Chapter 38: Burning Questions
“I will kill him!” Bjorn’s voice stirs me.
“Get in line, big guy,” Ava hisses. “I will skin him alive and use this inked skin to decorate the baby room.”
Rage. They are talking about Rage. My head is dizzy and I feel weak but I react to this with instinct.
“No,” my voice is weak and hoarse.
Ava sits on the bed and caresses my forehead.
“First word she says in four days and it’s to defend that worthless piece of shit,” Bjorn snarls. “I swear if Runner hadn’t gotten in the way...”
“Iris, girl. Look at me.”
I fight and I open my eyes. Ava smiles and she keeps caressing my hair.
“Ava,” I say.
“You scared me for a minute there,” Ava’s voice breaks.
I know not what to say. And then it all comes rushing back to me. All of it. Being scorned by Rage, tossed aside, discarded. He told me I was his and that he was mine but he let Tor...A tear runs down the side and wets the pillow.
“No, no, Iris. No crying,” Ava wipes the tear away. “Sit up, Iris. Eat something, I am begging you. You haven’t eaten a thing for days.”
I shake my head in denial and close my eyes. I have no will to go on. My body rejects the idea of food and I just want to sleep. Ava grabs my head and shakes it lightly.
“Don’t slip away, Iris. You will eat. I have seen enough death. I am not losing you to a fucking heartbreak.”
I look up to her and I see Bjorn behind her, his usual dark face laden with worry. Ava still cares. Bjorn cares.
“I need you, kid. Back to work,” Bjorn tries.
I muster all I have in me and I sit up. Ava moves rapidly and brings a bowl with chicken soup to my lips.
“Slowly,” she urges me.
I do as she asks to keep her happy. She is pregnant and I don’t want to upset her, not in her condition. I swallow the soup and it is as if my mouth is sandpaper. Ava breathes relieved and Bjorn nods to me. I look around and I am in a nice room, washed in sunlight. I am on a white, metallic bed. The room has a light lilac color, cute frames hanging on the wall, white, vintage wardrobe. I hear birds outside and I see a tree outside the window.
“The guest room,” Ava straightens my covers to hide her anxiety. “Your room for as long as you need.”
“I got your stuff back from-” Bjorn stops mid-sentence.
I frown feeling the pain rip me from the sunlit room to the one I shared with Rage. I would trade places gladly. I would give everything I have, my soul, my heart just to be back on that bed, in his arms, waking up to see him stare down at me with those eyes. His eyes. Will I ever see bluer eyes in my life? A whimper leaves my lips.
“I am sorry,” Bjorn mumbles.
“Did he...?” I ask.
“He is across the Bay. Vince has some trouble and Tor sent him.”
I nod and I eat a bit more to keep from crying. When I am done, I make an effort to get up.
“Hey, hey,” both come to me.
“Are you going to work?” I ask.
Bjorn nods confused.
“I am coming.”
“Like Hell you are,” Bjorn menaces but calms when Ava touches him.
“I need to work. I am close to finishing up the Eleanor and you need help,” I notice Bjorn flinches. “Is the Eleanor OK?”
I despair. That car is the last thing I got. I will go there and I will fix her. I can’t fix me but I can put her back together, make her great once more. I would have made something, I would have saved her. Then maybe I won’t be so worthless.
“The car is fine. I didn’t touch it,” his look is enigmatically dark.
“I will fix her in time for the wedding. Maybe Ava can ride in it.”
“We are having the wedding her...”
“Great idea!” Ava pins Bjorn with a suggestive look.
“Sure. Great idea,” Bjorn backs down. “Get ready then.”
That’s my life for the next two weeks till the wedding. I get up and I smile while I have breakfast with Bjorn and Ava, nodding my head when asked something. Then work with Bjorn and back home studying engineering over the laptop Ava gave me and taught me how to use. Sleep. Breakfast. Smile. Work. Study. Repeat. I can’t set foot in the bar and have told Daniel that I can’t keep my end of the deal of keeping it in order. He said nothing, just nodded and told me not to worry about it. He shook his head and touched me lightly on the shoulder.
