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That night, I tossed and turned in my bed. Ferocious images of the scarred man finding me filled my mind. I was terrified. My nightmares differed throughout the night. Each one would end with me screaming as he ripped my heart out of my chest. I woke up several times.
On Sunday, I avoided my mom at all costs. Seeing her with that man and discovering they had been dating for nearly two years made me furious. How could she lie to me? How could she keep it from me?
I wanted to hate her so much. But I knew I couldn’t. Despite everything, I still loved my mom so much. She meant everything to me. She looked after me—made me who I am today. We went through the loss of my dad together. So, I steered clear of her. I wanted her to know I was angry and hurt. She had to feel guilty for lying to me.
She tried to come to my room early Sunday morning. I Since my door was shut, she stood outside and begged me to come out and listen to her. She wanted to explain everything.
I blanked everything she said.
Eventually, she gave up and left. When I heard the front door close, I emerged from my room and made myself some breakfast.
As the bread toasted, I dialed Georgia’s number. She answered on the third ring.
“Celeste? You okay?” She said into the phone, tiredly.
“No,” I replied, my voice wavering.
I could imagine Georgia sitting up straighter, her eyes alarmed.
“What is it? What’s wrong? Whose butt do I need to kick?” She was trying to be playful—it made me grateful.
I laughed lightly and used my spare hand to rub the exhaustion away from my face.
“Where do I even begin?” I muttered, loud enough for her to hear. “My mom has a boyfriend.”
She gasped, shocked. Georgia has known my mother all of her life. She thought like me—mom would never date anyone else.
“Oh my god, really?” She wanted clarification. At that moment, my toast popped up from the toaster. I picked it up and started buttering it.
I nodded my head and then said ‘yes’ when I realized she couldn’t see me. “I spotted her on a date with him yesterday. She…” I paused, finding the right words to say. Hurt was laced in my voice. “She told me they had been dating for a year and a half.”
“Jesus,” Georgia mumbled. “That must have sucked. I’m sorry you had to find out that way, Celeste.”
Georgia usually wasn’t empathetic. I put it down to her current emotional state. I was glad she was acting like this though.
“Also…” The words got stuck in my throat. Talking about him was difficult.
“I saw him,” I whispered.
She immediately knew who I was talking about. I always referred to the scarred man as ‘him’ with emphasis. She could guess by my tone it was him. I spoke about him with absolute fear.
“Sh*t,” She cursed. I could hear rustling on the other end of the line. She must have jumped up from where she was sat. “I’m coming over right now.”
“I don’t want to be at home right now. I don’t want to be around my mom,” I told her.
“I understand that,” Georgia said. “You know what, be ready for me to pick you up in an hour.”
I was surprised she was being spontaneous.
“Okay, see you then.”
She hung up after that. I ate my toast quickly and ran up to the bathroom to have a shower. I changed into a pair of shorts and a crop top. According to the weather, it was supposed to be very warm today.
Georgia honked her horn an hour later, announcing her arrival. I grabbed my bag and headed out of the door. Her BMW was parked outside of my house and the windows were down. I could hear a pop song playing from ten meters away.
I slid into her fancy car and greeted her. She was wearing similar clothes to me with a pair of expensive, designer sunglasses.
“So, where are you taking me?” I asked her, curiously.
She sent me a mysterious smile. “Wait and see.”
I leaned back and enjoyed listening to the music. As Georgia sped up, the wind caused my hair to blow in all directions. I loved the feeling of the wind whipping my hair. Georgia sang along to the songs loudly. She seemed happy. I was glad she was feeling better.
As for me, it seemed the tables had turned.
I was not going to feel settled again. Not when he was here.
Georgia drove for over an hour. I began to recognize where we were when we pulled off the highway.
We were going to the beach.
“The beach?” I asked aloud, recalling memories of coming here last summer. Georgia and Matt were ‘dating’. They couldn’t keep their hands off each other the entire time. And I couldn’t stop staring at Jamie.
It was a good day. A happy day.
“Yeah,” She replied, indicating into the car park. We parked and exited the car. It felt a lot hotter here. The smell of the sea hit me. She grabbed a large bag from the boot of her car and then beckoned me to follow her.
