I hope Murphy isn’t in any pain.
I look down at her still body. She has wires coming out from under her hospital gown that are attached to a machine by her head. She has something clipped onto the finger of her right hand. And there are what look to be inflatable boot things on each of her lower legs that deflate every now and then.
“She may be out of it for a few minutes after she comes around. Most patients are disoriented at first.” He leans down to whisper in my ear. “And since she doesn’t know you very well, she might not even remember you for a while.”
I look up at him with concern.
He puts a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. It looks like the surgery went well. She should recover nicely.”
I nod and mumble more thanks as he walks away.
When I look at her face, it’s nothing like what I expected. My only frame of reference is how she looked last weekend. I had never seen her uninjured face. I’m not exactly sure what I thought she would look like now, but it’s not this. Her face, the very place they just performed surgery, looks much better than when I saw her last. It’s a bit puffy, but it’s not very swollen. The stitches she got the night of the injury have been removed, and she has a long, thin bandage that runs along her hairline.
I take in a deep breath and blow it out thinking about the surgery. I looked it up online. I hope Murphy didn’t. Because from what I read, to do the repair, they basically had to pull the skin off her face from a long incision they made by her ear.
They pulled the fucking skin off her face.
Because of me.
It’s unreal they just did that today, only a short while ago, and yet she looks so … pretty.
I reach out and put my hand on top of hers. I lean over and whisper in her ear, “You did great, old man.”
A nurse comes over and fiddles with something. “Looks like she’s waking up,” she says.
I look down at Murphy and don’t see anything. I look back at the nurse for clarification.
The nurse nods to the machine. “Her pulse just went up. Usually means they are coming out of the anesthesia.”
I pull my hand away, wondering if I caused it.
The nurse smiles. “It’s okay, you can touch her.”
Relieved I hadn’t caused anything bad to happen, I put my hand back on her. Then she moves. She doesn’t open her eyes, but she winces and her mouth opens and closes as her tongue presses against her teeth.
“Her throat is probably raw from the airway tube,” the nurse says. “Once she can take some liquid, that will get better.”
A faint noise comes from Murphy. It’s a soft groan, like when you wake up with a hangover after a long night of drinking.
“Talk to her,” the nurse says, encouragingly. “It’ll help her wake up.”
“Okay, uh …” All of a sudden I’m at a loss for words. I barely know this girl. Why did I think it would be good for me to come sit with her when she’s so vulnerable? The nurse probably thinks I’m her husband or brother. “Murph, it’s me. Kyle said the surgery went well. He said you will recover in no time. And you have that job waiting for you. Everything will get better now. I promise.”
Hey eyes flutter open. She stares at the fluorescent lights on the ceiling for a while. Then her eyes dart around. Then her head turns towards me.
“Hey, you,” I say.
She looks at me, but her eyes don’t seem to focus.
“Ton …” Her words trail off and she winces.
“It’s okay,” I tell her. “The nurse said your throat will be sore for a little bit. You can have a sip of water when you feel up to it.”
Her eyes close again and she threads her fingers through mine, squeezing them. With her eyes closed, she clears her throat and speaks again. “Love you,” I think she says.
Oh, shit. She thinks I’m him. The lying, cheating bastard. Did she really love him? Does she still?
She’s in and out of it for the next ten minutes. The nurse brings a cup of water and raises the head of her bed a little more. “She can have a few sips when she’s ready.”
“Murphy? Did you hear that? Would you like a drink?” I ask.
Her eyes open again, this time they are clearer than before. She looks at me in confusion.
“Caden. It’s Caden,” I say. “Are you okay? Do you remember me?”
A small smile curves her lips. “You came.”
“Of course I did. I told you I’d be here.”
She looks around and then back at me. “Where’s Tony?”
I don’t know what to say. Did she forget? I just give her a sad smile.
I see it when realization dawns on her. Her eyes close and she blows out a long sigh. “Right,” she says. “I’m not with the bastard anymore.”
I pick up her water cup and put the straw to her lips. “Try to take a drink.”
She takes a few sips and then makes an appreciative moan.
“How do you feel?” I ask.
“Better than when your ball hit me,” she says.
I laugh. “Darn. I was hoping you’d forgotten that part.”
A doctor comes by to assess her. He tells me she’ll be moved back to her room in half an hour.
