The Coffee Machine

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(Author's Note: Written for the TeamUpChallenge. Prompts: a deflated basketball, a broken coffee machine in a hospital and Dope by BTS.

Genre: Romance. Word count 999 not including this note)

Seemed like everyone and their neighbour had come to watch the final game of the season. We might have only been playing off for third and fourth place in the State Basketball Championships, but that hadn't dampened the fans' enthusiasm. I'd even spotted the local member of parliament there, seated in the front row box seat.

Buoyed up on a wave of excited screaming from the fans, I leapt into the air, my hand stretching up for the ball curving high above my head.

Crackkk! I heard the sound at the same moment the bullet hit me. Paralysed with shock, for an instant I felt no pain. I could only stare at the bleeding mess which had been my right hand only seconds ago. Blood. There was so much blood...

Despite the agony now shooting up my arm, everything went seagreen in front of my eyes and I collapsed to the floor, the ball bouncing away unnoticed across the court.

Blessedly unconscious, I knew nothing of the pandemonium which immediately filled the stadium. The team captain, Joe, told me afterwards that fearing a crazed sniper, half the crowd rushed for the exits while the rest tried to take cover behind the seats. The politician—who had actually been the intended victim—was hustled away by his staff. Then a police officer took down the shooter with a single shot, and two First-Aid officers were able to rush forward to help me.

Now, two days later, I was lying in a white hospital bed, my right arm bandaged from top to bottom, finally alert enough to understand what the doctor was telling me.

"I'm afraid you've lost three fingers from your right hand, Brandon. But the good news is that we were able to save your thumb and forefinger. With time, and some physio, you'll be able to do most of the things with that hand that you could do before."

I looked up at the doctor, a professional smile on her middle-aged face. I swallowed. "Will... will I still be able to play basketball?"

"I don't see why not," she said briskly. A shadow crossed her face. "Though probably not at a professional level."

I glanced across at the basketball someone had placed on the shelf next to me. Half deflated, so that it wouldn't roll off. Useless—like me. I turned my head into the pillow, fighting back tears.

Two weeks later

I stared listlessly around the small room. Everyone kept telling me how lucky I was— a few centimetres lower and I could have been dead—but it didn't help. The grey weight of depression sat heavily on my chest.

"How's it going, Brandon?" called a cheery voice from the passage. The hospital handyman, Elliott, was there again, fixing the coffee machine which seemed to break down on a regular basis.

He popped his head into the room. "You need something a bit more lively," he said, frowning at the radio. To be honest I hadn't even noticed it was on. He fiddled with the knob and suddenly a pop tune filled the air. I couldn't understand what they were saying—they were singing Korean—but I smiled, despite myself. It was a catchy tune.

"BTS," said Elliott. He spun around in a fancy dance move. "Dope," he added, then laughed at my expression. "Not you! It's the name of the song!"

I looked at his cheerful, smiling face. He had a small dimple in one cheek. Cute. I wondered if he was single... then felt suddenly depressed again. What on Earth did it matter? Who was ever going to look at someone with an ugly, mangled hand like mine?

"Turn it off," I said grumpily.

Elliott turned it up a fraction louder and danced out of the room.

Elliott was there again the next afternoon.

"Hi Brandon! Let me fix that radio for you. Don't know why you always have it on such a boring station!" He grinned as he turned on the pop channel.

"I was listening to that," I protested, automatically.

"Really? What was playing?" He raised an interested eyebrow, no doubt guessing I had no idea.

My lips twitched.

Elliott quizzed me on my music taste for the next five minutes, only called away by a nurse waiting impatiently for coffee.

The next afternoon he stayed a little longer, chatting away about a kids' club he helped out with in his spare time. "Maybe you could come with me one evening. They'd love some tips from a real basketball player."

Immediately I felt the smile drain from my face, the anguish flooding back. I was never going to play again. Didn't the idiot know that?

"Don't you have anything better to do?" I asked rudely.

"It's no trouble," he smiled, ignoring my grumpiness. "I was up here anyway. That damn coffee machine needs fixing again." On his way out he added, "And think about what I just said, won't you?"

The following afternoon, I looked up at every noise in the passage, until I realised what I was doing and stopped. I opened my book, though I must have read the same section more than once. Elliott didn't come.

"Well of course not," I scolded myself. "He's got more important things to do than chat to you!"

After the first flurry of concerned visitors, the only person who came to see me was Mum, and, as she worked, she could only visit in the evenings. I was lonely, I told myself, that was all. I couldn't possibly be missing Elliott.

Then the next afternoon, he popped his head into my room.

"Hey, Brandon, up you get. There's nothing wrong with your legs, is there? I think it's time we went to the cafeteria and had a proper cup of coffee."

Before I could answer, he was taking my dressing gown from the cupboard and coming forward with a cheeky smile.

"Come on, sweetie, I can't keep sabotaging that machine forever!"

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