Chapter no 18 – Overreactions and fading dreams Johnny

Binding 13

I was furious the entire drive home, hardly able to concentrate on the road with temper.

By the time I pulled into the driveway at home, my entire body was thrumming with frustration.

She walked away from me.

I called her and she walked the fuck away.

I wasn’t used to being dismissed or ignored, and that wasn’t me being a cocky shit.

It was the truth.

Touching her was a mistake.

Doing it again was one I couldn’t afford to make. She was fifteen years old.

The fuck was wrong with me?

It was bad enough when all we’d had were a couple of conversations, but now that I’d spent the bones of two hours in a car with her, I was reeling.

When she asked her questions, they were deeper than the usual shite I was asked.

That confused me. I couldn’t read her.

I couldn’t figure out what she was thinking.

She lived in one of the council estates in town, the big one that was plagued by drug raids and hounded by the Gardaí, and that was a troubling thought.

How the fuck did someone like her come from somewhere like that?

When I pulled into my usual spot at the back of my house, my mood was dark and my temper was out of control.

Killing the engine, I sat there for several minutes, staring out my windscreen, striving to get a handle of the god-awful feeling of despair churning inside of me.

Dropping my head in my hands, I grabbed clumps of my hair and just tugged.

I had learned a valuable lesson tonight though, and that was to never ask a girl what she was thinking if you weren’t prepared to take a huge fucking knock to the ego.

“I think you’re in denial about your healing process and I know you’re hurt. I think you’re playing a dangerous game with your body. And I think if your doctors knew how much pain you are actually in, there’s no way they would have signed off and released you to play.”

Her words were haunting me.

Probably because she made a valid point.

I fucking hated that she was right about my body.

I was stubborn like that, which was why I got so defensive when she called me out on my bullshit.

Still, though, Shannon didn’t know me.

She had no clue of the pressure I was under. No one understood.

And certainly not her.

And I absolutely did not walk with a fucking limp! Jesus Christ!

Annoyed with myself for giving the girl any more airtime in my thoughts, I quickly pushed her away, and concentrated very hard on thinking about nothing at all.

When I had calmed down enough, I climbed out of my car and slammed the door shut, only to immediately regret it when yodeling noises erupted.

The automatic sensor lights in the yard were on, making it easy to see the two golden retrievers bounding down the lawn towards me, followed by

a much slower, much older black Labrador.

“Sorry, girls,” I called out, temper dissipating at the sight of them. “Didn’t mean to wake you.”

Shoving my keys in my pocket, I scratched Bonnie and Cupcake, my mother’s dogs, on their heads before making a beeline for the older Lab.

At almost fifteen, the hair around Sookie’s eyes, nose, and chin had turned white. She was stiff and hobbled more these days, but she was still a puppy to me and would forever be the best birthday present a three-year-old boy ever received.

Sookie waddled into my arms and then dropped down on my foot, wagging her tail so hard her back was shaking.

“Hey, gorgeous.” Taking a knee, I wrapped my arms around my dog. “How’s my best girl?”

She rewarded me with slobbering kisses to my face and an arthritic- plagued attempt to give me the paw.

Cradling her face in my hands, I scratched her ears and pressed my nose to hers. “I missed you – yes, I did.”

God, I loved this dog. She was my baby.

I didn’t care what the lads said or how badly they slagged me off over her name.

Sookie was my girl, loyal to a fault, and I loved the shite out of her.

It was a good thing she couldn’t talk, because the old girl knew more about my shit than anyone else on this planet. Those big, brown, doe eyes always got to me, and the little white beard around her mouth always pulled at my heart strings.

I didn’t understand how people could hurt any animals, but especially dogs.

They were too good for us.

Humans didn’t deserve the love and loyalty dogs gave them. I was a dog lover.

I trusted them.

There was something about the way a dog looked at you; they didn’t care if you were a famous rugby player or a homeless person on the streets.

They only cared about how you treated them, and once they chose you as their human, you had a faithful friend for the rest of their lives.

I didn’t think humans were capable of such compassion and commitment.

