“Blindsided,” Chapter 17

AHHH.

I feel human again.

That ice-cold bath of a few minutes ago is doing wonders for me, revitalizing both body and mind.

And my mouth feels, OH, so much better after 10-plus minutes of vigorously brushing my teeth and then gurgling some mouthwash.

Good riddance, stinky-ass breath!

I’m ready to face the day head-on, secrets and all.

Bring it on, bitches!

I leave my hair wet like always, knowing it will be dry in its usual flyaway, stick-my-finger-in-a-socket style in no time.

After rummaging around in my chest of drawers, I manage to scrounge up a ratty old Holy Mother of Jesus Catholic School pep squad T-shirt, a pair of hand-me-down frayed, faded mom jean shorts that go WAY above my hips the way I prefer because I do NOT run around showing off my love handles like a used up bar hoppin’ hoochie-mama skank ho’ on the prowl for yet another baby daddy, some granny panties and a bra that has seen better days from when I was still a teenager. I suppose my raggedy-ass clothes will have to do because I most certainly am NOT re-wearing my slept-in, sweat-drenched sundress from yesterday. And I have a pair of flip-flops downstairs to complete my hot mess of a fashion-don’t ensemble, so I’m good to go.

The clothes are a bit snug in all the wrong places, but not the potentially embarrassing rip-as-soon-as-you-breathe tight. Lucky for me, I’ve always had a thing for baggy clothing, else these wouldn’t fit after my recent weight gain.

There’s only one area that never changes — as far as cup size, anyway — when my weight fluctuates, and I’m not going any further THERE to talk about THOSE. Let’s just say that I still don’t like showing my, um, ample curves in any way — people tend to stare — but I have to wear light sundresses or sleeveless tops with long, flowy peasant skirts in the summer when it’s hotter than hell because all I do is sweat to no end.

Shorts are never OK at work unless I’m on assignment at an outdoors event that allows for them. Or on the weekends when I’m at the office working the sports desk where no one but my newsroom cohorts can see me. I cannot handle the humidity, so comfort takes priority over any hesitancy to show off my assets. If I wear ANY heavy clothing, I’ll melt faster than you can scream “ice cream truck!” after hearing the amplified trademark music as it rolls on down the street.

Dang, looks like you’re ready for a trip to Wal-Mart with Joe Dirt. You’ll fit in nicely with the rest of the throwback slobs who don’t know how to dress themselves and end up with their pictures on the People of Wal-Mart website. All you lack is a mullet or a rat tail.

Fuck it. I’ll take what I can get. It’s not as if I’m going to run into anyone I know, other than Dickhead and my parents. Besides, Dickhead has no room to talk with his everyday white shirts and black pants.

SHAZAM! Wrong again.

I come downstairs to find Dickhead sitting on the living room couch rapidly texting away. He’s sporting a white fitted sleeveless workout T-shirt and a pair of navy blue — instead of the black I expected — open-hole mesh basketball shorts.

OH, LA LA!

He glances up at me just as I’m trying my damndest not to drool over all of those rippling muscles, gives me a half-ass smile mid-distraction and then resumes texting as if his life depends on it.

Workout clothes, indeedy! YOWZA!

I’m about to have a hot flash that has nothing to do with the early-morning heat.

HUBBA HUBBA!

I’ve always suspected he was built under those button-down shirts, only judging by the exposed forearms of his rolled up long sleeves around the office. I just didn’t know to WHAT extent! He’s not as bulked up as my fantasy celebrity boyfriend Mark Wahlberg is these days, but I sure ain’t complaining! He may not have Marky Mark’s super sultry good looks that are so sizzling hot I’m betting they will singe your fingers at the slightest point of contactual impact, but they DO share identical sexy scowls that can turn the entire everyday average civilized female population into stampeding packs of panting men-hungry cavewomen who will stop at nothing in their prehistoric savage frenzies to club them over their unwitting heads and drag them back to their respective lairs to have their wily ways with them.

My, my, don’t we have quite the frisky imagination?! You’re oxymoronic to the fucking core, Piccolo, having such unsavory notions with your track record! You wicked, wicked woman! Did you learn nothing from your dealings with Joe?!

I have lots of issues, but I’m not dead. The insane fluttering in my belly and the quickening thumpety-thump-thumping of my heartbeat are proof of that.

I don’t know what it is about dangerous, mean-looking men, but I seem to have a weakness for them the jerkier they come. I call it the “bad-boy syndrome.”

Fucking masochist!

Getting back to those muscles, though. Dickhead is ripped, but not grotesquely so, and he has only a light dusting of dark hair on his arms, a fact I forgot to mention before. Perfect. Wolfman-hairy males aren’t really my cup of tea, although I don’t have room to talk with the fair amount of fuzz on my own forearms. And those legs! Also muscly and nicely proportionate to the rest of his fit body with minimal hair. Double bonus! There very possibly is nothing more criminal on this planet than a man with a muscular upper body having fucking scrawny-ass chicken legs! How the FUCK do you beef up one half of your body and neglect the other?! HELLO?! Strap on some ankle weights while you’re doing those leg lifts at the gym! Andale! Andale! as Speedy Gonzales the mouse used to shout in the classic cartoon. Get to it!

I’m used to seeing muscular guys of all ages running around in next to nothing in my chosen field of sports, but I don’t gawk at them out of mutual respect and because I simply refuse to allow my credibility or professionalism to ever come under fire for ANY reason. I have three STRICT rules when it comes to locker-room conduct for female sports writers: NEVER break eye contact, NEVER, EVER look down and absolutely NO touching of any kind — not even if it’s to shake their hands as is usually customary following postgame interviews — unless they’re fully dressed and nowhere near their mancaves. Easy-peasy. Trust me when I say that it saves everyone involved a LOT of unnecessary grief if they adhere to those career-preserving rules like Super Glue, especially for women seeking longevity in a male-dominated industry. We’re still a rare breed, even after all of these years.

