OK, so it's summer and I'm bored and I just came back from a jog where once again I discussed story ideas with my dog. Well, I was struck with this one for some God unknown reason, but I liked it and here it is. One more thing. The premise of this was stolen from a defunct (aren't they all?)Canadian series called "Catwalk". That's all I took, I swear, just one idea. (I'll be more specific at the end, I'm not giving anything away) But hey, William Shakespeare did it a lot too. Oh, another thing... Ray And Stella! I know, I know. Lots of yous think she's a callous bitch, but I like the character and I believe that deep down, she still wants Ray (Don't we all). Once again, I'm using a song to convey feelings, though it's more of a song from Stella's POV. Oh, and another thing...I never could find the names of Stella's parents, or her maiden name. I made a name for her parents, but never thought of a decent last name. There are some hard to follow scenes in this story, but if you transferred it to celluloid and it would make perfect sense (Yeah, that's a hint to Paul Haggis/Robert Lantos). It flashes from Ray's thoughts to real-time events. Read it, you'll know what I mean. TYK to a specific member of the opposite gender who will remain nameless (even he doesn't know who he is) who helped inspire the Ray/Stella scene. You'll never know how much of my writing (especially writing like this) has been aided by you. Hope to see you again next summer. Figment of Emotions Ashley Sametz, 1999
Ray Kowalski repeatedly hit the lid of his pen on the paper sitting in front of him. He glanced at the wall clock and groaned inwardly at the view. Eleven fifty-seven. He dropped the pen, sighed, closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands, massaging his face. "Focus...." he muttered into his palms, "Focus." He stared back at the report sitting on his desk which had now become his adversary. "Forget this, I'm goin' home." He was just about to stand up when a familiar voice stopped him. "Giving up, Ray?" He didn't turn around on account of his cheeks turning crimson. "Ahh, no. I'm just, you know, stretching." He felt the heat recede from his face and he turned to face his ex-wife. "Why are you here Stell?" "Guy in interview one." She flipped open the manila folder in her hands and began leafing through its contents. She began to walk away. "Ya need a ride or something? It's late."
"Don't worry, Ray. I've got a ride coming." Her heels clicked on the hard linoleum as she exited the bullpen. Ray sank into his chair, dejected. He looked at the report once more, filled in the date and completed half of it. Standing up, he grabbed his sportscoat off the coatrack. He flung it over his shoulder and grabbed it loosely with his index finger. He sauntered out of the bullpen, bidding the few detectives who had also fallen back on their paperwork goodnight. He was surprised to see Stella standing just inside the front doors, staring outside. "Who's comin' to get you?"
"A friend." Ray nodded casually. "A...guy friend?" Stella turned around to face him. If looks could kill, Ray would be
dead on the floor. "I don't think its really any of your business, Ray. I never probe your personal life, why do you do it to me?" "I'm not probing, Stella. I was asking a question."
"Well, in that case, it is a man." "Hm." Ray poked his lower lip out slightly and nodded once more. Dammit,
why couldn't he ever talk to this woman? "Want me to..uh...wait with
you?" His eyebrows rose, hopeful. "It's up to you." "I'll stay." Ray stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans. He
rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet trying to think of something clever to say. "It's freezing in here." Stella complained. "Don't you guys have heat in this building?" Ray was given an opportunity and he took it. He took the jacket off his finger and put it over Stella's shoulders. "Better?"
"That wasn't an invitation for you to give me your coat, Ray." Stella snapped, but left the coat around her shoulders nonetheless. "I wasn't
coming on to you Stella, I was being nice." Ray looked at his ex-wife's face, but she continued to stare outside. "Well, you don't have to do it. We're not married anymore."
"I know that." Ray hung his head. Did she always have to remind him? "No you don't, Ray." She turned to stare him in the eye, the way she did when she reprimanded him. "Every time I come by, you always drop everything and-" "I do not!" Ray resented how childish he sounded but couldn't help it. He ran a hand over the back of his neck, feeling clumsy. "Yes you do! And every time I mention a friend, you always ask if it's a guy. We're through. We've been divorced long enough for you to realise I don't love you like I did." Ray peered up from a mess of spiky blonde hair. "Oh, don't give me that look Ray." "Give it a rest Stella!" Ray shot back, feeling more assertive. "I get the point! I'm pathetic, OK?!" "I'm glad to see that you've realised that." They held each others glare , like two kids in a schoolyard staring match. Stella won as Ray dropped his gaze to the floor. "You've changed, Stell."
"Yeah, well, maybe you should too." She took the sportscoat off, and held it distastefully in her hands. "I don't know. What if I end up
with an attitude like yours?" Ray bit his tongue. Maybe that was a bit too harsh.
