NEW PATHS I
By K. Stoley
The sun was warm on her face as she stared at the water lapping against the dock. Her sunglasses reflected the glare that sparkled off the rippling azure waters. Throughout the afternoon, patrons looked over at this figure with mild curiosity but after awhile moved on to their own private thoughts.
At first glance, they saw a casually dressed woman with dark hair and a smooth complexion. If one looked beyond her jeans and white T-shirt, they would see that Dr. Taylor Morgan was a striking woman who exuded style and class. Behind the glasses, they would have seen a blue so deep and intense that you could lose yourself in it but unguarded, they would have also seen an emptiness that came from deep within.
She sat alone in silent contemplation, unaware of her surroundings as the shifting rays of the sun streaked across the sky and descended into the waning hours of another day. A boat roared past and startled her out of her revere. She looked around to the slowly setting sun and she chided herself, 'Whoa, Tay, this daydreaming is getting outta hand.' Taylor realized that she had been so deep in thought she hadn't even heard the waitress bring her another beer. She lifted the dripping glass to her lips and let the cold liquid roll down her throat. As she did, an uneasy feeling came over her as though she was being watched. Slowly, without moving her head, she let her hooded eyes scan the restaurant patio and adjacent parking lot.
A movement in the corner of the parking lot caught her eye and she noticed someone sitting in the passenger seat of a black coupe. 'Nice car,' she thought as her eyes assessed the pricey automobile. Her eyes traveled along until she was confronted with the cause of her uneasiness. There sitting in the passenger seat was a face staring back at her. She was glad that she had her sunglasses on and could survey the scene unnoticed by the occupant. From this spot, she had a perfect view of an angelic face framed by reddish blond hair. Taylor came to a jarring halt when she locked onto eyes of the deepest emerald green she had ever seen. They reminded her of the ocean but there was more; she hadn't seen eyes so full of sadness since well...she didn't want to go back that far. There was such a longing in them that touched Taylor down to her very soul. It was as if in that brief moment the world had stopped and she was sure she could hear the other woman breathing.
A door slammed and they both jumped when a man exited the building and got behind the wheel of the car. The spell broken, the woman turned her head forward as the car sped away. Taylor realized she was still holding her breath and let it out forcefully. Shaking her head she said to herself, 'Whew, what was that all about? Taylor, you’re letting your daydreaming become reality...you don't want to go there girl!' Taylor finished her beer and picked up her purse to pay the check. As she walked into the parking lot, she looked at the building where the car had been parked. There was nothing special about it, just typical waterfront storage. Shaking her head, Taylor got into her convertible and headed down the coast.
The wind whipping her long black hair felt good as the last rays of the day's sun warmed her tired body. It had been a hectic week of tying up loose ends, packing, and finally moving everything to her new home. She was looking forward to the long weekend ahead before she reported to her new assignment. Her training and certification in emergency medicine wasn't exactly what one would expect to find in a family practice atmosphere, but it was a useful skill to have when you are miles away from the nearest trauma center. That was one of the reasons she had been chosen for this position. Taylor knew she needed a change. Her life wasn't working where she was and the whole reason she had gone into medicine hadn't been enough to keep her satisfied. The problem was that Taylor just wasn't sure what she wanted anymore so when this job was offered, she felt strangely compelled to grab it as though it was her only lifeline. In the end, the decision to leave the rat race of a big city medical practice in favor of a small town clinic by the ocean, was an easy one to make.
Still musing, she pulled into her drive and hit the remote for the garage door. This weekend she planned on nothing more then settling in to her new condo and relaxing. The first thing Taylor did was turn on the stereo and open the blinds wide to enjoy the sunset vista. Grinning, she thought, 'Where else but in a small town can you afford an ocean view?' Turning, the grin changed to a grimace as she surveyed the mountain of boxes yet to unpack. 'Well...no time like the present to get started,' she commented and proceeded to roll up her sleeves.
Her first month on the job now behind her, things were starting to fall into a comfortable pattern. Taylor smiled as she signed her last chart of the day and placed it back in the file bin. If there was one thing she had learned quickly, it was that Barbara liked everything neat and orderly. Barbara served as nurse, secretary, and file clerk all rolled into one and took her job seriously. She came with the practice when Dr. Hastin took over ten years ago and has been a fixture ever since.
Just as Taylor thought of the no nonsense older woman, she heard her call from behind, "Dr. Morgan, wait. I need to talk to you before you leave."
'Now what?,' thought Taylor, 'All I want is to go home, put my feet up, and watch the sunset with a nice bottle of Merlot.' Instead Dr. Morgan plastered a smile on her face and turned to the voice,
"Yes, Barbara. What's up?"
Barbara hung up the phone and came out of her office. "Dr. Hastin just called, he is tied up in Miami and won't be able to get back until late tonight. He wants you to take his place on call tonight," Barbara stopped and waited for her to respond.
Taylor tried to keep her smile in place to cheerfully reply, "Sure, no problem. I'll keep my pager on and the service knows how to reach me." ‘It's not like I have any choice, now do I?’ she thought. ‘Low man, or rather woman, on the totem pole gets nailed again.’
She had been on call for the last two weeks and had been looking forward to an uninterrupted night of sleep. You wouldn't think that a quiet coastal hamlet could harbor so many hypochondriacs. She averaged three calls a night from patients with complaints from sunburn to indigestion they were sure were heart attacks in the making.
The temperature and humidity had been high today and after Taylor had made several stops, she gratefully arrived home. She forced herself to eat something and decided to jump into the shower to cool off. No sooner had she gotten out of the shower then the telephone rang.
As expected, it was the service calling her regarding a patient; a possible broken arm from an accident. Taylor looked at the clock and mumbled, "Geez, only 10 p.m." and told the service to have them meet her at the clinic, she would be there in 20 minutes. She hurriedly dressed and headed out into the night.
Taylor reached the clinic before the patient and proceeded to set-up what she thought she would need. She heard the back door open and was taken aback by what she saw.
Dr. Morgan didn't expect what was to be a simple broken arm to be carried in limp and unconscious. The man holding the unconscious form was so big that she almost mistook the woman for a child until he placed her on the gurney that Taylor indicated. He kept a possessive hold on the woman's arm, not out of actual concern, but as if conveying a message of ownership; this woman was his property, make no mistake about that.
He struck an imposing figure and would have been considered handsome with his dark looks and muscular physique, if it weren't for his eyes. He reminded her of a killer shark, strong, lean, and predatory with eyes like two lifeless pools of infinite black. He looked boldly through those dead eyes at the doctor and simply stated, "See what you can do for her, Doc." Taylor had that uncomfortable deja vu feeling and knew that this was more than a simple accident.
‘Great!,’ she thought, ‘Just what I need a domestic case with no back up help available.’ Taylor closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. She had seen this all before and not only as a doctor. She snapped open her eyes and fixed their blue piercing orbs directly on the dark brooding hulk.
"What happened?" she asked, fully believing he would not tell the truth.
The man, momentarily startled at the hostility he saw, looked directly back at her and shrugged, "She tripped on the deck and fell down the stairs." His lips formed a smile but his eyes held their dark predatory stare, "I tried to catch her but I couldn't get to her quick enough."
Taylor wasn't sure what about him she didn't like most, his nonchalant attitude about the woman or the way he tried to intimidate her. She definitely knew she didn't like the story he was telling her, "How long has she been unconscious?" she interrupted.
"Since she fell," he replied, without breaking eye contact with her. His mannerism and intensity told her this was not a man to toy with. He was obviously an individual with a short fuse and didn't have a problem letting others know it.
Taylor put on her best smile and quietly asked, "Why don't you go wait out in the other room while I take a look at her okay, Mr....?"
"Montoya. Jose Montoya," he replied as though recognition should have been obvious. Finally, with one last glance at the unconscious woman, he left the room. Taylor watched with anger as he walked out sending darts into his broad back. Then she turned her attention to her patient and the coldness in her eyes was replaced by compassion as she began to assess the full extent of her injuries.
Upon further examination and x-ray, Dr. Morgan found that this wasn't the first time the patient had broken a bone. She also noticed signs of old scarring and bruises and knew the girl would be sporting one heck of a shiner by morning. There was a fair size lump on the back of the skull but no sign of serious injury so she decided it was better to set and cast the arm while she was still unconscious. After taking care of the fracture, Dr. Morgan paused, holding the hand at the end of the cast. So much had happened to this young body and she knew it wasn't fair. No one should have to live this way.
