“Don’t touch my radio,” Grayson scolds, slapping my hand away from the control box. He has been nothing but rude to me ever since I invaded his expensive looking vehicle.
The seats are made of real leather and smell brand new. I never thought in a million years that I would be sharing the same car as Grayson Swain.
“Do you have an audio input? We are living in the twenty-first century, if you didn’t already know.”
He keeps his eyes on the road. “Thanks for the reminder. And yes, I do have one. But I can’t be bothered to link my phone to it.”
“Can I connect mine?”
He sighs heavily, which is all he’s been doing. “Fine.”
I grab my phone and start connecting to the server. I click on a random playlist and a song bounces over the speakers. I hum along, pretending Grayson isn’t sitting next to me.
“What made you decide to leave the party so soon?” he asks, angling his body slightly towards mine.
I stick my head out the window, avoiding the question. I land back in my seat, when I can sense him watching me. I don’t know why I asked him to take me home.
“I was bored senseless, that’s why,” is my answer. I force a smile onto my face. “Same people – same scene, different dress.”
He frowns, his lips forming a firm line. I’m suddenly reminded of his conversation with Sophie on the phone and I’m curious.
“How long have you and Sophie been together?”
It’s his turn to roll the window down and attempt to distract himself from the question. Eventually he says, “About two months now.”
Woah, I thought he was going to say they were High School sweethearts. Two months isn’t that long.
“How did you meet?”
“At Lakeside college.” No shocker there. “Why are you so interested anyway?”
I lower my eyes to my lap. “I’m not.”
“Kind of seems like you are.”
I throw my hands up in exasperation. “Well, sorry for attempting to start a conversation.”
The corner of his lips pull up into a smirk and my stomach churns in disgust. “That’s funny, because I remember you saying a few days ago that having a decent conversation with me would be dull and too painful to bear. What’s changed?”
I did say that. And I meant every word at the time. The alcohol is turning me soft. “I meant it, but I also didn’t mean it.”
He throws a hand into his hair and laughs. “Are you sure you’re a writer?”
I deliver him the best glare I can muster, although it probably looks as if I’m straining to use the toilet.
“You annoy me,” I say, putting it bluntly.
Grayson only shakes his head, smirking. “The feeling’s mutual.”
“I am so disappointed that you’re my partner for the project.”
“Right back at you.”
“You – you just...” I search for the right word, “You annoy me.”
Grayson stifles a laugh. “Yeah, you’ve already said that.”
I slump down, pouting. “Whatever. It’s the truth.”
“Don’t worry. I believe you,” he says, tapping a finger against the steering wheel and stealing me a glance. “On the plus side, I have learned an interesting fact about you tonight.”
“You can’t handle your drink.”
I stare up at him, as the traffic lights leave red and green streak lines across his face. “At least I don’t crash parties. Who invited you anyway?”
“Believe it or not, I was in popular demand.”
I snort. “By who?”
My eyebrows rise on their own accord. “Josie? My friend Josie?” He nods.
Why would Josie want Grayson to come to her party? Every time I’ve spoken to her about Grayson, she’s always agreeing with me when I slate him in the lunch hall. Am I missing something?
“She’s seeing one of my friends,” he says, easing my conscience.
I don’t know much about Josie’s personal endeavours or who she happens to be spending her time with. I’ve heard her speaking about boys at college, but I’ve always been too consumed by my own thoughts to listen to any of it.
“I was asked to drive the boys down here because I don’t drink,” Grayson adds, as an afterthought.
I laugh but trail off when I realize Grayson isn’t finding this as funny as I am and that he’s being serious. I think back to Levi’s party and how sober he was.
“Why don’t you drink?”
“I like being in control and alcohol turns you into someone you’re not,” he says.
“Ah, so you’re a control freak,” I guess, keeping my eyes on the road.
“No. I just prefer to have my head screwed on. It doesn’t get you anywhere and you only end up making stupid mistakes.”
We hit a speed bump and my head touches the roof. “I don’t like to party by the way. I only do it for a distraction.”
“A distraction from what?”
I open my mouth and close it just as quickly. “It doesn’t matter.” I notice the industrial estate appearing from up ahead. “Take a turn at the end of this street,” I instruct.
“Thanks for the navigation Satnav.”
I flutter my eyelashes and ignore his comment, as we stop by the bus shelter. “You can stop here.” I unbuckle my seatbelt.
Grayson looks around, perplexed. “I can’t see any houses nearby.”
I open the door when he kills the engine and step onto the pavement. “That’s because my house is a few blocks away.”
“Okay, so why are you getting out here? I can drop you off at your place.”
I wave at him with both hands and adjust my dress. “It’s fine. I’d rather walk. Thanks for the lift.”
“Are you sure you don’t want me to drive you the rest of the way? I don’t mind,” he insists, sounding exactly like his father now.
“It’s only a five-minute distance. I’ll be fine.”
I don’t want him knowing where I live. I’m not embarrassed. I just don’t want him to feel sorry for me or to make a big deal out of it.
I gently slam his car door shut and he salutes me goodbye through the window before he drives off.
On my way home, I can’t stop thinking about my mother and how I might have acted a bit harshly towards her. I can’t hold a grudge forever. I’ll have a good chat with her tomorrow and we’ll sort this out. It’s time to brush things over.
As I’m sliding my key into the door, I almost jump out of my skin when I feel a hand touch my shoulder.
