Julie parked the car and walked slowly over to the field where a dozen little girls were practicing swings and pitches. At the side of the field a group of parents were chatting, while a dog sniffed enthusiastically at their feet.
A young white clad figure threw a ball across the field then turned and beamed at Julie.
“Great work, Megan!” The coach’s deep voice carried on the warm evening air. Julie unfolded her chair and sat in a patch of sunlight, grateful to relax after a busy day. She did not feel like making conversation with the other parents, and in any case, she knew nothing about baseball. She closed her eyes and listened to the evening sounds.
The thwack of the bat as it hit the ball. The shouts of the girls, exhorting their team mates to run. The hum of the traffic in the distance. The murmuring of the other parents. And above it all the instructions from the coach: seemingly meaningless phrases, which lulled her off to sleep.
“Here’s a list of the game times.”
“Huh?” Julie sat up with a start and opened her eyes. The coach was standing in front of her, holding out a piece of paper.
“Sorry I woke you; you looked comfortable there,” he smiled and handed her the paper.
Julie’s heart did a flip and an unexpected tingle of excitement pulsed inside her.
“Oh, yes, sorry, ah, thank you!” she stammered all at once. What had happened? She felt breathless, and she had not even moved. She glanced at the coach, who was distributing the schedule to the other parents, and felt her chest tense.
Not again. Not another crush. And surely not her daughter’s coach!
Julie sighed and looked away. This was the third time in as many years that she had developed a sudden infatuation for a person she barely knew. She must be craving attention, or a relationship, or something.
She had had several crushes before Megan was born: flighty imaginings, but then parenthood had struck, and she found herself thrown into the world of small children, play groups and other parents. At first she had missed her job, and tried to imagine she was not really part of the group, but after a few years and another child, she had accepted the situation and settled to a routine life of her children’s school and activities.
Then, three years ago, the flutterings had started again, taking her completely by surprise.
The first time, it had been the assistant at the liquor store. He had not even said anything, merely smiled as Julie paid for her purchase, and she was hooked. She had begun browsing the wine shelves, taking up to half an hour at times to select a single bottle, watching the man out of the corner of her eye, sometimes summoning the courage to ask for a recommendation. Once she had collected a dozen empties to return, as another excuse for a visit, but then she decided this gave the wrong impression.
That craze had lasted almost four months. Then one day, she noticed her idol had pierced his ears and was wearing large metal rings in his lobes. Julie didn’t have anything against earrings, but her image had been shattered. In a peevish way she felt she should have been consulted, even though she had never spoken to the man, other than to discuss the merits of one red wine versus another. In the end, she had been relieved to get that craze over with, although she still had nineteen unopened bottles of various wines at home.
Then she had met Jenny.
Jenny was a volunteer at the Thrift store. She was highly efficient and perpetually cheerful. Julie began volunteering at the Thrift store too. She had not minded the work; in fact, she had actually rather enjoyed sorting through the clothes and other bric-a-brac. She had followed Jenny around for five weeks, hanging on her every word, admiring her efficiency, basking in her smile. Julie had worn similar skirts, hummed the same tunes, emulating her hero in every action.
It was not a sexual attraction; Julie was not that sort of person. She and Mike had been married now for almost twelve years and there had never been anybody else; and certainly not a woman. No, it was more an aspiration, to be a perfect person, as she believed Jenny to be.
The Jenny phase ended one day after Julie had put in an extra long shift at the store, pricing kitchenware, and had been forgotten at the staff party held at the end of the day; abandoned amongst the boxes in the back room, whilst Jenny and the other volunteers drank punch and ate cookies in the front.
Julie sighed, stood up and looked over at the coach who had finished handing out the schedules and was talking to the last parent. What was his name? Brendan?
Me, me! Come and talk to me! Julie felt the irrational thought process grip her, as her eyes willed the coach to turn around and look at her again. She felt like a teenager, crazed with hormones, and took a deep breath.
“Come on, Mum, the practice is over!”
A little hand tugging at her arm brought her back to earth. Perhaps these crazes were a longing, for what might have been, or just an escape from her daily chores. With a last wistful look at the coach’s broad back, Julie folded her chair and walked with her daughter to the car.
It was going to be an interesting baseball season.