The Ugly Duckling

byMoondrift©

He wondered if she often got drunk, was she an alcoholic, and if so why had Josh fixed him up with her as a date? From the start he had recognised her good looks, and at the time when he had whispered to Josh outside the flat door, and Anna had made her negative interpretation, what he had really said, "Why didn't you tell me she's such a good looker?"

When he had been undressing her his hands had brushed against her breasts several times. David was not a seducer, especially of drunk females, but he couldn't help enjoying those brief touches. They had that wonderful combination of firmness and warm softness.

He wondered whose hands had touched them when she was not wearing her bras, and who had..."

His thoughts faded. It had been a long day, reporting back to Australian company headquarters, and then the wrecked evening.

"I'll stay a bit longer," he thought, "just in case...in case...it won't do any harm if I just lay down for a few minutes...just a few"...he was asleep beside Anna.

* * * * * * * *

When Anna woke the sun was streaming in through the bedroom window. She opened her eyes and groaning shut them again quickly. It was as if a knife had sliced through her brain. She felt terrible; her head was throbbing; her mouth felt as if it was filled with grit and her stomach seemed to be churning.

As she moved somewhat painfully her arm brushed against something warm. She cautiously raised her eyelids a fraction. Her arm had brushed against a back -- a naked back.

Despite the danger of more knives though the brain her eyes flew open. It was a man...a naked man as far as she could see which wasn't very far given the blinding effect of the light.

She pummelled the offending back with a bunched fist, and the back stirred.

She pummelled again crying out somewhat hoarsely, "What the hell are you doing in my bed you animal, come on, wake up."

She saw that the back definitely had a man attached to it. He stirred and suddenly shot upright.

"Oh my God, I must have gone to sleep; I didn't mean to..."

"You bloody seducer, I'll report you for..."

"Sorry...sorry..." David protested. "I didn't mean to go asleep...I didn't do anything..."

"Get out of my bed, you...you...ravisher," Anna yelled, and then felt even worse.

David almost leapt off the bed, and Anna could see he was still wearing his trousers, but this did not convince her he had not molested her.

"You took advantage of...oh God I feel terrible, I think I'm going to..."

She started to retch and David tugged her unceremoniously to the side of the bed and pulled the waste bin under her head.

Having vomited so heavily previously she had very little to bring up. He held her as she brought up a thin stream of fluid, and when she finished he said, "Don't move for a moment."

He left the room to return quickly with another wash cloth and towel. He gently cleaned and dried her face and said, "Lie back for a while, I'll make you a cup of black coffee, I've heard it helps."

He left, going in search of coffee. Anna lay still for a while, and then cautiously felt for the entrance to her vagina. She was one of a very rare species in that at twenty one she was still a virgin. She didn't feel sore, and her examination seemed to indicate she was still in tact.

Her virginity was less due to some moral objections to sexual intercourse and more to do with Josh. It was Josh she wanted and if she couldn't have him, then no one else would do.

Her head still throbbed and her mouth felt awful, but her stomach no longer churned so unpleasantly. The memory of the previous evening started to come back to her, at least partially. She tried to go over the events in sequence, but they cut out at the point where she had stumbled on the step. After that everything was a blank.

Much to her despair she recalled her feelings about Josh's engagement and her abusive and lewd comments in the restaurant.

"Oh God, Josh will never speak to me again," she silently moaned.

David entered carrying a cup of coffee.

"I found the coffee," he said cheerfully, "can you sit up?"

Anna nodded, but when she tried it sent pain shooting through her head again.

David put the cup down on the bedside table and then placing his arm under her shoulders he raised her and then put the pillow behind her back.

He offered her the cup. Anna took it but said, "I don't think I can drink it."

"Try, it may make you feel better."

Anna sipped and complained, "It's hot."

"Well let it stand until it cools." He took the cup and replaced it on the table.

"Okay," Anna said weakly, "you didn't molest me, so how come you were in my bed this morning?"

"I don't molest women," David protested, "and certainly not if they're drunk."

"You mean you might molest them if they're not drunk?"

"I didn't mean that, and I'm sure you know I didn't. Do you get in this state very often?"

"Are you suggesting I'm an inebriate?"

"I was just asking, it seems such a pity that a girl like..."

