‘Shit.’ he confirms. ‘When can I go home?’
My eyes roll, and the nurse laughs. ‘Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Eyes, please.’ She gets the pen light from her pocket and waits for my grouchy Lord to drop his greens for her. When he does, she falters slightly before resuming medical duties. ‘Your wife has told me all about these eyes.’ she muses, flicking the pen from one to the other. ‘They really are quite something.’
I smile proudly and raise on my tiptoes to look over her bending body, finding him grinning from ear to ear. ‘Is that all she told you about, nurse?’ he asks cheekily.
The jolly woman cocks a warning eyebrow. ‘No, she’s told me about that roguish grin, too. Bed bath?’
He recoils on a grimace, and I laugh. ‘No, I’ll shower.’ he blurts, flashing me horrified eyes.
‘No can do, young man. Not until the doctor checks you over and we remove your catheter.’ She is putting him firmly in his place.
His horror increases, and the nurse lifts his catheter frame to demonstrate the obstacle. The mortification all over his handsome, hairy face is really quite a picture. ‘For fuck sake.’ he mutters, dropping his head back to the pillow and closing his eyes to hide from his embarrassment.
‘I’ll call the doctor.’ She chuckles as she leaves the room and I’m once again alone with my poor, dependant husband.
‘Get me out of here, baby.’ he begs.
‘No way, Ward.’ I pour him some water and stick a straw in the plastic cup, then put it to his dry lips. ‘Drink.’
‘Is it bottled?’ he asks, eyeing up the jug on the side.
‘I doubt it. Stop being a water snob and drink.’
He follows through on my demand and takes a few sips. ‘Don’t let that nurse give me a bed bath.’
‘Why not?’ I ask, placing the cup on the unit next to the bed. ‘It’s her job, Jesse and she’s been doing it very well for the past two weeks.’
‘Two weeks?’ he blurts. ‘I’ve been out for two weeks?’
‘Yes, but it felt more like two hundred years.’ I rest my backside on the edge of the bed and take his hand, twirling his wedding band thoughtfully. ‘Don’t ever complain to me about having a long day again.’
‘Okay.’ he agrees. ‘She hasn’t really been sponging me down, has she?’
I smile. ‘No, I have.’
I’m stunned when his eyes sparkle and he pouts playfully. How can he even think about that? ‘So while I was naked and unconscious, you were… fondling me?’
‘No, I was washing you.’
‘And you didn’t have a sneaky touch?’
‘Of course.’ I brace my hands on either side of his head and float my face over his smug one. ‘I needed to lift you limp dick to get to your saggy balls.’ I’m not able to prevent my grin, especially when his eyes widen before narrowing fiercely. This is a man who prides himself on his body and sexual capabilities. I shouldn’t tease him like this.
‘I’m in hell.’ he mutters. ‘Fucking hell on earth. Get me a doctor. I’m going home.’
‘You’re going nowhere.’ I kiss him chastely and leave him brooding and muttering on the bed while I nip to the loo. It’s the first time in weeks, probably my whole life, that I’ve carried out the mundane chore with a huge smile on my face. My heart is beating strongly in my chest. I might even be giving our babies a headache.
When I re-enter his room, the doctor is examining Jesse. I stand quietly to the side while listening to the questions and one word answers that are exchanged between the two men. I make mental notes and watch carefully as the Doctor re-dresses the wound and removes the drains. He’s seems happy with the healing and delighted with Jesse’s alertness. The doctor isn’t so keen to remove Jesse’s catheter, though, and not even a five minute, heated exchange of words between them convinces him.
‘Maybe tomorrow,’ he tries to appease Jesse. ‘We’ll see if you’re up for a little walk about tomorrow. You’ve just come round, Jesse.’
‘What about this, then?’ Jesse indicates the needle in his arm, but the doctor shakes his head and Jesse snorts his disgust.
After seeing through his observations, the Doctor leaves and I settle back in the chair. ‘The more you cooperate, the sooner you’ll be released.’
‘You look tired.’ he says, changing the subject and directing the concern onto me. ‘Are you eating?’
‘Yes,’ My traitor fingers dive into my messy hair, totally giving me away.
‘Ava,’ he moans. ‘Go now and get something to eat.’
‘My mum fed me a salad. I’m not hungry.’
His eyes widen at the mention of my mum. I know what’s coming. ‘What have you told them?’
‘Everything.’ I admit. I blubbered my way through it all while my mum soothed and hushed me. She was quietly tolerant. It was bizarre. ‘Except your four day absence.’
He nods thoughtfully, almost acceptingly. He must know I could never have avoided it. ‘Okay.’ he says quietly. ‘Go and get something to eat.’
‘I’m not hun…’
‘Don’t make me tell you again, lady,’ he snaps. ‘because piss bag or not, I’ll march you down to that fucking restaurant myself and shove some food down your throat!’
I wisely halt all further arguments. I’m really not hungry, but I know he absolutely would, so I drag my tired body from the chair and retrieve the twenty that my dad left for me in Jesse’s bedside cabinet. ‘I’ll get you something, too.’
‘I’m not hungry.’ He doesn’t even look at me. He’s lost in thought. He’s ashamed, but he shouldn’t be. I’m not, so neither should he.
I hide my look of astonishment at his curt reply. I’m not going to argue with him because it will get me absolutely nowhere and only stress him out. I’ll get him something and force feed him if he refuses to eat it.
