I hate summaries.
“Hello?” he muttered dully into the receiver.
“It’s Bob man. How you doin’?” Gerard watched Egan’s face. She hadn’t moved in a while and it made him uneasy.
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I kind of don’t know how I feel right now.”
Egan’s finger twitched.
“Hey, can I call you back?” he asked frantically, his eyes never once leaving that finger.
“No wait, I needed to talk to you. Don’t hang up okay?”
“Yeah, okay. Talk. I’m listening.” He was still watching with baited breath.
“You sound…preoccupied. I-I guess I’ll just say it then.” Bob sighed into the phone, and it sounded like a wave of static across the line.
“I think maybe you and Egan shouldn’t…be together. You know what I’m saying?”
“What? Like we, what, shouldn’t be around each other?” The idea was just not making sense—why would he be away from Egan?
“Yeah. Exactly. I mean, I know you say you love her—“
“I do!” Gerard cut in sharply.
“—And I know you really do like her, and you like being with her and stuff…And I know she’s been good for you, she helped you get over the breakup, but have you ever considered that maybe she’s a little messed up?”
“She is.” That was obvious. “I can handle it.”
“You ever think maybe you can’t?” Bob asked quietly. He wasn’t trying to be a horrible person, he knew how much Gerard cared for this girl, but she’d pulled some serious shit while he was around, and if he got screwed over like last time, then the good wasn’t really all that worth the bad.
“No,” Gerard answered in a clipped tone, “I got it covered. She’s gonna be fine, I’m fine, everything’s dandy.”
“For how long?”
“It seemed like it was going good over at your mom’s house, right? But then this happens, like, a week later.”
“There are ups and downs, every relationship has them—“
“Some pretty fucking low ‘downs’,” Bob mumbled into the phone.
“Hey, what the fuck is your problem Bob? You think I don’t know what’s going on with me and my…” He trailed off. His what, exactly?
“My girlfriend.” He finished lamely.
“I think you’re not in the best place to be objective right now is what I think. I mean, did it ever occur to you to do a background check on this girl?”
“She’s told me about her past already.”
“Would she lie?”
“Of course not.”
“Of course not. Of course not,” Bob echoed sarcastically.
“And, when you think about it,” he continued, “You got together because you agreed to house a recovering drug addict, then fell for her.”
“Yeah, so? People meet on the fucking internet, never see each other in person once, and fall in love. At least I got to know her! Hell, I know her better than most couples period know each other!”
“But she’s a drug addict Gerard.”
“She’s recovering.” Gerard explained patiently.
“You never stop being an addict Gerard, it’s always there somewh—“
“Don’t,” Gerard growled darkly, “Don’t presume to lecture me on addiction. I understand it. That was my life.”
“You’re right: It was your life. Then you got clean.”
“And now I’m helping her get clean,” Gerard countered. “Besides, because she’s been where I’ve been, she understands stuff.”
“You think having someone to be…united in your struggles with gives you some kind of connection or something?”
“I didn’t fall in love with her because she was some strung out junkie!” Gerard thundered. Someone made a small sound, like a baby taking a breath.
“Godamnit. She’s awake. I can’t talk to you right now.” And he hung up the phone, leaving Bob holding a dead line.
“Fuckin’ Bob,” he muttered through gritted teeth, walking quickly to Egan’s side.
She was sleepy and soft looking, blinking slowly and craning her neck to stiffly get a lay of the land.
“This isn’t my room…” she mumbled sleepily to herself. She shifted in the bed and winced. She had minor first degree burns all over her body, and so did Gerard, who was wearing the only pair of sweats he owned and the loosest tee shirt he could find. Anything sliding across the tender skin irritated it, and he’d taken Advil almost as soon as he got up. But Egan couldn’t have any pain meds; she was still a high-risk patient.
“Owch owch owch owch,” she whimpered quietly.
“Owch,” she said again weakly when she saw Gerard.
“The water was hot,” he offered in simple explanation.
“Mmhmm,” Egan was nodding frantically, tears collecting in her eyes.
“Is it that bad? I’ll get a nurse.” He snatched up the call button and decisively pressed it.
“Do you need something Miss G?” The question was broadcasted through a speaker next to the bed.
“A nurse.” Gerard answered the unaccompanied voice.
“Right away.” The speaker squawked.
“Shhh,” Gerard murmured, kneeling by Egan’s bedside. “She’ll be here in a minute, she’ll get you something to make it feel better.” Egan pitched herself forwards and landed with a muffled hiss of pain against his shoulder. He winced inwardly; it had hurt him too. He wanted to rub her back, but to do so was to hurt her, so he gingerly stroked her hair instead. One of her tiny hands slid up his chest and neck and tangled into his hair, the fingers closing around the loose curls at the base of his skull. She gently mouthed words he couldn’t hear against his neck, her dry lips catching and dragging on the skin, raising goosebumps on his arms.
