Reliving fate, p.28

Reliving Fate, page 28

 

Reliving Fate
 


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  "Yeah, all right, Rocco."

  "You getting that?" he asks as my phone vibrates with another text.

  Since I left the house, Mum has been messaging me.

  Isabella, come home, so we can talk about this.

  Isabella, this is absurd. You cannot run away!

  Call me, Isabella!

  Great. I fire a response to Mum and then text Livvy.

  I am home. Once things settle down, maybe we can talk.

  Liv, all's okay. I'll see you soon. x Mum is the first to respond.

  Playing house with that man is not going to get you anywhere. THINK about what you're doing.

  Her use of that man makes me want to punch something. I grit my teeth and look up. Rocco is watching and waiting.

  "My mum is impossible again," I growl. My blood is boiling in my veins.

  "Yeah, I'm not a massive fan."

  "I don't know what to do. She's done a complete one-eighty. I can't exactly cut her off, but right now, I would love to."

  He snorts. "Well, I vote we cut her off. For a couple of weeks anyway."

  "Oh, that'll help. I'm all for getting some space, but I can't fall off the face of the planet for that long. She's still my mum."

  "I saw your reaction to her text. You're upset, and that pisses me off. Your mum's being a twat."

  "Rocco!" I snap. "Stop."

  "Why are you shouting at me? I've done nothing wrong. Your parents are the ones who've made this impossible. You moved out today because of them."

  "Is that the problem? I don't have to stay here if it's too soon."

  I mean, I have no fucking idea where else I'd go, as I don't want to run off to Nana and Grandad's and make things awkward with them and my parents. But I don't want Rocco to feel forced to have me here.

  "We're together. It's permanent," he says, like it's the most stupidly obvious thing.

  "That doesn't mean we have to live together. We've only known each other for two minutes!"

  His jet-black eyebrows rise. "That doesn't bother me, but from your tone, I'm wondering if it bothers you."

  "Don't be ridiculous, Rocco."

  He takes a step back. "I'm not. The way you're reacting is childish."

  What the hell is going on?

  My head is spinning.

  Why do we always do this?

  I'm not even sure anymore why we started arguing, but I'm so tired and emotionally drained after this shitty day.

  "Okay, I need to leave for a while."

  I turn around, but Rocco grabs my arm, preventing me from going anywhere.

  "Bella, stop."

  Tugging my arm from his grip, I spin around. "I need you to give me some time. Things are tense, and we're both going to say stuff we don't mean." I'm coiled too tight and about to blow any minute.

  "Where are you going?"

  "I'll just go to the cafe and get a coffee. I'll be back in a little while."

  Rocco frowns, and he looks so lost that I almost give in. But I can't because I'm angry, stressed, and hurt, and I feel like I'm about to explode. My relationship with my parents has taken a nosedive, especially with Mum back on Dad's team, and I don't want the same to happen with Rocco.

  He needs to sober up, and I need to clear my head.

  "Bella..."

  "I won't be long."

  "You're coming back? Nothing's changed, right?"

  "Nothing at all, but when I'm in this mood, we're not going to get along. I need to calm down, so I don't snap, and you need to calm down, so you're not slagging off my family."

  His mouth thins, but he chooses not to reply. I take his silence as agreement and leave.

  I'm not going to the cafe though. I know exactly where I want to be.

  FORTY-FOUR

  * * *

  BELLA

  I close the front door and walk toward the road. My car is still outside. Thank God.

  The street Rocco lives on is somewhat safe. It's deeper in where you have to really watch carefully.

  I take a left and walk along the path. A car drives past from behind. I hear it first and look out of the corner of my eye, keeping my head forward so that I don't appear nervous. As it passes, I miss a step. The Volkswagen. Inside is a man with light hair behind the wheel, and a girl is sitting beside him.

  I stumble forward.

  Don't read too much into it, you paranoid freak! Teens with nothing better to do, remember?

