Disclaimer: These characters belong solely to me. Any resemblance to anyone
real or fictional is entirely coincidental.
Sex, Drugs, and Violence: It would seem that my disclaimers have not been strong enough. Please be warned that this story is dark and disturbing. It deals with themes such as drug addiction, sexual assault, incest, graphic violence, and lots of other angsty stuff. There is also lots of swearing and sex between women. If any of this is gonna disturb you, you might want to go find something much happier to read.
Thank you to my lovely and talented betas: Nutty and Elsieaustin whose advice and suggestions are invaluable.
Dish about the new Harry Potter book, purple air fresheners for my new purple car, tickets to Lucy Lawless' show at the Roxy in 2008: email@example.com
I sat in my wheelchair outside Bailey's room in the ICU. I could see her through the glass walls, but she had not yet seen me. Her head was turned slightly to the right, and she was staring out the window. She was lying on her back with the head of the bed raised slightly. The heart monitor beeped with every heartbeat. The squiggles and numbers on the screen were meaningless to laypeople, but they told me her vital signs were doing well. An IV pole held three bags of fluid that dripped rhythmically. I could hear the whir of the blood pressure machine as it filled full of air.
"Are you ready to go in?" Betsy, the nurse, asked, leaning in to speak into my ear.
"Yes, ma'am. I certainly am," I answered, my voice filled with excitement. The morphine shot I had received before leaving my room was buzzing in my veins. It quieted the withdrawal pains and pushed aside my guilt and shame about what had happened to Bailey. At least for now, but the dosage of the narcotic was far less than I was used to taking, and my withdrawal symptoms were becoming more pronounced. The physical pain was bad, but I could handle that. It was the nightmares and the stench of The Nothing that were undoing me. I wasn't sure how much more of it I could take. I made a mental note to ask Tricia to bring my stash of pills from my house. Although I didn't trust her in my home, my need outweighed my caution.
"I've got someone to see you," Betsy called out to Bailey as she wheeled me through the doorway.
Bailey turned her face towards me and lit the room with her smile. My heart broke at the damage plainly stamped on her beautiful face. Her right eye was still blood red. The left side of her face was swollen. Large angry bruises ran along her cheekbone and circled her left eye. Her right cheek had little square scabs where Charles had bitten her. The skin surrounding the scabs was red and bruised.
My eyes filled with tears, and any semblance of composure fell away from me. By the time the nurse got me to her bedside, I was crying so hard I couldn't speak. I gently picked up Bailey's bandaged left hand and placed it to my cheek. She brought her right hand up and touched the bandages swathed across my face then stroked my hair. I continued to weep until I felt as if my body could not possibly contain any more moisture. At last, exhausted and spent, I looked up into her eyes.
Bailey's face was wet. Her own tears continued to run down her cheeks.
I reached up my hand and gingerly wiped away her tears, running my fingers across her skin as if to reassure myself she was really there. "I missed you so much," I managed to choke out. "You were in my dreams. I thought I lost you. I didn't know if you were alive or..." My voice trailed off as I broke out in another burst of tears.
"It's alright, Jordan. I'm alive, and I'm right here. What about you? What happened to your face?" She caressed the skin around my bandages. Her cool fingers soothed my flesh. Her hands smelled of antiseptic and faintly of lotion.
I closed my eyes and leaned into her touch, drawing comfort from it. Bailey was alive and here. Nothing else mattered. My heart felt as if it would burst from my chest. "I'm okay. The doctor says I should be fine. A little scarred but okay. I hope you like a woman with some battle scars," I said, only half jokingly. I had not really even thought of what my face looked like yet. How bad would the scars be?
"You'd be beautiful no matter what," Bailey said, her fingers still stroking my face.
I smiled at her. Then, sobering, I asked, "What have the doctors told you?"
"They said I was lucky to be alive. The bullet came very close to my heart. I can't feel my legs, but my spinal cord is still swollen, so we won't know anything until the swelling goes down." Her tone was matter-of-fact but worry was written all over her face. "I've been out for a week. Did you know it had been a week?"
I hadn't even thought to ask. I was used to losing time. "No, I didn't. I've been pretty out of it myself."
"My parents have been worried sick."
