Authors: Matt Christopher
The only bad thing about the game was that neither her mom nor Ryan Randall had been there to see her triumph. “Figures,”
Kelly muttered to herself as she saw her mom’s station wagon pull up to the curb to pick her up. “I have a great game, and
they miss it. I mess up, and they’re right there to see the whole thing.”
But she couldn’t be too upset. Not today. Even though she’d struck out three times, it hadn’t mattered. They’d won, and she’d
been the hero. Even
more important, with a record of 4–2, it looked like the Diamondbacks might even have a future.
Her mom was positively glowing, and for a moment Kelly thought it was because of her good news about the game. But no, her
mom had something entirely different on her mind, as it turned out. “Honey,” she said, biting her lip to keep from overflowing
with pleasure, “I’ve got some news — big news. Are you ready?”
“Um …what?” Kelly asked warily.
“Ken and I have been growing closer, as you probably know….”
“Well, we’ve talked it over — and …well, you see, he’s living in this little apartment that’s way too expensive, and we thought
“Don’t tell me he’s moving in with us,” Kelly said, a lump of dread rising in her throat.
“Now, don’t be like that,” her mom pleaded. “He’s a wonderful man, and he loves me very much. And I love him.”
“Well, I don’t,” Kelly countered. “And I don’t want him living with us!”
“Kelly, honey, it’s not really your decision.”
“Why not?” Kelly challenged. “Don’t I get a vote?”
“I’m afraid not. Not this time. You’ll get used to it in time….”
“I will not!”
“You’ll just have to, Kelly. You’re being stubborn and contrary, and this is not up to you. You are not the parent —”
“If he’s moving in, I’m moving out!” Kelly shouted, banging her fist on the dashboard. “I’m going to call Dad!”
“Fine,” her mother said. “Call whomever you want. But if you think your dad is going to have anything to say about this, you’re
wrong. And don’t get the idea you’re going to go live with him. Aside from the fact that he’s never around, it would mean
changing schools and your whole routine. No way.”
The two of them fell into a simmering, angry silence. Kelly searched her brain for a solution, but she kept coming up empty.
Her good mood after the game was totally gone now. The moment her mom pulled into the driveway, Kelly got out and hopped onto
her bike. She didn’t know where she was going, and she didn’t care so long as it was away from home.
“You’re not gonna win this one, Kel,” Sue Jeffers advised her. “I mean, I sympathize and all, but there’s no way you can go
live with your dad. You know that.”
Kelly sniffed back the tears that wouldn’t stop coming. The two friends were sitting on Sue’s front stoop, and Sue had her
arm around Kelly, trying in vain to comfort her.
“I hate them so much!” Kelly fumed. “Grown-ups really bite.”
“I know, I know,” Sue said sympathetically.
“If I have to live with them, I’m going to make them wish they’d never met each other.”
“I wouldn’t go there, Kelly. Bad plan.”
“Why? What’s so bad about making them miserable?”
“Because if they’re miserable, they’re only going to make you even more miserable, that’s what.” Sue brushed Kelly’s red hair
out of her eyes. “Look, I tried that tactic once with my mom, when that guy Harry moved in. The construction guy — remember
him? Anyway, making them miserable turned out to be a bad idea. Harry moved out after a couple of months, and my mom blamed
me for it. She’s been resenting me ever since. It’s gotten so bad, I’ve
started looking out for potential boyfriends for her. Is that pathetic, or what?”
Sue gave her a smile. “Come on, Ken’s probably not as bad as all that. Hey, look at the bright side. He’s Ryan Randall’s dad,
“So, Ryan’s pretty cute, if you ask me. I mean, you could introduce me….”
“Forget it,” Kelly said, but she couldn’t help cracking a smile.
“Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed.”
“Okay, so he’s cute. That’s not what’s important. What’s important is that I have to put up with his stupid father night and
“Not necessarily forever,” Sue corrected her. “Besides, if it does work out with him and your mom, at least she’ll be happy.
Happy parents are much more generous with their kids. It’s a proven scientific fact.”
“Get out of here,” Kelly said, giggling and giving Sue a little shove.
Sue pretended to fall over, but she was laughing,
too. “Hey, I hear you can pitch windmill,” she said. “When did this happen?”
“At camp, over the break,” Kelly confessed. “Don’t tell anyone, though. Only the coach knows I learned that at softball camp.”
“Why lie about it?” Sue asked. But when Kelly sighed and rolled her eyes, she said, “Okay, okay, I won’t say anything. You
want to look like a phenom, far be it from me to spoil your party. Promise me one thing, though.”
“When we play you again, you’ve got to forgive me if I hit one out on you.”
Kelly grinned, feeling like herself again. “You won’t even see the ball,” she promised Sue.
“True,” Kelly insisted. “You wait and see.”
“Fine,” Sue said, getting up. “Look, you’d better get home.”
“I guess you’re right. Thanks for humoring me.”
“De nada,” Sue said. “And like I said, give Ken a chance. Try being friendly with him, even if you can’t stand him.”
“I’ll try,” Kelly promised. “But you’ll see. Once a jerk, always a jerk.”
elly rode home, determined to make an effort to be agreeable. Sue might be right, or she might be wrong. But Kelly could see
that her mom was determined to have Ken move in with them, and that being a brat about it would not get her anywhere.
She didn’t have to like him, after all. She only had to share space with him. And as long as he stayed out of her hair and
didn’t try to be her dad, she would behave herself. At least, she would try.
He was there when she got back. He and her mom were putting the finishing touches on dinner. Kelly acted like nothing had
happened, and she noticed that her mom seemed relieved and didn’t take her to task about her tantrum in the car. As for Ken,
he acted like nothing had happened, pretending that everything was hunky-dory.
