I curled up on the couch by myself... well, accompanied by some Ben & Jerry’s, with Ash off sleeping somewhere, leaving me to enjoy Jake’s game in peace. I’d resolved to spend the entire day in my pyjamas, not leaving the apartment and enjoying being lazy. Which I was, until the moment my heart stopped.
It seemed like just another routine catch; I egged him on silently, watching as he ran for the ball as the game was winding down, ready to leave with another win. And then someone else was running towards him, for the same ball, neither of them stopped and they crashed horrifically; the other guys’ knee slamming into Jake’s side before he flew into the air and Jake stayed on the ground. My hands shot up, covering my mouth. I watched in horror as he lay on the ground, wincing, unable to get up.
“Fuck,” I cursed, my eyes wide. I knew he was a tough kid, and for him not to be able to get to his feet was scary. And then a wave of guilt washed over me; I should be there to take care of him. I scrambled for the phone, punching in the emergency contact number that would put me on to the trainer.
He picked up after what felt like an excruciatingly long time. “Hello?”
“Hey, it’s Daria, can I-”
“Yeah, I’ll get him for you,” he said, and the line went static for a few seconds before Jake’s voice came over it.
“Daz,” he said, sounding like he was out of breath. I winced, rubbing my forehead.
“Are you okay? I was watching and... are you okay? I’m worried.”
“I think I have a broken rib,” he said, his breath still short.
“Oh my god, babe...” I groaned, closing my eyes. It made me feel even worse. Unfolding my legs I stood up and walked over to my laptop, opening up the site I used to book flights and checking the next one to Missouri as he recounted what happened, even though I’d seen it. “I’m coming to take care of you,” I told him.
He went silent for a second. “Are you crazy? You can’t come all the way here.”
“I can’t leave you there by yourself.”
“Stop checking flights Daria, you’re not coming, I’ll be fine.”
I frowned, wondering how he knew what I was doing. “Can you call me as soon as you talk to the doctor?”
I waited nervously until he called me back an hour later, hugging my legs on the couch, resting my head on my knees. I jumped a mile high when I heard the phone ringing, and almost dropped it in my haste to pick it up. “What did he say?”
“No broken rib, just a contusion, but it fucking hurts,” he said, not sounding much better.
“I’ll be okay. I promise.”
“Jesus,” I muttered, peering at the screen as he lifted up his shirt. We were back to the days of video calling, but at least it allowed me to see him. His skin was painfully bruised, and he flinched a little as his hand brushed over it. He sat back down, looking at me through the camera.
“You look like someone just ran over your puppy,” he said, smirking. “What’s wrong?”
“My boy is hurt!” I whined, pouting. He pouted back with such a sad face that it made me laugh, finally, and he grinned, happy that he’d made me smile. “Oh! I should let you talk to Ash,” I said, leaping off the chair to go and find him. I dragged him out from underneath my bed and struggled to carry him back to the computer, letting him sit my lap.
“Hey pup,” Jake said, laughing. Ash looked confused, sniffing the screen, and Jake leaned in closer to the camera. Recognising him, Ash barked, and put his paw up on the screen over Jake’s face. Jake put his hand up over the camera, like he was giving Ash a high-five.
“Well that’s just about the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen,” I laughed, kissing Ash’s ear before letting him jump off my lap. Jake grinned, shrugging modestly.
“Next time we talk on here, can you be topless?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
I rolled my eyes, laughing. “Can you?”
He reached down and lifted his shirt up again, this time all the way over his head, and dropped it to the floor. Still braless in my pyjamas, I leaned forward and lifted my shirt up quickly and flashed him. “Feel better now?” I asked.
“How was the first day back at work?” Emma asked, dragging a chopstick full of noodles to her mouth. I shrugged, picking at my own Chinese food.
“Boring. I’m over this job, but I felt like I haven’t been in it long enough to quit. I want to go back to doing some creative,” I sighed. She raised her eyebrows, giving me a surprised look. Chewing on her food for a few seconds, she swallowed, and kept digging in her food.
“What, though?” she asked.
I pondered her question, stirring my noodles with a chopstick. “Maybe I should finish my degree full time. Or do it part-time, still, and get a job in design consultancy.”
“Yeah,” I nodded, thinking of my old job at Level 14. Maybe they’d take me back. Maybe I should go and see them. Maybe I should stick it out at my old job. Maybe I should move back to Boston. My head was swimming with ideas of what would be the right thing to do. Because to be honest, I was lost.
I walked home by myself after dinner, my arms folded tightly across my chest to try and block out the cold as I strolled back to Bleecker. I thought that things would be okay again when I came back here, but they weren’t. I was restless. I wanted to go back to college, but I wanted to work; I liked the benefits I got at the Mayor’s Office, but it bored me. Either way, living and working in New York meant that I’d be coming home to an empty apartment every night.
None of it felt right.
Hearing my name, I looked up. I was almost home. I turned around to see a familiar figure behind me, walking quickly. “Hey, Ry,” I sighed, smiling.
“Aren’t you cold?” he asked, draping an arm around my shoulders as we walked back to our building. I shrugged, not really too concerned. “Did you get my message?”
“Oh... yeah,” I replied, nodding. “Your birthday. I think I’m free.”
“Is Jake in town?”
“Nope,” I sighed.
We walked inside, standing in front of the elevator. “Are you okay?” he asked, rubbing my arm.
“I.. don’t know.”
“Come up to my place, we can talk.”
I looked at him suspiciously. “Is that such a good idea?”
“I’ll make you hot chocolate..”
I laughed. “Okay. I’m sold.”
[comment with ‘hot chocolate’ if you read?]