previously: To Worship ch4
Under Tomas’s watch, Josh started a course of morphine and antibiotics in the PICC line that used to be designated for chemo. It had been a few days since the orgy, and I had not heard or seen the mysterious female drug dealer. And to be fair I had not seen her distribute to anyone (so going to the police was not even an option.) I just needed to be grateful for the next step of the process.
My husband was calm, his mind body and soul perfectly at peace. Most importantly, he would be unable to put up much of a fight. It was the ideal time for our daughter to finally visit.
Christina stayed in her car for a good twenty minutes, staring at my front door. Eventually I went out to try and see what she wanted to do. I tapped on the glass, “Hey, Christi. You coming inside?”
Christina rolled down the window. “Hi.” She forced a smile, motioning to her extra-large Starbucks iced coffee. “I was just going to finish this.”
“Would you like some company?”
My daughter shook her head. “Is Tomas here?”
“Yes, he’s been here since this morning,” I replied as calm and sweetly as I could, but my disappointment was clear. She wanted to speak to the person she could trust. I turned to walk away. Maybe she was right, I would go get Tomas to talk to her.
“Wait, Mom! I didn’t mean it like that.” Christina opened the door, making a point of dumping the contents of her drink onto the ground.
I maintained my course, walking back inside. Thankfully Christi followed.
“Is he asleep?” she asked, staying a good ten feet behind.
“Probably.” I knew, in truth, Josh had been bedridden for the past few days. I opened the door to Tomas sitting cross-legged on the floor, looking through notes.
Upon catching my glance, Tomas stood up with the biggest smile. “Is Christina here?”
“Yup.” I moved to the side, allowing my daughter a view into the room.
Josh’s eyes flickered. “Mama?” His vision was compromised, and his mind was gone, but did Christina truly look like his mother?
Our daughter froze, forcing a smile as she blinked tears from her eyes. “Yes sweetheart, it’s me.” “I’m so sorry for everything I put you through. I love you so much.”
Josh’s service dog awoke from her spot at the front of the bed. At the sight of Christina, Pup became a literal, puppy again.
“Pop-tart!” Christina squealed with joy.
I’d almost forgotten that was the dog’s official name. Josh only ever called her ‘Pup’ so I’d followed suit.
“Oh my gosh! I’ve missed you! Who’s a good girl? You are!” Christina’s voice went up several octaves, as if she had also reverted to her teenage self.
It was enough for Josh to no longer see her as his dead mother. The room went silent as he slowly sat up. His body was sickly timid, voice trembling as he spoke. “Christina?”
“Yes, daddy,” her voice quivered with fear, as if she expected him to kick her out even in his current state.
“Are you knocked up?” he asked with a note of confusion.
“Yeah, I am,” she replied in a quick breath. “I purchased sperm, went to a clinic.”
“Oh.” Josh nodded, giving an expression of acknowledgment but not direct disappointment.
“Yes, I’m still with Chloe, my wife.” Christina’s tone was angrier than necessary.
Josh pursed his lips and closed his eyes as he slouched back on the bed. He was clearly upset by her words.
“You don’t have to be okay with my choices or my life. Just know it’s my life, not grandma’s or Suzanne’s. Only mine.”
At the mention of Suzanne, Josh’s body went stiff. He started to convulse looking as if he was going to vomit. Tomas rushed to his side. “You’re ok, Josh. Just breathe.” He placed an oxygen mask on my husband’s face, but instead of attaching with the band, he was holding it with his right hand while controlling the oxygen flow with his left.
Christina approached her father, with courage and determination. I watched in awe as she gripped his hand, placing it to her stomach. Even over her clothing, she was so far along he would be able to observe the baby’s movement. “Can you feel him?” Christina asked through tears.
Now I was the one frozen in place. “You’re having a boy?”
Christina nodded, still facing her father. “Can you feel your grandbaby? He’s your blood, your kin. He will know you and he will love you as I have always loved you.” She gripped his hand, giving it a squeeze. “Even when you hated me, I never stopped loving you.”
Josh parted his lips, allowing a soft breath, “Why?”
“Because I’m your daughter. I was put on this earth to love you.”
Josh blinked his eyes as his breathing started to normalize.
