“Lenny, I miss you.” Gia Donati wouldn’t have survived the past three years in Italy if it weren’t for her little sister’s support.
“Then come home. It’s time, Gia.” Lenora was tired. Since their father’s Parkinson’s left him unable to work at the shop it was just her, their mother and one employee, Mari. COVID caused them to shut down for about two months. While abroad, Gia helped them set up a website for online orders and it worked well for the most part. They limited the shop’s hours but still had to let four of the other employees go.
Gia twisted her mouth to one side and tapped her foot relentlessness against the tile floor of her quaint flat. “Is it that bad?”
“Doctor says it’s stage three. He’s losing his balance a bit more but still able to get around as long as he can be in reach of something steady to hold onto if he needs it.” Lenora really didn’t want to scare her sister but Gia had asked for complete honesty about his health. And here it was – their father was beginning to unravel. Or, at least, that’s what it was starting to feel like.
“Ok. And Mom?”
“Strong as usual. Has dad on a routine at home and brings him by the shop once a day so he still gets out.” She lifted her eyes to the ceiling and tears streamed down. “His tremors just come out of no where, Gia.”
“I get it -”
“No. You don’t. He’s changing and you need to be here before the best of him is gone.”
Lenora has never given her sister any grief for moving away after her divorce. No one knew it better than her how much it destroyed Gia. Getting away was the best option since everything about their life and business seemed to revolve around baseball providing constant reminders of him.
“Gia, things are getting back to normal around here post COVID. Spring training games are underway and crowds are trickling in like before. We need – I need you back at the shop just for this season, please.”
“Ok. It’s not going to be easy to leave mid semester but I think I can get my colleagues to cover my classes.” Gia was nervous. But why? The university would understand about her father’s health issues. It’s been three years since she’s been home. Surely everyone there has forgotten about her and him.
“Gia, you’re going to be okay. It’s just one season.”
“Six months. Half a year. Too long.”
“But, we’ll be together again.”
“Done. Emailing my boss now and booking flights tonight.” She let out a long breath and fell back on her bed. Family was the only reason she’d ever go back to Los Angeles.
Lenny pressed her hand to her mouth to stifle her squeal of delight. “Yes! I can’t wait!”
Gia pulled into the parking lot behind Diamonds & Donuts Gia and felt her stomach tightening. The last time she set foot into her parent’s shop she learned of her husband’s affair. High school sweethearts to heartbroken within four years. She never saw it coming.
She opened the back door then warm waves of fresh baked donuts and coffee enveloped her. Home.
“Holy smokes you made it on time jet lag and all.” Lenny didn’t look up as she finished added marshmallows to a row of donuts on the prep table.
“Uh, yeah. What do we have here?” Gia tied her hair up and washed her hands. She loved watching her sister create baseball themed donuts.
“This will be called ‘Campy’ after -”
“Roy Campanella.” Gia gave her know it all smile.
“You still got it!” she high-fived her sister and kept working.
The bright jingle of the front door bells surprised them both. Gia grabbed an apron as she dashed through the kitchen door to the front.
“Morning!” Hellooo, gorgeous.
Her reaction surprised her more than the shop bells ringing so early. The door swung back slamming into Gia’s backside propelling her forward. She grabbed onto the front counter. Smooth.
“How can I get you?” She rested her arm up on the display case trying to play it off.
“First spring training game. Wanted to get some donuts to bring in for the guys.” Charlie Tindall slowed his steps out of concern. He realized she was more embarrassed than hurt.
He had a dark and husky voice.
“Oh.” Gia smoothed her hair on her head puling her ponytail over her shoulder. “So, you play for the Dodgers?” Nervously, her fingers continued to twist the end of her strands.
Of course the first guy I’m attracted to in my first three days back would be a baseball player. I’m such a fool.
Gia’s eyes darted around the shop trying to shove her thoughts to a back corner of her mind.
Something about the way she asked made Charlie uncomfortable. Her tone. Maybe? He couldn’t tell so he decided to sidetrack that question.
“What’s the line up today?” He gave his best smile hoping it would put her at ease.
“Well, let’s see what my sister has put up on the board. Yogi Berra bars, Pecan Sandy Koufax, Eric Karros-melos -” Gia snorted a laugh at that one. “What exactly are you looking for? There’s a lot happening here.” Her hands waved over the display case.
She liked his smile. Maybe the aroma of donuts was getting to her.
“Yeah, there is a lot going on here. Let’s see. I’m looking for long term, lots of laughing, a heck of a lot of traveling -”
“Whooooa. I meant donuts, dork.” Did I just say dork? What is wrong with me. She visibly cringed and squeezed her eyes shut.
Charlie’s face turned red and his laugh bounced off the walls.
Lenny peeped through the door.
“Everything okay out here?” Her eyes were huge and darting between her sister and the man bending down to look at the donuts.
Gia shooed her sister back with a tilt of her head. Lenny raised an eyebrow then went back.
