Chapter Nineteen

chocolates1.gif (6566 bytes) Mitch stopped just short of fully opening the door. Hearing Zach's voice, he wondered if he should enter the room. Standing just out of sight, right up against the back of the door, he heard Jessie speak. "I wanna go home Zach," she mumbled, "please take me home.." Mitch looked down at the gifts in his hands - a handful of CD's, a box of chocolates, and a rose in a small vase.

    Mitch struggled with indecision. Walk in? Don't walk in? "Oh hi," a nurse said, coming up behind Mitch, startling him, causing him to drop his gifts.

    "Oh I'm so sorry," she apologized, kneeling down to help Mitch gather all his dropped items. "How clumsy of me," she said, picking up all the CD’s, and gathering up the flowers. "Let me get a new vase for these.."

    But Mitch wasn’t listening, his attention centered on the startled look on Jessie’s face. The expression on Zach’s face as he turned to look towards the door was totally different - anger burning in his eyes.

    "Mitch!" Zach said, with contempt in his voice, "just the man who I wanted to see."

    A myriad of emotions bubbled to the surface inside of Mitch - anger at the way Zach always seemed to look down his nose at him; embarrassment, at having Zach see him drop the gifts he had bought for Jess, and deepest of all yearning, wishing that it was Zach and not him on the outside looking in. "Yeah, I bet," he muttered, gathering up the broken glass. He needed to keep his emotions under wraps, for Jess’s sake..

    "Got Jessie some gifts I see?" Zach said, stepping towards Mitch, who was on the floor on his knees.

    "How astute of you," mocked Mitch. Where are your gifts, jerk? his mind screamed, as he stacked the CD’s on the box of candy inside the door.

papers1.gif (1813 bytes)"I’ll be back in just a second," the nurse said, standing back up, and smoothing her uniform, as she walked out the door. "I need to get the broom and dustpan."

    Getting angry all over again, Mitch, not paying attention to what he was doing, gathered the shards of glass roughly into his hand, a sharp piece piercing his palm. Pain shot up into his face, as Mitch yanked the glass out of his hand.

    Jessie reached out for Zach’s hand, and pulled him back. "Zach please.." she pleaded, "don’t.."

    But Zach shook her hands off, and walked over to stand over Mitch. "Well Mitch, I have a gift for you," stated Zach, letting the words drip from his lips, as his hands went into his blazer pocket. Retrieving a stack of stapled papers, he dropped them nonchalantly at Mitch’s knees.

    Mitch frowned, reaching down to grab the papers, the pooling blood in his palm dripping onto them. Squinting, he tried to read the text through the blood splattered on it.

    Jess had seen Zach pull something out of his pocket, and was as surprised as Mitch. Curious to see what was up, she slowly slid off the bed, gaining her footing, to see for herself. "Zach? What did you do?" Jessie asked. From Mitch’s reaction, it couldn’t be good.

    Zach didn't even turn towards Jessie, as he sneered down at Mitch. "I filed a complaint against the Dusk to Dawn."

    "What?!" Jessie exclaimed.

    "Those papers are to inform the owners of the Dusk to Dawn of my intentions to file a claim against the business and its employees for negligence and the damages caused from said negligence."

    Mitch looked up at Zach in disbelief, anger mounting. "YOU WHAT?!" he yelled.

    Pushing past Zach, Jess’s eyes widened in disbelief when she saw the blood. "Oh my God," Jess said, kneeling down to examine her friend’s hand. "let me take care of that." She helped Mitch up, leading him to the recliner by the window. "Hold your hand up," she said, urging Mitch to take a seat, "I’ll be right back." Zach shrugged his shoulders at Jess as she glared at him, crossing over to the bathroom for a towel for Mitch’s hand.

    "You heard me," Zach laughed, leaning down to tear the wrapper off the box of candy, and popping some into his mouth.

    "That's crazy," stated Jessie, pressing the towel into Mitch's palm.

    "What's all the yelling about?" nurse Nancy said, annoyed. "This is a hospital for goodness sake, and you shouldn't be getting yourself all excited in the first place," she added, walking over to Jess, when she caught sight of the blood. "What in the world happened?"

    "I was just visiting my fiancée when he showed up and started a commotion," Zach explained, sweet as syrup.

