I was beginning to come into my own, all the extra work with Josh was paying off in huge dividends. I had become one of his favorite receivers, especially in clutch situations. The more I spent time studying with him, the more my thoughts meshed with his. I had scored eight touchdowns on a total of fifty nine receptions thus far. Finally our bye week arrived, it was well needed. Several players needed the extra time to heal up, everybody was battered and bruised. We watched film that Monday, had a light workout on Tuesday, then we were dismissed until the following Monday morning. Since I had close to a week off, I decided to fly home for a couple of days and surprise Ashley. I caught the red eye out of LAX on Tuesday night, I would get in early Wednesday morning. I slept pretty well on the plane, until shortly before we arrived on the ground. I had only packed a small carry on bag, so I made my way straight to the car rental counter and inquired about a car. Being the Thanksgiving holiday and with no reservation, the only thing they had were high end expensive cars left. The only thing they had ready was a Mercedes E350, I had to take it. They brought me to the car lot, handed me my keys and paperwork, I hit the highway.
I arrived at my house, sometime around nine that morning, Ashley’s SUV was in the driveway. I walked around to the front door, ringing the bell, which I knew would catch her off guard. I heard someone scurrying behind the door, then the door open just a crack, Ashley peering out carefully.
“Oh my God, Briannnnnnnnnnnnn.”, she said, flinging the door open, jumping into my arms.
“Hey Ash.God it’s good to see you.”, I whispered in her ear.
I set her back down on the floor, as she straightened her short robe on her body. It was obvious she hadn’t been up long, but nonetheless, she was still adorable.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming ?”, she screamed, excitedly.
“It was a last minute thing, we have the next five days off.”, I replied.
“Well come on in, I’m glad you’re here.”, she said, grabbing my hand.
I went in, went to my old room and tossed my bag on the bed. I went back to the family room and sat down with Ashley, she had a million questions. We lost track of time, before we knew it , the clock read twelve thirty. I was rather hungry, I suggested we go out and get a bite to eat. She quickly went into her room and dressed, she was back in a flash. As we exited the back door, she saw the rental car parked behind her SUV.
“Whoa hotshot, you living large huh ?”, she laughed.
“They didn’t have much left, it was all they had other than a town car, they were both the same price.”, I told her.
We drove over to the diner, had a quick lunch, then headed back home. I dropped Ashley off at home then drove over to the gym to say hello to Carl, it had been well over a year since I had visted him. We talked for a while, catching up, the thanked me for stopping by. On the way back through town, I happen to pass the local bank, I pulled over into the parking lot. I was wondering, if perhaps Jasmin was still working in the bank, or perhaps she had moved on. I decided to pop in and check, it had been years since we had seen each other. I walked through the large glass double doors into the lobby area of the bank. I noticed a woman sitting at a desk in the middle of the lobby, the plate on her desk read “Customer Service”, I figured she could help me. She noticed me as I was walking towards her.
“Yes sir, how can I help you today ?”, she asked, smiling politely.
“Does Jasmin Thomas still work here mam ?”, I asked.
“Yes sir, she does, she works in the financing department. She has an office upstairs. Do you have an appointment with her ?”, she asked.
“Oh, no mam. I went to high school with her, I am back in town, I just wanted to say hello, no big deal.”, I replied.
“Let me ring her, whom should I say is here ?”, she asked.
“Brian Stevens”, I answered.
She looked back up at me like she had been hit by a bolt of electricity, then reached over and pressed one of the many buttons on her large phone. After a few seconds, she spoke into the receiver.
“Ms. Thomas, there is a Brian Stevens here to see you.”, she said, softly.
She hung up the phone, then looked back at me, a smile on her face.
“Ms. Thomas will be right down.”, she told me.
“Thank you mam.”, I responded.
“You’re the Brian Stevens from here, the pro football player ?”, she asked.
“Yes mam, I am.”, I answered.
Just at that time, I door open at the other side of the room, a beautiful young woman walked out. I could immediately tell it was Jasmin, but how she had grown. The once very pretty teenager, had blossomed into a beautiful young woman. She was dressed in a business suit, her hair had been cut a lot shorter than I had remembered it. She ran the last few steps jumping into my arms.
“Briannnnnnnnnn, Oh My God, what are you doing here ?”, she squealed.
“Just came to see how you were doing. I’m in town for a few days, was passing by the bank, figured I would see if you were here.”, I answered.
“I can’t believe it, I watch you play every Sunday, at least when we can get the games here on TV. I saw the catch you made in the Kansas City game, my Dad went nuts, he was screaming so loud.”, she laughed.
All at once, with nothing being said, our eyes met, I knew we were both thinking the same thing. The joy and exuberance immediately went to sad and somber.She looked down for a second, then back at me.
“Brian, I am so sorry about Courtney. We all loved her, I miss her so much.”, she said softly, touching my hand.
“I know Jazzy, me too.”, I answered.
We talked for a few more moments, she promised to call me later that evening, maybe we could go out to eat or something, I told her that sounded nice. I left the bank and drove straight back home, Ashley was cleaning house. I went into the family room, sat down and looked around. I guess since being gone for a while, I noticed some things that I maybe had overlooked before. The house was beginning to show it’s age, it needed some repairs. I knew the house had long since been paid for, but I had no idea of its worth. As I was sitting there thinking, Ashley walked back into the room and sat down.
“It’s amazing at how dirty the house can get, and it’s just me here.”, she said.
“I was just thinking of the house , it’s funny you bring that up .”, I answered.
“You thought the house was dirty too ?”, she asked, seriously.
“No, I was just thinking of how the house is showing it’s age.”, I laughed.
“Oh, ok.”, she answered.
“Ash, what are your long term plans, do you think you will stay in this town ?”, I asked.
“Oh I don’t know, why do you ask ?”, she responded.
“Well first, if you do plan on staying, I want you to have this house. I want to put it in your name.”, I told her.
“Oh Brian, I couldn’t do that, your father left you this house, it’s yours.”, she replied.
“Ash, I will never come back here to live, and in the remote chance I do, I wouldn’t live here, I would rather be right outside of town, have a lot more land.”, I told her.
“Then sell this, I can move.”, she offered.
“I don’t want to sell it, I want to give it to you, I sure as hell don’t need the money.”, I responded.
She sat there, I guess somewhat embarrassed that someone so young was offering her something she maybe felt she should already have purchased for herself. It was hard to get a read on what she was thinking, so I decided to press her a bit more.
“Look all I was thinking is, if you really think you will stay here, I will spend a few dollars and fix things up, then sign the house over to you.”, I offered.
“Oh no way, if anything gets fixed up, I will pay for it. That’s not open for discussion.”, she answered.
“Alright, I was just thinking out loud, but seriously Ash, I do want you to have the house. I know that’s what my Dad would have wanted as well.”, I said.
I let the conversation drop for now, I would handle it in my own time. I turned on the TV and began watching a movie that had just started. Several hours later, my cell phone rang, it was Jasmin.
“Hey Brian, what’s up ?”, she asked.
“Nothing Jazzy, just watching TV.”, I answered.
“You wanna do something tonight ?”, she inquired.
“Sure, why not ? What do you have in mind ?”, I asked.
“I dunno, I just thought it would be nice to spend a little time catching up.”, she stated.
“How about we go to the Italian Gardens Restaurant across town, say maybe seven o’clock ?”, I asked.
“That would be great, I would like that.”, she answered.
“Would it be ok if I asked Ashley to go with us ?”, I asked.
“That would be nice, I haven’t seen her in a while.”, I responded.
“I’ll pick you up about seven.”, I told her, hanging up.
I went towards the back of the house looking for Ashley, she was in her room. I stuck my head in the door, she was sitting on the bed.
“Hey, we are going to dinner tonight at the Italian Gardens, be ready for six thirty. We have to pick up Jasmin Thomas, she will be joining us.”, I told her.
“Oh Brian, you kids don’t need me hanging around, you go out and have a good time. I’ll be fine.”, she answered.
“I know you’re fine, but you still have to be ready at six thirty.”, I laughed, turned and walked down the hall.
“Oh you’ll pay for that one buddy.”, she quipped back.
I took a shower about five, dressed in some nice jeans and a pull over knit shirt, then went back in the family room. It was just after six thirty when I heard Ashley’s heels on the hall floor. She walked into the family room, sat down in the chair across from me, her scent finally reaching me. She had on tight jeans, black heeled boots and a white sweater, her hair was pulled back tight in a pony tail. No matter how much I tried not to think of Ashley in a sexual way, it did no good.
I jumped up quickly, it was time to go.
“Let’s go get Jasmin.”, I said.
I followed her out of the back door, locking it, then opening her door, letting her in. I could tell she was really impressed by the car, even though it was a loaner. I opened the door and climbed in the driver’s seat.
“This is a beautiful car Brian. “, Ashley told me, as I started the engine.
“If you like this, wait till you see my 750Li. It puts this thing to shame.”, I replied.
I pulled out of the drive and headed across town to Jasmin’s house. We got there quickly, although it did take me a second to remember which house. Ashley decided to wait in the car while I went to the door. I rang the bell, the door opened quickly, it was Jasmin’s father.
“Why hello Brian, Jasmin told me you would be here to get her.”, he said, extending his hand to me.
“Hello Mr. Thomas, it’s nice to see you gain sir.”, I replied.
He asked me to step inside for a moment, he called up the stairs for his daughter., He turned back to me, a smile on his face.
“You’ve been playing really well Brian, I have watched most of your games. I have the complete league package on satellite TV. The catch against Kansas City was incredible.”, he said.
“Thank you sir, but that last one, well I just got lucky.”, I answered.
“Maybe, maybe not, but it was still a hell of a catch.”, he replied.
Just about that time Jasmin came down the stairs, she looked really nice. She had on jeans as well, with a red blouse, that was really tight, she had definitely grown into a woman.
“Hi Brian, where’s Ashley ?”, she asked.
“She is out in the car waiting.”, I replied.
“Oh, well let’s go then.”, she stated, opening the door.
I followed her out of the door, down the walk to the car. I opened her door as well, she slid into the back seat. I walked back around, the ladies were still saying their hello’s. I slid in the driver’s seat, buckled up and we drove off. Fifteen minutes later, we were in the restaurant parking lot. We went inside, waiting at the small podium to be seated, it was fairly crowded. It took several minutes before the hostess made her way to us, a pleasant smile on her face.
“How many will dining with us today.”, she asked.
“Three of us.”, replied Ashley.
“Please follow me.”, she answered, grabbing three menu’s from her station.
She led us to the middle of the room, by the time we had reached the table, I had recognized at least four people I knew. I waved hello to each of them, small town life really never changed. By the time our drinks were brought to us, I think the whole restaurant was caught up in what we were doing. I had learned somewhat to ignore it, but I could tell the ladies were a bit uneasy. Jasmin leaned across the table, speaking to me softly.
“Why is everyone staring at us so much ?”, she asked.
Without batting an eyes, a serious look on my face, I leaned in and whispered quietly to her.
“Ignore it, it comes with playing the game.”, I answered.
We talked quietly among ourselves as we waited for our food, the appetizer’s came first. After the first twenty minutes or so, I finally had to ask the ladies to start a new topic other than football. They agreed and started talking about Ashley’s classes this year and about Jasmin’s job. I was relieved, I wanted a break from football. Inevitably though, Jasmin finally asked the question I knew was coming.
“Have you seen Courtney’s parents since you’ve been back ?”, she asked.
“No, not yet. I will probably go there tomorrow.”, I answered.
“I still can’t believe she’s gone.”, Jasmin stated softly.
I didn’t respond, I didn’t feel like getting into an emotional discussion. Ashley noticed, she quickly changed the subject. Our meal arrived and we spent the rest of the evening, enjoying our food and talking. We left the restaurant about nine o’clock, dropped Jasmin off at her place, then went back home. I made my way to the family room , turned on the TV and settled in on the sofa. Ashley, came in a few minutes later, and sat in her usual seat. I handed her the remote, she flipped through a few channels, finally coming to a reality show that she enjoyed. We watched three straight, half hour episodes, before I decided it was time for bed. I told Ashley goodnight, then made my way down to my old bedroom. I closed the door, got undressed and climbed into bed. I set my clock for early in the morning, I had to go to Carl’s gym to train, I could already feel my body reacting to the three days I had missed thus far. I fell asleep quickly, slept really well until the alarm went off. I got up quietly, dressed and made my way to the gym. I was only the second person in the facility, other than Carl the owner who waved to me from his office. Carl had always been very good to me, he was almost like family.
I began my usual routine, which started with a lot of stretching, iso and leg work before hitting the weights. By the time I was ready for the weight area, the gym was beginning to fill. As was usually the case, I noticed several people watching my every move. But then again, how many times would you really get to be this close to a professional athlete, in your own home town. As usual, I basically ignored it and went about my business, banging the plates around, following my usual circuit. I had just finished a set of shouler presses with the barbells when Carl came over with a man about his own age.
“Brian, this is a very close friend of mine, Tim Wilkerson, he’s the President of First Fidelity Bank. Tim, this is one of my star clients, Brian Stevens.”, he said, introducing us to each other.
“Nice to meet you sir.”, I replied, shaking his hand.
“Same here Brian, I have heard many good things about you from Carl, he is very proud of you, as well he should be. You have made this small town very proud.”, he answered.
“Thank you sir, that’s very kind of you to say, but I had a lot of help along the way.”, I responded.
“Anything you need while you’re in town, you let me know Brian.”, he offered.
