The final installment of Chapter 1…
Dax’s eyes pop open. And for a split second their gaze locks before she falls backward to the ground. His head falls limp and unconscious again. Sarah sits on the ground gasping for air or maybe her sanity. Is this really, Dax? Maybe she hit her head and didn’t realize it.
Flashing lights approach behind her and she turns to see the ambulances. The EMT crew rushes toward them and quickly takes control of the scene. A team surrounds Dax, another Beth, and one younger than the rest, quickly kneels next to Sarah.
“Mam, are you alright? Can you stand?” Sarah nods half in shock. He helps her to her feet then ushers her toward the back of an ambulance. She continues to look behind her toward Dax as she’s led forward.
They reach the rear of an open ambulance. The young EMT rests her against the back bumper under the shelter of its rear awning, while he inspects her wound. Sarah could care less about the gash in her forearm. She can’t help but stare intently at the car… at Dax. Somehow she feels that her continuous stare can somehow will him to be okay.
She finally snaps out of it, pulls her arm away from her faithful attendant. “I’m fine. Help him.” She intently motions toward Dax, trying to hold back the well of tears. “Help him.”
He presses gauze against the gash and proceeds to check her pulse, not heading her pleas. “Just relax.”
Sarah pushes him away with an eruption of frustration. “Didn’t you hear me? I wasn’t in the crash. Help him. Go!”
He considers for a brief moment and then presses her hand against the cotton gauze. “Keep the pressure on it. Don’t stop. I’ll be back.” Then he rushes to assist the rescue team at the car.
Sarah strains to see the particulars through the rain. There are two rescue workers on Beth’s side and the sound of a power tool cutting through the downpour. Another two are on Dax’s side.
The sound of grinding metal ends. Beth is lifted out of the car. The EMT’s carefully place her on the stretcher. Two of them leave to aid the team on the other side of the car. One EMT remains to slowly pull a sheet over her head, and wheel her toward a second ambulance. There’s no point in rushing… it’s too late. Beth is lifted into the ambulance and the doors close behind her. The ambulance departs in silence.
Sarah anxiously refocuses on Dax’s side of the car. The EMT crew still leans over the door. She whispers to herself, “Please.”
As if in answer, Dax is lifted from the car. They gently place him on a stretcher. Sarah raises her hands to her mouth and holds her breath. The seconds seem to drag forward, while she waits for their next move. Her thoughts are scrambled, but she never wanted anything more. “Please.”
The EMT lifts the sheet to cover him, but only to protect him from the rain. His head and neck are still visible. Her stiffened muscles fall limp and she exhales with relief.
‘The next few moments are a blur as they rush him toward her… or rather the ambulance where she stands. She quickly makes way as they lift the stretcher into the back in one synchronized motion. Immediately two EMT’s jump into action, hooking up a heart monitor and oxygen mask.
Sarah watches his chest rise and fall. He’s still breathing. “Thank you.”
Sarah just stands motionless in the rain near the back door of the ambulance, her gaze fixed on Dax. The young EMT returns to her side and lifts the gauze on her arm to inspect it. He urges her into the ambulance. “You’ll need stitches.”
Sarah’s motions at this point feel involuntary to her. She nods and follows him without a word into the back of the vehicle. He straps her into a seat in plain view of Dax’s stretcher.
The sirens sound and the ambulance leaps into motion. The entire ride, Sarah fixes her eyes on Dax’s chest, with the slim assurance of its steady rise and fall. She tries to quiet the voices in her head that insist this can’t be real. But she can’t look away. She must concentrate on his breath… convinced that it might stop if she doesn’t.
Sarah never imagined she would see him again, although she dreamed for it often… Just not like this.
Seventeen years earlier, Sarah’s college auditorium is dark except for a well-lit stage. A student talent show is in progress. The volume of the enthusiastic audience may be altered by their earlier libations. A group of fraternity brothers command the audience from stage. They dance to It’s Raining Men, complete with thunder sound effects and tinsel rain. They wrap it up with a can-can move and moon the audience, who erupt with laughter. College amusement hasn’t changed much in the last century. The front row raises Greek letters above their heads as they cat call at the performance bow.
