tagNovels and NovellasRebuilding Faith Ch. 12

Rebuilding Faith Ch. 12

bywilderness©

Anticipation of good things to come energized Bill, as he drove the car from the hospital parking lot to the front door. Faith had finally been released and declared fit to return to normal life. He was eager to coddle and care for her, and to restore the woman that fallen in love with.

Faith looked pitiful, sitting in the wheelchair, resting a hand on her forehead to shield her battered face from a passerby. The voluminous, gray NYU sweatshirt thoroughly hid her femininity.

He felt a tingle of delight when he pulled up in the Lincoln Town Car and witnessed her surprised expression.

"Thanks a lot, Greg," Faith said, to the orderly pushing the wheelchair.

"Take care, Ms. Simmons."

Walking toward Bill and the open car door, she asked, "Where'd you get this?"

"I traded your truck for it. I didn't think you'd mind. Obviously it wasn't a fair trade. The dealer still owes me $200 bucks."

"Yeah, right."

"It's a rental. I decided you need the tender loving ride of a Lincoln for a while."

Her eyes glistened at him, as he closed the door and walked around to the driver's side.

Bill reached into the backseat. "I've brought a few things from home to make you more comfortable," and handed Faith her pillow and the blanket they'd made love on in front of the fire.

Using a sleeve to wipe her eyes, she said, "That's so sweet."

"Wait, there's a little more," reaching back again, he retrieved a grocery bag and, from inside, pulled out a red scrunchy. "Turn your head." When she did, he gathered her hair and bound it into a ponytail. "Now put this on," handing her his Yankees baseball cap.

Faith slid her ponytail through the hole in the back and pulled the cap gently over her forehead.

"How's it feel? Is it bothering your stitches?"

"No, it's loose enough so it doesn't rub."

"Okay, now try these on." Bill removed the last item from the bag -- large, aviator style sunglasses. "Tell me if they're too heavy on your nose."

Hooking them behind her ears, she answered, "No they're fine."

Flashing his biggest smile, he said, "Babe, you look hot."

Faith made the familiar you're-so-full-of-shit face at him.

"No, really. You remind me of Sophia Loren. A young Sophia Loren, trying to hide from the paparazzi -- mysteriously sensual."

Haughtily, she commanded, "Driver, let's go. I have a busy schedule," waving him on with her hand, like an arrogant diva.

Smiling, Bill said, "Yes, Ma'am," and shifted into drive, heading into the unknown, elated by the knowledge Faith still wanted to play.

Covering herself with the blanket, Faith reclined the seat halfway and leaned the pillow against door. "By the way, where are you taking me?"

"I've made reservations for us at the Blue Star Inn -- very quiet and secluded."

"You've been there before, I take it."

Bill thought, 'what she really meant to say was, I'm not the first woman you've taken there, am I.'

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I spent seven months there -- building it." He would just leave out the other women.

"Really? Are you showing off, or just getting a free room?"

"Well... I have to do a little self-promotion to impress a perspective customer. Once you've seen my work, I'm hoping you'll hire me to build your bunkhouse." Trying to make a serious face, he added, "I've never slept with a client before, though. And, no, it's not a free room. The place was sold two years ago. I don't know the new owner."

Feigning diva arrogance once again, Faith declared, "This sounds like a good idea, Mr. Holder. I want to learn firsthand how much passion you have... for your work. If it's half as good as I've already experienced, your skill will be more than adequate for the job." Faith flipped her ponytail, putting the exclamation mark on the declaration of self-indulgence.

"Yes, Ma'am!"

They drove through the countryside, enjoying the peacefulness. Billowy clouds floated miles apart, leaving the sun free to warm the rolling hills and lift the human spirit. Faith drifted in and out of catnaps, interrupted by dark visions.

Slightly past one o'clock, they entered the small town of Wilkins Glen.

Spotting a 1950's style chrome diner, Bill pulled into the parking lot. The sleepless nights had taken a toll on his stamina.

Faith woke up, and asked fuzzily, "Are we there already?"

"Not yet." Turning off the engine, he reached across the wide seat and rubbed her knee. "Even superstars need nourishment. So, c'mon, Sophia, let's go eat with the little people."

Folding her arms across her chest protectively, Faith suggested, "Why don't you get something to go. I'll wait here. I'm not hungry."

"Uh-uh, you need to eat. Come on, it'll be fun. You can be the bitchy celebrity and I'll be the pussy whipped bodyguard."

"Pussy whipped? What's that mean?"

