Category Archives: Felicity

Day Twenty Three: Alyssa

 

When I come back out of the bathroom fifteen minutes later, Jamie has fallen asleep where I left him on the floor. I know that his intention was probably to force me to take the sofa, but it doesn’t feel right so I carefully pull out the folded quilt, and lay it down on the floor beside him. I settled down, and I can smell his perfume, oh sorry, not perfume, he’d kill me if he knew I’d called it that. It is apparently “eau de toilette” , thank you very much. I close my eyes and try to get to sleep, but the softness of his breathing makes me ever more aware of his presence, despite the fact that I’ve turned the other way. I want so much to turn over and hug him, but I know that I can’t and it’s killing me which makes me question why I chose to just be friends, but it was all for the best. For him, and for me.

 

By the time I wake up the following morning, Jamie has already left and Mark is preparing to open the book shop. I know because I can hear him clattering about and swearing. Probably at the box of books I left down one of the side aisles.

 

“Morning.” Sam beams from the dining room table in the far corner, as she notices that I’m awake, “How did you sleep?”

 

I rub my eyes wearily, “Yeah, pretty good.”

 

“You should have nabbed the sofa.” Sam insisted, but I dismissed it, I couldn’t even be bothered to get into that conversation, and was thankful that Sam dropped it after that.

 

“There’s some toast here if you fancied some.” Sam said, stuffing some toast in her mouth and flicking through some paperwork.

 

I stood up, with the quilt wrapped around me and sat opposite her, before taking a few pieces of toast, “Mmm, yum. Thanks. Jamie gone out?”

 

“Yeah, he went to sort out his flights.”

 

“He’s definitely leaving then?” I felt disappointed, but I knew that it was going to happen.

 

“Yeah, I think he got a bit down about the whole Holly thing, he’s decided to leave on Friday.”

 

I sighed, and stared at my toast, “Who do you think the father really is?”

 

Sam looked at me, and shrugged “I wish I knew,” she shrugged, “Flick said Jamie wasn’t, but was she protecting him? I dunno.”

 

“All seems really weird.”

 

“Flick was weird back then. She kept a lot of secrets.”

 

“Like Mark…” I commented frivously, without really thinking about what I was saying, but fortunately Sam didn’t really respond to it.

 

We sat at the table munching toast, and I couldn’t help thinking about Jamie. He’d only been a part of my life for a short while, but in that time, well, it was magical. And yeah, I know that sounds cliché but it really was…

 

 

 

Eleven months ago…

 

 

 

“Well look at you!” I cooed, pushing my sunglasses to the top of my head. Jamie had met me at the airport, and had evidently dressed for the occasion.

 

“Alyssa?” His mouth literally dropped as he saw me, and I couldn’t help but pose a little. “Wow. All grown up and looking hot.”

 

“Oh well, y’know!” I laughed. Modest as always. “Aren’t ya gonna help a lady with her bags?”

 

“Oh…oh, of course. Right.” I watched as he struggled with my suitcase, and chuckled when he realised that it had wheels. I could tell that he was so nervous, and that was when I knew that I’d made the right decision.

 

 

 

Coming to Rome had never really been part of the plan. The plan had been to skip Europe entirely and travel around America and Asia. It wasn’t really snobbery, but I’d seen a lot of Europe as a kid, so y’know. My parents had been pretty pissed about my ditching Uni to go travelling, but I’ve always been a bit free spirited, and it was something that I needed to do. But, me being me, I’d felt guilty about upsetting them, and not wanting to look like I was caving in to them, I’d opted to keep strongly in touch with Mark instead. And of course, the greatest part of the modern age is social media.

 

It was actually Sam that emailed me telling me that Jamie was in Rome, and that it might be nice to catch up with him. I always got the feeling that the words might have been written by Sam, but they were more likely to have come from Mark. He’d always been overprotective. I think I’d agreed for the same reason that I’d stayed in touch with Mark, but also because I’d spent the last three weeks, in San Francisco with my old school friend Ebony and her new boyfriend Eduardo, and yeah, that hadn’t been much fun.

 

 

 

“So, first time in Rome huh?” Jamie asked, hauling my bag into the boot of a clapped-out car that I haven’t a clue what it actually was.

 

“Indeed.” I said, climbing in the passenger side, “My parents brought us to Italy a couple of times, but for some reason never Rome.”

 

“You’re gonna love it.” Jamie chuckled, sitting beside me, “We only arrived a couple of days ago, and wow, this is a beautiful city.”

 

We drove through the busy city streets, and I couldn’t help marvel at the beauty of the place. Jamie really hadn’t been lying.

 

“You’ll be staying in my hotel room, that’s okay right?” Jamie looked genuinely concerned, so I was quick to ease the worry.

 

“So, now you’re a famous rock star do you get to stay in the posh hotels, in the penthouse suites?”

 

“Of course. Well, not always. You’re lucky to have found me in a hotel that actually isn’t too bad.”

 

“Awesome.”

 

When Jamie said that the hotel wasn’t “too bad”, he was making an immense understatement time a gazillion, because the hotel was bloody amazing, and his room was the size of a small apartment.

 

“Holy crap!” I exclaimed as he led me into his hotel suite, “This is all yours?”

 

“Too right. Apparently we’re pretty big business over here, so they treat us like Royalty and of course we don’t complain.”

 

I threw myself onto the bed, and bounced on it a little, “Well, I don’t think I ever imagined that I would be sitting on a rock star’s bed. Kinda kinky. Kinda weird.”

 

“Ha.” Jamie said and sat down in an arm chair beside the bed, before pulling a bottle of beer out of a mini fridge, “You want one? It’s free.”

 

“No thanks.” I really didn’t fancy Mark’s best friend seeing me drunk, that would have been too weird, “So, do you have like groupies and stuff?”

 

“Some. But they’re a little bit weird, so I tend to leave it to the other guys most of the time.”

 

“Of course.” I mocked, feeling evermore curious as to whether he was a real groupie-obsessed rock star or not. “I mean you read all sorts of shit about groupies in magazines don’t you?”

 

“It’s all true.”

 

“And that doesn’t tempt you?”

 

“Not really. To be honest, it’s a bit boring.”

 

I study him as he chugs on his beer, and I genuinely believe him.

 

“Do you always drink at 11 in the morning?” I asked, not meaning to sound rude but totally aware that I probably did.

 

“In this lifestyle, it’s the only way to survive.”

 

“Do you miss home?”

 

“All the time. How about you? You’ve  been away for some time now.”

 

“Yeah, I miss it sometimes, but then I remember why I’m doing it.”

 

“Why’s that?”

 

“Experience. To say that I did it. What about you? What keeps you touring in a big-shot rock band?”

 

“We’re hardly big-spot…”

 

“Are you kidding me? When my friend Marcia found out that I was friends with her rockstar crush, she practically wet herself, and I mean literally.”

 

“Gross.”

 

“Right.”

