How to Save a Life

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by Amber Nation

  Opening his mouth to no doubt give me one of his signature tongue lashings, I smelled the distinct smell of tequila, his liquor of choice. He was never nice to me anyways, but one would think as much as he drank it would affect his abilities and motor skills. I guess he had built up a tolerance to the stuff because if anything it made him meaner. And no one could ever tell him no. But it didn’t used to be like this, alcohol was what made him into the monster he was today. One taste and he was hooked and there went my freedom, my happiness, and my life.

  “Did you think you could actually run from me, Sheridan? Did you think that I wouldn’t find you?" He moved even closer to where I had to close my eyes because he was invading my personal space, and putting me on the verge of a panic attack, which would only make things worse. He barked out, “Do you honestly think I’m that fucking stupid, Sheridan?"

  “Nooo…no, sir," I stuttered. I always stuttered whenever he got like this. My entire thought logic went out the window and I was unable to form full, complete sentences, when normally I was a fairly intelligent individual who could hold my own in a conversation. That was my old life though, that was back in high school when I was carefree, a member of the band and the Captain of the Debate Team. Now, whenever he was around, he made me so scared and nervous that I would forget how to move and how to even breathe, and I didn’t mean that in a good way.

  I felt myself begin to thrash around in hopes he would just leave me alone for one day, my body ached and I didn’t need the extra added abuse. Perhaps he would take pity on me. “Leave me alone, please." I heard myself scream.

  Feeling two sets of hands wrap around my shoulders, my body registered the unwelcome feeling and began its process of shutting down. It was what I did during a beating or whatever he planned to do to me on that particular day. I would move into my inner comfort zone where nothing and no one could harm me, it was my inner protection, and completely tune out everything around me, it was safer that way. I didn’t have to hear his onslaught of criticism regarding my body that he deemed ‘his.’ I was his slave, he was my master and how I should treat him as such. If he told me to open my legs, that I better do it, or I was in for a world of hurt, even more so than would occur if I just obeyed his every command. I didn’t know what passionate sex or love making was anymore. Once upon a time there was a time and place when I enjoyed it, but now it was just a command that I needed to obey in order to live to see another day. I didn’t know whether he was capable of murder, but he had come close several times in the years before.

  “Sheridan," I heard a deep voice say, but this wasn’t his voice. This voice was gentle and laced with concern and made me want to open my eyes. I fought my hardest to come out of personal protection mode so I could see who was so concerned with my well-being. “Sheridan, wake up. You’re having a bad dream." I heard that serene voice say again.

  I tried to catch my breath as I opened my eyes to see the most beautiful pair of hazel eyes staring back at me. I felt as if I could’ve just openly stared into them for the remainder of the day. I, unfortunately, had to blink which lost the intense connection between the other set of eyes. I looked around only to end up having everything from the previous day come back to me.

  Me leaving my home outside Atlanta to try and start a new life for myself. Getting into an accident by a drunk driver in a small Podunk town, which led me to why I was currently lying in a bed in the hospital with a broken foot and my ribs screaming at me from the pain. And the man who was calling my name was still standing by my bedside; the man who I didn’t know why he was being so nice to me; the man with sadness written all over his entire face; the man with the beautiful eyes, Mike Jameson.

  “Sheridan are you alright?" he asked, his eyes roaming the entire length of my body.

  “Uh yes," I stated, using the remote to raise the hospital bed to where I could sit up a little better, “I’m fine, thank you. Must have been a bad dream, no big deal." I was hoping he would take my nonchalance about the dream and move on.

  Mike was the paramedic who got me out of my car after an asshole drunk proceeded to use it as a battering ram, while I was waiting at a stop light. I had absolutely no idea why he kept coming to check on me, it wasn’t as if I were his responsibility.

