“I’m so glad you came for a couple of days.” Brie made the statement as she dressed for the last day of school in her bedroom. Evangelina sat on her sister’s bed, watching her. “But I’m sorry about the baby.”
A preemie had been born in the neonatal unit at the Children’s Care Center yesterday and died three hours afterward. Since Evvie had tended to the infant and was suffering over his death, she’d come to D.C. to stay with Brie to grieve…and to escape. “Thanks for letting me hang out here. I usually lay this all on Frankie, but she’s out of town.”
“I wish you’d come to me more.” Brie smiled. “I’m not that fragile, you know.” Last year had been tough for her sister.
Evvie smiled broadly. “I will, then.”
“Your guys are here in D.C.”
Baseball was Evvie’s go-to thing to cheer herself up and today, the Baltimore Lions, her favorite team, would compete against the Washington Raiders in an away-game matinee. “They are. For their yearly rival game.”
“That’ll certainly distract you.”
“Yep. And the atmosphere of any baseball park soothes me.”
“All those screaming fans?”
“I imagine your classroom resembles them sometimes.”
“Nah.” Brie taught in a low-income school. “I’ll be home by four but don’t rush getting back.”
“I’ll get dinner ready before I leave so you don’t have to do anything later.”
After Brie left, Evvie made an easy marina sauce, cooked up some meatballs and assembled lasagna. The spicy scent reminded her of home in Casarina, an island off the coast of Italy. Deciding to wait on the salad, she dressed in white shorts and a blue sleeveless top since she’d left her Baltimore jersey with Luke Prescott’s name on the back at home. After tying her hair back in a ponytail, she looped it through the back of a cap and headed out to the Metro which would take her to the game.
A half hour later, as she walked up the concrete ramp into the stadium, she noted the slick touches on their brand-new arena: the well-padded seats in bright blue, the Raiders colors, sparkled in the sunlight. The iron railing caught the rays, too, and Evvie would bet her Baltimore memorabilia that weeds didn’t dare spoil the impeccable grass. Like all baseball stadiums, the advertisements on the billboards along the perimeter of the field glared garishly at the spectators, but she liked the readability of the scoreboard. All in all, she preferred Lions Field, of course, but this space was acceptable.
Surrounded by the scents of popcorn and beer, she climbed the steep steps up to one of the top rows because she’d gotten her ticket at the gate. For her season pass to the Lions games, she’d snagged a seat between home plate and first base. But she wasn’t complaining about today. Just being here lifted her spirits.
Evvie settled into her spot, and the pregame festivities began. The announcer introduced the Baltimore players and then the home team, led by their captain Mike Jagielski, jogged onto the field. Rumor had it that he was a womanizer, but the crowds loved him. Of course, his batting was phenomenal. The average in Major League Baseball for 2016 was .255, and the all-time league average was between .260 and .275. However, The Jag might even come close this season to Ty Cobb’s superb career high of .366. She clapped politely.
When play started, she watched the Lions strike out, three up, three down. The Raiders took the field, and the first batter strode to home plate. Jagielski cut an imposing figure out there as he swung at the first pitch, popping it foul. He totally missed the second, and she hid a smile. He was rather…disappointing.
The announcer talked over the loud speaker; she tuned in when he said, “Look at those pitches, Pete. They register 103 miles per hour.”
“Yeah,” Pete replied. “But I have faith in The Jag.”
On pitch three, The Jag swung hard. Evvie predicted a strike, but he got some wood and the ball soared up high and deep behind him. Calmly, Evvie watched the sphere arc then begin its downward trajectory. She prayed a fan would catch it so no one in the stands would be hurt. Heck, the ball seemed to be coming at her, but she didn’t believe she’d get hit. Nothing bad ever happened to Evangelina Gentileschi.
As the ball neared the crowd, a man two rows down leapt up, knocked it off course. It landed on Evvie’s ankle with lightning force.
“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” she cried out and tried to grasp her foot.
“Holy cow! Somebody got hurt!” She heard the announcer through the pain, but his voice was somewhat muffled.
“Hey, she’s hit,” a spectator yelled.
“You okay, ma’am?” the boy next to her asked.
Evvie doubled over and couldn’t catch her breath. Blinding agony radiated from her foot and shot to every nerve ending.
Another person called out, “The medics are coming.”
Head down, she tried to take in air. She was a nurse and knew how to calm herself but…
“Oh, my God.” Suddenly something blocked the sun and she felt a body lean over her. “Oh, my God, are you all right?”
Finally, she could talk. “I…I…”
A hand on her back. Rubbing in circles. That calmed her some.
“I’m so sorry. Where did you get hit?”
She pointed to her foot. “Hurts.”
“I’m sorry,” he repeated.
Someone appeared on the other side of her. “I’m Joe, a paramedic. Where are you hurt?”
“M-my ankle.” The pain hadn’t abated, and she felt her eyes sting.
Crouched down, the paramedic asked, “Can you get your foot up to the top of the seat in front of you?”
Evvie said, “I don’t know.”
“I’ll help.” The man in the sun’s way again. “Can you sit back so I can pick up your leg?”
When she eased away, he placed his hands under her knee, drew it up, then straightened her leg over the seat, her foot resting on his thigh, which was when she realized he was in the row below her. Gently, he untied her sneaker and removed her little sock. The medic handed him an ice pack. A tear fell as the man wrapped her ankle. When he looked up, he said, “Damn.”
The paramedic leaned in close, too. “You’ll need to come to the medical tent.”
She could speak now. “Okay.” She tried to stand, but she fell to her seat.
Grasping her arms, the guy steadied her and she managed to brace her weight on her other foot and draw herself up. She wobbled and then—what, oh wow, he bent over and scooped her up into his arms.
Her stomach started to roil at the motion so she cuddled into his chest. He was sweaty and damp, with felt letters on his…uniform, it had to be. Slowly, they took the steps downward.
Loud clapping. Then she heard the announcer say, “There you have it, folks. If Mike Jagielski hasn’t won your affection before, this cinches it.”
“Yeah, but Pete, he left the game.”
“The ref called a time out.”
“Huh. Anything for The Jag.”