Runaway Love part V (final)
“Saige!” my sister rushed towards me. If her voice was not an indication of her worry, her face was. “Are you ok? What happened?”
Not knowing who else to call, I called Anise when I got to the ER. I still couldn’t find my phone and her number was one of the few I knew by heart. EMT, the fire department, and the police all pulled up to the Hampton Inn within seconds of each other. When they found out it was a cop that had been shot, everything became frantic. They got Deck in the ambulance, and I climbed in with him, begging, pleading with him to hang on. I wasn’t sure if the other officers blamed me for Deck getting shot, but I wasn’t going to sit by them. So, I called Anise to come be with me. I was sure I scared her half to death when I told her Deck was at the ER.
At the ER, I was questioned by three different officers. I was tired of repeating my story, but I had to. I needed them to find Tay.
“Deck,” I sniffed. “Tay shot him!”
“Deck? Shot? How? Why? By who?” Anise asked me too many questions and I couldn’t focus on answering them all.
“We had just come back from his parent’s house. We were at the Hampton, going to my room when Tay just appeared out of nowhere. I don’t even know how he found me. Tay just showed up and just shot, well, I guess he was shooting at me, but Deck…I think he jumped in front of me.”
Repeating it for the fourth time didn’t make it less emotional. It was still surreal. For one, Tay showed up intending to kill me, and two, that Deck jumped in front of me. I was in shock by his actions. If anything, telling it so many times was pushing the knife in my heart deeper and deeper.
“Who is Tay?”
“I met him in Tennessee. Things were great for about five months, then he just flipped out because I didn’t want to be with him.” Before Anise could begin her speech about how this was my fault, I added, “I don’t need your judgment today.”
“No judgment here, sis. I just need Deck to be ok.” Anise grabbed my hand, and I was relieved she was here with me. I was worried to death about Deck and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if he didn’t make it. Because the only reason he was here was because of me. The guilt was eating me alive.
“Hey Saige,” one of the detectives I talked to earlier approached me. He looked down at me, his arms folded. He looked annoyed like he wanted to berate me for doing this Deck. “Just wanted to let you know we got the guy.”
“Thank God,” I exhaled. “Did you talk to him? Did you ask him how he found me?”
“He tracked you using your cell phone. Got a general area then I guess he just rode around until he found you.”
“My cell phone? But how? I don’t even know where my phone is!”
“He knows someone who knows someone is what we figured,” the detective answered.
I sat back, dumbfounded. It was then I realized I must have left my phone in my hotel room and that’s why I couldn’t find it and how he was able to track me to the Hampton Inn. Tay went through a lot of trouble to find me, all because I didn’t need him to save me. It was scary that he went to this extreme because I rejected him.
“Thanks for letting us know,” my sister answered since I was lost in my thoughts.
“No problem.” The detective turned to leave but faced us again before walking off. “And just to let you know, we don’t blame you. Officer Bates is a good cop and even better man. We’re just worried, that’s all.”
Whether he meant it or not, I didn’t care. I was just relieved he said it. “Thank you. It means a lot to hear you say that.”
Before the detective could join the rest of the Americus police department officers, a woman walked quickly to where we were sitting. “Dennae,” the detective greeted. “You got in touch with your parents yet?”
“Yeah, they are on their way from Florida,” the woman answered. Her eyes fell on me, and I recognized her as Deck’s sister. She was in the grade below me, but I knew of her. We didn’t hang out or talk much back in high school, though. There was no bad blood or anything, we just didn’t run in the same circles. “Are you Saige?”
I nodded and her eyes go small. “You can go. We don’t need you here.”
“Hold on now,” Anise began. “My sister-“
“Is the reason he’s here,” Dennae spat angrily. “She brought her relationship drama here and got my brother involved. And I want you to leave. Now.”
“You can’t make her leave. You don’t have rights over the ER waiting room,” Anise retorted.
