Monday, June 18, 2007

Second Chances - Part 16

It's on time this week, though a little short. I'll try to make it up to you next week. ;)

Chapter 16

Three days Ryan spent in the hospital recovering from the gunshot wound. Three days of being cooped up in a small room. Three days of rotten food and rotten TV. By the end of the first day, Ryan was up and wandering the room like a caged tiger. He never did well in small spaces.

Ryan’s father came to visit every day, bringing a chess set. They would sit for a time in silence, their minds on the game in front of them. It had been years since he’d done this and actually enjoyed the peace it brought. Even if it were for just an hour.

Sheriff Mulligan visited every day, checking in on his newest deputy and assuring him that he still had a job when he was healed. Ryan wasn’t sure if he would come back, but he kept those thoughts to himself.

Surprisingly, Maria slipped into his room the second day. She was all smiles. Nice change from the worry that had clouded her expression the last time he was around her. Ryan took the moment to lie back in the bed, his knees already weak from his stroll around the room.

“I hear that you are driving the nurses crazy.”

It was hard not to let this woman’s infect you when her beautiful eyes sparkled and thick lips curved into a smile. Ryan allowed himself to return a quick lift of the corners of his own lips. He shrugged his good shoulder, ever cautious of the wounded one.

Maria’s expression sobered and she sat in the chair Ryan’s father had vacated just a half hour before. “Look. I don’t know what happened between you and Charlie. He refuses to talk about that night or why he left here so…” her words dropped off. Ryan didn’t push. He didn’t want to think of the cruel words he’d said to Charlie.

“Anyway. I just wanted to thank you.” She smiled again, but this time it trembled. “Thank you for saving my husband’s life. And for Zack’s life.”

“Maria. I’m not a hero.” Ryan interrupted her before she said more. “Don’t make me out to be Superman. I’m not really a nice person.”

Maria left out a soft breath, not really a sigh, but close to it. “I know. Or at least I know about you. I hear the talk. But I don’t believe it. I look at you and I don’t feel the cold slither down my spine as it did every time I saw Rob. I don’t see the emptiness in the depths of your eyes like Rob.”

“I don’t need a flaw by flaw comparison to my brother,” he bit out.

Maria’s fingers twisted in her lap, clearly nervous. Her gaze never left his. “I’m sorry. You’re right. It’s just…”

“It’s alright, Maria. Just go home and enjoy them.” He turned his head away from her, ending the conversation.

He heard Maria get up and go to the door, her heels clicking on the tile. “I’m really grateful you are here, Ryan. No matter what you think, you are a good person. With a heart of compassion. People just need to give you a chance. To quit comparing.”

Ryan closed his eyes and fought back the tears. He didn’t want to believe he was a good person. He shared blood with Rob. He’d killed people, no matter it was in the line of duty. He’d broken hearts to the point of being unfixable. No, he wasn’t a good person. He just knew his duty.

Maria left him alone. Always alone.

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