even the dead are warm in tucson
a tiny bald-headed boy asked me if I was the Angel of Death.
He told me that
seen me, tall and dark and quiet, in his dreams and he wanted to know if I
take him. There was no fear,
just tired and sad eyes in a too-pale face.
But before I
answer him, an apologetic mother had already whisked him away.
the mouth of babes…
* * * *
the last three days I have been watching her.
And I play my game: trying to place her
and elegant looks into an appropriate setting.
On the first day I thought her a
in her dark wool-crepe suit, deep in conversation with the chief
attending. On the
day, she was a reporter stopping doctors and nurses in the hallways
pressing. But today I know
she is a doctor by the way cerulean eyes barely register
a teenager is wheeled into trauma holding his guts in his split belly with
course I didn't flinch either.
maybe she's a writer.
* * * *
approached me today.
didn't see her coming, my attention fixated on a bickering couple in the
I know you?" A single
perfectly-shaped brow arched in question.
I reply, for it is the truth.
seen you here" a slender hand gestures at the room.
"Watching and writing in your
You look as if you know me."
don't know you. And I watch
everyone." The words
come out colder than I intend.
pauses and gives me the once-over. It's
not sexual but still predatory, dangerous.
shouldn't watch like that. Somebody
might get the wrong idea."
know," I smile, "you are quite paranoid for a doctor."
stiffens. Hard eyes the color
of cold steel eclipse soft blue.
sent you?" She takes a
step closer, her right hand snaking out to grip my forearm
Again, the truth.
lie to me" her left hand flicks open her suit coat and I see the
black protrusion of a
Sauer nestled in a shoulder harness.
"How do you know who I am?"
not. And I don't."
I force myself not to take a step back.
"I'm a writer and I
I just figured. You didn't even flinch when that stab wound came in
lets her suit coat fall back over the gun but she doesn't remove or lessen
nod over my shoulder, indicating a plaque on the back wall.
de Haviland Lowell?"
can call me Gabe."
her tongue rolling over my name with incredulity, "aren't you a
to have a memorial wing named after you?"
Gabe." My eyes lock onto hers. "And technically, I'm named after
the wing. We're
named after my paternal grandmother."
holds my gaze and I'm not sure if I want to cower in fear or kiss her.
And then, she
my arm. Two steps later and
she's brushing past me. I
look down over my
as she passes, the top of her auburn head inches from my lips.
shouldn't stare," she whispers, just loud enough for me to hear,
then she's gone.
* * * *
wait for her now. As the
injured and the dying walk by me like so many flashes of
in my peripheral vision. Sometimes
I think I see her. A flash of
fire, a glimmer of
the light-drinking drape of an Italian suit.
But she doesn't come to me. And
so I, in
do not go seeking her.
* * * *
she comes to me again, there is a pen in my hand and dialogue in my head.
a wake, she settles in the molded plastic seat beside me.
I look up, into old eyes, and
voices are gone.
don't want to disturb." Her
voice is rough and tired.
smile. "No matter now,
they've stopped talking to me."
pale brow crinkles in confusion. I
laugh at her expression.
girl needs to have some secrets."
see," the weariness in her tone smothers me like a cloak. "So
where does a girl with
go to get a decent coffee in this ward?"
nurses' station on 3, of course."
I stand and offer her my hand.
takes it without hesitation.
* * * *
week passes before I see her again. This
time she is standing by the windows, her
frame silhouetted against the streaming sunlight behind her.
She is arguing with a
He is a contradiction: tall and strong like an athlete, but bald
and spectacled like a
school math teacher. She
turns to leave him, but he pulls her into an embrace.
briefly before succumbing and pressing into him. His hands move up to brush
from her eyes.
pull away from each other after a moment.
And by the time she is heading down
hall toward me, the tears are gone.
I ask softly, ashamed to have witnessed the private exchange.
think I need something…" she hesitates, searching my eyes
"…a little more."
know just the place." I
put my hand on the small of her back and lead her out the door.
is a neighborhood pub just two blocks down from the hospital.
At this time
day, our only company besides the service is a wiry white-haired man
the corner. I guide her to a
back booth where the waiter scratches down her order of
(neat) and my tall glass of iced tea.
don't drink." It is a
statement colored with an emotion suspiciously like
any more." I lean back
as the waiter returns and arranges coasters and drinks on the
doesn't go with my meds." I
take a sip from my tea.
pauses, her drink halfway to her lips.
I watch as a question flickers across her eyes
is gone with a blink. She
leans forward and clinks her glass to mine.
medicine." She drains
scotches later and she's moved on to a beer chaser. The tension coiled and radiating
her eyes to her temple now placid. I
watch her, openly and defiantly. We
words since her toast.
