Pitch by Will Parkinson
The day Jackson Kern walks into Taylor Andrews’s classroom is a momentous day in Taylor's life. He's had crushes before, sure, but as time goes on, this is starting to look a whole lot more serious. Still, Jackson doesn’t return Taylor’s feelings.
Taylor has his own admirers, though. Kevin Richards is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Taylor, so when Taylor rejects him, Kevin retaliates. At first Taylor’s entourage rallies around him, but then Kevin takes his deception one step further and Taylor sees his support dwindle, teaching him the valuable lesson about who he can truly consider a friend.
An excerpt from Pitch
STANDING by the bleachers near the dugout, Taylor couldn’t help but wonder why he was there. Baseball tryouts held no interest for him. In fact, he’d always found the game kind of stupid, yet here he was. His gaze landed on Jackson Kern. Yeah, that was something he really wanted, to see Jackson play the game.
Jackson took the center thingy… the mound or whatever it’s called. Taylor had spent a good deal of time reading about baseball. He figured he should know something about it, just in case Jackson ever spoke to him. Still, he was having a hard time wrapping his head around all the rules and terms. Didn’t mean he wasn’t going to try, though. He pulled out his sketchbook and did a few rough outlines, wanting to fill them out later. Jackson threw a few pitches to the catcher, loosening up. Mitch Daniels, Cody’s younger brother, stepped up and tapped his bat on the ground. Jackson brought his arms up near his chest, struck a pose, and shook his head slightly. After a moment he leaned back and threw the ball. It went straight across the plate at blinding speed. Mitch swung at it and missed completely. When Jackson finished the inning, allowing no hits, he marched back to the dugout; the coach’s jaw fell open as he rushed out to meet Jackson.
“Kid, what’s your name?”
“Jackson, sir. My friends call me Jax.”
“Well, Jax, if you can throw like that with consistency, you’re gonna be our ace. I can tell,” the coach said, practically drooling over the young prospect.
Taylor thought he saw Jackson… Jax blush. By the end of the tryouts, not one person had hit anything Jackson threw. When the coach told him he had a spot, Jackson smiled so big and wide, Taylor was sure his heart would stop. Then Becca came running over and threw her arms around the team’s new pitcher. Taylor turned in disgust and started shuffling away, pausing to take a last look at Jackson. He was all hot and sweaty, and it looked really, really good on him. Taylor knew that’s what he was going to be thinking about when he went to bed.
TAYLOR found himself drawn to watch the practices. He kept trying to tell himself it was stupid, and he knew it was, but he really enjoyed watching Jackson. He’d been going to watch practice every day for two weeks when he saw Jackson turn in his direction. For just a second he thought, more like hoped, that Jackson was looking at him. His eyes locked on Jackson, and his mouth went dry, wishing that he’d come over to him, put his arms around him, whisper in his ear… but then the guy turned and walked over to the rest of the team, clearing the field for the next inning. Taylor’s heart sank, realizing it was all wishful thinking on his part.
“COME on, Taylor, crack a book. I came over to study, not to watch you stare at the ceiling,” Benny huffed, pushing a pile of laundry off the chair and parking himself at the desk. “And would it kill you to clean up a little bit? This place is a sty, man.”
Taylor never even registered the reproach in Benny’s voice. All he could think about was Jackson.
“Benny, I’m going nuts. I know it’s never gonna go anywhere, but I can’t stop going to see him,” Taylor groaned.
Benny stared at him, eyes wide. “Wow, never saw you this bad before. You’d always crush for a few weeks and then see some new hottie that made you forget the old one. Maybe you really do have it bad for this guy,” Benny muttered.
Swinging his legs over, Taylor sat on the edge of the bed, grinning with excitement. “You’ve got no idea. Yesterday morning I saw him with a smear of toothpaste in the corner of his mouth. I swear it was one of the hottest things I’d ever seen, and I just wanted to lick it off.”
Benny’s lips tightened into a grimace. “Toothpaste is hot? God, you’re so weird, Taylor. I hope you won’t be upset if I don’t admit to knowing you when we’re in public.”
Taylor smirked, remembering everything with vivid detail. “It was hot! If it wasn’t for the fact that Becca rubbed it off for him, which really pissed me off, by the way, I’d have stared at it all day.”
“So he and Becca are together?” Benny asked, putting the book down and finally turning to face Taylor.
“Yeah, I guess. She’s always hanging on him and hugging him. It’s totally disgusting,” Taylor sneered.
“Because it’s what you want to be doing?” Benny wondered aloud, keeping his voice low.
“Maybe.” Taylor sighed. “Either way, this just reinforces my dislike of public displays of affection.”
“So when are you gonna finally talk to him? How hard can it really be?” Benny asked patiently.
Taylor could see the look of pity on his friend’s face, but he snapped, “Well, you get a girl to notice you and then come back and give me some pointers, okay?”
Taylor knew it wasn’t fair. Benny was all about his schoolwork. His parents were always so strict about everything, and the schoolwork had to come first.
Benny quirked an eyebrow and stared at Taylor condescendingly. “I don’t need a girl to notice me, Tay. I’m not the one who needs validation. Maybe you should just join the monks. I’m sure then you’ll get plenty of hot action,” Benny chuckled as he opened his math book. There was going to be a stupid quiz tomorrow, which, naturally, Benny was going to ace. He always aced them. Benny’s grades were important to him. As it stood Benny had a near-perfect GPA and would likely be valedictorian as a senior.
He and Benny had been the best of friends since kindergarten. Taylor knew Benny would do almost anything for him, even if it included telling him things about himself he really didn’t want to hear, especially when it was the truth. Taylor knew he was a chicken, but he also knew unrequited love would be better than being humiliated in front of or by Jackson.