Chapter 19 - Unforgivable
Tom had gone to do a consultation for Mrs Grant. There were some scans. She wasn’t conscious yet, but they were monitoring her tests closely. Tom said that they were optimistic and that everything so far looked good. They removed the tumour successful, but the brain wasn’t a simple organ. There was much that could go wrong.
Since this morning, her neighbour had kept the curtains closed and hadn’t bothered to introduce herself. She made no sound, but Jill still felt like she was walking on eggshells. It wasn’t as if Jill hadn’t tried to be friendly, but her greetings and small talk was met with either an unamused huff or more silence. Jill had given up. If she didn’t want to talk then there was nothing Jill could do about it.
She turned to the door. There was another group of nurses loitering outside the doorway. This had been happening all morning. Chuck had resorted to playing traffic control as he was forced to move on the nurses so that he could do his job. They clogged up the hallway and restricted his visibility. Jill knew why they were there. They whispered and glanced at her. After the third group she had pulled the curtain to restrict the view. But she could still hear them muttering.
“Her? Why her? What’s she got? He’s throwing it all away for her?” were the questions she heard over and over again.
“She’s nothing. She’s not even pretty. A patient. I can’t believe it,” were the common answers from the other nurses who huddled in the group.
They didn’t do it while he was here, or at least they weren’t as vocal or obvious while he was here. But now she was alone, they didn’t seem to be shy. One had even entered the room, pulled the curtain back and glared at her.
“How can you be so selfish?” She blatantly looked her over and sniffed a small sneer, “You’ve bewitched him. What did he do to you? Why are you destroying him?”
She shook herself in disgust and left while Jill was still stuttering her surprise. She then announced to the giggles that waited for her return, that there was no way in hell that he was in love with ‘that witch’.
Jill tried not to let it bother her. What did it matter what they thought? All that mattered was what he thought. She tried, she said the words to herself, but somehow the tears still pricked in her eyes. How could they be so cruel? What had she done to them to provoke this?
She couldn’t respond to these insults. She couldn’t defend herself. Nothing she said would make this any better. They wouldn’t listen to her or it would make the situation worse. It might add fuel to the fire. All she could do was ignore them, try to maintain her dignity. She hoped that Tom wouldn’t find out what they were doing. If he found out she didn’t know what he’d do.
“Miss Jill Doe?” an orderly was standing just inside the door. He looked at the paperwork he was holding and then at the name that was over her bed, as he pushed the wheelchair towards her. “I’m here to take you for a consultation.”
“What consultation?” she asked, “I’m not due for any consultations?”
“I’m just the transport, ma’am,” the orderly smiled as he showed her some paperwork. It had a signature next to Doctor Peters name and it seemed official.
Chuck must have been listening because he was suddenly behind the guy and took the papers out of his hands to read. He must have not known about it either because he rang a number while looking over the words. She couldn’t hear what was said but the conversation Chuck had was short. Then he handed the papers back to the orderly and nodded.
That was enough for Jill. If it was alright with Chuck, it was alright. He must have verified it with that phone call.
“I don’t need the wheelchair, I’ve got crutches,” she announced proud of her independence and the fact that she was almost walking unaided.
“Hospital policy Miss,” the orderly looked at the crutches like they carried the plague, “And the doctor is waiting, can’t keep him waiting all day.”
She shrugged and got into the wheelchair without complaint. She sent a quick text to Tom, just so that he wouldn’t worry if he returned and found her gone, as the orderly pushed her out of the room with Chuck following. Once in the lift, she was surprised when the guy pushed the up button for one of the top floors and swiped an access card. She’d never but up there, they were off limits. As far as she knew, there weren’t any consultation rooms up there.
The doors opened to an expensive painting hanging in a plush foyer. There were no nurses up here. She was expecting the orderly to apologise for the mistake and pull her back into the open lift, but he just kept walking. They were clearly in the wrong place, but the orderly didn’t seem to notice this. The walls were beige instead of hospital grey, the doors were panelled with a name embossed on each, and even the lighting was warm. It was a different world to the wards below.
The orderly stopped at the door entitled ‘Doctor R. Layton’. Jill squirmed around to see the expressions on the two men. The orderly looked bored and Chuck’s face was carefully devoid of expression, as usual. Before she looked away, he must have noticed her worried look because he gave her a short nod, but his eyes told her something else. There was clear concern in his eyes.
