Run In, pt. 2: Forget Me Not (excerpt)

“I think the doctors wanted to keep you overnight. For observation. You hit your head pretty hard.”

 “It’s fine,” she repeated. “Anyway, my roommate is a nurse. She’ll look after me.” She went to the small table beside her bed and grabbed her clothes, which sat folded neatly on the surface. Still wearing the nighty, she slipped on her jeans before reaching for her bra, then paused and looked at Isaac.

 Understanding, he turned to face the wall so she could finish dressing. With some soreness, she got out of the nighty and managed to get one arm through her bra strap, but when she lifted the other, sharp pain shot up her side. She cried out, and Isaac nearly spun around before stopping himself. “Are you okay?” he asked. She, too, turned toward the wall, the wall opposite his, arms tightly over her breasts with her naked back to him. She gripped her side with her free hand, slouching slightly to the side as she waited for the stinging to subside. “Maxie? Are you alright?” Isaac pressed.

“Umm, yeah,” she said, though she looked down at her bra, only halfway on her body and not even snapped, and wondered how she would managed to get it all the way on by herself. Holding her breath and bracing herself for the pain, she slowly tried lifting her arm again, but her aching ribs wouldn’t allow it. Finally, she decided against the bra all together. “I’m almost done,” she said, breathlessly. How could a task as small as putting on a bra, something she did every single day, be so tiresome, she wondered. However, putting on a shirt quickly proved to be most difficult, and most painful.

 After what seemed like hours, Maxie finally threw down her shirt in frustration and leaned on the bed to gather her bearings. Isaac still faced the opposite wall, and she stood behind him, still bare from the waste up, holding her breasts with one arm and her ribs with the other. “How are you doing back there?” he finally asked.

 She sighed. “I can’t do it.”

With furrowed eyebrows, he slightly turned his head, cutting his eyes in her direction. “Do what?”

“Put on my shirt.”

For a moment, he didn’t reply, and then he asked, “Can I… I mean, do you want me to help?”

She turned her back to him again. “No, I’m fine. I can do it.” She reached for her shirt, but only held it in her hand. She didn’t actually believe that she could do it. But was she supposed to let a stranger— one who hit her with his car, at that— help dress her? Taking a deep breath, she got one arm into the shirt. She groaned and winced as she put her head through the appropriate hole next. And then, when it was time to lift her other arm, her ribs objected and she cried out and doubled over in pain.

“Okay, wait,” she heard Isaac say. And then she felt his warm hands on the cool skin of her bare back.

“No!” she cried. “Don’t look at me!”

“I won’t,” he said, gently. “I promise I won’t look. Just let me help you. You’re only going to hurt yourself more.” Maxie remained bent over, her arm still tightly over her chest. “Please,” he said. “I just want to help. It’s the least I can do.” She nodded but didn’t move. “Can you stand straight?” he asked.

She breathed. “In a minute.”

He waited. After a minute, she slowly rose and turned to him. She kept her eyes straight ahead on his chest as he carefully lifted her arm while the other shielded her nakedness. She grimaced in pain as he got it into her sleeve, and then shuddered as he pulled it down over her belly, lightly grazing her skin with his fingertips. “There,” he said, without stepping back. He stood so close to her that their chests nearly touched, so close that the masculine scent of him filled her nostrils.

“Thank you,” she replied, her voice just above a whisper. Still avoiding his eyes, she moved to put on her shoes, and he followed.

“Just sit,” he said, taking the rain boot from her hands and kneeling before her. Her eyes widened as he slipped it onto her foot, and then put the other on her, too. Then he stood and carefully pulled her up to help her into her coat.

“Thank you,” she repeated.

“It’s the least I can do,” he replied. “Listen, are you sure you won’t consider just staying? It’s only one night.”

“My roommate will take care of me,” she assured.

He nodded. “Well, I’ll drive you home, then.”

“You don’t have to.”

He shook his head. “It’s the least I can do.”

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