Roads: Chapter 37

Title: Roads
Chapter: 37 of 43
Author: Sheryl
Rating: R
Other Info: Sequel to Walls
Warnings: Drug-usage, cursing, violence etc
Excerpt: A mumble from the bed brought Karen’s attention from the care plan she was writing, back to her charge. His brow was knit, face scrunched into a frown. Smiling slightly, she set down her pen, and moved closer to the bed, reaching out to gently brush an errant lock of hair from his face.
“It’s alright, Zac…” Her voice was just above a whisper. She gently lifted the O2 mask from his face, frowning at the red imprint it had left. “Everything’s okay.” Her soft voice and gentle touch smoothed the furrowed brow, and he turned his face toward her slightly, pressing his face against her hand.
She heard a gentle whimper then, and the word “Mom” on a breath.

Chapter 37

“Didn’t I just leave this place?” Karen’s thought was ruefully amused. She spent more time here at the hospital than she did at home, lately. God knew, she needed the extra money, and they surely needed the extra hands, but darn it, she was tired. Still, it was hard to say no, and they’d sounded pretty frantic when they’d called her. As she headed for her floor, she reflected on her schedule. “All day, and then back for a full night. I sure hope I don’t fall asleep on rounds.” Smiling to herself, knowing she’d do no such thing, she swung into the breakroom, grabbing herself a coffee, hoping she’d actually have time to drink it for a change. They had a private they needed help with. It was a rarity in these days of short staffing, to spare a pair of hands for a private. Curiosity peaked, she sipped her coffee, and headed for the desk.

Tracy, the night charge nurse in the pediatric ICU greeted Karen, as she arrived, carrying her coffee. “Morning, Karen. We’re so glad you were able to come in and do this private for the day shift. They’re swamped. Like that’s anything new. ‘Cause by the time we get back tonight, all will be quiet. Doesn’t it figure?” She smiled at Karen, and picked up a chart. “Here’s what we’ve got for you. You ready?”
Karen nodded, slightly more focused on her coffee than on Tracy.
“Patient is a young male, we’re unsure of his age…” Karen’s attention was suddenly sharply directed. Unsure of his age? “…but figure he’s about 12 or 13. All we know name-wise is Zac. He was brought in, and literally left at the door, by an unknown adult male. On…”
“Left at the door?” Karen interrupted, surprised.
“What do you mean, left at the door?”
“I mean, he was dropped off in the ED, and the man who left him took off before he told anyone a damned thing.” Karen scowled thoughtfully and waved her pen in the direction of Tracy’s chart.
“Continue.” Tracy’s eyebrows went up, and she grinned. You had to love Karen.
“Thanks. I think I will. On arrival, he was running a temp of 104, and was seizing sporadically. Air entry was non-existent in both lower lobes, with expiratory wheezes and crackles heard in the upper lobes. Admission diagnosis is pneumonia. He wasn’t able to take a breath without working hard at it, poor kid. He was obviously in a lot of pain. He had vomited before arrival, but hasn’t since. He was dehydrated, his skin turgor was poor, his eyes sunken and dull. His level of consciousness hasn’t changed since admission; he’s non-verbal, responsive only to pain. He hasn’t opened his eyes since the start of the last seizure, at about 4 AM. Poor kid… looks like he’s been dragged through a bush backwards. We haven’t been able to get him cleaned up at all, and he’s a mess. We just got him about an hour ago, we’ve had him on the cooling pads; his temp’s come down to 102. He’ll likely be down to about 100 in another couple of hours. He’s been catheterized, his output has only been 100 cc since 0430. His IV is running at 100, and he’s received Penicillin and Codeine. Check the drug sheet for time of last dose, ok? We gave him Tylenol PR, and he’s due at 0900 for another. The emergency MD gave him some Thorazine, but we haven’t repeated it. He hasn’t been shivering, but we have the order if you need it. ECG hasn’t shown any blips, thank God. Just keep on eye on his rhythms, and pulse rate. Respirations are still high, but that won’t change, not until he coughs some of that crud up out of his lower lobes. Cough is still dry and non-productive, and obviously hurts. That’s the only time we see a change in facial expression… poor little sweetie. O2 is running at 2 1pm. Um… what else?” Karen sipped her coffee, scribbling notes as she listened to Tracy’s rambling report. “Hmmm,” she spoke without looking up., “I’m glad he’s stable now, he was one sick puppy. How’s his blood work look?”
“WBC’s elevated.”
She nodded, “Like that’s a surprise. You don’t know anything more about him? No age, no name, no family?” “No, not a thing.” “And nobody’s looking for a lost kid?”
“Nope, not that we know of.”
“Well.” She scanned the chart briefly, as she thought about the day ahead, mentally planning her tasks. “I think that’s about it, I’ll get over to…” She glanced back down at the file “Zac?”
“Yep, Zac.”
“How’d you find that out?”
“Man that dumped him down there. He evidentially blurted out ‘his names Zac’, and ran off.”
“Oh. Well, I’ll get down there and take a look at him. See you tonight, Tracy. Bring some of that coffee cake in, ok?”
Tracy laughed, “You can have all the coffee cake you want, Karen. You’ll need it. I don’t know how you do it, hon… working a day shift, sleeping for a few hours, and coming back in for a 12 hour night. I wish I was young again. Thanks again for helping them out, they’ll have 3 fresh post-ops by noon, and with those 2 babies with croup, they have their hands full. Make sure they appreciate you, ok?”
Karen laughed, “They have no choice but to appreciate me, if they know what’s good for them.” As she headed to Zac’s bed, she thought about Tracy’s comment. “I wish I was as young as Tracy thinks I am… I’m gonna feel every one of my 39 years, and then some, by tomorrow morning.