 

“Being a rockstar isn’t all people think it is. It’s kinda….boring, and….lonely…”

 

“Well then, you’re lucky that I got here to brighten the place. Is this the bathroom?” I jogged over to a door and pulled it open before Jamie even had a change to reply, but luckily it was indeed.

DAILY WORD COUNT: 1,382

TOTAL WORD COUNT: 29,482

Tagged

Day Twenty One: Samantha and Alyssa

 I smiled slightly, but to be honest, it wasn’t a question that I really knew the answer to. Mark and I had been together for so long now, with a child on the way, and eventually a marriage to boot, that Alyssa would be forgiven for thinking that I would know the answer, because any outsider would think that we actually communicate with each other. In truth, Mark has never been a good communicator. If there’s a problem, he’d rather sort it out himself than ask me to help. And when it came to Jamie, well, in Mark’s own words that was “between me and Jamie”. The lack of communication worried me all the time, because this is exactly what happened with my parents. My mother was very much the dominating one, who aired her problems to any old fool who would actually waste their time in listening, and my father would just sit there and listen to it. I think he probably fought back in the earlier days of their marriage, but by the time I was old enough to know what the hell was going on, he’s learnt to hide behind a newspaper, pulling a stoic face that gave nothing away, and then he was gone.

Everyone tells me that I’m not by mother, but in the same breathe those same people will tell me how feisty and independent a person I am. Have I dominated Mark so much that he just doesn’t want to share anything with me anymore? Or was it just my hormones going crazy with me?

“Would it help if I told you that he’s just a typical male?” I offered, having nothing else more that I could think to bullshit her with.

She smiled, knowing full well that I was bullshitting, and just sighed, “Not really. But it’s great just to know that it’s not just me that will never understand my brother. I think I gave up trying a very long time ago.” Her head span around suddenly, as if she’d just realised something was missing, “Where is he anyway?”

Another question I didn’t have an answer to. We really were on a roll with those today; “If I told you he’s gone to buy things for the baby, would you believe me?”

“Definitely not.” She chuckled, “He really hasn’t changed, has he? He used to do this all the time, when you guys were in College, he’d just disappear and not tell mum or dad anything.”

I perched uncomfortably back on the tall stall, rubbing my stomach, “I remember,” I said through slightly gritted teeth at the pain in my back, “your Mum used to call mine up at like ten o’clock at night, understandably quite panicked, which would unleash my mother’s regular tirade questioning who the bleepity bleep bleep am I choosing to spend my time with. Thanks for that one, Mark, by the way!”

“Oh, Sam?” Alyssa and I both turned around to face the doorway of the flat, “Do you think we could have a chat about something?”

“You don’t have to disappear on my account.” Alyssa smiled a genuine smile, and even if she didn’t want Jamie to see it, I could tell and I couldn’t help help slyly too.

“Well, actually…” Jamie came further into the room, apparently spurred on by Alyssa’ unexpected friendliness, “It might be good to have your opinion too…”

Alyssa and I exchanged a confused glance, as he pulled up one of the chairs from down an aisle and came and sat with us.

“I’ve been thinking.”

“Oh Lord, that must have hurt.” Alyssa laughed playfully, but bit her lip when she saw the dirty look I’d thrown her way.

“No, seriously. I wanna know who the father is.”

“Oh Jamie. I’m really flattered, but I’m not pregnant. I’m just fat.”

I couldn’t help laugh at that, because it reminded me so much of why I got along with Alyssa so much. Unfortunately, my determination at not laughing meant that it came out as a half-spat, half-snorted elephant noise.

“Are you sure that’s the best idea?” I asked, trying hard to hide my amusement, which also included attempting, and failing, to turn away so that Alyssa wouldn’t be in eyeshot. “I mean, I know it must be really crappy not knowing, but…think about Holly. She’s just a kid, who is still obviously grieving about her mother…”

“Exactly.” Jamie cut me off, and I don’t think I’d seen so much passion in him for a long time, “This is the time when Holly needs a Father.”

“But, don’t you think Felicity already thought of that…” Alyssa asked, surprising me a little, “I mean, she chose Christopher to be the father-type figure didn’t she? And maybe, maybe Christopher is the best person for her to be with. Right now anyway.”

“But shouldn’t she be with her family?”

I really didn’t know what to say. I could fully understand where Jamie was coming from, but for some reason, it didn’t feel right. I think I just knew Flick too well. Knew that she hadn’t revealed the name of the father for a reason. And, I couldn’t help worry that that reason was because the name wasn’t ‘Jamie’. I wanted him to be the father so much, almost as much as his own heart did, but something didn’t fit.

“Where’s Mark?” He asked suddenly, as if he was a small kid that hadn’t gotten the response he wanted from one parent, so was going to ask the other one instead.

“I dunno. Out. Look, before you do anything, have you spoken to Christopher about it?”

“No. But, but…you can tell he’s struggling” And I could tell that Jamie was struggling not to sound like a small child, “He’s not cut out to be a parent. He’s a career guy, we’ve always known that. And now Dom’s gone…”

“She’s coming back.” I interjected, determined to at least defend her.

“So Christopher tells us…” Jamie half spat, and I felt quite protective all of a sudden.

“Look. Holly might come across like she’s not happy, but that’s understandable, and so is Christopher struggling. All new parents are like that.” Alyssa spoke softly and quietly, and it made so much sense why these two had been so perfect together, even if I’d never really seen it. They were polar opposites. Jamie, the passionate, let’s-do-it-now kinda guy, and Alyssa that responsible, mild-mannered yeah-lets-have-fun-in-a-reasonable-way kinda girl. I wondered if Mark had ever noticed how mature she’d become, and very much doubted it.

Jamie pulled a face, “So, you both think it’s a really bad idea?”

I glanced over at Alyssa, “We don’t think it’s a bad idea…” I started.

“Just bad timing.” Alyssa agreed, and I felt really bad for them both. Here was a couple who should so obviously be together, and Flick was getting in the middle. Which seemed an unfair thing to think really, because Flick had loved Jamie too, and he had loved her too, I knew that more than anyone. The whole thing was a complete mess.

“I thought you and Christopher were getting on better too?” I queried, “It’d be sad to ruin that friendship now, especially with Holly in the middle of it all.”

Jamie nodded solemnly, which made me feel guilty, “Yeah, we are. I’ll speak to you both later.”

It had been so lovely to see his Jamie-pep back again, and I hadn’t seen it in so long either. Alyssa and I could only watch as he quietly headed back upstairs.

“I feel like I just smashed a puppy’s head in with my car.” Alyssa said, slamming her head on a book that she’d just picked up.

“What is the deal with you guys?” I asked, deliberately taking Alyssa by surprise, which was of course the whole idea. The power of shock, is of course more likely to get an honest reaction. Oh yeah, smarter than I look!

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Ugh, epic fail times one billion, “Seriously? That’s all you’ve got? C’mon.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“Really? You could cut the tension with a knife. You so obviously fancy the pants off each other.”

“How did you just get that from that exchange? He’s too concerned about Felicity’s child.”

