Thursday, May 19, 2011

F&G: Where Do We Go From Here?

After Kelly's shot heard round the FUN & GAMES world, I'm not so sure I'll be able to shock you fun followers...

But, I'll try to hold your attention ;)

The small surgical waiting room had not been constructed with comfort in mind. Owen shifted in the hard plastic chair yet again and shot a quick glance at the wall clock. Only three minutes had passed since the last time he’d looked. Beside him, Lucky sat cracking his knuckles, his knees, his neck and anything else he could think of, a steady pop, pop, pop that drove Owen crazy on a good day. Right now, he was about an inch away from wringing his brother’s neck.


Pop, pop, pop.

Across from them, his mother and Mrs. Simonson huddled around Grace’s cousin Abby. Her wails reverberated off the peeling beige paint of the tiny room’s walls, drowning out the whispered words of solace the two older women kept pushing at her.

Pop, pop, pop.

In the corner, Mrs. Maguire sat still as a stone, her expression stoic, eyes vacant pools. It almost seemed as though she too was hovering at Death’s door right along with her young charge.

Pop, pop, pop.

“Jesus fucking Christ!” Truman halted mid-pace to pin Lucky with a hot glare. “Would you stop that shit? It’s driving me crazy.” He didn’t wait for Lucky to respond, instead resuming his pace. Back and forth, from one end of the room to the other and back again, Truman was slowly burning a hole in the worn green carpeting.

“Sorry,” Lucky mumbled. Pop. “It’s just something I do—“ Pop. “—when I’m nervous.” Pop.

Truman shook his head, muttering something under his breath. Owen glanced at the clock again. Not even two more minutes had elapsed.

Pop, pop, pop.

Truman snarled, but didn’t stop, and no more threats were issued.

Pop, pop, pop.

Abby’s wails slowly subsided, lessening to muffled sobs which to Owen’s thinking were somehow worse than the ear-splitting keens of just minutes before.

Pop, pop, pop.

One more glance at the clock, and Owen shot to his feet. All eyes swung to him. Abby’s tears hushed. Truman stopped pacing, and Lucky ceased the tactical assault on his own joints.

“I…uh…I need to…uh…” Owen stammered, focusing on his tattered sneakers. “Thirsty. I need something to drink.” It was a lame excuse, and one that they all saw through, but he shrugged and headed for the door.

No one stopped him. As he stepped out of the waiting room, Abby resumed her weeping, the mothers crooned softly to her, Truman commenced to pacing the room again, and Lucky did his thing.

Pop, pop, pop.

Owen turned in the opposite direction of the pop machines, instead heading for the room at the far end of the corridor. The one he’d seen Harper and her father being ushered into by two uniformed police officers shortly after they’d arrived at the hospital no more than an hour ago.

“Harper, why didn’t you report this right away?” Dill Simonson asked gently, but the frustration lurking under his concern was unmistakable.

Slouching against the wall just outside the slightly open door, Owen braced himself for Harper’s standard response of Nothing happened. How many more times would he be able to hear her repeat that before he ended up shaking her and yelling, Yes, something sure as shit happened. So tell me already!

“Because I was ashamed,” she answered, her voice barely above a whisper. “I mean, I should’ve known better than to let myself end up in that kind of situation…and that outfit I was wearing—“

“Harper, this is not your fault,” one of the officers interrupted. “You are the victim here. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing or what you said. The fact of the matter is that he took advantage of you. You could have come to us sooner, you know.”

“Yeah,” Harper snorted out sarcastically. “I can just imagine how that would’ve gone. ‘Why yes, officer, I was wearing a super short skirt, tight sweater, and six inch stilettos. Oh, and no, he didn’t actually get farther than a kiss.’ I watch Law & Order. It would’ve been my word against his. Me, dressed like a slut, accusing a well-loved and respected teacher of attempted rape.” Cold steel wrapped around her every word, making her laugh sound bitter and cruel. “I know exactly how that would’ve gone. Besides, I handled it myself.”

“Handle it, how?” the officer asked. “By ignoring what happened? By promising your attacker’s son that you’d keep this all quiet? What did he threaten you with, Harper?”

“It was nothing! It’s not like he got any further than that kiss. I made sure of that. So, what’s the problem?”

“That’s just it, honey,” her father chimed in. “You shouldn’t have had to ‘handle it’ yourself. You could’ve come to us—me and your mother. We would’ve—“

“What’s going on with Grace? Has there been any word yet?” she asked.

They were quiet for a long moment. Finally, her father cleared his throat. “She’ll be in surgery for a while yet, honey. But, you know what a fighter Grace is. She’ll be fine.”

“You don’t know that. Not for sure,” Harper whimpered. “She shouldn’t have even been there this morning, Dad. It shouldn’t have been her—“

“Harper, honey, this isn’t your fault,” Dill soothed, but her cries ratcheted up another notch. “Can you give us a minute, please?”

Chairs scraped noisily against the floor, and Owen darted a few feet down the hall. He turned and slowly started heading back when the two officers emerged from the room. They stared him down for what seemed like an eternity but was really only a second or two, nodded, and passed him by without a word. He rapped lightly on the door frame and waited until Mr. Simonson acknowledged his presence.

“We need a few more minutes,” Dill said without looking up.

“I…uh…” Owen cleared his throat noisily. “I just wanted to see if Harper was—“

“I said,” Dill cut in, his tone pure ice. “Not now.”

“Owen?” Harper pulled away from her father and scrubbed at her red-rimmed eyes. “Any word on Grace?”

The hopeful quality in her voice just about did him in. Slowly, sadly, he shook his head. “Not yet.”

He wanted to go to her, pull her into his arms, and fight away all her demons, but the stone wall that was her father sat between them, an immovable force. Instead, he jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “I was just on my way to the vending machines, and I thought I’d see if you wanted me to get—“

“I’ll come with you.” She jumped out of her seat and rounded her father’s hulking form before he could stop her.

“Harper, I think you should stay right here.” It sounded more like a command than a suggestion, especially coming from her intimidating father.

“We’ll only be a minute or two, Dad. Besides, I need to stretch my legs.” She grabbed Owen’s arm and steered him out the door before Mr. Simonson could protest further. He didn’t though.

They took only a few steps before she burst into a fresh batch of tears.

“Hey, don’t do that.” Now, there was nothing stopping him, and he didn’t hesitate before pulling her up against him and sliding his arms around her. “Grace is going to be okay, Harp. We both know she’s too stubborn to let a little thing like this drag her down.”

“Getting shot is no little thing!” she cried into his chest.

“Well now, I hate to disagree, but bullets are not all that big. They’re actually quite tiny.”

She made a noise that was half-groan, half-laugh.

“Yeah, lame joke, I know, but you can’t blame a guy for trying.”

“No, I guess not.” She sighed, long and loud, and then disentangled herself from his arms. “She’ll be okay. I mean, this is Grace we’re talking about. Nothing can keep her down for long. She’ll be back to playing in the dirt in no time.” She nodded as if by doing so, it lent truth to her words.

He bobbed his head in agreement, wrapped his hand around hers, and started to lead her toward the vending machines, but their progress halted as a tall, blonde man in a regulation TWA pilot’s uniform stormed around the corner.

So, what do we think Kelly will do next?  I know I can't wait to find out;)

PS...also, check out my fellow Book Hungry peeps' blogs today (see sidebar for links).  I've been a bad book club member these last couple of months, but hopefully I can redeem myself next month...that is, if they haven't kicked me out for being lazy.