Kelly told them how good the food smelled, and
then got busy helping to set the table. The look of gratitude on her mom’s face was totally pathetic, but it gave Kelly a
twisted sense of being in control. But when she invited them to watch her next softball game, they acted so enthusiastic it
made her soften a little — though she didn’t let them see that.
The team’s next game was against the Indians, a team that was much improved from last year. Like the D’backs, they had a 4–2
record, and they were loaded with promising sixth-graders. Kelly took the mound, determined to shut down their much talked-about
The first three batters to face her went down swinging. Kelly strode back to the bench as if nothing had happened, as if she
did this kind of thing every day of her life. She could hear her mom and Ken cheering her on, but she didn’t acknowledge them.
It gave her deep satisfaction to know she was on top of her game again, even if it was in a totally different way than before.
“Hey, we’ve got us a windmill wizard!” Coach Beigelman crowed, slapping her on the back. “Give it up for Kelly, you guys!”
Everyone slapped her five. Now it was time for the D’backs to go to work and score some runs.
Leading off, Kyla Sutton managed to work out a walk. That brought Allie Warheit to the plate. By now, the whole league obviously
knew about her hitting ability, because the Indians’ pitcher stayed away from the plate, walking Allie on four pitches to
get to Kelly.
That made Kelly mad. So now they were intentionally walking a sixth-grader to get to her? Well, she’d show them! Kelly strode
to the plate determined to drive the runners in, with a long home run if possible.
The first pitch was in the dirt, but Kelly was all geared up, and she swung over the top of it. The second pitch was over
her head, but again she went after it. Kelly could feel her frustration level rising as the blood rose to her cheeks, showing
the world how embarrassed she felt.
The pitcher wound up and threw her a change-up. Kelly was way out in front and hit a soft dribbler in front of the plate.
The catcher picked it up and threw to third for one out. Then the third baseman flipped it to second for a double play.
Kelly was so stunned that she forgot to run out the hit. By the time she made it to first, the ball had beaten her there.
Kelly flung her helmet to the ground in disgust. She’d single-handedly killed her team’s big first-inning rally! It had to
be the first triple play in league history, and she knew everyone would be talking about it for months to come.
She didn’t dare look into the stands to see how her mom and Ken were reacting. And she shook off Coach Beigelman’s encouraging
words. Grabbing her glove and the ball, she stormed onto the mound, brimming over with anger.
For the next five innings, she tossed fireballs past every Indian hitter. Their bats never stood a chance. One after another,
they went down in futility. A few even tried to bunt, but their attempts were either popped up or went foul.
When Kelly came up to bat next time, she went to the plate with an idea. If the opposing batters could try bunting, so could
she. She laid a perfect one down and made it to first without a throw. Then she stole second on the next pitch, and stole
third on the pitch after that. Marie del Toro’s pathetic ground ball was enough to score her, and the D’backs took a 1–0 lead.
Kelly slapped everyone five so hard that her own hands hurt.
She cruised through six innings that day, pitching a perfect game until the last out, when the Indians’ cleanup hitter got
lucky enough to hit an infield single. The next batter popped up to short. Allie Warheit put it away and leaped into the air.
“Yes! A one hitter!” she screamed, and ran to hug Kelly. The entire team mobbed her, but all Kelly could think about was the
stupid triple play she’d hit into.
She accepted their congratulations, though, and those of her mom and Ken as well. “You were awesome!” Ken told her.
“Thanks,” she said, pounding the ball into her mitt.
“I’ve never seen anyone your age pitch that well! I’m gonna start telling people I taught you myself.”
Kelly snorted at his feeble joke, but she was pleased at the compliment.
“You know,” he went on, “like I told you before, I think I could help you with your hitting….”
Kelly looked at him sharply. “No thanks,” she told him.
“It wouldn’t take much of an adjustment, you know,” he said.
“I said, ‘No thanks,’” she repeated. “What part of
that don’t you understand?” In spite of her best efforts, she knew she was being rude to him. Somehow, he just brought out
the worst in her.
“Look, I’ve tried to be nice to you,” he said, his voice taking on a chilly tone. “But you’ve frustrated me at every turn.
Now we’re going to be living together. So if you can’t find a way to be pleasant, you’d better not say anything to me at all.”
“Fine!” she said, but she was already talking to his back, because he’d turned and walked away from her.
What’s the use of trying to be nice to a guy like that
? she asked herself.
He wouldn’t appreciate it, anyway
. She could see now that there was no way they would ever get along.
Kelly turned around and saw Ryan beckoning to her from the stairway. She had just emerged from her English class and had only
four minutes to get to Spanish, so she jogged quickly over to meet him.
“Hey, what’s up?” she said, brushing back a stray lock of hair that had fallen over her face.
“You got a minute?” he asked.
“Um, yeah, I’ve got study hall next,” she lied.
“Cool. I’ve, um, been wanting to talk to you….”
“Um, well …you know the May dance?”
Kelly felt a sharp thrill surge inside her. “Yeah?”
“Well …I was thinking of asking you to go to it?”
she thought. “Uh-huh?”
“But, um, like, well, I figured, with our parents going out and all, it would be too weird for us to start dating.”
she thought, crestfallen. “Yeah, I guess it would be kind of weird…,” she agreed, not really meaning a word she was saying.
“So, I, um, kind of thought I’d ask that girl Allie instead.”
“Allie? Allie Warheit?”
“She’s in sixth grade, Ryan!”
“I know, but —”
“Whatever,” Kelly said, shaking her head in exasperation.
“I hope you aren’t too upset about it….”
“Why should I be upset?” she asked, trying to keep a lid on her emotions. “I’m just, I don’t know, grossed out, is all.”
“Cuz she’s in sixth grade! It’s like,