I was sitting in a chair in the hospital room where Cooper slept. They sedated him to allow them to reset his broken leg.
I scooted the chair forward so I was right at his bedside, allowing me to run my fingers through his hair then take a hold of his hand. It was awkward with the sensors on his fingers, but I was just glad his hand was warm. A good thing, considering he was freezing hours ago.
Cooper had left only an hour ago and I already missed him. I sat up and glanced at the clock: 1:00 am. Was it that long ago? Bridget still wasn't home which made me very nervous, no matter her mood with me when she left. Sighing, I pulled myself out of bed and put my jeans and sweater back on. The snow was really starting to come down so I also put on my boots, snow coat, and the burgundy hat my mother knitted for me. Then I took off on my search for Bridget.
It was hell outside. The wind was blowing in every direction and I could barely see an arm's length ahead of me. Worse, I didn't even know where to look for Bridget. I had already tried her favorite bars and restaurants and she was no where to be found, only making me more terrified. I debated the idea of trying her cell again but it had gone straight to voicemail the other ten times I tried.
The snow had soaked through my boots to my toes when my phone finally vibrated, "Hello?"
"Sophie, where the hell are you?!" I could barely hear her.
"I could ask you the same question," I grunted and continued yelling into the phone to try and drown out the wind, "I've been out looking for you Bridget."
"I'm back home, but you have to get back here. We're in a state of emergency or whatever it's called."
I was distracted from what Bridget was saying from seeing a door open, light pouring from it and onto the continuously falling snow, and one of Broderick's friends stood in the doorway. Ed or Bob or something simple was his name and I recall him being an equally simple character. He and two other men threw a shape out into the snow. I saw Bob or Ed's mouth move but couldn't hear what he was saying over the wind. A bad feeling was creeping through me and I slowly walked towards the form, looking to be nothing more than a black blob against the snow, "C-Cooper?"
The form moved somehow, surprising myself that I could see it, in a sort of acknowledgment, "Cooper!" Now I was shrieking and running as fast as I could through wind, snow, and waterlogged boots, "Cooper!"
When I reached him he looked terrible. He was bleeding and the bruises on his skin appeared as black as his hair. And I couldn't look at his bent leg without feeling bile rise in my throat, "Sophie," his voice was so tiny and tears were welling in my eyes. He looked awful, absolutely awful.
In this moment I wondered, Is this what I look like in his eyes?
I laid my head on the bed and just watched his chest rise and fall. I told the doctors that it must have been some sort of mugger and we needed to catch him quickly. The doctors said it was a good thing I was around or he would've froze to death. I turned my attention to the window, where white was still all one could see.
"Oh Sophie, I came as soon as I heard the terrible news," someone entered the room saying this with false sympathy.
I shot out of the chair and glared at Broderick, "I want you to get the hell out."
He grinned and took three strides to cross the room and meet me, wrapping his arms around my waist, "But I care so much for your friend's safety," the way he enunciated "friend" made my back straighten. He read my body language and leaned to my ear and whispered, "Oh yes. I know. He sang like a bird with the right...incentive," he glanced at Cooper's bruised body to make his point, "We found this too," Broderick opened my fist and put a balled up piece of paper into my hand. He stepped away and studied Cooper while I opened the paper. It was the note we passed around where he begged me to not stay with Broderick, "This doesn't prove anything except that he's a friend that cares about my safety."
He cackled at me, "Oh you must be naive and stupid if you can't see it. It's obvious on that paper he loves you. And he told us plenty last night."
"So you did do this, didn't you?"
"Of course not. It was someone trying to rob him," he put his hands on either side of his face and acted distressed, "What terror, something like this happening to this place!"
I stormed out of the room, but before I left I stopped in the doorway and sneered, "You're an asshole Broderick," then left.
It was at a stop sign when I finally noticed the tears streaming down my face. I screwed everything up, and why? Because I was selfish. I should've just left Cooper along, left him to grow up all on his own, without me. But I just wasn't happy enough with Broderick and-
Someone honked at me, bringing me back to the 4-way intersection. They honked again while I wiped the tears from my face. Then I looked into my rearview mirror and flipped them off before finally crossing the street.
"This is my entire fault Bridge. I'm why Coop's in the hospital."
Bridget was working tirelessly on an essay on an essay, but she managed to roll her eyes, "You always blame things on yourself."
Ignoring her, "I've been selfish with this the entire time. I should've just left Cooper alone."
Bridget gave an exasperated sigh and turned her chair to look at me, "Normally I don't believe in this sort of shit, but you need to admit that you and Cooper are meant to be. You've had the pick of the pile multiple times but you both have ended up together every time. And you guys have done anything possible to end up together."
"But what about Broderick? I've hurt him so much."
