Reliving Fate, page 25
I hold my hands up, still suspicious as fuck but whatever. "Sorry. I guess this is strange. Or new. New sounds better than strange."
Mum laughs. "Get in the car, Isabella."
I do as I was told because, frankly, I'm totally weirded out and wondering if there's some ulterior motive here. But, mostly, I want a relationship with my mum, so I'll give this a chance.
I go outside to get in Mum's car. It's summer and bloody hot today. I'm wearing jean shorts and a long vest with Tom Hardy written across it. Livvy looks a bit more like a proper grown-up in a floral skirt and white vest.
Mum drives, and while she talks to Livvy, I look out the window, not knowing what to say. Today is, I think, about getting closer and sorting out our differences, but right now, I'm just reminded of how little I have in common with both of them.
"We're here," Mum says, pulling into a parking space outside a cute little bistro in town.
"What are the portion sizes like?" I ask, getting out of the car.
Mum rolls her eyes with a smile. "They're decent. You won't leave hungry."
We walk across the car park and are halfway when I see something. Someone. A dark figure in the distance, looking my way.
What the hell?
Whoever he is, he's tall, and his shoulders are wide set. An old red phone box hides the left side of his body and makes it difficult to see him properly.
His dark hood is up, disguising his face.
The hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and I miss a step. If it's someone connected to Celia's killer, he's seen me with Mum and Livvy.
"I'm really looking forward to this," Mum says, drawing my attention.
I smile. "Me, too."
When I turn my head, he's gone.
That was fucking creepy. But, honestly, he could have been looking at anyone and anything. It's probably innocent. I'm getting more and more paranoid.
Calm down. It was nothing.
Livvy holds the door open, and we don't have to wait long before we're seated near the window. I pick up the menu and scan. It'll take me at least three times to properly read what they have.
Mum and Livvy have been here before, I think, as they've not even picked up their menus.
I glance out the window, but the person is gone. He was probably waiting for someone and found them.
Once we order our drinks, Livvy steers the conversation to her and Harry. She is animated, talking a hundred miles an hour about the flat she will be renting with Harry when they're at uni. She hasn't told me she backed down, despite not wanting to live with him the first year.
"Wait," I say, shaking my head. "When did you let him get his way?"
She tilts her head from Mum to me. "Don't start, Bella. Harry and I talked it through, and I'm happy to live with him now."
"You mean, he sweet-talked you, and you're too dumb to see through it."
"Isabella," Mum scolds.
"What? Come on, like you can't see what he's done, too. How are you not mad at him for making her change her plans? You taught us to be strong and independent, not to back down to any man."
"That's enough," Livvy hushes. "It's really none of your business. I'm perfectly happy with my choice, so get off the girl-power bandwagon and be supportive, like a normal sister does."
"Plus, I really don't think you should judge."
Oh, she did not.
"Really? Your criminal boyfriend."
"He's not a criminal." Kind of. "Those charges were totally bogus, and the guy survived."
Mum's head snaps up, and Livvy's eyes bulge.
"Ha!" I point at her. "Kidding. Rocco's not a criminal...and he wouldn't even try to pressure me to live somewhere I didn't want to." So, fuck you.
"That's not funny, Isabella. We worry about you," Mum says.
"Well, don't. You have nothing to be concerned about with Rocco, okay? I really like him, and he feels the same, so I would love it if you could give him a chance before you wrote him off."
Livvy raises her eyebrow and says, "You kept him a secret from us after meeting him in one of the shittiest parts of town. What do you expect?"
"Language, Olivia," Mum scolds.
We both ignore her.
"I expect you to be nice and, like I just said, give him one chance. Everyone's given Harry a chance, and for all we know, he's using prostitutes behind your back."
"You're being a cow, Bella!" Livvy snaps.
"So are you! God, you're supposed to be the together, levelheaded one. You know you're being unreasonable."
She grits her teeth. "Tell you what. If you lay off Harry, I'll give Rocco a chance."
There are so many people I'd rather give a chance to, like Hans from Frozen. Technically, I have given Harry a chance before, so she's actually asking for a second one for him.
But I bite my tongue because, as much as I love to win a fight, I'm not dumb enough to not know which battles I should pick.
"All right, that seems fair." So, yeah, the words practically hurt, but it would be nice not to bicker with her all the time. About Harry and Rocco anyway. "Mum, what deal do I have to make with you?"
"My reservations can't be eradicated with a deal, Isabella. I don't know him, and that concerns me."
"Obviously, you don't know him because you're not willing to get to know him."
I bet she's still super glad she invited me along today. She and Livvy probably have lovely lunches together when they come alone.
Make more of an effort, Bella.
Mum's pink lips purse the way they do when she knows she's in the wrong. "That's a fair point, Isabella. Perhaps we have been too hasty in judging him. Do you think he would come to the fair with us tomorrow?"
"I wasn't even going to go, but I'm sure we can arrange something."
Since Celia died while Mum, Dad, and Livvy were all preoccupied at the summer fete, I've avoided things like that. Mum and Dad didn't go to any for a few years after, but when Livvy and I were around ten, they started going again. I've refused and stayed with my grandparents.
