Alexa felt odd about the entire situation that she was in. And not the bad kind of odd, either. The whole evening had been more than great and she was having trouble not becoming completely infatuated with Patrick. He looked even better than normal, in his perfect navy blue button-up and khakis. And Alexa couldn't stop herself from staring at him.

She'd picked him up at seven like they'd planned and then they'd gone to dinner, talking randomly on the drive over. Patrick had been sweet all night, acting like the perfect gentleman. Usually, that bothered the hell out of Alexa but with Patrick, it seemed genuine, like it was how he was normally. After dinner, they'd gone to see a movie that Alexa had barely been able to pay attention to after Patrick's hand got hold of hers. And then, pretending that it was on a whim, Patrick had thrown out the idea of roller skating.

Only it wasn't on a whim, he'd had it planned. He'd rented the roller rink and it was just the two of them, skating around to the tune of Alexa's favorite songs (Noni had helped with the play list), lit only by hundreds of candles. And as they skated, they'd held hands and Alexa had tried to keep herself from giggling.

There was a tiny voice in the back of her head that screamed how fake Patrick was, doing all of these things for a certain purpose that boys often had. But Alexa was able to silence the voice. Something in Patrick's smile helped her to keep the tiny screamer quiet.

"Since I picked you up, I'm walking you to the door," Alexa said cheekily, parking in front of Patrick's house.

Patrick smiled at her happily, knowing that he would let her do whatever she wanted. "Sure."

They walked to the door holding hands, like they had most of the evening. Alexa was biting her lip the whole time, wondering what would happen next. She had an idea what would happen - she had been on dates before, of course - but there was something so different about that night, something that was hinting at this not being like any other goodnight she'd ever had.

"Thanks for going with me," Patrick said quietly, as they stood on his porch. He grabbed Alexa's other hand in his, so that he was holding both of hers, and tugged her just a little bit closer.

"I had fun." Alexa blushed a little bit, feeling Patrick get closer again. She stepped towards him just slightly, slow enough so that she didn't ruin the moment. "A lot of fun."

"Me too."

With a very small but still very nervous smile, Patrick leaned into Alexa and kissed her softly. She stepped into him again, so that their bodies were touching and put one of her hands on the back of his neck. The ends of his hair were so soft against her fingers and somehow, it made her shiver.

Alexa didn't even remember how she got down to her car after their kiss goodnight. But there she was in the driver's seat, pulling back onto the street. She blushed again when she noticed that her arms were covered in goose bumps. It had just been that kind of night.

Without a shadow of a doubt, Alexa knew that she had to tell Noni everything. And a phone call wouldn't suffice in this case, it had to be done face to face. So, like it was second nature to her, Alexa pulled into Noni's driveway.

And, like it was second nature to her as well, Noni was already waiting for Alexa. She'd expected that Alexa would show up so she was sitting cross legged on her living room couch, covered in a chenille blanket, watching some stupid movie on HBO. The moment she heard Alexa pull into the driveway, she flipped off the TV and was out on the porch, with a backpack slung over her shoulder.

"Tell me everything," Noni demanded, getting into the passenger's seat of Alexa's Range Rover.

Alexa laughed at her friend's enthusiasm. "You were waiting?"

"Duh! I want to know what happened!"

"It was alright."

Noni raised an eyebrow at her best friend, seeing right through the lie. She knew Alexa well enough to always be able to see through any lie she could come up with. "It was not!"

Alexa sighed quietly. "I could love him."

"Yes!" Noni shrieked, doing a few dance moves in her seat. "I knew it, I knew it, I knew it!"

"Noni, calm."

"I knew it!"

"Yes, you did," Alexa admitted. "But I'm still mad at you for it."

Noni rolled her eyes. "Are not."

Alexa smirked at her. "You're right, I'm not."

Alexa stirred when she heard a knock on the door. She opened her eyes slowly and dreaded looking at the clock. When she saw that it was only ten in the morning, she let out a groan. "What?"

"Alexa, breakfast." It was Edna speaking through the door. She was the only person Alexa knew who could talk in the morning and not sound like screaming.

"We'll eat later," Alexa mumbled.

"Your parents asked that you two come down."

Alexa sat up suddenly. Her parents had asked. That couldn't be a good thing. They obviously knew that Noni was there (then again, Noni was rarely ever not there) and they obviously wanted to say something. This made her more than a little nervous.

"Alexa?"

"Yeah... we'll be down in a minute."

