Cecily found him at the gym, pounding the life out of a sparring bag. He paused, sweating profusely, to catch his breath and saw her standing there, looking lost. "What's up?" he asked, reaching for his water bottle.
"Oh, nothing," she said. "I can see you're busy. I'll come back later."
"Cecily, I'm never too busy for you."
"I really need someone to talk to," she said in a small voice.
"Mind if I take a shower first? I'll buy you lunch."
She nodded and wandered over to the racks of gym clothes for sale as he headed to the locker. Ten minutes later they were on their way to Pop's. Cecily looked so miserable that Connor put his arm around her and she leaned against him.
"So, what's on your mind?" he asked after they'd ordered.
"I'm feeling really guilty about Charles," she said with a sniffle. "And he's just so mad about everything right now nothing I say is right."
"Give the guy a break," Connor said. "And a little space."
"I have been," she said. "It feels cowardly but I just can't deal with it."
"It's not cowardly. It's self preservation. He's not the easiest person to be around right now."
"Tell me about it."
Their pizza arrived and Connor devoured two slices while Cecily picked at one.
"You should eat."
"Good, he's good. He's been really supportive. Which makes me feel worse because I feel like I'm cheating on Charles even though he acts like he hates me, and I miss Johnny but that makes me feel guilty and--I just don't know what to do," she wailed. "Sometimes I think I should just become a nun."
"I don't think that would be a very smart idea," he said with a smile. "It's OK, Cecily. It'll all be all right."
"Yes. You're still in college, you're not supposed to have it all figured out yet."
"Sometimes I just want to do what I want to do and I don't care about anyone else," she said, "and sometimes I realize how selfish that is, and mostly I just want to get through the day OK, you know? And not to be so lonely."
"Sounds familiar," Connor said.
"Yes. You just described my life."
"So what do you do?"
"You want my advice?"
"Try concentrating on helping someone else. You'd be amazed how it puts everything in perspective."
She nodded thoughtfully and ate her piece of pizza. Connor finished half the pie and ordered another soda.
"How are you?" she asked.
"Yeah, you. You're always looking out for us. Who's looking out for you, big brother?"
He shrugged. "I'm OK."
"Uh huh. That's why you bloodied your knuckles on a punching bag." She touched his hand. He looked down, surprised to see scabs forming. He hadn't noticed.
"Just working out some stuff."
"If you ever need someone to talk to, you can call me, you know," she said.
"Thanks," he said, touched. "That's nice of you."
"Nice, schmeiss," she said. "We're family. That's what family does."
"You're being careful at night, right?" he asked.
She rolled her eyes. "Yes. I never go anywhere. It's a big drag."
"Better bored than in intensive care," he said.
She shivered. "Don't remind me." She put down her pizza. "Do you think he'll ever walk again?" she asked in a very small voice.
Connor got up and walked around to her side of the booth and slid in next to her. She put her head on his shoulder and he held her as she cried.Next Chapter