I Know This Bar

By: Girl Bard


Please see Part 1 for disclaimer.

Many thanks to everyone who mailed me feedback! Keep it coming!

Part 5:


June 1, 2000.


Well, this is weird. Jaden’s tongue is down my throat and I can hardly stay on my feet. Usually when she kisses me I get weak in the knees with lust for her. But now, I’m afraid, it’s a much more serious issue. The boat is rocking so much that I can’t keep my balance. But, jeez, can she kiss. And if we’re going to die, I guess I can’t think of a better way to do so.

And then I hear something that sounds like a bull elephant in heat. Now, I’ve never actually heard what a bull elephant sounds like while in heat, but I’m assuming it’s like this noise. It’s a sudden, indescribably loud mixture between a trumpet and an earthquake.

People are screaming. I look at Jaden in confusion, wondering what in the hell is going on. The boat seems heavier suddenly, the small impulsion we had from the hard-working engines seems to die, and it feels like we are sitting still in the water. I still can hear the engines working, over the pounding rain and rushing water, so it doesn’t make any sense as to why we aren’t moving. I look to Jaden for an explanation and absolutely do not like the look on her face. She looks scared.

"What happened?" I scream to her, and she doesn’t seem to hear me. My feet feel soaked and I look down. I am dumbfounded to see that the entire first level of the boat is filling with water. "Jaden, what do we do?" I scream, and it finally gets her attention. She looks down at the rapidly rising water. Surveying the scene, she tries to open the door of the enclosed seating. The people inside are panicking, pushing against each other in an attempt to get out. The door is stuck because of the pressure from the rising water.

"We have to open it now or they will drown inside!" She screams to me, and I help her push. The people inside are pushing against the door in their panic to get out, making Jaden’s job even harder. I try to tell them to stop as we put all our weight into opening the goddamned door.

I feel I’m getting in Jaden’s way. She is putting all her strength into pushing on the door, and the task is getting to be more difficult as the rising water keeps it in place. I unclasp her life preserver strap from mine, moving out of her way. This allows her to have more leverage and I watch in amazement as she tenses her muscles and finally pushes the door open.

People are rushing out, not bothering with manners as they push, hit, and trample over anyone in their way. Children are screaming and crying, a few elderly people are standing still, unsure as of what to do, and I can’t find Jaden.

"JADEN!" I scream, knowing it’s useless with the ocean of sounds surrounding me. Members of the crew have finally realized what is happening and are struggling to get people in lifeboats.

Oh Goddess, get us out of here safely and I promise I’ll never make fun of what a horrible movie "Titanic" was ever again. Ever. I am in shock with what I am seeing. Am I really on a boat that is sinking in the middle of the Atlantic? Did I just watch my lover defy rules of physics by opening a door to save fifty people? Oh Goddess, where the hell is Jaden?

I push my way through the crowd clamoring to get into the lifeboats. I run back to the doorway that Jaden so heroically opened. She’s not there. The interior is empty, except for the rushing water now pooling around my knees. Feeling like Rose, I wade my way back over to where the crowd is. Most of the people are in the lifeboats now, only a few men remaining with the crew.

"Lady, get over here!" A tall crewman yells to me. I shake my head and continue my search for Jaden. C’mon tall, dark, and dangerous, where are you? The pouring rain makes it difficult to see anyone, and I try to shield my eyes as I try to find her. She’s got to be here somewhere, or maybe she already got in a boat. Would she leave me behind?

Maybe she went back onto the top deck. I know she was concerned about those other people that were up there with us. And besides, the top deck isn’t underwater. Yet.

I head for there, my thighs burning under the strain of trying to walk through knee-deep water. Reaching the stairs I start up them, climbing easily to the second level. The wind is so strong I have to keep a hold of the railing so I don’t blow overboard. I can’t see anything; even if Jaden and the other people were up here I don’t think I would be able to see them. If it would only stop raining I could see something, anything. I can’t lose her; I’ve gone too long without her. A hand suddenly grabs onto the back of my life jacket.

"Gracie! Come on!" She screams to me. Thank Goddess it’s her voice. I turn around to see the most relieving sight of my life, a perfectly fine Jaden, looking more than a little waterlogged and exhausted. I throw myself into her arms. "We have to get out of here, we don’t have much time." She yells in my ear and locks her life jacket strap onto mine again. "Why didn’t you stay with me!" She screams, and I push her down the stairs, no time for a lecture now.

Holy fucking mother of hell. The water is up past my waist now, actually, the boat is that far underwater. The few remaining lifeboats are bobbing in the water and I have no idea how we are going to get in them, let alone stay afloat once we are in them. I can’t move, paralyzed by the freezing water and the sudden jolt of fear. Jaden has to swim over to the terrified and weary crew and a broken-looking Captain Tom, pulling me in tow. There are just a few remaining people to get in the lifeboats, and the crew pulls me up into one.

"Is there anybody else?" Captain Tom yells, his deep voice cracking with fear.

"No, we’re the last ones." Jaden yells, and he looks relieved.

Jaden’s life jacket is connected to mine so as they are lifting me into the lifeboat, Jaden has to haul herself up next to me. Goddess, she’s freakishly strong.

This is not happening. I am not in a tiny lifeboat with Jaden, the crew, and Captain Tom. He unties the last remaining rope connecting us with the boat and I watch in horror as we float away from the sinking vessel. This is insane. I feel as if I’m in a bad, horrible dream and must be waking up soon.

But Jaden is here. She is warm next to me, and how she’s not freezing I don’t understand. It’s eerily silent now, I know that the wind is still blowing and the waves are still fierce from the way the lifeboat is tipping and bobbing, but I can’t seem to hear anything. And I can’t seem to understand why no one is talking. And I really can’t understand how the strong, safe, sturdy, huge boat we were on just sank into the Atlantic, almost killing us all.

I can’t help it. I lean over the edge of the lifeboat and get very, very, sick. I’m aware of the bile in my throat and of Jaden’s strong hands preventing me from going over the edge. I’m aware of the crashing waves splashing freezing salt water on my face and of how the ocean smells heady and musky. Everything else seems like a daze.

Where is everyone else? Did everyone make it? Why isn’t there a rescue boat? How long will we be out here? Would Jaden let anyone dine on my dead body if we’re not rescued for days? Questions fill my head as the contents of my stomach for the past 12 years empty themselves into the raging sea. Take that Poseidon. Stupid sea-God, this is your fault.

I think I’m losing my mind. I really do. I finally finish throwing up and lean heavily against Jaden’s side. I take in deep, calming, breaths and decide that I’m never, ever, going on a boat again. I want to talk to Jaden, to get reassurance from her, but with the wind screaming I know it’s useless.

