The first week went fine. Emmy was slowly getting used to living with the Miles’. She was still really tired and nauseous throughout the week. Even the boys were amazed by the amount of time she spent sleeping. She went to school and practice or games but most of the time at home she spent in her room sleeping or doing homework. Stephanie and Brett hoped that she’d join them more as she got used to being there.
As the second week started Emmy still thought it was weird going in to school with Mrs. Miles. They got there early and Emmy just hung out in her classroom until the bell. Stephanie hadn’t told anyone about Emmy living with them. She really didn’t know if Emmy wanted others to know. She was so private.
When the bell rang Emmy actually said “See you later.” Those were probably the first unprovoked words Emmy had ever said to her.
At practice Brett watched as Emmy ran circles around the rest of the team and today she didn’t seem as tired. Emmy enjoyed practice again. Probably because she actually felt like herself for the first time in weeks. The transfusions the weekend before had gotten her body closer to normal. This afternoon her blood work had been the best since she’d started chemo. With two weeks until the next dose it was up to her body. There was no telling what she’d feel like by next week. If her body wasn’t producing its own white and red blood cells she’d need more transfusions by next week. This was a chance she made everything of.
At home she was getting more comfortable. She had pizza with the family, something they only got on special occasions at the children’s home. She ate ice cream and all kinds of junk food that the boys were introducing her to. Some of it made her sick but she enjoyed everything they put in front of her. Brett and Stephanie just smiled hoping that at least some of the fat and sugar would stick. Emmy was a good five pounds lighter than she’d been in the summer.
Tuesday brought a game and Emmy was excited. The team wasn’t great and it wouldn’t be an exciting close game, but at least it would be fun. She played as hard as she could and it felt good.
With about a minute left in the first half Emmy went up for a layup and the other team fouled her trying to prevent her from hitting the shot. She came down hard on her right hand. As she got up she noticed her right pinkie finger was sticking out at on odd angle. Shaking it Stephanie and Brett noticed and came out onto the floor to check on her. Emmy didn’t want to come out of the game so she grabbed the finger and pulled it against the others. “I think I jammed it can you just tape them together?” They were surprised that she admitted that it hurt as Brett grabbed the tape from his pocket and put two strips around as she held the fingers together. It hurt horribly, but it would do for now.
While she was on the bench being tended to Maisy went in to shoot her free throws and made them both. Emmy clapped and grimaced when the finger hit her other hand.
She played a little in the second half but the team was up by 20 so coaches let the others play more. After the game Brett asked to see Emmy’s hand. She hesitated but gave it to him. He cut the tape off and the pinky sprung out to the side again. He looked up and saw tears in Emmy’s eyes. “This isn’t jammed is it?”
She shook her head. He felt around and could tell that her pinkie was out of place. Shaking his head he yelled for Stephanie. “You want to take her to the immediate care or me?”
“She’s dislocated her finger.”
“Emmy, I thought we agreed to be honest?”
“I’m sorry I just felt good and wanted to play.” Stephanie took a deep breath.
“You take her. I’ll ride the bus back”
Brett grabbed a bag of ice and wrapped it and a towel around her hand. “Lets go.” He sounded mad and Emmy was worried that maybe she’d ruined everything. Now they would send her back to St. Thomas if they couldn’t trust her.
In the car Emmy sat in the back and stared out the window. Brett drove without speaking to her. He was so angry and frustrated. Honestly he was also terrified. How could someone, a kid at that, continue to play with a dislocated finger? Brett was afraid that they would never know if something was really wrong with Emmy. If she could hide this amount of pain they would never be able to tell if the disease had progressed.
Pulling into the Immediate Care center Brett got out and opened the door for her. Thankfully the waiting room was empty. They walked up to the registration desk and Brett signed in. After all the paperwork was filled out Brett sat down beside Emmy. He looked at her cradling her arm and the nearly melted ice bag against her chest. “Is it hurting?”
She didn’t look up. “No sir.” In the last week they’d gotten past the one word answers now it felt like they were back to square one.
“Emmy Taylor?” A nurse emerged from behind the door.
She took them back to a room and got Emmy’s weight, height and temperature. Then she asked about what happened. Emmy didn’t speak so Brett explained. “She told us it was just jammed, but clearly there’s something more going on.”
“You’re the coach?”
“Have her parents be notified?”
“We are her foster parents.”
