What Doesn't Kill You

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Chapter 3

“And that’s all there is to it!” Chris told Scout. “Any questions?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Great!” He clapped his hands together. “Well, I’ll leave you to it and you have my number if you need anything.”

“Thanks, Chris.”

The bell chimed as he left the shop and Scout sat behind the counter looking out into it. The place was empty and there weren’t any pressing jobs that Thursday morning. She suspected that most of her customers would be in the 60 plus category.

By eleven o’clock, Scout’s suspicions were confirmed. She’d had old woman after old woman come into the shop to browse and a few who’d picked up some racy looking romance novels. Scout finished serving one of the randy women when the bell chimed, and she looked up to see a man walk into the shop, holding open the door to let a customer out.

Her brain short circuited a little as she looked at him. There was no denying he was handsome; tall with dark hair and bright blue eyes. His jawline looked like it had been chiselled by the God’s themselves and he had a tan that made Scout think he’d still be warm from the sun.

“Hi, welcome to A Page A Day. Can I help?” It came off a little brighter than she’d intended, and Scout scolded herself in her head.

The handsome stranger took her in for a moment before waving her off and heading into the stacks.

Rude, Scout thought. It was funny how he had gone from attractive to unattractive all in the space of a few seconds just because of their attitude.

She sat on her stool with a small huff and tried to think if she recognised him but nothing rang a bell. Things had changed in Swansea and she wondered how much more would change in the year that she was here.

From under the desk, Scout pulled out her academic planner and a pen before flipping it open. Despite no longer being in academia, she still worked on an August to August basis.

The best way to achieve your goals was to visualise them. She flipped through to July next year and placed a large circle around the 31st before writing – Goal: move back to London. She underlined it a few times for emphasis.

Scout continued to rifle back and forth through the pages, swapping between planner and phone so that she could add in the dates for her physio appointments and birthdays. Every now and then, she looked up to check on Mr Hot but Rude and this time she found him looking right back at her. His gaze made her skin prickle and her cheeks flush. Scout opened her mouth to ask him if he had a problem but the door opened.

“Hi. Welcome to A Page A Day. Can I help?” she asked.

“No thanks. Just coming in to have a look… Scout?” The man narrowed his eyes for a second before he broke into a smile.

It took Scout a second to realise who he was. “Chrissy?”

“The one and only.”

“Lies,” she laughed. “We had three Chrissy’s in our year.”

He let out a laugh and came to stand in front of the counter. Chrissy Smith hadn’t changed much over the years. He still had a cheeky smile and a look in his eye that spelled trouble. “What are you doing back here?” he asked her. “Last I heard, you managed to get out and move to the big city.”

Reaching behind her, Scout picked up a crutch. “Tore my ACL and had surgery. I’m back home while I recover. I’ll be back in London this time next year.” She was speaking it into existence. If you wanted something, you needed to let the universe know. At least, that’s how Scout hoped it worked.

“I hope recovery goes well.”

“What about you?” she asked. “What are you up to these days?”

“Signed on with the Swans.”

“Shut up!” Scout exclaimed. “Are you being serious? Chris, that’s amazing! Congratulations!”

“It feels good to wear the strip.”

Chrissy had always been one of the boys that took football seriously, not just playing for the school team but also for the local club. There was always him joining the Swans and now here he was, telling Scout that was exactly what had happened.

“I bet,” she grinned. “I’ll need to come and watch a match.”

“Maybe I could set you up with some tickets.”

“Oh, you don’t need to do that.”

“No, I’d love for you to be there at the next match. Maybe we can have a proper catch up or something.

“That would be nice.”

The pair had been in slightly different circles in school, but Chrissy had always been a sweetheart when they spoke. It would be to get out of the house and talk to people her age before old reruns of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and Gladys’s new perm became the only topics of conversation that Scout had any extensive knowledge on.

“Okay, I’ll see what I can do.”

“Sounds good.”

Chrissy flashed her a brilliant smile and turned towards the shelves where the cookery books were. Scout took a moment to study him. Chrissy Smith had been her comprehensive school crush but back then she was too shy to take the plunge and actually ask him out. She was suddenly curious as to whether he had a girlfriend. Not that it mattered. After the number Scott had pulled on her, Scout wasn’t sure she would ever be ready to date again but window shopping was nice.

A deep voice pulled her from her thoughts. “See you soon,” Mr Hot but Rude said.

“Have a nice day.”

He gave her a nod before walking out of the shop. He didn’t buy anything and Scout wondered what he’d been looking for. She should have asked and seen if they were able to order it in for him. Truth be told, Scout was a little concerned about A Page A Day. She didn’t know how much longer it would survive if it didn’t pull in more customers.

