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           J.W. Phillips
 

  “Lay still helps on the way, beautiful.”

  “Jake,” Julie whispered.

  Jake was there whispering in her ear. He held her as she laid there unable to move. She could hear the faint cry of sirens in the distant and people crowding around the violent scene. She glanced around for her mom then realized she was in the ball of fire that was once her truck.

  “No,” she screamed. Jake softly kissed her cheek as everything went black.

  *******

  Trucker was in need of a bath and shave but he couldn’t leave. How could he walk away when Julie needed him the most? So there he sat in the ICU waiting room trying not to turn, kill the family that was way too-loud and having too-much fun, trying to gulp down a hamburger his mom had brought him, and gather his words.

  My journal, my old faithful crutch, I’m back. It’s been weeks since I needed you. I need you now, to make sense of my baffled feelings. My bright, beautiful sun has set and my blue skies have faded away. I feel like I’ve fallen into a never ending darkness. As bad as the pain is with the death of her mother, the pain would have been horrendous if I would have lost her. So I’m thankful Jake was watching, because I couldn’t imagine my life without her. My life is still breathing. She is laying in that horrible hospital bed, but she’s still here. It was too late for her mom. There was nothing Jake could do. I don’t know how we are going to tell her about her mom. If her grief is anywhere near Dan’s, I don’t know if I can handle it. Dan is in complete depression. I’ve not left once. My only trip out of this miserable hospital after I got that godforsaken phone call was with him. The hardest thing I ever witness was watching the only man who has ever treated me like a true son decide what to do with the once beautiful body of his one true love. It was already burnt beyond recognition, so he decided to cremate her. That way Julie could attend the service when she was better. I could only imagine if it had been my Julie who had perished that day. Every time I have that thought my other side grows stronger. If I ever see the driver who drove into Julie’s truck, I will kill him before anyone even turns around. As much pleasure as those thoughts bring me, I have to forget them. So I can stay human, stay good to get Julie well. My senses are going haywire. Jake told me he would take care of her. He is feeding her my blood. He has already saved her life. I just want her whole again. I can handle anything, but her hurting. Truck

  Trucker put his journal away knowing he had thirty minutes until he could see her again.

  *******

  Julie came too with bright lights glaring in her face, almost blinding her. She heard an agonizing beeping sound close by. Her arms were all twisted up with clear tubes, tape pulled at her skin, her head was propped on a hard, lumpy, pillow. Jake crossed her mind and she wondered if she had died. The horrendous pain in her head told her different. If she was dead; she was in hell, but this was an earthly pain not an eternal one. She heard voices around her, but none she knew. It hurt to move but she managed to get one word out, “Jake.”

  “Hey, sweetie.”

  She worked to get her swollen eyes open enough to see and there stood Jake, smiling down at her.

  “Don’t talk because they’ll think you’re crazy. See only you can see and hear me.” He lightly squeezed her hand. “Lucky thing.”

  She tried to smile but all the bandages on her face prevented it.

  “You’re in the ICU after a nasty wreck. It’s almost visiting hours, but Truck hasn’t let me leave your side.” He stroked her hair. “I’m going to make it better, sweetie.”

  She heard footsteps and turn to see a nurse come in the room.

  “Hallelujah, someone finally woke up. I’m Teddy. I need to get your vitals,” the nurse said in a compassionate voice.

  “What . . . day?” Julie worked to get out. She hated feeling so disoriented.

  “It’s Thursday, you’ve been out for eight days now. I know two people who are going to be thrilled to finally see those beautiful eyes. I’ll get your vitals and then call them on up.” Teddy was a breath of fresh air. She was a plump little lady that sung show tunes the whole time she was working on Julie.

  Julie felt the blood pressure cup get tight on her arm. The nurse worked over her, checking the many bandages on her body. Julie peered off in the corner and watched as Jake mimicked the nurse. If the pain wasn’t so severe she would have laughed.

  “I’ll go call up your family,” Teddy said as she left the room.

