On His Six - Rachel Robinson

Chapter 1

Maeve

Not again. Not again. Not again. They are the only two words running through my mind as I hold my hand against the bullet wound on Lincoln’s shoulder. I’m fumbling with his shirt and his massive weight to see if there’s an exit wound on the other side of his body, but it’s near impossible with how violently my body is shaking. The shock hit me the second the bullet hit him, and I’m barely functioning. I didn’t think Rena would. How could she? I didn’t see it coming. She was supposed to be mad at me—take her crazy out on me.

Don’t take him, too. Please God, don’t take him, too. Sirens cut my train of thought. No exit wound, I realize. I’m wearing a flannel shirt that I shrug out of and tie above the wound currently pulsating blood. I have to straddle his body to pull the sleeves tight enough. More pressure, I think. For tourniquets to be helpful, they have to cut off the circulation. A strangled war cry echoes the room, and it’s not until after I realize it’s my own. Medics, firefighters, and police officers run up the stairs. A medic kneels on the other side of Lincoln and says something, but I can’t understand. He has his fingers against his neck as another medic brings a stretcher to transfer him onto.

Standing, I let my gaze flit around the room. They’re taking Stavros down the stairs—a sheet draped over his body. Ramona, I think. Her face is red and blotchy as she cries on the sofa, her gaze so far away, she doesn’t even look human right now. I can’t keep my focus away from Lincoln for more than a few seconds. I turn back and see them loading him onto the board. “Is he going to be okay?” it’s my voice, but I don’t recognize it.

“Ma’am. Please have a seat,” an officer says, leading me to a chair by the fireplace.

I shake my head and suck in a breath. I can’t sit. My body won’t let me. “Not until I know he’s going to be okay. He has a pulse!” They’re descending the stairs, carrying Lincoln, and it looks unstable, his body shifting unnaturally. “He has a pulse,” I say again, this time for my own benefit.

“Ma’am. We need your help. We’ve arrested one man, but we know he wasn’t here alone. Where is the person who fired the gun? Is anyone else here?”

My hands balled in fists by my side shake even harder. “I-I… don’t know. She ran. Rena. That’s her name.” I say. “Black SUV.” Terror spikes as I think about his last question. “Turner!” I call out, a strangled, harrowing plea. That’s the last word I get out before the adrenaline spikes and fully takes me out of commission. My vision blurs as my body sways, and I pass out.

“No one ever comes for her,” the girl, Jessica, hisses. “We only took her in because she had nowhere else to go. My mom doesn’t even want her.” She pauses, coughing on an inhale of her stolen cigarette. “We can’t wait to send her away. Mom felt bad when the social worker called, so she said yes.” Jessica is speaking loudly—she wants me to hear.

I’m huddled in a ball on their deck. I have a tattered copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales pressed between my knees, trying to see how hard I have to squeeze it to keep it from tumbling to the deck. She’s not telling her friends that she’s lying. She doesn’t admit that since I’ve been in the house, her stepdad leaves her alone. It’s not like I have some hero complex or anything, but I’m smart enough to rationalize what he does to me is done to her when I’m not here. What he does is bad. I tried to be her friend for the first few days, thinking if we could band together, at least we’d have each other. Jessica doesn’t want allies. Jessica wants to surround herself with people who think she is perfect. Because I know her dirty, marring secret, I didn’t make the cut. In fact, she treats me like less than the dirt on the bottom of her shoe.

“But like, why hasn’t she been adopted? She’s so old,” Jessica’s friend hisses in between drags of the cigarette.

“She’s just too… broken,” Jessica replies.

My head swims for a second or two as I digest her words. It’s not like I haven’t been called worse, no, it’s

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