The Man With the Bullet
By Miss Moo

The noise of the sirens surrounded her with an indefatigable howl that bore through her very being. She was exhausted, recumbent on the floor with her head tossed to one side. Red and blue lights flashed against her pale countenance. She had been told not to move.

Her dress, light blue silk that clung to her delicate figure, was smeared with blood. The sound of the gunshot still echoed in her ears and she wondered how many seconds, or minutes, had passed since the moment it was fired had passed.

The bullet had not hit her though, oh no, it was merely a concussion the paramedics had told her. Best not to move just yet, they were calling another ambulance as they spoke.

"Another ambulance." She had whispered, her eyes glazed and unseeing. The paramedics let pity crawl into their gazes.

"She's in shock," one said, "The poor thing."

"Relax sweetheart," said a young man with dark hair. He must have been straight out of med school. "They're taking James to the emergency room as we speak. He's going to be fine. You just have to stay calm, okay sweetheart? He loves you, you need to stay strong for him, okay? Just stay with us, don't panic."

She only heard half of what he said.

"Yes," her voice was dazed, "he loves me."

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The hospital was no better. Everything seemed white and sterilized. She felt dirty and bloody against them. She wanted to run home to her shower and wash the whole night away from her. She wanted to scrub herself clean, right down to the bone.

Instead she let them check her for any signs of a concussion before leading her to a waiting room where they promised to keep her informed about her boyfriend.

"He's going to be okay," they reassured her persistently.

She wondered if anything would be okay again.

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It had taken the two of them by surprise when it had happened. She and James were just coming outside after a lovely dinner at Le Fromage Blanc and were planning on ending the night by taking a stroll along the pier. They were going to talk and laugh and love and cry. It wasn't supposed to happen how it did.

Instead they were brought to an abrupt halt just two blocks down from the restaurant they had only just vacated. The man had pointed a gun to her head and demanded that she hand over her jewelry. Her hands were shaking so hard that she struggled to undo the clasp of her diamond necklace. James had given it to her on her birthday.

The man with the gun grew anxious.

"Hurry up," he demanded with a flick of his gun.

"I am, I am," she insisted, but her fingers wouldn't quit shaking.

Somewhere nearby a door slammed shut and the gunman panicked. Before she could make sense of what was happening, the sound of a gun had ripped through the air around her. She was thrown backwards, hitting her head on the pavement below her. James fell on top of her. Red leaked through his white dress shirt.

The only sounds she could hear were the gunman's frantic footsteps and the echo of the gun in her ear. Then the sirens came, and they pierced her right through her very soul. This was real.

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His mother and father were the first to arrive. They had retired early that night and Mrs. Delain's fleece pyjamas were visible from beneath the winter coat she had thrown on in her haste.

There was a brief pause when his parents first noticed her, and she wondered if they would hate her for what had happened to their son.

Instead, Mrs. Delain rushed forwards to embrace the small, bloodstained woman and their tears mingled together in shared trauma.

'Oh, how they should hate me,' she thought.

James' brother arrived several minutes afterwards. He looked a mess in his white t-shirt and rumpled jeans. He had been pulling at his dark hair, leaving it disheveled and entirely unlike his usual demeanor. He took in her bloodstained dress and smeared make-up and grew pale. She longed for him to accept her as his parents did, but instead he tore his gaze away from her soiled appearance and turned to his parents.

"How is he? How is James?"

His parents told him that the bullet had lodged itself in James' shoulder blade and that the bleeding was extensive, but not life threatening.

He may be writhing in agony for weeks to come, but he would survive. She thought she might cry. Mrs. Delain noticed and swept her into her arms. Some blood had begun to stain her coat, yet she still embraced the girl that had gotten her youngest son shot.

If only her fingers hadn't started shaking.

She glanced up at Alex. He was looking at her too, his gaze hard and pensive. She wanted to flinch away, but instead forced herself to meet his eye. After a moment he looked away, shaking his head.

They understood eachother's pain.

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"I was going to do it," She said. Alex was pacing back and forth in the waiting room. James was just coming out of surgery and his parents would be the first to take his bedside.

Alex sighed, "Don't Elena, not now."

She dropped her eyes to the ground, "You're right. I'm sorry."

He knelt to the ground next to her and brushed her cheek with his thumb. She turned her face towards his touch.

"I'm sorry too, Elle," he said with affection, "but now's not the time."

Tears rolled down her cheeks and she held back the sob that threatened to burst forth from within her chest.

"Soon," he comforted, "soon."

They both knew how shallow those words could be.

His parents came back into the waiting room. Their faces were stained with tears, but their faces were now lined with wide grins of relief.

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She imagined herself fifty years from now. She and James would have a house together. They'd have gladolias in the front yard and an old porch swing out the back. They'd make each other coffee in the mornings and share a reading lamp at night.

They would sit around the the vast oak dining table at Christmas time and James would tell stories to all the grandchildren. He was a good storyteller, James.

"It was love at first sight with this one," He would say, tossing her an affectionate gaze which she would return, "I took a bullet for her once, you know."

And she'd be happy, she really would. She'd love him and he'd love her and they'd grow old and bald and senile and never even have to raise their voices at one another. Oh God, they'd be so happy.

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"He's fine," Mr Delain said through tears of joy, "It's a near miracle, but he's fine. Our son's quite the hero."

Somewhere deep inside, a selfish thought irked inside Elena's brain. Wouldn't things be easier if he had just died?

Then she could mourn him, and she would mourn him sincerely, and then move on with her life.

For happiness was wonderful, it truly was, but how could she live without pain, anger, hate and hurt? How could she live everyday in contentment, never once feeling the need to break every plate in the house in a fit of passion? Happiness would be wonderful, yes, but she selfishly longed for passion.

When she thought of Alex she wondered if she'd ever really known true passion with James.

Yet was it not passion that made James throw himself in front of a bullet for her? Was it not with reverent passion that James uttered her names as their bodies tangled in the sheets at night? Perhaps it was his passion, but she doubted it was hers.

She met Alex's eye and a shared look of understanding passed between the two of them.

She would grow old and bald and senile and content. She would love James, and she would be happy.

For how could she ever leave the man who had taken a bullet for her?