There are hands on her face. She’s not sure who they belong to. There is another set of hands lifting her up off the ground. That’s Nick. Emily couldn’t lift her so easily. So, it’s Emily’s hands on her face. She tries to make sense of what’s going on, in her mind. “Olivia.” That’s Emily. “Olivia, open your eyes. Look at me.”
“I don’t want to. No.” She slurs out.
“She could have a concussion.” Nick.
“We need to take her to the hospital.” Emily.
“No.” Olivia. There’s a silence. She can imagine them exchanging looks of concern.
“Olivia, you need to go to the hospital.” Emily is trying to convince her. “Nick, call the police.”
“No.” She can only manage the one word. It’s frustrating. There are eloquent sentences she needs to express, but her mouth doesn’t want to follow her brains orders. She opens her eyes slightly. That actually helps, having something to look at. It’s not that she can’t stay awake from head trauma…although she can’t rule that out. She’s just coming down from the adrenaline rush and is in desperate need of a nap. She’s also slightly embarrassed and feels like closing her eyes will make the whole day disappear. No such luck. They both pour her into the back of the car. Emily sits with her and Nick sits back in the driver’s seat. He leans through the chairs, into the back. Olivia catches her reflection in the window. She gasps and rests a hand against her face, brushing over an already dark bruise on her cheek. Her lip is busted and there’s a gash just under her cheek bone. A tear escapes and rolls down her face, stinging as the salt touches her lip. She winces. “I look…” She doesn’t know what to say. Emily finds the words. “You look like you’ve been jumped. Olivia, who did this to you?” Olivia sighs. She recounts the whole story, from the horrible experience with her drama class, to Jack falling on his face, to the dramatic encounter with Caroline and then everything she can recollect from the fight in the car park. “Looking back, I can’t imagine anyone being that aggressive over something so small, unless they were under the influence.” She finishes. Emily and Nick glance at each other. Nick speaks. “Olivia, parents can get very, very protective over their children. She must have freaked when she saw her son bleeding, then your reaction must have seemed like you were shifting blame. That’s all she really wanted, someone to blame, to take responsibility for her son’s accident. A simple apology, maybe?”
“Hold up,” Olivia interrupts, “are you defending her?”
“Absolutely not.” He doesn’t even take a second to contemplate his response. “What she did was disgusting and if I get my hands on her I’ll…No. I’m not defending her. I’m trying to explain that people do, in fact, do horrible things when they’re upset. Especially mothers who think they’re protecting their child. I think it’s important for you to know that. Learn from it, so next time, you’ll know when to watch your back.” The car is silent. Olivia wonders how Nick could see this as an opportune time for a life lesson.
“Maybe, we should take her to my house?” Emily suggests. “My Dad’s home. Mum’s away on business. He’ll know what to do.”
“I’ll call ahead.” Nick takes out his phone and makes a quick call. Lots of “yes’” and “noes” are being exchanged, then he hangs up the phone and without another word, they’re driving away from the scene.
Emily’s home is grand. Her mother and father, both hold Senior Partnership positions at a corporate law firm in the City. Their home has spared no expense and looks like a futuristic paradise. The exterior is surrounded by trees and Olivia can hear a water feature trickling somewhere, though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it’s coming from. There are conifers lining the garden, leaving only a gap for the path which leads up to the front door which has an arched doorway with elaborate carvings around the frame. The house itself is one large cube, with three stories and large French windows strategically placed to let in the best light.
Inside, everything almost looks sterile, with white gloss floors, white walls and silver rugs. The only colour comes from various art pieces and decorations in each room. It’s cold in the sense of colour, but the house feels quite warm. In the sitting room, there is no television, just a gigantic white corner couch, facing towards a glossy coffee table and an electric fireplace, made to look like the real thing, only with a flat screen.
Olivia sits forward on the couch, afraid to get blood on the pristine living area. Poppy, the beautiful, ginger furred dog, sits by her feet. Emily’s father, Ian Odis, is a forty-five-year-old man, with thin shaven hair, wrinkles under his eyes, which are brilliant green, and a smile far too warm to belong to a lawyer of his position. He dabs away at the cuts and scrapes on Olivia’s face, with a damp cloth. She winces as he hits particularly sore spots. “Sorry.” He says. Then he goes at her again, with an antiseptic wipe. She crushes Emily’s hand, who has been patiently waiting for her father to finish before an explanation can be given. “Ouch.” She winces. There is a knock at the door. Nick, who is standing silently by the doorway, potters out to answer. A brief exchange can be heard, and he returns almost instantly with Dr. Reeves in tow. Dr. Reeves, as Ian had explained, is a family friend and is currently taking a break from his paternity leave to visit the Odis residence and ensure Olivia doesn’t absolutely need a hospital. He is a tall fellow with bright blonde hair. Spectacles sit on his nose, giving him the appearance of being slightly older than Olivia suspects he is. Ian stands and shakes his hand. “Thank you for coming by so quickly.”
