"I drew you a picture," Isao says, pushing a coloring page across the cluttered table towards me. It's a green and blue puppy with red ears playing with a pink and purple ball. I have to admit, my little brother's already got a handle on color theory.
"That's beautiful," I say. "What's its name?"
"Mitchell the Rainbow Dog. Very creative." I turn back to the table, sorting through Kleenex boxes and Clorox wipes. I check the school supply list again. "Okay, these three packages of wipes are for you, Isao, to take to kindergarten next week. Are you excited?"
I break open a new package of mechanical pencils and put some in my pencil case. Aunt Sharon hands me some pens. "Aren't all the girls decorating their notebooks in duct tape this year?" she asks.
"I don't know."
"Would you like to?"
Aunt Sharon smiles. "What do you say we go to Dillard's tomorrow? You need an outfit for the first day of school."
"You already bought me a whole closet full of clothes."
"I know, but you need a special outfit for your first day of junior high. And maybe some shoes."
Uncle Pat chuckles from his armchair, where he's drinking coffee and reading a novel. "She'll settle down after a while, Keiko," he promises. "There's lights in the driveway. I think your friends are here to pick you up."
Sure enough, a car honks at me. I hug everyone good-bye, grab my backpack, and head out the door.
The car is packed. Brook's dad is driving, and her mom is riding shotgun. I squish in the back between Brook and Landon, taking care not to step on Brook's crutches. Soon, she'll be graduating to a walking boot. "Hey, Mr. Richard and Miss Vivian," I say. "Hey, Brook. Hey, Landon."
"How are you liking your new home, Yank?" Landon asks me.
"It's great. Aunt Sharon spoils me, Uncle Pat's really nice, and Isao is cute. He's always drawing me pictures. How are you all doing?"
"We're good," Brook says. "It's kind of weird being home, but it's nice, too."
"I feel the same way."
We get to Comerica Park, and Landon helps Brook out of the car. She's deft on her crutches, like a bird hopping down a branch. "Can I try using your crutches?" I ask. "Just for fun?"
"Maybe once we find our seats," Brook says. "I'm so excited! I'd watch baseball on TV at Jetta's house all the time. I've always wanted to see a live game."
"We're glad we can take you to a game," Richard says. "Keiko, you won't guess who they're playing against."
"The White Sox?"
"The New York Yankees."
I laugh, pulling my Yankees cap so the brim faces forwards. Landon smiles at me. "How'd a Detroit girl end up a New York fan?"
"My dad went to med school in New York after he moved here from Japan. I guess I liked whatever he did."
"That's very sweet of you," says Vivian. She has dark hair like the rest of her family, not a strand out of place, and she's better dressed for a state dinner than a baseball game. I hope she doesn't spill mustard on her blouse, not that she strikes me as the kind of person who would eat hot dogs. But she has a nice smile, and Brook says that living with her again is like heaven.
We have decent seats pretty close to the field, but Vivian brought binoculars for us anyway. It's fun to watch the players' facial expressions as they concentrate. The players in the dugouts laugh and make faces at each other, and a couple of them are really cute.
I stand up to cheer when one of the Yankees players makes a home run, and a child's voice from the seat behind me says "Daddy, she's confused!"
Everyone laughs. Then comes halftime, and out come the kiss cams. A few older couples kiss--disgustingly--and a young father kisses both his wife and his little girl. Suddenly, I see half of my own face, and Brook and Landon are on the screen, the entire stadium watching.
They both turn red, but they lean towards each other and kiss, and everyone claps. Richard and Vivan look at them, then at each other, and agree to be alright with it.
I'm tempted to use what's left of halftime to rummage through trash cans for half-eaten hot dogs and pizza crusts, but then I realize I don't have to. I'm not a street rat anymore. For the first time in a long time, I've got a family.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.