If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com
“What? Stop that,” Willow swatted Rachel’s hand away from her stomach. “Move on. There’s nothing to see here.” She quickly pulled her scrubs shirt over her head.
“I just can’t believe there’s a baby in there!” the redhead gushed, giving her friend a hug for the umpteenth time.
“Me, either.” Willow grinned.
“Have things gotten any better with daddy dumbass?” Rachel slammed her locker shut, clipping her name badge to her shirt.
“Yeah. He’s trying. I don’t know.” She closed her own locker. “I think it’ll just take time for him to get used to the idea. He only found out a week ago.”
“Are you guys talking yet?”
“We never really stopped. Things are just, I don’t know,” the blonde plopped down on the bench that lined the aisle between the rows of lockers. “I just feel very distant from him right now. I’m sure I’ll get over it, and he’ll grow up, and everything will be fine.”
“Hmm,” Rachel didn’t sound so convinced. She opened her mouth about to say something when she stopped at the knock on the frosted glass window of the door. It squeaked open and Lindsey Huff stuck her head in.
“Um, sorry to bother you guys, but Willow, you have a visitor,” the young volunteer said, her cheeks flushed.
“Thanks, Lindsey. I’ll be there in a-“ the blonde stopped, seeing her visitor standing in the doorway of the locker room, where the volunteer had been.
“Holy shit,” Rachel muttered.
“Hi,” Willow walked over to the taller woman, a smile instantly lighting up her face. Christine smiled in return.
“I was in the neighborhood.” She held up two big brown teddy bears, one with a pink bow around its neck, the other blue. “You never know.”
“Oh,” instantly the emotion welled up in Willow’s chest, and she flung her arms around the singer’s neck, overwhelmed by just how sweet a gesture it was. God only knew how busy the singer was, and the fact that she’d actually listened to her message, and had come from god only knew where, just for her!
“Whoa!” Christine had to balance herself against the doorframe in order to not be totally bowled over by the crying blonde.
Mid-hug, Willow realized how obnoxious she was being, and feeling very self-conscious, she stepped back from the woman who grinned down at her.
“Sorry.” She stepped back to a polite distance.
“It’s okay. I’m happy to see you, too.” Christine gave the little blonde the most winning smile she had, wanting the nurse to know her exuberance was very okay. “Here.” She held out the bears again, and the blonde hugged them to her.
“This is so sweet, Christine, thank you.”
“Well, it’s a very special occasion. Congratulations.” She leaned down a bit, studying the blonde with concerned eyes. “Are you okay, Willow?” The message had been harried and the blonde had sounded very upset, causing Christine to immediately cancel her last shoot, and catch a flight down to Oklahoma.
“Oh,” Willow looked away, realizing suddenly that two very interested pairs of ears were with them. She looked around, seeing Rachel sitting on the bench, and Lindsey hanging out in the hall. “Want to get some coffee? I have about thirty minutes before my shift starts.”
Teddy bears in arms, Willow led them toward the cafeteria. “Will this be okay?” she asked quietly, seeing people already beginning to stare. She had no doubt that Lindsey was telling as many people as possible who was in their hospital.
“We should be fine. And, if things start to get too bad you can beat them off with Anne and Andy there,” she tugged on the ear of one of the bears. Willow glared, earning her a smile.
They found a seat at a table toward the back of the cafeteria. Willow wanted to make as little deal of this as she could, and bring as little attention as possible. But the first person who bugged them, she was dragging Christine out of there.
“What are you doing here?” Willow asked, her voice hushed as she removed the lid from her hot cider, blowing across the surface of the amber liquid.
“I got your message. I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there for you.” Christine looked so genuine Willow wanted to cry again. “I just, well, I’ve been so busy and everything has been beyond crazy, I kind of went on ignore mode.” She smiled sheepishly. “I was trying to avoid Bob.”
“Knowles. My manager.”
“Oh. Can’t say I blame you,” the blonde muttered, then looked up at her friend shyly. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay. So anyway, what’s going on?” Christine wrapped her hands around her cup of coffee, which she’d already noticed Willow had given a coveting look twice.
