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The Hunted

A gun fires and the dark engulfs me. Falling silently to the ground, I
see no one and no one sees me. The hole on the right side of my chest
grows moist with my blood and as I take one more breath my hazel eyes
fill with tears…I hear footsteps approaching, feel a kick in the ribs,
and think, "This is the end."

Though, in reality, it’s only the beginning.

Chapter 1
A Hospital, Some Gunshots, and Some Plans




The soft beep of heart rate monitors brought me out of my delirium.
White, cotton bandages cover my left shoulder. My body aches and I
know why, the fall to the pavement had been fast and painful. I scan
the area to find a normal hospital room. The wound is obviously less
fatal than I had assumed, but the bleeding is still carrying on.

A doctor in blue scrubs leisurely strolls to my chart, oblivious of
the fact that I'm conscious. After checking my charts and whistling a
little tune, he looks up to see me staring back at him with the utmost
boredom on my face. The embarrassment he felt showed with the
reddening of his cheeks and I turned away for a moment after taking
him in. He didn’t look that old so, I guessed early twenties. His
hair is a short mess, tousled and out of place. His eyes are a soft
blue and I feel as if I could get lost in them for hours if I wanted
to. I look for an identification card on his uniform, but find none.
Finding my wandering gaze he introduces himself.

"Charlie. I mean, uhh. My name is Charlie." The red hasn't faded from
his cheeks and he keeps glancing at the floor. Charlie's voice was
shaky, but was relatively calm. "I already know your name, Allison.
You've been out cold since yesterday," his voice wasn't shaky anymore
and the tone of it was quite soothing.

"Yesterday?" I looked into his blue eyes searching for answers. I
hadn't remembered when I was brought in, because I wasn't conscious.
"When was I brought in and by whom? Am I going to be ok?" My mind
raced around questions I hadn't thought to ask until now, but Charlie
was quick with the answers and completely in his own element.

"You came in at about midnight two nights ago, pretty banged up. A
gunshot wound to your right shoulder, a bruised rib, and you must've
taken a pounding to your head. I don't work day shifts, and I didn't
have you on my list, so you'd have to ask the other nurse for what
happened during the days, but when I got here you were cleaned up and
well handled. You'll be ok. They stitched up your wound and we've got
you on medication for the time being. My bet is the way you're
recovering; you'll be out and about in a few days." He gave me a
smirk and a random scene played in my mind.

I was walking through the park. I heard a gunshot and I fell to the
ground. Then everything faded to black. The memory was what happened
to me the other night, but it was too vague to even consider
plausible.
My heart rate increased for a second and my un-monitored hand flew
to my chest. A slight thud and a moment later, the beeping on the
machine stopped as a nurse strolled into the room. Her stature was one
that made you want to cower the minute she walked in the room. For a
second I questioned if that was even a woman.

Her name card read, Carren Foridda. Her blonde hair cut as if she
were a pre-pubescent boy, her shoulders broad, standing somewhat near
five feet eleven inches. Carren didn't look like the person you would
start a fight with. She glanced at the monitors behind me, being sure
to avoid eye contact. When I fidgeted from the awkward silence that
had settled into the room she glared at my leg, seeming to will them
to stop their incessant wiggling. Carren must've sensed my uneasiness
and directed her attention to the monitors again. Before saying a word
she glanced slightly in my direction than in a barely audible tone
said, "What set off the monitor? From what I'm seeing everything is in
check now." She scanned the monitors one more time before looking at
the bandage from the gunshot wound.

"Just a slight thought got me a little upset. That's all." My voice
wavered minutely at the word slight, I don't think Carren noticed. I
looked at her trying to direct her attention to my eyes, so she
couldn't see my hands starting to shake. I’m thinking about all of
this, while lying in a hospital bed was a small amount more than
overwhelming. When her eyes met mine, the shaking in my hand was one
notch below a full-on earthquake. I grabbed at the edge of the blue,
uncomfortable hospital blanket for something to toy with while the
nurse was in the room. Her eyes could sense the deceptive tone in my
voice, but I remained calm, remembering I'm still hooked up to the
heart rate monitor.

Her voice now strong and firm she told me, "Well, you'll need as much
rest as possible to get out of here and make a speedy recovery. That
must've been one hell of a thought, though." At her last sentence, it
wasn't a question, more of a reminder.

"You have no idea." Shaking my head and squeezing the blanket with my
hand, I tried to sound as normal as possible, but my words came out as
what seemed like a plea for help, not a reassuring statement. In fact,
I was reluctant to see Carren turn to leave, as she did so I noticed
the similarities in attitudes between Carren and Charlie. Both seemed
antsy and nervous when first talking to me, yet, in a few moments they
seemed to return to their, what I assume to be, normal personalities.

Now, reminiscing on Charlie's eyes and boy-ish charm, I was hit with
major fatigue. He seemed like he was morbidly embarrassed by the fact
that I found him whistling a tune, when really it was refreshing to
wake up to something as nice as that. Maybe when I'm out of here, I'll
come back to visit him.

