I just don’t feel the use. I help as much people as I can…people come to me as being “rude”. I didn’t know helping people was rude but whatever.
Also I just feel like I’m invisible. what’s the point?
I’m going to bed now so if it get either close to 200/200/more than 200, I will stay then. Probably not though.
When everything seems to be too much, and you can feel yourself sweating, you break out into tears, youre violently shaking and you want nothing more than to reach for the razors of the bottle and there is nothing else but the fear and the pain coursing through your veins.
I sighed and swung my legs like a child. Air filled my cheeks and I looked like a bloated puffer fish as I looked around the room. The water filter bubbled in the corner and the clock ticked above me. The soft clicking of the second hand was irritating me as I was reminded I had been sitting here for almost two hours.
The cars below me buzzed down the busy city street and I wished I was outside looking at shops, or sitting in a café, watching all the people around me or even observing the different cars, anything would be better than sitting in this cold room.
The walls were white and they were so clean, my eyes were stinging a little. I let the air out of my cheeks and shuffled in my seat. The steel chair stung my skin where my shirt didn’t cover my back. I crossed my legs and pulled my ipod out of my bag.
The little purple nano was completely charged because I never listened to it. That rational part of me felt like I was betraying my heart as wriggled the white ear buds in my ear. It took me a few seconds to realise how to actually use it but soon Emily’s pop songs were blaring through my brain.
I sat there skipping dozens of songs I had never heard of until a hard rap one attacked me with bass and a thick beat. The loud and hard rap verses blared in my ears and I untangled the white headphones from around my wrists. The immature seven year old inside my head wanted to scram and throw the little electronic device in the corner and sulk.
I had ignored the sweet melodies and angelic verses of music for eighteen months and now that I was completely immersed in music and th industry I didn’t see the point of not embracing it, no matter how much it pained me to swallow my pride. I felt it pierce the inside of my throat as I pushed it down, like a bad crisp.
Wasn’t the manager supposed to sit in on te interviews, to make sure that nothing was said that might start a riot between fangirls or something? I sighed as I sat back in the seat and picked up magazine from the table and dumped it on my lap.
If those boys hadn’t just decided I would be their new manager I would be back at my new home right now, watching bad reality tv and summarising the notes I made today. I might have even been in the phone to Mr. Dean about the article, but I will make sure not to talk to him directly again, considering he thought it okay to hand me other to the boys like an office temp.
I looked at the magazine on my lap. A tall, muscular dark haired man stood on the front. The picture was gritty and made his chocolate eyes look wild and unruly. His dark hair that was usually puffed up in a perfect quiff was wet and flopped in front of his face. His grey shirt was stained with what looked like tequila and his jeans were ripped just passed the knee. The big red letters above his head read, ‘Enigma shock! What has Zeke done now?’
I scoffed and looked back through the hallway again for any sign or the band but failed and returned to the magazine. I didn’t want to read the article, but I was so bored I just might have bought a yoyo to sit here and play with.
The image in the magazine startled me, I didn’t know who this person was, he seemed alien to me, like a foreign country never visited or a language never heard. He wasn’t the sweet boy I knew two years ago, he wasn’t the boy that cried during Finding Nemo, the boy that promised me he would protect me from the nightmares that seemed to attack my brain. He wasn’t the boy he knew he as.
This was the man the fans knew, the one the media and label had made out to be the bad boy. When he was away from the band he was always caught on the wrong side of the lenses with a ticket on the windshield, a drink in his hand and a girl on his arm. He was the one to watch out for, the one the fans loved because of his false sense of danger and excitement. The mysterious side of him was the only thing anyone had ever portrayed accurately.
The blinds shifted and the sun blared through and blinded my eyes. I shut them and rubbed them like a child. I remember when I had done this three years ago, on a trip to the beach with Zeke, sand had sprung in my eyes and he has sat there for almost an hour trying to help me get it out.
I honestly hadn’t given much thought to what he might have been doing since then. There was a time when I had thought about it constantly, I had worried he had forgotten me and continued with his jetsetter lifestyle, there was a time when I worried about him. I knew that he had continued to sell out multi-million dollar arenas, released a second and third album, going to thousands of parties and clearly getting closer to Cora Davidson, but I didn’t give a second thought to anything he could be doing behind the cameras and gossip magazines.
My eyes looked at the words but I didn’t really bother to read it. It would seem I was so tired I couldn’t bring myselft to do any manual labour with my brain. I skimmed the pages and the words party, London club, bleach-blonde and womanizer jumped out at me before I realised it would be beneficial if I read the entire article. I sighed again.
Last week our resident bad-boy was caught out in London that the club Marque where he enjoyed a loud and boastful party without the company of his band mates. The London club owner remembers seeing the boy and reproted to the police that he was ‘noisy, disrespectful and destructive,’ as he smashed glasses and chairs at the bar. He soon left the club with a bleach-blonde prostitute looking woman whose dress would be easier to consider as a bathing suit.
I had no right to be angry or disappointed in anyone or anything. I had no right to care about what Zeke may or may not be going through, I was nothing to them anymore. I was simply the girl that used to be their best friend, the girl that abandoned them and has suddenly blown back in to make their lives harder.
"Eunice, come on. I’ll meet you right after I drop Mark’s shirt off." the chipper voice echoed through the hall as she stumbled up the stairs. I panicked, I hadn’t thought about meeting her again. Why was this happening to me? Why couldn’t I just have a normal job with a normal project that didn’t involve having to endure the betrayal in the eyes of everyone that used to mean everything to me?
This was more than Déjà vu, it was like I was reliving my life from three years ago, and everything had remained the same. Everything but me. It seemed as if the world had stopped turning those years I was away from this life, away from the fame and the cameras and the music, like nothing had changed, and my return had sent it spinning as it should of. Like, my involvement was the key ingredient in this universe functioning properly.
I sat back down in my now warm steel chair and looked out the window to the busy street below, pretending not to notice her entrance. I observed birds flying from telegraph poled and pretended to be engrossed in the incredibly boring couple looking in shop windows. She pulled the glass door open and dropped her clunky black handbag on the chair opposite mine. “Okay, see you soon. Bye.” she clapped her phone shut and sighed.
I turned further from her, with my back to her glowing face, but she noticed me. Her brown eyes widened and her thin, pink lips dropped. “Oh, my god!” she yelled. I looked at her with pleading eyes and begging hands. I hoped she would stop yelling and stop drawing attention to us; the receptionist down the hall had peered over her desk and was beginning to stare. “Its you!”
Ripping the headphones from my ears, I leapt up and placed a tired hand on her shoulder. “Danni,” I whispered. “You need to be quiet, they’re trying to do an interview.” I bit my lip.
Danni opened her mouth to say something but shut it as the boys emerged from up the hallway. They were laughing and talking, not noticing the oblivious receptionist who was drooling on her desk as they passed.
Marks eyes widened and a smile bigger than a giraffes neck filled his pale, sun-kissed face. He ran to Danni and pulled her into his arms. “Hey, babe.” he said before engrossing her in a kiss. She giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck. She was so small that she had to stand on her toes. Today was filled with about as much kisses and lovey-dovey looks as I could take.
I remembered when that look was in my eyes, and that smile on my face, that feeling in my heart. I remembered those moments when I wanted nothing more than the feeling of his lips on mine and his hands in my hair. I squeezed my eyes shut and pushed those memories deeper in my brain.
I remembered the days when Zeke and I, Danni and Mark would go on double dates, but would end up parting ways when the loving looks and grasps of affection became too much for us to be apart. The four of us would sit for hours simply talking about how we felt when we were with our other half. I guess Danni and Mark truly were soulmates.
I glanced at the other boys and noticed the look that Zeke was wearing. He watched Danni and Mark with longing and a sense of hatred, if I didn’t know any better I would think he was on the verge of tears. Seeing them reminded him of the times we shared, just as it had reminded me.
Danni opened her bag and shoved a checked blue shirt into Marks hands and crossed her arms. “Don’t ever ask me to bring a shirt halfway across town again.” she seemed agitated but allowed Mark to kiss her neck gently and keep his arms around her.
Mark smirked. “Maybe I just wanted an excuse to see my beautiful,” he struggled, “girlfriend.” I raised my eyebrows and picked up my own bag from the couch behind me, ready to leave.
As I sat in the waiting room I had read the itinerary for today and groaned to find that a radio performance, signing and magazine interview was less than half the day’s work. “Okay,” I said quietly, “we have to head over o the square for the busking performance. You all ready?”
I fiddles with the zipper on my small shoulder before looking up at them. The five boys stood there with comical expressions, like what I had just said was a joke. I felt as if I had been pelted into heaven and was now standing before the five angels of beauty themselves. Nathans blone windswept hair was styled as it always had been and I smiled, it seemed as if he was the only one who had changed less than I had.
The five of them paid me no more attention and turned back to Danni and I shifted my weight onto one leg, crossing my arms.
Mark kissed her neck again before asking, “what are you doing today, babe?” The checked shirt he had made her bring out here had been tossed on the ground.
Danni giggled and pulled his face into his hands. “Put on hat bloody shirt, I did not waste my time coming out here.” Her blue eyes brought a smile to Mark’s face.
Mark sighed and pulled his red polo over his head and tossed it to Zeke, causing a swift gust of wind to ruffle his hair. “Mark! Watch the quiff, man!” his hands found the hair and carefully brushed it safely away. I smiled, Zeke had always loved his hair, good to know some things will never change.
Mark scoffed as he pulled his muscular arms through the shirt and had Danni do up the buttons. Zeke pulled his own shirt off and turned his back to the group. “Sorry, Danni,” he said, “I don’t think Mark would like you falling in love with my body, so I’ll just turn here.” He paid no attention to me.
I glanced up at his back and caught my breath in my throat.
Three jagged red scars travelled across his back. They were wide and dominated the nce smooth skin near his spine. I watched them, shaking, unable to tear the memory of his bubbling and burning skin from my mind. The red faded to silver and the scars were surrounded by silver tissue. I felt cold and shoved my arms around myself, unable to cure the shaking spasms rolling through my body. Lewis watched my with a worred expression.
I was aware that my name was said, I heard it. My ears seemed glazed over and my hearing numb. I was caught in this moment of guilt until a hand grabbed my shoulder. Zeke had moved now and wore Marks shirt as he stood beside Danni, looking at his phone.
I was yanked my shoulder back and I found myself facing Lewis and Jordy. Jordy’s curly hair framed his worried face and Lewis’ blue eyes darted acros my face as if I had been hit by a car and was checking me for life. “Are you alright?” he asked. I nodded and looked away, pulling from his grasp.
They were too close to me. It was as if they stood right in front of me, looking right through me, not really seeing or knowing what was going on in my head or what I was feeling in my heart. I found myself reliving these moments that tortured my memories, moments I had forgotten. Moments that these boys brought hurling back into my head.
I couldn’t seem to let it go. I could loosten my grip on the memories, the guilt crippled me. I was nothing good, I only seemed to bring complications and pain to everyone I had once loved. I couldn’t figure it out, when is the right time to let go?
Marks voice snapped me back to the now. “Wat are you going to do now, Dan?” he asked as he shoved Zeke’s shirt in her bag. She pursed her lips before letting a grin cross her face.
"Actually," she said. She took a step toward me and linked her arm through mine and held me there, as if she thought I would make a break for it. Smart girl, I just might have. "Soph and I are going to meet Eunice at the mall." She smiled at me and I wished that she wasn’t so sweet so I wouldn’t feel bad about being upset with her.
Lewis, who was looking at his shoes, popped his ead up. “Eunice!” he pulled Danni’s grasp from mine andi mentally thanked him. “Why didn’t she come with you? Oh,” he slapped the air, “it doesn’t matter. Just tell her I’ll call her later and I hope she has a great day.”
Jordy scoffed. “Lewis, you’re so stupid. Why don’t you just go see her?” He fiddled ith the belt on his tan pants. I wished he would pulle them up, the ywere nearly around his ankles.
Lewis turned to Jordy and poked him on the chest. Jordy let out a girly squeal. “I’m sorry, jordy,” his voice was piercing and I made a mental note not to joke about Eunice. “I’m sorry that I’m really busy and I havent seen her in three day. I might have visited her last night but I was caught helping you.” Jordy’s eyes widened and he shushed Lewis as if the seven of us werent standing here, listening to every word. “That’s right,” Lewis continued, “I miss my girlfriend.”
We all stood there in silence. The awkwardness stuck to our skin and none of us wanted to break the silence. Mark looked up at Zeke whos eyes hadn’t left the screen of his phone. “Where’s Nathan? He asked.
Sunshine lifted me above the ground. It surrounded me like I was a tiny fish with nothing but the limitless abyss of the ocean around me.
I took a deep breath in; the clean, crisp air filled my nose. It was like being home again, my real home. The place where the rolling hills were dominated by green pastures, where the grass was high and the waters were fierce. It was a place I could be myself, because there was room for everyone in the vast and loving arms under the brilliant blue skies.
I felt a pang of regret as I realised I was no longer there. I was thousands of kilometres away, in a foreign place that I knew nothing about. This place scared me. It was so polished and classy; I was permanently stuck, feeling like the lost country girl from Down Under caught in the big city, unable to adjust.
I took another deep breath in and allowed the fresh air to penetrate my lungs and my mind. I allowed the harmony to control me as my hands ran across the fluffy top of the high reeds in this meadow. I fell, into the safe grasp of the earth. The green grass made a slight crunching sound in my ear as it crushed beneath my body.
