The Rebel

By: Victoria Purman



‘Yeah yeah.’ Cooper lowered himself back on the bed. It was a slow, painful process. He hated how useless he felt. ‘Aren’t you hilarious this afternoon, Maggie Mac? You here to take me home or what?’

‘You ready? Do you have everything?’

‘Now you’re here I’ve got exactly what I need. A ride home. Let’s go.’

*

Cooper had barely made it up the front path to the door of his house, one steadying arm around Maggie’s shoulders, when he heard the familiar cry.

‘Cooper Cooper Cooper!’ There was running on the path behind him and then a tug on his T-shirt.

‘Evan,’ Maggie cautioned as she laid a hand on her son’s arm and urged him back. ‘Watch out for Cooper’s sore leg, okay sweetie?’

A pair of skinny little arms gripped on to his thigh and he held his breath. Man, he was glad to see Evan, even if he was flinching in pain from the leg hug. ‘Hey, mate. What’s up?’

Evan’s eyes widened. ‘Does your leg hurt?’

Cooper winced and it wasn’t for effect. ‘Yep. A whole hell of a lot.’

Evan giggled and looked all the way up to Cooper’s face. ‘You’re not supposed to say hell. It’s a swear.’

‘Oh, shit.’

Maggie glared at him in warning.

‘Oh, bloody hell. Give a man a break here. This knee hurts like a …’ Cooper wisely stopped.

‘A lot,’ Maggie said.

‘Yeah, it hurts a lot.’

‘Was there blood, Cooper? Was there?’

‘Hello Cooper.’ Maggie’s mom, Serena, appeared next to him, her arms crossed over her chest.

‘Hi Serena,’ Cooper said through gritted teeth. He wasn’t sure if it was the pain or Maggie’s mom making him tense. It was probably lineball. He’d always got the feeling that she was annoyed at him, and for the life of him he’d never been able to figure out why.

‘Thanks for bringing Evan here, Mom,’ Maggie said.

Cooper had often thought how physically similar the two women were. Short asses, both of them. Maggie’s brown hair was long and wavy, hanging half way down her back, which suited her rock chick look. Maggie had once told him that her mom had had the same colouring before she’d turned salt-and-pepper grey. Both women had pert noses and wide mouths, eyes the colour of milk chocolate, and lips that could tighten almost instantaneously into a thin line of disdain when they were pissed off at something.

He looked from Serena to Maggie. Yeah, they were doing it right now.

‘It’s no trouble,’ Serena said. ‘He’s been talking of nothing else since the minute he saw me at the school gate. It’s been ‘Cooper Cooper Cooper’ for the past hour.’ Serena straightened her shoulders, aimed her thin lips in his direction and asked, ‘How’s that knee, young man?’

Even the sight of a wounded warrior hadn’t warmed Maggie’s mom’s heart. She may have been retired from the classroom but she could silence him with a stare. The exact one she was shooting at him right now.

‘The knee? She’ll be right as rain in a jiffy.’

Serena shook her head and turned to Maggie. ‘He’s talking Australian, again.’

He was used to this tag team of women ganging up on him and, to tell the truth, he kind of liked it. His mother had died a long time ago, twenty years before to be exact, when he was just another fourteen-year-old surfer coming up through the junior ranks. And he’d never had a relationship long enough for him to put up with any chiding about what he did and the way he did it. He liked the reminder of family, of teasing familiarity.

Maggie had pried Evan off his leg and was holding his hand firmly in hers. ‘Cooper, are you teasing my mom?’

‘Of course,’ he smirked.

‘You staying for a coffee, Mom? I’m sure Cooper can fire up his fancy machine.’

‘That’s the exact reason I wanted to come home. That damn hospital coffee. It could kill a man.’

That made Serena laugh but she tried not to show it. Cooper knew he’d have to work on her some more.

‘Not me,’ she waved. ‘I’ll be off.’ She paused for a moment and then took a step towards Cooper. ‘Look after yourself and listen to what my daughter says.’

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