“I’ll get six dozen donuts. Make it a mix of everything.” Charlie liked her spunk. As he watched her call the order back to the kitchen he realized there was more to like. This woman was gorgeous.
“Would you like some coffee while you wait?” Gia bit her lower lip wanting to ask him again if he played for the Dodgers. She was certain he heard her ask him earlier.
“Would that be this area over here called The Wheelhouse?” The corner of his mouth ticked up and goodness if it didn’t send a thrill over her body.
What is happening here? Gia floated the idea of walking over to the coffee bar to be a little closer to him just to see what would happen. Nope. Don’t even think about it, woman.
“Yeah. My family loves everything baseball. Our donuts and coffee have the theme.” She drummed her fingers on the glass counter.
“Care to join me?” Charlie held up his cup and smiling warmly.
“No drinking on the job.” Gia held her hands up and shrugged but her eyes betrayed her anchoring themselves on his full lips.
“Seriously? Feels like that should be a required part of the job here?” He filled a second cup and walked it over to her.
Is he floating? When did the sun fill the shop? Gia felt warmth seep throughout her body.
Charlie reached his arm across the counter and tilted his head to the side. “Just a cup?”
“Sure.” Flushed, she took the cup. This man seemed to hold it just a bit longer than necessary when she grasped the cup. Her eyes rose to find his and she drew a shallow breath.
“I’m Charlie.” He released her cup and took a careful sip of his coffee. He considered if he should tell her he’s the new pitcher for the Dodgers. Shouldn’t she know that?
“Charlie.” She looked him over. “I’m Gia. This is my parent’s shop and I’m here helping them out for a bit.”
He waited a beat to see if his fame would catch up with her. It didn’t and he was thankful. Weeding through women only interested in his celebrity and money had worn him out.
“So, you’re a local?” His eyes raked over her face trying to see any indication that she knew him.
“Yes, sort of.” Gia felt her past rising to the surface with this question. It’s the reason she escaped to Italy all these years and never returned until now.
Charlie pressed his weight against the display case and rested his elbow on the top.
He. Was. Tall.
Gia’s heart rate kicked up a notch as she looked up at him. A magnetic pull drawing her against the other side of the counter. He smelled… crisp and clean. Freshly showered. Suddenly, she envisioned him in a men’s soap commercial sudsing up while he stared right at the camera with a winning grin. Ridiculous. Good God, woman!
“I have a couple of extra tickets to the game this afternoon against the Diamondbacks -”
Gia’s mind snapped back to reality. “Oh, no. I don’t follow baseball anymore.”
Charlie looked over his shoulder and pointed behind him. “That’s the stadium right across the street. And… you don’t follow baseball? Like, at all?” Charlie’s eyebrows knitted together and his head was cocked to the side.
Wiping the counter and avoiding all eye contact, “Nope. It’s just background noise these days. White noise.” He followed her down the length of the display case as she pretended to wipe the glass clean.
“So, if I left a couple of tickets for you and your sister – you wouldn’t be interested? At all?” Charlie was curious about her sudden avoidance of anything baseball when everything that surrounded her was baseball.
She moved over to the cash register to ring him up and he followed her there, too. He tapped his card to the reader and studied her.
“My sister loves baseball and would be thrilled -”
“Be thrilled with what?” Lenny pushed the swinging door wide open with her foot waiting for some help since she couldn’t see over the stack of donut boxes in her arms.
Charlie pulled his cap down low worried that someone with a love of the sport would recognize him instantly. Gia helped Lenny slide the boxes onto the counter when Charlie squatted picked them up holding them high to shield his face.
From behind the boxes backing up to the door he called out, “Game’s at 4:10 and I have it on good authority donut bakers don’t work at that hour. Just need a last name Gia.”
“Charlie, thanks but -”
“Donati! See you there!” chirped Lenny. She felt Gia’s stare burning right through her but she blinked and feigned innocence. Little sisters.
They closed the shop at 3:45 and helped Mari’s walk the donut cart across the street in front of the stadium.
“This is such a bad idea, Lenora.” The closer they got to the stadium the more her panic swelled deep in her stomach daring to swallow her whole right then and there. I wish the earth would swallow me whole right now.
“Come on, Gia. It’s been over three years.” Lenny grabbed her sisters hands and faced her. “Do you really think you’re going to run into Jackface Jenna and her crew? There’s rumors that Beau is being traded so who knows if he’ll even be here. If she’ll even the here. And what are the odds that in this massive stadium you’d even see her?”
“Ok, I’ll shake of the ghosts and prove that I have moved past this.” Even though I’ll be lying to myself.
“Yes! That’s my big sister I adore” Lenny hooked her arm around her sister’s and hoofed it to will call.
“Name please.” The attendant was a sprightly grandfather type. One that would take you fishing and buy you ice cream afterwards.
“Gia Donati.” Why am I here. This is dumb. I just met this guy.
“Here you go.”
They walked through bag check and got inside just as Gia looked down to see what section they were going to.