The sun was soft in the sky. It pressed against me and I realise that there is nothing I love more than the feeling of warmth on my skin. I squeezed my eyes closed, I didn’t want to leave here, and I didn’t want to leave this magnificent dream.
The covers were draped over my body and the fluffy blankets calmed my skin. The fuzzy feeling in my head told me I wasn’t fully awake. The small chirping of birds outside my city window nagged at my ear. My consciousness was pulling at me, begging me to embrace it.
I realised that I wasn’t cold, and it wasn’t because of the piles of blankets that covered me. I realised that there was sunlight burning my closed eyelids and I smiled to myself. Finally, it seemed as if something positive was happening on this miserable island.
Something solid collided with me and the bed shook violently beneath me. There were screams in the air and suddenly I was shaking crazily. My eyes flew open and my heart beat became rapid. “Wake up, Soph! Wake up!” Lewis yelled. His hands had me by the arms just as they had yesterday.
I could not see Nathan, Jordy or Zeke, but Mark was standing by the door. He wore his beloved blue checked shirt with jeans. His pale skin was stretched in a smile on his face, but it didn’t reach his brown eyes. He seemed troubled and I could quite easily imagine what he was feeling at my return.
I managed to untangle my arms from the blankets and I glared at Lewis with my sleepy gaze. “I’m up! I’m up! I’m up!” I repeatedly screamed at this crazy child. He smiled and slapped me in the face. My mouth dropped.
It seemed so unreal that I was back here, that we had all come into contact after everything that had happened. It felt like a very surreal dream, like I wanted this to happen so badly that I was living it unbelievably in my subconscious. Lewis’ deafening screams in my ear told me otherwise.
"Close your mouth, Soph, you’ll catch a fly!" he said as he leapt from the bed and ran out the door screaming the other boys’ names.
It felt as if no time had passed with Lewis. He was still that twenty-year-old toddler that always knew how to pry the laughs from my malignant sense of humour. It seemed as if I never left and he had never become a hugely famous boy band, he never met thousands of girls and he never thought of anyone else to annoy and infuriate but me.
I loved it. I loved that he made me feel fifteen again and I loved that he was mature enough to not treat me like the destroyer of human kind. A pang of guilt surged through me as I realised that the others would never feel the same. As I sat up in the bed rubbing my tired mind I wished I could go back in time and change everything I did that year. We would never be the same as we were, never best friends, but never quite enemies, either.
Mark chuckled as he leaned against the white door frame, which I noticed was missing a door. Funny, I could’ve sworn I opened and closed a door when I came in here last night. I stared at him in wonder. What was he doing here? He walked to the corner of the room where I had dumped one of my bags.
"You really know how to make five guys feel like crap, Soph." he said, unzipping the bag to reveal nothing but books and notepads. I think I saw him raise his eyebrows at the sight of my beat up copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The copy I had stolen from him when he wouldn’t lend it to me.
I groaned as the sunlight hit my bare eyes and I knew I was awake now. “Huh?” I asked hazily. He chuckled again and zipped the bag back up and sat on the cane chair in the corner.
"You leave, destroy us all and then return with every intention of doing the exact same thing." he seemed to speak with no emotion, like he felt nothing towards me and the big brother-little sister relationship we used to share was completely gone. It felt like he wanted nothing to do with me and I really could not blame him for that. In fact, I applauded him for it. The ice in his words burned.
"Mark," I said with a sigh, "I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything I did. I know I have no excuse, and I don’t want one, but I don’t want you to hate me." I spoke and it was barely audible, like a mumble from a frog. "I wish you didn’t hate me." I could feel my eyes stinging again and I quickly hid behind the blankets. I was not a weak girl and I would not let these boys bully me into thinking any different.
I had been waiting for this moment to arrive, the moment when they all told me they hated me and they wanted to see me leave. I had waited for the time when they would throw me back in the car and wave me goodbye as I drove away. I could remember not two years ago when we would give anything to be all together in one place and we would joke and play and forget all the worries of the world. I could help them forget everything they were expected of and they made me feel loved, they made me feel needed. I wondered why they didn’t kick me out last night.
Mark glided from his seat to beside me on the bed like a bird flying at a worm. His arms were around me and my head was in my hands. He rubbed my arm comfortingly. “Soph, I don’t hate you, I never did.” he sighed. “I never could.” warmth had begun to flow from him and I knew he was back. Mark was the guardian of us all. He was the protector and he watched over us all like a father. “It just really hurt when you abandoned us that are all.”
My years were flowing again and I felt like a stupid little girl crying over spilt milk. I turned into him and wrapped my arms around his neck, burying my damp face in his chest. “I’m sorry, Mark. I don’t know what to do.”
He pulled me away and looked in my eyes with a deep breath in. he wiped a tear away from my cheek. “You hold your head high and you do the job. That’s all that matters. Okay?” I nodded and he let me go, making his way to the door. “Now, get ready we have a radio interview in an hour.” I looked around the room for my clothes cases. “Soph?” my gaze returned to him. “I missed you, I’m glad you’re back.” I offered him a slight smile and he whipped back around in a split second. “And I want that Harry Potter back.”he slipped around the corner before I had a chance to respond.
I dozily dragged myself out of bed and pulled the t-shirt off my head, throwing it over the nearest chair. The jeans I was wearing yesterday sat on the edge of the bed and I pulled them back on, not caring about the small tear stain on the pocket that Ellie had left. I dumped my feet in my converse without socks and threw my hair up in a ponytail. I found myself running out the door as Lewis called, “Hurry up, Soph!” I yanked the notebook and pen off the table.
I hit my shoulder as I ran out the door to find the boys waiting down the hall in the office I had been led through yesterday. They were hunched over the table and nibbling cookies. Nathan, however, was surrounded in crumbs and was shoving bread in his mouth, not even bothering to chew before he swallowed. Surprise and confusion crossed all their faces, including Zeke’s, who was huddled in the corner, not wanting to look at me. He was killing with a smile, not letting the other in on his master plan.
"Uh, Soph?" Lewis asked hesitantly. "Not that we don’t like your enthusiasm or anything, but, don’t you think you’ll need a shirt?" his eyes fell to my chest.
I hadn’t realised that I hadn’t put on another shirt as I tore yesterday’s one off. I stood before five teenage guys in my lacy purple Victoria’s Secret bra that Emily got for my birthday last year. I wrapped my arms around myself and inched out of the room. “I haven’t got my bags, yet.” I called around the corner. I leaned against the wall. Zeke was going to make this day and this year so uncomfortable, I just might melt in to the earth. I didn’t want to stand there and look in his eyes only to see hatred.
Lewis chuckled. “Well, you’re still going to need a shirt, love.”
I sighed and thought about my options for a moment before returning to the kitchen and stood in front of Lewis. I reached my arms around his neck and pulled the blue and white striped t-shirt off his head. The boys seemed shocked and perhaps worried while I pulled the shirt onto my own torso. I stood there wearing Lewis’ shirt awkwardly in front of them for a moment. We looked between each other, I felt like I could see the tension bubbling off of Nathan, Jordy and especially Zeke. I swallowed.
"We should go," Nathan broke the silence. Our eyes seem to avert away from each other and to the ground simultaneously. They all made their way to the large red front door I had entered the night before, unaware of the sadistically torturous dream I was entering.
Spencer appeared outside with a deep navy coloured limo. “Hey, guys!” it was way too early for his chipper attitude. “Jump in real quick and we’ll make our way to the Jive FM studios!” he said with a little hop-jump. I rolled my eyes. He clapped his hands together and rubbed them as he looked at the boys eagerly. It would seem the band and the manager had been together long enough that they understood what he was trying to say and they piled in the car. “Lewis, there are spare shirts under the seat.”
"Come on, Soph." Surprisingly, it was Nathan that called to me out the window. I looked at the blonde boy with shock, but Spencer ripped my attention away.
"Miss Sage," he said, "you can sit in the front and I’ll take the back with the boys." he smiled. I smiled back sarcastically and rolled my eyes once more when he had turned his back. He didn’t even wait for a response from me, he had glided in the door to the back of the limo and I ran to the front in fear of being left behind.
As I plopped myself in the seat and yanked the door shut, a familiar voice warmed my ears. “Well, hello again.” Gerard said with a deep chuckle. I turned to him and he only needed one glance to decipher my mood. He winced. “I take it meeting the boys didn’t go so well.” he considering the other option, he said, “but, I guess it went well enough to not get you fired.” he chuckled again but I was not amused
I scrunched my arms across my Lewis clothed chest and slumped back in the leather seat, making it squeak a little. I sighed loudly and dramatically, half hoping the boys in the back might hear me. When they didn’t I went on. “Turns out I already know,” I used a mimicking tone and shook my head, “the band.” I sighed once more and fiddled with the buttons on the dashboard without any idea of what they actually did.
"Hey," Gerard swatted my hands away from the knobs and buttons as he kept his eye on the busy road. "Don’t touch, Miss Sage." he chuckled again. Was this man ever serious?
I threw my head back on the seat and it kind of hurt but I pretended I didn’t feel anything. “I’m sorry. I’m just a little angry.” I paused. “And upset, and nervous and scared and-“
"And you’re not entirely sure how you’re going to get through six months of awkwardness?" he cut me off. His eyes flicked to me and back to the road. He had met me yesterday and had all of two conversations with me; I didn’t understand how it was possible for him to read me so well.
I scowled at him and pursed my lips. “You know, for a driver you’re not a very good listener.” I said with poison.
"I’m right, though." he looked at me with a smile as the long limo came to a halt in a large empty car park that was fenced off, probably to keep the masses of screaming girls away. I glanced around us through the tinted windows as Gerard laid a gentle hand on my shoulder. "This is only the first day. You go in, the boys do the interview and you come home. You may have to take some notes in that pretty book of yours, but that’s about it."
I didn’t even get a word in to the ginger bearded man before Spencer had already pulled the door open and was peeling me from the seat and toward the double doors of the large building. Everything was moving so fast and I wondered if every day was going to be like this. As the seven of us, plus the security team headed by who I assumed was Kevin made our way down the halls I scrawled in my notebook about what I was experiencing.
All I could hear was the muffled screams of the girls surrounding the building like seagulls around hot chips on the beach as the hoped to get some down their gullet. Only, these weren’t seagulls, and instead of deep fried chips the wanted a piece of the boys.
It was almost as if they didn’t realise that they were people too, they didn’t seem to understand that they were only human. People followed them every day, they screamed at them, cried, yelled, ran, and threw themselves at the hulking security in the hopes they might get to touch them, or smell them. It was hard to understand, really. I couldn’t fathom the reasons people might be willing to give up and sacrifice so much for five boys that don’t even know they exist.
The group of us were led into a large open area that was filled with exotic furniture and the smell of pie. I took a seat on the red leather chair by the window and crossed my legs. I was going to stay quiet and out of the way, not attracting any attention and especially not giving the boys any reason to talk to or even look at me.
Nathan ran to the big wooden table under the bright golden lights and screamed, “Oh! Pie!” He scooped up a ceramic plate and used his hands to grab a slice of the steaming pie. He didn’t even ask! What if he got in trouble, what if, by extension, I got yelled at? I began to worry for a moment before I realised that the band was earning this station millions just by being here.
The screaming outside hadn’t died down, rather, it had gotten louder and every now and then an extra loud girl would yell out a ‘we love you!’ or a ‘Nathan,’ ‘Lewis,’ ‘Jordy,’ ‘Zeke’ and ‘Mark.’ I sighed and looked around, trying to observe everything but the situation I was stuck in for six more months.
All the furniture was a deep brown wood and stood on a hideously bright yellow carpet. The was a bar to my right with a small girl behind it, ready to cater to any of the boys needs and the elevator was directly in front of me. Why did we climb two flights of stairs if there was an elevator? The security really is tighter than I thought. What I was really interested was the booth in the corner of the room.
The walls were made of glass, just like Mr. Dean’s office and I could see the people inside. There was a dark haired man who was sat at a desk tapping on a computer while talking into a large microphone. The larger lady had short blonde air and was laughing; she too, had a large microphone. They were waring puffy headphones and were engrossed in what was being said. Many chords and wires snaked around the five empty chairs that sat around them. The sunlight from the large window in the booth shined on the wall sized picture that displayed the word ‘Jive’ and a picture of a monkey with headphones on it.
A small man that had been standing by the booth door tapped on the glass raised a phone to his mouth and said “Were clear.” the man and the woman took off their headphones and exited the booth with their arms outstretched and big smiles on their faces.
"Hey, guys!" the man said, "It’s great to meet you. I’m Kyle, and this is Janice." he pointed to the woman beside him before engulfing each of the boys in a vigorous handshake that even they had never experienced from a radio show host.
Nathan wiped the pie from his face and smiled. “It’s great to meed you.” crumbs fell from his lips and he just looked at them on the floor before taking another giant bite. I shook my head, same old Nathan.
"Nate, come on. Were guests here, don’t be so rude." Mark said sternly as Nathan shied away from his tone. Good to know I really hadn’t missed much. It I was three years younger, a child stupider and five friends regretful now would have been the time I would jump in, tell mark to shut it and take a bite of the pie with the Nathan egging me on and the others laughing in a corner. I was different now and remained out of the way. "Sorry, Kyle." Mark said pleasantly and Nathan stuck his tongue out and scrunched his cool Irish blue eyes when he wasn’t looking.