“I can see his face.” Josh’s voice trembled as the emotion was choking in his throat, “even now.”
Christina moved his hand back to her stomach. “What do you see?”
“He has your eyes and your smile.” Josh motioned for Tomas to remove the oxygen mask, as he was breathing on his own. “I’ve missed you so much.”
“I’ve missed you too, Dad.”
“I-I’m so sorry, I never should have made you leave.”
“You didn’t make me leave, I wanted to go to California. But you never should have cut me out of your life.” Christina cupped his face, raising his glance to meet her eyes. “You’re my best friend.” I watched as my husband and daughter hugged, their tears eroding away the emotional wall that had stood strong for way too long.
“Carol, babe, could you get me my chair, I’d like to get a breath of fresh air while I still can.”
“Sure,” I said fully intending to get his wheelchair from the main room.
“And medical marijuana?” Josh added.
“I’m not sure. Is that safe around our daughter?” I was asking Tomas more so than Josh but it was Christina who answered.
“It will be fine. I can sit downstream of the smoke.” My daughter emerged to take control of the chair. “I want dad to be comfortable.”
I walked with my family outside, while Tomas stayed behind to organize equipment. “Holler if you need me,” he said, waving Christina away.
Tomas tapped my arm, motioning for me to help him clean. “Leave them be, we can easily hear from inside, if something goes horribly wrong.”
“You’re right,” I said with a sigh.
“You can also spy on them from the window nearest to the bathroom,” Tomas added with a smirk.
I waited a few minutes before taking him up on his offer. Josh was sitting directly under the window, with Christina by his side.
“I don’t know why I buried my hatred as deeply as I did,” he said as he smoked, making sure to blow the smoke away from our daughter’s face.
“I knew why,” Christina said as she leaned against his chest. “I always knew why. But Suzanne’s not here, only the people who love you.”
“So, how long are you staying, in town sweetheart?”
“As long as I need to,” Christina replied, lacing her fingers through his.
“What about the rental car?
“I actually know a guy at the airport location. He’s going to just bill me for as many days as it takes. and if I somehow manage to total the car, I’ll just be on the hook for the full 20k.”
“20k?” Josh replied with a laugh. “You say that like it’s nothing.”
“It’s not nothing, I mean I’d probably go after my insurance, but I’m just saying, I’m not trapped anywhere.”
“Well, my proud independent woman, can you stay for dinner?”
I stepped away from the window, pausing to take a breath.
“It’s normal to be jealous,” Tomas muttered.
I was not jealous in the slightest, it was nice that they were so close. “I’m just going to start dinner.” I pivoted my mental focus to making spaghetti and chicken broth.
Christina ended up lying in bed with her father, as Josh had been in too much pain to eat. So, I went outside to choke down my food on the front lawn, with Tomas by my side.
Sitting comfortable on an overturned bucket, Tomas took a sip of store-brand cola. “With all the discussion about Josh’s mother, I’m curious, what do you know about his father?”
“My father-in-law died a few years ago, he was a long-haul trucker, he got into an accident, cause of death was heart failure.” I sighed, looking up at the stars. “Josh was always so close to his father. I really should have seen the signs.”
“They always had secrets, sadness, pain.”
I shrugged, not even knowing why I chose that word. “They would pray before every meal, and each time there would be tears. I remember on our wedding day, Josh’s dad told me, that I was everything he’d prayed for.”
“Was he around when Christina was born?” Tomas asked as he made a solid effort to take a sip of the broth-sauce.
“Yeah, she had a chance to meet him a few times.”
“Tomas, Mom!” Christina shouted from the window. “I need help.”
We entered the bedroom to find out Josh had been bleeding very badly, the source being either his lips, mouth, throat, or stomach. Tomas was able to examine him with a pen light, checking his teeth, cheeks, and throat. Given the lack of abrasions, Josh’s condition warranted a trip to the hospital to screen for ulcers.
An ambulance arrived quickly, but over the next hour Josh became progressively worse. At the possibility of infection Christina was sent to stay in the waiting room. Tomas and I would have preferred her to go back to her hotel, but she would not be dissuaded.
“Do you think he’ll need an endoscopy?” I asked.
