No One Else Can Have You Part 21

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"She can't see you, dummies," Luther snaps, bopping Big Jason in the head with a balloon covered in flowers that says Feeling Better Is Like Sunshine! Big Jason wrestles the balloon from Luther's hands. Miss Rosa doesn't reproach either of them; she's too busy staring at me.

"I'm just saying, look at her eyes, they're barely open," Luther adds. "This is Luther by the way, Kippy, in case you can't see s.h.i.t."

"I know," I croak.

"And Mildred and Marion and Big Jason," Mildred adds. "And this attorney dude."

"Hi guys."

"Why you did not call Miss Rosa, hm?" Miss Rosa tucks her chin over the safety bar, her eyes magnified behind her gla.s.ses. "Mildred tells me that at this Cloudy Meadows they give only pills, no therapy!" She makes a spitting noise. "Despicable! Miss Rosa would get you from this horrible place in, as they say, 'jiffy.'" She nods and pets my arm roughly, cooing like an amorous pigeon. "There, touching is okay currently. I have already now written to this Cloudy Meadows doctor my displeasure at his antics."

"How are you feeling?" Jim Steele asks, making his way to the other side of my bed.

"I feel very old," I mutter. I put my hand on Miss Rosa's, mostly out of affection, but also to stop her from petting me so violently. She recoils, yelping.

"You don't age until you age, and then you age," Jim Steele says, staring at Miss Rosa and looking confused. "Enjoy your youth while you can."

"This man here with his gray hair"-Miss Rosa tentatively makes her way back to the side of my bed and points at Jim Steele-"he has alerted all newspapers about your victories. The evil policeman-Steak person-he will not comment."

I squint at Miss Rosa. "Sometimes I wish your English were better."

"She means you're all over the news, Kippy," Luther says. "None of us even knew about all those charges against you till they'd been dropped."

"You're getting credit everywhere for solving the whole thing because of this guy," Mildred grumbles, nodding to Jim Steele.

I look up at Jim Steele, who seems embarra.s.sed.

"You were bragging about it just a second ago, Lawyer Man," Marion booms.

"Yes, stop pretending this modesty," Miss Rosa adds, wagging her finger at Jim Steele.

"What are they talking about?" I ask.

Jim Steele sighs. "Your father got in touch with me." He explains that Dom told him about the mistake with Cloudy Meadows, Ralph's shrine to Ruth, my broken bones. "If there hadn't been anyone representing your legal interests, you would have had to go back to Cloudy Meadows and finish out your stay. You were contractually bound."

"But you hate me," I say.

"I don't hate anybody," Jim Steele snaps. "People around here continually misunderstand my affect." He shrugs. "You'd bothered the h.e.l.l out of me with your little investigation, but the more I heard about what had really gone on, the more firmly I believed that Staake had been negligent in his duties." He chuckles. "Now you can't just go suing sheriffs-it'll take the rest of your life, for starters, and nothing will happen-especially not in b.u.mbaf.u.c.k, Wisconsin, where everyone has a hard-on for their law enforcement." He clears his throat. "Excuse me. Anyhow, I decided that the only way to approach it was to leak the story, get you famous, turn public sentiment, and let Staake stew in his embarra.s.sment for a while. Simple."

"Tell her about how they got Diane Sawyer to comment on it," Mildred says, playing with Marion's hair.

"You're kidding," I blurt.

"That young-looking old woman? Oh, for sure, I saw it with my own eyes," Luther says. "She called you an inspiration. YouTube that s.h.i.t."

"Staake's not man enough to fight public sentiment," Jim Steele adds. "He dropped the charges this morning. Though he still won't talk to the press."

"But he's got the gall to show up at this hospital," Dom adds, standing in the doorway. Everyone turns to stare at him. Two cups of coffee are steaming in his hands, and he looks furious. "It's true. The a.s.shole's here right now-you want me to turn him away, Cactus?"

I roll my eyes. "No, Dom."

"Would you rather one of these guys did it, so it's less embarra.s.sing?" Dom gestures at Luther and Big Jason, who are once again preoccupied with the balloons. Their muscled forearms are flexing as they turn the balloons over in their hands-reveling in the notion, I guess, that they could easily pop these things and won't.

I shake my head. "No, that's why I circled his name on the list. I want to see him."


"Hmmph." Miss Rosa clicks her heels together. "NVCG will retreat to hallway for self-control purposes."

"Yeah, because otherwise that guy's ground meat," Marion says, and Mildred rolls her eyes.

"Us all breaking the law together has bonded him to you or something," she says.

Jim Steele puts up his hands. "I don't want to hear any more about that. As of now, all I know is that everyone in this room is a law-abiding citizen, and if anyone asks me about it later, that's what I want to say."