“Well actually sir, I do need to talk to someone about my home here in town, I know my Dad had the mortgage through your bank.”, I answered.
“Yes he did Brian, but that was paid upon his death. He had taken out mortgage protection insurance, so the house has no lien on it. It’s yours free and clear.”, he said.
‘Yes sir, I thought so. That’s what I want to talk to you about. Could I come see you sometime in the next few days when I am in town ?”, I asked.
“Sure, run by today some time, I have a light schedule, I can fit you in anytime before two o’clock. I am playing golf at three.”, he replied.
“Thank you sir, I will do that.”, I told him.
I went back to my workout, finished up in about an hour, packed up and left the gym, heading home. Ashley was up drinking coffee as I came through the back door, she must have just gotten up.
“Hey, you already been to gym huh ?”, she asked.
“Yea, I had already missed three days, I had to go.”, I replied.
I went to my room, grabbed some clean clothes, showered then dressed. I went back to the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, then sat at the table with Ashley.
“What do you have planned for today ?”, she asked.
“Well, I have to go into town for a while, then I guess I am going to Mr. Timmon’s house this evening, I can’t leave town without seeing them.”, I answered.
“No, you can’t.”, she replied, softly.
Ashley went on to tell me, she had to go run errands, then she was going to have to put her SUV in the shop, it was giving her problems. She was going to rent a car, while they had it. I told her not to bother with that, I already had this one rented, she could bring me back to the airport, keep it till her car was ready, then turn it in. It was on my credit card, I would pay for it. She objected, but as usual I paid no attention, the matter was resolved. I told her to go run errands, call me when she arrived at the dealer to drop off her car, I would pick her up.
I left and headed into town to meet with Mr. Wilkerson at the bank. I was quickly ushered into his office, he was between meetings. I sat down and explained to him what I had in mind. I explained to him that I felt Ashley should have the house, truthfully I would never move back into it. Money was not an issue, so giving her the housefelt like the right thing to do. He told me that he felt that was an admirable gesture on my part, the paper work was a mere formality. I asked if it could be done without Ashley’s knowledge. He said it certainly could, although once the deed and title was transferred to her, she would have to sign to accept. I told him to proceed with the paperwork, since I had no idea where the original papers were, he told me the bank kept copies of everything, he could work from those. I thanked him for his time, gave him my phone number and asked him to call me when everything was finalized. I then left went back home , relaxed for a while waiting on Ashley’s call. I decided to call Mr. & Mrs Timmons, seeing if it would be ok with them if I dropped by later on that evening. Mrs Timmons told me although her husband was not home, she assured me it would be fine if I visited with them for a while. I told her I would come by at about seven o’clock or so, she thanked me and hung up.
A few minutes later Ashley called me and told me she was headed for the dealership. I walked out right away, arriving at exactly the same time she did, maybe a minute or two apart at best. I followed her back to the service department, when she began to explain to the service manager, exactly how the vehicle had been performing lately. After listening to her, he mentioned she possibly might be having several different issues going on at once. He told her he would run some diagnostics on the vehicle, then call her later in the day.
We removed some groceries, a few other bags from her SUV, transferred to my rental and drove home. I helped her put away the groceries, then laid on the sofa and took a quick nap. By the time I got back up it was close to three o’clock. I heard Ashley in the kitchen, apparently talking on the phone. I caught the last remark she made before hanging up.
“I understand that, but I am a teacher in a small town, I don’t make a lot of money. I’m not sure if I can afford that, can I come down and talk to you ? Thanks, I will be right there.”, she said, hanging up.
Just about that time I walked into the kitchen, as if I had heard nothing. I poured a glass of iced tea, then sat at the table with her. I could instantly see she was worried , I pretended not to notice. Finally she looked up, her eyes met mine.
“Um Brian, can I borrow the car for a few minutes, I need to run over to the dealer to talk to him about the repairs on my SUV.”, she asked.
“I’ll take you, come on.”, I answered.
“I’m sure you have better things to do than go to a car dealership ?”, she replied, trying her best to be discreet.
“Nope.”, I said, jumping up and grabbing my car keys.
With no argument left available, she shrugged her shoulders, grabbed her purse and followed me out the door. We took the short drive over to the dealer, went into the service manager’s office and sat down. He list the items what were giving Ashley problems, none of them sounded good. Apparently the wiring harness for the onboard computer system was going bad, causing the car to either not start sometimes, or just shut off while she was driving. It addition he told her the transmission was slipping, not severly, but enough that it would have to be addressed in the near future as well. On top of that, she needed a complete brake job, two ball joints and the universal joint changed. By the time he was finished with the list of items Ashley’s face was white as a ghost. Just at that time, there was a knock on the door, a big young guy in company uniform came in with a clip board. I immediately recognized him from high school, it was a former teammate of mine, Louis Hunter.
“Brian, Ms. Thompson, what are you guys doing here ?”, he exclaimed.
I stood up and greeted an old friend, it had been a few years since I had seen Louis, or any of my former teammates for that matter.
“Hey buddy, I’m on my bye week, so I flew into town to see everyone. Ashley’s has her SUV here for repairs.”, I answered, hugging him as old friends do.
“Man it’s good to see you dude. I hear you are lighting up the league man. I saw that catch against KC bro, it took my breath away.”, he said.
“Thanks, things have been going well.”, I replied.
He dropped the clip board on the service manager’s desk, then asked me to walk outside for a second so we could catch up. I followed him outside, to a small break room where the mechanics took their lunch.
“What vehicle is Ms. Thompson’s ?”, he asked.
“The gold SUV right there , next to the white pickup truck.”, I said pointing out the window, that over looked the service bays.
“I did the eval on that vehicle myself, it’s needs a lot of work Brian. I’m not sure it’s even worth it.”, he answered.
“He’ll try to sell her the repair package, I’m guessing about seven to eight grand. Personally, I would take it, trade it in on something new. Don’t mention what needs to be done, they might or might not catch it. If they don’t you get a good trade in price and she’s in a new car with no problems.”, he finished.
“Thanks Louis, I appreciate it buddy.”, I replied.
“Just don’t let him know I told you that.”, he laughed, pointing to the service manager’s office.
I left my friend to his work and went back to where Ashley was still talking to the service manager. He was still trying to sell her on the repairs that were needed on her vehicle. She was holding the estimate in her hand, her eyes riveted to it. I reached over and gently pulled it from her hand and scanned the document quickly. Louis had been right, the repairs totaled over eighty five hundred dollars before taxes. I laid the estimate back on the manager’s desk, leaning forward slightly in my chair.
“Get the vehicle ready, we have to think about this for a day or two, we will be back.”, I said.
Ashley gave me a strange look, but the service manager shrugged his shoulders, called to the back and asked them to bring the SUV up front for customer pick up. I thanked him for his time, assuring him we would be back after we talked it over. Ashley climbed into her SUV and pulled out of the lot, I followed her home. When we were both back inside, she turned to me with a rather stern look on her face.
“Brian, I am an adult, I can make my own decisions you know.”, she said, slightly scolding me.
I began to tell her of my converstaion with Louis, what he had found, how he felt she was being over charged for what they were actually doing. When I suggested we look at new vehicles, her tone got even colder.
“Brian, I can’t afford a new car right now, there’s no way.”, she stated.
“But you can afford to pay over nine thousand bucks to fix a car that’s going on four years old ?”, I replied.
“Well no not really, I will have to make a loan from the teacher’s credit union, I guess.”, she said, somewhat embarrassed.
“So you will have a monthly note to pay anyway, let’s see what kind of note we can get trading your SUV in, if it doesn’t work, then use your plan and get it fixed.”, I responded.
“Well we can look, but I know I can’t afford a new car now.”, she shot back, walking out of the room.
About an hour later, Mrs Timmons called me and told me that her husband was going to be stuck late in a business meeting and asked if I could make it the following evening, which was Friday, about the same time. I told her that would be fine, I would see them tomorrow. I wasn’t scheduled to leave until Saturday night, so I still had about days to do what was needed. Since I had the night free now, I had no idea what to do. I asked Ashley if she had any idea’s, she really didn’t .
I really didn’t feel like sitting at home, but had no clue as to what to do. I decided I was going to go to the local pizza parlor where the young kids still hung out. I asked Ashley if she wanted to go, she told me that she felt like staying in and relaxing. I cleaned up, changed clothes and drove over to the pizza place, it was close to eight at night. I went in, the place was packed, mostly teenager’s as I remembered it. I sat down at a small booth, ordered a medium pizza and a coke, then leaned back looking out the window to the street. Maybe a half minute later, I heard a very soft, female voice behind me, causing me to turn my head.
“Hey Brian, what are you doing in here ?”
I turned and it took me a minute to realize who it was, there stood Gia, Courtney’s baby sister, only now a young teenager.
“Hey peanut, what are you doing here ? Where’s Mom and Dad ?”, I asked.
“At home, I am here with my friends.”, she said, pointing over her shoulder, at two other girls with two boys.
“You just get here ?”, I asked.
“Yep, just walked in.”, she replied.
“Well let’s get a big table, I will buy for everyone.”, I offered.
“Cool.”, she said, summoning her friends over.
I got up found my waitress and told her I needed her to come over to the table the youngsters had picked and add their orders to mine. She told me she would be there shortly. I walked back across the restaurant to the table and sat down next to Gia. She made the introductions quickly, as only a teenager could.
“Hey guys, this is Brian. He was my sister’s boyfriend. He plays football in the pro’s, I’m not sure for who though.”, she stated, very matter of factly.
“Hey guys, I am Brian Stevens, I grew up here in this town, went to your high school, I now live in San Diego.”, I added.
“Hey, I think I heard of you.”, said one of the guys.
I had to laugh at their naivity, it was fun being young with no worries. Just about that time, the waitress showed up to take the order.
“Order whatever you want, I am paying guys. Go all out.”, I offered them.
They immediately ordered three large pizza’s with everything, then soft drinks for the girls. One of the guys, who appeared to be a bit older than the rest looked directly at me.
“Is it cool if we order beer ?”, he asked, a sort of cockiness in his voice.
“Not gonna happen sunshine, so get it out of your head. You’re a kid, act like one.”, I told him.
“That’s so lame dude.”, he replied, “I get beer all the time.”
“He’s with you Gia ?”, I asked.
“No, he’s Cindy’s boyfriend.”, she said, pointing to the girl to her right.
“Ok, then it’s not my business, but you’re not getting any beer with me here.”, I told him.
The waitress finished the order and left us, the mood at the table had grown solemn. The cocky older boy, who name was Roger, was one of those who never could let something go. I knew the type, they were going to get the last word in no matter what. He kept pushing the issue.
“So, I guess you never drank beer when you were sixteen huh ?”, he asked, with a smirk on his face.
“Actually, no I didn’t. I was too busy with school and football, I didn’t have time to take chances gambling on my future.”, I told him calmly, “And if you doubt me, you can ask Gia’s parents, they have known me since I was your age.”
“Whatever dude.”, he said, a look of disgust on his face.
Just about that time the waitress brought the pizza’s and the drinks, the kids began to eat. I could tell Gia was a bit nervous, I think she felt I was going to confront her friend further. I decided I was going to leave early, let the kids enjoy the rest of the evening.
“Hey peanut, I am gonna head home ok ?”, I told her.
“Aw why Brian, hang out with us.”, she replied.
Just about that time, a very pretty young brunette, I am guessing in her mid to late twenties came walking over to our table. She approached slowly, then stopped a few feet away. She waited until I turned and acknowledged her presence.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but are you Brian Stevens ?”, she asked.
“Yes, I am.”, I replied.
“I went to school with you, only I was two grades ahead of you. I watch you play all the time. Would you mind taking a picture with me ?”, she asked.
“Not at all.”, I replied.
I got up, took her phone and handed it to Gia. I stood next to the woman, placed my arm around her waist, Gia snapped two quick pictures. Gia then handed the woman back her phone, which she slid into her pocket.
“Thanks so much, my friends would never have believed you were here.”, she told me.
I sat back down for a second, finished my soda, then reached for the check. I once again, told the group to have fun but be sure to stay safe. I told Gia to tell her parents I would see them tomorrow night. I leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, telling her to be careful. I walked over to the register, paid the check, tipped the waitress then left.
I drove back home, it was about ten o’clock when I walked through the back door. I could hear the TV on in the family room, I knew Ashley was in there. I grabbed a soda from the refrigerator and joined her on the sofa. She had already changed for the evening, she was wearing a mid thigh, oversized tee shirt, not much else. I finished my drink, headed down the hall, took a shower, then dressed for bed. By now it was after eleven, I could still see the TV on in the front room. I decided to go straight to bed, seeing Ashley dressed as she was did very little to help the situation. Thankfully I fell asleep quickly, I slept well until I heard Ashley in the kitchen moving around. I got up, went to the bathroom then joined her in the kitchen. I poured a cup of coffee, then sat at the kitchen table.
“Hey how about we go look at cars today over in Midway, see what they have to offer ?”, I asked.
“Brian, I told you I don’t think I can afford a new car.”, she replied.
“Lets just go look, it can’t hurt.”, I answered.
“Ok fine, we will go look.”, she shot back.
We both dressed and took the one hour drive to Midway, a large city to the north. It offered much more selection than the two small dealers in our town, there were at least nine dealerships within a few miles. We went from one dealership to the next, mostly just looking, everything she seemed to like, she felt was out of her price range. We had just left one of the larger lots, when we passed a lot specializing in foreign imports. Without saying a word, I pulled into the lot, parking quickly in the front of the building. We had brought Ashley’s SUV, just in case I could get someone to work us a deal. Before we were barely out of the vehicle, a well dressed woman in her mid forties approached us, asking if she could help us look at something.
