‘I’d love to see you again.’ 3am in London in a room filled with flowers and balloons, over plates of cake and glasses of champagne, JJ and Rocco sit to their first “date”. Rocco was smitten by her, absolutely head over heels.
‘I’d love to as well.’ JJ corks her head to the side a little. She knew nothing about baseball, but she’d been enamoured by the man sitting opposite her in her friends’ home in Belgravia, a world away from where they live, having cake and champagne lost in conversation of their lives. They had to get on a plane ten thousand miles away from where they live twenty minutes from each other, to meet. Ain’t life magical.
‘I have an intense training schedule coming up as soon as I land, but I have a thing, that I’d love to invite you to. It’s the only evening I have free for the next two months.’
‘It’s a dinner type event and I’d really love you to come as my date. If you’d rather not attend, I can meet you afterwards, I wish I could dock out of it but I really can’t.’
‘I’d love to come as your date.’
It wasn’t just a small thing.
JJ found herself rolling by a red carpet on her second date with Rocco; his thing was an industry event, a grand one by the looks of things, complete with red carpet, Hollywood and sporting heavy weights. Is that Lebron?
Rocco sent a car to pick her up because he had to be there for the pre-evening gathering with his teammates. His assistant met her and walked her in through the back door where she met Rocco.
‘Hello. This is not a little thing.’
Rocco’s smile was sheepish, he’d downplayed the evening and did not tell her it was all about him, he was being awarded the best MLB player of the year at the ESPY Awards, this on the back of being presented with the gold glove at the start of the season. ‘It’s not. I’m receiving an award this evening and I wanted you here tonight because it’s the only night I have free for a good few months and I really wanted to see you again.’
He is cute. ‘Thank you for inviting me, but shouldn’t your family be here.’
‘That’s the other thing.’
‘What?’ At the look on his face, JJ knew what the other thing was.
‘My family is here tonight.’
Her heart flipped. If she’d known she was going to meet his family she would have made more of an effort instead of the simple black dress she threw on tonight with barely there heels, but what effort does one make when they are meeting the family on the second date unbeknownst to them. Her head told her to turn right round and run back the way she came but her heart was mush. All in. She thought they would do the “little thing” then go to dinner away from the glare of everyone, something simple and quiet and controlled. But she’d had quiet and controlled it was almost contrived, this was out of her comfort zone so early on. Two weeks in.
Two weeks into what exactly?
‘It’s a big deal to them.’ He is the son of immigrants, Italian father, African-American mother, the youngest of five children, the only boy; of course they would be here tonight. His parents worked hard to put him and his sisters through the best education they could not afford, working all hours of the day; his mother a nurse, his father a subway train driver, humble beginnings with an extraordinary home, filled with much love. They had to be here.
‘Of course it’s a big deal to them that their son is being awarded for being the best leftie third baser.’
‘The position is Third base, I’m the third baseman… did I teach you nothing in London?’
‘I was dazzled by cake and champagne that fizzled my brain.’ JJ laughed, funny enough her nerves had calmed some. Who the hell knows where the night will lead them.
‘I was just dazzled by you.’
Charming. She’ll take it. ‘I would love to meet your family.’
‘Thank you.’ He gave her his elbow and she hooked her hand around it. ‘You look beautiful tonight.’
‘Thank you.’ Thank goodness she did not throw on her leather pants tonight, she was this close but last minute opted for a black slip dress, hair freshly washed, blow dried and teased into lazy waves thanks to hairdresser who fit her in this morning.
Rocco and JJ’s walk to his table, did not go unnoticed by certain people, she ignored the murmurs and the looks much as she could, but there was one person in particular she could not shake off.
Alexa stood a few feet away looking daggers at the couple. She was an industry person, so of course she’d be invited tonight, not a lot of people knew about her fight with Rocco and she was hoping to talk some sense into him. Figures, he is not taking her call.
‘Mom, Papa, I want you to meet Jorja Adamson, everyone calls her JJ. JJ, my parents, Elisa and Paulo, and my sisters.’ Introductions are made all round, and JJ did not miss the looks exchanged by his family albeit subtly. She gets it, but Rocco will have to address that when the time comes. She resolves to having a good time for what it’s worth and however long they have.
‘It’s good to meet you Jorja or may I call you JJ.’ His mother shook her hands, a warm smile lights up her face.
‘It’s lovely to meet you too and please can call me JJ.’
‘It’s good to meet you JJ,’ a man who was the splitting image of Rocco, tall, chestnut tan, eyes that sparkle with smile lines on their ends, same cheeky smile and a solid build that spoke volumes to the physical work he put in in his youth, extended a hand.
One by one his sisters came forward to greet her, familiarly, with a hug and without hauteur. They liked her.
‘Where did you pick this one up?’ Cara, his oldest sister, asks JJ teasingly as their father pulls out the chair for her and Rocco does the same for his mother, it’s the sweetest thing.
‘She didn’t pick me up Cara.’
‘I’m sorry I didn’t mean it like that.’
JJ smiles, ‘I know what you meant, and I’m not offended. He picked me up at a baby shower.’
‘Oh my goodness. You’re the girl from London, the flower girl.’
‘Flower girl?’ JJ raises a brow at Rocco, smile resident on her lips.
‘Wow. Way to sell your brother out like that Maria.’ Rocco rolls his eyes, ‘I simply said you did the most beautiful flowers for Caroline’s baby shower and you have a flower shop called flower girl so… I told them you were my flower girl.
‘I think it was more than the flowers that attracted you to JJ son.’ His mother says knowingly.
The night passed in good company, Rocco was honoured for his outstanding contributions to the game and dinner was a delight. From the corner of her eye, JJ was only too aware of the woman who had been intently watching her, she pretended not to notice but she saw her alright that had to be the ex he was recently off with in their, on again off again situation. Rocco told her all about his relationship and JJ determined that since this was just a thing between them, she’d have fun with the charming third baser or whatever he was and keep it moving. She wanted some down time after Barnaby, she needed the down time.