For a February morning, with signs that there had been a light snow fall in the night, the sun was bright and high in through the thin curtains that were blowing gently in the breeze from the a-jar window. The room the window belonged to had plain cream walls, a dark wooden wardrobe stood tall against the wall with a pale purple gown hanging from its round handle, a book case sat against the opposite corner which housed aged novels with yellow pages and out of shape spines, beside that was a long free standing mirror and in the reflection of the mirror, the double bed that was positioned in the middle of the room could be seen. Bathed in the bright light from the window, the silk touch of the sheets shone and the colours were red and white like that of Christmas, the pillows were overly fluffed and large, pushed as far against the dark head board as they would go and an arm- slightly tanned still from summer- hung down a few inches from the wooden floor. The occupant was Sophie Lane, 18 years old and with a habit of sleeping on her front, taking up all the bed. Her hair was black ringlets with a full fringe that rested against her eyebrows, the fringe was the only straight thing about her hair and always has been. Where the covers had fallen to rest on her lower back her soft nightdress could be seen, Sophie wasn't especially girly but nightdresses were one thing she always liked to wear. Her eyes twitched as she awoke, she groaned lightly, turning her face from the light and pushing it into the pillows. After a few moments of finding herself now wide-awake she sat up, spinning around so her back was against the pillows and her legs were out straight in front of her. The same dream had triggered her natural awakening, the dark room, the man whose voice seemed familiar to her and the fact that every time she was about to wake up, he would leave. Sophie pushed her fringe away from her eyes with both her hands and then sighed resting her arms against her legs on the covers, she looked to the window that blew her curtains casting shadows around the room and as the light caught her face, the green in her eyes flickered.
Pushing from the bed and throwing the covers from her from she walked to the window moving the curtains so she could see better outside. The view from her window was of the port, where she lived was a few houses back from the dock and sea front of a little beach town. To the right of her window was the stretch of gold sand with the multi coloured beach huts and boats that were beached up on the sand. Between the sand and the busy sea side town main road was an old wall, a few people were sitting on it- basking in the strange sight of sun so early in the year and calling back to the people they were with who were in the shops.
The shops and bars themselves were all different themed; Pirates, Hawaii, 70's, Rock and Roll, Jazz and many more. Each one had coloured parasols and glass walls to separate one bar and shop from another, above those were flats that over looked the blue expanse of sea, not a wave or white horse could be seen over the blue and green that rippled its way out to touch the sky line. Fishing boats coming in from their nights trip carrying fresh fish with sea gulls fluttering behind were bobbing in on the calm waves toward the dock to tie up for the day. To the left of Sophie's window, she could see the dock with its rows and rows of boats that moved with the water while tied to the dark wooden deck, people were shouting and signalling from the boats to the docks to the people that were trying to moor up the boats. The fishing boats were going by, squeezing past the wood and the other sea vessels to their usual spaces. In front of the dock were more flats and houses like the one that Sophie lived in, behind those was the woods- the twisting and never-ending maze of trees that were so compacted together that from the sky they looked like a blanket of green. No one really walked in the woods, unless they were serious hikers as the ground was too uneven- wild boar and deer roamed the trees, using the close and dark space to be safe and live in freedom. The trees went as far as a cliff edge where on stormy days the sea would crash against the rocks and the mist from the sea would lick the tree tops coating them in a fine layer of water. When following the cliff, it stuck close to the trees until it sloped down too far for trees to grow, down there, tucked between large rocks that the sea couldn't get over, was a lagoon. The lagoon was as old as some of the town and had grown over the years as the rocks were eroded away, in the summer the lagoon had a nice floor of sand and the water was warm where it was just like an enlarged pond. The water was clear; the bed of sand could be seen making it safe to swim and for anyone to spend some time in, only very little people risked the trek through the woods to the perfect spot because they thought that it was too dangerous.
Sophie lent on the open window looking out, it was flat outside her room and it was turned in to a balcony because the sun hardly ever moved around the front of the house because of the trees all around. Her eyes cast around to watch the man next door as he walked out his room in a towel and stretched, taking in a huge breath of air the filled his lungs right up and his chest jutted out. Sophie didn't know his name, she'd lived here all her life and all she knew was that next door there was a man, a woman and a boy that lived there. She doubted they even knew Sophie's name either, she said hello to them if she saw them or smiled, but she didn't stand and talk to them.
They weren't her kind of people.
The silence of the morning was broken suddenly by the loud knocking on the front door, Sophie waited to see if they would go away or someone would answer. Neither happened as the knocking became louder, followed by the shouting of Sophie's younger brother, he wasn't big enough to unlock the door, which also meant that their Mum was still asleep. Sophie tipped her head back with her eyes closed; she groaned and called down to her brother that she was coming.
Sophie's Mum, Ella had recently been taking on late shifts at the police station in the town- she did jobs like on call visits to houses, visiting shops that had suspected break ins or sat watching the station with the guard dog. Usually Ella was awake before Sophie, either making breakfast or sitting in the lounge- though it wasn't unusual for Ella to sleep in after a shift at work, it was a little bit annoying though.
Sophie felt like she did everything for her Mum- make the breakfast, got her brother up for the day, ordered the food for the house online, tidied up, cleaned the bathroom and kitchen as well as working her own job at a restaurant in town.
Sophie liked to have her own money, everything she owned she had brought herself and that was how she liked it. Things hadn't always been this hard at home, when Sophie's Dad, Paul had been around Sophie barely had to lift a finger, he was like a stay at home Dad, but with a job. He was a butcher at the local supermarket and worked weekends and two evenings a week, the rest of the time, Ella was working and Paul was at home watching the children. Sophie missed her Dad being around; Paul was a rock for her. He helped her with her homework, took her places she needed to go, dealt with problems over the phone and did the shopping for food with his discounts from work. As the years of doing the same thing wore on, Paul started to look tired, his laugh lines were looking more like frown lines, his hair seemed more pushed back away from his forehead and greyer at the sides and his weight seemed to decrease, he looked unwell and fed up all the time. When Ella confronted him about it, that was when arguments would start up- Sophie would lay in bed at night, listening to them shouting at each other across the lounge; about how Ella worked too much, how Paul didn't work enough, how Ella didn't appreciate how much Paul did for the children and how Ella didn't do enough to make sure the children were happy. After a year or so of arguments Paul left, packed his bags and moved to another town, at this time Sophie was 16 and her brother, Ivan, was two. Paul had promised that he'd visit, which he did- every weekend he came up to the house and sat with Ivan while Ella was on shift and Sophie had started her job at the restaurant where she now works. Sophie got home a few hours before her Mum, so Paul would hear how things were going with Sophie and then he would leave. Leave Sophie to put Ivan to bed and explain to him why his Dad wasn't staying around any longer. Didn't live with them, didn't see them every day like he used to.