“We need to find her a car, if possible.”, I answered.
“What do you have in mind ?”, she inquired.
“How about we look around for a few minutes, then get back to you ?”, I replied.
She agreed and walked back into the large glass building, as Ashley and I began to walk between the rows of cars. They represented several foreign manufacturers including BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Volvo. I followed Ashley as she went from vehicle to vehicle, but it seemed that the only thing concerned her was the price on the window of the vehicle. I wandered off alone, I was looking at a beautiful white Mercedes E550 with tan interior. I opened up the door looking inside, the car was fully loaded. The sticker on the car was over sixty one thousand dollars but I knew now from dealing with Alexis, negoiation was the key. I was sitting behind the wheel of the car as Ashley approached me, walking quickly.
“Brian, let’s go, I can’t afford anything here. I’m going to just get my SUV fixed and be done with it.”, she told me.
By now, our salesman was walking back up to us, leather portfolio in hand. She leaned into the car, smiling warmly at me.
“Nice isn’t it ?”, she asked.
“Not bad, I like it, can we take it out for a drive ?”, I asked.
“We sure can, let me get the keys.”, she answered, heading back inside.
“Brian, what are you doing, I can’t afford this. Please, let’s go.”, she pleaded.
“After we test drive this, we can go.”, I answered.
The woman reappeared quickly, handing me the keys to the car. I reached over and placed the keys in Ashley’s hand, then walked to the passenger side of the car. I knew Ashley well enough by now to know she was getting a bit upset with me, but I knew she wouldn’t say anything in public. I got in the rear of the vehicle as Ashley got behind the wheel, the sales woman in the front passenger side. As soon as Ashley started up the car, the lady was explaining all the features on the interior such as the automatic climate control, surround sound stereo, built in GPS and phone system. She instructed Ashley to back out of the lot, and take the main highway into town. We hadn’t gone more than three or four blocks when I noticed Ashley’s edginess had disappeared, a smile was on her face. I could tell, she really liked this car. After about a fifteen minute test drive, we found ourselves back on the lot.
“So what do you think about the car ?”, the lady asked Ashley.
“Oh my God, I love it, but I can’t afford this on a teacher’s salary.”, she answered.
I was standing behind Ashley, she couldn’t see me, I made a signal to the lady to keep her talking. The lady caught on quickly, inviting us inside to take a look at financing options. Ashley shrugged her shoulders , we both followed the woman inside. She led us to her office, promising to return with the invoice for the vehicle we have just test drove. She returned several minutes later with a large manilla folder, stiing down behind her desk and opening it.
“Ok, let’s see. This vehicle lists for sixty one eight, I can go fifty nine five, with sixty month financing.”, she said, looking up.
“I’m thinking more like fifty, maybe fifty one.”, I replied.
“Oh, there’s no way, I can get anywhere near that price.”, she shot back.
“Sure you can, I got close to fourteen percent off the sticker of my 750Li.”, I responded.
“You own a 750Li ?”, she asked.
“Yes mam, back home in San Diego.”, I answered.
“Well wait here, let me go talk to the manager.”, she said, getting up from her desk.
“Look, while you’re out there, have someone drive the SUV we have, give us a trade in price on it.”, I asked.
“OK, I will get one of the other salesmen to do that.”, she said, walking out of the door.
She was gone for close to thirty minutes, while Ashley and I basically sat there in silence. She reappeared, with a few more sheets of paper in hand, another manilla folder under her arm.
“Ok, we drove your SUV, it needs a little work, but it’s not bad. It does have low mileage, and the body and interior are both excellent.”, she started.
“Now, my manager agreed, I can go fifty five, five on the car, then give you six thousand on the SUV in trade. That leaves you at forty nine five to finance.” she finished, looking up from her paper work.
“I’m still thinking fifty one on the 550, you give her twelve on the SUV.”, I offered.
“No way my manager goes for that.”, she replied quickly.
“Well, why don’t we get him in here, then see what we can do.”, I asked.
I knew the game and how it was played. The salesman pretended to leave the room and go back and forth with the manager, when in fact, the manager’s rarely ever had to get personally involved in the deal. Within minutes she was back with a younger man, very well dressed, who introduced himself as the owner of the dealership.
“How can I help you today ?”, he asked, shaking my hand.
“You can help her drive off in that white E550 you have outside.”, I replied, pointing to Ashley.
He asked the sales woman where the negoiations were at and she quickly brought him up to exactly where we both stood. He turned back to me, a serious look on his face. From his question, I knew he was thinking I was far too young to be looking at this type of automobile.
“You’re serious about the 550 ? We do have some other vehicles on the lot a little less expensive, but still extremely nice. Maybe the price range would be more manageable.”, he offered.
“The price is not a problem, I’m just not over paying for the vehicle.”, I replied.
He turned around and looked back at the balance sheet the woman was working off of, running the numbers through his head quickly.
“So what do you think is fair ?”, he asked, feeling me out.
I thought quickly and remembered something Alexis’ had said the the dealer while I was looking at the Escalade.
“Let’s be honest here. You don’t have someone walk in here everyday ready to drive a fifty plus thousand dollar car off your lot.”, I answered, “Not in a town like this.
“How about you go outside, look at her trade in yourself, then comeback and give me your rock bottom price on the car. If I like it, we drive off right now, if not we shake hands and leave ?”, I told him.
“Fair enough.”, he said, motioning for his sales woman to follow him back out.
All this time Ashley had been sitting there without saying a word, she finally leaned over to me when we were alone.
“What in the hell do you think you’re doing. Even if I finance forty thousand the notes are going to be close to a thousand a month with insurance, I can’t afford that.”, she said, scolding me like a small child.
I didn’t have time to reply, both the owner and the sales woman had now returned to the small office.
“My rock bottom deal is fifty two on the 550, I’ll give you nine on the trade in.”, he told me.
“You’re going to put that SUV on the lot and ask at least fifteen, no way I take nine.”, I replied.
“Here’s my last offer, I’ll go fifty one on the 550, you give me eleven on the trade in, that’s put the balance at forty more or less. I pay you cash right now, no financing, we drive it home.”, I ended.
“Cash ?”, he asked.
“Yes sir.”, I answered.
I reached in my back pocket, pulled out my wallet and check book, tore a check out of the book, handing it to him.
“You can just fill that out with the balance, I’ll sign it.”, I told him.
“Sir no offense, but this is an out of state check, it’s Saturday, I would have to make sure this clears before I could let you take the car. I’m sure the check is probably good, but you have to understand my position here.”, he answered.
“If the check’s good, do we have a deal ?”, I asked.
He thought for a moment, turned and looked at the paper work one last time, then turned back.
“If the check’s good , we have a deal.”, he said, shaking my hand.
I reached into my pocket, pulled out my cell phone, scanned through the contacts and found Cindy Taylor’s number, my financial advisor at PSA. I dialed it quickly, she answered right away.
“Hey Ms. Cindy, it’s Brian, how are doing today ?”, I asked.
“Good. I’m sorry to bother you on the weekend but I have a slight problem. I am back home, I’m trying to buy a car, but they want to be sure my check is good.”, I told her.
I handed the phone to the owner of the dealership, he said hello, then listened for several minutes, the expression on his face changing from one of complete control, to one of genuine surprise.
“That won’t be a problem Ms. Taylor, I appreciate your help.”, he answered, handing the phone back to me.
I thanked Cindy for her help, telling her I would get a copy of the bill of sale to her next week when I got back to the west coast. I hung up and put the phone back in my pocket.
“I’m sorry Mr. Stevens, I had no idea who you were.”, he told me.
“So we have a deal ?”, I asked.
“We have a deal. Give me about thirty minutes to get the paperwork ready.”, he answered.
He left the room with the sales lady, leaving Ashley and I alone for the second time. It didn’t take Ashley long to confront me.
“Brian, I am extremely upset with you. You have no right to do what you just did. I do not need you to buy me a car. You went too far.”, she said, her voice highly critical.
I looked over at Ashey sitting in the chair next to me. I leaned over and took her warm soft hand in mind, I looked into her angry eyes.
“Ash, when my Father died, I had no one, I was completely alone. I cannot imagine what would have happened to me had you not been there. You had no obligation to me what so ever, but you took care of me like I was your own son. I cannot ever repay you for that. You’re all the family I have left in this world, I love you, this is just a down payment on what I truly owe you.”, I told her softly.
By time the tears were streaming down her cheeks, her hand squeezing mine tightly. She reached over and wrapped both arms around my neck, sobbing softly on my shoulder. I held her for a few seconds, then she pulled away.
“Let’s go clean out your SUV, get your personal things out of the car.”, I told her.
We went outside, she really had very little in the SUV, it all fit into one plastic grocery bag. By the time, we were finished cleaning the SUV, they had pulled Ashley’s new Mercedes around to the front. We went back into the office, Ashley signed all the paper work I filled out the check, they handed her two sets of keys.
“Congratulations Ms. Thompson, you now own an exquisite vehicle.”, the owner told her as she took the keys from him.
We walked out the front door where Ashley’s new car was waiting, I opened the driver’s door for her and motion with the swing of my arm for her to get in. She slid behind the wheel quickly, I closed her door. I walked around the car, getting in the front passenger side. We pulled out of the lot, then carefully out onto the highway. I looked over at Ashley quickly, she was absolutely glowing.
We pulled into our driveway about five thirty in the evening, it had been a long day. I walked through the back door, Ashley stayed outside, looking her new car over, up and down. I went to my room, grabbed some clean clothes, took a shower, then dressed to go over to Mr. & Mrs. Timmons. Honestly, I was dreading the visit, I knew it would be highly emotional, but I also knew I had to go. I left the house at about seven o’clock, I drove slowly, I was not looking forward to the visit. As I pulled up to the house, I noticed three other vehicles in the driveway. For once, I was glad to see that perhaps there may be other visitors present. I walked up to the door, rang the bell, Gia answered the door quickly.
“Hey Brian, come on in.”, she giggled.
“Thanks peanut, what’s going on ?”, I asked.
“My Dad has a few friends over, my friends are in the back swimming in the pool.”, she answered.
I followed her to the family room, where I had been so many times before. There looked to be about three other couples there, plus Mr. Timmons and his wife. He stood up quickly as soon as he saw me, walking around the sofa to shake my hand.
“Hello Brian, it’s good to see you son. It’s been a long time.”, he said, warmly.
“Yes sir, it has. It’s good to see you as well.”, I replied.
He introduced me to everyone, one by one, I did recognize a few of his friends, I had met them before. I sat down on the end of the sofa, everyone resumed their conversation. Eventually, it got around to football and what I had been up to. After about an hour, Mrs. Timmons asked me if I would help her with something in the kitchen. I quickly jumped at the chance. I followed her around the dining room table and into the partially secluded kitchen. She turned and made sure no one had followed us in. She reached up into one of the overhead cabinets and pulled out a large white envelop, the kind you keep legal papers in. She opened the envelop and pulled out several large eight by ten inch photographs, although I could only see the white backing at this point.
“Brian, I want you to look through these photograph’s and take the ones you want. Courtney had these done for you a few months before she died, they arrived a few weeks ago, I had no idea about them.”, she told me, laying them out on the counter.
The pictures were those like you would see done by a professional photograph, these were all facial shots, with just the top of her shoulders showing. They were very well done, with the backgrounds ranging from royal blue satin to a solid black high sheen drape. She had various drapes across her shoulders, her make up was impeccable. As I looked through the photos, I could feel the tears stinging my eyes. I found two photos, that I really liked, Courtney looked absolutely beautiful in both.
“I like these two Mrs. Timmons, but if you like them as well, I can choose others.”, I offered.
“No Brian, you take them, I can have the studio reprint those two for us, it’s not a problem.”, she said smiling, her hand brushing my cheek.
She placed the two photos in the large envelop, then handed them to me. I followed her back into the family room, sitting back down in my spot on the sofa.
“When are you flying back Brian ?”, Mr. Timmons asked.
“I was scheduled to go back tonight, but I pushed it back until tomorrow at noon. I have practice Monday morning.”, I answered.
“Not much time off is there ?”, he replied.
“Not during the season, we get one day a week off.”, I answered.
I could see that the loss of his daughter had really taken a toll on him, even the talk of football didn’t hold the same passion he had always showed for the game. I decided it was time to go, as much as I loved this family, this house just wasn’t the same without Courtney.
“Mr. Timmons, I could get you some great seats if you ever want to fly up and see a game. In fact, I could get you on the practice field, a few days before the game, let you meet everyone.”, I told him.
“That sounds nice, I will let you know Brian.”, he answered.
“That’s fine sir, It was nice to see you again, thanks for inviting me over.”, I said, standing, shaking his hand.
I found both Mrs. Timmons and Gia in the kitchen, I hugged them both, then left through the front door. I got into my car and drove home, I was flying out in the morning. It was about nine o’clock as I pulled into the drive. I open the rear door, went into the kitchen, poured a drink then headed to the family room. Ashley was sitting on the sofa, watching a movie as I walked in.
“Hey sweetheart, how was your evening ?”, she asked.
“It’s just not the same without Courtney, I guess in time maybe things might get a little better.”, I answered, sitting down.
“I can’t imagine having to bury my own child, no parent should ever have to do that.”, she told me.
