You meet in a Chinese place not too far from his hotel, and you’re wearing a nice teal dress, and heels. You even put liner and mascara. You ask yourself why. Surely, you aren’t trying to impress him. You are so past impressing any man – or not there yet. He looks as delish as they make them, in his charcoal waistcoat over a white shirt, and you realise that’s the first time in five weeks you noticed a man’s cologne. He also has absolutely gorgeous hands, which is a big deal for you. They are large, but palms are narrow, and fingers – long and strong – are drumming on the menu on the table in front of him.
You’re no psychic, and don’t believe in them. But at the moment you’re more sensitive than usual, and you’ve just been through an emotional trauma. Your nerves are strained, and you’re like a satellite dish when it comes to any sort of tension. And at the moment your alarms are blaring.
You poke a prawn on the appetiser platter the waiter placed between the two of you when he brought the menus. You chew, swallow, and ask, “August, why don’t you tell me what it is that you so don’t want to share but think you have to?” His eyes fly up to your face.
“You’re a scary little thing, Wren Leary.”
You give him a small smile. He sighs. While he’s chewing a bit of marinated aubergine – to stall, no doubt – you’re patiently waiting, asking yourself again what you’re doing in this restaurant with this man.
“And only my mother calls me August. It’s weird hearing this from a woman. Well, at least a woman I’m hoping to sleep with…” He gives you one of his wide smiles, signalling that it’s only a joke, but it doesn’t reach his wonderful, coffee coloured eyes.
“So, Auggie…” You suddenly have no appetite. He twirls the fork in his fingers, and then sets it aside and wipes his mouth with the napkin. Not only you aren’t hungry anymore, you feel nausea rising. You almost don’t want to know.
“Five years ago I was representing Amrod pharmaceuticals in another Yamataki project. Rivendell Institute was involved as well. And Thorington was there most of the time.” Your head swims. You bite into your bottom lip painfully. “There was a girl. Yuri. I really liked her. She didn’t like me back. Happens a lot.” You doubt that happens to him often, if ever, but that’s beside the point at the moment. “Thorington offered her to be his mistress, for the length of his stay in Japan. She agreed.”
“He does do that, doesn’t he?” You sound bleak.
“He does. He was open about what it was he expected from the relationship. And of course, that ended up not being enough for her. The project was over, he left. She got hurt.”
“And you think he knew she’d get hurt, and went for it anyroad,” you offer, and he nods. “And yes, if you’re asking me, that’s exactly what happened. That does sound like him.”
“I cared for Yuri, I honestly did, and…”
“And we met all those months before, you chatted me up… what, out of petty revenge?” you ask. You almost don’t need his answer. What you need is to go home and wrap your mind around the fact that whatever you do, your private life still seems to be built around Dr John Thorington. You also need to suss out what you think about the fact that John was right, and Auggie was dangerous.
“At first, Wren. Only at first. When we met and I knew you were his fiancee…” He leans ahead, trying to convince you. His eyes are earnest.
“You pretended to be ignorant and asked me if I were single.”
Somehow all this is suddenly funny, and you snort and shake your head.
“Please, don’t.” You lift your hand, and he stops. “Please… I believe you, yeah? I believe you. You saw an opportunity to arse him up. A young girl who can be charmed easily. His new shiny toy, that he seemed to even care about a bit. And then I broke it off with him, and we chatted, and you sort of started to fancy me…”
“Not sort of, Wren. I do fancy you. That’s why I decided to come clean on the first date, so it’s behind us, and we can…”
“We can’t,” you interrupt him, and sodding hell, why are you chuckling? It’s not at all bloody funny. “We…” You point at yourself. “…are going to ask for the bill now, and call a cab, and go home.”
He gives you a studying look, and then nods in defeat.
“I’m sorry, Wren.”
“As you Americans say, no worries.” You’re still laughing for some reason. Mostly because there’s no bill to pay. You haven’t even ordered anything.
You leave couple coins for the tip on the table, pick up your coat, and walk to the door. You could promise him you’d consider ringing him, but that would be a lie.
