Turning of the Stars Ch. 06byPanthem©
Anna opened her eyes and then immediately squeezed them shut again to avoid being blinded by bright lights. The harsh smell of cleaning products invaded her sinuses and she rolled to her side, burying her face in a starchy pillowcase.
"Anna." a familiar voice said. "Honey, are you feeling sick again?"
Anna tried to decide whether she was feeling sick again. She didn't think so. She tried to figure out where she was. She didn't know. She tried to identify the voice.
"Claudia." Her voice sounded strange to her own ears; raspy and weak.
"Yeah honey, it's me. Grant called me."
Grant. "Grant! Where is he?" Anna tried to sit up and felt like someone had knocked her in the head with a frying pan. Everything went blessedly dark once more.
When she opened her eyes again, a nurse was bustling around the room and Claudia was sitting on the bed with her, wiping her face with a cool cloth. They'd lifted the top part of the bed so she was in a semi-upright position and could see the room better.
"I'm in the hospital," she croaked.
"Yes. Do you remember what happened?"
Anna tried to think. She'd gone to see Grant; to apologize and...she blushed as she remembered what they'd done on his couch, but that didn't explain why she was in a hospital. "There was...a door? I don't know," she said, getting frustrated. "I can't remember. Please just tell me if Grant's okay."
"Of course he is, hon. He's fine. He's talking to the police right now."
Anna's eye shot wide, but she caught herself before sitting up this time. "Is he in trouble?"
"No, he's just giving them a statement."
"Am I okay? Why am I here?" She directed the question at the nurse.
"Yes ma'am, you're gonna be just fine. Someone put a strong sedative in your drink. Probably Rohypnol, but we won't know for sure until we get the lab report back. Fortunately we didn't have to pump your stomach because you pretty much emptied it out on your own. And you have a few bruises, but nothing too bad."
"I don't remember anything," she said shaking her head slowly. "Can you tell me what happened, Claud?"
"I don't really know all the details, Anna. You should talk to someone who was there. Grant will be back soon."
Anna nodded. She wanted to see Grant; needed to see him. She put her hand to her face to push her hair back and winced in pain. Prodding her cheek gingerly with her fingers, she felt the extent of the bruise. It wasn't too bad unless she tried to open her mouth wide.
The door opened and Anna looked up to see Grant and Corie walk in the room along with two uniformed police officers. She sat up a little straighter and tried to brush her hair back into a ponytail with her fingers.
"Miss Webster?" one of the officers asked. He was very tall and broad-chested, a good looking guy with cheerful blue eyes that looked at her with concern.
"Yes." Anna was trying to make eye contact with Grant, but his eyes were locked on the floor. He seemed unnaturally calm, leaning against the far wall with his arms crossed over his chest, the only sign of stress the tight fists he had stuck under his arms.
"I'm Officer Cooper, this is Officer Standen. We won't bother you too much tonight ma'am, but we need to ask you a few questions."
"Okay. I'll try to answer." She was having a hard time concentrating on what the man was saying. Her mind still felt foggy and she was wondering why Grant wouldn't look at her.
"The questions are of a sensitive nature, we can have everyone else leave first if-"
"No, it's okay. I want them here."
"Are you sure ma'am?"
"Yes," she said, confused about why on earth she would want her friends to leave. They knew better than her what had happened tonight.
"Alright," he said, clearing his throat.
"Do you know the man that you left the club with tonight?" the other officer asked. He was an older man with graying hair and a no-nonsense attitude, but his interruption earned him a glare from his younger, taller counterpart.
Anna snapped to full attention. "I left with someone? I don't- I can't-" Suddenly the potential implications of having been drugged began to dawn on her and she instinctively drew the sheet up to her chest, clenching it tightly in her fists.
"It's okay if you don't remember, ma'am. Just say that."
Anna couldn't speak for a moment, paralyzed by the realization that she might have been raped. Her eyes darted from face to face, looking for the answer to a question that she was afraid to ask out loud. The only person whose eye she could catch was Corie, who looked directly at her and almost imperceptibly shook her head no. She took a deep breath, reassured, and focused back on the cop.
"I don't remember, but I wouldn't have left with anyone even if I knew them. I was waiting for Grant," she said, glancing at his face for some sign of acknowledgement. He didn't look up at her, but she saw him wince. Surely he didn't think she would have voluntarily left with someone else. Is that why he wasn't looking at her?
