When we’re done, Sal gets up and heads to the kitchen to make coffee, while I pull myself up and head for Patrick’s office. I knock the door and poke my head around. He’s sitting at his desk, a little red faced, combing his hair. ‘Are you okay, Patrick?’ I ask, biting my lip furiously as I take in his buttoned jacked concealing his rounded belly.
‘Yes, yes. I’m fine.’ he huffs, slipping his comb down the front of his jacket and into the inside pocket. ‘I think Irene might see this as a sign to lose some weight.’ He grins a little, making me feel a whole lot better for laughing at him. I grin, too. ‘I’m glad I’ve made your day, flower.’
‘I’m sorry, but you must have heard the creaks every time you sat there.’
‘Yes, I did. Stupid cheap tat!’
‘I’m sure,’ I agree on a serious face. There was nothing cheap about my desk. ‘Would you like a coffee?’
‘No.’ he grumbles. ‘I need to go home and change.’
‘Okay.’ I slip out of his office and return to my pile of wood, rummaging around the lose parts until I find my bag. I locate my phone, clear the missed call from Jesse, then dial my doctor.
‘Is he okay?’ Tom asks on a chuckle, Victoria joining him.
‘He’s fine, but keep a straight face when he leaves to go and change out of his burst shirt.’ I grin.
‘He popped his buttons?’ Victoria laughs, flopping back in her chair.
Tom looks over at Victoria and joins her laughter. ‘Oh flipping heck! What I’d do to go back in time to make sure I was here.’
I manage to hold my giggles and slip into the stationary cupboard when my call connects. After getting past the guard dog of a receptionist, I finally get an appointment for four o’clock.
The day passes quite swiftly, with only a few missed calls from my Lord. The calls were expected, but what wasn’t expected was his lack of persistence. He didn’t call the office, he didn’t stop by and he didn’t ring off the hook. I’m not sure if I should be satisfied that he seems to accept my request for space, or worried that he’s uncharacteristically giving it to me. It has now been over twenty four hours since I’ve seen him, and I would be a liar if I said I don’t miss him, but I need to over-ride this. I need to stick to my guns and the only way I can ensure that happens, is if I don’t see or speak to him. It’s frightening what he can do to me when I’m determined to hold my own, and it’s usually with his touch, so yes, distance if key.
I collect by bag and get up from my makeshift desk, which happens to me a paste table we had stored out the back. ‘I’m off. See you tomorrow.’ I say as I pass all three of my colleagues. ‘I’ve cleared it with Patrick.’ I don’t want to be saying where I’m going because it will undoubtedly lead to further questions. Privacy in this office is a luxury.
A chorus of goodbyes ring out as I shut the door behind me and make my way to the tube. Angel starts up as I’m approaching the station, but I leave my phone in my bag. Where I’m going, I really don’t need to be thinking about him, but it’s hard when his favorite track, is echoing very loudly, even from the depths of my bag. It stops for a nanosecond, but then starts again. I ignore it, focusing my attention on the nearing station.
I jump on a shocked gasp when a tall, lean, green eyed wall lands in front of me, and my hand flies up to my chest, resting on my heart as I breathe heavily. Then I get mighty irritated. ‘What are you doing?’ I ask shortly.
‘You wouldn’t answer your phone.’ He points to my bag. ‘Maybe you didn’t hear it.’
I look up at him and find an accusing stare. He knows damn well I could hear it. ‘You were following me.’ I can be accusing, too.
‘Where are you going?’ He steps in closer, but I move back. I can’t let him touch me. And shit, where am I going?
‘A client.’ I blurt.
‘I’ll take you.’
‘I told you, I need space, Jesse.’ I’m aware of fellow pedestrians stepping around us, some moaning, some throwing filthy glares, but I’m not concerned and neither is Jesse. He’s just staring at me, looking shockingly spectacular in a grey suit and blue shirt.
‘How much space and for how long? I married you on Saturday and you left me on Sunday.’ He reaches forward and grasps my upper arm before sliding his touch down my arm until he’s holding my hand. As always, my hairs stand up on end and a shiver reverberates through me. I watch him just stare at our joined hands, his fingers weaving through mine slowly as he chews his lip. ‘I’m struggling, Ava.’ He looks up at me and lands me with a green glazed stare. ‘Without you, I’m really struggling.’
My heart breaks for this man standing before me, and I clench my eyes shut, desperately fighting my natural instinct to step into him and hold him. If he’s not getting his way with f**kings of various degrees or a Jesse style countdown, then he’s breaking me down with heart wrenching words. It wouldn’t be so bad, but I know he absolutely means each and every syllable. He’s crippling me again.
‘I really need to go.’ I hate myself for leaving him like this. I go to turn, fully expecting to be held back, but he releases my hand and I’m walking away, shocked and actually quite worried.
‘Baby, please. I’ll do anything. Please, don’t leave me.’ His pleading voice halts me dead in my tracks, pain slicing through me. I’m still so mad with him. ‘Let me at least drive you. I don’t want you on the train. Just ten minutes, that’s all I’m asking for.’
‘It’ll be quicker on the tube.’ I say quietly amid the roaring crowds. I turn to face him.
‘But I want to take you.’
‘We won’t make it in time with the…’ I halt when it occurs to me that with Jesse driving, I probably will make it. He is clearly thinking the same because his eyebrow is slightly raised.
I can’t tell him where I’m going. He’ll have a seizure. I quickly wrack my tired brain and come up with only one option. I’ll ask him to drop me off around the corner from the doctor. There are some residential properties close by. He won’t know any different.
I sigh ‘Where’s your car?’
