**I still have some maintenance to perform on this site, I realized. I just got internet back at home, so I'll do that as I can. Thanks for reading! And forgive me- I sometimes don't notice big mistakes until after I publish, but I usually go back and correct them.
The wind whirled and leaves rushed across the parking lot. The lights shining down on them allowed Bekah to see the faint lines at the bridge of Ryan’s nose. Just like his brother. He must have been pissed, but this rapid, unsteady breathing betrayed most of his frustration. Bekah couldn't blame him for storming away from Dan. The two had exchanged jabs, with Dan lecturing him about drinking and driving and dragging his student like a "ragdoll."
"I told you before," Ryan had argued, "I'm not going anywhere and I need the beer to help me deal with Dad."
"You don't need a crutch like that."
"I suppose your crutch is better."
"You mean have others? Not just God?"
"Ryan." Dan had kicked a rock, bouncing it off a tire and sending it leaping toward Bekah's feet. "If you knew God, you wouldn't need the beer. And back to the way you treated Rose-"
"Stop calling her Rose. She's my girlfriend and you sound suspicious when you call her that."
"Give me a break, it's her last name, for crying out loud!" Dan had then demanded to see Bekah's arm and Ryan had volunteered a flashlight from the car.
"If there are any marks, you have my permission to beat the crap out of me," Ryan had said, but Dan merely turned to face her again.
"Can you dispense of the jacket for a few minutes?" he'd asked.
She'd shuddered. Was he serious? Take this jacket off, only to have him probe her for any marks left by his brother? Neither of them needed this crap tonight and in fact- neither did she. Why were men always demanding things of her? Towers, Brian, now both the Shields brothers.
Nice as it was to be fought over by two awesome guys, she’d had enough already!
"Go ahead, Bekah." Ryan had sounded more than a little mournful. "I want to know how badly I hurt you."
Her lip caught between her teeth, she considered leaving the brooding brothers to themselves. Allie needed someone watching over her and if Dan and Ryan intended to fight, she’d take their places at her side. Even if that meant encountering Oliver. If she could crack a teacher’s nose and bloody her biggest bully’s, then maybe she’d the find the guts to face Oliver.
“Please, Rose,” Dan had said. “We both want to know how badly you’ve been hurt.”
She’d felt the throbbing on her upper arm, a definite sign of a big bruise forming. But she wouldn’t let them inspect her like this. No.
“It doesn’t matter. Ryan didn’t mean it, Dan, it’s just been a bad night.”
"No excuse for the what he did," he'd yelled over his shoulder.
The condescension in Ryan's tone was clear as the starry sky. "I didn't mean to hurt her, Sir."
"I believe him.” Bekah had hurried to Ryan's defense. "It's been a bad night. Allie almost died, your dad showed up out of nowhere, and I-"
She'd bit her lip, but Teacher's brow perked. "You what?"
"Look, I am sorry." Ryan strolled toward them with his hands in his pockets. "Bekah, I would never purposely hurt you…I just let my frustration get the better of me.”
“And then you started drinking,” growled Dan.
“Oh, get over it.” Ryan’s heavy sigh had produced a visible puff of air in the cold. “Face the fact that I occasionally drink.”
Speaking of drinking, vodka had sounded great at the time. She’d been clawing at her borrowed jacket, though neither of the men seemed to have noticed.
Finally, she’d heard herself blurt, “Would you guys just freaking stop it?”
Then faced with their nearly identical, round eyes, she recoiled when they’d both reached to comfort her, Ryan calling her “Bekah,” while Dan had allowed another “Rose” to slip.
Then silence. Dan’s adrenalin must have been off the charts, because he remained impervious to the frigid air, except for digging his hands deeply into his pockets. She heard his keys rattling.
Ryan folded his arms, his gaze traveling from Bekah, back to Dan, and then to Bekah again. She knew something crazy had swirled into in that head of his. Somehow she just knew.
Dan released his breath in a long stream. “We need to get you home, Rebekah.”
Ryan grunted. “It’s up to her, but I’d like her to stay.”
“I know about Dad,” Ryan nearly shouted, “…and you damn well know that he already knew about her. The question is, what does he know about YOU and her?”
Dan’s jaw had dropped and Bekah’s stomach hit the asphalt. She imagined the blood spattered everywhere, Freddy Kruger’s claw hooked in the mess.
“Look, I see how you two look at each other but Bekah and I are getting serious, am I right?” He whirled to Bekah, his eyes wide with hope, so she nodded as forcefully as she could muster.
