tagFirst TimeYou Only Love Once

You Only Love Once

byTheyCallMeDelly©

NOTE: This story was written during Hurricane Sandy. Comments and insights wanted, however, don't be harsh! Sex is toward the end for you impatient readers...

*

As I took a wobbly step onto the school bus, the sky was washed with variant hues of yellow, red, and violet. Through the trees, it seemed as if the road was being led into a portal that was gurgling fire. It was 6:43 AM exactly. My dark brown eyes were blurred as darkness still remained in the west. When I did a little jog up the bus steps, I gave Ace, the bus driver, a wink and a shallow "Good Morning."

Ah, Ace... Ace was an older gentleman, probably in his fifties. However, his facial structure remained handsome and his salt-and-pepper hair was something I deeply admired. His voice was strong yet somehow laced with gentleness. His ethnicities were made up of Greek and Dominican, which was a surreal combination that was evident. In the morning, I usually greeted him casually out of respect, but in the afternoon, we had full conversations about each other's lives. Ace and I would talk about school, future plans, family life, and other stuff.

Ace had been my bus driver for the past three years. After more than 400 days of conversing, we had become quite familiar with each other. It was more than just hopping onto the bus and mumbling 'Hello' as you pass by. Developing some sort of a relationship, whether it be a friendly adult-child or staff member-student one, is key in a school environment. Everyone has a story that makes up their life. While Ace is driving the bus, it seems to get brushed past and hidden under the wheel. I decided to give it a shot one morning. Luckily for me, Ace accepted my plea for conversation as a sophomore three years ago. That was how I found out his wife of 31 years passed away from stage three breast cancer when I was in 8th grade two years prior. You could see it in his eye and hear the aching in his voice when he talked about Aria: genuine love. Aria was bronze and gorgeous similar to Ace in the pictures he showed me from his wallet. She was Dominican and Mexican he said with her dark brown wild hair flowing.

Plus, my generation has no respect for anyone who has a stressful and potentially dangerous job. Whenever Ace would be late or face a mechanical difficulty with the bus, the other students would respond with disgusting insults and threats. Every day, it bothered me. Here is this sweet guy who is being paid by our parents' tax dollars to safely drive us to school (and trips) and they castigate him for an error not in his control? "Bus drivers are people too!" I'd hear occasionally. It irks me that people even have to justify that.

For some reason, I sat in the front seat to Ace's right that morning. Little did I know it was going to change both of our lives, but allow me to tell my story.

"Good morning," Ace shakily replied.

His face was shadowed and grey. It appeared as if all of his blood was suctioned out from his body. The veins in Ace's hairy, muscular arms pulsated as he tightened his grip on the 18' steering wheel. His surreal hazel eyes that usually twinkle had a dull, mundane effect. In fact, they took on the sickly color of charred wood.

"You okay, Ace?" I trembled with a hint of concern.

"Yeah," the older man forced a minuscule smile onto his surprisingly weathered face. "I'm fine. Why do you ask?"

With a loud, gauche hiss, the bus doors slammed shut and the air brakes sighed with relief as the bus resumed driving. I was one of the first stops, so our conversations could be as long as 25 minutes.

"You're not looking so great this morning," I confessed.

"Not to worry, Sol," Ace smirked into the mirror at me. "We are fine." His nickname for me was "sun" in Spanish.

Ace was driving a little faster than usual, which continued to bother me. As the minutes continued to unravel, his eyes grew more bland and lifeless. After two stops, I could notice his strength to pull the door handle closed was deteriorating.

"Ace," I called to him.

No answer.

The Blue Bird Vision was still in motion, however, Ace's posture was as straight as an arrow and his stare toward the road was glassy. I called his name three more times and he didn't respond, flinch or even blink.

"Ace, pull over," I commanded, a bit surprised that I had.

Ace said nothing. The bus was beginning to accelerate faster as his foot slowly increased force onto the gas pedal. 45 became 50 which hastily became 70 mph. His eyes began to glaze over and his eyelids twitched until they were shut.

No one else was noticing this since they weren't close enough or really cared. If anything stopped them from going to school, why should they protest? I didn't want to start any hysteria, but I needed his full attention.

"Ace! Oh, my Lord!" I shouted, snapping out of my seat.

