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Left Behind

Left Behind

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Left Behind

Lunghezza:
319 pagine
4 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jun 15, 2014
ISBN:
9781311389039
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

When Sandy's new boyfriend mutters the phrase that scars her soul - “I Love You”, it sends shock waves through her life. Their fledgling six weeks together was fun, but she certainly didn't want love. Hearing that word reopens painful memories of relationships that left her emotionally scarred and her life and dreams in tatters. Needing time, she retreats to her cliff side hideaway to ponder her feelings and his revelation.

When Steven suddenly turns up at the door, she gives him one choice – leave but he won’t and insists on staying to fight his corner, fearing she is about to tell him the relationship is over

Over the next twenty-four hours, he painstakingly peels back the layers of her life. Both share their experiences, good and bad as they talk about growing up together, their early teenage years and he floors her with long held secrets that ripped families in two.

Baring her soul, she explains the heartbreak of her emotional withdrawal. The events that shaped her life and hopes he'll understand why she will not travel that road again.

However, he won’t give up that easily. Can he convince her life is for living and with him?

Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jun 15, 2014
ISBN:
9781311389039
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Clair Gibson currently splits her time between Glasgow and Manchester and sees writing works of fiction as her true venture in life and is currently working on her next offering. She has nine books available - Another Chance at Love Fat Bottomed Girls Blackpool Here We Come Left Behind All for Her Yours, mine & the truth Stifado for two The price of friendship Broken return See her blog for details of those and new works in development


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Left Behind - Clair Gibson

Author

1.

It was my personal confessional high above the white-crested light blue waves of the North Sea. I spent many a long day gazing out across the horizon, looking for some kind of sign or divine reasoning to my questions. Early this morning, I crawled over the harbour wall and beyond the top few rows of rocks. Over the last four years I’d worn the rock as much with my imprint as natures daily battering. Here I sat to ponder things and ask questions. It always helped to clear my mind and simplify my thoughts, but no one ever answered.

Sometimes I needed to remember rather than question and I made a different journey to sit on the beach. Enclosed, accessible by an old tunnel bored through the cliff. It was a suntrap where memories of better days danced along the sand to embrace me and renewed the hugs of loved ones.

Today was a day of questions. I sat with my head bowed, eyes protected by sunglasses from the blinding glare of the winter sun on the clear blue sea below. They hid the dark rings under my tear-stained eyes while I sat in solemn reflection before the world stirred. The gentle waves found their way inside the bay and caressed a small lobster boat moored against the wall. Several fishermen ventured out to check their pots, returning that afternoon with their catch and local children played on the beach behind me. I missed them all. The darkest regions of my soul consumed me as I asked the universe for permission to move on with my life. It was the hardest thing I had ever contemplated. Could I love again and do it whole-heartedly with every obstacle it brings?

I lived a quiet secluded life but six weeks ago, Steven Robson reappeared and muttered three immortal words, I Love You. Twenty years had passed by since the last time I saw him but he turned my life on its head. I liked spending time with him, but love was beyond my reach. I’ve no idea why he said it. It wasn't even a magical romantic moment, just a simple home cooked wholesome meal of sausage and mash. I saw him watching and when I asked what was wrong, he said, Nothing...just thinking how special you are and that I love you.

My mind skidded to a halt, dead in its tracks. I blushed, and he went back to eating his dinner as the moment passed. He wanted to visit this weekend but cancelled at the last minute with urgent work commitments. I seized the opportunity and tried to make sense of his statement and the questions it raised.

The sun faded behind the cliffs and I stretched from my position-adopted hours before. After clambering back across the slippery stones, I jumped onto the gravel path that would lead me back to the cliff top. I hadn't planned to spend all day in contemplation, but that's what happened. I walked away, stopping at the far end of the wall to cast an eye back for reassurance. Questions about life I reserved for my Dad or Step Mum but since both had died, I couldn't ask for advice. In recent months, I’d lost too many family members, but each had one last wish. Their ashes spread through the breeze and into the sea from this wall. Their spirits still helped with my daily life, but it was here they were strongest. Today I needed their help, love and support to decide what to do.

