This Man Confessed (Page 161)
‘I was forced to marry you because you were pregnant. I didn’t want to and you knew it. We were seventeen years old, Lauren. We fooled around one time.’ His voice is broken and unsure, like he’s trying to reassure himself that he did the right thing.
‘Don’t blame your decision on your parents!’ She’s burning with fury again, her hand shaking uncontrollably. ‘
‘I was trying to right my wrongs. I was trying to make them happy.’
The room is still spinning wildly, while I try to piece together what I’m hearing. I can’t make any sense of it, especially now when I’m in such a hazardous situation. Through my confusion and alarm, I do, however, realise the importance of keeping myself safe. I need to get out of here. I start to back away, hoping her attention and anger will remain on Jesse as I quietly attempt my escape. I know this is going to end with her gunning for me, not Jesse. She wants to punish him, and she’s going to do that by making him live without me. She’s got it all worked out and so have I.
‘Don’t move!’ She screams, halting me dead in my tracks. ‘Don’t even THINK about trying to leave because this knife will be in him before you make it out the door.’ That threat foils my plan completely. ‘You’ve not even heard the best part, so it would be nice if you stick around to hear me out.’
‘Lauren,’ he grates in warning.
She laughs, a sly, delighted laugh. ‘What? You don’t want me to tell your young, pregnant wife that you killed our daughter?’
He’s moving fast now, nothing will stop him, and I know it’s because I’m swaying, set on free-falling to the ground. My world has just exploded, splintering into a million pieces along with my overloaded mind. But I register her moving too. I register the knife coursing towards me fast and with absolute intent. And I also register Jesse coming between me and the blade. He manages to break my fall before tackling Ruth to the floor and punching her straight in the face on an infuriated roar. She laughs. The psychotic b***h just laughs, goading him, pushing him on with her hysterical fit of amusement.
‘I didn’t kill our daughter!’ he punches her again, the sound of his fist colliding with her joyful face sending shockwaves through me.
‘You did. The moment she got in that car you sent her to her death.’
‘It wasn’t my fault!’ He’s straddling her, trying to control her flailing hands.
‘Carmichael should never have taken our daughter. You should’ve been watching her! I spent five years in a padded cell. I’ve spent twenty years wishing I’d never let you see her. You left me without you, then you killed the only piece of you that I had left! I’ll never let you replace her! No one else gets a piece of you!’
Jesse roars and with a last reinforced swing of his fist, he knocks her out cold. I’m scrambling into a sitting position, watching his whole body convulsing with exhaustion and anger. I heard and fully comprehended every single word that they just shouted at each other, and I’m shocked, but I’m more sad than anything else. Every tiny little piece of pure craziness I have endured since meeting this man has just been justified. All of his overprotectiveness, unreasonable worry, and neurotic behaviour have just been explained. He doesn’t think he deserves happiness, and he has been protecting me. But he’s been protecting me from himself and the darkness of his history. It wasn’t him in that car with Carmichael. It was his daughter. All of the people he has truly loved throughout his life have died tragically, and he thinks he is responsible for each and every one of them. My heart bleeds for this man.
‘Nothing will break us.’ I sob, trying to stand, but not making it past my knees. He thought this would but it won’t. I’m relieved. In fact, every little thing is making perfect sense to me now.
He heaves his tall body up from the floor and turns foggy green, tormented eyes on me. ‘I’m so so sorry.’ His chin is trembling as he starts to walk towards me.
‘It doesn’t matter.’ I assure him. ‘Nothing matters,’ I hold my arms out to him, desperate for him to know that I accept him and his history, no matter how shocking and dark it might be. A sense of serenity travels between our bodies, like a silent, mutual understanding as I wait for him to get to me.
My impatience is growing. He’s taking too long, seeming to get slower and slower with each step he takes until he collapses to his knee on a strangled gasp and clenches his stomach on a hiss. My confused eyes search his face for some clue of what is wrong, but then he pulls his jacket back, revealing a blood soaked shirt and the knife submerged in his side.
‘NO!’ I scream, finding my feet and rushing to his side. My hand hovers over the handle of the knife, not knowing what to do. ‘Oh God! Jesse!’ He falls back, choking, his palm patting at his wound around the blade. ‘Oh God, no no no no no. please no!’
I collapse to my knees, all searing pain in my stomach and across my face being shifted straight to my chest. I’m struggling to breathe. I pull his head up onto my lap and madly stroke his face. His greens are getting heavy. ‘Don’t close your eyes, Jesse.’ I shout, frenzied. ‘Baby, keep your eyes open. Look at me.’
He drags them open, the effort clear. He’s panting, trying to get words out, but I shush him, resting my lips on his forehead, crying hysterically. ‘Ava…’
‘Shhh,’ I gain a second of rationality and start riffling through the inside pocket of his jacket, quickly locating his phone. It takes three scrambled attempts to key in the same number three times, and then I’m screaming down the phone, shouting instructions and begging the woman on the other end to hurry. She tries to calm me down, she tries to give me instructions, but I can’t hear her. I hang up, too distracted by Jesse’s paling face. He looks grey, his body is completely limp and his dry lips are parted, wheezing in shallow breaths. His laboured breathing doesn’t blank out the eerie silence surrounding us, though.