Balance and a certain amount of flexibility are required components to shower with only one working leg.
I got nothin' in either department.
The handicap stall with its metal railing has become quite helpful, and in four weeks there is the possibility that I'll get damn good at washing my hair one-handed (the other required on the railing for this process).
Once I had showered for the day, had clean clothes on, and had crutched it down four floors feeling like a school bus with lines of cars behind it, stopping at each landing to let the masses behind me trample ahead, I felt marginally accomplished for the day.
It took almost twice as long to get to Mac's as usual. And there weren't many people in there - an exiting male soccer player held the door for me. Hopefully Mac wouldn't bellow because I still had my sneaker on my functioning leg, and shoes of any kind weren't allowed in the training room.
"Shoes," Mac chided without looking up from where he was poking laundry pins through dirty towels.
"How?" I hopped onto one of the tables and almost went off the other side. Wiggling into a stable position, the crutches were leaned against the bed that Mac didn't mosey over to. I scooched back - and since I was wearing the team sweatpants with the drawstring thing on the bottom and they were already up at the top of my shin like breeches or whatever, there was no need to pull my pant leg up to get to my cankle. I relaxed back on my hands; Mac undid the air cast and pulled off my sock. The thing - and by thing, I mean ankle - was downright nasty. Purple and black with bruising and about the size of a grapefruit. Didn't hurt, though. Thank you, Tylenol.
The guy on the next table, his knee wrapped in the blue sleeve of the machine on his other side, ogled as Mac inspected.
Then it hit me that he was staring at my face, not my disfigured joint.
"Hi." My usual starter, tried and true.
"You're Elf's girlfriend, right?"
I needed to work on my opening lines after that bombshell.
Mac hit a sore spot; I nearly bit through my bottom lip; the guy was a little open-mouthed.
"Yes," I said, once I'd retrieved my voice from my bronchial tubes.
"MacRiley's your boyfriend?" Mac asked while I breathed through my nose.
"Yes. Murphy's my boyfriend." My phone buzzed against my thigh. Probably said boy.
"Have you met Liam?"
"Yup." I yanked my right foot up from where it dangled off the edge of the table and flipped the shoe off so I could plant it and wrap my arm around my knee. You wouldn't think there was so much to look at with a sprained ankle. What was he lookin' for? The key to the universe? "And the twin approves."
Mac slipped my sock back on for me, finally. And slipped back into trainer mode, too. "Well - You want ice bath or bag?"
"Can I bag now and bath on Monday?"
"I just want to get a handle on the swelling." He went toward the ice machine; I scooted back against the wall and fumbled for my phone.
"He's a good guy."
I looked over at him. "I know. And I'm not going to hurt him." Mac came back and gently slapped the ice on my ankle. Multiple bags, actually. Awesome. He wandered away, and I was left with my phone, ice, and a football boy that I didn't know. Which, that last part especially, was probably going to become a story of my life. Well, better start the introductions somewhere.
"I'm Olivia." I reached across the gap and awkwardly shook his hand.
Psychic senses are tingling - a crash-course in names is coming my way. There are sixty guys on the team. Flashcards might be needed.
"He was quiet when he first started to get to know you. Clover wouldn't say anything, either."
"Clover is Liam?" There didn't seem to be a rhyme or reason to the nicknames I was hearing. Then again, that was probably the point.
John nodded. "I had trouble telling them apart."
"Did they stand next to each other a lot?" That's what I would do, if I was a twin.
I chuckled. "Yeah. Murph has hazel eyes and Liam has...blue-gray. Other than that....it's up for grabs as to who's who at a distance." Finally had the chance to flip open my phone. New message. From Murphy.
what does mac say?
'not much. i'm icing.'
John's stim machine beeped and Mac appeared moments later. He was unwrapped and his knee slipped back into the type of brace usually worn by those who have done serious knee damage. Which made me so unbelievably glad that it's my ankle and not my knee, crazy as that sounds. Knees - You can do a lot of damage with minimal effort. Damage that takes time to heal. That, in a way, you kind of never really heal from.
He gave me a wave as he limped by.
Yeah. I'll take my busted ankle as long as I can keep my knees intact.
