“If you won the lottery, would you still want me, Sylvia?” She was leaning against me, after just coming back out of the house. She went in to go to the bathroom and grab us some water. Both of us were tired after mowing and cleaning up the yard. It was really hot out.
“Of course, sweetie. I saved an angel, and an angel saved me. I wouldn’t trade my angel for all the money in the world. I might buy her a ring and ask her to marry me, but I doubt she would say yes. She’s so young and pretty and I’m so old and worn out.”
“Let’s go ring shopping, ma’am. Look what I found on the fridge door. Four white balls and a Mega ball. And you did the Megaplier thing. I checked it while I was in the potty.”
“Holy noise. I’ve never won anything in my life. That is so cool. You’re good luck, little one. Very good luck, but I can’t believe you’d want me. Not permanently, as in you and me forever.”
“And you’re full of crap as well as rich. You’re not that old and you certainly aren’t worn out. I proved that this morning. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do much better. And anyway, you told me you loved me this morning while I was proving you weren’t quite worn out yet.”
“And I do love you. Let’s get cleaned up and we’ll to shopping. We can call the Lottery office on Monday to find out how to cash that thing in. Get your name and address on the back of it. Quick!”
“But it’s yours.”
“Nope. I bought it for you. Come on. You asked me to marry you. Kind of. You said you wanted to go shopping for a ring if I asked you, so that’s kind of the same. Isn’t it?”
“You are a nutcase. I love you, Sylvia. I’d be proud if you were my nutcase.”
“Don’t badmouth your elders, young lady. Good way to get your bottom pinked.”
“Oooooh. Empty threats.” She reached out for me, but I screamed like the little girl I was and ran into the house and into her bedroom and to the shower. She caught me and wrapped me up in a hug. This woman was now everything to me. She did save me. She says I saved her, but it was only from herself. Doesn’t matter, I love her.
“Two sugars, please. That looks like a big cup. Thanks.” I was getting my coffee and an apple bear claw at the donut shop up the street from where I was staying with friends. My parents had decided that my leanings toward the Sapphic weren’t the personal values they espoused for their daughter and asked me to find other arrangements. It was the polite way my mother translated what my father said.
“A fucking carpet muncher? My daughter? After everything we’ve done for you? Get the fuck out. Make yourself scarce. Just go. You are such a disappointment. You better hope your grandmother doesn’t find out about this. You won’t see a dime of your college money.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that she already knew and was more of a life coach than a nay-sayer or a hater. She wasn’t a lesbian herself, but she understood my feelings and didn’t care. She loved me unconditionally. More later.
As I turned around from the counter, a guy grabbed me from behind and put a gun to my head. I peed my panties. I didn’t know it until later, but ... I did.
He yelled out, “Open the register and clean it out into a bag. Hurry, or I’ll kill this one, then you, and do it myself. Speed it up.” The kid started pulling the change out first and putting it into the bag. I could hear it.
I was so scared. I looked straight ahead and there was a lady at the table right in front of me. She looked down. I saw a gun in her hand. She looked at my coffee. I was still holding my coffee, but the cup was shaking. She nodded, then looked down. Oh, my, Lord, she wanted me to help. She nodded again. I poured the coffee on the guy’s arm that was holding me. Some of it got on me and burned me, too, but he jerked, taking the gun from my head and “BAM” “bam” “BAM”. There is a strange whistling sound as a bullet goes by your ear at a thousand feet per second. I peed again. This time, I felt it, warm, wet. That coffee sure burned. Then I fainted. I was later told I fell into her arms as she lunged forward and caught me.
When I came to, she was holding me as police came running into the donut shop. She was holding my arm very tightly to keep me from running away, I guess. I heard sirens next and then a girl and a guy took me away from the pretty redheaded lady with the gun. That coffee really burned. I was put onto a gurney, strapped down and put into the ambulance. I guess the coffee did more...
I woke up in a big room with curtains all around. Damn. I’m in a hospital. I moved my head, and the pretty lady with the gun stood and came to me. “Tammi, my name is Sylvia Withers. I’m a police detective. You probably have a lot of questions right now, but I need to thank you for your help and your bravery. The man that grabbed you was known and wanted by the authorities. How are you feeling?”
