Silence, p.18

Silence, page 18

 part  #1 of  Silence Series

 

Silence



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  ***

  I woke in the morning feeling happier than I had in a very long time. Things were looking up and I was, for the first time, feeling hopeful for the future. My date with Cole had put me in a great mood. Tonight we were doing something ‘just us’ too. I felt like nothing could pop my happy little bubble. But something usually did so I tried to keep myself grounded.

  As I skipped downstairs, my parents’ muffled voices became louder until I could hear them clearly. “I don’t get why you’re against this, Max! This might be the thing that works. She might be able to get through to our daughter!” Mum snapped. I held my breath and pressed my back against the wall to try and disappear.

  “She won’t go to the doctor, Sarah!” Dad replied slowly. “You can’t force her, we’ve tried that and you saw what it did to her.”

  Sliding down the wall, I wrapped my arms around my legs. My pulse hammered in my ears. Last time Mum tried taking me to the doctors, I was so scared. Dad was standing behind her, calmly giving me that look. The look I didn’t ever dare disobey. I completely broke down and couldn’t breathe, having a panic attack in the kitchen. I could still remember how tight my chest felt right before I passed out.

  Mum sighed heavily. “I won’t let her get like that again. Are you coming with me or not?”

  Please say no, please say no.

  “I won’t do that to her. I’m not tricking my daughter into this. You remember what the child psychologist said. We shouldn’t push her. Oakley will ask for help whenever she is ready for it. When Oakley is ready, Sarah, not you.”

  “Do you even want her to get better?” Mum snapped angrily. Her voice was sharp and high-pitched. I flinched at how harsh she sounded.

  “How can you even ask me that? Of course, I do, but I will not force her into this. Whatever is going on with her, it will be alright. We’ll deal with it, whatever happens. If that’s her wanting help to speak again or not. She’s our daughter. If she’s happy that’s all that matters to me,” he reasoned.

  I actually believed what he was saying, he was that good at lying. Dad was smooth, charming, well liked and well respected by everyone who knew him.

  You know that no one will ever believe you over him.

  “I’m sorry.” I heard Mum sigh again and everything went quiet. “I just want to find out what’s wrong. I thought it would get easier but it only gets harder.”

  Her voice was muffled as if she was speaking against something. Dad’s shoulder maybe. Was he comforting her while knowing the truth? “I’m still going to take her…” I heard her say. “Don’t, Max. If she starts panicking like before we’ll turn around and come straight home. I can’t just sit back and do nothing.”

  I wished she would.

  Every time she tried to help me it ended with her crying and me feeling like crap. For everyone’s sake, she needed to give it up.

  Taking a deep breath, I pushed myself up off the floor with shaking legs. Listening to their argument about me was getting too much. I swallowed the lump in my throat and ran my fingers through my hair. I can do this. Act normal.

  Damaged goods will never be normal.

  As I walked into the kitchen, they both turned and smiled at me as if nothing had happened. Mum discreetly wiped a tear from her cheek and said, “Morning, sweetheart. Hot chocolate?”

  I nodded and sat down at the table. Mum and Dad exchanged a this-isn’t-over look and neither one of them could look me in the eye. That was getting more and more of a regular thing with Dad but Mum didn’t usually have an issue with it.

  “Croissants are in the oven, they shouldn’t be long,” she said as she busied herself making me a drink. She was feeling guilty.

  “I’m going to have a shower,” Dad informed us and walked out of the kitchen. His posture was tense so I knew he didn’t want to be around us. Fine by me.

  “How was your date last night?” How did she know it was a date? Did Cole tell her?

  I frowned and shook my head. She went from needing to fix me so desperately it brought her to tears to asking about my night.

  “It wasn’t a date?” Her face fell. “Oh. Well, did you have a nice time anyway?”

  Jasper came downstairs at the right moment and Mum closed her mouth. I wasn’t sure why I kept it from her. Perhaps the fear of having my time with Cole restricted and plagued with rules if they knew we were more than friends.

  “Mornin’,” Jasper muttered, rubbing his eyes. “I’m starving, Mum.”

  She rolled her eyes. “Sit down.”

  “You good?” he asked me as he sat opposite.