I pretend I am not thinking about him. That I don’t look up each time I hear a bike. That my breath doesn’t hitch whenever a memory claims him. That I don’t crave his touch all the time. The Riders act like all is the way it was before, like the first days I got to work for them, insignificant me. No one talks to me, they speak directly to Bjorn even if they ask specifically for me to fix something. I don’t care. As guests from other chapters come, I am swamped with work, all day bent over some bike.
Only Runner acknowledges me, lifts his chin whenever we happen to cross paths. He even opened his mouth to tell me something but I walked away quickly and got in the truck with Bjorn. I know he is Rage’s brother, the one that knows him well but I don’t need him to make any excuses. None needed. I have need for nothing anymore.
I may be free, no chain around my neck keeping me to a pipe on a wall but for some reason I am back in Daultrey’s chop shop, dead inside, occupying my mind with engines. And as Tamie would visit me to shed a little light then, now I have Ava. She drags me to do shopping for the wedding, for the baby, for beauty treatments. She does all the talking but she doesn’t let that stop her. Sometimes I forget myself and I genuinely smile at her jokes. And then my pain pushes up my throat and I have to swallow my smile down.
“I swear if my uncle sends one more gift...” Ava guides one of the men that are carrying a big box in the house.
We are now in full wedding mode. Ava and Bjorn are having the wedding in their yard, that is big enough to host the whole thing so the whole Eleanor thing was just a ruse from Ava to keep me occupied. The marquee for the party is already set and the platform for the ceremony is under the shade of the trees. Ava insisted on a daylight wedding.
“Wine cooler,” Ava lets out a laugh and I try to participate. ”Dyadya..." she shakes her head.
“The chairs are coming in an hour,” I tell her. “Should I have them set them up?”
“No, it’s OK. The girls are coming to lend a hand.”
I nod. I have been to the escort with Ava for a pool bachelorette party. I stayed in the silk kimono Ava has gotten to me, unwilling to show my back and Ava must have schooled the girls cause none made any comments or questions about Rage. If anything, they made an extra effort to keep me happy more than they did Ava.
“I’ll go and make sure the marquee is safe then,” I suddenly need to be out, away.
“Iris?” Ava seeks my attention. “I am coming with.”
We go out the big yard and we walk in silence. Ava caresses her belly and takes one big breath. She then stops in the middle of the way.
“Iris, I want to talk to you.”
“I know you plan on leaving after the wedding.”
I try to deny it but Ava raises her hand and dismisses me. I sigh and look over her shoulder at the open sky. Blue, blue sky. I shut my eyes and stop myself from screaming for the millionth time. Today.
“It’s OK, I get it. It is too much. And you have grown. I am so proud of you, Iris.”
I may have stopped myself from screaming but I can’t stop the tears. That is the first time anyone has said the to me. Bjorn shows it in his own harsh way but he never said the actual words.
“Thank you,” I say in a shaky voice.
“Now, two things I want to ask of you. Call them my wedding present.”
“Anything,” I smile genuinely. “I still owe you for pulling me off the streets. And I can’t ever repay you.”
“That’s debatable but I’ll take it,” Ava takes my hand in hers. “The wedding is tomorrow. Rage will be here,” she holds me tighter as I stiffen. “I want you to talk to him.”
“No,” I pull my hand away.
“I want you to pour out all that pain and anger you have in you. It’s poisoning you, it’s killing you inside. You are in anguish, in eternal wondering. I know what ails you. “Why?” that is what you want to ask,” I gasp but she doesn’t stop. “You need to know, free your soul from that agony, Iris. Confront him, let him know how you feel. That is my first request. The second...” Ava walks up to me and cups my face with her hands. “The second request is that you hear him out.”
I fall in her arms and I cry. And we stay there for a while. For as long it takes for my breathing to come back to normal.