You've been warned.
Our story continues:
Released to go home, Meg was armed with severe restrictions. How much she could lift. How long she should stay down and up. Do not push yourself too hard. Too far.
Meg had scowled. She was a cop. Pushing herself too hard and too far is what she did regularly. Being a patient was going to be more work than she realized. Instead of letting her go home, her family outvoted her and she found herself neatly situated in the recliner in her family home. A table to her left held everything she needed. Water, her pain prescription and the small bottle of non-prescription analgesic. Other items were close at hand. Books. A newspaper. The television remote. Hand-drawn cards from her nieces and nephew were waiting to welcome her home.
Flowers and balloons that had filtered into her hospital room after she’d moved from the critical care unit, now filled her mother’s home. Once tucked in the recliner, Norma instituted a day of rest. Meg protested when the day slowly stretched into a week.
“I'm not a puppy who needs to get used to new surroundings, Mom!”
Norma was firm and her family knew better than to argue with her. Knowing Meg would need distractions, they secretly compromised. Her brothers came together or alone. Her sisters-in-law came off an on with children and without. They came for only a little while and they came bearing gifts. New books. Her stack continued to grow.
DJ did not come the first day she was home but he came the second. From her apartment, he brought her laptop and all the things she needed to run it. He pulled an ottoman close and sat at her elbow. The conversation flowed over many things. DJ held her hand, touched her cheek and gave tender kisses. Meg reveled in his attention and the tenderness.
Meg expected to be bored over the week she was essentially confined to home. Instead, she found the peace soothing. She alternated between napping and reading.
Dressing herself was a challenge. Her right arm was kept hugged close to her body. The easiest thing to layer herself into for clothes were layered tank tops. Her sister-in-laws both offered button-down shirts from their husbands. With a grin, DJ offered a few of his own. After DJ murmured in her ear that he liked the look of his shirts on her, they were Meg’s favorites. The combination of layers became her uniform. Never in all the years she’d been required to wear a bra had she thought she’d miss that particular piece of clothing. It was often an implement of torture. Because she couldn’t move her arm, Meg found herself missing it.
Refusing to be completely waited upon, Meg shuffled through the house. She gained strength as days passed. Even so, her mother was constantly shuffling her back to the recliner. Meg smiled bright when roses were unexpectedly delivered. The card read, “Making up for lost time. love, DJ” He didn’t visit every day and Meg didn’t mind. No one visited every day. It kept her from the feeling of suffocating and each visit was a welcome distraction.
Somehow, through instinct or phone calls, the isolation was broken on Sunday. What started out as a slow day grew in noise. Her family had intended to gather for the traditional Sunday dinner. Since it was a well-known fact that they did so, it was no surprise when the bell rang just before eleven in the morning. It was a surprise to Meg that the guest turned out to be Neil Spiro No stranger to Sunday dinner, he was welcomed by all. Travis Winkler, in the neighborhood, stopped by with his son. A child who was the spitting image of his father. Luckily, without the bullying tendencies. Charlotte and Paul Rediker were loudly welcomed and the party was moved to the back yard. In the warming day, sunday dinner was quickly turned into a cook out. Paul Rediker and Uncle Mark manned the grill. Sara and Trish quickly made a huge salad while Charlotte and Norma worked at making hamburger patties.
Meg was put in a chair in the shade of the patio, sitting while her family gathered. Captain Zuck came by for a visit, thinking Sunday would be a nice quiet day. He’d been pleasantly surprised to be wrong. A phone call and thirty minutes later several of Meg’s friends appeared on the stoop with sodas, beer and ice. Sam Paris, called by Travis and armed with store bought cupcakes, appeared with his wife and twin daughters. The yard filled with laughter, friends and cops. Watching from the patio, Meg knew they were all family.
The only person missing, and he was asked about, was DJ. Since Meg didn’t know where he was, she shrugged her good shoulder and tried not to groan when her mother cut up her hamburger into halves. It was no secret anymore that he was bunking at her apartment, her brothers thought it was amusing. Still, no one knew where he was.
Hugging a pillow to her stomach more often than she wasn’t, Meg enjoyed the time. Even if she ate sparingly, Meg ate with relish. Hearing her name, Meg looked up. Her uncle grinned and motioned with his head. Looking behind her, she smiled at DJ’s surprise. He stood just to the side of the back door, a bemused expression on his face.
