As we all sat around the bleachers eating, I couldn’t help but watch Adam a little closer. I don’t know what I’ve been looking for these past few days. Watching the men around me in North Texas, I’ve always had this image of who my father should be. Strong, reliable, quiet, and the kind who works from sun up to sun down.
When I first met Ezra, well I thought he was going to check off every one of those boxes, hell maybe he does. But the reality of who he is was so different from my fantasies. He’s not strong, he’s controlling. He’s not reliable, he just sticks around to see how he can benefit from the situation. The worst part is if he had come back before my mother died, back when I was still living in Texas, well I don’t think I would have the strength to see through him. I don’t think I knew who I was. Maybe I still don’t.
But these past few months, someone has shown me the kind of man I want to be. That man is strong, because life had forced him to run away. He’s reliable, because he knows how hard it is to be alone. He’s quiet, because he thinks more than he talks. He wakes up at the crack of dawn to get to work, and while it isn’t farming, he approaches it with the same work ethic.But best of all, he’s forgiving, because he knows love is the one thing you can never compromise on. Not for your friends. Not for your parents. Not even for the pastors at your church.
I spent the rest of our barbeque sitting and thinking it all over. A few of the guys noticed and checked in on me, but I told them not to worry. It’s been a long day. We lost our chance at the playoffs, and then I lost my father. And yet, for the first time in days I can think clearly.
As everyone started to leave and we all said our goodbyes, Jose made sure to get me the information for summer baseball, and I even saw Adam swap phone numbers with a few of the dads. Hell, I even think I heard them talking about a men’s softball league!
“It’s been a long day.” Adam remarked as we started to walk home. “I know I heard a few of your teammates offer, but if you want to talk you know I’m around too.”
“I know.” I forced a light smile but quickly felt it fall from my face. “Thank you for coming, I know I didn’t deserve for you…”
“Artie,” Adam interrupted in a deep sigh. “don’t keeping putting yourself down.” I grew quiet, unsure how to respond. “I know you’re trying to apologize, but you already did and I forgive you.” He reminded me. “You know what I hated most about my father back in Texas?” He asked, but I stayed quiet. “That he would always make me feel so guilty for making mistakes.” Adam shook his head. “But that’s what kids do, hell, that’s what everyone does.” He looked over at me and locked eyes. “There’s not a mistake in this world I won’t forgive you for.”
I took a moment to let his words sink in before reaching out and pulling him into a side hug. “Thank you Adam.” Just like before, I noticed his embrace feeling so much more natural than it did months ago. “So are you going to play softball with the dads?” As soon as he heard that question, he lightly pushed me away.
“We’ll see.” He answered, slowly growing embarrassed by my question.
“There’s nothing wrong with it.” I quickly tried to encourage. “Besides, I think you’d be really good at softball.”
He grew quiet, but I could tell he was thinking it all over. “I’d have to relearn how to bat again,” He complained. “and the pitching is completely different, I’d have to learn that too.”
“I can help you remember how to bat,” I quickly offered. “and we can learn softball pitching together, I’m sure there’s videos online or something.” I said, trying my hardest to find any solution I could think of.
“Videos online?” Adam asked in what was almost a laugh. “I don’t even know if you watched a video online before you got here.” He started to laugh to himself. “But alright, if you’ll help me learn, maybe I’ll give it a try.”
I felt my smile grow and a laugh of my own begin. Practicing with Ezra was grueling. It was a constant grind in an effort to reach improvement. I know Adam works hard, but I have a feeling his approach will be completely different. I have a feeling his approach will be a little more fun.
“And maybe,” I began in an unsure voice. “maybe one day soon I can come help out at the shop.”
“At the shop?” Adam repeated as my suggestion caught him completely off-guard. “My donut shop?” He repeated, more surprised than I expected.
“Well yeah.” I answered as my voice began to grow reluctant. “I figured it’d be cool to come see what it’s like working there.”
“Yeah,” Adam suddenly shook his head as a wide smile filled his face. “I’d really like that.” He nodded his head. “I actually thought you weren’t interested in the shop.” He sheepishly admitted. “I mentioned it when you first moved here, but you haven’t said anything since.”
“That’s right!” I realized, remembering one of the first nights I spend here. “Maybe, maybe I could join you this summer.”
“Maybe you can join me this weekend!” Adam excitedly yelped. “I can’t really hire you until the summer, but maybe tomorrow I can at least show you the ropes.”
“Tomorrow?” I repeated, much less excited than before.