Lifeless, Ace slowly slid onto the steering wheel, slumped over. The bus gradually began to swerve as I approached him, panicked. I snatched up his thick hairy wrist. No pulse.

I pushed Ace's body against the window, so I could somehow stop the bus. Throwing myself into the bucket seat, I quickly twisted the steering wheel to the right as we were about to collide into an oil truck driving in the opposite direction. My paradise switch to rigorous prayer was immediate.

Suddenly, everything happening around me went silent. It seemed as if everything occurred in slow motion. When I turned my head to look toward the back of the bus, a few of the boys were pointing at something out of the right side windows and it was apparent that they were screaming. Like a switch, my hearing flashed on.

"LOOK OUT!" two kids cried from the back.

With a loud screech from tires, everything went black.

Chapter 2- Te amo

"You think she's awake yet?"

"I don't think so, but her vitals are stabilizing."

The fluorescent white lights flooded the room as my eyes painfully opened. A sudden pain shot through my right arm and ribs when I shifted my body. My eyes flashed open as I cried out. As I quietly sobbed, the faint beeping of machines echoed in my ears.

"Ms. Reyes?" A male voice called. "Are you awake?"

I finally got my first glance at my current location. The ceiling was a painfully bright white while the walls were washed in a beautiful hue of dark cerulean. The floors were a standard tacky white tile. I was in a hospital bed, with hundreds of IVs sticking out of my arms and a hideous cream white polyester gown chafing my inflamed skin. Plus, with the tubes in my nose, I was gasping for breaths. The machine to my left was beeping each time my heart adjusted to my movements.

Confused, I turned to my right and there was a man sitting in one of the visitor chairs. It was a police officer. The expression on his face motioned that I was horrifying to look at. He was dressed in full uniform for the Lakewind Police Department. The officer knew to continue when he gathered unsavory eye contact with me.

"Ma'am," the officer continued to talk. "I am Officer Martin Avis from the LTPD. I am here to explain the situation."

"What happened?" I heaved, echoing like Darth Vader. "Where is Ace?"

"Well," the officer said with an uneasy tone. He pushed his chair closer to my bedside. "When you were on your way to school yesterday morning, your driver somehow lost control of the school bus. However, in their attempt to guide the bus back in between the white lines-"

My heart monitor began to race, beeping a foreign tune. I was stressed out and frightened. What had I done? When I was trying to save everyone, I KILLED them?

I began to sob. "Where are the other kids? Where is Ace?"

"Anna-" Officer Avis began. "May I call you Anna?"

"Yes,"

"Well, Anna, the point of the matter is that when the bus was about to enter the roadway, the two rear wheels lost traction from the road which made it tumble down Ocean's Ravine. The Blue Bird flipped off of a cliff at more than 70 mph, flipping well over 3 times into bulletproof sycamore and oak trees. Miraculously, none of your classmates died. However, some are in intensive care due to the severity of the injuries."

"Everyone is alive?" I gasped, as a paper-thin smile lined my face.

Officer Avis nodded, a bit calmer after he broke the news. He then went on to ask me what happened prior to the collision.

"I was sitting in my seat, like I usually do. But, the strange part was that I sat in the seat adjacent to Ace as he was driving that morning. Usually I do that in the afternoon when I'm more comfortable and awake."

His face grew interested, while his body slowly leaned forward as he listened attentively.

"I greeted him and he responded, but Ace was pale and his eyes were dull. Not even fifteen minutes later, he collapsed on the steering wheel. I was a bit familiar with buses, but how would I know how to drive one? We were about to crash head-on into an oil truck, so I spun the wheel to the right. All I saw was the bus swerve and then everything went black. Now, I'm here and I feel like...like I failed them."

"Why?" Officer Avis instigated. "You saved their lives, Anna. How could you say that?"

"I hurt them...my friends...my asshole neighbors...and even Ace... If my reactions didn't resort back to an immature girl's and I used some sense to steer, Bus 72 would still be en route and we would all be miserable at school."

"So, you're saying that an untimely, but painless death would've been better than eight months of intensive rehab?"

"I'm saying if NONE of this happened, we'd be better off!" I harshly shouted at him with tears almost sneaking out of my eyes.

"We'll talk more about this later," he scowled. "You rest easy."

After ten seconds of awkward silence, a nurse walked in with a clipboard full of my charts. She wore the standard pink scrub pants and a themed Halloween medical top. When the frail woman saw a police officer sitting across from me, she grew a bit tense.

