Michael drew in a shuddering breath and said, "Shall we go back upstairs and see if Susie is awake yet?" We all stood and made our way to the elevator. As we ascended I said to Michael, "If you think my grandfather is tough, you don't know my grandmother. She is quiet and gentle, but inside she is made of steel. You made an impression on her, and although she didn't say a word while you were there she did later. She told me to take note of you and learn character from you. That, my friend is high praise, and it is well deserved. None of us hold a thing against you for what happened. If you had not shown your character, yeah, we probably would have, but because of the way you have behaved, and who you have shown yourself to be, you have friends, and our appreciation. Throw away the guilt. It isn't yours, nor will we lay any on you."
Wordlessly he stuck out his hand, and I grasped and shook it. His grip said "Thanks" as eloquently as if he had spoken, and in his eyes it showed also. Nothing more was ever said again about fault or responsibility, and a bond of friendship was cemented between the four of us.
Susie woke up when we trooped quietly into her room. I'm so glad Grandpa warned us about her appearance, because I would not have recognized her if I didn't know it was she. Much of her hair had been shaved off in order to stitch up cuts on her head, and her face was all swollen and bruised. Her body cast of course prevented her from moving about, other than her left arm, which was free. Michael stepped right up to the bed and softly asked if she wanted any water or ice chips. Very softly she murmured, "Ice", and he gently fished out and fed her a piece. Then he stepped back out of the way, so that we could step up close to her bed and talk.
Stephanie was holding her left hand tightly with tears running down both cheeks. "I'm so sorry, Susie. I almost lost you!"
"Not . . . your fault." Susie obviously struggled for breath, and had trouble talking with the tubes and oxygen mask. "See my . . . flowers?" She half waved her hand toward Michael. "Michael . . . brought . . . them." Her eyes were heavy, and we could see she was struggling to stay awake. I caught Michael's eye and he nodded.
"Susie, you get some sleep. We'll come back. Just don't forget we love you." Susie's eyes closed as I finished, and we all made our way out of the room.
"Michael, is there anything we can get for you? You don't have to stay here, you know. Nobody is expecting it of you."
"Thanks, but I have all I need. I know I don't have to stay here. I'm doing it because I want to, 'cause I think it is the right thing to do. When her parents get home and can be here I probably won't be around as much, but in the meantime, I hate for her to be alone." I shook his hand goodbye, and both girls gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "That makes it worthwhile staying right there!" He gave me a grin, the first I'd seen from him, and waved as he returned to his vigil.
Mom and Dad were both home by the time we returned, and Mom of course was adamant that Steph should stay at least until her Mom and Paul returned. "Steph, you don't even need to ask. I already told you, you are welcome any time. I'm glad to see you moving better this evening! Was school difficult today?"
"It was in the morning! I started to loosen up by the afternoon, but I got a pass that allowed me to be late to classes. I just couldn't walk fast enough to make it otherwise. Justin and Rosemary have been so sweet to help me out."
"So did you get to see Susie?"
"Um Hmm," said Rosemary. "She was sleeping most of the time, so we had a cup of coffee with Michael, and he filled us in on things and how she is doing. He's afraid she may lose her foot." Tears started flowing from both her and Steph then. "The Dr's almost amputated it last night." Mom gathered both girls into a hug, and let them cry it out. Dad just groaned and shook his head.
"Son, this Michael. Is that the same one as . . .?"
"Yes, Dad. Michael Borden. He feels responsible, and he said since her parents are out of the country and can't be there for her he doesn't want her to be alone. He's a good guy. I don't know how he's going to do it, but he said he will cover any costs insurance doesn't, and he had her moved from a double room to a single. Maybe they have money, I don't know, but he's not holding anything back. He's very gentle and good with her, too. I sure wish we could have gotten to know him another way. I think we are going to be friends."
Dad just nodded.
Mom said, "I didn't know for sure when you kids would get back, so I did a batch of spaghetti sauce. If you'd like to lay another place at the table for Stephanie, Justin, I'll cook the noodles and warm the garlic bread. Rosemary, I put a salad together. If you would toss it and serve it for us we can go ahead and start with it while the noodles are cooking. I don't know about you kids, but your Dad and I are hungry."