Unfortunately, the sunglasses worked against him. Bill couldn't tell if she was serious or kidding. "It means I'll do anything to put a little of your honey on my stinger."

"Huh?"

Giving up, he said, "Never mind. You need to eat, Sophia, and it's my job to take care of you. So get your scrawny ass out of the car."

"Melvin, you're fired."

"Melvin?"

"Hey, if I'm supposed to be Sophia Loren, then you have to be Mel Gibson."

Laughing, Bill got out and opened Faith's door for her, like a good bodyguard should. But she just sat there.

"It'll be all right, Faith."

"People will stare."

"Let 'em."

"They'll think you did this to me."

Touched by her concern but not giving in to manipulation, Bill crouched down and took her hand, "But WE know I didn't. Please, come in?"

After a few moments and several deep breaths, Faith stepped from the car and clutched his arm. As they walked in the front door, she hid behind him, staying close, looking down and away from the six pairs of eyes that turned to gawk at the strangers.

Instead of moving inconspicuously to one of the booths, Bill strode to the counter with Faith tattooed on his back. "Excuse me, Miss, have you seen a big, hairy guy with a cut on his left cheek, speaking with an accent -- probably riding around in a limo -- asking questions about strangers passing through town?"

The busty redhead, wearing a low cut, tip-promoting blouse, stopped cleaning the counter in mid-wipe, and said, "Huh? Um, no." Then, regaining her wits, added with a sarcastic grin, "At least not today, Hon. Why?"

A gaunt old man, sitting two stools away, snickered.

"Is there a backdoor we can leave through in case he shows up? Ms. Scicolone would appreciate the American hospitality." Bill stepped aside, and before Faith could hide behind him again, the waitress had a good look.

"Aw, you poor dear, don't you worry. If anyone like that comes in here," she bent down and pulled out a Louisville slugger, "he'll get what's comin' to him."

Bill added, "That's very kind of you, but I'd just as soon avoid any altercations. This man has diplomatic immunity and lots of money. It would be best for all involved if we just disappeared quietly."

Rapping the bat on the yellow Formica, Red proclaimed, "Around here we use Teddy's foreign policy, speak softly and swing a big bat. Right guys?"

Faith jumped at the sharp noise. Bill felt her grip tighten. Someone in the back spoke up with a ringing, "Whatever."

"Why don't ya sit over by the kitchen door. You can duck out the back if ya see him comin'."

A soft voice over Bill's shoulder said, "Grazie," making him smile.

Taking their seats and pulling out the menus from behind the tableside jukebox song selector, Bill whispered, "See that wasn't so bad was it? Now the whole diner is on your side."

"Thanks, Melvin." Her menu trembled slightly. She put it back, saying, "I'm not hungry," crossed her arms and began to rock, while staring out the window.

Studying her heightened anxiety, Bill apologized. "I'm sorry, Faith. I shouldn't force you to do things that make you feel uncomfortable. I'm rushing you."

Faith stopped and held his hand. "I'll get over it."

Swiping his thumb soothingly across her fingers, Bill said, "Faith, promise me you'll go for counseling when we get back. Doctor Grady said it would help you deal with this."

Before Faith had a chance to respond the waitress appeared. "Have you folks made up your minds?"

Attempting a smile, Faith said, "No-thing, grazie."

Bill frowned at her, and said, "I would like the cheeseburger platter and a large Coke. Do you have any green Jell-O?"

Faith stuck out her tongue.

"No, Hon, but we have some homemade lemon meringue pie. I won a blue ribbon at the county fair last summer."

"Mm, you've convinced me. I'd like a piece of that too, please."

Glancing at Faith, Red asked, "Are you sure you don't want anything, Honey?"

"No, grazie. I will... how you say... eat him, share."

Eyeing Bill, Red mumbled, "I wouldn't mind some of that myself."

Faith covered her mouth to stifle a giggle.

Bill shook his head.

They sat quietly, holding hands, until the heaping platter arrived. The sight of food apparently triggered Faith's appetite. She began chain-chewing French fries.

Bill grinned, watching her pick one up, swirl it in the pool of ketchup and then slowly nibble from one end to the other, until it disappeared between her lips. How he wanted to be a French fry at that moment -- "how you say... eat him."

A wayward dollop of ketchup dripped down her chin. At first, Faith tried to retrieve it with an agile tongue, reaching only half. Slowly and thoroughly, she swiped the remainder with an index finger then sucked it off.

"Sophia, stop it."

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't be such a pig and use a napkin."

"No, I meant stop turning me on. The way you eat those things makes me want to be a French fry." Lifting the dripping cheeseburger, he took a bite.