Dana." Tapered fingers
with manicured nails pick at the corner of a beer label.
wasn't going to ask."
you wanted to."
incline my head and acquiesce.
one was a freebie. From here
on out, we trade." She
leans forward slightly,
on the table, beer bottle dangling negligently from her fingers.
"What are you
book." I swipe at the
condensation on my glass. "Who
were you talking to in the
man." Blue eyes meet
mine and a challenge is issued.
a love story, actually. A
coming of age story. Epic and
grand. Sad and tragic."
and suddenly I am tired.
see. Boy meets girl.
Boy loses girl."
My eyes telegraph their own challenge.
"Girl meets girl."
fingers tense almost imperceptibly around the longneck bottle.
sigh again. It was too much
to hope for. "Who is the
want to press further, but a recollection of black steel holstered in tan
leather stops me.
I push away from the table and stand.
"Excuse me, I have an appointment." I
my wallet out and throw a Franklin on the table.
doesn't stop me as I leave the bar. She
doesn't even look.
* * * *
really was an appointment. But
it is today, not yesterday. I
find myself standing in
public bathroom of the hospital, flexing my bandaged arm and staring at a
in the mirror. I bend over
and splash more water on my face. Out
of the corner of
eye, I catch a glimpse of burnished red.
But before I can turn fully around, strong
are on the nape of my neck and in my hair pulling me toward shuttering
don't feel the initial contact, my body having gone numb with shock.
But a heartbeat
and the warmth pressed tightly to my lips is spreading like a toxin
Her tongue traces a single drop of water as it tracks down my jaw,
over my chin
along the quickening pulse of my neck.
I groan the pain of the dying as she pulls
you have a place?"
Not far." I turn to go, knowing, yet hoping that she is right behind
loft is just across the street from O'Bannon's although it seemed much
I take her hand as we cross the threshold, stepping back to allow
I am surprised when she pulls my head down for another kiss
me across the room until I feel my couch pressing behind me.
Gabe." I reply and
surrender to her mouth on mine, sure fingers separating the
of my shirt.
we recline on my bed, her cheek resting against the outside swell of my
Her fingers, anointed with the subtle musk of my passion, draw lazy
on my inner thigh.
it a memoir?" Her head
tilts up and teeth close gently over the pulse point at the
of my neck and shoulder.
of it." Desire
rekindling in the pit of my belly. "More
of it, now."
rolls her body back on top of mine. Her
questing hand slides closer to where she is
will you write us?"
try to press my hips into her touch but she moves away, just out of reach.
A wish, my prayer.
me your words first."
close my eyes and will the voices to speak.
"They come together: one the inky
of night, the other the incandescent light of day. They touch but for the briefest
moments and the one is no more. For
the birth of light is the death of dark.
alone is the end of void."
hand stills and the voices fade. My
need is gone and tears well in my eyes at the
I shiver, prickles of sensation racing across my skin.
My nipples harden in
cold." Her hand reaches
across to draw the sheets.
stop her. "I'm always
should live somewhere warmer." Her
head nestles once again against my breast.
Tucson." I murmur into
hair like rusted silk. "Even
the dead are warm in
* * * *
is the morning after the night before and I sit at my breakfast bar with
her coffee (milk,
sugar) in one hand and mine (black) in the other. There is the rush of a toilet flushing,
then the brief hiss of running water from the tap. I feel displaced by the intimacy of
sounds. The bathroom door
opens and she is striding toward me, a vision in
offer the mug to her and when she doesn't take it, I notice the capped
amber canisters in
hand and the question in her eyes.
and Inderal." I offer by
way of explanation. "Commonly
used to treat cirrhosis
Her eyes, indigo with desire just hours before, are now raking over
clinical diagnosis. "How
far has it progressed?"
see." She takes the
lukewarm coffee from my hand. "What
about a transplant?"
she was the font for many but for her, alas, there was none."
I smile at the
etched into her porcelain face. "Forgive
the voices. It means that I
great as a donor, but shit-out-of-luck as a donee."
a doctor. If you need to get
on a list…" It is my lover speaking.
a fleeting moment I see a gossamer thread between us. Spun from her light and
taut and straining with tension, to the dark mooring of my soul.
am Gabrielle de Haviland Lowell. I
don't need a list." The
The doctor replies, my lover gone.
going to be late for visiting hour."
I feel the illness radiating from my liver,
me down. I am heavy and slow.
slides her mug, coffee untouched, onto the bar. Two strides and she is scooping her
from the floor. Three strides
later and she is at the threshold, her hand reaching out
I cannot look at her for she is too bright.
"Who do you visit when you go?"
partner." The sound of
my heart breaking.
she is gone.
* * * *
* * * *
the sequel: On a Clear Day You Can See Tomorrow
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