So we’re really going to Portland?
“Yes, we’re really going to Portland!” Drew laughed as Schrodinger bounced excitedly around his feet. “In a limo, no less!”
I’ve never ridden in a limo! The CrossCat jumped up on to one of the chairs on the porch, his tail swishing. Have you?
The innocent question caught Drew by surprise, and he blinked. “Yes, a few times,” he said after a moment, and Schrodinger turned to look at him. “We took one to my prom, for one.”
The last time he’d sat in a limo, though, he had been dressed in a somber dark suit, bracketed by his aunt and uncle, saying goodbye to the rest of his family. Once again, he smelled Phoebe’s perfume, felt her hand on his knee as she leaned towards him from the other seat, her soft voice promising him that she’d always be there for him, that he was safe with her…
Drew? Schrodinger’s soft paw tapped on his leg, and he looked down at the CrossCat. Are you okay?
“Yeah, just some old memories.” Drew swallowed once, then smiled. “Not all limo rides are good things.”
Do you want to talk about it? I’m a good listener. Schrodinger sat down next to him, still looking up with worried green eyes.
“Not today,” Drew said, leaning down to stroke the CrossCat’s soft head. “It was a long time ago, and today is a day for fun.”
I wish Jack could go with us, Schrodinger said, still looking sad. He’s a ring bearer too!
“Yes, but the stadium is already bending the rules for you,” Drew said, chuckling. “Believe it or not, there are still some places in this world that don’t really believe in magic. Remember how Zoey reacted when she first came here? Most of the world is like that.”
How sad, Schrodinger said. How very sad for them.
“I agree,” Molly said, coming out onto the porch. “But think about it, Schrodinger. Would you want to stay here in Carter’s Cove if the entire world was like it?”
The CrossCat wrinkled his nose at her. Of course I would. Because there is no way the entire world could be like the Cove.
“Why not?” she asked him, slipping an arm around Drew.
Because you guys aren’t there, Schrodinger said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. And you guys are part of what makes the Cove special.
“I can’t disagree with that,” Drew said. “I know that all CrossRoads Towns are unique, but Carter’s Cove is special. It’s very different from where I grew up.” He looked down at Schrodinger. “For one thing, we didn’t have very many magical creatures stay in town. Most of them were just passing through.” He chuckled wryly. “My parents would have loved the Cove.”
“I’m sorry I never got a chance to meet them, but I can’t wait to meet your aunt and uncle Thursday,” Molly said. She was looking down the driveway at the limo that had just pulled in, so she didn’t see the grimace that crossed quickly over Drew’s face. He managed to get himself under control as she turned back, and kissed her gently.
“You’ll love them,” he said. “And they’ll love you too.” Then he hugged her and grabbed his old leather baseball glove. “Come on, Schrodinger!”
The CrossCat paused to rub his head against Molly’s hand quickly, and then ran down the steps to the waiting limo. A tall man in a very crisp black suit was waiting with the door open, and they both slid in to the cool interior, where not only Steve, Luke, Tom and Nathan were waiting for them, but to Drew’s surprise, both Jacks were there.
Jack! You got to come after all! Schrodinger hopped up next to the big black hound/shepherd mix, who gave him a big kiss. Drew ended up next to Jack Frost, who offered him a beer with a grin.
“That’s a different look,” Drew said, accepting the beer and looking at the Spirit of Frost, who winked at him. Jack was outfitted, as all the guys were, with Portland Sea Dogs jerseys and ball caps, and blue jeans. The ball cap hid some but not all of his long blond hair, and he looked remarkably comfortable.
“We just have one more stop,” Luke said, handing Drew a jersey.
“You convinced Pavel to come?” Drew shook his head, and pulled the jersey on. “This ought to be amazing.”
Luke winked at him. “You have NO idea.”
“Just remember, Molly said if we get arrested, she’s not coming to bail us out,” Drew warned him.
“We’re not going to get arrested!” Tom assured him. “Scout’s honor.”
“Well, that’s disappointing,” Jack said, and then shrugged when the others looked at him. “What?”
“You’ve never been out with Pavel, have you?” Drew said, chuckling. “He considers it a light night if he only gets arrested once.”
