I continued down the stairs, using all the control I could muster to walk calmly to the front doors. I walked through them with a blank face. As I descended the last few steps I turned to check no body else had seen me or was following me.
As I made it out the front door I let all my rage and pain consume me and I channelled it down in to my legs. I forced myself faster still, though I was aimless. I ran until my throat was tight and my chest ached to breathe. I hadn’t got very far though. I crumbled, sliding down against a wall and sitting on the tarmacked pavement in the down pour.
The rain held no fascination for me now, just a painful case of pathetic fallacy. The sky was crying, like me, and the grey clouds held no hint of a silver lining, no whispery moon or stars to give me hope.
I couldn’t tell if I was crying. The rain fell too fast, too vigorously against my face to tell. All I knew is that my body rocked. Rocked with a kind of unimaginable pain.
It was my fault. It was all my fault. Everything with Liam and Riley. I had caused it all along. I was the only common factor in all of this. It was me.
Sitting here, my arms wrapped around my torso, trying to hold it together, I saw my hands were empty; only then realising I had dropped the letter. I didn’t care though. The words meant nothing anymore. Yes, they were true once but I was too late and they weren’t anymore; just meaningless words on paper.
I couldn’t be angry at Liam. Yes he had built me up, he made me love him and then he discarded me. But he gave me enough chances. The first time he told me, the day I left with Riley, all my life. I didn’t respond and if he loved me just a fraction as much as I loved him, I knew he must’ve been hurting, like I was now. So who was I to blame him for moving on? That girl, Alice he’d called her, she was his new girl now. He no longer held his infatuation for me, and despite my pain, I was glad for him. He was my best friend and all I ever wanted was to make him happy. This meant he could be happy and that was a small consolation prize to me.
I was curious as to how I could be so heartbroken considering that I had only known the extent of my love for him for an hour. I suppose it was because I couldn’t have him. The idea of losing him made the feelings more intense and losing him bought them to a whole other level.
But the worse part now is that I was left with no choice. I had to go back to Riley. I had nowhere else to go. There was still repulsion, an agonizing disgust, but it was my fault. I never did the right thing; I caused him to be angry. If I hadn’t been selfish and decided I wasn’t in the mood, he wouldn’t have had to force himself on me. And it was my fault Riley got jealous. I was flaunting Liam right in front of him, not showing my commitment to him. If I went back, I would get over my revulsion towards him. I would have to. I would go back and make up and let me be his.
It continued to rain as I walked home but it made no difference to me. I was already soaked through. It was only now that I started to feel the pain from earlier. Everything ached, and my jaw was still sore from the hit. But I ploughed on through the darkness. It was my fault.
I found the spare key under the plant pot and let myself in, intending to creep quietly upstairs and get into the shower, like I had just woken up. But I was not met with the empty room I was expecting.
Riley stood, quite still, in the centre of the room, his dark eyes fixated on the front door as I entered. He was expressionless for a moment as I shut the door behind me, my clothes dripping onto the solid wooden floor, the dull dripping sound filling the silence.
My whole body was curled away from him as I stood; a subconscious reaction to the memory.
There was a weighted silence. We both stood, not moving, for over a minute. I couldn’t look at him, my eyes fixated on the puddle forming around me from my saturated clothes. But I could feel his eyes on me, burning a hole. It was when I finally looked up that he spoke.
‘Where have you been?’ he asked, his voice calm and quiet.
‘Out,’ I said vaguely, my voice no more than a whisper.
‘Out, where?’ He asked again.
‘Just for a walk. I couldn’t sleep.’ I widened my eyes, trying to make my lie sound like truth.
‘Don’t lie.’ He said simply, still no anger raised in his voice.
‘I’m not!’ I defended myself a little louder than I had spoken before.
‘You are,’ He continued in his even tone, almost monotone. ‘You will not lie to me.’ He added, adding more of an emphasis on each monosyllabic word he spoke.
My face crumpled slightly as I tried to think of an excuse, a way to stop his anger.
‘I know where you went. I get down here and all these papers are on the floor. I go to my drawer and I see the letter has gone.’ I could see the anger boiling inside him but he still remained quiet, his words almost chant like.
‘Riley I-’ I struggled for words. ‘Riley I- I’m sorry, I just, didn’t think I-’
‘Shh!’ He hissed sharply, raising his finger to his lips like a child. My hysterical blabber ceased.
He walked slowly over to me, taking each step with purpose. I closed my eyes, waiting for a reprimand. But instead, his long, cold fingers traced my neck raising goose bumps where they met with my skin. I felt him lift my drenched hair with the back of his hand and watched as he leaned in to my ear. I felt his warm breath on my skin as he whispered. ‘Whatever you did, you won’t make the same mistake twice.’
Every single muscle in my body was tensed but no pain followed. He leant away from me and I exhaled. He wasn’t going to hurt me.
But I was mistaken. He swung towards my face, the back of his hand brutally striking once against my cheek. Then, with one brusque shove, pushed me backwards into the door; the handle digging into my side.
