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       Home, p.29

           J.W. Phillips
 

  “You can cope now, my love,” he whispered and started slowly stroking her cheek.

  “How?” she asked in a haze.

  “I can take emotions away,” he answered.

  What he said didn’t sink in at first. But when it finally did, she stared at him blankly. Her heartrate accelerated. “Why?” she asked, and winced as a sharp pain sliced through her head.

  “You need emotions to feel, to be human, to be good. I can give them back later, Angel, so you can deal with it. I needed to ease both of our pain.” He softly grazed her swollen lips with a soft kiss, her Trucker was slowly returning to her.

  “Thanks,” before she could finish, he put his finger over her mouth.

  “For my sanity, don’t.” He blinked and his clear blue eyes returned.

  She heard the nurse pounding at the door. Trucker got up, turned his charm on, and removed the chair so she could open it.

  “Sorry, I was so rude. I can’t stand to see her hurt.” His speech was like pure honey dripping off his lip.

  The nurse felt at ease instantly. “That’s okay, I can tell she’s special,” she said, kindly.

  “Very,” Trucker replied. He was trying to calm down, to push his demon back down in his pit.

  “It’s time for you to take some more pain meds,” the nurse said, and started tapping down the IV line.

  “Thank you,” Julie told the nurse as she put the medicine in her IV.

  Julie normally hated the way it made her feel, but she welcomed the sleep and the peace it brought. Her dad charged the room carrying six Mello Yellos.

  “Here, baby.” He opened a can and handed it to her.

  She patted the bed beside her for him to have a seat. Trucker slumped onto the sofa on the opposite side of the room and watched his angel fall asleep in the arms of her daddy.

  ******

  The next few days were unnerving, she was void of anything. No feelings, no filters, just the knowledge of how she was supposed to act. She was a shell of herself. It was freeing. Trucker stayed close. He had yet left the hospital. Quite frankly, Julie was ready to be rid of him.

  “They said you might get to go home tomorrow,” Trucker said, and leaned down to kiss her forehead.

  “You stink.” Julie scrunched up her nose in disgust. “When have you last had a bath?”

  “Angel, I know you’re not yourself. So, I’ll let that remark slide.” He slowly wrapped a single curl around his ring finger. “Sweetie, I talked your dad into having the services for your mom sooner rather than later. Then I’ll gradually give you your feelings back.”

  “I don’t want them back. I like being a bitch. I like not caring.”

  “You don’t mean it.”

  They heard a small cough and shuffling coming from the corner. Their heads turned in unison and met the eyes of a smiling Jake. He gave them a small wave.

  “You are the one who wanted him here,” Julie said, tugging on Trucker’s shirtsleeve. “I think he enjoyed the sponge bath.”

  Trucker growled; Jake held his hands in the air pleading his innocence. “I didn’t see anything.” Jake walked over and kissed Julie on the forehead. “I didn’t want to see.” He squeezed Julie’s arm and vanished.

  Trucker shook his head swiftly. “Someone needs to teach him there is and isn’t a place for humor.”

  Chapter 23

  Two days later, Julie got the green light to go home. Dan insisted that he drove her home alone to Julie’s relief. Dan would let her ride home in silence. She liked quite.

  Catherine was already there waiting. Trucker met them in the driveway. He wouldn’t allow Julie to walk. He carried her from the car to the couch. Which was already made into the most comfortable bed. He propped the pillow in his lap and gingerly pulled Julie over onto it. She laid there and clutched his leg.

  For the first time since she met Trucker, she saw him drinking. Trucker was almost crippling drunk and eerily quiet. Julie shrugged it off. If he wanted to ruin his life it was his business.

  Dan had gone to his room suddenly sleepy. Julie had an inkling that Trucker had coerced Dan to get him out of his hair, but a nap was probably the best thing for him.

  Catherine hovered over them. Julie wanted to scream. She didn’t need comforting. She wanted to sleep and forget them and everything else.