    "That's a lie," Mitch said.

broom1.gif (2707 bytes)The other nurse was back now, broom and dustpan in tow, eyes wide at the scene she came up on. "We had a little accident here," she explained, "a vase of flowers was dropped.. that's all.."

    "We need peroxide, and a butterfly bandage," stated Nancy, as she examined Mitch’s cut.

    "Right away ma'am," the nurse answered, scurrying away with the dustpan.

    Jess glared at Zach. "Everything's fine Nancy," she said, reassuringly. "I promise. There won't be any more outbursts.."

    "There better not be, or I'll kick these two out."

    The room was quiet as the nurse Nancy cleaned and bandaged Mitch's hand, and giving them all a castigating look, she left.

    Jessie's head pounded, as she broke the silence. "Zach, what's all this about?"

    "Ask Mitch, he knows.."

    "You're crazy," Mitch answered, angrily.

    "Just STOP it," Jessie said, raising her hands. Grabbing the papers, she skimmed them. "Negligence?" she asked, incredulously, "Mitch wasn't with me in the car.."

    "No," Zach said, staring at Mitch, "but he was there all night serving you drinks.."

    "How would you know?" Mitch interjected, "YOU weren't even there. Not that that's anything new for you," he said, staring back at Zach, "you're never around when you're supposed to be.."

    Zach started to seethe. "I'll be there in court when I sue your ass," Zach spat.

    "You wish buddy," Mitch laughed, nervously trying to keep his composure. "You have no grounds, for any of it.."

    "Oh I will," Zach laughed, "as soon as I get the results of Jess's lab tests."

    Jessie's mind began to swim, as she tried to make sense of what was being said. Now more than ever she wish she could remember what had happened that night. "This is crazy," she said, "I had a car accident. It has nothing to do with the Dusk to Dawn. I probably just fell asleep at the wheel or something.."

    But she didn't really know for sure. No matter how hard she tried to think back to that night, all she could remember was her costume, and how crowded the bar had been.

    "No wonder you don't remember babe," Zach said, stroking Jessie's hair as if she was a child, "you've suffered a concussion. You could have been killed, and all because Mitchell here got you sauced up," he said, getting up into Mitch's face. "Well now you're gonna have to pay for what you've done.."

    "I advise you to back the hell up," Mitch spat, through gritted teeth, "or you're gonna have an accident right here of your own.."

    "Stop it!" Jessie yelled, losing her patience, "I'M the one who's at the center of all this, and you two are acting like I'm not even here. I will not have this Zach, do you hear me?" she said, pushing him out of Mitch's face. "This was all just a big mistake.."

    "Yeah, it was MY mistake to trust your safety to the likes of HIM," Zach yelled, annoyed that Jessie was protecting Mitch. "If he wouldn't have gotten you drunk, you never would have crashed.."

    "That's not true," Mitch said, his eyes pleading to Jessie.

    Mitch's heart pounded, his own mind reeling back to that fateful night. Had he served Jess one too many drinks?

    "Oh but it is," Zach said, smugly. "We both know Jess is not the kind to drink and drive, not if she was in her right mind that is. Hell, even Mother Teresa would lose proper judgment if she was SLOSHED.."

    "Don't do this," Jess pleaded, standing up and taking Zach's face in her hands. "Mitch and Angel are my friends - they'd never do anything to hurt me.. please Zach.. if you care about me you'll just drop this.."

    "Oh, but I DO care about you. That's why I'm gonna go see Dr. Benson right now about those test results. I don't want this jerk hurting anybody else.."

    That's when Mitch lost it, lunging at Zach, intent on strangling the smug look right off his face. "You bastard!"

    "Stop it!" Jessie yelled, trying in vain to separate the two, who were by this point scuffling around on the floor, punches flying. "Zach! Mitch! Damn it!"

    Jessie felt the pressure building in her head, her eyes beginning to blur. The room started to spin, as thoughts of what her accident was causing. It was her fault that Zach was suing the bar and her friends. It was she who had gotten behind the wheel of the car.