“Ach! Our little burn patient. And who might you be? It doesn’t matter, turn her loose, thank you. Lay back now, gently, there’s a girl…” A nurse with a brisk Scottish accent had bustled in and said all that very rapidly.
“I imagine it hurts a bit, does it?” Egan nodded mutely.
“Well, here now, I’ve got something to rub on it—oh come now, it won’t hurt. We’ll need to get this gown off then. My, you’re quite the tattooed little thing. Do you mind?” she asked, beginning to peel Egan’s gown off her pink shoulders.
“Huh?” Gerard started. The last bit had been directed at him.
“I’ll need to remove her gown,” the nurse said in a burr, “D’you mind leaving the room?”
“Uh, uh, no. Sure…” Gerard wandered out dazedly. Frankly, the nurse had been such a whirlwind that he’d felt a bit tuckered out by the time she’d spoken to him.
“Now then love, let’s see. Oh, oh,” she cooed softly, running her soft fingers over Egan’s pink and angry skin. “That must smart. It’ll begin to peel soon I expect. Well, here’s to pain relief.” Here she raised high a bottle of lotion as if in a toast, then brought it back down and squirted a sizable amount into her hands, rubbing the palms together to spread it.
“Aloe-vera lotion is all it is, some burn soothers, take the heat out a mite. And moisturizers, so it isn’t quite so gruesome when the skin starts to fall off. Yes, you will shed dear,” she answered Egan’s alarmed questioning look, “No use worrying about it now, it’ll happen in good time. If you’ll lean forward then…”
As the nurse spread the cooling lotion over her skin Egan breathed an audible sigh. It was such a relief—it had felt like the heat of the water had seeped into her skin and then stayed there.
“Feels good? Good. Alright, arms next.” Egan obediently offered her right arms, then her left, allowing herself to be coated and made a greasy pink, splotchy in some places, shiny like boiled lobster in others.
“Aaaand legs.” Oh God, it felt so good. She closed her eyes and reveled in the feeling of being gently massaged.
“What’re you doin’ there?” she heard the nurse ask. “Come in, come in, don’t lurk about like death on the doorstep. She’s all covered up anyway.” Egan opened her eyes to see a shifty eyed Gerard slide into the room. She gave him a small smile.
“That’s it. All done!” the nurse pronounced.
“Anywhere I can go smoke?” Egan leaned in to the woman, mumbling softly. She didn’t know if it was alright to ask to smoke at a hospital. The nurse rolled her eyes and sighed.
“Through the front doors will be just fine dear. Make sure to bundle up, though. That’s the reason you’re here after all, isn’t it?” She crooked an eyebrow knowingly at Egan and hustled out of the room.
She inhaled slowly, deeply. The first drag off a cigarette was always the best. The cold metal of the rail she rested against was seeping through her coat, even though she’d just gotten out here; it was that cold. Dusk was rolling around and a streetlight blinked into life a few feet from her. She eyed the orange glow and tenderly probed the bandaged wound on her scalp. She’d actually ripped the hair from the roots; she still couldn’t believe that one. She hadn’t felt a damn thing.
She was relaxing in being alone, away from everything and everyone. Sometimes, it seemed like there was too much in the world. It made her head ache. Over-stimulation of the mind and all that…But she wasn’t really alone. Gerard had trailed after her when she had gotten up, and she’d had to make him promise to stay inside while she smoked.
“Unbelievable,” he’d said. “Covered in burns, and smoking.” But he’d complied, grudgingly.
That’s not to say he wasn’t watching her from the automatic doors of the hospital’s entrance. And she understood that, understood the compulsion to watch her that he might have right now, and she would allow it. He’d get over it eventually. But right now he saw her as a flight risk, a suicide risk, an everything risk, and he couldn’t not watch her. Just in case.
But he’d get over that. Eventually.
Someone cleared their throat behind her and she knew, just knew…
“Egan?” Well, speak of the devil and the devil shall appear.
“Called it,” she said under her breath. Turning, she saw Gerard give her a weird look, but he didn’t say anything.
“Yeah?” she sighed tiredly. She wasn’t sure why, maybe it was the dull, throbbing pain, maybe it was the fact that she’d almost died, maybe she was just…PMS’ing or something. But she didn’t want to talk to Gerard right now. She didn’t want to talk, period.
“Just making sure you’re okay.”
“I didn’t look okay from over there?” She gestured vaguely with the hand that held the cigarette towards the doors. Gerard followed the gesture, running a hand through his hair.
“Just making sure.” He studied the ground. She took another pull.
“I’m fine,” she said on the exhale, making smoke pour from her nostrils.
