Beneath This Man (Chapter 27)
My eyes are attacked by fluorescent lighting and bright white at every wall. I feel like I've been bashed over the head a few times with an iron bar. Where the hell am I? I close my eyes again and reach up to brush away a lock of hair that's tickling my cheek. The soft contact of my hand on my head stabs at my brain.
'Ava?' His voice is quiet and his hand clamped around mine. 'Ava baby, open your eyes.'
I try my best, but it is too bloody painful. Fuck! What is wrong with me? Is this the worse hangover ever? I don't remember drinking that much.
'Will someone tell me what the FUCK is going on!' he roars.
I snap my eyes open again and gaze around my unfamiliar surroundings. The only familiar thing is that irate voice and it's a strange comfort to me, but God it's playing havoc with my sensitive head. I reach up to clasp my aching skull.
I squint my eyes in an attempt to focus, and I'm met with a green, grief-stricken pair. The feel of his warm palm stroking my head has me groaning in protest. It hurts. 'Hi.' I squeak. My throat is raspy and dry.
'Oh, thank fucking God!' He swaps my face in kisses, and I beat him away. I can't breathe.
'Ava, chick. Are you okay?'
I follow the sound of another familiar voice and find Sam leaning over me, looking the most serious I've ever seen him. What's going on?
'Does she fucking look all right?' Jesse yells in Sam's face. 'For fuck sake!'
I know that voice too. I flick my sensitive eyes around the room and find Kate sat in a chair opposite me. 'Where am I?' I ask through my dryness. I need some water.
'You're in hospital, baby.' He strokes my face and kisses my forehead again.
What on earth am I doing in hospital? I try to sit up, but I'm met with the full force of Jesse pressing down on me. 'I need the toilet.' I grumble, trying to fight him off. I slap his persistent hands away and scramble into a sitting position, prompting my hands to fly up and grasp my head when the full force of gravity crashes in around my brain. Holy shit! This really is the worse hangover ever. I groan and cross my legs in front of me, resting my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands.
'I'll take her.' I hear Kate volunteer. 'Ava, come on.'
'No fucking way!'
I roll my eyes at the sound of the unreasonable voice I love and wait for Kate to retaliate, but nothing follows. 'I'm fine.' I snap irritably. I can go to the bloody toilet on my own.
I shift myself to the side of the bed and lower my feet to the floor. My heels are gone.
'I don't think so, lady.' He sweeps me up from the side of the bed. 'Whatever happened to en-suites?' he mutters as he carries me out of the room and into the corridor. The lights are brighter out here. I shade my eyes from the invasion.
'Ah! She's come round.'
'I'm taking her to the bathroom.' Jesse barks, continuing his long strides to the nearest toilet.
'Sir, please, we need a urine sample.'
Jesse pauses momentarily, before carrying on his way. I'm placed on my feet and held up while I watch Jesse use his free hand to cake some tissue in anti-bacterial spray and wipe the toilet seat, muttering insults about the NHS and shit cleaners. My dress is pulled up, my knickers down and I'm lowered onto the toilet with a cardboard bowl held under me.
I have no shyness or inhibitions. I release the muscles around my bladder and sigh in relief as the pressure drains. I can't believe I'm sat on his arm while he holds a pee-pot under me.
'No stage fright then?' he asks softly.
I open my eyes and find him crouched in front of me, his spare palm holding the top of my thigh. His face looks distressed and tired. 'You've fucked me up the arse. I'm coping.'
'Ava, will you watch your fucking mouth?' he sighs, but there's relief in his voice.
I'm half tempted to tell him to fetch the anti-bacterial solution and spray it in my mouth, but I'm too busy wracking my brain trying to figure out how I ended up in hospital. The last thing I remember is seeing Jesse stood in the doorway looking murderous. I remember being both concerned by his expression as he ran towards me and pissed off that he couldn't leave me in peace for one evening.
I get some crispy, stiff toilet paper and sort myself out. 'I'm done. Did I pee on you?' I ask with little concern as I make to stand, giving Jesse just enough time to remove the cardboard bowl before I fall back down onto the seat.
He shoves the bowl on the back of the toilet. 'No, give me your hands.'
I hold them out and feel Jesse's hands smother mine, rubbing and working in the anti-bacterial spray. He holds me up and pulls my knickers back up and my dress down, before lifting me into his arms and taking me back to the hospital bed.
'It's on the back of the toilet.' he snaps shortly as we pass the nurses' station. I reluctantly release him as he lowers me onto the hard, crumply bed.
