PREVIOUS “MOUSE” POSTINGS CAN BE FOUND HERE.
Mouse Feels Just Like Juicy Fruit Gum!
There’s a rush inside my ears as if I have fallen into a swimming pool. I’m barely aware of Tom running from the room. I’m still staring at the man I’ve shot. Long warm fingers encase the back of my neck.
“Mouse, come on. Right now we’ve got to keep moving,” Joe says.
My mouth is open, my breathing ragged. He grips my chin, forcing me to meet his eyes. “Don’t fall apart,” he says.
I search his green eyes for something. What? I’m not sure. Judgment? Condemnation? All I see is compassion. I nod, follow him from the room, just in time to meet the others coming toward us at a fast pace to evacuate before anyone’s alerted to our extrication of McGee.
Joe grips my elbow as we hurry across the yard. I feel I should shake him loose, be strong, be capable, not be an embarrassment to my gender, but I’m getting so much comfort from that grip that I just keep moving and let him direct me.
I think I hear a helicopter approaching. I squeeze my eyes closed for just a second, intent upon getting back to this moment, because I feel the odds changing around us. There’s that long drive back to Albuquerque on curvy one lane roads, but certainly there must be contingency plans. Just because I didn’t hear about them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I may have been focused on cookies at the time.
When we reach the trucks, Tom says, “We’ll split up. You know the drill. Meet at the location in Bakers.”
I scramble into one of the black SUVs. Tom shoves Joe, points his finger in his face, says something and then jerks his finger toward me before running to a different SUV. Joe slides in next to me. His lips are pressed firmly together. He looks pissed.
“What was that about?” I ask quietly.
“Just Tom and his Napoleon complex.”
“He’s not that short,” I offer then feel stupid.
“He is to me,” Joe says, shakes his head as if shaking away whatever it was that Tom said.
He’s looks at me then, his eyes bright even in the darkness. “I didn’t think things through, Mouse. I should never have let you run off like that.”
“I don’t think you let me do anything.”
“Uh, if you haven’t noticed, I’m bigger than you.”
“You and size,” I say, trying to insert some lightness I’m not feeling.
His stares. Feeling disconcerted, I look away toward the rock-strewn dirt road that Derek is navigating. Joe grabs my hand and squeezes.
“Are you okay?”
“Just like Juicy Fruit gum,” I say.
“I don’t know what that means. Chewed and spit out?”
“Actually that’s about right.”