A Remember WENN story
by Linda M. Young
Damn, his hand hurt. Who would have thought that idiot Bickman's chin was as thick as his head?
All right, so it was his fault. He'd let his temper blind him and not noticed the doctor had crumbled immediately to the floor, nursing his face, and the second, final blow had caught the corner of the windowsill. Did stars really come in that many colors?
When his eyes finally cleared he'd found himself on the floor as well. Bickman was squalling as well as could be expected with a swelling cheek, bleating about calling a lawyer, and Mr. Foley was solicitously helping him to his feet. Betty, he noticed with some satisfaction, was at his side, examining his hand.
The memory brought a quick grin. Oh, she'd made all the proper disapproving noises, all right. Still, he could have sworn he saw the merest hint of a twinkle in her eye as well.
He removed the ice bag from the hand for a moment. It looked both worse and better than it had earlierthe scraped skin had been removed and the area painted with iodine; ice had helped the swelling, but an array of purplish and maroon bruises had taken the place of the reddened skin stretched tightly over his knuckles and the back of his hand. It bit and stung, sending sharp, burning prickles up and down his arm as far as his shoulder.
As injuries ran, this one was fairly minor. His body ached just to think about Singapore; the locals had no sense of humor about runs of luck at the gaming tables. Still, he'd been looking forward to this nighta long, uninterrupted sleep on a comfortable bed rather than in a sleeping bag, without the combined snoring of Mackie Bloom and Tom Eldridge, and Jeff Singer's intensely disturbing nightmares, and thoughts that strayed to the Green Room too often for his liking.
He squinted through the doorway to the kitchen where he could see the bottle of painkiller the doctor had given him, set on the worn oilcloth tacked neatly to the counter next to the sink. Was the pain that bad? The bottle certainly held some type of opium mixture; he wasn't sure he wanted the tilted nightmares that would inevitably follow. Instead he stretched out the sofa, trying to forget the events of the past ten days, but it was as if the pain kept drawing him back.
Odd how when he let his mind drift he'd go back to the better memories, as if the sting of the final days had been erased with their release: their cobbled-up supper on the first evening, Tom Eldridge's oddly moving Grace, Gertie's rhythmical picking of "Good Night Ladies"...
If the damned stuff would let him sleep, without that thought, he'd take it.
He staggered to his feet, painfully helped himself to a dose of the opiate, lay back down without bothering to turn out the light. He could sleep through a hurricane. Sleep was what he wanted, not sentiment. He had unfinished business to get back to.
The opiate made him drift finally, until he could feel himself swaying as if he were back on the schooner. A few more moments and he would be asleep...
The sun abovehadn't he been on deck, napping in the sun?was abruptly blotted out by a silhouette. For a moment all he could make out was a human shape, then dim details emerged: someone tall, smooth-scalped...
He struggled to sit up, to seeand then the form moved so its face was exposed to light, revealing the ravages of fire like the bodies he'd seen from Guernica.
He'd forgotten he could scream.
It at least woke him so that he lay gasping on his bed, the pulsing of his hand muted by the beating of his heart crushing his eardrums. Where were the plans? He'd had them in the mail when he arrived home, rolled safely in cardboard tubing. Laid on the chair, with his coat, ready to leave with him whenever he ventured to the station again. He'd tell her.
Maybe not right away. The funds needed to get a little larger. But he'd tell her. He'd make it right.
He lay back, shiveringfrom the dream? the icepack? the dulled pain?
Sleep. Just sleep. It drew him in and swallowed him.
He was vaguely aware of Mackie and Maple chatting next to him. They were dancing, and he was dancing...no. He didn't want to go there.
"Scott? Is something the matter?"
The voice was wrongtoo light, too cloying. When he focused on his partner, it turned out to be Celia, Celia in a flaming red dress, a fashionable little hat perched at a rakish tilt on her head. But Celia wasn't here. He'd known from the moment he saw her she'd never stay in Pittsburgh. There were too many Celias in his past; he'd had his pick of them, from bold brassy Maxine in London to the sly bargirls in Singapore. They were going places, no time to settle, using whomever they could...just like him.
It would be impolite to back awaybut what had he ever cared about politeness? Sherwoods did as they liked.
Instead he closed his eyes, willing her away.
The dance slowed, he felt hair brush against his cheek. He knew without seeing that the dream was back, the one he didn't want, the one he was drawn to.
He could still smell the light cologne, the freshly-pressed scent of her, the hint of bookprint and typewriter ribbon and shampoo; she was soft under his hands, against his cheek. She knew her own mind but didn't manipulate; could match him word for word if she liked, but never took the advantage. Not like him. He belonged with the bargirls and the users.
If that was so, then why was this the only place he felt at peace?
