The following scene takes place after Chapter 49 of Fierce Dancer and before Chapter 50. In the 1 to 3 months after the raid of f*ckbucket’s estate. This scene will obviously contain spoilers for Fierce Dancer and you shouldn’t read it if you have not read that book.
Note: This scene is brought to you because of a Review Challenge. What is that? And also, please be aware that spoilers may lie ahead.
It was a beautiful day. The sun warmed my face and I’d tucked the hat on after Rome squinted at me then the sky. Yes, I could get a sunburn if I wasn’t careful. The hat and the sunglasses were protective, but I was enjoying sitting there on the sun-warmed concrete steps while he worked on his project.
I’d almost hated the idea of leaving the clubhouse earlier. No, not almost. I’d definitely hated the idea. I wanted to be there for Vaughn, for Freddie, for Jasper and Liam. There was so much still to do. Kellan and Mickey were both overdoing it. Everyone was. They needed me to be there, but Rome said we needed to go out.
He looked right at me and said, “I need you with me.”
Five words detonated all of my resistance. He waited patiently while I made a point of telling everyone. Liam and Kel got texts cause they weren’t there. Then Liam called Rome and all Rome had said to him was, “No,” before he hung up again. I didn’t ask what Liam wanted to know, but I could guess.
None of us wanted to be out of sight of the others for too long. None of us. I wasn’t the only one holding on tight. The need to protect them wasn’t going anywhere and I caught all of them checking on me as regularly. Were we holding on too tight?
I didn’t care. I needed to hold onto them and I needed them holding onto me in return. It was who we were. Yet, even understanding that, I tilted my head back so I could soak up more of the day’s heat. It was quiet here in the abandoned park with just the hum of traffic in the distance. I thought I could hear kids, but they weren’t coming down to the court with its cracked and broke pavement.
This was the first spot Rome had taken me all those months ago when I fist came to stay with the Vandals. Stay—like I’d been a guest. I mean, I was a guest to them but not to me. Oh, it didn’t matter anymore. We’d seen things differently and now we didn’t. But this had been the first place Rome took me when he helped me get out of the clubhouse.
It had been a lot colder that day, but I’d savored the time then. Even more, I’d gotten to enjoy him painting and it had been so beautiful. Then later the Diamonds had shown up and Rome protected me. Their arrival had nearly spoiled a beautiful day.
Being back here after all this time was kind of revelatory. I knew my place and my value. I belonged here. It never occurred to me that Rome hadn’t come back to finish the piece he’d been working on, but it didn’t seem any different from the day when we’d been here. Once I was settled, he went to work and now, that beach scene grew following the landscape around like a crescent to where a city rested in the distance.
A scrape of a shoe alerted me to a new arrival and I twisted. The sun was right in my eyes but another step and Bodhi’s shadow blocked it out. Relief bounced through me. It had been a few weeks since I’d seen him. He’d been stabbed at least twice and Mickey had to dig four bullets out of him.
I pushed to my feet and went straight to him. “I hope you’re a hugger,” I warned him before I offered him one. Thankfully, he didn’t reject it or act like it was unwelcome. Instead, he just returned the hug with the same care I offered it. Then I leaned back to study him.
“Hey PPG,” he said then looked past me. “Rome.”
I twisted to find Rome studying us both then he tilted his head as his gaze met mine. Did I need him?
I smiled. Always. But Bodhi was a friend and Rome could keep painting if he wanted.
He nodded then lifted his chin toward Bodhi before he turned back to his work.
I retreated a step and glanced at Bodhi again, he wasn’t looking at me but at Rome and the artwork. “He’s good.”
“The best,” I agreed. When I motioned to the steps, he followed me over and then sat down with care. If I hadn’t been watching for it, I didn’t think I’d have noticed the stiffness. His movements lacked some of the casual, almost fluid grace, he usually moved with and who could blame him? “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” he said it almost automatically, like he’d had to answer the question many times. “Healing.”
“I’m glad. I was worried about you and I’m so sorry you got hurt.”
“I’m not,” Bodhi answered with a shrug. “We got the son of a bitch. You’re better, yeah?”
I turned that over in my head, the question, the feelings— “Mostly,” I admitted. “And I have time now.”
Time to heal. Uncle Fuckbucket was gone. He couldn’t hurt me ever again. The nightmares might never go away fully, but knowing he couldn’t come back? That was good.
That was real good.
“Then worth it,” Bodhi said.
“Thank you,” I told him. “I don’t know if I’ve really ever said it before—maybe I did.” So much had happened. “But thank you. For Pinetree. For finding my mom. For coming here to help. For caring about Freddie. Thank you for all of it.”
Bodhi nodded. “You’re welcome.”
So simple, yet, so much was there.
“I’m gonna go now,” he said, almost conversationally. “I came to see Doc, he wanted to check the wounds. Told me to take it easy. I will, got things to do though. Not sure when I’ll be back this way. You guys are okay now.”
Freddie and me. Yeah, I heard it. “I’ll take care of him,” I promised. I didn’t need to understand the bond between Freddie and Bodhi. It existed. They cared. That was all that mattered.
“If he needs me,” Bodhi said, locking gazes with me. “Or you do. Call. I’ll always come.”
“You’re a good friend.” A great one. “You know the same goes for you, right? If you need us?”
“What Starling said,” Rome interjected without looking away from the art. “You’re not a Vandal, but you’re one of us.”
Bodhi studied Rome for a long time, saying nothing, then he looked at me and smiled. “One of them.”
“Us,” I corrected. “One of us.”
“I like it.” He stood, the stiffness reflected in the way he stretched. “See you around, PPG.”
“You too, Bodhi.”
Then he walked away, drifting out the way he’d drifted in. He didn’t have to come here to say goodbye. But I bet he’d already talked to Freddie, probably before he came here. Talked to him and made sure he was okay. Looking away from where Bodhi went, I went back to watching Rome paint.
We all had trauma. We were all healing.
We had the time to do it now.
“He’s never going to call us,” I said to Rome. “Is he?”
Rome paused, head half-turned so he could look at me. “We’ll help him anyway.”
Yes we would.