“Oh, sorry.” Adam exhaled seeing the sudden change on my face. “Today was a long day and you probably need time to collect your thoughts.” He realized as he slowly began to back off from his plan.
“No, I don’t think I do.” I forced out, once more shocking him. “We lost today, and it sucked, but sitting home tomorrow feeling bad for myself won’t help.” I forced out in a confident voice. “And Ezra is a dick, but I’m done letting him have any control over how I feel.” I shook my head. “If you want to teach me tomorrow, I’ll be there.”
Adam’s wide smile returned to his face as he heard those words. “Tomorrow it is.” He nodded his head, but suddenly I saw him starting to fall back into his own head.
“That is okay, right?” I asked, not understanding the sudden change.
“Yeah.” He quickly nodded once more. “I just need to figure out roles for the both of you.”
“For the both of us?” I repeated, now completely lost in the conversation.
“You don’t think Dizzy will want to come?” Adam reminded me in a slight laugh.
“I assume we have to get up before six, so no,” I couldn’t help but giggle. “He’ll be happy to tell us what to bring home though.”
“Are you wrong about Dizzy for once?” Adam couldn’t help but tease.
“No.” I quickly shot down without any doubts. “He can’t even get up for school on a week day, he’s definitely not getting up to work on a Sunday.”
“I think you forget how excited he was when I let you guys into the kitchen. “Adam baited with a smirk. “He loved seeing how the donuts were made, and on top of that, we’ll all be there.” Adam tried to convince me. “You, me and even his Mom.”
“We will be,” I played along. “at six in the morning!” I couldn’t help but shout. “I bet he either sleeps until we get back with the donuts or goes to stay at his house so I don’t wake him up at five.”
“I guess we’ll see then, won’t we?” Adam smirked, still confident that Dizzy would want to tag along on tomorrow’s trip.
“Guess so.” I repeated with a smile, but quickly felt it fade as I saw a figure standing at our front door. “Oh my God.” I groaned as I saw Adam’s expression quickly switch to anger. “Let me handle this.” I offered, but could tell Adam’s mind was made up.
“Someone needs to tell him to get the fuck out of here.” Adam grunted, more to himself than to me.
“I know,” I quickly agreed as we grew closer to the steps. “just leave it to me.” I insisted “I need to be the one to do this, for me.” I explained, finally breaking through to Adam.
“Alright,” He finally conceded. “but if he starts giving you a problem, I’m stepping in.”
I nodded to his words, but felt a feeling of relief as I saw Mason’s truck parked near the house. If things go absolutely haywire, I know Mason is strong enough to handle it, even if that means things getting physical.
As we finally reached the stairs, Ezra turned to face us. Adam stared daggers at him as we walked up the stairs. For as kind and gentle as Adam can be, well, I’ve never seen him look this angry.It was so much more than a weekends worth of anger, and it told me I need to get rid of Ezra quickly!
“I told you to forget it.” I began, not even greeting him as Adam unlocked our front door.
“I know,” Ezra began. “but I’ve done a lot of thinking and I have some stuff to say.” He offered, making sure to keep an eye on Adam as he lingered in the doorway.
“I don’t care what you’ve thought.” I shut down, not even willing to give him thirty seconds. “You really think you’ve got it all figured out after a few hours?” I asked, starting to get just as worked up as Adam.
“No,” He quickly backed off. “but I think I owe you an apology.”
“You owe me a lot more than that!” I exclaimed, trying my hardest not to start screaming at him. “But you can start by taking your apology and yourself and go back to Dallas!” I shouted as I could hear my heart pumping in my ears.
“Arthur, I know you’re angry, but it’s not that…”
“I don’t want to hear it,” I shut down as I nearly pushed Adam inside and took his place in the doorway. “you don’t know anything about me.”
“Arthur,” Ezra began but I felt my hand grab the door next to me.
“Get the fuck out of here!” I interrupted one last time before slamming the door in his face.
The anger on Adam’s face quickly changed and for a second I didn’t know what was going to happen, until finally he burst out laughing, not able to contain it any longer.
“Adam.” I heard Mason disappointedly sigh from the couch.
“I’m not,” Adam tried to force out. “I’m not laughing at you.” He exhaled as he regained his breath. “I just don’t think I’ve ever heard you curse like that.”
Mason nodded along with his words. “Where did that even come from?”
“Adam said someone needed to say it.” I shrugged my shoulders as I replayed the encounter in my head. “And I was so mad that, well, it’s the only thing I could think of.” I explained as my face started to turn red.
“It was nicely said.” Adam encouraged with a proud smile.
