The very first meeting of the Timber Lilley Task Force convened about an hour after Coop and Puck Puckett brought a depleted and virtually silent Timber home, where Scott Avila took responsibility for changing the bandage she had dunked in the sleet when she fell on the sidewalk and for settling her on her side on the couch in the den. Coop tried to tempt her with a piece of a Fudgy the Whale cake Caravelle turned into a Santa head for the season, but Timber was fast asleep before he could coax her to take more than three bites.
Scott, who had checked things out with his brother as soon as he heard what had transpired, informed Coop and Puck that his this was a natural reaction to what is known as a “catharsis” and they should let her sleep, but be prepared for her to awaken with a headache, so Puck went down to Walgreen’s and bought her a bottle of Advil, because he once heard a girl in a club say it was the best brand for women. At the register there was a Christmas display of perfume with a sign over it that encouraged “Last Minute Shoppers” and on impulse Puck picked up a bottle of Ralph Lauren’s Romance as a little surprise, but on the walk home he changed his mind – or perhaps lost his nerve – and put it in the pocket of his jacket instead.
The meeting evolved in Remy’s home gym, where Scott was working on his pitching shoulder doing curls with a 20 pound Kettlebell, part of the low weight/high rep program his trainer had him on. Every ten minutes he would check to make sure Timber hadn’t reverted to form and turned over on her back.
“It’s like the couch is metal and she has a magnet in her butt,” he complained to the others.
The room was dotted with bags and boxes of all sorts, all of them Timber related. Puck sat reading the instruction book for a tandem rowing machine he had found, a specialty item college rowing teams use to train on, while Coop experimented with its settings. “It says here you should be able to change the amount of resistance on each seat” Puck told Coop. “I figure I can put her in front of me and gradually increase her load and decrease mine until we’re pulling about the same.”
“She can’t do that with that thing on her ass,” Scott warned him. “Friction is not our friend.”
“I thought of that,” Puck replied pulling a bag toward him. “I got her sliding shorts to wear under her clothes.”
“Speaking of which, how are we coming on the workout clothes for her?” Coop inquired.
Puck pointed to two large boxes with the Adidas logo on the side, the company he had represented in print ads for the last two years. “They sent over all kinds of stuff size Small and Extra Small. And there’s another box of shoes I already put in her room size five and a half, six, and six and a half. Cross trainers, high tops, there’s gotta be something she likes.
“What about socks and bras?” Coop pressed him.
“Four dozen pair of socks from Adidas and I’ll get her a bra when she grows back her tits.”
“Why do you have to always ay stuff like that?” Scott complained. “It’s disrespectful.
“It was a joke, Avila.” Puck answered. “There are sports bras in the Adidas stuff.
“How about the underwear?” Scott waved his new Timber Task Force cell phone at Puck, “You got the special instructions I sent you from the doctor?”
“Cotton panties large enough to cover the sore without the elastic touching it,” Puck repeated the clothing request Scott had sent him. “I’m working on it. But it would be a lot easier if you just let me take a look at the damn thing so I know it’s exact placement and how big it is.”
“No,” Scott refused him. “From now on, “I’m the only one who sees her sores”
Puck snorted. “You Avila? What makes you so special?”
“I’m in charge of her medical needs,” Scott told him. “And I learned how to change the dressing for real today.”
“What do you mean for real?” Puck scoffed.
“I mean you just don’t yank off one band aid and put on another.” Scott defended his statement. “From now on, we do it as clean as we can. I don’t wear the clothes I had on outside or in the gym, and even though I wash my hands with special soap, I wear gloves. Then I put towels around on her butt so that the sores are in a box inside the towels. They call that the “drape.” The place inside with the sores is called “the field,” just like baseball, so I figure I should be pretty good at it.”
“Wow Scott, I’m impressed.” Coop told him. “Did your brother teach you all that?”
“Yes. He did. You don’t mess around with these kind of sores,” Scott told him. “These fuckers took down Superman. Miguel doesn’t have office hours tomorrow because he and I were supposed to be flying out to British Columbia, so he’s going to show me how to do the breathing treatment the right way too.”
Scott put down the Kettlebell and wiped sweat off the grip. “Miguel also said we have to be conscious of Timber’s sensibilities, and not make her feel uncomfortable. You know, with her naked ass hanging out, for her modesty and all.”
“The way I heard it,” Puck sniped, “For Timber, modesty used to mean turning her pubes to the wall when she changed from her bikini to her shorts.”
“Yeah, well things change,” Scott shot back. “And now we all need to be sensitive to any body issues she may be having.”
“Really Avila?” Puck laughed. “No wonder you they say you wear an apron.”
Any further bickering was cut short by the sound of the front door; Remy had returned from his post session discussion with Sam Chen, and Coop used the interruption to turn the discussion back to brainstorming ideas to entice Timber to first, agree to stay, and next, to actually expend the effort it was going to take to get well.
Remy’s first stop was to check on Timber, who roused when he tucked a pillow behind her to make sure she stayed on her side. He took a knee to be at eye level with her.