Bonnie and Cupcake, put out with the lack of attention they were getting, pined loudly and jumped and scratched at my back.

If it wasn’t so cold out here, and I wasn’t so bleeding sore, I would run a few laps of the lawn with them to wear them out, but it was taking everything I had in me to stay upright, so I decided against it.

I took the time to give all three a belly rub, stopping to give one extra ear rub to Sookie before standing up and heading inside.

The suitcase just inside the back door alerted me to that fact that my mother was home.

If I hadn’t seen the case, I would’ve figured it out by the unmistakable aroma of beef stew wafting through the air.

With my stomach grumbling in agreement, I sailed through the utility room, following the delicious smell into the kitchen.

I found my mother standing at the stove.

She had her back to me and she was dressed in one of those pants suits she wore for work. Her blonde hair was pulled back from her face with a fancy looking clip, and she looked like home.

At the sight of her, I felt a weight shift off my shoulders.

My mother worked for some fashion consultancy firm based in London.

She was constantly traveling for work and I’d missed her these past three weeks she’d been away.

Hadn’t realized how much until now.

“Hey, Ma,” I mumbled, making my presence known. “How’s it going?” “Johnny!” Swinging around with a wooden spoon clutched in her hand,

Mam beamed at me. “You’re home.” Dropping the spoon on the counter, she wiped her hands on her apron and then made a beeline for me. “Come here and let me squeeze you.”

I moved in for a quick hug that turned into a full, thirty second hug.

“Ma,” I chuckled, freeing myself from her death grip. “I’m still here.


“I missed you so much.” Reluctantly, she released me and took a step back, eyes trailing over me with that weird maternal look she always gave me. “Jaysus, you’ve grown another foot.”

I cocked a brow. “In three weeks?”

Mam returned my sarcasm with a scowl. “Don’t be smart.”

“I’m always smart.” I pressed a kiss to her cheek and then sidestepped her, my sights set on that pot of stew. “I’m starving.”

“Have you been eating?” “Of course.”

“Properly?” “Always.”

“How’s school?” “It’s school.”

She didn’t ask about rugby. It was always questions about things like school, my friends, my homework, my day, and god love me, my feelings.

But never rugby.

It wasn’t that Mam didn’t care about my passion. She just always made it a point of hers to let me know that she cared about the rest of me, first and most.

“And Gerard?” My mother always used Gibsie’s first name. “How’s he doing?”

“He’s the same as always,” I replied, heaping stew into a bowl before moving to the island. “Is Da back from Dublin yet?”

My father was a barrister, a fairly prolific one at that, and spent a huge portion of his time rotating between Cork and his HQ in Dublin. It all depended on the client he was defending and the seriousness of the case. But it basically went like this; the bigger the crime, the bigger the commute.

My parents’ work commitments and schedules meant that I spent a lot of time on my own when they were traveling, and that was exactly how I liked it.

Up until I was about fourteen, they would have our neighbor, Maura Reilly, come stay with me, but that was mostly just to drive me to school and training. I was mature enough to stay on my own and fairly self- sufficient.

Maura still stopped by when my mother was away on business, but that was more to clean up and cook a batch of meals.

After so many years living this way, not to mention endless freedom, I didn’t think I would cope with having them around me 24/7.

“He won’t be back from Dublin until the middle of March at the earliest,” Mam replied, coming to join me at the island. “I flew into Dublin this morning and had lunch with him before driving down,” she explained before taking the stool opposite mine.

“Why’d you do that?” I asked between mouthfuls of stew. “You could’ve stayed above with him for a few days.”

“Why’d you think?” Mam rested her elbows on the counter and smiled. “Because I wanted to see my baby.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m not a baby, Ma.”

“You’re my baby,” she countered. “And you always will be. I don’t care if you grow to seven feet tall. You’ll still be my little Johnny.”


What could you do with a woman like that?

Shaking my head, I gave up on my spoon and lifted the bowl to my mouth, draining the last drop of soup at the bottom before slapping the bowl down and sighing in contentment.

