Dangerous Rush(6)

By: S.C. Stephens

I could see her struggling, see her emotional walls crumbling. I knew she couldn’t do this on her own, and I also knew she didn’t need to do it on her own. She had me. Pulling her into my arms, I soothed her fears as best I could. “Hey, hey, hey, you’re doing great, Izzy. No one knows how to deal with this shit. And don’t worry about money. I’ve got you covered. I’ll call Hookup, have him enter me in every single race he can find, and all my winnings will go to you. I’ve got your back, Iz, and I’m not going anywhere.”

She started sobbing against my shoulder, simultaneously thanking me and wishing there was another way. The street racing made her nervous. It was a no-brainer for me, though. She needed money, a lot of it, and racing was an easy way to get it. As I held Izzy, I looked over at Felicia. If she raced with me, we could earn twice as much money for Antonia. Felicia had a strange expression on her face—one I couldn’t read. It was a mixture of shock, fear, pride, and…something else I couldn’t name.

Once Izzy had composed herself, the three of us went to check on Antonia. She looked tiny in her bed, like a doll instead of a human. The chemo had already ravaged her, and most of her thick, dark hair was gone. She was lightly snoring as she slept, but the rest was doing nothing to restore her pallor. She seemed drained, like she was only half-alive. Clutching her throw-up bowl in one hand, she had her American Girl doll clenched tightly in the other. Izzy said she never let it leave her sight. God, if I thought it would help her, I’d buy a thousand of those damn dolls. A million, if that was what it took.

As I stood beside the bed, one arm around Izzy, watching Antonia sleep, I heard Felicia breathing heavier. When I looked over at her, I saw that her dark eyes locked on Antonia were filled with unshed tears. Bringing shaking fingers to her mouth, she murmured, “She’s so…she looks so…”

Releasing Izzy, I walked over to Felicia. “Hey, it’s okay. It’s gonna be okay, babe.”

Swiping under her eyes, she glanced at Izzy before shifting her attention to me. Forced smile on her face, she told me, “I know.”

I wanted to know what was on her mind, but I knew the answer wouldn’t be something Izzy needed to hear, so I didn’t even ask. I just pulled her in for a silent hug. Izzy watched us with a small smile on her face, then we heard Antonia stir. She groaned in her sleep, just before green vomit started spewing from her lips. Izzy rushed to her side and helped turn her head into the bowl. She heaved a few times, then stilled; she never even woke up.

Izzy took the bowl into the bathroom to wash it out. When she returned, she looked anxious and tired. “Hayden, I hate to ask this…but could you stay tonight? I’d really…I’d really like some help with this.”

My answer was instant. “Of course.” Then I turned to Felicia. “Is that…okay?”

She nodded, her face composed, but her eyes still bright. “Yeah, of course. I’ll just…I’ll see you in the morning.”

I nodded, then leaned over and gave her a kiss. To my surprise, she grabbed my face and deepened the moment. There was almost a desperate frenzy to the contact, and instead of turning me on…it kind of freaked me out. Pulling back, I grabbed her arms. “Everything’s gonna be okay. We’ll get through this. Together.” She nodded, but her face fell a little. I gave her a kiss on the cheek, hoping some sweetness would bring her around. She smiled, but I wasn’t sure if it really worked.

Felicia stayed with us for another half hour, then she gave me a kiss goodnight and headed home. I made a meal for Izzy, then made her eat it. After that, I shuffled her off to bed. “I’ll watch over Antonia tonight. You need rest.”

Izzy protested for a long time, but finally I—and exhaustion—won, and she headed to bed. I did exactly what I promised I’d do, and kept watch over Antonia all night long. I sat in a chair beside her bed, watching her sleep, occasionally emptying her vomit bowl, and praying that everything really would be okay.

Antonia was still sleeping when Izzy woke up in the morning. She came into her daughter’s room to find me trying not to nod off in the stiff-backed chair that had been my ass’s home for the last several hours. “You didn’t sleep at all, did you?” she asked.

Shaking my head, I told her, “I told you’d I watch her all night, and I keep my word.” And I would always keep my word when it came to Antonia. If I couldn’t fix what was wrong with her, then I’d fix everything else.

A genuine smile warmed Izzy’s face. “Yeah, you do. You should go home, though…get some sleep.”