“How long will she have to stay?” I ask.
“Probably just one night,” the doctor tells me. “It went very well. Her bandages will be removed tomorrow assuming there is no drainage. The steri-strips will probably wash off in a week and she’ll come back to get the sutures removed in seven to ten days.”
“Just one night? Really?”
He nods. “Her recovery will be rapid,” he says. “And with you there to help her, I’m sure she’ll be up and around in no time.”
But I’m not there to help her.
“Thank you,” I tell him.
When Murphy falls back to sleep, I get on my phone and make some arrangements.
Sometime after she’s moved to her room, she wakes up and catches me watching ESPN.
“What’s a balk?” she asks, motioning to the television.
“Wait … you were listening? Little Miss I-hate-baseball was listening closely enough to hear that?”
“Well, there’s nothing better to do.” She shrugs.
I smile. “A balk is an illegal motion from the pitcher. It’s when he pretends to pitch, but doesn’t.”
“Why would he do that?”
“To deceive the hitter or runner.”
“I don’t get it,” she says.
“Okay, say there’s a guy on first base. He’s going to get a lead, a jump on the pitch, so he can try to make it to second. He’ll take off right when he thinks the pitcher is winding up to throw the pitch. The pitcher wants him to think he’s about to pitch the ball to the batter so the guy on first will start to run, but then the pitcher will throw him out at second, or at the very least, get him caught in a pickle.”
She looks at me with eyes glazed over. “Pickle?”
I laugh. “Maybe balk is not the best place to start when you’re learning baseball. I guess it can seem kind of complicated.”
“You think?” She shakes her head gingerly. “I don’t believe I’ll ever get it,” she says. “I’m a kinesthetic learner.”
“What the heck is that?”
“I’m one of those people who has to do something to learn it. You know, use my body—touch, feel, experience things. You can talk your head off, but I’ll never get it. That’s why I wasn’t very good in school. My teachers got sick of having to teach me my way.”
I get a brilliant idea and I feel my face splitting with a smile.
“Oh, hell no.” Murphy narrows her eyes at me and then holds up her hand to squelch my enthusiasm. “I know you don’t think I’m going to play baseball,” she says. “Did you not hear a word the doctor said? I can’t do any activity that could re-injure my face.”
“When did he say you’d be okay to resume normal activity?” I ask.
“Baseball is not normal activity, Caden. And he said I could go back to work within a week, but I still can’t lift anything over ten pounds. Why?”
“What are you doing Saturday night?” I ask.
“Not going on a date with you, Caden Kessler.” She gives me a hard stare.
Geez. Is the thought that daunting?
I roll my eyes at her. “No, Murphy Brown, not a date. The last thing I need is a girlfriend and the last thing you want is another failed relationship.”
“What did you have in mind then?”
“It’s a surprise,” I say.
“A surprise?” she asks with raised brows. “A surprise that doesn’t include me playing baseball or the shedding of clothing?”
I hold up my fingers in a Boy Scout salute. “Scout’s honor, I will not try to get in your pants, and I won’t make you play ball.”
She shrugs one smug shoulder. “I’ll have to check my calendar and get back with you.”
I laugh. “You do that, Murph.”
I thought this week was going to be torture at my apartment. Turns out, it wasn’t as bad as I feared. Mainly due to the visiting nurse who came to check on me for the first three days and the catered meals that were delivered every evening. I thought I was going to be eating ramen noodles for weeks. Instead, I ate like a queen. And flowers. I can’t forget the flowers. Wednesday it was orchids, Thursday was lilies, and roses came on Friday.
My roommates were starting to get suspicious so I told them everything was from my mom and my friends back home. It was a lie. Nobody back home even knows I got hurt. And even though none of the flowers came with a card and the nurse said the hospital sent her, I knew better. This was all Caden and the guilt he feels over what happened.
However, as much as I enjoyed being the beneficiary of his kindness, I’m going to tell him tonight that it has to stop. I’m fine. My face is healing quickly. I feel pretty good, even. I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll have scars for the rest of my life. And strangely enough, I’m not throwing any temper tantrums over it. Because I’ve had a lot of time over the past weeks to sit back and watch. To listen. And if being a model means acting like my roommates, I think I chose the wrong profession.