Chapter Seven: Learning New Things
Christmas was quickly approaching and spirits were high. A lot of the girls were certain the doctors were going to grant them permission to visit home. Thanksgiving had come and gone like any other day, apparently unimportant to those here. Not that I minded, holidays had never been a big thing through my life. Nina was very excited though and chatted nearly nonstop about her hometown.
I found out she was from New Jersey. She lived with her parents until she was twelve and was shipped off to Grove. She didn't give many details on why, but that was a bit of obvious information I didn't have to ask about. Offhandedly, Nina mentioned wanting to go home to see her nephew - J.T. - seeing as he'd been born after she was sent here.
"My parents take care of him," She told me one day while we sat around her room.
"Why?" She grew a little uncomfortable and wouldn't answer me. I shifted from laying upside down off her bed to leaning up on one elbow. "That bad?"
Nina nodded. She bit her lip for a second, before the words came out in such a rush I was certain I'd missed a few. "My brother and his wife Laurie were over the day I set fire to our house. I didn't mean for anyone to get hurt, I swear. But Laurie got trapped inside and the firemen couldn't get to her in time. She died shortly after getting to the hospital. Shawn thinks she stayed alive just long enough to make sure J.T. was alright. Her burns were much more serious than mine, if you can believe that." Nina glanced out the window again when she continued. "I was certain my family would never forgive me."
My mouth fell open and I stared at Nina in utter disbelief. It wasn't until then that I noticed just how much she shared with Shawn. His skin was much lighter, but their facial features were like a slap in the face. Heart shaped face, small nose and big eyes. Their hair color was similar and their eyes exactly the same. How had I missed this?!
Nina turned back to me when I didn't say anything. A nervous laugh was followed by, "You seem awfully surprised considering I burned you not to long ago."
I shook my head, shaking myself mentally at the same time. "I'm just shocked you told me all of that." And blew up Shawn's cancer lie while you were at it. "They forgave you, your family?"
"Yeah," Nina said with a small nod. "I don't know why. Lord knows I don't deserve their forgiveness." She stared at me for a long moment before adding, "Or yours."
I reached across the little distance between us and took her hand in mine. She was a little reluctant at first and almost pulled away, before gripping my supporting hand back. "You have an illness, Nina. No one should blame you for that."
She frowned, staring down at our hands. "My illness can't make up for the life I took," She said sadly.
That was one subject I wasn't sure about getting into. Having only ever wished real harm towards myself, I hadn't a clue what it was like to kill someone.
I left Nina to herself soon after that. My mind was reeling with the new information I'd obtained about Shawn and Nina alike. Never would I have made the connection that they were related, brother and sister at that. Somehow it didn't strike me as a detail Shawn just let slip from his mind all this time. Okay, so we weren't all that close or anything. But still he should have told me. Nina hadn't mentioned Travis as Shawn had a few times. Did she feel differently about Travis then Shawn did?
When I left Nina's room, I hadn't paid much attention to the direction I headed in. It wasn't until the cold December air was slapping against my exposed skin that I realized I was outside. The wrap around porch was under my feet and the door of the Hospital banged shut behind me. There was a group of about seven girls, who'd wrapped themselves up in their warmest winter clothes, laughing and throwing snowballs at one another. Standing outside in the winter in nothing but a tank-top, jeans and sandals probably wasn't the smartest of ideas, but I found once I was out here I didn't want to go back in.
My lungs inhaled a deep breath of the freezing mountain air. The smell of pine and fresh snow mingled in the air together like lost friends. I moved out-of-the-way of the door and a little further to my right. I sat down on one of the hard wooden benches pressed against the Hospital and wrapped my arms around myself in a sad attempt to keep warm. From here I got a nice view of the little building set next to the gate. Two officers sat with their backs to me, feet propped up on the control board. Shawn told me once the control board didn't just control the gate, but the rest of the electric running through the hospital.
Was he working today? I trained my eyes on the officers and decided he wasn't. Shawn doesn't have red or blond hair like the men working the controls today.
I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to ask him why he lied about how Laurie died and why he'd chosen not to tell me Nina was his sister. The longer I sat out there in the cold, the angrier I got with him. I began to question everything he'd shared with me. Had he even had a twin? Was the tattoo really there on his chest, or had he made it all up? For all I know, he could've made it all up.
I'd been stupid to trust him. I could have kicked myself for ever thinking I could tell him about Mom. That had been a mistake in its self. The worst part, I think, was that he'd been trying so hard to get me to open up and then he keeps things from me. He'd lied to me. Kept things from me. Made me trust him with things I'd never trusted with anyone else before.
An hour slipped by without my realizing it. The two on duty cops came out of their building together and made their way up to the Hospital. The girls from before had long since gone inside to seek warmth. As the officers passed me, they shot weird looks my way. Couldn't blame them, I was turning into a human Popsicle. An officer I'd seen around Grove came out a minute later to replace the other two. I think his name is George or Harry or something.
"Have you got a death wish or something?" I looked towards the direction the voice came from, my neck making a loud cracking sound like popping ice. A uniformed Shawn stood just outside the door where I'd been some time before. "Wait, nevermind. I know the answer to that already."
"I never even considered freezing to death, thanks for the suggestion."