Lights in the distance. I point them out to Jaden, who nods and smiles at me. It must be our rescue boat. It has to be. Who else would be out in this weather? I look for the other lifeboats, relieved to see a few white hulls bobbing in the distance.

It has finally stopped raining. I’m freezing, my teeth chattering uncontrollably. Jaden has her arms around me as best as she can, but it isn’t helping much. I watch as the boat’s lights get closer, but still seem so far away. The wind seems to be dying down also, I feel the waves to be less rolling and I can actually hear Jaden’s labored breathing.

I survey the scene, able to pick out the shapes of about 7 lifeboats surrounding us. I wonder how many there are. Or were. I shudder at the thought. Surely no one has drowned, right? I look to Jaden, who seems to be studying the sea intently. I think she’s counting the lifeboats around us.

"What were you saying about Gilligan and their three hour tour?" She suddenly says in my ear. I know she’s trying to lighten the mood, and I’m thankful for that.

"What were you saying about us not sinking?" I tease back, and am rewarded by her bright smile. Goddess, even in the middle of the freaking ocean, on a lifeboat, and she still makes me want to ravish her.

"Well, I know now that I can’t take you anywhere." She says, grinning at me.

I scowl at her. "This is not my fault."

"Whatever, Mary Anne." She says, sticking out her tongue at me. I know she is trying to take my mind off our plight, and the playful banter is defiantly helping.

"What, and you’re Ginger?" I snort. She shrugs and I argue, " and I’m not Mary Anne."

"Okay then, Mrs. Howell."


An hour later:

It’s freezing out here. I hold Grace close, tucking her damp head under my chin. She doesn’t move. I touch her clammy skin, concerned at how cold she is.

We’re both soaked. It’s been raining on and off since the ship went down, resulting in us being in a cramped lifeboat. It’s been about an hour now, I think, and while the lights of the Coast Guard ship are slowly advancing towards us, they are still too far away.

I try to wake Grace again, but she’s passed out from fright and fatigue, maybe both. Her full lips have a blue tinge and I try to hold her as close as possible, desperate to give her all of my remaining body warmth.

I’m scared. A feeling I’m not used too. I’ve been scared only a few times in my life, but I can’t remember being more terrified than I am right now. I’m not scared of my own death, but the thought of anything happening to Grace scares me more than anything.

I remember when I was four and I would be scared of the dark, or monsters under my bed, or other childish things. I’d go running into Jonah’s room and he would always protect me. We’d read under the covers with a flashlight or make blanket forts on his bed. He was always such a good big brother.

I miss him.

I look at the sleeping girl in my arms. Planting a kiss to her icy forehead I know that I can’t lose her. I will do anything to protect her, even if it means my own death. I hope it doesn’t come to that, I can’t imagine not ever seeing her sparkling eyes again.

"I love you Gracie. I’ll keep you safe." I whisper in her ear, knowing that she can’t hear me. I know I shouldn’t let her sleep. She needs to be awake so her circulation doesn’t slow down. But the poor kid was puking because of the waves and the brutal rocking of the boat. She was so embarrassed that when she passed out it was almost a relief. I hate to see her in that much pain and that upset.

Everyone else in the boat is silent. We all must be exhausted, just keeping your balance in the violently shaking lifeboat is a workout in itself. I look around at the boat’s other passengers, noting that most of the crew looks young, Gracie’s age and younger. Poor kids, they probably took this job for the summer, thinking they could work on their tans and whale watch for hours. I bet they never thought they’d be in this situation.

The boat suddenly pitches to the side and everyone, including myself, screams out of surprise and fear. I grab onto Grace tighter, pulling her sliding form forcefully to my side.

I hope the angry storm isn’t getting its second wind. Wave after powerful wave break over the surface of the boat, plastering us with ice-cold saltwater.

"Get down!" I yell to the passengers of the boat, trying to get everyone down onto the boat’s floor. They are all standing up and I’m terrified one of them will fall over. I push Grace’s lifeless form onto the floor, making sure she isn’t face down in the few inches of water the waves have left in the boat. I pull others down also, relieved when they see what I’m trying to say. "Cover your head with your hands, and get face down!"

Just in time, they all hear me over the crashing waves and howling wind. The crew falls to the floor, followed by Captain Tom. Making sure everyone else is safe I fall to the floor, huddling over Grace’s prone form. A gigantic wave crashes over our heads, further drenching us all.

"Please!" I pray to whatever deity truly does exist. "Let us get out of here, please." The roaring water is deafening, and I close my eyes against the stinging water.

I don’t know how long we stay like this. It feels like forever, yet rationally I know it only must be minutes. Grace is growing increasingly cold and I know that I must rouse her soon, the longer she’s unconscious the worse she’s going to get. I can’t lose her.

As quickly as it came on, the storm suddenly dies. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but I do know that the goddamned Coast Guard better get here soon. This is unacceptable; we’ve been on this ocean for hours now with no Coast Guard yet. Assholes.

"It seems to be dying down, it’s probably safe to sit up again." The other passengers of the lifeboat slowly sit up, anxiously looking around them. "Captain, you’re a man of the sea. What do you think?" I ask, not missing the nervous look on Tom’s face. Something’s not right, call it my policewoman’s intuition, but I know there’s something he knows that he’s not revealing.

Captain Tom clears his throat. "Uh, well the sky is returning to normal color, and the air doesn’t smell as sulfuric. I’d say we’ve probably seen the worst." He catches my eye, looking away when I glare at him.

"I hope you’re right." I tell him, my voice firm. The other passengers of the lifeboat, Tom’s crew, look hopeful at his words. I do believe him, the sky is clearing and it’s finally stopped raining. It’s still cold though, and I know we won’t be warm again until we’re in a warm bath.

"Gracie, honey, wake up." I plead in her ear, supporting her lifeless body in my arms. I plant a desperate kiss to her forehead. I never should have let her pass out, I knew it wasn’t good for her, but I didn’t know what to do. She was so nervous and sick to her stomach. I feel so guilty. I hate this. I can’t be responsible for another death of someone I love. I just can’t.

Suddenly I feel sick. I swear the boat is closing in around me, and I can’t breathe. Gasping for air I clutch my chest, sure that I’m going to die right here in the middle of the ocean. Flashes of Jonah and Gracie dance around my head.

"I’m so sorry!" I say to them. "I didn’t mean to kill you, you’re the only people I’ve ever loved and I’ve killed you."

"Jaden?" Grace’s voice is distant, and weak. I’m going crazy. This isn’t real. None of this is real. I clutch my face with my hands, trying to escape from my brain and the hallucinations.