  Jake was at Julie’s side, holding her hand. The words of the nurse came back to her, ‘I’ll go call up your family. I know two people who are going to be thrilled to finally see those beautiful eyes.’ Just two people, her mom and dad. Julie felt the tears wail up in her eyes, no Trucker. She figured it was all too much for him. He still cared, he had Jake there. But she didn’t want Jake, she wanted Trucker. She squeezed her eyes tightly together, wishing the blackness would take her over again. She prayed that this was all a bad dream.

  “Angel,” Trucker whispered in her ear, and graced his warm lips over her chin. Maybe it was a bad dream. She was going to open her eyes and be in her room, snuggling in his arms. Her eyes flung open. Trucker was there, but he was not in her room. He was standing there in that hideous hospital room looking every bit the angel. How could anyone fall for his human facade was beyond her? A true angel with wings spread would seem less obvious then he did at that moment. Seeing him standing over her, looking down with such worry and concern made the pain almost fade away.

  Someone nudged her foot. “Hey, baby girl.”

  She moved her eyes to see her dad at the foot of the bed. He appeared to have aged twenty years; his eyes were almost swollen shut from crying.

  “Hey,” she uttered not much over a whisper.

  Julie felt Trucker’s finger slide down her cheek. She pulled at her face trying to tear off the bandages so she could smile at them. Trucker’s hands restrained her.

  “Be careful before you tear your stitches out, love,” Trucker said.

  “I . . . love,” was all she could say.

  “We love you too, baby,” Trucker said and sat down on the bed beside her while Dan leaned against the rail of the bed, on the other side.

  She glanced around for her mom, who wasn’t there. She closed her eyes as her vision was consumed in flames. Ellen was in the truck. She had burned alive. Julie started thrashing in pain, the pain from her wounds and the pain from her memories. She heard Dan call for the nurse and felt Trucker reach for her with his hot hands. The feeling of hands pulling her from the truck popped in her mind. She opened her eyes and they met Trucker’s. “Jake.”

  She shook her head. Jake wouldn’t have saved her and left her mother there. It had to be some other explanation. The nurse stood over her, putting something in her IV.

  “No!” Julie pulled at her IV trying to stop her. She didn’t want to fall back to sleep. She needed to think and talk to Trucker.

  “It’ll stop the pain,” the nurse said as she stared at the heart monitor going berserk. Of course, her heart was going wacky. After all, she had just realized her mom was dead, and Trucker’s family could have played a part in it. She needed to talk to Jake and figure it all out. The thought he could have been involved was too much for her.

  “Angel, calm down. What’s hurting you?” Trucker asked, stroking her fingers sticking out of the cast on her left arm.

  She shook her head. “Mom?”

  Dan sat down beside her and tenderly touched her face. “Sweetie, she’s safe now. We’ll talk more later. You only need to worry about getting better.”

  Julie tried to ask more questions, but the pain medication made her groggy. The room slowly went in and out of focus, her eyelids grew heavy, and she drifted off to sleep.

  ******

  The next two weeks were essentially the same. She would come to in extreme pain. Only to find Jake hovering over her, and the nurse shortly after giving her more drugs. Occasionally, she would come too long enough to see Trucker, her dad, and even Cath
erine. She learned she had a broken arm, a few fractured ribs, a cracked skull, and massive head trauma. Jake was using Trucker’s blood, enough to heal her completely, but not enough to throw any red flags.

  “Well look at you, finally I can see those beautiful eyes.” Jake smiled down at Julie, her eyes finally fully open.

  “Where is he?” she whispered to Jake, knowing she was the only one who could hear and see him.

  “In the waiting room with your dad. They’ll be up shortly. The doctors are talking about putting you in a regular room today or tomorrow. Then you can look at his ugly mug all you want.”

  Julie couldn’t help but smile at Jake and his carefree attitude. He always had a way of making her feel better. “Jake, please tell me, you didn’t pick me over my momma. I know Trucker is your main concern, but she was my mom.”

  “Oh, beautiful, I wasn’t watching out for Trucker. I was there for you. You are as important if not more so to me.”

