Life After The Storm:
Chapter Seventy One: Picking Up The Pieces
With Felix finally giving her the summer off after the last two months had gone by busily, Mia jumped at the chance to come home to Canada for her vacation. She had become tired of everyone worrying about how she was doing, and if she was okay. She knew her friends meant well, but after a while, it had started to get on her nerves. It was like Stacie, Leon, Lina, Oliver, Ariana, and Nathaniel, were expecting her to be falling apart. She was getting tired of explaining that she was fine.
Although in truth...she wasn't. The pain of leaving him had not faded or dulled. Each time she saw a picture of him down the halls of the complex or in the news paper, her heart would fall in to pieces all over again.
Deciding it was best to just get out of the country and get some fresh air, Mia had been surprised when her father had called.
“Mia! The cottage is yours!” He had told her.
“What?” She had muttered, flabbergasted.
“Your mother and I have decided that as your belated birthday present, we want to give you the cottage. The papers have been signed and everything. It's all yours sweetheart!”
That had put her plan in to action. Knowing that she would be staying out at the cottage far away from distractions and her mother, maybe now she would get a chance to put her broken heart back together.
Inhaling the fresh air, Mia drove down the dirt road, not caring that her Dodge Challenger would be covered in a layer of dirt by the end of it. Having picked up the keys from her parent's house, she had wasted no time in buying some food and driving up north.
~ If only tonight, if this is all I got, If I can't have your love, I won't get back up this time. If only tonight, I'll race you to the sun, before the morning comes, if I can change your mind. It's only tonight, and tomorrow you're gone, and we're just a song, singing along...~
Music blasted through the speakers as she sang along with the song. The wind rushing in through the open windows, blowing her auburn hair in to her face. Mia pushed it out of her eyes, enjoying the familiar sights as she sped along by.
Muskoka had always put her mind at ease. Going up to the cottage was one of her favourite parts of the summer when she had been growing up. Max would always drag her down one of the trails in the surrounding forests, no matter how much she protested. Let's go Mia! It'll be fun! He used to tell her cheerfully. She sighed at the memory of it. Even though this year she was alone, she was happy just to be escaping from her life.
Seeing the cottage come in to view, Mia couldn't help but smile, it always looked picturesque with the lake glimmering behind it. Turning in to the gravelly drive way, Mia shut off the engine. The serene environment around her made her relax. Getting out of her car, she didn't bother with locking the doors or rolling up the windows. With the keys in her pocket, and no one else around, she didn't expect anyone to come for her car. Especially when it looks like that, she thought grinning at the dust covered vehicle.
The bright sun shined down on her, the heat making her more aware of her thirst. Mia licked her dry lips, trying to moisten them. Leaning in to the car, she brought out her water bottle, taking a long refreshing pull of cold water before placing it on the hood of the Challenger. Finally, I'm home, she thought. The joy of being home didn't silence the pain in her heart, but she tried to shove the thoughts in to corner of her mind.
Popping open the trunk, Mia began taking out her belongings. She had just reached for a bag full of clothes when her phone sounded. Bewildered, Mia searched through the pockets of her dress for her phone.
Who could be messaging me now? Mia thought, with a little annoyance. All of her friends knew she had gone home for her break. She was sure even he did...being that he was the reason she had come here in the first place. To get over us...she thought, miserably. The pain in her heart had never left. She had tried to mask it, tried to avoid it, but nothing worked.
Finding the phone, she clicked on the screen, only to see that there was a new text message waiting for her. You have got to be kidding me! She sighed. Who is it this time? She wondered. Open now? The phone was asking her. Curiosity getting the better of her, she clicked 'yes'.
'In your hometown...really wish you were here...' It read. Looking to see who had sent it, Mia's breath caught. He's here? In the same country? She thought in astonishment. Her heart pounded frantically, as though just reading his name had brought it back to life. Knowing he was so close, Mia could hardly breathe. Memories of him flooded her. How many nights had passed when all she could think of was him? His mesmerizing blue eyes, jet black hair, and that captivating voice.
