Tyler falls onto the ground and the world goes blank.
My ears start to buzz and my vision gets blurry. I want to reach out to him, but I can't.
My body remains rigid and immobile as if I'm chained to the ground.
Then, just as fast as it all happened, the world suddenly comes back.
I run over to Tyler and press my hand to his shoulder. Lying on the ground, he's wincing in pain.
I don't know what to do.
I grab my phone, but I don't have any reception.
I need to turn back time and make all of this stop, but I don't know how.
“What have you done?” I roar at Mac. “Why did you do this?”
I press my hand firmly into Tyler's shoulder to stop the bleeding, but I need something better.
I pull off my shirt, leaving myself in just a tank top, and tie it firmly around his shoulder.
When I look up to say something to Mac again, I see him backing away, into his car.
“Where are you going? You have to help me!”
“I'm really sorry about this, Isabelle,” Maggie says and climbs into the passenger seat.
“We can’t just leave them here,” Nicholas says and my hopes rise.
“Get in the fucking car or I’ll shoot you, too,” Mac says through his teeth, pointing his gun at him.
A few moments later, the car spins around and Tessa looks at me from the back seat.
Watching them drive away feels like the wind being knocked out of me.
They are leaving Tyler here to die.
They're leaving me here to watch him die.
“No,” I say, forcing myself up to my feet. “No, not today. You're not going to die today.”
“Isabelle, please,” Tyler says, reaching up to me.
I try to make a plan. The car!
I run over and push the front passenger seat as far back as it can go and recline it to make it comfortable for him.
When I rush back, Tyler smiles at me.
“I'm going to help you. Let me help you get into the car.”
Slowly, he rises up to his feet and slumps his body over mine.
You never know how heavy a person can be who isn't holding up his own body weight.
I strain under the pressure, but I force myself to keep going. Eventually, we make our way to the car and I help him into the front seat.
“Everything is going to be fine,” I say, getting behind the wheel. “I'm going to take you to the hospital and they're going to fix everything up.”
“No,” Tyler mumbles. “No, you can't do that.”
“What are you talking about?”
“If you take me to a hospital, they’re going to call the police. They report all gun crime victims.”
“You need someone to take out the bullet. You need medical help. Professional help.”
“If you take me to the hospital, you are signing my death warrant,” he mumbles through the pain.
“They're going to save your life!” I yell frantically.
“And then send me back to prison. Away from you. Forever.” He winces.
“But at least you’ll be alive,” I plead and drive as fast as I can down the dusty desert road.
We argue back and forth until I get to the Marine base in Twentynine Palms, but by then he’s too weak to fight me any longer.
“I love you, Isabelle,” he whispers and lets his body go limp.
“Tyler, Tyler, wake up!” I try to rouse him but continue to drive.
He doesn't wake up.
When I get to the outskirts of Joshua Tree, I see the big red sign for the Desert Regional Hospital.
I slow down at the light, trying to decide what to do. Do I turn around, go to the emergency room, save his life, and possibly send him back to prison, or do I just let him die right here, right now?
No, there has to be another solution. There has to be something else.
The light turns green and I keep driving.
I don't make the turn.
I don't take him to the hospital.
I press my hand to his chest. I can feel that his heart is still pumping. He doesn't have much time, but for now, he's alive.
I have never been here in my life and I don't know anyone here.
Who can I trust?
Who even has the medical knowledge to help me with this?
Another sign appears: Joshua Tree Veterinary Clinic.
I make a hard right turn and pull into the small parking lot. There's only one other car there and hopefully it belongs to a veterinarian.
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