I had loved three men in my thirty-four years, one of which was my father, but all three had left me. Two hadn’t done it by choice. One threw me away. Yet here I was again, standing in the same place, listening to the same words. This time my heart wouldn’t open enough for him. He deserved more. I didn’t have it in me. The battle scars ran too deep. I wasn't sure they would ever heal. There was no definitive answer to my problem, which left me weighted down. With every step, I was unsure what to do. Several times, I stopped and took a few deep breaths, but I had to keep going, the light was fading fast. The path was nowhere to linger without a torch. When I made it to the gate, I held onto the top slat of wood for a few seconds, breathing heavy. Once my lungs filled, I shuffled to the side and climbed over the wooden step.

There you are!

I looked up hearing someone speak dragging my mind back to the present. As my eyes adjusted to the lack of light, I focused on a dark shadowy figure approaching from the car park. It scared me until I caught the faintest outline of blonde hair and a crooked smile. Steven strode towards me. What are you doing here? I asked. You’re supposed to be working.

It fell through. He put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me close. The subtle sweet raspberry undertones of his new aftershave assaulted my senses. I’ve been calling you all day!

Sorry, I left my phone in the cottage. I took another deep breath as we walked across the road between the cliff top and the end of the cottage gardens. My mind cleared. I pushed his arm off my shoulder. Who told you where to find me?

Chris.

I screwed my nose up in annoyance that brother of mine had questions to answer. This was my hideaway. Thought you’d come down, and I’d just welcome you in? I snapped, annoyed with them both.

His hand gripped the gate. What’s your problem? He told me you would be here, gave me directions, and I thought I’d be nice and surprise you. Do something romantic. I have wine and chocolates and I figured we might curl up in front of the fire. His furtive glance told me what he wanted. But if you’d rather I wasn’t here, I’ll leave!

I looked down at the ground ashamed I wanted no one here. I opened my mouth yet nothing came out. Instead, I cried. Tears streaked down my cheeks and dripped onto the path. Something I had always seen as a weakness in others, now I was the emotional wreck. I’m sorry, I apologised. I don’t mean to be nasty. Those beautiful blue eyes searched my face for answers. I’ve never brought...

Why don’t we go inside? he suggested with a warmth that stopped me explaining. We can talk and if you want me to leave, I will. He squeezed my hand as he lifted it to his lips and planted soft kisses kissed the cold salty skin on the back. Let me in, Sandy. I can help with whatever is bothering you...

I pulled my hand away, reached in my pocket for the key and opened the door. You’re what’s bothering me. You and those three little words. I opened the door and walked inside not sure if he would follow. Seconds later, the door closed and the noise of his boots on the stone floor rang out.

What do you mean those three little words?

I threw my jacket over the back of Dad’s leather chair that sat next to the hearth. He used it to relax, dream and ponder things that were important. He told me, many a time, he loved the battered old brown leather. When I brought it down to the cottage, it seemed out of place but once the light fell and roaring flames lit the room, it belonged. I spent hours relaxing back into the comfortable leather warming my toes by the side of the fire and dreaming.

I prodded the fire to see if it was still alight and a small bright red glow brightened in the bowls of the ashes. Small pieces of wood placed on top of the white skeletal remains of the last log would bring it back to life. I loved this little cottage having restored much of its charm over the last few years. The fire warmed both the living room and the kitchen. It was an unusual feature, but one I loved. It had two downstairs rooms, one double bedroom and a single, which held a set of bunk beds plus a small family bathroom. Built originally as a cottage for local fishermen it hugged its occupants.

I threw two logs onto the fire, now it had caught. Coffee? I asked ignoring his last statement.

Yes please, he replied as I walked away into the kitchen and flicked on the lights. I expected him to follow, but he yelled, Back in a minute, then the door open and closed. I presumed he’d decided he was staying and had gone to get his stuff. Until then, it hadn’t registered that he might have been outside in his car for several hours.