“Uhmm. I don’t know. Hang on. Can I get a drink? I’m really thirsty.” I sounded thirsty. Raspy.
She hollered, “Maggie, can I give her some water? She woke up and she’s thirsty.”
I heard, “Yeah, Syl, that’ll be fine,” coming from another area of curtains.
I reached for the cup, but Sylvia shook her head and picked up the cup and held the straw to my lips. As I sipped on the water a bit, I realized my arm was throbbing and stung just a little. When I reached for the water, it didn’t move. The arm I tried to reach with didn’t move! That was when Sylvia shook her head. My left arm worked, though, so I held her wrist as she held the cup.
“Thank you, ma’am. What happened? My memory is a bit ... Where’s my purse? My phone? Crap. I need to call Nana.”
“You’re fine. Your purse is here. There’s a phone in it. If you only have one, that’s probably the one in question. You can call anyone you want in a few minutes, but let’s make sure you’re OK first.”
A lady dressed in scrubs came into the curtained room. ‘Margaret’ was printed on her ID tag. Must be Maggie. She touched my forehead with a little pen looking thing with a ball on the end of it, then took my blood pressure, and then listened to my chest a bit with her stethoscope. She pushed some buttons on the bed and raised me up so I was almost sitting. “Well, Miss Tammi Bigelow, you seem none the worse for the wear. Can you hear me OK?”
“Yes, but it sounds like a high-pitched squeal is in my right ear.” She cupped her hand over it. I nodded. “It’s there, but softer. My other ear is OK, I think. What happened?”
“I’ll let the good lieutenant tell you the story while I check your ears and eyes a bit better. Oh, I’m Dr. Margaret Frazier. Sylvia and I went to high school together. Go ahead, Syl. She’s probably dying to find out how close she just came to actually doing just that.”
“Maggie, stop, you’ll scare the poor girl. Tammi,” she began speaking while the doctor looked in my ears, then used a light to look into and around my eyes, “you were a hostage in an armed robbery in the donut shop this morning. If you don’t remember, you and I spoke with our eyes, and I motioned with my eyes to your coffee. While what you did was fine, I was wanting you to pour it on his foot, but, this worked OK, except for you getting a little first-degree coffee scald and a bullet through your right forearm.”
“My turn, really quick,” the doctor said, “your arm is OK. The bullet passed between the ulna and radius, brushed against the ulna, so it bruised the bone a bit. It’s going to smart for a few days. No permanent damage, in all likelihood, and the bullet came out in one piece. He had a much smaller weapon than the fuzz, thankfully. In any case, after a couple weeks of aching, it looks like you are going to be fine. Go ahead, fuzz. Your turn.”
“Doctor Buttnugget to you, fuzz.”
“Lieutenant Fuzz to you, Doctor Buttnugget.”
Another, older nurse walked in. “Will you children stop. You actually have a patient, and somebody’s insurance or tax dollars are paying us to act professionally and provide healthcare. Get with the program.” All three of them started laughing, so I joined them. Mistake. My arm really hurt.
“Tammi,” Sylvia continued, grinning and shaking her head, “I’m sorry. Maggie and I really are old friends, but Nurse Cratchit is right. Some professional decorum is in order here.” More giggles. “The perpetrator is deceased, so I can share with you that he was wanted for murder in St. Louis. We thought he may be in this area, but when he grabbed you and pointed that gun at your head, I recognized him from the police photos, and reacted accordingly. He had nothing to lose by killing anyone in that room. If it would have helped him walk out of that building, he would have done it. So ... with your help, I put him down. I’m under investigation, you’re under a doctor’s care and we can talk. Questions?”
“Why is my ear ringing?”
“Sylvia, may I?” Sylvia nodded so Doctor Maggie could talk. “Sylvia told me that after you dumped your coffee, there were three shots fired. Her first one went right by your head, into his upper right chest, then the second was the bad guy’s, right in front of you, into your arm, then when he started to raise his arm, pushing you so he could shoot her, the third was Sylvia’s. It ended the situation, suffice to say. The middle one was enough to cause a bit of hearing loss for a couple hours due to proximity, but the first and last were both released almost directly at you, a bit on your right side, with a much more powerful weapon. Then add the projectiles whistling by your right ear at an extremely high rate of speed, leaving the bottom line: You’ve suffered what we hope is temporary aural trauma. Short term tinnitus and loss of aural range. Questions?”