The big, burly pirate was waiting out on the pier near where his ship, the Heart’s Desire, was berthed, and Drew shook his head. Rather than forgo his normal attire, Pavel had paired his jersey and blue jeans with his customary knee-high polished boots, and instead of a baseball cap, he had his large black hat on his head. “Ahoy!” he shouted, as he clambered in. “Are we ready for a good time?”
Drew looked around the interior of the limo and shook his head. “I have a feeling this is going to be an epic afternoon.”
The limo ride to the stadium was uneventful, and they piled out in front of it. While Tom gave instructions to the driver, Luke herded the rest of them, not towards the gate, but towards a side gate, where a single guard watched them warily.
“Can you call Mike for me? He’s expecting his cousin,” Luke said, and the guard nodded, picking up his walkie-talkie.
“That’s how you managed this?” Drew said, and Luke winked at him. “I didn’t know your cousin worked here!”
Cousin Mike, it turned out, was the head of security for the ball park. When he came down the stairs to meet them, Drew could tell he and Luke were related – they looked like twins, not cousins. “Nice to meet all of you!” he said, shaking hands. “Who’s the lucky guy?”
“I am,” Drew said, and Mike gave him a once-over, then grinned.
“Nice to meet you! Glad to see Molly found someone,” he said, and Drew tried not to wince at the heartiness of his handshake. Then Mike turned to Luke. “Did you bring it?”
“Of course,” Luke said, handing over a paper bag. “As promised.”
I smell Molly’s cookies! Jack said, wagging his tail.
Me too! Schrodinger chimed in.
“That was the price,” Mike said. “Molly’s cookies are hard to come by out of the Cove, and I don’t get back often enough.” He passed the bag to the guard in the gate with a quiet word, then knelt down in front of the CrossCat and the dog. “We don’t normally allow animals in the stadium, but you guys are special,” he said, and pulled out two bandannas, printed with the Sea Dogs logo. “As long as you have these on, you’ll be fine.”
Thank you! Schrodinger said, putting a paw on the man’s hand. We appreciate it!
Yes! Jack agreed, giving Mike a kiss on the cheek. We do!
The man laughed and said, “All right, folks, follow me. We’ve got a special suite for you, and of course, as the groom, you get to throw out the first pitch.”
Drew blinked. “Really?”
“Oh yes,” Mike said, as he led them up the stairs and out along a walkway. Below them, the field stretched green and lush, with various people busy raking the infield dirt or drawing chalk lines along the edges. There were players tossing baseballs to each other and Tom had to lunge to grab Jack before he jumped over the rail.
I promise, I just want to play catch too! Jack howled mournfully, and the entire Sea Dogs team turned to look at them.
“Is that…?” Drew’s voice trailed off as one of the players began to walk over towards them.
“Yeah, he’s on a rehab assignment,” Mike said, as one of the biggest stars of the Red Sox, Big Papi himself, came over to meet them. Drew wasn’t the only one in awe. In fact, only Jack Frost and Pavel seemed unaffected.
“Welcome to the field!” Big Papi said, shaking everyone’s hand. Then he bent down to see Jack and Schrodinger. “What have we here?”
I’m Schrodinger, and this is Jack, the CrossCat said excitedly, standing up on his hind legs to put a paw on Big Papi’s knee. We’re huge fans!
“Are you now?” The big man laughed, apparently delighted to be talking to the CrossCat. “And what, if you don’t mind my asking, are you?”
I’m a CrossCat, Schrodinger said. I live in Carter’s Cove now with Molly and Drew, but I was born along the Roads.
Big Papi shook his head, a look of wonder on his face. “You know, I’ve heard rumors of things like that, but I didn’t know it was real,” he said. “I think, once this season is over, maybe I should come up to Carter’s Cove and see.”
Molly can make you cookies! Jack told him, wagging his tail. Molly makes the best cookies ever!
Indeed! You should come up for Christmas – that’s the best time in the world to be in the Cove, Schrodinger told him.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Big Papi said. “So you guys here to enjoy the game?”
“It’s Drew’s bachelor party,” Mike said, indicating the groom, who flushed a bit.
“Bachelor party?” Papi said, grinning. “Who you want to pitch to, then?”
“You,” Drew said instantly. “If you don’t mind, of course.”
“Mind? Nah, it will be fun! You got a picture of the lucky lady?”
