“Then can we do the walk-through, please?”
“Can you at least tell me what kind of furniture goes in the other two rooms?”
“One had a desk and some shelves, so I’d guess it was his study. The other was a workout room.”
“Follow me,” I say, leading him down the hallway. I look at the two extra bedrooms, trying to figure out which should serve what purpose. One of the rooms has a better view and is closer to the living room. The other is smaller and across from the second bathroom.
“I think this one should be the weight room,” I say, motioning to the smaller room. “I think he’d rather have a nice view out of his office.”
“And where do you want the television?”
“He had a television in his weight room?”
The guy shrugs. “Working out is boring, ma’am – lots of people watch TV.”
“I thought everyone listened to music,” I muse aloud. “It’s what I do.”
He stares at me, waiting for my answer.
“I’m not sure. Can we move the stuff in and then decide? I don’t even know what he has.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but do you even know Mr. Taylor?”
I laugh. “I do. Well, I kind of do. I’m not sure anybody really knows him.”
For the next two hours, I direct four movers as they bring in furniture, boxes, electronics, and housewares. I cringe as they drill holes into his freshly-painted walls to attach mounting brackets for his televisions. If I’m wrong about the placement, he will have to patch the walls.
Before they leave, I sign the delivery order stating nothing was damaged and then I hand one of them the envelope on the counter that presumably has their payment or a tip.
Then I walk through his living room, hoping I’ve put everything where he wanted. I sit on his L-shaped couch that I oriented towards the large TV. I can see myself here, my head resting against Brady’s shoulder as we watch a movie.
My eyes go over to the many boxes stacked in the corner that are meticulously labeled with specific contents, and I get an idea. I’m not going to unpack for him, but if I could find the box with his bed sheets and towels, I could at least set those things up for him. I’m sure he’ll be exhausted from traveling when he returns on Thursday. Even though he’s not playing yet, he does practice with the team every day, and flying across the country is tiring. He’ll probably appreciate having a made bed to come home to.
I walk back into the master bedroom and see a box lying on its side, the contents of which are spilled across the floor. “Oh, shoot!”
This wasn’t one of the boxes the movers brought, it was one Brady carried over himself. An important one. And the movers must have bumped it on their way out. I close my eyes, hoping nothing is broken.
I fall to my knees and set the small box upright, then I load it back up again. “Please, please, please let nothing be broken.”
I pick up an old baseball and look at the signature. Babe Ruth. “Oh, my gosh.” It’s lying next to a glass case that has a Babe Ruth trading card inside. I pick the case up and examine it for cracks. It seems to be intact so I place the ball back inside it, next to the card.
I eye another baseball a few feet away. I reach over and grab it, reading the stitched inscription. ‘Brady Taylor – first home run – June 14, 2003.’ Upon further inspection of the ball, it’s stamped with ‘Cooperstown Dreams Park.’
Growing up in New York, and working for a baseball team, I know exactly what this ball represents. Cooperstown is a week-long tournament for twelve-year-old baseball players. Young players dream of playing there. Older players often reminisce about the once-in-a-lifetime experience; and you can bet many, if not most, MLB players have played at Cooperstown.
I look around but don’t find another case. I wonder if it’s because he likes to hold this one. Maybe he throws it up and catches it, over and over, thinking back on the time he only dreamed of playing professional ball.
I smile thinking of a young Brady. Then I frown, wondering how many times he’s thought about his own son who will never be able to throw a ball. He’ll never go to Cooperstown. He’ll never get to see his father pitch in a major league game.
My hand comes up to cover my gasp when I see a picture lying on the floor. It’s a small framed picture of a woman and a boy. One you might have on a desk or a bedside table. She is young and beautiful with long dirty-blonde hair. The boy is adorable. He has the same color hair as his mother, only he has a strong cowlick over his right brow. They are both laughing.
I feel a hot tear roll down my cheek. Although the boy doesn’t look like Stryker, they are the same age. They have that same sparkle in their eyes. They are full of life and love and possibility.
All of a sudden it hits me. How can Brady even stand to be around me? Around Stryker? Every time he looks at us, he must see them.
