The summer games settlin.., p.16
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       The Summer Games: Settling the Score, p.16

           R.S. Grey
 

  Coach Decker was horrified.

  “Was it like this before today?” She strung her fingers through her hair and tugged at the strands. “This stuff can be career ending, Andie! Do you understand that!?”

  “I—”

  My explanation was wasted on her anger. She’d just lost her star goalie. My team would suffer. Sure, we’d eliminated Colombia, but we still had two knockout games left: the semifinals and finals. Of course we had reserve goalkeepers on the roster, but as the competition got stiffer, our defense couldn’t be running on backup power.

  The doctor—I hadn’t caught his name or maybe he hadn’t even bothered with introductions—pulled his cell phone from his pocket. “Let’s go down for x-rays. We’ll know more after that.”

  The x-ray room was dark and small. The technician was a small girl who spoke choppy English and smelled like roses. She had me position my wrist beneath the x-ray machine and when she adjusted it, her dark eyes glanced up at me with pity.

  “Any pain?”

  I knew they needed to get the right angle to see the full extent of the damage.

  “A little, but I’m fine,” I said, lying through my clenched teeth.

  Kinsley and Becca waited with me in the doctor’s office while the radiologist inspected the x-ray. For the first few minutes we sat in silence, too worried to bother with small talk.

  “Your mom has been calling nonstop. Do you want to call her back?” Kinsley asked, holding up my phone.

  I shook my head and kept my eyes pinned on the wall behind the doctor’s desk. It was the spot where a diploma would have hung, but the office was temporary and the doctor would go back to the United States when the Olympics were over. No need for a diploma.

  “It’s going to be okay,” Becca offered.

  I ignored the sentiment. If my wrist was broken, it was over. The Olympics, Rio, soccer, all of it. I was good, but unless I was whole, I was replaceable. It was that simple.

  A few minutes later, the doctor knocked on the door and entered the office.

  “Andie, we’ve got good news and bad news,” he said, curving around the desk and tossing my x-ray in front of me. He cut to the chase—no pleasantries or handshakes—and I appreciated that. “Your wrist isn’t broken.”

  Kinsley, Becca, and I all let out a collective sigh as if it had been choreographed ahead of time.

  “That said, you still can’t play on it. You’ve sprained several ligaments, and you’ve further strained existing inflammation of your muscles and tendons. The only thing you can do, and what you should have been doing already, is ice, rest, and eventually—”

  I shook my head, already determined. “What would happen if I played on it?”

  “Andie,” my coach hissed. I hadn’t even noticed her sneak in behind the doctor.

  “Certainly you’d see degradation of the soft tissue and advancement of your tendonitis, possibly into a chronic state. We’re talking ‘at best’ here. The problem is, without proper flexibility and natural range of motion, any amount of pressure gets absorbed by the bony structures. You risk a catastrophic break, surgery, and a rocky recovery. So, I recommend taking at least six weeks off, rest, and PT, at which point we reevaluate.”

  I stood and shook my head. “No.”

  He reared back as if I’d slapped him. “Andie, we have to do what’s best for your long—”

  “I’m not going home. I’m staying and I’m playing the last two games.”

  “No, you aren’t,” my coach corrected with a tone that left no room for negotiation. “I’m sorry Andie, but you need to take some time to digest this information.”

  I whipped around to face her. She had her arms locked across her chest. Her white hair was pulled into a ponytail that looked tight enough to cut off circulation. She’d inspired fear in me since the first day of training camp, but I’d learned to read her tells. Those crossed arms, the severe look—it was all an act.

  “You’re young, and this is your first Olympics. If we play it safe now, you’ll have plenty more to come. You can stay in Rio with your team and start physical therapy on your wrist. If all goes well, you’ll be ready for the World Cup, and eventually the next Olympics.”

  No, no, no.

  “No, Coach, I can play,” I argued, turning around and holding up my wrist as evidence. There was no shudder or gasp of pain. “I’m fine.”

  She shook her head, annoyed. “Don’t push this Andie, or I’ll send you home.”

  “Keep me in the goal.”