It hurt. A lot. And as I hit the floor, I bent over from the pain in my side.
‘Now let’s hope that’s the last time.’ He whispered coldly before he turned and walked back up the stairs.
The next week of my life was spent in a daze. A constant attempt to protect myself. Riley had gone back to his happy self the next morning, bringing me breakfast in bed, and asking me weather I wanted to go out for the day. I lived in constant fear of him yet I could not show it. I had to stop myself flinching whenever he got near me. I had to kiss him. I had to love him.
The bruise on my hip was the size of my fist and purple with dappled brown and yellow around the edges. It was sore still, a constant reminder of what would happen if I stepped out of line.
It’s funny. You never think it would happen to you. You never think your boyfriend would hurt you and most of all, you never think that you wouldn’t be able to get out. But it was happening to me. I was living those information videos you get shown at school. I was that girl.
Riley guarded my phone, only reading my text messages aloud, not allowing me to read. I did not hear from any of them, but I still got text from other friends, friends who didn’t know.
He rarely left either, though even when he did he never specified how long he’d be. I couldn’t leave. I feared the consequences if I did.
And so that was it. I was condemned to a life of fear. But it was my fault. I drove him to it. If I did what he said, he didn’t hurt me and so that was what I should do.
We rarely got visitors and none were unannounced so I was surprised to hear the doorbell ring one evening whilst Riley was out with his friends.
I tentatively moved towards the door, unsure who our visitor would be. But upon opening the door, I knew the visitor was only for me.
He stood, his posture tense, staring at me for a moment with his soft, brown eyes. His lips showed no sign of a smile. No pleasure to see me. He looked angry.
‘Liam,’ I murmured not quite sure what I was seeing.
‘Can I come in.’ He said though it was not phrased as a question.
I nodded, and pulled the door wider, inviting him in.
‘How could you, Heidi?’ He started, his eyes full of accusations.
‘What?’ I asked confusedly, not sure what topic he was following.
‘She has always been there for you when you needed her, and now she needs you and you ignore her. I can’t believe you.’
‘What? What does she need me for Liam?!’ I asked frantically.
‘Don’t play dumb, Heidi.’ He snapped.
‘Liam, seriously! I don’t know what you’re going on about!’
‘You’re a terrible friend. To me, yeah maybe I expected that but to ignore her! It makes me sick thinking that I thought you as my friend all these years. You’re not who I thought you were.’ His accent was stronger when he was angry and right now he had reverted to his strong Brummy accent he had as a child.
‘Liam! Can you just explain!?’ I demanded desperately.
‘Have you not read you texts, listened to your voicemail?’
‘Texts? Voicemails?’ I repeated as if the words were new to me.
‘Liam, I haven’t got any texts from you!’ I insisted.
‘Where’s your phone?’ he questioned.
‘I don’t have it,’ I mumbled sorrowfully.
He smirked before demanding it again.
‘Liam, I’m being serious! Riley has it!’ I blurted and then regretted it.
‘Riley? Why does he have it?’
‘He just does. He told me he was telling me about every text I got!’ I cried, confused.
‘Well it’s got to be here somewhere,’ He said quickly, proceeding to turn to the cabinet beside him, opening the draws and rummaging through.
‘I can’t find it Liam!’
‘I’ll call it!’
‘It’ll be off,’ I reasoned.
Liam took his phone from his jeans pocket and after typing in a few numbers, held it to his ear. ‘It’s ringing,’
We listened, trying to remain silence. And Riley had finally made a slip up. The phone buzzed audibly. I reach round behind the back of the sofa and grasped the vibrating phone from the floor. I immediately unlocked it. I had 23 text messages, all already opened.
‘I don’t understand,’ I stuttered.
‘Heidi,’ he said, impatient.
‘There must be some kind of mistake,’ I muttered turning away and taking a stride towards the kitchen. Liam grabbed on to the bottom of my t shirt. I froze. It had pulled up above the violent, inky bruise.
We both froze, standing in silence as Liam stared stupidly at the bruise.
‘Did he..?’ He asked, trailing off although I knew he already knew the answer.
With that, he dropped the edge of the top and looked straight up at my face. ‘We’re getting out of here.’ He said quickly, running up the stairs before I could say anything.
I watched as he threw my scattered belongings into my still half packed suitcases. I was having a painful sense of de ja vu. Like when I left. But this time it was Liam doing the frantic packing.
Before I knew it, we were back at the bottom of the stairs, Liam raring to leave.
‘Come on!’ He urged.
When I didn’t react, he walked up to me, gently cupping my face in his hands.
‘I promise I won’t let him hurt you.’ He looked deep into my eyes.
But before I could answer, my phone vibrated in my hands. I wasn’t expecting it and it heard it clatter onto the floor, still buzzing. I quickly picked it back up. I didn’t recognize the number as I held the phone to my ear, the voice spoke.
‘Hello? Is that Heidi Graham? Alexis has been asking for you.’