The small room was filled with the overpowering scent of industrial strength disinfectant and ammonia. The bright lights dimly lit the walls that were painted a kind of grey that reminds you of the concrete that makes up the walls of a prison cell instead of a hospital. The constant beep of the heart monitor was the only sound that filled the room. In the bed against the far wall and near the single window in the room lay the unconscious James Fürst. Bruised and bloodied he laid in the bed bandaged, and his right leg covered by a cast and held up with a wire connected to the bed. Each breath he took was more labored than the last. Thunder crashed outside as rain was pouring down and drop after drop seeped through the window pane. His light brown hair poked from beneath his bloodied bandages that covered his head and his small dark mustache was all that gave color to his pale face. Suddenly the room was filled with light as Dr. Sebastian Fox walked in; chart in hand and a nurse close behind. His eyes were, and there were massive black bags under his eyes that made it look like his nose had been broken. The nurse quickly walked toward James and thoroughly checked each monitor and bandage while Dr. Fox read the chart at the end of the bed.
“Everything looks fine her doctor, his vitals are normal, and his bandages are clean.”
Dr. Fox gave the chart a quick glance and initialed a couple of pages, “he’s lucky to be alive, but it looks like he’ll pull through.”
“What happened?” the nurse asked instinctively.
He put the chart back at the end of the bed and then began to rub his eyes, “same sad story, car accident on a wet and slippery road.”
The nurse shook her head and gave a disappointed sigh, “what a shame.”
The nurse looked over at James as he lay in the bed looking like he wasn’t far from death. She almost thought he was dead if it wasn’t for the subtle rise and fall of his chest with every breath.
“You said he’ll make a full recovery?”
Dr. Fox put his hands in his coat pockets and stared at James’s leg that was covered by the cast.
“Mentally, he should be fine. Physically, I honestly don’t know.”
The doctor turned to leave, and the nurse followed behind him as they walked out of the room and went, taking the light with them. Leaving the place in the same dim and disinfected state they had found it in.
It was well after midnight when Catherine Huxley got the call from a hospital in a town called Shoals, Indiana. It was still early in Tampa and Catherine was not a woman who liked to be woken up in the middle of the night.
“Someone better be dead,” Catherine grumbled as she answered the phone.
“Is this Catherine Huxley?”
Groggily Catherine answered, “Yes, who is this?”
“Ma’am My name is Nina Gilbert, I’m a nurse at Shoals General Hospital, I’m calling about James Fürst. ”
Catherine rubbed her eyes as she sat up in bed, “Calling from where? How did you get this number?”
“Shoals, Indiana Ms. Huxley, I’m Calling about James Fürst. We found your number on an emergency contact card he had on his person.”
Catherine was still groggy, but she was becoming more startled, “What about James, is he alright?”
“There’s been an accident ma’am and….”
“What’s his condition?’ Catherine demanded.
“There’s no need to worry ma’am he’s stable, but he will need someone familiar when he wakes up.”
“I’m on my way.”
Catherine hung up the phone and then turned on the lamp on her nightstand. She looked at the clock for the first time and saw 3:27 am.
“James, what were you doing?”
Catherine picked up the phone and dialed the number of her assistant. The phone rang twice, and the voice of a tired young woman came over the speaker.
“Yes, Mrs. Huxley? Is there something wrong?”
“Megan, call the airport and have my plane made ready, get me a car here in 45 minutes and make reservations for a car, a driver and a room in Shoals, Indiana.”
The answer came immediately, “Of course Mrs. Huxley anything else?”
Catherine looked again at the clock on her nightstand and sighed, “Yes, coffee.”
“Right away ma’am.”
Catherine hung up as she threw the blanket off and rushed to get dressed and pack her bags. Like clockwork 45 minutes later the car pulled up outside and out stepped Megan. Wearing a grey pantsuit and her hair was in a tight bun. Her face was small and round while her body was short and slender. Her clothes were clean and without any wrinkles, and they even looked starched.
“Everything is ready Mrs. Huxley, the plane is ready, and a car will meet us as soon as we land.”
“Any trouble getting everything ready?”
“Nothing I couldn’t handle Mrs. Huxley.”
Catherine nodded and handed her bag to the driver who quickly loaded it in the trunk after Catherine had got into the car and he had closed the door. Once they were off Megan handed Catherine a large cup of coffee and picked up her black portfolio waiting for Catherine’s next command, but the two sat in silence. Catherine was wrapped up in thought all the way to the airport, and even once they had boarded the plane, she still said nothing. She sat in her chair, sipped on her coffee and stayed lost in thought as the plane took off.
“Is everything alright Mrs. Huxley?” Megan finally asked.
