Tie Break

by Bonnie


berlinpup@yahoo.de

2002

For disclaimers see Part 1.


Part 7

Chapter 8

Anne felt her feet moving before she gave the conscious command to set her muscles in motion. She was running to her mother's hotel as fast as her legs would carry her on the still frozen road.

Faced with the choice between icy patches on the road and knee-high snow on the roadside she opted for the ice in the hope that she would not break her legs before getting to where she was needed.

She knew, deep down, what she would find at the place where the ominous sounds had come from. She couldn't explain it--didn't even feel the need to explain it--she just knew. With absolute certainty.

She cursed her slow progress, the condition of the road forcing her to go much slower than she wanted to. Then again, even if the road had been clear, she was sure that she could never get there fast enough in her eyes.

Please be all right, Shea.

Another slip, and this time she went down, hitting the ground hard. She tried to stop her fall with one outstretched arm, realizing that that was probably not the brightest idea when she felt the bones in her wrist give way to the weight. Oh, shit. I so don't need this now.

She got up, cradling her left wrist with her right hand, pushing away the pain into some deep corner of her mind. Time for that later.

She was running again, as fast as she could while still cradling her injured hand, trying to ward off most of the pain that shot up her arm with every step she took. She looked up, hoping to see the site of the accident, although she knew that it would be impossible.

The road wasn't straight between the cemetery and the entrance to her mother's driveway. It meandered, following a little stream, which in the spring would once again murmur away right next to the road. Now it was frozen over, and for a second Anne wished she had skates under her feet.

She came to another bend in the road, one that was covered with snow-capped trees, making it impossible to see beyond it. She pushed herself a little more, wishing, wanting to see what had happened after that bend in the road. She was breathing heavily by now, although it wasn't from exertion.

She was scared. Plain and simple. Please be all right, Shea. She repeated her new mantra over and over again in her head, hoping that focusing on her love would get her there a little faster.

By now, her feet had gotten used to the road conditions and her hiking boots found a better grip on the snow and ice. Trusting her legs, she put even more effort into her forward movement. She knew that beyond the next bend, the road would straighten and she would have a clear view. She passed the sign that announced the upcoming hotel driveway without giving it a second glance.

And then she saw it.

Anne skidded to a halt on the ice and felt her heart drop to parts unnknown. Shana's car stood at an angle to the road while the front had attached itself to a tree, climbing it halfway. The jeep, the tree and the ground almost formed a perfect triangle. Anne could hear the groan of the metal and the creaking sound of the tree.

The dark-haired woman slowly walked up to the wreck, not at all sure that the tree would withstand the pressure of the large SUV much longer. She walked around the car to the driver's side and looked inside.

Shana was pressed back into her seat, cushioned between the airbag and the headrest, her head slightly angled to the window. She was unconscious and Anne tried to assess her condition before pulling her out of the car. The last thing she wanted to do was hurt Shana more by trying to help her.

As far as Anne could see, Shana had at least suffered a cut because she could see a streak of blood running down the side of her face. The blonde hair on that side of the head was also clotted with slowly drying blood, and Anne hoped with all her might that it was just a cut and not something more severe.

She took a step back and pondered her options, realizing very quickly that she didn't have that many. She had left her cell phone at home, not wanting to be disturbed on her walk. That left two options - run to her mother's house, call an ambulance and wait for it to arrive, or get Shana out herself and carry her over to the house.

Anne looked at her left hand for a second and winced, but she knew that she didn't have much choice. It was very cold outside and she didn't want to risk leaving Shana in the car to get help. There was no way of telling how long it would take an ambulance to get there with these road conditions. She would feel better doing it herself anyway, injured hand or not.

The tall woman grabbed the door handle, pleasantly surprised at how easily the door opened. Shana's unconscious body slumped a bit further to the side when the restraint of the door was gone, and Anne quickly positioned herself under her friend to stop unnecessary movements.

She pushed back the air bag, glad that the car didn't have one in the door as well. She unfastened Shana's seatbelt and silently thanked her friend for always buckling up, even for the shortest drives.

When Anne had gotten the restraints out of the way, she tried to find out the safest and easiest way to get her friend out of the car. She realized she had to by instinct since she knew absolutely nothing about freeing injured people from car wrecks.