“It’s likely,” Tomas said with a sigh. “I’ll advocate for an x-ray but if it comes to endoscopy, he will be put under full anesthesia before getting a tube down his throat. I’ll make sure of that.”
Josh’s heart was very weak, there was a chance he wouldn’t be able to wake up from full anesthesia. “Will you be with him?”
“Every step of the way.” Tomas patted my shoulder. “I’m going to check with the medical team, I’ll be back as soon as I have some news.”
“Thank you.” I was still holding Josh’s hand as Tomas left, letting the door shut behind him. “
Josh started to speak, a random train of thought dripping from his weary lips. “Christina is such a miracle. I remember, as a baby she never even cried.”
What the fuck? I forced a smile. “If that’s what you remember.” I was more then willing to let the subject drop.
“She cried?” Josh’s voice trembled. “Did I hurt her?”
“Not during her early years,” I said, swallowing my anger. “During her childhood you were the perfect father.”
Josh’s breathing became erratic. “I hurt her.”
I didn’t know if it was a question or a statement, so I stayed quiet.
“I called her a whore, an abomination. I told her that being gay would send her straight to hell.” Josh seemed to laugh at the last part, followed immediately by tears. Perhaps the truth was starting to click.
“That wasn’t your fault. You were raised in the church.”
Josh shook his head. “I was raised by sinners and thieves.” He paused, as a wave of fear washed over him. “My pa saved me. At thirteen, I thought I would be too old to be baptized; I was a sinner, they would never accept me. In the years to follow I would meet people in their forties, fifties even those about to face the lord, becoming baptized to wash away a lifetime of pain.”
“The church helped you forget, their strength helped you move forward to become the man you are. Christina always understood. It’s why she forgives you.”
“I don’t deserve her forgiveness.”
“No, you don’t. but that’s not your choice to make.” I didn’t intend for my words to come out as cruel as they did.
Josh nodded. “You’re right.”
I was about to reply when the medical team came in; three doctors accompanied by Tomas. “We’re going to head down to the OR, to get him put under,” Tomas said calmly, despite how distraught my husband appeared.
“Have you already spoken with Christina?” I asked as the team lifted my husband’s limp body from the bed, to the transport.”
“I was hoping you could do the honors.”
“Sure, thanks.” That was the last thing I was mentally prepared to do.
I made my way to the family waiting room where Christina was asleep across three chairs. “That can’t be comfortable,” I muttered as I opened the door.
“It’s not,” she groaned as she rolled to a seated position. “How’s Dad?”
“They’re taking him down for an endoscopy.”
“So, the bleeding is someplace internal.” Christina crossed her arms over her chest, clearly cold in the air-conditioned hospital.
“How was your day?”
“With Dad,” she pursed her lips, nodding quietly, “You want to know how I managed to forgive him after all this time.”
“I was just curious,” I said with a shrug as I took a seat by her side. “I mean, in truth, every time I close my eyes all I can see are the hundreds of times when he cursed at me for even mentioning your name.” I tried to keep the focus off my own feelings, but it truly hurt. I had endured the wrath of his anger, the idea that I would have to choose between my husband and my child. Perhaps that was it; I didn’t forgive him.
“I know,” Christina said as she motioned for me to rest my head on her shoulder. “Believe me, I know.” She rocked me gently, calming me with her remarkable courage and emotional strength. “But he’s sick and he’s scared. Not of dying, either. Whatever wall that was holding back his past, it’s broken to shit. Everything that made him the man he was, is just gone. He’s going to die haunted by the memories of what those meth heads did to him, and he doesn’t deserve that.”
That was the moment I finally allowed myself to cry. After a while a nurse came to check on us, and thankfully she offered to bring out recliners and blankets so Christi and I could at least sleep comfortably.
I remember sleeping, dreaming. In my mind I was walking through the halls of my old high school. The world was empty, cold, and in the distance, I could hear a baby crying. I started to walk faster, trying to open doors, lockers, but without any luck. Eventually I realized that every single door was locked, and the crying only got louder. I was locked out.
I awoke to Tomas’s hand on my shoulder. “Hey, Carol,” he said in a whisper.