Kyle furrowed his brows at Nathan, looked to Mark and Jordy, Zeke and Lewis before rubbing his hands together and smiling again. He must have been nervous; the patches on his grey plaid shirt weren’t exactly inconspicuous. “I’m sorry, we don’t have much time, let’s get in the booth.” he pointed to the door.
Janice, Kyle and the five boys made it in the booth, their headphones on and were ready to go before the last song had ended. The short man from the door offered me a pair of my own headphones and smiled before returning to a computer by the booth. I slipped the giant earmuffs over my head.
Kyle’s deep, husky voice dominated the empty sound. “Alright, we are here in the studio with Enigma!” he laughs and Janice takes over.
"That’s right, Kyle, we are joined by five of the most talented boys on the planet, Mark Pellingro, Jordy Parkes, Nathan Haines, Lewis Thyne and Zeke Orsino. Now, boys, how do you feel to finally be home in England?" her chipper voice radiated in my ears.
The boys laughed, some groaned and Nathan yelped. I looked up to the booth to see that he had dropped the small piece of pie he was enjoying. It sat in a purple and pastry bubbled mess. Mark scowled at him and replied to Janice’s question. “It’s definitely great to be home, I mean, it’s great but it was also amazing being out and meeting fans.”
"Yeah," Zeke said. I remembered when he used to speak so softly and passionately. I remember when he used to talk to me. I had forgotten how amazing he sounded. He was only talking now and he sounded like an angel drinking honey, I wasn’t surprised why girls cry over his voice. "The fans are everything and its awesome performing, but I missed my family and my bed." he giggled, but not like a girl, like a manly man.
Kyle was looking at the ground that Nathan was nearly crying over and smiled. “Nathan, you seemed to have dropped your slice of pie. Its making you very upset isn’t it?” he asked into the microphone as he tapped on the computer.
Nathan sniffled so loud I heard it through the headphones and tore his wet gaze from the crushed pie. “Man, I haven’t eaten for ages. I was really liking that pie.” he wiped his eye dramatically. His pale complexion displayed the rosy pink in his cheeks and a tear dropped onto his flat, skinny chest, staining his red polo.
Jordy scoffed and laughed. “You silly leprechaun. You had a sandwich and a cookie less than twenty minutes ago! You never stop eating!” the six of them laughed at the clearly distraught Nathan. If this wasn’t about a slice of pie I might have wanted to console him. Zeke’s deadly smile lightened the mood a little.
Nathans head snapped to Jordy and he was yelling slightly. “Jordy, how many times s=do I need to tell you, I do not live in rainbows! Just because I’m Irish and I’m not the tallest guy on the planet does not mean you can call me a leprechaun!” he crossed his arms.
Kyle smiled at them, trying to lighten the mood up. “Come on, guys, settle it down.” He chuckled. “Now, Lewis, tell us about this movie you five are working on.”
Lewis was playing with Jordy’s thick and curly hair but dropped his hands behind his back as Kyle said his name. “Oh, uh,” he looked to the other boys who snickered and didn’t try to help him out. “Well, we are making a behind-the-scenes movie so our fans can see what were like when we’re not singing on stage.” he smiled.
Zeke followed on. “It’s headed by an Australian production company. We’ve met so many wonderful people who are helping us with this.” he pointed to Jordy.
"Yeah." Jordy continued. "There’s a lot of stuff in there that the fans don’t know. They can get to know us a little better and get an insight to our lives on the road." he fiddled with the headphones on his ear before taking the wide rimmed glasses of off his tanned English skin, laying them on the table before him. He doesn’t even wear glasses.
Janice was nodding and her blonde hair was being blown by the small fan in the corner. She looked between the boys and smiled. “So, boys, what do you think is a fact about yourselves that the fans might discover in your movie?” her eyes were wide and it seemed she was a fan herself. I wasn’t surprised; everyone was a fan of Enigma these days.
The five of them chuckled together and looked around. “Well,” Mark said in his deep leader voice. “I think you’re just going to have to wait for the movie, guys.” he smiled.
Kyle and Janice had begun to say that they must know the secrets right now but I was distracted by the loud bangs emanating from the elevator. I ripped the earmuffs from my head and dumped them down and pretended to scrawl things on my notepad even though I knew I was doing nothing wrong.
"What do you mean they can’t fit me in!?" a tall and skinny brunette woman’s screechy voice pierced the quiet studio. She wore a tight purple dress that displayed her bony shape, lack of curves but somehow magically large boobs. She was carrying bundles of shopping bags and walked elegantly in her platform stilettos. "I am Cora Davidson; they do know that, don’t they? I am the biggest superstar on the planet!"
I watched her in awe like a finch would an eagle. She was perfect. Her deep brown eyes and perfectly plucked eyebrows were enhanced by her high cheekbones and caramel skin. She must have been American; you can’t get a tan like that in London. Her gorgeous plump and full lips were a shade of fuscia, the same coloured feathers that hung in her long and soft chestnut hair.
"Well!" she screamed into the speaker of her Blackberry, "I will be telling all my famous friends how terrible they are!” she slammed her phone and all her bags down on the couch next to me and I jumped a little at her apparent rage. She growled as she sighed.
I looked around the room, everywhere but at the girl. She stood beside me and looked to the booth and smiled. As she shuffled some of her bags and sat down beside me, the faint smell of roses and lemon wafted off her. The lemon was strong and I winced a little. She looked at me but I stared straight ahead.
"Hello," she said with her strong Californian accent. I turned to her and smiled slightly. I was uncomfortable and I didn’t want to talk to her if I didn’t have to. I wasn’t threatened by her obvious fame, beauty and wealth, she was just not like me, and that made me feel uneasy.
She leapt up from her seat and I shied into the back rest as the boys emerged from the booth. They had smiles on their faces and their arms were outstretched as they called to her. “Cora!” Jordy said.
Nathan jumped into her arms and pulled her around. “Cora!” he yelled as she smiled and giggled in his arms.
"Hey, hey, hey." Zeke said. "Hands off my lady." he pulled Cora out of Nathans grasp and held her by the waist as he kissed her gently. I felt like my heart had fallen out of my butt.
For eighteen months I spent every waking second crying, moping and regretting everything I had ever thought was a good idea. I stayed in bed every day wishing I could turn back the past and how everything would turn out if I would have changed it. I spent hundreds on tissues and changed my bed way more frequently than needed by a normal person.
Then my parents threw me out and everything got so much harder.
I was happy to learn that Zeke had wasted no time when he left me. I guess it wasn’t hard to find good looking and rich girl out of the millions that loved him when you’re as famous and talented as Zeke Orsino. Something inside of me was burning and I hoped it wasn’t jealousy. No, I wasn’t jealous, I couldn’t be jealous.
I was happy. I had a family and commitments, I had a stable job and I was in a beautiful city. I had no idea how many great people I would meet and how many opportunities were waiting for me but I couldn’t shake the feeling of anger i felt watching that perfect Barbie doll in the arms that once caressed my face and stroked my hair. I sighed and plopped back onto the leather couch with a squeak.
Her smile shined like a thousand spotlights pointed at me. Her perfect chestnut curls made my ponytail look like a troll’s hairstyle. The buttons on my phone lit up as I squeezed it too tightly in my rage. I gritted my teeth and noticed that Jordy was grinning at me amusingly. I squinted at him and shook my head. He turned to Spencer, who had appeared behind him.
"Hey, Spencer, can you grab me a half-calf double moccasin with an extra shot, two equals and whipped cream? Oh, and hold the foam." he rolled the sleeves of his checked shirt up. I turned away so they wouldn’t see me smiling. Jordy drinks a skim latte; he was trying to mess with Spencer.
Spencer sighed and made his way to the bar in the corner. Jordy smiled and turned to Zeke and Cora, who simultaneously turned to me. “This is Cora.” Zeke said in a low voice, keeping his eyes away from mine.
"Oh!" says Cora happy and bubbly. "We’ve met, actually." She pulls me into a hug and the lemon attacks my nose once again. I choked a little on her mounds of hair and I wondered what she was saying. We hadn’t exactly met, and we definitely weren’t acquainted enough to be hugging. I shuddered.
When she released me she returned to Zeke’s arms and I was wide-eyed. What was she doing? Spencer returned behind the boys and handed Jordy a foam coffee cup. Jordy smiled thanks. He took one sip and spat it out immediately, creating a brown stain on the bright lime carpet. Everyone’s eyes flicked to him.
Disgust filled his face and he through cup down on the coffee table beside where I was sitting and yelled at Spencer. “This isn’t what I asked for! This is terrible! Get me another!” he said in an overly dramatic voice and I was surprise he didn’t crack a smile. If the singing didn’t work out, perhaps he had a future in acting.
Spencer stared at Jordy before scrunching his nose and gritting his teeth. He shoved his hand in Jordy’s face and yelled louder than a kindergarten teacher at a kid that didn’t be quiet during story time. “That is it! I’ve had it with you five! You’re all selfish, stuck up and demanding. I hate you all and I quit!” he scoffed loudly before stomping to the elevator and pressing the button, not waiting to scream a “bye!” before the doors closed.
Enigma no longer had a manager, the idea took a second to sink in. who was going to look after them? They had no one to keep an eye on the dates, the interviews, the performances, the radio appearances, the award shows and the crazy amount of fans they needed to avoid. I didn’t know how they were going to do to get a new one, and I had no idea who was going to take this job now that the entire world knew that they were really five year olds inmanager talented young adults costumes.
Cora looked at the boys. The silent shock buzzed off of the group and I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be joining in the worry. “Woah,” she said. “What are you guys going to do?” the five of them exchanged worried looks and then angry ones at Jordy who smiled and shrugged.
"Sorry guys." he said and Mark sighed, left the group and pulled his mobile out and held it to his ear. He began to chat into it rapidly and I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Every now and then he would nod and look up at me and I would look away and out the window where the crowds of girls were beginning to disperse. "I’m sorry, I just wanted to piss him off," Jordy continued. "I didn’t think he would quit."
Mark returned with a smile that irritated me, he was happy in the midst of a crisis. He rubbed his hands together. He looked to the boys and Cora then let his eyes rest on me. “Good news,” his smile grew wider, “Sophia can be our manager!”
My eyes widened, my brows furrowed and my heart sped up. I looked at mark and shook my head rapidly. “No, Sophia can’t!” I yelled.
My brain pounded against my skull and I grabbed it as if I could soothe it with touch. My vision couldn’t focus on the swirling crowds that seemed to follow my every move. Bodies were everywhere, they hugged and kissed and said there goodbyes as my heart yearned for my own family.
Pain thudded through my legs like I had been doing fitness training for a gymnastics event for the past eighteen hours. I did not feel like I had been caught on a plane, stuck in the same position forced to listen to the old lady that had been seated next to me since we departed from Hong Kong. She chatted my ear off, like I was actually listening to what she was saying.
"Oh, my grandchildren," she wold say, "Gerry, he plays lacrosse. He is so very good!" eventually, I less than politely told her that I really didn’t care about her grandchildren and asked her to zip her lip until we landed at London. She looked appalled and I thought that if she had a problem she could holler at Dr. Phil.
Yes, I did realise I had been a total bitch to everyone I had come in contact with but my mind was less on these people I would never see again and more on my endangered job. I felt horrible for talking to that lady like a classless ape, but what was I expected to do? Should I have continued to listen to her intently and be super tired when we landed, be rude and horrible to my boss and the very special ‘project?’ No, I needed to make a good impression.
I found myself drawn to the small chemist in the airport and realised I could get some relief for the pounding and throbbing inside my skull. I didn’t even stop when I yelled at the small girl in the princess dress who was dancing in the aisle, where I was walking.
All the people rushing around the airport in London were really beginning to aggravate me. Everyone seemed to be leaving and moving on when I was stuck and unmoving. I couldn’t stand rude - hypocritical, I know - and obnoxious people and they seemed to be the only kind of people around me at the minute. I had to duck and weave around the stopping and chatting travellers as I was the one doing something wrong!
There was nothing I wanted in this moment than to be at home, in Australia with my head below my florally covers and my ears bombarded with the sounds of Ellie screaming and singing with the Teletubbies. I wanted to smell the coffee that Emily brings into my bedroom and we sit and talk about everything like we used to. I had to get it through my head that all of that was gone for a while.
I felt on edge, on the tips of my toes and eager to leave here. The dank stench of sadness and welcoming swirled around me as tears fell and farewells were sung. I choked up a little, remembering my own goodbyes. When I finally dragged my large bags outside the airport I was glad to be able to breathe fresh air. British air.
The swarms of crowds didn’t end outside and I found myself ducking between people looking for gaps and spaces of air. Thick British accents carved the air around me and I truly knew I wasn’t in Sydney anymore. The taxi cab bay seemed to the most popular destination for people to gather and I wondered where I was supposed to go.
Actually, I began to panic. I was scared that I was in the wrong place and I was supposed to have done something or gone somewhere that I hadn’t. I was scared I would find myself in trouble with my boss, I was scared he would yell at me, like a school teacher would a student that hadn’t done their homework.
I surprisingly found a vacant bench and dumped myself and most of my bags on it and rested my head between my hands. I pulled my phone from my pocket to see if I had received an email telling my anything I clearly didn’t know when I heard a husky voice above me.
"Excuse me. Are you Miss. Sage, from Morgan-Dean Productions?" he seemed hesitant and a little scared, just like me. I looked up to see a short man with a fluffy orange beard and a driving cap covering his hair. His eyes were troubled.
"Yeah, that’s me," I said as I offered him a smile. He immediately calmed down and was relieved when he found me. Great, we were both in the right place and had narrowly avoided scolding.
