‘Just a few cuts and bruises.’ The copper says. ‘You were all very lucky. Shall we get you checked over before we run through some questions?’ He smiles kindly and signals over to an ambulance.
I feel all dramatic and a bit of a bother. ‘I feel fine, honestly.’
Jesse growls and tosses me a fierce scowl. ‘I’m going to take that fine in my palm and slap you all over the arse with it.’
‘I am fine.’ My car’s not, though. It looks terrible. Mum’s insistence that we should never leave each other on a cross word has never hit so hard. I appreciate it fully, and I don’t ever plan on leaving Jesse on bad terms again. Never.
Jesse makes a meal of exhaling and flopping his head back. ‘Ava, don’t defy me on this, please. I have no problem with pinning you down in the ambulance so they can confirm you’re okay.’ His head drops back down. ‘Are you going the easy way, or the hard way?’
‘I’ll go.’ I agree quietly. I’ll do anything he says. I free myself from his chest. ‘My bag,’
‘I’ll get it.’ He sprints away.
‘My phone’s on the floor!’ I call after him, but he just waves his arm over his head to acknowledge that he heard. He’s back in seconds, and the policeman leads us to the ambulance, pushing his way through the growing crowds of pedestrians.
A paramedic on the back puts his hand out to me, but I don’t get the chance to grasp it. I’m lifted and placed in the white van. ‘Thank you,’ I smile down at Jesse and watch as the copper gets a pad and pen from his pocket.
‘Sir, while she’s being taken care of, do you mind answering a few questions?’
‘Yes, I do. You’ll have to wait.’
‘Sir, I’d like to ask you a few questions.’ The policeman isn’t asking nicely this time.
Jesse turns his full body into him, the edge of threat clear in his stance. He’s trampling a copper. ‘My wife and child are in the back of that ambulance and the only way you’re going to stop me from seeing to them is if I’m dead.’ He steps back and holds his hands out to the side. ‘So fucking shoot me.’
The policeman looks up at me, and I smile apologetically. The last thing I need is Jesse being arrested. I don’t know whether it’s put down to emotions running high, but the copper nods and gestures for Jesse to join me. My trampling Lord’s glower is still fixed to his face as he turns back towards me, but it soon falls away. His face is level with my stomach, but his eyes are currently dropped and looking at my bare legs.
Reaching forward, he runs his finger up the inside of my calf. ‘Baby, you’re cut.’
I glance down. ‘Where?’ I can’t feel anything. I pull at my dress, hitching it higher, but there is no sign of any cut. Higher it goes; still more blood but no cut. I look at Jesse in confusion, but he’s frozen as he watches me searching for the source of the blood. His eyes lift to mine. They are wide and uneasy. It doesn’t sit well. I start shaking my head as he moves forward, taking my dress up as far as it can go.
There is no cut.
The blood is coming from my knickers.
‘No!’ I cry out, realisation crashing into me like a tornado.
‘Oh Jesus,’ He yanks the hem of my dress back down and jumps up to the ambulance, engulfing me in his arms. ‘Fucking hell, no.’
I’m placed on gurney gently and hear the slamming of metal doors, making me jump. I turn into his chest, clutching at his t-shirt and hiding my face from him. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘Shut up, Ava.’ He grabs the back of my hair and pulls me out. His eyes are a cloud of green. ‘Please, just shut up.’ His thumb drags under my eye, collecting some tears. ‘I love you.’
This is my punishment. This is my penance for having such toxic thoughts. I deserve it, but Jesse doesn’t. He deserves the happiness I know this baby would’ve given him. It’s an extension of me, and I know that he can’t get enough me. I’ve destroyed his dream. I should have seen things clearer sooner. I should have changed my address at the surgery. I should have let John take me to work. I shouldn’t have gone to Matt’s office. There are so many things I have and haven’t done that could have changed how things are playing out.
My shame is eating away at me and it will do for the rest of my life. It hasn’t happened how I had stupidly first thought, but the end result is the same. I’ve killed our baby.
The silence surrounding us is painful. The whole way in the ambulance, I sobbed and Jesse constantly told me how much he loves me. I can’t help but think it’s simply because he doesn’t know what else to say. There’s no comfort or reassurance coming from those three words. He hasn’t said it doesn’t matter because I know it does. He hasn’t said it’s not my fault because I know it is. He hasn’t said that we will be fine either, and I don’t know if we will. Just when I was beginning to see light at the end of the never-ending tunnel of issues, we’re hit with the worst kind of devastation—a damage that can’t be fixed. Our love for each other will be tested to the absolute limit now, but the dwelling ache deep inside of me is not filling me with hope. I’m not sure if we can survive this. He’ll resent me forever.
He carries me from the ambulance, rejecting the wheelchair that’s brought out by a nurse. He silently follows the doctor down the busy corridor, all of the time looking straight ahead and flipping one word answers to anyone who asks him questions. I can’t feel anything except Jesse’s thundering heartbeat under my hand, which is resting on his chest. All of my nerve endings seem to have died. I can’t sense a thing.
After what seems like an eternity of gently bobbing up and down in Jesse’s arms, I’m lowered onto a huge hospital bed in a private room. He’s gentle and all of his actions are tender and loving as he strokes my hair, props my head up slightly and covers my legs with the thin sheet that’s lying at the foot of the bed. But there are still no comforting or reassuring words.
