2: Baby Steps

I haven't seen the outside of this room for days, now. The woman—Kerry—gives me painkillers every now and then, but they don't do much and at night, my stomach feels on fire. I thought about climbing out of the window multiple times, escaping before they could decide what to do with me, but the same conclusion kept coming to my head:

I wouldn't make it an hour in my condition.

Eventually, I've had enough. The sun shines in my eyes as it peeks through the curtains, setting slowly. The pain is duller at the moment, and I slowly turn in the bed. I push myself up, inch by inch, until I'm sitting up. My head is cloudy and my back screams, but I make it. Just sitting up makes me feel dizzy for a moment, but the thought of laying in that bed a moment longer...

No. Not doing it.

I push myself to my feet. The stitches in my stomach pull—I feel it—but they don't break. Sweat pours from me and I almost fall forward, stumbling until I reach the wall and stop myself. I'm still in my trousers, but I'm completely shirtless and can see the bandages wrapped around my abdomen. My next few steps are easier but still painful. I bring myself back to the bed, pulling off the thin blanket at the foot and wrapping it around me. From here, the door feels like it's a million miles away, yet I push myself towards it. I hear voices coming from the other side, they're too muffled to make out but they're close. For a moment, I hesitate. The window is right over there. I could be gone before they even realise. If that window isn't fifty floors up. If the snow has gone. If I can find something to fight off the dead with. If I can even fight the dead...

I push it open.

"Do you think things'll go back to the way they were?"



"I don't know...I don't know if I even want them to."


"Back before...I wasn't who I am now. I don't really like the person I was."

"And now?"

"I like him a lot more. Mostly because you're here with me."

I practically fall down in the chair. My wound shoots pain all the way up my body and I fight the urge to make a sound.

"Honestly!" Kerry, the woman who treated me, sighs. "You save a guy's life, pick metal out of his guts, and he almost goes and spills them all again!" She leans forward in the chair next to me and I pull away instinctively, almost falling off the chair. She's stick thin with blonde hair and wearing a blue hoodie. "Do you feel okay, at least?"

"Amazing," I grumble. I'm sitting at a wooden table, a glass of water in front of me, with a bunch of people sitting around staring at me.

"What even happened to you?" the man from before asks, though his voice makes me feel more like I'm being interrogated. "We find you there, bleeding out, two guys dead at the other end of the room—"

"They attacked me," I say, rubbing my wound. "Pulled their guns. It was self-defence."

"Leave him alone, Jax," another woman tells him as she sets a plate of reheated beans in front of me. Her hair is long and dark and her eyes are a chestnut brown. When she smiles at me, I almost get the feeling that everything will be okay. Almost. "Don't mind him, he's just cautious. I'm Maria"—she nods her head to the other end of the table—"that's Thalia and Kerry's boyfriend, Bruce." Thalia is—very obviously—Maria's daughter. Same hair. Same eyes. Same shape in her face, really. She waves silently at me. Bruce, however, leans forward in his chair and smiles at me widely.

"Didn't think you'd make it, to be honest," he tells me. Should have just left me. Why didn't you leave me?

"Don't say stuff like that!" Kerry snaps, then gestures towards the plate. "Go on. No point in letting it go to waste." I look at the beans, still steaming. Long seconds pass in silence as they look at me expectantly.

"No thanks," I say finally. "I think I'll be on my way in the morning. I don't want to owe you people more than I do already." Kerry exchanges looks with Maria, sitting opposite, and Thalia's eyes glance between me and the others.

"We save your life, pump medicine into your veins, and you don't want to take food because you'll owe us for it?" Jax frowns.

"I'll give you some of my things for the medicine."

"Oh shut the hell up," Maria pushes the plate towards me. "Eat. You don't owe us." I look at the plate, trying to look away but unable to. My stomach pangs with hunger. I don't need it. I've gone longer without eating. I don't need it. For fuck's sake, why didn't you leave me? For a moment, I don't move. But the urge is too strong. Should have left me. Should have left me. Should have left me.

Leave me.

I pick up the fork.