Chapter 3

June 17, (5:00 pm)

"We should do stuff like this more often," Diana said cheerily.

The little gang (plus the rest of the neighborhood kids) found themselves playing baseball in the park. Diana and Tim were on one of the teams, playing opposite Kristen, James and Alex. The game was tied up, and since it was decided that the losing team bought the food that night, the competition was fierce.

James swung and hit the ball, sending it far enough to get him to first base. A kid named Mark was on third, catching looks at Diana out of the corner of his eye. Di, true to her nickname, was playing as shortstop.

Tim shifted his weight, knowing that the next hitter -Alex- would be sending it far out. That's where Tim came in. Some people get bored in center field, but McGee loved it. He was good at catching, and even his dad had to admit- he could definitely throw.

When his friend did in fact send the baseball flying, it was almost too easy to catch. And Tim had it back before Mark could get home. He heard his dad's voice in his head.

"You gotta try harder with the football, son. Or soccer. Yeah... You could be good at soccer. "

"Dad, I'm not that bad at baseball. I-"

"Not that bad is not the same as good."

"You suck," Kristen shouted affectionately from first base. Tim laughed and stepped up to home plate, bat in hand. He took a deep breath, and got ready. James, quite popular for his throwing abilities, was pitcher.

Tim switched to his hyper-focus mode, the same one he would use when working later in life.

He saw the baseball coming at him, and swung. He sent it way over everyone's heads. It was so far out, that it hit the woods, getting lost and effectively ending the game. "Nice, Tim," Alex said, pretending to be annoyed. Tim punched his arm, and they grinned.

Not that bad, indeed.

They had decided earlier in the day that dinner would be held at Alex's grandmother's house, and everyone was invited. That included Penny, who was brining brownies, the only thing she ever made without health food ingredients.

Alex strolled through the door of his grandmother's home.

"We're home, Grandma!" Alex called gently. His friends all came in after. Tim came in last, shutting the door behind him.

"Hi hun!" An older woman called from the kitchen. When they entered, they found Penny already there, chatting with Alex's adorable little grandmother. Something delicious was cooking in the oven.

"Hello sweethearts," Penny greeted, hugging each of them. She gave Tim a kiss on the cheek.

Alex's grandmother, Sandra, stood slightly shorter than Penny. They were best friends, very similarly to the teenagers in the house.

The food was amazing. The kids got to eat very well, and they loved the brownies.

When it was late, Penny and Tim went home.

"I wonder how you sister's doing," Penny mused.

Tim scoffed. "I'll bet she's having so much fun. She's been wanting to go to dance camp since she was four."

Penny was quiet. "I was wondering...I know how your father said that he'd match the money if she earned half of the tuition...but that was still a lot of money to raise."

Tim knew where was going.

"How did she manage to earn all that singlehandedly?"

He couldn't lie. Not to his grandmother, not to anyone. He was as see-through as still water.


"Did you raise that money?"

"No, not all of it."

Penny kissed him on the forehead. "You're so kind," she said.

When she went to bed, he opened his window and crawled out, just like every night.

At the diner, they were too stuffed to eat anything. They just ordered some sodas and talked.

"So what are we doing tomorrow?" Tim asked. They had come up with a list of better things to do, according to their plan, and everyday they had a little adventure. It was much better than the usual schedule.

"Let's drive out of town to the mountain, like we planned," James suggested. A few miles outside of the tiny city's limits, a large rock formation overlooked the area. They had never been up there, and decided, why not?

"Good idea," Kristen agreed. "Lisa!"

The motherly woman stuck her head around the corner.

"Will you pack us some sandwiches and sodas for us to pick up tomorrow morning?"

"Sure, sweetie," she said.

"So, technically you're paying, since I believe we won today," Tim smiled.

"I'm too stuffed to eat a thing," Diana said.

"Yeah, guess we're not paying then," Kristen challenged.

"Then you three can pay for lunch tomorrow," Shortstop said.

"Deal," James said. "Can I borrow a few bucks?"

The friends went home, exhausted. They packed up bags for a day of hiking, totally unaware of what they would start the next day.

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