Home > Fall (VIP #3)(4)

Fall (VIP #3)(4)
Author: Kristen Callihan

Which is why the envelope tapped to my door, crisp and official-looking, has me halting in my tracks. My heart gives a protracted thud at the sight of it hanging there against the bumpy black paint. I don’t open the envelope once inside. Instead I concentrate on putting away my groceries, changing out of my clothes and into my PJs, brushing my hair, any-fucking-thing but looking at the envelope.

It isn’t until I can’t take the tension squeezing at my neck that I finally tear it open. My fingers go cold and my world gets both a little bit smaller and a whole lot emptier. My building is turning condo. If I were actually my late great aunt Agnes, I would have the option of buying in. However, I am not Agnes, and I do not have the $650,000 required to purchase my little bit of Manhattan.

“Location, location, location,” I mutter, crumbling the letter.

All the innocent joy of flirting with a hot guy is gone. I am soon to be homeless. The last link to my dad will be severed. I don’t know why I care; he was a shitty dad. Yet all I can do is sit on the ratty futon he once called his bed, stare at the floor, and feel so damn lonely that my body shakes.

The instinctual urge to get up and run to the familiar safety of Hank’s airport is strong. I need space. I want to see the ground far below me and the blue, blue sky soaring above my head. But the sky is leaden and gray with the impending blizzard, and you never fly while emotionally distracted.

Grounded and alone, there is no escaping this new reality. I can give up, let life roll me over. Part of me wants to.

Instead, I reach for my phone and make some calls.


* * *

When you live the life of dreams, nothing feels real. That has always been my problem. I never had anything solid to hold onto. Yes, I have my music, the band, the fame, but they don’t ground me. They make me high on life. I live for those highs, the moments on stage when I feel invincible, that I can do anything. Nothing on earth beats that feeling. Music is my soul, and when I play, I am immortal.

But you can’t live your entire life for one moment. And the crash from that impossible height hurts.

How to go on when you’ve fallen as low as you can get? One tiny step at a time. At least that’s what my therapist says. Take one step every day. Some days will be mundane. And some will be a downright pain in the ass.

Going to the doctor for a checkup falls somewhere between pain in the ass and mundane. But something about nearly dying makes you respect your health a bit more. Here I am, sitting in an uncomfortable chair in my private doctor’s living room—because I might be doing something as mundane as having a checkup, but I’m still me, and fame calls for complete anonymity when seeing a physician.

Dr. Stern doesn’t keep me waiting. She enters the room with a blandly pleasant smile that they must teach doctors in medical school. “Hello, Jax. How have you been?”

“All right. Bit of a sore throat, but my throat always hurts after a tour.” Singing night after night takes a toll. I’ve been drinking so much damn tea with honey and lemon, I swear the stuff is coming out of my pores.

She purses her lips, which makes me weary. “Why don’t you sit on the couch and I’ll take a look?”

I take a seat and let her peer and prod at my throat. “Any other issues? Pain or discomfort in any other areas?”

“Other areas?” I frown, my heart rate kicking up a bit, though I don’t know why. Something about her careful expression bugs me. “No. Why?”

She steps back and picks up a folder resting on a side table. “I have your lab work back.”

Since I’ve taken up a new lease on being responsible, I also get regular STD checkups. I’m ashamed to admit it wasn’t something I did as much in my younger years, but I’d be damned if I am going to play fast and loose with my health now. Even so, I don’t like the look in Stern’s eyes.

“Okay,” I say with caution.

Dr. Stern stares at me for a long beat. “It appears you have chlamydia, Jax.”

Blood rushes in my ears. “What? No. What?”

She glances at my chart, then back at me.

“But I use condoms,” I insist, a little frantic now, my skin starting to crawl. “Every. Time.” I am careful as hell about that. Never even trusted anyone’s condom but my own. Aside from the threat of disease, one sneaky pinhole and I have a baby mama. And that is not happening.

“Unfortunately,” Dr. Stern says, “you can contract chlamydia through oral sex as well.”

I stare at her.

Dr. Stern’s tone is sympathetic. “It’s in your throat, Jax. Which would make sense, if you picked this up via oral sex. The soreness you’re feeling is a symptom. Luckily, we’ve discovered it early on.”

Oral? I went down on a bird, and she gave me an STD? My stomach rolls. “Throat? I can get an STD in my fucking throat?”

“It’s less common, but yes.”

Where the fuck was I during that lesson? Probably ditching class. Talk about misspent youth. I pinch the bridge of my nose and try to calm down.

Dr. Stern is still talking. “Do you experience any burning sensation during urination? Pain or tenderness in your testicles?”

“What? No.” I sit straighter. “No, nothing. My dick is fine.”

She gives me a patient smile that annoys the hell out of me. “Even so, it would be best if I did a full examination.”

“Full examination?” Alarm spikes up my back.

She doesn’t even blink. “Of your penis and anus to—”

“Oh, hell.” I run a cold hand through my hair. This cannot be happening.

Dr. Stern puts a hand on my shoulder. “The good thing is that this is easily treated. Antibiotics should clear it up quickly.”

Which is great, but she’s about to fondle my dick and put a light on my asshole. I cringe again and rub my face with a shaking hand. “Bloody hell.” Another thought goes through me, and I nearly hurl. “Oh, fuck, I’m going to have to contact my partners, aren’t I?”

A black hole of humiliation opens before me as she nods. “It would be the responsible thing to do, Jax.”

And a PR nightmare from hell. I’ve been under the public microscope for two years—the guy who tried. Will he again? What is he thinking now? Always with the questions. Always watching my every move. Now I’ll be the butt of sex jokes as well. Yes, I’m feeling sorry for myself. I really don’t care. Because I know I’ll have to tell Scottie and Brenna.

“Bugger, bugger, bugger.”

“It’s going to be all right, Jax.”

Oh, the irony. Every time someone tells me that, something else comes along to slap me back down.

She has that look on her face, you know, the one doctors give you to make you feel like shit about your life choices. “When is the last time you had sexual contact with someone?”

“About a month ago.” Honestly, it hadn’t been that good for either me or my partner, and I’d finally woken up to the fact that maybe I should put the brakes on what had become mindless hookups.

“Mmm … Well, the incubation period ranges anywhere from a few days to a few months. However, symptoms usually show in about one to three weeks. I’d say you start with your last partner and work from there.”

I’m not going to bother telling her the number of partners I had that last week. I run a hand over my face, then pause. A bolt of horror goes through me.

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