“Whatever is going on with you two,” Ryan had continued, “ just put it to rest already. I’m going to sit with Allie for a little while and I expect my brother to act like an adult and my girlfriend to remain faithful.”
“Nothing’s going on, Ryan.” Dan’s annoyance weighed heavily on his voice, but Ryan quickly punched back.
“Lying doesn’t become you, Bro.”
That’s when Bekah had chased Ryan, stopping him just before he’d reached the walkway leading to the back entrance.
“What the heck are you doing?” She now demanded.
“I just told you. Find some closure so we can move on.”
Closure? What the hell did he mean by that and how the hell was she supposed to go about finding “closure” with Dan Shields? They’d hadn’t been technically involved, anyway. She’d just been longing for him. From a distance.
“You know what we discussed in the car earlier,” her boyfriend continued. “I’ve got a lot more to say, but it’s got to wait. Someone besides Dad needs to stay with Allie, so I may be longer than a half an hour.” He glanced at his watch and then peeked back at her. “Do you think you can handle this?” He nodded in Dan’s direction and Bekah felt her teeth gritting together again.
What did he expect her to say? That she planned to dump a man she’d never dated? What?
“I don’t know how to answer that, Ryan. Dan and I aren’t involved, so this is-“ She wanted to say stupid but, given his current circumstances, she’d sound too harsh.
“You and Dan need to agree to put a stop to….whatever’s going on.”
“We already have.”
She wavered under his stare and lowered her gaze to Alice’s boots.
“Seal it in stone this time,” Ryan whispered harshly. “We’ll discuss how to keep it there later.”
Whatever that meant. She watched his tall frame, highlighted by the lot lamps, as he made his way back to the ER and Allie’s side.
Then she heard shoes scuffing up behind her and her mouth suddenly felt dry.
Here she stood, freezing her butt off and waiting for Dan to make the first move. Because she sure as heck wasn’t going to go first. Oh, no. These guys were not going to control her, regardless of the circumstances.
That one word, spoken by Dan at close proximity seemed to vibrate everything within her. She glanced over her shoulder, could see him scratching the back of his neck, running his hands through his hair.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“You mean you don’t know?”
She spun to face him and his set jaws. His stiff stance declared that his defenses remained high.
“If you can’t figure it out, Teach, then I don’t know what to say.”
A group of ladies streamed past them, bragging about how they’d met Jacob Davies.
Smiles crept to Dan’s and Bekah’s faces. Snickers followed, even though she thought the women’s banter completely stupid. He was just a man, like any other. No need for all the excitement.
But Davies’ Mad Night fit this night somehow. The words were jumbled in her head,
We must have met a thousand years ago
You took my hand
I followed sure
The living do not understand
We’ll live forever in this Mad Night
Gifted or are we cursed ?
Shrouded in darkness
We dance in moonbeams
While they hunt us in the sun
Ignorant of our desire
Harm not the innocent one.
Here she stood with Teacher, dancing in moonbeams. No, not the type of sappy dance performed by lovers. But they were dancing around the subject Ryan had dared them to broach.
“Are you there?” Dan waved his hand in front of her face and she blinked.
“Depends on what you mean by ‘here.’ Maybe I’m daydreaming about Jacob Davies.”
He smiled flatly, his tone stern. “I find that highly unlikely.”
“He’s not your type.”
“Why would you say that?”
“The collar is a dead giveaway.”
“He looks like Superman.”
Dan’s frown suggested he wasn’t sure whether to believe her, so she cracked a grin. One that felt faker than fake, but it was enough to erase his sour expression.
“Of course I don’t have a crush on him. Maybe a tad of a crush years ago, but that’s all.”
Dan scratched his chin, mumbling something about Davies joining the priesthood. Then he clapped his hands together and began rubbing and blowing into them as he scanned their surroundings.
It was then that she noticed the gaping cut on his knuckle.
“We need to go somewhere warm,” he was saying. “I’m not sure what you want to say, but if you’re going to say it, I prefer to do it where I’m not freezing to death.”
“Teach, how’d you hurt yourself?” She gestured at the cut and he paused to stare at the thing like it was some sort of specimen in a science lab.
He cursed under his breath. “I didn’t notice the pain until you reminded me. Thanks a lot.”
“Did you put anything on it?”
She wasn’t used to playing ‘nurse’ to anyone but the thought of helping him sent her heart into hysterics. She mentally scrambled. Maybe Ryan carried some first aid items in his car? Not likely. He didn’t seem the type to be that cautious.
