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Kim Pritekel & Alexa Hoffman

Part 7

My head rolled to the side, my mind still buzzing, my brain seeming too large for my skull...


I had just turned onto Rudd, the early sun bright and intense, yet the morning was still chilly from the rains the night before. Luckily I had put an extra layer on this morning, though I knew that by the time I finished, I’d be without, the shirt tied around my waist. I had the new helmet on my head, and my sunglasses on as I signaled with my arm, letting the oncoming cars know that I, too, was turning right.

Rudd was busy, everyone trying to get to work at nearly seven in the morning.

I heard a screech of tires, then quickly glanced over my shoulder, my eyes becoming huge...


I moaned as my sleep became even more restless, my head aching as memories flooded into my mind. Rhonda filled me in later.


Cody hung up the phone, her mind on overdrive as she thought of the possibilities, and possible consequences. She threw some clothes on, not caring if she matched, or what the weather was like outside. Grabbing her keys, she hurried out the door, headed to her mother’s office.

On the drive, she had managed to calm herself, realizing that they couldn’t do Brooklyn any good if she killed herself before she even got to her mother. Rhonda was waiting outside when Cody pulled up to the curb.

The women were near silent as they headed for the hospital, Rhonda only telling her daughter that the nurse on the phone had told her that Brooklyn would live. However, that didn’t stop the skater from pressing a little harder on the gas.

Cody’s face was set like stone as she marched into the emergency room, eyes looking everywhere, trying to figure out where they needed to go.

"You." She walked up to the nurse behind the desk. "I need to get to Brooklyn Fletcher," she barked, the woman startled as she looked up into an intense pair of blue eyes. Rhonda stood back, almost feeling numb, and glad that her daughter was taking over.

The nurse told them where Brooklyn had been taken, and Cody was off again storming down the hall, looking for the elevator, jabbing the little round button with a "four" printed on it. The girl glanced at her mother once, seeing how upset she was, and gathered the shorter woman into her arms, telling her that it would be okay.

The doors opened with a ding, and they were off again.


Slowly, ever so slowly, my eyes opened, brows knitted as pain shot through my head, but just for a moment, then it was gone. I looked down at myself, seeing my right leg in a cast to my knee, pulled up in a sling, my toes naked to the cool room. Turning my head slightly, I realized that my left arm was also in a cast and sling. I felt surreal, as if I were in some weird dream.

Hearing a quiet noise, I looked toward the end of the narrow bed, and saw a TV mounted to the wall, the picture showing a news anchor, mumbling about something. What was he saying?

Deciding it didn’t matter to my mottled brain, I turned my head to the left to see someone sitting in a chair. After blinking several times, I realized that it was Cody. She was reading a magazine.

I opened my mouth to say hi, but nothing came out. It felt as thought someone had rubbed sandpaper on my esophagus. I tried to clear my throat, closing my eyes at the burning sensation.

Cody stood, and leaned over the bed, her blue eyes narrowed in concern.

"Water," I finally managed to say. She grabbed the glass that was on the side table, a straw sticking out as she brought it to my lips. I sucked in a little, sighing as the burning seemed to go away a little.

"Better?" she asked, and I nodded. She gave me a little more before she put the glass aside. "How do you feel?"

"I kind of hurt. What happened?" Cody looked away for a moment, then down at her shoes, then finally at me.

"Well, the cops say some guy was blinded by the sun. He hit you during your ride this morning." I stared at her, stunned. She looked down again. "Brooklyn, your helmet was cracked all the way down the center." She finally met my eyes, her face carefully guarded.

"Well," I cleared my throat again. "I guess what you had said was true; the life I would save with that would be my own."

She smiled, but only slightly as she stared into my eyes, her hands jammed deep into the pockets of her shorts.

"What time is it?" I felt my eyes becoming very heavy. Cody looked at the clock across the room.

"It’s almost three." Her voice seemed to echo through my head as my eyes slid shut, and I drifted into sleep.

I felt as though I was flying, landing briefly to see images of Keith standing over me, a worried look on his face. Another landing brought Rhonda to me, her hand gently pushing hair away from my forehead, her brow knit with concern. I seemed to see Cody’s face, too. She was never far from the other visitors to my dreams.

My eyes, which seemed to weigh a ton, fluttered open, hearing soft talking. I looked around the room, blinking several times before my vision cleared, and I was able to make out Cody standing against the wall by the bathroom door, arms crossed over her chest, baseball cap on backwards. Jodi sat in the chair next to my bed, but was turned toward her sister.

