Soundtrack To My Youth (book 1)

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Down Again

Returning to school, after having two weeks off was super hard. My body clock had adjusted to waking up later in the day so when my alarm clock blasted at 6:45am, pulling me from my deep, restful slumber, I cursed at the world. Dragging my ass out of bed, into the freezing cold morning air, I slumped my way to the kitchen where I was surprised to find Bridget, showered, dressed, preparing breakfast for us both.

“Someone’s keen to get back to school” I laughed as I began making my coffee. She handed me a plate of scrambled eggs and toast before taking her own plate into the dinning room adjacent to the kitchen. I eyed her attempt at cooking, cautiously poking the fluffy eggs with a fork to free the stray pieces of egg shell that she neglected to remove, other than that she had actually done a really decent job.

“I want to get to the library before roll call, I need to email Amber”

I should have guessed it would be an Amber related reason that would have her up before the sun. We have dial up Internet in our house but it takes about twenty minutes just to connect and runs super slow and drops out frequently. The school’s internet was also dial up but ran a lot faster and connected within minutes. It probably didn’t help that our desktop was running Windows 95 whereas the school had Windows 2000 installed but Bridget and I were still lucky enough to have home internet, many kids at school didn’t.

“Don’t forget, Dad has that appointment to see the specialist this afternoon so he’ll be home a bit later” I remind her. Nick had set up an appointment for Dad to see a mesothelioma specialist, Dad knew what the outcome would most likely be but was still remaining tight lipped with Bridget and I until he had all the information.

“He’s going to be alright though, right?” Bridget looks at me with fear in her eyes, I can’t lie to her and tell her that he’s going to be fine, knowing full well that this is just the beginning of a long and painful journey.

I still remember the first time around when Dad told Bridget and I that he had asbestos disease, it was chilly, Winter’s afternoon on a Friday in 2000, Dad had been off work sick all week he had finally dragged himself off to see a doctor on the Wednesday because I kept nagging him. I thought, being Winter, that he just had a chest infection because he had been finding it hard to breathe for a bit and his cough had become extremely worse as the temperature dropped. That doctor thought it was more than just a chest infection and sent him to see a specialist.

Kate and I had made plans that day to go to Halo, a new nightclub that had opened up the week before in town so when I arrived home from uni I was buzzing but my excitement soon turned to sadness when I entered the dinning room and found Bridget and Dad sitting at the table, he was holding her hand and both of them were crying. My Dad never cried so I knew that whatever the doctor had told him it must be serious.

I took a seat next to Dad, opposite Bridget and took Dad’s large hand in mine. For the first time in my whole life my strong, hard working Father looked afraid. He explained, in detail what his diagnosis was and what it meant for his future. He wanted to protected us but he also wanted us to be prepared for when things would get worse.

That day changed my whole life, I was transferring to Sydney University the next year and had just been accepted as an intern at the Sydney History Museum but I put those plans aside to stay in Claremont and look after Dad.

Dad’s diagnosis also brought Bridget and I closer together, I stopped seeing her as my bratty, annoying little sister and started wanting to protect her from evils of the world, I started sharing more of my life with her, the pain I had felt when things had finally ended with Lucas and the struggle I was having with moving on, she, in turn opened up about her own life, slowly and cautiously at first but once she could see that we had built a bond of trust she let me completely in.

My relationship with My Father also grew stronger as he leaned on me. I got to know more about my Dad in the last 4 years of his life, he would tell us stories about his travels around the country and all the people he had met and stayed in touch with.