"All right, no I don't usually drink alcohol, so just tell me what happened -- after I tripped on that bloody step. The restaurant management ought to be sued for having a step there."

David set about recounting what had occurred after that, and Anna had no memory of the men who had tried to get her into the car, or David bringing her home.

The coffee had cooled and Anna managed to drink it, and felt a trifle better.

"I think if you had a shower you'd feel a lot better," David suggested.

"Yes," agreed Anna reluctantly not really wanting to leave the bed.

"I'll let you get on with it then," David said..."oh by the way, I saw some porridge in the cupboard while I was hunting for the coffee, do you mind if I make myself some. I've got to get to the office and won't have time to make breakfast when I get to my flat."

"Help yourself," Anna said carelessly, "I'd forgotten I've got it, watch out, it might have weevils...where are my clothes?"

In relating the events to her David had avoided mentioning her vomiting and the mess on her clothes, but now he had to explain.

"I really have been a burden haven't I."

"It doesn't matter, after all, I suppose we're all a burden to someone some time so...would you like me to make some porridge for you?"

"Urgh no," groaned Anna, "I couldn't face food."

"Suppose I make you another cup of coffee and some toast, could you manage that?"

"I'll try."

"Good."

He left her and Anna struggled off the bed, pulled on her dressing gown and made her way to the shower.

"He's playing Jesus Christ to my woman taken in adultery," Anna thought rather ungraciously, not to say irreverently. "Next he'll be telling me to go my way and sin no more."

The shower did help and when Anna, still wearing her dressing gown, entered the kitchen, it was to the smell of coffee and toast and seeing David eating porridge.

"All ready" he said, and made a move that suggested he was going to help her into a chair. Anna made the effort and got to the chair before his assistance was required. Instead he brought the coffee and toast.

"I'll have to leave," he said, "I've got to get to the office and I'll have to go to my flat to change; will you be okay?"

"Yes, I think so," Anna replied. "What about your shirt?"

"It's still a bit damp but it'll have to do until I can get to the flat. Do you mind if I ring for a taxi?"

"No, go ahead."

He rang and as he waited for the taxi he said, "Look, would you mind if I dropped by this evening?"

"What for?"

"Just to see that you're okay."

"I'll be fine, but call in if you really want to," Anna replied somewhat diffidently.

"I think you should go back to bed for a while, you're looking a bit fragile."

"Yes...yes I might do that. I'm supposed to attend a lecture but...yes, I don't feel at all good."

The taxi arrived and when the driver saw David in his sagging shirt and stained evening jacket he commented, "You really did make a night of it mate."

* * * * * * * *

Left on her own Anna sat on for while. Foremost in her mind was her appalling behaviour the previous evening, and above all, what had brought on that behaviour; Josh's announcement of his engagement.

She felt that she should telephone Josh and apologise, but knowing Josh he wouldn't be at his number anyway; he would be with Deborah, probably still lounging in bed with her.

When she thought about it she realised that Josh had not even bothered to mention Deborah's family name so she couldn't even look her up in the directory. In any case Anna didn't feel up to talking to Josh, or worse still, Deborah.

It felt as if a little demon was in her head hammering away above her left eye with a pickaxe and her hands were trembling uncontrollably. She took a couple of aspirin and decided to take David's advice and go back to bed.

The aspirin took some of the sharp edge off the pain in her head and for a while she dozed restlessly, dropping in and out of uneasy sleep. When she did sleep she dreamt that she was standing on the edge of the world and was about to drop off.

She came out of one bout of sleep with a start. The pain in her head was back worse than before. She felt as if she was about to be swallowed by a big black hole. She began to weep and tremble uncontrollably.

She felt she couldn't face things -- people -- any more. It was all too much and she had to get away, but get away where?

Alice...Alice, she would go to Alice, Harry and the kids. She was always welcome there.

Alice, her older sister lived at Point Dolphin a couple of hundred miles up the coast where Harry was the local GP.

Anna groaned out of bed and rang Alice. When Alice answered, Anna, without preamble said, "Can I come and stay with you for a few days?"

"Yes of course darling, you know were always pleased to see you."

"Can I come today?"

"Yes...are you all right, you sound strange?"

"Got a bit of a headache, I'll be okay."

