The drive back was steady. I slowly crept into Lillie’s house, thankful I made it safe. It was dark, all the lights were off except the porch light and a side lamp in the living room where I slept. I don’t know how long I had been away, but I knew Lillie was sleeping upstairs.
I felt like shit all the way home. ‘Home’ that was the first time I considered Lillie’s place home. I sighed and regretted very much taking it so far with Roxanne. I technically did nothing wrong, had I? I fucking didn’t know anymore.
The guilt I felt gnawed at me. I thought about Lillie sleeping soundly upstairs, and I felt I betrayed her in some way. We weren’t together as a couple, but I fucking felt loyal to her.
The streetlights glazed through the windows of the house as I walked to the living room. I unfolded the couch into a bed and placed the pillows and coverings on it. I took off my jacket and slid out of my jeans folded it and placed it on my bag. I wanted to keep Lillie’s house neat.
The last thing I wanted to think about was Roxanne and what happened tonight... or what almost happened, I wanted it far from my thoughts. This night has gone to shit, in more ways than one. Lillie’s family and friends don’t think very much of me, this Arthur guy is touching Lillie, I went too far with Roxanne and I’m fucking unworthy of being with a woman like Lillie.
I breathed out a long-suffering sigh. I hoped sleep will come quick.
The smell of frying bacon woke me gently out of bed, I opened my eyes to see the morning sun filtering through the living room curtains. I got up groggily and with a bruising headache, curtesy of the night’s drinking. I forced my mind not to think about last evenings events. Lillie’s cat, pebbles brushed the side of my leg and meowed. I hated cats, but pebbles wasn’t too bad.
I walked to the bathroom and brushed my teeth and splashed my face with cold water. I needed coffee and an Advil pill bad. I was tentative to see Lillie, the guilt flooded me again when I saw her cooking in the kitchen. She wore white shorts, a pink t-shirt with a huge picture of a kitten on it and fluffy pink slippers… Fuck me.
She placed the bacon on a plate when she looked up and noticed me come in. Her eyes were bright when she saw me watching her at the doorway. She seemed a little surprised and blush appeared on her cheeks. I smiled.
“Morning. Need me to help with anything?” I said.
She smiled and nodded. “You can make coffee.”
Music to my ears. I stood and took out two mugs.
“I hope you slept okay. Looks like you had fun last night?” she said timidly, glancing at me as she cracked another egg to fry in the pan.
A pang of guilt shot through my chest. I stood still.
“I just went to the bar, had a few drinks and time got away from me.” I said bringing a hot cup of coffee to her.
She nodded not pursuing the question further.
“How was your celebration last night?” I asked.
She placed the eggs and bacon on the table for us to eat. “It was great, pretty much low key, just food and some drinks… I didn’t come home late.”
I felt guilt again.
I wanted to ask her about Arthur, apparently, they had a date once or are dating, I don’t know the full story, and I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to know to be honest. If there were something between Lillie and Arthur, it would hurt me too much. I decided to keep my mouth shut on the matter.
“I’m sorry about my mother and Sassi last night.” Lillie continued smiling softly. “They weren’t the warmest. I should have made you feel more comfortable.”
“You have nothing to feel sorry about Lillie,” I said.
We continued to eat with light conversation. After our breakfast, Lillie headed upstairs and I went to the living room. I got ready, throwing on a grey tracksuit and white vest with sneakers. It was my week to check in with my parole officer.
I left a message with Lillie to let her know where I’ll be, since she was in the shower. I took my keys and left the house.
The parole office was three blocks away, I drove fast not wanting to miss my appointment. I walked in the office of my parole officer. She was a no-nonsense shit talker bulky woman, with a tight braid. She had a permanent scowl on her face. I answered her questions, which were the same, and wanted the process to be damn quick, I always did when it came to the penitentiary system. It took longer than expected but was out of there in ten minutes.
I walked back to my truck, happy to be getting back to Lillie, she suggested we should browse for furniture and maybe get more clothes for me in town, to help me get set up when I get my new apartment.
I hadn’t noticed the two men standing near my truck.
“Hey Bleeder!” the one man called out to me. I was taken by surprise that a stranger knew my underground nickname. I frowned at the guy. He was shorter than me, blonde and muscular with a scar beneath his right eye.
I was about to open the driver’s door, when the other bulky guy snapped it shut in front of me. I turned towards him and saw a ginger bearded man I recognized instantly, right in my face. My breath caught in my throat, as my eyes steadied its shock.
What was fucking Gunner doing here? The last time I saw him was seven years ago when I knocked his face out in the cage. Shit, this wasn't good news seeing him here, in Ashfield.
I stood staring at Gunner who had a smug look on his face looking at me up and down. The other short guy closed me in on the other side.
I instantly went into defense mode. This could only mean one thing and my heart dropped into my stomach.
“Well well Bleeder, you a tough man to find,” Gunner said grinning.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I breathed out.
“I’m glad you finally out of prison, I know Big Ben is,” he continued, and my blood ran cold at the mention of Big Ben’s name. I breathed in deep trying to compose myself before I lost my shit.
“If you here for Big Ben’s invitations, I’m not interested,” I said and climbed in the truck.
“Oh Bleeder boy… you going to be interested,” he sneered with a sick grin on his chubby face.
The anger bubbled in me and I felt like taking out my rage on his face once again. “What the hell does that supposed to mean? I fought for him, stole for him and paid the price in prison, I’m fucking done, or did Big Ben fucking forget!” I yelled.
But Gunner continued as I started up the truck.
“tsk tsk tsk… that may be all and good Bleeder but remember… Big Ben doesn’t forget anything… least of all a debt owed to him.”
I drove off trying to ignore Gunner’s words, but my blood ran cold and a pit formed in my stomach making me nauseas. I knew what this meant.
I swallowed hard as heat radiated throughout my body, anger coming out in waves. I felt the rage inside me bubbling up that laid dormant for all this time, it wanted to erupt.
"Damn!" I shouted out.