11 𝘐'𝘮 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘨𝘯𝘢𝘯𝘵
She was an abused and bitten child, repeatedly, by a drunken father until one day when she got hospitalized with a broken jaw, broken ribs, and a bleeding core that took more than a month to completely heal.
Her abusive father never went further than stroking and hurting her folds until there was blood, and that was the only thing Kath was grateful for.
At least he let her something to hang on to, allowing her to feel a normal woman one day, when giving her innocence to a man she would love.
That was the moment when Jenny's parents called social service and they decided to take Kath away from her father's house and place her in a foster home, under security since she refused to file a complaint against her father.
They were afraid he might harm her again.
Three months later Kath was moved into Jenny's house and they grew up like sisters until today.
And today that fear was reborn in her friend's eyes and that got Jenny worried making it almost impossible to take her mind away from Kath and Jack.
She has to know what is going on with her friend and almost two hours later, not being able to wait for the promised call, she dials Kath's number.
Three times she has called without being answered and that's when she decides to move to Kathleen's apartment and check on Kath by herself.
She jumps into her car and rolls her car out of the alley, speeding insanely on the busy streets, being annoyed by the already growing traffic, calling Kath's number constantly, but nobody answers.
When she finally arrives, she parks her car in front of the building, snapping out of the car and rushing to the elevator.
The constant growing feeling of something being very wrong is almost choking her.
Kath would have never let her phone ring so many times and not answered. She knows this makes Jenny worried sick and would drive her nuts and fight with her three days in raw.
Kath is like her little sister. She would go ballistic if she doesn't know about her, especially because she doesn't trust Jack.
The air around her becomes stiff suddenly and she nervously presses several times the button of the elevator as it doesn't give any sign it’s working.
"Fuck!" she curses hearing no engine and staring at the dead buttons, none of them working so she decides to take the stairs mounting the two floors in a breath.
She uses her spare apartment key and bursts into the apartment with a rushed swing of the front door.
As soon as she’s inside, her heart shrinks in a fit of horror, seeing Kath crashed on the floor of her living room.
"Oh, please be fainted!" she mumbles running straight to her friends. "My God, Kath!" she calls and crouches next to her, lifting her upper body and leaning her to her left shoulder, checking for a pulse.
Her hands are shaking, expecting the worst.
Jack has had that insane look in his eyes earlier like he would be capable of anything out of anger.
Jenny exhales in relief when sensing a pulse and grabs her phone to call an ambulance and, of course, the police.
She wouldn't let Jack off the hook. Never. Even if Kath wouldn't file a complaint he had to know to stay away from her from now on.
She sits on the floor with Kath hugged in her arms, rocking her lightly while waiting for help, the ambulance she has called, and the police that are in the way, as she has been told.
A few minutes later Jenny hears some heavy steps behind her and Jack appears in her view, landing his intense eyes on Jenny holding Kath and his face darkens.
"What the fuck happened?" he asks crouching next to the two women with increasing worry seeing Kath lifeless.
"Stay away Jack! Get out of here!" Jenny shouts at him, pushing him with one hand.
"Jenny, what’s wrong with..."
"You are asking me, you piece shit?! You left with her home! I’m warning you, Jack! Leave! Don’t come any closer! I called the police."
"Are you fucking insane?! I didn't touch her!"
"Then who did it? I found the door locked. There was no sign of forced entry. Go away, Jack! I’m warning you! I’ll not let you come close to her ever again, do you hear me?!” Jenny keeps shouting hoping her yelling will keep Jack far until police officers come.
But before she has the chance to finish her sentence Jack's phone rings and he pulls it out of the pocket of his leather jacket.
"Yes," he growls. "When? Fuck it, Bennet. The worst fucking moment, man,” Jack complains over the phone, walking around and running his fingers through his blond silky hair.
“Sure I'll come! Do I have a fucking choice?! Yeah, see you there,” he ends the call and mumbles some curses, trying to calm down.
"Look, Jenny, I don't give a fuck about police. I have no idea what the fuck is in your head or what the hell has happened to her but I love Kath and I would never hurt her, no matter what,” he says in a low tone, looking into Jenny’s eyes almost without blinking.
Jenny stares silently back at him trying to understand if he speaks the truth or he’s just spitting a full bunch of lies.
He looks genuinely worried and encouraged by Jenny’s silence, he dares a few steps closer to the two ladies and crouches there, keeping his eyes glued to Kath's face.
Her orbs finally move left and right under her eyelids and she opens her eyes slowly, rolling her eyeballs and when she meets Jack's face her whole body stiffens and cuddles more in Jenny's arms.
"No..." Kath whispers.
"Kath, it's okay, pumpkin. I’m here. He’s not going to hurt you," Jenny whispers while Jack's face becomes hard and dark, finding himself rejected by the woman he loves.
