Going UnderGeorgia Cates
18 A Tangled Web
Although the circumstances were only hypothetical, hearing Claire speak about us being a couple did strange things to my insides. I should have been thinking and plotting how to take Forbes down for what he did to me, but I forgot about vengeance when I looked at Claire because my feelings for her overruled my desire to hurt Forbes. I didn’t want her out of revenge against her boyfriend. I wanted her because I had fallen in love with her and now I had to figure out how to convince her she belonged with me instead of him.
I heard the sliding of the exam curtain and looked up to see the emergency room doctor entering my room. “Mister Boone, the nurses tell me that you have regained feeling in your arm. That’s great news and it reassures me that your injury is mostly likely what we refer to as a stinger. We see it fairly often in athletes. ”
“What exactly is it that happens when you get a stinger?” I asked.
He demonstrated by moving his own head and neck as he explained, “It can happen one of two ways. Either your head and neck were forced against your shoulder and the nerves that lead from the spinal cord to that arm were compressed, or your head and neck were forced away from the shoulder and those nerves were stretched. Both are considered minor and I expect you to make a full recovery, but it could have been a devastating injury had it occurred to your left shoulder because of it’s previous extensive trauma. ”
If I was going to be alright, I only had one question on my mind. “When can I get back on the field?”
He laughed at my eagerness. “You should probably take tomorrow off from practice, then you may resume playing on Wednesday. I want to observe you a couple of more hours and if everything still looks alright, then I think we can let you go home. ”
“Thank you, doc. ”
Before he left, he told me, “You’re welcome and I’m glad it didn’t turn out to be more serious. You’re a lucky young man. ”
I was lucky, but if Forbes knew the damage he could cause to my other shoulder, I might not have been quite so lucky.
I knew it was coming, so I wasn’t surprised when she asked, “What kind of trauma have you had?”
Even if the doctor hadn’t mentioned my injury, I knew Claire would have seen the significant scarring when my jersey was cut off by the EMTs. I didn’t want her to know I had been shot or the circumstances leading up to it, so I lied, “I tore the rotator cuff in my left shoulder and I’ve had to have some extensive surgery to repair it. The guys don’t know and I want to keep it that way because as you heard, it could be used against me. ”
“Trust me, I can keep a secret,” she promised and I took her at her word. “Was it painful?”
“Let’s just say that I don’t recommend it. ”
She looked down at her watch and said, “If you’re getting released in a couple of hours, I think I should call Payton and see if she will drive my car here so I can take you home. ”
There was no way that was happening. Claire would never come within ten miles of where I lived if I had anything to do with it.
“I think I should call Earl. He keeps an eye on me when my parents are out of town and I probably should have called him already, but I wasn’t thinking right when we first got to the hospital. ”
“Who’s Earl?” she questioned.
“He’ my boss at the garage. ”
I remembered telling her I had a job, but I didn’t recall telling her where and I wondered if she would think less of me because I worked in a garage.
“Oh, at your dad’s garage?” she asked.
Oops. I had forgotten about that one. I was beginning to understand that old saying about ‘oh what a tangled web we weave’ because one lie was leading to another. “Yeah, he’s probably going to be pissed and I don’t want to make things worse by not calling him for a ride. ”
“Sure, I don’t want you to be in trouble with Earl or your parents. ”
Claire kept me company during my two hour observation period, then the nurse came in to take out my IV. I knew it wouldn’t be long until I was released, so I decided it was time to call Earl for a lift.
Claire had stepped out to the waiting room to give Coach Osborne and the team my update and Earl entered my room as I finished signing release papers.
“Jessie, you should have called me when this happened,” he scolded.
“Everything happened so fast and I wasn’t thinking clearly when I got here. I took a pretty hard lick, but they say I’m going to be fine. ” I held my hand up to prove I had full use of it. “I’ve already got all the feeling back, see?”
“I still wish you had called. Someone should have been with you. ”
“I wasn’t alone. Claire was with me the whole time except for when I went for tests,” I corrected.
Claire walked through the door just in time to hear Earl ask, “Is Claire the girl you couldn’t stop thinking about when you almost broke your face with the wrench?”