  I clench my fists and carry on walking. Up ahead, Faith is walking toward me. She raises her hand in a wave and quickens her pace.

  "Hi," I say as we stop in front of each other.

  "Bella, are you okay?" she asks softly.

  Her choice of words and tone confirm that I look like a mess.

  "I've had a proper rubbish few days."

  She tilts her head in sympathy. "Fancy a cuppa?"

  A coffee. "That sounds good actually."

  Around here, the only people I talk to besides Rocco are Ellis and Faith. Ellis isn't brilliant at giving advice.

  "Come on. The youth centre is just around the corner."

  She turns, and I follow her down the road. Now that I'm living here, I'll have to get more involved, so the youth centre is a great place to start. Faith said that teen girls use it most, so I could possibly meet people my age there.

  Faith punches in a key code on the large green door. The building is one-story and pretty big. It's grey and ugly, but I love what it stands for.

  We walk into a large game room. There's a pool table, two arcade games, massive beanbags, a TV, and a wall stacked with books and DVDs. I'm surprised this place doesn't get robbed.

  Faith leads me into the kitchen, which is a bit like a school cafeteria. There are about a dozen tables, a food service area, and bins.

  "I really appreciate you letting me come here," I say.

  It'll only be an hour or so, and then I'll go home and sort things out with Rocco. I hate the arguments and how it was left, but we all need a bit of time to cool down.

  "Anytime you need to, Bella; you know that," Faith says, flicking on the kettle to make us a drink.

  "Rocco's not a bad person. I don't understand why they won't accept that. I mean, they don't even want to talk; my dad doesn't anyway. How can you judge a person without really knowing them?"

  She turns around and folds her arms. "I know what you mean, love. I'm judged for where I live."

  I turn my nose up. "It sucks."

  "Yes, it does."

  My parents are overprotective and strict. Livvy and I have always been allowed to make our own decisions, but they certainly let us know when they don't agree. We've not chosen to do anything they don't like...until I turned down uni and got together with Rocco.

  "I don't know what to do if they don't come around."

  "Can you give up Rocco?"

  I'd like to think that I could give him up over my parents, but they're the ones asking me to choose.

  "Bella?" she presses.

  "No, I can't. But, at the same time, I can't cut my parents out of my life."

  "You don't have to."

  I tilt my head. "How's that?" Right now, I'm not seeing many options.

  "They'll come around."

  "I hope so."

  "Well, you're welcome to stay here for as long as you want, whenever you want. It's not luxury, and it's home to a few other girls in similar situations, but it'd give you the space you all probably need."

  "There are other girls living here?"

  "Yes, three boys and two girls. Larissa and Tamara are sisters, and they've had a lot of problems with their parents. Both alcoholics, neither worried about whether their daughters had food in their bellies or clothes that fit."

  "Are they okay?"

  "They are now. Been here about a year, I suppose. Got jobs and planning their next move. I'm not saying you need to leave home forever, Bella--that's not my decision--but I think you know something has to change if you're going to have Rocco and your parents in your
life."

  She's right. I can't stay home for another year if they're going to bitch at me nonstop about ditching him. Rocco and I had very different childhoods, and I understand why they're concerned, but he's nothing like the people you hear about from this part of town. He would never hurt me. Plus, I wouldn't move back now. I'm committed to Rocco.

  "Maybe I'll stay a little bit longer today if that's okay?"

  I like it here. It's strangely peaceful, and I love the idea of doing something to help someone else. I constantly feel like I'm failing Celia because I have no real leads, so at least here, I can be of use.

  "Of course. We could really use your help in the main house actually."

  "The main house?" I frown.

  She's not mentioned another place before. Unless it's just her house...but then what can I do there?

  "Yes," she replies as she pours boiling water into two mugs.

  The smell of coffee fills the air, and I suddenly feel like a druggie desperate for the next fix.

  "We live not too far from here, on the outskirts of town. There's an outbuilding housing three young women."

