Air whistled between my teeth as I sucked in, lava pooling over my nerves as the doctor probed the bullet wound.
“It’s healing nicely—no seepage—so you can go home as soon as we get your paperwork done.” The old man smiles. “I bet you’ll be happy to get out of this place, Mrs. Blackright. People tell me it smells—the bleach I imagine—but after thirty years you stop noticing.” He pats my good shoulder.
I swallow the bile my married name brings up. “Please, don’t call me that.”
“Will your husband be coming to pick you up?”
I shrug my good shoulder, immediately regretting the motion. “When will I be able to move without hurting?”
“Believe it or not,” he smiles reminding me of my grandfather, “every day brings a small improvement.”
Nodding to me, he said the nurse would be along soon with my paperwork.
I crane my neck, stretching stiffened muscles and silently curse myself. Eying the clean clothes Dad brought me the day before I drum my fingers on the bed. “Better to try and do something than to sit here.”
I fumble the jeans free of the hanger as my phone sounds from the side table. At the sight of his name my heart adds thirty beats to its pace in the span of an instant. I take a breath and give silent thanks for not to being hooked to any monitors. I’d rather not explain this panic attack. Not that I could explain it any better than the others. I gulp one more steadying breath and reply to Mark’s message.
They’re letting me go tomorrow. We’ll talk then.~Aurora Blackright
I shake my head and erase the last name.
I focus my attention on wrestling my pants into submission, blocking out my memory of screaming at Mark as I had awoken from surgery. Well, as much as I could scream with a breathing tube still down my throat. Mark had understood my message, though. He’d left me alone except for a daily text. This was the first I’d responded to.
An hour later the nurse brought the paperwork as I finished buttoning up the oversized shirt Dad had thought of. His scent emanated from it and the tension in my chest eased as the little girl in me imagined his embrace.
“Is your husband coming to get you?” The nurse quirks an eyebrow. “You’re a better woman than I am. I would have left him a long time ago after all the crap he’s pulled. Assuming you can believe what the news says.”
She tilts her head in question and I clear my throat. “He’s sending a cab to pick me up.”
As I close the door to the hotel suite I smile at the arrangements of yellow tulips. I find the card:
Smile, little one, you’ll never be alone. It’s all going to be okay.
“I hope you’re right, Daddy.” I blink until my vision clears.
Going to the closet I find a new wardrobe waiting for me, and in the bathroom I find a choice of hair dyes and a sharp new pair of scissors. I pick up the red dye box and turn it over in my hand. “After everything he’s done, why should I be the one running?” What am I running from? “You’re only going away for a little while. Your mind is too crowded.” What about Timmy? “He’s not your kid, and he has his dad, he’ll be fine.” But if you go away, will there be anything left when you come back? I set the box down and lean my weight on my good arm studying my reflection. “Unless you pull yourself together, there’s nothing left. He lied to you. He brought that woman into your life, to your door. Let him wallow in it while you take care of you.” I straighten my shoulders, feeling defensive before my accusing reflection. “You’ll call him in the morning so he won’t worry.” A chill runs down my back as Ronda’s face flashes through my mind, the gun poised in her hand.
“He’ll never really love you,” she had said. “He helped plan all of this.”
Closing my eyes, I shake my head. “That’s not true.” I go out onto the balcony and pace. “You have to get her out of your head. Until you do, you can’t have a marriage, and you can’t believe anything he says.” But what if she was telling you the truth? Stopping, I run a hand over my face. “All the more reason to stay away for a while.”
“You stole him from me.” She had said.
“A person can’t be stolen.” I say.
“He loves me! You got into his head and made him forget.”
I squeeze my eyes shut. “Don’t argue with a memory. You’ll never win this fight.”
“You’ll never have his heart. You’ll never have his past. I won’t let you take his future.”
I gasp, my eyes flying open to stop the memory, but it won’t be refused.
I had been so scared Ronda was right.
“What did you do?” Jenny had said, falling to the ground at my side as red oozed from my shoulder.
Ronda smiled at me. “You’re a lousy shot too.”
“What are you talking about?” Jenny scowled at her. “Help me! The cops are going to be up here any second and Benny can’t help us if she dies.”
“We won’t need his help. Didn’t you see what she did?”
“Ronda, what are you talking about? She grabbed the gun—”
I flinched as Jenny pressed the wound.
“And pulled the trigger, Jenny.” Ronda laughed.
As I look out over the city, I lick my lips. “If I’d had better aim, the fight would be over.”
Thank you all so much for reading! If you have a question you’d like to ‘ask’ Aurora, I’d love to include it in my next character interview so leave it in a comment below! I hope you enjoyed this story and appreciate everyone waiting the extra week. If you liked this story feel free to like it on Facebook, Tweet about it, Pin it, or share it on Google+. I hope y’all have a great week, and thank you for stopping by to spend some time in my imagination.