Under a Cloudless Sky, page 33
“Just the way it works. But the commissioner said if the Cubs had made the World Series, they’d have lost home-field advantage because they don’t have lights.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Yeah, well it was all about money. And life isn’t fair. Especially when it comes to the Cubs.”
As Dantrelle got his jacket, I took my old glove with faded words and held it to my face. The faint leather scent swirled warm, rich memories like fly balls in a summer sky. I returned the glove to a plastic bin in the apartment’s only closet. Pictures lay scattered like dry leaves among the papers and playbills. The three of us, sweaty and smiling and spitting watermelon seeds.
“Who’s that?” Dantrelle said, pointing at a Polaroid of Jesse sitting on a picnic table and holding a cat.
“A friend of mine from a long time ago.” At the bottom of the box was a ticket. Reds vs. Pirates, July 1972.
I got out the yearbook and paged through until I found her. She stared at something beyond the camera. Her hair was too long and cut uneven and shadowed her eyes. The photo was a black-and-white, but I could see the emerald blue, her eyes like an ocean. Closing my eyes, I heard her laugh and her desperate cry for help in the year I discovered my heart.
People say you can’t know love at such a young age. Maybe it wasn’t love. But it was close. The longer I stared at Jesse’s face, the more my heart broke for her and what had happened. I thought I had put all of that behind me, though. I had moved on with life, but one phone call had grabbed me by the throat.
“Can I watch some more TV while you look at this stuff?” Dantrelle said.
I apologized and put the bin back. “Dantrelle, I might have to take a trip. That would mean we couldn’t meet this week.”
His eyes looked hollow as he shrugged.
“Maybe I could ask Miss Kristin to help with your math.”
He brightened. “I like Miss Kristin. You two going to get married?”
I tried to smile and shook my head. “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
“That’s a long story I’ll tell another day.”
A week earlier Kristin, a flaxen-haired beauty who attended a nearby Bible school and mentored young girls at Cabrini, had sat across the table from me at Houlihan’s to splurge on an early dinner. I could tell there was something wrong before our salads arrived. As tears came, she said she cared deeply for me but that we couldn’t go further.
“I think I just want to be friends,” she said.
“What does that mean? That I’m not good enough for you?”
She shook her head. “No, you’re a great guy. I see how much you care about the kids and how much you want things to change. But it feels like . . .”
“It feels like what?”
“Like you want to throw on a Superman cape and run to the rescue. I can’t fix what’s wrong at Cabrini. And neither can you. We can help some kids, maybe. We can make a difference. But it feels like you’re doing all of this in your own power.”
Her words stung because I could see Kristin and me together. I wondered who had gotten to her in her dorm and talked about me. Of course, whoever had pointed out the spiritual mismatch was right. She was a lot further down the road of faith. At times, it felt like I had taken an exit ramp miles earlier. So we agreed to part as friends and not let our relationship harm the work we were doing. It was all smiles and a polite hug while inside, the part of my heart that had come alive as I got to know her shattered.
I picked up the phone now and dialed her dorm. Someone answered and Kristin finally came to the phone.
“Hey, I have a favor to ask,” I said, extending the antenna. “I need to take care of some stuff at home—but Dantrelle is counting on me this week. Do you think you could meet with him? I can’t be back by Tuesday.”
“Sure. I’m over there that afternoon anyway.”
I gave Dantrelle a thumbs-up. “He just smiled at that news.”
“He’s with you?”
“We were watching the Cubs lose.”
“Poor Cubs. So what’s up? Is someone sick at home?”
“It’s complicated. Maybe I’ll have the chance to explain it someday.” If you give me another chance.
“Well, tell Dantrelle to meet me at the ministry office.”
“Thanks for doing that, Kristin.”
I left a message with the coordinator at the counseling center, explaining as little as possible about the trip and leaving my parents’ phone number in case someone needed to reach me. Then I walked Dantrelle home and up the urine-laced concrete stairs to his apartment. His mother came to the door, wild-eyed and unkempt. She grabbed him by the shoulder without speaking to me, and Dantrelle waved as he was hustled inside and the door shut.
I took the stairs two at a time and moved away from Cabrini, thinking of Jesse and her bad decision. If she said, “I do,” that was it. She would. I had to do something to change her mind and keep her from throwing her life away. I had to help her see the truth. And though I didn’t want to admit it, didn’t want to open the door to even the possibility, something inside told me there might still be hope for us, even after all the years and distance.
I threw some clothes in a gym bag and set my alarm. Then I lay in bed, listening to the sounds of the city, knowing I wouldn’t sleep. Dickie was right. I owed it to Jesse to make one more attempt. And before she walked the aisle that felt like a plank, I owed it to myself.
Well before midnight, I hopped in the car and headed toward the expressway, then south toward Indiana and beyond to my childhood home.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
CHRIS FABRY is an award-winning author and radio personality who hosts the daily program Chris Fabry Live on Moody Radio. He is also heard on Love Worth Finding, Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, and other radio programs. A 1982 graduate of the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University and a native of West Virginia, Chris and his wife, Andrea, now live in Arizona and are the parents of nine children.
Chris’s novels, which include Dogwood, June Bug, Almost Heaven, and The Promise of Jesse Woods, have won five Christy Awards, an ECPA Christian Book Award, and a 2017 Award of Merit from Christianity Today. Under a Cloudless Sky is his eightieth published book. His books include movie novelizations, like the recent bestseller War Room; nonfiction; and novels for children and young adults. He coauthored the Left Behind: The Kids series with Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, as well as the Red Rock Mysteries and the Wormling series with Jerry B. Jenkins. Visit his website at www.chrisfabry.com.
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Chris Fabry, Under a Cloudless Sky