My shoulder hurt like hell, my wrist was bruised, I’d banged my head on the floor, and yet I was watching this man I had just met get led away by a pair of Bloomington police and I felt like I was losing something.
It was nuts. All I was losing was my job, my house and my future. Mark, the assistant manager this shift, was already coming over with a DVD of the surveillance cameras, which would show me dumping two pitchers of beer on this man. The rules were clear when a customer harassed you; move away, wait for help, and in NO case do you be anything but polite to the customers.
The Mall had their own security, including their own Emergency Medical Technicians. Two of them came up next to me, asking me questions while they poked around. “Your shoulder is dislocated, ma’am, and you’ll need an x-ray on that wrist. From the bruising and swelling, it may be fractured,” he said. He felt the bump on the back of my head. “Did you hit this hard, lose consciousness?” I shook my head no. “An ambulance is waiting downstairs, if you request it, they will take you.”
I thought about it, an ambulance ride would cost a few thousand dollars I didn’t have. The nice man from the table, Patrick, he had protected me and was still by my side. I think he saw the look on my face. “I can give her a ride to the emergency room, if you would rather go on your own,” he said.
“Could you?” I trusted him, he had been in here many times before and was always a gentleman, always behaved and tipped well. Cheri had done me a big favor by putting his group in my section tonight.
“It would be my pleasure,” he said. “The others are going to stay and give their statements to the police, then they are going to have the wings and beer I promised them before going back to their hotel rooms. My father is already on his way with his car, I called him as soon as this unpleasantness happened.”
I just wanted to get out of here. Even a visit to the Emergency Room would cost me a lot of money. “OK.”
“You need to tell them you are declining the ambulance, and I will take you to the emergency room,” he said gently.
“I’m going with him, no ambulance,” I told the medic.
“That’s fine, but let me put a sling on so this doesn’t move around,” he said. He slid it on and Patrick helped to adjust the straps. Once it was in place, he put some ice packs in the sling around my sore wrist.
Cheri came out from the back, she had my clothes and purse with her. Standing, she pulled my shorts on, then handed me my T-shirt. “I can’t put that on,” I said as I looked at my sling.
“Here, you can use this,” a man, Sean if I remember right, said as he opened a large windbreaker for me. I put my right arm through and he draped it over my shoulders, zipping it up so it covered up my shirt.
“Thank you,” I told him as I was helped to my feet. The pain wasn’t as bad now.
Patrick pulled a card out of his wallet and handed it to the officers who were still taking statements. “Here’s my contact information,” he said as he held my good arm gently. “I will ensure she gets treatment and is taken care of,” he told him.
“The detectives will be in touch,” the officer said. “I’m sorry this happened to you, Ma’am.”
“Thank you.” I let Patrick lead me out, we were waiting for the elevator and my shoulder moved, almost sending me to my knees. “It hurts,” I said.
“If you want, I can put it back in for you.” I looked at him like he was crazy. “It’s a simple thing, really. The same thing they will do at the emergency room, and it just takes a few seconds.”
I looked at him, for some reason I trusted him. “Please?”
He unzipped the jacket and put the ice packs in his pocket before pulling the Velcro tab. He handed me the sling, which I held along with my purse in my good hand. “OK, I want you to keep your upper arm next to your side, and we’ll keep it there. I’m going to rotate your lower arm slowly, away from your body. I’ll stop if you ask me to, but let’s both agree, no sudden movements.” I nodded, it couldn’t be worse. He put his left hand on my shoulder, thumb in my armpit, and held my forearm with his right hand. “I need you to relax and breathe slowly. Keep your eyes open and watch me. It might hurt a little when I move this but when it pops back it you’ll feel so much better. Just keep your shoulder relaxed.” I nodded, and he moved my forearm away from my stomach. I felt the shoulder start to move, then it popped back in.
“Oh God that feels so much better already,” I said.
“Good. I’m going to put the sling back on. They will want to take X-rays, but at least it won’t be so bad on the drive.” The elevator came, and he got me back in the sling as we went down. We walked outside, waiting by the curb was a Lincoln SUV with a distinguished-looking man standing by it. “Father, thank you for coming,” he said.
“It sounded like your little night out with the boys went south quickly,” he said as he opened the door to the back.
“It did, but your son helped me,” I told him. “Jessie Donato.” I reached out to shake his hand with my good one, my purse hanging from my elbow.
“Peter Clarke,” he said as he gently took my hand, raising it to his lips and kissing the back of my hand, taking a sniff as he did so. “Your chariot awaits.” I giggled as they helped me in the vehicle, then Patrick went around and got in the other side while his father drove. “There are several hospitals around, do you have a preference?”
“Whichever is more convenient, I don’t live in this area,” I said.
He started to pull out onto the street. I pulled out my phone, looking at it, then wondering why. It wasn’t like I had anyone to call; Mom was dead, and my friends were all working. I put it back in my purse.
Patrick turned a little in the leather seat to look at me. “Can I contact anyone for you?”
