Still Jaded

Page 20


He never stopped me in high school. Why would he start now? Then his eyes trailed past my shoulders and widened. He nodded. "Bottoms up, Sheldon." And with that, he tossed the rum to me.
I caught it with one swoop and tipped my head back to down what I could.
It was yanked out of my hands a second later. Before I even looked, I knew. Bryce seethed at me as he threw the bottle into the foliage.
All eyes were trained on us in that instant. It was surreal how clear certain people were to me right then. Corrigan was cautious but waiting. Grace frowned, nervous and fearful. Cadence was enraptured. Leah was scornful. Then I caught sight of someone else in the corner of my eye and turned. Dorothy looked out of place in her Sparky's uniform as she held a platter of sandwiches, her red hair done up in two ponytails. She watched with no emotion and maybe that's why something snapped inside of me.
"If this scene hadn't been played before, I'd laugh."
"Sheldon, don't." Bryce grabbed my arm and tried to haul me behind him.
But I dug my heels in. I wasn't going anywhere. "So did Donadeli's keep the business in the family? Are you related to him? Are you going to turn psycho and stalk me too? Do I need to kill you too?"
"Sheldon," Corrigan spoke up now. "Stop."
I swung around. "What do you care, Corrigan? All this mumbo jumbo about 'being okay' with each other. We are the farthest from okay that we've ever been." I doubled over in hysterics. If I was going to do a scene, I was going to win an Oscar.
"Sheldon, private. Please." Bryce tugged at my arm.
I whirled on him next. "And you—where do I start with you?"
"I agree with Bryce. Let's go somewhere private." Corrigan was at my elbow now. Both reached for me, but I hit them back.
"Privacy. That's what you want now, but you guys don't get it. We have no privacy. Everyone wants to know what's going on with us. They want to break us up or destroy us. Little do they know that we're already destroyed. We haven't been together since—" I glanced where Dorothy still stood. "Since him. Everything unraveled after him and after..." Europe.
"This is enough." Bryce took my arm.
I yanked it away and stumbled. Corrigan tried to catch me, but I threw myself away from both of them. Then I floundered. In slow motion the ground came up at me, but then I felt a shove from behind. I turned my head to see where I was falling now. A sense of horror overcame me for a brief second before I crashed into a glass table. As I heard it shatter, I closed my eyes.
"She's bleeding everywhere!" someone screamed.
"Oh my God."
I was aware of it all. Panic. Chaos. People ran and shouted. I felt gentle hands as they lifted me in the air and carried me inside. A moment later, I was laid down on my bed. All the while, those hands held mine and pressed against me in comfort. I yearned for those hands—they meant something that I couldn't feel at that moment, but I wasn't sure what it was…
Then I began to feel the pain. It started slow, a tingling in the back of my spine. It filtered throughout my body, and then it slammed into me. A scream ripped from my throat as I arched my back off the bed. I had never felt anything worse.
"Sheldon, Sheldon, Sheldon…" Bryce soothed as he tucked strands of my hair behind my ear. He kissed my forehead and rested his against mine. It was such an intimate touch that my stomach fluttered.
"We called an ambulance. It should be here soon."
I wanted to curse at Cadence. How dare she be here, much less be calm, when I'm bleeding everywhere?
Someone pressed a towel against my skin and I screamed again. The pain was so fierce. I closed my eyes and saw white, not black. The pain brought me to another universe—not really, but I wished for it. I tightened my grip on Bryce's hand and whimpered, "Make it stop. Please, make it stop."
"I'm trying, baby. I'm trying." He clamped onto my hand harder, and I started to feel some of that pain. I wanted that pain. It distracted from the other…
"Holy shit. Is this what it was like with me?" Corrigan whispered.
My eyes were closed, but I heard the stricken note underneath. I cried against the piercing headache that doubled when I opened my eyes, but I needed to see him. I needed to know he was okay, reassure him that I'd be fine. As I managed to focus on my surroundings, Bryce's shoulders were almost trembling, but he was holding my hand and kissing my forehead. Corrigan sat on the couch across from us, pale and shaken. He seemed to be in shock.
I caught his gaze and knew that neither of us was really in that room, not at that time. We both remembered a different time, when it was his blood on the floor.
"I'm fine, Cor. I'm fine. I'll be fine…"My voice was so hoarse.
He took a deep breath and then folded over to press his forehead against his knees. Then I looked at Bryce. "Help him."
He didn't look at Corrigan but narrowed his eyes and studied me more closely.
Someone applied pressure on my body, and I choked out a scream. The pain blinded me and then everything started to fade. Finally, the pain dulled and it wasn't long before it stopped completely.
"You say that she fell face-first into the table?"
I heard a voice and groaned at the pain. I didn't want to be interrogated and that voice sounded angry. I couldn't handle that right now, not when I was so sleepy and so…achy. Groaning again, I lifted a hand to my face and squinted to see where I was. The light hurt my head so I closed my eyes again.
"Sheldon?" Grace touched my hand gently. "Are you awake?"
"No. She just groaned because she's having sex dreams," Corrigan snapped.
Bryce cursed under his breath.
With another groan, I opened my eyes and forced them to stay open this time. That damn light didn't help. "Can someone please shut off the lights? Migraine."
Corrigan chuckled, "I think it's the twenty-six stitches that are causing your migraine."
"Corrigan," Grace shushed.
"It's the truth."
"You're not helping." Bryce's hand rested on my arm.
I moved closer to that touch. I needed more of it.
"Sheldon? Are you awake enough to answer some questions? Can you do that?"
I recognized Officer Patterson's voice and grinned, or tried to grin anyway. "If it isn't Officer Sheila. Long time no see, Officer."