Montrose White, the physical therapist from the gym where Remy, Coop and Scott all trained, was sitting on an exercise mat tossing a 20 pound Rogue Medicine Ball with Dylan Cooper and talking baseball when Scott brought the protesting Timber down and stood her between them. Monty was a large black man with a bright welcoming smile, fit from head to toe, dressed like a Sports Illustrated ad, and to Timber, as he stood to greet them, he looked like John Legend, her very first rock star crush; the man who smiled down from a poster over her bed for three very formative teen years.
“Timber Lilley,” Scott did the introductions. “This is Monty White, he’s the PT who’s going to look at your hands. Monty this is Timber. Sorry we’re running so late,” Scott apologized to the trainer and the men shook hands like old friends. “We had some wardrobe malfunction problems.”
“Nice to meet you Timber,” Monty offered a hand for Timber to shake, and she could feel herself blush at the embarrassing thought of this handsome god of a man looking at her in her current state. Of all the trainers in New York, they go and pick the one who looks just like the first man – but certainly not the last man – she ever pretended loved her. She was horrified at the thought of him looking at her deformed hands. Ashamed to have his first impression of her to be the hideousness that Remy had driven home in his sales pitch earlier this morning; and now they had dressed her up like a freak for everyone to laugh at and delivered her to this gorgeous John Legend of a man.
And suddenly what was going on was all very clear to Timber.
Without warning, Timber turned on Scott, gave him a mighty shove, which had about as much affect as a flea trying to move a mountain. “You asshole!” She lashed out angrily while Scott desperately searched for what had changed from five seconds ago when he had made her giggle. Timber then turned on Coop and attempted to shove him with about the same result. “And you are an asshole too for going along with it.”
“Very funny.” She screamed at Scott. “I know this is you. Well, you got me. Bring on the Weekend at Bernie photos and the Sasquatch jokes. I’m going home, because know what? I just remembered. I own a company. I can call them up and they will send me a plane. So nice one, Scotty. You really got me. Laugh it up.”
With one more unsuccessful attempt to move Scott with an all out shove, Timber stomped toward the door, turning back a last time to remind them they were assholes, lest they had forgotten that she had just expressed that opinion a few seconds ago.
“I think she likes you.” Scott told Monty White. Then to Coop. “We should call Remy.”
Coop shook his head no. “Let me try. If the buzzer rings, take out the coffee cake.”
Coop followed the angry Timber up the stairs where he found her retrieving the wad of cash she had stolen from Puck out of the corner of a dresser drawer where she had hidden it. Though the fact she wasn’t supposed to have any money crossed his mind, Coop decided not to question where she had come by it.
He didn’t need to question Timber about what had set her off; she ranted freely about what she believed to be their – mostly Scott’s – transgressions.
“I can’t believe I didn’t see it.” She told Coop, stuffing the cash in the pouch on the front of the Duck’s sweatshirt. “First you get me drunk and drag me back here. Then Remy does a slideshow from the past on how hot I used to be and how he wants to help me, and how he’s going to be there all the way. Where the hell is he? He’s part of the joke. And I don’t know if you are or not Coop, but it’s not funny. It’s not funny! It’s…” Timber paused searching for the world. “It’s cruel. It’s mean. And you’re mean for letting him do it.”
“Timber. Timber, Timber, just stop.” Coop said calmly. “Stop for a minute and tell me what he did. I swear I have no idea what you are angry about. What joke? Would I ever play a mean joke on you Timmie?”
“The joke! Let’s punk Timber. Paybacks are hell. It’s all a joke! Think about it. The poop shake to make me sick? Then Puck banging on the door every five minutes when I’m sitting on the john puking at one end and shitting out my intestines on the other. And he buys me a tiny comb for this mop of hair? And a mammoth jar of Vaseline, which is probably some gross man joke I don’t even get. And why was there a bandage on my foot? Can’t wait to see the candids from that joke!”
“Timber sweetie, I think you are reading in…”
“You don’t believe me? Look at these clothes Puck bought. A big bright orange sweatsuit to make sure everyone turns to look at me and how repulsive I am.That Mets suit to remind me, I’m not really a Yankee anymore, I’m nobody important. And I couldn’t wear it anyway because I don’t have any underwear. And I just got it! That’s part of the joke! Make Timber traipse all over the city commando style looking like a big orange pumpkin with a skeleton creature inside…”
“Timber, Sweetie, please take a breath,” Coop tried as she paced from one side of the room to another.
“And who the hell knows what crap they have planned for the rest of the day. That’s where Remy probably is right now, setting up the joke. Scott and his imaginary twin Miguel! Next thing I’m up in the stirrups and Scotty’s got his cell phone camera between my legs.
