His Burden

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Chapter Nine

Forty-eight hours. That was how long it took for news to spread of mine and Spencer’s break up and not once did anyone offer me their condolences. Scott had simply lectured me on the stupidity of our actions and Rosalie was apparently losing her mind back at home. I had yet to speak to my own family about the topic, figuring the longer I hid it, the longer I could carry on as though my heart wasn’t currently shattering into a thousand pieces.

“Is she here? Is she? Jessica? Jessica?”

Before I could make my presence known, Rosalie flew through my office door, sporting a frown fit enough to rival my own.

“Tell me that what I’ve heard isn’t true,” she demanded, ignoring her fiancée’s pleas to calm down. “Tell me you and Spencer haven’t split up.”

“Rosalie…”

“Don’t you dare try and reason with me,” she interrupted, ready to fight me on this. “I am so angry with you both. I can’t believe you’re letting them control you!”

“We’re not letting anyone control us,” I ensured, leaving my position from behind my desk.

I attempted rationality by approaching their area, only I had no real way of explaining myself. I couldn’t even bring myself to lie.

“I need you both to back off a little. This is hard enough as it is without you interfering,” I sassed, embodying maturity.

“If it’s so hard, why are you breaking up?”

“Babe, leave it,” soothed Scott, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder.

It seemed my boss was sympathising with the situation somewhat and although I wished I could’ve said the same for the woman carrying his child, I couldn’t. Not that I blamed her. She adored Spencer and just wanted what was best for him.

Don’t we all?

“No!” she insisted, adamant in her need to express such displeasure. “I’m not leaving until you tell me what’s going on. Something doesn’t add up here. You don’t just decide you no longer want to start a relationship. You love each other for crying out loud!”

Red faced and just about ready to burst into tears, it was obvious Rosalie could see the bigger picture, making her the only one. I never could get much past her. She had been the first to find out about Spencer and me and now, she seemed more switched on than most.

“Shut the door,” I sighed, admitting defeat.

The pair shared a fleeting look with each other, yet proceeded to listen to my every demand, awaiting my next instruction.

“It’s temporary,” I shared, deliberately keeping my volume low. “Six months.”

“Why?” asked Scott, sceptical.

“Alister dug up some information about my past. Stuff that puts Spencer’s right to see Leila in jeopardy.”

“What kind of stuff?” enquired Rosalie, resting a protective hand over her growing stomach.

I wasn’t ready to divulge.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It matters a lot, Jessica,” inputted Scott, suddenly having a lot to say. “Are they threatening you?”

Yes.

“No.”

“Then why split up? Surely you should be sticking together in a crisis like this.”

“Because I don’t have a choice!” I suddenly yelled, sick of people’s constant disappointment.

Was it too much to ask for a little support?

“I don’t expect you to understand but don’t stand there and judge us. Tell me now you wouldn’t do the same for Scott if needed,” I demanded, losing my cool.

“Jessica...”

“No, I don’t want to hear your excuses. You’re my goddamn friend Rosalie, one of the only ones I have. Is it too much that I ask for your support?”

“No, of course not,”

“I love Spencer and that alone is the reason why I’m doing this. Him and Leila need to be with each other. If my past has even the smallest chance of interfering with that, what does it matter if we’re apart for six months?”

Scott offered the room his manly sigh and abruptly pulled me towards his chest, exceeding all expectations by hugging me. Never would I have anticipated such a reaction. In the short while I’d know Scott, I’d come to know his reserved nature and peace-keeping ways. He was a kind man and something about the way in which he held me now made me feel safe. Cared for. Like family.

“I get it,” he soothed, squeezing my shoulders.

“We both do,” added Rosalie, sharing a moment with her future husband. “I’m sorry for being a rubbish friend, Jessica. I’m just upset that this is happening to you both. You don’t deserve it,” she finalised, pushing Scott aside in order to hug me herself.

I obliged, happily breathing in her strawberry scent and comforting aroma.

“If there’s anything we can do, just let us know,” smiled Scott, kindly offering up his services.