We’re closed in from every direction by machines and medical equipment. A nurse stays, but the ambulance men leave after giving a brief rundown on me, what has happened and the observations they have already performed on the way to the hospital. The nurse takes notes, sticks things in my ear and holds thing to my chest. She asks questions, and I answers quietly, but the whole time, I keep my eyes on Jesse, who’s sitting in a chair with his face in his palms.
The nurse pulls my reluctant eyes away from my grieving husband when she hands me a gown. She smiles. It’s a sympathetic smile. Then she leaves the room. I just hold it for a while, until so much time has passed, I think it could be next week, or even next year. I want it to be next year. Will this crippling pain and guilt be gone by next year?
I finally slide myself to the side of the bed, my back to Jesse, and reach around to unzip my dress. In the quiet, I hear him stand, like my movements have suddenly snapped him from his nightmare and his obligatory duties have kicked in.
He comes and stands in front of me, but my stinging eyes remain on the floor. ‘Let me.’ he says softly, taking over the removal of my dress.
‘It’s okay. I can manage.’ I counter softy. I don’t want him to do anything that he doesn’t want to.
‘You probably can,’ He pulls my dress up over my head, ‘but it’s my job and I’d like to keep it.’
My chin starts to tremble as I fight to restrain the persistent tears, not wanting to enflame any guilt he might be feeling himself. ‘Thank you,’ I whisper, still keeping my welling eyes from his line of sight.
It’s an impossible task, especially when he bends and pushes his face up into my neck, forcing my face up to his. ‘Don’t thank me for looking after you, Ava. It’s what I’ve been put on this earth to do. It’s what keeps me here. Don’t ever thank me for that.’
‘I’ve ruined everything. I’ve lost your dream.’
He pushes me down onto the bed and kneels in front of me. ‘My dream is you, Ava. Day and night, just you.’ My vision is hazy and blurred, but I can clearly see the tears trickling from his green eyes. ‘I can manage without anything, but never you. Not ever. Don’t look like this, please. Don’t look like you think it’s the end. It’s never the end for us. Nothing will break us, Ava. Do you understand me?’
I nod through my quiet weeping, unable to form words or even say them if I could.
He brushes the back of his hand roughly across his cheeks. ‘We let these people tell us you’re going to be okay, and then we go home to be together.’
I nod again.
‘Tell me you love me.’
A loud sob spills from my mouth and my arms find his shoulders and pull him into me. ‘I need you.’
‘I need you, too.’ he whispers. His hands all over my back, despite being cool and a little shaky, give me all of the comfort I need. We will be okay. Heartbroken, but okay. ‘Let me get you into this gown.’
I’m pulled up from the bed, but he remains kneeling, and starts peeling my blood stained underwear away from my body. I can’t look. I clench my eyes shut and feel instead of see my knickers being slowly drawn down my thighs. The familiar feel on his fingertip tapping my ankle prompts me to step out, but all of the time, I keep my eyes clenched shut. For the briefest of moments, I know he has moved from in front of me, and then I hear a tap running before he’s back and gently sweeping a wet cloth up the inside on my thigh. My heart constricts painfully in my chest, and I’m gulping back tears repeatedly.
‘Arms,’ Jesse’s soft instruction encourages me to open my eyes. I find him holding the gown in front of me. My arms thread through, and I’m turned so he can fasten it. ‘Up you get.’ he orders. I shift myself back into position, just as there’s a knock on the door. Jesse calls an okay.
The same nurse has returned, but this time she has a white coated doctor with her. He shuts the door softly and nods at Jesse, who is suddenly more alert, and I know why.
The doctor has a fiddle with the machine at the side of me, and then perches on the edge of the bed. ‘How are you feeling, Ava?’ he asks.
‘Fine.’ The one word that Jesse has threatened to spank my arse with just slips right out. He sighs but doesn’t say anything. ‘I’m okay, thank you.’
‘Okay, no aches or pains, cuts or bruises?’
He smiles mildly and folds back the sheet that’s covering my stomach. ‘Let’s see what’s going on. Would you like to pull the gown up so I can feel you tummy?’
Even now, when we are in the darkest most desperate place, I can feel Jesse’s tenseness at the prospect of another man laying his hands on me. I glance over to him and give pleading eyes, but he just shakes his head. ‘I might step outside.’ he says quietly, stepping back towards the door.
‘Don’t you dare!’ I cry. ‘Don’t you dare leave me.’ I know he’s struggling, and I know the idea of another man touching me is unbearable for him, even if it is over-the-top and only part of his unreasonable possessiveness, but he can overcome that now. He has to overcome that now.
The Doctor looks between us, a little baffled, and waits for Jesse to take the initiative and join me at the bed. What will I do if he walks out? I don’t think I could bear it, but then he inhales what seems to be a long, controlled gathering of strength and comes to sit next to me. My hand is picked up and encased in both of his before he brings the bundle to his chest and drops his head to it. He can’t watch.
I’m flanked on both sides, one man pushing my gown up and feeling around on my stomach, the other breathing deeply and squeezing my hand. I just rest my head back and stare up at the ceiling, wishing this could be over so Jesse can take me home and we can start painfully processing what has happened. Who was in the DBS? This is sheading a whole new light on my blacking out episode in the bar. Surely Mikael isn’t so wrapped up in revenge that he would go to these lengths.