“Oh gosh, you’re so busy and yet you’re here? I’m so sorry. Please, Christine, don’t mess up your schedule or make it worse on my account, please-“
“Willow,” Christine gently interrupted. “I’m here because I want to be. Okay?” The blonde nodded. “Okay.”
“Well, what’s happening? Why is your schedule so busy? You must be exhausted.”
“Yes, however,” the singer placed a warm hand over Willow’s “We’re not here to talk about me. I came here to talk about this wonderful news. Don’t change the subject.”
“I’m fine, Christine. Really,” the sadness in those expressive green eyes told a very different story. Christine decided to try a different tactic.
“Willow,” she said, lowering her voice. “you live your life to help other people. You have one of the kindest hearts I’ve ever seen in another human being. Hell, your life and your job is spent helping.” She paused, looking into those green eyes, making sure that her words were sinking in. “Please let me be there for you. Let me help. Okay?”
Willow studied the beautiful singer, finally looking away, unable to meet that intense gaze.
“I found out about this the day I called you. I was five weeks pregnant, and very thrilled about the baby, …”
“But,” she sighed. “Kevin, …”
“No. He’s not.” Willow looked down, staring into her cup, wishing to go she could see her future in it. She felt the hot sting of unshed tears.
“I’m sorry,” Christine squeezed the hand that her own still covered. Willow shrugged, taking several deep breaths.
“He just needs some time to get used to the idea.” She smiled though it was completely forced, and very obviously so. “I have no doubt that I’ll be so busy getting ready for the baby and throwing up that I won’t even notice.”
Christine studied the blonde for a moment, then smiled gently. “I’m sure you will.”
“Well, I need to start my shift, so,”
“Of course.” The singer pushed her chair back, taking a step sideways so she was standing next to the table. Willow did the same, smiling shyly up at her friend.
“It means a lot to me that you came. Thank you.”
“Any time.” Christine took the smaller woman into a warm hug, tight but brief. “Take care of you and little you.” She glanced down at what would soon be a little basketball.
“I will,” Willow chuckled. “Take care of you, too. Okay?”
“I will. See you later, Willow.”
“Bye, Christine.” The blonde watched as the singer tugged on a baseball cap, pulling her ponytail through the back. She headed toward the sliding glass doors of the hospital entrance, swallowed up by the night beyond.
The flick of the crisp paper filled the breakfast nook as pages were turned and straightened, then coffee sipped as a new morning dawned.
“Hmm. That big car show is coming back this year,” Kevin murmured, absently sipping from his big mug, handmade by a local potter.
“You and Joe going to go?” Willow asked, finger running down the page as she scanned for her horoscope.
“We might.” More paper ruffling, then the screech of Kevin’s chair on the Mexican tile. “Wait,” he said, brows furrowed. Willow ignored him, figuring if it was that big a deal he’d tell her about it. “Isn’t this that singer you like?”
Willow glanced over at her husband, who was holding the paper up, his finger tapping a short story in the entertainment section.
GRAY VISITS HOMETOWN HOSPITAL
Green eyes flicked up to her husband. “Holy shit!” Willow grimace, knowing what was coming next. “She talked to you? It says here you guys were chatting at table in the cafeteria.” There was no accusation in his voice, just wonder and confusion.
“Yes, we were.”
“Why didn’t you tell me? What was she doing here?” He looked at her with narrowed brows.
The blonde sighed, deciding to tell Kevin about Christine and their past. She just hoped he’d be understanding.
“Christine and I kind of know each other, honey.”
Brows shot up. “How?”
“I saved her life.” She looked at him, seeing the slow grin of disbelief spreading across his features. The seriousness of her own gaze stopped the grin in its tracks.
“Yes. She has come here before. She stayed in our house.”
The paper hit the table with a crisp slap. “What? Why didn’t you say anything? How long ago did this happen?”
“Which?” she was beginning to feel the first strains of panicked guilt.
“Any of it. All of it,” he looked at her with hard eyes, unconsciously leaning forward in his seat.
“I saved her last winter,” Willow sighed, looking down. “The concert Rachel and I went to was a thank you from her. She took us backstage after the show, then took me to dinner.”