“Let’s just wait and see what Dad says this afternoon Bridgy” It’s all I can offer her without getting her hopes up.

~~~

Mr Scott had called an assembly first thing after roll call, as he did for the start of any new term. Walking with Sam to the hall I noticed the change in the air, the grand trees that ran the perimeter of the school were almost bare with the few leaves that were still clinging to the trees turning brown. I no longer wore my school skirt, opting instead for track pants and a jacket to keep myself warm and as we entered the hall I could feel the instant warmth of the space heaters that were placed throughout the room.

We took at seat with Bridget and waited for the assembly to start. Kate was sitting up on the stage with Mr Scott but the seat next to her remained empty. I knew Lucas was at school, I saw his car parked in the car park but for some reason he wasn’t up on stage. I did a quick scan of the room and saw him leaning against the back wall, head down, shuffling on his feet.

“Morning students and welcome back for another term” Mr Scotts voice boomed throughout the hall, drawing my attention back to the stage. He went on and on about the schools plans for this term, how Year 12 will be doing their half yearly exams next month and various sporting events that will be coming up, including the soccer finals that will take place within the next few weeks, he then handed over the microphone to Kate to discuss social events.

“Do you find it odd that Lucas isn’t on stage?” I whisper to Sam, he looks around the room until his eyes fall on Lucas, who is staring right at us.

“To be honest with you, I hadn’t noticed he wasn’t up there until you pointed it out, it’s not like he does anything, Kate does all the work, Mr Scott probably figured out the Lucas was a lazy little shit and turfed him out of the position”

By the time the assembly had ended neither Mr Scott or Kate had addressed Lucas’ absence from the stage and I was becoming more curious. Kate and I had Geography straight after the assembly so I met her at the side of the stage.

“I have so much to tell you” She says, grabbing my arm and dragging me out the side entrance of the hall.

“Is it about Lucas and why he wasn’t standing next to you?”

“Yes” She pulls me behind the hall, out of sight of prying eyes, a devilish grin spread across her face, it was like all her christmases had come at once and she was dying to share her delight with me. “So he walks into the meeting this morning, puts his school captain badge on the table and just tells Mr Scott that he couldn’t do it anymore, you should have seen Scott’s face, he was ropable, they went outside to talk, I could only hear bits and pieces of the conversation but something happened over Easter break and when Scott came back in he said that I was the only captain for this year, they’re not replacing Lucas. I’m free of him Roni, free, this must of been what it felt like when you dumped his ass.” She dances her little joy dance.

Lucas had wanted to be school captain since year 8, when he realised how popular it would make him to be the guy in charge of all social events, he loved having people fall at his feet so it made no sense as to why he would want to walk away from it all.

“Something’s going on with him” Lucas doesn’t just walk away from things easily, I know that for a fact.

“Oh, maybe the psychic on Friday night will know, I’ve heard she’s really spot on but I don’t know if I really want to waste the half hour I get talking about Lucas” We start making our way across the now empty quad and make it to our classroom just as Mrs Hickson was about to close the door, she rushes us in, giving us her best dirty look as we take our seats. I pull out my notes from last class as she starts jotting points down on the chalk board about the Everglades.

Kate scribbles in our notebook and hands it to me to read.

You should come with me.

Save yourself the $50, I’ll tell you about your future for free.

You know nothing about the future, I’m going to see the professional and you’re coming, I’ll pick you up at 5, bring Bridget so we get a discount.

Alright, I’ll come but don’t blame me if I spend the whole time making fun of her.

I guess it could be fun to see what this psychic actually makes up about the future and if she is legit it will still cost me money to find out things I already know.

~~~

I met Sam at the truck after last period, he was leaning against the hood, chatting to Bridget, she was laughing at something he had told her and I wished more than anything that I could take a snapshot of her in this moment, to see her so completely happy when I knew today would change everything.

She had lost her girlfriend, her best friend was moving overseas and now she was going to discover her Father was dying and I couldn’t protect her from any of the pain.

“Hey baby” Sam greeted me, drawing me in close to his chest and kissing my forehead. “My Dad texted me, he said that your Dad wants you two to come to my house, your Aunty is coming too”

The drive to Sam’s seems to take a lifetime, the bile in my throat threatened to escape many times but I had to hold myself together, for the sake of Dad and Bridget. When we arrived, Sam lead us through the now so familiar house, into the living room where Dad, Aunty Celeste and Nick were seated. Aunty Celeste’s eyes were bloodshot from crying, Nick had his arms wrapped around her waist, she looked up at Bridget and I and her tears began falling again.

“Lest, honey, let’s go for a walk” Nick says to her, standing up and holding out a hand for her to take. Sam kisses Bridget on her forehead before taking me into his arms.

“I love you both, I’ll be upstairs if you need me” I nod and feel emptiness when he leaves my arms. Dad stands up and wraps Bridget and I up in his big, strong arms, his body shaking from the tears he’s trying hard to hide from us.

“Come sit with me and talk” He takes a seat on the lounge, Bridget and I take our places either side of him. “I’m going to need you to drive my car home today Veronica, I’ve been prodded and poked all afternoon and I’m a little sore”

“You’re alright though Daddy, right?” Bridget asks him, her voice holding all the hope she has inside.

“Bridgy I wish I could lie to you and tell you that I’m prefect but I’m not. I have something called asbestos disease, it’s like a form of cancer that is growing in my lungs and it’s just going to get worse” I didn’t think it was possible for your heart to break even when you know what’s coming but when Dad wrapped an arm around my shoulders I broke down and let the waterfall of tears drench his shirt.

“People get cancer all the time and they survive, you can beat this” Bridget howls, not understanding that this diagnose is a death sentence.

“There’s no cure Bridgy, not for this type of cancer, I’m sorry baby, I wish I had better news for you, I let you down, I’m so sorry girls, I failed you”

“You’re still perfect to us Dad” He always will be.

“I don’t want you to die” Bridget sobs on his shoulder, her whole body quivering in fear.

“Doc says I’ve got a few good years left in me honey, I’m going to need you to make them the best years, can you do that baby?”

“I’ll do anything Daddy, anything to make you happy” She promises him between sobs. “You don’t deserve this, you’re a good dad, it’s not fair”

“It’s really not fair” I agree with her, he was the rock of our family, so strong yet always there for us, it’s not fair that we have to lose him.

“I love you two girls more than anything” His kisses us each on our cheeks. “I want you to be strong for each other”

“We love you too Dad” forever.

“I need to go talk to Sam, he’s probably wondering what’s going on” Bridget says, breaking from Dad’s hold and running up the stairs.

“I’m relying on you Veronica” Dad says to me once he knows Bridget is out of earshot. “I need you to take care of your sister, you’re all she has in this world without me and she’s not as strong as you can be, she’s sensitive and will need you to help her through all of this”

“I’ll always take care of Bridgy, I promise” and I have.

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