Broken silence, p.21

Broken Silence, page 21

 part  #2 of  Silence Series

 

Broken Silence


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  I smiled to myself.

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Oakley

  Things were normal, finally. In the sixteen days since Cole was released, I spent time with my family, went shopping, played princesses with Leona, and spent a lot of time with Cole at his new house. He had moved in two days ago and loved having his own space. Well, apparently he loved having me ‘invade’ his own space.

  Since Max and Frank were locked away, I felt free. The memories couldn’t be locked away, but I was doing much better. It would take time, still. I had a lot to work through, but I could finally feel myself healing.

  After having a long conversation with Cole about the things in my old life that I missed, I decided it was time to revisit gymnastics. Cole wanted to come, but he was working, and I wanted to go alone, anyway. There was no need for anyone to escort me everywhere any more. I felt safe being alone for the first time in fifteen years.

  Even the press had gotten a little bored of me. Well, most of them had. A few still hung around occasionally, and I was contacted almost daily asking for my story. But phone calls I could ignore easily enough. I was able to leave the house without people running at me.

  I parked Mum’s hire car as close to the door as I could and walked through the familiar building. Apart from new posters and flyers pinned to the blue boards on the walls, everything was the same. Even the walls were still the same dull cream with dark marks and chips in the paint.

  Of course, everyone in my old gymnastics group had left, so the people would be different, with the exception of my old coach, Marcus. I was so eager to see him. I couldn’t stop smiling. It had been far too long.

  “Oakley!” Marcus shouted. A grin spread across his tanned face as he jogged over to me. His crushing arms held me against his hard chest. “I’m so glad you came. How’re you doing?”

  “I’m great. Having breathing issues right at this second, but great. ” He chuckled and loosened his arms a fraction. “How about you?” It was really, really good to see him again.

  Marcus pulled grinned wider. “I’m good. The gym’s not doing too well though. Mary’s moving so we have no one to teach the under-fives on Tuesday and Thursdays. So I was wondering…” he trailed off, pouting his lips, the way he did when he wanted something.

  Wow, he wasted no time at all, but then he always did get straight to the point. “I would love to, Marcus, but I don’t think I can. ”

  “No! You’re going back? Screw Australia! Stay here with Cole and teach the kids. Oakley, you’ve got nothing to run from any more and a few huge reasons to stay. You know you have. ”

  I knew that, but I was the one that made Mum and Jasper move half way across the world four years ago. How could I tell them to go home without me? Mum had Miles now too. “I know. ”

  “Just think about it. I need to replace Mary in four weeks. I’ll keep the job open to you for two and then I’ll have to advertise. ”

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  “Thanks, Marcus. I’ll definitely think about it. ” I was already thinking about it. Staying here was a possibility now. I had enough money to support myself for probably five or six months but after that, two days’ work wouldn’t be enough.

  “I’m sure you’ll make the right decision,” he replied, giving me a cheeky school boy wink. “Wanna get a drink? I have a while before practice. ”

  The drinks in the canteen were disgusting, but I actually missed that too. “Drinking that crap again?” I smiled and linked my arm through his. “You bet!”

  Marcus nudged me and nodded to a table. “You sit, I’ll buy the liquid shit. ”

  I sat in my favourite spot, by the window. Marcus sat down and handed me a hot chocolate; he’d remembered my drink of choice.

  I wrapped my hand around the mug. “Thanks. Hey, you remember when Silas broke his wrist doing a backflip off that table?”

  Marcus laughed. “Yeah. What an idiot. You just stood there looking at him like did he really just do that. He was too cocky. ”

  I smirked. “He wasn’t after that. Anyway, so what’s going on? Why are things so bad for the gym?”

  He sighed. “I don’t know. Something’s going on, but no one seems to know a damn thing, or they do they’re not saying. Some guys in fancy suits have been wondering around. I think the place is in trouble. ” And that would be why he desperately wanted the gymnastics to work, he was scared the business was in trouble.