"Oh, really." Picking up a particularly long and fat fry, Faith lazily lathered it with the red lubricant, "You mean this turns you on?" and slid the phallic fry between her puckered lips, letting some of the coating run down her chin, with a growly, "Mmmm."

Bill stopped chewing and stared. "Yeah, a little."

"Well, Mel, when my lips heal, maybe I'll nibble on you, until you feel hot, greasy and French fried."

Smiling large, Bill countered with, "Sophia, I don't know how to respond to such a blatantly sexual proposition." So instead, Bill tipped the burger sideways and suggestively licked between the golden buns, savoring the warm, juicy patty hidden between.

For a few precious moments they were back flirting and teasing -- like life was good.

Eventually Faith's smirk lost its sparkle as she fell back into the dark pit of recent memories. She stopped eating.

Bill scolded himself. 'You asshole. Stop talking about sex. You're an idiot for bringing it up.' Anger simmered beneath his the calm surface, and he wished Butch were still alive so he could kill him. Engles still had something coming. Bill continued to eat without taste or enjoyment, only for fuel, finding it difficult keeping the happy face pasted on.

Red returned with the blue ribbon lemon meringue pie, a slice big enough to share. "Here ya go, you two. This is on the house and guaranteed to put a smile on your sour pusses."

"Grazie," said Faith, smiling feebly.

"Yes, thank you very much," said Bill, picking up his fork and cutting off the tip of the wedge.

Reaching across the table, he offered it to Faith, "Open wide, Sophia. Through the lips and over the gums, look out stomach here it comes."

Reluctantly, Faith opened her mouth. Bill held the fork inside until she closed it and then retracted the utensil for a reload.

"Mmm, that is good!" Faith picked up a fork to fend for herself.

Pleased with her renewed appetite, Bill sampled infrequently, letting Faith take the lion's share.

The meal was over and it was time to hit the road. Leaving a super-sized tip, they headed out the door.

Bill said, "Thanks. Everything was delicious. Fantastic pie!"

Faith said, "Arrivederci."

As they walked side by side, two young men approached from the other direction. Faith moved slightly behind Bill when they glanced at her.

In passing, one said, "I hope ya got the license number of the truck," and they laughed.

Bill exploded with pent up rage. Grabbing two fistfuls of the punks jacket, he pinned him to the wall, "What the fuck did you say, you rude little piece of shit?" and bounced him against the diner once, glaring at his buddy, daring him to step in.

Faith tugged on Bill's sleeve, pleading, "Let go! It's not his fault. Don't take it out on him!"

"Apologize."

"I'm sorry, Lady," he said, sounding more afraid than sincere.

Yanking him off the wall, Bill launched him on his way, "Learn some respect!"

"Fuck you!"

Faith pulled Bill toward the parking lot. "Calm down, Mel, you're out of control."

He took a deep breath. "You're right, you're right. I overreacted." Putting his arm around her back, they walked. "Wow, I felt like a lethal weapon for a few seconds."

Faith squeezed him sideways, "My hero."

They drove north along the eastern shore of Seneca Lake. The road snaked high along a bluff, treating them to breathtaking vistas of water, land, and sky. Miles of hillside vineyards striped the landscape. Men were working between the rows, preparing for the spring growth, tending the soil, pulling out the dead wood and securing the vines on their supports.

Making a left turn toward the lake, Bill announced, "Faith, we're here," not sure if her eyes were open or closed behind the sunglasses.

The way she scurried to put her hat back on told him she'd been asleep.

"Bill, you built this? It's beautiful," said Faith, as they approached the Victorian Inn, hidden among towering pines.

"Well, I had help."

"How many rooms are there?"

"Twenty rooms and two suites," Bill pointed to a gable on the second floor. "We are in the southern suite, where there's lots of sun." The sound of waves, lapping against the shore, always had a calming effect on him and he was optimistic it would have the same effect on Faith.

The parking lot was nearly empty. They parked close, making the walk to the wrap around porch a short one.

"Bill, this is way too expensive. I can't let you do this. Take me to a Super 8, that's more my speed --"

"Hush, Sophia." Holding her by the elbow, he guided her toward the door. "I know you're not used to places like this but you'll have to adjust. This isn't Monaco, after all. Come down off your pedestal."

Putting an arm around his waist, Faith pulled him against her side and whispered, "Thank you, grazie, grazie," and briefly laid her head on his shoulder before entering.

While Bill checked in, Faith stood in the shadows, lending an air of mystery to the process.

"Let's take the stairs," he said, offering his arm.

