The Secret Thief

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Chapter 25

Violet

“Don’t get mad”

Margaret stood in my doorway with a tray of food and a sheepish look. I stared at her dazed and confused.

“About what?” I laughed. “Did you forget to buy ice cream?”

Margaret was already at the hospital when my ambulance arrived Saturday and she was not happy. I was alone. Crabtree had gone his own way once he knew I was in good hands. So, while a doctor threw a stitch in my leg, I handled my mother’s panic. The police officer who called her in had described the shooting so she didn’t ask me for specifics. She just asked if I was OK. Over and over and over until she felt better.

Then, at home again, my step mother went a little off script. She started doting on me. To say she waited on me like never before could not be truer because she’s never done it before. Apparently underneath Margaret’s corporate parenting style was an endless well of mothering. She cooked my favorite foods, drowned me in verbal affection and selflessly watching movies with me that I knew she hated. She even forgave me for winding up in the middle of a gang battle and almost getting shot. Not one lecture on safety passed her lips. I thought that was huge but now it was breakfast in bed?

Margaret stepped into the room and set the tray on my dresser. ““I went into town earlier,” she said. “While you were still sleeping.”

“What for?” I asked. Margaret fluffed my pillows so I would be comfortable and helped me sit up.

“I had errands.” She shrugged.

“You’re right, I’m furious.” I said flatly, unable to see how a story that started like that could go bad. Margaret placed the tray in my lap.

“My last stop was the dry cleaners, you know on 4th? I took a few of your things in by the way, in case you miss them.” She rambled.

“Great.”

“Then after that I thought I’d get a snack and you know Ralph’s is right next to the quickie mart in that part of town.” her tone grew rapidly apologetic, “and seeing Ralph’s made me think of you and then next thing I was walking in…”

“Wait, you went where?”

“The Dojo. You know it really wasn’t out of my way at all.” She said then fast as lightning added, “and I thought they’d want to know what happened to you...”

“What was that? What did you say? ”

“It occurred to me that they would want to know,” she went on like I hadn’t said anything, “and I was right, Marco was very interested.”

“Hold on. You saw Marco?”

“Isn’t that what I said,” She replied, not making it sound at all like a question.

“You talked to him?”

“Of course. He’s very worried about you, you know.”

“You told him I was shot at?” My gut dropped. Marco would be furious.

“Yes, but then I found out you hadn’t talked to him in forever. You haven’t been to training.”

“What did you do?!” I started to panic. I could see now why she put food in my lap and crossed to the other side of the room before explaining herself. It tied me down. I couldn’t get to her.

“Why haven’t you been going? He was in quite a state when he heard you were hurt.”

“Tell me you didn’t do anything stupid.” I replied.

“I couldn’t just leave him upset like that. I had to put his mind at ease,” Margaret began backing towards the door.

“Margaret,” I said “where are you going?”

“Put yourself in his shoes, wouldn’t you want to see for yourself that he was OK?” Margaret had her hand on the knob.

“What are you getting at? Why do you look so guilty?”

“He won’t stay long.” She said and I gasped. “In and out, I made him promise.”

My heart stopped. When it started again, it did double time. My insides went crazy happy and then locked up in complete terror.

“So, I’ll send him in?” Margaret was half out the door already. I was on another planet. Marco was here? My head moved up and down agreeing to Margaret’s request without me knowing what I was doing.

Then I remembered that it was morning, I was in bed and I’d only just woken up.

“Mirror!” I cried. Margaret picked a hand mirror off the dresser and, without getting any closer than she needed, tossed it onto the bed. I glared at her. “Coward.”

“Oh quit. You look fine.” She said. One glance in the mirror and I nearly cried.

“How could you do this to me?” I said as my fingers tried desperately to unknot my hair. “Don’t you dare let him in here Margaret…Margaret?”

She was gone. Then, through the crack in the door came the sound of heavy footsteps on the stairs. I rubbed my palms hard over my cheeks, took one last look in the mirror then tossed it under the bed seconds before the door swung in.

I froze. Every part of me thought about every part of him. It had been forever since I had been so solitarily focused. I couldn’t think to act and in the end didn’t.

“Hi.” He said standing in the doorway. I didn’t move. We stared at each other so long I stared to sweat. Finally Marco made a move. “Hello Marco,” he said, “it’s nice of you to drop by.”

“Sorry. Um. Hi.” I couldn’t hold back the blush. “Want to come in?” I held an offering hand out before realizing there wasn’t any place to sit other than the bed.

Marco moved in. He closed the door behind him and with his hands thrust deep in his pockets leaned against the wall.

Marco was in my room. My face grew hot and the silence between us grew deafening.

“You must really have it out for that leg.” He said. Thankfully one of us was on guard against awkward gaps in conversation.

“Yeah, I’ve never really liked it.” I replied, trying to go with the joke. Anything was better than being serious. “It’s prone to tripping.”

Marco nodded. “I see. You don’t think shooting it was a little extreme? A gunshot wound goes wrong and you could lose more than a leg.”

