Part 9 ~ Pretty Damn Good

      "Have any of you guys seen Taz?"  Fulton asked the group at lunch the next day.

      He had waited by the gates for her before school but she either hadn't turned up, or was running late.

      "Missing her already?"  Charlie teased.

      "Like you weren't glued to Linda's side when she finally admitted defeat and started dating you, Spazway."  Goldberg pointed out.

      "Wasn't she off yesterday?"  Julie asked.  "Maybe she's still ill."

      Fulton nodded, but kept quiet, knowing Taz wouldn't want them to know she was at the hospital.

      "Looking for your girlfriend?"  Portman asked, walking over.

      "Yeah, you seen her?"

      "Yeah, she was heading towards the rink, I shouted to her but I don't think she heard me."

      "Thanks."  Fulton started to leave, ignoring the catcalls from his team.

      "You've got it bad, Fulton!"  Charlie yelled.

      He decided that Charlie might have a point.

*~*~*~*~*

      He found Taz sitting in the stands, with her face in her hands, crying.

      He walked over to her and wrapped his arms around her.  He rocked her as she cried.  "What's wrong?"

      She wiped her face with her sleeve.  "I've got to have a hip replacement.  On both hips."

      Fulton didn't know what to say, so he stayed quiet and stroked her back.

      "I don't know why I'm so upset."  She continued.  "It's not like I didn't know this was coming.  I just didn't realise it would be so soon."

      "The shock, I guess."

      "Yeah."  She sighed and wiped her eyes again.  "They don't want to have to operate on me before I graduate.  These things don't last forever and I can't have an unlimited amount."

      "So what else did your doctor say?"

      "No more phys ed for me again, unless I want to do it.  I've got to have physiotherapy and hydrotherapy by trained professionals.  I've got to build up the muscles around my hip to support the bone better.  Hopefully that will delay the need for the operation."

      "Are you scared about the operation?"  He asked, pulling her closer to him.

      She shrugged.  "Yes and no.  I mean, there's a 95% chance of it going perfectly and my limp being barely noticeable."

      "So that's the 'no' part."  He said gently.  "I'm guessing it's the 5% bit that scares you."

      "Well, there's a 1% chance I'll never walk again, a 2% chance the operation will make it worse and a 2% chance there won't be any difference."

      "Did he say what made you hip worse?"  Fulton asked, feeling very guilty for taking her skating.

      "General wear and tear."  She shrugged.

      "Was he sure it wasn't one thing that's made it worse?"  He pressed.

      It suddenly clicked in her mind what he was driving at.  She turned to look him in the eye.  "Fulton, I was born with deformed hips.  Remember what I showed you, what my hip looked like?  Imagine sixteen years of the bone sitting in the wrong place, wearing away at the socket."  She smiled at him.  "Add the fact that they didn't notice what was wrong with me until I was eighteen months old – this was bound to happen."

      She settled in his arms.  "Thanks for listening to me.  I feel better now."  Strangely she did.  Mr Lambert had suggested telling people what was wrong with her, but she had dismissed that suggestion.

      "I've told you before, Taz.  It's not a chore."

      She grinned, and decided to lighten the mood.  "You should have seen Mr Lambert's face when I walked in wearing a hockey jersey.  Then when I mentioned you, he got all star struck.  His kids are big fans."

      He laughed.  "I think kids like me because I smash things."

      "Yeah.  That's the only reason I like you too."  She replied with a grin.

      Whatever response he was going to make was cut off by the sound of classical music filling the air.

      "What's going on?"  She asked.  He shrugged in return, then pointed.

      She followed his gaze and a man glide out onto the ice, pushing a young girl in a wheelchair.  The girl laughed opening her arms wide as the man twirled her around.

      "Is that your Coach?"  She whispered.

      "Yeah, and that's his daughter, Emily.  She was a figure skater before the accident."  He replied.

      "God, I'm a loser."  She muttered.

      "What?"

      "Here's me crying my eyes out because I've got to have an operation and…"  She tailed off, her eyes following Coach Orion and his daughter.  "My life is pretty damn good.  I can walk, I have a great boyfriend, I'm making friends, who cares if people make fun of my limp?"

      He smiled at her.  "Let's get out of here and leave them to it."

      She took one more look at Emily's laughing face then took his hand.

*~*~*~*~*

The End

Notes:

1) I'm assuming the rink belonged to the school.  If I'm wrong, I'll just use the phrase 'creative licence'.  *grins*

2) As far as I know, we didn't find out Coach Orion's daughter's name, so I made it up.  She just looks like an Emily to me.

3) The stats I've quoted are not the stats for all hip replacements, nor are they carved in stone for all people with CHD having hip replacements.  They are simply the stats I was given by my doctor, based on the state of my hips and case history.

Oh, and yay me.  I got through a fic without cursing even once!  Usually my gutter mouth fights me every step of the way!

4) I'm going to write a fic about Julie and Portman separately, since this fic did not follow the plan at all.  I've already started it, and it's called Dropping Anvils.