I looked out the window of the moving car with my vision fixated on the array of structures passing by swiftly. There was a block of flats as Reid halted at a red light that had unquestionably seen better days.
The sign on top of the building that should read ‘Onslow house’ now read ′slow hos’ instead. The exterior painting was exhibiting signs of dirt and ivy climbing up the walls. You could mistake it for an abandoned building if it weren’t for the tiny quantity of cars parked in the small lot outside.
After the block, once Reid pulled away, there was a petrol station, then some more attractive houses with small front yards. Some kept neat, others with overgrowing hedges that needed some TLC.
Various trees, plants, and bushes zoomed by, all showing signs it was winter. Most of them with lost leaves, although some still held their leaves, they didn’t catch that type of green and blossoms that told you it was warm outside.
My fingers fiddled with the Dolphin pendant that dangled from a small chain around my neck. It was the gift Reid had given me for Christmas, and I smiled a little as I remembered the day’s events two days ago.
We’d spent Christmas with Reid and his parents. Derek and Laura prepared a huge Christmas dinner, trimmings and all.
We played Monopoly too, and I learned that Reid was a sore loser with Monopoly. He got a hump on as his dad took everything he had after he landed on Mayfair, which his dad had owned and built a hotel on.
He was stubborn too, accepting no trades, save one with his mother, which I was sure he did out of pity as she was trailing behind us all at that point. Once we called it, Derek cleaning us all out, we drank homemade hot chocolate and watched Elf.
Reid and I exchanged our gifts first after the film ended. He had gotten me the Dolphin necklace, and it was perfect. Sterling silver, small and simple. It wasn’t flashy; it wasn’t expensive; it was sweet, and it warmed my heart. He remembered that I love Dolphins, although I’d only mentioned it in passing once before.
For him, I’d gone through the pictures of us over the past three months, picking out my favorite three. One from the night he took me ice skating, another was a cheesy kissing image of us one evening when we’d gone for a stroll along the beach, and the last was a silly faced one.
They were neatly put in a triple frame, individual sections which we hinged together so they could be moved. On the silver outing of the structure, the words You’re my safety net etched into the bottom right corner. With a broad smile on his face, he instantly ran upstairs and put it on his bedside table.
However, what shocked me the most is what his parents and my grandparents had gotten me.
It was the guitar I’d wanted, the ESP LTD EC- 1000 in vintage black with Seymour Duncan pickups. I nearly cried, and I’d insisted it was too much. The guitar itself was almost eight hundred pounds. They assured me Shane gave them a discount, and it was worth it, after me and the girls had decided to give the band thing ago for real.
After the Christmas holidays, we were going to spend Sunday’s and our free days off college, writing and practicing. Reid was going to help us record demos and help book us for a few shows in local venues once we had a full set ready.
Overall, it had been one of the best Christmas’ I could recall. It saddened me when I thought of how much my parents would have loved to have been there too. My mother and Laura would have gotten on so well, but I couldn’t be sad for long. They didn’t allow that.
But now, two days later, nerves filled me as my eyes caught sight of the sign that read Welcome to Salisbury. Reid reached over the middle console of his car, taking my hand and giving it a little squeeze before returning it to the gear stick.
Part of me felt happy to be back, but another part of me saddened, memories filling my head as we passed familiar buildings, shops, and parks.
“You okay, Kitten?” Reid asked softly, breaking the silence we’d been in for the past half an hour. The only sound was one of my CD’s playing quietly over the speakers.
I let out a tense, almost forced chuckle, “that’s one hell of a complicated question right now.”
“We don’t have to do this, Kitten, we can go home.”
I shook my head at his words, “no, I need to do this. The lawyers need a decision soon, and right now, I still have no idea what I want to do. I wanted to come home one day, but we’ve barely crossed the border, and I don’t know how to feel.”
I sighed as discontent filled me. I thought I’d be happy; I thought this is what I’d wanted, but right now, I wasn’t so sure.
“Well, if at any point you want to go back, just say okay?”
I nodded my response as I continued to stare at the passing foliage and buildings.
“You want to go straight to the house?”
I thought for a moment and then shook my head, “No, not right now, maybe we could find somewhere to eat?”
“Know anywhere? I have no clue where I am.”
“Yeah, there’s a nice cafe in the town center. Mom used to take me there every Sunday, and we’d go for breakfast then go to do the food shopping.”
