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Recovery

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With the air filling my lungs, I lunged ahead at the last stretch of the field. Jay was still at the lead, but the anger from Riley’s comment earlier was driving me to new and improved speeds. Letting these thoughts and feelings propel me to the front, I saw the distance between me and Jay close inch by inch until I was sprinting past him. Coming to the big oak tree past the end of the field, I began slowing down.

One second I had the tree in my sights, and the next I was being flipped over like a toy truck accidentally kicked by a toddler.

“Isla!” screamed Jay as I lay on my back, staring at the starry night sky, not daring to make a move. I heard his footsteps trampling the ground as he ran to me, falling to his knees at my side. “Isla! Can you breathe? Can you see me? Wiggle your toes!”

“Stop screaming. You’re posse’s going to show up and trample me yet again,” I whispered in an attempt to relieve his worries, although I couldn’t find myself laughing, either. The wind had been knocked out of me, so breathing, and making jokes, was a thousand times more difficult. He stared at me with a solemn face, not a hint of amusement on his face; it was probably best not to mention that he wouldn’t be able to see my toes wiggle, or not, because I had sneakers on.

“This isn’t funny, Isla. You could be seriously hurt,” he remarked in a concerned tone. There went my efforts to extinguish them. “Where does it hurt?”

“Um, my ankle... and my knee… and my elbow… and I think my head, too,” I replied dutifully. A flash of panic came over his face as he ran his hands over my hair. I couldn’t tell if he was doing it in an attempt to comfort me or find any injuries. In my mind, it was for the former reason.

“Okay, any pain when I do this?” he asked as he moved my ankle. A sharp pain shot through from where his hand was placed.

“Yes!” I cried out unintentionally.

To my surprise, a smile crept upon his face. ‘”I thought we didn’t want my posse to show up,” he teased.

I shot him a pointed look, but was secretly relieved that he wasn’t terribly worried. I tried to prop myself up on my elbows but ended up crying out in pain.

“Hey, hey, hey. We’re not there, yet. One step at a time, Isla,” he consoled me.

“I can get up, really,” I tried to persuade him. “Just help me… please.” He wasn’t convinced, that was for sure, but I started struggling to get up and he had no choice but to help me. With one of his arms around my waist and the other in my hand, I stood up but didn’t put all my weight on my right foot because my ankle was still in pain.

I grunted with pain, “You’re hurting me.” He looked at me with a puzzled expression so I explained , “Your arm. My waist,” as if that would help clarify anything. I was having trouble making complete sentences from a combination of the throb from the injuries and Jay being so incredibly close.

“Let me see,” he remarked, as he ran his hand over my left side, lifting up my shirt as he did so. The cold night air hit my exposed skin, and I instantly sucked in a breath and tightened my grip on his shoulder.
He looked up at me, the concern once again flooding his face. “It’s fine,” I reassured him. “Just help me to my room and I’ll take care of it.”
Shocked, and slightly amused, he inquired, “Do you ever let anyone do anything for you?”
It was a simple enough question, but suddenly I was highly uncomfortable. “Um,” I hesitated, looking in his eyes which were expectantly waiting, “What does that have to do with anything?” I asked, hoping to throw him off.
“Everything,” exclaimed Jay while stepping in front of me, his arm now planted above the bloody skin on my waist, so he wouldn’t hurt me.
As if the question wasn’t difficult enough, there was the fact that he was so close to stump me even more. “Well, of course I do,” I lied with my most convincing smile.
The moment I said it, I knew he wasn’t buying any of it. He didn’t react at first, just kept staring in my eyes as if to give me the chance to correct myself and tell the truth. I stayed silent. Suddenly, a twinkle appeared in his eyes as if he’d just come up with a genius plan that would solve all his problems.
“All right, then,” he declared with a smile. “So you’re staying with me tonight.” He took advantage of my speechlessness and started steering me in the direction of his dorm room.

“No, no, no, no, no. Not happening.” I affirmed, although it was to no avail since he just continued walking without hesitation.

“And why not? You said you let others do things for you, right? Well, I’m only trying to help so it shouldn’t be a problem,” he responded calmly and confidently. My grip tightened around his shoulder.

There was no way I could sleep over in his room. On the one hand, I now looked like a toy truck that had accidentally been kicked by a toddler… and bled. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure how much I could trust myself to resist doing something I’d regret, like kissing Jay… or drooling on his pillow.

I sighed loudly. “I appreciate it, I really do, but I have classes in the morning so, you see, I can’t,” I said with a faux frown, proud that I found an adequate excuse that would get me out of staying over.

He chuckled, “Yep, I know. In fact, we have the same class first thing in the morning so we can walk to class together.” He turned to me with a smile, and I had to admit that there was a teeny tiny chance I wasn’t going to get out of this one. However, there was a growing chance that I’d be glad I wasn’t able to.

Realizing that I lost the argument miserably, I let him guide me to his dorm as I hobbled pitifully beside him. We didn’t have to walk as far as we would have if we were headed toward my dorm because his was located in the Capsey Complex which was the newly renovated individual apartments and happened to be the most costly of them all. I guess he could afford it, being a soccer superstar and all.