  “It wouldn’t hurt to keep her benched,” Kinsley said. She was Coach’s favorite player. If anyone could convince her to compromise, it was Kinsley. “Let her sit on the sidelines during the games. That’s better than nothing.”

  “I agree,” Becca said.

  Coach glanced to the doctor then back down to me. Her head dipped and my heart plummeted in my chest before she replied.

  “I’ll consider it.”

  CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

  Andie

  “WHOA. WHOA. WHOA.” Kinsley reached for the bottle of vodka before I could tip it back for another sip. “Slow down there, Andie.”

  I let her take the bottle; it didn’t matter. There were four more lined up on the coffee table. I’d forced Becca and Kinsley to get them for me on the way home from the doctor’s office. The liquor tasted like shit, but it helped dull both the pain in my wrist and the agony in my heart.

  “You know what? I haven’t had a real drink in months. Parties? Social life? NONE.”

  Kinsley leaned forward off the couch and adjusted the ice pack on my wrist.

  “I sacrificed everything to be here and Coach Decker thinks she can send me home?! Fuck that.”

  Becca paced back in forth in front of us, trying to think of a plan to get me back in the game. “She won’t send you home, she was just trying to get you to calm down.”

  “Andie, it’ll be okay,” Kinsley said. “I know it feels like the end of the world right now, but you’ll see that it’s not so bad.”

  “Not so bad?!” I argued.

  “It could have been career ending, but it’s not.”

  Perfect. I can use my wrist in FOUR YEARS! Would I even be alive in four years?

  “I’ll be twenty-five then, practically a washed-up has-been.”

  “HEY!” Kinsley and Becca shouted.

  “No offense.”

  Becca laughed. “None taken.”

  “The point is, I don’t care about the future. I’m mad and nothing you guys say will change that. So just let me have that liquor bottle and get me some firewood to burn this stupid wrist brace they’re making me wear.”

  I leaned forward, trying to reach for the whiskey while simultaneously balancing the ice pack on my wrist.

  “No. We aren’t going to get you firewood.”

  “Scratch that then. Do either of you guys know how to give a tattoo? I’ll get one that matches yours, Kinsley. Except instead of She believed she could so she did, it’ll just say Fuck this.”

  She laughed.

  “Or what about a bellybutton piercing?” I asked, looking around. “We’ll need a needle.”

  Becca gagged. “God no!”

  Every single one of my ideas was met with sharp criticism: tattoos, piercings, prank calls to our coach.

  “Okay, well then I want a haircut. Out with the old and in with the new! Right?” I said, looking at Becca. “Something that says ‘fuck international athletics’.”

  Kinsley groaned, but Becca didn’t seem wholeheartedly against the idea. “There are scissors out in the kitchen.”

  “Yes!” I said, holding the liquor bottle in the air.

  “Becca, have you ever cut someone’s hair before?” Kinsley asked.

  She waved her off. “My own, when I was five. It didn’t turn out well, but I’ve got to be at least…” She did the math in her head. “Five times better at it now.”

  Ten minutes later, I was sitting on a chair in my bathroom with a bed sheet wrapped ar
ound me as a makeshift smock. Becca circled my head, trying to figure out where to start.

  “Aren’t you going to ask what I want?” I asked, confused as to why there were two of her in the mirror.

  Becca’s eyes widened. “Let’s just start small?”

  My blonde hair was long. It’d grown for years, normally gathered in a ponytail for competition. Christy wouldn’t hear of me cutting it when I was growing up.

  “Chop it like it’s hot,” I said, motioning above my shoulder. “All of it. See if I give a FUCK.”

  Kinsley was on the other side of the bathroom door, banging away. “GUYS, let me in! I’m totally on board with the haircut, I just want to offer some pointers. I won’t sabotage it.”

  Becca looked at me. I looked at her, and then I looked at the second Becca. They both seemed nice. “Do you guys trust her?”

  “Guysssssss. I swear!”

  Becca number two shook her head, and I took another shot. I narrowed my eyes until the real Becca came into focus. “Leave her out there then.”

