The screen door slapped loudly behind him, the sound echoing across the yard and fading into the night, the only sounds remaining were the cadence of the crickets in the long grass, singing to the star-soaked sky. He sank onto the front porch steps, resting his elbows on his knees, angry tears running through his hands. Insomnia wasn’t new to him these past few months and sadly enough, would probably haunt him for more than a few to come.
Not wanting to wake his aunt and uncle and their two young children, Lincoln had crept down the creaky old farmhouse stairs, by-passing the steps he knew to creak the loudest. Hearing his cousin's rooster, Captain, let out a loud crow from the chicken shed, he looked out to the horizon. Dawn would be coming soon, he thought.
Three months ago to the day, his parents and two of their closest friends had been tragically killed by an 18- wheeler, the driver having fallen asleep at the wheel, the truck swerving unexpectedly across the center line straight into his parent's SUV. His parents, who were in the front, died instantly on impact, while their friends were brought to the hospital, both having extensive surgery before both passing away 2 weeks later. His mom’s baby sister took him in immediately, “I wouldn’t have it any other way” she had reassured him at his parents funeral, hugging him tightly, her comforting arms waking him from his grief stricken stupor as the events of days past finally caught up to him.
A blow of cool September wind caressed his hot, tear-streaked cheeks, which he proceeded to quickly wipe away when he heard the sound of pans clanking through the kitchen window behind him. He must have woken up his aunt after all, he groaned regrettably. Not wanting her to witness his state he stood up and strode over to the large, long barn that housed the finest prime racing Thoroughbreds for miles, his boots making a satisfying crunch along the gravel driveway. A moment later his shadow grew long as headlights beamed downed the driveway behind him. Having arrived at the crack of dawn all summer, he didn't even have to look to know who it was and turned his face away as she drove past, his arm sweeping over his face to rid any more evidence of tears before entering the warm barn, goose bumps popping over his skin as it slowly readjusted to the drastic climate change. Lincoln pushed open the sliding doors wide on either side, allowing the horse generated heat to mesh with the cool morning air.
“Wakey, wakey everyone!” he announced softly. A chorus of knickers, grunts, whinnies and the rustling of straw sang back to him as the barn’s inhabitants grudgingly awoke. As he walked down the long aisle, several heads from both sides popped out of the stall doors, nudging his shoulder or nodding at him, manes shaking along with their long muzzles. Lincoln murmured to them softly, petting noses, stroking soft necks, their accepting presence soothing his soul. That all lasted until he reached the last stall, which housed the stable’s prize stallion, Rocky and when upon seeing him reared his huge head, then started busily pacing around his stall, his head suddenly thrusting out, it’s sharp teeth narrowly missing his right shoulder. “Good morning to you too, you old bastard,” he laughed huskily, shaking his head.
The side door squeaked open directly in front of him, stopping him in his tracks, as Laura came bursting through, carrying what looked to be a heavy box of horse vaccinations in her arms, her long, blonde pony tail whipping around her as she kicked the door closed with a flick of her boot-clad heel. Her truck keys jingled as they swung from between her soft, pink lips, her hazel eyes glancing at him briefly, “Morning,” she said through her teeth, then headed directly to the stable office, the door shutting with a resounding bang behind her.
“Morning," he whispered to the closed door. Lincoln watched her for a moment as she bent over and booted up the computer, her toned, jean-clad ass mesmerizing him before he came back to his senses, shaking his head to clear his wandering thoughts. He turned and walked away before she noticed him just standing there gawking and continued with the daily chore routine, her graceful body never far from his thoughts.
Laura was his uncle’s cousin, her parents the close friends who had succumbed to the resulting trauma of the same car crash his parents had died in. Her older brother had inherited her parents’ extensive dairy farm operation and his wife and four kids had moved in permanently to make it more convenient. His uncle told him that he offered her the job for an escape, so he let her take over the general barn operations for the summer till they had to return to school for their last year in September. This was her last week working full time for his uncle and then she would only be working weekends during the school year.
