AS SOON AS SHE WAS OUT OF THE STUFFY BLUETHORN BUILDING, DONNA CLOSED HER EYES AND BREATHED IN THE FRESH AIR. Turning round and looking up at her place of work, she couldn’t stop herself from sobbing over what she’d just done. She ought to go back in there before it was too late, but couldn’t pluck up the courage.
Walking away, she eventually ended up at Dexford’s Shopping Centre, heading towards a bus stop to wait for a bus, to take her back to her parent’s house.
It didn’t take long for one to arrive. She fumbled in her purse for the right change, before making her way up the stairs to an empty seat away from the other passengers, in case she felt emotional again. Fifteen minutes later she got off at a stop only a few yards from the house. It was twelve-thirty, half an hour before her father was due to pick her up from Bluethorn.
He’d just finished washing his car, and was wiping the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand, when he glanced up and saw Donna’s troubled face.
‘What’s this?’ he asked her. ‘I thought you weren’t coming out until one o’clock. You should have phoned - I’d have picked you up.’
‘It doesn’t matter dad. I’m perfectly capable of getting myself home.’ She walked past without looking at him.
‘Hang on a minute, love. You sure you’re all right?’
‘Couldn’t be better.’
‘Come on Donna, what’s happened now?’ He went over to her and grabbed her arm.
‘What do you care? Let go of me, will you?’ She wrenched it free.
She was aware of him following her into the house. How she wished he’d leave her alone – wasn’t it enough that she’d had to walk out of work, without having him pester her as well?
Donna went straight upstairs to her room, without going in to the living room to see her mother, and closed the door behind her. As soon as she sat down on the bed she broke down, sobbing gently, head in hands.
Before long, there was a knock on the door. She sighed wondering what now.
‘Donna – why are you upset? Please can we come in?’ It was her mum this time, putting on her concerned-for-Donna voice.
‘Please go away. I want to be on my own,’ she answered, amid her tears.
‘Please let us help. Tell us what all this is about. You’re worrying us to death again,’ her father added in a troubled voice.
‘Darling, we’re staying out here until you say we can come in – you hear me? Even if it takes all night,’ he told her stubbornly.
She closed her eyes momentarily, wishing they’d leave her in peace, before getting off the bed to open the door to them. Then lying down again, she put her hands underneath the back of her head, and stared up at the ceiling. They both sat down on the edge of the bed and remained silent. It appeared they wanted her to make the first move.
‘I had to come home,’ she said after a few minutes.
‘Whatever for? You told us you felt better and wanted to go back,’ her mum said.
‘I thought I was ready, but I was wrong. It was horrible,’ she explained, moving up to sit up against the headboard, before telling them about the ‘Welcome Back’ banner and everything else that had happened. Everyone had been nice to her she told them, but she couldn’t handle being the centre of attention, and kept getting the impression they were all talking about her. This she couldn’t take.
‘Why don’t I phone David Wallace, and explain why you had to leave. He might let you come back again at a later date, when you feel better,’ her mother suggested.
Donna looked up at her, knowing full well what she was up to. The option to go back wasn’t there any longer and didn’t her mum know it. Donna bunched her hands until the whites of her knuckles were showing, wanting so much to scream. Instead, she just shook her head vigorously.
‘I’m not going back there, mum, I can’t cope with it, not with them knowing about what happened to me. I prayed I could, and I tried really hard, but I can’t.’
They went to her, putting their arms around her, holding her tightly hoping to comfort her. But, she didn’t want sympathy, she wanted to feel better, be normal again, but didn’t know how.
‘So what are you going to do now? Maybe you ought to see that doctor again,’ her father suggested.
‘He can’t do anything but pump me with pills that won’t do any good. I haven’t a clue what the answer is. But I’m leaving Bluethorn. I’d rather die than go back there.’
‘All right, if that’s what you think is best. Obviously, we have our opinions, and you can listen to our advice if you want, but at the end of the day it’s up to you. It’s your life after all,’ her mother said.