  “Have you asked Gregory?” Gregory was the owner of the centre, and a total idiot. He cared about money, not people. I’d always hated him. There was trouble with him every year about raising the prices too high, and none of the extra money ever went into improving the facilities.

  “I did. He made it sound like it was all in my head. Of course, he wouldn’t tell me the truth. He’s said so much bullshit in his time, I don’t even think even he knows what the truth is. Enough of that crap though. Has the media circus died down?”

  “Took a little while, but I think they’ve finally realised I don’t want to talk about it. Well, most of them, some still hang around. ”

  Marcus nodded. “It’ll stop before too long. Don’t let the pap be a factor in deciding where to live though. ” He thumped his heart and said, “Team England. ”

  “Team England?” I repeated, laughing. “You’ve clearly never been to Australia!”

  There was no way I would let the press decide anything for me. The house I grew up in was still a huge problem, however. I couldn’t drive past it without feeling sick. I wasn’t sure if that was something I would be able to get over or not. Every time I was at Cole’s parents’ house I could feel its proximity. It might as well have been a hundred foot tall and lit up in neon lights.

  “Want some advice?”

  I smiled. “Do I have a choice?”

  “Why no you do not!” He winked. “Look, Oakley, they took too many years of happiness from you. Don’t let them have another second longer. ”

  “Hmm. Alright, I’ll give you that one. That’s actually good advice. I expected you to say something crude. ”

  “I can if it’ll make you feel more comfortable?”

  “No thanks. Anyway, I should really get going. ”

  “Already?”

  “Yes, but I’ll come back soon. ”

  Marcus stood up as I did. “Okay, just remember, Team England. ”

  Nodding, I grabbed my cup. “I will. It was really good to see you, Marcus. Thanks. ”

  “See you soon,” he called. Laughing to myself, I waved over my shoulder and threw the plastic cup in the recycling bin. I felt happier for seeing him, and everything else seemed a little clearer now.

  I got in the car and dialled Ali’s mobile. Marcus had good advice. Advice I wasn’t going to ignore, because he was right. Max and Frank were not stopping me from being happy for another second.

  Hanging up the phone from speaking to Ali, it rang immediately. I smiled as Cole’s name flashed up on the screen. “Hi,” I said.

  “Hey. How’d it go with Marcus? You on your way home?”

  “Good, and yes. How’s work? You’re not busy, right?”

  “Hmm, are you insinuating that I’m not busy because you think I do nothing all day, or are you asking?”

  Giggling, I replied, “Asking!”

  “Well, no, not really. ”

  “Of course you’re not,” I teased. “Sorry. I know you’re very important. ”

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  “Was there anything in particular you wanted?” Cole asked. His voice laced with sarcasm and a hint of amusement.

  “You called me. ” I pointed out. “And nope. ” My heart danced in happiness. I loved our playful conversations. “Want me to go?”

  “Nope,” he replied. “I want you in my bed. ”

  “Cole, you’d better be alone in your office!”

  “No, I’m in a conference,” he muttered
dryly. “Of course I’m alone. No one really comes in my office. ”

  “I’m playing a sad song on a tiny violin. ”

  Cole chuckled. “I’m gonna hang up. ”

  “No, you won’t. Are you coming to Ali’s after work?”

  “Do you want me to come to Ali’s after work?”

  I shook my head, laughing softly. “You know I do. ”

  “Then you know I’ll be there at quarter past five. ”

  I pulled into Ali’s driveway, right by the front door because there were a few people hanging around outside. They didn’t come through the front gate anymore. Not since Jasper threatened to call the police and report them for trespassing.

  “I’ve just got back to Ali’s. I’ll see you tonight, okay. ”

  “Okay. Love you. ”

  “I love you too. ” I hung up the phone and took it out of the cradle. My house key was in my pocket. I grabbed it, so I could get in as quickly as possible.

  “Oakley, a few words?” A deep voice shouted. Ignoring the questions being shouted at me, I shoved the key in the lock, keeping my head down. “Oakley, how do you feel about—”

  I slammed the door shut, cutting out the noise. Australia became more appealing whenever I had to run into a house to escape the cameras and questions. I flopped down on the sofa.