His mood and my affronted state goes nowhere near to dampening down the elation dancing through me. The presence of his arrogance and challenging ways really is a sign that I have my Jesse back. I wouldn’t have him any other way.
I’m munching my way through a Dairy Milk as I drag my feet down the hospital corridor. I feel so much better in myself, more alive and awake, but my body isn’t agreeing with my mind. It needs rest.
Rounding the corner that leads back to Jesse’s room, I halt as soon as I see Sarah hovering outside Jesse’s door. She goes to take the handle, but pulls back again, then turns, deciding to leave. She spots me and freezes, looking out of place and awkward. I haven’t seen her here since Jesse was admitted, and I thought she had stayed away, but seeing her now, hanging around the corridor, I realise that she’s probably been here most days. I know if I’d have seen her before now, I might have lashed out in grief, but not now. Not knowing what I know now. I’ll never forgive her for what she’s done, but having learnt of her history, I’d be inhuman if I didn’t feel some compassion for the woman. She lost a child. It’s tragic and she’s put up a hard faced front to protect herself. She wanted Jesse. She saw a reason to unite and sooth each other’s grief, whereas he saw her as a reminder of what he lost because of a poor decision to fuck her. Two suffering souls who used each other in different ways, except Jesse found his salvation elsewhere. And Sarah still wants him to be hers.
‘Are you okay?’ I ask, not knowing what else to say to her. I’ve shocked her with my question. She looks tearful, but she’s trying to keep up a hard persona. I quickly realise that she doesn’t know he’s awake. I’m sure John has been keeping her informed, but he doesn’t know either. ‘He’s come round.’
Her eyes snap to mine. ‘He’s okay?’
‘He will be, if the stubborn idiot listens to the Doctor.’ I hold up a miniature jar of peanut butter that I found in the restaurant. ‘And eats.’
She smiles. It’s a nervous smile. ‘I hope you’ve got more than one of those.’
‘Ten.’ I lift my arm where a paper bag is dangling. ‘But it’s not Sun-Pat, so he’ll probably reject it.’
She actually laughs, but stops quickly, and I know that it’s because she thinks it’s inappropriate. It probably is, not because the situation isn’t funny, but because she’s laughing with me.
‘I know everything, Sarah.’ I need her to appreciate that my empathy is only because of my new knowledge. ‘I’ll never forget what you tried to do to us, but I think I understand why you did it.’
Her red lips part, her mouth falling open in shock. ‘He told you?’
‘About your little girl. About Rosie. About Carmichael, the car accident and why the girls were with Carmichael in the first place.’
‘Oh.’ Her eyes fall to the blue plastic floor. ‘It’s always been ours.’
She means their story and connection. And I’ve severed it. The woman standing in front of me has always exuded confidence and cockiness, and I have striped her down to the bare truth. I do feel sorry for her. I’m feeling sorry that I have everything she wants, and I’ve got it with the man who she wants it with. She tried to take her own life, but that will never make me stand down. Nothing will ever make me stand down. Not scorned ex-lovers, high-class sex clubs, drink problems, psychotic ex-wives, the shock of a lost daughter, or the desolation of Sarah. Neither will the madness that surrounds all of those reasons. This Man has thrown everything at me, and I still don’t plan on going anywhere. Unbreakable.
‘Can I see him?’ she asks quietly. ‘I’ll understand if you refuse.’
I should refuse, but compassion refuses to let me. I need closure on this, and she does, too. ‘Sure. I’ll wait here.’ I sit myself down on a hard plastic chair and watch her disappear into his room.
I don’t need to hear what will be said. I have a good idea, anyway, so instead I finish my chocolate bar, my body thanking me for the instant sugar hit.
I look up and see Jesse’s mum and sister hurrying down the corridor. ‘Hi,’ I speak around a mouthful of chocolate and hold my hand up to signal my inability to say any more.
‘The nurse said he’s awake. Jesse’s awake.’ Beatrice looks over at the door, then back to me.
I nod and chew fast, swallowing so I can give her the information she needs. ‘He’s fine. Grumpy but fine.’
‘Oh, thank you, Jesus!’ She turns and throws her arms around Amalie. ‘He’s going to be okay.’
I watch as Amalie smiles over her mum’s shoulder at me. ‘Grumpy?’
‘Or stubborn—whichever.’ I shrug on a smile, and her green eyes glimmer in understanding.’
‘The latter, for sure.’ she confirms, holding her sobbing mother in her arms. ‘It’s good to see you eating.’
I look down at the wrapper of the chocolate bar I’ve just demolished and smile, thinking how good it feels to eat. I could easily tuck away another. ‘Where’s Henry?’ I ask.
‘Just parking the car. Would you mind if we see him?’ Amalie asks.
I’m very abruptly hit with the hard realisation that Jesse doesn’t know they’re here. And I have no idea how to handle it. After our last encounter with his parents, I should avoid subjecting him to the potentially stressful situation, but my conniving mind is jumping all over the fact that he can’t escape. And whilst I might be taking a huge risk, I know it will be my only opportunity to get them in the same room together. He will have to listen. If he doesn’t like what her hears, then so be it, but I’ve watched his family grieving. I saw it clearly, even through my own grief. Now is the time to put all wrongs right, no matter who is to blame. This is what I hope, but it’s his choice, and I’ll stick by whatever he decides.