“Isn’t it bad enough she almost got him killed? Why would you want to stay here?” Dennae cried. “He’s not going to want to see you when he’s out of surgery. So just go.”
“Let me tell you something,” my sister argued standing up. But I grabbed her arm, pulling her back down.
“No, Anise it’s fine. I’ll go.” Dennae just said how I felt out loud. I blamed me. I put him in harm’s way, not intentionally, but nevertheless, Deck was shot because in my running, in my avoidance, I met someone who didn’t understand what no meant. I put Deck in harm’s way because I never dealt with who and what hurt me. I never imagined Deck would be the one who suffered because of my actions.
Dennae looked pleased I agreed to go, but before I could stand up, a doctor emerged from the double doors and into the waiting room.
All of the officers stood and Dennae had to be steadied by the detective. I reached for Anise who grabbed my hand and held it tight.
“Surgery went well, and Officer Bates is recovering in ICU.”
Everyone in the room gave a collected cheer of relief, except me. I was relieved but my relief came out as tears. I couldn’t celebrate knowing I was the one that put him in a position to fight for his life.
“Who is Saige?” the doctor asked, his eyes jumping between Dennae and me.
I didn’t trust myself to answer, so I just raised my hand.
“Before he went into surgery he wanted me to tell you it was ok. It’s not your fault.”
More tears fell from my eyes and Anise rubbed my back. Had he not made it, he wanted to make sure I knew he didn’t blame me. But even knowing that, I still felt so incredibly guilty.
“Can we see him? Well, can I see him?” Dennae asked, quickly removing the plural so I didn’t get any ideas. “He’s my brother.”
“Not right now,” the doctor replied. “In a little while, I’ll come get you and take you back.”
Knowing Deck was ok was enough for me. I asked Anise to take me to her house, even though she objected and wanted me to stay to go see him, I told her I couldn’t sit in there any longer. Nor was I wanted. She finally conceded and I went to the room to check out. Sure enough, my cell phone was sitting on the nightstand, almost dead. Back at my sister’s house, I laid on her sofa. She joined me and after my third one-word answer, she stopped talking. At least for a little while.
“Saige, it’s not your fault. It was a crazy asshole who shot him, not you,” Anise reasoned.
I shook my head. “It is my fault. Had I not run, I never would have met Tay. Then Tay wouldn’t have gone through this trouble to find me. You were right. I should have dealt with my shit before now.”
“I was not right,” my sister acknowledged. “I thought you needed to handle things the way I would have, and I realized that it was not fair for me to expect that of you. I grew up with my parents and because my mama was there, I thought you should be grateful. I didn’t consider what it meant to not have your mom around. Or how you suffered. I just wanted you to get over it. For me, not for you.”
I should have been moved by my sister’s admission and wisdom, but I couldn’t accept it. “But I should have. Well, maybe not get over it, but at least deal with it. That’s actually what I was doing with Deck. He was talking to me, asking me questions, helping me.” I sighed, remembering the night he held me and then our kiss. “I went to see my mama.”
My sister whipped her head at me. “When?”
“Earlier today. Well, yesterday.” I ran through the conversation with my sister and like Deck, she asked if I was going to call her. I shook my head. “I can’t. Not right now.”
“I understand. At least I think I do. And I will support whatever decision you make.”
Once again, I appreciated my sister for being here for me. But my feet were itching to move, to go, to run. “I think,” I began. “I think I need to go. I’ve done enough damage.”
“Saige,” Anise groaned. “Don’t-“
My cell phone rang with Deck’s name and I didn’t want to answer, but Anise took my phone and answered for me.
“Saige?” He sounded…like he’d been shot. His voice was gruff and groggy. Hearing his voice was a relief that quickly turned into remorse.
I was quiet for too long and Anise had to nudge me to get me to talk. “I’m here.”
“Don’t run, ok. Don’t go.” In the background, I heard his sister talking, but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. I imagined she was questioning why he was still talking to me. “Nae, I got me, ok? Saige, you hear me? Stay. Please.”