“I needed you! I needed you guys!” Timber cried plaintively, “I needed you to help me Coop, because I don’t know how to stop what is happening to me, and now you’re just making fun of me!”
This time Coop gave up on the verbal counterpoint and snathched Timber off her feet, letting her cry piteously with her head buried in his shoulder. Coop stroked her hair as she sobbed waiting until she had run out of steam. “You need us Timmie?” he asked quietly. “Is that why you sent that email?”
Timber looked down at the floor and nodded three times. A mournful keening noise erupted out of her following her admission and Coop held her tighter in his embrace, laying his cheek on the top of her head. “It’s ok, Timmie, go ahead and cry. Cry it all out.”
Coop stood patiently with Timber in his arms until her sobs faded into sniffles and she pulled away from the embrace. He kept one arm firmly around her, leading her over to the same spot on the bed where she and Remy had sat and looked at the pictures in his cell phone. Coop handed her the same box of Kleenex Remy had when she had broken down looking at how she used to look, and returned his arm to her shoulders.
“Ok, Timmie.” I can see you have had a really bad morning, haven’t you? And I can see why you may have concluded that a prank is being played. So let’s take all those things one by one. First, no one got you drunk. You did that all on your own. And yes, we brought you here, and I will admit it was my idea to do that. Not Scotty’s. Not Remy’s. But it was never to play a joke on you.
“Now Remy isn’t here because Samantha is coming into town for the holidays and he went to pick her up at the airport and get her checked into the hotel, which translates to there is a good chance they are having Four Seasons sex right this moment, but if you want to call him so he can reassure you we can do that. But why don’t you and I try to work this out first? Dr. Samantha is probably already pissed he’s leaving her to take you to Dr. Chen’s at 3:00. I have it on good authority she refused to stay here.”
“Well I don’t need Remy. You can take me Coop.” Timber said.
“I offered. He said he wanted to be there.” Coop told her. “Now let’s start with the poop shake thing,” Coop addressed her complaints, “I think you mean Remy’s protein shake right? It didn’t go down so well?”
Slight nod from Timber. “Now even if Scotty was punking you, he’d never serve you poop, right?” Timber seemed to think about, but not reject the idea. “He’d put Ex-Lax in it. And Ipecac.”
“Maybe he would in a different context, but I am sure he didn’t do that to you today. Don’t you think the half bottle of Black you downed might have something to do with your intestinal trouble? And your hangover is also something Dr. Avila can help you with when you see him.”
Timber looked like she was thinking things over.
“As it so happens,” Coop continued. “I am with you on those shakes. They suck. But Remy drinks them every morning. And you know Scott can be an adolescent jerk, but Remy wouldn’t make you drink something to purposely make you sick, right?”
Timber nodded this time.
“The good news is, you will never have to drink another one of those poop shakes because I am in charge of your diet now, and for the next few weeks while we fatten you up for the slaughter, you can have anything you want. Krispy Kremes. Cheesecake. My mom makes some out of this world sour cream Christmas cookies. The sky’s the limit!”
If the prospect of eating unlimited empty calories was supposed to cheer Timber, known for her sweet tooth, it had the opposite effect. “I can’t eat Coop.” She confessed to him. “I want to eat. Whatever is in the oven smells so good. But look.” Timber opened her mouth and pulled out her cheek so that Coop could see the canker sores there.
“Aw, Sweetheart. Ok. This is good to know. That’s what today is supposed to be about, gathering information. And now that I know about the sores, I can find some foods that won’t sting so much. And tomorrow, I will take you to this dentist I know. I think she has a crush on me. She might have something that can clear those right up and you’ll be scarfing down all the empty calories you can in no time.
“I might not be here tomorrow.” Timber reminded him.
“Well, I’ll make the appointment anyway, so we’ll be prepared if you decide to go for it with us.
And today Scott’s brother might be able to prescribe something to get us started.”
“Scott’s twin brother is for real? It’s not just Scott in a white coat?” Timber asked suspiciously.
“Cross my heart. I met him a couple of times. It was surreal. He’s Scotty all grown up.” Coop assured her. “And Dr. Chen is for real too.” Coop volunteered. “He’s really smart about these things Timmie. I hope you will talk to him.
“Now as for Puck and these clothes, I think you are right, the man is a menace to society, but he’s also a .300 hitter so we’re stuck with him.”
“He’s not so bad.” Timber unexpectedly defended him. “He’s just angry at me because I ruined his life.”
“Ruined his life, eh? That sounds serious. Should we talk about that now? This have something to with him telling you he didn’t think it would have been ‘appropriate’ for him to go to the funeral?”