No one cooked like my mother.

Not the chefs at the academy or the takeout restaurants in town.

The woman had birthed me and she had a direct line to my stomach.

“I see your manners haven’t improved,” Mam quipped, giving me a disapproving frown.

“Can’t help myself, Ma,” I shot back with a wink. “I’m a growing boy.” Moving for seconds, I filled my bowl and just stood over the stove to


There was no point in sitting down when I had plans on cleaning out the


“How did your checkup go last week?” she asked. “Is Dr. Murphy happy with how you’re healing?”

Wouldn’t know, because I didn’t go…

I grunted a blasé response, too busy inhaling my food.

“What about the doctors at The Academy?” she pushed. “I know they weren’t keen on you returning so soon?”

Again, I grunted my response because getting into this with my mother was a discussion I could do without tonight.

If I lied, she’d see through me.

If I told her the truth, she’d panic.

Either way this discussion went, my mother would insist on seeing my injury – aka: my cock and balls.

And either way this discussion went, I would lose my shit and tell her


Then she would overreact and get on the phone to my father and cry about how I wouldn’t show her my ‘private parts’ and how he needed to come home to deal with me because I was probably dying from ‘gangrene of the penis’ or some other horrific and overdramatic illness.

Distraction and avoidance was key to a tear-free Mam and a trauma-free


“Delighted you’re home, Ma, but I’m going to head up to my room and

start on my homework,” I decided on saying instead. “Fifth year is kicking my ass. I’m actually thinking about getting some grinds for Irish.” I added that last bit in for extra affect. I didn’t need grinds for anything. I hadn’t scored less than a B on any test or exam since third year.

In fact, I could be the one giving the fucking grinds. I sure as hell spent enough time helping the lads in my business and accounting classes.

But my distraction worked, steering my mother’s concerns away from my ailments and onto my education.

“Oh, pet, that’s okay,” she quickly announced, tone comforting. “I’m proud of you for being brave enough to admit when you’re having a problem. I’ll make a few calls in the morning to see what’s available.”

“Yeah, that might be a good idea,” I agreed with a solemn nod.

Stretching my arms over my head, I forced a yawn.

“You look shattered, love,” my mother assessed, her brown eyes laced with empathy. “Why don’t you get an early night and I’ll write you a note for your homework?”

“Thanks, Ma, I’m wrecked.”

I walked over and pressed a kiss to her cheek, and then hightailed it out of the kitchen before she had a chance to remember her earlier question.

“Oh, and before I forget,” she called out, stopping me in my tracks. “I booked your car into the garage for a service. The closest date I could get was Monday fortnight, so I’ll give you a lift to school and we can pick your car up afterwards.”

“Ah, shite,” I grumbled, turning in the doorway to face her. “What?”

“I’ve sessions booked with the P.T in The Academy every evening for the next month.” Exhaling a frustrated breath, I rubbed my forehead. “I need my car, Ma.” I looked at her with a hopeful expression before adding, “Unless you want to drop me off and pick me up at the clinic – or loan me the jeep?”

“Missing one session won’t kill you,” Mam replied in a level tone.

No, it probably wouldn’t – if I hadn’t missed tonight’s session over Shannon.

“Besides,” Mam continued. “I fly back out to London the day after that, and I wanted to spend as much time with you as I can before I go.”

Yeah, I knew she’d say that.

The woman was all about spending time with me.


“The league final’s coming up,” I argued, even though I knew it was pointless. “It’s important for the school. I need to be match-fit.”

“And you’re not match-fit now?” “Of course, I am.”

“Then what’s with the limp?” My mouth fell open. “What?”

“Your leg,” she replied. “You’re not putting your weight on it.”

Shannon’s earlier words filled my mind and I balked. “I’m not fucking limping!”

Ma glared at me. “Watch your language, Johnathon!”

“Well, I don’t have a bleeding limp, Ma,” I shot back defensively.

“Why are you getting so touchy about it?” she countered evenly. “Is it your testicles, love? Because you can tell me if something’s wrong with them.”

