Chapter 14

CHAPTER 14 — Sleep

Ryan opened his eyes. He saw a dark tangle of Maggie’s hair. He shifted and pulled the covers back over his arm and leg. It was hard to heat the big master bedroom. The pungent smell of the fireplace filled the room. He longed for the fireplace he grew up with in Red Rock.

Maggie was deep in sleep. He looked at her hair. Raised a hand and slowly, gently parted it until he found the scar from the accident. A long, jagged cicatrice with an accompanying line of dots on each side from the emergency room stitches that curved across her skull. They’d stitched it when she was still out and her hair was wet with blood. Scalp cuts always bled a lot. He remembered Nathalie’s broken nose, from another car accident, how it had dripped blood all over his hands, lodging in the creases of his fingers. He’d left bloody prints everywhere. He hadn’t been driving then. That hadn’t been his fault. He thought of blood dripping from his own head, another time, when he had taken a beer bottle someone threw in the arena in Kansas City. It was a Coors. He remembered seeing the label on one of the broken pieces. The fucker who threw it could have killed him. The picture of him staring into the camera while rivulets of blood rolled down his face had made it into Rolling Stone. There was a framed copy in the studio. That was twenty years ago. Where was Nathalie now? Who was she with? Somewhere way back down the road he’d lost her. He couldn’t even recall how.

Ryan rested his hand on Maggie’s skull. No fracture. No tearing of the dura. No subdural hematoma. Not a trace. Safe, he hoped. The concussion had gone. The doctors had explained it. He adjusted the blankets around her, moving closer to her warmth. Maggie almost curled into a ball when she slept. Her hands tightened into fists. It was surprising how much heat the body gave off, thought Ryan. Find a girl and dump a blanket. He wondered how long Maggie would be with him. He wondered about the others in his past. Why couldn’t he hang on to someone? He was trying to stop moving around now, trying to stick in one place. After Red Rock, LA, New York, London, Paris, Santa Fe, he was trying to grow up and settle in. Ryan closed his eyes and draped an arm over Maggie. Curling around her warmth, he tried to find his way back into the dream.

But twenty minutes later Ryan woke again. Nerves, he thought, it was just nerves. After the trial, he’d be able to sleep. He could hear the desert birds and so guessed at the time. They always found their voice at the same time, every morning. It amazed him how every bird could just break into song at the same time. He carefully got out of bed. The care was unnecessary, Maggie tended to sleep through anything. He went to the bathroom and stood urinating, feeling the pleasure of an emptying bladder. Then he went to the doors leading to the balcony to look for the coyote. He pulled the curtain and looked out. The world was still dark and peaceful.

That coyote was Ryan’s totem. When Ryan came down the first time to look at the property he had walked out away from the house to get a feel for the land. Feeling eyes on him, he had slowly turned and there was the coyote, watching. It kept coming back to him, like the wildness still left in him from his youth. The animal was his luck.

He stood there until he began to feel cold. Then he went to the fireplace, took a pine log from the stack and put it on the few glowing coals. He pulled on a black terry cloth bathrobe. Barefoot, he left his room and went down the hall, down the stairs and into the kitchen. He didn’t turn on the light. He felt more like a boy breaking the rules in the dark. He opened the big refrigerator door and looked in. He picked a chicken leg, olives, and a slice of the Black Forest cake, then added a glass of milk, and found a tray to put it all on. Back in the bedroom, the log was blazing away and he settled down on the red tile in front of the fireplace. By firelight, he ate.