“I’ll be good for conditioning,” I lie.

Dad said our best-case scenario had me almost fully healed by then. So I just have to be better than best.

“Really?” Bella Center’s whole face lights up, like the idea of me on my feet is the best thing she’s heard since Westwood’s shortstop got pregnant.

“Yeah,” I tell her. “If I keep up with the physical therapy, I should be all right.”

I’m probably never going to be all right again, is what my therapist actually told me. I’ll probably be stiff as hell whenever I get up for the rest of my life, and will wear my teeth down to nubs from gritting them whenever I sit down. But I’ve been stiff before and have spent most of my life gritting my teeth, so whatever.

“When can you come back to school?” Carolina asks. “Not that I don’t love hauling your homework over here.”

“Next week,” I tell her, smiling. “My physical therapist said they want to make sure I’m confident on the crutches, and my family doctor has to sign off. And you do love bringing me my homework.”

“Yeah,” she agrees. “It feels awesome on my arm.”

“Damn,” Bella Right says, spotting the lineup of orange bottles on my dresser. “That’s some serious pills, girl.” She picks up one, reading the label.

“Oxy.” She whistles. “Nice.”

“For real?” Bella Left asks, reaching over my stomach for the bottle. She takes it from Bella Right, shaking the little white tabs inside. I keep the leftover smile on my face pasted on.

I pop one of those twenty minutes before I need to get up, relying on the warm fuzziness it provides to push me through the pain and get me on my feet. I couldn’t even get a shower if it wasn’t for the Oxy, and my teammates tossing the bottle around like a scuffed-up softball sets me a little on edge.

“You could get some serious cash for these,” Bella Left says, eyeing my dresser. “Like, maybe even a new car.”

“I have a new car,” I tell her.

“Shit, I don’t,” Bella Center says, swiping the bottle out of Left’s hand. A scuffle ensues, ending when Center gives Left a titty twister that makes even me cringe, and I’ve still got some Oxy in my veins.

“Ouch!” Left yells, kicking Bella Center off her from where they landed on the floor. “I definitely need an Oxy after that.”

“You don’t need shit,” Carolina says, grabbing the bottle. “Except maybe a better bra.”

“With two different cup sizes, after the swelling.” Bella Left winces, adjusting herself.

“Whatever,” Center says, giving Bella Left an arm up from the floor. “I didn’t even have a good grip on it.”

“All I’m saying is, at a dollar a milligram—”

“Dollar a milligram?” Carolina interrupts. “Somebody’s been watching NCIS again.”

“I have not,” Left says, but she goes bright red, glancing between the four of us. “I do not watch NCIS.”

“Sure, you’re just in the room when your grandma does,” Center teases.

“Can’t leave.” Right shakes her head, in mock sympathy.

“Stuck catching up on season fourteen,” Carolina says.

“Fifteen,” Left corrects, then catches herself. “Dammit, you guys.”

Right shrieks with laughter, ducking when Left chucks a pillow at her. Insults and bad words are being tossed back and forth, everyone forgetting that I’m injured. I could almost forget too, except Carolina put my Oxy back on the nightstand, where anyone could get it. I grab it when nobody’s looking, and push it under my pillow.

I don’t need a new car.

I don’t need a dollar per milligram.

I need the Oxy.

Chapter Six

pain: an uneasy sensation in the body, from slight discomfort to extreme distress, proceeding from a derangement of functions, disease, or injury by violence

When I was six Mom put me in dance lessons. It didn’t go well.

She dressed me in a leotard and tutu, walked me into a room full of mirrors, warm-up bars, and other little girls. Our teacher came in, a sharp-faced woman whose body was perpetually tense, the gray hairs on her head scraped into a bun so tight her eyebrows were always in a state of surprise. She sat us down and told us how dance would teach us self-control, endurance, and character. She told us we only get one life.

“Pick one thing,” she said, a bony finger up in the air. “Pick one thing, and do it well.”

I picked softball.

Physical therapy reminds me of that dance studio, mirrors everywhere, parallel bars, and watercoolers with paper cups that can’t even begin to hold the drink I need by the time I’m done. What’s different is the view, and the smell. This room is not full of little girls with shiny barrettes in their hair, and it doesn’t smell like baby powder. I’m the youngest person here by at least two decades, and there’s more than sweat coming out of some of the other patients.

“Okay, Mickey. Let’s swing that foot around,” Kyleigh says, using the word let’s as if there’s more than one person in charge of moving my leg.

There’s not. It’s just me.

I’m white-knuckling the parallel bars, sweat already trickling down the staircase of my spine and a touch of snot dribbling out of my nose to rest in the divot above my lip. My brain tells my right leg it’s time to move now, but the signal hasn’t quite made the journey when my brain recants, half panicked at the pain it knows will come. The result is a lot of sweating and anticipation, with very little forward movement.

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