It wasn't until a year ago, when Sophie went to see her Dad at his flat that she met the person he'd had been staying with since the split from Ella. His name was Jeff, he rented the flat next door to Paul- he was a little older then Paul with a much older looking face, an aged body that was rounder and his style of clothes and music was a whole decade behind Paul's. Paul said that Jeff moved in to share the flat with him because they had made good friends and that it was cheaper for them both to share. A few months ago, Paul came clean to his children and Ella that he and Jeff had been together since the split and were due to get married in the coming year. Ella had "never heard anything so stupid in all her life", many a night before her shift she would tell Sophie how ridiculous it was that her ex-husband was gay, that he was marrying a man and then now everyone would think she was a fool for being married to a gay man.
Sophie didn't care; her Dad was always going to be her Dad no matter what he did in his own time and in his own house. Sophie had the invite to the wedding in her room on the bookshelf. Her and Ivan were invited, Ella was welcome to come to, though she'd made a remark about how she'd 'rather chew her own arm off first' and refused to even mention Paul's name in the house. Sophie was excited about the wedding, she loved a good reason to get dressed up and get drunk- though she did that most weekends when Ella was home and someone could watch Ivan. Sophie knew that it wouldn't be like a regular wedding, she and her brother would sit in the dingy town registry office with a handful of people from Jeff's family because his kids were all he had left, they would watch them sign the book and promise things that probably Paul would keep this time, then they'd go to the town hall that was rented out and dance and drink until it was probably Jeff's bed time and Sophie had to bundle her sleepy baby brother into the back of taxi with her and try and remember where she lived over the haze of alcohol.
Sophie didn't mention Jeff or the wedding when people asked about her Dad, most of her friends knew that her parents were divorced and that her Dad was living with someone else, but she'd not admit that he was gay and had been for a good few years. Ivan was the one that was hard to keep quiet, once a week he went to a little pre-school because that was all that Ella could afford. There he told people how he didn't live with his Dad because his Dad lived with another man, an old man. Most people thought that Ivan was talking about his Granddad, that Paul had left his wife and moved in with his own Dad until he found a better place. It wasn't until Ivan would happily announce that he and his sister had been invited to the wedding, that people really started to question what happened.
The trouble was, around here no one asked you anything to your face- they asked someone you knew first, what happened and why. Stories were twisted from someone else's mouth and there were probably a lot of rumours going around that Paul had been gay for a long time and used Ella as a cover, when really that wasn't true. It just took Ella to stop loving him for Paul to realise that he could find someone better and that someone better just happened to not be a woman.
Sophie pulled on the gown that was hanging on the handle of the wardrobe and threw it over her shoulders, she pulled on her boot like slippers that were yellow, brown and so worn that there were almost holes in the bottom that she could feel the wooden floor underneath and hurried out her room. The hallway and landing was small outside her room, Ivan's room was to the far side with cartoon character pictures scattered on the door, the master bedroom was in front of Sophie's door and the family bathroom was to her left. The hall way walls were home to photographs of Sophie and Ivan through the years, Sophie hadn't changed much- her skin was a little darker but her black hair was still as curly as it was then. On the walls, in between the warming family pictures sat clean squares of wall where photographs with Paul in had once sat. Ella promised she was going to paint and change the hallway as if the photographs had never been there; she just never got around to it.
That happened often, Ella making empty promises. Even small ones.
Sophie took the narrow stairs two at a time, throwing herself down them in a run- her hands skimming the white banisters, Ivan was standing at the bottom of them with his back to his sister, trying to reach the catch on the door.
Ivan and Sophie looked nothing alike, Ivan's hair was a bronze and perfectly straight, it stuck up and hung down flat into his eyes which were a light blue with flecks of green in around the middle. His skin was pale, he didn't tan very well and his face was rounded with chubby cheeks and a little button nose. His lashes were thick and dark as they blinked and he always wore dark colours- today he was in a black t-shirt that was long to the crooks of his elbows and some dark army green trousers with the bottoms rolled up. Ella must have got him dressed and gone back to sleep. He turned around, his eyes large and round as he smiled with all teeth to his sister. "Don't play with the locks," she told him seriously, taking him by the wrist and pulling him away from the door, he stumbled on pale bare feet and winged- pushing on Sophie's hand to get her off him. Sophie let him go, shaking her head and then unlocking the remainder of the four locks that bolted the door shut.
The street where they lived was safe, there was not a sniff of someone breaking in ever, but Ella didn't like to leave the place without any form of safety when she was either out or asleep. If Sophie was out, she took a key and Ella would lock the main lock from the inside and put the key in a safe place so they were locked in safe but Sophie could still get in.
When the door was open, Ivan made a break for it running out into the shadow of the house and through the grass at the front. "Ivan! No!" Sophie yelled at him, he liked to play up when his Mum wasn't around. Luckily, the person who was knocking at the door was a little way up the path and caught him under the arms, swinging him up and resting him on her hip. Ivan hugged into her and she laughed. The woman, Jennie, was like Ivan and Sophie's au pair, accept she didn't live at the house and wasn't from another country. She lived up the road behind the trees in front of the house and grew up there with her mother and father. Jennie had dirty blonde hair that was cut to her shoulders and bounced in uneven waves, her fringe was short to the side and rested a little way out of her brown eyes, she had pale skin and a thin figure- her arms so skinny that she looked ill sometimes. Her choices of clothes were quite modern and to look at her you wouldn't think she was coming on 26. Today she was in a cropped denim jacket, a long white vest top, some black leggings and some flat shoes. Jennie was Ella's friend as if sent from the heavens; she always turned up on time, was always really organized, full of energy and did all the things that Ella didn't have time to do or just didn't want to do for a very good price. Jennie didn't mind doing Ella's washing, tidying, looking after Ivan, picking up the post, mowing the lawn and putting away the shopping. At the end of the day she got paid and got to spend some time with Sophie and Ivan who were, by all accounts, well behaved.
To Jennie it was like spending time with family.
"I was starting to think you'd all gone and left me," Jennie laughed, hoisting Ivan up some more on her hip and walking down the path. Sophie laughed, shaking her head. "Ella still not up?" Jennie wondered with a frown. Sophie backed more into the house and stood by the stairs while Jennie passed her carrying Ivan into the lounge. The downstairs of the house was an open plan space with the stairs set in the middle to divide the living room from the dining room and kitchen. The stairs were hollowed out to make a cupboard for the hover, ironing board, mop and broom. In front of the cupboard and in the lounge were the double doors that opened out to the sloping garden. The garden was always perfect, it was Paul's thing to do when there was no one around, to tend to the garden. Jennie had always made sure that when she had time, she trimmed the hedges and took out dead plants and planted new plants, just so it always looked fresh. Ella never even noticed, but Sophie had always quietly thanked Jennie for keeping her father's little project alive in his absence from the home. It was nice to keep some consistencies in the house.
"Nope, she must have had a late one at the station," Sophie shrugged, she didn't really know. Ella could have just been sleeping in.
