It had been about nine days before I saw Stable Boy again. We'd barely had any schoolwork in art class since he left and now that he was back, so was Muffin. I could speak for everyone when I say I saw a terrible limp in the way he walked. I saw him wince once or twice as he led Muffin onto the stage. It was only from gossip, but they kept saying there was also a rodeo involved. I never watched rodeos but I knew they rode furious bulls in one and his limp could've easily had something to do with it—this assuming he had participated in a rodeo. I tried not to imagine what happened to him.
Muffin gently nudged him with her nose and tried to follow him up the stairs when he went to take his seat, but he snapped his fingers and pointed back to the stage. She had to be just as obedient as Thunder because she responded to a mere gesture, like she knew what he wanted her to do.
I felt a pang of pity when I saw him ease himself into a seat right beside the stairs—not because he was just sitting down, but because he had a hard time doing it.
I looked away. My thoughts were already depressing enough; I didn't need to see anything depressing. And Stable Boy didn't look like he was playing a prank with his leg. If anything it had to embarrass him to be walking like that.
I looked Muffin over and compared her to my own drawing. It was hard to imagine how accurate my drawing was. If she struck the same pose, then my drawing would be like a mini-Muffin. From time to time I liked to compare my work to that of the others. This was one of those times. I was a little disappointed to see about two other people having drawn the exact same poses as mine, and three others similar to mine. Though it was understandable as to why they had the same or similar poses—it was one horse with no background. Naturally, there wasn't much you could do with that. That thought kind of made me wonder why Danny had looked at my drawing like it was the eighth wonder of the world. Then again, he probably didn't get to browse through everyone's work. Maybe he just didn't know; in fact, he could've been too busy to know. What with all those other ghosts out to get him and helping me study, he didn't likely get the time to simply kick back and enjoy the arts.
It made me feel kind of guilty for taking up his time but I desperately needed his help. Besides, he would be checking on me whenever he got back thanks to my awesome little concussion. I didn't know whether it had healed yet but I did still have headaches—I wasn't sure if that was the concussion or the stress from college.
In Anatomy, Danny's notes and tips had really paid off. I was doing very well in a subject I hated and could barely grasp. Thanks to Danny, I was making amazing grades without extra credit.
For the past two days I had been waiting for Danny to come back. It was a little embarrassing to get this way over a ghost—not that he was the stereotypical ghost—but for some reason that I myself didn't know, I was looking forward to his return. Maybe it was because he was a ghost—because he was so different and unique—that I was getting excited, knowing it was around the time he said he would be back. I was being careful about my excitement though. It was a trigger for narcolepsy, so naturally that was one emotion I didn't allow to grow very strong. It could be present, thankfully, but just not strong.
After an hour of focusing on my Calculus work—and "saving" Anatomy for last this time—I heard a rap on the door. Either it was my mother—because she really loved to drop in unexpectedly and without any warning whatsoever, as I learned several times while staying over at a friend's house—or it was Danny. Or, if I was unlucky enough, it could be Ms. Slender wanting to know how I was doing. She hadn't even mentioned my fainting spells, but she did give me these strange looks from time to time. I was really hoping it wasn't her...
To my pure relief, it was Danny. I noticed that unlike most of the other times I saw him, he was floating. This time one of his knees stuck out a little more than the other, but I passed it off as nothing.
"Hey there," he greeted.
I smiled and gestured for him to come in.
"So how are you doing in Anatomy? Did my notes help?" he asked. "I tried to make them just right—not too much, not too little."
I nodded. "They worked wonders. I can't thank you enough for doing that for me. You're not—"
I stopped. He wasn't like the others, was what I was going to say. But if I'd said that, he would question why and how. I wasn't up for talking about my past. Unless my dad contacted me, I was in the present and had no need to even think about the past.
"I'm not what?" he asked, pulling my Anatomy textbook out from my backpack.
I stalled for a minute. I mean, how do you lie to a ghost?
"You're not normal," I decided.
Then his expression changed and I regretted having said that.
"Not normal...how?" he mumbled.
"N-No, I didn't mean it in a bad way," I backpedaled. "I meant it as a good way. You know, because you're helping me out. How many other ghosts would do that?"
He smiled—which immediately took away my guilt—and tried to sit cross-legged. Thing was, he failed. One of his legs dropped back down as he hissed in what I took to be pain.
"Hey, um... Are you okay?" I asked, not taking my eyes off his leg. It seemed to be a little...crooked. Last time I checked, legs didn't bend that way.
"Oh, yeah, I'm fine. I get hurt a lot but I heal fast. Tomorrow or the day after, my leg will be completely fine."
