Magnetised

Magnetised is a romantic, supernatural, fantasy epic, set in the world that we know well. Or do we.

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  “I still don’t see why she has to work Friday night and Saturday night. That’s like the whole weekend! They can’t expect her to work all the time! Doesn’t she do Sundays as well?”

     “It’s a job Abby, its called work.”

     “Yeah but the entire weekend? I think I also definitely told her about my birthday, so I bet she deliberately said she could work those days, seems like the type of thing that little girl would do.”

     “What? As if! I didn’t even know you had planned this party until I got the invite on Facebook of all places, real classy Abby. Have you even told Sarah?”

     “Of course I have.”

     “Told me what?”

     “Ok. What are you under the impression you’ve been told you’re doing on Saturday night Sarah?”

     “Oh don’t be such a jerk Ryan.”

     “Well Sarah?”

     “Erm, well, I guess whatever you guys are doing.”

     “See! I told you I told her. But that is so not the point anyway. Why can’t Beth just…”

     “You did not tell her Abby! That was just a generic reply! She doesn’t know what’s going on, so I very much doubt Beth knew either! For God’s sake you girls can be so bitchy sometimes.” 

     I could hear heavy footsteps walking away down the stairs.

     “So what are we doing tomorrow night then?”

     It was around half past ten on Friday morning and I was pretending to be asleep in my room, when I heard them talking about me, although I wished I wasn’t pretending. I had been up all night long, trying to get Dylan Sawyer out of my mind and drinking copious amounts of coffee, desperately trying to finish the second book of Paradise Lost so I could write a two thousand word report on it for Monday’s lecture, seeing as I would have no time this weekend to get it finished. I had read most of it and Wikipedia filled in any gaps in my knowledge, but the report was far from done. This wasn’t like me; I was usually a very studious person and took my studying really seriously. But now I was letting a frankly, ridiculous incident take over my mind. I had rationalized it a million times. I had been frightened and the fear manifested physically as pain. The relief from finding out who Dylan Sawyer was had caused my body to heat up in embarrassment which explained the cutlery incident. Plus also they’d just been in boiling hot water! There was no other way to explain it. What wasn’t rational was that I’d even been scared, and that thought wasn’t easy to ignore. What also wasn’t easy to ignore was the fact that ever since I had started school I was getting good grades, and I hated it if they slipped, which they most definitely would if I didn’t get Dylan out of my mind. I suppose you could say I became a bit of a slave to good grades, but in my opinion, I couldn’t see any harm in that. It certainly kept Sharon happy and it made me feel good about myself, like I had potential and I was consistently reaching the full of it. I would have to find the time to finish the report before work tomorrow evening, there was no point in worrying about it now.

     I was worried about the conversation I’d overheard though. Ryan was right of course, Abby had forgotten to mention she was having a party this Saturday, to any of us, I gathered. But it was Abby’s reaction to me having a job that was the problem. I’d bumped into her on Tuesday morning, just as I was about to leave the house for my early shift, 11-4. 

 

     “Are you going to work again?” She said walking down the third flight of stairs from the huge loft conversion room she’d managed to bag. There was a disgusted incredulity to her voice, the same tone I used to sometimes hear from Sharon, disapproving of my choices and actions. 

     “Yeah, well they lost a few members of staff so I’m picking up the slack really. I don’t mind, I wanted quite a few shifts,” I replied already defending myself.

     “But we’re at Uni. We’ve got loans.”

     “Oh I know, but it’s always nice not to worry about money,” I said making my way down the stairs to the front door.

     “Hmmm, I guess so. Suppose we won’t be seeing you around much then?” 

     Now I didn’t like Abby and I wasn’t very close to anyone at University, except maybe Ryan, but that was thus far unproven. I didn’t like clubbing and I certainly didn’t like the way some people lived at University and the way they were perceived. Uni itself was alright, but not what I expected, and frankly I wanted to be as disassociated with it as I possibly could. But Abby’s question put my back up. I didn’t want to not be liked or not be involved, even though I never willingly participated. I was a mess of contradictions. I knew that somehow I had to find the strength to believe in my choices regardless, and stay true to myself.

     “Well I’ll make an extra special effort now that I have to handle my time better,” I said with a sweet smile. At least that was what I was going for.

     “But you won’t will you. There won’t physically be any time,” Abby said flippantly following me down the stairs and into the kitchen. 

     I turned to leave when she shouted:

     “Don’t you have Uni this afternoon anyway?”