When Alexa looked over at Noni's bed, she saw that Noni was already sitting up, looking a little annoyed. Her curls were going in about ninety-five directions and her makeup was smudged but she still managed to look adorable and angelic.

"I don't wanna get up," Noni whined.

"Me neither." Alexa slid out of bed, trying not to disturb Peach, who was still fast asleep on the end of the bed. She stretched her arms over her head and walked slowly to her closet, her limbs still feeling stiff. "But we have to."

"But... why?"

"Dunno." Alexa returned from her closet wearing a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt over the tank top and underwear that she'd slept in. Peach was awake now, watching Alexa closely as she walked back into the room. Ducky was sprawled across the end of Noni's bed, his head resting on a red throw pillow as he snored quietly.

"I could be a dog," Noni muttered spitefully as she set her feet slowly on the floor.

"No shit."

When Noni was dressed, the girls left Alexa's bedroom, trailed slowly by the two Dobermans. Alexa let the dogs outside before stepping into the dinning room. She glanced back at Noni nervously and received a good luck smile from her best friend.

"Morning, girls," Tracy Haverford said sweetly when she saw her daughter and her should-be-daughter (that was the nickname she'd given Noni what seemed like eons ago) enter the room.

Marshall looked up in time to see the two girls - who both looked quite disheveled and still very asleep - slip into their normal chairs. He couldn't help but laugh at the two of them. He remembered being their age, the way he hated getting up early in the morning. He didn't doubt that they'd been up until sunrise.

"Have a nice night?" Marshall asked with a smirk.

"Until we were rudely awakened," Alexa yawned. So maybe Edna hadn't rudely awoken them but she had woken them up and that was bad enough.

"Someday, you'll love getting up early."

At the same time, Alexa and Noni burst out laughing. They glanced at each other and only laughed harder, until they both had tears forming in their eyes. Tracy and Marshall shot each other a slightly disturbed look but then started to laugh too, knowing that they'd all had moments like that at one time or another.

Edna came in and out of the dinning room a few times, setting platters of food on the table. Their laughter had finally ceased and Noni was now eyeing a particularly scrumptious looking blueberry muffin. But Alexa was still wondering just what was going on and why her parents had wanted her there. She had a bad feeling that she was in some sort of trouble. Why Noni would be there if she was in trouble, she wasn't sure. Then again, anytime Alexa got in trouble, Noni was at her side so why wouldn't Noni be included on any lectures?

Noni started to giggle quietly at something and when Alexa looked over her shoulder at her best friend, she heard a very loud popping sound. She whirled her head around again to see her father holding a bottle of champagne. There was a black box next to him on the table, meaning that the bottle in his hand was Dom Perrignon. She watched her father pour champagne into the four champagne flutes in front of him, all of which were already half filled with orange juice. Marshall passed a glass to everyone and then held his up.

"To the season," he said happily, smiling incredibly wide.

Alexa rolled her eyes, wondering how the hell she'd forgotten. Every year, a few weeks before the season began, her father went insane. He'd begin to boil over with excitement, organizing fancy meals, constantly toasting things, drinking incredible amounts of champagne. Every year, like clockwork. She had no idea how she'd managed to forget her father's annual loss of sanity.

Marshall swallowed almost half of his mimosa. "It's going to be a great season." He nodded, like he needed to emphasize it. "We finally have a chance to do something big this year. We're absolutely perfect on paper."

Noni squirmed in her chair, feeling the need to pretend to be interested. She only did it because Alexa never tried. "How has the preseason been going?"

Marshall almost laughed that she'd called it the preseason but he didn't, knowing that she wasn't the baseball-loving type and she really didn't know the lingo. "It's been great. Everything's gelling perfectly."

Alexa wanted to throw up. She hated the baseball talk that was always floating around her in one way or another. If she didn't get it at home (and that was rare), she got it at school. The fact that everyone needed to point out who her father was, what her father did, what his team did and what his players did annoyed her to no end. She'd dealt with it for years and she couldn't wait until she wouldn't have to anymore.

The tranquility of breakfast lasted for only about fifteen minutes. Everything was completely perfect until Marshall's cell phone rang. He pulled it from his pocket and glanced at the screen. His eyes showed his obvious interest and he flipped the phone open, putting it to his ear.

"Jerry, how're you doing?"

There was a pause as Marshall pushed his chair back from the table and stood up. He'd barely even stepped back before his eyes got huge and his jaw tightened.

"What?" he roared. "How in the hell did that happen?"

Noni elbowed Alexa in the side. "What's with that?" she whispered.

