Café Chocolaté

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Chapter XXIII

Chapter XXIII – Ginger Thomas

Unlike Mary Dill, Ginger knew how to scream once and then stop. Even when in near panic and even when it felt like the world had gone black.

He wasn’t supposed to get hurt! Why him?

She didn’t raise her head, but slowly became aware that she could feel the rise and fall of Eddie’s breathing. He hadn’t died. Fainted, perhaps, but hadn’t died. Not yet.

A second more and she heard Adrian’s voice above her. “He has a rapid heartbeat, but I can’t tell how deeply he’s been injured. He needs medical attention – somehow.”

“Let me look at him.”

Ginger had to raise her head to identify the speaker. Timothy, pale and haggard, took Adrian’s place on Eddie’s other side. She would never have guessed the voice to be his, it sounded so strange.

Ginger looked down at Eddie’s face again. She had never seen anyone alive and yet so ashen. She realized that she trembled, but whether from fury, grief, or both, she didn’t even know.

Timothy called for supplies and Adrian went for them with Anna. Renee knelt nearby, prepared to give any assistance. The sickening sound of tearing fabric set Ginger’s teeth on edge, as Timothy pulled material away from the wound. She tried to keep from watching.

He has to be all right. He has to be.

Eddie’s eyelids fluttered and then with a cry of pain, he seemed to return to consciousness. He lurched upward and Ginger tried to help Timothy steady him.

“I need you to stay still, buddy.” Timothy gently forced Eddie to lie back down. “I really need you to stay as still as you can.”

Eddie only grunted in reply, clenching his jaw so hard Ginger wondered if he might break his teeth. She couldn’t tell if he had difficulty breathing or if he just reacted to the pain.

He’s never had high pain tolerance. Maybe that’s why he fainted.

She turned her attention to Timothy. His face still pale, he seemed calm and determined. At least his voice sounded nearly normal again.

“Will… Will he be all right?” She wondered if her own voice always had such a strain to it.

Timothy didn’t respond at first, but after a pause, he nodded. “I hope so. If I can stop the blood flow. It’s bad, but it could be a lot worse. Nothing touched his heart or any other vital organs, so far as I can tell. I think it hit his rib and stopped.”

“As far as you can tell?” Ginger barely spoke above a whisper.

Timothy only looked at her for a brief second and didn’t say anything.

He could be wrong. Being wrong could be fatal. He needs to be right.

She became more aware of her surroundings and realized the quiet in the café. Certainly, people spoke, but in hushed tones and no one stood around screaming.

On that realization, Ginger looked for Mary Dill. The woman stood a little distant, clasping and unclasping her hands together, her wide eyes darting around the room.

“It was you!” Ginger stood, all of her fury channeling into her sudden realization.

Mary saw her and froze.

You got up from the table. You have had it out for Eddie ever since he found that stupid ice pick! You tried to kill him!” Her voice escalated with each word, until she nearly shouted the last.

“I did it to protect us all! He’s a murderer!”

Ginger couldn’t listen to excuses. She ran at the woman, sending them both to the ground. Mary Dill had found her lungs, but Ginger barely knew what she herself did. Her anger blinded her as she wrestled with the flailing woman beneath her.

Someone much stronger than herself practically lifted Ginger off of her victim. She fought like a cat, but found her attempts futile. Mary still wailed.

“Stop with the noise already!” Ginger still pulled against whoever held her back. “I didn’t kill you! I didn’t even start to kill you!”

“I was trying to protect us all!” Mary struggled to her feet. “I did it for a good cause!”

“Eddie hasn’t killed anyone, you half-witted monster! He wouldn’t!” Ginger struggled again. “The only person in here that we know tried to kill anyone is you!”

The man, who still managed to keep her from hurling herself back at Mary, somehow managed to make her turn around to face him at those words. She tried to wrench free, but even wild, she couldn’t match him for strength.

“Ginger!” He shook her lightly. “Ginger, look at me!”

Fuming, she stiffened and obeyed. She hadn’t paid any attention to his identity and when she looked up into Adrian’s face, she nearly started. She’d expected anyone else.

“You have to calm down.” He spoke firmly, but with a touch of compassion that she couldn’t mistake. “You have to calm down. You are accomplishing nothing!”

“She tried to kill Eddie because of something that he didn’t even do!” She hadn’t intended to answer in a raised voice; she couldn’t seem to help it. “We don’t even know yet that she didn’t succeed!”

“You still have to calm down.”

“She ought to have as good as she tried to give!”

Adrian shook his head. “It wouldn’t do any good whatsoever for you to go through with that.”

“She deserves it!” Before he could answer, she twisted her head to look around the café. “How did none of you see her? You were all at that table together!”

“I saw her coming toward the table.” Anna stood near Timothy, probably waiting to see if he needed her to fetch anything else, her voice low as usual. She shook her head. “I thought that she mistook her chair. Yours was next to Eddie and it was empty. I never dreamed that she would try to stab him.”

Try to? She did stab him!” Ginger nearly spat out the words.

“Ginger!” Timothy half-turned and looked up.

She started.

Timothy’s expression reflected reproach, but he nodded toward the man on the floor. “Eddie is asking for you.”

Adrian released her when she turned and Ginger hurried toward the injured man. He still looked far too pale and he clenched his jaw over and over, in a constant effort to combat the pain. His eyes, hazy and dull with pain, opened when Ginger knelt beside him.

He looks awful. He doesn’t look like he’ll be all right.

“You’ve got to stop.” Rough and strained, Eddie’s voice barely reached her ears.

She started to reply, but a sharp intake of breath stopped her. She laid a hand on his shoulder and she could feel him trembling.

“You have to stop, Ginger.” He looked up at her again, pleading. “You’re… You’re just making yourself look guilty.”

“You didn’t do anything!” She felt a lump fill her throat. She absolutely refused to cry, but hated the feeling. “You aren’t a danger; you didn’t kill anyone!”

“I didn’t,” Eddie rasped. “That doesn’t mean that you should.”

He didn’t say anything else and Ginger couldn’t answer. Her thoughts spun in several directions at once, always coming back to the pale young man fighting for his life in front of her.

Eddie groaned, his eyes closed once again. Ginger took his hand and sighed.

“Why do you care so much?” Kimberly’s cold tone made Ginger look up.

“What do you mean, why does she care?” Fabian asked. “She’s allowed to care.”

Kimberly shook her head, her arms crossed. “I don’t see her caring half so much about any of the rest of us. It’s suspicious.” She turned her gray eyes back on Ginger. “So, what makes you care so much about what happens to this particular young man?”

Ginger looked back down at Eddie. If he even heard the conversation around him, he didn’t show any sign. He didn’t even open his eyes. He squeezed her hand as a wave of pain seemed to pass over him, and then he went back to shaking and trying to breathe slow, measured breaths, as Timothy had instructed him. She wondered that he could stay so quiet and still.

“Well?” Kimberly asked. “Why do you care so much?”

Ginger sighed, her shoulders aching under the burden that only seemed to grow with each passing moment. “Because…” She raised her head, a strange defiance taking hold when she could read the expectant expressions on a few faces. “Because, Eddie is my younger brother.”

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