I didn’t say anything, I just turned to the TV to see what Ashley was watching. It was a movie on one of the romance channels, I had seen enough in my day to recognize one right away. I decided to call it a night, the last thing I wanted to watch was a love story.
“I’m going to bed Ashley, I have to leave for the airport about nine.”, I told her.
“Oh, well alright….. sleep well.”, she said, acting somewhat surprised.
I went into the bathroom, took a very hot shower, dressed for bed, then went into my room. I turned out the lights, climbed into bed, pulling up the sheets. I heard the water running through the walls, Ashley must have been showering as well. A few minutes later, I heard the water shut off, the house was very quiet. I heard her moving around in her room, then walk down the hall. I rolled over in bed, trying to get comfortable, when I heard the door handle beginning to turn. I laid there quietly, as the door open and in stepped Ashley, although it was so dark, I could only make out her outline.
“Brian, you asleep yet ?”, she asked.
“No, not yet.”, I answered.
“Can I talk to you for a minute ?”, she asked.
“Sure, come on in.”, I replied.
She slowly walked over to my bed, by now I could see she had on a long sheer royal blue night gown on, her hair was pulled off of her neck, the small spaghetti straps visible on her soft shoulders. She sat at the foot of my bed, I could smell her perfume, although it was very faint.
“Brian, I still am not sure how I feel about what you did today. I just don’t know how I can accept a gift of that magnatude. I feel guilty about it, somehow it just does not feel right.”, she said softly.
“Ash, like I told you, it’s no big deal. I owe you that and so much more, I can never repay you for what you have done for me. And if you’re worried about the money don’t be, by the time this contract is over, I will be financially set for life as long as I am careful.”, I replied.
“I know you make good money Brian, but still, I’m just not sure what people will think.”, she answered.
“Ashley, truthfully, I could care less what people think. I told you a long time ago, I was in love in you, I wanted you in San Diego with me.”, I responded.
“Yes Brian, I know you did, but I couldn’t do that to you, you’re just starting your career, being in love with your former step mother would be a nightmare you do not need.”, she informed me.
“I know what you said, but being around you is hard, especially since we shared that one night together. I just want to hold you, kiss you, make you feel good. I’m sorry, but that’s how I feel.”, I answered back.
“And you think I don’t want the same thing ? No man ever made me feel like you did that night. I couldn’t even go to bed with David, I just knew I didn’t feel those things for him. That’s why we split up.”, she admitted.
“So what’s the answer ?”, I asked.
“There isn’t one, that I can think of. But one day, you will meet someone who will capture your heart, and this, well this will all fade away. And perhaps, if I am lucky, I will find that too.”, she stated.
Without a another word, she got walked out of my room and closed the door behind her. I fought the urge to follow her with every fiber of my being, I wanted her so bad. But I knew she was right, we would never be like that again, no matter how much we both wanted it. I laid there for a while before I fell asleep, the alarm went off way too early. I rolled out of bed, dressed then grabbed my bag and made my way to the kitchen. Ashley poured me a cup of coffee and set it down on the table in front of me. We sat pretty much in silence, the feelings from the night before still looming heavily over us. I finished my coffee, got up and took my cup to the sink, rinsing it out. I turned to Ashley, I could see the sadness in her eyes.
“Time to go.”, I told her.
“I know.”, she said, getting up slowly, walking into my arms.
I just stood there holding her, she felt so good in my arms. She finally released me, tears in her eyes, looking up into my face.
“I can never thank you enough for the car, it’s beautiful, I love it.”, she whispered.
“You’re welcome, you deserve it, have fun and enjoy it.”, I answered.
She leaned up on her toes and kissed me softly on the lips, I my arms were still around her waist. The kiss lasted a little longer than I expected, but she finally pulled away. She brushed my cheek gently, then followed me out the door to my car. I watched her through the rear view mirror as I pulled out of the driveway, until she was gone from sight.
My plane was on time, I was back on the west coast and home around seven o’clock that evening. I had film review and meetings in the morning, it was back to the daily grind. We worked extra hard that week, making sure the rust from the bye week was not a factor. We left for New York on Thursday afternoon, we had a mid after noon game that Sunday.
It was one of those games that you try to forget immediately, we played horribly. Offensively we struggled, we turned the ball over four times. We put our defense in horrible situations, they did their best, but the odds were overwhelming. We left New York with a record of
9-3, only four games remaining in the regular season.
The following week, practice was intense, the coaches wanted to make sure last week’s loss was not going to become a habit. This late in the year, everyone was nursing some kind of minor injury, bruising or soreness. I had a sore hamstring, nagging ankle and stiff shoulder.
But all things considered, I was still in pretty good shape We had a home game against Houston that week, it was a must win.
Their defense had been susceptible to the run all year, that’s where we figured to exploit them. But for the first two quarters we struggled to run the ball, the game was tied 10-10 at the half. Coach Reed decided to open the second half with our quicker paced, play action package. We ran a quicker tempo, we were in and out of the huddle quickly, which prevented the defense from making substitutions on every play. Our first drive of the second half was going well until Josh was sacked and fumbled the ball on our own forty eight yard line. Our defense took the field, but six plays later they broke the tie and took the lead, 17-10.
I had up to that point, one reception for eight yards, due to our attempts in the first half to run the ball. We started our next drive on our own twenty, the result of a touchback. Coach Reed stuck to the quick temp offense, but went with five receiver package, lining me up in the slot as the fifth wideout. It was dangerous, because it left Josh with no protection other the the standard five man line in front of him. To counter that, we had a hot read on every play, in case of a blitz. They were using a nickel package with five defensive backs, a standard four man line and two linebackers.
Josh drove us down the field with laser accurate passes, splitting the seams in the defense like a surgeon. On third and four from their twenty five, we used a standard trips reciever package, I went in motion to the left. As I followed along the offensive line from right to left, the two outside linebackers communicated the switch, one dropping me off to the other. Josh then knew as well as I did, I was matched one on one with a slower defender. Just as I got outside on the tackle’s shoulder the ball was snapped, I turned and accelerated hard up the field. The linebacker had positioned him between my outside shoulder and the sideline, which left the middle vunerable. I simply planted my left foot and began to fade toward the middle of the field. The free safety snapped his head towards me, but by the time he did, we were almost on the same depth, but he was flat footed. I ran to the right hash marks, then looked back, the ball was already in the air. My first thought was to accelerate, I misjudged the ball completely. After several steps, I realized the ball would be short, I had to slow down and wait on it. Fortunately it was still high and over my right shoulder, I was able to out jump the free safety and make the catch at the three yard line, but was brought down immediately. They spotted the ball at the one yard line, two plays later we punched it in, the game was once again tied 17 – 17.
Our defense got us the ball back quickly, giving us good field position at our own thirty three. Josh was in a groove now, the passes were dead on, almost impossible to defend. Several playes later we were once again at their seventeen knocking on the door. I was scheduled to run a fade route to the right corner, I was essentially a decoy. The ball was snapped and I drifted into the right corner looking back over my shoulder. I could immediately see Josh was under pressure, he spun around and starting moving to his left. I immediately broke off my right, taking off down the line at the back of the end zone, trying to find an open seam. Just as josh was running out of field, the sideline approaching, I saw a small opening three yards in front of me. I broke into the section of the end zone, knowing the throw would have to be low. Josh released a dart, which was right on target, hitting me in the chest as I slid forward in the end zone. The crowd roared, we were back on top.
As I got up from the turf, the crowd immediately became deathly silent, I knew something was wrong. I looked back up the field and I could see what the crowd had reacted to. Josh was lying out of bounds, his right hand, clutching his left shoulder. As I walked to wards our bench, I looked up on the large screen, they were showing the replay. Just as Josh had released the ball a defensive lineman tackled him, both of their body weight all coming to rest on Josh’s left shoulder. Everyone in the stadium were nervously holding their breath, waiting for him to get up. By now the trainers and doctors were out there, they were being extremely careful. I made my way to the bench and sat down, our backup quarterback Brad Dillon was beginning to warm up. While Brad was a decent quarterback, he was not in the same league as Josh.
After several minutes, they brought a cart out for Josh, taking him to the back for further evaluation. It was early in the fourth quarter, we had a 24-17 lead, but there was still close to a full quarter to play. Midway through the fourth quarter word reached us out on the field that Josh had separated his shoulder and possibly had ligament damage. I’m not sure if that mattered or not, but they scored twice in the fourth quarter, beating us 31-24, we had now dropped two in a row.
By the time I had made it back to the locker room, Josh had already been taken to a nearby hospital for further testing. I showered, dressed and left the stadium quickly, making my way across town to the hospital where they had taken Josh. As I made my way up to the third floor, I approached the nurse’s station to see what room he was in. I noticed his girlfriend Angie, seated in the hallway, just past the nurses. I walked straight over to where she was seated, she was obviously extremely upset.
“Any news Angie, how is he doing ?”, I asked.
“Oh hey Brian, they are running tests right now. They know the shoulder is separated, they are checking for tissue and ligament damage.”, she replied.
I sat down next to the attractive young woman, trying to make her feel a little better about the situation.
“At least its not his throwing arm Angie, it could have been worst.”, I told her.
“Yes, I know.”, she said, squeezing my hand.
Several hours later, we were informed that the shoulder had been separated and he had suffered some slight tissue and ligament damage. He would require immediate surgery, his season was over.
He would be flown to Alabama the following day, where an expert in sports medicine would perform surgery immediately. I left Angie there, telling her to please call me and let me know how everything worked out.
I drove home, getting in just shortly before midnight. I made my way up to my condo, got undressed and fell into bed, I was exhausted.
Without Josh in the lineup, we struggled, their was no leadership on offense. People pointed fingers at each other for mistakes, no one had the command in the huddle that Josh had. We finished the season with three more losses, our 9-7 record, not good enough to make the playoff’s. The season was over, as promising as my rookie year started out, it ended miserably. I finished the season with 89 receptions for 1097 yards and 9 touchdowns.
On the Wednesday after our final game, we all met for our last team meeting, cleaned out our locker’s, then left the facility. I had been in constant contact with Josh, his surgery had went well, he was expected to make a full recovery. He could start throwing again in a few months, he promised to call so we could work out together. I was now facing at least three months of inactivity, other than normal workouts to stay in shape. I thought about going home, but three months around Ashley just didn’t seem like the right thing to do.
Two days later I was sitting around the condo at about five in the evening, there was a knock on the door. I got up, opened the door, surprised to see Alexis standing there. From the way she was dressed, I knew she had just come straight from work. I invited her in, offering her something to drink.
“No thank you, I just wanted to drop off some information for you about starting the foundation we spoke of.”, she started.
“I have spoken to Children’s Hospital, their corporate officers and Board of Directors. They are absolutely thrilled at the idea and want to speak with you immediately. In addition, Cindy can handle drawing up the necessary legal papers to handle the funds, a good attorney can handle the rest.”, she ended.
“Sounds good, where do we start ?”, I asked.
“You have a meeting with the Board of Directors at Children’s Hospital on Friday at two in the afternoon. I will go with you as your agent to make sure we have no contractual problems.”, she answered.
“That sounds fine.”, I told her.
She thanked me, got up and left walking down the breezeway to her unit. I closed the door and went back inside, sitting back down on the sofa. I was glad Alexis had stopped by, working on the foundation was just what I needed to occupy time.
We arrived at the hospital at the designated time on Friday, and right on schedule we were ushered into a large conference room, there were at least a dozen men and women present. We sat at the opposite end of the table, Alexis opened her brief case, pulling out several stacks of paperwork. Introductions were made all around, everyone thanking me for considering helping the hospital in any capacity. The CEO of the board took control of the meeting, asking me directly what I had in mind.
“Well sir, I visited a young patient here several times, his name was Bryan Butler.”, I started.
“Yes, in fact you made quite an impression on everyone around here Mr. Stevens, especially little Bryan, from what I’m told.”, he replied.
“Thank you sir, he’s quite a little man. I spoke to his parents and they mentioned some of the financial difficulties that families incur, even if they have medical insurance. Anything from transporation, to temporary housing in the area, to loss of income from missing so much work.”, I stated.
“That’s true, I have seen families suffer extreme hardships fighting these terrible illnesses.”, he answered.
“What I was thinking, is that perhaps, I could start some sort of foundation that could assist these families in their struggle. After meeting with little Bryan, I would love working with the children on the fourth floor.”, I replied.
“We would be extremely excited to have you become part of our health care family Mr. Stevens, I can’t speak for the board, but you have my approval to move forward. Do we actually have to take this to a vote ?”, he asked, looking at the other members seated around him.
One by one, they shook their heads no, authorizing him to ok the arrangement at once.
“Great, then what I need from you Mr. Stevens, is your foundation papers set up, and the list of criteria a family has to meet to apply for financial assistance. You get those documents to me, the board will review them, then issue a final approval.”, he stated.
Alexis and I left the hospital with a great feeling, I was going to be part of something positive, something that could maybe change a family’s life. After several weeks of running around like a mad man, filling documents, speaking with attorneys , financial advisors and everyone in between, the foundation was finally ready to be signed off on. The only hurdle left to clear was notifying the team of my intentions, making sure they had no objections, I doubt they would.
I set up a meeting with Wayne Hiller, the General Manager of our team to discuss the situation. I laid everything out for him, what I had in mind, how I would constantly work to raise funds for the foundation and how I planned to distribute them. After listening to my presentation, he assured me he didn’t see a problem with any of it, but he would run it by the team owner, for final approval.
