White hot searing pain rips through my right arm as I stagger backwards away from Dane. The expression on his face is of shock and horror, not the reaction I was expecting.
“What did you do that for?” He gasps, the gun drops from his hand to my feet just as I start to feel light headed and fall to my knees.
“Conrad! No! Dane help him, please!” I hear Sydney, screaming.
“Fuck…” Dane gasps, “Why did you stop me?”
“Because despite the feeling not being mutual, I don’t want you to kill yourself,” I say, holding my arm. Blood seeps steadily through my fingers. I look down at the gun on the floor in front of me, and wonder if Dane plans on reaching for it to finish the job, but when I look up at him, all I see is a frightened young man who doesn’t know what to do.
At that moment, there’s pounding on the door.
“This is the police, open the door!” They shout, pounding even harder on the door.
“I guess you weren’t bluffing,” Dane mutters as he eyes the gun again. I manage to let go of my arm long enough to reach over and take the gun.
“You better open the door, Dane. It’s over,” I say. My head bobs, letting me know that I’m losing a lot of blood.
“Help! Help us!” Sydney screams again, frantically, “Dane, open the door!”
“Open the door now or we’re breaking it down,” the cops yell again.
Dane sucks in a deep breath before heading for the door. I watch as he unlocks it slowly, and slides it open. The cops rush in and grab him immediately. At least six cops come in, two hold Dane and the others rush towards me on the floor and Sydney.
“Can I get an ambulance at…” the officer nearest me says into their radio just as I pass out.
When I come to, I realize quickly that I’m in an ambulance.
“Ah, he’s back,” a paramedic says, “you had us worried there for a minute.”
“Where’s Sydney?” I ask, still foggy.
“I’m here,” I hear her say. I turn my head and see her tear-stained face sitting next to me.
I flinch as the paramedic pokes and prods at me. I dare a look down at my arm, but its covered in bandages.
“It’s a clean shot, through and through. I think it nicked your brachial artery though, hence the heavy bleeding. I can’t tell you much more until we get to the hospital,” the paramedic explains, “but I think you’ll be just fine.”
“He’ll…he’ll be all right?” Sydney confirms with a sniff.
“Are you okay?” I ask her, “he didn’t hurt you?”
She shakes her head.
“Not physically,” she says.
“Okay, I’m going to pump some pain killers into you right now. You need to rest,” the paramedic tells us. He plunges a syringe into the tube that’s hooked into my arm, and I feel instantly high and relaxed.
“He’s going to be flying high for a little while,” I hear him tell Sydney.
In the very early hours of the morning, they do surgery on my arm to repair some damage and close the wound. The doctor explains to me that the bullet did in fact touch my brachial artery, but that it was just a graze. The muscles and nerves were damaged though and will require physical therapy to regain full mobility. When I’m finally rolled out of recovery and to a room, I see Sydney is there waiting for me. She’s passed out on a couch by the wall. She wakes up as soon as she hears the nurse tell me she’s giving me something for the pain and that it will probably put me to sleep soon. Sydney rushes to my side and watches what the nurse is doing. Her eyes are dark with exhaustion and worry. I try for a reassuring smile.
“Hey baby,” I say to her, my voice hoarse.
“Hey,” she sniffs as a few tears start to roll down her cheeks. Her eyes travel up and down my body as if she’s taking inventory.
“I’m okay Syd. Please don’t cry,” I reach out with my good arm and brush her cheek.
She grabs my hand and holds it against her, the tears don’t stop.
“I…I thought I was going to lose you, and I couldn’t even do anything to try and stop him, Conrad. Why did you come by yourself? How could you be so stupid?”
I can’t help but chuckle lightly at her chastising me.
“It’s not funny,” she grumbles, a deep frown on her face.
“Because he threatened to hurt you if I hadn’t come by myself. I didn’t know what I would find when I showed up, and I wasn’t willing to risk it. I told Kevin and the guys what was happening, and I told them to give me a ten minute head start before calling the cops.”
“That head start could have been too late Conrad. What if Dane had just shot you immediately?” Her voice is almost angry.
