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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Todd Manning, Enigma Chapter 13

Chapter 13

         He was walking in the park. It was muggy out. It was over and he felt so alone. He had been searching for quite a while and had given up hope Then he came upon her and it looked like she had been crying. He couldn’t believe his eyes. She was really quite beautiful all in white. “My God, You’re okay!”

         She looked up. There were tears in her eyes. “Oh, I hoped you would come. No, I’m not okay. How could you do this to me?” She swiveled on the park bench turning away from him.

        “Whoa, what did I do?” He hated when she was upset with him. He wanted to go to her. He needed to feel her close to him, but something was stopping him.

         “You went off and left me again. I don’t understand why you do that? I thought you loved me?”

           “But I do. Don’t you see, I’m not good for you. You got hurt because of me. I never wanted you to get hurt.” Why was she doing this to him? She had ended up in the line of fire because of him. Couldn’t she see that?

              He was being deliberately obtuse. She turned back to him, “Do you even hear yourself? You don’t want me to get hurt, so you leave, but that is what hurts me the most. I fell in love with you, all of you, the good and the bad. I knew what I was getting into. When are you going to realize I need you desperately? You complete me.”

             Unable to stop himself, he sat down next to her on the bench. The park was immaculate. He had never seen it so clean. It was strange and peaceful. There was something about her that always made him feel calm. He had been in such turmoil when he thought she was lost to him and now sitting next to her suddenly filled him with such joy. He looked into her eyes still sparkling with tears. “I’m not worth it, you know. I destroy everyone I love. Without me, you can be happy and find someone who’ll take care of you instead of hurt you.”

            She reached and touched his face, “It doesn’t work that way for me. I can’t love them the way I love you and it always ends. You’re the only man I want. If I can’t have you, I might as well die.”

            The alarms were going off. “We’re losing him! Raise it to 200. Clear...” the monitor showed a flat line. “Again!”

            He gripped her arms. “Don’t you ever say that. You have to keep living. If you were to die it would be all over for me. I can live with this emptiness as long as I know you’re around.” He hugged her to him, afraid she would get up and leave before he could make her understand.

           She had gotten the response she wanted and she nestled deeper into his arms. “Your life doesn’t need to be empty. Just stay with me and we’ll both be complete. I love you, Todd, totally and always. Don’t leave me. I’m here, you just need to come take me.” She put her hand over his heart and he felt a warmth spread through him. She stood up to leave but held out her hand. “Come on, it’s time to go.”

          “Put it at 250... Clear!...” Still no response.

          “I don’t understand. Go where?”

            “Don’t worry. It’s where you want to go, I promise you. You said you wanted what was best for me. Come with me.”

            He wanted that warmth, he needed it to exist. He reached for her hand and the warmth surged through him, enveloping him in her love.

            They were standing in a clearing. Their home stood beautifully bathed in a golden sunrise. “You built that for me. Can you feel the love that radiates from it? You poured your love for me into it. I felt it the first moment I saw it. It’s a strong place built by a strong man. You always underestimate your worth. You’re a survivor and I know the real man you hide from the world. You don’t have to hide from me. Love is waiting for us through those doors. Will you come home and let me prove it to you “ She smiled at him pulling him toward their home.

          He took steps to follow her, it was all he ever really wanted, her and a home.
“Raise it to 300.     Clear!....” suddenly they heard a beat. “Okay, we got him back.” The doctor checked the stats. The heartbeat was getting stronger, but they knew it was touch and go with him. “Stay with him, I’ll talk to his family.” The doctor looked at his patient. The man was a bloody miracle. By rights, he should have been dead several times over but for some reason, he refused to give up. The doctor had been sure he was going to have to finally give his family some bad news, but the man had surprised them all again.

          They were waiting anxiously as he came out the door. “We got him back. I know all of you want to go into him, but I’m going to keep it to only two at a time. His condition is still critical and we aren’t sure what brought on this latest episode.”