“Well, I have no idea where I’m going, so point me in the right direction.” He chuckled softly. I looked at him and gave him a small smile before giving him directions.
“And this is where I broke my very first bone, on a skateboard.” I pointed to a small park with a few skate ramps just a few feet away from the children’s play area.
I’d given Reid a brief tour as I wasn’t quite ready to face the house just yet, so we’d busied ourselves with me showing him my old schools and the college I had been initially attending. The places I used to go with my mom and dad, all the things I used to get up to back when this was my home.
Like a trip down memory lane, it was bittersweet. Happy memories, but tainted by the fact my parents were no longer here.
“Wow...you had some adventures. Skateboards, broken bones, falling into a pond...”
“Yeah.” I chuckled, “I don’t even know how that happened. I was feeding the ducks, and I got a little too close to the edge. My dad panicked so much, but jumped in and got me out. It wasn’t nice, the pond was kind of dirty, and the ducks went mental, quacking and fluffing around. One tried to attack my poor dad as he jumped in; he hated ducks after that.”
“Payton?” A girl’s voice came behind, causing me to spin on my heel instantly.
“Alex?” I looked at her wide-eyed. I hadn’t accounted for the fact we’d probably bump into some of my so-called friends. Deep down I was hoping because it was such a brief stay, I wouldn’t encounter any of them.
“Oh my god, it is you! You didn’t tell me you were coming back! Are you back for good?” She came to hug me, but I stepped back and recoiled, moving into Reid’s side.
Reid pulled me into him, his arm wrapping tight around my shoulders. Of all the friends who’d hurt me, she was the worst of them, and I didn’t want her near me.
“No, just to sort some things.” I looked at her sternly.
It pissed me off that she was acting like I should have told her I was coming back. After I told her I was leaving, I reached out to her. I text her, called her, but she ignored me as if I never existed. I tried to see her the day I left, but she never answered the door.
“Look, Pay, I’m sorry.” She tried to put on a sincere voice, but I saw right through it, it was fake. “I, no, we shouldn’t have ditched you like that. We didn’t know what to do. You were hurting yourself again, and you were moving. None of us knew what to do.”
“Forget it.” I spat, “you all ditched me because the tough got going. Don’t think I don’t know you replaced me with fucking Lauren in the band. You hated her, and you knew what she did to me. She picked on your little sister, for fuck’s sake! So save it, Alex. I’m here to sort some affairs out, and then I’m going back to Newquay. My home, where Reid is, where my grandparents are, where my real friends are. The ones who’d never turn on me.”
“Pay...I’m sorry...It’s not that-” She stuttered, trying to think of a way to defend her actions.
Reid took a step ahead of me. His protective stance acted as a shield between the two of us, “she said, forget it, now piss off.”
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” Alex bit back as her face turned serious as her green eyes narrowed at him.
“Her boyfriend, and the guy you don’t want to see mad. So leave, she doesn’t want to hear excuses, so go please.”
“Fine, whatever. Good luck dealing with Payton and her attention-seeking. It’s the only reason she ever did it. Poor Payton, like she was the only damn kid with problems. We were only friends with her out of damn pity because we thought she might kill herself.” Alex spat and turned around, storming off.
I stood there paralyzed. Was that what my friends thought of me? That I only ever cut for attention? Was that why they left me?
My heart broke into pieces, shattering all over again. The pain gripped my chest and lingered like an unwelcome visitor who would not leave.
“Kitten?” Reid turned and looked at me, his voice and eyes clouded in concern.
Tears prickled in the corner of my eyes; this wasn’t my home anymore. It stopped being my home the day my parents died. It was only my home because of them. “T-take me to see my parents...and then let’s go home.”
“What about the house?”
“I don’t need to see it. I’ll sell it. This isn’t my home, not anymore.”
“Oh, Kitten.” Reid sighed, pulling me into his arms, wrapping him around me tightly. “Okay. Let’s go, say hi to your parents and get you home.”
“Thank you.” I sniffed, a silent tear falling as I buried my face into his chest.
I thought coming back was what I wanted. Maybe before I met Reid and the girls, but not anymore. There were too many memories here — the good ones I could take with me anywhere.
I didn’t need to be here to remember my parents, to remember good times. Those memories sat within me, not the people and places in this town. I needed to be with people I knew that loved me, the ones who cared about me, and who would stand by me no matter what. They were back in Cornwall, in Newquay, and that’s where I wanted to be.