Reliving fate, p.21

Reliving Fate, page 21

 

Reliving Fate
 


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  Ellis thinks for a second and blows out a breath. "I don't know, man. He's kind of a recluse, and I've not spent much time with him. I have heard things though..."

  "Things?"

  "About how he used to be."

  "Like brutal when he was fighting? Yeah, I've heard that, too."

  "Yeah, but not just organised fights. According to Kane, Hugo would get hired for his muscle. Someone didn't pay a loan, and Hugo would be sent."

  I know a lot of muscle for hire, Ellis has done it, but I didn't know Hugo used to be one.

  "Is Kane a reliable source?" I don't know him well, same as everyone else around here, but he works with Ellis and seems decent enough.

  "I trust him."

  "Fuck's sake," I groan, looking up at the sky. "Bella could be right about this."

  When I lower my head, Ellis is looking at me with all the sympathy in the world.

  "She's not going to let this go, is she?" he asks.

  "Nope, I've tried. And I have no idea where to go from here. I don't want her putting herself in danger."

  "So, don't tell her."

  I laugh. "Yeah, that's what I was thinking, too. If she thinks it's a dead end, she might stop looking. It's safer than her trying to prove it was Hugo."

  Because how would we even begin to do that? It's not like he's going to admit it.

  "But then if she finds out herself and knows you lied..."

  "Great. So, I can't win?"

  "You're in a relationship, Rocco. What made you think you could ever win?"

  True.

  "I need a plan," I say.

  "Keep her out of it for now. I'll do some more digging."

  "You don't need to get involved, Ellis. I--"

  "Fuck off," he says, cutting me off. "You're a mate, and I like Bella. Besides, people don't tell you their deepest, darkest secrets because you've never shown any interest in their lives--ever."

  That does make sense.

  "Why do you want to help just like that? No thousand questions, no wanting to talk to Bella."

  "I don't need to know any more than your girl's sister was killed, and we might know by who."

  "Right." I scratch the back of my neck. "Er, thanks."

  Ellis laughs. "Man, it's worth it just to see how uncomfortable you are. It's not a bad thing to ask for help and rely on someone else, you know."

  "Isn't it?" I've never had help, not even as a kid. I practically learned how to take care of myself before I learned to fucking walk.

  "Leave it with me. I'll see what else I can get from Kane."

  I give him a nod and look away to take another swig. I want to leave because this is awkward as hell, but I can't go home too soon because Bella will be full of questions. Lying to her isn't going to be easy, but if I go home and tell her what Ellis said, she won't leave it alone. I want proof before I tell her anything.

  If Hugo is the reason Bella is broken, I'll fucking kill him myself.

  THIRTY-TWO

  * * *

  BELLA

  I'm in Rocco's kitchen, drinking coffee because I need to be a functioning human. He's standing opposite me, and so far, he's only said that he found out nothing last night.

  Celia's diary is now in my bag on the counter. There's nothing new to learn in there, but I can't let it go. It's like getting a piece of her back. When I read it, I hear her voice in my head.

  "What? Not a thing? Wasn't Hugo there?"

  "Babe, I'm sorry there's not more to tell yet."

  I shrug. "Not sure what I thought would happen anyway. It's not like he was going to come right out and tell you what he did."

  "If he's even done anything. I'll keep my ear to the ground, but for now, I think you should take a massive step back."

  "What?" I literally jump back from him and knock my back against the counter. "I can't do that. You said we'd figure this out together."

  "And we will, but you can't go bulldozing in and expect--"

  "What happened last night?" I demand. "You've changed your damn tune, and it's not cool."

  "I've not changed anything. I just think you need to be smart about this."

  "I am being smart about it."

  "No, you're not."

  "You're being a prick! I'm not giving up on my sister, and I'm sure as hell not stepping back when I feel like I'm getting closer! If you don't want to help, that's fine, but don't ever think you can tell me what to do."

  "Oh my God, you're blowing this way out of proportion. What's going on, Bella?" he snaps. "There's more to this. You're completely obsessed to the point where it's scary and unhealthy. What the fuck happened to you?"

