Author: NerdyBookworm PM
Gwen and Liam were once best friends. Over several years, they grew apart and never talked - now, however, they have been drawn back together after a double murder hits the screens and people in their lives are involved. What will happen to them?Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Mystery - Chapters: 3 - Words: 8,105 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 11-06-11 - id: 2967866
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I clutched onto Liam as he carried me to the staff room. I tried to make him put me down, but he just wouldn't listen to me. I don't know if he saw, but I was seriously scared of him dropping me – I had never been keen on people picking me up, I was more of the type to pick somebody else up instead. As he carried me, I look up at the little bit of his face I could see. He didn't look strained or even concerned about having me in his arms – it made me feel a little bubbly inside, even though I had just lost someone so close to me that I couldn't even comprehend what my life was going to be like without her.
It didn't take long to reach the staff room – at this point, Liam did let me down, and for that I was very grateful. He had managed not to drop me, and I'll admit that perhaps it wasa tiny bit fun – regardless of that though, he had been insensitive and had scared me, so I made sure to clout him around the head before I knocked tentatively on the staff room door and stepped inside.
I found it strange to walk into the staff room. As a starting year seven pupil at the school, I had been, like most of my year group, absolutely terrified of the room and all its contents. All of the teachers would spill out of its doors on a morning, talking between each other whilst sipping cups of coffee and other beverages after their morning briefing. I had never been in the room before, so when I looked around I was very disappointed at what I saw. A kitchen unit stood to one side where all of the drinks which teachers drank could be made. In the centre of the room was a long rectangular table, surrounded by black fabric chairs which only proved to me how much teachers thought they were better than their pupils – whilst us students had to sit in discomfort in the horrible grey plastic chairs, they got the life of luxury in the staff room and classroom with their comfy chairs, some of which could spin around. It was usually the classroom ones which did, and as I looked at the one standing forlornly in the corner of the room, I remembered an event which had happened in year seven – it had been in the middle of my Geography lesson, and as soon as my Geography teacher, Mr Thomas, had left the room, one of the boys who had been in my class at the time had gone and sat on the chair at the front of the classroom. He had found it fun and had spun all the way around on it several times. When Mr Thomas walked back into the room and saw him, however, the chair must have been one which rose in height if you twisted it because the seat fell straight off. It had been a bit awkward after that for the class – the boy was sent out and Mr Thomas was left to screw his chair back together. It had been a memorable moment.
My Dad was sat in one of the black chairs in the centre of the room, and as I approached he lifted his head from his hands and looked at me with the saddest smile I have ever seen on his face. His brown hair, which was usually so neatly combed, was tousled, dishevelled and ultimately all over the place. I could see beads of sweat slowly trickling their way down the side of his face as well as tears which were free-flowing from his eyes. I had never seen him look so beaten.
"Gwen..." I watched him as he stood, walked to meet me and then hugged me as tightly as he could. "I'm so sorry, sweetheart..."
I didn't have a clue what to say to him. I don't even think there was even anything I could have said which would have made any sort of difference. He had just lost the woman he had loved and had been married to for eighteen years - I had just lost an amazing mother who could never, ever be replaced. We were left on our own, and nothing could change that. She was gone.
I raised my arms and wrapped them tightly around my Dad's waist. I hugged him tightly, just trying to tell him that somehow, we would be okay. Somehow, we would find the strength to move on as Mum would have wanted.
But I couldn't.
Because I didn't even believe in those words myself.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move and I twisted my head around to look at it. It turned out to be the door, and it was slowly opening to reveal a sombre-looking Liam on the other side of it. I glanced up at my Dad, as if asking permission to go, and to my great relief, it was granted. I unwound my arms from around him and stood back, blinking some tears from my eyes and mouthing the phrase 'I'll only be a minute'. Knowing Liam, however, I probably spent much longer out there talking to him.
As I turned and walked over to Liam, his eyes didn't seem to be able to stay in one place. First they looked at the ceiling, then at the kitchen space, then towards the seating area in the centre of the room - when I finally realised what he was doing, I nearly laughed despite myself. He had been checking out the room, and from the upturned right corner of his mouth, I knew he was just about as impressed as I had been when I had just walked in.
When I got to the door I ducked under Liam's right arm, passing into the corridor beyond. He turned around as soon as I was through and the door closed slowly and noisily behind us.
"I just came to tell you that I'm going home now," Liam said after he was sure that the door had fully closed. "I don't have a clue what is going on, and quite frankly, I think it's highly unlikely you're going to tell me, so-"
"Please don't leave," I blurted out. "I haven't got enough moral and physical support yet!"
He smiled at me and I wanted to smile back, but just couldn't bring myself to do it. I think he knew it was still a joke though, as he shrugged in an overly exaggerated way and dramatically cupped his chin in his left hand.
"Does this mean that you still require my excellent services?" He used his posh-sounding voice while he said that, and as he did, I couldn't help but laugh at how ridiculous it sounded. I almost felt bad after he put his puppy-eyed look on his face, but when he started laughing as well I just couldn't stop.
