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Behind Her Eyes: Part 1: Chapter 11

Then

David had been waiting on the line for at least ten minutes by the time they find her, high up in the tree by the lake, laughing with Rob. Nurse Marjorie’s doughy face is aghast at their carefree balancing between branches as she shouts at them to come down right now. Adele doesn’t need any encouragement – her heart is leaping at the thought of speaking to David – and Rob mutters something wryly about insurance and clients falling to their deaths, before faux slipping from the thick rough bark and causing Marjorie to shriek in a way that is very much against the calm of the Westlands’ ethos.

They laugh at her like naughty schoolkids, but Adele is already shimmying eagerly down, not caring where her stomach is getting grazed as her T-shirt rides up. She runs fast across the grass and into the house, not slowing in the corridors. Her face is flushed and her eyes sparkle. David is waiting. It feels like forever since his last call.

No mobile phones are allowed at the centre, contact with the outside world must be controlled, and there’s probably no signal anyway, but David is good at calling regularly. This week, however, he’s been in hospital again for his arm. As she reaches the small office and grabs for the old handset attached to the wall, the watch he can’t wear dangles on her wrist like a thick bracelet. It’s too big and manly for her, but she doesn’t care. Wearing his watch makes it feel like he’s with her.

‘Hi!’ she says, breathless, pushing her wild hair out of her face.

‘Where were you?’ he asks. It’s a bad line and he sounds so distant. ‘I was getting worried that you’d run away or something.’ He’s making it sound like a joke, but there’s concern bubbling underneath. She laughs and hears his quiet breathy surprise at the other end. She hasn’t laughed with him since it happened.

‘Don’t be silly,’ she says. ‘Where would I run to out here? It’s all moors. And we’ve seen American Werewolf in London, remember? I’m not wandering across that endless heath on my own. Anything could be out there. How was the hospital?’ she asks. ‘Are they going to give you a skin graft?’

‘So they say. It doesn’t really hurt anyway. It was worst at the edges, and that’s calmed down a lot. Don’t worry about me. Concentrate on getting better and coming home. I miss you. We can have a fresh start. Away from it all if you want.’

‘And married,’ she says, smiling. ‘Let’s do it as soon as we can.’ As Rob says, why shouldn’t she be happy? Why should she feel so bad about being happy? You can’t get engaged at seventeen, her father had said. You don’t know what you want at seventeen. And he’s too old. What kind of twenty-two-year-old wants to be carrying on with a teenager?

Her dad had been wrong, though. She’d wanted David for as long as she could remember. Everything had been there in his blue eyes from the moment she’d first looked into them. Her mum had never said very much, only commenting that his farm was on the edge of repossession thanks to his drunk father who’d managed to make a pig’s ear of everything and an absent mother, and he wouldn’t have a penny to his name. He came from ‘bad stock’. There were so many ways to say not suitable for our perfect girl without actually saying them. Maybe all of what her mother had said was true, but Adele knows it had nothing to do with who David really was. It never did.

She’d loved him when she’d been a girl of eight playing in the fields and watching him work, and she loves him now. He’s going to be a doctor. He doesn’t need to worry about his student debts any more. He’s going to be her husband, and she’s inherited everything. Her parents’ disapproval no longer matters, and she won’t let herself feel guilty. Her parents are gone, and, as Rob says, wishing herself away with them isn’t going to change that. The only way to move is forward.

‘You sound good. Better.’ He’s quizzical. Slightly wary, as if he doesn’t quite trust this apparent upsurge in mood, and that’s not surprising. She barely spoke at all the last time he called, but that was ten days ago, and a lot has changed for her since then.

‘I am feeling better,’ she says. ‘I think you were right. This place will be good for me. Oh and,’ she adds, almost as if it is an afterthought, ‘I’ve made a friend. His name’s Rob. He’s my age. He’s very funny, he makes me laugh at the people here all the time. I think we’re helping each other.’ She’s gushing, but she can’t help it. She’s also a little bit nervous. As if, after everything that’s happened, Rob is a betrayal of David somehow. Which is stupid, because it’s entirely different. Just because she loves David doesn’t mean she can’t like Rob. ‘You’ll have to meet him some day. I think you’ll really like him too.’


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