Three days later, I received that approval, along with a promise of fifty thousand dollars from the team immediately upon the activation of the foundation. I called Alexis to give her the good news, then arranged a meeting with the attorney to legally start the foundation. He agreed to meet with me the following Monday morning at ten o’clock in the morning, asking me to give some thought as to what I wanted to name the foundation. Most athletes used their name as part of the foundation, but he added it was not necessary to do so. I had the entire weekend to work with a name that would seem appropriate for what I was attempting to do.
I was laying around the condo Friday night, when I got a call from Alexis.
“What are you doing tomorrow morning ?”, she asked.
“Nothing that I know of.”, I replied, “Why ?”
“I’m playing in a huge volleyball tournament tomorrow at the beach. This is the kind of event you could organize and make money for your foundation. I just thought you might like to go with me, try to make some contacts for the future.”, she asked.
“I guess so, I don’t have anything else to do.”, I answered.
“Good, be ready for seven o’clock, and make sure you dress for the beach.”, she added.
“Ok, thanks.”, I replied, hanging up.
I showered and went to bed early, having to be up that early in the morning. I got up about six, put on some Under Armour dry fit compression shirt and shorts, then pulled a pair of team shorts over them. I grabbed a pair of sneakers with no socks, a baseball cap just in case the sun was bad. I was locking the door of my condo, when Alexis opened her door.
“Right on time, I like that.”, she said to me.
As I walked toward her, she looked me up and down and giggled. I figured something was wrong.
“What, I’m not dressed right ?”, I asked.
“Oh no, you’re fine, and I mean fine. With that spandex showing those muscles, you’re gonna be a hit with all the ladies, trust me.”, she laughed.
“Should I change ?”, I responded.
“Oh hell no, make em drool.”, she smiled.
We got down to the parking lot, I asked if she wanted me to follow her or should we take one car.
“You drive, you have more room in your car.”, she answered.
I hit the key ring unlocking the doors, then walked over and opened her door for her. She smiled as she slid in the passenger seat, I gently closed the door behind her. I walked around the vehicle and got into the driver’s seat, fastening my seat belt. I looked over at Alexis, she was wearing an all white nylon jogging suit, her hair was pulled back tight behind her head.
We pulled out of the parking lot, she directed me to the freeway, within about forty five minutes we pulled up to a large beach area, that was set up as a pure outdoor volleyball complex. As we got out, I noticed there were eight courts, four pavillions and two concession areas. The courts were already full of players warming up for the day’s events. I followed Alexis to Court # 4, where two members of her team were already there stretching. She introduced to me to both men, each over six feet in height, each of them shaking my hand.
“Damn Alex, where did you find him. With his size at the net, no way we lose.”, he laughed.
“Sorry Jerry, he’s can’t play, he is here on business.”, she replied.
“Why can’t he play ?”, he asked, disappointed.
“Because his contract specifically prohibits him from any type of organized sporting competition unless it’s sanctioned by the team.”, she answered.
One of the guys tilted his head for a second like he was thinking, then it hit him like a brick.
“You’re Stevens, the tight end.”, he exclaimed.
“Yes, that’s me.”, I responded.
“Man it’s so nice to meet you, I have seen you play a few times, I just never put it together.”, he admitted.
Alexis told me they would be playing on Court # 4 for a while, only moving if they finished first in their division. She pointed out a white canopy tent that was set up about fifteen yards away. It had a small table, a few ice chests and at least a half dozen folding chairs.
“That’s our tent there, help yourself, get comfortable.”, she told me.
I walked over to the tent, bending down slightly to get under the front, grabbing a chair and sitting down. Alexis followed quickly, carrying her large bag, setting it on the table. She sat down in the chair next to me taking off her shoes and socks. She then stood up, unzipped her jacket and removed it, then stepping out of her long matching pants. I was awestruck, to say the least. She was wearing a pair of skin tight black spandex shorts with a white compression top.
As I watched her run out to the court, I was almost in a hypnotic state. I had never in all my years, seen a woman with a more incredible body. Add the fact she was right at six foot one inch, made her all the more desireable. One look told you, she was an athlete, who spent long hours in the gym to keep the tone and muscle she had. For the first time in my life, I knew a female who spent as much time training as I did.
Within maybe twenty minutes the rest of her team showed up, it was comprised of three men and three women. Two of the men brought their girlfriends with them, both of whom joined me under the tent. We exchanged hello’s, but that was it. As the first match started, I couldn’t help but notice how well everyone played. I was guessing just about everyone on the court had played this game at a competitive level in the past. It was also apparent that there was no quarter given between the men and women, they attacked each other with a vengeance. It was clear early that in the first game, Alexis’ team was considerably more talented. But what surprised me more than anything was the height Alexis could achieve as she went up to spike the ball. The net seemed to be somewhere at the eight foot level, she was able to get most of her forearm over the net when she swung down on the ball. She also blocked two shots at the net during the first match. It was clear she was the best female on this team.
After winning the first match, they sat out for two games with everyone relaxing under the tent, cutting up as old friends do. I sat quietly, feeling a liitle awkward, but pretending to enjoy the company. Finally Alexis brought up the foundation I was forming, that being the reason I was joining her today. She told her team that she would like them to help me host a tournament here on the beach, all proceeds to go to the foundation. They all thought it would be a great idea, all of them agreeing to do what they could to help me. It finally dawned on one of the women who I had been sitting next to for over an hour, that I was an athlete. Everyone under the tent laughed at her, she was extremely embarrassed. I assured it her it was no big deal, in fact it was refreshing not to be noticed.
By the time the second game started, the beach was overflowing with players and spectators. It was also apparent that word had spread quickly that a member of the home town football team was on the beach. The area around our court was packed, mostly people’s curiosity getting the best of them, I guess. One thing for sure, the beach was filled with gorgeous women, most of them in bathing suits.
I finally got up and headed toward the concession stand to get something to drink. I got in line, bought a large soda, then turned to head back to the tent. I almost ran head long into two young blonde women, both in very skimpy bathing suits.
“Hey Brian, we both love you, will you give us your autograph ?”, one of them said, handing me a permanent marker.
I took the marker from her, set my drink down on a table next to me, then looked back up.
“Uh, what do you want me to sign ?”, I asked, noticing no other objects in their hand.
“Right here.”, the taller one said, pointing to her right breast, just above her top.
I guess she noticed my embarrassment right away, I hesitated with the marker, not quite sure of the proper etiquette for signing a woman’s breast. She giggled out loud, grabbing my hand and pulling it firmly to her chest.
“It’s ok, you won’t be touching anything that’s not been handled before.”, she laughed.
With my best effort to touch as little of her as possible, I signed my name and number. The second woman stepped up, pulling her suit top down to expose even more of her breast. I just shook my head and signed again, this was a first for me. They each took a picture with me, while the other snapped the photo. They took off down the beach, both giggling to each other.
By the time I had arrived back at the tent, the second game had finished. Obviously the antics at the concession stand had everyone in an uproar. They were still laughing as I walked back under the tent.
“You know you are a celebrity when they ask you to sign their tits, sweetheart.”, Alexis laughed.
Throughout the rest of the day, I must have signed several hundred autograph’s, I had touched more breasts in a few hours, than I had in my entire life. Alexis’ team lost in the quarter finals by one, everyone began picking up their things. Alexis dressed under the tent, then we made our way back to the parking lot. It was close to four o’clock in the afternoon, we finally pulled out of the parking lot heading home. It took about forty five minutes to get home, traffic was a little heavy. As I locked the vehicle and followed Alexis up the stairs, I was eager to take a shower and clean the beach off of me. As we arrived at her door, she turned to me while fumbling with her keys.
“Hey, I owe you dinner for today, do you want to go out after we clean up ?”, she asked.
“It’s ok Alexis, you have to be exhausted, I know you had a long day.”, I answered.
“I’ll be fine after a nice long bath, I’ll call you when I’m ready.”, she replied, opening her door and walking into her unit.
I went on to my unit, got undressed and took a very long, very hot shower. I have to admit, I felt really refreshed when I got out, I put on some boxers and a tee shirt. About thirty minutes later the phone rang, it was Alexis.
“Hey look, you’re right I am a bit tired, how about we just order pizza, stay in and relax ?”, she asked.
“That sounds good to me, I don’t feel like going out either.”, I replied.
“Good, then come down when you’re ready, we’ll order then.”, she told me, hanging up.
I went to my bedroom found some comfortable shorts and a tank top, I threw on a pair of sandals. I grabbed my keys and cell phone, locked the door and walked two doors down to Alexis’ condo. She had the door partially open, I pushed it and stuck my head in.
“Alexis.”, I said in a loud voice.
“Come on in Brian, I’m in the kitchen.”, she answered.
I walked in and closed the door behind me gently, then walked into the main room. She was in the kitchen opening a bottle of wine, her back to me. She was wearing a large tee shirt, a very tight pair of shorts, with no shoes. Her hair was still soaking wet from the shower,
This was as casual as I had ever seen her.
“You want a glass of wine ?”, she asked, “It’s Merlot, very good.”
“I don’t think so …. you know… I ….”, began stuttering , before she cut me off.
“You’re two doors from home, you’re off for five months, it won’t kill you.”, she said, pouring a second glass.
She walked over and handed me a glass, then invited me to sit down with her on the sofa. She opened her cell phone, then scanned the directory quickly.
“What type of pizza do you like ?”, she asked.
“It doesn’t matter to me, you pick.”, I replied.
She ordered a large pizza with everything, they told her it would be about forty minutes. I took a couple of small sips of the wine, I had to admit it was very good. But for some reason, I just felt like I was doing something wrong. I knew it was foolish, but my father’s logic and reasoning had never failed me, not once in my life.
We talked about what I hoped to accomplish with the creation of the foundation, what were my immediate goals. I told her the first thing was to come up with a name, something that would fit well with the type of work we were trying to do. We threw some things back and forth, but nothing seemed to fit just right.
Several minutes later, the door bell rang, the delivery man was there with the pizza. Even though I insisted on paying, Alexis would hear none of it. As she walked back to the sofa, placing the pizza on the table in front of us, she giggled at me.
“Brian, you have to flash forward to now. You’re the sweetest, kindest man I have ever met. You’re manners are impeccable, but you have to let strong willed women be themselves. Quit treating us like we are going to break.”, she stated, walking to the kitchen.
She came back a minute later with two small plates, two forks and a handful of napkins. She sat down opened the box, we each took a large piece of the pizza out. We went back to discussing the foundation but I couldn’t get her last comment out of my head. Finally it got the better of me, I had to ask.
“Alexis, do you think I really make women feel uncomfortable ?”, I asked.
She turned to me quickly, a rather odd look on her face. She took a sip of wine, obviously trying to collect her thoughts.
“Brian, I think you misunderstood me. It’s not that you make anyone feel uncomfortable, I think it’s just that no one treats a woman like that anymore. Between women wanting to be considered equal to a man and guys being such jerks today, it’s just unusual to see a young man with sincere respect for a woman.”, she replied.
“I guess it’s very different out here then it was in my small hometown. I really feel out of place here as well, I know I don’t fit in.”, I answered.
“Brian, don’t say that, it’s not true by any means. Don’t you even think about changing one bit, just every now and then when a woman seems like she wants to take charge, let her.”, she responded.
“I’ll try and remember that.”, I told her.
We continued talking and eating, we finished up, she clean off the table and came back with the half full bottle of wine. She poured me my second glass, which was now officially the most alcohol I had ever consumed in my life. She sat down quite close to me on the sofa, her fragrance was very understated, but intoxicating. She had a powder fresh scent and even though it was very subtle, I couldn’t help but be drawn to her. The more you gazed at Alexis, the more her facial features hypnotized you. The jet black straight hair, the light green eyes, the high cheek bones all gave her a gorgeous, but unusual look.
I could tell the wine had loosened Alexis up a bit, in fact after almost finishing my second glass, I had a slight warm, relaxed feeling.
As we were sitting there talking she raised her left arm up on the back of the sofa, her hand coming to rest behind my head. I pretended not to notice, truthfully though my heart was beating a mile a minute. Then without warning, I felt her fingers grazing the back of my neck, ever so lightly.
“Brian, can I ask you a question ?”, she whispered softly.
“Sure, I guess so.”, I answered.
She took another sip of her wine, her eyes never leaving mine.
“Do you find me attractive at all ?”, she asked.
“Uh….you’re kidding right ? Alexis, you’re gorgeous, but you don’t need me to tell you that.”, I responded.
She looked down into her wine glass for a second, a slight smile crossing her face, then back into my eyes.
“Then why haven’t you made a pass at me yet ?”, she asked, her fingers still stroking my neck lightly.
“Well first you’re my agent, I’m not sure that’s even something that’s acceptable. Then, after Courtney, I just don’t know if I could take falling for someone again, then lose them for some reason or another.”, I answered.
“As far as me being you’re agent, that in no way conflicts with a personal relationship between us. But I have never lost anyone I cared for that deeply, so I wouldn’t understand those feelings. I like you Brian, I find you extremely attractive. I absolutely adore your personality, you’re so kind and giving. I don’t trust men Brian, not at all, but somehow you transcend that. I really feel you would never honestly hurt me.”, she responded.
“Thank you Alexis, I really don’t know what to say to that right now.”, I replied.
“It’s ok, maybe you need some time, I can respect that.”, she stated, pulling her arm back from around me.
“Maybe, I better go now. It’s been a long day.”, I told her.
“Thanks for a nice evening Brian.”, she whispered, hugging me gently.
