Bobby idly turned back from the open door for one last look around the kitchen. He shrugged off the stack of dishes piled unloved in the kitchen sink and his schoolbooks scattered haphazardly on the table. Not much chance that he would be scolded for it nowadays. His glance lingered for a moment at the pantry door, but it remained shut. “I thought you said you’d always be here for me,” he mumbled to himself as he reluctantly let himself out the back door.
He dragged himself to the baseball field. Snatches of conversations and sudden bursts of laughter intruded into his thoughts as people passed him on the way. A few of his teammates walked by, but most of them arrived with their parents by car. Bobby kept his head down, trying to avoid everyone’s eyes. He wasn’t interested in seeing their apathy, or even worse, their pity.
When he reached the dugout, he plopped himself onto the bench. Once, he would have been busy scanning the bleachers, but it was pointless now. His dad never came, always too busy trying to make a dent in the mountains of bills that always seem to follow serious illness. And his mom? Who knew where she was nowadays. She certainly wasn’t here for him anymore.
Once he had enjoyed the game. But then, once his mom used to be there too. In those days, she never missed seeing him play. Her exuberance would leave him embarrassed sometimes, but it had added to the fun. And although he never admitted it, he always loved having her in the bleachers, wildly cheering for him. His dad would also show up more often than not, drawn by his pride in Bobby’s efforts and by his wife’s contagious enthusiasm. Bobby would step up to bat with their love and approval enveloping him, adding force to his swing.
Now it was just him. Alone. No added force. Just plain Bobby Davenport.
The chatter of his teammates filled the dugout. Most of them avoided him. At first, they had tried to show their awkward sympathy, but after several fierce rebuffs, they learned to leave him alone. Coach, too, offered up some half-hearted words for him way back when, but he didn’t know how to deal with the situation either. Bobby sat hunched over in the dugout. While he brooded on all his troubles, his hands mechanically twirled his bat in the dust between his feet.
“Hey, watch it!” Bobby snarled as Ross barreled into him, throwing him forward onto his bat. The bat dug into the earth and skittered out of his hands.
“Retard!” Ross muttered.
“Ass hole,” Bobby muttered back behind clenched teeth.
Bobby glared after him as he bent down to pick up his bat. A sudden glint in the dirt captured his attention. Bright copper, the exact shade of his mother’s pre-cancerous hair. He crunched down to tease the piece of copper out of the ground, and found a shiny penny in his hand. Odd, a shiny penny in the dirt. Suddenly, he caught a faint aroma. Was that Vanilla Passion? He lifted his head to glance around, confused. It had been his mother’s favorite scent. Did she make it after all? But no. That was impossible. She wasn’t there. She couldn’t be.
He pocketed the penny absentmindedly, puzzled. His mom used to say that vanilla was the smell of home, that it brought back childhood memories of baking cookies with her mom . Happy memories. For her last birthday, he had saved his money and splurged on her favorite Vanilla Passion, her signature perfume and body cream. He swallowed a lump as he visualized her clasping them to her, her eyes glistening before dropping them on her bed to hug him instead. Her hoarse whisper resonated in his ear. “I love you, Bobby boy,” Don’t you ever forget that. Whatever happens, I’ll always be there for you. You remember that.” He knew that his mom had held him tight a bit longer than necessary so he wouldn’t see the tears in her eyes, the tears so evident in her voice. Sniffing, she had released him and laughingly squirted them both with her perfume.
Once again he looked around, searching. Her distinct aroma filled the air, but where could she be? As he searched the bleachers and even the field, he took in the game for the first time. The situation wasn’t good. It would soon be him up at bat. He’d barely noticed the passing innings till now, or his unimpressive turns at bat. But that hint of vanilla, it woke him up. For the first time in a long time, he really noticed his team mates: on base, eager to score, anxious to win for a change. The scent of vanilla, had it been there all year, masked by his despondency and anger, blocked by his fear?
Bobby heard his name being called. He grabbed his bat and headed out to the batter’s box, his face screwed in concentration, still pondering the scent.
“Stand tall, Bobby boy, give it your best!” His mother’s voice resounded in his ear. Straightening his shoulders he walked tall to take his turn at bat. He didn’t see his mom, but maybe he’d been looking in the wrong places.
Bobby gripped his bat and, adopting his batter’s stance, waited for the pitch. “This one’s for you, Mom,” he whispered.
As wood met leather, Bobby dropped the bat and felt his feet take wing, flying high and fast like the ball. The roars of the crowd sounded distantly in the background as he concentrated on first base, then second, then third. Now with home in sight, he gave a final spurt. The passion was back. Vanilla Passion.