The nurse smiled. “How nice.” She wrote a few more things down and then unwrapped the towel and the ice pack. Emmy’s hand really didn’t look that bad. It was all red from the chill of the ice pack, but overall there wasn’t a whole lot of swelling or bruising. The finger just jutted out at an odd angle. The nurse grimaced upon seeing it. “Ok then lets go get that x-rayed and then we’ll get the doctor.”
Brett waited in the little room. After ten minutes or so she came back. He was looking at his phone and only glanced up. Emmy didn’t look at him but climbed right back onto the table and placed her hand in her lap. The silence spoke volumes and Emmy knew she’d messed it up.
The doctor didn’t take too long. “Alright Miss Taylor lets see this finger.” She held out her hand. “Oh man that hurt didn’t it.” He looked up but she didn’t say anything. “Well good news is it’s just a dislocation. And really its pretty minor as these things go.” He felt around and Brett watched, as she didn’t really make any kind of reaction. “Are you allergic to any medication?” Emmy shook her head. “Good I’ll just numb this and then we’ll pop it right back.”
“Don’t worry about numbing it. It’s already numb from the ice.”
“You sure it’s going to hurt.”
“It will be fine.” She held her hand out for the doctor.
He looked over at Brett who just shrugged. Without further ado he grabbed the hand and pulled the finder popping it right back in. Emmy showed almost no reaction. “Wow, tough kid.”
“You have no idea.” Brett was impressed, but also worried. Maybe he’d overreacted earlier. Maybe she really didn’t feel pain like others. The doctor rolled over to a drawer and pulled out a roll of tape. He taped the pinky to her ring finger just like Brett had done earlier. “Alright good to go. Keep it taped all the time for the first week. Then just tape it to play.”
“How long does she need to sit out?”
The doctor looked at Emmy who finally made eye contact for the first time. “She doesn’t as long as it’s taped and doesn’t hurt. If it does it again she may need surgery to tighten the ligaments to prevent it from slipping out.”
Emmy smiled and the doctor smiles back “Play hard ok?”
“Mr. Miles before you go could you step out here with me for a moment.”
“Emmy hang out right here for a moment Suzanne will be back with the paperwork.”
Outside in the hall the doctor leaned against the wall. “Mr. Miles, Suzanne said that Emmy was a foster child.”
“How long has she been living with you?”
“A little over a week.”
The doctor nodded. “Step in here with me.” The doctor lead him into his office. Up on the screen was an X-ray of a hand. “Mr. Miles how much do you know about Emmy’s past?”
“Not much I’m afraid. She was one of our players and we didn’t even realize that her parents were gone.”
“I ask this because Emmy has been the victim of abuse.”
“When I was looking at her X-ray Emmy’s hand was broken again and again. There are five obvious breaks that are a couple years old and were never treated. In addition to ten to fifteen others that did receive medical attention.”
“What do you mean not treated?”
“Her fingers and hand were broken in five places and she never went to the doctor for it. The bones have healed but not all healed perfectly. See here and here where the bones don’t line up.” He watched as the coach processed this. “Sir this would have hurt and she would have known that it happened. I’m wondering if anyone at CPS knows. Is it OK if I ask Emmy about it?”
“Yes, absolutely. I’m not sure if she’ll tell you. She doesn’t talk a lot.”
“This may be why.” He pointed to the X-ray. “Let’s give it a try.” They went back to the little room where Emmy was waiting. The doctor took a seat on the little stool and rolled it to Emmy.
“Emmy, I noticed something on your x-ray that I want to ask you about. How long ago did you break you hand?”
She cradled her hand “Two years ago.”
“You didn’t fall and break it did you?” She shook her head. “Emmy who did this?” She paused. She really didn’t want Brett to hear any of this.
“Its Ok, they put him in jail.”
“So your case worker knows what happened?” Emmy didn’t answer but nodded. The doctor looked to Brett. “I’ll follow up with them, but you may want to as well.”
With that the doctor patted Emmy on the leg, “Well I think everything looks good. Keep that finger taped and you should be fine.” With that he was gone and Brett stood and Emmy followed. The car ride was quiet again and Emmy knew what was coming. They were already mad and now Brett was going to tell Stephanie about the abuse. Just like so many times before it would be too much and she’d be moved again. Hopefully her room at St. Thomas was still there. At least she’d be able to stay at Lincoln and keep playing for the team.
At home Brett walked out to the mailbox to grab the mail and watched Emmy grab her bag and head into the house. Emmy went straight to her room. She opened the closet and pulled out the box she’d brought all her things from St. Thomas in. Opening the drawers she began to pull the clothing out and placed it in the box. On top she placed her little blanket and the bear that Brett had given her. She grabbed all the clothes from the dirty clothesbasket and stuffed those into her basketball bag.