  She finally got a moment reprieve when Catherine left to fix them something to eat. Julie chuckled at the selection of food Catherine had brought over. One thing for sure the Castleman’s did everything first class. Trucker still at her side softly kissed her forehead, trying to avoid her many stitches.

  “You’re my world, Angel,” Trucker said.

  Julie crumpled up her forehead and said, “You smell like a cheap bar. Go home.”

  “I’m not leaving you, ever. So can you at least pretend to care?”

  “I did care, but you took that from me too.” She raised up and started unbuttoning her shirt.

  “What are you doing?” Trucker gripped her hands to stop her.

  “I thought if I let you fuck me, you would be satisfied and leave.”

  “We don’t fuck. Never have. No matter how raw it’s been, it has always been love. So stop this madness. I. Am. Not. Leaving.”

  And for a moment, he looked so frightening he scared even emotionless Julie.

  ******

  That night Trucker crawled into bed with Julie and held her tightly against him. He didn’t care if at that moment she had no feelings for him. His heart was about to explode for her. He wouldn’t let her send him away. After her mom’s memorial service, he would give her back her emotions. The only problem, he didn’t know what would be worse, her emotionless or with a shattered heart.

  “Get some sleep, my love. You only have a few days of this then it will get back to normal.”

  Julie yanked the covers from Trucker as a single tear fell down his face. Damn, for the first time ever he believed he might have loved her too much.

  “Is it ever going to be normal again?” Julie asked as she wiped the tear from Trucker’s cheek. Trucker savored her touch, because underneath that hard shell of no emotions, she still cared for him.

  “It will be. Just a new kind of normal.”

  Julie nuzzled as close to Trucker as she could get, trying to feel something. She had felt fear, sadness, happiness, and joy. Any emotion good or bad was better than feeling nothing. She understood what Trucker meant when he said you had to feel to be human. At that moment, she would have done anything to feel.

  However, she still had her mind. She knew how she was supposed to feel. She was supposed to feel comfort from Trucker holding her. She was supposed to, but she felt nothing; she just wanted to use him to get this never-ending stream of questions out of her head. Julie sat up, turned, and demanded attention.

  “Is Larry capable of killing my mom? Are you ever giving me my feelings back? What else are you hiding from me? Going to kill my dad next?” Julie spewed the questions out so fast that Trucker held her hand and placed his finger over her mouth.

  “Baby, calm down. First thing first, my dad is capable of anything, but I don’t believe he had anything to do with the wreck if that makes you feel better. I know him and . . .” Trucker closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “You’re my girl. No sweetie, he didn’t. Now why in the world would you think dad would be involved? It was an accident.”

  Julie went in to detail about the week leading up to the wreck, Larry’s threat, her dream, the belief that Jake was there because he had an idea they were up to something.

  “So there, he did cause it.” Julie shrugged her shoulder. Not feeling did have one advantage, she didn’t care who she hurt.

  Trucker grew quite. He sat motionless, not even a muscle twitched.

  “I don’t want you in my life anymore. You are a monster that has sucked out every ounce of joy I had. Leave, you are no longer welcome here.”

  Trucker was still except for his head that he was cocking side to side. The look on hi
s face was placid. His eyes were unreadable. There are things in Julie’s life she couldn’t prepare for. They snuck up on her when she least expected it, when she was at her most vulnerable, and wreak havoc over everything. That was one of those moments. Julie worked her finger in and out of a hole in her comforter. She was empty.

  “Don’t ask me to leave you alone,” he whispered. His voice was cool and collected, void of anything.

  “Leave, leave, leave now,” Julie said without an ounce of humanity. She didn’t have any left; Trucker had stolen it. She was glad she couldn’t feel fear. Trucker was more a monster to her at that moment than any other time she had seen him. A cold and subdued monster. He was his worst nightmare; he was his father.

