Jay became vaguely aware of the sound of voices far off in the distance.
“I spoke to him earlier and said he should go home.” What was Mark doing in his bed-sit? Jay struggled to open his eyes; his head ached so much. It must have been a great party, pity he didn’t remember it. He blinked and moved his hand to try and shield his eyes then, with clarity, memories of the day’s earlier events came flooding back. Oh God, the owner of the nightclub - ‘the man who paid his wages’ - had only been the driver of the car he had so thoughtfully told to fuck off, and to add insult to injury he had just thrown two glasses of scotch over him.
“Bloody Hell, Jay, you scared the life out of us. You’ve been out of it for over five minutes.” Mark was kneeling down beside him looking extremely worried.
“Move out of the way Mark and give him some room,” he heard Greg say.
“Here, drink this,” a now familiar voice said.
James Alexander knelt down and, cupping the back of his head, lifted him slightly. A bottle of water was pressed to his lips and he started to drink. “Careful, only take little sips or you’ll be sick and I wouldn’t want to take any bets on who you’d decide to be sick on.”
Some of the water went down the wrong way and Jay started to cough. The deep bark soon ignited the fire in his chest and he struggled to sit up. A pair of strong arms lifted him to his feet and supported him until the coughing stopped and he was able to breathe again.
“We’d better get him home. Andy, call for a Taxi will you,” Greg shouted over to the barman.
“No, don’t bother - I’ll drop him off and we can finish our meeting later,” James told Greg.
Before he could say anything, a hand had gripped his elbow and Jay found himself moving towards the staff room. “Its OK, Mr Alexander, I’ll get a taxi, I don’t want to be any trouble.” Jay tried to pull away and found he couldn’t as the grip on this arm tightened slightly.
“I find that very hard to believe, Mr Cooper, now where’s the key to your locker?” Reaching into his pocket Jay produced the key and inserted it into the lock. Opening the door he reached inside and took out his belongings.
“Look, I know you’re a very busy man, I really don’t want to impose on your time or inconvenience you further.”
Anything else he was going to say was cut off with an abrupt,
“You’ve already caused me a lot of inconvenience today, another 30 minutes isn’t going to make a lot of difference is it? Get used to the idea, I’m taking you home and that’s final.”
Jay found himself being ushered out of the side door and into the passenger seat of the Mercedes. His felt his temper starting to rise; he didn’t like being pushed around or told what to do. Opening the passenger door and getting out, he snapped, “I don’t need any help from you, I can make my own way home.”
James Alexander turned and coolly returned the glare. “If you have any sense at all, you’ll get back in that car and belt up”.
Jay’s face turned a dull red and his temper erupted in an angry, “Don’t you tell me to shut up, who the hell do you think you are?” James took a step closer and Jay got the impression that this man wasn’t best pleased. His tirade abruptly stopped and he put everything into his glare instead. It had no effect on the man in front of him.
“Firstly, I didn’t tell you to shut up: I said belt up, as in put your seat belt on. Secondly, you need to work on that temper of yours and pretty damn quick, before you get yourself into more trouble than you can handle. Now, if you are half as bright as I think you are, you’ll get back in the car, put your seat belt on, and thank your lucky stars that I can control my temper a hell of lot better than you can.”
Jay found his eyes inexplicably being drawn to the floor and his temper draining away. What was the point arguing with this man anyway? He needed to get home and if he was honest with himself he didn’t think he’d be able to walk it. He got back in the car. Shutting the door, he had fastened his seat belt by the time James had got in. “Good, I see you’re a fast learner, there’s hope for you yet. Now where do you live?”
“Live?” Jay suddenly wasn’t sure he wanted this man to see the area where his bed-sit was: completely run down it was only one step away from sleeping rough. The old Victorian building should have been demolished years ago and it probably would be soon. The area had started to be developed and new accommodation was springing up everywhere.
“Yes, what’s your address?” James pushed for an answer.
“Er…Nightingale Court, it’s just off Spring Bank Drive.” Jay felt himself start to blush and was glad of the darkness inside the car. He’d just given the address of one of buildings that had recently been turned into apartments. If he cut across the playing field he wouldn’t have too far to walk to his bed-sit and this man would be none the wiser. He didn’t notice James glance across at him.