"I really feel like an idiot, Cody," she said, her hands fidgeting in her lap.

"Why?" her sister asked, not moving, her position pensive.

"I kissed her." She looked down. "After we had dinner, in my car."

Even in my drugged state, I had the distinct feeling that I was the topic of discussion. Cody said nothing, just looked at her twin.

"I shouldn’t have done that," Jodi finished off lamely.

"What did Brooklyn do?" Cody asked, crossing an ankle over her other foot. Jodi shrugged.

"She told me she wasn’t interested. It was stupid."

I wondered why Cody didn’t tell her that she’d been there, and had seen the entire thing. In fact, that had been the last time I had seen the girl; the night she’d skated off my property, and seemingly out of my life. I hadn’t seen her in weeks.

"I really like her, Cody." Jodi sighed. "It really sucks." She laughed ruefully. "I need a life."

"Ladies, visiting hour is over."

My gaze focused on the nurse standing in the doorway to the room, her scrubs colorless in my dazed state. The twins looked at her, and Cody pushed off the wall. She looked at me, her eyes opening in surprise when she saw me staring back at her. Jodi stood and turned to look at me, surprise also on her face.

"Well, now that we have to go, you decide to wake up," she said with a smile. I nodded, but then my eyes fell closed again, the weight of my lids more than I could handle. "I’ll see you later," she said, though her voice echoed in my head, the words blending together into a jumbled mass of sounds. I vaguely heard her footsteps as she left the room.

"Be there in a sec," I heard muttered. After what seemed like an hour, but was more likely a few seconds, I felt a hand on mine, soft, warm fingers wrapped around my own. "Night, Brooklyn."

A small smile spread across my face as feeling took over, the warmth and kindness in Cody’s touch and voice sending nice warm fuzzies through my muddled brain.

* * *

I saw my mother’s face swim before my eyes, a smile on her lips, her blue eyes twinkling with that mischievous glint that always seemed to be there, as if at any given moment she would play some sort of silly prank on you. Like the time I sat across from her at dinner, and suddenly she grabbed a piece of fat that she’d cut off her steak and tossed at me, hitting me squarely in the forehead. I laughed heartily as the entire family got in on the food fight.

Looking over at my father, I saw him smiling, pride in his eyes as I got my mom back with a nice lump of mashed potatoes. But, then his features darkened, and fear took over his face, his mouth opening, his brow wrinkling in his distress.

"Brooklyn!" he yelled, his image being pulled away, as if flushed down a toilet, followed by darkness, then the green of the lawn I ran on, the trees surrounding me, the street just beyond the wood rail fence. I ran, my hand stretched out as I grabbed for something, I had no idea what.

"No!" I screamed, hearing the screech of tires, the long black trail of knowing marks on the road, the horrid sound of metal crunching into metal, glass shattering to be sprinkled over the pavement, glinting in the bright summer sun like tear drops. "Mom, dad!" I cried, feeling the heaviness of my heart breaking, and the fear as I looked to my right, seeing the sedan coming toward me, the driver squinting, trying to pull his sun visor further down.

My bike breaks cried out as I tired to avoid the inevitable, feeling my right foot being crushed between the front bumper and my bike, then the pavement as I rolled across it, my left arm dragging behind me, the pain searing through my body.

I glanced up to find myself at the feet of a child. Looking up, I saw the smiling face of my brother, Caleb.

"Caleb! Come back!" I tried to sit up, feeling my body covered in sweat. I fought against the tube that was sticking out of my arm, trying to get up, trying to get to my little brother. "I have to save him,"

"Honey, Brooklyn, wait." I felt hands on me, and my eyes opened wide to see one of the nurses that I had seen so many times, looking at me with concerned eyes. "I have to save him," I muttered, my voice faltering as reality came crashing through.

"Save who, honey?" asked the older, black woman, her hands releasing their strong grip, but keeping contact with me.

I shook my head, laying back down on the bed, feeling my body covered with a thin sheen of sweat.

"You need to rest, Brooklyn," she said, her voice so kind. I nodded, feeling tears stinging behind my lids.

"I’ll try," I said, taking several deep breaths.

"Do you want something to help you sleep, honey? How are you feeling?"

"I hurt," I said, closing my eyes tightly.