Jennie nodded, putting Ivan down in front of the television so he'd be quiet and started to pick up toys from the floor that she threw into a box, she then picked up a plastic cup that must have been there from the day before because a dark stain was spread over the beige carpet. She held it in her fingers and walked around to the double doors to the garden- she opened them to let some air through, even though it was cold out the house smelt musty from being closed-up all night. Sophie followed Jennie though to the kitchen, standing by the stairs watching her as she flitted about the kitchen putting away washing up, checking it for stains and putting it into the sink so she could wash it. Sophie was so used to Jennie getting straight on with her work that it was almost like routine. She watched as Jennie's eyes cast over the dirty dinner table under the front window, piled with plates, cups, mugs and paper work from Ella's jobs at the police station. "I won't put the hover around yet then, she'll skin me alive if I wake her." Jennie laughed over the clatter of plastic plates and knives and forks being dropped into the sink. Ella had a pretty volcanic temper, she would let all her anger build up until she suddenly exploded and yelled at anyone or anything. "I was so tired last night that I didn't even hear her come in," Sophie pointed out
"She's a busy woman, always has been from what I know," Jennie shrugged and Sophie pursed her lips. "Your Dad was always so more laid back." Jennie added, running a damp cloth over the side she'd just cleaned. Jennie had grown up around Paul and Ella; they were only ten or so years older than Jennie and her parents had been friends with Ella's well before Jennie even started being the dog's body around Ella's house. Paul and Ella would come with Ella's parents to Jennie's house for BBQ's in the summer and the, at the time, much younger Jennie would sit with her boyfriend of the moment in the garden just drinking or making it look like she was interested. When Paul and Ella had split, Ella went right to Jennie for help, saying how she needed someone to help her get things on track and that it would only be for a few weeks- Eight months on and Jennie was still running errands for Ella as if it was a full-time job. Now she was practically part of the furniture, so why change things now.
Ella treated Jennie like a sister, she would laze around the house in her pyjamas acting as if it was perfectly normal while Jennie ran herself ragged for Ivan's demands and keeping the house looking nice. Sophie always felt sorry for Jennie and often offered to help but Jennie would refuse and tell Sophie to just watch television or go and do her own thing. Sophie owed a lot to Jennie and without her she'd never have the time she did to work, go out with friends or even have a bath without something that needed doing or Ivan wanting someone to amuse him.
"Dad always said that Mum was high maintenance, without him around I can understand it," Sophie explained, shrugging.
"This is why you've got me," Jennie laughed running a sink full of water for washing up. "Do you have to work today?" Jennie wondered then, her head going back to working mode- making sure that everyone was going to be in the right place at the right time, in ways she'd make a better Mum than Ella seemed to be right now. It wasn't that Sophie didn't love her Mum, she did- a lot, it was just that when your Mum slept in more than you did, left you to make dinner and had to pay someone else to do the house work and look after your younger brother- that didn't exactly scream out Mum to Sophie. When she had children of her own one day, she was going to remember all the times that Ella wasn't there, when Jennie was and think about her parenting choices differently. She wished that Ella was more of a role model, but she was stubborn and wasn't about the change for anything or anyone.
Sophie nodded, "yeah. Two till 11."
Work was like her little salvation, where she took orders, served and cleared the tables for people that she knew- she chatted with the customers that lived in the area, was given generous tips because if you knew the people you were serving then you had a good time and they paid you well. Where she worked, no one knew her back story- that her Mum was a strict police woman and that her Dad was a gay, that her brother was a loud and over active child and that they had a young woman that dashed around doing all the jobs her own mother couldn't. They only knew her as Sophie; the smiley, hard-working, polite and funny girl that worked on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday- dishing pizza's, pasta, chicken, ice-cream and cake.
"Will you need picking up?" Jennie asked with her back to Sophie as she was doing the washing up now. Jennie often stayed late at the house to pick Sophie up from work, her little car was in the garage currently and so she was either using her Mum's car or accepting lifts off people. Sophie shook her head, "no, you can stay in tonight. I'll get the night bus back," Sophie explained, starting to clear the table now to help out, though she wasn't sure it even made a dent in the mess.
The night bus was one bus that ran every night from half 11 until two in the morning, the driver was Terry and his job was bussing drunks, late shift nurses, bar workers and teenagers where they needed to go. He stopped at the end of every street letting people get on and off, it was a cheap ride to go as far as you needed to- some drunks slept on the bus and got off at the same place they got on but usually the bus was an easy way to get home. Terry was friendly and looked out for the people that were riding his old little bus, but he didn't really need to worry. The people that got the night bus were nice people, all just trying to get home and often there were more than three people hitching a ride out of town for there to not be too much fuss for young riders that were alone. The bus stopped at the bottom of Sophie's hill, if Ella was awake, she would walk to the end of the road and wait up the top for Sophie so that she didn't have to go all the way on her own. Terry would sit in the night bus watching Sophie as she pushed her way up the hill in the dark and would drive on when she was out of sight. Sophie didn't mind walking that little way on her own, she knew everyone that lived on the road and most people were just going to bed when Sophie passed and so if she did run into trouble away from the watchful eye of the night bus driver there was always someone to go to. Terry knew Sophie by name, she'd been getting the night bus for years now even though she could drive, when she went on a night out and hadn't taken her car, Terry often drove her back to her road with her friends so they could sleep off the drink they'd consumed. "Night out again, ay' Sophie?" Terry would ask, Sophie would slap her money on the little side of the night bus cab and Terry would hand her, her change. "Home is it?" He would ask,
"I'm too drunk to go anywhere else," Sophie would tell him and Terry would laugh, watch her too her seat because often she was so drunk she could barely walk and then take her home like he promised, to the bottom of her road before carrying on his night.
"Ivan will be fine sleeping in the car if you wanted a lift?" Jennie insisted. She didn't like Sophie getting the night bus or walking up the road in the dark- they were too close to the woods. Even though Sophie hadn't even seen a rabbit the whole time she lived where she did, but Jennie was such a worrier that even that would seem murderous to her. Sophie knew there were things out there, people that would give her harm if she ran into them, but she was smart- she knew how to avoid such things.
Sophie turned around with her hands up. "Jen, I'm going to be fine. I promise," Sophie laughed, Jennie sighed- she hated it when she couldn't convince Sophie otherwise, though when Sophie set her mind on something it wasn't often that she changed it.
That was one good thing that her and Ella shared.
Sophie smiled then, showing Jennie that she was okay before then turning around and going up the stairs, Ivan was still watching television as she passed and didn't even move his eyes from the little box as he was too engrossed in his show. Once upstairs Sophie took a deep breath, she was still a little tired, but now she was awake she would never get back to sleep. The dream she had that played for the last few nights consecutively was still on her mind. She knew who the person in her dream probably was, but she didn't want to name him because that would mean getting her hopes up and then probably having them crushed. Sophie wasn't terrible with boys; she had, had her string of boyfriends like most girls her age- the first love, the high school fling and the attempt at a serious college relationship, but dropping out of college to work and look after her brother ended that spark and any hope of something better.