'Ava, what happened?' Kate's voice is laced with complete concern, a rare reaction from her.
'I don't know.' I reply, resting my back against the headboard. I feel incredibly sleepy again.
'I do!' Jesse exclaims, looking at me accusingly.
I use all of my depleted energy to throw him a filthy look. 'I wasn't drunk!'
'You pass out from being sober often, do you?' he yells.
It makes me wince, piercing at my tender ears. He has the decency to look remorseful when I re-open my eyes.
'Don't shout at her!' Kate defends me. I'm grateful. He throws her a look, stuffs his hands in his jean pockets and starts pacing up and down the room. Sam moves out of his way. He really is quiet for Sam. 'She had a few glasses of wine. She's got through two bottles before and not passed out.' Kate sits next to me and rubs my arm. 'Did you eat?'
I cast my mind back. 'Yes.' I answer. Jesse fed me all day, between shipping clothes up the stairs and getting his fix of me.
Jesse stops with the pacing, his lip getting a punishing chomp from his teeth. 'Are you pregnant?' he asks, watching me carefully and returning to the chomping.
'No!' I blurt, shocked at his forwardness, but then I freeze.
Oh good God!
My pills. I've not replaced my pills! I suddenly feel faint again. I'm hot too. Oh, what a stupid woman I am. I've been having sex like a rabbit and with no protection. How did I let that slip? I glance at Jesse and pull my best unaffected face.
He narrows his eyes on me. 'Are you sure?'
'Yes!' I wince at my own shrill voice, tensing my arm to prevent my natural reflex from giving me away. Jesse and everyone else in this room will assume my tone is defensive. It's not – it's completely freaked.
'I'm just asking.' He resumes pacing.
'What do you remember?' Kate asks, continuing to stroke my arm.
I reflect on the evening, but I'm struggling to remember anything now. All I can think of is how many pills I've missed and what the chances are of me being pregnant. I battle to fight off the worry and try to remember something, anything of last night. I remember Matt, but I won't be mentioning him. Then I remember the swollen, slicked, ponytailed guy, but I won't be mentioning him either. I shrug. There isn't a lot I can say without sending Jesse into neurotic orbit. Oh God, please don't say I'm pregnant.
'Hey, chick,' I feel Sam take my other hand and start circling his thumb in his palm. 'Think hard, yeah?'
'I don't remember.' I say clearly and concisely, still resisting the temptation to play with my hair. 'Why is everyone making such a bloody fuss?' I throw my head back on the pillow again and regret it immediately. I feel like I have iron ball bearings rattling around in there.
I watch as Jesse stalks over to Sam's side of the bed and growls at him, before shoving him out the way and grabbing my hand. He narrows very angry pools of pissed off on me. 'Ava, it is four o'clock in the fucking morning!' He closes his eyes to regain his composure – not that he ever had it. 'You've been out cold for nearly seven hours, so don't you dare tell me not to make a fucking fuss!'
Seven hours? Shit! I've fainted a few times in the past, but only for a few minutes at a time. Seven hours is like a full night's sleep. Every head in the room turns to the door when a nurse enters. Seven hours?
She gives a very disapproving look. 'It's one visitor in the room. You need to leave.'
I glance at Kate, who glances to Jesse, who completely ignores her. It's obvious he isn't going anywhere. I give Kate an apologetic look on behalf of Mr Challenging, and she shakes her head in understanding with a small smile.
'We'll go and get something to eat.' She looks at Sam and he nods his agreement at her suggestion. I feel terrible. Have they been here all night because I've had a funny turn?
The nurse sees Kate and Sam out and then returns to the bed to perform her observations. 'Would you like a cup of tea?'
'Please.' I say gratefully. I'm gagging. She looks at Jesse and he shakes his head. He looks like he could do with a brandy. He rests his elbows on the side of the bed and wraps both of his hands around my one, dropping his forehead to the tangled mess of fingers.
I say nothing. I've come over all sleepy again, and I haven't the energy to deal with a Jesse inquisition. I rest my head back and doze off. I could be pregnant and this is really shitty news. He's going to go absolutely spare.
'I was told you were awake.'
I open my eyes and find a white cloaked Indian man standing over the bed. 'Hi,' I croak.
'I'm Doctor Manvi. How do you feel, Ava?' He speaks perfect English, with no hint of an accent.
'Fine,' I sigh wearily. 'My head is banging, but other than that, I'm fine.' I hear Jesse growl beside me, and I look at him in exasperation. I just want to go home.
