In LA Gerard's condition worsens as Ayasha resists returning home.
He was making scrambled eggs when she came into the kitchen. Gerard took a moment to look her over before speaking. “You look very pretty today.” And it was true. She wore a short jean skirt, red blouse, and her hair was in two long braids. On her feet were cowboy boots he found quite sexy. He was staring at them when she spoke.
“Uh, nothing. I like your boots.” He forced his attention away from them.
“Lots of women wear cowboy boots.” She huffed believing he really didn’t think they went well with her skirt.
“Right.” He nodded trying to keep his attention on the eggs.
Ayasha leaned against the counter. “So what was the weird look about?”
“What weird look?”
She sighed, “You were staring at my boots.”
He looked over at her and grinned, “Actually I was thinking how sexy they look on you. Matter of fact I was thinking how much I’d like to see you in them and nothing else.” There he’d said it. She wanted to know, he’d told her the truth.
Ayasha’s eyes grew wide.
Gerard pushed the scrambled eggs out of the pan onto a waiting plate. “Well, you asked.”
His grin was dangerously sexy. Ayasha tried to make her brain work. “You’re serious?"
“Yeah, Honey. I’m serious. That first morning I saw your beautiful legs in that very short little gown you were wearing. For a short woman you’ve got long legs.” He knew he should stop but seeing her so flustered about the fact she was so sexy made him go on. “I’ve always had a thing for boots.”
Ayasha quickly grabbed her plate and took it to the table. She hated the fact he knew he had shocked her.
“Your fork.” He leaned down close to her ear.
She jumped not realizing he’d been on her heels. “Thanks.” She muttered.
Gerard sat down across from her. “Is it bad I told you the truth?”
She took several bites before answering. “I just thought by the look on your face you didn’t like them.”
Now he felt bad he’d been teasing her. “Well you were wrong.” He watched her eat a few more bites then asked, “You do realize how sexy you are?”
She almost choked. “Sexy? Oh, seriously. I’m just the only woman you’re around.”
He was shocked. “You honestly believe I only think you’re sexy because of that?”
She nodded keeping her head down.
“Ayasha…” He shut his mouth when she suddenly jumped up from the table.
“I’ve got to go.” She said moving towards the living room.
Gerard grabbed her arm. “Hold on. I don’t understand what just happened. Why are you so mad at me?”
“Forget about it.” She struggled to free herself from his grip.
“Please, I want to understand.” He said softly.
Ayasha stared at him. “You really don’t get it. Last night I told you I’m a whore. Now this morning you’re telling me how sexy I am?”
“Oh shit.” He muttered. How could he have been so stupid? “Ayasha, when you told me that I knew it was a lie. I never once considered that word as the truth.”
“It’s not a lie.” She yanked her arm from him. “You keep asking what Kyle is holding over my head. It’s the fact that I have a record. I’ve been arrested for solicitation.”
Before he could stop her she grabbed her bag and ran for the door. He tried to catch her but she slammed the door closed in her wake.
“Shit.” He ran to the window but she was already at the sidewalk. “No.” He cried out as she neared the spot where he knew he’s lose sight of her. “I need to talk to her….” The world went black.
Ayasha was glad today she was the only employee in the shop. Her mind was still in turmoil and her emotions raw. Why had she blurted that out to Gerard? What the hell was wrong with her? She’d overreacted to his flirting because deep inside the guilt she carried was always eating away at her. Now how could she face him? Everything between them had changed. He knew the truth and now when she would look in his eyes she’d see the same look as she saw in Kyle’s. But deep down maybe that’s what she wanted. Gerard had been getting to close, making her reveal truths about herself she didn’t want to face.
Late afternoon in LA
Mikey and Alicia sat in the private waiting room along with his parents. They had just met with the doctors and the news had been heartbreaking.
“I just thought after yesterday..” Mikey fell silent.
