Pas de Trois
"Do you think the universe fights for souls to be together?
Some things are too strange and strong to be coincidences."
― Emery Allen
"Bella, wake up … baby, please."
These are the words that jolt me out of my sleep.
I must be dead.
I try to raise my head, but it hurts too much.
I try to speak, but my throat is too dry, so the words come out gravely, "Werzzz Boothz?"
"He's sleeping; he's never left your side." I turn my head and see him, my Boots, all six-feet two inches of him – his legs stretched out in front of him, with our daughter cradled against his chest.
"Mom," I try to say. I haven't seen her in years. Her hair is long, curly, and bright purple. She's wearing what looks to be a Mumu in shades of hot pink and orange.
"Oh, Bella … I'm so sorry. I'm sorry for, well everything. I …"
"S'okay … I mumble.
"No, no, it isn't okay, but I'll try to do better by you, Bella. I promise."
I nod my head, weakly.
"Let me get the doctor," she says, giving me a little kiss on top of my head. Her rings and bracelets catch in my hair.
"Sorry," she says, untangling them from my locks.
I watch her exit the room, a vibrant rainbow of color and overdue apologies.
"You're awake." Boots' eyes open, all green swamp and red-rimmed. He carefully removes Bip from his arms and lays her on the chair-bed, making sure to tuck the blanket around her small frame.
Wordlessly, he approaches the bed and lays his head on my chest. I run my hand thru his hair. He lifts his head, and I see the shine of tears.
"There's my girl," he whispers. "Bella …" He looks like a man who almost lost everything.
"Boots," I whisper.
"Bella … I've got so much to tell you, but before I get to any of that, I just want to tell you I love you."
"I love you too, Boots." I watch as a tear runs down his nose. He doesn't even try to whisk it away. I feel my own eyes fill at the sight.
"And … I want to tell you how sorry I am … so sorry," he whispers in my ear.
"Yeah … for acting like a dumbass when you told me about the money. I don't care about that, honest I don't. All I care about is you being okay – you can take the entire town to Maine, and all I'll do is say, please and thank you, I promise. Just … please …"
"It's okay," I whisper.
"I'm an idiot."
"Only sometimes," I say, smiling.
I run my hand through his hair and cup his cheek. He kisses my forehead.
Memories come surfacing with a speed that leaves me breathless.
I turn my head to the side of the pillow, remembering. Oh, my God. I bolt upright.
"Sh … settle down." He eases me back on the pillows. "She's alive, Bella. There's a big story there, too … lots of drama, and that's a fact. But she's gonna be just fine."
"Thank God. She was so brave. She—she saved me."
He rests his head on my chest for a moment, murmuring, "Thank God."
A fresh thought comes to mind, and I struggle to sit up again.
"The baby … am I … do you know …"
He lifts his head and smiles so big that I know before the words are even out of his mouth.
"Looks like it's gonna be a shotgun wedding, Yank." I smile – there's my snarky Boots.
He nods his head, eyes shining
"Are you happy?" I ask, hugging him.
"So happy," he says, kissing my stomach.
He wraps his arms around me carefully and holds me close.
"I think we should get married right away, Bella."
"Because of the baby?"
"No, because I know what it's like to almost lose you."
"Okay," I whisper.
"Yeah. As soon as Miss Vick is well enough to attend."
He kisses my forehead.
"Thank you," he sighs.
"Boots, do – does everyone know?"
He looks at me quizzically.
"About the baby."
"Oh. No, just Carlisle. Maybe Billy Black. And of course, us. I didn't want to share the news with anyone besides you. Besides, with HIPPA, I'm not supposed to know myself. But Carlisle heard you asking me about the baby just before you passed out, so …"
"He told you?"
"More like I pestered the ever-loving shit out of him," he laughs.
"How long have I been here?"
"Four days. You lost a lot of blood ... they had to give you a transfusion. But you and the baby are going to be okay."
"Why was I out for so long? Was I in a coma?"
"No – no coma, thank the Lord. You just … slept. I guess it was from the stress and the shock of everything you went through … your brain just shut down. Doc says …."
