Hannah almost broke his wrists slamming them in the cuffs so hard, Tara said it was hilarious, he screamed like a bitch.
It was right bang in the middle of the country club, where the whole damn world he thinks himself king of could see.
Currently I’m being protected, Hannah said there’s precautions in place for girls in my situation but that they don’t usually hold up after we go to court. I was going to take advantage of it while it lasted, I’m sure every piece of dirty laundry I have was going to be aired in the coming weeks so I had to get my plan into action.
“If you stick with this, and do something little on weekends, I think you could maybe get three years out of it before you’d have to make any serious changes.”
Al had been going over the spreadsheet in front of her with a fine toothcomb to see what my options were.
I’d spent a lot of time over the last few days thinking about my plans for the future and had come to a decision.
I was going to quit my job.
It wasn’t as easy of a decision to make as I thought it would be, but it was for the best. Working for Sonya was hard and it took up so much of my life there was no room for anything else, if I was serious about a job in public relations then I needed to be able to focus on school.
I had the money I’d been paid for the engagement party still sitting there, plus Granny’s life insurance and the money from the malpractice case Tara was leading coming too. I was actually in a position to be able to take a break and focus my all on my studies so I was going to do just that.
Al was putting that number brain of hers to work. She’d already made plans for me to put half of everything into an account for May and I’d come to a compromise with Tara and Cole over her care.
Me and May had sat down and talked yesterday, there were a lot of tears and a lot of pain but one thing was clear – she was happy there.
It killed me to say it, it killed me to even think it, but we agreed her stay with Tara and Cole should be more long term. I was still going to be there all the time, now I wouldn’t be working I could be at every game and recital, I would come over for dinner and she could still come here for sister sleepovers, but that’s what I was going to be now – her sister.
We’d started proceedings for Tara and Cole to have shared custody of her, it only made sense legally that she was protected whilst in their care. I’d also made them let me pay for things for her, even if it was just her uniforms or kits, I still wanted to contribute her life financially as well as physically and emotionally. I may not be her primary care giver but I was still her family.
“I won’t need three years, two max. Once schools finished I want to be back in work, I don’t want to slip off the radar again.” I knew me not having anything to keep me busy could result in another trip down a slippery slope.
Al nodded. “Have you thought anymore about...?”
I shook my head. “Not yet, I’ll see how I go.” Al really wanted me to see someone, professionally, to deal with my trauma. I understood but it’s the kind of thing you need to be ready for and I’m not sure I was quite yet.
“I found another one.” Jayce proclaimed, walking down the stairs with a large bottle of brandy in his hands. Turns out drunk Brie was pretty good at stashing bottles everywhere, he found a few of the mini ones in the drawer to the washing machine yesterday whilst doing his daily checks. He was now my sober buddy and I think he was loving it, although I’m not touching those things he calls beers no matter how much he tries to convince me they’re nothing like toilet water.
Looking at the bottle of brandy I squinted my eyes. “Where did you find that? I’m not sure that one’s mine, I can’t stand the stuff.”
Jayce rolled his eyes. “Brie, I love you, but the way you were drinking you would’ve sucked the alcohol out of a deodorant stick. You weren’t being fussy.”
I looked over at the clock. “I’ve got to get to the office, I just hope Sonya understands and let’s me out of the fucking notice period.”
Al walks with me to the front door as I grab the empty box to take with me. This is actually harder than I thought it would be, I might even miss her screaming at me day and night, it had become the tune I’d grown used to falling asleep to at this point.
“She will hun, she’s called me every day checking how you are. I think she’s expecting it, she knows with the people she works for you wouldn’t be able to avoid that family forever, she doesn’t want to put you in that position. In her own weird way, she really does care about you.” Al said as Jayce wrapped his arms around her waist and stroked his little princess.
It’s funny, when I met Sonya I never thought she’d be someone I’d grow to love and respect, in all honesty I thought six months in our relationship would end with one of us throwing the other from the fourteenth floor window. Now, now I can’t imagine not looking at her angry little face every morning.
Taking the bug along the usual route there was a sense of nostalgia I didn’t actually expect to feel. I liked working here, and that’s fucking weird.