‘But I won’t have a job. And I don’t have Blake either. In fact thanks to that monster, I’ve lost everything.’ She stroked her thick hair with the back of her hand.
‘You’ll always have us, love. And when you’re well again, you’ll get another job easily. You’re bound to with your qualifications,’ her dad added, patting her hand.
‘Come on now Joe, let’s go downstairs, we’re crowding her space. Let Donna think this through herself. We’re here if you need us, darling. Anything we can do, you only have to ask.’
Donna didn’t react to this. She didn’t care what they did. Her future was uncertain - but what did that matter? Nothing seemed to matter anymore.
‘Mum, dad,’ she whispered. ‘I’m so sorry to put you through this.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ her father said. ‘We understand. You can’t help it, but that’s not your fault. That maniac’s to blame, he who the police don’t seem to be able to find.’
‘They’ll never find him dad, because I couldn’t give a good description of what he looks like or anything about him. It’s hopeless.’
She guessed they’d taken the hint, because they got up quietly and left, closing the door softly behind them. Thank God, she thought. It was best if she dealt with her problems in her own way.
At six o’clock she went downstairs to have an evening meal with them, but returned to her room almost as soon as she’d finished eating.
It had been an extremely stressful day and although she dropped off to sleep quickly, she spent a restless night, floating from one bad dream to another. From her unhappy childhood to her troubles with Blake, and of course the horrific attack. It was as if all the men in her life were fighting against her, wanting her for their own ends.
When she woke the next morning, she felt drained by the bad things that kept happening to her - and couldn’t see the point in getting up; there was nothing to get up for anyway - so she remained in bed, lying there dozing wondering when or if her parents would interrupt her misery.
Finally, the door to her bedroom opened, squeaking slightly. Her mother standing there stony faced as if she had something on her mind. But remembering back to when she was younger, she knew her mother never liked her to lie in, thinking it an idle occupation. Yet, what did she expect after the events of the last few months?
‘Sorry to disturb you, but dinner’s ready if you’d care to join us.’
‘I’m not hungry right now. I’ll have something later.’
Her mother blinked rapidly seeming not to know what to make of this. They stared at each other for a few seconds.
‘Well if you’re sure. But remember you have to eat no matter how miserable you feel. No one can live without food.’
‘I’m not stupid, mum!’ She shouted causing her mother to flinch.
Looking surprised by the sound of her daughter’s voice she replied ‘We’re beside ourselves worrying over you Donna, we really are. You can’t carry on like this. God knows where you’ll end up.’
‘And what’s that supposed to mean?’
‘Nothing. I’m only saying…’
‘Well don’t. If I had somewhere else to go, I would – believe me. I’m only here as long as I have to be. So you needn’t worry. Once I’m gone, you’ll no longer be burdened with my troubles – will you?’
‘Don’t be ridiculous. Whether you’re here or not, we’ll still be just as concerned,’ her mother replied angrily, leaving the room and the door wide open.
Donna frowned. Why should she be bothered with them, especially her mother? Maybe she should use them, as they’d always used her. Then she breathed out with relief, glad to be on her own again. Perhaps it was her present muddled state of mind, but they were driving her crazy. The thought of spending an indefinite amount of time here, filled her with dismay. When she’d moved in with Blake, it had been like a breath of fresh air. At last, she’d had the freedom to do what she’d craved for, without interference or manipulation. But now that relationship was over, and she couldn’t face going to work, or being with her parents. It was back to square one again. As she continually thought in this irrational way, her head spun.
Her only solace for the rest of the day, was to remain in her bedroom, first reading a book and then watching television, with not a peep out of her mum or dad. She was in no mood to speak to anyone although she guessed one of them would show their face eventually.
