(This is an old post. Wanted to throw it back for y’all again this Thursday!)
Pain shot down through my arm like razor blades slicing into my skin as I scrambled up the ladder to the loft. My feet connected with each rung as quickly as I could manage clinging on with only one hand. Shouts followed my exit, the gritty sound of a punch and cracking bone echoing through the barn.
The musty scent of hay and aging wood caged me when I reached the top, my eyes searching for a spot to be best out of sight.
He’d said to hide if we ran into trouble.
Two quick gunshots fired beneath me as I sprinted to the door on the opposite end; I knew I could survive the jump if they came after me, even with a useless arm hanging at my side. The pickup was parked not even fifty feet away if I could manage to put some space between myself and them and pray they were a bad shot.
Silence clouded all around me, the heavy weight making my pulse quicken in a way I didn’t think was possible at that point. Adrenaline pumped blood through my veins like wildfire, lighting my body ablaze against the rush of my own heartbeat in my ears.
Tentative footsteps approached across the floor of the loft, the eerily soundless ascension of the ladder not easing my fear. There had been two men jump us in the barn and I didn’t know my newly appointed guardian well enough to have a guess at his capabilities. Had it been him who fired the gun? Or had he been the unfortunate receiver of two bullets?
Pulling myself closer to the edge of the loft door, I tried to keep in the shadows at all costs. Timing was everything: if they saw me fast enough, they could block my jump or grab me. The thought of the damage they’d continue to do to my arm made me shake hard enough to let out a small chatter of my teeth.
I heard the person approaching stop at the sound, probably searching out the rattle of my labored breaths. I wished more than anything I hadn’t taken off my jacket before the attack so I could hide my gasps in its heavy folds.
Like a light switch, all the fire snuffed out and ice paralyzed every muscle in my body. I could barely hold myself against the wall as the edges of my vision turned blurry and watery like a TV losing signal.
“God damn it,” I heard a voice growl, only a few feet away. “Where are you?”
I begged my brain to call out at the sound of Micah’s drawl, thanking God and all things holy it was him seeking me out and not one of the brutes who’d come at us, but my lips wouldn’t move. It was like one of those awful nightmares come to life where you’re in trouble and you’re trying to scream but no sound comes out.
“Olly, come out, it’s just me,” he whispered. “We need to get out of here. They could have the place bugged or being watched for all we know.”
His voice fell into a harsher pitch, fiercer as he continued to pace the walls of the loft. My throat felt like it was closing up on itself as I tried to move some part of my body to get his attention. It seemed like it took ages and every bit of strength I had to scrape my boot across the floor.
My head split open from the effort, dots of neon blanketing the darkness and bile rising into my mouth. Micah raced toward me, each footstep going off like a land mine inside my skull.
“No, no, no, no,” he murmured, dropping to his knees and skidding toward me. Blood coated his cracked knuckles and he was covered in dirt. The light played across his face and I saw a busted lip and an already swollen jaw. “Can you talk or move?”
Staring into his face, I begged him to see enough of me in the sunlight peeking through the holes in the roof to register my agony. I’d only known him for two short weeks but a part of me held onto hope in that moment he could figure out the source of my injury. His hands flew to my neck, turning my head one way then the other, searching gently but thoroughly as if he truly did know what he was looking for.
“Help is coming, I swear Olly,” he murmured, continuing his search. “I need you to stay awake. I know it hurts, I know you feel like you’ve got a million tons of pressure on your lungs. Please don’t close your eyes for me though.”
His voice was soft and comforting, completely at odds with the situation I was in but I found myself wanting to lean into his touch even though I couldn’t. My brain couldn’t process somehow he knew what was wrong with me; I didn’t care, I just wanted him to make it stop.
“I know this isn’t fair for me to be touching you like this because I know it has to be painful but I have to find where he stuck you. Listen to me. Olivia, listen to me! What you’re feeling right now is a type of paralysis but as long as you stay conscious, we can help you.”
His hands traveled down to my exposed collar bone and breast bone, in the V-cut of my tshirt, heat flooding from his fingertips through my icy skin. I felt them travel across my ribs to my back, where he held onto me as he laid me down. His eyes searched across my hip bones as he raised my shirt to check along my stomach. Warm breath danced across my face while he hovered above me and I saw him finally spot the raised flesh on the inside of my arm.
Grabbing the cell phone out of his pocket, he dialed out as he gently poked around on the dot of bruised flesh marking where one of the men had jabbed a needle.