Sophie had only ever felt like she was in love one time; that was with her first school boyfriend Tom. He was in the year above; she was 13 and spent every day with him. Most people were jealous of her, a relatively young school student with one of the "best looking" boys in the school. Tom was nice to Sophie, he walked her home even though it was past his house and they were each other's first kiss. Of course, when a new girl came to school Tom soon lost interest in the dark and tanned Sophie for the pale and blonde Clare. Sophie was a little upset, she spent a few days watching romantic movies and eating ice-cream but then she got over it. Sophie never dwelled on much, she always moved on to the next thing and within the year she'd found a new thing with Simon. Simon and Sophie were like twins, they were close- like best friends, always around each other's houses and Sophie even called Simon's Mum, 'Mum' when she was around her.
It was a nice comfortable relationship.
When they were sixteen, they decided that they wanted to move their relationship along, one summer evening when Paul was watching Ivan and Ella was at work like always, Sophie and Simon shut themselves in Sophie's room. The affair wasn't very long lasting or memorable, Sophie had always thought that her first time would be an amazing moment that she'd want to tell everyone about- the truth of the matter was that it was lazy and Sophie was more grown up for her age than to think that sex would make something better when really it shouldn't have started up in the first place. Simon however, thought better of their time and told Sophie how much she meant to him- feeling bad Sophie kept the relationship going for a month more, in that time she'd tried to make some passion in the nights they spent together but when Paul and Ella split up, Ella was less lenient with having boy's over than Paul was and Sophie knew that then was a good time to bin Simon. Simon was heartbroken, saying he loved her and didn't understand what the problem was with them needing separate rooms when they would be together sleeping at Sophie's house. Sophie told him that with a possible divorce on the horizon and the prospect of a life change now her Dad had left, it was time to end it. Unfortunately, Simon got nasty, telling Sophie he'd air her dirty laundry about her family splitting up and tell every guy she knew that she would give herself away to men without little work. Sophie welcomed him to try it, "tell people what you like about me and my family, we've been good to you and you know it... If you threaten me like that again, my Mum will do you for harassment." Sophie told him.
That soon shut him up.
The college relationship, the one that was the longest by lasting just over a year, was with Harry. He was the drinking, motorbike riding, tattooed boy that was every parent's nightmare- he didn't have job, he sponged money off people, and he turned up to college intoxicated on a regular basis. The trouble was, he was especially nice to Sophie- he gave her rides on his bike, he took her out to dinner with what little money he had and let her stay with him when things were bad at home. Harry was manlier than Simon and that was what Sophie liked about him, he made her feel like a woman. His large arms would lift her so effortlessly as he practically threw her or pulled her across the bed, he'd fall on top of her with support of his arms in almost ownership and make her feel how she was supposed to feel all those times with Simon. Being with Harry boosted her confidence, he told her how gorgeous she was, how she drove him crazy and loved the things she did to him. Sophie took everything he said and built herself into the woman she was today. The confidence she took from Harry and his warming words lead her to working in the restaurant more days and evenings and going out and enjoying herself the way she should have done instead of picking up a biker. Sophie spent so long carrying him through his mistakes in life that she forgot about her own for a while. She worked, she drank, she danced and pulled boys and that was when she ditched the third and final boyfriend she'd ever had. Sophie was never one to go around getting with boys, the kinds of boys that fussed over her at work or in the clubs were dives compared to what was her taste and type of men. Sophie liked charmers, a real man with the frame to match. Someone that could sweep her off her feet and she'd never get someone like that in a bar. Sophie knew who fit that bill, he was all those things and more, even things she didn't expect but then the mystery and danger was what she liked about him, it was almost enchanting- even though many people said he had a thing for her, Sophie didn't believe them that someone like that would ever actually like her.
She pushed the idea from her mind every time.
Sophie jumped in the shower, letting the warm water wash over her she stood with her eyes closed and head back. The water rolled down her ringlets and over her back and off her body. She washed herself with creamy body wash that was soft on her skin and then washed her hair three times because it was so thick. When she was done and felt like she'd been in the shower forever, she got out wrapping herself in her towel. She dried her body and put her gown back on wrapping her hair up now. When she stepped out the bathroom the door to the master bedroom opened and in the door way stood Ella.
Ella and Sophie looked like sisters, Ella's hair was thick black ringlets too only it was shorter then Sophie's- Ella's came to just past her shoulders while Sophie's trailed down her back to be a few inches from her middle. Ella's skin was older, laugh lines on her mouth, frown lines on her brow and bags that were slightly puffy under her eyes. Sophie stopped and looked to her Mum; she gave her a little pursed lipped smile. "Can you keep it down, please?" Ella asked with a harsh tone, her throat was sounding croaky as if she was recovering from a cold, when really she'd just woken up and she also smoked a lot of cigarettes- she never used to, Ella was a social smoker but since the split, Paul wasn't around to nag her about how unhealthy it was and how she should quit, she smoked as many as she liked. "Yeah," Sophie muttered as Ella went back into her bedroom, Sophie was on her toes, stopping the door from shutting with her arm and looking into her Mum's room. It was dark where the brown curtains were blocking the light from the outside; the fixed wardrobes took up most of the wall and the bed was near the door. Two pillows were in the middle of the bed, they were flat and worn out, the duvet was a mess half in and half out it's sheet and around the floor were letters, mugs, cups and clothes.
It looked awful.
Sophie didn't know how her Mum could live like that, it was only one room, but Sophie's room was her own space and wouldn't ever let it get like that. "What's all that noise going on down there?" Ella asked, turning around from where she was lighting yet another cigarette. "Jennie, cleaning the kitchen," Sophie pointed out. Ella was in a worse mood than usual. "You hadn't unlocked the front door and she was hammering on it for ages," Sophie added
"You were up, you let her in... Sophie, why are you being like this?" Ella snapped before then taking a drag on her cigarette. Sophie gritted her teeth and folded her arms around her middle. "I'm not, I'm just saying," Sophie muttered sheepishly,
"Well don't. Don't you have something to do today?!"
"Then go do it, get out my hair." Ella growled, Sophie pursed her lips and backed from the room shutting the door behind her. Ella was like a walking time bomb; Sophie was never sure what to say around her, sometimes she was overly nice calling her 'darling' and smiling, where as other times she was shouting, snapping and swearing. Sophie couldn't work her out and that was why she stayed well out the way of her Mum sometimes.
Sophie slammed her bedroom door, she pulled the towel out of her hair and threw it onto the floor, she felt like she should have just shouted at her Mum. Told her to stop being immature and go and help Jennie clean the kitchen. Sophie never said how she felt around Ella; she just let herself be shouted at. Sophie wasn't scared of Ella, far from it because if things got bad, she could just drive to her Dad's for the night- but Ella was her Mum, she didn't want to shout at her or treat Ella the same way Ella did her.
