After

24 - Jessica

He looks a mess. If he was one before, he's even more so now; he's a wreckage. A bruise – that looks far too much like a living, bloody creature pumping underneath his feeble skin – spreads from his swollen cheek all the way up to his temple, just missing his eye.

He hisses as he shifts himself up the bed, his hand instantly flying to the bulge on his forehead. "What the hell happened?" his gruff voice pushes through his tensed teeth.

It's pretty obvious what's happened. Matt's accident must have knocked his eyes out as well as his brains if he can't see it. Being stuffed into a bed in a hospital ward should be a pretty big clue.

The hospital ward is small enough, at least, with wooden panels for walls instead of those horrid white walls in the corridors. Matt shares the room with a few other people, all separated with a maroon, polyester curtain. A widescreen television sits comfortably in a perfectly fitted hole in the wall across from Matt. Thank heavens, I wasn't paying for this room for nothing.

Matt heaves himself into what looks like an attempt at a sitting position. The doctor led me here, explaining that Matt had just woken up; of course, adding another Madam at the end of his sentence. He was very close to needing medical assistance too. The second I'd stepped into the ward, I'd regretted it. Matt looked exactly like I had when he'd found me in that mine. Scarred and scuffed, fumbling around with a shovel in the hopes that I'd be able to hit something through my blurred, desperate mind.

I shiver, my skin prickling like the chilly, mine wind has finally found me. It has come to claim the life it could never do back then. I can feel it slipping down into my throat, choking me. Swallowing me.

I squeeze my eyes shut. Get out. Get these thoughts out. Breathe in. One, two, three. Breathe out. One, two, three.

"Jessica?" Matt's cautious voice breaks through my trance. I snap my eyes open, locking onto him. He looks startled at my sudden irritation.

"What are you... doing here?" He asks slowly, trying to curve his tongue around his words like it's foreign to him. "Why- You look so different."

I make an insulted face at him. I don't know why I volunteered to be here, sitting beside him on the hospital designated chair. At least it's a comfy one.

"I didn't look that bad last night," I scoff, rolling my eyes, though I find the corners tugging upwards into a hint of a humorous smile.

"W-what?" Matt digs his fingernails into the undamaged side of his head, his eyebrows creasing together, causing him to flinch at the movement. A line has been shaved across his skull, allowing the doctors to stitch the wound back up. But it looks like Matt is just as much a shambles as he was before – no sewing would shove any part of him back inside his skull. "Last night?" He stumbles over his words, his eyes flashing with confusion and panic. He's struggling, I can see it. But what with, I don't know. "You... last night? No." He shakes his head, his dark, chocolate eyes focusing, finally sure of his words. "I... don't remember seeing you last night."

He wouldn't. That much alcohol would clog up his brain cells and wash out his memory.

I open my mouth to assure him that nothing happened between us in case he's deluded himself that we slept together. Like I'd lower myself to sleeping with anyone when they're drunk. I have more class than that. But Matt swears under his breath, cutting me off. "Crap. Em is going to kill me."

I roll my eyes, my patience almost snapping, my body ready to push out of the chair and walk out the door. He's on about that ghost rubbish again? Not even a smash to the skull could knock that out of his head?

But then his wide eyes snap to me. He hisses in fear. "And Mike."

"What?" I snap, shock yanking up my eyebrows. Last time I checked, it was Matt who wanted to kill Mike. Not the other way around. Did Matt seriously not click on to the fact that I haven't been in a relationship with Mike for at least 18 months? I'd figured Matt would guess that when he didn't see me at the courtroom – maybe he wasn't as smart as I'd given him credit for. Though drinking himself drunk on wine wasn't exactly a clever thing to do.

"Jess..." Matt breathes, all his thoughts a strain on him as his forehead creases in pain. His hand covers his face as he curls his chin towards his chest. "Where's Em?"

I was about to say, Somewhere trapped in your imagination, when his eyes finally focus on me. "She's okay, right?"

Then it hits me. Matt's forgotten.

He's forgotten that he hates Mike.

He's forgotten about the trial.

He's forgotten... that Emily's dead.


Matt remembers everything about that night on the mountain – except the conveniently huge fact that Emily was shot in the face. Through his rambling, I've pieced together that his memory is not too damaged. But large chunks are missing, chipped out with a chisel. It's almost like it's precise – like someone had purposefully chopped away those parts artistically.

Ironic that it was those exact things he'd been trying to forget with the alcohol.

"Why didn't you tell me he'd wake up with amnesia?" I hiss under my breath, my eyes strong as I confront the doctor in the doorway.

He shakes his head solemnly, remorsefully replying with, "We couldn't be sure."

"Like hell," I swear at him. "You could have at least warned me."

The doctor looks at least slightly apologetic but I don't have time to analyse how genuine he is being. By the way he stuffs his hands in his scrub trouser pockets and subconsciously shrugs his shoulders tells me he's not.

"Isn't there anything you can do?"

And then I realise... maybe it's better this way. Maybe this way he won't be constantly depressed and drown himself in alcohol. Maybe he won't be in danger of murdering Mike anytime soon – as much as that guy isn't on my list of favourite people right now, I don't want him to die.

Maybe Tag won't keep bothering me to help him.

"Today marks the second trial date for the murder case of-"

Before the television reporter can finish the sentence with Emily's name, I've sprinted across the room, grabbed the remote from the lab of an elderly man and snapped the channel over.

"Heeeey," the old man grumbles, crossing his arms like a child in his oversized armchair as he pouts in my direction. "I was watching that."

"Well, now you can watch some..." my eyes flash to the television screen to see some gorillas performing something that should only be kept behind locked doors and closed shutters. I cringe. "Nature at work instead."

I smile as politely as I can to the old man, who still looks grouchy.

It doesn't matter. Matt is not finding out this way.


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