    "You go see the doctor Zach. Do whatever the hell you want. As far as I'm concerned, you can both go straight to HELL!" And with that, she ran out of the room, unable to take the increasing feeling of claustrophobia that was overcoming her.

elevator2.gif (2629 bytes) Ripping at the hospital ID bracelet at her wrist with her teeth, she yanked it off, dropping it on the floor, as she made her way down the hall blindly, searching for the first available elevator. Service elevator.. it'll have to do, she thought, pressing anxiously on the ground floor button.

    The warm fresh air felt wondrous on her skin, as Jess emerged through the double doors of the hospital lobby. Breathing in deeply, she walked, just walked, where ever her feet carried her, happy to be free of the confining hospital room. The anger bubbling inside her began to abate, as she looked up at the early evening sky, the setting sun coloring the horizon a brilliant orange. Spotting a bench on the lawn in front of her, she took a seat.

    Just then, two teenagers in a little red Jeep zipped past her, a Jeep just like hers, laughing, and jamming to the music on the radio, carefree. Carefree.. she used to be like that too. Once. But now all that seemed like a million years ago.

    "There you are," Mitch said, coming up behind Jessie, tentatively.

    "I hope you're proud of yourself," she answered, flatly, not even bothering to turn around.

bench1.gif (8101 bytes)Mitch came around the end of the bench, peering shyly at Jess, as if asking permission if he could sit by her or not. Sighing, Jess scooted down, in silent response. "No," he said, leaning way back, and looking up at the star dotted sky, "actually I'm pretty embarrassed.."

    "You should be.. what did you think you were accomplishing back there by stooping to Zach's level?" Jess asked, "other than a shiner and assorted bruising for your efforts.."

    "He's lucky I'm not in wresting form, or his head would be detached from his greedy little body right now," Mitch grunted.

    "Oh please," Jessie said, shaking her head sadly, "and after riding the testosterone roller coaster, then what? Have him sue you for assault?"

    "Actually, hospital security stepped in before things got that interesting," Mitch said, wiggling his bruised jaw with his left hand.

    "Oh perfect," Jessie laughed, "bet that went over well with Nancy.."

    "The head nurse? Yeah, sure, if you call wanting to beat me over the head with a metal bed pan well.."

    "Wouldn't have done any good, you're head's too hard," Jess sighed, trying to stifle a laugh.

    "Well I think you should be worrying about your own head right now," Mitch said, looking Jessie in the eyes for the first time. "There's a bounty on it right now because of your little disappearing act.. hell, the only reason I got out of there was because I told them I'd go find you and bring you back.."

    "How'd you find me?"

    "Wasn't too hard," Mitch smiled, seeing the color returning to his friend's cheeks. "I asked the guard out front if he'd had seen a pretty hellcat come by him.."

    "Stop!" she groaned, punching Mitch in the arm.

    Mitch had lied. He had considered doing just that, yet he didn't have to. Something told him where Jess was. He just followed the impulse as he always did, and it had let him right to her. "Ouch.. hey wait," Mitch giggled, pointing to his foot, "here, there's a spot that actually hasn't been pummeled today.."

    Jessie giggled right along with him, sliding over on the bench, anger gone. Letting out a big sigh, she rested her head on Mitch's shoulder. "I don't wanna go back up there Mitch. I can't bear the thought of spending another minute cooped up in that room.."

    "Not much chance of it after our little performances tonight. Nurse Nancy is probably packing up your stuff as we speak. Besides, I'm sure after Dr. Benson hears of your high spirited high jinx he'll let ya go home.. you'll see.."

    Dr. Benson.. so that's who her doctor was, Jessie thought. The same doctor who Zach was talking to now to get incriminating evidence to bury Mitch. "How did things get so screwed up?" Jessie sighed. Yet, through it all, it was Mitch who was by her side, not Zach. Yes, things were definitely messed up. "But," Jess said, standing up, "I'm a big girl, I can go take my medicine. You don't have to go back there.."

    "What do ya mean? You kicking me out that easily?" Mitch smiled. Something had snapped inside him back in Jessie's hospital room, and Mitch had decided that, no matter what the consequences, he wouldn't back down from Zach again, no matter how rough things got.

    "Things are difficult enough already," Jessie said, looking back at the hospital, "I don't wanna put you through any more.."