Timber shook her head no.
“OK, maybe we’ll talk about Puck at a less stressful time?” Coop tabled the subject.
Nothing at all from Timber.
“Well, I’m hoping Scotty didn’t hurt his shoulder when he threw Puck out of here today. So what set you off down in the gym, Timber? What made you so sure Scott was punking you?”
“John Legend. Everyone knows I love John Legend and you guys brought me a guy who looks just like him to look at my hideous hands. He’s hot, Coop, did you see how hot he is, and look at me,” Timber held her hands out like Jesus on the cross. “I look like a zombie dressed up in bright orange jumpsuit.” Timber wailed.
“John Legend? Coop was trying to follow. “You mean Monty? The trainer? Ok. Allright. I guess I see that. A little John Legend around the edges. You got a little crush there Timmie?”
“Don’t tease me. Not today.”
“Ok. I won’t tease. So the problem right now is you need something to wear that doesn’t trash you self esteem.” Coop picked up the hoodie. “This looks pretty good Timber. It would go with the pants you have on great.”
“It’s says HARVARD!” Timber cried, frustrated that she should have to explain why that was unacceptable on its face. Would you be seen in a Red Sox jersey? I cannot wear a Harvard shirt!” Timber insisted. “And Remy told me not to lie to the shrink. If he knows I went to Yale, he will see the Harvard shirt and make assumptions about me that are not true, which is the same as lying.”
“What kind of assumptions?” Coop wanted to know.
“Like I am the kind of Yalie who would ever wear a Harvard shirt! Doesn’t anyone get this?”
“I think I kinda get it,” Coop answered, And I can see this is important to you Timber, and the very last thing I want to do is to send you out into the city ot feeling less that self confident…”
“Self confident?” Timber stopped him. “I had diarrhea all morning Coop, and now I have to go out with no underwear!”
Coop had to work hard to squelch the laugh that was rising. “I see the problem.” He told her. “And I have some solutions if you’ll work with me,” he suggested. “How about you wear the Harvard shirt just down to the gym to meet with Monty. He’s a really nice guy who probably didn’t notice the girl in the orange Duck shirt go ape shit. And he’s not an Ivy Leaguer so the whole Harvard/Yale thing will probably not even come up.”
Timber shrugged, unconvinced.
“First things first.” Coop walked to the bathroom, opened the medicine cabinet, searched through the bottles and boxes stored there and came back with a bottle of Imodium AD. “We don’t want you laying on the examining table wondering,” he winked.
Timber clutched the bottle like it was a lifeline.
“Now I want you to put this on – just for a few minutes.” He handed her the Harvard shirt. “Just trust me on this.”
Timber rose, turned her back to Coop, slid off the Duck’s shirt and on the hoodie. Coop tried not to cringe at the sight of her injuries, or at how thin she was.
“Except for the Harvard logo, that’s a good outfit.” Coop pronounced as he rolled up her pants at the waist until the wrinkles of extra material disappeared and the pants were smooth below.
“So here’s my deal. You go down and meet Monty properly, and let him look at your hands. While you do that, I will make you a chopped up soft boiled egg, and I will cut off the crusts on a piece of buttered toast and cut it up in tiny little squares and mix it into the egg. This should help settle your stomach, and it shouldn’t hurt your mouth too much. I bought a case of that Michigan ginger ale you like, also good for your tummy, and I’ll pour you a big glass over chipped ice and after every bite you can swish the cold around in your mouth. And while you are eating, I will run across the street and get you a decent sweatshirt and a pair of panties.”
“And a coat? So I don’t have to wear that purple hooker coat?” Coop looked at his watch. “I don’t have time for a big shopping trip Timber, but how about this, I will cut up half a banana and if you get it down, I’ll get you a jacket. Then, while you and Scotty are out this afternoon, I will put a new lock on your bedroom door here, so only you and Remy have a key. That should give you an extra layer of protection when you are in the bathroom. Do we have a deal?”
“I might not stay.” Timber told him.
“Well, I am going to put the lock on just in case you do.” Coop told her. “So do you still want to call Remy?”
“I guess not. He’s always a much mellower person when he’s been laid.”
“Aren’t we all?” Scott seconded the thought. “So we’re good here?”
“You won’t tell? That I sent the email?”
“Not if you don’t want me to.” Coop promised. “But I am very glad you did.” He added in a whisper in her ear.
“So you can save me?” She asked.
“No, you silly screwball.” Coop answered. “Because I’ve missed you.”
Timber threw her arms around Coop’s neck smiling big enough for her dimple to pop.
“Oh, Scarecrow,” She told him, “I think I missed you most of all.”