“Deck…I can’t stay. It’s my fault you’re there.”
“No, it’s not your fault. It’s his. You didn’t do this, ok. You’re doing the work, keep doing it. Don’t run.”
I heard him and I wanted to believe him, but I couldn’t. I’d made a complete mess of my life and I involved him in it. I had no business here. I didn’t deserve his friendship or whatever it could grow into.
When I didn’t answer, Deck let out a loud breath. “Just come see me before you go.”
“I’ll try. Get some rest. And…I’m sorry. I truly am.”
I hung up and rested my head on the back of the sofa. My head was spinning. I was so tired, but I doubt I’d be able to sleep.
“I’ll be right back,” Anise announced when I let out a frustrated breath. Within seconds, she was back and handed me something. “Take these.”
I looked at the gummy bears she placed in my hand, then back at her. “I don’t want any candy, Anise.”
“It’s not candy. They are CBD gummies.”
“CBD? As in weed?” I was surprised at my sister. I couldn’t believe she was using drugs.
“No not weed, CBD. These have no THC. We’ll talk about all that later. Just take them.”
I popped them both in my mouth and scrunched up my face at the aftertaste. “Why do you have these?”
“To relax. Helps when I’m overwhelmed or had a stressful day. And because weed isn’t legal here,” she shrugged.
“I did. In high school. And when I was in college.”
I never knew my sister to do anything illegal. She didn’t even speed. I was surprised that she smoked weed. “Wow. Never knew that.”
“It’s not that big a deal. But these gummies kind of give me the same effect. It’s not the same, but I can’t smoke because of my job. And Kason.”
“Wow,” I said again. We sat in silence for a little while and my focus became a picture she had on the wall. I studied the colors, the angles, the lines. It was a stock photo, but it was pretty and went with her décor. Studying her picture made me think about a makeup campaign I just worked on. It was fun to bring the company’s ideas to life. It also made me remember they were going to make a decision and I needed to check my email to see which one they went with. I liked to play the guessing game and try to guess which designs a company would go with. For this company, I thought they’d go with the second option.
“You’re feeling it aren’t you?” my sister laughed.
“No. I’m…” I didn’t even realize how my mind slowed down, how I wasn’t thinking about Deck or the dumpster fire that my life was. I was impressed. And relieved.
Anise laughed again. “Come on. It’s late. Well, early and I’m tired.”
We went upstairs and she went to her room, and I went to my nephew’s room since he was with his dad. I fully expected to toss and turn all night, but I didn’t. The events of the day came down on me and I crashed.
I woke up the day and it was afternoon. I smelled bacon cooking and I rolled out of bed, following the delicious smell.
“Good afternoon,” Anise greeted, handing me a plate of bacon, eggs, home fries, and toast.
“Good afternoon,” I got my plate and dug in. Anise’s eggs tasted like heaven. “How do you make something as simple as eggs so damn good?”
Anise laughed. “A little heavy cream, good quality cheese, and a little butter can do wonders for eggs.”
Anise and I ate in silence for a moment. “Are you going to see Deck?”
I shrugged and refused to look at her. I should have known she wasn’t going to let last night go.
“Saige-just…” she paused like she was searching for her words. “You said last night Deck was there for you. The least you can do is go see him before you leave again.”
I knew that wasn’t what she wanted to say, but what she said was bad enough. I felt guilty for what happened to him, but I would also feel guilty for not going to see him when I was the reason he was laid up in the hospital. But I questioned how I would handle seeing him.
“I’ll go,” I agreed quietly.
“Good. I’ll take you.”
Anise and I finished our breakfast then went to get ready. I was moving really slow and she had to rush me to get out of the house. At the hospital, I was scared to get out of the car. “What if he doesn’t want to see me?”
“He asked you to come. Stop making excuses. Let’s go.”