'Let it go, Tay,' she scolded herself, 'These injuries could have happened any number of ways.' But, the reality was that she knew this wasn't so. As Taylor started cleaning and taping the minor cuts and scratches, her hands began to shake. She felt the tears well up in her eyes and memories flooded back to her. 'No!,' she scolded herself. 'Now is not the time, you're the doctor here.' As much as her mind screamed for professionalism, her heart had a different agenda and she smoothed the blond hair off her patient's forehead and sighed, "Oh, honey, there is a better way."
Dr. Morgan stood at the counter and filled out the necessary paperwork, keeping an eye on the young woman for any signs of consciousness. She didn't know the women had regained conscious until she felt eyes watching her. She turned towards the patient and came face to face with a familiar pair of deep green eyes. Startled, Taylor wondered how she could have missed that this was the woman from the car. It had been over a month and she had simply filed away the memory and forgotten about it.
She smiled and slowly walked towards the young woman. She noticed a hint of fear in those green eyes as she touched her arm and softly whispered, "It's okay. I'm Dr. Morgan. You've taken a nasty fall but you're going to be all right."
The young woman said nothing but a little understanding replaced the fear in her eyes. "Do you remember what happened?" Taylor asked.
A slight nod of the head was all it took and the woman closed her eyes in pain. Taylor knew that the pain was more than just from the physical injuries. But, now was not the time to dig too deeply. She took the woman's wrist in her hand, more to have something to hold than to feel her pulse. A tear crept down the young woman's cheek.
Taylor continued to smile reassuringly as she softly spoke, "Please try not to move just yet. You have a nice lump on the back of your head and it will be sore for awhile. You also have a fractured arm and some cuts and bruises that will all heal just fine."
The young woman opened her teary green eyes and looked directly into piercing blue. She had never seen such intensity and was so caught up in the swirl of blue that she didn't realize someone was speaking to her. "Huh?...What?...," she rasped as she tried to refocus her eyes.
"I asked you what your name was," Taylor repeated with a light laugh in her voice.
"Sorry," came the whisper, "Can I have some water?"
Taylor moved to the sink and came back with the water. "Just lay still and I'll help you," she cautioned as the woman tried to sit up. Taylor slid her arm under the young woman's shoulders and helped her up to drink. "Enough?" she inquired. The young woman nodded and Taylor gently laid her back down and walked over to the sink.
"Sarah," came a quiet voice from behind her. Taylor turned and looked at the young woman.
"Excuse me?" She questioned.
"My name is Sarah...Sarah Albright," her patient replied.
After trying to get a brief medical history from her patient, Taylor could see that she was exhausted and made the decision to keep her
overnight. 'If nothing else,' she thought, 'at least I can give her one night of peace.' Taylor settled her into the next room, which was set up for
such occasions. The clinic served as both a doctor's office and a temporary hospital facility until the patient could be airlifted to the city. Sarah was asleep before Taylor even finished cleaning up. "Now, for the big problem," she groaned and headed to the waiting room.
When she arrived, she found it empty so she headed to the back door to check outside. Jose Montoya was pacing at the edge of the parking lot,
waving his hands in the air as he talked animatedly on his cell phone. Taylor could tell he wasn't happy about something and just as she turned
to go back in the building, he looked up and abruptly concluded his call. Pulling a cigarette from his pocket, he stopped to light it before he
walked towards her.
"Well, it's about time! Is she ready to go?" he bellowed.
Fuming, Taylor thought, 'What does he think this is? Some 24 hour repair shop he can just bring his broken toys in to get fixed?' She steeled herself for the encounter and answered, "No, she will have to stay here for the night."
"WHAT!" he shouted as he tossed his cigarette aside and started walking towards her, coming to a stop just inches from her face.
Eye to eye, she stood her ground and straightened all her 5'11 to its fullest height as anger heated her blood. 'OK, asshole, you want to do this the hard way, let's do it!,' she raged to herself. "Listen here, Mr. Montoya," she hissed through clenched teeth as she pushed him back a step, "She is in
no shape to go anywhere just yet. She not only has a fractured arm but a nasty contusion to her head, numerous cuts and bruises, and a questionable bruised rib."
'I'm on a roll now...why stop?,' she thought as she continued leaning into his threatening stance.
"All of which I am not convinced happened in one little fall, unless it was the side of a cliff!" She was breathing heavy and could feel a ripple of fear wash through her, but she kept her eyes focused and unblinking on his.
After a brief moment when she felt sure he was going to take her apart, a sick smile spread across his face and he snarled, "Whatever! Have her ready in the morning. I'll be back for her around 9."
With that, he turned and walked over to his car and as he opened the door, he looked around to her again. There was no mistaking the malice in his voice nor the hate in his eyes.
"Don't, for a moment, think this is in any way your concern. You just stick to your business and stay out of mine! You got that, Doc?" Before she could respond, he jumped in the car and slammed the door. A moment later, the black car was racing out of the parking lot and with its tires screeching in protest.
As the morning light slowly crept into the room, Taylor found herself leaning back in a chair next to the bed with her eyes closed. Off and on, she had grabbed a few hours of sleep but after continually waking up with a need to check on her patient, she finally gave up the idea of sleeping and opted for resting nearby. A rustling of sheets brought her fully awake and she opened her eyes to see her patient awake and watching her.
"Did you spend the entire night in that chair?" Sarah asked quietly.
"Pretty much, I guess I wasn't into sleeping very much last night," she replied, smiling. "So, how do you feel this morning?" she inquired.
"A little sore, I guess" was the response. "How long do I have to stay here?"
"As long as you'd like," Taylor answered, looking her directly in the eye. What she really would have liked to say was, 'Just as long as it takes for me to find you somewhere else to go - away from him.'
"Oh," Sarah said and quickly averted her eyes, "I think Jose would rather I went home soon. Where is he?"
"I sent him home last night and he said he would be back this morning to pick you up," Taylor replied, watching the emotions play across the young woman's face. Taylor helped the young woman up and allowed her some privacy to dress while she went in search of some coffee for the two them. She knew the struggle that this young woman was facing but she also wasn't sure if she was the right one to be helping her.
Walking back into the room with two steaming cups of coffee, Taylor paused as she watched Sarah looking sadly out the window at the ocean.
"You know you don't have to rush, you can stay here for awhile until you feel stronger," she gently offered as she came to stand behind her. Taylor
was hoping that Sarah would take her up on her offer. Her hopes faded when Sarah looked up and she saw that the fear had returned to the young
"No, really, I am okay and I think I should go with him today," Sarah stammered, focusing on taking the offered cup of coffee so she wouldn't have to look at the doctor. "Jose doesn't like it when I am not at home...he misses me," she added quickly.
'Yeah, right!,' Taylor thought angrily, 'He misses his punching bag!' Lifting the young woman's chin to look her in the eye, her anger lessened and she softly asked, "Do you want to tell me what really happened last night?"
"I fell," came the soft reply as tears began to well up in green eyes.
"Come on, Sarah. We both know that your current injuries or your old ones aren't from a simple fall," she replied, "I'd like to help if you'll let me."
Sarah shook her head and explained, "You don't understand, he really does love me but sometimes I do stupid things that upset him."
"Is that any reason for him to hurt you like he has?" questioned Taylor.
"Wait, you don't understand," she implored as she grabbed the doctor's hand. "He doesn't really mean to do it...it's my fault," she finished in a quiet voice.
"I am sure he would like you to believe that," Taylor replied, putting her other hand over the woman's effectively pinning it between hers. "But, the
truth is no one deserves to be treated this way and there is nothing you could have done to warrant these attacks," she continued.
"I....I....don't know what to do?" Sarah feebly responded as tears trailed down her cheeks.
Taylor could feel the tears welling up in her own eyes and struggled to keep her emotional balance. "Let me help you," she offered as the sound of a car horn blared in the parking lot.
"Oh, no! That's Jose," Sarah shakily replied, pulling her hand free from Taylor's grasp to try to wipe the tears from her face. Taylor could see the
young woman's hands were shaking and angrily walked to the window to give herself time to pull herself together.
'How easy it was to fall into that trap and let someone make us feel that everything that happened was always our fault,' she anguished. She
watched as the main direction of her anger got out of his car, approached the clinic, and she knew she had to try again. She turned and faced
the woman, "Sarah, you don't have to this, you know. I can go out there and tell him to leave."