“Not a problem, Ian. Is this the patient?” Dr. Reeves sits down on the edge of the coffee table. He puts his bag beside Olivia and opens it up, pulling out a small torch. “Look at me.” He shines a light in her eyes. “Look to the left. Now the right.” He flicks the torch to one side, then back again, then away from her sight, then back again. He works, not saying very much. “Lie back please.” Olivia kicks off her shoes and lies back on the couch. He sets a few cushions underneath her head to keep it elevated. Nick and Ian both respectfully turn their backs as the doctor lifts her shirt up to examine her stomach. He presses in certain areas. “Does that hurt?”
“No.” Olivia is surprised to mean it.
“How about here?” He lifts his hand up and pushes slightly against the bottom of her ribs.
“No.” He pulls her shirt back down and slowly sits her up.
“Any headaches? Nausea? Dizziness or confusion? Anything like that?” Olivia ponders.
“I was bit foggy after the…after the accident. Maybe a bit confused, my head hurt a little. Not so much now. I’m just sore.”
“I can imagine.” He lifts her chin up and looks at the cut on her face. “The ‘accident’ must have been wearing a ring. It doesn’t look like it’ll need stitching, just make sure you keep it clean. Your lip is a nasty business, but I think you might avoid stitches there too, it’s a fast area to heal, though you may want to avoid salt, alcohol and acidic drinks while it does. Use a straw, even. Be sure to call me if you have any heavy bleeding, swelling, discolouration, that sort of thing…I am going to recommend you take a trip to hospital, however. I do think you’ve had a mild concussion, and it’d put my mind at ease knowing you’ve been checked for major bleeding. Again, with your rib, it doesn’t seem like anything is cracked, and I’ve no immediate concern for internal bleeding, but alas, I don’t have x-ray vision, and only a hospital can really give a real diagnosis.” Olivia grimaces. Ian seeing this comes by the doctor and pulls him to one side. He whispers, “Is there anywhere else she can go, besides Fairfield? The girl’s mother works there and, for whatever reasons she has, she doesn’t want her to know about this.” Dr. Reeves nods. “Absolutely. I can make a recommendation.”
“She has too much to worry about. Bills. Me. Her job. Everything. I just, don’t want to add to that any more than I am, because I don’t know when to shut my mouth.” Ian smiles warmly at her. “Don’t worry. We’ll straighten all this out as quietly as possible. Give me one second.” He sees Dr. Reeves out, with one last parting piece of advice from doctor to patient, he calls through, “Drink lots of water and stay in company for at least the next forty-eight hours.” At that, he’s gone. Ian returns a moment later with a pad and pen. “Okay, in your own time, tell me what happened.” So, for the second time in one day, Olivia recounts the nitty-gritty details from start to finish, this time ending with Nick and Emily’s collection of her from Buxton Street.
Ian, who has made notes the whole time, now looks up at her. “Why are you so certain, you don’t want to press charges, this is clear assault and theft. Besides, from what you’ve said, she didn’t need to steal your money, she did so out of spite. In my experience, people like that, if left unchecked, only get worse.” Olivia considers.
“If I press charges, it could go to court…I don’t want that to happen. It’s going to be stressful and messy, it’s just…the last thing my Mother needs right now.”
Ian laughs, “I think you’re underestimating your mother’s strength.” Olivia is aware of this. Maybe it doesn’t make sense. She thinks on it a little more. No. She’s certain. “I don’t want to press charges.” He nods. Emily finds her voice.
“Screw that! You can’t let her just get away with it. Look at her face, Dad!” She is exasperated with Olivia and her Father.
“I have no intention of letting her get away with anything.” At this Olivia looks up at Ian Odis, who she notices is standing up and fixing his tie. She didn’t realise he was wearing a tie. Did he put that on before he came back in with the pad and pen? Olivia smiles a little…it’s his superhero costume. His identity to hide behind while he fights crimes and rights wrongs.
“What can we do?” She asks.
“You,” he answers, “are going to go to a hospital to have a proper look over, and I am going to find out where this Caroline lives and then I’m going to put the fear of God and the British Judicial system into her.”
“How’re you going to find her?” Ian picks up a jacket, left over the back of a chair and throws on the blazer (his cape.)
“Because I’m amazing at what I do.” He leaves the house. Nick, Emily and Olivia sit a little dumfounded at the over dramatics before them.
“Your Dad’s a freaking hero.” Olivia gushes.
“My Dad’s a freaking nut job.” Emily mumbles. Nick finally steps forward. He pulls out a set of keys from his pocket as if to make a point. “Come on, we should get going.” Olivia nods and stands from the couch, her muscles complain. It’s as though she’s ran a marathon and put herself through leg day and arm day all in one go. Emily holds out a hand and helps her up. “I feel like a grandma.” She complains. Nick shakes his head and smirks. They leave the house, Olivia walking like a nine-month pregnant woman, off to give birth. Her best friend by her side.
