Chapter 10

Josh Larson went on to play Babe Ruth League Ball and he played for the Greenville Giants baseball team in high school.

His mom remarried and moved to Greenville and Josh didn't mind moving with her and playing for a bigger and better school although his Dad couldn't believe he'd abandon the Hillsboro Hurricanes of Hillsboro High.

Josh was a good enough player to try out after high school graduation for the Serguci Amateur Baseball League that played at historic Beano Field in Hillsboro. He made the Greenville Giants and Del came to Beano Field to watch Josh play, just as he had watched him play in little league, Babe Ruth, and high school.

It seemed like just yesterday that Josh had been a little leaguer but six years had passed since he attended Craig Seagle's Baseball Camp and little Josh was now a grown man attending nearby Blue County Community College.

Del was mowing the lawn on his riding lawn mower one afternoon. He had moved back into his former house, buying out his ex when she remarried but sometimes he wondered if living alone in a three bedroom house was the smartest thing to be doing.

He saw Josh standing in the driveway wearing his Greenville Giants Serguci League Uniform with another guy standing next to him wearing a Beansboro Beansters uniform. Del killed the engine to the mower and trotted over to the two players.

"Hey Dad," Josh said with a grin. "You remember Barney Zink? From Little League?"

A dumbfounded Del shook Barney's hand. He was a huge guy, well over two hundred pounds with a thick beard and long bushy hair. "You're a long way from Ohio," Del said.

"We moved back a couple of months ago," he reported.

"We?" Del asked with surprise.

"Mom, my sister and me," Barney elaborated.

"What about your Dad?" Del wondered.

"He died last year," Barney sadly reported.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Del said. "My sympathies."

"As you can see, Barney's playing for the Beansters," Josh grinned, gesturing at his uniform. "We play each other tonight. You coming to the game?"

"Of course," Del replied with enthusiasm.

"Barney's going to Green this fall," Josh explained.

"Your Dad used to work there," Del foolishly volunteered, stating the obvious.

"I know," Barney replied. "Good to see you again, Mr. Larson."

"Play ball," Del said with a wave as the two ballplayers headed back to Josh's car.

Del wasn't sure how long he dumbly stood there after the car had gone. Seeing Barney again was like seeing a ghost and he wondered if Aurora would be at the game.

Did Barney say he had a sister? Aurora had a kid in her thirties, when Barney was a teenager?

Del felt oddly old as he returned to the lawn mower and quickly finished the back lot before taking a fast shower, dressing in jeans and a polo shirt before heading to Beano Field a few blocks away to check out Josh and the Giants playing Barney and the Beansters.

Del was a regular at Beano Field – at least for the Giant games – so he was familiar with most of the regulars and he said hello to them as he entered the gate on the third base line of the former Army Supply Depot ballpark.

He glanced around wondering if he'd recognize Aurora if she was attending the game but of course it would be hard not to miss her.

And there she was, sitting in the third base side bleachers with a girl who looked to be about five with light brown hair sitting next to mother eating some Cracker Jacks from the snack bar.

Del let out a sigh as he walked toward Barney's mom, six years after they last saw one another. Aurora glanced up to see Del approaching and she smiled with recognition, standing and giving Del a hug and a kiss on the cheek when he reached her.

"Hi, Del," she smiled. "I had a feeling you'd be here. Barney texted and said he saw you."

"Sorry about George," Del blurted out, dazed and confused as he stared at her.

"Thanks," she said graciously.

"Everybody okay?" Del asked with concern.

"We're doing the best we can," Aurora smiled. "This is my daughter, Martina," she said, patting the girl on the head. "Marty, say hello to Mr. Larson."

"You can call me Del," he said squatting down so he was eye level with the girl. "It's nice to meet you."

"It's nice to meet you too," the little girl said shyly.

"Where are you living?" Del asked Aurora, standing again.

"With my parents," Aurora said, rolling her eyes and laughing at herself. "Can you believe it?"

"Well, I guess you have to settle in," Del said.

"I got my old job back at Hillsboro High," she grinned. "Everything's coming around again."

"Good for you," Del said.

"You want to watch the game with us?" Aurora asked as she sat next to her daughter.

"Sure," Del said, sitting on the other side of Martina, realizing he was still dizzy from seeing Aurora again. "I guess it's only appropriate that Barney is playing for the Beansters," he said.

"Catcher, too!" Aurora laughed. "Just like his uncle."

"Josh still pitches and plays third," Del offered.

"He told me," Aurora smiled. "He stopped by a few days ago. It was wonderful to see him."

"He still lives with his mother," Del revealed.

"Yes," Aurora replied. "And you still live alone."

Del glanced out at the ballfield. "It's been a long time since we've watched a game together," he said.

"It has," she agreed, throwing him a look. "Seems like old times, doesn't it?"

Del glanced at Martina. "Almost," he smiled.

Josh and Barney were both Serguci rookies. Josh played for the Giants, one of the best teams in the league for generations so the kid didn't get a lot of playing time.

Barney, however, played for the Beansters, a perennial loser that hadn't won a championship since the early 1980s. Because Barney could hit and call a good game behind the plate, he was already getting plenty of playing time in his debut season.