“No ma’am. I don’t think so. Yes. Can I have something for the throbbing?” It’s really achy.”
“Push that button on the end of that cable there, dear. The red one. It’s a pain killer. It won’t give you too much. The blue one is the button to call the nurse. I’m keeping you overnight. You can go home tomorrow afternoon after myself or one of my on-call compadres checks you out. It will probably be me, though. Syl, can you sit with her a bit? You needing to go?”
“No, I’ve been suspended pending the investigation. Standard procedure after I painted the wall behind him.”
“Sylvia. Stop. That’s gross. I tried specifically to leave that part out.”
“Sorry,” Sylvia said.
“What are you two talking about? Oh, you told me where the first two bullets went. Not the third. Yuck. Gross. I think I’m...” Maggie put a little tray in front of me for me to throw up in. Gross. Could this even get worse? After I gagged a bit, but nothing came up, I asked for some water. “Am I OK?”
Maggie nodded. “Yes, hon, you’re probably going to be just fine. Nausea, stress, pain, and shock usually travel in the same circles.”
Sylvia continued. “The whole thing is over. You’re a bit of a hero and a celebrity, but other than that, yeah, you’ll be fine. I told my commander what you did and told him to put you in for the reward. He’s doing that. You’ll have some money for makeup and CDs after this.” She smiled at me.
I giggled, then realized... “Oh, God, I need to call Nana.”
“Here, hon.” Sylvia handed me my phone and she and Maggie walked out for a bit.
I dialed. She answered. “Nana, it’s Tammi.”
“I know, dear. I figured you’d call before this morning, but I hope you’re getting along OK.”
“I am, Nana. I love you. Did Mom call you?”
“Yes, sweetie, she did. Don’t you worry about a thing. You and I are fine. Where are you staying, baby sweets?”
“With a friend for now. Her mother knows and doesn’t care. Neither of them are gay, but they are friends and told me they’d help all they could. They accept me, anyway. I have a little money left from Christmas I’ll give them for keeping me. They aren’t very well off, but they’re both lovely people.”
“I’ll send them some help, baby. I want you safe. School is almost out, then we’ll get you in college and all will be well. Give me their address, child, and let them know it’s coming. I don’t want them to see a strange name and address and pitch it for junk mail.” I gave her their name and address, and phone number as well, just in case.
“Thank you, Nana. I love you so much. Why are you so nice to me and my own parents can’t be?”
“Baby, it has to do with a lot of things, but my son-in-law isn’t the smartest or most honest person. I love my daughter, but as long as she lets him control her there’s not much I can do for her. Let’s leave it at that and let it go. Someday maybe she’ll see the light, or believe me, but until then, baby sweets, it’s you and me against the world. I wish your grandfather could see you now. He’d be so proud. You are my beautiful baby, Tammi. Know that. Hey, how much were you going to give your friends?”
“I have three hundred dollars and I was going to split it with them.”
“Oh, my, that won’t do. Just tell them to watch for an envelope from Nana, OK? And, you keep your money for an emergency and I’ll put some more into your account in a bit.”
“I will, but there’s something else you should know. This morning when I went in the donut shop for coffee and a snack before school...”
“TAMMI! Please tell me weren’t in that shop.”
“I can’t, Nana. I was. What did you hear?”
“I saw it on Fox News. A killer was taken down by the police after shooting a girl. Are you OK, baby?”
“I am now. I’ve met the police officer. She’s nice. She’s actually a detective and was on her way to work after a cup of coffee and a donut. The stereotype is obviously accurate.”
“TAMMI! That was uncalled for!” Doctor Maggie yelled from the next cubicle, then I heard laughter.
I giggled. “Sorry, my humor was overheard by said detective and her doctor friend.”
“DOCTOR?” Nana gasped.
“Yes, Nana. I’m fine now, but I was the girl that got shot. I’m OK, though, don’t worry.”
“Sylvia, Maggie, someone please come talk to Nana. Please?”
Sylvia came in and talked to my grandmother for a few minutes and calmed her down a bit. After their chat, she handed me the phone.
