BTS Book Reviews Issue 18 - Page 105

“My God, it’s Maggie Murphy, isn’t it?” His outstretched arm was on my elbow, and the warm pressure of his hand steadied me on my feet. Confused, I glanced behind me. He said the name so clearly and with such devoted attention to each consonant that, for an instant, the sound of it was unfamiliar. My own name, on his lips. I stammered, “Y-yes.” “Are you all right? That car was going far too fast on such a small street.” He shook his head, and the blue-black line of his thick eyebrows pinched toward each other over a long, straight nose. Kevin had remembered me. The expression of concern injected a dose of much-needed warmth to my very core, jolting me to the realization that I was shivering. “You just never know when to expect something like that.” He scooped my tablet from the slush at the same time that his strong arm wrapped around my waist. “Here, let me help you.” “I’m fine, really.” But I gripped the brushed softness of his jacket sleeve for support. Embarrassed, I dropped my gaze before it could meet his, seeking the source of the burning pain in my flank. I sensed his eyes following the track of my own. I gasped to see a single rivulet of maroon blood traveling like a locomotive from the hem of my black-and-green plaid skirt, down the ripped track of my tights, to the top of my boot. My head buzzed. A sense of being disembodied crackled heat through my system, as though I’d been popped from a toaster. I’d fainted before and knew how it felt. It was as though a body bag made of cotton balls was being pulled over me. But before the descent into oblivion could commence, strong fingers held my chin. Suddenly, I was gazing into cobalt blue eyes so close I could see where flecks like black coal gave his irises the appearance of being large slices of lapis, imperfect and priceless. He smiled with the slightest upturn to his mouth that was at once soothing and seductive. “Maggie, stay with me.” His breath was sweet with just a trace of mint, as though he’d recently chewed on a fresh spearmint leaf. “I live right here. You’ll be okay.” His large hand eased from the small of my back to grip my waist. His touch sent ripples of electricity up my spine. We turned away from the street and a waft of cold February air shot a charge of awareness up my nostrils. I pulled my wool scarf tighter against my chin and shook my head. I had knitted the scarf during the long nights when I’d been unable to sleep. My mother had bought me skeins of soft alpaca wool, even though she couldn’t afford it. Blended shades of white, cream, and pale blue reminded me of wisps of cloud across an April sky. The touch of it—like soft marshmallows in hot cocoa—reassured me. “No, no. It’s fine,” I said. “I’m fine.” I attempted to pull away but discovered that the muffling had gone further than I realized, and my muscles were unwilling to play nicely with the commands coming from my brain. Mortification seeped into my consciousness—so much for being cosmopolitan and engaging. At least he got a good look at my boots. I inhaled through my nose the way my physical therapist always insisted, long and deep. I straightened but was not yet willing to pull away from the luxury of his forearm against my waist. “I’m sorry I’m such a wimp.” I pressed my fingers against his chest, firm like memory foam through his jacket. “I don’t want to keep you. Really, I’ll be fine.” But the truth was, I wouldn’t be fine. I’d known for months that I wouldn’t be fine. There would be no university for me next fall. “Hey, come on. I haven’t seen you in what, five January 2014 | 105