  Jake placed a drop of Trucker’s blood on her lips; the warmth from the blood was soothing and healing. Julie felt the pain as it ascended from her body.

  “There was nothing I could do for your mom. It was her time, sweetheart. I wish I could have saved her, but she was already dead.”

  Grief struck Julie with such force, it literally knocked the breath out of her. Jake crawled into bed and held her. The tears poured. She thought losing Trucker was the only thing that could hurt. Boy, was she ever wrong. That was an indescribable pain.

  Julie looked up and got a glimpse of Trucker. Trucker’s eye’s burned through her. He had been standing in the doorway, watching her.

  “Angel,” he said as he walked over to her. He lightly brushed his fingers down her face as he sat on the edge of the bed. “Oh, baby, I don’t have a clue how to make this better. I will do anything to make this better.”

  Turning all her attention to Trucker, she took his hand in hers. “It hurts.”

  The pain hurt to such a depth, she was sure it would kill her. Jake kissed her cheek,

  but this time it did nothing to ease her utter despair, and slipped away unnoticed by Trucker and Julie.

  “Don’t leave me.” Julie said to Trucker.

  “Oh, no, oh, no, no.” Trucker was at a lost.

  Julie cupped his face in her hands. She angled her head and pressed her lips to his. Trucker’s teeth tugged on her bottom lip.

  “Kiss me. Please Trucker, kiss me like you mean it.”

  “I’ll hurt you.”

  “I’m already hurt.”

  He shoved his hands into her hair, and held her in place. He didn’t just kiss her, he devoured her lips. He poured every moment of the last three weeks into his kiss. Pulling back from her, Trucker slipped his mask of indifference on. Nothing flickered from his beautiful blue eyes. His body language broke her heart. His normal proud and cocky tone was gone. Replaced with grief and heartbreak.

  “Truck, there was nothing you could’ve done.”

  “I know,” he answered with a slight nod of his head. “Angel, I thought I lost you.”

  “You’re not that lucky.”

  He bit the tip of his tongue. Julie realized he was seriously off. Her well-being was everything to him, except a laughing matter. No matter the depth of pain she was experiencing, she couldn’t bear to see him hurting. He wasn’t supposed to hurt. That emotion was too much for him.

  “I won’t live without you.”

  “You won’t have too.” She was wrapped in a gut-gnawing pain so agonizing it was crippling. “She’s gone.”

  “Yeah, Angel.” He held her hand, soothing it with his thumb. “I’ll take the emotional pain away when we get you to another room,” he said somberly.

  “No, I want to feel this pain. Truck, you can’t always make it all right, because sometimes it’s not all right.”

  The pain she was feeling was excruciating. It was unrelenting, but she needed to feel it without any interference from magic. She started twisting the buttons on his shirt. He gripped her hand, and sighed. He closed his eyes as she reached up to trace his face.

  “Does it bother you, for me to mess with your shirt?” Julie asked. Baby, please let me touch you. You need to feel touch so you can feel love.

  “No Angel, on the contrary, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. It still stuns me, how much I like it.”

  “Does it still . . . you know, does my touch still hurt you?”

  “Physically yes,” he hesitated. “Angel, physically it’s horrible, but the thought of not touching you . . .” He shook his head unable to finish his thought.

  Dan came in waving some papers, breaking the palpable emotions between them. “How about we get you in a regular room.” Dan was so overwhelmed with his own grief, that theirs didn’t even register.

  *******

  It was nice to be settled into a regular hospital room, no more beeping alarms, no constant stares from the nursing staff, and having her dad and Trucker close by. Catherine had taken Dan to get something to eat, leaving Julie alone with Trucker. He crawled into bed beside her. She turned her head slightly, and his head was resting on her pillow with the most exquisite smile on his all-too-perfect face. Maybe, she had died and was now in heaven.

  Trucker snapped the bracelet back on Julie’s wrist and whispered, “That’s better.”

  She wanted to rip it off and throw it out the window, but needed the protection it offered more than ever.

  “It’s not real. I still can’t believe she’s gone.” The tears started slowly dripping down her face. She couldn’t recall the details of the last few days. But knew enough to believe everything was her fault.