     I left swiftly. I’d told Billy I had a lecture till eight on Tuesdays, but not that it started at three. I had already been a couple of times though, and it was pointless. It wasn’t even a tutor led seminar, so no one went anyway. It was supposed to be like a set aside period of time to ‘catch up’, so we could discuss any issues with our peers. As far as I could tell there were no issues, except that no one turned up to this particular seminar. As geeky as it sounds, I’d been really surprised at everyone’s lack of attendance at lectures and seminars. We were paying so much money to be here, and yet no one seemed to care about anything, apart from what had happened the night before and what drinks deals were on that evening. I must sound like a complete bore, but for me, coming from a hugely academic background, I didn’t like being in such a nonchalant environment. It seemed like I was the only student that knew how to separate fun from work. This attitude was seriously hampering my abilities to make friends. I felt the stab of loneliness and difference.

     I got to the Folly Inn at about ten to eleven on Tuesday, only to find that the pub door was locked. I tried pulling the ancient looking wooden door, but it wouldn’t budge. 

     “In this way lassie,” came a familiar Yorkshire accent. Pablo was standing by the gates to the yard, from which a door to the kitchen joined, smoking a thin cigarette. “He always forgets to tell them the small little things,” he said as I passed him, smiling. I guessed he was talking about Billy.

     The pub looked completely different with no people in it, almost serene, despite the rain that had started thundering down outside. Remembering what Natasha had told me the evening before, I made a start on setting up the bar. Or at least I tried. I found all the light switches for the fridges and screwed the nozzles onto the beer pumps, but that was all I could immediately see. Walking to the dresser I could see that the sugar pots were empty and upside down. I filled them up with sugar from one of the cupboards and was putting spoons in the pots when Michael walked round the corner.

     “Morning, you must be Bethany, I’m Michael,” he said stretching out his hand. I took it and noticed he had a lot of burns and scars on his forearms. “Cor this is good,” he said wandering behind the bar, “Did Billy tell you to do this yesterday?”

     “Natasha ran through a few things that need doing in the morning, but I’m not really sure where everything is,” I replied. I was more nervous around this man; he seemed more authoritative than Billy.

     “Oh yes, I should’ve guessed. Ok, well good start; I’ll show you where the ice machine is….” He said grabbing a bucket and gesturing at me to follow him.     

     That lunchtime shift had been completely different to the evening before. For starters, it was an entirely different clientele; young mothers and elderly couples were the main demographic, along with a few business types, who all paid separately and wanted VAT receipts. The Folly Inn did a lunch deal too, so everything looked different on the computer in the kitchen. Michael had given me my own till key, but Natasha, anticipating that it might be busy, told me not to log on, and keep on shadowing her for a while. I was glad she was taking control, as Michael was solely preoccupied with people at the bar for most of the time. I was beginning to get more and more confident as I found my feet. Natasha and I both naturally separated and I ran food to tables whilst she took care of second drink orders, clearing plates and delivering pudding boards, till stuff basically. It allowed me to get a better sense of how the numbers and the colours worked, but I still kept my eye on Natasha, and took in all her logic and organization. It was quite a busy lunchtime but by three it had pretty much wound down.

     “How did you find it?” Michael asked me as I grabbed some soda water behind the bar, gulping it down thirstily. 

     “Yeah fine, thanks,” I said, wiping away the moustache of liquid that had formed around my mouth. “I think its better when it’s busy, more to keep your mind going.”

     “True that. Natasha says you’re doing great, by the way.” I was filled with a warm, almost bashful feeling. From what I could tell, Natasha was the best and most liked waitress here, and I was glad I had won her approval. “We get so many new people in,” Michael continued, “who just can’t be bothered or don’t do things right, it’s nice not to have to babysit you. But then you’ve worked in restaurants before, haven’t you?” I nodded and quickly exited the bar. 

     It had been so busy that lunchtime that I had completely forgotten about Dylan Sawyer until Natasha brought him up just as I was about to leave at four.

     “Sorry about Dylan by the way,” she said.

     “Whys that?” I replied. I had no idea why she needed to be sorry, and was taken aback by her apology. Unless she somehow knew about the pain I had felt. How would she know about that?

     “Just seemed like he was a bit rude to you that’s all,” she replied averting her eyes almost timidly. Unease roared in my stomach.

     “Oh I just don’t think he knew who I was! How could he?”

     “Yeah you’re right. Well never mind, as long as you didn’t take offense,” she continued cheerily. 