Quietly, she approached the bed holding the sick youngster. Arms folded, she stood for a moment, taking him in. Yep. He sure did look like he’d been pulled through a bush backward. What was that, pine needles in his hair? What had this kid been doing? Sighing, she turned her attention to the machines surrounding his bed. Everything looked okay, and the drug sheets gave her two hours before any meds were due. “Good,” she thought, “enough time to clean him up a bit. Kid looks like he’s been living outdoors for a week!” She gathered her supplies, and got a basin of lukewarm water, wondering all the while who he was, and why nobody was here with him. Didn’t he have a family? Was he a runaway? Shaking her head, she set her supplies down, speaking softly.
“Zac, my names Karen. I’m just going to wash you up a little bit.” Gently she cleaned his face, wincing to herself as she found, and cleaned, a multitude of small superficial scratches, scrapes and bruises. His hands were just as bad, and she found herself becoming annoyed as she removed a few small splinters. “Darn emergency staff… you’d think they could spare a few minutes to make him a little more comfortable.” As soon as she thought it, she caught herself, and mentally apologized to the busy emergency nurses. From the look of him, they’d had plenty to worry about besides some dirt and a couple of splinters. “I have plenty of time to do it now,” she thought.
As she worked, she talked softly to Zac, about the weather, the vacation she had just finished, her family, even asking him about his family, though she knew he wouldn’t answer. She firmly believed in the power of speech, and knew that he heard her, on some level. She chatted quietly, wishing she knew more about him, grateful that she wasn’t the type to ever be at a loss for words.
“Hon, what on earth have you been doing? Digging ditches?” she chided him gently as she changed the water in the basin for the third time, marveling at the amount of dirt in it. Still, though he looked like he’d been living hard, she could tell he was well cared for. He was by no means underweight, and he had none of the look of neglect she’d unfortunately come to recognize. She finished up the bedbath, and set to work gently removing the pine needles from the child’s long hair. “You could sure use a shampoo, sweetie, but I think we’ll worry about that later.” She changed his hospital gown for a fresh one, wishing, not for the first time, that they had something more appropriate for the older pediatric patients. Somehow, she just knew that this young man would not appreciate the 101 Dalmatians meandering across his gown. She turned him onto his side slightly, warming some lotion in her hands, and gently rubbed his back. The excess lotion she used on his arms and legs, thinking that while he probably didn’t much need the lotion, the touch was good for him. She wished he were a little more responsive. During the whole procedure, he had barely moved, except to cough a few times, weakly, and obviously painfully, the effort making him wince. She stepped back, finished with her ministrations, eyeing him critically. “Well,” she thought, “he looks more comfortable now, anyway…” She checked the machinery surrounding the now clean boy, gave him the medications he needed, and settled into the rocker beside his bed, to do her charting.