My mind growing slower every second, I fell back to sleep in seconds.


The wind blew my auburn hair away from my slender face as I stepped
out of the forested pathway. I drew my coat’s color around my neck to
protect myself from the cold. As I did so, I heard footsteps heading
my way. Not sensing any danger I proceeded, looking down at my
designer shoes. Lost in my own thoughts, I tried to remember where I
got them, but hardly being able to recall a name for the store, I gave
up soon after attempting. Another strong breeze and I stopped in my
tracks. I felt as if I should go back to the restaurant. Not knowing
the source of my anxiety, I kept walking feeling foolish. Slowly my
gaze moved from my shoes to the moon and my thoughts from stores to
Susan. The lovely Susan. Straining to remember when we had become
friends the memory shattered through the grogginess of my mind like a
brick through a glass window. Then as I was bringing up that long
forgotten memory, a new one played in my mind instead. I had told
Susan about my “other job” I had been offered about a month ago.
A devastatingly well-groomed man with the most serious expression had
approached me at my job at the diner that I work at downtown telling
me to take a seat with him in the back. I had never seen him before
and grew anxious, but happy to have a break. So, I, against my better
judgment, agreed. Slowly he spelled out the facts for me. Everyday a
man came into the diner that is involved in the selling of illegal
drugs. The well-groomed man tells me if I keep a look out for the drug
dealer I can have the money he’s got in his hand. I glanced down at
the money, tempted, but not nearly enough, until I saw that the roll
of money was three inches thick and made of hundreds. Being nineteen
and on my own, my mind tried to calculate and analyze what was
happening. The money pile was worth more than what I earned in two
months working at this diner! So, I took his offer.

The next week, the well-groomed man returned saying that the drug
dealer had saw the transaction that had taken place and had hired
hit-men. The man told me to leave town, but I couldn’t leave suddenly
like that. There would be suspicion and questions from my boss. After
that, I never saw the man again, but I felt like I was being followed
throughout the time of seeing the well-groomed man and now. I was
shaking off the paranoia and trying to think of Susan again when a
sharp pain hit my right shoulder. I fell backwards from the blow and
couldn’t catch myself. Before I knew it, the assailant was standing
over me gun pointed at my face. Another pain in my ribs before I
realized what was happening. The person grabbed my purse and took off
in the direction I had been headed before this atrocity happened.

Then it all faded to black, just as it did before. As my mind became
slightly more aware of what was going on, I could hear the beeping of
my heart monitor and the quiet whisper of concerned people.

I opened my eyes to see Susan standing at the foot of my bed with
Charlie. She was asking him questions that, for a while, seemed like
he wouldn’t be able to answer with certainty. I could hear some of the
requests Susan was making to him and some of them were completely
ridiculous. Though, that would be Susan’s style: Completely outrageous
and over-done.

Even her outfits were a little over-the-top. Today though, she just
wore simple jeans and a pastel sweater. Her make-up made up for her
simple clothing. Susan’s make-up always seemed to be done by an
authentic street-whore.

Irritation started to creep in Charlie’s voice as Susan made a
request that she have a different nurse. Pretending to still be
asleep, I listened closely to the conversation.

“I don’t think you’re doing everything you can! You’re just letting
her sleep and pumping drugs into her! How is that helping?” The anger
in Susan’s voice was apparent. She leaned against a wall and crossed
her plump arms over her chest. Standing straight up on a normal day,
Susan had the ferocity of a five year old child who wasn’t getting
desert after dinner. Now, she looks about eighty with her posterity
and attitude mixed into the equation. A sigh and a head nod later, she
apologized for her rude manner.

“We really are doing all we can for her. I hope you know that. It’s
just that she’s in good condition. She’ll be out of here in a few days
and ready to get back to normal life.” Charlie calmly stated to her in
a matter-of-fact tone. Being neither arrogant nor doubtful he stands
tall holding himself up by pride that he hadn’t exuberated earlier.
Susan was defeated, no longer wanting to argue with Charlie she bowed
her head as a dog that has just been scolded by its owner would. She
slowly made her way to the window, looking out but seeing none of it.
Susan’s eyes filled with the famous stare that screamed “Please be
right, please”.

Still looking at Susan, Charlie glides to my bedside, finally
noticing I’ve been watching. He smiles a little and shakes his head at
me.

“Have a good sleep? You’ve been out of it for another day. I was
starting to get a little worried.” Susan whipped around at his words
and gave him the death glare. He must have felt her eyes burning the
back of his neck, because he slightly cocked his head in her
direction. She shifts her gaze back out the window, mumbling something
to herself. No doubt, a mouthful of profanities that would make any
nun faint at the utterance of those un-holy words. If Susan hadn’t
taken a job at a newspaper she could’ve taken a job as Professional
Vulgarity Expert, changing the world one profanity at a time.

