There were muffled hushed voices in the distance, machines beeping, slight scuffling from in front of her.
I passed out…she remembered.
Realizing she was regaining consciousness, she pushed hard to open her eyes. Everything was blurry and the sounds around her were unfamiliar, jumbled and distorted.
Wake up! She felt stuck in a dream.
Fighting to regain her senses, she lifted her hands to her face. There was something on her mouth and she wanted it off. Her movements were uncoordinated, clumsy and childlike. Slowly, as the light began to filter in, the foggy shapes and strange noises turned into forms that began to make sense.
Easy now, you’re ok. You’re at the hospital.” An unfamiliar male voice came from her left.
Madly, she blinked and rubbed at her eyes, searching for clarity.
I’m at a hospital…
Her head was heavy and aching, she felt weak. It took some effort to follow the sound of the voice.
She focused in to her left and found a man sitting next to her. He looked strong with defining cheekbones and a masculine chin. His shoulders were thick and wide giving away his size and shape. He was muscular, brawny even. His skin was peachy, etched with the beginnings of age and sun. He had a shaved head with a dark brow and dark eyelashes that highlighted the most amazingly deep and blue eyes that she had ever seen. Dressed in canvas and yellow rubber, Lucy figured him to be a Firefighter.
The fire…the people…the camera’s. I’m found out…
“How are you feeling?” he asked her. The gentleness in his voice caught her off guard. It was smooth and comforting.
Gaining coordination, she pulled the oxygen mask off of her mouth.
“What happened?” she croaked through her dry lips. She was working hard to mask her fear, but the questions swirling in her mind created an uncomfortable pit in her gut. Attempting to sit up, the fireman reached over her and put his warm hands on her shoulders, gently laying her back down. A smile edged across his face and his eyes. Lucy complied. She was weak.
Relax Lucy, you're safe for now…
“Smoke inhalation. You passed out. You shouldn’t have gone back in”. The Fireman said.
“The old lady? She ok?” Lucy asked.
“She’s in intensive care with a tube down her throat, but it looks like she’ll make it. You saved her life.” Lucy detected admiration and astonishment in his voice. “What’s your name? You didn’t have any identification on you…”
He doesn’t know my name...
Deep relief settled into nerves. She was going to have a minute to figure things out.
“I’m Angela.” She lied. She coughed and wheezed a bit. Her chest felt heavy like something was sitting on it and her throat felt like it was on fire.
“I’m on my way to LA. I stopped for some coffee, and… Just my luck, eh?” Lucy began to cough and wheeze some more. She threw an innocent smile his way.
The fireman’s rugged face looked somewhat pained with concern. Gently, he reached for the oxygen mask and placed it back on her face. His eyes locked onto hers. They were solid and gentle blue eyes, full of depth and character, soft yet strong. But they were reading her and that was against the rules.
What’s this guy's angle?
“Yeah, lucky indeed.“ he smiled softly. He looked to the ground and shuffled a bit in his own discomfort.
Reality was rushing back in without mercy or patience.
I’m in the hospital, I have smoke inhalation, there’s an IV, there’s a gorgeous fireman at my side, my face is probably all over the internet, with local news sure to follow. I have to run. Run fast Lucy. You gotta go…
“Did I get burned?” She couldn’t see anything or feel anything, but she was still coming to her senses. A burn of any kind now would really set her back.
“First degree burns on your arms and face. More like a sunburn. I don’t know how you did it, but somehow you managed to beat that fire. “
There was humor and astonishment in his voice now. He truly was amazed at what she had done. That she had survived nearly unscathed. She felt him admiring her, penetrating her with his softness and concern and those fucking blue eyes. It was becoming uncomfortable.
“So, what’s your name Fireman?” her persona began to stiffen.
“Oh, yeah, sorry. I’m Jason, but you can call me Jay. “He was still smiling, and his eyes were still sparkling, boyishly, sweet and perfect.
“And, um, why are you here at my bedside? Don’t you have better things to do then to babysit?” she was becoming gruff and impersonal. This was her attempt to throw him a stop sign. To appear prickly and unreceptive. He was flirting with her and as much as she wanted to play, this was not the time. It was dangerous even.