“I’m fine, Nana, and I have a couple new friends. Maybe three. The nurse keeping these two in line seems like a nice lady, too.”
“GOOD SAVE, DARLIN’.” That was the nurse. Nana laughed. Whew. I didn’t want her worrying about me. She has enough to deal with.
“OK, baby, I’ll send you and your friends some money. You call them, so they don’t worry. I’ll call your mother. This will be interesting. Especially just a few days after your sperm donor threw you out. I’m going to tell her to leave you alone for now, Tammi dear. I have my reasons. You are going to be OK, and we can discuss it later, but this is your chance to soar. On your own. Prove to them you are a force to be reckoned with. I love you, baby. Call me tomorrow and check in, OK? I worry. More now, obviously.”
“Of course, Nana. I’ll be fine. Thank you for everything. I love you, too. Bye.”
“Your Nana seems like a really sweet lady, Tammi. She really cares about her granddaughter. That was pretty clear,” Sylvia told me. She had a really soothing voice.
“Yeah. She’s my idol. She worked hard for everything she has. Her and Grampa. She’s amazing. I’d love to be just like her when I grow up.” I reached out for Sylvia’s hand to hold for a bit. The pain in my forearm kind of pulsed really bad when our hands met. I squeezed it and swear it was like electrical. I know electrical. When I was about six, I wanted to know what the little slots were in the wall. No one ever told me, so I put a bobby pin in one of them once. Once.
Anyway, she squeezed back a little and smiled at me. “Thank you, Sylvia. It sounds like if you weren’t there, things could have been different.”
“I was, and they weren’t. Don’t fret over ifs and buts. They aren’t worth it. If a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his butt when he jumped, but he doesn’t, so he does. OK? You want to talk about your conversation with your grandmother? I think I heard you’re having some problems. Wanna talk about it?”
“I doubt you want to hear about a freak whose parents gave up on her.”
“Ahh, but I do. Spill it, girlfriend. I have nothing to do and nowhere to go. Matter of fact, I’m supposed to be watching you. Doctor’s orders.” She smiled at me. I loved her voice.
“A couple weeks ago, I was having a sleepover and my father came into the kitchen while Marie and I were kissing each other. We didn’t hear him come in. When she told me that I kiss better than Gloria Wilson, my father heard her and went off on us. Marie’s mother had to come get her and it was a mess. We’re still friends, but my father made a scene and told both of their mothers not to ever let their children near me again. I was able to fix that right after he kicked me out. I talked to Gloria and Marie at school, then talked to their parents and apologized. Both told me not to worry about it and told me if I needed anything to call them. It must be nice to have nice parents. I went to stay with Wendy and her mom and when she found out what happened from my mother ... It’s so convoluted. Wendy’s mom knows mine, and Wendy and I have been friends forever. Like since the first grade. She knows I’m a lesbian, but she’s not one. We’re just really close friends. Anyway, Nana is sending them some money for keeping me and everything should be good for a while. I graduate in May, then start college downtown. A year in the dorms, then an apartment, learn to conquer the universe and go off on my own. Nana has put money aside for my college and living expenses. She said it would last through a Doctorate, if I go that far. I’m infatuated with flight, and she knows it. She wants her ‘baby sweets’ to fly. Her and Grampa probably knew, years ago, that something bad would happen. My father is not one of Nana’s favorite people.”
“Wow. Quite a tale. My story is so different, but it’s exciting, nonetheless. Want to hear about it?” She smiled. I nodded. She was pretty. Long, beautiful, thick red hair. Pretty smile. I liked looking at her. Her voice was smooth. Relaxing. Her hand felt warm and comforting. She went on, “My husband of four years was caught cheating on me with a young lady. A very, very pretty girl, a bit younger than you are now. Her mother approved of their relationship but didn’t know he was married. Her father disapproved of the relationship and DID know he was married. He had just found out. He caught them together, got really upset, and killed my husband dead, right there on the couch, next to his little girlfriend, the guy’s daughter. Dead. Then, realizing he had just committed murder, on a police officer no less, turned the gun on himself. No matter how you look at it, everyone lost. Especially the daughter and the insurance companies. Long story short: I don’t have to work if I don’t want, his wife can make ends meet until the end of time, and the girl has her education paid for, if she can get through the emotional trauma of seeing her lover and her father die in front of her. Last I heard she was taking classes part time and trying to rejoin society. I hope she’ll be okay someday. I don’t feel hostility toward her. She swears he told her he was separated and leaving me. She found out otherwise when his insurance, pension payments, union benefits, and all that wound up in my name. They were pretty well off, and his life insurance paid them quite a bit, but I had a lawyer get some extra for me. I was pretty mad at the time. It’s all over now. Has been for a couple years now.”
