If only, p.18

If Only..., page 18

 

If Only...
 


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  I shake my head and let my eyes roam over the different girls until I spot a dark-haired one that’s wearing a pair of white lace knickers instead of a horrible black thong. I watch as she smiles shyly at a couple of guys that are staring at her with their mouths hanging open.

  “Where do you think Amy has gone?” I ask. Nico told her he was more than happy to have her tagging along, but she refused. Said she wasn’t going to stand around while he eye-fucked other women in front of her. They argued and she stormed off just as we got to the front door of the club.

  “Who cares?” he says. “She’ll probably just get a taxi and go home.”

  “Don’t you think you should make sure?” I pull my phone out to check the time. “It’s nearly two in the morning.”

  He sighs and holds out his hand. “Can I use yours? My battery has died.”

  “Sure,” I say, handing it over. “I’m going to the toilets.”

  I feel wobbly as I stagger back along the darkened corridor back towards the bar. The dark-haired waitress that I’d been watching is walking towards me. Her breasts bounce up and down, and her hips sway as she walks on shiny, sparkling stilettos.

  “You okay there?” she asks, placing a steady hand on my arm.

  I stumble into the wall and nod. “I’m fine, thanks.”

  She smiles seductively at me and I instantly feel guilty for thinking she’s beautiful. “Have a good evening, sir.”

  I feel my dick twitching in my boxers and rush to get away from her. Nico is hopping back towards the bar from a darkened area of the club when I get there. “Where have you been?”

  He sniffs and wipes his nose. “Speaking to Charlie,” he says with a cheeky grin.

  “Speaking to Charlie?” I repeat.

  He rolls his eyes. “It’s code, Cole.”

  “For what?”

  “Charlie,” he repeats. “It’s coke, innit.”

  I shake my head. I haven’t touched any drugs since Madrid, and I’m not going to. I didn’t like how it made me act. Even when I’m completely smashed, I know what I’m doing. I’m still aware that I have choices, and I can still make them. Drugs take that away from me.

  When the barman comes to me, I turn to ask Nico what he wants, but he’s on the phone with his finger pushed into his other ear.

  “What?” he says. “Just calm down. You’re crying so hard I can’t hear a word you’re saying.”

  I shake my head at the barman to let him know we don’t need any more drinks. If Amy is crying, then surely Nico will leave here and go to her.

  “What?” he roars. His eyes flick to me and I see anger fire through them. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”

  “What’s happened?” I ask.

  He holds his finger up to me and shakes his head. “You better sort it out then, hadn’t you?” he growls, and then ends the call and shuffles off his seat.

  “Is she okay?” I ask, following him. He hops to the bouncer, grabs his crutches and then quickly leaves the club. “Nico,” I call, following after him, “has she been hurt? Did she get a taxi okay?”

  “It’s all your fucking fault,” he snaps, shaking his head.

  I roll my eyes. I really wish he hadn’t touched those drugs. He never makes any sense when he’s high.

  “Will you just talk to me?”

  He stops so suddenly that I almost crash into him. Before I know what he’s doing, he shoves his hand into my pocket and pulls out my car keys.

  “What do you need those for?”

  “Your car,” he says through clenched teeth. “Obviously.”

  “No,” I say, trying to snatch them back out of his hand. “The car is staying here. We’re drunk and you’re high. We can pick it up tomorrow.”

  He carries on walking and ignoring me until we get to my parked car. I stand in front of the driver’s door and press myself against it. “I’m not letting you do this,” I say.

  “Piss off!” Then, without warning, he lifts his crutch and slams it into my head. I slump against the door as the ringing in my ears deafens me. Shit, that hurt.

  “She’s fucking pregnant,” he hisses. “How the fuck is that possible?”

  Amy’s pregnant? I shake my head and stand up just as he’s climbing into the driver’s seat. “You’ve got a cast on your foot,” I tell him. “You won’t feel the pedals.”

  “I’m driving. Are you coming or not?”

