When Evil Comes To Play – B.L. Brunnemer

I HAVE ALWAYS HATED GOİNG to the doctor. Dad had to practically drag me in just for a checkup when I was a kid. It still sucked at seventeen. I turned and paced to the other side of the sterile exam room. White walls, motel art paintings, health posters, and magazines. I hated these rooms, especially the smell of industrial cleaner. Of course, the reason I was here didn’t help. Rory watched as I walked across the small room again. “Lexie, calm down,” he reminded me. Rory was a good-looking guy in his late forties; he had the Delaney copper hair, a friendly, open face and calm brown eyes. How could he be calm? Dr. Peltier had asked me to come in immediately, even scheduling the appointment after his usual office hours. That wasn’t a good sign. Didn’t Rory see that? “Trying,” I muttered as I turned and crossed the room again. “Why’d you have me do the damn scans?” He sighed.

“Because you were jumped twice since your last one,” he reminded me. I cursed under my breath. “Davis wasn’t bad,” I told him. “No, but the bowling alley was,” he shot back. I turned again. His eyes met mine. “We need to keep an eye on it, Lexie.” I shook my head. Yeah, I was probably going to die before I hit thirty. That didn’t mean I needed to be reminded of it all the fucking time.

The door finally opened and Dr. Peltier came in. He was wearing his usual slacks and a button-down shirt. His white hair was short, and overall he looked a little rumpled from the day’s work. He pushed silver-rimmed glasses up his sharp nose before he gave me a gentle smile as he closed the door. “How are we today?” “She’s a little tense,” Rory pointed out. I rolled my eyes. No fucking shit. “Lexie, have a seat and we’ll get started,” Dr. Peltier said as he pulled out a pen light.

Cursing under my breath, I sat on the exam table and tried not to squirm. Dr. Peltier moved in front of me. “How are you feeling?” “Fine,” I bit out. He raised an eyebrow and met my eyes. “No bouts of exhaustion for no reason? No balance problems? Changes in your hand dexterity?” I swallowed hard. “I get really tired and have to stop what I’m doing sometimes.” But it was only after crossing the dead, and it was since I started taking more than twentyfive souls at one time. Well, sort of… Peltier flashed the light in my eyes. “How often is sometimes?” I gritted my teeth.

“Twice a day for the last month or so.” I was starting to need an afternoon cup of coffee just to get through school lately. He nodded as if he expected it. He turned off the light and stepped back. “Well, first let’s discuss your throat MRI.” He tucked the pen back in his pocket. “Your voice clearly still hasn’t healed. It looks like some of the nerve endings have died off from the continuous strain. Which means no more shouting and no more yelling. Shouting will just put even more strain on your vocal chords and cause more damage.

Do you understand?” “Yeah,” I muttered. Dr. Peltier moved to sit on the rolling stool and woke up the computer. “Now, your CT scan and head MRI.” He brought up several images and turned to us. “The necrotic lesion on your cerebellum has grown, Lexie. It is now roughly the size of a small gumball.” Everything went silent. The world stopped. Dr.

Peltier kept talking. “This means there is more damage than before.” His gray eyes ran over my face before turning to Rory. It had grown. Yeah, I knew it would, but… not so soon. I stared at the image of my brain on the screen. And the black spot that was killing me. It shouldn’t be this big already… it couldn’t be… “What… what are we looking at in the future?” Rory asked, his voice strained. “If more dead tissue accumulates?” Dr. Peltier asked.

“Yeah,” Rory said. I continued staring at the screen as they talked around me. “If it continues, Lexie is going to experience balance issues, walking difficulties, and her fine motor skills will disappear. As more tissue dies off, her basic motor functions will go. Beyond that…” —the doctor sighed— “involuntary responses such as breathing will deteriorate until she will need a ventilator to breathe for her. Eventually her heart will stop, but by then the damage will be so severe that you won’t recognize her as Lexie anymore.” “So, if the damage stops?” Rory asked. “It depends on what stage Lexie is in when it stops,” Peltier hedged. “We need to make some decisions about treatment; how aggressive are we going to be, where her limit is, what does she want to do? And we need to make them now.” The guys… my chest burned.

“Last time you said there wasn’t a treatment, what changed?” Rory asked. “We don’t know what is causing this. All her tests are clean. I have consulted with a neurosurgeon in Missoula about Lexie’s case. He might be able to remove the dead tissue and stop the progress,” Dr. Peltier explained. “It’s the only treatment available that he thinks will have any kind of effect.” I swallowed hard. “How much time does she have to make these decisions?” Rory’s voice was calm. “This week.

If she wants to try surgery we need her scheduled as soon as possible,” Peltier explained. No. No. No. This was not happening. My pulse pounded in my ears. I started to shake my head. “There’s gotta be a mistake, doc. I feel fine.” Dr.

