"Can I give you my opinion?" Craig, one of Madonna's long time bodyguards asked.
Madonna was parked on the opposite side of the road to Lars' gallery. It had only taken him the few days since they last spoke on the phone for him to completely move his stuff out of the house, during the daytime hours when the only people there were the staff. Madonna slipped her shades down and looked at Craig.
"Am I going to like your opinion?"
"Probably not." Craig replied.
"I admire your honesty." Madonna smiled, pushing the shades back up and looking across the road at the gallery. "No. Yes."
"Yes or no? I don't want to get into a fight."
"I've had enough fights with Lars and the children to last me a lifetime lately. Let's hear it." Madonna said, sighing.
"This feels a little stalkerish." Craig said and Madonna smiled. "I mean, are you going to go and talk to him?"
"I don't know." Madonna ran a hand through her hair.
"He hasn't spotted us. We could go now, before he does. You know how charming Lars is."
"And what an idiot I am." Madonna said, like she was finishing something that hung in the air.
"I never meant that."
"Personally I think you are making it harder for yourself. To leave him." Craig said and Madonna looked at him, taking her shades off and tossing them in the backseat, frowning at him.
"I really don't think I can make it any harder."
"Like I said, I don't want to fight." Craig said, holding his hands up defensively.
"Then do your job and protect me. I already have a shrink." Madonna said sharply and Craig fell silent as she pulled away.
It came as no surprise to Madonna when she couldn't sleep that night. She had always been an insomniac and survived on precious little sleep. This time she was thinking about the meetings she'd had with her lawyer, setting up another one-off show like she'd done in Miami to raise money for Raising Malawi by auctioning off the pricey gifts Lars had given to her, her next appointment with her therapist, wondering how Astrid was doing, how the children were all affected, and of course, Lars. It drove her mad that he was all she could think about, when she was in the process of leaving him for good this time. Madonna got out of bed and switched on the light. She opened her closet and walked into it. She began taking every item of clothing Lars had ever bought her and slinging it over her other arm. When the pile got too big, she put it on her bed.
"Mom, what are you doing? It's the middle of the night." Mercy wandered into the room and Madonna looked up with a confused expression, having been lost in her thoughts.
"I couldn't sleep, baby. I thought I might as well do something useful." Madonna's voice wobbled.
"Do you want some help?" Mercy offered.
"That's sweet, but you have school tomorrow Mercy. You need sleep."
"It's Saturday tomorrow."
"Is it? I've lost track of the days lately..."
"Are you still taking tablets for the pain?" Mercy asked and Madonna nodded.
"So, can I help?" Mercy asked and Madonna smiled.
"Of course. How come you can't sleep?"
"Worrying about you." Mercy said shyly, blushing a little.
Madonna went over to Mercy and hugged her, kissing the top of her head. "I don't want you to worry about me, Mercy. I'll be fine. Besides, I have you and all the others to support me." Mercy started to cry softly and Madonna hugged her tightly.
"I don't want to hurt you, mom!" Mercy wept.
"You aren't hurting me, my darling. I don't like seeing you get upset like this..." Madonna said softly, kissing her again.
Madonna held Mercy's face and wiped her tears with both thumbs.
"He isn't going to come back, is he?"
"No. And he won't be coming anywhere near you, I promise. Is that part of what is keeping you up too?" Madonna asked and Mercy nodded. "Maybe if we sort out some of my stuff, it might take our minds off him." She suggested and Mercy nodded.
"Mom, you have way too many clothes." Mercy said, sniffing and wiping her face.
"I know, right?" Madonna groaned, rolling her eyes, then laughed.
"I don't know how you decide what to wear every day...I would have to hire someone to decide for me." Mercy said, putting clothes Madonna handed her on the bed.
"I'm doing another show to auction off - some things I don't want. Maybe some of the nicer dresses as well. The rest can go to charity shops." Madonna said.
"Several charity shops." Mercy said, smiling.
When they'd sorted the clothes, Madonna and Mercy quietly moved them from Madonna's bed to the bed of a close by guest room.
"Can I sleep with you tonight mom?" Mercy asked, following Madonna back to her room and closing the door.
"Of course you can sweetheart." Madonna smiled as they both got into her huge bed and cuddled up. She missed all her children being little and ending up in her bed.
"Are you upset that you have to leave him? Even though he hurt you?" Mercy asked, looking at Madonna with her big dark eyes.
Madonna swallowed a lump in her throat and nodded. "Yes. I loved him very much."
"He is an idiot for loosing you." Mercy said and Madonna smiled at the fierceness in her voice.
End of Part 19...
It was starting to get late and Madonna was practically alone in the studio. She sat on a sofa, running her fingers over the detailing on the guitar Lars had had made for her. It was a beautiful shiny black guitar, with 'rebel heart' in swirly writing and little hearts carved in white on the front, and the constellation for Madonna's star sign - Leo carved in white on the back.
"It's a beautiful guitar." Guy Oseary said, sitting next to her and she nodded, avoiding making eye contact with him. "Are you considering putting it in the auction for your show?"
Madonna looked up at Guy. "I am considering it. And I hate you know me so well." She tried not to smile.
"You don't have to get rid of everything he gave you, M. I know how much you love that guitar. I've seen you admiring it even when you've been playing it." Guy said quietly.
"To be honest, it doesn't make a difference what I keep or get rid of. Lars has given me scars that I can't even talk away in therapy." Madonna's voice wobbled.
"I think you're being too hard on yourself." Guy said, squeezing Madonna's shoulder. "It's early days yet. I can't believe I didn't notice him hurting you on tour..."
"It's easy to pass any injury off as something stage related." Madonna said quickly. "What could you have done, anyway, Guy? I would have defended Lars not matter what he done to me at one time. How awful is it that I have only just realised how stupid that is? That it took one of my daughters witnessing him beating me and two of my sons pulling him away and nearly getting hit to finally open my eyes?" Madonna swallowed a lump in her throat.
"The problem is Lars is so charming. I imagine he could talk himself out of anything." Guy replied and Madonna nodded. "And you have a big heart, M. You're very kind and forgiving. That made it easier for someone like Lars to manipulate."
"Do you think he loved me? Really loved me?" Madonna had tears in her eyes, as she set the guitar back in the case and done it up.
"In his way, yes. There was a certain way Lars looked at you. But obivously he had to be in control." Guy replied. "I didn't mean to make you cry M..."
"I can't stop lately. It's not your fault." Madonna wept, clinging to Guy when he put his arms around her. "I'm a mess."
"Maybe you should take some time off work. Sort things out with Lars, have some time for yourself and the children, then come back when you are good and ready." Guy suggested.
Madonna shook her head. "I would be over-thinking it all."
"You are definately divorcing Lars, aren't you?"
"Yes." Madonna sniffed, wiping her tears with her fingers. "That's why I can't stop crying. I loved him so much. This is hard."
"But when it's all over, you will be happier. And feel lighter and more relieved."
"Are you studying to become a therapist?" Madonna rolled her eyes in an exaggerated way and Guy laughed, knowing she was joking and not being mean.
"I'll take that as a compliment." Guy said. "In the meantime, let me take some off your shoulders. I can organise your one off show here, god knows you have written enough notes - "
"No." Madonna said firmly. "Thank you, but I love organising shows."
"Goddamn, M, you are so stubborn! It's ok to need help." Guy said, sounding semi-frustrated.
"Good talk, goodnight Guy." Madonna said, grabbing her coat and bag.
"Goodnight M." Guy said, watching her rush from the room before he could say anything else, and shaking his head.
Madonna saw her car out front and got into the backseat, putting her guitar, coat and bag down.
"Straight home, please." She said and when there was no answer, but the car pulled away, she looked in the rearview mirror.
Wearing a drivers uniform and hat, was Lars. He smiled, despite her face being frozen in a mask of horror. He must have been waiting for her.
"Where is Craig?"
"He probably got a call from the studio to say you wouldn't need him to pick you up this evening." Lars adjusted the rearview mirror and smiled at Madonna's reflection.
"Let me out! You can't do this to me! You can't just take me!" Madonna tried to open the door, but it was locked, so she tried the other one.
"We need to talk."
Madonna climbed between the seats and sat in the passenger seat and tried the door. Lars sighed.
"They're all locked, M. Are you really going to jump out of a moving car?" He asked, picking up speed.
"Yes. Yes I would. You don't talk, unless it involves hurting me."
"Not this time."
"Where are you taking me?" Madonna asked, looking confused.
"It's a surprise."
"I don't like surprises."
"Yes you do."
"Not your kind." Madonna slumped back in the passenger seat, like a teenager having a strop and even folded her arms.
Lars smiled. "You look like Lola when she was younger and didn't get her own way."
"I'm not the one kidnapping someone because I can't get my own way..." Madonna said, looking at Lars.
"The only way you will listen to me, really listen is if it's just the two of us."
"If you are going to kill me - "
"You honestly think I would kill you?" Lars raised his eyebrows. "I know I lost my temper a lot, but I couldn't go that far."
"No, you just break bones, bruise me and make me bleed. How presumptious of me." Madonna said sarcastically, looking out of the window.
"I am going to get some help."
"I've heard it all before. You got help. Maybe you are beyond it. Maybe I should have left you in jail."
"Even if you meant that M, we both know you wouldn't have." Lars said quietly.
Madonna and Lars both looked at each other when her phone rang.
"Answer it." Lars said and Madonna slowly took it out of her bag.
"Gabe, I'm still at work. I will be pretty late. I'll see you tomorrow." Madonna said, then listened. "I love you. Bye."
"I miss him." Lars said, sighing.
"Why did you let me answer it?"
"Why did you lie?"
"I don't know. I don't want to worry my children any more. They've been through enough lately."
"That I am sorry for. I wish I could apologise to Gabe, Trid and Rocco."
"I strongly advise against it."
Lars looked away, visibly hurt. "I got you a coffee. It's going to be a long night." He motioned to the cup holder.
"Thanks." Madonna took the Starbucks and hesitated, then drank some. "What did you put in..." Her voice trailed off as she passed out and Lars quickly grabbed the coffee and put it back in the cupholder. Madonna was completely out and the rest of the journey would be quiet.
End of Part 20...
"You drugged me..." Madonna said, slurring her words as she struggled to open her eyes and move. "Where the hell am I?" She swung her legs to the floor and frowned at the sofa she was on.
"I am genuinely sorry. I thought it might be easier than trying to drive all this way with you angry." Lars said calmly. He sat on the other sofa, watching her intently. "We're in the Hamptons."
"Why? Why did you bring me here?" Madonna asked, standing up, putting her hands out to steady herself when she stumbled and nearly fell. Lars got up quickly to help her, but Madonna glared at him. "Don't touch me!"
Lars held up both hands and backed off.
"Why did you bring me here? I have happy memories of this place with you."
"Exactly the reason I brought you here." Lars replied.
"You just kidnapped me and brought me here. What is the reason for this?" Madonna asked, not entirely sure she wanted to hear the answer.
"I know you still love me." Lars said and Madonna fell silent, sitting back down. "See? You can't even deny it."
"You put me in hospital. I could write an entire series of books on why we can't be together." Madonna replied.
"But you can't tell me you don't love me." Lars went and sat next to her.
"But I can show you the last injury you gave me." Madonna lifted her top and watched Lars' expression when he saw the multi-coloured bruises on her ribs. "Even when they go, there are some things that will never go." She tapped the side of her head, meaning the emotional and mental scars he'd left her with.
"I don't want you to leave me." Lars said quietly.
"Oh Lars...I didn't want you to hurt me so much."
"I didn't bring you here to hurt you."
"Are you sure about that? Because it's pretty quiet here. No one to rescue me. Although if you hurt me any more right now, I will probably end up in a box." Madonna said, chewing her lower lip. She had meant it as a sarcastic joke, but she realised she made some very true points.
"I didn't bring you here to hurt you, M. And I could never kill you, please don't even joke about that." Lars looked both serious and troubled.
"It would be the next step up, from how much you hurt me."
"I brought you here for the reasons you just said. Because I also have happy memories of us here." Lars said and when Madonna opened her mouth to reply, he kissed her. Madonna didn't pull away and even kissed Lars back.
"I can't. We can't. I shouldn't." Madonna said, standing up and walking over to an open door that lead out to the back porch, which was on the beach.
It was darl and the sky was illuminated with stars. The only sounds were cars in the distance and the gentle crash of the waves on the shore. Under different circumstances, it would have been the most relaxing place to be.
"Tell me you don't love me and I will drive you back to the city right now." Lars said softly, standing behind Madonna, his breath on her neck.
She closed her eyes. "Son of a bitch. You know I can't." Madonna opened her eyes and turned to face Lars. "That kiss doesn't prove anything."
"The fact that you didn't push me away - and even kissed me back says otherwise."
"Lars, why do you have to make everything so hard for me?" Madonna slammed both her fists on his chest and frowned, avoiding eye-contact and he held her wrists.
"I am trying to make this easy."
"Let me go." Madonna looked up at Lars. "I am not about to fall out with all of my children over a man. If it's a choice, I choose them every single time."
"I would never ask you to choose."
"It's too late, Lars. I feel humiliated at how hard I tried to get them to accept you back in my life."
"I love you M. I can talk to - "
"No, you can't!" Madonna exploded. "You hurt me!" She put a hand to her ribs and winced.
"Are you ok?" Lars frowned.
Madonna shook her head. "I need some air." She said in a strained voice and walked past him down onto the beach.
"Are you sure you should be walking? Clearly you are in pain." Lars followed her.
"This is painful." Madonna stopped and Lars saw tears running down her face. "My life since you walked into it has been painful."
"Come back inside and sit down."
"There's nowhere to go out here."
"I would walk into the water to get away from you." Madonna said.
"Don't be such a drama queen, it must be freezing!" Lars replied, thinking she was bluffing, until Madonna did start heading in the direction of the water.
"So?" Madonna looked over her shoulder at him and still clutching her ribs, walked into the water, until her trousers were wet up to her knees.
"M, don't! Please!" Lars went after her and Madonna tried to move away from him faster and went under. Lars grabbed her and for a scary second, Madonna thought he was trying to drown her. She kicked and flailed, but he managed to get her out of the water and carried her back up to the house. Madonna eventually stopped fighting him and started crying instead, not looking at him. He took her up to the bedroom and went to get a couple of towels.
"You need to get those wet clothes off, M or you'll catch your death. I think you left clothes in the closet here." Lars said.
"I'm waiting for you to leave the room."
"I've seen you naked."
"Get out." Madonna said, giving him a death stare and Lars left the room and closed the door. Madonna slowly peeled off her clothes, wishing she hadn't gone in the water. It had been pretty cold and it made the bruises on her ribs ache. She dried herself and got dressed. Madonna went over to the window and opened it, seeing if she could climb out it, but sighed when she saw how treacherous it could be if she put one foot wrong.
"So, you didn't drown and now you want to climb out of a window?" Lars said and Madonna turned around.
"I never said I was finished."
"And I know you very well, M." Lars smiled and looked disarmingly handsome.
"Take me home Lars."
"You aren't going to change my mind. You can kiss me and smile and stand there looking...never mind - you aren't going to change me mind." Madonna blushed a little. "And don't you dare laugh at me!" She pointed a finger at him when it looked like Lars might laugh.
"I can't help it. You're trying to be fierce, but still managing to compliment me. M, you are great at many things, but threats aren't one of them." Lars said, unable to stop smiling.
"Let me go."
"Like you are trying to tell me you don't love me?"
"This isn't a game, Lars."
"Tell me you don't love me."
"Let me go."
"I love you." Lars said, holding Madonna's cheeks and she grabbed his wrists so hard it burned and removed his hands from her face.
"Lars. If I'm not home, my children will notice."
"They will think you are working late."
"Let me show you something." Madonna said, going back downstairs and Lars followed her. She fished her phone out of her bag and held it up to show Lars the missed calls and messages - all from her children.
"How did you know? I never heard your phone."
"I know my children." Madonna replied. "You are making this worse for yourself."
"It doesn't matter if I am put back in jail. Nothing is going to be worse than not being with you." Lars replied. "Tell me you don't love me."
"Lars you're just making this painful for both of us."
"M. Please. Don't over think. Follow this." Lars put a hand on her chest and could feel her heart beating fast.
"This has a lot of injury around it. It hurts." Madonna said, motioning to her chest area.
"I should be the one to make it, make you feel better." Lars said softy and Madonna shook her head.
"No. I need to move on."
"How do you figure?" Madonna stood with her hands on her hips.
"Because you can't even tell me you don't love me."
Madonna took several steps towards Lars, her face inches from him. "I don't love you."
"And I don't believe you."
"Do you want me to yell it?" Madonna raised her eyebrows.
"Take me home." Madonna said calmly.
What happened next surprised Madonna - Lars sank down to his knees and started to cry. He sounded so completely heartbroken that it threw her off for a minute. Madonna went down on her knees and put her arms around Lars, holding him. Feeling his whole body shake as he cried made her start to cry again too.
"I know you don't believe me, but I really am sorry for all the grief I've - " Lars started.
"Stop. I know." Madonna said, interrupting him.
"I'll take you back. Then hand myself in." Lars said, sniffing and looking at Madonna.
"You don't have to do that. There was no harm done."
"With all due respect M, you should have left me in jail the first time around." Lars said.
"Are you going to be ok to drive? I could always drive us." Madonna suggested.
"I'll be fine. Just give me a minute." Lars said, as he helped Madonna to her feet. He grabbed a handful of tissues and handed them to her, then got some for himself.
They both went to the car and got in. It was a very quiet car journey home. Tears streamed down Madonna's face and Lars tried hard not to cry.
"Good luck for the future M." Lars said, when he pulled up outside her place.
"Thank you. Where are you going now?"
"To hand myself in."
"You don't have too."
"I really do."
"Good luck Lars." Madonna kissed him, then got out of the car and rushed into her house, closing the door behind her.
Lars really did drive to the police station and hand himself in. Madonna was greeted by all of her children - including Astrid and even Elodie, all of whom looked concerned and talked over each other in an attempt to see what was wrong because she was crying. Astrid and Lourdes managed to get Madonna to sit down, while Mercy and Elodie made a hot drink and got blankets because Madonna looked cold and her hair was wet. She sat with blankets around her, drinking a hot chocolate and told them everything. When she'd finished, Madonna looked at Gabriel and Rocco, knowing if anyone had the strongest, angriest reactions it would be them.
"He really went to hand himself in?" Rocco asked and Madonna nodded. Rocco looked at Gabriel.
"Leave him there this time mom." Gabriel said quietly and Madonna looked at him.
"That's exactly what Lars told me to do."
"We're staying over." Astrid said, meaning Elodie as well.
"Good." Madonna smiled weakly.
"Maybe we should give mom some space." Mercy said, seeing how exhausted Madonna looked.
"Don't you dare! I want you all to stay up with me for once." Madonna replied.
"Were you scared?" David asked and Madonna nodded.
"A little." She put down her hot chocolate and lay on the sofa, surrounded by her children and fell asleep while they were all still chatting.
End of Part 21...
"What is this? I thought he was handing himself in!" Astrid marched into the studio, brandishing a magazine with pictures of Lars out and about, days after he'd kidnapped Madonna.
"Let's talk in my office." Madonna said, blushing slightly because everyone was looking at them. "Get back to work!" She said, glaring at them on her way out and everyone quickly turned away. Madonna closed the door behind them, watching Astrid go and sit down. "How dare you come in work and embarrass me like that in front of the people I work with, Astrid! You need to grow up!" Madonna yelled, trying not to wince, because her ribs ached a little.
"Mom did you swallow too much water or something?! Why do you always let him go? You're a masochist when it comes to him!" Astrid yelled back at Madonna, with tears in her eyes.
Madonna sighed, sitting next to her. "When Lars returned me - that night we all slept downstairs I woke up and called him. I told him not to hand himself in. We're getting divorced and it would just mean I have to make more trips to jail."
"So you're letting him get away with it?" Astrid sounded so surprised her voice was faint.
"No, Trid. He has to live with what he's done to me. That will be his punishment. I'm tired of violence and aggression. I want to divorce him and start moving on with my life. I know you and the others might not understand my decisions, regarding Lars, but I know what I'm doing." Madonna replied sensibly.
"It feels like he's getting away with it though." Astrid said quietly.
"He isn't. I am having nothing to do with him after the divorce is final."
"Gabriel and I don't want anything to do with him." Astrid said, looking unsure.
"Trid, the pair of you don't have to decide right now. It's all still pretty raw. Somewhere down the line you might want to have a relationship with him and I want you to know that is fine with me. You're an adult and Gabriel nearly is and I both know you are more than capable of making up your own minds."
"I have nightmares about it. About him beating you." Astrid said in a small voice.
"Have you told Elodie?"
"Yeah. She's been amazing." Astrid replied, a small smile on her lips.
"Good. Do you have them every night?"
"No. But frequent enough."
"I'm so sorry Trid." Madonna held the back of Astrid's neck and pressed her forehead to her daughters'.
"The others know he didn't hand himself in." Astrid said and Madonna pulled back, frowning.
"Should I expect them to storm in?"
"No. They figure you've had enough drama. I'm sorry for barging in to your work like this." Astrid sighed, throwing the magazine with pictures of Lars in the bin.
"I don't mind if you come here to talk to me, Trid. But please leave the theatrics to your dancing." Madonna replied, smiling and Astrid laughed, nodding.
"Deal." Astrid kissed Madonna's cheek. "I love you mom." She whispered in her ear.
"I love you too baby. Have a good day." Madonna replied, watching Astrid leave.
The following evening Astrid and Elodie joined Madonna and the others for dinner, with a suggestion for her one off show/auction which was getting closer.
"Mom, I know you are super mega organised and it's probably all sorted, but Elodie and I want to help with the show - if everything isn't already done?" Astrid asked, like she had been bursting to ask.
"It's totally cool if we are too late and it's all done though." Elodie said in a calm way, looking at Astrid with amused affection.
"That sounds like a great idea. It isn't all done yet. Though it isn't going to be a big production or anything." Madonna replied, smiling.
"We know." Astrid replied.
"Are you eating enough, Trid?" Madonna asked.
"Mom, I am naturally skinny. Hello? Always dancing and doing active things." Astrid replied, rolling her eyes like it was nothing.
"Just because you don't live here anymore, doesn't mean I don't worry about you Trid." Madonna said.
"I heard you are doing a Nike commercial." Lourdes said to Astrid, who nodded.
"Yeah, later next week."
"Can I help Astrid and Elodie?" Mercy asked.
"Of course you can, sweetie." Madonna said, looking pleased everyone wanted to help.
"Sorry I'm not avaliable to help, mom, but I don't think the Yankees need a choreographer to join them at some point." Gabriel joked with a straight face and Rocco and David laughed.
"Smart ass." Madonna muttered, trying not to smile.
"Language mom!" Mercy said.
When dinner was finished and everyone started to leave the table to do their own thing, it was just Madonna and Lourdes left.
"How are you doing mom? You look exhausted." Lourdes said quietly, looking slightly concerned.
Madonna laughed. "I'm going to work, getting a divorce and putting on a show soon. And not sleeping very well." She rubbed her face with both hands.
"Can't you put the show back a bit? Until the divorce is finalised?"
"To be honest, it gives me something more to do, so I don't have time to dwell on it."
"Were you scared when he took you?"
"Not really. He seemed...different." Madonna hesitated. "I'm not naive enough to think he has changed again though." She quickly added. "He just wanted to talk more than anything."
"So he didn't hurt you?"
"I was talking to dad and he said if there is anything he can do to help...he hasn't called you or anything because he knows you have enough on your plate." Lourdes said and Madonna nodded.
"That's sweet of him."
"You don't have to do any of this alone, mom, you know that right?" Lourdes said, taking one of Madonna's hands and squeezing it. Madonna felt so overwhelmed with love that she started to cry. Lourdes put her arms around her mother and held her, smoothing her hair.
End of Part 22...
The days leading up to Madonna's show were hectic. Not just preparation for it, but meetings regarding her divorce. What didn't help matters was that there seemed to be more paparazzi around and they were trying to get closer and closer to Madonna, shouting questions to her about Lars and what had happened, even though stories had spread like wildfire throughout newspapers and magazines around the world. She went out with more bodyguards and kept her head down, trying even harder than usual to not make eye contact with them.
"Trid is looking healthier." Madonna said quietly to Elodie, as they both watched Astrid practise with the dancers.
"Yeah. I'm trying to make sure she eats. I keep slipping healthy snacks into her bag before we go to any of our many projects. She caught me out the other day, but thought it was kind of funny." Elodie said, smiling.
"You are really good for each other, you know." Madonna said, with a hint of sadness in her voice.
"She worried about you." Elodie said, also looking concerned.
"I'll be fine. I just want to concentrate on this show for now." Madonna said quietly and Elodie nodded, then went to help Astrid.
The show wasn't going to be another clown one, and longer with a few costume changes and a handful of dancers. Madonna was really impressed with Astrid and Elodie's choreography and how well they worked together. They brought out the best in the dancers they worked with and their high energy levels were infectious.
"What do you think?" Astrid asked Madonna when they stopped for a break.
"I'm really proud of you, Trid." Madonna draped an arm around her shoulders and kissed Astrid's cheek.
Astrid smiled. "If you wanted to do any more one-off shows, or another tour, Elodie and I are avaliable."
Madonna laughed. "I won't be touring for a while, but you will be the first people I come to for choreography."
"You seem happier."
"Elodie makes me happy."
"Good. I'm happy for you two."
"Mom, you will find someone." Astrid said, squeezing her arm.
"I want to concentrate on you guys and work for a while. I've been badly burned and no desire to rush in again." Madonna replied.
Astrid nodded. "You should concentrate on yourself for a while."
"Mom, have you got a minute?" After dinner that evening, Gabriel cornered Madonna when it was just the two of them left.
"Sure, Gabe. What's up?"
"Dad keeps ringing me. He leaves voicemails and texts and really wants to talk to me." Gabriel said, sighing.
"Maybe he wants to talk to you after what happened that day you and Rocco pulled him off me."
"I almost want to hear what he has to say...but part of me wants to block his number and have nothing to do with him." Gabriel said, looking conflicted.
"Are you asking for my opinion on what to do? Or some advise?" Madonna asked.
Gabriel shrugged. "I'm not sure."
"Whatever Lars has done to me over the years, he is still your father. He is still Astrid's father. If you want to have a relationship with him, then I am fine with that. If you don't, I am also fine with that. I don't want to influence your decisions or opinions of him." Madonna said very diplomatically.
"But I would feel like I was betraying you, after everything he has done." Gabriel said.
"If you need to see Lars, promise me one thing." Madonna said, taking both of Gabriel's cheeks in her hands.
"Promise me you won't hit him."
Gabriel put his hands over Madonna's on his face. "After everything he's done to you...why does it matter if he gets hurt?"
"Because flying off the handle is something Lars would do, Gabe. I have noticed you keeping your temper in check a lot lately."
"You don't want me to be like him."
"You are the best bits of Lars, Gabriel. Handsome, charming and intelligent." Madonna replied, smiling as she let go of his cheeks.
"Thanks mom." Gabriel smiled. "I'm gonna think about it for a while. I'm surprised you noticed about my temper."
"Are your trying to curb it or do you just not feel angry?"
"I just don't feel angry, I guess. I know you have enough on your plate, so I was trying not to be another problem."
"That's sweet, but you've never been a problem, Gabe." Madonna said, looking at him proudly.
"I have a game coming up next week..." Gabriel rubbed the back of his neck and Madonna understood what he was trying to ask.
"If you want to ask Lars to watch, please do. We might be at opposite ends in the bleachers, but we will both support you. Always." Madonna said and Gabriel nodded, looking slightly more relaxed.
"Thank you mom. For making that eaiser." Gabriel hugged Madonna, holding her tightly. He wasn't usually so affectionate and Madonna held him just as tightly back, smiling over his shoulder.
End of Part 23...
Madonna smiled at the breakfast table as she opened an enevelope and took out the letter. She was to perform her one off show later that day, in the evening and was looking forward to it.
"Ok, what has made you so happy mom?" Rocco asked.
"The divorce has been finalised. I could kiss my lawyer."
"Don't be rushing into another relationship." Gabriel said, frowning and Madonna looked at him, touched at the edge of protectiveness in his voice.
"Trust me, that's the last thing on my mind." Madonna smiled.
"There's the show to look forward to tonight." Lourdes said and Madonna nodded.
"Exactly. I was thinking maybe we could have a little holiday after. A long weekend somewhere. What do you guys think?" Madonna asked, looking around the table and there was a lot of enthusiatic head nodding and answers of 'yeah!'
David, Mercy and Rocco went to get ready for school, leaving Lourdes and Gabriel with Madonna.
"Are you sure you're ok mom? I know it's hard for you to leave him, even if I don't understand why." Gabriel said and both Madonna and Lourdes looked at him, surprised at the maturity of what he'd just said.
"Yes. I'm finally exhausted of struggling with this. So I've decided to start acting positive and hoping I will feel it more soon." Madonna said, looking from Gabriel to Lourdes.
"That's good." Lourdes replied.
"I'm forever changing in my career and nothing stays the same in life. So I am trying to look at the positives." Madonna said, smiling. She held up the letter. "Having the divorce finalised is the first step. This has actually been a really good start to the day." Madonna stood up. "I'm going out for a run." She hadn't had any breakfast and was already dressed to workout and Lourdes frowned.
"Don't you have a workout session soon?"
"Yes, but I feel so good right now, I have to run." Madonna said, smiling again and leaving the room.
Lourdes and Gabriel watched as she left with a couple of bodyguards, then looked at each other.
"Are you buying it?" Lourdes asked and Gabriel shrugged.
"I like to think he hasn't completely destroyed her." Gabriel said. "Maybe we should try to be positive with mom."
"Yeah. I hope we go somewhere warm for this mini vacation." Lourdes said, changing the subject and Gabriel nodded.
"Guess I better go to school. I envy you not going." Gabriel said, sighing.
"Just think about playing baseball professionally. And remember discount tickets for your favourite sister and her friends." Lourdes joked and Gabriel laughed, rolling his eyes and shaking his head as he grabbed his bag and left.
All of the children were watching Madonna's show, accompanied by friends, a couple of nannies and bodyguards. Astrid and Elodie were backstage with Madonna, helping her and the dancers get ready. They were laughing and joking and there was just as much of a buzz backstage as out in the audience, when people started arriving. Madonna mentioned to Astrid about her idea to have a long weekend break, inviting Elodie as well. Elodie smiled, looking thoughtful, then made a suggestion.
"You could come to Guadalupe. My parents have a big place." Elodie said and Astrid nodded, smiling.
"Oh my god it's like heaven there!"
"Would you parents mind? There's a lot of us...we could stay at a hotel."
Elodie shook her head. "Not at all! They would be more offended if you stayed at a hotel when they have a perfectly good house."
"That's very generous of you." Madonna said, looking grateful.
"There are no problems that a bit of sun, sea and several cocktails won't sort out." Elodie said and Madonna and Astrid laughed.
"Island girls!" Astrid wrapped her arms around Elodie and kissed her lips and Elodie smiled, holding Astrid, looking at her lovingly.
"It's my way of saying thank you for letting Trid and I help with the show." Elodie said and Madonna smiled.
"I definitely want to work with you girls again."
"Do you mind if we watch from the audience instead of backstage?" Astrid asked and Madonna shook her head.
"Of course not."
"Break a leg mom." Astrid said and Elodie gave Madonna a radiant smile, then both girls left arm-in-arm to join the audience.
The show included the auctioning of items in between Madonna's numbers, so for a one off show it was pretty long - lasting at a good three hours. Everything was auctioned off and lots of money was raised for Raising Malawi, much to Madonna's delight. After talking to several people, Madonna bumped into Sean.
"You look well." Sean said, smiling at the sight of Madonna.
"I half expected to see Lars here this evening." Sean said, looking around.
"No. We are divorced now. I got the paperwork for the final stage of it this morning. It was a good start to the day. I think he will stay away now." Madonna replied.
"Divorce really agrees with you. And the show was really something, of course." Sean said politely and Madonna nodded, smiling.
"Thank you. Look, I'm sorry for what happened with Lars." Madonna touched his arm and Sean waved a hand dismissively.
"It wasn't your fault. I'm glad you got away from him. Finally."
"Me too." Madonna said.
"Come here." Sean opened his arms and Madonna hugged him.
"I feel...relieved. Happy."
"It shows." Sean said, smiling as he held her. "Are you staying for drinks?"
"Maybe just a couple. I actually feel tired enough to be able to get some decent sleep tonight." Madonna replied, yawning as if to confirm it.
She stayed with Sean and kept an eye on her children, who all eventually drifted over and they left earlier than most. When Madonna did go to bed that night, it was the first night in so long that she slept soundly, with no nightmares and nothing waking her up. There was even a hint of a smile on her lips.