“Well, you literally fell into my arms. You’re the town hero, you know.” Eyes still sparkling blue and with that boyish grin on his face, “I wanted to make sure you were alright.”
“Yeah, well, I’m ok. I’m in good hands, sooo…” She was starting to ache with that deep and secret longing. This big handsome Fireman at her bedside was beginning to make her feel things that she could not afford to feel, she couldn’t even afford to entertain such thoughts. This was a critical time. She needed to be focused and sharp. She put a mask of indifference on her face and looked him squarely in the eyes, as if to say, you can fuck off now…
His face changed, painfully contorting. He was obviously surprised, shocked even as he began to realize that he was getting a brutal brush off. Becoming suddenly aware that he had been coming on way too strong, his face flushed with embarrassment. He was clearly stung by her rebuff.
“Oh. I- umm, I’m sorry. You must be tired. I’ll be on my way now.” His words stumbled over each other. He shuffled his feet a bit and stood up. .
Lucy observed closely as he rose and slowly towered over her. Dear God, she thought, he must be 6’4” easy. In her mind it was as if he had walked out of a dream. She had to fight hard to hide the instant pull of attraction.
It’s for his own good…
But then, in deliberate defiance of her own marching orders, she felt herself soften at as his discomfort. She couldn’t help it. Her face and her eyes relaxed. She was being too hard on this man despite her own crisis. He is the real hero after all, she told herself. He deserved better.
“It’s okay” she spoke softly, de-bristling her demeanor. “I’m just tired and a little disoriented. I was not expecting this detour.” She smiled her sweet smile and allowed her eyes to meet with his once more.
Still blushing, he smiled back.
“I’ll check on you later then, if that’s ok with you?” he asked.
“Yes, of course. I’d like that.”
Okay, enough now Fireman Jay, you got to go…
As he walked out of her hospital room, she wished that he could stay. That she could keep him, if just for a little while. Just once in her life, that she could be normal.
But now was not the time for that. She needed a clear mind. She had plans to make. There was another nightmare standing by…
Finally alone, she began to put her thoughts to motion. So much to do, so many details and damn if the devil wasn’t in those details. She was thoroughly exhausted with an aching head. She knew her back up plan, but she was fighting too hard to have a clear stream of thought. It was broken, fragmented and frustrated.
They don’t know who I am yet. I have a minute to rest…
She needed to rest, or she’d never be able to escape. And now was the time. Safe for the moment, she closed her eyes and before she could have another thought, she was asleep.
Her dreams were wrought and troubled with danger at every turn. Bad men in black suits chasing her relentlessly, shooting at her, bullets whizzing by her ears. No matter how fast she ran, they were at her heels and meant to kill her. There was nowhere to hide. She saw her brother lying lifeless ahead of her in a forest by a big Oak tree. She started screaming for him to wake up. She hollered so loudly she startled herself awake in a cold sweat. Her heart was racing, she heard beeping and buzzing. Light filtered in as she opened her eyes in panic. Two nurses and Jay the Fireman were standing over her. One nurse had a hold of her arm in a restraining position. It seemed as though in her struggles, she had removed her IV.
“Ssshhh now, you’re ok Miss. Just a nightmare.” The gentle feminine voice of a nurse standing over her broke through the hysteria.
The nurse with the gentle voice was wiping the sweat from her brow while another less gentle nurse was holding her arm down.
Jason, the Firefighter with the brilliant eyes and silky voice, was at the foot of her bed, looking quite disconcerted.
“You were having a really bad dream. You’re ok now, just let the nurses fix you back up really quick, ok?” His voice felt like a sedative and Lucy began to regain her composure.
“Right, right. I’m so sorry.” she said looking directly at the less gentle nurse who was still manhandling her arm. “I’m ok now, you can let go”. Lucy shot her an angry look. There was nothing she liked less than to be manhandled.
The nurse shot Lucy a disapproving look right back but softened the grip on her arm.
“Where are my clothes?” she asked anyone in the room.
Nice nurse responded, “They are in the chair in the corner, love, but you won’t be needing them anytime soon. At least for a day or two. You’re getting the spa treatment here on the fourth floor of Mercy General”. She gave Lucy a soft and friendly smile. Lucy smiled back, but it was fake, knowing all too well she would be leaving much sooner than that.
Jason moved closer to Lucy with concern in his eyes.