"I don't want to hear about it, either," Dom says, crossing the room to hand me my coffee. "As far as I'm concerned, anyone who encouraged that escape from Cloudy Meadows put my daughter in harm's way. Honey, why don't you let me at least sit here while you talk to him?"

"No! He's not going to kill me, okay?"

Miss Rosa reaches up to pat Dom's arm, then puts her hands behind her back. "Perhaps you will come with us to do the trust falls, Mr. Banzai," she says. "It is very important for to choose meditative strategies over confrontation."

Dom smiles down at her. "I totally agree." He looks at me.

"Go!" I tell him. "Have fun!"

Sheriff Staake's usually-pink face is pale, his eyes ringed purple. He glances at me and looks instantly afraid.

"Sit," I tell him, feeling like a queen.

He drops a card on my lap before lowering himself into the chair. "Got tons of these at the station. I brought the one that seemed most important-given how that Quinn girl was the only one whose allegations I couldn't drop myself."

I open the card. Glitter and confetti fall out on my lap.

Under the circ.u.mstances,

I've dropped my charges against you.

Xoxo, Libby.

PS: Gah bless . . .

Less than two more years of school, I tell myself.

"So," I say, flicking the glitter off my lap in Staake's direction. "Tell me: When you were coming last night, was it to arrest me or rescue me?" I wasn't planning to torture him like this, but now that I've got him here it's kind of hard not to. He looks miserable. "Because that'd be an interesting thing to add to whatever apology you were planning for the press."

"Oh, Bushman," he says, burying his face in his fingers. He folds his hands in his lap and his mouth quivers as he looks up at my leg. "I can't believe how hurt you got."

I can tell he's thinking about how he'd feel if I were his daughter, Lisa, and he looks so much like a dad all of a sudden that I get uncomfortable.

"Um-well, you know, it can't be helped, or whatever." I push a strip of loose gauze out of my eyes, and gesticulate as if this situation is not a big deal.

He looks at his feet, sighing through his nose, and I get frantic.

"Don't cry, please."

"I want you to know I'm gonna give a press conference," he says, swallowing. "I'm gonna own up to what happened, but I'm gonna tell it my way. I got swindled by that freak, I did."

"I know you did," I say. "But you were also a jerk."

"Well sure, fine, but that's how I am." He looks at me sort of helplessly. "But I sure wish I could be that kind of person other people thought was nice."

"Okay, Mr. Staake."

"You can call me Bob." He wipes his eyes, then holds out his hand.

I shake it. "Bob," I say.

I'm going to give Ruth's diary to Davey when he comes back. It's all crumpled from being in my backpack while I was getting dragged around and pummeled. But I can't look at it anymore. And I figure I've struggled through enough of it now to say you're never really ready to read a dead person's thoughts, not if you loved them and cared what they thought to begin with. If I held on to that journal, I might never be able to put it down. I'd reread the hurtful stuff and cling to the few positive pa.s.sages, and try to a.n.a.lyze how real things were between us, even though I know people probably only talk about the bad things in their diaries, because what's the use of recording what you don't have to work through? And I'd rather give it up while I feel like I know that things between Ruth and I were good, basically, solid-and that ultimately she'd appreciate me sticking it to the bad guy, and for being even momentarily bada.s.s in her honor.

On the inside cover, below all the phone numbers and psychopathic traits, I left a message for Mrs. Fried: Mrs. F-.

Proceed with caution because I couldn't get rid of all the s.e.x parts.

I'd like to tell her I'm sorry about the eulogy, and that I understand why she can't see me, though I still wish she would. But I know it's not worth worrying about because right now I've got more company than I can deal with. Dom, Miss Rosa, and the rest of NVCG are filing into the room, Davey will be back soon, and the hospital phone by my bed has started ringing off the hook-newspaper reporters and third cousins I've never heard of, Princ.i.p.al Hannycack and some Wisconsin senator. Even Diane Sawyer's office calls, asking about an interview. Mildred thinks the phone number got posted online, or something, and Marion starts screening all the calls for me, telling people to call back, jotting messages, telling crazies to f.e.c.k off. But at one point he holds out the receiver and says, "This one's funny, just a kid or something, listen," and it's Albus.

"Good job, soldier," she chirps. "I taught you well-oh, shoot, gotta go-it's the Barb and Felicity brigade-over and out-aggh! Unhand me, nurse warriors!"

It still hurts to smile, but really it's kind of hard not to, because I thought that I only had one friend in the whole world, and look at all these people.

About the Author.

Norma Cordova.

KATHLEEN HALE was born and raised in Wisconsin. This is her first novel. You can visit Kathleen online at www.halekathleen.tumblr.com or on Twitter @HaleKathleen.


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No One Else Can Have You Part 21 summary

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