"Doc says he's glad to see you're finally awake, Bella." Carlisle enters the room with a smile. He's wearing a white lab coat and a pale blue tie that matches his eyes.
"I don't normally work here at the hospital, but Boots wouldn't let anyone else even look at you," he smirks. He takes out a small flashlight and looks at my eyes, then puts the stethoscope to my chest, and then takes my pulse. "Your vitals are good," he announces, making a few notations on what I assume is my chart.
"Where's my mother?" I still can't believe she's here.
"She's holding court with the others, I imagine," he says, smiling.
"The whole town is in the waiting room; it seems."
"Everyone from Horace Hogg to Polly Pigg … they've all come to adore you, Bella."
My eyes fill again with tears. I don't even try to stem them – I need the release.
"Mama?" Elizabeth's vibrant hair shines in the morning sun.
"Hi," I say, scraping the emotion away with the back of my hand.
She scrambles out the chair so fast she practically knocks it over. Boots catches her before she pounces on me.
"Can I hug you?"
"Gently," says Boots.
"I don't feel hurt," I say, puzzled.
"That dirty bastard cut your neck, Mama," she mumbles in my chest.
"Elizabeth," reprimands Boots, with a chuckle.
"Well, that's what you said, Daddy … "That dirty bastard cut Bella's neck – too bad he's dead, or I'd cut his balls …"
Carlisle grins and types a few notes on his iPad. "He nicked your artery, Bella, that's why you lost so much blood. But we got here in time, so all is well. You can have a little water now, and if you're hungry, I believe Shelly has some soup for you. Elizabeth, would you like to help me go find her?"
"Yes. I'm gonna tell everybody about Mama waking up, and that Daddy cried like a baby and Mama's gonna have one …"
Boots and I look at each other and start laughing. So much for waiting to share the news ourselves.
"Well, it's all over now, Yank. I hope you realize that the mouth of the south is about to get everyone's knitting needles a clackin. I spect we'll have ten pairs of booties and a hundred bonnets before I spring you out of here."
Giggling, I shake my head.
"Want me to try and stop her?"
"I think we've already had our share of miracles, Boots."
"And that's a fact. Lord."
"When do you think they'll let me go home?"
"Probably today or tomorrow, since Daddy thinks you're doing okay."
"I'd really like to see Miss Vick."
"She's still in ICU, so …"
"But you said she was fine!"
"She is fine. But she's also eighty-nine years old, Bella. They can't take any chances of infection. I heard Daddy say they'll most likely be ready to move her to a private room tomorrow."
"Is she – is she going to be in trouble?"
"Trouble? For what – for getting rid of that psycho? No, Ma'am. Police reports already been taken care of, thanks to Jasper and Em."
"I won't have to testify?"
"What did they do with …"
"Cremated what's left of him and packed his sorry ass off to merry old England. His grandfather, Witherdale, is still alive. He wasn't exactly surprised – he knew James was a "Troubled chap since childhood, bless my soul." I chuckle at Boots attempt at an English accent. It was terrible.
"I feel sorry for him," I muse.
"Feel sorry for, who - that asshole?"
"No. No, for his grandfather. He's lost so much already. His daughter, another grandson, it's sad."
"It's also not our problem, Bella."
"I know, but still …"
He takes my face in his hands and gives my forehead and jaw a kiss.
"Let's just concentrate on us for now, okay?"
I lay my head back on the pillow. Another thought comes to mind, and I bolt up once again.
"Boots – the baby … how far along am I?"
"I don't know; they only did a pregnancy test. I think they were waiting for you to wake up before doing an ultrasound."
A horrible thought begins to form in my mind.
"Boots, what if the baby isn't yours? What if it's …"
"But what if it is? What then? Oh, my God … you don't think … ?"
"No, I don't think, Bella. But even if it is, which it isn't, I'd love it anyway. Okay?"
"Really – you – you'd be okay with that?"
"Bella, it's a baby. It's part of you no matter who the father is. I'll love her or him, regardless. But I sincerely doubt you've been pregnant since you arrived. You were on the shot back then, remember?"
"Yes," I sigh, relieved. I'll still feel a lot better when we've had an ultrasound, just to be sure.
