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I opened the toolbox on the porch and picked out a flashlight. I clicked the button and thankfully it came to life. “You’ve been here all day and you haven’t gone in yet?” Bear asked, sitting on the top step with his back to me. I shined the light down as Bear picked out what he needed from the tackle box.

“I didn’t plan on coming here at all.”

“Then why come back here?” he asked, pouring vodka from a bottle that I didn’t notice he’d come out with onto the thread. He handed the bottle to me. “Pour this on the back of my shoulder.”

I grabbed the bottle and using the flashlight I was finally able to get a good look at Bear’s wound. He was right it was clean through, but it was much deeper than I’d thought. “Shit,” I said, dropping the flashlight. “Just pour it on, Ti and tell me why you’re here if that wasn’t your plan.”

I shined the light on his wound and for some reason found myself closing my eyes as I tipped the bottle over and poured the alcohol directly into his wound. Every muscle in Bear’s body tensed. “Ti, speak. Now,” Bear said through gritted teeth. He grabbed the bottle from my hand and poured the rest over the hole in the front of his shoulder, bracing his hand on the ledge of the front step he tore off a chunk of the old rotted wood. When he was done he tossed the wood into the yard and set down the bottle, handing me the needle and thread.

“Sheriff Donaldson isn’t in until the afternoon. I was going to go see him, but then I ended up here and I got…distracted.” Distracted was a good term for Ben Carson and his audacity to even step foot onto the grove.

“You were going to confess?” Bear asked, the anger seeping back into his voice. He crossed his arms over his thighs and leaned forward so I could have better access to his wound. I set the flashlight on the banister and using the only stitch I remembered that my mama had taught me I pulled Bear’s skin as close together as possible and tried to pretend it wasn’t his flesh and muscle I was putting back together, but a thick quilt or tough leather.

“Yeah, I thought it would be best to lay it all out, take whatever I had coming to me. My friend Buck is the deputy, figured maybe they’d cut me some slack. It’s not like if I go to prison anyone would miss me. The world would still turn. Nobody would even know I was gone.”

“I would.”

“Yeah, you would know I was gone, but you’d be happy to be rid of me,” I said bitterly.

“Ti…” Bear started. I stopped breathing, waiting to hear what he had to say. “Aaaahhhh,” he grunted as I dug the needle in deeper than I’d anticipated.

“Sorry,” I whispered, thinking that maybe I should remember that I was sewing a person after all.

“I got a lawyer for you,” Bear said, surprising me. “Last one I wanted to call, but she’ll do right by you.”

“You did what?”

“I got a lawyer, a bitch of a woman. If the devil wore fancy suits and wore red lipstick it would be Bethany Fletcher. She’s good though. Right now she’s sorting through all this shit. Making calls and digging in a little deeper into your case. Right now you’re only wanted for questioning, you’re not under arrest. You bolted before I had a chance to tell you.”

“You repaired the door, but you left it unlocked. I figured you were telling me to go,” I said honestly.

“I was telling you that you weren’t a fucking prisoner,” he corrected. “I thought you’d fucking listen and do what you’re told. I see now that was a mistake and don’t worry I won’t make it again. I should have listened to King and cuffed you to the fucking bed.” His entire body stiffened and my needle stilled, unable to make progress into his muscle.

I ignored his threat to cuff me, and focused on my task. “I know it’s hard, but try not to tense up, it will just make the pain worse.”

“Oh yeah?” Bear asked, sounding amused. “Where did you learn that?” His muscles relaxed slightly and the needle moved in and out with more ease making quicker work of putting him back together.

I smiled, recalling the memory. “Dr. Hartman told me that when he fixed up my knee. My brother Jesse and my friend Buck and I were practicing casting the new reels we’d gotten for Christmas one year. Well, they weren’t brand new, but they were new to us.”

“You got water this far inland?” Bear asked.

“Oh yeah, we got a pond in the middle of the grove, deep one too. Every once in a while Mr. Miller used to stock it with stuff he caught on one of his trips to the lake. But that day we weren’t practicing at the pond. We were on dry land, just out back in the clearing. We set up hola-hoops on the ground for targets and weighted down our lines. It was good practice too, but looking back I guess we didn’t need the hooks. I walked a little too close behind Buck when he was about to cast and caught a hook to the knee.” I stretched out my leg onto the front step so Bear could see the long scar that ran from the top of my knee to the bottom. “He didn’t realize he hooked me and kept going, tore the skin and the hook right out of my knee. Twelve stitches,” I said, pulling my leg back.

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