"No," the young woman implored, "It will just make matters worse. Please, whatever you do, don't let him know that I've talked to you, please?" she cried as the sound of knocking was heard on the back door.
"I won't say a word if you don't want me to, but you have to promise me something," Taylor responded.
"What's that?" Sarah asked hesitantly.
Taylor moved over to the desk and hurriedly started writing as she spoke, "You have to promise me that if things get bad again, you will call me
and let me get you out of there. I'm here if you ever need me but please don't let him do this to you again. Here is the office and answering service number and also my home number. You should be able to reach me at any time day or night," Taylor shoved the paper in the young woman's hand and looked her directly in the eye to reassure her. Without another word, she turned to let the demon in.
As she reached the outer door, she heard a faint, "Thank you" from the room behind her. She paused before the back door and took a deep
breath. Opening the door, she was faced with that smile she was quickly coming to loathe.
"Is my girl ready yet? I told you I'd be back for her," he said as he abruptly pushed his way past her into the clinic. After looking around the outer office, he turned and faced Taylor, "So what do I owe you, Doc?" he asked, as he started to pull his wallet out of his breast pocket.
'Here we go with the parts repair again. This isn't cash and carry, mister!' Taylor's mental frown changing to a grin, 'No, we have tons of paperwork for you.' She pulled out some forms and handed them to him. "That won't be necessary. Just fill out these forms and you're all set," she replied.
"So, you'll just send me the bill then?" he asked as he began to fill in the forms.
'Don't worry we'll bill you all right,' she thought to herself as a grin spread across her face. Montoya looked up questioningly when he didn't hear a response. Taylor continued smiling and simply said, "Yes."
While he finished filling out the forms, she went to see if Sarah was finished dressing and to try one last time to see if she couldn't get the girl to
stay. Taylor entered the room and found the young woman dressed but looking out the window, her shoulders still slumped in subjection. Her
body language betrayed the smile she flashed for the doctor's benefit.
"You can still change your mind," Taylor softly stated as she searched the young woman's eyes for any indication she would change her mind. Sarah shook her head and looked away.
"No, I have to go," she said quietly.
"No, you don't," Taylor pushed.
Finally, Sarah turned to her with unshed tears in her eyes. "You don't understand. I have nowhere else to go," she finished quietly. Sarah's eyes flashed to Taylor's and Sarah stood unbelieving she had actually admitted it aloud. Quickly, she turned and walked out the door, not hearing the doctor's soft reply, "You could stay with me."
Taylor stood listening to the murmur of voices and finally the sound of the outer door closing. She couldn't believe what she heard herself say. 'Now is not the time to get involved in trouble,' she admonished herself. 'What's the matter with you. You just get a fresh start, things are going well and you want to screw it all up again?,' she continued to berate herself. She stood staring at the door unaware of how much time had passed until the sound of a door closing snapped her back to reality. Taylor stepped out of the room, startling Barbara just as she was preparing to enter.
"Oh, my, Dr. Morgan...I saw your car and was wondering where you were," she rattled taking in the tired, haunted look in the doctor's face. "Have you been here all night?" she inquired concerned.
Taylor regained her composure and handed her the file. "Yes, we had an emergency that just left actually. Everything should be in order," she said indicating the file in the nurse's hands.
"You look tired," Barbara commented, "Why don't you get an early start on the weekend? Go home and get some rest. Dr. Hastin should be in shortly and he can handle things today."
"That sounds good," she sighed as she grabbed her purse, "Call me if you need me," she said over her shoulder and headed out into the morning sun.
By the time she arrived home, Taylor knew she was too pent up to sleep so she decided to go for a run on the beach. She ran and kept running as though the very demons of hell were chasing her. When she finally could run no more, she turned and headed back. Exhausted, she made her way home and after a brief shower collapsed into bed. Taylor tried to sleep the rest of the day away but by late afternoon, she got out of bed. 'You can't stay in bed hiding all day,' she told herself, 'It isn't going to solve anything.'
She got up and fixed herself something to eat and took it out on the patio with her. She sat and watched the waves roll onto the shore as the sun made its descent in the evening sky. When the sun reached its destination, she shivered in response to the evening breeze that had kicked up and went inside. Taylor spent the rest of the evening going through the magazines that had been piling up but had never gotten around to reading.
The rest of the weekend was spent doing errands and painting the interior of her condo. She enjoyed the physical labor as it afforded her a chance to work her body without having to think too much about it. By Monday morning, she arrived back at the clinic feeling sore but complacent. The next few weeks went fairly smoothly without any major catastrophes and by that week's end, she was feeling pretty good about life. She stopped at the market on the way home and looked forward to a weekend of decorating her freshly painted condo.
After washing the evening dishes, she turned the stereo on, curled up with a glass of wine, and began pouring through the home decorating magazines she had picked up at the market. The telephone rang jarring Taylor from her sleep.
Disoriented for a moment, she realized she had fallen asleep on the couch. She looked at her watch and grumbled, "2:00 a.m.? Who's calling now? I know I am not on call." Getting up, she hurried to answer the insistently ringing phone.
On the fourth ring, she picked up the phone.
"Hello?," she answered a little angrily.
"Dr. Morgan?," questioned a soft tearful voice.
"Yes, who is this?," Taylor asked as she felt her stomach begin to tighten. She had a feeling she wasn't going to like the answer.
"You told me that I could call you if I needed you...God...please can you help me?," she pleaded.
"Sarah, slow down," she interrupted, "What's wrong? Where are you?," she asked.
"I don't know...I just ran away when the car stopped. Dr. Morgan, I'm so scared and I don't know what to do," she replied and started sobbing into the telephone. Taylor took a deep breathe and tried to think.
As calmly as she could, she started talking to the young woman, "Listen to me carefully, Sarah. Stop crying and listen okay?," she asked. She could hear the sobbing turn to sniffling and then a slight, "Okay," was all she heard. Taylor continued, "I want you to look around you and tell me what you see."
She had no idea of where this young woman could be and even if she described it, she doubted she would even know where to begin looking.
Sarah looked around her and quickly replied, "I am at a phone booth out by the marina. I know this because Jose wanted to go there and meet some business associates for drinks."
"That's good," she praised her, "What else do you see?"
As Sarah described her surroundings, Taylor figured she could find the general vicinity. "I have a fairly good idea of where you are," she told her, "Stay put and I will be there as fast as I can. Do you understand?"
Sarah responded with a touch of hope in her voice, "Hurry, please?"
"I'm on my way," Taylor confirmed and hung up the phone grabbing her keys and headed for the door.
As she raced down the street trying to remember how to get to the marina, she started to have second thoughts. "What the hell am I doing?," she said aloud. "It’s 2:00 a.m. in the morning and I am driving like a bat out of hell down a road into who knows what situation," she ranted.
"Where is your head, Taylor? Don't you have enough problems of your own?," she continued to rave. "Haven't you had enough or are you so masochistic you want an instant replay?," she shouted. But, deep down she knew that no matter what she told herself she wouldn't stop until she found the woman.
She looked down at her watch and realized that she had been driving around for almost an hour. Her hands were starting to slide on the wheel so she wiped them on her jeans. She was starting to get nervous; afraid she might never find her. She decided to turn the corner and start heading for the ocean in hopes that she would eventually run into the marina.
Finally, she saw the sign for the marina and followed the directions indicated. As she turned down the last block, she saw the light from a gas station in the distance and instinctively headed towards it. When she reached the gas station, her heart sank when she realized it was empty. She started to accelerate the car to drive past when she noticed someone step out from behind the building.
Taylor slammed on her brakes and started to back up, hoping she wasn't going to find that it was just one of the many homeless who lived down by the marina. She turned the car and swung into the drive so that her lights could illuminate the figure.
Instantly her heart lightened, when she caught sight of long reddish-blond hair. Relieved, she threw the car into park and was out the door before it had even stopped rocking. She ran over to the woman and grabbed her in a fierce embrace and the woman clung to her with all her might. She felt the young woman relax and Taylor heard a muffled voice say, "You came, I didn't think you really would."
When she realized how tight she was holding the young woman, she slowly pulled herself away to look at her. "Are you all right?," Taylor asked as she tried to look for any signs of injury.
