Episode 18

Episode 18 The aftermath is just beginning

Caitlin ran with Emily, clutching at Callie’s lead as they entered the emergency room. both girls looked ill with panic as they approached the oak reception desk. Everything seemed too bright in here, the walls a piercing white, the floor a marbled effect tile, the strip lighting casting glares on every surface. Emily was trying desperately to stop herself from falling apart. She had never been that close to a shooting before. Growing up in LA she knew it went on but to actually see it first hand shocked Emily to the core. Caitlin clung to Callie’s lead but unlike Emily, she had seen a shooting once before. Nick, her best friend’s boyfriend had got caught up in a gang brawl and ended up dead. She had witnessed it all and Caitlin now felt the familiar sense of dread and the shocking reality of what really went on in the streets.

“Hi,” She croaked to the receptionist as they approached. “My name’s Caitlin Dawson, you just had a shotgun victim admitted. I was just wondering how he was doing, I’m the events organiser for the festival he was performing at.” She trailed off, realising fast that she was babbling out of nerves and sadness.

Poor Battle, he hadn’t deserved this, had he? Her eyes strained against the blindness, wishing she could see the woman’s face.

“Yes,” The woman smiled gently as Emily looked up, wiping a fugitive tear from her cheek. When could she fall apart? When wouldn’t it matter that she was a complete wreck? “unfortunately, if you’re not family I cannot disclose any information.” Caitlin nodded, knowing this was coming. “Then I’ll wait,” She said gently and pulled Emily from the desk. “come on, we’ll have to wait and see .” “Can’t we just go home?” Emily’s insides were tossing around ready to cascade from her possession at any moment. Why were they sticking around? They didn’t know him. Why should they care? “No, not yet,” Caitlin sighed. “I wanna know how he’s doing. I won’t be able to rest until I know he’s going to live.” “This isn’t your fault,” Emily’s eye brows shot up in clarification. Caitlin blamed herself for Battle’s shooting. “When you’re an events organiser, anything that goes wrong is your fault,” Caitlin sighed sadly, pushing back the onflow of angry tears. In truth, this wasn’t her fault. All the checks were in place to ensure a situation like this didn’t happen. So either someone was slacking on their job or someone in the staff had allowed this to happen. Shaking her head furiously, trying to rid herself of the guilt, she settled into the chair for a long wait ahead. And it didn’t matter that tis wasn’t in her job description, she had liked Battle, enjoyed talking to him, this shouldn’t have happened to him. Not to him.

Jay leaned against his car door as he allowed a long sigh to escape from his lungs. The air around him burned hot in the middle of the summer’s day. He could hear kids playing all around the block, music bumping mindlessly from a few cars as care free teenagers lolled on the side walk. He glanced at his grandmother’s house, debating whether he should enter. His grandmother was a very observant woman and would pick up on his mood instantly. Battle had been shot and Jay suspected it was gang related. He couldn’t prove it of course but like everything in his life, a hunch was all he needed. And for it to happen around the one thing in his life he was coming to care about deeply scared him. A shooting of a rapper in an LA park was too far away from the hood. What was going on? He buried his face in his hands and sighed heavily. Caitlin had run to his side and Jay couldn’t stop her. Not because of her position but she would have to know everything. She knew he was in a gang but she had never asked any more than that. Battle would know, one look at Jay and he would instantly become a suspect so Jay had to let the girl he was caring about run toward danger.

“To save your fucking own ass!” Jay growled to himself through gritted teeth. “If you cared about her, that wouldn’t matter! Fuck!” He bowed his head in his hands and frowned intensely. What was he going to do now?

“Jay?” his grandmother’s voice bellowed from the front porch. “You want a drink or something? It’s mighty hot out here today.” He looked up and as their gazes met, Rose carter knew her grandson was in trouble.