“Oh, no. Lenny. Nope. Not doing this. Going home.” Gia started to turn and leave.
“Gia! What now?” Lenny was confused. And a bit agitated that her sister was acting so childish.
“Lenny. We’re sitting in DC 5.” Gia’s arms went limp at her sides and she looked her sister in the eyes. Memories of humiliation flashed before her. Her overhearing a group of college age girls at the donut shop three years ago shrieking about hanging out with the Dodger’s third baseman after the game. Her husband. Who said he had a sponsor event after the game.
She shrugged it off at the time thinking maybe they were attending the same event after the party. At the game, she found herself sitting right behind the same girls. One in particular detailed to her friends just how well she knew Adam. And that is when her marriage ended. Adam looking her direction before he came up to bat only to realize both women were standing up looking at him. His girlfriend in front waving hi to him and his wife saying goodbye.
“Gia, you need to get past this. Everyone else has. Adam has, too.” Lenny squeezed her shoulders and gave her a hug. “Can we do this? Together?”
Without saying a word she reached for Lenny’s hand and slowly started walking.
Gia looked around nervously. “I don’t know where Charlie is. I just figured he’d be here waiting.”
“Man, I’ve missed sitting here with you. Too bad we have to know someone to get these kind of seats.” Lenny settled into the padded seats and waved over the concierge to get drinks.
“Girl, stop spinning around looking like a fool. Maybe he’s a big wig and he’ll waltz down here after schmoozing some VIPs.”
Gia took a cue from Lenny and decided to sit back taking it all in. She’d already scanned the section and didn’t see Jenna. The mean girl of the WAGS. The wives and girlfriends group. Click. Freak Show.
“Ladies and gentlemen. Your attention please. On the mound for the Dodgers, let’s give a warm welcome to our newest pitcher #22 Charlie “The Tin Man” Tindall.”
And there he was. Charlie’s face was on the Jumbo tron. He looked right at her and started throwing warm up pitches.
Gia slapped a hand over her mouth and sat up straight.
“Gia? What is it?” Lenny’s forehead creased with worry. “Gia.”
Sinking back into her chair she barely got the words out.
“That is Charlie. The new pitcher.” She felt every hair on her body stand on end.
Lenny knew of this guy. She started furiously googling any news she could find about him.
“Well, if it isn’t our good friend Gia!” An all to familiar voice came up behind her. Gia didn’t have to turn around to know who it was. Jenna.
She swallowed hard at fear and anger tangling her words in her throat. “Jenna! It’s been so long.” Gia turned back around so fast her hair whipped around slapping across Jenna’s margarita. Great.
“Oh, Jenna. Your marriage ended three years ago, hon. Did you walk into the wrong section by mistake?” She sneered as she looked down the line of the others WAGs. Many faces were missing from when Gia was, reluctantly, a part of the group. A few were the same. They were covering their mouths and giggling with their ring leader.
“My sister doesn’t make mistakes, Jenna. Mind your own business.” Lenny. The ever ready defender of her big sister.
“You’re right… she marries them!” Jenna had a field day when she witnessed the drama in DC 5 three years ago. And, true to her nature, she favored the new and ushered out the old. The old being Gia. “Well, no worries. We will be happy to have you in our section for old time’s sake.”
Everyone sat back down just in time to see Charlie walking to the dugout. He came right up to the net and spoke to Gia sitting in the front row.
“Glad you made it. I needed someone rooting for me on my first day on the mound here.” His smile was warm and his eyes dark and steady.
“I, uh -”
“Charlie! Charlie, sweetie!” Jenna’s voice was grating and high pitched. “Charlie, you know Gia? Oh, babe. Let talk later m’kay?”
Jenna patted Gia on the arm and started to walk back to her seat cackling.
“I’m afraid we won’t have a chance to talk, ma’am.” Charlie eyed Gia with a look that said he caught the vibe Jenna threw down.
“What’s that, Charlie?” If Jenna batted her fake eyelashes any harder they were going to fly off her face.
“Looks like your husband got traded just this afternoon with another guy so we could get Rodger Mathers. Hope you enjoy Cleveland.” Charlie had the best stick-it-where-the-sun-don’t-shine look on his face.
Jenna huffed going back to her cohorts but thought better of it and left.
“Charlie, listen. I can’t be one of these women again. I’m not -”
“No, you’re better. You’re the girl who works at a family donut shop and helps her parents out in a pinch when it’s clearly not what you want to be doing with your life. You’re a t-shirt, flip flops and nachos kind of woman. The kind I want to get to know.” Charlie gave her a wink and nodded at Lenny.
The sisters sat down stunned. Lenny started cupping her hand over her mouth making crowd sounds. “Ladies and gentlemen. At the plate for the Donati’s is #1 Gia Donati.”
“Lenny, stop!” Gia blushed and felt her stomach flutter.
“You’re back in the game, sis.” Lenny hugged her sister and the two watched life float back into Gia.
culled from blog.reedsy.com by Stephanie Wiese