The Rebel

By: Victoria Purman

‘Who is it, Mommy?’ Evan’s whisper had been as loud as a shout and she’d smiled at how polite her little man was trying to be.

‘It’s Cooper’s friend, Alfie. Cooper’s in the hospital, sweetie.’

Evan’s sleepy eyes had widened. ‘Is Cooper Cooper Cooper sick?’

‘No, he’s not sick like that. He hurt his knee. I’m sure the doctors and nurses will fix him and make him all better.’

‘Can we go see him? Can we?’

‘As soon as we can. I promise.’

Evan had tucked up under Maggie’s arm and continued to whisper. ‘Was there blood?’

‘Good question. Alfie, was there blood?’

Alfie had chuckled down the line. ‘I love your little bloke. He’s a little legend on his board. When he wants to go pro, make sure you come see me.’

Maggie had gritted her teeth. ‘When you-know-what freezes over, Alfie. And just quietly, wasn’t it your job to keep Cooper out of the … away from the … oceanic environment?’

‘Good one, luv,’ he’d laughed boisterously. ‘I wish I had those magical powers that could keep Coop out of the water. You know he doesn’t listen to anyone.’

Maggie knew it. When it came to Cooper Malone and the water, he was stubborn as a mule and slippery as a fish.

Once she’d said her goodbyes to the still-sleeping Cooper and left the hospital, Maggie walked to her car and got in, dialling home before she started the engine. She knew Evan would be waiting for news.

It was the understatement of the century to say that Evan idolised Cooper and, from Evan’s perspective, Maggie totally got it. Her son was only five years old and, to him, Cooper was like a gigantic superhero. Six four, wide shoulders, long and wavy blond surfer hair. Evan spent most of his time trying to get Cooper’s attention, craning his neck up to the sky and calling, ‘Cooper Cooper Cooper.’

And, without fail, he would answer, ‘Yeah, mate? What’s up?’

Cooper was like an uncle to Evan and the closest thing she had to a decent man in her life. Their friendship seemed as improbable as finding herself a single mother.

Things like that didn’t happen to smart girls like Maggie MacLean, right?

The call connected. ‘Is he okay, Mommy?’

‘Yeah, sweetie. He’s doing fine. He’s sleeping right now, which is the best thing when you’ve hurt yourself.’

‘Does he have a scar?’

‘It’s a bit hard to tell. His leg is all wrapped up in bandages.’

‘Matt from my class had his arm wrapped up in bandaids. It was a plaster cask. He broke it on a skateboard.’

Maggie smiled. ‘Did he?’

‘Did you see the blood? Was there blood, Mommy?’

‘No blood.’

‘Oh.’ There was a pause. Maggie imagined her mom was standing right there next to Evan, her hands tucked into the back pockets of her jeans, listening to the conversation and smiling at her wonderful grandson. A large part of who he was was due to her mother. She’d been a rock since Evan was born.

‘Can you kiss it better for Cooper, Mommy?’

‘Of course I will,’ she lied. She had no interest in getting on the end of that very long line.

There was silence and she could hear Evan murmuring. ‘Mmmm. What about a bandaid? I could stick it on for him. I could get him a Batman one.’

‘That is great thinking, Evan. What say I get some on the way home and you can give them to Cooper when he gets out of the hospital, huh?’

‘Okay, Mommy.’

‘Can you give the phone to Grandma, sweetie?’

‘Here she is.’

The phone dropped with a clatter on the kitchen table and Maggie’s mom picked it up. ‘How is he, Maggie?’

The tension of the day, of hearing about Cooper’s accident, of seeing him semi-conscious and connected to every machine the hospital had, exploded out of her. ‘If he doesn’t hurt now, he damn well will when he wakes up. What the hell was he thinking getting back on a board again with that knee? I want to strangle him, you know that, Mom?’

‘Stubborn as a mule. Apparently all Australians are.’

Maggie huffed. ‘Only the ones I know.’ She checked her watch. ‘Can you see that Evan has a snack and stays away from the cartoons? I’ll pick up some things for dinner and be home soon.’

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