The front door opened and closed again followed by the noise of his boots on the stone. As I turned to carry the mugs through, he appeared at the kitchen doorway with a box of chocolates and a bottle of wine in his arms. See, I told you I wanted to do something romantic.

I half smiled and said, Thank you. He moved aside as I continued through into the living room and placed the mugs on the table. I’ll put that in the fridge, I said and took the wine from him. Later once it’s chilled... He nodded and showed me the crooked grin I had loved over the past few weeks. It always showed his mischievous mood or was about to say something funny, but I wasn’t in the same frame of mind.

He had sat on the couch, closest to the fire and patted his hand on the seat, next to him as I walked back into the room. I wanted the safety of the leather chair but he scooted backwards creating room for me to sit. After a few seconds of silence, I leaned forward and picked my mug off the table. That one’s yours.

He nodded his thanks and put his arm along the back of the couch, turning sideways to face me. So what three little words did I say to annoy you?

You know, I replied, hoping I wouldn’t have to repeat them.

No, I don’t...

My expression tried not to display the anguish in my soul. Yes, you do...those three words you came out with last week.

Oh...those words. His eyes bored into mine attempting to push past years the barriers. Why have they upset you? It’s how I feel. His arm moved the few inches along the cushion. I jumped and tore my gaze from him as his fingers stroked the bare cold skin at the top of my neck. I meant them.

That’s the problem, I mumbled into my mug.

You don’t love me, he stated before reaching to lift my chin, so his eyes could look mine. A solitary tear escaped down my cheek dropping into my coffee mug. He pulled his hand away and leaned forward to pick up his mug. Now that is a problem. His lips slurped the froth from the top and I watched as he gazed into the fire. The flames dance reflected on his face.

For the first time I saw his pain, his feelings were real. My heart hurt. My mind screamed that I caused that. Broken, with my fair share of emotional scars, my soul consumed by fear and hidden away behind rose-tinted memories of how good life used to be. I couldn’t bare it anymore and looked away.

Minutes passed, both silent, rocked by our admissions. Do you think you ever will?

What? I asked, not wanting to assume.

He spoke with a softness I hadn’t heard before. Will you ever say those words?

I don’t know...

He drank more frothy liquid from his mug and placed it back on the table. So, you don’t know and won’t say them to placate me. I shook my head in reply. I meant them with every fibre of my being. Each word with a passion the likes I’ve never experienced. I understood. And that changes nothing? his voice incredulous.

No, I replied, not for me... I looked up at him, to see a mixture of confusion and annoyance. Don’t be angry. Please understand that this is hard, maybe too hard. I can’t switch my feelings on and off, they're weighed down by history and heartbreak. I reached to his cheek and cushioned the side of his face in my small childlike hand. If it’s any consolation, it’s not you. You’re a great guy, but I’m not sure if I can love anyone.

He brushed my hand with his. Why?

I’d been asking myself that question all day.

2.

The fire cracked and sparks flew against the hearth. I jumped up and moved the logs around. An open fire had great benefits, but it could turn dangerous in a second. When satisfied I sat back down. Steven moved back, giving me more room, but it also made me wonder if it was a conscious decision on his part. Silence fell over the room for a while I wasn’t sure what to say to him.

I need to know why? Can you explain it, or at least try?

Not sure you would understand... The reason I was emotionally unavailable was clear. I was still in love with Andy. I had the chance to love again and not live in a rose-tinted memory, yet I couldn’t bring myself to give myself to him. It was a betrayal of my past.

How dare you, he replied and moved further back. How can you say I won’t understand your reasons when you won’t share them? His angry eyes bore into mine. What gives you the right to assume?

I bowed my head, ashamed, believing he wouldn’t want to hear why, just like everyone else. I’m sorry.

So, you should be, he spat and wagged his finger. I’ve known you since you were eight years old and it’s not like you to assume anything...so why now? He lifted his knee and placed it between us on the couch creating a barrier.

