Chapter 4: LUNA!
"LUNA!" I shouted as I entered the bathroom in my towel ready to shower and get ready for the day.
Luna, our damn golden retriever puppy I surprised Sydney with for her seventh birthday has always been a hellion since the day I brought her home. I knew nothing about dogs when I dished out thousands of dollars to a local breeder for a faithful, loyal companion. I hate to admit it, but Luna sucked me in from the moment I saw her. I took one look at the tiny light brown haired dog and couldn't resist her. She looked like a little teddy bear that Syd could snuggle up to at night. However, Luna always seems to prefer my bedroom most of the time. But once again, I can't complain. It's been so long since I've snuggled up to something warm and lovable who wakes me up with kisses, even if they are wet and slobbery.
Golden retrievers are supposed to be loyal, well behaved, smart dogs. But Luna somehow missed all those superior traits. She is clumsy, eats everything in sight, and is naughty beyond words. She tries to bite every man that gets close to Syd and I, including John. Perhaps that's considered one of her few good traits.
"LUNA!" I shout again as I look at the disaster she left in the bathroom. Not sure how it happens but I often wake up and find Luna had a midnight snack..of toilet paper. When I get ready for bed, the paper roll is there intact. The next morning, it's blown to smithereens all over the bathroom floor.
"Bad dog!" I scold when Luna comes slowly walking in with her head bowed down. "Now I'm going to be late!"
After picking up every tiny speck off the floor, I take the world's fastest shower, make a coffee to go and get Sydney's lunch ready.
"SYDNEY! TIME TO SKEDADDLE!" shouting from the mudroom while I put on my sneakers. Sydney comes bouncing in with her brown bag lunch and backpack.
"Do you have everything?" I ask her.
"You have your EpiPen?" I question again, stopping Sydney dead in her tracks. Looking back at me with puppy eyes, I can already sense her response. Sydney has always had a severe allergy to peanuts. Even simply touching a peanut causes Syd to break out in full body swollen hives and her throat to tighten to the point she can't breathe and will go into anaphylactic shock within minutes if she doesn't have a dose of adrenaline with her EpiPen.
"Syd! You have to remember your EpiPen! It is so important sweetie." I kneel down cupping her face so she looks me in the eyes.
"Ok, sorry,” She responds as I kiss her forehead and open her backpack looking for the EpiPen. Not there. I walked back into the kitchen where it was left on the counter.
"LUNA!" I notice, had gone to town making another mess this time in the family room with yet another toilet paper roll.
"That's it!" grabbing Luna's leash and collar. "You're coming to work with me today!"
Dropping Syd off at school, late as usual I get another dirty look from Mrs. Baker, Syds principal who waits outside the school purposefully every morning to catch any and all late comers. Most of the time she catches me speeding in the school parking lot after the final bell has rung.
"I love you sweetie!" I shout.
Now off to work. "UGH! Hey Julie, Sorry I'm-" I'm interrupted by painful burning in my palm as Luna bolts through the reception, ripping the leash out of my hand.
Luna darted to the exercise room where she knows there's a lot of balls and equipment she can get her naughty paws on but when I ran after her, I was shocked to see Luna had run directly into the arms of a man. A man! Colin Scholtz was on an exercise mat in the middle of the floor with a towel under his left foot doing heel slide exercises that I taught him last session. Luna's entire body was hovered over him with her shaggy tail wagging like crazy as she completely made out with his face.
"LUNA!" I shouted my firmest command. "GET OVER HERE!" but every attempt failed.
"Hey, girl," Colin coos petting her from underneath her belly. Luna lays on the floor next to him, rolling over to her back so Colin has full access to indulge in a belly rub.
"I'm so sorry-" I mumbled in shock, grabbing Lunas leash off the ground and trying to drag her body away from Colin.
"It's ok," he replies. "She's just a pup, right?"
"Yeah, a pain in the ass puppy!" I say, grabbing her legs in a second attempt to drag her away again. She turns her whole body and legs away from me and towards Colin licking his face once more.
