The smell of sand and dust licked his nose and caressed his sweaty face. The silent ebb of the fans waned in and out of the background as he breathed in slowly. He rested his cleats against home plate and raised his bat behind his shoulder. He felt his breath echoing within his ears as the pitcher wound up and drew the ball back behind his shoulder. Within a second, the hiss of the ball spiraled past him and into the mitt.
"Strike one!" The umpire declared behind him.
"Come on Blake you can do it!"
A woman's voice cried out, but Blake didn't dare take his eyes from the pitcher. The short stop shuffled nervously and backed up two steps as the pitcher wound up again. A loud ring sounded as he swung the bat through to make direct contact with his target. It flew past the short stop and twirled into right field as the third baseman lunged for the ball. His team-mate barely slid onto the plate as the third baseman scrabbled to collect the ball.
Blake panted as he sprinted for first base and the hiss of the ball rocketing over his head was enough of a warning to slide. He shifted his weight backwards and slid onto his left hip to roughly tap his foot onto the plate before the baseman could catch the ball. With a huff, Blake allowed his shoulders to relax as the umpire declared both of the players to be safe.
Blake rolled onto his feet and took his place upon the plate and stared toward second. His eyes darted back and forth as he analyzed the next batter. Randy was up next. His large friend was definitely not to be underestimated on the field. His swing was powerful enough to more than often hit far into right field- if not home runs.
He prepared himself to sprint and kept his eyes upon Randy as he swung back and missed. Blake's foot twitched upon the base as he stared intently at the ball. The ball went flying into the air, and with a metal clang, burst into left field. Blake tore around the bases. He rounded second as the ball twirled and just barely missed him. He panted and placed his hands upon his knees.
Sweat trickled down between his eyebrows and rested upon his lip. The sun beat down upon his shoulders and he squinted against the light to see the ball. Randy stared at him across the base as he twitched when the ball clanged. He moved to sprint but a voice caught his attention and he jerked his head. He wasn't sure where the sound came from.
"Blake. . ." The voice whispered quietly into his ear and he hesitated. A noise caught his ear and he turned his head as the ball plunged into his ribs.
"Ahh. .. " He whimpered and knelt upon one knee holding his side.
"Oh shit, sorry Blake!" A voice called out, but Blake didn't register. He kept his hand pressed against his side and stood up shakily. The crowd awed as he stood up slowly.
"Give him a walk!" The coach called and Blake maneuvered carefully to the third base. Another player subbed in for him as he made his way off field. "What the hell were you doing out there, looking for something?" The coach demanded. His upper lip trembled furiously and he reached down to snag the edge of Blake's jersey and pulled it up to reveal his ribs.
"Hopefully they're not cracked..." The coach pondered for a second and reconsidered his decision. He thrust a cold water bottle against his side.
"Go see the nurse" he demanded. "Simon, go with him."
"Last game of the season. . ." The coach muttered and turned his eyes back to the game.
"Yes sir" Simon answered and trotted alongside of Blake. He guided him carefully toward the side building where the nurse stayed during the college games. Simon remained quiet at his side as they moved slowly up the hill.
"What were you doing out there Blake?" Simon questioned him gently. He reached down and pulled the heavy metal door open for him. Blake glanced at Simon and shrugged his shoulders. "I thought I heard someone."
"Like a girl?" Simon tilted his head. "That was Becca, that one cheerleader girl. . .musta got lost and ended up at the diamond instead of the football field." He reasoned and let a smile loose on his face.
"I'm probably just dehydrated, hearing shit." Blake answered and reached up to rap his knuckles against the nurse's door. The nurse glanced up from her book.
"What can I do for you?" The nurse's voice was almost a whisper and Blake had to lean in to catch her words.
"Blakey-poo let the ball run into him." Simon jumped in and tugged Blake's jersey up for her to see.
The nurse's eyes widened.
"Oh my." She uttered and reached into the mini-fridge to pull a bag of ice. "It's already bruising." Blake set the water bottle on the table to free his hands.
"I hope they're not cracked." Blake repeated as the nurse fumbled around a little more before handing him the ice pack. "I won't be able to tell, you'll have to see a real doctor for that." The nurse frowned and glanced at Simon.
"Did she just say real doctor?" Simon squinted before he shook his head and turned to examine an anatomy sign upon the wall.
"Obviously, if there is pain for more than 3 days that is touchable. . .reach out to him. Or if you're concerned sooner, call to schedule an x-ray." The nurse explained and raised her glasses to place them on the top of her forehead.