Bingo. And that was the reaction I’d been looking for. The unexpected honesty, that she’d probably never anticipated telling anyone.

“He’s moved on.” I told her, and I believed it, “Flick is so….a long time ago.”

“Holly isn’t…”

“No, but neither are you. I know you lied to him. I just don’t really understand why…”

“You know she came to see him in Rome, don’t you?”

“Y-yeah, I heard…”

“Why would you do that if you didn’t wanna be with someone? Rome isn’t exactly just up the road and around the next corner. It’s drive to the airport, get on a plane kinda stuff.”

“Is that why you came home? Because of Jamie?”

“Sort of. I guess I got bored too. Without Jamie it didn’t feel the same. It wasn’t fun anymore. And I always said that I would come home when it was fun.”

“Do you love him?”

“What is it with you and Mark asking me that?”

I frowned, “Mark asked you that? Why?” I know that I sound demanding, but it hardly seemed like the kind of question that Mark would ask anyone, because well, you know, it would involve actual emotion.

“He wanted me to tell Jamie. To sort things out…he said that he wanted his friend back, which is why Mark is really confusing me right now.”

“Yeah, you’re not the only one.” I have to stand up, because my back is killing me so I haul myself to my feet and head to the flat door, “Are you okay to finish the stock check by yourself?”

“Of course. Don’t worry about it. It’s still okay for me to stop over right?”

“Obviously. I can’t expect you to work this late, and then force you to head back to the other side of town, that’s just crazy talk.” I smile, opening the door, “There’s plenty of snacky food in the cupboard on the left. Just make sure that you put it back, because if Mark finds it, well, there won’t be any snacks left, that’s for sure.”

“Got it! And thanks.”

Have you ever questioned why you said something that you did, when what you really wanted to say was the complete opposite? It’s like your heart is screaming at you to tell someone how you feel, but for some unknown reason your mouth does something else entirely, and then, it’s too late. That person is gone, and you don’t know how to make things right. But, it’s so difficult to get past the hurt that I felt about being lied to, because I really believed that Jamie would be honest with me, and…

My thoughts are disturbed by the sound of the shop door being unlocked. Instinctively, I glance up at the clock on the side and see that it’s gone midnight. I can’t believe that I’ve been working this long, but I really needed to keep busy, to stop me from doing exactly what I have been doing.

I stand up, and place the books in my hand on the counter just as Mark eases the door quietly shut. He turns slowly and begins to tiptoe across the room, which is when I choose to flick the light switch on. I take him by surprise, and his face says it all as his expression creeps quickly from hysteria to sheer relief when he realises that it is actually me.

“Jesus Al, you nearly gave me a heart attack.”

“Why are you sneaking in?”

He feigns a laugh, as if trying to mock the idea that he was sneaking in, but I know him better than that, and I know that he’s about to lie about it.

“I’m not sneaking…”

“Then why were you tiptoeing in your own shop?”

“I didn’t want to wake Sam, that’s all…she gets cranky, with the hormones.”

“Right.” I don’t believe him for one second.

“What are you doing here?”

“Sam asked me to do a stock check.”

“In the dark…?” Oh yeah, now I’m the one looking suspicious.

“Yeah, I was doing some thinking.”

“Oh right. Well, I’ll leave you to it.”

I stand still as he moves past me, grazing my shoulder affectionately with his hand, although I think that he’s trying to butter me up.

“G’night.” I call after him, and I feel sick.

Half an hour later and I take myself upstairs, into the living room where I’d agreed to sleep on the floor whilst Jamie took the sofa. He’d been there longer than me it only seemed fair. We’d h ad a long argument about it, but of course I’d won. I find him lying awake, pretending to read some Stephen King book.

“Still awake?” I ask, pulling off my sweater. I hadn’t realised how cold it was down there, compared to up here.

“Yeah, I’m just thinking about stuff.”

“Holly?”

“Amongst other things.”

I nod, and sit down on the pile of cushions Sam has left out for me. There are far too many of them, but I’m grateful.

“Has Mark gone…”

“Yeah, he spent ages in the bathroom though…in fact, I swear I heard him talking to himself…Weird.” She shrugged it off as if it was nothing, but it just added to my suspiscions.

“Did he seem weird to you?”

“Other than the talking to himself…? Well, he’s not really communicating in my direction, so I can’t really comment.” He looked at me, and I knew he was reading my face, “What’s up?”

“I dunno, I just caught him sneaking in….”

“You’d sneak if you had to encounter Sam too.”

“No, there was something else. When he saw me, well, when he thought he was looking at Sam, he looked genuinely terrified, as if he’d done something awful.”

“Like what…?”

“I have no idea. None that I’m willing to say outloud anyway.”

Jamie pulled the quilt over his shoulders and sat on the flour beside me, “You think he’s cheating on her?”

“I’m beginning to wonder. Disappearing all the time, and she never knows where he is…”

“Sounds like we’re seventeen again.”

“That’s what I said to Sam earlier.”

“You’ve spoken to her about this?”

“Not really, just sort of in passing. I find it weird that he’s still being off with you too. It was part of our deal that he’d be nicer.”

Jamie looked up quickly, and I knew I’d said too much. I sigh, and explain “He wanted me to talk to you, to sort things out, which I did.”

He smiled wryly, “He does care.”

I hit him hard with a pillow, “You moron.” I find it hard not to laugh.

“Hey!” He yells, “That hurt” He grabs one of his own pillows from the sofa, and promptly hits me back.

“Oh how cliche.” I laughed, “Two exes have a pillow fight and then realise they still love each other, and end up kissing. Bleugh!”

His smile faded, and I half wished that I hadn’t made a joke about. I stopped smiling too, and felt guilty. “Sorry,” I said, “Taking things too seriously as usual.”

“Just a little.” The smile reappears, and I think that I’m about to melt.

“Anyway, I’m gonna go get ready for bed.” I get to my feet, and pull open my backpack which I’d left at the foot of the sofa, “Do you need the loo or anything?”

“No it’s fine.”

“Great.”

I know that he’s watching me as I skip across the living room towards the bathroom. I know because I used to see him do it in the hotel room. It was one of the perks of being in a room with mirrors on so many wallspaces. And I skipped because I knew that he was watching, I knew that he was here beside me, and I knew that he cared. But, that didn’t hide the fact that he lied, and that on that night six months ago, he obviously chose someone who wasn’t me.

As I turn around to close the bathroom door, I just catch him looking, but he’s fast and pretends he’s not. As his shape disppears behind the bathroom door, I lock it and lean my head against the bare wood, taking in the cold. I feel sick, but the tears welling up inside my throat quash it.

DAILY WORD COUNT: 2,728

TOTAL WORD COUNT: 28,099

Tagged ,

Day Twenty: Samantha

The Bookshop had been a part of my life for so long now, that it was difficult to even consider changing anything about it. I was probably being too protective of the place, in fact I knew that I was, but despite all of Alyssa’s helpful suggestions, I couldn’t help wondering if changing the place would mean losing one of the few things that I had left of Flick.