"Most women do," he says with a cocky smirk on his face.
Rolling my eyes at him and rephrasing, "I mean, she usually hates men! Like all men, the entire gender!” Luna relaxes with her tail wagging, mouth open and smiling as Colin runs his hands through her curly brown hair.
"Ok, come on Luna," I say, attempting to move her yet again.
"Come on, girl" Colin commands snapping his fingers. Luna jumps from her back to her legs following Colins orders.
"How did you-" my mouth drops to the ground in astonishment.
"You just need to be the alpha."He shrugs. "Show her who's boss." Flaunting another one of his devastatingly smug ass smiles. "Have you gotten her trained?"
"No, I've been meaning to but I just don't have time." Just thinking about it causes me stress and I can't help but rub my face in my ever so helpless attempts to wipe it away.
"I can teach a few things and commands if you'd like.”
"Umm, sure." Looking up at him and seeing his warm, kind smile somehow makes my body feel lighter. He had erased my stress just like that. How did he do that? "Thanks," I whisper lightly, getting lost in his smile. I slap myself out of my trance, finally bringing me back to business mode. "But, your therapy session first!"
I led Luna away and locked her in my office before coming back to the exercise room.
"Ok let's take a look." Kneeling on the ground towards his foot. "The swelling in your leg and calf has gone down a bit. How's the pain been?"
"Alright," he says but I can tell by his voice, he's trying to play it off as nothing.
"Yup. That's what they all say but you're a tough guy right?" Making a joke and giving him an eye that he smirks at. "We'll start with some ankle pumps today. These stretching exercises help to improve the upward and downward movements of the foot, or dorsiflexion and plantarflexion. It also helps strengthen the muscles in the front of your shin." I take his foot in my hand and move his foot to the stretching exercises as I continue to speak. "Point your toes upward like this; like you’re trying to touch your toes to the front of your shin. Hold this position for thirty seconds, and release. Repeat five times then do the same thing but pointing downwards, same length of time and same repetitions.”
He nods and I release his foot watching him do the exercises on his own. "So do you have a dog yourself?" I asked.
"I wish but traveling all the time and long practices doesn't leave me much time to take care of anything at home.”
"Yea that makes sense." Kicking myself mentally for asking such a stupid question! Of course I know first hand the busy schedules of a football player. "So how do you know so much about dogs?"
"I was raised with dogs," he says bluntly with a straight face that made me question his upbringing until a devious smile spreads on his face. "I have two younger brothers but we were still outnumbered by the amount of dogs we had running around." He laughs, still staring at my perplexed face. "My Mom ran an animal shelter out of our house."
"Oh!" I responded as he finally made sense.
"We had a lot of land back in Oklahoma so she built an animal shelter behind our house."
"That is really admirable of her to do that.”
"Yeah, it's how she met my Dad. He worked for the City Animal Control Department but it always killed him finding these lost scared dogs on the street. So he looked up local animal shelters and started bringing the dogs there so they wouldn't have to be euthanized. My Mom worked at the shelter in the city and he started working with her secretly so he wouldn't lose his job. Then they fell in love and moved out of the city and built their own shelter.” I couldn't help but smile at the story and how it warmed my heart "Wow, that's really a beautiful story.”
"Yup, you don't find what they have too often," he said with a heavy sigh. Don't I know that more than anyone, I said to myself. "So, what got you into football then?" trying to change the subject. "It was always the sport we played. My brothers and our Dad," he went on. "I loved it, was good at it and never stopped playing. Which...led me here." He looked down at the stitches on heel as he continued his ankle pumps.
"Have you given any thought to what you might do if you can't go back?" I said without looking up at him, holding my breath hoping it doesn't start another outburst.
"No," he says firmly.
"What about the animal shelter?" I treaded lightly walking on eggshells again.
"My brothers help run it, they don't need me." He keeps his firm tone.
"Well, I'm sure you'll find something."
"I'm determined to go back," he says with a defensive snarl in his voice. I sigh in defeat and finally look up at his disgruntled face gazing down at me. "Why?"
