Authors: LK Collins
“Should I call Arion?” my mom asks.
I hate to cop out, but I sure as hell don’t want to be the one that has to tell her. “I guess. She needs to know and she’s probably not ready to hear it from me.”
My mom kisses me on the forehead and then walks off to make the phone call. “I really wish he’d shower,” she tells my dad on her way to the kitchen.
Glancing down, my pants and shirt are covered with blood. So I listen to my mom, willing myself to get up and into my bathroom. After I peel my clothes off, I throw them in the trash and get into the shower. The hot water cascades over my body and as I sit there, I break down.
I’m such a fucking loser. I mean, I couldn’t even save my own dog from dying. Anger and pain wash down the drain with the light pink remnants of the last of his blood. I can picture him in my arms, after my pathetic ass finally made it to him.
I punch myself in the fucking jaw in anger and grab the bar of soap, washing myself as fast as I can. Then trying not to think, I get up, soaking wet and balancing on my one leg. I grab a towel and wrap it around my waist. Leaving my crutches behind, I hop to my bed. I just want to sleep so I can wake up and this will all be a dream. But as I cross the floor, my foot slips from the water and I have nothing to hold on to. I fall hard, smack in the middle of the bathroom. My body lands like a ton of bricks.
What else could go wrong today?
I take a deep breath and force myself to get back up. I grab my crutches and stand on the rug for support. I dry myself off and then leave the bathroom. This is the exact reason I need to start building my strength. Clearly I can’t help myself. It’s been shown more than once today. After I dress, I lay down on my bed, doing my best to clear the pictures of Zeus from my mind. I even will my brain back to Afghanistan in hopes that the pain of being there will wash away the events of today.
As I wrestle in my own mind, something in the distance pulls me towards it. My ears open as wide as they can. Listening to the voices outside of my room, I swear I hear Arion, but I know it’s not possible. Then clear as day, I hear her say, “What happened?”
Fuck, she’s here. She’s at my house.
But, how did she get here from the city so quickly?
I force myself up and pull a hoody on to hide the scars that cover my body. Then with all of my might, I go to her.
The second I open my door, I can see her. She’s sitting on the living room floor, with Zeus’ blue ball in her hand – crying. The tears stream down her face and it kills me to know that yet again I am responsible for hurting her. Watching her so perfect and beautiful with her long, blonde hair all over to one shoulder, I can’t move. She doesn’t see me and quite frankly maybe it’s better that way. Both of my parents are talking to her, trying to calm her, telling her that it was an accident.
I know as much as I want to avoid telling her what happened, I have to. As quietly as I can, I move towards her. My dad sees me coming and nods his head, like he is proud of me. I get close enough to sit in front of her, not scared of her reaction this time. If she came here, she obviously is ready to see me. On the way down, I grab my dad’s arm.
As my body descends she looks up at me, not paying attention to anything else except looking deep into my eyes. I smile and once I am at her level, I scoot a little closer, so I can touch and comfort her. She sobs harder, throwing her arms around my neck grabbing my sweatshirt. This is the moment I’ve dreamt of, for damn near close to a year. I never imagined that our dog dying would be what brought us together, but sadly it is.
She nuzzles into me, the way she always did, and I do the same. Breathing in her sweet scent, the scent of paradise. And for the first time in almost a year, my body awakens, everything inside of me feels alive, including my dick.
Fuck, she still has that control over me.
I pray that it won’t get too hard. The last thing I want to do is freak her out, but fuck, I’ve missed her so much.
“I’m so sorry, A,” I whisper, not able to control my lips as they kiss her neck. “I’m sorry for everything.” Sorry for leaving, for showing up at her place the way that I did, and for letting Zeus die.
She breaks down crying even harder and I just hold her. Wishing that even though we are hurting, this moment would never end. I finally have her in my arms and I don’t want that to ever change. My mom rubs my head and I look back to see my parents walking away.
Alone at last.
Arion looks at them as well and then rests her forehead against mine. As we sit together like this, I can almost taste her. However, my mind and body are on two different axes, both wanting something totally different. My body wants her so bad. From my hands, to my mouth, to my cock, every bit of me wants to claim her. But my mind is telling me that one wrong move could ruin everything. It could cause her to have another breakdown, or freak out and leave.
Finally she pulls her head up, her plump lips parted and tear-stained cheeks all yank on my heartstrings.
“I don’t even know where to start,” she says and pulls away from me.
“Please don’t do that. Please, A, just stay where you are.”
She comes back to me, my dick now so hard that I have to put one hand in my lap to cover it.
“You can ask me anything.”
“What happened to our baby?” she asks in a broken tone and begins to cry again.
I tilt my head back and exhale heavily. Then I cup her cheek, to get her to look at me and to my surprise she leans into my touch. “I took him to the dog park, like I have so many other times. You know how good he is, I normally don’t even take a leash. I park close enough and he just runs to the gate to go in. It’s been a way for both of us to get out of the house.” Suddenly, the events all replay in a flash and I have to stop talking. How do I tell her? “I parked and let him out of the car, then before I knew it, he ran off after a squirrel and across the intersection. I tried to get to him, A, I really did, but with my leg and my crutches, I couldn’t. It all happened so fast. By the time, I had him in my arms, he took a few breaths and—”
I can’t finish the sentence. My throat closes telling her that I’m the reason our dog is dead. Because of me. Both of us break down crying again and in that moment, all we have is each other. I cling to her like my next breath and she does the same.
I’m not sure how long we sit like this, tears rolling and our bodies just together. After a while, both of us are quiet and I fear what will come next. So I continue the conversation, in hopes that if I keep talking she will stay. I never want her to leave.