“Listen young lady, you really need to rest now. Do what the nurses and doctors tell you.” He was sensing her urgency, her panic, he knew something was not quite right.
“Don’t worry Fireman Jay. I’m a good girl and I do what I’m told”, she winked and smiled at him, but she could tell he was not buying the bullshit she was shoveling anymore. His eyes were pressing her hard and this was beginning to make her nervous. If he became overly curious it had the potential to throw a serious wrench in her escape.
“Jay” nice nurse said, “Can you give us a few minutes? We need to get her fixed up…”
“Oh, ya, sure Sis. “Angela? I’ll be back in an hour to check in. You ok with that?”
Angela? Oh yeah, Angela… jeeeez…
“You don’t have to do that.” Lucy said as she was shaking off her confusion. She almost slipped.
“I got nothing going on. I don’t mind. I’ll be back in a bit.” And with that he left the room. No more discussion.
In another time, Fireman Jay, I would have given you a run for your money…you and those pretty blue eyes…and those thick and strong arms…STOP IT LUCY!
A soft grin grew on her face. He was very interested in her and it felt good. It had been a very long time since she had felt that secret power she could wield.
Nice nurse, with a smile and a glint in her eyes looked down at Lucy, “He’s soft for you darling. I haven’t seen that look in his eyes since High School”.
Lucy smiled at nice nurse who she now understood was the sister of Fireman Jay.
“Your brother?” Lucy asked.
“Yes ma’am. Big brother and all that comes with it. He’s a widower by the way…”
Lucy wasn’t asking. Lucy didn’t want to know. She didn’t need to know and now she wished she didn’t know.
She looked over at nice nurse and shook her head.
“Too bad I’m only passing through…” and she gave nice nurse a wink and a smile.
Lucy felt something welling up from deep inside of her. A warmth, soft and fresh. But it hurt. And she knew better. She had to go. There would be none of this. Not now.
Mean nurse, now done shoving the IV needle as deep and as painfully as she could into Lucy’s arm, told her, “There will be some paperwork for you here in a minute Miss. Accounting and such. I’ll have a few questions for you.”
Lucy took in a deep breath. “Yes, yes. Whenever you’re ready, but first, may I use the ladies room?”
“Of course Miss.”
Mean nurse must have been in her early 60’s, looking to have led a rough life. Her face was haggard and wrinkled and her eyes were almost dead. No glimmer, no joy hiding behind them, just plain and cold. This left Lucy uncomfortable. She depended highly on the people around her if not to just give her the illusion of love and safety. Mean nurse would not be her ally. In fact, Mean Nurse would more likely cause her harm than anything.
Nurse Sis stepped in. “Let me help you to the restroom. Go slow now. You’ll probably be dizzy and your breathing may be a bit labored”.
As Lucy stepped off her bed into the warm hands of Nurse Sis, she quickly discovered that she felt like absolute shit. Her head was way too light and the strength in her back and her legs was depleted, sore and angry at her for lifting 200 lbs. while on an adrenaline rush. She limped to the bathroom with wincing and pain. Nurse Sis, left her alone and shut the door.
Still trembling from the events of the day, Lucy looked into her own eyes in the bathroom mirror. Her own face she hardly recognized. Her hair, long and blonde was still foreign to her even after all these years but never more than now. Her eyes even. Blue now, but not at birth. She hated what she saw and quickly gave herself a moment of longing and self-pity. But only a moment. She looked herself in the eyes, and saw past the blue into her own Hazel eyes. “Lucy. You got this. Get your head right lady. It’s going to be a long journey ahead.” she quietly whispered to the stranger in the mirror.
She splashed water on her face, peed like a racehorse and gently moved back to her hospital bed which was actually quite comfortable, she noted. On her way back, she silently took in more of her surroundings. Her room was right next to the nurse’s station (of course, never easy is it?). She was on the fourth floor and the elevator was right outside of her door. She caught her clothes bag and saw her shoes below the chair. She glanced around at what she was hooked up to. IV bottle, oxygen mask, blood pressure, pulse ox, nothing she couldn’t slip out of quickly without too much notice.
Mean nurse sat waiting impatiently with a telling grin on her face for Lucy to arrange herself in the bed. “So then, Miss, just a few questions for you…”