When I finally did stop laughing, I linked my arm through his and dragged him back towards the staff room door. I looked at him to see if he was protesting, and to my surprise, he seemed fine with it. I opened the door with my spare hand and held it open while Liam got through before letting it swing back at its own accord. My Dad looked up again as we walked over – he had apparently sat back down after I had gone outside and resumed his previous position. He raised his eyebrows at me, but I just nodded in Liam's direction and hoped he would understand. He didn't, so I walked over to him and whispered in his ear that I wanted to tell Liam what was going on.
As I pulled back I felt Liam looking at me from behind, but I didn't turn around. I just looked into my Dad's eyes and hoped he wouldn't mind. As I looked at him, he didn't seem to be looking at me in return. It took me a moment to figure out what he was staring at, but I got it in the end – he was looking straight at Liam, making a judgement, I guessed – eventually though, he stopped and averted his gaze to look back at me. He nodded briefly to say he understood, and I kissed his forehead in response. It was all a bit of an awkward affair, but after that part was over, I let out a big breath I had been holding and raised my eyes to the ceiling in prayer. I prayed that Liam wouldn't overreact, or laugh, or any of the other insensitive things which he could be liable to doing sometimes.
"Basically..." Even though I wanted to tell him, I still started off in the worst ways and my voice still caught in my throat. I gulped a couple of times, trying to get my voice to work as I wanted it to, but it just wouldn't make any sound after that. I looked to my Dad for help, but he wasn't even looking my way – he had his head on his arms, face-down on the table – he wasn't looking, and he probably wasn't going to any time soon. To me, it sounded a lot like he was about to fall asleep. Maybe he was crying - I honestly couldn't tell though if he was.
"Would you rather sit down for this?" Liam asked me gently. Surprisingly gently. "Because if you say it again, or you hear yourself say it, I'd rather you flopped into jelly in a chair rather than in my arms again..."
"Shut up," I managed to croak out. I didn't mean it though, because I still made my way over to the chairs and flopped into one. I felt weak as I watched Liam sit down beside me – it was like nausea, but I didn't know why. I felt sick.
"You do know that you don't have to tell me, right?" Liam asked worriedly as he noticed my facial expression. "I mean, if it's really that bad-"
"It's pretty bad," I interrupted him quickly before he gave me a lecture that I really wasn't in the mood for. "But it's nothing that you wouldn't tell me. At least, I think it isn't..."
"Would you rather I started guessing? Would that make it easier for you? Or would that just make you feel even worse?"
"Probably make me feel worse..." I admitted, reaching up and scratching the back of my head with my right hand. "But we can try it, if you want."
"Okay..." Liam visibly gulped and I almost raised an eyebrow at him. "Is it something like a family member getting arrested?"
"No, a bit more serious than that..." I murmured. Trust Liam to start with the right area, but the wrong idea.
"Is it a friend who got arrested?"
"You were right when you said about family. No, not a friend getting arrested," I sighed and rested my head in my hands. This could take a while. "It's got nothing to do with arrests."
"Something to do with family..." Liam looked at the ceiling, giving me my cue to know that he was thinking. It couldn't be that hard, surely. With that little bit of information, the one that said it was related to my family, yes, there were a lot of things it could have been, but it had to be one of the worst, and he knew it. I just hoped it wouldn't take him long to figure it out, because I could already feel the tears rising in my eyes. In another two minutes, I wouldn't be able to see at all.
"Did your parents split up?" This suggestion made me glare at him. Liam shrank back a little, almost making me laugh but not quite. He resumed his thinking pose and left me to reconsider what I was doing.
Back when we used to be best friends, he only ever told me the stuff which he thought that he could trust me with. Granted, he told me things that he later told everyone else, but I really liked being someone dependable and trustworthy. I loved being someone who he could go to for help and to talk to if he had any issues. That period didn't last as long as I'd hoped it would, though. That was year seven. Since then, we've grown further and further apart, so god knows what he thinks of me now. I mean, what even is my opinion of him anyway? Is he still the person I once knew him to be? On the surface, yes, he is, but underneath? I don't know. I honestly don't know.
"Has someone in your family been injured or something?" I cringed at how close he was to the truth. He obviously saw my reaction, because both of his eyebrows hitched a slight bit higher before crashing back down again.
"Not... Not injured, then..." He said a moment later, looking away. "More than injured...?"
"You're close," I croaked, looking down at my hands. The air in the room suddenly felt very hot and stuffy, and I felt the intense desire to run across the room, throw open the door and get away from it all. But I couldn't do that now, not after this. He was so close to the truth, and I didn't have a clue how to say it. It was a scary thought, letting someone like him so close in my personal life, but I had collected my thoughts and knew that if he got the right answer, he would keep it to himself. At least, I hoped so; if I knew him to be the person he had been when I first met him, he would do the honourable thing and not tell a soul.
"Has a member of your family been paralyzed in an accident or something similar?" Liam was just putting it off now, I could tell. His face was sagging, and his eyes had dulled ever so slightly. It wasn't a pretty sight to watch.