The thing about sleep was that it didn’t matter how much you were able to catch you still seemed to be incredibly tired, like you had never slept at all. It was like there was a sleep monster, and he ate all the hours of sleep you had managed to steal and you were left with nothing but sore heads, heavy eyes and that exasperated feeling of being unable to finish the day.
In between the snoring fat man and the chattering old woman I had managed to get eight hours of aeroplane shut-eye but was still in a really bad mood. The man before me must f noticed this and took my bags off of my hand without a word, placing them in the boot of a very sleek, black limo. For a ‘small Australian company,’ I was surprised they shouted me a first class ticket and limo ride. The man ran around the side of the car where I was and opened the door to the passenger seat, rather than the back seat.
My eyes closed themselves as I let my head roll back on the headrest and inhaled deeply. I wrapped my arms around my slim body as I realised I was chilly. The man glanced at me and turned a dial underneath the radio. “Sorry,” he said. “I get a little too used to the chill.”
I smiled towards him and leaned in towards the vent that was spraying the glorious warm air on to my face. “I’m Sophia.” I offered. “Where are we going?” I peered out of the windscreen for any signs of a destination.
The man chuckled. “My name is Gerard and I will be your driver for the next twelve months, is it?” I nodded slightly and he continued. “Yes, well, if there is anything you need or anywhere you need to go you just let me know and I will be there. It doesn’t matter what the time is.” his fuzzy ginger beard curled into a smile of his very own.
Gerard seemed like a nice and sweet man, how did he end up as a driver for snobby media workers? Not that I thought of myself as snobby or anything. He seemed very genuine and I was thankful for that, it wasn’t something you found commonly in people. Out of all the people I didn’t know here, this man was someone I wanted as a good friend.
The headache pills in my bag screamed at my memory until I popped two out of the foil packet and threw two of them down my throat with a swig of water that Gerard had waiting in the limo. “So, where are we going?” I repeated as I wiped my damp mouth.
He chuckled slightly. “Your boss said you were a curious one. He can’t meet you until this afternoon, so I’m going to take you straight to the band apartments where you will meet the boys and then the management to discuss the project and residency arrangements.” he smiled as he checked the rear view mirror. “After that, if you like I can show you some stores and things.” he checked my reaction. “Only if you would like to.”
I smiled at him and thought about his offer. I realised that I craved the relationship he was offering me. I felt like a sixteen year old again and Gerald was my father trying to reconnect with his daughter and offered to take her to the mall. I realised that Gerald could very possibly be the most important person I meet here. “I would love that.” my smile reached my green eyes and he returns it.
Small pitter patters begin to sound on the roof and I look up as If the ceiling of the car was missing or transparent. The atmosphere in Britain is very, well, dim and unpleasant. The drizzle slurred itself down the tinted windows and the cold seemed to penetrate my bones. The grey skies made me feel sad, like a stormy cloud had permanently settled itself over the entire country, like it had something to be ashamed of and was being punished. The high winds were blowing the trees beside the roads alike a howling tornado and I hoped the car wouldn’t get blown of the road.
The sunshine and happiness that came naturally with being an hour from the beach was completely gone.
Gerard and I sat in silence for twenty minutes, but it seemed like it had been hours. He had pulled up on a busy London road in front of a large blue building nestled behind wrought iron gates that would keep the devil himself out. A man who seemed annoyed at our arrival ran from the gates with his poncho flapping around him, yanked my car door open and pulled me out with haste.
"Miss Sage," he yelled, "The storm is coming. We need to get inside." I looked up at the churning clouds above my head and nodded frantically. I didn’t want to get caught in a powerful and foreign thunderstorm. The man turned and yelled something to Gerard who was now back in the car and driving through the now opened gate. The man led me up the long gravel driveway and in through the heavy red door.
We stood in the long hallway where doors that led to an even bigger maze of house lined the walls. The paint smelled fresh and the furniture was new. This house hadn’t been here long. I could smell tea and bread dough in the air as I realised I was hungry. People were bustling about, cleaning windows and dusting vases, even transporting trays of food around.
"I’m sorry about the disorganisation," the man said as he took my coat from my back and handed it to a small blonde woman who looked as if she would fall under its weight. "We’re still getting used to being in one place. I’m Spencer, by the way." he smiled and shoved his hand into mine, shaking it violently as if he didn’t realise I was just a scared teenage girl. "I’m the boys’ manager."
Spencer was a tall and slim man. He had scruffy dirty blonde hair and had thick rimmed glasses falling down his face. His unkempt outfit of a brown cardigan over a white polo, paired with jeans made him seem as if he was a university student who just underwent eight hours of non-stop gameplay on World of Warcraft. He certainly didn’t seem like the manager of the world’s most successful band in twenty years.
I smiled slightly, not wanting to hurt his feelings, he seemed like he would take offence to a vegetarian turning down the pork chops he cooked. “I’m Sophia,” but you already knew that.
"It’s nice to meet you, Sophia. This is the house that you will be living in during your stay. Now, I don’t live here, myself, but Kevin does." Who the hell is Kevin? Spencer must have noticed the look of confusion on my face. "Kevin is the boys’ security unit; he handles the crazy fans and the press. He lives in the East wing, and the North wing is yours." he smiled and laid a hand on my back, guiding me through the door immediately on our right. Why was he in such a hurry? There must have been something I was missing, again.
I felt unbelievably out of place here. I didn’t understand the things he was saying, I didn’t feel comfortable in this mansion and I didn’t think I ever would be. The thought of teenage girl’s crazy enough to need a ‘security unit’ scared the living daylights out of me. I had no idea how I was going to survive twelve months completely immersed in foreign matters.
The smell of lemon and honey in this office played with my memories. Nostalgia gripped me and I remembered those times in my parent’s backyard in the Australian sunlight, singing so loud it was closer to screaming. The best part was that we didn’t care.
I shoved a wall against that part of my brain. My tired mind and yearning stomach was beginning to mess with me, it was forcing me to think about things I hadn’t in a long time, things I felt better forgetting. A few more doors and hallways, maids and butlers later, I found myself following a winding path between trees and outside looking at a bungalow. The dark grey clouds raged and cracked above us.
This bungalow was in the corner of the property, away from the frantic hysteria of the reminders of fame. It didn’t match the blue shade of the house with its warm ivory bricks and coffee shingled roof. It seemed homey, like it was that place you knew you could always escape to. The glass doors and windows were camouflaged with red curtains and the sounds of laughter and screaming emanating from inside did not sound human. I wasn’t sure if I was meeting a human band of boys or a group of wild baboons.
Spencer turned to me. “We chose your company for a reason, Sophia. You need to make sure this goes well, if the boys don’t like you or something like that we will have to sever the agreement. They have no idea who you are or why you are here, you’re going to have to tell them about the movie deal, okay?” his hazel eyes were wide and were boring into me like I was a child being told not to cross the busy highway. I nodded.
What if they didn’t like me? If I had to return to Australia empty handed and disappointing, having to tell Mr. Dean and the company that I screwed up big time I think I would die. I would go home, pull the covers over my head and adopt six cats. I would be that useless hag that everyone knew existed; they just never saw her disgusting face. Even my cats would be ashamed of me. Ellie and Emily would not want anything to do with their screw-up in the family. I choked on my saliva as I realised we were not a family anymore, it was just them, and me.
Spencer held both of my shoulders under his bony, computer keyboard tapping fingers. “Good luck. They are quite a handful.”
He seemed almost scared of these boys. They were teenagers, I was sure they liked to go out and get drunk, they liked to eat, they liked to crack jokes and play practical pranks on people, they liked the girls and the liked to publicly embarrass each other. They must have been crazy and unpredictable to cause this full-grown man to fear - or even despise - them. They were no different from the boys I went to school and they certainly weren’t as bad as a fidgety two year old that refused to eat her morning fruit. Spencer cleared his throat and gestured for me to enter as he pulled the glass door across on its rails.
I stepped inside, ducking below the hanging fabric. The inside was dark with the only light coming from the television that had captivated the attention of the four boys dressed in nothing but boxers and pyjama pants. “Boys,” Spencer announced, “This is Sophia.” all four faced whipped around and focussed on me.
I had always known that this universe was insane and unpredictable. I had been aware since I was a young girl that the strangest things were always going to happen to me at the most inconvenient times. It liked to play people, just to show them who was boss. It would give people an amazing opportunity, or provide them with great experiences and then turn around and fuck them in the ass, laughing.
The world liked to remind you that it was the king and it ruled your life like ants under a magnifying glass. Sure, it was nice and sometimes gave you something you really wanted, but most times it would show you that you were a selfish person and yank that special something away from you and replace it with something ten times worse.
Yeah, I knew this universe had a twisted and uncanny sense of humour but I never thought, through everything I’ve experienced and everything I’ve learnt, I never thought this world was cruel.
That’s exactly what it was. In my experience, the world was cruel. It had decided that I was someone unworthy of even remote happiness or satisfaction; it had decided that I was its personal punching bag and it liked to see me suffer. It couldn’t bear to see me with a secure job, a blessing family and some satisfaction with who I was now. No, it wanted to throw some past torture, nostalgia and drama back into my life.
I had always thought I was smarter than the universe, and the world, and the non-existent god and I was smarter than karma. I had always run from the problems it threw at me, like an assassin outrunning the law. I avoided the fights and struggles that asked something of me. I hid from the world and I hid from myself.
But you can’t hide from your past, no matter how hard you try to forget it. You can move across the world, you can make a family, you can get a new job and never think about your past but it is always there in the back of your mind, begging you for your attention. It was always on your shoulder reminding you of that which you wish you could just erase like a voicemail message and it had always found a way to push itself back into your life. You don’t want it, you don’t need it and you never ever thought that you would have to deal with it a second time. But then again, no one ever thinks that the sun won’t rise the next morning.
The four boys’ faces were commanded by horror, hate and confusion. They looked between each other and then to Spencer, then, finally, back to me. Their mouths were dropped open; they had nothing to say in their surprise.
The one with scruffy blonde hair and a cookie in his hand spoke. His tone was angry and outrageous. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Something inside me forced me back outside. I didn’t duck under the fabric this time, but I ripped it down as I ran out the door. I was walking down the path with branches and leave hitting me in the face and I swatted them away, but didn’t bother to protect my face.
I had to get out of here. I had to make it back to the gate, the car, the airport and I had to make it home. That’s all I needed, a bucket of ice cream and I needed to force this out of my mind like I had the first time I left them. I felt the tears sting my face and I tried to shove them back but they jumped from my eyes and ran down my cheeks. Where was Gerard?
I heard him calling from behind me, I heard him get whipped by the same branches that I had but I wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t stop for him, and I couldn’t stop for anything. I had to keep away and I had to stay in front of him, in front of the memories and the nostalgia and in front of the pain. A large hand grabbed me by the arm with such a force that only anger could provoke.
"Stop!" he yelled. I squeezed my eyes shut. Somehow I convinced myself that if I didn’t see him this wasn’t real. The irrational and immature part of me said that if I couldn’t see his high cheekbones and glassy blue eyes this didn’t exist, he didn’t exist and I wasn’t here right now, it wasn’t happening.
He held me tightly with both of his bulging biceps. I couldn’t move. I thrashed in his grip, trying to shake off this dream, this nightmare. I was trying to get away, I needed to get away and I needed to leave here right now.
His words were stronger, louder and harsher, more dominant and demanding, scary, even. “Soph. Stop, stop! Look at me!” he shook me. Something in his pleads told me he was in pain, and I needed to open my eyes. I felt as if the world was going to end in a sea of fire and chaos, the very earth would crumble beneath the soles of his Supras if I didn’t see him.
My eyes flew open and the emerald pierced him. He had forgotten that these eyes had the ability to change his moods with a three-second gaze. All I could see was the swirling blue of his eyes, I didn’t look anywhere else. I didn’t look back at the bungalow and I didn’t look for the others. Lewis’ perfectly windswept hair and clear skin enveloped all my senses, shoved the smell of musky cologne up my nose and made me feel very insecure, just as I always had when I was younger. I shuddered as he gripped my wrists in his slim fingers. He allowed me no opportunity to leave this incredibly unreal and torturous moment.
His muscles relaxed and his loosened. “It’s really you.” he said, still holding me, like I was a cloud that would drift away if he let go. He sighed and his breath came out in a huff, smelling like coffee and tobacco. He was aware of the small crowd of onlookers we had accumulated, the maids and gardeners were beginning to peer at us through windows and over hedges. He paid them no attention. Unfortunately for me, all of his attention was fixed on me, I wasn’t going anywhere. “What… How are you?” he attempted to grasp words but finally fell into the safest question to ask.
He saw the tears in my eyes. I couldn’t speak. The breath caught in my throat and my tongue seemed to swell two times its healthy size. I was paralysed, frozen in fear and caught in anger. Why didn’t I know that this was going to happen? I was so stupid! I should have known I could never get away with something that could benefit me or my life.
The cool water caught in my eye lashes and forced itself down my cheeks in the trails of itself. I tried to stop it but Lewis’ grip on my arms stopped me from moving an inch. I had no choice but to stand before him, naked in the glory of all my emotions.
"They all hate me." was all I could manage. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea why that seemed to be the only thought my mind could comprehend. I didn’t care what a few stupid boys from my past thought about me, I didn’t care about how I affected them with my actions. I wanted to tell myself they didn’t matter, but I knew they meant too much to me to not matter.
Lewis pursed his lips in sympathy. “No they don’t, Soph.”