"As long as you're sure, darling; Harry and the kids will love to see you. Drive carefully."

Anna dressed, threw some things carelessly into a suitcase, and made her way to the garage under the flats and her car, a small blue Toyota.

She knew she wasn't really fit to drive, and as she made her way through the city streets and the suburbs she drove with that deliberate attention that drunken people engage in, hoping insofar as they could hope for anything, that they would avoid an accident or being pulled over by the police.

The effects of the previous evening had started to wear off, but Anna still felt terrible. The head ache was worse than ever and a couple more aspirin before she left had done little to ease the pain.

There was something wrong with her -- something that had nothing to do with alcohol. She had to pull into lay-bys a couple of times because she felt she was going to black out. Afterwards she could never remember the drive to Point Dolphin.

Alice must have been looking out for her because as soon as she pulled into the drive Alice came out of the front door to greet her. Anna got out of the car, and as Alice came up to her Anna swayed and said, "Alice...Alice...I don't feel..."

The darkness came; she was falling into the black hole, and then nothing.

* * * * * * * *

When Anna came to she found herself lying in a bed in a dimly lit room. For a few moments she lay trying to orient herself and gradually she became aware that she was in the bedroom she usually occupied when visiting Alice and her family.

Something stirred and she turned to look at where the sound came from.

Harry her brother-in-law was sitting beside the bed.

Harry! Everything would be all right. Dear, loving Harry. With him people always seemed to feel that all would be well when he was around.

"Hello Anna," he said, "joined the world again."

"What...what happened Harry?"

"You fainted."

"What's wrong with me?"

"Not sure at the moment, Anna, but it wasn't an ordinary faint; people usually come out of those fairly quickly, but you've been out for a couple of hours. What's been happening to you lately? Any headaches, palpitations, stomach trouble, anything like that?

"I've had some terrible headaches lately and there's been a sort of buzzing or singing noise in my head."

"Been under any extra stress lately; studies, boyfriends?"

Anna avoided a direct answer to that question and instead said, "I went out last night...I think it was last night...and I got drunk...horribly drunk. Could it be that?"

"You, drunk!" Harry said, "But you hardly ever drink; but in any case most of the effects should have worn off by now."

"So what's wrong with me?"

"I'm not a psychiatrist, Anne, but it seems to me that you've been under some sort of stress lately. It may be one thing or a cluster of things, but your mind had decided it's time to close down, and that's what's happened; that's why I asked you about stress. Was there any particular reason why you got drunk last night?"

Anna hesitated, and then it all came out in a rush; Josh, his engagement; her feelings about herself; the way people came to her pouring out their troubles with none of them caring about hers.

Harry listened and when Anna finally came to a halt he said, "It's as I thought; your psyche decided to blank out for a while, to take a holiday, and that is what you're going to do. You're to rest up here for a couple of weeks and..."

"Oh, but I can't," Anna protested, "I've got commitments -- lectures, tutorials and..."

"How do you think you'll cope the way you are, Anna? You need a break...rest...get yourself well again. You've had what used to be called a nervous breakdown -- a stress overload. I could give you some medication, but if I do you'll be going round like a zombie, so I won't give it to you unless you ask me for it."

He paused for a moment, waiting for Anna to say something, but she remained silent.

"I'll give you something to make you sleep tonight and tomorrow I'll give you a thorough physical check-up and then we'll see."

He handed her two small white pills and a glass of water and Anna dutifully swallowed them.

"Can I see Alice?" she asked.

"Of course, I'll leave you now and send her in."

He left, to be replaced shortly after by Alice.

"How are you feeling, darling?" she asked.

"Oh, not as bad as I have been feeling lately."

"You gave me a scare when you passed out like that. Just as well Mr. Jenkins was home; I had to ask him to help me carry you in."

"Mr...?"

"Next door neighbour, you remember him. Harry said you'll be with us for a couple of weeks."

"So it seems. Harry really is a darling."

Alice smiled, "Yes, I know."

"He adores you Alice."

"I know that too, darling."

"I wish...wish someone could love me like that."

Anna was starting to drift off the sleep so Alice said, "Let's leave it for now, we can have a talk tomorrow."

"Yes...yes."

Something that felt like soft velvet cloth seemed to cover Anna, and she was asleep. Alice closed the curtains and made her way out of the room, turning off the dim light as she went.