I could only but smile in response.

“Just one thing,” I sniffed, pulling away from Rosalie long enough to voice out my wishes. “Look after him.”

With no more needing to be said, they both gifted me their word and immediately, I broke down. I wasn’t able to directly care for Spencer but that didn’t mean I couldn’t look out for his best interests. Scott and Rosalie would no doubt do an excellent job at keeping an eye on him and with both of them now soothing my need to dramatically sob, I couldn’t wish for two better friends.

Six months. It’s just six months.

Why did it feel like a lifetime away?

~~~~

With a handful of concerned text messages appearing on my screen, I reluctantly let slip a sigh, knowing full well news had hit home.

DAD: Jessica, is this true?

DAD: ??

DAD: Missed Call.

DAD: Petal, talk to me, please.

DAD: I’m at Sam’s. Can you stop by tonight?

DAD: That’s it, I’m calling the police.

Oh, for fuck’s sake!

JESSICA: Dad, don’t call the police! I’ll be at Sam’s in an hour xx

With my message sent, I fought my way inside my coat and paired it with my hideous scarf, in need of some normality. An uber ride later saw me outside Sam and Alex’s flat, the dread of what awaited me inside holding me back. I wasn’t ready for such an onslaught of questions, though knew they would require answers. They were Turner’s after all.

We’re nosey bastards!

With one final breath in, I pushed open the front door and stopped dead in my tracks. Staring back at me and conveying concern like no other were my entire family, their plus ones and Alex.

“Erm, h-hi?” I stuttered, shrugging off my coat.

“Petal, we’ve been worried sick,” claimed Dad, stepping forward to give my body a thorough checking.

“Why?” I asked, slightly alarmed.

There was a moment of silence before Dad decided to speak.

“Karen has told us, Jessica. You don’t need to pretend anymore.”

I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about and faced Sam in the hopes that he’d be able to shed some light on the situation. Bethany– his girlfriend– (AKA my close friend) was glued to his side with her own sympathetic expression and couldn’t offer me direct eye contact.

“Karen has told you what?” I asked, approaching the topic with care.

“It’s okay, sweetheart. We know why you’ve called things off with Spencer,” she chimed, stepping forward. “You’re so brave.”

“What?!”

Oh fuck!

“Wait, no.”

Fuckedy fuck, fuck!

“You’ve got this all wrong.”

“It’s okay, petal. You don’t have to make excuses up for him anymore. I’ll kill him if he comes near you again.”

Obviously, my previous conversation with Karen had not been executed clearly enough. My need to gain information had come across as a cry for help and now I was faced with having to explain my way out of this. On top of everything else.

“Spencer has not been abusing me!” I insisted, setting everyone’s mind to rest.

“Why are you still protecting him?” raged Sam, finally speaking up.

I swung my gaze to his, pleading with him to believe me. I felt sick just thinking they thought this of Spencer. It was bad enough that I had to endure six months away from him but now this? Talk about a punch to the gut.

“Can you three give us a moment, please?” I asked, politely telling everyone who wasn’t a direct relation to leave.

I was surprised I managed such poise, given I was seconds away from losing my sanity. All day, I had been on the verge of calling Spencer and now, more than ever, I needed him.

“Of course,” charmed Alex, thankfully stepping in. “I’ll take Karen and Beth for a coffee.”

I brightly smiled my appreciation and waited for the door to close before I tore into my dad and idiot brother, disappointed in their ability to be so easily lead.

“First of all, how dare you accuse my boyfriend of doing something like that before asking me! Spencer is the most caring person I know. He’d never raise his hand to me,” I bellowed, unprepared to hold back. “And secondly, what the fuck is with the audience? I appreciate you’re both in committed relationships but I think it’s rather impersonal of you to bring them into family matters.”

“We just figured we’d need backup,” stated dad, offering up his half-arsed excuse.

“Backup for what?

“We thought they’d be able to offer more sensitivity,” expressed Sam, eyeing me cautiously. “This is a serious matter, Jessie.”

