During the journey to Le Corbeau Hospital Centre, nobody spoke a word. Salice stayed behind to collect Jonah so it was just the three of us: me, Bruce and Wolf. Together, we waited outside Mikey’s room and it was nearly going on three hours. He nearly died and Bruce wasn’t handling the news too well. He paced the corridors, anxiously waiting for the doctor. But no news is good news, right? His surgery was over and hopefully, we’d have something soon.
Who would want to hurt Mikey? Everything went down so fast I couldn’t comprehend the situation properly. The last time I went to the hospital was the night my dad OD’ed and ever since the scent of bleach was stale to my nostrils. Mikey’s incident didn’t fail my notion. Looking to my left, I saw him, Yusuf, who sat next to me. I was looking in at my own reflection when he mirrored my every move. Uncomfortable under his intense stare, I looked away.
“Please, let him be okay,” I whispered to myself.
“He won’t die today. I’ll give him hell if he dares to,” Wolf’s voice trembled as did his body. His hair fell over his dark eyes but I caught the glassy sheen beaming through his blondish veil.
Bruce hadn’t said a word, his face void of any emotion. The mask he displayed didn’t fool me. He was pissed, no, fuming with waves of his unrelenting rage radiating his skin. It was so powerful, so frightening, I couldn’t watch him too long. Containing that amount of anger left him unstable. He was the calm before the storm - just like my dad. The uncanny similarities were disturbing and I blocked any more thoughts plaguing my mind.
“Fuck this!” He marched to the exit. Scrambling to my feet, hastily, I followed after him. Where’s he going?
“Bruce,” I shouted but he didn’t stop. “Hold on, don’t do anything stupid,”
He swirled around to face me, his hot molten greys unforgiving. “Go back, McKenna,”
He continued for the exit and his demand went over my head. Jogging to his side briefly, I blocked his path.
“No, we already have one man down, I don’t want the same for you,”
“I can’t stay here and do nothing!” He roared, catching everybody's attention. “And I think I have a fucking clue who did this,”
As if on cue, his eyes shifted over my shoulder and I followed his gaze to find Tony approaching the hospital, his hands raised in a placating manner. Bruce moved so fast, from my peripheral, he was a complete blur. Lunging at him, he threw a sickening punch to Tony’s jaw, knocking him to the ground. I was immune to this type of violence. I didn’t scream but the predatory grace he possessed shook me to the core.
“Motherfucker!” He growled.
“I brought him to the hospital, asshole,” Tony wheezed when Bruce kicked his ribs. Grabbing his bicep with all my strength, I pushed him away. He shrugged my hands off and stalked to his prey. He was insane!
“Leave him alone!”
“I’m going to fucking kill you!” He bellowed as he grabbed Tony’s collar. “Leave this town or else I’ll fulfil that promise,”
“Oh, I intend to,” Tony gritted his teeth. “But she's coming with me,”
Bruce stiffened, his stance faltering as his eyes searched me in confusion. Frozen like a statue, I evaded his stare. “I don’t know what he’s talking about,”
Tony struggled to his feet, coughing in pain. “You haven’t told him what you’ve been up to during your absence? McKenna…”
He uttered my name in a condescending tone and my annoyance spiked at his sly smile. I faced him directly, my lips curling into a nasty snarl as I pushed his hard chest roughly.
“Get the fuck out of here!”
All patience was lost. What the hell was he doing? My volcanic eruption was close; I was hazardous to anyone close by. If it were visible, my mood would rise along the thermometer so fast it would burst into flames.
“Four days,” Were his last words and he walked away, leaving me alone to face him.
“What the fuck is he talking about?” Bruce asked, gruffly.
“It’s nothing,” I brushed past him for the building but he seized my arm, spinning me around. Shaking his head wildly, he scoffed humourlessly.
“It’s something and I’m not gonna like it,” He closed the distance between us, forcing me to crane my neck to meet his gaze. “Nothing is going on between you guys, huh?”
“What?” I snorted, astonished. “Why would you think that?”
“I have nothing else to go with other than he’s a man and you’re a girl. I don’t like what I’m seeing,” His nose skimmed my cheek with his lips to my ear. His fingers gripped my jaw possessively. “You’re my girl,”
“So tell me what the hell he wants from you?”
“Can’t you drop it?”
“No,” There was finality in his brusque tone and I ran my fingers through my hair. His questions were suffocating.
“Bruce, the doctor is here!” Wolf hollered before rushing back into the building. He didn’t move an inch when his name was called, keeping his eyes on me.
“Go, maybe he's awake,”
He was fighting whether to stay with me and find some answers or to hear of Mikey’s condition. With a low grunt, he jogged back into the hospital and I walked away with a new goal set in place, energized by my flailing emotions.
Wanting answers, I knew Tony had them all in his palms. Unlike Bruce, I didn’t welcome the instinct to use my fist first then ask questions later. The possibility of Tony being involved in everything crossed my mind and if he was, what was his motive? Was it me? If so, I couldn’t forgive myself if I was the reason Mikey was shot.
