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Draw Down the Moon

Draw Down the Moon 15

“John . . . John . . .”

“I’m here, Dana. I’m right here.”

“She was there, John . . . I heard her . . . I heard her voice. She was calling my name.”

“Who, honey? Who was calling you?”

“I couldn’t find her. Where is she? Where has she gone? I can’t hear them anymore.”

“Sh, Dana. You need to rest.”

“John . . .”

“I’m here.”

“He hurt me. He wants to hurt me down to my bones.”

“Who hurt you?”

“I want my baby.”

“Dana, tell me who hurt you.”

“Where’s William? Did he hurt William?”

“William is fine. My mother is tending him. Tell me who hurt you.”

“Did he hurt you? Did he touch you?”

“Nobody’s hurt me. Tell me who’s after you, Dana.”

“I’m so tired.”

“Okay . . . rest, baby. We’ll talk when you’re better.”

“Don’t leave me.”

“Never. I’m staying right here.”

***

It was worse than labor, worse than cancer and chemo. It burned so deep inside she thought she would vomit flame. She burned with fever, she shivered with chills, she pushed John from her when he got too close and clawed him to her when he was too far away. He stroked her hair and whispered to her as she screamed and trembled and sobbed.

Her body was a battleground and she did not know the face of her enemy. She only knew his touch that marked her with sulfur and fire.

She wept in John’s arms and he could only kiss and comfort her, bewildered and helpless.

***

It was a long night, one of the worst of John’s life. Dana was bruised and scratched, her skin burning to the touch. He undressed her as tenderly as a baby, raising and lowering her arms, supporting her with a hand at the small of her back. He folded her clothes and put them aside, knowing they might be needed as evidence later.

Evidence. He winced and buried his face in her hair. She stirred, whispering, “John?”

“Sh, baby. Just rest. It’s me.”

“John,” she murmured again, and burrowed herself closer to him. “John, I don’t remember anything.”

He closed his eyes, not surprised. “It’s okay, honey. You will, when you’re ready.”

When he was ready himself, he wet down a washcloth and carefully cleaned her face and hands, wiping away streaked dirt and dried blood. There were splinters in her fingers, and several of her fingernails were broken and ragged. The skin on her knuckles was rubbed raw.

She had fought something—someone—fought it hard, and John couldn’t tell who won.

Or even if the fight was over.

***

Long after midnight Hannah knocked timidly at the door with William in her arms. “I thought she might want to see him,” she whispered, and John nodded and took the baby. William looked like he’d been crying again, and he snuffled against John’s neck.

“I’ll try to get him to sleep, too.”

She nodded. “Get me if you need anything.”

“How’s Dad doing?”

“He’s all right. He’s sorry to have missed your golf game, but he understands, of course. You know, we can take a taxi to the airport in the morning.”

“No, no, I’ll drive you. No need to put Dad through that.”

“Johnny,” she said gently, “the more he does the better he’ll get. He could have played golf today too, you know, and you weren’t worried about that.”

“I was going to rent a cart.”

“And we’ll take a taxi. Good night, Johnny. Good night, sweet William,” she murmured, kissing the baby’s peachfuzz hair. She smiled at them and went down the hall to the guest room.

John rubbed William’s back with his fingertips, looking down at his face. “You missed your mom today, huh, Willie boy,” he murmured, and the baby gave a little wail in response.

In the bed Dana stirred, and said in her rusty voice, “William?”

“He’s here, Dana.” John moved to her side and sat on the edge of the bed. “Do you feel like saying hi?” He laid William against her side.

Dana touched the baby’s foot, then gathered him to her with a little sob. “Oh, my baby,” she whispered. “My poor baby.” William pressed his fists against her cheeks and sucked on her chin. “Yes, my love, hello,” she whispered, genuinely crying now, and John went to the bathroom for tissues.

When he came back Dana was sitting up against the pillows with William against her shoulder. Her eyes, though red and damp, were more clear than they’d been all day. “He knows me,” she said.

“Of course he does.”

She took a tissue, wiped her eyes and blew her nose. “How long was I gone?”

“About ten hours. I’m not sure when you left.”

She pressed her lips together and leaned her cheek against William’s head. His eyes were closed and he was sucking his
fist contentedly. John played with the baby’s bare toes and said, “You’ve got some splinters in your fingers, honey. How about if I remove them for you.”

“Okay. Thanks.” She looked down her fingertips, as if she hadn’t noticed them before.

He hesitated to leave her, though. “Are you feeling better, or would you rather sleep longer?”

Dana thought about it a moment, and said, “I feel like I’ve been asleep for a week.” She took a deep breath. “You’ll need rubbing alcohol and a sewing needle.”

“Okay. ‘Cause it can wait—”

“No, they’ll get infected if we leave them in. Do I have a black eye?”

He caressed her cheek. “A faint one.”

Dana nuzzled her cheek in his hand. “I got worked over pretty good, didn’t I.”

“Looks like you did. But it also looks like you gave as good as you got.”

She nodded, then pressed her lips to his hand with a faint whimper, her eyes squeezed shut. John left his hand there until she took another deep breath and opened her eyes. “I’m better now.”

“Baby, I can get you to the emergency room in fifteen minutes if you want.”

“No, honestly, John, it’s not needed. I’m not hurt. Not really, not seriously. I’ll be better in a few days. I’m warm . . . I feel a little feverish. I ache a bit. My feet hurt.”

“You were delirious earlier.”

“I feel better now. I feel calm.”

“Dana . . . ” He took her hand. “I’m afraid more happened to you than we can see.”

