Ryan felt like a complete idiot.
Although it seemed to take forever for the doctor to give his consent to play, Ryan was finally on the field again, but not for long. Here he was, in only his third practice back, sitting on the bench, with an ice pack on the back of his leg. His recently healed leg… make that his once recently healed, now re-injured leg.
This time it really was just an accident. He and Luke went for the ball at the same time, with almost the same amount of speed and power. Ryan kicked the ball, and Luke kicked Ryan. Hard. Hard enough to knock Ryan to the ground. Before he could get up and shake it off, there was the coach, Luke and a couple of the other guys picking him up and helping him over to the bench.
Fortunately, it was just a bruise. No gashes, no cuts, not one drop of blood. Okay, it was a big bruise - getting bigger, getting darker, getting more painful bruise, but still – just a bruise. Okay, a big bruise.
That didn't stop the coach from asking, "You going to tell them, or should I call them?"
Ryan looked down at the ice pack as he thought about it for a minute. "Call, I guess," he said softly. The coach walked away, cell phone in hand as Luke stayed with Ryan, apologizing so much and so loud, that Ryan couldn't hear whom the coach was talking to.
All Ryan knew from the coach was that he was to "Stay there. Keep the ice on it. Someone will be right here."
The coach went back to coaching, Luke went back to practicing with the other guys, and Ryan sat there, not knowing if it was Sandy or Kirsten who was coming or when.
Ryan kept reminding himself as he waited that he was doing what they told him to do. Over and over and over they told him that he needed to tell them when something happened. So he did - he got hurt, he called. Okay, technically, the coach called, but Ryan was the one who said to call. That had to count for something. Still, he felt stupid, sitting on the bench, icing down a bruise, waiting for one of them to come get him.
At least he didn't feel as stupid as he did the day after the Cohens found out about his leg. He thought it was bad when they came into the pool house that night to "talk." That was nothing compared to his doctor's appointment, complete with Kirsten and Sandy in the room.
The Cohens watched everything: the examination, the cleaning and the bandaging of his leg. They watched and listened to the instructions for the crutches that Ryan tried to get out of using, and asked a lot of questions when they wanted the doctor to clarify something about 'caring' for Ryan.
They both sighed – loudly- when the doctor pointed out that because of the amount of time between the accident and his appointment it was not possible to stitch the wound up. The Doctor looked directly at Ryan when he emphasized that Ryan could have really used some stitches.
Sandy and Kirsten both nodded and mumbled between them when the doctor said to call Neil Roberts since the butterfly bandages used would not help reduce the scarring that would be occurring.
Then, as if all of that wasn't bad enough, they watched his tetanus shot, since Ryan couldn't remember his last one. Of course, Sandy had to point out that the records they had made no mention of recent tetanus boosters. The Cohens also watched as the nurse gave him the other shot - an antibiotic for the infection that obviously wasn't cleared enough with just peroxide
As Ryan got dressed, the doctor continued to talk and write out a prescription for the antibiotic pills he needed since the shot wouldn't be enough. Kirsten put the note to the coach that benched him for an indefinite amount of time into her purse, and Sandy made sure to take the crutches he tried to leave behind. Ryan was less than pleased when Sandy handed him the crutches and made him use them.
The next stop was the coach's office for the next round of awkwardness. Ryan knew the coach was going to yell, so he wasn't surprised when the coach immediately ripped into him. It was just very embarrassing with the Cohens there, but what really made him want to crawl under the nearest rock was when Kirsten stopped the guy with the tone of her voice.
"Bill, Sandy and I have already been over this with Ryan. I'm sure there are other things to discuss."
Before the Coach could choke out a response, there was a knock on the door, and Ryan's day went from really bad to really worse. Ryan wasn't sure what to say or do when in walked the coach from Pacific along with the kid with the metal cleats and what had to be the kid's parents
The Cohens must have been worried, too, because Kirsten squeezed Ryan's hand tight, and Sandy gave him a look. Ryan decided to sit back, shut up and not get himself in any more trouble. Let the adults work it out since all Ryan wanted to do was go home, throw away the damn crutches and forget the entire nightmare.
The adult conversation quickly turned ugly when Cleat Kid's father demanded to know what Harbor had against his kid continuing to play other sports for Pacific if 'that blond kid' only played soccer. That led to Coach Bill pointing out the seriousness of the rules violation, which led to Cleat Kid offering up a lame apology and Pacific's coach offering to suspend the kid from any and all games against Harbor in the future.