My feet stomped on the ground. I slid my shoes off when the ground terrain changed. Georgia looked like she had just walked off the set of a photoshoot. With her classy sunglasses, she looked out of place beside me. I often felt like this around her.
She chose a spot not too far away from a local café. She delved into her bag and produced two towels, along with two swimming costumes. I arched an eyebrow.
“You brought me a bikini?” I questioned, holding up the black bikini and scrutinizing it. I had never seen this one before. It must be new.
“Well you couldn’t come to the beach and not wear one,” She retorted, shrugging her delicate shoulders casually. “You can get changed in the café toilets; they won’t mind.”
They didn’t mind. The owner immediately recognized me from last year and smiled. I returned wearing the black bikini, feeling self-conscious. I wrapped my arms around my middle and darted my eyes around the beach.
Georgia stood up from her spot and wolf-whistled, “I knew that bikini would look stunning on you. I’m jealous I didn’t buy that one for myself.”
I smiled, awkwardly.
She went to change. Whilst she did that, I poked my head into Georgia’s large bag, curious to see what else she brought. My hands felt a magazine, a few schoolbooks, and sun tanning lotion along with her purse.
Georgia returned with two sandwiches and two bottles of water she must have purchased from the café. She gave me the food and drink and settled down on her towel.
My eyes landed on the bright blue ocean. The waves crashed onto the beach loudly. It was a beautiful sight.
I sighed, feeling relaxed for a moment. Here, it was unlikely the scarred man could hurt me. Unless he followed me and Georgia, I was safe. That made me feel calmer.
After eating my sandwich, I lied back and stared at the blaring sun.
“Do you want some sunscreen?” Georgia asked, knocking me out of my thoughts. I nodded my head and sat up. She had to apply the lotion on my back, and I had to do the same for her.
“Thank you,” I whispered, once we were both settled again.
Georgia turned her head to me. The sunglasses were still perched on her face. “You helped me when I needed you. So, the least I could do was help you. You clearly needed a break from that dreary town.”
She was right. Getting out of our small town—even for the day—was exactly what I needed. I was away from the drama at home, from Lazarus and the scarred man. I could feel safe and normal at this moment.
“Celeste, I know you said your mom was dating someone new. But I know you. You have been through so much. You can handle something like that.” She commented. “I think there’s more to it.”
She was very perceptive.
I released a long breath, “Yesterday before I found out about my mom and her…boyfriend.” I had to swallow the lump in my throat. “I saw something. I was sat in a café and I looked out of the window and saw a man in dark clothing. I knew who he was instantly. I could not forget that face.”
Georgia listened to me intensely.
“It was the scarred man,” I revealed, reluctantly. She gasped and jerked upright in alarm. Georgia whipped her sunglasses off and stared into my blue eyes. There was concern and panic in her hazel eyes. “I ran and bumped into Lazarus. He hasn’t been speaking to me since that day with Raegan. He looked terrified for me. And then I saw my mom and…yeah, it was all too much. Too overwhelming.”
Georgia embraced me. I was thankful to feel her arms around me, comforting me. But even though I had her comfort, I was seeking something else. Someone else. He wasn’t here though.
“Oh, Celeste. And there I was wallowing in self-pity about my minuscule problems.” She muttered, not sounding self-centered at all.
I tightened my hold on her. Clinging onto her was vital.
“So, he’s back?” She clarified, pulling away from me.
Solemnly, I nodded my head. “It appears so.”
Georgia loosened a breath and scratched her arm. “Sh*t, what are we going to do?”
Hearing the word ‘we’ gave me immense relief. I was so worried about being alone—which was silly because I knew Georgia wouldn’t let me down. Despite her faults, she was my best friend and she did care about me. Ellie and Wilder would be there for me too. Perhaps even Jamie.
And…Lazarus. I wasn’t so sure about him. His behavior yesterday indicated he wanted to protect me. But after his attitude towards me over the week, I couldn’t be sure.
“I don’t know…I would tell my mom but we’re not on good terms right now,” I mumbled, sadly. “I just—god, when did things become so messy?”