I’ve been “hey babied” — which I still find laughable — a few times over the years by minor-league athletes, so they don’t need ANY form of encouragement. Nor do you need to be the one doing any encouraging of your own while working because it’s unprofessional. There’s a reason why groupies exist, y’know. Plenty of them are more than willing to oblige athletes’ more primal urges. So the best thing you can do if such situations arise is to ignore them INITIALLY and go about your business of getting whatever story it is you’re after instead of making a big fuss over a one-time (if they possess any common sense whatsoever) dumbass juvenile comment like “hey baby” that proves more amusing than insulting — UNLESS they overstep ANY legal boundaries, such as what Joe did, or persist with inappropriate comments, leers or other unacceptable behaviors. But THAT is an entirely different animal altogether. I’ll give anyone the benefit of the doubt ONCE, just in case they’re temporarily taking leave of their basic common sense, although they always are the unlucky recipients of my trademark death stare. They’ll usually get the message (again, if they possess any common sense whatsoever), and they’ll respect you all the more for it. And even if they don’t hold you in high esteem, chances are they won’t bother you again because — forgive the innuendo — they can’t get a rise out of you. Simple as that.

I suppose I will have to quit ogling Dickhead, who — finally having completed his furious texting session — now seems to be basking in the … warmth? … of my reaction to him judging by the gi-fucking-normous smirk engulfing his face faster than a hurricane can submerge dry land. I know my face is turning 50 shades of red — bad joke, I know — but he’s a mighty fine specimen.

HEY!

His hair is straight! And thick. And glossy. Me likey.

It’s already half-dry with no gel caking it. I’m just itching to get my paws on it.

Down, girl.

Get a hold of yourself, Piccolo. He. Is. Your. Boss. You’ll do well to remember that before it comes back to bite you in the ass. HARD. It always does.

“No penguin getup?” I ask, fumbling to gather my wits as I refer to his humdrum everyday white shirt/black pants/black tie ensemble.

That’s me, a smartass to the very core. I swear, the man must have an aversion to variety in his wardrobe. Or he has a thing for penguins.

But he gets my meaning.

“I have a freshly pressed shirt and trousers in the boot, but I opted for comfort since it’s already so hot,” he says. “The house is a bit stuffy.”

Here we go again with the whole “boot” thing.

I can just hear Mom giving me hell as she wags her index finger at me.

Now, now, young lady, don’t be rude to your guest.

I stifle a snicker before it flees my lips and bite down on them in an effort to ward off any evidence of a smile.

He’s right. The central air-conditioning unit in the house isn’t exactly the greatest to begin with, but my parents try not to run it all the time because their utility bill has the potential to become one hell of a whopper if they’re not vigilant about it.

“Yeah, it gets expensive running the A/C. My parents try to use the ceiling fans and keep the windows open so the air can circulate as much as possible, but there are times when the humidity gets to be too much and they have to run the A/C. It’s brutal when it gets like this.”

His head bobs up and down in agreement.

“Did you find one of the spare toothbrushes in the bathroom, or do you need me to show you where I keep them?” I inquire, hoping he gets the hint without taking offense.

“Yes, I brushed my teeth.”

OK, so we’re taking the direct approach.

“Good,” I say, blushing and feeling every inch a superbitch since he hasn’t made any wisecracks about MY shitty retro attire. “So, is there anything new on Coach Smith?”

And, moving right along …

“Nothing yet. Mandy Jo is doing the follow-up this afternoon after the bo … police release the preliminary autopsy results. Lester Smith’s wife has also agreed to an exclusive face-to-face interview with Mandy Jo.”

I have to give Mandy Jo props. She’s exceptionally skilled when it comes to getting people who don’t want to talk to talk anyway. She has this supernatural ability to get people to open up unlike anyone else I’ve ever known. She may work at a snail’s pace — unlike the rest of the speedy newsroom staff — but she always gets the story. I wish I had a fraction of her patience, but I’m way too damn eager when it comes to getting the job done because there’s always another sport waiting to be covered. It never stops.

“I don’t know how she does it, but she’s freakin’ awesome. I wish we could have brought her along with us. She’d have my parents eating out of her hand, they’d be so eager to tell her their entire life stories.”

That’s not too much of a stretch from the truth, either. But we’ll have to make do and try to weasel the truth out of them without pissing them off in the process. It might have a disastrous effect on my relationship with them — which is the last thing I want to happen — but I’m tenacious that way. I’m just sick of all of this cloak-and-dagger shit. The not knowing what the fuck is going on isn’t sitting well with me.

“Piccolo?!”

Goody. They’re home.

Now we can get down to business. No more skirting around The Talk.

“In here, Mom.”

We’re going to have it out right now.

I see they come bearing a box of glazed doughnuts and two large to-go coffees with all the fixins for us as they enter the living room, but I’m not about to allow them to deter me a second time with more of my favorite tasty treats.

“I love you, but I’m not going to sugarcoat anything,” I pounce without preamble before they start to wave the Krispy Kremes under my nose in a last-ditch Hail Mary pass-ish effort to distract me. “I have some questions — important questions — and I just need for you to be honest with me. Please.”

They exchange a look that requires no words before hunching their shoulders in defeat at the no-nonsense obstinate set of my jaw.

I win.

“All right, Piccolo,” Mom finally says. “Have it your way.”

Yep, I win. But at what cost?

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    1. Touring the inner workings of a mind that never stops | Armchair QB
    2. Links to “Blindsided” chapters in order so you don’t have to backtrack | Armchair QB

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