The hospital is brief. A rarity. That’s the power of having a respectable doctor at your disposal, to call ahead. Olivia is scanned, x-rayed, poked and prodded. The result, no bleeding on the brain. Win for Olivia. No broken ribs and no internal bleeding. Actually, as Olivia sits on the bed waiting to be discharged, she begins to feel rather silly. “They said you should be okay to eat now, so I’m going to grab you a sandwich or something, what do you want?” Emily is being really sweet and motherly. It’s a nice substitute to her own mother. “I’m fine really.” Emily shakes her head and tuts. “Tsk. No, I’ll just bring you back a veggie wrap or something loaded with nutrients. Nick, do you want anything?”
“Just a coffee, no sugar.” He is stood by the foot of the hospital bed, arms crossed. Emily leaves, closing the cubical curtain behind her. It’s just Nick and Olivia. Olivia, would under different circumstances, be ecstatic, but Nick hasn’t said a single thing for the majority of their time there. Olivia thinks he must find this a little bit of a nuisance. She realises something. “I thought you’d be in the Lake District by now, relaxing by a big open body of water somewhere.”
“I’m leaving tomorrow, actually. Had to extend my trip in Manchester to tie up some loose ends.” He moves over to her side and sits down in the chair by the bedside table.
“I’m sorry.” She looks down at her hands and picks away at her purple nail polish.
“Sorry for what?”
“I’m sorry you’ve had to stay and run me about everywhere. It’s all one big, stupid mess. Absolutely ridiculous really. I feel…well I feel really silly. Maybe even stupid.” He clears his throat and moves the chair a little closer to the bed. “You’re not stupid. Sometimes humans do stupid things and sometimes they do cruel things to each other. Today, you were on the wrong side of somebody’s bad decision. You’ve nothing to apologise for. I’d happily do it all again…certainly under different circumstances, though.” Olivia looks up at him, he seems deep in thought. She almost doesn’t want to disturb him but is enjoying having a sober conversation alone. “I thought…I don’t know. I thought, maybe you were mad at me. You’ve been really quiet.” He smiles gently at her.
“I’m not mad at you. Truth be told, it was erm…unexpectedly horrible to see you like that. When we first came to find you and you were just, slumped on the floor against that wall, I thought you were…” He clears his throat again. “Never mind. You’re okay now, aren’t you?” She mulls on that idea a little. It could be the concussion, but could it be possible Nick was worried about her for some deeply loving reason? Most likely not. There’s the American, Isabelle as well. What of her? Another thought in a line of fifty comes to Olivia’s mind. “How am I going to explain my busted-up face to my Mother? She’s a nurse, I don’t think I could lie to her and get away with it.” He rubs his face, tiredly.
“I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I understand you keeping this from your mother. I’m sure she’d be really upset if she found out all this had been going on and she didn’t know.”
“If you knew what our life had been like, you’d understand. I’m a burden. She doesn’t say it and I’m not sure she’d ever allow herself to think it but that’s the fact of the matter. When you marry someone and you decide to have a baby together, you don’t expect to be left raising that baby alone. She does everything for me. I just…really don’t know what I’m doing with my life and I just see myself sitting at home, aged thirty-five and still sponging off my mum because I can’t last a day in a job without giving a kid a bloody nose and getting jumped by an angry mother.” Nick chuckles.
“So, you think that if you give her any more reason to stress about you, for whatever reason, it’ll break down this motherly barrier and she’ll let herself think you’re a burden.” Olivia stares, and nods. A tear rolls down her cheek and she wipes it away, tired of crying.
“It’s really irritating how good you are at stuff like that.” He laughs.
“Stuff like what?” He asks.
“Reading scenarios like you’re reading a book.”
“Well I am a publisher.” He laughs again. It’s like velvet, listening to his laugh after a long day. “I can’t let her see me like this.”
He lifts his head up and stares at the ceiling, thinking. Olivia looks up. There’s nothing up there but florescent lighting with dead flies inside. “I was considering, seeing if Emily wanted to spend a couple weeks of the summer at my house in the Lake District…I have, erm…well, I have a surprise in mind and it’s not something I can do here in Manchester. Knowing how close you two are…I’d hate to break you apart any longer than I have. So, if it would help, you’re more than welcome to come along.”
“What? To Coniston?”
“If you want. A couple weeks, tops and you’ll be able to hide the majority of your injuries with makeup. Your mum needn’t know a thing.” Olivia is shocked. What would her mother say to missing her for two weeks? Actually…it might be a bit of a relief. She could have a break from motherly duties, maybe even have a guilt free night out? They’re passing ships in the night at the moment anyway, with her working so much.