"Good. Now, can we please enjoy lunch?" Mum says, raising her eyebrows and looking between me and Livvy. "What are you both having?"
Livvy pushes her menu away. "I'm going for a chicken Caesar salad. Bella?"
"You're having a salad? We're at a restaurant."
Livvy rolls her eyes at me.
"Whatever. I'm going for a grilled chicken sandwich with chips and onion rings."
Mum laughs. "You've always had a healthy appetite."
That sounds an awful lot like, You're fat, but I'm not, and my mum would never call me that, so I let it go.
"I have Dad's metabolism."
"Are you definitely going to invite Rocco to the fair?" Livvy asks.
"Er, I will."
"It's tomorrow. You should give him some notice."
Why is she suddenly so interested?
I pull my phone out of my pocket and send him a message.
Fair tomorrow with my family. You in?
I look up at Mum and Livvy and smile. "He's in."
Awesome. They can't wait either.
Do NOT agree to this, Isabella.
"That's great," Mum replies.
I can't quite tell if she's being sarcastic because she's shit at it.
Surprise, too late. We're going to have so much fun!
What the fuck is wrong with you? Have you lost your tiny mind?
Love you, too! See you tonight.
"Did you decide what you want, Mum?" I ask, ignoring my phone vibrating with another message from Rocco.
"The salmon, I think. Is that Rocco messaging you?"
I smile and put my phone back in my pocket. "Yeah, he's really looking forward to the fair."
She laughs again. "He's dreading it, isn't he?"
"Can you blame him?"
"I will. It's cool anyway. He doesn't hold a grudge."
My phone buzzes again. He's definitely not looking forward to this.
* * *
"I would rather boil my head than do this," I moan as we walk toward the entrance of the fair.
Bella's parents, Livvy, and Harry are meeting us by the Ferris wheel.
"I would rather take a bullet in my dick."
"Oh my God, will you shut up? You're like a little baby."
"I'm spending the night with four people who hate me."
"And one who loves you, so suck it up, buster."
I throw my arm around her shoulders, and she smiles.
"You'd better be really nice to me when we get home."
"And by nice to you, you really mean..."
"Nice to my dick." God, please be nice to my dick.
"Good thing you didn't shoot it off then," she says sarcastically, nudging my ribs.
"Ha-ha. Shit, there they are. Bella, are you sure you want to do this? I'll take you anywhere else you want."
"It'll be fine."
"Grow a pair, Rocco."
"Fuck off, Bella."
She slaps my chest as we approach her family. Thankfully, they've not seen us yet. A few more seconds...
"Just act normal, and relax, will you? You're tense."
"These people make me tense."
"Grow up with them, and then come and talk to me." She hushes me as we reach them.
Her mum sees us first, and she's all smiles. "Rocco, I'm glad you made it."
"Me, too," I reply, holding on to Bella tighter.
Her dad shakes my hand. "I hope we can put our last meeting behind us and move on. You are important to our daughter, and we would really like it if we could all get along."
Bella looks up at me with fucking Bambi eyes.
"I'd do anything for her, so I'm willing to forget the past and move on."
That seems to please them. They exchange a look, and it's not, Get this scummy wanker away from our daughter.
"Are we going on the Ferris wheel?" Livvy asks. "Rocco, do you do rides?"
"I don't do fairs, but I'm up for this," I reply.
Bella smirks. "If you get scared, we'll get the man to stop."
I glare at her. "Thanks. I think I'll be okay."
"Well, just saying."
"Hey, after that, you can join me and their dad and see who can shoot down the most cans," Harry says. "It's tradition, and I always lose."
"Sure," I reply.
"Dad, prepare to have your arse kicked because Rocco is an awesome shot. He doesn't get paid as much when he misses."
"Isabella!" I snap, staring at her, open-mouthed.
Aren't we trying to get on and show her parents that I'm not a fucking criminal?
She starts to laugh and nudges my arm. I'm not laughing. And neither is her family.
"I'm not a hit man," I say, holding my hands up.
Her mum shakes her head. "We know that, Rocco. I'll never understand her humour."
"You're not the only one." I pull Bella closer and kiss the top of her head even though I want to strangle her right now.
This was her idea. I'm only here because she wants us all to be friendly and have Christmases or something together, yet she's cracking jokes like that.
We get on the ride. Thankfully, it's only two people to a car.
Bella lays her head on my shoulder. "I think it's going well," she says.
"Oh, do you? After that stunt, there's definitely time for it to go to hell."
"You know what? That's what I love about you the most--your upbeat, glass-half-full attitude. You should volunteer as an elf at the town's Father Christmas grotto."
"Sarcasm again. And it's your fault. Why would you joke to your parents about me shooting people? They already think I'm bad for you."
She sighs. "Rocco, you don't understand."
"Too right I don't. So, why don't you explain it to me?"
"It was funny."
"That is your explanation?"
"Why else would I have said it?"
Sighing, I rub my hands over my face. "God, you are fucking crazy. If I wasn't so in love with you, I'd throw you off this ride."
She tilts her head in my direction and smiles. "Aw, you love me."