"Okay. Hang on." She left, and I glanced over at the dark window that would look out over Portland in the light of day. Within a few minutes, the nurse came back with a paper cup of pills, and water. "Take these, honey." She helped me to sit up again, and I dutifully took the medicine. "Sleep now."

I nodded obediently, and sighed as I felt her hand gently stroke my hair, until I finally drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

* * *

Minutes morphed into hours, and hours into days. I had been in the hospital for three days, and was more than ready to go home.

The pain wasn’t near as bad, but it wasn’t good. The doctor assured me he’d send me home with some medicine to help me get through my days ... and nights. They were the worst. Every night was plagued by horrible nightmares, monsters from the depths of my subconscious would come out to torment me, making me believe the impossible, and relive the reality.

Finally, tired of trying, I awoke, and called for the nurse, hoping she could give me a sponge bath. I absolutely loathed having to be waited on hand and foot, not able to do a damn thing myself, but that was the way it was, so I had to learn to deal with it. The doctor had said I’d probably have my casts on for six to eight weeks.


The nurse wheeled me back to the room, me red faced from having to have this woman I didn’t even know wash me like I was a baby. I was quite surprised to see Cody sitting on the bed as I was pushed in.

"Hi," I said, my face brightening from seeing a familiar face. She stood, and gave me a small wave.

"You ready?" she asked. My brows drew.

"Ready for what?"

"You’re being released today," the nurse behind me said. I looked up at her, then at Cody and the bag she had slung over her shoulder.

"I brought you some clothes for the ride home," she said, seeing where my gaze was.

"And, you’re taking me home?" the girl nodded.

"Here’s the deal, Brooklyn," she explained, her voice void of emotion. "Out of everyone, I can get the time off work the easiest, and there’s no friggin’ way you can take care of yourself, so deal."

I looked at her, amused by her defensive stance, feet planted wide apart, hands tucked into her pockets. I grinned, nodding.


The nurse helped me get changed into the clothes that Keith had gotten for her. Thank god he still had a key. I was thrilled to be in a pair of sweat shorts and tank top, though I was a bit chilled. But, they had to stick me in something that could accommodate my casts.

The doctor had sat me down, explaining my injuries to me; broken right ankle, broken left arm, badly bruised ribs, and tons of bruises and cuts on my face. I had only looked at my reflection once since this whole ordeal had began, and had refused to look since. My left eye was nearly swollen shut from the black eye, a long cut along my jaw, and a smattering of bruises that littered my entire body. Not to mention the road rash all along my legs and left hip.

The nurse pushed me down the hospital corridor with Cody leading the way, the now empty bag crushed up in her hand.

"Who drove you?" I asked.

"Jimmy." She said, not even breaking her stride.

I looked out at the day that was bright, the recent rains dried up, a warm breeze blowing over my sore muscles.

Sure enough, parked right out front was an old, beat up Subaru. One of the boys I recognized from the skate park got out, and hurried around to the back door, opening it for me. He smiled shyly at me. I smiled back at him.

Together, he and Cody got me out of the wheelchair, and into the backseat, laying me down so my leg could be straight out.

"You okay?" the boy asked. I nodded. Okay as possible. He hurried to the driver’s seat, and got in, buckling himself up as Cody did the same. They chatted quietly in the front as Cody messed with the radio.

"I’m standing on the bridge,

I’m waiting in the dark,

I thought that you’d be here, by now.

There’s nothing but the rain, no footsteps on the ground,

I’m listening but there’s no sound.."

I listened to the words, hearing the familiar voice.

"Hey, it’s your girl," Cody said, glancing at me. You like Avril Lavigne, right?" I nodded.

"Good memory." I stared out the window as I listened to the rest of the song.

"Isn’t anyone trying to find me?

Won’t somebody come take me home?

It’s a damn cold night,

Trying to figure out this life.

Won’t you , take me by the hand,

Take me somewhere new,

I don’t know who you are, but I,

I’m with you.

I’m with you...."

I thought about the words. I hear ya, Avril. I really do.

We drove on, the two in front continuing their conversation as I lost myself in my own thoughts, wondering if I’d ever ride again. I had lost one passion, never turning to horses again after my parents death. Not my second addiction may be taken from me, too.

I decided not to think about that now, and closed my eyes.

* * *

The sudden lack of motion woke me, and I looked around to see we were parked outside of my house. A smile came to my lips, so happy to be away from that hospital, where I could be a cripple in the comfort of my own home.