Flick and I had found the bookshop when we were about thirteen, and it had become one of the places that we chose to hide from the world. Mrs McGregor had run the shop for as long as most people in town could even remember, and we all wondered how she ever managed to keep the place going, because it never seemed to have any customers other than us. We think that Mrs McGregor allowed us to sit in the corner of the shop for hours, purely because we were probably the only company she had. So many years later, when  Mark heard that Mrs McGregor had passed away, and that the shop would be auctioned off, I knew that we had to have it. Okay, so I had to borrow money off my Mother, which had been torturous, but it was worth every single borrowed penny.

In the midsts of my memories, I realise that Alyssa has gone quiet, “Everything okay?” I asked, softly closing the laptop because I hadn’t exactly done any accounting for a good fifteen minutes.

“I was just thinking about stuff…” she sighed, and rested her chin in her hands on the counter, “Do you ever look back at stuff that you did a long time ago, and wonder if you should have done things differently?”

“All the time.” I throw my head back, and rub my tummy, “I mean look at me, I’m the size of a whale and I’m always questioning whether or not I should be doing this.”

“Of course you should.” Alyssa said matter-of-factly, “You’re gonna be an amazing mother.”

I snorted softly, and raised my head, “What was it like?” I asked, curiously, “Travelling the world?”

“Amazing. Weird.” She chuckled a little, “It was an adventure…until it got…boring!”

I smiled, and looked at her face. “Do you regret staying in Rome so long?”

I watched her think about this, and it took her a good while to reply, “For a long while, yeah I really did. But, no. I loved Rome, it’s such an amazing city, so beautiful you know…and it always felt so safe there, the people were so friendly and you could make so many friends over there. Man, I loved that place.”

“Nothing to do with a certain someone being there?”

“Did Mark ask you to talk to me?”

I stood up, and walked to the other side of the counter, “Are you kidding me? He’d be happier if Jamie moved to the other side of the planet and we never heard from him again.”

Alyssa leaned forward, “I don’t get it. I sorted stuff out with Jamie, why is he still be such a dick?”

 

DAILY WORD COUNT: 517

TOTAL WORD COUNT: 25,335

Tagged

Day Nineteen: Jamie and Samantha

Six months ago…

“You know your problem Jamie?” Flick looked at me firmly, whilst downing her fourth, or was it her fifth glass of wine. By that point, I was too wasted to really pay much attention, “You are so bloody indecisive.”

I laughed, but I don’t really know what I was laughing at. I think I was just at that stage of drunken er…ness, when absolutely everything is hilarious.

“No, seriously Jamie.” she slapped her glass down a little too hard on the bar and got a dirty look from the barman, “You have a flipping amazing girl waiting for you up in your room, and you’re here with me getting piddled…that’s a little backwards don’t you think?”

I didn’t say anything. I was trying not to think about Alyssa, or the fact that she thought that I was out with the guys.

“What is it that you want Jamie?” Despite the copious amounts of wine consumed, Flick knew exactly what she was saying, as if she’d been planning this all along. I just wish I knew what her motives had been.

“I want a lot of things.” I confessed, “I want the simple things in life. I want to get married, have a family, have a normal job…”

“Then why are you here? Why are you in Rome with some crazy-ass band who…I have to tell you, absolutely SUCK, when you could be marrying the most beautiful girl in the world?”

“You said no remember.” I laughed, chugging down my drink, only to realise that the glass was empty.

“I wasn’t talking about me.” Her voice was calm, and the smile on her lips sweet. I hadn’t seen that smile in so long that my heart ached for it never to go away. “I think you should go. People like you and me, we’re pretty shit. We walk through life with our eyes closed, doing whatever the fuck we like, and not even realising how good we have it.  Somehow we manage to find these truly amazing people who love everything about us, from our smiles to the air that we breathe, and yet, not once do we ever sit back and realise just how fucking lucky we are. Not until it’s too late, and we are so fucked up and out of control, that there isn’t anything left for us that means we can scrape up the last dredges of a happy existence.”

The laugh bursts out of my throat unexpectedly, I just can’t help but laugh at how philospohical Flick was being. All deep and meaningful. When did Flick get all thoughtful about shit like this.

“I have no fucking clue what you are talking about.”

She placed two hands firmly on my shoulders, and ensured that I was looking her straight in the eye, which was pretty hard to do since I couldn’t keep my head straight and I was pretty certain that she couldn’t either.

“There is a girl upstairs, who worships the ground that you walk on. Who would give up anything for you. A girl who deserves to be happy.” She said, “And then, there’s me. The girl that you worshipped more than I ever deserved. The girl who treated you like crap, despite loving you unconditionally.”

“But I want both of you.” Thinking back to six months ago, this line makes me laugh the most. What was I expecting? To have both of them, so we could live as a threesome in some cosy little apartment raising Holly, whilst we lived this weird trio of a lifestyle?

“You have to choose Jamie. You can’t have both of us. It doesn’t work like that?”

“Then I choose Alyssa.” The words had surprised me more than anything, and I half didn’t know where they had come from. Still to this day I’m not sure that I know, but I can only guess that it was finally my heart taking control over the irrational part of my brain.

“Then you have to go tell her, before it’s too late.”

Without looking back, I had stood up from that bar stool that I’d been plastered to, for I don’t even know how long. I didn’t say goodbye, I didn’t even turn back. I walked straight out of that bar, hailed a taxi and drove straight over to the hotel to be with Alyssa. I shouted at the traffic for being so busy, I shouted at the lift for taking so long and ended up taking the stairs instead. I burst through the hotel doors so hard and fast, that I’m amazed it didn’t come off it’s hinges. My heart had been pounding against my chest so hard, that I thought I might collapse and die of heart failure. I searched every room of our Hotel Apartment, but I couldn’t find her anywhere, and that had been when I found the note.

“She’s gone…” Danny appeared in the doorway, and I realised that I hadn’t closed the door when I came in.

“Where is she?” I asked, as if I needed to.

“I’m sorry dude. I thought she knew…”

It turned out that Alyssa had gotten bored of sitting in the hotel room by herself, so had gone down to the bar downstairs for a nightcap. She’d been deep in conversation with Alonzo the Barman, discussing world politics, one of Alonzo’s favourite topics of conversation, when Danny had turned up with Bernadette, an American girl he’d met a few nights ago.

“A bottle of wine to go, my fine man.” A drunken Danny had smiled over at Alonzo, whilst Bernadette had literally (in Danny’s words) dripped all over his arm.

“Danny? Hey, you’re back early.”

Danny hadn’t even seen Alyssa sitting at the bar, and was taken aback to see her there.

“Heeeey little lady. I thought that you and the J-Man were having a ‘date night’.”

Alyssa had looked confused, “So had I, but he fobbed me off for some quality time with you guys.”

It was Danny’s turn to get confused, until he remembered seeing Flick in my Dressing Room, “Oooooh,” he slapped his head playfully, “He must be meeting up with the chick who was waiting for him in his dressing room earlier.”

“What chick…?”