  TWO HOURS LATER, Kinsley walked past my room, dipped her head in to get a good look at me, and then laughed as she walked away. She’d been doing it all afternoon and her ridicule helped neither my hangover nor my hack job.

  I didn’t blame Becca when I looked in the mirror after my haircut. I mean, it definitely looked like a blind monkey had taken garden shears to my head. One side touched my shoulders while the other side sat an inch higher, but it wasn’t all her fault. It was still greasy since I hadn’t bothered to shower after my game, and there were pieces of trash in it from when I’d devoured a bag of Hershey’s kisses instead of getting up to get a normal snack.

  It had all seemed like a perfectly reasonable way to “stick it to the man” at the time. Now, of course, I had a splitting headache, a bum wrist, and the hair of a loony person.

  “Coming down with us for dinner, Andie?” Becca asked, leaning into my room.

  “What do you think?” I asked, picking a piece of foil from my hair.

  She did her best not to laugh. “You know, I think it’ll help if you shower. Maybe the hair will settle into place.”

  “That makes no sense,” I argued.

  “Okay, she was trying to be polite. You should actually shower because I can smell you from out here!” Kinsley yelled from the living room.

  It was easy for them to go on with their lives. They were still playing in the Olympics, their lives progressing like movies. I was now a glorified equipment manager. Coach Decker had already emailed me a new, personal itinerary: 9:00 AM breakfast, 10:00 AM appointment with the trainer, 11:00 AM physical therapy, 12:00 PM lunch, 1:00 PM join team for afternoon meeting, 3:00 PM physical therapy, etc.

  I planned on ignoring most of her orders. Instead, my itinerary would include the following: 9:00 AM sit on bed/general wallowing, 10:00 AM roll myself up in sheets and pretend I’m a mummy, 11:00 AM eat peanut butter from jar with fingers, 12:00 PM pick peanut butter out of greasy hair, 1:00 PM roll myself up in sheets and pretend I’m a Chipotle burrito, 3:00 PM throw myself in front of a moving bus.

  “Okay, this is enough,” Kinsley said, hitting the frame of my door with her hand so that I jumped. “You are going to get up and you are going to shower and you are going to come down to the food court with us. You need a decent meal.”

  I crossed my arms like a petulant child. “Go away.”

  She shook her head. “No. Let’s go. I’ll bet Freddie is down there and he’ll be so happy to see you. He’s been trying to get in touch with you all day.”

  I glanced around for my cell phone. “Wait, where’s my phone?”

  “In the living room. You threw it out there when your mom tried to call.”

  Oh.

  “You really think he’ll be down there?” I asked, suddenly desperate to see him. Did he know about the injury?

  She nodded. “Maybe. Go shower and we’ll wait for you.”

  I pushed off my bed and slid into the shower—yes, slid. I couldn’t stand and I didn’t feel like taking a bath. So instead, I turned the faucet to the hottest setting, sat at the end of the stream of scalding water, and let it beat down on me from above. I wasn’t sure how long I sat there before Kinsley yanked the shower curtain aside and pulled me out.

  “I get that you’re drunk and injured, and I love you—but this is too much,” she said, throwing a towel at me. “I just saw your entire vagina.”

  I smiled, drunk with self-pity. “Pretty good, right?”

  I TRIED TO pull myself together after that. I mean, I couldn’t brush my hair or put makeup on, but I threw my chopped hair into a passable ponytail and pulled on a pair of mismatched sweats. The alcohol had numbed the pain from my wrist, but I still cradled it in my other hand as Kinsley and Becca led the way to the elevators.

  “Do you want to tell us about last night? To get your mind off today?”

  I glanced over to take in Kinsley’s gentle smile.

  “We know you and Freddie have been sneaking around. You can tell us about it. We promise not to judge.”

  A slow, easy smile spread across my face before I could help it. That was the silver lining in all of this. Sure, I’d traveled all the way to Rio to win gold, and in the matter of one morning, that dream was gone. Finished.

  But then I thought of Freddie, of how I would never have met him had I not traveled to Rio. Even if I wasn’t going back to the U.S. with an earned medal, there was a good chance I’d return with a boyfriend—a super hot, super British boyfriend. Definitely better than nothing.

