This may appear confusing at first (since the scenes are intentionally not written in order), but once you read the whole thing it should hopefully make sense. I hope you enjoy this story!
[A DROP OF LAVENDER AND ARSENIC]
I'm at Jo's so I won't be home tonight. Your dinner is in the fridge. It's my famous pumpkin soup. You asked me to make it for you last week, remember? Aren't I considerate. There's some spaghetti too. You'd better be grateful because I took my time making it for you. Choke on if it you don't. Just kidding. xox
P.S. You'd better finish it
Where are you? I need you here.
She was fighting the urge to throw up. Her heart pounded rapidly in her chest and her eyes closed tighter, breathing sounded unevenly unevenly ragged by the second. Lying onto her back, she glimpsed the childish glow-in-the-dark stars that scattered on the ceiling of her bedroom. It was like an entrance to another world that she wanted to escape to.
Even if it were for a second, she'd be grateful to get away from everything. Get away from the disaster hole she dug herself in. She was a complete and utter mess and there was nothing she could do about it.
God, she was an idiot.
She had never felt like such a failure in her life. She had disappointed family, herself and now the future she was planning for would have to be placed on hold. But, above all, she had failed Bentley...and she hated herself for it.
"Where is that bastard? I'll kill him."
Despite being locked up in her bedroom, she managed to hear her father's ill-tempered rage ricochet against her mother's pleading voice through the paper-thin walls.
Her father continued to fume, "Like hell that kid will help her! She's too young for this. She doesn't even know how to tidy her room! To think what the other folks in our neighbourhood are going to say?"
"Who cares what they say. It's beautiful, Christopher."
"It's not." He lividly denied. "Helen, listen. I didn't want this to happen to her! She's so young. Where did we raise her wrong?"
"We did our best and you know, as much as I do, that she's a good daughter. She's stronger than I was at her age. Have faith. We can get through this together."
Like always, her mother was protecting her when it was clearly obvious that this time she was wrong. It made her feel more guilty.
Soon, her parents' voices became softer. Her mother was talented at soothing any rough situation whenever her dad erupted into his furious spurts of anger. She loved her mother for that.
"Elyse?" Someone whispered. "Open your window, will ya?"
Merely from the whisper, her heart skipped a beat because she immediately recognised who was there. Was it a good thing or bad thing that he had come over?
She didn't know.
Swinging her legs onto the side of the bed, she let her feet touch the carpeted floor. She gritted her teeth, trying to maintain her balance as she shakily advanced towards the window.
Bentley's warm silhouette from behind her lace curtains could be seen. It calmed her. Somehow, whenever he was near she felt relaxed. Her anxiety and every worry she had in the world would disappear. Being with him made her feel alive, it made her feel stronger.
She had to tell him.
Pushing the curtain aside, she tied the white lace into a knot. Her boyfriend flashed his infamous wry smirk, childishly waving at her from the branch that he had propped himself on. She returned a weak smile.
Only Bentley could make her smile during her worst moments.
As she unlatched the window, Bentley landed smoothly into her room with the frosty winter breeze following him. He crisscrossed his arms together. "Brr. It's freezing, ya know?"
Elyse nodded, dropping back onto her bed and buckling her arms around her knees, shivering. She wasn't sure if she was shivering from the cold or the fact that she was going to deliver Bentley the news. Oh, how she was dreading it.
He sat next to her, eyeing her peculiarly. "Elyse? There has to be some reason that you called me up at three in the morning."
Seeing that she wouldn't reply, he joked, "Baby, I thought it was a booty call or something. Seriously, what's up?"
Elyse didn't laugh like she normally would have, and Bentley knew that it was not the right moment to fool around. He frowned. "Hey?"
Bentley put both of his firm hands onto her shoulders and instantly could sense her body quivering. He could even feel the perspiration and moistness from the thin layer of clothing that Elyse was wearing and how she kept avoiding his eye contact.
"Tell me what's wrong."
She threw his hands off her shoulders, lying back onto the bed as she swivelled her whole body to face the other side. Her knees bent towards her chest as she laid down in a foetal position.
"Hey, you can't keep ignoring me."
Bentley delicately pulled Elyse's body towards him and seated her upright, preventing her from slumping back into a ball. He took her small hands into his and observed her. Her long locks of blond hair cascaded down in waves, appearing white under the moonlight. Above all, she looked paler than usual.
"Elyse." He said again. "You're scaring me."
If anything, Elyse was scared too. She was petrified. She didn't want to lose Bentley once she told him. Would he leave her? She didn't know what she'd do without him.
He embraced her, keeping silent as he patiently waited for her to tell him what she had to say.
Her voice finally croaked out, "I'm sorry."
He caught onto her small movement. If he hadn't been holding her he wouldn't have noticed Elyse lightly touching her belly. Realisation struck him. His eyes widened and when Elyse looked at him, she dared for him to say the words that she couldn't bare to say.
"You're not. Are you?" Bentley stuttered. "No. Really? I-"
"I'm going to keep the baby." Elyse spoke on top of Bentley before he could finish the sentence.
Bentley didn't answer straight away, and Elyse was glad that he didn't. He was spontaneous, but whenever he was serious he was the type to sit back and think about the picture as a whole, thoroughly weighing out the pros and cons. He was closed his eye, thinking and carefully conjuring up the best option to decide on. He tended to have the mannerism of doing this whenever he played with figures and numbers. However, this complex situation was different as it involved much more than calculations.
When he opened his eyes, Elyse avoided his gaze. He had reached a decision and she knew what it was - Bentley was going to leave her. She was going to be alone. Elyse was prepared for it. She was waiting for him to let go of her, climb back out of the window and never see her again.
Just when she was thinking about how to deal with a break-up, as well as a baby, Bentley held onto her tighter.
"You're an idiot!" Elyse cried. She hit him, but she couldn't hide her happiness and elation as she sobbed into his chest. "I thought you'd say no. Dad said he's going to kick me out if I have the baby and-"
"I won't ever leave you." Bentley rubbed circles on her back, trying to sooth her crying. "It'll be fine. Live with me. We'll find a place of our own. Just don't abort."
"Have you forgotten, Elyse? I'm already working. Perhaps we'll rent first and then we'll figure it out. When we get enough money we'll buy a house. Just think of us like Jo and Michael, but we'll be skipping the getting married part."