“Oh man, I totally suck at names….old school friend or something….Flora, Fauna….Francesca…no, that’s not it.”

“Felicity?”

“That’s the one. You know her?”

“You could say that.”

Danny told me that Alyssa had looked furious, as she’d slapped her napkin down on the bar and headed towards the lift.

“It took me a while to click that maybe I shouldn’t have told her.” Danny said remorsefully, “By the time I got up here, I’d obviously just missed her. I am so sorry.”

I couldn’t be angry at Danny. It was my own fault. And Flick had been right. Good things happen to undeserving people like us. People like us who just screw everything up, and then realise how good we have it when it’s looked us in the eye, realised how crappy we are and walked out on us.

Now…

Flick’s grave was covered in fresh flowers, and I sort of felt guilty adding more to it, when some of the other graves near by seemed to be so empty and unloved. I placed them on top of the pile anyway, and stayed crouched in front of the grave glancing at who they were all from.

“Hey.”

The small voice came from behind me, and I instantly stood up as if I was about to be told off for being somewhere that I shouldn’t be. Instead, I found myself looking at Christopher and Holly. Holly was gripping a piece of paper, which she had folded up and didn’t appear to want anyone to see or touch.

“Hey guys. Fancy seeing you here.” I tried to sound as nonchalant as possible, mainly out of being so incredibly uncomfortable, but also, I didn’t really know what to say.

“Holly wanted to give her mum a picture.” Christopher explained, and placed a hand on the back of her head, “Do you want to be alone?”

Holly looked up at him, and nodded shyly.

“You don’t mind do you Jamie?” He nodded for me to leave Holly to it, and we headed towards a bench a little away from Flick’s grave, so that Chris could keep an eye on her, but far enough for Holly to feel like we weren’t watching her. “This must be really weird for you.”

“You can say that again. It must be weird for you too. Playing the Daddy.”

“Tell me about it. I hope that you don’t hate me for it though.”

“We put all that behind us, remember?” I said, remembering our conversation after Flick’s funeral.

Christopher shuffled uneasily beside me, and I knew that he was about to say something that he really didn’t want to talk about, “I found Holly’s mobile phone.”

“Ah.”

“You didn’t give it to her, did you?”

“What?” I wasn’t really sure what he was implying, “Of course not. I….oh man this is embarrasing. I kept calling Flick’s phone to hear the message on her voicemail. My god, that is so corny. And yes, I will confess that I saw someone do it in a film.”

“You won’t believe how relieved I am to hear that…so the phone is definitely Flick’s?”

“Yeah. You’re not mad, are you?”

“How can I be mad at you for wanting to hear Flick’s voice?? Annoyed that I didn’t think of it myself. Wait, how did you have Flick’s number?”

“She came to see me in Rome a few months back.”

“Ah.” He nodded, as if this made perfect sense, although it really didn’t to me. “Did you speak to her? Holly I mean?”

“Yeah, a couple of times.”

“How did she sound? I mean, was she happy to talk? Or, did it feel more like a chore?”

“What? I dunno, she just talked about Flick a lot.”

Christopher nodded, “She doesn’t talk about Flick at all you know. Not to me, or to Jane.”

“You speak to Jane?”

“Sometimes. She’s been helping out with Holly.”

For some reason this made me seem uneasy, “Are you sure you should be relying on Jane? I mean, Flick didn’t give her custody of Holly for no reason.”

“Jane’s alright.”

I decided not to push that any further, purely because I could feel Christopher being quite protective of the matter, although he certainly wasn’t fooling me.

“What’s with the picture?” I asked, changing the subject.

“She wanted to show Flick her new family.” Christopher explained, “I think in her own way, Holly is telling her Mum that she’s doing okay.”

“Do you really think she is?”

Christopher sighed softly, and folded his arms, “Truthfully? She’s been a nightmare since Dom left. I can’t help feeling like she’s mad at me y’know, for letting Dom go. It’s as if she’s blaming me for allowing someone else to walk out on her. She’s been as stroppy as hell, won’t eat her food, won’t do her chores. She definitely won’t do her homework.”

“She’s just a kid. Everything will sort itself out once Dom gets back…”

“Let’s hope so…”

Holly skipped up to us, and sat between us.

“You ready to go home?” Christopher asked, and she swiftly shook her head. I felt oddly happy that Holly wanted to stick around, because I felt happy in her company. We sat on the bench, all three of us staring in the direction of Flick’s grave, “How are things with you and Alyssa?”

“She decided that she just wanted to be friends.”

“Oh man, I’m sorry. That must really suck.”

“Ah, I’m used to rejection.” I sort of laughed. “How about we take this Little Miss for Ice Cream?”

Holly’s head moved so fast as she peered up at Christopher, “Can we?” She said, beggingly.

Christopher laughed, and ruffled her hair, “I don’t see why not. C’mon then.”

“Thanks for giving me the job…” Alyssa called from down the Fiction aisle, where she was placing new books on the shelf, “You wouldn’t believe how bored I’ve been since I got back.”

I looked up from the laptop which I was working on the accounts at the shop counter, “Trust me, you’re doing me a huge favour.” I beamed at my future sister-in-law, “Mark won’t let me do anything around here, and having him around all the time driving me nuts, well yeah, it drives me nuts.”

Alyssa poked her head around the corner, “It must be exciting though, knowing that in a few months you’re going to have this cute little ball of joy to look after, knowing that she is going to love you unconditionally.”

“Oh yeah, until she becomes a teenager and realises that I am a terrible mother.”

“That is never going to happen.” Alyssa smiled, and placed the empty box behind the counter. Once she was done, she put her hands on her hips and surveyed the empty shop. “So, err….when exactly does this place get busy?”

I looked at her about to make a joke, and realised that she was being serious, “Erm, around about never…”

“Seriously?” She explained, her face genuinely surprised, “You’re never busy? How do you survive?”

“Barely.” I confessed, “We have a fair few regular customers online, but other than that we get a few waifs and strays in the form of old dear regulars and the occasional student.”

Alyssa sat down on the stool beside me, “Well, that’s rubbish. You need to run some promotions or something. Hey, do you organise any events or anything?”

“Like what?”

“I dunno. Book readings? Book Groups? Craft groups for Kids?”

I tilt my head sideways, realising that I’d never actually thought about doing stuff like that before. I just shake my head.

“Oh my…seriously Sam, you have to put me in charge of Promotions around here.” She choked, “See, I worked in this Cafe in France for about three months, and they used to do all sorts to bring people in. Poetry Readings were always popular. Even Charity Events.”

DAILY WORD COUNT: 2,350

TOTAL WORD COUNT: 24,818

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Day Seventeen:

“What did he want?” Jane asked, and something in her tone of voice told me that she was worried.

“Nothing.” I replied, telling the truth, “I didn’t get chance to answer. But, I think that maybe  Holly has. I went through the phone and there were several calls from him, and not missed calls either. There was an even an outward call to Jamie’s phone.”

Jane didn’t say anything, which prompted me to ask, “Do you think I should be worried?”

