AGAINST HER WILL

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Chapter 8

SHE SHOULD HAVE PHONED TO LET THEM KNOW WHAT HAD HAPPENED, BUT SHE’D FELT TOO ASHAMED AND HURT. It was probably best to tell them about it when she got there. She knew they’d welcome her back with open arms, but how difficult would it be for her to get away once they had her in their clutches. Unless she could get herself back to work they would try to manipulate her once again. The only consolation was that she was safer there than at the flat with Blake.

As the taxi pulled up outside her parent’s house, Donna saw her father’s stocky figure in the garden, on his knees weeding the borders surrounding the lawn. His stomach flopped over his grey trousers; and as he looked up, he smiled and waved, seeing her get out of the taxi. The driver took out her large suitcase and various other bags and put them down on the pavement. She gave him a twenty pound note and told him to keep the change. He drove off, leaving her surrounded by luggage.

Her father got up suddenly and walked briskly towards her, obviously realising something was amiss. When Donna attempted to pick up the suitcases, he waved her aside, and lifted the largest up himself.

‘What’s going on love?’ he asked her, his eyes full of concern.

She shook her head, not intending to say anything yet. Picked up her other bags and followed him towards the front door. The door opened even before they got there.

Donna’s mother stood just inside the doorway, no doubt sensing trouble.

‘What on earth’s the matter?’ she asked, although she must have had a good idea by the amount of luggage her daughter had.

Eyes full of tears, she strode past her mother into the house, without saying a word. And after putting the bags down in the hall, she went into the living room, to sit down on the armchair close to the fire. She looked down at the carpet, aware both her parents were staring at her. But they didn’t speak.

‘I’ll get us a drink, shall I?’ Her mother said finally.

Donna burst into tears, forcing her father to rush over to her to take her hand and squeeze it gently. He stared at her with angst, then handed her a tissue from the box on the coffee table. She blew her nose and wiped her eyes. ‘Thanks dad.’

Her mother came back with two cups of tea, handing one to Donna. She took a sip, tasting whisky, a ploy she suspected to calm her down a little, and then put her cup down by the fire grate.

‘Want to talk about it now, love?’ her father asked in a quiet soothing voice.

Donna glanced at both of them, biting her bottom lip, moving about uncomfortably in her seat. It was no good; no point in holding it back any longer.

‘I’ve left him.’ The pain of it had already taken its toll by virtue of her red blood-shot eyes.

‘But why? I thought you were happy with him. You’d even set a date for the wedding, hadn’t you?’ Donna’s mother said in exasperation.

‘You’d better tell us what this is all about, Donna. If he’s hurt you - he’ll wish he hadn’t – especially after what you’ve been through recently.’ Her father balled up and squeezed his fist.

So leaving out the worst bits, like Blake almost trying to rape her, she told them exactly what had happened. Including the abortion, which she’d planned to keep from them, but what did it matter now?

‘This is unbelievable.’ Her mum said, shaking her head. ‘I never dreamed Blake was like that.’

‘Everybody has fights Donna. You’ve both been through a lot – isn’t there any way you can patch things up?’

‘It’s gone too far for that dad. He hasn’t been the same since I came out of the hospital, and gradually he’s got worse.’

‘Well all I can say is, it’s despicable. Looks like you’re best rid of him,’ her mum said.

‘Maybe I am, but that doesn’t make me feel any better. Sorry, but I had nowhere else to go.’ Frantically she rubbed her eyes.

‘You can stay here as long as you like – that goes without saying. There’ll always be a home for you here. Won’t there Joe?’

‘Of course. It’ll be so nice to have you around us again,’ he agreed.

‘Thanks mum, dad – I just wish it hadn’t come to this.’

‘Never mind that, you’re back home alive and well, and that’s all that matters,’ her mother said.

‘I’ll only stay until I find a place of my own.’

‘There’s no need for that – stay for as long as you like. So let’s hear no more about it - all right?’ her father said.

Donna nodded, bravely trying to smile but the smile never reached her eyes. ‘Can I have my own old room back?’

‘Course you can - with pleasure,’ he beamed with a grin.

Later she took the lighter bags upstairs, her father struggled behind with the large suitcase, which he left on the floor just inside the bedroom.

‘Thanks dad.’ She went easily into his arms, hugged by the man who’d always been the one steadying influence in her life.

‘It’s great to have you home. I’m so sorry this had to happen, I know how much you thought of him.’

