My actions the day the canisters fell took me down a dangerous path. For seven years I’ve navigated the consequences primarily by omission.
Well the time for avoidance was over.
A FEARFUL MOMENT LATER
My heart stopped. A flash of the two of us seven years ago streaked across my mind. Of the unforgivable act I’d committed in the theatre that day. I waited in panic for her next words.
“Well, not so good now…”
I felt a second of relief. Then a wave of disgust and shame as I moved intentionally out of her line of vision. “Glad my hunch was right.”
She nodded weakly and closed her eyes.
My self preservation vanished. I panicked. “Em, Em! Don’t pass out on me. Stay with me. Stay with me. Emmalee!”
She barely opened her eyes again. “Don’t scream at me, Carter, and don’t…don’t…oh never mind.”
I saw her shoulders sag.
“I’m tired. So very tired. Just want to sleep. Please, let me sleep.”
“I know, I know,” I soothed. I began to run my thumb along her forehead. Through her sweat and blood. “But I need you to listen to me. I need you to stay awake. Jam needs you to stay awake.”
Em’s eyelids fluttered. She turned her head again. I immediately shielded her eyes so she couldn’t see me by placing my hand on her cheek. I felt her lips move.
My eyes darted to Angie who was almost staring me in the face, she was that close to Jam’s head. “What’d she say?”
Angie’s lips moved. “She knows how badly Jam’s hurt.”
I nodded and whispered into Em’s ear. “So are you.”
Em shook her head. I saw her slowly blink a couple of times, then she closed her eyes. I could feel her lips moving. I shifted so that I could read what she was saying.
“Not as bad as Jam. Jake…Jake’s.”
Em sudden and unexpected mention of her dead brother had my stomach clenching. I turned my face away. I couldn’t bare to think about Jake. Of what had happened all those years ago and of what I’d done. Not now. I tried to swallow.
Em’s hand reached for my face. I froze. She’d never touched me and I was suddenly terrified. What if it happened again?
Her fingers whispered over my cheek barely touching me. “Carter, don’t cry.”
I wiped at the wetness on my other cheek and carefully moved away from her. I’d begun to cry. My heart began to ache. I hadn’t cried since I’d- Since Jake.
I watched Em swallow. Her lips started to quiver, then they began to move rapidly. “No…no, Jakey. Not Jam. Don’t let him…no. Jakey!”
I went cold. “No, no!” I shouted. “We won’t let that happen. Angie won’t let that happen. Jam’s going to be fine.”
Em shook her head. Her eyes were still closed. “Jakey’s not happy, Carter. He’s very angry. Says he shouldn’t have had to die.” She took a deep breath and swallowed.
My heart stopped. Was Jake telling his sister? “No, Jake, please don’t,” I whispered in my mind.
I turned my attention to Angie. I couldn’t keep my eyes from begging. Em was getting weaker. I saw Angie bite her upper lip. She shook her head. Stevron came into view. He was holding a pair of pliers.
“You’re doing great. Keep talking to her,” he told me.
I nodded and helped Dirk to shift Jam’s weight. I felt Em’s body quake beneath my hands. I saw her mouth open wide. More tears began streaming from her eyes.
“Shh…shh,” I whispered. “Hush now, Em, it’s okay. You’re doing fine. You’re doing good. That’s it. Take a breath.”
Em did as I asked. Stevron nudged me gently. He handed me a knife. I took it and quickly sliced the pouch from Em’s back and then began slicing through the thick material of her jacket and then her shirt.
The blood soaked fabric came away in my hands. I forced down the bile once again as it rose in my chest. I tossed the soiled cloth to the ground and swallowed the lump in my throat before taking a closer look at a spike jutting out from her side.
In the few short minutes since the attack the spike had already adhered itself to Em’s flesh and had turned from ivory to a bluish colour. What was more disturbing was that the spike had begun to stretch and had widened the puncture hole almost to the size of a small rock.
My chest tightened with fear. I forced myself to start talking again. I don’t know what I said. Words just kept tumbling over my dry lips.