All in the room were still reeling from the news. Yesterday Gerard’s brain activity had show signs of improvement from Saturday night until this morning. Everyone had believed it was a positive sign. However when the family arrived at the hospital this morning they’d been given the news that once again he was showing very little brain activity.
Alicia tightened her grip on her husband’s hand. “Yesterday was a good sign. You heard what they said about comas. No one really understands what happens to the brain. But yesterday Gee even looked better.”
Donna nodded, “She’s right, he did. When I was sitting with him I could see it.”
Sadly Mikey believed the woman had just seen what they wanted to see. “He don’t look good now.” He whispered.
“It’s just a set back.” Don said with conviction, needing to believe his words.
“Someone should call Lindsey.” Donna said dabbing at her eyes. “I talked to her last night and told her his condition seemed to be improving.”
Don sighed, “I’ll give her a call in a bit.” He shifted in his seat trying to ease the pain in his back. For too many nights he’d sat in this waiting room for hours.
“What has she told Bandit?” Mikey asked.
It was Donna who answered. “Just that her daddy is sick and in the hospital.” Tears came to her eyes. “B said she wished they’d been able to go to Disneyland because she thinks it would have made him feel better.”
A tear rolled down Alicia’s face. “He shouldn’t have canceled that trip. He needed to be with his little girl.”
Mikey stood and began to pace. “He didn’t want to be. He didn’t want any of us to be with him. He knew…”
Donna spoke up. “Don’t say it. Don’t even think it. I refuse to believe Gerard planned for this to happen.”
Mikey turned to face her. “That’s because you weren’t around him like I was especially these past few months. He was so angry, in so much mental turmoil. He wanted it to end.” His head lowered unable to look at the pain on his mother’s face.
Don stood. “That may be true but he’s in there clinging to life. I’m going to go sit with him.” He wiped his eyes then quickly left the room.
Donna got her emotions under control then explained she was going to get a soft drink leaving only Mikey and Alicia.
Mikey sat back down by his wife. “I ain’t ever seen dad cry before.” He whispered.
Alicia simply reached for his hand to hold it tightly.
When it was finally time to close the shop Ayasha heaved a sigh of relief. Dealing with people today while trying to smile had been brutal but it was over.
However as she started walking towards her house she suddenly found herself unable to continue. She couldn’t face him. Turning she started walking in the other direction towards the park in the center of town. There she sat lost in thought for hours. It wasn’t until the temperature dropped and the chill began to set into her bones that she knew she could no longer put off returning home.
As she walked she went over again and again in her mind how she’d deal with all of this. She had convinced herself she’d simply tell him the facts and not care if how he judged her. She’d been judged by people most of her life, why did it matter what one more person thought?
She was half way home when she was suddenly struck by fear. It clutched at her heart making it beat faster. If he’d returned to the darkness he’d been there almost thirteen hours. She knew how badly he feared the darkness and yet her actions had left him there longer than necessary. Now she began to run, fear driving her steps.
She was out of breath when she shoved the key in the lock then threw open the door. Glancing through the shadows she saw his outline in front of the windows.
Gerard blinked then swayed slightly. Suddenly the memory of what had happened right before she left filled his mind. “Ayasha.” His voice was low and unsure.
Ayasha took a deep breath. “Sorry I’m so late.”
He turned to look outside and saw night had fallen. The only illumination in the room was the small lamp that had been left on all day. “What time is it?”
She sat her bag down refusing to look over at him. “Almost ten.” She offered no explanation as to why she’d returned so late.
“I was gone.” He said slowly.
“Sorry.” She started to walk towards the hall but he quickly moved to stop her.
“You didn’t want to come home.”
She could find no reason to lie. “No, I needed to think.” She tried to brush past him but he snagged her arm.
“We need to talk.” He said pulling her towards the sofa.
She tried to remind herself of the decision she’d made earlier. “There is really nothing to talk about.” But she took a seat on the sofa while he switched on a nearby lamp.