  What the fuck?

  "Okay..."

  That's weird, right?

  She laughs. "I didn't make that sound too good, did I? These young ladies have had a particularly bad time, and at the minute, they aren't ready to be here. We do everything we can to ensure this place is safe and secure, but people are free to come and go as they please."

  "So, the girls at your house were abused or scared of men? I mean, they're there, alone, right?"

  That's basically what I'm getting from what she said. They can't stop guys from using the centre, so the best option is to have those three girls somewhere else.

  "You read between the lines well, Bella. Some of the things Eliza, Penny, and Yasmin have been through are indescribable."

  "Why are they with you, if you don't mind me asking? Wouldn't social services get involved and find them somewhere to live?"

  "They all had involvement from social services at home over the years, but they all ran away. I can't send them away, knowing what they would be going back to." She places my coffee in front of me and takes a seat. "I understand this is unusual, but the help we get around here isn't adequate. You've seen the lack of police involvement."

  I think it can't help that no one speaks out.

  "I have to do something," she says with passion.

  "That's admirable."

  "Thank you."

  "What happens to those girls then?"

  "We give them a safe place to stay, listen to their stories, and help them plan for the future. I'm no rival for professionals, but I'm here, and I won't turn them away. I think they feel safer, being among their own rather than with some fancy therapist."

  The steam coming off my coffee swirls in front of Faith's face. I watch it for a second and try to figure out how I feel about this. On the one hand, what she's doing is amazing, but they're at her house, and they clearly need professional help.

  Is she just doing more harm than good?

  Her intentions are honourable. She's a good person.

  "What do you want me to do?" I ask.

  "We're having a fundraiser, and we need help on the stalls. I want the girls to join in, so they're not just sitting around the house, thinking. I'll be there, too, of course, along with Keith and a few other volunteers, but I think it might be good for them to have someone their own age around."

  I shrug. "Yeah, sure. The fundraiser is this afternoon though?"

  It's two o'clock all ready.

  Surely, if it was today, she would be there by now?

  She laughs. "No. Sorry, the fundraiser is tomorrow. We've always had more success on a Sunday. But we need to set up the tables and stalls today."

  "Okay, I'm in."

  "Thank you, Bella. I'll drop you off at Rocco's once we're done. It shouldn't take more than an hour or two."

  "That's fine. I might be ready to apologise for overreacting, but that doesn't mean I can't leave him to sweat a little longer."

  Once we've finished our coffee, we get in Faith's car, and she drives in the opposite direction of Rocco's flat. I know she's more on the outskirts of town, but I have no idea exactly where that is.

  "That car is everywhere," I say, looking behind me as the dark Volkswagen saloon goes past.

  When I turn back, Faith is looking at it in the mirror. She shrugs. "I don't recognise it. How do you mean, everywhere?"

  "I just see it a lot. At first, I thought it was following me, but that's definitely irrational."

  "Have you seen who's inside?"

  "Not really."

  She gives me a smile. "I can see why you jumped to that conclusion, but it's probably some teen who hasn't had a car long. They tend to drive round and round and try to impress."

  "Yeah, they do that where I live, too. It felt strange that it was around almost every time I was here."

  "Most people are, Bella. There's not a great deal to do here."

  That's the truth. Even the basketball courts are broken and covered in graffiti. There's not a decent park or cinema around.

  "They should go to your centre."

  Laughing under her breath, she makes a right at a set of lights, and we're almost out of town. "It stops being cool after a certain age, I think. Cars suddenly become more fun than playing pool or card games."

  Yeah, I can see that. Even though she seems to be right in the middle of the community here, she can't know everyone.

  "This is your house?" I ask as she pulls onto a dusty road.

  Ahead is a brick house, three metal outbuildings and what looks like a couple of sheds. It has an industrial feel to it rather than a homely one.

  "This is home," she replies.

  She told me it was one outbuilding.

  "You have a lot of space here." That you do what with?

