Abby stared out the window, keeping silent for an ongoing two hours already. The sun was setting so that the sky was a myriad of orange and reds mixed in a brush of gray. A constant rate of snow was falling again. Hot air poured through the vents of the vehicle, warming my skin as well. The humid breeze swirled her hair, tossing her scent throughout the space. I've become so used to being surrounded by it that it was natural. Only when it's not around do I find it strange. The steady sound of her breathing and heartbeat matched the song on the stereo.
Abby sighed, breaking her quiet spell and placed on hand on top of the other. Her fingers caressed the bracelet on wrist. She was still turned away from me so I could not decipher her thoughts. Gently, I took a hand from the steering well and placed it on top of hers. She turned her head and blinked at me as if I'd just jolted her out of a deep distraction.
"What are you thinking?" I asked, smiling.
"I'm thinking about all that's happened," she replied. "It all seems like I was hit by a whirlwind that carried me here."
"Do you regret it?"
"No. I wished it could have come when I am more mentally prepared for it, but there is nothing to regret. No one forced me. What about you?"
I thought for a moment. Regret meant that I would try and change it if I could because I believed I would've been better off. But I couldn't be better off without her. She wasn't making things easy, but the alternative of living without was the Dark Ages of my life. She's brought nothing but improvements from the day she dropped out of the sky. I've disturbed her normal, happy life. I should be regret to her. She could never be something that I regret.
I smiled. "Never. You are a blessing."
She laughed in disbelief and playfully pulled my hands off hers. I put the hand back on the steering wheel. "So what now?"
"What do you mean?"
"You know exactly what I mean," she replied, the mood suddenly turning too serious and on the brink of argument again. "What is the next step you want to take?"
I eased my foot off the gas and the car gradually slowed. I glanced Abby.
I wondered where she came from. A normal girl would not be able to confront me so directly. A normal girl couldn't sway my thinking in a matter of minutes. I wouldn't be trying to avoid a verbal fight with any other woman.
"There's no need to rush. We still have plenty of time. Just because I proposed doesn't mean I want you to drop everything. Let's do things at the speed you're comfortable with."
"Are you leaving it all up to me, then?"
I sighed and nodded. "I've decided to put everything in your hands. I'll do whatever you ask. Whatever makes you happy makes me happy too."
She was silent. Then I felt her warm hand on my cheek. I looked over, hardly believing it myself. She lightly, barely, ran her palm across the line of my jaw and then rested it on my shoulder. Something about the moment felt momentous. Abby had reached out on her own and broken the barrier she usually erected around her on her own. She was making a lot of progress in so little time. And it may not be much to anyone else, but for her, it was equivalent to standing on the top floor of a skyscraper and yelling one's darkest secret to the world.
"I'm sorry for always making you follow what I want. But I just can't help it."
"I'm happy to relinquish control once in a while, Abby. It's exhausting to be the one to decide all the time. But I want you to know that you don't always have to be so headstrong. I want you to lean on me when you're tired."
She smiled meekly and withdrew. "I want to see the project through. It's the first one that I led and I want to see the results. When the launch is complete Monday night and the products hit the shelves, I'd have taken care of everything. I want to do this so arrange for a trip back to where we met and use that as an excuse for my family. We'll leave in four days."
I finally understood. She'd been quiet because she was planning her own disappearance. I knew there no easy way to do this, but I hadn't expected her to be so definite and fast. Four days wasn't long enough to bid farewell to the the most familiar people in one's life. She was forsaking herself for my sake again.
"Are you thinking of convincing me otherwise? You said you would leave everything to me," she said, sensing my change in mood. "Don't worry. My grandmother would pick things up fast if I suddenly disappeared in your care. She already suspected something was up seeing as you came to my house to stay so long. As for my mom and my uncles, it will be hard. Still, I don't plan to never see them again. It's not a better choice to believe your only daughter and niece is dead instead of alive and happy, though not in the way you hoped for her initially. Who knows? My grandmother may let them know when it's time. Just trust me to handle things."
She was so sure that I had no room to argue unless I wanted to have another fall out with her over the very same topic that's caused every argument we've ever had. "The Chairwoman knows?"
"My grandmother speaks less with age, and she is less involved with matters as she grows closer to her religion. She won't let on that she is watching, but we are residing under her roof. Don't be so surprised that she is aware of everything that goes on there. She just doesn't bother to mind our business."
We pulled up in front of the cabin now. It was dark. I shut off the engine and got out of the car. I rushed out the help Abby, knowing her eyes would not see much more than shadows in this lighting. She briefly looked up at the numerous stars that you would otherwise not see in the city, and her eyes twinkled, reflecting their light. She slipped an arm to link with mine as I closed her door. She shivered from the harsh wind and the continuing snow. I had to get her inside fast.
