Mark stumbled over to the kitchen again, refilling his glass of red wine so clumsily that it slopped over the kitchen counter slightly. Not caring about the mess, he picked up the glass and swigged a big mouthful back, rolling it around to feel the body against his tongue. He tried to keep his mind blank and let the alcohol numb his feelings, but ever since he had started drinking a couple of hours ago, he had gotten more and more depressed. Jenny was due home later today. And he knew exactly what was going to happen when she arrived - she was going to end it. He had felt her chill when he had visited her - he knew that she no longer felt anything for him. And by the slightly ashamed look in her eye, she had been with someone else - most likely that Cutter bloke. As soon as his face popped up in his head, the bubble of anger in his stomach burst and with a yell, he flung his glass against the fridge. It smashed and it's content flew everywhere, dripping down the walls like blood.
How could she do this to me! he thought to himself for the hundredth time. We were about to be married - how could she pick someone else over me? Especially some middle-aged Professor with a face full of stubble and an accent that makes his words barely recognisable!
He shuddered as images started whirling through his brain; her kissing him with her soft lips, him running his hands over her body . . . it made him feel sick to think about. He knew he hadn't exactly been the dotting husband-to-be, but still, there had never been anyone he had been with to make him even considered leaving a woman like Jenny for. Clearly, he couldn't say the same thing about her - she had obviously met someone who made her feel differently. And it bloody hurt.
The doorbell rang, and he huffed, looking around at the mess he'd just made, and hoping as he made his way to answer it that it wasn't anyone important. His stomach twisted uncomfortably as he opened the door to be confronted with Olivia.
"What do you want?" he muttered, walking away but leaving the door open so she could follow.
"I heard that Jenny was back," she answered coldly, shutting to door behind herself and walking behind him into the living room. "How is she?"
He shrugged. "I wouldn't know. I've only seen her once."
"What? Why?" she asked, looking surprised.
"Because she doesn't want me visiting her," he admitted, feeling more and more drunk with each passing second.
"She doesn't know does she?" she asked in a worried tone. "About us?"
"No, but it wouldn't matter anyway," he slurred, surprised that he found it rather nice to be able to talk to someone about it. "She's going to leave me, I can tell."
"Why would she do that?" she questioned with a raised eyebrow.
"Because she wants her Professor man," he said bitterly, his head spinning with the two bottles of wine he'd consumed. "She must be looking to rough it."
"She said this to you?"
"She didn't have to. It's written all over her face."
"I'm sorry," she sighed, shaking her head. "I really am."
Mark chuckled coldly. "Yeah right, sure you are," he muttered sarcastically.
"I am," she repeated, moving closer to him and raising her gaze to meet his. "I don't want to see you hurt," she added, raising her hand and brushing his hair back tenderly.
"Olivia, don't," he breathed, although he couldn't for the life of him push her away. It felt nice, after feeling rejected by Jenny, to have the attention of someone who really wants him.
"Why not?" she whispered, her lips very close to his own. "You said it yourself she's going to finish things."
"I don't know that for certain," he replied shakily, looking down at her slightly parted lips.
"Well that's good enough for me," she breathed, closing the distance between them and catching his lips in her own.
Mark allowed his mind to go black, and welcomed the new feelings being evoked in him that pushed aside the hollow emptiness he had been carrying around with him since seeing Jenny.
Ignoring the usual feeling of guilt, he ripped at her blouse with one hand, the other desperately fumbling at his fly as she pulled him over to the sofa, their lips still locked.
"Thank you," Jenny smiled at the taxi driver, handing him a note. "Keep the change."
"Cheers Mam," he nodded, making her feel a prickle of annoyance as she stepped out of the car - she hated being called 'Mam'. It made her feel about fifty years old.
As the cab pulled away, she stood outside her house, staring up at it nervously. It was so odd to be there; it felt both familiar and strange at the same time. So adjusted was she to life in the inn that it felt like she was looking up at someone else's home; someone else's life. She gulped anxiously, and hurried up the steps before she had a chance to put it off any longer.
Just tell him how you feel, and then that's that . . . just come out with it . . . no beating around the bush . . . no stringing him along . . .
