Love is like racing across the frozen tundra on a snowmobile which flips over, trapping you underneath. At night, the ice-weasels come.- Tom Robbins, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas
Love is a word, what matters is the connection that word implies.
-Rama Chandra(Bernard White), The Matrix Revolutions
Snapping out of her trance-like state, Sylvia refocused her gaze on the man across the table. "Sorry. What's up?"
"We're done." Ed looked at her carefully. "You okay?"
"I don't know," she admitted, letting out a heavy sigh and taking a look around. "Hey, where'd everyone go?"
"Hit the showers," Ed answered. "I sent Maggie's hell-raiser to get your bag from your car."
"Thanks." Sylvia started to get out of her chair, the stiffness apparent as she straightened herself up. "Man, that smarts."
"You're insane, you know that?" Ed commented, his face breaking into a grin. "Friggin' crazy."
Sylvia smiled back. "Shut up." The smile dropped, just a little. "It went okay, right?"
"What- oh yeah, it went great." Ed waved his hand. "Nothing to worry about."
Sylvia pursed her lips. "You sure about that?"
Ed rolled his eyes. "Yes, I'm sure. Come on." He walked around the table and grabbed hold of Sylvia's arm. "I'll help you down the hall."
"Son of a BITCH!"
The loud noises of the horn and her brother's voice combined jolted Maggie from her snoozing state and back into the real world. "What the hell, Donnie?"
"Stupid idiot cut me off- probably talking on his cellphone," Donnie groused. "Can we write him up for–"
"Not now, Donnie," Maggie interjected wearily. "Can we just go? I mean, what's more important? Our brother or a minor traffic violation?"
"Fine," Donnie grumbled, merging into the next lane; Maggie leaned back into her previous position and closed her eyes.
Greg had gone almost the full length of the walkway before he realized that someone was sitting on his front step. "Sylvia?"
Sylvia made a noncommittal wave of greeting and gave him a weak smile. "Hey."
Greg reached out to help her up. "You shouldn't be out here."
"I've been medically cleared. I can go back to work whenever I want… well, I can go back on Monday- for light duty only." The phrase 'light duty' was given particular emphasis by Sylvia's tight grip on his arm.
"Yeah, I can tell." Greg looped Sylvia's arm through his as they walked to the door.
"And I forgot my key."
" I figured that too." Opening the door, Greg gently pulled her through the door before turning around and closing the door again. "Who's taking care of Charlie?"
"Mia." Sylvia toed off her shoes and walked into the hallway, continuing down towards the family room. "She offered to stay for a while, if I needed her to."
"And do you?" Greg asked, walking in to join her. Sylvia sat down on the couch. "I don't know-maybe. I told her that I needed to talk to you; she seemed to derive a lot from that statement."
Greg took a seat next to her. "So?"
"So…" Reaching for Greg's hand, Sylvia dragged it over to her lap and held it between her own hands. "I don't know what to do, Greg."
"What do you mean?"
Sylvia turned her head to look at him, and Greg saw the tears that were threatening to fall from the corners of her eyes.
Sylvia blinked twice before speaking again. "I cried after you told me, I sat and cried with Charlie, I cried after the funeral, I yelled, I screamed, I threw things- I thought I had exhausted all the coping mechanisms."
"But?" Greg prompted. Sylvia sniffed before replying. "But then I was home sick for a week, and I had nothing to do but sit and think about how there was still a big hole that hadn't been filled up, and… and I still have no idea how to fill it." The brimming tears pushed their way over the edge and started to roll down her cheeks. Squeezing Greg's hand, Sylvia next spoke in a tiny voice so unlike her own. "I don't know what to do. I guess I thought that the negotiator part of you might be able to make it go away, or something, but…" Here she stopped, and began to sob. "I don't know what to do."
"Hey." Wrapping his arms around her an pulling her to rest against his chest, Greg pressed a kiss to the top of his girlfriend's head and just sat there with his arms wrapped around her, and with her hands curling themselves around his arm like it was some sort of anchor. "It'll be okay, Sylvia. Everything will turn out okay, I promise."
Sylvia said nothing- she just snuggled up against him and kept crying; Greg kept his arms around her, not letting go, wanting to make sure she felt safe.
And, much later, after Sylvia had fallen asleep and he had left her on the couch and covered her with a blanket, he walked over to his kitchen and picked up the phone, dialling what was now a familiar number.
"Mia? It's Uncle Greg. I'll give you a hundred fifty if you take care of Charlie for the whole weekend."
The two women already in the change room looked up when Sylvia entered, but didn't comment, having been doing enough talking before she came in. They waited until she had put her bag down and started to take stuff out before making any sort of move.
Jules cleared her throat. "Um… you need help with anything, Sylvia?"
"No- well, I do need a towel," Sylvia admitted sheepishly. "This is my go bag, not my gym bag."
"Do you keep both in your car?" Leah asked. Sylvia shook her head. "Just the go bag, in case of emergencies. Or, you know, impromptu sleepovers."
Jules snorted in laughter, knowing exactly what it was that Sylvia meant. "Right." She grabbed a fresh towel from her locker shelf and handed it to Sylvia. "Here."
"Thanks." Sylvia accepted the towel. "Listen, um…"
Leah got it before Jules did. "I'll be in the showers." She walked out, leaving Sylvia and Jules alone by the lockers; after watching Leah leave, Jules turned back towards Sylvia. "Everything okay, Sylvia?"
Sylvia chewed on her lower lip a few seconds before nodding. "Yeah, everything's fine, it's just… how's Greg doing, really?" She sat down, very awkwardly- Jules walked over and sat down next to her. "He's still in shock, pretty much. You heard Ed talking about the gas."
Sylvia nodded, then took a deep breath. "What else? I mean, besides the gas and, you know, Dean."
"He apparently got shoved off a flight of stairs," Jules told her, "so he has a gash on the back of his head- he'll probably have a concussion, too."
"Okay, so, that's two of us that probably won't sleep tonight," Sylvia mused. "Good thing Tuesday was laundry day."
Jules' forehead creased in confusion. "Why does that matter?"
"Fresh bed linen for the pullout couch- which, you know, can be a good place to hang out when you can't sleep." Sylvia let out a small chuckle in spite of herself, which made Jules smile. "Nice."
"Yeah." Suddenly, Sylvia looked at her wrist. "Damn."
"What's up?" Jules asked. Sylvia let out a huff of impatience. "Just remembered I'm not supposed to get this wet. I can go without it, but I can't really get it off by myself." She looked at Jules. "Would you mind?"
"Not at all," Jules replied, sliding a little closer so that she could take Sylvia's wrist in her hand. "We'll have it off in no time."