Not having use of both legs confines you to places. Namely, it confines me to my room with all my homework, physics included. And, not having a clue when Murphy was going to pop his head in and ask if I was ready to go, I was more or less prepared. In terms of what I was wearing, that is. Jeans, one shoe, mis-matched socks, and a Women's World Cup t-shirt from '03.
It was going on five in the afternoon when Murph appeared in the open door. "Hey."
"Hiya." I tossed the book I was reading on the floor and stood, wobbling. I was damn sure to be careful around the carpet edges - caught one the other day just right and had almost hit the TV. Not one of my finer moments, and definitely more scary than funny.
It was, once again, a piggy-back ride on the stairs. I was in charge of the crutches, Murph was in charge of me, and we had only a couple of oh shit moments before he set me down at the bottom. He was even a gentleman and the door.
The Honda was idling by the curb. Once I was loaded, Murph behind the wheel, I ventured that eternal question of all date-goers. "Where we goin'?"
"I'm taking you to dinner."
Which was a good enough explanation in my book. So I sat back and perused the interior of the car in the fading daylight. Last time I had been in the car I'd been a little preoccupied - Murph in the backseat tryin' not to puke; Liam and I eyeballin' each other in the front. Plenty of awkwardness for all, that ride was.
The Honda was a faux stick-shift - an automatic with the gear shift between the two front seats. The CD was nice, but not gaudy and overly expensive. It wasn't like someone had poured hundreds of dollars into the sound system to be impressive. It was simple and functional. And, damn my curiosity, I snooped a little, rifling through the CD case. Broad spectrum, and by broad, I mean - Nickelback, DMB, NIN, and Brad Paisley. Even the odd Britney and boy band. I held up one such disk when we stopped by the library to let pedestrians cross.
"That," he grinned, "is my brother's. From our cousin as a joke on our last birthday."
I was appropriately skeptical.
"Does it hurt?"
Which was a little ADD of him, to switch topics so fast. "Not really. But I've been taking Tylenol pretty regularly." Ever four hours on the dot, like my parents had fed me Percocet after my surgery.
"Why not ibuprofen?" We went through the intersection I expected us to turn at, and then pulled into a driveway. Colby's driveway. I think.
"My system doesn't like ibuprofen." I prepared to get out. It was a fairly lengthy process at the moment. "Why are we at Colby's?" He didn't answer; he was by the hood, coming around to open the door. Murph really was a gentleman.
"Trust me?" he asked, walking at my hobble-speed once we were on our way to the door.
Into the house we went, and it was kind of deja vu, in a way, only with less bodies and alcohol. There was some laughter from the kitchen, and I crutched that way, following Murph.
"Hey, Murph." Colby stood by the sink, straining pasta. It looked mighty familiar, and sure enough there was the famous Blue Box on the counter. I'd loved that stuff when I was little - would make it every day for lunch during the summer.
I jumped. Liam had been hiding by the fridge. Rummaging through it might have been a more correct assumption, given the butter in one hand and milk in the other. "You broke yourself!"
My cheeks began to heat. "Thank you, Liam."
He shrugged and passed off the dairy products to Colby in order to closer inspect the damage. "Sprained?" He looked up from the air cast and must have seen something that was a dead giveaway. He whistled low. "How long?"
"Murphy squeezed past me and out of the kitchen, passing one large hand along the small of my back on his way by.
"What? I'm talkin' to Ollie." Liam stared at Colby from across he kitchen.
Colby held up two bowls. "Food?"
Liam looked at me helplessly. "Food trumps the gimpy girl." He moved in Colby's direction.
Murph returned with a stool that had probably come from the bar in the other room. He set it by the counter near the stove. Leaving my crutches out of the way by the fridge, I hopped over, taking Murph's proffered hands for stability and allowing him to help me onto the stool.
"Kitchen's yours, bro," Liam said around a mouthful of Kraft Blue Box. He swallowed. "We're gonna chill in the common. Boondock time."
"You only like that movie because it has a set of BAMF twins," Colby called from another part of the house.
Liam muttered darkly, turning an interesting shade of red and stalking out of sight and hearing distance. Until there was a hearty thwack from the common area followed by muffled thumps.
