This Man Confessed (Page 163)

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‘Ava?’ my mum’s voice and shoulder rub drags me back into the room which is too familiar to me.

‘Just for a few minutes.’ I agree, giving up on my salad and pushing it away. Mum doesn’t argue with me, nor does she try to negotiate more time for them. I’ve allowed them five minutes here and there, but I’ve not allowed it privately.

‘Okay, darling.’ She disappears from the room and a few moments later, Jesse’s mum, dad and sister quietly enter. I don’t acknowledge them. I keep my eyes on Jesse and my mouth firmly shut as they crowd the bed. His mum starts to weep, and I see Amalie in my peripheral vision comforting her. His dad definitely brushes at his face. Three sets of eyes, all green, all glazed, and all grief stricken, are staring at my lifeless husband.

‘How has he been?’ Henry asks, moving around the bed.

‘The same.’ I answer, reaching up to brush a stray blonde hair from his forehead, just in case it’s tickling him in his sleep.

‘And what about you, Ava? You need to be taking care of yourself.’ He’s speaking softly, but sternly.

‘I’m fine.’

‘Will you let us take you for something eat?’ he asks. ‘Not far, just down to the hospital restaurant.’

‘I’m not leaving him.’ I affirm, for the millionth time. Everyone has attempted and everyone has failed. ‘He might wake up, and I won’t be here.’

‘I understand.’ he soothes me. ‘Perhaps we can bring you something, then?’

He must have spotted the salad, but he’s trying anything, his concern genuine, but not wanted. ‘No, thank you.’

‘Ava, please.’ Amalie presses, but I ignore her plea and shake my head, digging my stubborn heels in. Jesse would force feed me, and I wish he could.

I hear a collective sigh, then the door opens and the night shift nurse enters, pulling the familiar trolley, loaded with a blood pressure machine, thermometer and endless other equipment to check his stats.

‘Good evening,’ she smiles warmly. ‘How is this fine specimen of a man today?’ She says the exact same thing every time she starts her shift.

‘He’s still asleep.’ I tell her, shifting only a little to give her access to Jesse’s arm.

‘Let’s see what’s going on.’ She takes his arm and loads his bicep with the material band before pressing a few buttons and triggering the automatic inflation of the device. Leaving it to do its job, she takes his temperature then checks the printout from his heart monitor and notes down all of her findings. ‘Just the same. You have a strong, determined man, sweetheart.’

‘I know.’ I agree, praying for his continued endurance. He’s no better, but he’s no worse either, and I have to hang on to that. It’s all I have. The nurse injects some medication into the driver on his arm before changing his catheter bag and drip, then collecting her things and leaving the room quietly.

‘We’ll leave you in peace,’ Henry pipes up. ‘You have my number.’

I nod my acknowledgment and let them all attempt to rub some comfort into me, then watch as they take turns kissing Jesse, his mum going last and spilling tears on his face. ‘I love you, son.’ she murmurs, almost like she doesn’t want me to hear, like she thinks I’ll condemn her for having the cheek. I would never. Their anguish is enough of a reason to accept them. My mission is to restore Jesse’s life to what it should be. I’ll do anything, but I don’t know if he’ll be around to accept it and appreciate it.

More tears fall.

I look up and watch them filter out, passing Kate, Sam, Drew and John at the door. Civil hellos and goodbyes are exchanged, and I can’t help the tired sigh that slips from my mouth at the arrival of more people. I know they are all just worried about Jesse and me, but the effort to answer questions when I’m asked is energy I just don’t have.

‘You good, girl?’ John rumbles, and I nod, even though I’m clearly not, but it’s easier to let my head fall up and down rather than from side to side.

I look up and offer a small smile, noticing the bandage from his head has been removed. He beat himself up for days, but what could he do when Ruth Quinn’s lover, Casey, called him down under false pretences and caught him off guard, clouting him around the head with an iron bar as he exited the elevator?

‘I’m not staying.’ John continues. ‘I just wanted you to know that they both appeared in court today and both have been remanded.’

I should be pleased, but I can’t even find the strength to be that. I’ve answered endless questions that have been thrown at me by the police, and Steve has been a regular, keeping me up-to-date on their findings. It’s pretty simple. Ruth, or Lauren, is the psychotic, ex-wife of Jesse, and Casey is her pu**y whipped lover, who did exactly what she asked in an attempt to please her. ‘Okay,’ I look up, registering four more sets of eyes, all sympathetic. I’m sick of seeing it. ‘I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t have the ener…’ My voice trails off, my spare hand reaching up to dab at my sore eyes again.

‘Ava, go home, have a shower and get some sleep.’ Kate pulls a chair up next to mine and drapes her arm around my shaking shoulders. ‘We’ll stay. If he wakes, then I’ll call you immediately. I promise.’

I shake my head. I wish they would all give up. I’m going nowhere unless Jesse is with me.

‘Come on, Ava. I’ll take you.’ Drew volunteers, stepping forward.

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