"What is that supposed to mean?!" "What do you think?! Every time I try to act with...what's it called,
chivalry, you always knock me for it!" "Then don't be courteous to me!"
"That won't be hard." Stella turned back to gazing out the window, but the fire in her eyes
was still present. "Where the hell's my ride?" "Don't deflect this, Stella."
"What do you want me to say?!" "I don't know, maybe an explanation for why you hate me!" "I don't hate you! I-" "Excuse me." The feuding couple turned to the voice. "I've got officers
trying to work in here. Take it outside." Welsh said sternly, then disappeared down a hallway. Stella sniffed and looked at her watch. "I'll give you a ride."
"Ray! I just-" "Not because I want to, but because I'll probably loose my job if we
keep standing her. Lets go." Stella gave her ex-husband one last cold glare as he pushed open the door. She followed him to his car.
Not a word passed their lips as they drove home in the darkness. Splashes of lamplight illuminated the desolate streets. Bothered by the silence, Ray leaned over and turned the radio on.
"Love is hard, love is strong, you will never say that you were wrong.
I don't know when I got bitter, but love is surely better when it's gone. 'Cause you wanted more more than I could give,
more than I could handle...
They cringed simultaneously, but Ray didn't bother changing the station. Stella just made him feel like crap; he could at least make her feel a bit uncomfortable. He smirked slightly.
You wanted more, more than I could bear,
more than I could offer,
for love that isn't there"
"What was that for?" "What was what?" "Your smirk." "Nothing. I didn't smirk." Ray kept his eyes on the road and listened
to the underscoring guitar. Stella glared at him. It made Ray uneasy
and he looked to her for a moment. "I don't get you, Ray.". "You never did." He stared out the windshield. "You never got me, either." "Probably not. I still don't. One second, we're buddies, then you decide
to go postal on me for giving you my jacket. How am I supposed to understand that?" Ray looked at her, then back out the windshield. "You never were very good at that."
"At what? Understanding you?" Stella shrugged. "No, what are you trying to say here?" "I don't know."
"You don't know." "Well what about you, Ray? We've been divorced for two years, and yet you still come on to me." "Woah woah woah! I do not come on to you!" "You do so!" "When? When did I do that? And you can't say the jacket thing, 'cause
I do that for Frannie too. Ask her." "That time at Christmas, you asked me to go out-"
"It was decorating a tree, Stella." "You still had no need to do that." "Why not? We did it before." "When we were married!"
"...I don't know when I got bitter, but love is surely better
when it's gone..."
"What about when you invited me into your apartment?" Ray pointed out. "What about that, hun? That wasn't me coming on to you, it was you coming on to me." Stella gave him another glare. "What's that look for? You're angry because I was finally right?" "No, Ray, You're not right! We both got caught up in the moment, I had a bad relationship going, I felt lonely-" "You felt lonely?!"
"Yes!" "Then that's my excuse too!" Stella was about to respond, but never got the chance. A moment after
Ray's sentence had left his lips, he cursed. Glass shattered and tires screamed, struggling to stay on pavement. There was an amazing crunch of metal. At a loss for things to do, the two passengers did the only thing they could. They shielded their faces and Stella let out a frightened cry, reaching for Ray's arm.
"Yo, Yo. Hey, he's awake." Ray's head felt fuzzy, like it was packed with cotton. His eyes were
open, he knew that, but all he could see was navy blue. The hell...? "Mr.Vecchio ?"
Ray moved his mouth a few times, then managed to nod and say, "Present." The navy blue disappeared as the ambulance tech leaning over Ray's torso sat back down. The two techs chuckled softly. Ray's eyes came back into focus. OK... so he was in an ambulance with two guys. So he was here and... "Stella..?" He said.
"What?" one of the techs asked. "My wife, where is she? She was in the car, where is she?" "She's been taken to the hospital as well." "Is she OK?" Ray tried to sit up, but was pushed back down. "Woah, woah. You're pretty banged up. Stay still." Hearing that he was
'banged up', Ray instinctively felt his face. A few cuts, and a nice big one by the hair line. From the breaking glass no doubt. "Is she OK though?" He asked again. No response "How's my car?" Ray asked, just wanting for someone to answer. "Not too great." Said the other tech, sticking and IV in his arm. "She's had it. You're lucky. Only minor injuries from what we've assessed so far." Ray nodded slightly, and began piecing things together. He narrowed his eyebrows as he realised something. If the car was trashed and he was lucky....then what condition was Stella in? Hold on, something wasn't right here.... "What hospital am I going to?"
