Watching Malia grow and transform into her own distinct person was one of the great joys of David and Patrick’s life.
They learned over time that she hated dressing up, preferring a basic pair of blue jeans and a t-shirt over a dress. She was a voracious reader but also a very active kid, finding she loved both dance class and outdoor sports.
Patrick thought his daughter’s lack of interest in fashion would break David’s heart, and though David often outwardly complained, inside, he was thrilled at his daughter’s ability to spit in the face of the idea of gender norms.
This led to their current situation.
Malia had picked up a strong love of baseball early on, watching games on the couch with Patrick. Now, at 9, she was old enough to try out for little league.
None of the teachers or administrators had any issue with her trying out, being the only girl. However, some of the boys began to tease her.
David’s first instinct was to hunt each and every one of these boys, and their parents, down.
Patrick, ever the voice of reason, reminded him that getting jail time wouldn’t be very productive. Rather, he said he would practice with Malia so she would be ready once the big day came.
They were out at the local field, where team Café Tropical had won their first championship all those years ago. David had offered to watch the store for the afternoon while Patrick helped Malia practice.
Having played catch with both her papa and her grandpa Johnny many times, she was a natural. Patrick had no concerns until he decided they should practice batting.
Turns out, his daughter couldn’t hit a ball to save her life.
He could see her getting more and more frustrated and defeated every time she missed. He tried his best to assure her.
“It’s okay, baby girl. You’ll get it. It just takes time.” He gently rubbed her back as he looked up from his position crouched on the ground. He could see tears beginning to form in her eyes.
“But what if I never get it?!” she cried dramatically. “What if I never get to play?” Patrick watched as she lost the battle with her tears. His heart broke as he watched the first few slide down her face.
He quickly pulled her into a hug, feeling his shoulder dampen as the seconds passed.
“I’m never going to do it,” she whispered.
It was at this moment that David showed up. Patrick hadn’t realized it had gotten so late, but sure enough, it was almost 7:00.
“Hey, how’s it going out here?” David asked, none the wiser. The look Patrick shot him instantly clued him in that something had gone wrong.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” he asked softly, also crouching down to be closer to Malia’s level.
Without a word, Malia merely whimpered and wrapped her arms around her dad’s neck, burying her head in his shoulder. David held her close, looking to Patrick with worry.
“We’re just having some trouble with batting,” he said gently, the distress on his face clear to his husband.
David nodded. “Why don’t we try again?” he asked Malia softly. After a few moments soaking in the warmth of their cuddle and the softness of her father's sweater, Malia pulled back and nodded, wiping away her tears. As Malia and Patrick both got into position, David watched from the side.
Patrick released his first pitch and-
“Open your hands up a little more, Malia,” David called. He went over and adjusted her hands on the bat. He caught Patrick’s look of surprise.
“Hey! Did I or did I not win your team the championship game of 2019?”
Patrick rolled his eyes with a laugh. David had been holding that over his head for the past 10 years.
“Yes, you did.” Malia laughed, watching the exchange.
“And is what I just told her correct or not?”
Patrick hesitated for a second. “It probably is, yes.”
With a decisive nod, David backed away to watch again.
On the next few tries, Malia got closer and closer to hitting the ball, with it just barely bouncing off the tip of her bat on the final try.
She knew that didn’t really count and it was clear that she was getting frustrated and emotional once again.
Patrick watched silently once again as David jogged over to her and crouched down. Patrick couldn’t hear their conversation, but when Malia turned back to him, clearly ready for the next pitch, she had a different look in her eyes. She looked determined but almost…angry?
Unsure if he should say anything, he looked to David, who nodded. With a nod of his own, he released the ball.
The sound resonated in his ears.
He felt more than saw the ball fly over his shoulder. It wouldn’t be a home run, but it definitely had some distance on it.
“That’s my girl!” he heard David yell. This woke Patrick up and he ran to Malia, swinging her around as she laughed.
“I’m so proud of you, baby girl,” he whispered. He felt her squeeze his shoulders before he let her back down to the ground. David, too, lifted her up into a tight hug of his own.
The small family, all elated by the evening’s events, soon packed up and headed home. It wasn’t until they were cleaning up after their celebratory pizza dinner that Patrick voiced his thoughts.
“What did you say to her?”
“Hmm?” David asked distractedly as he continued to clean up.
“Malia. What did you say to her before she made that hit? Whatever it was, it clearly worked.”
He watched David’s face morph into the proud, almost smug smirk he had come to love so much.
“I told her to think about all those boys who teased her and don’t want her to play. I told her to channel all of those emotions into it.”
Patrick was surprised yet unbelievably proud. “Wow. That’s great advice, babe.”
David chuckled. “Well, that’s what I did and it seemed to work pretty well for me.”
“What do you mean?” Patrick asked in confusion.
“The day of that championship game. I knew everybody, you included, doubted me, and it pissed me off, so I used that to focus on hitting the ball. And proving you wrong.”
“David, I...” He didn’t know what to say. He felt horrible that he had doubted David, but he knew it was true; his competitive side could get ugly and he knew it.
“Baby,” David laughed, going over to wrap his arms around Patrick’s neck. “It was 10 years ago. It’s okay.” Regardless, Patrick pulled him into a tight hug.
“I’m sorry I ever doubted you, David.” After a moment, he added, “I’m sorry anyone ever doubted you.”
David, knowing the conversation had suddenly taken on a much deeper meaning, tightened his hold on his husband.
“I love you,” he murmured softly, feeling safe and loved and cherished.
“I love you too, VIP.”