Sarah spent the next several weeks helping Marcie and Nicole get ready for Marcie’s wedding. Even though she was busy with work and wedding plans, the decisions she had to make were never far from her thoughts. She had taken the two weeks around Christmas and the New Year off so that she could spend the time with Harry and break the news to him, but the more she thought about it, the more she felt she should not tell Harry until Harrison knew. Even though she didn’t know how he would react, she didn’t want to get his hopes up to have Harrison dash them by not wanting to get to know his son. Sarah thought that he would have mixed emotions, because what kid wouldn’t be thrilled their father was a major league baseball player, but she was concerned that he would be angry with her for keeping the secret. Fortunately, she had Thanksgiving and Christmas with Harry and then the wedding before she had to tackle the big issues.
As Sarah sat at her desk, her assistant Jim knocked before entering with a beautiful arrangement of tiger lilies. She smiled because she knew they were from Harrison. He may have taken a break from sending gifts, but periodically he had sent her small gifts, mostly stuff for the staff to enjoy. This had been the first gift he had sent directed totally at her. He was slowly breaking through the walls she had so carefully erected. The scent of the lilies wafted through her office bringing her a sense of peace.
“So, doll, want to talk about it?”
“No. I know we are somewhat friends, but don’t call me doll when we’re at the office. I’m sorry. Just a lot of stress lately. Why don’t you take a long lunch and bring me back a sandwich from Jason’s Deli?”
“Sure. Anything in particular?”
“Nope. Just the usual.”
Sarah returned to staring out the window thinking about her life. She knew things had been too good for too long, but at this point, she wasn’t really concerned about herself. Sarah was most concerned about how to handle Harry. A knock at the door startled her back to reality. She smiled as she saw her mother standing there with Harry. “So, what brings you two by on a school day none the less?”
“We had a half day, mom, and thought we would see if we could steal you away for lunch.”
“Sure, just let me call Jim and tell him not to bring me anything back for lunch.”
As Sarah walked out of the building with her mom and son, she noticed how happy and carefree Harry seemed. She wondered whether or not he would remain that way once he knew the truth. She felt bad for what was about to happen to him. Unfortunately, she had no idea how he would react and what the future would hold. She was sure that he would be excited. After all, Harrison Cooper was his favorite player in the entire world. “So, what do you want? Cheesecake Factory? Jason’s Deli?”
“Definitely Cheesecake Factory. I could use a big slice of cheesecake for dessert.”
Sarah laughed at his enthusiasm. They got in the car and headed to the restaurant. As they ate, the conversation was light and easy. They talked about their day and especially about school and baseball. Harry reminded her that he had a game that afternoon and not to be late, like she would be late if she could help it.
After lunch and saying goodbye, Sarah went back to seeing her patients and tried to get all her work done in a timely manner so that she could enjoy the evening with her family. Unfortunately, her last patient of the day was supposed to be a simple in and out, but Murphy’s Law was in full effect today. The patient had high blood pressure, 3+ protein in her urine and 2+ edema in her lower extremities. She had no choice but to admit her, but that required a plethora of paperwork including admission orders, labs, and a discussion with the on-call physician about the patient’s condition and the possibility of needing to do an emergency C-section. To complicate matters, there was an accident on I-285 that made her usual forty-five-minute drive into an hour and a half. She barely made it to the ballfield before the first pitch.
Just as Sarah settled into her seat next to her mother, movement caught her eye across the field, and she nearly fainted as she lost all the blood in her head when she saw Harrison Cooper shaking hands with the opposing coach and players. Shit. Shit. Shit. Oh Fuck. I’ve got to get out of here before this whole thing goes to hell in a hand basket. Sarah picked up her phone before she leaned over to her mom and whispered that she had an emergency at the hospital and had to leave. “Please tell Harry I’m sorry and I’ll see him at home.”
Anne grasped her hand and held her in place. “Bullshit. I see that young man over there, and you don’t want to make a scene here. I get it. Just be quiet and careful backing out of here.”
“Thanks, mom. I owe you and Harry both. I love you.” Sarah kissed her mom on the cheek before she scooted out of the stands and headed to…well anywhere but here.
Sarah decided to drive around for a while before heading home. Making sure she had been gone for a sufficient length of time, she finally pulled into the driveway of her house. Before she could get out, Harry came bounding down the front steps and throwing his arms around her neck.
“Mom, Mom, guess what?”
“Yeah, but that’s not the best part. I got to meet Harrison Cooper today. He came to our game and did a little clinic before the game. It was AWESOME!”