Mom could make spaghetti every night as far as I'm concerned. Her sauce is so good you chew on your tongue when you are done just to get out the last of the flavor! Mom says we exaggerate, so Dad and I chew on our tongues for her, just so she knows she did well. And, as always, sitting around the table together eating helped bring all of the day's triumphs and problems into perspective. Did I mention I love my parents? I am so glad I chose them!
After dinner I went up to my room to work on some of the custom speakers I was building for Hulvey's, and the girls went to Rosemary's room to do homework. My schedule was light enough that I can get my homework done in study hall most days, which allows me to work for Jim and do my own things in the evenings. I think it's a pretty nice setup, although Rosemary makes jealous comments. About nine o'clock Stephie tapped on my door for help with physics. I called for her to come on in, and cleared room on my desk for us to work. She had her hair pulled back in a ponytail, and had changed from her school clothes into a pair of short shorts and a light weight tank top without a bra. I felt myself stirring, and she hadn't even gotten into the room yet!
Steph gave me a little half-smile and blushed slightly when she observed my reaction to her shirt. The change in her in just the last three weeks was more than remarkable. If you would have told me Stephie would be coming into my room braless, let alone in such a shirt I would have laughed you out of the room. I was surprised she would wear it for me now. "You are a bad influence, Justin Thyme," she said to my unasked question. "The things a girl will do for the guy she loves! I wouldn't let any other guy see me like this, but you like my little titties, and I like to make you happy, so . . . ." She waved her hand across the front of her body. "Especially after what you did for me yesterday morning! I didn't know someone could make you feel like you did for me. I know, I was a little loopy from the meds, or I wouldn't have gone naked like I did, but you didn't take advantage of me, but made it all about me." Her eyes were shining as she looked up at me, just before taking my hand in hers. "I decided you can have all of me, anything you want. I love you, Justin."
Well, there it was. It had gone from a crush on me to this. Not that I minded, to be sure, as she stirred feelings I had for no one else, other than Rosemary. Was it love, or just infatuation? I was left in a position of having to make some serious choices. I didn't want to take advantage of Steph and hurt her if things didn't work out down the road, but at the same time she was stirring juices from deep inside of me. I wasn't sure I could do the right thing by her, and what about Rosemary? She was my real love. Could I share that kind of love between two girls? Even with two girls that I cared about as deeply as I did these two?
Steph loosed my hand and slipped her arm around behind my back and pulled me lightly to her. "I know you are thinking about Rosemary, and you don't want to hurt her. She and I have been talking. I don't want to hurt her either." Tears were half filling her eyes as she looked up at me from where she was pressing against my chest. "I love you both, and I don't want to come between you two. She knows she can't have you all to herself, and it is eating at her, and what she told me is she hopes it will be me who will catch you, because she know I understand how she feels about you, and how you feel about her. I'm willing to share. I think what you two have is beautiful. I would just like a chance to be part of it."
"Sweetheart, don't you think we are a little bit young to be thinking so seriously? What if you get to college and some other guy comes along and catches your fancy? I care too much for you to do anything that would hurt you."
"Justin, I love it when you call me sweetheart! It wasn't that many years ago people our age were already married and having children right here in this part of the world. They knew then, and made the choice. I know what I feel for you is real, and it won't change. I'm not trying to tie you down, but I'm telling you I'm yours if you want me." I wanted her, all right. My cock was trying to tear a hole in my shorts. I guess I'm just a romantic, and I had been raised right, to not hurt other people. Involuntarily my arms went around her and crushed her body to mine, and my lips descended on hers. I don't know what happened, but there was serious oxygen depletion in my room when the kiss was done. Neither of us could seem to get our breath.
I glanced over toward my door and noticed Steph had pushed it closed behind her when she came in. I stepped over and opened it a couple of inches before going back to my desk and seating Steph to work on Physics. "I don't want to make Mom suspicious with the door closed and you in here if she comes up to talk. She doesn't check up on us, but often she will come up to chat a bit before bed. If she does, just please don't turn around. She wouldn't like you wearing that shirt that way." I grinned over at her. "She's always giving Rosemary grief about coming over here just wearing a tee shirt like she does. Don't try to hide from her, just be nonchalant."