“Christine Gray took you to dinner?” there was doubt in his voice.
“Yes. I went to dinner with her and her band, and before I came in the house she gave me her phone number. I called her out of curiosity, and invited her out here.”
“Where the hell was I?”
“Fishing with your brothers.”
“I see.” He sighed, glancing out the window. “This would be the weekend your friend, Marion came to stay, right?” he glanced at here again, blue eyes blazing. “Marion who is in the middle of a divorce with her husband and needed to get away. That Marion?” Willow opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the screech of his chair. It was nearly knocked over backwards as Kevin pushed away from it and stormed out of the house.
The blonde ran a hand through her hair, then stood, pushing both her and Kevin’s chair under the table.
It wasn’t hard to find the man who had retreated to his cave and play land- the garage. She could hear him sawing away at something, and wondered just how good an idea it was to talk to him when he was not only angry at her, but also had a weapon in his hand. Deciding to take the risk, she entered into his domain.
“Kevin,” she said quietly as she took in the mass of materials spread out over the concrete floor of his workshop- wood, metal scraps, tools and buckets of various types and sizes of screws and nails. He did not answer, nor did his sawing slow. “I’m sorry.”
“Why did you lie to me?” he asked, his voice breaking her heart. He sounded like a little boy.
“When everything happened that night with Christine, her manger and lawyer made me sign a contract that I wouldn’t tell anyone-“
“I’m your husband, Willow!” he looked at her, face red from the exertion of his sawing mixed with his anger. “You should have trusted me.”
“And the rest of it. I mean, this woman was at the house! It doesn’t get anymore personal than that.” He sighed again, giving up on the sawing. He set the blade on the counter of his workstation, one hand on his hip, the other fingering some wood shavings. He did not look at his wife. “You’ve always been a private person, and I’ve really tried to do my best to understand that, to try and respect that.” He looked at her.
“Yes, you have,” Willow said quietly.
“Why do you keep stuff from me?” his voice was pleading now. “Respecting your privacy and you keeping stuff from me are two very different things. This isn’t the first time, either, Willow. Why was Rachel good enough to go to the concert?”
“She was there that night, Kevin. She was working the ER.”
“What happened? Why was Christine Gray, first off, here, and secondly, why was she in the hospital?”
“It’s personal to her, I can’t-“
“Jesus!” He stormed past her, yanking the door open on his truck and climbing behind the wheel. Glaring at her through the windshield, the truck roared to life, and he backed out of the large garage with a squeal of tires.
“Crap,” Willow plopped down on his stool, head cradled in her hands. She knew she was wrong, should have told Kevin about all this long ago. She should have trusted him with this, knowing damn well he wouldn’t go yell it out on the rooftops. Truth be told he would have said something akin to, “Neat.”
Standing, she brushed the butt of her shorts off, dirt and dust everywhere in Kevin’s shop. She walked out into the early morning sun, letting it warm the cold that filled her. She was tired of fighting, and it had been happening a lot. And over the stupidest things.
Ever since she had told him about the baby, they’d both been edgy, and Kevin seemed constantly on the defense. She thought back to a few nights ago.
I crawl up his body, kissing a trail as I go. I feel hands in my hair, caressing my scalp, sometimes tugging on the strands. I wince but say nothing. He still tastes like sweat.
“Mm,” I moan as I reach Kevin’s neck, the little hairs of his days worth of growth tickling my skin. “You know what’s a good thing?” I breath into his ear.
“That you’re going to let me finally rest and recuperate?” he grinned. I chuckle against his temple.
“No, the fact that I can do this all the way to the end, just before I give birth,” I purr. He stiffens, and not in the good way. Feeling the change in him, I sit up from my place, straddling his body, just in front of his erect penis. I look down at him, brows drawn. His face is turned to the side, a hand resting behind his head. “What is it?”
“Guess I’m just really tired,” he says, a cold smile covering his lips.
“Bull.” Anger is beginning to fill me. “Did mention of our baby make you go soft?” I smirk at my little joke, noting that was exactly what was happening.
“Can we just have some time for us, Willow?” he is looking at me, eyes blazing. “Can we just have some fucking peace before this kid comes? Jesus! I don’t give a shit! I just want to fuck, okay?”
