Nelson heard the words with a blank expression. But as he understood what they meant, he tried to control his urge to smile.
“Are you sure this time, doctor?” he asked, not letting his excitement leak out. If he did, there was no way he could bear coming back here in the case the doctor wasn’t right. Again.
“Yes. This time I’m confident. I know you’re trying to not let the joy go over your head, but from my point of view, you’re cured. You can see the swelling completely is gone and the joint movement is back to what it was. The pain you said it’s normal. You can’t get back to what you did before right away,” the doctor said with a gentle smile. “Today’s the last day we’ll see each other. Hopefully for a long time.”
Without realizing, he was holding his breath. But with the physiotherapist’s words, Nelson let out a sigh of relief. He didn’t try to suppress his smile anymore. “Thank you so much, doctor.”
The man laughed. “You have the MRI exam tomorrow, so I want you don’t go rushing back in the pool right away,” he said with a concerned expression, but then he added, “but I’m sure you’ll be soon back on the water and win us many medals.”
He thanked the man once more, shook his hands and left the room as another patient walked in. Nelson pulled his phone and smiled when he saw texts from his friend and family. But as he was about to write back, his fingers stopped. It’s best if I wait… If I tell them I’m cured and find out I’m not… I can’t see those faces… not again…
With a deep breath, he wrote to his parents first. I just got out of physiotherapy. I have an MRI exam tomorrow to check if I’m cured. He considered adding the doctor’s opinion, but Nelson decided not. After writing the same thing to his friends, he put the phone back in his pocket.
When the phone vibrated, a warm smile appeared on his lips. But he didn’t read the messages. Nelson walked out of the Prado Maranhão club’s medical department, a huge four-story building, to the park. He sat on a bench and watched the club members relaxing or doing some out of water exercises. Nelson recognized most people and waved back when they realized him sitting there. To his luck, no one came to talk to him. He knew the subject of his injury would come up and he couldn’t deal with their optimistic, even if they meant him well.
This time he pulled his phone when it vibrated again. Everything will be fine, son. Your father and I are praying for you, his mother wrote. You’ll be okay, you’ll see. I’ll be seeing you with a medal this year, his father replied. Great. As I expected. Now we can finally compete again, his friend replied. And many other like those.
Feeling better, Nelson headed back to the dormitory complex. But he didn’t go back right away. He took the long distance, walking by the many gyms and pools. Without realizing, he his feet took him to the pool he used the most before his accident.
With no one around, he walked around the pool, watching the still waters with an empty expression. I’ve been in the water since the accident, but now it won’t be for hydrotherapy. It’ll be the for real. For a training… for competition, he realized, the excitement filling him. After months, I can finally go back.
Though it was within the club, it took him almost fifteen minutes to get to the dormitories. He was tired when arrived. I didn’t think I’d be this out of shape, he thought with a thin smile as he stood before the four buildings that housed over a thousand athletes ranging from many divisions from almost all water sports.
Even from the entrance, he could hear a faint music coming from the boy’s side. They’re just getting away ‘cause almost everyone’s in London right now, Nelson thought, pulling his access card. There’s no way the higher-ups would let a party on a Thursday go by.
“There you are,” a familiar voice spoke. When he turned, he saw his friend, Marcelo, walking with three six-packs of beers. “I was thinking you wouldn’t come. Help me with this.”
“Come to what?” Nelson got one of the six pack and asked.
“The start of the new cycle,” he said as if obvious.
Everyone greeted them when they walked into the common room. There was a TV in the back showing the highlights of today’s event of the Brazilian’s athletes, but since it wasn’t about the swimming delegation, it was muted.
After he talked to his friend and acquaintances, Nelson grabbed a beer and sat on the couch.
“So hey man, tell me. I know there was something you’re hiding,” Marcelo asked in a low voice, tough with all the music, dancing and fun around, there was no one paying attention to them.
“He said he’s certain that I’m cured,” Nelson said.
Marcelo watched his friend’s face for a moment. Then he drank his beer. “But you don’t wanna celebrate before knowing for sure.”
“Since I know you, I won’t say don’t worry. Instead, I’ll tell you to relax and since you can’t do anything about it, let tomorrow’s worries be to the future you.”
Nelson laughed. “You always say that.”
