Still With Us
Here is another transitional chapter. I promise that the Lucaine mushiness will be back in the next chapter. Don’t forget to leave a comment even if...
*Also, I haven’t reread this at all so if some things do not make sense, I apologize. I’ve been really busy and I’ll let you guys know why in my next update.
Dr. Muller assesses Arlington’s emotional and frazzled state while guiding him through the Intensive Care Unit. She comes to a stop next to a long glass window with the shades drawn on the other side of the wall.
Assuming that it’s the place where Lucas is recovering, Arlington wants to rush in and hug his son. He turns to do exactly that but Dr. Muller places a gentle hand on his arm to stop him.
“Before you go in, I want you to understand that it’s going to be overwhelming in there,” she explains. “I feel I should prepare you for it. The buzzing, beeps and whirring sounds from the machines, all the tubes and wires and drains, his unresponsiveness -- it’s not something that you will get used to in a hurry. Whatever you may feel, do not touch any of the equipment. Don’t move the bed. Do not sit on it. Try not to lean on it. You can touch him. Hold his hand,” she clarifies. “No hugging for now, obviously. You can talk to him. No jostling,” she keeps adding. “We’re going to keep him under for a bit, to aid in his recovery. It will be a little while before your son opens his eyes again. We’ll monitor his progress and see about weaning him out of the coma in about a week or so.”
Arlington nods to each and every one of the doctor’s instructions. He uses her words of caution ready to himself for whatever is beyond the door. Nothing could have prepared him what he sees.
Pressing his hand over his mouth, Arlington shudders with the effort it takes to quell the rising cry ready to rip out of his throat. He does so successfully, but the tears fall anyway. No matter the prepping, as a father, he cannot bare to see his son, once so full of life and plans, so helpless and at the mercy of machines.
“He’s a live Mr. Bright,” Dr. Muller murmurs beside him. “You have your son.”
The gentle reminder is a source of strength for Arlington’s weakened spirit. The doctor is right. Lucas is alive and that’s what’s important. He wants to tell her so. He also wants to thank her again but it is impossible to get a words out as there is a rock of emotions lodged in his throat. Releasing a shaky breath, he quietly follows Dr. Muller’s lead to Lucas’ bed.
One of the first things Arlington notes is how pale frail Lucas looks. He studies the sickly pallor of his skin but tries not to make himself go back to feeling completely destitute about the whole situation. Even if he cries and rails or really finds Angus’ bed to seek just retribution for what he’d done, none of it will change anything. There is nothing that he can do to aid or speed up Lucas’ recovery. Nothing to do but wait, pray and hope.
And yet, Arlington doesn’t feel absolute impotence. He’s considered his options. He may not possess the power to heal his son but he has the power to influence other things -- like the fate of the man responsible for Lucas’ current condition.
His first thought had been to hire a hitman to finish the job that Tawny should have and when the opportunity presents itself, he has every intention of learning from her why she hadn’t done it herself. The next thing he’d considered was bribing jurors during the trial. God knows, he has enough money to do it. He could uses his ascendancy to sway a judge or judges. The only thing that gives him pause about using those avenues is the fact that they require sullying his usually clean hands. There is only one way to do it and that’s through the justice system.
For the time being, Arlington sets aside his murderous thoughts to focus on his son. He lifts Lucas’ cold and seemingly lifeless fingers in both of his hands and brings them to his lips. How many times has he given that hand a robust shake in hearty congratulations for some type of achievement. He wants the chance to continue shaking his son’s hand as he continues to conquer the world. On his wedding day too.
Arlington turns his red rimmed eyes to the doctor where she’s prodding at the machines giving life to Lucas.
“Everything looks good,” she tells him.
Arlington gives her a nod. Thanks to this doctor, he may het have a chance to do all of those things -- to be the father that he had never been.
For the first time in the eleven hours since the news reached him, Arlington allows himself to think positively about Lucas’ future. At least, today, he doesn’t have a funeral service to plan and that is a relief.
“You only have a few minutes,” the doctor tells him as she shifts around the room, checking monitors and wires and tubes.
“When will we be able to move him?” Arlington asks.
The doctor gives him a surprised look. Confused, she asks, “move him?”
“Yes, I live in New Jersey,” he explains. “I’d prefer if he was closer to home. I have a sixteen-year-old daughter. She needs supervision. She’s in school and..”
“Ah,” she says in understanding. “I would hold off on that for the week and then see how he fairs before okaying it,” she explains with her brows rippled in contemplation.
Her eyes shift to Lucas’ face. Mentally, Dr. Muller shakes her head at herself for noting what a good looking man Lucas Bright is, even beneath the shadow of death. He looks a lot like the man standing before her right now. It would have been such a shame if he’d died so young when he’s only just begun scratching the surface of his potential.
Dismissing her thoughts, Dr. Muller rests a reassuring hand on Arlington’s and tells him, “Ten minutes Mr. Bright. That’s how much time you have.”
After she leaves, Arlington takes a seat beside the bed and keeps Lucas’ hand in his. He gives it a soft squeeze just in case he is able to feel it. Shutting down the wheels turning in his mind on just how Angus Maloney is going to pay for his crimes, he spends the first few seconds of his time alone with Lucas is silence.