Laura and him had known each other since they were toddlers, their parents having been best friends since high school and so naturally, they’d always get together to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, big holidays… you name it. Which resulted in them being joined at the hip as kids, who had played and acted like siblings, doing stupid shit together, getting into trouble, and spending every available minute together. But as they got older the minutes grew farther and farther apart until finally one day they stopped being friends altogether. So now they were just amiable acquaintances who worked in near silence, with Laura barely acknowledging his existence besides the odd instruction or request.
This of course didn't prevent his thoughts from wandering to her time and time again. Her wide, gorgeous, hazel eyes haunting his thoughts every time she sent a quick look his way. Her luscious, pink lips distracting him from hearing her actual words as she gave him instructions, making him look like an idiot when he had to ask her to repeat what she had said and nearly getting distracted once again, forcing his brain instead to concentrate. Her honey-blonde hair hypnotizing him as it swung back and forth from her long ponytail, wanting to let it run slowly through his fingers, the thought causing him clench his fists in restraint. Her willful but delicate spirit holding him captive, stealing away from his spirit the desire to pursue any other known girl in existence.
Meanwhile, Lincoln continued on with his routine, busily turning out the horses when he heard the soft click of the office door closing behind him. He looked away for a split second to get a glimpse of her, and in that split second, he gave Rocky the perfect opportunity to take a sudden bite at his arm. He cursed, reflexively holding the rope tight so Rocky couldn't bolt, but then felt the lead-rope being wrested from his hands, a flurry of motion happening before him as Laura pushed him back out of the way, wrangling Rocky back into his stall. Once he was safely back inside, she calmly slid the door closed and turned toward him, her eyes instantly fixing on his arm, her face losing all colour. Lincoln followed her gaze and looked down, watching confoundedly as dark red blood streamed from two deep crescent- shaped bites on his forearm, dripping onto the hard concrete floor. Realization set in and the pain slowly filtered through, the adrenaline wearing off as his lips elicited a low curse, clenching his fist closed, his breath forced past his teeth.
Then Laura was there, her hand grasping his opposite arm and leading him through the office door, pushing him down onto the old, cracked leather chair in the corner, she then proceeded to open a large desk drawer, pulling out a size-able first-aid box. She set it on the desk beside him and ripped it open, rolls of gauze tumbling onto the floor, her hands noticeably shaking as she knelt beside him and firmly pressed a large amount of it onto his arm. Laura did all this silently, her entire focus bent on stemming the flow of blood.
They remained like that for a few minutes, with Laura briefly peeking under the gauze every once in a while, her elbow resting slightly on his jean-clad thigh. He allowed his eyes to freely skim over her intent features, her cheeks a heightened pink, her brow adorably furrowed, her lips set in a concerned line. Seemingly satisfied that the blood flow had slowed enough she threw the used gauze into the wastebasket across the room, and hurriedly unraveled some more, replacing it on his arm. Her proficient hands once more maintained pressure, although slightly lessened while all the while he watched her in dazed fascination.
A few moments later she glanced up at him, “Here, put pressure on this.” She reached for his other hand and replaced it under her other one, “I need to find some tape to wrap around it so we can get you to the hospital...” She said distractedly as she shuffled through the kit for a moment before coming out with a role of thick white tape, switching the gauze one last time, but this time wrapping it tightly around, then following the same movements with the tape until she seemed satisfied.
Laura stood up, his focus centering on her belt buckle as she stood in front of him, then making their way up to her flushed face, her eyes assessing him. “Ok, let’s go. Can you stand?” she raised her eyebrow in question.
“Yeah,” he nodded and pushed against the armrests as he stood up, his vision suddenly going black, spots dancing in front of his eyes. He felt himself tilting forward, his hands grasping for Laura’s shoulders to center himself.
“Whoa,” she said, her voice loud in his ear as he felt her hands supporting his biceps, holding him steady. Lincoln closed his eyes tightly, letting the world gradually right itself again, his limbs feeling like jelly. He held on to Laura for dear life as he took a few calming breaths. “You o.k?” he heard her ask.
“Yep.” He opened his eyes, took a deep breath and tried to take a step forward, but Laura held him back.
