Block and Strike(7)

By: Kelly Jensen


Looking up from the page of bird-scratch he’d tried to read after his six o’clock wake up call, the nurse—Willa Kendricks, according to her name tag—said, “You could go, Mr. Wilson, ah, Max, right?” He nodded, perplexed. He didn’t remember telling anyone he preferred his second name to his first. In fact, he didn’t remember telling them his name at all. “But it’s not recommended. A concussion can be pretty serious. Have you had one before?”

“Yes, and I lived.”

Her gray eyes squinted a moment. Her lips pressed together. Max didn’t even try to guess at her thoughts. “My brother can come get you,” she said.

“Huh?”

“He’s the one who brought you in here and he offered to drive you home if we couldn’t contact your family.”

“Huh?”

He’d taken a knock to the head. Eloquence was not required.

“He lives upstairs.”

Max looked up at the ceiling and immediately regretted it. Pain swirled around the back of his skull and down his spine. His nose throbbed. Straightening, he swallowed a groan. Willa’s mouth had curved into a sympathetic smile. “You really don’t like hospitals, do you?”

“No.”

“Not many folks do, I suppose. So, want me to call him?”

“Who?”

“Jake.”

“Who’s Jake?”

“My brother.”

Oh. So weird. Why would some stranger offer to drive him home? “Wait, you said he lives upstairs?” Did she mean the guy who lived in the apartment over Wu’s World? The blond-haired, gray-eyed demigod who’d held the door open for him the day it’d bucketed down rain? “Ah, um, I could call my girlfriend.” The words were ground-up gravel in his throat.

“Oh, did you remember her number?”

“No.”

Willa pulled a pen from the pocket of her scrubs. “What’s her name?”

“Melanie.”

“Last name?”

He really didn’t want to see Melanie and he couldn’t remember what lies he’d told last night. “Can’t I just go? Please?” Annoyingly, his voice broke on the plea.

Pen poised over the small notepad, Willa gave him a long, hard look. Then she dipped her head into a gentle nod. “I’ll fill your prescription for you and organize the paperwork. And find you a shirt. Okay? Just let me do that and I’ll let you go.”

It was as good a deal as he was likely to get, so Max returned her nod, his as gentle, and parked his butt on the side of the bed.

Half an hour later, sheaf of paper in hand, loose, borrowed T-shirt flapping around his hips, Max limped slowly toward the double glass doors of the hospital. A single word sang through his blood: freedom. And it hurt. Everything hurt, but he was used to it. Wasn’t like he hadn’t had the stuffing kicked out of him before.

The doors whooshed open, revealing bright sunlight, and pain stabbed him directly through the eyes. Or the eye. The thing about having one closed eye was that he couldn’t see the shocked looks from anyone on his left side. He could see the man standing in the open doors, though, a corona of sunlight flaring around his blond head, and the shock on his face seemed worse, somehow.

It was the guy from upstairs. Willa’s brother.

“Hey,” the golden man said. He reached for Max’s arm. “How are you doing? All right to walk? I’d have come upstairs, you know.”

Max jerked his arm free of the man’s grasp. What was his name? Willa had mentioned it. “I think you’ve got the wrong person,” he said.

“Nope, I’m here for you. Max, right?”

Sighing hurt. He had to remember sighing hurt.

The golden man thrust out a hand. “Jake.”

Max looked at the hand before giving it a brief shake. His mother hadn’t raised him to be rude. Or maybe he was just too tired and sore to continue being an ass. “My girlfriend is coming to pick me up.”

Jake’s tentative smile folded up and left his face. “Oh.”

“Yeah.” Max started to swipe his hair out of his eyes, then remembered that would hurt. “Um, sorry?”

“Yeah, no, that’s cool. Want me to wait with you?”