She took in their position and decided that because the of relative height of the driver's seat due to the car being pushed up against the tree, she would just try to hold on to Shana and get her out of there. Nice plan, she admonished herself, but couldn't come up with anything else.

She pushed her right arm behind Shana's back while slowly lifting Shana's knees with her left. Every motion of her hand hurt like hell, but she ignored the pain and concentrated on her friend instead. Anne carefully lifted Shana several inches from the car seat until she was sure she would be able to get her out without too much jostling.

It was slow and painful work, but after a couple of minutes Anne was holding Shana in her arms. The blonde woman was still unconscious, although Anne had thought once or twice that she had felt tiny flutters coming from Shana's body.

Anne took a deep breath and took the first step on her way to her mother's house and the safe haven it provided.

After several steps she felt Shana stirring in her arms, and for a short moment the green eyes fluttered open, but before they had the opportunity to focus they were closed again. The blonde woman groaned, and Anne doubled her efforts in the knowledge that Shana was in pain.

"Oh " the half-conscious woman murmured when her eyes fluttered open a second time. "Mmm baby." The darkness claimed Shana once again.

The endearment gave Anne another burst of strength and despite the situation she couldn't help feeling a tiny wave of happiness.

*******************

Irene was standing in her kitchen, putting all of her concentration into following a new recipe she was trying out. She was surrounded by an assortment of cooking utensils, pots and pans and crockery, all spread out in a random pattern all over the enormous kitchen table.

This had always been her way of cooking, messing up the kitchen until it was almost unrecognizable as a room in her normally clean and pristine house. She needed that, called it creative cooking - and she was right. Most of the time her cooking was creative, and sometimes even innovative. She had always been able to create dishes that none of her family or her guests had ever tasted before.

Mixing teriyaki chicken with couscous and steamed vegetables. Throwing common garden flowers into a salad. Surprising everyone when her ideas not only proved to be edible, but also quite tasty.

She felt at home with unusual combinations and used those challenges to her family's taste buds as a method of calming herself when she felt the need to. Calm down, get away from what was bothering her. Or her family.

Right now she was worried about Anne. She cut an eggplant in thin slices and covered them liberally with salt.

And Shana. She hacked an onion to little pieces that didn't even sting her eyes anymore.

And those nightmares. She mixed a new combination of spices without really looking at them.

She put down her knife and stared out into the snow, wondering if she wasn't responsible for a part of those nightmares that troubled her daughter.

She had always known--no, felt--that Peter was a little different, and not only in the way he looked. Both her husband and her daughter had bright blue eyes and straight coal-black hair, and both shared the same edgy features. Peter had hazel eyes and blonde hair that fell around his face in small locks.

The biggest difference, however, was that while Anne was frightfully intelligent, her little brother was not.

Irene had suspected that Pete might even have been a bit retarded, but George had always rejected that idea, had shrugged it off. As long as his son was able to hold a tennis racket and find his way around a tennis court, he had once told his wife, he could be a blabbering idiot in all other aspects of life for all he cared.

The problem was, Peter hadn't been George's son. And it had been only a matter of time until her husband discovered that little fact.

Peter must have been eleven or twelve years old when Irene realized that the day she had feared since his birth had finally arrived. She had come out to the backyard and had caught her husband watching their children, glancing back and forth from Pete's fair looks to Anne's darkness that so much resembled his own.

Irene had fervently hoped that George would attribute Pete's lighter looks to her side of the family. But when she had felt George's eyes turn to her and look at her with a sudden intensity, she had known that miracle wasn't about to happen to her family. He had gotten up from his chair and taken a long drink from the bottle of beer he was holding. Then he had turned and walked towards her to the back door.

"No one else in this family has his eye color," was all he had said to her when he passed her and walked inside. Just remembering the tone in his voice made her shiver.

After that she hadn't noticed any difference in his behavior towards Pete, but her son had become more withdrawn, moody and sometimes downright jumpy. He had also gotten clumsier, and she had noticed that Anne had taken to spending most of her spare time in very close proximity to her younger brother.