He frowned. Shawn glanced towards the Officer's Headquarters and then back at me. He came over and sat down in the empty place next to me on the bench.
"Seriously, what are you doing out here?"
Good question. Until then, I hadn't really known. Because getting a cold from hell wasn't my idea of a good time and I never really saw myself dying from lack of warmth. But when he asked, I realized I had been waiting for him. Not knowing which room he occupied on the third floor left his job as a cop to be my only clue as to where I know I'd cross paths with him. Knowing that was my plan along, I realized how stupid it had been. I couldn't have put on warmer clothes before starting my stake out?
"Waiting for you," I replied truthfully in a causal tone.
His head titled to the side. "Okay... well, I'm here now. What is it you want?" Shawn shrugged out of the large jacket he wore and handed it to me. Were it not for the numbing through out my body, I'd have refused it. But the idea of warmth was too good to pass up.
I want to go home to a certain blue house and live with my grandparents. I want to be thirteen again and stop my mother from killing herself. I want my father to be alive and well. I want to pretend you didn't lie to me and that your sister didn't try to burn me alive. I want to be normal.
The jacket had to be three sizes too big and my hands didn't even hint at poking out of the end of the sleeves. I didn't feel any different at first, but a new smell was added to the pine and snow. Aftershave I'd smelt in the car and some other fruity scent came with the jacket. I inhaled deeply and felt the need to capture the smells for reasons unknown to me.
"Well?" Shawn pushed.
"At New World, when you so kindly shared your life story with me," I started in a much more bitter tone then I'd been aiming for. "is there anything you might have left out?"
Shawn stared at me blankly. "What are you talking about?"
"Nina, Shawn. I'm talking about Nina." A look of understanding slid over his face. I nodded. "Yeah, that's right, I know. She told me. Nina obviously thought it was a nice detail of her life I should know about instead of someone else I know."
"I can explain."
"What if I don't want you too?"
"You wouldn't be freezing your ass off out here if you didn't."
"Cold air stops the aging process. See how corrupted I've become? I'm thinking about my future."
"This isn't getting us anywhere, Chayla."
"And who's fault is that?"
Shawn sighed as he got to his feet. Had I driven him away that quickly? Must be a record of some sort for me. When he reached down and took my hand it took me a little off-guard so I wasn't prepared to keep him from bringing me to my feet. Shawn tugged my numbing body inside, pulling me to the side once we were there. Heat and movement were painful experiences on my frozen over limbs.
"Nina being my sister wasn't an important fact I felt should be shared with you."
I gave him a pointed look. "And lying to me about Laurie?"
"I didn't know how much my sister had told you. It wasn't my secret to share."
"Then you should have told me that," I snapped.
Shawn looked a helpless for a moment. "How? You'd've asked questions, wanted to know more."
I rolled my eyes. "You make it sound like you know me so well."
"I like to think I do."
"Yeah, okay. Name one thing that you could use to argue this point with me." Right after I'd said it, I wish I hadn't. I shook my head, sensing the words forming on his lips. "Don't say it."
Ignoring me like the idiot I'd chosen to think he was, Shawn said, "I know about your mother."
"Ugh! What didn't you understand about 'don't say it'?" I fumbled out of his jacket as my body started to defrost. I shoved the jacket into his chest. He let the jacket fall to the floor rather than grabbing it. "Just go to work."
I stepped around him, making my way towards the stairs. He turned and caught my wrist. Before I could twist myself free, he'd pulled me back. I lost my balance though and ended up falling into him. My nose got a burning inhale of the aftershave he wore. Face resting on his chest, wrist caught in his hand and legs brushing against one another.
My face turned upward and I found myself literally face-to-face with Officer Brennen. It wasn't one of those awkward embraces either. It was rather comfortable if I'm being honest. His chin touched my cheek and there was a pop of static electricity. I couldn't even process the sting that came with that. We were both holding our breath, neither willing to move quite yet. I noticed for the first time the small flakes of blue in his green eyes.
Shawn cleared his throat and it was like having cold water thrown on me. I sprang away, pulling my wrist out of his grasp as I did so. If it weren't for my hour-long sit in the cold, my cheeks would be burning with a bright blush.
"Uh, I've gotta get to work," He stumbled over his words as he had a few times before. "but we can - "
"No," I interrupted quickly. "It's fine. We're fine. No need to continue this conversation." Because I'm afraid of just what might happen if we have any more of those moments like we just had. Feelings stirred in my stomach that I wasn't use to experiencing.
He didn't take his eyes off me even as he bent to get his jacket. Shawn edged his way out the door as I backed up towards the steps. "Then I'll, uh, see you around."
He went out the door and turned away from me just as the backs of my feet hit the bottom step. I sank down, landing hard on my butt. My eyes would have followed him as he trailed through the snow if he hadn't closed the door on his way out. I sat on the steps for a long time, just starring holes into the door.
With a drawn out sigh, I laid back on the uncomfortable staircase. I looked up at the ceiling and my eyes traced patterns into the rough-looking surface.
"What are you doing, Chayla?" I asked myself and it had nothing to do with my laying on a staircase starring at the ceiling. No, it had nothing to do with that and everything to do with a certain man of law enforcement.