At the end of the day, she locked up and on her way to the bus stop she made a detour into the ice cream parlour. It had been years since she’d eaten this much ice cream. Her diet could be rectified when she finally got rid of her crutches but for now she was enjoying her life.

“Scout?”

She heard her name as she turned around with a scoop of mint chocolate chip. “Ava? Hi!”

“Hey! Are you sitting in? Mind if I join you?”

“Sure.” Scout grabbed them both a table and before long Ava joined her with a scoop of chocolate orange. “Do you have clients down this way?” Scout asked her.

“No,” Ava shook her head, long, dark ponytail swaying. “I’m on my way to visit my family. My brother just got back from travelling so we’re having dinner together.” Scout eyed the tub of ice cream in her hand. “My brother is a lot to handle. This is my reward.”

“But you haven’t seen him yet.”

“Okay, this is my bribe to myself to behave.”

Scout laughed and Ava joined in. They spooned ice cream out of the paper tubs and Scout leaned back in her seat. “I got the job, by the way. The one you mentioned.”

“Ah, amazing! I knew Dad would love you.”

“Dad?”

“Christopher James is my father.”

“Oh, I didn’t realise.” Thinking about it, Scout cottoned onto a lot of similarities between the both of them. Ava and Chris were both big personalities that made you feel at ease instantly.

“It’s not a problem, is it?” Ava asked.

“No, no! I’m grateful to be out of the house and doing something.”

“You need to look after your mental health as well as your physical health. Set yourself goals so you have things to work towards.”

“I already have my main goal.”

“And what’s that?” Ava asked.

“To be out of here by a year.”

Ava gave her a curious look. “You want to leave?”

“Don’t you?”

“I quite like Swansea.”

“You didn’t grow up here,” Scout muttered, taking a bite of her ice cream. The cold spoonful melted on her tongue releasing a minty flavour and she chewed on the chocolate chips.

“It’s not such a bad place.”

Scout shrugged. “It’s not but I just want more. I’m giving myself a year to recover and find a job in dance again. I want to be back in London.”

“Fair enough. Just try not to push yourself too hard, okay?”

She held up three fingers. “Scout’s honour.”

Ava laughed as she finished her ice cream. “I bet you love using that one.”

“Every time.”

Ava crumpled her empty paper cup and stood up. “Thanks for keeping me company.”

“No problem. Good luck with your brother.”

She groaned and rolled her eyes. “Thanks. See you soon.”

Scout waved her off before polishing off her own cup. Rather than head home, she sat in the parlous and stared out of the window, watching people pass by for some time. I was August and the sun was beating down on the seaside town. It was busier on the streets as people finished work. Swansea would see an influx of people this month thanks to the air show and other events. Maybe Scout could try to reconnect with some old friends and see if any were interested in attending.

It was a good hour before she got up from her seat and another 30 minutes before the bus dropped her at her stop and got home.

“Scout?” Jim called. “Is that you, love?”

“Hey, Dad.”

“You’re home late. Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. I stopped at Joe’s and was enjoying the sun.”

“Glad to see you enjoying yourself. There are some things that came in the post for you.”

Jim came out of the kitchen but Scout had already seen the boxes with Scott’s scrawl over them that sat on their dining table. It was crazy. They hadn’t spoken since Scout had left but they were still untangling their lives. Or more accurately he was still untangling hers from his.

She ripped off the tape from one of the boxes and saw that there were clothes in it. Scout was glad he had sent those. She wasn’t in the position to be buying a whole new wardrobe. The next box had lots of odd bits in; bedside lamp, Bluetooth speaker, some knitting needles.

Scout pulled the last box towards her and it felt as light as air. What had he sent in this one? She ripped the tape off and her heart sank. It was filled to the brim with plush animals. These were the things Scott had gifted her during the course of their relationship. With each one Scout pulled from the box she was taken back to different memories. A day spend at London zoo. Their first holiday together in Spain. She pulled out a large monkey that he’d given her when she’d woken up after surgery.

Her eyes started to burn with tears. She put the monkey down and jammed the heels of her palms into her eyes. She thought she was doing better. She thought she’d gotten past caring about Scott but the wound was still fresh. She was still hurting and this had just ripped it all open and brought it to the surface again.

Scout stuffed the toys back in the box and walked out of the house and into the garden. She tipped her head towards the sky, letting the sun hit her as she dragged in deep breaths. All the positive feelings that she had started collecting had been taken out with one blow. Instead, she felt like she did when she’d first got back home. Scout felt small and lost and broken.

When was she going to stop feeling like she was trapped?

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