  “Hi, honey,” Mum said, carrying two mugs in her hands. She sat down on the sofa, and from the look on her face she was trying to figure out how to tell me something.

  “You okay, Mum?”

  “Yeah, fine. I booked the tickets. We leave in two days. ”

  “Okay. Good. ” I sat up and wrapped my hands around the mug. “How’s Miles?” He had to go back to Australia for work, and I knew Mum was missing him. It wouldn’t be long before they were together again though.

  “I spoke to him last night. He’s fine. ”

  “You’ll see him soon. ” She smiled and nodded. “I’m glad you’re happy, Mum. ”

  A ghost of a smile touched her lips “So am I. ”

  “But?” I prompted.

  She sighed. “I don’t know really. Miles is an incredible man and a good person. I just find myself doubting things. Doubting him. I guess I’m afraid. ”

  “Mum, that’s understandable, but Miles is nothing like Max. After… everything, I found it hard to trust men too. I wasn’t sure what they wanted from me or were going to do. ”

  Mum scrunched her eyes shut; her jaw clenched in what almost looked like pain. I swallowed the lump in my throat and continued because I needed to say it, and she needed to hear it.

  “It took time, but I realised that Max and Frank are the minority. You can trust Miles, Mum. I do. He really loves you, and hard though it is to believe it, he’s willing to take you on when you have Jasper. Marry him!”

  “Oakley, I’m so s—”

  I held my hand up. “Don’t apologise. We didn’t do anything wrong. ” I sounded like a therapist, but it was true.

  “I really wish you would take your own advice, Honey. ”

  I should do, but it was hard sometimes. There was still a lot of guilt weighing on my shoulders, though it lessened every day. “I’m trying to. It’s getting easier. ”

  “Good,” she said, wiping her nose on a tissue. “Okay. I’m okay. ” She wiped a stray tear from under her eye and smiled. “No more dwelling on the bad things. We look forward from now on. Deal?”

  “Deal. ” That was all I wanted her to say. It wouldn’t be as simple as she made it seem, we both knew that, but as long as we were willing to work on our issues we would be fine.

  “Good. Now, what time is Cole coming over? I assume it will be the second he gets off work,” she teased.

  I smiled. “Yes, from work. He’ll be having dinner with us tonight. Do you think that would be okay?” He’d been over most nights, and Ali said it was fine, but I worried she was just being polite.

  “Of course. Ali loves having a full house. Lizzie will be moved out in a few years I imagine. I’m a little worried that she’ll be lonely here by herself. ”

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  I bit my lip. “We should set her up. ”

  “She’d kill us, and we don’t really know anyone here any more!”

  “Well, we don’t but…”

  “Cole,” she said, grinning like a naughty school girl. He had mentioned that he worked with a load of men in their forties and fifties – he was the youngest there. “Someone around her age, single and trustworthy. ”

  “You had to specify single?”

  “Less of the sarcasm. Oh, I’m actually excited now. I can’t wait to see her reaction. ” I laughed at her. She really did seem like a fifteen-year-old girl, but I loved seeing her so carefree.

  “We can demand a list of eligible bachelors when Cole gets here. ” I’d been so wrapped up in myself, Mum and Jasper that I hadn’t really thought about Ali. So I hoped I could do something for her. Loneliness was awful and Ali had said she hoped to find someone special. She deserved to.

  “Hey,” Cole greeted me, flashing the smile that still gave me butterflies.

  “Hi. ” I closed the distance between us as quickly as I could and kissed him.

  “I’m glad you’re here. We need your help. ”

  “What with?”

  “Finding Ali a man. ”

  Cole grinned. “Sorry, I’m taken. ”

  “You sure about that?” I goaded him.

  “Uh huh. So you want me to set Ali up with randoms from work?”

