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“It’s good too see you again,” a tall man with disheveled brown hair said to me as I walked into F.O.C (Florida Orange County) Pro- Rehab. I looked at him with confused eyes, walked away, and continued to the women’s locker room without replying. Who was that guy? I thought to myself. I decided to let it go, he probably confused me with someone else, especially since I had not been here in the longest time. Moving into my new home had taken longer than I expected.
I walked into the locker room and ran into the third bathroom stall like always. Pulling the swimsuit up by my waist I thought, Thank God this covers most of my back and stomach.
“Ouch,” I said under my breath as the strap grazed over my arm onto my shoulder, great there’s another one. I slowly tiptoed out of the stall, checking to make sure no one was around before I quickly wrapped my towel around my whole body. Even the light weight of the towel on my skin made my whole body ache.
I gathered my goggles and swim cap, and headed out the door to the pool arena. I looked and saw that only two other people occupied the pool area; some old man getting helped from another guy that looked like one of the physical therapist or something. Okay good, their backs are turned, I thought as I quickly slid into the pool before the two men noticed me.
Swimming in the pool my mind wandered. I thought about Derek, my ex-boyfriend, and how I felt a little better now since we broke up. After I had been swimming for an hour I decided it was time to leave; I needed to get home before it got too dark out. OH MY GOD! I thought when the physical therapist turned around. It was the tall man with the messy brown hair that said hi to me earlier. He was talking to the old man but managed to shift his body enough to look and smile at me. I didn’t have a clue who this man was. He shook the old man’s wrinkled hand, and started walking toward me. STOP STARING AT HIM SHAYNE! I hopped out of the pool and ran into the locker room, forgetting my towel, before he could get any closer to me.
My heart started beating faster and my breath came quickly as I went in the locker room. I was nervous and scared, and I started to cry. My hands trembled as I pulled out my cell phone to call Seth.
“Seth, can you come get me please?” I sobbed into the phone.
“What’s wrong, and why don’t you have your car with you?”
“A friend dropped me off from work,” I sniffled, “Seth I need to talk to you come get me fast please.”
“Okay, I’ll be there in ten minutes. Love you, bye.”
“Love you,” I replied back, but Seth already hung up.
I started to walk out of the building when I heard a voice.
“HEY! MISS!” it was the physical therapist, shouting at me and coming towards me, again. Just then Seth pulled up in his new black mustang and I jumped into the car.
“Perfect timing Seth,” I said pulling down the car mirror to wipe my eyes.
“Who was that guy? By the way you don’t look that great,” Seth said referring to my puffy eyes and the bruises all over my body.
“Gee, thanks Seth and I have no clue who that guy was, I swear he is a stalker. Earlier today he said hi to me, and now he has been following me all day!”
Seth laughed at the comment of me having a stalker.
“Shayne, you don’t have a stalker, and maybe the guy is just trying to be nice, not everyone is like Derek.” I winced as he said the name. “Oh God Shayne, it’s been weeks since you two broke up, stop letting him still control your life.” I did not respond, Seth was making me really mad. He was my brother; he was supposed to make me feel better. Tears continued to slowly fall down my face the rest of the car ride home, as Seth and I sat in silence.
A new day, Saturday, and that meant no work so I went to Pro- Rehab and swam for a longer time. I managed to get through the front door and to the locker room without seeing that man. I did my everyday routine of getting into my swimsuit, and walked out to the pool. There he was, with the old man again. Quickly he said goodbye to the old man and walked toward me, I couldn’t run.
“Ma’am, I believe this is yours,” he said as he gave me my towel. There he stood in front of me, and he looked even taller standing next to my 5’5 frame. He smiled at me, waiting for me to take the towel. I just stood there. Frozen.
“Thanks,” I said as I reached out to take my towel. He stared. SHOOT. Stupid bruises. I pulled my arm quickly back under the towel. He smiled at me.
“I tried to give it to you yesterday, but I think you were leaving with your boyfriend right when I was trying to give you your towel,” he said, and I laughed at that comment. I could tell he was trying to make conversation, he seemed nice. Maybe Seth was right, all guys are not Derek.
“That wasn’t my boyfriend that was my brother; if you saw his face you would have seen that we are twins.” He laughed, and apologized for the mistake and kept talking. I acted like I was listening but I really was just looking at him. His features were nice. His messy brown hair went perfect with his tan skin tone and he had eyes that were crystal blue. His smile was crooked and cute with a dimple on his right cheek but not the left.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot, I’m Jack.”
“Shayne,” I replied back with a smile. I did not even know this guy, but already around him I felt comfortable. It was a weird feeling that I never got with Derek; I liked this feeling.