********************

“You doing okay, Taylor?” CC glanced at the boy next to him. He’d said not a word, and had remained completely expressionless as they drove from the house. CC’d expected him to at least comment on the lack of press standing around, but there hadn’t been a peep out of him. Now, several miles and half a dozen songs on the radio later, that stony faced silence began to unnerve him. As had Taylor’s lack of response. “Taylor.” His voice rose a notch. “Would you answer me please? Are you okay?”
Taylor sighed, then, tearing his gaze from the hypnotic peace of the passing roadside. “I don’t know Ceec. Just drive.”
“What’s on your mind?”
“You leaving me alone.” Surprised at the rudeness, CC’s eyes flew to his companion. “That was pretty uncalled for, Tay. Really…” Taylor sighed, but shook his head, offering no apology… “Ceec, I don’t want to talk.” He turned his attention back out the window, and CC, knowing he’d been dismissed, reached down, and turned up the radio.

********************

A mumble from the bed brought Karen’s attention from the care plan she was writing, back to her charge. His brow was knit, face scrunched into a frown. Smiling slightly, she set down her pen, and moved closer to the bed, reaching out to gently brush an errant lock of hair from his face.
“It’s alright, Zac…” Her voice was just above a whisper. She gently lifted the O2 mask from his face, frowning at the red imprint it had left. “Everything’s okay.” Her soft voice and gentle touch smoothed the furrowed brow, and he turned his face toward her slightly, pressing his face against her hand.
She heard a gentle whimper then, and the word “Mom” on a breath.
“Oh, sweetie, it’s alright.” She noted that his skin against her hand was cooler, and eyed the temperature readout. 100 degrees. Much better. Time perhaps to stop the cooling pads. She hoped so, she hated the things. Part of her always longed to throw a blanket over them, and cozy them in. Add to that the condensation that always kept the sheets they were lying on slightly damp, and you had a sum total of utter discomfort. Still, they served their purpose. Better to be chilly and damp, than seizing and hallucinating.
Shaking her head at her own foolishness, she loosened the elastic and replaced the mask, gently stroked his hair, noting again the way he turned toward her hand. The boy seemed hungry for contact. Smiling, she obliged him for a few minutes, stroking his hair, and holding his hand, squeezing it softly.
“It’s okay Zac…” Her voice was a murmur.” You’re gonna be fine sweetie, you’ll wake up soon…” As her touch increased, tensed muscles relaxed and his frown gave way to peacefulness. Satisfied that he was sleeping easily again, she noted the temp reduction on his chart, and headed down the hall to report to the charge nurse.

********************

Taylor shivered, and hugged his arms around himself. Cold in here, did Ceec have the AC on? Nope, no AC. Damn it was cold. Life just got better and better. Sighing, he turned back out the window, but for some reason, the glazed oblivion he’d enjoyed wouldn’t come to him. His mind was working now. He wished it would stop, with every thinking moment adrenaline flooded him, a tingly, high, sickening sensation he’d have cheerfully slit his own throat to end. He’d had about enough. Thoughts of suicide had never entered his head before, and he was mildly alarmed to find them there now. Surely he’d never do something like that.
That didn’t mean he wouldn’t hurt someone else though. Look at what had happened with his mother today. He’d been so close. And Sandra Elliot. He’d almost hit her. And Danny. And then of course Zac. Poor Zac.
Sighing, Taylor looked over at CC. He knew why CC was here, he had no illusions of friendship, or any genuine affection, he knew. CC was paid to be there. CC was paid to pick his brain, and find out what was wrong with him. And because they paid him, he, Taylor, was supposed to trust him. HA! You couldn’t trust anyone. Especially people who were in it for the money.
How many times had he been left to the attentions of people he was supposed to be able to trust? And how many betrayals? Even his friends wanted nothing to do with him, how could they expect him to trust some guy that was just here because it paid his mortgage? Even his parents couldn’t be trusted.
His mind threw him back into memory, his body, pain numbed and exhausted, lying on the stairs, blood running from his scalp where she’d ripped his hair from his head, her voice, screaming at him to get out.
His dad, breaking his hands, slamming them into the counter. NO! That was a dream! A dream, God help him, he didn’t even know what was real anymore.
A hand on his neck, something cold, sticky, and then the hand in his hair. Twisted, firm, he couldn’t get away, breath in his ear.
“You’re so much more… photogenic than your brothers. Come with me… trust me” No, that hadn’t happened! God, he was losing his mind!