"I'm okay," the blond answered. "Can we just get out of here before he comes back?," she asked with a shiver, "I had to hide behind the station earlier when I saw his car go by. I was sure he had seen me." Taylor pulled the young woman to her car and got her into the passenger side before she headed around and got behind the wheel.
As Taylor pulled the car out of the lot and headed up the road, she asked, "Tell me what happened?"
As Sarah told Taylor about the evening; how Jose's meeting with his associates didn't go as well as he expected. Instead of blaming himself, he turned that anger to Sarah. "I tried to talk to him and see if I couldn't ease the tension," she explained, "but he just smacked me and told me to 'keep my stupid mouth shut.' He started raving about how it was my fault and if I was nicer to his friends, none of this would have happened."
Taylor heard a sniffle and saw the tears coming down the young woman's face as she struggled to continue.
In a broken voice, she said, "He said...he said he would take care of everything when we got home."
The doctor's blood boiled but she remained silent, as she listened to the young woman give her account of the evening events.
"I just couldn't go through that again," she sobbed, "so when he slowed down to turn the corner, I jumped and started running. I didn't stop until I found the phone and called you."
"It's okay," whispered Taylor. "You're safe now. Don't worry, we'll figure something out," she promised. 'Yeah, I couldn't figure it out for myself, how am I going to do it for you?,' she thought as she turned to stare out at the road in front of her, ‘I shouldn't make promises I can't keep.’
They rode the rest of the way in silence, both lost in their own private hell.
After driving for awhile, Taylor looked over at the young woman only to find her asleep. 'Poor thing is worn out,' she thought. 'Now, genius, what are we going to do?,' she asked herself, 'You sure don't have to go looking for trouble it finds you! Maybe, there are just some things you just can't run away from,' she thought sadly. Taylor focused her attention back on the road and concentrated on just getting them home.
Taylor gently pulled the car into the garage and looked over at Sarah. She was still asleep so she shook her gently.
"Hey, sleepyhead, wake up," she said quietly.
The young woman awoke with a start and defensively put her hands in front of her face as if to ward off an attack.
"Hey, it's okay. I 'm not going to hurt you," Taylor said retreating from the young woman.
Sarah lowered her hands and looked away to conceal her embarrassment and explained, "Sorry, I guess I fell asleep and forgot where I was."
"You don't have to apologize to me," she replied as she got out of the car and waited for Sarah to join her.
Taylor led the way into the house to the living room before she turned to ask, "Are you hungry?"
"No, thank you," replied the young woman trying to stifle a yawn. "Sorry," she grinned.
Taylor chuckled and said, "I guess we could both use a little sleep. Come on, I'll show you where everything is and see if I can't find you something to sleep in." Taylor showed her to the guest room and where the bath was and then went in search of a nightshirt. When she returned, she found Sarah sitting half asleep on the edge of the bed.
"This may be a little big," Taylor grinned, "but it will do the trick for tonight. Get some sleep and we'll see if we can't sort this all out in the morning, okay?," she asked.
"This will be just fine and Dr. Morgan...," Sarah paused and reached out to catch Taylor's arm. "Thank you for coming to get me," she replied.
"Call me Taylor. You're safe now so go to sleep and I'll see you in the morning," the doctor answered, patting the hand on her arm and left closing the door on her way out.
Exhausted, Taylor went to her bedroom and got ready for bed, and before she knew it, she fell into an uneasy sleep straight into a nightmare from her past.
She found herself standing in front of a very angry personage and she knew it was another argument that she couldn't win. She just stood there waiting for the inevitable pain that accompanied such outbursts. She was back in that cycle of lies, anger, and pain followed by the empty promises that would never hold up to the next day's light.
As hard as she had tried, she couldn't change the cycle when Brice was in one of her moods. She had hid in the dark hoping that Brice would tire of looking for her and leave her alone to go sleep off her drunken rage. This was beginning to become a steady occurrence whenever Taylor didn't show up to one of Brice's kick boxing matches.
Brice didn't have the discipline that most of her competitors did and instead relied on brut force more than form or discipline. She loved the rush of adrenaline that the physical side of the sport gave her. If the competition didn't end successfully, which seemed to be all the time now, Brice would blame it on Taylor's not showing up. This would then prompt Brice to go out with her friends to drink and release her frustration.
Of course, it never worked out that way and when Brice would get too rowdy, her friends would just drag her away before the cops would arrive and bring her home. Drunk and angry, Brice would come home looking to burn off a little steam. Taylor had done everything possible to get someone to switch their on call with her at the hospital so that she could get the evening off. But, being a resident even a senior resident, didn't pull much weight with the regular staff and they were going to make sure that she worked long into her last night as a resident. Their philosophy was that residents had to pay their dues and that meant squeezing every last minute of their time while on service.
Taylor could hear Brice coming up the stairs and crouched tighter into the closet. She couldn't afford to have any marks on her as tomorrow was graduation day from her residency. Her faculty had already vocalized their concern regarding the recent onset of mysterious accidents that had been plaguing the resident. So she stayed cowered in the closet until it was quiet for some time. When she thought it was safe, she opened the door and peered out. Just as she was sure she was safe, the door flew open and there Brice stood with a victorious look on her face and a broom stick in her hand.
"Thout you-ss could hide, huh?," she slurred, leaning into Taylor's face. She could smell the sour stench of whiskey on Brice's breath and looked for a way to escape.
As Brice lurched to the right, Taylor darted for the opening on the left and ran for the stairs. Just as she reached the rail, she felt her head explode into a thousand pieces as she flew into the air. As the stairs rushed up to meet her, she awoke with a shout, "Oh, God! No, not again!"
Taylor found herself sitting up in bed and her nightshirt drenched in sweat. She wasn't sure if her body was shivering from the dream or from the chill of the night air on her wet skin. She pulled her knees up to her body and hugged herself and as the tears rolled down her face. She buried her face into her knees and cried until she could cry no more. She cried for the person she once knew and the lost innocence of the girl in the next room. S he cried mostly because she knew she didn't have the courage to face this all again.
When she could cry no more, Taylor got up and stepped into the shower. She let the hot water beat on her until she was numb from the stinging and then got out to towel herself off. She quickly dressed as she knew there would be no more sleep for her on this night. There was too much at stake, too much to lose. Some things were just better left unsaid, weren't they?
The next morning Sarah awoke to the sun streaming into the window and the sound of waves crashing on the beach. Unfamiliar with her surroundings, her heart started to beat faster until she remembered the night before. She felt rested for the first time in a very long while and went into the bathroom. She laughed when she saw herself in the mirror. Taylor's nightshirt was at least three sizes too big and hung down to her ankles. But she somehow felt comforted by the simple warmth it brought to her. Opting to remain in her nightshirt, she went in search of the doctor.
Sarah found Taylor at the kitchen table hard at work. Not wanting to disrupt her concentration, she stood in the doorway watching her. Taylor's forehead was wrinkled in deep thought as she went over the papers in front of her. That feeling of being watched again brought Taylor's eyes up into deep green ones and she involuntarily shivered.
"Sorry," Sarah said, "I didn't mean to disturb you."
"No, not at all," Taylor replied, overcoming her surprised reaction. "Have a seat would you like some coffee?," she offered.
"Thank you," Sarah smiled, "Are you sure I am not interrupting anything?" Taylor got up and kept her back to the young woman as she poured her coffee and used this opportunity to get her bearings.
"Actually, I am glad that you are up," she said holding herself in check. "I've been going over your problem," she said, keeping any emotion out of her voice, "and I think I have your solution."
Sarah was taken back by the look on the doctor's face as she put the coffee in front of her. Gone was the concern and friendly tone that she had witnessed the night before and in its place was a cold impersonal manner of a stranger.
'Had she been so scared that she just imagined it all last night? Had she made a mistake in trusting this woman?,' Sarah wondered to herself. She looked up and realized that Taylor was waiting for her to respond to something.
"Huh...," she sputtered, "Did you say something?"
"I said that I have found a few shelters that will take you in until you can get settled on your own," Taylor replied. "Would you like me to call and set it up?," she asked, avoiding looking directly into those green eyes.
Sarah sipped her coffee to give her a moment to think before answering, "Yes, thank you. While you do that, I think I will go up and change." Without looking back, she left the room and missed the anguish that had replaced the coldness in the blue eyes behind her.
