“He made Enzo cry.”
Wren smirks. “Come on. I love my son, but we both know he cries at the drop of a hat. Always has. Just like Mom.”
Brows furrowed, I stand shoulder to shoulder with my sister. “What am I supposed to do now? I can’t be like, ‘Oh, sorry. I changed my mind. Please don’t fuck off. You can mail him an autograph now.’”
Wren hooks her hand around my elbow and leads me to the living room. “Don’t sweat it. He won’t even remember this by tomorrow. He’s too excited about that field trip.”
“Yeah. You’re right.” I exhale just as my phone buzzes in my pocket. With my guard up, I fully expect it to be the bearded wonder again, only instead it’s my best friend, Topaz, asking me to call her as soon as possible. “All right. I’m going to my room. Topaz wants me to call her.”
“She’s back from Aruba already?”
“I guess?” Shuffling to my room, I close the door and change into pajamas. Phone calls with Topaz are never quick, so I at least want to be comfortable. Crawling into bed, I pull the covers up to my waist and sink back before pulling up her contact information and pressing the green button.
“Oh my god, Aidy?” she answers. “Oh my god, oh my god.”
“What?” I laugh. “You’re freaking me out here. What is it?”
“You’re never going to believe this,” she says, her words coming out in a rushed sigh. “There’s a freaking tropical storm down here. All flights are grounded until further notice. I’m stuck here.”
Lightly chuckling, I say, “Topaz, there are worse places you could be stranded than a tropical island.”
“Right. You’re absolutely right. What was I thinking? Let me just hang up with you and grab my towel. I’d love nothing more than to enjoy a Mai Tai while being pelted by hundred mile-per-hour rain.”
“Hang out in your hotel,” I say. “Order some room service and watch some movies. Just relax until the storm passes. That’s all I meant.”
Topaz groans. “I’m booked to do makeup in the morning. Can you cover me?”
“Of course. Where?”
“High Park Center,” she says. “Studio 4B. Ask for Michelle, she’s in charge of production. She’ll point you to hair and makeup.”
“What show is this for?” I don’t want to seem like a clueless buffoon when I show up tomorrow.
“It’s a morning sports show for the ASPN channel. It’s called Smack Talk and it’s exactly what it sounds like: some guys sitting around showing highlight reels from last night’s games, giving each other shit. So anyway, just basic camera-ready makeup. And be there by seven.”
“Ah, easy enough.”
“Yeah, they’re a riot. You’ll love working with them,” Topaz says. “Anyway, I should probably get off the phone. If you don’t hear from me tomorrow . . .”
“Topaz,” I say. “The storm will pass. I promise. You’ll be home before you know it. Call me when you’re back in the city and we’ll do coffee, okay?”
“Thanks, Aidy. Love you.”
Setting the alarm on my phone, I plug it into the charger and head to the bathroom to wash my face and brush up for bed.
I think about that guy – Alessio or Ace or whatever the hell his name is, and I think about what Wren said. Maybe he was just having a bad day, but it doesn’t give him a free pass to treat people however he wants.
When I’m back in bed, I pull up his text message again, wishing purely for Enzo’s sake that I’d have taken the high road earlier. I’d like to think that if I ever ran into this guy again, and I probably never will, that I’d make things right – at least for Enzo.
But I’m still pissed.
So who knows what I’d actually say?
I fall asleep, mentally berating him, practicing all the things I’ll probably never get a chance to say.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think eight years in the major leagues and two World Series pennants would land me a guest co-host chair on the set of Smack Talk.
I’m not talk show material.
I don’t even watch this shit. Not anymore, anyway.
No part of me wants to be here today.
But I let my old agent, Lou, talk me into it. It was one of the few things he ever said that actually made perfect sense, and I couldn’t argue his point.
“Ace, your career was cut short and it was wicked shitty what happened, but you can’t hide out the rest of your life. You still have fans, and you owe it to them to show them you’re gonna be okay,” he said, his words coated in a gruff Boston accent. The man was my biggest fan and number one supporter, he was like the father I never had. The only times his loyalty temporarily abandoned me was when the Firebirds played the Red Sox, but at least he was always honest about it. Lou was never a bullshitter, and that’s what I loved most about him.
I told Lou I’d never hosted anything in my life, I knew nothing about broadcast journalism, and I tended to avoid cameras every chance I got because their invasiveness almost always puts me on edge.
His response? “Can ya read a teleprompter?”
I make my way through the front lobby of the High Park Center building, stopping at the security checkpoint and emptying my pockets.
The guard ahead stares at me like I’m familiar to him, and just when I think he’s about to say something wise, he clears his throat and says, “Belt.”