Forever Yours

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Chapter 20

Charlie got into the car and slammed the door. Sylvia gave him a questioning look and his mom asked what his problem is. He told them of what happened inside the store and how he'd messed up in such a short time.
"Well, can't say I'm surprised. You do have a tendency to mess up."
Charlie frowned at Sylvia and asked her, "How the hell was I supposed to know that standing over her would frighten her?"
Sylvia raised her brows. "I told you not to intimidate her. That includes appearing domineering, brother dear." She explained slowly, as if talking to a toddler. "Anything that puts you in higher power than her. So don't shout, don't touch her without letting her know about your intentions and please do not tower over her!"
"Fine", Charlie grumbled. "I heard you."
Mrs Cunning shook her head slowly. "It's an injustice, what happened to her. Thank God that that monster was arrested and sentenced."
"He was?"
Mrs Cunning nodded distractedly. "Your dad made sure that he got a heavy sentence. With the witnesses - that woman Miriam and her son Brandon - and the evidence, Rilah didn't even need to testify. He got ten years in prison. I'm just reluctant to tell Rilah because I'm scared that it will set her back. She's been doing so well."
Charlie wondered how she was doing before if she's now 'doing so well'. He'd never seen her more distraught and famished.
"Or maybe it'll help her let go just a little bit." Sylvia looked out the window to see Rilah approaching the car. "Here she is. Looking at her from here, she definitely looks better. She's even gained weight. Right, mom?"
"Yes, that's true. I'd hate to be her setback", Mrs Cunning said sadly.
"Well, now's the time to tell her. If anything, it'll distract her from Charlie's blunder."
Charlie scowled yet again but refrained from saying anything as Rilah got in the car.
She mumbled a small greeting from the backseat next to Sylvia. It was a good thing that Charlie sat in the front; she wasn't sure if she'd have been able to act normal with his big frame next to her.
"How was your day dear?" Mrs Cunning enquired.
"It was okay."
Sylvia saw her mother take a deep breath, and said, "That man has been sentenced to prison. Ten years." Her eyes kept jumping to the review mirror, to the road and finally she turned to look at Rilah for a brief moment.
"What do you think about that Rilah?"
Rilah, who had stopped breathing for a second, just looked blank. She wanted everyone to stop looking at her. She needed to breathe, to be alone, without the pressure of everyone expecting her to give a reaction.
"I don't know", she whispered. "Can I please get out?"
Mrs Cunning looked hurt. "Rilah, there's no need to get out. We're almost home." Her voice quivered a little, Sylvia refused to say anything when she gave her a discreet look and Charlie looked at her with burning intensity.
Rilah shook her head and asked to get out again. "I'll walk home."
Defeated, Mrs Cunning stopped the car and Rilah got out. Without warning, Charlie got out after her. As he heard the protests of his mother and sister, he leaned in through the car window and told his mother, "We'll see you at home."
Rilah saw the car pass by her and as she started walking she heard footsteps behind her. She spun quickly to look behind her and saw Charlie walking up to her.
"Why did you get out?" She asked quietly.
"I can't let you walk alone."
"Why not? I've been walking down this place for months alone."
"You don't have to while I'm around." Discerning that Charlie would not take no for an answer, she refrained from answering.
"I'm sorry about what happened in the shop. I didn't mean to intimidate you, if that's what I did."
Rilah nodded. They walked on in silence until they reached the edge of the woods, where the Cunning home was just slightly visible. Charlie took a deep breath and turned to face Rilah.
"Um, Lulu, there's something I want to ask." He seemed nervous and immediately Rilah knew what he wanted to ask. Not now, please not now Charlie, she thought desperately.
"I know that it's probably terrible timing but I might not get another time to say this." He took a deep breath. "I think it's quite obvious that I like you but I'm not sure if you know that I've liked you as more than a friend and I want a chance with you", he scratched his neck as a nervous gesture. "I mean I want us to be more than friends."
Rilah felt her heart sink to her stomach. Stop leading him on, Sylvia had said but how could she do that without breaking his heart? She very much doubted the strength to do that to Charlie. With difficulty, she dragged her eyes up to look at him.
"I'm sorry Charlie but I can't. I'm not in a good place and I don't think I will be for a while."
Charlie looked defiant and she knew that she hadn't got through to him. "I can wait, for as long as you are recovering, I will wait."
Rilah shook her head. "You can't. Charlie, you are an ocean away for a number of years and I'm not me anymore. I'm just not in a right space to consider getting involved with anyone romantically. Please understand."
Charlie sighed, looking defeated. "Fine. I understand, but you will consider it one day, won't you?"
Rilah thought of all the things that would prevent them from being together: firstly, she was damaged - she would never be the same again. He would be forced to be with her out of loyalty and honour and soon, when he found out that the old Rilah was gone for good, he would come to hate her. Secondly, her family would never approve of a relationship between her and Charlie. They would do anything to keep her unhappy and away from Charlie. Lastly, she could never expect him to take in a baby that's not his. He is too young to be a father. He did not need a damaged girl and her baby thrust at him. No, she would have to tell him 'no', that they could never be together.
She turned and continued walking. "No, we can never be together. It's impossible."
Charlie stepped in front of her and they stopped in front of a small store, whose owner kept shouting at them to move.
"Tell me something then." He looked down at her, "Tell me, do you like me, even a little bit, as more than friends?"
Oh Charlie, I don't just like you, I love you. She hesitated and then nodded reluctantly.
"Then one day, one day I'll ask you again and you will say yes."
"You are so domineering."
"Is that a compliment?" He asked, feigning innocence.
Rilah rolled her eyes, muttered an apology to the shopkeeper who had resorted to removing them bodily from the front of his shop. They walked on toward home. "What do you think?" She said in response to his question.
"It's a smashing compliment. Thank you very much." Unable to muster a laugh, she managed a smile.