He strolled slowly and deliberately toward the house, hands shoved into his jeans pocket as he passed her she growled, “What did you do?” “nothin’, big mama, but that won’t make a difference now.” Her greying eyebrows knitted together in confusion. “What do you mean?” She asked closing the door behind them both turning her squat frame toward him with a questioning look upon her ageing face. “Well, someone was shot and if I had made my presence known, I would have been a suspect,” He pointed his finger toward his waist where his red rag hung in it’s usual hoop on his jeans. shaking her head disapprovingly, Rose turned toward the kitchen realising what ever her grandson was involved in, she would prefer the ignorance. She knew that’s not what people expected of her but it was all she could do. She was 72 years old now and it was time she stopped trying to get involved in young people’s business so she went to work in the kitchen, singing her old songs and making soul food. the only things in the world that made any sense to her.

JC took a seat on the bottom stair and leaned his face into his hands, staring at the back of their front door, expecting someone to knock for him. The police? why would they? one examination of his gun would soon solve any questions of his involvement so why did he feel so damn guilty? What was on his conscience? but he knew that answer. it was in the shape of a twenty-five year old events organiser with a beautiful face and long blonde wavy hair, eyes of a blue that he couldn’t describe. They changed from light, baby, violet, and ocean blue all of the time. He couldn’t give the colour of her beautiful eyes a name.

His phone rang at that moment and he looked at the caller ID, his stomach sinking. It was Caitlin. “Hello?” He mumbled into the cell phone, his throat thick with emotion. “Hey, JC, how are you? Did you and Cory get home OK?” She sounded tired but concerned about him. “I did, not sure about Cory,” He confessed, balling his hands into fists. How could she waste her energy on him? He didn’t deserve her concern. “Where’s Cory?” She asked, her voice a pitch higher than before. “I guess he went home too,” JC replied, hating this conversation. He heard his grandmother singing increase in volume and tempo to prevent her from listening in on his conversation. “You guys didn’t go home together? Where are you, JC?” She asked in complete hysteria now. “I’m at home in the cPT, I’m fine Caitlin,” He wiped his face free from perspiration. “Are you OK?” “I’m fine, I’m at the hospital,” She told him and a plummeting sensation filled his stomach. “Why?” He asked, the gangster in him boiling with anger. Jealousy wasn’t a good characteristic to have, that he knew, but he couldn’t help the agony that tore through his body at the thought of her being at another man’s hospital bedside.

“I had to check battle was OK,” She replied, sounding rather perplex by his sudden aggression. “JC, what is up with you?” Her voice trailed into confusion and bemusement at his sudden change in attitude toward her. He had never been so mysterious with her. She had seen his aggression before but not to this extent. Silence reigned over their phone call and Caitlin finally broke the stubborn silence. “I’ll call you when i get home,” She said gently. He nodded, his knuckles breaking into lighter patches upon his chocolate coloured skin. He clicked off his phone and stuffed it roughly into his pocket. catching a glimpse of his reflection, he was angered to see red rings around his light brown eyes. Standing up and stomping up the stairs, slamming his bedroom door behind him, JC vowed she would never break him.

Emily pulled Caitlin to her feet as the clock displayed it was ten minutes past eight PM. “What?” Caitlin had been in a dream world until Emily had broke into her reverie. “We are going home!” Emily growled, unable to contain the need to fall apart privately for much anger. “You go if you like, I’ll catch a ride,” Caitlin said gruffly. “No, Caitlin!” Emily snapped. “You have Callie to think about. she needs her dinner and this has been a stressful day for her too! Now let’s go!” Emily pulled Caitlin toward the exit. “Wait,” A voice called from behind them. “Is one of you Miss Dawson?” “That’s me,” Caitlin’s ocean coloured eyes clouded with instant worry. “What’s happened?” She begged of the young African-American nurse. “He’s awake, he’s asking for you.” Caitlin’s eyebrows shot up in confusion. Glancing at Emily, and patting Callie apologetically, she steered her golden friend and Emily behind the nurse toward Battle’s room.