'I'm glad.' Doctor Manvi shines a light in both of my eyes and pops the pencil like contraption back in his top pocket. 'Ava, what do you remember about last night?'
If anyone else asks me that bloody question! 'Not a lot.' I feel Jesse's hand lock harder around mine and I turn my head towards him, finding the anger still evident. I feel God awful. I don't need this.
Doctor Manvi glances at Jesse. 'You are?'
'Husband.' he states sharply, without taking his eyes from mine.
My eyes widen, but he's completely impassive, completely unruffled by my obvious silent challenge. He forgot the 'to be' part.
'Oh?' The Doctor flicks through my papers. 'It's says Miss O'Shea.'
'We get married next month.' His eyes drill into mine, daring me to challenge him. I don't have the energy. I flop my head back gingerly on the bed.
'Oh, okay,' Doctor Manvi seems satisfied with Jesse's explanation of who he is. I'm past caring. 'We ran some routine tests on your urine.' He pulls up a chair and it scrapes along the rubber floor, making me wince. 'When was the date of your last period?' He looks at me with sympathetic eyes, and I want to crawl across the room and into the clinical waste bin.
'A week-ish ago.' I answer quietly to the ceiling. I don't need to look at Jesse to know he's twitching.
'Right, well its routine for us to do a pregnancy test to try and establish what caused the blackout episode.' He pauses, and I brace myself for the hurricane that will be Jesse flying around the room in a complete frenzy. 'You're not pregnant.'
My head flies up. 'I'm not?'
'Well, I say you're not, but if it's only been a week since your period, it may be too early to tell.' He smiles kindly, but it does nothing to settle me. 'Do you use the contraceptive pill, Ava?'
'Yes.' I virtually squeak.
'Then I think we can safely say you're not pregnant.'
'Ava, it's important that you try to remember anything of last night, who you spoke to, who you met.'
Jesse's animosity travels through our joined hands, attacking me. 'What?' he snaps. 'What are you trying to say?'
I don't bother with scorning him for his rudeness, and Doctor Manvi continues, turning a blind eye. 'We proceeded with a further test. Your symptoms prompted it.'
'Symptoms? What symptoms?' I ask, completely confused.
The Doctor inhales and shifts in his chair. 'We found clear evidence of Rohypnol in your urine.' he says regretfully.
'WHAT!' Jesse roars.
My eyes widen and my heart starts hammering in my chest. As in date rape? Oh, fucking hell!
Jesse flies up from his sitting position, dropping my hand, and I glace up nervously to find him shaking and sweating, the anger pouring from him. 'As in date rape?' he yells at the poor Doctor.
'Yes.' Doctor Manvi confirms mine and Jesse's fears.
I spiral into panic at the doctor's diagnosis to my blackout episode. Oh, this is so bad.
Jesse flies around and throws his head back. 'Jesus fucking Christ!' he cries. I see the back of his shirt rising and falling violently as he braces his arms on a nearby metal unit.
'Ava, I would advise you notify the police. You need to tell them everything you remember.' He turns to Jesse. 'Sir, can you confirm whether she was alone at any point?'
My mind races with the evenings events. I don't think I was. I watch as Jesse's fingertips reach for his temples and start circling. He's going to explode. He'll be like a whirlwind flying through the hospital. Suddenly, telling him I could be pregnant seems so much more appealing than this.
The doctor looks back at me when he gets no response from Jesse. 'We need to do an examination to determine whether you were raped.'
'What?' I blurt. Oh God!
'She wasn't alone,' Jesse replies, more calmly than I expected. 'I watched her hit the deck, I was there in a split second.' He turns to face me, and I stare into his tortured eyes. I feel devoid of any emotion. I think I might be in shock.
'And you are sure of this?'
'Yes.' Jesse all but growls.
'Sir, I would like to carry out the checks,' he pushes, 'for bruises and scratches, initially.'
'I've checked every square inch of her. There isn't a mark on her.' Jesse stomps across the room and flings the door open. 'Kate?'
I hear a brief exchange of abrupt, muffled words from outside the door, no doubt Jesse pressing for answers. The doctor flicks a confused gaze from me to Jesse, while I continue to wrack my brain for something.
He's by my side again. 'Baby, Kate said she went for a cigarette, but Tom was with you. Can you remember that?'
'Yes.' I answer quickly. I definitely remember that. 'But Tom went to the toilet while Kate was having a cigarette.' I add.
'Okay, do you remember what happened during the time you were on your own?' he pushes.
