Jesse sat on the edge of the bed kicking off his cowboy boots. His arm was beginning to throb, and he knew he was on borrowed time. Standing up, he dropped his jeans and kicked them off as well. When he went to pick them up off of the floor, he felt the room spin. “Damn,” he said under his breath.
“What’s the matter?” asked Neva coming into the room.
“Can’t pick the jeans up,” he said sitting back down.
“Jesse, just get into bed. I’ll take care of your clothes,” she said.
“Fin. Just hate being helpless,” he said pulling off his shirt and handing it to Neva. She set it down with his jeans on the chair. Then he lay back on the bed. The throbbing was more intense as he lay back. “Can I have some of those painkillers?” he hissed sitting back up.
“Yes. Just a second,” she said heading back into the dining room. She grabbed the pills, a glass of water and came back to find Jesse struggling with his socks. “Here. Take this. Let me get those,” she said.
He took a deep breath, and took the pills while she got his socks off. Then he lay back down and pulled the covers up.
“I’m going to take a quick shower and then I’ll be in to bed,” said Neva. She’d gotten beer and blood on her during the fight and helping Ginny.
He nodded and closed his eyes.
Neva came out of the shower ten minutes later. “Okay, so I guess I’ll have to drive you out to the ranch tomorrow to get new clothes,” she started. There was no reply. She looked over at the bed. It took her a second to realize that Jesse was out. She smiled, put on a teeshirt and crawled into bed next to him as he snored lightly.
Jesse woke up feeling like his arm was made of lead. Working his fingers slightly helped bring the circulation back and the stings of awakening nerves made him gasp. Neva rolled over and blinked at him sleepily.
“Yeah. Circulation is a bit sluggish. I’m not use to sleeping on my back all night long,” he said.
“I know. You tried to curl up to me a time or two and thumped your arm.”
“I vaguely remember that,” he said. “Shall we get up and get moving?” he asked.
Neva rolled over and looked at the time. “Ugh, yeah. We have to be at work in about four hours. Where the hell did the night go?”
“To the emergency room,” he said laughing as he stood up. “Do you still have those bags?”
“Yeah, they are on the dining room table. You showering?”
“Damn right! I have stupid all over me,” he said pointing to various blotches on his skin.
“Yeah. Blood from our two thugs,” he said walking out to get a bag.
“No, you stay here. I can take care of the stuff out at the ranch. Besides, you have nothing clean,” she argued twenty minutes later after they’d finished breakfast.
“You shouldn’t have put my clothes in the washer. I’ll wait for them and then we can go,” Jesse said standing there still wrapped in a towel.
“They were covered in beer and stupid. I’m not waiting for the washer to cycle. I’ll be back,” she said kissing him on the head and then walking out. While he’d been in the shower, she’d tossed his clothes in the washer.
He sighed and sat back down. Part of him was upset, and the other was glad she’d been sneaky. He needed the time to pull himself back together. He made more coffee and then scrambled more eggs. He was hungry, which told him just how fast he was healing. It had been the same way in the military. Double rations in the field just barely fed him if he was moving hard and fast. Once the eggs were cooked, he ate them and then took some pain pills.
Neva drove out to the ranch and tried to wrap her head around her feelings. It had been a real emotional roller coaster. As she drove down the highway she sorted things out in her head. When she got to the ranch, she went egg hunting first. After that, she checked on the animals in the barn and figured that the horses and cattle could take care of themselves for a day. If not, she’d call Jeanie for help.
Then she went into the house and collected three days of clothes for Jesse. Two nice shirt and jeans. When she dug in the closet, she came across his uniform in a clear dust cover. She took it out and looked at it. Jesse had glossed over his military service lightly. Yet the decorations on the left breast of the uniform belied that. Medals, ribbons, pips on some ribbons she didn’t understand and cords on the shoulders. She put it back and finished grabbing underwear and socks. She also grabbed his every day boots.
In the bathroom she grabbed his deodorant and razor. She almost left it, liking the way his face looked with even just a shadow of a beard, but that was his choice to make. Putting all the bits in a couple of bags, she grabbed the clothes on hangers and headed for the car. She put a basket of eggs in as well. Ten minutes later, she was back on the road, heading home.
Jesse had just washed up the dishes when he heard the door open. He looked up to see Neva walking in with her arms full. He dried his hands and went to help, grabbing the eggs and a bag. “Did you bring the whole house?”
“No, just half of it. I did just fine until a gust of wind caught me at the top of the stairs,” she said.
He smiled, kissed her head and headed for the kitchen. As he dropped the bag on the floor in the dining room, Neva realized he had unwrapped his hand.