Georgia pinched her lips together, “How about we tell the police? They know about him and have a system in place just in case he comes back.”
She’s right. But by telling the police, I might have to leave. Detective Ridley has been assigned to my case for years now. Last year, after the incident at school, he told me that if he comes back again, I might have to put in witness protection. That meant leaving.
Before, I could deal with it. But after meeting Lazarus, leaving him would feel painful.
“I—,” I should listen to her. The police could help me. So, why does it feel so wrong? Why does my heart hurt so much at the prospect of leaving Lazarus?
“Celeste, telling the police is the safest thing to do. They can protect you.” Georgia reasoned, sounding rational whilst I was clearly being emotional. “Why on Earth do you not want to be protected?”
I bit my lip nervously. If I told her the truth, she would believe I’m being silly. I didn’t want her to disregard my feelings for Lazarus.
“Lazarus,” She said his name under her breath. “It’s to do with him, isn’t it?”
I swallowed and averted my eyes to the sea. A young girl was splashing her dad, squealing in delight. My dad used to do that to me too.
“Celeste, Lazarus can’t help you. He can’t protect you like the police.” She told me. For some reason, I didn’t believe her. I felt like Lazarus could protect me. I didn’t know how -- I just knew. “Please let me drive you to the station.”
There was a desperate look in her eyes. One I hadn’t seen before. She was being vulnerable—a trait she hated showing. But she was, for me. Because she cared.
“Okay,” I relented, earning a grateful look from her.
“Good,” She nodded her head, pleased. “Do you want to go now, or do you want to stay here a bit longer?”
“Stay a bit longer,” I quipped back. I leaned back and enjoyed the feeling of the sun on my exposed skin. Things would work out. We would make it work.
Two hours later, we decide to leave. On the journey back, things were tense. I felt more at ease—being at the beach helped me—but I’m scared about talking to the police. It means things will change again.
When we reached Stowe, I held my breath anxiously.
Stowe’s police station came into view a few minutes later. Situated in the middle of town, it was easy to access. Since Stowe was so small, we didn’t need a large force.
When Georgia pulled up, I gulped.
“I always feel so uneasy coming here,” I admitted.
She pursed her lips together and bobbed her head up and down in acknowledgment. She felt the same as me.
We climbed up the steps to the station. I tangled my fingers together and kept inhaling and exhaling. The woman at the desk was somebody unfamiliar. She must be new.
Her cat-like green eyes peered up at me with confusion and caution. She thought we were two teenagers here to cause trouble. Surprisingly, it happened a lot here. Young people got bored easily.
“Hello,” She greeted, politely. “What can I do for you?”
I cleared my throat, “I’m here to see Detective Ridley.”
Her eyebrows arched in shock.
“And why do you need to see him?” She pressed, suspiciously. Yeah, she definitely thought we were time-wasters.
“It’s about an ongoing case. If you get him, he will confirm it.” I explained, calmly.
She narrowed her eyes at me, searching my eyes for any deceit. She opened her mouth to interrogate me more but was interrupted by a deep and masculine voice.
“It’s okay Officer Jones, I know her,” He addressed the middle-aged officer, making his way over to me with his long legs.
Detective Ridley was a thirty-something-year-old man who looked younger. He was conventionally handsome. His brown hair was shorter than before and there were bags under his dark brown eyes. He looked more stressed than usual. Nonetheless, he said hello to me in a light tone and even smiled.
“Hello Celeste, what brings you here?”
I glanced at Georgia who gave me an encouraging nod.
“I need to talk to you,” I darted my eyes around, taking in all of the officers hanging around. “In private.”
He seemed to catch onto me because his smile fell.
“Okay, follow me.” We both speed-walked after him. I knew where he was taking us—to the interview room. It would definitely give us privacy.
Detective Ridley closed the door behind us and gestured for us to sit in the seats. Georgia did first, confidently. I copied her, hoping to keep myself from breaking down in this room.
“So,” He called my attention, scraping the seat opposite us out. “What brings you here, Celeste?”
Well...cliffhanger! What do you think? Are you excited for the next update? I hope you had a marvelous weekend! My next update will be Friday.