"Okay, Brooklyn. Let’s get you out." Cody said as she opened the back door of the car.

"You want help?" Jimmy asked, getting out from behind the wheel. Cody tossed him a set of keys.

"Open the front door, will you?" she asked, then turned back to me. "You got to help me out a little, here." She said, reaching in to grab my good arm, pulling me into a sitting position, my legs already out the door. "Can you put your weight on your left leg for a sec?" I nodded, clenching my teeth together as pain shot up my leg, causing me to falter. "You okay?" Cody caught me in her arms, worry marking her usually carefully guarded face. I nodded, pushing off the door to stand again. Then, to my utter surprise, with a mighty grunt, Cody picked me up, her right arm under my knees, other arm at my back.

"Dude, you want me to do that?" Jimmy ran over to her.

"Get the damn door, Jimmy!" He ran back to the house, jumping onto the front porch, and unlocked the door, pushing it open, and heading back to us.

Cody took it as slow as her body could stand, my weight a burden in her arms. But, finally she managed to get me inside, heading straight for the couch, which someone had already pulled out into the hide-a-bed, making it up with sheets and a blanket.

Gently she set me down on it, scooting me back so I could lean against the wall of pillows. She turned to her friend, taking his hand in some sort of strange shaking ritual that was too fast for my tired eyes to follow.

"Thanks, man." She patted him on the back, pushing him toward the door. He turned to look at me, hand raised in a wave.

"Thanks, Jimmy," I muttered, my eyes wanting to close from all the activity.

"Later," he said, and was gone. The last thing I remember was the sound of the front door closing behind him.

* * *

I opened my eyes, suddenly hearing the quiet sound of someone talking. Looking around, I realized it was the TV. I looked around the room and saw Cody sacked out in the recliner, her head leaned over to the side, her eyes closed, legs stretched out, crossed at the ankles. She had taken her shoes off, and they were placed neatly by the front door, laces tucked inside.

Smiling, my gaze turned back to the girl. I wondered if Rhonda had suckered her into staying with me. I can’t imagine Cody would offer to do it as she had insinuated before. Maybe, though.

As I watched the steady rise and fall of her chest, I realized that I was glad she was here. I was glad that someone I knew would be here when I’d need them the most, no matter how much I tried to convince myself otherwise. I mean, I couldn’t even get up the damn stairs to my own bed, for crying out loud.

I was startled as my stomach growled. Looking down at it, I rested my hand on my thigh, and tried to think of what I would do. I had to eat, not bothering since late last night when I’d been brought some Jell-O.

My eyes snapped back to the girl when I heard her stir. Blue eyes slowly opened, disoriented for a moment before they settled on me.

"You okay?" she asked, sitting up, and bringing her hand up to massage her neck, which from the angle she’d been sleeping, I had no doubt had a nice sized kink in it.

"Um, yeah." I said, though it wasn’t even believable to my own ears. She sat forward, dropping the recliner, her feet flat on the floor, elbows resting on her knees. She looked me in the eye.

"Let’s get something straight here, Brooklyn. I’m here to help you, and that means getting you what you need. So, none of this stubborn bullshit, got it?"

I could only nod, shocked by her frankness.

"Good. Now what do you need?"

"Food," I said, my voice quiet and unsure. She stood, stretching her back.

"Okay. What do you want?" She glanced over at the clock on the VCR. "Time for meds." She walked into the kitchen, and came back out with a brown pill bottle, twisting the cap, and pouring two pills into her palm before walking over to me, and grabbing the glass of water that had been on the end table. "Here. Take these, then tell me what you want."

I obeyed, swallowing half the water in the glass, closing my eyes with a smile, glad to be hydrated again.

"I’m not real sure what my stomach will be able to take," I said.

"How do eggs sound?"

"I don’t have any." She nodded.

"Yeah, you do. While you slept, mom came by and brought some groceries. So, how about eggs?" I nodded shyly. She grinned, shaking her head, and headed back toward the kitchen.

As l listened to the sounds of food being prepared, wonderful smells slowly permeating the room, I thought about my current situation. I wondered what had happened to my bike, figuring it was for naught.

Closing my eyes, I felt a tear make a slow, lazy path out of my left eye, and down my cheek as I felt my bones and muscles begin to ache again, my heart just as heavy. How had I become so useless so fast?

