(SPOILER!!! Read this AFTER you read Flirting With Maybe!)
EPILOGUE: FLIRTING WITH MAYBE
Two years later…
Ryan McPhearson had made a tough decision. After two years playing ball at UVA he’d been drafted by a minor league division of the Washington Nationals. Yeah, okay, they weren’t the Braves, but they were the hometown professional team. This would take him one step closer to attaining the dream of playing in the Big Leagues. He was reluctant to leave college, but in the end he told himself he could always go back to school, but he wouldn’t always have this level of opportunity to play baseball.
Brooke was ecstatic. She thought he was crazy for even considering not jumping at the chance. The thing was, Ryan knew most minor leaguers never made it to the majors. And the pay was terrible. It took both Brooke and his mom’s excitement to get him to let go of his reservations and grab for the dream.
Ryan stood in the dugout now, looking out at the beautiful University field, perfectly cut and marked for today’s game. Ryan’s last college game. The spring sun shone down light and warm, and scents of hotdogs and popcorn were in the air. As guys started to show they took to the field for pregame warm ups. Ryan felt tight with nerves, but he loosened up a little as he threw the ball, rolling his shoulders. He was always a little nervous before a game, but today was different. Special.
The stands were already filling. He could see Brooke in the front row, just where he’d told her to sit, sandwiched between his mom and her own mom. Ryan was surprised, but happy to see that her mom had taken him up on his invitation to his last game. He wanted to give them a good show. He’d promised Brooke a home-run, and she deserved it.
Ryan was proud of her. She’d graduated that winter, a semester early, and got a job at one of the small local presses editing articles for the sports section. She hoped to work her way up to a sports journalist. He knew Brooke could do it, because once she finally set her mind on something, she saw it through. Their relationship was proof of that.
They’d been through a lot in their two years together. Transitioning from friendship to a relationship had actually been the easy part. A natural progression. But being able to read Brooke so well meant he knew when she was being distant and trying to pull back from him. He wasn’t having any of that.
At times it had been a struggle. Brooke seemed to need to test everything in her life for validity. Did Ryan really love her? Would her friends still like her if she stayed sober? Could she pull off this whole “serious, long-distanced girlfriend” thing?
The answers had always been yes, and her own doubts were her worst deterrents. But Ryan never budged. He was always there, proving himself, and helping her to accept the good things life was offering.
Ryan’s coach stepped out of the dugout and waved the team off the field.
As they jogged it in, one of the outfielders smacked Ryan’s hip with his glove and said, “Big day, McPhearson. You ready for this?”
Ryan grinned. “Yeah, man.”
Was he ever. Because today was so much more than his last college game. So much more than the start of his official baseball career. If everything went as he hoped, it would be the start of his life.
By the fifth inning stretch UVA was winning 11-4. The energy in the small stadium was incredible—a combination of the team’s strong lead and perfect weather. The music playing between innings seemed more cheerful and louder than usual, but that could have been because of the volume of the fans in the stands. Whatever the reason, it was a feeling Ryan would never forget.
He took his turn up at bat in the sixth inning. Ryan had to make this one count. He’d hit a double off this pitcher earlier in the game, and learned the guy’s wind up, so he was ready for the fast ball when it came.
Ryan soaked in the energy around him and his senses focused. He swung strong and felt the crack of bat against ball reverberate through his body.
The ball shot high over left field and soared past the fence.
Joyful voices erupted behind Ryan as he dropped the bat and ran for first. This was working out more perfectly than he’d planned. He looked up as he rounded second to see the fans on their feet, but he only had eyes for one of them. Brooke’s hands were cupped around her mouth, yelling something to cheer him on as she jumped up and down. She wore a ball cap with her ponytail pulled through the back. When she beamed that proud, happy smile, his chest filled with years of love.
He slowed as he neared home, stopping three feet from the base and putting his hands on his hips, making a big show out of catching his breath. The stadium quieted. Ryan lifted his eyes to the dugout and his coach gave him a knowing nod. All the guys were watching—the whole team was in on it.
Ryan stood tall and shouted toward the stands.
“Hey! Brooke Bennet!”
Her eyes widened with shock as hundreds of faces turned to her. Ryan pulled a small diamond ring from his pocket and held it up. He couldn’t hold back his smile as he yelled, “You wanna marry me?”
Brooke covered her mouth with both hands.
The stadium, which had been so loud during the game was completely silent, that is, until Brooke nodded and the air filled with cheering.
Ryan’s heart swelled as he waved her down. She was trembling when she descended the steps and came through the gate, onto the field. His team was out of the dugout, whistling and clapping. Even the other team was standing for them. Ryan reached out his hand and Brooke took it with tears in her eyes and a blush on her cheeks. He slid the ring on her finger and held her hand to keep it from shaking.
“You crazy boy. I can’t believe you.” Brooke wiped her eyes.
Ryan laughed and turned his head to kiss her under their caps. “I told you I was gonna marry you someday,” he whispered.
Brooke laughed, full of emotion, and raised her arms to him. He gathered her close and lifted her in a hug. Then he set her down, and together they stepped onto home plate for the win.