That wasn't going to solve anything.
Sophie picked up her brush from the bookshelf and stood in front of the mirror brushing her hair, the teeth of the big brush pulled at the wet knots until it was straight down her back. She put the brush back on the side and walked to her wardrobe, she opened its doors and pulled out her work uniform- a long dress like shirt that was pale yellow in colour and V-necked down the front, some black leggings and a pink and black neck scarf that she had to wear- she put on her matching deep purple lace underwear and pulled on the work uniform. She admired her legs in the mirror, when she was younger she did a lot of sport and over the years they toned up and kept their tan leaving them as slender and formed as they were now. She did her make up next, her dark lashes were thick as it was but with the layer of mascara they were more pronounced and longer. Next came the long task of drying her hair, it took her a good hour to properly dry her hair because there was so much of it but with the help of a thick brush the ringlets were black in place the way they always were. She clipped up the sides of her hair, straightening them with the hair dryer and allowed the ringlets to fall into place behind her head; the completed outfit made her look cute with her flowing ringlets over her shoulders and block fringe. Though someone who looked fresh from a '50s disco would look silly walking around the streets, Sophie didn't care and the people who knew her and the town's love for themed eating would know full well that she didn't actually dress like that.
With a heavy sigh, she picked up her leather jacket, mobile phone, keys and purse throwing all her belongings into a bag before then putting on some wedge heels and putting the coat over her shoulders. She was going to be too early for work, but at least when she was there she was there and could get some lunch too. She headed down the stairs with her bag over her shoulder and stopped at the front door looking into the kitchen where Jennie was now making some lunch for Ivan and Ella still wasn't down. "My Mum's awake if you wanted to go up?" Sophie explained, her hand on the door handle, Jennie looked up
"It's probably better if I wait for her... Aren't you going to be early for work?" Jennie asked turning the palm of her left hand up to face the sky and reading the hands on her watch. "I decided to walk, don't worry. See you later," Sophie said getting out the house before Jennie could harass her anymore.
Where Sophie worked was a, in case no one could guess form the uniform, '50s themed bar and grill restaurant. They played hits from the era all evening long; the girls were dressed in matching colours with the same hairstyles from the decade. The boys were dressed in baseball shirts and tight jeans with folded bottoms so they looked like someone out of a musical. Though they got hot in the summer in the jackets they still looked great. Sophie didn't know that much about the 50's but she did enjoy working there, they played songs she knew the words to, the kinds of things people did 'the hand jive' to and her and a couple of the girls she knew would dance around the place while they were in between jobs and the people she met were great fun. Sophie was one of the oldest that worked there; most of the people were busy 16 year olds looking for part time summer jobs or students looking for rent money. The boss was quite an older guy called Ben, he was pasted in tattoos, always wore sleeveless tops and all the songs that were played in the bar and restaurant was from his CD collection. Sophie remembered her job interview like it was yesterday- it was one of the easiest she'd ever been too. Ben sat across from her on a desk in the little office, his legs were up on the table and his metal-toed boots were almost right in Sophie's face. He looked at her CV and scanned it before throwing it on to the pile with all the other ones he had, his head had turned to the side and he ran his hand through his greying hair. He then swung his legs down and lent forward. "How old are you?" He asked her, his eyes quizzing.
"16 almost 17," Sophie said confidently, she didn't really look like the kind of girl that worked in a bar- her hair was up and her clothes were a posh pin skirt and a white shirt. "Do you know anything about the '50s? Like, the music or the dress sense?" Ben had asked
"No... I think the closest I've been to the 50's was when I got to see a musical in the theatre for my Birthday," Sophie laughed, which was true- Paul had paid for Sophie and friend to see the musical, Sophie didn't really enjoy it but she knew all the words to the songs and even some of the dance moves. "And is your hair naturally like that?" Ben lent forward even more looking at Sophie's hair. Sophie touched the back of her long pony tail and raised her brows, "yeah... Why?" Sophie asked confused, her lips pouted to the side.
"Take it down for me, out the tie?"
"Okay?" Sophie did as she was told, taking the thick ringlets out their tie and shaking them till they rolled down her front and back. Ben sat back, his head to the side. "How do you look in a neck scarf?" Ben wondered. Sophie thought she'd stepped into an advert for a clothesline; she laughed awkwardly and pursed her lips. "I can pull one off," Sophie said confidently. She didn't care about the stupid questions, she wanted a job and even if she had to serve the food in nothing but an apron and neck scarf. Maybe.
"You're hired then," Ben laughed shaking a rather stunned Sophie's hand.
Sophie had been working there ever since, strolling around in her out of date uniform carrying over-sized trays with her perfect ringlets still intact. People went there for the music, the food and the atmosphere of being somewhere that was like an American diner, only better. Sophie loved the fact that it was old fashioned with the red and white stripped leather chairs, the fancy little tomato sauce holders and that everyone left wishing they owned a baseball jacket. A lot of teenagers went there to; they liked the milkshakes and bar area that was closed off from the main eating area. There was a pool table, slot machines and even an old juke box with the coloured edge and old looking wood. Ben had spent a lot of money on making the place look real and had done a really good job. Sophie walked down her road and onto the main sea front, the grill was down the other end, usually taking just under an hour to walk it, but Sophie took her time, stopping to look at the sea. People who past her admired her outfit or asked her why she was dressed like that and it gave her a good reason to promote the restaurant. Eventually however she couldn't put off going into work any later and walked in through the frosted double doors to where Ben was cleaning the bar, he worked every day- he didn't like sitting in his office or watching telly in his flat above when people were busy having a nice time downstairs. He wanted to be in on the action. Ben lived alone, from what Sophie could gather he always had done, sometimes his brother would come to the grill, try the food and be served by the pretty girls. He was a few years younger than Ben and always took a liking to Sophie every time he paid a visit. "You're my favourite of all the girls... But don't tell them, they'll get jealous." He would whisper to her as he handed her, her tip. Sophie would always laugh, she knew she was only his favourite because she was the oldest and the only one that had the courage to serve him because everyone knew that he would try and flirt with them. Sophie wasn't scared of him, or the fact that he was a few years older and might try it on with her, she was never short of male attention and if the tips from middle aged admirers bumped up her pay packet then she wasn't one to complain. She could look after herself most of the time and someone trying to push their way onto her wasn't going to get them anywhere because she would just knock them back every time. Telling them your Mum was a police woman and worked with dogs trained to bite helped a little too.
"Sophie, you're early. You know I don't start paying you 'till two," Ben said pointing to the large faced clock that hung above the bar, Sophie laughed.
"I had to get out the house, I don't mind sitting around." Sophie promised, taking off her jacket and walking around the other side of the bar and hanging it up in the inside door of Ben's office. Ben laughed, turning around and heading into the kitchen. That was the good thing about Ben, he didn't ask too many questions, he didn't make a fuss or nag you to give you all your details and the in's and out's of everything that was going on. He just got on with what he was supposed to do and the staff just got on just the same.