Reluctantly, I got out of the car and followed Anise to the ICU. Since she worked here, she knew her way around and I just followed her lead. When we were outside of Deck’s door, I paused. My sister wasn’t having any of my shenanigans and knocked on his door before pushing it open. I glared at her, hating that she wasn’t giving me time to get my thoughts together.
Anise walked in first and when I saw him lying in the bed, I was scared to go any further into the room. Just yesterday, he took me to his parent’s house and made me feel wanted and needed. Today, he looked tired and weak. I didn’t want to see him like this. Anise was by his bed, talking to him but I was lamenting coming here. Anise moved too fast, her conversation short. Deck looked in my direction and smiled. It wasn’t his big smile that made his eyes small, but it was all he could manage. I imagined he was in pain. Pain I gave him.
“I’m going to get some coffee,” Anise announced. On her way out the door, she pushed me towards him.
Deck laughed. “Woman come here. I’m not dying. I’m good.”
“But this is my fault,” I grieved. I tried to fight my tears, but they came anyway.
“Come here, Saige.” I went closer to him, close enough for him to reach out and grab my hand. “I’ve told you it’s not your fault. I don’t blame you.”
“But you should!” I cried. “I do and your sister does…why don’t you?”
“Because I understand that you made some decisions that you thought you were right at the time. The two nights we spent together showed me who you could be. And that’s who I’m feeling. Who I want to continue to get to know.”
“Deck,” I began, removing my hand from his. “You don’t deserve this. You are a good man, too good for me. My life is a hot bubbling mess and it got you shot. I have too much going on…don’t waste your time on me.”
This was the first time I turned someone down for this reason, for the truth. When I gave the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ speech, I rarely felt bad about it. But with Deck, I felt like my heart was breaking. This was different for me. He was there for me like no one else has ever been. Because I never let anyone get as close to me as he did the night he held me while I cried.
Deck looked at me, much like he did at his parent’s house. He was studying me, looking beyond my face, peering into the inside of me. “I can’t make you appreciate who you are, Saige. You have to do that on your own. You deserve to let someone be there for you. You will realize it. And I’ll be here when you do.”
I don’t know how Deck saw anything worth liking in me. I didn’t even like me right now.
Before I could tell him he shouldn’t waste his time on me again, his door opened, and his sister came in.
“What are you doing here? Didn’t I tell you yesterday he didn’t want to see you?” she barked when she realized who was in the room.
“Nae,” Deck growled. “I am a grown-ass man. I don’t need you to speak for me.”
“Well, tell her to get the hell on! Tell her you don’t have time for her bullshit and drama.” Dennae crossed her arms and glared at me.
“Don’t worry, I’m leaving,” I announced.
“Saige,” Deck called after me. “My sister doesn’t speak for me. I’m asking you not to run away. Stay. Deal with your issues. Let me help you.”
“Deck-“ his sister began.
“NAE!” Deck raised his voice, scaring me and his sister. “Let me talk to Saige alone.”
Nae rolled her eyes at me and headed for the door.
“No, you don’t have to go. I will. Take care of yourself, Deck.” I slipped out of the room before he could object. I got on the elevator and texted Anise that I was on the way to the car. I was standing by her car, trying to figure out why he was working so hard for me. I wasn’t worth it.
“Sis, what happened? What did he say?” Anise asked as soon as she saw me.
“Nothing,” I whispered. “Let’s just go.”
Anise didn’t move immediately. Just looked at me. I saw the pity in her eyes then refused to look at her again. “Please. I need to go.
My sister heaved and unlocked her doors. I climbed in and we rode in silence. At her house, I went upstairs to get my things. Anise was standing in front of her door with her arms crossed.
“Saige, please. Aren’t you tired of this?”
“I am,” I began. “But what else am I supposed to do? I can’t stay. Don’t you see what happened to Deck? I can’t let anyone else get hurt like that!”
My sister shook her head. “Running isn’t solving your problems. It never has. Deck will still be there. My mama will still be there. Your mama will still be there. Running doesn’t erase any of that.”