"Baby, I would never hurt you," he tells her in a soft tone.
"Leave, Jack. Please, leave me alone," Kath mumbles and their moment is stopped when the paramedics show up in the room.
Jack stands up and allows enough space for the medics to attend to Kath and while stepping back with Kath's eyes still locked with his, he mouthes her back 'I love you', then turns around and disappears.
"I found her fainted on the floor. She seems to have hurt her forehead… she has a bump here…” Jenny tries to explain but medics push her away little by little while connecting devices to Kath’s finger and temples.
“Ma’am, ma’am, please, step away! Step away please, we need space here,” one of the nurses says, pushing a reluctant Jenny a bit further from the patient.
“But…” Jenny tries to protest.
"What is your name, ma'am?" one of the doctors asks in a soft voice.
"Kathleen Howard," she replies and lies flat on her back on the floor allowing them to work.
"Do you know what has happened to you, ma’am?" the doctor continues.
"I felt weak and dizzy and I fainted… I guess."
"Do you remember hitting anything while fainting, ma'am?"
"I don't know. I don't remember…” she replies but surely she’s lying and Jenny knows it.
"Okay, ma'am. We’ll take you to the hospital for a 24 hours observation, just to make sure you do not have a concussion and we’ll run some tests, as well. Is that okay with you?”
"Jenny..." Kath says when hearing about the hospital.
"I’ll be with you, Kath. I’ll be right behind and I’ll stay with you. Don't worry. I’ll take your bag and see you there, okay?” Jenny says and her heart shrinks seeing tears in her best friend's eyes, just like ten years ago.
All of these look so much like a deja'viu of the last time when Kath has been taken to the hospital.
She hoped her friend would never have to go through this again and it was her duty to keep her safe but she failed and it hurt like hell.
Kath is lifted in a wheeled stretcher to be taken to the ambulance while Jenny grabs Kath's bag and some clothes but when she steps out of the apartment two officers appear at the door.
"Hello, ma’am. I’m officer Jones and this is officer Roy. Was it you who called the police, ma’am?" one of them asks and Jenny rushes to answer.
"Yes, I was. My name is Jennifer Hudson and that over there is my friend, Kathleen Howard. I found her fainted in the house with a bump on her forehead. I didn't know what happened so I asked for help."
"You did good, Miss Hudson. We’ll be following you to the hospital and going to ask you and your friend some questions over there."
"Thank you, officer," Jenny replies in a rush and runs out towards the elevator, following Kathleen and the doctors.
While driving her car right behind the ambulance, Kath's phone rings in her purse but Jenny when sees an unregistered number, hesitates for a moment.
The caller insists though, and she finally swipes the green button, thinking it might be an important call.
Moreover, this could be Jack and she thought the police might be able to trace the call later on and find him.
"Hello,” Jenny replies.
"Kathleen?" a baritone male voice asks from the other end of the line with a tint of confusion in his voice.
"No. This Jenny, her friend. Who is this?" she asks, although she has a pretty good idea who that might be.
Chase clears his throat for a moment, taken by surprise which, damn, doesn’t happen too often to him.
"Hm... this is Chase, a friend. May I talk to Kathleen?"
"Well, not right now. She... hm... she has partied too much last night and she’s resting now. Could you call back later? Or she’ll call you back… if you like," Jenny replies.
"I'd love that. Please let her know I’ve called and… she can call me back whenever she… feels better," Chase agrees in a more confident tone.
To hell with everything, he wants her and he’ll have her.
"Of course, Mr. Rowllings," Jenny says but realizing she has just revealed her hunch she slaps her mouth with one of her hands.
Big, big mistake!
"You know who I am?" Chase asks surprised.
"Well, I’m Kath's best friend and she doesn't know too many 'Chase', that I know for sure. Besides, I saw you leaving with her last night. So, as an elder friend, Mr. Rowllings, I would like you to know that I’m watching over her like I have been doing in the past ten years. And if you as much as to make her tear one bit, even if it’s from a sharp wind, I’ll hunt you down, sir… with all respect,” Jenny makes her point in one breath.
Even if she has intended to sound dead serious, Chase breaks into a burst of healthy laughter, finding the threat of this young lady both cute and relieving.
He’s going to leave tonight and it’s really comforting to know that Kathleen will not be alone.
"I’m not joking, sir," she rasps in the phone, feeling offended by Chase laughing.
Before having the chance to reply and assure the young lady he doesn’t find it funny Chase hears car noises from the street and a pissed-off Jenny yelling to God knows who.
"Will you move your shitty butt, you idiot? We have an ambulance here!" she yells unbothered by being on the phone still.
Chase frowns at her words, giving Jenny his undivided attention.