I had forgotten Bailey had a family. "Speaking of, where are they?" I was glad they weren't here now, and I hoped to leave before they got back. Meeting the parents was not something I was ready to do yet.
"My dad and brothers took Mom to the hotel to get some sleep. She's been here the whole time, refusing to leave. They were gonna grab something to eat and then come back."
Her eyes had lit up at the mention of her family. What must it feel like to have that? I felt a whisper of the Nothing behind me and willed it away.
Something must have rippled across my face because she asked, "What is it?"
"I'm happy you have a family who's here for you and loves you." Tears leaked from my eyes as I gazed at her lovely face. "And I'm so happy you're alive."
"Oh Jordan." She reached out and stroked my face again.
I'm not sure how long we sat there just looking into each other's eyes. I had been desperate for reassurance that Bailey was alive and now here she was, at last, cupping my face in her hand. At this moment, nothing else in the world mattered to me.
After a while, Bailey said softly, "I'm really sorry about Rufus. I know how much he meant to you."
I looked down at the floor and nodded. "Thanks."
"Do you remember everything that happened?" she asked.
Images of Bailey's battered body and the muzzle of Charles' gun flittered across my mind. "Yes," I said quietly. "I remember everything."
She looked up at the ceiling, her face showing the strain of trying to capture the elusive memory. "I remember going in the house. Charles was sitting on the couch. I remember the woman who met us at the door. After that, nothing. I woke up here in this bed. I know about Rufus and that you and I got shot. I know he raped me. One of the social workers, Sally, paid me a visit and told me everything." She laughed flatly, her face hardening slightly. "I never thought I'd be the one getting a visit from the social worker." Her gaze returned to me, and her face softened. "I'm sorry you have to remember all that. It must have been awful."
Jo, I need you to tell Sara I love her.
Tell my sons how much I love them.
It's not you I'm going to shoot.
I felt a shiver run through me. How could I tell her the worst part wasn't what happened to me? It wasn't even that Rufus died, although his loss left a gaping wound I knew would never heal. No, I couldn't tell her the worst part was that her being shot was all my fault. If only I'd kept my mouth shut and not let my anger take over. If only I'd just played along. I was relieved she didn't remember. How could I face her if she knew what I did?
"Yeah, it was pretty bad." I turned to look at the window, willing Bailey not to ask me any more questions about it.
"Jordan, there is one thing I want to talk to you about. I wasn't going to bring it up, but it's bothering me. I need to discuss this."
Here it comes, I thought. She wants to know why she got shot. I braced myself for the inevitable question. I turned to look at her.
"Tricia came to see me. Your ex Tricia. I...thought she was gone. I need to know why she's back." She looked me in the eye, her forehead crinkled with worry.
My relief was surely palpable. I exhaled, not realizing I had been holding my breath. "Oh, Tricia," I huffed. "I have no idea why she's back. When I woke up, she was there. She says she read about what happened and wanted to make sure I was okay. I don't know what to believe with her, although she does seem sincere." The words came out in a rush.
Bailey's face didn't relax. "So you're not.... I mean, she's not here to.... You two aren't..." Her voice trailed off.
My eyes widened in shock. "Oh gods, no! Oh Bailey, no way. I'd never. She's the past." I rubbed her arm. "You're the future."
At that moment, Betsy walked into the room. "Jordan, we need to go back now. You both need your rest." Her tone was friendly but brooked no argument.
I turned to face Betsy. "Just one more minute, okay?"
She smiled at me. "Alright, but just a minute. I'll be right out here." She pointed to the nurse's station and then left us alone again.
I turned back to Bailey and gave her a big smile. "I'll come back tomorrow, okay? I would say you could come see me, but I think I'm much more mobile than you are."
Bailey did not return my smile. "I don't think you're safe with Tricia around. I don't trust her. You said yourself, Jordan. She's dangerous."
"Bailey, when I was unconscious, I had these...awful dreams. Nightmares. The only thing that drew me out of them and gave me some peace was someone touching me, dragging me back from the depths. It was her. She sat by my bed and saved me from those horrible places. I owe her for that. If she had wanted to mess with me, that would have been the time. But she didn't. She helped me. Maybe she's changed, I don't know. I don't trust her either, but I owe her. I'll be okay, I promise. I'll keep an eye on her. Don't worry."
