Eventually my anxiety attack subsides and I manage to shower although really I just stand under the steaming water and enjoy the burn. Once dry I throw on a pair of skinny jeans, my comfy brown knee highs and a vest top. My head is pounding like a family of woodpeckers has taken up residence inside and now want freedom.
Outside I unlock my trusty polo and start the drive to my mums, unwanted memories filling the journey, its only 20 minutes away and as much as I’d like to avoid it I know its best to get it over and done with like pulling off a wax strip.
I wish I’d paid more attention to the sentencing but at the time I didn't care, it wouldn't take back what had happened and as long as he was locked away that's all that mattered.
I let mum handle everything and trusted that she would tell me anything that I needed to know, dad was just as useless as me so she took on the role of being strong and taking charge.
My actions that night were ultimately what put me in danger. I knew it was reckless to walk home alone at 1 in the morning but I did it anyway. I'm weighed down with guilt- mine, kailans and worst of all my parents. That night had such a knock on effect, it wasn't only my life that was thrown off course but theirs too.
Parking in my mums drive I spot kailans people carrier on the side of the road and before I have a chance to knock on the front door its flung open and kailans arms are around me, crushing me to her.
“You're suffocating me Kay.” I protest
Pulling away she studies me at arms length, her hazel eyes searching mine.
“Are you going to let me in?”
Tucking a strand of her golden hair behind her ear and still saying nothing she moves aside and I step into my family home. I used to love it here, it was always warm and inviting and smelt of baking, mums passion being a feeder.
The house is still spotless, mum prides herself on keeping it show home worthy but it feels bare now, my dads belongings no longer occupying any part of it. My parents had been together for 32 years and with the ferocity of a tornado my actions tore them apart. They were and still are the best, as an only child they showered me with love and attention. I knew I was adored and yet I broke them.
They couldn't cope with what happened to me, to their little girl and instead of leaning on each other they let themselves drift apart, dealing with their devastation alone instead of together. I will never forgive myself for putting them through it and ultimately causing the death of their marriage.
Making my way down the hall to the kitchen I stop when I spot my mum leaning against her wood counter-top, cup of tea in hand. Looking at her I wonder as I often do how her life would have turned out had that night not happened.
Halley Elias has always been attractive but now she wears a permanent haunted look, her hair and eyes the colour of mud, deep frown lines mar her forehead, it still cuts her everyday that she couldn't save me from the horror I endured. Her pain runs deep and every day I wish I could make it easier for her. Walking to her I give her a hug and say “I'm sorry about earlier mum, I freaked out, I’m all good now though.”
She gives me a look of disbelief and I want to laugh but I stifle it knowing it won't be appreciated and sit at the dining table to wait for her to start. Thankfully Kailan sits next to me and squeezes my hand saying “I'm proud of you Nole, you're so much stronger than you give yourself credit for.”
I ignore her knowing I’m not strong, far from it and direct my attention back to my mum “So what did they say?”
She sits down on my other side so I’m sandwiched
“He had a determinate sentence Nole which means he serves half his sentence in prison and the other half in the community, he'll be on licence and supervised by the probation service. There are conditions he must meet which includes no contact with you darling, if he breaks the terms of the licence he could go back to prison.
I have the letter here for you.”
I swallow trying to find my voice and whisper “When?” she pulls me closer and says “4 weeks.”
Four weeks and he'll be out, living his life and enjoying his freedom, two things I can't do. I’ll never be free and I’ll never be able to enjoy life like I used too, I’m scared of too many things, my personality is forever changed and can't change back.
“It's not fair mum.” A loan tear escapes and rolls down my cheek.
I still wonder how I got it so wrong when I met James he was charming, witty, caring and attentive, qualities I later found out he didn't really possess.
My mum exchanges a look with Kailan and tentatively says “Sweetheart why don't you move back home for a while, you won't be alone and I can look after you?”
I love my mum I really do, we're close and after Kailan she's my best friend but there’s absolutely no way I can live with her again. We would drive each other crazy or crazier than I already am. I’m used to keeping my own time, no designated meal times, no keeping show home standards, not to mention she'd see how much of a hermit I’ve really become and I’d never hear the end of it. No way. Not happening.
