After

40 - Chris

"Aren't you freezing?" My gaze flickers to Jessica who has just been hit by the cold, autumnal breeze outside the car.

"What?" She glances at me before readjusting her gaze down at her body. She's wrapped her bare arms around her thinly clad body. Whatever she had been rushing from, she must have forgotten her jacket. Her blonde hair blows across her face as she tugs at it, strands of it sticking to her lip gloss. Apparently, according to Ashley, that's quite annoying. I'd just offered to kiss the lip gloss off for her. She'd almost slapped me for not taking her seriously. I'd grinned.

With a frustrated sigh, Jess swears under her breath.

"Want to go back?" I jab my thumb back at the car which I've just locked. Though what use that is when the doors are practically falling off already I don't know.

Jess resolutely shakes her head. "No," she says. "I'm not going back there."

Whatever hurdle she just jumped over by saying those words, there is a flicker of resolve in her features. Pride.

But in the case that she's maybe left more than her jacket - you know, like her purse, money and entire identity details - I'm hoping that the sentiment is purely metaphorical. As much as I'm oddly relieved that she phoned me, I could do without someone stealing her identity and having two Jessicas running around.

"Okay," I shrug before leading her towards the cafe, pushing the door open, almost walking in. And then I cringe and step back, letting her in before me. She gives me a passing look – an odd look that says 'When did you start opening doors?' – as she sweeps through the door before me. I let out a breath of relief as she slips into the cafe, before she can see me. I've been preparing for her to drop the facade and hound on me for one reason or another since she called me. It's just been a ticking time bomb.

She's just never been this... nice since the incident. Well, then again, she wasn't particularly nice before it either.

"Jess?" I hear Matt's distant voice jolt in the distance as the saucers on our table rattle.

I close the door behind me, the bell jingling, before turning the corner where I'd left Matt and Ashley to pick up Jess. Matt is standing on his feet within the booth, staring shocked and sheepish at Jess who is trying to hide her glare with a smile. Okay, so maybe I didn't exactly tell him where I was going. Or why I was going. He had seemed a little out of it anyway to concentrate.

Ashley glances back at me helplessly. I shrug back dubiously. There's obviously something going on between them. I'm not going to volunteer to get involved.

"I see someone used the keys," Jessica finally says, clicking her heels towards the booth before scooting in beside Ashley. With big, surprised eyes, Ashley shuffles up to the side, allowed Jessica some room.

"Uh, yeah," Matt coughs, still not finding it comfortable enough to sit down again. Finding the atmosphere settled enough, I take the plunge and take my place at the booth as well, next to 'still standing' Matt. There's probably some inspiring number one hit with the same title.

Cautiously, Matt eyes Jess' unreadable eyes while his legs creak as he slowly sits down. "Actually," he coughs, scratching the back of his neck. "Some guy phoned me. Said the hospital had assigned him to... help me get my memories back."

I feel my mouth run dry, passing an anxious look across the table at Ashley. "He wasn't," I slowly mouth, my voice cracking at the back of my throat. "Dr. Hill, was he?"

Matt's eyebrows raise in surprise as his head shifts towards me. "How did you know?" he asks, his eyebrows dipping down again, knitting together.

I shake my head all too knowingly. "You'd be surprised," I mutter under my breath.

"Just," Ashley pipes up, her hand reaching out and pressing against the table inches from Matt's arm. "Don't trust him."

Jess and Matt both time their glances perfectly to lock onto Ashley, bewilderment and worry crossing both their features. I swallow. I suppose since I've already told Matt, Jess deserves to know as well.

"Listen," I part my lips, leaning forward. Story time.

"Can't we sue him or something?" Jess stares resolutely at me.

I shrug. "Maybe you can," I mutter, glancing down at the now cold, bland coffee under my nose. "But we signed a contract."

"But," Jess scoffs, shaking her head. Over the past hour that we've been sat in this cafe, discussing how our lives have practically become public knowledge, Jess has relaxed. Just a bit. Last time, she wouldn't be seen dead speaking to us. I can't help but wonder what changed her mind.

But I don't risk asking.

"Surely that doesn't count," Jess makes her point, tapping the end of her pen against the scrap of paper in front of her – both things Ashley had donated to her. Ashley rarely goes without taking a pen and notepad with her. Apparently it's in case of a strike of inspiration. Ideas are always so rude. Never coming when you're prepared for them. "He made you sign it months – no, years, right? - after the stalking happened. You guys probably have a stronger case than any of the rest of us."

"When did you learn this kind of stuff?" Ashley glances in surprise at the other female, cocking her head. I have to cough and readjust my eyes before I start getting distracted by that red hair again. Especially where it strokes against the skin of her neck.

Damn, Chris. Shut up.

Jess shrugs. Though I can see a kind of pride in her eyes. "Just something that's useful to know for the job."

"Maybe you should become a lawyer," I mutter aimlessly, pulling my gaze away from the girls to focus on Matt. He's a much safer sight to look at.

But by the way he's looking, it's probably not that safe inside his head. His dark skin is creased on his brow, his blue bruise pumping like a little heart, as his fingers trace the tattoo on his neck. "Why the hell do I have this?" he mumbles, confusion and irritation eating away at his features.

"Uh," I glance at the other girls for help. Does he know? Should we tell him?

Jess decisively shakes her head. It's not the right time yet.

I don't know if it ever will be.

Not when telling him means he might murder me.


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