"Jaden, please talk to me. You’re scaring me." Grace’s voice sounds in my ear again. I open my eyes and see her concerned face inches from mine, her small hand on my shoulder.

"Go away." I whisper to her. "You’re dead. I killed you."

She hugs me, her frail arms pulling me to her. "Sweetheart, I’m not dead. I feel like I should be, but I’m not. And you didn’t kill me."

I nod numbly, unsure as to if this is a dream or reality. I don’t know what to believe anymore. The only thing I’m aware of is Grace’s voice in my ear, her wet hair against my cheek.

"You’re safe Jaden, I promise you’re safe." I have to believe her. It’s all I have to believe.

I lay my head trustingly on her shoulder. The Coast Guard lights beckon in the distance; they are almost upon us now.

I don’t need the fucking Coast Guard now. My beam of light is the fairness of Grace’s hair; my rescue ship is her safe embrace.


Four hours later:

"No comment. Now back off!" Jaden pushes through the swarming reporters, holding onto me tightly. They seem to be everywhere, pushing microphones and video cameras into our faces. All I want to do is get to the freaking hospital so I can pee. Being on a lifeboat in the middle of a rocking ocean makes one’s bladder really take priority.

I feel like hell. I’m cold and I don’t know what hurts more, my aching ribs and throat, tender and raw from throwing up, or my head. It’s hard to walk, I still feel as if I’m on the water, the very ground beneath my feet seems to be rolling.

It’s insanity here. The Coast Guard finally picked us up, and it took hours to get everyone loaded into the boat. I still don’t know if anyone’s missing or if everyone indeed did make it. After being checked out by paramedics on the boat, I fell asleep in Jaden’s lap, covered with warm blankets. She woke me up when we reached shore.

She looks tired. She scared me so much; I woke up while still on the lifeboat to her having a panic attack. She was mumbling about how she killed me and was almost inconsolable. It was so terrifying because I didn’t know how to comfort her. I’m so used to her being the strong one. I finally got her settled down, simply by reassuring her that I was okay and by holding her. I didn’t let her go until the Coast Guard showed up and loaded us onto their boat. She, as usual, then put on her stoic hard-ass face and proceeded to put herself in charge again. I could tell she was in pain, both physical and emotional so I had to plead with her to let the paramedics check her out. Turns out she knew a couple of them, and was embarrassed by the entire situation. I guess being a cop makes you think you should never be in an accident or anything. Their pride gets in the way. But she gave in to my begging and got checked out, and they said she was fine except for a few bruised ribs. How in the hell did she get bruised ribs?

Jaden insisted on having me go to the hospital. I just want to go back to her apartment and curl up next to her and sleep for a few days. Not spend the rest of the night in an emergency room with doctors poking and prodding me to death. I argued with her that if I had to be checked out, than she had to be too. She finally agreed.

So we’re pushing through the insane crowd of reporters and people out gawking at the scene. Police are covering the area, trying their best to keep the victims safe from the media, but there are too many cameras and not enough security. That’s all I need, to have my parents see Jaden and I on TV talking about our experience on the ocean. They would freak out, big time.

So now we are in Jaden’s Explorer driving to the hospital. Her ribs must be hurting; I noticed she took a sharp breath while hoisting herself into the driver’s seat. Thank Goddess we are safe. I guess I didn’t really realize how close we came to being victims of the sea. Slumping against the seat I listen to the soft sounds around me. The rhythmic beat of the windshield wipers, the gentle pitter of the rain as it hits the car, Jaden’s soft, shallow breathing, (another clue that her ribs are hurting,) and my own labored breath. I’m so tired and cold that every breath I take feels like a chore. I just want to sleep.

We pull into the emergency room parking lot. Shit. I just remembered that my insurance is through my parents. If they find out that this happened, they will kill me. I’m not even supposed to be in Massachusetts, let alone on a sinking boat in the middle of the Atlantic. I guess I’ll just have to pay for it without submitting it to my insurance. Crap, it’s going to be so expensive.

"Come on, sweetheart." Jaden says, carefully getting out of the Explorer. I follow her into the emergency room. It’s empty, except for a few other passengers I recognize from the ship. Nothing like the ER I watch on television, though it would be lovely to have my very own Carol Hathaway checking me out. But much to my disdain, the only nurses I see are quite grumpy looking. I guess they were hoping for a quiet evening. A shipwreck doesn’t quite fit into those plans.

We give the ER attendant our names and she hands us the necessary paperwork. Jaden takes her soggy wallet from her back pocket and starts dutifully transcribing her insurance information. I fill in my name, address, and date of birth and set the forms down on the table. Jaden looks at me curiously, and continues filling out her paperwork.

"Gracie?" She asks.


"You don’t have medical insurance?" She says, looking at me skeptically.

"Well, I do, but actually it’s under my parents. And if they get a bill or a statement saying I was in a Massachusetts hospital treated for injuries sustained during a marine accident they will kill me." I sigh, this long statement taking more energy than it should.

"Oh." Jaden says, finishing her paperwork and standing up slowly. "I’ll take these up then."

She returns and we sit in silence, halfway paying attention to the children’s show that is blaring from the television.

"Ms. Phillips?" A nurse calls, and Jaden stands up, wincing. She looks down at me, and extends her hand.

"Come with me, okay? I don’t want us to be separated right now." I nod and follow her. The nurse gives us a funny glance until Jaden gives her trademark "Don’t fuck with me" look and speaks in a clear and firm voice.

"This is Grace McKenzie and we would like to be in the same examination room." The nurse looks at me and back to Jaden.

"Ms. Phillips, that isn’t necessary. The doctor will see your friend shortly."

"It’s Officer Phillips, and it is necessary that we are not separated right now. Do I make myself clear?" Jaden hisses and the nurse caves immediately.

"Yes ma’am. Right this way." The nurse is meek as she leads us to a small examining room. Removing two hospital gowns from a supply closet she hands them to us. "Please get undressed and put these on. I’ll be in shortly to check your vitals and then the doctor will have a look at you." She leaves before I can thank her, and Jaden shuts the door.

"I hate hospitals." She states, removing her damp jeans.

"Jeez, I couldn’t tell." I tease, smiling at her as I go about taking off my stiff salt-water clothes. If I never wear this outfit again I’ll die happy. It smells like the shipwreck and fear, a scent I never want to experience again. We undress, Jaden’s back to me. I admire her cute backside and reach out to pinch. Finding my target, she turns her head and smirks at me. I shrug at her and smile, I can’t resist touching her sometimes. She finishes changing into her gown and turns around, moving towards me with a playful gleam in her eyes. She softly kisses me, her fingers stroking up and down my back.

