“My modeling agency.”
Double shit. This girl is a fucking model? Of course she is. I can tell that she’s gorgeous, even with a swollen and bruised face.
“I’m sorry. Maybe I should start over,” I say. I walk up and hold my hand out to her. “I’m Caden Kessler from the New York Nighthawks. It’s my home run ball that did this to you.”
Her jaw drops as she shakes my hand. “Really? You, uh, why … no, it was my own stupidity that did this,” she says, motioning to her face. “I was on my phone and not paying attention to the game. I was only there because my boyfriend and roommate made me go. Baseball isn’t really my thing.”
My hand comes up to cover my chest as I feign abhorrence. “What? You don’t like baseball? Who doesn’t like baseball?”
The right side of her face pinks up in embarrassment. “I’m sorry. I probably shouldn’t have said that to you.”
“No, no, it’s fine.” I look down at the bag. “But now I feel kind of silly bringing you all this stuff.”
She peeks down at what I’m holding. “You brought me something?” she asks, like a curious schoolgirl.
I look around her bare room. “I did. But if I’d known you were a woman, I’d have come with an armful of flowers, too.”
She looks at her empty side table and then her eyes fall. “I’m sure my boyfriend will bring some tomorrow. He was here with me until just a little while ago.”
“Of course he will,” I say, putting the torn bag on the bed next to her. “Maybe your boyfriend will like this stuff. Go ahead.” I motion for her to open it.
I watch her as she pretends to be impressed when she pulls out a replica of my #8 jersey, a signed baseball, some autographed photos, a hat, and VIP tickets to one of our last home games at the end of this month.
“Thank you,” she says politely. “Tony will be over the moon to get all this.”
My eyes snap to hers. “Tony?” I ask. “Your boyfriend’s name is Tony?”
Tony—the asshole from the cafeteria who said she looked hideous? The guy who said he was going to break up with her? The prick who kissed another woman while his girlfriend lies in a hospital bed as the result of an injury from a game he dragged her to?
“Uh, I just thought maybe I could personalize some of this stuff with his name.”
“Sure. He’d like that.”
What I’d really like to do is personalize the douchebag’s face with my fist.
Should I tell her what I heard? What I saw? I mean, she doesn’t know me from Adam, so maybe she wouldn’t even believe me. But damn, he’s going to cut her loose like a dead fish. It’s a low blow considering what she’s going through.
“What did the doctors say about your injury?”
She explains what the doctor told her. The more she tells me, the worse I feel. Surgery. Titanium plate. Scars. She’s a goddamn model for Christ’s sake. What is she going to do?
A nurse comes in the room, bringing an ice pack that Murphy needs to put on her face for twenty minutes. My cue to leave.
“Would it be okay if I visit you again tomorrow?” I ask.
“Why would you want to do that?”
The nurse laughs and then scolds her, saying something about when a handsome man wants to come calling, let him.
“Because this is all my fault and the least I can do is come sit with you for a while. It probably gets pretty boring around here.”
She shrugs. “I suppose you can if you want to, but please don’t feel obligated. I’m sure Tony will keep me company all day.”
“It won’t be out of obligation, Murphy. I’m coming because I want to.” I get up to leave, but turn around before walking out. “What’s your favorite flower, by the way?”
“I love all of them, but I’d have to say orchids, lilies and roses are my favorites.”
“Duly noted. See you tomorrow, Murphy Cavenaugh.”
“See you then, Caden Kessler.”
I walk out of her room and go find Kyle. Because I have to know if things are as bad as she said.
Tony was right. I shouldn’t have done it. I even went so far as to not turn on the bathroom light up until now. But I forgot this time. And when I see a flash of my face in the mirror, I can’t help but stop and look. Kind of like when you see a train wreck. Which is what my face looks like—a train wreck.
So here I stand, stunned, looking at someone in the mirror who isn’t me. Well, I look like me if you cover the left side of my face. It’s worse than I thought. I know Dr. Benson said the swelling would get worse before it gets better. But as I stand here and look at my destroyed face, my hope of modeling paying the rent drains out of me as fast as my tears do.
I turn off the light, vowing not to turn it on again. I shuffle my feet back over to bed and pick up my phone.