Alexa shrugged. All she knew was that Jerry - Jerry Anderson, one of the meanest, most cut-throat people she'd ever met - was the General Manager of the Rivers. He was always stressing her poor father out for some stupid reason or another, usually things that ended up not even happening or not making a big deal if they did happen.

"Dammit," Marshall groaned, sitting down again. "Dammit, dammit, dammit!"

"Marshall," Tracy scolded quietly. She hated it when people swore openly, especially during mealtimes. But no one seemed to care that it bothered her.

"Jerry, cut the crap," Marshall ordered, trying not to notice his wife's lip twitch when he swore. "What can we do about it?" There was more silence and a bit of Marshall nodding along with what Jerry was saying to him. "Fine. Let me know how that works out."

There was a silence right after Marshall got off the phone. No one wanted to say anything because the situation was obviously a bad one. Marshall set his cell phone down on the table and stared at it for a second, as if he was silently cursing it for bringing him bad news. Alexa almost told him not to kill the messenger but she quickly decided against it.

"Honey," Tracy began softly, "what happened?"

"Branch went down."

Tracy looked shocked. "Mikey Branch? What happened to him?"

Marshall laughed smugly. "Blew out his knee during practice."

Alexa winced. Baseball related or not, that had to hurt and she felt bad for whoever Mikey Branch was. Then again, she didn't really see what the problem was. Sure, they'd lost a player, so trade for someone else or bring someone up from the minors. She knew how this baseball thing worked but she did not see the problem in this situation.

"Is he done for the year?"

"The MRI looked terrible. The doctors say he'll be down for a while but we're getting some more opinions."

Tracy nodded her understanding. "What will you do if he's out?"

"The only thing we can do is bring our kid up from the minors. There are absolutely no moves we can make at this point."

Noni was squirming again, trying to think of something to ask. "But if he's in the minors for you... he can play right? He has to be good...?"

Marshall found himself smiling at her for trying, something he wished Alexa would do more often. "He's good but he isn't ready yet. He's still got a lot to learn."

"Then why'd you sign him?" Alexa asked, sounding a little disgusted by the whole thing. She wasn't even looking at her father when she asked him the question, she was busy pushing food around her plate.

"He's got a lot of potential," Marshall said sadly. It hurt him how much his daughter hated baseball. He wished she liked it but ever since she was younger, she hated it. And he didn't even know why.

"Everything will be alright," Tracy assured her husband, setting a hand lightly on his arm. Marshall looked over at her and smiled. "You'll figure it out."

"May we be excused?" Alexa asked, setting down her fork.

Tracy nodded, not even checking to see how much either of them had eaten. Breakfast had gone south, there was no need to keep them at the table for no reason.

Safely back in her room, Alexa climbed under her blankets again, this time holding the TV remote. She turned the TV on and began flipping slowly through channels, not finding anything at all interesting.

"That sucks for your dad," Noni said, climbing into her own bed.

"Big deal," Alexa groaned. "So he won't win the World Series. It's not like he hasn't won it before."

"Still. He seemed pretty worked up about it."

Alexa rolled her eyes. "It happens."

Noni nodded but wondered silently to herself just why Alexa hated baseball. She'd never gotten a straight answer out of her, usually just a snort and a cringe. It didn't really matter, she just would've liked to know.

"You should call Patrick today," Noni suggested, her mind quickly switching off of baseball.

Alexa blushed wildly at the mere mention of his name. "I'm gonna let him call me."

"He's a boy, he won't."

"He's different."

Noni grinned at her best friend. "You love him!"

"Do not!"

"I think you do."

Alexa began to giggle quietly, her cheeks still bright red. Finally, when she couldn't take it anymore, she buried her head in her pillow, giggling like a maniac.

"Alexa's in love!"

"Shut up," Alexa yelled, though it was muffled by both the pillow and her giggling.

"You love him."

There was a moment of total silence before Alexa raised her head a little bit. She was still blushing but a dopey smile had taken over her face. She looked at Noni - who was grinning excitedly - and her smile didn't fade one bit.

"Maybe just a little bit."

Author's Note: yes, yes, I am alive. And I know I say that every time but sometimes I really do wonder how many of you think I've died when I don't update for so damn long. Sorry, sorry, sorry. I've been way busy with stuff. (And yes, I'm guilty of starting another story...) But you should check out the new one, it's over on my other penname - shards of me - and it's called "My Caroline." I'd like to know what you guys think. Oh, and I should update this soon. And perhaps there will be an update of Losing Him soon too. Ya never know. I love you all and thanks for your patience!