The nurse clears her throat as she enters the room and shuts the door. Jaden doesn’t release me immediately; instead she gives me another lingering kiss before moving away. The nurse pretends like she’s seen nothing and approaches me, a thermometer in her hand. Jaden stands next to me possessively as the nurse takes my blood pressure and temperature. She makes the proper notes on my chart and moves towards Jaden. I sense the nurse’s fear as she sticks the thermometer in Jaden’s mouth. I pat Jaden’s hand, hoping she’ll be polite and let the nurse do her job.

The nurse finishes with us and quickly leaves the room. Jaden sighs and sits down next to me on the table. "How are your ribs feeling?" I ask her, noting her shoulders are slumped instead of her usual straight posture.

She rolls her eyes at me. "Fine." She glances around the room and sighs again. "I hope they don’t keep us here long. I really want to take a shower, get dinner, and curl up in bed with you."

I look at her with mock shock on my face. "Ms. Phillips, are you propositioning me?" I bat my eyelashes at her and she smiles. Thank Goddess; I haven’t really seen her smile since right before we started sinking.

"It’s Officer Phillips, remember?" She says, a teasing tone to her voice.

"Oh right, how could I forget? I’m surprised, you don’t usually use your police status when dealing with people."

She shrugs at me, her body language conveying that this is a subject she isn’t fond of. "I only let people know I’m a policewoman when it’s necessary. Sometimes it works to my advantage. But I certainly don’t flaunt it." Her tone is clipped, and I can tell she’s on the borderline between annoyed and angry.

"Jaden," I soothe her, "I didn’t mean to accuse you of using your status to get special treatment. I was just surprised to see you tell the nurse you were on the force. I’ve never felt that you try to get your way by flaunting your status." I rest my hand on her arm, trying to keep her calm.

She ducks her head slightly. "Sorry Gracie, I’m just tired and over-sensitive right now. I didn’t mean to snap at you." I squeeze her strong bicep.

"I know." I tell her simply, and we sit in comfortable silence.

It’s only a few minutes before the doctor enters the room. He’s a friendly-looking older gentleman and he smiles briskly at us. "Which one of you is Grace?" He asks, and I raise my hand, feeling like I’m in grade school.

Jaden stiffly stands up from the table and takes a seat in the chair in the corner of the room. "Hi Grace, I’m Dr. Bryant. How are you feeling?" He asks me as he reviews my chart.

"I’m feeling okay, a little sore. I’m still really cold and my lungs hurt when I breathe." I sense Jaden’s eyes on me, and I know she’s worrying.

"Doctor, she lost consciousness for awhile while we were in the lifeboat. She became really seasick and then passed out for about an hour or so." Jaden interjects and the Doctor looks at her and nods.

"Okay Grace, according to your vitals your temperature seems to be a little low still. It’s possible you have a slight case of hypothermia. As for your lungs, did you get any saltwater in them? Were you submerged at all?" He takes his stethoscope and after warming it between his hands he places it over my heart. Cocking his head slightly he moves the scope over my left lung. "Take three deep breaths for me please."

"No, she wasn’t submerged at all." Jaden answers for me, since I am concentrating on breathing. My chest feels heavy, like a weight is sitting on it. I finish my breaths and Dr. Bryant moves over to my right side and instructs me to breathe deeply again. I do, and it takes all I have to not start coughing.

Dr. Bryant removes the stethoscope and sits back on his stool. "Grace, your lungs seem inflamed, probably due to stress, the cold and exposure. Do you have any history of asthma?" I shake my head at him; I’ve never had asthma problems before. "Okay, I’m going to give you a prescription to help relieve the inflammation. If you still have trouble breathing in 48 hours, I want to see you again, understand?" I nod my head. He makes a note on my chart and looks at me again. "Go home, take a hot shower and stand in the steam for awhile. That will help raise your temperature and the steam will be good for your lungs. If you have any additional problems, please let me know." He pats my knee kindly and moves over to Jaden.

"Now, Ms. Phillips, how are you feeling?" I wonder why she always gets called Ms. Phillips but everyone always calls me Grace. I must still appear like a kid to them. Jaden, on the other hand, has nothing kid-like about her, until you really get to know her.

She looks uncomfortable under Dr. Bryant’s scrutiny. He listens to her heart and lungs and seems satisfied with her vital signs.

"I’m fine, really. Just tired and a little sore." Jaden says, quickly glancing at me with a 100% readable look in her eye. She’s asking me not to tell the Doctor about her ribs. I’m torn. I don’t want to betray Jaden’s confidence, but I also love her and I can tell she’s in pain. I make my decision and try to apologize to her with my eyes.

"The paramedics from the Coast Guard said that she has some bruised ribs." I say quietly, not missing the angry look I get from Jaden. The doctor furrows his brow and asks the question I’ve wanted to ask since I found out about her ribs.

"How did you bruise your ribs?"

"The boat lurched hard to the side and I slipped off the seat. Grace came crashing down onto my chest." Jaden shrugs her shoulders and doesn’t look at me.

"Mind if I take a look?" Dr. Bryant asks and Jaden starts to pull up her gown.

I feel awful. Not only do I freaking hurt her ribs, I then make her endure an exam because of me. Some friend I am. I hang my head, hoping she’s not upset with me. Hearing her take a sharp intake of air in pain I glance up at her.

Oh Goddess, I can’t believe what I’ve done. Jaden’s entire midsection below her breasts is already a deep purple. Dr. Bryant is gently prodding at her ribs, eliciting painful sounds and curses from Jaden. She is clutching the seat of the chair, and I see that her entire body is tense. She’s never going to forgive me, hell; I’m never going to forgive myself.

"I’d like to take an X-Ray, and depending on the results of that possibly an MRI just to make sure there’s no internal bleeding." Dr. Bryant states. Jaden nods her head, apparently to tired to argue. "How are you feeling otherwise? Any abdominal cramping or trouble breathing?"

"No, I’m fine." She states, pulling her gown back down to cover herself.

"Okay, I’m going to give you a prescription for painkillers. I’ll have someone be down to take you to have an X-Ray in a few minutes." Dr. Bryant smiles at both of us and opens the door to leave the room.

"Doctor, the painkiller prescription isn’t necessary. I don’t take them." Jaden says.

"You’re going to have considerable pain with this kind of injury, Ms. Phillips. Painkillers will help take the edge off so you can sleep comfortably and move around better."

Jaden shakes her head adamantly. "I don’t take them, and I won’t accept the prescription." She squares her shoulders and looks right into Dr. Bryant’s eyes. He looks confused, but nods in agreement and leaves the room.

I don’t know what to say to her. How do you apologize for putting someone you love in horrible pain? I avert my gaze from her and pretend to be fascinated by the blood pressure machine hanging on the wall. She stands up and changes back into her clothes, throwing her hospital gown onto the chair. Walking over to me, she gently takes my chin and forces my eyes to rest on hers.