     “Not at all,” I lied, “See you on Friday?” I asked.

     “Oh yeah, you’re doing a split aren’t you?” I nodded, brightening as she’d remembered my shift pattern. “Well I’ll see you Friday evening then. Bye Bethany,” she said and I waved to Michael as I left.

     That had been weird. It was as if Natasha’s disposition had changed, she was almost shy but curious as she’d apologized. Why had she felt like she had to? As I was driving back home my brain kept nagging me to think the thought; Dylan and Natasha had some sort of ‘thing’ going on. Or Natasha had some soft spot for him, although I couldn’t image who would be attracted to such a man, especially someone as nice as her. But I didn’t know anything for sure. No one had told me, and what did it matter if they were entangled? It did matter though. For some very, very strange reason my heart told me it mattered a lot if there was something going on. 

     But it was ridiculous I told myself. Dylan had scared the life out of me and been less than welcoming. But then he had had no chance to be, my nagging heart reminded me. Why did I care so much? Why did it matter? I would meet the guy soon enough and find out exactly what was going on, not that there would be anything going on, at least nothing concerning me. It confused me that I couldn’t get him out of my head, despite my logical mind desperately trying to convince me that nothing was amiss, and he was just a surly guy. It also confused me that every time I thought of Sunday, three o’clock on Sunday to be precise (I’d checked the rota about four times already), my body exploded in nervous and excitable butterflies about finally meeting Dylan Sawyer. 

 

     The rest of the week passed occupied with the strains of University. I had a lot to read, a lot more than I ever expected, my arrogant self assuming I’d read all the classic masterpieces we’d be studying. I was still so distracted with the thought of Dylan Sawyer and the affect he’d had on me, as well as Natasha’s odd apology. I had argued the case for and against a tryst between them over and over and could still not settle my mind with a reasonable and believable explanation. It shouldn’t have mattered to me, but it did; that was something I’d given up disputing. 

     “Beth?” Came a voice at my door on Thursday evening.

     “Come in!” I shouted glad to have a break in my concentration. It wasn’t often that my housemates came knocking at my door, I had to answer and be sociable. Sarah walked in.

     “Whatcha doing?” She said, bouncing down on the bed next to me and crossing her legs.

     “Reading. Got loads to get through for next week.”

     “You’ve been reading like all the time,” she replied, seeing as I’d been locked away in my room for the past three days.

     “I know there’s so much to get done.”

     “Suppose having to work all the time doesn’t help. I’m so glad I don’t have a job, it would just stress me out,” she said, although not maliciously.

     “It’s not been too bad so far, just can’t slow down or anything! I would fall behind very quickly.”

     “Don’t you hate it though? Everyone hates their job,” replied Sarah. I hadn’t talked to anyone about The Folly Inn, not in any great detail, and what with Dylan circling in my mind all the time with no resolution, I took the opportunity to talk it through with Sarah. Maybe she would have a fresh insight that I hadn’t dissected from every angle.

     “Actually, I really love it. Everyone is really nice and I’m kind of good at it.”

     “That’s cool,” she replied not really paying attention.

     “There’s this guy….” 

     “Oooooh!” She cut me off, suddenly tuned in.

     “Not like that,” I berated her, “No there’s this guy called Dylan, who is sort of scary and quite rude actually.”

     “So you don’t like everyone then. What does he look like?”

     “He’s tall, dark hair, pale skin, really really blue eyes,” I babbled before I had time to be more subtle. I’d not even realised myself how much I’d noticed about Dylan.

     “Sounds fine,” was Sarah’s reply, “So have you worked with him a lot then?”

     “I’ve got my first shift with him on Sunday at three.”

     “You start at three?”

     “No he does, I start at twelve.”

     “You are so into him!”

     “What?! No I’m not. I’ve only bumped into him once, and tell you the truth; he scared the living daylights out of me. I’m actually nervous about meeting him,” I replied.

     “So that’s why you’ve been dreamy looking all week.”

     “Sarah, come on, I haven’t been daydreaming, I’ve been working,” I said, deciding against telling her everything about my first encounter with Dylan.

     “Keep telling yourself that my dear,” she replied, annoyingly and unknowingly correct. I had been working, but then I had spent a considerable amount of time distracted.

     “Sarah!” I moaned, feigning my desire for her to be quiet, although secretly wanting to know her opinion, not that her opinion could hold any merit.

     “You totally have a massive crush on him Beth!”

     “How have you possibly come up with that conclusion?” I replied, skillfully digging.