“It was.” Dizzy encouraged as he popped up from the couch. “That’s only the second time I’ve heard you say fuck.” He said as our eyes connected. “I like it.” He let out with a sly smile.
“Dizzy.” Adam disappointedly groaned as he saw the look in his eyes. “I swear I’m going to keep a spray bottle in here.”
“What?” Dizzy tried to play innocent as his smile turned to a smirk. “I was just encouraging him.”
“Not with that tone you weren’t.” Mason shut down, pointing through his bullshit.
“What’s wrong with my tone?” Dizzy asked, continuing to play dumb. “I like it.” He repeated, just like before.
“Oh my God.” Adam groaned, as he and Mason quickly started to grow uncomfortable.
“It was worse that time!” Mason yelped, looking over to me for help.
“Dizzy.” I called out, trying to force a serious face, but the second our eyes connected I couldn’t help but smile. Something about looking in his eyes, somehow, he just always get’s me.
“I was just diffusing the tension.” He shrugged his shoulders. I hate to admit it, but he was right too. A moment ago I was fuming but now, well I’m trying to keep from laughing.
“You really hung out with this kid while we were gone?” Adam teased Mason as he took a seat next to him.
“For half an hour.” Mason explained as he looked over to Dizzy. “He just got back from visiting his Mom.”
Dizzy nodded along with his words. “Me and Mason are best buds now.”
“Sure.” Mason played along, but I could tell they hadn’t bonded as much as Dizzy was hoping while we were gone.
“Well Dizzy, you actually have to settle a bet between me and Artie.” Adam began, instantly drawing Dizzy’s attention as I took the seat next to him.
“Alright.” Dizzy nodded along as I felt his arm wrap around my back.
“Artie’s coming to help at the shop tomorrow,” Adam began to explain. “you’re welcome to join him, but that means getting up at five and leaving the house before six.”
Excitement followed by disappointment filled Dizzy’s eyes as he tried to work through the problem in his head. “Alright,” He reluctantly nodded. “I’ll do it.”
“What?” I asked, turning to him in complete shock.
“You bet against me!” Dizzy exclaimed, as he quickly realized what side I was on.
“He didn’t bet against you.” Adam tried to explain. “He just bet that you’d sleep in.”
“I only said yes because I thought that was Artie’s side!” Dizzy complained, but I could tell he liked the idea of helping at the shop.
“I figured you liked the donuts enough to come help sell them.” Adam confidently nodded, knowing he was right.
“I figured you’d sleep until we got home with donuts.” I shrugged as I felt his hand gently grab my side.
“I should’ve thought of that.” Dizzy exhaled as he looked over at Adam. “So, what do you mean by help out?”
“Kind of like a job training.” Adam answered, as he thought it over in his head. “It’ll be a real day of work to see if you’d like to try it over the summer.” He explained. “I usually hire some seasonal workers anyway, so it’d be nice to hire the two of you in a few weeks when school lets out.”
“I’d have to get up so early every day.” Dizzy groaned, but suddenly felt his grip on me grow stronger. “but you’d be there.” He smirked.
“Definitely going to stagger your schedules.” Adam remarked, drawing a quick stare down from Dizzy. “But you guys would probably be working the counters, so you don’t need to get there as early as I do, your start time would be at seven.”
“Even tomorrow?” Dizzy asked in a hopeful voice.
“No.” Adam quickly shot down. “Tomorrow I want you to see everything but, I’ll even pay you guys for it.”
“You don’t have to.” I quickly offered, not even realizing that was part of his plan.
“Legally I do.” Adam replied, drawing a laugh from Mason. “Besides, you guys will earn it.”
“What did you get us into?” Dizzy asked as we turned back towards one another.
“Alright!” Adam exclaimed, seeing how close we were sitting to one another. “I think Artie should go run upstairs and shower, he’s been paying baseball since this afternoon.” Adam pointed out, trying to find any way he could to put some space between us.
I couldn’t help but giggle as I saw the disappointment in Dizzy’s eyes. He really is obsessed with me, isn’t he? Then again, I guess I’m obsessed with him too, I just don’t show it as much.
“I should shower.” I groaned starting to pull away from Dizzy. “But maybe I’ll just wait until before bed.”
“It’s before bed now.” Adam quickly shutdown. “And I need to shower after you.”
“Well if you’re finally going to shower.” Dizzy began, drawing a hard laugh from Mason.
“Alright fine,” I conceded, fully breaking apart from Dizzy. “But since we have to get up so early tomorrow, well I think it would make our lives easier if Dizzy stayed upstairs tonight.”