Elyse laughed through her tears. "But I'd like to one day."
"We will," Bentley stated, wide simper on his face. "We're still young and we don't need to have a stupid ring to prove that we love each other."
"You love me?" Elyse smirked.
"Of course I do."
She had been stupid for doubting him.
It was a Sunday afternoon. Like every Sunday, Elyse was sitting at the bus stop, corner of Fitzgerald Road and Wellington Crescent, with no other form of company asides from her gigantic backpack that occupied the rest of the bench.
Her head drooped downwards as she studied the textbook on her lap, completely absorbed with reciting each word. She was determined to remember every page of the textbook.
That was her original plan, until she got interrupted...
"Aren't you going to let the old lady sit down?"
A grinning face.
That was the first thing that Elyse saw.
Elyse bit back a curse, moving back to gain her personal space back. How could he rudely put his face in front of hers?
He had scruffy red hair that distinctly reminded her of autumn and a curly fringe the jabbed into his bright blue eyes. The boy was so close to her that she could see the milky-way of freckles spread across his nose. Asides from his crazy grin, he was extremely tall, but that was taking into account that everybody loomed over Elyse's petite height.
Slightly embarrassed, she glanced around her and expected to see an elderly woman. When Elyse didn't, she scratched her head and send an accusing glare at the person who had lied about the old lady's existence.
"There's no one else here." Elyse stated the obvious.
"But there is."
He kept grinning at her. She didn't get it. Was the guy delusional or high?
Before she could reply he spoke up, "Would you have moved if I hadn't told you that there was an old lady standing next to you?"
Elyse repeated the question in her mind and she knew the answer: No.
Knowing herself, she would have been too focused on studying that she wouldn't have picked up that there was an elderly woman standing there. Elyse would have made space if she had seen the person there, but whenever she concentrated on anything with her undivided attention, everything would blur around her because of how focused she'd be. There had been numerous times that she had almost been hit by cars because she had been too busy staring at the stars or reading a novel with her headphones on.
The boy smiled, waiting for her answer. She blinked.
Why? Why was he still there?
She bristled, "Can't you see that I'm studying here? I don't have time to keep with your antics."
Her comment didn't make him leave. In fact, the boy took a step closer and lowered his head down so that he could flick to the cover of the textbook. "Studying what?"
"For my Legal Studies test," Elyse snapped. "Can't you mind your own business?"
"You want to be a lawyer or something to do in the legal field?" he guessed. "Ah, I can totally picture you becoming a lawyer because you're definitely haughty enough. You see, I've just started my first year in accounting and I'm finding it really difficult to adjust because of the…"
"That's nice." In a sarcastic tone, she had complimented him even though she was half-listening to what he was actually saying.
"I know!" he laughed. "By the way, my name's Bentley."
Elyse couldn't believe this guy. Was he intentionally being dense?
"I don't recall asking you for your name."
"No, but I know that you know that I know, you wanted to know."
She couldn't hold his gaze any longer. She glanced back at her textbook, but her eyes failed to take in anything that she was reading. She was going to lose even more brain cells if she kept talking to him. Whoever Bentley was, she knew he was a anything but normal.
"It's a nice day today." Bentley was resorting to another distraction tactic.
As much as Elyse wanted to disagree with him, he was right. For spring it wasn't too cold, nor was it too hot. She could scent the smell of mown grass, feel the light breeze and the perfect amount of sunlight that trickled heavenly onto her skin.
Elyse sighed. She closed the textbook, giving up on studying for the moment. She glanced at him. "Why are you even talking to me?"
"There's nothing wrong with speaking to a fellow citizen."
He pointed out, "And I think that you study too much."
Sh raised an eyebrow at him. How could she take him seriously when he was being ridiculous? Even his cotton shirt agreed with her. She then realised that the guy had opted to wear navy shirt with a big feathery yellow bird situated on the centre of his chest.
Sesame Street. Really? For someone older than she was, he really needed to grow up.
"There's a reason why I study." She paused, she made sure she made a show as she eyed his shirt. She pointed at Big Bird, and spoke, "It's so that I won't become somebody like you."
He shrugged her off, "Anybody would be privileged to meet someone like me. You see; I'm unique."
It was like Elyse was speaking to a brick wall. She was getting a headache from all of this nonsense.
"But that's beside the point. The real topic here is the fact that you study too much."
"You've only seen me studying today so what makes you think I study too much?" Elyse was getting tired of the nonsense. She wanted him to get out of her face or, even better, stuff him in a rocket and get him out of the damn planet.
He started, "You're wrong. I've seen you for the past three weeks-"
"-every Sunday. Why don't you be a normal teenager and stop sitting here? You'll waste away if you do. Be a normal teenager. Go see the latest chick flick with a friend, go on a date, eat a toffee apple, get an underage ID and buy some alcohol."
"Huh?" Elyse squirmed a few centimetres away from the stalker.
"Scoot over. Move that lump of boring away and give me some room."
When she didn't, he did it himself. He picked up Elise's heavy backpack and placed it onto the ground. Hadn't Bentley gotten the hint that she did not appreciate his company?
Stalker or not, Elyse still couldn't see him in a threatening manner. Bentley was nowhere near dangerous (especially when he had a Big Bird themed tee). Nevertheless, she needed to find a weapon to knock him out with in case he did anything fishy. She looked down at what she was holding. Yes, the textbook would have to do.
Thankfully, she heard the sound of a bus approaching towards them. Elyse let out a sigh or relief, predicting that Bentley be soon on the bus and out of her face. The bus stopped in front of them, doors opening as the bus driver waited patiently for them to board it.
But he didn't move…
The bus driver swore colourful curses at them before the doors shut for wasting his time, speeding away and leaving Elyse stuck with the weird guy again. She speechlessly glanced at him, clearly bemused.
He answered her question before she could ask him. "I live across the road."
She stared where Bentley was pointing. The place that Bentley claimed to live at was a red-bricked apartment across from where they were seated. She knew that house and she also happened to know the person who lived there.
And then it made sense.
"You're not Mrs. Boyd's nephew by any chance?"
"Correct." He grinned. "How'd ya know?"
"My mum's friends with your aunt."
