The gray light fell on the young man slouched in the plastic chair. He needed to go home, but was reluctant to leave his fathers side. What if something should happen while he was gone? A doctor came in and checked the chart hanging on the foot of the bed. "Doc, do you think it'd be ok if I go home for a bit? Is he okay for now?" The doctor assured him that nothing was likely to change in the next few hours. Wace took a deep breath as he stood and stretched his long frame. A shower was definitely in order. His father was sleeping, so now was as good a time as any.
At home, his roommate had a beer waiting for him. Wace chugged the amber
liquid down quickly, relishing the coolness. He headed to his room, stripped out of the sticky, sweaty clothes, and stepped under the scorching water. Maybe between it and the soap, he could rid himself of the antiseptic stink that seemed to ooze from every pore in his body. As he was scrubbing his arms, his mind drifted to Olivia and the fresh injury. He snorted when he thought about her explanation. Olivia was one of the most graceful women he had ever seen. An accident was not the reason for her marks. He had seen it all before. But it was none of his business, not this time.
"Wace!" Coppa called. There was urgency in his roommates voice. "Come quick!"
Wace was shrugging into a clean but wrinkled shirt when he looked up to see
Olivia in Coppa's arms. "What the fuck!!??!!" He ran and took her from his friend. She felt so slight in his arms. One green eye peered up at him. The other was swollen shut. She was curled up, holding her ribs again, wincing with each shallow breath. Wace carried her into his room and laid her as gently as he could on his bed. She hissed through gritted teeth when he put her down. "Olivia, who did this?" he asked softly, but he already knew the answer. He stood abruptly and paced around the small space. "Fuck!" He exploded, punching his fist through the wall. When he turned, he saw fear in Olivia's eye. Wace fell to his knees beside the bed. "I'm sorry. You've seen enough violence. You can stay here as long as you need to."
Pain etched her face. "Wace, I..."
"Sshh." He gently shushed her. "You'll stay here. You need a place to hide." Memories flooded back to him. He and Barky had needed a hiding place, but there never was one. The least he could do was provide one for Olivia.
She reached up and pulled his face to hers. The little kiss he got tasted of blood. Her hand fell and he kept a vigil over her as she fell into a pain filled sleep.
"Coppa, can you keep an eye on her?" His friend nodded. "I've got to get back to the hospital."
His father was awake when he returned. Wace could see the question in his eyes. "It's Olivia." The bedridden man waited for his son to continue. "She's at my house." He slipped into the chair that seemed to bear a permanent imprint of his ass. His shoulders slumped. Wasn"t one problem enough? Wasn't it enough that his father needed him? Now Olivia needed him too? He didn't think he would survive this. He was only one man. If only his brother... No, that was a wasted thought. Wace sat in the chair all night, hardly moving, watching his dad sleep. A glance toward the grimy window showed the weak light of sunrise creeping in. Another night had passed without tragedy. Wace padded silently to the window, trying not to wake his father. His thoughts turned to the girl at home in his bed. He wished he could do something for her, but there was nothing. He needed to be here. A sound from the bed made him turn. His father watched him
through narrowed eyes, a scowl on his face. It was all Wace could do to keep from cowering. In his youth, that look from his father usually led to other, more physical demonstrations.
"What is it Dad?" Wace approached his fathers side.
"You need to go home, to Olivia. See if she needs anything."
Wace lost it. "Why? Why should you care so much for this scrap of a girl, this nurse, that she should receive such concern from you? When were we, your own flesh and blood, ever treated like you treat her?" He collapsed. "I'm sorry, Dad. I didn't mean it."
The older man gripped the younger mans hand hard. "Go see about Olivia."
Wace stood up, looked deep into his father's eyes, and wordlessly, left the room. Never let it be said that he was not a dutiful son.
Olivia greeted him with a weak smile. She was sitting up in bed, but still holding her rib cage. The swelling around her eye had gone done a bit and the blood that had been matted in her hair was gone. She was wearing one of his old shirts, he noticed.