CC heard a gasp from the seat next to him, and a whimper. His glance took in Taylor, hands pressed against his eyes. Such utter distress CC had never seen on any face. Quickly, he pulled the car over, and turned to look at the boy, careful to avoid physical contact. Whatever was going on here, he wasn’t going to assume touch was safe. “Tay, what is it?” Taylor ignored him, hands moving from his face to his hair, fingers twining into it. “Taylor…” CC gently reached for one of the boy’s hands. “Tay, don’t do that. Tell me what’s happening.”
Taylor ripped his hand away, avoiding CC’s grasp, pulling out a fair amount of his own hair, in the process. CC winced, seeing blood begin to flow, but noted that the pain seemed to have snapped him back to some sort of reality. Staring in horror at the handful of hair he held, Taylor quickly shook it out of his hand, onto the floor, and turned, finally toward CC.
“Ceec, I’m scared.” His voice was soft, the words drifting out on a breath.
CC nodded. “I can see that. Can you tell me what you’re scared of?” Taylor’s eyes filled with tears then, tears he seemed unaware of.
“I’m gonna hurt someone, hurt myself. I don’t know, I don’t…” His voice broke, and CC had all he could do not to just pull the boy in close and hug him.
“Tay, why do you think that?” Taylor shook his head.
“You don’t care, why should I tell you? You’re here because they’re paying you, you don’t care any more than the rest of them do”
CC’s eyes widened at that. Taylor didn’t know? Laughing suddenly, almost bitterly, CC broke his own rule and reached out, taking the boy’s head in his hands, turning his face toward himself. “Taylor.” His raised voice and firm touch, rather than panicking the boy, seemed to freeze him, and CC went on. “I am not getting one red cent for this. Where did you ever get the idea that I’m being paid? I, Taylor, am off the clock.” He let him go then, and reached into his pocket for a smoke.

Taylor’s mind was shrieking at him, senseless, mindless babble that wouldn’t stop. He’d lost all sense of reality, of time, of what was relevant and what wasn’t. The cigarette. No, that was wrong.
“You’re not supposed to smoke around us.” CC, laughing, showing teeth.
“Ask me…” Flick of the lighter, flame, smoke “…if I care.”
Why was he doing this? Why was he sneering like that?
“I’m sorry, why are you mad at me?”
“I’m not mad at you.”
Yes he was, they all were. It hadn’t been his fault, so they’d told him not to go off alone, so what? He’d been right outside the trailer, it wasn’t like he’d gone anywhere. Was it his fault it had happened? He’d been minding his own business, why were they all still so mad about it?!
“CC, it wasn’t my fault!” His shout startled CC, who hadn’t been sneering, had simply been smoking his cigarette and waiting for Taylor to sort himself out.
“What wasn’t your fault, Tay?”
Taylor shook his head. His shout had startled him, too, and the sea of sound in his head had started to fade a little. What had he been thinking? He didn’t know. He shook his head. “Can’t remember.” His voice was deep, guttural, and CC’s eyes widened.
“I really think it’s time to get you home, my friend.” He kept his tone mild, but inside he felt anything but. Whatever was in there, whatever had been snowballing on this kid for the last year, was right there. He didn’t want him trapped in a car when it finally hit.
“No, no not yet. CC…” Taylor paused, taking a breath. “CC, I’m really scared. I don’t know what’s going on. I…” He stopped again, words backing up in his throat. “I’m afraid I’m gonna hurt someone, you saw…”
CC nodded. “Yes I did. Do you mind if we drive though?”
“I don’t wanna go home” He was calming visibly and CC began to feel a little more flexible. “No, I understand. But I’d like to keep moving.” Taylor nodded, and CC went on. “What happened today, then, Taylor. What made you freak out on your mom like that?” The boy shook his head.
“I don’t know. I almost know, but…” He sighed then, and slumped down in his seat. “I just lost it hard, just now, didn’t I?”
CC smiled a little. “Yes you did. Any idea why?”
“Because I’m crazy?” Taylor’s smile was faint, but it was there. Shaking his head, CC made a face at the boy, and flicked the cigarette out the window.