“I didn’t get shot.” I said sounding and, no doubt, looking defensive. I didn’t want Marco to get mad at me. I didn’t want a fight. “Honest. I started running the second it started. This,” I pointed, “isn’t a gunshot wound. I got hit with debris. I could have done worse falling in a playground.”

“Always on the lookout for new ways to injure yourself, I see.”

“No. That’s not it.”

“Violet, we had so many conversations about staying safe.” Marco frowned. It was too late, he was mad and as soon as I saw it, I started getting mad too.

“You know I didn’t go looking for this.”

“Well you sure found it.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “And now you can’t train. Good job.”

“Hey I didn’t do anything wrong!” I spit. “I went for coffee. That’s normally a pretty safe activity.”

“You almost got shot!” Marco moved forward, his eyes baring down on me.

“Not because I wanted to!” I growled right back.

“You know it’s bad enough that you haven’t been to see me. Now this? And I have to find out from your mother?” He kept at me, inching his way across the room.

“What are you talking about? We agreed I wouldn’t train. You knew I wasn’t coming!”

“I knew you weren’t coming to train! I didn’t know you were planning on avoiding me altogether!” Marco was staring down at me. He was so close that if I wanted, I could touch him.

“What are you saying?” My voice cracked. I didn’t mean for it but it did. “I wasn’t avoiding you. I would never do that.” Marco sighed and closed his eyes. When he opened them again everything was different. He wasn’t mad, he was scared.

“I wanted to see you, talk to you.” He said. “I thought you wanted that too.”

The look on Marco’s face crushed me. What had I done? How could I hurt him like that? I sank under the weight of my heart and his.

“When I heard about the shooting,” He said softly. “I was so scared. I had a feeling you were there. Then on the news…I saw you. I had no way of knowing if you were OK.” He paused and instantly my head hurt.

“Oh Marco.” I whispered. Inside I was dying. “I didn’t even think…”

“I know.” He cut me off. “At first I thought, no matter what kept you away in the first place, after the shooting you would come back. But you didn’t.”

The pain in his face was unbearable. I had no idea how much he felt. Every moment I stayed away was torture. He was there, he cared for me. He cared for crazy distant me and when I ignored him what did he do? He waited. My head split and my heart thundered. I was overrun with emotion. Rational thinking ceased. I pushed the tray Margaret left me away and grabbed Marco’s hand.

“I’m here.” I said. “I’m sorry, please forgive me.”

Marco stood there staring at me and I thought I would cry. My heart was on display. There was no stopping it. All I could hope was that Marco would believe me.

He did. Marco lowered himself to the bed beside me. Then, with a fluid speed that only Marco is capable of, he took me in his arms.

“Are you sure Vi?” He whispered. I nodded and in a moment Marco was crushing me against his firm chest.

“I’m here. I’m here.” I sobbed. Marco held me tight as our breathing synched and our bodies melted into one another. At once I felt elated and at peace, like I had found the place I was always meant to be. Knowing without a doubt that this was exactly right, that we were perfectly one, became the foundation for the serenity slowly taking over.

Marco raised a hand to the back of my head and let it fall. Slowly, deliberately, he stroked my hair and the simple expression of caring unlocked a part of my soul that until that moment I didn’t realize had been closed. I turned up to look at him. To gaze into the eyes of the first person, the first man, to take me to this strange and wonderful place.

He cupped my ear, stared back at me and lowered his face to mine. We kissed. It was tender and warm and translated to a thousand sparks of light inside my body. Then, ever so slowly Marco’s other hand slid up to my shoulder. He touched my neck with his finger tips and through me a river of happy flowed.

Then, danger.

“Marco,” I needed him to stop but I didn’t want it. I should have told him no. I didn’t. I wanted his hands on me, feeling everything. The more he touched me, the more I craved and as a result when Marco’s hands slid around to the back of my head instead of pushing him away I breathed, “What are you thinking?”

The words weren’t only on my lips. They were in my mind, repeated over and over.

What’s inside you?What are you feeling?

Marco flinched, his fingers tensed and pressed into my head. There was confusion on his face. Inside me a jolt of panic, then another of shame, shot through my limbs. I should have stopped him. I should have warned him. Did he know what I was doing to him? I hoped beyond hope he didn’t and felt horrible for doing so. If he did understand that I was controlling him, surely he would leave.

Please don’t leave.

I watched him watch me. His eye penetrated. Was he able to grasp what I knew was my fault? I held on bracing for the inevitable, the anger and the terrible words.

They never came. Instead, Marco softened. A tenderness I’d never experienced before seemed to pour out from his touch. Gently he pressed my forehead to his chest and kissed the top of my head. His fingers did not stray, not one inch. Through it all they stayed connected to that spot, my terrible spot.

Then Marco pushed me away, just a bit, and looked into my eyes.

“Violet,” He whispered, there was a smile on his face but also pain,

“Marco what is it?” I asked again.

“I love you, Violet.” He said. “I love you.”

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