He wasn't in a body cast. He didn't have crutches or even a bandage.
For all intents and purposes, Carter looked normal. Except for the thick black sweater he wore over his uniform.
"I am sorry," he said. "I did not mean to cause harm."
He knelt down and looked Mary in the eyes. There was a subtle spark of life in his green irises. "Are you all right? Mary?"
She didn't say anything for a moment. Mary didn't know that Carter knew her name. And she had never noticed he had green eyes before. Nor how nice they looked when he was concerned.
She looked away quickly. "No. I mean, yeah. I'm fine."
The corners of his mouth curled into a half-smile.
"I am glad."
People were staring at them. Mary blushed and she quickly got to her feet.
"Need help carrying your stuff?" Sienna asked.
"Thanks," Mary said. "But I'm just gonna swing by my locker. I'll be fine."
"All right. See you in Art." Sienna shot one last warning look at Carter before heading down the hall.
Mary picked up her bag and turned the other direction. As she walked, she realized people were still looking at her.
That's when she noticed Carter was walking next to her. And he was doing it in a really weird way. He made each step deliberate, like he was doing a series of mini-lunges.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"I am walking," he said.
Mary looked forward again. If she got to her locker, maybe he'd go away.
But he didn't. He stopped with her.
"I'm all right, Carter," she said. "You don't have to help me."
Mary watched him from the corner of her eye as she put her Pre-Cal stuff away and got her Art things.
"Um, Are you all right?"
Carter smiled. "I am. Thank you for asking."
Sienna was right. Carter was acting weird. That bus had done quite a job on his brain.
"Don't you have to go to class or something?" she asked.
"Yes," he said.
Mary closed her locker and headed towards Art.
The halls emptied as kids got to their rooms, but it was still embarrassing with him mini-lunging next to her.
Mary stopped and faced him.
“Listen, Carter. I really am all right. You don't have to walk with me to class.”
He smiled. "Yes, you said that earlier."
"Yeah. So…stop following me."
Carter wrinkled his brow. "Do I make you uncomfortable? Walking with you like this?"
He looked a little sad. "I am sorry. I will leave you alone."
He turned down the other hall.
Mary felt like crap. She didn't mean to make him sad. She just wanted him to stop following her.
A frustrated sigh left her lungs as she turned to apologize.
But she didn't see him.
He was nowhere. Despite the weird lunges, he apparently could move quickly.
That's when she remembered. For days, Mary had put herself through a series of guilt trips, thinking Carter was going to die or end up a vegetable. She had never considered the possibility of everything going back to normal.
Or, relatively normal.
This was the first time she'd seen Carter since the hospital. And she had forgotten to thank him for what he had done.