Should I reply? Her resolve wavered. Weren't they over? She wished Oliver or Stacie or the others were present. They would have known what to do.
It didn't take long for her to make up her mind. There was no point in fighting with her heart. Hands shaking with nerves, Mia typed her reply on the phone.
'But I am here...' Not giving herself a chance to second guess or think about the repercussions, she clicked send. The message was gone, instantly.
Putting the phone in to her pocket again, Mia returned to the task at hand. No sooner had she touched the bag of clothes again, the phone rang. That was fast, she thought, as a smile slowly made its way on to her lips. Throwing all caution to the wind, Mia pulled out her phone and answered it.
Standing in the forest close to the house, Matthew watched as the black muddied monstrosity rolled in to the drive way, dust settling behind it.
I can't believe she brought that home, he thought with a scowl. Why did she love that car so much?
Standing a few meters away, Matthew waited for her to step out of the car.
Oliver had kept him informed of where she would be going, even though the blonde player was risking his friendship with her to keep Matthew in the loop. Having called him a few weeks ago, the older boy had told him that she would be heading home for the holidays. The German player even had the address. It had taken bouts of name-calling, and series of phone calls to persuade the older footballer to give him the information. In the end, Matthew had promised this time he wouldn't hurt her. A promise he intended to keep.
Watching her finally get out of the car, he saw her take in the beautiful landscape surrounding her. Matthew had already admired the impressive scene before him. Having convinced a taxi driver to drop him off, he had enjoyed the different sights, and sounds on his way over.
“I swear I'm not a killer.” He had told the cab driver, who had given him a sceptical look when he showed him the address.
“I just need a ride to my girlfriend's cottage. I want to surprise her.” He said the partial truth, trying to convince the old man. The cabbie had sighed, and relented, after Matthew had given him a signed jersey.
Seeing her open the trunk of the car, Matthew pulled his phone from his pocket. Typing in the message, he clicked send. He waited, watching as she looked through her pockets frantically. Fumbling with her phone, he saw the expression on her face as she nearly dropped the phone out of her hands. He smiled as his own phone rang with her reply. Checking the screen he decided it was time.
Dialling her number he waited for her to pick up. His heart beat nervously, he was surprised that the entire forest wasn't echoing with the sound.
“Hello?” Her voice tugged at his heart strings. He had missed her for so long.
“Hey, Mia!” He replied, glad that she hadn't hung up on him.
“Where are you?”
“I'm in your country. Actually...in your hometown.”
“I'm in your country. Actually...in your hometown.”
“Which one? Toronto or Brampton?”
“How do you have two hometowns?” She heard the interest in his voice.
“Well...I was born in Brampton, but I grew up in Toronto. So, which one?”
“What are you doing there?” Mia asked, the curiosity killing her.
“Since I was visiting, I decided to check out the whole camping thing. See if it was to my liking.”
His voice sounded like it was right behind her. Quit imagining things, She berated herself. She couldn't believe how much she missed him after all those months....after what he had done.
He can't possibly know where you- Her mind went blank, as she turned around to see him standing by the edge of the woods. Shocked, Mia's phone dropped from her hand, landing with a dusty thud. His blue eyes glinting in the sun, laughed at her reaction, a smile playing on his lips.
“I've been waiting for you.” He told her, with a grin, putting his own phone in to his pocket. She couldn't believe him, she didn't want to believe him. But he was standing right there, in the flesh, in front of her.
“Shouldn't you be on the field playing somewhere?” Mia asked, trying to mask her surprise with annoyance. Truth be told, she had heard on the radio that Real Madrid would be playing against Toronto FC in an exhibition game.
“That game...” He said, coming forward he picked up the phone and held it out to her. “Was two days ago.”
“Then shouldn't you be on a plane back to Spain?” Mia asked smartly, as she quickly took the phone, scared of what would happen if they touched.
“Funny story, that...” Matthew gave a nervous laugh. “I'm on vacation for a month or two. I got stomped on a few times during the game. Man are you Canadians angry people...no wonder you guys play hockey.”
She smiled in spite of herself, he could be so charming at times.
“We're not angry...you probably did something.” Mia quipped, as he chuckled.