“I didn’t believe he would do that. He’s crazy but I don’t think he’s completely gone,” I reason, “I’m still here aren’t I?”
“Dane has been anything but predictable. I wouldn’t have taken that risk.”
“It wasn’t an easy decision Syd. I knew there was always the chance I was wrong, but I stand by my choice.”
Sydney huffs loudly in frustration.
“Look, it’s over now. I’m here, Dane is in custody, we’re safe,” I add.
“I love you so much, I don’t know what I would have done if I lost you,” she says.
“I love you too baby. If he had done anything more to hurt you, I would be the one in custody right now. The fact that he was even able to get his hands on you at all…”
The drugs the nurse pumped into me start to take effect, my voice fades as I fall asleep.
I watch as Conrad passes out, my heart aching for him. His arm is in bad shape, his playing arm. This will mean the end of touring for him for a while. I don’t know how he’s going to feel about the fact that he won’t be able to play, or if he’s even thought about that yet. He could have just lost his music career, for me. I wish I hadn’t gone out, this whole mess could have been avoided. Though I have a feeling Dane would have found me some other way. I reach into my pocket for my phone, but remember that Dane had taken it. I take a mental note to never turn on my location on my phone again. Something that I always did without even thinking about it, enabled Dane to track me down and nearly kill the man I love.
When we had arrived at the hospital earlier, after they took Conrad to surgery, they had checked me over, and taken my blood to find out what kind of sedative Dane had given me. Then a police officer took me aside and got my version of what happened. They plan to get Conrad’s statement when he’s feeling well enough. It’s surreal to think that Dane, whom I’ve known almost my whole life, did this to us. I thought I knew him, but it turns out that I never really did. There was a hidden darkness in him that couldn’t stay contained any longer it seems, and thinking back, I realize that Conrad could see it even when I couldn’t. I don’t know what’s going to happen to Dane now, and I find it really hard to care, just as long as they put him away for a long time. Any sympathy I might have had for him before is long gone.
My stomach growls loudly, so I decide to go grab something to eat. I find a nearby vending machine and check my options when I hear someone say my name. I turn my head and see Kevin walking towards me. As soon as he reaches me, he pulls me against him for a hug.
“How is he?” he asks, still holding me. It’s a comforting feeling that I welcome.
“He’s as good as can be expected. His arm is pretty messed up,” I tell him.
“Fuck. How are you holding up?” he asks.
“I’m just tired. It’s been a long night,” I say.
“Why don’t you try and get some sleep?”
“I will, but I just need to eat first. The room they gave him has a decent couch I can sleep on.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s what you get when you’re rich as hell,” Kevin laughs, “a big private room?”
“Conrad didn’t ask for it though…” I say.
“I know, but I did. I figured you wouldn’t leave his side, so I arranged a private room for him. He doesn’t need curious people poking their head through curtains in a shared room. The press somehow already caught wind of it and are camped out outside,” he explains.
“Great,” I groan, “that’s all we need right now.”
“You don’t worry about it for now,” he assures me before finally letting me go, “just try and get some rest and call me when he’s ready to see us.”
“I don’t have my phone anymore,” I tell him.
“Okay, I’ll grab for a new one for you and bring it later.”
“Thanks Kevin. I really appreciate it.”
“No problem. What are friends for?”
“What’s going to happen now…if Conrad can’t play guitar anymore?” I then ask, choking down tears for the millionth time.
“He’ll play again, don’t worry Syd.”
“But it might not be like before. What are you guys going to do? He’s out of it for at least a few months and you guys are in the middle of recording…”
Kevin gently places a hand over my mouth and chuckles.
“Stop worrying about that stuff okay? We’ll manage. All we’re concerned about right now is that he gets better.”
I nod my head and my shoulders slump. I feel so helpless.
“Look at it this way, Conrad wanted to get out eventually anyway…this just speeds it up a little.”
“I know you’re just trying to make light of it, but Conrad loves playing guitar, and I don’t know what will happen if he can’t play like he used to.”