‘Mind if I unpack my stuff now. I’ll be down later – all right?’

‘Sure, take your time, love. You know where we are if you need us,’ he winked at her, like he used to when she was a kid.

A strange sense of relief came over her when he’d gone. Sitting on the bed, she looked around, seeing it much the same as ever, littered with pictures of her, first as a child actress, the sweet as sugar little girl in television commercials. Then later as a model for some of the country’s biggest catalogues, and finally a beauty queen, narrowly failing to become Miss England twice, and Miss United Kingdom once. Many said she looked stunning in whatever pose she was photographed, although she insisted she was far from perfect.

As she stared at each of these photos in turn, considering what she had just been through, it made her physically sick – perhaps this was rubbing salt into her wounds.

But the picture that made her most proud was the one on the dressing table, of her graduation, a truly happy moment, her only real achievement so far. It had given her the confidence to believe there was nothing she couldn’t attain if she put her mind to it.

It took a while to put everything back in the wardrobe and as she did this she reflected on her terrible ordeal and her future at Bluethorn – it was proving so incredibly difficult to come to terms with. Her job as a Financial Analyst had initially filled her with excitement, as had her relationship with Blake, but now both had all but slipped from her grasp. And if she didn’t have them – what did she have?

Once she’d finished unpacking, she sat on the bed suddenly depressed again – and right back where she started.

The reality of coming back home hit her. She couldn’t help fearing her parents would try to control her life and push her into changing her career. And remembered only too well the incessant pressure they’d placed her under to be model and an actress. How she’d found the courage to stand up to her mother and embark on a degree course in Mathematics she would never know. Although her mum seemed pleased when Donna graduated, Donna was certain she still longed for her to do something else.

There had been trouble too when she moved out to buy a flat with Blake. A big mistake, they said. She was too young. He was wrong for her and so on. Well, they’d been proved right. The ‘I told you so’ scenario was like a kick in the teeth. She felt vulnerable and was again forced to be much too dependent on them. Another nightmare for her, almost as bad as having to face work again, with all of them knowing she’d been raped.

Finally, with a big sigh, she realised the time had come to speak to her parents, or else they’d wonder what was going on. Reluctantly she got up and traipsed downstairs.

Walking into the living room, she saw them sitting down together, an old photograph album open on her mother’s lap; full of pictures of her from when she was a little girl and first thrust into the limelight.

Donna sat opposite them in her dad’s armchair wondering what her mum was up to now.

As her father sat puffing pungent smoke from his pipe, he wore a contented smile. He smoked because it helped him relax, he said. But the smell always made her want to puke. She realised nothing had changed, her mum as ever the driving force, trying to control situations in her daughter’s life.

‘Ah Donna. We couldn’t think where you’d got to – I guess you wanted a little time to yourself?’

‘Something like that mother.’ She folded her arms nervously across her chest.

‘Why don’t you sit between us? I was just leafing through these beautiful pictures of you when you were younger. Come and look, see if you remember, eh?’

Donna cringed, although she tried hard not to let them see. This was all she needed, but there was no way out.

It took a few seconds before Donna forced herself to sit between them. Everything was so familiar, the smell of tobacco mingled with her mother’s over-powering lily of the valley perfume, almost making her retch.

As she watched and listened, her mother looked through the albums, admiring every snap of her daughter as she went on. Donna had only been back a couple hours, and already reminders of the past were being put in front of her; in fact, it seemed the number of photographs and amount of memorabilia around the house had increased tenfold. At the moment she realized there was no escape from her mother’s obsession; the only way was to listen and let it go over her head. Then make up her own mind without involving them.

‘If I were you Donna, I’d get onto the Estate Agents about selling the flat. Then when it’s sold, be sure you get your share so you can start afresh. The sooner the better, don’t you think… eh Joe?’

‘Yes. Get what you’re entitled to.’ He took the pipe out of his mouth, to relight it as it had gone out. ‘And how about getting back to work?’

She felt the colour drain from her face. ‘Maybe, I’m not sure. My note expires in two weeks. I need to talk it over with my doctor.’

‘Well, if I were in your shoes I’d do something before then. Or you’ll get too much of a liking for staying at home. And the longer you’re away, the harder it’ll be to go back.’

