I heard them coming. Dad’s voice was a lot like mine, my adult voice that I was still getting accustomed to — low and rumbling. I looked up and through the opening directly ahead, from the foot of my bed, I saw my folks.
“Prepare to meet them,” I warned Dawn.
Dawn scrunched her nose, not knowing how to react.
I suspected Mom was none too happy about me arranging for everything with Dr. Clements without her knowledge. She was at least equally mad at Dad for giving his permission and not telling her.
“It’s good to finally meet you,” Dawn offered Mom a hug. After, Dawn hugged Dad as well. He was always awkward with displays of affection, especially from someone he’d never met. But as far as Mom goes, she was surprised, but I also felt positive waves emanating from her.
“She likes Dawn, especially that she isn’t taller than her.”
“Carlos? Where have you been? You’ve been quiet since I got here.”
“I’ve been around. Observing. So you missed me?”
“Dawn and I were just wondering…”
“I heard. And yes, we are converging. But you’re still resisting. So, the merge is incomplete.”
“The doctor said everything went well,” Dad informed me.
“Good,” I said, then cleared my throat. “I need water.”
Dawn poured a cup from a pitcher on the stand beside my bed while Dad helped me sit up enough to drink. “The doctor said you’d come around just about now.”
“Thanks for coming.”
“Where else am I supposed to be?” Mom asked. “My boy is in the hospital. But I’d never have known unless I asked where you were.”
“Here it comes,” Carlos warned.
“You should have told me.”
“Look, I didn’t know how to tell you,” I said. “And at first, I hadn’t made up my mind to have the surgery right away. I hate hospitals.”
“You were thinking of studying medicine.”
“Yeah, well I hate flying, too, but I have been on a plane a time or two and I want to learn to fly.”
“You just changed the subject.”
Dawn turned away. I knew she didn’t want anyone to know she was laughing.
“I figured you would lose sleep over all this,” I said. “Now, everything is over and done. Nothing to worry about.”
“Until next time.” Mom charged ahead. “But there won’t be a next time. I’m calling your coach and telling him you’re not going to wrestle anymore.”
“I’ve been worried sick every time you wrestle… every day, even when you practice, not just your matches.”
“I’m fine, Mom.”
“This is fine? You’re in a hospital… again. Just like what happened with football.”
“This is different. My groin was a ticking time bomb, just waiting for me to lift something heavy in the wrong way. It could happen on the farm, lifting a hay bale or anywhere else. Ask Dr. Clements. Now that it’s repaired, I’ll be better than new.”
“Until it happens again. You have another side. You know?”
That was true. Sooner or later my right side would need repair. But I could work on building up my muscles. Maybe that would delay things.
“He’ll be fine, honey,” Dad offered. “You can’t huddle over him forever.”
Mom looked up, not at Dad but Dawn. “You don’t want to see him hurt again, do you?”
“No, of course not,” she said. “But he is strong and getting stronger all the time. He’s made a commitment to his team. That’s important to him.”
“It will be a few weeks before Dr. Clements lets me wrestle again.”
“Well, as soon as he gets here, I’m having a talk with him about all this.”
“It seems a lot more serious than it really is. I mean — some doctors do this procedure in their office.”
“Dr. Clements is traditional even if he is young. He likes to be in a hospital just in case there are complications. Actually, I could probably get up and walk except that I really feel tired, and my incision is beginning to burn like… a lot.”
“Because you overdid it.”
“How did I overdo it? I’m in bed, Mom.”
She glared at me. “I meant that you overdid it wrestling because you wanted to win so much, you ruptured yourself.”
I couldn’t argue with that. She was right.
Dr. Clements arrived and before he could even get within earshot, Mom and Dad were approaching him. They pulled him aside and they talked for several minutes. After, he approached, asking how I was feeling.
“Fine. Uh, this is Dawn.”
He shook her hand, then quickly withdrew it, shaking it a little as he looked at it and flexed his fingers as if he’d received a shock. He turned to Dawn. “If you’ll excuse us. I just want to check the incision. It will only take a minute.”
Once more she backed outside the curtain and the doctor pulled it around the bed.
After checking under my bandage, he smiled, “Looks good. Almost like you had the surgery yesterday.”
“The same as always — I heal fast.”
“I know.” He leaned in closer to me. “You know she’s just like you,” he projected his thought.
I nodded. “Like us.”
“Considerably stronger than me, though.” He smiled and he stood straight and resumed his speaking voice. “Well, this time you’re not going to push things. Listen to me and take your time for this to heal.” He pulled back the curtain and as Dawn approached once more, Dr. Clement looked at her. “No strenuous activity for the next couple of days. If it is painful, stop. That goes for sex, too. It’s okay, but nothing unusual.”