Logically I knew that. But I was a runner. And now more than ever, I had a reason to go.
“Anise, I have to. I know you don’t understand. But I gotta go.”
My sister and I had a staring contest. I wasn’t going to be convinced that the best thing for me was to stay. Finally, she stepped aside to let me go. “Once you are tired, really tired, come home. We’ll be here for you.”
I brushed past my sister, refusing to acknowledge what she said. I hopped in my car and backed out of her driveway. I drove through town and was somehow on highway 30 heading towards Buena Vista.
Both Deck and my sister told me the same thing. When I got tired of running, they would be there. Two people, in the span of twenty minutes, told me they would be there for me. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t accept it?
I started crying and the road got blurry. I had to pull over because I couldn’t see. I was sitting on the side of the road, crying my eyes out, wishing I could just let people love me. It was sad, almost pathetic, the way I shut everyone out.
I got myself together enough to get back on the road, making it to Columbus before becoming too emotional to drive any further. I checked into a hotel on Victory Drive, ordered food that I barely touched, and laid around in bed. I hadn’t checked in with Thad and Kemari, so I pulled up my laptop and sent them a quick email. I didn’t have to because they were more than capable of delivering on their tasks. I didn’t have any hard deadlines, so I wasn’t behind in my work. As a distraction, I went through my emails, which were a few consultations for next week and some revisions. I also got the email from the company I did the makeup campaign for. As I predicted, they went with my second option. I didn’t get the same giddiness I usually did from being right.
But as soon as I powered down my laptop, all the thoughts came back.
I replayed Deck and Anise’s words, that they would be there for me. And the night Deck held me while I cried. And the night at his parent’s place. Those moments were the closest I ever let anyone get to me. I’ve slept with men before, talked to men before, even told Tay about my mama, but no man has ever made me feel protected like Deck did. I had no female friends, but no one had ever been there for me like my sister has.
What would be the harm in letting them be there for me like they said? I knew relationships held no guarantees, but my sister has been trying for years to love me. What would be the worse that could come of letting her? What would be so bad about letting people be there for me?
Those questions plagued me for hours and I had no answer initially. I didn’t think I deserved to be loved or to have any meaningful friendships because my mama didn’t want me. But there were people in my life who loved me, even though I made it difficult. I made Anise and my daddy work double-time to love me and they shouldn’t have to do that. Carlene was a different story, but if I were being honest, she showed more effort in having a relationship with me than my own mama did.
So why was I constantly pushing them away?
In just two days, Deck showed me something no man has ever shown me before. I didn’t understand what he saw in me, but he was adamant he wanted to be in my life. I was fighting him, too.
All because of the person who didn’t want me. I was making my family, Deck, and me suffer because my mama abandoned me. I was more concerned about who wasn’t there than who was. And it wasn’t fair to anyone, myself included.
The more I thought about it, the more I knew what I needed to do. Or at least try. I looked through my toiletries until I found my melatonin and popped a few. I honestly didn’t need them because I fell asleep quickly.
The next morning, I checked out and got back on the road. When I came into town, I headed straight to the hospital. At the front desk, I asked for directions to Anise’s office. When I walked into her cubicle, she nearly tripped over her office chair to get to me.
“Saige, you came back. You came back,” she praised.
I embraced my sister and it felt good to be received like this. Her co-worker didn’t seem put off by my sister’s actions. She was an older woman and I imagined Anise talked to her about her wayward sister.
“You going to my house?”
I nodded. “I’m going to see Deck first.”
Anise smiled again. “I’m sure he will be happy to see you.”
“I hope so.”
Anise hugged me again and I got on the elevator to the second floor. The closer I got to his room, the slower my steps became. I took a couple of deep breaths, determined to fight this fear. I knocked on the door and opened it, poking my head in.
Deck did a double-take when he saw me. The biggest smile came across his face, and once again, I liked the feeling of being missed, wanted. “Thank you for coming back.”