The Giants won the game 8-4 - Josh playing an inning as a defensive replacement late in the game, Barney playing seven innings as catcher. Aurora, of course, hadn't lost her knack for cheering and yelling and Del couldn't help but laugh with amusement.

Del offered to carry the sleeping Martina to the car at game's end. He couldn't remember the last time he carried a little kid - his niece fifteen years ago maybe. He liked the smell of her skin and the softness of her hair against the side of his face.

Aurora opened the back door of the car (a newer mini-van) and Del gently placed Martina in her car seat.

"Thanks," Aurora said, her eyes glassy-eyed, her face pale.

"It's really great to see you again," Del said as he softly closed the door. "Welcome Home."

"It still seems surreal but maybe it's beginning to fall into place," she said with a smile. "Good night, Del."

"Good night, Marty," he smiled.

"I gave her that nickname," Aurora said gesturing toward the van's backseat.

"Full circle," Del grinned.

She nodded and got into the van, driving off into the night.

A few nights later, Del was watching a ball game on the television at home when the doorbell rang. He answered and was surprised to see Aurora standing on the porch.

"What are you doing here?" Del asked.

"Do you have any rum?" She asked lightly.

"Do you have any lemonade?"

"As a matter of fact, I do," she grinned, pulling a plastic thermos from the large bag she was carrying over her shoulder.

"Come In," Del grinned stepping back.

Aurora followed him inside and into the kitchen. He retrieved a couple of glasses and a bottle of rum from the cupboard and set them on the kitchen table while Aurora unscrewed the thermos top. They took seats at the table and drank the rum lemonade.

"It got better," Aurora reported. She gave Del the eye. "My marriage." She kept looking at him. "I guess it helped having a meaningful affair outside of it," she explained.

"I'm glad I didn't turn out to be homewrecker," Del said with genuine relief.

She smiled. "You're actually responsible for saving my marriage," she said. "I was much more confident and self-assured when I got to Ohio. I told him what I wanted and I warned him that I'd leave if he didn't start treating me better. I told him I was tired of being lonely in my own marriage. Then I found out I was pregnant and that gave me a whole new focus."

"For him too, I'm sure," Del said.

"He became much warmer and involved, even started cooking more," Aurora recalled. "He was talking more too - with me, not at me. He became so open and honest and caring that we sort of fell in love again," she smiled.

Del freshened his lemonade with a bit more rum.

"But then he got sick," Aurora sighed. "The last few years were tough. He had to stop working. I was teaching at the high school so he became a stay at home Dad."

"Martina was lucky," Del observed.

Aurora looked pained. "I have to tell you something," she said, looking away.

"What?" Del asked.

"You might hate me forever when I tell you," she warned.

"I doubt that," Del said.

Aurora sucked in her breath, took a long swig from her lemonade rum, and looked down on at the floor. "George wasn't Martina's Dad," she revealed.

Del stared at her. "What do you mean?"

"Martina was born with a defect heart aliment," Aurora explained. "She needed plenty of blood transfusions for the operations. My blood type is A and Martina's blood type is AB, but George was O so that meant it was impossible for him to be the biological father," she sighed.

Del was staring at her with wide eyes.

"What's your blood type, Del?"

"B," he practically croaked, his voice barely working, his heart pounding..

"I knew all along, of course," Aurora said. "That we made a baby at the Pinewood, during baseball camp."

"For the love of the game," Del realized.

"And here we are," she said. "I won't blame you if resent me forever."

"He didn't leave you?"

"He hadn't exactly been a boy scout himself," Aurora explained. "Barney was going through a rough time. We decided to stay together and work on the marriage."

"You never told him who the real father was?"

"He never asked," Aurora revealed.

"Turns out he was a pretty good guy after all," Del remarked.

"But I deprived you," She said, her eyes watering up. "I feel so much shame and guilt about that."

"You're here now," Del told her.

Aurora wiped the tears from her eyes. "When I saw you carrying Martina to the car the other night I knew I had to tell you. I'm racked with guilt for what I did to him and to you - but as strange as all this might seem to you, I'm hoping you will learn to forgive me and embrace your daughter."

"You call her Marty," Del said.

"Yes," she acknowledged.

"I like that nickname," Del said.

"I'm glad," she said with relief.

"I could never hate you," Del said after a long moment of silence. "I've always loved you."

They sat quietly in the kitchen for a long time drinking their rum and lemonades.

"You don't really want to live with your parents, do you?" Del asked.

"No, not really," Aurora admitted.

"There's plenty of room here," Del offered.

She looked at him with disbelief. "You should kick me out just like he should have kicked me out," she said, her eyes watering again.

"I would never do that," Del said.

"I still have the sign," Aurora smiled.

"The sign?" Del asked.

"The PineWood Summer Camp sign from the antique shop," she smirked. "Don't you think it might look pretty good above the back door?" She gestured to the kitchen door that led to the garage.

"Yes," Del said. "I think it belongs right there." He gave her a long look. "You can hang it up whenever you're ready to move in. Not today, maybe not tomorrow. But whenever you're ready."

She nodded with agreement.

"What about Martina?" Del delicately asked.

"Why don't you get to know her for a while," Aurora suggested. "She doesn't need to know the truth right now. Let her learn to love the two Dads in her life."

"For the Love Of The Game," Del realized.