  The elevator arrived on the first floor and we walked out into the lobby. I turned to Kinsley and Becca, trying to decide where to start. From the beginning? There was so much ground to cover and I couldn’t wait to fill them in on all the juicy details, but something caught my attention in front of the complex before I could start. Right past the glass lobby doors, Freddie stood watching a limo roll to a stop near the curb. His back was to me, but I knew it was him. After the night before, I knew that body well enough to recognize it from any angle or position.

  “Speak of the devil,” I smiled, finally allowing myself to feel actual happiness after a day of misery. I broke off from Kinsley and Becca to step closer, excited to get to him. I hadn’t seen him since he’d walked me back to my condo the night before, stealing one last kiss before I slipped inside.

  I pressed my fingers to my lips, trying to remember what his kiss had felt like, but I came up short. There was no word for it.

  So much had happened since then. I wanted to tell him about my injury and ask for his advice. I wanted him to yell and shout with me, do something crazy with me. He’d understand more than anyone, I just needed to get to him.

  I was nearly to the door when Freddie reached forward to open the limo door. The driver was walking around to get to it, but Freddie couldn’t wait. I stood in shock, watching through the clear glass as a tall, regal blonde stepped out. She was stylish and effervescent (whatever the hell that means) and I knew I didn’t like her right away. Mature adults don’t hate people on impulse, but I couldn’t help myself. Her hair was long and silky, not chopped and damp. Her outfit was fitted and wrinkle free, not stained with melted Hershey’s. I took a hesitant step back and succumbed to the feelings of inadequacy just as her identity sank in.

  Caroline Montague in the flesh.

  She was wearing a light blue wrap dress and nude heels. It was an outfit straight out of Kate Middleton’s closet. For all I knew, it was Kate’s dress; they were probably friends, after all.

  “Frederick! Darling!” She squealed with excitement as she stepped forward and flung her arms around him. I lingered there in the lobby, watching from a distance, trying to connect the pieces of the puzzle. If the blonde “darling” was Caroline, betrothed goddess, then that meant the brunette climbing out of the limo was—

  “Fred, you knobhead. I’ve been trying to phone you all day!”

  Freddie’s sister.

  She ste
pped toward him, shoving past Caroline to get to him. Freddie bent to wrap her in a hug and she squeezed him tight before stepping back and peering up at him adoringly. It was in that moment that I realized she was beautiful—not the made up, altered beauty of Caroline. She was stunning all on her own, like the girl next door if the girl next door happened to be a supermodel.

  “Andie,” Kinsley said, reaching for my hand. She was trying to pull me away, but I wouldn’t let her. I stood watching the small reunion. Until that moment, I’d foolishly felt like Freddie was mine. He’d become my fast friend and had told me some things I wanted to hear, but standing there, it became painfully clear that he had never been mine. Not in the least.

  “Congratulations are in order, sir,” the limo driver said, winking at Freddie. “Your fiancée told me during the drive over.” His voice was slightly distorted through the glass, but I could hear him loud and clear. He scanned from Caroline to Freddie. “Have you two decided on a wedding date yet?”

  Caroline clapped excitedly. “Early winter hopefully! As soon as Frederick has time to devote to the wedding, we’ll get to planning.”

  She turned to him with stars in her eyes and I slowly processed how careful and specific her answer had been, as if they’d gone over it a thousand times before. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me.

  Early winter.

  Wedding.

  And worse yet, Freddie didn’t deny it. He tucked his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels. I couldn’t see his face, but I could imagine that perfect smile stretched across his perfect mouth. His mouth. The mouth he’d used on me the night before. It’d been on my neck and my chest and my stomach and my…

  I couldn’t breathe.

  My breaths were coming short and shaky and I pressed my hand to my chest as images flooded my mind. He’d carried me into his room knowing full well that his betrothed—no, his fiancée—was due to arrive the very next morning. He’d dropped me onto his bed and tangled me up in his sheets—the same sheets he planned on using with her. Had he even bothered to wash them?

 
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