"Is it broken? Because it looks broken," I pointed out.
He bit his lip and nodded. "It is. I don't have a cast to hold it in place, but like I said, it'll heal soon. And don't worry, when it does heal, my leg will look like it was never broken to begin with."
"Don't you want painkillers for that?" Not that I had any on me, but I figured it would be polite to ask.
He shook his head. "No. You remember my tongue? It healed the next day."
That much was true—to my understanding anyway. He hadn't sounded like he still had a swollen tongue when he taunted that black, formless shadow...thing. I was still fuzzy on it—didn't know whether that was a ghost or some kind of monster.
"Still..." I murmured.
He held his hands up. "Don't. Stop worrying about me."
"Just how bad is your leg?" I continued, not only ignoring him but also noticing that it wasn't bent the way a broken leg normally was.
He looked down at it and sighed. "It's broken in two places but stop worrying. It's a leg; it's not the end of the world. Now, why don't we just get started on Anatomy?"
"How did your leg break in two places?"
"Look, I'd really rather not talk about my leg all night. You need to trust me. It will heal and it will show you that you had no reason to worry in the first place. Let's get down to Anatomy," he said.
Why was he getting so defensive? I asked a simple question. Maybe it was embarrassing...? I didn't know what could be so embarrassing about a broken bone—one that was broken in two places—but I didn't know much about him; only that he was, judging by how he acted so far, a friendly ghost.
But if there was one thing he needed to know about me, it was that I didn't trust anyone. Not to say that he wasn't kind, but that was just the way I was. When it came to me, there was a big difference between trusting someone and being able to enjoy their company. I enjoyed his company...nothing more.
I didn't have the heart to tell him I didn't trust him. He was doing everything he could to help me with a subject I struggled with, and he'd gone to great lengths to prove it. Then he worried about my concussion, which I was sure he still felt guilty about causing despite it being an accident. Finally, he saw me pass out and, thanks to my lie, went out to get me some food thinking I was just that hungry. He never had to do any of this. I only asked him to help me study, but I never asked him, or expected him, to do anything else.
In the end I conceded. "Okay. So we're now into—"
"Sweat glands," he finished for me.
"How did you know that?" I asked suspiciously.
"You bookmarked the page," he bluntly replied.
True. And now I felt stupid for asking that.
"All right, so... Sweat glands, they make sweat," I quickly said, trying to get back on topic—and hopefully make him forget that I asked him how he knew when the bookmark was right there.
He nodded. "Yes, and what does sweat do?"
It made you smell bad.
"Keeps you cool. Or I guess, more scientifically, regulation of body temperature," I answered.
"And it serves another purpose..." he said, letting the sentence linger for a moment.
It made you feel gross.
"I think my teacher said something about bacteria...?" I mumbled, more to myself than him.
"It makes your skin slippery. The bacteria have a harder time staying on," he clarified.
I couldn't help but notice that his tone was still stiff. I figured that simply dropping the subject of his leg would let him relax a little bit, but it didn't look like it was working. His body was still tense and he still seemed uneasy. Why? It was just a question about his leg; it wasn't like I was attacking him.
I was about to remind him that he kept worrying about my concussion, so I could have a turn to worry about him, but I couldn't even open my mouth to talk.
"Sorry," he said. "I just... I'm a little edgy right now."
About what? "Is this about your leg?"
"No, it's not," he replied. "I just have my own problems I'm going through right now. It's making me nervous."
Did he realize that he was only giving me more questions? Because he really was and it was really getting to me. But I wouldn't ask him any of them. I didn't want to pressure him and if he wanted to talk about it, I wanted him to come to me without feeling like he would regret it. I knew nobody had a perfect life—or afterlife, in his case—so it would be wrong of me to stick my nose in where it didn't belong. Although to be fair, I was only a good listener. I couldn't give very good advice. I guess I was just the kind of person who would let you get something off your chest without judgment.
"Try to rest for a little while. It'll help you relax," I suggested, going over to pat my bed.
He let out a breath and shook his head. "No, I'm fine. Why don't we just study?"
This time it was my turn to shake my head. "No. Not until you get some rest."
"Danny..." I warned.
"Somehow I get the feeling I can't win for losing with you," he said.
I snapped my fingers and pointed to the bed. "Rest. I still have some notes; I can go off those."
He sighed and glided over to my bed, carefully dragging his leg onto it so he could lie down. It was hard to believe he was actually giving up. It was for his own good though. He needed to rest, not be up and about helping me study when I still had notes left.
It was sweet, though...the way he was so determined to help me study just because he knew I needed help. But apparently he didn't realize that he already had, and still was thanks to his notes.