The man she recognized from the argument in the hall answered the door, opened it and nodded an acknowledgement at the orderly. He was just as handsome as she remembered. He looked like Sean Connery when he played James Bond but with grey hair. Sean Connery was Jill’s Father’s hero, he idolised him. So calm, controlled, classy and handsome. Doctor Richard Layton was just as debonair.
She was still thinking this as Doctor Layton asked Chuck to wait outside the room. Chuck had a look around then, when it was clear that there was no one else in the room, he nodded and took a position out side the door. The orderly had already disappeared and then the door closed, leaving her alone with Doctor Layton Senior.
“I’m Doctor Richard Layton, Tom’s Father,” he took a seat behind a large wooden desk, then he chuckled to himself as he said, “I would say ‘take-a-seat’ but you’re already sitting.”
Jill pushed a smile onto her face. The joke wasn’t funny. It made her uncomfortable and even more aware that she shouldn’t be here.
“Richard,” a voice from no-where surprised her, “That wasn’t appropriate. Turn the screen. Let me see the girl.”
“Of course,” Doctor Layton muttered as he turned his laptop to face Jill.
On the screen of the laptop was the face of Anna Weston. Jill swallowed a gulp. Anna Weston wasn’t someone you failed to recognise. She was famous for her humanitarian work, conservation efforts and was a well-known animal activist. She was idolised by the media and the public for good reason, she was a goddess, a saviour to many, an angel in high-heels, and formidable woman, all wound up in one package. To say that Jill was a fan, was an understatement.
She looked at the woman on the screen with an open mouth. Her blonde hair was perfectly styled, her makeup flawless, and she was wearing a crisp white linen shirt. Behind her was a refugee camp with tents, cowled women squatting over open cooking fires, half naked children running, sand and visible heat. The scene was alive with movement, as the solitary woman in the centre of vision stared out of the laptop like she was actually looking at Jill.
“Is this her?” the laptop speaker sounded tinny, but the voice was familiar, Jill had watched enough interviews to recognise it. “Why isn’t she speaking? Is she mute?”
“You’re Anna Weston?” Jill asked tentatively.
“That’s her screen name,” Richard huffed, “She refuses to change it to our married name. It’s Mrs Weston-Layton to you.”
“Mrs Weston-Layton?” Jill looked at Richard then back at the woman on the screen. She swallowed again as she tried to get the words formed in her mouth, “Tom’s Mother?”
“This one’s not too bright, is she?” Anna looked away as she scoffed, “Oh well, that makes things easier. Richard, why do you need me?”
“Anna, please, I’ve explained why,” Richard closed his eyes out of vision of the camera, “Miss, you don’t have a last name, do you? I’ll just call you Miss Doe. Miss Doe, we would like you to cease your relationship with our son and we are willing to compensate you for this.”
Richard slid a fat envelope across the table.
“What?” Jill looked at the two people in front of her, “What are you saying?”
“I don’t have time for this,” Anna shook her head, “Leave our son alone. You aren’t the first of his women that we’ve paid off and you won’t be the last. Take the money, sign the non-disclosure contract, and don’t contact him again, it’s that easy.”
“Sorry? Can you say that again?”
“Anna,” Doctor Layton grimaced.
“Gosh, she is stupid,” Anna ignore her husband as she rolled her eyes and then spoke as if speaking to a child, “You’re sleeping with Tom. You need to stop that. You aren’t right for him. Take the money, it’s a good amount for a girl like you. Trust me, this is as good as you’ll get. It not like he’ll marry you.”
“Is this real?” Jill still couldn’t match the face on the screen with the words that she was hearing. The two didn’t match.
“Honey,” Richard sighed, “Take it easy. She’s not one of the nurses here.”
“Are you bribing me not to be with Tom?” Jill stuttered.
“Bribing is a dirty word,” Anna sounded offended, “We are ‘compensating’ you. Take the cash, signed the contract, don’t talk to anyone about this, and everyone wins.”
“Honey,” Richard sighed, “I know you’re tired but try to tone it down a little?”
“Tired? I’m stuck in the middle of the fricking desert here with nothing, no air-conditioning and sand everywhere, and the fricking charity booked me into a four-star hotel, four-star, without a helipad! I have to take a taxi from the airport twice a day, in this heat! Tired doesn’t even cover it!”
