Chapter 18: Decisions

"How are you?" Marah tapped her highlighter against her textbook. She sat on the sofa in her parents' den. Books were piled all around her, but she gave up on studying about an hour ago. Remy Boudreaux had taken residence inside her mind. She couldn't shake him, so she grabbed the phone and dialed his number. Unfortunately, he didn't seem to be in a talkative mood.

"I'm alright," he mumbled.

"You haven't been in lecture all week. I was worried."

"I had other stuff to do."

She hesitated, wondering if he would continue. He didn't. She said, "If you need to borrow my notes, you can. I can drop them off…"

"That's okay. I'm gonna buy the lecture notes. Don't worry about it."

"Okay."

"Marah, this isn't a good time. I'll talk to you later."

"Remy, wait—"

The dial tone cut her off. She placed the cordless phone on the end table. What the hell was that? He totally blew her off.

"Sweetie, your brother and I are ordering pizza," Reva said as she entered the den. She paused as she met her daughter's gaze. "What's wrong?"

"Does it show on my face?" Marah hugged her knees to her chest. She gave her mother a mournful look. "Remy hates me."

"I doubt that." Reva sat on the sofa. She took Marah's hand. "Tell Mama what happened."

"He won't talk to me. Maybe he blames me for what happened." Marah shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe it is my fault."

"You can't believe that," Reva said, "and if Remy believes it, you're better off without him."

"That's not fair. You weren't there," Marah defended. "You don't know what it's like for him. Neither do I."

"Regardless, he doesn't have the right to treat you badly. Friends value each other."

Marah stood. "You're right. There's something I need to do. You and Shayne can have pizza without me." She kissed her mother's cheek. "I'll see you later."

"What are you planning?"

Marah smiled. "I'll tell you about it later. Just wish me luck."

Reva's brow creased into a frown. "Good luck."

~*~

"I was thinking that you could help me find a dress. Dawn can help with the flower arrangements and Maureen would probably do the invitations," Mel said. "The Bauer backyard would be the ideal location. That way, everything will come as a complete surprise to Rick."

"Wait a minute, baby." Felicia used the lull in conversation to bring her daughter back to reality. "Are you listening to yourself? Surprise the groom? You don't surprise the groom into having a wedding. You and Rick should discuss this first. Maybe after he has the transplant and has recovered—"

"Mama, why are you acting like Daddy?" Mel interjected. "I'd expect him to object. I came to you first because I thought you'd be supportive."

"I would be if this proposed wedding was taking place under normal circumstances."

"Unfortunately, there is nothing normal about our circumstances," Mel said, a hint of sarcasm in her tone. "We can't wait until he's recovered. We need to get married now."

Felicia decided to ignore Mel's tone and get to the heart of the discussion. "Why now? Rushing into anything is never smart. You know that."

"This isn't exactly a rush—"

"Not exactly?" Felicia repeated. "You haven't been a couple long enough to discuss marriage. I'm not denying you love each other. I can see that, but his illness is no reason to run full speed ahead."

"Yes, it is! Tomorrow isn't promised to us. I don't want to miss a moment of life with him."

Felicia rose from behind her desk and grasped her daughter's shoulders. "Then don't. Be with him. Take a leave of absence and share these days with him. You don't have to be his wife to love him. Why are you rushing into this? The truth this time, please."

"His strength is fading. There's nothing I can do to save him." Tears sprang to Mel's eyes. She sniffled and continued, "Maybe if we were married, he'd have a reason to hang on. I know a donor is out there. I'm just scared by the time one is found, it will be too late. I don't want to lose, Rick, Mama. I love him so much."

Mel burst into tears. Felicia hugged her oldest child. Her heart broke to see Mel in so much pain. Words failed her. In her profession, she'd counseled many, but when it came to soothing her own child's worst fears, there was nothing she could say.

~*~

Light hurt her eyes. She pushed the sunglasses up the bridge of her nose and carefully shuffled back inside the bedroom. The wooden floorboards creaked under the weight of her steps. Gilly welcomed the noise. It reminded her that she was alive.

She closed the door and slid the bolt into place. Her rescuers said they lived miles away from the nearest town, and although she believed them, she didn't want to take any chances. Before dawn, Sam and his wife Alice rode into town for supplies. They weren't due back until late afternoon. Until then, Gilly was her own protector.

Moving to each window, she pulled the curtains closed so that only a small ray of light filtered into the room. She then set her glasses on the bedside table. Pain throbbed inside her head. But the ache wasn't new. The explosion left a few reminders in its wake. One was the damage to her vision and the other was the disappearance of her husband.

Alice left a pitcher of water and a bottle of aspirin. Gilly reached for the water, but left the aspirin alone. The medicine only dulled the pain. What she needed was real medical attention. But she couldn't take that risk. Not until she knew what happened to Alan-Michael. Going out into the real world could jeopardize their safety. It wasn't worth the risk of death.

She drew in a long breath and remembered the last moments she shared with her husband…

The day had started out so lovely. Not a cloud marred the sky. Alan-Michael took her hand as they left their hideaway. The clean break they needed was there and the future was theirs for the taking. By the time they reached the car, Alan-Michael was whispering in her ear all the things he planned to do to her. Neither of them expected the fiery blast that erupted when he opened the passenger door.

Gilly flinched and then blinked, bringing herself back to the present. The aftermath of the explosion was nothing short of torture. If the Tysons hadn't welcomed her into their home, she wouldn't have survived.

The familiar chug of their truck's engine roared up the gravel-covered drive. Relief swept over her. She hated being alone. Her damage vision made her vulnerable, an experience that was decidedly unwelcome.

She heard a door slam and moments later, heavy footsteps pounded across the porch. Gilly stiffened. The sound wasn't right. Sam's gait was more forceful than that. She pulled her weapon, a baseball bat, from underneath the bed.

A knock sounded on the door. She held her breath and waited.

Another knock came. A male voice called out, "Gilly! It's okay. Open the door. I've come to take you home."

She recognized that voice, but the sincere tone couldn't belong to its owner. There was no way in hell Alan Spaulding would come to her rescue.

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