Can't Help Falling(6)

By: Kara Isaac


Exiting the gym, he walked down the hall to drop the blood off with all the other samples that had been taken that morning.

He let his mind drift back to the excitement on his mum’s face the night before when he’d presented her with her present. It had been more than worth the price tag, which would have him pretty much living on rice and cereal for the next few weeks.

Not even Victor, who had gone easy but expensive with some kind of day spa experience, had come close. And his brother’s glower showed he knew it too. It was nice to be one up on the golden boy for once. Especially when said golden boy lied through his teeth to their parents about pretty much everything and dragged Peter along as an unwilling accomplice.

His mind flipped over to the girl, a thought not far from his mind during the last couple of days. It still all seemed like a surreal dream. Her falling out of the wardrobe onto him. The teacup being left behind. It was about as crazy as anything that had happened in Narnia. If he’d heard it from one of the guys, he’d have assumed someone had been consuming something that was definitely not approved by UK Anti-Doping.

“Who is she?”

“What?” He turned to where the burly president of the club was leaning against the doorframe. He hadn’t even heard Tim approach.

“You have a weird smile on your face. You have a hot date last night?”

“If by ‘hot date’ you mean my mother’s birthday, then yes.”

“Huh.” Tim didn’t look convinced but let it drop. “How are the guys doing?”

Peter looked down at the clipboard Grant had handed to him. “Pretty good considering the brutal row yesterday. Max and Hayden are pretty much neck and neck, time-wise. Will be interesting to see what their bloods show.”

Tim rubbed a hand across his forehead. “I hate this part. One of them is going to have his dreams come true, the other will miss out by the slimmest margin. And he’ll know it.”

“Yes, well. Anything can happen still.” As he well knew. One second a rower on the Great Britain national team, a sure thing for Olympic selection, the next a has-been before he’d managed the has.

“Victor’s been throwing some crazy-big numbers. Cambridge would stroke out if they could see them.” Tim made the observation casually.

“Good for him.” Peter managed to keep most of the bitterness out of his voice. It had been easy to excuse himself from any role in Victor’s selection for the Blue Boat, not so much to try to hide the animosity that existed between the two of them.

His brother hadn’t rowed a day in his life until Peter had gotten injured. Peter had almost lost his breakfast the day Victor had shown up at trials. There was a glint in his eye as he said he’d decided to “give it a go.” Just his luck his brother had proven to be freakishly good at it. Like he was at pretty much everything he tried.

Tim’s eyes narrowed. “How’s the physio going?”

“Okay.” He wasn’t ready to admit aloud that his improvement had plateaued a month ago. That even Kevin, one of the country’s best sports physiotherapists, seemed to be less optimistic with every session.

Peter rotated his left shoulder, checking for any pain or tension. Plateauing wasn’t an option. The only option was total recovery. He had not come all this way to be permanently out of the game now. He was going to make a comeback if it killed him. He owed it to Anita.

“You’ll get there.” Tim gave him the same shoulder clap Peter had given Max a few minutes before. “You’ve got time until Tokyo.”

It wasn’t supposed to be Tokyo, it was supposed to be Rio, he wanted to shout. His entire life since he was fourteen had been oriented around being in the Team Great Britain boat in 2016. And he’d almost made it too. Then he’d had to try to be the good guy. And paid for it by losing the only thing he’d ever really wanted.





Four

EMELIA SUCKED IN A BREATH. Forced one out. Curling her fingers around the bottom of her rickety chair, she stared straight ahead at the notice board on the wall opposite. The flyers and pamphlets sat at all angles, pinned seemingly at random. Some proclaiming dates months old. Emelia’s fingers itched to go over there and restore order to the poor overladen board. But no. She, more than anyone, knew the importance of first impressions.

Everything rested on now. She’d cut ties with LA. Changed her appearance. Booked a one-way ticket to England. Spent four nights in a hovel that deserved to be condemned. All for this. There was no Plan B.

For some reason, the green eyes and red hair of a certain Englishman floated into her mind. “Are you a Susan or a Lucy?” His half-laughing question had echoed there since he’d asked it. It was a great pickup line. She had to give him that. If she’d been a girl who had only seen the movies. Unfortunately for him, she was a true Narnia fan. She knew what had happened to Susan. Worse, she knew she was a Susan.