“I'll be fine mum.” I give her a weak smile and she doesn't push me on it, she passes me a letter with different contact numbers including one for the victim notification scheme I vaguely remember signing up for.
“Kay I need you to come out with me tonight.” I need to drown my sorrows and I can't go out without my wing woman.
“I can't Nole...”
I cut her off “You owe me after last week!”
“What happened last week?” my mum pipes up
“Kailan set me up on a blind date with the invisible man.”
“A blind date Enola, do you really think that was wise?”
Reverting back to childhood I point at Kailan and say “Nope I didn't but she made me.”
Kailan sticks her tongue out at me.
“Very mature Kay.” I tease
Sighing knowing what a huge step last week was for me and knowing my mum is on my side on this she replies “Again I’m sorry Nole, Lee told me he's a great guy, I never met him but I trust my husband he loves you as much as I do, if not more for all the babysitting you do. He's been ringing the guy all week to rip him a new one on your behalf but it keeps going to voice mail.”
“I don't believe you Kay, you forced me to go out with all your ' it'll be good for you, get back out there, start living again Nole' bullshit for a guy you hadn't vetted? I thought you knew him, that he passed 'the Kailan test' I never would've gone otherwise.”
She winces “I'm sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, what more can I say? I was trying to be a good friend but got it wrong, anyway he never showed so problem avoided, I’d never intentionally put you in danger, you know that.”
She's right, she blamed herself for that night like the rest of us;
'She should've gotten me a taxi'
'She should've had Lee walk me home'
'She should've given me a lift earlier in the night'
Her should'ves were longer than a shopping list and I feel like a bitch for yelling at her knowing that she loves me and only ever looks out for me but then she continues
“Anyway cut the annoyed act, I seem to remember you gushing about Mr tall, dark and handsome who you wouldn't have met had I not pushed you, therefore I’m vindicated and owe you nothing.” She sits back arms crossed like she's just made her closing statement in court.
“In case you forgot, he stood me up too, you're coming, I need a drink and I need you to agree, you know I can't go without you and I need this. It's your duty as my best friend to indulge my whims from time to time.” I flutter my eyelashes “Come on its Saturday night, Lee can watch Mase, pleeeaaasssse?”
And I know I have her, begging never fails she's such a sucker not to mention a night away from Mason will do her the world of good, her 2 year old is a gorgeous little whirlwind and she deserves a break.
Sat in Carters ford Mondeo we're parked outside yet another hotel, our latest job is the usual 'I think my husbands cheating' gig which pays well but isn't my preferred area to investigate. When I took over my dads role as private eye I presumed the work would be more interesting, turns out there’s a lot more waiting around to do than anything else or those are the only kinds of jobs we've been receiving recently, it's pissing me off. I mean if you're stupid enough to cheat on your partner don't be stupid enough to arouse their suspicions, most of these dumb-ass adulterers don't even attempt being discreet.
I'm foul today no scratch that I’ve been foul all week. I can't get my head in the game, a certain chocolate haired beauty keeps occupying my thoughts. Carter is annoying me too, I have the patience of a dog needing a piss and my perpetually happy, irritating younger brother is aggravating the crap out of me, chewing his gum like a pig and blowing bubbles with it.
“Will you quit it?” I snap glaring at him
Being in an enclosed space with him definitely isn't a perk of the job.
He holds his hands up in mock surrender “Whoa Care, what’s with you today? You're as grumpy as a toddler hearing the word no. We need to get you laid Care, rid you of that tension so I can do my job without you snarling at me.”
“Jesus Carter is that all you ever think about?”
Does nothing affect him? He seems to breeze through life without a care in the world which I used to admire and envy but after recent circumstances I expect him to acknowledge some negative feelings, he was closer to dad than me, this was their company, how can he remain so upbeat?
“Sure it is” he says grinning “I'm young and hot, I wouldn't have been blessed with these looks for any reason other than to tempt chicks.”