* * *
After spending most of her winter holiday at work and with Sylvia and Charlie, school finally opened. Charlie went back to London, and Rilah and Sylvia started preparing for their preliminary exams. Sylvia cut some of her time with her boyfriend Peter, and spent it with Rilah, getting tutoring lessons. During times when Rilah was at work, Sylvia spent it with Peter, relaxing and loading off. When Rilah was off work, they spent the time studying, including Peter when he was free. Against Rilah's wishes, Sylvia paid for the tutoring sessions. Her salary was increased and when she asked, Mrs Cunning told her it's for the tutoring lessons.
When they finally wrote the prelims and the results came out, they saw that it paid off. Rilah, as always was top of the class and Sylvia and Peter had also improved, getting an average of little more than eighty percent.
As Rilah counted down to the finals, she was also counting down the months of her pregnancy. Her expected date of delivery had been estimated to late January and the doctor had told her that she was underweight, which was very bad for the baby. She started setting aside money for more food and she took multivitamin supplements from the doctor to ensure that the baby was not undernourished. She was starting to show, although it was a slight bump. She could feel the baby kicking regularly but she still couldn't bring herself to care much. Her body was changing so much that Sylvia had questioned it; her breasts were so full that she was forced to buy bras and she looked plumper; if she were showing people would probably say that pregnancy agreed with her.
Time seemed to fly so fast that soon they were cramming for their finals and teachers were dumping past papers on them, sending all sorts of materials to help them and learners everywhere looked on edge. Rilah was so grateful that she didn't have a phone because Sylvia said she didn't know what to touch and what not to touch. On the other hand, she was really worried because Mrs Cunning was worried that working while preparing for finals would disturb her and stress her out, so she was planning to let her off work for a while.
Of course she didn't know that Rilah needed the money to get out of the Daniels house so she thought she was doing good. Eventually, they settled on cutting her hours at work. Sometimes Rilah even felt like she was just being handed money when she hadn't done anything.
Each day she watched her belly expand, she sat for exams and counted down how many days she had left for exams against how many days before her protruding stomach was noticed by someone. The odds were not good. Not to mention the fact that she needed the bathroom more than frequently; her life felt like a mess. But then again she couldn't complain, not many people could hide a seven month pregnancy.
On the day of her second last exam - Tourism - she woke up feeling queasy. Reluctantly, she got dressed and prepared breakfast while Tyron sat at the table, cramming a year's worth of notes. Feeling nauseous again, she hurried to the sink and took a glass of water. Swallowing the water, she took a deep breath and forced down the nausea. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Ty smirk. She scowled and went back up to her room, where she took her bottle of prenatal vitamins from behind her clothes, took a couple and stuffed it back. She grabbed her pencil case and checked that everything in her room was fine. When she went out, she ran into Tyron, who had been standing outside her door. She looked up at him with a questioning glance.
"What were you doing there?" He asked, casting his eyes inside her room.
"What I do in my room is none of your business. What do you want?"
"Why are you so irritable these days?" He didn't even sound caring.
"God knows why I'm so irritable with all these examinations underway", she snapped. "What do you want, Tyron?"
"Borrow me your book. One with summarised notes."
"Are you asking?"
"What else would I be doing?" He frowned.
Rilah shook her head. "When you don't say please, you are demanding, not asking." Nevertheless, she went into her room, grabbed her book and gave it to Tyron. Then she left and met Sylvia at her house, where Mrs Cunning wished them good luck and they went for their last exam. In Sylvia's case though.

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