Neither Momma nor I knew when Jack was going to be discharged from hospital. All we knew was that it would be sometime during the day. Momma rang several times to try and find out the time, but nobody would tell her because she wasn't related to Jack. As for me, I felt alright. I'd had a rough night, and a rough morning, but I knew that I would be fine as soon as I was in Jack's arms.
The time slowly began to tick by, and soon it was five o'clock. Momma began to put some dinner together, baked potato and salad so that if Jack wasn't back by the time it was ready, it wouldn't be ruined. I could hear a telephone ringing, and it was Jack's. Anthony's face appeared in my mind, and I suddenly remembered that he had been expecting us home the previous evening.
"Hello?" my voice shook a little when I answered.
"Sarah?" Anthony's voice spoke. "Where are you? is everything alright?"
"Anthony, I am so sorry that we didn't call you yesterday," I said. I had totally forgotten because of the circumstances, and Anthony wasn't going to like what had happened to his brother. I knew I would have to lie.
"What happened?" Anthony asked.
"My momma's been a bit ill the last two or three days. It's only mild food poisoning I think, but we decided to stay an extra day or two just to be sure that she's alright." I gulped, hoping that Anthony was believing what I said. "I thought Jack had called you already," I continued. "I'll have to shout at him for this!" At the other end of the telephone, Anthony laughed, and I was glad that he wasn't angry at Jack and I.
"So when do you think you'll be back?" he asked.
"Tomorrow night, definitely," I replied. "I'm so sorry that Jack didn't call you. That's so unlike him."
"Don't worry about it," Anthony told me. "Send your mom my best wishes," he added, and I thanked him for thinking of her, smiling inside for a moment because Anthony's kindness was really something else. I didn't know anyone else as laidback and out-and-out friendly as Anthony.
Jack finally returned just as Momma was getting ready to serve up dinner. I quickly set another place at the table when I saw a taxi pull up outside. I wasn't going to rush out and greet Jack, because I guessed that he'd want to gather his thoughts together before he came in. Just as I suspected, he knocked on the door before entering. In the kitchen with Momma now, she looked at me, asking me with her eyes if I was going to go and answer the door, or if I wanted her to. I didn't know whether I was prepared for an emotional scene like the one coming, but I did know that I just wanted Jack to hold me.
I answered the door.
"Sarah," Jack's eyes looked hopefully at me as though he had thought he would never see me again- and really, that thought must have crossed his mind at one point. There were a thousand things that I wanted to say, but the words just didn't seem to be there. I held out my hands to Jack, and took both of his hands into them, pulling him into the house. He pushed the door shut behind him.
"Your hair," I murmured, the first words I could manage. I touched Jack's hair which now didn't reach his shoulders. It came to just below his ears, and it suited him, really suited him, but it seemed like another change that I wasn't ready for.
"When I left the hospital this morning, I needed to do something to feel like a newer person."
"This morning?" I asked. "It's five o'clock now. You've been out all day."
"I'll explain later," Jack promised. "I'm sorry if you hate my hair, but I like it, and it'll grow back."
"No, no," I assured him. "I love it."
"Sarah," Jack began, but Momma appeared in the hallway. She smiled at Jack, a genuine smile because she too had been immensely worried about him.
"Are you hungry?" she asked him simply, and he looked at me. There had been something else that he wanted to say, but now Momma had interrupted, and he'd lost his nerve.
"I guess I could eat," Jack said, attempting an enthusiastic look. "I wouldn't mind a cigarette first though," he added, predictably.
"I smoked them all," I told him.
"It's alright," Jack said. "I bought some more today. But why did you smoke the ones I'd left here?"
"I don't know," I admitted, and this was completely true. Soon we were all sitting in the dining room. I wasn't hungry at all, and I hardly touched my baked potato, only chewing on a small amount of salad so that Momma didn't make me feel guilty for not eating. Jack ate solidly, hardly talking at all.
"Momma," I said, when nobody could manage any more small talk, "Jack and I are going to go upstairs and talk. I'd rather you just left us alone for a while."
"Of course," Momma said with a nod of her head, and Jack looked surprised. Still, he stood up and followed me as I went upstairs. I knew he was nervous, and I also knew that he probably had a very good idea of what I want to talk about. We went into my room, and sat side by side on the bed. I looked into Jack's eyes for the longest time, and although he tried to smile at me, I could still see the pained expression he wore hidden away behind his false happiness.
"Before you say anything, I want you to know that I'm sorry, Sarah. I'm so sorry." Jack hung his head, unable to meet my eyes anymore.
"I just wish you'd talked to me about it first," I said. "That's what hurt the most, Jack. Knowing that you didn't think you could tell me how you were really feeling. I wish you really loved me. You've led me on again."