Then he begins rambling on about any and everything that doesn’t pertain to present circumstances. The only thing he does mention to give Lucas a reason to keep fighting, is that the woman is loves is alive and well and waiting for him.
Not being able to receive a response only perpetuates the deep longing in him to have more than a one sided conversation with his son. Arlington sniffles loudly and leans back against the chair to pass the rest of his ten minutes in quietness.
When his allotted ten minutes has elapsed, he steps out of the room and gets on his phone.
“Arlington Bright for the District Attorney,” he says when a woman answers.
She transfers the call without a moment’s delay and like many times in his life, Arlington is grateful for his affluence and his pull with the influential in this world that gets him past all the red tape.
“Arlington,” the DA greets, his voice heavy with regret. “I heard about what happened, such a terrible thing. Is he...how is he doing?”
“He’s alive,” Arlington replies, his tone somber, befitting his mood and the purpose for this call. “He’s fighting to be alive,” he corrects. “But we’re hopeful. His doctors are optimistic, thank you for asking.”
“Of course,” Dennis Roth, answers. “Anything we can do to help, just let me know. My family and I will support you.”
Without wasting any time with dull chitchat, Arlington says, “there is something that you can do, Dennis.” Then he adds, “he doesn’t make bail. The man who did this to my son doesn’t make bail.”
There is short pause on the other end of the line before the District Attorney says, “Arlington,” in that tone that suggests the makings of a regretful protest. “I know that you are hurting but there is a system in place...”
“System?” Arlington injects. “The system had this man on the streets for a full month while he tormented and threatened Lucs. He doesn’t make bail, Roth,” he demands a bit more emphatically than intended. “Or need I remind you that you need me for...”
“You don’t have to remind me of anything,” the DA interrupts. Because he understands that his friend is obviously suffering, he keeps his tone measured when he says, “I’m a custodian of the law, Arlington. The law is there to treat everybody fairly. As DA, I am obligated to tell you that there are procedures and protocol to follow. But as your friend and a father, and someone both fond of and impressed with your son, I am saying that I will do all I can keep him off the streets.”
Arlington weighs the words spoken in his ear to try to find any falsehoods in them. He sighs a little and replies, “thank you. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to threaten to. It’s just...it’s hard seeing him...”
“Hmm,” Dennis hums in understanding. “It’s fine, old friend,” he assures Arlington. “I’ll be in touch.”
Feeling a renewed calm in his spirit, and a niggling sense of guilt, Arlington exhales slowly. “Thank you and I’m sorry. I didn’t mean...this is just...”
Unconsciousness finally releases the shackles that it has on Alaine, though, her confusion is far from cleared. She blinks up at the white ceiling and the dim glow fluorescent light hovering over her. It reminds her of a hospital room but that’s impossible. Slowly, she takes in everything else around her -- the smells, the faint sounds, the colour on the walls.
Had she been rescued?
She tries to sit up but an arm pushes her firmly back against the bed. Panic sits in Alaine’s chest, suffocating. Alaine ignores the pounding at the base of her skull and turns her head to look up at her captor and beg Angus to let her go or not hurt her.
Blue eyes stare back at her but they’re not cold or devoid of any emotions. They’re red and puffy obviously from crying.
“You’re okay,” Delah whispers.
She smooths her hand over Alaine’s forehead and back into her hair. “I’m so glad you’re awake. Izzy has been hounding me about you,” she explains with a happy chuckle. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”
“What...?” Alaine croaks. She wants to ask so many questions but her mouth and throat feel like she’d treated them to a meal made of nails.
“You’re fine,” her sister tells her. “You’ve been out of it for a few hours. Like, almost an entire day, but you’re fine.”
Tears pool in Alaine’s eyes because she now knows for sure that she hadn’t dreamed the things that happened. It hadn’t been a nightmare. She closes her eyes, allowing the liquid clinging to her lashes to slide down her cheeks.
She needs to know about him. She needs someone to confirm what she already knows but at the same time she’s afraid to learn the truth. Once she hears the words, he didn’t make it, then it will really be over.
A broken sob shakes her chest, releasing a deluge from her eyes. She opens her mouth to say something but a wail comes out instead.
Delah climbs into the bed with her, holding her tightly.
“He shot them,” Alaine finally weeps into her sister’s shoulder. “He killed them...I...”
“No,” Delah assures her quickly. “He didn’t. I mean...they’re alive, Ali. Seth and Lucas are alive.”
Alaine peeks up at Delah, studying her features for signs that this is nothing but a very poorly timed joke.
“What?” she asks slowly in disbelief. “I saw...”
“Lucas is in the ICU,” Delah quickly explains. “The doctors think he’ll make it. And Seth is already awake -- the lucky bastard. The doctor said the bullet missed everything important. It was when he hit his head that he fell unconscious.”
This time, when Alaine breaks down, it’s from the immense surge of relief.
“Thank God,” she cries loudly. Her entire body shakes from the force of her weeping. She doesn’t know how they managed to survived but she’s grateful and happy for the miracle of life.