  He revs the car and slams the door shut, so I quickly skid around the front and climb into the passenger seat. Then he wheelspins until we’re flying down the high street.

  “There’s Amy,” he says, pulling the car over.

  She leans in when he rolls the window down. “What, Nico?”

  “Get in the car,” he tells her.

  “No, thank you,” she replies and stands up straight.

  “Get in the fucking car, Amy. Now!”

  She huffs loudly but climbs into the back without argument. “Wait for Gary then.”

  “Gary?” repeats Nico, frowning at her in the rearview mirror. “The Gary who I went to school with? The Gary that I fucking hate?”

  “What’s Gary got to do with anything anyway?” I ask, not bothering to wait for Amy to reply to Nico.

  “He saw me walking. Was going to walk me home.”

  “I bet he fucking was,” grumbles Nico. “Where the fuck is he?”

  “He went for a wee up that alleyway,” she says, pointing to the one in front of us. Just then, Gary emerges from the alley and sees us, his face dropping instantly.

  “Get in here, you fucking pervert,” orders Nico.

  “No,” says Gary.

  “Get in,” says Nico again. “I’ll take you home.”

  Gary sighs but climbs into the seat behind me. “Great boyfriend you are,” he mumbles, “leaving her to walk home on her own at this time.”

  Evie

  I push away from Cole, stumbling across my bedroom, over our strewn clothes and through the hallway until I get into the bathroom. I have just enough time to close the door and lock it before I puke up everything that was in my stomach. I heave until there’s nothing left, and then I slump back onto the floor and wipe the sweat off my forehead with my shaking hands.

  Cole thought it was Amy on the phone. Cole thought it was Amy telling Nico she was pregnant.

  I thought it was Cole on the phone. I thought I was telling Cole I was pregnant.

  It was Nico all along.

  Oh, no.

  “Evie,” calls Cole through the door. “Are you alright?”

  Nico used to take drugs? “Yes. No,” I whisper. “I mean no.”

  “No?”

  How can I be okay when I know there’s more to come? This isn’t the end of his secrets, and it’s nowhere near the beginning of mine. “No,” I say as a sob rattles through my chest. “No, I’m not alright.”

  “Do you want me to get you some water?”

  “No,” I croak. “Just give me a second.”

  My mind races over everything he’s just told me. I remember crying so hard that I couldn’t really hear what he was saying and him shouting that he couldn’t hear me. How did I not notice that it was my brother’s voice and not my boyfriend’s?

  The memory of the pain of his razor-sharp voice telling me to “sort it out” makes my stomach twist and turn. But it wasn’t Cole; it was my brother. My twin brother, who apparently was high on drugs and drunk out of his skull, was telling me to get rid of my baby, even though he knew all along that it was me he was talking to.

  “Evie,” says Cole again, shaking the doorknob. “Let me in.”

  “I’m coming,” I tell him.

  I scramble up from the floor and pull my silk, coral-coloured dressing gown off the hook on the back of the door. Slipping it around me and tying it at the waist, I stare at my tear-stained face in the mirror and then start to run the water.

  “What’re you doing?” he asks through the door.

  “Brushing my teeth,” I say, grabbing
my toothbrush. I quickly brush and rinse with mouthwash, then walk towards the door. How am I supposed to do this? How am I going to tell him that he has an eight-year-old son I’ve never told him about?

  When I open the door, I find him leaning against the doorframe with one arm. He’s fully dressed but with bare feet, and he’s looking down at the floor. He blinks up at me when I finally emerge.

  “I don’t understand,” he says.

  I squeeze past him and head straight toward the kitchen. I can feel him behind me as I grab a chilled bottle of wine from the fridge and pull two glasses from the cupboard with shaking hands.

  “Evie?” he says quietly.

  “We need to talk,” I tell him, and then I turn around to face him. “But I need some wine. You want some?”

  He shrugs, looking confused. “Okay.”

  I unscrew the lid and fill both glasses to the brim.