I’m stunned, and frozen with disgust. It only took me a moment to gain myself, and push away from him. Sitting on the bed, looking at him, I pull my legs up, knees against my naked breasts. He stays where he is.
“What?” he asks, voice defensive.
“Where did you learn to be so cold?” I whisper. He sighs, then sits up, turning so his feet on the floor and back is to me. He says nothing, making me that much angrier. “Kevin?” He sighs again.
“Don’t you like our life as it is?” he asks, standing and facing me.
“Yes, of course I do,” I say, unsure where this is leading.
“Then why change it, Willow? Why brings a stress in that we don’t need?” He looks at me, eyes boring into mine, demanding an answer.
I stare at him, trying to keep my tempter under control, as well as try to understand why this baby bothered him so much. I find my voice, though it’s low and dangerously calm.
“Why do you hate your baby so much, Kevin?”
“I don’t, but I don’t feel we need it. We have such a good life, honey, and we can go wherever we want at will, we are finally doing really great financially,” his voice trails off, seeing the look of disgust I have no doubt is on my face. It’s certainly what I’m feeling.
“You selfish bastard.” He blinks in surprise, but says nothing. “We’re both almost thirty, and it’s time to be grown-ups. We’ve had seven wonderful years together, and now I’m ready for a family.”
His jaw and lips tighten. “Well I’m not.”
Willow felt something tickling her neck, and she raised her tear-streaked face from her arms, which rested on the top rail of the fence. Star snorted, nudging her with her nose again.
“Hey, baby,” the blonde whispered, kissing the mare’s nose. “What are we going to do, girl? Huh?” Snorting again, the horse bobbed her head, making her owner smile. “Yeah, I know we’re screwed.”
“What?!” Sandra ran into the room, hot espresso sloshing onto her hand. “Fuck,” she muttered, setting the tiny cup down.
“Oklahoma! She was in fucking Oklahoma!” Bob Knowles cried out, backhanding the newspaper in his hand.
“I ran in here for that?” Sandra untied the belt of her silk robe, letting the garment slide to the floor, and took her place back in bed, a hazelnut breve in hand. “And here I thought it was something important,” she muttered.
“Did she tell you she was going to Oklahoma?” Bob asked, turning to the designer, dark brows drawn to form a perfectly arched line above his dark eyes.
“By she I assume you mean Christine, and no, I wasn’t on guard duty that day.” She looked at the manager who sat next to her, as naked as she.
“Don’t be smart, Sandra. This could be disastrous.” He studied the story once a again, scanning it for any minute detail he might have missed.
“For whom, love?” she sipped the rich drink, closing her eyes in satisfaction.
“What if someone finds out,” he murmured, to no one in particular. “My career would be over.”
“Robert, you are absolutely obsessed. What say you loosen the reigns a bit, hmm?” Bob’s dark eyes met the designer’s blue. “Me thinks the natives are getting restless,” she finished quietly.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, Christine is not the stupid, naïve fourteen year old girl you brought here almost two decades ago. She has learned well from you, Robert, and I fear she may very well turn those lessons back onto an unwavering master.”
“I have never steered her wrong, Sandra. Anything I have ever told her to do was for her best interest.” He said, voice low and defensive.
“Hmm. I’m sure. But you must know she is biting at the bit?” sip “She’s a grown woman now, and no longer needs daddy to guide her every move and shadow her every step only to question her. Robert, you’ve done everything you can do for her, so now just sit back and reap the rewards of twenty years of hard work.”
Bob turned in the bed, his mood darkening significantly. “What are you saying? What has she told you?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all.” Sandra smiled sweetly as she sipped her breve, eyes never leaving her lover of more than ten years. She may fuck him, but she would never understand him.
Knowles studied her, eyes narrowing as he watched ever muscle in her face, every nuance of her eyes. He was good at reading people, and Sandra was no different.
“There’s something you’re not telling me,” he said quietly.
“What’s to be told?” Sandra grabbed the entertainment section from the paper that lay in a neat pile on Robert’s lap. He snatched the page from her hands, tossing it aside.
