A splinter pinched the back of Pete’s thigh as he shifted on the bench. Twisting his toe into the dirt, a small cloud of dust poofed up and settled over his cleat. The crowd stomping their feet in the bleachers pounded in his skull, rattling his brain.
Pete stood and stretched his hands up to run his fingers along the roof, then leaned forward against the rail of the dugout. Eye level with the field, he focused on the Dragons pitcher. Had to give it to the guy. Mark’s form was impeccable. Pitching hand resting behind his back as he planned his pitch. Never letting the batter rattle him.
Shifting his view to the catcher, Pete watched to see what pitch he recommended. There it was, the sign for a low, inside ball. Mark’s signature play when he was nervous. Pete chuckled. Same old Mark from high school ball.
“Hey, Petey, how’s it feel?” Matt spit his chew into the trash at the edge of the dugout and bumped his shoulder against Pete’s.
“How’s what feel?” Pete turned in time to see the smirk on Matt’s face.
“Pitching against your old teammate? Didn’t he recently steal your girl?”
The umpire’s voice roared from the field. “Strike three. You’re out.”
“That applies to you, too, Matt.” Pete grabbed his mitt and followed Matt onto the field.
Matt stopped and punched Pete’s arm. “I can see why she chose him over you. Dude’s a beast. If it were me, I’d bean him next pitch.”
Pete clenched his jaw. He pushed Matt to the ground and stalked to the pitcher’s mound.
At home base, Mark dug his toe into the dirt, setting his stance. He swung the bat up to his shoulder.
“Bean him. Right on his pretty little head. Teach him and her both a lesson.” Matt hissed the words as he trotted past the mound to first.
Pete shut the words out of his brain. He shuffled the ball in his hand until the threads rested beneath his fingers.
“You got this, Marky Baby! Knock it outta the park.”
There she was. Pete’s heart beat a rapid rhythm against his chest. How dare she wear the pink sweater he bought her? The soft fabric molded her curves. Her brown hair swung in a ponytail. Stop it, Pete. Let her go.
Mark blew a kiss to April. He turned back to Pete and geared up for the pitch.
I ought to wipe that smile off his stupid face. Sweat dripped from Pete’s brow, stung his eye. A vein pulsed in his temple. The threads of the ball dug into his fingers.
“Do it!” The words wafted over from first base.
He’d given April everything she ever wanted. Took her the places she loved. How could she dump him for that loser?
The crowd chanted. “Do it. Do it. Do it.”
“Come on, Pete. Whatcha waitin’ for?” Mark yelled.
“Do it.” Matt yelled.
Pink flashed up in the crowd. “Home run, Marky Baby.”
“As soon as he does it, sweetie.” Mark tossed the words over his shoulder.
Released the ball.
Dropped his glove and walked off the field.