Catherine was staring out her window, “I’m just in a hurry.”
Megan unbuckled her safety belt and walked to the cabin. A few moments later the engines started to roar louder, and Megan walked back to her seat and sat down.
“The pilot says we should be there thirty minutes earlier than he thought Ma’am.”
Catherine turned to look at her assistant “Good Work Megan, you never disappoint.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Huxley,” Megan said sheepishly.
Catherine took a long look at Megan, “Don’t be embarrassed Megan, you know that by doing as your told only good things will come from it.”
“I work hard every day with the hope of getting to where you are Mrs. Huxley,” Megan finally answered.
“You don’t question your place in the world, and you work hard every day knowing that it will all pay off one day. I’m sure you will end up where I am.”
Megan was taken by surprise at Catherine’s statement and wasn’t quite sure at how to answer while Catherine kept talking.
“I’ve always thought of myself like a mother to you Megan, and like a mother, I know best for you, and unlike an ungrateful child you trust in my judgment, don’t you?” Catherine asked.
Megan wasn’t sure what had gotten into Catherine. She had never known here to say things like this before, and she had never seen her look so strangely at her. She stared at Megan waiting for her to answer.
“Of course Mrs. Huxley,” finally agreed.
Catherine nodded and started to mutter something to herself that Megan couldn’t hear as she stared out the window.
“Why couldn’t you be more like Megan, James?” Catherine thought.
When the plane finally landed Catherine leaped from her seat and walked as briskly to the waiting car before she got in she turned to Megan.
“I won’t need you for a while, do whatever you like, and I’ll call if I need you.”
“Yes, Mrs. Huxley.”
Catherine closed the door and told the driver where to take her. She impatiently tapped her fingers on the door handle as her legged twitched up and down.
“Where did you go James and what in the world did you do?” She whispered to herself.
When they finally reached the hospital, Catherine did not wait for the driver to open her door and almost immediately as she stepped out of the car she was underwhelmed by the hospital. The windows all had a slight tint of mildew, and the walls were covered in a shade of what looked like black mold. The paint that she could see was dim and was dripping on to the grass with the morning dew. Catherine told the driver he wasn’t needed anymore and tipped him fifty bucks. She continued up the short walkway and through the doors to find a small dim waiting room with no patients and two nurses sitting at the only desk in the room. Catherine walked up to the only nurse who seemed to be younger than the hospital. As Catherine came close to the young nurse, she saw that she was staring down at a crossword puzzle. As Catherine approached the nurse, she looked up for a second and then returned her attention to her puzzle as she spoke.
“Can I help you miss?” she said without looking up.
“Yes, I’m here to see James Fürst.”
The nurse continued at what she was doing and after a moment put a clipboard filled with papers in front of Catherine.
“Fill these out and wait over there,” she motioned to a row of empty and small lime green plastic chairs.
“I don’t need these; I’m here to see…”
Before Catherine could finish, the nurse continued on, “ma’am all visitors have to fill out these forms to get their badge and…”
Catherine slammed her fist on the table, and the young nurses’ head jolted up looking at Catherine with sheer surprise.
“Now that I have your attention run along and get Dr. Fox.”
The young nurse looked to the fat older nurse at her side not knowing what to do. The older nurse nodded and waddled off to get the doctor. Catherine pleased with this simply turned away from the table and started looking around the waiting room. She didn’t have to wait too long before a tall man in a white doctors coat walked in. He was tall and lean looking, but his head drooped down as he fought to stand up straight.
“Can I help you, ma’am?”
Catherine turned and looked up at the doctor slightly irritated, “My name is Catherine Huxley, my assistant called, I’m here to see…”
“James Fürst,” Dr. Fox said without lifting his head
Catherine unimpressed, “Yes.”
“If you’ll follow me, Ms. Huxley, I’ll show you to James.”
“Mrs. Huxley,” Catherine corrected as she followed the doctor.
Catherine followed the doctor down a short hallway that was barely lit. Catherine could hear the buzz of the dying light bulbs as she followed the doctor and this mixed with the silence of the doctor, and the hospital was starting to give her a migraine. Until she finally saw James lying in the hospital bed unconscious and bandaged her anger all but disappeared. Her eyes were watering, and her hands started to tremble as she walked closer. She stood beside James as she looked down at him and began to caress his hair.
“Mrs. Huxley, The emergency contact card James had on him only had your name and number it didn’t say what your relation to him was,” Dr. Fox said.
Catherine was still looking down at James trying not to sob, “He’s my brother.”
“Good that you’re here then, he’ll need you when he wakes up.”
The doctor turned to leave but before he could Catherine stopped him, “Doctor?”
He turned to look at Catherine with his exhausted gaze, “Yes?”