“I guess you’re pretty pissed at me,” she said with a voice hoarse from crying.
Remy shook his head at her. “I’m eating my donuts?” He said, and they both broke out laughing, and Timber knew it was going to be ok between them.
“Did you tell?” She asked him.
“About the pool house? No. Timber. I wasn’t there to be his spy. I was there so he could give me some suggestions on what sort of things we can put in our program that will help you feel better.”
Timber sighed like the weight of the world had just dropped from her shoulders, brought his hand to her lips and kissed it in gratitude.
“Thank you Remy.” She croaked. “So I’m safe?”
“Of course you are safe. No one wants to hurt you Timmie. Dr. Chen isn’t the enemy. And we’re all here, Coop and Scott and even Pete. Anyone wants to hurt you has to come through us. Now I’m going to go talk to the guys and finalize our plan for your rehab, and then I am going to take Samantha out to dinner at Balthazar, and I’ll be home by 8:00 tomorrow to give you our sales pitch and I expect you to be up and showered and brimming with Christmas cheer.”
“Ho ho ho, Fa la la la la, the whole jolly bit.”
“I will if you will,” Timber answered.
“Well, that remains to be determined,” Remy winked, his response not quite as cryptic as he meant it to be.
“She’s giving you another turn at bat huh?” Timber teased.
“Got any advice for me?” He asked.
“Don’t swing at those pitches in the dirt 3-2. It’s your greatest weakness.”
“No Timmie,” Remy answered. “You’re my greatest weakness.” He kissed the top of her head and whispered, “It’s a well known fact.”
The teammates came together around a program they’d run in two phases. Phase One would last until Timber topped the scale at 100 pounds. Until then, everything she ate or drank, every exercise, every sleep period, would be directed by her Yankee trainers. When she reached that 100 pound milestone and she began to look and feel more healthy, she would be rewarded by some autonomy, and changes to her routine she would find attractive enough to work for. It was those changes the guys were brainstorming when Remy made his way to the gym.
“How’s everything coming?” He asked Coop who stood in as an informal second in command when Remy was away.
“Good. I still have to program her Fitbit and finish up the music I want for our first bike session, but other than that I’m good. Your IPhone is on the weight bench.”
Remy stepped over a box filled with water bottles and sweat towels still with their price tags on to retrieve it. Coop had set up an identical phone for each member of their group, with Timber’s schedule and contact information for each of them and for people like Monte White and Miguel Avila. Remy stopped on the Emergency Information page and read what had been entered there. ‘If you suspect Timber is running a fever, check immediately. If confirmed over 100 degrees, call Dr. Avila immediately.’
“You post this Scotty?” Remy asked him.
“That butt sore might get Superman, it’s not getting Timber.” Scott declared. “Miguel also wants her to have special underwear that won’t rub on…”
“I will get the damn cotton granny pants,” Puck cut him off.
“See,” Scott put down his Kettlebell and faced Puck. “That’s just the kind of attitude you are not supposed to have around Timber. We’re supposed to be building her self esteem, not making her feel like crap.
“Coop put the dentist on her schedule tomorrow,” Scott turned back to Remy. “But I think I should take her. Medical/dental. You always see those things together.”
Remy looked to Coop who shrugged his assent.
“That’s fine Scott,” Remy told him. “It’s good to see you taking this so seriously. But to tell you the truth, I’m not so sure Timber is even going to stay.”
“Because of that thing with Chen?”
“It was brutal,” Remy shook his head. “We were right to be ready for her to run.”
“So what did Chen say?” Coop pressed.
“I think he was in a different session than I was. He seemed to think it was a productive first meeting but that might be because he hasn’t noticed yet that she eviscerated him and his balls are laying on the floor.”
“Jesus,” Coop shook his head. “How were things up until the fireworks?
“Unproductive. You know how juvenile she can be. My feet are cold. I have to pee. She was like a two year old trying not to be put to bed.”
“You should have tried slapping her upside the head,” Puck put in. “It always worked for Jordie.”
“Fuck you, Puck.” Remy barked. “That happened one time. One Time!”
“That you know of.” Puck shot back. “One time that you know of. But that’s like seeing a rat in the cupboard and assuming you have one rat in your house, and not a whole shitload of them scampering around behind the wall where you can’t see them. And I’ll tell you something Robicheaux, it’s nice to hear you admit Timber got slapped, because as I remember it, when the police asked you, you said it never happened.”
“This is pointless,” Coop broke things up. “We’re here to find ways to help Timber, let’s just leave the past in the past.”
Remy and Puck looked away from one another and studied their shoes.
“So did Chen have any suggestions for what we should be doing?” Coop tried to get the conversation back on firmer ground,
“He did.” Remy shook off his anger. “He said besides the workouts, we need to be thinking of ways to get Timber back out into the world. She’s been holed up alone for two years now. So we all should be thinking about that. Especially doing things that won’t remind her of Jordie and the baby. I was thinking maybe we could get her a keyboard so she could play all that classical music Jordie always hated, but I don’t know about her hands. And there’s always MOMA.”
