THE WRITTEN WORD
by Mickey Minner
“Why do they make these beds so damn uncomfortable?” Melissa grumbled to the emergency room nurse. Despite the stiff mattress that barely softened the hard surface of the metal bed, she had been drifting in and out of sleep while the emergency room doctor decided what was to be done with her. Her right arm was encased in a soft cast from just below the elbow to almost the tips of her fingers and her body was plastered with gauze and bandages covering her numerous cuts and abrasions. “Can I get another blanket? It’s freezing in here.”
“Sure.” The nurse finished checking the readings on the various machines monitoring the patient before leaving to retrieve the requested blanket.
The sheriff walked into the room as the nurse left.
Melissa looked up hopefully. “Can I go home now?”
Scooter smiled sadly and shook his head. “They’re getting ready to move you to a room upstairs.”
“I want to go home.”
He patted her leg “I know. But the doc wants you to stay overnight so they can keep an eye on your head.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my head.”
He eyed her cynically.
“I was going to fix that,” she said dejectedly. “Now she’ll never believe me.”
“I’m looking for Melissa Dyne. I was told she was brought here after a car accident.” The familiar voice floated into the room from the other side of the door. Seconds later, the door to Melissa’s room opened and Dillon rushed inside. “Melissa! Oh, my god. Are you okay?” She rushed to her wife’s bedside. “Honey, what happened?” She wanted to wrap the woman up in her arms but with all the bandages she was afraid to touch her.
Melissa could hardly see her wife through the tears flowing from her eyes. “I’m sorry, baby. I was trying to get back. I really was. I was going to meet you at the campsite. I really was—”
“Hush,” Dillon ordered then placed a tender kiss on her lips. “We can talk about that later. Right now, I want to know how you are. And what the hell happened?” She turned to the sheriff as she asked the last question. “I saw the wreck on the way here. Did someone hit her? Have you arrested them yet?”
“Slow down. From what she says, there was another car but it didn’t actually hit her. Seems the other driver must not have been paying attention and drifted over the center line. Mel tried to avoid them but her tires dropped off the pavement. She had no place to go but upside down and into the trees. I’ve put out a bulletin with the sketchy description Mr. Cameron gave us. Mel wasn’t much help filling in the blanks.”
“I was a little too busy at the time to take notes.”
Softening her features, Dillon turned back to her wife. “Are you okay?”
A white-coated man walked into the room. Hearing the question, he said, “Broken wrist, slight concussion, cuts, bruises, and contusions. All in all, I’d said she was pretty lucky. I’m Doctor Hayes. You are?”
“My wife,” Melissa answered when Dillon hesitated. She understood her wife’s hesitancy— being gay wasn’t always accepted in a small Montana town.
The doctor frowned at the women. “I see.”
“Do you have a problem with that, Doctor?” Scooter stood up to his full six foot four inches, towering over the shorter man. He had been defending Melissa since childhood and didn’t mind doing it again. Of course, the shiny badge on his chest made it much easier these days.
“We’ll be moving you upstairs in a few minutes,” the doctor told Melissa disregarding the sheriff’s question. It wasn’t as easy to ignore the angry man standing beside him and he nervously fidgeted with the clipboard in his hands. “You’ll need surgery on that wrist.”
“Can’t I just go home?”
“Honey, I don’t—“
“I’ll sign the papers,” the relieved doctor said.
“You said she had a concussion,” Scooter said, unsurprised the doctor seemed more than agreeable to relieving his hospital of the lesbian patient.
“A mild one. I don’t see any reason to keep her here if someone will be with her. I’ll write out instructions for her care and the name of a surgeon to call. You can leave as soon as the pharmacy sends over her pain medications.”
“Is that wise?” Dillon asked. “I think you should stay the night,” she told Melissa who awkwardly reached for her hand.
“I really would like to go home. If that’s okay.”
Dillon looked at their joined hands; she could feel the slight tremors that revealed her wife’s anxiety. “Sure,” she smiled, “it’s okay.”
Dillon leaned over to kiss Melissa. Witnessing the display of affection between the women, the doctor turned on his heel and rushed out of the room. “I would much rather have you home than being looked after by him. I love you.”