"What’s the matter?" She says, her voice soft and gentle.

"I’m so sorry." I tell her, my eyes welling with tears. "I didn’t mean to hurt you. I understand if you hate me." I sniff and wipe my eyes with the back of my hand.

"Shh. Gracie, first of all I could never hate you. I love you so much. And second of all, I would do anything, endure any pain, if it meant I could keep you safe, okay?" She wraps her arms around me, gently settling me against her breasts. I’m careful to hug her gently as to not hurt her ribs any further. "You didn’t do anything on purpose, and I am glad you landed on me rather than the hard ground. Then you’d be in a full-body cast and the rest of your trip here wouldn’t have been fun at all." I giggle, imagining myself covered by a cast. I’d be a horrible invalid.

The door opens and our favorite nurse is back. I giggle again, wondering if the nurse thinks that all we do is make out. Jaden chuckles and releases me, kissing my cheek gently. "Get dressed and I’ll be back in a minute. This shouldn’t take long." I nod at her, wiping my remaining tears as they leave. I groan at the thought of pulling on my disgusting clothes, but I do, wincing at the stiff, now-dried salt that scrapes my skin.

True to her word, Jaden is back shortly. She enters the room with two cans of pop and some vending machine snacks. She’s my hero.

"I’m hungry, so I bet that you’re starving." I roll my eyes at her as we divide up the snacks.


"Anytime, Gracie. Anytime."

A bed never felt so good. Jaden and I went through the Burger King drive in and ate ravenously on the drive home. We then collapsed into bed. I know that she really wanted to shower, and so did I, but we are both so exhausted that we had to get in bed. Dr. Bryant discovered that Jaden’s ribs were only bruised, not cracked, so he stopped hassling her about the painkillers. I wonder why she was so adamant about not taking them. I know some people don’t like to rely on them, but I’m surprised she didn’t have the prescription filled just in case the pain became really unbearable. The hospital filled my prescription there, saving us from having to stop to have it filled.

We are now lying naked in bed, my head resting comfortably on Jaden’s shoulder. She is softly stroking my stomach and I feel myself being lulled closer and closer to sleep. It’s hard to breathe while lying on my back, but I need to be close to Jaden right now. I’m hoping that one good night’s sleep will be what we both need. Jaden’s breathing is still shallow, but she seems not to be as in much pain lying still. My eyes drift close as my brain slowly shuts down. My curiosity overwhelms my desire for sleep and I have to ask her.

"Jaden, why won’t you take painkillers?" She is quiet, and for a minute I think she’s already fallen asleep. My eyes shut again, and I make a mental note to ask her again in the morning when we are both conscious. I pull the covers up tighter against us. I’m still freezing, but the combined warmth of Jaden and the warm blankets are quickly regulating my body temperature.

"Because I used to be a drug addict." Jaden suddenly answers.

Oh, that’s why she won’t take painkillers. She used to be a drug addict. Well, that makes sense. I nod and snuggle closer to her, appreciating her warmth. Then I actually realize what she said.

"You used to be a drug addict?" I suddenly say, not sure if I was dreaming or she was being serious.

"Yes." She answers quietly. I swallow, and am at a complete loss of words.

It’s quiet. Jaden has stopped breathing, and so have I. I’m not exactly sure what to say to her, I mean, when the person you’re madly in love with suddenly tells you that she used to be a drug addict, what do you say? "Oh great! I’ve always wanted to date a junkie!" I know that’s incredibly insulting and horrible to say. I don’t think of Jaden that way, but it was a shock to hear.

I clear my throat softly. "Jaden?"

"Yeah?" She answers, her voice soft and unreadable.

"Do you want to talk about it?" I ask, grasping her hand in the darkness and squeezing it gently. I hope she can be open with me about this.

"Not really." She says, and all my hope is dashed. I squeeze her hand again and continue holding it. I want her to know that nothing she says will scare me away or make me hate her. I could never feel that way about her. I just want her to feel comfortable and trust me enough to tell me of her past. "It was a long time ago Gracie, it’s not like I’m still using or anything." She says, her voice hard and cold.

"I know that. And if you were, I still would love you and be here for you." I answer truthfully. She says nothing, but I hear her breathing begin again, shallow and angry sounding. "Jaden?" I ask her, and am answered with muffled sounds that sound like quiet sobbing. "Sweetheart? Jaden, talk to me." I ask her, and she still doesn’t answer.

I sit up, my lungs screaming their protest at the sudden movement. Jaden’s tear-streaked face is hardly visible in the soft moonlight. She’s clutching the blankets, her knuckles straining white. I brush her inky hair back from her pained face, and wipe her tears away with my lips. I softly kiss every inch of her face, forehead, and finally her full lips. She returns my kiss so softly, and gently that I almost begin to cry myself. I move beside her and cradling her head and shoulders against my naked breasts, I slowly rock her.

"I love you so much. You can tell me anything, and I promise you Jaden, nothing will ever make me hate you or think less of you. I will never leave you." I whisper fiercely. Hearing my words, she sobs harder. "Shhh…sweetheart, it’s okay." I tell her, holding and rocking her. I’ll do anything to have her believe how sincere I am.

She laces her fingers in mine and slowly relaxes. She has her other hand over her injured ribs, and I realize that some of her sobbing was in result of the tremendous pain she’s in. I feel so guilty about putting her in physical pain, when she has so much emotional pain as well. All I can do is be supportive of her and love her with everything I have.

Silence again. She’s holding her breath again, either because she’s scared or it hurts her to breathe. I tangle my hand in her hair and stroke her scalp, my other hand secure in hers. Stroking her hair relaxes her, and I feel her muscles ease and her shoulders finally rest comfortably on my lap. I tease and tickle her hair and neck until I think she’s fallen asleep. My heart is aching for the pain she’s in, and as I look at her beautiful face I am filled with such love and longing. I’ve never felt like this with anyone before, and I know I’ll never feel this again. I feel such a pure, undying love for this woman. From the moment I laid eyes on her I knew we were to be together. We’ve been together in past lives, and we will be in future. I’m certain of this.

Holding her, protecting her, it feels so strange. But it’s a job that I will take very seriously. I will never let anyone hurt her, if I can help it. "I love you Jaden." I whisper to her, determined to not let her go for the rest of this night. Or the rest of my life if I can help it.

"Love you Gracie." She whispers back, a faint smile on her lush lips. I smile at her, sudden tears making my eyes sting. I lean back against the headboard of her bed and close my eyes. I’m so tired, and blackness is all I see.