  Every other time he’d come in, he was in his uniform and it was bad enough that he looked gorgeous in it, but the man in just plain street attire had my breath whooshing out of my lungs. He was dressed in a pair of faded jeans with a long sleeved, unbuttoned flannel shirt with a navy t-shirt underneath. His shirt sleeves were rolled up to expose his muscular forearms, arms that looked strong and would protect. On top of his head, he had an old tattered navy baseball cap. It had certainly seen better days, I guess he was a man who couldn’t part with his favorite hat.

  I hadn’t had a man be nice to me in a long time, it was a comforting thought, but one I couldn’t allow myself to dwell on or think it made any sort of difference. I was tainted goods, I needed to remember that. I had a mission, and looking down towards my booted foot, it would be a hindrance, but I still needed to remember what I was doing. Getting away from an old, bad life and trying to make a new one. Only now, I was stuck in Brown County, Georgia with no car and no place to go.

  I needed to get to the bottom of why Mike was being so nice to me, he didn’t know me and apparently now with the way he was dressed, he had come visit me while on his day off.

  I glanced up at him to see him staring at my lips. I absentmindedly darted my tongue out to wet the object of his fixation. His pupils flared as he inhaled a deep breath. “Mike," I said which had him snapping out of his trance and looking me in the eyes, “why are you being so nice to me?" I had to put it bluntly, I didn’t like to beat around the bush, I had to tiptoe around my words too much before and I’ll be damned if I had to do it in my new life as well.

  He slid his hands into his pockets and slightly lifted a shoulder. Not much of an answer, but I guess that was all I was going to get.

  I opened my mouth to ask yet another question, when I was interrupted by the doctor. “Miss Nichols?" he asked, and it almost didn’t register until it was too late that he was addressing me.

  Right, I’m Miss Nichols…

  Giving my undivided attention to Dr. Wallace, who was pretty handsome as well, what did they feed these men in Brown County? Everywhere I turned, there was a sweet, attractive man. I couldn’t help but think, I should’ve came barreling into Brown County years ago, then I could have dodged all of the abuse and heartache I’ve had to deal with.

  Seeing the good doctor just stand there, I realized that he was waiting for my response. “Oh, yes, I’m sorry. Go on."

  “Well," he said snapping open my file and shutting it again, “your CT scan came back clear, so there is no need for you to stay in the hospital another night, that is if that’s what you want?"

  I didn’t hesitate in voicing my displeasure about being cooped up inside a hospital. “Yes, sir, I’d like to get out of here." I had already been worried about how much this hospital stay would cost until I learned that it would be covered by the asshole who hit me. Now, I would have to hail a cab and find a decent hotel to sleep in for a few days, until I could figure out what I was going to do next.

  “Very good, Miss Nichols. Now even though your scan was clear, you did suffer some severely bruised ribs, a broken foot, and several scrapes and abrasions, you’ll need someone to stay with you, or else I can’t permit you to leave."

  What the hell?

  I didn’t have anyone, not anyone here anyways. I immediately closed my gaping mouth that had fallen open after he dropped that bomb on me. “Why? I don’t have…"

  “I’ll be sure to look after her." Mike said making me snap my head in his direction, which in turn caused my head to scream out in pain.

  “No, I can’t…I can’t ask you to do that, Mike."

  He walked forward just a step or two, I shrank back into my bed. Why on earth was he trying to get close to me? He pl
aced his hands on the rails of my hospital bed and leaned down to where he was a hairsbreadth away. Normally I would be frightened, for a man to be so close to me, but the concern and empathy that shone in his eyes made me feel, oddly reassured. “You didn’t ask me to, Sheridan." He quickly stood back up, and moved away from me almost as if he were to spend too much time in my personal space it would harm him. He moved towards Dr. Wallace, “Sheridan will be coming home with me."

  While the two men in the room shook hands, I wondered if I actually had a say in any of this. Shouldn’t it ultimately be my decision whether or not I wanted to be brought home by this perpetual stranger? It was April first I believe, was this some kind of sick joke? Yeah, well I’m not laughing.

  And even though my red flags weren’t alerting me of potential danger, that didn’t mean I should automatically trust him either.