“Fucking idiot!” she curses one more time.
"Jenny, what ambulance?" he asks in a low, calm tone, struggling to sound as friendly as possible.
"Hm... nothing, sir. An ambulance is always a serious matter, right? Any ambulance..."
"Well, I guess it is."
"Don't try to change the subject, Mr. Rowllings. Kath is not alone. You should know that,” Jenny returns to her threats.
"Don't worry, Jenny. I promise I’ll behave," he replies smiling. "As a matter of fact, I’m happy Kathleen has you. She’s really lucky."
Jenny pauses for a moment, his voice becoming tender and genuinely honest.
She kind of starts to like him. Not only that he’s hot as fuck but he’s also the Chase Rowllings, the king of businesses of NY.
And guess what? He also sounds polite and seems to know how to say just the right thing.
She feels him totally different than Jack who has always shown disrespect, and never liked her.
"Mr. Rowllings, I have to go. I’ll tell Kath to call you back," she tries to close the conversation once she parks the car behind the ambulance in front of the hospital.
"Please do, Jenny. Thank you. Take care," Chase replies.
"You too, sir. Bye," she ends the call in a rush she jumps out of the car to follow Kathleen inside.
Although Jenny has tried to sound genuine Chase is not easy to fool. He knows there’s something more about that ambulance thing and he’s adamant to find out so he dials the number of his PI.
"Chase, good to hear you. How are you?"
"I'm good Dave, thanks."
"What can I do for you?" Dave asks as he knows damn well that Chase never calls unless he needs info.
"I want you to find out everything about a girl, Kathleen Howard."
"Okay. Business or pleasure?"
"I need all her history, birth, family, siblings, what she does, what she works. To give you a start, she is a university colleague of my son."
Chase sighs and leans against the backrest of the car seat as he’s already parked in front of his mansion.
"Just send me everything you can find by tomorrow evening," he avoids a direct answer and any other details.
"Sure. I’ll get back to you," Dave replies and hangs up, knowing Chase very well. He’s not the man of many words and when he needs something, Dave knows better than trying to go around the bush.
Chase sits there, in his car, head bent on back and eyes closed, shaping Kath in his mind.
He wished so much he didn't have to go to Seoul right now but he couldn't leave Bennet alone.
But his presence there is unfortunately mandatory. It might all turn ugly and he would never forgive himself if something happened to Bennet.
Thoughts are rushing through his head, some are heavy, others leave with no effort but one constant thought hangs in there, wrapped in the sweet memory of Kathleen.
He finally leaves his car and gets inside, to prepare for traveling. As he enters he can hear noises coming from the kitchen but he doesn’t bother. For sure it’s Bennet but as he walks in his eyes darken landing on no other but Paula.
"Chase, you're back," she says smiling trying to look as if she hasn’t been missing for a good period of time.
"Paula. What are you doing here?" he asks while taking off his suit jacket and removing his tie, rolling up his sleeves showing his worked-out arms crossed with thick veins.
"Well, I’m back," she replies but starts feeling anxious under the burning glare of Chase.
"I can see that. When did you arrive in NY?"
"Last night. I was back home to my parents' house," she explains and strolls towards Chase placing a hand on his shoulder the moment she reaches next to him.
"Paula, don't! Don’t fucking act like nothing has happened. Because a fucking great deal happened!” he rasps and she takes a step back, dismayed by his reaction.
He walks away, running a hand through his hair, trying to find the best way to deal with her sudden coming back.
“Please Paula… leave,” he requests, finding her presence in his house pointless to the stage where they are right now as an ex-couple.
"Chase, you can't just..."
"I can and I will, Paula! You don't get to go and come whenever it’s convenient to you. Besides… I’m traveling for a week. As a matter of fact, I should be leaving in an hour," he continues and walks away to fill himself a glass of brandy hoping that getting away from her proximity will help out his anger at bay.
"Chase, I want to come back," she bluntly says.
He stares at her. Her presence bothers him.
He thought she would never come back and he was okay with it. Better than okay and now having her in front of him, saying she wanted to come back made him feel both pity and annoyed.
"Paula, there’s nothing to come back to,” he bluntly says. “You left. That's it. I can't have you back. I can't live the same life. We do not fit,” he continues at a slow pace, the only way he can talk without uselessly shouting.
"What are you saying, Chase? Of course, we fit. We’ve been fitting for five years, Chase. What has changed?" she asks in growing tension.
"I’ve changed, Paula. I became myself. I’m me again. And this me doesn't include you."
His words are harsh, almost spoken in disgust and he doesn’t even care if they hurt her or not. It’s what he feels and he wants her out, out of his house, and out of his life.
"I’m pregnant," she suddenly says, the words hitting his eardrum like huge bells while his fist clenches around the glass till his fingers turn white.