Reliving Fate, page 4
"How've you been?"
Bella's lips thin, and she gives me a don't-drop-me-in-it look. Ah, no one knows she was out. She's a fucking adult, so why would it matter?
"Fine," she replies instantly. "You?"
"I'm good. It was nice to see you the other day."
Her nan looks up. "When was this?"
Bella looks like she's going to reach across and strangle me. "The shop last week, Nana, when you asked me to get bread and biscuits."
Her lie came so naturally, without a second thought. I'm used to that, so I don't know why it doesn't seem to fit well with Bella.
"Okay, love. What are you having?" her nan asks, accepting Bella's lie at face value.
"Fried egg on toast, I think."
"Do you ever have anything different, Isabella?"
"No, I don't."
"Are you ready to go home after breakfast?"
Her eyes darken, and she bites her bottom lip. It's sexy even though she's doing it because she's unsure.
"I will be when I'm fed."
Ellis cocks his eyebrow and boots my foot under the table.
"What?" I snap.
"You're staring." He leans in. "You like her."
I nod and take a gulp of my coffee. "What're we doing after the gym? I'm bored as fuck."
He shrugs. "Nothing planned. Don't think we're needed."
Great, another mind-numbing day then.
"I need to do something, man," I say. I'm restless, and I hate sitting around.
Bella's nan leaves her table and walks over to her husband at the counter. She is at the table alone now and staring holes into the menu even though she's decided on what to eat already.
"Are you sneaking out tonight, Bella?" I ask once her nan's out of earshot.
Her head doesn't move, but her eyes shoot daggers at mine. "I didn't sneak out," she lies.
"Good, because you're a little old to be doing that."
"You don't know the first fucking thing about me. I thought we'd established that."
Ellis laughs and kicks his feet up on the chair beside me.
"That doesn't mean you're not too old to sneak out of--"
She holds her hand up and snaps, "How about you concentrate on your coffee, and I'll wait for my breakfast? There is no need for us to engage in conversation. Ever again."
"You brought the bitch out today, huh?"
She looks away and clenches her jaw.
"Don't get me wrong, Isabella; I like it."
"You're a dickhead."
"You love it."
Her grandparents return to the table, so her focus shifts to them, and she's all smiles. I know I should just leave her alone, but I haven't had a girl in my life who is feisty and confusing in...forever.
She's beautiful, strong-willed, frustrating, and perfect to play with. I usually only get enjoyment out of things that are less than legal. Nothing about Bella is dangerous, and she's a female who isn't easy. I'm drawn to her even though I have a feeling she'll be more trouble than she's worth.
"We doing one? I'm bored," Ellis asks.
"Yeah," I reply, pushing my mug away.
I need to put some distance between me and Bella. Things would be easier if she'd just let me fuck her, but since that doesn't seem likely, I need to get away.
* * *
Olivia's and my car is in the drive, so I get to be the late one again. It's worse today, being Celia's birthday.
Mum, Dad, Olivia, and Harry are sitting in the living room when I walk inside. Nana and Grandad went into town when they dropped me off, and they'll be back here in a little while. They let us visit Celia alone and go later.
They're looking at photos of Celia. Since Harry and Livvy got together three years ago, Harry has been here every year for Celia's birthday.
"Bella," Mum says with a smile.
She's been crying, but I can tell she's happy, too. Celia's not here, but we still love her and celebrate her life. My sister gave our family a lot in her short sixteen years, and we aren't going to forget that just because she isn't here.
I can't smile. I have a hole in my heart and dread churning in my stomach.
"Hey," I reply as I sit down in the armchair.
I've never felt more single, sitting in the lonely chair, while Mum and Dad share one sofa and Olivia and Harry share the other. But I don't have the capacity to open up and let another person into my life. My parents, both sets of grandparents, and twin sister are enough. Boyfriends take up too much time that I just don't have.
I never quite know how to act on Celia's birthday. We try to move on and take her with us, but there's been no closure. We don't know who killed her and why. I feel like we're just going through the motions, and we're half-stuck in the past.
"How are you doing?" I ask.
Mum smiles and grips Dad's hand.
"We're okay, love. What about you?" he asks cautiously.
They treat me like glass on her birthday and the anniversary of her death.
"Are you?" Olivia asks.
"I found her, Livvy, but I'm okay." My stomach feels like it's full of lead as I remember that day.
Celia was always full of life, so seeing her cold and lifeless was torture. It still is. Images like that don't fade. I'll always see my big sister's dead body. It's just something I have to live with.
"Are you?" Mum asks, repeating Livvy.
I feel like saying no to get them off my back, but if I do, there will be all sorts of comfort that I just can't deal with at the minute. Years ago, we promised that we'd make today a celebration, and the others can cry as much as they want, but I owe Celia this much.
"Yes. When are we visiting her?"
"We were just waiting for you," Dad says, standing up. "I'll grab my wallet, and we'll get out of here."
First stop is the local florist where Gloria will have the biggest, brightest bunch of flowers waiting for us. She does it every year and never charges. Celia did two weeks' work experience in that florist when she was fifteen, and then she took a part-time job there a few nights a week and Sunday mornings. Gloria loved her, too, and this is something she can do to feel useful, helpful. Celia would have appreciated it.