Rumour had it that the town's former librarian was boarding her nephew who had only moved in with her three weeks ago. Elyse had heard that Mrs. Boyd had her nephew staying with her because he would be studying at their local university. For once, her mother's useless gossiping chatter had come in handy.
Bentley gave a massive yawn, lazily stretching his legs out. "So why exactly are you here anyway?"
"Shouldn't I be asking you that question? You're the one who lives across the road."
"And you're the one who is studying at a bus stop," Bentley added. "Tell me, which is stranger?"
"Define strange," Elyse laughed, bitterly. "Oh wait, that's you."
Bentley's lips were still quirking upwards. Elyse had been dishing insults towards him from the moment they had been conversing with each other, yet he had not once been the slightest bit offended.
"Laugh it up, but I'm only saying that it's weird that, someone like you, is studying at this bus stop. Don't you feel awkward? A bus stop is where you hail a bus. It's not a place for studying."
It was something she should have done earlier. Talking with Bentley was getting her nowhere. They kept going round and round in circles. All it was doing was lessening her studying time and making her feel more irritated.
She was about to pack her book away, but Bentley conveniently held her backpack away from her like a hostage. "There's one more thing that I want to ask you."
"What?" Elyse frowned. She lifted her gaze to stare at him and was suddenly taken by the intensity in his blue eyes.
He finally asked, "Why do you study here?"
"Because it's one of the only places I can concentrate."
It was true. Libraries were too quiet and studying at home was impossible. Elyse loved her home, even if it was small and cosy, but it was too lively for her to focus. She could hear almost anything that happened in her home. From the buzzing of the fish tank in their family's lounge room, to her mother's tornado-like sneezing. Not to mention, witnessing her father dancing clumsily around to classical rock music in his underwear, whilst jamming into his toothbrush of a microphone was something she wasn't proud of seeing.
When Bentley laughed it was then that Elyse realised that she had spoken all her thoughts out loud. Her cheeks warmed up, fighting the urge to kick herself of how brainless she had been.
"And here I though that I was strange." He chortled. "We're both weird after all."
Elyse snatched the backpack away from his grasp, chucking her textbook into her bag. She didn't bother to zip the bag up as she escaped from the stalker.
He called after her. "Where are you going?"
"Away," she exclaimed.
"No." She continued to walk.
"But y-you dropped something!"
"What?" she glared, pivoting on her heel to stare back.
Bentley was standing up. Elyse had been right. He was very tall. It only took four steps for him to catch up to her. She could see that his fingers held onto something. Before she was about to ask, he revealed her tiny silver mobile that rested in his palm.
Elyse was confused.
Stunned, she stared at him then at the phone, before briskly sweeping it from his hand, stuffing it back into her pocket. Elyse was sure she had the phone in her jeans pocket.
"You pick-pocketed me, didn't you?"
A bit too quickly, he replied, "I found it on the ground."
"What? You could have given it to me earlier while we were talking then." Elyse shook here head in disapproval. "Is this the new modern pick-up line or something?"
"No," he smirked.
Elyse began to act out, sarcastically, "Hey there, you forgot your phone. Let's go out."
"You were rejecting my approaches the whole time. And yet you actually consider that to be a pick-up line? Pick-up lines are meant to more smooth."
"Enlighten me then."
To her surprise, Bentley took her hands into his, looking straight into her eyes. Elyse couldn't tell if he was being serious or not, but there was definitely a mischievous glint in his blue eyes. "Would you like to have some coffee with me?"
She withdrew her hands from his. "Er…thanks for the demonstration, but I really need to go."
Bentley tilted his head, not bothering to listen to what she had said. "So, would you? The offer still stands, ya know?"
Which part of 'no' did Bentley not understand?
He repeated, "Would you like to go out and grab some coffee with me?" This time he had added a short gallant bow, before suavely taking her hands back into his.
Elyse eyes him, incredulously.
Before she could hold it in any longer, she burst into laughter.
From the stupid Big Bird plastered on his shirt to his persistent idiocy. The situation that they were in - it was absolutely ridiculous. Yes, Bentley had been annoying her but she wasn't going to deny that she was amused.
Heck, he intrigued her.
"Why not?" Elyse said, recovering from fits of laughter. "I'd recommend Geraldine's Café on Vitelli Court. After all, I need a break. You're right, you know? I do study too much."
It was Bentley's turn to be surprised. He had expected her to reject him again. "Are you sure? I was only kidding. Are you teasing me?"
"I genuinely do want to go." Elyse stared at him. "Does this mean you were kidding about asking me out for coffee then?"
"No. That's because we're already out." Bentley gestured around them. She shook her head, laughing. "Anyway, what's your name?"
He whispered her name to himself, licking his lips before looking straight back at her again. "Well, Elyse, I beg for your forgiveness."
"Why?" she questioned, bemused.
"Just then, I did pickpocket you." He admitted with a sheepish smile.
Elyse rolled her eyes. "I figured."
She felt empty.
Folding her arms around her stomach, she convulsed. Her long blond tendrils collapsed over her face as bent down. She could hear chattering in the background, but she blocked the sound out. Her bottom lip quivered. She bit on it, trying to control the involuntary motion, but failed miserably.
She wasn't sure that she could do it. She wasn't sure if she could pull herself together after this...could she?
Elyse really didn't know.
Weakly standing up from the toilet seat, Elyse took a few tiny steps away. And when she turned around to flush the toilet, she screamed.
In shrill panic, she threw her body away from the toilet. Everything went blurry, but she didn't care to register the pricking pain in her spine from how hard she had thrown herself against the cubicle's door.
She was stranded in her own nightmare; and the nightmare was her own reality. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she sobbed loudly as she wailed over the loss. She heard chattering. She recalled the sight of it all, of how vivid it was still to her eyes.
That was what she had seen. Threads of red swarming around in the filthy water.
Not threads – her baby.
The floating sac, the small curled up human form. The miniature head, its tiny nose and the misleading mouth and the eyes…the eyes.
It pierced her heart. The eyes that were asking her why her mother hadn't given her the gift of life. The eyes that questioned why her mother had abandoned her.
"No, no, no!" Elyse cried out in distraught, voice echoing in the toilets.
Elyse slid slowly down the cubicle door, her whole body crashing onto the cold stone ground. Elyse shook. She wrapped her arms around her knees, rocking herself back and forth and humming an indecipherable lullaby as if trying to beckon the truth away. Her jaw moved. It was then she realised that the chattering sound had come from herself.