Honestly? I asked.

Truth time! he replied.

I took a deep breath and stared at the fire to see flames taking hold. They flickered like my devastating memories. I whispered, My Dad, Paul, died from lymphocytic leukaemia and kept his illness a secret from me. The fire flared. My ex-husband James took up with a younger woman and he threw me away like yesterday’s rubbish. Flames rippled along the top log. Then there was Andy. He promised me love, but they murdered him a few months before our wedding. The log glowed red, the flame bluish orange, the heat searing. Everyone I loved hurt me.

Who hurt you first? Steven asked.

James... I replied. James, perfect James to everyone around him, I said in a whisper.

Steven pulled his leg towards him, finding a comfortable position. That’s David and Charlotte’s Dad?

I nodded in acknowledgment and looked at him for a moment.

But he still sees them?

Yes. I ran my childlike fingers through my spiky blonde hair and rubbed my face before turning back to the fire. He does now, but it wasn’t always the case...

Tell me about him, Steven pushed. Be honest, make me understand.

I turned ready to protest, not wanting to continue but glimpsed something in his eyes. Soft, caring, he was reaching out. I turned back to the safety of the fire. The memories came, the searing as if yesterday.

James was a fantastic man when we first met. His dyed short blonde hair soon grew back to brown and mysterious dark blue eyes were deep pools that captivated me. He was my height at five foot six, but older by a few years. Full of romance and love, but over time, he changed. Once we married, nothing I said or did appeared good enough. My life became a series of daily put-downs. It started when we had Charlotte and dirty nappies and bottled baby formula filled my days. He hurled insults about how I didn’t have time for him. He became my second child. Over time the situation improved but when David came along, our relationship went south again. I took a deep breath as the pain of him resurfaced.

I was raising a toddler and a newborn at the same time but that wasn’t enough for him. He wanted help with a new business he started. I kept his records up to date. Sometimes I didn’t do them fast enough for his liking and we would cross swords. It wasn’t until we separated and after many months of questioning myself that I realised he was every inch the possessive husband. His abuse was never physical but his daily put-downs destroyed my confidence and self-esteem. Over ten years of marriage, I changed. Moulded by him into someone no one recognised or liked. We divorced five and a half years ago after he found a younger woman by trawling dating sites as I worked a night shift. I did them to help with extra money that afforded us a good lifestyle but he traded me in. I loved James, but he made his position clear. He wanted a new life and neither I, nor his kids, fit into those plans. His new relationship lasted about five minutes. He went through several, before he settled down with his current girlfriend, Michelle. It was when he met her, he relented to visitation at weekends with his kids, but it wasn’t enough.

Steven nodded his head, agreeing with me as I explained James’s role. When I stopped, he voiced his thoughts and said, Sounds like a right twat...

That comment should have made me chuckle, but it didn’t. He was a piece of work. For years, I never knew what version of him would walk in my door. Towards the end he became a belligerent monster.

So, he sees the kids now?

Yes, every other weekend, two weeks in the summer, when he takes them down to his girlfriends parents house in Cornwall and at Christmas.

Steven brushed his hand against his chin and sighed. That’s not a lot.

I shook my head with a wry half smile. It’s all he wants. It’s all about him, never the kids, never me. I let out a sigh disappointed for my children. A few years ago, I asked him to take the kids over a Tuesday night into Wednesday, each week and he said no, because that would have helped me out. I looked back at the flames, flickering over the remains of the log. If it benefits me, the answer is always no. He appears to have a deep-seated resentment I haven’t rolled over and begged him to come back.

Do you hate him or...still love him?

