When shortstop Mike Watson catches his Junior Varsity teammate Robby Brown slipping a tube of ChapStick into his pocket at the store, he doesn't know what to think.
Mike has had the hots for Robbie since the two boys started high school and finds it difficult to talk to him without feeling awkward and stupid. But he has to say something. What if someone else saw and Robby gets in trouble?
Does Robby make a habit of stealing things? Has Mike’s perception of his friend been wrong all these years? Is the ChapStick a cry for help or a way of getting Mike’s attention? Mike is determined to find out.
Shortstop Mike Watson is standing in the aisle of CVS Pharmacy, debating between a bottle of generic pain reliever and Tylenol, when he sees his Junior Varsity teammate Robby Brown slip a tube of ChapStick into his pocket.
Maybe he doesn’t realize he had it in his hand, Mike muses. What other reason would Robby have for stealing something that costs less than a dollar? Maybe he forgot he had it and when he found it, he’d laugh sheepishly and take it to the register. Maybe ...
But Robby glances around nervously, and when he pulls his hand out of his pocket, the ChapStick remains behind.
Mike’s stomach turns over. He looks around, too, but it’s just the two of them in the aisle—the coach is near the front of the store, waiting for the rest of the team to stock up on candy and soda and whatever else they might need on the bus. They’re scheduled to play Hermitage High in a little less than two hours. In another few minutes, Coach Barrett will holler for the guys to get a move on. So why the hell is Robby stealing ChapStick, of all things?
Mike doesn’t know.
Should he say something? But what? Robby isn’t looking his way and probably doesn’t even realize Mike’s in the same aisle, standing there, watching him. As it is, Mike has difficulty talking to Robby on a good day—sure, they grew up together, and were even friendly as kids, but since high school, Robby’s popularity has soared a bit more than Mike’s. They don’t hang out with the same crowd any more, even though they’re in the same grade and both play on the baseball team.
But Robby’s a legend on the field, the best third baseman they’ve ever had, able to pluck the ball out of the air with a grace few fifteen year olds can muster. Robby, with his dark, disheveled hair, his crooked grin, his soulful eyes. On the field, Mike spends most of his time staring at his teammate’s backside and daydreaming about getting up the nerve to talk to him outside the game. Mike doesn’t even dare to look Robby’s way in the locker room, lest one of their teammates see the lust in his face and rag on him about it.
Yes, he has it bad for the guy. Yes, he’ll admit it, if only to himself, in the privacy of his own thoughts. But Robby’s untouchable, perfect in every way, at least in Mike’s eyes.
He can’t imagine what might be going through Robby’s mind at the moment, but his own heart pounds in his chest and his stomach churns nervously. Don’t they have cameras in the store? The last thing they need is for their all-star player to be caught stealing from CVS.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, Mike thinks. That’s from a movie, isn’t it? Some Disney film he saw as a kid, probably even one he watched at Robby’s house back in the day, but he can’t remember which. Still, it helps strengthen his courage. Putting back the bottles of pain reliever he was waffling over, he walks the length of the aisle until he stands right behind Robby. Then he leans in a little, trying not to swoon, and whispers, “Put it back.”
Robby jumps. Whirling around, he narrows his eyes at Mike before looking around to make sure they’re alone. “Put what back?”
He tries to look confused. If Mike hadn’t seen him pocket the ChapStick himself, he might have bought it.
“Whatever it was you put in your pocket,” he replies, pointing. He resists the urge to dip his fingers in after the tube, and tries not to envision what he’d feel curled against the front pocket of Robby’s jeans. “I saw you.”
“I didn’t take anything,” Robby says, shaking his head.
He keeps his voice low, but Mike knows he’s scared. The fear of discovery shines brightly in Robby’s eyes. “Robby --"
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mike. I didn’t put anything in there.” Robby scowls. “Why would I do that? I don’t steal.”