This year is my daughter’s first year of live-arm softball. Tuesday was her first ball game of the season, and we approached it with all sorts of anticipation. What would her teammates be like? How competitive would the other teams be? But the biggest question, at least in my daughter’s mind, was “Will I be able to hit the pitcher’s balls?”
As it turned out, there wasn’t really much of a question there. Bless their hearts, it was more like bowling than softball. If you’ve ever watched a small child learn to bowl and you’ve seen them hurl the ball upward only to have it slam into the boards so hard you’re sure it’s going to leave a mark, then you can probably visualize what it’s like for a little girl to learn to pitch a softball.
The game was, ahem, painfully long. It took eighteen minutes to get through the first three batters. I was struggling mightily to stay connected. Ball after ball bounced in the dirt and everyone was losing patience. The way it works? If the child gets four balls from a pitcher their age, then a coach comes in to pitch.
In the second inning, a parent from the other team started shouting at their players. “Don’t swing!” she cried.
Now, I know what she was doing. She meant, “Don’t swing at those badly pitched balls. Wait for the coach to pitch to you.” And I understand that, sort of.
I mean, don’t we all in life like to wait on the “sure thing”?
That being said, it makes me so sad that anyone would give that advice. What if you wait your whole life for the “sure thing” to come along? What if you wait your whole life for the coach to step in and give you an easier target?
In my novel Don’t Ask Me to Leave, Rachel Miller has been thrown some lousy pitches by life. Her parents died when she was young. Her husband was stolen from her in a terrible car accident just months after their wedding. She finds herself standing there at the plate, facing down the pitch–will she take a chance at love? Will she swing that bat? Or is she afraid that she’ll strike out and miss her opportunity?
You’ll have to read the novel to find out, of course, but here’s a little snippet from chapter fourteen of Don’t Ask for your enjoyment!
From Chapter Fourteen of Don’t Ask Me to Leave:
“Listen, Rachel, my mama died when I was little. My dad did the best he could, but it was rough. He had a farm to run on his own, and couldn’t find the time to fit in little league and math homework. Nadine stepped in and picked up the slack. From grade school on, she was the only mother I knew.”
A funny taste bubbled up in his throat, and he swallowed hard. “Right before I graduated high school, my dad died. Instead of bumming around my senior summer doing dumb stuff with my buddies before we left for college, I got to take a crash course in adulting.”
“Yeah.” He gave her a rueful smile. “Everybody is. It’s the only thing you can say, right? But hey, I do know what you mean about the anger stuff. I hated everybody that summer. I hated my friends for having fun without me. I hated my dad for leaving me. I was so mad. Nadine and Eli turned me around eventually, but it was a bad time in my life.”
Rachel’s head dipped in a slow nod. “I guess I can understand that. But sometimes I feel… cursed, you know? Everybody I ever let myself love, everything I let myself love—it always gets taken away from me.”
He watched as her slender fingers plucked at invisible lint on her thigh. It hadn’t been his imagination—she had lost weight. Her wedding set hung loose on her finger.
“It can seem that way sometimes.”
“I thought I finally broke free of it when I met David. Things were so good, you know? And they were going to stay that way. But God just keeps spitting in my face.”
“Rachel, you can’t look at it like that.”
“Why not?” She slapped the table with an open palm. “Look at us. Your mom’s dead. Your dad’s dead. Both my parents are dead. Nadine—well, she lost David, Daniel, and Eli. We’re all miserable. What has God done for any of us?”
She crossed her arms and glared at the ceiling.
Oh, man. This conversation was getting way out of his depth. Nadine had to be wondering where they were. Still, he couldn’t let her simmer like that forever.
He ran his tongue over his teeth. “Bad experiences will define your life… if you let them. But you have to cling to the good memories, to the triumphs, and use those to keep you afloat until good times roll back in.
“You said earlier that we’re all miserable. That’s not true, Rachel.” She rolled her eyes. “No, listen. I’ve built a good life for myself. No, it wasn’t what I planned, and yes, I miss my parents, but I have a good life. I’m happy where I am because I’ve chosen to be.”
“You make it sound so easy, like it’s my choice.” She drummed her fingers on the tabletop.
“That’s not exactly—”
“Well, it might as well be. Look, I don’t want to put on a happy face and pretend that everything’s hunky-dory. I want to drive to San Fernando and punch my sister-in-law in the throat. I want to scream until my own throat bleeds. I want my life to go back to the way it was in June. Is that too much to ask?”
He studied a mystery stain on the carpet. What answer could he give?
“Why’d you come in here anyway, if all you planned to do was pick a fight with me?”
“That’s not why I came in after you, Rachel.”
“Okay, fine.” He grimaced at the fire blazing in her eyes. “Why are you here?”
“Because your mother-in-law is worried about you, that’s why. Look, be as mad as you want to be. I get it. I’ve been there. Use me as a punching bag for as long as you need.” Beau got up, walked to the door, and rested his hand on the brass knob. “And yeah, you may feel like Olivia deserted you. I get that you want to drive out there and smack her. I kind of do, and I don’t even know the whole story.
“But don’t forget, Rachel, that no matter how alone you feel, you’re not alone. In the auditorium, right now, standing in front of all those people—there’s a woman who loves you like a daughter. I guarantee you she’s feeling angry and alone too. When you’re ready to let her in, she needs you.”
He turned the knob. “Stay here as long as you need to. Nadine will understand if you can’t come in. She loves you, Rachel.” With one last glance, he slipped out and headed back to the foyer.
The problem was… he loved her too.
About Micki Clark
Micki Clark is the author of Don’t Ask Me to Leave, published in March 2017. Don’t Ask Me to Leave is a modern-day retelling of the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi, set in beautiful Montgomery County, Kentucky. Follow her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/AuthorMickiSClark) and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/MickiSClark).
Newlywed Rachel Miller has everything she could want from life—the perfect husband, her dream job, and a cute little house in the country—but the daydream is shattered when her husband is killed in a tragic accident. Her mother-in-law, Nadine, takes her in as she tries to pick up the pieces, and their handsome neighbor Beau is willing to help…if Rachel will let him. Does she dare open her heart for a second chance at love?