For the next couple of months I continued to go to the pool and swim, and every time I was there I saw Jack and talked to him. Our bond became stronger and our friendship grew, more than I planned. Jack helped me become myself again. It was another Saturday, my day. I arrived at the pool and swam, when I finished my laps I saw Jack standing on the other side of the room smiling. Getting out of the pool with ease, I went and said hi to him.
“Hey, after you get changed will you come back out here?” he asked lightly.
“Yea sure, give me five minutes.” I headed towards the women’s locker room, and five minutes later, I was sitting down in a chair across from Jack.
“What’s up?” I asked, a little winded from changing so fast.
“Well I was just wondering if,” his voice got excited, “if you would want to go out to dinner with me sometime, like tonight or tomorrow maybe,” he said with a smile.
I looked at him, I felt my eyes get huge, and I panicked. My eyes started to water, and I stared at him blankly.
“Why would you want to go out with me?” the words slowly came out of my mouth.
“Because I like you, a lot,” he reached out to grab my hand. I pulled away before his hand covered mine.
“Do NOT touch me,” I said sternly.
His face looked worried.
“What’s going on with you?”
“You don’t know me!” I shouted; my voice traveled through the entire pool arena.
“I don’t know you?” he snapped back. His face got hard, his jaw flexed, and his eyes focused on me. “I knew who you were before you even knew I existed!” The sound of his voice grew louder and filled the room. “I noticed you a long time ago. When you first started coming to the pool just to work out, you’d come maybe twice a week. I thought you were cute with your curly blonde hair and big blue eyes.” My cheeks went red at that comment. And then his voice softened. “And then you started coming here everyday, the color that use to be in your face was gone. You had bruises all over your arms and legs, and scratches on your face. Week by week I noticed you withering away, and then you didn’t show up for two weeks. And I -- even though I didn’t know you- I worried.”
The tears fell over my lips and on my hands as I stared at him. No person, besides my family, had ever seemed to care so much about me. “So you knew that my ex-boyfriend was um,” I could not finish, I was too embarrassed.
“That he was abusive? No, I didn’t know but I had an idea. I was just happy to see you here again. That’s why I talked to you.”
Crying from his response I replied, “But why me, why would you spend so much time watching me? There’s nothing special about me.” I looked at him waiting for him to respond to my jumble mess of a life. Instead he leaned over and wiped the tears from my eyes. I shuttered only a little when he touched me. And then he lightly touched my chin, and kissed me. The warmth of his soft lips overpowered mine, but I pulled away.
“Jack…I can’t. I’ve had issues since, my ex Derek. I don’t want to go through that pain again, it was hell, and why tempt the devil if I don’t have too? And then here you come saying you like me. You can’t do this to me! Not now, I finally started to feel happy again.”
His heart melting eyes looked at me with worry and anger.
“Exactly, you started feeling happy when you were around me. Shayne you finally have the color back in your face, and no bruises on your body.” I rubbed my hands up and down my arms at that remark. “You’ve become a person again, why can’t you just let me in your life? I already know about your past, so the hardest part you would deal with is over. There’s something about you, I don’t know what, but something about you makes me want to know you more.”
I did not say anything. I sat there, holding in the next batch of tears that were trying to break through. Both of us sat there for a couple minutes in silence, until the door from the men’s locker room opened, and an old man walked in. I recognized this man; the big round glasses, shiny bald head, purple swim trunks, and hunched over back, this was Jack’s patient.
“Jack, is this the young woman you have been telling me about?” the old man asked.
Jack’s cheeks flushed and his eyes got wide as he glared at the old man.
“You are a lucky lady,” the old man said as he patted his wrinkled hand on my shoulder- I flinched.
The old man smiled at the two of us, and slid into the pool. My conversation with Jack continued.
“Shayne, I’m not going to hurt you.”
My face was locked to the ground as he continued speaking.
“Look, Shayne, I like you,” he continued slowly. Why did he have to keep saying that? I could feel him staring at me, except I didn’t have the nerve to look him in the eyes. “I don’t think you should let Derek ruin your life. When the bruises went away, so did he. Learn to trust people, and start with me. You have my number,” he stood up, “call me later and let me know what you decide, but right now I need to help my patient.” He put his hand on my shoulder, and for the first time, I did not flinch.
Hours went by as I sat at home in front of the telephone. Debating what to say, how to say it, my mind like a swing going back and forth on the right choice, until I finally picked up the phone and dialed. A familiar voice rang in my ear.
“Hi, Jack, it’s me.”