I’ve been sitting in this underground box for an undetermined amount of time, sobbing. The sound of the padlock that Aiden locked me in here with being messed with makes my body go rigid. This is it, they found me. Light filters in as the door is opened, it must be morning. How did the time pass so agonizingly slow? I narrow my eyes trying to see who it is through the harsh morning light, praying that it’s Aiden.
“Ms. Emilia?” Howard’s voice is small, different than usual.
“I’m here.” I reply in a shaky voice. Unable to lift myself, he helps me out. As he carries me in his arms across the rooftop in slow movements, I begin to wonder how he’s alive. But from the looks of his bullet riddled jacket and blood-soaked shirt I can tell he won’t be for much longer. I can feel the hard material of his bullet proof vest against my palms as I try to get out of his grip. He needs medical attention immediately.
I notice another person with him, a man. Close to my age, tall and dark. Serious looking. He offers to help with me, but Howard declines.
My eyes frantically look around the ground for Aiden.
I can’t find him.
But the blood.
Where we had danced, when everything was going to hell and I looked into his eyes and saw adoration is now soaked in a pool of blood and a few teeth, but no body.
In a gut-wrenching cry, “Where’s his body!” I yell, making grabbing hands as we walk past the red soaked scene.
“He’s gone, Ms. Emilia. His body was taken away before I took you out.”
Howard brought a heavy blood-soaked hand to my mouth; I didn’t realize I was screaming.
I peel myself from his grip, my eyes focusing solely on a small red box on the ground.
“Howard, stop.” I beg, thrashing in his arms. He turns his head and nods. Refusing to set me down he kneels to the ground with a grunt. I retrieve the red box and hold it tight against my chest while we make our way to the stairs.
I examine the scarlet velvet fabric on the box. Upon further examination, I realize it’s not a red box. It was once white, Aiden’s blood had stained it. I sob against Howards chest.
“Shh, it’s okay.” He talks through wet coughs.
“Howard.” I cry, “You’re hurt. Put me down.” I demand, in a low and tired voice.
He refuses, shaking his head. “You’re broken Ms. Emilia, I can see it in your eyes.”
I huff, “Well you’re shot!”
He shakes his head, ignoring me. “Well, if you insist on me not walking hand me to him.” I gesture to the unfamiliar man walking alongside us.
Howard declines, always loyal even to a fault. He carries me through the bullet riddled apartment as I hide my face in his chest, unable to look at the damage.
The other man opens the door for us. I slide in the backseat, only focusing on Howard because if I think about Aiden... I won’t make it much longer. He lays his head down on my lap. The blood has soaked his shirt. I hold the open wounds with pressure to stop him from bleeding out but his warm skin is growing pale.
He lifts his head slightly, directing his words to the man up front. “Leo, I need you to take us to the cabin. The doctor is there, if anything should happen to me don’t deter from the plans.”
The man has a name, Leo. He nods once before peeling out and onto the road. Howard looks up at me, his eyes somber.
“Don’t die on me.” I beg of him as my tears drop in his salt and pepper hair.
He smiles, “Emilia, you’re like a daughter to me.”
I give him a weak smile, trying to muster up the words to say to him. When his eyes close I check his pulse. He’s out, but he has a faint heartbeat. I direct my attention to the front of the car. “Look at me.” I state, my tone playing no games. “Go to the hospital.”
Leo looks at me through the rear view. “I’m sorry, miss. But you heard him.” His heavily accented voice echoes through the suburban.
“I will jump out of the car if you don’t stop.” I threaten.
This elicits a smile from the man, “I have orders.”
“Are you my guard?” I ask, trying to think of a way to get him to listen to me. He nods. “Then I order you to go to a hospital. He’s going to die if you don’t!”
He continues to drive, ignoring me. Howard is losing the battle, I can tell. “My boyfriend was killed last night, I will not fucking lose anyone else!” I scream at the stranger.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Leo turns his head to the backseat. His eyes meet mine for a split second, then they pan down to a still Howard. Leo nods once.
He stops the car, then he peels out back towards the city.
When we arrive at the hospital Leo flings open the back door. “Stay.” He orders. I shake my head.
With annoyance he removes the black cap he just put on and places it on my head. Shoving it as far as it will go to hide my face.
I didn’t really think about what we would do when we arrived, but I can’t just leave Howard here alone. “Where do we go? The front door?” I ask as Leo lifts Howard from the car, and places him in a nearby wheel chair. His body is slumped and his skin is cold to the touch.
Walking beside Leo’s long legs is a struggle. “We’re going in the back, I have a friend here. He’s a doctor we will get him taken care of.”
With a small ounce of relief we make our way in through a back door, Leo’s friend looks over Howard and his lips tighten. He gestures to a room, “Here.” He says while he makes his way around the room gathering supplies quickly.
“Put pressure on the wounds.” The doctor tells me, Leo shakes his head. “No, I don’t want her to see any of this.” He turns is attention to me. “Please go sit in the room right there.” He points, gesturing to an adjacent room. My eyes pan around and it looks like were in a small surgical room probably for students to watch over on mock surgeries.
I shake my head, refusing to leave Howard’s side. “Stubborn.” Leo mutters under his breath.
The minutes are long as the doctor checks for bullets, painstakingly digging through each hole. Moments pass by as I watch the Doctors hands work their magic.
He claps his gloved hands together, his expression somber. “Good news is all the bullet holes are clear and sealed.” His eyes dart around Howards body. “Bad news, now we wait. I don’t know if he will make it. He’s lost too much blood.”
I realized I haven’t caught his name. “I’m Emilia, what’s your name?” I ask, looking over to see Leo with an amused expression.
“I’m Dr. Francis.”
“Okay, Dr. Francis. I need you to do whatever you need to do. Just save him.”
Dr. Francis’s mouth opens, he’s ready to deliver more bad news, I’m not having any of it.
“She won’t give up.” Leo says, a smile playing on his lips. “I won’t.” I agree with him.
“He needs a blood transfusion, I need to run test to find his blood type. I’m going to do that now but it’s not looking good. I just need you to prepare for that.”
I squeal, “Doesn’t matter, I’m universal. Use me.” I beg.
Leo steps next to me, his lean frame obstructing my view as he leans over Howards body. “Run the test, see if I’m a match.”
I push him back with difficulty. “No, Use me.” I state with finality in my voice. Leo throws his hands up, “How has he protected you all this time?” He mutters.
We decide on a direct transfusion, we have no time to spare. I squeam when he inserts the sharp needle into my wrist, connecting me to Howard.
The procedure took longer than I thought. Leo makes me eat crackers and ginger ale afterwards.
I sit and wait, sitting next to Leo. His demeanor is calm, not panicked like mine. I try to draw from his strength. I don’t know him but I’m thankful he listened to me. Howard should be just fine.
And thankfully he is.
So now it’s my turn to shut down.
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