She laughed in a sarcastic tone, "And what has he done to you? Turned you fucking purple," she turned back to focus on her paper, "If I were you, I'd break up with Broderick."
She said nothing after this, a sign that the conversation was over and I shouldn't talk anymore. Exhausted with what had happen during the day and night before, I turned off the end table lamp and turned so Bridget's light wasn't in my eyes and slept.
We were freshman and certainly not the legal age to be in a club like this, but no one questioned serious bitchy looking Bridget. She didn't act that way, true, but that didn't make her look any less stuck-up and cruel. When I first walked into our room I was slightly taken back by her almond shaped ice eyes. But she was friendly, molding us to eventually become best friends.
I was staring at my drink and stirring it lazily when Bridget nudged me, "Soph that guy across the bar has been staring at you."
"Don't remind me. He's done that since I don't even know how many weeks. He's in my calc class and he does that all the time. I've learned to ignore it-"
"Don't you know who he is?!" she was staring at me incredulously.
"No? Am I suppose to?"
She rolled her eyes at me, "You obviously don't read the college's newspaper, do you?" she reached around to her purse and pulled out a stack of paper. On the front page was the man that had been staring at me in all his ginger glory, "He's Broderick Reams. The star of our football team. He's also incredibly wealthy and most importantly single. Basically, the most eligible bachelor on campus has his sights on you and you're avoiding him."
I glanced up from my drink to meet his eyes, "I don't know. There's something about him that gives me the shivers."
"That's because he's so hot you can't even believe he's real. And even better, I think he's coming over here."
Much to my dismay, he was. He tapped me on the shoulder, "Sophie, is it?"
His hair was short but long enough to have curls. Bridget was right, his face was perfection, looking similar to the statue's faces chiseled by the Greek and Roman artists, with a square jaw, high cheekbones, and a straight Roman nose.
"Would you like to dance with me?"
I glanced where Bridget was sitting but she had disappeared into the crowd. Broderick outstretched his hand to me, waiting for me to accept it.
I placed my palm in his, "I must admit, I can't dance."
"Well lucky for you my dear, I cannot either."
So we went onto the dance floor and danced to the best of each other's ability until a slower song came up and Broderick wrapped his arms immediately around my waist. They seemed so sure that they belonged there that it made me nervous and uncomfortable. He leaned towards me and whispered in my ear, "By the way, my name is Broderick, but you can call me Brody."
My back stiffened, but somehow my head ended up against his chest, "Broderick."
Broderick gave me his number but I never had any real plans to call him back. There was something about him that didn't sit well with me. Perhaps it was the shiftiness in his eyes; I wasn't quite sure. But instead I sat on my bed biting my nails while I called Cooper for perhaps the fiftieth time since I began going to college. And like every time before it went to voicemail, "Cooper? Please can you pick up? I'm sorry about what I said to you over the summer. I-I miss you," my voice cracked, "I'm sorry, just please pick up for once."
His voicemail began reciting how his inbox was full. I set my phone onto my bed and mindlessly fingered the necklace Cooper bought for me.
Bridget entered the dorm at that time, returning from her class. She studied me and pinched her nose, "You called him again?"
"And he didn't pick up?"
I nodded, "He didn't."
She sighed and grabbed my phone, "Sophie, there's some words you've been needing to hear."
She pressed a couple of buttons and set the phone into my hand, "Move on."
She walked out of the room again, off to who-knows-where. When I looked down at my phone, the screen had Broderick's name and number staring back at me.
So move on I did. I finally stopped calling Cooper and slowly my back didn't stiffen from Broderick's dark brown eyes. He was a calm relaxed guy who enjoyed hearing about my day every day.
That was, until I learned of his drinking habits. It was late May when he called me and I knew immediately that he didn't sound right. Words were colliding into each other in his sentences. But I figured out that he wanted me to come over so I did.
When I arrived he was lying on his couch, eyes glazed over, "Brody," after our three month anniversary I began calling him by his nickname, "Are you okay?"
He picked his head up and squinted at me, "I'm fine now that you're here," he outstretched his arm and I accepted it, being pulled into his grasp and we lay on the couch and we stayed like this in comfortable silence.
The silence was interrupted when he grabbed my breasts and I shrieked, slapping his hands away, "What are you doing?!"
"C'mon we've been dating since December! I want sex," his face was close to mine, close enough that I could see his eyes were bloodshot. Tearing his arms away from me I stood up, "You are drunk! I'm leaving."
Broderick stood up and almost lost his footing, "Sophie be wee-reasonable," he reached for my hand but I swatted it away.
"Trust me, I am the reasonable one."
I was almost at the door when his hands wrapped around my arms like vises holding two toothpicks. The tight squeezes made me squirm, "Broderick, let me go. You're hurting me."