          The nurse was trying to make her patient more comfortable when she noticed the tears. “Mr. Lord, can you hear me?”

         Everything was so foggy. He had taken Blair’s hand and then she had disappeared. Try as he might, he couldn’t find her. Heartbroken, the tears began to fall. In the distance, he heard a voice. They seemed to be trying to reach someone. He didn’t think anyone else was around. Maybe if he could find that voice, they would help him find Blair. He headed in the direction of the voice.The monitors showed a very steady heartbeat, but his pulse was increasing, “Mr. Lord?”

         He moved his head. The nurse went to the door. “Doctor, I think he might be coming around.”

         The doctor looked over at the group. He met her eyes and said. “Come with me.” His eyes swept the rest of the group, “All of you. If he is coming around, seeing all of you might be just what he needs.”

        They followed him into the room and the Doctor went up to his patient. There were definite signs he was waking up. “Mr. Lord can you hear me? Open your eyes,” his head again moved and the doctor looked at the woman standing beside him. “Talk to him. He might respond to your voice.”

         “Hey, it’s time you woke up. I think you’ve had a long enough nap. Don’t leave me hanging here. Open your beautiful eyes.”

          The fog was lifting. Suddenly he heard it all play out in front of him. Daimler’s voice mocking him, and Blair’s declaration of love as she was taken away. He recalled getting away from Daimler and struggling to reach the gangplank knowing that John could help him rescue Blair and the rest of her family. The last thing he remembered, as the bullets ripped through him, was that Blair was gone. How could he be hearing her voice? It sounded heavenly. That had to be it. Had God actually let him into heaven? “Who are you kidding Manning? The devil is playing tricks on you. You’re dead and the devil is tormenting you.”

          “You idiot. You’re not dead.”


           “Damn straight! Do you know how long we’ve been trying to reach you? Never mind. Open your eyes, stupid. You’re keeping her waiting.”


           “Who do you think? Come on, if you don’t have the nerve, let me out.”

           "Shut up, Pete” Todd struggled to open his eyes. God, they felt so heavy. Slowly the light filtered in, he marveled at how bright it was. Then his eyes began making out some shapes but only one stood out. As he looked, the image became sharper and he saw her standing above him. Her emerald eyes were shining with tears. He reached up to make sure she was real.

           Blair’s heart soared as his eyes opened. She grabbed his hand and began kissing it and sobbing for joy at the same time.

          “Blair?” it only came out a whisper but he couldn’t take his eyes off her. He was afraid if he looked away she would disappear again.

           “It’s alright, don’t talk, save your strength. It’s me, I’m fine, we’re all fine.” She knew what was running through his mind and she wanted to put it at ease. “You’ve been gone so long. I was beginning to think you didn’t want me anymore.”

          Todd gripped her hand at those words, his eyes filling with tears again. “Never. Need you always.” He could barely get the words out. He didn’t know how she had gotten free from Daimler’s men, and it didn’t really matter. He hadn’t lost her, that was the most important thing. Holding tight to her hand, he took the chance to look away. He could see, he couldn’t believe it. There were actual colors and shapes and faces. Starr and Jack, Addie and Kym, C.J. and the kids; it was unbelievable. They were there for him.

           Vicki had tried so many times to make him feel like part of the family, but he had never been comfortable except with her and Jess. To the rest of her family, he was the black sheep they didn’t really want to acknowledge. He had been okay with that. but he had admitted to himself the envy he felt for those who were welcomed. None of that mattered anymore.

          His eyes came back Blair. “God, I love you.” His breath caught as she leaned and kissed him. He closed his eyes feeling the softness of her lips on his, his tongue escaped to part them, eagerly seeking to take all she was offering.

         “Mrs. Lord, I need to check him out.”

          His eyes flew open in a panic. “No! Don’t go!” he was almost crushing Blair’s hand.