"Football is all I've ever known. It's my life."
"There are other ways to include football in your life you know, You could be a coach, or a sports journalist, or a lot of retired players become announcers for-" He interrupts me sounding a little more firmer. "It's going to take a lot more than getting hurt to want to quit playing football!"
I gave up not wanting to get him more upset, dropping the topic and turned to pull out another piece of equipment.
"So this is a BAPS board.” Turning around to show him. "It is used for increasing range of motion while also increasing neuromuscular control of the lower leg.” I place it on the ground and bring his foot on top of it. Gently moving his foot front to back, side to side and making full circle motions while holding onto his knee to keep it stationary. "Keep doing these motions without moving your knee. Ten reps each, three sets." I release his foot and he begins the exercises on his own.
"So what about you?" he says.
"What about you?" Saying it again as he raised his eyebrows, knowing I understood him the first time.
"There's not much to me," I say.
"I doubt that's true. Let's start with where you grew up?"
"Here," I answer vaguely.
"Aaand...your parents?" He chuckles quietly to himself trying to get more out of me. I never talk about myself or my past. It always leads to people looking down on me, taking pity on me, feeling sorry for my upbringing.
"Just my Dad and I.” I reluctantly share avoiding eye contact with him. "My Mom left when I was a baby so my Dad raised me on his own.”
"I'm sorry," he says, making me feel pitiful just like I thought. "I'm not!" Taking a deep breath in finding my strength. "Why would I want someone in my life who doesn't want me!” We stopped conversation for a few minutes after that. I didn't know what to say and I guess he didn’t either.
"So, football?" He broke the silence.
"Hmm?" I looked up at him.
"You said last time, you've been around football players your whole life…”
"Umm, well my Dad got me into football.”
"Did he play?"
"No, well... I don't know actually, maybe when he was in high school. He never shared much with me. Watching football was the only time we really spent together. He ran his own auto body shop so he worked a lot.”
"Did he get you into physical therapy?" He asked.
"No..I found that myself." I kept trying to keep things vague but he wasn't letting up.
"Well, I'm sure your Dad is very proud of what you've accomplished," He said with a genuinely sincere smile. It made me choke up instantly. I had to clear my throat to swallow down my tears.
"Th-thanks. He...passed away a year and a half ago. Cancer."
"Yeah, me too." I shrug it off and keep myself busy with his exercises.
"So how do you know Ashton? He talked highly of you, you know.”
I immediately blushed and my silence and red face gave it away.
"What?" He says with a devilish smirk on his face but I stay quiet and chuckle to myself knowing I had no way out of this conversation. It leads down a road of personal information I don't share with anyone! "Come on, tell me!" his devilish smile gets larger.
"We used to date in college. It was nothing and it was a lifetime ago." emphasizing lifetime as I also tried lying through my teeth. As if Ashton meant nothing! As if any of the football players meant nothing! I was stupid enough to think each of those relationships would last forever, even high school jock asshole Josh!
I hoped he didn't think anymore of it but Colin and his cocky grin refused to get the hint! "Really! You and Ashton...hmm," he said teasingly.
"What!" I bite back offended by his shock.
"Nothing" he paused like he was contemplating saying something or not.
But he decided to say it. "So you've dated a lot of football players? I take it that's what you meant earlier, right?" My face blushed even harder and I was certain I was red as a tomato!
And the way he said it made it sound like I had definitely made my way around an NFL roster! I wasn't a slut! And not by any means did I want him thinking that either! Knowing him, he'd spread that rumor around like a wildfire! "I am NOT a SLUT!" I shouted.
"I didn't say you were!" he stated but the smirk never left his face which made me more angry! I had to defend myself and spill it all! "There haven't been many...I blurted out before thinking if the amount I had been with qualified as a lot or not..I wasn't a football slut, was I?
"A high school quarterback, Josh, Ashton in college, and...a running back...DOES NOT qualify as a LOT!" I bit back holding to my guns hoping that three wasn't considered a slutty amount in the eyes of a man. And there was no way in hell I would ever bring up John Moore's name on my list of men!