What happens next happens because you’ve recently developed this strange habit of turning off your mobile when you leave work. It’s some odd defence mechanism. You leave work at work, and at home you read and watch Netflix, buy groceries, and cook, and clean. Maybe, you’re keeping anything to do with Dr Thorington out of your private life. Or maybe, you don’t have private life anymore. Just work.
Two weeks after the ‘void’ dinner with Auggie, you’re leaving home early morning Monday, and pushing keys and your Oyster card into your pocket, while blindly pressing power button on your mobile. It lights up, and then a cacophony of beeping and yelling bursts out of it. The whirring of Tardis that is your notification signal, Sherlock’s insults that you use for email alerts, and beeps and squeaks that you’ve never heard before – all of these noises explode in your hand, and you are flipping through the notification while running down the stairs. They are from Killian, and Lan, demanding you to ring, to text, there are emails from them too, and you ignore them for now. The most astonishing thing is a voicemail from Graham Dwalinson. It turns out to be five of them, and you listen. He’s roaring into your phone, you’re told to ring, and then again and again, ‘emergency’ and ‘Thorington’ growled in the gyno’s thick accent, and then the last one makes you drop your bag and press your hand over your mouth.
Fuck me, petroica! Pick up the fucking phone! I don’t care if he killed your puppy, or what, but you’ll haul your perky arse in this hospital and you’ll be the first thing he’ll see when he opens his eyes!
He once again is giving your the address of the hospital, and the room number, and you’re running outside. You have to come back, to pick up your handbag from the floor, and you stumble out again. You yell at the man who’s trying to get a cab, and as much as push him away. He didn’t look like he was in a hurry, and you doubt his loved ones are in the hospital after a heart attack.
Through the ride you chew at you bottom lip so much that you have to wipe blood off it while you’re running through the halls of the hospital. There’s now a red stain on your sleeve. The receptionist is familiar, it’s the hospital you’ve had several classes in, and you had your vagina patched here a few months ago.
The first person you bump in is Phil. He’s standing in the corridor, speaking quickly and tensely into his mobile. You reckon it’s Deadre on the other end of the line. Phil lifts his eyes at you, and you have neither time, nor desire to read their expression. Graham is in the visitor’s parlour, and you grab his log like arm.
“He’s fine now. He’s resting. Where’s the fuck were you?” the Scot hisses at you, and you shake your head.
Your eyes are glued to the white door to the room, blinds on the window are closed, and your heart is in your throat.
“What happened?” You sound raspy.
“He collapsed yesterday morning. During a surgery. They say a mild heart attack.” It’s Killian talking. You haven’t noticed him in the room.
Everything is swimming before your eyes.
“We couldn’t reach you,” Killian continues. “He was asking for you.”
“What are they saying now?”
“The prognosis is good. Medications and rest.”
Graham’s giant hand lies on your back, between the shoulder blades, and he pushes you gently towards the door.
“Go ahead, petroica.”
You don’t know what you expected. You’ve seen plenty of sick people in your life, and yet your mind got stuck on some sort of an overdramatic image of a pale face, thinned features, and – even more absurd – a white shirt. Something from an Austen adaptation, perhaps, or some other sort of rubbish.
He looks just as he always does. He is indeed paler, there’s a greyish tinge to his tanned skin, but he just looks like he’s sleeping. One hand is on his chest, and you stare at the finger with heart monitor clip on it. And there’s no bloody daft white shirt, just a tee. And the hair is scattered on the pillow, and your lips start trembling.
“Stop staring at me, Leary. You creep me out.” His voice is low and velvet, and you jump up. The blue eyes open, and he gives you a small smile. “I have to say you look more like a person with a heart attack than I do.”
You suddenly don’t know what to do, and what to say. Are you supposed to politely wish him to get better and get your arse out of here? You have no right to be here, after all.
He pats the bed near him with the free hand. You edge towards it, and slowly lower your backside on the pristine sheets. You can feel the warmth of his body through the sheets and the comforter.