‘Yes, dad but – ’

‘Joe,’ her mother interrupted, with eyes staring at him with disapproval. ‘Leave the poor girl alone. Can’t you see how upset she is? Over that terrifying ordeal. And everything that’s followed. You don’t get over something like that in a few weeks – it can take months if not longer.’

Her father moved his black bushy eyebrows up in exasperation. ‘I’m not stupid. I’m trying to help the kid - that’s all. We don’t want her wasting away here all day – do we?’

‘She won’t be wasting away here, as you put it, darling. You don’t know what you’re talking about as usual. What she needs is to relax and rest - convalesce, I think is the right term.’ She nodded her head to emphasise her point.

‘All right, I realise she’s in need of a lot of counselling and support, but it’ll do her good to get back to normality again. All she’ll do here is sit and ponder over it – and make herself worse.’

‘Don’t you understand anything about what she’s been through?’ her mother retorted angrily.

‘Stop it! Stop it! Both of you. I want some peace and quiet. I don’t need you two bickering over me, so just let it drop, will you?’ She glared at each of them in turn. I’ll handle this in my own way, she thought, no matter what they say.

‘Of course, it’s up to you my dear,’ her mother said.

‘I wasn’t pressurising you either, Donna. I was trying to help – honestly.’

‘I know you were dad. I’m sorry; it’s just that everything’s getting me down right now.’ She nervously bit her thumbnail, emphasising her current state of mind.

‘We understand,’ her mother said. ‘Don’t take any notice of us – I just wish there was something we could do, that’s all – I really do.’

Donna began to breathe erratically again; felt like crying but somehow she stopped herself. And wished to God, they’d leave her alone.

‘I’m going out for a walk, I need some fresh air. You don’t mind, do you?’

‘Of course not. And if you want our company, you only have to say.’

‘No, it’s all right mum, I’ll be fine. I want to be on my own for a bit.’

‘Ok Donna. You be careful, and don’t stay out too long eh.’ There was deep concern on her father’s weathered face.

‘I won’t.’

She got up from her seat, found out a warm sheepskin coat and black scarf, which she’d just unpacked, and having shouted goodbye to her parents, she ventured outside.

The weather was chilly and a cold wind blew her golden hair everywhere. As the wintery sun was just going down, she shivered, hurrying towards the busy road. Then turned right heading for the small shopping precinct which consisted of four shops, a cafe and a pub, where normally plenty of people would be about. Unfortunately, at this time of day the shops would soon be closing, so she carried on walking a little further, out of her comfort zone. She made her way towards a grassed area leading to Dexford Country Park, and found the cold icy wind made her shiver despite her warm coat.

There was a car park close by, and a picnic area with wooden benches and tables. Surprisingly lots of people were about, some walking their dogs, others just trudged around the park together, most took no notice of her. She sat quietly on a bench by herself, looking out at the scenery, pondering over going back to work. An ordeal she didn’t think she could face.

Suddenly hearing the sound of a twig breaking close by, her heart leapt. She gripped the bottom of the bench, looked round, and in the distance thought she saw a dark figure moving about, before disappearing off into the trees. People round her seemed oblivious of this and provided little comfort.

For a few seconds Donna couldn’t think straight, panic engulfed her. Her eyes darted all over the place trying to see where the man had gone. She was overwhelmed by a terrible fear, and imagined this figure was her attacker stalking her, waiting to strike again. Cold sweat poured out of her, and she had difficulty breathing. She wanted to scream but couldn’t. And felt the need to get out of there quickly before anything happened. Moving off the bench, she made a run for it, not noticing or even caring what anyone thought. Out of the picnic area, and past the shopping precinct, she didn’t slow until she reached the outskirts of the estate where her parents lived.

When she got to her destination, she paused and leaned against a lamppost, to get her breath back, constantly looking behind her in case the madman had followed and found out where she now lived. Some minutes later when she was fairly sure he wasn’t loitering out there, she began to breathe normally again. No point in telling her parents what was going through her mind though.

She walked up the drive, but went round to the back of the house, by way of the kitchen. Through the window she saw her mother standing in front of the sink. When Donna came in, she glanced across, no doubt curious of her daughter’s whereabouts.

‘Feel any better now?’

‘Not really.’

Her mother put the palm of her hand to Donna’s cheek. ‘Cold isn’t it? Hope you haven’t caught a chill out there.’

‘Don’t worry, this coat is lovely and warm.’