Taylor called the shelter to make the appointment and at the same time felt like she was stabbing herself in the heart. She knew she wasn't doing the right thing but it was all she could do for now. After making the appointment, she went out on the deck to watch the ocean drift in and out and along with the current went her emotions.
She came in the house just as she saw Sarah replace the receiver of the telephone.
"Don't worry about the shelter; I've made my own arrangements," Sarah said, looking at her with a look that told Taylor she had given in.
"What do you mean?," Taylor asked, "Who did you just call?"
Sarah just shrugged her shoulders and sat on the couch to wait for her ride.
"You called Montoya, didn't you?," she angrily accused.
"So, what's the difference? You and I both know it is where I would have ended up anyway," Sarah retorted with a flash of green fire in her eyes. 'What do you care anyway,' thought Sarah.
"There is a difference," stormed Taylor, "You can make the difference if you wanted to."
"What do you want from me?," cried Sarah as she rose to face the doctor, "Where do you think I can go after this shelter? I belong to him. It is all I am good for anyway," she replied as she headed for the door.
"Is that what you really believe?," Taylor asked angrily. When she didn't get a response from the young woman, she coldly replied, "Well maybe you are right then, if that is all you think you are worth, then go to him."
Sarah paused with her hand on the door as a horn sounded from outside, she turned and looked at Taylor. Her eyes told a story of betrayal and lost hope and as the tears streamed down her face, she ran from the condo into the waiting arms of her nightmare.
Taylor instantly realized that she was wrong and wished she could take back what she had just said. She knew that she needed to help this girl as much as she had to help herself. Taylor ran for the door and reached the front passage in time to see Montoya smile and wave to her as his car shot away from the curb.
Taylor stood staring, long after the car had disappeared down the road. As the adrenaline slowly seeped away, memories, once thought buried, came rushing back to replace the void. She slipped to her knees on the pavement as sobs shook her shoulders remembering times best forgotten. She knew that this wasn't the answer either and the time to stop running was now. Deep down she had always known that only by confronting and facing her demons could she defeat them, and only then would she find peace.
The days drifted by and Taylor immersed herself in working at the clinic and took call for anyone who asked to switch. She would come home exhausted to fall asleep the moment her head hit the pillow but would awaken just as tired in the morning. The wear began to show on Taylor and one day Dr. Hastin approached her as she headed out of the clinic.
"Dr. Morgan, may I have a moment of your time?," he asked and gestured to his office. Taylor followed him in and wearily sat down in front of his desk.
"Is there a problem, Dr. Hastin?," she asked.
"I don't know," he replied, "Why don't you tell me. You seem to be hell bent on proving yourself around here in record time," with a glint of humor in his eye.
"Have I accomplished my goal?," she asked with a slight grin.
"I have no complaints whatsoever with your abilities, Dr. Morgan. I just want you to ease up before you burn yourself out," he replied seriously. "I know there is more to this than just proving yourself and I won't pry into your personal life.”
He raised his hand to stop her from replying and continued, "I have a suggestion that I want you to take. Things will start to wind down now that it is the end of the season. Next week, we are at full staff so I want you take the week off to relax and resolve whatever has been troubling you."
"Dr. Hastin, that isn't necessary," Taylor interjected, "I'll rest this weekend and be fine by Monday morning."
"I won't take no for an answer, Dr. Morgan," Dr. Hastin replied somewhat sternly. "I don't want to see you for a week. Do I make myself clear?," he demanded with a slight twinkle in his eye.
Taylor knew that he was right and conceded with a nod of her head.
"Good, now go home, young lady and get some sleep," he ordered as he rose and herded her out the back door.
Taylor slept most of the weekend away and woke up Sunday morning feeling refreshed. She went for a run on the beach and then collapsed in a deck chair with a cold beer. Finally, her stomach started making its presence known and she went into the kitchen to forage for some food. Resignedly, she looked in the empty refrigerator and decided she had to go to the market if she wanted to eat this week. Grabbing another beer, she headed for the shower.
Traffic was light and Taylor rode with the top down enjoying the first days of summer. An outsider would tell you that it just got hot and then hotter but to a native, the change in seasons was very apparent and enjoyable. Taylor parked her car on the side, grabbed a cart, and headed into the cool darkness of the store. Without her usual list to shop by, she wandered up and down the isles, aimlessly grabbing whatever caught her fancy. Losing the battle to her sweet tooth, she searched the ice cream section for something sinful.
"Get the Moose Tracks. It's the best," a voice from behind her encouraged.
Taylor turned and came face to face with those haunting green eyes, although a slightly bruised version of them.
"Hey, Sarah what are you doing here?," Taylor replied, trying not to stare at the colorful bruise under her right eye.
"Jose's having a party tonight and he sent me in to get a few things," she answered, looking away from the piercing blue orbs. Sarah could feel them looking right through waiting for answers to questions that didn't need to be asked.
Taylor felt her resolve weaken and touched the young woman on the arm, "I'd ask how you are doing but it's pretty apparent."
Sarah didn't move her arm for fear that the doctor would take her hand away. It was the only warmth she had felt in a long time and she didn't want it to end quickly. Sarah just shrugged her shoulders and said, "It's okay."
Taylor suddenly grabbed the women by both arms and brought the young woman around to face her and angrily said, "No, it is not okay. No matter what you think, you don't deserve this."
The green in Sarah's eyes deepened and they flashed to meet Taylor's, "What? You think your shelter is the answer for me?," she asked bitterly as she wrenched away from Taylor.
"Go back to your nice safe life, Doc. What do you know about anything? Do you know what it is like to be on your own, to just survive?," the bitterness of her tone ending in sadness.
With that said, she turned and started walking away but not before she heard a trembling voice behind her say, "Yes, I do."
Sarah turned and looked back at Taylor, their eyes meeting in recognition of kinship born of understanding. Sarah was the first to break the silence, "Then you also understand why I have to go," she softly spoke.
"Yes, I understand," replied Taylor, "But I also want you to know that you have a reason to stay too." Taylor could see the wall rising again in Sarah's eyes and quickly added, "and I don't mean a shelter this time."
Sarah continued looking at the doctor, deep down wanting to believe what she was hearing but, at the same time, fearful to trust anyone. Finally, she broke from the gaze and said, "I really have to go before Jose comes looking for me."
"Will you at least call me?," Taylor asked as Sarah walked away.
Sarah stopped, looked over her shoulder and said, "I'll try," before turning and walking out of the store. Taylor continued down the isles but her mind wasn't on shopping and finally she went through the checkout and headed home.
All week Taylor stayed close to the telephone, hoping that Sarah would call her. By the end of the week, she had given up and decided that things were probably better this way. The next week, the routine picked up where she had left off at work except that the pace was much slower, and she found she had more free time to herself in the evenings. Taylor decided it was time she got a hobby. She briefly thought about Karate or Judo but memories of Brice quickly vetoed that idea. Instead, she opted for Tai Chi as it offered her the calmness and meditation that she needed.
Twice a week, she headed to the local recreation center to attend classes in this martial art. It turned out not to be as easy as she first thought but enjoyed the cleansing that this workout provided. Thursday, as she was leaving the center. she saw a familiar car in the parking lot across the road.
She quickly walked to her vehicle not wanting to meet up with the owner of that vehicle. She sat in her car and watched another vehicle pull up and the occupants get out of their cars. Montoya and his man moved to the front of the other car and placed a sports bag on the hood.
The occupants of the other car took the bag and placed a briefcase in its place. Taylor knew what was going down and hoped that Sarah wasn't waiting in that car. Montoya opened the case and began to sample the merchandise before smiling and closing the case. A few brief words were spoken as the men returned to their cars and drove off.
Taylor sat in her car unsure of what she was suppose to do with what she had just witnessed. Sadly deciding there wasn't anything she could do, she turned her car around, and headed home.
Friday was uneventful at the clinic and she left early to get a head start on the weekend. This weekend Taylor was going to do something to brighten up the landscaping around her condo. The association pretty much left it up to the owner's discretion as long as it wasn't too bizarre. She stopped by the nursery and loaded up her car with as much as it could hold and made arrangements to have the rest delivered in the morning. After changing and grabbing a bite to eat, she tackled the front walkway. She dug and pulled weeds until it was too dark to do any more work. Sore, but feeling pretty satisfied with herself and the progress she made, Taylor decided to call it a day. She headed straight for the bath and a good soak or tomorrow, she wouldn't be able to stand up much less haul bags of stone.