My defences kick in and I twirl around, ready to aim high with my foot. To my surprise, Rory is standing there, hands shoved deeply into his pockets.
“You can’t keep sneaking up on me like that! I thought I was about to get mugged or something.”
His expression hardens. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“Did you walk here?” I demand, staring back at him blankly.
“I took a taxi. I had to check that you were okay after what happened at the party.”
“I’m tired Rory. Can we talk about this tomorrow?” I swing the door open halfway.
He tries to push himself forward, but I block the doorway, so he can’t get through. Then I shut the door and rest my head against it.
The lights are turned off in the house. Maybe mum has gone out somewhere with Ted again.
I wrap my hands around my body, teeth clattering. I turn the living room switch on and light floods the room. I do not expect to find my mother lying unconscious on the carpet.
I let out a scream and fall to her side. “Oh my gosh! Mum! Mum can you hear me?”
She groans and some saliva drips from the side of her mouth. I cradle her head in my lap, tears on standby.
Rory bursts through the door. He must have heard my cry for help. “Skye, what’s going on?”
His eyes rotate around the room and he lets out a gasp when he notices my mother, lying down with her face up to the ceiling.
“I found her like this,” I tell him. “What happened mum?” I ask, with urgency. Her eyes are still closed.
Rory crouches down next to me and is trying to stay calm. I quickly reach for my mobile to dial 999. I need to stay focused. I can’t let fear overwhelm me.
“What service do you require?” the operator’s voice echoes down the line.
“What’s the emergency?”
“Uh, my – it’s my mother. She’s – I came home to find her on the floor unconscious,” I say, all at once. “I don’t know what to do. She’s not responding.” I bite my lip, drawing blood.
That’s when I notice the pills spilt on the coffee table and everything stops. The realization hits me like a ton of bricks and I’m no longer in control of my thoughts or actions.
I’m aware that the woman is asking me more questions, but I can’t answer them because my vision and hearing is clouding over and I’m only seeing what is in front of me.
My mother has overdosed. This wasn’t an accident. It was deliberate. She intended to take those pills and I don’t know how I’m supposed to process this.
Rory takes the phone out of my shaky hand and continues the conversation, while I kneel over my mother’s body, heartbeat drumming in my ears. All the air is getting sucked away and I’m struggling to breathe in through my lungs.
I know that I should be doing something, but my legs won’t carry me. I’m frozen in place. Oh gosh. I don’t know what to do. Is she going to die? Why did she take those pills? Was she planning on leaving me?
“Skye...” The walls are closing in. I’m suffocating. “Come on Skye, don’t space out on me.”
The fogginess disappears and I stare at Rory, who is full of concern. Once he’s got my full attention, he holds the phone under his neck and quickly says, “They’re asking if your mum has any allergies or health problems.”
I slowly shake my head. “She - she doesn’t.”
Rory tells the woman this on the other end of the line and then lowers his hand to my mother’s neck. He waits for a passing moment. “Yes, there’s a slight pulse there,” he says. His replies are mostly the same, “Yes. No. But she is starting to clam up a bit and her breathing seems to be getting shallower.”
I run my fingers through my mother’s hair, loosening her curls. This is my fault. How stupid am I? She’s not well. She probably went on to take those pills because she thought that she’d lost me. I’m the only family she has. I made her feel like I was never going to speak to her again.
“Mum I’m so sorry,” I say to her, “Don’t worry, the ambulance is coming. They’ll be here any minute.”
I feel like I can’t breathe. The walls are closing in and it’s just a matter of time before I break. I wipe some fresh tears away and hope that the ambulance will come soon.
Rory’s eyes travel to the sleeping pills and I want nothing more than to dissolve into thin air. Nobody usually sees what happens behind closed doors. Rory has just crossed a dangerous threshold.
Why did I have to go to that stupid party? I wasn’t thinking about my mother and her needs. I was being selfish, wallowing in self-pity. We’re in this position because of me. I’ve been ignoring her for so long that I haven’t seen the signs.
“Okay, thank you for your time. Please hurry,” Rory is saying into the speaker. Sweat is forming on my upper lip and he drapes a hand over my shoulder, pulling me to him. “It’s going to be okay Skye. The ambulance is on it’s way.”
“I don’t know what to do,” I cry. “If anything happens to her—”
“Don’t think like that.”
I lean on him expectantly. Rory lowers his head and fiddles with his hands. He hasn’t made any attempt to leave and I’m so thankful that he showed up. I don’t know what I would have done without him.
That’s when we overhear the Ambulance siren and then two paramedics enter the room, lifting mum onto a gurney and wheeling her outside. I’m holding mum’s hand the entire time, not about to let go for anything.
As she’s wheeled away, Maggie comes out of her house, along with some of the neighbours. “Skye, what’s going on? Is your mother okay?”
I look to the floor, biting my lip so I don’t start crying again. “I don’t know.′
“Oh love, is there anything I can do?” I shake my head and climb into the van after them, while Maggie chucks on a jacket, still in her pyjamas. “I’ll follow you up in my car,” she says.
“Maggie, you honestly don’t have to—”
“I’m not taking no for an answer Missy.” Then she turns to Rory. “Are you coming lover boy?”
“Do you want me to come?” Rory checks, before agreeing to accompany us without my permission. I need him now more than ever.
“Yeah. You can come if you’d like.”
He’s the last person I see, as the doors close and we’re driven away.