I winced because I knew I’d be explaining that one later and said, “Yes sir, the same girl that’s standing behind you now. ”
There was only time for a brief introduction between Earl and Claire before my nurse returned with a wheelchair to take me to the exit. “Do I have to ride in that? I’m able to walk fine. ”
She gave me an understanding smile. “How ‘bout I have the ambassador walk you out?”
Earl went out to get the truck and an older woman led me and Claire to the discharge exit through the waiting room where I expected to be bombarded, but saw no one from school.
“I sent them all away. I told them it would be hours before you were released, but you were okay and they shouldn’t worry. I hope that’s alright,” she explained.
“It’s more than alright because I was not looking forward to being mobbed with questions. ” I reached for her hand and said, “I could kiss you. ”
“And I could let you, but we’re in the middle of the emergency room waiting area,” she reminded me.
The ambassador wished me her best as she deposited us at the exit, then Claire and I stood under the awning waiting for Earl. Payton pulled up with a screeching halt to get Claire and looked irritated. “Is she okay? She’s looking pretty annoyed. ”
“She’s impatient, so waiting is not her thing. ”
“Tell her I’m sorry I was temporarily paralyzed. Didn’t mean to ruin her evening. ” I said sarcastically.
She shook her head, obviously not worried about Payton. “She’ll get over it. Is there anything I can take care of for you? I can drive your truck home or pick you up for school in the morning. ”
It was a shame I couldn’t allow myself to become too close to her because she sure was making it easy. I declined her offer by saying, “Nah, Earl will take me by the field to get my truck, so I’m good, but thanks for the offer. ”
We said our goodbyes when Earl pulled up and I took comfort in knowing I’d see her again in under eleven hours.
When morning arrived, thoughts of Claire had robbed me of sleep. There was no mistaking the incredible chemistry between us, but this wasn’t about the sexual attraction. I knew what that felt like and this was so much more-something I had never experienced in my life. Seeing the way she hung in there with me yesterday when she believed I was paralyzed hit home for me. She stayed.
I went to the kitchen to get breakfast, but Rita wasn’t sitting at the table and I was glad since my injury and trip to the hospital kept me from peddling her dope for her. I got ready as fast as I could without making too much noise and shot out the door before she busted me.
I got to school early, so I parked and pulled out a cigarette. I flicked the lighter and laughed to myself as I thought about the day Claire told me I didn’t care about my health and asked me if I was too weak to stop smoking. I put the cigarette away as I considered reasons to quit and knew I would never find a better one than Claire.
I popped the first piece of gum for the day into my mouth and cracked my calculus book while I waited for the hands of the clock to turn. Students eventually began to arrive at school and I saw Payton pull into the parking lot. I was briefly excited until I remembered Claire wouldn’t be with her. I turned my attention back to the math before me, then heard a knock on the window of my passenger door.
I turned toward the passenger door to see Payton, then leaned over to lift the lock. She swung the door open and got into my truck without waiting for permission or an invitation.
“Please, join me,” I said as I motioned with my hand for her to have a seat although she was already inside. “Is there something I may help you with?”
“Yeah, I’m glad I ran into you because I need to talk to you in private about Claire. ”
I stated the obvious. “I don’t think it’s going to get much more private than this. Is something up?”
“Are you falling for Claire?” she boldly asked.
I didn’t know how much Payton knew or if she knew anything at all, so I wasn’t sure which way to go with an answer to her question. “Why do you want to know?”
“Look, I’m her best friend, so I know you’ve agreed to try things out, but I need to know if I should encourage this relationship or not. If you’re using her to get at Forbes, then it stops here. If you’re truly falling for her, then that’s a different story entirely. She’s into you, but I won’t sit back and watch her get hurt. ”
I didn’t answer her immediately because I couldn’t. Admitting feelings and emotions simply wasn’t my thing.
She searched my face for the answer to her question. “You are, aren’t you?”
I shrugged and played dumb. “What?”
She sounded so astonished when she said, “You don’t have to tell me because I can see it. You’re genuinely falling for Claire. It’s not a game for you. ”
I didn’t deny her claim, proving her allegation. I felt myself growing very vulnerable, but in a good way.