"Chicago Grace." "Stella too?" "Who?" "The person in the car with me, my ex-wife." He caught the two techs exchange glances. "Um, I guess so. It's a well equipped hospital, they
can handle anything." "What happened to her?" He asked again, this time more forcefully. "What do you mean they can handle anything?" "Sir, you'll have to calm down, OK? If you calm down, then we'll be able to do our job." "I don't care if you can do your job or not! What happened to my wife!?" "Sir, look. At this time, the condition of your wife is unknown, all right? We don't know what's happened to her, she was taken away first." Ray might not know medical procedure like these guys did, but he knew the priorities. The more severe injuries were tended to right away. If she was already on her way when Ray was put in the ambulance... "Oh, God."
"Sir, look. We'll ask for you when we get to the hospital, OK?" "Oh...God." "Mr.Vecchio..."
Ray fidgeted as a three year old child would. The doctor gave him an authoritarian glare. "Mr.Vecchio," The doctor said sternly, "The more co-operation you give me, the sooner you'll be out of here." Ray nodded and tried to sit still as the doctor gave him a final examination. He
shone a pen light in Ray's eyes. "Hey!" he said, squinting. "Mr.Vecchio, please." "I know, just warn me before you shine stuff in my face." Ray relaxed
and let the doctor continue to check him over. "Well, Mr.Vecchio, you have a clean bill of health aside from a few cuts a bruises. And watch out for your ribs, they took quite a beating." The doctor replaced his glasses and they promptly slid down his nose as he looked at his pager. "You can be discharged at the front desk." The doctor picked up the chart on the table. "You're a lucky man." Ray slid off the exam table and pulled his shirt back on, wincing in the process. The doctor pulled back the curtains, and stepped out into the hallway. "Hey, doc, wait a sec!?" Ray, still struggling with his shirt, approached the doctor in the hallway. "My ex-wife. She came in a while before me. Stella....do you have any
idea where she might be?" "How severe were her injuries?" "I don't know. That's what I want to find out." "Ask the front desk. But if she was just admitted, you're going to have
a hell of a time trying to find her." Ray nodded, shook the man's hand and went off in search of the reception desk. "Excuse me?" He asked the receptionist, leaning over the top of the counter. "I'm looking for a patient. Kowalski, Stella. Can you tell me where I can find her?" The receptionist smiled at Ray and went to work trying to locate the patient. "Kowalski, S." The receptionist announced. "How are you related?" "Husband..ex-husband..." Ray sighed.
"She's in ICU...fourth floor. Room 427." "Wait, ICU? What's wrong with her?" The receptionist shrugged. "I couldn't tell you. I only know room numbers.
But if she's in ICU....she's probably not doing so hot." Ray quickly thanked the woman at the desk and ran to the elevators. He repeatedly punched the 'Up' button. "Come on...." He impatiently paced the floor at the elevators. When one finally showed up but was heading down, he let out a frustrated groan and made his way to the stairs. Despite his injuries, he ran.
Ray jogged down the hallway, his eyes straining to catch the numbers as he ran by. "What are you doing here?" Ray stopped in his tracks, recognising the man. Stella's father. Ray moved his mouth but no words came out.
"Well, son, what is it?" "I'm...sorry...?" he managed to say, though he still didn't know what he should be sorry for. "You'd better be. My daughter could die because..."
The rest of the words never registered in Ray's mind. She could die. She could die, and it would all be Ray's fault. He looked to the floor for a moment, searching for an answer in the speckled tiles. He couldn't
find one. "Sir...how is she? They never told-" "She's in a coma, Raymond. My little girl is in a..." once again, Ray
never let the rest of the words filter through his brain. He made a move for the door. A wet-eyed, petite woman who had a stunning resemblance to Stella, stepped out of the room as Ray was about to enter. "What do you think you're doing, Ray?"
"I...wanna see her." Ray looked past the woman in front of him, and into the room. The curtain was drawn around the bed. It was a private room. Of course, nothing was too good for their little girl.... "I don't want you in there." Stella's mother said sternly, placing a hand on his chest. Ray flinched inwardly. "I want to see her." Ray repeated, this time looking the woman in the eye. "Family only, Raymond." Her father said, staring down Ray. Ray contained his rage. "You're no longer part of this family." The man sounded almost pleased. "I was married to her. I should be allowed to see her."
"You're divorced. She's in a coma because of you. You're not going near my daughter, you understand, son?" Ray swallowed the lump in his throat, struggling to maintain control of his voice in front of the imposing man. "I love her."
"Get out of here." "I'm not leaving." "Get out, or we'll call security." The two men were almost toe to toe.
"Go ahead, call security. I'm not leaving until I see her."