Bailey didn't look appeased. "Please be careful, Jordan. Now that you're back with me, I don't want anyone hurting you ever again."
I kissed the tips of her fingers sticking out from the bandage. "I'll be careful. I promise." I leaned up to kiss her but couldn't quite reach her face. We both laughed as she tried to lean up to meet me halfway but couldn't make it far enough.
"We're a pair, huh?" I said with a laugh.
I kissed my fingers and touched her cheek. She nuzzled my hand. "I'll see you tomorrow?" Her voice was eager, almost childlike in its excitement.
"Wild horses couldn't keep me away."
I felt Betsy behind me before she spoke. "Alright you two. I'm sorry but it's time to go."
"Bye sweetheart. I'll see you tomorrow," I said, looking away from Bailey to Betsy, who had her hands on the handles of my wheelchair. "Apparently my chariot driver is impatient."
As we passed through the doors and turned to the right, I got a last glimpse of Bailey through the glass wall. She blew me a kiss. I caught it and held it to my lips. Then she was out of sight.
Tricia was still in my room when I returned. She sat in the chair in the corner, head down, reading the current People magazine. She put the magazine down and jumped up out of her chair when she heard me come in.
What was it about love, even past love, that allowed you to see the good in people even when they had totally fucked you up? This woman had ripped out my heart. During the time we were together, she took me to depths I never thought I'd go. Not only did I go there, I went willingly. I would have done anything for her, and I had. Now, the things we had done haunted me day and night. Sometimes I thought I'd never be able to wash those sins away. I knew what a horrible childhood she had endured. I knew her fears and weaknesses. I knew that in her own way, she had loved me. As much as I wanted to hate her, I just couldn't. I didn't love her anymore, but I couldn't hate her either.
"I thought you would have left by now," I said to Tricia as Betsy helped me into bed. The trip to Bailey's room had tired me out more than I would have expected, and I fell into bed wearily. I was looking forward to a nap and was not happy that Tricia was still in my room.
"Well, I thought I'd see how the visit went. See if you needed anything." She looked at me expectantly. She reminded me of a dog waiting for the Frisbee to be thrown. "I'd be happy to help however I can."
I debated sending her to my house for my stash but decided to wait until I was sure of her motives. "Tricia, you already helped," I said tiredly. "I'm grateful for all you've done for me. I may need another favor from you soon, but right now I'm exhausted and need some sleep." I felt a veil of crankiness falling over my mood and willed Tricia to leave.
"I just want you to know I'm here for you, Jordan. Just name the favor, and I'll do it."
The longer I looked at her, the more I realized her eyes were overly bright, and her face was flushed. I wondered if she was on something. Tricia had never really been into the drugs that much; that had been my arena, but right now she looked high. Just the thought that she would be flying while I struggled with the dwindling amount of opiate in my system enraged me. I took a deep breath, trying to sooth my nerves, but it didn't seem to help. I was becoming more pissed with each passing moment. I was aware my anger was probably irrational, but I didn't care.
I eyed her suspiciously. "Tricia, tell me the truth. Why are you here? When you left, you told me I meant nothing to you. Do you have any idea what shape I was in after that? Do you know how badly that hurt? Do you have any idea the lengths I go to now to forget...forget what we did? Forget the people we hurt? You were so bad for me. Why did you come back?" Gods, it felt good to ask the questions that had been burning in my mind for the last two years.
Tricia's face fell, and her shoulders slumped. She plopped back into the chair. She stared down at her hands, looking for all the world like a chastised child.
"I'm really sorry about that." She kept her eyes down, not looking me in the face. "I was....messed up. I was afraid. I'd never felt for anyone what I felt for you, and it freaked me out. These last couple of years, I realized how much I had lied to myself about my feelings for you." She raised her head and met my gaze, tears twinkling in her eyes. "I've never been in love with anyone but you Jordan. All I've thought about is you. All I've wanted to do is come back here, apologize to you, and...well, ask you to let me back in. Let me love you again. I'm so sorry for what I did. Please say you forgive me. Please." Her voice dropped at the last, barely audible.
Her face was full of naked need. I could tell that she truly believed everything she was saying. Instead of feeling good to have finally gotten an apology, I felt only anger. How dare she! After all these years, she comes back here with an apology and wants to get back together? I wondered if the shock I felt was stamped on my face.