“Jerk.” The sheriff thought about following the doctor into the hallway.
“Let him go, Scooter.” Dillon pulled her keys out of her pocket and held them out. “Would you mind getting my car and meeting us at the front door. I don’t want Melissa trying to walk across the parking lot.”
Dillon opened the sliding door at the back of the house and stepped out onto the redwood deck she and Melissa had added the year they moved in. A low bench ran around the edge of the platform and she spotted her wife sitting with her legs stretched under the bench and hanging off the edge. Her broken wrist was resting on the bench seat and her chin rested on top of that. She was gazing out at Lake Como. “Time for a pain pill,” she said as she sat on the bench beside her wife’s arm.
“That’s okay. I’m doing good right now.”
“You sure? Doctor Stevens said you would need them for the first few days.” After returning home from the hospital, Dillon immediately made arrangements for Melissa to see an orthopedic surgeon to have her wrist repaired. The doctor’s surgery schedule was full but with a little persuasion she had managed to get her wife’s name on the list just two days after the accident. Returning home after the outpatient procedure, Melissa had slept the rest of that day and most of the next. It was late afternoon when Dillon sat down beside her.
“Yes. I can hardly feel it right now.”
Dillon gently touched Melissa’s fingertips. “You arm hasn’t fallen asleep has it.”
Dillon shifted positions so she could sit next to Melissa. She folded her arms on the bench seat and rested her chin on top of them, mimicking her wife. “Wha’ja looking at?”
“Nothing really. Just watching the boats.”
“Not too many out there. Fish must not be biting.”
“Maybe when you’re feeling better…”
Melissa turned her head so she could study Dillon.
Dillon returned the look.
“Want to talk?”
“I’d like that.”
Melissa sighed, but remained, otherwise, quiet.
“What went wrong with us?” Dillon finally asked the question that had been burning her tongue for so long.
Melissa returned her gaze to the lake. “Do you know what those book signings and writer conferences were like for me?”
“I thought you enjoyed going to them.”
“At first, I did. But the more books you wrote and the more fans you gained the less time we had together. Whole days would pass and I never saw you. And when I did, you were surrounded by people.”
“Is that why you stopped going?
“No,” Melissa said quietly then paused while Dillon waited for an explanation. “You were becoming too famous. Your fans were wanting too much.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Proposals. Wanting to have sex with you.”
“Oh.” Dillon chuckled. “Honey, I never accepted any of those. I already had what I wanted.”
“Do you know where they went when you turned them down? Who they went after? They couldn’t have you. I was the next best thing. There were a lot of lonely hours during those conventions.” Melissa looked at Dillon expecting more of a response than the quiet nod of acknowledgment she received. “You knew?”
“I knew the first time I smelled another woman on your skin. I tried to convince myself it wasn’t true.”
“You never said anything.”
“I thought I was to blame.”
“I thought I wasn’t enough for you anymore.” Dillon leaned against her and laid her head on Melissa’s shoulder.
“It was never that.” Melissa slipped her good arm around her wife’s shoulders. “Is that why you gave it up?”
“I thought if I did… And if I came back here, it would be like it was before.”
Tears pooled in Melissa’s eyes. “All I ever wanted was for you to come back. But when you did… I couldn’t stop. I just couldn’t.”
“I don’t know.” She felt Dillon’s arms encircle her waist and tighten around her. By then I hated myself. I couldn’t… I just… Oh, hell, Dil, I didn’t deserve your love. I thought… Damn, I don’t know what I thought.”
“That I would leave you?”
“I would never do that.”
“Damn it, Dillon. Even when you gave up what you loved and came home, I still couldn’t do right by you. You should have left.”
“Is that really want you want?”
After a long silence, Melissa answered, “No.”
“Do you love me?”
“More than anything.”
“We can get back what we had, Melissa. I know we can.”
“After everything I’ve done, you still want me?”
“You’re all I’ve ever wanted.”
“That freak Julie was right about one thing- you do deserve better.”
“I don’t want better. I want you.”
“I could never expect you to forgive me.”
“I’ve already done that.”
“I love you, Dillon.”
“I love you, too.”
“I forgave the past. I won’t forgive the future.”
“You won’t have to.”
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