She takes a deep breath to quiet her crying and says, “I want to see him. Now.”
Without delay, she pulls the blanked the hospital staff had tucked over her and makes to swing her legs over the side of the bed.
“Hey,” Delah says and grabs her arm to hold he back. “Someone has to check up on you first.”
“I need to see them,” Alaine counters. “I need to see for myself. I need to see Lucas.”
“Lucas is in a coma, Ali,” Delah tries to explain.
Alaine gasps with a renewed sense of desolation but that new is not enough to deter her determination to be by his side. She pulls away from Delah and slides her wobbly legs down until her bare feet touch the cold floor. It takes a few seconds to communicate her will into her limbs but she presses her weight onto her hands on the bed and pushes her body to stand.
Her legs barely support her.
“Okay,” Delah relents. She grips Alaine again and pulls her back down to seat. “Let me find a nurse. Maybe we can find a wheelchair to take you. Just wait.”
With an urgency in her steps, Delah disappears through the door, leaving Alaine alone with the haunting last memories she has of Lucas.
Blood...his blood staining her hands red. The sound of the bullets. Angus’ voice demanding that she get out of the bathroom. Angus again, punching her.
Her hand flies to the grotesquely disfigured side of her face and she whimpers.
The swings open again and Delah walks in with a doctor and Detective Murphy behind her.
If Alaine wasn’t so weak, if her anguish wasn’t weighing so heavily on her, she would give the woman sworn to protect and serve a piece of her mind.
Instead, she follows the doctor’s instructions when she says, “lie back.”
While the doctor prods at her, the detective hits her with a barrage of questions that only fuel the little hammers chipping away at Alaine skulls.
“I want to see Lucas,” she announces to no one in particular.
Detective Murphy stops mid-sentence. “As soon as we’re done here, I’m sure we can arrange that. Right, doctor?” she says.
The doctor opens her mouth to answer.
“I want to see him now,” Alaine opposes.
“Ms. Knight, I have to my job and the doctor has to do hers...”
And incredulous laughs gurgles in Alaine’s throat but it dissolves into a pitiful, mournful sob.
“Your job was to ensure that none of this happened,” she fumes. “Your job was to protect him and you didn’t...”
“Don’t talk to me as if I’m your child that you want to placate,” Alaine interrupts again. “I’m not answering another one of your questions until I see...” Her breath shudders in her chest.
The fight drains out of her with it but she latches on to her determination. “You won’t get your job done unless I see him,” she declares with the kind of stubbornness that makes Delah smile.
The stubborn jut of her chin informs Detective Murphy that she won’t budge.
“Doctor?” she questions.
“I’ll have a nurse come in to assist,” she replies before leaving the room.
A short while later, A woman dressed in scrubs wheels a wheel chair into the room. She helps Alaine into it but Delah steps in to drive her through the hospital hallways to the elevator that will take them to the ICU.
Delah stops beside his door to push it open then maneuvers Alaine inside. The first thing that Alaine takes note of is the weather outside.
The sky is an endless shade of bright blue casting brilliant steaks of sunlight through the large window beside Lucas’ bed. It feels so wrong for everything in the world to keep working as it should in the wake of this. It shouldn’t be. Everything should stop on Lucas’ behalf since he isn’t awake to experience it.
Delah drives her toward the somber scene.
“Oh, Lucas,” Alaine whimpers. She places her hand over his and wishes that she could feel his firm fingers encasing her own with that reassuring, comforting squeeze. She lifts his hand and strokes the back of it over her cheeks. Shakily, she rises to her feet to place a kiss on his forehead. “I’m sorry,” she weeps to his deathly pale features. “I’m so sorry.”
It’s not until a steady, strong arm closes around her shoulders that she realizes that there was someone else in the room. Alaine starts but looks up at Arlington. She breaks down even further.
“It’s good to see you awake,” he tells her. “I asked them to bring you up, once you were strong enough. Lucas would want you by his side.”
When she only continues to stare at him with those sad eyes, he adds, “They only give us a few minutes with him for the day. Sadly, I have no sway over that but you can talk to him. Maybe he’ll hear your voice.”
“I’m sorry,” is all Alaine can reply to all that he’d said. “I’m so sorry this happened to him. It’s my fault,” she continues her shoulders shaking.
Arlington pulls Alaine in for an embrace.
“It’s not,” he replies then searches himself to ensure his assurance isn’t a lie. To ensure he doesn’t cast blame on her for Lucas’ misfortune.
Arlington sets her back but keeps his hold on her shoulders.
“It is,” she opposes. “I should have stayed away. If I wasn’t in his life...”
“That’s why you left him,” Arlington says thoughtfully.
Surprisingly, he chuckles. To cut of her self-recrimination, he regards her with fondness and says, “nothing would have kept Lucas from being with you. I don’t mean to preach, but my son loves you. You’ve made him a happy man and for that, I am grateful. Do you hear me?” he asks and places a finger under her chin to life her teary gaze to him. “I don’t blame you. No one does. We’re just happy that both of you... all of you, are still with us.”