  Julie reached out for his hand. He slung it away, slamming it against the headboard. He leaned in, swept her hair behind her ear, and started kissing her from her earlobe to the base of her neck. His teeth sunk in. Julie felt his teeth as they broke the skin. She waited for the tug deep in her core, the tingling of euphoria. Nothing. The teeth wiggled deep in the base of her neck. He pulled back from her and smiled. His teeth were long and exposed. It dawned on Julie he was not showing off his teeth, but the fact that there was not a drop of blood on them. He wouldn’t feed from her. He was showing her what a monster he was. He caressed her face with the back of his hand. Julie grabbed his arm. He looked at his arm then her.

  “Welcome to my world,” he said, hopped up, flipped around on one foot, and left. She heard the house rattle from the front door being slammed.

  Catherine rushed through the bedroom door, confused at what had happen. “Julie, what’s going on?”

  “Trucker is showing his true murderous personality.”

  Julie rolled over and hugged her pillow. Catherine sat down beside her and stroked her shoulder. “What did Trucker say to you?”

  “The same bull as usual. I’m tired, please go away.”

  Catherine nudged Julie’s shoulder and wrapped her arm around her. “Sweetheart, you’re not yourself. Talk to me.”

  “Okay, who has Trucker murdered?” Julie smirked. “And don’t deny it, Trucker is a killer.”

  Catherine looked stunned. “He told you about that.”

  “Not really. I just know he has.”

  “Are you sure this is the time and place?”

  “Very sure,” Julie answered and rest her forehead onto Catherine’s shoulder. She could act like she cared, even if she didn’t.

  “He had one other girl he was crazy about. She had a head full of curly hair too. He didn’t love her but he was quite taken by her. He was with her one night.” She paused. “Sweetie, he can kill you and not mean too. He can crush you with the slightest slip of his hand. He went to wrap his hand around her neck and wasn’t thinking. Her neck snapped. There was nothing Jake could do. She was already dead. Larry hid the body and covered it up. Her poor mother is still looking for her runaway daughter.”

  Trucker killed another girlfriend. Was that her fate too? Was that why he had never bonded with her? The outcome to any relationship for him was death. For the first time, Julie was glad that Trucker had taken her feelings away.

  “Julie,” Catherine softly said, pulling Julie out of her reverie. “He’s so scared he’ll lose control with you. You have no idea how much you mean to him. He would give it all up to be human with you.”

  “Ms. Catherine, I really want to be alone. Can we talk tomorrow?”

  “Sure, night, sweetie.”

  Julie drifted off to sleep, not caring what Trucker was up too. It was liberating not having feelings. She had no desire to care and slept like a newborn baby.

  *******

  Trucker crouched in his room. His whole world falling apart. He was halfway between good and evil. Jake found him there growling in pain.

  “What happen?” Jake asked and kneeled down beside him.

  “I’ve lost her,” Trucker said and threw the bottle of whiskey he was drinking against the wall, shattering it into a million pieces.

  “No, don’t even say that.” Jake slid down the wall and sat beside him.

  Trucker got up, making an attempt at regaining his human mask. He settled on his bed, gripped her pillow, tracing the name monogramed in green, and told Jake the whole story. He explained why he felt the need to mask her emotions. How she believed they caused the wreck. The terror he felt when she told him to leave. He admitted that his demon took over and finished the job of chasing her away.

  Jake understood, but still couldn’t believe he had lost her. Julie had handled everything else surely she would’ve understood that.

  Trucker’s mind flashed to her eyes. He had seen her scared and afraid, but nothing compared to the loathsome look she gave him that night.

  He fell to his knees. He was in shock at what he felt. Something he never dreamed possible. A heartbeat thumped in his chest. The thought of losing her ripped him open and jump-started his beat-less heart. Trucker took Jake’s hand and placed it on his chest. Jake felt the erratic heartbeat of his favorite savage and a grin shot across his face. Trucker was beside himself.

  “She won’t leave me now.” As excited as he was about his heartbeat, nothing mattered without her.

