I managed another flash piece, though this might be the last one for a couple of weeks. Busy times just ahead.
This week's prompt was: I got you under my skin.
The alternate prompts were: Use Paul Bunyan, bad food, and wishes
use paper mache in your story
make a reference to Doctor Seuss.
Here’s my contribution.
Broken Bones and Mended Hearts
Jeff Coates drifted in a sea of bleached cotton and plastic tubing.
He slowly regained consciousness, aware of the slow beep of monitors and the hiss of oxygen long before he opened his eyes. His head felt full of mushy pulp, like a rotten fruit and his face felt weird, wet or cold; maybe both. Underneath the chemical tang of canned air he could smell disinfectant and plastic.
Alarmed, he opened his eyes. His vision swam then steadied and he realized he was staring at acoustic ceiling tiles.
Jeff cautiously turned his throbbing head. His boyfriend Mike, sat in an ugly orange plastic chair. He tried to read Mike’s expression but he had his game face on. “What happened?”
Mike pressed his hands between his knees. “You don’t remember?”
“I was…” Jeff struggled to remember. “No.” He tried to sit up, fighting the urge to panic.
“Mike adjusted the bed ‘til he was upright. “Should I call the nurse?” He reached for a cord tucked in beside the mattress.
“No. I’m okay.” Jeff looked at his arms. One was in a bulky white cast, looking like a kid’s paper mache project. The other was wrapped in heavy gauze, like his brain. “I’ll be okay. I’m just kind of fuzzy and my mouth tastes like chemicals.”
Mike grabbed a cup with a straw from the nightstand. He leaned forward and held it as Jeff sipped cautiously. His eyes met Jeff’s then dropped to the thin cotton blanket.
“It’s probably from the anesthetic or the painkillers. You had surgery for the broken arm. Your bike’s beyond help.”
And just like that Jeff remembered. He’d been downhill mountain biking. One minute he’d been flying along a twisty trail then his bike’s front forks had buckled and…he was here. He also remembered he’d broken up with Mike a month ago.
He told himself the ache in his chest was from hitting that log. It wasn’t regret. He’d been the one that had left.
Mike looked him over and shook his head. “You were lucky. Only one broken bone. Plenty of other injuries though.”
“I don’t understand why you’re here.” Jeff saw that he’d hurt the other man. He hadn't meant to. “I am glad to see you though.” And he was. He still cared about Mike. Too much.
“The hospital phoned your parents and they phoned me.” Mike made a face. “You didn’t tell them we’d broken up.”
Jeff bit his lip. ““Did you? I hadn’t got ‘round to it.” His parents had thought Mike was a good catch. Jeff had wanted to avoid explaining who had broken up with who and why.
“No.” Mike fiddled with the straw. “When you get out of here you’re going to need help. You could come and live with me.”
Jeff shook his head, wincing as his brain banged around in his skull. “That’s not a good idea.”
Mike gave him a lopsided smile. “Why not?”
“If I didn’t live with you when we were dating I can’t live with you now.”
“You never would agree to move in. I still don’t know why.” Mike studied his face. “I don’t know why you wanted to break up either. You wouldn’t say.” He started to reach out as if to touch Jeff but pulled back. He laced his fingers together and put his hands in his lap. “I can’t get it right if I don’t know what I did wrong.”
Mike stared at his hands. Jeff thought he looked tired. His suit was rumpled. He’d probably come straight from work and been here for hours.
“You didn’t do anything wrong.”
It was Jeff that hadn’t felt comfortable moving in to that fancy apartment: Jeff that felt awkward with his shabby clothes and his rusty old beater of a car, his crap-paying job. If he was honest with himself he’d never felt…good enough. Every day he’d expected Mike to realize he was with the wrong man. He’d wanted out before his heart was too broken to mend.
Mike scrutinized his face. “You’re so fiercely independent. So proud. I always tried to give you room, tried not to pressure you, but maybe you took that as disinterest.”
Jeff frowned and winced as tape pulled against his skin. That’s how Mike saw him? Proud? Independent? He’d done a good job at convincing one of them.
Mike traced his jawline with a thumb. He stroked lightly over Jeff’s chin and up to his mouth as Jeff held still, soaking up that tender caress.
Mike’s face twisted. “The thing is…I’m not sure I can get by without you. I love you,” he said simply. “And you need looking after. Move in with me. Not just ‘til you’re better: for good.”
Jeff blinked. Mike had never said that before, but then he’d never said that to Mike either. He hadn't even admitted it to himself until now.
Mike carefully cupped his chin, leaned forward and kissed him as Jeff stared up at him. For a second Jeff worried about his chapped lips and possible bad breath, but it just felt so damn good to be this close to the man he loved. The man who loved him back.
“Sorry. Hope I didn’t hurt you.” Mike smoothed the blanket, his fingers playing with a loose thread.
Jeff stared fondly at the top of Mike’s head. Taking his worn-out mountain bike on a double diamond trail wasn’t the stupidest thing he’d done. Breaking up with Mike was.
“Well, if you’re lonely in that big bed all by yourself I guess I could keep you company.”
Mike looked up, his eyes caressing Jeff’s face. “We can make it work,” Mike said softly and Jeff felt overwhelming relief. His eyes stung and he blinked fiercely. He was acting like a girl.
Mike tucked his fingers around Jeff’s, careful not to jostle the IV or his bandaged arm. He smiled, his eyes crinkling. “And when you come home I promise to play doctor.”
But wait, there's more. Check out the other flashers:
Sara York m/m
Lindsay Klug m/f
Lily Sawyer m/m
Victoria Blisse m/f
Mathilde Watson m/m
Julie Lynn Hayes m/m