Once she had everything ready she sat on the bed and waited. She knew they were talking it over and would be in to get her soon.
Inside Stephanie had seen the lights of Brett’s car pull in the driveway and heard the door close. She came out to the kitchen looking for them. She noticed Emmy’s door was closed so she went to find Brett. He was sorting the mail.
“How was it?”
“The doctor popped it back in and taped them together. Said she was good to go.” Brett sat down hard at the kitchen table and put his head in his hands. “Steph, I thought things were going good.” Stephanie sat beside him.
“I think they are, but remember it’s only been a week.”
“We know so little about what she’s been through. The doctor noticed something on her x-ray.”
“Has the cancer spread?”
“No, thankfully. He noticed a lot of old breaks. Some that had healed without being treated.”
“Oh, Brett was it?”
“Steph she’s been abused.”
“I don’t know.” The thought of someone terrorizing the child brought tears to Brett’s eyes. “The doctor asked about her hand and she was hesitant but told him it was a foster parent and that he was in jail. Surely this is something we can ask Mr. Case or someone at CPS. Right? Emmy’s not going to tell us. I could tell she didn’t want me to hear her talk about it at the doctor’s office.”
“We can ask. She’s been in foster home after foster home there’s no telling what happened to her there or while she was living on the street. Things may seem to be going good but she probably doesn’t really trust us. She’s also afraid that we’ll send her back if it gets to be too much trouble.
“Mr. Case said that’s why she ended up at St. Thomas to begin with. She’d been living with a good family for almost six months and after the diagnosis they couldn’t handle all the appointments or care after the surgery.” Brett’s heart broke.
“On the ride in I was so mad at her. Emmy completely shut down. I don’t think she said two words to me the whole time we were gone.”
Brett stood “I’ve got to apologize.” They walked down the hall and opened the door to her room. The sight brought tears back to Brett’s eyes. Emmy had fallen asleep waiting for them to come send her back. Her things were all packed neatly and sitting at the end of the bed. She laid there still wearing her warm-up and uniform and was laying on her side with the left hand cradling her injured right.
Stephanie stepped in the room and knelt beside the bed. Placing a hand on her shoulder she said her name. “Emmy.”
Emmy startled awake. “Sorry, its ok I’m ready to go.”
“Go where?” Stephanie asked, thinking that Emmy had been dreaming.
“Back to St. Thomas. It’s OK. I appreciate everything you’ve done.” Emmy stood and slid her shoes on and grabbed the backpack and box. Brett stepped into the room. “Emmy, you’re not going anywhere. We aren’t giving up that easy.”
Emmy sighed, “Sir this was nothing. And I cannot promise to be honest about this.”
Stephanie took the box from her. “Emmy you’re not going back to St. Thomas. Lets get these put back.” Stephanie handed her the blanket and bear while she put the clothes back.
Brett came in and sat on the bed beside her. “Emmy, I’m sorry I got so upset earlier. You scared me. What if it had been something more serious and we’d sent you back out there and you were seriously injured.”
“Then I’m injured. Sir, there aren’t very many days like today. Where I feel truly good. I’m going to make the most of these moments and play as hard and as long as I can.”
Brett felt even worse, if that was possible. The past couple of days had been so good that he had pushed the bad side of her disease to the farthest reaches of his mind. Since coming home from the hospital with Stephanie she hadn’t been a cancer patient she’d just been a kid. “I’m sorry Emmy can you forgive me.”
“There’s nothing to forgive, sir.” She actually made eye contact as she spoke. He patted her on the leg.
Stephanie smiled. “Now about that finger. Would you like some Tylenol?”
“No ma’am it really doesn’t hurt.”
While she really didn’t believe her she let it go. “Ok then shower and bed. We’ve got to get these better.” Emmy smiled so relieved that they were going to let her play. Next weekend was one of the most important events of their season.
Their school put on a big tournament each year and it had become one of the premier tournaments of the season. Teams from Ohio and Kentucky would travel there to play. Sixteen teams, both 7th and 8th grade, would come and play for two days. Then on Sunday afternoon there would be a championship game for both grades. Emmy was hoping that they would be playing in that championship game. Each team would play about four games as long as they kept winning. Eight games over two days was going to be a lot for Emmy. She only hoped that the way she felt now would continue. Next Saturday could not come soon enough for her.