Not that I thought Scholtz would ever be interested in someone as boring and average as me, when I looked at him he was staring back at me with an expression in his eyes that I haven't seen before. I couldn't quite read what he was thinking. "A-anyway that's all in the past now. A locked box!" I said. "I've sworn to myself no more football players! Ever again!” I emphasized.
"Why?" he said quietly intrigued. I answered only with a silent smirk and shaking my head. "Oh come on! I can take it." He laughs, probably thinking I'm being a dramatic woman.
"Fine! It's always the same story with you assholes!" I look at him dead in the eyes and start my rant. "You ALL have a one track mind! Football and that's all that matters! The game, the fame, the glory, the stardom!" I said making a sour face.
"Really? Everyone? Me included?" He folded his arms looking smug like he was above all the assholes and not considered one himself.
"YES!" I huffed as if it wasn't obvious but took back my answer thinking about Ashton and all he's done for me.
"Well, ok maybe not all...Ashton wasn't like that.” Emphasizing his name purposely singling out Ashton as the ONLY good one. "If it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't have this company.”
"Not everyone is into the fame and stardom," he says quietly yet firm, trying to make a solid statement.
"Well, it doesn't matter anymore, no more football players for me," I said breaking his gaze and sitting up. "Ok, you can put your boot back on. I'm going to put you on the stationary bike for fifteen minutes." I walk towards the bike expecting him to follow which he does. "Doing this maintains your cardiovascular fitness, since you aren't as active as you normally are during this time."
Colin hops on the bike and I notice he's avoiding eye contact. "Can I get you anything? Water?" I offer.
"Nah, I'm good, thanks." He pulls his headphones from his pocket and starts peddling.
"I'm going to put in my notes from today's session and let Luna out quickly. I'll come back and check on you and we have one more exercise after this before you're free."
"Ok," he answers, looking down at the bikes monitor, he puts his headphones in his ears.
I sit in my office imputing the session notes with Luna resting her head on my lap. I can't help but think about Colin. He really opened up to me and shared everything about himself willingly. And then wanted to know about me? It was past the point of a client generally trying to get to know their physical therapist. And he seemed saddened about my perspective on football players. I shake my head forcing myself back to reality. This is Scholtz we're talking about! I say to myself, the one in all the tabloids with that beautiful model clinging to him. The cocky football player who ruined John's life lets not forget! “There is no doubt he's as cocky as all the others if not worse!" I say, looking at Luna. Yup, now I'm talking to a dog!
I finish my notes just as Luna lets out a loud bark. "Ok! Ok! I'm ready, let's go!" Luna runs to the door and I attach her leash to her collar and walk out of my office, purposefully avoiding eye contact with Colin on my way through the exercise room.
Thankfully Luna doesn't take her time sniffing every blade of grass and does her business right away. Walking back in with Luna, like the unloyal naughty girl she is, does the same thing as earlier! Being smarter now, I let go of the leash this time not hurting my hand again as it still stings from the earlier leash burn. Luna runs back to Colin who is cooling down from his workout on the bike.
"Come on Luna!" I say but Luna just looks back at me and sits down next to Colin getting off the bike.
"She can stay," he says smiling down at her, petting her behind her ears.
"Are you sure?"
"Yea," he says, smiling up at her as he rips the headphones from his ears.
"Ok then.” I unhook Luna's leash from her collar and put it down in the corner of the exercise room. "Ok, last exercise for today. Hamstring curls.” I pull out the yellow beginners resistance band and I hear him chuckle to himself. I look up at him and I know he's laughing thinking he is stronger and can move up a level to a higher resistance band. "Cocky are we?" I roll my eyes at him. "We start out slow and you work your way up to blue, or black tough guy," I add with a smart ass smirk.
He lays down on the exercise mat and places his headphones on the floor next to him. Blowing through the exercises with ease, and a smirk trying to prove his point. I hold my hand out like he did for me to help lift him from the floor.
"Thanks for today," he says.
