Something is preventing her from wanting me too much. From needing me for more than just sex. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why I want to know what it is.
“You’re preaching to the choir, Rylee,” I gaze out my window. “You’re preaching to the choir.”
Ten minutes later, something comes into view and I laugh. “Are you taking me to the fair?”
I see a tall, lighted Ferris wheel in the distance along the country road we’re driving on. I think about what she said yesterday about giving me what I want and then I realize what they have at county fairs.
“Oh, hell yeah! They have baseball target games here, don’t they?”
“Calm down. We may not work up to those.” She pulls into the parking lot and we’re directed down a dirt lane to another guy with an orange vest on who shows us where to park. She turns off her car and looks me in the eye. “I’m your physical therapist, Brady. You have to listen to me and trust me with your rehabilitation. They have lots of things here that we can use. Ring toss, dart games, and yes, ball throws. These things will not only help your elbow, but the dexterity in your fingers. But you have to only go as far as I say. I can’t have you hurting yourself and impeding your progress. Agreed?”
I smile at her. I smile big. I feel like a kid on Christmas. I’m practically bouncing with excitement as we approach the ticket booth. I buy the book with the most game tickets and Rylee laughs at me.
She leans close and says, “You’re not afraid of heights, are you?” I follow her eyes to the Ferris wheel.
“And two tickets for the Ferris wheel,” I tell the guy behind the glass.
Rylee nudges me with her elbow.
“Better make it four,” I say to him.
“I hope you’re hungry,” Rylee says as we enter the fair. “You can pretty much buy any food you can think of and they will put it on a stick and fry it.”
“Salad?” I say, poking her in the ribs.
I laugh. “Games first. Food later.”
“How about one or two games first, then food, then if your arm can take it, more games?”
“Are you always this demanding?”
She starts to protest, but I cut her off and lean in close. “I like it, Ry. I like you bossing me around. Maybe when we’re done here, you can boss me around back at the hotel.”
The Cheshire-cat smile that takes over her face makes me want to scrap this whole plan and get right back in her car. I love how she tries to be all professional with me at work, but here, she’s just herself. No boss in the other room. No appearances to uphold. And by the look in her eyes, I can see I’m in for one hell of a ride – and I don’t mean on the Ferris wheel.
We take our time walking around and assessing all the booths. She finally settles on the ring toss. I hand the guy some tickets and Rylee picks up the rings. “These are lightweight, but they’re small and you might have a hard time gripping them.”
“Hand them over,” I say, motioning for them. I toss one and my wrist goes limp and the damn ring barely makes it over the first bottle. “Fuck.” I look around hoping no kids heard me.
Rylee takes a ring from me. “Try using your whole arm instead of your wrist. You still don’t have great flexion and extension in your wrist, but if you make this an elbow exercise …”
I watch her demonstrate how she wants me to do it, still pissed that I can’t even flick a four-ounce ring over the top of a bunch of soda bottles. She lands a ring on a bottle and wins a small stuffed prize.
“Is that beginner’s luck, or do you bring all your patients here?” I tease.
The guy tries to give her a yellow duck, but she points to something else instead. “You want the hawk?” the guy asks, plucking another stuffed toy off the wall. “This ugly thing?”
“Yes, please,” she says. She holds it up. “How apropos is this? And to answer your question, you are the only patient I’ve ever brought here. You’re the only patient I’ve ever brought anywhere.”
Why that makes me feel like pounding my chest, I don’t know. I shouldn’t care what she does when she’s not with me.
“Now you try it,” she says.
I toss the ring just like she said and, just like she said, it goes much farther when I use my elbow instead of my wrist. But I still don’t ring the neck of a bottle. Not even after a dozen tries.
“Okay?” she asks, nodding at my arm.
“Bring it on,” I tell her. “What’s next?”
The booth next to this one has milk bottle pyramids that people are trying to knock down with softballs. I look at Rylee. “Not a chance,” she says. “You know they weight down the bottom row with lead, don’t you? You’d probably have to throw your fastball to get them down.”
“I could probably do it with my right arm,” I tell her.
“I don’t doubt it. But you’re not here to show off, are you?”