  I thought back to my other visitor from this morning, Maggie, and I wondered if I could call her to come pick me up instead.

  Maggie Walker was a trauma nurse here at the hospital, she and her boyfriend were witnesses to the wreck. She didn’t hesitate in coming to my aid after seeing the humungous truck careening towards me.

  She snapped into action, making her way into the backseat of my damaged car and securing my head in place until Mike and the ambulance arrived.

  She was also able to talk me off of the ledge of a major panic attack and keep me calm until help arrived.

  Maggie made an intense situation a little bit more manageable given the circumstances.

  She came by to make sure I was alright which was so sweet of her. It also gave me the opportunity to thank her for going above and beyond the call of duty. At first when she arrived, I was on the phone and I didn’t notice her come in. I was hoping she didn’t catch much of my phone conversation between my mother and me.

  Only staying for a few minutes, she ended up leaving but not before giving me her number. I could very well call her and see if she would bring me to a nearby hotel and no one would be the wiser.

  Shit, she was a nurse and more than likely followed doctor’s orders. I couldn’t put her in that situation.

  I guess I was stuck going home with Mike. What’s the worst that could happen, it wasn’t like I would fall for the guy…


  What the fuck was wrong with me?

  I didn’t only make a continuous effort to visit the starry-eyed goddess, but now I was offering up my house and volunteering to take care of her?

  The only logical reasoning that I could even remotely come up with would be that I had an incredible case of lust. That or some kind of shape shifter was taking over my body.

  I’d admit that I felt an instant connection to Sheridan, but I couldn’t let anything occur from that attraction. I’ve lost too much in my life for another woman to swoop in and dig her claws into me.

  I’d be better off dropping her off at a nearby hotel, but I wasn’t that big of an asshole.

  Controlling my urge to take her would be especially tough when she was so near, but I would have to fight it tooth and nail.

  Once I shook hands with Dr. Wallace, I looked over at Sheridan who had her mouth hanging wide open.

  I furrowed my brows and asked tersely, “What?" It came out a bit more harshly than I intended.

  A stunned look appeared on her face and she quickly shook it away. “Nothing. Uh…thank you." She added softly.

  I needed to get away from her to regroup and get my shit together. “Do you have a suitcase or other belongings?" She had briefly told me that she was on her way someplace, but didn’t specify where. I assumed she would’ve brought extra clothes with her, if so I was going to retrieve them from where her car is now.

  “Yah, I had a duffel bag with me, but I guess it’s still in my car." She brought her hands to the top of her head, “Oh no, where is my car?"

  “Your car is in the local salvage yard. It’s considered totaled, which means it can’t be fixed."

  “Well, how do you know this?" I imagined that if she were standing, she’d have her hands on her hips.

  “I’m a mechanic. I’ve been working on cars for almost half of my life. And there is absolutely no fixing that car, the axel is broken from the impact and the entire driver’s side is beyond repair. It would cost more to be fixed than what the car is actually worth."

  Her face fell as if she had been scolded, I guess I did respond rather sternly. “Oh, ok." She looked down at the light blue blanket that was covering her lower extremities and began fiddling with a frayed edge.

  In this position, she looked too small and vulnerable. I needed to remember to keep myself in check and watch my tone with her. After all, it wasn’t her fault that she was the first woman I’d been really attracted to since Erin. I just couldn’t act on that attraction.

  “While you are getting discharged, I’ll go get your belongings out of your car, I brought you some sweats and one of my T-shirts. They may swallow you but, it’ll be better than showing all of the elderly patients your exposed backside and giving them heart palpitations."

  She peeked up at me, a quizzical expression on her face. It was supposed to make her smile and instead it just backfired on me. I should just stick to being broody. “Never mind," I shook it off. “I’ll be back in a bit."

  Forty-five minutes later, I was pulling up to the main entrance of the hospital, now with an oversized duffel, musical keyboard, an old photo album, and a cell phone car charger. That was the extent of her belongings that was in the car.

