Though years had passed since Jake graced the pitcher’s mound, his calloused hands still told the story of minor league success. He cradled the hard ball in his palm.

A young girl stared at him from across the yard.

“I’m ready, Daddy!” she yelled with confident grit.

Baseball had become the duo’s favorite pastime. He smiled as his eyes caught anticipation in Kayla’s focused stare. The six year-old had talent, taking after her father.

Turning the baseball in hand, gratitude overcame him. Jake couldn’t extinguish the pain a mother’s abandonment brought. Still, Kayla seemed to flourish despite their troubles.

“Let’s go!” The child again signaled as she pushed away tight brunette spirals.

Aiming to throw a sinker, he pitched.

Kayla’s sharp eye followed the motion. She caught the throw with precision.

Jake gasped. Her precocious ability astounded him every time.

Jake couldn’t extinguish the pain a mother’s abandonment brought.

The loud hum of an engine caught his attention. Jake straightened his hunched stance, looking over the fence. A moving truck backed into the neighboring home’s driveway.

He nodded to Kayla. “Looks like someone is finally moving in.”

Kayla glanced behind her, shielding her face from the bright sun.

“I hope they have kids!”

Jake let out a short chuckle, attempting to mask his disappointment in both of their social lives.

“Ok, honey.” Jake called, dismissing his thoughts. “Your turn.”

Kayla set her eyes on Jake, a devilish smirk sparking the delicate features of her face. He knew what was coming. Kayla’s signature throw- a four-seam fastball. As his daughter pulled back her right arm, voices from the neighboring yard distracted him. A young woman caught his eye and for an instant, the world fell away. He didn’t notice the ball whiz by.

“Dad!”

Jake’s focus returned. He jogged to retrieve the ball. Laughter filled the air as Jake again noticed the young woman, this time playing with a seemingly well-behaved yellow Lab. A young boy, just about Kayla’s age, joined in the fun and Jake’s smile broadened. Perhaps his daughter could finally make a new friend.

The woman looked up and heat rushed his face as a pair of dark eyes met his. Jake quickly averted his view. Embarrassed, he returned to the action at hand.

“Ok, Kayla. Here it comes. The ultimate curve ball!”

“Ha! Give it your best shot.” The munchkin-like voice called back.

Jake wound his arm and released. Immediately noticing the overthrown pitch, he muttered regret. The ball soared into the neighbor’s back yard. Jake gave his teeth a grind as he walked to the fence line.

Time to introduce myself.

Approaching the stranger, Jake noticed his first impression of her beauty hadn’t come close. Her dark eyes glittered while golden locks fell loosely below her shoulders. Quickly scanning her fit physique, his eyes fell upon her left hand. No wedding ring. Jake shot his glance back to the woman’s appealing gaze.

“Hey, sorry about that.” he stammered.

A contagious light poured from the woman’s expression as she formed a response.

“No problem.” She extended her hand for a shake. “I’m Sandra. Looks like we’re neighbors.”

“Welcome to the neighborhood, I’m Jake and this is Kayla.” He wrapped his arm around his sidekick.

“Hi, Kayla. I take it you like baseball.”

“I love it.”

“Well, if you ever need some pointers, let me know.”

“You play baseball?” Kayla asked, eyes wide.

“Well, softball. In college, anyway.” Sandra let out a nervous laugh as she looked to Jake. “Oh, and this is my nephew, Danny.”

The kids smiled at one another.

She extended her hand for a shake. “I’m Sandra. Looks like we’re neighbors.”

Curious to ask, but not wanting to seem too forward, Jake asked the question carefully. “So, is it just you moving in?”

“Well,” she began, “and Lucas.”

“Husband?” Jake replied, confused.

“No.” Sandra laughed, gesturing to the lab who happily held the now drool-soaked ball. “Dog.”

Jake laughed at his error as a strange but familiar emotion revisited him for the first time in years.

Sandra smiled. “Well, I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

“Let us know if you need any help.”

“Thanks, I will.”

Jake began the trek across his yard, forgetting the reason for their meeting.

“Hey!”

He turned with hopeful infatuation.

Sandra winked as she tossed the ball.

“Catch!”

 

For more great sports love stories, check out the latest issue of Spark!

 

Meet the Author

Andy Carmichael enjoys writing Inspiring Fiction, Romantic Suspense, and Sweet Romance from a Christian perspective. Whether in short stories or novels, Andy’s characters find renewed hope and strength after experiencing immeasurable hardships. A writer for years, Andy is now beginning the journey of seeking publication to bring her books to the world. She hopes you will accompany her.

You can find Andy on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.