"Did you see their faces?" I yelled at him, the tears no falling faster. I couldn’t breathe and the air tore down my throat, stinging me. The hate and despise they must have felt to look at me the way they did crushed my heart. Nathans blue eyes were filled with such anger at the sight of me, how could I do that?
I never really stopped to consider what happened to them when I left, I had just assumed they didn’t care or were too busy to even think about me. I was wrong. I was a monster. The pain they must have felt, I couldn’t bring myself to look at Lewis again. Why was he here? I was a monster.
I couldn’t understand why he had chased me, it seemed so, well, stupid. The confusion of everything intensified when he released my arms and took my hand gently, leading me to a small seat that was looking across a small pond. The koi fish snaked beneath the water and I felt eerily peaceful and calm watching them. The wooden cover over our heads protected us from the heavily falling rain.
"Can you blame them?" he asked. He head snapped up and I looked in his eyes again. He felt relief, anger, confusion, happiness and something that seemed like a lack of understanding. Lewis had always been the joker, the one who was always laughing and creating the laughter. He was caring and always passive. Seeing him this angry and vicious scared me and I had to remember that a lot of things can happen in two years.
I didn’t speak, I couldn’t speak.
He continued. “They are all hurt.”
I wanted to tell him. I wanted to tell him everything. I wanted to scream and tell him how crushed I was, how I couldn’t even find reasons to get up in the morning. I wanted him to know that I left school, that I left all my friends. I wanted to tell him that I moved away from that house he loved so much, that I had to move to Sydney and find a job with nothing to support me but my sister that I never let my understand why she followed me.
I wanted to tell him that I was buried alive, that I was trapped in the chaos of my emotions. I was trapped in the pain and heartbreak and tears, I couldn’t even move. The coffin was choking me, stealing my air and eventually I would just lie in bed all day looking vacantly out the window. But, no, I would lie and I would make it seem good.
"You just left us. You suddenly disappeared off of the edge of the Earth like you had never existed. I know that when you guys broke up it was hard, it crushed the both of you, but we didn’t have anything to do with It." he watched me as the rain fell. "Mark, Nathan, Jordy and I had nothing to do with it; we got caught in the crossfire. You were our best friend too, Soph. when you left us we had no choice but to believe that we meant nothing to you, that you actually wanted to leave us behind."
He didn’t know what I was going through and it made me angry that he thought he had a right to be saying this. He didn’t know anything; he was merely an onlooker who never knew the whole story, just like everyone else. My sister was the only one that could ever know how I felt because she felt it with me, she watched me going through it, unable to make a single difference.
"We needed you, Sophia," he grabbed my hand with his. "We were new to this whole thing, too. We were freaking out and we needed our Fifi bear," he was lucky he was Lewis; he was the only one I had ever allowed to call me that. "I know it would’ve been weird and awkward at first, but you guys would’ve patched it up."
How could we have ever made things the way they were I could not fathom. There is no way that someone can go from meaning everything to someone, being their life, their breath, their inspiration and their voice to being that friend they barely talked to when they were away. If I couldn’t be his everything I didn’t want to be his anything.
"You two needed each other to exist. You were too big a part of each other’s lives to just disappear like you did. He still needed you, Soph." I didn’t know why he was trying to give me a guilt trip, I dint know why he wanted to make me feel like all of this was my fault and I don’t know why he was trying to convince me that he cared in the least what was happening with me.
"You ignored us for months," he continued, "We must have tried to call billions of times. We even went old school and wrote you letters, which always returned unanswered. I know we all tried to contact you somehow but you never replied. I’ll admit it, I hated you for a long time because of that." he shook his head and squeezed his eyes shut, fighting tears of his own.
It hurt that Lewis hadn’t even considered my side of the story. I could believe that he had never had the thought that sticking around was too painful for me, that the reminder of what I had and what I had lost was too much for one single, sane person to bear, let alone a naïve and proud little girl like I was.
"Then we heard your phone was disconnected, Nate freaked, like you had died, or something. He stopped eating. That how we knew something was seriously and horribly wrong. I mean, whenever have you known that boy to not eat?" he chuckled.
Lewis didn’t know that I had to sell my phone to buy dinner one night for Emily and I. he didn’t know that we were expecting a child and we were both scared. He didn’t know that my parents had kicked me out of home. He didn’t know what I felt and I hated that he was pretending like he did.
"Zeke was completely mental. He was torturing himself. You destroyed him. You killed him to the point where he would just stare in to the distance and reply with nothing but one word answers. He loved you more than anything in this world and you crushed him like a bug."
"Lewis, I’m sorry." I burst out. "I’m sorry that I left, but you can never understand what had happened to me, you can never imagine what I was feeling. It was far more than a little teenage breakup. The pain almost killed me." oh, lord. The tears were back. I was so bare and vulnerable like an injured dove. I had no protection.
Lewis pulled me against his chest in a loose hug. “I know, love. I just missed you. I missed my best friend, my drinking buddy and my Toy Story mate.” I could hear his heart beating, the soft thudding calmed me and I could feel my own heartbeat slowing. “I’m sorry about them, they are just angry. They all took it pretty hard and I guess they never really got over It.” he gave me a soft smile that I didn’t return.
This was the first time I really knew what they had been going through without me and guilt gripped me in its cold talons. I felt horrible and I felt cruel for doing this to them. “I’m really sorry, Lew.” I said softly as I pulled myself out of his hug. He smiled at me again.
Taking me by the hand again he pulled me through the path and back towards the bungalow. The rain had stopped but the drops were leaking off of the trees leaves and into my greasy, unwashed hair. “Let’s go see if we can all sit down and have a civil conversation.” he said.
I didn’t want to go back and face them. I didn’t want to see that pain in their eyes and I couldn’t bear to hear the words they would yell at me. I had no choice, though, they were now my job, my life, and I had to make this work.
We were almost at the terrace when we heard a deep voice behind us. “Lewis? Alright, bringing a babe to the bungalow, you sneaky bastard.”
My heart felt as if it was going to fall out my butt. I felt the blood drain from my face and my hands go cold. I stopped breathing and my heart stopped beating. Air could not penetrate my lungs, nor heat my body. I was paralysed by that voice. Lewis and I both turned slowly, dreading what came next.
Anger, relief, betrayal, hatred and sadness all swirled across his golden brown face to form some hybrid emotion that could only be felt when in a situation like this. He was frozen with his eyes glued to my cold face. I tried to swallow but my muscles refused. He was standing before us like a squirrel before a lion, scared and helpless, wanting to show his power and ultimately sad and confused in the end. He looked straight at me with a blank face and I realised this was going to be harder than I ever thought possible.
"What the fuck?" Zeke yelled.
The cleanliness stung my nose. The blinding light bombarded my eyes like heavy explosives. The booming voice overhead rattled through my brain and the teeming crowds reminded me exactly why it was that I hated airports. Planes buzzed above us in the sky, but I stood still, dreading these very fleeting moments.
The sterile feeling somehow made it worse, like there was no emotion in this intensity. Tears threatened to fall before a word had even been said.
Ellie clung onto my arm like I was going to fly away any minute. The horrible thing was, I intended to fly off any minute. I was going to leave her all alone with Emily, all alone with her fears, left to let them boil her slowly. She refused to loosen her grip even though it was so tight I was certain I would have tiny hand shaped bruises tomorrow. Bruises that would do nothing but remind me what I had left behind, what I would wish was all I had with me.
I was worried she would forget me, I was so scared she would. When I eventually returned, my biggest fear was that she would turn to Emily and ask who I was, or merely remember me as that girl who used to live with us for a little while when she was still a child. In her eyes right now I knew that she truly believed I would always be here with her. She knew, as I had always told her, she was never alone, she never would be alone with herself. I guess this makes me a liar.
'Never make a promise you can't keep.' that was always my motto. I tried to justify myself with various excuses, 'I didn’t know this would happen,' and 'well, she always has Emily.' my guilt seemed to be insatiable. I was left to tenderise in it, like a chicken waiting to be consumed by a raveningly hungry family. I just hope it wouldn’t consume me wholly.
Emily was the first to shed tears. Her eyes were red and puffy. I could only remember one other time when she had looked this terrible, only one other time when she had looked less than perfect. At twenty-four, she still teared up every time she realised that Mr. Tubblesworth didn’t really go to ‘kitty heaven,’ like she had when she was four.
Her platinum blonde hair frizzed around her wet face as she attempted to tame it with the back of her hand. Keeping one arm with Ellie, I used my other to tuck her hair behind her ear. She giggled slightly and croakily.
"Is Sophia Sage finally shedding her robot parts and showing emotion?" Emily’s voice was raspy, like she had spent days at a music festival and had damaged her voice box from screaming up at the bands so much. It broke in random places and I found it hard to understand what she was trying to say.
I tried to smile but happiness eluded me. Emily’s smile, however, dropped. Ellie used her free hand to grab my sisters and yanked us both down to her height. I was glad that she had allowed Emily to put her caramel brown hair in piggy tales, they reminded me that she was just a child, and I was committing a horrible atrocity.
"there are planes here! Where are we going? Are we going to Disneyworld?” she wasn’t sad, she was curious. Sometimes this curiosity landed her in enigmatic situations, like the time she somehow landed in the next door neighbours, Mrs. Maine's, koi pond because she found a sad butterfly. The curiosity that she possessed was something I had always wished she hadn't inherited from her father.
Emily began to cry again and I gripped both of Ellie’s shoulders. “Ellie, love. We aren’t going to Disneyworld. We aren’t going anywhere. Just me.” I tried to give her a weak smile, but again I failed. Horror dominated her face as she mimicked Emily started sobbing. Tears stained her sun kissed skin and destroyed the innocence in her warm brown eyes.
"You’re leaving?" she demanded as her gaze frightfully shifted from me to Emily, to the planes roaring outside and then back to me. "You cant!" she yelled. She begun to pull away from me as she stomped her feet violently. I’m sure she expected that I would release her so she could run from us, but my grip on her arms only tightened.
Emily was crying harder now, but still attempted to help me steady the child. “Ellie, she isn’t leaving for good. She will come back, she’s only going away for a little while, like a holiday. I promise.” she panicked.
This didn’t comfort Ellie. In fact, it made her violent. She began thrashing in my arms. Her hands were flying around like an aeroplane propeller and her stomping intensified. Her cries alerted nearby onlookers who promptly stared at what must have looked like two adult women grasping and fighting with a child. I bet they thought we were molesters or kidnappers. I flashed them all apologetic smiles for the noise, most of them merely pursed their lips in disgust.
At my apology most of them turned their heads and walked away with their superiority and pity. One, however, had sent for a security guard who was now approaching Emily and I, along with screaming Ellie.
"I’m sorry, ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to step away from the child." he may have been a giant six-foot and burly man with tattoos covering every inch of skin that wasn’t on his face, but his voice was surprisingly soft and gentle. You know, considering he was apprehending suspected child kidnappers.
Emily became hysterical now. “Come on, Ellie!” she yelled as the guard attempted to calm her with hand movements that mimicked those an outdoorsman would use on an angry snake. His thick hands eventually found their way to Emily’s wrists and yanked them off of Ellie.
During this time I stood there without saying a word. I was completely stunned. I didn’t understand how a small round of goodbyes to sent me of thousands of kilometres around the world somehow lead to Ellie being scared of her own family and Emily getting arrested by airport security. It seemed like everything around me always spiralled out of control, like I was a walking disaster. This is when I realised it was actually a good thing I was leaving them.
My brain kicked in while the man was cuffing Emily. “Sir, I apologise for this situation,” I explained, “but, that is my sister,” I gestured to Emily, “and she is the child’s legal guardian.” Ellie was now still, I supposed her damned curiosity overpowered her fear as she wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve.
The airport security guard looked to the weeping child and then to me and my pleading hands. He pursed his lips and his deep blue eyes glazed over with deep thought. “How do I know you’re not lying?” he asked skeptically.
Fear gripped my lungs. There was a chance that he would seriously arrest Emily and seize Ellie like a piece of undeclared luggage. I would have to stay and sort it out, losing my job and all the credibility I had been trying to build up for the last eight months. I would lose everything simply because Ellie didn’t want me to leave.
I suppose that reaction from her was something I had always hoped to get from her. All I had wanted was to have her care about me, and see me as more than ‘aunty Soapy.’ you know that saying ‘you cant have your cake and eat it too?’ yeah, that totally applies here. The guard looked at me quizzically as I tried to pull words from my dried lungs.
As if this was a superhero movie, and I was a stupid, incomprehensible damsel in distress, James swooped in. His crisp suit hugged his toned an muscled body. He was good looking, and he was someone every girl had always wanted, I’ll admit, but that suit sealed the package of perfection. Lord knows, how his interest was piqued by Emily.
"Is there a problem here?" he addressed the guard as he fixed his navy blue tie. The hairdresser must have missed a few strands on his perfectly cut head, they hung down his face next to his long lashed eye.
The guard looked at this strange man in shock. Where had he come from? “Yes, uh, sir. These women seem to be harassing this child.” Ellie was still silent at the mans foot, but the redness of her face was the indication to James that she had been, and possibly still was, in distress.
James looked to the guard and then to Ellie. He gently pulled up his pants at the knee, laid his briefcase on the floor and knelt next to Ellie. She rubbed her eyes as he opened the case and pulled a small stuffed bunny from it. The cream coloured bunny rabbit had large ears and seemed to be dressed in a green dress, if bunnies could wear dresses. There was a large ‘E’ embroided on one large ear. This small toy seemed to bring sunshine to Ellie’s face, though it could have been because James was finally here. She hugged the bunny and then James.