She sighed. Maggie came in and rubbed her shoulders from behind. “You OK, doll? Sorry, Tammi, but it was a pretty terrible time for my friend. She really loved that bastard and had no idea he was tapping the high school harlot.”
“Stop, Mags. She ... No matter. Anyway, the reason I started talking,” she put the other of her hands on Maggie’s, holding it to her shoulder, “was to tell you if you need temporary lodging, I have a huge house, a big yard, plenty of room and no company unless I can get Maggie over to play cards. I guess I’m offering a place to stay if you need it until you run off for school. It’s the least I can do after you helped me take care of that bad guy this morning. Also, I have a couple weeks off. These things are never over quickly. They don’t want a killer cop on the streets for fear it will happen again. Sends the wrong message to the public. Dirty Harry was actually about twelve different people. A police TV series may have the same actors, but depict a different town, different people, and different situation each week. Most officers have never fired their weapons except at the range.” I raised my eyebrows. “True statement, sweetie. That was my first, and I hope it was my last.”
“Thank you for that, Sylvia. It’s nice to know. Especially now. Wendy and her mother may be moving to Colorado as soon as school’s out. They won’t need me in the way between now and then. I was asking around for options. Marie’s was a possibility, but Gloria’s big brother doesn’t like me because I won’t go out with him. Well, it’s actually because I won’t let him ‘do me’ (I made air quotes).”
“Men are pigs.” Maggie was smiling when she said it. “Even mine. I gotta go up and do rounds. You two OK?” I nodded.
“Yeah, babe. When are they taking her up?”
“The order says three. That way they can feed her and let her get some sleep. I have her down for an assisted nap then a late snack, too. She didn’t have much today except the IV and the water. She’d be starving right now if she wasn’t so slim and pretty. You two can share clothes, I’ll bet. See you later.” She walked out.
“Always been my best friend. I would have died without her. I thought about it a couple times, but she’s always there when I go dark. I love her, that’s for sure. Think about my offer. I’m going to hang around until after you eat, then if you sleep, or I should say ‘while you sleep’ as it will be ‘assisted’, I’ll leave you alone for a while. You want my number, so you can call later when you wake up? I’d love to come back in and talk. You’re a cool kid, Tammi.”
“Absolutely. My savior’s number needs to be in my phone. Absotively posilutely. Take mine, too. Sylvia, thank you for the offer. Thank you for this morning. I’m afraid if you let go of my hand I’ll start thinking about this morning and...”
“Don’t worry. You will think about it and you will get over it. You’ll be fine. I have to go through it yet, myself. When it hits me, probably tonight when I go to bed, it’ll be like a ton of bricks, but ... I’ll get through it. It’ll be easier, I think, if you do take me up on my offer, since I’d have something to look forward to, and, well, I hate to be this way, but so would you. I can help you, if you’ll let me.”
I squeezed her fingers lightly in my hand. “OK. Let’s just say it’s a done deal then. Don’t take this wrong, but I don’t have a whole lot of options, and yours sounds really, really nice. I’ll tell Nana tonight, so she doesn’t send Wendy’s mom too much money, but she’ll probably do it anyway, since they were there for me. I’ll let her know after they move me, though. Where do you live, anyway?”
“A block from the university, if you’re going here, we can stay close. Or, hell, if we get to be friends, maybe you can just stay with me. If you list me as your home address, I think you can live at home. When I was in school, that was true anyway. I’ve lived there with Mom and Dad since I was just a little girl.”
“Speaking of living, I need to call Wendy and let her know what happened. Better yet...” I texted my friend and let her know I was OK, what had happened, where I was, and would talk to her soon, and to tell her mom to call my mom if she needed any more information, but whatever was said, that I was OK. “There. She knows I’m alive and why I didn’t go to school today.”