Drew pulled out his phone, and showed a picture of Molly in her element: a cup of tea in her hand, sitting on the porch outside the kitchen, looking at a cookbook.
“Pretty lady,” Big Papi agreed. “Now, I gotta get back to practice now, but I’ll see you guys in a bit, okay? And I’ll hit you a home run.” With a final stroke of Schrodinger’s head and a skritch behind Jack’s ears, the designated hitter went back over to his teammates.
You and Molly should invite him to the wedding, Schrodinger told Drew, who laughed.
“As if the Sox would let him drop everything to come to a wedding,” he said. “It’s the middle of the season!”
I bet they’d let him! Schrodinger turned back to the field, watching everything going on.
Mike led them up to the luxury boxes, showed them where everything was, and then said to Drew, “So, you ready for this?”
“Oh yes,” Drew said. “Absolutely.” He looked down at Schrodinger and Jack. “You two going to come help me?”
Yes! Schrodinger said.
Of course! Jack agreed.
“And no chasing the ball,” Drew said sternly to the dog, who wagged his tail enthusiastically. “We’ll get a ball you can chase at home, okay?”
In the meantime, the field had emptied, even as the stands filled. The fact that Big Papi was playing had shot attendance through the roof, of course, and Drew couldn’t blame any of them. Mike led the three of them back down the steps and out onto the edge of the field, where he stopped next to a young man in a Sea Dogs jacket, holding a microphone.
“This is Drew,” Mike said, introducing him. “He’s our groom-to-be, so he gets to throw out the first pitch. Papi’s offered to catch him.”
“Lucky man,” the announcer said, not really looking at Drew. He was staring at his clipboard. “We’ll call your name as soon as they finish…” He looked up and trailed off. “What are those?”
“This is Schrodinger and Jack,” Mike said, winking at Drew and handing the announcer a piece of paper. “We have special dispensation for them to be on the field.”
“Am I introducing all of them?” the announcer said doubtfully.
Why wouldn’t you? Schrodinger asked curiously, and the announcer blinked.
“You get used to it,” Drew assured him. “Trust me.”
“Okay.” The announcer shook his head, and then shrugged. “Anyways, we’ll call you as soon as they finish the national anthem.” As if waiting for his words, the first strains of “The Star-Spangled Banner” began to play through the speakers, and they all turned to the scoreboard.
The last notes faded away, and the announcer brought the microphone up to his mouth. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the ball park!” He walked out on to the green grass, and the crowd cheered. “This is a special occasion today – we have a groom here, celebrating his upcoming wedding! And who else would he throw the first pitch to but Big Papi!”
Big Papi bounded out of the dugout, waving to the crowd and grinning widely. He settled in behind home plate, punching his mitt to show he was ready.
“Let’s bring your hands together to welcome Drew and his friends Schrodinger and Jack, who are going to throw out the first pitch! Come on out, Drew!”
Drew ran on to the field, flanked by the CrossCat and the hound, feeling like he was ten years old again. The field shrank, becoming the one that he’d pitched on all through grade school. If he turned his head, he could see where his parents, grandparents, sister and other relatives had sat, cheering them on as they’d won the State Championship. They hadn’t made it past that, but it had been a sweet win.
He stepped onto the rubber and accepted the ball from the announcer, who then backed away. Big Papi nodded at him, and shouted, “Come on, Drew! Throw a strike!”
The ball went true, streaking into the glove as if it were magnetically attracted, and the crowd went wild. Big Papi met them halfway to home plate and handed Drew back the ball. “You should be playing with us, you got an arm like that!” the slugger said, chuckling. “You think of a career change?”
“I couldn’t leave the Cove,” Drew said, accepting the ball. “But thanks!”
“Good luck, man,” Big Papi said. “I hope you have a great time tonight, and a wonderful wedding.” He knelt down and stroked both Schrodinger and Jack. “You give me good luck too, eh?”
Definitely! Schrodinger said, and Big Papi laughed again.
It was a good game – Big Papi was as good as his word, and shot not one, but two homeruns in the win. Mike delivered one of them to Drew as they headed down the stairs after the game – it was signed by every player, and Drew thanked him effusively.
“Happy wedding, man,” Mike said, shaking his hand. “Molly’s a great catch.”
“And now,” Pavel added, clapping Drew on the shoulder, “the night really begins.”