Sadness welcomed me into the next day and I spent the first few minutes crying into my pillow, my gut clenching with pain as my heart melted into the pit of my stomach. Alexis found me that way and did nothing else but embraced me comfortingly. The thought of knowing that I wasn’t alone caused more tears to leak.
Later tonight, I would leave Le Corbeau for the second time but I never intended to come back. My goal by the end of the day was to say goodbye to the last few people I hadn’t seen except Bruce. I messaged Salice for a meet-up with Jonah and she agreed. Ma offered coffee to me and I accepted it, sipping the warm, rejuvenating liquid tentatively. John was nowhere in sight and I didn’t care where Gladys was. She successfully ruined everything I held dear. She stole the second guy I ever loved.
No… the first guy I ever loved.
Alexis’ eyes searched my face worriedly. “Talk to him!”
“I tried but he accused me of cheating,” I mumbled miserably. “Did you call Betty?”
“Yeah, she’s expecting you tomorrow morning,”
Betty was the only relative out of the De Beauforts that kept in contact with my ma after she ran off to marry Yusuf. My grandparents weren’t fond of my dad. They were prejudiced against him and his background. Despite their life derailing, later on, they loved each other at one point, way before Yusuf was diagnosed with BP 1.
I rubbed my tired eyes. “Thanks,”
“Did you ever consider staying?”
“I did…” I sighed, scratching the nape of my neck as I watched her expression fall.
Guilt loomed over me like the bitch it was and I apologised with my eyes. I didn’t consider how much she was affected by this. She still mourned the loss of her unborn child and with me leaving, it must be unbearable.
“Maybe when everything hurts a little less, I might come back,” I lied.
“I hope you do, John is sending Gladys to her grandma’s place. I think it’s best, given what happened,” She said softly. Rounding the corner, she wrapped my body in her warm embrace once again. Her love for me didn’t go unnoticed and I clung to her like I used to after the beatings she faced. She was my angelic southern belle. “If I’d known she was going to hurt you in any way-”
“I know,” I whispered, tightening my hold on her. “I know,”
I waited inside McDonald’s for Salice to arrive. The reason for this place, in particular, was mostly because of Jonah and I wanted to give him a treat before leaving. Right on time, they entered the building and Jonah’s blue eyes locked with mine immediately. With no hesitation, he sprinted to me and I bend to hug his little body.
“Have you grown since the last time I saw you?” I joked, pushing him at arms-length whilst scanning his height.
“Yup, Bwuce said I’m becoming a big boy!” He exclaimed excitedly, puffing his chest proudly. My heart cracked a little and for him, I returned his smile. I kissed his cheek adoringly. In a few short weeks, he already captured my heart.
Salice towered over us with a smile and I grinned at her. She looked away from me for and my smile faltered. She knew.
I inhaling away my nerves, I glanced down at Jonah. “Hey, buddy, you want me to buy you a happy meal?”
“Yes!” He jumped happily in excitement. At his mother’s stern look, he took it down a notch. “Yes, please,”
I laughed and ruffled his dark hair. I ordered Jonah’s food and sat next to him as he excitedly rummaged through the box for his toy – his golden prize. Through those short, few minutes talking to him, Salice was quiet but watched her son fondly as he babbled nonsense. She reached out and touched his small hand to catch his attention.
“Baby, there are some cool games on the floor over there,” She jerked her head at the floor games and Jonah’s eyes lightened in curiosity. “You want to play? Mama’s got to talk to Ken here,”
He didn’t think twice when he jumped away from the booth, abandoning my company with no regret. The awkward tension between us made me nervous and it was difficult to hold her piercing cerulean gaze. Slumping into the booth, I folded my arms with an anticipated brow raised.
“My brother is a jerk. Please, don’t let him be the reason to leave,”
I bit the inside of my cheek and sighed. “He’s not the main reason why I’m leaving,”
He was the catalyst, sure enough. His accusations caused inexplicable pain that couldn’t compete with my internal turmoil. I didn’t want to ‘talk it out’ with him because I knew what I was getting into to. I told him it had to end at some point but I didn’t expect to fall in love. Again. Emotionally drained, I didn’t have the strength to fight back. So I did what I always did best.