A couple guys and a lady came in to get me, carefully taking me out of the bed and putting me in a wheelchair. My IV rack went with me, Sylvia pulling it and holding my hand all the way upstairs. Holding her hand, I think it was holding her hand, made me feel safe. It was a strange, but yet very welcome feeling. Strange as in different. Not weird. It felt warm, not weird.
I was lying in bed looking up at Sylvia and the strangest thing happened. I was thinking, then all of a sudden what I was thinking was out loud. I didn’t mean to say it, I didn’t think I was saying it, but I did. “How could anyone cheat on a beautiful, nice, warm person like you, Sylvia?”
“Oh, Tammi, thank you. I don’t know what caused it, honey, I really don’t. I never will, now. Never you mind. But, seriously, thank you. That’s very probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. You’re a doll.” She leaned down and kissed my forehead. It gave me goosebumples and my chest hurt.
A guy came in and brought me a little meal of chicken soup and Jell-O, and then after I ate put something in my IV tube while she was holding my hand.
I woke up at about nine, according to my phone, and called Sylvia. She answered the phone, sounding like she was breathing heavy, or crying or something. “Hi, Sylvia. Did I interrupt something?”
When she spoke I could tell she’d been crying. “No, honey. Can I come see you?”
“Please. Please do. Quickly. I don’t want to think about you crying. Hurry. Please.”
Five minutes later, she came in, kissed my forehead, pulled a chair up to the bed and started holding my hand again. Her eyes were still red.
“Did I make you cry, Sylvia?”
“God, no sweetie. No way. You’ve done nothing to make me sad. You’re a wonder. I was thinking about my marriage. What you said really bothered me. Not what you said, that was beautiful, but ... Why did he cheat on me? What was missing? I was thinking. That’s all. I couldn’t think of anything. Nothing. Love, sex, cooking, cleaning, all that. He never went without. I just started wondering and lost it. I had no idea. None. Then it came to me. He just wanted someone younger. That’s the only thing it could be. Even though I’m not that old. I was thirty when he died. I have no idea when he started cheating or even how many girls there were. I’ll never know. But I’ll always wonder.”
“Don’t. Be my friend and we’ll take on the world together. Will you give me a ride to school for a few days until I can get the bus schedules down pat?? I called Nana and told her what was going on. She’s happy for me. She saw your picture on the news. Nana said, ‘Now that’s a carrot top’. Nana can be funny. She said it was nice to put a picture with a voice and that you were a pretty lady and seemed like a nice person on the phone.” Sylvia smiled.
“Yes, doll. Hey, do you have your license?” I nodded. “Tell you what. You won’t be going to school for a few days anyway. How about I make sure you can get around in it and I’ll let you use my ... One of the other cars. I don’t drive them much, but they need to get out and about. You won’t be able to drive a stick for a while. I have one of those, too. Can you drive a stick?”
“Yes, ma’am. I have. We had an old Chevrolet Cavalier that I learned to drive in.”
“You’ll be fine. This thing’s about the same size and it’s a four speed. But, that’s for later. You can start with Brad’s car when you can move the shifter. OK, so what else do we need to talk about?” We talked about school, college plans, the weather, and all kinds of things until they ran her out about midnight. “I’ll be back late tomorrow morning, doll, then I’ll help you get around and gather your stuff. We’ll make everything work just fine.” She leaned to kiss my cheek, but I turned and caught her lips. It was electric. Really. “Wow. Sorry, doll. Wow. Uhmmm, see you tomorrow. Late morning. Sleep well.” I watched Sylvia leave. What happened? That didn’t happen with Marie, at all.
The nurse came in and put another squirt in my IV tube. “Night, Tammi.”
“Good morning, sweetheart. How’s my favorite superheroine doing this morning?”
“Honestly, it’s throbbing a bit, but better than last night.”
“So on a scale from 1 to 10?”
“Three. Last night I was a 4 or 5.”
“Good. When you push the button?”
