*Hunter's Perspective (again)*
Less than three weeks later I have all my belongings moved out of the condo and into a modest one-bedroom apartment. It's not much, but the rent is cheap and it's only a mile away from my bar. Hell, now that I live so close, I could walk to work if I wanted to.
After the announcement of my moving out, Jessie stayed out of my way. And for the most part, Elliot did too. I can't lie and say it didn't hurt like hell. Because it did. But at least with the two of them being out of my hair I had time to breathe - time to think.
And now that I've been in my own apartment for two weeks, my life has become a sequence of monotonous and repetitive events. I get up late, hit the gym, visit Rex at the hospital and then work at Claws until closing. I know it sounds terrible but one of the reasons I look forward to going to the hospital is for the off-chance I'll see Jessie.
But it's been almost three full weeks and I haven't seen or heard a thing from her. Not a damn thing. And even though I want Rex to wake up from his coma, the fact that he's still at the hospital gives me a glimmer of hope that I'll see Jessie again. That makes me sound like a terrible guy, I know. But I swear I'm not.
I'm just desperate.
I sigh as I step onto the elevator, feeling my body ascend as I reach the highest floor. A few of the nurses wave at me as I make my way to Rex's room. I used to think they were just being friendly since I came here all the time. But yesterday when one of them - Raelynn - asked me for my number, I realized that wasn't the case.
My shoulders slump when I see no one's in his hospital room except for the on-call doctor. He looks at me when I enter and nods his head.
"How's he doin' today doc?" I ask as I take my usual seat in the wooden chair next to Rex's hospital bed.
The doctor looks at me over his small framed spectacles. He brings his thumb up and licks it before flicking through several medical papers in his hands. He clears his throat and reads back to me a bunch of numbers regarding Rex's vitals. I nod politely but have no idea what he's talking about.
"…so in other words," the doctor says with his gravelly voice, "there's no sign of improvement. But there's still brain activity so there's always room to hope."
"And what about his legs? Will he be able to walk or not?"
The doctor shakes his head. "We won't be able to run tests like that until he's awake, son. Like I said, at this point it's just a waiting game."
When I don't say anything in response, the doctor leaves and gives me a moment alone with Rex. From being in here for over a month, Rex looks like a completely different guy. His once-tanned skin has paled and his strong arms and legs have wilted away to thin sticks. His face looks sullen, lifeless almost. His dark curly hair is still bountiful, but one patch on the back left side of his head is completely bald. It's the spot where he was hit at the time of the accident.
I look around Rex's small hospital room. Dozens of bouquets of flowers cover the surfaces of every window sill and table. A string of cards are neatly tacked on the board at the far end of the room. I always wondered why people sent cards, especially to someone who's in a coma. It's not like they can read them anyway.
Sighing, I get up from my seat and walk over to the board holding all of Rex's cards. I pull them down one by one, making a large stack in my left hand. I tuck them under my elbow and walk back to my wooden chair.
I clear my throat and pick up the first card.
"This one is from your Aunt Mary," I say. "There's a donkey on the front with a little girl petting his head. And it reads, 'No matter what's happening in your life, sometimes all you need is a donkey to make you feel better.'"
I frown as I re-read the caption to myself.
"From the looks of it, your Aunt Mary either smokes a lot of weed or just really sucks at picking out cards," I say with a lopsided grin.
I grab for the next. It's a small card with blue trimming around the edge. There's a single white rose on the front with the words "To my Son" written in cursive. I open the card and see that it's completely plain on the inside, aside from a small paragraph written in black ink. I read through it quickly before saying it aloud, trying to swallow down a lump of tears when I get to the end.
"This one is from Marie - Kelly's mom," I say softly. "The front reads, 'to my son' in blue writing. And on the inside she put, 'Rex, I know you aren't legally family, but in my eyes you're the son I've never had. You and Kelly met so many years ago. And from the first time she laid eyes on you, she knew you were the one for her. I knew it too and I couldn't have been happier. I miss Kelly so much it hurts to keep living sometimes. But knowing my son is still holding on is what's keeping me going. I love you, Rex. -Marie.'"
I close the card as small tears start bubbling up at the corners of my eyes. I hastily wipe them away. I feel selfish sitting here thinking about my problems while Rex is lying in a hospital bed, fighting for his life. I don't know how to shake myself from this whole mess. But I need to. And soon.
"You want me to call someone in?" Carey asks gruffly as he wipes down the end of the bar.
A trickle of sweat slips down my forehead and I dab it away with my sleeve. I don't know how my dad did it. Running a bar is tough - especially when it's beach front property. But business is booming and for the first time since I started here, I really feel like my bar is becoming a tourist and townie 'hot-spot.'
"Nah, I think we're good," I say looking out at all the full tables. "I mean the only person we can really call in is Nate and he's out of town. If I asked anyone else I'd be making 'em work a back-to-back shift."
Carey pats me on the shoulder.
"I'll go in back and start unloading a few more cases. If you need me to up at the bar, just holler alright son?"
I watch as Carey wanders to the back, the door closing behind him. I really should think about hiring more staff. I'm wearing the few workers I have down to the bone. But they're just so reliable I'm reluctant to hire anyone new.
