Authors: Tamara Blodgett
by Marata Eros
2013 Marata Eros
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights are reserved.
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Autumn Tackett- Davis
Thank you so much~
“Love sears the heart immortal
The embers of love burnt down to the token which remains ....”
“You're dying,” Dr. Matthews says.
I feel my fingers clench the armrests of the chair underneath me, but the rest of my body remains numb.
If his words aren't enough to convince me, I see my silence is a prevailing annoyance in his day.
Dr. Matthews walks stiffly, making his way to the softly glowing X-ray reader.
I flinch when he slaps the photo of the soft tissue of my brain against the magnetic tabs of the lit surface.
The light glows around the tumor, immortalizing the end of my life like an emblazoned tool of disregard.
Just the facts, ma’am.
I sway as I stand, gripping the solid oak of his desk. It's very large, an anchor in the middle of his prestigious office full of the affectations of his career.
I walk toward Matthews. His hard face is edged by what might be sympathy. After all, it's not every day he tells a twenty-two-year-old woman she's got moments to live.
Actually, I do have time—months.
It's just not enough.
I look at the mess that's my brain, at the damning half a golf ball buried in a spot that will make me a vegetable if they operate. My eyes slide to the name at the bottom. For a split second, I hope to see another name there. But my own greets me.
I back up and Matthews reaches to steady me.
But it's too late.
I spin and run out of his office as his voice calls after me. The corners of my coat sail behind me as I slap the metal hospital door open and take the cement steps two at a time.
I see my car parked across the street and race to it. My escape, my despair, is a thundering initiative I can't deny.
I miss the hit as if it happens to someone else. Only the noise permeates my senses as light flashes in my peripheral vision, mirrors against sunlight. I tumble in a slow spin of limbs. My body heaves and rolls, hitting the asphalt with a breath-stealing slap.
I lie against the rough black road. My lungs beg for air, burning for oxygen, and finally I take a sucking inhale that tears through my lungs.
The wet road feels cool against my face as I watch someone come into my line of sight. My body burns and my head aches. My arm is a slim exclamation point from my body, my fingers twitching. I can't make them stop. I can't make anything stop.
The doctor is too late with his condemning words. I've already died. I know this because the man who approaches is an angel. A helmet comes off hair so deep auburn it's a low-burning lick of flame. He swims toward me like a mirage, walking in a surreal slow motion. I blink, and my vision blurs. I try to raise my arm to wipe my eyes and whimper when it disobeys my command.
My angel crouches down, his eyes a deep brown, belying the dark bronze of his hair. “Shhh... I got you.” His voice is a deep melody.
I sigh. Safe.
I try to focus on him but the helmet he parks next to his boots becomes three as my vision triples.
There's a scuffle and I try to move to see what all the commotion's about. The angel wraps his warm large hand around my smaller one and smiles. “It's going to be okay.”
That's when I know I'm not in heaven.
That's what people say when nothing is okay.
One month prior
I flex my hand, grab my isometric handgrip, and do my hundred reps. So fun—a little like flossing my teeth. I put on the kettle with my good hand and turn the burner on high.
Flex, squeeze, release, flex again.
I get to a hundred and switch hands. As I go through my daily ritual, I flip open my Mac and browse my emails.
Faren, can you cover my shift?
Faren, can you come in a half hour early?
Faren, can you bring the main dish for the office pot luck?
Delete, delete, delete.
I'll say yes because it's hard for me to say no. Tough lessons in life have taught me that.
I put my handgrip on the corner of the end table, glancing at my left pinky and frowning. It's almost straight. Almost. No one can tell unless they're looking for it. No one ever looks that hard. Humanity glosses over shit.
I leave my laptop open and walk back to the stove. Depression-era jadeite salt and pepper shakers stand dead in the middle of a 1950s pink stove. The combo reminds me of an Easter egg. The kettle insists it's ready, bleating like a sheep. I lift it carefully, deliberately, using all the muscles of my hands as I've been taught.
As I teach others to do.
I pour the hot water over the tea bag and sigh, forcing my bad hand to thread through the loop of the tea cup handle. My dexterity is returning. I've pushed myself so hard that my hand rebels, willfully abandoning its hold on the cup.
The porcelain shatters, and shards fly on the wood floor of my tiny apartment above the main street where I live in deep anonymity. The pieces splinter in all directions, and I sigh. I want to chop off my hand.