          “Mr. Lord, you need to calm down. I won’t make her leave. I just need her to give me some room.” The doctor watched as Blair maneuvered around the head of the bed carefully, not letting go of her husband’s hand. Then he began his examination. After a few minutes, he smiled and said, “Everything is looking good. Just keep him quiet. I really would like him to have as little excitement as possible. I urge you all to keep your visit short.” The doctor and the nurse took their leave and the family moved to gather around Todd’s bed.

          They all started talking at once, and Todd just stared. He didn’t know who to answer first or even what to answer. His gaze fell on Addie and Kym. “How?”

           Blair saw who he was looking at and answered. “John, that’s how. He called for backup when you boarded the ship and then he saw Sid and his cohorts take us aboard. John and his men were ready for them when they brought us out and quickly turned the tables on them. We were watching from the dock when John yelled at you. Sid is the one who shot you. He’s dead.”

         “Gregor?” Todd looked at her, he needed to know if they caught him.

          She shook her head. “He disappeared.”

          Todd could feel a weight pressing down on him, his whole body ached. His chest felt like it had when Sid and company had gotten through with him. He couldn’t stop the wince as he moved to get a better view of everyone. Gregor was still out there somewhere and there was no telling when he might enter their lives again. But he wouldn’t worry about the man now. Starr had moved up close to the other side of him after the Doctor had left. “Hi Shorty, how’s Hope?”

         Starr smiled tremulously and touched her dad’s face. “She’s fine and misses her dragon. I’m so glad you’re finally awake. Do you think you can stay out of trouble for the rest of the year? You’re giving me gray hairs.”

        He smiled, she had always been able to wrap him around her finger. He certainly couldn’t have her turning gray before her time. “Hey, I’ll try but I’m not making promises.” He looked over at Jack who was watching him rather seriously. “Jack, are you okay?”  

        Jack gulped and nodded hastily, then ran out of the room. Todd frowned but didn’t say anything.

       “I’ll go get him, Dad,” said Starr.

        “No, let him go. I understand." he paused, catching his breath "So dry." Starr quickly got some water and held the straw as her father drank. "Thank you. You should go, too. You’ve got Hope, she needs you." he rested a moment "I’m going to be fine. Not going anywhere.”

         Starr frowned but gave him a quick kiss and promised to return with Hope.

         Todd watched her leave then looked back over at Addie and Kym. “I’m sorry, I bungled... You both got caught. I hope you’ll forgive me." he had to stop again, it was so tiring just talking. "I thought I could handle Gregor. I was wrong. I won’t underestimate him again.”

        Addie moved closer and gave him a kiss. “You did nothing wrong. Just get better, Blair needs you.” Then she walked to Blair, gave her a hug and exited the room.

       Kym joined Addy and looked at her brother-in-law. “She’s right, you know. All you’ve done since I met you, is try to help me. I was a stranger and you still came to my aid. Because of you, I’m free from Father, and I’ve met my half-sister. I’ve got a family and it’s all your doing. You take it easy and get better, I’m glad you’re back in the land of the living.”

       As Kym left, Todd wondered what was in store for all of them now. Suddenly he found himself being hugged senseless by Lily. “Oh gosh, I’m so glad you’re awake. It‘s been so long. Daddy kept telling me you would wake up but you sure took your time. We came to see you and took turns with everyone. I got a chance to have a long talk with Kym and we’re working on our issues together. Kym’s been staying at the orchard with us. It’s great. She’s discovering life on a farm is different, but she tells us she’s enjoying the adventure.” She paused to catch her breath.

         Todd smiled and said before she could start up again. “Thank you for coming and keeping watch. Thank you, too, for my kiss.”

         Lily’s eyes widened in surprise. “You felt that!’

        “I did. I’m sorry, I couldn't tell you at the time.” Lily responded to his words by giving him another quick kiss. Todd met his nephew’s eyes. “C.J. it means a lot... that you’ve been here.”