I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself and push down the rage I felt. "Tricia, I really can't believe you're here saying these things to me. For years, that is exactly what I wanted, needed, to hear." I had imagined this moment. The moment when Tricia would tell me how sorry she was for fucking me up so badly. But now that she was here and telling me what I wanted to hear, it wasn't enough. It would never be enough. "When you left..." I paused, exhaling harshly. "When you left, I was devastated. You knew where my head was at. You knew how hard your words would hit me. You knew how to hurt me, and that's exactly what you did! You might as well have stabbed me through the heart with a sword."
"Jordan, I'm...," she interrupted.
I cut her off harshly, my anger continuing to build. "No! You need to not talk right now! You can't just come back into my life and not expect to face the consequences of what you did! I've needed to tell you this for a long time! You're going to sit there and take it! What you did to me was wrong! I became someone with you that I didn't even recognize. Now, I've got something really special. I have someone I could really love who can love me back. Bailey could be so good for me. Do you know how hard it is for me to let her in? There are whole areas of my life I can't even begin to tell her about. What would she think of the things you and I did? What would she think of me? I can't figure out a way to tell her. I'm so afraid of losing her, but I'm even more afraid of showing her who I really am. I'm damaged goods, Tricia. I come with more baggage than a Samsonite store. And you have to take some of the blame for that. You fucked me up, Tricia. Why in the world would you do that?" I looked at her imploringly. I really wanted to know why.
She stared down at her hands for so long, I was afraid she wasn't going to answer me. When she did finally lift her head, tears were running down her face. Her mascara was smeared, and her eye shadow was smudged. An image of Tammy Fay Baker flitted through my mind. "Jordan, I don't have any answers for you." Her voice was low and husky. "I was fucked up, too. I don't know why I did what I did. I just knew I had to get away from you. I had to show myself I didn't care about you. I ran. And that's all I've been doing for two years." She buried her head in her hands and sobbed.
I stared at her shaking form, conflicting emotions warring for dominance in my mind. On the one hand, I wanted to hate her. I wanted to inflict pain on her just like she had on me. I wanted her to know how it felt to be rejected and have her heart stomped on. I wanted to not care in the least what happened to her. I wanted to be as awful to her as she had been to me. She was a lying, conniving, manipulative bitch, and I wanted her to suffer.
On the other hand, I just wasn't made that way. Intentionally kicking someone when she was down was not something I was good at, no matter how much I disliked the person. Hating myself came much more naturally. I clinched my fists and tried really hard to hold on to my anger, but even as I did, I felt it slipping away. The words I had wanted to batter her with dissolved on my tongue. The rage melted away, leaving only exhaustion in its wake.
"Tricia, there is no way you and I are getting back together. It's just not going to happen, so you need to stop hoping it will. I'll probably be able to forgive you one day, but today is not that day. Right now, I just want to stay mad at you. That's what I know, and that's what I'm comfortable with."
She still had her head in her hands, but her shoulders were no longer heaving.
"I've had one bright spot in my whole life, Tricia, and it wasn't you. It was Sondra. When she died, I thought I'd never see the light again. And then one day I walked into the ER, and there was my sun. Somehow, I want this thing with Bailey to work. I need for it to work. If you're going to be in my life, you have to understand that. You have to accept that."
Tricia slowly raised her head, eyeing me menacingly. The sad and sobbing woman she had been only moments ago was gone. "What do you think she'll do when she finds out who you really are, Jordan? Do you think she can still love you after she finds out you're a drug addict? After she hears about the things you and I did? Do you really think your sweet, innocent, small-town girlfriend will understand and forgive?" Her gaze softened, and she rose from her chair. "I know you, Jordan. I know all about you. I know every secret, every facet, every action of your life. I know you inside and out. And I love every part of you. Do you think your new girlfriend will be able to say the same? Do you think she'll understand? Do you think she won't judge you? I understand, Jordan, and I would never judge you. With me, you can be exactly as you are. You have been hiding one thing or another about yourself for your whole life. With me, there is nothing to hide. I embrace all of you, Jordan."
As she spoke, she came closer and closer to my bed. At the last, she stood right next to me and placed her hand on my arm.