That wasn't what mattered.
What mattered was, how was she going to tell Bentley? Elyse buried her head into her hands. Her baby was gone. Their baby was dead.
Alone, Elyse wept.
With the bronze-coloured trophy and certificate clenched in her hands, Elyse stepped down from the platform and was overwhelmed by a standing ovation. She gave a false smile at all the students, teachers and families in the crowd before staring at the ground.
The trophy had been given to her for all her achievements, for all her hard work, for being ranked as the valedictorian of her high school, yet it felt like she hadn't achieved anything.
Elyse's parents hadn't come to her graduation ceremony.
Her father could not get the day off work, while her mother was attending Elyse's grandmother's funeral overseas. And Bentley? He had told her that he'd be at her graduation ceremony, but where was he?
As Elyse squeezed through the second row to get back to her allocated seat, all insecurities and doubt vanished when she heard the familiar rumbling of a motorcycle.
Her weak smile transformed into a wide grin. Her stomach fluttered and everything appeared in vibrant colour – the sea of maroon uniforms, the sunflowers that livened up the venue and the perfect azure cloudless sky.
Why was it whenever he was around, she felt excited and more alive?
"…it's that motorbike again."
Elyse's eyebrows narrowed, leaning slightly backwards to eavesdrop on the two classmates that were sitting in front of her.
Joanne caught onto what Elyse was doing, trying to restrain her from listening in. "Ellie," Jo warned in a lecturing manner. Jo knew her all too well, but Elyse gave her a reassuring pat on the shoulder. Joanne held back a giggle.
"I'd kill for a guy like that."
"I know, have you seen him? He always waits besides the tennis court under the oak tree."
"Every. Single. Day. I can't believe he bothers to do that. I should definitely hit on him one day."
'And I want to hit you,' Elyse thought to herself, but there was no hiding Elyse's sour expression.
"Whoever he's waiting for, that girl must be really lucky." One of the girls turned around. Elyse quickly sat back on her chair. Jo laughed out loud.
"Oh my God, Maria! Look behind you. He's here."
"That hot motorcycle boy!"
Elyse saw him, alright. He stared directly at her, like he always did with that customary smirk playing on his lips. Bentley's stare chilled her, in a good way. Strands of red hair stuck out from the helmet, and he wore his favourite leather jacket that Elyse had bought him last Christmas.
Bentley always managed to draw attention without asking for it. He wasn't the most attractive guy, but he definitely had charm that made him noticeable in a crowd.
Then he had to wink. That idiot.
Beaming, Elyse waved back, momentarily forgetting that she was still at he school's graduation ceremony. She caught the two girls that she had been eavesdropping earlier gawk enviously at her.
Joanne kicked her, forcing Elyse to focus back on the Principal's dull farewell speech.
Once the ceremony was over, Elyse found herself running through the moving crowd. "Bentley!"
He stood there, waiting for her with that boyish smile of his that Elyse knew only too well.
Bentley spread his arms and in seconds she lunged at him, legs wrapping around his legs and hands diving around his neck as she tackled him into a warm embrace. Her forehead rested on his helmet. Bentley chuckled. "I've missed you."
Elyse had too.
It had been almost a month since she had last seen her boyfriend. She had banished him from going out with her so that she could focus on her exams. They had kept in contact through phone calls and text messages, but it wasn't the same to being with him physically. God, how she missed him.
For some reason, Elyse had expected Bentley to break up with her after telling him that she couldn't see him for a month, but as usual, Bentley thought differently. Bentley wasn't normal. He said he'd only forgive her if she became the top student at her school - which she did.
Remembering that they were on school grounds, Elyse released Bentley from her embrace. "Let's go. I'm starving."
Bentley reached for her hand and led her to his exotic beauty, Amber. Considering the motorcycle was green, Bentley had purposely named his motorcycle 'Amber' to contradict its true colour. Elyse took the spare helmet from Bentley, fastening the strap around her chin. When she was about to hop onto Amber, her phone coincidentally rang.
"Congratulations, love." Her mother praised from the other line. "I knew that you could do it! Jo sent us a video of your speech. Your father and I are so proud of you."
Elyse hung the phone after a couple of minutes of speaking to her mother. As she tucked her phone away in her handbag, she reached over and slid her hands around Bentley's waist.
He didn't move, shoulders stiff. "Your parents still don't approve of me, do they?"
She sighed. "You already know my mum likes you. She adores you. It's just my father. He's overprotective, that's all."
"You could have told them the truth. What if something happens to you?"
Bentley had heard her lie to her mother. Elyse had informed her mother that she'd be with Jo that night, not Bentley.
"Oh, Bentley. Nothing is going to happen. If something does happen you can blame me, alright?"
Bentley didn't reply. Elyse could tell he was irritated.
"My father will warm up to you eventually, Bentley. Everyone does. It's a fact."
"That's not what I'm annoyed about, Elyse, and you know it."
Bentley started the engine and soon they were driving onto the streets, fading into the traffic. Bentley's driving was more reckless that day.
When they swerved a corner without breaking, Elyse demanded over the roaring engine. "Then what is it that you're annoyed about?"
He yelled back, "You can't let Jo cover up for us every time we go out, ya know? You shouldn't lie to them."
"I know," she sighed, exasperatedly. "Can we not talk about this?"
"There you go again! You always do that. Whenever you know that you're wrong, you change the subject."
"Then stop reading me then." Elyse's temper was starting to reach boiling point. She held onto him tighter as they swerved another corner. "Can we talk about this later? I'm starving. I want to eat."
"We always eat." He remarked.
"Are you saying I'm fat?"
"Why would I say that?" Bentley muttered. "I'm just saying that there's more to life than stuffing your face in books or food."
"Fine! Take me to that darn restaurant already. I want to get this over and done with. Or, even better, drop me at that corner over there and I'll call a cab home because you're being really unreasonable and-"
The motorcycle's speed picked up, making it impossible for Elyse to finish what she was about to say. Elyse's blond hair whipped against the wind. Bentley had done it intentionally because she couldn't speak as her voice was evidently not competition against the wind or engine.
"That's mean!" she laughed after the speed dropped a fraction.
"You know you love it!" Bentley chortled back.