I park at the corner and make my way in, the nice guy on security giving me a smile as I walked past his desk.
“Nice to see you looking so well Ms Parker.” He seemed to genuinely mean it too.
“Thanks Dave, how’s the grandkids?”
I push the button for the elevator but the moment it opens I freeze.
“They’re growing like weeds... Is everything okay Ms Parker?”
Okay. Choice one, go to the stairs, walk twenty flights and your ass will thank you for the work out. Choice two, you get in here and remember who the fuck you are. He cannot control you. You’re Brianna Parker. You ain’t scared of shit.
I check around to make sure no-one is going to get in with me, I definitely couldn’t handle that. When I realise it’s safe, I get in, making sure to smile at Dave as the doors close.
My adrenaline spikes but I just grip the empty box in my hands like it’s a lifeline keeping me here. With every second that goes by I feel the anxiety begin to lift until finally the doors open on the familiar lobby.
I fucking did it.
Fuck you Tommy.
Everyone smiles as I walk through, a few waving as I make my way to the double glass doors. I know I left my mark on the people here and that means more to me than they realise.
No tits looks taken aback to see me, it’s been a few days and the last time I was here I wasn’t exactly at my best, but I can see she actually looks slightly relieved to see I’m sober and not another woman she has to take care of as they stumble through the office.
Although her scowl is quickly placed back onto her face, that perfected mask of indifference taking hold in an instant. God forbid she show some humanity.
“You call that a business outfit?”
I look down at my little black t-shirt dress and denim jacket. I made Al bag up all my work clothes with me this morning, they were never who I was and I need to start finding me again so she was going to take them to the church this afternoon for their donation drive. I’d said I’d drop by later and help the pastor sort through some things.
Shoving my middle finger up at her I walk over to Sonya’s office, but I can already hear her screaming at someone down the phone so make a beeline for my own desk and put down the empty box until she’s done.
Sitting down in the chair I’ve practically lived in for the last year, I take a final look out at the view from this spot. I remember so clearly being here for the first time, feeling so out of my depth in this world, now I realise it was never that – I just wasn’t meant for it.
Starting to pack my things into the box, I see the photo of me, Granny, May and Al I’d had put on here after we took it at Christmas. All my favourite girls together. I make sure to wrap it up in some paper so it doesn’t get damaged before I put it in the box with a smile.
The door behind me opens just as I was letting the memories of this place overtake me.
Sonya steps forward and looks at the half full box on my desk. "You're leaving, for good now, aren't you?" She actually looks hurt, her whole body showing a vulnerability I've never seen before as she stares at me. I hope she knows this isn’t about her, working for her has been... an experience... One I’m actually incredibly grateful for and one I’ll never forget. I just can’t do it anymore.
I turn to her, moving my chair before stepping forward and pulling her into a hug I know she’ll hate but she won’t resist. "I have to. I can't be around people like them now Sonya, like him or his mother, people willing to destroy other peoples lives to get what they want or protect their money. Staying here and working with them will rid me of what little I have left of my soul, I won't do it. I have to start my own life now."
She smirks slightly before moving back, her head tilting to the side as she looks at me but keeps her arms around my waist, letting out a deep breath. "I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - You were always too good for this world Brianna. I hope you find the one you belong in... Although, I will miss having someone that can challenge me for queen bitch around here."
I chuckle deeply and so does she, her whole body moving with it in the first honest laugh I think I've ever seen from Sonya. She helps me pack my final bits into the box, even letting me keep the hole punch she nearly threw at me a few months ago as a memento of my time here.
Sonya takes my shoulders in her grasp and turns me to face her, swiping some stray lipstick from beneath my lip as she looks at me. “I have great respect for you Brianna. For...” She checks that the Cindy doll behind me is preoccupied. “For standing up for yourself and speaking your truth. He’ll get what’s coming to him, I have faith in that. You have inspired me more than you know.”
The thought of someone like me inspiring someone like her... My work here is done.
Lifting the lid to the box, I look at the contents with a smile, I didn't belong on this journey but I actually quite enjoyed the ride of working here. Extending my hand to Sonya she grasps it tightly, both of us shaking with vigour as we try to show dominance in this final embrace. She wins, as always, but we both know if anyone was ever going to give her a run for her money in this world, it was me.