Lars did go to Madonna's show and even though he'd said previously that clowns freaked him out, he did enjoy it. Madonna spotted him in the crowd, but didn't single him out, because she knew he was a private person and didn't really like being the center of attention too often. Madonna just gave him a quick wink and smile and carried on with her show. The only parts of the night Lars wasn't too keen on was when Sean was on stage with Madonna and they were having a laugh and Madonna said she would always love Sean. Lars clenched his jaw and clasped his hands together between his legs, thinking how he would make her pay for that. When it was all over, Madonna introduced the two men.
"Lars, come and meet Sean." Madonna said, waving a hand and motioning for him to go over to them. Lars stopped clenching his jaw and his face softened into a smile. "Sean, this is Lars and Lars this is Sean." Madonna said and both men shook hands and smiled at each other. Sean felt mildly amused that Lars had tried crushing his hand and had equally tried crushing his hand right back.
"I'm a fan of your work Sean." Lars said in a firm, polite way and Sean nodded.
"M tells me you run a gallery. I'll have to come by some time and check it out." Sean said and it came out almost like a threat.
"We better get going." Madonna cut in, before either of them started getting aggressive and she kissed Sean's cheek and hugged him. "Thank you so much for coming tonight. It was so good of you." She said and Sean smiled over her back at Lars, who visibly clenched his jaw.
"You're welcome M." Sean said. "See you soon Lars." He waved at him, then walked away.
The car journey back to the hotel was a quiet one. Madonna was tired from the show and Lars was annoyed that Sean had been there. Madonna quickly went to take a shower before Lars could say anything and when she came out wearing pale pink cotton pyjamas and towel drying her hair, she found Lars pacing at the foot of their bed.
"That was a very generous donation you made, baby. Thank you." Madonna slung the towel over the back of a chair and went to kiss Lars, but he tilted his face away and she frowned.
"You said you love Sean and then ask me what's wrong." Lars said coldly, glaring at her.
"Lars, I love Sean. I'm not in love with Sean. I am in love with you. There is a difference. He is just a very good friend now."
"Maybe I don't like that."
"Why? You're acting like he is a threat. I am married to you, Lars, I LOVE you!" Madonna said, a lot of weight behind the word 'love'.
"Why did you even ask him to come to the show?"
"He likes supporting a good cause. I knew you would hate it if I asked you up on stage. I didn't even point you out during the show." Madonna said, looking desperate to diffuse the situation. "Sean knows I'm with you and I love you."
"I hope he doesn't come by the gallery."
"Were you being polite when you said you were a fan?" Madonna asked and Lars shook his head.
"No. I really do like him as an actor."
"Just not as my friend."
"Not as your ex-husband."
"You are my husband right now." Madonna said, grabbing two fistfuls of Lars' shirt and kissing him hard.
"I'm going for a walk." Lars said, when she let go of him and Madonna frowned.
"It's dark and late."
"I want to go for a walk on the beach to clear my head." Lars said. "The show was great tonight, by the way."
"Thanks. Give me a minute, I'll get dressed and come with you."
"No. Go to bed Madonna." Lars said, giving her a look that said there would be trouble if she followed.
Astrid, who had woke up to get a drink, quickly ducked back in her room quietly closing the door before Lars walked past and sent a message to Lourdes, saying what she'd heard.
A few days after Madonna, Lars and the children had been back in New York City, Sean did stop by the gallery to have a look around. This instantly got Lars' back up, although he tried to act calm and casual as though Sean were just another customer he had to charm into making a purchase or two.
"Wow, this place is impressive." Sean said genuinely, looking around, his eyes stopping on Lars.
"Are you looking for anything in particular?" Lars asked, struggling to keep the edge out of his voice.
"No, I just came to look." Sean replied. "Listen Lars, I get the feeling you don't really like me much. I'm not trying to cause any trouble between you and M. She's a good friend of mine and I don't want to cause any trouble in you marriage to her."
"Why would you say that? Has she been talking to you?"
"No. She doesn't even know I'm in the city. But before the show in Miami she was telling me how happy you guys are. I just thought you show know that. And I'm happy for her and the both of you." Sean said and Lars nodded, smiling a little.
"Ok." Lars said, his expression softening. "I'm just...protective of her, you know?"
"I understand that." Sean said.
"Do you want me to show you around?"
"That would be cool." Sean smiled and let Lars show him around the gallery.
"She dances like a Caribbean queen!" Elodie said, smiling and laughing as she filmed Astrid dancing and shaking her bum to a reggae song to put on Astrid's Instagram.
"Have you seen her on a trapeze yet?" Lourdes asked and Elodie nodded.
"She's magic up there." Elodie tossed her black hair over her shoulder. It wasn't straight or in braids, but in the natural afro curls that trailed down her back.
"Ugh, you two...stop!" Astrid waved her hand dismissively, but smiled.
"Did you want to talk about that text you sent me? About mom, Lars and Sean?" Lourdes asked and Astrid nodded.
"What's happened?" Elodie asked, sitting on Astrid's bed cross-legged.
"That charity show mom did down in Miami - she invited Sean and said she still loves him on stage. I think she introduced him to my dad. I heard them arguing back at the hotel and mom was saying she loves Sean but is in love with my dad." Astrid filled Elodie in.
"There is a big difference in saying you love someone to saying you are in love with them though." Elodie said.
"Exactly." Lourdes agreed.
"I know dad gets jealous and possesive of mom." Astrid said, looking worried.
"That doesn't mean he is hurting her though. Isn't it better they talk or argue over concerns?" Elodie said reasonably.
"What are you worried about Trid? That he will hurt mom again?" Lourdes asked and Astrid nodded.
"I'm worried that if he is hurting her, she will stay married to him and continue to make excuses for eveything he does to her." Astrid said, her eyes watering.
"We can all keep an eye on your mom. We won't let anything bad happen to her." Elodie said, wrapping her arms around Astrid and kissing her temple tenderly. Astrid smiled weakly and Elodie and Lourdes exchanged a look of worry. If Astrid was starting to have doubts, there had to be a reason why.
End of Part 11...
"You are such a pig!" A beautiful blonde stormed out of the house, slamming the front door.
Madonna, Lars and the children looked up from the kitchen. as Gabriel shrugged, casually sauntering into the kitchen and grabbing a piece of toast and smearing it with jam.
"What was that all about?" Madonna looked up at him expectantly.
"You forget a girl's name and she goes all crazy on you." Gabriel smiled.
Lars laughed, clapping him on the back. "That's my lad!" He said, until he looked at Madonna and was silenced with a frosty glare.
"And that is exactly why I am gay. A girl would never talk about another girl like that." Astrid pointed to Gabriel, who just laughed.
"Trid, Elodie isn't bad ass enough to talk about you like that. Some girls might be."
"Yeah, well Im glad, because that, bro, is called respect of privacy."
"Ok, can we all just carry on with breakfast or getting ready with school. I won't have anyone in this house being late." Madonna said in a loud, firm tone.
Gabriel was about to leave the kitchen, when Madonna stood in the doorway. "Can we have a word?"
Madonna took Gabriel into the lounge and closed the door.
"Are you mad because I had a girl over? Because she climbed through my bedroom window and I'm not in the habit of turning down such beautiful, determined women." Gabriel said, but Madonna didn't smile.
"You could have shown her to a guest room." Madonna said and Gabriel raised his eyebrows.
"Gabe, I can't stop you doing what you want too much, because you're sixteen now. But I hope you are being careful. I don't want a pregnant girl turning up on our doorstep. Or several of them, from the way you go through girls."
"Oh mom, you have a sense of humour when you are telling me off!" Gabriel grinned.
Madonna tried not to smile, but Gabriel was such a charmer like his father. Even though he was sixteen and a notorious heart-breaker, he still had girls chasing him everywhere he went. "I'm being serious."
"I know mom. I use protection."
"Ok. Please tell your fan club of girls no more climbing in through windows. We have a front door and guest rooms."
"You would be cool with that?" Gabriel sounded surprised and Madonna nodded.
"Yes." Madonna replied.
"You are the world's coolest mom!" Gabriel said and he hugged Madonna. She smiled, then laughed over his shoulder.
That same day Madonna went to work and forgot her phone, so she had to go all the way back to get it. She couldn't leave it anywhere, because there were always people who were trying to get hold of her and it freaked her out not having it, in case something happened to one of the children and they couldn't get hold of her. When she arrived home, Madonna nearly walked straight into the hallway into a stormy-faced Lars. He brandished her phone in front of her face, like it was a weapon.
"Looking for something?"
"Yes. I forgot that." Madonna reached out for it, but Lars moved it out of her grasp in time.
"Sean has been texting you."
"You read my messages?" Madonna frowned.
"You have something to hide?" Lars said, but it sounded more like an accusation then a question.
"No, I don't Lars. I told you Sean and I are just good friends."
"With benefits?" Lars raised his eyebrows.
"Don't be vulgar. I love you! Although right now I am questioning why - when you act like this!" Madonna was nearly yelling and Lars gave her a little slap across the face.
"I have more right to be angry than you, when you are texting exes!" Lars said aggressively.
"There is nothing going on, give me my phone!" Madonna reached up for it, but Lars held it up high and when she grabbed at his arm, Lars swept his other arm against Madonna hard, knocking her against the wall to the floor. She looked up at him, knowing better than to try and move.
Lars threw her phone down on the polished wooden floor and Madonna looked at him in horror when she realised what he was going to do.
"No!" Madonna was just reaching out for the phone at the same time Lars brought his foot down on it very hard, shattering the phone and crushing a few of her fingers. She screamed in pain, quickly yanking her hand back, cradling it in her other hand.
Lars kneeled down, grabbing a handful of her hair and yanking her head back, so Madonna's chin was tilted towards him.
"Well that was a stupid fucking thing to do, wasn't it?" He said and tears formed in her eyes.
"If you read the messages Sean sent, you would see there is nothing going on." Madonna said in a small voice, when Lars let go of her hair.
"No, but he is concerned about you. Being back with me."
"I told him I was happy. We were happy." Madonna said, looking desperate. "I don't know why he would be concerned."
"He came to see me at the gallery."
"What's wrong with that? He likes art."
"He could go to any gallery in the city...but maybe he is fucking with my wife and wants to rub my nose in it..." Lars said, his breath on Madonna's neck as he undone her shirt and reached inside, squeezing a breast.
"Stop. Stop it." She said with a wobbly voice.
"Do you ever tell him to stop?"
"No, because there is nothing going on between us!" Madonna protested.
"Liar!" Lars slapped her hard across the face.
He got up and kicked her in the ribs until she cried out, begging him to stop. Neither of them realised they were being watched. Astrid was upstairs and saw it all. Silent tears ran down her cheeks as she watched, her face a mask of horror. Very quietly she went to her room and closed the door and phoned Gabriel and Rocco, saying they were needed urgently at home, that Lars was beating Madonna.
End of Part 12...
Astrid went back to the top of the stairs and couldn't believe that Lars was still hurting Madonna. Even though his back was to her, it seemed like he had completely lost it. Madonna tried to hold her hands up to protect herself, but it was a feeble attempt and she must have been in a lot of pain already from the kicking she'd taken. Tears streamed down Astrid's face, but she was too scared to move.
"Nothing is going on between Sean and I! I LOVE YOU!" Madonna tried to yell, one of her hands on her ribs and she sounded breathless like she'd been running.
"You're lying!" Lars yelled, as Madonna managed with difficulty to get to her feet. He grabbed her neck, closing his fingers around her neck as he pressed her against the wall.
"Noooooooo!" Astrid flew down the stairs and Madonna looked at her in horror, but Lars didn't let go or register his daughter was watching what he was doing.
Rocco and Gabriel both burst through the front door.
"Get back Astrid!" Gabriel swept her aside with his arm, then both he and Rocco both grabbed Lars - a shoulder each and both of them pulled his hand from Madonna's neck.
"Get off me! This is NOTHING to do with you!" Lars roared, looking at both boys furiously.
Madonna gasped for breath sharply, rubbing her red throat and looking at Astrid. "Get out of the way, baby. Go upstairs."
"Mom, I'm not leaving you!"
"Please!" Madonna said insistently, coughing.
Astrid went upstairs, but sat on the top stair, watching and Madonna was glad she was out of the way.
"You need to both leave." Lars said, looking like he was getting ready to go at Madonna again.
"Why don't you hit a man instead of a woman?" Rocco said, squaring up to Lars, putting himself between him and Madonna.
"Yeah, it's less cowardly." Gabriel said, also squaring up.
"Boys, please. I appreciate what you are doing, but no more violence." Madonna stepped outin front of them both and Lars smiled.
"You are both going to hide behind your mothers' skirts? Manly." Lars taunted them.
"Ignore it." Madonna said firmly, but Gabriel grabbed her arm, pulling her out of the way and Rocco lunged and Lars, knocking him to the floor and punching him in the face. "Rocco!" Madonna yelled.
Gabriel looked up the stairs at Astrid. "Call nine one one. We need the police and an ambulance." He said and she nodded, pulling her phone out and calling them.
Lars had a bloody nose, but had also overpowered Rocco and raised his fist. He looked up at Madonna, who felt like her heart might stop. She shook her head.
"No, don't! Please!"
"He punched me."
"You deserved it." Gabriel said, punching Lars, knocking him off of Rocco.
"Boys...please..." Madonna said, sitting with her back against the wall, a hand on her ribs, looking pale and sweaty.
"Mom!" Astrid ran down the stairs and sat next to Madonna, an arm around her. She looked at Lars on the floor. "How could you? How could you!" Astrid suddenly lunged at Lars, but Rocco grabbed her waist and pulled her back.
"Don't. He's dangerous."
"And not worth it." Gabriel said.
"This has nothing to do with any of you!" Lars said aggressively, looking from Astrid to Rocco, then Gabriel. He started to get up, but Gabriel stood over him.
"I suggest you stay down." He said firmly.
Astrid answered the door to the police and paramedics, all of which had arrived at the same time. Madonna had passed out and was carried to a gurney by a male paramedic. The boys told the police Lars had beaten her and Astrid agreed to go to the police station to make a full statement as a witness. Lars glared at his daughter as he was led away in handcuffs, but she couldn't bring herself to look at him.
"I'll go with mom to the hospital. You go with Trid, make sure she's ok." Gabriel said to Rocco, taking charge of the situation and Rocco nodded, following Astrid to a police car.
Gabriel went with Madonna and held her hand in the ambulance, even though she was in and out of consciousness for the entire journey.
Madonna blinked slowly, then opened her eyes and squinted against the bright lights in the room. She saw Gabriel and Lourdes sat on one side of her, both looking worried.
"Where are Astrid and Rocco?"
"Astrid is giving a statement at the police station and Rocco went with her to make sure she is ok." Gabriel said.
"How do you feel? Gabriel told me what happened." Lourdes asked, smoothing hair away from Madonna's face.
"Like my ribs have been caved in." Madonna replied and Lourdes and Gabriel exchanged a look. "I take it Lars was arrested."
"Yes." Gabriel said. "Astrid was pretty shook up."
"I didn't realise she was upstairs."
"How long has it been going on mom?" Lourdes asked. "Astrid was right to be suspicious, wasn't she?"
Gabriel frowned. "Am I missing something here? Am I the last person to know?"
"No. Astrid told me she was suspicious and I said I would keep an eye on mom and Lars. I'm sorry, I failed." Lourdes said, looking away.
"It's not your fault, Lola." Gabriel said, touching her arm.
"Lola, it's my fault." Madonna said, with tears forming in her eyes and a slight tremor in her voice. Both Lourdes and Gabriel looked at her. "Lars has been...like he used to be since the tour."
"What?" Gabriel looked horrified and Lourdes was speechless.
"Not all the injuries were from rehearsals and shows." Madonna admitted. "Although today was the most violent he has been with me for years."
"Why today?" Lourdes frowned.
"He thinks Sean and I are having an affair. Because I invited him along to my show in Miami and we were being friendly. He completely lost it." Tears fell down her pale cheeks.
"Oh mom, why didn't you tell us?" Gabriel sighed.
"How could I? I gave you all this massive speech about Lars being a changed man. I feel humiliated and scared. He scares me." Madonna said, her eyes showing a vulnerability.
"Please tell me you're going to leave him." Gabriel said quietly.
"I'm too scared to leave him."
"Mom, we can help you." Lourdes said, looking determined. "All of us. You have a lot of friends and family. You aren't alone."
"But I'm scared." Madonna replied.
"I won't let him get anywhere near you." Gabriel said.
"Thank you so much for coming to my rescue. If you and Rocco hadn't turned up when you did..." Madonna trailed off.
"He might have strangled you." Gabriel said quietly, and Lourdes looked from him to Madonna.
"This is going to get out. What are we going to tell David and Mercy?"
"I don't know. I don't want to worry them, but if they find out elsewhere they might feel like they have been left out." Madonna replied. "It's all such a mess."
"We could tell them. But reassure them Lars won't be coming back." Lourdes suggested.
"I guess. I need to talk to Astrid. I can't believe she saw it. My poor girl." Madonna said, rubbing her forehead.
"She's on her way here now with Rocco." Lourdes said, checking a message on her phone when it vibrated.
"Do you guys mind giving me and Trid some space when she arrives? I would like to talk to her alone." Madonna said and both Lourdes and Gabriel nodded.
End of Part 13...
Astrid and Rocco arrived and rushed through the hospital, both desperate to see their mother. Madonna smiled when she saw them both and Lourdes and Gabriel sat outside the room to give them some space.
"Are you both ok?" Madonna asked.
"Mom, you're the one lying in a hospital bed..." Rocco said, frowning.
"Broken ribs and bruises. I've had the same falling off my horse." Madonna said, trying to make a joke of it.
"The only difference is your horse didn't do it on purpose." Rocco replied.
"Are you ok though? Lars nearly hit you and I thought I was going to have a heart attack." Madonna said, looking up at Rocco with worried eyes.
"I would rather he hit me than you." Rocco replied, holding Madonna's hand, smoothing his thumb in the palm of it. "Luckily Gabriel jumped in."
"Thank you. I'm so glad you were both there."
"That's down to Trid." Rocco and Madonna both looked at Astrid.
"Would you mind if we spoke alone please Roccs?"
"Sure." Rocco kissed Madonna's forehead and left the room to sit with Lourdes and Gabriel, who were talking about what had happened.
"Trid, I'm so sorry you saw that. I had no idea you were there." Madonna said softly, holding her hand out to her daughter.
"It shouldn't be you apologising mom." Astrid said quietly, pulling a chair closer to Madonna and sitting down, taking her hand. Madonna could feel a slight tremor in Astrid's hand and squeezed it.
"Thank you. For calling the boys."
"I thought something was going on." Astrid said, tears falling down her expressionless face. "I just hoped I was wrong, because you and dad looked so happy."
"Looks can be deceiving." Madonna replied and Astrid laughed, wiping a tear from one cheek.
"I was worried dad was...I told Lola."
"I know." Madonna replied. "Why didn't you talk to me?" She asked in a faint whisper.
"Would you have told me the truth?" Astrid asked, raising her eyebrows.
"I don't know."
"How long? How long was he doing this to you?" Astrid asked and Madonna shook her head. "Mom! I need to know."
"Why?" Madonna almost shouted. "It's not your fault, or any of the others. I love Lars. It's all my fault."
"You blame yourself? For every time he hurt you?" Astrid sounded really surprised, even though she frowned.
"Yes. No. I don't know. I think he needs help. Professional help."
"He needs to stay in jail." Astrid said sharply.
"What ever Lars has done, he is still your father. And Gabriel's."
"Not as long as he half kills my mom." Astrid said. "Are you mad I made a statement at the police station?"
"No, Trid. That was the right thing to do." Madonna replied.
"You are going to divorce him, and leave him for good this time, aren't you?" Astrid said and Madonna sighed, saying nothing, but nodding and pressing her eyes closed.
"I am so sorry Trid." Madonna opened her eyes and tears fell down her face. "I feel like I have let you and the others down so much now..."
"No, mom, you haven't. You just - see the good in everyone. Maybe too much sometimes. I can't bear the thought of him making you suffer. Was that why he bought you things - like that over the top necklace?"
"You are very observant." Madonna said, looking shocked.
"It is now looking like he bought your silence."
"No. He didn't. I always thought he would get better."
"I don't think I am ever going to get that image of him kicking you on the floor out of my head..." Astrid said, pinching the bridge of her nose.
"I wish there was something I could do to change that." Madonna said.
"Therapy might help."
"It's always helped me, Trid. I recommend it if you think it will help."
"Promise me you won't stay with him. Promise me." Astrid said, looking at Madonna with utter desperation.
"I promise, baby. It's over for good." Madonna said, looking her in the eyes, wishing it felt better to say it out loud than it did.
Sean Penn rushed around the hospital and stopped when he saw Gabriel, Lourdes and Rocco sat outside a room. He went over to them and they all looked surprised to see him.
"Is Madonna in there? Can I see her?" He asked, looking almost desperate.
Lourdes stood up. "I can go in and ask her."
"Please. I feel like some of this is my fault. I went to see Lars in his gallery. I never meant to cause trouble for her." Sean sat down, running a hand through his hair.
"My dad is a psycho. It's not your fault. He would have found a reason - or excuse to beat her either way." Gabriel said, looking at Sean, who thought he had the same striking looks as Lars.
"Beat her?" Sean raised his eyebrows at the thought of it being a regular occurence.
"I think you should talk to mom. It's up to her what she tells you." Gabriel replied.
"Mom would like to see you." Lourdes said, coming out of the room with her arm around Astrid, who was now crying.
"Is Astrid ok?" Sean asked, standing up.
"She saw Lars beat mom." Rocco said.
"Oh." Sean looked at Astrid. "I'm sorry." He said and she nodded, then he went in to see Madonna.
"Hi." Madonna said, looking surprised to see Sean, but managed a small smile.
"Hi. How are you?" Sean asked, sitting next to her. "That's a pretty dumb question, considering where you are, I guess."
"How did you find out?"
"From gossip in the street. Am ambulance and a couple of police cars were parked outside your place. And Lars was arrested."
"Astrid made a statement earlier. I feel terrible, the poor girl saw it all. She called her brothers and luckily Gabriel and Rocco turned up to stop Lars from - " Madonna stopped dead.
"I was just saying to your children I feel like some of it was my fault. I went to see Lars in his gallery, not to cause trouble, just to look at the art. But Gabriel said he would have found an excuse to beat you anyway, like it was a regular occurence. Please tell me it wasn't." Sean said quietly.
"It wasn't your fault, Sean. Lars thought we were having an affair. He has a real jealous streak when it comes to me. And I wish my children weren't so observant."
"So he did beat you?" Sean asked and Madonna nodded. "You told me you were happy."
"I was." Madonna smiled. "I got good, better at hiding it."
"M, you should have told me."
"It was my problem. What could you have done anyway?"
"Kicked his ass a lot harder than he kicked yours." Sean replied.
"That would just have made it worse for me."
"Did he hurt Gabriel or Rocco? They both looked ok."
"Luckily not. He nearly punched Rocco, but Gabriel punched Lars first." Madonna sighed. "It's such a mess."
"I hope you're not thinking of bailing him out."
"Sometimes I wish you didn't know me so well." Madonna grumbled, looking away.
"M, he sounds dangerous. What did he do to you that you are in here?"
"Break some ribs. Bruise me." Madonna replied.
"Leave him in jail." Sean said firmly.
"I think he needs help. You didn't see it, Sean, he completely lost it."
"Maybe someone will completely loose it on him in jail." Sean replied. "I'm more worried about you. If there is anything I can do."
"Not think you are responsible for any of this. My husband is insanely possessive and thinks every man who even looks my way wants to fuck me."
"So he doesn't trust you?"
"Maybe Lars is crazy. He has a woman who is very very loyal to him, and sticks up for him not matter what and this is how he treats her..." Sean said.
"Can you just please be quiet and sit with me a while? I have to cut a man out of my life I loved deeply and had two children with. It's a lot to deal with." Madonna said and Sean nodded, holding her hand and they were silent in each other's company.
End of Part 14...
"Mom, have you lost the plot?"
"Are you insane?"
"You can't be serious!"
"Let him rot!"
The last comment was from Gabriel and Madonna fixed him with a look.
"He's still your father." She said quietly.
"And you want to talk to him, why? He broke your ribs, mom! He beat you up and Astrid saw it all!" Gabriel said, frowning.
Madonna looked at Astrid, the only person who hadn't said anything when she had announced she wanted to talk to Lars. Astrid hadn't said much since Madonna had been home from hospital and she looked pretty shook up.
"What do you think, Trid?" Madonna asked quietly and everyone stopped eating their dinner and looked at Astrid.
"It makes me nervous, the thought of him being in the same room as you." Astrid said quietly, meeting Madonna's eyes, looking worried.
"There would be guards. He couldn't do anything to me."
"It's too late for that. He already has. Why don't you show them the bruises on your ribs, mom?" Astrid said and Madonna frowned.
"I don't think that will help." She replied quietly.
"I saw them. I walked past your room this morning and saw them." Tears slipped down Astrid's cheeks. "I always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Baby, I'm sorry." Madonna looked horrified.
"How bad is it?" Lourdes asked, looking at Madonna.
"He kicked the shit out of her. It's bad." Astrid said.
"Language!" Madonna motioned to David and Mercy.
"We go to school mom, everyone swears." David said.
"I don't want to hear you swear. Just because everyone is doing something, doesn't make it right."
"You are divorcing him, though, right?" Rocco said and Madonna nodded straight away.
"Why do you need to talk to him?" Mercy asked in barely a whisper, looking nervous.
"I want to ask him why he treated me the way he did." Madonna said softly.
"Because he is a coward and a jerk." Gabriel said bitterly.
"Gabriel. Please." Madonna said, trying to sound firm, wincing slightly because her ribs hurt.
"You're still in pain, aren't you?" Gabriel said more softly.
"I have tablets." Madonna said, carefully avoiding a direct answer. She looked around the table. "I know you probably think I'm nuts or unhinged, or whatever...but I need answers from Lars. I need to sit and have a conversation with him and get some things cleared up. For my peace of mind."
"We don't think you're nuts." David said and Madonna smiled briefly at him.
"I don't have to see Lars after this, unless it's with lawyers present when we divorce. And I will have bodyguards with me also." Madonna said, looking around the table, in her attempt at reassuring them.
"Will it make you feel better, do you think? How ever he tried to explain himself or justify it?" Lourdes asked Madonna.
"I don't know about better. But I am hoping it will be a small weight off my shoulders." Madonna replied.
"The police have guns and tasers and stuff, anyway, don't they?" Rocco said and Madonna nodded.
"He would probably be behind a screen too."
"I really don't understand your need to do this mom." Gabriel sighed heavily.
"Ok, I respect that, Gabe. I thought it would just be best to tell you all. I didn't want you to think I was going behind your backs."
"He can be very charming though." Astrid said, looking worried.
Madonna shook her head. "Not this time, Trid. He doesn't hold any charm for me anymore." She said, surprised at how hard her voice hurt, and how much it hurt her inside to even say that.
Madonna went up to Astrid's room after dinner and found her lying on her stomach reading a book.
"What are you reading?"
"I have no idea." Astrid put the book down and sat up and Madonna realised she'd been staring at it, not reading it.
"Trid, if you don't want me to go, I won't."
"You're putting this whole decision on me?" Astrid asked, frowning.
"No. And I am sorry that you saw Lars beating me. And my bruises - "
"Mom, stop. Stop apologising for things that aren't your fault." Astrid said, sounding frustrated.
"It is a little. It's my job to protect you, Trid."
"I'm an adult. Elodie asked me ages ago, when Beyonce's tour finished to move in with her."
"That's great!" Madonna smiled, a hand on her ribs because they hurt when she moved a certain way.
"I can't leave right now. You need all the support you can get." Astrid said, looking at Madonna's hand on her ribs.
"Trid, I have plenty of support. I know you will be there for me, and I don't expect you to put your life on hold for me." Madonna replied. "I've seen the way you and Elodie are around each other, you have to seize happiness and don't let go of it, ok?" Tears formed in her eyes.
Astrid nodded. "I want to hug you, but you're in pain."
"This side hurts less." Madonna said and Astrid hugged her. Madonna pulled her in as close as was comfortable. "I'm proud of you."
"Why?" Astrid held Madonna's arms and frowned.
"Because you must have been so scared, but you managed to call the boys. And the emergency services. That was very brave of you."
"I should have tried to stop him." Astrid whispered and Madonna shook her head, smoothing hair behind Astrid's ears.
"No, you shouldn't have. He would have hurt you."
"I thought he was going to hurt Rocco."
"Me too. Even though he hurt me pretty bad, I was more scared he would hurt one of you." Madonna said, sniffing as tears ran down her cheeks. "I am so sorry for putting you in that situation..."
"Oh, mom. I'm just glad you're alright." Astrid said, hugging Madonna and feeling her tears run down her sweater.
End of Part 15...
There was a sharp intake of breath when Madonna walked into the room and saw Lars. He still managed to look god-like in an orange jump-suit, although he was sat back casually in his chair as though he didn't care he was in jail. His blonde hair was down and messy and he had two day stubble, but he didn't look angry. Lars looked at Madonna with his piercing blue eyes and he had an expression on his face that Madonna couldn't read, which put her on edge a little. Four guards were in all corners of the room and a couple of Madonna's bodyguards were waiting outside the room.
"Hi." Madonna said, not knowing quite where to start.
"Hi. How are your ribs?" Lars spoke calmly, clasping his hands together on the table, leaning forward slightly. His expression was now more readable - it was or concern or worry and regret.
"They're healing. Painful."
"I broke them." Lars sat back, wrenching both hands through his hair. "I am so sorry M..." He sighed.
"It's - it's kind of redundant, you saying sorry now, Lars. You've said it so many times, it has no meaning." Madonna said quietly.
"I never meant to hurt you as much as I did, M. What ever you think."
"You beat the shit out of me!" Madonna hissed, leaning across the table and frowning. There was no screen between them and they had the room to themselves, save for the guards, who stared straight ahead and pretended not to hear. "Astrid saw everything! That poor girl is traumatised!"
Lars swallowed a lump in his throat, looking at Madonna with watery eyes. "Would she come and see me, do you think?"
"She was nervous enough about me being in the same room as you. And she wanted me to show the others these bruises." Madonna lifted her top and Lars gasped. The bruises were big and such a deep purple they were nearly black.
"Should you even be walking around? Doesn't it hurt?" Lars asked and Madonna shrugged.
"Probably not. But I needed to come here and talk to you. I feel like there is a weight on my shoulders I need to get rid of."
"Did you show them the bruises?"
"No. I didn't want to frighten them. Astrid only saw them by mistake, she was passing my room when I was changing."
"I really lost it, M." Lars placed both hands on either side of his head.
"Why? Why were you always hurting me?" Madonna asked, frowning. "I want to understand - no, I need to understand why."
"Because I was insecure and jealous."
"You always seemed pretty sure of yourself to me."
"I didn't like the fact that men openly flirt with you and you flirt back. You're my wife." Lars said, almost aggressively.
"Lars, you flirted with women too and they flirted with you. I never saw it as a reason or excuse to hit you." Madonna replied.
"Obviously you are more secure than I am."
"I get jealous too, actually. I just try not to let it hurt me so much. At the end of the day, no matter the fact that we are both flirts, we love each other. I would never have gone further than flirting with anyone, because I love you so much."
"All I can do is say I'm sorry. I know it doesn't mean much to you anymore, but I can't take back what I've done."
"You nearly hit my son. You nearly hit Rocco. If Gabriel hadn't - would you have hit him? Honestly?" Madonna asked and Lars looked at her for what felt like several agonising minutes.
"Yes. I would have. I was so angry, I wasn't thinking straight." Lars said calmly.
"Oh my god. Oh my god." Madonna got up so quickly, she nearly knocked the chair over and turned her back to Lars.
Both the guards on her side of the room looked at each other, then Madonna.
"I haven't finished yet." Madonna said, looking at them both, then turning back around and sitting down, facing Lars. If it wasn't for her badly bruised ribs, she might have lunged across the table at him herself. "I let a man back into my life who would have hit my teenage son. What was I thinking?" She felt disgusted with herself.
"M, I think I need help." Lars said quietly. "I get so angry and I can't control myself - "
Madonna slammed both her fists down on the table so hard, it made Lars jump and all four guards were surprised such a small, slight woman had that strength.
"Damn straight you need help, you fucking psychopath!! You nearly hit a child!" Madonna screamed, then sat back and clutched her ribs, wincing and gasping for breath.
"Are you alright?" Lars asked and Madonna nodded, holding a finger up to silence him while she got her breath back.
"M'am, can I get you anything?" One of the guards asked.
"Water would be great thanks." Madonna looked up at him, then coughed a little.
"I was trying to say I think I need help. Professional help." Lars said.
"If I had suggested that to you before - I can't remember if I was ever stupid enough too, then you would have beat me into next week." Madonna replied, glaring at him.
"I know. But you would have been right." Lars said quietly.
The guard returned and placed a plastic cup of water in front of Madonna and a plastic jug on the table. "In case you need more." He said, closing the door behind him.
"Thank you." Madonna smiled, looking at him gratefully.