"Worse than that," I whispered, trying to convey my plea for him to just get to it before I started crying. I think he understood me, because the next thing he asked was the thing I hated so much, but had been dying to hear for the previous ten minutes.
"Has someone in your family died? Were they a close relative?"
"Yes... Very close... Too close..." I couldn't help it any longer. The first tear broke free of my tear duct and slowly slid down my face, leaving a wet streak trailing down my cheek.
"Amie?" I shook my head and blinked my eyes. The tears just wouldn't stop coming, and I furiously wiped my eyes in an attempt to get them dry. I was just about to get angry with myself over it when Liam gently turned me to face him, took my hands and held them in his so I couldn't try and tear myself to pieces. His hands felt smooth and warm, and as much as I hated myself for it, I actually quite enjoyed having them hold mine. It felt... right, somehow.
"Liam, think about it. You saw Jack earlier."
"... Ah. Yeah. Sorry, I'm being a little stupid, aren't I?"
"Just a tad..."
Jack is my little brother. He started at high school two years ago. He's constantly boasting about what grades he gets and how well teachers say he does – I still can't understand him. He thinks that a five is still a good mark in year eight, but when I was in year eight, I got sevens. I can't tell him that though, he'd be crushed.
"But you don't have any other intermediate family... Unless..."
Liam looked at me then. He forced my eyes to look in his, and even as I did, I knew he had found the answer he had been searching for. His eyes closed, and under his eyelids, I saw them roll up to the ceiling. His hands tightened around mine a fraction, and I didn't know what to say. I couldn't say anything else now that he knew.
"Gwen..." His eyes opened slowly to look at me. I was shocked. They looked ten times moister then they had when he had closed them, and even as I watched, a solitary tear rolled down his cheek. That's when I remembered. And I kicked myself numerous times inside for it.
When I had met him in year seven, he had only had his father. His mother had died a couple of years before – he had told me himself what she had looked like when she had died. He had walked home from school on his own for the very first time that day, and he had been ever so proud of himself for doing so. As he had unlocked the door and stepped inside, he hadn't an idea in the world about what he was about to find. He had called to his mother, trying to find out where she was in the house, but had gained no response. He had started in all of the usual places that she was – first in the pantry, then in the kitchen, and finally in the living room. None of those rooms had contained the person he had been looking for, so he had walked up the stairs and knocked on his parents' bedroom. And that's when he had seen it.
The dead body of his mother; sprawled out on the bed, eyes open and glazed over, head twisted at a cruel angle. She had a knife protruding out of her back, and if that hadn't killed her, her broken neck certainly would have done. It was a horrible thing for an eight year old boy to have seen, and I'd been very careful about mentioning it to Liam ever since. This time, I obviously hadn't been careful enough. Although it wasn't his mother we were discussing, it must have been enough to infer flashbacks, or at the very least memories.
"Gwen, I..." Liam looked at me again as another tear began making its way slowly down his face. "God damn it Gwen, I am so, so sorry..."
"Me too," I couldn't hold them back any more. The tears flowed freely as I sobbed the words out; I wished I could wipe them away, but I couldn't even try as Liam still had my hands held firmly in his.
"What the hell could you possibly be sorry for?" Liam pulled me by my hands into his chest. For a split second I was just leaning on him, but after that I felt his hands come away from mine and instead his arms wrapped around me. "You stupid cow... you've done nothing!"
"I made you remember!" I sobbed into his chest, resisting the urge to hug him back. I wanted to, I really did, but I didn't have the strength or the courage to do so. "I made you remember what happened. That's what I'm sorry for. I wasn't careful enough, and-"
"Don't worry about me," his voice went slightly deeper and emotional as he said that; as he did so, he gently raised my eyes up to look straight into his by pushing my head up with one of his shoulders. "It's not me who's important right now."
"I can't help but worry," I finally dared to move my arms and hug Liam back. I didn't squeeze too tightly, but after a minute I was just too unhappy to care. I clung onto him while I cried, using his chest as a pillow and a source of comfort. He didn't seem to mind, and if he did, he didn't show it. After a few minutes of this, he pulled me gently onto his lap – I was surprised and tried to pull back to look at him, but his hand guided my head back down onto his shoulder before I could even utter a word. I took that as my cue to stay silent, so I did. I just sat there with him for a while whilst we both thought about what had happened. It was a very comfortable arrangement, and sitting like that helped me to think more clearly. As I was thinking, I realised that my Dad was still in the room and I turned my head to look in his direction. He had his head up off of the table, and embarrassingly, he was looking straight in our direction. Liam's head was facing the opposite way, so he didn't see, but I watched in horror as my Dad held his hands up, made a love heart shape with his thumbs and forefingers and pointed in my direction. I felt like shouting at him to shut up, but I would have alerted Liam that something was wrong and that would have been even worse. Instead, I mimed the words 'I'll get you back later' and turned away without doing anything else. I don't know what my Dad did after I turned away from him, but I thought I heard a definitive and exaggerative sigh escape his lips before I completely shut off my ears and eyes to his nonsense. Liam and I weren't like that – we weren't in love, and I doubted we ever would be.
Doubted, but that didn't stop me hoping that something would happen.