“Will he be alright?”
The doctor sighed as he answered, “He should be alright, but his leg will never be the same.”
Catherine jerked her head towards him and looked up with utter anger and disgust, “I’d like another opinion.”
Dr. Fox turned back, “I’m sorry Mrs. Huxley I wish there was more we could do.”
Catherine looked back to James as he slept while Dr. Fox left. It had been over a year since she had seen her brother and besides the few scrapes and his leg in a cast, he looked just the same as he did a year ago. She gently stroked his hair like a mother would her sleeping child.
“James, what have you done to yourself?”
Catherine pulled one of the small worn grey chairs beside James’s bed and sat holding his hand waiting for him to wake up. The hours passed by as she sat watching her brother sleep hoping he would wake up soon. Her mind drifted to the last time she had seen James. It was over a year ago since she had seen her brother and her heart nearly burst when she got the call telling her to come quickly. Her eyes never left James even as the nurses came and went checking his vitals. She could only think of that day so long ago. It was graduation day a George Washington University. James was graduating with full honors. He had gotten into the university on a full ride academic scholarship he had won in high school. Catherine had always admired that about James. He had arrived there by himself using only hard work and determination. Catherine remembered the long hours James spent studying before and after school. She could not remember a time his senior year she had not seen James with his nose not buried in a book. She was thrilled to be there that day as she and James had always been close as children even though Catherine was five years older. She too went to George Washington but to study business and with the age difference she did not study with James. This didn’t matter today though. It was James’s day, and Catherine wanted to make sure he enjoyed it. Catherine made her way to her seat in the stadium and soon found their mother waiting for her.
“Did you get us good seats mom?” Catherine asked cheerfully.
Sarah Fürst was sitting in one of the first rows wearing a white sundress and overly sizeable white hat. The only contrast was her large black octagon shaped sunglasses that nearly covered her cheeks. She turned to kiss her daughter as Catherine sat down beside her.
“Of course dear, I don’t have the deans wife out for lunch on Thursdays for nothing,” Sarah said flatly.
“Is it going to start soon?” Catherine asked.
“Any moment now dear.”
The ceremony began and graduate after graduate crossed the stage with applause, and when James finally came across the stage, Catherine jumped from her seat. Sarah sat calmly clapped the same as everyone else. When Catherine sat down, Sarah looked at her in an un-amused way for a moment and then turned her attention back to the ceremony. When graduation was finally over Catherine ran up to find James in the field of countless faces. She saw him walking towards her at last with his giddy and boyish smile. Catherine remembered that smile from when they played as children. Whenever she saw that smile of his, she knew he was up to something.
“Catherine!” James yelled.
Catherine ran up to wrap her arms around her brother, both of them laughing the whole time.
“James I’m so proud of you little brother.”
James held Catherine at arm’s length and looked at her with a disappointed face,
“I’m a man now Catherine,” he said with a grin, “and I have been for a while now thank you.”
Catherine only rubbed James’ head ruffling his hair.
“Come on James, you know mother hates to be kept waiting.”
James’ smile dipped for a second and then it covered his face again in his best attempt to hide his nervousness. Catherine picked up on James’ forced smile and knew immediately why her brother had to force what came naturally to everyone else at the graduation. James’ and his mother Sarah were never close, but Catherine was sure she always had James’ best interests at heart.
“Come on James, today’s a day worth remembering and celebrating, mother couldn’t be more proud,” Catherine said encouragingly.
James noticing his sisters encouragement smiled even wider and let her take him by his arm as she led him out of the crowd and back to his mother. They found Sarah talking with some other parents and the dean’s wife. When she saw James she made sure screamed his name and walked towards him with her arms opened wide.
“And here comes my handsome graduate now.” She said grinning wide.
“Hello mother,” James said shyly.
“Come here my wonderful boy and give your mother a kiss.”
James obeyed, but Catherine could see the discomfort in her brother’s body and his forced a smile. James nervously hugged his mother as he gave her a peck on the cheek. The whole embrace lasted only a few seconds after which he quickly stood beside his sister.
“No need to be bashful James,” said Sarah.
James began to blush as he looked at his mother sheepishly.
“I’m just excited about graduating mother,” he said quickly.
“And I couldn’t be more proud of you my handsome son.”
Sarah grabbed James by the hand and pulled him close as she turned to address the other parents and professors she had gathered around them.
“No mother could be proud of her son. He is a smart as his mother and just as cute.”
James felt uncomfortable in the spotlight. He clenched his teeth, doing his best to hide it as he smiled and shook the hands of those reaching out to congratulate him. Sarah Fürst squeezed her son’s hand as the congratulations turned to her as she smiled and held James close. Feeling utterly out of place James pulled away from his mother, which Sarah noticed at once.
