#TUS: 5. But alas…

When Natasha’s eyes finally fluttered open she found that she was in a hospital room lying on a bed. She lazily turned her head to her right and saw Detective Henderson sitting on a chair next to her bed, quietly watching her. Her eyes opened wide in surprise and she blinked a couple of times thinking she was hallucinating.

“Natasha?” Nathan said softly moving closer to her.

“Detective Henderson,” Natasha said with a small nod of acknowledgment.

“How are you feeling?” he asked her.

“A bit thirsty actually,” Natasha confessed rubbing her throat with her fingers. Nathan poured some water into a tumbler and passed it over to her, making sure she was firmly holding it before he let go. Natasha took a few sips slowly, wincing from the discomfort then passed the cup back to him.

“Thank you,” she said lying back on the mountain of pillows behind her.

“It seems it’s become commonplace for me to be giving you water in odd situations,” Nathan said smiling at her. Natasha smiled back at him as she remembered their first moment alone together in the interrogation room at the station the night she was arrested.

“Natasha, I’m sorry to have to ask you this right now, but do you remember what happened earlier?”

Natasha closed her eyes trying to push through the fogginess in her brain and remember how she had ended up here. It all came rushing back to her; the bakery, Max, being strangled and falling.

“Max,” she muttered turning pale.

“Relax Natasha. Max is in a holding cell. You’re safe,” Nathan said soothingly.

“For now,” Natasha sighed looking fearfully around the room as if she expected Max to jump out from under the bed and attack her again.

“He isn’t going to come near you Natasha, I’ll make sure of it,” said Nathan squeezing her hand. The gesture, though quick and short surprised Natasha but she said nothing.

“Why did he attack you?”

“I don’t know. Something about me deserving to be in jail for killing his father. He wasn’t making much sense,” said Natasha.

“Okay, I’ll just take down your statement and then we can lay an assault charge on him,” Nathan said taking out a small notepad and a pen.

“No!” Natasha yelled startling Nathan as she sat bolt upright on the bed with a panicked look on her face.

“What?” he asked confused.

“No charges. I don’t want to press charges,” Natasha said.

“Why not? He almost killed you; you can’t just let him get away with it,” Nathan argued.

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Natasha murmured in what she thought was a very low voice but the Detective’s sharp ears caught it.

“Wouldn’t be the first time for what? Trying to kill you or getting away with it?” he asked. “Or both?” he added in a horrified voice.

“Nothing, Detective,” said Natasha pensively wringing her hands together due to her growing anxiety. Nathan regarded her, eyes narrowed.

“This wasn’t the first time he tried to hurt you was it?” he asked solemnly. Natasha didn’t answer him and only continued fiddling with her hands.

“Natasha,” Nathan called softly but authoritatively.

“Please Detective, let this go. If I lay a charge on him, he’ll get off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist and then he’ll come after me for revenge. You saved me from him today but what happens when he comes after me and I have no one to protect me,” Natasha said sadly.

“He’ll attack you either way!” Nathan protested. “I’ll make sure he is dealt with properly according to the law and your mother is a judge, she’ll make sure he doesn’t get away with it.”

Natasha shook her head, tears threatening to spill from her eyes.

“You don’t understand,” she whimpered.

“Then make me understand,” Nathan said patiently and with a voice full of compassion. After a short period of silence, Natasha nodded, took a deep breath and began.

“It all began last year….”

September 3rd 2013

“I can’t believe it’s our last semester together!” Kelsey said linking arms with Natasha and practically dragging her towards the cafeteria.

“Hello to you too Kelse. How was your morning? Mine was awful.” Natasha said.

“I thought you liked Political Science.”

“Oh I do but I can’t wait to go to Law school,” Natasha replied.

“Well Law school is just a couple of months and some LSATs away. Yaay!” Kelsey clapped her hands excitedly. They reached the cafeteria door and Natasha was about to open it when Kelsey shrieked.

“Wait!”

Natasha looked around, alarmed, wondering what had caused her friend’s panicked tone.

“This is the first time we are going through these doors for the last time together. We have to capture the moment!” Kelsey said fishing through her purse for her camera.

“That statement doesn’t even make sense.” Natasha rolled her eyes.

“It’s the beginning of the end. How the hell are you going to be a lawyer if you can’t even process a single sentence?” Kelsey teased her.

“I’ll be dealing with normal people for a change,” Natasha said pointedly.

“Remember that man your mum said threw a frog at a judge when he was given the guilty verdict?”

“Yeah, so?” Natasha asked.

“Is that normal?”