"Eggs a la Cody," I heard said softly from behind me. I quickly brought my hand up, swiping at my eyes, and put a smile on my face. Cody looked down at me, understanding filling her face for just a moment, then it was gone. "Eat up," she said, placing the tray across my lap. I looked down at what she had made, and was shocked to see an omelet, filled with cheese and sliced meat.

"This looks really good," I said, nearly humming with happiness as my stomach really began to sing.

"Well, it’s a hidden talent," she said, sitting on the recliner again, her own plate on her lap.

"Are you a closeted omelet maker, Cody?" I asked, dipping my fork into the golden eggs. She nodded.

"I am."

We ate in silence, both just happy to finally have nourishment.

* * *

The house was dark when my eyes snapped open, my bladder having ideas other than sleeping. I glanced around, seeing Cody sleeping on the blow-up mattress on the floor. I had tried to convince her to use one of the beds upstairs, but she had refused, saying that if I needed her in the middle of the night, she had to be able to get to me.

Well, it looked like she was quite the prophet.

I sat up, trying to decide what to do. I knew there was no way that I could just go back to sleep and ignore the bigger-than-life need to pee.

"Shit," I muttered, knowing I had no choice but to wake Cody. I looked at her again, seeing her laying on her side, left arm tucked up under her pillow, right hand grasping the corner of it. She looked so peaceful, dark lashes resting against her cheek, face relaxed, and even the slightest bit of a smile on her lips. "Cody?" I said, my voice quiet. She didn’t budge. Grr. "Cody?" I said, a little louder. She groaned, but didn’t move. "Cody!"

"What?!" She jumped up, nearly tripping over her blanket that hung from her body. With wild eyes, she looked around, before her gaze landed on me. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I’m fine." She rolled her eyes.

"You scared the crap out of me." She glared.

"Sorry." I grinned sheepishly. "Um, I kind of need to pee."

"Oh." She dropped the blankets around her feet, and stepped over them. This was the first time I’d ever seen her in anything other than cargo shorts or pants. She wore sweat shorts that really accentuated her long legs nicely, and a plain navy tee.

The bathroom issue had been something we had to really try and iron out the kinks in earlier. I hated the idea of the embarrassment of having her sit me on the pot and undress me, and I knew for fact that that wasn’t exactly a goal for her, either. So, she’d get me into the room and positioned, and I’d figured out the rest.

Tomorrow my wheelchair was supposed to be delivered by Keith, and I was thrilled by the idea. Poor Cody was going to break her back trying to carry me everywhere.

"Ready?" I nodded as Cody grabbed me under the legs, and lifted me with a grunt.

"Hopefully you’ll leave my house fully intact," I said as she carried me the short distance to the bathroom. She nodded.

"Me, too."

I winced as she flicked the light on, and put my left foot down to help balance myself as she got me in the general location of the toilet.

"Be outside," she said, closing the door behind her.

I sat there for a moment, taking a deep breath before I tried to lower my underwear and get the seat up. The one time I did wish I lived with a guy.

Resting my head against the shower door in the small bathroom as my body did its work, I thought about the next six to eight weeks. How the hell was I going to survive it?

* * *

The time actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would have been. Cody was an amazing helper. She was at my beck and call at any hour, jumping right up, once I was able to wake her, whenever I needed to use the bathroom, or I needed a drink or more pain killers. Never in my wildest dreams would I have seen her being so diligent and caring. She never once complained, even as she separated my clothes for laundry day.

The girl was amazing.

* * *

I saw the sun glinting off his windshield, blinding me as I heard the screech of tires, the smell of burning rubber on the street,...

"No!" My eyes flew open, once again my hair in my eyes, damp from the nightmare.

"Brooklyn?" I was startled by the soft voice that was suddenly next to me. I turned blindly, not sure who was with me, but glad that they were. "Are you okay? It’s me, Cody."

"Cody?" I let out a breath, my one good hand going to my face, running through sweat, tangled hair.

"You had a nightmare, I think." I heard the mattress groan as she settled her weight on it, sitting next to me. Feeling frightened, and terribly alone, I leaned into her. I felt Cody’s body stiffen for a moment, as if she weren’t sure what to do, but then I felt an arm circle my shoulders, and then I was gently being pulled into her, me allowing my body to fall back against her chest. "You okay?" she whispered into my hair. I nodded, resting the side of my face against the protective arm that made me feel so safe.