“Where are you trying to go, James?” Sarah asked impatiently.
“I want to see a few of my friends before we head home,” he said as he walked away.
Sarah’s smile returned as she nodded, “Of course James, take your time but don’t be late for dinner.”
“I won’t mother,” James said walking off at almost a trot.
As James was turning to leave Sarah turned to Catherine as her expression changed from her cheerful face to a serious one.
“Keep an eye on your brother and make sure he isn’t late.”
Sarah nodded her head in the direction of her son, and Catherine turned and started running after James.
“Hey, wait up James,” she yelled.
James didn’t slow down until he was out of sight of his mother. While he was catching his breath, he heard someone yelling after him and turned to see Catherine.
“James! Didn’t you hear me calling you,” she exclaimed.
“Sorry, I only thought about getting out of there.”
Sarah wrapped her arm in her brothers as they started to walk again.
“Mom sent you after me, didn’t she?” James asked.
Catherine leaned her head onto James’ shoulder as they walked. “She just wants me to make sure you stay safe.”
“I’m a grown man who just graduated from college sis, she wants you to keep an eye on me for her.”
Catherine stopped James and looked at him surprisingly, “I’m not a tattletale James! I’m your big sister, not the other way around,” she said with a disapproving look.
James stopped walking again, and this time he took his sister by the hand as he looked at her in the eyes. Catherine saw the hurt in her brothers’ eyes. James had piercing blue eyes that always reminded her of their fathers’ eyes. She could see her father staring at her.
“Catherine, you have always been the good daughter. You’ve always done as your told and been who you were supposed to be.”
Catherine looked shocked at James, “what is that supposed to mean?” she demanded.
“Nothing Catherine. You know I will always love you, and you will bring honor to the Fürst name. Just like mom and dad wanted,” he said sarcastically.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing, James.”
“No Catherine, it’s just not the life I wanted.”
“What are you talking about James? You are your father’s son. The heir to the Fürst legacy. You were father’s favorite, and all of his hopes went with you and your future.”
“Jesus, you sound like some recruitment poster.”
Catherine was stunned to hear James talk like this. She had never heard him question their mother or what he was going to do with his life before. As she looked at James not knowing what to say he had started to look off into the distance. There were some cherry blossom trees that James was giving his full attention to him. After a few minutes, he spoke again.
“I was only seven when dad died. I try each day to remember what kind of man he was and it gets harder each time.”
“Dad was a good man James, he loved us both very much, and he was never far from you.”
“I remember that Catherine but I don’t remember him telling me my place in life was decided for me the day I was born. I do remember mom telling me to be a good son and to do as I was told.”
“James, what has gotten into you?” Catherine demanded.
James turned his attention back to Catherine, “I’m sorry sis I must be tired from this long day and the heat beating down on me in this black gown.”
Catherine wasn’t quite sure what to believe. She wanted to believe her brother though and for the time being, decided it was best to.
“That’s alright James. Some rest will do you some good. We all get a little cranky and forget ourselves from time to time.”
“You’re right Catherine. You should go back to mom, I’m going to see some friends off then I’ll head back to my room at the hotel and take a nap.”
“Okay James, just don’t be late for dinner you know mother doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
James kissed his sister on the forehead and started off again as Catherine turned to head back to their mother. She still had a funny feeling about James and what he had said, but Catherine did her best to shrug it off and to feel happy for her brother.
Catherine had drifted off sitting next to her brother in the hospital room. The constant beat of the heart monitor was like a lullaby to her. She hadn’t slept on the flight, and now that she knew James was safe she could let herself rest. It was just as she started to drift off that she was brought flying bake from her dream world by the rattling of James’ bed. She sat up suddenly to see James twisting and turn with his bandaged leg rattling in its restraints above the bed. Catherine looked down at James watching his face contort in pain. She was sick to her stomach watching her brother in what she could only guess was the intense pain from his broken leg.
“Elizabeth!” James screamed.
Catherine had not heard that name in a long time, but she knew now who her brother had been traveling with.
“For the love of God wake up Liz!” James screamed again.
Catherine leaped from her chair and sprinted to the hall, “Nurse!” she screamed.
The young Nurse from the front desk came running into the room. She didn’t pay attention to Catherine shrieking for help and started to check James.
“What’s wrong?” Catherine asked.
“He’s fine, it’s just a nightmare.”
The nurse pulled a syringe from her pocket and put in the I.V. in James’s arm, “This should help him sleep,” she said.
James stopped shaking and soon fell asleep. Content the nurse left, and Catherine sat beside her brother again. She held his hand and started to stroke his hair back. After a while, she fell asleep again and slept the rest of the night by her brothers’ side.