“I’m gonna miss you, you horrendous and insufferable bitch. Don’t be a stranger, okay? I need someone to put me in my place sometimes and nobody else does it better.”
She laughs. “Don’t ever forget it. I’ll be around Brianna, don’t you worry. If you need me, you call. I owe you...” She glances down to where Peter’s car sits across the street. “I owe you everything.”
She’s happy. I met a queen of ice all those months ago, but now I see the walls may have been cold, but inside, she’s got a heart of bloody gold.
I pick up the box, it’s slightly heavier than I thought it would be as I start to leave.
“Oh Brianna?” I stop and look back at her. “You know that P.R. woman you love, um Gloria..”
“Peterborough. Yeah, she’s kind of my idol. Why?”
Sonya smirks. “I played badminton against her last month at the club. She’s looking to replace her intern next year with some fresh blood. I’ll see what I can do.”
My jaw practically hits the floor. Six months working for that woman and I’d have the connections to open my own bloody firm!
“And you wait until now to bloody tell me?!”
She laughs. “Can’t blame me for not wanting to let you go Brianna. You won’t be replaced easily.”
Stepping to the doors I smile at no boobs as she pretends not to look the slightest bit upset that I'm leaving, or maybe she's not actually pretending, you can never tell with this cow.
"Sonya?" She turns back from the door from her office. "You should give this one a go, she's got the training and she knows how to handle your shit. She may end up better than me."
Knockoff-Brittany looks up at me completely shocked before turning her attention to Sonya hopefully. Sonya folds her arms across her chest as she leans against her door frame, scanning her eyes over the girl waiting nervously in her chair. "Fine. Move to desk one bitch-face but I don't want to hear fuck all about your family, your cat or your pathetic excuse for a love life. Now get me a fucking coffee. Bring me a Chai-tea again and I’ll hack off your fucking clit with a blunt pencil and feed it to Rose."
With that she slams her office door and I laugh, turning back to the head of bad extensions. "Good luck Christina, you're gonna need it."
“My name is Rebecca!”
Walking into the lift then out of the building, it all becomes so clear. The fresh spring air fills my lungs and I feel a hundred pounds lighter. This wasn't my home but I know where is. I’ll get there soon.
Dave waves to me from the other side of the glass and I’m so distracted I walk straight into someone, the contents at the top of my box spilling out onto the sidewalk.
“Oh fuck!” I lean down to start picking up my things but a strong hand grabs my forearm and pulls me back to my feet.
“Brianna Parker? You need to come with us.”
Like fuck I do mate.
This guy is huge, his chest is wider than I am tall and he’s dressed in a fitted black suit, shirt and sunglasses that just scream ‘come with me if you want to be experimented on by the government and never heard from again.’ Yeah, think I’ll pass.
I go to scream at him when I see another man get out of the car that just pulled up next to us and gestures for me to get inside.
My anxiety is crippling as fear rushes through me and I feel another man come up behind me and press his chest to my back as he breathes down on me. What the fuck is going on?
“I suggest you comply Ms Parker.”
They’re funny. “Look, I don’t know who the fuck you are but I ain’t going anywhere with you fuckers. Now back the fuck off before I rip your dick off and shove it down your throat. What the hell makes you think I’d go anywhere with you?”
None of them move, the one closest to the car taking out his phone before showing me the screen.
I can’t move.
My body feels like the moment the Titanic hit the iceberg, everything in me rejecting the sight I see before me as my breakfast begins to rise into my throat.
I look down at the floor and see my phone amongst the possessions on the ground.
Looking at the picture before me once more a single tear falls from the corner of my eye.
“Please don’t let him hurt her.”
In front of me is a picture of May in the clothes I dressed her in for school this morning at the Manor, she’s in class, smiling up at the man who’s lap she’s sitting on as he reads her a story. His face still battered and broken as he smirks at the camera.
“I can assure you no harm will come to her if you comply with our demands. Now, inside the vehicle Ms.”
I glance back at the office building, Dave catching my eye as I’m forced into the car. I watch him move from his desk to the front of the building but by the time he steps outside the car door is already shut and we’re driving away.