Battle was propped up with some pillows in a crisp white hospital room as the three women entered. smiling weakly, he beckoned Caitlin over in a croaky voice. “I just wanted to thank you, Miss dawson,” He smiled with as much energy as he could muster, after all she had been there within minutes. “You don’t have to thank me at all,” Caitlin smiled, touching his hand. “I’m just glad you’re going to be OK.” Her eyes danced with relief and joy at the sound of his voice. “Thanks to you,” He smiled warmly, holding her small hand in his huge one. “Battle, if my security had done their job correctly, this wouldn’t have happened,” He nodded distractedly at those words. It hadn’t been their fault. He knew who had shot him and they were going to pay but she didn’t need to know all of those details. “Don’t be too hard on your men, Miss Dawson,” He continued, feeling an overwhelming urge to relieve her of any guilt. She was too beautiful for guilt. He took her hand and kissed it. “Thank you, for all that you did do! I had fun!” She smiled and patted his hand with a friendly touch. “I better get Callie home, but I am so glad you are doing good. Take Care!” And with a smile, she and Emily left the hospital room and Battle in his own thoughts.

As the door clicked shut, battle realised so much within seconds. He was more grateful of the fact he’d met Caitlin dawson rather than her allegedly saving his life. She had been there, he knew that, but she had just been there. But why? Why had she waited around at the hospital? Why had she run to his side that day? These were all questions he slowly began to answer for himself over the coming hours.

Cory was asleep on the couch as Emily and Caitlin entered their house. Lexie was sitting, arms folded on the chair with a look of sheer annoyance on her pale face. “Why didn’t you let me know what was going on?” She berated them both. “Can the lectures wait until tomorrow?” Caitlin asked with a sigh. “I need to call my boss, call Jc and sleep. Not to mention give Callie her dinner. so if you don’t mind, Alexia, lectures will have to wait until the morning, along with any drama. I have had enough drama to last me a life time.” And with one quick movement, Caitlin had put the dog’s food in her pink bowl, placed it on the floor, told callie to go get it, and retreated to her room. She only returned to check on calli and take the blond dog with her to bed.

Emily just glowered at Alexia and mumbled something about a shower. She remained in the bathroom for a super long time just allowing the warm water to cascade over her body, trying to wash away the bad memories. Life was just getting on track and here she was amidst confusion again.

Caitlin lay in her bed, feeling the onset of memories flood her brain. not just of those of recent events but things she had been apart of a long time ago. she felt for her cell phone and dialled JC’s number again. He hadn’t been answering. She decided to leave a voice mail this time and attempt some sleep. “JC, it’s Caitlin. I’ve been trying to reach you. I kinda needed to see you. but I’m guessing you’re busy so I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Good night.” And she was aware of the sullen tone in her voice as she replaced her cell phone on the bedside table wishing with all of her heart JC was lying beside her. Instead she called the blonde dog up on to the bed and snuggled with her best friend, forcing back the tears of fear.

Emily was sitting in Cory’s lap and listening to his account of what had happened. “So he just walked?” Emily felt the bubble of anger rise in her chest. “he just up and left?” Her eyes normally a calming glow were alive with fiery anger as she listened to Cory’s condemnation of JC. “He said he had to leave,” Cory croaked with sleepiness. “I thought it was a bit weird.” “Weird, yes, so a little sign of trouble and he ups and leaves? Caitlin’s better off out of it, for real!” She stomped into the kitchen to get some water. “Maybe it was one of his friends,” Lexie muttered from her chair and magazine. “What?” Cory and Emily chimed together. “Well, he’s in a gang right? they’re speculating gang activity so maybe he knew the shooter and was the getaway driver.” “No,” Cory raised his eye brows in shock. “JC ain’t like that!” “How do we know what he’s like, he’s a virtual stranger to us.” Lexie reasoned and Emily was nodding now in agreement. Cory stood and folded the newspaper he had been reading. “Where you going?” Emily asked quietly, still in shock about Alexia’s speculation. “Home, I’m tired,” He hugged her and kissed her gently on the lips and made a quick exit. Cory was never comfortable with gossip or speculations. Had JC meant harm on that guy? He guessed he’d never know.

A dark shadow moved down the side walk as the street lights dimmed and the california day was dawning. A baseball bat in hand, a face covered, a rag of blood tied to the jeans, a lift from the wrist and a slamming down on a blue car parked in a drive way. Glass shattered and footsteps pounded softly as voices awoke from within the darkened house.

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