We walk down the street, into the heart of our sleepy little town. It's one of those cute places where everyone knows everyone, but Celia's murder cast a shadow over this once perfect town.
People stop for a second to say hello and to tell us they're thinking of us. Everyone remembers every anniversary.
Mum pushes open the door to the florist, and the scent of summer hits me.
I remember coming here on the few occasions when Celia picked Olivia and me up from school because Mum was working her shift at the doctor surgery. We'd sit out back, and Gloria would grab us a snack and put the TV on. Occasionally, if we were quiet, we were allowed to help out with one of the arrangements or restock the buckets with flowers or top up the water.
Gloria's face this morning is her sympathy face. She tilts her head to the side and softly greets us, "How are you?" Her striking blue eyes fill with tears.
Mum nods her head. "We're okay. This day will never be easy."
"No, of course not. Her flowers are ready though, the most colourful ones in the delivery."
"Thank you, Gloria," Dad replies.
"Anything I can do. I'll just go and get them."
Livvy laughs, and I follow her gaze to the old, rickety wooden footstall--one that Celia fell over when she backed up without looking. Livvy and I laughed until we couldn't breathe, and once Celia got over the initial shock, she did, too.
"Remember the look on her face?" I say.
Livvy looks back and grins. "I'll never forget that."
"Bless her, she fell down like a sack of shit."
Dad glances over his shoulder and gives me a look full of warning. Language, Isabella.
I mouth, Sorry, and he turns back.
Gloria comes back with a gorgeous bouquet made from peonies, lily of the valley, roses, lilies, and gerberas--all bright and beautiful. Celia would have loved them. She was full of energy.
"Oh, Gloria, they're perfect," Mum says.
Every year, they are. Gloria's skills are insane.
"I'm so pleased you like them," she replies.
Dad gets his wallet out and Gloria holds her hand up, shaking her head, same as every year.
"Thank you," he says sincerely. He wraps his arm around Mum as she takes the bouquet from Gloria.
"You're welcome. I thought the world of her, too."
I leave, and Livvy follows. Things were about to get sentimental, and I already feel like I'm being suffocated. I take a deep breath the second I'm outside.
"You okay?" Livvy asks.
Today needs to end. It's barely fucking begun, and I'm already done.
"You never open up as much as the rest of us," she says.
That's because I can't.
"People are different, Liv."
"Yeah, I know that. Maybe it would help you to talk to us though. It helps me, and I know we're not the same, but I honestly think you need some help."
"No"--she sighs--"that's not what I meant. I'm not saying you need a shrink, but I think it's pretty obvious that you need a better way of coping. I don't just mean with Celia but other things, too."
"So, you are saying I need to see a shrink."
I don't like where this is going at all, and I can't even blame Livvy. If things were the other way around, I would want her to get help, too.
"If that would help you, then, yeah, see a therapist."
"I'm fine, Livvy."
"Yeah? Where are you going to uni? What's your plan if you don't go? Will you live with Mum and Dad? Do you want to get your own place? Have you thought about having someone in your life, a friend or boyfriend? Do you even want that?"
My head is spinning.
"Okay, I've not decided about uni this year. If I don't go, I'll get a job," I lie. "I'll live at home until I can afford to move out. I don't need anyone. Pretty sure I'm too high-maintenance for a boyfriend." When I say high-maintenance, I mean, messed up. I'm not capable of putting anyone or anything before my quest to find Celia's killer.
I've never had a proper boyfriend, but I think they require a certain amount of time and attention. I don't have that to give. It's why my last and only two pitiful attempts to be with someone ended very soon after they began.
She folds her arms. "Come on, you're going to find someone. You just need to let yourself be happy."
How can I do that when our sister was murdered?
Celia will never do the things we have the opportunity to do. Livvy deserves it, but I don't.
I don't care if I never have anything as long as my sister gets justice.
You could tell them.
I scrap the idea before I put too much thought into it. They can't know. Selfishly, I can't lose them either. I might not be close to my parents or sister, but I don't know what I'd do if they cut me out of their lives because they found out the truth.
* * *
We arrive at Celia's grave five minutes later, and Mum grips ahold of Dad. The massive guilt slams into my chest harder than a fucking freight train.
I'm so sorry, Celia.
"Hello, darling," Mum says, sitting down at the grave.
Dad sits, too, and puts his arm around her. Livvy takes her place beside Mum, so they're both supporting her. I don't know where to go or what to do. It's always the same. I must seem heartless.
"Happy birthday," Livvy whispers.
I swallow a lump the size of the Grand Canyon and look up to the sky. Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry.
This day is so overwhelming that I feel like the world is about to swallow me whole.
It will be over soon. I just need to be strong for a little bit longer.
I watch over their shoulders as the three of them talk to Celia. The times I tried, I ended up choking on guilt when I opened my mouth.
"We miss you every day, but we know you're still with us," Dad says.