“And it always helps,” Marcelo said, clinking his beer to Nelson’s. “But come on. The pools were getting boring without you.”
“Yeah, right. Without me you could finally win some medals,” Nelson said with a smirk.
Marcelo punched him on the arm. “Even with you there, I always got the medals.”
“So much Bronze I’d say your room hasn’t reached the metal age yet.”
The people around them laughed. “You’re an ass, you know that?”
“Thanks,” Nelson said, laughing with everyone else.
“When is your exam?”
“Are your parents coming?”
“They have work. And I don’t wanna bother them.”
They stayed in silence for a while. Nelson finished his beer, but didn’t get another.
“Don’t worry, man. You have luck on your side. Not only you got better earlier than everyone expected. That’s why the club hasn’t given up on you.”
Nelson ran a hand over his face. “Yeah, I’ll admit that got me worried.” Ever since the accident, he had been away from the pools. He knew he would get better, but that didn’t make the worry about the club.
His contract was until next year’s World Aquatics Championships. But that was only after the Olympics. After the accident, the club helped and supported him, but no one talked anything about his contract. They wouldn’t abandon him, he was sure of. But if he didn’t produce the same or at least near results pre-accident, they might not renew his contract for the next Olympic cycle. Especially now that I’m no longer on the youth’s division…
“Don’t be like that, man. They have faith in you. Aren’t you receiving a new manager?”
“Yeah… But that was unexpected,” he said in a low voice. “Especially after everything.”
“It wasn’t your fault. Neither was hers. It was an accident,” his friend and rival said with a serious expression. “What’s the name of your new manager anyway?”
“Cris,” Nelson said at once, leaning back on the sofa. “Cris… Prado Maranhão.”
As he expected, Marcelo’s face was filled with surprise. “Holy shit. For real? Someone from the Family?”
“I couldn’t believe either.”
“Fuck you man. You should be thrilled. It means the club’s really betting on you. Wow man… someone from the family…” Marcelo’s surprise gave room to his smile full of meaning. “And given your history with the two previous managers, maybe they’re planning to make you a family member as well.”
“Shut up, dude. I’m not a kid anymore. I can’t be getting involved with my manager… again. I need to focus, otherwise I…” he left the sentence on the air.
“Sure, sure.” Marcelo smiled and nodded. “Just to make sure, our bet is still on.”
“What bet?” another voice joined in their conversation.
Nelson and Marcelo looked up. A girl with shoulder length hair wearing short shorts, black knee high socks and simple T-shirt and a jacket stood near them.
“You don’t know about this guy’s reputation?” Marcelo smiled and moved on the couch to make room for the girl. The girl sat and smiled too. “I betted him 50 bucks he’ll fall in love with his new manager too.”
“Too?” the girl tilted her head. “Did he fall for the last one?”
“Yeah. He’s known for that. My best friend and rival fell in love with his previous managers.”
“Managers? Plural? Really?” The girl turned to Nelson, narrowed her eyes and smiled at him. “I’ve heard a thing or two about this, but didn’t think it was true. Maybe it’ll make things more interesting.”
“Don’t get me wrong. He’s not a player that goes around hitting on managers. No, no, my boy here is one of those hopeless romantic guys that really fell in love with those girls.”
“I know it may be hard, but could you tried to shut up for once?” Nelson said, his cheeks red. He glanced at the girl, who was still smiling at him. “I’m sorry for my stupid friend. He won’t rest until he’s ruined my reputation.”
“I’m just telling the truth,” Marcelo said, shrugging his shoulders.
“And I told you I don’t have time for that. I need to focus,” Nelson replied, shaking his head.
“You said the exact thing last time.” Marcelo showed an annoying smug. “But ok, ok. I won’t bring the past. But that doesn’t mean you’re skipping on our bet.”
“I don’t think it’ll be that easy for you to make 50 bucks,” the girl said. They both turned to her.
“Ah, don’t say that,” Marcelo shook his head in fake surprise. “Why do you think that? Do you know the girl?”
“Before I answer, I have something to ask. Can I get in on the bet?”
Marcelo laughed and Nelson scowled. I don’t even know her and she already thinks that about me…
“Sure, no problem. The more the merrier. Then why you think it won’t be easy?”
“’cause I’m not that easy,” she said with a sly smile. “And I’m a boy.”