"You can't just ignore that he's having an affair because you love him, Donna." It was Dixie who had stepped closer to them, her hands in fists, her eyes shining with rage. She really was beautiful when she was angry. It gave her color so there was more contrast between her pale skin and dark blond hair; even her eyes were a richer blue when she was angry. The question was, why was she this angry about Donna's love life?
Donna ignored her, or maybe she was crying so hard she hadn't heard. Peter was bent over so that his head was buried on the other side of Edward's head so he couldn't see Dixie. After the damage she'd already done to him, that seemed unwise, or maybe he knew that Edward could see her, or maybe he trusted all of us. He'd literally brought the problem, Dixie, to us; maybe he did trust that we would fix it now. Looking into her fever-bright eyes, I wasn't sure that was going to work. You can't fix crazy.
Ru put a hand on Nathaniel's back and my shoulder, leaning close, and whispered, "What's wrong with her?"
I shook my head. "I don't know."
Nathaniel whispered back, "Is she going to hurt them when she gets close enough?"
Micah came in close to my side, finding my hand to hold. We all seemed to need a reassuring touch, because there was just something in her face as she crept toward them. I was really glad she didn't have a gun in that moment, because as illogical as it seemed, I wouldn't have trusted her with it. I wasn't sure she was even seeing Edward, Donna, and Peter, because her reaction didn't match the tearful forgiveness and love in front of her. Dixie looked like she saw something terrible, frightening, or even disgusting.
Bernardo moved toward them, slowly. It took me a second to realize he was trying to get between Dixie and the family. He was right; there was something wrong with the look on her face. She'd already tried to be inappropriate by telling a child personal grown-up things, and the damage she'd caused to Peter should have been reserved for someone who was hurting her.
She kept creeping closer to the family as they hugged. Bernardo kept creeping closer to her, just in case. The tension that had dissipated when they all started to hug was back, but it was a different kind of tension. Dixie wasn't done yet.
It was Lucy who stepped in, putting a hand on Bernardo's arm so he'd move and let her closer to the other woman. "Dixie," she said in a low, soothing voice. There was no reaction, as if she hadn't heard. "Dixie," Lucy repeated in a louder tone, "Dixie, look at me." Still no reaction. All Dixie's attention was aimed at the hugging family.
"You can't take him back, Donna. Don't do it. Once they cheat on you, you can never trust them again." Dixie said it as if Lucy wasn't trying to talk to her, as if there was no one in the room but her and Edward's family.
"Dixie!" Lucy said it sharp now.
Dixie blinked once, and some of the fever intensity on her face softened as she turned to look at Lucy, who was close enough to touch now. Dixie blinked again, and more of the emotional turmoil vanished from her face. She straightened her shoulders so that she wasn't hunched, but her hands stayed in fists at her sides.
"Dixie, can you hear me?" Lucy asked, voice softer again.
Dixie nodded wordlessly, but now her face looked too smooth, too empty. Her blue eyes were back to their paler shade of normal, but they were too big in her face, like people look when they're in shock. It was as if she'd expended too much emotion in the last few minutes, so she had to teeter-totter to no emotion. Whatever the rest of us thought about Donna and Edward and the kids, or how Peter had solved the problem of getting Dixie away from Becca, it wasn't how Dixie saw any of it. Something about either the coming nuptials, the supposed cheating, or the kids, or something we couldn't even guess at, touched her at levels that no one was going to understand but her.
"Dixie, honey," Lucy said, "I need you to say something, anything."
Dixie shook her head.
Lucy reached out slowly to touch her shoulder. Dixie was fine right up until her hand touched her bare arm, and then she flinched. Touch wasn't good for her right now, so Lucy drew her hand back. "Honey, Dixie, are you all right?"
She nodded, and then in a voice that was empty of all emotion but very clear, she said, "Yes."
The answer was so obviously a lie that I'd have been tempted to say, No, you're not, but Lucy was smarter than me. She said, "All right, honey, let's go back to your room. You need to shower off from the pool and get dressed."
Dixie nodded again, but her eyes were still too big, and her hands were still in fists at her sides. Something was still deeply wrong, but I had no idea what it was or how to deal with it. Lucy started trying to herd Dixie down the hallway without touching her, which is harder than it sounds, but it worked. Dixie moved ahead of her. Bernardo stepped out of the way. Dixie's eyes flickered up to him, and there was a flash of rage in her eyes. Just a blazing glimpse, and then her eyes were empty again, and she let Lucy ease her down the hallway.
