And then it hits me, taking me by surprise again and sending me out of this world on pleasure. I scream. He yells. Then I collapse on the bed, Jesse following me down, his leanness completely covering me. His breathing is harsh in my ear and our sweat ridden bodies are flush and heaving severely. I feel completely replete. I’m utterly exhausted, but I feel so much better. It feels like us again.
He groans, his groin circling deeply, the fire of his release heating me and putting me back together again. I’ve missed it. ‘Thank you.’ I pant, closing my eyes and finding immense comfort in his strong, frantic heartbeat clattering against my back. I can’t even muster up the strength to be concerned that he has just come inside me. Not that it really matters.
He doesn’t say anything. The only sound in the colossal master suite is our collective, erratic breathing. It’s loud, it’s heavy and it’s satisfied. But then he breaks away from me, and the absence of his warmth coating my body makes me immediately turn over to see what he’s doing. He’s walking away, his hands clenching his head, as I watch his n**ed back disappear into the bathroom. I’m still fighting to get my heartbeat steady and my breathing paced, but instead of feeling sated and blissful, I feel uncertain and guilty. I’ve made him lose his restraint. I’ve pushed him, tempted him and sent him over the edge of self-control, and now, even though I got my way, I feel guilt-ridden. He’s been struggling to rein in his command over my body, although why is what I should be worried about. Not the fact he has, but why he has. I know why he has, and that should eradicate any guilt, but it doesn’t. I’ve accepted that I’ll never completely understand him. I’ve accepted all of his flaws and challenging ways. They are all part of the man I love deeply—the man I share a connection with that is so potent, it’s sent us both crazy. We share an intensity that cripples us both.
He appears in the bathroom doorway, still naked, still wet and with his chest still rising and falling noticeably. I’m staring at him. He’s staring at me.
Sitting up and pulling my knees to my chest, I feel small and awkward. It shouldn’t be like this between us.
‘I’ve been taking your pills.’ His jaw ticks and his neck muscles bulge.
The words, spoken with no remorse or regret, widen my eyes and straighten my back. His face is expressionless, and even though I knew, I’m shocked. Hearing him say it aloud, confessing to it, is increasing my already speeding heart rate.
‘I said I’ve been taking your pills.’ He sounds angry.
This can’t be ignored any longer. I can feel the dormant anger sizzling inside of me, pushing me to release it. My period is due tomorrow, and I’m certain it’s not going to arrive. This man, my crazy husband, has just completely and unashamedly confessed to stealing my birth control pills, and now my denial is converting into blood boiling fury.
‘Ava, for f**k sake, woman!’ His hands fly to his head in frustration. ‘I’ve been taking your f**king pills!’
I don’t even try to reason because there is absolutely nothing reasonable about this situation. As I pace towards him, he watches me closely, cautiously, and when I’m standing before him, I slap him clean across his face. My palm in instantly on fire, but I’m too angry to focus on the pain. His head has turned to the side, his eyes are down, and I can still only hear our fitful breathing, except now they’re not sated, heavy breaths, they’re anger fuelled gasps. He brings his face back up and before I’m aware of what I’m doing, my hand is flying out again, but this time he catches my wrist in front of his face. I yank myself free and proceed to thump his chest with both fists in a frenzied lash out of anger. And he lets me. He just stands there and takes my deranged beating, my fists persistently striking him as I scream and wail. When I think I might collapse with exhaustion, I step back and lose control of my tears.
‘Why?’ I shout at him.
He doesn’t try to touch me or come towards me. He just remains standing in the doorway, still with no emotion on his face. His frown line isn’t even there, but I know he must be concerned, and he must be really concentrating on not restraining his deranged wife.
‘You were ignoring it, Ava. I need you to acknowledge this.’ His voice is soft and even. ‘I needed to spike a reaction from you.’
‘I don’t mean why you’ve told me. I knew! I mean why the f**k did you do it?’
His frown line has arrived. So has the nibbled lip. I don’t know why he’s thinking so hard about this. Nothing can detract from the fact that this is plain f**ked up. He is f**ked up, and I’m f**ked up for ignoring it all this time. ‘You make me crazy.’ He shakes his head. ‘You make me do crazy shit, Ava.’
‘So it’s my fault?’ I scream. ‘My pills started going missing only days after you took me.’ I say took because he actually did. He broke me down, his determination impossible to escape.
‘I know.’ His eyes drop to the floor.
Oh no! He will face me, not look away from me. I steam back into his chest and grab his jaw, forcing his reluctant head up. ‘You don’t get to evade your reasons for this. You’ve taken it upon yourself to dictate my life direction. I don’t want a f**king baby! This is my body! You don’t get to make these decisions for me!’ My voice is breaking through my screams. ‘Tell me why the f**king hell you did this to me!’
‘Because I wanted to keep you forever.’ he whispers.
I drop his jaw and step back. ‘You wanted to trap me?’
‘Yes,’ His eyes drop again.
‘Because you knew I’d run when I found out about your business and your drinking problem?’
‘Yes.’ He refuses to look at me.
‘But I came back after I found out about The Manor and the alcohol, yet you still took my pills.’ This man makes no sense.