"No problem. Your foot seems to be getting better. Keep elevating and icing it a couple times a day and DON'T think you can start putting weight on it just because I said it's getting better!" I point my finger at him firmly and he laughs with his cocky smile.
"So you still want me to show you some commands for Luna or have you shut me out too just because I'm a football player?" I can't hold back a laugh as I smack his hard chest.
"You wise ass!" Rolling my eyes at him. "Alright, show me how to be the alpha," I say sarcastically, quoting the air as I use his term alpha. I see Colins eyes drop to the floor and look around.
"Where did my headphones go?"
I look down helping him in his search.
"I had them on the floor next to me." He steps back and turns his body, dancing his eyes around looking for them. My eyes landed on Luna who was sitting between us. avoiding my eyes when I looked down at her.
"Oh No!" I knew what she did. "LUNA!" I shout but Luna's head is once again bowed down looking mischievous. I look up again at Colin with my eyes popping out in shock up but he just looks amused at the situation.
"I take it she does this a lot?"
"Kinda" I admit with a scrunched up face.
"We should get her to the vet," he says, grabbing the leash from my hands and attaching it to Luna's collar. I run to my office and grab my purse in a fluster and meet back with Colin who's waiting at the reception desk with Luna.
"Ready to schedule your next session, Mr. Scholtz?" Julie says.
"Julie, can you reschedule my appointments for today. I need to take Luna to the vet." I'm back at it again, rubbing my face in frustration. After today I think my face just might fall off.
"Oh no, what happened?" Julie asks worried.
"She ate my headphones!" Colin answers.
"Wha-!" Julie's mouth opens wide in shock. "Brooke what about Sydney?"
"Shit!” I tense up forgetting today is Thursday and the kids are let out early for teacher faculty meetings and conferences. "Umm, I-I can try to call the sitter I guess? I don't know, I'll figure something out!" It barely registered in my head that Colin held the door open for me as I rummaged through my purse to find my car keys and bring my phone to my ear.
"Hi Christine, It's Brooke. I'm sorry I'm calling on such short notice but I have to take Luna to the vet and I need someone to pick up Syd at twelve-" My anxiety builds as I listen to Christine apology on the other end of the call. "It's ok, thanks anyway, bye.”
Only until now did I notice Colin has been waiting next to me at my car holding Luna. "Who's Sydney?" he asks. Hesitant to answer since I try to keep my personal life separate and also, up until now Colin has no idea I'm even a Mother, a single mother at that and I don't want to face his judgment since I already spilled to him my failed personal relationships.
"Umm, m-my daughter.”
"You have a daughter?" He asks, sounding surprised.
"Yeah, she's seven.” I found myself holding my breath, waiting for the judgment.
"Well, why don't I take Luna to the vet so you can pick up your daughter?" Colin said and I'm slapped speechless by his offer.
"I don't mind," he says looking down smiling at Luna. I shake my head no flustered. "I can't have you do that.”
"Just call the vet and tell them I'm bringing in Luna for you. You can meet me there once you get Sydney." He reaches in his back pocket for his keys already making up his mind for me. "Colin!"
"Brooke!" he mimics me and grabs my hand that holds my phone and brings it to my face. "I just need to know which vet you bring her to.” Still flustered and shaking my head I somehow focus on unlocking my phone and pull up the contact for the vets.
"Umm Kohls Animal Hospital in Ellisville," I say, finally looking up at him. His hazel brown eyes were shining with such kindness and when he smiled, I felt like if I looked long enough, I'd get lost.
"Ok, I'll meet you there. Come on girl,” he commanded Luna and walked away to his car. "Th-thank..you," I managed to utter but in a whisper barely audible for myself to hear never mind Colin. I don't really remember but I think I stood there, outside my car looking like a mental case with my phone still in my hand for another minute just awestruck at his hospitality.
Finally bringing the phone back to my ear as I open the car door and hop in. "Yes, Hi this is Brooke Waters. I'm calling for my dog Luna-" I proceeded to let the vets office know that the famous NFL football running back star, Colin Scholtz, is bringing in my dog for surgery!!