"Dear, go get security." "Honey, you're going to cause a scene...." The small woman wrung her hands nervously, staring at the two men. "I wouldn't want to cause a
scene, sir." Ray said mockingly, not backing down from his position. Stella's father took a step forward, his eyes reaming into Ray's. Ray looked at him, expectant. "Sir?" The punch stung far more than normal, but normally Ray hadn't just had pieces of glass extracted from it. "James!" Stella's mother cried, horrified at her husband's behaviour. She did however, seem slightly proud of the man. Ray reeled back in pain, holding a hand to the right side of his face. Apparently the Novocain wasn't as strong as he thought. A number of orderlies had now gathered and were attempting to calm the furious man down. Ray straightened up, shot a cold look at him and left in the opposite direction. "And don't even think of coming back here!" Stella's father yelled. Ray put one hand to his head, and pushed open the door to the stairs
Ray stared at his reflection in his coffee mug. It was small, quivering, distorted. He sighed. "That's how I feel." Ray muttered to himself, surprised at his own insightfulness. Placing the mug on his coffee table, he stood up and wandered through his apartment, unsure of what to do. He sank down onto his bed, sitting on the edge cupping his face in his hands. He rubbed his eyes, momentarily forgetting how sore his face was. "Dammit Ray..." He mumbled. "Damn." He flopped back onto his bed, his legs still hanging off the edge. He glanced at his bedside clock and groaned softly at the time. It was only two forty five. He was hoping that it would be closer to dawn, maybe then he could do something, call someone. Despite the events that had proceeded, Ray wondered for a moment if he could call in sick or not. He laughed, barely audible. "Only you, Ray, would think of a day off when your ex-wife's in the hospital." Saying it seemed to remind him of what he had done. He shut his eyes and tried to will away the wounding ache in his gut. When the first hot tears stung his eyes, he rolled over onto his stomach, seemingly hiding from someone. Guilt-stricken, sobbing on his bed, he repeated softly, "I'm sorry....I'm so sorry..."
He awoke with a jolt. It took him a few moments to become aware of things. He hastily wiped a hand across his face, trying to erase the salty tear tracks that had been left behind by the tears that made their journey down his cheeks that night. He realised why he awoken so suddenly; the phone was ringing. He stumbled into the kitchen, and picked it up. "Have a nice sleep, detective?" Welsh did not sound pleased. Ray took a quick look at his watch. He had anticipated dawn so readily only a few hours ago and now had ended up sleeping until nine. "Sir...I'm calling in sick."
"You don't sound ill, detective." "Sir..." Ray's voice hushed involuntarily. "Stella's in the hospital." He managed to say. Welsh was silent for a moment. "Oh?" "Yeah..." Ray put a hand to his forehead, trying to get rid of the pain
radiating from it. He clenched his eyes shut, either to force the ache away or to prevent himself from getting choked up; he wasn't entirely sure himself. "I'll call later...if you know...anything happens..." "All right...do you need anything?"
Yes, he thought. I need to see her, tell her I love her, say I'm sorry. I need someone to tell me this isn't my fault. I need...coffee, I need a shower, I need to get rid of this incurable ache that's inside me. I need to go back in time, I need to talk to someone... "No. I'm good....for now." Ray managed to say. "I'll call if anything comes up." Welsh recognised this as Ray's polite way of signalling the end of the conversation. He didn't press for any details, and hung up. Ray let the phone linger by his ear for a moment, listening to the oddly comforting hum of the dial tone. He soon found himself pacing again. He made a futile attempt to clear his mind, or at least fill it with other thoughts but he soon found his train of thought would flicker back to the accident. "How did it happen?" He finally questioned himself. He was in total control of the car until that corner. Was there something on the road? Did the tires skid? Did he just loose control of the car? Maybe....maybe it was intentional. He and Stella had just had a very heated argument and- "No, I'd never do that." Ray shook his head, dispersing his thoughts. He looked at the phone, contemplating a call to Fraser, his parents even, but the idea was quickly dashed as he realised there was nothing for him to say but "Stella could die." He stared at it a few moments longer, then nearly jumped when it rang. He looked at the phone again, then finally picked it up. "Hello?"
"Ray Kowalski ?" "Speaking." Oh, God, don't let this be bad news. "This is special investigator Mullins. I was wondering if you could
come down to my office for a meeting?" "What's this about?"
"I need to ask you a couple questions about Stella Kowalski." They think I did it on purpose. They think I deliberately tried to hurt
her. "Who hired you?" Ray asked, though he already knew the answer. Very
few people still called him by his factual surname. "Mr. Kowalski, I'm afraid that information cannot be given to you." "You think I did this
"Mr. Kowalski, I would advise you to say nothing more. Just come down to my office with your lawyer-" "I'm not bringing a lawyer, I didn't
"I'm at Dowe, Cheatham and Howe, on 63rd street. I'm sure you've heard of-"
With his emotions still struggling to make sense, he threw the receiver across the room. "I didn't do anything!"