Adam tried to hide a look of surprise as he heard my words. I know he’s used to Dizzy trying to force his way upstairs, but I don’t think he’s ever seen it from me. “I can get Dizzy up when I come downstairs to make coffee.” Adam quickly shutdown.
“I don’t know, he can be pretty hard to wake up.” I forced out, as I noticed even Dizzy looking surprised at my insistence.
“Whenever I come downstairs in the morning he wakes up.” Adam shrugged his shoulders.
“Do not.” Dizzy lied in an effort to support our cause. “I’m a heavy sleeper.”
“You pretend to be asleep so people won’t bother you, I invented that trick.” Adam snuffed out his bullshit with a smile. “Besides, most mornings you start talking to me and ruin your whole little trick.”
“Our nice little 5 am chats.” Dizzy smiled, showing it was something he had grown to enjoy.
“So, every morning you get up at 5 and talk to Adam?” I asked, as I quickly began to realize why Dizzy was so tired every day before school.
“Not every morning, but most.” Dizzy shrugged his shoulders. “Adam usually hates it.”
“I just need ten minutes to have coffee, and then you can say whatever you want.” Adam clarified as their eyes locked.
“So, tomorrow morning lets avoid that by letting me stay in Artie’s room.” Dizzy pushed with a grin. “I bet even Mason agrees.”
“Mace?” Adam asked, glancing over to him.
“Pleading the fifth.” Mason excused, looking away from us and towards the T.V.
“Come on Mason, you’ve hung around long enough to have an opinion.” Dizzy taunted, trying to get us support anyway he could.
“I’ve certainly been around long enough to see a thing or two.” Mason remarked, growing a worried stare from Adam. “Nothing like that.” He quickly clarified as he saw the look on Adam’s face.
“What do you mean?” Dizzy asked, as I shot him a look to be quiet.
“What do you mean?” Adam asked in a much stronger voice.
“Dizzy can stay on the couch tonight,” I began to backtrack as my heart began to beat faster.
Mason let out a deep sigh and nodded his head. “Sorry boys, but I was planning to tell Adam anyway.” Adam’s smile completely fell from his face as Dizzy finally realized the secret Mason was talking about.
“Oh no.” Dizzy let out as he looked over to me with a forced smile.
“A month or two ago, I noticed a roach in Artie’s room.” Mason finally exhaled as Adam face grew confused.
“What kind of roach are we talking here?” He asked, looking over at Dizzy. “The bug, right?”
“You boys killed that roach alright.” Mason nodded along in a laugh.
“You boys smoked a joint!” Adam shouted as a combination of anger and shock entered his voice.
“It was a one-time thing.” I offered, hoping it would help settle him down.
“You smoked without me?” Adam asked as his anger and shock turned to disappointment.
“I don’t think that should be the take away from this.” Mason groaned as he remembered what a stoner Adam was.
“It’s not, just a factor in it.” Adam agreed as I couldn’t help but laugh. “Artie, this is serious.”
“Yeah, Adam can’t hire someone who smokes weed!” Dizzy said, quickly getting to work diffusing the situation. “What is this, California?”
“I’m sorry.” I offered, trying my hardest to grow serious. “I just wanted a day where we broke some rules, and that’s what we happened to settle on.”
Dizzy quickly nodded his head. “We smoked out in the park and then came right home.”
“Where’d you get it?” Adam asked, trying his hardest to put on his parent voice.
“Took it from my Mom’s supply.” Dizzy admitted, but I could see a joke forming in his mind. “We were going to take from you, but I figured that’d be even worse than getting caught with it.”
“I’m not amused.” Adam shut down as he looked from Dizzy to me. “And honestly, as someone who started smoking at 15, let me tell you both, it is not the path to go down.” He began to lecture. “If you boys want to smoke at 21, I’ll be happy to smoke with you but absolutely not while you’re in high school.” He warned in a stern voice. “I may be a smoker, but don’t forget it’s still a drug and you both need to treat it like one.”
“Understood.” Dizzy answered in a serious voice. “We both liked it,” He began, drawing an even angrier stare from me. “but we said the same thing to one another, we actually, we said the next time we’d smoke is when we’re married.”
“When you’re married?” Adam repeated, throwing him for an even bigger loop than the weed. “You guys talked about marriage?”
“We were high.” I replied as I looked from Adam to Dizzy. He fought off a small smirk and shrugged his shoulders. “That was the only time we’ve talked about it, but I like the idea.”
