God, what a mess. Jacqueline suppressed another wince as she passed the curved needle through the flame of a borrowed lighter, sterilizing it for the task she meant it for—stitching Matt’s face back together. She glanced at Leah, who’d already started on the meaty part of his palm, where the cut on his hand was the deepest.
Why did I volunteer for this part? She checked her knot and leaned in to have another look at the long cut across Matt’s face, peeling back bloody gauze. Sucking in a breath, she set her jaw and got to work, aware that Matt was trying to watch her stitch his face up. Having an audience was more than a little disconcerting.
Just keep them straight and small, Jac. That’s all you need to do. Keep them straight and small. Her fingers tightened around the scrap of gauze in her other hand and she used it to clean the field she was working in.
“How bad is it?” Marin asked. Thom’s arms were wrapped around her, keeping her from getting too close and interfering in their work. Jacqueline was silently grateful for that. She and Leah were under enough pressure as it was.
“It’ll leave a mark,” Jacqueline admitted, trying not to wince, “but he’ll be okay.”
“Good to know,” Matt mumbled, holding onto the heavy blanket they’d tossed over him. At least he’d stopped shivering and calmed down a little more.
“Don’t move, Matt,” Jacqueline snapped, cursing inwardly. Just hold still so I can do this! “The last thing I need is to slip on this. I don’t want you to have a bigger mark because I screwed something up.” And it’d be my fault, not his.
He eyed her like he was about to say something, but kept his mouth shut.
Leah sat back against her heels after a few minutes more, snipping the threads and grabbing the tube of antiseptic and antimicrobial gel so she could smear it along the stitches. Jacqueline watched her for a moment, then refocused on her own task. A scene from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves kept running through her brain, when Alan Rickman looked at whoever was about to put stitches in his face and snarled, ‘And keep the stitches small.’
If she hadn’t been in such a serious situation, she’d have laughed out loud.
Matt hissed a little as she had to give the needle an extra hard tug to get it through his flesh.
“Sorry,” she whispered.
He smiled with the side of his mouth furthest from where she was working and she gave him another reassuring smile. He’s a trooper. I’m glad.
It took another few long minutes for her to finish with the stitches, by which time Leah was bandaging up Matt’s hand. Jacqueline snagged the antibiotic gel and an alcohol swab, cleaning the stitches before smearing the line with the gel. Matt hissed as she swabbed the stitches, grimacing.
“Sorry,” Jacqueline said again, wincing sympathetically. “I know. It stings.”
“A lot,” he said, slowly sitting fully upright from the propped-up but semi-reclined position he’d been in. He swayed a little, then steadied and adjusted his blanket, pulling it around his shoulders. “Thanks,” he muttered, both to her and to Leah. Jacqueline smiled.
“You’re welcome. You should try to eat something soon.”
Matt nodded a little as Thom let go of Marin, who moved to her brother’s side almost immediately, brushing stray hair from his face. He waved a hand, trying to fend her off, then slumped slightly with a sigh. He looked at Thom, who was grinning at him. “You are suddenly happy she’s got someone else to fuss over.”
“Damn straight,” Thom said, though the smile shrank a little.
Jacqueline smothered her own smile. Something tells me that he likes the attention a little bit.
Matt smiled tightly at him, wrapping an arm around his sister, being careful of his bandaged hand. Jacqueline started rifling through her kit for some gauze to tape over the stitches in his face.
“What happened?” Marin asked quietly.
Matt shook his head. “I don’t know. It happened too damn fast.”
Jacqueline found the gauze and the tape and nudged Leah, dropping her voice low. “Can you go make him some oatmeal or something? And get him some water or juice?”
Leah nodded, gathering up most of the first aid supplies before she trotted off toward the fire.
Marin was frowning. “What did? I mean…what happened to the radio?”
