Afterglow Pt. 05

Ass

Hey, this is (not) John Grisham. Thanks to everyone who has read, responded and voted. This was a tough piece for me; your feedback was greatly appreciated. I learned more about law than I ever thought I would, resulting in a very interesting and potentially suspicious Google history. It was worth it.

Just a note: This story is a fictionalized account of stalking and abuse. It isn’t meant to romanticize this criminal behavior. Stalking is something that sends chills down my spine. If you or someone you know is going through this, please don’t be afraid to seek help. There is hope.

*****

Chapter VIII: An Appeal

I hated hospitals. The smell, the sterility, the shiny floors… Soap stations were parked next to every door. Nurses walked around with cheery scrubs that somehow seemed wrong against the backdrop of the suffering. Even worse, the frantic and heavy expressions of loved ones were haunting and inescapable.

The employees at the front desk were assholes. They gave me a hard time when I said I was there to see Rose, telling me they were supposed to receive a list of visitors and my name wasn’t on it. I fought with them, getting more and more pissed until they caved. A girl called someone upstairs, gave them my name and asked for permission. When she got off the phone, she tossed me an eye-roll and told me I had to wait.

While I stood there, I prayed hard for a miracle. Life had been strangely good to me lately. For the first time in a long time my love life wasn’t a punchline. I met a good woman who loved me, who patiently waited while I got over my hangups, who thought I was worth waiting for. My career wasn’t going very well, obviously, but it didn’t seem as important anymore.

I wasn’t so sure if I had done anything deserving of a miracle, but I got one when Olivia walked up to me that first night at the gallery and asked my opinion on her painting. It would be hard to summon yet another miracle, but I prayed and prayed, begging the universe on Rose’s behalf. She needed one. She needed to survive.

?

Then suddenly Rose’s father was beside me, silently taking my arm. I only met Frank once before, and only briefly. I expected him to yell at me, to blame me as if I was the symbol of the system that had let him down. That had let his daughter down. Instead he nodded towards the elevator and I followed.

Once the doors closed, he exhaled and looked at me with a smile. “She’s okay.”

It took me a minute to realize what he’d said. Everything tingled. “What? Really?”

“She’s gonna wake up. They have her under, in an induced coma, but she’s gonna wake up. The bullet was in her gut. But it came in at a weird angle, so it’s a shallow wound. Nasty, they said, but the bang on her head was worse. He…he hit her over the head. Hard. They say the coma is a precaution.” He fidgeted. “Of course, you know, it might take some time to heal but she’s okay. Alive. They might move her out of the ICU soon.”

“That’s…wonderful.” Then I burst into tears. Her poor father had absolutely no idea how to handle me, and so he patted my shoulder awkwardly until we were finally upstairs.

I hadn’t stopped crying, but at least I wasn’t wailing anymore. A tentative smile crossed my face as I followed Frank through a series of doors and hallways that didn’t make much sense to me in the mood I was in. Finally we were in the ICU.

A woman who looked exactly like an older Rose—clearly her mother—talked intensely with the doctor near the nurses’ station.

Frank cleared his throat and I looked back at him. “Felicity’s with her now. You should join her.” I went to take a step but he put his hand on my arm. “I need to warn you. She doesn’t look great, but remember she’s much better than she looks. It’s gonna be a long way back. That’s what the doctor says.”

“Thanks for the warning.” I smiled and impulsively hugged him. I was just so thrilled that she was still alive, that she still had a chance. Then I let go, rubbing at my tears and laughing at Frank’s uncomfortable expression. Rose had told me once her father wasn’t very touchy-feely, and neither was I. Usually. “Thank you.”

Then I pushed the door open. I couldn’t imagine what state Felicity was in. Rose often referred to her a hot head, and I couldn’t disagree. Felicity felt with every atom she possessed. I admired her for that.

I slipped through the curtain and there was Rose, pale and nearly lifeless against the stark white sheets—not much whiter than her skin. Thank God Frank warned me.

Felicity was in a chair beside her, toying with the fingers of Rose’s right hand. She looked up when she heard the sound of my footsteps and greeted me with a small smile.

I took a seat on the other side and stared at Rose.

“Rose always kinda expected to end up here. Morbid girl,” Felicity eventually said. Her voice was a whisper. “She said Dan wouldn’t ever let her go. That he’d rather she died than live her life without him.” I glanced at her and saw she was watching me with tears in her eyes. illegal bahis “I feel like I was so busy telling her to be strong, reciting all that shit from online message boards and books, that I wasn’t listening to her. I didn’t hear what she was saying.”