‘You ought to try to pull yourself together now. I know you’ve had a horrid time these past few weeks, but now you must make the effort to get yourself well again. Don’t forget, you’ve got so much going for you. You’re young, still the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen, and I’m not just saying that because you’re my daughter. You could have any boy you wanted, achieve almost anything if you put your mind to it. There’s no reason to throw it all away on account of one horrible man.’ Her mother looked at her admiringly, with the glint of a tear in her eye. ‘You’ve been blessed with a gift from God, love. Use that advantage to help you. Blake may have broken your heart, but there’ll be a hundred more waiting in the wings to take his place – believe me.’

‘Mum, don’t keep harping on about stuff. I’ve heard that so many times, and I’m sick to death of hearing it.’ She took off her coat, hurriedly throwing it over a chair.

‘But if you do go back to work, your male colleagues especially, and some of the women too, will flock round you, wanting to help all they can. It’ll be a piece of cake.’ She smiled, ignoring her daughter’s last remark.

‘I don’t think so. Because I’m not sure I can. I don’t want them whispering about me behind my back, and laughing at me. I’ll feel like walking out.’

Donna’s mother lifted her chin up. ‘You mustn’t let yourself think like that. It’ll only tarnish your life even further if you allow it to. You’re just the same person inside as you were before.’

She moved away from her mum, certain she wasn’t the same person. And never would be again. ‘Mum, I don’t need a lecture. I’ll cope, all right. I’m going to my room now.’

‘Of course darling. I’ll come up later to see how you are.’

‘Mum - I’m a big girl now.’ Donna spoke slightly sarcastically, which her mother didn’t seem to notice.

She was so tired after everything that had gone on. It felt comfortable in the room where she’d lived for all but one of her twenty-two years. She lay back on her single bed, knowing she’d still miss not having Blake around. Best not think about what had happened at the end to spoil their beautiful relationship - better to remember the good times.

She was devastated that it had gone wrong, as at one stage she’d been certain she’d spend the rest of her life with him. Would she eventually find happiness elsewhere? She didn’t know nor care at present. But in the meantime, what would she do on her own?

Of course at home she was safe, and she did have some feelings for her parents, despite what they’d done to her. Yet after only one day with them, they were already driving her mad. They irritated her, with their constant mollycoddling; and their incessant references about her looks, and how this would allow her to do whatever she wanted. Donna hated this. Didn’t they realise what mattered was the person you really were inside? After all looks didn’t last forever.

To Donna, staying with her parents indefinitely was not an option. Sooner or later she had to stand on her own two feet, because the way her mother’s mind was working, the pressure to return to a modelling career would soon be relentless, and be difficult to deal with. If she couldn’t go back to her present job, she was adamant eventually her future would only lie in a career in Mathematics in some other shape or form.

Dropping off to sleep that night, she dreamt of her attacker and what he’d done to her; and woke up wringing wet with sweat, thoughts of him raping her, still clear in her mind. In her dream she remembered crying out for help but as before no one came.

Suddenly she sat up in bed, her nightdress sticking to her, soaked with perspiration. Was there nothing she could do to rid herself of these demons? It frightened her even to go to sleep. She faced an unbearable life, it seemed, whether awake or asleep.


The following week she made an appointment to see her doctor again, in the hope he could give her a bit of advice. And decided not to tell her parents as she didn’t want them to worry or be too involved in her life.

In the end, it was rather a pointless exercise. Although sympathetic, he didn’t offer anything new. He suggested, once again, seeing another counsellor to help her cope with her return to work. He was about as good as her mum and dad and left her feeling on her own in this.

When she agreed to go back to work in a week’s time, she was given a prescription and a note for her employers saying she was fit for work but with restrictions. He also gave her a week’s supply of tablets to help her anxiety while she was at work. If they were anything like her other tablets, she didn’t think they’d help, but she didn’t tell the doctor this.

She returned home half an hour later and was met by her mother in the hall. ‘Donna, David Wallace phoned. He wanted to know how you are. I said you’d phone him back.’

‘Oh no, I don’t want to speak to him.’

‘Well, that’s up to you. I’m only passing on the message.’

‘I know.’

‘So are you going to return his call or what?’

‘Suppose I’ll have to.’ She wondered how he knew she’d moved back in with her parents. It had to be Blake.