  “Evie,” he whispers. “Do you understand what I’ve told you?”

  Of course I do. “Yes,” I say, offering him a glass. “I understand.”

  He accepts the glass, then leans back against the counter and sighs. “I thought you’d have more questions.”

  I feel myself frowning. “What about?”

  He brings the glass to his lips and takes a long sip while staring at me. When he’s done, he swallows and shoves a hand into his jeans pocket. “I thought you’d want to know why I did it.”

  I shake my head, wondering if I’ve missed something. “Did what?”

  He laughs, but it’s a nervous sort of laugh. He downs the rest of his wine and then hands the glass back to me. “Don’t you want to know why I lied?”

  Lied? “What?” I ask as I fill the glass up again.

  “Don’t you want to know why I went to prison for something I didn’t do?”

  The glass slips from my hands and shatters when it hits the floor.

  Oh my God.

  Cole wasn’t driving. He didn’t kill my brother, or Amy and Gary. He didn’t kill any of them. Nico did. Nico killed them.

  Cole lied. Why?

  I hated him. Everyone hated him.

  He destroyed us by lying. He ruined any chance of us ever being happy again. My son hasn’t had a dad for eight years because of what he did.

  Why the fuck would he do that?

  Cole

  “Slow down, Nico!” I yell, grabbing onto the door handle as we swerve around another bend.

  “Don’t tell me what to do, you fucker!”

  Why is he so pissed off with me? What have I done?

  Nico throws the car around a small roundabout and then sends us all flying over a speed bump.

  “Nico!” shrieks Amy. “You’re scaring us. Just stop the car.”

  “I want to get out,” says Gary. “Fuck you and fuck your lift home.”

  “Pull over,” I say. “I’ll drive us home.”

  “You’re both a pair of drunken dicks,” snaps Gary. I can tell by the sound of his voice that he’s absolutely shitting himself. “Let me out of this car. Now.”

  “Let him out,” I growl.

  Nico swings his arm through the space between us and thumps me in the face. Something snaps inside of me and I punch him back in the arm. “What the fuck is wrong with you?!” I demand. “Stop driving this car right now.”

  “I want to get out too,” Amy says, sobbing.

  She squeals then, and I look up through the front window to see a narrow bridge and a train-crossing barrier that’s flashing at us.

  “Train!” I shout.

  Nico yanks on the steering wheel, causing the back end of the car to kick out.

  Suddenly we’re spinning towards the kerb and hedges, and I hear screams just before an ear-shattering crunch of metal.

  Then the world goes black.

  “So you were driving?”

  I nod. This is the fourth time the policeman has asked me this. I know from what the doctors told me that we were all found outside of the car, so I know they have no way of knowing for sure if I’m telling the truth or not.

  “And your friend, Nico . . . he was in the passenger seat?”

  I look up at the two men, who look as scary as shit in their uniforms, and nod. I know I’m probably going to get in a shit-load of trouble for driving while I was drunk, but I can deal with that. Nico can’t. He’s a world-class footballer and his career is going places. Plus, he’s going to be a dad.

  So yeah, I might end up in court with a fine and a driving ban, or maybe a couple of weeks of community service, but it’s nothing compared to what Nico would lose if they found out he was the one driving.

  “Yes,” I say again. “His foot is in a cast. Would be pretty hard to drive with it like that.”

  They look at each other and scribble stuff down in their notepads.

  “Can you at least tell me how he is now?” I ask. “And what about Amy and Gary?”

  The one that’s been doing all the talking has ginger hair and a red, puffy face. He’s about six-and-a-half foot tall and looks like he could bench-press me with one arm. “Your blood results have come back,” he says, ignoring my question. “The alcohol levels were—”

  “I know I was over the limit,” I say.

  “So you knowingly got into the car when you were too drunk to drive?”

  I nod. “Yes.”

  “Why?”

  “Because Amy had stormed off and we had to go and get her. It was late and she was going to walk home.”

  He frowns at me and nods to the other officer, who immediately leaves the room. “Where had you been?” he asks.