"Your vital signs and breathing are stabilizing," the nurse reassured with a smile. "But, when you all took a tumble, you and Ace got some of the worst of it. You may not feel it now, but you're bruised up. Your right arm is completely shattered. The right foot is fractured with chipped bone from your shin. Because you threw yourself to the left during collision, your right half of your body was exposed to the trees that penetrated both the driver's pit and the passenger part of the bus."

"Where is Ace? Let me see him, please!" I ignored with tears coming to my already swollen eyes.

"He's being wheeled here now. I figured Ace would want to see his hero after all that had happened." She smirked then walked out of the room to the nurse's station along with Officer Avis.

Hero? What was she talking about? I unknowingly crashed a bus full of high school students down 400 feet into one of the state's largest ravines. What part of that was heroic?

Chapter 3: The Shocking

After forty-five minutes of distressing flashbacks as I struggled to sleep, I was frantically shaken awake. Gazing upward, it was the nurse. Her name was Carla, I later found out. Carla was shoving the food cart with my dinner on top of it. The plate held barbecue chicken breasts, a half-cup of rice, and a pile of spring mixed greens with a vinaigrette mix. My mother prepped food for my special diets after she discovered my fate.

"Wake up, sleepyhead," Carla giggled, trying to sit me up. "You have a guest too."

My hospital room was a double bed room, which meant another patient could bed in the same room as me. When I turned to the second bed next to the door, my mouth dropped. A gasp was hastily caught in my throat as my heart strings began to tug excitedly. There in the other bed lay the sleeping man whom apparently I rescued.

I didn't understand why I felt so attached, so insecure being without him. When I caught my first glimpse of him, I wanted to jump out of my bed and into his, to cry in his arms...but why? Pushing myself onto my left side, I began to sob out of relief. The weight of sorrow and desperate yearning was lifted off of my broken and sore shoulders.

"C'mon," I had forgotten Carla was still in the room. She was continuing to pester me about eating my meal. "Eat now, Ace will wake up soon. Don't worry, sweetie."

Worry? He's mine, you dumbbell. I will worry.

I gave her a sour look and she responded with sticking her tongue out then leaving the room. I pulled the food cart over my bed so I could easily pick at my food. Before commencing, I peered back over to Ace's body. His face was covered with deep gashes and cuts. The rest of him was buried underneath the heavy baby blue sterile blankets, hindering me from spotting other damages.

Resisting the urge to vomit, I turned myself back to my delicious-looking plate of chicken. I began to probe the moist, juicy chicken breast with my plastic fork.

"You want to share some of that with me?"

My eyes grew wide out of nervousness and fear. That voice was easily recognizable. It was Ace! My heart monitor let out a loud scream due to my increased heart rate. Higher and higher, the machine squealed out to the world as my heart raced.

"You're awake!" I exclaimed, as excitement overtook me.

Ace wore his large, genuine smile as his eyes brightened. However, his voice was raspy and sickly. As he gave a cackled laugh, Ace's stomach rose up and down underneath the blanket. I went to rise up and run over to his bedside, but he corrected me before I could even budge. He must've seen the excitement in my semi-dilated pupils first.

"With all of those tubes in you, don't even try to come over here. Man, your heart is going crazy! You must've really missed me!" Ace laughed, starting to tease. His voice was groggy from the heavy anesthetics given to us.

I blushed, causing my entire face to turn a flushed pink. I truly did miss him. I yearned for Ace's smile, his voice, his laugh, and even our bus. Losing him would've been a bullet to the head.

"I did," I confessed, brushing it off. "How are you feeling?"

"Well, I'm alive for sure," Ace tried with a small smile. "But, the pain is rushing in like a flood. My ribs are navy blue and I can't really shift my left arm."

"Plus, your face looks like a samurai got to you too..."

"I'm just glad you're okay, Anna," Ace choked. Tears began to stream down his face. "I remember before the accident, you asked me if I was okay. I didn't want to worry you, but I risked not only your life, but 22 other kids'...I..I..."

I shook my head at him, sharing his tears as well.

"Ace," I whispered, in a surprisingly eerie tone. "It's over now. It was not your fault. How would you have known that you would've lost consciousness at the wheel?"