“My wife is a busy woman, Miss Doe,” Richard seemed unfazed by the rant, “What we are asking you is what’s best for our son, Tom. You must see that this is having a negative effect on his career. He can’t be caught up in a scandal like this. You must see the logic in what we are asking? Sign the contract for his benefit.”
“His benefit? What is this ‘contract’?”
“Think of it like an insurance policy,” he slid the paperwork closer to her, “Once you sign this we can all rest knowing that nothing bad will happen. It’s peace-of-mind. The money is just the icing on the top. You must see how generous we are being. This cash will help you set yourself up, once you leave the hospital.”
“Does Tom know about this?”
“Tom’s a child, a beautiful, adorable child,” the voice from the laptop sighed, “But the flipside of that is that he’s irresponsible, reckless and rebellious boy. That’s why all the women love him. But it’s a parent’s job to clean up their child’s messes. You’re not the first, by a long shot, and you won’t be the last.”
“Miss Doe,” Richard placed a pen on the paper, “My wife is correct. Tom relies on us to sweep up his indiscretions. This is a standard contract that all the other girls have signed, just sign it here and take the money. It’s the cleanest way forward.”
“This is a joke?” she looked between the two faces in front of her, “You’re not serious? You can’t possibly be serious?”
“We are,” Richard sighed, “We are very serious. You can’t honestly believe that you have a future with our son? Do you know how many times Charge Nurse White has brought a weeping heartbroken girl, before me? No matter what he’s promised you, he’ll bore of you and he’ll leave you with nothing.”
“He doesn’t love you,” Anna sounded bored, “He’s flippant and prone to flings. One minute he’s in love with this, the next minute he’s infatuated with that. It’s his nature. It’s nothing personal.”
“You’re wrong,” Jill struggled to get the words out, “That’s not right. You can’t say that.”
“And let’s not ignore the elephant in the room,” Anna added, “He’s out of your league, Miss doe. He is after all, a Layton and the only grandson of Senator Weston, you don’t belong in his world. Take the deal. It’s the best you can hope for from Tom.”
“Wow,” she shook her head, “And I thought he was exaggerating.”
“Sign here,” Richard had opened the paperwork and held out a pen as he pointed at the long line on the paperwork with her name under it.
“That’s just not going to happen,” Jill clenched her fists, “You really are despicable people, aren’t you? How can you even think to insult him like this? Tom is a man who is accomplished, responsible and genuine. He’s talented, gentle and fun to be with. He’s an amazing man. If you knew him, you’d never say those things about him.”
“And how long have you known him Miss Doe?” Richard scoffed.
“And yet, I know him better than you,” she growled, “You’re his parents! You should be nurturing him, encouraging him, and supporting him. Not this, you shouldn’t be doing this. He doesn’t know about this. I know him well enough to know that he’d never have anything to do with something like this.”
“What we’ve done is what any parent would do,” Richard’s voice was cold.
“I take offence to that,” Jill shot back as she jabbed her finger at the contract and the envelope which was still on the desk, “In doing this you are disrespecting him, you are belittling him, and you are undermining him. This, all of this, disqualifies you from calling yourself a parent.”
“Miss Doe,” Richard hissed, “That’s uncalled for.”
“That’s enough, you little bitch. Do you think you know better than me? Do you think you have the right to lecture me?” Anna Weston spat the words out of the laptop screen, “You can screw with my whoring son, but I won’t let you screw with me, my name, and everything I’ve worked for. Sign the damn papers, you’re just another one of his sluts.”
“You’re wrong about that, but I don’t care what names you call me,” Jill pointed her finger at them both, “What I do care about is Tom. And I won’t hear you talk about him like that. He doesn’t deserve this and I won’t stand for it.”
“So, you want more money?” Anna’s face was no longer attractive, “How much do you want? Name your price, because I’ll drag your reputation through the mud before you even think about getting a ring on your finger.”
“Money? This isn’t about money or my reputation,” Jill said the words through her clenched teeth, “I don’t care about your money or what you think you can do to me. I love him for the man he is, so you can keep your money, and your contract, and your false concern.”
“Love?” Anna scoffed, “You think he loves you? There’ll be another girl sitting in that chair before the end of the month.”
“Yes, I do love her,” came the voice from the door, “And no, Jill will be the last in that chair.”
“Tom,” she breathed out his name as she turned to see him occupying the doorway.
“Son,” Richard stood up, “What are you doing here?”
