Tuesday Teaser–skinless by me


“Okay.”  Bret’s murmuring to herself.  “Let’s see what we are dealing with here.”
Before I can argue, Bret steers me through her house and up the stairs to her room.  The door closes and, without ceremony, she yanks the long sweater that I wear up.  The motion takes my breath.  The sweater, which is one of the softest I own, feels like shards of glass as it slides across the skin of my back.  The pain ripples across my entire body and my legs feel weak.  Bret’s gasp mingles with mine.
“Oh my god, Ankh.  What happened to you?” I can barely move my arm, so it’s bad.  Her stunned tone makes me think it’s worse than I imagined.  I feel her hand hovering above my wound, which she’s afraid to touch.
I move away from her, using my good arm to pull the sweater all the way up over my shoulder.  In the bathroom, I angle to the mirror, look over my shoulder, and understand the reason for her shock.
An angry bruise spreads across the entire left side of my back.  The skin is mottled purple, red, and black.  I reach around and touch it at the very edge. Sharp pain shoots up and down the left side of my body.
My eyes trail up to the spot where Amna operated.  That place is the angriest shade of red.  A different kind of fear enters my heart.  The seedling. I reach further and sweep a finger across the place where it nestles.  My touch barely grazes but pain rips through my body.  I scream and fall to the floor.
Bret rushes to me, calling Luca’s name.  I try to stand, but it’s useless. No matter what I do, I can’t move.  Bret wraps her arm around my waist, taking care to avoid my wound. Her touch is cool. It washes over my skin as her fingers brush against my bare waist.  The coolness is such a relief that I almost cry out.  I lean into her hands.  Luca runs in.  He too stops short when he sees my back.
“Ankh.” There’s so much in that one word.  Luca’s on his knees behind me and where Bret’s afraid, he doesn’t hesitate.  He trails one gentle finger along the upper most edge of the bruise.
I flinch against his touch and his finger stills.   Pain radiates from the place his fingertip still grazes, but there’s more than pain.  His touch doesn’t cool like Bret’s: it warms.  Somehow, though, instead of adding to the flames, his warmth quells the fire that licks my back.  It makes me weak, but that’s a good thing.  My body relaxes, the muscles release, and the pain is less.  At the same time, my strength deserts me.  I slump to the floor.

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