Once he was seated he spoke. “You know that’s a lie. You can’t just say something like you did this morning and think I won’t want to talk about it.”
She was trying so hard to control her emotions. “What is there to talk about? You wanted to know why I was upset and what Kyle was holding over my head and I told you.”
He could see the tension in her body. “Yeah, two things we need to discuss but let’s start with Kyle.”
Her anger took over. “What the hell do you want me to say? I told you I was picked up for solicitation.”
She willed herself to be strong. “A few weeks after I left the Res.”
Gerard nodded hiding his emotions. “So you were fifteen.”
She folded her arms. “Yeah, I was fifteen. It happened at a truck stop in Missouri. I’d been hitching and the driver left me there.”
He nodded but remained silent.
Ayasha forced herself to continue but the anger in her voice was loud and clear. “I needed another ride. An older truck driver promised me one. We ate in the restaurant then went to his truck.”
“Were you hungry?” He asked without pause.
Ayasha blinked in surprise. Of all the things she had expected him to say asking this question shocked her. Finally she answered. “I hadn’t eaten in three days.”
Gerard nodded slightly. “So you were a fifteen year old runaway who was hungry with no place to go.”
“Don’t make what I did right.” She whispered looking away.
“He offered you a ride and food. Did you know what he expected?”
Still looking off into the distance she answered in a hollow voice. “I should have. We ate dinner then started for his truck. As we started across the lot I saw two police cars. I don’t know why they spooked me. I mean yeah, I was a runaway but no one cared.”
Gerard waited for her to go on.
“We got to the truck and he told me what he wanted before we pulled out.”
“You gave him what he wanted believing you needed to get out of there because of the police.”
His emotionless voice struck her wrong. “Yes, Gerard. I sucked his dick so he’d get me the hell away from there. Only that didn’t happen. The next thing I knew the police were pounding on the door of the truck. He told them he’d offered me a ride but when we got to the truck I came on to him.”
Gerard wanted so badly to take this wounded woman in his arms but he refrained. She was finally admitting things she’d buried. “They took you into custody.”
“It was obvious by looking at me I was a minor so they took me to juvie. I refused to tell them who I was or where I was from but after three days I gave in. It took another three days for them to track down anyone on the Res who would agree to take me. When they did a case worker loaded me into a car and headed back towards North Carolina.”
His heart was breaking for the young unwanted girl. “But you said you never went back.”
“That was true. Half way there when we’d stopped for lunch I excused myself to go to the restroom. I slipped out the back and ran. But no one cared. I knew the woman on the Res who’d agreed to give me a home had only done so because she’d been a friend of grandmothers. I’m sure she was happy I never arrived.”
He leaned back trying to put into words his true feelings. “And this is what Kyle holds over your head?”
She nodded looking down. She’d been right, he was disgusted.
“How the fuck did he find out? You were a juvenile, that record should have been sealed.”
She looked up in surprise. He seemed to be angry not at what she’d done but at the fact her past was being held over her head. “I told you he comes from money. I guess if you have enough there aren’t many things that are impossible.”
“Son of a bitch.” He muttered shaking his head.
Ayasha needed him to understand. “My boss doesn’t know any thing about my past. He trusts me and I not only need my job, I love it. If he found out…”
“If he’s any kind of man, he’d understand.” Gerard answered.
Again Ayasha was shocked by his response. “Understand?”
He nodded, “Yeah, understand. Ayasha, you did what you did to survive. You were a scared fifteen year old on her own. It breaks my heart you had to go through that.”
“That still doesn’t make it right.” She whispered.
“The line between right and wrong often gets blurred.” He looked at her closely. “Did you really think telling me this would change the way I feel towards you?”
She forced herself to look into his eyes. “Yes.”
“We all make mistakes, do things we wish we hadn’t. But we can’t let those things continue to haunt us.” He said softly.
For several moments they stared into each other’s eyes.