While James slept in the hospital bed, he dreamed about his time at George Washington. His mind drifted to Elizabeth, and the night they had first met. James had been talked into going to one of the formal dances James sat at a large round table covered with a black tablecloth, half-eaten food, and empty glasses. His eyes were bloodshot, and bags had started to form under his eyes. John glanced down at his watch as he yawned.
“Why I keep letting myself get talked into coming to these things I’ll never know,” James thought.
James looked over to see Matt Huxley, James’s least favorite person, laughing and smiling as he had his arm wrapped around Tanya Ramos. It was Tanya who had convinced James to go to the dance with her. She had only spent a short while sitting with James before Matt came to ask her to dance as was Matt’s style. He hated James for winning a debate on American foreign policy in South America they had their freshmen year. The dean himself congratulated James on his argument and this enraged Matt. He felt wronged by James because he wanted desperately to impress the dean. From that day on Matt went out of his way to steal any chance of James triumphing again. When James asked Tanya to dance, she nearly jumped from her seat before Matt could finish asking. James remembered how not so long ago she had sworn up and down how she hated Matt. It was hard to imagine that as she smiled at Matt while wrapped in his arms. James never liked going to any of the schools’ balls. He always ended up at the table alone and irritated at the smiles of those happy to be there. He started to walk away as he put his hands in his pockets as he said unbuttoned his coated and strolled casually towards the large French doors that lead to the lobby. The University always rented out the largest and fanciest hotels. The walls were covered with big pictures of people dancing and decorative lights. John glanced at them for a moment but then kept bobbing towards the lobby. Once out of the ballroom James could hear the sound of his thick leather shoes striking the marble floor.
“I hate this place more each time I sneak out,” James thought.
He kept looking down at the green marble floor heading for the front door when he was suddenly knocked down by a girl running to the ballroom. He felt his back slam against the ice cold marble floor as a woman landed on top of him.
“Can’t you watch where you’re going,” the girl demanded.
James pushed himself up as the girl started to stand. “I’m sorry I was minding my own business and not looking out for people running in this empty lobby,” James said as he picked himself up and started to loosen his tie. James finally looked at this angry woman to see she was wearing a red cocktail dress and wearing a small silver necklace with a gold pendant surrounding a little ruby. Her face seemed as red as her dress. As she finally stopped brushing herself off, she looked at James.
“It’s not nice to tackle innocent girls when they’re late,” she said.
James cracked his neck as he snorted, “I’m sorry I’ll make sure to look both ways before crossing an empty lobby from now on.”
James looked back at the impatient woman who stared at James. They both stood glaring at each other until finally, James started to laugh.
“What are you laughing at?” she demanded.
James took a breath, “only someone as eager to leave as I am would run into a woman eager to get back in there.”
The girl’s angry face soon filled with a smile and eventually, she started laughing too. The lobby was quickly filled with the hysterical laughter of the two. James laughed until he couldn’t breathe. When they had both finally caught their breath, James turned to leave.
“Do you always hit and run?” she asked.
James stopped and turned to see her with her hands on her hips.
“It’s not my kind of party in there,” he said.
“Why is that?” she asked.
James sighed, “I guess I just don’t like having egg on my face.”
The girl slowly walked up to James as she reached into her small purse and removed a white handkerchief. She smiled and offered it to James.
“This might help.”
James cracked a smile and took it, “What’s your name?”
The girl started to walk towards the party, “That’ll cost you a dance.”
She walked into the ballroom as James stood for a moment with a confused look on his face.
“Is my luck about to change for the better or, the worse?” James thought.
James looked at the handkerchief that she had given him and saw it was monogrammed. Two red letters popped out on the white cloth. E.P.
“Who could E.P. be?” he thought.
James stood in the middle of the lobby for a few moments looking down at the silk cloth in his hand.
“Well, it’ll only cost me a dance, and if I get egg on my face again at least I can wipe it off this time,” James decided.
He walked back through the large wooden doors to the ballroom and as the music filled his ears and the dancing people caught his gaze he scanned the room for the girl. He looked over every corner of the room, and when he was about to give up, he turned back to the door to see her standing there staring back at him.
“Are you looking for someone?” she asked
“The owner of this handkerchief,” he said.
“Are you going to return it?”
James tucked it into his coat pocket, “After I learn your name.”
The girl smiled and put out her hand to James who took it and lead her to the dance floor. They danced slow and close for the next hour without speaking. James looked into her eyes, and she stared back into his. After a while longer the band took a break.
“Would you like a drink?” he asked her.
“I’d love one.”