When the motorcycle slowly came to a halt, Elyse frowned and was rather dissatisfied when she saw that they had parked in front of a public toilet. There suspiciously was no single restaurant in sight.
"I'm hungry." She mumbled, "Why are we here, Bentley?"
"Ah, just go with this, will you?" He jumped off his seat and shoved a medium-sized rectangular cardboard box in front of her face. "For you. Your graduation present."
She looked curiously at him before accepting the present. She tore off the golden wrapping, gasping when she saw a midnight satin blue dress. "For me?"
"We're ballroom dancing tonight," Bentley declared, a twinkle in his eyes. "Go change because I think you like funny in your uniform."
Before she could protest any longer, Bentley pushed her off his motorcycle. For once, Elyse decided to not object against Bentley's forceful request as she shimmied into the dress in the toilets. It was a beautiful dress, strapless and flowing just below her knees. Her boyfriend had even picked the right side. She spun around, eying herself in the mirror with glee. She undid her hair from the bun she had, covering her bare back with her long wavy blond hair.
As she strode out of the public toilets, Bentley was leaning against his motorbike, smiling a toothy smile. He easily complimented, "You look stunning."
"It's a pretty dress, Bentley. I like it."
"Then why are you scowling?"
Elyse looked at her feet and admitted, "Because I'm still starving."
Bentley rolled his eyes, assisting Elyse getting onto the motorcycle as they drove to the unknown destination.
Elyse noticed the gradual fading of the sunlight. When the weather were becoming colder, Elyse pulled Bentley's leather jacket back on, sneaking a glance at him. She saw his crooked smile and she felt safe. She wasn't worried. Wherever he was taking her, she didn't care. As long as she was with him, she was happy.
"She's not the same anymore, Doc. I'm afraid I've lost her. I miss her laughter. I miss her yelling at me. I miss our arguments. I miss our make-up sex. I just want her back, Doc."
"I want Elyse back."
Although he was full of jokes, Bentley had been telling the truth that their plans for the night involved ballroom dancing. He hadn't deceived her. Uncertainly, she followed Bentley through the large mahogany doors and inside the fancy building.
"Mr. and Mrs. Williamson?"
"Yes. That's us," Bentley lied. "For 5pm?"
"Right on time. However, I can't say the dance instructor is. George is running a tad bit late because he's driving from the city. Mad hour for traffic, I must say." The receptionist babbled on. "Well, make your way then. Hurry up now."
Elyse shot Bentley a confused look as they walked up the flight of stairs. When Elyse was far away from the receptionist, she spoke. "Mr. and Mrs. Williamson? What exactly do you have planned, Bentley?"
"Just sit back enjoy."
"Sit back and enjoy what exactly? Will we ever get to eat food?" She pursed her lips. "And here I thought that we were going to a restaurant…"
"That's because you always need to know everything. Elyse, sometimes you can be such a killjoy. Go with the flow for once, will ya? Chill."
When they reached the top of the staircase, Elyse frowned when she saw the sign 'advanced class' sticky-taped on the door.
She was about to turn around on her heels to stalk back down the stairs, but Bentley dragged her onwards. To Elyse's surprise, she felt herself being guided towards a different direction. She hadn't noticed it earlier, but there was another room next to the advanced dance class.
"So, we're not going to dance?" Elyse asked, hopefully.
Bentley sent a withering stare at her direction. "And why would I take you to a dance studio to not dance?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. You tell me."
"Now I'm having second thoughts about taking you here. Nothing ever impresses you, right?"
Elyse was close to retaliating back, but when she stepped into the room she gasped.
A disco-ball spun from the ceiling, shimmering silver specks of light throughout the small area. The curtains were drawn up, giving a spectacular view of the city in the ink-line blue horizon. A combination of peach, pink, cream and blush-red rose petals christened the wooden floorboards. And beautifully centered in the middle of the room was a table for two.
"You're quite the romantic, aren't you?" Elyse said, recovering from her shock, but she couldn't fight the large smile that formed on her lips.
Bentley chuckled when he saw her expression, knowing that he had won her that night.
In a chivalrous manner, Bentley drew out Elyse's chair before taking a seat cross from her. He then started to organise a number of plastic containers that had been sitting in the middle of the table. As he opened each container and revealed fried rice, steamed vegetables and beef with black bean sauce, and honey chicken.
Throughout the years that they had been dating, cheap Chinese food had been their ideal take-out food. She giggled. It was a secret bad junk food habit of theirs, their own inside joke. Bentley knew her taste precisely. Boy, was she famished.
Midway during their meal, Elyse could no longer hold in her curiosity. "How did you manage to pull this all off, Bentley?"
He cleared his throat. "Do you remember Carley?"
"Um. Carley?" Elyse said the name, thoughtfully. It then clicked. Having remembered the name she almost spit out her mouthful of rice. "Your ex! Carley the dancer?"
"That's right. Well, she helped me out, setting this up for you," Bentley admitted. He looked a bit flushed.
She interrogated, "You still talk to her?"
"And do you still talk to Justin?"
"That's besides the point." Elyse sniffed.
"Really Elyse, there's no need to get jealous here. Carley got us in as in Mr. and Mrs. Williamson because the original dance couple are going through a divorce. I mean, I think the man cheated on the wife. Something like that."
"Would you ever cheat on me?" Elyse asked.
From across the table, Bentley caught her gaze. In the flickering silvery light she could see the seriousness and intensity in his blue eyes.
"Never," he replied. "I don't want to ever lose you."
Elyse stared at him for a couple more seconds before forking at her food again. Whenever Bentley was serious, she didn't know how to react. Sometimes his intensity and spontaneity terrified her. She never knew what to do whenever he'd act like that. She avoided his gaze, cheeks pink, as she continued to eat her food.
When dinner was finished, Elyse swore she went up another clothes' size. Her stomach felt like it was going to pop out of the dress. With every move she made, she prayed the expensive dress would not tear.
Suddenly, a booming voice came from the other room that they were next to. "Sorry I'm late. Now, hurry up! Let us begin! Take your partner and let us start from the count of three!"
Clamouring Latin music spoiled the silence, exploding in fast rhythmic beats. Following the beats were an audible pitter-patter of steps clashing against the floor.
Wiping his mouth with a serviette, Bentley offered a hand to Elyse. "Mrs. Williamson-for-the-night, would you like to dance?"
