She could feel him next to her, could smell his musty, warm smell; feel his breath tickle her cheek. They were safe and warm and together, enclosed in their own little bubble of perfection; a complementary mixture of passion and security. She was wrapped in the thick duvet, facing her bedroom wall, her eyes still closed as the last entrails of sleep clung on to her conscious mind. She rolled onto her back reaching out for him and found an empty space.
Panic shook her, her heart raced and her eyes flew open, only to squeeze shut again against the harsh sunlight streaming through her window. She forced them open again, still squinting, and found the bed empty and cold… He hadn’t been here and she knew it. How well, she knew that… Why did she dream? Maybe if she didn’t see his face every time she closed her eyes, she wouldn’t feel so lost, alone, empty, when they were open.
She threw the covers from herself and stepped from the bed, she had a vague idea of the intention to make a cup of tea, but instead she found herself in the bathroom. The room he had been in. The room of blood. She could still smell it, taste it in the back of her throat. That warm, metallic taste that was stopping her from breathing, slowly suffocating her. She bolted to toilet and threw up, heaving and retching and spluttering until exhausted she sank down into the tiles. Pressed cold against the floor, sweat chilled her skin and the sobs started to rock her already aching body.
The music was too loud, the thumping base line made the walls vibrate and her already pounding head swim. There were people everywhere, their bodies flowing with the music. All the laughter was a little too loud; conversation was shouted in disjointed sentences. A thick cloud of smoke was starting to collect under the low ceiling and she started to feel the walls pressing in on her. Needing space she pushed passed a couple on the stairs that were drunkenly groping and giggling. She reached the landing only to find more couples lunging at each other. A burly man with bloodshot eyes stepped too close to her and backing away in an attempt to escape she pushed into a door and stumbled backwards into a darkened bedroom.
It was pitch black in the bedroom but the sober tones of Morrissey could be heard over the heavy beat down stairs. “I am human and I need to be loved…” She smiled to herself. She had been a Smiths fan in her youth. “So, how soon is now?” A soft voice breathed from against the wall. She jumped but wasn’t really surprised to hear that she wasn’t alone.
A soft click was audible and a slight flickering flame illuminated a young man’s face. He patted the floor next to him, indicating that she should sit down. She walked to him and lent back against the wall. “Smiths fan then?” She questioned as she slid down the wall. The man smiled. “Musician.”
“I’m Ashley...” She said, offering her hand.
“Johnny.” He smiled, taking it.
Pulling herself up from the bathroom floor she remembered exactly what she had been putting out of her mind. She reached up to the bathroom cabinet and pulled out a small rectangular cardboard box.
The white sheets were tangled around her legs. Faint red scratches were visible on her pail stomach from fingernails that had bitten down on her flesh. She moaned contently at the memory and turned to face Johnny. His dark matted hair was in his face and he was gazing at her with startlingly blue eyes. “What?” she questioned as a blush rose on her cheeks. Lying there on the bed next to him wearing nothing while he watched her she felt suddenly self-conscious.
They had made a mess of the hotel room; their clothes were strewn across the floor. Cigarette butts were in an overflowing ash tray and dark chocolate and empty Champaign flutes lay on the dressing table. Only Johnny’s guitar was placed carefully, leaning against the wall. “I love you, Ashley…”
She sat precariously on the lid of the toilet, her legs tucked under her chin, as she waited for the 2 minutes it took for the test to tell her if she was pregnant or not. Her stomach was knotted with fear; so much so she worried she was going to be sick again. There was a time when this was what she had wished for. She had dreamed of her life with him, a house, a baby, a future… Where had it all gone so wrong?
“Johnny please… Nothing happened; he was an old school friend. Johnny, listen to me! I had too much to drink, it was late. I stayed over. Johnny I slept on the couch, for God’s sake! Nothing happened!” She was pleading with him. Not for the first time… He had been so possessive recently, she understood that he was insecure, that he was scared of losing her, but this was getting out of control. She hadn’t left his side for weeks; she’d completely lost contact with her friends. That was probably why she had lost track of time when she had met up with Danny.