“There wasn’t anything you could’ve done, Felicity.” I listened to the beeping of Rose’s machines for a moment. Her heartbeat on the monitor was an amazing sight to behold. “You have to give yourself a break. The world doesn’t rest on your shoulders.”

“I was showering. When he came. I didn’t hear anything else but the gunshot. I came out and he was standing there, fiddling with the gun. He gave me such a hateful look.” She took a deep breath. “I couldn’t run. I couldn’t scream. I just panicked, frantically scanning the room for Rose. He lifted the gun and tried to shoot. It jammed or something, I don’t know. And then he ran.”

“Are you going to blame yourself for showering, now?”

Her eyes slid to Rose’s sleeping body. “No. I’m not. I know it’s not my fault. I just keep playing the look he gave me over and over. It makes me sick.”

We were silent after that. I wondered if the police had tracked Dan down yet. A dark part of me hoped he killed himself. The world wouldn’t miss him. Another part of me hoped they caught him. Seeing him in jail would possibly bring satisfying closure to everyone. It would be extremely rewarding to see him trapped, to show him that he hadn’t won, to taunt him with the realization that Rose would go on living her life without him.

“What happens next?” Felicity asked.

“He’s definitely going away. There’s no avoiding it.”

Felicity kissed Rose’s hand.

We sat there in silence for what felt like hours. Felicity had fallen asleep with her head against the bed, her hand still clasped with Rose’s. I knew I had to go. I stood and stretched, stifling the sound of a yawn behind my hand.

“You’ll keep me updated?” Felicity asked.

I jumped. She was sitting up with bleary eyes.

“Yes.”

Felicity stood up, carefully pulling her hand away from Rose, and came around to my side of the room. She studied me for a minute, a smile creeping across her face. Before I knew what was happening, she had me in a bone-crunching hug. After a few seconds I lifted my own arms up to reach around her.

“Thank you,” Felicity breathed. “Thank you. I don’t know what we would have done without you.”

“I didn’t do—”

“Hush. I’m actually thanking someone for once and you’re spoiling it.”

My eyes started watering but I commanded myself not to cry. “I wish I could’ve stopped him.”

Felicity pulled back, a soft smile still on her face. She smoothed my hair down and then lovingly rested her palm against my cheek. “Remember how you told me to stop blaming myself earlier? I think you need to start doing that, too.” She gave my face a pat. “You’re wonderful, Elizabeth. You’re too good for those dicks who tried to demote you. You’re just right for Olivia… I’ll even admit that. I’m glad you found her. And you’re just right for Rose and me. You’re a fantastic friend. We owe you more than you know. And we certainly don’t blame you for one move you’ve made.”

I blew out a heavy breath. “Thank you.”

Felicity stepped back and returned to her chair, closing her fingers around Rose’s pale hand. “Please keep us posted.”

“I will,” I said. “I promise.”

OOOOOO

I was exhausted when I got back to my apartment. All I wanted to do was climb into bed and sleep and sleep. Unfortunately I had to go to work, and while the weight on my heart had lessened after learning Rose was going to be okay, I was still feeling the withdrawal of having so much shock and anxiety coursing through my system. I’d been so fucking terrified. It seemed impossible to go into work after the night I had, but it was imperative. Things were shaky at work, and I desperately wanted to know what Robert and Roger’s plans were.

I talked with Rose’s parents before I left, offering them as much comfort as possible. They wanted answers I couldn’t give them. Luckily they got in touch with Robert, and he was supposedly heading over to the hospital to talk things over. I hoped he’d be at the office soon.

Olivia called me and I told her what happened immediately.

“Dear Lord. If he isn’t dragged away after this, then I give up on your country. You and I will move to Paris.”

I smiled. “Paris? I could definitely live there. What would I do for a job?”

“Be serious, Elizabeth! It’s a travesty that it got this far.”

“He will be held accountable for this. I promise you.”

She was quiet for a minute, but I could hear her breathing. “And how are you, my sweetheart? You must be so exhausted.”

“I’m okay. Relieved, more than anything.”

“Would it…Would it be in bad taste if we went out for a romantic dinner tonight? I know that it isn’t a wonderful time for you but I’d like to tell you I love you all night long.”