"Ellie," he said as she pulled away, "do you know these girls?" he looked up at Emily and I, as did she. The guard looked at them both expectantly. I’m not sure what he expected, exactly, it seemed as if he expected the little girl to jump into our arms. Maybe he actually wanted her to yell ‘stranger!’ so he could escort us to an interrogation room, this job seemed effortlessly boring.
Ellie used the bunny toy to wipe her face and then cautiously nodded. The guard pursed his lips and removed the handcuffs from Emily’s wrists, pushing her slightly as he did. She yelped and rubbed her arms where they had marked her skin. I enveloped her in a soft hug. She wiped her eye once more and left my arms, seems she craved the comfort of James’ arms more than her own sister. I totally understand though, if I had an ultra-successful, good looking boyfriend, id probably toss Emily off of a cliff!
"Thanks, James." I said with a smile. Ellie had calmed herself down and was now jumping around. I pulled her up on my lap where she sat patiently, playing with her bunny. "We could’ve been in jail if you hadn’t have come along."
He smiled and looked at Emily, who was connected by the arms to his waist. “Oh,” he exclaimed. “I don’t know how I feel about a bad jail girl.” he chuckled and Emily slapped his back, shushing him violently. She looked around to see if anyone had heard him.
The PA system buzzed overhead, reminding me that I really haven’t left work. “Flight 16-a, Sydney to London will begin boarding now.”
My heart accelerated and my breath caught in my throat. Tears stung the backs of my eyes as I reached for Emily and James. My arms wrapped around theirs. “Take care of her!” I pleaded. “Make sure that she eats all her breakfast, and that she doesn’t watch too much TV, and remind her, every day if you have to, that I’m coming back.” I pulled them closer.
James pulled away from Emily and I. “Soph, its okay. You know we will do everything we possibly can. She will be alright. Calm down. Its only for eight months, and then you’re back here with us. You’ll never have to leave her again.” he smiled brilliantly with that twinkle in his eye. He then left our little hug circle and joined Ellie, who was admiring the large planes outside the window. She was propelling her bunny in the air above her head and making whooshing sounds.
I squeezed tears out of my eyes, hugged Emily as tight as I could before wrapping a hand around her neck. “You don’t need to worry, okay?” she nodded as tears flew from her eyes, her porcelain skin was red and splotchy. “You will always have money in the bank, you just need to use the card.”
James had brought Ellie over to us and I heaved her up into my arms. I wiped my wet face of her pretty pink ballerina dress that she insisted she wear. The course and sparkly fabric scratched my face but I didn’t care because the smell of Ellie’s cocoa butter soap filled my nose.
James and Emily were intertwined by the hands and Emily’s head rest on his chest as they watched me. I pulled Ellie back, allowing her to see my tears. “Ellie,” I said with a sniffle. She just stared at me blankly, like a rat before a crocodile feeding. “I love you, okay?” I needed her to reassure me, I needed her to tell me that she understood and she knew with all her heart that I would never leave her, even though I was.
She nodded. “I love you too, Soapy.” she said simply. The lack of front teeth sent spit fling all over my face. I didn’t care though. In fact, I realised I would miss it. She reached up and began to twirl a piece of my blonde hair in between her chubby, tanned fingers.
"Eloise Sage," I said firmly. "Don’t forget this. I love you." I shook her gently, as if it would make my words sink in faster. Her wide eyes bore in to mine and more tears sprang from mine. I let my gaze drift to the planes outside. The red jets with the frolicking kangaroos of the tail reminded me of home.
Here. My home was here. In this empty and barren land. My home was where deserts were threatening to take over and the rainforests still displayed their dominance. It was the place where you only needed to drive twenty minutes to the nearest clear beach. It was where I knew who I was, because I was in a place that I knew.
It struggled with the thought that the change of scenery would change me, perhaps when I returned I would not be Sophia anymore. It scared me.
I knew where I was when they were near. They were the road that I knew and now it felt as if the street lights had gone black. Everything was clear when I was with Ellie ad Emily, they showed me where to go. Would I lose control without them? Would I drive off the road and fall prey to those who wish to destroy me. They drove my soul. I needed them.
I was snapped back when Emily and Ellie pulled me in to the biggest hug I had ever experienced. They were both now blubbering and loosing tears, just as I was. Its funny how it takes a big change, a huge sacrifice to realise what you have and how much you love it. “We’ll be fine,” Emily whispered.
The booming voice returned overhead. “Final boarding call for flight 16-a, Sydney to London.”
I violently ripped my hand across my weeping eyes and looked to James. “Take care of them for me.” he nodded and pulled the two people that meant the most to me closer to him. I couldn’t help but feel as if he was taking them from me, like he was replacing me.
I pulled myself to the door, showing the air hostess my ticket. She smiled pleasantly, just as she did thousands of times a day. “Have a nice flight, Miss Sage,” she offered. I forced a smile in reply.
I couldn’t bring myself to say ‘goodbye.’ that was a word one used when they were losing something, it meant they were never coming back and that was not the case today. I couldn’t let myself see that I was burning bridges, I was not losing them forever, only for a little while.
I was led on to the plane and shown my seat next to a large man who seemed to already be asleep. He was tossing and turning, with his hands spread across my seat and his luggage where I was supposed to sit. I looked around and shook my head, realising this was going to be a long flight. I gently moved the mans hand and he snorted in reply. Squeezing myself in to the chair, I put my feet either side of this obnoxious mans bag.
I looked out the Qantas window above the sleeping man. The airport windows were tinted quite dark, but I new that Ellie was in there. I knew she was watching the plane with envy and with amazement, I hope with sadness, too. I hoped she would miss me, I hoped she would cry over me and I hoped she would dream about the day I returned. Truth was, I just couldn’t see it being possible.
A deep beeping registered overhead. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to flight 16-a, from Sydney, Australia to London, England. My name is Curtis Matthews and I will be your pilot for today. So please, sit back and relax as we await the pre-flight safety talk from our hostess’. Thank you, folks.” and with another beep the deep and husky voice disappeared.
The small, electronic brick in my pocket vibrated on my leg. I pulled it out so see that I had a text message. Fiddling with the buttons, I read the text.
Buy me aa tedry baer, lufv frum Elwie.
A smile crossed my lips as tears ran down my cheeks. I wiped them away with the back of hand for the third time today. I hadn’t even left the airport and she was still thinking of me. It was all I could ask for.
A large lady with deep red hair approached me with a tray. “I’m sorry, Miss, but I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to switch that off. Its unsafe for the flight.” her warm smile showed me that she didn’t intend to be rude and was genuinely protecting the safely of the passengers.
I smiled at her in apology, glanced at the message once more before switching it off and slipping it back in to my pocket. I sighed as my head rolled back on to the headrest of the seat. “We’ll be fine.” I repeated to myself. I hoped it was true, I hoped I was strong enough to believe it. I wasn’t.
The bell rings out in the distance and rainclouds come to play again. The grey fills the skies and darkens the road. Children are running from the falling droplets and hide under covers before they are hit. She isn’t afraid of the rain. She is wet and she isn’t scared.
The soft pitter patter of the rain on the leaves is calming as she runs through the forest. She touches the leaves as she runs and the rain falls on her brown braids. Her smile is wide, though she is alone.
The cars are running along the streets, windshield wipers darting across the dash, clearing the view. Her eyes are clouded and she falls over a branch. The drivers don’t know she is just down the road, masked by the trees.
She can hear the soft rippling down the hill. She hoists herself off of the ground and she soon knows they will come for her. Her smile fades and a worried gaze settles in her blue eyes. Her yellow gumboots squelch in the damp dirt as she begins to run again.
People above begin to buzz in the small clearing of rain. They hold papers above their heads and pull up their pants as they run from the puddles. They haven’t noticed. Her friends are on their way home where they will have something warm to drink and perhaps a blanket to wrap themselves up in.
She won’t drink something warm and she won’t be wrapped up in a blanket. She tells herself not to cry as she runs. Her hand can’t help but wipe itself across her damp face, but it can’t tell what are raindrops and which are tears.
She wants to scream, she wants to tell them she isn’t broken, she doesn’t need to be fixed but her voice is caught in her throat. The tears have swelled her neck and she can’t stop running, she won’t stop running.
Birds chatter above her and she wonders what it is like to fly. She thinks of where she could go if she could leave this place and fly higher than the clouds in the sky. She raises her arms and pretends to fly like a bird as she runs across the leaf littered forest floor.
No one has noticed she is missing, no one cares enough to notice she is missing.
She runs faster now and thinks of her bear she left behind. He is laying on her bed back at home and she wonders who she will talk to when she is all alone and the air is silent. She sheds another tear and it falls to the floor.
She has stopped running and is on her knees. She feels the damp floor seep into the knees of her jeans but she doesn’t care. Soon she will be completely wet and none of it will matter.
The rainclouds are fighting now and she heard the cracks of breaking bones and screams from them scare her. They have always scared her, they always seemed to make her remember of that night she wanted to forget. There are some things a nine year old girl should forget. But she isn’t broken.
Her brown glove has unravelled itself on a tree and she pulls the bundled mess off of her cold hand. She throws it on the floor and realises she isn’t far. She pulls herself up and begins to run again.
The teacher from her school looks around the playground worriedly, she knows she is gone and her ‘mother’ isn’t here. Her mother hasn’t been here for a long time. She looks around the damp street and her worried gaze falls on the trees lining the other side of the road.
She wonders as she runs, would it make a difference if she smiles and doesn’t believe? She uses her sleeve to wipe more flowing tears from her icy cold cheeks. She realises she is shivering and she wraps her short arms around her unnaturally skinny body.
She doesn’t notice the large log that has fallen on the ran and her boot falls from her foot as she trips over it. She tumbles down the hill and falls into the viciously cold stream by the large oak tree.
Flashlights dart around the trees and amongst the damp leaves. Men call her name but she doesn’t respond. She won’t respond. Men in blue uniforms and suede police hats search the trees desperately for her.
A flashlight catches the bright yellow of her gumboot and their hearts drop. They pound their feet on the ground down the hill and as they reach the stream they cry as one.
She wants to scream. She wants to tell them ‘I’m still here.’ they can’t hear her. She cries a little more. She can’t see anything but the tops of trees and they grey of skies. She is cold and the numbness grasps her body.
Something is telling her they will never hear her and she questions it. She doesn’t understand why she is here all alone with nothing but her mind to talk to.
She doesn’t need to be fixed, she yells, she’s not broken. I’m still here.
The cold ripples over her as the bright light blinds her eyes. She can’t close them and she is scared now. Can they see her? She hopes she can have something warm to eat and she can have a blanket like all the other kids she knows. But she can’t.
The man in the police uniform looks over her. A tear falls from his own eyes as he reaches and touches her hair. The current was too strong for her, she couldn’t hold on. He holds her small, cold hand. Suddenly she knows she’s not dreaming.
She is running again. She is looking for her mother and she remembers the warm smell of honey in her chestnut hair. She remembers the way her mother hair flipped around as glass cut her face. She remembers the way the twisted metal scrunched in her ears and she remembers the way they screamed.
Her mother wouldn’t wake up from her nap. The blood rushes from her head and she screams louder. Wake up! Wake up! She says, but her mother doesn’t open her eyes. The remembers laying there and hoping someone would come and help them both. She needed her mother to wake up.
Her mother was in front of her now. She stood by the large oak tree the two of them used to walk to on warm summer days. She had her arms outstretched and she was running to them. She needed to feel her mothers grasp, her embrace, she needed to feel her real arms around her like they used to. She is running again. Soon she knows she will wake from this dream.
The man looks down on her with her hand in his grasp. She is all that is left.
Didn’t anyone tell you she’s not breathing?
The sun gently pressed against my skin. Swirling colours of balloons and floating sounds of a carnival transformed into a warm and welcoming consciousness. There was a high I got from waking up early and knowing I didn’t even have to leave my majestic fortress of doonas yet. A small smile crept across my lips as a groan escaped my lips.
Terror gripped my heart, panic filled my muscles. My emerald eyes flew open and my colourful surroundings bombarded my sleepy mind. Lumps of clothing turned my floor boarded bedroom a war zone. I slipped and dodged the baby toys as I searched for my plaid black shirt and grey company shirt.
”Emily!” My voice pierced the silent air; the panic rang out around me. Emily should have been awake. If she was running late too there would be trouble.
”Yeah?” Emily’s voice replied from out the door in the kitchen.
I pulled my skirt up to my hips so violently that I was almost thrown into the big mosh pit of stuffed animals beside me.
Mario Cart was a fun and childish game, one of my favourites in fact. Now, it was my worst enemy. Thanks to that English speaking Italian, I hadn’t cleaned off the bathroom vanity as I promised myself I would. In between the makeup, cleaning supplies and baby products I was able to smudge mascara onto my eyes and shove pins into my long hair. The last thing I needed was my entire workplace to know I slept in because I looked like the cookie monster got into a fight with the ugly duckling.
I darted from the bathroom to the kitchen, tripping over a soft, puffy baby’s book in the hallway, causing me to yelp.
"Why didn’t you wake me, Emily?" I asked sternly. Emily giggled as she watched me hop on one foot, attempting to put on my black stilettos. I groaned letting my now shoed feet to the floor. Emily stood at the kitchen bench buttering toast.
