We sit for a while. Long enough that I fall back asleep, only to wake with a jolt as she pats my leg. The doctor is here. She introduces herself and starts talking about a mild concussion and a detached retina—
What! A detached fucking retina!
My heart dropping like a stone in a pond, I start spouting off questions to the doctor—unintelligible, I’m sure—because she then asks Billie if they can speak in the hallway.
The minutes pass by like hours.
By the time Billie returns to my bedside, I’m moving into a full-blown panic state. “Hockey is my life. I can’t play with one eye.”
“Relax, champ,” she says soothingly. “You’re not going to lose your eye. Your retina is on the verge of detachment, but it’s not fully detached. They did some procedure on you, and right now you really just need to lie back and not stress it for a while.”
“Is she saying if I can play or not?”
“Ever? I think you can. Soon? Probably not. I’d guess you’re on concussion protocol anyway, for a few weeks.”
“Fuck,” I howl into the room.
“Hey, could be worse.”
“How could it be worse?”
“You could be told you’re not able to play again. This is just a few weeks.”
All I can do is growl, which makes her smile and shake her head at me.
“You’re a smarty, you could go back to MIT and get a fancy college degree. Go be a scientist.”
“I don’t want that. I want to play.”
“Well, I didn’t think I wanted to have my family involved in my career but here we are and it’s working out okay for now,” she says as she strokes her fingers through my hair, comforting me with her touch.
“You were at the game.” It’s not a question because I had no idea she’d be coming tonight.
“Yep. Came to watch you play. I used the tickets you always have for me at Will-Call but it was totally last minute so there was no chance to tell you I’d be there before puck drop. I was having a fun time until you got hurt. I met some nice people to hang out with…Devon, team nutritionist, and Scarlett, Crush social media. Oh, and a UNLV student, Zoya Kolochev, Tyler’s girlfriend? She’s interested in an internship working with kids so maybe I can get her hooked up at the center. Such a sweetheart, I think she’d be a good fit. I need to talk to them anyway about taking a bit more time off.”
Listening to her chatter about her time at the game takes my mind off the moment. I’m glad she met some of the WAGs (wives and girlfriends) and made new friends. Billie is easy like that. She can show up to a new place all alone and fit in with any group. Something tells me I should ask why she needs to take more time off from her job, but my murky, injured brain sweeps it away. I cringe, holding my head in my hands as a wave of pain nearly blinds me. Billie calls for a nurse, who comes in to give me a dose of pain meds through my IV.
As the cool medicine flows into my veins, I relax, forgetting what we were talking about. Billie returns to combing her fingers softly through my hair again, comforting me with just her gentle touch. So kind and caring. And beautiful to look at.
I realize she’s asking me something, and I open my mouth to respond but quickly forget what her question was. She giggles and it sounds like bells.
“I have feelings…” I hear myself saying the words, but it feels like I’m standing outside of my body.
Billie laughs again. I like the sound of her laughing. I like being the one making her laugh. “Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a dog. Or a cat. Or a dog and a cat.”
“Well, pets take a lot of…” Billie’s answer fades out as I take in the sight of her pretty mouth. Her crazy, beautiful two-color hair. She’s so damn gorgeous.
“I think people think I’m a robot.”
“I doubt they think you’re a robot, Calum.”
“No, they think I don’t care, but I do have emotions, and sometimes I feel things, and Idocare about people. I care about things. I could have a pet.”
“No one said you couldn’t take care of a pet. You’re really loopy right now, bud. Maybe you should take a breather? Take a nap?”
“Yeah, okay.” I say, taking her advice and closing my eyes.