Her words strummed a tight string inside of me. illegal bahis siteleri I understood what she meant; it did seem like an unfortunate time to be celebrating while Rose lay in the hospital and Dan had yet to answer to his despicable actions. And yet it seemed so important to give ourselves this night. We’d been balled up with worry for a long time. Olivia had stood beside me through it all. Now the nightmare appeared to be ending. It was time to start looking forward.

“I’d love to go out with you. Text me where and when, okay?”

“I love you.” I could hear the smile in her voice.

“I love you, too.” We disconnected. I stood there for a moment, marveling at how easy it was for me to express my feelings to her. It felt good and natural.

I didn’t have much more time to linger. Toronto needed another quick walk. When we got back, I knelt down beside him and gave him another one of his favorite belly rubs. I got a nice lick on my face as thanks.

“I love you, you crazy dog!”

Toronto stretched out and gave me those eyes that all dog owners know…that subtle “pleeeaaaasseeee” in their eyes that is so damn hard to deny. I gave him attention for another five minutes because I was happy and feeling generous but then I really had to go.

I took a quick scalding shower, pulled on an ugly but clean dress and twisted my hair into a wet bun. I glanced at my clock; I was going to be late.

Then Steve called me while I ran around my apartment, looking for a missing heel. I’d texted him earlier, asking if he knew the cops looking into the incident and if they had any information.

“Hi. Any news?”

“Yep. They have him. He went to his mother’s.”

“Jesus. Is he hurt?”

He sighed. “No, he’s fine. He didn’t resist or anything. Surrendered right away. Gave the gun up. Gave the story up. Ray told me his mom was sobbing the whole time.”

“God, Steve. That makes me sad.”

“They think he was so cooperative because he thought Rose was dead. They said I should’ve seen his face when they told him. That he screamed and screamed. Now he’s freakishly silent, they say.”

Good. “Has Robert been down there yet?

“No. His attorney is already here, though. We haven’t been able to talk to him since he got here. Slimy prick was waiting for us. His mother called him, I guess. Still feel sorry for her?”

I picked up my bag and keys. “Yes.”

Steve snorted. “Anyone protecting that piece of shit is an asshole, in my opinion.”

“Mine, too, but she’s his mother. She loves him.” I left my apartment and headed for the subway. “Thanks for keeping me updated, Steve.”

“How’s the girl?”

“Not great, but she’ll survive.”

He cleared his throat. “I know it’s none of my business—but how are things going with your friend?”

I knew immediately who he meant, and that he knew she wasn’t merely a friend. I was speechless, mindlessly sidestepping people who rushed by me. A woman knocked into my shoulder with incredible force and I gasped.

“I shouldn’t have asked,” Steve mumbled. “It was out of line.”

Jesus Christ. This was so hard. I’d “come out” to Jacqueline but I blocked out the reality I’d have to “come out” over and over again. It would be something I’d always have to explain. I knew I wanted to be with Olivia. I wasn’t ashamed or flakey about it anymore and I’d made up my mind. But this was different. Steve was my friend. He was one of the best people I knew, and perhaps I was doing a disservice to him by projecting my fears of rejection and disgust onto him, but his opinion mattered a lot to me. I would be wrecked if he decided I was sick, and I couldn’t handle that on top of what happened to Felicity.

“It’s okay.” I took a breath. “Um, we should probably meet for drinks to discuss this, you know? I’m on my way into work and it’s not something to talk about on the phone.”

“Are you happy?”

My breath caught and silly tears sprang to my eyes. He didn’t sound judgmental or weird at all. He sounded curious in the nicest way possible.

“Yes.”

“Good,” he laughed. “Then that’s all that matters.”

OOOOOO

My blood boiled whenever I thought about what Daniel Tierney had done. Not just the recent incident, but the fear and pain he brought to those girls’ lives every day. I typed angrily, wishing Robert would show the fuck up. He hadn’t answered my thousands of texts. Even Steve had stopped communicating with me. I knew he was busy and he didn’t have much involvement with the case, but he was the best contact I had.

Robert strolled in around noon. I was on him immediately and he rolled his eyes.

“Can I at least have a fucking cup of coffee?”

“No. What happened?”

He rubbed at his stubble and studied me. “Don’t you have work to do? What are you going to do once this case gets resolved?”

“Robert, I thought we understood each other.” My eyes narrowed with my unspoken threat.

He cleared his throat. “Obviously we’ll be pursuing the correct charge. I’m waiting canlı bahis siteleri to hear back about a court date.”

“Have you seen Landon?”