At some point I felt Stevron nudged me again. I looked his way and he gestured with his chin for me to move so that I could give him some space. I shifted sideways and Stevron took a position directly behind Em. He gripped her shoulders and nodded to Angie. Angie clamped the pair of pliers she held around an engorged spike. The one that was jutting out of Jam’s side.
I wanted to look at Em, to utter some encouraging words. I couldn’t take my eyes from Angie. She handed me two wads of gauze.
“Okay, on three.” She nodded. “One...two...three.”
Em’s small body bucked wildly as Angie pulled the spike out of Em’s side and through Jam. The gush of blood spewing from the gash wasn’t as bad as I had feared. I had no idea if the lack of blood was a good thing or not. I pressed a wad of gauze to the wound on Em’s back. Em quivered.
I looked back to Angie. She gave me a ghost of a smile.
Dirk ripped off a strip of tape and quickly slapped it over the gauze I held. He then ripped off another piece for me while I reached between Jam’s back and Em’s stomach so that I could place the other wad and tape over the spike’s exit wound.
Stevron took the now engorged spike from Angie’s pliers as Dirk pressed a wad of gauze against Jam’s back. Angie then gripped the spike poking out of Jam’s shoulder. As Angie pulled, I saw Em raise her head. Her body suddenly went ridge.
My eyes flashed to Em’s face. She pushed her head into the back of Jam’s neck and I couldn’t see what she was saying. Around me things had gone from bad to worse. My eyes flew to Stevron’s, then Dirk’s, and finally to Angie’s. The three of them were talking too fast, moving too much for me to make out what they were saying. I had no idea what had just happened.
Next to me Em began to flail her arms wildly. Her hands clawed at Jam’s shoulders. Then she clung to him.
Fear ripped through me. I began to scream. “Look at me! What’s happening? Dammit, somebody tell me what’s going on?”
I saw Stevron tighten his grip on Em. She was now thrashing in his arms, fighting his hold on her. I reached out to stop Stevron. He was hurting her.
Someone grabbed my chin and forced my head around. Angie’s face only inches from me was a mask of urgency. Her lips quickly moved. “Do something, Carter. She thinks she’s dead.”
I sucked in a breath and shook my head. No, no…no.
Angie’s fingers tighten on my jaw. “She’s screaming about how Jake lied to her.”
I snapped out of my shock. Jake! No. He told her- I wrenched my head out of Angie’s grip and turned to Stevron. He was still battling Em’s struggles.
“Carter, help me,” he mouthed.
Someone whacked me on the back of my head.
“Piss off!” I swore and swung my head around to snarl at Dirk.
He glared back at me. “Then get her under control. Or else they’re both going to die.”
Dirk’s words sent a chill through me like I’d never known. I turned my attention back to Em.
“Em, Em, I shouted. “Emmalee, you’ve got to listen to me. I’m right here. I’m right beside you. You’re fine. You’re alive. Stop fighting.”
Her struggles somehow strengthened. “No, no,” I saw her mouth. “Jakey! Angie don’t let him take Jam too. Jake, help…noooooo.”
The strain on Stevron’s face turned fierce. I saw that he was having a difficult time trying to restrain Em. My eyes flickered to the gauze covering both her and Jam’s puncture wounds. The gauze was now red and I could also see tiny chunks of tissue clinging to the other spikes as she continued to thrash. I had to do something or she’d end up killing both herself and her brother.
“Emmalee!” I hollered as forcefully as I could. “Stop! Stop right now! If you don’t, you’ll die and I’ll never get a chance to tell you how much I love you.”
Em’s head whipped around at the sound of my shout. Her eyes widened and I saw the shock and horror of recognition cross her beautiful features. It was then that I knew for certain that she finally knew who I truly was and remembered what I had done.
She opened her mouth and the coward that I was, was so very glad that I couldn’t hear her scream of terror.
©Legend of the Sapphyre Wings by Janet Merritt