Chapter 13

"I’m waiting Matt, start talking," Mike pressed his friend. "There is something going on with you and I want to help. Matt talk to me," he insisted.


Matt finally relented. "Okay there is something, but I don’t want to get you involved and I definitely don’t want you to get Ellen involved," he said shifting ever so slightly on the sofa as his wound continued to throb painfully.


"I don’t mind getting involved. Matt you look like hell. What happened?"


"There was an accident. I’ve already been to a hospital, nothing is broken I’m just a little sore. I was feeling better so I decided to come home."


"If this is better I hate to see how you were right after it happened. You look a lot more than just a little sore. What kind of accident were you in and what hospital would let you leave in this kind of shape?"


"It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you understand I’m okay, you don’t push this, and you leave Ellen out of it. I know what I’m doing Mike you have to trust me."


"I do trust you. What I want is for you to trust me. You’re in something deep. I know how to keep my mouth shut and I have a lot of connections, I can help you."


"Helping me would be to leave this alone. I just need to rest," Matt said his eyes fluttering closed.

"I don’t like the way you look. Why won’t you let me call Ellen?"


Matt’s eyes flew open. "Haven’t you been listening to me?!" he thundered. "I don’t want her involved in this. I don’t want anyone involved in this." The sound of his brother’s taunting words from his earlier hellish dream echoing in his head. ‘You think you can protect her? You know better than that; you can’t even protect yourself. Besides, you didn’t even see me coming. Third time’s the charm Eric and this time there will be no survivors.’

"What the hell is *this*. Not having anyone involved is one thing, but letting yourself die to protect whatever *this* is not worth it."


"I’m not going to die," Matt grumbled, slowly pulling the cover over his body as chills wracked his body, wincing with every movement he made.


"Not if you get some help you won’t," Mike returned, shaking his head in disgust at Matt’s bullheaded behavior. "I promised Ellen I would call her when I heard from you," he revealed.


"As for as I’m concerned you haven’t heard from me. I don’t want you calling her," Matt firmly asserted.


"Well then you call her because I’m not going to lie to her. If you want to you can, but you didn’t see her face, I did. She cares about you Matt and she is worried sick for you, so if she asks me I’m going to tell her the truth. Now if you don’t want her to come over, that’s fine but you will call her and let her know something or I will," Mike vowed pushing the envelope but feeling he had no choice, at least this will prompt Matt to do something.


"Fine, I’ll call her later," Matt said closing his eyes, hoping those untrue words would finally get Mike to back off.


"No, you’ll call her now," Mike said retrieving the paper with Ellen’s cell number from his back pocket.


"Mike I’ll call her later," Matt said the desperation in his voice unmistakable.


"I don’t believe you. When I hear you tell her you’re back in town and ‘okay’," stressing the okay, "I’ll leave and let you finish killing yourself," he remarked flippantly standing up and reaching for the cordless phone. After punching in the seven digits and hearing the shrill sound of ringing on his end Mike handed Matt the phone.


Matt stared at the phone for several seconds and with great effort took it from Mike’s hand and placed it at his right ear. For the briefest of moments he thought he might be able to do it…come up with something to tell her, but after hearing Ellen’s voice on the other end he knew he couldn’t. Bobby’s voice continued to play in his head. Quickly he ended the call before saying anything. "I can’t do it," Matt said dropping the phone to the couch. "He’ll kill her," he muttered hoarsely.


"Who’ll kill her? Matt just please tell me. Let me help you," Mike pleaded as he once again took a seat on the coffee table.


"Okay, okay," Matt said through the newly developed knot in his throat. "It’s the Mancusis."


"Mancusis? As in the Philadelphia mob Mancusis?"


"Yeah," Matt answered nodding his head.


"How did you get mixed up with them?" Mike asked still reeling from what Matt had just said.


"Not by choice I tell you. I’m one of them," Matt explained reading the shock still registered on Mike’s face. "You can’t choose your family right," Matt retorted. "It all started when…"


*****************

"Ellen I’m…I’m sorry," Alice said as she furiously wiped away at her free flowing tears.

Ellen took a seat on the bed next to her mother. "You don’t have to keep saying that."


"I don’t know what else I can say. I’ve caused you so much pain, and when you needed me most I wasn’t there for you. No wonder you hate me," Alice finished before being wracked with sobs.