“Hi, honey,” Mom says cheerfully, after only half a ring.
She sighs into the phone. “What is it, Murph? What’s wrong?”
How do moms always know when something is wrong from just a few words? For a second, I contemplate telling her. I mean, what would be the big deal if she begs me to come home? I might not ever be able to model again anyway. Maybe Iowa is where I should be. Maybe it’s where I belong.
No. I remember Dr. Benson’s words from last night. I won’t let this break me.
“I’m fine, Mom. Just feeling a little down, I guess.”
“Well, you can always—”
“—move back home,” I say. “I know, Mom. Thanks for reminding me. Again. And moving back home will not make me happy. Everyone I care about is gone.”
I realize what I said and instantly try to backpedal. “I mean, except for you.”
“I know what you mean, honey. And I’m sorry you are feeling low. You know what your father would say?”
I laugh. “Yeah. I know. He would probably say he’s my biggest fan and he wants everything for me that I want for myself.”
“Sounds about right,” she says. “He’s still your biggest fan, you know. Only now he’s got a lot more clout behind him.”
“Thanks, Mom. But what if I don’t know what I want for myself?”
I hear her sigh into the phone. I’m waiting for her to beckon me home again when someone knocks on the door. I don’t want Mom to hear any doctors or nurses talking, so I tell her, “Mom, I have to go, someone’s at the door. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
A teenage girl walks in with a huge bouquet of flowers. They are beautiful. All my favorites. I can’t help the painful smile that creeps up my face. I knew Tony would get me some. Even if he wasn’t the one to bring them.
He must have gotten called into work today. He doesn’t normally work on Saturdays, so it’s just my luck someone must have had an emergency today. He works in computer technology and is climbing his way up the company ladder, so when they call—he goes.
“Thank you,” I tell the girl.
“Someone must really like you,” she says.
“You’re lucky,” she says on her way out.
I take a moment to smell the flowers before I open the card. When I open it, I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.
Get well soon, Old Man Murphy. And if you’re bored, I hear channel 31 is pretty good for entertainment.
– Caden Kessler
After I get over the disappointment of the flowers not being from Tony, I turn on channel 31 and can’t help but chuckle at what I see.
It’s a Nighthawks game.
~ ~ ~
I look at the clock. It’s after six. Why hasn’t he stopped by yet? Why hasn’t he texted me?
I pull my phone out and my fingers hover over Tony’s name. But then I remember what my mom keeps telling me. Always make sure the man you love needs you more than you need him. It’s the secret to a great relationship. I drop the phone on the bed next to me, refusing to be the needy girlfriend.
At seven o’clock, I’m on the brink of tears. Other than the nurse coming in to ice my face every few hours, and the doctor checking my stitches and my swelling, nobody has come to visit me. Not Tony. Not any one of my roommates. Nobody.
I’ve been so bored I actually watched the baseball game. I didn’t understand it, but I watched it.
“Hey, you,” I hear from the doorway.
I turn around in excitement. Then my face falls when I see it’s only Caden.
He laughs at me. “That might just be the worst reception I’ve ever gotten, Old Man Murphy.”
“I don’t want your ego getting too big,” I say. “And what’s with the Old Man Murphy thing?” I nod to the flowers. “Thank you so much for the flowers. They are beautiful.”
He looks around the room. I know what he’s noticing. He sees that his flowers are the only ones here. I wonder if he thinks I was lying to him about my boyfriend.
“You’re welcome. I’m glad you like them.” He walks over to take a sniff. “When I came last night, I was convinced I was looking for an old man. Someone at work said Murphy Cavenaugh sounded like a retired dairy farmer or something, and I guess I just pictured that in my head.”
“That explains it then.”
“Explains what?” he asks.
“How surprised you were to see me in this hospital bed when you were standing in my doorway last night.”
He shakes his head. “No. I was just grateful I wasn’t the magazine you were throwing across the room and screaming at.”
“Sorry about that,” I say.
I remember the moment I did it. I had just come across an advertisement for the very same clothing line I was hired to model for.
“So, tell me about your name. Is Murphy a family name?” he asks.
I shake my head. “You’ve heard of Murphy’s Law, haven’t you?”