“Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. This stings like a bitch.” Max stared at his reflection in the mirror and swore like a sailor. He should have been paying more attention to his task. His right cheek looked like it had been slashed open by a psycho killer’s blade. His hand had slipped while shaving and now he had to endure the humiliation of being both a knuckle head and a sissy. And those were the exact words that he knew he would receive once he went to his mother’s house for his daily appearance.
His mood did not improve over the next half an hour as he took care of his daily chores before riding across town. The kitchen drain was clogged and the leaky faucet in the guest bathroom downstairs needed fixing. But before everything else, he had to put his best face forward because he was apparently going to be meeting the love of his mother’s life. Her words, not his. He wondered what Lisa thought of this latest development and couldn’t help but chuckle to himself at the tantrum he was sure she had thrown last night. He couldn’t wait to hear what his mother felt about that and the fact that Lisa had decided to show up unannounced and with company, expecting their mother to play the perfect hostess to a couple of her bratty teenage friends.
As he revved up the engine, Max felt a stirring of pain in his abdomen. He cursed himself for being in the current situation, his bosses atNation Today, for not letting him execute his assignment the way he wanted to, and his doctor for not prescribing stronger pain management meds. He laid his head against the cool steel of the handlebar and waited for the pain to subside. In his experience, it took a good five minutes for it to become bearable. With the sun beating down on his leather clad back, Max flinched and twitched from the agony. He refused to allow himself to think about the accident, as his bosses liked to call it, or the injury that had resulted from it. Instead, he thought of the girl from last night who had caught his fancy and had been the target of his amusement for a solid fifteen minutes.
But at the moment he could not recall exactly what had made him interrupt her. He could just remember her mass of cascading brown hair and the stricken expression on her face. Well, he had made sure that the expression had changed even though it had been a mere shift from sadness to fright. But he had thoroughly enjoyed himself and had also been comforted by the thought that he had prevented her from doing any irreversible damage to herself.
He had known from reading her thoughts that she was no longer contemplating suicide, and also that she hadn’t been too sure of it even in the first place. He, however, had been unable to get to the source of her troubles. He could just hear her questioning her decision over and over again with more than a healthy edge of fear lacing her thoughts.
Again his thoughts shifted to her face and he found himself concentrating on getting her features correct in his mindscape. He hadn’t been close enough to notice every detail and the silence of the night had hampered his clumsy attempts at getting closer to her. He, however, had been able to notice her high cheekbones and proud chin. Her eyes had been obscured from view by a flop of hair falling onto her forehead and her lips had been perfectly shaped. Her cheeks…..
Before he could complete his train of thought, a loud honk shook him out of his reverie. He straightened up in a hurry and swore loudly when he felt a slash of pain rip apart his abdomen. Moisture gathered in the corners of his eyes as he fought the pain with clenched teeth and clenched fists at the handlebar. Gathering his composure, and not wanting to show any outside appearance of the pain he was feeling, he pulled up his head and stared at the source of the loud noise.
“Hey, big bro. What’s going on? Aren’t you supposed to be at Ma’s already?” came the answer to his questioning gaze. He narrowed his eyes against the sharp sunlight and saw a blur of yellow bounding towards him. Before he knew it, the blur had crashed into his side and enveloped him in a huge bear hug and brought about a fresh wave of pain.
He clenched his abdomen with his right hand while he gathered Lisa into his side using his free arm. “Hey, kiddo. What are you doing here?” She looked up at him with her clear blue eyes and grinned at him like he was missing the plot. “Ma told me about your near death experience. How could I not come and see you?” Her dramatic answer had barely escaped her mouth when his bike drew her fascination. “Wow, this one’s a ripper. Is it yours? Did you just rent it? Can I ride?”
“Hang on, puppet. Take a breath before you collapse right here. How about you give me a lift in Ma’s swanky convertible and I tell you all about this mean machine?” Max was still reeling from the pain of his injury and the shock of seeing his half-sister and didn’t think he could ride to his mother’s without aggravating the pain. Lisa moved away from his side so that she could admire his bike while he pulled the key out of the ignition and stuffed it into the pocket of his leather jacket. With his hand still inside the pocket, he massaged his abdomen hoping for some relief and also praying that his action would go unnoticed. However, he deemed the prayer unnecessary when he saw how engrossed Lisa was in inspecting the bike.
He cleared his throat and arched his brow when she looked up at him quizzically. “Don’t you think Ma is expecting me? I wouldn’t want to endure the anger she would otherwise have directed towards you.” He put on a stony expression so she could see how serious he was but his attempt was totally ruined when she gave a loud hoot and said, “I’m sure she’s quite satisfied and not the least bit angry. After all, I left her and Tom alone in the house.”