Lady in Red Ch. 14byHarddaysknight©
Ted was sitting at the kitchen table having a cup of coffee when Gwen came through the door. "Sweetheart! I'm so sorry you had to experience such tragedy yesterday. But, I'm extremely proud of the way you handled the situation. I would've come to the hospital with Paula and Lisa, but Kate was here with some of her friends. They were all pretty shook up and your mom and I felt it was important that one of us be here for them. She was very worried about you and Steve and feels terrible about the others. How's Steve doing?"
"He's healing, Dad. He's so brave. He killed the one terrorist with his bare hands, then took the guy's guns and shot the other four. He saved all of us. He knew they'd shoot him when he entered the gym, but he came anyway. I just can't imagine knowingly entering a place where people will try to kill you. He's a real hero."
"He's all of that," agreed Ted. "He could have simply left the area and been safe, but he took the much more difficult path. He put the lives of others before his own. That's pretty much the definition of hero. To think that I actually tried hitting him in the chin. What was I thinking?"
"As I recall, you were thinking that he had hurt your daughter, or dishonored her, and you acted as a good father would. Steve actually admires you for that. He told me he did. He always tells me what a good father I have. I guess he must miss his dad a lot and wants to be sure that I appreciate you and mom. I can't imagine what it must be like for him to have no mother or father."
"You look exhausted. You need to try to stop thinking about what's wrong in the world. Go to bed and get some sleep. Everything will look better in the morning, or in this case, the afternoon," laughed Ted.
Gwen managed a few fitful hours of sleep. She had frequent dreams of shootings and bloody wounds. She climbed out of bed before noon feeling more tired than when she laid down.
Lisa, Kate, and Paula were having sandwiches when Gwen made her appearance in the kitchen. "Want something to eat before we go visit Steve at the hospital? I knew I wouldn't be able to see him yesterday and I had some friends over. We were talking about the kids we knew that were shot yesterday. Stephanie stopped in for a while and told us how Steve just suddenly hit that guy and caught him before he fell to the ground. Then he twisted his neck really hard and Stephanie heard the bones snap! I'm so glad Steve killed that guy. If he hadn't we'd all have been blown up. He's amazing and I want to tell him exactly that.
"Lisa said that he told you and Mom that he loves us. I guess it's no secret that I love him, too. You've got the best boyfriend in the world. I bet no one else could've done what he did. I don't think I'll ever be able to find a guy anywhere near as good as him. He set the bar really high. Thanks for sharing your boyfriend, Gwen. I feel safer when he's around."
"So do I, Kate. I don't think he'd ever let anything bad happen to us if he could prevent it. If Lisa and Jason get close, you'll have two tough big brothers looking out for you. Not too many guys will risk pissing off a SEAL and an Army Ranger. You'll find the right guy someday and we'll all love him. You have lots of time. Remember that I didn't even have a date until my senior year. Good guys are worth waiting for," assured Gwen.
The hospital was still a busy place, but lacked the sense of urgency that had existed the previous day. The four Anderson women were allowed to visit Steve together. Kate broke into tears when she saw Steve wrapped in bandages with an IV in his arm.
"Oh, Steve! Look what they've done to you!" she sobbed as she leaned in and kissed him all over his face. "We were scared to death yesterday when we heard the gunshots and then the fire alarm went off. Then we heard that you had a shootout with terrorists and you killed them all. I wasn't surprised. Then I heard that you might be dead and my heart broke. Lisa told me that you said you love me. I love you, too! Thanks for being you and taking care of those terrorists like you did. You saved my life!"
"Kate, it's nice seeing you again. You don't have to get all emotional. I'm okay now, but maybe I was delusional when I told your mom and sisters that I loved all of you. I had a lot of drugs pumping through my system," laughed Steve.
"Hah! You can't fool me. I know you love me, maybe not as much as Gwen, but still you love me a lot. I'm good with that. I don't think two people could love each other more than you and Gwen. I'm just glad she's my sister and you're her boyfriend!"
"Kate, don't be putting words in Steve's mouth. You're going to make him feel like he has to tell me that he loves me," complained Gwen with a blush.
"Then you should tell him how we're going to have him stay with us to recuperate. He can tell you all about how he loves you while you nurse him back to health," reasoned Kate. "The four of us will take turns changing his bandages."