    Mitch got up suddenly, and pulled Jessie to him gently, for a soft hug. He held her for a moment, drinking in the scent of her hair, enjoying the feel of her in his arms. Other than Kelly, no one could bring out the protective nature from inside him like Jessie could. "I'm no lightweight either you know," he said, softly, still holding her close, "I can handle it." It would be hard, but he didn't want Jessie alone with Zach, unsure of how her reception would be when she returned to the room. Zach had clearly been miffed at the fact that Jessie had come to his defense, and, although he couldn't tell her so, Mitch knew he would break every bone in Zach's body if he ever hurt Jess.

    "I'm not gonna let him get away with this," stated Jessie, releasing her hold on Mitch, so that she could look him in the eyes.

    "The test results should be back by now," Mitch said, "and this is as good a time as any to find out what they have to say. Shall we?" he added, motioning to the hospital with his right hand.

   The sixth floor was eerily quiet when they got back upstairs, and Jessie's room was empty. "No Zach," Mitch said, "hmm, don't know if that's a good or bad sign.."

    "You never know where Zach's concerned," Jessie said. Jess was glad they were alone for a while, her anger at Zach's stunt still swirling around inside her. How could he do this, when he knew that Mitch and Angel were two of her closest friends? But before she finished the thought, she already had the answer. She knew very well why he would pull something like this. Zach it seemed was allowed the luxury of having as many friends and paramours of the female persuasion as he like, yet she wasn't afforded the same luxury. Zach had never liked Mitch, always looking down his nose at him, and had resented him even more, since it was to Mitch and the Dusk to Dawn that Jess ran to when she needed solace.

    Jess crossed over to the table where Mitch's gifts were. He knows me so well, Jess smiled, surveying the stack of eighties CD's. From the color of her favorite roses, to the brand of her favorite chocolates, Mitch's gift brought a happy smile to Jessie's face. Not too long ago, Jess had smiled for a completely different reason. Closing her eyes, thoughts of the another crazy night came rushing back to her, of the night when things got more than just crazy between them, back in Mitch's office. Jess had tucked the memory deep inside her, where no one would have access to it. God knew Zach would have a fit if he ever found out what had transpired between them, just how close they had come to letting go. Popping a chocolate into her mouth, Jess smiled wickedly, at the delicious memory.

    "Hey," Mitch said, coming up behind her, "don't hog em all.."

    Jessie chuckled, handing mix the box. "Okay.. okay.. you can have ONE!" she grinned, "it's gonna take just about this whole box to calm me down.." Jessie slid the vase full of roses to her, caressing the beautiful buds with her fingertips. "But it's a start," she smiled. "Thanks for the goodies.."

    "It's the least I could do," Mitch said, cringing slightly. The least he could do after what happened..

    "There you are," Nancy said, having heard talking coming from Jessie's room. "I swear you people are gonna give me gray hairs. Especially Mr. Blair.." she groaned.

    "Where is Mr. Personality?" Mitch mocked.

    "The whole floor knows, from the way he was carried on when he left earlier. He's off to find Dr. Benson to, and I quote 'sink your ship'.."

    "He can turn the charm on when he wants to, can't he?" Jess sighed. Leaving the hospital couldn't be soon enough for her liking, and yet she knew that going home would mean more of the earlier confrontation with Zach.

    As if on cue, the sounds of yelling could be heard from clear down the hall. "This is an outrage! You can rest assured this isn't the end of this," Zach yelled, "my lawyer's gonna have a field day at your expense.."

    "Oh lord above, what now?" Nancy groaned.

    Jessie and Mitch exchanged quizzical looks, and braced for Zach's latest tirade. A pale Dr. Benson slinked into the room, looking like he wished he was anywhere but there.

    "Will you keep your voice down?" Jess scolded, rolling her eyes at Zach, "you're embarrassing me.."

    "Hi Jessie, nice to see you up and about," Dr. Benson smiled. "Now, if all of you will wait outside while I examine my patient.." he added, attempting to ushering Mitch and Zach from the room.

    "Oh no," Zach said, standing his ground, "it's a little late for the proper doctor routine, I ain't going anywhere.."

    "Maybe that's a good idea," Nancy reasoned, "wouldn't want world war three to erupt again out in the hall.."

    "I'll be right outside," Mitch said, with a chuckle.