“How about a spa day? We could do that couples massage thing.” Scott suggested.
“Dancing!” Coop sounded excited. “She always loved to dance and Jordie hated it. They didn’t even have dancing at their wedding.”
“Sure.” Scott agreed. “I could take her clubbing.
“I was thinking more of dance lessons.” Coop said. “She always like that Dancing With The Stars show that Jordie made fun of. What if we hire an instructor to teach her ballroom dancing instead of the afternoon cardio program?”
Remy paused thinking it over. “I like it,” he finally decreed, but who is going to be her partner?”
“Can’t we just hire a male instructor?” Coop asked.
“I don’t think so,” Remy answered. “There are lifts and…twirls and stuff you need to practice. Like in Dirty Dancing.”
“I’ll do it.” Scott volunteered.
“Get out.” Puck guffawed.
“Why not?” Scott challenged. “How is that any different than training her to music on the treadmill?”
“Scott. Scott,” Remy broke in. “You can’t do it. You can’t be lifting Timber up above your head throwing her around with your shoulder. The Yankee docs are never going to allow it. It would be a breach of contract.”
“I’ll do it.” Coop surprised them. “There’s a woman in my Soulcycle class who used to be a dancer on Dancing With The Stars. I’ll see if she can help us find an instructor.”
Remy made a notation in his phone.
“What about we take her to a real gym?” Puck suggested.
Remy looked up at him. “The point of being here is not to embarrass her Puck.”
“Sure.” Puck agreed. “Now, while she’s skanky. But what if when she reaches 100 pounds, we start 2 days a week at the real gym. We arrange to hold the workout behind glass so all the lookie loo fans and the tourists can come in and gawk at the lucky woman who is getting all the special attention from four New York Yankees. She’s going to be the most popular woman in the locker room with everyone wanting to be her friend so she can introduce them to us.”
Remy sat thoughtfully trying to decide whether Puck was full of it or onto something.
“We could set up the sessions so that Monte could work with her while she’s there.” Coop suggested. “She seemed to click with him, that might be incentive.”
“I don’t think we need to do that.” Scott objected. “I was thinking I can do the PT with Timmie’s hands. It’s kind of a medical issue.”
“You’re right Scott, it is a medical issue,” Remy agreed, “and I think we should consider it a priority, but Monte is the one with the PT degree, so we need his input. I’m going to make her hands part of our weight training together. Start out with them every day before she gets tired. But maybe you can work exercising her hands into your treadmill routine too. That would be terrific.”
“So anything else from Chen on what we should be doing outside working out?” Coop asked.
“We have to help her mourn,” Remy answered. “Chen said we,” Remy made a motion to include Coop and Scott but exclude Puck, “we all had a chance to mourn together, to talk about Jordie and say goodbye, but Timber isn’t where we are, especially about the baby. So we are supposed to encourage her to feel whatever it is she’s feeling. From what she said to him, I’d say she has one foot in anger and one foot in guilt all under an umbrella of paranoia.
“Well, Timber always was a multitasker.” Coop observed.
“I better look up my cup.” Scott put in.
“Has anyone tried asking her what this paranoia is about?” Puck wanted to know. “Seems to me instead of telling her not to be afraid, we ought to find out if there is something she has reason to be afraid of.”
Remy looked at his watch, cognizant of the likelihood being late for his date with Samantha would not be good for their sex life which was already on life support. “On that subject, there is one other thing.” He old his teammates. “When she was going off on Chen, Timber said if we wanted to know what she was doing out there in the pool house, she would tell us.”
“Us?” Scott repeated.
“You, me, Coop and Puck.” Remy confirmed. “She used our names.”
“Well let’s wake her up and ask her!” Scott sounded excited.
“No. No, I don’t think so.” Remy shook his head. “If we do that, in her eyes we’re the same Dr. Chen, the grief counselor who didn’t care about Meghan, but kept pressuring her about how she came by the lividity thing. I think we wait for her to tell us, or at least for a time when it comes up naturally. We don’t need to know what happened to help her body heal. Let’s just start there.”
Remy rose and headed toward the stairs. Coop mounted the stationary bike and began to pump. Puck put on his jacket.
“Don’t forget her panties.” Scott reminded him.
“Jesus you’re a pain.” Puck answered and headed toward the front door.
“I think I know why she’s so afraid.” Scott confided in Coop when they were alone. Coop looked up at him curious. “Before we saw Miguel, Timber told me if anything happened I should call her lawyer. I think whatever she was doing must be illegal. And she’s worried if she’s found out she’s going to be arrested.”
“She was sleeping. What do you think could be against the law? Coop asked his friend.
“What if she was taking out of body trips to other places? Wouldn’t the government want to capture her to find out how she does it? Or if like aliens chained her to that cot to be an incubator. Wouldn’t the CIA want to know where all the little half breeds are hidden?”
Coop looked steadily at his friend. “Wow Scott. I never would have thought of that. I’ve known you a long time, but until now, I never quite understood the depth of your idiocy.”
“Fuck you too Cooper.” Scott barked, and continued the monotonous low weight curls with his shoulder.