"I said put your hands behind you head and get the fuck down!" the man screamed pointing the barrel of the gun at each of us in turn.
Nick and Aaron dropped to the floor. Zak, Mason, Luke, and I exchanged looks. We were all thinking the same thing. Surely this guy couldn't do too much harm considering the hand that was holding the gun was shaking so bad he couldn't even point it straight. We needed a distraction so Zak or Mason could tackle him to the ground while the other snatched the gun from his hand.
I took a step forward with my hands raised as high as my chest in surrender. I slowly walked around the counter. He aimed his gun at me unsteadily.
"Look, sir, no one wants to get hurt and you certainly don't want to kill anyone," I quietly said as I inched closer to him. "So how about you put the gun down and we can talk about whatever trouble it is you're in, okay?"
"No! NO! I don't need your help! Just give me the money out of the cash register and safe and I'll leave. As long as you cooperate, no one will have to get hurt," he yelled, his voice cracking at the end. It sounded like he was about to cry.
"Aerolynn, let's just give him the money. It's ok," Luke reassured opening the cash drawer.
"No!" I shouted at him without ever looking back. My gaze was planted firmly on that gun.
"Listen, you don't have to do this," I told the man giving him a friendly smile. "We can work this out another way without having to resort to using a gun and holding hostages."
"J-just shut up, l-lady!" he stammered.
"Come on, Aerolynn. Just back off. It's not worth it," Aaron mumbled from the floor.
"Aaron's right, Aero," Mason called out. "Get your ass back over here."
"Shut up, Mason, I can do this!" I yelled startling the guy.
"Aero, I already have the money from the drawer. Sir, if you want to follow me to the back and I'll get you the money from the safe," Luke calmly told the man.
"Luke, no!" I growled spinning around for a moment I forgot what was going on around us.
I started walking toward Luke so I could grab the keys to the safe from his hand. Why did nobody believe I could do this?
"Stop!" The man shouted from behind me. "I said stop!"
"AEROLYNN!" Zak shouted right before I heard a strange ringing in my ears.
I stumbled forward finding it odd that I couldn't move. Luke's eyes had widened and even though I saw his mouth open saying something, I couldn't hear a single word that came out of his mouth. All I could hear was the loud ringing sound in my ears as warmth spread throughout me.
I stumbled backwards about to fall when a muscled pair of arms caught me around my chest. I glanced up and saw Zak's worried face as he fell to his knees on the floor. He brushed the stray tendrils of hair away from my face and kissed my forehead. He yelled something over his shoulder although I couldn't really make out what he said. It looked like he said ambulance.
My brother knelt down beside me then with a gun in his hand. Oh good. He must have reasoned with that guy enough to take the gun away. Good. That was good. I saw a tear fall down my brother's face as he placed a towel on my abdomen. I looked down and was surprised to find the front of my white work shirt stained with red. How did that red stain get there?
"Aero," A very distant voice called out to me. "Aero!"
My gaze slowly lifted to see a pair of glistening bluish-hazel eyes staring down at me filled with worry and fear.
"Aerolynn, stay with us," I heard him say.
Silly, Zak, why did he think I was going somewhere? I was just tired is all. That's why my eyes felt so heavy all of a sudden right? I was just tired.
"Aerolynn, stay with us. Aerolynn!" I growled shaking her lightly to make her keep her eyes open. I needed to see those bright brown eyes still shining with life so I knew she was ok.
She was so stupid. Why did she turn her back on a gun? A GUN! And not a gun being held by someone calm and skilled. No she turns her fucking back on an emotionally unstable man holding a gun. What in the hell is wrong with her? Why couldn't she have just let Luke handle the situation and lead the man into the back to jump him there and grab the gun from him? Why was she so stubborn and hotheaded? God, I wanted to kill her myself.
"Aaron, did you call 911?" I snapped at him. My eyes never left Aerolynn's rapidly growing pale face.
"Yeah, they'll be here in ten," he answered quietly.
I nodded silently wishing they would get here faster. I glanced over at Mason who was pressing a towel against her wound. The bullet had torn clean through coming in from her back and exiting through her stomach. Hopefully since it was a clean wound, it could be stitched up rather quickly, but she was losing a lot of blood.
"She still losing a lot?" I asked already knowing the answer. The towel had started out dry and white, now it was dripping red with blood.
Mason nodded. "She's losing a lot really fast, bro. I'm not sure she can wait ten minutes, Zak," he warned softly.
I shook her gently once more when I saw her eyes were fully closed.
"Aerolynn! Open those damn large brown eyes of yours! Do you hear me? Open them!" I shouted shaking her more furiously.
"Don't Zak," Mason commanded quietly.
"Zak…I'm so…tired…" she weakly responded.
"Listen to the sound of my voice and stay with me," I softly told her trying to hold back the tears.
"Sing a song," she quietly requested.
Sing a song? I couldn't sing to save my OWN life, but if it saved her? Then so be it. I quickly went through a list of songs I knew in my head before finding the perfect one to sing to her while we waited on the ambulance. I began singing:
Search for the answers I knew all along
I lost myself, we all fall down
Never the wiser of what I've become
Alone I stand, a broken man
All I have is one last chance
I won't turn my back on you
Take my hand, drag me down
If you fall then I will too
And I can't save what's left of you
I glanced down at her. Seeing that small smile on her face gave me hope to continue. So I went into the chorus:
Sing something new
I have nothing left
I can't face the dark without you
There's nothing left to lose
The fight never ends
I can't face the dark without you
Tears ran down my face as I felt her body slowly grow colder in my arms. I pulled her close to me and buried my face in the crook of her neck.
"Don't you dare leave me! Don't you dare leave after I came back for your smartass," I cried into her neck.
"I need you," I whispered. "Please…don't leave me just yet…not when I've just found the light that I was searching for…"
"Zak," Mason touched my arm gently. "The ambulance is here. Come on."
I refused to let go of her. I couldn't. What if her soul escaped once I let go? I couldn't risk it.
"Sir, I'm sorry but we'll need you to remove yourself from her so we can take her to the E.R. so we can try and save her, okay?" One of the EMTs soothed.
I couldn't let go, though. I just couldn't.
They pried her away from my hands and placed her on the gurney before taking her back to the hospital a few miles from here.
I fell to my hands and knees on the floor after I watched the ambulance disappear down the road. Is this what the woman had been talking about when she told Nick that soon I would be facing my greatest fear? And that I would never be saved if I let her go once I had found her? Is this why she had been shot? Because I let her go four months ago and if she died…then she could never save me? Is this the fear she had been speaking of? Until now I had never fully realized my fear, but now it haunted me.
My greatest fear…was losing the one I loved most.