"Mr. Kowalski, what are you personal feelings for your ex-wife?" Ray looked at the woman as though she was even stupider than she seemed. "What do you think? You've asked me that a million times, I said I still
love her." "Were you ever jealous of the men she dated?" Ray fell silent for a moment, trying to think of another word for 'yes'
that didn't sound so obvious. "Well, Mr. Kowalski?"
"Yes, OK? She was my wife. I was married to her, how could I not be jealous?" The private investigator nodded and made a quick note on her
yellow legal pad. "Did you ever...go to extreme lengths to...find something out about her?" "I'm her ex-husband, not a stalker, OK?!" Ray cried,
his patience wearing thin with this woman interviewing him. "I know you think I did this intentionally! I didn't! I'd never do anything to hurt her! I love her! Her parents never liked me and this is a chance for
them do...I don't know, get back at me." "Get back at you for what?" "Marrying her! I don't know! All I know is that I didn't want this to happen." "Can you describe the events that took place up to the crash?"
Ray shakily exhaled and held his head up with his hands. He stared down at the lacquered oak table for a moment before he nodded. "She was at the station....she was defending someone I think, I don't really know. And she stopped by my desk." "Did you carry on a conversation?"
"Yeah, well, a small one." "About what?" "Why she was there, and what I was doing." "What were you doing?" "Filling out reports." "What time was this?" "I dunno...eleven fifty maybe?" Ray looked up in time to see the woman make another note in the legal pad. "Do you always stay that late, Mr.
"No...not unless I'm working a shift. I was catching up on a report." The woman nodded and continued writing. Ray couldn't help wondering what she was writing. He tried to look at the paper, but he was tired and
his eyes weren't functioning up to par. "Then what happened?" "Uhh...I finished the report and left the station, but I saw Stella
just inside the doors waiting for her ride." "Were you aware she was being picked up?
"Yeah, she told me when I offered her a ride." She made another note, and Ray chided himself for telling the woman of the offer he made to his ex-wife. "Then what happened?"
"Her ride never showed, so I gave her a lift." "You waited with her?" "Yeah." "Why?" "Because..." Ray's mind kicked into fifth gear as he frantically tried
to think of a reason to wait with Stella other than he wanted to spend time with her. "Because...?" the investigator prompted.
"Because I was worried...?" "About what?" "I don't know...she was all by herself, and she was alone and...you
know." The PI nodded sympathetically and once again scrawled something in the legal pad. She extended a hand across the table and Ray shook
it. She stood up. "Well, Mr.Kowalski, thank you for your time. Is there anything you'd like to ask me?" "Yeah. What happens now? I mean, I was
just questioned by a PI , so what now? Do I go to court? Am I, you know, tried for attempted murder, what?" "Mr. Kowalski....we'll just have to see what the outcome of this situation is first." She looked down at the man who had buried his face in the crook of his arm, looking terribly pathetic and vulnerable. "I understand what you're going through, Mr. Kowa-" "Oh, so, how many people have you almost killed?" He asked, deadpan. "'Cause this is number two for me. He first time, I was lucky. A woman almost died because of my mistake. The next time, I might not be as lucky. That's my wife, OK? I'm under suspicion for the attempted murder of my ex-wife! How many times has that happened to you?" "I'm sorry, I just didn't..."
"Are we done?" Ray asked, trying to control his trembling voice. The woman nodded. "Yes. Thank you for coming by. I'll call you if....if something happens." Ray nodded and stood up. He ran a hand down his face, stopped at his jaw and rubbed the stubble that had grown in the span of the past two days. With everything else that was happening and everything that wasn't, shaving was the last thing on his mind.
"Talk to ya later, Frase. OK. All right, I will. Bye." Ray titled his neck back and sighed. Closing his eyes, he inhaled, resulting in his shoulder blades cracking. He tipped his head forward and hit the CALL END button on his cell phone, as his home phone was temporarily out of service after the receiver's impromptu impact with the opposite wall. Tucking a pillow under his head, he lay back on the couch and shut his eyes, desperately trying to fall asleep, or at least doze off for a bit. He hadn't had any rest since the night of the accident and his body was craving a rest. His mind however, had a totally different idea: Stay awake and think of everything related to Stella and how much you love her and how much you'll hate yourself if she dies. When she dies. Ray rolled over onto his stomach and buried his face in the soft pillow. He exhaled audibly into it and found himself wondering what his friends and loved ones would be doing if it were he who was in critical condition. What would Fraser be doing? Or thinking....