“No, that’s all right. I don’t have anyone to call.” I started crying, he pulled me into his side, and as I was wetting his shoulder with my tears my story came out. My mom’s battle with cancer, dropping out of college, her death and having to say goodbye yesterday. I finished with my frustration at being broke, soon to be homeless, and now unable to work. By the time I finished, we were pulling up to the emergency room entrance. “Oh no, look at your shirt,” I said. He had a big patch of wet where my tears had gone.
Peter opened the door and helped me out. “You don’t worry about a thing, we’re going to help you out. It’s the least we can do.”
Patrick came around, I looped my arm through his as we walked in. We quickly registered, then they took me back to be exam room. “I’ll wait for you,” Patrick said as he walked back to the desk.
I was led back to a room, where my vitals were taken along with a health history. I hadn’t had health coverage since I was at school, since my work limited me to 32 hours a week, and my Mom couldn’t afford it. The doctor examined me for two minutes, then sent me for X-rays of my head, shoulder and wrist. While I was waiting, I asked if Patrick could come back with me, and we talked while we waited for the test results. An hour later, I had a prescription for pain pills, thankful that my wrist wasn’t broken, just bruised. My shoulder was back in place, Patrick had done that well, but I had to wear the sling for two weeks to let it heal. “Do you have anyone to stay with you tonight?”
I shook my head no. “We may have to admit you then, with that bump to your head you have a concussion. You need to be woken and checked every few hours.”
“No,” Patrick said, “She can stay at my house in the guest room. I’ll keep watch on her.”
I both wanted and didn’t want this, they’d already done so much, and I didn’t want to impose. “I can’t ask you…”
“Nonsense, it would be my pleasure,” he said. He listened carefully to the discharge instructions, then helped me to my feet. The doctor shook our hands, then we were free to go.
We walked outside, and Peter was standing by the car, a bag of food from Arby’s in his hand. “I thought you might be hungry,” he said.
We sat in the back, and I chose a Beef and Cheddar and a vanilla shake, while they split the other sandwiches. It was now two in the morning. “Shit,” I said, “My car’s still parked at the Mall. It might get towed away.”
“It’s at my house already,” Peter said. “We took the liberty of having it moved for you while you were getting tests done. I knew it would be too late by the time they finished with you.”
“Thank you,” I said. The pills were starting to take effect, and I was getting tired. “How far away is your house?”
“About twenty more minutes,” he said.
“The guy who went nuts, John. What’s his deal?” I couldn’t get him out of my head.
“He’s a friend from Scotland, works for a security company as a bodyguard. He’s over here for a conference, protecting an executive. He had tonight off, so I offered to take him and a bunch of his friends out instead of sitting in his room, watching HBO and eating room service food,” he said with a chuckle. “John, he’s a throwback to another age. He’s a warrior poet, a man who believes in balance in life and honor.”
“Warrior Poet?” I thought back to the only thing he said to me, that he was home when he looked into my eyes. His eyes weren’t kidding, he really believed it, and the funny thing was that I believed him.
“Yep. He writes stories, songs, poems in between workouts and training. He would have been right at home as a Knight in the Middle Ages, or a Samurai in feudal Japan. Anyway, he’s a man who lives by an old-fashioned code of honor and chivalry. He believes in loyalty, respect and finding one true love.”
“That’s tough to believe in this age,” I said.
“It’s true, though. You can have no better man by your side in a fight, or in life.” He looked out the window, the suburbs were giving way to the country. “He saw what that man was doing, and it made him furious. He doesn’t allow mistreatment of women around him, EVER, and he liked you. I guarantee he didn’t mean to hurt you or scare you, things just got a little out of hand.”
“And I end up with a concussion, dislocated shoulder and bruised wrist?”
“Yeah. I know he feels terrible about it, we all do.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I should have handled it better. It’s not the first time some asshole has tried to grope me. I don’t like working there, but I need the money, I need a new place to live, I need a lot of stuff.” I leaned back against the headrest, my eyes closed. “I can’t thank you enough for your help tonight.”
The car turned off the road onto a gravel drive, and I looked out as we traveled a mile or so along the driveway before it opened up to a group of houses. They were beautiful, log homes with green roofs, big lawns going to the forest edge which was lit dimly by the outside lights. “Wow, you live here?” He nodded. “My dream home is one of these. I like being close to nature, but I don’t get to enough.”
His father pulls up next to the second largest house, a two-story home. A woman meets us at the door, she is a striking beauty in her forties, the grey hair just starting to show in her brown hair. “Mom, this is Jessie Donato. Jessie, my mother Abigail.”
“Call me Abby,” she says as she pulls me into a hug. “Come on, I’ve got the guest room ready for you. I hear you’ve had an eventful night.” She pulled me away from the men so fast I didn’t have a chance to thank them. She opened a door upstairs, it was a nicely decorated room with an attached bath. Abby helped me get undressed, thankfully not commenting on my barely there Hooters uniform. “Try not to move your arm much, you can’t wear the sling in there.” While I was taking a shower, she went and got some pajamas; well, a pair of shorts and a big T-shirt that said ‘Highland Games.’ She helped me put my bad arm in, then get the shirt on. It smelled amazing as it went past my face, I had to pull it back up to smell it again. I put my sling on, then she tucked me in to bed.
I fell asleep dreaming of the man who had come to defend me.