Wish You Were Here: A Novel: Chapter 14

Sabotage

Chucky and Jenn stayed in his bedroom and kept quiet all night. It wasn’t any different from rooming with Helen. Even Helen would occasionally be brazenly loud with some guy she had brought home.

In the morning, I left early for work first thing. Around eleven, Seth texted me.

Seth: We still on for tonight?

Me: I’m sorry. I think I’m going to pass tonight. Rain check?

Seth: Of course. Do you really mean it though . . . about the rain check?

Me: Yes.

Seth: I have some news. I’m going to be a Padre. They’re bringing me up. Starting me in center field. It wasn’t just a rumor.

Me: That’s amazing, Seth! You’ll be a major leaguer.

And I’ll never hear from him again.

I was genuinely happy for Seth. He deserved it. Soon there would be even more women flocking to him. He would be on television practically every night. People would recognize him.

My stomach started swirling around and around in circles. I needed to give him an out.

Me: You’re probably not going to have much time once you’ve been moved up.

Seth: My first game is tomorrow.

Me: Yeah, I mean, you’re probably going to be insanely busy.

He was on to me.

Seth: Can I date you? Is that all right, Charlotte? Or are you not ready for that right now, because I sense that you’re trying to get out of something.

Me: I’m not sure.

Seth: Come to the Padres game Friday and let me know. I’ll leave you a ticket at will-call.

I didn’t go to the game that Friday night. And I waited and waited for Stacy to call me with news of Adam.

I stayed home, but I did watch the game on TV. I actually paid a hundred dollars for some baseball package through Direct TV because our local channel wasn’t airing it, but I had to see him play. On TV, he was strikingly handsome. When he’d get up to bat I felt like I heard more women cheering than men, though maybe that was my mind playing tricks on me.

Chucky came home sometime around the fifth inning.

“Yo,” he said as he walked by me toward his room.

“Yo.”

When he came back out, he was wearing a red polyester tracksuit and had a bag in his hand. “I got you a present,” he said. When I stood to take the bag from his hands I noticed that the name “Chuck” was embroidered on his jacket.

I cautiously removed the contents of the bag to reveal an identical tracksuit to the one he was wearing, except it had “Charlie” embroidered on it. “Oh my god, Chucky.” I buckled over and started laughing.

“Screw Helen,” he said. “We’re roomies now.”

“We’re the Royal Tenenbaums!” I said, trying to catch my breath. “Thank you, Chuck. I totally thought you’d have Fatbutt embroidered on something the first chance you got.”

“It crossed my mind.”

Still laughing, I said, “We’re gonna be a spectacle.”

“It’s fucking rad. Wanna go for a run?”

“I’m watching the game.”

He turned around to look at the TV. “Your guy playing?”

“Not really my guy, but yeah, Seth’s playing. I’m gonna go put this on now,” I said.

“Cool.” He sat down on the couch to watch. “It’s Seth Taylor, right?”

“Yep,” I called back from the bathroom.

“He’s up.”

I ran out wearing my new tracksuit. “Scoot, scoot.”

Seth was down in the count when he smacked a high fastball clear to the scoreboard. Chucky and I jumped up and cheered. The stadium went wild and the announcer said, “What a way to make an entrance for Seth Taylor!”

Seth jogged the bases with a humble smile. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. The camera panned to a group of giddy women sitting above the Padres dugout, shaking their stupid boobs at Seth as he ran toward them from home base.

“Jeez,” Chucky said.

“Right? Buncha skanks.”

“That’s not really what I was thinking.”

“What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking that dude can get anyone he wants.”

“Awesome, thanks for the reminder.”

“I’m just saying.”

“Whatever. Let’s go for a run.”

We didn’t talk at all during our run, but when we reached the stairs of our apartment, I said, “Do you think Seth and I should date? I mean, he’ll probably stop calling me after this.”

“Cut the shit, Charlotte,” Chucky said as he passed me through the front door and headed toward his room.

After I showered, I dozed off in my room while reading a magazine. I was awoken at midnight by the sound of my phone buzzing on my nightstand. It was a text.

Seth: Hey pretty lady.

Me: Hey

Seth: Are you sleeping?

Me: Currently? Yes. I’m very good at texting while I’m asleep.

Seth: Smartass. I tried calling you earlier . . .

Me: I went for a run then I fell asleep.

Seth: So you weren’t at the game after all?

