Friday, July 22, 2016

The Blood Bather: Chapter 14

Chapter 14
          Sherrisse sat silouetted before an enormous window, motionless in a rigid plastic hospital chair, her head bowed delicately over a black obsidian rosary in her left hand. Every 90 seconds there was a small glittery movement as she flicked a bead forward and repeated her prayer. She had been sitting like this for an hour as day turned into dusk and the light bled from the sky until it was full dark. It was only late afternoon but the light escaped quickly in deepest winter. The room where White Rose lay was small but well-appointed. It was a corner unit with windows on two sides, down one of the quietest wings of the hospital: the head trauma unit, which included comatose victims.

          White Rose had been here for a month, ever since she was discovered after her suicide attempt at the tanning salon. Everything about the situation had sent Sherrisse into a tail spin. In the days following the accident she had done a deep dive mentally, going over every single detail of what had been said and not said, done and not done in the days and weeks leading up to the accident. It was strange because she could not find one specific thing that pointed to a woman on the verge of a suicide attempt. She felt like she knew White Rose the best; no, understood her the most. That was more accurate. She had always felt like she and White Rose shared a very deep bond. Even though the doctors said she was in a coma, she still felt the thread of that bond. Weak but still there. Pulsing. 

     "Whitro, can you hear me?" She whispered. "I'm here for you". The silence that followed was expected but no less depressing. Sherrisse felt warm tears fall down her cheeks and flicked another bead across her palm. "Hail Mary, full of grace-" she began. 

     Down the hall came the staccato beat of a pair of high heels pounding on hard linoleum. Visiting hours were almost over but this was no regular nurse on her rounds. The steps got louder echoing through the silent ward where only breathing machines hissed gently and heart monitors occasionally beeped. Sherrisse felt her own heart rate increase in concert with the steps. Motherfucker. Sherrisse palmed the rosary and slid it into her bag in one fluid movement as she stood to greet the visitor: Audra. 

Audra stomped into the room and came to an abrupt halt upon spying Sherrisse, rocking back on her heels. 
"Audra. " It wasn't a greeting. 
"I didn't think anyone would be here."
The words were like nails on a chalkboard to Sherrisse. Of course she didn't. It was only the second time she had come to the hospital and the first time was probably just to confirm that White Rose was well and truly in a vegetative state. Audra had changed since White Rose's accident (accident! - Sherrisse refused to call it a suicide attempt). Audra had... blossomed. She was now the acting President of the sorority everybody was talking about for all the right reasons. For once. She media inquiries to handle and donations to accept. Her professors had bent over backwards to accommodate her school schedule in light of White Rose's family's significant donations to the school... And all the while Audra was milking it for everything she could get. Including Micah. They were often seen together and no one said a thing because it was assumed they both needed each other's support. Sherrisse was incandescent with rage but what could she do?
     Audra knew what Sherrisse was thinking. And she didn't fucking care. This was her time and Sherrisse was a fool to assume she knew how much Audra was dealing with right now. In fact it was annoying that she was even here right now. What the shit was she even trying to prove? White Rose had committed the ultimate narcissistic act. A fucking failed suicide attempt? You've got to be fucking kidding me. 

     Behind Audra stepped Micah. 
"Uh, hi, Sherrisse?" He stuttered her name like he wasn't sure how to pronounce it. 
"Micah." Also not a greeting, more a statement of fact, like applying the correct label to an insect. Both of them stared at her awkwardly keeping a distance from both her and each other. Audra was first to break the ice. 
"Can I get a minute alone with White Rose? I feel like I haven't seen her in forever." 
You haven't, thought Sherrisse but smiled benevolently before saying "Of course". She got up to leave, passing Micah in the the doorway she gave him a hard flat look. He met her gaze but it wasn't defiance she saw there, it was deep sadness and inner turmoil. He was definitely working through something. His guilt probably, she surmised.
     As she stepped out into the darkened corridor her cell phone began to ring. She dug it out of her bag as she hurried down the hall. It was on silent but even a mild buzzing was loud in such a subdued environment. She hit Ignore and it went quiet ...before it buzzed again. 
She looked down. A different number this time. 
She hit Ignore again. And it happened again. From yet a different number...