Sarah, now twenty, huddles offstage with her roommates, Kat and Alison. Their feminine good-lucks are slightly obscured under their hobo costumes and black charcoal-smeared eyes. Sarah self-consciously fidgets with her hair and face as they wait for their names to be called. They follow the next act. Kat grabs Sarah’s hands. “Stop fidgeting. You’ll wipe the make-up off. I’ve never seen you nervous before.”
Sarah rolls her eyes, “I’ve never been on stage before.”
Alison ignores her friends and scans the audience. “Do you see him?”
Sarah, happy for a distraction, looks toward the audience. “Who?”
Kat adjusts her costume as she answers matter-of-factly. “Her latest. What’s his name? Jim, Joe, John…”
Alison spots a handsome guy smiling up at her from the third row. She waves at him while she corrects Kat. “Jake.” She blows Jake a kiss.
The announcer draws everyone’s attention to the spotlight and the stage again. “And now, the merry men from the CSU archery team. Let’s give it up for Chivalry!” On cue, the crowd goes wild. Four strapping guys, Mick, Peter, Tim and younger Dax file past Sarah to take their places. All are dressed, or various stages of undress, in scantily clad drag. Dax accidentally bumps Sarah’s arm as he runs past with an apologetic smile.
The crowd goes wild again as they take their places. Dax, the leader of the pack and main drag queen, cues the music and lights. The electric guitar cuts the air and he starts to mouth the lyrics of Time Warp from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. “It’s astounding. Time is fleeting. Madness takes its toll…” The entire troop of muscle bound studs joins with gyration as the song hits the chorus. The crowd roars. Many jump to their feet to do the pelvic thrusts.
Sarah and the girls watch from the sidelines. Kat sighs. “Well that’s gonna be hard to follow.” Kat calls to the stage, “Way to drag that out of the past.” Alison admires the fine specimens on stage. “Who cares.”
Dax thrusts his hips and works the girls in the audience. He’s smiling from ear to ear. He can’t help it. This is actually fun. Who knew wearing fishnets and heels would make him a stud… Even if he can feel the fabric of his costume permanently taking up residence between his but cheeks. Besides, he could use the prize money.
During a full dance rotation, he sees Sarah off stage. She’s adorable in her oversized hobo costume. Despite having his pick of the crowd, he finds himself wanting to catch her eye. Of course he noticed her before… earlier tonight and between classes all semester. If he’s being honest with himself, he’s been hoping to talk with her all year, but the opportunity hadn’t presented itself.
Sarah looks up and briefly locks eyes with Dax, which causes the blood and heat to rush to her cheeks. While he’s cute as hell, his current attire and dance moves make her even more self-conscious. Not good, since they’re up next. Alison nudges her. “Looks like number one hotty has the hots for you.” Sarah shakes her head to get herself back to reality.
Just as she thinks she’s got her head sorted, Time Warp hits a change-up and Dax’s troop rips off their shirts to bare rather shockingly ripped chests. The audience loses it. Sarah’s jaw drops. Alison gasps with delight. “Now we know the benefits to archery.”
The view is spectacular. Why fight it? So Sarah joins her friends in a giggle-fest of approval. Now everyone in the crowd and back stage is doing the Time Warp.
The song is nearly over, but not before Sarah takes a closer look at Dax. “I think he’s in my major. Something with a D. Darrin?” Sarah shakes her head. Then mouths a flurry of different names under her breath to her friends, who are obviously distracted and not listening. “David, Derick, Don, Dek…”
The music and skit ends. The crowd erupts with applause and howls. Sarah still tries to remember his name. Finally she’s got it and yells out his name to her friends… “Dax.”
…Just as DAX and crew are filing past. Dax stops in front of Sarah. “Yeah?” He’s sweaty, panting, shirtless and standing far too close. Sarah is at a loss for words and her cheeks are turning red again.
Luckily the announcer interrupts as he bellows to the crowd. “And now… what are quickly becoming my favorite steam trains…” Sarah is still staring at Dax speechless, when Kat grabs her arm and pulls her on stage.
Dax flashes a smile that could melt butter. Well at least she knows his name. That’s a start.