She let me out, locking the door behind me. As I walked down to my own unit I was wondering, did I just make a mistake ? I did think highly of Alexis, she was extremely smart, elegant, very sexy, why did I just walk away ? I didn’t sleep well that night, I tossed and turned for hours. I spent most of the day Sunday working on the foundation papers I had, I was due back at the attorney’s the following week, to draw up the legal papers. I was still stuck on a name, I didn’t want it to be just The Brian Stevens Foundation, it just had an arrogant self serving sound to it. I had finished all of the papers, filed them away, and was watching TV later that afternoon. The night before with Alexis kept running through my mind, did I make the right decision ?
The following week moved along quickly, I formally founded the foundation on Wednesday, only to learn I needed to form a board that would overlook both the donations and monies the fund would receive, but the disbursement of those funds as well. It was recommended that I have at least four other persons as well as myself included on the board, then eventually hire a full time director to manage the foundation once it became a full fledged entity. I immediately thought of asking Alexis, but I knew with her work load it might be a bit much. Josh already gave much of his time to his own charity, as well as his vast public appearances. I was beginning to think I may have gotten in over my head, perhaps I should have just chose an existing program, donating my time and efforts to that. I decided to take a ride to Children’s Hospital and speak to the administrator, perhaps he could help me with some of the details.
As I arrived at the hospital, I was told he was out to lunch, but would be back in less than an hour. Since I was already there, I decided to wait for him to return. Since I had a few minutes, I decided to return to the fourth floor, perhaps just take another look around. As I exited the elevator, I headed down to the nurse’s station to make sure they were ok with me being there. I saw no one there, so I sat down for a minute waiting on someone to return.
Several minutes one of the nurses I had met on one of my visits with Bryan came strolling up to the circular desk area. She looked up from her clip board, apparently recognizing me as well.
“Mr. Stevens , isn’t it ?”, she asked.
“Yes mam. I don’t mean to be a bother, I am waiting for the hospital administrator, I thought I would just come up here and look around, if that’s ok.”, I replied.
“Of course it’s ok. I heard you are starting a foundation for the kids on our floor, I think that’s an absolutely incredible thing for you to do. You have a gift with children, Bryan never stopped talking about you.”, she responded.
“How is he doing ?’, I asked.
“Very well, he’s back in school, in complete remission. In fact, I have him scheduled for a vist tomorrow at ten o’clock in the morning.”, she answered.
“That’s wonderful.”, I replied, “You’re Jenny right ?”
“Why yes I am, I am surprised you remembered.”, she stated.
It was never hard remembering a pretty girl’s name, although I wouldn’t admit that. On top of that, Jenny appeared to be exceptional at her job, she was also wonderful with the kids, that was easy to see.
“Uh, Bryan kinda told me you were his girlfriend.”, I laughed.
“Ooh that stinker, wait till I see him.”, she giggled.
She walked back behind the desk, she was soon joined by two other nurses, they apparently had been making rounds. She introduced me to both of the nurses, they seem very nice as well. Jenny walked back from around the desk, to where I was sitting.
“I’m on my break, you want to go get a cup of coffee downstairs ?”, she asked.
“Sure.”, I answered, getting up and walking with her down the hall to the elevator.
We rode down the elevators, and made our way into the hospital cafeteria. She ordered a cup of coffee, I got a large orange juice. I paid the cashier, we went to a small table for two and sat down. She seemed to know just about everyone she came into contact with, we drew a lot of stares. We talked about the foundation, the troubles I was encountering getting it off the ground. Without any hesiatation Jenny quickly offered to do anything she could to help out. I told her I would defiantly take her up on her offer when it was time to delegate responsibilities. With her break about over, I offered to walk her back up to her station on the fourth floor. As we were wating for the elevator, Jenny turned to me, a serious look on her face.
“Why did you choose the children’s oncology unit here for your foundation ?”, she asked.
“Well, first off, I fell in love with Bryan, I so admired his courage. And I lost my girlfriend and best friend, to cancer less than a year ago.”, I replied.
“Oh, I am so sorry, I had no idea.”, she said, softly touching my arm.
The elevator doors opened, we stepped inside, she press the button for the fourth floor. As the doors closed, Jenny turned to me again.
“What was her name ? You’re girlfriend ?”, she asked.
“Courtney” , I replied, “Courtney Timmons.”
The doors opened and we walked toward her station, neither of us knowing what to say. As we reached the station, she turned to me and thanked me for the coffee, that she had enjoyed the break. As I turned to go to the administrator’s office, she called out after me.
“Hey maybe you could use Courtney’s name as part of the foundation.”, she said, loudly.
I arrived back in the administrator’s office, he had just gotten back. I met with him for about an hour, he helped me clear up a lot of small details which greatly relieved me. He told me he would appoint someone from the hospital management staff to serve on the board with me. With his help, we were off and running, I thanked him and headed home. I just now had to simply come up with a foundation name, register it, then open bank accounts under that name. On the drive home my mind kept going back to what Jenny had said, maybe tie Court’s name into the title. I stopped on the way to get something to eat, then headed home. I arrived home shortly after four o’clock, I was glad to see Alexis’ car was not in her spot, I still felt awkward about our encounter the other night.
I was laying on the sofa watching TV that night, really just flipping through the channels trying to find something interesting. I started watching a reality show that was just about over , when out of the blue, an idea popped into my head. I reached over and grabbed my cell phone, found the number and pressed send. It was answered on the third ring.
“Mrs. Timmons, this is Brian, I need to talk to you.”, I told her.
“Of course Brian, what can I do for you ?”, she asked.
I went on to tell her about my idea, how it had developed, the foundation, meeting Bryan, everything to this point. I asked her what I had in mind, asking if both her and Mr. Timmons would allow me to do what I was thinking of doing. By the time I finished she was in tears, which is not what I meant to do.
“I’m sorry Mrs. Timmons, I didn’t mean to upset you. I just didn’t want to proceed with both of your blessings.”, I said.
“No Brian, please it’s not that, I am overwhelmed that you thought to include her in this project. Of course you have our blessings, please let us know if there is anything we can do to help.”, she offered.
I thanked her and hung up, I now had a complete plan, I was ready to go.
For the next two month’s I worked non-stop on getting the foundation off the ground. A board of directors was founded, which consisted of myself, one of the hospital CEO’s, Cindy Taylor from PSA and Jenny Harris, the nurse from the Children’s Oncology Unit. We would meet once every six months to discuss any problems we may have, or any new tasks we wanted to undertake. At the first meeting I laid out my initial plans, along with what I proposed for the dedication of the foundation. Since I had not yet hired a full time employee to handle requests for assistance, I decided to see exactly what we could do to help the Childrens Unit become a more friendly, upbeat environment for the children to be in. They had no choice but to spend countless days, sometimes months here, the least we could do was make that time a bit more bearable. Jenny volunteered to help me with the initial undertaking and dedication, which I was definitely grateful. If anyone knew what was needed, it was Jenny.
The following day the team deposited fifty thousand dollars in the foundation’s account, which I matched with a check for another fifty thousand. My days had become long and hectic, early morning workouts at the team’s facility, then a series of meetings all day with community leaders and organizers, explaining the foundation and what it’s ultimate goals were. In three weeks, I had accumulated another twenty six thousand dollars in donations, things were going well.
We decided to officially dedicate the foundation on the first of May, there was still a lot to do in a little over three months. I had been in contact with Jenny off and on, we had decided to get together on her first full weekend off to discuss what was needed to brighten up the unit, what could do the most good for the children.
I had seen very little of Alexis for over a month, we had both been very busy. I noticed that she didn’t seem quite the same since that night in her apartment. I was hoping that I had not in some way affected our friendship. I was scheduled to meet Jenny for dinner on Friday night, then go back to my place for our first meeting. That Thursday night as I returned to my apartment I ran into Alexis in the parking lot, she was with her friend Paige, whom I had met once before. We exchanged hello’s, I asked Alexis to call me about the foundation’s plans, she promised she would do so.
I picked Jenny up at her apartment at six thirty Friday evening, she was ready when I arrived. Since I had never seen her without her medical scrubs, I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised. She had on a pair of low cut jeans, a tight black tank top, with black heels. She had a very small waist, nice hips and small but ample breasts. Her long blonde hair, fell softly on her shoulders, she had applied just a touch of makeup. I walked to the car and opened the door for her, again catching her by surprise.
“Thank you.”, she said with a smile, sliding into the seat.
I walked around and climbed into the driver’s seat, closed the door and buckled my seat belt. I started up the car, shifted to drive and pulled out on the highway.
“This is a beautiful car Brian.”, she said, her hand brushing along the dashboard.
“Thanks, I like it a lot.”, I answered.
We went to a really nice steakhouse in town, it wasn’t that crowded yet, we were lucky. By the time our food arrived, there was a line waiting to get in. We took our time enjoying our meal, talking exclusively about the foundation, what we both hoped to achieve.
We finished up our meal, I paid the waitress and we made our way towards the front door to get out. Since there was a crowd waiting to get in, it was quite tough to navigate the passages. Before we could get out of the door, someone recognized me asking for an autograph, before I knew it, I had signed dozens of articles, finally able to get out of the front door.
“Oh my God, that was crazy.”, laughed Jenny, “Does that happen all the time ?”
“Not all the time.”, I replied.
We drove back to my apartment, and made ourselves comfortable. I put out a large bottle of soda and two glasses at the kitchen table. We both sat down, pen’s and tablet’s in hand, beginning to outline what we wanted to accomplish. One of the things Jenny touched on that I found interesting was the sheer boredom the children encountered during the day. While most of them had family visit them in the evenings, the days were filled with long hours of nothing to do but watch TV. I asked Jenny what she felt could be done to help alleviate the boredom during those hours.
She mentioned that the fourth floor had been renovated just two years prior. They had added one lounge for the parents and visitors who sometimes stayed over night. It was extremely large and was never full to capacity. Just down the hall was a second smaller waiting room that was only being used to store a variety of medical supplies. She felt that this room could perhaps be turned into an arts and crafts center for the children. For the children who were able to be placed in a wheel chair, it could be a place where they could draw, paint, read books or watch video’s. It sounded like a great idea, Jenny said she would ask the hospital CEO if we could rennovate the room for that purpose.
“I know kids like to play video games, what if we buy a few dozen game consoles, some games that were suitable for all ages, make the units mobile so they could be taken from room to room ?”, I asked.
“Oh that would be a huge hit, especially with the boys.”, she laughed.
“What about some laptop computers with educational programs on them ? I know the kids have to miss quite a bit of school.”, I added.
“That’s a great idea too, in fact my best friend is a teacher, she could help us with that.”, she answered.
After about an hour, we both have several pages full of notes and an excellent direction to proceed with. I suggested we take a break and sit on the sofa to relax. For the next hour, I basically told Jenny everything that had brought me to this point in my life, the loss of my Dad, my early career in high school, and in college, being drafted and most recently the loss of Courtney.
Jenny then began recounting her early years, she had been a high school cheerleader, then went to college to be a nurse. She had one serious relationship that ended one night when he came home drunk and struck her in the face several times. From what I gathered, that was quite recent, she had mentioned that he still called her from time to time, trying to make ammends. She had been a nurse at the hospital for a little over two years now, she loved her work.
Jenny reminded me so much of Courtney, she was so easy to talk to. After just a few hours, I felt I had known her for years. She made no pretense of being someone she was not, she was generous and out going. Before I knew it, it was well after midnight, we had both completely lost track of time.
“Oh geez, Jenny it’s going on one o’clock, I better drive you home.”, I told her.
“It’s that late already ?”, she asked, genuinely surprised.
I got up off the sofa, walking to the kitchen to get my wallet and keys. I was about to head towards the front door, when I noticed Jenny had not yet gotten up from the sofa.
“Brian, I hate to make you drive me all the way home, then have to drive back. It will be well after two o’clock by the time you get back here. Let me call a cab, save you the trip.”, she offered.
“No way, I don’t mind taking you home. It’s no big deal, really.”, I replied.
“No Brian, I insist on calling a cab, I can’t let you do that.”, she countered.
I stood there looking at her for a moment, she appeared firm in standing her ground. It was far too late to be arguing about transportation problems, especially after we had such a nice evening.
“Ok then, how about you spend the night, I’ll take you home in the morning ?”, I asked.
I could tell immediately, she took my intentions the wrong way. Before she could even offer an objection, I cut her off.
“No Jenny, what I mean is, I have a guest room that has never been used, it’s no problem at all. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that……, I started.
“Brian, I know you didn’t. That sounds like a wonderful idea, if you don’t mind.”, she laughed softly.
“No not at all, let me show you the guest room.”, I said, pointing down the hall.
She followed me to the first door on the left, I reached in and flipped on the light. No one had been in this room, since Alexis and Paige had put out the bedding and curtains, it looked immaculate.
“Oh wow, this is very nice.”, she said, following me in.
“Make yourself at home Jenny. The bathroom is right across the hall, there are towels under the sink, I am sure everything you need is in the vanity, just help yourself.”, I offered, turning to walk out.
“Um Brian ?”, she said.
“Um, you think you maybe have an old tee shirt or something I could sleep in ?”, she asked.
“Oh sure, be right back.”, I told her.
I went to my room and opened one of the dresser drawers, looking through the layers of shirts. I chose one of the dry fit compression shirts with the team’s logo on the front, they were smaller than the average shirt I wore. They were meant to be almost skin tight, which even on Jenny, would probably still look like a dress. I walked back into the room, she was sitting on the bed.
