My chest is being squeezed tighter and it's harder to draw a breath, so much so that I can't inhale enough air in to scream anymore. I feel dizzy and see spots before my eyes despite the blood blinding me.
I'm conscious—but barely—when I hear the click of the lock on the door. It opens and I hear Jack Henry talking as he comes into our room. "I'm sorry that took so long, babe. I wasn't getting a good signal in the room so I had to…" He stops midsentence when he sees the scene before him.
His response time is so fast, it feels nonexistent. Once the weight of Blake is off me, I roll to my back and gasp to fill my lungs with the precious air they've been deprived of.
I hear crashing noises all around the room and a sound I'm sure is Jack Henry's fist slamming against Blake's face over and over. It feels like it goes on forever before I'm able to turn my head. I see that Blake isn't fighting back and I'm suddenly afraid of how far Jack Henry's anger has driven him.
"Please, stop before you kill him."
My voice reaches him and he looks at me with his fist drawn back. He drops Blake's limp body to the floor and rushes to me. "I'm so sorry, baby. Tell me where you're hurt."
"My head," I tell him as I reach up to touch the source of the bleeding. "And my face."
He helps me to the bed before he walks over to pick up the hotel phone from the floor. "I need an ambulance and the police in room 3255." He sees my panties on the floor and adds, "There's been an assault."
After he places the phone back on the receiver, he sits next to me and examines my face. "You have a pretty nasty laceration on your forehead. There's already too much dried blood for me to tell if you'll need stitches." He touches his thumb to the side of my face. "And I imagine you'll have an impressive shiner on this cheek." He watches my eyes. "Are you hurt anywhere else?"
We both know what he's asking without saying the words. "No. He didn't. You got here before he was able to do that."
He pulls me to him. "That's him, isn't it? Blake Phillips?"
"Fuck!" he yells as he beats his fist into the bed. "This wouldn't have happened if I'd been in the room like I said I would be."
"No. You don't get to blame yourself for this." I put my hand on his arm. "What he did isn't your fault."
"I shouldn't have gone downstairs. I told you I would meet you in the room. I should've been here like I promised."
I can't sit in this room and look at Blake for another minute. "Get me out of here."
He takes me to the hall and we slide down the wall to sit on the floor as we wait for the police and ambulance to arrive. He holds me and we don't say anything, but it's all I need to feel safe. He's all I'll ever need.
It's ridiculous how long it takes for the police and the hospital to release me. By the time I'm free to go, I don't care about any of my belongings at the hotel. There's not a single thing there that I can't replace. I just want to go home.
Randy cancels our shows for the rest of the week and says we'll announce that I have the flu or something similar. It pisses me off and makes me wonder if he's planning to try and sweep this under the rug since Blake is his friend. He won't if he knows what's good for him.
Jack Henry has taken care of everything. He has a car and driver waiting to take us back to Nashville. I'm drowsy from the sedative I was given in the emergency room and I end up sleeping the whole ride home, but I'm glad. At least sleep allows me to take my mind off what Blake did.
I'm relieved when we finally walk through the door of my apartment. It's been weeks since I was home and I miss being here. I'm glad Jack Henry is with me. I'm not sure I could've come home if I didn't have him.
I feel dirty—like I have Blake all over me—and it makes me sick. I remember the touch of his hand between my legs as he grabbed my underwear and a rigor involuntarily shakes me. "I'm going to take a shower before I lie down."
"Okay. Would you like something to eat?"
I'm too nauseated to eat. "I don't think so. I'm still sleepy from the medicine they gave me. I'll probably go straight to bed after my shower."
"If you're still groggy, do you think it's a good idea to be in the shower? I don't want you to fall."
"I'll be fine. I'll call for you if I feel weak or if I need anything."
He agrees but reluctantly. I go into the bathroom and shut the door because I need walls between us. I feel tears coming and I don't want him to see me like that. He already feels terrible for not being there to protect me from Blake.
I start the shower and the tiny bathroom almost immediately fills with steam. I lift my tattered dress over my head before I toss it in the trash. I stand naked in front of the mirror to assess the damage.