At that moment, Carla strolled back in with our charts. She saw our tears, which added to the rather puzzled look on her face. Behind her came a male nurse who was wheeling in another dinner plate full of food for Ace, I assumed.

"If I could move your heart monitors," Carla asked, quizzically. "Would you want me to push your beds together?"

My heart monitor began to wail at those words. That was a dumb question. All I ever wanted was to be closer to him. The bus always hindered us from actually speaking face-to-face and it was irritating. With the help of the bald and tanned male nurse, they successfully slid us together. Within seconds, the waves of warmth exuding from Ace's body washed over mine. As my eyes sheepishly traveled down his body, his laugh could be heard in the background which snapped my attention back to Carla.

"Okay!" Carla's stridency cut him off. "This is against protocol to push beds together, especially in intensive care. I am laying out some rules to help keep you safe and ME with a job. One, no 'hokey pokey!' You both are attached to every machine possible and a lot of your limbs are broken, so don't even try it! Last thing I need to see is you two trying to go at it... Two, you MUST have the bed rails up while you're sleeping. It would be RIDICULOUSLY irresponsible of me if I allowed you both to free-sleep with IVs and your ribs all wrapped up. You all can be together in the day when you can be monitored and making logical decisions. And lastly, keep an eye out for each other. Anna, you've already demonstrated a healthy and kind of aroused change in heart rate. Due to sexual arousal and nervousness, your heart rate increased. Ace, you will know whether she needs help or not. Anna, you do the same. Do you all need anything else for the night or have any questions?"

"Yeah," Ace struggled to raise his right index finger. "When does physical therapy start?"

Carla took a strange pause to think about it.

"Sometime soon, I hope, Ace," Carla whispered almost with a sob.

With that inspiring note, Carla motioned to the male nurse and they disappeared into the bright tiled hallway, shutting the obnoxiously large door behind them. Only our room's emergency light was on, but we could still recognize each other's face. I giggled to myself as Ace's eyes twinkled while he looked around. While I gazed at the stars that burned outside of our window, there was sudden heat on my left hand.

Gently, the energy began to slowly stroke each of my fingers. Glancing down, it was Ace who held me. A smile was on his handsome Greek face. His face was strong and a shimmering bronze. Ace's eyes were a mixture of a light grey and fluorescent emerald: combination of a stare that can melt your heart or take a gander at your soul. For an older gentleman, his noble Greek bloodline was probably hindering the aging process and reviving his youthful temple we call a body.

"You know," he stammered. "We can't get through this on our own. I need you to keep me sane in here."

"I can't believe she thought you and I were going to have sex here!" I laughed, gripping his hand back.

"Why? What's wrong with that?" he asked in a candid tone.

Guilt suddenly captivated me as I realized I just insulted him accidentally.

"Have you seen my heart rates around you? If I wasn't hooked up to this crap, I would be over there! The fact is that we can't move and if we were to try that, we'd hurt ourselves more. Plus, you would agree that ICU is very unromantic and a turnoff."

Ace was so masculine and sexy when he put on his serious front. He should know that I would've attacked him given any chance.

"I know, I know," Ace smirked, massaging my hand with his soft, eager fingers. "I'm probably making you frustrated right now. That is my intention."

"Down, boy," I sassed, rolling my eyes. "We're going to be in here for months and we'll get no treats or even tossed a simple, pleasurable bone."

"And what makes you so sure?"

"You think one day we'll both be healed in here and you'll whisk me onto your lap with such passion and we'll do it right there?"

"Isn't that what you want?"

I paused, biting my lip. The way my heart monitor raced every time he spoke showed me that I wanted something. I imagined us together in my mind. I was mounted on top of Ace as he thrust into me with the force of a frustrated stallion. My hips were bucking into his which buried him inside of me. My eyes were clenched shut, but a confident grin was plastered on my dirty, immoral face as we kept going. I could feel myself getting wet as the monitor screamed off to the world for a third time.

"I take that as a yes," Ace laughed, winking at me. "I feel like if I keep talking to you, your heart's gonna give out."

"I could honestly imagine that," I sighed, relishing in my hormonal thoughts. "Which do you prefer: rough or gentle lovemaking?"

"Depends on the situation. What do you like?"

"I wouldn't know..." I blushed. "I assume gentle, taking it a little slow in the beginning. Then when I get used to it, I guess we could go a little harder?" Was that a question aloud?

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