"I haven't!" Jack looked shocked, as though he didn't understand how I could reach that conclusion. "I've fought this depression for a long, long time, Sarah. Sometimes I get the better of it, and sometimes it gets the better of me. You need to understand that I do love you, I just don't love myself. I need you to love me, because otherwise I'll want to die."
"I thought you did want to die," I said bitterly. Jack shook his head.
"I didn't think before I acted," he told me. "I'm used to living alone and relying on myself. I forgot that I've got you to look after as well as myself now." I looked hard into Jack eyes, and nervously, he shuffled in the spot where he was sitting, and it seemed as though he wanted to just get up and run away. "I'm sorry, Sarah," Jack told me again. "There's nothing else I can say. Please, just forgive me."
"No," I told him. "I can't forgive you. I will one day, but I need more time. I've got to get my head around everything first."
"I understand," Jack said, and now his voice was almost a whisper. "I've got something to show you though. I tried to tell you downstairs. I wanted to bring you straight up here, but your momma appeared at the wrong moment."
"What do you want to show me?" I asked. Jack stood up, clearing his throat as though he were about to make a speech. He undid his jeans, and slipped them down far enough for me to see his angel tattoo. Below it, there was my name, Sarah in small curvy letters.
"Oh…" I uttered, unable to think of a single word to express how I was feeling. I glanced up at Jack again. "Is it real?" I asked. He nodded.
"You can touch it," he told me, "but it's still sore. I only had it done today."
"So that's where you've been?" I asked. Jack nodded.
"I know you were probably worried about me, you and Lucy both. I just needed more time to gather myself together when I came out of hospital." Jack did his trousers up again, and smiled at me. There was some of his old self in his eyes again- he no longer looked so sad or troubled, and I could sense relief there as well, relief that I still loved him after what he had just put me through. "I wanted to show you that you're my world," Jack told me. "I know you must think me ridiculous, but this is the only way I knew how to do it."
"No, no," I told him. "None of this is ridiculous, Jack." I kissed each of his eyes, and then I softly kissed his lips just once.
We left for London the following morning. This time, I had three large bags with me, and Jack just had the small one that he had come with. It was cold at the station, and the train was late. We had a half hour wait before it arrived, so we sat on a bench together, the bags around our feet. Jack's arm was around my shoulder, pulling me closer to him so I stayed warm. In his other hand was a cigarette, and he talked to me as he smoked, not about anything in particular.
When we arrived, we had already arranged to make our own way to the bar. We came in through the back door which was left unlocked, and went straight to the office where Anthony was most likely going to be. When he saw us both, he grinned from ear to ear. Although we had both spoken to him on the telephone several times since we'd been away, it had been several weeks since we'd seen him.
"How did everything go?" he asked jovially. Jack and I both responded with vague answers, saying that things were now fine, and that I could stay and commit myself properly to the bar at last. We had decided not to tell Anthony about what had really happened. Jack wanted to keep it a secret, and I respected that.
The day after we'd been back, I spent the day out on my own, preparing a surprise for Jack. I wanted to show him that I was dedicated to him in the same way that he had shown me. I slipped into his room that night, when he had just got into bed.
"Are you asleep?" I asked.
"No," he shook his head.
"Turn the lamp on," I told him, and he did. I was still fully dressed, but as he watched me, I slipped my skirt off and turned to the side so that Jack could see my hip. He saw the tiny black rose, with a letter J entwined in it's stem, and he didn't say a word, just drawing me into his embrace.
Before I knew it, a week had gone by and I had slipped straight back into the routine of playing the piano in the bar every night, loving each moment of it. I had sung once or twice as well, something else I had really enjoyed doing.
"Do you want a drink?" I asked Jack one day. I was standing in the kitchen, and the final act for that night was playing downstairs.
"No thanks," Jack came up behind me, sliding his arms around my waist. Since we'd been back, Jack's confidence was soaring. He showed so much affection for me, and he didn't seem to mind who was there when he did this like he had before. He was still a private person though, and he liked to have me to himself a lot.
"I'm having a coffee, then I'm going to bed," I told him.
"Can I come too?" He kissed my cheek, and I turned around so that I was facing him now. Leaning back against the sideboard, Jack and I kissed longer, harder.
"Maybe you two should think about getting a place of your own," Anthony said. Jack jumped, stepping back from me and blushing.
"But we like it here," I told Anthony. I smiled, more at Jack's nerves than anything else.
"Perhaps I should move out then," Anthony said with a laugh. Really though, Jack and I both knew that Anthony loved having us around. I had begun to help Anthony with the paperwork as well, giving him more free time to himself, which was something that he hadn't had much of at all before.
When Anthony left the room, Jack turned back to me.
"So," he asked again, "can I come with you?"
"Of course," I said. "Your bed or mine?"