“I want to go.”
“Jason, I swear to God, if you don’t start relaxing soon, I’m going to punch you in the face.” Adam said.
“Might as well,” Jason said. “Mind you, it will just start everyone else off. They’ll all be queuing up for a go.”
“Hey, you could charge.” Daniela offered.
“Aishani said that she would be here soon.” Adam said.
“What have I missed?” Christiana asked, sitting down at the table.
Adam had to do a double take at the sight of Christiana. There was no other word for it, she looked rough. Her face was pale and without make up for the first time since Adam met her. Her hair was limp and greasy and her eyes were blood shot. She appeared to be wearing a mesh of grey baggy clothing that didn’t go and Adam suspected had never been intended to be worn outside of the comfort of the buyer’s home.
“Woah, Christiana. You okay?” Adam asked.
“I’m fine,” Christiana said, wiping a stray piece of hair out of her face.
“It’s just… well…” Adam started.
“You look rough.” Jason finished for him. “I mean, seriously so. Like how I feel but multiplied by about 10.”
“Try 100.” Daniela added.
“Cheers guys, your overwhelming support in my time of need is heart warming, really.” She reached for the unopened bottle of wine in the middle of the table and brought out a massive wine glass from her bag. “I brought my own,” she explained. “No offence Jason, but the glasses at the bar just don’t cut it.”
She began to pour the bottle, not stopping until it’s entire contents were emptied into the abnormally large glass.
“We need more wine.” She said and began to drink from her glass.
“Well, if she’s getting pissed.” Jason said and reached for the other bottle, pouring himself a glass.
“I’ll go and get us another bottle.” Adam said, rolling his eyes at the both of them. He felt like he was going to be spending the entire night cheering his mates up. This was not how he wanted to spend it. He had hoped with one week having already gone since the team had set off, Christiana may have started to feel a little better, but apparently not. Although, as bad as it was, he had to admit it was an improvement from the drinking in bed she had been doing for the first three nights. He glanced back at her from the bar and decided to himself that he should probably begin to organise an intervention for her. She did not drink healthily at all.
“What can I get… oh it’s you.”
Adam turned at the sound of Michelle’s voice and returned her icy stare.
“Bottle of Chardonnay.” He said.
“You know that Jason is barred from drinking here.” Michelle said. “I can’t serve you if you’re sitting with him.”
“The only person who has sanctioned that is you,” Adam said. “No one else who has any say in this place gives a damn about your lies.”
“Well, as I run this particular establishment, I guess my opinion is the only one that matters.”
Adam glanced at Michelle’s yellowing bruise. He leaned forward, dropping his voice so that only she could hear.
“How are you keeping that shiner on your face?” Adam asked. “You must be hitting yourself in the eye every half hour.”
“Oh right,” Michelle said. “Because we’re all supposed to have super powers now, right?”
“I mean, I get how you’re keeping up the illusion of the broken arm. Just stick a sling on and no one’s going to question it, but the bruise? You must be really invested in this lie.”
“Have you ever stopped to think that your little friend over there isn’t as innocent as you think?” Michelle said. “I mean, come on. Even he will say that I piss him off, all it takes is for him to get the littlest bit angry and then next thing you know, I’m on the floor, pleading for mercy.”
Adam clenched his jaw, pushing down the tirade of insults that he wanted to pour out on her. Instead, he gave her the tightest of smiles, leaned over the bar, took a bottle of Chardonnay and moved back before she could react. She reached forward and grabbed hold of his shirt, pulling him back to the bar. He looked down at her tight grip, eyebrows raised.
“Careful now, Michelle.” He said. “You continue this way and people might not believe you to be the helpless little woman you’re claiming to be.”
Michelle let go of his shirt. Her trademark slow smile spreading over her face, signalling that she had begun to plot her revenge.
“Have the drink,” she said. “Enjoy it for now. It might be your last.”
“Wow. You know what Adam? That sounded to me like a threat.” Christiana was at Adam’s side, throwing icy stares at Michelle.
“Oh look who it is,” Michelle said. “Tell me, do you sniff out where a fight is going to be, or do they happen by accident?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Christiana asked.
“I reckon they just happen,” Michelle continued. “People see you and automatically think of reasons to piss you off so that they can get away as far as possible.”
“Well, I guess it takes a bitch to know one.” Christiana said.
“At least I’m not dating a man who was willing to risk dying just to get away from me.”
Adam saw Christiana freeze up. She had a look that Adam had never seen her wear before, but that chilled him to the bone. Michelle had crossed the line and Christiana looked as if she was going to kill her. He reached under the bar and grabbed her hand, out of sight from Michelle. Giving it a reassuring squeeze, he hoped it would be enough to calm her down. Michelle was trying to get a rise out of Christiana and he knew Christiana would hate it if she succeeded. He saw some of the tension subside and he allowed a little breath of relief escape his lips.
