Adrian stared at the ball in her hand. It was old, obviously well-used and well-loved. Dirt and grass had been ground into it, its once shining whiteness now a muddy, undetermined brown. The laces had been worn down, rough and rusty red. When Adrian held the ball, her hand could feel familiar bumps and dents that had come from years of use.
Adrian could remember when her sister, Jenna, had first handed her the ball and taught her how to play baseball. The ball had been new then, just-bought-from-the-store new. Its creamy outside had promised exciting adventures that the two would face. Adrian loved the ball.
It had been years since Adrian last played baseball. Two years and four months to be exact. Ever since her move from Boston, Adrian had stayed away from baseball. It wasn’t that there weren’t any baseball teams in New York City. There were. And it wasn’t because she wasn’t a very good player. She was. It was that playing baseball brought back painful memories of Jenna, and when they’d played together and had fun.
Jenna was one of those older sisters that everyone wishes they’d had. Beautiful, carefree, and good at everything, it was Jenna who’d introduced Adrian to everything she loved now.
When Adrian was nine, Jenna found drugs and alcohol. Adrian watched as Jenna drew away from her, slowly at first, then faster and faster until all Adrian had of her confident older sister was a shadow of a memory and a forlorn baseball. Adrian’s parents, unsure how to deal with this new daughter they now had, divorced, and Adrian was sent to live with her father in New York, while Jenna lived with their mother in Maryland.
Adrian hadn’t seen Jenna since the divorce, but she dreamed of someday going to Maryland and asking to play baseball or to talk with her older sister.
Adrian, thinking of this, gripped the ball hard and bit her lip, trying to keep the tears from spilling out. Once she got herself firmly under control, Adrian glanced around. She was sitting against the base of a tall tree in the park, surrounded by laughing, talking, happy children. In the distance, there was even a small group of girls playing softball.
The air smelled sweetly of cut grass and the cool breeze swept over Adrian’s face, blowing her dark brown hair into her face. The massive roots of the towering oak she was leaning against dug into her back and she could feel the rough bark on her bare arms. A woman with her auburn hair pulled back into a ponytail ran by on the dirt path inches to Adrian’s left, humming quietly to herself. Adrian smiled as she watched one of the softball players hit the ball deep into center field.
Jenna would love it here, Adrian found herself thinking, unconsciously scratching at her light green nail polish. She would immediately ask to go play with the girls playing softball, no matter that she was at least five years older than them and that she actually played baseball. The girls would be so impressed by Jenna that they wouldn’t mind if her tagalong sister joined them. They might even notice Adrian once in a while.
Suddenly Adrian realized that the Jenna of today, the Jenna she would meet if she ever went to Maryland to visit, wouldn’t care about things like this. She didn’t care about baseball, about parks, about impressing softball players, and she didn’t care about Adrian.
Adrian leapt to her feet and threw the ball far off into the deep, green woods. Then she walked down the dirt path towards the softball players.
Note: This story is a sequel to ‘Adrian,” which appeared in the September/October 2004 issue of Stone Soup.