"Yeah, I think I’m okay," I whispered. We were quiet for a moment. My heart was still racing and I glanced toward the large picture window, staring out into the street, expecting to see my demons staring at me through the glass, but all I saw was the street light throwing an orange glow to the street below.

"Want to talk about it?" Cody broke the silence with her quiet, soothing voice. I felt her rest her chin on top of my head.

"No. Let’s just sit."

Rand’s face crossed my mind’s eye, and suddenly I really missed her. When we had been teenagers she had always been the one to rescue me from my nightmares. But, even still, as I felt Cody begin to carefully stroke my arm with tentative fingers, I felt just as safe, feeling in my middle of the night, half asleep mindset, that Cody would protect me.

* * *

"Dude, you are so full of shit. Pat Sajak is not that old," Cody said, throwing a piece of popcorn at me. I snatched it and popped it into my mouth.

"Bet me," I said, crunching away, glancing back at the popular game show with Vanna White looking ever so much like the beautiful letter turner that she was.

"No way," Cody exclaimed, looking at the host. "I bet he’s no older than thirty-five. Maybe forty," she conceded. I chuckled.

"My dear, Cody, he was doing this host gig when I was your age and younger." I said, playing on her idea that I was old or something. She looked at him, absently munching on her snack.

"I still think you’re wrong," she muttered.

"This show has been on for nearly twenty years. Ask your mom."

"No way!" She looked at me like I’d sprouted a third eye. "She doesn’t know shit."

"Why? Cause she’s old?" I grinned.

"Yeah, that pretty much sums it up." She tossed a kernel into the air, and caught it with the snap of her white teeth.

"You know, I can’t wait to see you when you’re," I brought my fingers up in quote marks. "Old."

"You kidding? I’m not going to live that long."

It had been nearly a week, and we’d been fighting about this issue nearly everyday. Cody was determined to convince me that I was an old geezer. I really had no idea what her cutoff age was for old geezer status, but apparently I’d passed it.

As time went on, and Cody was forced to spend so much time with me, I was amazed at the girl that I was slowly beginning to get to know. She was witty, intelligent, opinionated, and very kind.

"She is the first to yell at me whenever I start to do too much," I told Rhonda as she sat across from me on the bed, her newest bag of goodies sitting next to her. I stopped talking as Cody brought another load of laundry from upstairs, headed to the laundry room at the back of the house. My boss looked at me.

"What have you done to my daughter, Brooklyn? Do you realize that I can’t even get her to do that at home?" She sipped from the glass of iced tea that Cody had brought to her when she’d arrived during her lunch break.

"I don’t know," Brooklyn said with a proud smile as she glanced toward the laundry room when the washer started. "She’s been absolutely wonderful, Ron." She turned back to the older woman. "Just wonderful. I couldn’t ask for a better nursemaid. I mean, she cooks, obviously does the laundry, and she cleans!"

"You’re kidding!" I shook my head. "God, I am so jealous. "Cody, why don’t you help me like this?" Rhonda asked as her daughter headed back upstairs. The girl looked at her for a moment, empty laundry basket in hand.

"You’re not helpless," she said dryly, and headed up the stairs. Rhonda followed her with her eyes, then shook her head, looking back at me.

"We really miss you at work, hon."


"Oh, yeah. Kristine asks me daily when you’re coming back." She laughed. "I think she’s just tired of getting your load of work, too." I chuckled.

"I’ll bet. She’s stopped by a few times. Even brought me Haagen Dazs."

"Oh, lucky you."

"I agree."

Cody came back downstairs again. I glanced at her over my shoulder.

"I am lucky indeed."

* * *

Over the next few days, I had a veritable parade of people through my house. From Kristine and Keith to Tom and little Jake. All that was missing was Rand. I planned to call her later this afternoon. She was due to come back tomorrow anyway, so I knew that she wouldn’t do anything stupid by coming back early if she heard about my accident.

"What do you want for lunch?" Cody asked, wiping her hands on a dish towel from finishing watering all my plants. I looked at her, startled from my thoughts.

"I don’t know. What are you going to make me?" I smiled sweetly up at her.

"Do you like Mexican?" she asked, a brow raised. I wide grin spread across my face.

"You’re on."

Within fifteen minutes, the most wonderful smells were assaulting my senses, and it was killing me to be stuck on the couch, not able to head to the kitchen and see it all up close and personal.

"Come and get it!" Cody exclaimed ten minutes later. She burst through the swinging door of the kitchen, and headed over to help me into the wheelchair.