  I sigh, realising he’s not going to answer my question until I answer all of his. “To the lap dancing club on the corner of Wishman and Ford Street.”

  He nods again, just as the other officer walks back into the room. The two men look at each other, and then I watch how the other one shakes his head at the ginger one.

  “What is it?” I ask. “Is it Nico? Is he okay?”

  “I’m afraid Amy Simpson and Gary Phillips were both pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.”

  No. No, no, no. If Amy is dead, then Amy’s baby must be too. I shake my head. “No,” I say. “They can’t be.”

  “And I’m also sorry to tell you that Nico Romano just passed away. He died as a result of his injuries a few moments ago.”

  I blink up at them as the world drops out from under me. “What?”

  “Cole Hughes, you are under arrest for causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink. You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence."

  Evie

  “Why?” I breathe. “Why did you lie?”

  He stares at the broken glass and sighs. “I didn’t know they were dead when I first confessed.”

  I step forward, ignoring the sticky wine and the shard of glass that stabs into my big toe. “Why were you even confessing in the first place, Cole?”

  “I was trying to protect him,” he says quickly, looking down at the tiny pool of blood that’s now leaking from my foot. “Nico’s career was more important than mine. His future was more important. I just thought I’d get a slap on the wrist for driving when I was drunk.”

  I shake my head at him. “You stupid idiot,” I hiss. “You were trying to be the hero—the guy that covered for his mate so everyone wouldn’t know that the footballer was really a druggie. Is that it?”

  “Evie,” he says, frowning at me.

  “You were stupid. Has anyone ever thanked you for it, Cole? I know I certainly won’t, and I’m guessing my mum won’t either.”

  “It wasn’t that,” he snaps. “Well, it wasn’t the only reason.”

  I fold my arms across my chest and raise an eyebrow at him. “What then?”

  “It was Amy,” he says. “Nico had just found out he was going to be a dad. I thought it was more important for him to have a
clean slate than me.”

  “I can’t believe this,” I say as a tear rolls down my face. “You ruined my life, and your lie changed my future. It changed our future. Why didn’t you tell the truth when you knew they were dead?” I ask. “Why did you carry on lying?”

  He huffs, then grabs my glass and drinks the wine. “I wanted to protect his name,” he says. “You never understood the relationship I had with Nico. He wasn’t just my best friend . . . he was like my brother. I loved him, Evie.”

  “More than me?” I ask. “Because when it comes down to it, you chose him over me. You chose to protect his name, even though you knew he’d killed himself and Amy and Gary, over me. You broke us into too many pieces to ever put back together again, and you did it all because you didn’t want Nico’s name dragged through the mud?”

  He snaps his eyes to mine and nods. “Yes.”

  “Leave,” I whisper.

  “Evie, this still isn’t sorted.”

  “I don’t care.” I shake my head and grab a dustpan and brush from under the cupboard. I bend down, and I’m sweeping up the broken glass when I hear Cole walking away from me.

  “For what it’s worth,” he says from the doorway, “I’m sorry. But don’t ask me to regret what I did, because I don’t.”

  “You will,” I fire back. You’ll regret it when you realise that you’ve missed out on watching your son grow from a beautiful, bouncing baby into an adorable child.

  “I just wanted you to know the truth. I’m not going to tell the whole world to clear my name, I just wanted to try and fix some of the broken shit that’s between us. I could see you still hated me for what you thought I did.”

  “That’s a pretty selfish thing to do on the back of a pretty selfless act.”

  “How is that selfish?” he snaps. “You know what? Forget it! I can’t talk to you when you’re like this. What’s done is done.”

  “You ruined my life,” I say again as he takes a few steps into the hallway.

  He spins back around. “I did it for you and your mum. Do you think she would have liked to see those fucking headlines afterwards? You’d already lost your dad and then Nico. Would you have also wanted to know that he was high on drugs and that he killed his unborn child? Would that have made it any better for you, Evie?”

 
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