Sophie enjoyed working regardless, so she walked around the other side of the bar; shutting the flap down and heading over to the two customers- one of them was a regular. "Hey guys, what can I get you?" She asked; her hands rested on the marble bar top. The pair, a man and a woman, both looked through the red menus as they decided. "Those milk shakes look good- we'll get two chocolates." The man said, putting the menu down. Sophie nodded and turned her back on them to make the milkshakes in the machine; when they were finished, she poured the chocolate creamy milk into two tall glasses and put two straws in the top. "You know it's a bad habit to get into- drinking in the middle of the day," Sophie joked sliding the shakes across the bar top and smiling.
"You'll do it eventually so might as well start now," the man laughed back, "what will it be darling?" He added getting out his wallet
"6.40 to pay now, unless you want to run a tab?" Sophie wondered, she had one of those faces that everyone seemed to want to spend more money around. Most of the tabs on the tills in a night were thanks to the people that Sophie served, Ben was always impressed when he saw how many people she had managed to get to keep spending money- he always joked that if it wasn't for Sophie squeezing hard earned money out of the towns people's wallets he'd have gone bust a long time ago. The one thing he didn't say was that it was true, if he didn't have Sophie wringing out people's pockets of their last penny with her charm and great smile he'd have had to of shut the restaurant down a whole year pervious.
"Make it a tab, we've got all day." The man laughed flapping a hand and Sophie smiled, the more people that stayed the more tips she made.
As a song started off in the jukebox Ben came back out the kitchen, "shifts started Sophie, get your arse in that restaurant, we're expecting a rush." Ben laughed, slapping her legs lightly with a tea towel. Sophie laughed to, swatting him away walking around out of the bar and through double doors to the restaurant. The red and white theme continued, the juke box had speakers through to the restaurant and one other girl that Sophie worked with was setting tables, she smiled to Sophie and Sophie smiled back before then picking up a pair of menus just as someone came in through the doors.
A few hours past and over that time, Sophie severed plenty of people and the tips jar on the bar side by the tills was topping up as more people walked through the doors. It was half way through her shift when she was just putting some tips that had been left on a table into the jar and someone asked for a table for four. Sophie grabbed four menus and turned around, the face of the person asking looked familiar to Sophie but she couldn't place him. The way his eyes were narrowing at her it was as if he knew her too but didn't know where from. "This way," Sophie said leading the way through the little maze of tables and showing the family to their seats, she handed out the menus and got out her little notepad from her back pocket. "Can I get you guy's drinks?" She wondered, trying her best not to look to the boy that was watching her so intently. She marked them down on the sheet and walked to the bar, she lent in through and handed the sheet she wrote on with the drinks before turning around and typing it into the till. Sophie looked up to see if there were any tables that need clearing and the boy from the table that she had just seated was making his way over. He flicked his blonde hair out his eyes, which were a dark brown and put his hands awkwardly in his pockets, "this might sound crazy," he began, "but I think I know you." He laughed at how stupid he sounded.
"If we met in a bar, I doubt I'll remember you," Sophie added indicating that she was probably too drunk.
"No, we've never met at a bar... I think we used to go to school together." He explained, Sophie frowned trying so hard to remember the face but if he was someone from school the years would have erased the face Sophie once knew and replaced it with a much older and manlier face. "Is your name Sophie? Sophie Lane?" He asked her, Sophie nodded feeling like this guy was a bit of a stalker. The boy laughed. "I thought it was you, I'm Tom... Tom Garner, we were in Secondary school together." He explained.
Then Sophie could see it, the Tom she'd first met and fallen for, the bleach blonde kid with the round face that left her for someone who he thought was better- The Tom who was the special first kiss. Though she hadn't thought about him for years seeing his face reminded her of that kiss, they had been behind the bike shed like a couple of cheeky school smokers when Tom had tweaked Sophie's chin so her face was angled up to his much taller frame and he could see down to her better and kissed her on the lips. Sophie had kissed back and it had felt like everything she thought it would, hard but then soft.
Sophie laughed awkwardly now as she pushed the kiss out of her mind, older Tom was so much more attractive than when they had been at school. Time had done him well and he wasn't so round faced anymore, his jaw gave him shape and with longer hair it made him look better, cool almost. "I remember; I was 13 when we met." Sophie said, nodding.
"That's right, I recognized you from your hair... Sounds stupid I know, but I couldn't forget your little afro curls." Tom joked, leaning on the stand where the tills were, he must be at least 20, if not older.
Sophie pushed her fringe out her eyes, "that's embarrassing... Besides they were never afro, more like frizzy," Sophie laughed; it felt weird to be laughing with Tom. Things were so different when they last saw each other, Tom had been smoking something illegal down an alley outside school and Clare- who had stayed with him all the way through school was there, sitting in the metal bike racks waiting for her turn with the cigarette. Tom didn't even acknowledge that Sophie was there or even that they had even been close at one time, but now he was acting like they were old friends. "So, when do you get off? We could get a drink..." Tom suggested, watching Sophie through his lashes. Sophie shifted awkwardly.
"I was planning on getting the night bus back, I finish at 11," Sophie said. In ways she didn't want to bond with Tom, it would be too weird.
"One drink, I'll have you on the night bus before it even starts its second run of the night," Tom smiled, he really wanted that drink. Sophie pursed her lips and nodded then, one drink couldn't do her any harm.
"Okay, one drink- but as long as I am on that night bus because I have to get back to my brother," Sophie pointed out.
"I promise," Tom said with side smile, tapping the till top and then walking away back to his family. Sophie sighed, watching him go- the sigh was more like a calming deep breath. If there was one thing she really didn't like, it was digging up her past.
Though Tom seemed difficult to say no to.
Even though she had so much to contend with already, things kept adding- family problems, secrets, gay weddings and now the first love wanting to rebuild bridges. Sophie pushed it from her mind, picking up her note pad and serving the next table, every now and then her eyes darting to Tom. Nothing would come of the little 'date'. They would have a drink, they would talk and then Sophie would go home. Home to the usual rubbish where she'd say good night to Jennie, curl up in bed and probably have the same dream that she was lately being plagued by.
That same dream about him.
Half 11 came around quicker then Sophie expected, she was vaguely aware of Tom sitting in the bar with a drink waiting for her through the whole rest of the shift- his family had left him to it and he had been good enough to keep ordering food because he was waiting for Sophie. Ben kept saying he didn't have to and that he could wait in the back but Tom didn't want special treatment, even if 'a friend of Sophie's is a friend of mine'. Sophie picked up her coat from the back of the bar and carried it in her hands as she walked to a table in the back where Tom was now sitting away from the loud and busy bar, much to Sophie's surprise he'd brought her a beer matching to his own.