"Right." The cop said and she looked up at the odd tone to his voice. "Have you had unprotected sexual intercourse in the last twenty-four hours?"
Her eyes flew automatically back to Grant, who looked intensely uncomfortable, his jaw muscles working furiously as he stared hard at the floor. "I, um- why do you need to know that?" she asked, blushing feverishly. For a moment she wondered if she should lie, unsure whether she would be getting Grant in trouble, but quickly realized how silly the thought was. It wasn't illegal for them to have sex.
The younger officer cleared his throat again and stepped forward as he spoke to her in a lowered voice. "The doctor ran a rape kit when you first arrived. You were conscious at the time, though you may not remember. There were quite a few minor vaginal lacerations and the lab came back positive for semen, but only from one donor and no spermicide or lubricant from a condom. If you had voluntary intercourse recently we can be reasonably sure you weren't raped."
"Oh." She swallowed hard. "Yeah. I did, yes."
"Okay. That's not conclusive, you understand, so you'll need to talk to the doctors about taking the same measures you would have if you were raped, do you understand what I'm saying?"
"Yes," she whispered. She knew she wasn't ovulating, she had always been regular and had been tracking her fertility carefully since she started sleeping with Grant so pregnancy wasn't a concern, but she would have to get tested for diseases just in case. Claudia's hand squeezed hers hard and she was grateful for it, but she couldn't help wishing it was Grant sitting next to her offering her some kind of comfort. Her eyes stayed locked on his lowered head, afraid she'd miss the slightest glance from him if she looked away.
"Alright. Now, did you voluntarily take any prescription or street drugs tonight?"
"No," Anna said, on the verge of tears. Why wouldn't he just look at her? "I just had a couple of beers..." Her voice trailed off as she had a sudden flash of someone with blonde hair smiling and handing her a beer. "Blonde hair," she said breathlessly. The two cops looked at each other significantly. "He had blonde hair and he wore really strong cologne."
"Is there anything else you can remember?"
Anna closed her eyes and tried to see through the fog in her brain, but eventually shook her head in frustration. "I'm sorry I can't."
"That's alright. Between the witness statements and security video I don't think we'll have any problem with this one. Of course if you do remember anything or you have any questions at all, please give us a call," the young cop said, smiling gently at her before handing her a card.
The officers left and silence descended on the room, everyone waiting for someone else to speak first. Finally Claudia cleared her throat.
"Well it goes without saying that you have the next couple of days off, Anna. Jesse and I will cover your shifts until you're ready to come back."
"Thanks Claud. I'm sure I'll be fine in a day or two."
Corie's phone rang and she glanced at it before speaking to Grant. "It's Brody."
"Tell him I'll be there in a few."
Corie glanced at Anna and back at Grant in surprise. "Are you-"
He lifted his head to glare at her and she cut herself off and shook her head before walking out the door, answering her phone as she went.
"I need to go close up the club. Claudia, do you think you could take Anna home?"
"No!" The sense of urgency, almost panic, in her voice surprised Anna. But not only did she not want to go home by herself, she had an irrational fear that if she let Grant out of her sight without speaking to him tonight she wouldn't ever see him again. "No," she repeated, a little calmer. "Claud, would you excuse us for just a minute?"
Grant looked up at her for the first time since he'd entered the room, the expression on his face completely unreadable. The relief she felt at finally having some kind of contact with him was tempered by confusion at the calm façade he was showing her. She could tell he was covering up some kind of strong emotion; she just wasn't sure what it was. They stared at each other, his eyes burning into her, while Claudia gathered her things and stepped outside.
Anna slowly sat up in the bed, feeling steadier now; physically if not emotionally. She felt the tears prick her eyes and gritted her teeth to try to stop them. "I'm sorry," she said. "I don't know what I did, but I'm sorry. Can you please just be mad at me tomorrow? I need you right now." The words were barely out of her mouth before she burst into tears.
Grant was there the next second, wrapping his arms around her so tightly she could barely breathe, but she wasn't complaining. She buried her head in his neck and sobbed, releasing all the pent up worry and confusion as he gently stroked her back and hair.