I want to cradle it against my chest because it still works. Just not perfectly.
Like my life.
“Another headache?” Sue asks.
I nod, my hands falling away from my temples as I reach for my patient folder. I grip it with both hands and scan who's up first.
. Pain. In. My. Ass.
I grin. I love the tough nuts to crack. They make it all worth it. I stride to my torture chamber, pushing the door open with my hip and search through the sea of work out equipment and hand held physical therapy implements to meet the sullen gaze of a seventeen-year old athletic prodigy.
A prodigy with a chip on his shoulder so wide I could drive a truck through it. Well I have my own dings and dents. We can compare later.
Right now, it's all about the work.
He mumbles a reply as I hand him the first merciless task. The huge rubber band fits around the pole in the center of the room. Mirrors line the wall and toss back our struggles.
And our triumphs.
I watch as he half-heartedly goes through the motions of his straight leg kicks. When he reaches twenty I scoop my hand down and latch onto his hamstring and he groans at my touch. “Bend your knee a little,” he does while giving me a look that could kill. I stare neutrally back until his gaze drops and he finally digs in.
An hour later, shaking and sweating, Bryce's huge and muscled body lumbers outside my door. He pauses as he opens it, looking at me with pissed off brown eyes.
“I hate you, Miss Mitchell,” he says and means it.
I smile back. I totally get it. Bryce needs to hate me to get better. It beats hating himself. I nod. “I know.”
He walks out, and I run my finger down the patient appointments for the day. Kiki makes her loud entrance, and my lips twist. She balances chai tea in both hands, staggering in too-tall heels that sink into the nearly bald carpet.
“Gawd!” she huffs as she winds her way through the ellipticals, weight machines, and treadmills. She leans against the walking bars that run like railroad tracks for those with dual injuries. Like both legs not working.
I swallow and force my smile back in place.
“Take your tea, you ungrateful bitch,” she squeals, handing me my tea.
I blow on it. A touch of honey and ginger rise through the vapor, and I grin over the rim of the cup as I sip through the little slot.
“So?” I ask in a purr.
Kiki is pure drama. It's only Monday, so we have the entire week to build up to a crescendo. Mondays are usually sedate, so I brace myself. I have thirty minutes until my next client arrives to be tortured into wellness. Kiki smirks, sets down her tea, and moves to the pole. I give a furtive glance around the gym, hoping no one comes in.
“Got a…” She wraps around the pole and slides down it seductively, letting her butt cheeks split as she wiggles and bounces at the bottom. She springs up, the front of her hoohah a hairsbreadth from the cool metal. “Ginormous tip this weekend from a richie!”
She thrusts forward, wrapping one slender leg around the pole, and I groan. She does a little mock-hump against it and grins at me.
Kiki is so inappropriate I could die. But she's my drug and I'm hers. We fit together because we're so different. She's an exotic dancer who's also a senior at Northwestern State.
She makes great money, and she also does serious gym time, packing in an hour six days a week. It's important to not look too striated, Kiki claims. No “guy-look.” Just tits, ass, and curves with definition. I designed the workout for her because I’m intimately familiar with the human body. I didn't set out to be, but life had other plans.
The sins of the past become the direction of our future.
Kiki pouts, leaves the pole, and saunters toward me. “You're no fun.”
I roll my eyes. “Okay... I know I've got to ask the burning question or we'll get nowhere.”
She perks up. “You got it, sister.”
“Who was it?”
Kiki always takes stock of clients. Men think they know so much, but women could rule the world if we came together. I sigh. Kiki notices regulars, high tippers, newcomers and flags the creeps. She's scary uncanny. I came to watch a set at the prestigious strip club,
, and went away shocked.
Shocked by the clientele, shocked that Kiki could dance that well for such a short time, and shocked by the moolah.
“The owner,” Kiki whispers as if we have a secret.
I shrug. “So?”
“It's Jared-effing-McKenna, baby!” Kiki is offended by my deliberate ignorance. Her brows rise to her hairline, and her dark eyes are wide with clear disdain.
Mine are steady with indifference.
The wheels of my memory spin.
Jared McKenna. Greek god. Adonis incarnate. Hercules. Playboy, womanizer, money mogul.
I slowly nod. Let's add “strip club owner” to the repertoire. I remember the detail of
he has so much money and want to forget as soon as I do.
