Excerpt #1. This is the part where the two main characters meet for the first time.
|I settled down in the bed again, moving around until I was at least somewhat comfortable. Between my leg and my back there wasn’t a position where some part of my sore body wasn’t being pressed into the bed. I wasn’t sure how long I had been reading when I heard a knock at the door frame. I looked up and there was a man standing in the doorway. It was the man from yesterday, who was in my room when I woke up. He did not have his head wrapped in a bandage. I remembered the dark hair and warm brown eyes. He had a pleasant smile.
“Yes?” I said, not knowing what to say.
“Hi – I’m Michael Bell. You saved me yesterday. May I come in?”
“Oh! Oh, yes. Yes, please come in.”
I noticed he was still moving a bit slowly, but he went over to the chair and moved it next to my bed. My – he was just as good looking close up as he was far away. We sat for a moment just looking at each other. He was younger than I – he looked to be in his 30’s. He was wearing a white buttoned dress shirt, no tie, with a suit jacket and matching dark slacks. His dark hair was thick and parted on the side. From what I could see he looked fit and healthy, around 150 pounds. He sat in the chair and rested one ankle on the other knee. He was wearing dark socks and loafers. I supposed what he saw was a woman in her mid 40’s, tired and a bit wan (at least that is what I looked like to myself after I got out of the shower), with wavy shoulder-length brown hair splayed in an untidy mess on the pillow. I had my glasses on but I’m sure he could see my blue eyes through them.
“Does your head hurt?” he asked, smiling.
I smiled and chuckled slightly. “Yes”, I replied, “but not as much as yesterday. Mr. Bell, I’m –“
“I know – you’re Marissa Morgan”.
At my expression he said, “The doctor told me. I wanted to know the name of the person who saved me.”
“Oh, of course” I said, a bit embarrassed. I wished he would stop talking about me saving him. “You were here, yesterday, when I woke up?” I framed it as a question, still not fully trusting my fuzzy concussed memory.
He smiled. “Yes, they held me overnight since I had a concussion. I was hoping I would be able to talk to you when you woke up. But when you did, they chased me back to my own bed. I’ve only now just been able to get back to see you.”
“Besides a concussion, how injured are you?” I asked him.
We exchanged bruise and cuts information. His bruises were mostly on his upper arms and lower legs, since my body had been covering most of his body. He knew about the gash on my leg and the surgery.
“Ms. Morgan – may I call you Marissa?” At my nod he continued, “Please call me Michael. I want to thank you for tackling me and taking the brunt of the injuries. I, I truly am thankful to you.” He looked at me with those big brown eyes, his face reflecting sincerity.
“Truly Michael, you are welcome. I just thank God neither of us were more seriously injured. And I’m sorry I didn’t do a better job of covering your head!” I added, to lighten the mood. We both laughed and both of us touched the back of our heads.
He sat back and smiled and I felt at ease with him. We started chatting about ourselves, where we lived and what we did. We both lived in San Mateo. I told him I worked as a database administrator for Executive Insurance. Our data center was in South San Francisco. Michael worked in real estate. He said he bought properties and sold them, or renovated them and rented them out. We had both been to college – he a UC Stanford graduate and me a San Francisco State graduate. We were each fascinated by the other’s occupation and the time flew by quickly. His phone rang and he stood up and motioned with his finger he would be right back.
“Em? No, I’m at the hospital. No, I’m okay Emily. I’m sore, but I feel fine. Guido is with me and doing the driving.”
He walked out into the hallway and I noticed a very large man standing outside the door. He was wearing a dark polo shirt and dark pants. His black hair was in a buzz cut and the polo shirt strained to cover his bulging arms and shoulders. He looked like he was about 6’5” tall. His eyes followed Michael as he walked down the hall. Hmmm what kind of real estate agent needs a bodyguard? For that is what that man must be. Guido, did he call him? I wonder who Emily is. Michael wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, but that didn’t always mean that a man wasn’t married.
Michael came back in, smiling apologetically as he sat back down.
“That was my sister Emily. She and her family live in Florida. She was checking up on me – again.”
“Older or younger?” I asked.
“Hmm? Oh – she’s my younger sister and only sibling. I know you have a sister and at least one nephew – I saw them yesterday and heard them talking to the doctor.”
“Yes, a younger sister and older brother for me. They were all here earlier today.”
“So what did I interrupt when you saved me?” Michael asked.
I frowned, remembering. My blood pressure started to go up – I could feel it. “Oh – I was walking to blow off some steam. My manager is raising my rent $1,000 a month. I have a week and a half to move unless I want to start paying the higher rent.”
“Oh - that’s terrible!” he exclaimed. “You should be given more notice than that. If your rent is being raised that high, is he planning to renovate?”
“No,” I said ruefully. “He wants my apartment for his nephew.”
Michael answered my rueful look and shook his head. “Ah. I see.”
He shifted in his seat and leaned forward a bit.
“Marissa,” he began. “I might have a solution for you.”
“Oh? You have a 2 bedroom apartment I can rent in San Mateo for $2,195 a month?” I said, flippantly. I was probably going to have to move an hour away to keep the rent I had, which meant at least an hour and a half commute – one way.
“Well, I do have a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment. Decent kitchen, your own washer and dryer. In a secure building with an exercise room and underground parking.”
My head was pounding again, no doubt set off by my spike in blood pressure. I hoped the nurse would come by soon with more pain meds. And my left leg was starting to get really uncomfortable.
“And where is this mythical apartment? Gilroy?” I said with some sarcasm and doubt.
He shifted in his seat again. “Um, no. No, its in San Mateo. In my building. The new one at 4th and Wall.” He looked at me, waiting.
“The new building at 4th and Wall?” I scoffed. “Michael, that’s a brand new building and looks terrific from the outside. I couldn’t possibly afford an apartment in that building.” And then it kicked in what he had said. My building, he had said. “Wait – your building? Do you mean you built it, you designed it, or that you live there?”
“Well, all three actually.”
Oh. Oh. Real Estate agent indeed. This man was no mere real estate agent. My concussion was making my cognitive process like molasses. I said as much to Michael.
“I’m usually quicker on the uptake than this. My head is really starting to pound.” He got up quickly and found the call button.
“Here – let me call the nurse.” I rubbed my forehead. A voice came over the speaker above my head.
“Yes, can I help you?”
Before I could speak Michael said, “Yes, we need some pain meds in room 431.” There was a click.
“Thank you”, I said.
“And I have a moving company that could move you to my building,” he said, continuing our conversation.
I got right to the heart of what was the most important thing to me. “How much is rent on this apartment?”
“Well,” he began. He shifted in his seat again and I realized he looked… embarrassed. “I wouldn’t charge you rent. You could live there rent free, though you would have to pay utilities. And I would have my guys move you for free.”
I hadn’t realized I was sitting forward until he said that and I fell back onto my pillows. I gaped at him, at a loss for words. Elation, doubt, excitement, and then anger all took their turns, tugging my emotions to and fro. My mind was attempting to go in 50 directions at once, as usual, and was having a very hard time doing so.
“What… you… did…” I began. Michael sat back in the chair and watched me, looking like he was trying not to smile. When I continued to open and close my mouth with nothing coming out, he took pity on me.
“Marissa, you saved my life. You need to quickly find a place to live, and I have an almost empty building. I have the apartment, I have the moving company. I make a lot of money, I don’t need the rent money from you. And this is one small way I can say ‘thank you’ to you.”