“Just give it a sec. You don’t need to do the tough guy act with me,” she berated offhandedly, her uncharacteristically glib comment making him smile widely, her tone causing his tense muscles to relax. As he felt the blood flowing steadily through his veins once more, his hands noted her thin shoulders, his fingers loosening their grip. Steady now, Lincoln opened his eyes to find her looking intently into his face, her wide eyes meeting his.
Lincoln let out a short, soft burst of air, stunned at her beauty, and watched her eyes follow the sound to his lips. His heart beat hard in his chest, that one glance being all the permission he needed. He leaned down, letting his lips brush lazily over hers before kissing her fully on the mouth, her lips remarkably soft, feeling her warm breath hitch against his lips, her shoulders jumping almost inconceivably beneath his hands. Her lips haltingly responding to his, hesitant at first as they pressed against his, then becoming increasingly more confident. Lincoln groaned low in his throat and pulled her in closer, his hands cupping her face, her taste sweet as he let his tongue flick across the seam of her lips, opening them wider as he sank his tongue into her warm mouth. He drank it in, every touch, every gasp from her lips, till he felt her hands run down his arms, her fingers hitting the bandage on his forearm and her lips suddenly broke from his.
Laura pushed back until she only held him at arms length, her lips moist and swollen and he watched as her cheeks turned a dewy pink. She shook her head, “Uhm, we should go,” she let go of his arms and tried to step away but he held her there, waiting until she looked into his eyes. Laura finally sighed loudly and looked at him, her expression a mixture of uncertainty, suspicion, and vulnerability, which made him fight the urge to kiss her all over again.
“Where do you think your going?” he asked, giving her a crooked smile, not letting her budge an inch.
Laura squinted her eyes at him, “To the hospital, stupid.” She shrugged out of his grasp, his hands falling to his sides. Name-calling is better than nothing
, he shook his head, a short laugh bursting out.
“Are you coming or what?” Laura stood by the office door, her blonde eyebrow raised.
“Yeah, yeah.” He mumbled lowly, a small smile permanently fixed on his face. He took a cautious step forward and ambled past her through the door, stopping just outside it as he waited for her to grab her truck keys.
“O.k, let’s go then,” she said as she closed the office door behind her, her eyes skimming quickly over him. He walked slightly in front of her, hearing her clear her throat and feeling the tension pouring off of her in waves.
When they got to her truck she stood behind him till he got in and she closed the door, walking around the front and getting in on the driver’s side. As they drove, the silence was deafening, he reached to turn on the radio and found it set on the local country station. Detesting country music he moved to turn the dial.
“Don’t even think about it,” she warned, glimpsing over at him a moment, that familiar raised eyebrow cocked at him. Laura waited until he had moved his hand an acceptable distance from the radio dial before she looked back towards the road. Laura reached over two seconds later and turned the volume up louder, throwing him an impish smile. Lincoln chuckled under his breath, his lips breaking into a wide grin.
The silence became more comfortable after that as they made the trip to town. Laura was never a very talkative person, always keeping her thoughts to herself until she really had to let what she had to say out in the open. He loved that tiny little facet of her character, except for when he really wanted to know what she was thinking- that was when her silence was terribly inconvenient.
After a short ride they reached the small town hospital. They were just outside of it, about to walk through the doors when Laura suddenly halted in front of him. Lincoln collided into her, his hands catching her shoulders. He saw that she was staring at the sliding doors directly in front of them, her face chalk white, her hazel eyes wide, like a deer caught in headlights, her breathing becoming shaky. Laura felt fragile beneath his fingers as he turned her into his arms so she faced away from the doors, making no objections as he held her tight. He felt her hands run timidly across his chest and wrap tightly around his back, grabbing his t-shirt in her fists, her lean body pressing exquisitely against his. Lincoln held her as long as she let him, and when her trembling subsided she pushed against his chest to look up at him, her face still holding a haunted white cast.
“Lincoln, I can’t go in there," she whispered, her voice quaking. Laura stepped out of his arms, her feet stumbling back away from him. He tried reaching for her but she put her hands out, stopping him, “I’m sorry Lincoln… I just- I just can’t….” her voice faded, her arms wrapping tightly around her waist.