"Your mama is a piece of work, isn't she?" He chuckles, changing the subject.
"That's a polite way of putting it. How did she get here, anyway?"
"Jasper called her office; she'd just came back from her cruise. She was on her way to Masenville before the words even left his mouth."
"You seem surprised."
"I am. I haven't seen her in years, Boots."
"I 'spect she's had an epiphany, Bella. Near tragedies will do that to a person, and that's the truth. She's been hovering over you for the past two days."
"Has she been driving everyone crazy?"
"Nah … she's fine, really. That hair of hers is turning a few heads, but I think most folks are taken with her – she's a great storyteller."
I can only imagine the stories she's telling. I let out a groan, and Boots laughs.
I settle back again and stare at Boots' face. He looks exhausted.
"Have you really been here the whole time?"
"Where else would I go?"
"What about the shop? Boots …"
"Fuck the shop. You're my number one priority, Bella. Besides, Jake is a good man; he's on top of everything."
"I know, but you -"
"You want some water?" he asks, subject closed.
"Yes, please." My mouth and throat are on fire.
He walks over to the counter and fills a plastic cup from a tan pitcher.
"Here," he says, lifting the cup to my mouth. "Just take a few sips … don't guzzle."
I do as I'm told and barely take much more than a tiny sip, when …
"Remember I told you I had a lot to tell you? Well, you're gonna wish this was a lot stronger when I tell you the first shocker."
He sets the cup on the counter, then looks at the door to see if anyone is listening. Satisfied, he leans towards me and says in a dramatic whisper.
"You better hold on to your bedpan, Yank."
I roll my eyes at his silliness.
"Rose is Jasper's cousin."
"Oh, I'll save that story for them to tell," he says with a wink. "It's a good one."
He walks over to the closet and gets a blanket, then comes back to the bed and wraps it around me, carefully.
"Oh, and by the way …" he says, conversationally.
"Shelly is Miss Vick's daughter."
The water spews out of my mouth, arcs over the bed, and lands on the tiled floor with a plop.
B/N: Lord – I just know ya'll were gripping your seats and lighting candles over Mizz Vick! Truth be told, so was I. Course Mizz J never does tell me half the shit that's takin place in her mind, and that's a fact. I figured she'd let Bella live, and all, but … Mizz V? That was a crapshoot. Still, the old gal is close to 90, and she lost a lot of blood. Thankfully, her daughter was there to bail her out of certain death. And damn if there isn't a story there!
Mizz J has already let me in on all the deets, but I'm not allowed to spill. Don't even bother to ask - I've got to keep my trap shut, or she'll shut it for me. I know ya'll don't want that. Laws. I'm already in a world of trouble for dropping that cliffy. But I figure … why should ole Jaynie have all the fun?
All right, I gotta go see how much damage Bip's done in the waiting room. That mouth of hers is so big that she's gonna fall in it one of these days. Still, I'm mighty happy right now, what with the baby and all. I knew that lake was gonna deliver … it always does.
Take care, ya'll, and stay smart.
A/N: Like I'd ever let Miss Vick die!
There've been a lot of twists and turns with this story, but I can honestly say that I have known since the beginning that Miss Vick would be the one to kill James and that she would live to tell it. Same thing about Shelly. And, also, Jasper and Rose.
Playing god is fun, ya'll!
So, one more full chapter and an epilogue. I said I'd finish this story in the summer, and I almost kept that promise. Still, considering it's taken five years to write, with two hiatuses, I don't think a few more weeks will matter much. Lol!
Thanks, as always, to my friend, Fran, for editing this story. It's always got a mistake here and there, but that's all on me – I can't stop fiddling once I get it back.
Your reviews have been the delight of my life during this pandemic. I'm crap at replying, but please know that I read every one. Thank you so very much!
Next chapter will be up in two weeks.
See you soon!
PS: This is later than I said. I'm sorry. I lost my sweet Shih Tzu, Dolley Maddison, yesterday. It's been a difficult week. I'm heartbroken, but I know I'll see her again one day.
"You think those dogs will not be in heaven! I tell you they will be there long before any of us." Robert Lewis Stevenson