Noah tipped the brim of his cap down just enough to block out the late evening sun. He glanced at the catcher and slammed his bat against the plate, sending a small cloud of dust up in the air. He could hear his obnoxious friends shouting and whooping at him from the bleachers. A smile cut across his face, and he turned to face them, bending into an elaborate bow. The coach gave him a short whistle, pulling his focus back inside the diamond field. He watched his teammate standing on the mound, pulling back to throw the ball. Noah could tell by the position of the pitcher's arm, fingers, and the cocky smirk on his face that he was drawing back for a fastball. Noah tightened his grip and dug his heels into the ground.
"Well, well, well. Look who it is, boys."
Noah looked up curiously at his friends, who had now left the bleachers and were jogging over to someone in the parking lot. The boy they were approaching had his eyes glued to the ground and seemingly picked up his pace as Noah's friends advanced on him. Noah recognized the boy from a couple of his classes, but had never spoken to him. He'd wanted to, though.
"Strike!" The bat still rested above his shoulder from where he had been about to swing, but the ball was sitting in the catcher's glove. "Noah! Keep your eyes on the ball, son!" his coach yelled at him. He nodded, but took a quick look back to the parking lot. His friends now surrounded the boy, and were shoving him back and forth.
He shook his head. The pitcher was tossing the ball in the air, waiting for Noah to pay attention. Noah twirled the bat in his right hand and stepped back into his stance, trying to ignore the scene his friends were causing. He nodded at Joey, who stood impatiently on the mound. Again, he winded back for a fastball, and then he released it. Noah took his eyes off the ball right before he swung to look back at the parking lot. The baseball tipped the top of his bat, flew up into the air behind him, and over the fence.
Now one of his friends held the boy back as another one grabbed his backpack and was flinging all of its contents around the parking lot. A couple of junior varsity boys who still sat on the bleachers were laughing, but the coach was oblivious to it all. He was more focused on Noah, one of his star players, acting like a fool.
"What is wrong with you?" Coach shouted, slinging his hat into the dug out. "This is not the way to start the season out! Get your head in the game. One more pitch. That's it. Then practice is over."
But he couldn't get his head in the game. So when Joey threw the next pitch, he faked a strike. His coach was furious, but Noah would deal with him later. He packed up his equipment and waited for everyone to disappear into the locker rooms. His friends were the last ones in, leaving the boy they had been harassing standing helplessly in the parking lot to pick up his belongings.
Noah swung his baseball bag over his shoulder and jogged over to the boy. He had his head down, shoving his things back into his bag with unsteady hands. "Everett, right?" Noah cocked his head to the side, trying to make sure his friends hadn't actually physically hurt him.
Striking navy blue eyes looked up at Noah's. They were watery around the edges, but Everett quickly blinked it away and straightened himself. "Yes. Yes I am."
Noah ran a hand through his damp black curls, and then he wondered if Everett could run his hand through his own hair. He was fairly certain Everett's dark red hair didn't naturally fix itself up like it was. "You're
" Noah started, but didn't know how to word it without sounding rude.
"Gay? A faggot? Homo?" the boy finished for him. Noah nodded. "Yeah, I am. You're that star baseball player that everyone adores, right?" he countered with ill humor.
"Yeah, I guess you could say that," Noah answered, gripping the strap on his bag tighter. He attempted a smile, but it came out more of a smirk.
"Guess it's your turn to hate on the gay kid today, right?"
Everett held his hands out in front of him. "No wait. At least let me close my eyes, so I don't have to watch. It tends to go faster that way, anyhow." He shut his eyes, the striking blue disappearing behind his eyelids.
Noah's heartbeat picked up a pace, his curiosity running wild. He took a step closer to Everett. Tentatively but quickly, he leaned down and pressed his lips against the other boy's soft, full ones. He felt the tickle of Everett's eyelashes blink open in surprise. After deepening the kiss for a brief second, Noah let out a shaky breath and then pulled away.
When he stepped back, it dawned on him what he had done. His eyes widened and he moved away from Everett, stumbling over his feet. "I'm sorry. I justII'm sorry."
"No, it's okay," Everett told him, still a little shocked and confused. He started towards him, but stopped when Noah shook his head.
"No, please. II have to go. Just please, please don't tell anyone about this," he pleaded with the boy. Before he could respond, Noah turned around and ran back to the locker rooms.