Hello readers! Yes, I am on a roll. I hope this chapter makes up for the sadness and the panic-attack inducing chapters.
I also want to thank everyone for their reviews and encouragement! You are all great!
So… I give you…
Reunion of Trust
The next thing I became aware of was an unyielding pain, pounding in the back of my head. Though it made it hard to think, it meant I was still alive. I had no idea how I was still breathing. I remembered Harry Warden and watching the axe come down in a sure downward direction with an intense, dram-like quality. After that, there was nothing else in my memory but the black. I had no idea how long I had been unconscious or where I was, only that I had apparently survived another attempt on my life.
I opened my eyes, but it did no good in answering where I was. All I could gather was it wasn't the cell I had been in before. There was white in every direction I looked. I guessed I was in the jail's equivalent of a hospital, though part of me thought it looked (and smelled) too clean to belong to the system. I was lying in bad covered in plain, white sheets in a room with all whit walls. The effect was almost blinding, especially since I wasn't sure how long my eyes had been closed. The smell of sanitizer was in the air, which did not help the pain in my head and the only thing within earshot was the hum of an air condition. As little stimulation as there was in the room, it was still enough to make my head spin.
To keep from sailing the clean sheet I was wrapped in, I shut my eyes again not long after I opened them. The darkness welcomed me back an old friend. The sick feeling subsided and it was much easier to think without the bombardment of whit around me. I tried to focus on the sound of my breathing, becoming more and more level. Everything else could wait. I listened to each breath closely until I slipped back into the darkness where there was nothing.
Some time later, I felt the sensation of something warm pressing against my lips. The reaction my body generated was almost too much for my mind to process so quickly from unconsciousness. My eyes shot open. My body tried to jolt forward. My ears heard the sound of a familiar voice.
"Easy, Laura… it's me… it's Tom."
As quickly as I opened my eyes, there he was standing over me. A slowly awakening part of my mind knew I should have been suspicious, asked a thousand questions. I should have, but I didn't All I could bring myself to feel was glad to see him. In that moment, the fact that it was probably dangerous to both of us didn't matter as long as he was there.
"Tom…" I muttered after a few seconds of looking blank.
"Yea. Do you remember what happened?"
"That last thing I remember before I woke up here… I was in jail and Harry Warden was there." I pulsed, suddenly thinking about my cellmate, the one who had thought giving me over to him would save her. I remembered the downward motion of the axe before I became unconscious. I knew I was alive. "The woman that was in there with me is she-"
Tom looked at me with the gaze of someone who really wanted to lie but couldn't. Somewhere beyond the haze of my pounding head, I knew the answer. He didn't need to say it, but after a moment anyway. "She's gone, Laura. The end of the pickaxe hit your head when it came down. You've been in the hospital a couple of days now."
Even though I didn't know the woman with me in the cell and she and she had tried to get me killed, I couldn't help but feel somewhat guilty for her death. The pile of bodies was adding up around me quickly. First Freddy, then Sandra… and then a woman who just had had the bad luck to be stuck in a jail cell with me. I suddenly wondered if it was safe for Tom to be there… or if he was even allowed to be there. What had he have risked to see me? Though I was happy he was in the room, I didn't want him to be the next on my pile.
"Why aren't I… being guarded or something?"
"Your bail's been paid. This is just a hospital."
With the first words, I raised up in my bed. My face contorted in confusion. Had I missed something overlooked a rich friend or relatives… or old guy from the diner? "What?"
"Yea," he said nonchalantly, the smile on his face that had made me nearly spill coffee a thousand times at the dinner (and actually spilled a couple of times.) "Your… Aunt Teresa paid the courts off just before you were attacked."
I sighed. Throughout my entire childhood, I wanted brothers and sisters, someone to play Barbies with, gush over boy bands with, and to be the one I called when I want all the way. My parent's justification for keeping me an only child had always been the same: both of them had grown up only children. There was no Aunt Teresa… but there was a Tom Hanniger. I looked at him incredulously.
"Tom, you shouldn't have done that."
"Yes, I should have," he persisted. "I'm the reason this is happening. You would have never been in there if it wasn't for me."
"Axel Palmer may have had something to do with it too," I said in an effort to ease the guilt I knew he had to be feeling, enough to shovel out ridicules amounts of money.
"Axel's more dangerous than you think, Laura," Tom looked right into my eyes. He spoke like the words he spoke were the most important ones he would ever utter. "I know I haven't been open with you, that I've shut you out every time you tried to get close to me, and I know that I should have been here to protect you. No matter how hard I tried not to fuck things up for you, I have. You don't have any reason to believe me when I say it, but I really was trying to keep you safe."