Fraser sat in his office at the Canadian Consulate, papers strewn about his desk. However, for the first time in his life, he was not working when he was supposed to be. Instead, he was thinking - worrying, really - about his friend. He had been in a coma for two days and was still showing no signs of improvement. Fraser had attempted to see him, but with the condition Ray was in, only immediate family were allowed to visit. Fraser had spent countless hours pacing the floor of his apartment, from one window to the next disquieted and contemplating. If he did...die, nothing would be keeping him in Chicago. True, he did have a job, but Thatcher did seem keen on the transfer to Ottawa and if Fraser were to agree to it, they'd be packed and gone by the end of the week. What about Ray's family though? Both fake and factual? Mrs. Vecchio needed a son, no matter if he was a biological one or not. And Ray's actual parents adored their son, even though Damian didn't always show it openly. Perhaps he wouldn't leave. How could a split-second wrinkle of time, one mistake on the road, one person, change so many lives?
Ray rolled onto his back. Yeah, Fraser might be there for me. What am I saying? Of course Fraser would be there for me. We're practically brothers. Thinking of brothers got Ray thinking of his own. And his mother and father. If he were lingering on the line, would they worry? Would they pace and make phone calls? Would mom sit by my bedside and cry? Oh, God I hope she wouldn't cry....
A loving hand stroked Ray's hair, familiar fingers disturbing the chaotic brownish-blonde spikes. Barbara Kowalski had spent the past two hours softly speaking to her son while doing this to his hair. "Raymond...I remember when you were nine and had the chicken pox. I sat beside you for hours, just telling you stories and running my fingers through your hair." She smiled at the memory. "It stood up, I did it so much....but now it does that on its own." "Barb, why don't you go get yourself a coffee." Damian said to his wife as he entered the room. "You're going to make yourself crazy if you keep sitting here." She nodded at her husband, but her gaze never left her child. "Just a little longer, Damian." He put an arm about his wife and squeezed her tightly. "He looks so....sick." "I know...I know. But all we can do is wait. The doctor said that it's up to Raymond. You know that." Mrs. Kowalski nodded once more, and rested her head against her husband. "Damian, I'm so worried..." The woman said, blinking back her tears. The tears didn't fall, but her voice hushed,
frightened. "Barb...don't cry." "I can't help it," she wept, allowing the tears to spill over . "He's
my son, Damian. He's not supposed to die before I do." "Nobody's dying, Barb. Nobody's dying. We've got to stay positive, all right?" "All right."
"We've got to stay positive...."
What about Frannie? He questioned himself. When Fraser was dead-so to speak- she dodged midday traffic for the guy. She wouldn't do that for me, she won't even get a coffee for me. Nah...Frannie wouldn't worry. She wouldn't even care.
"Ma, I said so much bad stuff about him. I didn't mean any of it." The youngest Vecchio clung to her mother as she sat on the living room couch and sobbed. Her mascara ran down her cheeks, tinting her tears water-colour black. Had she wanted to hide them, it would have been impossible. She cried freely, not ashamed she was the only one weeping openly. "Cara..." Mrs. Vecchio sighed over her daughter's head. "I know....this is very rough on all the family. You've got to stay strong, please, for Ray. For me." Francesca nodded, wiping the back of her hand across her face, which resulted in her looking even more miserable than she already did. "Mama, I'm so scared," Frannie whispered, her voice ready to break again. "Me too....he's not my bambino....but love him...still."
"Ma, I do too. And I treated him so bad. I said so much stuff I didn't mean. I never cared when he was late, I never warned him to be careful..I
did it to Ray all the time. But..." "There's nothing we can do about that now, Francesca. All we can do is pray and hope that-" "I should
have. I didn't even say goodnight to him when I left...If he dies, I don't know......" Mrs. Vecchio rocked her distraught daughter back and forth, trying to ease the pain. She shushed Francesca gently, running a hand over her hair. "Shhh....he'll be OK, I'm sure. Raymond's not the
type to give up so easily." "But he might if he thinks no one cares....Ma, I care. I really do." "I know....shhhh....." "I care so much..."
OK, so Frannie wouldn't care....big surprise there. Is that it? Those are the only people who'd....oh, wait. Stella. Actually, Stella'd probably throw a dinner party. Invite the guy that was supposed to pick her up and they'd toast each other....