Emily was smiling cheerfully as she danced to the pop music that was playing on the television during the eight o’clock news, as if it was important. It made her mad, Emily didn’t care that I was late and might lose my job, and she especially didn’t care that I despised the very music she was pretending to enjoy.
Emily rolled her eyes as she saw the distaste in my face. “Relax Sophia. Its only music.” she said as she waved what she would describe as a perfect bum in the air in time to the infectious beat. She popped two slices of toast on a plate and passed it to me. “Eat. It’s only five past eight. You have twenty minutes before you leave.” She giggled as I took a bite of my breakfast.
I took a deep breath in as my erratic heart rate settled. The news presenter returned to the screen as the music stopped, but Emily continued to hum its melody. I shook my head. “How did I end up with such an immature twenty-four year old sister who does nothing but dance around all day?
Emily flashed her brilliant smile. “How did I end up with an eighteen year old high school drop out that does nothing but work and bash on my happiness?” She opened the metallic fridge door before turning around and facing me again. “And I resent that Soph. I look after Ellie.”
I had forgotten about Ellie. Somehow this morning I had convinced myself that I was just a regular teenager who was still trying to impress her boss at her very new, very exclusive job. It stung me to remember my life was more complicated than that.
"I thought so." Emily said as she smiled, her way of showing me that she wasn’t angry and didn’t intend on holding a grudge. I smiled in return. Before I had a chance to ask my sister what her plans with James were for the day we heard a small thudding sound come from the bedroom beside mine.
"Ouchy!" the little brown haired girl ran from the hallway and straight into Emily’s arms with one hand holding her head and the other flailing beside her as she ran. "I fell out of bed!" she yelled. Emily giggled again and knelt down, putting her hands on the girls shoulders.
"Ellie, you know that you’re supposed to get out of bed with your feet first. You know, so you can stand up." She said in a serious, yet mocking tone. A look of disgust fell over Ellie’s face before she gave Emily a toothless smile and kissed her on the cheek. "Go eat some breakfast."
Ellie pranced to the tall chair with the bowl of rainbow rings in front of it. She looked at the chair and then up to me with those deep chocolate eyes that could melt half of the Arctic Circle and have the seals and penguins asking for more water. I lifted Ellie onto the seat with a huff and patted her head like I would a kitten. “There you go kiddo.” I smiled.
Ellie was my whole life wrapped up into seventeen kilos. She was my reason for getting up in the morning, my reason for getting up every morning. She was the sunshine and my moonlight and she was everything in between. They gave me strength, gave me power and seemed to make all the struggles seem bearable, worthwhile, even.
I knew all too well what people saw when they looked at that innocent two year old with Emily. I knew they were disgusted and even ashamed to believe that they were part of their society. Emily and I knew all the names the locals would call her when she had her back turned. We knew the rumours that circled to town.
It had always been this way. During labour, Emily was so stressed that she had ended up breaking three of my fingers and dislocated a knuckle because she insisted on squeezing my hand with a force that could’ve qualified her in the Guinness book of World Records as the first human juicer. Normal people would’ve harboured some kinds of annoyance at that, but I hadn’t. Actually, I remember how we walked home that day, drawing everything that came to mind on my full hand cast. Emily was literally saving my life, and for that I was eternally grateful. I owe her more than broken fingers.
Ellie doused her cereal in milk and began shovelling her half sized spoonfuls into her mouth. She attempted to say something but a garbled mess was all that was heard. Milk dribbled down her chin. I used my thumb to wipe it away but Ellie continued shovelling, spilling the cereal all over the table and my hand.
"Watch it, Smelly Ellie!" I said as I wiped my milky hand on Ellie’s pyjama shirt. Ellie frowned at me before poking out her tongue and returning to the bowl of fruity rings before her. She dropped the big spoon in the milk, splashing it in every direction and all over me. My mouth gaped, leaving me wordless.
"Don’t call me smelly! I take baths!" she rebutted. Once I got over the initial shock of having my newly dry-cleaned uniform covered in flecks of rainbow milk I leapt from my chair and collided with Ellie in a tickle war. Happy giggles and squeals emanated in the air and distracted me from the very real fact that I was now late for work. "Get off meee!" she squealed.
Smiling, I retrieved my laptop from the table and waved a small goodbye to Emily, who smiled, before returning to Ellie. “See you later, Smelly!” I said as I ducked out the door to avoid the banana peel that had been launched at my head by a now very aggravated two year old. The neighbours must despise those three girls that live in apartment 2B, they are so noisy. I giggled as I jogged down in the stairs as I heard Emily scolding and Ellie yelling “bye auntie Soapy!” from the door.
I realised that the smile Ellie had given to me was going to stay plastered on my face for the rest of the day. I knew my co-workers would give me looks, ones of envy and disgust, but I didn’t care. The fact that a tiny human being could have such an effect on me gave me goose bumps. I had never been particularly close to Ellie, but I wasn’t going to deny that I was glad today was the day she took a shining. It made me feel hollow beliefs that today might be an amazing opportunity for me somehow. I forced myself to believe it.
A white car with ‘taxi’ scrawled across it in big, black letters awaited me out the front of my building. I’ll admit, something waiting for me gave me a refreshing feeling of importance, something that helped improve my mood this morning. I yanked the door open and dumped my bags on the squeaky seat and slid in. the driver glanced at me through the rear-view mirror. “Have a good morning, Miss Sage?” he had noticed my smile, he’d be oblivious not to.
I glanced away before meeting his eyes through the glass. “Andre, I don’t know why you don’t call me Sophia.” I say as I checked my bag for my phone.
The same taxi, on the same route, at the same time with the exact same driver had provided me with transport to and from work for the past eight months. Andre had been that driver - except for this one time, when his wife had come down with mono, and he had to look after her. He was back the next day. He consistently addressed me as ‘Miss Sage.’ I did like being spoken to like an independent adult, but I knew myself that I was not yet one, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself with my clothing, and carefully chosen word or the impressive successful job.
Andre released a deep chuckle from within his Native American throat but did not smile. “I will call you by your name when we are friends. Until then, I remain formal, Miss Sage. “I pursed my lips together in disagreement, but I wasn’t going to argue with the hulking man controlling the car, which was my only way to not getting fired.
"Would you please turn that up?" I asked, turning the current conversation away from the subject of me, as I always did. Andre expected this. He violently turned the volume dial and a heavy synthesised song began to burn my ears. Figuratively speaking.
I hardly had time to listen to music anymore. I could remember a point in my life when I lived and breathed music, never stopping the magical flow inter my ears in the mornings, during school and as I fell asleep. I supposed the teacher got really tired real quick of confiscating my headphones. I realised this was the first time in over eighteen months I had heard any kind of music at all. No amount of bass and saucy beats was going to change that.
A happy and energetic voice dominated the radio and the car. “Alright, all of you Enigma fans, we have some exciting news for you all!” a smaller, less dominant voice interjected, a woman’s voice. “That’s right, Ted. The worldwide music phenomenon has announced a world tour, kicking off right here in Sydney, Australia!” a track playing the screams of teenage girls ruptured through the taxis low quality speakers. “So, you had better get your tickets before-” I had unbuckled my seatbelt, reached into the front of the cabin and slammed my hand into the radios off button. Disgust and anger and sadness fuelled my actions.
Andre stopped at a red light and turned back to me as I buckled my belt. “It’s only music, Sage. You don’t have to be so mean.” he said with a mocking smile. His voice was soft and un-accusing, but I felt as if he had slapped me in the face. My smile and happiness was obliterated in thirty seconds. This made me angrier than I was before.
"I am not mean." I said firmly, not breaking my gaze from his. "The lights green," I added. Andre swirled around and returned his eyes to the road and his hands to the wheel. He did not speak again until we reached the glass skyscraper at the heart of Sydney’s busy city. The building where I worked.
"I hope you have a good day, miss Sage." he offered a warm smile but I slammed the back door shut before sticking my head through the driver’s seat window, next to him. The calming smell of cedar trees wafted off of his plaid shirt. It calmed my fiery mood eased my worried nerves.
"It’s Sophia, Andre," I said, "we are friends." my charming white smile emerged from my plump, pink lips. This was all André would see before I left him burning gas in the street with a confused look on his wrinkled face.
I had always been a professional girl. I rarely conversed with the other workers on my floor, my filing methods were exemplary and my work was always first hand. I was always neat - except for my room. I was always on time - except for this morning, and I was always responsible and dependable, well, only on the job, I realised.
It wasn’t exactly like I was always digging around everything I owned looking for stuff. I was a teenager, right? Things were messy, sure, but I knew where everything was. I was punctual! Today was simply a one off. I was a teenager, eighteen year young, but I acted as if it was my seventieth birthday tomorrow and owed my life to the world for some reason. I never stopped working. I didn’t drink and I didn’t party like the other girls my age. I couldn’t, even if I wanted to, anyway.
This is why this job was so important. I had only been working here eight months, I couldn’t afford to be late, and I couldn’t get fired today. I pounded my expensive-looking-but-really-bought-them-at-a-thrift-store shoes against the marble stairs of the building as I ran. I eventually came to a fast walk when I reached the door to my floor. My short walk from the stairwell to my desk was met with judging looks and envious scowls, all of which I ignored completely.
I reached my desk and sat my laptop down, ensuring it was parallel with the end of the desktop. I draped my jacket over the back of my chair when an announcement had rung over the floor. This PA system always made me feel like I was a junior back in high school, like I had never left and I was waiting for someone to call me to the principal’s office. Instead I was being summoned to my boss’ boss’ office. “Sophia Sage, will you come to my office. Now.”
He knew! He knew she was late. I didn’t know how he knew; I had literally just gotten here. Perhaps someone dobbed me in. it didn’t matter. I would enter that office with my head held high and if I had to leave it, it would be with dignity. I refused to let it get the best of me.
Then again, he didn’t seem angry or annoyed. Through the glass that encased his office and apparently counted as sufficient walls he seemed kind of, well, happy. Conflicting emotions swirled inside me stomach, butterflies took flight and regret seemed to fill my brain, even though he seemed quite contempt with the bouncy ball he was rebounding off his hardwood desk. I took a deep breath, knocked on the glass door and entered when he looked up.
"Sit." was all he said. I looked around the room for some kind of evidence he was letting me go before I decided to dump myself in the suede armchair facing his desk directly.
Mr. Dean was the ambitious type. He knew how to crunch the numbers and which shortcuts to take in order to make the biggest profit with the smallest chance of taking responsibility. It wasn’t that he wasn’t a nice man, he was, - from the few times id been here he seemed to check up on our floor regularly, complimenting people and providing improvement on the work ethic - he was just one of those people who had their eyes on the job, nothing else. He never took no for an answer and never left a client unsatisfied.
Mr. Dean pursed his lips and folded his arms on the desk as he sat in the large backed chair that signified that he was the king in this sad, little office domain. His short blonde hair ruffled slightly in the breeze from the fan above us. His cold grey eyes pierced the comfort I had forced myself to find.
"Sophia Sage." he announced. I responded by gulping loudly and nodding. I made a mental note to text Emily telling her not to throw away the paper, which I would need, the classifieds and ‘help wanted’ ads. "I have head things about you." he said simply.
Before I could stop it my mouth was running off too far ahead of my brain. Words began to fall from my lips, but ended up shooting themselves at him like he was insulting a grown woman, and that woman was not taking the criticism graciously. “Sir, I am so sorry! I really didn’t mean to be late! It was just, my sister, she didn’t wake me up on time and this job means so much to me and I know that I’ve only been here eight months but,” my breath left me. I couldn’t process the thoughts my brain was trying to make.
He looked horrified, like I had taken a llama and tried to make it eat a turtle. “What are you talking about?” he demanded.
After mumbling three unintelligible sentences I finally got my words out. “You’re not going to fire be because I was a little late this morning, sir?” I must have looked like a seal stuck in a desert, he seemed just a confused. We both sat there, for a few seconds, looking at the other stupidly.
Mr. Dean finally broke the equally as confusing silence. He shook his head with a smile on his face. “No one cares that you were late, Miss Sage!” he watched the birds fly past his thirteenth floor view once he was on his feet, his hands intertwined behind his back. He sighed, “I have a project for you.”
I felt my cheeks burn my face and made the assumption that they had turned that deep, rosy pink that made me look as if I had put sunscreen everywhere but my cheeks on a thirty degree day. I was glad his back was too me, I didn’t need him thinking I was the late offspring of a beetroot. What kind of ‘project’ was so important it had to be hand deliver it? Didn’t he trust the mail courier? “Oh?” was all I could manage.
He spun around. I was surprised to see him wearing a wide, toothy grin. “It’s a big project, Miss Sage. A band.” he replied, as if that instantly alerted me to what in the hell we has referring to. A band? I gulped once more.
I had listened to more music in the cab than I had in over eighteen months combined, I couldn’t take on a band. Music wasn’t my thing, anyway. My speciality was intoxicated comedians, actors and socialites who used their mouths for nothing more than self-promotion. That was what I was used to, that’s how I liked it.
He didn’t wait for me to respond. “This is a very important and crucial venture for Morgan-Dean Productions; I need to know that you’re willing to commit fully to it. It is a big job, other would kill for it.” he returned to the window.
I finally spoke softly. “With all due respect, sir, are you sure I’m right for this project? I mean, wouldn’t you rather give it to someone with more experience? Like I said, I have only been here for eight months.”