I met his gaze. Though in a way he had a point when he said I didn't have a reason to believe him, I didn't see it that way. He hadn't exactly been open, but I wasn't exactly willing to reveal deep, reality skewing secrets on command either. He had shut me out, but I had been forward, trying to scale the wall around him without even a footing. And yes, he had left in the midst of the world as I knew it tumbling down, but he was with me now. There weren't many people who would do what he had done for me and even fewer above ground. If I had wanted to, I could have told Axel where he had been living, gave him the note he had left there for me, and let him use his pool to hunt him down. I could have, but I didn't… and, especially in that moment, I didn't regret it.
"I do believe you, Tom," I said without the slightest hesitation in his voice.
"You do?" Despite my lack of conflict, he still seemed surprised.
"Yea, I do."
"Then will you come with me?" He sighed like he had just something he knew was crazy. I continued to look into his eyes not saying anything. "You're out of jail, but you can't stay in Pleasantville until you have to go back to court. He's still out there and he's after both of us."
"It's bail jumping to leave town like that," I reminded him thoughtfully.
"I know," he said. "And I know it's crazy and I know you've already lost so much because of me-"
"But," I interrupted. "There won't be a trial if I die… or anything else to loose. So let's go."
I wasn't sure which one of us was more surprised by my response. By far, it was one of the most impulsive things I had ever agreed to do (at least since college.) I knew it would actually make me guilty of a crime, not to mention make me look guilty of the crime I was accused of. Tom seemed as if the last thing he had expected me to do was agree. Yet, I could tell he was relieved I had.
"You don't have to say yes, you know. I could stay here with you-"
"No, I want to," I protested. "You're right. We can't stay here and be sitting ducks."
"Okay," he nodded. "Can you get up?
It was a good question, one that was vital to the plan of leving. I don't know whether or not I could stand, but I hadn't tried. Very slowly, I tried to wake up the muscles in my legs, wiggling my toes and working my way upward. A few minutes later, I moved my torso to the edge of the bed. I let my feet linger on the ground for a few seconds before finally getting up and putting weight on them. As I did, Tom put his hand gently on my arm to catch me in case I fell. Our eyes met in that instant. I didn't remember us touching (except by accident once when we had both reached of a packet of coffee creamer at the same time while eating breakfast at the dinner.)
It was in that small span of time that I realized I was probably standing up with him at my side in a hospital gown. Likely the kind that was more revealing in the back than the dressed extremely confident, thin girls wear to prom. I mentally cursed, feeling the heat rushing to my face. Then, I cursed myself again for blushing like a five-year-old when she held hands with a boy. People (men even) had seen me in a lot less. A few days ago, I had been stripped searched as part of being booked when I was arrested. Yet, there was still something about Tom and hazel eyes that never ceased to make me feel self-conscious. I even tried to imagine what my hair must have looked like.
"Oh. Your clothes you were wearing are right here," he said, suddenly knowing the reason for my embarrassment and handing me the bag that held my clothes.
"Thanks," I blurted quickly. "I'll just-er go change."
I took the bag from him and, still unsure of my legs, made a beeline for the bathroom. He didn't protest, but took his hand from mine and let me go. I nearly lost it a couple of times, trying to go too fast, but made it to the room and closed the door behind me. Tom probably thought I was crazy. I quietly groaned in frustration with myself. How was I going to go anywhere with him if I freaked out every time he touched my like a tween at a Justin Bieber concert? (Minus the screaming, but the feeling was still there.) I shook my head on focused on the task at hand.
The hospital gown came off over my head fairly easily. Then, after carefully maneuvering, I got my jeans on, followed by my green tank top. The next thing I saw in the bag was the ripped, blood arm of my button-up shirt. I shivered involuntarily as the memory of that night looked me in the face. Try as I might, I couldn't get passed it enough to put the shirt back on. I threw it to the side and maneuvered my socks and boots on. Leaving the bloodstained item behind, I exited the room and went back to where Tom was waiting. Our eyes met again. I had no idea if I was just more sensitive to it because of the bump I had taken to my head… or if it was something else.
"Guess we should get going," I said, trying to sound casual.
"Yea," he agreed. "But it's pretty cold outside. Here, put this on." The brown jacket he had on over his green hoodie was off and over my shoulders before I could protest. I uttered a thanks as I slid my arms into the holes. The warmth felt good against my arms, but I started walking as soon as I noticed it for fear I would do something stupid (like blush) again. I didn't want to give myself the chance to look like an ass again… and I was glad to be going somewhere without being guarded (at least, guarded by someone I minded being close to me.)