"Is Rocco alright?" Lars asked and Madonna was surprised at the sound of genuine concern in his voice.
"Yes, I think so. Like I said, Astrid is traumatised. Gabriel is angry. Lola, Rocco, David and Mercy are being very supportive to them and me."
"I can't believe this is happening...I don't want to have to divorce you again. I guess this is what I get for not learning my lesson enough the first time around." Madonna said, her voice wobbling a bit. She sounded in danger of crying, even though she was trying her best to hold it together.
"None of this is your fault, M. It's all my fault. I should have gone to therapy or anger management or something years and years ago." Lars admitted.
"I would have supported you, Lars. And it's not weakness to ask for help." Madonna said, looking at him and feeling pity. She almost wanted to reach out and hold him, but he did still scare her also. Conflicting feelings were weighing her down.
"I'm surprised to hear you say that. Aside from therapy, you never ask for help." Lars said softly.
Madonna shrugged. "I'm naturally independant, I guess. And lucky enough to have friends and family in my life whom offer support when they can see I need it, because I'm too proud to ask."
"I'll give you everything you want, M. In the divorce." Lars said. "It's the least you deserve."
"That's the problem, Lars. You think everything can be solved with money and material things. I didn't need presents from you. I needed you to love yourself enough that you would not beat me. Because I know you love me. Despite all that, I could still feel it." Madonna said, never taking her eyes from Lars, and he felt a rush of love for her that almost moved him to tears.
"You never liked that necklace, did you?" He smiled and she shook her head.
"I couldn't tell you. I knew it would make me sound ungrateful and cause a huge row. I was never ungrateful for anything you gave me. The guitar was something I loved the most, because it was a more personal present - something you had made for me and knew I would love." Madonna replied.
"I thought...if I bought you presents...it would make up for the way I was with you." Lars said quietly and Madonna nodded.
"I know, Lars. But it doesn't work like that. And that necklace made me feel like I was your trophy to be paraded around. It made me feel so uncomfortable." Madonna said.
"Auction it off. For your charity - Raising Malawi. It's worth a lot, I think it would generate a lot of interest." Lars suggested. "You can do that with every present I have given you, if it makes you feel uncomfortable."
"That's actually a really good idea. Not the guitar though. I do love that."
"If it reminds me of you and it's too painful, I wouldn't be offended." Lars said quietly.
"Lars, I don't want to wipe away every single memory I have with you. They aren't all bad. I have some really beautiful memories of us." Madonna said.
"So do I. I can't believe I let a woman like you get away. Again."
"I wanted to say sorry if I ever gave you reasons to be angry. I know I have flaws too, Lars."
"You sound like one of those abused women who will make excuses till the end of eternity for the reasons they were hurt. And I made you that way. Something I deeply regret." Lars said and tears escaped his eyes. Madonna couldn't recall if she'd ever seen him cry before. He looked so vulnerable and she felt a tug at her heart.
"We can't go back to what we were. Make no mistake Lars, this isn't easy for me, even if you think it might be." Madonna said, staring at him, really studying his face.
"I never thought it would be." Lars replied. "Can I ask you something?"
"Do you still love me?"
"Lars..." Madonna sighed, sitting back.
"M. Please." Lars looked desperate for an answer.
"Why do you think this is so incredibly hard for me? But you have crossed a line and there is no going back."
"You can't say it, can you?" Lars said softly and Madonna shook her head. "Then I won't torture you any more."
"I'm posting your bail."
"Why would you do that?"
"You can't get help in here."
"What did the children say?"
"I didn't tell them."
"M, you don't have too."
"I know." Madonna stood up. "I have one condition. I don't want you to come anywhere near me or the children."
"Done." Lars said. He looked troubled.
"Promise me you will get help."
"Thank you M." Lars said, looking up at Madonna.
She nodded, then left, feeling much lighter than when she'd gone in the room.
End of Part 16...
"DiMaggio! DiMaggio! DiMaggio!" Gabriel's friends chanted in the crowd, then others caught on and also started chanting it.
Madonna was watching Gabriel's baseball game with all her children and they started chanting the nickname he'd earned due to his baseball skills. It was his dream to play for the New York Yankees when he'd finished school and maybe college. Gabriel was very talented and athletic. There were several girls in the bleachers watching, trying to catch his eye, but he only had eyes for the game when he was playing, he was incredibly focused.
"We all know that Lars is out." Lourdes leaned in and whispered to Madonna, when the chanting had died down and Madonna looked at her.
"I bailed him out. On the condition he stays away from me and you guys." Madonna replied.
"He needs help. With his anger issues."
"Aren't you scared he might come after you?" Lourdes looked concerned.
"I really don't think he will." Madonna replied, looking back across the field at Gabriel. "Are you all mad at me?"
"No. Just worried."
"I think Lars will stay away."
"You are too trusting, mom." Lourdes said, sighing. "How are your ribs?"
"Still a bit sore. I have tablets to take when it gets too much. They hurt when I lie down, so clearly rest isn't always all that..." Madonna smiled at Lourdes who snorted and rolled her eyes.
"Tough. You have to rest."
"Yes mom." Madonna joked. "I'm surprised Gabriel hasn't got angry that I bailed Lars out."
"I think he is ready to defend you again if he has too." Lourdes replied.
"Hopefully it won't come to that." Madonna said, her eyes getting watery.
"G is a fucking beast on that field!" Rocco said from the other side and Lourdes looked amused when Madonna scolded him.
"Mom, we do hear it all in school, you know, if it's for our benefit." David said, as Mercy also looked round and smiled.
"I know, but there is no need for it. I don't want to hear you talking like that."
"Sorry." Rocco said. "But G is really kicking as - butt out there."
"He sure is." Madonna said, feeling proud as she watched Gabriel play and the crowd started chanting 'DiMaggio' once more.
After the game, Madonna took them all out for dinner as a treat and they were talking and laughing and to onlookers they looked like any regular happy family. No one mentioned Lars or Madonna bailing him out, much to her relief. It was late when they got home and they all went to their own rooms. Madonna knocked on Gabriel's door.
"You were really something on that field today. I'm really proud of you Gabe." Madonna said, closing the door behind her and going to sit on the bed.
"Thanks mom." Gabriel smiled.
"I came to see if you wanted to talk about me bailing Lars out."
"Mom, I don't understand why you bailed him out. But I'm not angry. I guess you've had enough of people being angry at you." Gabriel replied and Madonna nodded.
"Yes, I have." She said. "I told him he needed to get help for his anger issues and he agreed with me."
"Do you think I need help for mine?"
"I don't think you have anger issues, Gabe. You are just protective of me and passionate. Have you ever hit a girl?"
"Have you ever wanted to hit a girl?"
"Then you aren't like Lars in that way." Madonna replied. "You are charming like him, and handsome. And your temper probably comes from us both." Madonna smiled and Gabriel laughed.
"Yeah, I guess."
"Get some sleep, Gabe." Madonna kissed his forehead and left the room. She nearly bumped into Astrid and gasped.
Ever since she'd been little, Astrid had the most beautiful pure blonde hair and she had always had it cascading down her back like a waterfall. But it was gone. Completely. Astrid hadn't just had it cut, she'd had it shaved off, so all that remained was bright blonde stubble. It made her face look sharper, but she was still completely stunning.
"What have you done to your hair?" Madonna asked, looking shocked.
Astrid laughed. "It's just hair, mom. It will grow back. I didn't want it anymore. It reminded me of him."
"You did this because of Lars?"
"Mainly. But it was actually kind of liberating."
"Is that why you didn't come to the baseball match? You were slashing your hair off?" Madonna looked almost upset.
"I didn't do this myself. I had it done professionally. I genuinely forgot. I was just going to say sorry to Gabriel."
"Are you mad mom?"
"No." Madonna said. "Just...it's such a radical change. It will take some getting used too."
"Elodie shaved all hers off too."
"Wow." Madonna said. "So, she liked yours tha much?"
"Yeah. We both wanted a change."
"Fair enough. Goodnight baby." Madonna said, kissing Astrid and Astrid hugged her.
"I love you mom." She said, kissing Madonna and heading to Gabriel's room.
Madonna went to her room and got ready for bed. Even though Lars had been gone a while now, she still missed sharing a bed with him. It felt too big and empty on her own. Madonna got back out of bed and went to Lars' closet. She took out one of his shirts and got back in bed, clutching it to her face, to smell his natural scent. It was soon growing wet with her tears, and though she knew she was making it harder for herself, she couldn't help it. Madonna lay with her eyes open, clutching the shirt closer and closer to her, until she eventually fell into a sleep plagued with troubled dreams about Lars.
End of Part 17...
Elodie helped Astrid move the last of her stuff into a removal van and Astrid went over to Madonna.
"Don't you dare start crying mom!" Astrid said, pointing a finger at Madonna, even though she was smiling.
"They are tears of happiness." Madonna replied, smiling as they slid down her cheeks.
"Are you absolutely sure you don't mind me going? I could stay a bit longer if you like. I don't like the idea of dad being out there." Astrid said, looking concerned.
"I want you to go, Trid. You have your own life now, you're an adult. I wish I could keep you all here for ever, but I wouldn't have done my job right as a mother. Go spread your wings." Madonna said, squeezing Astrid's arms. She couldn't help but keep looking at her very closely cropped hair.
"Part of spreading my wings." Astrid said, running a hand over her hair, looking amused. "It will grow back."
"She inspired me to do mine." Elodie said, setting a box down.
"It really suits you both." Madonna replied.
"You know we'll probably be back here, hanging out, between all our projects." Elodie said, to set Madonna's mind at rest a little.
"Both of you are welcome here any time of day or night."
"Thanks mom." Astrid hugged Madonna and kissed her cheek.
"I promise to take really good care of her." Elodie said and Madonna nodded.
The girls grabbed the box and the last of the bags and left the house, closing the door behind them. Madonna had been helping them at lunch time and grabbed a salad and drink in between taking things downstairs and now she had to get back to work.
Madonna had only been back at work for an hour or so, when Lars called her.
"Uh, hi, how are you?" Madonna cringed, not knowing how to talk to him now, because he felt like a stranger.
"Ok. How are your ribs?" Lars asked.
"Healing." Madonna lifted up her top and had a look at the bruises. They were changing colours now, not nearly as dark as they had been, although they still looked awful.
"Good. I was calling to ask when would be a good time for me to start moving my stuff out?"
"Oh, um I hadn't thought about that. Trid moved out today. Her and Elodie have their own place."
"That's good. I bet you are devastated though." Lars said and Madonna was a little taken aback at how well he knew her.
"Yeah. I wish I could keep them all for ever. I wish they would need me."
"M, they'll always need you, you're their mother. Just in different ways." Lars replied.
"You're right. At least I stil have four at home." Madonna said in an attempt to cheer herself up.
"I guess you could get your things any time during the day. When I'm at work and the children are at school. You know our schedules pretty much."
"Yes I do."
"Do you mind me asking, where are you staying?" Madonna drank some of her coffee and sat back in her chair.
"The apartment above the gallery."
"Good. I didn't like the thought of you staying in some hotel." Madonna practically breathed a sigh of relief.
"After everything I put you through, M, I am amazed you care. I wouldn't blame you if you didn't."
"I'm not that kind of person, Lars. I loved you for years and years of my life. I can't just suddenly stop caring." Madonna said in a soft, quiet voice.
"That was always one of the qualities I loved about you, M. Your big heart."
Madonna closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Lars. I don't want to do this now. Not over the phone."
"Sorry. I know you said you don't want me near the children, but would you mind if I called Astrid? And Gabriel?" Lars asked, sounding hopeful.
"I think you'll get a barage of abuse from Gabriel and Astrid will probably hang up on you. But you can try."
"Whatever they say or don't say, I will deserve. I just want Astrid to know that I don't blame her for making a statement."
"Well that is big of you, Lars." Madonna said, unable to resist being icy. "Of course she isn't to blame. She was a witness. And even though I'm not a fan of violence, the boys were well within their right to do what they did."
"I know." Lars replied. "I wish there was something I could do to make it up to them. To make it up to you."
"Stay away." Madonna said and hung up, suddenly tired of talking to him. She opened her desk drawer and found some bourbon in it and laced her coffee with a little. Madonna drank it and frowned, feeling angry and felt the overwhelming urge of wanting to hit Lars for screwing her up so badly.
End of Part 18...
This fiction follows on from Inside Out, which was the sequel to Beautiful Cracked Painting. To prevent any confusion, the last chapter of Inside Out said that Madonna was starting her Rebel Heart tour in January of 2016, so the start of this fiction is set during the last few shows in July of 2016.
"We could stay here after the tour for a bit longer...have another honeymoon. After getting married again." Madonna smiled, skipping her fingers over Lars' bare chest in bed and he looked down at her, his handsome face clouded by a slight frown.
"No, we have to go back to New York City, M. I have to work too. Your job isn't the most important out of ours." Lars replied and Madonna sighed.
"That isn't to say we won't be going on a second honeymoon." Lars said and there was the slightest sign of hope in Madonna's disappointed face.
"Are you doing another show like Tears of a Clown?" Lars asked.
"Did you like it?"
"You didn't like it."
"Do you automatically want me to like everything you do?" Lars raised his eyebrows and Madonna shook her head.
"Of course not. I would rather you be honest. It was a one off show anyway."
"Clowns kind of freak me out." Lars said and Madonna looked surprised.
"I didn't know that about you."
"I think you made it slightly better. I've never seen a clown with such a great ass." Lars said, leaning over and smiling before he kissed Madonna and she laughed.
"There's only two more shows here, two in Brisbane and two in Sydney and then you can take my great ass home." Madonna said.
"Good, I'm tired of sharing you with everyone." Lars said, kissing Madonna hard.
"I like it when you get possesive." Madonna said, smirking, though truthfully he was sometimes a bit full-on. "Talking of sharing me, I have to go work out."
"It's your day off!"
"There is no such thing as a day off. You should know that by now, baby." Madonna kissed Lars. "We can go out later."
Lars clenched his jaw and his brilliant blue eyes were like chips of ice for a moment. "Ok." He said and watched her get out of bed and leave the room.
After her second show in Melbourne, Madonna was disappointed for a split second that Lars wasn't backstage, but he didn't go to all of her shows. He was an art dealer and could still work from anywhere, even though he preferred to work in NYC. Adrenaline and the infectious energy of her dancers kept Madonna smiling and in high spirits for a while. She got into her car and was driven back to her hotel. The first thing she did when she got in was checked on all of her sleeping children, looking at each of them fondly. Then she went to find Lars. He was sat at a desk on his laptop and didn't look up when Madonna walked into the room.
"Baby, I thought you were going to meet me after the show this evening."
"I do have things to do." Lars said calmly and Madonna chewed her lip.
"If there's something you want to say to me, just say it."
Lars got up from his chair and walked towards Madonna. "I want you to tone the last few shows down."
"I've done racier shows on tour than this one in the past."
"I don't like those dancers having their hands all over you."
"Lars, they are just my dancers. I love you. Why don't you trust me?"
"It isn't you I don't trust."
"Do you really think any of them would be stupid enough to try anything with me, with you here?"
"I don't know. You spend a lot of time together."
"Not for much longer." Madonna replied. "Look, can I have a shower first, then we can talk some more? I'm really sweaty and feel a bit gross."
Madonna peeled off her clothes and went to have a shower, thinking she would feel nice and refreshed before she continued to talk to Lars. But a few minutes later, he stripped off and got in the shower with her.
"What are you doing?"
"Showering with you." Lars said in a smart ass way and Madonna tried not to smile.
"You're impossible sometimes." Madonna turned her back on him and Lars wrapped his arms around her, kissing her shoulder.
"So are you M." He whispered. "Let me help you." Lars lathered up expensive soap, rubbing his hands along her arms, over her chest and stomach and down her legs - kneeling while he done so. Madonna tried not to wince as he ran his hands over bruises he'd given her.
Lars had been wonderful for so long, but since the tour had started, he'd started going back to his old ways of hurting Madonna. It was mainly down to jealousy of the male dancers. Behind closed doors, out of sight of the children, Lars had hit Madonna several times, pushed her into a wall and kicked her. It was easy during tour time to lie and say they were from accidents she kept having and no one really noticed or batted an eyelid. The fact that Lars was charming would make it hard for people to believe he could be violent anymore.
"Are you alright?" Lars asked, standing back up and holding Madonna.
"Yeah, I'm just tired."
"You need to eat first."
"I'm not sure I can." Madonna said, stepping out of the shower and drying herself with a towel.
"M. You can't come back after every show and not eat." Lars said firmly.
"I waited up for you."
"You didn't meet me."
"I'm sorry I am not as perfect as those guys you dance with." Lars said, throwing his hands up as he turned the shower off and grabbed a towel.
"Dancing is all I do with them." Madonna pointed out and Lars glared at her.
"It better be...otherwise..." Lars grabbed Madonna's throat and pushed her into the wall. All she could do was look at him and he let go, smoothing a cheek. "I know you wouldn't be that stupid."
"I love you." Madonna said, as she coughed, rubbing her throat and frowned at Lars. He smiled almost triumphantly and left her alone.
End of Part 1...
"I have to leave soon, Mom. I'm flying to Barcelona to meet Elodie." Astrid said, looking at her watch as she ate breakfast.
"I though you were coming to the party tonight." Madonna said, looking a little disappointed that her daughter wouldn't be at the end of tour party.
"Mom, I want too, but I haven't seen Elodie for a while and I miss her." Astrid said, referring to her girlfriend, who was currently in Spain, dancing in Beyonce's Formation Tour.
"I know, Trid. Go have fun. You both deserve it." Madonna smiled.
Elodie and Astrid had been together since school and now they'd left and both gone on to become dancers. Elodie had done the choreography for Beyonce's Lemonade film and her Fourmation Tour, which she was also a dancer in. She was into fitness and had plans to become a personal trainer also. Astrid done modelling as well as dancing. She had various other skills she incorporated into dancing - she'd done rhythmic gymnastics and been a majorette in school and trained on a pole and as an aerialist. They were a very talented and ambitious couple that fully supported each other and barely argued. Madonna and Lars were very proud of them both, treating Elodie like she was part of the family.
"Thanks mom. Have fun!" Astrid kissed Madonna's cheek and grabbed her bags.
"Call me when you arrive in Spain."
"Yeah." Astrid said and kissed Lars on the cheek as he entered the room. "Bye dad, off to Spain."
"Have fun." Lars said, smiling as he sat down.
"Do you want a coffee?"
"Please." He watched her pour one for him, then thanked her and looked up. "I was thinking I won't come to the party tonight."
"Oh. How come?" Madonna asked.
"I want you to have a good time with your dancers and the crew."
"And you think I wouldn't with you?"
Lars laughed. "No. You know I get jeaous of the dancers. Besides I can pick you up, if you call me later or get someone to call me."
"Are you sure? I could just not go and stay in with you."
"As tempting as that sounds, you can't not go to your own party, M." Lars smiled
"Ok. If you're sure." Madonna said, kissing him. "I will probably be very drunk. Sorry in advance." She said and he laughed again.
"That's fine. You work hard enough."
In the early hours of the following morning, Lars picked up a very very drunk Madonna. She lay across the backseat on her side, talking nonsense and Lars adjusted the rearview mirror to look at her and answered her now and then. He helped her up to the hotel room and she had an arm draped around him as he helped her to their room.
"I am soooooo in the mood right now..." Madonna said, slurring her words, after Lars had closed the door and she started unbuttoning his shirt.
"And soooooo drunk." Lars looked amused, as he quickly held on to Madonna, to stop her from falling over.
"Are you telling me you don't want this?" Madonna continued slurring her words, as she struggled to pull the dress up over her head and Lars laughed, helping her out of it. She was completely naked and he raised his eyebrows.
"That's very tempting. But I think you need to drink some water and sleep this off, we have a flight to catch at midday tomorrow." Lars replied. "Let me get you one of my shirts. Sit on the bed."
Madonna sat on the bed, swaying on the spot while Lars fetched a shirt. She pulled him down onto the bed and kissed him, climbing on top of him. Lars grabbed Madonna and pushed her face-down onto the bed and she smiled back over her shoulder at him for a second. He took her from behind in a very rough way, pinning her wrists down, ignoring her when she cried out in pain.
"Don't pretend you didn't want this." Lars whispered in her ear.
"You're hurting me!" Madonna replied, her eyes wide with fear as she looked back at him.
Lars grabbed a handful of her hair and forced her face down, not quite on the bed and at one point she bit the pillow to stop herself from crying right out and waking up the children.
After he left the bedroom and went to get a drink and she was curled up sobbing on her own.
On the plane home, Madonna sat next to Lars and watched him sleeping. He looked so peaceful and handsome, like an angel taking a nap with his blonde hair. It was a private plane, which was a good thing, because the children were pretty lively. Mercy was dancing around and David, Rocco and Gabriel were listening to music, playing air guitar and messing around.
Lars stirred and opened his eyes, smiling at Madonna. "Hey. I must have fell asleep." He said and she just looked at him. "What's wrong? You have been quiet all morning."
"What about it?"
Madonna looked around, to make sure none of the children were in earshot, then back at Lars. "You know what. I was vulnerable. How could you?"
"You were up for it last night. Don't make me out to be the bad guy. You can't wind a man up like that and not follow through." Lars said quietly.
"I was drunk!" Madonna whispered fiercely.
"Keep your voice down." Lars said in a warning tone.
Madonna got up and Lars looked up at her. "Where are you going?"
"To sit with the children."
"M, don't make a big deal out of this."
"I need some space. You hurt me." Madonna whispered.
Lars pulled her hand, jerking Madonna back down so she sat next to him. "I didn't mean too. You know you drive me crazy, M." He said, touching her cheek as he kissed her and Madonna started to feel the anger disappear.
"I think a honeymoon might make up for it." She replied, tilting her chin up defiantly.
"Yeah, I'll get on that when we get home." Lars replied, thinking he'd got round her.
End of Part 2...
Madonna bolted through the field on her horse, feeling like the weight of touring and Lars being difficult had been lifted and like she could breathe again. The wind whipped past her face and she smiled, totally refreshed and happy at the thought of seeing Lourdes later. She rode for a good few hours and when she arrived back at the stables and jumped down from her horse, Lourdes was stood leaning against the stall.
"I've never seen you ride that fast, mom. It looks like fun." Lourdes smiled and Madonna let go of the rein of her horse and went over to her daughter and gave her a big, tight hug.
"Oh, I missed you so much!" Madonna said.
"Me too, but I kinda need to breathe." Lourdes said, as Madonna held her arms and they both laughed.
"How about I take you to lunch? Are you free now?"
"Yes, I am."
"I need to change first."
"I wasn't planning on eating with you all sweaty and stuff." Lourdes teased and Madonna smiled.
Madonna's bodyguards accompanied them, one of them driving them back to Madonna's place. She went to have a shower and get changed, while Lourdes put some makeup on and done her hair, then they went back out. Madonna let Lourdes choose where they went and they ended up at a fashionable new restaurant that served Latin American street food.
"I love the campaign you're working on with Stella." Madonna said, when their food arrived and they started eating.
"You've seen it?" Lourdes sounded surprised.
"Yes, she sent me pictures and videos. I'm so proud of you, Lola." Madonna said, looking at her daughter like a proud mother. Lourdes blushed a little and smiled.
"Thanks. I enjoyed doing it." Lourdes replied. "You look really well mom. I take it things with Lars are still going really well?" She half asked and Madonna nodded straight away.
"Yes. He was really supportive during the tour." Madonna lied, trying to push the memories of him hurting her out of her head.
"That's good. I thought Trid might have joined us...?" Lourdes half asked.
"She left before the end of the tour to meet Elodie in Spain."
"Oh yeah, Beyonce's tour." Lourdes said, remembering.
"It's so nice to actually eat something decent in daylight hours." Madonna said, groaning with satisfaction as she ate and Lourdes laughed.
"I don't know how you do it mom, I would want to kill someone not eating much all day." Lourdes said, looking at Madonna with admiration.
Madonna laughed. "Years of practise, baby. Where are you staying now? You're back in the city to stay, aren't you?" She asked and Lourdes nodded.
"Yeah, I'm staying here. With friends at the moment. Looking for a project to work on. They're all artists of some kind, which is cool. We might collaborate on something soon." Lourdes replied, drinking some juice.
"You seem really happy Lola."
"I am. College was great for a while, but it just wasn't me."
"You remind me of myself at your age. Restless."
"Yeah, that was exactly how I felt. Like I just wanted to start living." Lourdes said, looking thoughtful.
Madonna looked at Lourdes and imagined telling her that Lars was hurting her again, as Lourdes continued to talk in an animated way, smiling and looking happy. But she didn't want to burden anyone with her problems. Madonna smiled and nodded and replied in all the right places, just happy to be in the company of her eldest child.
Lars arrived home really late from work and Madonna was fast asleep. He was very quiet when he stripped off and put on a pair of pyjama bottoms and carefully got into bed.
"Hey...you're late." Madonna said sleepily, as she turned to face Lars, opening her eyes.
"I didn't mean to wake you."
"I hadn't been asleep that long."
"M, I have something for you."
"Oh...?" Madonna sat up, wide awake now.
"Close your eyes and put your hands out." Lars said, switching on the bedroom light.
Madonna done what he said and Lars put something heavy in both her hands. "Open them." He said.
"Wow! Oh my god!" Madonna looked at a beautiful shiny black guitar. It had 'rebel heart' carved in swirly white writing with little hearts around it on the front, and a constellation of stars in white on the back of it, and little clusters of white stars and hearts going up the back of the neck.
"Do you recognise the constellation on the back?" Lars asked and Madonna shook her head.
"No. What is it?"
"It's the Leo constellation."
Madonna smoothed her fingers over the white carvings, taking time to admire the work that had gone into them.
"I am speechless." A smile spread across her face and she looked at Lars.
"One of the people who bought some art from me recently not only makes guitars, but customises them. I had this specially made for you, M because I know how much you love music and playing your guitars. I wanted you to have a really beautiful one to play." Lars said quietly.
"This is so beautiful, Lars." Madonna held the back of his neck and pulled him in for a kiss.
"I'm glad you like it."
"May I ask why though? My birthday was a while ago now."
"Because I haven't been supportive enough when you were on tour. I was a prick to be honest. I know I can't take that back, but this is my way of apologising." Lars said, kissing Madonna's cheek and holding her.
"Thank you. It's the best apology I've ever had." Madonna smiled, looking from the guitar to Lars.
End of Part 3...
Lars pinned Madonna's wrists down to the bed on either side of her head. She arched her back, moving her pelvis up towards him and groaned when he rode her even harder, grinding her down to the bed hard. A bead of sweat dripped down between her breasts and Lars licked it up to the base of her neck, which he kissed and it send a shiver right the way down her spine. He let go of her wrists and she brushed his jaw with her fingertips and kissed him so softly, it made Lars slow down his aggressive pace. When she kissed him like that, so full of tenderness, it made him ache for Madonna all the more. She let go of his jaw and Lars leaned fowards and kissed her neck softly and nibbled her ear. Madonna ran her hands up and down his back, then pressed them down on his shoulders. Lars buried his face into her neck, taking in her natural scent and Madonna scraped her nails across his shoulders. He groaned into her neck when he got to the point of no return and she cried out. Lars lay on top of Madonna for several long minutes after, while they both got their breath back. Madonna liked how heavy Lars felt on top of her, it made her feel safe and secure.
"I missed you when you were on tour." Lars said, lying alongside Madonna, smoothing hair away from her face.
Even though Lars had gone with Madonna, they hadn't really had any time to be intimate and they both usually had pretty high sex drives.
"I missed you too. I would rather have stayed in bed with you then done cardio some days." Madonna said and Lars laughed, his bright blue eyes glittering.
"I would have been tougher on you than your trainer." Lars said, kissing Madonna and she smiled, chewing her lower lip.
"Mmm. I know." Madonna said, sitting up and stretching.
Lars watched her, then ran his fingers up her spine, wrapping his arms around Madonna and massaging a breast as he kissed her neck. She looked over her shoulder at Lars and kissed him.
"I have to get ready for work. I want to use that beautiful guitar you bought me." Madonna said and Lars rubbed his nose against hers.
"I'm so glad you like it."
"Like it? I love it." Madonna said with gusto.
"Good." Lars kissed her temple. "I hope I get a private concert soon. Not costumes necessary." He whispered in her ear and Madonna laughed.
"I'll see what I can do." She got out of bed and headed for the shower, still smiling.
"I can film this for Elodie, if you guys want to watch Astrid properly." Lourdes said, waving her phone.
"Do you mind?" Lars asked and Lourdes shook her head.
"Of course not."
"Thank you baby." Madonna kissed her cheek.
Astird wanted to add more to her dancing game than rhythmic gymnastics, majorette skills, pole dancing and arealist skills, so she had been taking trapeze lessons for a while now. She had choreographed a piece with the girl who had been training her - Natalie and they would perform a flying trapeze routine mixed with Astrid doing her own thing also. Elodie has asked Astrid to get someone to film it and send it to her, because she couldn't be there in person to see the routine.
Lars and Madonna sat down and Lourdes got the camera up on her phone ready. The trapezes were pretty high up, but there was a net underneath, much to Madonna's relief.
Astrid walked across the room gracefully, with a perfect dancers poise and stood in front of them, smiling. She wore a flesh-coloured leotard with white swirls and swarovski swirls on it. Her blonde hair was up in a perfect bun and had a silver net over it. Another girl joined them, nowhere near as striking as Astrid, but with a similar lithe, powerful looking body, olive skin and black hair in a bun. She wore the same leotard as Astrid and had the same poise but wasn't quite as graceful when she walked.
"I'm glad you guys could make it. This is Natalie Russo, she has been teaching me the trapeze for quite a while now. We are going to do a routine I choreographed to Blue Jeans by Lana del Rey. I hope you enjoy it. And mom, don't freak out, there is a net there." Astrid pointed to the net and Madonna tried not to smile, but nodded.
Both girls went to opposite ends of the gymnasium and climbed ladders, then swung the trapezes as they chalked their hands and rubbed them along the trapezes. Astrid and Natalie looked at each other and nodded and the music started. They both grabbed their trapezes and the routine started.
"Oh god, I can't watch!" Madonna covered her eyes.
"This is sick!" Lourdes said, looking at her sister with admiration. "Mom, watch it!"
"Trid won't fall." Lars said with absolute certainty.
Madonna looked at him, amazed at his faith in Astrid, then looked at her daughter. Astrid and Natalie were making the routine looke effortless, flying through the air, letting go of the trapeze, reaching out to grab each other. At one point Natalie stood high up on her platform, whilst Astrid done her solo piece, which she found easier due to her areal skills.
"She makes everything look so effortless, M. Just like you when you're on stage." Lars said quietly.
"Gross. Get a room." Lourdes whispered and both Madonna and Lars laughed.
When the routine ended, both girls climbed down their ladders and went over to their audience, who were clapping.
"That was incredible, Trid. I'm so proud of you." Lars said, hugging his daughter.
"I'm glad you didn't fall." Madonna said and Astrid rolled her eyes.
"I did in practise. That net is a lot of fun to fall onto though. Like a trampoline. Hey - maybe I'll take up trampolining next!" Astrid said and Madonna put a hand on her chest.
"Are you trying to give me a heart attack, girl?!"
"No, I love dancing so much and I like all the extra skills I have. It keeps it fresh and interesting for me. Like you mom - when you say you like reworking your songs for your tours, I like mixing it up in my routines." Astrid pointed out and Madonna nodded.
"Fair enough. That was amazing." She finally smiled and Astrid looked relieved.
"Mom, I think you should put it on Instagram if I send it to you." Lourdes said and Astrid looked at her sister and smiled.
"Sure." Madonna said. She looked at Natalie. "Thank you for taking care of her."
"Astrid is a natural. One of the fastest learners I have ever worked with." Natalie said, smiling. "It's a pleasure working with her."
"Ok, ok, enough gushing - can we all go eat? I'm starving!" Astrid said.
"Do you want to join us Natalie?" Madonna asked.
"If that's alright."
"It is." Madonna said, looking down at her phone, to upload the video to Instagram.
"We're just gonna get showered and changed." Astrid said and she left with Natalie.
"You can relax now mom." Lourdes said. "She didn't fall."
"Wait until you're a mother and your children want to be daredevils. Then you will know how I feel." Madonna tried not to smile as she pointed a finger at Lourdes, who waved her hand dismissively.
End of Part 4...
Madonna watched Lars serve a lone female customer from the back. She'd slipped in through the back to surprise Lars, because he had been working so hard lately, and they didn't get to see a lot of each other during the week. Madonna frowned, feeling pangs of jealousy when she saw the woman openly flirt with her husband and Lars was smiling, clearly enjoying the attention.
"I think I shall be coming back here to purchase more of your pieces." The woman said in a plummy English accent, touching his forearm, which Madonna felt was a little much.
"Be sure to tell all your friends about my gallery." Lars replied, giving her a Hollywood-esque smile.
