The Last Ballgame

“That was the best game we ever had!” my brother said as he draped his arm around my shoulders. He couldn't have been any happier. I couldn't have agreed more as I gave his cheek a quick kiss. With my blonde curls pulled back on a tight ponytail, I fit in with my brother's friends more each day. Yet, he knew that someday, all that would change. Frank included me in everything. I was more than a sister - I was his friend. One Saturday afternoon, he asked to play baseball again. He knew this might be the last time I'd agree to play – with the boys. After all, I'd be turning twelve by the end of the month. Other girls moved into the neighborhood and we were quickly becoming friends. As he watched me cross the field, he realized that I walked differently. The Tom-Boy gait was gone and in its place was a more girlish stride. I took my position in Left Field. This time, things were different. Frank, as Captain of the team, asked me to move in a few feet putting the official Left Fielder behind me. Frank thought I was old enough to play without getting hurt and wanted to give me a chance to really play. The game progressed quickly. The final batter was at home plate. The Umpire called, “Strike One.” I held my breath while the batter swung again and breathed out another sigh of disappointment at the second called strike. I knew that one more strike and the inning would be over. One more missed chance to be a real team player. My pale blue eyes were glued on the boy standing at the plate. Ball One. The next swing, however, connected and sent the ball flying high – towards Left Field. Frank held his breath as he watched me take off running as if my life depended on catching that ball. I ran to meet it, feet pounding the ground, eyes trained on the hard rubber orb. As the ball began its descent, still running, I raised my glove and dove in the air to meet it. As I crashed to the ground, the dirt clouded up around me. Frank's worried eyes never left the cloud of dust while his breath was caught in his throat. In a split second, he beamed with pride and breathed a huge sigh of relief as he saw I raise my glove to show the others that I still had possession of the ball. Although our team lost the game, to me, the score meant nothing. I played my heart out and that's all the mattered. With pride at having the only girl on their team, one who could actually play, my teammates carried me to home plate on their shoulders. Frank found it difficult to wipe the toothy grin from his face and I laughed almost hysterically as the boys beneath me tried desperately not to drop me on the ground. Frank's intuition, however, was right. That was my last game. The following weekend I attended a slumber party with my new friends. We giggled as we tried new hairstyles, dabbled with makeup and spoke of the possibility of getting old enough to date or better yet, go steady When I arrived home the next afternoon, I found Frank sitting at the kitchen table, glass of milk in hand and a plate of homemade biscuits in front of him. “Hi, Sis, want some?” I took a glass from the cupboard, filled it with milk and grabbed a biscuit. “So, how was the party?” he asked a bit solemnly. “It was great!” I bubbled. “Those girls are so much fun. We…,” I stopped and saw the look on my brother's face. “Hey, what's the matter? You look like you lost your best friend?” “I … you're growing up. You don't need me anymore. Yeah, I guess I do feel a little like I lost my best friend.” “Oh Frank!” Trying not to let Frank see my own sorrow, I lowered my eyes and squeezed his hand. When our eyes met again, my eyes were misted with held back tears. Quietly, with my mature, pre-teen wisdom, I told him how I felt. “Frank, you'll always be my best friend. Just because we're gonna grow up, doesn't mean we'll stop being close. I still expect you to be around to protect me against the bullies in the neighborhood, to make me laugh when I feel sad and listen to me when I have a problem. Who else would I turn to when I need a friend? I'll need you to screen my boyfriends and make sure they'll take good care of me and beat them up if they don't.” “What? You want me to what?” His eyes were opened as wide as saucers in disbelief, but a smile began to creep along the sides of his mouth. “You want me to screen your boyfriends?” “Yeah, can you imagine that? I bring a guy home and he has to meet you instead of dad. You'll scare the heck out of him.” Frank laughed at the thought. The more he thought about it, the harder he laughed - and so did I. I leaned down and kissed the top of his head. “I'm going to take a shower. Don't eat all the biscuits.” As I turned to walk away, I looked back and said delightfully, “Hey, that really was some game last week, huh?” Frank looked back and I could see he was still smiling happily. “Yeah, that was the best game we've ever played!”

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