  I gave him my most reassuring smile and idly wondered how he would react if he knew the truth. Out of everyone I thought Jasper was most likely to believe me. Although there was a three-year age gap between us and he annoyed the hell out of me, we were close. That also meant I didn’t ever want him to find out. I wouldn’t be able to cope if he didn’t believe me. Closing my eyes, I swallowed the slicing pain at the thought of my brother telling me I was a liar.

  “So, what’s everyone doing today?” Jasper asked and stuffed a hot croissant fresh from the oven into his mouth. I waited for him to react to the heat and spit it back on his plate but he didn’t. Was his mouth made of steel?

  “I’m taking Oakley to gymnastics, then going food shopping,” Mum replied, smiling at Jasper briefly while she busied herself buttering the rest of the croissants. “What about you?”

  “Computer,” he mumbled and stuffed more food in his mouth.

  “You could look for a part-time job,” Mum suggested.

  Jasper scrunched his nose up.

  Mum rolled her eyes. “Or not.”

  Lazy shit. It was my parents’ fault, though. They said they’d support us while we’re in full-time education. Jasper was going to string that out for as long as possible, no doubt.

  “So, I was thinking we could go clothes shopping on Thursday? I need some final things for the holiday and thought it would be nice for us both to get our nails done.”

  So the doctor appointment was on Thursday. I nodded my head and picked at my food, no longer feeling hungry.

  How am I going to get myself out of this one?

  “Great,” she beamed. “Now eat up, we’ve got to leave in half an hour.”

  Once I had managed to force down half a croissant, I went to get ready for gymnastics. I couldn’t wait to get there and get lost in throwing my body around. Gymnastics was an escape that I longed for every day. I loved how all my thoughts disappeared and all that was left was the version of me I wished I could always be.

  We left Jasper shouting at some video game and drove to my gym class. Mum dropped me off and called out of the window, “Have a good time. I’ll see you when you get home.”

  I waved over my shoulder as I made my way in the tired building. Cole was going to pick me up after practice and we were going to do something together. Alone together. For the first time ever I wanted gymnastics to be over.

  Marcus worked us hard as usual, and I loved every second.

  “That was great, Oakley,” Marcus exclaimed. “You nailed it! Go again.” Nodding, I ran around to the other end of the beam to start again. Adrenaline pumped through my body. I could do this all day.

  By the time our hour was up I was ready for bed. But I had something much better to do. “Alright, guys, same time Monday night,” Marcus shouted, dismissing us all.

  I sprinted to the changing rooms and took a quick shower. I didn’t want to be hot and sweaty for whatever Cole had planned. The girls stopped to gossip but today I didn’t have time to socialise. I changed into some fresh clothes and tried to tame my messy hair. Looking in the mirror, I groaned. My hair looked worse than a bird’s nest.

  “Need a hairbrush?” Jade offered, handing hers out. I smiled gratefully and dragged it through the unruly blonde mass. When I finished, I placed it down in front of where she was applying her eyeliner and nodded once in thanks.

  “You’re
welcome,” she mumbled, looking in the mirror with an intense concentration. Her bat wings had to be perfect. I wouldn’t have the patience to do that. Giving her a quick wave, I ran out of the door, eager to meet up with Cole.

  I saw him immediately, leaning up against the wall in the entrance. He took my breath away. His hair was its usual styled, floppy mess and his gorgeous eyes scanned the room for me.

  Sometimes I felt like I needed a minute.

  Before I was ready Cole looked up. His lips curled and pushed off the wall. I stumbled towards him, still feeling completely unprepared for all of this.

  “Hey,” he said and kissed my cheek. “I thought we could have lunch and go bowling now. Then I’ll take you home to get ready for tonight.”

  I bit my lip to try to stop myself grinning too much and looking like a creep. Now and tonight. “I’m not telling you where we’re going tonight, though,” he teased, bumping my shoulder with his. “Just wear something casual.”

  Cole grabbed my wrist and pulled me towards him. I bumped against his chest and gasped at the contact. Before I could think, his lips covered mine, and I was dizzy with happiness.

  He beamed as he abruptly pulled away. “Come on, I’m hungry.”

  We drove to the bowling alley and parked as close to the door as he could get so he wouldn’t have to walk too far. Sometimes he’d drive around a car park for a few minutes looking for a ‘better spot’.