        “Best buds forever remember?” C.J. smiled at his uncle, his thoughts went to another time. “Ali, Ali out. You saved me, and you’re a hero. Best friends forever, you’ll never forget....”

        “I’ll never forget. C.J.” Todd found himself back in that room watching his little buddy leave and holding superhero. C.J. and Sarah had given him his life back, he would always owe them.

         Chase tugged at Todd’s hospital gown. “Hey, don’t forget me. I’ve been here too. I’m happy you’re back, Ali. Everyone has been pretty down because you slept so long. How did you do that? I hate staying in bed all day. You can’t have any fun if you’re asleep.”

          Todd laughed and even though it hurt he felt better. “You know what, Chase, you’re right. It’s so much easier. I think I’ll try and stay awake more....I’ve had plenty of sleep, don’t you agree?”

         “You sure have, you been asleep for over a month.”

           Todd looked in shock at Blair. “I’ve been out for a month?”

            Blair nodded.

          “Was Samuel in charge?”

           “No Todd, all of you were out. You’ve been in a coma since they brought you out of surgery. Do you remember anything about that time?”

          Todd wracked his brain. He felt a certain uneasiness because he sensed something had occurred while he was out, but whatever happened remained elusive. He wasn’t sure he wanted to search for it either. “There’s nothing I can remember, just a strange feeling." he met her eyes. God, no wonder I'm so weak. "I don’t want to go there, I awake now and I’m determined to stay awake." Todd looked back at Chase. "Chase, thank you for coming with your sister and father... hopefully I'll be up for a visit to the farm soon.”

          “You bet Ali. See you.” The boy gave Todd a thumbs up and grabbed his sister. “Come on Lily. Dad, hurry up.”

          “I’ll be right there Chase.” C.J. turned back to Todd and Blair. “You do what the doctors tell you and we’ll be back here to see you later. It’s great to see you awake. Take care of him, Blair,” and with that, he left to go after his children.

        Blair looked at Todd, he was pale from earlier but his eyes were clear and she wanted to drown in them. She sat down next to him on the bed. ”It was a shock wasn’t it, finding out how long you were gone from us. Don’t let it bother you. The doctor said you were looking good. It’s hard to imagine but just a short while ago, they were trying to restart your heart.” She put her hand on his heart, feeling it beating underneath.

         Todd covered her hand with his. Feeling her warmth radiating from her, an image of another moment flashed through his mind. She had been crying on the park bench and told him she wanted to die if he wouldn’t stay. She had touched him and he had felt such warmth, but then lost her. No! His heart lurched, no more losses. “Don’t ever leave me, Blair, I can’t . . .” his voice cracked.

         She frowned at his choice of words. “I promise to be here always. I’m through running away.” Blair stayed close and they quietly talked. She told him more about John’s rescue of her and the others.

         Her voice trailed off mid-story and Todd looked at Blair. She was staring into space. “Blair, what is it”

          She refocused on him and gave him a hug suddenly.

          "Hey what’s the matter?”

          She was laying against him clutching him tightly. “Todd, when I heard John yell, I looked up and watched those bullets hit you. Everything slowed down, it was like, a movie or something. You tumbled down the gangplank and laid there broken and bleeding. I couldn’t stop the blood. You were so pale and quiet. John kept telling me you were alive, and I could only hold you. Things became a blur of sirens and feeling you turning cold in my arms” Todd wrapped his arms around her shivering body as she recalled the night. “The doctors say you’re a miracle once again. I thank God every night because I swear you really have nine lives. You must have been a cat in your other existence. Or somebody upstairs likes you more than you realize.” she relaxed in his embrace, listening to his heartbeat.

           He hugged her in response, knowing how close he had once again come to losing it all. Maybe she was right. Someone upstairs kept giving him these second chances. How many more were they going to give him? He sure as hell wasn’t going to try to find that out anytime soon. Todd felt sleep overtaking him and although he tried to fight it, he lost and drifted off with Blair lying in his arms.

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