She half laughed, “Of what? A guy trying to hold on to his ex girlfriend by talking to her daughter? I doubt it. Plus, it’s Jamie. There’s hardly anything sinister about him, now is there?”

Something in Jane’s voice made me question what she’d just said, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what the hell it was.

“all this shows…” Jane carried on, “Is that you’re a father now. You’re worried about Holly, and that’s great. If you’re really that worried, why not have a talk with Holly, or even Jamie.”

“No. No, you’re right, I’m being silly. She’s Flick’s daughter, of course they’ll always have some kinda connection that I’m just going to have to live with. It’s just. I dunno, a fully grown guy having phone conversations with a little kid? Anyone else and it’d be creepy as hell.”

“But it’s not anyone else, seriously, relax. Be more concerned about why Holly has that phone in the first place. Do you know that it was Flick’s?”

“Of course not. I didn’t look that closely at it.”

“Well…” JAne rose to her feet, “Maybe you should. Because if it’s not Flick’s phone, perhaps you should be worried…anyway, I have to go.” She kissed me firmly on the cheek. A kiss that seemed to linger for far too long, “If you need me, I’m only a phone call away okay? Just because Dom is outta the country, doesn’t mean you have a little bit of help.”

“Thank Jane, it means a lot.”

“No worries, and seriously, stop stressing, you’re gonna be stressed out at first. It’s a big change.”

I closed and locked the kitchen door behind Jane, and stood there staring into the kitchen for a while. I could hear the TV was still playing, and it seemed weird. We didn’t have kids TV playing in this house, we had The Beatles or Beethoven depending on the mood. We watched documentaries not Blue Peter. All of a sudden the TV went silent, and Holly appeared in the doorway. For a moment, we stood and looked at eachother, before she padded softly across the room and threw her arms around me.

“We’ll be okay.” She promised, and I hugged her back. I wondered how many times little Holly had said those exact three words to her mother. There was no question that kids were more perceptive than we give them credit for, but was Holly aware of how screwed up Flick’s life must have become? It tortured me to think of a little girl knowing stuff like that. Words like “too young”, “too naive” “too innocent” sprang through my head, and yet in a weird kind of way there was nothing naive about Holly, because she knew a lot more than most kids her age. And that was what scared me, because despite everything, Holly was still too young to really understand. I needed to see her phone again.

Dom called at seven o’clock just after I put Holly to bed.

“So? How are you two doing?”

“I had to call in Jane…I know, I know, I’m weak.”

“That’s not weak. But, how come?”

“I had to work late again…”

“Ah, well it happens, and I’m sure that Holly and Jane needed some alone time anyways. It was probably good for everyone.”

“Maybe…how’s Dubai?”

“Hot. Busy. Annoying. My Dad has declared that he wants to take care of Mum full time, but Mum isn’t having any of it, and thinks that he should go back to work, meaning I can come home to you guys. So of course I am playing piggy-in-the-middle whilst they battle it out, and I’m attempting to run the business at the same time. Dad is officially driving me nuts.”

“What about your mum? Is she well enough for your Dad to take over again?”

“That depends who you talk to. My Mum: Yes, my Dad: Definitely not! The Doctor: Debatable. It’s complicated. I’ve been here less than a week, and I’m not even convinced that I’m helping. I know nothing about this side of the business, I just meet with deal with clients at the front, I don’t do the accounts. There’s a reason I’m not an Accountant.”

“Maybe you should suggest bringing in a proper person to deal with the stuff you can’t do…”

“My Dad would never go for it. HE doesn’t like me being there, he isn’t going to hire a stranger.”

“I guess I’m just biased anyway. I just want you to come home and tell me how to do all of this stuff.”

“Don’t you think, that in some really twisted way, it’s for the rest that I’m not there right now?”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh c’mon Christopher. She’s your daughter now, she’s not really mine. Not really. Not until she’s accepted you. My being out of the way is probably for the best, so that you guys can bond and stuff.”

“She’s not my daughter either though.”

“As long as you are taking care of her, of course you are. Blood doesn’t mean anything. It’s what people do for you, in the real world that matters more. It’s gonna be tough, but now should just be about you two.”

“But…I need you…”

“I know…and I’m right here, and I’m gonna be back soon, I promise….”

I promise. The words cut through me like a knife, and I realised how much I was missing Dom. All this time, I’d felt an odd sense of resentment to our marriage, and the commitment we’d made so early in our relationship. And now I was understanding exactly how much I need her, and I felt scared that this was it, in her weird way she was telling me that she wasn’t going to come back. Ever. And that scared me more than words can express.

DAILY WORD COUNT: 1,053

TOTAL WORD COUNT: 22,465

Tagged

Day Thirteen: Christopher

“Yeah, but we’re managing.” I tried to smile, but to be honest I’d begun to feel exhausted, “We picked out a colour for Holly’s room, just need to go pick up a bulk supply of the paint. And I promised I’d take her to Flick’s grave at the weekend.”

“That’s great, I couldn’t get her to go at all when she was living with me.” Jane looked reluctant to share that information. “Did she ask to go herself? Or, did you do a little coaxing?”

“It was completely her idea. She wants to give her Mum a picture she’s been working on.” I pulled the picture from inside my briefcase, where I’d put it to keep it safe, and showed her it. “Any idea who the Daddy is?”

Something inside me told me that it was wrong to bring Jane into this discussion, but my curiosity had just gotten the better of me, and I was growing tired of the not knowing. She took the picture and examined it.

“I have no idea.” She replied, having the picture back, and I couldn’t help feeling that her stoic look was a little bit too forced. “Felicity didn’t exactly divulge much about anything once she’d gotten pregnant. It was as if Holly had somehow flicked some secretive switch inside Felicity’s brain. Before she died I, you know, I hadn’t spoken to her in about ten months. She disappeared from existence. I didn’t hear from her. Mum didn’t have a clue where she’d gone.”

The kettle clicked, and I made up two cups of tea, “Well, I guess we’ll never know…” I hand the mug over to Jane, “Has she eaten?”

“Yeah, we went to Pizza Hut, my little treat, I hope you don’t mind.”

“Of course not, she needs treats I’m sure.”

I sat down opposite Jane at the table, and for a while we sat sipping out tea, “How do people do this?” I startled myself when I said it, but at the same time, I knew that it needed to be said, “Dom’s only been gone a couple of days, and I’m already asking for outside help…”

“There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.” Jane smiled warmly, placing her mug down on the table, “It’s a sign of strength. Admitting that you’re struggling, and that you need a little bit of guidance, just whilst you find your feet.”

“I’m lucky I have you though, I can’t imagine my parents being quite so helpful.”

“Mine aren’t that much better either, mum’s on another planet most of the time and dad, well, he’s too busy pretending none of this matters.”

“It’s nice to find someone who understands.”

Jane placed her hand on mine, and for a second I felt safe and I knew that things were going to be okay. But, then Holly appeared in the doorway. I pulled my hand away, and back came to realisation that things weren’t going to be okay.