With shaking hands she picked up the phone and dialled David’s number. Nervously and with hurried words she spoke with him, mentioning her visit to the doctor, and her proposed return to work the following week. To his credit, despite what had happened during their previous meeting, he seemed genuinely thrilled and surprised. He told her he’d prepared a revised rehabilitation programme allowing her to work a few hours at a time, which was along the lines the doctor had suggested, and assured her she wouldn’t be pushed her into doing anything until she was ready. But, she still felt uneasy about facing everyone.

Putting the phone down, she breathed out slowly, glad that was over. Soon she had to return to work, and there she’d face an even bigger ordeal.

The tablets she took did little except to take the edge off her anxiety, and as the day approached, the butterflies in her stomach increased steadily. She found it difficult to sleep and became agitated, which added to the tense atmosphere at home. Her father was more sympathetic to Donna’s problems but said little when her mother continually alluded to the idea of Donna returning to modelling. Donna felt like screaming, but instead she sulked and smouldered with anger.

That first week she was due to work from ten until one o’clock on Tuesday and Thursday. Surely, she could manage that.

The night before was particularly bad, feelings of nausea increased, and that in turn led to panic attacks, highlighting how difficult this would be. She was tossing and turning for what seemed like an eternity, and eventually decided to get up.

Having visited the bathroom, and taken a tablet to help her get through the day, she went downstairs to find her father sitting at the breakfast table, a bowl of cereals in front of him. He looked surprised to see her.

‘You’re up early aren’t you love?’

‘I couldn’t sleep, dad.’ She rubbed her eyes and yawned.

‘Well, that’s understandable. You’ll be all right once you get there. Just get through today, and you’ll be over the worst,’ he told her, touching her hand across the table.

She sniffed back tears that threatened to come, moving her head back. ‘I’m not sure I can do this, dad.’

He looked concerned. ‘Darling, you’ll be fine. At least try or you’ll never know, will you?’

Donna shook her head. He went over to her, put his hand on her shoulder.

‘Look, listen to me. You have to rise above what happened to you. If you give in to it now, it’ll be twice as hard the next time.’ He was obviously trying to encourage her, and added, ‘So promise me you’ll give it your best shot.’

She nodded reluctantly.

As previously arranged, when the time came, her father got up to give her a lift. ‘Ready then?’

‘Suppose so.’ Her stomach turned over once again.

She looked across at her mother sitting there quietly, smiling sadly at her. ‘Take care now, Donna, and if you don’t feel well come home. Remember there are plenty of other jobs out there if this one doesn’t work out.’

‘Oh sure, thanks a bundle, mum, that’s exactly what I don’t want.’ What sort of incentive was that? Perhaps all the incentive she needed.

She was dressed in a new grey pin-striped suit, and a cream blouse. Her face, made up delicately, was framed by her shoulder length blond hair. According to her parents, she looked breath taking, although she felt anything but.

She said goodbye to her mother on the doorstep before getting into her father’s blue Ford Mondeo. As they drove off, she turned to see her mum waving.

The journey into work was quiet, save for her father’s small talk, obviously trying to keep her mind off what was to come. But she didn’t listen to half he said because so much was going round in her head. Then before she knew it, they were outside the Bluethorn building.

‘Thanks for the lift, dad.’

‘Good luck and don’t worry. You’ll be ok,’ he said to her reassuringly.

There were tears in her eyes as she turned away from the car, and hoped he didn’t notice this.

‘Pick you up at one o’clock,’ he shouted before he drove off.

The sun was shining as she walked into the building where she’d worked for the past eighteen months. She’d been happy here too until the attack. Now as petrified as on her first day, she entered the lift and pressed the button for the sixth floor. She was in the lift on her own, waiting anxiously for it to reach its destination.

As soon as the lift opened, she saw Vanessa the receptionist, who’d known Donna since she’d started with the company.

‘Hallo Donna!’ she exclaimed all smiles. ‘How brilliant to see you back.’

Donna felt colour coming to her cheeks. ‘Would you phone David Wallace, tell him I’m here?’

‘Of course. Won’t keep you a moment.’

Vanessa picked up the phone and dialled through to David. Donna meanwhile, stood awkwardly in front of Vanessa’s desk, legs turning to jelly. The extra tablet she’d taken that morning didn’t appear to be working, so she took deep breaths in an effort to calm herself down.

‘He’ll be out in a minute,’ Vanessa said staring at her, probably noticing how nervous and afraid she looked. ‘So how have you been keeping? Been off for a while, haven’t you? The place hasn’t been the same without you.’