He surrendered to the dream, opened his eyes to see Betty's smile, and let it take him off to sleep.
* * * * *She shouldn't laugh again. It was cruelhis conclusion had been just an innocent misdiagnosis.
But when she thought of Dr. Bickman going down under Scott's fist, she still giggled. After ten days confined, it was good to laugh, even if it was over the doctor's pomposity deflated by a quick hook to his jaw.
When he'd gotten through shouting and squalling there was actually surprisingly little damage. She'd never considered Mr. Foley as having great powers of persuasion, but by the time she'd herded a worse-for-wear Scott into a taxi and directed it to the nearest hospital, Bickman was quiet enough to go home himself, filing apprehensively through an accusing line of disheveled, hostile station personnel. By the time he reached the door he probably counted himself lucky to have escaped the combined wrath of Hilary and Maplealthough she was pretty sure Gertie might have done the job properly, all on her own, if allowed.
She was worried about Scott, though. Her brother George used to box, so she'd seen that one-two punch comingwhat Scott hadn't counted on was Bickman dropping after the first strike, leaving him no chance to pull the second. She flinched thinking about the force with which Scott's fist had hit the frame of the window. The next thing she'd known she was at his side as he'd dropped to the floor, coiled in pain around his injured hand.
What had touched her most was the weak grin he had flashed her when he finally realized she was there. Almost as if he were glad she was.
Nonsense. Scott Sherwood didn't need herhe didn't need anyone.
With a sigh she finished washing up the bowl and pan and spoon she had used for supper: just a simple meal of soup and crackers, no improvised spaghetti with catsup sauce with accompanying music. With the animosity of the final few days, it was funny she could still think of that first night, a friendly dinner shared, dancing...
Why think of dancing? She was happy to have space all to herself again, even if it was her one room with someone else's furniture and cozy furnishings sent from her doting father and the bathroom down the hall. She could sleep in her own bed, not having to wait for Hilary's nightly pilgrimage to the studiooh, she knew she didn't have to stay awake, but it made her feel better to be there, in case Hilary needed to talk.
Hilary hadn't opened up again, though. It was as if that first evening was touched with some type of magic that was irreplaceable for the remainder of their quarantine.
It had to have been magic. How else could she explain that automatic kiss to Scott's cheek?
She'd indulged herself in a long shower when she had arrived home, despite the shrill complaints from Elaine down the hall, so all that was left was to crawl between the sheets, curl up like one of the barn cats from the neighbors' farms, doze off to a good night's sleep.
Gertie talked in her sleep. Sometimes Maple laughed and she wondered what she was dreaming of. Was she thinking of dancing...dancing again!...dancing to "Good Night Ladies" and smiling in her glowing way to Mackie?
Now dancing with Victorthere would be something to dream about. Now that she could think of Victor now without tears, even with a wistful smile, she allowed her eyes to drift toward the window where a minute flash told her the late-night delicatessen was still open. There was a little deli across from her trolley stop as well; when Victor walked her to the trolley they had taken to stopping first, sipping coffee and ordering bagels spread thick with cream cheese, and of course talking about the stationthe inevitable bills, Victor's ideas for new programming, critiques and compliments. Occasionallybut too rarelyhe'd allude to something personal as it related to a script or a series.
He guarded his own life closely, for all of his straightforwardness, and she was flattered that she had gained his trust enough for him to mention his past. You could trust Victor. He was never afraid to try anything creative, but you could be certain he wouldn't fix game shows and walk window ledges. Victor was sensible and tactful and concentrated on WENN. There were those phone calls from the government, of coursebut he was entitled to some secrets, after all. It wasn't any of her business.
Even if it had gotten him killed.
One thing was certainif you'd gone out somewhere with Victor Comstock, you wouldn't be playacting on the dance floor, or talking about eating barnacles! Imagine a date with Scott! You'd probably end up at a burlesque theatrenot the vaudeville house Dad and Mother had taken her to in South Bend, with silly comics and sweet singers and juggling acts, but a place that would have scandalized Motherand cap it off with a visit to the Ladies' Bar or a garish diner for a bowl of chili served by a peroxide blonde named Trixie.
She clucked to herself, then closed her eyes. Her breathing slowed, came regularly.
She knew without seeing that the dream was back, the one she didn't want, the one she was drawn to.
She could still smell the faint alcohol scent of aftershave, the freshly-pressed scent of him, the hint of Scotch and hair tonic and pencil lead; his shoulder was firm under her hand. He dared the exotic, never played the obvious, did the unexpected and lived to tell the tale. Not like her. She liked her life ordered and he reveled in chaos.
If that was so, then why was this the one place she was suddenly feeling at home?
She surrendered to the dream, opened her eyes to see Scott's smile, and let it take her off to sleep.
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