“Can I watch telly?” Holly asked. She had her left hand in her pocket, and I got the feeling she was holding something inside it; probably the mobile phone.

“Sure. But only for a little while.”

“Thanks.”

Jane and I both watched as she skipped away. I waited until I could Peppa Pig playing on the television in the living room, “Did you know that Holly has a mobile phone?” I wondered if I was doing the right thing telling Jane, but I wasn’t sure what else to do.

“No…”

“I wondered if it might have been Flick’s, and she was holding on to it for…well, sentimental reasons.”

“If she does she hasn’t said anything to me about it.”

“Jamie’s been ringing it.”

Jane went pale.

DAILY WORD COUNT: 618

TOTAL WORD COUNT: 21,409

 

Tagged

Day Twelve: Christopher, Samantha, Felicity

It’s getting late when Holly finally picks a colour to paint her room, and she falls asleep the moment that her head touches the pillows. For a while, I watch her sleep, which seems a bit creepy when I think about it, but something inside me feels like it’s the right thing to do, in case she has nightmares. I wouldn’t be surprised if she did. Inevitably, it doesn’t take long for me to fall asleep too, in the small arm chair that sits in the corner of Holly’s room.

In my dream, I see Flick, her hair is long and blonde and we’re stood in the middle of a field of flowers. She’s laughing. I try to reach out for her, but no matter how far I reach, she always seems so far away.

A weird ringing noise wakes me up. The room is almost pitch black, apart from something on the far side of the room that appears to be lighting it up. I’m amazed that it doesn’t wake Holly up, but I can tell from the deep breathing that she is definitely long gone. I move over towards the source of the light, and eventually figure that it appears to be coming from something inside Holly’s jeans pocket, which have been carefully folded up and placed over the back of her desk chair. It’s a mobile phone.

For some reason, finding out that Holly has a mobile phone that I didn’t know about makes me concerned, and I wondered if Dom had known about it. Something in me made me think not. As I thought about it, I turned the phone over and glanced down at the name flashing in front of my weary eyes: “Jamie”.

My heart flipped, and I thought that I’ve stopped breathing. I turned to face Holly, who hadn’t moved from her sleeping position on the bed, and wondered why on Earth Jamie would be calling Holly’s phone. And then I realised. Of course the phone wasn’t Holly’s, it was Flick’s. Jamie thinks he’s calling Flick’s phone, and I can’t help finding something oddly creepy about it. Does he know that Holly now has the phone? If he does, why is he calling her? Have they spoken before, over the phone? The idea unnerved me immensely. Eventually the phone stopped ringing, and I watched as it went back to stand by and I stood in the dark. I considered  taking the phone and throwing it away, but if I was right in thinking that the phone had belonged to Flick, I felt bad at taking one of the few things that Holly had left of her, so I ended up carefully pushing it back inside Holly’s pocket.

I headed downstairs, into the kitchen, and made myself a cup of Dom’s Lemon and Ginger Tea. Whilst I waited for the tea to “infuse”, I sat at the table and looked down at the picture that Holly had been working on. I noticed that Holly had added a few people since she’d shown me her work earlier. Beneath the title “me”, she’d drawn herself in a pair of blue dungarees. Beside her was Dom, I could tell because despite the fact that the person hadn’t been named, she was dressed in a green dress very similar to the one that Dom had been wearing. Beside her, I thought was supposed to be me, as it was a person dressed in a suit and carrying a brown suitcase. But, it was the person on the other side of Flick that intrigued me the most. I couldn’t really tell who it was supposed to be, other than the fact that it had short brown hair, so I could assume it was a male. Well, that and the fact that above the figure, Holly had written the word “Daddy”.

“What are you doing?”

I found Mark rifling under the bed, an area of the flat that I’m convinced Mark has never in his life been. It’s the mysterious space where his socks always manage to disappear into, and only I appear to be able to pull them out. It’s the strange part of the flat that is apparently completely unreachable by the vacuum cleaner, when being controlled by Mark that is. It’s the area of the…okay, you get the picture. It’s a place Mark avoids like recovering alcoholics avoid booze.

“I was looking for your Weekend Bag.” He struggled to his feet empty handed, which isn’t entirely surprising considering my Weekend Bag is kept on the top shelf of the Wardrobe, which I’m quick to point out, and coyly watch as he drags it out. “Okay, so now what are you planning on doing with it?”

“I was reading one of those Baby Books,” he explains, placing it on the edge of the bed, and I can’t help but frown at him, “And it said that we should have a Baby Bag sorted out by now, but we don’t have one. You could go into labour tomorrow, and you wouldn’t be ready.”

“I really don’t think that I’m going to be dropping this baby tomorrow.” I said, unable to hide my amusement, “But, I’m glad that you’ve finally decided to take an interest in this pregnancy. Only six and a bit months into it, but oh well, better late than never.”

“I’ve been interested…”

“Oh please, during our first scan, you spent the entire session giggling at the fact your baby had a big penis. Which is a little bit disturbing considering we’ve now discovered that your big penis-child is in fact a big-penis girl!”

“Okay, so maybe I have been as into this whole thing as I should be, but I really think that we should put together a Baby Bag.”

I pushed the Weekend Bag out of his reach, and wrap my arms around him, “I think I preferred it when you weren’t taking an interest.” I kissed him on the cheek, “Do you think you could watch the shop for a little while? My feet are killing me.”

“I told you to put your feet up.” Before I’ve had chance to say anymore, Mark has disappeared down the stairs, and I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet with that one.

I slowly eased myself down onto the edge of the bed, and held the Weekend Bag on my lap. It wasn’t Mark’s uselessness that had lead to us not having prepared a Baby Bag, and it certainly wasn’t because I’d forgotten about it. The idea of preparing one actually freaked me out. I guess that making physical preparations made this whole thing seem so much more real. At the minute, my brain was telling me that I’d just gotten fat, and all the stuff that we’d been filling up the Spare Room with were just pretty things to make our flat look more “homely”. The nausea had just been a part of eating crappy food, and the emotional crap was just because I was a woman. But sitting on the bed, looking down at the Weekend Bag made me face up to the one thing that I scared me the most. Being pregnant.

Coming from a small family, and being an only child, I’d only ever been around one pregnant person before, who of course, was Flick. The back of my mind was telling me about how hard Flick had had it, as we all walked away heading off to University, or joining bands and touring the world, or getting jobs for Law firms, and disappearing to train as a Solicitor. We’d abandoned her when she needed us, but we were too busy worrying about our stupid problems to even think about her.

“Hey!” Jamie stood in the doorway, having just got back from meeting up with Alyssa, “You okay? You look a bit pale.”

“Not really.” I confessed, and it was a hard confession to make, because I hadn’t even told Mark, “I feel guilty about leaving Flick when she needed us…”

Jamie’s face was sad, but I can tell he understood as he sat  beside me on the bed, his hand on my arm.

“I feel guilty all the time.” He admitted, “Not a day goes by when I don’t.”

