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The divorce club, p.16
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       The Divorce Club, p.16

           Jayde Scott
 
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  "Not really. I enjoy lavishing my platonic friends with attention." Grimacing, he shakes his head. "It's just, I was wondering do you always introduce your clients to your daughter? Go with them on trips to France and hold their hands?" His gaze narrows. "Do they get the same VIP treatment?"

  The frostiness in his voice doesn't go unnoticed. He didn't mean what he just said. He's trying to manipulate me into thinking I might be more than a booty call. I turn back to the window, weary of starting an argument. We're not even dating and already I can see our personalities clash. What would it be like after twenty years of marriage? The villages pass by and we reach the highway. From here, it's a direct line to Britain. I'm not tired, but I close my eyes nonetheless, pretending I'm asleep so I don't have to deal with the silence.

  We drive for a while before Jamie asks, "Do you mind if I switch on the radio?"

  So, he must know I'm awake. I straighten my back. "Go ahead."

  Sam's head emerges between the front seats. "Can we stop somewhere? I really need to use the loo."

  "Sure. There must be a petrol station around here." Jamie turns on the music when a van cuts in front of us.

  "Watch out!" I shout, grabbing hold of the steering wheel. Jamie hits the brakes. The van brushes us, sending the car against the railing. At the same time, the vehicle behind hits us full force. My head crashes against something hard and waves of pain wash over the right side of my body. I feel something hot and sticky trickle down my temple before I black out.

  Chapter 17

  A loud whir bashes against the barrier of my mind. I want to block out the sense of dread telling me something's happened and that it's time to wake up, so I try to press my palm against my ears. The noise continues, coming from too many directions at once. My scattered thoughts seem to take shape, slowly turning into something vague like a blurry picture. The piercing scream of someone echoes in my memory, haunting me until I open my eyes just to escape it.

  A young nurse leans over me whispering, "She's awake."

  I peer from her to the white-clad man standing at my feet. He's holding a chart and for a moment I harbor the ridiculous thought that I'm at the dentist's because the room's so white and bright. I know this can't be the case when I throw my hand to my chest and feel patches on my skin with wires running out of them straight to a beeping monitor. Something squeezes my left arm and I wince. "What the—"

  "No, don't move," the nurse says. "It's an automatic blood pressure cuff. We're just monitoring your vitals, that's all."

  The smell of disinfectant invades my nostrils, but that's the least of my worries. I've got so many wires coming out of me I might as well be a robot or something. I tug at one. "What's with this?"

  The nurse smiles, patiently. "You're also hooked up to an IV and a heart monitor. The thing attached to your finger is a pulse oximeter. It measures the oxygen saturation of your blood."

  So, I'm not at the dentist's but in a hospital. How did I end up here? My nose tickles and I realize something's irritating the heck out of it. I pull the plastic tubing out. "I don't need this. I'm breathing just fine."

  "We put the oxygen on when your pulse ox reading dropped to seventy-five percent. Normal is ninety-six to one hundred." The nurse squints at the monitor, then nods. "It's ninety-seven now. I guess you can leave the oxygen off."

  "Good to see you back, Sarah. I'm Dr. Morris." The man at my feet smiles. I almost expect him to hold out his hand, but he doesn't.

  "Here, you must be thirsty." The nurse holds a glass of water to my lips and I take a few sips.

  "What happened?" I croak, wondering why my voice sounds so off. My head hurts so much I can barely breathe.

  Dr. Morris inches nearer and flashes a light into my eyes as he talks, "You were involved in a car accident."

  A car accident? I try to remember, but it doesn't ring a bell. Surely, if something this dreadful happened, then I could at least recall it.

  The doctor frowns as he continues, "Do you know who you are?"

  I nod, flinching at the throbbing pressure in my right temple. "Sarah Davis."

  "Age?"

  "Thirty-four."

  "Do you remember anything about the last twenty-four hours?"

  That blank feeling returns again as I try to make sense of the flood of pictures invading my mind. "I did the shopping and packed our bags. We were about to leave for France. I think we did, but I'm not sure."

  The doctor scribbles on his chart.

