Chapter Twenty Six
There’s certainly something to say for the stressful situation that tightens the bond between people, friends and strangers alike. We could curse our near deaths, our injuries, or we could chose to give thanks for the strain that drew us closer together in the end.
My descent, it turned out, was not into death, but into sleep. And when I was pulled from unconsciousness, it was by the voice of an angle. A gruff voice, pained by my condition and whispering my name.
Though my eyes were closed, I was very aware of my situation. I lay on my back, Mason’s fingers touched my cheek. They wiped away the dust that had settled, they begged for my return, and they shocked me with their temperature. Not hot against my skin, but cold. Cold that followed the loss of blood…
Mason was shot!
The reminder was violent, ripping through me with a rush of adrenaline. My brain screamed frantically for me to wake up, but I could do little more than shift thoughts around my head. Like a prisoner within the confines of my own skeleton, I was trapped. Was I paralyzed? My father’s voice was there at the back of my mind - How do you eat an elephant, kid?
Not all at once.
One bite at a time.
Starting very small, I concentrated every effort on, not my right hand, but the first finger of my right hand. The nail, the tip beneath the nail, a single cell of the tip beneath the nail… I moved it! Then my middle finger twitched ever so slightly. And finally, I fought to bring myself around.
My maladies seemed nonexistent - until I sucked in air and almost died from the pain of it. Breathing was like trying to fill an old balloon that threatened cracking with the slightest expansion.
“There you are,” Mason breathed relief.
Scared, I stared up at him. “I was shot.”
He frowned. “I know.”
“No,” he shook his head. “You’re not bleeding.”
My hands felt for gushing blood, for a hole, for any proof of my deadly wound, but found only my shirt over something very thick and stiff.
“The vest.” I could barely whisper.
“Then why does it hurt so bad?”
“It’s gonna get worse,” he told me. “Even with the vest, a bullet can leave a pretty nasty bruise.”
As I stared up at him, I noticed the pallor of his skin. “Wait, you were shot, too!”
“I’m fine.” He winked.
“There’s so much blood...” I swallowed a wave of nausea to see how wet his sleeve had become. “It was dripping...”
“I just need a couple stitches,” he tried to reassure me, and his image spliced into two, wavered, and mashed together again.
I tried to sit up.
“No, no,” he rested his hand on my shoulder. “Don’t move. You hit your head pretty hard.”
“I’m fine,” I told him, even as I struggled to stay awake. Consciousness was slipping away and making me question the severity of my injuries. Could I actually die? “I think you’re amazing,” I whispered, eyes heavy.
“What?” he chuckled.
“You have the most beautiful eyes...” I added, not entirely in control of my words. Somehow, I was missing the filter between thoughts and speech. And I knew it was missing, but I didn’t care. “You never kissed me.”
Mason used his good arm to pull his hair out of his eyes. “Do you want me to now?”
Several people were standing around as witness to my idiocy, my lack of tact, every embarrassing revelation. And I still didn’t care. “Wait... where are Cat and Sarah?”
“Up here,” came Cat’s unmistakable brassy voice. Beside her, Sarah was offering her version of a comforting smile and coming off a little creepy. The both of them looked dusty and disheveled from the shoot-out, but neither was oozing any bodily fluids that I could see.
Something shifted beside them. A taller, lankier shape asked, “How many fingers am I holding up?”
I squinted through the haze and found that Greg’s teasing expression was tainted with worry. “Sixteen.”
“She’s fine,” he stated to the rest. “Good thing you gave her that vest.” He pounded Mason on the back and followed the police officer that wanted him for questioning. A moment later, Cat and Sarah were summoned away, and someone could be heard giving orders.
“Guy in the living room needs a transplant,” one of the EMT’s was saying. “Tape him up, and get him to the truck. And we’ll need another stretcher.”
“Who?” I could only whisper.
Mason looked suddenly edgy as he explained. “Sammy… He got cut up pretty bad on that glass table, but he’s conscious and joking, so that’s a good sign.”
“Yeah, he keeps asking for someone to tie a knot in his artery.”
And this was the moment I lost the contents of my stomach. I’m not usually one to puke under pressure, but the image of an artery squirting blood, and then someone trying to create a double-knot, fluids dripping, fingers slipping…
Before I knew it, I leaned to my right and vomited all over Mason. He only stared at me, completely stunned, as an EMT rushed to my side. I felt my head being lifted, there was shouting, and then darkness swam back in to rescue me from the most embarrassing moment of my life.