James led her to a small table next to the bar and motioned for a waiter.
“What can I bring you two tonight?” the waiter asked.
Before James could answer the girl grabbed his hand, “We’ll have two glasses of red wine,” she said.
“Coming right up.”
The waiter walked away, and James looked at the girl who surprised him again, “Shouldn’t I at least know your name before you order my drinks for me?”
The girl leaned into James’s ear and whispered, “If you knew my name then how could I get you to stay?”
“I might stay for other reasons,” James said.
“I’d hate to take the chance,” she said with a smirk.
The waiter returned with the wine, and as soon as he sat the glass in front of James, he picked it up and took a large gulp. He then sat the glass down giving a sigh of relief.
“I thought you didn’t like wine?” she asked.
James for the second time that night took the time to look at the girl completely. She straightened her short brown her that gently touched her shoulders, and her eyes were a very light shade of brown when they weren’t hidden by the bright red glow of her face when they had first met. Her lips were small and covered in a slightly brighter flesh colored lipstick. James’s face turned red as sweat formed on his brow. He took another large gulp of his wine, “Wine, women, song, and dance what more could a man ask for?”
“You didn’t seem to want any of that when we first met. As a matter of fact, you seemed all most as eager to leave as I was to get here.”
James looked back at her, “Why were you so eager to get here?”
The girl leaned back as she held her glass close to her lips, “I was here to meet my date, but they didn’t like waiting for me,” she said sipping her wine.
“Was Matt Huxley your date?” James asked.
She smiled, “And was yours named Tanya?”
“She was,” James said with a chuckle.
The two looked at each other and started to laugh again. Those sitting around them looked on as if they were sharing a private joke.
“So I guess we were meant to meet tonight,” she said.
“Meet? We haven’t met each other yet,” James corrected.
The girl put down her glass and grabbed James by the hand, “One more dance, and I’ll be glad to meet you,” she said pulling him towards the dance floor. James put down his glass and let her lead the way. The danced the rest of the night until the band was about to pack up. James excused himself and ran up to the stage.
“I’m sure you guys are tired and ready to go home but could you play one more song?” he asked
A tall and skinny man walked up to James. He was wearing a tuxedo with the bow tie undone and his collar unbuttoned. His eyes were bloodshot and black bags had started to form up them.
“Look, man, we’re just trying to go home.”
“I understand but do you see that gorgeous woman in the red dress behind me?”
The man smiled, “She’s a looker that’s for sure.”
“Well I still don’t know her name, and unless you guys help me out, I might never see her again.”
The man turned to the rest of the band, “what do you say, boys, should we help him out?”
The rest of them started to yawn and shake their heads as if they were unsure, “Doesn’t look, good man, me and the guys have been here for a while now.”
James thought for a second, “How about some drinks on me? It would really mean a lot of guys.”
The man who seemed to be the band leader started to rub his chin, “She must be a special lady?” he asked.
James shrugged, “I won’t be able to tell without something soft and slow.”
The man nodded and gave a half smile, “Alright man you’ve got a deal.”
“I appreciate it guys, whatever you want to drink tell the waiter to charge me, James Fürst.”
He shook their hands and walked back to the girl as the band got back into position. James took her in his arms as the group started up again.
“Not tired of dancing yet?” she asked.
James pulled her closer and pressed his cheek against hers as the swayed back and forth to the rhythm of the music. His breath gently touched her ear as he began to whisper, “My name is James Fürst what’s yours?” He asked.
“Elizabeth Perez,” she whispered.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Elizabeth.”
“It’s wonderful to meet you, James.”
The band played song after song as the two danced until the bar closed and the group could get no more drinks. When the music stopped James pulled back from Elizabeth.
“I think it’s time to go,” he said.
“Where should we go?” Elizabeth asked.
“I don’t have a clue, but somewhere there’s more music and wine.”
Elizabeth smiled as she started to lead James out of the ballroom, “My place has plenty of both.”
James didn’t resist her. She led him out of the hotel and into a taxi, and a short time later he was walking up the brick steps that led to her small apartment in downtown D.C. She led James to her living room where she sat him down on her small leather couch. She walked over to a record player on a dark wood end table. She picked up one of the few records and started the record player. Slow jazz came from the speakers as she walked to the kitchen and kicked off her heels. James took off his coat as he unbuttoned his collar and loosened his tie. Elizabeth returned with two glasses of red wine and sat down next to James as she handed him a drink and put her feet up on the couch sitting close to him. James took the glass as he leaned back, put his feet on the coffee table next to the couch and put his arm around Elizabeth all in one move. Elizabeth only leaned close resting her face on his chest. James sipped the wine as his cheeks turned red with Elizabeth holding his hand that was draped across her neck. She put down her wine glass and stood up to sit in James’s lap and took the drink from his hand and lay it on the coffee table.