Kiki pouts and tears off the lid of her tea. “Anywho... he was with someone, and his pal tipped me big time.” She sips her cooling tea, gazing at me with “cat that ate the canary” eyes.
“Okay, the foreplay is killing me. How much?” I take a small slurp of tea, and she tells me. The tea sprays out of my mouth, and Kiki grins at my klutzy-ass move.
“Five hundred dollars!?” I choke some more, and tea dribbles down my chin.
“It's okay, baby... it
a mind-blower. I mean,” her hands go to her ample chest in patent disbelief, “my nipples got hard and he didn't even touch me,” she says sincerely and I burst out laughing. My headache is gone for the moment, my Monday morning lethargy lifting.
Five hundred bucks is an assload of cash, especially for one night of dancing half naked. It's more than I take home every week.
Just one tip.
My schooling is done, my career path set partly because of circumstance.
Kiki is high on drama, but doesn't always say things without a purpose and I narrow my eyes at her.
“Spill it,” I demand.
Kiki's lips twitch and she chucks her empty cup in the trash. “This type of gig could be the thing to get you out of that dump in downtown.”
I scowl. I like my downtown dump.
“Faren!” she wails.
I shush her before Sue comes in thinking someone died. Of course, with all the sounds of torment she's heard since I began working here last year, nothing should faze her.
Kiki relents and switches to a softer tone. “You could own something. Something nice.”
I know this. I've been to her condo overlooking Pike Place and Puget Sound. Her view of downtown is magnificent. And expensive. It had to set her back five hundred K. I rent my death trap for nine hundred per month, and it's a studio in one of the tortuously small cobblestone-lined alleys of Seattle. At least it's on the fifth floor. The stairs are murder, but if I want two windows that actually face outside, that's what I can afford. Sometimes the freight elevator works; otherwise, it's exercise. The location allows me to walk to my upper-scale rehabilitation clinic. No need to use my beater car. That much.
“You don't have to give this up,” Kiki says quietly. She knows I won't budge on that, and she of all people knows why.
Rehab’s not a well-paying profession. But there's more than money, sometimes the soul needs edification.
I look at what Kiki has and what I don't. I shove those thoughts away. She's my best friend. She's seen me through everything. Dark shadows press in, and my headache returns with a throbbing vengeance.
Kiki frowns. “Another headache?”
“I don't want to argue, Faren. You've got to know that.” Her root beer eyes peg me to the spot. The sweep of her dark hair lays like chocolate silk past her full breasts. “But with your looks”—she throws her manicured hands in the air—“you could shake your booty a little and work a side job. Get a place in your same area... you could own something.”
It's an old argument. Her penthouse is nearly paid for while mine's a rental with a landlord that cares more about the rent than maintenance.
Her eyes swim with knowledge, and I set down my tea. It's too cold to drink anyway. Her words put the last nail in the coffin of my resistance. “Something secure,” she adds in a whisper and I let her hug me. I cling to her and try to believe my financial troubles and dark secret can be erased by taking off my clothes for strangers
Kiki loves me more than I love myself.
She loves me enough for us both.
Sue glances up when I click off the light off. The sky is darkening as I slide my last patient folder through the glass partition. She has that look in her eyes and pushes a business card through the slot.
It bears a doctor's name: Dr. Clive Matthews.
I give Sue a sharp look, and she shrugs, giving my hand a maternal pat. My eyes burn with tears from the spontaneous gesture.
Sue notices my emotional struggle and ignores it. “He got rid of my migraines. Miracle worker, I say.” She nods and glances at the card significantly.
I notice the appointment time and sigh.
Sue doesn’t drop her gaze. “How much longer are you going to struggle through those bone crushers?”
I don't answer, and she nods in her knowing way. “That's what I thought, Miss Mitchell. You'd have just come in suffering worse than your own patients.”
Sue’s right. She knows it, and I do too.
I take the card and stuff it in the pocket of my smock, Dr. Seuss cats cover it in a smear of red and blue.
“Thanks,” I say grudgingly while I grab my coat.
“Welcome,” she shoots back in triumph as I hear the door whisper closed behind me.
I look at the card again as the cars, people, and city noise encapsulate me in the comforting rhythm of downtown. The smell of fish, food, and sea mingle, and I begin the short trek to the dank alley with the entrance to my apartment.
I have two weeks to prepare myself to go back into a hospital. I hate hospitals. They're all about death.
The thought of returning is almost enough to get a proper panic attack going.