She wore a jagged scar, stretching beneath her left eye to the right corner of her mouth. It wiggled across her face like a red worm – fat and crinkled. As big as it appeared, it paled in size to the wound she bore in her heart.
Despite her feelings, Franny bent at the waist and laced her cleats. Everyone said this is what she needed to do – playing would erase the pain – make her forget about the tragedy – give her a distraction for her thoughts. But Franny wasn’t so sure.
She straightened and stood. Franny knew that her teammates would keep their distance. That’s why they stood at the opposite end of the dugout, pretending not to glance with judgement. She grabbed her glove and meandered outside the dugout.
Coach Cross said in his gruff voice, “Better get warmed up.” But Franny had no throwing partner, no teammate to run beside for a warmup lap, nor a friend to share a story with for those pregame jitters. It was just Franny, standing alone with the sun highlighting her disfigurement.
“Let’s go, Franny,” a voice said with a kind hand upon her back, “I’ll be your partner.”
Franny stood motionless, stunned. She considered the offer a prank. Marissa, of all people, had every reason to avoid her.
Marissa looked over a shoulder with a smile and said, “What are you waiting for – let’s get this lap.”
Franny followed behind with her head drooped to the ground. Once the pair reached the outfield grass, Marissa slowed shoulder-to-shoulder with Franny. “Why are you here?”
Franny shrugged her shoulders and avoided Marissa’s eyes.
“Nobody wants you here. You understand that, right?”
Marissa couldn’t see the tears welling in Franny’s eyes. Had she seen them – she wouldn’t have cared.
Marissa bumped against Franny as they jogged, knocking Franny off stride. “You need to leave. This isn’t the place for you. You should be locked up somewhere."
Franny stopped running in dead-center, while Marissa finished the lap.