I glanced at Steven, so he could see the pain of explaining the truth. Neither! I placed my empty mug back on the table and sat back. Truth is, I stuttered, when we split up, despite his behaviour, I was deeply in love. Committed to the relationship and to my family, but it fell apart before my eyes with no warning. He threw me away with a brutality I had never known. My girlfriends insisted it was emotional torture. He was still playing with my life. They tried to encourage me but I was never one for talking about myself. I was a quiet unemotional child that grew into a belittled adult. For months, I tried to pull myself together, but I had to look after the kids and worry about money. I was a single parent, fighting with his lawyers. My emotional wellbeing came last in my list of priorities. It was almost a year when he saw the kids again. I hated him for what he did, but my overriding emotions would always go back to feeling sorry for him.

Why? After everything he did...

I interrupted him. His life is a mess, Steven. His children will grow up to hate him because he doesn’t show them any love. He behaves as though he is the most important thing in the world, and he’s not. At some point the fantasy he’s created for himself will come crashing down.

Is his relationship with the kids bad?

I shook my head. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either. They often complain they have to dress and act a certain way. In the past, he’s sat them down and asked them to repeat, any conversations where I mentioned his name. Word for word.

Steven sat open mouthed, stunned. That’s awful.

It’s his paranoia and controlling nature. It’s scary, but it’s quietened down in recent years. I shrugged my shoulders and pushed myself forward to the edge of the couch. Problem is, with James it never stays quiet for long.

What do you mean? Steven shuffled closer but stopped short of embracing me.

He’ll blow his top every few months and blows simple things out of proportion like they are a crime against him. Last time it began because his son and I spoke on the phone about a loaf of white bread. I saw Stevens mouth drop open aghast and shrugged my shoulders. That’s just one example. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve listened to him rant and rave about something on my answer machine.

You screen his calls?

When he kicks off, I have to... I turned so he would see I was being honest. There’s something you should know. James is controlling, paranoid and an idiot but he’s also an alcoholic and one that hasn’t admitted it to himself yet.

Steven flopped back into the couch with a loud sigh. That’s not a good combination. How do you handle that?

With care, I stressed. He tries to hide it but it’s always been there in the background. It’s the one reason I’m glad he left.

Did you date after the divorce? he asked, while you were sorting things out?

Not for a long time. I shook my head as I spoke. It always came back to the same thing. I had enough problems with James and didn’t want another man in my life. I didn’t trust them.

Wow, Steven exclaimed. That’s a strong statement. We’re not all bad.

Not wanting another relationship was a reaction to the hurt he put me through, I replied, annoyance ringing through my voice. Over time that changed, and I decided not to let him ruin the rest of my life.

Understandable. He stated. Where’s your corkscrew?

It’s in the drawer next to the cooker.

He walked away and the distinct noise of metal hitting metal wafted into the living room followed by the clink of glasses. He shrugged his shoulders as he wandered back. Not how I planned it, but I figured it would be cold enough and it might help.

How? I asked, wondering where his mind was.

It’s the best thing for us tonight... He set the two glasses down by the empty mugs and filled each one. I know you’re not a big drinker but a little alcohol loosens the mind. He handed me a glass and sat back. Tell me more?

3.

I didn’t drink often. In fact, in the last few years I think I’d overdone it on two occasions. The night we’d met when he turned a drunken night into a magical experience and once with my sister-in-law Jane. We chatted in to the early hours of the morning and I revealed more than I wanted to. I took the glass and sipped. Chilled its sweetness was familiar.

You remember this wine? he asked as we drank.

It was the night we met...

Your brother told me you’d be there. That’s the main reason I accepted his invitation, but I wasn’t sure you’d recognise me after all this time. His arm crept along the back of the couch, but he didn’t touch me. It was one of those nights when you don’t realise the impact one decision will make. He watched as I cast my mind back.

What decision was that?

If I hadn’t asked you to dance, and I’d left you alone...we wouldn’t be sitting here now.

That’s true, I replied, but I thought I was the one who asked.

No, it was me that asked. Right after you tried to walk into the men’s bathroom. My face flushed as I remembered. I had far too much wine before having anything to eat and it took its toll. I never thought you and Jane would lift your brother’s kilt then go after mine. He smiled. It was the most unusual way to met you again.

I shook my head at him. "I’d no idea who you were

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