Chapter 15

The next morning…

Mike had been pacing Matt’s apartment for most of the night. He had tried as best he could to keep the ailing man comfortable and his fever down but wasn’t very successful at either task. When he returned to Matt’s apartment the previous evening he figured that whatever happened between him and Ellen couldn’t have been good. Matt didn’t go into any detail with Mike, not that he was in any condition to do so even if he wanted to. The older gentleman could discern from the sorrow in his eyes and his constantly repeating ‘I’m sorry Ellen’ during the course of the evening and early morning hours that whatever happened was pretty bad. For his own selfish reasons Mike really hoped that Ellen would be there when he returned. He knew how important she was to Matt and he really wanted the young man he had come to regard as a son to be happy. Still more important than that, Matt needed a doctor in the worst way and though Mike did his best, he was not a doctor and Matt’s deteriorating condition was making that abundantly clear. Ellen needed to be there. As much as Matt thought his ‘protecting her’ was for the best his condition was making Mike think twice about that decision. Matt loved Ellen and her concern told Mike she was feeling the same way, and in his mind she deserved to know the truth. Mike’s dilemma as he continued to pace the floor was did he have the right to tell Ellen this truth.

Now lying in bed Matt continued with his mumblings of regret to an absent Ellen. Mike came over to him and taking the washcloth from the wash basin on the nightstand wiped the young man’s brow.

"Matt, buddy hey. I’m doing my best here but I really don’t think my best is good enough," Mike said as he dabbed at the sweat that ran along the side of Matt’s face. Sweating was supposed to be a sign of a fever breaking but Matt was still burning up Mike thought as he continued to tend to him.

"Ellen, I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry Ellen, I’m so sorry," Matt continued to murmur weakly.

Mike tried to offer some comforting words but they had no impression on Matt. Just as it had been over the past several hours the routine was the same. Matt would utter his apologies to Ellen, Mike would try to soothe him, and then from his exhaustion Matt would fall asleep for a short while.

Mike went on his was to cleaning and changing the bandages of Matt’s wound when he drifted off to sleep this last time. He didn’t have to see the wound to know that it had gotten much worse. The prescription Matt had as well as the antibacterial ointment Mike purchased seemed to have very little effect on his condition at all. The bandage that had been changed just over four hours before was now covered in blood. Removing the bandage Mike detected that the area surrounding the wound had taken on a more reddish appearance and the wound itself was becoming a reddish white and clear secretions were oozing from it.

"This is so bad," Mike declared in a worried whisper. The internal battle he had been waging had met a resolution. He told Matt he wouldn’t take him to the hospital and he wouldn’t but Ellen had already been there so calling her again would not be breaking his promise. Matt needed help and Ellen was the only person he trusted that could give him that. He’d have to face Matt’s wrath for this but at this moment Mike would welcome that if it meant Matt’s life would be saved. Walking into the living room Mike went to the phone to give Ellen a call. Punching in the seven digits he silently prayed that whatever happened between her and Matt wouldn’t deter her from coming to his rescue in his extreme time of need.

Ellen’s mind continued to replay the many different events that occurred in the past 24 hours as she lie awake in bed. The morning had started in a positive way. She had decided to move on…finally. She had made peace with the idea of letting Sam go and introducing love back into her life. She had an extremely emotional but necessary talk with her mother, where the deep-seated feelings she had been harboring were laid out on the table. Sure no conclusion of living happily ever after with her mother was reached, but the chance of maybe attaining that someday was now available. Then she got the *phone call* and everything became skewed.

She felt like such a fool. Reaching for a Kleenex she wiped away the tears that stained her cheeks then discarded it into the wastebasket along with all the others she’d used during her sleepless night. Were the signs there all before and she just didn’t see them? She and Matt had their close moments but those didn’t define the relationship they had. Relationship? That was laughable to her now, but he was so convincing. He made her believe that they could have something special together. She’d be lying to herself if she didn’t admit that she thought they already had it. He helped her throughout the Greg Cooper ordeal and comforted her and listened to her when her mother came back into her life. He was a friend to her…a good friend. He made her laugh when she didn’t want to. He gave her advice when she didn’t want it, he was just always there for her and never once did she get the impression that it was for no other reason than that he cared about her and that he wanted her to be happy.

Oh he wanted something all right, but it wasn’t her happiness, it was *her*, literally. He wanted sex and he made no bones about that. She was merely a challenge to him. "Grrrrr!!!!" she groaned angrily tossing a pillow across the room. "This doesn’t make any sense!" she screamed.

Taking some deep breaths she told herself to calm down as she once again rehashed the scene at Matt’s apartment. He was sick, he was very sick, that was glaringly apparent. Her instincts about his welfare as she made her way from the city were dead on, she knew something was wrong. Mike didn’t want her to come into the apartment even when he promised he would call her when he heard from Matt. The more she thought about it the stranger this situation got.

What happened to him? Even with all the scandalous words Matt spewed he never did explain that, and whenever she pressed the issue he would just become more vulgar as if he wanted to leave her in the dark and push her away. His words cut her and left her feeling hurt and extremely confused, wanting to do nothing more than get as far away from him as fast she could. In hindsight she knew her leaving so abruptly was done in haste. He was not himself. Before he left on his mysterious trip he told her that it was a family emergency. Maybe that was the one grain of truth in everything that was said. In all the conversations she had with Matt and his family came up the end result was always the same. He said they wanted nothing to do with him and if they did reach out to him it wouldn’t be a positive thing. Was it because of his injury? And just who were the men who picked him up?

Ellen was beginning to see that the old adage was true, love does wreak havoc with the intellect. The woman that had grown to care so deeply for this man could not see past her own pain in the way he treated her to see something was totally amiss. What mattered was that she was hurt and it was he who had hurt her. Suddenly it dawned on her that no matter what he said last night she knew him better than that. It was then the words Matt shared with her the evening before requesting time off sprang to her mind. ‘Ellen what we have is more than just a physical attraction. I have very strong feelings for you and I’ll never hurt you, I just want you to give me a chance to prove it.’ Ellen shook her head. She didn’t imagine the feelings he had for her. He did care and for some reason he was pushing her away, but why? What happened between that moment and last night to change everything so drastically? What really happened to him and why didn’t he want to go to the hospital when that was where he needed to be?

While wracking her brain for answers of some kind the phone rang. Something told her that call was about Matt. With the caller-ID confirming her suspicion, it was on the third ring that she was able to compose herself enough to answer the phone.

"Matt?" she said, her voice extremely shaky.

"No Ellen it’s Mike. You gotta come over here right now and bring your medical bag. Matt needs you. He needs you in the worst way, " Mike said as his worried eyes focused on the extremely ill Matt.