Jenny had everything a young, beautiful, sharp-witted, wealthy young woman could want, except one thing, Ron, the young man she had loved since high school. Ron, not the smartest or most handsome,injured as a child in a car accident that had left him with a permanent limp requiring him to use a cane, had loved Jenny for as long. But that was his secret. And he meant it to remain a secret.
in the Straw
Jenny was a ruby, as was her sister and her mother. Her father was a sapphire as was her brother. Ruby and Sapphire were what the girls in her high school nicknamed their loveliest and most handsome schoolmates. But as lovely and handsome, most of them were selfish, self-obsessed snobs, never above ridiculing anyone they considered beneath them.
Jenny was the exception. She never joined in their pranks, or snickered or looked down on anyone less fortunate, no matter how hard they tried to pull her in. They tolerated her because she was beautiful, talented, intelligent, sharp-witted, and her parents were among the wealthiest in the town. Even when she chose as her closest friend, the plainest girl in school, they turned a blind eye, because her fairness and kindness extended to them as well.
Jenny had everything, beauty, brains, wealth, a promising future beginning with the most prestigious college her parents could well afford. She had everything, except for the boy she admired, and whose affection she yearned for. No one knew, not even Lilac, her closest friend. Certainly none of the Rubies.
The boy’s name was Ronald Leonard Chapman, and he lived a few blocks from her, which might as well have been the moon. She had never seen him before that afternoon at a baseball game in the town’s major league ball park.
Her parents had procured front row seating for her brother James and two of his friends, avid baseball fans like himself. He was older than her by three years, and since the day she began to walk, she had followed him everywhere around their home. They had remained close over the years. He had always been kind, never teased her as her older sibling, Eleanor. It was natural, when one of his friends had to forego the game, that her brother should ask her to take his place and join him.
She might not be alive today, eight years later, Jenny thought, treading her comb through waves of short silky dark blonde hair, if it was not for Ron who happened to be sitting beside her that afternoon. She’d hardly noticed him, except for the cane that had caught her eye as she bent to re-tie the shoe lace that had come undone on her left sneaker. His teenage face, somewhat drawn and sallow, would be a memory long lost and gone, if during an unforgettable pitch, the ball had not shot like a rocket toward her head, and this stranger had pushed her to the side so that it impacted his collar bone, instead of cracking her skull.
Jenny paused brushing her hair, recalling the memory…
“Oh my God!” someone in the crowd screamed as the young man struck by the baseball, slumped forward in pain.
Pushed to the side against her brother, Jenny had not seen the actual impact, but the sound of the ball cracking the young man’s clavicle, and his pained cry, registered clearly. Jenny straightened and turned quickly toward him, her heart going out to him in gratitude and compassion. The force of the ball hitting him had knocked the breath from him, and she watched apprehensively as he fought to breathe. Whatever his thoughts at the moment, she watched with sympathy as he managed a quick breath. The hint of a forgiving smile touched the side of his mouth, as his gaze met hers. Black, sad eyes, gently reassured her. He was okay, they told her. In pain, but okay.
The medics on call at the field reached them and her view was blocked as they quickly began checking his vitals and administering first aid. Within a few minutes, his right arm and shoulder in a sling, the medics helped him to stand and half-carried him down the aisle to an ambulance waiting outside.
Watching them take him away, she felt a desperate need to do something to help him, to thank him at least. She stood up and started forward and nearly tripped on his cane. Quickly she snatched it and ran after the medic team. She reached them in time to see him being helped into the ambulance. “Wait,” she called. “His cane!”
The attendant nearest her took the cane from her. He asked, “Are you family? You can ride with him, if you are.” Jenny looked around. There was no one else there. He must have been alone. Her brother came up behind her and answered for her. “No, we’re not family. We were sitting beside him.”
“He took the hit for me,” Jenny exclaimed, vexed that her brother didn’t mention it.
“You’re very lucky,” the attendant told her. The hit cracked his right clavicle. That could have been your head.”
“That’s right,” Jenny nodded. “Please, make sure he gets his cane back.”
“Will do, Miss.” Reading the concern on her face, he added, “Not to worry. He’ll be all right.”
Inside the van, Ron sat along one side. Once more Jenny met his kindly gaze. She shook her head, befuddled. He’d probably be in pain for weeks, and his eyes were reassuring her.
The attendant climbed into the van and handed Ron the cane. Ron looked at Jenny again and mouthed a “thank you” as the second medic inside closed the double doors.
Jenny caught her breath. One in a million, she thought. I have to find out who he is!
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