The relief that washes over his face is obvious, and it emphasises my guilt. Why I’m feeling guilty is beyond me, though. I watch him slowly lift his arm and take my hand gently, then slowly lead me back towards a hotel and into the car park. The valet produces the keys from his cabin and hands them to Jesse, and he releases me only when we get to the car so I can get in.
Pulling out onto Piccadilly, he drives with consideration for the other road users and shifts gears gently, too. His driving style is matching his mood; subdued.
‘Where am I going?’ he asks as he turns the music system on and XX, Islands filters through the speakers. Even the music is passive and soft.
I scan my brain for a road name around the surgery, and only one comes to mind. ‘Luxemburg Gardens. Hammersmith.’ I say, looking out of the window.
‘Okay,’ he answers quietly. I know he’s looking at me. I should turn and challenge him, prompt him to explain himself better, but my despondency is getting the better of me. He’d better not mistake it for submission. I’m not surrendering on this. I just need to get myself to the doctor, minus one Jesse, and get my awful situation remedied.
* * *
He pulls into Luxemburg Gardens and drives slowly down the tree lined street. ‘Here will do.’ I indicate to the left, and he pulls over. Now I pray that he doesn’t hang about. ‘Thank you,’ I open the door.
‘You’re welcome.’ he murmurs. I know if I turn and look at him, I’ll see cogs whirling at a million miles per hour and a concerned frown set in place on his handsome head, so I don’t. I step out of the car. ‘Will you have dinner with me tonight?’ he asks urgently, like he knows his chance is slipping.
I take a deep breath and turn back towards the car. ‘You just asked for ten minutes, and I gave them to you. You said nothing.’ I leave a despairing face of hurt and make my way across the road, but suddenly come to an abrupt halt when it occurs to me that I have no client’s house in which to disappear. I need to back-track at least half a mile, and I can’t do that with Jesse sat at the kerb in his car. I pull my bag open and feign searching for something while mentally praying for him to leave. I listen out for the roar, or possible purr, of the DBS and after what seems like forever, it finally reaches my ears. It’s a purr. I look over my shoulder and watch his car disappear down the tree lined street before I head back the way we came and over to Brook Green. I feel nauseous, but I put it down to nerves. I’m not sure how I’m going to approach this. After my numerous visits to our family doctor, seeking replacement pills and the lectures I received from her each time, I’m facing a grilling and an even sterner talk on carelessness. She’ll think I’m a glutton for punishment. I think I probably am.
I check myself in and pick up a magazine from the waiting room table, then spend twenty minutes pretending to read it. I’m fidgeting and pulling at my clothes to try and cool myself down. I really do feel sick, my nauseous state only worsened when, like an omen, I come across an article expressing the arguments for and against termination. A despairing laugh falls from my lips.
I freeze in my waiting room chair as Jesses familiar brogue washes over me, then I snap the magazine shut. ‘You followed me?’ I ask, completely stunned as I turn to face him.
‘You’re a rubbish liar, baby.’ he states factually, but softly. He’s right, I’m shit at it, but I need to work on it if I’m going to stay with this man. If I’m going to stay? Did I really just think that? ‘Are you going to tell me why you’re at the doctors and why you lied to me about it?’ He rests his hand on my bare knee and circles it slowly as he watches me intently.
I throw the magazine back on the table. There is no escaping this man. ‘Just a check-up.’ I mutter to my knee, trying to shift it from his grasp.
‘A check-up?’ His tone has altered significantly. He’s not soft and soothing anymore. There’s an edge of anger to it.
I feel his hand tighten. He cannot dictate this. ‘Yes,’
‘Don’t you think we should we doing this together?’ he asks.
Together? My shock makes my angry eyes swing straight to his, finding curious greens greeting me. I scan his face, just as he does mine, and his hand eases up on my knee. I yank my leg away. ‘Like the decision you made to try and get me knocked up? Did we do that together?’
‘No,’ he answers quietly, turning away from me.
I stare at his perfect profile, unwilling to relent and turn away. He has some nerve and now my despondency has been thoroughly chased away and replaced with my earlier anger, only now it’s amplified. ‘You can’t even look at me, can you? You know what you’ve done is wrong. I pray to God I’m not pregnant, Jesse, because I wouldn’t inflict the shit you put me through on my worst enemy, let alone my baby.’
It’s him who looks shocked now. His eyes are narrowed, his hair starting to dampen at his temples from a stressed sweat. ‘I know you’re pregnant, and I know how it’ll be.’
‘Oh?’ I don’t bother restraining my laugh. ‘How’s that, then?’
His face softens and he makes my heart slow when he reaches for my cheek and gently strokes it. My lips part slightly and his thumb runs over my bottom one, dragging it with his stroke as he watches. ‘Perfect.’ he whispers, flicking his eyes to mine.
Our gazes are locked for a short time, but I’m snapped from the spell that he places me under when my name is called, and I’m swiftly brought back to where I am and why. My anger swiftly returns, too. It wouldn’t be perfect. Maybe for him, but for me it would be torture. I’m not setting myself up for that. I stand up, causing his hand to fall from my knee and his other from my face, but to my utter shock, Jesse quickly rises, too. Oh no! He is not coming in with me. This is going to be mortifying enough, without my neurotic Lord adding to the messy equation. Doctor Monroe will likely have something to say about me requesting an abortion, and that’s without the added knowledge of me being married. It would take far too much explaining. I don’t want to explain. Anyway, if I am pregnant, I need Jesse not to know. He would never let me terminate his baby, and I hate to think of what lengths he’d go to in order to stop me. I can control my poor lying for something this important. I have no choice. It’s the only way.