Amber anxiously scanned the bleachers for her friends. She started out late, got a ticket for speeding, and couldn’t find a parking space, so she arrived to the game a little later than she wanted. Ellowyne spotted her first, and waved so she could see them. “I’m so sorry I’m late. Did I miss much?”
Lizette deadpanned, “Well, you missed the cheerleaders. Seven of the hunkiest shirtless guys you’ve ever seen.”
“She’s kidding,” Ellowyne said. “There were eight cheerleaders. Two for each of us.”
Rufus chuckled and squeezed Ellowyne’s hand. “Come on, ladies. You don’t need a cheerleader when you have me,” he said. Amber and Lizette laughed and rolled their eyes. Ellowyne kissed his cheek and squeezed his hand in return. Then he said, “I hate to break this to you, Amber, but there are no handsome cheerleaders at women’s rugby matches.”
“Une telle déception,” Lizette said to Amber, who also spoke French. Rufus quizzically lifted one eyebrow. “That, to our favorite non-French speaker, means ‘such a disappointment.’” Rufus gave her a thumbs up. “But never fear, Amber, I have some snacks that should get you over this big letdown: Pixi Stix and a concoction of Mountain Dew and Red Bull.”
Amber laughed. “Pageant crack and Go-Go juice. I should never have let you know I was a pageant kid!”
The players took the field and everyone stood for the national anthem. Prudence, the home team captain, won the coin toss and decided that her She Devils would kick off. Not only was she the captain, she was a forward, a position played by the toughest and strongest team members.
Lizette, Ellowyne, and Rufus attended most of the She Devils home games, but this was the first one Amber came to watch. She had lots of questions and whispered to Lizette that she didn’t understand the game. Lizette told her that she still had much to learn about the game. “I have a copy of Rugby for Dummies. You can borrow it anytime. The most important thing to remember is that it’s a rough sport. Sometimes Prudence is covered with cuts and bruises but she’s never been seriously hurt, like spraining her ankle or breaking any bones. She brags that she mocks pain, and she has a bumper sticker that says, ‘Give Blood. Play Rugby.’”
No sooner had Lizette spoken these words, than the referee’s whistle sounded and the announcer said that a player for the She Devils was down. The team gathered around the injured player. The announcer said that it was Pru. Her horrified friends climbed down the bleachers to the field were she was. The usually stoic Prudence, who claimed she laughed at pain, was in tears.
Pru felt light-headed and dazed after her injury and wasn’t sure if the handsome man looking down at her was real or a fantasy cooked up by her pain-mediated imagination. The paramedic, whose name was Penn, had red hair and eyes as blue as the ocean. He asked Pru where it hurt and, after gingerly palpating her left ankle, said that she should go to the emergency room to see if it was broken or sprained. The other paramedic, who wasn’t nearly as cute as Penn, helped him get Pru on a gurney. As they moved toward the ambulance, both teams and their fans held a moment of silence for Pru, and then burst out clapping as Penn said that that her injury was not deadly and loaded up the gurney.
Ellowyne, the first one to get to Pru and Penn, was distraught at her friend’s injury. She asked, “Can I ride in the ambulance with her?”
“I’ll go,” Amber suggested, perhaps more interested in the handsome Penn than Pru’s condition.
“You have your car here. I should ride with Pru,” Lizette said. She also found Penn attractive.”
“No, I’m sorry but I can’t let any of you ride in the ambulance,” Penn said. “But you can follow me to the hospital and wait there.”
So off the friends to the hospital. Ellowyne called Pru’s parents, who were at work, and they were going to get to the ER as soon as possible. She also asked Pru to permit the hospital staff to let their friends know about her condition, which naturally she approved.
The ER was abnormally, almost eerily quiet for an early Saturday afternoon. Rufus paced while Lizette and Ellowyne sipped on coffee. Amber searched the Internet on her phone, looking for rugby injuries. She was horrified to see x-rays and pictures of badly broken limbs with bones sticking out of the skin. She inhaled sharply. Lizette walked over to Amber and looked at some of the photos. “God, Amber, those pictures would disturb anyone,” she said. “But I’m sure Prudence isn’t hurt that much. At least I hope not.”
It was the second time that day Lizette immediately regretted what she said. Penn and the orthopedic surgeon entered the waiting room. The doctor said, “It appears that your friend has a unstable lateral malleolus fracture that will require surgery. I will contact the OR to get ready for surgery.” The doctor went back to the ER but Penn stayed behind. Pru’s friends and teammates gathered around him and started asking questions.
Ellowyne asked, “Can you please translate what the doctor said?”“Sure”, Penn replied. “Prudence has a broken fibula, which is the slender bone in her leg that attaches to the ankle joints. It was an unstable break, which means that the ligaments were damaged. She’s going to need immediate surgery. She will wear a cast and use crutches, and she’ll need physical therapy.”
Prudence’s friends were shocked and saddened. Amber asked, “Will she be able to return to rugby?”
“Her recovery will take months. She’s not going to play the rest of this season.” Penn shook his head. “Poor kid. She’s taking it pretty hard. She’s had some pain reliever, and then she will go to the surgical suite. Would you like to see her before she goes?”
Of course Pru’s friends wanted to see her. The usually robust, cheerful Prudence looked small and vulnerable. Hot tears streamed down her cheeks and her eyes were red from crying. “I guess this time pain won,” she said softly.
Ellowyne smoothed Prudence’s hair. Rufus hugged Prudence, and Lizette and Amber held her hands. Penn stood near the curtain separating the gurneys from each other, silently watching Pru and her friends. He figured Prudence must be quite special to have such a devoted bunch of friends.
By that time, the She Devils flooded into the ER waiting area. One of the women said, “We won the game for YOU!”
Prudence sobbed. “You are so awesome.”
The coach responded, “Once you’ve recovered enough to get around easily, you can still come to the games. After all, we need our captain!”
Prudence tried to choke back her tears. “I wish I could play now. I’m scared. I need surgery. I’ve never had surgery.” Penn held her hand and the staff wheeled Prudence into the operating room.