Since her return to her childhood home following the deaths of her parents, Tina Springfield has been alone, with nothing but her prize-winning roses for company. Though she longs for friendship and romance, her innate shyness and her awkward work schedule have kept her from meeting anyone -- including her new neighbors. But when a little boy's baseball threatens her rose bushes, everything changes, and Tina discovers that small sacrifices can make a big difference in life.
(11 pages) Sweet
A baseball flew over the six-foot fence and into her outstretched hand. Her fingers clenched automatically, as though they'd been waiting for the pitch. She pulled her hand down and stared at the scuffed white orb inside. The leather was soft from use and the threads reminded her a bit of Frankenstein's monster.
"Hello?" A young boy's voice called.
She turned to see pudgy fingers weaved through the latticework on top of the fence, and a pair of brown eyes peering unsteadily over it.
"Do you have my ball?" He lost his grip and dropped. Only a few seconds passed before the face popped back up again. "Do you?"
Tina gestured with the ball. "It's right here."
The face disappeared followed by a thud.
Was the boy okay? Tina carefully slipped past her bushes to the fence and stood on the bottom board. She looked over to see a boy of six or seven standing on the ground with arms crossed, clearly frustrated at his inability to hold himself up on the fence.
A man's head poked around the corner. "Everything all right?"
"Yeah, Dad! Just getting my ball."
Tina lifted the hand with the ball in a wave and smiled at her new neighbor. She couldn't see his face under the cap on his head, but those denim shorts sure showed off his solid body quite nicely. At that thought, her face heated with guilt. She had no business admiring the tight body of a man who most likely had a wife around.
He returned her wave with the extra long basting brush he held. With a flash of white teeth, he stepped back behind the side of the house.
"Could you throw it back, ma'am?"
The boy's question brought Tina's attention back where it belonged and away from someone else's husband. She looked down and smiled at the boy who stood, mitt at the ready.
"Sure." Tina tossed the ball into the neighboring yard where it bounced into his waiting hands. "But would you try to keep the ball on your side? I have rose bushes here that could be ruined if you're not careful."
"Sure! Thanks!" The child smiled and then raced around the side of the house.
She heard childish giggles and then a shriek and more laughter. Were they having a tickle fight? She flashed back to her own childhood here in this now-quiet backyard. With a small sigh, she stepped off the fence and through her roses. She wanted backyard barbecues and tickle fights again.