Sarah could only smile as her heart was in her throat and she couldn’t form words. She ruffled his hair and kissed him on the forehead. “Well, I’m so happy for you, Harry. I know he’s your favorite player, and you want to be like him one day. I’m really glad you got to meet him. Want to know a secret?”
“Sure, but it’s not something lame like you love me is it. Because that is not really a secret.”
Sarah laughed. “No. That’s not it. My bosses, Drs. Montgomery and Ryan bought the Braves, and you’ll probably get to see him and maybe even have a private clinic with him.” Sarah watched as his eyes lit up.
“Yes. Really. I wouldn’t lie to you.” About something like this. Sarah was dying on the inside as she talked with Harry about his day and she wondered if he would ever forgive her for not telling him about his father before now. As they stood there and talked, she felt a migraine starting to come on from all the stress that she was experiencing. She wished she knew what the future held, but with everything in flux she could only hope that she hadn’t made a monumental mistake with Harrison and cost them ten years of being together.
Harry looked up at his mom with concern in his eyes and said, “Are you okay mom?”
“Yeah, just a little headache. Too much work and not enough fun these days. Why don’t we head in and get you cleaned up before we head out to eat?”
“Okay. Sorry you missed the game and my two homeruns.”
“Oh, baby” Sarah said as she pulled Harry into her arms, “I’m the one who’s sorry that I missed it, but unfortunately life as a doctor can be unpredictable.” I hope I’m not going to get struck by lightning or go straight to hell for all the lies I’m telling today.
“You’re forgiven. Especially if we can have pizza.”
Sarah smiled, “Sure, Harry. Pizza it is.”
Sarah watched her mom walk over to her as Harry scooted upstairs to clean up and change clothes. She didn’t know what to say to her Mom about today. Yes, she knew about Harrison, but she had no idea all the personal turmoil she was experiencing since she had seen him again.
“Wanna talk about it baby girl?”
“Mom, I’m not a baby anymore.”
“Sweetheart, you’ll always be my baby girl.”
Sarah walked into her mom’s embrace before she allowed the tears to fall. “I’m such an awful person, mom. Harry deserves a father, and I’ve deprived him of that. What if I made a colossal mistake with Harrison? I never gave him a chance to explain. I just shut him out and consequently shut him out of his son’s life. I know he’s going to be angry with me. I just don’t know how angry he’ll be, or how vindictive he’ll be. Honestly, I deserve whatever happens. The biggest problem is that I’m still in love with him, but I know he’ll never want me again after he finds out what I’ve done.”
“Oh, baby girl. I know it’ll be tough, and you’re right about many things. He’ll most likely be mad as hell. I mean put yourself in his shoes. How would you feel? However, I don’t think he’ll try to take Harry away from you, but you will have to share him. As far as how you still feel, maybe he still feels the same way, but is still confused about what happened. All I can tell you is that you have almost two months before you meet with him, so take that time and prepare yourself and Harry. Maybe you’ll get some of the answers you are seeking, and they will guide you on your journey.”
Wiping the tears away so Harry wouldn’t see them, Sarah simply nodded at her mom. Maybe her mother was right and she would know how to move forward when the time came. All she knew was that she had to get through the next few months, a bachelorette party, a wedding, and the holidays before she had to face the music. Crap, the wedding she thought All the guys on the team who were in town would be there. What if he brought a date? Could she handle that? What if he wanted to talk to her? Shaking her head to clear it, she found her center just before Harry walked back into the room. With a smile on her face, she took Harry’s hand and they walked outside to go to dinner.
Dinner was great. She loved the enthusiasm of her nine-year-old. His laughter was infectious. The only thing was everyday he grew to be more and more like his father. As Sarah laid in bed that night her mind wandered to all the mistakes she had made in her life. Harrison, almost getting kicked out of her residency program, and never letting Harry know about his father. The more time she spent thinking about Harry the more she found herself inexplicably drawn back to thinking of Harrison, or as she called him Coop. Unable to control her hands and mind, she reached for her phone and sent a text message that she probably shouldn’t have, but couldn’t have stopped if she had wanted to.
S: Do you ever think about me?
Harrison sat on his veranda sipping his Blantons and smoking a Davidoff Nicaraguan diadema when his cell phone chimed. He was confused as to who would be texting him at this hour unless it was one of his teammates trying to get him to join them at the Cheetah. When he looked at the message, he couldn’t control the smile that engulfed him. Harrison couldn’t imagine what had inspired Sarah to text him out of the blue, but he was happy that she was reaching out to him.