June 2, 2000

I groan and stretch as I wake up. Ouch, I’m stiff, and why the hell am I sitting up? I reluctantly open my eyes, groaning when the harsh morning light makes me wince. Adjusting to the change I greet the sun, and am now clearly able to see around the room. Jaden is lying in my lap, her dark hair tangled around my thighs and stomach. Her eyes are still closed, and I can tell from her even breathing that she is still asleep. I stretch my back upwards and am rewarded with a nice popping sound as my back cracks. Ahhh, that feels better. Okay, I’m faced with a very difficult decision. Jaden is sleeping so peacefully and the last thing I want to do is wake her, but I’ve never had to pee more than this minute. Her head resting directly on my bladder doesn’t help at all. I delicately try to get up, only to have Jaden frown and pout as she settles herself more firmly onto my lap.

What are my options? I can’t tickle her because it would hurt her ribs. I don’t really want to wake her, according her to bedside clock it’s already 11:00am. I guess I’ll try to slip out again. I try to send her a mental telegram stating: Urgent! Your girlfriend needs to pee! But her telepathy doesn’t seem to be working today. I struggle for another few seconds until I look down just in time to see a blue eye snap shut. Ah ha, so the little sneak is playing with me. What a brat.

"Um, Jaden honey?" I ask in my most pathetic voice.

"Jaden’s sleeping. Please leave a message." She says, not able to control the edges of her smile as they quirk into a faint smile.

"Well, wake her up because I have to pee like a racehorse." I tell her, laughing at the absurdity of this situation.

"How does a racehorse pee?" She asks, now opening both of her stunning eyes in mock innocence.

"You’re going to find out if you don’t let me up now!" I tell her, laughing as she lifts her head and shoulders and allows me to slip out of bed. She stiffly lies down and I know her ribs must be killing her. She smiles, as if to tell me not to worry. Yeah right, that won’t work. "Hey, I’m feeling really grubby so I’m going to take a shower, you wanna join me?" I ask, leering at her uncovered breasts.

"In a minute, let me wake up first." She says, returning my leer with one of her own. I blush and hurry out of the bedroom. I don’t know how she can constantly make me be turned on, she can give me one look and I freaking melt.

After my poor bladder finally relieves itself, I grab two clean towels and hang them over the towel bar. It’s suddenly hard to breathe and I look around, panicked at the sudden heaviness of my lungs. I open the bathroom door and step out into the hall. That was weird, I felt so claustrophobic all of a sudden. I return to the bathroom and hesitantly shut the door again. Trying to calm myself I take deep, even breaths. I feel better, knowing that I can just open the door and relieve the trapped feeling.

I turn on the shower and step in, looking forward to finally getting clean. After checking the temperature I step into the warm water. Rinsing myself off I feel the salt and sweat from yesterday’s ordeal washing off. This is heavenly; I never knew water could feel so wonderful.

My chest clenches and I can’t breathe again. Flashes from yesterday run through my head. I’m transported to the lifeboat, the narrow shower my coffin and the water falling on me the pelting rain from yesterday. I have to get out of here, but I’m trapped. I can’t move and though I know I’m being irrational and stupid, I’m truly as afraid right now as I was yesterday.

I sink to the floor of the shower, covering my head with my hands as I crouch down as much as I can. Tears fall, out of my control, and I feel as if I’m suffocating. My body wracks and shakes, trying to take in enough oxygen from my paralyzed lungs. "I’m going to die." I chant over and over in my head. "I’m going to die."

"Grace!" I hear, and I barely recognize Jaden as she steps into the shower and helps me to my feet. "Sweetheart, what is the matter? Did you fall?" I collapse into her arms and sob heavily against her. She supports my weight and runs her hands over me, checking for injuries. "Grace, what is wrong?" She asks frantically now, shaking my shoulders gently.

"I’m going to die, we’re going to sink, won’t stop raining." I manage to spit out, hoping she’ll understand. I take in a ragged breath, and choke on the water that has worked its way into my throat. Jaden embraces me, her warm and wet body the comfort I need right now.

"It’s okay, we’re fine." She says firmly. "Breathe sweetheart. Calm down and take in deep breaths. We are not in the lifeboat; you are in my very safe shower in my very safe apartment. I won’t let anything happen to you." I believe her, but I am still terrified. I try to pull away from her, I need to get out of this bathroom now, but she won’t let me go. "Gracie, you can’t run from this. Stay with me, please? Nothing will hurt you." I nod numbly and allow myself to be held by her.

It’s easier to breathe now, the steam from the shower is opening my lungs and Jaden’s presence is reassuring. She gently washes my body and hair, and I trust her when she holds my head under water to rinse the shampoo out. She quickly washes herself and turns the water off after rinsing her hair.

"Come on, let’s get you dried off." She says, her voice sweet like warm honey. She softly dries me with a large towel, taking extra care to dry my long hair. I feel numb, only slightly aware of her smooth hands on my body. She dries herself off and opens the bathroom door. "Stay here, I’ll be right back." She tells me, and I nod. She returns quickly with a warm blue bathrobe in her hands. Helping me into it, she ties the waist sash and kisses my forehead. "This will keep you warm. I never wear it anymore." I smile at her, the bathrobe smells like her, clean and soft and strong. I never want to take it off. It is huge on me, the sleeves in desperate need of rolling up, and the bottom of the robe almost dragging on the floor. I feel completely surrounded and safe. "Come here." She demands gently, and I comply by following her back into bed. She puts on a pair of sweats, hissing in pain when she raises her arms to put a faded t-shirt on. I notice her midsection is an angry-looking purple, and from her stiff movements she must be in horrible pain.

"I’m so sorry about your ribs." My voice is quiet and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to tell her how guilty I feel. She shushes me and curls herself around me as best as she can with bruised ribs.

"Are you hungry?" She asks, and I nod. "What do you feel like?" I shrug slightly.

"I don’t care, whatever you want." I tell her, and she thinks for a moment. "What day is it?" I ask, confused by yesterday’s events still.

"It’s Wednesday, June 2nd." Jaden says, her warm breath on my ear. "And we still have a long time before you have to leave."

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" I ask, afraid of the answer.

"Grace McKenzie!" She chides me. "Please don’t say things like that, you know how important you are to me. I hate to think of you leaving."

"Me too." I say softly, and she plants a soft kiss on my ear. I enjoy the feel of her warm self around me, and the soft cotton of her bathrobe. I never want to leave this bed, or her embrace. "Jaden, can we just stay here today? Lie around all day and do nothing but watch T.V. and hold each other?"

"Of course." She answers immediately. "We can stay here as long as you would like."
"How about forever?" I ask her in my head, but I can’t make myself say the words out loud.