  “They’re not randoms, you know them. Just do as you’re told and find a nice guy that will treat my auntie right. ”

  Cole saluted. “Yes, sir. ”

  I patted his cheek. “There’s a good boy. ” I led him to Lizzie’s room. At least I would be out of her room soon. “Sit,” I instructed, pointing to the futon.

  “I hope you’re going to do a striptease, bossy,” Cole teased. He looked ridiculously hopeful. Did he know me at all?

  Rolling my eyes, I sat down next to him. “So, Mum booked our tickets back to Australia today. ” His face fell, as I expected. “We leave in two days. ”

  “No,” Cole replied, getting up and kneeling in front of me. “Not again, Oakley, please. I can’t lose you again. Stay here with me—”

  I placed my index finger over his lips. “I have to go back—”

  “No,” he said fiercely. His eyes were wide with panic. If he would just let me finish!

  “Will you let me talk!” I shook my head. “I’ll be gone for a total of three days. Ali’s already said I can have the spare room until Mum sells the house and moves back here. ”

  “No,” he repeated.

  I frowned as his whole face lit up with the most perfect smile. He didn’t want me to come back? He was smiling though. Huh? “No? What?”

  “You’re not staying with anyone else. You’re living with me. ”

  He can’t be serious? We had only been back together a few months, although it did feel so much longer, like we hadn’t been apart for those four years. But still…

  “Cole you—”

  “I’ve spoken!” he said like a caveman. “Seriously though, Oakley, you’re mine now. Suck it up and move in with me. ” Oh my God, he is being serious! He wants us to live together. Squealing, I threw my arms around him and hugged him tight, probably crushing his bones, but he didn’t complain. “I love you. ”

  “I love you too,” I murmured against his neck. Wow, I was going to be living with Cole. Living in that beautiful house we decorated together. It didn’t seem real, like it wasn’t happening to me. I never thought I would have that, a proper relationship with someone that wanted me. Someone that didn’t care about my past.

  “And I’m coming to Australia with you. ”

  I shook my head. “You have work, and it’s only three days. ”

  “We’ll argue about that later. ” He lowered us d
own on the futon. “I fucking love you,” he whispered and kissed me senseless.

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Oakley

  I got into the car and closed my eyes. Finally, it was done. No more revisiting the past, outside of therapy anyway. I wanted to be finished with therapy already, but I had learned not to give myself a timeframe. I would go until I felt I didn’t need to any more, and I just wasn’t there yet.

  “How’d it go?” Cole asked, squeezing the top of my leg.

  “Good. ” I had just finished the last interview I agreed to do, and it was such a relief. Selling my story had been the last thing I wanted to do, until I realised the money would fund a sport and hobby centre at the gym.

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  After speaking to countless therapists and other people that had been in my situation, I discovered that a lot of children that were abused were able to use hobbies as an escape. Through therapy, so far, I’d met people that painted, sang, played music, danced, and cycled. For me, it had been gymnastics.

  When Marcus told me how bad the gym was doing and that the owners were cutting their losses and turning it into a fitness gym with a swimming pool, I knew I had to do something.

  The thought of someone going through a similar thing to what I did without having access to that tiny bit of normality was painful. So I sold my story to a major magazine, had one interview with a national newspaper, and a women’s weekly, and did three TV appearances.

  Dredging everything back up was hard, but I knew that it would be worth it in the end. The centre would help so many people, and I was going to donate a cut of the yearly profit to a charity that helps victims of child abuse.

  My last interview with a magazine marked the end of the fundraising and meant I could afford the finishing touches for the centre. I’d officially named it ‘La Fuga’, which was Italian for ‘The Escape’, but we mostly just called it the centre.

  “I’m proud of you. You’ve done all this by yourself. ”

  I shook my head. “Not by myself. Marcus has been with me every step of the way. So have you, and both of our families!”

  “Alright, well it was all your idea. ”

  “That one I’ll take credit for. ”

  Cole chuckled and took the exit that would take us home. “So, tomorrow’s going to be ridiculously busy, huh?”

 
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