Deepest Scars

By: Tricia Copeland

“So, we didn’t get to catch up today. How was your Fourth?” Mitchell asks as I slide my backpack over my shoulders.

“I was working.” I dodge incoming patients as we exit the physical therapy room.

“Did you even get to see fireworks?”

“No, we had a couple injuries, so I was there till late.” I find my keys and sunglasses in a side pocket of my bag.

“You’ve got to get a better job, so you can have a social life.” Mitchell shakes his head.

“Are you kidding? I’m living the dream. Fame and fortune.”

“Right, well”—he holds his palm out to me—“I’ll catch you next time.”

“Yep.” I shake his hand and slide my sunglasses on. Stepping through the sliding doors the sun sears my skin, and I wonder if I’ll ever get used to it. Heat rises off the pavement, and hot wind engulfs me as I cross the parking lot. A volleyball rolls out from between two cars. I dip and scoop it up with one hand. Scanning the rows, I spot an open trunk and jog to it. I stop a couple feet from a girl rummaging in the back of a small SUV. “You lose this?” I hold the ball at arm’s length.

She glances at me and then back to her open car. “I’d lose my head right now if it weren’t attached.” Her accent is melodic, almost twangy, and I note the New Jersey license plate. Running her hand through her thick hair, she turns to face me. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” Ball extended, I take a step closer to her. “You play?”

Her eyes land on mine and then cut to my chest where my ID card hangs. Grabbing the sphere with both hands, she tosses it into her SUV. “Yeah.” Shaking her head, she fishes in the closest bag.

“Me too. There’s a league at the JCC if you’re interested. That’s the—”

“I know what the JCC is.” She spins to face me.

I take a step back. “Okay, I wasn’t… I just thought—”

“What? Since I have out-of-state plates, I’m fresh meat? A new chick to take out once and never call again?”

“Whoa.” I raise my palms. “I was just returning the ball.” Shaking my head, I turn and walk away. I should have known. She’s the redhead I saw with Lydia and Rose in the cafeteria. They hate me. Why? I have no clue. I accepted an invite to hang out with them my first week on the job. We’d spent three hours at a bar, them spouting off all the hospital gossip. Drama isn’t my thing. I’d been nice about it, nodding and agreeing where appropriate. The next time they asked me to join them, I had volleyball, fortunately for me, as I am horrible at lying. The third and fourth times, I had a string of twelve-hour shifts and declined them again. They have been shooting daggers and giving me the cold shoulder ever since. I’m not sure what to do about their hostility. Mitchell said to ignore them, but now they’re bad-mouthing me? I’m barely at the hospital two days a week, and they think they know me?

“Hey.” I hear her call out and turn around. “I’m sorry about that. Thanks for saving my ball. This is my first day at work, I moved here two days ago, and everything is out of control. Lydia and Rose said that you…” Shedding her sunglasses, her eyes cut to the pavement and back to my face.

I shake my head and shrug. “That I did what exactly? Did they mention how long they’d known me? I moved here a month ago and only hung out with them once.”

“Oh.” She looks to a passing truck and then back up at me. “They were trying to help, I think.”

The sun has my skin flaming. “We good?”

“Yeah, thanks again.”

“No problem.” I resume my path, hoping my reply wasn’t too rude. She lashed out at me first though. Plus, with the twelve-hour shift and heat, I was done.



“Zack, my man!” Rabbi John greets me by gripping my hand and bumping his shoulder to mine the next night at the JCC gym. “Wasn’t sure you were going to make it.”

“Traffic was bad. How’s the count?” I ask as I secure my laces.

“Good, Kara from team two is sick, but Liz showed up, so we’re good to go.”

“Liz?”