The television was still on; she lay back on her bed intermittently dozing every now and again, until a quiet knock at the door brought her back to reality. She whispered ‘oh no’ and hoped it would be her father. At least he listened to her with an open mind, even if he did eventually side with her mother most of the time.
When the door opened she was relieved to see it was indeed him, his face troubled but also stern. He gave a serious smile.
‘Mind if I sit down love? I brought you something to eat and drink - you must be starving. It’s five-thirty and you haven’t eaten a thing all day.’
He had a tray containing a plate of ham and cheese sandwiches and a bottle of fizzy pop, which he placed on the table by the bed.
‘Maybe just a little,’ she admitted.
‘Well, that’s a start I suppose. You tuck in now.’
Donna looked up at him, pangs of hunger hit her nostrils. She picked up a sandwich and began to eat it slowly. Despite not wanting to appear too keen, she ate most of the food.
‘Any better now?’
‘Not really. Not as hungry perhaps, but I still feel so low. I don’t know what’s the wrong with me? You can’t begin to imagine, dad.’
‘I don’t suppose I can. By the way, David Wallace phoned. He wanted to know how you are. I told him you’re ill again. He was very nice about it; said he wanted us to keep him informed. He’ll take you back love, which isn’t surprising considering your qualifications and abilities. They still have a very high opinion of you. Just get another note from your doctor, and David will let you go back whenever you’re ready.’
Her father seemed pleased by David Wallace’s sympathetic attitude.
But she felt a jolt in her stomach, as panic rushed through her once more. Tears formed in her eyes and she shook her head from side to side.
‘Please Donna; this is your career we’re talking about here. Don’t throw it away over what happened to you. That’s plain stupid.’
‘You don’t know what that monster did to me, dad. He raped and beat me and took away my self-respect. I thought I was going to die. And when I found out I was pregnant and had an abortion, not knowing whose baby it was, I was devastated. I have to live with the fact that I killed by own baby and that it might have been Blake’s child. I’ll never forget that until the day I die. And now I can’t face work, because they know why I was off sick, and are judging me. It’s too much to take.’
Her father cleared his throat, then scratched the back of his head, as if he was trying to weigh up the options. ‘All right, Donna. Perhaps it’s better if you do leave Bluethorn. There’ll be plenty of other jobs to apply for. So when you get over this, look for something else.’
‘Stop it! Stop it!’ she screamed her teeth clenched together in agony. ‘I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Just leave me alone.’
‘Come on now Donna...’
She got up from her bed and literally pushed him away in an effort to make him leave the room. ‘Go away. I’ll sort it out myself – like I always have. No need for you or mum to keep badgering me.’
‘All right... all right,’ he said, his eyebrows raising to reveal the deep creases in his brow. ‘If that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get, young lady.’
On leaving the room, he slammed the door in temper, which brought about waves of guilt, as she realised how badly she’d treated him when he wasn’t to blame. She was over reacting and not dealing with her problems in a rational way. He hadn’t liked her attitude and guessed he’d soon be telling her mother what had gone on. But what the hell.
Once again the following morning, she stayed cosseted away in her room, only leaving to make herself something to eat and drink, at which time her parents made pathetic pleas to her. They went on and on nagging her, but she was determined, and said very little in an effort not to lose control.
As the days passed, they seemed to get the message and left her alone. She spent the time doing nothing except to read magazines or watch television. And then she lost interest in caring about her appearance – she didn’t wash as much as normal or even brush her teeth. Her hair was unkempt and greasy and her face lacked its usual makeup. She just couldn’t get herself out of the trap she’d fallen into. It was as if her resolve to make her own decisions and not listen to her parents, had shut her mind to any sense of reason. Her room became the only place where she could get some peace. When her doctor visited Donna refused to answer his questions and sent the poor man packing.
Days turned into weeks and arrangements were made for another counsellor to visit her, but she had no intention of responding to him and his stupid questions. There wasn’t much to live for now anyway. So what was the point in getting better?
