Excite Me

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Chapter 16

“Mia,” Michael said, brows furrowed together. He gazed at me with eyes filled with pure worry, and… and it felt weird. He hadn’t looked at me like that before. No man had looked at me like that for years.

The phone fell from my hands, and my upper body collapsed onto the bar counter, a shrill cry escaping my lips. No, this couldn’t be happening again. This… I… My eyes filled with tears, and I didn’t even try to stop them from rushing down my face.

I could distantly hear Susan talking through the phone that was now on the ground, and I stomped right on it to shut her up. If I hadn’t left Mom there… if I had brought her home with me, maybe it wouldn’t have happened. Maybe… Another loud cry… maybe she would still be happy and healthy.

Michael pulled my upper body off the counter, trying to hold me upright. “Shit…” he said under his breath. I gazed down at the counter to see broken glass, spilt water, and blood--my blood. “We have to get you cleaned up.”

He steered me toward the bathroom, but I pulled away from him. “No, I have to go.” I hurried toward the door, not even feeling any pain from the glass still deep in my arms.

“You’re not going anywhere,” he said, carefully snatching my wrist. “Not until the glass is out of your arms.”

My lips quivered, and I turned around to face him. “No…” I shook my head. “I have to go. You don’t understand. Mom is going to die.” Tears streamed down my face. “She’s going to die, and I can’t do anything about it.”

Michael’s brows furrowed softly again, and I could tell that he didn’t know what to say. But, then, he took my hand in his, squeezed tightly, and brought me toward the bathroom. “Give me two minutes. Then, I’ll bring you wherever you need to go.”

I let him because the glass would have to come out sooner or later, and Mom would be disappointed if she found out I rushed to the hospital--when she still had to be in surgery--with glass in my arms and blood gushing out of my wounds. “Just, please, be quick.”

After pushing open the bathroom door, he turned on the bathroom sink, lifted my arm, and gazed into my eyes. “This might hurt.” He carefully grasped a piece of the glass between his fingers and started to pull.

Pain shot up my arm, and I grasped his bicep, my fingers curling into it. “Michael…” I said. “Just pull.”

He hesitated, then pulled it out of my arm, immediately covering my wound with a bunch of paper towels. He threw the piece in the garbage and started on the second one, which hurt even worse. I rested my head against his shoulder, trying so hard to take deep breaths to disperse the pain… but the hurt just festered inside of me.

And I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between the physical pain of my cuts and the pain of hearing that Mom was close to death. She was my rock, the only thing that kept me happy in this shitty life I had to endure.

More tears streamed down my cheeks, my body heaved back and forth. I didn’t want to lose her. I couldn’t lose her. All of this would be for nothing. My life would be absolutely meaningless without her in it.

“Stay here,” Michael said, disappearing into the hallway. “I’m going to get some bandages.”

“The first aid kit is--”

“I know,” he said, walking back into the room with the first aid kit. The corners of his lips were turned up just slightly, in an attempt to make light of the conversation. “I haven’t forgotten.” He washed the blood off my arms and wrapped some gauze around them.

I stared at him while he helped me, frowning. He gazed down at me, spinning the gauze around my arm, his blue eyes so soft that I felt… I felt safe. And, again, that feeling was so unfamiliar that it made me shiver in fear. Yet part of me wanted more of it. I wanted to feel safe and cared for like this all the time. Not only when it mattered.

When he finished, I wiped my tears with the back of my hand and hurried out of the bathroom, desperate to get to Mom as soon as I could. I grabbed my bag and locked the bar doors, spotting Michael’s car.

I started towards it, then stopped. He would find out about Mom and how this happened before, if I let him bring me. He’d start to look at me differently. He’d pity me for what had happened to my family.

“Mia,” he said, nodding toward his car. “Let’s go.”

But… taking the bus would add another hour that I didn’t have. I swallowed my pride and walked with him toward his car, sliding into the passenger seat, and gripping my bag as if it held my entire life in it. “Can you drive me to Mercy Hospital?”

~~~

Within ten minutes, we were standing at the reception desk at Mercy, waiting for the fucking woman to get off the phone. She gazed up at me through her lashes, giving me that please-wait stare. She hung up the phone, smiled sweetly at me--as if she didn’t just scold me with her eyes--and asked, “How can I help you?”

“My mother. Jane Lewis. Where is she?”

She typed something into her computer and frowned. “Jane Lewis is being moved to the ICU as we speak. Go down the hallw--”

Before she could finish, I hurried down the hallway. I had been here about a thousand times before, I knew where it was. Michael stepped onto the elevator with me, and I pressed the Floor 4 button a million times.

If Mom was in the ICU, that means she had made it out of surgery already. But being out of her first surgery didn’t mean that this was all over. She would go through more, the hospital bills would pile even higher, and soon even Mason wouldn’t want to help me with her.

When I made it to the fourth floor, I hurried to the front desk. “Jane Lewis?”

The woman, much friendlier than the other one, smiled at me. “She’s still being moved up here. Once we get her settled in, I will let you know. For now, you can wait in the waiting room.”

Michael placed his hand on my upper back, guiding me to the waiting room. I sat next to him, my knees bouncing, and dialed Mason’s number. The call went almost immediately to voicemail, so I hung up and called him again. When he didn’t answer for a second time, I left him a message, my words coming out so fast that they sounded slurred. “Mason, please, pick up the phone. My mom is back in the ICU.”

And, after I hung up, I pressed my lips together and texted Melissa and Serena. “Please, meet me at Mercy.” My frown deepened when I didn’t receive an immediate response back, and I sunk into the chair.

Michael gazed over at me, his knee brushing against mine. “What do you mean your mother is back here? She’s been here before?”

My heart ached, and I gazed into his blue eyes. This was it. This was when he’d start treating me differently. Things wouldn’t ever be the same from now on. I nodded my head and wrapped my arms around my body. “About five years ago, she had a brain aneurysm. She’s been stuck in assisted living…” I shook my head, hoping more tears wouldn’t fall. “... when she should’ve been living with me.”

“Mia,” he said, voice soft. “I didn’t know. Why didn’t you tell me?”

I gazed down at my knees and didn’t say a word. I was ashamed, so ashamed that I couldn’t support myself and that I had to use Mason for money.

When I didn’t say anything, he sighed through his nose. And, then, he placed a hesitant hand on my knee and squeezed lightly, fingers brushing against the inside of my thigh. It was unlike any other time he had touched me. His fingers were soft, his touch so gentle.

“What about your father? Should you call him?”

And that was when I burst out into tears.

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