“Yeah. Hey you know what else?” His voice grew louder and louder with each sentence. “We should take ski lessons this winter.”

“Oh, honey.” I shook my head as I turned into the driveway. “I’m pretty sure you aren’t gonna be doing any skiing this winter.”

“We’ll see. I’m gonna bounce back and shock everyone.” He lifted his hands and pumped them up and down, pretending to hold ski poles. “I’ll be whooshing down hills and in and out of trees like a badass.”

“Right now, let’s just try to get in the house, okay?” I glanced over at him as I turned the car off. His face was still wearing the same goofy grin he’d left the recovery room with. When he beamed like that, with wide smiling lips and twinkling eyes, he looked so young and carefree. Those were the moments I fell in love with him all over again. “Stay right there. I’ll come around and get you.”

“You got it, babe.” He pointed his finger at me and winked.

 

Once we got inside the door, Viper sobered up instantly. He pulled his eyebrows down low, grimacing.

“What’s wrong? Does it hurt?” I panicked.

“No, but I feel like I’m gonna puke. I need to go lie down.”

“Okay. It’s probably the anesthesia. It makes some people sick.” I gently rubbed his back. “Where do you want to go? You want to lie on the couch?”

“I think upstairs.”

“Viper, I don’t know if you should do stairs yet.”

“I’m fine. I’ll go up with my good leg first.” He started toward the steps and moved up them slowly, one at a time. Matthew and Maura came running from the back of the house with Taylor right behind them.

“Viper!” Matthew called out, waving something in his hand. “I made you a card!”

Maura was right on his heels. “Me too! Me too!”

“You know what guys—” I stopped them before they ran up the stairs and knocked him over. “Viper doesn’t feel so hot, so he’s gonna go up and lie down. Maybe after he naps you can take the cards upstairs to him.”

“Okay,” they said in unison, a little sad.

I walked upstairs with Viper and tucked him into bed. He was sound asleep before I left the room, and I was thankful for that, hoping a good long nap would kick the rest of the meds out of his system and make him feel better.

 

What I didn’t plan on was him not leaving that room for the next two days.

 

 

“Hey, did you hear me?” Michelle’s hand gently shook my shoulder.

“Hm?” I grumbled, drifting in and out of my narcotic induced sleepy haze.

“I said that your first therapy appointment is in a couple of hours. Do you want to get up and take a shower? I’ll make you breakfast?”

My eyelids felt like lead as I struggled to pull them open. “What time is it?”

“Almost nine.”

“Where are the kids?” I asked, surprised I hadn’t heard them yet.

“I took Matthew to school and Maura is downstairs playing with her ponies. Want me to make you eggs or something?” She rested her hand on my bicep again.

“Nah. I’m just gonna shower and go.” I sat up in bed slowly, trying to shake the clouds from my brain. I couldn’t wait to be done with the pain meds. They made everything fuzzy and I felt like I moved in slow motion.

“Okay,” she sounded disappointed. “Well, let me know when you’re ready and we’ll leave.”

Her footsteps shuffled along the carpet and I turned just in time to see her walk out the door.

Grabbing my crutches from the floor, I stood and made my way to the bathroom, pausing at the sink. I reached up and rubbed the thick stubble across my face, thanks to not shaving for several days. For a brief moment I thought about shaving before therapy, but ultimately, I didn’t give a shit. I turned the water on in the shower and put a waterproof medical bandage over my knee while it warmed up.

That’s gonna feel good when I rip it off.

I stepped into the shower carefully and propped my arm up on the wall for support. Never in my whole life had I felt so incapable and weak. I couldn’t walk without crutches, I couldn’t drive until I was off my meds, I could barely even walk around the kitchen and make food for myself. I’d spent the last twenty plus years whizzing around the ice on skates, as part of a team where I was needed, and now I couldn’t even take a shower without being worried.

“Knock, knock,” Michelle said.

I turned as she walked into the bathroom with her hands folded across her chest and smiled at me from the other side of the glass.

“Hey,” I acknowledged.

“Sooooooo . . . got room for one more?”

I glanced back at her. “Huh?”

Quickly dropping her eyes to the ground, she gave me a small shrug. “I went back downstairs and Maura was passed out on the couch, so I thought I’d come up here and maybe join you . . . in there? What do you think?” Her eyes lifted to mine and she chewed on the corner of her lip.

I poured shampoo into my palm and closed my eyes as I tilted my head back and scrubbed my hair. “Oh . . . uh . . . probably not. I just want to rinse off and get moving.” I never closed my eyes when I took a shower, but I didn’t want to see the disappointment on Michelle’s face.

She didn’t respond. A few seconds later, I opened my eyes and she was gone.

 

After I showered, I got dressed and carefully made my way down the stairs toward the kitchen. Maura was dancing in circles to some weird TV show and Michelle was loading the dishwasher.

“Hey,” I said as I opened the fridge. I wasn’t hungry or thirsty, but I knew she was probably upset with me and I didn’t know what else to do with myself.

“Hey.” Her tone was dry and she didn’t turn around.

“We should probably leave in like fifteen minutes. Is that okay?”

“Yep,” she answered shortly.

Those fifteen minutes felt more like an hour. Michelle and I didn’t talk . . . she didn’t even look at me. I sat on the couch, watching Maura wiggle and dance and sing her heart out, her blond curls bouncing up and down as she twirled around the room.

My phone buzzed on the coffee table.

Brody: Yo! You gonna be around today? I was going to stop by but wanted to make sure you weren’t going out for a jog or something.