“It just…it popped, Marin. It didn’t explode so much as it just popped, almost like a balloon. I sat down when I thought I was starting to hear something coming through across the static. Started fiddling with the dial so I could maybe get a stronger signal and focus in on the voices I thought I was hearing, but the static just kept getting louder and louder and then it just…it just went. Flying parts, burning wires. I don’t know, I guess it overloaded or something. We did kind of jury-rig those batteries to it. I’m lucky those didn’t go up.”
“Hold your head still, Matt,” Jacqueline said, gently starting to tape the pad over his stitches. If it went up in his face, where’re the burns? He’s just got the two cuts, and some soot. That’s really strange.
Matt nodded slightly, then held his head still, eyes going to Thom. “I was probably lucky you weren’t far away, Thom. I was panicking. Still don’t’ think my heart’s slowed back down all the way yet.”
Thom shook his head. “You’d have held it together long enough for someone to make it to you. I just happened to be the nearest.”
Marin squeezed Matt. “I’m just glad you’re okay. That’s all that really matters to me.”
Matt snorted softly. “So am I, Mar.” His gaze slid over to Jacqueline. “Guess I’m not going to be digging any more wells for a while, huh?”
She laughed and shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. You need to keep the stitches clean, at least for a week or two until they start to heal. Something tells me that using a shovel isn’t going to help that happen.”
Thom smirked. “Great, so now between him, me, and Greg, we make a person and a half.”
“That math sounds about right,” Jacqueline said with a grin, though her mirth faded after a moment. “We’ve got to start being more careful.”
“No one could’ve predicted this happening, Jac,” Marin said quietly.
Jacqueline nodded. “I know. That’s the part that’s got me worried. There’s too much that’s out of our control…we need to control what we can, to minimize overall damage.”
“She’s right,” Matt murmured. Thom nodded silently in agreement.
Marin sighed, then nodded as well. “I know. I know. It’s just that there’s a lot outside of our control. More than I think any of us realize.”
Jacqueline stared at her for a moment, then nodded slowly. More than any of us realize, Mar…or more than you and Kel and some of the others are telling? She dismissed the thought. Whatever the rest of them didn’t know, they were being left in the dark for a reason. The only thing that was important was that she’d put her trust in Marin, and she was positive that she wasn’t going to be led astray.
I trust you, Mar. I’ve got to. Jacqueline stood up. “I’m going to see what’s taking Leah so long with that oatmeal. You should go lay down, Matt.”
Thom got up slowly. “I can check on the oatmeal if you want to put your stuff away.”
Jacqueline smiled, nodding. “Thanks, Thom.”
“No problem.” He limped off, toward the fire.
Matt started to get up, too. Marin tucked herself under his arm to steady him. “Oof,” he muttered, shaking his head slowly to clear it. “Got a headache.”
“I’ll get you something for the pain,” Jacqueline said as she gathered up her kit. “But promise me one thing.”
“What is it?”
“That you’re not going to just pretend to take whatever I give you to make me happy.”
Matt laughed and shook his head a little. “I’m not Thom. I’ll take it.”
Jacqueline grinned. “Good. Go lay down.”
He nodded and she watched as Marin helped him over toward his mattress. Jacqueline chewed the inside of her lip. He’s a nice guy. Wonder why he’s so lonely all the time. Wonder if I can change that… He’s about as cute as Davon is, but…easier to talk to, almost. And he’s really nice, and smart, and…and I wonder what his lips taste like.
Her cheeks flamed and she turned quickly. Drugs. I need to get him drugs, and he needs to sleep, and I need to stop thinking these kind of thoughts. It’s the end of the world. Stay on task and don’t worry about anything else.
She thought about him smiling at her and blushed some more.
God. I’m such a girl. She kept walking.
Want to help support Awakenings?
Want to chip in to support Awakenings? Buy Erin a coffee through ko-fi and fuel her creativity with a little caffeine.
Want to help support all of Erin’s writing endeavors?
Thank you to my supporters!
Thank you to all of my supporters at Patreon, especially Karen L. Klitzke and Brandon!
Where we’re listed