“Alright…guy,” I say, wishing I knew his name. “Please, don’t try to strangle me.”
Med-kit out, needle prepped and poised, I hesitate. Jackson and Grant make all manner of noise in the kitchen, rummaging through cabinets, grimacing at the cans which didn’t survive and the mess they made in death. I wonder briefly if it would be better to wake this man to keep from startling him awake or just hope his concussion keeps him under, beyond the reach of pain.
Deciding to try the latter, I set to work. After a couple of stitches, he groans and groggily tries to shake me off. The motion of his jerking head apparently upsets his balance, because he stills rather quickly, hands racing up to cover his eyes.
“Oh, god…” he murmurs.
I need the light to stitch him up but know it must dig at his eyes like claws. I sit patiently, waiting for him to gather his thoughts. When the bandages on his hands register, he squints at them, confused. He looks around, and his eyes find me.
Somewhat awkwardly, I say, “Hi.”
“Uh…what…“ His words are slow, clearly strained. He blinks several times and stares at me. “Who…are you?”
“My name is Chloe. Chloe Tucker,” I answer. “And you?”
“Um…Christian. Jacobs. Christian Jacobs.” Still astonished, his scrunched-up eyes never leave mine.
Partially to check his faculties, partially out of curiosity, I ask, “Can you tell me how old you are?”
The question is unexpected, but he responds with little trouble. “30. Why?”
Just three years older than me.
“Well,” I say, “here, let me finish stitching you up. You took a bit of a blow to the head.” With a smile to soften the words, “Just making sure you’re still all there.”
Chuckling, then regretting the motion of it, he says, “Never really was.”
“Seems your sense of humor is still there,” I say. “Any other injuries I should know about?” I probe, noting the yellowed remnants of a bruise encircling his right eye.
Punched by a leftie, roughly a week ago? Maybe a bit longer?
“Not that I recall,” he says and winces as the needle bites in.
I almost laugh at the concussion joke, but think better of it, saying only, “Not that you recall?” Sarcasm drips from my words.
“Yep,” he groans through gritted teeth. The suture tugs at his scalp as I tie it off, and he jerks a bit. His hand drops to his side. “Fuck…”
“Just remembered something,” he answers, gingerly lifting his hand from his side, “Dickhead back there stabbed me.”
“Alright. I guess I’ll stitch that one up, too,” I tease, wary of my own lightheartedness.
Why should I be so casual? I don’t know this guy.
Another stitch brings a sharp intake of breath, hissing through gritted teeth. But he holds still this time.
“I know,” I gentle. “Stitches kinda suck ass. It’s better than walking around with your scalp flapping though.”
He chuckles, careful to keep the movement contained to his chest rather than his stomach, and is apparently made less dizzy by it this time. “I could see where that might be inconvenient.”
His words are still slow, but slightly better.
The magic of adrenaline, perhaps.
“So…” I begin, hedging as I work my way into the elephant in the room. “What happened?”
He sighs, then groans with the renewed sting of the needle. “Running,” he says, finally. We sit in silence for a minute, and Christian says, completely disheartened, “It didn’t work.”
“I saw…” Silence descends upon us once more as I finish stitching his scalp.