She and Harry talked at some length about Anna before they went to sleep that night.

* * * * * * *

Anna woke early. Much of the daylight was cut off by the curtains but she could hear magpies warbling and galahs squeaking, and more distantly gulls quarrelling on the beach.

She felt safe. Here no one could trouble her, no one could hurt her.

The bedroom door slowly opened and a small head came round it -- her four year old niece Tessa. The child stared at her for a moment then the head was withdrawn and her voice -- "Aunty Anna's awake...she's awake;" then faintly Alice, "Quiet darling, Aunty Anna isn't feeling too well."

"Can I take it...let me take it...please..."

A few moments later Tessa entered carrying a cup and saucer and walking with extreme care as if fearful of tipping the cup and saucer over. She made it successfully to the bedside table and put her burden down with obvious relief.

"Mummy made you a cup of tea," she said.

"Thank you for bringing it darling," Anna replied.

"Mummy said you're not very well, but is it all right if I come into bed with you?"

From early in Tessa's life and whenever Anna had visited, it had been the custom for her to join Anna in bed. She climbed in now and cuddled up to Anna asking, "Why aren't you very well?"

"I'm not sure darling, but your daddy is going to try and find out today."

"Daddy knows a lot of people who aren't very well."

Anna had to stifle a grin as she said, "But I'm sure he makes a lot of them better."

"Yes," Tessa said, and then with a sudden change of topic, "I go to kindergarten now."

"And do you like it?"

"Yes, mummy comes and helps there sometimes."

"Are you going to kindergarten today?"

"Yes. We make pictures; I'll make your picture today."

"Thank you darling."

As if the subject of kindergarten had stirred the general atmosphere Alice entered carrying one year old Ben, saying, "Tessa I told you not to disturb Aunty Anna, now go and get ready for kindergarten."

"She wasn't disturbing me," Anna said, "We were just having a hug and a talk. We always do when I come here. What time is it?"

"About quarter past eight. Harry said would you go down to the medical centre at ten o'clock for some tests."

"A blood letting I suppose, let me have him for a moment." She held out her arms for Ben.

"Are you sure you're all right; I mean if..."

"I'm not an invalid Alice and I only want to hold him."

"If it's okay, would it be all right if I went and made sure Tessa is getting ready for kindergarten?"

Ben's vocabulary was somewhat more restricted than Tessa's, and conversation was rather one sided, consisting mainly of Anna telling Ben what a lovely boy he was. On the whole Anna was content to hold the child while trying to drink her tea. She seemed fated to endure cold beverages.

Alice returned and went to take Ben from Anna saying, "I'm taking Tessa to kindergarten now so..."

"How long will you be?" Anna asked.

"About ten minutes, I'm not due on there this morning."

"Then leave Ben with me."

"But you're supposed to be..."

"Resting, I know, so I'll rest with Ben."

"He might..."

"If he does you can fix it when you get back."

"As long as you're sure."

Tessa hurtled into the room, "I'll paint your picture...I'll paint your picture," and with that she planted a kiss on Anna's cheek. Alice smiled, shrugged, and left the room.

Since Ben seemed to be able to produce a few words, which his parents pretended were "mummy" and "daddy," Anna decided it was time he should say aunty. By the time Alice got back Ben had got as far as "Ty."

"I'll bring you your breakfast, what would you like?"

Without quite knowing why Anna said, "Porridge, but I hate breakfast in bed; I'll get up and have a shower first if you don't mind."

Alice took Ben and Anna got up and had her shower. It was while enjoying the warm water cascading over her that she remembered David had porridge. Remembering that another thought struck her.

"My God, he was coming to see me yesterday evening and I wasn't there."

In fact apart from mentioning him to Harry she had hardly thought of him at all since he had left her the previous morning. This made her feel guilty because who knows what would have happened to her if it hadn't been for him.

She thought that so many men would have been disgusted at her condition, and would have left her to her own devises, or if they'd seen her home they would have taken advantage of her condition to help themselves to her body.

She wondered why she had not thought of him, and there came into her mind words from the play Julius Caesar that she had studied at high school; "The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones."

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byMoondrift© 10 comments/ 37058 views/ 17 favorites

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