  The restaurant attached to the alley was a seat-yourself-and-hope-for-the-best deal, so Cole picked a table and we looked through the menu. “Let me guess…you’re having the chicken BBQ burger?” he said, raising his eyebrow. I half wanted to pick something else but that was the best thing they did. He laughed. “You’re so predictable.”

  Right, like he wasn’t going to have a bacon burger.

  “What can I get you?” the server asked.

  “We’ll have the chicken BBQ burger, the bacon burger and two Cokes, please.”

  I smirked to myself.

  “Oakley,” Cole said nervously when we were left alone.

  This didn’t sound good. Why was everyone being weird with me all of a sudden?

  “Your mum told me something yesterday. I’m not meant to say anything, but I don’t think I can do that.”

  Great, so she told Cole about my appointment and not me. I nodded once for him to continue.

  “Err,” he started, rubbing the back of his neck and wincing. This was hard for him and I was really glad that he was telling me. Cole and I didn’t have secrets – besides my major one – so it meant a lot that he chose to honour me and not my mum. “Your mum is… She’s taking you to a doctor.”

  He studied my face and sighed. “You knew about it already?”

  I nodded in confirmation.

  He thought about it for a minute, chewing on the inside of his mouth. I couldn’t read him; he was a closed book in that moment. I always worried that Cole wanted me to be magically fixed too. “Are you going?”

  I shrugged my shoulders. What choice did I have? I would go, but it wouldn’t achieve anything other than wasting Mum’s petrol.

  “Maybe it would be a good idea to go,” he said cautiously.

  I clamped my jaw shut in frustration and turned away from him. Why did we have to talk about this?

  “Sorry, I’m ruining this already, aren’t I? I just want you to be okay. That’s all.” He took my hand and interlaced our fingers. I melted a little as he stroked the back of my hand with his thumb. He wasn’t ruining anything. He couldn’t see it but he was healing me, making me stronger, giving me hope.

  After dinner, we went to the alley and played three games. I won the first and Cole won the last two. It wasn’t often that I was so rubbish but my mind was elsewhere. Every little touch as we walked past each other had my heart stuttering all over the place.

  Cole drove me home so I could change and get ready for our date tonight, whatever it was. Mum and Dad’s car wasn’t in the drive so I wouldn’t have to answer their questions about tonight, thankfully.

  “I’ll pick you up in thirty,” Cole said as he came to a stop outside my house.

  I nodded and ran into the house. Only half an hour to do something nice with my hair and pick a decent outfit. That’d be fine, he’d told me to go casual.

  The house was far too quiet when I was alone, Jasper must be sleeping in his room. I read Mum’s note as I walked through the house. Dad had taken her out again. He really was feeling guilty.

  Up in my room, I picked out a casual dress and tried my luck at side plait. On the third attempt it looked okay so I left it. Somehow, over the last few days I’d grown up. I looked older, more confident. I was even starting to feel it.

  With minutes to spare, I ran downstairs to wait for Cole to turn up. The doorbell rang just as I slipped my shoes on. I took a second to calm down and then opened the door.

  Stop being so nervous.

  “Hey. Whoa.” His eyes raked over me. I tugged my dress down as if that’d miraculously make it longer. It was below my knees but the way Cole was staring made me feel like I was wearing a scarf. A transparent scarf. Blushing furiously, I smiled half-heartedly and tugged again.

  “Ready?”

  “Oakley,” Jasper shouted from upstairs. Guess he wasn’t asleep then. Great. He came thudding down the stairs and leant over the bannister. “Mum called. She’s been out with Dad all day buying party supplies,” he warned. “And they’re having dinner…somewhere. Dirty stop outs.”

  Cole rolled his eyes. “Thanks for that, Jasper. We’re just leaving.”

  Jasper’s blue eyes widened in pure evil. “Good. Have fun on your, it’s-not-a-date-but-of-course-it-really-is-a-date-date.”

  I hate my brother.

  Glaring back at him, I shoved Cole out of the house.

  “Your brother’s weird,” he said, grinning in amusement.

  I couldn’t agree more.

  “Well, get in. We have a long night ahead.”

  Doing as I was told, I got in and prepared myself for this long night. It was only six now and we had to be back by eleven so the night couldn’t be longer than five hours. That wasn’t nearly enough alone time with him.