“Well, no…” Natasha began.

“The defense rests,” Kelsey said firmly.

Natasha laughed and waited by the door while Kelsey grabbed some poor guy who had just walked past them and showed him how to operate the camera.

A loud noise from behind the cafeteria door startled her and the door was suddenly flung open before she could get out of the way in time. The impact knocked her face first on the ground along with her bag, the contents of which scattered around her.

“Oh my gosh Tasha! Are you okay?” Kelsey shouted rushing towards her and dropping to her knees next to Natasha. 

“I turn my back for one minute,” Kelsey grumbled as she slowly turned Natasha over so she was lying on her back. She pressed the back of her hand to Natasha’s forehead then proceeded to check her pulse, even though Natasha was fully conscious.

“I’m still alive Kelsey, could you stop playing doctor already,” Natasha groaned pushing herself up into a sitting position.

“Thank goodness! What on earth happened?” Kelsey asked worriedly.

“It was my fault. I’m so sorry,” said a guy from behind Kelsey.

Kelsey swiveled around to see who had spoken. Max Bandieer, one of the boys from their year, stood sheepishly behind them surrounded by four other boys who had stopped their loud chatter upon witnessing Natasha on the floor. Kelsey looked at him questioningly, fury evident in her eyes.

“I didn’t know she was standing right behind the cafeteria door when I opened it. I’m sorry Natasha,” Max said kneeling next to Natasha who was still sitting on the floor.

“It’s fine,” Natasha mumbled.

“The hell it is!” Kelsey yelled angrily, “If she has any broken bones, I’m breaking yours too!”

Max stared at Kelsey in astonishment and gulped.

“Kelsey don’t be ridiculous, it’s my fault for standing behind the door like the idiot I am. It was honestly just an accident,” Natasha tried to dissuade her from declaring war.

“That’s what I’ll say when I’ve broken his bones,” Kelsey smirked.

“Just help me up,” Natasha sighed.

“Start saying your prayers,” Kelsey muttered to Max so that Natasha wouldn’t hear it. 

Max subconsciously crossed his fingers as Kelsey got up and extended her hands to Natasha. She pulled her up  but when Natasha tried to stand on her own feet she felt a sharp pain on her knee. She pulled the hem of her dress up a little and saw that her knee was bleeding.

“I must have scraped my knee when I fell,” she whimpered. Kelsey knelt down to inspect it too.

“You need to get that bandaged. Does it to walk?”

Natasha took a few timid steps and shook her head. “Just a slight pain. If I walk slow I should be able to make it to the infirmary in one piece.”

“I don’t trust you to not fall on your face again and hurt yourself more,” Kelsey said.

“I can carry her to the infirmary,” Max offered.

“It’s the least you can do seeing as how this is your fault,” Kelsey said angrily.

“I’m really sorry,” Max said solemnly.

“Whatever, just be careful with her,” Kelsey said. Max picked Natasha up gently while Kelsey gathered her bag and returned its contents.

“I’m sorry again Natasha,” he said to her as he walked down the hall carrying her in his arms.

“She heard you the last ten times,” Kelsey muttered.

“Thank you, Max,” Natasha said at the same time, smiling at Max. Kelsey snickered at this.

“Ignore her. She’s just really protective of me,” Natasha explained.

“Yeah, I can tell she’s still the spitfire she was in high school. I seriously thought she was going to break my kneecaps back in class,” Max said smiling at Natasha as they made their way to the infirmary.

“I still might,” Kelsey said mischievously.

“I believe that,” said Max.

“Good,” Kelsey said.

“Okayyy….can we change the subject please. All this talk of broken bones is making me queasy,” Natasha said.

A short while later they had reached the infirmary and the nurse attended to Natasha while Max and Kelsey waited outside.

A few minutes later, Natasha joined them outside with her knee bandaged, limping. Kelsey and Max both stood up to help her.

“What did the nurse say?” Kelsey asked.

“I may have exaggerated how much it hurts and she gave me a free pass to go home for the rest of the day,” Natasha replied beaming at them.

“Cool! Ice-cream and movies? Although you’ll have to wait at least an hour while I talk to Professor Bingley then I’ll take you home,” Kelsey said.

“I could do that,” Max offered.

“Dude, you don’t even know where she lives,” Kelsey argued.

“I’ll direct him,” Natasha cut in signalling to her best friend that she wouldn’t mind getting a ride from Max. Kelsey, however was having none of that.

“No you can’t. You have a broken leg,” Kelsey complained.

“It’s a scraped knee and I give directions with my mouth not any part of my leg,” Natasha said laughing.