I ran for the hills.
“Then what is the other reason?”
“It’s nothing to worry about. This town is too small for me, anyways,”
“This town welcomed you back,” she mumbled, folding her arms across her chest protectively. “At least this time, you’re saying goodbye,”
I took her hand in mine and squeezed gently in reassurance. “I’ll call, only if you promise you won’t give Bruce my new phone number,”
“He loves you,” She said in his defence and I pursed my lips, irritated. “He’s a mess right now and you did it. You’re the girl who got away,”
“What we had was toxic,” I replied coldly and she flinched. “Only you and Jonah every week and don’t save my name on your phone. You call when he’s not there.”
She nodded but the sadness in her eyes didn’t agree with her decision. Absentmindedly, she looked at Jonah then stared at the marble table between us. My cell rang and I saw a glimpse of the name ‘Tony’ before the screen faded to black. He was outside waiting for me, making everything all the more real. A few hours ago, I was nonchalant and determined to leave. But the closer the deadline approached, there were doubts. Not Bruce doubts but other doubts like my ma and Salice. I willingly chose to leave my only family and friend.
Maybe I might come back but it wasn’t likely it’d be soon.
“I wish you well,” Was all she said.
“I wish you the same, stay out of trouble and take care of the little one, yeah?”
She scowled at me and I giggled. My cell rang again and I rolled my eyes, exasperated. Couldn’t he wait for at least ten minutes? At Salice’s questioning frown, I answered. “That’s my ride,”
“Tony Erickson,” She narrowed her eyes in suspicion.
“Whatever Bruce said, it’s not true,”
“It’s not that,” She clicked her tongue thoughtfully. “Tony is a dodgy one, Ken, are you sure you want to be with him?”
“I know how to take care of myself,”
We talked for a few more minutes until Tony strolled into the building impatiently and I gritted my teeth in frustration. Couldn’t he wait five minutes? His beard was trimmed into a smooth goatee along with his hair cut close to his scalp. Girls threw glances at him but he was oblivious to them when he strode to our booth.
“Don’t you understand we have a limited time?” He barked and I glowered at him.
Salice watched him cautiously and called Jonah over. He grumbled under his breath but complied. Craning his neck to get a better look at Tony, as if he sensed his menacing persona, he curled into his mama's side.
“Okay, I’ve gotta go,”
I hugged them tightly and ruffled Jonah’s hair one last time before murmuring a message to him. ‘Take care of your mama’. I’d keep in contact to ensure she was okay and if she ever needed me, regardless of seeing Bruce, I’d be there.
“You’ve got everything?” Tony asked, skimming over my luggage.
He offered to collect my stuff and we walked to the exit to his black Range Rover waiting out front. Tossing everything to the back seat, I walked around the car to the passenger side, pausing when I noticed something familiar, feeling eyes on me. My gaze travelled across the lot to see a dark, large figure standing under the tree.
Bruce leaned on the bark of the tree with his hands shoved into the pockets of his basketball shorts. His grey hoody matched his void grey eyes, the usual sheen of his irises was dimmed with grief. He didn’t make an attempt to talk to me or did I try to talk to him. Silently, we both knew this was it. What we’ve seen and heard from each other couldn’t be fixed. His eyes shifted to my left just as Tony wrapped his fingers around my wrist.
“We need to go,”
He dragged me away from his sight, looking at the ground as I fought the heartache that I desperately tried not to feel. Leaving Le Corbeau in a messy state wasn’t what I planned. God, I didn’t expect to re-kindle old friendships and make new ones during my stay.
Tony entered the car from the driver’s side and sent a questioning look to say ‘you ready?’ and I jerked my head in response. The engine came to life just as I looked out the window one last time. Bruce was gone and I closed my eyes as I felt something shatter inside me. The strings that were attached snapped into loose ends and I wiped a lonely tear. Tony drove out of town and another piece of me broke as passed the perimeter of Le Corbeau. He was wise to not say anything and he kept his eyes on the road, leaving me to burn in my own self-pity.
It was temporary. I thought, breathing deeply to control my breathing. What I'm feeling is temporary.
Everything is always temporary.
Book 2, Condemned, is now on inkitt!
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