I carefully put the picture back in the box. Then I pick up a baseball glove, noting how old and worn it is and I wonder if maybe it was his Little League glove. I turn it over to see his named burned into the leather. My hand fits perfectly inside the weathered glove and somehow it makes me feel closer to him.
I pack the glove alongside the other relics and then I pick up one of the shirts on the floor. I hold it up and read it. ‘Bumbershoot 2009.’ I think this is the shirt I put on at his hotel last fall. The one he asked me to take off. It too is old and weathered. I wonder if this is the shirt he wears when he pitches. I calculate the year and think that it must have something to do with his wife – the woman who’s name I don’t know, but who’s face is now ingrained in my memory.
I fold it carefully and tuck it inside the box hoping he won’t notice the contents have been displaced.
I pick up the last thing that fell out of the box, another shirt. I have to hold back more tears. It’s the shirt I bought him at the White Poison concert. I peek back inside the box at all the other things he holds dear and wonder how this little old shirt won itself such a place of pride.
I bring it up to my nose and smell it, hoping it smells like him. It doesn’t. It doesn’t smell like anything. I wonder if he’s even worn it or washed it since coming home last fall. I fold it up and put it in the box and then I close the lid, running my hand over the top of it before I go in search of what I came back here for.
Twenty minutes later, I’ve got his bed made and his bathroom set up with towels. I contemplate laundering his sheets. They smell like him. In the end, I don’t do it. But I do lie down on them and pull his pillow close to me and think about the future.
A future I long for so desperately for my son and me. A future that might not be possible because of what sits in the box in the corner.
I stare at the super-large screen that takes up an entire wall in Murphy and Caden’s theater room as I’m given a tour of their apartment. “We get to watch the game on this?”
She laughs. “You’ll almost be able to see the color of their eyes.”
“I’m surprised Brady doesn’t have a theater room,” I say.
“Oh, he did. You should have seen his old place. It was probably twice the size of his new one. It was a penthouse apartment. He got rid of a lot of stuff last week.”
“Why would he give that up?” I ask. “Do you think he’s starting to get scared about never playing again?”
“I don’t think so. Caden says Brady is very optimistic. I just think he finally realized how careless he was being with his money.” She looks at me with raised brows. “Somebody must have gotten through to him.”
“He sold two of his cars, you know. And his motorcycle.”
“I know. I didn’t think he’d ever get rid of that death trap. He took me for a ride once.” She shakes her head at the memory. “I never went again. The man was as reckless with his bike as he was with his money.”
I look around the theater room and see a lot of Caden’s old jerseys displayed. Murphy explains about all the hats hanging on the back wall. Then we walk into the living room and she opens a large box in the corner and Stryker’s eyes go wide with all the toys he sees.
“For a couple who doesn’t have kids, you sure have a lot of toys.”
“We know a lot of people with kids. And you never know when we might have our own.”
“Are you …? Sorry, that’s too personal.”
“It’s fine, Rylee. Caden and I both want kids. We’re not trying, per say, but we’re doing nothing to prevent it either.”
“You guys will make great parents, I’m sure.”
“Thanks, I think so too.”
The doorbell rings and Murphy excuses herself.
I explore the toy box with Stryker for a minute before I hear little feet trample over towards us. Several girls and a boy pile into the room and head right for the toys. The grown-ups follow behind.
“Rylee, you’ve met Skylar Pearce, and this is my sister-in-law, Lexi Stone.”
I stand up and greet both of them.
“That’s my Aaron over there and his sister, Gracie,” Skylar says.
“And those two are mine,” Lexi says. “Ellie is my oldest and Beth is my baby.”
“That’s Stryker over there. He’s three,” I say.
Skylar laughs at the way he and Aaron are both trying on baseball caps from the toy box. “It’s always the baseball stuff Aaron goes for. It drives Griffin crazy. He’s gotten him a dozen toy cameras. Real ones even, and all Aaron wants to do is play sports. I think those two will get along fine.”
“I met Kyle,” I tell Lexi. “He was kind enough to help me move in last weekend.”
“He said you were very nice,” she says. “But he didn’t tell me how beautiful you are.”
“That’s very sweet of you. Sounds like you have yourself a good husband.”
“He’s a great husband. Better than a lot of other ones out there,” Lexi says with a sad smile.
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