4. Awakening

The Surprising Life and Death of Diggory Franklin

I sighed, resting my chin on my hand and my elbow on the armrest of the hospital chair. Dahlia had intended to use me to distract Frank, and I'd certainly become his focal point. He was willing to get shot to keep me safe. His other priorities had fallen away: his parents were dead, and he didn't seem too happy with his new work responsibilities. He didn't seem to have many close friends.

However, he'd become my focus during our little charade. My feelings for him were real. What was I supposed to do about that? He had risked his life for me, that wasn't something I was about to forget. I didn't want to walk away. Dahlia hadn't provided any provisions for this eventuality, I was in the dark. But I knew my own heart and seeing him, lying there in that bed, made me certain of what I wanted.

I watched him intently, looking for any sign of consciousness. I was also half worried he might disappear again, I didn't think that had been because I was over-tired. Nonetheless, I started to drift off into slumber the longer the night went on. I kept blinking awake, but I'm sure I actually slept more than a few times.

In the early morning I saw a slight grimace work its way across Frank's face, and then his eyes started to move. I snapped fully awake as I realized his eyes were actually about to open. I sat up to greet him.

"Frank!"

I felt a sudden swelling of emotion in my chest and my eyes burned a little. I fought back the tears and grabbed Frank's head, my fingers running through his hair as I smushed my mouth against his and kissed him hard. I was so happy to see him awake.

Frank grunted with pain and I realized he had tried to move his broken arm.

"Ow!"

"Oh, Frank, I'm sorry," I told him, stifling a giggle at his eagerness to embrace me. "It's broken, and you had surgery because of the gunshot."

I repressed the memory of his wounds and tried to concentrate on his face. I think Frank could see right through me, and knew exactly how upset I was, because he immediately started trying to apologize.

"I'm sorry..." he said with a dry mouth.

"No," I said sternly, intoning my words carefully. "Don't. You saved my life. Everyone's lives. But. Don't. Ever. Be. So. Stupid. Again."

I felt my eyes swimming and took a breath, staring into Frank's eyes. It was so good to have him back! It hurt to think he'd almost been gone for good.

"How long was I out?" Frank wondered.

"It's been three days. You were very touch and go for a while, your body went into shock. It doesn't matter. You're awake now," I told him, smiling at that happy fact.

I reached out to his face, tenderly, and kissed him gently. It was something to cherish, to remember. I never wanted to forget the texture of his lips on mine. I felt my lungs tighten and my heart pound. It was almost too much, so I back away slowly and got out of the chair. I walked to the edge of the bed, turning away from Frank, and took a deep breath to gather myself before turning back.

"You should see what the newspapers are saying about you." I tried to smile.

"Will you move in with me?" Frank said with no preamble.

I felt like he had punched me in the stomach, it was such a surprising thing to hear. I didn't know how to respond. Part of me wanted to scream “YES!” and at the same time I wanted to recoil. He had almost died. I wanted him in my presence from now on, and still I wanted to run away from the intimacy I felt. It was so bizarre. I fought for control of myself.

"Frank, this is hardly the time to ask me something like that," I said as calmly as I could, pushing my hair back from my face to cover my discomfort. My lips twitched with a stifled smile. He loved me too.

"You like the question, though," Frank said, clearly detecting what I thought I was hiding. "So if this isn't the time to ask, maybe the next time I ask it will go well?"

I fidgeted, smoothing out my hair and looking everywhere around the room but at him. I didn't know how to deal with this right now. Too much had happened. He spared me the decision.

"You don't have to answer, Calla. I won't ask until we're past this crisis. I know you were worried, and I know that you think it's just the medication talking. You're probably thinking 'he just had a near-death experience and wants to rush into things.' But I'll prove you wrong. I'll be patient and wait."

Frank grinned so winningly that I had to smile back. He was so cute he was beautiful.

"You are the most frustrating...” I raised my voice to chastise him. “Ridiculous...” He kept smiling and it tugged at my funny bone, making me grin back. “Stop being so damn cute when I'm upset!"

I started to laugh, my emotions getting the better of me, so I turned and sat down on the couch to recover. My head swam.

"Just thought I should lighten the mood. You're acting like someone got shot or something," Frank teased.

"It's not funny," I laughed.

He just shrugged. Typical Frank, not realizing how bad it had been. He was so focused on just the present.

"So what's been going on while I've been... asleep?" he asked.

"I haven't done much but hang out here. Sometimes I read the paper or watch the news. You're considered a hero, you know. Franklin Investments announced the formation of the new board of directors, and everyone thinks it's great publicity for the company somehow. You're seen as selfless."

"Selfless?"

"Sure. You steered the company through the aftermath of the market upheaval and your father's death, and stabilized it. Now you're passing the work onto more experienced minds instead of being arrogant enough to assume you can handle everything yourself. And then you walk into a bank and make sure everyone gets out alive, even at great personal risk. The mayor wants to meet you, and the line-up for interviews is longer every day."

"Who's handling that?" Frank wanted to know.

"The PR department at the company, they've put everyone off until you're recovered. But it's all making you sound good. I'm the only one who thinks you're an idiot."

"Well, your opinion is the only one that counts. I love you, Calla."

"I love you too, Frank. But if you ever get shot at again, I'm going to kill you."

That made him laugh.

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