I didn’t go to his room. I almost had to tie myself to the grates of my bed, my body and heart ached with want, but through sheer determination, and some old fashioned seclusion I managed to stay put.I opened my laptop and in my tipsy haze stared at my copy of the proposal I had worked on as part of my finals for my degree. No Person Alone.
I had learned early into study that I would never be able to right all the wrongs my father had made. It was a fact that had made me feel sick and for a long while I hated a man I’d never really known. But then I realized I was better than hatred and decided I wanted to help others with nowhere to go. NPA was supposed to grow to eventually have different branches, pro bono legal advice, medical centers, job search facilities, homes, and shelters. I wanted to do it all. NPA would run several business under its umbrella, and after workers’ salaries and expenses were paid all the profits were returned to keep the business funded, but it needed capital, something I didn’t have, and something no one would give me. Once again my father had held me back, but I couldn’t bring myself to hate him anymore.I closed the laptop and sighed. Clearly I was destined to be lower in the business food chain, a dispensable employee, just like I was here. I had tried and failed to get NPA off the ground after college, then I’d started working at Glow but it wasn’t like that job had lasted very long.
A knock at the door drew me from lamenting over my failed career. My heart began to race impossibly fast, I knew I wouldn’t be able to say no if Dominic was on the other side. I stood and walked across the floor, when I opened the door I was faced with a docile Dominic. It was completely unlike him, he held up the house phone.
“The hospital just called.” He said softly. “Your mother was in an accident.”
“What?” I replied feeling confused. I pulled my phone from my pocket, I had missed three calls. Fuck.
“Harvey is here to watch Molly, let’s go, I’ll take you.” He replied, not giving me the option to decline. I nodded and grabbed my jacket. Numbly I followed Dominic out of the house. An accident. What kind of accident, was it bad, was she okay?
“The nurse was vague on the phone.” Dominic said answering my unasked question. “I wish I knew more.”
“I shouldn’t have had my phone on silent.”
“Already breaking my rules.” He mused. “You’re supposed to be contactable at all times.”
I frowned and bit back a sob. He was right, my stupid need to forget about him had led me to silence the phone in case he messaged. I’d broken a rule and now, when my mother needed me I’d missed the calls.
“I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.” He replied, I felt his eyes drift to me, and it took my breath away.
“No. You’re right.” I replied sadly.Dominic looked back to the road and we didn’t speak for the rest of the drive.
It was preferable even if it was awkward. It was 10pm by the time we arrived at the hospital. Dominic and I ran across the car park towards the Emergency Room. The place was filled to the brim with sick and injured children and adults, and it hurt my heart. I wondered how many were there simply because they couldn’t afford a doctor’s visit.I pushed my emotion away and walked up to the front desk
“My name is Felicity Taylor, my Mother Janine Taylor was brought in.“The receptionist took my details and pointed through a set of doors.
“She’s already in surgical. Follow through those doors and take your first left.“I felt Dom’s hand rest on my back and I admit, it was comforting, not knowing what was happening was almost unbearable, but with his support I didn’t feel so alone. We walked together down the hall and in to the surgical ward. The nurse there sat us down and said someone would talk to us as soon as they knew more. It was 20 minutes before another nurse dressed in scrubs walked over and sat down beside me.
“Ms Taylor?” she asked
“Your Mom was in a car accident this evening. She’s currently in surgery. She’s broken her fibula and she suffered a collapsed lung, but once those are treated she should be fine.”
Fine. I let out a long deep breath and nodded. “Thank you.”
The nurse left Dominic and I alone once more. “You can go if you like.” I whispered.
“Why would I?” He replied.
“Because you’re my boss, not my...” I stopped and looked at my hands, unsure of how I was supposed to finish the sentence.
“Right, I am your boss and I say right now I need to be here with you.” He said without apology. “Problem?”
I shook my head, there was no point arguing, and I wasn’t sure I had the tenacity after today.
Dominic stood a few minutes later. “You want coffee?” He asked.
Dominic left, and the awkwardness eased. I hadn’t gone to his room and we both knew it, I’d denied him. He’d laid it out and I’d closed the lid on the cookie jar, but neither of us wanted to talk about it. When Dominic returned he held out a coffee, I took it and let the polystyrene cup warm my cold hands.
“I’m not sure you want to be thanking me Felici-Ms Taylor. It tastes like warm dirt.“I sipped on it and smiled, Mr coffee snob clearly wasn’t used to instant.
“It’s fine, thank you.“I shivered, the air was cold and I’d only bought my thin knit jacket, the coffee wasn’t quite enough to warm me completely. Dominic took his jacket off and wrapped it around my shoulders. Underneath it he was wearing a long sleeved knit shirt that clung to his biceps, I quickly looked away.
“You don’t need to do that.”
“You’re cold.” He quipped.
“Can I not help?”
“No.” I replied.
“You know why.” I snapped back.
“I’ve listened to you Ms Taylor, and god knows I’ve got the message about whatever the last couple of nights were to you.” He muttered. “But stop being difficult. I will do as I please and right now, I want to help you. So deal with it.”