She had repeated that particular line to herself the entire taxi journey, so much so that it had become like a mantra to her. She didn't want this dragged out; she didn't want things to turn nasty. She was going to tell him that she was moving out, and that was the end of it. She was sure he was aware of what she was going to tell him anyway judging by the look on his face as he left the hospital a few days previously, but still, that didn't make what she was about to do any easier. It was only her eagerness to see Nick and straighten things out with him that finally pushed her onwards.
With a deep sigh, she rummaged in her bag for her keys and unlocked the door.
The house seemed quiet upon first examination, but then she heard a noise coming from the lounge, and assumed that Mark was in there. Ignoring her trembling hands, she made her way down the hall and opened the door -
It was a few seconds before she actually comprehended what she was seeing. Then, with a bolt of nausea, she realised that Mark and Olivia were entwined together on the couch, their clothes littering the floor. Everyone in the room froze. Then as she came to her senses, she gave a horrified gasp and pulled the door shut again, leaning against the hall wall, breathing hard in shock.
She felt as though her heart had been put in a blender.
It was not so much Mark she was upset about - she'd be a bit of a hypocrite if that was the case. No, it was Olivia. They had been best friends since school, and even though they hadn't been as close since Jenny had joined the ARC, she had still thought of her like a sister. They had traveled together when they were younger, Jenny had been the Maid-of-honour at her wedding, and she had been Jenny's. She felt numb - she couldn't take it in. She could hear them hurriedly scampering into their clothes again, and suddenly, an overwhelming feeling of anger took over.
She opened the door again to find them both dressed untidily, panting in unison in the middle of the room, both looking ashamed of themselves.
"Jen - " Mark began.
"Don't you 'Jen' me," she whispered venomously, fighting the urge to throw something at heavy at him. "Now that everything's buttoned and zipped, would one of you mind telling me how long this has been going on?"
"Jen - "
"How long Mark?" she repeated firmly.
"Seven months," Olivia squeaked from beside him.
Mark shot her a look of disbelief. "No . . ." he looked back up at Jenny. "She's - she's lying."
But Jenny had stopped listening - the betrayal was too much to take. She ran a shaky hand through her hair and turned away from them for a moment, tears pricking the corners of her eyes. She only turned back to them once she had composed herself.
"So . . ." she began in a cracked voice, addressing Olivia. "When I came to you that time and told you I though Mark was having an affair, and you told me to stop being so paranoid, it was you the whole time?"
Olivia said nothing, but looked downwards to the floor, her face flushed.
"You just sat there, brazen as you like, telling me it was all in my head," Jenny continued, not backing down just because she refused to reply. "How - how could you even look me in the eye? How could you be my Maid-of-honour?"
"I felt terrible," Olivia whispered, her gaze still firmly on the floor.
"Oh did you now?" Jenny said in a hollow voice. "God, that must have been awful for you . . ."
"Jenny, this means nothing. It's you I want . . . this was just sex - nothing more," Mark stammered.
"You know what the funny thing is?" Jenny exclaimed to Mark, able to see the humour in the situation. "I was coming here to break things off between us. But you did that a long time ago - I just didn't know it. Anyway the point is that I don't even care about you . . . I expected it. But you," she spat at Olivia, who seemed to cower under her rage. "You were supposed to be my friend - "
"I am - "
"How could you be when you've been sneaking behind my back for months?" Jenny asked, her voice breaking with a sob.
"I'm sorry," Olivia cried.
"What about Matt?" Jenny pointed out, referring to Olivia's husband of three years.
"He - I . . ." she stammered. "I just couldn't help myself."
"No," Jenny said quietly, shaking her head. "I bet you couldn't."
"Listen!" Mark interjected again. "The only reason this started was because I thought you were screwing that guy you work with!"
Jenny opened her mouth, about to tell him that he'd been wrong - that she had only been unfaithful as of the other day, but she stopped herself - he didn't deserve an explanation off her. So what if he thought she was cheating? He could have confronted her about it, he could have ended things himself. But he didn't. He had been about to marry her, whilst he'd been sleeping with the woman who stood by her side at the alter, holding the wedding ring.