Her parents would move heaven and earth to help her as they saw fit, but any advice or help from them would be a ploy to get her round to their way of thinking. How long it would be before they meddled she didn’t know, but she would be prepared?
When it came, though the timing was unexpected, the rest wasn’t. It was early in the morning, she’d been woken by the milkman rattling his crates of milk, and was now sitting up watching her portable television. A gentle knock on the door, was followed by her mum and dad and the doctor of all people, all having serious sombre expressions on their faces. Donna only glanced at them, before staring down at the carpet, her hair covering her face so no one could see the expression on it.
Her mother who so far had been subdued spoke. ‘Donna, I’m sorry, but this has gone on long enough. You can’t carry on like this. You must co-operate with the doctor before it’s too late.’
She didn’t even bother looking at them knowing her mother’s patronising voice so well and also the condescending look she’d have on her face.
Moaning loudly, she didn’t care much what they did or said. They couldn’t force her to do anything against her will. If she didn’t want to co-operate with the doctor, she wouldn’t. She’d hear what he said, but that didn’t mean she had to oblige him with a response.
He sat down on the bottom of the bed beside her, while her parents remained standing, obviously keen to see what was happening, but staying in the background.
‘So how are you, Donna?’ he asked her in a deep melodic voice.
She didn’t speak, and shrugged her shoulders.
‘Not very well I see. Which isn’t surprising given what you’ve been through lately.’
Donna gave an ironic snort that summed up her current mood.
‘Please allow us to help you. Your parents are worried sick. I appreciate you’re not fit for work yet, but somehow you must try to get yourself well again. I realise how hard it is for you, but with your family’s support, you can do it. Make an effort to go out, find an interest, anything you that will stimulate you, and help you regain your confidence. In the meantime, might I recommend we increase your medication, as obviously your current dosage isn’t working as well as it should. And finally, I’d like to ask you a pointed question. Please don’t be offended... but do you ever have any thoughts about self-harm?’ The dour expression already on his face remained unchanged.
Her mouth puckered out, she glanced at him for a second, then shrugged her shoulders again.
‘Donna, I want to help you, as do your parents but if you won’t talk to us, there’s nothing we can do.’
She could feel his eyes almost burning into her. She didn’t reply. Her anger was rising. How dare they get the doctor out without her permission? If she wanted help, she’d ask for it.
‘We’ve talked about counselling before? I know you’ve seen several counsellors already, but didn’t find the sessions very satisfactory. Well, I could put you in touch with someone more specialised with people in your situation. The person I have in mind was also attacked at roughly your age, so she knows something of what you’re going through.’
She glowered at him. ‘How many times do I have to say it? Leave me alone. I don’t want your fucking help or anybody else’s either. You’re all making me ten times worse. You hear me?’ Her face appeared twisted and tormented.
‘Please don’t be like this,’ her mother said, sniffing back tears, meant to emphasise her concern.
Donna stared at them all. She felt like screaming, throwing things, anything that would make them go away. Then she broke down again, but when her mother went to her aid, she pushed her with such force that her mother staggered back against the door.
There was silence in the room, all of them seemingly shocked by Donna’s actions. She wished they would react, because she wanted to scratch their eyes out, as she would have done to that monster given half the chance.
‘I’ll make out a prescription for you, and an appointment for you to see this counsellor. Naturally, we can’t make you to do anything if you don’t want to, but I urge you to take my advice, or your recovery may be even more difficult and prolonged.’ The doctor handed Donna’s mother the prescription.
And with that, they left Donna alone in her room. Hearing her father thanking the doctor for coming, as they went downstairs together, she could imagine what they were saying and that she wouldn’t like it. All right, so maybe she was at the low ebb but the way they kept on at her, meant she’d never get herself right.
Cold sweat trickled down her back, then she became restless too. She wanted to get out of bed and run far away from her problems - from her life in fact. Go where no one would ever find her to start a new life. And she might still do that if things didn’t improve.