  Cole wasn’t lying. We’d been driving for about a bloody year and I still couldn’t figure out where he was taking me. When we turned off at a roundabout, with the sign stating the beach was five miles away, I grinned. Cole chuckled at my expression.

  “Yeah, we’re going to the beach. I’ve got a picnic dinner in the boot.” He smiled sheepishly and bit his lip, like he was embarrassed to admit he’d done something so romantic.

  My insides went all squishy. He was so sweet.

  “Mum suggested the picnic… and she made it,” he admitted. Ooh, good, there would probably be homemade cakes and cookies. If it had been down to Cole, there would just be packets of junk food. Not that I’d complain.

  We parked in the car park opposite the pier, and I turned to look at him. He was his normal casual self but he looked a little different too. With ever growing confidence, I leant over and kissed him. I could tell he was surprised as it took him a second to respond and kiss me back. He soon caught on, though.

  I felt him smile against my lips before wrapping his arms around my back, pulling me closer. Apparently I’d had control for long enough. He pulled away a few seconds later and gave a surprised chuckle. I blushed and looked down to hide my flaming cheeks. Cole fingers gently cupped my chin and tilted my head.

  Really not ready to look at you yet!

  “Don’t be embarrassed, Oakley. I want you to be confident around me. You can kiss me whenever you want. Believe me, I won’t mind,” he said.

  I pressed my lips to his again, making it clear that I got the message.

  “There,” he said when I sat back up. “Anytime, babe.”

  We got out of the car and walked along the shore. Both of us were wrapped up in warm jackets and Cole’s hand firmly held mine. Even in summer, it was still c
old right by the sea. The sky was clear of clouds, so the moon shone down brightly on the ocean, creating a glistening effect on the surface of the water. It looked beautiful.

  As we approached a set of stone stairs, I stopped. I was happy to keep walking if he wanted to, but I had a sudden urge to hit the arcades. Cole turned to me and frowned, wondering why I’d come to such an abrupt stop.

  He rolled his eyes. “Arcades?”

  I nodded, and he laughed, leaning in to kiss my forehead. “Come on then. Let’s go spend twenty quid trying to get a claw to grab a shitty stuffed toy.”

  That’s the spirit…

  He gave me a quick, chaste kiss on the lips, taking me by surprise. I was quickly growing to love his surprises. “I’ll kick your arse at air hockey.”

  Bumping my shoulder against his, I narrowed my eyes, challenging him.

  We spent a couple of hours in the arcades, wasting money on slot machines and riding the mechanical motorbikes. Cole won me a fluffy grey teddy bear, and it only took him fourteen tries and five quid. He won air hockey because I was too busy concentrating on the muscles in his forearms. Lizzie would be proud.

  “You getting hungry?” He wrapped his arms around me. I leant into him and nodded. It was almost nine at night, so I was definitely ready to eat. “Okay. We need to go back to the car to get the picnic basket, then we can eat on the beach?”

  Nodding eagerly, I pulled out of his arms and dragged him towards the door by his hand.

  On the beach, I sat down beside him and opened the basket. We sat under the pier on a blanket and ate Jenna’s famous lemon cake. I looked out at the sea and smiled as the water gently lapped at the shore. The wind had died down, so it was calmer out, much more peaceful.

  After eating, I snuggled closer to his side and laid my head on his shoulder, wishing we could stay here forever. If we were older everything would be better. I wouldn’t have to go home. This is how things could be all the time.

  “You having a good time?” he questioned. I nodded against his shoulder.

  I’m having the best time.

  “Good. Me too. I don’t want to leave.” He sighed into my hair as he placed a kiss on the top of my head.

  I was falling harder, faster.

  “Come on, we need to get back or your dad’ll have my balls.” I tilted my head and kissed his jaw. He took a sharp breath and his arm tightened around my waist. “We’ll come back soon. I kinda need this again,” he admitted.

  He had no idea how much I needed it too.

  The drive home was sombre. Neither one of us wanted the night to end.

  As we pulled up outside my house, ice settled in my stomach. Dad would probably be waiting up. I kissed Cole’s cheek and opened the car door.

  “You’re welcome,” he said in response to my thank you kiss. “Glad you had a good night.”

  That was the understatement of the century.

  15

  Oakley

 

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