“Tell me,” he demanded, leaning forward, face mere inches from the designer’s. She met the challenge, loathing to be made to feel intimidated.
“Look into her eyes, Robert. She’s miserable, and I don’t blame her.”
“Is that so?” His eyes narrowed even more, mere slits. “If you dislike the way I handle my business so much then why don’t you go? Remember, Sandra, I made you and I can unmake you.”
Oh, no. He did not just make a threat! “As I recall, Bob, Christine made me. And she made you, too.”
With that, she threw the sheets aside and stormed into the huge, adjoining bathroom. In furious haste, she threw her clothing on from the night before. Finger-combing her hair, she looked at the man who still sat in up in the massive bed.
Stopping at the door, she turned to him. “Don’t forget, Christine is the one with the power now. In fifty years who are people going to remember? Christine Gray or Robert Knowles?” With that she was gone.
Willow chewed lightly on the arm of her reading glasses, looking down at her most recent work. The words and letters stretched out across the page, in the slightly crooked angle that she could never straighten on the unlined paper. The last line caught her and made her already burning eyes feel like they were on fire-
My heart bleeds.
Indeed it did. It made the blonde sad that she was writing again after so many years; she only wrote when in the deepest pain, or confusion. She was now in both.
Setting the glasses down, she sighed and closed the notebook, holding it against her chest as she stared out the living room’s bay window, watching as the sun began to settle over the landscape. The tips of the trees were golden, beautiful. Off toward the main road leading to the ranch, she saw a pair of headlights, bouncing on the uneven dirt road.
Willow sat back in the large rocking chair her grandfather had built from scratch more than thirty years ago. She waited, a touch of nervousness gnawing at her spine as Kevin’s truck pulled around to stop in front of the walk that led to the front porch, where the blonde sat and watched.
He rolled the window down, arm leaning out. “Get in,” he called out. He continued when his wife didn’t move. “Come on, honey, get in. Let’s get some dinner.”
Willow stared at him, undecided for a moment, then decided to try and salvage what was left of her day off.
Pushing out of the chair, Willow trotted down the few stairs to the path, then around the truck and slid in next to her husband. She wondered what was going through his head.
“Where did you go?” she asked quietly, snapping seatbelt into place.
“I’m sure he hates me, huh?” she was only half kidding.
“No more than Rachel hates me.” He pulled the truck around to the dirt read, pushing the gas before slowing once he hit the gate. Flicking the turn signal, they both looked both ways, then Kevin turned onto the main road that led toward town.
Christine laughed as she watched the boy attempting to play an old Hendrix tune. His concentration was so complete as to make him forget he was supposed to be tough, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth.
“Are you going to stop the agony?” Adam whispered so that only the singer could hear. She smirked and elbowed him in the ribs. “Thank you so much for doing this, Chris. It was amazing, and I love to hear you sing. I don’t get to much anymore.”
“You’re very welcome, bud.” She smiled at her oldest friend, elbowing him again, but this time out of affection.
“They really loved you. I wasn’t sure how it would go over, I mean, you’re not 50 Cent or even Usher.”
“Hey, I can rap with the best of ‘em, word,” Christine flashed a rapper sign at her friend, making him chuckle. “I’m glad they enjoyed themselves. And if you think those guys would be well received, …” she let her thought drift off into his imagination. He paused for a moment, thinking, then turned to her.
“No way. You could get those people to do something like this,” he held his hand out to include the small, shabby building where his ‘boys’ met every week, or just hung out, keeping out of trouble.
“Sure, why not? I know people.” Adam laughed, making Michael look up from his attempts on Christine’s guitar.
“I’m sure you do. Come on.” He led his old friend to the small office, which he shared with the little fireball coming through the front doors.
Christine turned at the familiar nickname. “Alice!” She grabbed the tiny woman in a massive hug, almost lifting her off the ground. Once parted, the small Hawaiian woman looked up at the best friend of her long-time partner. “You get more and more beautiful every time I see you,” she said, beautiful dark eyes twinkling.
“Well, I think you’re full of shit, but as long as you don’t call me pupuka, I’ll believe you.” She grinned while Alice let out a full-bodied laugh, which shook her entire four foot eleven, ninety-seven pound frame.