She giggled. Elyse couldn't deny him a dance after Bentley had gone through the crazy lengths for their special night to happen.
Her lands hooked perfectly around his neck, staring up at him. "Thanks Bentley. Spending time with you really beats my own graduation party."
"We could always drop by later…"
Elyse sighed, leaning her head against his shoulder. "I'd like that. You're the best, Bentley."
Alone, they proceeded to dance to the vivacious music, avoiding the fact that they were swaying to a much slower beat. It was only Bentley and Elyse there – nobody else but them and that's all what mattered to Elyse.
When they couldn't dance any more their feet could let them, they collapsed onto the floor of rose petals. Elyse placed her head on Bentley's chest, feeling his whistling breathing against her face. Together, they stared up at the disco-ball that shied away the darkness. The splashes of glitter dispersed almost in every direction.
"Don't you love it?" Bentley said, gazing upwards. "It's like watching the stars."
"Like watching the stars," Elyse responded, but she wasn't staring at the disco-ball anymore. She was staring at Bentley.
"Bentley," Elyse said, numbly. "She would have been ours. She would have been beautiful."
He held her close, running his fingers through her hair in a soothing manner that he had mastered from the time they had spent together. As much as she loved him doing it, she knew that even his words and warmth couldn't help her this time.
She had lost their child. They had lost their child.
And now, Elyse had no one else but Bentley left and she wanted him to never let go.
Bentley wasn't home.
The neon red numbers on her alarm clock mocked her. She couldn't sleep. She had been waiting for hours for him to return, but he hadn't. It had been like that for a few consecutive nights now and with every night that had past she had become more and more uneasy by it.
She growled, throwing her beige bathrobe around her thin frame, staggering out of the bedroom and into the cluttered bathroom.
Seeing her own reflection over the basin disgusted her. Elyse's face was gaunt, eye bags had formed under her hazel eyes. Her golden hair was dishevelled, lips peeling and dry while her complexion was deathly pale. She wanted to smash the mirror. She didn't like what and who she saw. Just the thought of shards of glass falling down felt calming.
What was wrong with her?
She didn't even care about her appearance anymore. What was the point when there was nobody to impress? She had Bentley – but even Bentley wasn't the same anymore. He was different. He didn't care.
Did he even want her anymore?
Furiously, Elyse shook her head and splashed her face with cold water. She drifted out of the hallway and took a deep breath when she saw the room, the room that had been reserved for their baby whom was now…
She was appalled. She hadn't been in the spare room since the miscarriage. All the furnishing, the decorating and effort that Bentley and her spent on the room had disappeared, leaving a plain, bear and empty room. From the wooden baby crib, to the bear wallpaper and to that darn Big Bird stuffed animal.
Everything was gone.
She stormed out of the room, kicking the door shut behind her. Tears stung her vision as she wandered into the lounge room. Why was she still living there? What was she doing slumping around and waiting for Bentley every evening?
When had she become such a mess?
The nappies, the toys, the tiny clothing and all the other necessities that had been prepared for their baby had either been thrown out or stored away in cardboard boxes. Bentley had packed everything up and gotten rid of it all on his own accord. Without her permission.
Elyse dropped onto the sofa, massaging her forehead. She flicked through the channels and left it on some foreign channel. She watched the monitor, none of the subtitles sinking into her head. She was too upset. Nothing could get her mind off what she was thinking.
So she decided to drink...
Soon she didn't have space to elevate her legs on. The coffee table was occupied with empty glass bottles of liquor, beer cans and used wine glasses. She helped herself to another glass of Shiraz, pouring the glass until it overflowed and stained the carpet the beige carpet. She bitterly laughed, swirling the wine and making sure she drank each drop.
Bentley didn't like seeing her like this, and she didn't care. She made a lot of mess in their apartment these days to intentionally spite him. There was no way in hell that she could even accept his 'charity' money to go back to university. He was the accountant to a large firm. He was the goddamn breadwinner. And what was she to him?
She had given up everything for him and he didn't dare to acknowledge it. All the time she had put in their relationship had crumbled into rubble.
All because it had been her fault...
Ever since their baby had died it had been awkward between them, an invisible tension existed, making the atmosphere suffocating. She wondered if everything would ever be the same again.
When Bentley had been offered the promotion, Bentley worked more. He hardly was at home. Bentley became successful while she had nothing. Her parents had kicked her out. Her best friend had her own family and Bentley...Bentley loathed her. She had killed their baby. That's why.
Was she so unworthy in his eyes?
She had even left her own her parents for him. Did he have the right to treat her like this after she had scarified so much? She could have been greedy, got an abortion and stayed at home with her parents, living a comfortable lifestyle. She was wasted potential. All her dreams had been flushed down the drain. Her life had become centred on her future baby - the baby that would cease to exist.
She could see it in his eyes. There was a wavering hesitance. He acted like nothing was wrong between them, but there was. And she knew the reason. Elyse knew the reason, all right…
Elyse had expected it for some time now. He would always be on the phone, coming home late and still have the nerve to constantly say how much he loved her.
Bentley was cheating on her.
"Jo, I know what he's doing! He's screwing his new secretary-"
"Oh, don't be ridiculous, Ellie!" Jo had reasoned out. "That's impossible. Bentley would never do that to you."
"He is!" Her tone was livid, voice trembling in desperation. "Does he think I'm dumb? He's been blaming me ever since our baby died! It's my fault. He hates me because I miscarried!"
"He hates me. Jo, he hates me. He honestly hates me!"
The fact that even her best friend was trying to delude her from reality had hurt her too. Jo knew Bentley was cheating. Everybody most likely knew. Jo was trying to hide it from her and because of this Elyse didn't trust her anymore either.
Fed up with the pointless movie, Elyse made her way back towards the bedroom. Her feet caught to something and as she crouched down to examine the object, she noticed it felt like it was a large box.
She switched the lights on, looking closer at the object. There was a label on the box with a visible address scribbled in Bentley's scrawly writing.
Elyse didn't without her eagerness as she ripped the tape away, savagely spreading the cardboard lids open to see…
A whole box of Bentley's clothes. She delved further into the box, frowning. Yes, they all belonged to him. They were all his.
He wouldn't. No. Bentley…
"Don't be stupid, Elyse, I'm not going anywhere."
