Going Under

Page 18

I turned to see what she was referring to and saw the entire team crowded in a circle looking down. Coach Osborne and Coach Sheffield were on the ground and we realized a player was injured.

“Looks like somebody got smoked. Maybe it was Forbes,” Payton said hopefully.

Harrison came running from the group toward the field house, but didn’t answer when Payton asked what was going on. I looked back toward the crowd and saw Dane looking at me, then back toward the player on the ground. The second time I caught him looking in my direction, he motioned for me to come over.

I stood at the back of the crowd and Dane walked over to me. “It’s Jessie. He’s down and he’s not getting up. They can’t wake him up.”

I felt my heart begin to accelerate. “What do you mean he’s not waking up? He’s unconscious?”

“It’s been several minutes and no one can get him to open his eyes. Harrison went to call for an ambulance.”

I pushed through the crowd and saw him lying motionless on the ground with Coach Osborne next to him. Harrison returned with a cell phone and an emergency dispatcher on the other end. He held the phone to him and said, “Coach, they want to talk to you.”

Coach Osborne looked at me. “Claire, hold his hand and talk to him for me while I tell the dispatcher what happened.”

I didn’t know why he chose me because no one knew about my relationship with Jessie. I could only assume he thought a girl might do a better job of holding Jessie’s hand and talking to him. I didn’t care what his reason was as I dropped to my knees beside him because I was terrified of what had happened to him.

“Jessie, it’s Claire. Can you open your eyes for me?” I said and saw no response from him. “Jessie, try to open your eyes.”

I squeezed his hand and prayed silently for him to wake up, but he didn’t. I leaned closely to his ear and said, “Hey, you. It’s Princess and I want you to look at me.” When I pulled back to look at his face, I thought I saw a flutter in his lids, so I told him again, “This is Princess talking to you and I want you to open you eyes so you can see me. Let me see your eyes.”

This time when I raised up to look at his face, his beautiful pale blue eyes stared back at me. “Hey, you. Glad to see you back. You checked out on us for a few minutes.”

“What happened?” he asked me.

“I don’t know. I turned around and saw a crowd standing around you, then Dane had me to come over because you were knocked out cold.”

The crowd of players slowly began to disperse as they begin to see Jessie was alright.

“You scared me,” I whispered.

“It was a little bit scary to wake up with the entire team standing over me.”

I leaned closely, although the team had walked away, and said, “I know my heart must be a good one. If it wasn’t, I would have had a heart attack the minute I realized it was you on the ground. It took a couple of minutes of holding your hand and talking to you before you came around.”

His face took on a proud expression. “You talked to me and held my hand in front of everyone, including Forbes?”

“Yeah, silly. I did and I’m still talking to you and holding your hand in front of everyone, including Forbes.”

He tried to lift his head to look down. “I can’t feel you holding my hand.”

I squeezed his hand. “You can’t feel that?”

A worried look came over his face. “No, I can’t feel it all.”

I took my fingernails and pinched his skin, hard enough to leave an indention. “What about that?”

“Nope. Nothing.”

Realization began to form in my mind. “There’s an ambulance on the way. Don’t try to move at all, especially your head and neck.”

I saw the realization on his face and he said, “I’m scared, Princess. I can’t feel anything down my arm.”

“What about your leg?” I reached down to his right leg and pinched as hard as I could, terrified he would tell me he couldn’t feel it. “Ouch, that’s going to leave a mark.”

“Sorry.” I touched his arm, then his leg on the left side of his body. “Everything on the left side is alright?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

I put on my most confident smile and feigned a brave face, but felt pure terror on the inside and hoped he didn’t see it all over my face. “Don’t worry, it will all be fine.”

The ambulance arrived and a cervical collar was immediately placed on his neck, making this become a little too surreal. They started an IV and he didn’t flinch with the stick-not a good sign.

He looked up at me and said, “It’s not too bad getting a huge needle rammed into your arm when you can’t feel it.”

I smiled at his joke to reassure him, but I really wanted to cry instead.