“I have something else for you to try,” she said.
“Will I like it?” he asked.
“If you don’t you can always give it back.”
James’ cheeks were bright red, and his heartbeat echoed through the room. He could feel the heat coming off of Elizabeth as she leaned in and kissed him. James kissed her back again and again until he couldn’t breathe. Elizabeth finally pulled away and stood to walk over to the record player. She turned up the volume and then came back to James and grabbed his hand
“Come with me.” She said.
Elizabeth led him into her bedroom and then sat him down on the edge of the bed. She unzipped her dress and let it fall down her body, onto the floor, and she unbuttoned his shirt. James fell back onto the bed as she crawled on top of him, running her lips over his chest, to his neck, then gently pressing her lips against his. James put his arms around her and pulled her close. She reached back and grabbed his hands and locked her fingers in his while she put their hands above his head. She gave him one more soft kiss and then pulled away from him and sat up on his lap as she unclipped her bra and threw it on the floor. She then finished unbuttoning his shirt and pulled it off. Elizabeth leaned back down towards James pressing her bare breasts against his chest and kissed him deeply now. James rolled her over on his back and pulled away to turn off the lights as she wrapped her arms around him started to nibble on his ear.
“Aren’t you glad I waited to tell you my name?” she whispered.
The morning sun crept through the cracks in the shades barely covering the hospital room window. It slowly started to work its way up James’s body until it hit his eyes. The unshielded light highlighted every cut and bruise on his small white face. A five o’clock shade had started to form already, but it couldn’t hide his wounds. Catherine had woken a while ago and had just returned with a cup of coffee in her hand. She returned to her seat next to James.
“Good morning little brother,” she said almost to herself.
“I wish you would wake up soon so I can take you home.”
Morning turned to afternoon and then tonight as James lay unconscious for another day. Dr. Fox came in periodically to check his vitals and talk with Catherine for a moment or two.
“His vitals are perfect,” he would say.
“He’ll wake up any day now.”
Catherine didn’t look up at him she only nodded and kept her eyes on James.
“Thank you, doctor,” she would reply.
After three days of laying in the bed, Catherine was ready to fly in specialists from across the country. It wasn’t until James started to open his eyes that she changed her mind. He squinted for the first hour going back and forth from consciousness to unconsciousness. Finally, in the middle of the night, James came around. Dr. Fox and Catherine had been standing around him for the last hour waiting to see how he would react. James’ eyes flung open as he jerked up in bed.
“Elizabeth!” he yelled
James’ eyes darted around the room, “Elizabeth! Where am I? What’s going on?” James demanded.
He started thrashing around pulling the IVs from his arm and screaming in pain as he discovered how badly he was hurt.
“What’s happened to me? Where’s Elizabeth?” he screamed.
The nurses tried to calm and restrain him, but he still kept thrashing. He ripped the stitches in his side and blood was starting to cover his bandages.
“For the love of God what happened!”
Catherine pushed through the nurses and grabbed James’s arm as she tried to comfort him.
“James you’re alright little brother, calm down please, you’re hurt, and you’re only making it worse,” she said trying to soothe him.
“Catherine why are you….”
James stopped thrashing and sat still as tears filled his eyes, “Oh God, Elizabeth is she…. The car accident… oh, God!”
James started to sob and then scream again, “Oh God no!”
James kept screaming until one of the nurses finally gave him another sedative that put him back to sleep. Catherine stood by his side holding his hand and stroking his hair lovingly as tears started to fall down her cheek. After a few moments, she wiped away her tears and straightened her clothes as she turned to Dr. Fox and the nurses who were reviewing charts and chatting.
He turned his attention to Elizabeth as he closed his clipboard, “No need to worry Mrs. Huxley a little more rest and he’ll…”
“He’ll be what doctor?” she interrupted.
Dr. Fox raised his eyebrow as he put a hand in his pocket, “this is to be expected, Mrs. Huxley.”
“Is it Doctor!” she demanded.
“Mrs. Huxley, your brother has received the best treatment we can give and if you’re insinuating that my staff or myself…”
“I am insinuating nothing doctor, I am telling you that my brothers time here is over!” Catherine exclaimed.
Dr. Fox took a deep breath and waited a few moments before answering, “You may take your brother out of here whenever you like Mrs. Huxley.”
“I will have him out of here in an hour.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t finish Mrs. Huxley. You can take your brother out of here whenever you like after I have cleared him as stable and he has signed his release.”
