The diagnosis was a hell of a lot better than it could have been. Thankfully my jaw wasn’t broken, so I didn’t have my jaws wired together and wasn’t facing a liquid diet for six to eight weeks (although gin is a liquid). Plus I had all my teeth. On the other hand, my face looked like somebody had used it for a punching bag, which in retrospect I guess somebody had. Left eye black and swollen shut, but my right one was OK except it was hard to see around all the tape on my badly broken nose.
Further down: two cracked ribs, some kidney damage resulting in both bloody urine and a stabbing ache that never quite went away. That and the concussion were what kept me in the hospital for “observation.”
But hey, JD apparently hadn’t gotten away unscathed. I’d deflected a punch with the gin bottle, almost certainly breaking his right hand. Which is undoubtedly why the facial damage was as mild as it was.
I learned this tidbit from Sheriff Tate when he asked me if there was any reason I didn’t want to press charges for aggravated assault. A deputy had been in White Sands and had responded pretty quickly to my 911 call. He’d used his siren, causing JD to flee without Sabrina. “So we didn’t catch him, but in the end I guess it was a good thing. Another few minutes of kicking you, there might have been a lot more permanent damage.”
The idea of JD out there somewhere, nursing a broken hand and a grudge against me gave me the willies, but Sheriff Tate wasn’t all that worried. “There’s an APB out on him. Plus we sent somebody out to his hunting cabin, but nobody was there. So I suspect he’s unassed the area. Once he sobers up and realizes there’s nothing but trouble for him here, I doubt we’ll lay eyes on him again.”
“His girlfriend is still here.”
“Yeah, well. I had somebody take her home, by the way. She didn’t have anything broken, but she’s going to have a hell of a shiner to go along with a fat lip. Nothing that ice, time, and Advil won’t cure. If she’s finally rid of his sorry ass, it’ll be a hell of a bargain.”
“Yeah, well. And hell yes, I absolutely want to press charges.”
My first unofficial visitor Friday morning was Lucas. He took one look at me and shook his head sadly.
“Talk about a waste of good advice.”
“Very good advice but utterly wasted. My last conscious thought was how much better a pistol would have been instead of a gin bottle.”
“And as it turns out, it didn’t even need to be untraceable. He came in your house with the intent of doing you bodily harm. You could have plugged him the moment he stepped over the threshold and the law would have been on your side. By the way, I’ve got a spare shotgun you can keep around your house if you think he might come back.”
“Truthfully, Lucas, I’m not really the shoot first and ask questions later sort of guy. If I’d had a gun, I’d have ended up waving it around while I ran my mouth off and probably gotten myself shot instead. But there’s sure as hell going to be a baseball bat standing up behind the door until he gets apprehended.”
“Miss Sabrina was at work this morning, just like everything was normal. ‘Course her face wasn’t normal, and she didn’t try very hard to hide it with make-up and what not. Place was like a tomb, with everybody not talking about it.”
“I suppose she was her normal cheerful self, too.”
“Well, no. She had her game face on, but it was pretty clear she’s pretty messed up inside.”
“Probably pissed off at me because I pressed charges.”
“Not your job to be an enabler, son. She can do that all by herself if she’s still got a mind to.”
I wore myself out tottering around the hall after lunch and nodded off over some stupid game show where contestants exhibited glee all out of proportion to either their accomplishment or their winnings when they made a lucky guess. When I woke up, she was sitting there watching me.
“I suppose this means the engagement’s off,” were the first words out of her mouth.
“It’s only off if you throw the ring at me and walk out the door. Oh wait, I didn’t get you a ring yet. Damn. What can you throw at me to let me know you don’t want to marry me anymore? How about some of this left-over cherry Jell-o? I’d get the message for sure.”
She laughed through eyes that might have been tearing up. “You’re really something, you know? I’d kiss you if I just saw a place that didn’t look like it would hurt.”
I patted the good side of my face, ended up poking around my lips with a forefinger. “Hmm. This place right here seems to be OK.”
Turned out it was.
Afterward she sat there holding my hand and talking. About inconsequential things, I think; I’d taken a dose of some heavy duty pain meds with lunch, so I wasn’t tracking all that well.
Except once, when I realized through the haze something that I should say before I got any loopier and forgot about it. “Guess you need to know that when Sheriff Tate asked me if I was pressing charges, I said yes.”
She squeezed my hand and tightened her lips. “Thought you would. Not that it had any bearing on my decision. But when he asked me that same question, I said yes, too.”
That surprised me and delighted me at the same time. “Think he’ll be back?”
She didn’t answer for a long time, just sat there with my hand between hers and looking at me. I might have started to drift off again when she finally spoke.
“Let’s don’t talk about JD for awhile. Or us, either. Give me some time to get it straight in my head. There’ll be plenty of chances later.”
With that pronouncement she stood up. “I gotta go; kids’ll be home soon. See you tomorrow. You need anything?”
“Books. The one I’m reading should be near my chair, and maybe one more. I’m not sure when they’re letting me out. But one more day of television and I’ll have a relapse for sure. Probably won’t ever get out of here.”
After she left I realized I hadn’t told her about the gifts for her kids yet. But tomorrow would be soon enough. In the big scheme of things, it didn’t seem all that important.