Peltier’s gaze met mine. “There isn’t.” He moved to the side of the screen showing my MRI results. He pointed at the dot. “You can see for yourself. The lesion of necrotic tissue has grown.” “Then they made a mistake at the hospital,” I tried again. “That’s not my scan.” “Lexie…” Rory’s gentle voice had me turning my head. “No!” I snapped as I shoved off the table and stormed out of the room and then out of the office.

This was not happening. It was not! Things were good for once! For the first time in my life, I haven’t been miserable! I paced in the parking lot. It couldn’t be happening so fucking soon. No way… I had more time! Rory came out of the building with several pamphlets. I stopped and crossed my arms over my chest. “Lexie,” he said, his voice gentle. “There was no mistake—” “There has to be,” I insisted, my voice shaking. I looked around, desperate to get away. “Let’s go home. I gotta…” I swallowed hard.

“I gotta finish Miles’ birthday present.” I turned away and got into the truck without another word. Rory didn’t say anything when he got into the truck and started for home. The drive was silent. When we reached the house, I barely waited long enough for him to turn off the truck before I was out and heading for the door. Hades jumped off the couch and ran to me. I reached down and gave him some love. The dog had gone through another growth spurt. His head was at my hip now, and he’d gained almost another fifty pounds. What would happen to my baby? My chest was on fire.

I shoved the thought away. I started up the stairs. “Lexie…” Rory’s voice was strained. “No,” I bit out as I kept going. I waited until Hades came in and sat on the folded-up futon to close the door. It had finally gotten to the point where I needed a bed big enough for Hades to sleep on without knocking me to the floor. A few months ago, Miles had suggested a futon so I could fold it away during the day and still walk around my room. It worked perfectly. I went straight to my desk and started pulling out my painting supplies. Miles’ birthday was in a few days and I was planning on giving him a painted glasses case.

Pushing everything out of my mind, I picked up the simple blank metal eyeglass case from the store. I pulled up pictures of the Aurora Borealis on my laptop. Running through them, I found one that looked amazing and started painting. For two hours I focused on keeping my brush strokes precise as I painted the snowy mountains and the brilliant lights in the sky above them. My phone rang, making me jump. “Yeah?” I answered as I checked the eyeglass case for damage. “Hey, Lexie.” Riley’s voice filled my ear. “How’d it go?” I hesitated to answer. Yeah, I had told Riley about the spot on my brain.

But… this… I didn’t want to talk about it. “Fine,” I muttered. “Fine?” Riley asked. “My voice is still messed up,” I admitted. “The other one was fine.” I swallowed hard. I needed to change the subject. “So, when am I going to meet this guy you’ve been crushing on?” She sighed. “When I know there’s something there.” “You won’t know until you try.

” I smiled as I started cleaning my brush. “Neither will you,” she reminded me. My smile dimmed. “I’m fine, Riley. Don’t worry about me. I want to hear more about this awesome guy.” She sighed. She must have realized I wasn’t going to budge, because she started telling me about the guy she’d been crushing on for a month now. She was so into this guy that it made me smile. It was normal.

And I desperately needed it right now. Rory I CLOSED the door on the delivery guy and took the pizzas to the table where the pamphlets were spread out. With a heavy heart, I pulled out dishes and took them to the table. Only then did I realize that I had ordered enough pizza for the guys. I snorted. Those boys were usually here on pizza night. I hadn’t even thought about it. In fact… I looked at the stairs. Maybe I should call them. I looked back at the pamphlets on the table.

After our talk. “Lexie! Dinner!” I shouted with a vise in my chest. This was going to be a shitty talk. I went back to the kitchen and pulled out the parmesan cheese and pepper flakes. By the time I walked back, Lexie was starting to sit down. I set them down and took my seat. We were silent as we started eating. Lexie kept her eyes on her plate and off the pamphlets in front of me. She ate mechanically, as if she didn’t even taste it. I hated to do it, but… “Lexie…” She kept her eyes on the table.

“We need to talk about what you’d want if”—I swallowed hard— “if the damage gets worse.” “No,” she stated, still looking at her plate. My chest burned. Shit. “There wasn’t a mistake—” “I’m not doing this now,” she growled quietly. She lifted her head and her eyes met mine. “I just… need time.” I weighed what Peltier had said with what she needed. It wasn’t fair to make her talk about it now, but… time wasn’t on our side. Then again, it was her body.

Her life. “A few days. Then I need to know what you want to do.” She nodded before she got to her feet and took her dish into the kitchen. She silently took Hades into the backyard. I rested my elbows on the table and buried my face in my hands. My chest was one deep ache. I took slow, deep breaths as my eyes burned. Lexie was going to die. Soon.