“One, a two if I move. It’s funny, but when Sylvia held my hand, the first time, it was a six or seven for a second, then it went back to a one or two, but that was after the button. I’m sorry I’m rambling. Your friend Sylvia is a nice lady. I think I’m going to stay with her for a while. Ramble, ramble.”
“You’re fine, sweetie, and it sounds like you’re doing fine. Better each day, even a little better, is what we want. I didn’t expect you to wake up this morning and play tennis. Hold my finger. Squeeze softly.”
“Hon, I said softly. Better.” She put her hands under my arm. “Lift.” I did, a little bit. “Enough. You’re going to be fine. I’m turning you loose. You can leave as soon as Sylvia gets here. You’re leaving with her, I take it?” I nodded. “You won’t be sorry, sweetheart. She has been my best friend since freshman year out of junior high. The only thing bad I can tell you about her is she’s too generous. Not to everyone, as in a guy on the street corner, but you could take advantage of her very easily.”
A nurse came in and carefully peeled tape and gauze off my hand and pulled the IV tubes out, then pressed a cotton ball on the hole, placing a band-aid over it. I was off the tubes. Cool.
“I won’t, Maggie. Nana will pay for her to keep me and I’ll work and do chores for her. I’m not a slacker. Well, I won’t be a slacker. I’m gonna slack a little until this thing hurts a bit less.” Maggie laughed and nodded.
She was still at it when Sylvia walked in. “Woman of the hour. We were just talking about you.” They hugged. “You can have her. I have no use for healthy patients. No money in it. Tammi, be careful and let your arm heal a bit. Remember, a bullet went through a few of those muscles and I had to put them back together. Take it easy. I’ll write a ‘scrip for Physical Therapy here at the hospital. Starting ... Next Wednesday. That’ll give those a week to mend a bit. We’ll start off really easy. Check in with me when you come, OK?” I nodded. “Bye, sweetie. See you later.” She hugged and kissed Sylvia. “Bye, Syl. Take care of Super Girl.” She walked out.
“Gotta love that woman. Come on, let’s break you outa this joint.” She helped me dress in a change of clothes she brought. Shorts, a knit top, and a pair of high heeled sandals she thought would look OK.
“How did you know what sizes, Sylvia? Even the shoes fit. Nice heels, ma’am. I like them.”
“I looked. You peed everything you had on except your shirt, and it had some blood on it. They had your clothes out at the nurse’s station when I left last night. Laundry cleaned them up for you. They’re in this bag. They smell like hospital. Except the shoes. They’re in a separate plastic bag. They smell like pee, I’m sure. Let me get a wheelchair. I’m taking you home. You said your friends weren’t well off, I’m sure she works, then? Normal hours?”
“Yeah. Yes, ma’am. She gets home from work around five-thirty. Wendy will be home from school earlier than that, though. But you need to meet Phyllis. Her mom. She’s nice. She’ll be happy for me, I’m sure.”
We got signed out and she wheeled me out under the watchful eye of an orderly that was ready to take over at a moment’s notice. She wheeled me up to a big SUV, which got me wondering. Alone? Big house, big car? Alone? OK. She’s nice. Who cares.
As we pulled out, she asked if I had enough energy to stop and traipse around a grocery store for a few minutes. She wanted to pick up a few things for dinner. I thought I was fine.
About half way through the shopping trip I asked her if I could push the cart. It gave me something to lean on. We hurried, she grabbed some steaks, potatoes, and fresh broccoli, sour cream, and we were out of there. It turned from a shopping trip to a really quick grab and go, as soon as she saw me fading.
As soon as we were at the house, she plopped me on her couch, put some pillows under me, got me comfortable, then got my phone and told me to call Nana. I did, giving her Sylvia’s number and address. I explained what we were doing, why, and got her full approval.
Sylvia was in the other room. “Nana, she’s special. I don’t know how to explain that right now, but she really is. Really, really nice person.”
“I’m glad for you, baby sweets. You need that in your life right now. You just take it easy, and everything is going to be fine. Take care of my granddaughter, and tell Sylvia ... No, let me talk to her myself.”
“OK. Hang on. SYLVIA? Nana wants to talk to you!” Sylvia came in and took the phone.
“Yes, ma’am? -- Of course. -- Oh, I will. She’s a sweetie, I know. -- OK, I promise. -- OK, here she is.” She handed the phone back.