  "We like our space. Keith's parents and grandparents lived here before us. They ran a car garage from the warehouses."

  The buildings are old, but if two generations of people ran a business from here, wouldn't there be evidence of that over the large doors? The sun would have faded the metal and left a new-looking strip where a sign was.

  Unless it wasn't a legit garage.

  Like one with stolen cars given new details. Cars cut about and stuck back together.

  I probably don't want to know. Faith has it now, and she's using the place to do good. I'm almost positive.

  She parks in front of the warehouse closest to the house, the one I assume has the girls living in it. When she told me about it, I assumed it would be a proper habitable building but, from the outside, it looks run down and unused.

  "Here we are," she says. "Let's go in, and you can meet the girls."

  "Okay. Are the supplies in here for the fundraiser? I didn't see anything outside." My stomach gets heavier, and I begin to regret coming here.

  "Yes. We have it out back on the field. I prefer having a large amount of people away from my home."

  I put my hand on the door handle and nod. My stomach turns a little. Faith speaks so genuinely, and everything she says makes me think she's an awesome person, but I can't shake the feeling that something is off.

  I want to trust my gut, but I've overreacted in the past.

  Watching Celia be killed when I was at a very young age left me cynical. Obviously, I know good people are out there, but it's not always mega easy to tell them from the fake ones.

  Is Faith fake good?

  What possible reason could she have for bringing me here if it wasn't to accept help that I'd offered though?

  Shit, I'm the fake good person. I'm here because I want to know everyone and be involved in everything I can, so I can find my sister's killer.

  "Bella?" Faith says.

  I look up, and she's frowning at me from outside the car.

  "Sorry," I reply.

  I get out of the car. Shutting the door, I take a quick glance around. It re
ally is in the middle of nowhere. I can't see another house at all. We're surrounded by fields, and further on is a splatter of trees.

  I follow her into the warehouse, and the second she closes the door, I want to run back out. It's dark, and the interior has been divided into rooms. It's very DIY, and you can see the joins between plasterboard. There's a large open area with sofas, a TV, and a small kitchen, but everything else is behind closed doors.

  What is the everything else?

  Taking a quick look, I count seven doors.

  A bathroom can count for one, so what are the other six?

  I don't like this anymore.

  My breathing hikes.

  "Penny, Yasmin, Eliza?" Faith calls out.

  They're real at least.

  I lick my lips and clench my fists. Stay calm. Everything is probably fine.

  One of the doors opens, and three girls walk out.

  The air is kicked from my lungs.

  Fuck.

  They look awful. They're thin, their eyes are sunken in, and their skin is dull. Shuffling forward, they walk toward Faith...but none of them look at her.

  I need to leave.

  "This is Isabella. She's going to be staying with us."

  Staying?

  My head whips around, but before I can speak, someone grabs me. A scream rips from my throat, but it's cut off when a dirty, large hand covers my face. Strong arms cage me against an unknown chest.

  Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. This isn't happening.

  I thrash around as best I can, but the guy holding me is too strong. He chuckles, and it sends shivers down my spine.

  "You're right, Faith. She does look just like her."

  No.

  It's him.

  FORTY-FIVE

  * * *

  BELLA

  He--the man who stole my sister's life--holds me so tight that I can barely breathe.

  Is this it then? Is this where it ends for me?

  I look to the girls behind Faith while my lungs set on fire. Help!

  "All right!" Faith snaps. "Let her go. She's our guest after all."

  He digs in my pocket, taking my phone, and then lets go. I stumble forward and gasp for air. Placing myself in front of a corner so that no one is behind me, I try to think. The one time my mind is completely fucking blank is right fucking now! I need to get out of here.

  Stay calm.

  Running won't do any good. There are five of them, more hidden away possibly. And the arsehole who murdered Celia is by the door.

  Look at him, I demand of myself.

  Faith is staring at me, and it's the first time that she looks harsh and ugly.

 
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