“Here we are. Home sweet home,” he declared as I limped in, his arm finally leaving my waist.

“More like home suite home, if you ask me,” I blurted out, the sight of his “room” taking me by surprise. It was a fully furnished apartment (not by him or there would have just been a bed and a desk), perhaps by a professional designer, with the thematic colors of gray and brown. Designing and arranging a room with this much detail and furniture must have taken at least a week.

Walking in, there was a living room space with a leather couch and loveseats facing a huge plasma TV. On the opposite side of the room was a king-sized bed that I had only before seen in IKEA magazines, pillows and all.

“You sleep on that? It’s ginormous!” I exclaimed, pointing to the bed.

“Actually, sleeping isn’t the only thing I do on there,” he replied with a wink, as I looked at him in disgust.

“Ew…” I said, trying to push away thoughts of him with other girls doing things I’d rather not think about.

“I was talking about studying… Jeez, judgmental much?” he retorted with a mock offended expression. I laughed and headed toward the bathroom which could easily be found in a millionaire’s home. “Hold on. I’ll get you a towel,” he announced.

“Thanks,” I shouted since he was walking to the other side of the room, “By the way, I don’t exactly have an extra pair of clothes on me… if you know what I mean.” I saw him heading back, a towel in his hands, and a shocked expression on his face.

“Whoa. I don’t think I’m okay with that. Just because you’re handicapped now doesn’t mean…” he started, but I promptly interrupted him.

“Hey! I’m not handicapped! I just have a slight… walking problem,” I explained. “And I was talking about getting me a shirt. Jeez, Jay… judgmental much?” I giggled as he came up to me and handed me the towel.

“Nice one, Isla. I bet you’re very proud of yourself,” he said, pointedly leaning in so he was inches from my face. “So, ladies first.” He smiled at me and just as I was about to ask what the heck he was talking about, I realized it was about the shower.

“Hey, thank you,” I revealed.

“For what?” he asked as I answered with a pointed look. “Don’t mention it. I’ll always be there if you need anything.” With those words, he made keeping my emotions in check that much harder.
???????

As Isla closed the bathroom door, I let out the breath I’d been holding. Cohen’s advice to not get involved with anyone during college was getting more and more difficult to follow. When I saw her trip over the tree root, my insides sank and even as fast as I was running, it wasn’t nearly fast enough. I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible, so her injuries were the perfect excuse. It was better for her to stay with me tonight; I could keep an eye on her, and make sure she didn’t have a concussion, among other things.

I went to the closet and found my biggest shirt, an “I heart NYC” T-shirt that I’d purchased as a souvenir before the school year started. Hopefully, it would do.

Just to be on the safe side, I decided to call my dad and see what he’d say about her injuries. I dialed his number, hoping he wouldn’t be busy.

“Hey, Jay, “answered my dad, clearly in a hurry judging from his voice.

“Dad! Quick question- I have a friend who tripped and fell pretty bad. What are the chances she could get a concussion?” I tried to make it as fast as possible before he hung up on me.

“She, huh?” suddenly he sounded like he had all the time in the world.

“Dad, please. I’ll tell you about it later,” I assured him quickly.

“Yes, she could have a concussion. Best thing to do is keep her close by and look out for any symptoms: fatigue, nausea/vomiting, slurred speech, amnesia, dizziness, headache,” he explained.

“Okay, and do I keep her awake?”

“Just for a little while to see if any of these symptoms arise, but in an hour or two you should let her rest. Make sure you wake her up periodically to assure that symptoms don’t get worse and that she’s conscious. If anything, call me.”

“Thanks, Dad,” I replied and let out a sigh.

“You betcha. I have to go, though. Sorry, Jay.”

“No, it’s fine. Don’t worry. Love you,” I answered.

“Love you, too. Bye.” I hung up and started for the closet. I took out the hydrogen peroxide and some cotton balls. She couldn’t see her side that well, but whatever she had fell on had managed to scrape the entire area around her side abs and ribs.

“Jay!” called out Isla from the other side of the room.

“Yeah?” I answered as I headed toward the bathroom.

“Can I get a shirt?”

I knocked on the door. “Yeah, here you go.” She opened the door, standing there in nothing but a towel. I was so concerned with her injuries, that I hadn’t had the time to mentally prepare for her looking like this, so I was only able to stop and stare. There were still droplets of water on her shoulders and steam was flowing out from the opening in the door.

“What?” she asked defensively, probably thinking that her hair didn’t look right or something ridiculous like that.

“Um, your shoulder,” I pointed to her left, “It’s getting dark blue.”

She examined her shoulder and sighed, “Yeah, I think half my body will be black and blue by tomorrow.”

I smiled, because I didn’t know what else would look normal in the face of the thoughts running through my mind. “Oh, here you go.” I handed her the shirt and added, “By the way, I’m going to have to clean your scratches with some peroxide.”