I blinked my eyes, adjusting to the brightness of the room. “Is Josh alive?”
“Yes, but Christina is sound asleep so I was thinking we could head back to the room and chat for a bit.”
“While he wakes up.” I understood. Josh was not fully recovered from the anesthesia.
I was not sure what to expect when we entered the room. The lights were off, with the only illumination coming from the nearby window. My husband’s sleeping face was bathed in moonlight making him look downright ethereal.
“The scope was able to find the source of the bleeding,” Tomas explained as he quietly shut the door. “Joshua is suffering from severe digestive issues, stemming from gradual organ failure.
I walked my fingers down my husband’s chest, lowering the blankets to reveal his nude body. Josh had been fitted with a feeding tube; a port was put in surgically, when he needed nutrients a tube would be attached. “So, he’ll never eat solid food again?”
“Unfortunately,” Tomas explained, “Joshua is in the last stages of life. As of now the goal is just to make him comfortable.”
“And to discuss a DNR.” I moved my focus to Josh’s face, stroking his slender jawline. He was not wearing an oxygen mask, only a clip under his nose. I placed a finger to his soft, yet dry lips, just to see if I could feel a breath. I could. I wanted to kiss him, to feel love or sadness or anything. My body refused to move.
Tomas patted my shoulder. “It’s normal to feel the way you do. I’ve been doing this for a long time, it never gets any easier.”
I shook my head, forcing my hand away from my husband’s face. “It feels like he’s already gone. He’s a million miles away, or maybe he was never here to begin with. Maybe his soul died in Suzanne’s meth house and all that’s left is a shell. I married a shell, I lost my virginity to a shell, I raised a daughter with a shell.” No, that wasn’t correct. For whatever reason Christina brought out the best in him; she had a glimpse in to his real soul, while I was stuck with a glorified puppet.
Tomas sighed, “Is that truly what you believe?” he took a step closer, placing his hand upon Josh’s chest. “Despite his tragically broken spirit, this shell still has a beating heart and a strong passionate soul.”
I watched in awe as he leaned in, gently kissing Josh’s lips. “I’m not so sure, Tom. He can’t even wake up.”
“Joshua just needs what we all need,” Tomas said as he moved slightly to part his lips. He took a breath, blowing a stream of air. “Love, compassion,” he paused as Joshua’s lips quivered, begging for more. “and touch.”
Josh’s eyes opened, as he lifted his hand to caress Tom’s face.
“Human connection is what we crave, it brings us in to life and will comfort us in death.
Tomas took hold of my husband’s hand. While maintaining eye contact, he kissed Josh’s knuckles, sucking on his fingers each in turn. “Just focus on my eyes, Joshua.”
“Is this a dream?” Josh asked in a weak scratchy whisper.
“No. This world is all too real.” Tom leaned in, cupping Josh’s face. They were close enough to kiss, but instead he took the moment to lock eyes with Josh, maintaining intense eye contact as they exchanged breaths.
I could only assume Tom was waiting for Josh to make a move, if only to show that he had the physical, emotional; strength to engage in consensual sex. Josh sat up ever so slightly, his mouth open like a baby bird just begging for a taste of his lover’s tongue. He reached his hand to Tomas’s rough, unshaven face, cupping his jawline. The men kissed soft and slow. “Can I touch you?” Josh asked in a soft breath as his other hand slipped under Tomas’s shirt. “Will you give me your strength?”
Tomas reached into his hospital scrubs, taking a moment to ready himself before freeing his cock.
Josh immediately started to rub Tomas’s tip, with the palm of his hand, coaxing out pre-cum. All while maintaining eye contact. “I want you.” The words were more nervous than sexual. This was more than a want; it was a need, like water or air.
I made sure to lock the door, before moving in closer. I got just close enough to help Josh reveal the rest of his body from under the sheets. My hands caressed his sweaty skin, down his hairless chest, to his throbbing cock, I couldn’t help but touch him. I pressed my lips to his ear. I wanted to tell Josh he was mine and always would be. That would be a lie because he was never mine. I was just there to play a role. “I love you.”
Tomas stroked his hand to my cheek. “Sex is the epitome of existence, regardless of the species or the result.”