  “She’ll still need some time, but yeah, you’ll have her forever now.”

  ******

  Trucker had finally for the first time in his life felt human. There was one thing he had to do before he lost his other side totally; give her, her feelings back. It was harder getting out of his house than into hers. The key was hidden on a magnet inside the crawl door leading under the house. He retrieved the key, unlocked the door, and moved stealthily through the house. He paused as he opened her bedroom door, unsure if he could leave when he saw her. He enter the room and peered down over her, her curls were feathered around on her pillow, and a soft snore escaped her lips. His heart went haywire. It beat with such force; he believed it was going to jump out of his chest. He fought with the urge to wake her, to kiss her lips. He placed his hand beside her careful not to wake her as his finger’s swept through her curls. It felt like heaven as the curls voluntarily wrapped around his fingers. He gave her just a small portion of her feelings back, so not to overwhelm her. He also wanted one or two more reasons to sneak back into her room and catch a glance of his angel. He kissed her forehead before he left.

  *******

  Julie woke with a heavy heart. Her first thought was of Trucker. She figured he was in rough shape or he would have been with her. She told herself she was not going to worry about him, because that was the day she would say goodbye to her mom. Instead of getting ready for Christmas, she had to get dressed to attend the service honoring the life of the one person who was always there for her. She wondered how it would be possible to get through the rest of her life without her mom’s advice. She caught herself crying. She didn’t understand; Trucker had taken those feelings. Her emotion still felt inaccessible, but they were slowly breaking through. Each tear brought her one drop closer to breaking the shell wrapped tightly around the hurt her heart should have been feeling.

  Her dad found her on the bedroom floor finally mourning her mom. He held her for the longest time. The tears started to roll down her cheeks, burning as they passed over each slash on her mauled face. She hastily wiped at the tears, feeling the loose bandages covering her face.

  “I need to get ready.” Julie laid her head on Dan’s chest. “Daddy, I love you.”

  “I love you, baby girl.” Dan kissed the top of her head. “When’s Trucker getting here?”

  That innocent question should had been gut wrenching. Her shelter, the guy who promised to always be there, left her when she needed him the most. But still the biggest chunk of her emotions were unattainable.

  “He’s not coming. I needed a break from everything including him.” It was the darkest of lies, but the more she thought about it, it was for the best. She did need a fresh start. Maybe it was a good thing . . . Yeah right.

  “I bet he
will still be here. He’s all about you.”

  “I told him not to come.” Her hand went to the bite on her neck. He couldn’t come. A monster like him can’t enter a holy place, a church. “We need to change, we have to be at the church in an hour.”

  Left alone again, she fingered a black dress that Catherine had laid out for her on the very spot Trucker had slept on their last night together. Thinking about how her life had changed since the day Trucker walked into the drug store brought a new round of tears. Trucker, Jake, and Catherine were adamant that the wreck was an accident. Larry’s warning was a fluke, just bad timing. Julie was not so sure. Still even knowing what she had already lost and the possibilities of what she was yet to lose, she craved Trucker. The thought she might not ever have his arms around her again was too much. Snap out of it, Julie Emison because of YOU, dad will never get to hold mom again either.

  Julie didn’t care how she looked that day. Her world was crumbling away. Who cares if she had on make-up or every hair was in place? Julie dressed, and glanced in the mirror. It was not her clothes, her hair, or her appearance in general that caught her eye. It was his bite. He didn’t heal it. He left a visual reminder of what a monster he truly was. She quickly pulled her hair around her neck covering it up. She didn’t need a visual reminder that Trucker or his kind were monsters, placing an urn full of her mom’s ashes in the cold dark earth was enough to prove that.

  Julie noticed the bandages falling off and exposing the marks of the very wreck that stole her mom’s life. All she wanted to do was cover them up, and pray they went away. She gathered up her supplies and headed to the bathroom. She slowly pulled the gauze off her many stitches. She was grimacing when Dan walked in.

 
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