I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I did know I was going to try happiness for once.
“About time you two got here. Your daddy didn’t want to eat until you came,” Carlene fussed gently.
“Sorry, we got caught up with…ummmm…” I couldn’t think of a lie fast enough.
“Chile, ya’ll had us here starving cause ya’ll was having sex?” Carlene asked with wide eyes, causing Deck and I to giggle. “Well, I know when you need it, you need it. Come on, let’s eat.”
When I realized Carlene was probably talking about sex with my daddy, my smile dropped from my face, but Deck cackled loudly. We took off our coats and went to the dining room where my sister, her baby daddy, my nephew, and my daddy were all waiting.
“About time!” Anise exclaimed. “I know you can tell time...you’re almost an hour late!”
“Well they were-“
Carlene made the gesture like she was zipping her mouth. Deck chuckled while I looked absolutely mortified. Everyone around the table looked confused.
“Well, have a seat, let’s eat.”
Deck pulled out my chair before sitting down next to me. We all joined hands while my daddy said grace.
“Father, we thank you today for life, health, and strength. We thank you for this day, your son’s birth father, and we praise your Holy name for the miracle of his birth. Lord, I just want to thank you today for hearts that have been mended, for hearts that have been healed, for relationships that have been brought full circle. Father, we thank you for being in our midst, keeping us when we ran, keeping us when we fought, keeping us when we didn’t deserve it. Lord, continue to work in us, continue to build us up, and continue to keep us in your love. Bless this food for the nourishment of our bodies. Bless the hands that prepared it and let it bless us so we can continue to bless you. It’s in your son Jesus name we, pray. Amen.”
By the time my daddy finished his prayer, Carlene, Anise, and I were wiping away tears. Deck handed me a napkin and caressed my back gently in comfort.
Carlene was heading in my direction, and I stood to greet her. She pulled me into a hug, a long hug, one that I imagine she’d been waiting a long time to give me. And if I were being honest with myself, it was a hug I needed, too. When she finally let me go, my daddy was wiping away his own tears. Nothing needed to be said of this moment, everyone understood what it meant. “Ok, ok. Enough of all this sentimental stuff, let’s eat!”
As everyone started piling our Christmas dinner on our plates, I looked around the table at the people who loved me.
The past couple of months have been a struggle, a literal fight with myself. Letting my sister love me was easy. She’d always been there. Deck was a huge struggle. I fought with him, tooth and nail, but he wouldn’t leave me. When I finally let my guard down long enough to let him into my heart, I regretted taking so long to do this. The way this man loved me was amazing.
Carlene was the biggest hurdle for me. I made up in my mind I wanted nothing to do with my mama. She made the decision I was not a priority in her life, and I couldn’t make myself forgive her and have a relationship with her. Carlene, on the other hand, had been trying for years to build a relationship with me. And I finally let her. Had I not been so stubborn all those years, I would have benefitted from her advice, her wisdom, and her cooking. She had been the mother I’d been missing all these years.
As my family ate, talked, and laughed, I became emotional. It had been years, almost 11 years since I spent Christmas with them. I ran away from my problems instead of facing them head on. I’d been talking to a therapist, at Deck’s urging who was now in school for psychology with intentions of becoming a licensed therapist. I was finally dealing with the hurt my mama inflicted on me. I finally started seeing me as worthy, deserving of love and friendships. Even though I wished my life had turned out differently, I appreciated the journey to get to this moment in my life. I appreciated every relationship with them because I worked hard for them.
I spent the better part of ten years running away from everything and everyone. But now, eating Christmas dinner with my family, I was grateful they never gave up on me.
“You ok, baby?” Deck asked.
“Yes, just enjoying my family. And you.”
Deck kissed me on my forehead. “Enjoy it, beautiful. You deserve it.”
I reached for his hand, interlocked his fingers with mine. “You’re right. I do.”