“Where the fuck are you? They got her with one of those God damn shots,” he yelled into the phone, running his hands through his hair. “No! I can’t move her. There’s not time!”
Disconnecting the phone, he threw it onto the nearest square bale and yanked his jacket from his shoulders. He laid it over me and stood, pacing around behind me.
“I am going to talk to you because you have to stay awake, Olly,” he rambled. My eyes couldn’t follow him but I felt him sit down in a close proximity to my head. “You asked me last night why I call you that. ‘Olly.’ I told you I’d never answer that but I’ll tell you now because I want you to know.”
Hands slid under my shoulder blades pulling me backward as those words resonated in my brain. Gone was the cold, stoic man I’d been entrusting my life with. Instead, a different Micah now surfaced: normal, open, even kind. Gently, he tugged me into his lap and laid my head beneath his shoulder, his chin resting on my forehead and my legs between his.
“I have known you for four years now. Four years. Not once was I allowed to speak to you or even come in contact with you, Olivia. You were never supposed to know I existed. When I got this detail, I was so fuckin’ pissed. I expected to be watching some politician’s bratty kid. I never expected you,” he said, pulling the jacket tighter around me, the rumble of his voice close to my ear. “I never expected to enjoy watching you become who you are. From a distance, I always felt like such a messed up piece of shit because I cared about everything going on in your life and you didn’t even know me. You could never know me.”
Rubbing his hands down my arms, he brushed warmth along my elbows, taking care to avoid the spot where the needle had struck. I could feel the rattle of his chest on my spine in a lulling, rhythmic way as he talked but I forced myself to stay awake against the shock.
“I finally dealt with it, you know. Your dad was going to have me reassigned because I was so angry all the time. I couldn’t keep a partner for longer than a few months at a time. I was disrespectful to the higher ups. He cornered me one morning and broke the news that he was cutting me loose. I told him straight to his face I would do anything if he would just let me keep taking care of you.
Olivia, I hated you in the beginning. I was so bitter about my first assignment being a babysitting job. I was fresh out of the academy and I was so ready to prove my worth. I thought watching over you was a joke.”
A sigh ripped from his lungs and I realized this was the most I’d heard him talk in the two weeks we’d been on the run.
“I messed up right there though, with your dad. From that moment on, he knew. He knew I cared way too much…but he let me stay. Maybe because he trusted me more for it. Maybe he knew something bad was coming. Hell, I don’t know. I never did understand your old man.”
My heart ached to be able to see his face, to finally see emotion play across his eyes and cheeks. Instead, I settled for hearing emotion in the rise and fall of his voice and tried to focus on breathing more steadily.
“I watched that douche bag DJ dump you on your front porch. I saw you dance in the kitchen while you made scrambled eggs Christmas morning. I know what books you love, how you cry in the driveway after a bad day at work, and how you can’t sleep without a fan on. I know what I must sound like, okay? Some freaky ass stalker,” he mumbled, his hands falling off my arms and onto the floor. “I know you’ll never trust me or understand but I swear, I’ve only ever wanted to keep you safe. It may have been a job in the beginning but now it’s the only thing keeping my head above water most days.”
The distinct beat of helicopter blades approaching sounded in between us, still several minutes away. I felt his body stiffen and he reached again for the cell phone, tapping out a message before leaning back down into me.
“I’ve called you Olly to myself for the past year. I was with you the night you went to see your mother at the hospital. I heard you beg her to keep fighting and I saw you holding her hand between the blankets. You’d lost so much weight from finals and stress and fear. Your hair was long and in a braid down your back. When she passed, my heart completely broke. I just wanted to comfort you. I wanted to be there. I wanted you to see you weren’t alone but I couldn’t. God, I couldn’t. I had to stand there and watch you scream. I had to watch those nurses pull you away from her. I had to watch you. That’s all I’ve ever been able to do. Watch. So, I wanted one thing I could have all to myself about you. Something I could hold onto in my own screwed up way since I couldn’t be the man I wanted to be for you. That’s where Olly came from.”
Tears leaked along my lashes, the feel of them like liquid flames on my cheekbones. Micah rose to a crouch, tucking his arms under my knees and behind my head, lifting me in his arms. The helicopter blasted hay loose all around us, the sound deafening and knives to my head.
“You’re my Olly and now I’m the one begging you to keep fighting,” he shouted, finally looking down into my eyes.
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