We started working on her Physics, and true to form Mom came up about fifteen minutes later and stuck her head in the door as I was trying to explain transfer of energy in such as way Steph would understand the concept. "Hey there. I'm glad you are getting some good out of Justin, there, Steph. Good for you!"
"Hey, Mom. It's not a problem. I didn't know she was having trouble with this stuff, or I'd have been working with her on it before now. She's no dummy. It's just a matter of getting the concept in your head where you understand what's really happening, and not just trying to memorize stuff. Mr. Anderson is not much of one for explaining so people really understand. That's the key to learning, but it's easier just to have them memorize facts and put them down on the test where they will never use it again. I like to understand."
"I know, hon, and I'm glad you are willing to share it. Don't forget I have that MLS meeting tomorrow night, so I won't be home until late, probably tenish. Dad is flying to St. Louis and won't be back until Friday. Stephanie, honey, now you be sure to make yourself right at home. If you want something to snack on or to drink or whatever, don't wait for someone to offer. You just help yourself, OK?"
Steph just turned her head around, holding a finger in the book to mark a place. "Thanks. I do. You have always made me feel like I belong, not like I'm just visiting."
"As far as I'm concerned, you do. You are a real good friend to Rosemary, and I like what you are doing for Justin. You are pulling him out of his shell, which is good. Yes, as far as I'm concerned, you belong, you're family." With that she gave a little half wave and stepped across the hall to Rosemary's room.
"Your mom is so cool! I really like her."
"Yeah. I feel like I've done a pretty good job raising her." Steph gave my leg a slap and giggled. "Don't forget she can come down like the 'wrath of God' if you get out of line, though. She's always so busy with work, but she doesn't let that keep her from being involved in our lives. She's taught us to be responsible and independent, but has never just left us on our own. She and Dad are both really good about that."
Steph had a wistful look on her face. "I wish I had that. Mom and I used to be so close, but since Paul came around it's like I'm just in the way, or something. Oh, I know she loves me, but I'm just not that important to her, but it wasn't that way right after Dad got killed in Iraq. Paul just pushes everybody else aside."
"Well, I'm happy to share my folks. They always have room to love one more." Steph laid her head on my shoulder. "Thanks, Justin. We had better get back to doing this Physics before I forget and do what I really want to do." She looked up at me through her lashes and then gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and turned back to the Physics book. I knew exactly what she was talking about. I wanted so badly just to take her in my arms and smother her with kisses, but . . . .
A few minutes later, just as we were wrapping up the chapter on energy transfer, Rosemary slipped into the room, wearing only a thin tee shirt that reached to mid-thigh. Her nipples were tenting out nicely, and you could just make out the areola through the material. She slipped up behind me and trailed both arms over my shoulders and down my chest, nestling her chin on my head, tucked softly between her breasts. "Mom obviously didn't notice that shirt," she smirked at Steph. "Did Justin notice?"
My ears turned red, having her talking about me so, and both girls just giggled at my look. Rosemary squeezed her shoulders together, which caused her boobs to press against my ears. "You have to watch out for this guy. Next thing you know he will be trying to take liberties with you, like rubbing your boobs with his ears or something!" This made both girls laugh, so I turned my head to and fro a couple of times. It did feel good! Rosemary flattened her hands on my abs and rubbed them back and forth, dangerously close to the top of my shorts, and the end of my cock, which was trying desperately to get out through the waistband.
"Mom and Dad aren't going to be here tomorrow evening. Perhaps we can find something to occupy the time?"
Tuesday was a long day at school. I don't know why, but it was just one of those days that drag on and on and nothing seemed to go right. Classes weren't a problem. I had all of my work done, so that wasn't an issue. Maybe it was Susie on my mind, but I was just in a funk. At lunch I ate alone again. I had gotten accustomed to Susie being there and lunch just seemed tasteless and boring, even more so than usual. I'm not a people person, and making friends has never been one of my strong suits. I'm not anti-social, but most people's interests don't match mine and vice versa. I just was aching for someone to talk to all day. It seemed there was a hole in my life that hadn't been there before. Perhaps it had, but I had never noticed. The only bright spots in the day were the three times I met either Rosemary or Stephanie in the hallway. That was just a smile and a "Hi," on the way by.