He didn’t get too far, courtesy of Bruce. He heard my footsteps and stopped midway down the path, giving me a chance to catch up with him. Stepping around him to face his front, his hazel eyes regarded me expectantly.
“I didn’t do it but I know who did,” He answered my unspoken question. “If you want us to leave this town, you know what you need to do,”
“So you called the order? Then you’re the one who did this,”
He was silent and I wobbled back in utter disgust. He was a parasite in this town. The longer I stayed in his company, the more I realised how sly he was. Suddenly, I understood why people were sceptical around him as he led a destructive path. If it were possible, plants would die whenever they sensed him.
“If I wanted to kill him, he wouldn’t be in the hospital,”
“What if I don’t want to go?”
There were times, for a split second, I considered staying but all thoughts were wiped out by the negative. My only reason to stay would be because of Bruce but was he enough? I was on the fence with him and with Gladys spewing vile words in my ear, it made nothing easier. Low self-esteem was another monster I battled and she easily toyed with it, knowing my thoughts would go against me, targeting my happiness.
He tilted his head to the side. “By the end of the week, you wouldn’t want to stay,”
I folded my arms cautiously, dumbfounded. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
He didn’t respond but sauntered past me with a little limp. “Think wisely about your decision,”
“Kill me right now,” Caitlin - one of my co-workers - groaned and slumped her head on the counter. She read my thoughts so clearly because I was close to saying the same thing. It was noon and not a single soul entered within the last hour.
“You know Wednesday is the slowest day of the week,” Alice commented, pouring three glasses of scotch. The glass glided across the bar and I turned it down, handing it over to Caitlin. She furrowed her brows but downed the liquid willingly.
“Are you an alcoholic?” Caitlin asked, invasively.
“No, I’m not interested in alcohol,” I moved away from the counter so she wouldn’t have the chance to say any more stupid shit. She didn’t have a filter whenever she talked. Instead of getting irritated with her stupidity, I learned to escape before she pissed me off. May I remind you, this was Alice’s girlfriend? They were polar opposites. It was hard to not question their pairing
“Caitlin!” Alice passed a look of warning. “The tables need to be wiped down. Think you can do that, babe?”
“Thank you,” I mouthed to her as Caitlin walked away.
“You don’t have to explain anything to anybody,” She patted my shoulder. The whole town knew of my father. Nothing needed to be explained.
I moved around the bar to help Caitlin and finally, someone walked in. It was Mrs Porters with her elderly friends. Putting on my best face, I escorted them to a table already clean from crumbs and sauce.
“Thank you, dear,” Mrs Porters touched my arm in gratitude as I handed them the menus.
I waited for them to make their order and whilst doing so, I cleaned around to distract my thoughts. Jace and Billy were out back, prepping the chips and burgers, and I salivated at the delicious smell. Billy chortled loudly and waved me over.
“You want me to make something for you?” He rasped. It exposed years of smoking and it was comforting.
“Please,” I said sweetly, thanking him profusely.
Jace was quiet. He never really said anything but his lack of response didn’t insult me. I knew he was kind. When Billy was too preoccupied with cooking for the customers, Jace passed a small portion of chips my way. He looked at me kindly and I reciprocated his smile.
“Hi, Jace,” He dipped his head in acknowledgement.
“I heard about your friend, Mikey. Is he alright?” Billy asked.
“He’s fine,” I reassured him and thank god he was. Salice informed everything to me, from his three-day coma to the beginning of his recovery. Bruce didn’t call or text me. Another three days went by and I didn’t hear a peep from my cell. Things didn’t end well at the hospital. I guess I expected this; I wasn’t going to be the last girl. With years of torment, my best quality was to hide my emotions, to reveal any sense of passivity which threw many people off. “The sheriff is searching for whoever shot him,”
“I think it’ll be safe for you to get home early this evening. Don’t want anything happening to yah,”
“Thanks for your concern but I can take care of myself,”
“I know, but I still worry about yah, kiddo,”
I glanced over my shoulder and the ladies were waiting for their orders to be taken. Grabbing a pen and notepad, I stopped short when I recognised my name falling from their lips and listened closely. I shouldn’t have. I told myself to walk away but my poisoned mind tortured my body as I stood stock still.
“She turned out just like her daddy, mentally disturbed,” One of the ladies said quietly. “It only explains why she’s hanging around the Atlas’,”
“Their daddy went through the same thing, drank himself to death and left them alone,”
“Didn't he spend six months in prison beating a guy near to death,”
“She’ll be like her mama with him beating her around,”
My fingers trembled and the pen and paper clattered to the ground. How could they think such a thing?
I knew people talked about my home life but I never anticipated the hurt I’d feel. Blindly, I rushed into Alice’s office, not registering her terror as I crashed to the ground near her desk. Uncontrollable sobs broke free along with unappealing hiccups as I pull my knees to my chest, protecting myself from the world. The door opened and whispered words were being exchanged. It was Caitlin. Did she hear what they said? A shadow fell over me and Alice bent to my height, encasing me in her arms.
“Hush, pet,” She crooned her endearment, stroking my hair. “I’ll get rid of them,”
“Why are they cruel?” I croaked, sniffing.
Her eyes softened with sympathy. “I don’t know,”