The stairs were wide, allowing them to climb abreast. At the top they turned left, walking until they reached the paneled door at the far end marked, Seneca Suite. "This is the bedroom entrance. There's also a downstairs entrance."

"We have two floors?"

"Sophia, stop whining, two floors are plenty," he said, grinning.

"Stop it Bill. I can't believe you're doing this."

He opened the door and stepped aside. "After you."

They entered a small room that was actually a walk-in closet -- clothes hangers on one side and drawers on the other. Bill went to the other end and opened a sliding door to reveal a monstrous canopied bed.

Brushing by him, Faith entered the bedroom, "Ooh, this is wonderful."

The room was filled with sunlight, streaming through large windows. A round turret in the southwest corner allowed the occupant to stand virtually outside the building for an expansive view of the lake. A few sailboats dotted the sparkling surface, creating a mobile tapestry. French doors opened onto a private deck, for use during warmer weather.

Faith circled the room, touching the tasseled pink lampshades, sitting in the overstuffed chairs, and finally lying on the bed, smiling. Turning to Bill, she said, "Holder, I want the bunkhouse just like this."

He shrugged, saying, "Okay, Sophia, but you'll have to sell your summer home on the Riviera to pay for it."

Sitting up, Faith removed her sunglasses and hat, and set them on the bedside table. Starting to remove her sneakers, she stopped, and said, "We should get the luggage, before I get too comfortable."

"I'll get them later," said Bill, kneeling at her feet and untying her laces. "Make yourself at home." He pulled off her shoes and lifted her legs onto the bed. Finally, he was able to lie beside her, something he'd waited patiently for.

Leaning on his elbow, looking down on her swollen face, he felt nervous. "May I kiss you?"

Smiling sweetly up, Faith answered, "Of course, Silly."

Tenderly, Bill kissed her lips, letting her apply the pressure, not wanting to cause any pain. The coarse scabs conflicted with the surrounding softness. Her tongue slipped in to greet its mate.

They lingered, getting reacquainted like porcupines.

His lips moved to touch some bruises with kiss-it-and-make-it-feel-better caresses. When his body responded to hers, Bill broke away, and said, "I love you."

Encircling him with her arms, Faith squeezed him, and said, "I love you too," then burst into tears.

Struggling not to place all his weight on top of her, Bill whispered lovingly, "Let it all out. Let it go, Faith," and rolled onto his back, dragging her onto his chest.

Her crying became loud, her body vibrated. Faith spoke in short bursts between shuddering sobs. "They weren't there to kill me. But I surprised Butch. I yelled at him. Told him to leave. He was furious about you. Said he was going to take what I owed him. He kept hitting me. I pretended to be unconscious. I was just going to play dead. Then Bob showed up and fought with Butch. He was mad, because Butch was leaving evidence that would lead to them. Bob hit him with a crowbar. He tied me up. I remember Hershey bit him. When I smelled smoke... I knew I was going to die. I must have blacked out. I don't remember much after that. I remember your voice."

"Faith, I'm so sorry." Bill's eyes overflowed, as his heart filled with fresh self-incrimination. "I should've been there."

They lay holding on, each owning the other, until both drifted into an exhausted sleep.

Bill woke first. The bedside clock read 6:12. Faith lay snug in the crook of his arm with her hand on his chest and her leg over his. Not wanting to disturb her peaceful sleep, he closed his eyes and waited for inspiration, something purposeful, and something extraordinary. He wanted to do more. He wanted her to get well. And like most things profound, the answer seemed so simple in its design yet so hard to believe it would work.

When Faith began to moan and struggle, Bill stroked her cheek, waking her gently. "Ciao, Sophia."

Her disoriented look faded and was replace by a smile. "Hi, Melvin." She rolled off his arm, stiffly. "Ooh, that felt good. I've missed sleeping with you." Faith left the bed and entered the bathroom. "Wow, Holder, a whirlpool tub!" she yelled. "I'm going to soak for hours." The sound of water splashing in the tub meant starting now.

Waiting for an invitation that didn't come, Bill shouted through the door, "Faith, I'm going to bring in our stuff."

"Okay!"

Bill retrieved the luggage and hurriedly unpacked. Opening the small bag containing Faith's toiletries, he extracted the bottle of red nail polish and went downstairs to wait and make phone calls. The sun rested on the western horizon, before Bill heard the hum of the whirlpool go silent. The bathroom door squeaked open and muffled sounds filtered down the stairwell.

When Faith called, "Bill, would you come up here, please," her tone did not sound happy.

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