"Of course darling. Good evening." She said, turning to go.
"Good evening Mrs Dune." Lars said and waited until she had left, then flipped the sign to closed and turned around to face Madonna standing with her hands on her hips.
"Oh, darling I will be back to purchase more of these fabulous pieces of yours!" Madonna said in a mock plummy English accent, sticking her nose up in a haughty way and Lars laughed.
"That sounds like jealousy to me."
"Do I need to be jealous?" Madonna folded her arms.
"M, she had a face like a horse. Seriously?" Lars replied and Madonna laughed. "You're so sexy when you are jealous." He pulled her arms apart and slipped his arms around her waist, cinching her to him.
"It makes a change for it to be me being jealous." Madonna said, instantly regretting it when Lars let go of her and slapped her across the face. He did it with such force that she stumbled back a few steps.
"There was no need for that."
"I - I'm sorry. I didn't mean..." Madonna stammered, then trailed off. She rubbed her cheek, holding it with both hands.
"Let's not forget who it was out of us that cheated."
"That was in the past." Madonna said softly. "I wouldn't do that to you again."
"Why did you come here anyway?"
"Because I miss you. We both work so much in the week, we don't get to see much of each other." Madonna replied.
"You're right. I'm sorry M. I didn't mean to hit you. What you said was a bit below the belt."
"Sorry." Madonna said.
"Let's go and get a drink." Lars said. "A nice hot chocolate somewhere?" He suggested and Madonna nodded.
The following evening Lars and Madonna both finished work early and had dinner with the children. It was unusual for them to both be present at dinner, so David, Mercy, Gabriel, Rocco and Astrid were all talking over each other and multiple conversations were going on. Lourdes was also there, looking amused at the chaos. At one point when Astrid stopped talking, she noticed the faint mark on Madonna's cheek and looked at Lars, who was laughing at something Gabriel was saying. She also noticed when Madonna joined the conversation that Lars pretty much shot her down.
"Hey, Lola, do you want to see some new dances I've put on my laptop?" Astrid asked, when they'd finished eating.#
"Sure." Lourdes said, following Astrid up to her room.
Astrid closed the door and sat next to Lourdes on her bed. Lourdes frowned.
"Are you ok Trid? You look kind of spooked."
"I think dad hit mom."
"Why would you think that?"
"I spotted a mark on her cheek at dinner."
"Have they been arguing?"
"Not that I've noticed."
"Maybe mom genuinely had an accident." Lourdes suggested. "After all the talking us around she and Lars did when they got back together, do you think mom would stay with him if he hurt her?"
Astrid shrugged. "Mom stayed with dad for years before."
"After the tour I expect mom is still exhausted, even though she wouldn't admit it. It could be a genuine accident."
"Mom had a lot of injuries during the tour - bruises and scrapes and stuff." Astrid said, looking worried.
"That's pretty standard, Trid, you know that."
"What about the way he shot her down at dinner?"
"Lars is just like that." Lourdes shrugged and Astrid sighed. "Look, if you are worried I can drop by more regularly - come to dinner and stuff and keep an eye on them."
"Yes. That would ge great." Astrid looked a little more relieved.
"Did you really have some new dances to show me?" Lourdes asked. She was proud of her sister and loved watching her dances.
"Actually I do." Astrid said, smiling a little and Lourdes sat closer to her and they both watched the new videos on Astri's YouTube channel.
End of Part 5...
Madonna and Lars were getting ready to go to a film premiere that evening. They hadn't been to any public events for quite some time before her Rebel Heart tour. Usually they went out for meals, or to the theatre or art showings from friends of Lars - very low-key events.
"You look so handsome." Madonna said, smiling as she stood up and straightened up the white bow tie on his tuxedo suit, then kissed him.
"Thank you." Lars smiled back at her. "This dress is..." He looked down at Madonna.
She wore a long, black, strapless bustier dress. It was very elegant and her hair was pinned up, a few tendrils hanging loose to soften the look. Her makeup was subtle, save for red lipstick and she wore small dangly silver earrings and a few delicate silver bracelets on the same wrist as her Kabbalah bracelet. Madonna wore black satin heels that gave her a little height, but she was still smaller than Lars.
"Is it ok?" Madonna asked, when Lars didn't finish his sentence and smoothed her dress, looking down at it.
"Incredible, M." Lars said, gasping as he held her waist.
"I wasn't sure about it." Madonna said, looking up at Lars. In truth, she had been worried he wouldn't like it. He seemed to be very outspoken about what she wore when they went out lately, and Madonna had even had to change a few times.
"It's perfect and shows your figure off." Lars replied. "I have just the thing to make it pop even more."
Madonna frowned. "Lars, you don't have to keep buying me things." Just please stop hitting me and kicking me and hurting me in general, she thought.
"I love buying you things, M. You deserve nice things." Lars replied. "Sit down." Madonna sat on the stool in front of her dresser. "Close your eyes." He said and Madonna did, then felt something cold and almost heavy being placed around her neck. "Open them." Lars said quietly and when she did open her eyes, Madonna looked shocked. Lars had had a replica made of the huge diamond bib necklace Nicole Kidman had worn in the film Moulin Rouge. Madonna's hand shook as she touched it, then looked up at Lars.
"Say something." Lars said.
"Oh, Lars, it is so very beautiful! It must have been so expensive though." Madonna looked at her reflection, taking her fingers away from it.
"Nothing is too expensive for you, M."
Madonna stood up and turned to face Lars. "It's breath-taking. Thank you my darling." She held his cheeks and kissed him.
"You are most welcome M." He smiled handsomely, looking at his watch. "Are you ready?"
They went downstairs and Astrid looked up from her laptop, her eyes nearly popping out of her head.
"Whoa mom! That necklace is stunning!"
"I want one, it's sparkly!" Mercy said, smiling.
Madonna laughed. "It would be too heavy for you, sweetie. Maybe I will have a much smaller one made for you." She kissed the top of Mercy's head. "Thanks Trid."
"You definitely have great taste, dad. Maybe I could point you in the direction of some jewellery for my birthday?" Astrid half asked, half joked and Lars nodded, smiling.
"Sure. I like spoiling my women."
"We need to get going." Madonna said, after she'd kissed Astrid as well.
"Don't stay up too late." Madonna said and Mercy nodded and Astrid rolled her eyes.
On the red carpet Madonna and Lars looked like the perfect sort of couple everyone would be jealous of. They held hands walking down the carpet and Lars had an arm loosely around Madonna's waist when they stopped to pose for pictures. Both of them smiled and they spent quite some time posing when the paparazzi spotted Madonna's necklace. It secretly made her feel uncomfortable and the necklace felt cold and heavy on her chest. It was ostentatious and she wished he hadn't had it made for her. By the time they were inside and seated, Madonna breathed a sigh of relief.
"Are you ok?" Lars whispered, leaning in to her and Madonna nodded.
"Yes. It just gets a bit boring, standing around having my picture taken for so long."
"I expect the necklace was the reason for that this evening." Lars said.
"It is so beautiful. I love it." Madonna lied with convincing passion, wondering how much of a beating she would take for a present so large.
"Good. It's just as exquisite as you." Lars said and it made Madonna cringe inwardly, and feel like she was his trophy.
"Baby, stop." She said softly, pretending to be coy as Lars took her hand and kissed it. "Everyone that comes into the studio has been admiring my guitar." Madonna said and Lars smiled. "It's like having a part of you at work." She kissed him and he looked pleased.
Madonna was relieved when the film started and a hush descended over the audience. She really had to think about how she spoke to Lars, because if she said anything he viewed as being wrong, it would result in his temper flaring up and her being physically hurt.
She pushed everything from her mind and watched the film, which was long at two and a half hours. Lars put his hand on her knee, over her dress and squeezed it. A smile formed on Madonna's face, but she didn't look at him.
"Let's go straight home. You look so hot. I don't want to share you with anyone else." Lars whispered in her ear and Madonna nodded.
It was dark when they arrived home and they went into the kitchen from the garage door. Lars grabbed Madonna, hitching her dress up, a hand between her legs. Even though it was sudden and unexpected, she was ready for him and placed both hands on the kitchen table as he undone her belt and trousers with his other hand. Madonna gasped loudly, then groaned when he replaced his fingers with his dick inside her and thrust hard, his hands squeezing her bum, pulling her cheeks apart so it hurt. Shivers of pleasure ran down Madonna's back and her skin felt clammy with perspiration. Her breasts were almost spilling out of the top of her dress and she pushed her bum back towards Lars when he let go of it and gave it a slap so hard that it stung.
"Baby..." Madonna moaned, half looking over her shoulder at Lars to let him know he was hurting her, but he just thought she was enjoying it.
Lars reached up and pulled her breasts free from her dress, kissing the diamond necklace on her neck. Madonna reached up and hooked one arm around the back of his neck, closing her eyes and delighting in the pain he was inflicting on her. She couldn't help it, it just felt so good, the rush of endorphins. Her nipples were so hard and he pulled them and she whimpered. Lars licked one of her ears and thrust so hard that Madonna's hands slipped along the table and she had to grab the edges and hold on to them until her knuckles were white. Lars ripped the dress clean off Madonna, hurting her in the process, so she wore just the necklace and her heels.
He gave one last thrust that was so hard it felt like she was going to be ripped in two. He pinned her wrists to the table so hard, they felt hot like they were being burned. Madonna cried out and clenched Lars inside her and she felt his grip loosen on her wrists and he eventually let go of her.
"I liked that dress." Madonna picked up the pieces of her dress and shoved it in the bin.
"I'll get you a new one." Lars said, pulling his trousers up and doing up his belt.
"Lars, you don't have too." Madonna replied, smiling.
"Damn. All you need is a smile, that necklace and those heels." Lars held Madonna's waist, looking down at her breasts as he pressed his forehead to hers. He scooped her up in his arms and carried her up to bed.
After they'd got ready for bed, Lars was the first to fall asleep. Madonna watched him sleeping and frowned slightly. She'd had a really good evening, sex included althought it was as painful and pleasureable. The necklace as beautiful as it was had been far too much. When it was heavy it made her feel like she belonged to him and it made her feel more than uneasy.
End of Part 6...
After Lars had gone to work and the nannies took the children to school, Madonna sat in her room at her dressing table, carefully running her fingertips over the extravagent necklace she wore the previous night. It was on a bust jewellery stand, spread out in all its glory. The necklace was beautiful, but Madonna remembered how cold and heavy it felt to wear. She had felt even more like a trophy that belonged to Lars, and the attention it had attracted had made her cringe inside.
"Holy crap! That necklace mom!" Lourdes stood in the doorway.
"I didn't realise you were here." Madonna said, jumping, but quickly smiling.
"I was just in my way out." Lourdes said, turning to show her backback slung over one shoulder. She walked into the room and sat on the bed. "Mom? Are you ok? Is everything going well with...Lars?"
"Why wouldn't it be?" Madonna said a little sharply, frowning at Lourdes.
"The necklace is a little...much. Don't you think?" Lourdes said, motioning to it. "Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful, but I bet it made you feel uncomfortable wearing it. And it's all people are talking about online - more than the film premiere or even who else was on the red carpet."
"Really?" Madonna looked horrified. "Show me!"
"Mom, I don't think you want to see what people are saying, you know how some of them hate as a sport - " Lourdes started, but Madonna grabbed her phone from her hands and scrolled through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
"Wow." Madonna's eyes widened. "I wasn't trying to be the center of attention or take anything away from the film. I wore it because Lars was generous enough to have it made for me."
"I know. Do you know how much it's worth?" Lourdes asked, taking her phone back and shoving it in her bag and Madonna shook her head. "Three million dollars."
All the colour drained from Madonna's face and she ran a hand through her hair, sighing. "I could hardly not wear it."
"Why? What would happen if you didn't wear it?" Lourdes asked suspiciously.
"Nothing. It would have been rude, Lola, to not wear something so beautiful that Lars had made for me." Madonna said calmly. "Everything is perfectly fine with Lars and I."
"Astrid said she saw a mark on your cheek at dinner a few nights ago. She's worried about you mom." Lourdes replied and Madonna worked so hard to not move a single muscle in her face.
"I'm still exhausted from the tour, I keep having stupid little accidents." Madonna said calmly. "Do you think the same?"
"No, I just said what you said - that you are probably still tired from the tour."
"Maybe I should talk to Trid." Madonna said, chewing her lower lip.
"No, don't. She'll know I told you."
"I have to go, I'm meeting some friends. See you soon mom." Lourdes kissed her cheek.
"I love you baby." Madonna said, kissing Lourdes' cheek.
"Love you mom!" Lourdes' voice trailed after her, when she was halfway to the stairs.
Madonna sighed, hoping that Lourdes had put Astrid's mind at rest. She couldn't have any of the children finding out Lars was hurting her again, especially not after all the talking round she'd had to do.
Lars swam lengths in their pool late that evening and Madonna walked in and sat on the side, watching him. His body looked so graceful yet powerful and he seemed to glide through the water like he was part fish.
"Why don't you come in? The water is warm." Lars said, leaning his arms on the side when he spotted Madonna, but she shook her head.
"I'm not a strong swimmer like you."
"So? It's not a competition." Lars smiled.
"I prefer watching you." Madonna put a towel on the side and rolled her trousers up, dipping her feet in.
"Is everything ok? You seem a bit...down."
"Post-tour blues." Madonna said, a small smile forming. "It'll pass."
"If you swam some lengths it might make you feel better..." Lars said in a sing-song voice, as he done the back stroke, swimming away smiling at Madonna.
"A holiday?" Lars swam back towards her.
Madonna shook her head. "Nuh-uh." She pulled her hair back into a messy ponytail. "We both need to get back into work."
"Because touring is a break for you...?" Lars joked and Madonna tried not to laugh.
"You know what I mean."
"I'm not sure I do, but if you come here you can tell me..." Before Madonna could answer, Lars grabbed her wrists and pulled her fully-clothed into the pool. She struggled when she first went under water, until he pulled her up.
"What the hell are you doing?! I said I didn't want to come in!" Madonna spluttered. "Why don't you ever listen to me?" She yelled as Lars let go of her wrists and she splashed him, swimming off in the direction of the steps.
"Don't talk to me like that! I was just trying to put a smile on your face!" Lars said, going after Madonna, putting an arm around her waist as she turned to face him.
"By trying to drown me?"
"Stop being such a drama queen. I pulled you into a pool. I didn't hold you under." Lars said, holding her waist.
"It was a shock. You wouldn't like it if I pulled you in here fully clothed." Madonna said and Lars nodded.
"I guess not." Lars kissed Madonna and she found it hard not to smile. "I just wanted to see that smile..." He said and continued to kiss her neck.
"You can't get around me that easily..." Madonna said, but moaned softly.
"Did you really like the necklace?" Lars asked, looking at her like a hopeful child.
"Yes, of course I did. It's stunning. Why do you ask?"
"No reason." Lars lied and Madonna wondered whether he'd seen the scathing comments on social media.
Madonna held both his cheeks in her hands. "It's the best present anyone has ever given me." She said, secretly surprised at how convincing she sounded. Lars smiled, looking very handsome. "But you don't have to get anything for me for a while. It must have cost a lot." She said and his face fell. Before Lars could react, Madonna swam over to the steps and got out of the pool. Lars wasn't far behind her and he grabbed Madonna and slammed her into the wall, pinning her wrists out at the sides.
"What does it matter how much it cost? You ungrateful little bitch!"
"Lars - please - you're hurting me!" Madonna squirmed, starting to feel cold now she was out of the water.
"I am grateful! I was just saying that it must have been expensive, so you don't have to get anything for a while." Madonna replied and Lars let go of her wrists. She rubbed them, looking at him.
"Most wives would love to have a husband who gets them gifts."
"I do, it's just you don't have to buy me things to show me how much you love me." Madonna said.
"I like getting you presents though. I can't believe we are arguing over this."
"Lars, I didn't want an argument. I was just saying."
"I'm going to bed." Lars grabbed a towel and wiped his face.
"Lars!" Madonna went to follow him and he grabbed her jaw, looking directly into her eyes and squeezed it. When he let go, he stormed off and left her rubbing her jaw.
End of Part 7...
Madonna arrived home after a good morning session at the studio, hurrying to the kitchen to pick up some lunch and head back to eat it at work. Lars was sitting slumped over his laptop at the breakfast bar.
"Baby? What's wrong?" Madonna touched his shoulder, frowning.
"I just feel a bit rough, that's all. It's nothing." Lars sat up. He looked pale with dark under his eyes, hair working loose from his ponytail and his clothes looked rumpled. It was so unlike Lars, who usually looked immaculate.
"You haven't been to work, have you?"
"I did, but then I left Pierre in charge and decided to work from here." Lars replied. "How come you're home?"
"I forgot lunch. Listen, let me take you to the doctor, Lars. You look really rough."
"Gee M, you know how to make a guy feel better!" Lars said sarcatically, but grinned after he coughed.
"I wasn't insulting you, I just worry about you."
"I'm not going to the doctor. I hate going to the doctors."
"They will probably give you some antibiotics." Madonna said.
"If I lie down for a bit, I will be fine." Lars got up and nearly passed out, but Madonna grabbed him, struggling to hold him up with both hands. He grabbed the counter as well and smiled sleepily at her. "Then again, it couldn't hurt to go to the doctor, could it?" He said and Madonna shook her head. She helped him through to the garage and Lars sat in the passenger seat.
"Are you sure you don't want to lie across the back?" Madonna asked and Lars shook his head.
"No. If I fall asleep, I might be out for hours."
"Ok." Madonna fished her car keys out of her bag and they left the garage.
They were quiet for the first few minutes or so, with Madonna looking at Lars every few minutes to make sure he didn't pass out.
"When did you start feeling like this?"
"To be honest, when I got up. Not quite as bad, I thought I would be ok at work. But I got worse."
"Do you want me to come in to the doctor with you?"
"That's sweet of you M, but I can go in on my own."
"I can have lunch at home and stay with you this afternoon."
"If you want to go back to work, I'm not going to hold it against you." Lars replied, looking at her.
That would be a first, Madonna thought, but smiled. "I would rather look after you."
"Thank you." Lars said, resting his head against the window and sighing.
Lars was told he had a virus and given antibiotics and Madonna took him home and he went straight to bed. She had lunch and called the studio to let them know she wouldn't be returning for a few days. When he woke up, Madonna was sat next to him.
"What is that smell?"
"Tomato fennel soup from that place you like near your gallery."
"You went out especially to get it?" Lars sat up and Madonna nodded. "I would kiss you, but I don't want you to get ill and look this crappy." He said motioning to himself and Madonna laughed.
"You don't look crappy."
"Just pale and tired, with dark under my eyes and messy hair."
"But you're rocking that look." Madonna joked and Lars laughed, taking the bowl of soup and starting to eat it.
"That's good." Lars said, looking grateful. "Look M, I'm sorry."
"For what?" Madonna frowned.
"Being such an ass when you told me I don't have to buy you gifts. I flew off the handle and there wasn't any reason too."
Madonna shrugged. "Water under the bridge." She said, a slight knot in her stomach.
"I like buying you things, but I could lay off it for a while." Lars said, blowing the soup on his spoon and eating it.
"I hate seeing you like this." Madonna said, smoothing his hair back and kissing his forehead.
"Antibiotics and my own Florence Nightingale and I shall be well soon." Lars half smiled.
"I'll have someone bring my guitar from the studio and sing you to sleep too." Madonna joked and Lars laughed, though it resulted in a bit of a coughing fit.
"Don't make me laugh. It hurts."
"I can't promise anything." Madonna replied and Lars smiled at her.
"I don't deserve you."
"Yeah you do."
End of Part 8...
"I think you should go and watch Astrid perform tomorrow night." Lars said, looking at Madonna, who was sat on her knees next to the bath he was lying back in. "I think Elodie is due back today, so you could go with her."
"But I feel mean leaving you here on your own." Madonna said, looking worried. It might be the sort of excuse he would find at a later time to hurt her.
"I won't be alone. We have quite a few children, you know." Lars smiled weakly.
"Do you feel any better?" Madonna asked.
Lars rolled his eyes and groaned. "Not enough to come and see Astrid."
"I didn't mean it like that. I love you and I don't like seeing you ill." Madonna replied, reaching out and cupping one of his cheeks in her hand. Lars moved his face into her hand, clearly liking the affection.
"Oh. I'm sorry." He looked at her with those piercing blue eyes of his that she always found disarming.
"It's fine. I can film it on my phone for you it you like."
Lars shook his head. "No thank you. I think that annoys Trid as much as it annoys you when you perform. Watch with your eyes, enjoy it. Astrid is always performing, there will be plenty of other opportunities for me to come."
"Yes, you're right." Madonna kissed his forehead very tenderly.
They heard a door slam downstairs and a lot of girly screams, squeals and laughter. Madonna and Lars looked at each other.
"What was that?" Lars frowned.
"I think Elodie. You know how crazy Astrid is about her. I'll tell them to keep it down." Madonna stood up and Lars took her hand, looking up at her.
"Don't. They aren't bothering anyone."
"Don't you have a nap to get too after this bath?" Madonna said with her hands on her hips, when Lars let go of her hand.
He smiled. "You look so sexy when you're telling me off." Lars laughed. "Yeah, they might have calmed down by then. I'm fine here."
"I'll be right back." Madonna said, going downstairs to see what all the commotion was.
"Mom, look who is home!" Astrid said, motioning to Elodie and she couldn't smile enough.
"Hey M. Sorry about the noise. We're so excited to see each other." Elodie said, also smiling. She seemed to be more confident since working with Beyonce. When Madonna had first me Elodie she was pretty shy, but seemed to have come out of her shell.
"Hi Elodie, it's so nice to see you. How was touring with Beyonce?"
"Ah-mazing! I want to do more choreography for sure. But I can't wait to see Trid on a trapeze tomorrow evening, that video you sent me was dope." Elodie replied.
"Next time I tour, I want you girls to do my choreo. With all your skills combined, it would be incredible." Madonna said.
Astrid and Elodie looked at each other and squealed, jumping up and down holding each other.
"Trid, your dad isn't very well, as you know. I appreciate you girls are excited to see each other, but can you please keep the noise down?" Madonna asked firmly.
"Oh, I'm so sorry M." Elodie said, looking serious for a minute.
"It's ok, I'm taking this one out for dinner." Astrid said taking Elodie's hand.
"Ok, well you girls have fun." Madonna said and she smiled at their high energy as they left. She went back up to find Lars just getting into bed. "It was Elodie."
"I figured." Lars smiled.
"They're so good together." Madonna said and Lars nodded.
"Like us." Lars said, watching Madonna get ready for bed and she smiled, nodding at him.
No, better she thought.
A week later Lars was better. It was like the minute he was better, he started on Madonna. She'd told him about a special one off show she was doing in a show in Miami at Art Basel in a couple of months time to raise money for Raising Malawi.
"Another clown show? Really?"
"I enjoy doing them and you don't have to come!" Madonna said a little too sharply.
"Oh, so you don't want me there!"
"That's not what I said. Don't twist what I am saying, Lars - it's not fair." Madonna said loudly, her voice faltering.
"What is not fair is that your career comes above everything."
"It does not."
"Are you that blind or just in denial? Because it really does." Lars said in a tone that insinuated he thought she was stupid.
"Lars, it's for charity. You realise you are arguing with me over ONE show for CHARITY."
"Don't talk to me like I'm the idiot."
"Oh no, because I clearly am the stupid one out of the pair of us, for thinking you would support me!" Madonna said and Lars slapped her across the face.
"Talk to me like that again." Lars said in a low, menacing tone, his eyes chips of ice. "I dare you." He said, taking steps towards her, so she felt intimidated.
Madonna stood with a hand on her cheek, looking at him with fearful eyes. She let go of it and straightened herself up. "We would only be staying in Miami for a few days, if that. Hell, it could just be one night. We could fly back here as soon as I come off stage, if that's what you would prefer."
"I don't dislike Miami."
"Just the fact I'm doing a show there."
"M, you have not long completed a tour."
"That doesn't mean I'm going to put my feet up and do nothing."
"Has it ever occured to you that I get frustrated and angry, because I worry YOU are overdoing it?" Lars asked quietly and Madonna looked taken aback.
"Well I do."
"That's really sweet of you. But it's just one night. For charity."
"We could do with a break."
"I could make sure you do take a break."
"Please come, baby. If you needed to go halfway across America to sell art, you know I would come with you if you wanted me too." Madonna said softly and Lars gritted his teeth, then smiled.
"I'll take you up on that."
End of Part 9...
"Madonna, it's been a while. I was starting to worry about you." Dr Gold said, the moment Madonna sat on the sofa opposite her.
"Sorry Alicia, I've been exhausted since the tour ended." Madonna lied, although from the slight flush in her cheeks, the doctor knew she was lying and arched an eyebrow.
Dr Gold had been Madonna's therapist for over twenty seven years now. She was a few years older than Madonna, with hair in varying shades of grey that she wore in a loose bun at the nape of of her neck and big, brown warm eyes. They were on first name terms and the atmosphere was always relaxed - Madonna could tell her anything. Dr Gold had helped Madonna as much as she could the first time she'd been married to Lars.
"I was starting to think Lars had talked you out of coming back to see me." Dr Gold said, pen poised over her notepad.
"No. Not at all."
"Does he know you're here?" Dr Gold asked and Madonna nodded.
"Yes. I don't think he was entirely happy, but I told him therapy has helped me a lot over the years."
"I will agree there." Dr Gold smiled a little, scribbling away in her notepad. "And how are things between you and Lars?"
"Good, I guess." Madonna twirled a strand of hair around her finger.
"You don't sound totally sure." Dr Gold said, looking up at Madonna and waiting patiently.
"I'm doing a show in Miami for charity - a one off show. Another clown themed one. Lars isn't too keen on me doing it." Madonna sighed.
"Because you haven't long since finished touring?" Dr Gold suggested and Madonna nodded.
"We were arguing and Lars said has it ever occured to me that he worries I am overdoing it."
Dr Gold looked thoughtful for a moment or two. "He might have a point."
"You're agreeing with the man who cancelled my therapy sessions?" Madonna frowned a little, but also smiled.
"Not entirely. But I do know what a workaholic you are, Madonna." Dr Gold replied, writing some more in her notepad. "Are you sure it will just be the one show?"
"Yes. It's for charity, that's why I got annoyed with him and we argued."
"Does it scare you when you argue?" Dr Gold looked directly at Madonna, who shifted a little, feeling uncomfortable.
"I - I don't know what you mean." She replied in a small voice.
"Madonna. I know every singled thing that Lars has ever done to you. I have all my old notes in your file. Do you want me to get them and - "
"No!" Madonna held both her hands up defensively. "No. Please." She lowered her hands and closed her eyes. "It does scare me when we argue."
Dr Gold wrote some notes. "Has he hit you?"
"Since the tour." Madonna said, swallowing a lump in her throat. "I guess you think I'm stupid now. To believe he could change."
"No I don't at all. Do you think he really did change, or it was all an act?" Dr Gold asked calmly.
"He really did change. Even Lars couldn't act that well. It just makes me kind of sad that he's back to his old ways." Madonna sighed. "During the tour, it was easy to come up with lies for the scrapes and bruises."
"It must be hard now." Dr Gold said softly and Madonna nodded.
"Lola told me that Astrid is suspicious of Lars again."
"Do you know what you are going to do yet?" Dr Gold asked and Madonna shrugged.
"I have no idea. I love him. I can handle Lars."
"What if one of your children saw him hurt you?" Dr Gold asked.
"Lars is cleverer than that. He doesn it when no one is around, not even a member of our staff." Madonna rubbed the back of her neck. "What would you do?"
"If I were in your situation?" Dr Gold asked.
"Honestly, Madonna, I have no idea."
"Bullshit." Madonna said and Dr Gold tried not to laugh.
"It wouldn't be professional of me to influence your decisions with regards to your marriage. I'm sorry." Dr Gold said and Madonna nodded, looking away and biting her thumbnail.
"Are you going to be rehearsing the entire time we are here?" Lars moaned at Madonna, when they met up for lunch.
They had decided to spend a bit more time in Miami, because she wanted to rehearse and he was getting restless already.
"The show has to be just right. We can stay for a while after and enjoy Miami."
"I have to get back to New York City. I need to work too."
"But you can work anywhere."
"M, why couldn't you have done the show back home instead?"
"I'm not doing it to be difficult, Lars." Madonna frowned. "I thought we agreed this would be a nice little break?" She half asked.
"Then we'll get home and you will want a honeymoon...I know you M, and you can't stay still!"
"We don't have to take a honeymoon yet. Hell, this can count as one if it suits you, Lars. I'm sick of arguing about the same thing over and over."
"So am I."
"If you want to go home, just go."
"And have you moan I don't support you when you return? No thanks."
"I wouldn't moan. You came with me on tour and I thought you were very supportive." Madonna replied. When you weren't adding to my bruise collection, she thought.
They both fell silent when a waiter set their order in front of them, until he had left them.
"No more shows for a while after this?" Lars placed a hand over Madonna's on the table, holding it hard.
"No more shows." Madonna said and he let go of her hand. "I know you don't like the whole clown theme, so if you don't want to come..."
"I will come. I want to donate too."
"You don't have to - "
"I want to." Lars replied and when Madonna smiled, he did too. This time he held her hand without trying to crush it.
End of Part 10...
"M? Are you ok in there? Do you want me to get you anything?" Carlos knocked on the bathroom door.
Madonna had locked herself in there and was doing a pregnancy test, waiting to see if she was pregnant. She paced up and down in front of the marble counter and stopped to look in the mirror. She lifted up her vest top and smoothed a hand in a circular motion on her stomach. Madonna frowned, thinking she definitely looked softer.
"Go back to bed Carlos, I'm fine!" Madonna called out, her voice faltering a little.
On the other side of the door, Carlos rolled his eyes, sighing and got back into bed. Madonna looked at the door listening to him move, then looked back at the test. She was pregnant. Madonna didn't know whether to laugh or cry, feel happy or down. She was dealing with a lot of things emotionally at the moment, was due in court in a couple of weeks and wasn't sure she could cope with pregnancy hormones on top of all of that.
Quickly Madonna snapped out of the daze she was in and wiped tears from her eyes. She grabbed a wad of tissued and placed the test between them, then put them in the bin, putting existing rubbish on top. Madonna ran the cold water and splashed some on her face. After composing herself, she unlocked the door and walked back into the room, acting as casual as possible, even though her heart felt like it was hammering inside. Madonna climbed into bed and Carlos looked at her.
"Is everything ok M? You're acting a bit..."
"Yeah. I couldn't sleep. I was just seeing if there was anything I could take." Madonna replied.
"Ok." Carlos wrapped his arms around Madonna, pulling her in closer to him. He knew she was lying, because not long ago she'd wanted to throw the contents of the medicine cabinet in the bin, so there was no way all of a sudden that she wanted to take anything.
The following morning the nanny took Lourdes to school, because Carlos had an early training session at the gym and Madonna was also going to work. Carlos had just finished breakfast and went up to the bedroom, when he stood in the doorway and watched Madonna struggle with a pair of trousers, groaning when they wouldn't do up.
"Goddamnit!" Madonna looked annoyed, pulling them down and throwing them on the floor. She opened her closet and sifted through her clothes.
"Everything ok M?" Carlos walked into the room and Madonna turned around, frowning slightly.
"You made me jump."
Carlos picked Madonna's trousers up off the floor and handed them to her. Madonna took them, looking at him.
"I think they must have shrank in the wash."
"M I think you have a big enough wardrobe that one pair of trousers being too small isn't a problem." Carlos said softly, smiling and Madonna laughed.
"I guess you're right. I think I'll wear a dress instead." Madonna was careful to turn her back to Carlos and take her top off, then quickly pull on a black dress with white polka dots.
"You look great." Carlos said and Madonna managed a small smile. He was a little disappointed she didn't tell him she was pregnant and left for work.
Madonna had even lied about going to work, she had an appointment with her doctor, to confirm she was pregnant. When she got hom she changed into an old pair of joggers and a vest, along with a chunky cardigan and thick pair of socks, because she was cold. Madonna had literally just pulled her long hair back into a messy ponytail, when she had to rush to the toilet to be sick. She spent a portion of the morning there, then went down to the lounge with her laptop and a glass of water and decided to catch up on her emails, which always mounted up no matter how often she kept on top of them.
"Hey." Carlos walked into the room with a brown paper bag.
"I thought you were at work." Madonna said.
"And I thought you were at work." Carlos sat next to her on the sofa.
"I went to the doctors."
"So are you pregnant?"
"Did you find the test?"
"No. I figured it out."
"This morning when you were having an argument with a pair of trousers."
"You did see that." Madonna blushed a little.
"When were you going to tell me?"
"Today when you got home from work."
"Aren't you happy M?" Carlos looked worried.
"I don't know what I feel. You know I love being a mother and Lola is the best thing that ever happened to us. I'm just beginning to deal with what happened to me. And I still have court. Extra hormones and me being more emotional is something I don't need right now. The timing sucks." Madonna sighed.