She turned to the man she had been married to and her heart sank. He looks so small, she thought. Looking small was not a good thing when you only weighed one hundred and fifty-nine pounds. Stella took over Barbara Kowalski's vacant seat beside the bed, and tried to make herself reasonably comfortable despite the moulded blue plastic that had obviously been moulded for someone with a much smaller posterior. "Ray....it's me, Stella." She looked at him anxiously, awaiting a response. Tears stung the back of her eyes when she said "You used to come running when I said that." She took one of his hands in her own, rubbing his palm with her index finger. "Ray...please. Wake up. I know you're in there, I know you can hear me. Ray, you've got so many people worried.... I'm one of those people." A lump formed in Stella's throat, preventing her from saying anything more than fighting back tears. "Ray, look what you're doing to me. I said we were over....I said we were over, and look at me. Here I am losing sleep and not eating because of you. I promised myself I was over you, and look at me. " She laughed slightly through her tears. "You'd better not be faking this just for my attention." A tear dribbled down her cheek but she brushed it away. She squeezed his hand tenderly. "Because you always had it," Stella confessed quietly. "You always had it." She paused, fighting back the tears. "Ray, I never meant half the things I said. The things about you being a pain in the ass and never letting go, I take it back." From a room down the hall, faint strains of U2's "With Or Without You" wafted through the ward, setting Stella's pain to music. Her gazed traced her ex-husband's face, taking in his unconventional beauty. God, she loved him. She loved how he tried so hard to please, she loved him for the man he tried to be and almost was. She loved how he'd laugh at the most inappropriate of times, easing the tension. She loved how he smiled at her, making her feel wanted and loved, and warm and complete. Because deep down she knew it. She knew that they in fact were meant for each other. They married because they loved each other. They still did, only Ray confessed it. Stella didn't allow herself to; she didn't like speaking of her lack of relationships. She had dated that stupid alderman only to try her hand at dating again. It wasn't her fault she actually ended up liking him, but was celebrating inside when he was arrested; it made breaking-up so much easier. Her train of thought rebounded around in her head and she found herself angry at the irony of it all. Here she was, finally confessing to her ex-husband how much she loved him and wanted him, and he couldn't hear a thing.
"...On a bed of nails she makes me wait....and I wait without you..."
She continued to stare into at the face of the man she fell in love with when she was only 12. She smiled at the recollection of it; him trying to impress her with his charm and dashing good looks, then proceeding to walk into a wall because he wasn't wearing his glasses. He still held that charm and those looks more than twenty years later. Maybe that's why she was so drawn to him. That aura he had that almost gave him control over people, Stella had experienced that first hand. There was nothing overwhelming about his attitude, sometimes he had too much of it, but under that tough-guy exterior, he was so many things. He was a scared pseudopunk, a man who desperately wanted to be a father and raise a child, a man with unconditional love for those he truly cared about, no matter what they did to him. He had the soul and grace of a poet, but could instantly shift his attitude and become a narrow-minded, cynical and undaunting jackass within a fraction of a second. He was everything a girl wanted and her parents hated, James Dean and Charles Dickens all put together perfectly to make the absolutely wonderful human being that Stella had fallen for. And kept falling for. Stella stopped staring long enough to realise that tears were sliding down her cheeks and landing on their clasped hands. For a moment, she just looked at the hand in her own and was soon overcome with a wave of guilt and grief. How was it possible that she used to cringe whenever she saw him, or whenever she smelt his cologne on another man? She found it near impossible to believe that she had made this man cry because of the spiteful things she said to him, and actually meant.
"I can't live.....with or without you."
"Ray...come back to me."
Blindly, Ray picked up the phone, faint strains of morning light lurking just below the horizon. "Figures," he muttered. "The moment I get to
sleep-" The electronic-sounding ring interrupted him.
He flipped it open. "Vecchio." "Ray, it's your mother ." "Mom, what the hell are you doing, calling me at four o'clock?" "I just got a call from the hospital, Stella's mother phoned. She couldn't reach you on your home-" "What?" "Honey, Stella's not-" "Tell them I'm on my way." Ray flipped the phone shut, stood up and
tossed it onto the spot on the couch he had just vacated. Not bothering to even change, he snatched his car keys from the kitchen counter and left, not even regarding to lock his door. Loosing his possessions was not as important as loosing the person he cared most for.
The moment the elevator doors opened, Ray was already moving. His boots thumped the linoleum as he sprinted down the hall to room 744. A number of people Ray didn't even know were pacing outside, some close to tears, some already past them. "Anna," he said breathlessly, approaching Stella's mother. "I came as soon as-" "Raymond...." She hugged the man tightly.
Oh God, bodily contact...what the fuck just happened to my wife? "Anna, how is she?"
The woman's tears answered his question. "Oh shit..." Ray said, feeling his heart collapse in his chest. "Oh, shit..." "She's not dead, Raymond." Ray looked up, fear and guilt clearly playing on his emotions. "Sir?"
he questioned Stella's father. "She's not....not yet, at least. We're not allowed in there, the doctors are-" "She's flatlining!" a voice from inside the room yelled.