********************

“Ha! I knew I’d find something.” Karen’s voice was triumphant. “What’d you find?” Karen waved a gown in Doreen’s face.
“This. Something other than the 101 damned Dalmatians!”
“Well, it’s Mickey Mouse, it’s not a whole lot better,” Doreen grinned. Karen eyed it for a moment, then waved Doreen away. “It’s better. If I were him, I’d be completely mortified to wake up and find myself clothed in puppies.” Doreen chuckled and followed Karen back to Zac’s bed.
“How’s he been doing?” Karen smiled at her, and gently brushed Zac’s hair back out of his face. “He’s doing better. Temps holding steady at 100 degrees, DC’d the cooling pads, the ECG, the Tylenol PR. His LOC is up a little, he’s dreaming, moving around. Looks pretty good.”
She absently flung Zac’s chart at her co-worker, and pulled out a basin, quickly assembling the makings of a bed bath. “What’re you doing?”
Karen smiled gently. “He’s damp and chilly, the bed’s all wet from the pads.” Doreen chuckled again. Karen must be reveling in this, the time to really take care of him, and pay attention to the little things. A luxury for both nurse, and patient. She watched as Karen expertly washed him up, and replaced the hated Dalmations gown with Mickey. Karen was a good nurse, her touch was gentle, and efficient. “She’d be one I’d want taking care of me,” the older woman thought, watching as Karen started to turn the boy onto his side, to pull the sheet from beneath him.
“Why don’t you sit him up?”
Karen stopped, eyeing her. “What?”
“Get him off his back for a minute. Be good for his breathing.”
“Dori, he’s asleep.”
“You don’t need to wake him up, here…” She stepped into Karen’s space. “Just sit right down there and pick him up. I’ll do this. Be good for him to change positions and you’re dying to hug him, I can see it in your eyes, “mom.”
“Oh stop.”
“Just sit down there on the end of the bed.”
Karen did as Dori suggested. A nurse of the “old school” Dori was known for dismissing modern techniques and using what she called the “tried and true”. ‘Get him off his back’ was definitely among her old school teachings. Smiling slightly, Karen slipped the O2 mask over his head, reached under the boy’s arms, and pulled him up against her.
For just a moment, his eyelids fluttered, and she caught a flash of brown eyes. A soft mumble, and his arm went around her neck, head resting against her shoulder. “There’s a nice response, there.” Doreen’s face was triumphant, as she quickly pushed the damp sheet toward Karen. Karen smiled, and closed her eyes for a moment, content to let Doreen handle the mechanics of changing the bed, enjoying the feel of the child she held in her arms.
Again the thought occurred to her. Who was he? Why had nobody been here? Why had nobody called? “He’s so responsive to touch,” she thought, gently rubbing his back. “He’s certainly no stranger to physical affection, he’s so obviously well cared for, someone, somewhere, must be frantic over this boy. Where in hell are they?” Sighing, she looked back at Doreen, who, finished with her end of the bed, was standing there grinning.
“Okay mom, as soon as you’re ready to give him up, lets lie him back down here and do that end, unless of course you think you want to try picking him right up out of bed.” Karen laughed softly, used to Dori’s teasing.
“I am not that bad, thank you very much. And I think he’s a little bit big to sit in my lap. Oh, hold on Dori!”
“Hmmm?” Karen laughed a little. “We’re not thinking, don’t make up the bed, those pads need to come off first.” Doreen made a face.