Ryan was willing to agree to that just to get out of the office. Unfortunately, Sandy wasn't willing to agree to any of it. He demanded the kid be suspended and then threatened legal action. Cleat Dad's idle threat that his wife's brother was an attorney in Southern California only made Sandy laugh as he smugly told them that he was an attorney right in Orange County.
When Cleat Kid's mother then tried to plead that they all had to think of "Tad's future," Kirsten demanded to know why "Tad" didn't think about Ryan's future. When she then tried to claim it was just an accident, a simple mistake and "Tad" promised that he'd never do it again, Kirsten's tone was certainly harsh as she told Tad's mom that of course he would never do it again, because Tad would not be playing sports for Pacific again.
That seemed to shut Tad's mom up, but to Ryan's horror, Kirsten grabbed his hand again.
Tad's father once again began to spout off about how unfair it all seemed for poor Tad, who had already been grounded and had his car taken away – for a whole week. Kirsten tried to remind them all that Ryan would be off his feet a whole lot longer, but that didn't do anything to shut him up, which then got Sandy angry.
Sandy's indignant, "well, if your kid hadn't intentionally hurt my kid…" made Ryan feel like he was still out in the grade school sandbox.
Both coaches finally suggested that if Sandy and Kirsten agreed not to pursue legal action, Tad's parents would agree that Tad be banned from all sports for a period of no less than two years. When both sets of parents begrudgingly agreed, Ryan was relieved that the whole nightmare was thankfully over.
Ryan hobbled as quickly as he could out of the office – with his head down, embarrassed by all the commotion. But he did have a slight smile on his face, feeling kind of weirdly warm all over at how much Kirsten and Sandy actually stood up for him. It was definitely something new, and yet he thought it was something he could actually get used to and maybe even like – not that he'd ever admit that to anyone.
After they finally made it back to the car – Sandy on his left and Kirsten on his right with Ryan trying to maneuver on the damn crutches, he decided lunch at home would be better than at a restaurant. Sandy figured it was because Ryan was tired, and Kirsten figured it was because he was sore.
In reality, Ryan wanted to go home to spare himself any more public humiliation, given the fact both Cohens were still ranting about the meeting, that 'awful' family as well as his leg and calling Dr. Roberts. If the Cohens were going to continue talking about it - and they were going to continue to talk about it because they were Cohens, after all - he'd rather it be at home instead of trying to hide under the table at a restaurant.
Sandy dropped them off at home before going to get lunch and Ryan's prescription. Since the doctor stressed the importance of Ryan staying off his leg as much as possible, Kirsten set him up on the den couch with his leg again propped up on pillows. She brought him some Tylenol, a bottle of water, and she handed him the television remote.
Kirsten offered to get him whatever he needed from the pool house. Ryan tried to tell her he was fine, and he could get what he needed himself. All he got in response was 'the look.' Since Ryan had become very familiar with the look, he knew to stay exactly where he was.
Ryan almost reminded Kirsten that he'd already been on his leg for the past three days. Almost, but he didn't. He was learning, slowly, but still learning. Instead Ryan asked if she would mind getting his history book, and noticed that she actually smiled as she left the den.
Adjusting the melting ice pack, Ryan smiled and shook his head as he thought about that day. It was the sound of a car screeching to an abrupt halt that made him look up quickly. His heart skipped a beat when he saw the Range Rover in the school parking lot, and Kirsten hastily exiting the car.
Ryan sat up straight when Kirsten reached the bench.
"You okay?" she asked, looking at the ice pack on his leg.
"Yeah. It was an accident."
"What kind of accident?" The tone told Ryan that Kirsten didn't believe him. Luckily, the coach and Luke were joining them before Ryan had to respond.
Luke was talking even before he reached them. "Mrs. Cohen, I swear it was an accident. I didn't mean to kick him."
"You kicked him?"
"By accident, I swear. We were both going for the ball at the same time." Luke shrugged his shoulders. "I guess I'm not used to someone being faster than me."
It was Ryan's snort of laughter that made everyone look at him again. Kirsten reached down, but this time, Ryan was quick to show her his leg.
"Look, it's just a bruise. No bleeding, I swear."
Kirsten offered him a small smile before turning to the coach for some sort of confirmation.
"It's true, Kirsten. It really was just an accident, and Ryan really only has a bruise. But given what already happened the last time, Ryan asked that I call you."
When Kirsten looked at Ryan again, her smile was bigger, and she put her hand gently on his shoulder. Suddenly, Ryan no longer felt stupid.
He did groan when the coach said, "You know I'm going to need another doctor's note."
Ryan then moaned when Kirsten said, "I figured as much. His appointment is in twenty minutes."