  I opened my door and hopped out of my truck the same time a nurse rolled Sheridan out in a wheelchair.

  Opening the passenger door, she tried to stand, putting most of her weight on her right leg. She had to quickly tug up the sweats I lent her, as they were too big, even with her rolling the waist down several times, and tried hobbling towards the opened door. They ended up letting her have a walking boot since she had injured ribs, the crutches would only further aggravate them.

  The cast on her left foot went up to the middle of her calf and was big and bulky.

  Taking her first real look at my truck, she turned her attention towards me, her eyebrows almost disappearing into her hairline.

  “How do you expect me to get up in this thing?" she asked as she flicked her wrist at my truck and lifted her lip in distaste.

  I was completely shocked, did she just insult my truck? Women loved my truck. It was a damn good thing I wasn’t going to act on my attraction, because that just pissed me the fuck off.

  “Yeah, it’s not a thing," I scoffed. “It’s a 2010 Ford F-150 FX4, which means it is several thousand pounds of badass. I modded it myself, putting on a six inch lift kit and replaced the original grill for a chrome one; it also has a Flowmaster exhaust among numerous other modifications." I schooled her as if she knew what exactly I was saying.

  Sheridan held her hands up in surrender, looking a bit lost, “Um…ok. Let me rephrase that, how am I supposed to get up in this big ass, black truck?" She then raised her eyebrows as if daring me to give a rebuttal.

  I let out an exasperated sigh. It wouldn’t do me a damn bit of good to get frustrated. Taking off my baseball cap and running my fingers through my short cropped hair, I further thought about how this wasn’t the best idea. Replacing my hat, I went up behind Sheridan and grasped her around her waist. Hearing her sharp intake of breath, I wanted nothing more than to continue to hold her in my embrace.

  Alas, I thought better of it and hoisted her up into my truck, being cautious of her foot.

  Rounding the back of my truck, I had to stop at the tailgate to take a deep, cleansing breath. It would be my last one for a while since her scent would be filling my truck and house.

  How would I be able to resist her while she was in my personal space?

  Not wanting to be gone too long for her to get suspicious, I easily lifted myself into the driver’s side seat and fired up The Beast.

  I spent all of my extra time now working on my
truck, which between becoming a paramedic, working at Ray’s Garage on the side, and being drummer for The Nation’s Capital, it didn’t end up being much. But it beat sitting in an empty house, well empty except for Sadie. I found that if I sat for too long my mind would wander to things that I had no control over. So, I made sure to keep busy.

  When I moved to Brown County three and a half years ago, the first thing I did was buy a house and worked round the clock fixing it to my liking. Living in a house that I remodeled with my own two hands gave me a sense of satisfaction, knowing that I did it without having any input from a woman was refreshing.

  Glancing out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sheridan slumped in her seat with her elbow perched on the door frame, looking out the window.

  It bothered me that I actually wanted to know what she was thinking about. What was going on in her head at this exact moment? Was she thinking about me? What was she running away from? She couldn’t fool me, I knew she was running from something or someone.

  Giving my undivided attention back to the road, I had to uncurl my hands from the death grip they had on my steering wheel. I was anxious and nervous, and those weren’t two emotions I liked feeling. Pissed, complacent, moody, those were feelings I could handle, all the others that actually made you feel were unchartered territory for me now.

  I decided that I shouldn’t be an asshole and at least try to engage in some kind of conversation. There was one thing that occurred earlier that had been constantly on my mind.

  “Who or what is Pate?"

  Sheridan whipped her head around so fast she could’ve actually gotten whiplash from the sheer force of her movement. I chanced a glance in her direction to see the horrified expression on her face. “Why did you ask that?" There was even a tremor in her voice.

  “You were whimpering in your sleep saying ‘No, Pate,’ so I was just wondering who or what Pate was." I answered while shrugging one of my shoulders.

  “Oh… Nothing, it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it." She turned back to where she was looking out the window, but this time she was chewing on a fingernail.


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