“You’re right. Are you okay with him like that, while I go get Larry? I’m not about to lift those things.”
“I’m fine.” Doreen winked, and flew off down the hall, leaving Karen perched on the end of the bed. Almost without thinking, she began to sing, softly, barely above a whisper. For a moment, the arm around her neck tightened slightly, as he shifted a little. Good, he was definitely hearing her, and responding. She smiled then, continuing her soft song, until Dori came back into the room with Larry. He and Doreen both smiled at the scene before them, and Larry approached quietly. “Sorry Karen, I hate to take him from you, but you’ll have to get off the bed.” She smiled, and shot a questioning look at Doreen.
“Okay boss, how’s the best way to go about this?” At Doreen’s pause, Larry stepped in, and wordlessly scooped the child out of her lap. “Karen, sit down there.” He gestured with his chin at the rocker.
Laughing a little, she did as she’d been told, and Larry, rather unceremoniously, plopped the boy into her lap. “Here you go, you just hang onto him for a few minutes. He’s not too big is he?” Laughing softly, she nodded. “He most certainly is too big, he’s nearly as tall as I am!”
“Can you hold on to him okay?” She nodded.
“I can hold onto him just fine, just watch that line please.” Larry nodded pleasantly, whistling softly as he stripped the unnecessary equipment from the bed. Doreen waited, fresh linen in hand. “What’s that you were saying about him being too big to sit in your lap?”
“Very funny.” She shifted her weight a little. Zac was by no means a small boy, and her arm was already going to sleep. Finally feeling as if she could maintain her grip, she settled back, her new view on him allowing her to find and remove a few more dried leaves from his hair.
She was very surprised when, a moment later, the blond head resting on her shoulder pulled back, and she found herself staring into sleepy brown eyes. He looked at her for a moment, swallowing, wincing as if it hurt him, and finally ventured a few words.
“Who’re you?” His voice was raspy, barely there, but still, he was awake.
“I’m Karen, sweetie, who’re you?” He looked at her for a moment longer, solemn and sleepy, then settled against her again, head on her shoulder. His mumbled “I’m Zac.” was a breathy whisper, already drifting down into sleep. Eyes wide, she glanced at Doreen, who was smiling as she made the bed.
Larry flashed her a thumbs up, and reached down to take him from her. “Sorry buddy, but I’m going to have to disturb you one more time.” He picked up the sleeping child, smiling as the eyes blinked open once more and a small sound of protest escaped his lips. He set him gently on the bed, and turned, bowing comically at the two nurses. “Ladies, it’s been a pleasure.” He carried the equipment out of the room, and they heard his whistle fade down the hall.
Karen and Doreen settled Zac again, smiling as he mumbled at the disturbance, and turned onto his side. Quickly checking the IV line, making sure it was free of tangles, Karen moved to help Doreen finish the bed.
“You make beds top to bottom, instead of side to side, Doreen, is that old school?” Doreen laughed.
“Nope, I just don’t like doing it the other way.” She gathered up the old linens and left the room, nodding absently at Karen’s “Thanks.” A few moments later she came back in, bearing a sheet and a light flannel blanket. “Here you go. He cleans up nice, doesn’t he? Nice looking little boy. Could use a haircut though.” Karen grinned, “Not so little, thanks very much.” Doreen’s laugh followed her as she left.