“It is bad?” Mia saw the white bandages poking out from the sleeve of his black t-shirt.
“Just the shoulder and leg.” He shrugged.
Remembering that he was not supposed to be here, Mia tried to mask her happiness at seeing him.
“So what are you going to do over your vacation?” She asked, trying to be non-chalant.
Looking deep in to her eyes, Matthew reached out and caressed her cheek. The touch sending her nerves in to a fury.
”Actually, I was hoping to spend time with someone I missed.”
Seeing the look on her face when he appeared, he was pleased to find that she was surprised.
Telling her he had been waiting for her, he had noticed the look of disbelief. She was still battling with herself over seeing him.
“So what are you going to do over your vacation?” Mia asked him, he saw through her act of indifference. She could be so easy to read sometimes.
Staring in to the emerald green depths he had been missing, Matthew caressed her cheek, unable to stop himself.
”Actually I was hoping to spend time with someone I missed.” He told her.
“Matthew...” She looked away, he let his hand drop back to his side.
“Mia, I haven't been able to think about anything but you.” He said honestly.
“Mia I haven't been able to think about anything but you.” He stopped her from speaking.
“Well I don't know...” Mia hid her smile. She hadn't been able to get him out of her head either. Before she could say anymore, he was already moving.
Walking past her, Matthew grabbed some of her bags from the car, and started to walk towards the house.
Mia sighed, there was just no stopping him.
”Well if you're staying you're going to help with the work.” She called out after him, she had been planning to adjust a few things as well as paint the basement of the cottage.
Matthew turned around to face her, walking backwards, a huge grin on his face.
”Don't worry, I can pull my weight...and yours.”
“So where is your stuff?” Mia asked, once they had finished putting away the cooler full of food. He had speedily taken out all the bags and left them in the house.
“Guess!” He told her, mischievously.
“Don't tell me...you didn't bring any?”
“Nope...it's over there.”
They walked over to where he had pointed. Hidden in the shrubs by the forest, was a suitcase and a carry-on bag.
“How long have you been waiting here?” She asked, unable to keep the concern out of her voice.
“Two hours.” Matthew told her, smiling at the look of shock on her face.
“What did you do for that long?”
“Explore.” He shrugged.
Helping him with the suitcase, and slinging the carry-on over her shoulder, Mia saw that the bandages around his shoulder covered up to his collar bone.
“Matt...” She mumbled. His blue eyes on her, he waited for her to speak.
“How bad is it?” Mia asked, pointing at his injury.
“No tearing, just cleat marks and deep bruising.”
“And the leg?”
“Same story, but with badly bruised foot. I'm not allowed to run for a while.”
Walking beside him, she noticed the slight limp. He had always lied about the pain, never allowing anyone see how serious it really was.
As they passed her car, she saw him scowl.
“What?” Mia asked, a little amused.
“Why couldn't you leave that car back in England? Did you have to bring it over?” He asked, his voice full of disdain.
“Yea. I never got to drive it in England. So I brought it here to use. Besides it'll have company here of it's own kind...not any of your expensive cars.”
“You're not seriously about to tell me there's another one of those? I don't think I'll be able to handle that.” Matthew looked horrified at the possibility.
“No...but my Dad left his Dodge Ram in the garage.” She grinned.
Patting his shoulder, while ignoring the electricity between them, Mia tried to lessen the blow.
“Don't worry...the car is not coming back with me to England.”
“Really? How come?”
“No one lets me drive. That's why I had the car brought over. Besides, I don't go out very much and taking the subway is just as fast.” It was her turn to shrug.
Walking in to the house, Mia showed him to the spare room on the top floor.
“You can stay in the guest room.” She opened the door for him. Inside was a bed made with deep purple blankets, a night table beside the bed with a lamp, and a dresser. A large window let the sunlight stream in to the room. It was one of the smaller rooms, and there was no closet.
“It's nice. So where are you going to be?” He asked, watching her.
“Over there in my room.” Mia pointed out the second door down the hall.
“Don't I get the grand tour of your humble abode?” He teased her.