‘Really,’ Donna said with an embarrassing smile. How she wished Vanessa would stop rambling on; it made her feel even more nervous.

At last, David Wallace came bounding towards her, what remained of his ginger hair flapping all over the place, his face alive with pleasure at seeing her.

‘Donna, you made it.’ He shook hands with her. ‘So glad you’re back. We can’t afford to be without people of your calibre, you know.’

‘Thanks David, that means a lot to me.’ Trying hard not to feel emotional as they went through to the cloakroom, she hung up her coat.

The office area was open plan; there were around a dozen people, most of whom she knew, busy tapping away at their computers as David walked her through.

‘As you can see Donna, nothing much has changed. Everything is more or less as it was, except for one or two personnel. Business is brisk I might add as you would expect. Come on, we thought you’d like your old desk back.’

‘Thanks David, that’s very thoughtful of you.’ And they made their way around to it.

As she walked across the office she saw a couple of her old colleagues looking up to greet her. Her heartbeat increased, and she began to feel giddy on seeing the banner on the far wall ‘WELCOME BACK DONNA’. This little gesture made her the centre of attention when she wanted as little fuss as possible.

She wanted to crawl in a hole somewhere and hide, but that was impossible. A lot of her work mates shouted hallo and said how nice it was to see her back. Donna acknowledged them as best as she could. Already she was feeling very much on show. David gestured for her to go through to his office, just behind where she normally worked. He closed the door and she sat opposite him.

As he observed her, she began to shake.

‘Right Donna, first of all there are a few formalities we need to go through. If you’ve got your return to work form, we can then confirm your rehabilitation programme. Once that’s done, we’ll get onto the work you’ll be doing…’

Donna found it difficult to take everything in. She barely looked at David as he spoke and only realised she had to sign something when he pushed it in front of her.

‘Right, if you’re ready, I’ll take you across to Claire, who’s been doing your job since you’ve been away.’ He stood up, lifted up his arm to guide her out of his office to where Claire was sitting.

‘Claire, this is Donna,’ he said politely.

‘Ah, new recruit eh,’ Claire joked.

Donna tried to smile. ‘Not exactly.’

‘Claire, if you could just familiarise Donna with what you do. Obviously she already knows most of it, but there may be one or two things that have changed since she’s been away.’

‘Of course. Great to see you, Donna. Why don’t you pull up a chair?’ Claire said shaking her thick auburn hair back. She appeared to be wearing contact lenses, which made her eyes squint now and again.

Donna found a seat and watched as Claire guided her through what she was familiar with already. Claire was friendly enough and didn’t pry, only asking her if she was better. They talked a little about what had gone on since Donna had been away.

As the morning passed, Donna began to realise how difficult it would be to get back into the job that at one time she’d done almost without thinking. She found it so hard to concentrate, constantly imagining they were all staring her. With a feeling of awkwardness, she stumbled on her words when spoken to, and sensed they didn’t know how to approach her either.

It seemed to be a constant battle to remain at her desk, and on two occasions she had to go to the toilet to be sick. The morning dragged. Then at eleven-thirty Claire told her the daily team meeting was scheduled for fifteen minutes time. Donna didn’t think she could face this and suddenly felt faint.

David Wallace took the meeting as usual. He began by mentioning Donna straightaway. ‘As you’re all aware, today we welcome Donna back to the team after a lengthy absence. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say it’s lovely to see you back, Donna. You’ve been sorely missed, and I know we’ll all give you the support you need to get into the swing of things again.’

They clapped for her, and she felt all their eyes on her, but she just couldn’t find any words to say to them, and instead peered down at the floor humiliated. Her face was burning and how she stopped herself from leaving the room she didn’t know.

Finally, when the meeting dispersed, still feeling nauseated, she couldn’t stand it any longer. Time to get out of this awful place, and without saying anything, she went to her desk next to Claire’s, picked up her handbag and dashed out. The cloakroom and toilets were in the same direction, so anyone noticing her wouldn’t suspect a thing. Putting on her coat, and scanning her pass at the door, she walked towards the lift. Vanessa looked up, and must have seen her distressed face but didn’t say a word. Once she was in the lift, Donna wasn’t sure how she felt, the initial relief was soon replaced by a sense of failure. But she couldn’t stop herself. Obviously, she wasn’t in any fit state for work yet.

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