“I thought the doctor didn’t want you using your hand?” she said.
“Yeah, but it was numb. The wrap was cutting into my wrist and that’s why I was loosing circulation,” he said.
“Okay, but that didn’t mean you should have done dishes either,” Neva said looking around.
“Most of the work was done with my right hand. Had to make sure I could operate at work,” he said trying to be logical and keep Neva from inventing reasons for him to stay home.
She sighed. “Fine, but if you screw up your hand, it isn’t my fault.”
“Nor would I blame you for my own stupidity,” he said. “Now, which bag are my underwear in?”
Neva laughed and handed him the bag, realizing that he was still wearing nothing but a towel. She smiled and headed for the bedroom with the rest of his clothing. Jesse took the bag with the toiletries and shaved quickly. Neva sighed a little as she watched. It took a little work on both of their parts to get him dressed. While dishes had been easy, underwear and socks were a bitch. Jesse swore repeatedly until Neva just took the socks from him.
“I feel like I’m about three,” he said.
Neva smiled. “I seem to remember that same feeling a few weeks ago.”
“Yeah. I know. Where are the… Oh,” he said spying his boots and heading over to where they rested half way under a table. He hooked them out and stuffed his feet into them. Neva helped straighten his jeans.
“There, now you look good,” she said.
“Nearly. Help me roll up the sleeves,” he said.
“You want the bandage to be exposed?”
“Yes. It’s as much to remind me it’s there as it will be to anyone who might want to push the boundaries tonight,” he said.
“It’s a bit of psychology. You hear a bouncer got knifed, and you’ll figure he’ll be out of action, so you can act up. Then you walk in and see the guy there with his sleeves rolled up working like nothing happened. The only sign of any trouble is a small bit of gauze on his arm. You’ll think that the bouncer is one tough bastard and behave,” Jesse explained.
Neva thought about it for a moment and then smiled at Jesse. “You’re right. Clever bastard.”
“Hey! My parents were married!” he laughed.
Neva smiled, kissed him and got ready for work.
Work that night was easy. When Jesse walked in, everyone in the place smiled, clapped him on the back or thanked him for being a good man. He blushed and then tried to get to work. Charles had him working the crowd as usual. People behaved, which made life easy for Jesse. He sat down to eat a bit and relax when Ginny came over. She had raccoon eyes she tried to hide with makeup.
“Good to see you,” she said.
“Glad you’re okay,” Jesse returned. He gave her a hug.
“Before I forget, this is for you.” She handed him a wad of cash. There was over $200 there.
“What? Ginny, you don’t have to give me your tips,” he said holding out the cash to her.
“Those are yours. From the concert crowd last night. They took up a collection after you went to the hospital, and gave it to me to give to you.”
“Oh. I… um…” he stuttered.
“Just shut up and put it in your pocket,” she said with a smile. “Now, can you fill out this order?”
He smiled after putting the money in his pocket and got her drinks.
Neva stopped by once the main concert rush had subsided. “You hungry?”
“Starved. I ate a snack a bit ago, but it’s gone.”
“I heard about your snack. Damn!” she laughed. “Guess I need the cooks to kill another cow.”
“If you’ll get food, I’ll watch the desk,” he said.
“Alright, be back soon.” She walked off to the kitchen.
Jesse sat back, trying to relax. He checked the time and realized he could take pain medication. He got a drink of water and took the pills.
Dave came up to the bar with an order. “Damn, you kicked ass last night.”
“Only did what I had to,” said Jesse.
“Well, I’m certainly glad you could do it. Charles is happy and so are the concert and dinner crowds,” said Dave.
“It really wasn’t that big a deal,” said Jesse trying to play down what happened.
“Well, some people sure think it was, even if you don’t.” Dave pulled out an envelope. “This is from the tips in the dining room. And no, I didn’t split mine.”
“Dave,” Jesse started to complain as he filled the tray with Dave’s order.
“Jesse, you just take this money and shut that pretty mouth,” said Dave. He winked at Jesse and walked off with his bar order.
Jesse was still a fair shade of red when Neva came back in with two plates of food. A rare ribeye for him and a chicken fried steak for her. She saw his color and gave him a puzzled look.
“First Ginny hands me over $200 she said came from a whip-round last night and now Dave gives me an envelope with more money from the dining room crowd. When I didn’t want to take it, he winked at me and told me to ‘shut my pretty mouth. I…” he rambled.
Neva laughed. “Yeah, I heard about the money. Just take it and say thanks. As for Dave, he likes cowboys. Always has. Be glad all he’s done is wink at you.”
Jesse blinked and then concentrated on eating his steak.