"No more joking about me to your parents."
Smirking, she salutes. "Yes, sir."
Bella must be one of the most sarcastic people I know.
"I mean it, Bella. You're the one who wants this to work. I've never done the parent thing before, and it doesn't bother me if I don't see them."
"I know. I'm sorry. It means a lot that you're here and that you're willing to give them another chance."
"Thank you. But, if you think I'm wearing a fucking Christmas jumper and singing carols..."
"Wow, I would pay to see that."
"Not enough money in the world, babe."
I throw my arm over the back of the car, and she leans in, snuggling back against my side.
"Are you enjoying yourself so far? And, just so you know, if you say no, I'm jumping." The only reason I'm here is to make her happy.
"I am. Spending time with my family usually sucks big time, but this isn't painful at all. I like having you with me."
"If that was all you wanted, we could've gone to mine."
She looks up at me with a frown. "With my family?"
"Fuck no. We can never bring them to mine. Though I would like to see their faces when they walked in."
They'd have to take it in turns, as I genuinely don't think we'd all fit in the living room.
"One day. I'll film it."
"Bella!" Livvy shouts just as I'm about to lean in and kiss my girl.
Bella laughs at my frown and gives me a much quicker kiss than I was going for.
"This is so cool. Do you remember doing this as kids? You would always rock the car and scare me."
"I remember," Bella replies, looking behind us to see Livvy.
"You like this ride then?"
She shrugs. "We were only allowed to go on the Ferris wheel for two years before Celia died. I did rock it a lot, and Livvy was such a bitch about it."
"It was probably the fear of you rocking too far and her falling to her death."
"Probably, the massive baby."
"You're not scared to die?" I ask. For some reason, I'm nervous to hear her reply. I want to hold her closer.
"No, not anymore," she replies in a quiet voice that slices through my heart.
Bella is willing to die for her cause.
How can her life mean so little? How can our relationship mean so little? Fuck.
"Mmhmm," I mutter, withdrawing.
We have to spend the entire evening with her family, and right now, I want to be alone.
"Nothin'," I reply.
"Come on, Rocco, that's not your nothing face. Spill."
"Please. Did I say something wrong? Isn't it better not to fear death? I mean, no one is making it out of here alive."
I snap my teeth together in a bid to stop myself from saying something I might regret.
"Rocco, please. Jesus, you can't expect me to believe that you're scared of dying, so why are you making such a big deal out of this?"
"Maybe I changed my mind. I've never been scared of anything before, but..." I shake my head. There's no point. "Never mind."
"No, tell me. You can't get mad and then not tell me why. That's not fair."
"Fine." Shit, am I really about to tell her this? "I'm scared now, Bella. I could take anything, handle anything. Then, I met you, and suddenly, I'm fucking terrified. I'm scared that I'll lose you. I'm scared that you think so little of your own life that you'l
All right, I said too much.
"Rocco," Bella rasps. Tears fill her eyes, and she grips my hand, threading her fingers through mine. "I...I didn't know. God," she mutters, "I'm scared of not being with you, too. I love you so much, and nothing will ever compare."
There's still a but.
"Go on," I say.
"I don't know how to stop what I'm doing. How can I give up on something like that?"
"You just do. Look, I'm not asking you to stop looking, but I don't want you risking your life. I know you love your sister, but finding who murdered her isn't worth it."
She shakes her head. "That's not...God, stop confusing things! This was so simple before you."
"Right back at ya, Cinderella."
"Do you want to break up?" Her voice is quiet and unsure.
"Don't be so fucking melodramatic, Isabella. You make me want to put a bullet through my own head, but we're not temporary, all right?"
Giggling, she snuggles back in my side. "So, we make each other's lives more complicated and frustrating, but we're not ever breaking up. We would be perfect candidates for The Jeremy Kyle Show."
"The what show?"
"TV, Rocco, watch it!"
"Are we ever going to make it off this stupid ride?"
We've only just gone over the top, and we're about to start back down again. It's still hot, and Bella is wearing shorts and a T-shirt, which is a win for me. Her legs are incredible.
She looks out at the view and sighs. "You can see the whole town."
I give her a look. "What the hell else did you expect?"
Her head snaps to me, and she glares those pretty eyes. "Yeah, you should do that shooting thing now...tosser."
When we get back down, Harry tells me that we should play the game where we have to shoot down the targets to win a crappy fire hazard of a stuffed animal.
"Let's do it," I say, picking up a gun.
Harry nods and grabs another one.
Karl gets his.
Before we can start, Bella grips my forearm and tugs.
She pulls me closer and whispers, "Okay, dilemma." Her beautiful eyes are full of humour. "Do you shoot really well and beat my dad and Harry or let them win so that my family doesn't think you really are a hit man?"
"What part of you thinks I'm going to let anyone win?"
"Ah, that's what I thought. Kick their arses, and win me a huge stuffed Minion."
"Er, is that one of those big yellow things?"
She takes a deep breath. "TV, Rocco!"
Other author's books:
- Broken SilenceSilenceThe CellarPlayers, Bumps and Cocktail SausagesLie to MeSilent NightReliving Fate
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