After the water had turned tepid, she got out and dried off. Putting on her favorite sweats, she decided to watch some television. Halfway though a particularly good movie the phone rang.
Irritated at being interrupted, she answered it gruffly, "Yeah?"
"Uh, Tay...Dr. Morgan?," came the unsure reply.
"Yes...Sarah is that you?," she asked and her heart began to beat faster.
"Yes, I know it's late. I hope I'm not disturbing you," Sarah questioned.
"No, I was just watching some TV," Taylor said in a lighter tone. "Is everything all right?," she asked.
"Yes and no," Sarah hesitated continuing for fear that she would make the doctor angry.
It didn't work and Taylor was quick to sense the hesitation, "What's wrong? Where are you?"
Sarah tried to reassure her that she was fine and at home. "It's just that...," she hesitated and took a deep breath before rushing through the rest of it, "Well...Jose is having a party with some friends and they went out to get some stuff and I really don't want to be here when they get back."
"Did he do anything to you?," Taylor demanded to know but didn't let her answer, "I'm on my way, where are you?"
"No, wait...I'll come to you," Sarah said, "If you come here and Jose sees you, there will be trouble. It is better if I just leave, he won't know where to look for me...," she hesitated and added, "for awhile."
Taylor alternately paced the floor and looked out the window waiting for Sarah to arrive. Feeling closed in, she headed out to the front steps to wait.
When the cab pulled to a stop, Sarah saw Taylor sitting on the front steps waiting and it brought a touch of joy and fear at the same time. ‘Can I really get away from him?,’ she asked herself, ‘or am I just causing trouble for Taylor?’
She turned to pay the driver and gingerly got out of the cab. Sarah tried to act as if nothing was wrong but Taylor knew the girl was in pain. She quickly led Sarah into the house in some vain hope of keeping her safe. As she closed the door behind the two of them, she turned Sarah around looked her up and down.
"Let me see. Awww, Sarah, he hit you again, didn't he?," she obviously did not expected any response as the answer was written plainly on Sarah's face.
"It's not so bad," she answered touching her cut lip, suddenly embarrassed by Taylor's scrutiny of her body.
"That's not all he did, is it?," Taylor asked as she pointed to her lip.
Sarah shook her head and as tears welled up on her eyes blurted, "I just can't take it anymore."
Taylor held Sarah, whispering reassurances until the young woman's body stopped shaking. Wishing that she could somehow take away the pain, knowing how deep it actually went, and, in the end, realizing that they both had to win this battle.
"How about I find you that nightshirt you're so fond of?," Taylor asked, trying to coax a smile out of her. Sarah nodded wiping her tear streaked face on her sleeve.
"I guess I left in such a hurry, I forgot to pack," she said beginning to laugh. Taylor grabbed her hand and said, "Come on let's get you settled in," and pulled her up the stairs.
Taylor found the nightshirt in question and also some sweats she thought the young woman might want, "We'll worry about getting your clothes tomorrow."
Sarah thanked her and, as Taylor began to leave, started to get undressed. As she tried to pull her shirt over her head, she groaned at the sharp pain in her side. At the sound, Taylor spun around and caught sight of a large bruise along Sarah's ribs.
"Geez, Sarah. Why didn't you say something?," Taylor asked as she gingerly inspected the area.
"What’s the sense? They go away eventually," she responded.
"Here let me help you," Taylor offered and proceeded to help her get dressed and settled into bed. "Until tomorrow, sleep tight," Taylor softly said as she closed the light and left the room.
"Good night," murmured Sarah, already falling into Morpheus' waiting arms.
Taylor wasn't sure what woke her at first, was it her heart pounding in her throat or something else. She stood next to her bed trying to listen over the beating of her heart for another sound. It was then she heard the scream again and was out the bedroom door like a shot. She raced to Sarah's room and found her fighting off the covers as though they were the very demons of hell and had her trapped. Taylor sat on the bed and tried to calm Sarah's thrashing body before she hurt herself. The young woman continued to fight with all her strength and Taylor finally had to hold her down with her own body until Sarah woke and calmed down. Gingerly, Taylor rolled off her but still held on while Sarah sobbed.
"I've got you. You’re safe," Taylor kept repeating like a mantra.
"Oh God," Sarah stuttered, "It was so real.”
“He was here and he was going to kill you," she shivered. "I've made a mistake coming here and now you’re going to get hurt," Sarah cried.
"No. No one's here and we're both fine, trust me," Taylor whispered, reassuringly.
"Just close your eyes and everything will be different in the morning," she said as she started to get off the bed.
"NO!," Sarah shouted. "I mean...please stay here with me," she pleaded.
"Okay, okay. I'm not going anywhere," Taylor soothed. She curled up behind the young woman and held her. Sarah inched her body as close to Taylor's as she could and held onto the arms wrapped around her.
Taylor laid listening until she heard Sarah's slow, even breathing as the young woman finally fell asleep. The last thought on her mind as she too fell asleep was, how comfortably Sarah fit against her, as though it had always been that way.
The light of morning burst through the window directly into Taylor's face. She tried opening her eyes but its brightness deterred that idea. Instead she just lay with her eyes closed, trying to figure out how to untangle herself from the young woman beside her. She didn't want to wake her just yet and was in no hurry to disturb the warm comfort she felt holding the young woman. Sarah's head rested comfortably under her chin and her arms were still be held in place around the young woman's stomach. Taylor let her mind drift back to a time when she too needed a safe haven, and would have given anything to have had this moment.
Instead, she had found herself surrounded by the disappointment and "I told you so's" of her family. She had escaped one painful situation only to find herself in another type of pain. The pain of knowing you have failed someone or at least their idea of what you should be.
‘How had she gotten to that point?,’ she wondered. Maybe they were right and she had made a terrible mistake. She had agonized for a long time whether it because she loved another woman like her family said or the burning question of was it about just that woman in particular that kept tormenting her mind.
Brice had opened a whole new world to her and even though her family totally disapproved, Taylor had felt at peace with her decision. Maybe, it was a false sense of peace born of loneliness and feeling undesirable.
Had she taken the wrong path just because someone took an interest in her? But, she had never felt the range of emotions with a man that she had felt with Brice. No, even if her choices were not what others would call acceptable or right, they were the only choice she could have made and still been true to herself. Living any other way would have been a sham and she would be the only one to pay the cost of that lie.
As time went on, things began to deteriorate and Taylor blamed herself for not giving enough to the relationship or for not being what Brice deserved. She had all but broken ties with her family to get away from the guilt they tried to place on her and to be more involved with her relationship with Brice. But, in the end, it hadn't been enough for Brice. Taylor finally came to realize that Brice's problems had nothing to do with their relationship except the ruination of it.
So Taylor had left Brice and finished her subspecialty in emergency medicine. During that year, Taylor had put some resemblance of her life back together and when the position at the clinic opened up, she was more than ready to move on. Taylor sighed and tried to open her eyes again to no avail. She knew that soon she would have to move but for now she was content.
As she hesitated for one last peaceful moment, she felt rumbling from the stomach under her hands and a quiet voice say, "Damn."
Taylor laughed and asked, "How long have you been awake?"
"Not long," Sarah replied.
"So, playing possum are we?," Taylor asked.
"You caught me, I was just too comfortable and didn't want to move," the young woman answered. Taylor laughed and thought, ‘I guess I wasn't the only one.’
When neither one wanted to make the first move, Taylor rolled onto her back and finally said, "Why don't I go put a pot of coffee on and see what I can find us to eat while you get dressed?"
"Sounds good," Sarah replied as she turned to face Taylor. Neither one made any further attempt to get up until Sarah's stomach made its presence known again.
"I guess that means I had better get a move on it," grinned Taylor.
Sarah came down the stairs to what sounded like a war taking place in the kitchen. When she stepped through the doorway, she saw pots and pans cascading out of a cupboard with Taylor unsuccessfully trying to catch them all before they hit the floor. Sarah rushed over to try to help but only caused more damage and began to laugh. Soon Taylor had joined her until they both fell to a heap on the floor along with the rest of the pans.
"I'm not much in the kitchen as you can see," Taylor said wiping tears of laughter from her face.
"I've got an idea," Sarah offered, "Why don't you make the coffee and I'll cook breakfast?"