Elyse wandered to their bedroom's wardrobe and was right. Bentley's side of the wardrobe was close to empty. Tears welled up in her eyes. That confirmed it; Bentley was going to leave her.
From the nights they had silent dinners, with Bentley wolfing down his food and her opting for wine instead of a decent meal, from the screaming matches, how she'd mope around the apartment, how he'd find excuses to stay out late. They were falling apart. She had pretended it wasn't true, but it was.
Why did he blame her? It's not her fault that their baby died. After all, he was the one that was cheating – the bastard!
Elyse heard the clicking sound of the front door close. Quickly, she closed the lid of the box and stuffed it back under the bed.
His footsteps became clearer.
Elyse sniffed, turned off the lights. She hurdled for the bed and pulling the blanket over her head. The footsteps stopped. She could feel him staring at her. And, soon later, she felt the bed sink as he lied down besides her.
And then it was then that she could smell it.
Another woman's perfume.
Elyse could feel her blood boiling. She was heating up and it was proving difficult to control her angry breathing. How could she sleep when the asshole had the nerve to douse himself with another lady's scent?
She impatiently waited for him to sleep, negative and morbid thoughts continuing to plague her mind in a repetitive fashion
If she couldn't have him, nobody else would.
She didn't know how long she stayed lying there, seething in smouldering fury. She had never felt so much rage in her life. Her fingers were itching for a knife. Forget the pleasant thought of smashing a mirror, the gratification of killing Bentley with her own hands would be more satisfying. Seeing the blood run down his chest and feeling of penetrating a knife into his heart brought a smile to her face.
'Would you ever cheat on me?'
'I love you.'
Hand in hand, they stared at the doctor in anticipation. Elyse could feel Bentley shaking and see that he was just as excited as she was.
"Come on, Doc. Tell us already! A boy or a girl?"
Elyse edged forward, waiting for doctor's response. They both didn't really care what the gender of their baby was, but they were excited nevertheless. As long as Bentley was the father, Elyse's world would be complete.
The doctor's mouth twitched, clearly amused by the young couple's energetic enthusiasm. "Congratulations. It's a girl. A healthy one too, must I add."
Bentley and Elyse nodded, trying to take the news as maturely as they could, but of course Bentley couldn't do it. Bentley stood up and lifted Elyse up, cradling her into his arms and spinning her joyously around the room.
"Let me go, Bentley!" she gave a high-pitched shriek, laughing at the same time as her feet kicked in the air.
"I have to agree with her on this one, Mr. Collins," the doctor said. "We are still indeed in a clinic and you've also got to take into consideration that your partner is pregnant."
"Sorry," Bentley apologised tersely, unable to hold back a grin.
The doctor gestured them out of the clinic, congratulating them again before seeing them off. Elyse had a feeling that they were being ushered quickly out of the clinic by the doctor because of the racket Bentley and her had caused.
"A girl!" Bentley repeated, announcing it to the whole street. "I'll make sure she doesn't date anybody like me!"
"Yeah, I don't know why I'm with someone like you."
"Hey!" Bentley said, pretending to be hurt. "Not funny."
They passed by a few cars as they made their way towards Bentley's motorcycle. As she jumped on behind him, he said, "I think I'm going to sell Amber."
"Why? You love her more than me." The fact that Bentley had said that had caught Elyse off guard. Why would Bentley want to part from his beloved motorcycle?
"I don't want my pregnant girlfriend riding on it – especially when you're looking after our daughter. She's already experiencing much pain being stuck inside you."
Elyse punched his back. Instead of retaliating, Bentley chuckled. "No, really. Jokes aside, I'm thinking about buying a second-hand car for us. Then we can save for a new house. The apartment we're staying in is falling apart."
"Why are you bringing this up now?" Elyse said, caught off guard by his sudden sincerity.
"I'm thinking of the future with you. A bigger house. More rooms for our fifty kids. What's your input?"
"A double-story? You're being awfully specific."
"You're not, Elyse. I know you too well."
As Elyse was about to respond back, she choked back a surprise gasp as she felt Bentley's mouth cover hers. She closed her eyes, deepening the kiss. If she had thought that that day was Bentley's happiest moment in his life, she'd be lying to say that it hadn't been hers either.
When they broke away, Elyse could still feel his smile on her lips. They were having a child!
She woke up on white sheets. Her throat was dry.
Bentley would be dead.
If the police were going to find out who killed him, she wasn't scared. Bentley had deserved it. It was Bentley fault that her life had turned upside-down, taking the wrong turn. She had fallen in love with the wrong person. She wished she had never met him.
"He deserved it," she repeated to no one but herself.
She helped herself to another glass of wine. The more she thought about what she had done, the prouder she became. With him dead, she could continue living. She was certain she had done the right thing.
Bentley's phone alerted.
Getting up from the unfamiliar bed, she kicked the bottles of red wine away and scrambled for the phone that she had brought along with her.
That was the name of the girl who Bentley had been cheating on her with. She opened the message and skimmed through the message that had been sent to his phone a couple of hours ago.
The address is 17 Anderson Street, right?
Now that Elyse thought about it, it was actually the same address that she had seen written on the box she had seen at their apartment. The same address. Bentley had planned to move out and in with that woman.
Elyse pressed next and read the most recent message from Anne.
I'm guessing that it's that address since you have replied! Really, stop being so cheap Bentley. I know that you're excited, but you really need to get your butt here already. Remember to bring the flowers! I'll see you then. Xoxo
Bentley hadn't bought Elyse flowers since she had been pregnant. Yet, he could buy flowers for a completely different woman?
How dare he.
In a blind rage, Elyse grabbed the car keys, taking a lift down to the bottom floor of the hotel. She stalked her way through the underground car park to the SUV. After typing the address into the GPS system, she followed its spoken directions. As she drove, she ironically noted that the route passed down Fitzgerald Road - the road where she had first met her partner.
The thought maddened her. She accelerated, fingers gripping tighter onto the steering wheel.
She arrived in record-time at the destination, parking her car opposite to the suspected address.
Just staring at the garden made Elyse feel livid. Carnations and roses grew everywhere, neatly trimmed hedges bordered the house as a fence and on the footpath along to the door, was a modern styled stone fountain.
The house was a double-story. A home that Bentley had promised they'd live in.
