Authors: Marion Studer
Rain pelts at me as I stare up at the dark sky, struggling to draw precious air into my lungs. The throbbing in my head is so painful that I taste acid in the back of my throat, warning me that vomiting will soon be inevitable.
I don't know where I am or why I am hurting so bad, but I know nothing good can possible come from this predicament I'm in.
I roll to my side, careful lifting my upper body onto my elbow and with my head hanging low I slowly get to a sitting position. Fear hovers over me, making my clammy skin prickle with agitation. With my heart pounding out of control and my chest tight I can hear someone breathe heavily. My eyes dart to my right side and a little distance away I see Tucker laying on his back.
Even though I can hear him breathing, he looks… dead. With my sight still poor, I look down at my hands because that is all I seem to be able to bring into focus. They are shaking and they somehow don't even look like my hands. Focusing on them however, makes me feel a little more grounded. Then my eyes move over to Tucker's body again and I begin to hyperventilate just thinking about him being hurt. I'm going to die from panic, my inside screams
. No Chloe! You need to concentrate and help Tucker. He needs you!
As I tentatively move my limbs, acid rises up my throat. Rolling over onto my hands and knees, I let the vomit escape onto the grass. It burns my chest as I heave and I start to cough. My hand wipe over my mouth when I finish and I can taste the ugly taste of copper. My lips are split open, I probably bit my tongue, and it is swollen and thick. Then I look around and blink for the world to come back into focus.
And again I see Tucker's body not far from me and the sudden realization of my state of being in comes back into my mind like a speed train, forcing the air out of my lungs again.
“Grrgh,” I force out weakly, shaking uncontrollably.
“Grrg h… help!” My voice just barely rising above a whisper as I pull my aching body up to stand. My legs buckle without warning and I begin to cry. No, I can't help Tucker if I'm a mess. With a sharp quick wipe of my hand I wish the tears from my face straighten up and stumble to his body.
With sheer strength I scream… first inhuman like sounds, then adjusting my vocal cord to build words. Gurgling sounds form to recognizable words spurt out in a rage, which shocks even me.
“Trrgh,” I try to talk.
“Tuc… ker?” I was so hoarse I didn't think I would make a sound. My stomach twists and heaves again but nothing does emerge, just another awful gagging sound leaking from my lips.
I squat down and my hand lands on Tucker's chest. I can feel the rise on every heavy breath he takes. My other hand cups his cheek and I try again, “T… Tucker?” This time it sounds not as harsh and I whisper, “c… can you… hear me?” The sound of my own voice so foreign to me that I take a look around, but there is just me and Tucker.
In the distance I see the outline of the fall fair rides as distant lightning in the mountains give an eerie background light. The bad weather forced everyone to leave and they shut down the fair. Hasn't anyone seen us laying here? Why hasn't anyone bothered to see why we were laying on the ground?
I feel the tears on the back of my eyes again, but I swallow them down and with great strengths I force my voice to be louder this time when I shake Tucker on his shoulder.
“Tucker, can you hear me?” I see his eyelids flutter open and he gives me an unfocused look.
“Listen, you have to help me here. I can't do it on my own.” I cough, the talking is still very raw on my vocal cords and unsuccessful I pull on his arms. He is too heavy for me. I step behind him where I kneel down and lift his head careful onto my thighs, slowly with his help I inch him a little higher. He is loosing some blood. I clench my teeth, praying I'm not hurting him worse. His ribs are probably broken and he might have internal injuries.
I lift his bloody, almost lifeless head further up my lap. Inch for inch I dug my knees under his back side until he is in a sitting position.
A deep hurtful sound comes from Tucker and I squeeze my eyes, but push him further on to get up. I dug under his right arm until it lays around my shoulder then we both push on very unsteady legs to a stand. His breath leaves his mouth when I take a deep breath for myself and we take a few steps towards the truck.
“I will bring you to the hospital,” I whisper to him but he vehemently blurts out, “no. No hospital. No police… home.”
I can't believe he wants to go home and not to the hospital.
I have to grasp the door handle, because my feet slide and stumble as I nearly fall down between the car door and cab. My left hand finds a grip on the seat belt and I lift myself up onto the seat, pulling Tucker with great strength with me. With a big moan he finally hangs halfway over the seat. Stepping out off the driver side I walk around the cab and careful push his legs in before I shut the door. Heading back to the driver side I slip into the cab.
Damn, I never really had a proper driver lesson. My aunt owned a car and she showed me the fundamentals of driving, but that's quite a while back and I stare at the dashboard. Inserting the key I found in Tucker's pocket before we got on our feet, I try to remember what comes next. After a few tries I stutter out of the parking spot, cursing silently at myself when I hear Tucker moan.
It's so damn dark I can barely see anything. Pushing a switch on the right side of the steering wheel activates the windshield wiper into a frantic move.
Okay, I can use them
. I try the other side of the wheel and the high beam comes to life.
I blink at the sudden light, grip the wheel some more and jump onward. I push on the break, take calming breaths then try again and finally find myself driving. Good thing the weather keeps most drivers off the road and I steer nervously towards home.
Parking in Tucker's driveway, I shut down the motor and stare for a second at his house, glad I came this far without any incident.
I turn towards Tucker, my hand stroking his head and when I hear him mumble something incoherent I slip out of the cab. On the passenger side I tug on his arm to let him know that he has to give me more help and after a moment of grunting and huffing he slides slowly from the cab almost falling into my arms, throwing me off balance. We stumble together towards the door and I use the house key hanging on his car key ring. We only make it as far as to his couch, when Tucker slips down and with great effort lays on his back.