"I'm not mad at you, babe, not at all. I'm just so sorry. You needed me and I wasn't there and I'm so sorry. I should have been there. This never should have happened," he said, the words spilling out of him in a rush. He pulled back and touched the bruise on her cheek gently, his eyes searching hers to reassure himself that she was alright.
"You're not angry?"
"Jesus, no. Well, not at you. I thought you were mad at me for leaving you alone. I'm so sorry I left you, babe."
She shook her head firmly, trying to show confidence she didn't quite feel. "Stop. It's not your fault and I'm perfectly fine and everything's okay," she said to herself as much as to him.
Grant still held her like he thought she might disappear if he didn't hang on tight enough. "I thought-" he began, then clenched his jaw, silencing himself. He took a deep breath and started again. "God, I'm so glad you're alright."
"I don't want to go home without you. Let me come with you."
"I'm not gonna drag you back to the club tonight. Brody can lock everything down for me and I'll go deal with it in the morning."
"Are you sure? If you need to-"
"No. Fuck it. The whole place can burn down for all I care. You need me more." He brought his hand up to her face and kissed her gently on her un-bruised cheek. "I'll take you home to bed."
Anna turned her face and caught his lips with hers, surprised at the emotion that flooded her when he parted his lips and kissed her back more deeply. Her body melted against his and she wrapped her arms around his neck, breaking the kiss only to lay her head against his chest as he held her close. With his hand on her cheek she caught sight of the new tattoo on his forearm.
"You did this for me?" she asked, touching his arm gingerly, carefully avoiding the puffy red skin.
Grant shook his head. "No, I did that for me. You changed me, Anna. Loving you changed me and I thought-" He stopped to clear his throat. "Even if you didn't come back, if all I got was the little bit of time we already had together, I wanted to make sure I always remembered how lucky I was to get it."
Whatever was left of her self-insulating bubble disintegrated into nothing. Her nature was to love with her whole heart, to trust completely. For the last few years she'd been denying herself, trying to force herself to keep people at arms length to avoid getting hurt, but she couldn't do it any more. Not with Grant. He'd chipped away at her defenses until she couldn't keep him out; didn't want to keep him out any longer. She was done second-guessing and mistrusting and trying to protect herself from falling too hard. It was way too late for that, anyway.
Her throat was tight with emotion and she couldn't speak, so with fresh tears in her eyes she pressed another kiss to his lips. Just as she pulled away there was a tentative knock on the door and Corie stuck her head in.
"Yeah?" He looked up without loosening his grip on Anna.
"You need to talk to Brody." Corie walked in and handed the phone to Grant who held it up to his ear.
"What's up?" Anna watched his face cloud as he listened. "What the fuck is going on tonight? No, man, I can't come up there."
"If you need to go-"
He cut Anna off with a shake of his head. "Can't they come talk to me tomorrow?"
"I'll wait in the car."
"Hang on," he said into the phone. "Anna, I told you I'd bring you home. That's what I'm gonna do."
"What's going on?"
"Somebody called in a bomb threat. They've evacuated the club. Thank god it was almost time to close anyway, there was hardly anyone left. Someone from the bomb squad wants to talk to me, though."
"Then you need to go talk to them."
"I don't want to leave you-"
"I can drive Anna back to your place and wait with her until you get there," Corie suggested.
Anna was momentarily shocked at her offer, but quickly shook it off. "That's perfect, thanks Corie. See Grant? I'll be fine. You go do whatever you need to do."
Grant looked at Corie for a moment, an odd expression on his face, then nodded. With a deep sigh he lifted the phone back to his ear. "I'll be there in a few." He hung up and wrapped his arms around Anna, pulling her head to his chest. "I'll be quick."
He kissed the top of her head and then turned back to Corie. "Thanks Corie. You guys be careful."
Claudia left with assurances that Anna was in good hands and Anna and Corie left as soon as Anna could stand up and walk, albeit shakily, on her own. They rode in silence to Grant's house, both worn out. The whole way there Anna kept getting whiffs of cologne and vomit from her hair, not a good combination under any circumstances, so once inside she went immediately to take a shower.