“Yeah, I know. He’s crazy talented, and I would hate to think that he won’t get it back after some extensive physical therapy. I’m sure he’ll have the best there is to help get him back in tip top form.”
“Maybe, but it’s going to be a long road.”
“One that you two will take together. Like I said, stop worrying about all that for now. One step at a time okay?”
“I know, it’s just hard not to worry about it. It’s his life.”
“Wrong. You’re his life. He’d die for you Syd.”
“He almost did, and I’d do the same for him, in an instant.”
The next morning, my parents arrive at the hospital. Kevin had brought me a fresh phone last night so I could contact them. As soon as they enter the room, my mother starts fussing over Conrad, making sure he’s comfortable, and my father starts asking about legal stuff like: Do you have a lawyer? What are they going to charge Dane with?
“I have a great lawyer named Jerry Shepherd, he was my fathers lawyer. Though it’s not me that needs the good lawyer, it’s Dane,” Conrad tells him.
“Even with a good lawyer, I’d bet that he’s not getting off lightly,” my father says, his voice angry.
“You’re right about that,” Conrad agrees.
“I hope so. I still can’t believe he was that…” My mom pauses for lack of words.
“Insane? Bat-shit crazy? psychotic, certifiable, mentally unstable, of unsound mind?” I rattle off all the words I’ve come up with for Dane.
“Uh…right,” mom agrees sadly. I know this is tough for my mom. Dane and his family were close friends of ours, and she and his mom are or were, still. I feel bad for what Mr and Mrs. Phillips are probably going through, but that’s where my sympathy ends. Dane doesn’t deserve my sympathy anymore, and that thought makes me kind of sad.
“It’s kind of scary to think that someone like him was going to be a doctor someday had he not snapped,” Dad says.
“What’s even scarier is the thought that if I hadn’t come back, Sydney could have ended up with him and not known what type of person he really was until it was too late,” Conrad adds, “If I hadn’t left in the first place, Dane might have just moved on and focused his obsession elsewhere.”
“Don’t blame yourself son, there’s no point in doing the what if’s. All we can do now is hope that justice is served and he gets the help he needs to get better, as well as you making a full recovery. Yes, it could have been worse, but you’re here, and that’s what matters now,” dad says, patting Conrad on the foot.
Conrad nods thoughtfully and smiles at my dad. My mom wraps an arm around my shoulders and pulls me close against her.
Later on, when Conrad is asleep again, my dad leaves to go grab us something to eat that isn’t hospital food, and my mom and I sit in a nearby, empty waiting room.
“I just wish that shit like this would stop happening to us,” I tell her, “it feels like it’s always another obstacle, another fight for us to be together and I want to know when the hell it’ll stop.”
My chest is heavy with worry and stress, but as I let the tears fall, my mother holds me and comforts me, it doesn’t feel as hopeless.
“I know it feels that way now Sydney, but it won’t always. One day you’ll look back on these days and long for the thrill of it all…maybe not this event of course, but the feeling of love and passion you two have for each other that make you continue to want to fight for what you have together,” she tells me.
“You’re probably right, though I hope we never have to long for the love and passion we have now, I hope that part stays and all the unnecessary drama goes away. Maybe once we’re married and can settle into a normal life, the universe will stop trying to mess with us.”
“Want to hear something I find sort of amusing?” my mom asks me then. When I look at her face, she has a small smirk on her lips.
“What is it?” I ask her curiously.
“Never, would I have ever believed that the right guy for my daughter would be her older, ex-English teacher slash rock star boyfriend, instead of the clean cut all-american med student. If the dark side of Dane never came out, on paper he’d read like the perfect match for my sweet little bookworm daughter.”
I can’t help but laugh a little.
“What?” she asks me.
“Conrad calls me his sexy little bookworm,” I reveal. My mom laughs and shakes her head.
“This is a perfect example of don’t judge a book,” she says, “Turns out that Conrad is the hero in this story, despite the questionable beginning.”
“He’s my hero,” I agree, “Forever.”
“Even bigger surprise,” mom adds, “your father loves him. Never saw that one coming. And you know what? So do I.”