I turn my head to my newest customer - a familiar looking redhead with bright green eyes and a dainty freckled face. She gives me a knowing grin, batting her eye lashes in a flirtatious way.
"Hello there, ma'am - welcome to Claws. What can I get ya?" I ask.
"I didn't know you worked here!" the redhead says with a small laugh.
I shift uncomfortably under her gaze as I wait for recognition to hit me. I know I've met her somewhere before. And yet I'm drawing a blank.
"Yea," I say slowly. "I do. I'm sorry - do I know you?"
The redhead's smile falters but she somehow keeps her voice sweet and chipper.
"I'm Raelynn - the nurse? I guess you just don't recognize me since I'm wearing make-up and I'm out of my scrubs. Am I right?"
"Uh…right. So, what can I get you Miss Raelynn?"
She giggles at my question and pushes her glossy red hair away from her shoulders.
"Welllllll," she drawls out, "I'll take a shot a' whiskey. And….and a date if you're offering 'em up?"
My eyes snap to Raelynn's face and a weird feeling settles in my stomach. Immediately I want to tell her I'm taken. But the longer her question sinks in, the more realize how very single I am. Very single and very alone. And what am I waiting for really? Did I really expect Jessie to leave Elliot and run back to me? I've already waited around three weeks and haven't heard a damn word from her.
"Well, I'll let you think on it," Raelynn says sweetly as I pass her the shot of whiskey.
She tips her head back, shoots me a wink, and then empties the whiskey into the back of her throat. She slams down the empty shot glass when she's finished, licking away the remains with the tip of her pink tongue. She pushes the glass toward me and asks for another.
"How about this," Raelynn proposes right before she downs her second shot. "Tell me three things about you. Two of them have to be made up but one of 'em has to be real. If I can guess the real fact on the first try - you have to take me out on a date. But if I don't guess right the first time, I'll stop buggin' ya."
Her smile widens, showing off an immaculate set of white, straight teeth. I don't know why I haven't just agreed to go on a date with her already. I'm single, I'm alone and I need to get over a girl that doesn't want me. So why is this so hard?
"I guess that's a fair deal," I finally say with a shrug.
Raelynn giggles and claps her hands. "Ok! I'm ready for the three facts!"
I take my worn out wash rag and throw it over my shoulder, leaning against the edge of the bar as I contemplate my three facts. When I finally have them, I put my hands together making sure my poker face is intact.
"Alright," I say. "Fact one, I'm an only child. Fact two, I'm related to the guy I'm always visiting at the hospital. And fact number three…I'm in love."
Raelynn raises her eyebrows at my three facts, pursing her lips in concentration. I clean off her shot glass and set it to the side.
"You're an only child!" Raelynn finally says with a proud smile.
I shake my head and fake a look of sadness.
"I've got a half-brother. Sorry ma'am. Better luck next time."
Raelynn's cheeks ignite with a bold red color before she slips off her stool and slaps a twenty dollar bill on the counter. I've pissed her off royally and more than likely embarrassed the hell out of her. I don't know why I didn't just lie and go on a date with her.
No sooner does she leave and another body takes her place. I don't look to see who it is, but ask for the hundredth time that night if I can get the customer a drink.
"I'll take a captain and coke, doll face. And if I get the answer right to your little game - does that mean I get a free date too?"
Brad's familiar voice rings in my ears and when I bring my eyes up to look at him, he's giving me an understanding smile.
"Well, you already know I'm not related to Rex so I hardly see how that's fair," I mumble quietly.
Brad lets out a feminine laugh, reaching his scrawny hand toward me and giving me a reassuring squeeze on the arm. I quickly make him a captain and coke, nervously wiping away the newly formed sweat of my hands. Nobody was meant to hear my conversation with Raelynn. And the last person I wanted to hear it was Jessie's best friend.
"Don't worry doll face - I won't tell her," Brad says as if reading my thoughts.
He takes a sip and gives a sigh of satisfaction. I tell him its four dollars but he just waves me off. Apparently he'll never pay for his own drinks at my bar. But deep down I know I don't care. Despite my annoyance for Brad, he's the closest person I have right now to Jessie.
Aaaaand I just got bumped down to a whole new level of pathetic.
"So when did this happen?" Brad asks.
"You falling in love with Jessie?"
"I don't even know if I'm in love," I say honestly. "Just what it feels like."
Brad rolls his eyes.
"Oh please, sugar. I just witnessed you, 'Hunter the lady killer,' turn down a sexy ass redhead when you had no obligation to do so. That's love honey - and you got it bad."
I grunt and feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. I reach down and open it up, my heart shooting with anxiety when I see it's a text from Jessie. She hasn't texted me since…..well not since the morning after. I take a deep breath and open it up.
Jessie: Come 2 hospital. Rex just woke up.
A/N: Rex is up! Yay!!! I know I have a few Rex fans out there, so this chapter is for all of you! XD Anyway, for those of you who have stuck it out and have read this far - THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! You all mean the WORLD to me! And I'm so excited to get your feedback! XOXO Cuties!