Me: No. Sorry.

Seth: I thought for sure you were there.

Me: Why? Because of the home run?

Seth: So you watched?

Me: I saw the highlights.

Seth: Oh.

I don’t know why I lied.

Me: Congrats.

Seth: Thanks. I’ll let you get back to bed.

Me: Ok. Night.

Seth: Night.

Rejection would be hard, even for Seth Taylor, but I was selfishly too concerned about being rejected myself to think about his feelings. And I was annoyed that I hadn’t heard from Stacy.

THE NEXT DAY I had to work a double. By the dinner shift I was ready to kill Jon-Jon. A customer found a roach crawling up the hostess stand, and when I told Jon-Jon, he killed it but wouldn’t comp her meal. Of course I got no tip. There are roaches in every restaurant. You just hope they don’t end up in the food. But still, people don’t want to see them when they’re eating.

When I got home late that night, I finally checked my phone. There was a text from Seth.

Seth: Missed you tonight. Went 0 for 4.

I didn’t respond. I checked my voicemails. Surprisingly, I had two messages. No one ever called me, but my fingers were crossed that it was Stacy. The first one was from Helen. “Dude, what have you been up to? I miss you. Call me.”

The next message was from my mom. “What in the hell do I have to do to get my children to call me?” She was missing Chucky.

I yelled from my bedroom, “Chuck, did you call Mom back?”

He came and stood in the doorway of my room. Through a yawn, he said, “Yeah, she’s having empty-nester pains.”

“That’s pathetic. I figured it was more about you than me.”

“Your boy had a shitty game.”

“I heard,” I said.

“Are you working tomorrow?”

“No, I don’t work on Sundays. It’s a holy day.”

Chucky choked on his Kombucha. “You are the poster child of goodness and virtue.”

I was brushing out my hair and inspecting the balayage I had done on it the day before.

“I thought you were gonna start being nicer to your landlord?” I said.

“Your hair looks good, Charlotte. Seriously. You kind of look like Lily Aldridge now.”

“Who’s that?”

“Some famous chick.”

When Chucky left the room, I immediately Googled Lily Aldridge. She was a model and married to a rock star. I walked over to Chucky’s room, where I found him dozing off in bed. I walked right up to him and smacked him in the head.

“What are you doing?” he shouted.

“You can’t call me Fatbutt and then say I look like freakin’ Lily Aldridge.”

“Okay,” he whined. “I take it back. You look like you ate Lily Aldridge.”

“Fuck you, Chucky.”

As I walked back to my room he called out, “Love you, Fatbutt!”

I plopped on my bed and called Helen back. “What up?”

“Hey. How are you?” I said.

“Good. Roddy just came back into town so we’re making up for lost time. By the way, I think I want to go back to a natural color now that the chartreuse has faded. Can you come here and color it for me before Seth’s game? Roddy has four tickets in the section where all the family members and wives sit. Wanna go?”

I hesitated.

“Don’t say no,” she pleaded.

“I’ll come down tomorrow morning around nine and do your hair.”

“And you’ll go to the game?”

She wasn’t gonna stop. “Yeah, I’ll go.”

I’ve got nothing else to do.

THE NEXT MORNING, when I arrived at Roddy and Helen’s condo in San Diego, I was surprised to see a complete vision of domestic bliss. I knew they were in love, but I fully expected Helen to be living in Roddy’s bachelor pad in transition. Instead, it was actually a really nice place, and I could see all of Helen’s warm touches.

I followed her around the house as she pointed things out to me. “And I got those throw pillows at Home Goods. Aren’t they cute?”

“Yep.”

“Come, I’ll show you our room.”

“I don’t think I need to see your room, Helen.” Helen was wearing a robe in preparation for having her hair dyed and Roddy hadn’t come down the stairs yet.

“Come on, it’s nice.”

“Isn’t Roddy up there?”

“He’s fine. Babe!” she yelled. “I’m bringing Charlie up. Are you decent?”

“Come on up,” he yelled.

Their bedroom was sprawling, with large glass doors leading to a balcony and a vast view of an unadulterated landscape. The bathroom was the size of my room in our LA apartment. I caught a view of Roddy in his boxer briefs, leaning over the sink, shaving. I quickly looked down at my feet.

“It’s okay, they’re basically shorts,” Helen said.

“No, they’re not.” His back and butt were thick and muscular.