“Here, this is probably the smallest thing, I own.”, I said, tossing the shirt to her.
“Thanks, it will be fine.”, she said, “If you don’t mind, I am going to take a shower.”
“No help yourself, I am going to do the same, then watch a bit of TV, I can’t sleep unless I watch TV at least for a few minutes.”, I replied, closing her door.
I went into the master bathroom, took a quick shower, put on some shorts and a tee shirt, then carefully made my way back down the hall. I noticed Jenny was still in the hall bathroom, so I continued on to the living room. I flipped on the TV , turned to the sports channel, then grabbed a soda from the fridge. I had been watching TV for about fifteen minutes, when I heard Jenny exit the bathroom, then close the door to the guest room. I was just about to call it a night, when I heard a door open again in the hall. Seconds later, Jenny walked into the living room, stopping at the edge of the sofa, her arms folded across her chest.
“Hey, is it ok if I watch a little TV with you, I’m not real sleepy either.”, she asked, gingerly.
I couldn’t control myself, I just had to laugh at the sight. The compression shirt that I had given her, even though, it was only a double extra large, extra long, swallowed her. The sleeves came down past her elbows, the bottom hem of the shirt, just a few inches above her knees.
“Sure you can and may I say, that shirt was just made for you.”, I laughed.
“Oh hush you.”, she said, sitting down to right, folding her legs under her.
We sat there for a couple of minutes, watching the highlights on the sports channel, it was awkwardly quietly.
“Brian, how often do you work out ?”, she asked.
“Just about everyday, why ?”, I replied.
“I uh…just never have been around a guy….that has…..uh, I mean as big as you are.”, she stuttered.
“Jenny, there are guys on the team make me look small.”, I laughed.
“That’s hard to believe.”, she answered.
Again we hit at moment of awkward silence, I felt like I was a teenager again, back in my little home town. I thought this might be a good time to call it a night.
“Here you can watch whatever you like, I think I am going to go to bed.”, I said, handing her the remote.
As I started to get up off the sofa, she reached across with her arm, her small soft hand grabbing my wrist. I looked over at her, her eyes were bright and wide.
“You know you don’t have to go to bed alone, unless of course, that’s what you want to do.”, she said, a very different tone in her voice.
I was taken back for a second, after the way she reacted to my offering her the guest room, this was not at all what I expected.
“Jenny, I… well, do you think it’s a good idea ?”, I asked.
“What do you mean ?”, she inquired.
“Jenny, I like you a lot. I have really enjoyed working with you today, I don’t want to mess anything up.”, I answered.
“How would us sleeping together mess anything up ?”, she asked, “Unless of course, you’re not sexually attracted to me ?”
“No Jenny that’s not it, I find you very attractive, I just don’t want to ruin our friendship with sex.”, I responded.
She stood up moved in front of me and reached down, holding out her open palm to me.
“You won’t ruin anything, I promise, now take me to bed.”, she whispered.
I reached up and took her hand, standing up as she pulled me down the hallway towards the master bedroom. While I had to admit, I was extremely attracted to Jenny, I had been in this exact situation with Alexis not long before. I had already pulled the bedding down, so she easily slipped into the bed, pulling me along with her. We were laying there, facing each other, our faces just a few inches apart.
“Brian, I am not asking you to marry me. I find you very attractive, it’s been a really long time since I have had sex. Just make me feel good, please that’s all I am asking.”, she whispered.
I reached over and placed my hand on her lower back, pulling her gently towards me. My lips met hers, softly with absolutely no urgency at all. Her lips were extremely soft and moist, her tongue brushed my lips quickly, causing me to shiver noticeably. I opened my lips, my tongue found hers quickly, our kiss becoming a bit more urgent. I reached down and found the hem of the shirt, then lefted it, my hand coming to rest on her the back of her satin panties. She took her right leg and lefted it gently, laying it across my left. I softly caressed her ass, my hand running up her smooth back occasionally, causing her upper body to move slightly forward.
We kissed like that for several minutes, the heat building between us. I slid my hand from her back, over her right hip and down to her flat smooth stomach. As I inched down, I finally came to the waistband of her panties, easing my fingers just inside. She pulled her leg back off of mine, allowing me easier access, her hips shifting slightly. I continued to inch my hand down into her satin panties, until I felt just a whisper of soft hair tangled between my fingers.
She moved her right hand from between us, placing it palm down on my stomach, her fingers spread wide apart. I eased my fingers down just a bit further, my middle finger finding her opening, which was hot and extremely moist. As I eased my fingertip down between the lips of her pussy, she moaned softly, breaking our kiss.
“Oh God, it’s been so long.”, she whispered to me, her eyes locked on mine.
I moved my finger back up her slit, then slowly inserted my middle finger inside of her, taking my time not to cause her any discomfort. She responded by pushing her hands into my shorts, her small hand wrapping around my now hard, erect penis. She began to squeeze my shaft gently, then release her grip, only to repeat the same over and over. I eased my hand from her panties, then grasping the waistband, slid them down past her knees. I eased myself up from the bed, moving over her, down to the foot of the mattress. I reached down and removed her panties, which were around her left ankle. I reached down and gently opened her legs, her eyes were locked on mine. I leaned down slowly, never taking my eyes off of her, until my cheeks were brushing her warm, smooth thighs. I extended my tongue out, first touching the bottom of her slit, then slowly moving up in one long slow stroke.
“Oh My God.”, she moaned, her back arching off the bed.
I reached up with my right hand, my fingers opening her pussy slightly, my tongue easing between the warm, wet folds. By now the juices were pouring out of her, her hips were writhing beneath me. I gently eased up the pressure slightly, my tongue gently, softly coaxing her clit from it’s hood. She reached down with both hands, her fingers softly stroking my head in appreciation. I felt her clit beginning to swell under the tip of my tongue, she was lifting her hips up slightly to meet my mouth. As much as I wanted to continue to please her, I sensed her body was aching for release. I eased both of my hands under her ass, pulling her hips toward my mouth. I gently took her hard clit between my lips, gently sucking it, then just for a second, flicking my tongue over it. I would then suck it back between my lips quickly, resuming a slight pressure on her throbbing clit. Without warning, she arched her back, her hands gripping my head, as the orgasm exploded from somewhere deep inside of her.
“Oh…oh…uh..uhhhhhhhhh……fuckkkkkkk……”, she wailed, her body spasming under me.
I held her tightly against my mouth, my tongue deep inside of her, her thigh’s clamped tightly around my face. Her orgasm seemed to go on much longer than I expected, her cries of joy and pleasure resonating in my ears. It took a full minute, maybe longer before I felt her body begin to relax under me. She moved both hands up to her head, pushing her hair back off of her face. I slowly moved up, resuming my spot next to her, my right arm draped over her waist. She was still trying to regain her normal breathing pattern, her faced glistening with a light sweat. She turned and looked at me with cloudy eyes, that warm glow all over her face.
“God Brian, that has never happened before. I almost passed out.”, she whispered.
“You never had an orgasm before ?”, I asked, dumbfounded.
“No, I cum most of the time but you’re the first man ever to do what you just did to me.”, she replied.
“Really ?”, I responded.
“Well you’re only my second lover, but he refused to do that for me. He thought it was disgusting.”, she admitted, somewhat embarrassed, “Thank you sooooooo much, that felt incredible.”
I pulled her close to me, pressing my lips to hers gently, my hand again on her back. We laid there side by side, my lips inches from hers. I reached up and brushed the hair back from her face, kissing her quickly on the lips. I felt her hand slide down my body once again, this time pushing my shorts down my legs.
Her right hand palmed my cock softly, bringing me back to life quickly, I pulled her close, kissing her passionately once again. She quickly responded to me, her body pressing into mine, her hand softly stroking my cock. She lifted her right leg and laid it acoss my thighs using her body weight to push me on my back. She quickly straddled me, her wet pussy pressing hard against my cock. She reached down between her legs with her right hand grasping my cock, guiding me to her warm, wet opening. She looked down directly into my eyes as she slowly lowered herself on my throbbing cock, until I was buried deep inside of her womb. She stayed perfectly still for a few moments, her body leaning forward, her hands on the mattress. She began to move slowly up and down, her juices coating my shaft. Within several minutes, it was apparent she was well on her way to her second orgasm. She was now grinding her clit hard against my pubic bone, my cock buried deep in her belly. She was looking down directly into my eyes, I could sense perhaps she was holding back.
“Jenny, it’s ok if you cum again.”, I whispered.
“But you haven’t cum yet.”, she replied.
“It doesn’t matter Jenny, let it go, cum again for me.”, I answered.
I didn’t have to do anymore convincing as she began to rock back and forth on my cock, grinding her clit furiously against my body. It took her maybe thirty seconds before she was teetering on the verge of another orgasm. I reached up and grabbed her hips, pulling her down hard on my cock, holding her there firmly. She once again lost control of her body, another orgasm erupting from her core.
“Yes, yes, oh yeaaaaaaaaaaaaa,”, she cried, throwing her head back.
I slowly released the pressure of my grip, allowing her to move slowly up and down on my throbbing cock, enjoying the last few contractions of her orgasm. She fell forward on my chest, her head resting on my left shoulder. I held her gently, allowing her breathing to return to normal, my hand stroking her silky soft hair.
“I’ve never been with a man who cares about my pleasure more than his own,”, she whispered in my ear.
She laid there for several minutes, then rolled off of me, she seemed exhausted. She leaned in near me, leaning over to kiss my cheek. I felt her soft hand once again wrap gently around my cock, squeezing gently. She began to increase her speed, her grip tighting around my shaft. She leaned up on one elbow, her face over mine, our eyes locked. I was already past the point of no return when she whispered softly, a twinkle in her eye.
“Mmmm, you like Jenny to jerk you off baby ?”, she asked.
I felt the cum racing up my shaft, the first wave hurtling through the air and landing on my chest. Wave after wave of hot cum erupted from my cock, coating my stomach and Jenny’s right hand. She carefully milked me with long , slow strokes, squeezing every drop of cum from my sensitive cock. She laid back down, her head on my shoulder, nothing was said for quite a while. I got up, cleaned up, brought her a towel, then laid back down. Again there was awkward silence in the room, I was hoping we had not made a terrible mistake. I must have drifted off to sleep, a horn in the condo parking lot woke me up. I looked at the clock, it was almost six in the morning. I looked over my shoulder, Jenny was still sleeping soundly, the covers up to her neck. I slipped out of bed as slowly as I could, grabbed some clean clothes and took a quick shower, dressed and made my way to the kitchen. I was drinking my first cup of coffee, when Jenny walked in the kitchen, rubbing her eyes.
“Hey, good morning. You want a cup of coffee ?”, I asked.
“Not yet, I am going to take a shower and get dressed, be right back.”, she replied.
She showered quickly was back in the kitchen in no time, pouring herself a cup of coffee. She sat down at the kitchen island next to me, quietly drinking from the cup. I kept waiting for her to mention something about what had happened between us, but again, only awkward silence.
“What do you have planned today ?”, I asked her.
“Oh, I have a million things to do, groceries, cleaning, wash clothes, stuff like that.”, she answered, with a smile.
“Well let me know when you’re ready to go, I will drive you back to your place.”, I replied.
“I’m ready, if that’s ok with you.”, shye said, not looking up from her cup.
“Sure, let me get my wallet and keys.”, I said.
I had just come back from the bedroom, she was already standing at the front door. It was like she couldn’t wait to get away from me, at least it felt that way. As we drove to her place, she didn’t say much, just answered any statement I made to her. Finally as we pulled in the lot and parked, I just had to ask.
“Jenny, did I do something wrong last night ? I just get the feeling…..that ….I dunno, maybe you regret what happened. Whatever it is, something changed last night.”, I asked.
She sat there, her head down for a second, then turned to me, her eyes watering slightly.
“I don’t know …. Brian….., I am confused. I am so sorry.”, she said, softly.
I could tell the last thing she wanted to do was talk, I decided to leave it alone for now. I got out of my door, walked around and opened her door, she got out quickly.
“What ever happens Jenny, please don’t let it affect our friendship.”, I pleaded.
She just nodded quickly, turned and walked towards the staircase that led to her third floor unit. I walked back around my car and climbed in, pulling out of the lot immediately. I was completely confused as to what had happened in the past twelve hours or so. I had offered to bring her home, she refused. She brought up the idea of sex, I tried to talk her out of it, trying to protect our friendship. She basically pulls me into bed, apparently enjoying herself, then the next morning, she barely acknowledges me. What the hell had happened ?
I decided at that point to pour all of my energy into the foundation, the upcoming dedication and getting into top physical shape for next season.
The next few months were a blur, but the foundation made huge strides. I had managed to keep the name under wraps , I wanted to unveil it during the dedication, that was less than forty five days away. The hospital had agreed to let me covert the extra waiting room into an arts and crafts center, I met with a local construction company to get a bid on the project. When the owner found out what the project was for, he donated all of the labor, the foundation paid for the materials only.
The room was ready to go a month before the dedication, it was spectacular to say the least. All four large walls had mural’s of castles, dragons, knights in armor and of course, a beautiful princess. One wall housed a large sixty inch flat panel TV, with a new DVD player for movies. One of the local video stores had donated close to one hundred childrens movies for our library, which were housed in a cabinet mounted on the wall. There were tables and chairs in the center of the room where the chidren could sit and draw, paint or read books. On the wall opposite the TV, there were huge bookcases which housed hundreds of childrens books which had been donated from a variety of sources. On the final wall, there were cabinets which housed drawing pads, paper, crayons paints, stencils, glue, stickers and just about anything else that you could imagine to do crafting.