Edward, Donna, and Peter, with tears still drying on two of their faces, were watching now. Edward's face showed no emotion, but Donna's showed enough for both of them. Peter just looked confused, like he was trying to figure it out. So was I, but as long as Dixie went elsewhere to calm down, I was good. I'd learned a long time ago that you can't fix everyone, but Peter was nineteen; he didn't know that yet.
"Did I do that to her?" he asked in a low voice.
"No," Edward said.
"I'm not sure," Donna said, which wasn't helpful to her son.
Peter looked at her, his face stricken. "I didn't know what else to do to keep her from telling Becca."
"I know," she said, hugging him closer. "You did the best you could."
"You were trying to remove her from the situation without hurting her," Edward said.
"Yeah," Peter said.
"But she didn't feel the same way about you," Edward said and motioned down so that they all looked at Peter's leg. There was blood actually running down his thigh from underneath the baggy swim trunks. That was some scratch.
Donna gave a little scream of panic. Not helpful. She tried to pull up the leg of his trunks, and Peter pulled away. "I can do it, Mom."
He pulled the leg of his shorts up, and it wasn't a scratch. It was a stab wound. "That wasn't done with fingernails," Rodina said.
"No," Edward said and knelt so he could see the wound better.
Donna started to cry again, as if the tears were still too close, or maybe she just didn't know what else to do. She had her moments, but unless she worked at it, she wasn't always great in an emergency.
"What did she stab you with?" Bernardo asked.
"A fountain pen," Peter said. "She grabbed it off a table as we passed it. I didn't even know she'd grabbed it until she stuck it in my leg. If it had been a real knife, she'd have really hurt me."
There was a lot more blood than I would have expected from just a fountain pen. Then the blood blurped out of the small hole. That was bad.
Edward was leaning close to the wound. He raised the hem of his white T-shirt to gently wipe away the blood. "I think a piece of the pen is still in the wound."
"I didn't think it was bleeding this much," Peter said.
"It probably wasn't," Edward said, "but the piece that broke off kept working in deeper as you walked."
"Why is the blood coming out like that?" Donna asked.
"I think the piece in his leg nicked an artery."
She made a small sound and went pale.
"Don't you dare faint," I said.
She flashed me a look that wasn't entirely friendly. "I'm allowed to be upset."
"Yeah, but if anyone gets to faint, it's Peter. It's his leg."
She frowned at me, but her color was better. Her anger with me was fine if it meant she held her shit together and didn't make the current emergency more about her.
"I'm not going to faint," Peter said.
"Bring that chair here," Edward said.
Bernardo went to get the chair that Dixie had been leaning on earlier.
"I can walk
to the chair, Ted," Peter said.
"Walking is what worked the shrapnel into your artery. No more walking until a doctor okays it."
"Doctor? I'm not that hurt."
Bernardo had the chair behind Peter, who started to sit down, but Bernardo grabbed his arm and Edward got up and took the other. "Keep the leg straight, no bending at all."
I started forward, but Nathaniel beat me to it, kneeling to help steady Peter's leg at either side of the knee so the leg stayed straight.
"You guys are scaring me."
"Good," Edward said. "We need clean towels or something to hold on the wound, but we can't press hard like normal to get the blood flow stopped."
"Will napkins do?" Rodina asked.
"Depending on what they're made of, yes," Edward said.
She went back down the hallway in search of napkins.
He called after her, "If you see a staff member, ask if they have a doctor on call for the hotel and if he's in residence. If the doctor is on site, then send him to us. If an ambulance would be quicker than a doctor, then have the staff call one."
"I'll go with her," Micah said. He kissed me on the cheek and then followed Rodina down the hallway. Bram followed them without consulting anyone. He was Micah's shadow, period.
"An ambulance?" Peter said. "She put a fountain pen in my leg, not a blade. If I need stitches, can't you just drive me?"
Edward slipped his white T-shirt off completely, flashing that unexpectedly great upper body again. He knelt and put the white cloth carefully over the wound. We needed to get the bleeding stopped, but we didn't want to press on the piece of shrapnel and force it to tear the artery more. The white shirt started turning scarlet. Peter's foot twitched and the shirt was suddenly heavy with blood, as if a lot of it had come out in an instant.
"Did it hurt when I touched the wound?" Edward asked.
"Not much, but I'm having trouble keeping my foot still."
I knelt behind Nathaniel and supported Peter's foot on my knee. He looked embarrassed. "You don't have to do all this. I've been hurt a lot worse than this before."
He was right. I'd seen him in the hospital after a weretiger had cut him up. He'd been sixteen and done it to save me after the same tiger had nearly gutted me. Why was it that almost every time I saw Peter something bad happened to him?