Kent's eyes opened after a short nap, and he found himself staring at the single best thing he could ever wake up to: Holly Snow, standing across from him, smiling and a little teary-eyed, and holding his dirty right tennis shoe in her hands. He smiled at the sight.
"I brought you your shoe, Cinderella," she said as she took a seat on the chair beside his hospital bed.
While she placed the shoe on the ground below the bed, Kent asked her, "Does it smell bad?"
"Honestly, yeah, it does. But it was my ticket in here to see you, so I'm not complaining."
"Don't think just because my shoe smells bad that my foot smells bad, too."
"I never judge a foot by its cover."
Kent groaned, partly over the pun he'd just heard but mostly over the aching in his foot, and he watched Holly examine the cast over said foot and most of the attached lower leg. He'd been asleep for most of her time here thus far, so she was probably accustomed to the sight by now, maybe even as much as he was. Which still wasn't much, but it was a start. "Where's your dad?"
"In the car, in the parking lot," Holly said.
"So you just left him hanging?"
"Sort of. I thought I'd only be a minute, but keeping with the honesty, I can never spend only a minute with you, and besides, you were napping, so I had to wait. Where are your parents?"
With a sigh, Kent mumbled, "They don't know yet."
"You haven't called them?!"
"I don't have a cell phone."
"Here, you can use mine," she said as she tossed the device into Kent's hands. "Why don't you have a cell phone?"
"Didn't I mention this before?" Holly shrugged, which forced Kent to reiterate the point he may or may not have made previously. "I don't exactly have the wide social life that someone like you does, Holly."
"You may not have a wide social life," she said, "but what if you get lost in the wilderness, or, I don't know, hit by a car?"
"I never needed one."
"You need one now. Kent, your parents may give you hell, and I may not even know them, but I do know that they love you, and if something like this were to happen to you, they'd want to know about it. Call them."
Kent looked at her cell phone, flipped it open, and then turned to look back at her.
"Go!" she egged him on.
"Okay," Kent said. "I will. But I don't think you should be here for this."
She sighed. "Again with the secrets?"
"Do we have to have this conversation again?"
"I'll go," she mumbled, and Kent waited for her to step out of his room before he dialed his home phone number.
It rang twice, and then his mother picked up. "Hello?" Gina Thomas said.
"Mom! It's me."
"Yes, it's Kent, who else calls you 'Mom'?"
"Where are you? We've been worried sick!"
"I'm…I'm at the hospital. I—"
"Why are you at the hospital?!"
"That's what I'm trying to tell you! I got hit by a car, but—"
"He got hit by a car!" Gina shouted, presumably to her husband and Kent's father, Rod. "Are you okay?! How bad is it? Which hospital—"
"Calm down, all right?" Kent said. "Everything's fine, Mom! The doctors just said it was a fracture, that's all. They gave me some crutches," he said, glancing at the tall pair of metal objects leaning on his bedside table, "but I'll only have to wear them for the next month or so, that's it! And, I'm at Verdugo Hills."
"We're coming right over!"
"Your father's going to want to know who did this."
"It was an accident, Mom. I was being stupid, and he didn't know I was coming. It's nobody's fault."
Talking between his parents on the other end of the line ended with his mother saying, "Do you have a name?"
Kent pulled out the business card Elias had handed him earlier that night out of his pants pocket. "Yes. His name's Elias Avakian. I've got his card for you right here with me. If you're going to come over, come over, there's no need for us to keep talking on the phone like this."
"Whose phone are you using?"
"You don't have a cell, Kent, so you've got to be using somebody else's."
"Oh. Um…a friend's."
"Who? Tom? Rick?"
"What does it matter?"
"It matters because whoever they are, they knew before we did, and we're your parents, and you know we have priority over them!"
"She was right there when it happened!"
"She?" Gina repeated with not-unexpected surprise. "Who is she?"
"I'll let you know when the time is right. What are you waiting for? Come over here and pick me up! Take me home!"
"Is this that girl you mentioned a few weeks ago? The one you liked?"
"It is, isn't it?"
"What's more important to you, your injured son or the girl he's chasing?"
"Sounds like you caught her."
"Can you just come over already?" Kent grunted.
"Will she still be there when we arrive?" Gina asked.
"No," he said bluntly.
"If you say so. See you soon, sweetie." At last, she ceased with her questioning and hung up the phone, causing Kent to do the same and sigh with relief.
"Okay, Holly," he said, "you can come in now!"
"You know, with your foot like that," Holly said as she walked back inside and reclaimed her seat beside him, "it's going to make girl-chasing a lot more difficult."
Kent was stunned, not least because of her eavesdropping. He opened his mouth to speak, but she silenced him with what she said next.
"But you've already caught one," she continued, "so maybe it's not such a big deal."
"I have," he said, the inflection of that short sentence falling somewhere between a question and a statement.
The two of them sat quietly for a minute or two, until Kent decided it was time to send her off. She had already overstayed her welcome, if her father being left behind in the car was any indication, but now that his parents were en route, her departure had to be imminent, lest the secret get out.
"Here's your phone," he said, and Holly took it out of his hand. "You should probably go."
"I wish I could stay."
"I wish you could, too."
As she stood up and patted Kent gently on his uninjured left leg, she asked him, "Are you coming to school tomorrow?"
"I'm going to try."
"What if I came for you?"
"Any good boyfriend would."
"I meant to school."
"Well, then you're a romantic."
"See you then?"
"See you then," she nodded, and Kent watched her gather her things and leave the room, uttering "Romantic," as she did.