When Julia went inside the house it was all quiet. She assumed Esperanza and Joaquin were at their small cottage. Damian, again, was nowhere in sight. With the idea of taking a quick shower and then going straight to bed, Julia took two steps at a time and began stripping down as soon as she opened the door to her room.
The cold water massaged her tired muscles, and made her moan in delight. She quickly washed her hair and rubbed her body with some scented soap she had found inside the cabinet above the sink. Putting on the cotton shorts and shirt she was using as her pajamas, Julia pulled the covers of the bed open, too tired to notice anything amiss.
When she climbed into the bed and pulled the covers over her, she closed her eyes knowing she’d be asleep in seconds. But a sting had her eyes snapping open. She quickly scrambled on the bed pushing the covers aside and her eyes went wide, when she noticed the three yellow scorpions on the mattress, one near her leg where she had felt the sting.
Trying not to panic, Julia jumped out of bed and began to remember what her father had told her and Danny to do in case the got stung by a scorpion. Though they were rarely found inside the house, since his father had always had the house fumigated before their visits.
First, she had to stop whimpering. Julia took two deep breaths. However, the venom was already causing her ankle and all the way up to her thigh, to cramp. Julia clenched her teeth together to keep the pain from distracting her from what she had to do next.
Her father’s recommendations boomed inside the quiet room. She began opening drawers, desperate, in search of the shot her father had taught them how to give themselves, so they could counteract the venom before they could go to a proper doctor.
Julia searched frantically. With sinking disappointment she noticed that Damian had forgotten to stack the rooms. Nevertheless, if there wasn’t an antidote here, then there had to be down in the kitchen. The spot above her ankle where the scorpion had stung her was starting to burn up and feel prickly, like a million pins were poking at her skin from the inside out. Julia had never been stung by a scorpion, only her dad had, but he had been immune to the poison.
She decided to check the other rooms before heading down to the kitchen. The cramps felt like some mad force wanted to tear her muscles from the inside. It became harder for Julia to move from room to room. When she reached the steps, she sat down and reviewed her options. She could go find Esperanza and Joaquin at their cottage, they surely had some antidote. Or she could search the kitchen or she could call Sonia or Raul and ask any of them to get her to the town’s doctor.
Julia tried to get up and almost fell down the stairs when her leg gave away and forced her to grab on to the railing for support. With her ass on the cold stone steps, she dragged it down each step, the move taking forever in her mind. When she reached the bottom, she could no longer walk and she had to jump on her other foot to move.
Julia reached the kitchen and began opening drawers, but found nothing. Finally, she found a kind of medicine cabinet and she saw a syringe with the antidote. Julia took it and jumped back to the foyer and sat down on the floor.
By then her eyes had begun to tear up and her entire body shook in anxiousness. She managed to get the shot but the nausea had her clutching her stomach and crawling into a ball on the floor. Her entire body began to shake. From what she remembered reading about scorpions and their poison, in the worst cases the person affected could start convulsing and lose consciousness.
Julia gauged it useless to try and get to the phone inside Damian’s studio or shout for Esperanza or Joaquin to come help her. She remained on the floor, shaking and praying she hadn’t waited too long to apply the antidote.
Damian drove back from a meeting with the farmers’ association from La Providencia. Though most of them remained wary of his intentions of selling their products in a big superstore, they at least had begun considering his proposal. Damian convinced them he wasn’t after their lands but only wanted them to earn a decent living by selling their products. After his many tours through the many fields during these past days since he’d come back, Damian had attested to the quality of what was planted in these lands, and the profit this people could make. Therefore, they could improve their quality of life.
They agreed to talk it over and meet with him after the town’s celebrations took place, since most of them would be busy getting ready for the town’s parade. It was custom for the farmers to decorate their tractor trucks; some even put up food stands around the square.
His headlights shone on the closed gate. He got down, opened it and then drove inside. He parked his black BMW under the roof next to the house’s entrance and headed inside. Damian was just going to take a quick shower and then head back down to have dinner with his mother. Though he was wary she might bring up the whole issue about Julia again.
Damian had not wanted to care but he had laid awake last night, pondering what could’ve caused such an important rift between father and daughter. It couldn’t have been about him, obviously. Julia had made her choice to pursue the future her father had mapped out for her and he hadn’t been in it. Maybe Julia had done the unthinkable and maybe part of her noble personality had pushed her to try a job at a legal aid office and not inside the firm where his dad had made a name for himself. But would that have caused Benjamin Andersson to kick her daughter out?
Part of him was infuriated that he was allowing his mother’s talk to concern him at all. Whatever had happened in Julia’s life had been her choice. Just as it had been his choice to make amends with his estranged father and provide for his family. And all those choices and sacrifices had led up to now. He was planning in making a name for himself here and if Julia or anyone had a problem with that, then they could just go to hell.
His hand pushed open the door and his previous thoughts flew out of his mind when he saw Julia crumpled on the floor, shaking, her shoulders convulsing while her hand clutched the side of her ankle. Damian felt his heart drop all the way down to his knees, the shock immobilizing him before he could react and run to Julia.