"Sounds great." Blake nodded his head and stepped out into the hallway. Simon followed behind him meekly and held the door open for him again. "Game's almost over." Simon spoke for him and stared at the scoreboard from afar.
"Thanks to you, we just won that thing." Blake nodded slowly as he took in his surroundings again. "Hey, should we head back?" Blake asked quietly as he caught sight of the score.
"Sure, why not."
Simon trotted ahead of him, the sun was dipping into the right of the field. With a glance at his watch, Simon declared it to be six- which meant movie time.
After a while of watching the TV Blake crawled off into bed. His ribs throbbed even after two Tylenol, but the sleepiness soon overtook him and he drifted off.
His alarm clock went off and startled him awake. His green eyes took in the plain white ceiling, and he struggled to shake the drowsiness from his head. He groaned as he slowly sat up and reached his arms over his head to stretch. His ribs cried out in agony and immediately he retracted his arms back down.
“What a weird dream...” He whispered as he ran his fingers through his hair. There had been a small girl in his dream, calling his name over and over again while reaching toward him. She had been crying out for help. He remembered her eyes; an abnormal color of yellow with a disturbing emotion to them. He sat on the edge of the bed for a few moments, and then decided it was time to get ready for school. Today was the last day of class before finals tomorrow. Blake stood up and slowly made his way over to the mirror. It was a bit foggy, but after rubbing his eyes everything became clear.
He eyed himself as he picked up his toothbrush. His dark brown hair stood up at all angles from sleep. Around his eyes, a series of freckles tiptoed across his nose. When he smiled, thin dimples peaked on his rounded cheeks. He was lean but muscle definition was apparent through his night shirt.
He spit in the sink and turned on the faucet. He felt really unsettled today. He glanced back in the mirror again and eyeballed himself. Blake pressed a hand against his forehead just to double check if he had a fever. Just the pain from his ribs echoed quietly. He reached down to snag the Tylenol and popped open the bottle. Near the mirror, several photo booth pictures of him and two other boys fluttered softly from the soft air of the fan. A woman with long brown hair stared back at him with her fingers outstretched in a peace symbol.
"It was just a dream." He convinced himself and turned away from the mirror. Another alarm clock went off on the other side of the wall, followed by a massive thud.
"Shit!" The voice shouted and Blake opened up his door to peer down the hallway.
"Randy are you okay?" Blake called out, and pushed the door open to find his friend sprawled out on the ground. Randy seemed to be tangled up within the black sheets and scrambled across the ground to free himself. His curly dreadlocks poked out at odd angles from the static, and his wild green eyes were still half-lidded in exhaustion.
"Who the hell turned that thing on?" Randy spat out and narrowed his eyes at Blake. Blake held out his arms in a 'I surrender' motion innocently.
"Haha it was me!" Simon announced and poked his head around Blake's side. He stuck his tongue out at Randy teasingly. Blake moved aside so Randy could catch a full view of Simon- and to avoid the chaos that was brewing. Simon playfully turned to walk down the hallway, his long lanky legs gave him more distance than Blake anticipated.
"I'm gonna kill you!" Randy was on his feet in seconds and tore past Blake and down the hallway after Simon. The dorms seemed to come to life as doors opened to cheer on the fighting pair.
"I wanted to sleep in on my last day!"
Randy howled and grappled Simon within a head lock.
"We have to pass the class!" Simon shouted back in defense. Blake stared after them and gently closed the door to finish getting ready. He turned his head to stare all around their room. He had been here for almost four years. It was hard to remember walking through the dorms their first day and unpacking all their bags.
Blake glanced to the corner where several empty boxes lay folded up against the wall. Now they would have to repack everything and begin the next chapter of their life.
Another scream carried down the hallway followed by some cheering and laughing. Usually Blake would be right with them, but something just didn't feel right today. He moved down the small hallway back into his room and reached within his drawer to select his outfit for the day. He combed his hair once more and snagged his bag within his hand.
But no matter what Blake did he could not shake the feeling of dread that lingered around him. Blake took the stairs two at a time without holding onto the railing. He shrugged his backpack further onto his shoulder and glanced out to the window on his left as he rounded the corner. The sun was just beginning to peak over the buildings and cast an ominous glitter of light down the dark stairwell. A few girls passed by him in the hallway, whispering to each other. When he tilted his head to look back at them- they giggled and kept walking.
Blake shrugged his backpack up on his shoulders. There were a lot of girls at the college that often fussed over him- except the girl that he wanted to pay attention to him.
And that girl was Winter Vandelann.