“I do too.” Dizzy nodded his head.
“Go shower,” Adam dismissed me in a groan. “and I expect both of you down here and ready to go before six tomorrow.”
“As in coming down here after sleeping upstairs?” Dizzy asked, now unable to contain his smile.
“After sleeping upstairs.” Adam repeated, making sure the emphasize was on sleeping.
Dizzy and I shared a quickly smile, before I quickly turned towards the stairs. “Thanks Adam!” I called out, making sure to rush upstairs before Adam could change his mind.
“If I catch you smoking again, I’m telling Sadie!” He yelled up the stairs to me. “And I’m definitely telling Colleen tomorrow.” I heard Adam warn Dizzy.
“You don’t think she noticed a missing joint from her pack?” Dizzy teased, as I began to laugh to myself.
As I finally jumped in the shower, I couldn’t help but be swarmed with thoughts of Dizzy.All weekend he’s been quiet and reserved. Sure, we had our fight, but he came out of it more understanding than ever. He had my back the same way Adam did, and he stopped judging my actions, or at least, kept his judgement to himself.
And he did all that, even though he feels like there’s still some kind of barrier between us. And honestly, I don’t think I can blame him for feeling that way. Sure, I’ve tried to express how much I like him, but never really in front of others. Never like when I kissed him in front of Ezra or being the one to convince Adam to let him stay upstairs. I think that’s all changed now. I love Dizzy Armstrong and before summer, I’m going to find the right way to tell him that.
As I jumped out of the shower and dried off, I made sure to listen for anyone around. I quickly got changed, making sure to put the baseball uniform I grabbed from my room on and booked it into my room. As I texted Dizzy to come to bed, I finally heard Adam shuffling around outside my door.
“Good night!” He called out to me as I heard him hanging around.
“Good night guys!” I nervously replied before hearing the bathroom door shut.
“Night.” Mason replied as I heard the door to Adam’s room shut.
I couldn’t help but smile as my door creaked open and I realized we were finally in the clear. “Hey.” Dizzy smiled, but I instantly noticed his eyes go to my uniform. “Weird choice for pajamas.” He couldn’t help but tease. “Didn’t you play in that uniform today?” He asked as he took a seat on my bed
“It won’t be on for long.” I replied as I stood up and walk towards Dizzy. “I hope you weren’t kidding about finding this uniform sexy.”
“I wasn’t.” He quickly shook his head. “It’s tight on you in all the right places.” He smirked as he grabbed my hips and pulled me in.
“Whoa there.” I pushed him away before taking a seat on his lap. “I’ll lead tonight.” For one of the few times since we started dating, Dizzy was speechless. “You really do like this uniform.” I couldn’t help but laugh as I felt something hard starting to poke my bottom.
“Oh yeah.” He exhaled as I began to gently move around his lap.“If you really want to lead tonight,” Dizzy began as trouble rose in his eyes. “maybe you should try fucking me.”
“Only if you’ll fuck me after.” I replied, as his eyes grew wide. As I leaned forward and our lips connected, everything turned to instinct.
Dizzy and I have been hooking up for months now, but after tonight, things will never be the same. This was no longer an experiment to me. It was no longer sneaking around and doing something I felt deep down was trouble. This was connecting with the guy I love and we could both feel the difference.
“Oh my god.” Dizzy exhaled as he tried his hardest to catch his breath. “I didn’t know you had that in you.” He continued to breath heavy.
“What’s wrong, couldn’t keep up?” I teased, unable to remove the wide smile from my face.
“If you’re trying to go for a third time then you’re right, I can’t keep up.” He laughed, turning to me and planting a light kiss on my lips. “You’re so special to me Artie.” He exhaled as he grew serious, he went to say something else but bit back the words.
“I feel like I’ve been waiting for you my whole life.” I admitted, shocking us both.
“I’m your knight in shining armor?” He asked as he leaned his forehead against mine.
“No, you’re my partner in crime.” As the words left my lips, I could see how heavy they hit him. I let out a small laugh and laid a soft kiss on his lips. “Even when we get caught, there’s no one else I’d rather have at my side.”
“This was almost better than the sex.” He exhaled, before laying a kiss on my lips.
“Almost?” I asked reaching out and giving him a light push on the chest.
“Almost.” He repeated, turning to lay on his back and staring at the ceiling.
Well just you wait Dizzy Armstrong, I’m going to plan a date so amazing that it completely blows you away! One that’ll have made the stress of the past few weeks all worth it. One that makes you remember the first time I told you I loved you.