I chuckled, as I gripped my husband’s cock, causing Josh to moan out of both pleasure and pain. I couldn’t help but think about the types of animals who devour their sexual partners. Would it be worth it to lose your body parts? Your hair, skin, maybe even your soul? Would death be worth one last great fuck?
Josh turned to kiss me, with his hand still on Tomas’s cock. It was clear, he didn’t want me, but he also didn’t want me to leave. “I love you, too,” he said in a soft breath. His mouth tasted dry, yet sweet.
Tomas turned my husband on his side. Using the wall-mounted pump, the big strong nurse coated his hands in lotion. Tom’s cock was lubed, but he was in no rush. “We’re going to take things nice and slow.” He spread my husband’s ass, fingering him with gentle, deliberate motions. “Do you like that?”
“Do you want more?”
Josh didn’t answer, he didn’t have to. His body was practically guiding Tomas to go deeper.
I could feel Josh’s muscles tense as Tomas went knuckle deep. The look on my husband’s face made me want to slip in to bed, into his arms. I imagined this was the look he wore at the orgy when dozens of hands were exploring his body.
Tomas placed his free hand over Josh’s chest, holding him close in a show of comfort. “Tell me about your father.”
That was an odd pivot, to say the least.
“The way he touched you, the way he held you. He was the first person to truly love you without asking anything in return.” Tomas gently removed his hand from Josh’s ass with a sensual wet slurp. “That’s what real love is.”
Josh’s body went limp, in Tomas’s embrace. “I want to be close to you. I want you inside me.” His voice was deep, masculine, like a true southern soldier.
I moved my hands to his face, stealing another kiss while Tomas easily slid into my husband’s ass. I didn’t notice if he went in an inch at a time or simply slipped in using the slickness of the lube. Josh’s eyes were flushed with a passion I’d only seen one time before (on our wedding night.)
Tomas moved his strong, rough fingers to Josh’s wrist, holding my husband’s hand with a tender squeeze. “Just relax.” Oh, Josh was plenty relaxed.
As he started to thrust his hips, Tom reached around to vigorously jerk off my husband’s well lubed cock. Josh turned his head, burying his face in Tom’s shoulder.
Despite the fact I was being forced out of the scene, I ran my fingers through my husband’s hair, savoring the intense energy radiating from the entangled bodies. I would have wanted to be the one to hold him in my arms, but at that moment Josh’s comfort was all that mattered.
I fell asleep in a chair and awoke the next morning to the bright sun, and a backache. I left the room to check on my daughter in the waiting area. Much to my surprise she was awake, sitting cross legged on the floor drinking a cup of tea.
“Good morning, Mom.”
“Good morning,” I replied still standing in the doorway. “Did you sleep?”
“Yeah, I slept my usual four hours. Is dad awake?”
My mouth made an awkward pause as I wasn’t sure of the correct answer.
“I tried to see him earlier, but the head nurse said he wasn’t taking visitors. I assumed it was because he wasn’t fully conscious. Not that he’ll ever be fully conscious ever again,” her voice started to break with emotion. “I just wish there was something more we could do for him.”
My thoughts went imminently to Suzanne. “Do you think Suzanne will ever face justice?”
“Suzanne?” Christina’s expression went from sadness to confusion. “God willing, I guess. All suicides get a one-way ticket to Hell, right?”
“Suzanne Mercer died three years ago,” Christina explained as if the news was common knowledge. “The police were going to raid her house, somehow she got a heads-up and instead of risking jail she blew her brains out. I’m surprised she didn’t overdose, that would seem more appropriate. Or maybe she did both and the coroner decided to save the state some money and not run a drug screening.”
“Suzanne is dead…” I muttered as I somehow managed to pick my jaw up off the floor. Maybe I hadn’t seen Suzanne, after all this was the first time I was hearing of her last name.
“Yeah, you can look it up on google.”
I took a seat as Christina pulled out her smart phone.
She worked her magic and almost immediately pulled up a website. It was a local police page with publicly available information on all crimes in the state of Mississippi. She handed me the phone and my blood ran cold. Staring back at me from a mugshot was the biker chick, looking the same as she did in the thrift store.
next: To Worship ch6