The cabin had bright orange light coming from the windows. I couldn't hear anything but a pair of heartbeats and the sound of an ongoing fire inside. No arguing. No movements. Just peaceful and even heartbeats that indicated they were probably not conscious.
When the wind blew, what I smelled startled me. Blood.
I sniffed the air again, my attention on Abby. She didn't seem to notice. She walked beside me, but was angled so that most of the wind was blocked from her small frame by me. She was too concerned with trekking through the thick snow to notice that I was petrified.
It wasn't fresh. Moreover, it was diluted by the smell of doused antiseptic. Judging from the rather that I was picking it up, it wasn't just a small cut either. Abby looked up at me, and I smiled to keep her from picking up that something happened. I didn't want to scare her. They were obviously still alive and inside.
I guess we're about to find out.
Abby watched, hugging herself, as I undid all the efforts put in this morning to keep them in. I kept breathing, trying to assess whether it would be wise for me to enter a room where blood was just spilled.
The smell of the antiseptic gave a bitter edge and it was repulsive. I could tell that the source of the blood wasn't actively smelling it anymore, but the blood hasn't dried yet and has accumulated. It wasn't and in no way comfortable, but it was bearable. I wouldn't lose control as long as I concentrated and breathed less.
I pushed the door open quietly and let Abby in first, purposefully leaving the door ajar behind me. Fresh air would ease the scent in the cabin and lessen the roar of my demon. Abby went down the hall, and I followed, into the living room. She looked around for any signed of her friends, but nothing. I didn't say anything, but I knew they were close.
The fireplace blazed with wood and warmth. The sizzle and crack of the flam was drowsy. I grabbed Abby's hand and tugged her to my side. She oped her mouth to say something but I pointed to the big couch in the center of the ring. I was standing in perfect view of it, but Abby wasn't a moment ago. She gasped, and I put a gentle hand over her mouth to quiet her. No need to ruin a moment that was nearly impossible to create in the first place.
Sharing the big velvet couch and a huge blanket, they were sleeping soundly. Nina was sleeping in Mick's arms, her head laid back against his chest and her hair covering half of her face. Mick's arms wrapped protectively around her and his chin rested on the top of her head. What I noticed most was that his upper arm was bandaged too much so that it was an awkward lump. Still, the blood had soaked through some of the bandaging.
Abby pushed my hand off her mouth and whispered, "Jason, are you okay?"
"Why would I not be?"
"Your eyes are pitch black. And he's injured," she answered in concern. I smiled. "Just go wait outside. I'll deal with this and call you back in when I'm through." She pushed me out toward the hall.
I shook my head and took her hand off my chest. "I'm fine. Or else I wouldn't still be standing here. I know my limits."
I was touched that she was worried for me. The simple, unplanned gesture spoke more than a thousand words. She never returned the words that I wanted to hear, but it was moments like this that gave me hope that I will hear it one day. And even if I don't, just seeing the hints of it in her actions was enough.
"Just don't overdo it," she muttered, turning back to the couch. "What am I going to do about these two?"
They must have heard her, because Nina sucked in a deep breath of air and stirred. She stretched her arms out of the blanket, and her eyes opened lazily. Mick groaned at the sudden movement and his face wrinkled before he woke. Abby laughed as the two guilty parties stared at us, shaken out of their slumber.
Abby waved. "Seems like you guys had quite an interesting day, right? So who wants to share the fun with us?"
Nina's head slowly turned back to look at Mick and he, too, looked at her. When their eyes met, Nina sprung off the couch, yanked the blanket away with her, and sprinted to the other side of the room with a scream.
"Why are you sleeping next to me?" She snapped, outraged.
"You're the one lying on top of me. I should be the one asking you the questions," Mick replied, getting up and shifting his bandage arm with a wince.
"I shouldn't have felt pity for you if I knew you'd only use the injury as an excuse to take advantage of me," she accused, balling up the blanket and hurling it in his direction.
Mick ducked out of the way. "I didn't ask for your pity. And I wouldn't even be in this state if you didn't stab me in the first place."
Abby stepped in this time. "Wait, you did what? You stabbed him?"
Silently, I wandered out of the room. If he's been stabbed, he really should get it examined properly and bandaged better. I went into the kitchen to look for a first aid kit. My nose caught the scent of more blood. It wasn't diluted and contaminated by foreign substances. I looked on the floor. I raised an eyebrow and stopped breathing. A fifteen inch ice pick laid on the floor, completely covered in red fluid. There were droplets of it next to it. Evidently, the stabbing took place here.