Christiana then smiled and let go of Adam’s hand, leaning over the bar and grabbing another bottle of wine. As she leant back again she looked Michelle straight in the eye.
“I guess you’d have to find someone who’d want to spend time with you before that would inevitably happen. Jason sends his thanks for the wine.”
And with that she grabbed hold of Adam’s hand and led him back to the table.
When they sat back down again, Jason seemed to be looking at them, his face a picture of blind terror.
“How much worse have you guys made it?” He asked, his voice small.
“Oh relax,” Christiana said, picking up her giant glass once more. “She hates us more but it was barely about you.”
“Yeah, well, I’ll just be glad when Aishani gets here and can tell us what the hell this is all about.” Jason said, shifting in his seat uncomfortably.
“In the meantime,” Adam said, opening one of the new bottles of wine. “Have a glass of wine, compliments of Michelle.”
Jason shrugged and took the newly poured wine. Behind him, Adam saw Aishani walk into the restaurant, her clinic kit in hand. He waved her over but she merely gave him a nod and signalled that she was heading to the bar. Adam was about to wave the extra bottles of wine in the air to signal that they were well and truly stocked up but suddenly Aishani called out, loud enough for people in the area to hear.
“Michelle! There you are! You are a tough cookie to track down.”
Christiana, Daniela and Jason mirrored Adam’s questioning expression as they all watched Aishani address Michelle. Michelle looked less than pleased to see Aishani.
“I’m a little busy at the moment Aishani,” Michelle said.
“I know! You do like to keep yourself busy, don’t you?” Aishani said, again her voice a little louder than needed.
Adam spotted Robin and her minions glance down from where they sat at the bar, suddenly interested in the possibility of gossip.
“It has been, what? Just under two weeks since your alleged assault, and I have not once seen you in clinic.”
Michelle looked around at the audience Aishani was attracting, clearly uncomfortable by it. She glanced back down at the beer she was pulling and chose the tactic of just ignoring Aishani altogether.
“I have been so worried about you, since I heard.” Aishani continued. “And when the others from the medical team told me that they hadn’t seen you since that night either, well, I couldn’t sit around any longer. I figured, I’ll just have to find you instead.”
“Oh, she’s good.” Christiana said, a smile growing on her face.
“But how is she going to prove that Michelle’s been lying?” Adam asked.
“I really don’t have time to talk about this, right now.” Michelle said.
“I figured as much, which is why… ta da!” Aishani pulled out her clinic bag and placed it on the bar. “It will only take a sec, sweetness. I just want to check that the wound is all clean. I mean, when I heard that the bruise was still so prominent after all this time, I figured I should probably come and examine it, make sure there wasn’t any deep tissue damage.”
Aishani crossed round to behind the bar and walked over to Michelle.
“I can’t watch.” Jason said, turning back round so his back was to it.
Christiana dragged her chair closer to Jason and forced him to look back round.
“This is your moment, I forbid you to miss a single moment of it.”
Christiana was right. Aishani clearly had every intention to expose Michelle for the fraud she was, and in front of a growing public. What was even better was that Robin and her clan were now leaning in, a look of fake concern on their faces but Adam could see the flash of excitement over new gossip in their eyes.
“I really don’t want to do this in front of everyone.” Michelle said, backing away.
“Nonsense, it’s hardly like I’m giving you a smear test or something. Sit.” Aishani said and pushed Michelle down onto a stool.
Michelle tried to get back up but Aishani had her pinned.
“But how is she going to prove the bruise isn’t because of me?” Jason asked, with bated breath.
“I have no idea, but I cannot wait to find out.” Adam said.
“Have I mentioned how much I love that woman?” Christiana added. “I think I actually fancy her a bit.”
“Get in line.” Daniela said.
“Okay, well, I’m just going to use some wipes. You know, to clean the area around the impact, make sure it’s germ free and all.” Aishani said, reaching forward with an alcohol wipe.
“Get away from me!” Michelle screamed and jumped backwards.
But the deed had already been done, a small line of normal skin spread through the middle of Michelle’s supposed bruise. Everyone stared in amazement. Michelle hadn’t been as much of a sadist as Adam had thought. Instead of repeatedly inflicting herself with a bruise, she had just used make up. Michelle was looking at everyone in shock, her mind clearly trying to work out the silence. Eventually she spoke.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s just, the way Aishani roughly pushed me down, I had a flashback of my assault and over reacted. I think I just need a lie down.”
“I think that’s best,” Aishani said. “Did you want to take the rest of your bruise with you?”
She held out the alcohol wipe in her hand, the yellowing make up evident on it.
“Oh snap.” Christiana said loudly.
Suddenly everyone turned to look at Adam’s table and a gaping Jason who’s whole face was lit up in pure joy.