"Hey," Tom smiled as she came to the table, as she slid into the sofa like booth, Tom stood up in a mark of respect to her, Sophie smiled awkwardly. "Here I am," she laughed putting her coat and bag beside her and sitting back. She watched Tom as he sipped his beer and then sat back, one hand holding the beer by the bottle neck in his fingers and then the other over the back of the chair he was sitting on. Sophie lent forward, she sipped some of her beer and then sat there holding it in both her hands with it angled toward her watching him.
"How was the rest of your shift?" Tom wondered,
"It was the usual, though I don't often run into old friends while working and I definitely don't stay later then my shift," Sophie laughed
"We can go somewhere else if you like?" Tom suggested, sipping his beer and putting it back in place on the table in his hand, Sophie shook her head- going on to somewhere else from here would make this look more serious that just one drink. "No, it's okay here. Ben won't ask us to move on if we don't buy anything" Sophie said casually saving her back. Tom nodded in understanding and Sophie hoped that he couldn't tell that she was trying to put off spending time with him. "So, what have I missed with you?" Tom wondered, he left a year or so after Sophie and the fact that they hadn't spoken in a long time suggested that he had no idea what she had even thought about doing let alone what she did.
Sophie pouted her lips to the side as she thought about it. "Nothing..." Sophie began, "when me and you split up I did my own thing for a little bit, then I found someone else and we stayed together till school finished- then we drifted apart," Sophie shrugged
"I remember, you were with... I don't remember, last name, Shroves," Tom said, watching Sophie as she leaned forward and started to pick at the label off her beer bottle. "Simon," Sophie corrected with a calm and quiet tone,
"Simon. I remember, you two were together a long time," Tom nodded
"Too long, we weren't right... I moved on to bigger and better things." Sophie joked
"You were good together, or so it seemed." Tom laughed at how wrong he'd been about them, "you weren't too upset when you split?" Tom checked; Sophie shook her head laughing lightly.
"I left him, he was the one that was heartbroken by it, but I got over it. I never waste sleep over much," Sophie said, she sipped some more of her beer. "So... what happened with Clare?" Sophie quizzed, she wanted to know all about the girl he'd left her for and how brilliant their little life was. Tom laughed, leaning forward licking his bottom lip a moment.
"Where do I start?" He sighed, "We had a rough patch, Clare was into drugs and drink and I went along with it because I liked her... Then she got bored of that, and just partied- every weekend she was at some different guys house, so I said we should just call it a day," Tom shrugged, Sophie watched him through her lashes- taking in his expression. "Then she called me, about two weeks later saying she's pregnant. I wasn't very nice to her, I told her that the list of fathers could be as long as my arm and I didn't want to know... Then I had a change of heart." Tom explained; Sophie shifted awkwardly, "I felt bad. She was all on her own and I'm a sucker for a pretty face so, I said that I would give the whole Dad thing a shot..."
"How did you do?" Sophie wondered gently, sipping her beer again.
"You know, I think I'm doing okay," Tom said, he raised his brows and looked up to her before sitting back again. "My parents hate the idea- they always did everything right, I mean my Mum never even looked at a cigarette so when she found out I was having a child and me and the mother weren't even together... She nearly died." Tom laughed, though there was pain behind his eyes. Sophie swallowed, she lowered her beer and her hands played with the label a moment. "What did your parents think of Clare?" Sophie questioned, she was warming to Tom now.
Tom laughed, "They can't stand the sight of her. They let my daughter come over and stay the night... but I take her back to Clare's... They don't even want her name mentioned in the house." Tom said, Sophie pursed her lips and smiled a little.
She knew how that felt.
"It's so hard because Clare means so much to me- we're still not together, she's with a teacher now" Tom smirked,
"From the school?" Sophie laughed,
"Yeah, he teaches German... I don't like him but then teachers and I never really got on."
"I remember you got sent out of almost every lesson,"
"See what I mean? He doesn't bother to bond with my child though which is fine... Clare and I are best friends with a history and my daughter see's both her parents. I just wish I could do more, that my parents like her you know?" Tom laughed
"You can't please all the people all the time and when you try to you never please yourself." Sophie pointed out, sipping the beer. Tom laughed, sipping too and then leaned forward.
"What about you? What did Sophie Lane make of her life?" Tom wondered; his head tilted to the side. Sophie sat back and sagged her shoulders as she thought about it, her lips pouted to the side and she looked up to Tom. Almost as if now she had to be as honest as he did. "She didn't do anything," Sophie explained. "When school ended, my parents split up... My Mum was working too much and my Dad felt like she was neglecting us- my brother and I- when we were fine, he was there because Mum worked hard to get the money and food on the table. Eventually the arguments became too much and Dad moved out." Sophie explained, her eyes cast down,
"Where did he go?" Tom wondered, his voice was soft.
"He went to another town, he rents a flat and he runs his own butchers," Sophie explained, "the trouble with us is my brother is only little and so we can't really drag him out for an hour and a half in the car every weekend..."
"Haven't you seen him since?"
"Oh God yeah, we've seen him. He used to come over every weekend but then he met someone else and then the pair of them would have to come and it would be weird." Sophie reassured him.
"Doesn't your Mum like the person he's with now?" Tom wondered; he ran his hand over his mouth awkwardly.
"No, my Mum doesn't even like my Dad" Sophie laughed, Tom nodded with the same feeling of how his parents hated Clare.
"Is your Dad happy?" Tom wondered
"I think so... Or at least, I hope so. He's getting married in a few months." Sophie explained; her hands playing with her nails now and Tom raised his brows surprised. "It's at the registry in their town, just a few people are invited but my Mum said she'd rather remove her own head with kitchen utensils than sit there and pretend to be happy for him," Sophie chuckled a little and Tom smirked.
"He's not having a traditional big wedding then?" Tom asked, his head up to the side as he sipped his beer. Sophie sighed, gearing herself up for the climax to her story, she swallowed and then said. "Nothing about my Dad is traditional... He's marrying a man." Sophie told him. Tom was quiet, he coughed a little and swallowed most of the beer in his mouth- the rest of it went down wrong and he was slapping his chest trying not to choke. Sophie pursed her lips and sipped her beer. "Your Dad's gay?" Tom checked
"At first we didn't know, he didn't even know but when things between him and the man he fell in love with grew and they moved in together I guess he kind of has to be." Sophie pointed out, "it was really hard on my Mum, not only was she divorcing the only person she ever really loved, she also drove him to be put off women for life and marry a man old enough to be a Grandad." Sophie sighed; it was all coming out now.
She hadn't seen Tom for years and his life story was sad, but Sophie came out on top. Tom shifted awkwardly again, he clearly didn't know what to say and Sophie didn't expect him to know- she wasn't waiting for an amazing speech, she just wanted someone to tell.