  "What's wrong with me?" Something must be wrong because I've never felt this alien as though there's something else inside my body, something lingering at the back of my mind, pushing me into a dark abyss from which I can't escape.

  "Temporal amnesia. You'll remember everything eventually, but it might take a while. We still have to run some more tests just to make sure there's no brain damage, but at this point it doesn't look like it." He says this all with a smile as though he's talking about the charming weather, or the delicious bagel he had for breakfast.

  "It happened in France, didn't it?" My throat tightens.

  "Actually, you crossed over to Britain which is why you're in a NHS hospital."

  "What happened to—" My voice breaks. I take a deep breath, but my emotions are choking me. The sudden onset of dread makes my insides churn.

  "Your daughter's fine. She got away with a broken leg and some superficial cuts," Dr. Morris says.

  A broken leg? Guilt floods my body. This is my fault. If I didn't accept Jamie's invitation, we wouldn't be here. I need to hold my baby, stroke her hair and tell her everything's going to be okay. "I want to see my daughter right now."

  The doctor shakes his head. "Maybe once you're well enough to stand and walk."

  "Ever hear of this invention called a wheelchair? Why don't you just get me one of those?" I ask.

  "Please, you know I can't keep you here against your will, but I honestly hope you'll follow my advice." His smile freezes. "Let's say later today after we've finished all tests."

  "No." I cross my arms over my chest, ignoring the pain in my arm where something cuts into my skin.

  "How about sleeping that headache off?" the nurse says.

  Dr. Morris reaches for his beeping pager and sighs. "I've got to go. We'll discuss this after getting you out of the emergency department and into a nice room."

  "Wait. What about Jamie?" I ask.

  "The gentleman who drove the car was released on his own request," Dr. Morris says. "I wasn't here at the time of your arrival so I don't know the specifics."

  There's a brief knock and another nurse enters. She peers at the doctor before she addresses me as though she awaits his approval. "A friend's here to see you."

  "Please let them in." I sit up as straight as I can. Another pill against my headache would be great, but I daren't ask in case the doctor thinks I might not be well enough for a visit after all. Once he's gone I'll ask the nurse.

  Dr. Morris attaches the chart to the bed and turns toward the door. "If there's nothing else I'll—"

  "Thank you so much," I hurry to say.

  He nods and disappears through the open door a moment before Mel's head pops in. Dark rims frame her eyes. The huge smile on her lips looks fake, plastered there only for the benefit of the ill. She probably thinks if she's cheerful enough it'll make me instantly better.

  "Mel, I'm so happy to see you," I say. "How did you know where I was?"

  She inches closer and tosses a huge bag on the nightstand, then plants a kiss on my cheek. I wince at the sudden wave of pain surging through my skin.

  "The hospital called. You have my number registered in the case of an emergency."

  "Oh, I completely forgot," I say.

  A fleeting frown crosses her forehead. "How are you?" She drags the words out as though she's talking to a three-year-old.

  "I'm fine. Just a headache."

  "You look tired. Did they give you anything?" Mel sits on the bed and our eyes lock. It's an uncomfortable moment. T
he small talk is just the warm-up part. She's about to say something but is waiting for the right moment.

  I shrug. "Did you see Sam yet?"

  She nods, but doesn't elaborate. I let out a sigh, ready to get it over with. "Just say what you came to say, Mel."

  "You know I'm here to see if you and Sam are okay." She leans over me and brushes my hair out of my face. "Sam's well, given the circumstances. Her face is a bit bruised—nothing a dab of concealer couldn't solve."

  I wince, imagining my beautiful daughter battered and swollen.

  "I got you a gift from the gift shop downstairs." She hands me a pink bag.

  "Thanks, Mel. You didn't have to do this." I slide my hand into the bag and pull out a small replica of the Eiffel Tower. My breath catches in my throat. She knows everything. Keeping a secret from Mel is impossible because she's like a bloodhound that's sniffed a trail.

  "I can explain. I know it's my fault that Sam's face is banged up and—"

  "Hey, snap out of it. I said it's not that bad," Mel interrupts. "What's bad is the fact you didn't tell me you were going to France."