"Put up a tent and charge admission," Murph groused, barely loud enough for me to hear. He pulled a dishtowel from a drawer with a flourish, draping it over his forearm with a charming smile. "Welcome to Cafe MacRiley."
It hit me then that Murph was going to seriously make us dinner. Which...left me feeling at a loss for words and undeniably very, very special. Cue the onslaught of the warm-fuzzies.
"Can I see a menu?" I asked around a jaw-cracking grin, keeping his charade.
"Well," he drawled, attempting a God-awful French accent that made me giggle like an idiot, "we have only one thing on ze menu." The accent was so bad it was truly hysterical. "Chicken alfredo with whole wheat penne pasta." He finished with an uh huh huh straight from History of the World, Part I and I almost hit the floor. He laughed, deep and loud and it filled the kitchen, hands out to make sure my ass stayed on the stool.
He put some water on to boil and dumped a jar of Ragu alfredo sauce into a saucepan, eerily reminiscent of how my dad makes it when I'm home on the weekend or on break. On the counter was a Lock-n-Lock container with still warm chicken breast, if the foggy sides were any indication of contents.
"Your prep chefs are good."
"Colby," Murph smiled. "He likes to cook. And there are days when I burn toast."
I had no room to complain - water burnt in my kitchen on a regular basis. "I like this. Better than if we had gone to a restaurant or something." Paused. "Not that Cafe MacRiley isn't Five Star. Though your accent..." insert hysterical giggle that definitely didn't come out of my mouth, "leaves....well...I plead the fifth."
Murph grinned, adding chicken to the sauce and fiddling with the temperature. "That's 'cause I'm Irish."
"Y'know, I think I knew that. If 'Murphy' didn't give a hint, then MacRiley was about as subtle as a flung hammer."
He blushed, ducking his head a little to look at me through his bangs. "And you're undeniably Polish. The 'ski' at the end is a giveaway."
With a name like Karizslowski....Yeah. Polish. "Where are you from?"
He took a deep breath. "Originally from New York City, but there was a better job available for our dad in Lake Placid, and that's where and that's where we've been since Liam and I were three." Gave the alfredo sauce another stir. "My parents are Irish immigrants. Ma got on a plane six months pregnant. They have dual citizenship."
Which was really, really cool. "That's cool. I'm from Townsend. It's about an hour south of here. And I've lived in the same house all my life." And there was no shame in that. I'm proud of what I have, where I'm from. And Murph wasn't going to judge me.
Murph dumped the the penne into the water, and then sheepishly handed me the box. "I guess I should have asked if this was the right kind in the beginning, before I just dumped it in. You can eat this, right?" He was worried. Nervous.
I looked at the coarboard. It was the same that my mom buys for me at home. "Yeah. Yeah, I can eat this." I would have said yes even if eating it would have meant mass amounts of pain the next day, simply to see that smile and his relief.
We at in the kitchen, by the stove, drinking water from the mismatched set of wine glasses found in Colby's cupboard (there were no other options, not even Bell jars). We talked about anything and everything.
"Wait a minute," I said, my brain finally catching up. "Your parents are immigrants?"
He was a little wide-eyed, cautious, and nodded.
"Are you bilingual?"
Murph grinned, nodded again, and said something in what I assumed to be Gaelic. And yeah, hearing that voice in a language other than English (though that was pretty good, too) was incredibly wonderful. He turned almost shy then, placing the dishes carefully and silently in the sink. Wiped his palms on this thighs.
"D'fheadfadh se teacht me pog sibhse?" he asked, nervousness radiating from every pore. It was a request, that much was obvious, and one that he was worried about. I was in the position of trying to figure out what he was asking from body language alone, and had an idea. Wasn't sure, but it was a solid idea.
"Ask me again?" I asked, keenly aware of how quiet it was in the kitchen and how close he was standing.
He obligingly repeated it, hazel eyes wide and unsure.
Pretty sure, at that point, that I knew what he was asking. "What does it mean?"
Murph swallowed thickly and looked me in the eye. "It means 'May I kiss you?'"
I thought back, hoping to remember how to pronounce the Gaelic affirmative, failed miserably, and wound up nodding with a semi-breathless, "Yes."
And then he did.