chapter xiiMature

Graeme opened his eyes to a dimly lit room and a grotesque sort of misery in his abdomen.  Squinting, he could make out the shapes and colors more easily, and he rapidly discovered it was his own bedroom.  Attempting to sit up made him dizzy, so he let himself fall back onto the pillows again.  Graeme did not know where his shirt and pants had gone, or who had bandaged up his stomach, or who had carried him to bed, but he knew he needed to get up and find out, even if it meant the room would swim for a little while.   Mysteries abounded in his life and he didn’t know where they were suddenly coming from.

Before he worked himself up to sitting up again, soft footsteps broke apart the silence.

“You’re awake!”  He almost knew the voice.  Almost.  It was gentle, and low, kind of warm and deep.  The memory of her was on the tip of his tongue.

Peeling apart his eyes despite the nearly-nauseating twisting in his head, he caught the first glimpse of her as she settled gently on the bed beside him.  In her small, delicate hands she held a mug of tea, still steaming, with a wedge of lemon floating in the murky liquid.  “Here,” she whispered, “you should drink this.”

His throat felt raw, his voice came out croaky and uneven.  “How did you find me?”

Watercolor green eyes met his.  The cool tips of her fingers touched his temple, reached to touch the back of his neck, returned to her lap.  She wore a skirt with a cream lace floral pattern over the dusty blue cotton slip and seamed stockings that matched the lace.  His blood stained her blouse.

“I heard you screaming from next door.  I’m sorry about your door, but I thought you were being murdered.”  Robins egg blue nails gestured to the pistol resting on his bedside table.  “I, I didn’t see anyone when I got here, I just found you bleeding to death in the bathroom.”

“Why didn’t you call the police or an ambulance?”  The mug was warm in his hands.  The sweet scent of lemon and honey wafted up into his nose and he sighed into the steam.  Every breath was an ache in his abdomen, but he didn’t care.  He felt secure in his head again.

She shrugged and her blouse shifted, falling off her shoulder just enough that he could see freckles and the strap of her bra.  Her name still escaped him, but he knew her.  She lived in the condo beside his, number 111.  “Something felt off about how I found you, Graeme.  I didn’t want to get you into any trouble that wasn’t necessary.”  A pause, then, as her big eyes studied his face.  She bit her lip as if she were working up to saying something, and then blurted, “Listen, I know you don’t know me but I would have called an ambulance if I wasn’t able to stitch you up myself.  I swear I wouldn’t have let anything happen to you.”  Again, she hesitated before she added, “I just, I really need for you to believe that.”

There was another scent in the tea that he couldn’t quite distinguish.  Instead of drinking it, he simply held it tightly, letting the heat absorb into his body and radiate to his chest.  He felt clammy and tired, like he’d been having fever sweats while he slept.  Though he had hundreds of questions about everything, she was not one of the enigmas on his mind.  A part of him recognized that she should be, but his head hurt from everything he’d been through and the prostpect of questioning the lovely woman in front of him, whose collarbones caught the muted wall lights and held them as if burying them beneath her skin so she could glow in the darkness, was just not making the list.  Instinct said he should kiss her.

It also said he shouldn’t trust her.

The End

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