“Come on, you crazy gal. I have dinner ready.”
Adam handed the reigns of the club over to one of the employees, and the three headed upstairs to their apartment.
“That was wonderful, Alice, thank you.” Christine sat back in her chair, chewing the last bit of the lasagna, hand covering her stomach.
“You’re very welcome, Maika’i.” the beautiful woman smiled. Christine had always thought that Alice was one of the most beautiful women she’d ever seen. Though she was physically attractive, most of it came from within. The woman’s dark eyes told volumes about how she was feeling, and glowed with a life the singer had never seen before.
“Come on, Christine. Let’s go have a smoke.” Adam stood, tossing his napkin onto his empty plate. He walked over to the small kitchen and opened a cabinet, pulling out two cigars. Wiggling his brows at his old friend, he headed out to the window that led to the fire escape.
“Do you want any help, Alice?” Christine asked as the smaller woman began to clear the table. She looked up at the singer, her eyes amazingly dark and filled with unshed tears.
“No, Christine. Go spend time with him.” She smiled, though it was weak. Christine got the distinct feeling she wasn’t to ask questions, but just to obey. Trying to shake a feeling of foreboding that was creeping around her heart, Christine followed Adam out to the rickety old landing.
“It’s a beautiful night out,” he said, clicking his Zippo against the brick of the building.
“Sure is.” Christine sat with her legs dangling off the landing, arms resting along the rail. “It’s funny, I have no desire to live here again, but whenever I am here, I miss it, you know?”
Adam nodded, handing his friend a cigar. “I do know. Place gets into your blood. You’ll never lose that, bud.” He looked at her, dark eyes shining in the darkness of the night, though reflecting some of the light from the tenements around them.
“I wish I could convince you and Alice to come west. You wouldn’t believe the space out there. I mean, yeah, L.A. is like this,” she spread her hand out, indicating the humanity packed into such tight quarters. “But there are other places in California that aren’t like that.”
He covered the stogie with his hand as he lit it, puffing to get the cigar to light properly, then held the flame out to Christine. She ducked her head, puffing her own Cuban, then sat back, sighing as she exhaled the sweet smoke, closing her eyes in contentment.
“Honey, Maika’i, you want some coffee?” Alice asked, kneeling in front of the floor to ceiling window, hands resting on her knees.
“No, thanks, sweetie.” Adam smiled, then leaned over and gently kissed the small woman on the cheek. Christine watched the pair, loving to see them together, but ever envious of the obvious love and devotion to each other.
“Thank you, no, Alice. I’m still stuffed.”
“Your loss,” was muttered as the woman disappeared back into the tiny apartment.
“Crazy woman,” the singer murmured, then took a long, satisfying drag.
“She’s right. You are beautiful,” Adam said, a soft smile curling his lips. Christine gave him a side glance.
“Alright, what do you want.”
He laughed. “Nothing. Just agreeing with Alice.”
“Yeah, well you look like shit, my man,” she looked him up and down, his stick-thin body, clothing hanging off him.
“Yes, well, I’ve discovered the ultimate diet,” he said, his voice somewhat bitter. The singer was surprised.
“How are things going, Chris?” Adam asked, tipping some ash over the side of the fire escape landing. Again, she was surprised by the sudden change in topic, but went with it.
Christine sighed, knowing damn well what he was referring to. She ran a hand down the length of her long hair, feeling the cool strands run across her skin.
“I’m taking it day by day, Adam. Trying not to make demands of myself that I know I can’t fulfill, you know? Like this,” she held up the cigar, “this is basically a no-no for what I’m trying to do, so I’m seeing it as a reward for what I’ve done.”
“Makes sense,” he puffed, eyes squinting as the smoke filled his immediate space. “This will be the last one I have.”
“No way,” Christine laughed, tapping the thick, brown stogie, ash glowing all the way down to the pavement four stories below before it scattered as it hit the sidewalk. “You quitting the stogies? Not likely.”
“No, I mean it.” She glanced over at her friend, hearing how serious he really was. “I have to.’