I opened my mouth to respond, but quickly closed it.

There was no point in arguing with this woman. I wasn’t going to win, and if I kept pushing, she’d do that sneaky fucking thing mothers did when they made you reveal things without asking.

Jesus Christ.

“Goodnight, Ma,” I bit out and turned to leave. “One more thing?” Mam called after me.

Inhaling a calming breath, I turned back to her. “Yes?”

“Who’s this?” she asked, lips twitching as she tapped her finger on the newspaper lying open on the counter.

I frowned. “Who’s who?”

With a huge smile on her face, she picked up the newspaper and held it up to show me. “This,” Ma asked, full on grinning now, as she tapped her nail on a huge ass, full-color picture of me with Shannon at the School Boy’s Shield game last week.

“Local or national?” “National.”




“Give me that,” I snapped, stalking over to get a better look.

Snatching the paper out of my mother’s hands, I stared down at the girl who’d been driving me crazy for the best part of two months.

Jesus, she looked gorgeous; all wide-eyed and smiling as I held her to my side.

Her brown hair was loose and blowing in the breeze.

The top of her head grazed my armpit, that’s how tiny she was. And then my heart skipped in my chest when I read the caption.

Johnny Kavanagh, 17, pictured with school friend, Shannon Lynch, as they celebrated Tommen College’s win over Kilbeg in the final of the School Boy Shield last Friday. Kavanagh captained his school to their fifth win in a row of the shield, clocking up another piece of silverware in his impressive career, and putting to bed any rumors of existing injuries. The pretty school- girl was fresh faced and beaming for the cameras as she congratulated Kavanagh on another win. When asked for a comment on the status of their relationship, Kavanagh politely declined – although they say a picture speaks a thousand words…

“She’s a stunner of a girl, Johnny,” Mam mused, distracting me. “You

look absolutely adorable together.”

“It’s not like that, Ma,” I muttered, knowing full well what she was hinting at. “She’s just a friend.”

“I’ve never seen you in the papers with friends that look like this one before,” Mam quipped. “It’s a gorgeous picture, love – the editor must have thought so, too, because they gave you a whole page.”

“I captained our school to the final last week,” I bit out, unable to look at her because my entire focus was on the picture. “We won. It’s a big deal.

That’s why they gave me a full page.”

“I’m delighted for you, love,” Mam chimed happily. “Now, what’s her name?”

“Shannon.” “And?”

“And that’s her name,” I deadpanned. “Am I going to get anything else?”

“What else do you want?” I snapped. “I’ve already told you that she’s just a friend.”

She’s a friend,” Mam snickered, tone laced with sarcasm. “Sure she is – and I’m the Virgin Mary.”

“Don’t talk about your virginity to me,” I groaned.

“Why?” Mam replied. “Would you rather I talk about yours?”



Sweet Jesus, no!

“I’m going to bed.” I tucked the paper under my arm before trudging out of the room – and not bastard limping.

“Give me my paper,” Mam called after me, laughing. “I want to frame that picture.”

“No, you’re bleeding not,” I shot back with a huff.

When I reached my bedroom, I flipped the lock on the door and dropped the paper on my bed before heading straight to my ensuite bathroom.

Kicking off my clothes, I flicked on the shower and stepped inside.

Carefully lowering myself to the floor, I hooked my arms around my knees and bent my head.

I didn’t have the energy to stand. Mam was right.

wasn’t match-fit.

Sitting beneath the flow of scalding water, I closed my eyes as a shudder rolled through me.

Using one hand, I pushed my hair back from my face and exhaled a bitter sigh as every fear and concern about my future traveled to the fore point of my mind.

My life was going to hell. My body was falling apart.

My dreams were slipping out the window.

I had a whole heap of problems to worry about. And still, I couldn’t get her out of my head.

Midnight fucking blue eyes and painfully accurate words.

And now it was worse because not only was she in my thoughts 24/7, but I had a bleeding picture of her to torment myself with.

And I would torment myself with that picture. I planned on it.

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