His broad-shoulders and chest well-filled his t-shirt. He chose a dusky green that highlighted the tan that still glinted over his skin. In a purely female frame of mind, Meg allowed herself to enjoy the view of him before he was greeted by family.
With a laugh, DJ finally found himself sitting next to Meg. He had a plate of food he didn’t want and a convenient moment alone with Meg that he did want.
His eyes skimmed over the group. A game of Bocce Ball had been set up in the grass. Laughter and good natured teasing bounced back to where they sat. DJ grinned at her, confusion filled his eyes, “I didn’t realize there was going to be a party.”
“There wasn’t. It was just going to be family.” Her grin matched his, “Then the extended family showed up.”
DJ picked her hand up and pressed her knuckles to his lips, “I’m sorry I was late. I wanted to pick something up.”
“There’s plenty of food, though,” She eyed his plate, “you don’t seem to be interested in eating.” Meg swiveled in the chair, “Why are you nervous?”
His laugh was filled with amusement and good humor, “Detective Addison is back, I see.”
“She was only momentarily out of commission.” Meg grinned slightly, “But, really, Darcy, there’s nothing to be nervous about.”
“Actually. There is.” He inhaled and surveyed the group, “Listen. Are you up for a drive?”
Knowing something was up, Meg steadied the rise of nerves. She had no reason for them. At least, not yet, “A change of scenery would be nice. I’m not up for walking, though.”
“There won’t be much walking. I’ll take care of you.”
Whatever it was that bothered DJ it was important. Meg nodded, “Let me get my shoes.”
By the time Meg was in the passenger seat of her own car, she’d had a murmured conversation with her stepfather uncle. After giving her an understanding squeeze on the arm, he’d in turn had a conversation with his wife. As far as Meg could tell, DJ was not aware. The sling held her right arm against her body, a restriction she’d be thrilled to have removed.
Instinctively she watched his body language. She saw the tensing play over his jaw and the stress in the tendons in his neck.
“Are you going to tell me where we’re going?”
“No. Do you want to stop along the way? Get coffee?”
“That’s alright.” Meg grinned in a manner she hoped was pleasant and not murderous, “I’m more curious about where we’re going. It’ll be agony if I try to drink coffee and wonder.” It would also delay the inevitable she feared was coming.
“Okay.” DJ glanced over at her. He opened his mouth to talk and then closed it again. Giving his head a slight shake, DJ turned his eyes back to the road.
“Darcy, if something’s on your mind, it might be easier if you just blurted it out.”
“I seem to be fumbling over my own tongue with you. I want to wait.”
Meg lifted an eyebrow at his profile, “Don’t wait too long.”
DJ nodded once but kept his focus on the road. Meg contented herself with watching the scenery. Knowing the city and many of the suburban area around it, Meg knew where she was as DJ drove in silence. She was more puzzled by DJ’s deliberate driving. She’d already known by the silence that they weren’t going on a simple drive. Though, it would have been easier for him to break off their relationship at home. With her in the recliner and unable to easily kill him.
When she couldn’t come up with a reason behind his actions, Meg watched the landscape change. Less urban and more country, the houses were further apart, the yards larger and the distance between neighbors greatly lengthened.
Meg tapped the window, “That house there was auctioned off by the Sheriff’s department several years ago. It was confiscated in a burglary ring. All the owner’s assets were frozen.”
“Were you in on the sting?”
“Yeah. I was a buyer. I bet you I could meet the guy on the street today and he’d not recognize me.” She held her hands out in front of her, “He never looked above here.”
“Assets well placed." DJ's grin was there and gone quickly.
Meg laughed carefully, “I’m glad you noticed. After the case was closed, no one could prove ownership of the house. The Sheriff’s department didn’t want it. The mortgage company counted it is as a loss - especially since the paper work was so screwed up. So it was sold. Who ever bought it probably got an amazing deal.”
“Probably.” His distraction was obvious and Meg merely narrowed her eyes at him.