June 5, 2000

I can’t believe it’s already Saturday. This week has flown by so fast.

Monday: Picked Grace up from the airport.

Tuesday: Went whale watching and survived a shipwreck.

Wednesday: Spent the entire day in bed eating delivered food and watching movies.

Thursday: Spent the entire day in bed eating delivered food, watching movies, and having sweet and passionate sex.

Friday: Spent the entire day in bed eating delivered food, watching movies, having sweet and passionate sex, and talking about how scary Tuesday was. At least we’re now talking about what happened instead of ignoring it.

And then it’s Saturday. This fun-filled, exciting week I planned for Grace hasn’t gone exactly like I planned. In fact, it’s not even close to what I had in mind.

Grace is still terrified of being alone in small, confined places. I have no idea how she’s going to survive the plane ride home. I can’t stand the thought of her being so afraid, and there is nothing I can do to help her with her fear. She needs me to be in the shower with her, my presence seemingly the only thing that reassures her that she is safe. I wish I could be around her all the time to reassure her, but I know that she needs to be able to reassure herself.

I’m still in agonizing pain. Not that I’d ever let on to Grace, mind you, but I can’t believe how much my ribs hurt. I’ve had bruised ribs before, but never this bad. Combined with my sore back from opening that jammed door on the ship, and my overall stiffness, I’m not exactly a happy camper.

But I’m determined to make these last few days we have together really special. I want to take Grace to meet my grandmother and Studley. But most importantly, I want her to stay.

I can’t kid myself any longer. I’ve opened up to her more than I’ve ever opened up to anyone. She is the most important thing in my life, and I haven’t even really known her for that long. I want her to live here, to go to a college she really loves here, and to have the freedom of finding herself, realizing who she is. I know she’s not the shy girl with the sparkling blue-green eyes that she plays in Ohio. That’s a role she has to play because of her family.

But I’m scared. Scared that I told her about my former drug addiction. Terrified that once she knows the real Jaden Phillips she will run. How do you tell the love of your life about your deep dark past without scaring them senseless?

I’m torn between falling too much in love with her and pushing her away. Every moment I spend with her is a constant struggle within myself. "Don’t get too attached, because once she knows the truth she will hate you." That’s my motto.

"Jaden?" Grace’s timid voice on the other end of the shower curtain interrupts my thoughts.

"I’m right here sweetheart."

"Oh. Okay." She answers quietly. I’m sitting on my bathroom counter while Grace takes a shower. I offered to get in with her like I have every day since Tuesday, but she said she should force herself to shower alone again, because I can’t shower with her when she’s back in Ohio. Well, I guess I could but it sure would get Mrs. McKenzie’s panties in a twist, wouldn’t it?

So I promised to stay here in the bathroom while Grace showered alone. She’s doing really well, only calling out to make sure I’m here a few times. I have to take her somewhere fun, to get her mind off of her fears and troubles. And getting out of the house will be great for me too. The more I walk and keep my body moving, the faster the pain will fade. I’ve had three splendid days of bed rest, and it’s now time to get back out in the real world.

I finish towel drying my hair as I go over some plans for the day. I hear Grace turn the water off and she flings back the shower curtain, sprinkling me with droplets of water. She smiles brightly, her aqua eyes flashing with energy that has been missing since the accident on Tuesday. She steps out of the shower, her clean, white skin glowing in the soft lights of the bathroom.

"I did it!" She says triumphantly as she dries herself off. "I didn’t even have to have you come in the shower with me!" She grins again and I can’t help but smile back at her. "I feel so stupid, getting so excited about being able to shower by myself."

"You’re not stupid." I tell her, as I slowly get down from my countertop seat. "I’m really proud of you. We went through a terrifying experience and you have every right to have remaining fears." I sound like a therapist; my years of therapy after Jonah’s death must be rubbing off on me. I pepper Grace’s face and neck with soft kisses and she giggles. She’s so sweet.

Leaving the bathroom, I can’t help but be slightly disappointed by Grace’s newfound shower independence. I know she needed me to feel safe, and I can’t deny that a part of myself thoroughly enjoyed that. I love protecting her, and I love that she needs and wants me to protect her.

Sometimes she reminds me so much of Jonah. Even though he was my big brother who protected me when we were young, when we were in middle school he was really dependent on me. He loved to read and some called him a nerd because he was so smart. I was the street-tough, scary girl that had everyone afraid of her. Jonah would come home from school, crying because boys at school had picked on him, or stolen his lunch money. That next day Jonah’s little sister would beat the crap out of those boys. I’m sure it didn’t do much for Jonah’s reputation to have his little sister fighting his battles, but he never seemed to mind.

I loved being his protector. I felt that if I was at his side, no one could ever hurt him. And that’s how I feel about Grace. She is so sweet and innocent, like Jonah was. I want to beat up every person that has ever hurt her, and protect her until the day I die. I know it’s co-dependant, but I can’t stop myself from being her protector. And I never want to stop.


Later that evening:

I can’t believe this! I, Grace McKenzie, am at my very first gay club. This is so cool! Jaden surprised me tonight, saying she was tired of lying around the house and wanted to go out. I was up for anything she suggested; I think we both were becoming a little stir-crazy from doing nothing since the accident.

I shudder, thinking of the accident. I can’t believed how totally screwed up everything is because of that. I’m slowly becoming less afraid about being alone, or small places, or the shower, but I still feel a lot of unresolved fear. Today is a better day, I was actually able to shower by myself and that has seemed to boost my confidence in myself.

Back to my excitement: this club is so great! In Ohio, I don’t think there are any gay clubs, at least not where I’m from. And even if there were, I couldn’t go to them because with my luck, someone would "out" me to my family. And then I’d be kicked out with nowhere to go. But here, I feel free to be myself.

There are mostly men here, but I’ve seen quite a few women. Everyone checks Jaden out, even the men. I’m not surprised; I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone as stunning as Jaden. I link my arm in hers, trying to convey the message that she’s very taken. A few of the women smile at me, congratulating me on my prize. I smile back, very proud of the woman at my side.

It’s hot in here, and the dance floor is filled with gyrating people, further raising the temperature of the club. Bright multicolored lights blink, and a large disco ball suspended from the ceiling casts light on everyone in the club. Jaden leads the way, cutting a path through the crowd that I dutifully follow. Her ribs don’t seem to be bothering her, although I don’t know how, and she finally spies two seats at the bar. Helping me into the tall bar stool she sits next to me, draping her hand on my thigh. We order some drinks, and I’m glad I finished my prescription from Dr. Bryant on Friday so I can have alcohol now. It really helped, the only time my lungs would hurt was when I would get tense and afraid, and the medicine really relieved that.