"That smells so good." I nearly salivated.

"I should hope so. It’s a family recipe. Do you like Spanish rice?"

"Tell me you made some?"

"I made some." She pushed me toward the kitchen.

"Oh, you are all that is good and kind." I hummed in anticipation.

"I know."

Once Cody had me settled at the table, she put a plate in front of me, and began to bring dishes to the table, steam rising off the ceramic, wafting up to my nose to make me close my eyes as I inhaled them. I heard Cody chuckle as she sat across from me at the small, round table that fit perfectly into the little breakfast nook in the kitchen.

"Dish it up woman before I begin to gnaw on your arm," I teased. Cody looked up, blue eyes meeting mine.

"Promise?" she said, a brow raised. I looked at her, taken aback by my own remark.

"Uh, here." I handed her my plate.

She piled the food on, fajitas with all the fixings, sour cream, guacamole, cheese, anything my little heart could want. But, my eyes were fixed solely on that pot of Spanish rice.

"Did that come in a box? One of those nifty just add water and butter things?" I asked, indicating the rice that she was putting on my plate. She looked at me, aghast.

"Are you kidding? I would never stoop to such levels. This, my dear ancient invalid, is homemade."

My mouth began to water so much that the old crack didn’t even make a dent in my subconscious. And when I tasted it, oh my. I closed my eyes in pure ecstasy as my taste buds exploded with all the flavors.

"You like?" Cody asked, a bit of shyness in her eyes.

"Not really." Her eyes narrowed, and she sat back a little in her chair.

"I love." My eyes squeezed tightly closed again, a smile on my face.

* * *

I told Cody to go with Keith to help him load a sculpture and run some errands of her own, assuring her I’d be fine for an hour or so.

Picking up the phone, I looked at the information Rand had given me before she’d left on her interview in D.C. The guy at the front desk of her hotel buzzed me through to her room, and I waited, listening to the ring of the telephone, afraid that she wouldn’t answer. Finally on the third ring, she picked up.

"Hello?" she said, her voice breathy.

"Did I interrupt something?" I asked, a grin on my face.

"Brooklyn!" she almost shouted into the phone. I pulled the phone away from my ear, but was happy about her excitement. We hadn’t spoken in six days, which was an unpleasant record for us. "I have missed you so much, baby cakes," she cooed.

"Me, too, honey buns. How’s it going?"

"Oh, this has been the most wonderful week of my life, Brooke. I can’t wait to tell you all about it," she gushed.

"So tell me about it now." I leaned back against my arsenal of pillows.

"Well, I’ll tell you some, but I want to tell you everything in person."

"Alright. How’s Dickson?"

"She’s really great, though I think she’ll be a bit of a bear should I get the job."

"Did you get the job?" Silence. "Rand?"

"I move in July," came the quiet response. I knew her so well. She was sitting on the edge of her bed, twirling the phone cord in her fingers, shyly, feeling bad about getting this incredible opportunity.

"Oh, sweetie!" I breathed, so happy for her, despite the pang of sadness in my stomach. "I’m so proud of you, Rand."

"Really?" she asked, her voice childlike.

"Most definitely, honey. Have you told Peter, yet?"

"Yeah. He knows. We’re talking, trying to figure out what we’re going to do." We were both silent for a moment, both lost in our own thoughts of gain and loss. "But, enough of this. How are you?"

"Well, I’m doing better now."

"What? Doing better now," her voice trailed off. "What do you mean?"

"Rand, now I don’t want you to freak out,"

"What? Why?" I grinned, wanting the exact opposite of the shrillness that already marked her voice.

"Well, earlier in the week I was in an accident."


Again, I pulled the phone away from my ear.

"Some guy hit me while I was on my bike."

"Oh, sweetie. Are you okay?"

"Yes, I’m fine. I have a broken bone or two, and some bruises,"

"Why didn’t you tell me? Brooklyn, I’m coming home right now,"

"That is why I didn’t tell you. There was no way in hell I was going to allow you to screw up the most important interview of your life just for a few scrapes and cuts. Besides, Cody’s been taking care of me." The line went dead silent.

"Cody?" Her voice was low, almost dangerous.

"Yes, Cody. She’s done a wonderful job, too. Since I can’t walk,"

"You can’t walk? What?"

"I broke my ankle, anyway, since I can’t walk or use my left arm,"

"Why not? Brooklyn, talk to me,"

"I’m trying! I broke my left arm, too. So, I’ve been in this damn wheelchair for the past week, not able to do a damn thing for myself. She has truly been invaluable."