He whipped around with a speed that I didn’t know office dwellers could possess, only super heroes or mutants had. “Exactly! You are Sophia Sage! I’ve seen you locate Russell Brand in a brothel, drunk off of his face. You sobered him up enough to get him on stage and complete his three hour act in seventeen minutes! You are amazing, and, you have only been here eight months.” he said with a wink, which made me slightly uncomfortable. I shifted in the seat.
For an eighteen year old high school dropout who applied for a filing and receptionist job at a wealthy movie production company, I guess I have been pretty successful. In eight months I had climbed from the bottom of the food chain to the average middle. I had never considered that the head of the whole company had been aware of my efforts, and I certainly never thought I would be recognised for them.
Even though that Russell Brand incident was completely my fault in the first place - I had never lost track of time, or of a person as I had with him. Somehow, that slurring, hairy, British man had been able to give me the slip and find himself in the nearest sex house - I felt as if it was my duty to the company to keep his escapades away from the headlines. I decided, since he seemed to have so much faith in me, to hear him out. “What is this highly prestigious project exactly?” I crossed my own arms on my chest.
His eyes bore into me. “We have been offered the chance to produce and comprise a mulit-million dollar behind-the-scenes movie for an internationally recognised band. It is an amazing and career changing opportunity, considering we are a relatively small Australian company.” he smiled in pride. “You would be the journalist assigned to the band. You would spend every second, of every day with them, gathering information for the film, and for advertising. I know that you have the skills.”
To be honest, I had absolutely no idea that Australia was successful in the domestic music industry, let alone overseas. I had no idea who the band was, or if I had even heard them perform before. He was right, however. This project would be great for the company, we would make a large profit, gain affiliates and contacts, overseas reputations and relations with the public when our name was presented on the big screen in large writing.
"Not just for the company, but for you too." he continued. Seeing the confused look on my face he backtracked. "The opportunities that would present themselves to you would be unbelievable. I would offer you an immediate promotion to head of advertising." e chuckled when I raised my pale eyebrows. "But, that doesn’t mean that other companies, more successful companies, wouldn’t recognise your potential and offer you way more than we ever could here."
"You would be okay with letting me go?" I ask. I was hurt that the company didn’t see me as I viable resource, an option that, if pursued, would bring great success and development. He simply chuckled.
"You might not want to stay once the project is complete, Miss Sage." Mr. Dean picked up his bouncy ball and resumed throwing it against his desk, just like bored jocks used to do in English class back in the tenth grade. I glanced to the floor behind me to see if anyone had been curious as to why was in here. All I saw was the backs of heads and spread sheets and emails on computer screens. The typical office environment.
I returned to Mr. Dean. “What do you mean, exactly?” I cocked my head to the side. Loose curls fell from my messy bun and I shoved them behind my abnormally small ears.
He stopped throwing the ball and leaned in closer to me from across the desk. I mimicked his movements and I felt as if we were telling secrets. “There’s a catch,” he said, “you’ll have to move.”
I hadn’t always been surrounded by tall buildings, busy streets, roaring traffic and upmarket inner-city suburbs, I wasn’t a city slicker. I was a country girl at heart. My hometown was a farmers paradise, complete with green pastures and the feeling of déjà vu every time you left your house because everyone knew your name in the small population. I hadn’t realised until now that I actually kind of missed that scenery. I wouldn’t mind moving, in fact, a change might be a good thing.
Perhaps Ellie would love the freedom of open spaces. She could run and jump without stepping on city rubbish. She could get her bike fixed and actually ride it without the fear of being run over every second she tried to pedal. She may even grow up to be a confident young woman away from the gasps and judgements of the upper-class, who knew and openly voiced their superiority over us. Emily must miss home, too.
"Where would I have to go?" I asked perhaps a little too enthusiastically. Even if I wouldn’t go to the country another brilliant city would be pleasant. Perhaps I would go to Brisbane. I could image sitting on beautiful beaches, Emily chatting up shirtless surfer guys and Ellie playing in the sand. I could see us driving only a few hours to the Gold Coast where we would spend days at the amusement parks, and I could see poor Ellie crying when we had to leave.
No matter how many places and scenarios I could think of in my head I would never have come close to the location I would be sent to. My mind had a hard time processing his words, my ears didn’t seem to want to hear it. “London.”
"London!?" I yelled as I jumped up from my seat all wide eyed and panic stricken.
Mr Dean rose with me, his hands attempting to calm me. “Yes, Sophia. London.”
I was still yelling frantically. “As in, London, England?” my chest heaved as deep breaths filled my lungs.
He chuckled, but let me tell you, I did not find this conversation turn amusing. “Yes, you will have to move to London. This is in England. That’s where the band lives.” he seemed to think that this was common knowledge. After the shock I then questioned why an Australian band would be residing in England. “The band is British, Sophia.” wait, I was thinking in my head, wasn’t I?
I sat back into my chair and rubbed my temples with my left hand. “to be honest,” he continued. “I don’t trust anyone else with this. I need you.” I looked up to him weeping. He was afraid I would turn this down.
And I had to turn it down. I knew that the opportunity was one in a million, one that could put my career forward by years, decades even. But I couldn’t move to England! What about Ellie and Emily? They wouldn’t cope without me, I was their provider, they needed me. I hadn’t really given much thought about how much they actually depended on me, now that I was, pain seemed to stab me in the heart.
What kind of eighteen year old girl was supporting a family? How many of them had a job at one of the biggest companies in Sydney, perhaps the country? I knew it could not be many.
Getting away, hopping on a plane and flying to London sounded amazing. I had always wanted to go, I always wanted to leave this place, leave my life and pretend like I was someone else, leave all my worries and my troubles behind like they didn’t exist. I couldn’t stand the thought of my sister and that innocent little girl being abandoned, left on their own to fend for themselves. Emily would never be able to provide for the both of them, she had virtually no skills. These troubles and problems may have been unjust, but they were mine. I couldn’t leave them.
I sighed and closed my eyes. “Sir, I want to thank you for this chance, but I’m afraid I have to turn it down. I’m sorry.” I expected to see his face fall once I opened my eyes. I expected to see pain and disappointment on his face but instead he was smiling once more. What was wrong with this man? Had his emotion sensor been damaged, did he not know when to feel what?
"Well, I could send Veronica." he says as he cocks an eyebrow.
Veronica Bayer was my own personal pain in my ass. She constantly looked over my shoulder, complained to my superiors about my lack of work - which was ridiculous because she also like d to complain to Human Resources about the quality of the coffee that came from the four thousand dollar machine that had been recently installed. She seemed to try and compete me with on every level, not stopping to check if she dump her gourmet Ceaser salad down her throat before I had finished my burger from the food court down the street. I had nothing against her, personally, but her obvious hatred for me sparked the competitive side of me, the part I hadn’t seen since my gymnastics days.
"Of course, we would have to question your future with us here at Morgan-Dean Productions." he said with a smirk. He seemed to be pressing all of my buttons now. I scowled as my face burned hotter. He could see this. "Look, Sage. This is an opportunity you will never get again. Think bout it."
I stared past his head at the billboard in the city behind him and his office that I was pretty sure had been there for decades. The paper was torn and the colours faded, yet I could still see that old woman’s face, the face that would always be Mamma’s Little Bakery. Though, I was pretty sure that place didn’t exist anymore.
Mr. Dean sighed and my gaze jerked back to his serpentine look. “I know about your situation at home. Its six figures. Think about how that could help your sister.”
He was right. More money coming in for Emily would be a dream come true. She could finally afford new clothes and toys for Ellie, along with the simple luxuries we had always enjoyed as kids but now had to go without so we could make ends meet. It was right in front of my face. All I had to do was say yes. And move to England. And live with a boy band. And leave my family.
Mr. Dean looked at me expectantly, but I had no response for him.
What if I were to leave? Would Ellie forget who I was? Would she want nothing to do with me once I returned? How long would I even be gone? Could I stand to be away from the things that had kept me hanging on for so long? And what about Emily, what would happen to her? Would she get married and start a new life without me? Would they even need me anymore? Would they bother to write to me, or even call? Would they even care if I left at all.
Mr. Dean curiously stuck his neck out and glared past me, searching the floor behind my back. I spun around and followed. “Veronica!” he called and a fuzzy haired, freckled face, big nosed, four eyed, emu-looking brat popped her head up. I suddenly felt like Elmer, she was my Bugs and suddenly had an urge to say “I’m hunting wabbits, where is my wifle?” he waved her over and she began to walk, stooping in her tracks when I screamed at my boss.
"I’ll do it!" I jumped out of my chair before I could stop myself. My hand wanted to find its way to my mouth and shut me up but he was already jumping in glee.
"You will? That’s great! I knew I could count on you to follow this through and make me proud." he didn’t even wait for my response, he rushed me out the door with a firm hand on my back. "Go on then! Get home now, pack! Your flight leaves at noon tomorrow! The next time you will be seeing me you will be in London!" he closed the door.
I stood at the transparent door next to veronica. She looked at me with a glare that would freeze any man faster than Medusa. I simply shrugged and said with a very Bogan accent, “Whaddaya gonna do?” and waked off.
I let my best runway inspired strut lead me out of the building feeling untouchable. I just beat Veronica Bayer, and stuck it to the boss. Goodbye Sydney, Hello, London?
when opportunity knocks, you have to take it, no matter where it leads you. Even if it was taking you all the way across the Earth, I only hoped that Emily would agree.
She was always running. She never let anything touch her. She was not secure or smart, she was cautious and alert. She knew of her enemies, avoiding them with simple manoeuvres.
She stuck t what she knew. She was somehow worried that if she stopped running she would get comfortable and settle down in one place, she might actually like where she was and forget what she was running from.
She returned to that safe part of herself, the guarded area of her heart that surrounded her with giant walls. She needed that place; it was her excuse, her reason to keep people out.
Truth is, she had no reason to run. She had never been heartbroken. In fact, she had never really ever been hurt. Yet it scared the socks off of her little feet. Perhaps she ran from herself, she ran from her dreams, she ran from the world. She had this irrational fear that it couldn’t give her what she needed. She somehow believed she would end up old and alone forever, without even cats to accompany her.
And, to be honest, that wasn’t such a terrible thing. She enjoyed the company of her own presence. Give her a good book and a quiet little corner and you wouldn’t hear from her for days. She didn’t go out, she hated attention, and she did her best to avoid it. That’s how she was and that’s how she liked it.
Until she met him.
He was a chaser.
He was happy to leave himself vulnerable, it made hi stronger. He was always hyper and boisterous and happy, like a puppy on a sugar rush.
He liked to go out beneath the city lights; it gave him this nocturnal rush. He knew what people thought, – and it wasn’t always positive – difference is, he cared less about rumours than he cared about what Jordy’s cat was having for dinner that night.
He chased. He chased girls, friends, anything, really. It kept him in one direction, gave him a purpose. If he was chasing something at least he was, well, doing something.
He had chased his dreams to the end of the earth and somehow they had come true. She was proud, as she watched him over her shoulder, behind her. But she wouldn’t turn back for him, and he couldn’t keep up with her pace.
They somehow worked, her and him. She ran and he followed closely behind. It kept him occupied, kept him interested. The thing about chasers is that the yare always following something else before they have a chance to enjoy what they’ve caught.
He liked to go out. He craved the attention like Tinkerbell needed belief to live. He had changed for her, just as she had for him. They morphed each other until a piece of each existed in the other. She ran from uncertainty and confrontation by avoiding it. He chased, as he always had. He asked the questions ‘what am I doing here?’ while she avoided it.
He was the yin to her yang, the apple to her pie and the sand to her beach. They completed each other.
They were in love. They were helplessly, unconditionally, stupidly and naively in love. Why shouldn’t they be?
They were kids! They were stupid and arrogant, they didn’t know any better. Frankly, they didn’t think there was anything better. They didn’t know anything about that big, bad world around them. They were invincible, untouchable.
They spent every waking – and frequently sleeping – moment with each other. They kissed passionately, hugged joyfully and spoke adoringly. They made each other better people.
Everyone around them knew it. they saw it in their eyes, in their smile and in the way they treated the people around them. She was passionate and driven, she was polite to everyone, he was the anomaly, he was like a shining star. He was able to amaze, to inspire rather than awe. They were perfect.
Their fantasy was everything they could ever hope for.
That dream shattered as the harsh reality of life hit them. It was now, they realised, they were not invincible, they were vulnerable and helpless to the sharp claws of forces bigger than themselves.
He had broken her down, down to the point where she couldn’t get up in the mornings. She was that annoyingly sharp pieced of gravel beneath his new Vans. He had taken his piece of her and then some more. He had taken the chunk of her heart that allowed life. He had ripped out her soul with his cold, smooth hands.
She slowly regained her strength. She had found tiny pockets of air within her heartbreak that gave her some tiny kind of optimism. But she was not happy.
No, not happy, dead. It killed her to know that he held that large part of her and, when he yanked it out, he took his part of her with him.
She had nothing.
She didn’t blame him, though. She blamed herself. She had asked him to take everything with him with those four words.
Those words echoed through her head and what was left of her heart months after they had been said. She wished, she wished everyday that she wasn’t the kind of girl that let a guy destroy her but she couldn’t ignore the emptiness inside her, the void she couldn’t fill with all the chocolate in the world.
Every day for a long time shoe thought about him, his warm, caramel skin, and the musky smell that reminded her she was home. Every day for a long time she stabbed herself with guilt, wishing she had fought harder for him.
They had brought tears to her eyes every time she allowed her mind to stray to them. They stung her skin like raindrops caught in a harsh wind. Eventually, they tortured her to the pint where she became numb to their pain.
Four little words.
“I don’t love you.”