She had asked both siblings what was wrong, but they hadn't said anything. Then one day, Pete had come home from practice, sporting large bruises on his face and both arms. He was alone, and he thrown himself into his mother's arms, crying and sniffling. Irene's heart had broken at seeing her teenage son sobbing in her embrace. But still he hadn't said anything to her.

Half an hour later, Anne had stormed in, obviously very angry. She had stood before Irene and had pointed to Pete.

"Are you going to do something about him?" she had asked.

It all had come crashing down on Irene then. All the signs she should have seen, all the hints both children had given, probably without wanting to. It all became brilliantly clear to her in that single moment in time.

Her husband was beating Peter.

She had never felt so helpless.

Anne hadn't waited for an answer and had run upstairs to her room, but not without throwing her mother a look that had held equal amounts of pain, contempt and a cry for help.

She had tried to help as much as she could, but in the end, she had failed. Had failed Pete, had failed Anne. Had failed herself.

Irene came back to the present with a start when she felt the nails of her hand biting into her palm, leaving a sticky fluid she recognized as blood. Absentmindedly she grabbed a paper towel and dabbed at the red spots.

When she looked out the window again, she saw the unmistakable form of her daughter in the distance, obviously carrying something heavy. Anne's run was a little unsteady and Irene had the niggling feeling that she had to be in pain. When the tall form came nearer, Irene recognized Shana in her daughter's arms.

She gasped in surprise and was halfway out the door before she realized that she wasn't wearing shoes.

*******************

Shana wasn't feeling too well. She didn't know where she was, nor could she remember how she got there. Her head hurt and there were other parts of her body that were also sore. But her head was the worst. It felt like someone had split open her skull to take a look inside, and in her almost unconscious state she imagined herself as a giant melon on a gargantuan buffet, just being split by something.

Somewhere, deep down inside, she felt the presence of another person, but she wasn't afraid. She was absolutely helpless, and normally that would have scared her more than the feeling she got from her head, but something in her told her that she was safe.

The presence began to move her, and then everything went deliciously black again. She didn't know how long she had been unconscious, but when the blackness faded, she tried to open her eyes to see what had happened to her.

Opening her eyes hurt like hell, the slivers of bright light penetrating her pupils and searing their way through her brain to the back of her head. In reflex, she closed her eyes. Not good. She tried again, a little slower, and this time it was bearable. She focused her eyes and saw Anne, who was obviously holding her for some reason. Why, she had no idea.

Seeing Anne triggered something in her mind and she tried to remember what it was. She wanted to tell Anne something, her fuzzy brain told her. Ah. It was something important and it couldn't wait. All she knew was that she had to tell Anne something. Important, important, important. What was so important? Her brain was playing with her, letting her glimpse at what she wanted to say, then withdrawing the information again.

Shana tried to speak. Maybe speaking without thinking would work. She opened her mouth, anxiously waiting what would come out, if anything did at all.

"Mmm baby," was what her mind had to offer, and she felt the rightness of it.

Then Anne began to move and Shana got sick to her stomach before the darkness claimed her again.

*******************

Anne was relieved when she saw that her mother's house wasn't far anymore. She was strong, but carrying an unconscious Shana for a mile through the snow and over icy patches was more difficult than she had expected. She was thanking every being there was that the cold made her limbs so numb that she didn't feel her wrist anymore. Of course, the numbness didn't make walking and carrying her friend any easier.

Just a few feet more. Anne had found out that the steady repetition of that sentence made her forget the burning in her thighs and shoulders and helped her focus on her goal.

Just a few feet more. She wasn't even looking where she was walking by now, just followed her instincts and her knowledge of the road she was walking on.

Just a few feet more. She stumbled over a root that stuck out of the snow, just barely catching herself from tumbling to the icy ground with her precious cargo. She stopped for a moment to straighten her back and shoulders, settling Shana's weight into a safe and comfortable position again.

She resumed walking. Just a few feet more.

And then she was met by a frantic Irene, whose presence she didn't acknowledge, so focused was the tall woman on just reaching the warmth of the house. She passed by her mother without so much as a nod, afraid that if she stopped now, she wouldn't be able to make the last few feet.

TBC in Part 8.


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