Mark’s call to Ann had been calm and even apologetic. “Ann, I’m following the ambulance to St. Mary’s hospital. Johnny tried really hard to kill himself.”
“Jesus Mark, why aren’t you IN the ambulance with him?”
“Only family or a spouse is allowed along on a 5150 – that’s code for ‘attempted suicide’.” Mark sounded tired and Ann swallowed her indignation in order to honor Mark’s pain.
“I’m on my way.”
“You don’t need to come. I just needed to talk to someone while I drive. I don’t want to be alone with my thoughts right now. You know?”
“Do you want to tell me what happened?”
“Nothing really. Maybe that’s the worst part. I thought things were going well. How can you be so close to someone and not see this coming? I mean, London was great. Well, mostly great.” Mark broke into sobs.
By the time Ann got to the hospital room Mark had recovered most of his signature calmness and greeted Ann with his world class manners. Johnny lay in the hospital bed. Getting around on crutches wasn’t anything new to Ann, but the added pain in her loins made the journey painful and exhausting. She tried to look pleasant while she parked her crutches and gently let herself down on the hospital room chair.
They sat side by side quietly watching Johnny.
Mark broke the silence. “It’s not the first time. You know that.”
“I guess I do. I just didn’t want to think about it.”
“They say everyone thinks about it at some time.”
“Ever thought about it Ann?”
Ann leaned forward elbows resting on her legs and folded her belly onto her thighs, her forehead reaching toward her knees.
“What stops you?”
Ann snorted, surprised at her answer as it left her lips. “The fucking horses.” Ann exhaled and the tears poured. She didn’t see it coming, hadn’t been prepared to hold them back and now they flowed. Mark reached tentatively and rested his hand on her lower back. Ann stayed that way, bowed forward sobbing.
Ann sniffled and pulled herself together as best she could. They both quietly watched Johnny breathe.
“Mark, don’t argue with me, I’m going to take this shift, you go home, take a nap and a shower and come back in three hours. Not one word of argument.”
Mark conceded knowing that if there was anyone that Johnny would love to see when he woke up, it would be Ann. And maybe, just maybe, Johnny would tell Ann the dark secrets he couldn’t tell his lover.
Mark kissed Ann on her head and slipped out the door sneaking backwards looks at Johnny.
Ann must have dozed in her chair. She awoke to a soft voice.
“Tell me more about your friend Reno.”
“Who?” Ann roused from her stupor, surprised by Johnny’s voice. It was cracked and wet, but it was his voice. She looked around the room and wondered if she should call someone. He reached for her hand.
“I know he was sexy and handsome and tall. Tell me about him some more.” Johnny’s eyes were closed and Ann wondered how he knew she was there, how he knew it was her and how long he might have been conscious.
Ann’s head spun as she tried to figure out who Johnny was referring to. Was there a horse named Reno something? But why would Johnny think a horse was sexy?
“C’mon sweetie, tell me about him. Did you ever sleep with him?” Johnny’s lips pursed into a weak, but unmistakable smirk. Clearly, he wasn’t referring to a horse.
“Vegas! You mean Vegas. Right?”
“That’s him. Tell me about Mr. Bad Boy.”
“Oh Johnny. He’s just some two-bit rough handed racetrack hustler. He’s nobody.”
“So you[ time problem to fix – how long has it been – why is Ann moblie enough to be at johnny’s bedside – how did we get here – what’s happened in between? charlie vanished , vcd is gone, mercy street is where? jude? Julie? when and how did mark and johnny come back from london?] did sleep with him.” Johnny’s smirk was a lopsided smile, the sweetest thing Ann could think to see and she felt guilty that Mark wasn’t there to share it. He should be here but Ann had sent him home to shower and get some rest.
“I wish I could make up some sordid story that would make you laugh but there just isn’t one. I didn’t sleep with him because he was just some loser racetracker.”
“Unlike your other boyfriends?” Hmmmmmm?”
“Ouch Johnny. If you weren’t in a hospital bed, I’d smack you for that.” Ann and Johnny laughed.
“But we do need to spice up your love life.”
“How come everyone thinks they need to comment on my romantic life? If you say I’m not getting any younger, I seriously will smack you, hospital bed or not.”
“Oh darling, we just want someone to love look after you. You deserve to come home to open arms and a cooked meal.”
“And a whole lot of bullshit about what I am and what I’m not supposed to be doing with my life, and where I go and when I come back and how much I work or if I go to check on a sick horse at 3am. It’s still a man’s world Johnny. If a guy in a relationship works all the time – he’s driven and success bound. But if it’s a woman, she’s selfish and psycho. I have things to do and places I want to see and the last thing I need is someone telling me I’m not giving them enough. And if you tell me I just haven’t met the right person, I will scream. I promise.”
“Oh Ann. I’m going to miss you.”
Ann missed the sentiment. She was busy composing herself after her diatribe about relationships. Her heart was beating hard and she was busy managing the pain in her back and hips from her awkward position in the chair leaning on Johnny’s hospital bed.
“But everyone loves a bad boy like Vegas – right?” Johnny crooned softly.
“I supposed Johnny. He was never lonely, that’s for sure.”
“Are you lonely Ann?”
“Not really. At least I don’t think so.”
“You really are lucky Ann. Lonely is a funny thing.”
“How can you be lonely Johnny? You have Mark. The guy who would do anything for you. You just got back from a trip to London, you guys have tons of friends and a beautiful home?”
“Like I said, lonely is funny. It gets ahold of you and it won’t let go. You do everything to give it what it wants and it’s like a black hole, it never fills.”
“I wish I knew what you meant Johnny.”
“I don’t think you ever will know what I mean Ann. And it’s one of the many reasons I adore you. Now, admit to your oversexed friend Johnny that you slept with this Vegas guy at least once.”