Ann was nauseously staring at a cup of red jello when Jude walked in.
“You look terrible” Ann said. She meant it. He was bloodshot, unshaven and wrinkled.
“I was supposed to tell you that.” He sat down heavily in the chair by her bed.
“I’ll bet I look nasty.” Ann was excited to see him and to be connected to the barn and to racing. Then she remembered the dead filly.
“Tell me that Lavinia had insurance on that filly?” Ann asked.
“Oh yeah, but she’s pissed she hadn’t re-valued her lately. There is nothing that increases a horses’ perceived value like a death certificate.”
“Jeezus. I wonder all the time if that woman is for real.” Ann sighed.
“She’s just trying to make a living doing what she does.”
“A living? She’s never worked a day in her life!”
“Ah c’mon, she’s just lonely and miserable.”
“I can’t believe you’re defending her.”
“And I can’t believe you aren’t dead too.” Jude’s voice cracked and Ann noticed that he had his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped in front of his nose and mouth and he was holding back tears. Ann was put off and embarrassed by the overflow of emotion that she had not expected.
“Takes more than that to kill me and you know it.” Ann tried to laugh.
“Yeah.” Jude stared upwards and composed himself. He stood up and put his hands on his hips. “I talked to your doctors and they think that with some physical therapy you will be up and around in a few months.”
“Months! That’s crap. I’ll be sneaking out of here in a few days and riding again as soon as I can cut this cast off my leg.” Ann twisted around to shake her finger at Jude and was overtaken by a muscle spasm that gripped her like a monkeyr’s fist. She tried with all her might not to show the pain she was feeling on her face and failed.
“You listen to me Wonder Woman, you’re going to follow the doctor’s orders to the letter. I’m sending you to the best rehab facility in the state and you won’t ride until they say you are ready. Are you listening?” Jude’s face was clouded with authority and anger. Ann looked away.
“Now you are my father and I’m just supposed to do whatever you say with my life. Perfect. Just perfect. How did I ever make it to forty without you telling me what to do all the time?” Her ips pursed in a line of stubbornness.
“Do you want me to point out the painfully obvious?” he waited for a reply and got the silence he expected.
“You asked for it; you are not a 20 year old. You aren’t going to bounce back like you think you are. This brave warrior thing won’t work every time. I’ve seen the x-rays, I talked to the doctor, I have your freaking cracked-like-an-egg helmet in my office. I’m the one who talked to your mom.”
Ann moaned “You didn’t talk to my mom! Tell me you didn’t!”
“I did and she’s on her way down, she’ll be here tonight. Don’t get out of your way to thank me though.”
Ann was able to hold her pout for another 10 seconds before the pain, the exhaustion, the fear of accepting and needing help overwhelmed her. She hated herself for the giant lump in her throat. She refused to cry. Not in front of Jude. She gritted her teeth. “Shit. I do thank you. Honestly, I do. I just don’t want to leave you and the barn hanging like this. What am I supposed to do? Sit around and eat this crappy jello and watch my ass grow while flipping channels all day?”
“Uh, yeah, it’s called healing. And just think, you can read all day and forget about waking up at 4:30am for awhile.”
“I get up at 3:45 no matter what.”
“So let up on yourself for a bit. Take an online course. Do some internet dating or something.”
A thought flashed through Ann’s mind and twisted her stomach “Oh my god, what about my dog? What about Luke?”
“Roxy already took care of it. She brought him over to your friend Pete’s place with a bunch of dog food and some chew toys. Last I heard, everyone is doing just fine.”
“Wow, I guess I have a lot to be thankful for. What’s up with you hiring Roxy?”
“I’ve known that girl a lot longer than you. Don’t worry about it. She’ll probably sell us out with a new boyfriend or head off on a drinking bender, but for now, she’ll do.”
“You should give her more credit. She’s a good girl.” Ann felt her body relax a bit while thinking of her horses being tended to and ridden by the knowledgable hands of Roxy.
“She is decidedly not a good girl Ann. But like I said, she’ll do.”
Both Jude and Ann turned to see Johnny and Mark bursting through the door. Mark bearing a beautiful bouquet of lilies and Johnny tugging along a string of silver and green balloons.
“Looks like you have plenty of company, I’m gonna go.” Jude nearly knocked over the flowers in his hurry to get out the door.
“That must be the lovah you haven’t told us about bad girl!” Johnny kissed Ann on both cheeks.
“That’s my boss fellas. And I think you scared the heck out of him.”
“He’s HOT!” Smiled Mark also kissing Ann on the cheek.
Johnny plopped down on Ann’s bedside and Mark eased himself into the chair. “You are FUCKED up darling.” We read the story in the LA Times.
“There was a news story?” Ann was incredulous. “What are you boys doing reading the sports section?
“There’s this thing….. Called Google. We always know when you win a big race or something.”
Ann, as usual was pleased and charmed by her devoted friends. Johnny looked pale and sweaty, but other than that, stable and happy. Mark seemed pensive, but that was part of his charm.
“Sweetness, Mark and I are leaving for London tomorrow. We feel terrible leaving you like this but we want to bring back something special for you. What would you like?”
“Right now, what I need is a brand new leg, but I’m not sure they sell them anywhere.” Ann laughed, or tried to and the room got silent.
“So now what are you going to do?” Asked Johnny as he surveyed the pins sticking out of Ann’s leg.
“What do you mean?”
“Well you can’t ride anymore, what are you going to do?”
“Of course I’ll ride again. Why would you say that?”
“I just thought you would be too scared after a mess like this.” His hand gestured across the hospital bed. “How could you ever go back to riding? We read that both the horses died.”
“Horses die. People die. It’s just part of the game.”
“Well then, that is a fucked up game.” Answered Johnny.