H: All the time. That’s why I have such a hard time understanding what happened between us. Do you ever think about me?
Sarah stared at the screen with tears threatening to fall. Oh, my God what have I done?
S: Every single day.
Harrison stared at the screen with his heart in his throat. He was more confused now than he had ever been. If she thought of him that often, then why had she cut him off?
H: I don’t understand Sarah. How could you think about me every day when you walked away from me? God knows, I tried to get to you.
Sarah couldn’t control the tears as they fell. She wiped away the tears to stare at the screen. What should she say? This was not a conversation that she wanted to have via text messaging.
S: I’m sorry, Coop.
The words tore at his heart. He had not allowed anyone to call him Coop since Sarah. It was a painful reminder of her. Cooper he could handle, but Coop was off limits.
H: Why Sarah?
S: Not tonight Coop. We can talk about a lot of things, but the why will have to wait. Sorry, but I need more time.
S: Do you hate me?
H: Hate you? No. I think my life would have been much easier if I hated you. I could’ve moved on, but I don’t hate you.
Harrison contemplated what she meant her question. He didn’t hate her. He was still in love with her. For God’s sake, he still wore the engagement ring he had bought her around his neck as a reminder of the love he had for her and how no other woman would ever compare to her.
S: Coop. You still there?
H: Yeah. Sorry. Why don’t you tell me about being a doctor? Is it everything you thought it would be?
S: Yes and no. I mean it is everything I thought it would be, and every time I deliver a baby my heart flutters for the new life. It is much better now that I’m staff and not a resident.
H: Are you happy?
S: Most of the time. What about you? Is baseball everything you thought it would be? You made it to the show and with your home town team.
H: Baseball is great. The rest, not so much. It gets lonely not having anyone to celebrate the good with or commiserate the bad. It’s great that Rhett and I are here together, but he has his family now, so I’m more on the outside looking in, and I don’t really enjoy going out to the clubs with the younger guys anymore.
S: I know what you mean. Most of my colleagues are engaged or married. So, I usually go to work and go home. As sad as it sounds, I still live with my mom.
H: Not sad at all. At least you have someone to go home to. How is your mom? Still keeping the nurses in line?
S: Yes. Very much. Thank you for talking to me.
H: Thank you for reaching out. One more thing. Do you hate me?
S: No. SMH. I don’t hate you. I hate to say this, but I need to get some sleep. Some of us have to work in the morning. Good night Coop.
H: Okay. I understand. Can I see you before January?
S: Sure. I believe I’ll see you at the wedding. However, no talk of the past.
H: You drive a hard bargain, but okay. I’ll see you there. Good night Sarah.
S: Good night Coop.
Harrison sat back in his chaise and stared at the night sky. What had just happened? Harrison’s heart was beating a mile a minute. If someone had asked him how his day would end this wouldn’t have even been in the top one hundred ways, it would’ve happened. He thought of her every day, and now, twice since he had demanded a meeting she had reached out to him. The big question is why would she think that he hated her. He didn’t understand what happened, and he would give anything to go back and fix it, but the reality is the past is exactly that, and he can’t change it. Over the years, he had wracked his brain to try and figure out what had happened. He knew she was fragile when they were dating. She didn’t have any experience with, well anything, and he tried to do everything in his power to make her believe in herself. Her innocence was one of the things that attracted him to her, and he could tell she still possessed it to an extent.
Sipping his Blantons, Harrison noted how much more flavorful the bourbon seemed tonight and his cigar was so much more pleasing to his palate. He found that he was more relaxed after a few minutes of texting with her than he had been in years. As the bourbon relaxed him a little bit his mind drifted back to ten years ago…
Ten Years Ago, Athens, GA
What the fuck just happened? Harrison stood there massaging the sting out of his cheek. He was absolutely dumbfounded that Sarah had just slapped him and run away. Looking around he saw Tricia standing over to the side with a smug smile on her face. Harrison stormed over there and shouted, “What the fuck did you say to her!”
“The truth. That she is so far out of your league that you would never stick around.”
Harrison ran his hand over his face trying to suppress the anger boiling over. “Listen you little sorority tramp. You don’t know shit. If you think getting her to run off is going to land you in my bed, you are sorely mistaken. I don’t go for bleach bottle blonde cleat chasers. You are nothing but a common whore. Now take your sorry ass away from this house and never let me see your face here again. GO! NOW!” Harrison turned away and stomped back inside to find his keys and chase after Sarah.