“Tom, darling,” Anna was smiling a fake smile, “Honey, don’t misunderstand.”
“Misunderstand? What’s to misunderstand?” Tom walked into the room and stood next to where Jill was sitting, “You were threatening and insulting the woman I love and offering her money to leave me. That was the crux of the conversation. I don’t think there’s much to misunderstand.”
“We’re just doing what’s best,” Anna smoothed her hair down, “Protecting the family name. Your father and I have worked hard to secure a good place for you. Don’t throw all that away over this girl. She’s hardly your type, after all. Amanda Gooding, Govenor Gooding’s niece, was asking about you.”
“Enough,” Tom growled, “You’re only doing what’s best for you, not for me, like you’ve always done. You don’t care about me or what I want, it just all about Anna Weston and her profile. You don’t care about refugees, endangered tigers, landmines, deforestation, or droughts. You only care how Anna Weston can benefit from other’s suffering. And that includes the suffering of her son.”
“Tom,” Anna snarled at her son, “Don’t be petulant. I volunteer to make this a better world for you.”
“For me? When have you ever done anything for me?”
“Don’t speak to your mother like that,” Richard spoke, “That’s unfair. We’ve given you the best education and the everything you’ve asked for. And when you needed it, we’ve been here to make sure that your many indiscretions haven’t negatively impacted anyone.”
“Don’t exaggerate,” Tom shook his head, “I never asked you to intervene in my sex life and the women I’ve been with weren’t like that.”
“Don’t be naïve, son, there were several who were quite vindictive,” Richard scoffed softly, “If it wasn’t costing me so much I’d be impressed by your virility. This one makes it forty-two over the last three years.”
“No,” Tom head lifted as he looked at his Father in surprise, “No, you are wrong about that. There’s no way I’ve slept with forty-two women in three years. Jill, that’s not correct.”
“I’d offer to show you the list,” Richard laughed, “But I doubt you’d recognise any of the names, it’s well known that you don’t remember the names.”
“I think we should leave,” Jill reached over and took Tom’s hand, “Don’t listen to anything else they have to say. We are done here.”
“I’m not finished,” Anna voice was commanding, “You say you have feelings for this one, then you should want to protect her. Call this off Tom, because once the media hear about how she seduced you, how she took advantage of the Layton’s good nature and trust, and how she tried to blackmail us using your career for leverage, they will eat her for breakfast. Is she tough enough to withstand that?”
“Mother,” Tom’s voice came out as a growl.
“Mrs Weston-Layton,” Jill interrupted, “I’m tougher than I look. I’m smarted than I look too. But, because you were worried about my intelligence, I recorded the conversation, so I could ask someone less stupid than I am about the big words.”
Jill held up the phone screen which clearly showed the recording app as she smiled innocently. Anna Weston turned noticeably a shade paler as Richard spluttered unintelligible words. Jill turned to Tom who was standing there with a look of shock and embarrassment on his face.
“I’m going to keep this recording,” Jill said in an even voice, “It’s like an insurance policy, am I correct? With this I can feel that nothing bad will happen and I’ll have peace-of-mind. That’s how you explained it, right?”
“Richard?” Anna was reaching forward towards the camera, “Delete that recording! How could you let her do that? Richard!”
Tom didn’t say anything as he pushed Jill out of the room. Chuck was standing at the door and it seemed like the door wasn’t sound proof because he was wearing a small smirk and gave Jill a wink as Tom pushed her towards the lift.
She looked up at Tom’s face as the lift doors opened and then she pushed her lips together. She was about to ask how he’d known, her text had only told him that she had an appointment, and how much he’d heard, but this wasn’t the time for questions. His face was a stone mask of fury and she could feel the anger wafting off him. He had ever reason to be furious and this wasn’t the place or the time to question him.
“Let me,” Chuck said as he pushed the wrong floor button on the elevator’s panel, then he handed something to Tom, “I was told that it was good until 4pm this afternoon when the cleaning staff are due.”
Tom looked at the plastic card that Chuck had given him and gave him a short sharp nod of the head as he said in a rough voice, “Thanks Chuck.”
Before Jill could ask the lift opened and she knew where she was. It was the floor which held the unit that she’d stayed at for the last two nights. That was what Chuck had handed Tom, the room key. Tom pushed her, swiped the card, opened the door, and left her sitting facing the bed. He walked past her, without looking at her, and looked out the windows.