Well, I'm certainly not the pick of the litter anymore, Colt." A tear escaped. "I hate this! I hate crying."
He loved that she called him Colt. No one ever had but her. That was it. He put down his glass of water and went over and pulled her to her feet. "Hey." He wrapped his arms around her and just held her. At first she was stiff, but then relaxed. That's when her tears really came. Just soft crying, but he felt it shudder clear through her small body.
The scent of gardenia was heady as his nose was tickled by her hair. Instead he buried his hands in it. This was the stuff of his dreams, being able to hold her, but it was so much more. Sarah had been devastated and not just physically. Her ex-husband had done a number on her worse than a back alley hit. Her bruises were all on the inside. It was her heart that had barely survived.
"I got a message before the game that my doctor wants me to come back in to go over the results of my scan. I'm scared, Colt."
"Let me go with you."
She shook her head. "No, I can't ask that of you." She pushed him away.
"Okay, don't ask, I just offered. I'm going with you," he said with his arms crossed and his feet wide apart in a determined stance, unless you have someone else..."
She shook her head and looked away. It's just my dad now, and he's out of the state. Then she searched his face. "Why? Why would you go with me?"
He could tell that she was afraid it was just pity. "Oh Sarah, you don't know how honored I am to be your friend, how long I've waited for you to let me get that close." Now he could feel his neck getting red, so he rubbed it.
"For reals," he grinned. "And I must admit that I still think you are hot!"
There he went again running off at the mouth. That would shut her down now, he was afraid. But instead her mouth hung open.
"You are crazy, Colt. Absolutely crazy."
"I've always been crazy about you, Sarah. But I've never stayed sober long enough to step up to the plate before. This is my chance."
"I can see you are still as determined as ever, only I don't have it in me to fight you about it like I used to. In fact, I don't want to fight you at all." Sarah allowed a small smile to creep slowly up on her face. "Sure. I'd love to have you come with me. I 'll have to get back to you on the time, though after I call them on Monday morning."
"Wow, I finally get a date with Sarah Hightower." He made a fist in the air, one of victory.
She laughed. That was quickly becoming his favorite sound in the world.
But Colton had to tear himself away. "I've kept you up late enough. We better leave." He walked over to the stairs and called up, "Emmet, we have to go home. I need to let the poor dog out."
"Remember, I let her out when I ran by the house to change before we went out for pizza. But, yeah, I'm sure she needs to go out again. Let me just save my settings first."
Colton turned to her saying, "She's the only female in our household, so we try to be considerate gentlemen as you can see." He winked.
"If it's anything like the royal treatment you are giving me, I'm sure she thinks she's the queen."
"She does think she rules the household. I got her for a hunting dog, but she's gun shy. So she decided she'd rather sit on her coach potato throne."
He had slipped his hand around her waist without thinking, so when the boys came down the stairs, they stared and then elbowed each other.
Emmet only said, "See you tomorrow in church, Rem."
"Sure. We'll be there."
"I guess that settles it," Sarah said with an easy smile that seemed to chase her worries away And with that, she shocked him with a hug.
That melted like butter on a hot biscuit into her soul. She'd never thought of it in light of facing cancer. What was on the outside wasn't nearly as important as what was on the inside. She could have an imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit even if she felt like she was perishing, like her sister Emily had--that imperishable spirit while she perished. That was precious in God's sight. She had kept her hidden person of her heart, hidden because of fear, because of rejection. It was like today God gave led her out to the light that made her eyes blink in its sudden brightness.