“Okay.” But there was more. She could see it coming slowly, a midnight train approaching the station. Patiently she waited for the other shoe to drop.
“Can we talk?” Boom. There it went.
“You, sir, are free to do whatever you’d like. Talking included.” She turned back around and leaned forward into the railing. Gerard settled himself beside her, taking his sweet time lighting up himself before saying anything. Only once he’d begun puffing away did he even seem to give any thought to speech.
“So what’s on your mind?” she asked.
“Don’t really know where to begin,” he pushed around the cigarette clamped between his teeth.
“Beginning.” She answered back, studying the pieces of horizon between the dark marks of bare tree limbs. It was kind of like a stained glass window.
“I don’t know where that is.”
“Gerard,” her voice was a warning, “Don’t bullshit. Talk straight right now.”
“Bob called me today while you were asleep. He was checking up on the both of us, I guess.”
“Nice of him.”
“He doesn’t think we should be together.”
“Oh.” That threw her for a bit of a loop, Gerard observed with some small satisfaction. He’d been put off by the cavalier way she was acting.
“I told him to fuck off, it wasn’t his business.”
“Yeah,” Gerard studied her face closely, looking for some way to see what she was thinking.
“Why…” Egan’s eyes roamed over the gravel and pavement in front of them now. The horizon held nothing for her. “Why’d he say that? Do you know? Like, why we shouldn’t be together.”
“He thinks you’re fucked up.” Gerard said frankly. She’d said no bullshit after all. “And he thinks you’re fucking me up too.” Egan nodded slowly, almost automatically, like she wasn’t really giving much thought to it, just doing it to make it look like she heard. It irritated him. She should hear these things they said.
“He might just be right.” She flicked the ash off her cigarette, almost burned down to her fingertips. Gerard looked down at his own and noticed the ash was probably an inch long. He let it drop and took two drags, one right after the other.
“So what does that mean?” he asked cautiously.
“What, like what does it mean for us? Well…I certainly don’t want to be the driving force behind your fucked up life.”
“I don’t mind so much.”
“Yeah, I know,” she observed quietly. “Know what though? I do. I mean, I like you enough not to want to mess you up.”
“And I love you enough not to care if you do.” he countered quickly. “I’m okay with it if you do.”
“Yeah,” she said again.
“Yeah? Just yeah?” She was doing that absent-minded nodding thing once more, making him grow more agitated by the minute.
“Yeah,” she sighed. Gerard flicked the still brightly burning cherry of the cigarette to the ground, stepping on it with the toe of his black shoe.
“I don’t—I don’t fucking get you Egan. What the hell are you thinking right now? Because you’re sure as hell not telling me.”
“I wasn’t aware I was holding anything back,” she remarked, turning on him.
“Bullshit. You’re acting like…like you don’t think anything. You’re neutral. Now there’s a time and place for neutral, this ain’t one of ‘em.”
“I’m trying to process things Gerard,” she said acidly, her eyebrows arching in indignation. “I’m so sorry if it pisses you off that I don’t just pop out with an answer like a goddamn Easy Bake Oven.” She dropped her cigarette butt too, the Southern accent coming on strong now. “And if you’ve really just gotta know, I don’t wanna be havin’ this conversation right now!”
“I apologize for thinking that you saying you’d talk meant that you’d talk! Don’t know what I was thinking…” he trailed off, glaring darkly out at the trees.
“Maybe we are fucked up.” He offered after an uncomfortable silence. Egan nodded, but not inanely this time.
“Too fucked up to function.” He turned his head to the left to look at her.
“You think that?”
“Dunno. Maybe.” She said blandly.
“Always maybe,” he growled. “Make a fucking choice.”
“Chill the fuck out.”
“Make a choice.”
“Make a choice!”
“Fucking CHILL!” She shouted, turning to face him fully as he had to her. They squared off now, like duelers in the Old West. The only question that seemed to be left was: Who was the fastest draw?
“I just need you to make a choice,” he breathed, quiet like winter wind, and just as strong. She could see the hurt in his eyes, the betrayal there. When she hadn’t immediately refuted the possibility that they weren’t good together, when she hadn’t immediately chosen him, chosen them, she’d cut him somewhere deep. And he hadn’t let on.
“I…” she searched the parking lot, but there wasn’t a damned answer in sight. “I can’t…right now.”
It seemed she was the fastest draw in the wild wild west.
So Gerard turned and walked down the ramp, through the rows of cars, and eventually out of sight. She felt like maybe this was déjà vu.
Except this time, she wasn’t the one running out.
Author's Note: Hallo all. I know this was a long time coming, but not nearly long as it has been in the past, so, yay for that. I don't really know how I feel about this here chapter, but I didn't know where else to go, so I'm posting. Reviews are the things that get the writing juice going, so remember to leave them.