“But he’s the one who broke your leg in the first place!” Kelsey exclaimed.

“Just ignore her,” Natasha told Max.

“Whatever you say,” Max said smiling, “I think we’ll get to my car faster if I carry you there. Do you mind?”

“No, not at all,” Natasha said. Kelsey rolled her eyes and sighed.

“I guess I’ll just cut class later and come check on you,” Kelsey said as Max carried Natasha.

“See you later love,” Natasha said.

Kelsey walked back to class while Max carried Natasha to the school parking lot where his car was parked.

“She’s scary,” Max said, “No offence,” he quickly added.

“She’s not always like that. She’s like a Piranha. Sharp teeth and all but unlike them she doesn’t bite,” Natasha said smiling.

“I’ll take your word for it then. Here we are,” Max said setting Natasha down next to his car.

“Wow! You drive an Aston martin one-77!” Natasha exclaimed.

“Yeah, exactly. I’m impressed, most girls can hardly tell a Toyota from a Mercedes and yet you knew the exact model at first glance,” Max said with a smile.

“Well, I’m not most girls,” Natasha said slyly.

Max helped her into his car and they drove off to her house with Natasha giving him directions. When they arrived Max carried Natasha into the house.

“Darling! What happened to your leg?” a young woman who was in the house exclaimed when she saw the bandage on Natasha’s knee.

“I had a little accident Elle, nothing major,” Natasha said as Max set her down on the sofa.

“Mostly my fault,” Max said sheepishly.

“Max this is Danielle but everyone calls her Elle. Elle this is Max Bandieer. He’s a student at our varsity,” said Natasha.

“Max Bandieer? As in H.B Media?” Elle said eyes wide open in wonder.

“Yes,” Natasha said dreading where the conversation was headed. The last thing she wanted was for Elle to make him feel uncomfortable.

“I am honored to be in your presence Your Highness,” Elle said taking a bow. Natasha gave her a deadly glare and she chuckled.

“I’m not royalty,” Max laughed shyly.

“Biggest media company in the state has your last name on it. You’re right up there with Kings and Princes,” Elle insisted.

“Elle can you get our guest something to drink,” Natasha said in a stern voice in a bid to get her to stop talking.

“No, that’s alright. I should get going anyway so you can get your rest,” Max said.

“Well that’s a relief,” said Elle. Natasha stared at her in disbelief. “Don’t look at me like that, it’s scary. I didn’t mean it that way. I just meant that I had no idea what kind of drink to give to a billionaire’s son. He probably drinks expensive champagne in place of water and eats caviar and hors d’oeuvres every day for breakfast.”

“Danielle!” Natasha exclaimed. Max just laughed it off.

“I’ll be on my way then. It was nice meeting you Elle and Natasha I’m sorry again about your ‘broken’ leg,” he said, eyes glinting with amusement.

“It’s alright Max. Thank you for bringing me home,” said Natasha.

“You’re welcome,” he said then hesitated before he spoke again. “Can I get your number? So I can check on you and see how you’re doing,” he said shifting from foot to foot.

“Sure,” Natasha smiled at him as she took his phone and keyed in her number then handed it back to him. He smiled at her then he left.

“He likeeees you!” Elle squealed clapping her hands in glee. Natasha just rolled her eyes at her and smiled then lay back on the couch and a few minutes later she was asleep.

Two hours later, Max called Natasha and asked her how she was doing. They were still talking on the phone when Kelsey showed up and she finally hung up thirty minutes later.

“Who on earth were you talking to for so long? A new boyfriend I don’t know about?” Kelsey grumbled.

“Maybe,” Natasha smirked.

“Who?” Kelsey asked excitedly.

“Max,” Natasha said innocently.

“No way. Are you out of your mind Natasha?” Kelsey asked all traces of excitement gone from her voice.

“No I’m not,” Natasha said defensively.

“That boy is trouble, stay away from him,” said Kelsey.

“What’s with all the hate?” Natasha asked exasperated.

“You don’t know anything about him. Do you really want to start a relationship with someone you barely know?” Kelsey said.

“I’ll get to know him with time. That’s the whole point of a relationship,” Natasha argued.

Kelsey sighed resignedly as she stood to join Elle in the kitchen. 

“Just think this through. I don’t trust that boy and neither should you. He broke your leg . What’s to stop him from breaking a boneless heart?”

Natasha brushed Kelsey’s worries off but sadly, Kelsey was right.

***

Next chapter on Friday evening and it’ll be a continuation of the flashback.

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