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Chapter Three

VIVIAN
“Well? What do you think?” Francine fidgeted with the fringe on her vintage crochet poncho. It looked like an afghan with a hole, and she looked like a cover model in it.

“He’s a nice-looking guy.”

He was Latino, built like a god, probably sang like Enrique Iglesias and fucked like James Deen. But I was barely fifteen minutes late because of an accident on the 10, and he was already making small talk with another girl at the bar.

“Those are real gang tats,” Larry, Francine’s boyfriend, said. He’d shaved his beard in favor of a Rollie Fingers curled moustache.

“He’s reformed,” she said with an excited smile.

My bones could feel how badly she wanted to jumpy-clap. I was her project. Sometimes I wondered if she put my face on Tinder and swiped right on my behalf.
I had book burning a hole in my Kindle, and Officer Hotpants was coming at me with an LED smile and two glasses of something I was sure was alcoholic. My mother had been killed by a drunk driver, so if I had the car, I drank Sprite or took a cab home.

“Thank you,” I said, taking my drink. How long could I nurse it? Maybe ten minutes. And I was thirsty. But I couldn’t be rude and reject the glass, nor could I sound judgmental and tell him the real reason I wasn’t drinking. So I figured I’d just hold it, then go home sober enough to remove my mascara and read myself to sleep.

Francine took the glass from me. “Oh my god, I’m sorry.” She made an apology face at Officer Hotpants. “She’s allergic to lemon. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”

“Cool, man, I hate lemon too.” Officer Hotpants took the glass. “They look prettier than they taste, you know what I’m saying?”

He cocked his glowing handsome face at me. I had no idea what he was trying to say.

“Yeah,” I said, smiling back.

“Larry, honey,” Francine said, pushing Larry to the bar. “Can you get Vivian her usual?” She winked.

“Come on.” Larry patted my setup on the shoulder, and they went to the bar.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Baseball’s on,” she said, indicating the TV behind the bar. “He likes sports. You can talk about that.”

Francine didn’t know there was no baseball in January, because she thought of sports as played by other people and watched by men.

And she thought baseball was just another sport, which was incorrect.

I followed her gaze to the TV, where Youder stood on the Dodger Dreamfield in East Hollywood and said something, which was translated into the snaking black bars of closed captioning. I was going to explain to Francine that that wasn’t baseball, it was an event I’d been at just hours before, when I saw what was behind him.

Me, taking a ball from Dash Wallace.

He was ten times more popular Youder was, but he didn’t give interviews. He hadn’t appeared in front of the cameras to accept any of his three Golden Gloves.

He was never on television unless it was on the field during a game or in the background of some charity event, giving a fan a ball, and when he made the gossip column with this girl or that, he wasn’t facing the camera.

I watched myself tell him to fuck off and turn my back to him.

I watched him stare at me walking away.

I watched him put his fingers to his lips and blow me a kiss before shaking his hand as if I was too hot to handle.

Then it cut away to a beer commercial.

The whole incident was so small on the screen it wouldn’t be noticed by most people, but it was now taking up more space in my head than any other single event in my life.
Poor Officer Hotpants. He didn’t stand a chance against the heat of my new fantasies. Oh sure, the kiss could have been a “fuck off, lady,” and the shaking hand probably had shades of “bitch with a hot temper,” but it didn’t. Not on the HD screen. I could see it all because I was looking, and he thought I was cute. Even in my loose jeans and Hobart Elementary hoodie. Even with no mascara.

I sucked down my Sprite and claimed a headache, then I drove home on the empty freeway with Dash Wallace on the brain.

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