“Yeah, I slept fine. Was I really asleep for two days?” I asked,
using my weak arms to hoist myself up into a sitting position while
having a small fight with gravity. Charlie, thankfully, put a hand on
my back once I was nearly all the way up and pushed me the rest of the
way. By the time I was in a sitting position Susan stood at the end of
the bed looking at my feet wiggling under the blanket. Her hand slid
onto one of my size seven feet without me realizing it and I twitched
away from the unknown source of feeling and then relaxing back when I
realized it’s only Susan’s hand and not some creep’s hand. Her hand
slides back onto my foot and instead I reach out and hold her hand
with mine.

Charlie, sporting an embarrassing look, asked how I felt and checked
if I needed to go to the bathroom. Reluctantly, I accept his offer
feeling as though my bladder may explode at any second. Both Charlie
and Susan lead me to the bathroom and I let them in on a big secret at
the door.

“I think I can do this myself, being 19 and all.” I said while
opening the door. Charlie lets go of my arm and steps to the side,
showing me he isn’t going to interfere and adds.

“Okay then, but just don’t tell my boss. I don’t want her thinking
I’m just sitting around here all day, getting paid for nothing.” His
humor sends me laughing as I wobble through the door way. I turn
around once I’m inside and shut the door. Before the door closes all
the way, I catch a wink from Charlie and a smile from Susan.

I walk to the sink and stand there just for a second. Looking at the
bandage that was replaced while I was sleeping in a coma like state.

After using the facilities, I stroll back into the hospital room,
already feeling slightly better. Charlie had left the room and only
Susan remains. She took up a spot at the window that is only showing
the parking lot under the illumination of their lamp posts.

‘He asked me about you.” Susan states as she turns slowly away from
the window. “He wanted to know what you’re like. I think he’s taking
an interest in you.” She made sure to add in a raised eyebrow to
question me on whether the interest is mutual or not.

“I’ve only seen him twice, and that’s when I’m waking up in a
hospital. Not exactly where you’d want to meet a new love interest,
and anyways he’s got to be in his twenties.” I tell her, taking a seat
next to her at the window.

“So, what? You’re nineteen and mature. I’d mistake you for thirty if
I didn’t know you.” She points out, shrugging her shoulders.

“So, I got shot and I don’t know if they’ll stop if they know I
survived. I don’t want to bring him into this. Yes, Charlie is nice
and, yes, very attractive, but he’ll probably freak out when I tell
him about this.” Standing up, I see Charlie standing by the door with
a tray of food in his hand, which looks like it was bought from a
restaurant, not from a hospital cafeteria.

“Well, considering your friend has already told me what happened to
you and I’m still interested, do you think you could give me a chance?
Just a date? I checked your charts you’ll be out of here tomorrow,
because your gunshot wound is healing over nicely and we’ve lowered
your medication level down. So what do you say?” He talks and moves to
me, setting the tray down on the bedside table and then walking over
to get closer to me.

“I can’t say that I don’t want to, but I don’t know. Tomorrow, Susan
you have to work don’t you?” I said turning towards Susan and subtly
winking at her.

“Yeah I do, unfortunately. I have to write an article about the trash
system here not being on time, lately.” She says smirking.

I turn briskly around to Charlie and put my hands on my hips. “Well
then, looks like I’ll be free all tomorrow. What about you?”

He smiles and says, “Interesting…Tomorrow night is my day off. I’ll
get some sleep after my shift then pick you up to take you to your
house so you can get cleaned up before our date.” He blushed again and
I couldn’t help but smile at him.

“What time should I be expecting you, Sir?” I say playfully, poking
his stomach.

“I’ll come to get you around noon. I’ll check you out and handle all
of that, I’ll see you then, Allison.” He said still trying to hide the
redness filling his cheeks.

“Yes, I bet you will.” I tell him.

Charlie turns around and then adds, “By the way, I’m twenty-three.”
He smiles, and feeling my cheeks start to turn a vibrant red, I look
back to Susan. Who is smiling and shrugging at me.

“I’ll be awaiting our date tomorrow!” I said loudly, as Charlie spun
to leave the room and check on other patients.

“Okay, well, get some rest and press the call button if you need me.”
And then he was gone. Relief and excitement still hanging in the air.

Susan stands and wanders over to me, pulling me into her embrace.
“I’ve got to go too. I’ll be waiting for your call after your date.”
She said as she lets me go and starts to move towards the door. “Oh,
and he seems nice.” A smirk from her and she leaves. I’m standing in
the middle of the room and realize that the food is still there. A
rumbling emits from my stomach and I figure it’s time to eat.

Charlie had brought a cheeseburger and fries with a milkshake. Eating
solid food was a struggle and I immediately felt a drowsy feeling
afterwards. I use the bathroom one more time, then crawl into the
hospital bed. I think about the date tomorrow as I drift off to sleep.




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