"I love you, Jordan. All of you." The bed drooped as she sat down. "Please let me prove that to you. Give me another chance." She wrapped her warm fingers around my wrist and then moved down to grasp my hand. Her thumb made lazy circles on the back of my hand while her eyes begged me to accept her.
My head was pounding painfully. The morphine Betsy had given me a while back had begun to wear off, and I felt the pangs of withdrawal settling in. All I wanted was another shot and a few hours of peaceful oblivion. I pulled my hand out of Tricia's and placed it on my stomach. "I don't love you, Tricia. I did once, but I don't anymore." I watched as her eyes narrowed, and the hopeful look faded from her face. "I need to sleep now, Tricia. It's time for you to go home."
Tricia stared at me in disbelief. Finally, she stood up and walked a few paces away from the bed. "You're making a big mistake, Jordan." The menacing look was back on her face.
"I'm not making a mistake now. I made a mistake the night I met you. You're not good for me, Tricia. Now, please, go home and let me rest." I rubbed my forehead, hoping that would lessen the pain in my head.
Tricia's face clouded. "I'm not good for you, huh? Well, we'll just see about that." She turned and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
The room seemed to expand in size without her in it. She always did have a tendency to fill whatever space she was in. I let out a breath I hadn't even realized I had been holding, and my shoulders released their tension into the bed.
"Wow, what was that about?" Betsy strolled through the door carrying a syringe, looking surprised.
"Oh, nothing. She's just... Well, she's just being her. She majored in Drama Queen in school."
This garnered me a chuckle from the nurse. "Well then, it's probably best she left you alone. You need to get your rest. This should help you out with that." She plunged the needle of the syringe into the hub of the IV tubing.
Almost instantly, I felt the beautiful lethargy flow over me. My head dropped back onto my pillow, and the synapses in my brain sang as the sweet nectar filled them with opiate goodness. Oh yeah, this was exactly what I needed.
My sleep that night was plagued, as usual, with nightmares. Tricia now joined the cast of characters, taunting me and telling me I was no good. As she spoke, her features morphed grotesquely, mimicking the effect of a fun house mirror. Her mouth became larger and larger until I feared she would swallow me whole. With every step she took towards me, I shrank a little, until I was the size of Alice after drinking the liquid in the bottle.
"I am not done with you, Jordan! Not by a long shot! You are MINE!!" The words flew from her and hit me in the face.
Just as her mouth closed over my head, I awoke with a start. My body was covered in sweat, and my heart was beating too fast. My hands were shaking, and my breathing came in jagged gasps. Tricia's musky smell lingered in the air, and I could feel her breath on my skin.
I hit the button to summon the nurse and then fell into oblivion with the Morphine shot she brought me.
As soon as Betsy came on shift the next day, she asked if I wanted to go see Bailey. I felt a huge grin split my face at just the mention of her name.
"Well, hell yeah! Betsy, you rock!"
I swung my feet over the edge of the bed, and Betsy helped me to the wheelchair. I was amazed at how weak I was. When I was just lying in the bed, I felt okay, but as soon as I tried to stand, I felt like a little colt trying to take his first steps. My body still ached from the many bruises Charles had given me. They had faded to a yellowish brown but the pain lingered.
As we neared Bailey's room, my heart began to beat faster and my palms got sweaty. I was so excited to see her. I was going to do my best to actually make it up to her face and kiss her today.
I could see Bailey lying in bed staring into the corner of the room that was still hidden from me. I hoped her family wasn't there. I still wasn't up for that.
"Are you ready for a visitor?" Betsy called out.
As we entered the room, Bailey turned her face towards me. Her eyes didn't hold the welcome I had hoped to receive. She had been crying. Tears still clung to her eyelashes, darkening the normally light color of the fine hairs. I started to ask what was wrong when I heard a voice from the corner of the room.
"Hi again, Jordan." Tricia smiled smugly at me. "I thought Bailey and I should have a chat. But I was just about to leave. Now that you're here, I know the two of you have a lot to catch up on. Bye, now." She waggled her fingers at Bailey and then walked out of the room.
Terror filled my heart. What had she told her? "Bailey, I can...."
She cut me off before I could finish the sentence. "No, Jordan. We need to talk. I have questions that you need to answer."
To be continued...
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