One month. No contact in one month. Something at the core of his existence had changed. My Liam wouldn’t just stop talking to me. We’d told each other everything since we had been able to talk. But perhaps that was just it. Liam wasn’t mine. I belonged to Riley now. Not that I wasn’t aware of that. He certainly treated me like his property, but I suppose that was Riley being protective over me; he loves me. I never had any excuse to call Liam mine but I did because he always acted like mine. He was my best friend and now he wouldn’t even text me. Every time the doorbell rang, or my phone buzzed I’d hope it was him. But it never was and each time my heart sank deeper. Riley wouldn’t have any of it. I couldn’t talk to him. Any sign of me thinking about Liam and he became infuriated.
Riley didn’t like me having my phone anymore. He said that it would cause me too much upset, just waiting for Liam to text me. He said he’d look after it until Liam did contact me; he said he was saving me the pain of thinking every text was from him.
Though Liam hadn’t contacted me, I still saw him. I watched his twitcam last week. Lex was there and the boys popped in and out. I watched the comments, catching sight of my name in every other message; Where’s Heidi? :) xxx or Get Heidi to join you :P <3
It was painful to see his blatant overlooking of any mention of my name. But I couldn’t help smiling fondly at the foolishness and silliness of my best friends as they messed about and laughed. Despite this, I still felt the throbbing loneliness of being left out.
And before that, he had tweeted a picture of him and Lex at his parent’s house in Wolverhampton. We always went up there together; we were practically family. I never got an invite.
There was one thing that still gave me hope, however. Every photo I saw of him, he was still wearing the silly pink beaded bracelet. I felt a connection to him still. He hadn’t completely given up on me.
I missed Lex insanely too. But I did see her. Once or twice. We met in a coffee shop, a park; just to chat. Lex told me how Liam got upset when I was mentioned and told her not to meet up with me. After a few meetings it got too complicated. I knew Lex was risking her friendship with Liam to be with me and I couldn’t have that so I told her to stop coming. I hadn’t seen her since.
Yet this was my decision. I loved Riley. Yes, I loved Liam but I wasn’t in love with him. I couldn’t give him what he wanted. I didn’t want that. I had to tell myself that. I was in love with Riley. He was strong and protective and true. He loved me. Truly, I don’t think Liam loved me. Perhaps he was infatuated for a brief period because the idea of having something he couldn’t have, thrilled him. If he had loved me all his life, he would’ve said before. Yes, his speech was convincing, but those words were as easily fabricated as a child’s story. Finely spun words that, for a moment, had convinced me. They even made me think I was in love with him for a while. But if I truly loved him, I wouldn’t be with Riley, right? My head spun with excuses, trying to push myself away from Liam emotionally. I couldn’t love him. He wasn’t mine to love.
I sat now, absentmindedly brushing through my hair, watching my reflection but not actually seeing. We were going out tonight, Riley and I. We were meting up with a group of his friends in a bar and seeing what happened from there. I was getting ready now. It had been so long since I had been out that I wanted to try and look my best. I dug out a cocktail dress from my still packed suitcases. The bodice was black and form fitting and the skirt was ruffles of nude netting. It finished mid-thigh, a comfortable length. I twisted my hair into a simple up-do, more ready to concentrate on my makeup. I kept my eyes simple, a pale golden lid with a darker plum contour, concentrating of my lips. I applied a smouldering red colour, lining it perfectly around my cupid bow and then lightly covering with a gloss.
Standing up, I slipped on my black stilettos and grabbed my bag. I glanced at myself in the mirror for just a moment. I disliked how I looked. I always had. My stomach wasn’t exactly flat, my thighs were too big. Nothing looked right. Lex was the beautiful one and I wished I looked like her, instead of me. She always told me I had nothing to worry about and, as much as I wanted to, I could never believe her. I sighed but then proceeding to walk sideways down the stairs, careful not to fall. I grinned at Riley who stood by the front door, keys in hand, waiting for me. But instead of smiling back, his face fell and he stared at me gormlessly.
‘What?’ I asked lightly, laughing nervously.
‘You’re not going out like that?’ He asked though it was more of an accusation.
‘What? What’s wrong with it? Have I spilt something?’ I looked down to my dress, trying to find a stain or some explanation for the question.
‘You’re dressed like a slut!’
‘What!?’ I flinched, wrapping my arms around my body. I felt like I was standing here naked, the way he was staring at me; like I was dirty.
‘That dress, it’s too short! And you’ve got your boobs on show!’ One arm gestured angrily to my legs and then my chest.
‘It doesn’t matter! It’s my body!’
‘You’ll draw the wrong kind of attention. Men will think you’re just another whore, looking for a guy. But you’ve got a boyfriend, you don’t need to dress like that.’ He said coldly.
‘Riley!’ I cried at his harsh words.
He strode closer to me, only a foot or so in front of me now.
‘And your makeup. Red lipstick,’ His voice was hushed now. He stepped right up to me, our toes almost touching. He reached up as if to push a misplaced hair off my cheek. I felt the hard pressure of his thumb on my lips, dragging sideways, misshaping my mouth. He slowly dragged his thumb across my lips and then onto my cheek, displacing the colour all over my cheek. Once he was done, he stepped back.
It was then, I snapped. ‘How dare you!’ I cried, rage in my voice. ‘What makes you think it’s ok to do that!? I don’t belong to you! I have my own life, my own will. I can leave whenever I want. What makes you think I won’t just up and leave!’ I was indignant.