Even though he was treating me somewhat violently, his voice was terrifyingly quiet and emotionless, "You're going to stay right here Sophie."
It was there, in his tight unloving grip where I spent the rest of my night. The next morning was warm but I put on a sweater to hide the bruises Broderick had created on my upper arms.
Bridget looked at me quizzically, "Do you have a rash or something? It's 90 degrees out."
I shrugged; it was the only thing I could do.
My eyes opened wide. It was always weird having dreams that brought back the past but it gave me an epiphany of sorts,
I should've known from the very beginning. I should've listened to my body language and just walked away from him that night at the club.
So I was going to go and do what I should've done a year ago. The clock stated it was 4:3o in the morning, but I still got out of bed and changed into a pair of jeans, put a coat over my camisole, and covered my feet with my boots and my head with my hat.
Shockingly, Broderick answered the door. Rubbing his eyes with his fists, he grumbled, "Sophie? What the hell do you want at this hour?"
It was strange, when he was tired his eyes lost their dark flint to them and he appeared warm and almost innocent.
"Broderick. I-I'm done," I thrust the engagement ring's box at him. His innocent look was what gave me the courage to speak, "Husbands and boyfriends aren't supposed to beat their other."
I watched the innocence be melted away and his hard countenance returned, a smirk growing on his lips, "Are you trying to break up with me?"
"Y-yes. Is that so difficult to understand?"
His smirk grew wider and he pulled me into his chest, "It is actually because if you break up with me," he leaned towards my ear and whispered, "I'll break every bone in his scrawny ass body. We already got his leg, and you of all people should know what I can do."
I shook my head, trying more to convince myself instead of him that he couldn't do that. If anything his grin got even larger, "There's no more fooling around behind my back Sophie Farro," he squeezed my body tight, "You're going to be mine now," he pried open my one hand, making me notice they were balled into fists, and shoved the ring into my palm, "'till death do us part."
"I won't do it. I-"
He separated us so he could laugh at my face, "You what? You love him? Stop being a hippie and get with the times. People aren't together for love anymore. They're together for money, beauty, and power. There's no love anymore. So get out of your fucking storybook life and realize that I am the best choice here."
I squirmed, determined to get out of his grip so I could break his jaw, "No! You're not!"
His grip only got tighter and it reminded me of my dream. He lifted me by my arms until we were eye level, the bottomless pits of his eyes brewing, "If you really love him," he said the word "love" in a sneering stupid voice to make fun of it and me, "You'll end things with him to keep him alive," then, like I weighed only two pounds, he flicked me out of his room and onto the hallway floor, closing the door behind me.
I pulled my legs towards my body and wrapped my arms around my legs. Here I remembered my goodbyes when I was leaving for my first day:
"Just don't let the big school get to you alright?" she was so worried I would return home for Christmas as a drug addict. I rolled my eyes at her, "Mom I'm not going to do anything bad."
"And you know to wear your coat and hat in the winter? It gets very cold here."
"And I don't want you bringing home any unintelligent frat boys home either. They just want one thing."
"Dad! Frat boys aren't even my type!" Cooper's face came to my mind and my face automatically fell. My mom must've read my mind because she placed a hand on my shoulder, "It's okay. He'll call you back. I'm sure of it.," she smiled and I smiled with her though I didn't feel it in my heart.
Suddenly, Mom wrapped her arms around me, "Oh my strong little girl I'm going to miss you!" she began sobbing and I, embarrassed, tried calming her down.
"Relax Mom; it's only four or so months until winter break. I'll be back before you miss me."
"Yes so Erika please pull yourself together," my father was pinching his nose, "I think you're embarrassing her."
"Oh sorry dear," she reluctantly released me, "You'll come for Christmas then?"
"Of course. I wouldn't miss Christmas chicken."
But there never was Christmas chicken, for early December brought the death of my parents. They got caught in a snow storm, car slipping on ice and being stopped eventually and violently by a tree. Both were killed instantly.
I felt so helpless watching them being lowered into the frozen soil with Broderick on one side of me. On the other side were Broderick's parents, whose manner of sympathy was Mrs. Reams, always uptight, smiled and said, "Well we'll take you in. Not like you won't be a part of the family soon, eh? I will be fifty times better of a mother than yours was. I'll-"
I ran away from that woman, throat choking on helplessness, to the only two adults that understood me. I sat in front of their graves, freshly tossed around dirt getting on my black dress, and cried until Bridget came to get me.
Since then, through all I've been dealing with, I've never felt more helpless than that day. But now, running through the snow without boots, my coat, or my hat (which I kept in the hand that wasn't holding the ring) with my tears freezing to my face, I had never felt more helpless. For now, I knew I failed my parents. I did everything I promised I wouldn't and worse, I gave up my strength and was accepting defeat in the form of a 20 karat ring.