“Sarah! Sarah! Open the God damn door. I know you’re home.” Harrison continued to beat on the door thankful it was Saturday night and none of her neighbors seemed to be home. Finally, the door opened, but it was not Sarah, it was her roommate and if looks could kill he would be dead where he stood.
“What do you want asshole? Haven’t you done enough already? Now leave before I call the cops.”
Harrison stood there confused as hell. What had he done? “I don’t know what you are talking about, Bianca. One minute we were having a goodtime, the next minute she slaps me and runs away. I can’t fix what I don’t know I did wrong.”
Bianca seemed to soften a little bit as she listened to what Harrison said. “I don’t know what happened. I just know she ran in the door crying, said something about you being a mother fucker, which was kind of funny because I had never heard her say fuck before, then she went to her room and slammed the door, and has been crying ever since.”
“Fuck!!!” Harrison said as he slammed his hand into the wall beside the door.
“Just go for now. I will try to talk to her and get her settled down, but what she does is ultimately up to her.”
“Just tell her I’m sorry. I don’t know what I did, but I will move heaven and earth to make it right.” Harrison turned and walked away hoping that he would see her again. Not having anywhere else to be, Harrison found himself sitting on a barstool at The Globe drowning his sorrows in beer. He felt a hand on his shoulder and drunkenly turned around to find his best friend standing there looking sullen and a little pissed off.
“Let’s go asshole. I’ve wasted too much time looking for your sorry ass. Why can’t you go to a normal place to get trashed? Speaking of, what did you do this time?”
“I…uh…don’t know. What I do know is my damn glass is empty again. Barkeep!” He yelled out.
“Nope buddy you’re done for the night. Let’s pay the nice lady and get you home.” Rhett said as he tried to move Harrison off the barstool. “Jesus you’re one heavy son of a bitch. Just lean on me and let’s go.”
“You’re a good friend.”
“Thanks. A good friend who isn’t getting laid right now because I had to come find your drunk ass. Wanna tell me what happened?”
“Wanna tell me how you knew to come look for me?”
“Bianca called me and told me that I should find you because she had a feeling you were going to go get trashed, and looky here, you are trashed.”
“I think Sarah broke up with me, but I don’t know why.”
Harrison held onto Rhett as he helped him into his car. “I don’t know what I did man. One minute we were having fun the next minute she slapped me and ran away.” Finally giving into the heartache and tears he let them fall freely as they drove the darkened streets of Athens. “I love her so much, and yet she just ripped my heart out.”
“Hopefully, it will look better in the light of day, and we will also forget this little female bonding and crying episode by then. Jesus Harrison, I have never seen you like this. She is just a girl.”
“Pullover. Pullover now.” Harrison was out of the car and depositing his beer and whiskey all over the bushes on the side of the road. He looked up to see where they were and groaned again when he realized he had just thrown up all over the university president’s hedges. Can my day get any better? Harrison slowly sat back down and willed his stomach to settle enough to get home. Thankfully Rhett was taking pity on him and took him to his house instead of the fraternity house.
Once inside, Rhett handed him a bottle of water and some Advil. Take these and drink this so you won’t feel like total shit tomorrow. Remember we actually have an afternoon game.”
“Shit. Can I call in sick?”
“No asshole, and I’ll make sure you remember every fucking drop you drank tonight.”
Harrison went to the guest bedroom and passed out on top of the covers.
Harrison awoke feeling like shit. He couldn’t remember the last time he had gotten that rip-roaring drunk, and then the memories returned to him full force like a punch to the gut which sent him scrambling for the toilet to throw up what was left of his dignity. Harrison sat on the edge of the tub running a cold washcloth over his face trying to feel semi-human again. All he could think about was what he would do without Sarah and how he could get her back. Harrison walked back into his room to find more Advil and a couple of bottles of Gatorade. Silently thanking Rhett, he downed the pills and liquid.
As predicted, Harrison played like shit. Two errors and three strikeouts in a humiliating loss to Florida. As he stood in the shower letting the scalding hot water slush over his skin, Harrison was distraught that he had let his personal life interfere with his goals, but dammit Sarah was his life outside of baseball.