"You two are welcome to each other," she said shortly, turning and marching towards the door, only stopping to get one last little dig in. "By the way," she added to Olivia. "If I were you, I'd practice saying the phrase 'don't worry darling, it happens to ever man', because believe me, you'll be saying it a lot before long," she finished with a forced sweet smile, before taking off towards the door again. Sure, it was a low blow, but it's not like it was unfounded, and anyway, it did make her feel a bit better.
She could hear Mark following her, but she ignored him and pulled the door open.
She stopped dead.
There, with his hand hovering in the air as though he was just about to knock at the door, was Cutter.
"Nick?" she gapped, her stomach back flipping.
He smiled slightly. "I just wanted to see if you were okay. Your mum said you'd come home, and I just needed to know - " he stopped talking abruptly as his eyes traveled over her shoulder and resting on Mark, who was standing a few feet behind her.
Cutter's face turned from pleasantly happy to stony in two seconds flat.
"Nick - " Jenny began, knowing that he'd got the wrong end of the stick.
"No it's okay, message sent," he said gruffly as he turned and quickly descended the stairs.
"Nick, stop!" she shouted, giving Mark a look of disgust before taking off after Cutter.
He didn't look back, but continued walking at a brisk pace down the street, his hands clenched into fists.
"Nick, just wait a minute!" she yelled after him, struggling to keep up in her heels. "Let me explain!"
"No explanation necessary!" he bellowed, not looking around as he crossed the road.
"Nick, stop!" she begged, halting at the side of the pavement.
"Why?" he demanded, still looking like he had no intention of stopping.
"Because . . ." she stammered, struggling to find the words to make him stay. "Because I - because I love you, you moron!"
He froze on the other side of the road, and she followed suit, her heart hammering. After a moment, he turned slowly, looking as though he couldn't believe his ears. Jenny stared back at him, slightly out of breath, waiting for him to say something. True, screaming it at him in the street and using the word 'moron' in the sentence was not the way she'd envisioned telling him she loved him, but it was a fact either which way.
But by the way he was looking at her, she was beginning to think she'd made a horrible mistake. Why wasn't he saying anything? When someone says they love you, you don't just stand there gawping like an idiot. Unless - maybe he didn't feel the same way? Maybe he hadn't wanted to make something more substantial out of the relationship? Maybe he just saw it as a one night thing . . .
However, all of those thoughts were blown straight out her mind when he strode up to her, ignoring the fact that he'd narrowly avoided being knocked over by a car and was now being beeped at by a disgruntled looking man. He grabbed her face and pulled her into the most earth-shattering kiss of her life. It was as though he was telling her, without using words, that he loved her, and how relieved he was that she felt the same way. She didn't care that passing people, some of them her neighbours, had stopped and were watching with disapprovingly raised eyebrows. She didn't even think about the fact that Mark had seen everything and had retreated back into the house, slamming the front door shut. Her full attention was rapt by Cutter and Cutter alone. She wound one hand around his neck and rested the other on his back, pulling him closer. His hands still held her face, his thumbs gently caressing her cheekbones as he kissed her forcefully.
Minutes went by - or it could have even been half an hour - and they broke apart, both completely breathless, staring into one another's eyes.
"I - I love you too," he said softly, his hand traveling back through her hair.
"I know you do," she breathed, grabbing the collar of his shirt and pulling him into another kiss.
Jenny didn't know what the hell she was going to do about the house that she and Mark co-owned. She didn't know what she was going to do about her mother, and she didn't know what she was going to do about the fact that today, she had cut three important people out of her life. But she did know that as long as she had Nick Cutter by her side, everything was going to be just fine.
Jenny knew exactly what she wanted now, and it just so happened that she was kissing him.
*sob* I really enjoyed writing this story and I'm sad that it's over, but relieved at the same time!
Thank you so much to all the people who reviewed! Your kind words of encouragement managed to squeeze a whole thirty-three chapters out of me :)
I've got another Nick/Jenny fic in the pipe line, but I'm a bit unsure about the storyline, so I'm hesitant to write it. But we shall see anyways XD