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Behind Her Eyes: Part 3: Chapter 45

Then

It’s a warmth, that’s the best way she can describe it. Rob is here and she feels warm inside. Glowing. He’s her friend and he’s back. As much as the time alone has been good for her – surprisingly good for her – there is a joy in Rob being here. The house feels alive again. Rob has no memories of this place like she and David do. There’s nothing to weigh him down, and that frees her. She doesn’t have to be sad with Rob here.

He laughs over and over as she shows him the house. She’d already told him it was about the size of Westlands if not bigger, but it’s clear he hasn’t believed her, and by the end of the tour, even she’s smiling at the ridiculousness of one family owning so much. The only pause for quiet was when she showed him the charred rooms where her parents had died. His eyes were wide then, and they stood in hushed silence for a moment until he said, ‘Let’s get the fuck out of here. It’s stinks.’ She loved him for that. The lack of need to explore her feelings or make sure she was okay. Rob makes her feel strong because he thinks she is strong.

He hasn’t brought much with him, some clothes, his notebook, some beers, and a bag of drugs. They take some of the weed out and then Adele makes him hide the rest in one of the barns.

‘People do come to the house,’ she tells him. ‘A woman cleans a couple of times a week and brings food. My solicitor sometimes pops in. He worries about me being here on my own. Says he thinks this is inappropriate therapy. He says I’m too young.’ She rolls her eyes. Her life has been so pampered compared to Rob’s.

‘Yeah right,’ he says. ‘Like you’re going to set the place on fire or something.’

Her eyes widen with shock at what he’s said, and then she bursts into laughter.

‘God, you’re a dick.’ She links her arm in his.

‘Yeah, but I make you laugh.’ There’s a pause. ‘So be honest, is it really those people you’re worried about finding my stash, or your precious David?’

She says nothing for a moment and then sighs. ‘Yes, maybe David most. He’s not anti-drugs as such’ – she sees the cynical disbelief in Rob’s face – ‘he’s really not, but I doubt he’d think getting high would be good for me right now. He’d think I was using it as a crutch.’

‘It must be so hard to breathe with all these people worrying about you all the time,’ Rob says. ‘If only they could see you how I do.’

‘And how is that?’ she asks.

‘A phoenix rising from the flames, of course.’

She likes that. She likes it a lot. It reminds her that the world is her oyster now. They stay arm in arm as they walk through the grounds and out to the well where they make silent wishes even though Adele isn’t sure a dry well can work for wishes.

In the evening they cook frozen pizzas, and drink cans of the cheap strong beer Rob’s brought with him, and then they get high in front of a fire in the drawing room. They sit on cushions on the floor and talk and laugh about everything and nothing. Adele sucks deep on the grass joint, loving the mellow, giggly buzz of it. She’s missed it. Like she’s missed Rob.

She’s seen his stash bag, and she knows he’s got some heroin with him too, but he doesn’t mention it, and neither does she. That’s his business. She doesn’t want him to take it, but neither does she want to sound like one of the therapists at Westlands. She wants Rob to be happy, and if that’s what it takes to see him through for a while, then she’s not going to fight him over it. He’s clearly not a total addict anyway. If he was he’d be wasted, not sharp as a tack, and anyway, she can’t see any fresh track marks on his arms. Maybe he snorts it sometimes or however else people take that stuff. Maybe he’s brought it just in case of a dark day. Hopefully, they’ve both already had their share of dark days.

There are two spare bedrooms neatly made up, but they end up in her bed, stripped to their T-shirts and underwear, lying side by side and staring up at the ceiling. She wonders if David would see this as a betrayal, having another man in her bed, but close as she and Rob are, there’s nothing sexual happening. This is almost something purer.

‘I’m so glad you came,’ she says. ‘I’ve missed you.’

‘I’m glad you let me.’ He pauses. ‘It’s so quiet here. And so dark outside. It’s like we’re the last people on earth.’

‘Maybe we are. Maybe there’s been an apocalypse.’

‘As long as it’s not a fucking zombie one,’ Rob snorts. ‘People are dull enough when they’re alive.’

‘Do you think it’s wrong that I don’t miss my parents ever so much?’ she asks. It’s a thought that she worries about. What it says about her. If there’s something bad about her.

‘Nope,’ Rob answers. ‘There’s no right and wrong with feelings. There is only what there is.’

She thinks about that for a while. There is only what there is. That makes her feel better.

‘What do you want to do with your life?’ she asks.

‘You sound like a Westlands therapist.’

‘No, really.’ Rob is so good at answering questions with something funny, but this time she wants to get past the deflections. ‘There must be something.’

‘Don’t know.’ He stares up at the ceiling. ‘Never really thought about it. I don’t really come from a career family. Sign on and chill out was more their style. What about you? Other than marry dull David and make baby Davids.’

She slaps him and laughs, but inside she wonders if that’s so bad. That is what she wants to do. It’s what she’s always wanted to do.

‘You should stay with us for a while. As long as you like. While you figure out your future.’

‘It’s a nice idea, but I don’t think David’s going to want me hanging around once you’re married up.’

‘You shouldn’t judge him before you’ve met him. He’s training to be a doctor. Helping people is what he does.’

‘Hmm.’

Their voices are disembodied in the darkness, but she takes Rob’s hand and squeezes it. ‘Anyway, I’m rich now, and I’m going to help you.’

‘I hate to remind you, darling, but unless you’ve got it all signed back over, technically it’s David who’s rich.’

‘Oh, shut up.’ She needs to get that sorted, but she’s not worried about it. David’s not out buying fast cars or living the high life at uni. The thought alone makes her laugh, and if she’s honest, he’ll probably be better at managing her – their – money than she could be. He’s had to watch his pennies all his life, whereas she’s never had to think about it.

She’ll talk to him about it when he comes back in a couple of weeks. Tomorrow, she’ll tell him about Rob being here. She’s sure he won’t mind that she’s not following through the therapy plan like she’s supposed to, and anyway, Rob’s been the best therapy she’s had.

‘I love you, Rob,’ she whispers, when their chatter falls into sleepy silence. ‘You’re my best friend.’

‘I love you too, Adele,’ he replies. ‘My tragic Sleeping Beauty turned phoenix. I really do.’


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