She stripped off the scrubs the hospital had given her and stood under the hot spray for ages, letting it soothe her aching muscles and bruises. When the water turned cold she got out and put on some flannel pants and one of Grant's t-shirts. Corie was out on the deck smoking and as soon as she walked out to join her she could smell that it wasn't a cigarette. Corie jumped and tried to put the joint out, but dropped it on the deck.
"Can I hit this?" Anna asked, picking it up. She didn't smoke often these days, but she had as a teenager and still indulged occasionally when she wanted to relax. Tonight she could definitely use a little relaxation. Corie nodded and watched curiously as Anna inhaled the fragrant smoke. She passed it back and closed her eyes, feeling that strange weight in her head as she exhaled.
"You don't strike me as a smoker."
Anna shrugged. "You don't know me very well."
Corie nodded and they passed the joint back and forth, smoking in silence as they stared out at the river slowly slinking by below them. Anna finally spoke her thoughts. "Thank you for earlier. At the hospital. I was on the verge of a meltdown for a second there."
"That cop was an idiot. You didn't leave with the guy; he dragged you out the back door. I told him that, but of course he didn't listen. And I know he didn't rape you either, he didn't have time."
"How do you know?"
"I saw you go by on the way to the bathroom and it was less than ten minutes later that I saw you guys outside. I have a security monitor behind the bar that switches to the alley camera as soon as the door opens. When I saw what was happening I called Grant and we were both out there within minutes."
"God, if you hadn't seen-"
"I did see. There's no point in what iffing."
That was true and Anna fell silent for a while, thinking. "I feel like an idiot, the first time in my life I let a guy buy me a drink and I get drugged. It never even occurred to me that he might put something in it. I know people think I'm naïve, but I never really believed it until tonight."
"Being taken advantage of doesn't make you an idiot."
Anna snorted, the pot making her chatty and familiar. "You don't think he picked me because I looked vulnerable and dumb enough to take a drink from a total stranger?"
Corie shrugged. "Maybe. But he also could have picked you just because you were alone, or because you look like his ex-girlfriend, or because-"
"Or because I was wearing a come-fuck-me dress with no underwear on."
"Look, you can't do that to yourself. You could come up with a million things you could have or even should have done differently, but you're not ever going to make it your fault no matter how hard you try. Because nothing you did makes it okay for him to do what he did."
Tears pricked her eyes again and she clenched her jaw, swallowing them back. She understood the words Corie was saying and knew they were true, but it was hard to assimilate them with the way she was feeling.
Corie pulled out a cigarette, lit it, and sat down on a deck chair. "Grant didn't tell you about me, did he?" It was more a statement than a question and she sounded surprised.
"Tell me what?"
"That it was my fault he went to prison," she said, staring at the glowing tip of her cigarette. "He really didn't tell you?"
Anna sat down in a chair opposite her with a feeling that she knew where this conversation was going. "He told me that he had a good reason for what he did, but it wasn't his secret to tell so I would just have to trust him or not. And I decided to trust him."
Corie looked up at her and smiled. "Maybe you are naïve."
Anna started giggling and when Corie started laughing with her it made her laugh harder. Soon they were both wiping tears from their faces and trying to catch their breath. After several minutes they calmed down and Corie took another drag off her cigarette.
"He's so fucking stubborn, I can't believe he would have just let you walk away rather than tell you. I told him he didn't have to keep it a secret."
Corie took a few more puffs before continuing. "I was working one night and there was this guy sitting at the bar the whole night flirting with me. He was real clean cut, not my usual type, but he was cute and I was feeling sort of down on myself and he made me feel better."
She shrugged and shook her head. "I made Grant let me go early that night and the guy took me to another bar. I wasn't really into it, but I wanted to hang out with him and I didn't want to do it around...at work."
Anna got the feeling Corie was leaving part of the story out, but she didn't want to interrupt to ask questions.
"So we get to the bar and it was a really seedy place. They didn't even check my ID, and I always get carded 'cause I look like I'm twelve. Anyway, one drink in and I could tell something was wrong. I asked him to take me back to the club and he said okay and that's all I can remember. Grant found me passed out in the alley after the club closed. It was pretty clear what happened. My clothes were scattered all over the place like someone had just thrown them at me."
Anna wanted to hug her or tell her she was sorry or something, but she knew Corie wouldn't appreciate a gesture like that so she just shook her head in disgust that anyone would do something like that to another human being.