"Sorry, Florence Nightingale!" interrupted Paula. "You will not be changing Steve's bandages, at least not the ones below his waist. Let me make that very clear."
Lisa and Gwen began to giggle as Kate suddenly turned pouty. It was obvious that Paula was not going to yield on this point. Her statement also indicated that Gwen and Lisa would have the opportunity to care for Steve.
"Kate let the cat out of the bag," revealed Paula. "Gwen already spoke to Uncle Joe and he's fine with it. When you're well enough to be discharged from the hospital, we want you to stay at our house until you're healed. It would be our honor."
"Thanks, Paula, but it isn't necessary. Uncle Joe said that he'd find a nurse to help take care of me. You've done more than enough for me already."
"So you don't think I should have the opportunity to try to repay you for saving my daughters' lives? You don't like my cooking? These two nurses are maybe too homely for you? You don't want me to have the pleasure of helping the Spartan Nation's poster boy get over his wounds?"
"It's not that! I love your cooking. Heck, I love your daughters. I just don't want to put you out. You've done so much for me already. I feel like I'm taking advantage of you."
"Steve, this is not open for debate. As your girlfriend's mother, and as the mother of two other girls that adore you, I'm insisting that you stay with us. You'll be helping us get past this horrible event. We'll be able to fuss over you rather than stew over the mayhem those terrorists created. There will be no more discussion on this matter. It's settled.
"We promised the nurse that we'd only stay a few minutes. Girls, say your goodbyes. We're leaving now. Steve needs his rest and we need to shop for enough food to feed him for a week or two. Let's go."
Kate hurried back over to Steve and kissed him several more times. Then Lisa planted a slow, lingering kiss on Steve's lips. When she stood up, she smiled at Gwen. That was all Gwen needed as she leaned down and gave Steve a long hard kiss with some tongue. Kate and Lisa were laughing by the time Gwen allowed Steve the opportunity to breathe.
"I guess staying at your place won't be so bad after all," grinned Steve. "Maybe you can ask Stephanie to come over and help now and then?"
"It seems like you're healing pretty fast, Buster!" laughed Paula. "I'll let Diane know that you're asking about Stephanie. She was pretty upset about the things that she saw and heard yesterday, but she was unwavering in her support of your actions."
Gwen had everyone wait for her while she managed a few minutes with Jared. He had been transferred from intensive care and was allowed visitors.
"You were wonderful yesterday, Jared. I told everyone how you saved my life. I can't believe how brave you were. I owe you my life. Steve wanted me to tell you that what's his, is yours, and that from now on, you're his brother. He doesn't make statements like that lightly."
"I'm just glad you're okay and I'm really glad that Steve showed up in time to cap those bastards and save all of us. It's funny, but since I've been hanging with Steve, I feel more like helping people and being a better man. I guess I'm trying to be more like him. I respect him and that's one of the best things you can say about another man. Tell Steve that I'm proud to be his brother."
Gwen returned home and managed a restful nap. When she came down for dinner, the news was on television and her family was watching it closely.
"The head of the FBI in the state is giving a news conference. He's going to tell what law enforcement has found out about the attack yesterday," responded Ted to a question from Gwen. "He's coming on now."
"The terrorist attack on a local high school yesterday was a terrible event. History will reflect that fact. What it will also reflect is the amazing string of coincidences that prevented this heinous act from being anywhere near as devastating as was planned by the terrorist.
"How could the terrorist speaking on his cell phone in the Farsi language, apparently to his leader, guess that an American high school student walking toward the gym at that moment was fluent in Farsi? What are the odds that the student, Steve Hammer, would turn out to be trained in hand-to hand combat and have the ability to immediately kill the terrorist? Then try calculating the odds that the same student had learned the workings of IED's and suicide bombs from his father, a Navy SEAL Commander.
"This same student searched the dead man while sending a female student to pull the fire alarm, knowing that these evil men planned on destroying the building and everyone in it with explosives. Evacuation was absolutely the right decision under these circumstances.
"Then the student arms himself with two handguns taken from the dead terrorist, and knowing there were more armed men in the gym, tells his friend to open the gym door on his signal. He enters the building and immediately double taps a terrorist, leaving three still shooting at him. As he places two bullets in the brain of the next terrorist, he is hit high in the leg, knocking him to his knees, where he is then struck in the shoulder by a bullet, rendering his right arm useless with two armed men still shooting at him.