  "It was just a weekend work thing. A spur of the moment decision."

  Mel narrows her eyes. "Don't lie to me. Sam told me everything. That guy, Jamie, invited you and you agreed. If this accident wasn't enough of a sign, then I don't know what is."

  "Now don't get all superstitious on me." I roll my eyes. "It wasn't a sign; just some random car that cut in front of us on the expressway. This is ridiculous." I gasp because I don't know how I just remembered that tiny detail. My memory's coming back.

  "He's bad news."

  "How could you possibly know? You haven't talked with him more than three words." I reign in my voice, trying hard not to shout, but it takes me all my might. I realize I'm protective of him when I shouldn't be. Mel and I have been friends for years. Screaming over a guy is out of the question because she means well and cares about my wellbeing. But my intellect doesn't seem to be the winner in this argument.

  "He's married. Isn't that bad news enough?" Mel takes a deep breath. I see she's trying hard to keep her composure too. "Please, at least wait until the divorce is finalized before you get involved. It's not right to date a married guy."

  She can't be serious. I smile, my eyes narrowing to tiny slits. "You and your conniving double standards. You dated a married guy last year."

  "It's not the same, darling. I wasn't in love with him."

  "I'm not." A bell starts ringing at the back of my mind. I'm not in love with him. Or am I?

  Mel cocks an eyebrow. "Really? I've known you forever, Sarah. And this—" she waves her hand in the air "—isn't you at all. Your hair's glossy, your skin's glowing. Well, obviously not now, but it was until you left for France. You're even wearing lip gloss again."

  "I've changed my shampoo." Her words slowly sink in. "Wait, why's my skin not glowing now?"

  Mel shrugs and starts rummaging in her oversized bag, pulling out candy bars, two small plastic bottles of smoothies and all the other stuff one's not supposed to consume in a hospital. "Do you want mango or banana? You can have the straw."

  "I want mango and a mirror."

  "Mango for one coming right up." Mel opens the bottle, pushes the straw inside and places it in my hand.

  "The mirror now." I take a sip, only then realizing the nurse never asked whether I wanted any food, so maybe I'm supposed to keep an empty stomach.

  "I don't have one," Mel says.

  "You're lying." I hold my drink over her expensive Gucci. "My hand's shaking. If I don't get that mirror soon I might just spill my juice."

  Her eyes turn wide with dread. "You wouldn't!"

  "My reflexes are all messed up and the doctor's said there's something wrong with my brain."

  "Fine. But if you turn into a hazard to yourself, you're to blame." She stomps over to the white cupboard in the corner and retrieves my compact mirror from my bag, then returns to the bed and tosses it on the covers.

  I hold the shiny surface up to my face, expecting to see bloodshot eyes and maybe some dark circles. Instead, I stare at a purple bruise spreading over my right side. My lips are swollen as though I've had collagen injections. There's a wide dressing wrapped around my forehead; a tiny red stain the size of a nail peers through from underneath. No one expects to look like a supermodel after a car accident, but this is more the picture from a bad horror movie with loads of paint and gore.

  "It's not that bad," Mel says. "Give it a few days and you'll be as good as new." The way her eyes move uncomfortably conveys another meaning.

  "You're lying again."

  "This will hide the bruises on your neck." Mel retrieves a black scarf from her bag. "Take my glasses too. You need them more than I do."

  "Who do you think I am? Lady GaGa?"

  "You could never pass for her."

  I shoot her an amused look. "Why not?"

  "You don't have the proper handbag to pull off that number," Mel says.

  "Because it's not a limited edition and doesn't cost a thousand?"

  She smiles. "You said it, not me." Clearing her throat, she adds, "Could be the shoes too."

  I know she's just warming up to whatever she has to say again, so I play along. "What am I going to do with you?"

  "I have a little magic trick up my sleeve that will hide your deep, dark secret. It's a magic medicine called concealer. If we use the correct tones and colors that best match your bruise, nobody will suspect a thing."

  "Really?" I nod, impressed.

  She rolls her eyes. "Of course not. People will still think you've been beaten up and won't believe you when you deny it, so I wouldn't even try."

  She's not exactly helping me cope. "Drop it."