The total cost of the room had come in at around twenty one thousand dollars, which was very low due to the many donations we received along the way. I had also ordered a dozen stand alone video game units that were portable, they could be moved from room to room. Each unit housed a thirty six inch flat screen TV, a top of the line video game console system with wireless controllers and a DVD unit for watching movies. These were specifically designed with long legs to roll under the foot of the bed and face the patient. These were to be used for children who may feel too weak to get out of bed. I wasn’t able to get any donations of these units, each of them cost roughly two thousand dollars each.
We also replaced the TV in the parents waiting room with a larger sixty inch flat screen, trying to make them as comfortable as possible. Just as I was putting the final touches on everything, a local toy store presented us with a ten thousand dollar gift card to buy anything we felt the children would enjoy. Jenny and a couple of her co-workers took charge of that project, loading the craft room with bright colorful toys for both boys and girls. About three weeks prior to the official dedication, I called back home to the Timmons, asking if they would be my guest at the dedication. They initially declined, but after I informed then that Courtney would be an intergral part of the foundation, they agreed to fly out the day before.
A week before the dedication, I picked up the final few pieces of the project from a local photographer and graphic designer. Those I would hold onto until just the day before. As part of the secret, the staff of the fourth floor had kept brown craft paper over all the windows and doors of the new craft room, it was locked, only a handful of people had actually been inside. Three days before the dedication, a large electronics giant in the area donated eighteen brand new small laptop computers, which could help the children possibly keep up with the school work they missed, due to lengthy hospital stays.
The dedication was set for Saturday morning at eleven in the morning. From what I understood, it was going to be quite crowded, the news media would be in attendance as well. I picked up Mr. & Mrs Timmons on Friday afternoon at the airport, driving them back to my condo. I showed them the guest room, they moved in and began unpacking. After about thirty minutes, they both came into the main room where I was sitting on the sofa.
“Brian, you have a very lovely home here.”, Mrs. Timmons remarked.
“Thanks, but it’s not mine, I am only subletting for a couple of years. I will eventually have to buy something myself.”, I replied.
We talked for a while, most about nothing that meant much at all. I couldn’t help but be saddened as I sat with them. Before we had lost Courtney, these people were like family to me, we were inseparable. Now, it was hard just to maintain a fluid conversation. Mr. Timmons love of football had waned considerable, he barely brought it up anymore.
Later that evening, I took them to dinner at a really nice restaurant, then dropped them off back at the condo. I had one thing left to do, prior to tomorrow’s dedication, it had to be done at night. I drove over to the hospital about nine that evening, I met with one of the contractor’s who would finish off the last, but most important details.
He was waiting for me on the fourth floor when I arrived, the large crate resting in the middle of the hall. Visiting hours were over, so only the night staff was on, it was extremely quiet. As we pulled the large framed art work from the crate, I explained to him where I wanted each of the piece’s hung. We then carried each of them to the appropriate places, he promised they would all be hung and draped for privacy by the time the morning shift came on. I thanked him and headed back home to get some sleep, it was going to be a long day tomorrow.
We left the condo about nine that morning, I called Alexis and asked if she wanted to ride with us, she told me she would take her own car and meet us there. By the time we parked and made our way into the lobby, the news media had already set up, they were waiting for interviews. I stepped in front of Mr. and Mrs. Timmons, trying to shield them from the chaotic activity. One female reporter forced her way forward, placing her microphone inches from my face.
“Brian, can you tell us why you decided to choose this hospital, why limit your foundation to just one project ?”, she asked.
“Everyone, I will make a statement just before the dedication, now please, respect all the hard work and effort that went into this and be patient.”, I asked, making our way to the elevator.
The hospital had security posted as you exited the elevator, they were screening anyone who came onto the floor. We were admitted on the floor by security, then moved to the waiting room, which was really the only area available, total secrecy was in effect. Fifteen minutes before the dedication, the hospital’s CEO and a few of his staff walked into the waiting room. He noticed me and walked right over to where we were standing.
“Mr. Stevens, I can’t tell you what this day means to us here at Children’s Hospital. Your foundation has done a remarkable job in the past few months, no words from me can thank you enough.” he said, shaking my hand.
“You’re quite welcome sir.”, I replied.
I then introduced him to Mr. and Mrs. Timmons, joking that they were my surrogate parents from back home. They both smiled at the remark, they each exchanged handshakes. We were signaled that it was time to start the dedication, we moved to the center of the fourth floor where the central nurses station was located, it was by far the biggest open area on the floor. There was a small podium that had been set up against the center wall, just over it hung a huge square object, a black cloth covering it completely. Like wise on both ends of the foor, they were similar objects hanging also draped.
The CEO stepped up to the podium, the news media’s cameras rolling as he leaned forward into the microphone.
“Good morning everyone, it gives me great pleasure to be here this morning for this wonderful event. I met with a young man many months ago here in my office, he had met and been inspired by one of our young patients he had visited here. He was immediately overwhelmed at the courage and spirit of that young man, taking him on a journey that has led us to this point. I’m sure you all know this young man, he is from our own San Diego football team, their rookie tight end sensation, Mr. Brian Stevens.”, he stated, motioning me to come forward.
The crowd that was gathered applauded loudly, as I stepped up behind the microphone, I was as nervous as I had ever been in my life. Not only were there several hundred people here, this would be seen all over the state, maybe even the country. I reached into my pocket, withdrew a few index cards on which I had scribbled some notes. I spread them out in front of me, then leaned into the microphone.
“Thank you sir, for those kind words. As you were told, I arrived at this hospital, this floor quite by accident. I received a call from a parent informing me that his son, who was a patient here, was my biggest fan. Naturally being only a rookie, not very well known, I just had to come see my biggest fan.”, I started, the crowd laughing loudly.
“I met this young man in the that room just down the hall. I immediately asked him, just why I was his favorite player. Without hesitation he simply said, because my name is Brian too and you jump real high and catch the ball.”, I continued, again laughter throughout the room, “But he did remind me quickly his name was spelled
B-R-Y-A-N, just so I wouldn’t be confused.”
“After visiting with this young man several times, he taught me what the words Courage and Warrior really meant. These children are so young, so innocent, so frail to be stricken with these diseases. I decided I wanted to do everything possible to make their time here at the hospital as positive as possible.”, I continued.
“As some of you may or may not know, I lost my Dad when I was a teenager still in high school. Just recently I lost my best friend, Courtney Timmons to cancer quite suddenly. I loved her dearly, there’s not a day goes by ,I do not still greive at her passing. Her parents are here with me today, though I am sure they are still not clear why. I thought long and hard about what I wanted this foundation to be about, it took me quite a while to put it together, but I am very pleased to announce, this foundation has an enduring legacy, which I hope will continue for a long, long time.”, I ended.
I stepped back, reaching up grasping one corner of the black drape covering the large wall hanging.
“I can’t pretend to know the heartache of a parent losing their child, I only hope in some small way, we can ease the financial and emotional burden they suffer.”, I said, quickly pulling the drape from the wall hanging.
What hung on the wall was a huge framed display, with the words
“Courtney’s Kids”, on top of the jet black square matting that surrounded the center. In the center, I had enlarged one of the photo’s that Mrs. Timmons had given me, it was absolutely breath taking. One the bottom of the matting under the pictures, in the same gold leaf were the following words:
If you must go, Then I wish you love.
You’ll never walk alone, Take care my love,
I’ll miss you love.
The reaction in the room ran from applause, to uncontrollable emotion. I heard Mrs. Timmons begin to cry, she turned and buried her face in her husbands chest, he held her tightly. I pointed to both ends of the floor, hospital staff undraped the same picture at end end. I turned and pointed to the bottom of the huge frame behind me, leaning over into the microphone.
“Those were the last……the last words my Courtney whispered before….”, I stopped, unable to continue.
I took a second to collect myself, then stepped back up to the micrphone.
“Now I want to show everyone what “Courtney’s Kids” will bring to this floor of Children’s Hospital.”, I told the crowd.
The CEO of th e hospital motioned for everyone to follow him down the hall towards to old waiting room. By now the craft paper had been removed from the large doors and windows, exposing the enormous work that had been put into the project. There was a large black plaque on the wall next to the entrance that read :
In Loving Memory of
The crowd slowly streamed into the open door, marveling at the detail of the murals on the walls. They walked around looking at all of the new projects that would be available to the children who had to stay here for an extended period of time. There was one surprise left on the far back wall, still covered by a drape. The CEO walked over and pulled it down quickly, the crowded was stunned for a second. One of the graphic designers had drawn and painted a full size mural on the wall. It showed Courtney in a long while flowing robe reaching down from the clouds. Beneath her on the ground were dozens of children reaching up for her, trying to touch her. The resemblance to Courtney was absolutely uncanny. I had stepped back against one of the rear walls, trying to collect myself, my emotions were running high.
The group was then taken to the media center, where they were showed the video gaming systems, the movies and the laptop computers. With the tour over, many of the hospital staff began returning to their stations throughout the building. I had stayed behind in the waiting room, the media quickly found me, they began to ask questions.
“Brian, what future plans do you have for your foundation.”, one reporter asked.
“Well, eventually I would like to buy possibly a large building, maybe turn it into a dozen or so small apartments where parents from out of town could stay at while their child was here at Children’s Hospital.”, I answered.
“In addition, I hope to make some monetary help available for parents struggling through the financial burdens of dealing with these illnesses.”, I added.
Just about that time out of the corner of my eye I saw Jenny walk into the room, she was holding a child’s hand, the child was out of view behind her. Reporters were still shouting questions, when I saw my little man, Bryan Butler pop his head out from behind Jenny’s skirt.
He was wearing the skull cap and gloves I had given him, he had put on a few pounds since I had last seen him. I walked over quickly, reached down and scooped him up, holding him on my hip.
“This little man here is why all of this started. This is Bryan Butler, my biggest fan. How are you doing buddy ?”, I asked him.
“Good Brian.”, he replied.
You could tell he was nervous in front of all the cameras, her kept turning his head putting his face into my shoulder. Reporters were still asking questions relentlessly, I couldn’t keep up with all of them.
“I think I have answered enough questions, if anyone had any questions for Bryan, you can ask him now.”, I laughed.
One of the female reporters right in front quickly got the jump on her colleagues.
“Bryan, what’s the biggest thrill you have had since meeting this big guy holding you ?”, she asked, smiling.
“That’s easy…..it’s when he caught the touchdown ball he promised…..then he gave me the ball…my Daddy says it’s worth a lot of money…but I would never sell it…..he caught that for me and won the game.”, he replied.
“Is he referring the catch in the Kansas City game, you gave him that ball ?”, she responded.
“Yes mam, he kinda made me promised I would catch him a touchdown, boy did I get lucky.”, I laughed.
I thanked everyone for coming again, then made my way out of the waiting room back to the nurses station where I found both of Bryan’s parents waiting. I handed the small child back to his father, then straightened my clothing.
“Brian, you have done some marvelous work here. This will bring countless hours of joy to the children, in a time when they need it most. Thank you so much.”, Mrs. Butler said, hugging me tightly.
“You can thank this guy here, he’s the one started it all.”, I replied.
By now most of the crowd had filtered away, there were still several reporters packing equipment, a few people near the nurse’s station, but the staff was trying to clear the floor to get things back to normal. I saw Jenny over at the nurse’s station, she had her scrubs on so I knew she was on duty. Two other women and a young man were standing there talking to her, I decided to walk over and tell her I was leaving. As she saw me walking toward her, I could see the expression on her face change to one of extreme apprehension.
“Hey Jenny, just wanted to thank you for all of the help you put into getting this off the ground. I couldn’t have did it without you.”, I said sincerely.
“Oh ok, thanks Brian.”, she said, extremely nervous.
“So you’re Brian Stevens, it’s a pleasure to meet you, you had a great year.”, said, the young man standing there, “I’m Kevin, I am Jenny’s husband.”
The last six words hit me so hard, it almost knocked the wind out of me. My eyes darted to Jenny, I could see the look of terror on her face. Now it all made sense, why she had been so silent the next morning. It was guilt, she had cheated on her husband. I quickly recovered as best as I could, I know everyone saw the surprise in my reaction.
“It’s nice to meet you Kevin, thank you for allowing Jenny to help me with this project, it was very kind of you.”, I replied.
“Well I am out of town a lot, I know she gets bored.”, he answered.
“I’m sure she does.”, I quickly shot back, looking her dead in the eyes.
I said goodbye and walked down the hall to where Mr. & Mrs. Timmons was still taking in the many tributes to their daughter on the walls of the hospital. I walked up to them slowly, not to interrupt their private conversation to each other. Mrs. Timmons turned to me and fell into my arms, her own arms around my neck, squeezing me tightly.
“Brian, I love you so much, thank you for giving us this wonderful gift, we will be forever grateful to you.”, she sobbed.
We all three walked back to the elevator and rode down, exiting the hospital quickly. We left the hospital, stopped and got an early dinner, then headed back to my condo. We spent the rest of the night talking about the old days, sharing memories we had of Courtney. The next morning, I dropped them off at the airport, they had an early flight back. As I drove back to my condo, it was the first time I really had to reflect on just what Jenny had actually done. I was angry, extremely angry. I even wondered if the story about her being abused by her husband was even true. One thing for certain, I would have to end our personal and professional relationship immediately.