“How dare you! My brothers’ life is not some game!” Catherine shouted
“I agree Mrs. Huxley completely, that’s why as soon as I feel he is well enough, he may go home. Until then I will keep him here under close observation.”
Dr. Fox turned to leave as Catherine started to scream at him, “My brothers’ life or yours doctor!”
Catherine clinched her fists as her face turned red and she screamed at the top of her lungs. Once Dr. Fox had left she turned back to James.
“Nothing more will happen to you James I promise.”
Catherine turned and slammed the hospital room door, rattling the door frame in the process. She returned to her seat next to James holding his hand and started to sing to him. She did this until she fell asleep her head on his lap. The beep of the heart monitor was the only sound that filled the room.
Catherine woke the next day to see James awake and sitting up staring down at his leg.
“James you’re awake!” she said excitedly.
“Where’s Elizabeth?” he asked.
Catherine reached out to grab his hand, but he snatched it away.
“Where is she?” James demanded.
Catherine let out a deep sigh, “you already know James.”
James looked at his sister for the first time as he started to weep. Catherine moved to put her arms around James as he cried but he pushed her away as soon as she tried.
“Where is her…she?” he asked.
Catherine stepped back, “she’s gone, James.”
He forcefully wiped away the tears in his eyes with the palms of his hands,
“What do you mean gone!”
“Her parents came to get her body…. Two days ago James.”
James crossed his arms and started to weep again, “How long have I been out?”
“Almost a week.”
“Why are you here?” he asked.
“Why am I here?” Catherine gasped, “I am here to do what I always do, take care of you.”
James turned his head sharply and wiped his tears away, “Well I am sorry for being such a burden sis, you can get the hell out now.”
Catherine tried to defend herself, “you know that’s not what I mean James.”
James refused to listen, “run back to mother dearest like the loyal daughter you are.”
“How dare you, James!” Catherine shouted.
James grabbed a glass on the nightstand next to his bed and threw it against the wall near Catherine. As it shattered, she looked at James with tear filled eyes. Her lip started to quiver as she tried to speak but James stopped her.
“Get out!” he screamed.
“Why are you acting like this James?” She asked tearfully.
James grabbed the clock on the nightstand and threw it on the ground smashing it, “Get the hell out if here Catherine. I don’t want you here!”
Catherine flung open the door and ran out sobbing. A Nurse walked in behind her and James made her leave just as soon as she came in. With the door closed behind her, James slumped over his cast and started to weep.
“Christ why did I have to live,” James sobbed.
He spent the next two days crying alone. James refused to see Catherine and would barely let the nurses or the doctor near him. Dr. Fox had to have him sedated for a day so he could be rehydrated and have his bandages changed. When he woke, he didn’t cry anymore he only stared out of his window. He stopped fighting the nurses and even spoke kindly to them. He still refused to see Catherine and demanded she not be let in his room. Catherine waited outside his door for a week. From the moment visitor hours began until they made her leave she waited for James to change his mind. He stopped talking altogether and sat staring out the window. His food sat untouched where the nurses left it. But his pill trays were empty every day when the nurses returned. He kept this up for three days until one night alarms started going off in his room. Nurses and Dr. Fox rushed in to find James convulsing.
“What’s happening?” she demanded.
Dr. Fox was shouting orders to the nurses and tried to ignore Catherine,
“Dr. Fox, What is happening to my brother?” Catherine yelled.
“He’s overdosed on his pain medication now, please leave so we can do our job.”
Catherine wasn’t sure what to say. Her face turned pale as a chill ran down her spine. “Doctor, please save him,” She asked softly.
“I’ll do my best now please step outside.”
Catherine walked back to her chair across the hall and sat with her eyes fixed on James. With every convulsion, she clenched her fists tighter and tighter, but her eyes were always fixed on James. After a few minutes, the alarms stopped, and the nurses filed out of the room. Dr. Fox finally came out after the last nurse had left. He had his hands in his pockets as he walked over to Catherine.
“Is everything okay?” she asked.
“He should be okay now. He’ll need to rest for a few days.”
“How did this happen?”
“He hid his pills for the past few days and took them all today,” He said.
Catherine stood up and walked over to James’s door and looked at him through the window. Dr. Fox walked up behind her.
“Mrs. Huxley, you’re brothers obviously in a dark place mentally, and the only way to stop this from happening again is to give him a reason to live.”
“Let me take him home doctor, please.”
“Give him a few days to rest and then we’ll take about it again,” he said.
Catherine nodded as she started to head back to her seat. “Okay doctor, we’ll do it your way.”
“In the meantime talk with him when you can and let him know he’s not alone,” Dr. Huxley turned and walked away.
Catherine crossed her arms and leaned back, “please don’t give up little brother,” Catherine passed out in her chair.