III. The King
“Hey, Miss America.”
It was a dorky thing to say to a girl. But when Reginald Spencer III said it—with his perfect pale-yellow hair and movie-star smile that even braces couldn’t spoil—even seventh-grade girls a year older than him swooned.
“Hi, Reggie. You playing in the tournament this afternoon?”
Reggie and his cousin, Derald, were rushing to first class. There was zero time to stop and flirt, so Reggie slowed down long enough to wink at the beautiful Cissy Glenadek.
“I’m batting lead-off,” Reggie said. “Be there to see it. Okay?”
Cissy giggled. So did the girl walking with her.
Derald, a head taller and half as handsome as Reggie, playfully slapped the back of his cousin’s head.
“What was that for?”
“You’re worse than Captain Kirk, you know that?”
“Can I help it if I have the face and the gift of gab to go with it?”
Derald slapped Reggie’s head again. Harder.
“What was that one for?”
“Because you’re right.”
The cousins laughed as they threaded their way through the congested corridors of Willet’s Private School to Mrs. Overton’s civics class.
“So,” Derald asked, “are you jazzed about your folks coming for your birthday?”
Reggie didn’t want to jinx anything by saying how he felt out loud, but he was more than jazzed. He was amped. This was the first time Reggie’s mom and dad had ever agreed to visit him during a school year, and he had been attending Willet’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts since first grade.
“I know what you mean,” Derald said. Derald’s mother, Linnea, and Reggie’s father, Reginald II, were brother and sister. Linnea and Reginald II were also jet setters who behaved as if visiting their children between the months of August and June only slowed them down. The only relative who ever visited the boys during the school year was…
Derald dashed to a dapper old man waiting by Mrs. Overton’s door. Reggie sprinted, too, and both boys hugged their grandfather, Reginald I. A broad smile spread beneath the tall, thin man’s white mustache, and his sky blue eyes twinkled as he lovingly crushed his grandsons in his arms.
“You here for Reggie’s tournament or his birthday?” Derald asked.
“Did you think I’d miss either? Though why you’d play baseball when you could enjoy a good game of cricket I’ll never understand.” Born in an English county called Norfolk, Grandpa Spencer’s British accent was as strong today as it had been when he arrived in America a half century earlier. “I wager you’d toss a wicked googly, Reggie.”
“Did Mom and Dad come with you?” Reggie asked.
The old man’s happy face clouded.
The look broke Reggie’s heart.
“They’re not coming, are they?”
“I’m sorry. No.”
“Do you know why?”
Grandpa Spencer bent to a knee. “They needed to fly to Australia and…”
“`Needed’?” Reggie was mad. He knew better to interrupt his grandfather.
“That’s all they told me, boy.”
Reggie nodded. “I’m sorry. I know you don’t see Father much more than I do.”
“That’s not the point.” Grandpa Spencer almost added that it didn’t matter if he got to see Reggie’s dad or Derald’s mom. His grandsons needed their attention now, not him. Reggie had every right to be hurt and disappointed. However, like the old man supposed would happen, Reggie pretended not to care. It was an act the boy was getting frightfully close to perfecting.
“It’s okay. So long as you’ll be there.”
“You know I will be.”
Derald cheered, “Of course he’ll be there. We can always count on Grandpa.”
“That’s right, Reggie,” Grandpa Spencer promised. “So long as I’m around, you can always count on me.”