********************

“You’ll be alright?”
Taylor nodded. “Yeah, but you won’t be.”
“Why’s that?” CC’s voice was puzzled. Taylor smiled and pointed to the cash in CC’s hand. “Those things will kill ya. You’re better off just getting back in the car, and forgetting about ’em.”
CC snorted. “You…” He shut the door behind him and leaned in the window. “Are so obviously not a smoker. You sure you don’t want to come in?”
“I’m sure, just hurry up.” Sighing, CC held up a hand.
“Five minutes. Come get me if you get too stressed.”
“Yeah, go, go!” Taylor turned the radio up, and settled back. He was scared, but it felt safe here with CC. He wasn’t sure why. Despite the nasty things he’d said, he knew, just knew, inside where it counted, that CC really did care. He had a friend here, and one who could help, if he only knew how to let him.
CC had told him, time and time again, that he wasn’t crazy. That whatever it was that he couldn’t remember, would come out, and then they would deal with it. It was so hard now, though. Even the flashes were gone. He was just as glad, that had been dammed scary. Thinking back sent chills down his spine, and he looked out at the sunshine, suddenly needing to be in it. He was scared again, remembering how he’d thought about killing himself, and wondering if there was any chance that he would actually do such a thing.
So out of control, this is so bad…” The thought floated through his mind as he stepped from the car into the warmth and light. Stretching, he leaned back against the car, shutting his eyes and letting the warmth bathe his face. Red glow behind his eyelids, so long since he’d seen that. Had it really been so long since he’d been in the sun? Felt nice. Maybe there really was a reason to go on.
“Excuse me!” He jumped, startled from his reverie by the bright, perky voice. “Uh, yeah?” His eyes rested on the form of a young girl. Great.
She smiled nervously, and giggled. “Um, are you Taylor?” His eyes darted to the doorway of the store. Where was CC? “Yeah, yeah I am.” He moved to get back into the car, but the girl stopped him, reaching out to touch his hand.
“I’m Elly, I wondered…” She stopped, taken aback as he yanked his hand away from hers.
“I’m sorry.” She glanced nervously into his face, and he shook his head. “It’s okay. I’m sorry, I’m just… I don’t like to be touched too much. I know, not good…” He laughed a little, but it sounded forced, even to his own ears.
She smiled again. “Well, I’m a really big fan, and I wondered if you’d mind signing an autograph?” Sighing, he nodded, knowing he had to, but wishing more than anything that the girl would just go away, that CC would come out, that anything would happen to get her away from him.
His nerves were starting to fire up, and he seriously doubted his ability to hold it together. He scribbled his name onto the paper she’d handed him, and handed it back silently, ignoring the bright chatter she was directing at him. Where in hell was CC?
Sighing, smiling blankly at her, he reached for the car door, when a sudden flash blinded him. Spinning back to face her, his hand flashed out before his mind registered what he was seeing, sending the camera flying from her hand, to crash down onto the pavement. Before she could react his hand had gripped her wrist, hard, small bones grinding together.
Her cry of pain escaped him, as his vision clouded, the girl, the parking lot, the car, replaced suddenly by another scene. Flashes in his mind, as he gripped her wrist, too fast to focus on, shadows, laughter, Zac dancing in the sun, trailer, cameras, CAMERAS!
Yanking hard on her hand, his voice raised to a shout
“Get it away from me! Do you understand?! Get it away from me!”
“TAYLOR!” The voice startled him into releasing his grip. “Taylor, get in the car!” CC’s voice was loud, but it held no anger. “Get in the car, NOW!” He took the boy by the shoulders, and shoved him, none too gently into the passenger seat, slamming the door behind him.
He turned to the girl, who stood in stunned silence. “Are you alright? What happened?” As the shaken girl tried to tell him, his attention wavered between the two kids. Taylor was shaking, he could see it from out here, and the girl wasn’t much better off. Well, Taylor was in the car, he was fine. He turned his full attention to the girl, examining her wrist.
“You’ll have quite a bruise there, he just grabbed you?” She nodded, eyeing the car suspiciously. “Do you know why? What were you doing?”
“I, I took his picture, and he just freaked out! God, I never… He just knocked my camera right out of my hand!” CC held up a hand, stopping her.
“Was he okay until you took out the camera? Did he give you a hard time? Was he rude or anything?” She shook her head. “No, he signed an autograph, he just…” Tears started in her eyes then, and CC slipped an arm around her shoulders. “What’s your name?” She sniffed, and wiped her eyes. “Elly.”
“Elly, I want you to write down your name, and your phone number. I think that we should talk. But I need to take him home. Elly…” He stopped, his gaze going again to Taylor, brooding in the car.
“He’s been sick. He didn’t mean this.” She nodded, not sure what to think, and CC smiled gently at her. “We’ll pay for the camera. I’ll be getting in touch with your parents, alright?”
She nodded, anxious now only to get away. She handed him her name and number, written on the back of the autograph she’d asked for, and took off, nearly running. CC watched her go, then climbed into the car with Taylor.

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This fictional story is hosted at The Gifted Ones,
with permission from the author, Sheryl.

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