As Luke helped him to the car, Ryan pointed toward the school. "My stuff…"
"Don't worry. I'll drop it off at your house after practice. See how you're doing. Again, man, I'm sorry."
Ryan was about to tell him, "no worries" when that distinct black BMW came screeching into the parking lot.
Sandy quickly replaced Luke at Ryan's side. "What happened?"
"It was an accident." Ryan couldn't help it that he sounded annoyed, but damn – did the coach have to call both of them? One was enough, both was definite overkill. It was an accident. A stupid accident. It didn't help that Luke suddenly disappeared with a quick but rather nervous, "Catch ya later, Chino."
Just like Kirsten, Sandy demanded to know, "What kind of accident?"
Ryan looked at Kirsten, not having any problem with letting her do the explaining this time.
"Don't worry, it's nothing serious. Just a practice accident, but Ryan told the coach to call."
Ryan didn't miss the fact that Kirsten somehow sounded strangely proud of that fact, and that made Ryan blush. He climbed into the passenger seat of the Range Rover as Kirsten and Sandy continued to talk.
Kirsten closed his car door before turning back to Sandy. "How did you know? Your secretary said you were meeting with clients."
Sandy pulled a small pink note from his pocket. "I was, but then she slipped me this message, 'School called. Son's been hurt at practice.' You didn't answer your cell so I didn't know what to think."
He looked from Kirsten to Ryan and back to Kirsten again. Ryan felt guilty when he finally noticed the frazzled look on Sandy's face. "Sorry. It was just me…"
"Yeah, I kind of figured that one out," Sandy said. "Unless, of course, Seth suddenly starting playing sports sometime this afternoon, or Lit Mag was practicing for something I wasn't aware of."
"Oh. I, ah…" Ryan didn't know what to say as they both looked at him. Guilt quickly gave way right back to stupid, and Ryan looked at his leg, at his team practicing, at the dashboard – anywhere but at Kirsten and Sandy. He figured he'd let them talk, and he would just…not.
"I'm sorry, Sandy. I left my phone in the car when I was getting Ryan. I was going to call you again on our way to the doctor's."
"Doctor's? I thought you said it wasn't serious." Sandy moved quickly towards the car, trying to see what exactly Ryan's injury was.
"It's just a bruise." Again, Ryan knew he probably shouldn't sound so exasperated, but it was really just a bruise.
"On his bad leg," Kirsten added. "It's just a precaution. Bill needs a note before Ryan can continue to play, and since there's still some residual swelling and scarring, Dr. Z said to bring Ryan in."
Sandy nodded because apparently taking Ryan to a "Dr. Z" made complete sense to him, but not to Ryan.
"What is a 'Dr. Z'?" he asked.
"She's Dr. Adam's partner," Kirsten said. "Judy's last name is a little difficult to pronounce so all the kids just call her 'Dr. Z'. You'll like her, I promise."
Ryan mumbled a simple, "fine" as he closed his eyes and laid his head back. He didn't bother to open them when he heard Sandy ask, "Do you want me to come with you?"
Nor did he open them when he heard Kirsten. "That's okay. I have the afternoon free." Ryan doubted she did, but he wasn't going to say anything. Something else he was slowly learning – don't argue even if you know it's not true.
He heard them kiss but still didn't open his eyes. "Call me after the appointment." Ryan figured he was talking to Kirsten, but then felt a pat on his arm. He opened his eyes to find Sandy reaching through the car window. "Take care, kid. Do whatever the doctor says, and I'll see you later."
Ryan nodded as he waved goodbye, watching as Sandy walked back to the BMW, looking over his shoulder a couple of times before climbing into his car and driving away.
"Ready to go?" Kirsten asked as she put the Rover in reverse.
Ryan's "yeah" was quiet since he wasn't sure what else to say. He gave a couple of sideways glances in Kirsten's direction, but if she noticed, she didn't say anything. Not at first.
After a few very quiet minutes, she finally said, "I'm glad you called."
"Thanks." Ryan knew he was blushing again. "I, ah… thanks."
"If you're good, I'm sure Dr. Z will give you a lollipop." It was obviously a bad joke, but it still had the desired effect of at least making Ryan chuckle.
"As long as I don't get another shot."
"Nah. It's just a bruise. You'll be fine."
Sure – he'd be fine. Just as long as he remembered to call when he got hurt. For whatever reason, it made them happy. So, yeah – he'd be fine as long as he called.
One less Cohen type thing he needed to learn. Call when I'm hurt. Got it. No problem.