"What are the odds that this young man is not only rated expert with a handgun, but expert with either hand? Unable to lift his right arm, he raised his left hand and shot both remaining terrorists in the head! Why was it so important that he shoot them in the head? They were wearing explosives. A bullet to the body could have detonated them. A non-lethal shot could have allowed them the opportunity to manually detonate the bombs.
"What are the chances that this young man, now unable to reach the dead men carrying explosives capable of being detonated remotely, can find a young lady, Gwen Anderson, with enough faith in his knowledge to follow his instructions without question? That she quickly severs the green wire on each body's bomb, rendering the remote detonation device inoperable? We now know that a signal to detonate the bombs was sent less than twenty seconds after the young lady finished cutting the wires!
"What are the odds that over a dozen students remain in the building with dead terrorists packed with explosives to render aid to the injured? That the same young woman that cut the detonation wires, has a doctor on her speed dial? She makes just one call that morning, and that was to an ER doctor. She is quickly given phone numbers for her fellow students to call for medical advice for treating the wounded. All the students listened to the medical staff and administered immediate first aid.
"Three students were killed instantly by the cowardly acts of the terrorists, but these brave kids somehow saved all the wounded! The attending doctors have assured me that without that immediate aid, several more students would have probably died. This event will become the framework for future contingencies in tragedies like this. These students did the Spartan Nation proud, very proud."
"It sure doesn't sound like the FBI is very pissed at you, Gwen. I guess you must have straightened out that agent that questioned your actions. Plus they got to see the entire attack on video. Apparently, they've come to the conclusion that you and Steve did everything right, as if that's any surprise," added Lisa.
Just as they finished dinner, the home phone rang. Paula answered it and summoned Gwen. "Hello, Gwen. I don't know if you remember me. I'm John Dixon, but I go by Johnnie Dee. I worked the Tim Archer benefit and you were 'the Lady in Red'. I've been asked to emcee a memorial tribute Saturday evening at the Church of Saints. It's that really big church over on Third Street.
"I've been given carte blanche for this affair. The governor has agreed to speak. So has your school principal. The Chief of Police will have his moment in the sun, but mostly, I'm looking for students to speak, or perform. I want this to be a time of healing. The kids need that, as you well know. Would you be interested in speaking, or performing in some way? I know that dancing wouldn't be appropriate, but poetry, recollections, recitals. Hymns or nice songs would be fine."
"A year ago, I would've been too nervous to do something like that, but I can tell you that I welcome the opportunity now. I'll have something appropriate for Saturday and I appreciate that you thought of me at this time. It's an honor."
"Thanks, Gwen. You've become a leader in the Spartan Nation and people will want to see and hear you. I just finished speaking with your boyfriend and he's agreed to the same proposal. You two could do something together if you like. The crowd would love it. We're going start advertising this and we're using your name and Steve's to draw a crowd. People would rather hear you than the governor or police chief."
"I don't know if Steve will be able to attend," worried Gwen. "He's still in the hospital. He has two bullet wounds. He said he'd be there? If he said it, then you can take it to the bank. He's definitely a man of his word!"
As soon as she finished speaking with Johnnie Dee, Gwen phoned Charlotte. "Johnnie Dee asked me to do something at the memorial Saturday night. I was thinking that I'd sing and was hoping that you'd accompany me on the piano."
"You're finally going to sing in public?" asked Charlotte in disbelief. "Everyone's been trying to get you to do that for years. Why are you suddenly willing to perform in public?"
"It's hard to explain, but I've lost my shyness over the past few months. I think it's at least partly because of the confidence I've gained being with Steve. He makes everything seem easy and he puts things in perspective. After the attack, most things don't seem all that scary. The worst that'll happen is that I get laughed off the stage. Hopefully, no one will die from my singing."
"What will Steve do? Will he talk about the attack and what he was thinking as he took out those killers?"
"I don't know. He doesn't really like talking about himself, or things that he's done. He's definitely not a bragger. I think he'll have trouble just getting up on stage. He's supposed to be discharged pretty soon. He's in pretty good condition, now that they pumped a bunch of blood back into him. I bet he'll be surprised to hear me sing. I never told him about that. Let's try to keep it from him until I get on stage, okay?"