I grabbed a washcloth from the counter and bent to wrap the thing up in it. I dropped it in the sick and ran water on it and the cloth, leaving the water on as I went back out.
"I didn't mean to stab him. He just came at me really weird and I grabbed the first thing I saw. It was pure instinct. I didn't even know what I did until he was bleeding."
"I was just going to ask her to let me talk to you on the phone. Who knew she'd grab an ice pick and drive it into my arm?" Mick said. He didn't sound as mad as he should be. And seeing as they were even having a nap together before, he had no hard feelings toward the aggressor.
"An ice pick? You stabbed him with an ice pick? Why do we even have one here?" Abby was examining Mick's arm in concern now. Every time she moved it, he winced but didn't complain.
"What happened isn't important right now," I spoke up, cutting Abby's playing doctor short. Mick looked slightly irritated now that he was aware that I was in the room. "You should wash the wound and get it wrapped up correctly. And then, we will drive into town and find a doctor to look at it. The blade might have severed an artery or do some damage to nerves and muscle."
"Right," Abby agreed. "Come on, I'll help you."
She led him out. I knew what she was doing. She didn't want me to deal with the wound so she volunteered herself. But was it for my sake or for Mick's? I couldn't help but feel there was something between them that I didn't know about.
"You think he'll be okay? I really didn't mean to do that. And I tried calling you guys, but I couldn't get through," Nina said, finally showing some remorse and fear when the person who should see it isn't in the room.
I chuckled and sat down, beckoning her to sit as well. Hesitantly, she sat at the opposite end of the couch some distance from me.
"I don't think he's seriously injured since he has stopped bleeding," I assured. "I found the ice pick in the kitchen. Can you tell me what happened?"
She flushed with embarrassment, biting her lip much like Abby. "After you guys left us here and called Abby, Mick came at me. And in the moment, I thought he was going to do something so I reacted. Next thing I knew, I stuck the thing in his arm. I tried to call you guys back but the phones didn't work for anything and we couldn't get out of here. So all I could think to do was pull it out of his arm and try to stop the bleeding. Then, I was afraid that if I left him alone, he'll fall asleep and not get up again. So I kept him company and we tried to keep warm, but I guess I didn't do a good job because we both fell asleep. Then you both came back. That's all."
"What exactly did you think he was going to do to you that you can only think of attacking him?" I asked, amused now.
She glared at me, as if to say that I already knew the answer to that question so I shouldn't be asking. I laughed and shook my head.
"Abby should be very happy now. She went through all this trouble to bring you closer together. And even though it reaped unexpected results, I think it worked to some degree if it brought out your concern for Mick. And he doesn't seem too resentful of you after all this."
Her eyes knitted together. "What do you mean bring us together?"
I glanced at her. Abby has tried being sneaky and tried being the invisible force to push them to each other, but I think it's time for another tactic altogether. It is much simpler to be direct. Since the momentum is set already, we should use that and continue until the end.
"Abby is aware that you have feelings for Mick. She's helping you get what you want in her own way. She asked me to arrange all this for your benefit. She's hoping that you can find happiness as well."
She shot up in defensive mode and denial once again. "I do not have feelings for that playboy who has a black hole where his self-conscience used to be! If I did, do you think I would've stabbed him when he gave me that look?" She was screaming very loudly, and I know that the other two could hear us wherever they were in the cabin.
"If you didn't, why were you so concerned about everything that he does and even pick fights with him on purpose? Why do you get so nervous when you're alone with him?" I said, calmly, hoping that she'd give me the response I was looking for and at top volume.
"Because I hate the way he jumps from woman to woman with only regards to appearances. And because I hate the sight of his smug self. But I don't know why he keeps aggravating me though it's none of my business how self-destructive his relationships are. I don't care what he does, but I hate that he always acts as if he's misunderstood when he's in front of me. I hate that high and mighty, egocentric, and self-hating bastard, okay?"
Someone cleared their throat. Nina looked up and her expression was horrific and she flushed the color of a tomato. I repressed a smile as I got up and saw Mick standing with Abby. Our eyes met and I winked at her. She smiled at me.
"Mick, any replies to that?" Abby prodded as she came to stand by me.
Mick said nothing, he just stared at Nina with softened eyes. I recognized the look immediately having worn it to look at the woman standing next to me many times. Nina did not see it, because her she was looking at the floor.
Abby got on her toes, trying to reach my ear. I bent over so give her the extra height she needed. "Just look at the two of them. Thank you."
"You're welcome, love. We're close but not done yet." As soon as the last word left my lips, I felt something soft press to my cheek.
Surprised, I looked down at Abby. She winked at me and kissed my cheek again.
Author's Note: We are getting getting close to being done. REVIEW!