Do Overs, Part 1:
I stayed away from Ravenwood over the winter and didn’t visit again until almost the end of the school year, 1973. Baseball season was in full swing (pun intended) and so were preparations for final exams. I was feeling academic overload when I sat down at my typewriter that Saturday afternoon and decided to peek in on Ravenwood.
“She calls to you. She comes in many disguises. That is the way of Trickster,” a woman’s voice said as I entered the town at the eastern bank of Myers Creek beneath Cherry Street’s cement bridge. No one was there.
It was a warm sunny day, seventy degrees, and the perfect day to fish. I bobbed my fishing line and remembered the day I had met Vree at this spot.
The boy gave me the once-over after he slid down the creek’s embankment and entered the narrow strip of grassy underside below the steel bridge. “Hey,” he said to me, friendly but with a note of suspicion.
I said it back, then left him alone until his hook and bait were in the deep middle of the creek and a few cars had rumbled by overhead.
“Fish here often?” I asked when the disturbed dirt and dust had settled.
“Yeah.” He played his line. “Never seen you around before. Are you new to the neighborhood?”
I considered how to answer his question. “Just visiting,” I said.
He seemed okay with that, so I told him my name. He told me his: Liam Burkhart. “But my friends call me Lee.”
I smiled that he wanted us to be friends.
After we traded introductions, we did not speak again until I reeled in my empty hook, went to my tackle box, and closed it up. My head was full of thoughts about Vree and practically everything that had happened after I met her.
“Are you leaving?” he asked when I headed up the embankment.
“Looking up some old friends,” I said.
“Can I come along?”
I said okay and waited for him to reel in his line and catch up. We crossed the bridge and walked up the street. He said, “Who are they? Maybe I know them.”
“Dave and Amy Everly. They live on Myers Ridge.”
“I live on Myers Ridge,” Liam said. “Dave and Amy are my neighbors.”
I grinned. This was good news. I gambled my sudden happiness by asking, “Does their cousin, Vree Erikson, still live on Myers Ridge?”
“Do you know her?”
“We met a couple years ago.”
“She’s also a neighbor. She’s at a softball game.”
“Is she playing at the complex?” I asked. “I’d like to see her again.”
“Come on,” Liam said.
The ball fields were less than three blocks away. Liam led me to Vree’s game and we sat at the top row of the bleachers behind home plate. A pretty girl with curly brown hair sat a few feet to my right. She clapped and cheered for the team, New Gospel, to win.
“Who’s winning?” I asked her.
She stopped cheering and addressed me with a cool look. “Bottom of the seventh,” she said. “Nazarenes are up five to four.”
“I’m Steve,” I said, smiling at her. “Aren’t you Amy? Amy Everly?”
She squinted at me. “Do I know you?”
“We met … briefly … a couple years ago.”
“He came to see Vree,” Liam said.
Amy pointed at home plate. “That’s her at bat.”
The teams wore no uniforms, just T-shirts and jeans. Most of the girls wore ball caps and had their hair in ponytails, including Vree. She began the final half-inning by fouling a pitch from the Nazarene Church’s ace pitcher, Jenny Blake. Amy told Liam and me that Jenny had been throwing hot strikes all game and was still striking out batters.
Vree fouled the second pitch, which cleared the backstop and practically landed in my lap. Unlike the last time, I threw the ball back onto the field.
With two strikes under her belt, Jenny Blake’s next pitch came in low. In her excitement to get a hit, Vree swung at the pitch and missed. The ball scooted under the catcher and zipped straight to the backstop. Vree, aware of this, never hesitated. She raced to first base as the catcher caught up with the ball and threw to first base. The speedy Vree beat the throw.
The next batter headed to the batter’s box.
“Just make contact, Kendra,” Amy yelled.
“Trying for the long ball,” the third baseman yelled out to her teammates. Then to Jenny, “Throw her the heat.”
Kendra hit the first pitch—bang—into deep centerfield. It cleared the chain-link fence for a home run.
We stood and cheered, then I turned to Amy and asked, “Do you still play guitar?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Yes. Why?”
“I remember you had a band called ARC.”
“No. I have a band called The Amys.”
“Yes. We have some songs on the town’s radio station. You should give it a listen.”
“I will,” I said to her fleeting backside as she sprinted down the bleachers.
On the ball field, the teams had lined up along the third base line in a game ending ritual of touching hands and saying “Good game.”
This was it. Game over. Soon, I would meet Vree for the first time all over again.
To be continued.