Lisa and Gwen went to visit Steve the next day. When they got to his room, they were surprised to find his bed empty. Knowing he couldn't have gone far, they found him hobbling out of Jared's room.
"Steve! Are you supposed to be on your feet?" demanded Gwen. 'Do you have permission from Laura or the other doctors?"
"I was bored. Besides, I wanted to tell Jared a few things. He's still in pretty rough shape and I wanted him to know how I felt about what he did for you and what that means to me. When he saved your life, he saved mine, Gwen. I don't know if I'd want to live if you'd been killed," admitted Steve.
"With friends like Jared and a boyfriend as capable as you, I'm going to be around a long time, so don't worry about that. But I know what you mean. I felt the same way when you were bleeding out and looked so close to death. I was really scared."
"If you're able to get around, can you come home with us today?" asked Lisa. "We're very anxious to nurse you back to health, aren't we, Gwen?"
"Maybe a little too anxious in your case," laughed Gwen. "We're looking forward to bringing you home and taking care of you for a week or two, Steve. We should be able to be alone now and then, if Lisa can get Mom and Kate to go shopping with her."
"I'm willing, Sis, but it won't be that easy to fool Mom. She wasn't born yesterday. She knows more than she lets on."
"Tell me about it! When I finally got her to take Dad shopping for Christmas, she texted both me and Kate that they were coming home early. Then when she got home she gave Steve and me a little talk about being responsible."
"Don't tell me that you two were doing it!" gasped Lisa. "What about birth control? Right in the house? What if Kate came home?"
"No! We weren't 'doing it', as you so nicely put it. We were doing some petting and Mom must have suspected it because when I didn't answer her text, she made sure that Kate came home to warn me that Mom and Dad were almost home."
"Wow! Mom's pretty cool. Dad's great, but fathers are not going to go for that sort of thing no matter how much they like the guy. You're just lucky that Kate didn't get an eye full when she got home. Why are you blushing?" demanded Lisa. "Don't tell me that Kate did get an eye full! I guess I'd better talk to her!"
"You two do know that I'm standing right here?" asked Steve. "You should wait until my back's turned before you discuss this stuff. I never had any sisters and if I did, I'm sure they wouldn't be so willing to share details like you sisters do."
"I wish you had a brother," laughed Lisa. "We have enough girls to go around, but we need more Steves."
"Getting back to your original question, Laura said I should be discharged tomorrow. She says that it's quite soon considering I have two bullet wounds, but I'm healing already and she thinks my spirits will pick up when I'm around your mom and Kate, and maybe Stephanie."
"Really? Mom, Kate, and Stephanie? Gwen and I can raise a lot more than your spirits, Stud. We'll take good care of you, won't we, Sis?"
"What's this 'we' stuff?" demanded Gwen with a big grin. "I'll handle everything that comes up just fine. You'll be out shopping with Mom and Kate."
"Well, be sure to check for text messages if you're alone with this guy. Where can we put your phone so we'll be sure that you check it? I have an idea. We'll tape it next to his bullet wound!"
Lisa, Kate, and Gwen all showed up at the hospital Saturday morning to take Steve home. Many of the nurses and several doctors stopped Steve as Gwen wheeled him down the hall. The females hugged Steve and the men shook his hand.
"It looks like it's a good thing that you're getting him out of here, Gwen. Those nurses must have gotten an eye full while taking care of our hero's wounds. They're all doe-eyed. I know that look, I see it in your eyes, and Kate's, every time you two are around Steve," joked Lisa.
Steve had come to accept that the Anderson sisters were going to tease him mercilessly every opportunity that they had. He appreciated the humor and the love the girls shared and he had long ago decided he would take everything they would dish out. He'd never let them get his goat.
Steve insisted on visiting Jared and Billy before leaving. The girls listened to Steve state his unwavering loyalty and high regard to 'his brothers'. It was obvious that Steve was deeply moved my Jared's selfless act on Gwen's behalf. He couldn't have been more sincere if Jared had saved him rather than Gwen. Steve made it very plain to everyone in the room that Gwen's safety meant far more to him than his own and he would always feel in debt to Jared.