"Mother I don’t hate you. I don’t hate you. I have my issues with you, yes, but if I didn’t love you there wouldn’t be any issue now would there?"


Alice turned her gaze to her daughter.


"You told me once that I had hardened myself. You were right, I had, and it was for the exact reasons you stated. If I didn’t care about anyone I wouldn’t get hurt. Problem is I never learned how to stop caring, although I put up a very good front. For the most part it kept people from getting too close to me and me from getting close to them but I’m finding that my tough as nails attitude doesn’t work on everybody," Ellen said her thoughts drifting to Matt for the briefest moment.


"Does that mean there’s a sliver of hope for us to have a relationship?" Alice asked praying for some shred of a possibility to hold on to.


"That means I’ve come to believe in second chances. I can’t tell you ‘Yes we can build a relationship’ because I don’t know. As I told you I have things to work through where you and I are concerned, and when I’ve worked them out I don’t know where that will leave us so I can’t promise you anything. What I can do is be civil to you and call or come by to see how you’re doing because I do love you…I just have to learn how to like you again. I’m sorry if that hurts you but it’s the truth." Standing up from the bed, "I should be going now," Ellen said.


Alice rose along with Ellen and took her hand. "Well it does hurt, but according to the saying it’s suppose to. After all I put you through whatever bit of your time you give me I’ll cherish it, at the same time I’ll hope and pray that one day we can at least be friends."


"I guess we’ll have to wait and see," Ellen returned walking into the living room as her cell phone began to ring. Maybe it was Matt calling or Mike calling about Matt she silently hoped. At the third ring she had made it over to the corner chair and to her purse. "Hello," she anxiously said. "Hello," she repeated. The next thing she heard was a dial tone.


Looking at the screen on her phone she checked for the name and number of the last caller, it was Matt’s.


Ellen wondered to herself why he didn’t say anything.


Reading her daughter’s perplexed reaction Alice inquired as to whether anything was wrong. "Is there a problem Ellen?"


"I don’t know," Ellen replied. "I have to go," she said putting her phone back into her purse and reaching for her jacket. "Don’t overwork or overtire yourself okay. I’ll call you."

As Ellen was leaving Winston was coming in. "How is everything?" Winston asked his mother as he stared daggers at Ellen.


"Goodbye Winston," Ellen sneered as she pushed past her brother and out the door.


After placing the bags in the kitchen Winston came back to the living room anxious to know what transpired between Ellen and their mother.


"So, is everything okay?" he asked.


"Maybe okay is not the right word…yet," Alice answered, "but hopefully in time, it will be," she said going back to her room.


****************

"This is bad," Mike summed up after Matt finished sharing his story.


"It hasn’t gotten bad yet," Matt informed his friend shivering from his high temperature.

"I know it can get a lot worse before it gets better. This is why I don’t want Ellen involved. Promise me you won’t call her."


Mike nodded his head, "Alright, I won’t."


"Thank you. I have to protect Ellen at all costs."


"Even if it means you have to shut her out of your life? Matt she’ll want to help you, she’ll…" Mike’s words were interrupted.

"She’ll lose her life," Matt told him. "I don’t want to do this but I have to. I told you I was in an accident, the accident being I didn’t get killed in that explosion like those two marshals that were guarding me did."


"That can still happen Matt. Buddy you look terrible. I can tell you’re in a world a pain and that wound is ghastly," he said staring at the blood-covered bandage on Matt’s upper chest. "You need to be in a hospital. I’m not a doctor but can’t that wound get infected? You’re burning up with fever now, maybe it already is."


"Mike you know the hospital is not an option for me. I can take care of this. There’s a list of things I need and a prescription on the table by the door, think you can go to the pharmacy for me?"


"You know I can, but with the way you look I don’t want to leave you by yourself," Mike explained. "You don’t look well."


"I’ll be fine, I just need to rest. I’m so tired," Matt weakly shared, barely able to keep his eyes open.


"Save your strength, however much you have. I’ll be back as soon as I can," he said picking up the list and prescription as he headed out the back entrance of Matt’s apartment.


Mike was not quite out the door when Ellen approached.


"Ellen," he said nervously.

"Mike what were you doing in there? I got a call from here, is Matt back?" she asked straining to look into the room from the half-opened door as Matt rested in a semi-conscious state of delirium on the couch a few feet away.

 


616