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I wasn’t surprised that Angie beat me to the hot tub. We were the only two in the gym besides the staff. I had to sign Angie in as my guest and talk to the personal trainers. I told them what my issues were. They agreed the hot tub would be a good way to start. While I soaked, they would come up with a plan for me when I came out on the floor.

Angie launched into her interrogation before I even got in.

“Are you okay?”

Of all the questions to ask … but I had promised I would give her honest answers.

“No. I’m scared to death we’re going to lose Mom. I have no idea what I would do without her in my life.”

I felt myself choking up. Thirty seconds into this conversation and I felt a tear rolling down my cheek. She slid across the hot tub and pulled me into her arms. I had been holding this in for over a month, trying to be strong for everyone else. It took me a moment, but I got myself under control.

“Sorry about that. You caught me off guard.”

“Oh, David, we’re all scared about what’s going on with Mom. They’re doing everything they can to help her. What I want know is how you are doing? You almost died.”

I sighed.

“I said you have a free pass today. I don’t think I’ll want to talk about this anytime soon. Angie, I had given up. I had made my peace, and was prepared to die.”

I saw Angie cringe.

“After the avalanche and the propane tank exploded, I was trapped. Being buried alive was my worst nightmare. Between that, the cold, and the dehydration, I’m not sure what was worst. I could feel my strength going bit by bit. I thought the last time I drifted off to sleep, that was it. When the giant fur ball licked my face, I was delirious.

“While I was stuck down there, I began to understand what’s important to me. You and Kyle mean the world to me. I’ll always be there for you two. You’re family.”

“What about Tracy?” Angie asked.

I snorted.

“That crazy bitch? I loved her, and she dumped me … again … this time because someone said we should break up, because it would help my career. I had assured her there was no way I would listen to their stupid advice. My guess is that her dad got to her. I have no idea what he told her to convince her that this was for the best. Then she goes out with Luke. Hell, she told me when they went out her freshman year he was quick … and not in a good way. So, the only reason she would ask him out is to hurt me.

“For now, I’m done looking for true love. I think Greg did the smart thing when he was younger by just dating,” I said, as I contemplated the old Greg. “You know, my friends thought he was a rock star. He was linked with almost every cute girl at school at some point. I know he’s changed since you and Kyle came into his life. I don’t plan on going as crazy as he did, but why not just have fun for now?”

I’d had a lot of time in the hospital to reflect on Tracy and what she’d done. I found I was indifferent. Whatever there had been between us was gone. Could we be friends? I really didn’t care. She was too much drama for me right now. I still needed to talk to Tom, her dad, after his little outburst when she broke up with me. As long as he could act like an adult, I thought we could work together. I wanted to get that cleared up soon.

Angie gave me a timid look.

“You seem different.”

I sighed and looked into her eyes.

“I feel different. Trapped in that basement, laying under that workbench for a couple of days … it gave me time to reflect on my life. I feel more calm and sure of myself. Let me tell you, almost dying gives you a different outlook on life. A good example is the whole fiasco surrounding football at the end of the season. I worked my ass off, and did the best I could. If that isn’t enough, then I’m sorry, but I don’t care what everyone else thought.”

Angie just nodded.

“Okay, enough of the tough questions.” She gave me an evil grin. “When are you ever going to let me use my free passes?”

“Meet the new fun David. You name the time and place, and I’m yours,” I said as I waggled my eyebrows.

“Uh, oh! This might not be good. I’d better warn Greg that the game is on.”

I got serious for a moment.

“Angie, I love you and Kyle too much to ever let you collect on the free passes, at least with me. I know we joke around about it, but I don’t want you to think it’s ever going to happen.”

“I know, baby, but it’s nice to see you smile again.”