Carlos sat back on the sofa, draping an arm around Madonna's shoulders. "You aren't going through any of this alone, M. And you are the bravest, strongest woman I know. If anyone can get through this, it's you." He said, his face inches from hers.
"I'm tired of being brave and strong. It's exhausting." Madonna replied.
"M, you're just having a bad day."
"And I look like crap."
"No you don't. Just a little pale and tired." Carlos replied and Madonna was trying her hardest not to smile.
"What's in the bag?" She said, nodding towards the brown paper bag.
"Spicy ginger stem cookies - the kind you liked when you had morning sickness with Lola. I also got some coconut water, ginger tea and a big bottle of Mountain Dew, because I remembered you - "
Madonna silenced Carlos with a very long kiss. "You are so good to me. I can't believe you remembered all that. Most guys wouldn't." She said, pressing her forehead to his, looking into his eyes.
"I love you M. I just want you to feel good again." Carlos reached through her cardigan and placed a hand on the small swell of her stomach.
End of Part 17...
Madonna and Carlos agreed not to tell Lourdes she was pregnant until after court, because she might get excited and tell friends and teachers, which would result in it leaking out to the media one way or another. When she went out, Madonna was careful in what she wore, and when she didn't wear black she wore patterns that hid her soft stomach well. Luckily she wasn't that big, but she didn't go out too much and told no one else, not even her friends that she was pregnant yet. The only other person that Madonna told was Sachie, who smiled and said she'd guessed as much.
On the day she was due in court Madonna wore a smart black dress with a grey blazer that had black pinstripes and black heels. Her long wavy hair was down, but done in a softer style, not left to go wild like she usually wore it. Madonna wore a gold cross on a thin chain, small gold hoops and a few delicate gold bracelets on the same wrist as her Kabbalah bracelet. Her makeup was minimal and Madonna stared at her reflection in the mirror for a while, giving herself a pep talk in her head. She cupped her stomach in both hands, looking down at it.
"Be careful not to do that in court. It gives it away." Carlos said, standing behind Madonna, a hand on her shoulder.
"I can't help it." Madonna half smiled. "I'm so nervous." She closed her eyes.
"Remember what Sachie said, M. If you can tell us and the police, who were recording you - you'll be fine. And everyone in that court room will be on your side. You're the victim in all this, ok?" Carlos said. Madonna opened her eyes, looking up at him and nodded. "And when all of this is over, I'll be right by your side to help you deal with it. And we can tell Lola you're pregnant - think of how happy she will be. That's something to look forward too."
"You're right. I think she will make a great big sister." Madonna replied and Carlos smiled.
"She's certainly bossy enough." He joked and Madonna laughed.
"Are you ready?"
Sachie arrived wearing a sharp navy suit and looking like she was getting ready for war.
"I'm sorry I couldn't get the paparazzi to stay away from the courthouse." Sachie said, sighing as they arrived.
"But, there isn't a photographer in sight..." Carlos said, looking confused.
"It might have leaked that we would be arriving at the back entrance." Sachie smiled slyly.
"You're a genius, Sachie. Do you want to come and work for me in PR or be an assistant?" Madonna smiled.
"Tempting as that is, I love what I do. I spent many long hours and years studying hard to be a lawyer. But it's nice to know I have options if I ever do fancy a career change." Sachie replied.
"The door is always open."
"Let's get in there fast, before they realise they've been duped." Carlos said.
The three of them hurried up the steps, flanked by two bodyguards and were inside, before any of the paparazzi thought to go round to the front and see if they'd spot Madonna.
It was a very long day in court, and felt like the longest day of Madonna's life. When she took to the stand and made her statement, she remembered not to cup her stomach in her hands and find a spot to fixate on while she spoke. Not once did Madonna hesitate when she gave her statement, but her hands shook and tears ran down her face. She did make the mistake of looking at dark hair and blonde hair, whose names were Damien and Paul respectively and felt a cold shiver go down her spine. Judge Cartwright, the female presiding over the case was a very stern-faced woman, but this expression softened when she looked at Madonna, ans a few times she even told Madonna she could have a minute or two to compose herself if she needed it. Some of the women in the jury were dabbing at their eyes, finding it horrific what Madonna was saying, and the men on the jury were looking at Damien and Paul with total and utter disgust. There were witness statements from the bar where the party was held, and the hotel. Also CSI Oates and Dr Thompson were also called to the stand to give statements and answer questions.
The jury were gone for a while and Madonna felt very uneasy sitting next to Sachie. Carlos felt on edge for her to and wished he could go and sit with her and put his arm around her. When they returned, the jury said they found Damien and Paul guilty on all counts. Which was kidnap, rape, poisoning, theft, blackmail (the videos that they'd sent to Madonna. Those had been watched by the jury in a private room, as the Judge deemed them to delicate a piece of evidence to show the entire courtroom). Neither of the men would ever be coming out of prison. Madonna watched them both being taken down and felt such an overwhelming sense of relief, she cried even though she was smiling. Sachie looked very pleased as well, as she stood up. Madonna got up and hugged her lawyer, much to her surprise. Carlos went down to Madonna, smiling and he held her, kissing her cheek.
"It's over." He whispered in her ear. They both knew it wasn't completely, and that she still had issues - particularly trust ones to work on, but for the moment it felt good to celebrate something positive.
"I was so scared up there, I felt like I was going to pee my pants." Madonna whispered.
"M, you were amazing up there. I thought you might have needed a break once or twice, when the judge suggested it, but you powered through." Carlos kissed Madonna's temple, holding her. "Thank you thank you, thank you!" He said, looking at Sachie.
"A pleasure as always. Spoil your wife, she deserves it." Sachie said, smiling from Carlos to Madonna as she gathered her papers up and put them in her briefcase. "Wait for me in the foyer, I can get us out of here without being photographed again." She said and they both nodded.
"I hope she isn't going to be too long."
"Do you feel sick?"
Carlos produced a bottle of coconut water and a packet of ginger stem cookies from his bag and Madonna smiled.
"You're a lifesaver. Let's find somewhere to sit." She said and they ended up sitting outside the courtroom. After eating a couple of cookies and drinking some of the water, Madonna didn't feel as bad.
"Which entrance are we leaving by?" Carlos saked Sachie, as she joined them again.
"I'm ahead of you Carlos. The paparazzi are all camped out the front. So the back."
"This is almost too easy. How can they be so stupid?" Madonna asked.
"Let's go quickly, just in case." Carlos said and their two bodyguards met them and they did leave via the back entrance and drove home.
"I can't believe I've managed to go in court and come out without being photographed once." Madonna said.
Sachie smirked. "That's the first time I've ever called the bluff on them. I will have to remember for next time."
"Do you need to come back with us?"
"No. I will be in touch soon. Would it be possible for you to drop me off please?"
End of Part 18...
"Shall we tell Lola this evening? I was thinking of getting something nice for dinner and we could celebrate?" Carlos suggested.
"Mmm-hmm." Madonna said, staring into space.
"Are you ok? Don't take this the wrong way, but you look terrible." Carlos looked concerned and stopped putting things in his backpack for work and looked at Madonna.
She frowned, looking up at him. "How many ways are there to take 'you look terrible'? I had a weird dream about the guys who attacked me, then woke up and puked for like a half hour, so I'm sorry I look like this..." Madonna said, motioning to herself. Her messy hair was half up in a ponytail, she looked pale with dark under her eyes and she looked dishevelled in general.
"M, you know I didn't mean it like that." Carlos sighed.
"I don't magically feel great because I've been to court, Carlos. I did tell you that." Madonna said, getting up from the table and slamming her dirty dish in the washing up bowl.
"Hey, hey. M." Carlos stood behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders. "Talk to me."
Madonna turned around and faced Carlos, nearly in tears. "I'm not going to have any time to get over this, and now my body is changing and I can't cope with it. I'm not even going to get to feel good again, because I'm going to be fat!" Madonna wailed.
"M, you weren't that big with Lola. You still worked out and ate relatively healthy."
"God, Carlos, can you just fight with me when I'm trying to pick a fight?" Madonna rolled her eyes, sighing dramatically and Carlos laughed.
"I'm not biting."
"You're no fun." Madonna smirked.
"I can take some time off work and we can take Lola and go away for a while."
"As appealing as that sounds, I don't want too right now. I'm exhausted a lot lately, from all the sleep I've missed out on while the case was open. And I liked being only a drive away from Dr Goldstein at the moment. I know that makes me sound like a pussy, but I need her right now."
"It doesn't make you sound like a pussy at all. I understand, M. Why don't you go and catch up on some of that sleep now?" Carlos suggested, kissing her temple and Madonna nodded. "Are we still ok to tell Lola later?"
Madonna smiled. "Yes. I'm looking forward to telling her. And I will make more of an effort." She motioned to herself.
"If you feel really sick or need anything, call me M." Carlos said.
"Ok. Have a nice day." Madonna kissed Carlos and watched him go, then went back to bed.
Madonna looked better that evening, and more awake. She wore an apple green slip-style top, deep purple loose trousers and a thin beige cardigan. Her hair was in one long plait resting over one shoulder and she'd even put a little makeup on.
"Daddy said I can have cake and ice cream after dinner!" Lourdes said, while they were eating and Madonna laughed as Carlos smiled.
"I got that chocolate cake you like from Serendipity 3 and we can have it with ice cream or cream, after this." Carlos said.
"You remembered! Man, I'm going to have to work out so hard!" Madonna joked.
"Daddy said you both have something to tell me." Lourdes said and Madonna nodded. She placed her hand over Carlos' on the table.
"I'm pregnant, Lola. You are going to have a little brother or sister." They both looked at Lourdes expectantly.
Lourdes smiled and clapped her hands together. "Yay! Can I help name the baby?"
"Of course you can sweetheart." Madonna felt so happy her little girl was excited, like her heart might explode.
"If it's a baby girl you can't call her Blossom."
"Why not Lola?" Carlos asked.
"Because when I get a pony for my birthday I'm calling her Blossom."
"What if you get a boy pony?" Carlos asked and Madonna kicked him under the table, raising her eyebrows at him, as if to say 'don't encourage her.'
"I can call him Jasper." Lourdes said, looking serious while Madonna and Carlos tried not to laugh.
"Stop teasing her." Madonna whispered.
"Mommy, when am I getting a brother or sister? Can I have both?" Lourdes asked excitedly and Carlos laughed.
"In five months. And it will be a brother or a sister, Lola, not both." Madonna said, looking amused.
"Can we choose?"
"No, sorry sweetie."
Lourdes frowned. "Why does it take so long for a baby to come? It's only little."
"It takes a while to form inside me. I'll tell you in more detail when you're older." Madonna said and Lourdes nodded.
"Can I share a room with the baby?"
"For the first few months, or even maybe a year the baby will sleep with daddy and I, because he or she will be crying a lot. After we can put another bed in your room if you like."
"Yeah!" Lourdes smiled.
Carlos cleared away the plates and brought out plates with chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream. Within minutes Lourdes had chocolate and ice cream all around her mouth and both Carlos and Madonna laughed.
"You're supposed to eat it, Lola, not wear it."
Madonna waited until after they'd finished eating and wiped Lourdes' mouth with a cloth, then the little girl ran off to play.
"Mmm...you look so good." Carlos said, his hands on Madonna's waist in the kitchen.
"I'm not going to soon, if you keep feeding me so well..." Madonna joked.
"I can help you work out." Carlos said, kissing her neck and she smiled.
"Lola is just through there." Madonna said.
"We could put her to bed early and continue celebrating..." Carlos suggested, kissing her neck again.
Madonna held his cheeks, smiling. "Ok, but not this early. Let her food go down."
End of Part 19...
"Congratulations - on the baby and the verdict in court!" Dr Goldstein smiled when Madonna first sat in front of her.
Madonna smiled weakly. "Thank you."
"You look exhausted. I imagine you are feeling pretty overwhelmed right now." Dr Goldstein said and Madonna nodded and started to cry. Dr Goldstein handed her a box of tissues, then sat next to Madonna on the sofa, something she'd never done before.
"I should be happy, right? Those...animals went down and I'm going to have another child. I love being a mom." Madonna said, a hand on her stomach.
"I'm sensing a huge 'but' coming on." Dr Goldstein said.
"I am having a hard time letting go." Madonna said, chewing her lower lip.
"In what way?"
"Lately I've been having weird dreams. Last night I woke up in a cold sweat after dreaming I was stuck in a room with both of them. They were abusing me and I was trying to claw my way out - there were no doors or windows, just walls. Claustrophobic does not even begin to cover it." Madonna took a deep breath.
"Are the other dreams similar?" Dr Goldstein asked, scrbbling away in her notepad, then looking up at Madonna.
"Yeah. I'm nearly always trapped somewhere I can't escape from with them. I do have an idea - something that might stop the dreams."
"I was thinking of going back to the hotel room where it happened." Madonna said tentatively and Dr Goldstein looked surprised.
"Is that the best idea, considering you're pregnant? It could be stressful."
"Having the dreams is stressful."
"Maybe if Carlos went with you it wouldn't be as stressful."
"I was thinking of going alone." Madonna said, looking directly at Dr Goldstein. "They're my issues and even though Carlos has been amazing, truly, I feel like this is something I need to deal with alone."
"Madonna, you know usually I wouldn't try to talk you out of an idea I think would help, but I think you need some support. If not Carlos, maybe a friend of two? They don't even have to be in the room with you, they could wait outside while you go in." Dr Goldstein suggested.
Madonna shrugged. "I guess."
"You can't afford to be having to much stress right now, Madonna." Dr Goldsteing said firmly.
"I'll think about who I take." Madonna said, fiddling with a strand of her hair.
"Maybe if you have a distraction like work, it might help?"
"Make the dreams go away?"
"Yes. I'm not saying overdo it, and you won't be able to work for too long, because you are pregnant."
"Carlos won't be happy if I do either." Madonna sighed.
"Sometimes Madonna, you need to be a little selfish and do what is right for you. Especially in circumstances like this." Dr Goldstein said and Madonna nodded.
"I don't want you to go to that hotel room or work. Why can't you just take it easy for a while?" Carlos said, frowning.
He had met Madonna at a restaurant for lunch after her therapy session.
"Can you please lower your voice? If this is going to be an argument, I'd rather wait until we aren't in public." Madonna said, blushing a little.
"Sorry. I just don't think you need any stress whatsoever in your life right now M." Carlos said, lowering his voice.
"I agree. But I am having all these horrible dreams, most nights about being trapped with those guys. I need something to take my mind off it."
"Then let's go away."
Madonna shook her head. "I would still have too much time to think."
"Can I come with you to the hotel, if you must go?"
"I haven't thought about whether I would have you come with me, or Rosie and Debi..." Madonna sighed, dabbing at the corners of her mouth with her napkin, drinking some of her virgin cocktail.
"I am not jsut worried about the stress. It might cause you a major panic attack, M. Or something worse."
Madonna leaned forward and spoke quietly. "If I weren't pregnant you would be fine with me going."
"No. I would still want to come with you, M. I am not just worried about the baby, I am worried about you too." Carlos replied.
"It sounds like it's stressing you out." Madonna sat back, a slight frown on her face.
"I love you, M. I want this to be over for you."
"Then don't fight me. Support me."
"Do you not think I've supported you through this entire ordeal?"
"I never said that."
"I don't think you should go back to work just yet, M. Wait until after the baby. Hopefully by then you will have let it all go."
"I agree." Madonna said and Carlos looked surprised. "But if I choose to go to the hotel with friends instead, I don't want you to be offended. It would not in any way be personal. Whoever goes with me would be waiting outside anyway."
Carlos opened his mouth as if to say something, then rubbed a hand down his face in frustration and looked around the restaurant, then at Madonna. "You drive a hard bargain."
"I will make a decision soon. It's driving me insane having those dreams." Madonna continued eating.
"You never talk about them with me."
"I know." Madonna put her knife and fork down. "I'm just hoping they will go away, I guess. I'm almost sick of talking to people about everything in all honesty."
"I don't blame you."
"Do you have any sessions later this afternoon?"
"I fancy going for a bike ride. Blowing the cobwebs away."
"Sounds good." Carlos replied, smoothing a hand over Madonna's on the table and a small smile appeared on her lips.
End of Part 20...
A few months later, Madnna was still having the dreams. She was being hounded by the paparazzi even more, and at six months she hadn't been able to hide the fact she was pregnant for over a month. Even though true to what CSI Oates said, the tapes of Madonna were destroyed after the case went to court, the entire story leaked out to the media. It wasn't a very relaxing time for her, even though Carlos was her rock.
"The dreams haven't gone away. I need to go back to that hotel room. And I need you to come with me." Madonna said very calmly one morning, avoiding looking at Carlos.
He frowned. "M, we should have done this months ago."
"I wasn't ready months ago." Madonna glared at Carlos.
"It's going to be stressful. You're heavily pregnant M."
Slowly Madonna stood up, holding her stomach in both hands. "I wasn't asking, Carlos. I was just being polite, telling you. And hoping you would be as understanding as you were a few months ago. But if not, I can call my girls and make a day of it - hell we can even get lunch and joke about it after." The last sentence was dripping in sarcasm and Carlos clenched his jaw, nearly knocking over his chair as he stood up.
"Don't joke about it M. It's not funny."
Madonna took a few steps towards Carlos. "Not sleeping isn't funny." She said, holding his glare.
"You're not going to let me talk you out of this, M, are you?" Carlos said and Madonna shook her head.
"All this time spent arguing is pointless. The sooner we go, the sooner we can get on with our lives." Madonna said, looking desperate. "This baby is going for gold in gymnastics inside me, it's moving so much, I am constantly tired." She said and Carlos laughed. "It's not funny!" Madonna said, trying not to smile.
"We're not going to be able to give the paps the slip, you realise that?" Carlos half asked and Madonna nodded.
"This is one of those rare occasions where I really, genuinely do not give a fuck. This is about me being able to move on." Madonna said.
"Us being able to move on." Carlos said, holding her close, despite her size and Madonna smiled. "What if you really freak out?"
Madonna bit her lower lip. "Hypnotise the memories away? I don't know."
"Someone might have the room." Carlos said, ignoring her joke.
"Then I will talk to the manager of the hotel. I'll get him on the phone with my shrink. Whatever it takes."
"I'll clear my day." Carlos said, grabbing his phone. He looked up at her. "Are you sure?"
"I am sure something heavy is going to be sailing towards your head soon, if you ask that again." Madonna said with an expressionless face and Carlos held up his free hand, then phoned his assistant to get his training sessions covered by other people.
"Now?" He asked when he hung up and she nodded, looking nervous.
Madonna spoke with the manager of the hotel, while Carlos and a couple of bodyguards waited for her in the reception area. She reappeared with the card for the room, which she held up, but didn't smile, then told the bodyguards to stay where they were and took the lift up to the eighth floor. Madonna took Carlos' hand and squeezed it so tight it went numb. She looked straight ahead and he kissed her cheek.
"You can do this." He whispered fiercely in her ear and she nodded.
They walked to the room and Madonna swiped the card, opening the door.
"I'll wait out here." Carlos said, taking a step back.
"No!" Madonna said, looking terrified. "I - I don't want to go in there alone! Not really. I'm scared." She swallowed a lump in her throat.
"Ok M." Carlos followed her into the room, closing the door behind them.
She walked into the room and the first thing Madonna looked at was the pristine clean coffee table, that had been covered with alcohol and drugs the night she'd been there. Carlos stayed by the door and watched Madonna walk further into the room. She sat down on the sofa, running both hands through her hair and closing her eyes.
"Can you come over here and sit with me please?" Madonna asked quietly, opening her eyes and looking up at Carlos.
He went over and sat next to her.
"I hope you aren't still blaming yourself." Carlos said quietly, a hand on her knee.
"No. Not any more." Madonna replied, looking at him with watery eyes.
"Being here...it feels like it happened to someone else almost." Madonna said, frowning. "I wish I could take a baseball bat to this room, then burn the entire thing down."
"Visualise doing it." Carlos said.
"You sound like Goldstein." Madonna smiled a little. She wiped tears just as they slipped down her face. Madonna got up and walked through to the bathroom, Carlos waiting in the doorway. "They replaced the medicine cabinet." She said quietly, running her fingers down the glass on the door, remembering the painof having the side of her face smashed into it. Madonna pushed her long hair back and traced a finger along the side of her face, along the very faint scar that was there.
"I can hardly see it anymore." Carlos said and Madonna looked at his reflection in the mirror.
"Thank god." She breathed a sigh of relief.
"Are you sure you don't want me to wait outside the room, M?" Carlos asked, but she shook her head.
"No. I really need you here."
Madonna left the bathroom and headed to the bedroom. She stared at the bed for a while, then went over and lay down on it. Carlos sat on a chair and Madonna stared up at the ceiling. Her fingers gripped the covers either side until her knuckles were white and she gasped, sitting up with a start.
"I need to go - you need to go, we need to go!" Madonna didn't pause for breath.
"M, the only thing you need to do right now is calm down and breathe." Carlos said softly, sitting on the bed with her.
"I can't!" Madonna wailed and she began to cry, clutching her side.
"Are you in pain?"
"I feel winded..." Madonna gasped for breath.
"It's ok M. It's ok. We can just sit here for a while. You have been so brave, coming here today. I'm really proud of you." Carlos said, rubbing her lower back. "I know I didn't want you to come, but I was wrong. This is good for you."
"I can't take anymore though. We need to go." Madonna said, desperate to get out of the room. Carlos helped her to her feet and they left the hotel room for what would be the last time.
Carlos took deep breaths and Madonna copied him, until her breathing was back to normal and they went to the lift. A maid who just left a room she'd been cleaning quickly grabbed her phone and held it up, taking a picture of Madonna in tears and Carlos looked up at just the right time to catch her.
"If you don't delete that picture right here and now, I will call her lawyer. And trust me, you don't want her on your case." Carlos said not in a threatening way, but firmly.
The maid blushed and went over to Carlos and showed him as she deleted it. Madonna didn't even look at her or say anything until she was in the lift with Carlos.
"Thank you." Madonna said, and Carlos knew she meant not just for the fact he made the maid delete the picture, but for being there with her, at the hotel.
End of Part 21...
"Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!" Madonna looked down at her hand, which was shaky and had blood on it. She was loosing the baby, she knew it. Her body felt like it was covered in a sheen of sweat, but she was burning up. Madonna was about to shake Carlos, when she saw an empty space next to her and frowned, where was he?
Slowly she got out of bed and poked her head in the bathroom, then started searching the guest rooms, then Lourdes' room. Lourdes wasn't in her bed and it freaked Madonna out. Where would Carlos have taken her at this time of night? Madonna was just on her way back upstairs, when her head tilted and she saw that there was a trail of blood. She followed the trail backupstairs and sat with her back against the wall, looking along the hallway at the trail of blood she had left behind. Madonna screamed.
Carlos shook Madonna. "M, M! Wake up! M! You're dreaming! Wake up!"
"I'm loosing the baby!" Madonna wailed straight away, as she opened her eyes and they were wide with fear.
"You're not loosing the baby, M, it was a dream!" Carlos grabbed her arms and shook her as Madonna looked down at her hands, which had blood on them minutes ago. "Why are you looking at your hands M?"
"There was blood on them just now..." Madonna looked confused.
"No, my darling, there really wasn't. I promise you just now you were asleep, moaning and thrashing about." Carlos replied quietly.
Madonna shook her head. "I was bleeding - there was a trail of blood. You weren't next to me and Lola wasn't in her room. I was all alone."
"Madonna, you're not bleeding." Carlos said, concerned ashe looked at her.
"I am!" Madonna started to put a shaky hand down her pyjama bottoms, when Carlos took it away and started to put his hand down there. "Don't! You will end up with my blood on your hand!" She said, but he carefully put his fingers between her legs, then pulled his hand away, holding it up for her to see.
"There, no blood. You were dreaming."
"It was so real!" Madonna sat up, gasping a little, a shaky hand wrenched through her hair.
"There is no way Lola and I would not be here in the middle of the night."
"The first night I don't dream I am trapped with my abusers, I dream I'm loosing the baby." Madonna gazed up at the ceiling.
"M, you've been under a lot of stress lately." Carlos said, resting both hands on her shoulders.
"I want to scream - and not because I've had a bad dream, but because it's never ending, all this shit."
"There's not much I can say to make it go away, M, but just try to think about the end game. When you have this baby and you're holding him or her in your arms, it will all melt away. None of it will matter, but the baby and Lola."
"And you." Madonna said quietly, her voice loaded with passion as she held his cheeks and kissed him. "Thank you so much for your patience and love." She whispered, pressing her forehead to his.
"I'd do anything for you, M. You know that, right?" He said and she nodded, holding on to the back of his neck, her forehead still pressed to hers.
It was the weekend and the following afternoon Madonna was asleep on the sofa with Lourdes. Carlos had to work in the morning and when he returned home, he found Lourdes asleep on Madonna's bump, her little arms and legs dangling over the edge of her. Madonna's arms were around Lourdes and it was such a touching, peaceful scene that Carlos was quiet so as not to wake them.
"Hey." Madonna whispered, looking up as she opened her eyes.
"Is Lola ok to be sleeping on you like that? Isn't it uncomfortable?" Carlos asked, pointing to Madonna's stomach and she shook her head.
"No. I find it comforting."
"Did you manage to sleep better?"
"Yeah, thanks." Madonna slowly sat up, carefully transferring Lourdes from her stomach to the sofa and pulling blankets up over her.
"Are you hungry?"
"Not really. Carlos, I'm sorry you haven't been getting any sleep because of me and my stupid dreams lately. I would totally understand if you wanted to sleep in a guest room, or wanted me to sleep in one." Madonna said, looking a little embarrassed.
"Don't be silly M. I'm not throwing you out of your own bed, and there is no way I'm leaving you on your own in bed either. You aren't disrupting my sleep that much. And it's not like you're doing it on purpose." Carlos replied sensibly.
"Ok, if you're sure."
"I am. What else is on your mind?"
"It's driving me crazy not knowing the sex of the baby." Madonna said.
"You wanted it to be a surprise." Carlos smiled.
"I know, but it's driving me nuts now." Madonna said, chewing her lower lip.
"I need to know as well to be honest. We'll find out first thing on Monday, ok?" Carlos said and Madonna nodded. Little did she know he hadn't just been working that morning, but also organising a surprise baby shower for her.
End of Part 22...
Carlos had taken Madonna to work with him that morning, after they'd dropped Lourdes off to school. He said he wanted to try out a new gentle yoga session plan with her, because he wanted to start having yoga classes for pregnant women at his gym. Carlos had been talking to Madonna's friends - Debi, Rosie, Ingrid and a few others about organising a baby shower for a while. He had been talking to them via email and phone when Madonna wasn't around and described how he would like the lounge and kitchen decorated.
"You're not going to work me too hard are you? I'm feeling really heavy and uncomfortable today..." Madonna groaned.
"No. I know what levels of fitness you are M, even when you are heavily pregnant." Carlos said.
"I'm glad one of us is certain about that."
"Did you have a bad dream again last night?"
"No, I'm just being a grumpy bitch, Carlos." Madonna said, smiling a little.
"That wasn't what I was implying."
"I know. You're too nice to imply that." Madonna looked out the window at the city going past, on the way to the gym.
Carlos placed a hand over Madonna's and when she looked at him, he kissed her. "We get to find out the sex of the baby after yoga."
"What are you hoping for?" Carlos asked, because he couldn't remember Madonna saying she wanted a boy or a girl.
"A boy. I know it's what you really want, and it would be nice for Lola to have a little brother." Madonna replied, her face softening.
"Think of that when we are meditating and don't be a grumpy bitch." Carlos said softly and Madonna laughed. "What's funny?" He smiled.
"I can't remember the last time I heard you swear. It just sounds funny, coming from you." Madonna said, resting her head on his shoulder and Carlos looked down at her.
"I'm glad I could make you laugh." He said, kissing the top of her head.
They arrived at the gym and Carlos took Madonna up to a room that looked like their calm room at home, only it was a lot bigger. He took her to the centre of the room and they sat on mats and Carlos began. It was a ninety minute session that comprised of gentle stretches and meditation.
"I think this class is going to be popular." Madonna said, as Carlos helped her to her feet.
"I feel so mellow right now."
"Good." Carlos smiled.
"I still need to shower and change though, because I did sweat a bit and I want to be clean when we go find out what sex the baby is."
"Sure. I have a private shower next to my office. I put some clothes in your bag."
"Wow, you're organised today." Madonna smiled. "Are you coming with?"
"I will go in after you. Otherwise we'll never get to the doctors."
"You're right." Madonna said, smiling to herself and disappearing.
She showered and put on a dress Carlos had packed, wondering why he hadn't put something more casual in the bag for her to wear.
"M, you look great!" Carlos said, kissing her and smiling.
"It's a little much just for the doctors..." She chewed her lower lip, looking down at the plum coloured dress with little white butterflies on it.
"I thought a dress would be more comfortable." Carlos replied and Madonna nodded.
"You were right."
Carlos had a quick shower and got dressed and they went to the doctors. Madonna couldn't sit still in the car and Carlos smiled, taking her hand and she squeezed it.
On the way home, Madonna couldn't stop crying in the car. They'd found out she was having a boy and she was so happy she felt really emotional. Carlos held her in his arms, unable to stop smiling.
"This means we can talk names now." Carlos said, sounding excited and Madonna gazed up at him, nodding as she sniffed.
"Yeah. Oh my god, this is the first time in quite some time I've actually felt happy." Madonna said, smiling through her tears.
Carlos gently wiped her tears away with his thumbs and pressed his lips to her forehead. "It's good to see you smile again."
"Sorry, I'm being soppy, I can't stop crying!" Madonna said, laughing as fresh tears escaped down her cheeks.
"It's fine, honestly. As long as you are crying because you're happy, not sad." Carlos smoothed hair away from her face, tucking it behind an ear.
When they arrived home, Carlos took Madonna in the front door and it wasn't until they got to the kitchen, that everyone yelled 'surprise!' The kitchen and garden had been decorated for the baby shower. Madonna, who was already crying, cried even harder.
"Damn, I don't think I've ever seen someone cry before coming to a surprise party!" Debi said.
"We just found out we're having a boy." Carlos explained, which had everyone talking.
"Congratulations Mo!" Rosie said, hugging Madonna, as she manuevered her bump out of the way.
"Thanks Ro." Madonna held on to her friend and cried on her shoulder for a bit.
"We decided to decorate the kitchen and the garden - it's so nice out, we thought it would be nice to be outside as well." Ingrid explained to Carlos, who nodded, looking appreciative.
"Good idea. Thank you for doing all this, ladies." Carlos said to Ingrid, Debi and Rosie and they all smiled and nodded at him.
"Did you guys organise this?" Madonna asked, looking around at her friends.
"We helped Carlos, it was all his idea." Rosie said.
Madonna looked at Carlos and smiled. "That's why you brought this dress. And got me out of the house to do yoga."
"That wasn't a complete lie - I am bringing in some yoga teachers who specalise in meditation for pregnant women. I just wanted to see what you thought." Carlos replied.
"I thought it was great. I felt mellow up until we found out we are having a boy and got emotional." Madonna went over to Carlos. "Thank you for this." She said, kissing him.
Ingrid handed Madonna an iced tea and the two women talked, then Madonna circulated, talking to other friends, smiling and laughing.
"She seems so much better these days, considering what she has been through recently." Debi said quietly to Carlos and he nodded.
"M is stronger than ever she realises. I was so proud of her in court, she handled it all so well." Carlos replied quietly.
Madonna looked over at Carlos and they smiled at each other.
"You two are sickening." Debi joked and Carlos laughed, used to her dry sense of humour.
After catching up with friends and buffet food and more drinks, Madonna sat on the sofa in the gazebo in the garden and everyone gave her presents. She insisted on Carlos sitting next to her and he enjoyed watching Madonna open all the presents excitedly and hug and kiss her friends. Carlos put all the rubbish Madonna cast aside in a binliner, then leaned over and whispered in her ear.
"I have a present for you."
"Me?" Madonna raised her eyebrows and he nodded.
"The baby has a lot of presents and I wante to get you something nice."
"Carlos, you didn't have too."
"I wanted too." Carlos said, handing Madonna a large necklace box, with a bow around it. Everyone watched as she opened it.
Inside was a beautiful amethyst bead necklace - the same type of necklace that usually had a cross on it, but on this necklace was a beautiful gold hamsa hand.
"Wow...that's gorgeous!" Madonna said, looking taken aback.
"You like it?" Carlos asked.
"I love it." Madonna looked up at him. "Can you help me put it on please?"
"Of course." Carlos took it out of the box and fastened it around Madonna's neck. She pulled the gold hamsa hand down and smiled up at Carlos, kissing him.
"Thank you so much."
"You're most welcome M." Carlos said.
Everyone clapped and cheered and admired Madonna's necklace and she smiled again, looking up at Carlos, happy at last and he felt like the luckiest man on the planet in that moment.
End of Part 23...