“But I wouldn’t want to intrude. I don’t exactly have the money to cover my own expenses.” At this he really laughs. “I don’t mean to laugh but I can absolutely take care of you both for two weeks at my own expense. It’s not a problem. Besides, at some point I’m going to need to head back to Paris for a few days and it’ll help to have someone there to house watch. I usually rent it out as a holiday home to tourists, but over summer it’s entirely my own.” The idea is now exciting. A holiday away to the Lake district in glorious sunshine? Yes please. If it gets too hot, she can go for a dip in one of the many, many lakes.
“Okay…sure. I’d love to. If you’re absolutely certain, then, yes. But only if you’re sure Isabelle wouldn’t mind.”
“Isabelle?” He is clearly stunned by the mention of her name. “Why would Isabelle mind?”
“Well…it’s quite a romantic setting isn’t it? I’m not sure she’d appreciate two other women intruding on your time together.”
“How hard did that woman punch you?”
“Oh.” Olivia feels a little embarrassed again, perhaps she had misread things. “Are you not bringing your girlfriend too?” Nick’s mouth curves to the side in amusement and his eyebrows raise in surprise.
“No, no! Isabelle isn’t my girlfriend! Not at all…truly, we’re just work colleagues. It’s actually quite exciting, Isabelle is a—” The curtain flies open. Emily has returned with a tray of drinks and a paper bag, filled to the brim with food. She’s excited with her haul. Nick sits back in his chair as Emily sets the food on the side. She hands Nick his coffee and another cup to Olivia. “It’s a hot chocolate. Doctor advised no caffeine for a few days, remember? You remember right?” Olivia nods, smiling. “Good,” Emily gushes, “Just checking on that memory. See, I’m a good babysitter. I’ll look after you, don’t worry.”
“I’m glad you think so.” Nick says, then he presents his idea of the Lake district to Emily, who adores it and smiles widely at Olivia. “Girls trip! Plus, Nick, I suppose.”
“That’s the spirit.” He murmurs. His phone rings.
“Tsk, tsk. Uncle Nick, no phones allowed!”
“Yeah, alright.” He stands and answers anyway. “Yeah, she’s going to be absolutely fine, we’re just waiting for a nurse to discharge her and then we’ll be heading back to yours.” He covers the receiver with his hand and whispers to Olivia. “It’s Emily’s Dad, he’s just got in.”
“How did it go?” Emily asks. Olivia’s stomach lurches a little in anticipation to the answer of that question.
“Yeah. Okay. Hmm. Interesting. Right. Okay. Sure. I’ll let her know.” He hangs up the phone. Both Emily and Olivia are perked up, like dogs waiting for treats as they await his update.
“You’re killing us! What happened?” Emily practically yells. Nick’s face nearly splits in two his smile is so big. He turns to Emily. “Your Dad is really, really quite good.”
“Come on, stress isn’t good for her. What did he say?” Nick turns to Olivia.
“He’s got a signed confession, which he’ll use to take her to court if she so much as looks at you sideways again and he got your money back.” A wave of relief comes over Olivia. She didn’t realise how wound up she had been until that moment. “That’s not the best part.”
“What’s the best part?” Olivia asks, finding her voice.
“When he saw where she lived and the kind of money this woman had, he got a little irritated at the idea that she’d robbed from you in spite…so he bluffed her into thinking he still had to convince you to drop the assault charges, which you haven’t actually made. He said the best chance of making that happen, was to come up with some kind of settlement there and then…You’ve got a hefty sum of compensation coming your way, Olivia.” She doesn’t know what to say, it all sounds rather confusing.
“That sounds a little like blackmail to me.” Emily points out.
“Not at all. It’s possibly a grey area…but the point still stands, she’s paying for her unlawful actions.” Olivia takes a deep breath. She is almost afraid to ask.
“How much, are we talking?” Nick holds up one of his hands. Olivia doesn’t quite understand. Then he whispers. “Five-thousand-pounds.”
“Five-thousand-pounds?” She repeats.
“That’s generous.” Emily scoffs.
“Really? That’s incredible…can’t say I’ve ever been happier to have been beaten up before.”
“No…it’s generous of my Father. Knowing Daddy, if he’d have taken her to court, you’d have gotten triple that.” But Olivia doesn’t care. She’ll need to figure out a way to explain where the money came from to her Mother…maybe she can say she won it on a scratch card…but that money is going to go a long way in the Monroe residence. Olivia looks up to Nick as Emily rants on about the injustice, and he is smiling through his eyes. The two know how much of a win this really is for her. Olivia finds a comfort and warmth in the idea that there’s at least one person in the world who understands, even if only in this moment, exactly how she feels. Even after such a peculiar and dreadful day, Nick knows that Olivia is well and truly grateful.