I sunk into my seat, and pushed the embarrassment I felt to the bottom of my stomach. I wanted to ask what he meant, what message I’d given, but I was too ashamed. I finished the coffee and then the nurse returned.
“Your Mom is being wheeled into a room now, if you and your husband follow me I can take you through.“I almost choked and pointed at Dominic.
“Oh he’s not my... we’re not married.” The nurse frowned at me, then shrugged and looked at Dominic.
“What she means is, we’re engaged.” He said in an overtly happy tone, sounding nothing like himself.
“Oh congratulations.” She giggled. “When are you getting married?”
I frowned and shook my head. “Can we please just go see my Mother?“The nurse’s smile dropped and she nodded.
She began walking through the corridors, and I sped up a little to keep ahead of Dominic. Why on earth had he done that? Was it no obvious to him that being around him made me uncomfortable, especially after today’s discoveries. It was almost like he was getting off on making me angry.
“She’s still on her way, you guys can wait in here for her though.” The nurse opened the door and ushered us in.
“Thank you.” I murmured.As the door closed I tore Dominic’s jacket from me and threw it at him. “What was that all about?”
“Relax, you don’t really have to marry me Ms Taylor. It was a joke, I make those sometimes.”
“You do?” I scathed. “Could have fooled me.”
“Yes.” He smiled and slipped the jacket back over my shoulders. ”I do."
“After today, after everything we’ve talked about you think joking about being engaged is funny?” I said shaking my head. Even now, figuring out this man was impossible.
“No.” he replied. “I think the way you’re reacting is funny. I on the other hand, was just enjoying someone thinking I have the heart to be married...”
I turned to look at him, and frowned. What was that supposed to mean? Did he think he was so fucked up he couldn’t be married, at least married to someone who loves him? I went to speak but the door opened and Mom was wheeled in.
“Felicity!” Mom croaked, she shook her head. “You should’ve waited to visit. It must be late.”
“Are you kidding?” I replied walking to the side of the bed. “Like I wouldn’t be here for you.”
“You brought Mr Coran I see.” She said, smiling at my boss like he was the best thing since sliced bread.
“Dominic, please.” He smiled, walking over until he was standing beside me, almost a little too close. Mom’s still slightly drugged up eyes focused on me, and I knew she was trying to figure out what was going on.
“How long will you be here?”
“A few days I think, the doctor will give me a better idea in the morning.”
“And you’re okay.”
“Yes honey, they fixed my lung, bolted my leg up like I’m some kind of robot and it’s almost like nothing happened. I promise, it’s going to take more than one measly accident to keep me down.“I frowned and grabbed her hand.
“You’re downplaying it. I’m sorry I wasn’t there.”
“Honey, I’m a grown woman. I can look after myself.”
“Clearly.” I replied pointing to the cast on her leg. “I’ll just have to come home as much as I can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself.”
Dominic cleared his throat. “Nonsense. I’ll give you the week off. You can look after your Mom properly.“I smiled, but it was empty. The thought of leaving Dominic and Molly for even a few days pained me as much as leaving Mom had just a few weeks back. Mom smiled and captured my hand in hers.
“You’re a lovely boss.” She smiled up at Dom. “Isn’t he?” I nodded, but only because I didn’t want Mom to pick up on the weirdness between Dominic and I.
“I can also look for another riding coach for Molly.” He said. “If that makes things easier.”
Mom shook her head emphatically and grabbed her phone from the bag of patient property to her right. She flicked through and then held the phone up. It was a picture of Blondie and Molly together. Their heads were touching and you could sense their bond through the screen.
“Blondie loves Molly, and it’s entirely mutual. Besides, Felicity will be there to help, won’t you?“I nodded, I’d do anything for Molly, or Mom, or Dominic. The thought pained me, but it was the truth. Dominic took the phone and stared deeply at the picture. He let out a long sigh and his thumb brushed over it.
“I never knew.” He croaked. “She looks so happy.”
“She’s happy Dominic.” I soothed, “You make her happy.”
“Yeah, but so does this.” He hastily handed the phone back to my Mom. “I’m going to get another coffee, you want one?“Mom shook her head, but I nodded. It was late, and I was tired. Tiredness meant I would do something silly given half the chance. Dominic left the room and Mom yanked on my hand.
“What is going on?” She exclaimed.“How is your leg, are you in pain.”
“Don’t you change the subject missy. I can tell something has happened.”
“Nothing Mom. It’s nothing.”
“It doesn’t look like nothing. The guy was looking at you like you’d kicked him in the nuts, where as you weren’t looking at him at all.”
I sighed, I had to hand it to the woman. She’d summed it up in one sentence, she’d seen straight through me and could quite clearly see something had happened.
“He didn’t know about the horse riding and when he found out he was angry. Truth is, I’ve been breaking a lot of his rules and I almost lost my job today.” I sat down on the seat beside the bed.
“And that’s it.”
“Pretty much.” I lied.
Mom’s eyes bored holes into mine, but she backed down, even though I knew she didn’t believe me. A short while later Dominic walked in with two cups of coffee. I took one and drank it back without given much thought for taste nor temperature, I drank it like it was a shot. Mom frowned and let go of my hand.