"I’m sure she has."

"Rand, stop it." My brows drew in irritation as I suddenly felt very protective over Cody, not willing to put up with any of Rand’s shit where the girl was concerned. "If not for her, I never would have made it, and you were gone. I mean this girl has cleaned for me, she’s cooked every meal, from scratch, might I add,"

"Gee, she’s just a regular Julia Childs."

"Rand, what’s your problem?"

"I should be the one who takes care of you, Brooklyn. No one else, and certainly not some irresponsible kid."

"She’s not the irresponsible, honey."

"Well, whatever. I should have been there, and damn it, Brooklyn, why didn’t you call me?" I could hear the hurt in her voice.

"Oh, honey, I honestly wanted you hear. You would have lost your chance if you would have come back, and you know it."

"I got to meet my hero," she said, her voice quiet and shy.

"Yeah? You got to meet Donald Rumsfeld?"

"Yeah," she said, just as shy.

"Oh, you are so cute. How did that go?" I asked.

"Well, I got to dance with him and talk shop at a ball I went to."

"Oh, watch out Peter." I chuckled.

"Yeah, no. But, it was incredible all the same," she gushed.

"Oh, sweetie, I’m so happy for you. I miss you." I dropped my head into the pillows, excited to see my friend.

"I miss you, too, honey. But, I will be there tomorrow, so your little nanny can go back to playing Legos with the neighborhood kids."

"Rand," I warned.

"I have to go. I was just about to jump in the shower when you called. I’ll see you later, Brooklyn. Take care of yourself, huh?"

"I will. I can’t wait to see you and see all the great stuff you bought me." I grinned into the receiver.

"Yeah, I can’t wait. You’ll love it."

"I love you."

"I love you, too. Bye, cupcake."

"Bye, my little snickerdootle."

Keith dropped Cody off an hour later, loaded down with more bags of food.

"Hey," she said as she walked in, headed for the kitchen.

"Hi," I said, following her with my eyes. "Rand is coming home tomorrow," I said, my voice filled with excitement to see my friend. Cody’s pace slowed at the mention of her name, but she quickly disappeared through the swinging door without a word.

* * *

"So, what do you want to watch?" Cody asked, plopping down in the recliner, a bottle of Gatorade in her lap.

"I don’t care. Pick a movie out of my monster collection." I grinned.

"Oh, you mean out of the half dozen videos you own?" she snickered.

"Yeah, yeah, so I’m not Blockbuster."

She sat on the floor in front of the movie cabinet, looking at the titles. She glanced at me over her shoulder.

"You own this?" She held up the box to show me.

"‘Gleaming the Cube’? Sure. Doesn’t everyone?" I smiled.

"Uh, no. Some random skateboard movie? I don’t think so. I can’t believe you have it," she muttered, reading the back.

"Well, come on, it has Christian Slater in it, and when I was younger, I had quite the crush on him." She snorted.

"Figures." She took the tape from the box, and slid it into the VCR. "Now you’ll get to see some great skater action."

* * *

I awoke to some serious pounding on the door, and a startled, irritated Cody standing, and stomping to the door. She unlocked it, and pulled it open.

"Oh, hello," Rand said, her voice low and void of emotion when she saw my houseguest.

"Yeah, back at you." Cody walked away from the door, leaving it open as she walked toward her makeshift bed, and began to fold up the blankets and sheets.

I looked at my best friend again, seeing the overnight bag she held in her hand. She looked at me, a huge smile on her face.

"Hey, sweetie." She rushed in, taking me in a huge hug that nearly killed my still aching ribs. She held me at arms length. "Oh, Brooke, you look like shit." She brought her hand up, fingering some of the lingering bruises and healing cuts.

"Thanks, you hag." I batted at her hand. She smiled and hugged me to her again. Then she eyed Cody with a side glance.

"Well, I’m here now, staying." Cody looked at her, then rolled her eyes.

"I’m going." She headed to the bathroom.

"Rand, please don’t," I begged, my hand on her arm. She looked at me, then looked away with a sigh.

Cody came out a few minutes later, dressed, and began to shove all of her clothing into the bag she’d brought with her.

"Listen, um, if you need anything, call or whatever," Cody said, standing by the front door, skateboard in hand. She took one last look at Rand, then turned and walked out.


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