Roddy looked up at me through the mirror and smiled. “Hey, Charlotte.”

“Hi, Roddy.” I waved and then headed for the bedroom door, flushed all the way to my ears.

I dyed Helen’s hair in the downstairs bathroom and blew it out into soft waves. When I was almost finished, Roddy came and stood in the doorway, gazing at Helen with such reverence that it actually made me emotional.

“I like it,” he said. “This is the real you.”

Helen nodded and then her eyes started watering. Her hair was back to how I remembered it growing up—a light, natural blond, her eyebrows just a shade darker, framing her green eyes.

“You look great,” I said. “I haven’t seen you like this in a long time.”

She stood and went closer to the mirror. “Jesus, Charlie, you’re a miracle worker. I never thought I’d see this hair again.” I couldn’t believe I hadn’t fucked it up.

I was feeling good about myself, and feeling good about where Helen was with Roddy. But still, how in the world could two people know they’d be compatible after spending a few hours with each other?

When Roddy left the bathroom, I said, “How do you know, Helen? About Roddy?”

She shrugged. “I think I just finally figured myself out. I’m a fucking goofball and I was tired of being fake around guys.” She shut the door to the bathroom and sat on the closed toilet seat. “When I first saw Roddy . . . well, you know, he wasn’t really my type.”

I moved to the other side of the bathroom, leaned against the sink, and crossed my arms over my chest. “So you decided to move in with him?”

“No. I was just fucking around, being myself. I thought nothing would come of it. But it was awesome, being myself with him. He just totally let his guard down, too. We goofed off that first night and we had crazy sex and then goofed off some more. I just kept wanting to relive it.”

“Yeah, but that happens for a lot of people, Helen. They don’t go moving in with each other.”

“No, I’ve never been able to be myself around a guy and still love myself afterward.”

“Hmm. I get it, I guess.”

“Seth is genuinely a good guy, Charlotte. Why don’t you give him a chance?”

“I know nothing about him.”

“Try to get to know him.”

I shrugged. “Maybe I will.”

But the person I really wanted to get to know was nowhere to be found.

WHEN WE GOT to the game, we were ushered to our seats and soon discovered that Seth wasn’t playing at all; they had another utility player in his position. “Why isn’t he playing?”

“I don’t know. It’s a bummer, though. I wanted to cheer him on,” Roddy grumbled.

We watched almost the whole game in silence. I think we all were wondering if Seth’s major-league stint was going to be short-lived.

At the bottom of the ninth, the Padres were down by two with bases loaded and two outs. Then they brought Seth in to pinch-hit for the pitcher.

“Oh my god, the pressure,” I said.

Roddy came back quickly with, “He can handle it. Come on, Seth!” he shouted.

“Come on, Seth!” I screamed. There was no way he heard me, but from my view it looked like he straightened his shoulders infinitesimally the moment I yelled. The first pitch was a strike. He stepped out of the batter’s box, taking a breath, taking his time. He did a practice swing and then tapped the bat on his shoes and dug into the batter’s box again for the next pitch. It was a high ball, outside. It looked like he was almost going to swing.

“Be patient, number twelve!” Roddy yelled. “That highball outside is his weakness,” he said quietly to us.

The next pitch hung in the air, right at his shoulders. As if in slow motion, I watched Seth bend his knees, step forward, and swing right into the pitch with beautiful grace and ease. The stadium went crazy as we watched the ball sail all the way out of the park, past the center field wall. It was the farthest section, a generous four hundred feet to the wall, and Seth smacked the ball over it like it was nothing. A grand slam. He coasted around the bases, and when he tapped his toe on home plate, he kissed his hand and waved toward me. We made eye contact for a second. I smiled with such joy that I felt like an idiot.

“Wow,” Roddy said. “They say it’s harder to hit a home run at night here because of the marine layer.”

“What are you talking about?” Helen said.

“To hit it out at the farthest part of the field, because the air is thicker. He really got ahold of that one.”

Helen laughed. “It has to be because she’s here.” She patted me on the head.

“What, are you serious?”

“Maybe,” Roddy said.

“That’s ridiculous.”

Helen leaned in and whispered in my ear. “Sometimes they just need to believe in it. It’s a head trick.”

She wasn’t actually superstitious; she wasn’t actually buying this crap. She was doing what a good baseball girlfriend would do: letting them believe. Letting them have faith. Wasn’t that what I did for crazy Adam that one night?


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