The next few weeks passed in a blur of activity and loneliness. Graduation came and went with the usual fanfare, but Harrison felt broken inside. Somehow, the team managed to keep on winning despite him. He even asked to be benched for a couple of games but that didn’t go over well with the coaches. The season finally ended with a disappointing trip to the College World Series. Even through all his struggles, Harrison still managed to be drafted third overall by the Atlanta Braves. He should have been ecstatic, but he was consumed with thoughts of Sarah. He had been unable to get her to talk to him and as their time apart increased he doubted he would ever get the chance again.
Harrison absentmindedly fingered the engagement ring through his shirt. Maybe, just maybe things were starting to turn around. He wanted to call Rhett, but given the baby’s sleep schedule and his being up at all hours of the night he didn’t want to disturb him. Instead he decided to call the one person he knew would at least listen and not pass judgement. Scrolling through his phone he finally found who he was looking for and dialed the number.
“Hey, mom. Hope I didn’t disturb you.”
“Harrison, you can call me anytime. So, what’s up? You don’t usually call this late just to chat.”
“I’m sorry, mom, but I needed to talk to someone, and you were the, well, second person I thought of. I wanted to call Rhett but with the baby and all…”
“Well, even if I’m your second choice. What can I do for you.”
“I’m really confused, mom. You know how long I was messed up about Sarah, and really never put her behind me. I finally saw her again the night Rhett and Alexis had their baby. To say that it wasn’t the reunion I would’ve imagined would be an understatement.” Harrison chuckled into the phone, “She slapped me again and ran away. Seems like that’s our MO.”
“Did you ever figure out what you did to that poor girl?”
“Mom, you’re supposed to be on my side here. No, I still haven’t, but I suspect on January 4th I’ll finally find out the truth about what happened all those years ago.”
“You seem certain of the date. Is there something I don’t know?”
“Yeah, I told you about the new contract, but I added a stipulation that she had to agree to meet with me so we could hash this out. Apparently, she works for my new bosses as an OB/GYN.”
“Interesting that you would put that type of stipulation on a contract that big. What if she had refused?”
“Then I would have signed the contract and tried to reach out to her another way. However, an interesting thing has happened recently. She has reached out to me via text message. She was concerned about whether I hated her or not. Even though I would have had every reason in the world to hate her, I don’t.”
“Do you think that she still has feelings for you?”
“Two weeks ago, I would have said no, but now I’m not too sure. I would think that her reaching out to me is a good sign. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. On the bright side, I’ll get to see her in a few weeks at my boss’s wedding. We agreed to be social and civil without talking about the past out of respect for the bride and groom.”
“Well, son. Take what you can get. I know you still have feelings for her, and I only want what’s best for you. I want you to find what your brother and sister have. Before you say anything, I’ve noticed the longing looks you throw their way when you think no one is looking.”
“Don’t Mom me, Harrison Austin Cooper.”
“Sorry, mom. Listen I’ll let you go. I love you. Thanks for lending me an ear.”
“Anytime, son. Don’t be a stranger, and if things work out, bring her around again. I always thought she was your penguin. Love you, son. Good night.”
“Good night, mom. Love you too.”
Harrison hung up the phone and smiled at his conversation with his mother. He’d fought these feelings for so long. His mom was right. He did want a family and children, but he only wanted that with Sarah. Perhaps it was stupid thinking, but he wasn’t going to settle for anything less.
Finished with his evening refreshment, Harrison turned in for the night. Sadly, as happy as he felt, his mind wouldn’t let him rest. He tossed and turned before finally drifting off and dreaming of Sarah and what they could have had. He pictured a little boy who looked like him and a little girl that looked like Sarah. The way that they looked so lovingly at their parents. Harrison awoke feeling more exhausted than he had the night before. Shaking his head, he dragged himself out of bed and into the shower hoping that it would wake him up enough to complete his run.
The cool air invigorated Harrison as he ran the hills around his home. Five miles a day until his ten miles in January. However, Harrison found himself struggling a little more this morning from the lack of sleep. He had been dreaming of Sarah more and more lately. Perhaps it was finally finding her, or it was the realization that his dreams maybe closer to a reality. He struggled back up the hill of his driveway and into the house. He looked around while drinking a bottle of water and for the first time wondered why he had purchased such a large house for only himself. What would Sarah think? Would she want to live here? Harrison shook his head. He couldn’t afford to let such thoughts enter his head. He had hope, but he also knew reality often trumped hope.
Harrison continued around the house taking it in through the eye of someone else. Was he ready for the changes that were coming? He thought he was, but he couldn’t tell the future. Finishing his perusal of the house he went to take a shower and then headed to the stadium for some batting practice and weight lifting.