“You two should go. I’ll still be here in the morning and you can come back then.”
“I could have lost you tonight Mom.” I croaked, swallowing back the emotion that itched against my throat.
“But you didn’t. I’m fine. Please head home for a sleep.”
"Fine?" I said pointing at her fully casted leg. “You’re not exactly fine.“Dominic placed his hand on my shoulder, causing me to jump backward.
“It’s late, I’m sure your Mom will be fine for a few hours.” He said as if he noticed nothing about the way I was acting. Mom on the other hand was still watching me with a critical eye. “You on the other hand look wrecked.”
“Fine.” I mumbled that stupid word once more as I shrugged Dominic’s arm from my shoulder. “I’ll come back first thing Mom. Text if you need anything.”
“Alright honey.” I bent down and kissed mom on the head before walking from the room. I stayed a few steps ahead of Dominic the entire way back to the car. He unlocked it and without a word I hopped inside. The idea of having the week off to help Mom had grown on me. I needed the space from Dominic, I needed to forget how I was feeling. I pulled my seatbelt across my chest and clicked it in.
“I’ll have Mrs Sampson make you some lunch to take up to the hospital. We can’t have your Mom stuck eating the cardboard they call food.“I shrugged and looked out the window. I couldn’t say no, he was right.
“It’s no problem.” He soothed. “And the offer of time off, take as much time as you need. I can have Mrs Sampson watch Molly.”
“A week should be fine. I’ll hire a nurse after that.” I replied. “But thank you.”
“I’ll cover the cost then.” He said in a ‘don’t argue with me tone’ except, of course, I argued.
“No, I will. You’re paying me more than enough.”
“You don’t like me very much do you.” He questioned.
I frowned and bit my lip hard to stop myself from admitting that he couldn’t be further from the truth. He sighed at my lack of reply and we both remained silent for the rest of the journey home.
Once I was back in my room, safe and away from Dominic I collapsed into my bed, sheer exhaustion thrust me in to a deep, but dreamless sleep. When I woke I was still fully dressed and on top of the covers, although there was somehow a throw blanket that I had never seen before covering me. I looked at the clock beside the bed and almost reeled back in shock. 10:15am.I ran down stairs and into the kitchen. Amelie was clearing the breakfast dishes and preparing lunch. She turned and smiled at me.
“Morning dear, Mr Coran said you’d be up late, I saved some bacon and pancakes for you. Are you hungry?”
My stomach grumbled in reply and I reluctantly nodded. “I am.”
“Alright, well you go sit in the dining room and I’ll bring this through. I’ll have some food made for your Mother soon too.”
“Thank you Amelie, but I can get it if you’re busy?“She shook her head and pointed through to the dining room.
“You’ve had a long night, please, go relax.“I nodded and walked out of the kitchen.
I was confused as I walked through the door into the dining room, to the point that I didn’t see Dominic walking through at the same time as me. I walked right into him, his hands caught my shoulders and I lost my concentration.
“Shit. Sorry.” I grumbled under my breath. I looked up and Dominic smiled down at me, I covered my mouth and meekly apologised for the cuss, but he ignored it.
“Only just.” I croaked. “My alarm must have reset itself, it didn’t go off at 6am.”
Dominic made a guilty face and took a step back. “That was me.”
“I wanted to make sure you were okay once we got back, but when I came to see you, you were already out to it. I turned the alarm off and put a blanket on you.”
What the hell?“That really wasn’t necessary.”
“Au contraire, you had a stressful night... a stressful day too in fact.”
“I’m your employee Mr Coran, not your...” Once more, like the night before I couldn’t finish the sentence, and I needed to get out of here and away from Dominic as quickly as I could. “Tell Amelie I am sorry, I’ve lost my appetite.”
I left the dining room and rushed upstairs. I was breathless by the time I walked inside my room. I needed him to stop being so kind, I needed him to go back to being cold. I didn’t know how to handle his warmth.
“Flick.” Molly’s voice called from the doorway, I turned and pushed aside all of my confused feelings.
“Daddy said your Mom was in an accident.”
“Yes, but she’s okay.”
“He said you’re going to go look after her for a few days.” She murmured, and I could hear the worry in her voice the fear that I wasn’t going to come back and it killed me.
“Just to get her settled.” I replied. “There is no way I can leave you while you’re still here.“Molly walked across the floor and wrapped her arms around my waist.
“Good. Because you make my heart feel warm.” I almost cried, I wasn’t 100 percent sure why, but her approval and unrestrained love for me made me feel like I was worth something.
“Right back at you kid.” I smiled, knowing my words in no way matched how I truly felt, about her and about Dominic.
After Molly disappeared and before I had to face Dominic again I walked down to get the lunch off Amelie. She asked me if I was alright, if Dominic had said anything to upset me. I said no, but I had the distinct feeling she knew something was going on.
I left and drove to the hospital without saying goodbye to Dominic and as I drove I promised myself that when I went back to the Coran mansion, these irrational feelings would be gone.They had to be.