"How are you? Forget your Mum and everyone else, just how are you doing with it all?" Tom asked. No one had truly ever asked Sophie how she was feeling after all this had happened. Jennie would sit with her, they would tell each other about things and Sophie would be open with her but never enough that it was exactly how she was feeling. Sophie sighed, looking up to him. "I feel okay, I just wish things hadn't turned out the way they have... My brother is four years old and he's never known anything other than the fact that his Mum has a friend who does everything for him instead of his own Mum and that he's got two Dad's. He doesn't know any different and I wish that for once he could know a normal life... He's got no Dad around to play football with," Sophie said, she only ever thought about everyone else. "We can't leave town and start a fresh somewhere else because where ever we go and whatever we do, it's all still going to be exactly, the same. The fact that our Mum is a workaholic police woman and that our Dad left us for another man..." Sophie sighed, she looked away but Tom's hand touched her arm as if to tell her that it was okay to carry on. Sophie took yet another deep breath and smiled a little to him. "I can handle the fact that my Mum's a bitch, that we have a woman almost the same age as me cleaning our house for us and as crazy as it sounds, I can even handle the fact that my Dad's gay and probably has been for a long time. It's not me I'm worried about, the damage is done here- I can't change what's happened and no amount of trying to not face the facts is going to change anything... I just have a lot I wish for with my baby brother and there isn't anything I can do for him, I'm struggling for things to tell him and other people. It's better to lie to the people we care about than drag them into the mess." Sophie pointed out, that was so true for almost everything in her life.
Only then did it occur to her that there were two broken, lonely hearts at her table, struggling to have what they wanted and to make things right. Tom was wishing for a better life for his little girl and Sophie was trying so hard to keep Ivan's life as normal as possible and failing. Sophie pursed her lips in a smile, she glanced to the clock above the bar and sighed- the time had passed, nearly an hour had gone by. "I better get going, Jen will be wanting to get home," Sophie pointed out. Tom nodded.
"Can I walk you to the bus stop?" He wondered
"I'd like that, thank you." Sophie smiled, standing up. Tom followed in her shadow, moving as she did. When they got outside a bitter wind was blowing in from the sea and Sophie was glad of her coat as she zipped it up and folded her arms around her as they walked, Tom walked with his hands in his pockets and they walked close together as if they were a couple again. People were piling out the bars, shouting and laughing, slopping beer on to the pavement and putting cigarettes out on anything that they could find.
Drunks never really bothered Sophie, it was big groups of people that did.
As Tom and Sophie walked, people were calling to them and making crude remarks about the things they would do when they got home. Tom was setting his jaw and Sophie was keeping her head down. It was better not to encourage anyone around here- though most of them were happy towns folk you did get the odd one that liked to start trouble. "Let's get you out of here, huh?" Tom soothed, with his hand on Sophie's back as they cross the street to get to the bus stop.
"What about you?" Sophie asked now looking up to him. She forgot how nice he was, this reminded her of the all the times he'd walked her home.
"I'll be fine, I'll get a taxi back," Tom promised,
"Are you sure? There are some pretty rowdy people out there..." Sophie laughed as they huddled under the bus shelter now. Tom laughed again, shaking his head. "Which one of us is the girl again?" Tom wondered, with raised brows and a mock thinking expression.
"I'm just saying that I'd hate for you to get hurt because you were walking me to the bus stop," Sophie said, pushing his arm a little and he laughed.
"Walking you to places has never been a problem for me," Tom smiled. Sophie almost blushed, smiling and looking down. A little part of her would always have that little soft spot for Tom, what with him being her first kiss and all but she'd never actually get into anything with him.
Not really, that would be silly.
The night bus pulled up shortly after they'd arrived, one other person got on other than Sophie. Tom watched her as she got on to the bus and Sophie turned around and looked at him from the doorway, leaning on the metal she tucked her hair behind her ear. "You know, for all the downer family talk about gay Dad's and out of wedlock children... I had a nice time tonight." Sophie said, biting the inside of her lip. Tom laughed,
"Me too, you're as fun as I remember." Tom smirked, Sophie laughed once
"You're the same charmer I seem to remember," Sophie told him. "Stay in touch," she explained. Tom pulled out an old bus ticket from his pocket and clicked for Terry the night bus driver's pen. Tom wrote his number on the back of the ticket and handed it to Sophie, Sophie looked at it and then to Tom. "If you're ever at a loose end and need someone to talk to. You know where I am," he said, tapping the bus ticket.
"Good night, Tom Garner." Sophie almost whispered.
"Good night, Sophie Lane." Tom gave her a two-fingered salute from his forehead and stepped away from the bus. Sophie turned around, handing Terry her money and ripping her ticket from the machine before taking up the first seat she came to. She put her bag on the seat beside her and rest her head back. She looked down to the ticket and as the bus pulled away and Tom became more out of sight, Sophie screwed the ticket up in her hand and dropped it on the floor. She wasn't going to call him, she wasn't going to talk to him about her problems again. That was enough talking for one night and as lovely as Tom was, she wasn't going to get into this with him. They weren't friends and hadn't been for a long time, the drink was nice but it was one drink and catch up. The doors were once open between them to be friends but when he started ignoring her at school they had since been closed.
They were staying that way.
How hurt Tom would be that Sophie didn't call him, she didn't know, but it was a small town and she would probably see him again now that he knew where she worked- But Sophie could talk her way out of almost anything, as bad as it was- lying was something she was good at, if it was something simple anyway. When you have a lot of things about you that you don't want people to know, you have got to be.
Sophie sighed, her eyes looking out the window- she was tired, she wanted to sleep and it to be tomorrow already. The end of Thursday's shift signalled the arrival of Friday morning and after Friday was done, she would go into town, get dressed up and go and be with him.
He made her days and he made her nights, though seeing him on a Friday was like a ritual to Sophie, it was the best thing that she had going for her. As she sat on the bus now, she thought about going to the club where he worked, she was late home as it was and one more hour wasn't going to kill Jennie- she'd probably be asleep in front of the television anyway, but as the night bus pulled into the stop where Sophie would get off to walk down the side road to that club, she instantly thought against it as she saw the groups of men in dark clothes all standing together smoking.
Sophie never really did anything stupid any more, of course she wasn't overly sensible- but she knew right from wrong, what was good and what was bad and what she could get away with.
When she was drunk, all these things went out the window, she did things she shouldn't do; but when it came to the one person that she always felt herself with, always felt safe with and always wanted to be around- she forgot about all the stupid things she did and all the bad stuff she'd ever done. She turned into someone that was clever, over thought things and treaded carefully because of what she knew and what was happening to her. He always taught her that snap decisions were dangerous and that she should always think about what she's about to say and where she was going to go.
Sophie took everything he said to her and stored it in her head, remembered it and never did anything dangerous. Sophie liked that he was looking out for her but the things that she knew and couldn't tell anyone would always come back to haunt her, this was why she was the way she was.
Careful and brave.
Of course she still flew off the handle, she was still stuborn and she was still herself- he never changed her, he liked her how she was and told her to never be anyone else, but she wanted to stay where she was, alive and with him, so if she had to make a few changes to the way she behaved, then so be it- because the last time Sophie made an impulse decision to go somewhere alone late at night after work; it very nearly got her killed.