    Audra walked over to White Rose and sat down as Sherrisse had. She reached out and grabbed her hand, it was still being kept perfectly manicured thanks to hospital staff. 
"White Rose,..." she whispered. Her attention was brought back to the present when Micah shuffled and coughed in the doorway, his hands were jammed in his pockets and his eyes glittered in the half light, feverish. Had he been drinking? Audra wondered. 
"Audra, I need to talk to you"
She loved hearing him say her name. 
"Yes?" She turned her head to him, still holding White Rose's hand. 
"Audra we need to end this."
It was a shock, yes, but not entirely unexpected. 
Audra allowed the silence to spin out. She could manage this. She could control this. All she had to do was stay calm.
"Micah, we love each other."
"Micah, yes. We do. We were sneaking around for long enough and now, ... Now we have no reason to. The circumstances are terrible...", a small giggle escaped her lips. She was getting hysterical. This was bad. Stay calm!

     Micah walked forward and looked down at her. His presence always had the same effect on her. Her body betrayed her and she stood to reach out to him but he caught her wrists not unkindly and held them at her sides. He was taller somehow. And stronger. Another harsh giggle escaped like a hiccup and she gasped and the tears came.

     His resolve was unwavering but he was no without remorse. Her face was one more face disappointed and saddened by him. This had to end. All of his failures and embarrassments had to end. He had to make a change. He had to put these childish games aside. He was doing the right thing, he reminded himself. His family would expect him to stand by his injured girlfriend. Right now he didn't really remember what it had been like between he and White Rose, it had occurred to him that they had always been strangers to each other, but it didn't matter. He was clawing at some semblance of normalcy. He hadn't had a drink in weeks and he couldn't continue on with Audra. She made him want to drink. Or rather the situation did. He wasn't sure, he just wanted it to end. He heard her say: "I love you." Audra looked up into his face. She was weeping and it was horrible and he had to get away. He could not have White Rose and Audra in the same room with him. He felt claustrophobic and the desire to run matched his desire to drink. 

He was hurting her. 
He wanted a drink.
He was aware of this. 
He wanted a drink. 
He did not care. 
He wanted a drink.

     Micah looked at Audra with dead eyes. She was clawing at his shirt with both hands holding him fast. She was saying words and crying at the same time. He couldn't understand her. He pushed her wrists away but she was fighting him. He pushed harder and she released and fell backwards clattering to the floor, heels, hair, hard chair, silent destruction...

     Suddenly the world came alive. People were running into the room. A nurse, then a white coat. Must be a doctor, he thought inanely. My father wears one too! They were talking but he couldn't hear a damn thing above the ringing silence in his own ears. They were helping Audra up and pushing him towards the open door. His phone was ringing in his pocket. He could feel it buzzing against his thigh. White Rose was getting smaller and smaller in his vision. Her lovely face looked pale but peaceful against the pillow. Audra was red-faced and looked like she was screaming, but White Rose was cool as a cucumber. She was always so cool, he mused, cool as a cucumber. He started to laugh and it erupted like a bark from his chest. They kept pushing him back out the door until he was in the corridor and he didn't fight them. His phone was buzzing again. 

     So much was happening but his thoughts were calm. He was proud of his ability to stay calm. Just like my dad, he thought proudly and puffed out his chest. It was almost like being drunk. The nurse was talking and pointing to the stairs. But he couldn't hear her. His phone was buzzing. Maybe the nurse thought he looked like his dad. He calmly looked down at his cell phone and was surprised to find a series of emails and voice mails and other notifications, they were coming in fast and furious. How did that happen? he wondered...calmly. The nurse had a new friend it seemed and he was walking down the hall towards them. Her friend was a police officer. He was talking too, but Micah still could not hear a thing. One email address on his phone stood out, an email from the Dean. He opened it. It was a link to youtube and as he calmly clicked the link it opened to video. He calmly recognized his own face. His own face between a pair of tanned thighs. He own face between a pair of tanned breasts. His own face as he was kissed and fellated by a pair of twins in wet white shirts...

And he calmly realized he was crying.

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