  "Get out of my way, Rocco," I reply calmly, stepping to the side and attempting to walk out of the room. Under the surface, I'm seething, but right now, I just need to get away from him.

  He leaps forward. His arm shoots out, and his fingers curl around my wrist. "No."

  I yank myself free. "Don't touch me! Just let me leave."

  "Tell me what happened. Why're you so fucked up? What happened to you that made you so cold? Why are you constantly running around, poking your nose into everyone's business, following my friends like a damn stalker? What's. Going. On?"

  I shove the palms of my hands into his chest and sob. Pain slices through my heart. I need help. I cover my mouth with my hand to try and stop myself from crying.

  Fucking get ahold of yourself!

  Rocco steps closer and places his hands on either side of my face, the way he does when he kisses me. Only this time, his lips don't reach for mine. He looks into my eyes and asks one last time, "What happened to you?"

  And, this time, I don't lie. I'm too tired of it. I feel like I'm suffocating because I have to watch what I say all the time. "I watched him kill my sister."

  Rocco stills, and his face falls. He slowly lowers his hands. "You what?" he whispers.

  "I was in the house when he killed her." I'm shaking. This is the first time I've ever admitted it. No one knows but me and Celia. "I've never told anyone else that."

  "Fucking hell. God, Bella. Why haven't you told your parents? The police?"

  I couldn't tell.

  "Bella, talk to me," he demands, folding his arms over his chest.

  I glance up and meet his eyes. "She told me not to."

  "Celia?"

  I nod in confirmation, but that only makes him look more confused.

  He scratches his jaw. "She didn't die straightaway?"

  "No, she did." Thank God she didn't suffer. "But she knew who he was before he broke the door in. She knew what he was going to do, Rocco."

  He shakes his head. "Start from the beginning."

  I wrap my arms around my stomach, feeling sick.

  How can I do that? I constantly relive that day over and over. I don't want to talk about it. If I could erase it from my memory, I would.

  "Bella! For fuck's sake, you can't tell me something like that and then close up. Baby, tell me what happened."

  Baby is more of an affectionate term than he's used before, and he's not the fluffiest person. But I like it. I need it right now. I need him more than I've ever needed anything, and if I'm going to properly have him, I have to let him in.

  Rocco moves closer and wraps me in his arms. Then, he waits. I feel strength in his embrace, so I cut myself open and let my past bleed out.

  "It was the street carnival. Everyone brought food and drinks, and we had games and stalls up and down the road. The stall where my parents were was outside a neighbour's house. Celia was at home, getting ready. Olivia and I were playing that stupid game where you have to hook the duck to win a crappy prize. I needed the toilet, so I went home."

  Rocco pulls me closer. He knows where this is headed now.

  "So, I went inside and used the toilet. When I finished, Celia was in the living room, still putting on her lip gloss. That was when we heard banging on the back door. I knew the instant I saw Celia's face that something was very wrong. I'd never seen her look so s
cared. When I think about that day, I can still feel the fear."

  "What happened, Bella?"

  I take a breath. God, I don't want to say it.

  "She leaped up and grabbed ahold of me so hard that I thought my arm was going to snap. I didn't understand what was going on, but I was terrified because she was. Celia told me that I had to hide and that, whatever happened, I was to never tell what I saw. The banging on the back door was getting louder, and she kept looking back. He was going to get in soon..."

  "Go on," he prompts softly.

  I swallow sand. "She said he was a 'very bad man,' and she didn't want him to hurt our parents, me, or Olivia, too, so I had to promise to stay hidden and not tell anyone.

  "She said it over and over, Rocco. 'Don't tell anyone about this because our family will be in danger.'

  "I planned on telling my parents as soon as he left.

  "I had no idea what he would do. Celia hid me in the cupboard, told me she loved me, and made me promise again not to tell and to forget what was going to happen."

  I take a deep breath and press my face in his chest. Images of that day flash through my mind.

