In the aftermath of
one tragic and uncertain night, Edy and Hassan shut out the chaos with a kiss.
But when Hassan's traditionalist mother sees that kiss … well, a nightmare of a
different sort begins. After all, he still has an arranged marriage on the
Hassan examined the gash on his right hand with mild interest, curious as to what point he’d earned it. His hand shook; his whole arm shook, and the tightness in his chest worked like a vice. He believed he could whittle away the panic. He believed he could wish away the night. He closed his eyes, opened them, and found all exactly as it had been.
He swatted at the EMT impatiently as his legs dangled from the rear of the ambulance. “That’s enough,” Hassan said. “I’m good.”
The man frowned down at his work. He’d cleaned the wound, applied an ointment, and looked at a roll of gauze longingly. “Really, you should let me—”
“I said ‘no.’” Hassan snatched his arm free and stood.
They’d rolled Wyatt away on a gurney. When that happened, the wheel of the stretcher had bumped on the door frame’s ledge, causing his arm to swing out from the bed. Long, white, limp—that was Hassan’s last image of him. He thought of it now as he stared at the Green’s front entrance. A uniformed officer banged at the door. Another stood at his side. The wind howled in response.
He couldn’t watch that. He couldn’t stand this. Swarming, aimless flashing lights, the methodical sectioning and combing of here and there, and Wyatt’s swinging arm, slipped out to greet him.
He’s dead. No one loses that much blood and lives.
Hassan’s thoughts turned to Edy, Edy whose friend had been shot. Quick steps brought him to her, in the cold, in the dark, in the madness they’d rushed home. Get to her was his only command.
She stood underneath a winter-stripped oak wrapped in a fleece Patriots blanket. Seeing her reminded him of his own bare arms and of how cold he should have been.
He slid in with her, wrapped her in the circle of his arms so tight, and exhaled a puff of exhaustion. Better, he thought. Best. Because he couldn’t think just now. He could only feel and breathe in drafts, so wrecked was he from the senselessness of it all. Some part of him, some inner part, fractured and burned, fluttering off in winter winds ashen piece by ashen piece.
“Hassan,” Edy said. “I—I’m freaking out. I’m going to lose it completely.” Her eyes swept the lawn without seeing, watering to overflow, sliding into panic.
“Edy,” he said, but she didn’t hear.
“Edy,” he repeated, but she still didn’t hear. She gripped the fabric of his shirt at the waist, fisting it with a hand and twisting. He pulled her in so they were forehead to forehead and trembling.
She would keep it together or he would unravel right with her.
“Don’t leave me,” Hassan said. “You know you can’t.”
He yanked at her as if he could rouse her into forgetting, into going backward, into being yesterday’s Edy and therefore okay. In this tighter, fiercer embrace, he was hyper aware of his every clenched muscles, of her fingers first touching, then digging into his side, and of the snow that eventually began to fall.
He’d hold them together if it took all night.
She ran a hand across his face and he caught her by the wrist. Funny how the noises dulled then, how the rushing thuds of footsteps and the commanding voices drifted to insignificance when she looked at him. While he couldn’t will every muscle in his body to release, or his heart to slow down on the gallop, he could do this. He could hold her and she could him. They could ground each other, help each other. It worked two ways.
She licked her lips.
And he kissed them.
It happened that fast.
“Hassan!” his mother cried.
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Shewanda Pugh is a tomboy who credits Stephen King with being the reason she writes romance. In 2012 she debuted with the first novel in a three part contemporary adult romance series, Crimson Footprints. Since then, she's been shortlisted for the AAMBC Reader's Choice Award, the National Black Book Festival's Best New Author Award, and the Rone Award for Contemporary Fiction in 2012 and 2013. She has an MA in Writing from Nova Southeastern University and a BA in Political Science from Alabama A&M University. Though a native of Boston, MA, she now lives in Miami, FL, where she can soak up sun rays without fear of shivering.
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