A puzzled line appeared between her brows, then she said, “You think I was raped.”

He felt the force of the word in the depth of his chest. “You have to admit it’s a possibility.”

“I wasn’t, John. I know my body. I’m sore and I’m bruised, but I’m not torn. Would you feel better about it if I did go to a hospital and got checked out?”

“I don’t know. I think I would. But if you say you’re fine, I’ll believe you. You’d know.”

“I’m fine,” she said gently.

He took her hand again, squeezed it quickly and got up. “Let’s get those splinters out.”

***

Dana studied her fingertips as John collected a sewing needle, tweezers, rubbing alcohol and cotton balls to remove her slivers.

She hadn’t noticed them before he pointed them out—she hadn’t noticed much of anything until he put William in her arms. Nothing had really pierced the fog that enveloped her all day, not even the breast milk soaking through her pajama top, until she heard John’s voice in their neighbors’ garden.

William was asleep next to her now, nestled between two pillows. Dana stroked his silken leg with the side of her hand, watching his eyes flit beneath his paper-thin eyelids. He sucked his fist in his sleep, and sometimes his feet would twitch.

I left him for a whole day, she though. How could I just forget him?

“Ready?” John said, sitting on the edge of the bed. Dana nodded and pulled herself up to sitting, folding her legs so John could sit close. He set his supplies on the nightstand, unscrewed the cap of the rubbing alcohol and dabbed some onto a cotton ball. He took her right hand and carefully began to clean her first finger.

Dana watched him silently. There were a few strands of gray in the hair at his temples, weariness around his eyes. She sighed and he glanced up.

“What’s wrong?”

She shook her head. “Nothing.”

He put down the cotton ball and picked up the needle. “This is going to sting a little.”

“I’m ready.” The needle pricked her finger and she inhaled at the pain.

“Sh, sh, sh,” John soothed. “There. First one out and I didn’t even need the tweezers.” He kissed the tip of her finger and picked up another cotton ball.

Dana’s eyes burned and she had to look away. I don’t want to doubt you, she thought.

“John, I don’t remember anything.”

He looked up at her slowly. “It’s okay, Dana. You will.”

“I want to talk about it. I need to talk about it, John.”

“It’s okay, honey.” He rubbed her palm. “Just rest.”

“I thought I was dreaming. I heard Emily calling to me. She was calling ‘Mommy, Mommy.’ But when I got outside she wasn’t there, someone else was.”

“Who?” he asked, serious.

“I don’t know. I don’t remember his face.” She closed her eyes, trying to put what she remembered into words. There was pain and fire and a darkly whispering voice . . . “It’s a blur. I’m sorry, baby, it’s just a blur.”

He nodded, bending over her hand again. “We’ll figure it out,” he murmured. “No need to worry about it now.”

“But I should remember.”

“I know.” She winced as he dug out another splinter, and he said, “And you will. When you’re ready.”

She watched him clean her third finger, and she said, “I wasn’t angry at you.”

“You were damn pissed at me, Dana.”

“I didn’t leave the house because I was angry. I thought Emily needed me.”

He sighed. “Dana . . .”

“But I should have known it wasn’t her,” Dana said with a frown. “It didn’t . . . smell right.”

“Dana,” John said, but only frowned and continued picking out the splinter.

“You still don’t believe me. You won’t let yourself believe.” She felt herself deflate with disappointment.

John took a breath, and then lifted her finger to his mouth and kissed the end. He said, holding her hand to his mouth, “I know you need me to believe you. And I need you to believe in me, babe, I need you to believe I love you and—and—” He kissed her hand.

“They love us. That’s why they’re here. They love you, they love me, they love William, they’re here to protect us, John. I don’t want to deny them.” She cupped his cheek. “Luke loves you so much—”

He moved his face away, muttering, “Don’t.”

“Why not?”

John said in a rough voice, “I don’t like to think about my son suffering or wandering the earth—”

“He’s not suffering. He’s not wandering. He’s with us. He’s with you.”

He lowered his head again. “I’d rather fight with you than talk about this anymore.”

“I don’t want to fight.”

“Then let me finish with the splinters and we should get some sleep. You’ve had a long day.”

“So have you, I’d say.”

John finished her right hand and picked up her left, and said quietly, still picking splinters from her fingers, “I don’t know if I can change as much as you need me to, Dana.”

“I don’t want you to change. I just want you to believe. Believe in me if you can’t believe in anything else.”

At this he finally gave her a smile. “That, I can do,” he said, and leaned forward to kiss her mouth.

Dana inhaled at his touch and wrapped her arms around his neck. Oh, it was John, John’s lips and John’s scent and John’s hair and John’s skin. She traced the ledges of his cheekbones and his elven ears and his stubborn jaw. He kissed her sweetly, his hands cupping her skull.

When he ended the kiss he played with her hair and leaned his forehead against hers. “We should sleep.”

“I’d like to take a bath. It can wait until morning,” she added at his look.

“Should I put William to bed?”

“Let’s keep him with us.”

He nodded, kissed her briefly, and got up with a small groan. “Long, long, night, baby.”

“Come to bed,” she said, and put the pillows on the floor. She pulled William closer to her and kissed his round cheeks a few times.

An image flashed before her eyes: his hands around her throat, his ancient voice in her ear—*This child is mine!*

She gasped and John rushed out of the bathroom, his toothbrush in his mouth. “Dana?”

“Nothing,” she whispered. She kissed William, curling herself around him. “Nothing can touch us here.”

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