"Get a crash cart! Code blue this!" Ray broke away from the tiny woman and pushed past the commanding man blocking his entrance into Stella's room. "Hey! You can't-" Ray blocked
the sound of his voice out of his head and pulled back the curtain. Three doctors and a priest stood watch over the woman's lifeless body.
"Shit..." Ray breathed, wishing he had a more eloquent and probably more tactful thing to say, truth being that his vocabulary had suddenly decided to abandon him, leaving him with very limited expressions. "You can't be in-" One of the doctors tried to hold him back, but Ray felt he had an obligation to maintain. True, he was the ex-husband, but he had still been married to the woman. He had more of a right in there
than the doctors. "Stella!" "Start compressions." "Get him out of here!" "Start the compressions!" Ray managed to find himself by Stella's side. He grabbed one of her hands in his own. "Paddle!" The chaos surrounding
him made everything seem ten times worse. He wanted to get on his knees and cry. He didn't care if these people could help her or not, he just wanted to be alone with the woman that he had fallen in love with and despite what he tried to tell himself, still was. One of the doctors pulled Ray's hand off of Stella's, then nodded to the other doctor. "CLEAR!" The way Stella jolted with the current of electricity made Ray cringe. He allowed himself to cry; he could not control these tears. "Nothing. Again! And get this guy outta here!"
"I'm not leaving!" "Who the hell is he?" "Get him outta here, dammit!" "I love you, Stell!" "CLEAR!" "Ray?!" Stella's voice. Suddenly, Ray was overcome with a blinding headache and a tingly feeling down his arms. "He's back..." "Oh, God. Thank you....." There it was again. Stella's voice. Ray spoke; at least he thought he
did. He knew he was moving his mouth, but no sound came out. A moment later he realised his lips were badly parched; bleeding even. He licked them slowly then tried again. "Stell..." He whispered harshly. A shaking hand enveloped his.
"Ray....I'm right here." Doctors were still bustling around Ray, checking him over, monitoring him, but he didn't seem to notice. He closed his eyes and wondered what the hell had just happened. "You were in a coma, Ray. We got into a car accident the night you were driving me home...." "You OK?" The hand squeezed his.
"I'm fine....you had me really worried there, Ray. Don't ever do that again..." "Promise..." Soft lips kissed his knuckles then the back of his hand. It was a dream? I was dreaming all of that? Oh, God, thank
you. Stella...you're OK. I'm OK. We're OK. I love you Stella....did you hear me say that? That was the last thing I said....God, I'm tired....But I have my wife back... "Ms. Kowalski...if you wouldn't mind leaving for a while....come back after he's rested..." She nodded, content that her ex-husband was alive and safe. She walked out the door, leaving Ray to his rest. A moment later, she stepped back in the room. "Ray?" She whispered softly, an incredible feeling of affection striking her as she saw his face. He was jolted from his sleep, but couldn't think of a better thing to wake up to rather than Stella's voice. He moved slightly to acknowledge her, too tired to speak coherently. "About what you said.....I love you too."
(Ash, I kept thinking "Hey, Ray's been in 2 crashes now! Man, he must feel like shit, taking one life, and almost taking another *L*) The thing I swiped was Ray being in the coma and thinking it was Stella. "You Wanted More" Tonic
"With or Without You." U2
Now I'm done this story...and I still wanna write. Here's a list of things I did over the summer BESIDES writing: Shopped for new school shoes (I heard our principal was a uniform nazi), hunted for guys, went to the CNE, went to Ontario Place, baby-sat, swam, worked out at the YMCA, went to Wonderland where I met Gabriel Hogan (The guy from Traders...the hot young one. Very nice guy), partied....broke the law but wasn't caught, went up north (Go Minden, Ontario!), saw "Tank Girl" "Cruel Intentions", "Varsity Blues", "The Blair Witch Project", "American Pie", "The Mod Squad", "10 Things I hate about you", "Flipper", "The Horse Whisperer" (Again, Tamara where were you when I needed you!?). and some Supposed-To-Be-American-But-Filled-With-Canadian-Talent-movie starring Gabe Hogan and Jan Rubes. Read books...."The Investigators", W.E.B. Griffen; Pretty good but hard to follow. Even harder to follow than *this* story. Half of "War And Peace", Leo Tolstoy; I think I'm just reading it to impress my Grade 12 English teacher. (Ms. Bafundi, are you impressed yet?) and I'm halfway through "Primal Scream", Michael Slade; REALLY good, if you just ignore that dominatrix chapter... </PRE>