“You’ll be fine. I love you, baby sweets. Keep me posted.” Click. Nana has spoken.
Sylvia looked down at me. “Relax. I’m fixing lunch.”
“Sylvia, ma’am. Thank you. Did you say something about a reward? What was that all about. Wouldn’t that be yours?”
“Cops don’t get rewards. You will because it was your actions that allowed me to take care of the problem. Last I heard yesterday morning it was about seventy-two thousand dollars. Like I said. Makeup and boyband CD money. We’ll see. Don’t hold your breath, but you should get most of it.”
The rest of the day went quickly. I slept through most of it. I had pain pills Sylvia was giving me, as well as antibiotics and who knows what else, but I was doing okay. Then we went to Wendy’s house. After introductions, she and Phyllis talked about me while Wendy and I talked about yesterday. She said there were pictures on the internet, but I told her I wasn’t ready.
“You may never be, Tams. Your friend in there really screwed that guy’s day up. Really.”
“I heard something on the edges of that and got sick. Let’s let it go. I’ll be back in school Wednesday if anyone asks, OK? Thanks for putting up with me the last couple weeks. I don’t know what I would have done without you.” We hugged and she kissed me.
“Don’t get any ideas. I’m your best friend. I can kiss you if I want,” then she laughed and hugged me again. We packed all my stuff up and took it out to Sylvia’s Yukon.
“Thanks, babe. See you Wednesday. Holler if you get bored or something. You can come over and we can talk or something.” We hugged again, Sylvia said her goodbyes to both of them and we left. Sylvia saw the tear on my cheek. She just reached over and laid her hand on my thigh. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to. In the garage, this time, I looked over at the other cars. A little two door imported thing and a bigger old two door car. I’d seen pictures of the bigger one. On the way inside I looked at the front of it. Buick. Old lady car. That’s what my mom called them. It was an old Buick GSX. An old old lady car. It was nice looking though.
“That’s the one you’ll drive to school when you can get your hand to work the shifter. It’s an automatic. We need to make sure you can get it to go back and forth, then I’ll turn you loose with it.”
We went inside, and since I was up and mobile, I got a tour of the house. I was tired when we got done. Huge back yard, pool, hot tub. I did volunteer to help with chores. She must’ve seen the look on my face.
“I have a little tractor to mow with. It’s not that bad. A kid comes by every two weeks and checks the pool out and tells me if we need to do anything, but he pretty much handles it. We have to clean the bugs and leaves out of it when he’s not here, but that’s about it. Questions?”
“Not a question, but I understand why you wanted company. Jeez, ma’am, this place is huge!” She laughed.
Steaks for dinner, then a movie, then come bedtime, I got a bit weepy and asked her if there was any way I could sleep close to her. I didn’t really want to be alone, but knew if I was, I’d be OK. I just didn’t want to.
“Yes. You have your own room, Tammi, but go change and do what you do, then come back here. I’m happy to have you.”
I did all that, teeth, potty, wash my face as well as I could. Lefthanded teethbrushing and facewashing is going to get old very quickly. Eating lefthanded was a chore, but I didn’t hurt myself. Sylvia helped me cut my steak up, so that was nice. She’s nice.
I went to her room, carefully climbed on her bed, laid down on the side she wasn’t on, and said ‘thank you’ to the ‘which side of the bed’ choosing gods. I’d be able to lay on my left side and see her. Then it dawned on me. Her alarm clock was on this side on the night stand. She moved for me. Talk about thoughtful. Well, Maggie warned me.
“Thank you, again, Sylvia. This is really nice. Nice house and all, but really nice of you to take me in like this.”
“Not to worry, sweetie. I’m sure it’s all for a good reason and we’ll be fine. Just...” My phone started ringing.
I reached over for it, saw the caller number and said, “Hello?”
“Were you ever going to call, Tammi?”
“Mother, you threw me out of the house. Calling you and him was not at the top of my to do list. I was about to say ‘I’m sorry’ but truly, I’m not. I love you because you’re my mother. Honestly, at this point I don’t feel the same about him, and I don’t LIKE either of you very much at this point.”
“What was on your to do list then? What was more important than letting me know you’re alive?”