‘You didn’t know about my history then.’
‘I do now.’
‘Stop saying you know!’ My arms wave around in front of him. I’m losing control again.
His eyes lift, but they don’t meet mine. They’re darting around the room, looking at anything but me. He’s ashamed. ‘What do you want me to say?’ he asks quietly.
I don’t even know, so I turn and head for the wardrobe. I’ve been married to this man for a day and I’m walking out on him, but I have no clue of what else to do. I grab my ripped jeans and yank them on.
‘What are you doing?’ His voice is full of the fear I knew it would be. He’ll never cope with this, but neither will I if I stay. This has suddenly hit me very hard.
I don’t answer him, instead focusing on getting my bra and t-shirt on before I yank down an overnight bag.
‘Ava, what the hell are you doing?’ The bag is snatched from my hand. ‘You’re not leaving me.’ His words are somewhere between a demand and a plea.
‘I need some space.’ I seize the bag back and start stuffing my clothes in.
‘Space for what?’ He grips my arm, but I pull myself free. ‘Ava, please.’
‘Please what?’ My clothes are being yanked and rammed into my bag viciously, but I fear I might turn on Jesse again if I don’t focus on this, and I can’t bring myself to look at him. I know what I’ll see.
‘Please, Ava, don’t go.’
I turn and storm past him, heading for the bathroom to collect my toiletries. He’s not restraining me, and I know why. It’s the same reason he’s been delicate with me for weeks. Because he thinks he’ll hurt his baby.
He’s behind me, I know he is, but I continue gathering my things, fighting the overwhelming need to lash out, but at the same time, fighting the need to comfort him. I’m so confused.
‘Ava, please, let’s talk about this.’
I swing around in shock. ‘Talk?’
He nods sheepishly. ‘Please.’
‘What is there to talk about? You’ve done the most underhanded thing possible. Nothing you could say will make me understand this. You do not get to make these decisions. You do not get to control me to this extent. This is my life!’
‘But you knew I was taking them.’
‘Yes, I did! But perhaps because of all the other shit you’ve thrown on me since I’ve met you, I didn’t consider how f**ked up this really is. This is completely messed up, Jesse, and you’ve got no redeeming reason. Wanting to keep me isn’t good enough. That’s not a decision you get to make on your own!’ I try to calm myself, but I’m fighting a losing battle. ‘What about me?’ I scream in his face. ‘What about what I want?’
‘But I love you.’
The grip on my bag tightens until my fingers are numb. I’m seriously losing the plot. I walk past him and quickly make my way downstairs.
I ignore him and keep going. The anger bubbling inside me has shocked me as much as it’s shocked Jesse. This is past controlling. This is unforgivable. I don’t want a baby.
‘Ava, stay. I’ll do anything.’ His heavy footsteps are close behind me, but he’s nude, and as much as I know that he has no shame, I know he wouldn’t run out in public completely naked.
When I reach the door, I turn to face him. ‘You’ll do anything?’
‘Yes. You know that.’ His terrified face nearly makes me throw my arms around his big shoulders. Even now, when he’s confessed to sealing my pills, I’m struggling not to fall into his arms. But if I let this one go, then I’m setting myself up for a lifetime of manipulating. I can’t do that. We need some time apart. This is too intense, and perhaps I should have thought about that before I married him, but it’s too late now. I might have made the biggest mistake of my life.
‘Then you’ll give me some space.’
I walk out.
Kate’s not at home, so I let myself in and make my way upstairs to my old room. After sitting on the bed for an eternity and ignoring Massive Attack’s Angel, I finally drag myself up and have a long shower. Under the hot spray, I soap everywhere, running the sponge absentmindedly all over my body and pausing when I reach my stomach. I feel devoid of any emotion. There are no natural motherly instincts in me that make me want to caress my tummy. I’ve never given motherhood a second thought. I’m too young, and I have a flourishing career to concentrate on. This life changing decision shouldn’t be made for me. He had no right to do this. But he had no right to claim me so aggressively, yet he did. He has no right to dictate what I wear, but he does. And he has no right to trample all over my life with his overbearing, unreasonable and challenging ways… but he does. And I let him. I fight him on many things, but he mostly gets his way. Not on this, though. I have accepted many things where Jesse is concerned, but I realise now that I absolutely cannot accept this. And I won’t.
I remove myself from the shower and dry myself off before crossing the landing to my room. Looking down at my phone, I see just one missed call since I last cleared the screen. I’m surprised, but then it vibrates in my hand. It’s a text message.
I can’t be without you Ava.
I sigh midland shake my head, but I don’t reply because I really don’t know what to say.
I don’t bother drying my hair or putting on lotion. I throw on a baggy t-shirt and some sweatpants, and crawl into the cold sheets of my old bed. It’s hard, it’s lumpy and it hasn’t got Jesse in it, but I’m on my own, and it’s where I need to be right now.
* * *
I wake up to shouting—very loud shouting. It’s quite dark, the only light a soft glow from the glass panel above my bedroom door. Pulling the sheets back, I slip out of bed and pad across my room, opening the door quietly.