Shaking my head I can't help but smile, Carter is a younger looking version of me but way more laid back and easy going, he has a bent nose courtesy of a guy we were investigating a while back breaking it for him and still dresses like he's in college instead of the co-owner of a private eye business but he does 'tempt chicks' as he put it, they flock to him as he's so at ease with the opposite sex.
“Come on humour me” he says “We'll be finished here soon, go home get some shut eye then we're going out, stop being a pussy and live a little.”
Reluctantly I agree, why not? Beats staying at home drinking alone as usual and dwelling on my loss.
“Hurry up Nole the taxi's here.” Kailan hollers from my living room.
I'm studying myself in my bedroom mirror, no not studying-scrutinising. The only make-up I’ve applied is mascara, eye-liner and lipstick, the less the better as far as I’m concerned. I want to look decent but not draw too much attention to myself, I’m not trying to impress anyone I just want to blot out all the memories that are trying to bubble to the surface ever since I heard the words ' He's being released.'
I'm usually dragged kicking and screaming on nights out or I was until everyone gave up on me, everyone except Kailan, my self-doubt is always at the front of my mind and many of my so called friends couldn't cope with the change in me. But that's fine I have Kailan and I’d prefer to have one true, amazingly loyal and trustworthy friend as opposed to loads that don't really give a shit. I need tonight though, Kailan is right I need to stop hiding and I need this release.
I walk into the living room and Kailan whistles “Looking good Nole.”
“Hmm.” I reply
I'm wearing a pair of denim skinny jeans as usual but I’ve teamed them with a black bejewelled top and black stilettos, my hair is down and my curls unmanageable as always, it's a step up from my usual attire but I still feel unnatural.
Kailan snorts at me “If you were anyone else I’d think you were fishing for compliments, I’ll never understand what it is you see when you look in the mirror Nole, you're beautiful I wish you knew that.”
How she manages to compliment and chide me at the same time I don't know, must be a mum quirk. I'm not saying I think she's lying but I find it hard to believe, my counsellors words come back to me ' you view yourself negatively,' maybe kailan is on to something.
Needing to lighten the mood I reply “I know I am Kay, never hurts for a girl to hear it though.” I wink as I link my arm through hers as she shakes her head at me and we leave the apartment.
I've been sitting in ' Jacks' a bar Carter insisted had good vibes and plenty of women for half hour, Carter ditched me more or less straight away hunting for prey which is fine by me, I’m happy to prop up the bar and people watch whilst dwelling on the direction my life is taking.
I'm in a good position the bar is rectangular so I can see everything, the dance floor is directly opposite me on the other side of the bar though I don't know how anyone is dancing, it's packed with people writhing and shaking their assets. I know I’m getting old now as well because the lights are bothering my eyes and the thumping music is assaulting my ears. I order another drink and try to pick Carter out of the crowd, not seeing him I guess he's gone for a smoke and return my attention to the dance floor. My eyes widen when I see long chocolate curls quickly obscured by a blonde looking like she's having a fit.
Jesus coop relax, how many women have chocolate hair for gods sake? Still staring at the space blondie moves and starts dragging chocolate curls to the other end of the bar where they sit down and I get a good look at her face, beautiful green eyes, cheeks red and she's twirling a strand of her locks around her finger. It's her. It's Enola.
As I’m about to jump up from my seat a hand slaps me on my back and I turn to see Carter with a smug grin on his face.
“Come on Care come and meet Natalie and Nahla, I’m a fucking genius, I’ve only gone and reeled in twins, twins Care!”
He's as excited as a kid at Christmas and I’m about to burst his bubble by telling him Santa isn't real.
“Not interested Carter.”
“What the fuck Care, did you not hear me, TWINS, you need this bro whatever slump you're in snap the fuck out of it, I’m fed up of looking at you and wanting to slit my wrists.”
A suicide jab seriously? How insensitive can my dickhead of a brother be?
“Fuck off Carter!” I turn my back on him so he knows the conversation is over and my eyes seek out Enola, I watch as the barman hands her a drink and points in the direction of where a shifty looking guy just vacated his seat.
Great I fume, some guy has sent her a drink. My feet are moving before I realise I’m edging towards her.
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