  "Sorry." She takes a sip of her smoothie and runs a hand over the cheap cotton sheets. I can see her dirty mind working before she even opens her mouth. "So, what did you do in France?"

  "Not what you're thinking."

  She grins. "You couldn't be thinking what I'm thinking unless you thought of it yourself."

  "What?" I roll my eyes. "Honestly, Mel, at times I'm wondering whether you're actually a bloke disguised in Chanel."

  "It's Lagerfeld," Mel says. "I don't need to be a bloke to let my imagination run wild. A hot guy and romantic France is a deadly combination to any woman's rationality, particularly to the lonely and divorced."

  I smirk. "Yeah, well, as you can see it wasn't a deadly combination to me, so stack your dirty thoughts away."

  "You didn't even think of it?"

  How should I answer this one? If I negate she won't believe me. If I say I did she'll keep snooping around. Time to change the topic. "Do you think you could get me a glass of water?"

  "Finish your smoothie." Mel points at the bottle in my hand. "So, you did. I knew it the moment I saw him at the club. Sarah, to him you're nothing but a rebound relationship, and you know it. He's not ready to commit to anyone just yet. Give him a few months before you end up hurting again."

  I shrug. "Maybe I just want a roll in the hay."

  Mel laughs. "Good one, Sarah."

  "What?"

  "That's me," Mel says. "Not you. It's not in your character to do something like sleeping around. You're holding out for the fairytale. You know, Prince Charming comes riding on his white horse and sweeps you off your feet, away to the royal castle, where he marries you and swears his undying love. The kind of stuff that only happens in movies."

  "He could be my knight in shining armor. You never know."

  "I hope you find Mister Perfect one day." Mel shakes her head. "But I'm telling you, it's not Jamie because if he was, where is he now?"

  Good question. It looks as though at the first sign of trouble he rode into the sunset like a spooked horse.

  Mel peers into the bathroom. "Are you hiding in the toilet, precious Jamie?" She slams the door and looks under the bed, then rummages in my trashcan. "He's definitely not hiding here. Or here." Cocking her head to the si
de, she pulls up my blanket and freezes. "Is that the phone? No, wait. Just a car horn."

  I laugh. "Seriously, I get the point."

  "Do you?" With a sigh, she sits down and squeezes my hand. "I'm not trying to make fun of you. I'm just bringing you back to reality. Jamie couldn't even be here to make sure you were okay after waking up from an accident he caused. The police should classify it as a hit and run." She pauses for effect.

  I raise my brows. "What?"

  Mel shrugs. "You got hit, and he ran away faster than a cheetah. What kind of Prince Charming does that make him, Sarah? A lousy one, if you ask me."

  "Nobody's asking."

  "I love you and want the best for you and Sam. You'll find the right guy, but it isn't Jamie." She keeps saying that. For the first time I'm thinking she may be right.

  "What about that water?" I say, changing the subject. I'd cut off my left arm for another sip of water and a painkiller for this throbbing headache. Besides, I don't want to talk to Mel anymore. She's jumbling my head.

  Mel lets out an exaggerated sigh. "Fine, but I know you're trying to avoid having this conversation. You know I won't let you get away with it once you no longer have the excuse of being in a hospital with brain swelling."

  My jaw drops. "Brain swelling? The doctor said it's a mild concussion and memory loss."

  "That too." She stands and stomps out.

  Why didn't anyone tell me my brain's swollen? That explains my lack of interest in a smoothie. I'm definitely not myself, which is also obvious from the fact that I can't stop thinking of ringing Jamie to hear his voice.

  When Mel returns with my water and pill, I've made up my mind. First the stalker, then the trip to France and the accident. Mel's right. Jamie is bad news, but I might as well give him a chance to prove us all wrong. If he doesn't call before the end of the day, I'm nothing but a booty call.

  "The nurse says your brain's not swollen. I must've made that part up, which isn't surprising given what you put us all through. Who in their right mind travels to France with a guy they barely know?" Mel places the pill next to the glass on the bedside table and gives me that 'you didn't listen' look of hers before she adds, "There's someone here to see you."

 
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