“It’s a bullshit matter, that’s what it is!” I countered, just about ready to scream.

“Jessica, please…”

“He’s not abusing me!” I yelled, throwing my hands in every which direction.

I didn’t know how else to make myself clear.

“Prove it,” suggested Sam, cool as a cucumber.

“How am I supposed to do that?” I questioned, feeling the weight of the situation fall onto my shoulders.

“Show us your wrists.”

I immediately faltered. “W-what?”

I still had bruises on my wrists from last week’s rope fun but certainly couldn’t tell them that.

“Show us your wrists,” repeated Sam.

Fuck!

“No.”

“No?”

“Why?” asked dad, growing concerned.

“Because you’re supposed to trust me, that’s why!” I accused, actively pulling on my long sleeved dress.

“I’ll fucking kill him!” seethed Sam, heading for the front door behind me.

“Samuel Andrew Turner. I’ll never speak to you again!” I threatened, certainly giving him something to think about. “You’re putting two and two together and getting six.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he scoffed, hovering at the door.

“It means shut up, sit down and listen to me.”

I gestured towards the living room sofa, delighted when Dad obliged, no questions asked. He always was easier to crack than my pig-headed, older brother. I understood he was only protecting me against what he clearly thought was a threat but bloody hell was he annoying.

“Fine,” he sighed, seating himself down next to Dad.

I expertly flicked the switch on their living room wall, prompting the overhead lighting to shine its bright, artificial light onto us. Then, begrudgingly so, I flashed them both my wrist and with it, my fading bruise.

“Does this look like an aggressive mark to you?” I asked, practically shoving my hand in their faces.

Dad squinted. “It’s a bruise, petal. Aren’t all of them aggressive?”

He looked suddenly struck with fear.

“It’s from a rope,” I explained, just about ready to die from embarrassment. “From when I was tied up last weekend.”

“Tied up?”

“Yes, Sam, Tied up. In the bedroom. Need I continue?” I spat, raging mad.

My brother turned a sudden shade of green, perhaps ill over thought of his little sister being adventurous when it came to sex.

If only he knew…

“No, you needn’t,” he whispered, breaking all eye contact.

“Then why have you broken up?” asked Dad, reaching for my hand and caressing it with forceful attention.

The sudden need to hide struck me out of nowhere.

“Isy is threatening to take Spencer to court unless...”

“Unless?”

“Unless we separate. They’ve dug into my past and found out about some things. Things that put Spencer at risk of being denied access.”

“What kind of things?” asked Sam, likely guessing.

“Charlotte. My attempt at suicide.”

At this, Dad stiffened in his seat.

“Bastards!”

“It is what it is, dad,” I stated, remaining positive all things considered. “I suggested a temporary break. Spencer agreed to six months.”

“And then what?” questioned Sam, eager to learn more.

“Hopefully he’ll win his custody rights and we go back to being a couple.”

Dad interrupted. “So he’s not mistreating you?”

“No, he bloody isn’t.”

He sighed in relief.

“Why go to Karen with all those strange questions then?”

Sam had every right to question my actions. Coming at Karen with my persistent curiosity did seem a little odd and in retrospect, I could see why they had jumped to incorrect conclusions.

“I have my reasons.”

“Which are?”

“Please just trust that I know what I’m doing.”

I couldn’t offer him any more at this moment.

“Jessie…”

“Please, Sam,” I pleaded, switching tactics by looking to dad. “You both have to trust me.”

“Tell me now you’re not in trouble and I’ll drop this,” he negotiated.

I simply stared.

“Don’t be a fucking hero, Jessica!” added Sam.

“I’m not in trouble. I swear it.”

At that, Dad took me into his arms and hugged me tighter than I ever remembered him doing. He knew Charlotte was a tough subject for me and no doubt understood my predicament being apart from Spencer. Truth be told, this entire thing was eating me alive and as much as I was fooling myself into thinking I was okay, I wasn’t. I missed Spencer and it had only been two days.

I was so screwed.

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