We don’t mention Rory’s dad again, or at least I don’t press the subject. “Have you finished that project yet?” he asks, moving onto his third cup of tea.
We’ve been talking for hours and I’ve lost track of time. It’s dark outside and having Rory here has made me forget about my mother’s whereabouts.
“Not yet. I’ve nearly finished writing a rough draft though, so I’m feeling good about that. I find it difficult to express how I feel, but on paper, that fear goes away. I can be myself.”
He cocks his head to the side, a smirk tugging his lips. Then he smiles genuinely, without a trace of sarcasm or egoism. “That’s how I feel when I write songs,” he says, “It’s great that you’ve found something you’re good at.”
“I still haven’t heard you yet. I reckon you could definitely pursue—” I stop there, as Rory clenches his jaw, eyes dark.
“I don’t really sing much anymore,” he mutters, dryly.
“But don’t you enjoy it?”
“Performing seems kind of pointless when the one person you wish could be there, physically can’t be,” he states, void of emotion. He’s talking about his mum. She must have been his biggest supporter.
“Rory, I know that your mum would be proud.”
“How do you know that?” he laughs under his breath. “I’ve done some bad stuff – like father like son, right? That’s what they all say.”
I shuffle forward. “But you’re nothing like him. You have a good heart Rory.”
A flash of pain crosses his face. “You wouldn’t be saying that, if you knew everything I’d done. I’ve hurt people – that’s just what I do. It’s what I’ve always done.”
“You’re not to blame for that though. You lost a parent. Your father was never there for you. He made you feel worthless. You were just a kid when all of this was happening.”
Rory raises a hand in the air, frustrated and it clarifies that my attempt didn’t work. “You just don’t get it Skye.”
I blink and suck in a breath. “Maybe I don’t understand. But I do know how it feels to be stuck in a situation that seems impossible to get out of. From a young age, I had to see my mother stumble through the door at stupid o’clock in the morning, while she was high on drugs, drunk out of her mind and trying not to choke in her sleep. I had to be there through all of that. I had no choice but to be an adult. You don’t get to choose what happens to you in this life. Living in this world is a painful experience – but it doesn’t have to be that way forever. We can either dwell in the past and continue to be miserable or move forward, despite how hard it may seem.”
It surprises me how I’m able to talk about this without crying or stumbling. Maybe I need to start taking my own advice.
Rory is clearing his throat when I manage to look at him again. Then he starts laughing. Maybe I worded it wrong or said something stupid. Whatever the case, Rory is finding this very amusing.
“What’s so funny?” I order, heat rushing to my cheeks.
“Nothing, I just don’t think you have to worry about expressing yourself verbally anymore, you’ve pretty much mastered it.” His eyes are sparkling playfully.
I turn away from him. “Well, if me being serious is going to make you laugh every time, I’ll try to refrain from saying anything in the future. You haven’t exactly boosted my confidence.”
Rory’s laughter dies out. “Sorry. I’m not making fun of you Skye.” I still refuse to look at him when he says, “I know you’ve had it tough with your mum. This is why I don’t talk about stuff. I always say the wrong thing.”
He gives a hearty laugh. “I told you that I’m not good.”
“Yeah well, I’m going to have to disagree with you there because I think you are a good person. Except when you decide to laugh at me when I’m trying to be serious and give you advice. That’s just mean.”
A moment’s hesitation passes over his face and then my eyes travel to the small scar above his eyebrow, which suddenly makes my stomach drop at the realization.
Did his father do that?
It’s not hugely noticeable, but it’s there.
The front door swings open before us, making me jolt in surprise. Mum stands in the passage, flashing me a knowing smile as her eyes land on Rory. I want to tell her not to make a big deal out of this, but she’s never been good at reading signals.
“Oh, hello Rory!” she says, placing the bags on the ground, before racing over to hug him. He quickly obliges, despite probably not having a clue what’s going on and neither do I. “You’re getting more handsome every time I see you,” she states, sending me a flirtatious wink over his shoulder and fanning her face.
She quickly mouths, “What a hunk.”
I slap a hand to my forehead. “Mum,” I warn her, “You’re crushing him.” She releases Rory in one sharp movement, causing him to sway slightly as he tries to regain balance.
“Where have you been anyway?” I ask.
She treads past lightly, moving the bags onto the table. God knows what she’s bought this time.
More junk to add to the pile.
“Well, I went to meet Michelle.”
“That was this morning,” I remind her.
She applies some fresh lipstick and smacks her lips together. “Yes, but then we went to a few charity shops. You wouldn’t believe how cheap the clothes are there! I was in my element.”
I bet she was.
“And then we went for food and… the church.”
“The church?” I repeat, confused.
“They had one of those praise and worship nights going on, the one that Michelle mentioned to me a few weeks ago.” Her face suddenly ignites. “Oh, it was wonderful Skye. The music was fabulous. I can’t wait to go next time. They even gave me a free Bible!”
She reaches into her bag and pulls out the most tattered looking book I have ever laid eyes on. It’s heavy and old and it’s the Bible alright. An actual Bible.
As I’m recovering from this news, I remember that Rory is hearing all of this. Reading my mind, he says, “I’m going to shoot off. My nan’s probably wondering where I am.”
“Yeah sure.” I meet him at the door.
He sucks in a breath, tilting his head down to study me. “Thanks for listening earlier,” Rory says.
“Thanks for trusting me enough to explain.” I receive a single nod and Rory’s jaw tenses. It’s as though he wants to say more, but he seems to be having trouble finding the words. Instead, he grabs me and pulls my body to his. I melt into his embrace and we stay like that for a few minutes.
“Skye… I want you to know that whatever happens, I do care about you.”
This makes me smile and wonder what he might be talking about. “What’s going to happen?”
He draws back and yanks the door open. “Nothing. I’ll speak to you soon.”
I have a zit. And it’s right in the centre of my cheek. Either some big spider bit me last night or my body decided to give me a hormonal rain check while I was sleeping. It’s huge and has caused a red rash to spread to other areas of my face. I try concealing it with as much foundation as I can, using up most of the bottle. And not even a single beauty product can make me look any better.
Mum has her head stuck in the Bible when I manage to get myself out of bed. She has literally been spending most of her day sitting down and reading the Bible for hours – not skimming a single word. She’s even written down notes in a separate book, taking it extremely seriously.
I thought that after a day or two, she would give up on the idea. But no. She has not stopped since she brought it home with her.
Each time I come downstairs, she’s sat at the table, analysing, highlighting, re-reading sentences over and over until she understands the meaning behind them. If anything, I’m feeling a bit deserted once again. We may have resolved some issues, but there are still demons we haven’t faced or talked about and now she’s transfixed on her new weird activities to pay me any sort of attention.
I make myself some toast and that’s when I hear the music playing. I pop my head into the living room, where my mother has her eyes closed and she’s swaying back and forth to a song.
“What music are you listening to?” I shout to be heard.
Mum raises her head to look at me. “Do you like it? Michelle bought me a praise and worship album. I can’t stop listening.”
I return to butter my toast, startled when she begins to sing along. “Holy spirit you are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory God is what our hearts long for. To be overcome by your presence Lord.”
I stand there frozen.
Has she become religious all of a sudden?
I don’t get it.
She has been acting strange recently, like she’s happy– almost too happy. This is just a phase that she’ll grow out of eventually. She always does. I would like to think that if church is helping her, she will continue to go there and get the help that she needs. But it won’t be long before she gives up. I’ll be waiting for that day to arrive.