Her heart wrenched at the thought. She wasn't going to think about Bentley any longer. Bentley was finished. He no longer existed.
Elyse gritted her teeth, knocking on the blood-red stained glass door. When the door opened, Elyse took a step back and saw a gorgeous lady in a polka dotted dress.
Her eyes narrowed at the person, completely baffled.
"Elyse, Elyse! Finally! We were wondering when you'd make it," Jo smiled.
Confused, Elyse stared blankly at Jo. "What do you mean? What's going on?"
"Oh, don't be silly! It's my son's birthday today, don't you remember? Since you're running low on cash, I'll forgive you if you had forgotten to get him a present."
If it was Jo's son's birthday – that meant it was Elyse's too. As a matter of fact-
"Elyse, hurry up!"
She did what Jo wished, trailing behind her best friend. "Whose house is this anyway?" She stared up at the chandeliers that elegantly draped down.
"Stop asking questions! Hurry up, we're all waiting for you."
Jo didn't reply.
Elyse was getting more confused by the second. The house was relatively new. Bubble wrap still covered some of the furniture and she could smell the distinct smell of fresh paint. Elyse explored further into the house, heels echoing against the tiled ground. The place was so big that she could not keep up with Jo.
She was lost.
Sauntering back to the direction where Elyse had seen Jo last, she spotted a dark room. All the rooms had been brightly lit, yet only one room was dark. She stepped closer, being attracted to its mysteriousness.
Another bedroom? Maybe Anne was sleeping there?
Maybe she'd get the chance to kill her too then?
Elyse thought of perhaps disappearing into the kitchen and grabbing a knife. She swore she had seen one resting on the wooden chopping board a couple of minutes ago.
She shook her head to herself.
Elyse needed to make sure that Anne was in the room first. If Jo had seen her holding a knife, Jo would question her. She couldn't afford a wasted moment. If Anne was keeping contact with Bentley and planning to meet him there, maybe Anne knew Jo. Then that would mean that Bentley would be cheating on her with Jo's friend?
What was she waiting for then?
Holding her breath and discarding her hesitation aside, Elyse entered the room. Her whole body indulged in the dark, but before she could take another step she jumped when an explosion of shouts killed the silence.
The lights flickered on and she saw many of her high school and university friends. Even her parents were there cheering and holding party poppers. Colourful streamers littered the floor and helium-inflated balloons danced merrily in the air.
Elyse's stomach turned when she saw a 'Happy 21st Birthday, Elyse' banner stuck on the wall she was facing.
"Aunt Ellie! Happy Birthday!" her best friend's son happily greeted her, hugging onto one of her legs. She would have said a 'happy birthday' back to him if she hadn't been overly bewildered in the moment.
"Jeff, get off your aunt," Michael said, simpering. He tugged his son away from Elyse. "Glad we got you, Elyse. You're one of the difficult people to fool. It's been hard for all of us to hide this from you for so long – especially getting this house ready for you and-"
"Getting the house ready?" Elyse said, slowly.
What exactly was happening?
Entirely alarmed, Elyse continued to listen to what Michael had to say.
"Yes, yes! Bentley's been worried sick ever since, well…you know, the baby. Where is Bentley anyway?" Michael glanced behind her. "Joanne's been worried about you too. We all have. It was her idea to get you to have the party here in the first place."
"Joanne?" Elyse repeated.
"I hear my name!" Jo declared, beaming. She ran towards Elyse, enveloping her in a hug. "Ellie, Happy Birthday! Do you like it?"
A soft aroma filled Elyse's senses. Something musty, yet sweet scented. Her eyes widened. Elyse shook away from the hug, crossing her arms together and gripping onto the sleeves of her jacket as she could feel her palms beginning to sweat.
Jo's perfume smelt like…
"Lavender?" Elyse whispered, beginning to tremble.
"Yeah. It's my new perfume. Do you like it? It took ages to get Mike to buy it for me and-"
"Jo...you're Anne, right?" She was connecting the dots and fiercely hoping that everything she was thinking would be incorrect.
"Aw, you suck Elyse. I told Bentley it was stupid that he call me Anne. It was so you wouldn't know we were keeping contact with each other. He's so sweet. To actually go to this extent to buy this house without you without noticing and…!"
"House?" Elyse said, blankly.
A double-story? You're being awfully specific.
"Where is he anyway? He totally missed your surprised face. I can't believe he's not here yet. Michael, darling, can you call him? Call his mobile and-"
"Don't," Elyse said, in a shaky voice. She had Bentley's phone in her purse. "Try ringing the home phone. He left his phone at work."
"No wonder I couldn't contact him," Jo exclaimed. "Mike, ring him up."
"Sure," Mike shrugged, walking away and within a minute he came back. "It's strange. The home phone's disconnected? Maybe something is wrong with your phone, Elyse?"
"I think you should go back to your apartment. Bentley will be there-"
"No!" Elyse screamed. He's dead. He won't be there. He won't be there.
I killed him.
"Elyse?" Jo said, sensing that something was not right. "What's wrong? You've been drinking again, haven't you? Come to think of it, I can smell-"
"Jo, I can't go back. I can't," Elyse choked.
She ran away from them, ignoring their calls. She didn't know where she was running off to, but soon enough found her lost in the architecture of the new home and unable to find her way back.
Elyse couldn't get out, trapped in her own infinite circle of hell.
When her vision was less blurred, she felt disgusted when she the familiar pastel-pink paint. A small crib and lacy curtains. That was all that was in the room. The rest had been left in her apartment - she was in the nursery.
What hurt the most was when she saw the pink rug. She had embroidered the name 'Amber' on the rug. Amber was the name that they were going to call their baby.
Unable to handle it anymore, Elyse dropped onto her knees and stared around the nursery in complete horror. Guilt and regret howled in her mind.
What had she done?
I know that it isn't really confirmed whether Bentley is dead or not, but it's really up to your imagination. The way I see it, it can work either ways. But, from my point of view, I personally think of him as dead.
THANKS going out to the lovely angels and effects for helping me choose Bentley as a name (or I should thank my friend's surname? Haha), being my emo DJ, being the other half of my muse and motivating me to get this done. Another thanks also going out to the fantastic Listerine (that I gargle my mouth with) for teasing me with how Bentley's appearance should look like Ron Weasley. You two girls rock my world.
last edited 17/02/2016