‘Because no one else would want you. You’re lucky to have me,’ His voice was but a purr; calm and outraged at the same time. Like being in the calm before the tempest.
‘They would!’ I snapped.
‘Who?’ he asked, raising his eyebrows amusedly like waiting for a small child to construct an elaborate story about how they weren’t to blame for something they so obviously did.
‘Liam.’ I broke the barriers I had been building this past month. Just for a moment I had believed that he would love me enough to take me back.
Riley laughed, a cruel, sharp noise before turning his formidably hard, grey eyes back to me. ‘And what makes you think he’d have you back after all this?’ He questioned a smile on his lips like he was laughing at some private joke. ‘What makes you think he even likes you at all anymore?’
‘He still wears his bracelet.’ I blurted but as soon as I had said it I realised how childish and hopeless it sounded.
Riley’s eyes narrowed in a fashion which indicated he couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing. ‘A bracelet? He wears a bracelet and you think he would take you back?’
‘Ok, first of all, it wouldn’t be taking me back considering he never had me. But yes. We made these bracelets and promised that we would never take them off. If he hated me that badly, he would’ve taken it off.
‘Oh, so that’s what that it.’ He nodded in an acknowledging fashion. He then stepped back towards me, grabbing hold of the elasticated bracelet and yanking with some force. The brisk movement was followed by the clattering sound of beads as they hit the floor, ricocheting off in all directions.
‘What the fuck!’ I shouted, incensed. I felt tears prick in my eyes as I watched the promise I had made to Liam scatter away from me.
‘Heidi,’ he took my face in his hands. He spoke quietly and softly, as if he were whispering sweet love messages to me, but the words that left his mouth stung like venom. ‘You’re nothing special. You’re bland at best. You’re lucky that I want you. No one else would. Liam was just jealous about losing you; he didn’t love you. If you leave me now, you’ll have nowhere to go. He won’t take you back. None of them will. And you’ll never get another guy. I mean, c’mon. Who’re we kidding here? You could do with losing some weight, you’re high maintenance, you’re picky, and not what anyone would call a looker. No one else would want you.’ His slate eyes stared into mine sternly. But then, he smirked, dropping my face and stepping backwards. He pivoted on his heel, grabbing his leather jacket from the cloak stand and walking out the front door.
As I closed my eyes, the moisture that had been clinging to my lower lashes, spilled over, releasing a tear onto my cheek.
Everything he had said was right. He had reinforced everything I was insecure about. My looks. Liam. He had confirmed what I had speculated; Liam didn’t love me.
The sudden rush of emotion left me desperate. I had to contact Liam. I was hopeless yet I needed to hear from him. To hear from my best friend.
I had no idea what I was to do but then something struck me. When we were younger, though we all practically lived together, we always used to send each other letters. We’d write them, walk down to the post box on the corner and post them together. Then we’d wait eagerly for the letter to arrive. I’m not quite sure why we did it but it amused us.
And that was what I was going to do now. He couldn’t hang up on a letter, he wouldn’t see my name on his phone display and ignore it. He wouldn’t know who it was from. It would give me a chance.
I walked over to the desk in the corner, grabbing several sheets of paper out of the printer and a pen from the jar that sat next to the computer. I ignored that Mac Book that sat gloriously on the desk, the apple faintly glowing. I was going to handwrite it. Like we used to. I sat in the leather clad desk chair and scooted in to the desk. Placing the nib on the pen on the blank page, I began to write.
Please do not ignore this. I know you don’t want to talk to me but at least read this. Give me a chance.
I miss you so much. I hate to think you hate me when I still love you. I am sorry I cannot love you how you want me to but it doesn’t mean I don’t love you in my own way. You have always been there for me, always been my best friend. Without you and Lex, I wouldn’t have survived. I wouldn’t have coped when my parents split up and my mum disappeared. I wouldn’t have coped when anything bad happened because I am not strong without you.
You have to know, I didn’t chose Riley over you. I chose him because of you. You know how he is, if I hadn’t gone, I don’t know what he would’ve done. I couldn’t do that to you all and so I left. I didn’t mean to hurt you, I could never do that.
The painful thing is to even imagine that you loved me. I know by now, that you do not, but it still hurt to have to refuse you. You mean everything to me. You and Lex are my world.
I cannot stand to not hear from you anymore. I cannot stand to sit here and have my calls rejected, my texts ignored, because it means I cannot contact the people I love most.
Please reply. I beg you. Just some contact, some way of knowing what you think.
I love you all.
Forever your best friend,
I signed it using my sobriquet, a fraught attempt to encourage familiarity.
As I stared at the words on the page my hopeless desperation broke through and a gentle tear trickled down my cheek and landed with a quiet splash on the edge of the paper. I hurried to remove the moisture from the page and bit my lip firmly to control the tears I felt coming. I found a white envelope in the drawer and folded the paper to fit inside. On the outside, I wrote Mr. L. J. Payne and his address, in the most generic handwriting I could. Hopefully he wouldn’t recognise it before he opened it. I stuck a stamp to the corner. I needed to post it now.
Flicking the door onto the latch, I ran, barefoot, to the bright red post box which stood in sight, 50 yards up the street. I held the letter to my lips before I put it in, wishing it luck. Then I returned to the house.
I stared at myself in the mirror, using a wipe to remove every trace of makeup from my face including the red lipstick which now stood out like a vicious scar of some terrible accident. Then, I lay in bed and readied myself to wait. Not for Riley’s return, but for Liam to reply.