“It’s ok, Laura. I can go in alone, it’s no problem,” he assured her. Laura just nodded, her eyes blank. “I can find someone to pick me up when I’m done, so you can go back to the farm, o.k?”
Laura nodded her head one last time, taking a few more backward steps then turning away, her steps slow and measured as she walked back to her truck, the back of her elegant neck bare as she held her chin down. A mysterious wary feeling washed over him as she drove away, his breath catching in his throat, his feet making a few halting steps in an unconscious attempt to stop her. Her truck disappeared around the corner the feeling in his chest remaining as he turned around and walked through the sliding doors of the hospital.
Hospitals had always held a kind of fascination for him, ever since he was young and had broken his arm, he’d been transfixed by everything that made a hospital come alive. But since that grim day, the fascination had now turned into mild panic, like he was entering a scene from his worst nightmare. Now- now he understood why Laura couldn’t even walk though the doors, nevertheless, even bring him here in the first place. He walked past a few gurneys on his way to admittance, a shiver running down his spine as his mind pictured his parents’ bodies laying eerily cold and silent on them.
After a fidgety wait spent twiddling his thumbs and leafing through magazines of which he couldn't seem to recall a word of, the doctor finally called his name and he got his arm taken care of. The doctor sending him home with a few stitches and some antibiotics.
Leaving the hospital behind him he walked a ways down the calm residential street, taking out his cell phone he called to ask his uncle to come pick him up. A few rings later his uncle picked up. After the initial conversation his uncle asked, “Hey, have you heard from Laura? I haven‘t seen her in a bit and her truck isn't here,” his voice nonchalant, as Lincoln heard a roar as his uncle started the engine in the background.
Lincoln felt his heart drop in his chest. It had been a couple hours since she had dropped him off, and she wasn't the type to dawdle around. “She didn't have to pick up something or other, did she?” he asked, feeling his voice go deeper, his heart beginning to pound loudly in his chest.
“No, not as far as I know. She’s not answering her cell, so I was hoping she had texted you or something…” His uncle’s voice trailed off, Lincoln’s heart dropping all the way to his stomach, a cold sweat popping over his skin.
“Uhm, no I haven’t heard from her.” He forced out calmly. “K, so I guess I’ll see you in a bit then.” Lincoln hung up, his thoughts racing, his heart pounding. He started pacing, several times even contemplating making the run back to the farm, texting her every few minutes, but he grew light-headed after a while just from walking back and forth, seeing black spots in front of his eyes once more. Exhausted, Lincoln leaned against the wall of the hospital, the coldness of brick wall seeping through his thin t-shirt, chilling him to the core, the heaviness in his chest only lightening briefly when he spotted his uncle’s truck coming down the road.
Yanking open the truck’s door with his good hand he grabbed the ‘holy-shit’ handle and pulled himself in. “Did you hear from Laura?” he asked as soon as he pulled the door shut.
“Yeah she texted me a minute ago. Something about vaccinations…?” His uncle shook his head casually, looking pretty convinced about this, but Lincoln knew right then that something was up. He remembered her carrying in the box of vaccinations this morning. Maybe she needed to pick up more…? He grasped onto the thought hopefully. He took out his phone and checked it for what seemed like the millionth time to see if there was a message from Laura.
Lincoln cursed under his breath, his phone clenched tightly in his hand. Laura always texted him back in a polite amount of time when he inquired about anything work related, so he knew something was definitely going on for her to ignore him and lie to his uncle like that. Hell, everything about this was out of character for her.
For some reason he mentioned none of his concerns to his uncle and instead listened to him distractedly as he proceeded to assure him that they had gotten everything caught up in the barn and he had nothing to worry about. Lincoln could only nod in response, unable to get a word out, his entire body tense, rigid, a bitter metallic taste rising in the back of his throat. His uncle must have assumed that he was merely tired and let the conversation slip away as he turned up the radio, the music making Lincoln even more anxious as they made the drive home. You shouldn't have let her leave like that you idiot
, he thought regrettably.
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