    A rather stern looking Dr. Benson went about checking Jessie out, checking her blood pressure, pulse, heart beat, etc. Pulling a pen light from the pocket of his white coat, he flashed it before Jessie's eyes. "Look straight ahead for me please.."

    "Doc.. you're a great guy for taking care of me so well and all, but can I go home? I'd really like to get back amongst the living," Jessie asked.

    "That's a laugh," Zach said, angrily.

    After what he had just gone through back at his office with her fiancé, there was nothing that the doctor wanted more. "Well, it looks like you're recovery quite nicely. As long as you promise to take things easy, I don't see any reason for keeping you here any longer."

    "Oh, you got that right," Zach grumbled, "if I had had any idea what kind of fly by night set up you ran here, I would have transferred my fiancée out of here days ago.."

    Mitch, standing just outside the door, cocked his head, straining to hear all that was being said. Poor Doc, he thought, with a laugh. If he was him, he would have slapped a straight jacket on the asshole.

    "You can come back in now Mitch," Jessie called out, as she buttoned up her shirt. Seeing that Zach was about to start whining a protest again, Jessie cut him off. "Can it already, will you? God, it's getting old Zach," she said. "Mitch has just as much a right to be here as anybody. So Doc, tell us, what did the test results show?" Dr. Benson looked up uneasily at Jessie. "That bad, huh?"

    "Well, unfortunately.."

    "Unfortunately the staff at this piece of crap hospital lost your test results!" Zach yelled.

    "What?" Mitch stammered, jaw dropping open in disbelief.

    "This is true," Dr. Benson started again. "It seems like your test results have been misplaced.."

    Jessie looked at Mitch, who was fighting with all his might not to double up with laughter. Even Nancy grinned, and bit her lip. Beet red, Zach's chest heaved with frustration.

    "Misplaced my ass," Zach spat, eyes widening as he saw that Jessie herself seemed very amused at his misfortune. "This is not the end of this.. laugh all you want, you will be receiving a call from my lawyer in the morning.."

    Jessie smiled, a contented grin on her face. This time she had the upper hand. "And that would be in reference to..?" she asked, crossing her arms, and staring at Zach.

    "That must have been some blow to your head," Zach answered, dazed at Jessie's comment. "Have you lost all common sense?"

    "No, in fact I've never been so clear minded as I am right now," she replied. Lemme make sure I have this straight. *I* had a car accident, which caused me to be hospitalized, right?"

    Zach nodded numbly.

    "*I* was the one who was hurt, not you, not Nurse Nancy over there.."

    Mitch couldn't resist. "Nope, not unless you include her going prematurely gray because of us.."

    "And I do apologize again for that Nancy," Jessie smiled, getting up off the bed, "but back to the issue at hand." Grabbing the large plastic bag that held her torn up costume, Jessie started to stuff it with the CD's, and candy, rounding the bed to unplug Mitch's boombox, and gather up what she knew were also Mitch's CD's. "So if anyone would have grounds to sue anyone, it in fact would be me," she said, handing Mitch his stuff, "and unless you are the one suffering mental problems, you'd realize that I am not going to do anything of the sort."

    "But Jess, be reasonable.." Zach protested.

    "Oh, but I am," Jessie smiled, sweetly, moving over to the table, where Zach's dreaded papers lay. I have no beef with this hospital, or the treatment I received at the doctor and nurse's hands, and well, as for Mitch, he's never been anything but a good friend to me. So.." she said, taking the papers in her hands, "these are totally bogus," she said, ripping up the papers. "and if there's nothing else, I'd like to be going now.."

    Dr. Benson smiled, the color having returned to his face. "I just need to make some notes regarding today's visit on your chart, and then you're free to go.."

    "Excellent," Jessie smiled. Jessie scanned the room, making sure she hadn't left anything behind, before heading for the door, purse, bag and vase of flowers in hand. "Thanks for everything, but I'm outta here!"

    Mitch hurried to catch up with Jessie, as she made her way towards the elevator. "That was priceless," he chuckled, "Zach's still back there stunned!"

    "I'm sure I'm gonna hear it on the way home, but I don't care. It'll be worth it. It's not everyday that karma kicks Zach in the ass!"

* * * * *

Copyright © 1998 Susana Audrain and Richard Tingle All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this novel or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by the U.S. Copyright Law.


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