'Yes.' I won't tell him why I remember. Holy shit, mentioning Matt would be a grave mistake. 'Why?' I ask.
'Because, Ava, I don't want anyone poking you about unless they really need to, so please, think hard.' He squeezes my hands. 'Before I turned up, were you okay? Do you remember everything?'
'Yes, I do.'
'That is good.' Doctor Manvi interjects. 'But, Ava, I would be happier if you would consent to the examination.'
'No! I know nothing happened. I have no bruises, no cuts.'
'If you are one hundred percent sure, Ava, I can't force you.'
'Damn right you can't fucking force her!' Jesse hisses.
Oh God, get me out of here. 'Nothing happened. I remember everything until Jesse arrived.' I look at Jesse. 'I remember everything.' My voice is shaking. I'm shaking.
He slides his palm over me cheek. 'I know. I believe you.'
'Okay. All of your vitals are fine.' Doctor Manvi says. 'You'll have a sore head for a while, but other than that, you will make a full recovery. Once I've sorted your discharge papers, you can go home.'
'How long will that take?' Jesse has reverted back to madman.
'Sir, we are in the aftermath of a Saturday night in central London. How long is a piece of string?'
'I'm taking her home now.' Jesse says with utter finality. I look up at him and know immediately it's a battle not worth fighting – not if you want to live. Doctor Manvi looks at me, and I nod my acceptance.
He rises from his chair. 'Okay.' he practically sighs. He's not happy.
I lay back in a complete trance as I watch the Doctor talking to Jesse. I hear nothing. It's all a muddled garble in the distance. How did this happen? I didn't once leave my drink unattended. I didn't accept a drink that was offered. I was careful and sensible. Jesus, what if I had of gone to the toilet a few seconds earlier and missed Jesse at the door? I could have been unconscious and completely unaware of anything going on around me. I could have been raped. I'm attacked by unexpected tears and uncontrollable shakes as I start sobbing in my hands.
'Baby, please don't cry.' I feel his warmth engulf me, holding me tight as my body jerks under him. 'Baby, I'll get really crazy mad if you cry.'
I sob relentlessly while he comforts me, muttering his own little curses and prayers above my head. 'I'm so sorry.' I heave between sobs. I don't know why I'm sorry, maybe for defying him and going out anyway. I really don't know, but I feel so remorseful.
'Ava, please shut up.' he pleads, holding me tight and stroking my hair soothingly. I'm aware of the frantic clatter of his heartbeat under my ear.
When I've finally regained a little control, I wipe away my tears and sniffle. I must look like a tear stained mess. 'I'm fine,' I say, taking a few calming breaths and pushing him away, 'I want to go home.' I sound like a spoilt brat.
I start to clamber from the bed, but I'm met by the fierceness of a tall, lean, green-eyed wall. He picks me up and starts for the door, meeting Kate on the way. 'Get her stuff.' he orders, striding past her.
'What's going on?' Sam jumps up from the chair outside the room.
'She was drugged.' Jesse states flatly. He doesn't stop to give any further explanation.
'Oh shit!' The horror in Sam's voice is clear.
I hear Kate's heels trying to keep up with us. 'What? Like date rape?'
'Yes, just like fucking date rape!' he shouts as he proceeds down the corridor with me in his arms. 'I'm taking her home.'
We emerge into the morning air, and I squint at the offensive, harsher natural light. I'm lowered into the DBS and secured in my seatbelt. I flinch when the door closes, and then I hear the mumble of voices outside the car. There's a subtle tap on the window, and when I look, I see Kate giving me the call-me gesture. I nod my acknowledgment and rest my head against the window as Jesse slides in and places my shoes and bag in the foot well. I close my eyes again and drift off.
'Come here you.' I open my eyes as Jesse lifts me from his car and carries me through the foyer of Lusso.
'Oh, Mr Ward?' Clive appears alongside us as Jesse makes his way to the penthouse elevator. 'Is everything okay?' He sounds concerned. It's not unusual for me to be seen carted about by Jesse, so I'm guessing I look terrible, and I know Jesse does too.
'I'm fine, Clive.' The elevator doors close, leaving a concerned Clive mystified.
I rest my head against Jesse's firmness and the next thing I know, I'm being lowered into his huge bed. I'm vaguely aware of my dress being removed and disapproving grumbles coming from Jesse. I roll over when I'm free from my clothes and release a contented exhale of breath when I'm greeted with my most favourite smell in the world; fresh water and mint. I know I'm back where I belong.