It's funny, but I didn't even mind getting in the back seat of Rosemary's bug. I could hear Steph's voice, and a time or two she turned around and smiled at me. Funny how that works!
Susie was more alert when we got there, and we were able to talk for a few minutes before she started to get tired. Michael was there, sitting in the corner, attentive to her every need. I hoped he wasn't developing a martyr's complex, being bound to Susie like this, but he didn't seem to be down about it at all. When Susie started napping again we all made our way to the cafeteria and grabbed a cup of coffee. He filled us in on things a little bit. For one thing, they had removed the chest tube, and Susie was using a cannula instead of a mask for the oxygen. That was the high point. On the low side, her foot wasn't doing well, and he was a little discouraged about it. I was a little curious how he was able to be in the room when the Dr's were checking on her foot since he isn't family, but he just gave me a little half grin when I asked and said he had it worked out.
I had noticed he had a much nicer chair this time, and he was working on a laptop quietly when we arrived. He exuded such a level of quiet confidence one didn't really think about him, and I was finding the more I was around him that I liked him more and more. For a guy who didn't make friends much I was finding him to be a good friend, and one I looked forward to seeing. I noticed with the girls he was very attentive and courteous without going beyond propriety as so many young guys do. He was just very comfortable in his own skin, and didn't seem to feel a need to impress. Both girls though were very impressed. I wondered if maybe something would develop between him and Rosemary, and tried to encourage it without being obvious.
We stopped back at Susie's room before leaving to see if she was awake or not, and found her just waking up. Stephie walked up by the bed to say goodbye. Susie grabbed her hand in her left hand and whispered up to her, "Don't be mad at Michael. It wasn't his fault."
"I know. He came over to my house and asked my forgiveness. He told us what happened."
"He said he did. He asked me to forgive him, too, and he's been so sweet to take care of me since Mom and Daddy are gone. He brought those roses, too. Aren't they beautiful?"
"Yes, they are. He gave me some, too." For a moment I thought a look of disappointment crossed Susie's face over the flowers, but it passed quickly. "He also got me moved in here to a private room, and he's having a specialist from Mayo come in about my foot." Her voice was getting weak, and I saw Michael's head pop up and caught his eye. He just shook his head a fraction, but I got the message.
"Steph, we need to get out of here and let Susie get some rest." We gathered around the bed for just a moment to say goodbye and promised to be back soon, and slipped out. Michael nodded goodbye as we left. When I looked back at Susie she was asleep already.
Once back in the car and headed home we discussed Susie for a minute or two, but there really wasn't anything new to say. Stephanie started squirming around in her seat for a couple of minutes before turning toward me and handed me her bra with a really cheeky grin. She had done that magic thing that girls can do, taking her bra off without removing her shirt. Rosemary looked over at her and said, "Not fair! Not fair at all! I have to drive!" Stephanie just laughed at her and my cock lurched in my pants.
When we pulled in the driveway at the house I saw Rosemary squirming about in her seat before opening her door. I was wondering what was going on, but as I couldn't get out until they opened their doors, I was stuck. Suddenly, I was smacked in the face with her bra to the tune of maniacal giggling from both girls. I just shook my head and waited for them to open the doors. I did look, though, once I had the opportunity. I don't know how I deserved to be in love with two sexy girls like this, but I was enjoying it. Of course they both saw me checking them out and gave me grief about it, but they ate up the attention.
Rosemary bounded up the stairs to her room, but Steph was moving much slower. "What's wrong, Steph? You OK?"
"Oh, I'm fine, Justin. I just still a little sore and stiff. Stairs bother my hip."
"Well, if m'lady will give me just a moment to put down this backpack I will be most happy to carry her ladyship up the stairs!"
Steph giggled at my antics, and waited for me to pick her up. She didn't need to be carried, even though her hip was sore, but I wasn't waiting for a better opportunity to get her in my arms. I looked for any chance! Carefully I picked her up, mindful to keep her unbruised right side toward my body. Of course, I turned her just enough that her breasts pressed against my chest as I carried her, and her arms around my neck were much tighter than safety required. I gave her a quick kiss as I set her down outside Rosemary's door to go along with the hug and breast press I received from Steph. My jeans were definitely getting tight before I let her go.
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