“What does he consider unusual?” Carlos asked.
Dr. Clement wasn’t strong enough in the attributes to have received Carlos’ comment, but I knew without even seeing Dawn’s grin that she had and was suppressing a laugh. I also knew I was blushing as I tried not to laugh because it would cause a sharp pain in my side.
When she was composed, Dawn cleared her throat. “I’ll take good care of him.”
“This is a recovery day for you, Brent. I need you to rest.”
“I can leave and come back later,” Dawn offered.
“When he feels tired, let him sleep. Take a break, go downstairs, get something to eat. He’ll nap here and there until his system flushes out all of the pentothal.”
“Okay,” she said.
Turning back to me he continued his instructions, “If you feel up to it, I want you up and walking around. Get up and walk. Okay?”
“For the next few weeks, no lifting anything over twenty pounds.”
“What about exercising?”
“You can do stretching but only after I remove the stitches. I don’t want you doing anything strenuous. No running, no pushups, sit-ups, leg lifts… nothing.”
“I’m going to get out of shape,” I protested.
“You need to give your body time to heal.” Then he projected once more. “You need to listen to me on this. Okay.”
“No driving until after I remove the stitches,” He resumed his speaking voice. “You understand all that?”
“Good. Now, your Mom wants to talk to continue talking with me. So, I’d better get to that. It was good meeting you, Dawn.”
“You too, Doctor.”
Out in the hallway, Mom and Dad talked with the Doctor for a bit while Dawn held my hand. “How’d you manage to find a wolfcat doctor?”
“Just lucky I guess.”
Dawn leaned over and kissed my forehead.
Mom returned and kissed me on the cheek and said goodbye while Dad waited with the doctor.
“We’ll be back tomorrow to pick you up,” she said.
“I can drive him home, Mrs. Woods,” Dawn offered.
“It would be easier on you and Dad,” I said.
Mom nodded, but I could feel reluctance in her acceptance. Still, she said, “Keep an eye on him for me, Dawn.”
“I will Mrs. Woods.”
“Call me Alta.”
“I love you,” Mom said to me.
“I love you too, Mom.”
Once she rejoined Dad and the doctor, they walked together down the corridor, I suspected to an office where they could talk further in private.
Dawn remained beside me, watching.
“Yeah, I got that vibe.”
“She likes you though. Otherwise, she wouldn’t remember your name, let alone allowing you to call her Alta or drive me home.”
Dawn leaned over and kissed me. “She knows I’m good for you.”
Hovering her lips over mine. “As if you don’t know.”
“Where are we headed?”
“It’s going to be an adventure. That’s what makes it fun and exciting.”
“Are you my girlfriend?”
“Today I am.”
“Tomorrow never comes, there’s only today.”
“I think I’m good with that, for now anyway.”
She kissed me again, this time it lingered. I felt the heat of her lips spreading into me and missed the sensation once they were parted. “You’re not tired, are you?”
“Only a little bit. You don’t have to leave, though,” I said.
“There’s nowhere I’d rather be.”
“You don’t need to call anyone like your folks or Jen?”
She shook her head. “Jen’s in Niagara with one of her other friends. She said since I was coming over here, she and Syl would head up there for a few days.”
When finally, she stepped back and sat in the chair again she looked around. “We could watch TV… Except, I just noticed. You don’t have one.”
“Not enough walls for it, I guess.”
“The other beds have TVs.”
“This is the ghetto bed.”
“Was there something you wanted to watch?”
She shook her head. “It’s just something to do, a noise in the background. I’m not big on TV. My parents always wanted me to read instead. Growing up, about the only time I got to watch TV was whenever something educational was on or I was over at Jen’s.”
“When I was younger, I watched TV all the time — whenever I wasn’t at school, that is. And sometimes we watched TV at school — if something important was going on.”
“What about now?”
“There are a couple of shows I follow if I’m home. And I watch some sports on the weekend. But I’m hardly ever home anymore. On weekends I practice with my band.”
“A little,” she admitted.
“We could do rock, paper, scissors.”
“Or, if you have a pencil and paper, I know a lot of games my sisters and I used to play.”
“Probably the same ones Jen and I played.”
“Or we could thumb wrestle.”
Dawn laughed again. “Are you good at that?”
“Bordering on professional status.”
“Yeah. With either hand because I’m ambidextrous.”
“Me too. Usually goes with being a wolfcat. Not always, but usually.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Come on.” She scooted her chair closer. “You got me curious, now. I just got to know.” She offered her left hand first.
“Even groggy from the anesthetic, I’m invincible… or my thumb is anyway.”
“We have to do it both ways to be fair,” she said.
We thumb-wrestled. It lasted a few seconds. I won. Miffed she demanded a rematch that I also won. Then we switched hands. I won that round and the rematch as well.
