Trenton itched the tip of his nose with the back of his hand, and nodded. “Then it’s settled. The only way he’s going to stay away from you is if I beat his ass.”
I knew this was going to happen. I knew it, and I did it anyway. “You promised.”
“You’re going to play that card? Why are you protecting him? I don’t get it!”
“I’m not protecting him! I’m protecting you!” I said, shaking my head.
“I’m going to find him, Cami. I’m going to track him down, and when I find him . . .”
My cell phone buzzed in my pocket, and then buzzed again. I pulled it out to check quickly. Trenton must have noticed my expression, because he grabbed it from my hands.
“ ‘We need to talk,’ ” he said, reading the message. It was from T.J.
“So did you!” he screamed. His voice carried across the night, echoing through the empty lot.
He was right. I’d made promises to keep T.J.’s secret, and to love Trenton. I couldn’t keep them both. I would meet with T.J. It was time to convince him to release me of that burden, but I couldn’t risk Trenton following me, and I couldn’t meet T.J. without making Trenton hate me. T.J. could be leaving the next day for all I knew. I had to go to him right then.
“I don’t understand you, Cami. Are you just not over him? Is that it?”
I pursed my lips. The guilt was too much. “It’s nothing like that.”
Trenton’s chest was heaving. He was getting emotional. He pitched my phone across the street, and then paced, stomping back and forth, with his hands on his hips. My phone landed in a patch of grass, just beneath the streetlamp on the other side.
“Go get it,” I said, my voice even.
“Go get it!” I yelled, pointing toward the streetlamp.
When Trenton stomped off to find the small, black phone in the dark, I walked quickly to my Jeep and slammed the door. The engine sputtered for a moment, and then finally started up. Trenton was outside my window.
He knocked a few times, gently, his eyes soft again. “Baby, roll down the window.”
I gripped the steering wheel, and then looked over at him from under my brow, my cheeks wet.
“I’m sorry. I’ll find your phone. But you can’t take off in your car upset.”
Trenton put his palm flat against the glass. “Cami, if you want to take a drive, fine, but scoot over. I’ll drive you anywhere you need to go.”
I shook my head. “You’re going to find out. And when you do, it’s going to ruin everything.”
I turned to him. “I’m going to tell you. I want to tell you. But not right now.” I stomped on the clutch, and shoved the gear into reverse, backing out of the parking spot. I lowered my chin and cried for a few moments.
Trenton was still tapping my window. “Look at me, baby.”
I took a deep breath, pushed the gear up into first, and then lifted my head, looking forward.
“Cami, you can’t drive like this . . . Cami!” he said louder as I pulled away.
I made it to the parking lot entrance when the passenger door flew open. Trenton hopped inside, breathing hard.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Pull over, and let me drive.”
I pulled into the street and headed west. I had no plan to get to T.J., and now that Trenton was in the car, I really didn’t know what to do. And then it hit me. I would just take him to T.J. Get it all out in the open. T.J. had brought this on himself. If he had left me alone, I wouldn’t be in this position. But I needed to give Trenton time to cool off, first. I needed to drive.
“Pull over, Cami.” Trenton’s voice had an edge to it I’d never heard before. He was anxious and calm at the same time. It was unsettling.
I sniffed, and then wiped my eyes with my sleeve. “You’re going to hate me,” I said.
“I’m not going to hate you. Pull over, and I’ll drive all night if you want. We can talk about it.”
I shook my head. “No, you’re going to hate me, and I’ll lose everything.”
“You won’t lose me, Camille. I swear to Christ, but you’re all over the goddamn road! We’re on the edge of town, and will hit dirt road soon. Pull the f**k over!”
In that moment, a pair of glowing lights converged into one. I barely caught a glimpse of it from the corner of my eye, and then my head hit the window, smashing the glass into a thousand tiny pieces. Some of the shards flew outward, but most fell into my lap, or floated in the cab of the Jeep as it slid across the intersection and into a ditch on the other side. Time stood still for what seemed like several minutes, and then we were airborne as the Jeep began to roll. Once. Twice. And then I lost count, because everything went black.
I awoke in a room with white walls and white blinds that kept the sunlight from peeking through. I blinked a few times, looking at my surroundings. A television was on overhead but was muted, playing an old Seinfeld rerun. Wires and tubes were strung from my arms to a pair of poles next to me, the monitors attached to them beeped softly. A small box was stuffed into a front pocket on my gown, the wires following one another to sticky circles attached to my chest. Bags of clear liquid hung from one pole, releasing a continuous drip through to my IV. The tubing ended with a few pieces of tape on the back of my hand.
Just beyond my fingertips was a head full of very short, brown hair. It was Trenton. He was facing away from me, his cheek resting against the mattress. His left arm was over my legs, the other was propped between the bed and his chair, wrapped in a thick, lime-green cast. There were already several signatures on it. Travis had signed his name under a short note that simply said, “Pussy.” Another was from Hazel with a perfect impression of her bright red lipstick. Abby Abernathy signed it with “Mrs. Maddox.”
“It’s like a little guest book. Trent hasn’t left your side, so everyone who’s visited you has signed his cast.”
I narrowed my eyes, barely making out T.J. sitting in a chair in a dark corner of the room. I looked back down at the cast. All of Trenton’s brothers had signed, his dad Jim, my mom, and all of my brothers. Even Calvin’s and Bishop’s names were there.
“How long have I been here?” I whispered. My voice sounded like I’d been gargling with gravel.
“Since yesterday. You’ve got a pretty good gash on your head.”
I lifted my hand to gently finger the bandages wrapped around my head. A concentration of gauze bulged at my left temple, and when I put the smallest bit of pressure on it, a sharp pain shot down to the base of my skull. I winced.
“A drunk male ran the stop sign going about sixty. He fled the scene, but he’s in custody now. Trenton carried you over a mile to the closest house.”
My eyebrows pulled together as I looked at Trenton. “With a broken arm?”
“Broken in two places. I don’t know how he did it. Must have been pure adrenaline. They had to put that cast on in your room in the ER. He refused to leave you. Even for a second. Even for the CAT scan. The nurses are all in love.” He offered a half-smile, but it was devoid of any real happiness.