She knew he was someone special the moment he walked past. She had always imagined that Paradise would be a kind of library because that’s where she met him. His body was long and lithe. She recognized him almost immediately even though she was accustomed to seeing him with a bat in his hands and a calculating expression on his face. A phantom number five from his retired baseball jersey flashed before her eyes. His resignation speech had been brief but the look on his face when he was talking about leaving baseball still haunts her dreams at night. A torn anterior cruciate ligament had forced him out of the sport he loved. She watched as he shifted his weight to his right leg. The dark of his jeans hid the surgical scars. His long sleeved black t-shirt seemed blank and forlorn without his name and number on the back.
Her eyes followed him down the narrow book-lined aisle. She left the book she had been reading on the table next to her. It wasn't her nature to stalk celebrities but she knew her dad would be touched if she brought home an autograph. Her feet stopped as she rounded the corner. A long arm reached for one of the periodicals, he stared at her as if she had interrupted something and pulled the book out. It looked like her father wasn't going to get his autograph after all. Feeling stupid she went back to her book. The words blurred in front of her. She wasn’t sure how much time passed before she realized that someone was standing in front of her.
He was standing off to the side but within her line of vision. Casually she reached for her bag hoping that her smile seemed genuine. It wasn’t very encouraging when he didn’t smile back. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed that there was something in his hand. It was a folded sheet of paper. She looked up at the man standing in front of her. Whatever the note said, it wasn’t hers. Too awestruck to speak she shook her head. “I think you dropped this.” His voice was even better in real life than it was on TV. It warmed the chilly interior of the library like few other things could. She was tempted to take the sheet of paper but the word karma echoed in her head. The note didn't belong to her.
He set the piece of paper on the table next to her. She bit her lip trying to think of something to say. The memory of her favorite number five sweatshirt mocked her as she looked at her faded pink shirt. Desperately she shoved her hair back, wishing she had put on make-up before leaving the house but it was too late now. Tentatively she reached for the note. Brown eyes watched her unfold a blank sheet of paper. As she looked up she saw him smiling at her. She smiled back at him. Was this a game they were playing? She had tucked her legs up to read, she reached down for a pen. There was one in her checkbook. She pulled the pen out, wrote a short note and handed it back to the man in front of her. He smiled again, she was disappointed when he walked away but glad when he returned with a fresh sheet of paper.
The autograph was good sized. There was room at the top for another message. She wanted her father’s name to be on that sheet of paper. Her throat was dry, she reached for her water bottle without thinking. The children's librarian walked past, the woman in the chair set her water bottle down and grabbed the paper again. Normally she wasn’t shy but she didn’t know what to say to the man whose legendary career she had followed for years. Random celebrity encounters were a new thing in her life. The arm that had drawn millions of fans to stadiums across the country was close enough to touch. Her heart raced as he picked the piece of paper up again.
The anniversary card next to her clock quivered as the alarm went off. Through the window she could see the first pink streaks of dawn creeping across the sky. The sound of the shower grew louder as she walked through their room. She dropped the baseball jersey she had worn to bed in the hamper and stepped under the streaming water. As of today they have both family and friends although he still doesn't like it when she introduces him as the man who saved the world with a calculating expression and an antimatter baseball bat.