Rob gulped down his coffee and shook his head. He picked up a file and read it, ignoring me. Unfortunately for him, I could be a big pain in the ass when I wanted to be.

“I can’t believe he hasn’t contacted you.”

Robert looked up from the file with exasperation. “He left me a message but I haven’t gotten back to him yet, okay? God.”

The rest of the day passed without incident. I texted Felicity a few times and she responded, assuring me everything had stayed the same. She even added that the doctor was saying Rose might come out of it in a few days.

Olivia texted me saying she’d meet me at my place and we’d go to the restaurant together. I went home with a bit of a buzz, not completely aware of the world around me. In fact, I found myself surprised when I was back in my apartment building. It had been a wild day.

When I got to my floor, I spotted Olivia leaning against my apartment door. It occurred to me how silly it was she didn’t have a key, yet, and made a mental note to give her a copy. She grinned when I headed towards her, and then reached for me when I was close enough to touch. I felt an intense, invisible tug towards her. Her smile dimmed, and my own thrilled excitement shifted into quiet but forceful desire.

She licked her pink lips. My body grew hotter when her arms wrapped around my waist and her hands clutched my ass. “How are you doing?”

I took a deep breath. “Honestly? I have a headache. And all of this feels like a dream.”

Olivia stroked my side. The tickling sensation increased my pulse. “What does, Elizabeth?”

“You. Felicity and Rose. Rose surviving. Dan finally being punished. Me losing my job.”

She blinked. “So, your whole life, you mean? And you lost your job?”

“No, but it’s only a matter of time. I can’t focus on my work anymore and I’ve completely lost respect for Roger.”

“Quit.” Olivia drew me tighter against her soft, comforting curves. “You can do anything you want to.”

“I’m afraid,” I said in a small voice. “I don’t know where to start.”

She smiled, tracing my lips with her fingers. “Let’s start with feeding your dog. Then we can go to dinner. Afterwards I’ll eat you out all night until you are relaxed. Maybe I’ll even draw you.”

My pussy was ready for her even then. I could see her nipples pressing against the fabric of her dress and imagined she was feeling the same. I zipped up her coat, giggling a little at her puzzled and somewhat affronted expression.

“You know your nipples are my Achilles heel.” Her smile returned and I gave her a quick peck. She was grinning when I pulled away. “Plus, stop calling Toronto my dog. He’s your dog, too.”

Her stare became intense and she lifted her hands up to my breasts. I couldn’t feel much through my coat, but it didn’t matter.

“I can’t wait to have my tongue inside of you.”

My eyes closed. “Step one: feed Toronto.”

We did all of the little tasks we needed to do. We got to the restaurant around 9 and were thankfully placed in an intimate corner.

Once we ordered and had wine in front of us, Olivia began speaking. “Tell me about Rose. And Felicity. She must be crazy with worry.”

“I still don’t know exactly what happened and I didn’t want to pry yet, but he shot her in the stomach. That’s probably one of the worst places to be shot, but luckily it wasn’t very deep. It hit her at a weird angle or something. Then she somehow got a head wound. It was enough damage for them to induce a coma.”

Olivia took a big drink of wine. “But she’s okay?”

“They think so. It’s going to be tough, I think.”

“And he’s in jail?”

I nodded. “He’ll appear before the judge sometime in the next few days. Robert is being purposely vague, the little shit.”

Olivia ran her finger around the rim of her glass, something she always did when she was thinking. “Unbelievable. I always think back to the first night I met you. He was your date. I remember spotting him with you and thinking… Well, I’m not sure what I thought. It was baffling to me someone like you would spend time with him.”

I smirked. “I’ll never get why you were so interested in me right away. You always say it was because of the painting but I don’t believe you.”

She looked down at her hands. It was always an interesting sight to see Olivia nervous. “You never asked me who our mutual friend was.”

“What?”

Her eyes flicked up to mine. “Our mutual friend,” she repeated. “How did you think I got your address? To send you the painting?”

My face scrunched up with confusion. “What are you talking about?” I tried to remember, and did recall her sending me the painting but…Yes. I remembered the note. “No, I didn’t. I forgot about it. Who was it?”

“A man. William Donovan? He worked with you once, he said.”

“Oh, Jesus.” He was an ex-boyfriend of mine. I’d dumped him because he always whined about my hours. He was great, better to me than he probably should have been, but I didn’t think either of us believed we were meant to be together. He was a writer so it made sense he was part of her crowd. “He did. And we dated.”

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