Leaving the stolen house behind them, DJ turned the car onto a wide tree-lined street and then jogged immediately into a driveway. The drive curled around a fence, over a crest and stopped right in front of a wide, sprawling house. It seemed to rise and fall with the contours of the land. Intrigued, Meg looked up at the twisted trees that served as pillars for the portico extending from the house to the drive. The wide front door was heavy wood, the knots and dings in the wood gave it character and charmed Meg immediately.
The house was mostly rock, but the wood used in the details and design was golden and buffed over time. DJ moved around the hood of the car and to her side, helping her step out onto the drive. Steadier on her feet than she’d been for days, she still held onto his arm for support as they went up the single step. DJ opened the massive front door and they stepped in.
The entry was domed and Meg glanced up. Painting on the stuccoed ceiling perpetually announced spring. DJ watched without trying to appear that he was doing so.
Meg stepped into the great room and offered an ‘oooo’ of appreciation. There was no furniture in the house but her eye was drawn to the magnificent fireplace on the other side of the room. The mantle was wood, natural in its imperfections. Tall candle sticks would be perfect there. A door to one side of the fireplace led into the next room. From where she stood, the Spanish tile led deeper into the middle of the house. To her right, wide windows let light into the room. The room could be arranged as two living areas, or one great room. It was, simply put, huge.
“I realize that you opened the door, so breaking and entering isn’t a problem. Still, I gotta know - are we supposed to be here?”
“I have permission.” DJ pointed down the corridor, “You want to keep looking?”
“Why the hell not? I mean, since we’re here.” The kitchen was filled with gray marble counter tops, gleaming fixtures and glass fronted cabinets with unique handles on each door. Meg grinned and rounded the island to the French doors, she suspected opened onto the yard. “How many bedrooms?”
"Depends on how it’s arranged.” DJ answered, hooking his thumbs on his jean pockets. “Not all the rooms need to be bedrooms. A couple have built in book cases. Offices could be arranged.”
Meg opened the doors and laughed at the covered Lanai. A hammock still hung between two of the porch supports. “It’s amazing. Why is it empty?”
DJ didn't answer.
Meg looked out over the grounds. She could smell the chlorine of the pool and made her way to the corner of the house. The pool wasn’t tiled to be blue like so many were, it was tiled to be a grotto, deep and clear. It was long enough for floating or exercise but small enough to be intimate. It fit in the rolling yard. Steps down from the portico.
“That door there, at the top of the path, is the master suite.” Holding her arm, DJ led the way to the door and opened it. They stood just inside the door. A fireplace was situated in the corner of the room. Over it was a painting, with swipes of pale pink, brown and cream. In startling contrast was sapphire blue streaked over the canvas.
“Odd that there’s a painting when the rest of the house is empty.”
“Do you like it?” DJ asked.
“I do. I liked it immediately.” Meg turned slowly, she liked the warmth of the walls. They weren’t blandly white. The carpet was a color that looked almost pink instead of cream. It matched the color in the painting. One of the reasons, DJ had bought the crazy piece of art. The other was the blue that had immediately attracted his attention and summoned to Meg to his thoughts.
“Meg. I have to go back.” The pain sounded in his voice.
Nodding quickly, Meg murmured, “I thought you might.”
“Well, it’s formality really.” DJ moved to stand in front of her. Bending his knees he ducked down, forcing her eyes to his, “I am going to do this badly, I’m afraid. I’ve done everything else badly.”
Meg sighed hugely, “Would you just say it, already? I’m tired of the silence, Darcy. The nerves. You’re making me nervous and I’ve worked in tenser situations and kept my hands steady.” She held her hand out to show him the slight tremor. “Get on with it.”
“You mean the world to me.” DJ held the hand in his and caressed the skin over her knuckles.
Meg heard the unfinished sentence dangling and prompted, “but?”
“No ‘buts’. I have two choices available to me when I go back. The first one is to pick up right where I left off. The second is to resign and retire.”
“Why would you retire?”
“I told you, if I got married I couldn’t serve with my unit. I'm stretching the rules simply by having a girlfriend. My commander allowed it because you're a cop. Because he knew you never ...” DJ sighed, "...you weren't hindering me."
Unsure what she should say, Meg said nothing.