  "The door was kicked in. I heard a struggle and a loud bang, like something heavy had been knocked over. Celia was begging him to let her go. I was in the dark and terrified, but I still did the stupidest thing and opened the door a little."

  Rocco's body tenses. "Did he touch you?"

  "No, he never even saw me. He was too busy tightening his hands around my sister's neck. Celia saw me looking on in horror. Her eyes widened as she clawed at his hands and gasped for breath. Even though she was fighting a losing battle for her life, she still gave me the look that told me to shut the door and stay quiet. I did what she'd ordered and heard my sister gasp for a few more seconds...and then he stabbed her. Eleven times in the chest.

  "It took me ages to finally come out. Her eyes were open, and even though I was little, I knew she was gone. The end table was on its side. I think she'd knocked it over to try to stop him from getting to her. I don't know. My parents walked in seconds later and screamed. They assumed I'd just found her, and I was so shocked and so scared that I didn't correct them."

  "No one heard anything?"

  I wipe my eyes. "No, not with the carnival music. That's obviously why he chose that day to kill her. He must have been stalking her. I mean, she knew he might come, so she must have been threatened by him, right?"

  Rocco frowns. "Why did he do it?"

  I shrug. "I don't know. I doubt she would've told a six-year-old even if she'd had time."

  "Jesus." He takes a breath. "You've carried that around all this time?"

  Rocco runs his fingertip under my eye, wiping a tear.

  "I know I'm a horrible person for not telling, but I fear for my family's safety, and I've been confused about the whole thing. Every time I want to tell, I remember what Celia said. So, now, I have to make it up to her. She hid me so that I wouldn't get hurt. She made me keep this secret to protect the rest of us. I can't let this go on forever. Celia deserves justice, and that's all I want right now."

  He sighs, and I know he likes the idea of me searching for a killer even less.

  "I understand it's dangerous, but you don't get it, Rocco. This is my sister. I let her down, and I have to make up for it."

  He pulls me into his arms and cups my cheek with his hand. "You were a child, Bella. You didn't let her down. She made the right decision when she told you to keep quiet. It's what anyone would have done if they were scared the same man would harm their family."

  "No. I should've done more, and I'll always regret that."

  His eyes harden. "There's nothing you could've done. Do you think he would've spared your life because you were six? People like that don't give a shit. If he'd seen you, there's no way he would have let you live and risked getting caught. Celia was right. You would have done the same thing if the roles were reversed, and keeping your end was the right thing to do, too."

  "No, it wasn't. The older I get, the more I realised that. No one has been held accountable for her death, and more people could have died at his hands. How is that the right thing? I'll never forgive myself for sitting back that day, and I'll never forgive myself if someone else has lost their life because of my silence. Please appreciate that I need to make this right."

  "Okay, I get that, Bella, but shit happens. You're responsible for your actions, no one else's. This isn't on you. The blame lies with the killer only."

  I do believe that to an extent as well, but this is different. It's not okay to think, It's not my fault, if you think someone will do wrong again. Not to me anyway.

  How am I supposed to sleep properly, knowing something I've done or not done has directly resulted in someone being hurt?

  So, maybe I'm insane, and maybe this will all end badly, but drowning in guilt is no way to live. I don't want to just exist anymore.

  "Rocco, I need to do this. Even if he never touches another person, my sister deserves for her killer to be behind bars."

  He sighs long and hard. "Fucking hell. I really don't like this."

  "I'm not asking you to put yourself in danger."

  Frowning, he cups my chin. "I'm not thinking about myself. My life doesn't mean shit to me. Yours does."

  My heart aches at his confession. His life means so, so much to me, and I hate hearing him talk about it like he's dispensable.

  "Don't, Rocco. Please don't say that."

  "It's the truth. I'm not going anywhere, Bella--never--but you are. You have so much potential, and I'm not letting you gamble your future--your life--for some scumbag piece of shit."