He dropped to the floor and grabbed her by the shoulders. Her face was all beaded with sweat and he could tell she was drifting out of consciousness. Still, he shook her and demanded. “Julia! Julia open your eyes. Tell me what happened!”
Somewhere in the black hole she had been sucked into, Julia heard his voice. She tried to open her eyes. When she managed to, she saw his face contorted in worry and she wondered if maybe she was already dead and she was imagining him. It would be the one thing she would want to see before dying, his face, though not drenched in worry but smiling at her.
“Julia!” He insisted, speaking louder as he propped her up in his arms.
“What?” Did she just say……..Damian thought he’d heard her wrong, until his eyes noticed the syringe lying next to her. The box with the antidote’s name was right next to it.
She must’ve injected herself but somehow the poison was still attacking her body. He didn’t think as he got up and pulled her up in his arms and carried her back to his car. In that instant, Esperanza appeared at the doorway and gasped in horror.
“Julia, what happened?”
“A scorpion stung her. I thought I asked you to take care of the damned fumigation before I came.”
“I….I did.” Esperanza stuttered, her face pale and her eyes wide. Julia was shaking and her eyes were half closed, while her head dangled from Damian’s arms.
“Don’t you lie to me. If you had, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“D-don’t y-yyell…….at….her.” Julia managed to say.
Ignoring her, Damian pushed past the shocked cook and he yelled over his shoulder. “I’m taking her down to the clinic. I suggest you find out how a scorpion managed to climb up to her bed.”
Damian put Julia inside the passenger seat and ran to his side. He slammed the door and was grateful Esperanza had already run to the gate to open it.
He sped past her, spitting up gravel on his wake. Damian saw Julia’s head loll to one side. His hand grabbed her arm and he yelled. “Julia, don’t you dare close your eyes.” Then because he felt the fear clogging his throat he said more softly. “Please baby, stay with me. Stay with me.”
He made it down to town in less than five minutes. Damian pressed his foot hard on the breaks outside the clinic, the sound of squealing tires drawing the attention of some bystanders and others, who flapped their curtains open to get a better view of what was going on.
He got out and hurried to Julia’s side. She was already unconscious. He felt a cold hard fist squeezing his heart. He realized he had never experienced such raw fear before.
Esperanza must’ve called the clinic ahead, because the doctor came running out with two nurses and a gurney.
“Damian. Esperanza said Julia was stung by a scorpion.”
“Yes. She used the antidote but I found her on the floor. She just lost consciousness. I don’t know how long ago she…”
The doctor helped him put Julia on the gurney and then rushed her inside. Dr. Caras grabbed her wrist and took her pulse which was weak but still there. He opened her eyes and saw with relief her pupils contract with the light.
The doctor reassured Damian Julia was okay. They would put an IV with more antidote and would monitor her levels of oxygen and heart rate during the night. Damian wanted to go with them but Dr. Caras insisted they needed space to work and he would do no good getting in the way.
Drained and jittery, he collapsed into one of the chairs in the waiting area. Damian grabbed his head with his hands, battling away the image of Julia on the floor and the feel of her limp body in his arms, as he’d carried her to the car.
The doctor came out after an hour, announcing Julia was out of danger, but that they were keeping her under observation for the rest of the night. Damian only shut his eyes and let out the breath he had been holding all this time. His brain slowly untangled from the horrible outcomes he had been imagining during his wait. Dr. Caras asked him if he wanted to stay with Julia and he didn’t think twice before following the doctor into Julia’s room, his contempt for her forgotten.
He sat on the only chair in the room and simply stared, a silent warrior guarding over his beloved Princess, not that he would admit as much. Not now, not ever.
A gentle tapping on his shoulder jolted him awake. It took Damian a few seconds to gather his bearings and recognize the clinic’s room where he had spent the night watching over Julia. He’d only woken up two times during the night, when he heard her stir, before she went back to sleep.
It had taken a lot of willpower not to go over her and simply make room for both of them on the bed. Damian had wanted to hold her close to him and make sure she was breathing. True, some barely felt any discomfort when stung by a scorpion, but he’d known of two people in town who had died from it.
His gaze found Esperanza’s and he wanted to slap himself at the way he had lashed out at the older woman. Before he could say anything, Esperanza said. “They were about to start fumigating the house. I told them to wait for you so you could shower and change. Damian, I honestly don’t know how….”
“Esperanza, I know it wasn’t your fault. I overreacted. I apologize if I acted like a jerk.”
“I still don’t understand how it could’ve happened. It’s not like the beds are an easy access. And before you came they took care of all that. I don’t understand.”
“We’ll figure it out. The important thing is that it was only a scare, nothing more.”
“You should go home.” Esperanza added after a brief pause. “I’ll stay here until the doctor says she can go home. Joaquin’s car is already fixed, so don’t worry.”
Damian glanced at Julia’s sleeping form. He nodded to Esperanza and gave Julia one last look before leaving.