family: a household, including parents, children; a fundamental unit in the organization of society; any network of linked persons different from but equal to the above

Dad gets it.

He shows up a few hours later with questions about recovery times, physical therapy requirements, insurance coverage, and future mobility. He’s looking at this problem the same way he does anything else: something that can be controlled once enough data has been accumulated. Mom might be able to look at my X-rays and see what’s been done and what needs to happen, but Dad is the one making phone calls, marking up a calendar with appointments so far in the future that I’ll be a year older when I show up to them.

My life has been reorganized into time measurements called weight-bearing.

“Okay, Mickey,” Dad says, his chair pulled up next to my hospital bed. “Here’s what we’re looking at. For eight weeks you’re just healing—that’s your job, nothing else. Toe touch to the floor for balance but that’s all, got it?”

“Got it,” I say, trying to sound obedient. But my eyes are scanning the calendar he put in front of me, and eight weeks eats up a lot of time between now and March, when conditioning begins.

“So I can’t put any weight on it before that?”

Dad glances down at his notes, then back at the calendar resting on my legs. “Partial weight-bearing starts after eight weeks if you’re on track with physical therapy, but you’ll still need crutches. So you can walk on it then.”

“Then,” I say, flipping the calendar to February and pointing to the third week. “So when am I fine? When do I not need crutches? When can I walk? When can I run?”

“Um . . .” Dad looks at his notes again. “Full weight-bearing is allowed at twelve weeks.”

I count forward, flipping to March. Softball conditioning starts on the fifteenth, right around my eleventh week of recovery. Able to bear my own weight, but that might be about all. Dad’s eyes trace my finger, hovering over where I’d marked Conditioning! on the fifteenth in red marker.

“That’s not good enough,” I tell him.

“It’s close, Mickey. Best-case scenario you sit out a few games at the beginning of the season.”

Our best-case scenario doesn’t sound good to me.

“It’s a long way out, Mickey,” Mom says. “And we’ve got you scheduled with the best people in their field. Your therapists will get you on your feet as fast as they can.”

“Don’t let me forget,” Dad says, turning to her. “I’ve got to call back the office in Westerville . . .”

I let them fade out, the reality of the calendar and my broken body and what it’s going to take to fix it overwhelming me. Mom found the right doctors, the best therapists, then handed it off to Dad, the two of them working like the team they used to be. I watch them from my haze, wondering again how this could have fallen apart, or if the little smile hovering on Mom’s lips makes Dad think about how things used to be. Then Devra walks in the door, pregnant belly preceding her, and Mom’s smile is gone, any camaraderie that had been resurfacing between my parents disappearing.

Dad’s second wife is closer to my age than his, but that’s not why Mom’s face goes into a hard, polite mask that carries no trace of kindness. It’s not professional curiosity that draws her eyes to Devra’s belly, either. The baby growing in there is something she couldn’t give Dad, the jokes about an ob-gyn who can’t get pregnant going stale a few years into their marriage, and ending altogether once they couldn’t be said without bitterness. Dad liked to say that I was cheaper and came with less paperwork, but Mom always flinched more than laughed whenever he trotted that line out.

I give Devra the smile I’ve practiced for her. Much like Mom’s, it’s tight and small, enough that she can’t complain to Dad that we’re rude. She told me to call her “Devra” when we met, not “Mom,” since the idea of being a parent to a teenager was a little whoa to her. I’m fine with our arrangement, finding the idea of having yet a third person in the world who can lay claim to being my mom even more whoa than she does.

“Mickey, I’m so sorry,” Devra says, coming right for my bedside.

“I’m all right,” I tell her, even though technically she didn’t ask.

“She’s a tough kid,” Mom says, and it’s true. Right now I couldn’t be more glad that it’s the first thing that comes to mind when people think of me. Being pretty or smart or nice is all well and good, but none of those things can get me through what’s coming.

“That’s my girl,” Dad says, and while there’s a lot of pride in his voice, the nagging voice inside my head reminds me that technically, I’m not. Mom has been able to deal with the divorce, but she’s nowhere near forgiveness yet. Me, I understood all along.

Dad loves me, and thinks of me as his kid, but I knew there was a pocket in his heart that wondered what his biological child would look like, be like, act like. It’s the same way I feel when I think about my real parents, out there somewhere. I love Mom and Dad, but that doesn’t stop me from scanning the bleachers at games occasionally, wondering if that one person I can’t place might be my birth mom, keeping tabs on me.

Carolina laughed when I told her that at school one day, pointing to the statue of our school’s mascot outside the front doors. “For all we know that’s your mom and your dad,” she said, climbing the base until she was nose to nose with the stone Spartan to give it a closer inspection.

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