"Sounds like a plan to me," Taylor answered as she got to her feet and offered a hand up to the young woman. Taylor made the coffee and cleaned up the mess while Sarah rummaged through the refrigerator and put together ingredients for an omelet.
They took their plates out to the patio and sat on the deck. "Wow, this is great," exclaimed Taylor as she dug into her breakfast.
"You really don't cook much, do you?," stated Sarah amazed.
"Not really, but I can make a mean can of soup," Taylor said with a grin. Sarah just laughed and shook her head.
"Where did you learn to cook?," Taylor asked helping herself to seconds.
"I learned the hard way," Sarah said sadly, the easiness of the moment overshadowed by reality. "Jose likes meals cooked for him and I learned to make his favorites rather quickly," she continued trying to make light of the turn of the conversation.
"I'm sorry," Taylor said pushing her plate away, "How did you meet Montoya?”
Sarah shrugged and started to tell her story, "I was trying to support myself and go to school nights but the ends just weren't meeting so I took a second job as a waitress in a club on the weekends. Jose and his friends used to hang out there every Saturday night. They were always dressed well and throwing a lot of money around. I guess when he turned his attention towards me I was flattered. Here was this rich, handsome guy interested in me," she said surprised. Taylor looked at her and felt a part of herself go out to her. She started to reply but held back knowing that Sarah wasn't finished with what she needed to say.
"In the beginning, he was sweet and always buying me presents and leaving big tips until finally I agreed to go out with him. From there I moved in with him because he said that way I wouldn't have to work two jobs to afford my own place. It was nice for about awhile, I actually got to finish two years of college and get a degree. Then things started going bad with his business and that's when the drinking started. I had enrolled in the university at night and he would go out with his friends to the clubs. Then it got to the point where he was jealous of my going to school. I think that was when he started hitting me and accusing me of using him for his money and that now I thought I was better than him. I felt guilty so I stopped going and stayed home for him. But, that wasn't enough," she said quietly and looked down to the napkin she had been shredding.
She continued to stare at the napkin unsure of what to do next. Taylor reached over and removed the shredded napkin from her hands and urged, "Go on."
Sarah sighed and folded her hands in front of her on the table and continued, "I thought it was love and when I finally realized it wasn't, it was already too late and I accepted my lot. I tried everything I could to make it up to him but it was never enough." Sarah looked up and stopped suddenly seeing the understanding in the doctor’s face and tears threatening to spill.
"You understand, don't you?," she asked.
Taylor looked at her and tried to smile, "I've been there, too," her voice came out hoarsely and she cleared her throat as she tried to gain some composure. "You just never feel...I don't know, what's the word...adequate," she continued.
Sarah didn't speak but just nodded her head yes. She finally understood why the doctor had taken such an interest in her plight. "Kindred spirits," she said out loud before she realized it.
Taylor smiled and replied, "Yes, I guess you could say that."
"So, now that I've spilled my guts - what's your story?," Sarah said with a slight grin.
Taylor sat back, afraid of this moment. Worried thoughts flew around in her head looking for a convenient place to hide. ‘How much should she tell her? What will she think?,’ Taylor worried. ‘I don't know if I have the strength for her rejection,’ she ended, ‘But, I need to be honest with her and myself.’
Sarah saw the worry flutter across Taylor's eyes as they darkened a shade deeper. Her brow creased in a now familiar way Sarah was beginning to recognize. It usually occurred when the doctor was thinking too hard about something.
"Hey," Sarah reached out to bring her back from where ever Taylor had gone. "You can tell me anything, okay?," she said sincerely not letting her eyes drop from Taylor's until she knew the woman saw the truth. Taylor locked eyes with Sarah and saw trust and something else in those green pools.
She took a deep breath and thought, ‘Here it goes!’ and began, "Well, I was finishing my residency when I met someone I thought was the answer to my prayers," she said half jokingly. "We seemed to have so much in common and I truly thought that I had finally found what people term a soul mate. We started doing everything together. We started working out together and sh...uh..I was even learning a little karate, although I wasn't very good at it," she added wryly. "It was wonderful and I was experiencing new things and well, one thing led to another and we finally decided to move in together," Taylor paused and looked up realizing that Sarah still looking at her and expectantly. Taylor quickly looked away, suddenly unsure if she should continue with what she had to say.
‘Come on, Taylor, say it,’ she chided herself, ‘it's now or never.’ Taylor began again, "In many ways Brice was everything I wasn't, but she was everything I wanted to be," Taylor stopped to see what reaction this revelation had brought.
Sarah just smiled up at her and calmly said, "I know."
Taylor got up and stood at the railing looking out at the ocean wondering exactly what Sarah "knew."
When Sarah realized that Taylor was still confused, she continued, "She really meant a lot to you, didn't she? Was she you’re first?"
Taylor spun around and her eyes widened at the questions being poised and blurted out, "It doesn't bother you?"
Sarah shook her head and replied, "No, why should it?"
"Well, acceptance hasn't been the norm for me lately," Taylor answered sarcastically as she sat back down.
"Gender shouldn't matter when love is involved," Sarah replied.
Taylor felt a rush of relief pass through her and she continued telling Sarah about her time with Brice. It scared Taylor that it meant so much to her that Sarah accept her and not be disappointed. They talked about their lives and about Sarah growing up in foster homes, never knowing her real parents and how Taylor's family rejected their daughter’s new lifestyle. Taylor also confided in the young woman that the pain of the physical abuse was nothing compared to the finding she meant nothing to Brice but a warm body. Listening intently, Sarah realized just how much those rejections had cost Taylor. They both felt strangely comfortable trusting the other to keep their secrets. Sarah silently mused, ‘Maybe this is really what it is like to have a true friend.’ As if Taylor had heard her thoughts, she looked up into green eyes and smiled.
Taylor had forgotten about the delivery truck from the nursery until she heard the honking of a truck horn. The driver unloaded the truck and before she knew it, she and Sarah were knee deep in bags of stone.
"Well, what do you think? Up to a little yard work?," Taylor inquired with a grimace on her face.
Sarah just laughed and said, "Lead on, woman." They worked side by side through out the day talking about anything and everything.
They finished by mid-afternoon and decided to cool off in the ocean. Taylor found an extra pair of shorts for Sarah and they headed down to the beach. As they walked along the water’s edge, Taylor broached the subject they had carefully avoided until now.
"We've got to think about getting your clothes," Taylor commented.
"Yeah, I know. But, I am not sure how to go about that," Sarah admitted, "Do we have to think about it right now? I'd rather just enjoy this day."
"Me too," replied Taylor with a wicked smile and started to run backwards towards the house. "Race ya?," she challenged, kicking water at Sarah before turning to sprint off through the surf.
"No fair!," the blond yelled as she took off trying to catch up.
"Loser cooks dinner tonight," Taylor called laughingly over her shoulder.
"Great! Either way I lose!," came the reply from right behind her. Taylor turned surprised that the she had caught up so fast and, in doing so, lost her balance. Losing the battle with gravity, she fell just as a wave came up onto the beach drenching her.
Sarah came to a halt next to Taylor's prone body, worry turning to giggling which finally turned into full-blown laughter. Taylor looked up through dripping hair to give her an evil look but it only made the picture that much more comical. Sarah bent over trying to catch her breath and burst into another fit of laughter as she pointed to the piece of seaweed hanging in the older woman's hair.
"You think this is funny, eh?," Taylor asked menacingly pulling at the vegetation. Before Sarah realized, her extended arm was pulled down sending her head first into the water. She came up sputtering and it was the other woman's turn to laugh. Sarah growled and launched herself at Taylor.
The water battle was well underway when they heard a voice that stopped them cold.
"Well, isn't this cute. You two having fun?," the dark figure sneered. "Sorry to disturb your little..um..romp but I believe you have something of mine," Montoya confronted the doctor. He stood on the beach between them and the house, effectively cutting off any thoughts of running.
The women scrambled to their feet and Taylor placed herself in front of Sarah.
"I think you are mistaken. There isn't anything here that belongs to you," Taylor replied defiantly.
"Listen, the pajama party is over," he said waving off anything further she might have to say. "You," he pointed threateningly at the young woman behind her, "get your shit together and let's go! Now!," he shouted.
Taylor could feel Sarah move behind her and reached out to stop her. Holding on to the young woman's arm, she looked directly at Montoya, "She isn't going anywhere with you."
