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HUGE PLAYERS: Chapter 18

Jameson’s door is ajar and I can see inside enough to know that he’s awake. I knock gently on the door.

“Come in.”

I swing the door open enough that I can enter the room and find him watching TV, dressed this time in a worn out varsity t-shirt and some black jersey shorts. His injured leg is resting on a pillow covered with what looks like a sheepskin. Janice really has gone overboard.

“You okay in here?”

Jameson cocks an eyebrow. “I can safely say that I’d rather be anywhere else than here, right now.”

I nod, remembering what Coach said about him needing to stay upbeat.

“Mind if I hang out for a bit?”

He shrugs and his eyes move back to the TV. I could perch on his desk chair but it’s at an awkward angle to see the TV screen so instead I take the plunge and climb onto the bed next to him, trying not to disrupt his leg too much. When I grab a pillow to put behind my back, he chuckles.

“That’s it. Make yourself at home.”

I grin and focus on watching the show that Jameson’s chosen to keep himself entertained. It’s not my thing. Too many guns and car chases and not enough romance. I don’t want to sound like a cliché but this kind of senseless violence makes me want to punch someone in the eye.

“So what have you been doing today?” I ask him.

“This,” he says. “My mom tried to sponge bath me. I don’t know what the hell she was thinking. She hasn’t seen my dick for ten years. I’m sure as hell not about to show her now.”

“Oh, so you’re bothered about your mom seeing you dick, but not so worried about your stepsister.”

He chuckles. “You looked like you were enjoying the view. I didn’t want to spoil your fun.”

I shake my head. “You men are all obsessed with your dicks.”

“It’s the source of most pleasure,” he says. “What’s not to like?”

“You see; women don’t think about our bits that pieces like that.”

“That’s because they’re all tucked away. If you had them hanging out like we do, you’d be obsessed with them too.”

As if to make a point, Jameson’s hand goes to his crotch and he adjusts himself. WTF. This man has no shame where his genitals are concerned.

“So, what did you do about the sponge bath, then?”

“I did it myself. I don’t want to stink.”

He does smell good. A similar scent to his brothers. Do they all wear the same cologne, or is it their pheromones that make me light-headed? Probably both.

“So what did you get up to at college today?”

“Same old.” I don’t tell him anything about the conversation with coach and I hope his brothers will keep that a secret too. “Classes are starting to get tougher.”

“Yeah, that happens.”

“Sounds like you’re gonna get a bundle of work to keep you busy.”

Jameson nods. “I guess that’s a good thing. I’m gonna be behind on my fitness if this thing heals, I can do without having work to catch up on, too.”

If? He’s already defeatist about his injury and we’re only on day one of Jameson’s recovery. This really isn’t good.

When it heals,” I say. His hand rests next to mine on the bed and I cover it with mine and squeeze. “It’s gonna be okay,” I say. “You’ve just got to think positively.”

Jameson turns away from the screen, looking straight into my eyes with his piercing green ones.

“You’re not a doctor, Maisie. You weren’t there when they told me all the possible outcomes.”

I take my hand away and rest it in my lap, turning back to the screen so that I don’t have to look into his fierce gaze. “Doctors have to tell you about all the outcomes. Every single medicine has six hundred possible negative side-effects listed. It’s to cover their backs. The reality is that you’re strong as an ox and twice as stubborn. It’s not in your nature to fail, Jameson. You’re going to keep your head and rest your body and in a few weeks, you’ll take it easy to build up your fitness and get back on that field again. The most important thing is thinking that everything will work out okay in the end.”

“So I can be even more disappointed when it doesn’t happen,” he says.

I’m about to launch into yet another uplifting speech when Janice appears in the doorway. Her eyes narrow when she sees me on her son’s bed. “Ah, you have a guest,” she says.

“Maisie lives here,” Jameson says. “She’s not a guest.”

Janice’s narrow lips twitch with annoyance. “You know full well what I mean. How are you, darling? Is there anything I can get you?”

Jameson shakes his head. “I’m all good, watching this.” He points at the TV, a blatant effort to get rid of his fussing mom. Janice’s lips pinch with suppressed rage.

“Well then. I’ll leave you to it. Dinner will be ready in an hour.”

Jameson nods, then focuses back on the screen, leaving his mom to stand in the doorway without attention. That is something that Janice cannot deal with.

“Maisie, I could use some help downstairs.”

“She’s watching this too, Mom. Can’t you get one of my useless reprobate brothers to do it instead?”

“Your brothers are not reprobates and they’re all studying.”

“It’s okay,” I say. “I’ll go.”

Jameson shoots his mother a furious look. To be honest it’s the first time I’ve ever seen him really stand up to her. “I want Maisie to stay. Ask Kyle. He’s always studying way ahead of where he needs to be.”

Janice’s mouth seems to shrivel but I think that she’s realized that there is no point in her continuing to press for me to leave. I don’t know where to look. The atmosphere is so bad it’s embarrassing.