“You’re too damned quick.”
“You’re a wolfcat, too.”
“I know, but this is something different. You have done this a lot.”
“I have. You know, I always thought I was probably supposed to be left-handed because whatever I can do left-handed I do better than I do it with my right hand — handwriting for example. I write better left-handed and even better backward than I do right-handed forwards. But Mom insisted I write with my right hand and forced me to do things with that hand. So, I learned to use both. Then Dad told me he was ambidextrous too, about some things, anyway.”
“But the wolfcats in your family are on your mother’s side,” Dawn said. “You have a witch and a wolfcat on your dad’s side.”
“How do you know that?”
“I could see it in their auras. They’re weak, but both of them have some of the tendencies. I’ll bet your mom can do little things like see the future sometimes, calling it her intuition.”
“See, I know things.”
“So, you and Jen have been honing your abilities since you were kids.”
“You could say that. She helped me a lot. But I have some other relatives who are strong in the attributes. The gene, when dominant, manifests most often in females. But obviously not always. In my family, everyone with the attributes is female except for one great uncle.”
“And for the most part, they keep it quiet. My great uncle, though, when he was younger, was a superhero.”
“Well, really he was what the Resistance calls a vigilante — those of us who secretly use our abilities to help others, right wrongs and things like that.”
“You said us… You mean you and Jen do that.”
“Of course.” She smiled. “It’s why we’re here, isn’t it?”
“I’m still working on that one.”
“Well, it is. You just accept it and deal with it. And everything you do that might seem weird to others, those who don’t share our abilities, those are your superpowers.”
I laughed. “My major superpower is being able to write backward and forward at the same time.”
“You’ve actually mastered that?”
“I can write backward, of course. Jen and I used to write secret messages to each other, so we could pass notes in class. Our teachers kept us separated.”
“Probably because you were troublemakers.”
“Not me. Jen was, though.”
“I can see that. I write with either hand. And I write forward and backward at the same time with different hands.”
“How did you acquire that ability?”
“In seventh grade, my science teacher was explaining how each side of the brain controls different things, and he told the class that with right-handed people their left brain is dominant and…”
“With left-handed people the right side is dominant, I know. But doing it at the same time. I guess it’s possible, because anything is possible, and you say you can do it. But I never thought of it. Why would you even do it?”
“It was mostly a personal challenge. Someone bet I couldn’t.”
“I gotta see this.” She reached down for her handbag and rummaged around inside until she found a couple of pens and the pad of paper from before.
“It took a lot of practice and I had to figure out how to control my hands. I have to be writing the same thing with both hands, but, yeah, I can do it.”
“Here,” she helped raise my bed, so I was sitting upright. Then she tore the pad in half at the rubberized binding. “Write something.”
Proving my ability with a simple note forward on one sheet of paper and backward on the other, I wrote: ‘I loved waking up to see your face, Dawn’.” I handed the pads back to her.
“That’s amazing,” she said, and then quickly she went to the restroom to hold up the backward message in the mirror. As she reemerged, she said, “I don’t know what to say.”
“Then say nothing.”
Dawn shook her head. “You know being with you is fun because there is always something different.”
“Me? What about you?”
“We’re good for each other, I guess.”
“Yeah, very good I’d say.”
She kissed me.
“Whenever we’re together, there’s a sort of frenetic synergy between us.”
“For me, it’s like I learn something new about you each time.”
“Some new level of strangeness, you mean?”
“No, something more interesting than what I knew before,” she said.
“Maybe we’re just stuck in the learning phase of the relationship.”
“There’s so much to know.”
“I know a lot about you, but also I feel like I barely know you,” I confessed.
“Well, with you, it’s either you amaze me or confound me.”
“With my strangeness.”
“There’s nothing wrong with seeing the world in a unique way.”
“It’s part of being a wolfcat?”
“Yes and no. Wolfcats don’t always see the same things in the same way. We’re people, too, you know. I find it refreshing to see the world through your eyes.”
“I’m trying to see things your way, too.”
“Good luck with that.” She chuckled.
“I think I’m up to the challenge.”
“I am, too. And challenges are a good thing.” Then she glanced down at her purse. “Okay, mister. You say you can remember everything you hear.”
“What did I say I was going to do when I came?”
“You’d come to see me at the hospital, which you have done and you’d… okay where is the surprise?”
She reached into her purse and brought out a small stuffed Snoopy. It was one replete with a doghouse and a typewriter perched atop a doghouse. Apparently Snoopy was writing yet another account of his alter ego, the World War I flying ace who would duel against the Red Barron.
I laughed even though I also groaned as my stitches hurt. “You really have to refrain from making me laugh,” I said through clenched teeth.