After watching Brody suffer his concussion, Ryan could not sleep. She laid in bed and dozed fitfully at best, giving up around seven a.m. She dressed quietly to avoid waking Lara and went for a walk. After close to an hour, she still was not ready to return to the hotel. She found a diner a block away and went in and ordered some coffee. When her phone rang, she grabbed for it.
"Hi, Ryan? This is Bax. Chuck Baxter."
"Hi, Bax. How are you?" Her stomach tied in knots; why would Bax call unless it was bad news?
"I'm fine. Listen, Brody wanted me to call you. I don't know if you know, but he got hit in the game last night."
She swallowed. "Yeah, I know. I saw. How is he? It looked pretty bad."
"He's got a concussion. That's why I'm calling. He's at home, but last word is he's got a monster headache—which is not unusual—and he needs time to rest. I know you must be worried, but I wanted to tell you to give him a few days."
"Look, Ryan, don't worry too much about this. You probably won't hear from him for a few days, but that's par for the course; I'm not even going to call him for a while. He needs some time for things to settle down and then he'll see the doc and they can gauge how he's doing."
"Okay." Ryan closed her eyes and took a long, slow breath. "Thanks for calling, Bax. I didn't know what to do."
"It's not a problem. And I know it's scary. I had a concussion a couple of years ago and those first few days after aren't easy, but we know more than we did even then. We've got a good medical staff and no one's going to rush him back."
"He'll probably be doing that himself," Ryan said. "He'll hate not being able to play."
"Yeah, probably. It'd be like you hurting your hand or something."
She winced. "Don't say things like that, Bax, you'll jinx me."
"I thought only athletes were superstitious like that." He chuckled.
"Oh, trust me, we all have our little . . . quirks." Ryan rubbed her forehead.
"I believe you. So, how is everything going?"
"Really well, thanks. We have a show later today."
"Good—no, wait, I have to say 'break a leg,' right?"
"If you want to. I'm not picky, and that's for the theater anyway."
"All right. Good luck, break a leg, whatever it is. Hope you have a good show, Ryan."
"Thanks, Bax, and thanks for calling. If you see Brody, tell him I miss him, and to call me when he feels up to it."
"Will do. Bye, Ryan."
She said goodbye and ended the call, relieved to have some news about Brody although she was still worried. Ryan knew that concussions were unpredictable and their effects cumulative. The post-concussion symptoms could last for months. She had read how concussions had ended more than one career in sports, and sometimes not until a year or two later. Her coffee sat, getting cold, as she tried not to be swamped by such fears.
A plate landed in front of her and Ryan looked up in surprise.
"Here, eat," Lara said as she dropped into the opposite chair.
"Good morning to you, too." Ryan waited for her heart to stop racing. "Did you have to do that?"
"Eat," Lara repeated. "I know you haven’t eaten."
"I'm so predictable." Ryan broke off a piece of the muffin and ate it. "How did you know where I was? And thanks."
"It's not like there are a lot of options around here, and you're welcome. Everything okay?"
"Yeah, it is. As okay as it can be." She filled Lara in on Bax's phone call. "I'm glad to know, I just wish I could do more."
"And you're still worried," Lara observed. "Are you going to be okay tonight?"
"Sure, on both counts." Ryan shrugged. "I have to be, don't I? It's not like I can do anything for him, and playing will keep my mind off it."
"He'll be all right, Ryan." Lara squeezed her hand. "He's in top shape and you know they've got great doctors."
"I know. Thanks. I guess I'd feel better if I could talk to him myself."
"You will. Just give it a couple more days. Maybe Bax will call again with an update."
"I hope so." Ryan sighed. "I never expected stuff like this while I was on tour, either."
Lara gave her a sympathetic smile. "No one ever said it would be easy."
Ryan sipped at her coffee. No, no one said it would be easy, but just this once, she wished it was.
Five days after he had suffered the concussion, Brody was at last feeling better. His headaches had abated and although he had occasional nausea and dizziness, those episodes were getting fewer and farther between. He hoped he would be cleared for light exercise soon, although the doctor was in no hurry. He, on the other hand, harbored some hope that he would be back before the playoffs were over.
In fact, he was well enough that he was going to watch game seven at Verizon Center from the press box. It was not anywhere near as good as playing, but at least he would be there.
He was watching the sports news when he heard a knock at the door and got up to answer. He was pleased to see Bax. "Hi, man. What's up?"
The older man shook his head. "Nothing, I was just checking on you. Doreen was worried, and Tara, too. Doreen thinks Tara has a crush on you." He narrowed his eyes. "Stay away from my daughter, Lang."
Brody laughed, which he hadn't done since his injury. "Yes, sir, Mr. Baxter, sir."
Bax grinned and dropped into a chair. "That's more like it." He became serious. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm okay. Better. Tell Doreen thanks for thinking of me, and Tara, too." Brody paused, then shrugged. "What can I say? You know the drill. They told me to take it easy, rest, all of that."
"And you should. You want to be careful with this, Langer."
"I know, I know. I've gotten the lecture from both parents, one sister and a brother, not to mention Lou."
Bax chuckled. "All right, then. I'll leave it alone. Let's talk about something else. Any word from Ryan?"
"I'm going to talk to her in a little while. She texted to say they were in the middle of something and she'll let me know when they're done. Thanks for calling her." He gave Bax a wry look. "It figures the one time she watches a playoff game, I get mowed down."
"Murphy's Law," Bax agreed. "The first time Doreen came to see me play, I got clipped just above my eye and was bleeding like crazy. She was not happy, to say the least. It wasn't really that bad—you know how those cuts look worse than they are—but it freaked her out a lot."
"I haven't talked to Ryan yet so I'm not sure how freaked out she is. I texted her back to let her know I was okay, but we haven't talked yet."
"She was okay when I talked to her," Bax told him. "Worried, but she didn't panic. I bet with her brothers playing sports she knows a little more about it than most people. She seemed pretty steady."
Brody had not thought about it quite that way, but Bax had a point. Ryan had been pretty calm about the whole thing although he knew she was concerned. He liked that. She had sent a couple of texts, but had not swamped him with phone calls just to make herself feel better. "Yeah, she doesn't panic, does she? She's practical or something. It's nice to know I can tell her something, even a bad thing, and she won't go to pieces."
"Uh-oh, sounds like love to me."
"Oh, please. I have a concussion; I'm not crazy."
"What's crazy about that?"
"Nothing, I guess." Brody felt drained now; fatigue was another symptom he hadn't shaken. He rested his head back on the couch.
"All right. You feeling okay?" Bax looked concerned. "Do you need anything? I have to go soon but I could probably zip out and get you something if you need it."
"No, thanks, I'm good. The headaches are pretty much gone but I still get tired. I just need to rest and try to relax. Really, I'm okay, Bax. Thanks for checking in."
"All right. Guess I'll head out, then."
Brody stood and walked with Bax to the door. "I hate not playing."
"I know, kid, we all do. Don't worry, it's not over yet."
Brody nodded and closed the door, then stood for a minute. He did not know what to do with himself now that he was not playing. There were hours until game time. Rest, he thought. He would rest and then call Ryan.
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