"I'm going to bed. I can't physically stay up any more." Madonna said, easing herself off the sofa to go upstairs. She was a couple of weeks away from her due date and constantly felt exhausted. Carlos was being sweet as usual, which made her life much easier, even though all the resting sometimes drove her crazy.
"Ok. I'll be up in a minute." Carlos said, after Madonna leaned forward and kissed him.
"You can stay up later if you want. I am going to be asleep the minute my head hits the pillow."
"To be honest, I've been so busy at the gym lately, I'm tired too." Carlos admitted and Madonna nodded, walking away with her hands on her stomach.
She made it to the stairs and sat on the bottom one, frowning. A couple of minutes later, Carlos stood in front of her. Madonna looked up at him.
"I don't think I am going to make it up the stairs." She said and he nodded, sitting next to her, because she looked worried.
"Have your waters broke yet?" Carlos asked and Madonna shook her head.
"No." She said, and it seemed to him like she was sat frozen in fear.
"M, you're going to be fine. You've done this before." Carlos said softly.
"A couple of years ago now." Madonna said, her face betraying the beginnings of pain.
"I have to take you to the hospital, M."
"There are no drugs here, if you have the baby here." Carlos said.
"I know. But I can't move."
"Considering what you've been through this year M, you have nothing to be scared of, really." Carlos said.
"When was the last time you pushed a baby out of your vagina?" Madonna asked Carlos, looking deadly serious for a minute and he didn't know what to say.
"I just meant..."
"Carlos, I'm fucking with you!" Madonna said, laughing as she pushed him and he shook his head, trying not to smile.
"You don't have pick your moments to joke around..."
"Can you help me up please?" Madonna asked and Carlos helped her to her feet and her waters broke. She held onto the pole at the bottom of the stairs, wincing. "Oh my god..."
"M, I can carry you, let me just get someone else to drive." Carlos said and he rushed away and came back with a couple of bodyguards. "They're bringing the car around the front."
"With the paps that hang around out there? Are you insane?"
"M, it's the quickest way - if I carry you straight out through the front door to the car."
"Ok." Madonna said, and let Carlos scoop her up in his arms. He carried her out to the car and they were driving away before the paparazzi even had time to take pictures. "You were right. That was quick. How? I weigh a ton!"
"No you don't, M. And I've probably been working out more at the gym, because we've been so busy." Carlos replied.
Madonna was led out across his lap and Carlos held on to her. She looked up at him.
"I had a bag prepared - "
"I put that in the car at the start of your ninth month. It's in the boot." Carlos replied and Madonna smiled.
"You're more organised then I am."
"In theory so you are less stressed." Carlos replied.
"That's sweet of you." Madonna said, looking up at Carlos gratefully. "Look, I know I haven't been easy to live with this past year, but I want to tell you how much I love you, Carlos. You have been loving and patient and supportive, even when I've been frustrating and difficult."
"M, you're talking like you are dying. It's freaking me out." Carlos said, looking worried.
"It feels like this baby is trying to break my body. But maybe that's what I need - to be broken completely, so I can start again." Madonna said, holding one of Carlos' hands.
He lifted her hand to his lips and closed his eyes for a moment as he kissed it. "I love you too M. I think this baby is going to help heal you."
Even though it wasn't too late, there was hardly any traffic around and they managed to get to a hospital before Madonna was in any real pain that required drugs.
"I can't do this...I know you believe in me...but I can't...!!" Madonna shook her head, lying back on the bed, as she squeezed Carlos' hand, looking hopeless.
"Yes you can, M. You can do anything." Carlos said in a soothing voice.
"I can't!" Tears streamed down her cheeks.
"You can M. Just breathe. Like we practised in the calm room." Carlos replied, doing a demonstration and Madonna looked up at him, copying his breathing to calm down, then pushing when the midwife told her too.
"I want Lola is be here when the baby arrives. She wanted to help name him." Madonna said.
"I can call the nanny and get her to bring Lola and take her for a drink or something, until the baby arrives."
Madonna nodded. "Go call her now, quick - I need you in here!" She said panting and Carlos rushed out of the room to call the nanny. He was only gone a few minutes and when he returned he placed a cold flannel on Madonna's forehead that was handed to him by a nurse and she looked grateful.
"I hope she doesn't think we are calling him Jasper though..." Carlos said, and despite her pain, Madonna laughed.
"Blossom would have been nicer, if it had been a girl!" She said and Carlos smiled.
A few hours, more drugs and after pushing harder later, Madonna was handed a tiny baby boy and he took her breath away. It was as if the events of the past year were starting to finally fade and he would breathe new life into her. Carlos was just as mesmerised by his new son as Madonna, unable to stop smiling as soon as he saw him. A nurse took the baby away to clean him up, but returned shortly after, handing him back to Madonna.
"He's so perfect!" Madonna said, smoothing one of his tiny cheeks and looking up at Carlos, who was looking at Madonna and their son proudly and nodded.
"Wow. You have beautiful babies, M."
"We have beautiful babies, Carlos."
"Well, yeah, but you do all the hard work."
"I want more. I want another boy and another girl." Madonna said, looking down at her little son.
Carlos laughed. "Let's enjoy him and Lola for at least a year first."
"Can you go and get Lola please? I want her to see her new brother." Madonna said.
"Sure." Carlos said and he left the room and found Lourdes with the nanny in the hospital canteen. The nanny waited outside the room with the bodyguards, while Carlos and Lourdes went inside and he lifted her up onto the bed so Lourdes could be close to her mother and brother.
"Here is your brother, Lola." Madonna said, holding the baby out a little and Lourdes moved closer.
"He's so little." Lourdes said, looking at him in wonderment.
"You were that little once." Carlos said, smoothing her ponytail.
Lourdes reached a small hand over to stroke his cheek, and the baby grabbed her finger with his whole fist, looking at her and he smiled.
"I think someone is saying hello." Madonna said, smiling down at Lourdes.
"Did you have any names in mind Lola?" Carlos asked.
"Romeo." Lourdes said straight away and Madonna and Carlos exchanged a look.
"You aren't reading Romeo and Juliet in school are you?" Madonna asked, looking worried, because it was more of an adult story.
"What's that?" Lourdes frowned. "There is a boy in my class called Romeo. I like the name."
Carlos and Madonna breathed a sigh of relief, looking at each other. "What do you think?" Madonna asked.
"I like it."
"Romeo." Madonna said, looking down at her son. "I love it Lola."
"He doesn't look like a Jasper and I might have a boy pony at some point." Lourdes pushed stray hair out of her face.
Carlos stifled a laugh and Madonna smiled at him, rocking the baby in her arms, knowing her daughter wouldn't be letting the subject of owning a horse go any time soon.
"Is Romeo and Juliet a good book mommy?" Lourdes looked up at Madonna.
"It is, sweetheart. But you'll have to wait until you're a big girl to read it, because it's more of an adult story." Madonna replied.
"Ok mommy." Lourdes said. "Can we take Romeo home now?"
"Soon, Lola. Mommy is tired after having him, so she needs to rest a bit first." Carlos said.
"Can we wait with you until you can come home mommy?" Lourdes asked.
"I would love that. And so would Romeo." Madonna replied.
Carlos kissed the top of Madonna's head, then Lourdes'. He noticed Madonna didn't look as stressed or troubled as she had done mere hours ago, and for months and months and knew that becoming a mother again would be the making of her.
"I swear it's taking longer to get Lola to sleep." Madonna rolled her eyes. but couldn't help smiling one evening as she closed the door behind her and Carlos smiled.
"I would try, but even if I do, she will ask for you too." He replied.
Madonna laughed, nodding and grabbed her laptop as she got into bed. "I just need to reply to a few emails." She explained.
"But you are going to try to sleep right?"
"Of course." Madonna said.
"You are a rubbish liar." Carlos replied, watching her blush slightly.
"If I'm not done in fifteen minutes, I give you permission to take my laptop away." Madonna joked, as she opened it.
"I am going to hold you to that." Carlos said, looking up at Madonna as he lay down next to her.
Madonna went through some of her emails, then frowned when she opened one from someone she didn't know. All of the colour drained from her face when she watched the video clips attached. Madonna slammed her laptop shut and got out of bed.
"M, what's wrong? You look awful." Carlos frowned.
"Nothing - I - I just feel sick." Madonna ran to the bathroom and closed the door and Carlos heard her lock the door and throw up from the other side.
Carlos knocked on the door. "Let me in, M."
"You don't need to see me throw up." Madonna's voice trembled.
"I'm worried about you."
"I will be fine in a bit." Madonna lied, rubbing her forehead.
Carlos opened Madonna's laptop and looked through her emails. He found one from an unknown sender. Carlos thought this was unusual - the only people who emailed Madonna were family, friends and co-workers, as she had an email address that would be impossible for anyone who didn't know her to guess. Carlos watched the videos and clapped a hand to his mouth, his eyes wide with shock. They were graphic videos of Madonna being abused by the two guys who had been hanging around her at the party on that fateful night. Clearly she had been plied with spiked drinks, because she looked almost totally out of it. Not only were there videos, but a message asking for a ridiculous sum of money, otherwise the videos would be leaked online and to the media.
"What the hell are you doing?" Madonna opened the door, looking horrified. "Don't look at that!" She ran across the room and nearly took Carlos' fingers off, she snapped her laptop shut so violently.
"It's too late M. I have already seen it."
"Why? Why would you watch that?"
"I didn't know what it was going to be, did I? M - we have to show this to the police, right now." Carlos said, sounding urgent.
"Jesus..." Madonna wrenched both hands through her hair. "Other people are going to have to watch it." She said, looking ill at the thought of it.
"Only the people who are going to catch that scum." Carlos replied.
"It doesn't matter. Still more people."
"Does it...did it make you remember?"
Madonna nodded, sitting on the edge of the bed. "Vaguely. I can remember a little."
"We need to hand in your laptop right now M."
"It's late. What about Lola?"
"The nanny is here. M, they could catch them based off this. More so than the sketches."
"I feel like I want to throw up my organs at the thought of that video getting out."
"Exactly. So let's go now."
"Ok." Madonna started looking for something to wear.
"I'll let the nanny know and have the car brought round." Carlos said, pulling on a t-shirt and pair of jeans.
He left the room and she put on a dark, loose pair of flowery trousers and an over-sized sweater. Madonna slipped on a pair of flat shoes and pulled her hair back into a messy ponytail. She looked at her reflection in the mirror and felt nauseaous when she thought of Carlos seeing those video clips. Her face was still very pale and there was dark under her eyes, giving her a ghostly haunted look.
"Right, are you ready?" Carlos asked, when he returned and Madonna shook her head and started to cry softly. He went over to her and held her. "M, you're trembling. They are going to be caught, ok?" Carlos smoothed her ponytail and nuzzled his nose into her neck.
During the car journey to the station Madonna was very quiet. She drummed her fingers silently on her laptop, the only thing close to noise in the car. Carlos stared out the window on his side and Madonna looked at him nervously, wondering what he might be thinking. When he turned to look at her, she looked out her window, then closed her eyes and wished the ground beneath would swallow her.
"I called Sachie, she's on her way." Carlos said, referring to Madonna's lawyer, breaking the silence.
Madonna looked worried. "Do you think they'll want a statement too?"
"I imagine they might want to ask if you remember anything else, after watching those clips." Carlos replied quietly.
"Oh." Madonna looked deflated.
"If they let me, I can come in with you, M." Carlos said, placing one of his hands over hers on the laptop.
"I'd like that." Madonna said, swallowing a lump in her throat.
They arrived and got out of the car, meeting Sachie at the entrance and all of them, including the bodyguard who'd been driving and another who had been in the passenger seat got out and flanked them. Madonna went up to the front desk with Carlos and explained why she was there, then they went to an interrogation room with Sachie, where they were made to wait by the police, while they watched what was on the laptop in another room.
"I'll get us coffee." Carlos said, leaving the room and going off in search of a machine.
"Carlos told me what was on the laptop. They may keep it as evidence, but I can try to get it back for you - " Sachie started.
"They can keep it. I really don't care." Madonna said expressionlessly, staring at nothing in particular.
"Ok. Now, they might question you on what you remember, Madonna. It could be more forceful then before, because they think you will remember more or all of that night due to watching the videos. I'm not going to let them push you." Sachie said and Madonna looked at her. "At all." She said in a fierce, blunt manner.
Carlos returned with three coffees and both women thanked him as he sat the other side of Madonna.
"Are we going to have to pay these guys off? Or pretend too?" Carlos asked.
"No. No way. Pay these guys and they have nothing to loose. They could still distribute the videos. Or keep asking for more money."
"But while we are waiting they could distribute them..." Madonna said, looking worried.
"Not if they think they will get a large sum of money." Sachie replied.
CSI Oates and a male detective walked into the room, closing the door behind them and started the interview. Carlos held Madonna's hand under the table and she gave it a squeeze every time the detective started putting a little pressure on her, with regards to her memories. It seemed like he was the bad cop and CSI Oates was the good - and more sympathetic perhaps, because she was a woman. Sachie shut the detective down every single time he put the pressure on, much to Madonna's relief and Carlos looked at her, pretty impressed with how protective the lawyer was. 'My client has no comment' and 'no comment' and 'you don't have to answer that' were the most frequent things said in the room. When it was over, the detective left with a clenched jaw and CSI Oates looked at Madonna.
"Don't worry about him. You were very brave to even come here tonight, then to hand in that laptop and talk to us. Unfortunately we are going to have to hold on to it, for evidence. But on the plus side, we can track where the email was sent from and catch those guys."
"That's fine. I don't mind you keeping it. I just want this to be over."
"Do you still have my card?" CSI Oates asked and Madonna nodded. "Any time of day or night, if you remember anything, be sure to call or leave a message and I will assist you as soon as possible."
"Thank you." Madonna whispered, leaving the room with Sachie and Carlos. "Sachie, thank you for everything this evening. I couldn't have got through that in there without you."
Sachie smiled. "Yes you could, you just don't know it." She said. "Don't forget to call me before you call Ms CSI in there. Or even your therapist, ok?"
"Ok." Madonna looked amused.
"Goodnight." Madonna said.
Shortly after, she and Carlos left the building and went home. The drive home seemed shorter and they both went up to their room the minute they got back, and began getting dressed for bed again.
"I hope they catch them. I can't have those video clips leaking." Madonna said, her voice wobbling as she lay in bed next to Carlos.
"They will. And that CSI was right, you were very brave this evening, M. I admire you." Carlos said, an arm around her as he went to kiss her lips, but she turned and he knocked her cheek instead. "What's wrong?"
"How can you admire me after watching that?"
"The fact that you can't remember it and you were very clearly almost out of it and still managed to show that to the authorities takes a lot of guts, M."
"How do you even want to be in the same bed as me right now?"
"Because I happen to love you." Carlos said softly.
"I still feel a bit queasy. I might go and just sit by the toilet for a while."
"Then I will sit with you." Carlos said.
Madonna went and sat by the toilet and Carlos sat next to her.
"You don't have to do this, you know."
"I want too. Besides, you look pretty pale, M." Carlos said, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear.
"This could be a long night..."
"I've slept in less comfortable places." Carlos replied. "Maybe you should go to the doctor tomorrow."
"No. She will give me medication."
"M, if you are feeling sick or something, it's fine."
"No. I don't want to take anything and I don't want to drink." Madonna replied aggressively.
"Ok, ok." Carlos said, holding up his hands.
"Maybe I can find something natural to make me feel better tomorrow."
"I can help you look for something online." Carlos said, pulling Madonna onto his lap. He felt her body go rigid. "M?"
"Aren't you disgusted by me?"
"No. And I wish you could stop feeling disgusted with yourself."
"Mmm." Madonna chewed at her nails, until Carlos took her hand away from her mouth.
Both of them were silent and eventually Madonna fell asleep, curled into Carlos. He watched her for quite a while, then very carefully - so as not to wake her, carried Madonna to bed and pulled the covers up over them both. She was in such a deep sleep, she never even stirred once.
End of Part 9...
The blonde guy and the dark haired guy led Madonna along the hallway to their hotel room. She was smiling, even though her eyes were only half open and felt drunk enough that her legs could give way at any given moment.
"We're gonna have fun tonight, baby." Blonde said, grinning.
Madonna had her arms linked through both of theirs and stumbled along, hardly aware of where she was or what was happening. Dark hair opened the door and Blonde led Madonna inside, closing the door behind them.
"Music. We need music." Dark hair said and went to put some on.
"And drink...and pills and coke." Blonde said.
"I don't...don't do any of that..." Madonna slurred her words.
"Of course you don't, sweetheart." Dark hair said sarcastically.
"We wouldn't tell anyone if you did." Blonde replied, holding Madonna's chin and kissing her hard.
"I'm married." Madonna held up her hand, which had a beautiful white gold wedding band and a diamond engagement ring on the wedding finger.
"If you take them off, it doesn't count." Dark hair took her hand and carefully eased them off. He held them up and put them down on the table, so Madonna could see them.
"Let's get a drink." Blonde said, leading Madonna away. He looked back at dark hair and winked. Dark hair slid the rings off the table and put them in his pocket. Blonde poured Madonna a glass of wine and handed it to her. "Have this, while I make you a cocktail."
"I've had too much already..." Madonna held her hand up.
"No way, we're just getting the party started!" Blonde handed her the glass and Madonna took it.
While she was drinking and looking around, blonde had his back to her and started making a cocktail. Dark hair joined him and handed him something to slip in the drink.
After several cocktails, Madonna was dancing between both men. Their hands were all over Madonna, on her bum, her thighs, her boobs. Dark hair kissed her, while blonde squeezed her breasts. It started to feel wrong and she stopped the kiss and stumbled away from them both.
"No...I can't..." Madonna stumbled into the bathroom to splash some water on her face.
She felt someone grab a handful of her hair and smash her face on the medicine cabinet. "You don't get to walk away from me."
"Dude, chill out. Go get us some drinks."
Madonna turned to face dark hair, who frowned. "Excuse my friend. He can be a bit moody." Dark hair walked past her and grabbed some tisses and wiped her face. "Are you ok?"
"Yeah." Madonna lied.
"Let's go an sit down. We can dance a bit later." Dark hair took her out to the sofa, where Blonde had drinks for them.
"I overreacted. Sorry baby." Blonde handed Madonna a cocktail, laced with some drug and she nodded, drinking it.
Dark hair snorted some coke and sat on the other side of Madonna on the sofa. He poured a little coke along his thumb and offered it to her. Her inhibitions had been lowered from the alcohol and constant drugging and Madonna snorted it, pinching her nose after.
Blonde and dark hair exhanged a smile behind her.
"My rings, my rings, oh god - my rings!!" Madonna sat bolt upright in bed, in a blind panic.
Carlos stretched, yawning and sat up, rubbing his face.
"What did you say M?"
"They took my wedding band and my engagement rings! Oh god, Carlos - you had the wedding band inscribed! I love them!" Madonna started to cry, clearly distressed.
"M, I know how much you love those rings, but I am glad YOU are ok." Carlos said, holding both her cheeks, as her tears spilled over his fingers.
"I was made to take them off. I told them I was married, but they said it didn't count if I took my rings off. Carlos I was so out of it, I think...I think I did pretty much whatever they told me or made me do." Madonna swallowed a lump in her throat, taking both of Carlos' hands away from her face.
"It's not your fault, M." He frowned. "I wish you would stop beating yourself up."
"I don't want to go back to sleep."
"We can meditate. Or have a warm drink to relax." Carlos suggested and Madonna shook her head.
"I need some air."
"Let's go out in the garden for a while."
Madonna pulled a hoodie over the fitted pyjama t-shirt she wore and slid on a pair or flip-flops. Carlos put a jacket on over his vest and they both went downstairs to the garden.
"Do you want anything to drink?" Carlos asked.
"Coffee would be great."
"I'm not planning on going back to sleep Carlos." Madonna looked up at him.
"I will make you a milky one, in case you change your mind."
"Ok." Madonna sighed.
Carlos made them both coffee and joined Madonna out on the swing garden chair.
"Thanks." She wrapped both her hands around the mug and blew it a little.
"I guess there's no need to ask what you dreamed about." Carlos said quietly.
Madonna held her hand out, looking at her empty wedding finger. "I feel so naked without my rings. And not in a good way."
"How did they even talk you into going back to a hotel with them?" Carlos asked.
"I don't know. I don't remember that part. And I guess I must have just looked like a drunk woman going back to a hotel room for a good time with a couple of guys to the receptionists and everyone else that saw us." Madonna frowned. "I feel like I've betrayed you, Carlos. I cheated on you."
"M, you never cheated on me. I don't see it like that at all. Cheating is a decision you make. And you had alcohol and drugs in your system. And two men manipulated and blackmailed you."
"I feel like a vile, vile woman. Disgusting. Dirty."
"And you have been scrubbing yourself raw nearly every day."
"How do you know that?" Madonna looked confused.
"You spend ages in the shower and your arms and legs have red marks on them." Carlos replied.
"I sound like a freak."
Carlos shook his head. "You are still going through a massive trauma, M." He kissed her temple and she looked at him, feeling an ache.
"I really want you, but I..." Madonna looked at Carlos, clearly nervous and conflicted.
"M, I want you too, but I can wait. You're practically trembling." Carlos said, putting his mug down and placing both hands around hers.
"I'm so lucky to have you." Madonna said, a slight smile forming.
"This will get easier eventually. I promise." Carlos kissed her forehead softly.
End of Part 10...
Lourdes ran around in the park with the other children, laughing and smiling. She made friends easily and played with anyone and everyone. Madonna and Carlos watched from a nearby bench, after being told by Lourdes that she was 'old enough' to go and play with the other children.
"I can imagine you being exactly like Lola when you were little." Carlos said and Madonna laughed.
"Lola is probably cheekier." Madonna replied.
Carlos placed a hand over Madonna's and she looked down at his hand and held it.
"What are you thinking?"
"Are we doing the right thing - bringing Lola up in this city?" Madonna turned to look at Carlos. There was so much confusion in her eyes. He knew how much she loved New York City, and hated those who had made her doubt the place so much.
"Where else would you want to bring her up?" Carlos asked.
Madonna shrugged. "Miami? Los Angeles?" She half suggested.
"I really want to bring up Lourdes here, M. And I know deep down you do too. You're just scared right now, and that's perfectly understandable."
"Don't talk to me like I'm a child, Carlos." Madonna said a little too sharply, sitting with her arms folded, watching Lourdes play.
"I'm not. I am trying to understand you right now, M." Carlos said and Madonna slid her shades down and looked over the top of them at him. "I don't think we would be able to leave the city now, with the case ongoing..."
"I know." Madonna sighed, taking her shades off and sitting them on top of her head. "I feel so trapped."
Carlos looked past Madonna, behind the fence and saw some paparazzi lurking. Madonna followed his gaze.
"Outside a park, where children are playing? Really??" She sounded annoyed. "I think we should go."
"We've been here a while anyway." Carlos replied.
"I'll go get Lola." Madonna glared at the photographers, then walked over to the climbing frame, where Lourdes was just in the process of climbing down. "Lola, we have to go." Madonna said, reaching out to her.
"Ok mommy." Lourdes said, letting Madonna scoop her up in her arms and carry her away.
Carlos walked behind Madonna and a couple of bodyguards flanked them. Madonna headed off in the opposite direction of the paparazzi, walking fast, like she might break out into a run.
"M, we need to go that way." Carlos pointed back towards the photographers.
"We can take the scenic route."
"Mommy, is it a game?" Lourdes asked.
"Is what a game, baby?"
"You going fast!"
"Yes, it is a game, Lola. Do you like it?" Madonna almost smiled.
"Yeah! Go faster mommy, faster!" Lourdes said, smiling and laughing. Carlos and the bodyguards stayed close to Madonna and Lourdes, and soon they were out of sight of the paparazzi and on their way home.
"What are you doing?" Debi asked, frowning, when she walked into Madonna's room and found clothes strewn over every possible surface.
"Debi!" Madonna smiled and rushed over to her friend, nearly crashing into her and Debi hugged her.
"It's good to see you too, M." Debi smiled.
"Mommy is having a biiiig sort out, cause she has too many clothes!" Lourdes said, appearing on the floor, with a camisole on her head.
Madonna took the camisole off her head and both she and Debi laughed.
"I think you're too little to be helping out with all this, sweetheart." Debi said softly.
"Lola, why don't you go and play with daddy for a bit?" Madonna suggested.
"Ok." Lourdes shrugged, then ran off.
"How are you, M?" Debi asked.
"I'm not dying, Deb." Madonna joked.
Debi looked around the room, then back at Madonna. "No, but you have everything sexy or racy in that area - " Debi motioned to a big pile of clothes. " - everything sensible here, and stuff you are sorting there."
"Maybe you should go work with the people working on my case." Madonna replied.
"None of this is your fault, M." Debi said.
Madonna flopped face-down on a pile of clothes on the bed and screamed into them. Her scream was muffled, then she turned over and lay on her back, looking at Debi, who sat on the bed.
"Carlos has been saying that a lot, huh?" She guessed and Madonna nodded. "Even if you are sick of hearing it, M, it's true."
"The way I dressed or acted made two men want to drug me and drag me off, and..." Madonna trailed off, looking away from Debi.
"So you dress sexy and flirt with everyone? So what? A lot of women do, M. None of them are asking to be abused. Nothing you say or do made those sickos do what they did. They're deranged and dangerous." Debi said, lying alongside Madonna.
"I'm starting to feel deranged myself. I tried throwing away all the alcohol in the house a few days ago. I wanted to do the same with the medication, but Carlos talked me out of it. And I don't want to sleep. But I keep remembering things when I sleep." Madonna said, watching Debi sit up and look down at her.
"Think of it this way, the sooner you remember everything, when they catch the scum who did this, it will be over sooner. And you have a lot of friends to support you, myself included, Carlos, Lola - she's like a little ray of sunshine, your daughter." Debi said and Madonna smiled, nodding.
"She certainly is."
"I think you've got too many clothes anyway, and I could always take some of this off you..." Debi said, trying not to smile and Madonna laughed, pushing her playfully.
Carlos walked into the room, carrying Lourdes. "Would either of you ladies like a drink?" He asked, his eyes wide when he saw the state of the room.
"A coffee would be great thanks." Debi replied.
"The same for me please." Madonna looked amused at his face.
"This Lola, is what I NEVER want your room to look like, ok?" Carlos said and Lourdes looked serious and shook her head in agreement.
"I'm helping M tidy up down. We were just catching up." Debi said and Carlos nodded, smiling.
"I'll be back with those drinks in a bit." He said, leaving with Lourdes still in his arms.
"M, you have a perfect family. I don't know how you feel right now, but that's got to count for something, right?" Debi said and Madonna nodded.
"Yes. Yes it does."
End of Part 11...
Madonna had Lourdes on her lap, who wriggled around as she ate breakfast.
"You are such a fidget-butt!" Madonna said and Lourdes giggled, dribbling milk from her cereal down her chin. Carlos handed Madonna a couple of tissues and she wiped Lourdes' chin.
"Mommy, can you take me to school today?" Lourdes looked at her expectantly.
"Of course baby." Madonna kissed her little cheek.
"And you daddy?"
"Yes." Carlos smiled. He lifted Lourdes off of Madonna's lap, kissing her cheek. "Let's go and clean your teeth." He winked at Madonna, who looked grateful she could now reach her coffee. A few minutes later Carlos came back on his own.
"Lola is just putting some things in her backpack."
"I have to do a lineup, after we drop her off at school." Madonna said quietly.
"I'll come with you."
"The thought of having to see those men..." Madonna trailed off, gasping and covering her mouth.
"M, they won't be able to see you from behind that glass I don't think."
"I hope not."
"They should be the ones embarrassed to see you."
"Yeah, I guess."
"Mommy, daddy, are you ready?!" Lourdes shouted from by the front door and Carlos and Madonna smiled at each other and went to take her to school.
"Yes Lola." Carlos repplied.
They looked like a regular family, Lourdes walking in between Madonna and Carlos, who held a hand each - accept for the fact they had a couple of bodyguards accompanying them.
Madonna's hands were trembling and slightly sweaty when Carlos took one. He leaned over and kissed her temple.
"M, it's going to be fine. I know you can do this." He whispered in her ear.
She swallowed a lump in her throat and chewed her lower lip. "I should ask if they found my rings."
"You would have had them back by now." Carlos said.
"I loved those rings." Madonna squeezed his hand.
"I know." Carlos said. "Shall we get a cab? or call for a car? It's a little way."
"No, I want to walk. The fresh air might help." Madonna replied and Carlos nodded.
It took them around forty minutes to arrive at the police station. Along the way people stared at them, whispered and a few paparazzi took pictures. Madonna kept her eyes downcast and gripped Carlos' hand. He glared at people who stared too long and the photographers. It was a relief once they were inside. The two bodyguards waited in the reception area, while CSI Oates and another woman - a middle-aged red head called Detective Grimes led Madonna and Carlos away to a room.
The Detective and CSI went through what would happen during the lineup and Carlos noticed Madonna getting paler and paler, nodding as she listened.
The all turned to look at the glass, through which Madonna had been reassured no one would be able to see her. Eight men walked out, each holding up a number and Madonna stumbled back, nearly tripping over a chair as she moaned, looking horrified.
"M, are you ok?" Carlos grabbed her elbow and put an arm around her.
"Mrs Leon, do you recognise any of these men?" Detective Grimes had a hard voice, but was trying to sound softer.
"Could you tell us the number please?"
"Both of them are there." Madonna said, staring at the lineup.
Detective Grimes, CSI Oates and Carlos all looked at each other, equally stunned. They had expected Madonna to maybe pick out one of the men, not both of them. Madonna moved away from them all, walking right up to the glass. She stared at the two men, who even happened to be standing next to each other. Flashes of memory ran through her head. Talking and laughing and drinking at the party in the bar, the hotel room, having her clothes stripped off, feeling too fuzzy to stop them or even care what they were doing to her, constantly being given drinks, having her face smashed into a medicine cabinet. It was almost too much for her. The silence in the room was a heavy one, as they all waited for her to speak. Madonna eventually looked back over her shoulder.
"Five and six." She said and the Detective scribbled the numbers down.
"Are you absolutely sure, Mrs Leon?" CSI Oates asked and Madonna nodded.
"I am sure."
"Thank you, Mrs Leon. Myself and CSI Oates appreciate that must have been hard for you." Detective Grimes said.
"What happens now?" Carlos asked, a protective arm around Madonna's waist.
"We take them in for questioning. Also we will get search warrants for their residence and collect any evidence, then potentially ask Mrs Leon back in for questioning and take it from there." CSI Oates said.
"But we will be kept in the loop?" Carlos half asked.
"You will be." CSI Oates said. "Again, thank you for today, Mrs Leon." She looked at Madonna gratefully and Madonna nodded, still looking troubled.
Carlos led Madonna away, down the hallway towards the exit. CSI Oates and Detective Grimes watched them leave.
"That poor woman. She looked rattled." Detective Grimes said, looking sympathetic.
"So would you, if you'd been kidnapped, drugged and abused." CSI Oates replied. Both women watched Carlos lead Madonna away, with their bodyguards in tow.
When they got home, Madonna went straight up to her room, through to the bathroom and couldn't strip off and get in the shower fast enough. Carlos followed her, knowing where she would be going.
"This has to stop M." He said, getting into the shower fully clothed.
"I'm just having a shower!" Madonna almost yelled, frantically scrubbing.
"You've rubbing yourself raw!" Carlos tried to grab Madonna's arms.
"Stop it! Get off of me!" Madonna struggled with Carlos, who was trying to stop her scrubbing herself without hurting her.
"I am trying to help you, M. Please, stop struggling."
"Get out of the shower, Carlos." Madonna said, pushing him back, nearly through the door to the cubicle, which was open.
"No. I won't let you do this to yourself."
"I will scream the house down if you don't get out." Madonna said, glaring at him with tears in her eyes.
Carlos backed out of the shower, holding both hands up defensively. "Ok, ok, I'm going." He said and left the bathroom, closing the door.
A few minutes later, Madonna walked into the room, soaking wet and completely naked. Her long, wavy blonde hair was slicked to her body. Carlos lay on his back on the bed and Madonna went over to him and lay alongside him.
"M, you're going to freeze." Carlos said, looking at her, wet and curling into him.
"I don't care."
"I do." Carlos got a towel and dried Madonna as she lay on the bed.
"Do you still find me attractive?" Madonna asked, lying on her back, looking up at Carlos. She looked fragile, like she might break and he realised she'd lost weight.
Carlos kissed Madonna, in both a loving and hungry way. "Of course I do M."
End of Part 12...
Carlos kissed Madonna's bare shoulder, as he sat up and wrapped both arms around her, grazing a breast. They'd just made love for the first time since she had been attacked and she felt more relaxed then she had done in a while. Madonna smiled, turning and kissing him over her shoulder.
"I hope they find my rings...it feels like kind of a betrayal to you that Im not wearing them." Madonna said, holding her hand out.
"If they don't, I can always get you new ones M."