The bartender is so cute; Francisco is a petite Hispanic man wearing an impossibly tight red shirt. He’s really friendly, asking us questions about ourselves whenever he has a free minute. Jaden, of course, grudgingly reveals small tidbits of information about herself. I, on the other hand, influenced by the stress-free atmosphere and a few drinks in my system, practically tell him my life story. Jaden shakes her head at my openness, and winks at Francisco. He smiles back at her, the both of them obviously aware at my already-buzzed state.

"Let’s dance." Jaden says to me, helping me out of the barstool. I stumble and she catches me. Giggling, I smile at her, and then stand up to tell the bartender to save our seats.

Following Jaden onto the dance floor, I can’t believe how my head is spinning. The music is fast and I feel dizzy as I try my best to follow Jaden’s fluid body.

She can really dance, like a cat. Not that cats can even dance, but if they could they’d dance like Jaden. "You dance like a cat!" I tell her over the loud music. She looks at me funny and I repeat myself. "You! Dancing like a cat!" I tell her, smiling, and she smiles back at me. I knew she’d understand.

I dance like a cat? What the hell does that mean? Grace is totally wasted. I can only smile at her and continue dancing. She’s not exactly a wonderful dancer, in fact, she reminds me of Elaine from Seinfeld. She is snapping her fingers and kicking her feet completely to the wrong beat of the music. She is adorable. The gay men that surround us look at her with disdain, and the few women scattered around the dance floor grin at me. I can do nothing but stay close to her and make sure she doesn’t fall.

She almost wiped out trying to get off the barstool. I’ve never seen Grace really drink, but after the three drinks she had she is really buzzed already. She is having a wonderful time, and that’s all that matters.

We dance for a few more fast songs, and then the tempo changes to a slow beat. I pull Grace to me, groaning slightly as her breasts bump my ribs painfully. She tries to pull away and I hold her close, hoping she’ll just let me take control. She does, going almost limp in my arms. We sway in beat to the music, her short arms around my neck and her face buried in my shoulder. I hold her close to me and find myself getting turned on by her lithe body pressed against mine. My arms close tighter around her lower back, and I lower my mouth to her ear.

"I can’t wait to get you home and make you come." I tell her, following my statement with a nibble to her earlobe. She sighs and shudders in my arms. I smile, loving the effect I have on her. She gently pulls away and looks into my eyes. She is so cute, her bright eyes are watery and not as focused as they usually are. Her face is flushed, and her fair hair is mussed.

"Let’s go now." She says, her words slightly slurred. I smirk and shake my head at her, resulting in a full-blown Grace pout. "Why?" She asks, her voice childlike.

"I have to stay for about another hour, just to make sure I’m okay to drive." Grace nods, but I know that in her state she probably doesn’t fully understand. I have a high tolerance for alcohol, and I’ve only had two drinks in two hours. I’m not even feeling the effect at all, but I never take any chances.

We finish our dance and return to our seats. Grace orders another drink and I refrain from telling her she should slow down. This is supposed to be a fun night, but I don’t really feel like carrying her up two flights of stairs to get her into the apartment.

I excuse myself for the restroom, kissing Grace lightly and telling her I’ll be back soon. She looks a bit panicked about me leaving, but I assure her I’ll only be a minute.

"Watch her." I growl to Francisco, and he smiles.

"Yes ma’am." He answers, dancing his way over to Grace. I shake my head, he’s a cute kid and I know he’ll take care of her.

The line for the restroom isn’t too long and I soon wind my way through the crowd to find Grace. There is an older man sitting at my barstool with his hand on an uncomfortable-looking Grace’s shoulder. Before I can get there, Francisco appears next to the man. I finally make my way over, concerned at what is going on.

"I was just being friendly, she looked lonely!" The man, who’s obviously had one too many, says to our angry-looking bartender.

"And I said to leave her alone!" Francisco replies, his thick-accented voice rising above the loud music.

"What’s going on?" I ask, immediately going to Grace, who’s still sitting at the bar. She looks confused, and doesn’t answer.

"He came over to her and wanted to buy her a drink. She said no, and he became more insistent, telling her she was so pretty and how he’d like to get to know her better. That’s when I came over." Francisco answers helpfully.

"She’s taken." I say to the older man, and I poke my finger roughly into his chest. "That means you don’t talk to her, or come near her. In fact, if you even look at her you’ll go home wishing you hadn’t. Do you understand me?" I poke him again, and he stumbles backwards.

"That’s right!" Francisco calls from behind me, and the bar erupts in laughter. The man turns around and disappears into the crowd, who then applauds me. I roll my eyes and turn around. Grace has an expression of shock and admiration on her face.

"My hero!" She calls, throwing herself off the barstool and into my arms. I laugh, even though she’s killing my ribs, and kiss her awaiting mouth. The crowd cheers and Francisco slaps me on the back. I return Grace to her barstool and bow for the applauding and cheering crowd. Jesus Christ, you would think they’ve never seen anything like it. It wasn’t a big deal. However, I do wonder if I’ll ever be able to take Grace anywhere without her getting in some kind of trouble.

"Only you could get hit on in a gay bar by a man." I tell her, and she laughs hysterically.



"Oh I wish I was in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten! Look away, look away, Dixieland!"

I sigh and pat Grace’s leg. Ever since we left the bar she’s been singing "Dixieland." Actually, that’s why we left the bar, because after the creep tried to hit on her, we danced a bit more and she had a few more drinks. That was a huge mistake. After her 6th drink, she started trying to get the bar to sing "Dixieland," "Swing Lo’, Sweet Chariot," and other such songs. That’s when we made our abrupt leave. Francisco hugged us both and told me to take care of my chica. I promised him I would. Then we got in my Explorer and ever since she’s been singing "Dixieland."

I never realized how long of a car ride it was from Boston to my apartment. It’s less than an hour, but when Grace won’t stop singing, it sure seems like longer.

"Sing with me!" She demands, and I sing with her. She giggles like it’s the most fun thing we’ve ever done and I shake my head.

"Oh! Jaden! Let’s rhyme!" She says, giggling.

She wants to rhyme? What in the hell were in those drinks?

Seeing as I’m not going to join her, Grace takes the lead herself.

"Some fish died and sure smelled rotten, but it didn’t matter cause they were smotten, have some hay, cause you’re gay, I love quay, Dixieland!"

Well, I know she can rhyme. I erupt in laughter, and Grace laughs with me. I have no idea what she is singing now; she’s just making up words that rhyme now.

At least she’s entertaining. We pass a road sign stating: Beverly 28 miles. Grace now decides to try to sing "Dixieland" in French.

I sigh and speed up.



Part 6: Coming soon! Stay tuned and please email me with feedback!!!

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