Montoya's eyes narrowed as his face twisted in rage. "Get out of my way, Doc, before you get hurt!," he exploded, pushing Taylor back and grabbing Sarah's arm. He pulled the young woman towards him and up onto the beach behind him. He turned around towards Taylor and advanced on her and with a deadly voice said, "I told you to stay out of my business but you just wouldn't listen would you? Now, you are going to learn to listen to me when I speak to you, puta!"
Taylor quickly circled Montoya until her feet were on shore away from the water. He moved to keep himself between her and the girl as he shortened the distance between them. Taylor looked over at Sarah who stood rooted to her spot on the beach.
"Sarah, run! Get up to the house and get help," she called to her. But, Sarah was too scared to move and didn't even acknowledge that she had heard the other woman.
Montoya just laughed, up close Taylor could see that his eyes were bloodshot and his face flushed. "Forget it, there is no help for either one of you. No one takes from Jose Montoya!"
He quickly closed the remaining distance and jumped at Taylor, backhanding her across the face. She fell back from the blow and as she tried to sit up, she felt a burst of pain erupt in her head, sending her slamming back down onto the sand.
She could barely breathe as he kneeled on her chest grabbing her by the throat. The darkness swirled around her as the burning pressure increased. Suddenly, the weight lifted and air rushed back into her lungs. She rolled over, gasping to see Montoya trying to shake Sarah from off his back. She hung on for dear life but with his strength winning out, he flung the young woman away.
Swearing and wiping the blood from where her nails had raked his face, he began kicking the young woman as she curled protectively into a ball on the sand. Taylor saw a flash of red and marshaled all her energy to get to her feet.
Taken over by a force greater than she could possibly possess, Taylor launched herself at Montoya knocking him off the young woman. He stumbled to his left but retain his footing and came for Taylor warning, "Big mistake, bitch!"
Taylor threw a round house kick that caught him squarely in the jaw. He reeled back and she swept his legs out from under him. Turning, her only thought was to check on Sarah until her head was wrenched back as her assailant grabbed her hair from behind. Kicking back, she connected with his knee and heard the crunch of bone on bone.
Montoya dropped like a stone clutching his leg and, without hesitation, Taylor spun and leveled a kick to the side of his head. He toppled over and lay motionless on his side. Taylor stood transfixed at what she had just done, cautiously she moved closer and edged his body over with her toe. Montoya flipped on his back and she could see that he wouldn't be getting up any time soon.
Taylor turned to look for Sarah and found her watching with a surprised expression on her face.
"Where'd you learn that?," she asked looking at the doctor in amazement.
Taylor walked towards Sarah and grinned, "Guess I learned more than I thought from Brice."
She put her hand down to help the young woman up. "You okay?," she asked, steadying the young woman.
"Nothing new. I'm old hat at this, remember?," Sarah said jokingly as the two of them hobbled to the house. "How about you, Doc?" she asked, the concern etched deep in her face. "He really hurt you, didn't he?"
"Not too bad, remember I've been there too," she smiled trying to ease the young woman's fears. "Thanks for coming to my rescue. I guess you are tougher than you look," she added.
Sarah shrugged, "I was so scared I couldn't move. When I saw what he was doing to you, something just snapped and I heard myself say, ‘Enough!’ I knew that this all had to end here and now."
"You probably saved my life," Taylor acknowledged.
"I think we saved each other today," Sarah said putting her arm through her friend’s as they slowly climbed the deck stairs.
"I think we had better call the police before we get a ticket for littering," Taylor suggested indicating the figure still lying on the beach.
Sarah grimaced, "Yeah, we have to keep our beaches clean for future generations." They looked at each other in sudden realization of the truth in those words.
After the police had left with Montoya, Sarah stood looking at the sunset and marveled at the colors that formed when mixed with the ocean. She was free for the first time in seven years and relief washed through her body. As the hope and fear of this reality hit her, the stoic facade held together for the police started to crumble.
Taylor returned to seeing the officers out to find Sarah looking stiffly out the patio door. Alerted that something wasn't right, she went to the young woman and placed her hands on her shoulders to turn her around. A sharp pain pierced Taylor's heart with what she saw.
The tears that had threaten to form earlier now flowed in earnest down Sarah's face. When blue eyes met green, there was a instant comprehension and Taylor pulled the young woman into her arms. They stood bound together in their memories, each trying to give comfort to the other. Both crying until they could no longer, and just held each other.
The room was dark when they finally let go of each other. "Whew, talk about explosive endings," Sarah laughed embarrassed, "Sorry about that."
Taylor shook her head as she turned on a lamp, "Don't ever be sorry for feeling Sarah. You have a right to that. We, have a right to that."
Sarah looked at Taylor and asked, "Now, what do we do?"
"We take one day at a time and do whatever we feel," replied Taylor.
"Right now I feel hungry!," Sarah's smile quickly turning to a frown, "But, I guess I have to cook since I lost the race."
"I've got an idea," Taylor suggested. "How about we go out to dinner instead and later we can swing by your place to get your things. The police said that Montoya won't be released any time soon, so it will be safe to do it now."
‘I guess I really don't have any options,’ she thought. ‘I can't stay here. I've caused Taylor enough trouble for one lifetime. She really is something, isn't she?,’ she mused, ‘She held it all together for us even through her own pain. But, how will I get along without her?’ This realization brought a strange sensation to Sarah as a surge of warmth spread through her causing an involuntary shudder.
A moan escaped the young woman's lips as her mind continued its course. ‘What am I doing?,’ she lamented. ‘She's been such as good friend risking herself for me and I'm thinking like this. The last thing she needs in her life is me mooning over her,’ Sarah continued to let her eyes and thoughts wander over the older woman. When they alit upon a deep blue soul, it set her heart racing.
"Sarah, are you in there?"
Sarah blinked aware of a hand waving in front of her face. "Whaa...? Oh, God, I'm sorry. I was just thinking, ya know," she blushed and averted her face.
Taylor felt her heart sing, ‘Thinking, huh? I'd say that was more than just an idle daydream. I've definitely seen that look before. Just not directed at me in a long time.’
Confident, she pushed the issue, "Thinking about what?"
Sarah braced herself and replied, "I guess I should call that shelter so you could drop me by on your way home."
"No, I don't think so," Taylor paused now unsure if she had read the young woman right.
"Oh, yeah, it's probably too late tonight. Maybe first thing in the morning, if that's all right with you. I don't want to impose anymore than I already have," Sarah rushed on, nervously plucking at her shirt sleeve.
"No, I don't think so," Taylor had to try again. Sarah looked up questioningly to find the older woman watching her hopefully.
"I was wondering if you'd like to stay here instead....unless you'd rather not."
"No, I mean yes," Sarah answered quickly. "You've done so much already, I don't want to wear out my welcome."
Taylor smiled relieved, "I don't think that would ever be possible. I’d really like you to stay."
"I'd like that too," Sarah agreed.
"Well, let's get cleaned up and go get something to eat because I'm starved," Taylor replied. "Last one done cooks breakfast!," she challenged and ran for the stairs.
They spent the evening in relaxed companionship, talking, and laughing like old friends. For the first time, they felt free of their past and Sarah could enjoy herself without fear of reprisal. She hadn't had a friend since she met Jose, especially one that meant as much to her as Taylor did. Neither one wanted the evening to end so they went for a walk on the beach. As they walked along the shore’s edge, their conversation dwindled until they walked quietly side by side. Each lost in their own thoughts of what had happened and what changes their lives had just taken. They both knew they owed the other a debt of gratitude but they knew that this friendship ran deeper than just that.
Taylor knew that she was ready to close an old book and begin anew but she wasn't sure what the young woman wanted or needed. Taylor didn't want to jeopardize their friendship and knew that she could be happy as long as she had Sarah's friendship and trust.
Sarah only knew that this was the first time in her life that she really felt alive and free and so much more. She also knew it was all due to the woman walking at her side. ‘I'm in love with her!,’ she silently exclaimed, ‘I love a woman.’ How this happened didn't really matter. The world hadn't come to an end with that revelation, in fact, it had just begun. Without a doubt, she knew that she didn't wanted to walk this new path without this woman. With that decision made, she slipped her hand into the older woman's.
Taylor felt the pressure of the younger woman's fingers entwine with hers and knew for sure that her answers laid in this clasp of hands and hearts. She tightened her long fingers around the smaller hand and they both smiled and walked back towards the house and their future together.
To Be Continued.....