"I hope you don't mind," she said softly, plucking at the cotton fabric, worn soft. "I needed to get cleaned up and I didn't want to put those," she frowned at the small pile her clothes made on the floor, "back on." She added, even more softly, "I never want to see them again. You can burn them, for all I care."
Wace sat on the edge of the bed and reached over, brushed a wayward strand
of shiny, soft brown hair back behind her ear. He had never really looked at her hair. It was the color of oak, rich and warm. Olivia was a little surprised at his tender touch. She leaned into it a bit, so that his hand cupped her cheek. They sat, motionless, until Olivia whispered, "Wace." Green eyes looked up at him. "Would you please?" she paused.
A faint blush stained her cheeks, making the fading bruise stand out even more. "Please make love to me."
Wace stared at her. "You've gotta be joking." Her eyes told him she was dead serious. "You're in no shape for that. You've probably got some cracked ribs, and you wanna fuck?"
Tears welled in her eyes. "Please," she begged. "I need it. I need something, someone decent to touch me."
"And you think what we do is decent?" he asked incredulously.
"It's the most decent thing in my life." She took his hand, squeezed it between both her smaller ones. "Even if it kills me, at least it would be something good."
He contemplated her request, and strangely enough, felt himself harden at the thought of being inside her again, in spite of her condition. "Ok, but we have to be careful." He stripped, and crawled into bed, trying not to jar her. Spooning up behind her, he reached around and braced her injured ribs. She had shed the shirt and Wace found it ironic that this was the first time they had been naked together. He reached between her legs and found her wet. She sighed when he dipped a finger into her. Sliding his cock into her from behind, he started a slow, smooth rhythm, holding her tight so she wouldn't move too much. He knew, though, that it hurt her.
"Harder," she whispered.
"No," he whispered back.
"Wace, please," she begged.
He pressed his lips to her shoulder and plunged deeper into her warmth. His
pace quickened. She started whimpering, but he couldn't stop now. A scream
tore through her. Of pain and pleasure, as she climaxed, tightening around his dick. He felt his orgasm explode, sending shock waves through him, while he emptied himself into her wet tunnel.
He pulled out of her and turning her, oh so gently, gathered her into his arms. Tears wet his chest as she sobbed. His eyes blurred, for what, he wasn't sure; maybe for her, maybe for himself. Sunlight poured across the bed as they lay wrapped around each other. Eventually, exhaustion claimed Olivia.
Wace did not have such luck. He couldn't remember the last time he had actually slept. He didn't know if hed ever sleep again. Gingerly sliding from her arms, he left the bed, but stood gazing at her sleeping form. She had somehow wormed her way into his life and he was not real happy with that. He turned and quietly left, heading back to the hospital.
He was surprised to see her the next day, coming in with his father's dinner. She smiled shyly at him, then fussed over his dad. No one would know unless they looked close. She had covered the bruises with makeup and was walking just a little straighter. "You shouldn't be here," he murmured, when she came close to him. "You're not well enough."
"I'm ok," she answered, and left.
Later, he found her at her usual spot. "You should go home. You're not healed enough to work."
She shrugged. "I had to come back. People were beginning to wonder where I
Wace frowned. "You mean, he was wondering. Is everything ok?"
"It's fine, Wace. Just fine." Somehow he didn't believe her.
Two days went by, at least he thought it was two days. It was getting hard to keep track. But near as he could reckon, it had been two days since Olivia had been in to see his dad. A two-day absence could mean anything, but a little shiver of worry nagged at him. His father was taking a nap, so he decided to find out why she hadn't been in. The unfriendly nurse just gaped at him when he asked after Olivia. Hadn't he heard? Olivia was admitted yesterday. She reluctantly gave him the room number.
Wace hurried down the halls, searching for her. Finally, he reached the right door. Drawn curtains darkened the room he slipped into. He could hear the hum of machines, the faint drip of an IV. A small figure lay in the only bed. He shook his head in denial; this was not happening. He retreated back into the hallway and over to the nurses' desk. "There's been a mistake. She's not supposed to be in there."
Pity gleamed in the nurse's eyes. "Olivia has been beaten very severely."
Wace closed his eyes for just a minute, looking for strength. "What?"