“I’m sorry about Zeus. And the other day, too. It was way out of line for me to catch you off guard like that at your home. I don’t know what I was thinking, I was just going mad without you.”
She gives me a small smile. “It’s okay, Nate. The more I thought about it, I’d probably have done the same thing. Except had it been me, I would have come to see you the second I was back in the States. Why did you wait?”
“My parents told me that you had moved on and I wanted to respect that. At one point I’d planned on possibly never telling you. But then when I came home and I didn’t have you, I started to lose my mind. You are all that I think about, and finally one day, I just called a cab and the rest is history.”
“Oh Nate,” she says and puts her head in her hands. I stroke her blonde hair and hope I’m not upsetting her any further. “As much as it hurts being pulled in two different directions, I’m glad to know you’re alive. I wouldn’t have wanted to go through life with you alive and me never knowing.”
Her words give me hope. Hope that she is here to mend our relationship so we can move on to the future – together. Jesus, I’d love nothing more.
“Then, I’m glad I told you.”
“I’m sorry that I didn’t take Zeus to the city with me,” she says.
“Don’t be. I’m glad I got some time with him when I got home.”
I can’t believe she’s gone. She’s really fucking gone. My biggest fear in life is living without her and right now that is exactly what I’m fucking doing.
I knock back another glass of Highland Park. It’s so smooth, but still not enough to take me to the level I need to relieve this pain. There are only two things in the entire world that can do that, Arion and…pills. I know I swore when I stopped taking pills that I’d never start again, but I also stopped because of Arion and now she’s gone.
I can’t get ahold of her, she’s not texting me back like normal, and I just don’t know what to do. I could pay someone to kill Nate, that’s what I could do. Without him in my life, fucking everything up, things would be exactly as they should be. I know it’s just the Highland talking though. This was Arion’s favorite, we bought it when we moved into our condo to celebrate and she loved it so much that she wanted to savor every glass. Now here I sit, drinking it all alone.
My phone rings again, and of course, it’s not Arion. I ignore James knowing he will leave a voicemail. Fuck, he’s so much to handle right now. I listen to it curious about what he wants.
“Glad to hear you went to practice today. I heard you came down pretty hard on your knee again. I hope it’s doing okay.”
As I set my phone down and take the last drink of my ten thousand dollar bottle of Scotch, something clicks. I know that I shouldn’t do this, but I have to find some relief somehow. I function well on pills and if the team prescribes them to me, then I can’t get in trouble for taking them.
I grab my phone and scroll through the contacts ’til I land on the team physician’s number. It might be a long shot, but what the hell. I clear my throat while it rings, hoping I sound sober enough to talk to him.
“Hello,” he answers.
“Hey Lawrence, it’s Bain Adams.”
“Hey Bain, how are you, man? Is your knee doing okay?”
“Actually that’s why I called…it’s not feeling great. I’ve been icing it since I got home today, but it’s been killing me. The ice has kept the swelling down, but Jesus, it’s sore.”
“I was worried about that. Do you want to swing by my office before I leave and I’ll check it out? I can do a quick x-ray and maybe I could give you something for the pain.”
“Yeah, I think that would be best.”
He gives me the address to his office, then we hang up.
I hop up thankful that my knee doesn’t really hurt. I head into the bathroom and look into the mirror, studying my own reflection as it stares back at me. Fuck, I look buzzed, so I turn on the shower and hop in right when it’s cold, hoping the jolt will sober me up. Damn, it burns, but at this point, I’d give anything to feel something other than my own heart being torn from my chest.
My body is shivering and I’m wide awake. As I turn the water off and get out, I envision Arion is in front of me. I can see her soaking in our large tub, so comfortable and relaxed and beautiful. I know with shit like this happening, I need these fucking pills.
I finish getting ready and then head downstairs, hailing a cab to Lawrence’s office. I rub my knee as the driver weaves in and out of the crowded New York streets. I hope this will make it red so it doesn’t completely look like I am lying. Even though I totally am.
His office is just a few blocks from the condo, I could have walked, but considering my fake injury, I chose not to. Plus, I’m not 100% steady on my feet at the moment.
After I pay the driver and crane my neck looking up the length of his tall office building, I take a mental note to never buy another bottle of Highland Park.
Pull your shit together.
It’s a quick elevator ride up to the 17
floor and as soon as the doors open, I spot his office.
Walking in, the décor is modern and there is no one behind the receptionist’s desk. Then Lawrence rounds the corner.
“Hey, how are you feeling?” he asks me.
“I’m good, just having some pain in there,” I respond following him back to an exam room.
“Let’s get an x-ray first,” he tells me. Right away I fear the worst. I know it’s not gonna show anything. But I’m here, so I let him do his thing.
“Thanks for seeing me on such short notice,” I tell him.
“It’s not a problem, I do what I can for my players. Let’s go in here,” he says after we are all done with the x-ray.
I sit on the exam table while he pulls the image up on his laptop. “Has it been bugging you before today?” I shake my head and then the image appears.
“Here we go. See here?” he says pointing at the screen. “You have an awful lot of scar tissue. That may explain why your knee may bother you and swell up at times, and it probably always will. But thankfully, nothing is torn or broken. I think you just tweaked it pretty good. I’m gonna give you a prescription for some Percocet. I think a few days of rest and by Monday, you should be good to return slowly. How does that sound?”
“It sounds great, Doc.” I keep my words short, in hopes that he doesn’t catch on to that fact that I am drunk.
“Good,” he says and signs a prescription. “Call me any time day or night if anything should worsen, okay?”
“Thank you.” I slowly get off of the table, making sure on my way out to limp.