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Choosing a future is never easy.
Eli Sterling is the star pitcher on his high school baseball team. He has a bright future in
the majors, but recently, something has changed.
He’s angry, moody, and scared.
It seems that no matter how hard he works, he always falls short in someone’s eyes.
Except for Izzy. She is his best friend and the only one who understands.
As he begins to question everything about who he is and what he truly wants for his
future, the only place he finds peace is in the treehouse that sits between his house and
Both a blessing and a curse, their bond keeps him together, even as he slowly spirals out
of control and realizes that not all is what it seems, and learns that it’s okay to reach for
“Eli!” someone yells, gaining my attention.
“Huh?” I question, pulling myself back to reality.
“Bell rang,” Jonesy tells me.
I look around at an almost empty classroom. Other than Jonesy and me, all the students have left. Coach is at his desk typing something on his computer.
“Yeah, uh, yeah, I know,” I stammer.
“Sure, you did,” he laughs.
“You guys coming?” Bomb questions, poking his head into the classroom. His homeroom is next door, and we usually walk to our next classes together.
Bomb is the best hitter we’ve got. Three years ago, during his freshmen season, he hit seven home runs in three games, earning him the nickname.
“Let’s go,” I bite.
Today, listening to my friends rag on me is not at the top of my list.
“Cranky,” Jonesy teases, following me into the hallway. Turning, I take a step toward him, getting in his face.
“You don’t want to push me today,” I snap.
“You don’t want to start something you can’t handle,” he returns.
“Wanna bet,” I bark, shoving him and causing his back to hit the wall behind him.
He retaliates, taking a step forward and pushing me. “What the hell, Eli?” he yells.
Students gather around us, hungry for a fight. I stumble back a few steps, quickly regaining my footing and getting in his face again.
“That was a mistake.”
I raise a fist in one fluid motion and punch him in the nose. Blood spews, splattering our shirts. He staggers backwards, hitting the wall again. The crowd cheers and hollers encouraging us to fight. Jonesy pushes himself away from the wall and takes a step toward me. He’s tough, I’ll give him that.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” he yells. Jonesy takes a swing at me, but I see it coming and take a small step to the left. His hits my shoulder with enough force to knock me back.
Quickly, I move towards him, ready to hit him again, but Bomb steps between us. He puts both hands on my chest, blocking my advances. I fight against Bomb as Jonesy attempts to push past him to get to me. Bomb is strong, but not strong enough to hold us away from one another for long.
“Stop!” Bomb yells. Cap steps behind Bomb and tries to hold Jonesy back while Bomb holds me in place.
A few teachers shove their way through the mass of students.
“Enough!” One of them yells. She looks at Jonesy. “Are you okay?” Jonesy nods. He’s not okay. Blood pours from his now crooked nose and covers the front of his shirt. It looks bad. “Let’s get you to the nurse,” she continues, shaking her head at me before escorting Jonesy down the hall.
“What the hell is your problem?” Bomb yells, pinning me with a disappointing glare.
“He was being an ass,” I yell, throwing my hands up as if my statement is explanation enough. Bomb doesn’t get a chance to argue before Coach steps up.
“Everybody get to class,” he bellows over the noise. Kids scramble in every direction. Bomb doesn’t budge. I turn to head for my next class, but Coach grabs my arm. “Not you. Go to class, Bomb,” he commands. Bomb rushes off. “Let’s go,” Coach tells me, leading me toward the office. “Do you know how much trouble you’re in?”
“Does it matter?”
“I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you lately, but you better get yourself together, or you’ll be off the team?”
“Like that’ll happen,” I mumble.
Whether he understood me or was trying to get me to repeat it doesn’t matter. He knows I’m right. The team needs me. There’s no way they’ll go to State with the other pitchers. They’re decent but not good enough to take us all the way.
When we walk into the office, Mr. McCaffrey, the principal, is waiting. Word travels fast. Guess it doesn’t hurt that the nurse’s office is next to the main office.
“Thank you. I’ll take it from here.” Mr. McCaffrey tells Coach.
Coach leaves, and Mr. McCaffrey steps aside, motioning for me to step into his office.
“Have a seat, Eli. Tell me what happened.”
“He got in my face.”
“So, you hit Jonesy and probably broke his nose.”
“He got in my face,” I repeat louder.
“Don’t yell at me. That’s no excuse for what you did. Your parents are on their way to pick you up. I’m suspending you for three days.”
“What? I can’t play ball if I’m suspended. The team needs me.”
“You should have thought about that before you punched someone.”
I stand up, slapping my hands on his desk. “Come on, this isn’t fair.”
“Sit down, Mr. Sterling,” he insists firmly.
I don’t move, but I speak a little calmer. “Jonesy will be fine. I didn’t hit him that hard..”
“Sit down, now.” Before I can move, there’s a knock on the door.
“Come in,” he calls.
My parents walk into the office full of anger and disappointment. Great. The next three days are going to be hell. I take that seat Mr. McCaffrey keeps insisting on, and my parents sit in the other two chairs. Mr. McCaffrey explains what happened and then tells them about my suspension.
“What do have to say for yourself, son?”
I stare at my dad in response. Nothing I can say will make him happy, get me out of trouble, or make anything about this situation better, so I keep my mouth shut.
“Answer me,” Dad bellows, standing up and looming over me. He thinks he intimidates me.
“What do you want me to say?” I yell, getting up and standing toe to toe with him. “Jonesy got what he deserved, and I’d do it again. Get the fuck off my back.”
“My dad grabs my arm and pulls me to the door. “Go to the car. I’ll deal with you later.” He shoves me into the main office.
Instead of going to the car, I wait outside of Mr. McCaffrey’s door, so I can listen to their conversation. I deserve to know what they say about me.
“Is there anything else we need to do?” My mom asks the principal.
“No. Eli can return on Monday. I’ll speak to Coach about how this will affect him playing baseball. He won’t be able to play in any of the games before Monday, but Coach might want to add his own punishment since he hit a teammate. Also, you can expect to hear from Jonesy’s family. I’m sure there will be doctor bills involved. That will have to be handled between the two families.”
“We understand. Thank you,” she says in a sickeningly sweet voice as if being all sugary is going to make this better.
It was stupid of me to hit Jonesy. We’ve been friends and teammates half our life. If it hadn’t happened at school, he would have made up some lie to tell his parents, and eventually, we both would have calmed down, apologized, and moved forward. Now the school is involved, and my parents will probably have to pay his doctor bills. Damn.
Note From Star:
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