Book Excerpt: LOVE’S TETHERED HEART by C L Etta

51br1r9nfdlIn this scene, Danny is interviewing Mico and they were joking and laughing. Mico’s ventilator delivered a breath at an inopportune time and Mico needs Danny’s help.

“Jeez, I give up. You’re too quick for me, Mico, and this interview has totally disintegrated into song title chaos.” Laughing and shaking my head at our inanity, I tried to set my hilarity aside and to reacquire my professional demeanor. I glanced at Mico to ask him a question and saw his nose twitching back and forth and up and down.

“Do you think you can do me a favor, Danny?”

“Sure. What do you need?”

“Can you grab Santiago for me? That last snort got a little messy, and I need him to clean me up a little.”

“Aw, there’s no need to bother him. Let me help.”

“You sure?” His uncertainty lay in his eyes, but then he twitched his nose again, clearly uncomfortable.

“Tell me what to do.”

“Grab a couple of tissues from the box on the table and help me clean my nose, if you don’t mind. There are vinyl gloves as well.” He bit his lip and twitched his nose once again.

I donned the gloves, pulled the tissues from their box, and stood in front of Mico, awaiting further instructions. I saw the mucus on his upper lip, but before I could swipe it with the tissues, he said, “You know, Ry never would have done this for me. You’re amazing, Danny. I need my nose wiped like a booger-smeared two-year-old, and you volunteer without a second thought.”

I wondered about “Ry” and made a mental note to ask at the first opportunity.

I cleaned him up and removed my gloves by pulling one over the used tissues in my hand, then placing that glove in the palm of my hand and pulling the other glove over it. I caught Mico’s wide-eyed expression as he observed me. “My mother’s a nurse,” I offered as an explanation. “She taught me the correct way, the safe way, to remove gloves when handling potentially infectious tissues. She’s actually a bit of a germophobe. Makes you wonder why she’s a nurse, doesn’t it?”

“Well, I imagine she’s very good at her job and very conscientious. It was frightening to live among the things I observed while hospitalized. I’m lucky I didn’t develop a raging infection after the months I spent incarcerated.” “You mean incapacitated?”

“No, Danny. Incarcerated. The first month I was so disoriented— what with the drugs and concussion—I didn’t know up from down. When I was lucid again, I felt incapacitated, but by the third month I felt as if I had been sentenced to solitary confinement.”

“What do you mean?”

“At first my friends visited or checked in with Dad or me on a regular basis. My boyfriend was by my side through it all. But by the third month, people began to dwindle away while they led their busy lives. Dad stayed away more and more too. I can’t blame him, though. Witnessing me existing but not living while he was still mourning Mom took its toll. Hearing and seeing him struggle to find excuses for why he didn’t visit became too painful for me to watch. So I quit asking.”

“What about your boyfriend?” Wondering whether this was Ry, I pushed. “What became of him?”

“Let’s just say he never aspired to become a prison warden and leave it there, for now. Besides, it’s getting late, and it takes Santiago at least an hour to prepare me for bed. Why don’t we meet again tomorrow—say around ten? It will still be cool enough that we can sit outdoors and talk.”

“That’s perfect, Mico. I’ll let myself out and send Santiago back to you. Pleasant dreams, buddy.”

I returned to the resort, dropped twenty bucks into a stingy slot machine, and then went to the bar. Chris was working, and with a welcoming smile, he poured me a frosty beer. The couple at the end of the bar got up and left. After he picked up their glassware, he kept me occupied with stories of his last, bad boyfriend, his coming out, and the gay nightlife in Albuquerque. Chris’s easy chatter helped pass the time and kept my mind off my ever-growing attraction to Mico.

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