“I keep thinking about how terrible a mother I’m going to be. I mean, look at my Mother, hardly a raving role model of parenthood.”

“You’re nothing like your mother.”

I snort slightly.

“Have you talked to Mark about this?”

“Mark doesn’t really ‘get’ this kinda stuff. How did it go with Alyssa?”

“She just wants to be friends…”

“And you don’t?”

“I don’t think I know what I want anymore.”

“Tell me about it.” I sighed, and decided that now might be a good time to share something that I’d been thinking about for some time, “I’ve been thinking…we might have failed Flick, but that doesn’t mean that we have to fail Holly.”

“Do you really think that Jane is going to let us have anything to do with her?”

“It’s nothing to do with her, not now that Christopher is Holly’s legal Guardian…”

“Christopher?”

“I know, it was a shock to me too.” I sighed, and wondered if it was really my place to mention it, “To be honest, I don’t think he’s coping too well at playing Daddy.”

“So, does that mean that he’s…y’know?”

“I have no idea.” And I really didn’t. “All I do know is that I want to be in Holly’s life. I want her Baby Girl to grow up knowing Holly, like I grew up knowing Flick.”

Jamie went quiet, and didn’t say anything.

“You really wanna know don’t you? Who the Father is?” I threw the Weekend Bag on to the bag, and carefully got to my feet, “Well, you want to know what I’d do if I was you?”

“What?”

“Be a Ninja!” I raised my arms in a karate chop pose, and winked at him. Of course, Jamie laughed, and threw the Weekend Bag at me. “What? Come on,  you have to admit that being a Ninja would be awesome! Imagine a Pregnant Ninja kicking some arse! But, if they were in your position, what would a Ninja do…?”

“Are you seriously asking me to think about what a Ninja would do…?”

“I’m not asking you to do anything. Ninja Sam-senpai is!”

Eight months ago…

“Hey, come on, time to get you to School.”

I tap Holly’s rear end playfully as she jogs into the hotel bathroom. For as long as I can remember, it’s always been just the two of us, but for the first time, I’ve begun to question whether I’ve made the right choice. A knock at the door brings me out of my thoughts, and Holly appears in the bathroom doorway.

“Teeth.” I pointed at her, and jogged over to the door, “I’m not kidding. Rick, what are you doing here?”

He planted a kiss hard on my lips, and I pushed him out into the hallway, “I told you. Not in front of Holly.”

“Oh come on, she needs to know about us at some point.”

“Not right now okay? I’ll tell her when I’m ready.”

Rick pulled a face that I’d seen once before, and I knew that I really wanted him to leave, “Okay. Okay, I understand.” He smiled, but I didn’t trust it. “I’ll catch up with you for dinner later, whilst Holly’s at School. But, I’ll remind you not to forget who is paying for this lifestyle.”

He ran a hand through my hair, and across my chest, before down the light dress that he’d given to me as a present. I wanted to shudder at his touch, but I couldn’t afford to lose him, and he knew it.

“Great.” I forced a smile, and forced myself to kiss him back when he planted another kiss.

“Mummy?” Holly’s voice on the other side of the door couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I really have to go.”

“I’ll pick you up at twelve.”

“Brilliant.”

“Don’t forget to wear that dress…” Of course I knew what he was talking about.

I watched as he walked up the hallway, and disappeared into the lift. I can’t even begin to describe how relieved it felt to see him disappear into it, and temporarily away from my daughter. I was doing this to protect her, but things weren’t entirely going to plan.

“Who was it Mummy?”

“No one. Did you brush your teeth?”

“Yup. And I brushed my hair.”

“Oh, good girl. Where’s you school shoes?”

She shrugged, and I could tell that she wasn’t being entirely honest. I sighed.

“Come on, let’s go look for them.”

She followed me back into the hotel room, “I think they got losted.”

“Oh really? Is that because you’ve hidden them?” I pulled back the curtains and looked behind them.

“No.”

I got down on my hands and knees and looked under the bed, “If we don’t find them,” I warned her, “You’ll have to go bare footed, and everyone will think you’re weird.”

“They already think I’m weird.” Holly sulked, and sat in the middle of the floor.

“I’m sure that’s not true.”

“No one else has to live in a hotel.”

“Didn’t you tell them that you and your mummy are having an adventure?”

“Tommy Gibbins said that normal kids don’t live in hotels. They live in houses with their mummy and daddy.”

“Poppycock, there are plenty of kids that don’t live with both their mummy and daddy, and there is nothing wrong with being different.”

“When are we moving back home?”

I sat down beside her, and pulled her into a tight hug, “This is home….for now anyway…”

“I want to live with Grandma Lydia.”

“I know.” I wanted to live with Grandma Lydia too, but it was no longer an option, “Me too. But Grandma Lydia is really sick, and us being under her feet all of the time, well, it wasn’t doing her any good. Grandma Lydia needs time to get better, and she doesn’t need us getting in the way. You understand that, don’t you?”

Holly nodded, but I wasn’t completely convinced that she really did understand, and I didn’t really expect her to. Mum had been sick for a long time, with the booze and the anti-depressants. Longer than my memory would allow. But, unlike Jane and I, I did not want Holly to grow up witnessing that. I wasn’t fair. Mum hadn’t seen it that way of course. In her head, I was deliberately sabotaging her relationship with her only grand child.

“Now come on, mummy needs to go to work today, so what did you do with your shoes?”

Holly shuffles on the spot, before eventually getting to her feet and pulling them out of her school bag. Without even asking, she had pulled them on, followed by her coat and I felt overwhelmed with pride about how mature a little girl I had somehow managed to raise. I smiled, and hugged her.

“Come on. Let’s go.”

“Hello? Are you in?”

I dashed into the kitchen, to find Holly carefully taking off her school shoes, and Jane was stood at the door.

“Jane? Hey, thanks so much for taking Holly for a few hours.” I leaned in a kissed her on the cheek, “Hey Little Bit, did you  have a good day at School?”

“It sucked.” Holly snapped, and slunk out of my reach and out of the kitchen.

“Wow. I didn’t expect the teenage strops to occur for at least another four or five years.”

Jane smiled, placing her bag on the work surface, “Don’t worry, she’s just….grieving.”

“Yeah. Can I get you a cup of tea? Coffee?”

“Oh yeah, that would be great, tea, thanks.”

I filled up the kettle with water and began messing around with mugs and tea bags, “Thanks again for having her. I wouldn’t have asked but I had this really important meeting…”

“It’s no worry, really. Where’s Dominique?”

“Her Mum got taken sick, so she’s had to fly out to Dubai.”

“Ah. So, how are you doing?”

“Honestly? I’d love to say great, but I’m not convinced that I’m cut out for this stuff.”

“I’m sure that’s not true. Flick obviously trusted you to do a good job, otherwise she wouldn’t have named you as Holly’s legal Guardian.”

“Or maybe she just liked Dominique.”

“It must be hard though. Dominique being on the other side of the planet I mean.”

DAILY WORD COUNT: 2,756

TOTAL WORD COUNT: 20,791

 

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