Ten minutes later the Mercedes pulled up outside a large Victorian Building. “Thanks for the lift, er… I’m sorry about today.” Feeling embarrassed he muttered goodnight and quickly opened the door. Getting out he walked around the front of the car onto the pavement.
Now he had a problem. He planned to walk into the communal hallway and hide until James had gone: he could then walk home and his boss would be unaware of the fact. Unfortunately, he hadn’t given a thought to the place having a security system. To get in he either needed a key or the combination to the keypad on the door. “Oh great, now what am I going to do?” he thought. Turning round he found James staring at him.
Jay lifted his hand up and shouted “Bye, thanks again.” Why hadn’t the bloody man driven off? The window of the Mercedes smoothly opened.
“Lost your key have you? Or just forgotten the number?”
“No…er…I just thought I get a bit of fresh air first to help clear my head.”
James Alexander’s face darkened, taking on a menacing look. “So you’ve decided to add lying to your many talents have you? For God’s sake, get in the car, you’ve messed me about enough today and I’m slowly losing my patience.”
Jay stared at him, his mouth unintentionally dropped open but he didn’t know what to say.
“NOW, Jay. You’ve wasted enough of my time already.”
Jay felt his cheeks tingle and his face start to go red. Trust the bloody man to cotton on, why couldn’t he have just driven away? Lifting his chin slightly, he walked slowly to the car, got in and refastened his seat belt. “So are you going to give me your real address or do we just spend the rest of the night sitting here?” Jay mumbled out his address in a sulky tone and then looked out of the side window. What the hell had he done to deserve a day like today?
The Mercedes covered the distance to his bed-sit in no time. He mumbled another thank you and got out, shutting the door with more force than was really necessary. He was absolutely horrified when he heard the driver’s door open and watched James get out. Before he could say anything he was hit by another coughing fit and found he had trouble catching his breath.
“Have you seen a doctor about that cough?” Unable to answer, Jay just shook his head; he was having trouble getting his breath and was beginning to panic.
“It’s ok, concentrate on your breathing, slow deep breaths. That’s it. You’re going to be fine.” The voice was surprisingly calming, slowly the panic subsided and his breathing eased. “Come on, I’ll take you to casualty, you need that chest looking at and I don’t think you should wait until tomorrow.”
Tiredness washed over him and he didn’t argue when he was pushed back into the car. He fell asleep during the drive to the hospital and nodded off again while waiting for the doctor to examine him. Jay wasn’t at all surprised when the Doctor said he had a chest infection and prescribed a course of antibiotics.
Not having the strength to argue Jay allowed himself to be driven to the all night chemist and let James collect the tablets. Offering him the money for the prescription, Jay was relieved when James had insisted they’d sort it out later.
The atmosphere in the car was stilled, with neither man speaking, during the journey to the bed-sit. Jay watched in horror as James locked the car and walked to the front entrance, it was obvious that he planned on coming in.
His room smelled of damp and was extremely cold. For once in his life he was glad that he had hardly any possessions; at least the room was tidy, just a cup in the sink. “Do you have any heating, it’s freezing in here.”
Jay walked over to the small electric fire and plugged it in. He didn’t normally use it as it cost too much and he relied on wrapping himself up or getting under the covers of the bed. He felt uncomfortable with this man in the room, looking down his nose at him. Not everyone could afford fancy cars. He could just imagine the luxury house that James probably lived in.
“Well, thank you once again,” Jay said dismissively, “I’m sorry I’ve taken so much of your time, I’m sure you’ll want to leave now, don’t let me keep you.” It sounded extremely rude even to him, but Jay just couldn’t help himself. This man just seemed to get up his nose.
James stiffened. “You know, you have got to be the rudest, most discourteous, bad-mannered man I have had the ill fortune to come across in years. If that chip on your shoulder gets any bigger it’s going to squash you.”
With that, James turned on his heels and left the room, closing the door with a bang.
Jay stood for a few moments looking at the closed door. He started to shake as the emotion from the events of the day hit him. Walking over to the fire he unplugged it and kicked his shoes off. Turning round he walked over to the bed, pulled back the covers and climbed in fully clothed. As he lay there shivering, a single tear tickled down his cheek. Brushing it away irritably with the back of his hand, he silently vowed not to let this man get to him. Closing his eyes he slipped quickly into a deep exhausted sleep.