I had to face it. She should have more fucking time! Hot tears rolled down my face. She was going to have to wear her beads all the time. It was the only thing that had ever worked before. Surgery might work, but only as a stopgap. We both knew it. I wiped my face and looked up. “Henry, man,” I whispered, hoping he’d hear me. “If you got any pull up there, use it. Your baby girl… she’s struggling down here.

And there’s nothing I can…” I looked back down at the table as fresh tears flowed. I was going to lose her, too. Knock it off, Rory! I cursed. She’s the one dying, not you! She needs your help to deal with this. She’s a fucking kid! I dropped my hands to the table and kept mentally yelling at myself. You can break later. Right now, Lexie’s the one struggling. She doesn’t need your shit too! That did it. I wiped my face and took several deep breaths until I had control. I looked out the doors and spotted Lexie lying on the dock, looking up at the sky with Hades beside her.

She was probably thinking her life was over. But she still had time. She wasn’t alone. I pulled out my phone and texted Miles. Rory: What is everyone up to tonight? It didn’t take long for a response. Miles: Zeke is working, everyone else is at home. Rory: Tell everyone there’s pizza at the house, I ordered too much. Miles: LOL. The twins will get there first. Rory: I’ll hide a couple pizzas from them.

Miles: I’ll let them know. I smiled. The guys would be here soon. I got to my feet and went out back. She didn’t move as I came to sit next to her. “Talk to me, kid,” I told her gently. “About what?” Her voice was rough. “Anything,” I bit out. What the fuck was I supposed to say? There weren’t instructions here. “Why now?” she asked in a whisper.

“For years I expected it and it never happened. But now… now, I’m living my life. Things are okay. Why fucking now?” “We never know when it’s going to happen. You could still have years. You might have to slow down to get them, but… you are still alive now.” “I don’t want to think about this, Rory,” she told me. “I know, but you need to soon,” I said quietly. “I hate to say it, but you do.” “Just… not today,” she said.

I nodded. “Not today.” I squeezed her shoulder and got to my feet. “The guys will be here soon.” I walked back into the house and picked up the pamphlets, staring sightlessly at them for a moment. I took them upstairs and placed them in her desk drawer. There was a knock on the front door. “Open the door, Miles!” I shouted as I started down the stairs. The front door opened. Miles stepped in, uncomfortable about walking in as usual.

The kid spent enough time here to have his own key, you’d think occasionally he’d use the damn thing. Those sharp eyes ran over my face and then grew blank. “Is everything alright?” Miles asked carefully. I gave him a grin and headed for the dinner table. “Yeah, fine. Pizza is here.” He eyed me, his lips moving into a tight line. “Where’s Lexie?” I met his gaze. “She’s on the dock with Hades.” Miles moved to look out the glass French doors.

“How was her appointment?” “Ask her,” I told him. His eyes shot to me, then he was moving out the door in a heartbeat. I grinned. I liked that kid. Lexie SWEAT RAN DOWN MY NECK. This heat wave was killer and it was only the beginning of summer. I was so deep in my head that I didn’t know I had company until I smelled wintergreen. Miles sat beside me and looked down at me. His face was lit up by the fading sun. His high cheekbones and angled jaw gave him a cute face.

His wavy brown hair was curling again; he needed another trim. His emerald green eyes watched me from behind his black-rimmed glasses. He was leaner than the other boys, but his shoulders were still broad with some muscle to them. “Are you alright?” he asked immediately, his voice a quiet timbre. I kept my eyes on the mix of colors in the sky. “Yeah. Fine” His eyes narrowed. “Whenever you say ‘fine,’ you’re usually lying.” My eyes jumped to his. “What?” He grinned sweetly down at me.

“It’s just something I’ve noticed. How did the doctor appointment go?” I swallowed hard and looked back up at the sky. “My voice is still messed up, only permanently. Now we’re just trying to stop any more damage.” “I’m sorry, Lexie,” he said in that silky-smooth voice of his. “Me too,” I whispered, my eyes burning. He reached over and gently took my hand off my stomach before holding it in his. “That’s not all, is it?” I fought back tears. “Not ready.” His hand squeezed mine gently before he lay down beside me on the worn wooden planks.

His hand stayed in mine. Even though I was sweating from the heat wave, his shoulder pressing against mine was comforting. I wanted nothing more than to curl up in his arms and stay there. But then he’d know for sure something was wrong; right now he only suspected. “When you’re ready to talk?” he asked carefully. “I will.” When I was ready. The back door opened. “Hey! What are you two doing? There’s pizza!” Ethan shouted from the door. “How did you get here before them?” I asked, turning my head so I could look at him.

Miles grinned. “I called them from the car.” I smiled over at him. “Go eat. I want to stay out here a bit longer.” His eyes searched mine. He had his thinking face on, the one that made the small wrinkle between his eyes. “Are you sure?”


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