“Well…” she says, and turns on her heel.

Jameson is quiet for a while then he starts flicking the channels on the TV. “I’m sorry she treats you that way,” he says.

My mouth almost falls open with shock. I didn’t think that anyone else in this house noticed that Janice always has a foul look on her face whenever she speaks to me, as though she smells boiling skunk.

“It’s okay. I get why…”

“It’s not okay and she’s old enough to know better,” Jameson says turning to me and dropping the remote on his knee. “When we were younger, maybe that could be understood. She was jealous of you and of your mom. Even though your dad was obviously not interested in rekindling his past, she still felt uncertain. Our dad did a number on her so insecurity is a big thing for her. But she’s been with your dad for well over a decade now and your mom lives on the other side of the country. There is no reason for her to act this way now. She needs to cut it out.”

“I’m…well, I’m not going to be here forever. Just until I’ve finished studying, then I’ll be heading back home. It’s better to just leave it rather than creating a fuss. I don’t want to put my dad in the middle of anything and I’d rather just keep my head down.”

“You’re seriously going to go back?”

I nod, the thought creating a lump of homesickness in my throat. “Yes.”

A commercial begins for hemorrhoid cream and Jameson makes a gagging noise. “For fuck’s sake, why the hell do they put this shit on TV?”

“I have no idea. Don’t people with medical problems just go to the pharmacy for this kind of stuff?”

“You’d think.”

We carry on watching the commercials and then Jameson starts channel surfing again. “It’s good to have you back, Mais,” he says. “I guess we should try not to get too used to having you around.”

The lump in my throat burns because I’ve always felt like an intruder here. An unwanted guest who has overstayed their welcome. Now Jameson is telling me that they want me to stay.

“You’re all going to be leaving soon, anyway. You’ll get picked up by different teams and sent all over the country.”

Jameson doesn’t respond immediately. “Kyle was saying the same thing. He wants us to try and stay together.”

“And what do you think?”

“I don’t know. I can’t imagine spending months or years away from my brothers, but I also can’t see how we’re all going to be able to stay together either. None of us should have to make sacrifices in our careers or personal lives.”

“It sounds as though there are going to have to be some sacrifices, though. There’s no way for it all to work out.” I think about what Kyle is trying to do behind the scenes and what Jameson said about his mom. She resents me and fears me all at the same time, and it doesn’t matter what Kyle hopes will happen if he could actually convince his four brothers that a five-on-one love life is the way forward. Their careers have to come first, and Kyle’s plan will do nothing but blow this family apart. I know that’s not his aim at all.

The thing is, Kyle could take the risk knowing full well that he will never lose his mother or his brother’s affection. Me on the other hand…well, I definitely can’t be as confident.

“Yeah. I just don’t know what will happen, but if it comes to a choice between career and family…well, family will always come first.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“Of course. If we’re all lucky, we’ll get to play ball for a few years before we injure ourselves or age out of the game. It’s a short-lived sport and then you’re on the scrap heap looking for coach jobs or if you’re lucky, a commentator role. But family is for life. It sees you through all the shit and gets you back on your feet when you need it.”

“Like now,” I say.

At the door, two shadows loom; Jameson’s carbon copies. “Like now,” he says, smiling at his brothers.

“You bending his ear with girl talk?” Joshua says.

Jameson takes a pillow and tosses it at his brother. “You fuckers took your time. Maisie’s been keeping me company.”

“Well, isn’t that kind of Maisie,” Jessie says, with grin that looks more leer than genuine.

“It was,” Jameson says.

“I should go.”

Jameson nods and smiles. “Come back later?”

“’Course.” I shuffle off the bed and Jessie and Joshua wait to take my place. I hope my dad bought a good mattress because the weight of these huge men could buckle springs forever.

Downstairs, I can hear Kyle talking to his mom in the kitchen. “I really think it’s a great idea.”

“I can’t leave Jameson when he’s like this. Who’s going to take him for hospital appointments? Who’s going to help in the shower?”

“We will,” Kyle says. “Well, I’ll drive him to the hospital. I draw the line at watching him shower.”

“You see?” Janice says, as though that proves her right for her fussing.

“Go,” Kyle says. “It’s just what you need. I know Jameson will think the same. You work too hard looking after us all. You deserve a break…and Jamaica…it’s going to be amazing.”

I hear cupboard doors and drawers opening and closing as they continue with the meal preparation and I stand in the hallway eavesdropping on a conversation that I helped to orchestrate. Thank goodness Kyle is on the same page as Coach.

“Maybe you’re right,” Janice says. “I trust you boys to look after your brother, and I really could do with some sun and a rest.”

“There you go,” Kyle says, and I can hear the smile in his voice.

It’s only then that I realize why Kyle might be so enthusiastic about getting rid of our parents.

With the house empty, there will be no one around to catch us.


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