Love at Last

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Love at Last - Chapter 2

In the short time she’d been standing at Meri’s bedside in the intensive care unit, Willow had come to despise the antiseptic smell and the mechanical sounds of the life support machines keeping her friend tethered to life. She hadn’t thought they would let her stay with Meri as they weren’t blood family. But since she was pretty much all her friend had left in life, they allowed her in, feeling that her familiar presence would be soothing to the other woman.

            Her heart ached as she looked down at the hideously injured woman lying in the bed before her. Tears welled, yet again, streaking down her reddened cheeks. She’d cried so many tears already since she had found her best friend lying on her living room floor she thought there were no more left. Apparently, she was wrong.

            She reached out and took Meri’s hand in hers. It was icy cold. She lifted it to her cheek, cradling it gently as she tried to warm it. Through the tears, she looked down, silently willing Meri to open her eyes. She felt lost, adrift without her vibrant presence. There was never a dull moment when they were together. She would give almost anything to have Meri wake up. To see that enchanting smile of hers that always lit up the room and drew people to her.

            A quiet clearing of a throat caused Willow to whip around. Standing behind her was the handsome man from the previous night. Not sure why she hadn’t expected him to show up so soon, she stared at him blankly for a moment. So much had happened since then she hadn’t given him another thought. She was surprised she hadn’t; he was most definitely memorable.

            He had a handsome face saved from being beautiful by a rather nasty scar running from just in front of his left ear to curling around the bottom part of his cheek and disappearing under his chin. In a distant part of her mind, she wondered how badly it had hurt.

            A strong, square jaw gave him a rather formidable appearance, but he had surprisingly full, soft-looking lips that went a long way to soften his face when he smiled. Intelligent eyes the colour of polished amber looked out from under straight eyebrows. And those eyes were focused squarely on her. Despite the dire circumstances, she couldn’t help but feel a flutter of awareness in her stomach.

            “I hope I’m not intruding?” the man enquired.

            Giving him another once over, Willow tried to marshal her thoughts.

            “No, it’s fine,” she finally answered. “I remember seeing you at the house last night. Do you have news?”

            Willow watched in fascination as those lips quirked up in a brief smile.

            “Apologies, ma’am. I don’t. I have more questions, and I need to take down a written statement from you.”

            Adam belatedly stuck his hand out in greeting. She hesitated a moment, but taking it eventually, Willow stilled as electricity raced up her arm. Pulling her tingling hand away from his, she returned his smile with an uncertain one of her own.

            “What more can I tell you?”

            “Ms Martin, there are a couple of points you spoke about last night I’d like to follow up on. I was wondering if you perhaps have some time now?”

            “To be honest, like I mentioned last night, I really don’t know much. I’m not sure how I can be of any further help. As I said, that’s how I found her when I got home. It wouldn’t surprise me if JJ is involved in this though. This is exactly his style.”

            “I’m interested in a bit of background regarding Ms Davids. There might very well be something there that will point this investigation in the right direction. Based on how well you know Ms Davids.”

            “Yes, Meri and I have been best friends since we were about five.”

            “Could I steal you away for a few minutes? Maybe chat at the coffee shop? That way if you’re needed, they can call you and you’ll be able to get back here quickly.” At her nod of assent, Adam gestured for her to precede him from the room to the elevators.

            Willow took a seat at a table while Adam went to get their coffee at the counter. She took the time to study him, again marvelling at how comfortable she felt in his company despite not knowing him at all. Not having much exposure to male company growing up, she wasn’t usually at ease being around men other than her brother. At least not until she got to know them. He just seemed to give off “trust me” vibes.

            Adam returned to the table with their coffee, cutting her reverie short. Sitting down opposite her, he took a notebook and pen from the inside pocket of his sports jacket. Willow found herself surprised at how much information he’d already gathered. Clearly, he’d been busy since last night. The questions were astute and well honed, digging for maximum knowledge in order to get a sharply accurate picture.

            Willow wasn’t sure if it was the stress of the last twenty-four hours, or that she felt at ease with the detective, but she found the words just tumbling out, sharing with him all the things that had plagued her about JJ all these years. She shared about his violent temper and all the times it had led to Meri being rushed to the hospital. How it had always been her greatest fear that one of the beatings JJ gave Meri would eventually lead to her friend’s demise. She even told him of her suspicions – that despite a lack of evidence, she was convinced that JJ was the person responsible for this one too.

            Eventually, Willow’s outburst wound down. For a moment, she felt embarrassed to have ranted like that. But she also felt lighter for having finally gotten all of it off her chest. They were nearly done, with just a couple more questions to go, when Willow’s cell phone rang, and she recognised the hospital’s number.

            “Oh God, Meri!” was all she said as she whirled out of her chair and sprinted for the stairs, in too much of a rush to wait for the elevator.

            Adam followed her quickly, skidding to a halt at the nurses’ station to see Willow huddled over to the side, staying well out of the way as the staff worked on reviving her friend. The machines Meri was attached to beeped, hissed, and jangled as they worked valiantly and fought desperately to keep her alive.

            Willow was ashen and her eyes enormous as she stared at the chaos before her. The pain and horror etched on her beautiful face had him clenching his hands in impotent fury. He had no way to change what had been done and no way to comfort her in the face of a rather inevitable outcome. Nobody was saying it, but he’d borne witness to too many scenes like this one to believe there’d be a happy ending to this very sad story.

            Suddenly, the group around the bed parted as the nurse at the head began to wheel the bed towards the door. Another nurse went over to speak to Willow. As the other nurses rushed past him, he heard the words operating theatre three, premature labour, and haemorrhaging uttered. Looking back over, he saw the nurse now holding Willow’s hand, still talking to her. As if the news the nurse was sharing with her was a burden too heavy to bear, Willow sank to the floor sobbing like her heart was breaking.             Walking over to the nurse, he indicated he’d take it from there. Grateful, she gave him a sad, tired smile and left them to it. He sank down beside Willow on the floor. After a brief internal battle, he placed an awkward arm around Willow’s shoulders. They sat like that until she finally cried herself out. Then they sat in silence as they waited for news.

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