“Why?” She was serious now, too, beginning to get a little worried. Adam had started smoking his mother’s boyfriend’s Camels at the age of eight.
“I need to tell you something, Chris,” he said, his voice very quiet. He was not looking at her, instead his gaze on the stogie in his hand. “This has been the only bad habit I kept, and that was to help me feel somewhat normal, somewhat like I had a bit of control left, you know?” he glanced over at her, seeing her shake her head.
“No. Explain it to me.” She drew her legs in, crossing them and turning to face him. “What’s going on, Adam?” she asked, her voice soft and encouraging.
He sighed. “Eight years ago I went to donate at a local blood drive.”
Adam met her eyes finally. “Chris, I tested positive for HIV then.”
Christine felt the breath sucked from her lungs, a wave of dread so fierce smashed through her body that she felt like she’d throw up.
“Why didn’t you tell me this eight years ago, Adam?” her voice was shaky and low.
“Because you had your own shit to deal with and I didn’t want to worry you-“
“Didn’t want to worry me?!” she flared, pinning him with an electric gaze. He stared helplessly back. “So are you telling me this now?” She was sure whether she was feeling profound sadness or was absolutely pissed off. Probably a volatile mixture of both.
“I’m telling you now because I’m in full blown AIDS.” It was his turn to pin her with his gaze. She froze, words of recrimination forever lost on her lips. There was no point now.
“I found out last week.”
The silence was only broken by the quiet humming of the radio, some country tune that Willow would rather now hear anyway. She looked out her window, temple resting against the cool glass.
“I figure maybe next weekend we can go shopping for furniture or something,” Kevin said quietly, glancing at the blonde.
She looked at him, brows furrowed. “Furniture for what?”
“Well, for baby stuff. Cribs and stuff.” He smiled, though it was forced, and they both knew it. Willow realized that he was trying to make up in some way, but it was all so contrived that it left her cold.
“Forget it,” she muttered, looking back out the window.
“What? Forget what?” He looked at her for a long moment, then remembered the road ahead of him, so his eyes tore away from Willow’s sullen form.
“I know you don’t give a crap, Kevin, so don’t try and pretend that you do. The last thing on earth you want to do is go shopping for baby anything, and we both know it.”
“Honey, you know I don’t like to shop-“
“Save it, Kevin,” she growled, feeling her stomach beginning to churn. Another one was on its way, and there was no way to stop it.
“Save what?” he yelled, voice loud and booming in the truck’s cab. “Jesus, Willow! I’m trying to be what you want me to be, and you’re shooting me down!” he looked at her, face contorted as the anger filled him.
“You’re not my pet, you’re my husband and this baby’s father!” she laid her hand on her belly, feeling very protective of what lay inside. “Don’t do what you think I want you to do. My god! What the hell kind of logic is that?” Her own voice was rising as her frustration level did. Why couldn’t he just understand?!
“What kind of logic, what the, goddamn! I can’t win with you!”
“Watch the road, Kevin!” Willow yelled, noting that he was beginning to weave in his lane as his attention was drifting further away from his driving. He straightened the wheel, though there was still fire in him.
“I react in a way that was natural for me, that’s not right. I tell you what I think and feel, which you tell me all the goddamn time to do, so I do it, and it’s not right, either!” He slammed the heel of his hand against the wheel, making the truck jerk slightly. “What do you want from me?” He glared at her, an intensity in his eyes that was scary.
“I want you to be happy that you’ve helped to create something, and I want you to be a part of it, but because you want to be and not because you feel forced.”
“You have not tried. I know you, Kevin, and know how you work. The first idea that pops into your head is what you stick with. This is no different.”
Kevin was quiet for a moment, though the vein in his neck was sticking out dangerously, and the muscle in his jaw was working like mad. Willow was expecting him to explode any minute.
“You want me to be honest? You want me to tell you how I’m feeling and all that psycho babble shit? Alright, fine,” his voice was so calm, it sent a chill down Willow’s spine. “I’ll tell you.” His breathing was unsteady, heavy and jagged. He looked at her, eyes ablaze. “I don’t want this fucking kid, I never did. I don’t want it disrupting our life. I do not want to be a father!” This last was yelled, almost making Willow crawl into the corner of the cab.