"Internal injuries, broken bones, a concussion," she added a few other items to the list.
"So how long will she be in here?" he asked.
Her eyes watered up. "Son, they don't expect her to last the night."
Wace felt his knees buckle. He walked back into Olivia's room in a stupor. This couldn't be happening. He pulled a cracked plastic chair, the twin to the one in his father's room, over to her bedside. Her hand was so tiny in his. His head bowed until his forehead rested lightly on the back of her hand.
"Wace?" The faint whisper made him look up. "Wace, is that you?"
"Yeah, it's me." He swallowed hard. "Olivia, did he find out about..?"
She gave his hand a faint squeeze. He barely felt it. "No, it was something..."
He interrupted her. "Don't talk. Save your strength."
She shook her head once. "Gotta tell you." She fought for consciousness. He leaned close to hear her. "Thank you for wanting me." Again a little squeeze from her hand, even softer this time. "I love you, Wace."
He brushed his lips against hers in a feathery kiss, and felt her last breath on his face. Tears fell freely down his cheeks. He sat in the darkness, holding onto her, onto the one decent thing this town had ever shown him. A nurse tapped him on the shoulder. "You have to leave now." He looked at her blankly. "We need to take care of her." Wace backed away from the bed; not taking his eyes off the shell that had been Olivia. He finally turned and went back to his father's side.
The bitch nurse brought his dad a dinner tray that night. It was the brown substance again. His father looked at the nurse with a question in his eyes. "That's all you get," she sneered.
He turned to Wace, a bleak look in his eyes, and motioned his son close. "Whisper it Dad."
"No," Wace shook his head violently. "I can't do that Dad." But the pleading look of despair his father had convinced him to grant the older man's wish. He slowly unhooked the machines, one by one. The room became eerily quiet, except for his dad's labored breathing. Wace held his hand while he fought. It took about half an hour before his father's body finally gave up. For the second time in one night, Wace was left holding the dead hand of someone he cared about. He did not cry for his father's passing; he was all cried out. He squared his shoulders. There were arrangements to be made, things to see too. He briefly wondered who would be doing that for Olivia, but pushed the thought from his head.
It had decided to rain, and seemed fitting for this day. Wace stood at his father's graveside without benefit of an umbrella. Barky stood beside him. His brother had returned and they had come to an understanding of sorts. Barky was going to stay; they might have a chance to be a family again. Wace paid little attention to the droning voice of the priest, or the words that did not seem to have anything to do with his father. He waited, silently, for the end.
People starting to leave signaled the conclusion of the service for Wace. He turned to walk away, but something caught his eye. A small group of women in white were standing around a coffin. Most held umbrellas, but a few stood unsheltered. Wace recognized the nurses uniforms. Without knowing what he was doing, he stumbled over to the site.
"We gather here today to say goodbye to our friend and colleague, Olivia."
Wace didn't hear anymore. He fell to his knees in the wet grass. Raindrops
mingled with the tears that he cried, for Olivia, for his father, for Barky and himself.
A week later, Wace knocked on the door of a dilapidated old house. A big man answered. "Whata ya' want?"
"You were married to Olivia."
"Yeah, so?" the man spat out belligerently. "What of it? The little whore is dead, so if yer here ta' fuck er, you're too late."
Wace sank his fist into the man's midsection, pushing him back into the house.
He followed him in, landing another punch. The other man might be bigger, but he was fat, whereas Wace was all lean, whipcord muscle.
"You killed her, you fuckin bastard!" A jab broke the man's nose. "She was the only good thing in this whole damn town and you killed her!" Rage burned inside Wace. He landed hit after hit. He took a few too. Blood dripped into his eye from a cut above it. He knew hed have bruises on his ribcage. The man had hands like sledge hammers. Only Wace's speed and agility kept him from being pulverized. It sickened him to think that Olivia had gone through this. His breathing harsh, Wace continued to slug away at her husband. He finally realized the bigger man was unconscious. He got up and calmly walked out the door.
A tall, lean form stood at a small marker in the cemetery. He placed a single flower on the stone. No tears fell; there were none left.
"I loved you Olivia."