Eclipse of the Heart

Summary: Jeff reflects on his breakup from Ginger. A "missing" scene to "Appleknocker To Wed Tomatohawker."

Disclaimer: "Homefront" characters belong to their creators. No copyright infringement intended. No profit is being made.

Author: Tracy Diane Miller

The car roared defiantly into the driveway effectively masking the heartache of its driver. Despite the vehicle's unquestioned energy that suggested a willingness to cover more terrain, a night on the town perhaps, Jeff had stymied such potential, stopped the car, and parked it not too far from the house. If that car could talk, it would probably vehemently protest the forced inertia in which it found itself, curse at Jeff for destroying its chances for an exciting evening exploring the seedy underbelly of the town. Seedy underbelly? River Run? Hardly. The only seedy underbelly that River Run could boast was the penchant of some male customers who sometimes "tied too many on" at the Roadhouse. Too many beers can make a man do some strange things sometimes. And the ladies who happen to be in the Roadhouse in close proximity at the time of the celebration...well, they would become easy prey to such lunacy.

But there would be no night on the town, at least for this car and this ball player. He had long since silenced the radio, but its melody of heartache lingered on in his heart like a residue of torment. He could still hear her voice, each note stabbing forcefully at his chest with reminders of the future she had so willingly discarded in favor of her career. Good Lord! Would the melody ever go away? Would it ever stop hurting so much? He wondered.

Jeff sat in the car for a few minutes to plot his strategy. Not the strategy for his life, of course. No. He didn't have a plan for that yet. What he was focused on was the strategy for making it through this night. Any other night he could go into the house, offer a few pleasantries to family members he passed on the way to the attic, and disappear into the haven that was his bedroom. But tonight, he'd have to pretend that everything was hunky dory. Mr. Veck was in there and so were some of the other ball players. And there were probably photographers and reporters from the local papers poised to get the scoop on the star rookie right fielder and his gorgeous fiancee. How does it feel to have a batting average of .297 in his first season? Does he think that he can maintain that stellar record in subsequent seasons? What a lucky man he is to have such an impressive career and where is that gorgeous dame, his fiancee? Wasn't she supposed to be here tonight? When is the wedding?

The questions would be fired mercilessly at him and he would feel trapped in their dizzying undercurrent. His family would be there in the sea of faces, amongst the onslaught of media types. Mom, Al, and Linda would be beaming. Mom would be very proud. He'd have to smile and respond appropriately. He'd have to ignore the pain that he felt and behave as if he were on the top of the world. He'd have to act.

A small chuckle emerged from his torment. He never wanted to act and now he'd have to do it. Acting is such a silly line of work for a grown man. Pretending. Make believe. That's the kind of thing that you did when you were a kid.

He gripped the steering wheel, closed his eyes, and said a prayer. Okay, Metcalf. You can do this. His inner voice encouraged. Jeff took a deep breath before he got out of the car and walked into the house.

He had underestimated his appeal. There were more people at this party than he had envisioned. No sooner had he entered the house did Mr. Veck swoop down on him like an eagle. Mr. Veck took him by the arm and introduced him to several of the advertisers that were there and had expressed an interest in signing him, Jeff Metcalf, to endorsement contracts. The still painfully shy athlete gave the performance of his life as he smiled broadly. One advertising executive wanted to sign him on the spot to peddle a brand of tooth powder. The zealous man already had his slogan: "Use Burma-Vita Tooth Powder and you'll having the winning smile of a Cleveland Indian." The man was talking about having the image of Jeff's face and megawatt smile holding the tooth powder plastered in Look magazine and on a few billboards, too.

Jeff was smiling, acting really, but he wasn't listening. All he wanted to do was escape to his bedroom, his sanctuary. But they wouldn't let him.

He stole a few glances at Mom standing on the opposite side of the room. She looked worried. He politely excused himself, telling the man that he needed to speak to his mother. The advertising executive watched intently as Jeff walked over to Anne and hugged her. The wheels in the guy's head were turning rapidly. A famous ball player who was so devoted to his mother. There had to be a slogan in there somewhere. The guy smelled the intoxicating aroma of making big bucks on River Run's favorite son turned sports hero.

Mom asked him about Ginger. Jeff didn't want to lie, but he knew that he couldn't handle sharing the truth with anyone, not even his mother, not tonight. He willed his brain to think of a mental reservation. And then one came. It was a simple one actually. "Ginger couldn't make it because she had to sing tonight and she couldn't get out of it." But Jeff was thinking that Ginger didn't want to make it, she didn't want to get out of singing because she loved her career more than she loved him. She loved the thought of being a star rather than the thought of being Mrs. Metcalf.

The throbbing pain in his chest had returned.

There was at least another hour of more mingling, baseball talk, and discussions of possible endorsement contracts. Throughout it all, Jeff continued smiling and nodding as if he cared about what was said in those conversations, but all the while he felt as if he were dying inside. He was physically and emotionally spent. His bedroom seemed so far away.

Finally, the last cup of punch had been served and the partygoers disappeared into the night, their excited whispers filtering the chilly night air. Sharing the evening with Jeff Metcalf, hitching themselves in some fashion to his star, offered a welcome respite to the mundaneness of their own lives.

After saying a few quick words to his family, Jeff informed them that he was tired and was heading up to bed. With his footsteps heavy, Jeff climbed the stairs and entered the attic. A small light from the lamp on the dresser greeted him. He walked over to the dresser, picked up one of his baseball trophies, and curiously studied the object for a moment. Then he put the trophy down. He removed his jacket, walked over to his closet, and opened it. As he removed a hanger from the closet, his eyes caught sight of the baseball glove that sat proudly on a shelf overhead.

"I wanted to give you something special. And I know that you don't like cologne or clothes." He remembered Ginger saying when she gave him the new glove as a present for when he went away to spring training. That seemed like a long time ago.

Jeff removed the baseball glove from the closet, walked over to his bed, and plopped down. He held the glove protectively against his chest as if it were his lifeline. A few moments later, and with the anger swelling inside of him, he flung the glove against a far corner of the wall. He wasn't going to do this. He wasn't going to spend his life obsessing over a screwy dame like Ginger Szabo!

At that moment, Jeff formulated a strategy for his future. He'd go on the barnstorming tour with the Lemo All-Stars. Then he'd have enough money to buy that new car that he wanted. And there were a lot of beautiful dames out there none of who could resist a ballplayer driving a flashy car. He could have his choice of dames. He would just have fun and forget about her. He would erase Ginger from his mind and his heart.

But Jeff was fooling himself. Ginger Szabo had completely eclipsed his heart. And as hard as he tried convincing himself, there would be no way he could ever forget her. He would see her always in all the old familiar places and especially in the most familiar and treasured place that he knew. His heart.

The End.