She tore her eyes from him, turning to the road, just in time to see a pair of bright red break lights, not six feet away.
“Kevin!” she screeched.
Stuffing her hands into the pockets of her jeans, Christine walked the streets, the city alive and well all around her. Truly the city that never sleeps. Cap pulled low, the singer blended in well. She didn’t want to be bothered tonight. No, not tonight.
Adam and Alice had been asleep when she’d snuck out of the apartment, locking the many locks with the set of keys she’d been given years ago. More than once she’d been able to duck out of the public’s eye within the safety of those walls.
Tonight it felt anything but safe; it felt like a prison and she its prisoner to have to wallow in her sorrow of the death sentence given to her best friend.
She found a bench and sat, watching the trickle of humanity flow by, some glancing her way, most walking by as though she were part of the scenery.
Feeling the uncomfortable bulge at her hip, she placed her hand over the cell phone clipped there, fingers running over the smooth surface. Plucking it from her belt loop, she placed it in her lap, looking down at it. Running her thumb over the display window, over and over again, she felt just how heavy her soul was. It felt as though her shoulders were being pushed together by this great burden and cross, slowly pushing her down to a slouch on the bench. Her thumb continued to caress the little window.
Absently her fingers flipped the phone open, the blue light of the display screen and keypad caught her eye. She glanced down at it, seeing that it was after one in the morning New York time. She saw the little symbol at the top right hand corner for her address book, and, of its own accord, her thumb hit the button that would illuminate that, and the numbers marched down the screen, curser blinking on the first name.
Scanning down the list, she saw the names, Melissa, Sandra, Robert, Julia, Meg, Elton, Mick, Heff. Nothing that would do her any good, none of those people could help her. None would understand or listen the way she needed to be listened to.
Willow. The name was like a beacon, a guiding light to her emotional salvation.
Hitting the send button, Willow’s number appeared on the blue screen, and it began to ring.
Time slowed, the taillights getting closer and closer until she could no longer see them, only the truck’s headlights’ beam illuminating the entire interior of the car and it’s two occupants as the plowed into them.
The seatbelt dug into Willow’s middle, making her cry out in pain as it felt as though her insides were being squeezed in a steel vice. She heard a terrible crash and realized it was the windshield shattering as the frame of the car’s back window fractured and crashed through the window.
Shards of glass showered upon her and Kevin, sticking in their hair and the skin of their face and arms.
It was all over within seconds, though for Willow it felt like hours. As she heard sirens in the background, and somewhere heard Kevin’s voice, though what he said made no sense to her. She had one thing on her mind.
“Hey. Uh, well, I know it’s late and I’m really sorry. Um, I guess I just needed to talk. I’m really sorry if I bothered you or woke you up or anything. Um, I’m fine, so don’t worry. I guess just give me a buzz whenever. I uh, I’ll talk to you later.”
Phone snapped shut, Christine stood from her bench, turning in a slow circle, seeing a café not far down the sidewalk. Eddie’s. She’d give Eddie a try. Coffee. Coffee would be good.
Pushing through the glass and metal door, the bell above it ringing loudly in the quiet din of the small shop. Blue eyes looked around, seeing a few customers sitting at scattered tables, a man behind the counter, white apron with the Eddie’s proudly splayed across it in large red letters. She noted that the bright lights directly above him put strange shadows on his worn face and made him look unnaturally pale. He looked at her with old, droopy eyes, wrinkled before their time.
Archie Bunker. Her reminded her of Archie Bunker before Carroll O’Connor went totally white.
This realization made her giggle just a bit, a slight burp in emotion. She stared at Archie/Eddie, her eyes locking with his for just a moment, just the barest connection to another human being.
“You alright, miss?”
That’s all it took. One single act of kindness, one single moment of a complete stranger’s concern. She felt her face fall, hands come up to hide her pain, even though it seeped out through her fingers.
Gentle hands were on her arm and shoulder, and blindly she was led to a chair, where she sat hard on the plastic seat. She couldn’t hold it in any longer, and the flood gates were blown out of the way as a wave of tears filled the void, a concerned hand lying warmly on her back.
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