With her in such close proximity, Matthew found himself unable to think straight. All he wanted to do was hold her, tell her how much he had missed her...and if she would let him...kiss her. But with the suspicious look on her face, he doubted he would get anywhere near enough to do any of those things...especially that last one. At lease not today, he thought with disappointment.
“Okay...sure. I'll show you the house.” Mia agreed, starting to walk down the hall.
“This is my room.” She showed him, opening the door. Painted light blue, he saw the bed made with blanket portraying the dark blue sea. A night table beside it held a lamp, while there was a dresser along the other wall. A full length sliding mirror hid the closet.
As they walked further down the hall, Matthew saw three more doors.
“That's my parent's bedroom, it has the master bathroom. That's the linen closet, and that is the bathroom.” She pointed out.
“Will your parents be coming over to stay?” He asked, inquisitively.
“Nope. My Dad gave me the cottage...He'll probably come in the fall to check up on the place and move their things.” Mia told him, he could sense her relief at not having to deal with her mother. “I told him he should keep his stuff here in case he wanted to visit, but he told me that half the time he's looking for something at home and it turns up here...”
Walking down to the main floor, Matthew noticed how spacious it was.
“That is the living slash dining room.” She pointed to where he saw sofas arranged to separate space where the dining table was. Leading him down the hall, she showed him the kitchen, which also had an exit to the dining room. The kitchen looked quaint, a fridge on one side, a stove on the other, and several wooden cabinets and a large counter space. There was also a little breakfast table set up.
“And this is the best part of this place.” Mia grinned at him, as she walked out of the kitchen. They had gone in to a smaller room which was across the hall from the living room, and right next to the kitchen.
The room itself was a little smaller than the living room, and had a fire place. But that wasn't the most impressive part. Following her outside through the sliding glass doors, Matthew could see why Mia loved this place so much. An expansive deck had been built with a portion of it right above the lake. Lawn chairs had been placed close to the fence, and the sound of water lapping against the boards was calming. Leaning against the railing, Matthew took in a deep breath of fresh air.
Looking out across the water, he could see hills. The view was magnificent, showing where the land met the water. Standing here it seemed all his troubles could be washed away.
“Wow...” He mumbled, overwhelmed.
“I know.” She smiled widely at him. “There's a dock down there, I can take you canoeing once your shoulder is better, if you like.”
After a few minutes, Mia motioned for him to follow her.
“Come on, there's one more level left.”
Moving slowly behind her, he finally felt the pain in his leg. The adrenaline that had accompanied seeing her had ebbed away, leaving a throbbing pain in his leg and shoulder.
Wincing as he walked down the stairs across from the family room, he tried to think if he had brought anything to lessen the pain. Nope...but then again she is a doctor, his mood lightening immediately. She would probably have something.
“This is the basement.” She told him, motioning to the space. There were two rooms on the right side.
“So what are those for?” He asked.
“That is the bathroom...and that...used to be Max's room.” Mia shifted uneasily.
“Oh...” He muttered, dumbly.
“Don't worry...my parents already moved all his things years ago. But this is actually what I'm going to need help with.” She told him, the smile returning.
“Here's the deal...you're going to help me repaint and re-decorate this place. In exchange, we'll go out in the evenings.” Mia told him, showing him the cans of paint and rolls of wallpaper.
“Really? We'll go out?” He asked her, with a smirk.
“Funny, Rossi.” She snickered. “I meant that we'll go out to see places. I'll show you around.”
“To your family?” He added, innocently.
“No...” Mia replied snidely, shaking her head with a smirk. “So deal?”
“Yea, sure. Deal.” Matthew smiled, hoping that in time he would win her back.
Finally settling in to her own room having stocked the fridge and washed up the counter and dishes, Mia unpacked her clothes from her bags. Shoving some of her things in to the dresser, while hanging the others, Mia couldn't believe how nervous she still felt.
The day had gone by, and here she was still feeling as though it were all a dream...albeit a very realistic dream. She had stopped herself from poking him, just to check if he was really there with her.