"But they were personal. You had them both inscribed, Carlos." Madonna frowned, sitting back in bed, so she could see him properly and not just over her shoulder.
"I can get you new rings and have them inscribed. You can pick out the rings and and we can both decide on what to have inscribed. If your rings aren't found." Carlos suggested. Madonna opened her mouth as though to say something, then closed it. "I know how much you love those rings, M, and I am sure they will turn up."
"I hope so." Madonna touched the faint red marks around her wrists and Carlos looked at them.
"The marks are going down. And the bruises on your body."
Madonna frowned, sliding out of bed ad quickly putting a short pale pink cotton gown on and doing the belt up. "Oh god, please don't tell me you were checking my injuries, because that really has killed the mood."
"Not intentionally. I just happened to notice." Carlos said.
Madonna rolled her eyes. "I feel like I'm being processed all over again."
"M, I love you. I want those bruises to disappear, along with the cut on your face and the marks around your wrists."
"Do you think once they go, that's it? I'll be all better?" Madonna said sarcastically.
"No I don't. But it's a start. I was thinking it would make life just a little easier for you, having no physical scars to look at. I'm not naive, M, I know it's going to take quite some time for you to get over this."
"It would have been easier if they'd killed me."
Carlos frowned. "Don't say that! Don't you dare say that! I love you! Lola loves you!"
"I didn't say I want to die, I just said it would have been easier."
"Don't say it. Don't think it M. What is you've said before - 'easy doesn't make you grow'?"
"Yeah, but I don't need to be completely fucking abused to the point I don't feel safe in a city I love to grow!!" Madonna screamed and Carlos sat back, like he'd been slapped.
"Scream and shout all you want M. If it makes you feel even a bit better, then I'm glad." Carlos said quietly.
"Oh my god, you are so frustrating!" Madonna said, red-faced.
"Why? Do you want me to yell back at you?"
Madonna got up and grabbed some clothes off a nearby chair. "Don't fucking analyse me, Carlos! I pay enough money for someone to do that!"
"Where are you going?"
"I want to be on my own."
"Stay. Talk to me."
"Carlos." Madonna held up a hand. "Please." She grabbed her bag and a coat and left. Carlos heard her go downstairs, then looked out the window, and saw her car leave the garage.
Madonna went and picked Lourdes up from school early. She lied to the teacher, saying she had a dentist appointment and had to leave early.
"Mommy, you never told me I had the dentist today." Lourdes frowned, as Madonna strapped her into the carseat she'd moved into the passenger seat.
"You don't, baby." Madonna said, getting into the car. "Mommy needs cheering up. I thought we could do something together."
"You lied!" Lourdes' eyes were wide.
"It's naughty really, Lola. Promise me you won't tell your teachers or friends."
"I promise mommy." Lourdes said, smiling. "Daddy?"
"You can tell daddy." Madonna said, thinking Carlos wouldn't be too happy, but not caring for the time being.
"Where are we going?"
"How about the beach?" Madonna said, already driving to the Hamptons.
"Yay!" Lourdes clapped her hands, looking delighted and Madonna smiled.
It took them just under two and a half hours to get there. They played I spy and Madonna put on some audio books for Lourdes to listen to and she fell asleep for part of the journey. When Lourdes woke up she was wide awake and Madonna took her to a bakery for a treat, then they went to the beach. Madonna and Lourdes kicked off their shoes and rolled up their trousers and ran down to the water. It was a little cold, but they had run running in and out of it, splashing each other. After a while they sat on a blanket on the sand, letting their lower legs and feet dry in the sun. Madonna bought them ice-creams and drinks for the journey back.
"I like naughty mommy." Lourdes said, getting ice-cream all around her mouth. Madonna laughed.
"Are you eating that, or wearing it?" She asked and the little girl grinned.
Madonna got some tissues out and dabbed at Lourdes as she ate her ice-cream.
"Mommy, are you happy now?"
"Very much, Lola." Madonna smiled, feeling more relaxed, even though she knew another argument with Carlos was going to happen when they got home.
"Good." Lourdes said.
"Where the hell did you get too?" Carlos asked, when Madonna returned with Lourdes.
"Daddy, it's not nice to say hell. Mommy needed cheering up, so we went to the beach." Lourdes said breezily.
Carlos looked surprised, and like he was about to get angry.
"Lola, why don't you go and play upstairs for a bit, so daddy and I can talk?"
"Oh-kaay." Lourdes said. She stopped halfway up the stairs and looked down at Carlos. "Daddy, don't be mad at mommy. She was sad and I made her happy." Lourdes said, then ran all the way up to her room.
"Let me have it." Madonna tilted her chin up, ready to get a telling off.
Instead of yelling at her, Carlos hugged her. "I was worried when I saw you driving off, about where you would go." Madonna was surprised that he hugged her at first, then relaxed into it and held him.
"I know it was reckless, but I just wanted to spend some time with Lola."
"What if you were spotted? What did you tell her school?"
"That she had the dentist." Madonna replied and Carlos tried not to laugh.
"Did you have a good time?"
"Yeah. It was worth it, even if her school finds out and I get a telling off." Madonna said.
"I'm sorry if I upset you earlier." Carlos said, looking regretful.
Madonna shook her head. "I'm really moody lately, up and down. I am sorry Carlos. You have been - you are being amazing. This is putting a strain on our marriage." She said and he nodded, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Maybe we had sex too soon?"
"Christ, no. I wanted too, Carlos, you never forced me. If I waited until I was perfectly fine, it wouldn't be fair on either of us." Madonna said, waving her hand dismissively. "I was just being moody. And how did you know I'd gone somewhere?"
"I thought you would pick Lola up and it doesn't take hours to get her home from school." Carlos said. "I was just worried more than anything."
"I wouldn't put our daughter in danger." Madonna said and Carlos nodded.
"So you aren't mad at me?" Madonna chewed her lower lip.
"Not really. You can make it up to me." Carlos said, smiling and Madonna laughed.
End of Part 13...
Madonna's face broke out into a smile and there were tears in her eyes as she held her phone to her ear. It looked like she was relieved. "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" She put her fingers to her lips and Carlos looked confused. "I can come and get them. Now, if that's ok?" Madonna hung up the phone and jumped up and down clapping her hands.
"Don't keep me in suspense...what is it?" Carlos asked, smiling at how happy Madonna looked.
"They found both my rings!" Tears of happiness and relief streamed down her cheeks.
Carlos wrapped his arms around Madonna, nuzzling his nose into her neck and Madonna held on to him, smiling over his shoulder.
"I'm so happy for you M. I know it was causing you a lot of stress." Carlos said, when they finally stopped hugging.
"Do you wany to come with? I mean, you can go to work if you want...I take up enough of your time lately - " Carlos cut Madonna off with a very passionate kiss. " - Oh." Madonna looked taken aback, but smiled, touching her lips. "Kiss me like that any more and we might not make it to the police station..." She said and he laughed.
"No, we need to go. I know how important the rings are to you. And you don't 'take up my time', M. You're my wife. I would rather spend time with you than anyone else." He said and she smiled.
"Let's go - it feels weird not wearing those rings."
When they arrived at the police station and Madonna spotted CSI Oates, she almost ran towards her. CSI Oates handed Madonna a little ring box and opened it, handing it to her.
"We found them in their apartment. I took the liberty of having them professionally cleaned for you and the jeweller put them in the box for me."
"Were they dirty? Did they have blood on them or something?" Madonna frowned.
"Oh, no. I just thought it might be nice for you to have clean rings on your finger. We don't know where they have been until we found them."
"How much do I owe you?" Madonna asked, routing through her bag for her purse.
"Nothing. Someone at Tiffany owed me a favour." CSI Oates smiled.
"Thank you so much, you have no idea how happy I am that you found these!" Madonna smiled, her eyes filling with tears, as she took the rings out of the box and slid them both back on her wedding finger.
"You're most welcome." CSI Oates said, as Madonna put the empty box in her bag.
"Have you made any progress with the case?" Carlos asked, a protective hand around Madonna's waist.
"I have some more good news, actually. The videos have been completely destroyed." CSI Oates said quietly and Madonna raised her eyebrows.
"Are you sure?" She asked and the CSI nodded.
"After extensive interrogation. We seized their phones and laptops. After we copyed everything we needed from them to our systems, we were granted permission to destroy them."
"But you still have the videos on your system." Madonna said in a small voice.
"Yes, but this case is very restricted. The only people who watch them are those of us working on the case. We haven't even talked about the case within the department to anyone who isn't involved with it, so they aren't aware the videos exist." CSI Oates said, and it sounded like she and her co-workers were taking it very seriously.
"When...when this is over, will the videos be completely destroyed? I don't want there to be the slightest risk they will leak. My daughter should never have to see that." Madonna said, looking worried.
CSI Oates nodded. "After this case has gone to court and a verdict has been served. Literally the same day, we will destroy them."
"Thank you. And for my rings and having them cleaned." Madonna forced a smile, even though she felt nervous as the sound of court being mentioned.
"Again, you're welcome." CSI Oates smiled, then left Carlos and Madonna.
"You look worried." Carlos said, as he walked her out to the car.
They got in the backseat and the bodyguard drove them away. Madonna rubbed her forehead with her hand.
"Court." She said simply, not looking at Carlos.
"I will be with you."
"That's sweet and all Carlos, but I have to stand in that dock on my own, face a room full of people and recount what happened on the worst night of my life." Madonna said softly, looking at him. "I wasn't just abused. I was humiliated."
"People doing jury service aren't allowed to talk about cases outside the courtroom." Carlos said and Madonna laughed.
"You really think with a case involving me they won't?"
"Maybe they will have to sign something, because you're high-profile." Carlos said optimistically.
"Jesus christ, I hope so. This is that one time I can do without the judgement of everyone else." Madonna replied. "I'm glad I have you to look on the bright side for me. Because I can't right now." She touched her lips to his and he felt her tears on his face.
"At least you have your rings back, and they are nice and clean." Carlos said, holding her hand out and Madonna smiled down at it.
"Yes, you're right."
"I expect Sachie will more than prepare you for court. She has done in the past." Carlos said and Madonna nodded.
"She would make a good sergeant major in the army." Madonna managed a small smile and Carlos laughed.
"Yeah. She kind of scares me a bit."
"Good. Maybe she will terrify those guys in court." Madonna replied, daring to feel a little hopeful and Carlos nodded, kissing her cheek and squeezing her hand.
End of Part 14...
Madonna was in the calm room that evening, lying on the floor like a starfish, with her arms and legs spread out wide and her eyes closed. There was soothing music of gentle waves crashing on in the background and candles all around the room were lit. She had been finding it hard to relax before she went to bed, and Carlos had suggested Madonna use the calm room to see if it helped. When she felt relaxed, Madonna found her mind drifting off to the party. It all came flooding back to her - the two guys talking to her, buying her drinks (that she didn't see being laced, because they were very sneaky about it), then dancing with her and eventually taking her back to the hotel. Madonna even remembered glancing over at a girl on reception, who barely hid a look of digust as she was walking past with the guys. Once in the room Madonna remembered being given more drinks (laced) and dancing, being groped. She remembered a brief moment between drinks where she was almost lucid and it all felt very wrong. Then having her head smashed into a medicine cabinet when she tried refusing drinks. Madonna remembered sniffing a little coke from dark hair's hand. She had been forced down onto her knees and made to give the blonde guy a blow job. While she was doing that, the guy with the dark hair was snorting coke off the table, drinking from a bottle, then turned his attention to her. He caressed her bum and ran his hands up over her breasts, gripping them hard.
"You are going to be one memorable fuck." Dark hair had whispered in her ear. He had then pulled her away and made her blow him, while his friend drank, took some pills and snorted some coke.
Blonde hair grabbed Madonna as he lay on the sofa, forcing his dick inside her, smiling over her shoulder at dark hair, who was even rougher in forcing his way in her bum. She cried out, but was pretty numbed from the drink and drugs. Their hands were all over her, pressing her skin hard. Dark hair nibbled her ear and licked it, blonde hair grabbed a handful of her hair and pulled her down for a kiss, forcing his tongue in her mouth so violently, that she had to swallow the bile that rose fast. It seemed to go on for ever, but when they both came, they tossed her to the floor, like a doll they were momentarily tired of. Madonna was on her hands and knees, drunk, drugged, naked. She saw her clothes scattered on the floor, ripped from where they'd been in a rush to get her naked.
"I don't know how that husband of yours lets a pretty little thing like you out of his sight...I would never." Blonde hair said, grabbing a handful of her hair.
"Stop grabbing my hair! You're hurting me!" Madonna wailed. She even reached up and shoved him.
Dark hair slapped her. "Don't you dare, you little slut." He grabbed a straight-backed chair and made her sit on it. Blonde hair bound her wrists with several cable ties. They were what would leave the fierce red marks around her wrists.
"Fiesty cunt, aren't you?" Blonde hair smiled and Madonna just glared at him. "What, no come back?" He held his hands out. "Come on, don't be shy. You weren't just now, when you were fucking us. Or sucking us off."
"It's not like I had a choice." Madonna replied. "Let me go. I won't tell anyone."
Dark hair laughed. "Yeah, sure you won't." He tipped a little coke on his hand and offered it to her and she shook her head, so he grabbed her hair and smashed her face into his hand.
"Drink this." Blonde offered her a drink and Madonna's nose hurt and she drank it and felt the room tilt. "Are you going to behave?" He kneeled down in front of her and she nodded, smiling, her head feeling hazy. Blonde hair cut the cable ties, after several minutes and she had horrible red marks on her wrists. Despite the recent drink and drugs, Madonna felt the pain and rubbed her wrists and began to cry.
"I think you need to lie down." Dark hair wrapped an arm around her and picked Madonna up, throwing her down on the bed.
Both of them got into bed, lying either side of Madonna. They ran their hands all over her, slipping their fingers inside her as tears spilled down her face and she groaned with the slight discomfort of it. She fell asleep after that. That was when dark hair and blonde hair must have took whatever they were recording on away, along with her clothes and disappeared - leaving her to wake up alone and disorientated the following morning.
Madonna's eyes flew open, staying wide with surprise that all her memories had suddenly came back to her in one go. She felt pinned to the floor momentarily - too scared to move. Then it was like Madonna had been winded badly. She sat up and started gasping for air, really struggling to breathe, clutching her throat.
"Mommy, mommy, come and play with me!" Lourdes opened the door and found Madonna gasping for breath and her smile gave way to a look of pure terror. "Mommy!!" The little girl whimpered, rushing over to her.
"Daddy...get...daddy..." Madonna gasped and Lourdes nodded and she heard her run downstairs and scream to Carlos.
Carlos appeared, with Lourdes standing in the doorway, looking worried. He ran over to Madonna and sat next to her, placing a hand on her back.
"Can't...breathe..." Were the only words Madonna managed to say.
"You're having a panic attack M." Carlos said softly. "Try to clear your mind and concentrate on your breathing. Count your breaths."
"All...memories..." Madonna frowned. "Can't...clear...m-mind."
"That's great that you have remembered everything, but you need to try to calm down M." Carlos continued speaking in the most soothing voice, even though it worried him seeing his wife in so much distress.
Eventually Madonna did calm down and Lourdes walked over to them. "Are you better now mommy?"
"I am now you and daddy are here, Lola. You are a good girl for getting him for me." Madonna pulled Lourdes onto her lap and kissed and cuddled her and Lourdes looked more relaxed.
"Thanks Lola." Carlos smiled, smoothing her hair and kissing the top of her head.
"Are you better so you can come and play with me?" Lourdes asked.
"In a minute baby. Why don't you go and pick out some toys for us to play with in your room and I will be along in a minute?" Madonna suggested.
"Ok." Lourdes smiled, toddling off.
Carlos looked at Madonna. "You remembered it all?" He asked and she nodded.
"Yes. I was relaxed for a while, then it all came back to me. It's a little much. I woke up and couldn't breathe. It felt like I was actually there. It was such a real memory." Madonna said, her voice wobbling as she took a deep breath.
"Maybe you should make a statement." Carlos said.
"Yeah. I want to talk to Sachie first though." Madonna replied.
After taking Lourdes to school the following day, Madonna and Carlos were sat with her lawyer, Sachie Hattori in the kitchen, drinking coffee while Madonna described her memory of that fateful night. Carlos looked horrified, and Sachie had the usual deadpan expression she wore when anyone spoke to her.
"Oh my god." Carlos said, running both hands through his hair when Madonna had finished.
Sachie looked at him, then Madonna. "When you are giving your statement Madonna, choose something in the room and look at it. Focus on it, and speak without hesitation. Try to keep your chin up and your voice steady."
"With all due respect Sachie, did you just hear what she said?" Carlos looked amazed the lawyer could seem so indifferent.
"With all due respect Carlos, I am a lawyer. It is horrific what Madonna went through, truly, but I am here to advise in a legal capacity." Sachie turned to Madonna. "I don't mean that to sound cold or uncaring."
"It doesn't, I understand." Madonna said, drinking some of her coffee.
"I am advising you to keep your chin up, voice steady and focus on something in the room, because it will help you when this case goes to court. The easy part is saying all that in a police station, where they can stop and start the tape and give you breaks if you need them, Madonna. In a court that isn't possible."
"Is there any way the court can be closed to the public?" Carlos asked.
"The jury is made up of the public." Madonna said, looking at him.
"I will have to see what judge you get, they may decide to close it off to the public anyway, due to it being a high-profile case. And the jury will have to sign secrecy papers." Sachie replied.
"I have another meeting with a client, Madonna, then I will meet you at the police station later if that's ok?" Sachie got up and put papers in her bag.
"Thanks you." Madonna walked her to the door.
"You were very brave." Carlos said, looking at Madonna proudly, but she just looked at him and walked away.
End of Part 15...
Carlos woke up before Madonna the following day and watched her sleep. She looked so still and peaceful and he planted a very soft kiss on her forehead. The cut running alongside her hairline, down her face was fading, along with the marks on her wrists and the bruises on her body had all but gone. Madonna's eyelids twitched and she opened her eyes.
"Sorry, did I wake you?" Carlos asked.
"No." Madonna smiled lazily, sitting up as she opened her eyes and yawned. "Are you alright? You look...troubled."
"I should have been there to protect you." Carlos replied, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Neither of us knew what was going to happen. You can't always be with me, Carlos. It was just very very bad luck." Madonna said, smoothing his cheek. "I don't want you to beat yourself up over it."
"But if I had been with you, they wouldn't have approached you." Carlos replied, looking at Madonna with sad eyes.
"We probably would have split up to talk to people. My drinks could still have been laced at the very least. If anyone should feel guilty, it should be me. As much as I love you and Lola, I wanted a night out." Madonna sighed.
"You deserve nights out. There is no reason for you to feel guilty, M. You look after us and work hard." Carlos replied.
"I don't think I'm going to want a night out ever again. Not without you at least." Madonna said, kissing his neck, wrapping her arms around Carlos, pressing herself into him. He took one of her hands and kissed it, glancing back over his should at her.
"Eventually you might M, when you feel stronger again."
"This is too soon." Madonna chewed her thumbnail, looking at the letter on the coffee table. It told her when the court date was, which was in a couple of weeks.
Sachie was sat perched on the edge of the sofa next to her, bolt upright like a dancer. Carlos had gone to pick Lourdes up from school, and to give them some space.
"To be honest Madonna, there is never a good time for court. The least time you have to overthink it, the better." Sachie replied.
"You don't have to get up and say what I have to say."
Sachie nodded. "Granted. By I will lay down the floor for you. You're not alone in there, Madonna. Carlos will also be there. And after hearing your statement, I don't know a jury in the world who wouldn't sympathise with you. They will get what they deserve." She said the last part with determined aggression.
"It's not necessarily all that I'm worried about."
"I'll get a press restriction inside the court and see what I can do about them keeping a distance outside too." Sachie said, making a note of that in her notepad. "I might not be able to do as much outside the court as inside, but I will try."
"Thank you." Madonna looked grateful.
"Do you have any other concerns I can help with?" Sachie asked.
"Not that I can think of."
"Ok. If you do, please try to tell me sooner rather than later, so I can sort them out for you."
"Madonna, you sat and told me and Carlos. You were recorded at a police station. A courtroom is just a slightly bigger place, with a few more people. I believe in you." Sachie said. "Find a spot - or a person and fixate on it when you deliver your statement. If you don't feel confident, act confident. But not too much. It's perfectly fine if you get emotional, or cry. That's understanding. You have Judge Cartwright - a female judge who has sat on plenty of cases similar to this one."
Carlos returned then with Lourdes, who ran in and climbed up onto Madonna's lap.
"Lola! Madonna is trying to talk to Sachie." Carlos half-heartedly scolded her, it was hard for him to be even a little annoyed with his daughter.
"It's fine." Madonna said, rearranging Lourdes in her lap. "Did you have a good day at school, Lola?"
"Yeah!" Lourdes said, nodding, but looking at Sachie. "Are you mommy's friend?"
"Yes." Sachie smiled warmly, deciding against trying to explain her profession to someone so young.
"Do you want to come and see my room, Sachie?" Lourdes jumped down from Madonna's lap, holding her hand out.
"That would be nice." Sachie said, standing up and taking Lourdes' hand, looking from Carlos to Madonna and they both nodded, looking amused.
Lourdes took Sachie upstairs and showed her her bedroom and her books and toys. Madonna and Carlos went up with her and eventually Lourdes lost interest in the lawyer and started to play.
"I have a daughter and a son." Sachie said, looking at Madonna with an uncharacteristically warm expression.
"How old are they?"
"Daiki is eight and Aiko is six." Sachie replied.
"We're hoping to give Lola a brother or a sister soon." Carlos replied and Sachie smiled, looking at Madonna knowingly.
"I'm all done here, if you are?"
"Yes, thanks for everything."
Sachie raised a hand on her way out. When she was out of earshot, Carlos looked at Madonna.
"I can imagine her being really strict as a mother."
"There's nothing wrong with that."
"I couldn't be that strict with Lola." Carlos replied, looking at Lourdes playing with her toys on the floor.
"No." Madonna smiled down at her daughter.
"What was that look Sachie gave you when I said about giving Lola a brother or sister?"
"There was a look?" Madonna lied.
"Maybe not." Carlos said and when he walked away, Madonna looked down at her stomach, placing both hands on it.
End of Part 16...
Set in 1998. Madonna has been married to Carlos Leon since before the filming of Evita began.
Slowly Madonna opened her eyes. She looked up at the ceiling and felt really groggy, squinting. Madonna sat up with a start and realised she was in a strange room - it looked like a hotel room. She frowned, not remembering how she got there, or even what she had done the previous evening. Madonna swung her legs round and got out of bed, looking down at her completely naked body. There were some bruises and red marks around her wrists, that she rubbed because they suddenly felt sore. Madonna pushed her long wavy blonde hair out of her face, and looked around the room for her clothes, then in the wardrobe. She frowned when she couldn't find any, and found it stranger still that she hadn't brought a bag or anything with her. Madonna found plenty of half empty and empty bottles of everything ranging from wine to Jack Daniels. What disturbed her the most was the glass coffee table next to the sofa that was covered with all different drugs - coke, tablets and even needles. All the colour drained from her face and Madonna didn't know what to do.
"Hello? Is anyone here?" Madonna asked in a small, scared voice, walking around, in the bathroom.
There was a glass medicine cabinet that had had something smashed into it, because all the glass was still in it, but shattered and there were a few drops of blood on it. Madonna caught her reflection in the mirror and touched a cut running down the side of her hairline, not too far from her right eye.
"Oh my god." Madonna gasped, feeling nauseous. She quickly put up the toilet seat and was sick. She was sick for so long, it felt like she was practically throwing up her organs. Madonna wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and sank down from her knees until she was lying on the floor, curled around the toilet. She knew she had to get out of that place, and Madonna had to use all her strength to will herself to move. She crawled into the bedroom, looking around for a phone. By chance, she spotted her phone under the bed. There was nothing else belonging to her, so clearly she had been robbed and the phone must have fell out of a bag she'd had at some point. Madonna picked up her phone and with her hands trembling, found Carlos' number.
"M, where the hell did you end up last night?? I was worried when you didn't come home! I tried calling and sending you messages. It took ages to get Lola to bed, because she wanted you." Carlos sounded frantic.
Merely hearing his voice was too much for her and Madonna burst into tears. "I - I don't know what happened to me...or where I am...help me! Help me Carlos..."
"You don't know what happened? What do you mean M? Are you hurt?"
"I can't remember last night." Madonna's voice wobbled.
"How much did you drink?"
"I don't know. I feel so strange..."
"M, where are you? Look around the room, see if there is something with the name of the hotel on it. I can come and get you."
Madonna eased herself up and sat on the bed and saw a menu with the name of the hotel on it and read it out to Carlos.
"I'll be there soon. Don't go anywhere."
"I can't. They took my clothes, I must have had a bag at some point, I found my phone under the bed."
"Ok M. I'll call the police as well."
"No! They might get here before you. I'm naked. I have bruises and a cut on my head and marks around my wrists."
"Jesus Christ." Carlos muttered into the phone, rubbing his forehead with worry.
"What if whoever did this to me comes back? I'm so scared, Carlos." Madonna said in a small voice.
"Find something you can use as a weapon and hide M. I won't be long, I promise."
"Ok." Madonna said and she looked around when they both hung up. She grabbed one of the empty bottles and hid in the wardrobe, waiting for Carlos.
Not that long after she'd phoned Carlos, there was a knock at the door.
"M? It's me, Carlos. M?"
Madonna scrambled out of the wardrobe, putting the empty bottle down and opened the door a fraction. Carlos stood on the other side and looked worried when he saw her. She opened the door wider and he went in, closing it behind him. Madonna started to cry and Carlos looked at the marks on her wrists, the cut on her face and bruises and hugged her. She held on to him as though someone might try to take him away from her.
"Here are your clothes." Carlos said, hading Madonna a bag and she sniffed, smiling through her tears, but still looking incredibly vulnerable.
"There was no-one here when you woke up?" Carlos half asked, wandering around, while Madonna got dressed. She frowned, looking at him.
"You think I cheated on you?"
"When you didn't come home last night, I didn't know what to think." Carlos replied quietly.
"Look around, Carlos. Look at the drugs on the table, all the drink, my injuries...does that look like my kind of night?!" Madonna asked angrily.
"No. M, I'm sorry."
"I wouldn't cheat on you." Madonna said, looking hurt.
"What's the last thing you remember?" Carlos asked, changing the subject.
"Saying goodbye to you and Lola last night." Tears slid down Madonna's cheeks.
"You can't remember the party at all?" Carlos asked and Madonna shook her head.
"No. Or whatever happened after." Madonna looked at the table covered with drugs and the bottles. "I need to lie down." She said and lay on top of the messy bed.
"I need to call the police and an ambulance, M. You were obviously drugged." Carlos said, sitting on the bed next to Madonna, smoothing hair away from her face and she nodded.
"I don't feel so good Carlos." Madonna said, curling up on her side, wrapping her arms around herself.
"Are you going to be sick?"
"No. I was really sick before I found my phone and called you. I just feel weird. Spaced out." Madonna said, hardly able to keep her eyes open.
"M, stay awake. I don't want you to pass out."
"It's so hard." Madonna said, looking up at Carlos hopelessly.
"I know. But you have to try." He said, taking one of her hands and kissing it. Carlos let go of her hand briefly to call the police and paramedics, then held it again.
"Don't let me die." Madonna whispered, looking very pale as tears streamed down her face.
Carlos held her hand in both of his. It felt limp and cold and he pulled the covers up around Madonna and lay alongside her on top of them. Neither of them said another word, but just looked into each others' eyes as they waited for the emergency services.
The room was chaos when the paramedics, police and CSI arrived on the scene at the same time. They were followed by the hotel manager, staff that had been on the reception when Madonna had arrived and hotel security. Outside the hotel paparazzi were hanging around, having caught wind that a high-profile crime had happened. Security kept an eye on them to make sure they didn't try to enter the hotel, or get in the wayof people coming and going. The drugs were being photographed and boxed up as evidence, crime scene tape was put across the doorway to the room and Madonna watched it all happening, still feeling dazed and confused, frowning slightly and Carlos stayed by her side, watching her with concern.
"M? Are you ok?" He asked and she looked at him almost like he was a stranger and shook her head.
"I don't feel right." Madonna said, the colour once again draining from her face. "Take me home, Carlos. I want to go home. This doesn't feel right, being here."
"Do you remember something?" Carlos asked quietly and Madonna shook her head, hugging herself.
"It's not that I remember anything - it hurts my head if I try too hard. I just have a really bad feeling that something terrible happened here tonight." Madonna replied, frowning. "I can't explain it and I can't face talking to anyone."
"M you don't have to talk to anyone straight away. I'm sure they can take you to hospital before you have to talk to the police."
"It's not like I am going to be much help to anyone..." Madonna bit her lower lip, running a hand through her hair. She stopped, listening to a conversation one of the receptionists was having with a policewoman.
"M? What is it?"
"I feel sick."
"What did you hear?"
"That receptionist - she - she just said that I came in with two men. She thought I was really drunk." Madonna looked horrified.
"They must have drugged you before M, because you don't remember."
"How much did they drug me that I don't remember anything?" Madonna asked and she and Carlos looked at each other with a shared horror. She saw a policeman make his way over to her, and the room tilted and Madonna's eyes rolled back and she collapsed.
Madonna's eyes fluttered open and she initially squinted at the brightness of the lights in the room.
"Oh no, not again!" She groaned.
"M, it's ok. You're safe. In a hospital." Carlos said and she turned to look at him, then down at his hand holding hers and she took her hand away.
"Safe? Two men took me back to a hotel last night and I can't remember what they did to me, Carlos. And on top of that I have injuries and was drugged." Madonna looked so completely helpless and Carlos wished he could say or do something more to help her.
A female doctor joined them, followed by a female CSI, who had a silver briefcase and a camera on a strap slung over one shoulder.
"Aah, Mrs Leon, you are awake. I am Dr Thompson and this is CSI Oates." Dr Thompson introduced them both. She was a middle-aged woman with blonde hair pulled back in a bun at the nape of her neck and warm brown eyes with the beginnings of crows feet.
In contrast, CSI Oates had dark hair pulled back in a messy ponytail with a pen stuck in it, and was small and curvy, in contrast to how tall and willowy Dr Thompson was. "How do you feel, Mrs Leon?"
"Confused. Very confused." Madonna replied quietly.
"I ran some tests and there were a mixture of different drugs in your system..." Dr Thompson started, and listed them, while Madonna looked stunned and Carlos horrified. "...You were in and out of consciousness when the paramedics brought you in, Mrs Leon. But we pumped your stomach and gave you charcol and managed to make you sick, to get rid of all the poison in your system. You were very sick when this happened - when you came in."
"Oh. I thought I dreamed that. I'm sorry." Madonna looked up, colour flooding her cheeks, looking embarrassed.
"You have nothing to apologise for, Mrs Leon." Dr Thompson said in both a fierce, yet comforting tone. "CSI Oates here would like to take some pictures of your injuries, scrape your nails and run a rape kit, if that is ok with you?" Dr Thompson asked.
"No, it's not!" Madonna sat up suddenly, pulling her knees right up to her chest, rocking slightly. "I don't even know what happened to me last night - you said I was drugged repeatedly...don't you think I've been humiliated enough?!" Madonna yelled, tears streaming down her face.
"No one is trying to humiliate you, M, they are just trying to help you. And catch whoever done this to you." Carlos said calmly.
"I just want to go home! I want to see Lola!" Madonna said in a distressed way, looking at him.
"Is Lola your daughter, Mrs Leon?" CSI Oates asked softly and Madonna nodded. "How old is she?"
"I have two daughters - Celeste who is three and Betty who is eight." CSI Oates replied, smiling.
"We would like another child. A boy." Carlos replied, understanding that they were trying to keep Madonna calm so they would gain her trust. He held Madonna's hand, and the bone-crushing way she squeezed it let him know she wasn't there yet.
"Mrs Leon, we promise to be gentle with you. It won't take long. I can stay with you, whilst CSI Oates works." Dr Thompson said warmly, before all the talk of children went off on a tangent.
"No." Madonna shook her head like a child having a tantrum.
"M." Carlos said. "I'll wait just outside the screen. You aren't alone."
Madonna let go of his hand and wrapped it around her legs. "I just want to go home and not ever remember last night. Ever." More tears slid down her cheeks.
"There are two men out there, Mrs Leon and they could do the same to another woman - to more women if they aren't caught. The more evidence we get, the more chance we have of catching them." CSI Oates said.
"I don't feel safe." Madonna said, letting go of her legs and put them down.
"Are you going to let us help you?" Dr Thompson asked.
Madonna nodded, swallowing a lump in her throat, looking at Carlos, her eyes swimming with fresh tears.
"I'll be just outside the room, M." He said and she nodded as Dr Thompson pulled the curtain around the bed, after Carlos had stepped out of the room.
"Ok Mrs Leon, I am going to start by taking pictures of your injuries, then scraping your nails, taking a sample of your hair and finally doing a rape kit." CSI Oates said, as though they were having a perfectly normal conversation and Madonna nodded.