“Now then.” Gerard said breaking the silence. “About the other part of what happened this morning.”
Ayasha’s eyes gain grew wide. He was simply dismissing her past, something she’d never expected.
Gerard saw she was surprised so he reached out for her hand. “Honey, it’s the past. Let it go.”
She found herself unable to speak.
Gerard smiled, “Now about what I said this morning. I’m sorry I didn’t understand. But what I told you was true, I could never believe the word ‘whore’ described you.”
“I’m sorry I overreacted.” She said looking down again.
He shook his head, “Well your reaction makes sense now. But here’s the truth, you do look damn sexy in those boots. Ayasha you need to remember that while I can’t physically feel anything there ain’t a damn thing wrong with my eyesight or my mind. But you also need to understand that while I fuckin’ get a lot of pleasure looking at you, I hate that I can’t feel you when you lay next to me. I want to feel the softness of your skin…” He made himself stop. “Please believe me, what I said this morning wasn’t because of what you’d called yourself. It wasn’t because I suddenly thought I could get some.”
Nervously she twisted her hands in her lap.
Gerard continued, “Most importantly you need to understand that while you’re fuckin’ sexy to me my attraction to you ain’t physical. Shit, I can’t feel anything. I can’t feel if that part of me is even working.”
He heard her sharp intake of breath but went on needing her to understand. “I’m a guy. Sometimes to be honest I think we stop maturing at fourteen. So my fourteen year old brain likes what it sees. But my emotions, they draw me to you.” He nervously ran his hand through his hair. “When I look at you I see a woman with a beautiful soul. I see a woman who’s been hurt, been through so much pain and yet she never gave up. That, more than anything else, draws me to you.”
His words touched her heart but she needed time to let them truly sink in. “I’m sorry I was so late.” She whispered.
Gerard understood how hard it was for her to believe him. He only hoped they’d have the time together to allow her to believe. Knowing for now she needed to talk about something else he said, “It’s okay. What’s important is that you came back.”
“Half way home I got so scared.” She admitted, “I knew that if you’d returned to the darkness you’d been there so long.”
He used his fingertip to tilt up her chin forcing her to look in his eyes. “Ayasha, I have no concept of time when I’m gone. It doesn’t matter.”
Still she couldn’t dismiss the feeling that had come over her. “I think maybe it does.”
He dropped his finger. “Well, I’m here now.”
She glanced away again but suddenly she turned to face him. “Thank you.”
He looked deeply into her eyes. “No, thank you for telling me the truth.” He grinned, “Okay now. It’s late and I bet you haven’t eaten.”
The sudden change in the conversation threw her at first. “Uh, no.”
He stood. “Okay, woman. Go take a shower, put your jammies on and I’ll make your dinner.”
She blinked in surprise, “Oh, that’s okay. I’m not really hungry.” The truth was she was feeling sadness for the hours they could have spent together that were lost.
“Ayasha.” He pretended to act stern. “Do as I say. After dinner if you’re not too tired we’ll go up to the attic.”
A slow smile came to her face. “I’d like that.”
He nodded feeling stronger with each passing minute. “Good. I think tonight we both need the stars.”
Impulsively she hugged him. “Yes.” She whispered. “We do.”
They spent hours gazing up at the stars. Tonight words weren’t needed, they simply needed to know they had each other, they weren’t alone. When at last Gerard realized she needed to sleep he led her back down the steps.
Ayasha closed the closet door then reached for his hand. He smiled knowing she was leading him to her bed.
In the simi-darkness she curled up next to him. “Tomorrow I’m going to try to get off work a few hours early.”
“Honey, you don’t need to rearrange your life because of me.” He said stroking her arm, and for the millionth time wishing he could feel her skin.
“I want to.” She answered honestly. “Spending time with you feels right. It feels good.” Suddenly her face took on a look of sadness.
Gerard understood. “No matter what happens, I promise I’ll never forget this time.”
Both understood his promise might be impossible to keep.