But Dan would. “Where’s your Jeep?” she asked.
“Don’t worry about it, Rose, it’s just-“
“Something that looks like it needs stitches.” She spotted Dan’s red Jeep a little ways down from Ryan’s car and cleared her throat. “March, Mr. Shields. I know you keep a first aid kit in that fancy Jeep of yours. You’re too much of a worrier not to.”
“Don’t argue with me or I’ll steal your keys and find it myself.”
He gawked at her. She spotted the lump in his pants pocket where he’d been jingling his keys earlier. She reached in, despite his protest and the way he jumped back, yanked the keys out and jogged in Alice’s ouchy boots all the way toward the vehicle glowing under the parking lot lights.
What the heck am I doing?
Either she was making a complete idiot of herself or she’d impress him. Her heels screamed with newly formed blisters as she opened the Jeep and began rummaging in his glove compartment. Sure enough, she found a metal box filled with Band-Aids, TUMS, and different sorts of medicated creams. No Neosporin. Staph-A-Septic grabbed her attention. Of course. Allie was- or had been- fighting MRSA, so it made sense he’d find something designed to battle staph.
A folded, slightly crinkled paper slid out of the compartment. Just as she reached to slide it back in place, she spotted her name through one of the flaps. Once she’d unfolded it, the first paragraph revealed the Hedda Gabler/Doll’s House paper she’d turned in last week.
No wonder she hadn’t gotten it back. It had been stuffed in his glove compartment?
Unsure whether to feel creeped out or complimented, she read over the words but nothing sank in and her insides felt like mush. A cold hand wrapped around hers, squeezing gently until she released what rightfully belonged to her.
“Rose,” Dan said softly. “Get in.”
The warmth of his body remained behind her until she began gathering the contents of his first aid kit. His knuckle still needed bandaged, she reminded herself, but now she wouldn’t rest until she knew why…why had he been carrying around that paper?
That specific assignment had pissed her off, even though she’d received extra credit for doing it. Both stories centered around control freaks who caused others to become controlling and in the end, both of the lead women committed ultimate acts of selfishness. She’d wanted to smack the living daylights out of both of them.
The slamming of the car door shook her. She’d sat down without realizing it, the medical kit on her lap as Dan whirled to the other side of the car. He popped in began scanning through the windows- undoubtedly making sure no one of importance had seen them.
“This is bad,” he grumbled. “But right now I don’t think it can be avoided.”
He neatly set her folded paper on the dashboard and shoved his key into the ignition.
“What are you doing?” She heard the hitch in her voice but he seemed not to notice.
“We’re getting out of here for a little while. You need to warm up and we definitely need to talk.”
“Ryan’s with Allie and so is Davies.”
“I thought you didn’t like Davies.”
“We had a small chat. He’s OK and he has my cell number.”
“So, what happened to your knuckle? You didn’t belt him, did you?”
He ordered her to buckle up as he buckled himself. His avoidance of her question did not escape her, so she’d be asking it again later. She couldn’t imagine him slugging a priest, but in his current state, who knew?
The heater flew into action, playing with her folded masterpiece on the dashboard as Dan backed out and began weaving his way through the parking lot. Her fingers shaking, she snatched her work and he shot her a double take.
She unfolded it. He’d highlighted one paragraph:
Henrik Ibsen's plays Hedda Gabler and A Doll's House present two different women whose decisions and actions are influenced by several male characters. Each of the two women display characteristics passed to them from their fathers. General Gabler taught Hedda to manipulate and control- in other words, she was a brat who insisted on always getting her way; and Nora Helmer's father controlled the hell out of her, almost turning her into his little puppet. Therefore, she later allowed her stupid husband to control her but in turn became the puppet master for her children.
“It’s a lot like your first draft of the Tess paper, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Not really.” She cleared her throat. “Why are you carrying it around?”
He remained silent as he pulled up to a red light and turned his right blinkers on. Slouching toward his door, he rubbed his eyes and mumbled something she couldn’t make out.
A few moments later, they found themselves on the road, passing storefronts of restaurant chains that sold Dan’s most despised types of food.
Finally, he explained, “I relate to your feelings and those stories more than you know.”
Her feelings? Those stories? She re-read the highlighted words and understood.
“But,” he continued, “you need to re-write that. I’ve seen much better from you and I want it done tonight.”
He nodded. “So much negativity.”
“The stories are negative.”
“Let’s find a twist.”
“What is this, a midnight English lesson?”