"Do you want me to stay with you?" Dr Thompson asked and Madonna nodded.
The doctor helped Madonna move her hospital gown, so CSI Oates could take pictures of the various bruises on her body. She also took pictures of Madonna's wrists and the cut running alongside her hairline. Madonna sat on the bed while scrapings from under her nails and a hair sample were both taken.
"Mrs Leon, could you please lie back on the bed and spread your legs? There will be some mild discomfort, I do apologise in advance." CSI Oates said and Madonna looked up at Dr Thompson, who nodded.
"Try to think of it as an additional smear test and try to relax." Dr Thompson said, watching Madonna visibly take a deep breath. She held her hand out and Dr Thompson took it, giving it a supportive squeeze.
"There, all done." CSI Oates announced, when she had finished and the last thing she done was take her gloves off and throw them in the bin, after closing her silver case, with all the samples from Madonna in it.
"When will...when..." Madonna couldn't get her words out, as she sat up, wiping tears away from her face.
"Tomorrow, Mrs Leon. I need to arrange a time for you to come back in and we can have a chat about the results." Dr Thompson said, and for the first time Madonna realised her accent was different - she was British.
"Thank you for that, Mrs Leon. You were very brave." CSI Oates said warmly. She looked at Dr Thompson. "I'll put a rush on the results and have them back to you before tomorrow afternoon."
"That would be great, thank you." Dr Thompson said and the CSI left them.
"Can I go home now?" Madonna asked, as Dr Thompson drew the curtain back and Carlos joined them.
"Mrs Leon, you have suffered extensive trauma. To be honest, I would like to keep you in overnight, just to keep an eye on you. I've held off the police, and told them you aren't fit enough to talk to them until tomorrow. I think it would be best if you got some sleep, let yourself start to recover physically, then you might start to remember things, Mrs Leon." Dr Thompson suggested.
"Is it ok if I stay with her - overnight?" Carlos asked.
"Of course it is."
"What about Lola?" Madonna looked at Carlos.
"She will be ok with the nanny. I'll give her a call."
"And tell her what?"
"That you were a little ill after the party." Carlos replied.
"Ok." Madonna said.
"If either of you need anything, I will be around. Ask one of the nurses if you can't find me." Dr Thompson said and they nodded, as she left them alone.
"You were very brave M." Carlos said, taking one of her hands and very tenderly kissing it.
"I feel humiliated." Madonna replied, looking up at him sadly. "And I'm not sure I want to remember." She took her hand away from him and turned over on her side, her back to Carlos. He frowned, reaching out at first to touch her, then taking his hand back. He opened his mouth to say something, but could think of nothing comforting to say and sat watching the gentle rise and fall of her body as she breathed.
End of Part 2...
It felt like it was going to be a very long day - one of the longest of Madonna's life. She left the hospital with Carlos and called her lawyer on the way to the police station. Even something as simple as leaving the hospital was tricky, with all the paparazzi hanging around like vultures. Madonna put a big pair of shades on and bowed her head slightly, so her long hair was in her face. Carlos and a couple of burly bodyguards had protected Madonna from them for the most part. Arriving at the police station was the same, but there seemed to be double the paparazzi. Only this time Madonna's lawyer - a small, slight Japanese woman called Sachie Hattori - one of the most formidable lawyers in all of NYC met them outside. She had a hand on the small of Madonna's back and kept yelling 'no comment' at questions and helped the bodyguards and Carlos keep the paparazzi back.
"I'll wait out here." Carlos said, when they arrived an an interrogation room.
Madonna took her shades off and looked at him. "I can't do this on my own. I can hardly remember what happened to me." She whispered, her voice faltering.
"You can do this M. I am literally on the other side of the door. Just tell them everything you remember, even if it's not a lot."
"I won't let them ask you anything you aren't comfortable with, Madonna." Sachie said, looking sympathetic, but sounding fierce and Madonna nodded, looking back over her shoulder at Carlos, as she followed Sachie into the interrogation room.
It felt to Carlos like he was waiting ages. He paced up and down in front of the door, then went to get a coffee. When he returned, he picked a paper up off the chair next to his that somebody had left and tried to read it. Carlos found it hard to concentrate after a while and put the paper down, sighing and drank some of the coffee. He ran a hand through his hair and thought about the conversation Madonna had overheard about two men taking her to the hotel room, and knew whatever she would remember was going to be horrific. Eventually Madonna came out of the room with Sachie. They spoke for a while, then Sachie said she would call her and to take care and left.
"How was it?" Carlos asked, holding Madonna's arms.
"I think they were frustrated because I couldn't remember a whole lot." Madonna replied quietly. Her eyes were red rimmed, like she had been crying. Carlos kissed her forehead and hugged her.
"I'm not interrupting am I?" A voice asked and they let go of each other and turned to face CSI Oates - the woman who'd processed Madonna at the hospital approached them.
"No." Madonna replied.
"You done really well in there, Mrs Leon." CSI Oates said supportively.
"Yes. I want to give you my card, in case you start remembering anything. And you can call me any time of the day or night, I'm on a swing shift, so I work most of the time." CSI Oates said, handing Madonna.
"Ok. Thank you." Madonna said, taking her card and looking at it, then putting it in her pocket.
Carlos led Madonna away and with the help of the bodyguards, they got her to the car and finally went home.
"Do you want something to eat or a lie down?" Carlos asked when they got in and Madonna shook her head.
"I need to have a shower. To be honest I'm not hungry." Madonna said, then hurried off upstairs before Carlos could say anything else.
She stripped off and went in the bathroom, closing the door behind her. Madonna gasped when she saw her reflection. The bruises on her body, the marks on her wrist and the cut going down the edge of her face, which she lightly traced a finger over. Madonna turned away quickly and went into the shower, closing the frosted glass door and turning the water on. She started cleaning herself and washed her hair, but Madonna stayed in the shower a lot longer, really scrubbing herself, trying to remember the previous night. The more she couldn't remember, the harder she scrubbed. Carlos knocked on the door, after Madonna had been in there for a while.
"M? Are you alright in there? You've been in the shower a while. M? M?" Carlos opened the door when there was no answer and went in the bathroom, opening the shower cubicle door and found Madonna scrubbing herself. "M, I think you have finished washing."
"No...I-I-I'm not clean enough...I need to get clean, I'm not clean..." Madonna muttered and continued scrubbing.
"M, stop." Carlos walked into the shower, even though he was fully-clothed and grabbed her arms. "M, stop - you are scrubbing yourself raw."
Madonna looked down at her arms and legs and saw red marks on them from where she'd been scrubbing too much. "I feel disgusting. Filthy. Like you won't want to touch me again, after - " Madonna stopped mid-sentance, blushing.
"None of this is your fault M. You were drugged. Nothing would ever make me not want to touch you again." Carlos replied, brushing a limp, wet strand of hair out of her eye. "I love you M. I'm going to help you get through this."
Madonna wrapped her arms around Carlos and he held her, smoothing her wet hair. "I'm so tired." She said into his chest.
"Why don't you sleep for a few hours? Then if you like, I can make you something to eat and we can go to the doctors. By the time we get home, Lola will be home from school."
"Yeah. That sounds good." Madonna looked at Carlos. "You realise you came in here fully dressed right?"
"I'm more concerned about you right now. But yes, I am aware." Carlos smiled, looking down at his soaked shirt and trousers. Madonna tried not to smile as she walked past him and quickly wrapped a towel around herself. She put on a pair of pyjamas and lay on the bed and was asleep within minutes. Carlos changed into some dry clothes and went down to the kitchen to see what he could make her to eat when she woke up.
"Welcome back Mrs Leon, I hope you are feeling a bit better." Dr Thompson said, when Madonna and Carlos sat down opposite her. "I will start off with the good news. You aren't pregnant and you haven't caught any sexually transmitted diseases."
"That is your idea of good news?" Carlos frowned.
"In this case, I'm afraid so." Dr Thompson replied.
"I was raped, wasn't I?" Madonna said in a flat voice.
"Yes." Dr Thompson replied. "By two men. Possibly at the same time."
"No." Madonna said, and the doctor and Carlos looked at her with concern. "That's not possible, is it? I mean, that means..." She trailed off, unable to say the obvious.
"There is no damage in either area, but you may feel raw or a little tender." Dr Thompson continued.
"I'm going to kill whoever did this to you." Carlos said fiercely.
"Stop." Madonna looked at him. "This isn't about you, or revenge. I need to know what happened to me, so I can start to deal with it."
"I know several really good therapists, I can give you their cards if you would like, Mrs Leon. I strongly recommend talking to someone about it." Dr Thompson suggested.
"It's fine, I already have a therapist, Dr Goldstein."
"She is a very good friend of mine. And a brillian therapist from what I hear." Dr Thompson said. "I think you would benefit from having additional sessions until your memory returns."
"Yes. Sure." Madonna said, tears sliding down her face.
"I'm so sorry, Mrs Leon. If there is anything I can do..." Dr Thompson said.
"What about her hair and under her fingernails? DNA?" Carlos asked.
"There hasn't been a match to anyone yet. But CSI Oates will be in touch when there is." Dr Thompson said.
"Thank you." Madonna said, then got up and walked out of the room in a daze, Carlos behind her and her bodyguards following them outside.
Neither of them said a word in the car on the way home, but Carlos held one of Madonna's hands in both of his and watched her lean her head against the window and gaze out of it at nothing in particular.
End of Part 3...
"Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" Lourdes ran over to Madonna with a big smile on her face and her arms wide open.
Madonna smiled, scooping her little girl up in her arms and kissing her cheek. "Hey baby, did you miss me?" She smoothed a few stray curls back from Lourdes' face and she nodded.
"Yeah! Was the party good?" Lourdes asked and Carlos watched Madonna, to see how she'd react, but her smile didn't falter.
"Not as good as being here with you and daddy." Madonna replied, kissing her cheek.
"Are you ok?" Carlos whispered in her ear and Madonna nodded, putting Lourdes down.
"I made you a picture mommy." Lourdes said, grabbing her little pink and purple backpack.
Madonna sat down, rubbing her forehead.
"M?" Carlos sat next to her, placing a hand on her shoulder, while Lourdes rummaged around in her backpack.
"I'm fine. Just a little tired I guess."
"Mommy, look! I made it for you!" Lourdes unfolded a piece of paper and handed it to Madonna.
On it was a scribbly crayon picture in all different colours, with glitter stuck to it in various olaces.
"That's you, and daddy and me." Lourdes pointed everyone out to Madonna.
"That's beautiful, Lola! I like all the colours and glitter." Madonna said, smoothing Lourdes' hair and kissing the top of her head.
"Are you on a pony?" Carlos asked, looking at the picture.
"Yes. The pony you and mommy are getting me for my birthday." Lourdes said casually, looking up at them both innocently.
Madonna was trying not to laugh and Carlos smiled.
"I think you are a little young, Lola, but maybe in a couple of years." Carlos said.
"O-kaaay." Lourdes sighed, taking her backpack upstairs.
Madonna finally laughed and Carlos smiled at her.
"It's nice to see you laugh."
"Well, that was so subtle." Madonna replied, looking at the picture. "I wish I had stayed in with you and Lola." She looked up at Carlos. "I feel so foolish for going out to that party now."
"Why? Because you wanted to have fun? What happened wasn't your fault." Carlos frowned.
"I know. But it turned into a nightmare that I can't even remember." Madonna sighed, standing up. "I should put this on the fridge." She said, holding up the picture and Carlos watched her walk away.
"Is Lola asleep? That took a while..." Carlos said, when Madonna finally joined him in bed.
"Tell me about it, she had a handful of books she wanted me to read to her." Madonna smiled and Carlos laughed.
"Are you sure you're ok M? You seemed a little...distant earlier."
"Yes, I'm ok." Madonna grabbed a book and opened it.
"That's it?" Carlos sat up.
"Do you want me to have a breakdown or cry?" Madonna looked at him.
"No. But I want you to talk to me."
"I haven't got anything to say."
"I don't want to go to sleep, ok Carlos?" Madonna said, closing her book and sighing.
"You're safe here, M. I am not going to let anything happen to you."
"That's just it, I'm not safe, am I? Whoever did this to me is out there." Madonna looked and sounded scared.
"Do you think they'll come after you?" Carlos asked.
"I don't know."
"Is that the only reason you don't want to sleep?"
Madonna tucked her hair behind her ears and shook her head, looking away from Carlos. "I am scared to remember. What I might remember."
"I'm right here, M. If you remember something and it scares you, wake me up. We can talk about it."
"You want to talk about a couple of guys raping me?" Madonna said, looking at Carlos fidget and try not to look uncomfortable. "That's what my therapist is for."
"Ok, but if you remember other things we could talk about it." Carlos said, and Madonna got out of bed. "Where are you going?"
"I need some space."
"M, you need to sleep."
"Stop telling me what I need Carlos, please!" Madonna snapped.
"I can't stop loving or caring about you, M."
"Just stop talking." Madonna said and she went into the bathroom and slammed the door, locking it. She slid down the back of the door to the floor and pulled her knees up to her chest. Madonna held out one of her wrists and touched the red marks. She closed her eyes and a flash of memory came back to her - being sat on a chair and having her wrists bound tightly behind her. There were a couple of voices she didn't recognise and Madonna opened her eyes and gasped. She got up and unlocked the door and saw Carlos standing on the other side, about to knock.
"I think I remember how I got these." Madonna held up her wrists together.
"If you want to talk now, or tomorrow, it's fine." Carlos said stiffly.
"Tomorrow?" Madonna half asked and he nodded. "I didn't mean to be so hard on you." She hugged him and Carlos held Madonna, burying his face in her hair.
"I know." He said.
End of Part 4...
"I guess we should talk. Unless you need to get to work?" Madonna asked, almost hopefully, when she and Carlos returned home after taking Lourdes to school.
"I'm not in a rush." Carlos said. "Have you remembered anything else?" He asked, following her into the kitchen.
"So that's a yes?"
"Carlos." Madonna gave him a look.
"Have you remembered something too graphic?"
"No. It's just a bit vague."
"Ok. Do you want something to drink?" Carlos asked, not wanting to push Madonna.
"Camomile would be great."
"I need to relax. Try to relax." Madonna sat down, fiddling with her hands.
Carlos made her camomile and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and sat down, waiting patiently.
"I remember someone grabbing a handful of my hair and a blinding pain. The medicine cabinet in the bathroom was smashed, so that must be where I got this cut from." Madonna said, tracing her finger lightly down the cut.
"The police better catch who ever did this to you first, because if I do - " Carlos started, but Madonna held up her hand to silence him.
"No more violence. I can't take it. And there are two of them Carlos. They were clever enough to repeatedly drug me, take me to a hotel room and - " Madonna trailed off. " - I wouldn't want you to get into trouble for scum like that, Carlos. You're a father, think like one!" She yelled the last part and Carlos looked surprised.
"M, I just feel really strongly about them getting what they deserve." Carlos said, frowning.
"I just want to remember right now." Madonna replied in a small voice.
Carlos placed a hand over Madonna's on the table. "I know M. I know." He said quietly.
Madonna sat staring out the window at the grey sky and the rain lashing down against it.
"Madonna? Can you come and sit on the sofa and talk to me now?" Dr Goldstein asked in a soothing voice.
"Yeah, I guess." Madonna went back to the sofa and looked at her therapist as though she were looking right through her.
Dr Goldstein had been Madonna's therapist for ten years. She was a woman in her mid fifties who always wore tweed Chanel suits, orange horn-rimmed glasses and had her ash-blonde hair pulled back in a messy french twist.
"Is there anything else you remember, Madonna?" Dr Goldstein asked, pen poised above her notepad. She sat bolt upright, almost on the edge of her chair.
"You think I haven't told you everything too?" Madonna frowned, sounding icy.
"Carlos thinks you're not telling him everything." Dr Goldstein said.
"No. But all I remember so far is having my wrists bound and having my head smashed." Madonna said, running a hand through her hair.
"There is a way you could jog your memory."
"By going back to the hotel room."
"What?" Madonna looked at Dr Goldstein like she was crazy. "I can't - I can't go back there." She swallowed a lump in her throat.
"I appreciate it will be hard for you, but - "
"Hard? Hard is having a baby with no pain relief. I want to remember, Emily, I do - but going back to a place where I was basically tortured? I don't think I can do that. I will remember. Eventually." Madonna tried to sound convincing.
"Let's just say you don't. If it was the only way you could remember - would you go back?"
"Why are you doing this to me, Emily? Why are you being so hard on me?" Madonna asked with tears in her eyes.
"Tough love, Madonna. When something really traumatic happens that you can't deal with, the memories are repressed. Being in that hotel room might trigger something." Dr Goldstein explained herself.
"What if I remember everything, all at once?"
"Repressed memories don't work like that Madonna." Dr Goldstein crossed her legs. "What if the men who did this to you do it to someone else?"
"Are you saying I would be responsible for that?"
"No - "
"Don't use emotional blackmail." Madonna said, looking horrified.
"I'm not attacking you, Madonna. There is no need for you to be so defensive. I am merely making suggestions."
"Sorry." Madonna rubbed her forehead. "I haven't really been sleeping."
"Understandable. I can prescribe you something to help, if you like?" Dr Goldstein half asked.
"No! Thank you. I mean, after what happened, I don't want to take anything for a while. I don't know if all of my memories are repressed, or just gone because they kept drugging me." Madonna said quietly.
"Ok. I can make a list of more natural suggestions." Dr Goldstein said and Madonna nodded.
"That would be good thanks." Madonna replied.
"For the time being, I would also like to see you three times a week."
Madonna looked surprised. "What if I don't remember anything? I will be wasting your time."
"You would most certainly not be wasting my time Madonna. Even if you don't have any memories just yet, it's an emotional time. I want to keep a closer eye on you for now."
"Ok. Again, I'm sorry about snapping." Madonna said, taking the sheet of paper Dr Goldstein handed her with natural ways to go to sleep and folding it up, then putting it in her bag.
"It's not the worst thing I've seen in this room. There is nothing to be sorry for." Dr Goldstein waved her hand dismissively, smiling warmly and watched Madonna leave.
End of Part 5...
"I don't know if I want to bring Lola up here, in the city anymore." Madonna said quietly to Rosie.
After hearing what had happened to Madonna, Rosie had suggested they go for coffee and talk. Madonna didn't want to spend too much time out in public, so Rosie had invited her round to her place instead.
"But you love the city!" Rosie said, looking surprised.
"I know...but I don't feel safe here at the moment, Ro." Madonna said, gripping her mug when her hand trembled a little.
"Mo, they are going to catch them." Rosie said soothingly, placing a hand over Madonna's.
"Even if they know what they look like, I'm no help with my lack of memory. I sit and try so hard to remember sometimes." Madonna frowned, drinking some of her coffee.
"Is that a good thing to do, Mo? You'll just give yourself a headache or a migraine."
"Good. Then maybe I won't be able to sleep." Madonna smiled and Rosie groaned.
"You need to sleep."
"I'm too scared. What if - what if whoever did this to me finds out where I live?" Madonna asked, chewing her lower lip.
"Then they should be scared of your security team. And Carlos."
"Carlos wants to kill them."
"Can you blame him?"
"Aren't you angry at them, Mo?" Rosie asked, sipping coffee.
"I'm angry that I've lost a chunk of my life. I need to remember, so I can deal with it."
"Maybe if you find a way to relax, you might remember more - "
"Ro, I can't even sleep much at the moment." Madonna sighed.
"I meant like really relax - do some yoga, meditate, whatever it is that you're into and your memories might come back."
Madonna looked thoughtful. "That's actually not a bad idea. Better than what Dr Goldstein suggested.
"Going back to the hotel room." Madonna said and Rosie pulled a face. "I know. I'm saving that as an absolute last resort."
"If you did go there, Mo, and you wanted some support I can come with you." Rosie said and Madonna nodded.
"You're a good friend, Ro." She said, smiling over Rosie's shoulder when Rosie hugged her.
Madonna was walking home with two bodyguards, when another memory started coming back to her. The streets were crowded and her the bodyguards stayed close on either side of her - making her look small and doll-like, where they were so big. People did whisper and point when they saw her, but Madonna felt protected behind her big shades and with her security. A guy turned and looked over his shoulder at Madonna and she frowned, feeling strange when he smiled. She was sure she had seen his face before, maybe at this party she allegedly went too? Then hazy memories of being in a hotel room and him giving her drinks started to come back. Madonna stopped walking, feeling sick. The guy was quite a way in front now, and looked back over his shoulder at Madonna. She lifted her shades and looked at him, then he disappeared around a corner.
"M'am? Is everything ok?" One of the burly bodyguards asked and Madonna put her shades back down and nodded.
"Yeah, come on, I just want to get home."
When Madonna got home, she called Carlos. He was at work and she left a message on his phone. Then she pulled the card for CSI Oates and called her.
"CSI Oates, how can I help?" The woman sounded bubbly on the other end of the line.
"This is Madonna."
"Hi Madonna, how are you?" CSI Oates asked.
"I - I think I saw one of the guys that attacked me that night. In the street." Madonna's voice trembled.
"If I get you to come in, would you be able to describe him to our sketch artist?"
"You can come with your husband or a friend, if you would like the support." CSI Oates said kindly.
"Ok." Madonna said, biting her thumbnail.
"Just ask for me when you arrive and I'll have the sketch artist ready."
Madonna hung up and her phone rang. It was Carlos.
"M, are you ok?" He asked, sounding concerned.
"No. I have to go and describe this guy to a sketch artist." She said in a small voice.
"I'll come with you. Wait there, I'm on my way." Carlos said, then hung up.
"He had short, spiky blonde hair." Madonna was describing the man she'd seen to the sketch artist, with Carlos sat next to her.
"Like this?" The woman sketching asked and Madonna nodded.
"And a big nose, high cheekbones."
"Good, good." The sketch artist said, her pencil skimming over the paper.
"He had this nasty smirk..." Madonna frowned, and the memory of someone grabbing a handful of her hair and smashing her face into a medicine cabinet came back. This time she saw the spiky-haired guy over her shoulder and he whispered in her ear.
"If you pull anything like that again, it will be your throat, do you understand?" He said and she nodded.
"M? M?" Carlos asked
"Mrs Leon?" The sketch artist looked at her.
"This guy smashed my face into that medicine cabinet. And told me if I pulled anything like that again, it would be my throat." Madonna whispered, tears spilling down her face.
"If you want to take a break, that's fine." The sketch artist said kindly.
Carlos hugged Madonna. "It's ok M. I'm not going to let anything happen to you." He said, smoothing her long hair.
"I don't want to stop." Madonna sniffed, pulling back from Carlos, holding his arms, digging her fingers in.
"I think you're very brave." Carlos said, looking at her with admiration.
"I felt sick when I saw him. I wanted the ground to swallow me. I wanted to run so far in the opposite direction."
"But you didn't."
"Can we carry on?" Madonna turned to look at the sketch artist.
"Of course. Take your time Mrs Leon."
End of Part 6...
Madonna sat in the kitchen in the middle of the night, in the dark, nursing a cup of herbal tea. The only light that shone in was from the moon and stars and it was an eerie kind of light. The previous day a sketch of one of the guys had been passed around the media and circulated in general - to the hotel and the bar where Madonna had been that night and nearby businesses. She knew it should have made her feel slightly better, that something was being done, but both men were still out there and it didn't put her mind at rest. Even with Carlos whispering words of comfort in her ear frequently. He was trying his best, but she couldn't explain how she felt most of the time. Madonna was about to go back to bed, when she saw a shadow pass the door outside. There was a long net-curtain on the door, so she couldn't see through it and for several minutes Madonna was frozen. Then she ran upstairs to her room and shook Carlos.
"Carlos! Carlos! Wake up! Wake up Carlos! There's someone outside!" Madonna whispered fiercely, as she continued to shake him.
"M...you're dreaming..." Carlos said, slowly opening his eyes and yawned.
"No! I was down in the kitchen and someone walked past the door!" Madonna looked really worried.
Carlos sat up, wide awake. "Stay here, I'll go and look." He said, getting out of bed and garbbing a baseball bat the was under his side.
"I'm not letting you go down there on your own!" Madonna frowned.
"Stay behind me M." Carlos said, knowing there was no use arguing with her sometimes and she nodded.
They went down the kitchen and Carlos stopped suddenly, Madonna nearly crashing into him.
"Did you go outside?"
"The kitchen door is open." Carlos said.
"I'll call the police." Madonna replied.
"No, wait. Let me check it out first. We don't want to waste their time." Carlos opened the door.
"What if someone is in the house?"
"I don't think there is, M. I'm just gonna check the garden."
"I'm going up to Lola." Madonna said, feeling uneasy.
"Ok. I'll be up in a minute." Carlos said, watching Madonna go back.
Madonna ran upstairs to Lourdes' room and found her fast asleep, cuddling a teddy bear and sucking her thumb. She smiled at the sight of her little girl, very carefully smoothing her hair and planting a kiss on her cheek. Madonna pulled the door and was about to go back down to Carlos, when he came back up.
"It was actually Danny, just checking outside. I told him not to leave the door open, that you were shook up after what happened." Carlos said, referring to one of their security team and Madonna breathed a sigh of relief, placing a hand on her chest.
"Oh god...for a minute there I thought - I thought - " She couldn't get her words out and he nodded, holding her.
"I know M." Carlos said over her shoulder. He put the baseball bat down and held her cheeks. "When they catch that guy based on the picture, it won't be long before they catch the other one."
"How do you figure?" Madonna frowned.
"They'll probably offer him a bargain if he gives the other guy up."
Madonna sighed. "This is so far from being over. I never thought of it, but not only do I need to remember, they both need to be caught and then I will be going to court."
"One step at a time M." Carlos said softly.
"I still feel disgusting."
"None of this is your fault, M. I wish you didn't feel that way." Carlos pressed his forehead to hers, looking into her eyes.
"I wish we could just disappear. You, me and Lola."
"We can have a break and go somewhere when this is all over. It would be something to look forward too."
"Yes." Madonna sighed, knowing that would be in the distant future.
The next day when Madonna was in a one on one yoga class with her personal trainer, she thought about what Rosie had said about it jogging her memories. It wasn't until she was lying on her yoga mat at the end of the session, with her eyes closed doing the relaxation that Madonna remembered more of that night. Madonna was in the bar, talking and laughing with two guys who she'd been talking to for a while - one had blonde spiky hair and the other mid-length black hair. They danced a bit and the guy with the dark hair handed her a cocktail, and Madonna accepted it, smiling and not realising he'd slipped something into it. Madonna sat bolt upright, her eyes open, gasping for breath.
"M, are you ok? I thought you fell asleep." Her personal trainer looked concerned.
"No, no - I have to go. I'm sorry." Madonna got up and quickly rolled up her mat and ran from the room, down the stairs and met her bodyguards and got into her car when one of them opened the door for her. "Change of plans. We're not going home." She told them the address of the police station. Madonna pulled her phone out of her bag and sent a message to her personal trainer, apologising for running out at the end of their session, and explaining why. She decided not to call Carlos, but called Sachie, her lawyer, to keep her in the loop.
It felt like deja vu to Madonna, sitting with the sketch artist, describing what the other guy looked like. She had a clearer image of him in her head than she'd had of the other guy. Madonna then went to see Carlos at work. He ran a gym and was talking to a woman about a membership when she arrived, and Madonna hung back, talking to one of her bodyguards, who'd gone in with her, while the other parked the car. Carlos spotted her and smiled, but continued to talk for several more minutes, before going over to her.
"Is everything ok M?" He kissed her and Madonna nodded.
"I've just been to see the sketch artist again. I remembered what the other guy looked like when I was doing the relaxation at the end of my yoga session."
"Are you ok? Why didn't you call me? You know I would have came." Carlos sounded almost disappointed.
"I didn't want to bother you."
"M, you aren't bothering me. I want to support you. I don't want you to go through any of this on your own."
"I know you didn't sleep last night, Carlos." Madonna said quietly.
Carlos rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. "After the whole back door being left open, I was a bit on edge I guess."
"You don't have to hide that from me."
"M, you have enough on your plate."
"At least I'm starting to remember." Madonna said, trying to sound a bit more upbeat.
"Yes. Hey, do you want to grab some lunch in a bit?"
"Are you sure you're not busy? You don't have to babysit me, Carlos." Madonna said and he shook his head.
"I want to just spend some time with my beautiful wife. No hidden agenda." Carlos held his hands up.
"Aren't you busy though?"
"I'm also my own boss. I can get people to cover a couple of classes."
"I'll meet you down in the car in a few." Carlos said, kissing Madonna's cheek and going behind the reception desk to rearrange a few things. Madonna watched him for a minute of so, smiled and went down to the car.
End of Part 7...
Madonna opened another bottle of wine and poured it down the sink. She had pulled all the bottles of wine and the few bottles of tequila out of the cupboard and grouped them next to the sink and one by one poured them away. Carlos went into the kitchen and frowned.
"M, what the hell are you doing?" He looked at her like she was crazy.
"You made me jump! I could have cut myself on a bottle!" Madonna stopped momentarily to glare at him.
"Some of that is mine you know, the tequila."
"I don't want it in the house. Put it somewhere I won't see it."
"What are you going to get rid of next? Everything in the medicine cabinet, because you were drugged?"
Madonna set the bottle down and turned to face Carlos. "That's not a bad idea..."
"Get a grip, Madonna, I was being sarcastic. We have a little girl, what if she needs something from that cabinet? Would you really be that selfish?" Carlos was yelling out of frustration.
"Don't you DARE accuse me of being selfish!" Madonna frowned, pointing a finger close to Carlos' nose.
"I'm really worried about you M." Carlos said quietly.
"I don't want any alcohol in the house."
"Why don't you just leave it? You don't have to drink it. Or at least give it to friends or staff or something. You're throwing money away."
"Money really isn't an issue at this point." Madonna laughed nervously.
"Your sanity is."
"Oh, you think I'm mental?" Madonna raised her eyebrows, looking at Carlos with her mouth hanging open. "Un-fucking-believable!"
"M, I never meant - "
"I think you did! It's too late to take it back now." Madonna gritted her teeth, putting her coat on and grabbing her bag.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm taking Lola to the park. At least she doesn't yell at me and piss me off!" Madonna said aggressively.
"M." Carlos touched her forearm and Madonna shook him off.
"Lola! Where are you baby? Let's go to the park!" Madonna called out in a sing song voice.
"Is daddy coming too?" Lourdes asked, appearing out of nowhere and Madonna kneeled down to put her little jacket on her.
"No sweetheart, he is busy."
"Ok." Lourdes shrugged, smiling.
The pair of them left with a bodyguard and Carlos sighed. He began putting the unopened bottles of wine and tequila back in the cupboard and getting rid of the empty ones.
When they returned from the park, hours later, Madonna seemed to be in a better mood. Lourdes ran off and played with the nanny and bodyguard and Madonna smiled, then went to find Carlos. He was sat in one of the rooms they'd nicknamed 'the calm room' and used it as a space to do gentle yoga and meditate. There were two mats in the centre of the room, big spider plants in all four corners, a small bookcase that contained various books on yoga, meditation and relaxation. On the windowsill and along the walls on the floor (though a safe distance from the bookcase and spider plants) were candles in various soft pastel colours. The walls were all white and the light curtains were cream. On top of the bookcase was an ipod classic sat in an ipod dock, filled with lots of varied music that relaxed both Carlos and Madonna.
There was no music on and Carlos sat cross-legged in the middle of the room, his eyes closed, forefingers touching thumbs at his knees. Madonna walked over to him, sat on her knees and kissed Carlos. She held both his cheeks and he opened his eyes.
"I'm sorry." She whispered.
"Me too, M. I didn't mean to yell at you. It was frustration. That I can't do more to help." Carlos said and Madonna slid her hands off his cheeks and sat next to him.
"You are helping. I can't imagine how frustrated you must be."
"Please don't get angry with me, M, but maybe you should really consider going back to the hotel room? And the bar the party was held at? I would come with you and stay the entire time." Carlos suggested, half waiting to get his head bitten off.
Madonna chewed her lower lip and looked around the room at everything but Carlos. She lay on the floor with her arms and legs wide open, like a starfish. Madonna sighed, smiling up at the ceiling.
"I love that you had this room created for me." She said.
"Well I wanted somewhere for you to be able to really relax." Carlos said, leaning down and kissing Madonna and she looked at him.
"I am considering going to the hotel and the bar. It - it just gives me this knotted, sick to my stomach kind of feeling." Her eyes filled with tears.
"Ok. I'm not going to pressurise you, M. Just a thought." Carlos said, holding up a hand and she nodded.
"Rosie suggested going to the hotel too. She also said she'd go with me."
"We could both go with you." Carlos said.
"I love you Carlos." Madonna said, sitting up and kissing him.
He slipped his arms around her waist and sat her on his lap. "I love you too M. I'd do anything for you. You know that, right?" Carlos said and Madonna nodded.
End of Part 8...