If you’ve read my novel Picture Perfect Play, you met cocky pitcher, Joe Wesley. Here’s a short story to give you a bit more insight into the handsome young ball player. *If you haven’t read Picture Perfect Play yet…you can still enjoy this short story. No spoilers.
Joe’s Second Chance – Part 1
Joe Wesley wipes sweaty palms across his thighs, the worn denim soaking up his nerves. Sitting in this waiting room has him more nervous than the first time he pitched in the majors. I can’t believe I let Carly talk me into this. Maybe I should just leave?
“Mr. Wesley, you can go on in.”
Joe rises, giving the receptionist one of his charming smiles as he notices her checking him out. He takes a deep breath as he enters the therapist’s office.
An attractive woman in her fifties rises from the modern wood and steel desk, crossing the room to shake his hand. “Hello, Joe. I’m Kim.” She then directs him to take a seat on the couch as she settles into a wingback chair across from it.
After settling into the suede couch, Joe wipes his palms across his denim clad thighs again.
“You seem nervous, Joe.”
Nodding, the tall blond major league pitcher replies, “I can’t believe I’m even doing this, honestly.”
“Why are you here, Joe?”
The corner of his mouth curves up in a sort of half smile. “Apparently I’m pretty screwed up, Kim.”
“And you came here to work on that?”
The handsome athlete takes a moment before replying. “My friend, Carly, suggested this is something I should do. At first I thought she was crazy…”
“I’m willing to give it a chance.”
“Good. Let’s get started. Tell me a little about yourself.”
Sitting up a little straighter, Joe begins, “I’m the star pitcher for the Padres.”
Kim looks down, making a note on her lined pad.
“Did I say something wrong?” Joe frowns.
“Do you think you said something wrong?” The therapist asks.
“Oh geez. Are we starting already?”
With a subtle grin, Kim offers, “Why don’t you continue. Where are you from?”
Stretching his long legs out and crossing them at the ankles, Joe replies, “I grew up in Malibu. I have a place in La Jolla now.”
Kim makes another note before asking, “If you had to choose a moment in your life when you were the happiest, when would that be?”
Looking out the window at the swaying palm trees, the pitcher recalls the day his childhood dream came true. “I was at home with my parents and my girlfriend, Jenny, when I got the call that I’d been drafted by the Padres.”
“They must have been very proud of you.”
Joe smiles with a sparkle in his eyes. “They were.”
“Are you still with Jenny?”
Joe’s body tenses, his shoulders hunching over as he rests his forearms on his knees. “No.”
“Is that the reason you’re here, Joe?”
Kim rises, crossing the room. She retrieves two water bottles from the small fridge behind her desk. After handing one to Joe, she returns to her seat and retrieves her notepad. “Why don’t you tell me all about that?”
After taking a long sip of the cold water, Joe replaces the cap and begins. “Jenny and I have known each other since elementary school, but we didn’t start dating until our sophomore year of high school. Once we were together, we were inseparable.”
“The relationship was good?”
Joe smiles, remembering fondly. “It was perfect. After high school we both went to UCLA. She was getting her teaching degree and I was playing ball. We both lived at home so we didn’t get into any of the college party life. We preferred to spend our time alone together anyway.”
“Was Jenny good for you, a good influence?”
Nodding and smiling, Joe agrees, “She kept me grounded, focused.”
“Where did you see the relationship going?”
“I always assumed we’d get married after Jenny got her degree and I was playing in the majors.”
“Why don’t you tell me what happened to you and Jenny?”
Joe leans back, reaching his hands behind his head and locking his fingers together. “As far back as I can remember Jenny always loved to act. She was in every school play. When we were in high school her drama club got involved with this group that helped at risk kids by introducing them to acting. Within the first week of working with these kids, she told me she’d found her calling. She wanted to be a drama teacher. Jenny could see these lost kids finding themselves through acting.” A genuine smile crosses Joe’s face. “It made Jenny so happy to help those kids, and she was great with them too. Even the toughest kid in the bunch loved her.”
“Did she get her teaching degree?” Kim asks.
As though lost in his thoughts, the therapist’s question brings Joe back. “She sure did, graduated early even. She’d just earned her degree and had a job lined up with our old high school when I got drafted. I asked her to come with me to Texas, that’s where the minor league team is, and she agreed.”
Kim watched as her new patient would often get lost in his memories. She would gently nudge him with questions. “Did Jenny go with you?”