  “You’ll see her again one day. I saw the angels around her body.”

  “How about you? I want to always be with you.”

  He didn’t answer her, his already tight grip got tighter. As hard as she tried, she could no longer fight the effects of the latest pain shot.

  ******

  Her eyes opened to the dim lights overhead, and for a moment she had forgotten where she was until she felt Trucker’s arms around her. The room was full of flowers, their scent stimulating. Dan, sprawled out on the cot beside her bed, was snoring.

  “What’s wrong? Are you hurting?” Trucker glided his lips over her forehead. He had awoken with her shivering in his arm.

  “No, just thinking about my mom. She didn’t deserve that.”

  He molded his body into hers. “I know, baby. I wish I could’ve taken her place.”

  Nothing was more painful to him then seeing her hurt. How could one person come into his life and turn it upside down? He thought he was doing fine, but now knew he was already in hell. Without her, his whole existence would be hell.

  “Trucker, how are you holding up?”

  He closed his eyes. His other side was killing to come out. The misery raged through him. He wanted to hurt someone for putting her in there. “Honestly, I’ve been better.” He ruffled up her curls.

  “We’re two pretty messed up people.” She sighed, as she laid her head on his shoulder.

  “You’re pretty wonderful,” he whispered and kissed the tip of her nose, about the only spot on her face not covered in cuts.

  The squeaky door informed them that they had a visitor. “Sorry to bother you. I need to get your vitals.” A nurse entered, pushing a blood pressure machine with her.

  Julie rolled on her back and Trucker crawled out of bed, careful not to disrupt the many wires connected to her body.

  “How are you feeling?” the nurse asked.

  “Physically good.”

  Jake with the help of Trucker’s blood had taken the physical pain away. Just not the pain where her heart was slowly crumbling.

  The nurse was beautiful and seemed too classy to ever wipe a bedpan. Julie thought back to her mom getting a job as a nurses’ aid. It lasted approximately two and a half hours. The time it took to make one round of checking bedpans and changing diapers.

  “You remind me of m
y mom.” Julie started to smile, but she was finally thrown up against a wall. She didn’t have a mom. Every ache, every thought, every experience of the last few weeks enveloped her. She started crying. Trucker held her, trying to comfort her. Her dad woke up. Trucker franticly rubbed her hair. Her tear filled face was soothed by his steaming hot hands.

  “If you want me to stay human clear this room now,” Trucker whispered in her ear.

  Julie managed to glance up and saw one vein slithering down his face. The look in his eyes sent subzero chills down her spine. She worked to gather her thoughts.

  “Dad, can you get me a Mello Yello please?” she begged as an irrational surge of panic hit.

  “Are you sure?” He was confused by her sudden odd request.

  “Yes! Now! Please.” She started out by screaming her response, but calmed herself toward the end. As he got up to gather some change, she pulled at him. “I’m sorry, Daddy.”

  Dan bent down and kissed her on the forehead, and she felt warm tears falling down her cheeks. “Please be careful, I can’t lose you too.” She saw the tears in his eyes as he walked out of the room.

  “Get her a pain shot now!” Trucker barked to the nurse. She dropped her clipboard and ran out of the room.

  Trucker slammed a chair in front of the door. Scraping his fingers through his hair, he ordered Julie to lay still. She blinked and he was in bed beside her. His cold black eyes staring back at her. Her Trucker was gone leaving the monster from his other side.

  “Trust me, I’m going to make it better,” he said through his teeth in a harsh tone. He curved his hand around her head trying to be gentle.

  “No, Truck, I’m already hurting enough,” Julie said as the tears soaked her pillow.

  “You won’t be for long.”

  All at once a bright light filled the room. She cut her eyes to see it was coming from Trucker’s hands. She started to jump, but he clutched her shoulder with his free hand and held her in place. The warmth shot through her. Her head felt like it was going to explode. She suddenly experienced every intense emotion existing; everything she had ever felt was magnetized. The pain and misery slipped away to numbness. The light slowly got dimmer until it was gone.

 
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