Why was he here? She wondered. I couldn't stop thinking about you, he had told her. Mia wanted to believe him, but a part of her was still stung from their break up. She needed time to think, which was why she had come here in the first place.
A knock sounded on her door. Mia looked up to see Matthew, his magnetic blue eyes watching her.
“You don't by any chance have some Aspirin or Tylenol on you...do you?” He asked her, with a grim smile.
“It's really painful, isn't it?” She asked, unable to stop herself from caring. For two years he had been under her charge, and like for every other player on her roster she couldn't help but worry about each scratch or bruise. Even now, she fretted over the extent of his injuries.
“No...I was just wondering...” But as he took a step towards her, she saw the flash of pain on his face.
“Why are you always so stubborn about admitting when you're hurt?” Mia asked, exasperated.
He didn't answer, as she looked at him, deep in thought.
“Let me find my first aid kit. You should be resting your leg, go sit on your bed.” She told him, shooing him away.
As soon as he left, Mia took her bags and dumped them on to her bed in search of the kit she kept with her. Throwing the contents of the third bag, she finally found the large red and white box. Grabbing it, Mia closed the door to her room and walked down the hall to his.
He sat leaning against the headboard, his right leg resting on the bed, while he was flipping through something on his phone. Looking up to see her, he put it away. An amused smile played on his lips, as he saw the kit in her hands.
“Are you always prepared?”
“I kind of have to be, since I never know when an injured footballer will turn up on my doorstep.” Mia smirked.
“Funny, Mia...” He shook his head, the smile growing.
“So...let's see the injuries.” She told him, sitting on the edge of the bed.
“The one that hurts more first.”
He carefully rolled up his jeans, to show her the bandages starting from his foot and going slightly below his knee.
Nervously, Mia lifted his leg in to her lap, trying her best to ignore the pull she felt towards him. Keep it together Mia! Her mind berated her. Tentatively, she started to unroll the bandages, wanting to know for herself what she was dealing with.
Shocked at the sight of black and blue angry bruises, Mia gently touched them. His ankle looked swollen, with more purplelish blue bruises on the side of his foot.
“I got tripped while in the middle of a scuffle over the ball. I guess it was the best time to have a go at me.” He said, dryly.
Opening her kit, she found a large tin of Tiger Balm, and a bottle of Aspirin. Lifting the lid from the tin of Tiger Balm, Mia tried to lightly spread some on his injuries.
“Sorry...” She muttered, as he tried to jerk his leg away from her.
She continued with her ministrations, until she had covered all the bruises. Re-doing the bandages, she lifted his leg off of her, and back on the bed.
“Okay...so let's see the shoulder...” Mia said, sounding more sure than she felt. You’re a doctor Mia, don't make this something it isn't...just check his injuries and go; her mind repeated.
Staring at the carpet as Matthew sat up and took off his shirt, Mia desperately hoped that she would be able to stay detached and professional. Don't say or do anything stupid, she reminded herself...and don't drool!
Feeling the bed shift, she looked up to see him move to sit beside her. His black hair mussed up from his shirt, his blue eyes glowing. Why does this have to be so hard? She found herself wondering. She knew she was turning red at the sight of him. How had it been easier all those times in her office? Mia wondered.
Scooting so she was behind him, she peeled away the bandages carefully. As the bandages fell off, she saw the imprint of a cleat. Grimacing as she touched it, Mia was surprised that he helped her get her things even though he was hurt.
Taking some more of the balm in her hand, she touched her fingers lightly on to the bruises. Each touch made her heart pound faster, she was sure he could hear it. Finally applying the balm to the last of his bruises, she wrapped the bandages around it again. Steeling herself, she pushed away any thoughts of wrapping her arms around him.
Missing him had been hard to get through, there had been times she wished he would hold her; but now with him here in front of her, she felt at odds with herself. She loved him, but he had hurt her...
Pushing herself to get off the bed, Mia stood in front of him.
“Here. It'll help soothe the pain. You can take the Aspirin if it gets worse.” She handed the items to Matthew.
Turning to walk out of the door, she heard him call her.
“Yea?” She looked at him, curiously.
Mia nodded before leaving the room.