A cloud of dread washed over her face, topped off with an involuntary pout. “Do we have to? I hate it,” she sounded like a little girl, which only made her more irresistible. “It always stings.”

“Yes, and don’t worry. Just trust me, and it won’t hurt,” I consoled her.

She smiled and chirped, “All right, then. But it’s all on you now.” She closed the door to change and I had to fight myself to not barge in, but wait outside patiently.

I busied myself by unfixing the bed and taking away the top covers and some of the pillows. After what seemed like eternity, she came out, my T-shirt more than oversized on her body.

Seeing me unfix the bed, she exclaimed, “Oh, I’ll sleep on the couch. It’s fine.”

“Um, no, actually, you’re not. I’m not going to let you sleep on that uncomfortable thing after you went through all that pain. Besides, I’m supposed to keep an eye on you to make sure you don’t have a concussion, which means waking you up every couple of hours. Don’t think I’ll be getting up at 3 a.m. so I can go all the way to the couch and see if you’re okay.” I hoped my lack of oxygen at the end wasn’t a dead giveaway of how hard I was trying to convince her that this was best for her… and me.

She seemed skeptical, but ended up yawning and giving in. Things went so much better when she let me win arguments. “’Kay, but let me know if you want me to move.”

I laughed and reassured her, “Won’t happen.” I helped her to the bed and had her lay down as I wet a cotton ball with peroxide.

I slowly pulled her shirt up to her waist, only to realize that the only thing she was wearing under it was a gray pair of lacey underwear. I chuckled at the color.

“Are you laughing at me?” she demanded with a serious face.

The last thing I needed was to offend her. “No, Isla. Your underwear matches my room, that’s all” I looked at her and chuckled. She seemed embarrassed as she stuttered for a response, “I didn’t know…”

As I dabbed at her wound with the cotton, a painful moan escaped her and she pulled away.

“You said it wouldn’t hurt,” she remarked accusingly, the pout returning to her lips.

“You’re right. I’m sorry. Let’s try it again. Trust me, it won’t hurt now,” she looked at me hesitantly this time, still not letting me touch her. “I promise,” I whispered, as I looked in her eyes and hoped she could see I was being genuine.

Not breaking my gaze, she slid back over to me, her bare thigh touching mine as I sat on the edge of the bed and she lay down next to me. I went to dab at the wound again, this time stooping down to blow on the area simultaneously. She didn’t squirm or pull away, so I continued to clean the wound. My lips were inches from her waist but I fought the urge to make a move on her. She was vulnerable and she finally trusted me; I couldn’t break that trust by giving in to my longing for her. Her perfectly shaped butt cheeks, almost fully exposed by her underwear, challenged my willpower.

“All done,” I announced my voice now hoarse.

She turned on her back and looked up at me, and for a split-second I saw my own desires reflected in her eyes. As soon as I could realize it, though, she had regained her composure and the glint of yearning was gone. “Thanks,” she uttered with a smile.

“No problem. I’m actually going to go take a quick shower unless you need anything,” I declared, attempting to get an opportunity to gain my own constraint which was severely lacking.

“Yeah, go ahead. No, I’m okay now,” she assured me, and somehow the “now” at the end let me know that on some level she shared some of the feelings and desires that I had for her, as well.
???????

“Isla? Isla?... Are you ok?” I heard Jay’s voice, replete with worry yet again, as I struggled to open my eyes.

“M’yeah,” I mumbled, and heard him sigh with relief. “Why?”

“Just making sure. You fell asleep. I’m back now,” he answered, sliding in bed next to me. While he slipped under the covers, I realized that instead of going to the other side of his huge bed, he was coming to sleep next to me. A smile crept upon my face and I snuggled closer to him.

Instead of pulling away or telling me to keep my distance like I feared he would, Jay whispered, “Come here.” I slid closer to him, wrapping my leg over his and placing my head on his chest. I felt him breathe under my head, his chest moving up and down with each breath. His fingers ran down my right side, tracing the contour of my curves, from my abs to my waist and my thighs. Since I was on my side, I placed my right hand on his abs, which my fingers outlined in an attempt to eliminate the butterflies in my stomach, which were getting deeper every time he caressed a different part of my body. We remained like this for several minutes, letting the heat from our bodies meet and our hands roam, Jay’s on my thighs and back, and mine on his chest and abs.

Our craving for each other was reaching a new level of intensity which I felt by our more fervent breathing so my last ounce of willpower gave me the brilliant idea to whisper, “I might drool on you… when I fall asleep.”

I heard Jay groan and immediately thought that I had succeeded in turning him off. Out of nowhere, though, he proved me wrong as he slid from underneath and moved above me, careful not to place any of his weight on my newly bruised body. I could roughly make out the outline of his face and his lips, as they slowly closed the distance between us.

The kiss was one of those embraces that make you forget you know how to breathe, so you get lost in the touch and caress of the other person. You realize that all those times you spent imagining this happening pale in comparison to experiencing the real thing.

His hand was stroking my hair, while mine ran down his back, teasing him to do more.





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