I wish I could believe that she was still here, too. Maybe then I wouldn't feel so awful every second of every day.
We need to hurry this up. It's fucking horrible.
"Isabella, would you like to say something?" Mum asks.
No, I don't want to say something!
I never want to.
"I'm okay, thanks," I mutter in response, trying not to feel like the worst person ever.
The things I want to say to Celia aren't anything I can say in front of my parents and sister. I made a promise.
"I think it will help," Mum says in a low voice while staring at the ground.
Dad puts his hand over Mum's. "Love, we all grieve in different ways."
It's his way of saying, Leave her alone, and I appreciate it.
Talking to my dead sister's headstone won't help me move on from her death like it does for them. I'm glad they're able to find peace, but I can't.
At least I can't yet.
* * *
I can maybe get away for two hours, but any longer than that, and Mum will be blowing up my phone. After spending time at Celia's grave and sitting in silence back home, I need to be elsewhere.
The air in the house is getting thinner.
While Mum and Dad cuddle on the sofa and talk about their firstborn and Livvy goes to meet Harry again, I head out to my shared car and leave home behind. There's only one place I want to be right now.
Rocco hasn't told me where he lives because we've had, like, two short conversations, so I drive around, taking random turns and heading back in the direction of the river.
I take a left, and, yep, I'm totally lost.
Finding him is going to be like finding a needle in a haystack. But I need to because he's my only connection to this place. I can't let him slip away and be left with nothing to help me find Celia's killer.
Swinging the car around at the dead end, I head back the way I just was. It doesn't help that there are rows and rows of similar-looking houses, many boarded up. I could really do with a big flag of Rocco's face flying high over his house.
This is dumb. I'm dumb. I'm not going to find his place.
And I think I'm kind of a stalker.
After fifteen minutes or driving in what appears to be circles, I park near a supermarket and get out. That, I recognise, and it's not far from the river, so I walk toward it to see if there's any sign of the man I can't get out of my head.
If I don't find him, this will have been a waste of time. But it beats walking the streets near home for a couple of hours. I don't have any friends to escape to, and it only bothers me on this day each year. It's a day when I really need somebody.
And I have no clue why I'm looking for Rocco to be that person. But I am.
I turn to see the person behind the voice. The guy Rocco was with in the cafe jogs toward me.
Please say he's off to meet up with Rocco.
Giving him a smile, I take a sweep of the area behind him, and he's definitely alone. "Hi..."
"Ellis," he says, giving me his name. "You looking for Rocco?"
"I was just in town."
He smirks, seeing straight through my stupid lie. "He'll be at the cafe. We're supposed to meet there in five."
Yay. Okay, I rock at finding him. Well, eventually anyway.
"Come with me," he says, shaking his head, amused.
Great, I'm that transparent.
"Thanks, Ellis." I fall in line with him because I have no idea where I'm going.
We pass empty commercial buildings, and I think one actually looks like it burned down. Ellis walks fast, but it's not fast enough.
"How are you?"
"Just trying to be polite."
"Ask me what you really want to know."
"Is that your natural hair colour?"
Laughing, he gives me a what-the-fuck look. "Well, I did ask. Yes, it is. Why?"
"It's just way too blond."
"Um...I don't know what to say to that."
I shrug. "You don't need to say anything."
He shakes his head and looks forward. We turn a corner, and then he glances at me again.
"There's something about you that Rocco likes."
I look up through my lashes, trying to act innocent even though I'm a little taken aback.
"Please," he scoffs. "That's what you really want to ask me. Look, Rocco doesn't think about girls, and he doesn't seek out female company...unless he's looking for a quick shag."
"Well, has he said anything about me then? Because, the couple of times we've been together, we've mostly just bickered."
"You've clearly not known him long. He doesn't talk about his feelings."
No, I've known him for about three minutes!
We walk in silence for a few seconds, and I wait for him to elaborate.
Then, how do you know? How. Do. You. Know?
I press my lips together to stop the words from bursting out. He can't feed me tiny bits of information like that and then go silent.
Seriously, he needs to start talking.
"I can tell what you're thinking, Bella," he says with a laugh. "We might not have deep and meaningful talks into the night, but I know him. Without even thinking, he's brought you into conversations. That's never happened, and he's known you for only a day. That's big for him."
That's big for anyone.
But I like where this is going.
I want to quiz Ellis further, but we arrive at the cafe. It's not the one my grandparents take me to, and I've not been here before. It looks severely run-down, more of an old shack than a restaurant.
Note to self: Don't eat here.
We walk through the door, paint peeling off it, and I'm hit with the smell of grease.
My hair is going to be gross when I leave.
The walls are an off-white, but I'm pretty sure it's just because it's old and covered in God knows what rather than a choice of colour.
Ellis sees my distaste and laughs. "You'll need to shower, but their all-day full English breakfast is good."
I open my mouth to tell him there's no way I'm eating when I spot Rocco. He's sitting in the corner, facing us, but he's not looked up from his phone yet.
Other author's books:
- Broken SilenceSilenceThe CellarPlayers, Bumps and Cocktail SausagesLie to MeSilent NightReliving Fate
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