  I shouldn't have told him. Celia's death flipped my world upside down, and I can't have that happen again. If Rocco is injured while helping me...God, I don't know how I'd get through losing someone else I love.

  "You might not think you're anything special, Rocco, but I do. If you don't want to live here, then leave. You can get out."

  He sceptically lifts an eyebrow. "And do what?"

  "Whatever you want."

  "I love the world you live in," he says, as if I'm living in a fucking fairy tale.

  We're not going to settle this, and I'm not stepping back and letting someone else I...love be harmed again.

  And I do really love him. Despite our differences, the fact that we can't go a day without some argument, and that we've known each other only a couple of months, I love him. A whole lot.

  "Rocco," I whisper, feeling a wave of emotion wrap around my throat.

  "It's okay. We'll figure this out together."

  That wasn't what I was talking about. He thinks I mean Celia's killer. I don't. Well, I do, but right this second, it's about me and Rocco.

  "I don't want anything bad to happen to you," I say.

  "Back atcha. It'll be fine, baby. I promise you that I'll help put your sister's killer behind bars if you promise me something in return."

  "What's that?"

  "When this is all over, when he's gone down and you have justice, you'll start living for you. Whatever you want to achieve, you'll go out and get it."

  I've not told him my life is on hold, but obviously, he knows. I've tried a few times to not allow it to consume me, but it never lasts longer than a few days. The plans I made fizzled out as quickly as I set about realising them.

  It's hard to move on when you're chained to the past.

  This isn't some small thing that I need to take care of before I can move forward. This is so fucking huge that it chokes me.

  But I love my sister, and not having my life all about me is a small price to pay her back for saving me. Because that's what she did. Celia saved my life when she hid me away and made me swear to never tell.

  "Promise me, Bella, when this is done, everything becomes about you."

  I kiss his lips and whisper, "I promise."

  THIRTY-THREE

  * * *

  BELLA

  I get home late, and I'm ex
hausted after baring my soul to Rocco. It feels good to have told my story though. I didn't realise how heavy a secret like that had weighed until I let it out.

  Now, I get to worry about Rocco in this, too, though. He's much better than me at this who's-dodgy-and-who's-straight street shit, so if this all goes horribly wrong and anyone is going to get hurt, it's going to be me. I can live with that outcome.

  I turn out of Rocco's road and head toward home. Ed Sheeran is singing on the radio, and I join in for a little "Castle on the Hill." The shittiness of Rocco's part of town gives way to greenery and houses that aren't boarded up and covered in swear words and penis drawings.

  Behind me, a dark sedan breaks heavily to avoid a collision.

  Shit. What the fuck are you doing, you dickhead?

  Frowning, I rhythmically check my mirror and the road.

  What a knob. He's too damn close. Back off!

  I can't see the make of the car, but--

  The Volkswagen? Could this person be purposefully following me?

  The hairs on the back of my neck stand, and a shiver runs down my back. I grip the steering wheel and try not to react. Easing off the accelerator, I slowly drop from sixty to fifty. He does the same but keeps a tiny gap.

  What does he want?

  Am I being totally paranoid here?

  I am. I probably am. That's what I do sometimes, right? Just calm down because it's just a bad driver. There are a billion of them on the roads.

  I press the call button in the car to ring Rocco because he will either calm me down and make me see sense or get in his car and follow me. Either one is good with me at the minute. The second my finger leaves the button, the car makes another sharp break and takes a hard left, leaving the road I'm on.

  Sighing, I sink back into the seat and shake my head.

  See, you're a paranoid idiot!

  Fifteen minutes later, my heart rate is back to normal, and I'm pulling into my drive. I really need to take a break from obsessing about a killer because it's doing my mental health no good. I can't see everyone and every situation as a threat; that's not healthy.

  I park the car, get out, and let myself into the house. Dad is sitting on the sofa when I walk in. Seems like he's alone, and there's no other noise in the house.

  "Hi, Dad."

  "Hi, Isabella. Can you come and sit down, please?"

  My heart is instantly in overdrive, hammering away, as I imagine the worst.

 
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