We don't live far from Juda's. The bar. Thankfully we were home within minutes. And Frankie was asleep within a few more.
Caleb carried Emily upstairs over his shoulder and I hid in the kitchen while our neighbour dispersed of Frankie in the living room. I assumed that's where Sloane found refuge too. Though she had a nasty habit of passing out on whichever part of floor she stood on. I'd probably find her curled up in the fetal position somewhere tomorrow.
I sat on the floor in the kitchen. The house was back to its normal quiet. A silence I found both eery and comforting. I could have fallen asleep there.
"Some night." His voice forced me to open my eyes.
"I thought you left." It was the truth. I stood up, leaned against the bench behind me.
He shrugged. "Just making sure everything's alright." He pocketed his hands, I noticed. Again. "Everyone."
"She'll be fine." It would take a lot more than a night at Juda's to knock Frankie out of commision.
He nodded. "Frankie...She's..." He smiled, leaving the sentence open.
"Yeah, she is." I agreed. Only, I don't know what I was agreeing to.
"You're a good friend." He said. I was staring out the window, then he said that. "For looking after her."
"I'm not her friend." It was harsh, how I said it.
I think I shocked him. "Oh." He paused. "I just assumed.."
I moved past him, thinking he'd take it upon himself to leave. Unfortunately, I stopped in the living room.
Frankie was beyond asleep on the sofa. She looked like a child. Practically was one. How could one person cause so much hate inside me.
I guess he followed me in there, because when I turned around, he was there. Close enough that one wrong move and we'd touch. My nose was in line with his chest. I hadn't noticed how tall he was.
"Lena.." He said. Asked. Whispered.
He had the unfair advantage of knowing my name.
"She's not my friend." I whispered too. Eyes down cast. "She's my sister." I didn't know what else to say. What could I? "You can let yourself out." I sidestepped him, continuing upstairs. I closed my bedroom door once inside, sitting on the bed. Daylight was fast approaching by the time I finally closed my eyes for sleep.
I didn't see Frankie for three days after that. I'd heard her come home late one night but the house was empty the next morning.
The only other sign I had that she was alive was the note I found in the kitchen.
No greeting. No warmth. No hint of sisterly love.
"We need food." It read. Which is how I found myself at the local supermarket.
There was nothing super about it. The service was lousy, the bread old, the produce bruised. It was cheap, I'd give it that.
It wasn't easy shopping on a budget. It wasn't easy shopping when you barely had money to call it a budget. Fruit and vegetables weren't high on Frankie's list of 'food' anyway. Anything in packets suited her just fine.
So that's what I bought. Mac and cheese and plenty of other nasty pasta dishes you can zap in a microwave. Then there was the snack foods. Crisps. Lots of crisps. Biscuits.
I mentally calculated how much this would cost, hoping there'd be enough money left over for a couple reduced steaks or perhaps a bulk pack of minced meat. I audibly sighed, leaning forward on the trolley. No, there wasn't enough. The shelf on my left housed the canned beans. I grabbed three and threw them in the cart. When I started forward again, I found I was being watched.
He didn't say anything. My mysterious neighbour. The corner of his lip lifted in a half smile. He waited tentatively for my reaction.
Being the truly courageous person I was, and by courageous I meant proud, I looked away. Taking my groceries in the opposite direction of him to avoid any and all contact. Pride, however painful, was a permanent fixture in my life. Try as I might, I would never be without it. I was weak.
Thankfully the check out was empty when I arrived. I couldn't see him. He certainly couldn't see me. Not like this. In this situation. In this panic.
It wasn't until the lady at the counter was scanning all the food, and I could see how much it all cost, that I felt the urge to cry. As each item beeped, another stab struck my chest. A lot of good pride does... Blinking back the tears was a vulgar pursuit. The merciless drops fell down my cheeks. The woman holding my can of beans eyed me weerily.
"Everything alright?" She asked. She didn't seem to care either way.
"Yes, fine." I snapped. The pride talking. "Would you hurry up." Only two things left. "Shit." I muttered, pulling the last notes out of my purse.
He was rounding the corner. In plain sight. Something in his hand but his eyes on me.
I fumbled with the money, practically throwing it on the counter.
"Shit." I said, again. "I'm sorry." The regret speaking. My lip trembled. "I'm sorry." I said that again, too. Without another word, or waiting for my change, I stole the bags and carried them to the carpark. Those vile bags, straining plastic, holding the remnants of last weeks paycheck and what felt like all the baggage I'd been trying to run from my entire life. I threw them in the backseat of the car, myself in the front.
I don't know if he saw me cry. I wasn't going to ask him. All I know is, at that moment, the car windows were a shield between me and the world. I could pretend I was invisible.
Like many things in my life, I avoided my neighbour by any means possible. I avoided Frankie and her friends. I was ultimately avoiding my life. Tom supplied the extra shifts at work and I found myself taking multiple jogs a week to fill the void between reality and evasion.
Sunday morning found me on the landing of my home. Somewhere that hadn't felt homely in almost four years now. The sun was up, it hid behind clouds reaching breaking point. It didn't matter. I'd been home from work for two hours and I itched to escape. I threw the used and abused joggers on my feet. Stretching wasnt important, fleeing was.
I began my jog down the street, ponytail flailing in every which way behind me. Music was blaring through my head phones, not loud enough to deafen my thoughts.
She was so carefree as a child. Nothing upset her. Rain on her shoes made her dance with joy. Her brown eyes blinked, always watching the world. Everything in it. Seeing people and their wrong doings. Seeing the unfair and untold truths each day. And still, she smiled.
Time and again, she was let down. Forgotten. Ignored.
I saw it. But what could I do. I was a child too.
I suppose it took its toll on her. After time, she grew resentful.
Eventually, we were on our own. We had each other. That's all gone now and I'd never felt more alone.
At this thought, I stopped jogging. I was travelling faster than I realised. I leaned foreward to regain my breath, closing my eyes. I'd almost run the whole route. Seventeen minutes had passed and home was a mere street over.
I picked up the pace again, rounding the final curb. Home was nigh. My feet approached the path up to the house and faultered.
Not yet. I wasn't ready to go back.
I repeated the route.
A/N Sorry about that time gap! I actually wrote about four chapters a month ago and lost them :( I haven't quite been able to re-establish my rhythm or sentiment towards it. I'm trying, though in my opinion, unsuccessfully. Something is better than nothing, nevertheless. So this, I suppose, is my rough draft. Working on an edit now, and chapter five.
Thankyou to anyone who has viewed or reviewed! It's very much appreciated and always good to motivate me :)