“Meg,” he huffed, “I’m suddenly terrible with words. I need to know that if I go back and resign that you’ll be here waiting when I get back.”
“I’ve waited this long, Darcy.” Meg frowned, “I’ll wait as long as you need me to...”
DJ held a bit of silver between his thumb and forefinger. The sapphire winked at her, “No, Meg, I need to know that you’ll marry me. Will you be my wife and will you make this house our home?”
“Oh...” Meg stared at the ring, his words filling her hears. Her heart stumbled on itself and she repeated, “Oh.”
“I can’t go back until I know that you still want me. After all this time. I know it’s not been fair....”
“Darcy,” Meg interrupted, “You did what you needed to do. I’ll never fault you for that. EVER. You have to understand that.”
Thinking that he did understand, DJ waited.
Meg grinned slightly, “My hand is shaking too much to put my finger in that circle. You’re going to have to do it for me.”
His smile was bright and instant, “So that’s a yes?”
“Yes! Hurry up!” Her laugh, when he slid the silver band around her finger was cut off by a moan, “We don’t get married until I can laugh without crying.”
“Deal.” Once the ring was settled on her finger, DJ framed her face with his hands and kissed her soundly.
Meg admired the ring on her finger and then looked up at him, “This is our house?”
“Yes. I signed the papers on Friday.” DJ pulled his wallet from his back pocket and unfolded it, “My father has been taking care of my money for me. He’s done quite well with it.” He handed her a credit card.
Running her finger over the embossed lettering of her name, Meg protested quietly, “I’m not Jessica. I don’t need money.”
“I know. If you did, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. We’d be living in your cramped apartment.” Gingerly, DJ wrapped his arms around her and drew her close, “I’ve thought about it a lot. I want you to make this our home. What I know is that you will make it ours. It won’t be just yours.” He thought of the house he’d had to sell so many years ago. “It will be ours. I don’t care if you decide to make it all pink. Just, for the love of all things holy, please, don’t buy a floral couch.”
Pressing her face into his chest, Meg did her best not to laugh, “I thought you were taking me away to break it off.”
“No, baby. I love you so much. You’ve been my lifeline since we met. I just didn’t know how much I needed you. When I got here and you were so near to being gone, to leaving me, I thought I’d missed my chance to tell you and to ask you to marry me. I'm not taking the risk to wait until you’re completely recovered.”
“If I’d said no?” Meg asked with honest curiosity, "What would you have done?”
“Gone back to my unit and probably never come home again.”
Tugging on his t-shirt, Meg urged his lips closer to hers so she could kiss him, “I love you, Darcy. Go make your peace with your unit. I’ll be here when you get back.”
“I'm going to hold you to that.” With more tenderness than he thought he possessed, Darcy kissed his future wife in their home.
“Finally.” was Meg’s thought before she thought of nothing else.
It took just under three months to get his affairs in order, pack the entirety of his life and return home. He’d counted the days. He’d been teased. He’d been congratulated. He’d signed privacy disclosures that his commander knew were unneeded. After his commanding officer made a phone call and got him on a transport, the flight home was shorter than normal. He’d easily made a connecting flight. With commendations and discharge papers in his backpack, DJ stepped off the plane. Quite possibly for the last time.
He swallowed the memory that resurfaced from years before and shouldered his duffel bag. People naturally moved out of his way as he walked. His stride ate up the ground.
Clearing the crowd heading into the terminals, his eyes swept those waiting. He shouldn’t have wondered if she’d be there or if he’d see her right away. With the badge around her neck, she stood with casual authority. Alone, her feet shoulder width apart and her hands on her hips, Meg sized him up as he walked toward her. Lifting an eyebrow as he walked directly to her, Meg smirked.
“Hey.” His duffel bag hit the floor with a loud thud. Arms held to his sides, “How are you?”
“Nearly as good as new. I’m on light duty until I can lift my shoulder.” She tilted her head slightly and grinned, “I'm well enough to be kissed.”
DJ wrapped his arms around Meg and kissed her greedily. He had years to make up for and figured he’d wasted enough time.
With her arms around his neck, DJ held her tight against him. Her feet dangled and Meg touched her nose to his, “Welcome home, Darcy.”
© 2011 Amelia Antwiler/ComfyDenim