Rufus' nose ransacks his master’s body and I quickly search the bathroom for a first aid kit, but come up empty. Walking back into the living room I see a full bottle standing on a small table. I look at Tucker than take the bottle of whiskey into my hand.
“Don't. Please… don't do it,” he grounds out, “don't be like your mother.”
What the hell?
I look at him dumbfounded, “It's not for me, you dummy. I just try to clean your wounds.” But I'm not sure he can hear me. It looks like he got unconscious.
Picking up a clean dish towel I'm just about to clean his bloody face when I stop in midair. Am I doing the right thing here? Wouldn't it be the smarter thing to call a doctor and if I do so, it would look pretty bad if he smells like a drunk?
I know he told me to not go to the hospital, but I have to get him checked out. What if it is more serious then just a swollen face and a broken rib? And what about me, I know I had a concussion, but more than anything I want this guys charged. I feel Rufus eyes bearing into me and I make a decision.
I see specks of light dance across the roof of my living room when my eyes slowly adjust to the brightness in the room. Why was I on the couch?
Turning my head slowly to the side I see Chloe sitting in the single chair, legs ducked underneath her body, reading a book. Rufus to her feet lets out a contained huff and a smile tugs at the corner at my mouth. All feels so calm and comforting like a dream and I smile some more, bringing on a sharp pain, travelling over my whole face, ending in a bad headache.
And then, like the evanescence of the morning mist, the calm feeling fades and what is left is the sound of my heart as it beats hart against the wall of my chest. I can feel the fear close in on me the air burning my lungs. All that happen last night comes crushing in on me. My throat feels tight and I almost choke when I try to swallow the lump in my throat.
“Chloe,” I open my mouth and the name rolls out, rough.
Chloe and Rufus both jump up at the same time and in an instant both are at my side. I see great concern in Chloe's eyes and try to give her a reassuring smile, what ends up in a deep moan. I reach up to hold my throbbing head when I notice a bandage around my forehead and another one around my right hand. Lifting my head a little I see there is even one around my chest and I let my head fall back down, what leaves me with another sting of pain.
Chloe is softly holding my left hand and her thumb caresses the skin of the palm. For a second I close my eyes trying to gutter some strength, “Chloe, I'm so sorry. I hope you are okay. I never meant to let something like this happen. I need to tell you ...,” but before I can tell her what's on my heart, she seals my mouth with a gently kiss.
Oh god, it won’t be easy to tell her, but there is no way to let it go any longer and my eyes search hers, when I see the chopped lips and a light coloured spot on her head. My heart tumbles down and I pull both my hands over my face, take a big breath and I'm about to destroy any future I ever had with Chloe.
“Chloe, we need to talk,” I begin when I see her shake her head and I go on faster, “about last night and the time before. Mike McAllister is accusing me of ... of murder ... and he is right. I did ... I did murder your step dad twelve years ago. I went over to your home after he hurt you on that day. I wasn't sure what I had in mind, but as we stood there on top of the stairs, I was shouting at him and he lifted his hand to hit me, so I thought, but I quickly threw my fists at him knowing I hadn't a chance in the world to really do any harm to this burly man, but all I could think of was the hurt he put on you and at some time there was a scuffle between us. Your mum got between us and then he fell.”
I take a big gulp of air remembering the awful moment. “I still can hear the noise his body made when he fell down that stair and the horrific look of terror on your mum's face. After he hit the ground I fled home and I told my parents. Everything after that is a blur and shortly after, we moved away. But in spite of all, what haunted me most was the look in your eyes. I still can see you standing there and they didn't let me talk to you. Not once and it hurt so badly. I wanted to tell you how terrible sorry I was.”
I feel her fingers lace through mine and my breath hitches. We both stare at our entwined fingers and touching palms. She slowly brings it up, gulping as she does, before placing the top of my hand to her lips and holding it there for the longest time.
The room stays eerie quiet and my burning eyes lift to hers and I see a tear break free, leaving a scorching trail down her cheek. Her eyes big and round full of something indistinguishable. That's the moment I threaded my whole life. Will she run from me? Will she lush out at me? What was going on in her head? I brace myself for anything and watch her taking in a few heavy breaths. Then she leans into me and looks straight into my eyes, “So it wasn't your choice to not talk to me any more. I always wondered about it. I missed you so bad, Tucker, you have no idea.”
Shocked I look at Chloe, forgetting for a second all the pain I'm feeling. She talks about the loss of our friendship, of me... me... not of her step dad.
And holy fucking shit, she’s talking. Talking!
“You can talk… so I wasn't dreaming.”
She leans in even closer until I can feel her breath on mine when she whispers with a sob, “yes I got my voice back.” Some tears slowly make their way down her cheeks while she leans in even closer until I feel her breath on mine when she whispers, “I never told you what your friendship meant to me. How grateful I was for you being my friend. My best friend. My only friend. Now it's my turn. I called my doctor last night. You have being in and out of consciousness. I was so worried. Beside of bruises and a couple of cuts, one of your ribs is shattered… That's not all Tucker; I also called the police and reported the incident. Someone will show up today to take our statements.”
Oh shit, that’s exactly what I tried to avoid.
I always knew the past will eventually catch up with me, but I guess it's inevitable.
Her sobs grow louder as I press her head into my chest and coo in her ear as I rock her gently against me. She didn't know and couldn't foresee what would happen if someone found out. There must be rumours; why else could McAllister accuse me of murder? But she just seems not to care.
How could I ever doubt our friendship? How could I ever doubt the bond we had. How could I ever doubt her?