A mix of emotions suddenly and aggressively rise up inside Joe. The feelings of loss, regret, and pain that he buried so long ago, now surfacing. At that moment he wants nothing more than for this session to be over and to never come back. “Look, you don’t have all day and neither do I. The short version is, yes Jenny came with me and I was happy as hell. I was living my dream with the woman I loved beside me, but, I could see the distant look in Jenny’s eyes. I overheard the phone conversations with her sister about how she missed home and the kids she worked with. So I did what I had to do.”
“Did you have a conversation with Jenny and she chose to leave?”
“No. I told her I thought we should break up and that she should go home.”
The therapist makes a note on her pad before looking up at Joe. “What happened next?”
“Well, Kim, what happened is the love of my life went home to Malibu. I held out hope that she would say she was miserable without me and she’d come back to me. So I focused on my game and tried to be patient. That was until a friend sent me Jenny’s wedding announcement. So that night I finally gave in to all the female attention I’d been receiving. That all led to me being the major asshole I am today.”
“Why do you think of yourself as that, Joe?”
The tall athlete smirks, rising and crossing the room to gaze out the window. “I’m an asshole because I only think of myself and I’ll sleep with every woman I see if they’ll let me, and most of them let me.” Turning to Kim, he says, “I’d sleep with you, Doc.”
The therapist flashes her wedding band.
Joe laughs, making his way back to the couch. “That wouldn’t stop me.”
Leaning forward, the therapist gives Joe a serious look. “You don’t have to be charming or play games here, Joe. I need you to be honest. You can trust me.”
He shrugs, as though her words don’t matter…but they do.
“Why do you work so hard to lead others to believe you are a bad person?”
“Cause I am.”
“No, Joe, you’re not. You are doing your best to keep people at a distance to avoid getting hurt again, like you did with Jenny.”
“I’m the one who broke up with her.”
“Yes, because you thought it was best for her. And you hoped she would come running back to you.”
The familiar pain flares through his heart again. “Well, she didn’t.”
“Joe, did you ever think of sitting down with her and having a conversation? To let her choose if she wanted to be on the road with you or not?”
A jolt of understanding travels through him. I never gave Jenny the chance to choose where she’d rather be. I assumed I knew what she wanted without even asking. I took away her choice.
Kim waits patiently as she watches the handsome young man become enlightened. The best part of her job is when she can help someone ‘get it’.
“I am an ass, Doc. I took away Jenny’s choice. How could I do that to someone I love so much?”
“I think it was more misguided selflessness. You sacrificed your own happiness thinking it was what would make her happy. Without asking her though, you can’t know what would make her truly happy.”
Joe takes a moment, letting all the words and emotions soak in. He can’t help but wish he could go back and do it all differently. Finally, releasing an immense sigh, Joe asks, “What do I do now?”
The therapist sets her lined pad aside and folds her hands on her lap. “My suggestion is that you seek out some closure.”
“In english please, Doc.”
She smiles. “I want you to sit down with Jenny and talk this out. Being honest with her and finding out how she was genuinely feeling is the only way for you to move on.”
“I hate to say it, but I think you’re right. What if she won’t see me?”
Kim stands, signifying the end of the session. “You won’t know if you don’t ask.”
Joe joins her, standing a good foot taller than the therapist. He extends his hand. “Thanks.”
She smiles, taking his hand. “Good luck, Joe.”
Joe Wesley sits across from his teammate, Ryan Henderson, at their favorite sports bar.
“I can’t believe I let Carly talk me into going to therapy.”
The corners of Ryan’s mouth lift. He knows all too well how persuasive the beautiful Carly can be. “Did it help?”
Rolling his eyes, Joe replies, “Yes. The therapist helped me understand some things about myself.”
“That’s good. We can all use a bit of that.” Ryan says as he takes a sip of the amber colored ale in his mug.
“The therapy session was fine, my problem is with my homework.”
“Yeah, I need to have a heart to heart talk with Jenny.”
With a smirk, Ryan says, “I was curious and I did a bit of snooping. Were you aware that Jenny got divorced about 6 months ago?”
“What?” A slew of thoughts crowd Joe’s mind, most of them visions of a future with Jenny. Who am I kidding? She’d never take me back.
Ryan slides his phone across the table, the proof of Jenny’s divorce on the screen.
With a spark of hope, Joe thinks, I hope it’s not too late.