I touch the large bruise still forming on the side of my face. It's tender. Scrapes and blue discoloration mark my arms and upper body. The cut on my forehead is held together with adhesive and makes me feel as though I'm a piece of broken glass that can be put back together with a little glue—except I don't feel put back together at all.
I can't look at myself anymore, so I step into the shower and begin the process of trying to cleanse tonight's events away. I wash my body repeatedly but what I'm feeling refuses to be scoured off. And I'm afraid it won't be for a while.
I turn back the bed so it'll be ready when Laurelyn's out of the shower. I remember she didn't take clothes into the bathroom with her, so I open a few drawers in search of the things she might need. I find bras and knickers in the top dresser drawer and I recognize many of the lacy ones she used to wear for me. I hold up a pair and smile as I recall the way she looked wearing them.
Those are some beautiful damn memories.
I delve through more drawers and find the pink jogging pants with the word LOVE across the bum. I love these pants and I know she wears them when she wants to be comfortable, so I take them out. I've missed seeing her in them. After I take them from the drawer, I notice a man's T-shirt beneath and a sickening envy immediately strikes me. I pluck it from her drawer for a better look and recognize it as one of my own. I never missed it being gone. The discovery makes my heart swell until it's almost ready to burst. She missed me.
The bathroom door is closed and I knock lightly instead of walking in unannounced, but I don't like it. We stopped closing doors not long after our relationship began and I'm feeling a little uneasy about her reasons behind doing it tonight. I don't want her to close me off. I'm afraid this attack might cause her to put up some of those old walls it took so long for me to tear down.
The bathroom is full of steam and it rushes toward me when I walk in. "I brought you some clothes."
"Need anything else?"
She doesn't answer at first—and I wonder if she heard me—but then I hear her answer with the softest voice. "Yes."
I stand waiting for her to tell me what she needs, but she doesn't. "What do you need, babe?"
"Okay. I can sit with you while you finish your shower." I shut the lid on the toilet.
"No. I need you in here with me—in the shower."
I admit that's unexpected. She's just been attacked and almost raped. I wouldn't expect her to have sharing a shower in mind. Maybe she just wants to be close so she can feel safe. "Are you sure?"
I can't make myself believe this is normal, but it's what she's asking. "Okay."
I strip and pull the curtain back before stepping into the hot water with her. She reaches for me and puts her arms around my midsection. She places the side of her face against my chest and the water pelts down over both of us. "Please don't think I'm crazy for what I'm about to tell you."
"I know the way I'm feeling isn't logical. It's all in my head but I feel like I can't get him washed off my body. I feel dirty."
"You're not dirty, love." I think what she's feeling is completely natural. I don't know what to do to make it better for her, but I decide to do the only thing I think might help. "Turn around for me."
I reach for the shampoo as she circles and squeeze a generous portion into my hand. "I'm going to wash your hair and when I'm finished, I'm going to wash every trace of him from your body. You'll never have to feel him on your skin again."
I have no idea if touching her is the wrong thing to do or if it will cause her more harm than good. I want to think it's the right thing since she asked me to come into the shower, but I have no way of knowing until I do it.
I massage her scalp gently as I shampoo her hair. I hear her sigh and I take that as a good sign, so I repeat the process with the conditioner before moving on to her body.
I begin by massaging her back with body wash because it feels like a safe place to start. And because that's where I found him when he was attacking her—lying against her back holding her face down against the floor. I'm furious all over again as I see the image of him attempting to rape her.
I shake my head as though it will make the image go away. It doesn't, but I can't let Laurelyn know what's on my mind. It will only upset her more to know I'm picturing her attack, replaying what I saw almost happen.
Her tense muscles gradually begin to relax and I'm encouraged. Laurelyn is the medicine that heals all my pain, so I don't know why I questioned being the same kind of relief for her.
I'm still standing behind her when I move my soapy bare hands up to her neck. She lifts her chin and rests her head against my chest as I make my way down her body. I circle her breasts and her nipples become hard pebbles beneath my fingers. She leans harder against me and I tell my cock to behave because it isn't the right time. He doesn't listen. He never does when it comes to her. And I can't really blame him—she's wet and naked and pressing her beautiful body against mine.