Coach Osborne asked me to ride with Jessie in the ambulance and I spent the ride to the hospital holding his hand and reassuring him everything would be fine. When we arrived at the ER, a slew of medical staff surrounded him when he was inside and the only thing I could do was move out of their way. I thought of his parents and couldn’t believe it had not hit me sooner to contact them, but I didn’t know how and now was not the time to interrupt.

When they finished assessing him and the initial rush was over, I returned to his side.

“Your parents need to be called. I’ll do it if you’ll give me a number,” I offered.

He hesitated, then answered, “They’re out of town.”

“They still need to know what has happened. You need family to be here with you. Can I call a grandparent or a family friend?”

The way he looked at me was frightening because I didn’t know what it meant. “What’s wrong, Jessie?” I asked.

Before he could answer, two men came into the room and quickly transported him away to do tests and I was left alone, uncertain of what to do. I had no doubt that Coach Osborne and the team would be in the waiting room wanting an update, but I didn’t have answers, so I stayed in Jessie’s room waiting for him to return.

It felt like eternity while I sat there waiting and praying. I imagined every possible scenario, but every one of them ended in the same thought. I cursed at myself for not being more optimistic, but it was hard when I knew he couldn’t feel anything.

After what seemed like a lifetime later, he finally returned from his tests. When the staff left and it was the two of us, he said, “I started feeling my arm while they were running tests and I can move it now. See?”

I looked down and he was reaching for my hand. I couldn’t move fast enough as I reached to take it in mine.

“You can feel me?” I asked after I lifted it to my face and rubbed it along my cheek.

“I can. My whole arm burns like hell, but at least I can feel it,” he said, optimistically.

I squeezed it tightly. “And this?”


I moved up his arm to his tattoo and slid my nails done his arm. “And that?”


Relief flooded me and I leaned forward and placed my forehead against his. I closed my eyes and thanked God for allowing him to be okay.

“I was so scared,” I finally admitted.

He reached up and rested his hand on the back of my neck, holding me so I couldn’t pull away and said, “I know. I was, too. I thought my arm was paralyzed for sure.”

I kissed his mouth while tears rolled down my face. I had things I wanted to say, but couldn’t because I was so overcome with relief.

I heard someone clear their voice from the doorway and I turned around to see my father standing there bewildered. Shit.

“I was in between cases and heard you were down here with a friend, so I thought I would check in on you. Is everything alright?”

I wiped the tears from my face after I pulled my hand from Jessie’s.

“Dad, this is Jessie Boone. We go to school together. He took a hit on the field today and was unconscious for a while. When he came to, he couldn’t feel his arm, but the feeling is coming back now.”

He looked at me like he knew we were more than classmates. “Sounds like you got a stinger. It should be fine with no permanent damage if you’re already regaining feeling. If that’s what it turns out to be, then you’re very lucky and I know Coach Osborne will be relieved.”

“Yes, sir. I’m considering myself very lucky right now.”

My father’s eyes floated to Jessie’s tattoo peeking out from his hospital gown and I winced internally. This was not the way I would have wanted my dad to meet Jessie and I felt relief when I heard his pager alarm.

He looked down at it and said, “I’ve got a patient going on the table, so I need to run. It was nice to meet you, Jessie, and I’ll see you at home later, Claire.”

“Nice to meet you, Dr. Deveraux and thank you for checking in on me,” Jessie said.

When my dad was gone, I realized I had been holding my breath and I heard Jessie exhale deeply.

He looked at me and said, “Whoa, that was awkward, Princess. I’m not too good at doing the parent thing.”

“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “That’s not how I would have planned that.”

He smiled and asked, “Does that mean you would want me to meet your parents?”

The thought of Jessie coming to my house to meet my family stirred butterflies in my stomach, both from nervousness and excitement.“Of course, I would want you to meet my parents if we started dating. Wouldn’t you want me to eventually meet yours if we became a couple?”

There it was again-that strange look on his face and he avoided answering my question by saying, “I suggest you begin to think about how you’re going to explain to your father about why you were making out with me.”

“I was not making out with you,” I argued.

“I bet it didn’t look that way to your father from where he stood,” he pointed out.

He was right. I had some explaining to do, but first I had to decide. Would I choose the safe and comfortable thing by staying with Forbes to keep from rocking the boat or choose Jessie with a potentially explosive outcome?

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