THE SCENE: Dylan is at Mark’s first Major League game in Canada and while there learns that her husband has very little time to spend with her, so instead spends the night on the town with her best friend, Ava and one of the other baseball wives, Stephanie. She quickly learns that her days of anonymity are long behind her:
“What’s this all about?”
As soon as he entered, Mark dropped a newspaper onto the table between them and Dylan blinked, trying to get the sleep out of her eyes. She was barely awake, having spent the evening after the game at a dinner that seemed to go on forever, with three other players and their spouses. At least Mark had stayed the night with her in the suite even if he had been up at the crack of dawn for a workout.
“What’s what?” Dylan reached for the orange juice carafe, brushing the newspaper out of the way. She had crawled out of bed only to answer the door when their room service breakfast had arrived.
Mark held the paper up in front of her. It was folded over to a page that depicted what appeared to be society events all around the city, where people dressed to the nines sipped champagne and looked fabulous doing it. There, in the collage of photos was one clear picture of her, Stephanie Alfieri and Ava standing outside the nightclub with the three men they’d met. Ava’s arm was about her Scandinavian who had a hand raised, as though hailing a cab. Dylan was standing just slightly apart from the group, looking distractedly at something out of the frame and Stephanie was captured in the middle of what appeared to be animated chatter with the other two guys. The caption was in French, so Dylan did not understand it, but one word was perfectly comprehensible: Mets.
Dylan took the paper from him and studied the picture more closely, finally looking up. How would anyone even have known who they were? But she supposed that was the job of the paparazzi; to stake out hot-spots and later figure out who was who. By now Mark had taken a seat across from her and was spreading his napkin on his lap. He wasn’t speaking, so she knew he was angry.
“Stephanie and Ava and I had dinner and then we went to this . . .”
“Craig King gave it to me in the gym this morning,” Mark interrupted. “You know what his wife was doing the same night you were out getting drunk in a nightclub? He was more than happy to share it with me.”
Dylan shook her head mutely.
“She was at a benefit dinner for a burn unit.” Mark lifted his eyes to hers, waiting.
“We weren’t getting drunk . . .”
“Why were you even in a club, Dylan? You know how that makes me look? You know how that makes you look?”
She swallowed. “I didn’t know anyone was looking.”
“¡Como no! Who would be looking?” he said, sarcastic.
“You’re the one people are looking for,” Dylan said carefully. “If I want to go let off some steam . . .”
“What steam, Dylan? I had the most important game of my life the next day. And you need to let off some steam?” He had never raised his voice to her before.
“Yes. Because maybe this is a little much for me as well! Maybe I didn’t count on it being like this, you being so far away all the time. Maybe Stephanie Alfieri understands what it’s like to . . .”
“Stephanie Alfieri is notorious. She understands nothing. She has two DUIs, she shows up at events drunk. Is that the kind of person you want to associate with?”
Dylan looked at him evenly. “I like her. She’s genuine, which is a lot more than I can say for some of the other women. And if I remember correctly, you didn’t like that I was turning into Cindy Hernandez.”
“At least she knows how to represent her husband.”
“Represent her husband.”
Dylan fell silent and they stared at each other. Mark finally looked away, reaching over to help himself to some eggs and bacon, pouring himself a large glass of juice. Dylan felt tears rising to her eyes and wiped them away quickly.
“You know why I’m good at what I do?” Mark said, not looking at her. “Discipline. People like to think its talent, but it’s not. Talent is maybe ten percent of it.”
Still she said nothing, trying to swallow back the lump in her throat.
“If you want to see raw talent, my brother Matt has that—he was always a much better natural athlete. But you know what he doesn’t have? He doesn’t have focus and he doesn’t have discipline. Always distracted, always sidetracked by the next shiny, new thing. That’s the difference between us.”
Mark finally looked at her again and she nodded, this time not bothering to wipe the tears away as they rolled down her cheeks. He was comparing her to Matt. She was the unfocused, undisciplined one. And she supposed Cindy Hernandez, the perfect baseball wife, was the opposite.
“Whatever happened to law school? To the plans you had to take my sister to see some colleges?”
“I’ve been . . .”
“Busy. I heard. I got a call from Wade.”
Wade was their business manager; someone Mark had hired to help manage their financial affairs.
“He said you spent seventeen thousand dollars in Bergdorf’s?”
Dylan blanched. She had been meaning to tell him about that. It was a shopping trip that had gotten a little out of control because she’d gone with Cindy. And because Cindy didn’t look at prices, neither had she. It was only when she got to the register and heard the total that she realized the damage. And of course, by then it was too late. It wasn’t as though she could put everything back; that would have been too embarrassing. And why had Wade called Mark about this?
“It won’t happen again,” Dylan said, reaching out to touch Mark’s hand.
“I don’t care about the money,” he said, pulling away impatiently. “I care about where you seem to be spending your time these days. Shopping. And on this . . .” He lifted a handful of her straightened hair and let it drop again.
Mark seemed not to notice her tears, or not to care. He was that mad.
“So what happened with these guys?” he asked inclining his head toward the newspaper photo.
“You really have to ask me that?” Dylan said.
Mark started on his breakfast, eating with gusto, as though he hadn’t just intimated that she may have committed adultery. Dylan’s mouth felt as dry as paper and she had no appetite whatsoever. After a moment she left him at the table and went in to take a shower.
When she got out, Mark was on the phone making plans to rejoin the team. He looked up as she entered and beckoned her over. Without missing a beat in his conversation, he pulled her towel from about her and dropped it on the floor so she was standing naked in front of him. He didn’t touch but just stared, as though trying to find what was elemental about her. He ended his phone call and looked at her, not speaking.
“I’m sorry,” she said, not moving to cover herself. “I want to represent you well. I don’t want you to . . . it won’t happen again. The nightclub was a bad idea. I know how important the game was, and I should have thought . . .”
“Dylan . . .” Mark looked up at her and his eyes were almost pleading, almost sad. “Even in the minors, there were people . . . groupies, hangers-on, and there were players and family members who got caught up. They got swallowed up by stuff. And in the majors, it’s a hundred times worse. Pedro warned me. Wilfredo warned me. People get swallowed up, and when they get spit back out, they’re completely different. I just want you to be careful. You understand?”
She wasn’t completely sure she did, but she nodded anyway, wanting to assuage whatever his worry might be.
Mark kissed her on her belly-button and her stomach fluttered as though inside her a million tiny butterflies had taken flight. He opened his palms on her hips, squeezing her, pulling her closer, running his tongue across her, just above her hip bone. Dylan crouched so she could kiss him, and Mark put his hands on either side of her face, kissing her back , holding her tight, almost as though he was afraid she might slip away.