Deepest Scars(5)

By: Tricia Copeland


“Ask her out,” Carlos yells after me.

I wave a hand at him as I walk away, thinking maybe Carlos is right. I need to get back in the saddle, or I’m going to end up wearing sweaters and raising cats. But I don’t want to be like I was before, moving from girl to girl with no rhyme or reason. Maybe I’m overthinking it. Most guys on the team are older than me and still dating around, at a different club with a different girl every week.

Finding an empty treadmill is easy on game days, and I take the one against the wall. I pop in my earbuds and start my run playlist. Before long, all I am thinking about is my feet hitting the treadmill deck and the sweat beading on my forehead. At six miles, I slow my pace and walk a few minutes. I take a quick shower and head to the market to pick up something for dinner.

Weaving through the aisles, I find some veggies and strip steak to grill. My phone buzzes as I join a checkout line. Abe’s message reads:

THOUGHT YOU WOULD WANT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU SAW IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA. ASHLEIGH GOT ENGAGED. WEDDING IN DECEMBER.

Shaking my head, I text back: K, THX.

HEY ZACK, SOMETHING ELSE.

YEAH?

SHE’S MARRYING ADAM.

LIKE IN OUR ADAM?

YEAH.

THANKS.

Man, I must be out of the loop. How long have they been dating? It’s been six years, but she was my first. My chest tightens. Abe, Adam, and I had our Bar Mitzvah together. Didn’t she break up with me because I was too hometown? He works as a loan guy at the bank down the street from our neighborhood.

“You want to check out, dude?” the guy behind the counter asks.

I throw my items on the belt, slide my card, and grab the loaded bag. Outside, I take deep breaths of the hot air. I got over Ashleigh years ago and wonder why I’m upset. Probably if I wasn’t coming off the blow from Amanda, I wouldn’t care. Quit being a pansy, I think.

Over the row of cars, a flash of red hair catches my eye, and I do a double take. Liz stands hand to hips outside her car door. You don’t care, I force into my psyche. But I’m not that guy. At least her name doesn’t start with an A. I wind around the truck and approach her as she’s using a cereal box to fan her front seat.

“Everything okay?” I ask.

Her head turns, and her eyes grow wide. “Zack?”

“Yeah, grocery shopping. Not stalking.” I motion to my bag. “What’s up?”

“Nothing. It’s fine.” She blows her breath over her forehead.

“Tinted windows would help. I got mine done—”

“I know. My neighbor said the same thing.”

“I have a guy. He had a fair price and came to the hospital lot. I have Monday off. If you want, I could be there when he comes.”

She shakes her head. “My neighbor gave me a name. Brad’s a firefighter, so he should be safe.”

“A firefighter who tints windows on the side?”

“No, Brad is the neighbor. He knows the window guy.”

“Oh, okay. Well, I have to get to work. See you around.” I wave, hoping the Brad guy is really a firefighter and not some psycho posing as one.





At my apartment, I light my grill and wash the veggies. Tossing them on the grate, I find my remote and plop down on the couch to watch the news. I have this meal down to a science. In fifteen minutes, the food is ready and I sit in front of the TV to eat. Afterwards, I double check my bag. Even though I’ve been with the team a month, I still get nervous, thinking I’ll forget something.

I brush my teeth and shoulder my bag, grabbing a water bottle on the way out. Within fifteen minutes, I pull into the employee lot. Clouds overhead threaten a rare shower, but it doesn’t matter because Phoenix has a dome. I enter the building and wind through the halls. When I open the door, a wall of women blocks my path.

“Zack!” Eva kisses me on each cheek and wraps one arm around me.

“What’s going on?”

“Just here to wish my man good luck.” She blows a kiss at Carlos. “Plus, my friend Mia didn’t get a tour yet.” Her other arm hugs the woman on her opposite side. “I met Mia at the gym. She’s from back east, like you.”

Eva’s other friends plant kisses on each of my cheeks. I greet them with hugs and then focus on Mia. “Hi, I’m Zack. It’s nice to meet you.”