I look at the game. “I guess not.”
“Good. Because the only two people here that matter are the two people who know how good you are.”
“Were,” I correct her.
“And will be again,” she says. She pulls on my good arm. “Come on, let’s do this one over here.”
I hand over more tickets and the woman gives us each three bean bags. You have to throw them through the clown’s mouth to win a prize.
“Ever played Cornhole?” Rylee asks.
“Not even when I was drunk,” I say laughing.
“Well, you’re missing out. This is kind of like it. I’ll show you.”
She proceeds to make all three. “Underhand?” I say. “You throw like a girl.”
“Do you want to try for a larger prize?” the woman asks her, holding out a small plastic whistle.
Rylee appraises it. “No thanks.” Then she whispers to me, “This is what you get for spending three dollars on the game?”
I crank my arm back to throw, but Rylee stops my motion. “No, Brady. Underhand.”
“You have to be kidding.”
She scolds me with the raise of her brow and I feel my pants getting tighter.
“Damn, woman, you really are bossy. Maybe we should make a stop on the way home and get you a whip and some leather.”
“Throw the stupid bean bag, Taylor. And use your shoulder and your elbow. Not your wrist.”
I make two out of three. “Better luck next time,” the woman behind the booth says.
“I get nothing for making two?”
She shrugs and points to the rules.
“Well, that’s a stupid rule.”
Rylee hands me the small plastic bag with her whistle in it. “Here, you can have mine.”
“Let’s do that one now.” She points to the balloon dart throw.
I get my three darts, attempting to throw one, and it all but falls out of my weak grip. Rylee arranges my fingers so I’m holding the dart between my thumb and my ring finger instead of my thumb and my first finger.
“I know it feels strange to hold it like this,” she says. “But your ring finger is unaffected, so it may allow you to squeeze the dart better if you do it this way. And don’t flick the wrist.”
My thumb is still weak and numb, but using her strategy, I’m able to pop one of the balloons. And it’s an overhand throw, so it feels damn good.
“Nice!” she squeals when I pop all three on my second try.
The bearded guy who runs the game hands me a rubber snake. I look at it and then fake an attack on Rylee’s hawk. “Who do you think would win?” I ask.
“The hawk. Definitely the hawk.” I don’t miss how she’s looking right at me when she says it. She clears her throat. “Let’s get something to eat and then see how your arm feels.”
We settle on a funnel cake and some kind of meat on a stick. We find a bench and do some people-watching while we eat. When we’re done, I notice the line for the Ferris wheel isn’t long at all.
“What do you say?” I ask, motioning over to it.
“Sure, why not?”
While waiting in line, some teenage boys notice me.
“Aren’t you Brady Taylor?” one of them asks.
“I told you,” he says, punching one of his friends in the arm. “Can I get a picture with you? Nobody’s going to believe it.”
“Sure. You follow the Nighthawks?” I ask, as Rylee grabs his phone and snaps a picture of me with all three boys and then individually with each of them.
“Well, I like the Rays because I live here, but the Hawks are cool, too,” he says, looking guilty.
“It’s cool,” I tell him. “You should root for your home team.”
“You’re on the DL, right? I saw footage of that ball hitting you. It looked painful.”
“It was. But I hope to be off the disabled list soon. I’m improving every day.” We’re called up to the ride. “Nice to meet you guys. Enjoy the fair.”
We sit in the chair and the worker pulls a bar down over us. Rylee looks scared. She shoves the hawk into my hands and holds onto the safety bar for dear life.
As our chair rises, she starts squealing – and not in a good way.
“Uh, Rylee, are you afraid of heights?”
She closes her eyes. “Terrified.”
“Then why in the hell are we on this thing?”
“I thought it would be fun.” She peeks out of one eye and then grabs onto my arm. “Oh, my God. This is horrible. Do you think the guy would stop it and bring us back down?”
I laugh. “Oh, we’ll go back down all right, after we go up and over the top.”
“Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God.”
I scoot closer and wrap my arm around her, pulling her tightly against me. “Is that better?”
“Marginally. But, as strong as you may be, you couldn’t save both of us if this thing tips over. What was I thinking?”