     “You described every feature of his face, in spite of that fact you’ve seen him once. You’ve remembered the time that he starts work and so the time you’ll get to meet him and you said you were nervous about it.” I looked at her blankly. “Well duh. If you’re nervous, you care, and if you care you must want him to like you, because you’re into him.” I was dumbstruck. “So, can I have some of your hot chocolate please?”

 

     As I overheard their conversation that Friday morning, Sarah’s reasoning had planted a seed in my head that would not lie dormant. 

     I liked Dylan Sawyer. 

     Impossible. 

     Totally not feasible. I couldn’t. How could I? After just seeing him? No way. It was ludicrous, especially since he’d caused me actual pain due to the nature of our brief encounter. It so sounded wrong. But Sarah’s hypothesis had made me think. He did have a good looking face, even if all I saw of it was a frightening stare from across the car park. I had to stop being so flighty. It was only going to make my nerves worse, if I imagined in my head that what I had felt, he felt too and that there was some special connection between us. He was not some tall, dark, charismatic stranger, who I would immediately fall in love with the moment I met him. I did let myself get carried away on the idea a few times, mainly as I was falling asleep, but as soon as I remembered and relived the pain I’d felt in the cellar and with the cutlery, I got angry that this apparent stranger had caused so much harm. There was nothing special about that, at least not in the way I daydreamed it could be.

     Angrily, I left my room quickly, so that I could catch Abby and confront her about the party I was allegedly a pooper of. I would never have dreamed of arguing with her normally, but I could still feel the fury in my blood that the memory of Monday had evoked. Someone needed to put her in her place anyway. 

     “Abby! What party?” I said sharply and to the point, throwing my bedroom door open.

     “For my birthday? I’m not surprised you forgot Bethany, you’re so wrapped up in your job,” she snapped back spitefully. I could see Sarah cringing, behind Abby.

     “What is your problem? Just because I’ve got a job, what I don’t have the time to be a little minion of yours?”

     “What is my problem? You are supposed to be our housemate. You’re supposed to be at University having fun with us! You’re ruining it for everyone!”

     “That makes no sense Abby, don’t make me the bad person when all you do is prance around the house bitching to everyone about me and judging me. No one else has a problem Abby, it’s just you. You are the problem.” My blood was boiling, I could feel myself shaking.

     “Oh whatever Bethany! How about you get lost and mess around with your stupid pub boyfriend.” I shot a look at Sarah, who had quickly made her way down the stairs.

     “What the hell, Sarah?” I shouted after her. “And as for you, it is none of your damn business Abby, none of it is, so just stay away from me.” And I stormed into the shower room. 

     I leaned against the basin, looking at the water stains around the plug hole and started sobbing. Why was she making it so hard for me? Why did I feel like I was in the wrong and really I probably should be trying harder to get on at University? In that moment I completely lost sight of what it was that I wanted, and cracked under the heaviness of the peer pressure. I was torn between what I thought I should be doing, despite not be happy, and doing what made me feel good at the sacrifice of expectations. Sinking down to the floor, I leaned my head back on the wall and took a few deep breaths, closing my eyes and trying to regain my composure. I imagined Port Meadow, the quietness of the vast field. 

     Abby didn’t matter. It didn’t matter what she, or anyone else thought, as long as I was happy with myself. I hated all this guilt. And I hated that Sarah had been taken in by her. I felt guilty about leaving her with Abby. I knew Dylan would be used against me, and I hated him for it. Who the hell was he?! 

     After about ten minutes fighting my inner demonic complexities, I got up and calmly walked back into my room.

     “Sarah says she’s sorry,” said Ryan, turning from my window to look at me. “I heard everything downstairs. Don’t fret about Abby, she’s being a bitch about this party. Secretly, I think she just wants a house party so she’s nearer a bed,” he whispered to me. I laughed. He was probably right. “You’re doing good Beth, just ignore them,” and he turned to leave.

     “Ryan?”

     “Yup?”

     “Thanks. And tell Sarah if she wants to apologise she should tell me herself.”

     He nodded and was gone. I was glad that at least someone saw what I was doing as worthy. I wasn’t even sure if Ryan realised the disappointment I felt about Brookes or not; either way he noticed something and his small gesture had made me ignore the loneliness I felt in the house. It was only then that I glanced at the clock on my wall. 

     “Bugger!” And I rushed off to a tediously long split shift that Friday.

 

~ ~ ~

 

     After a disappointingly slow Saturday night at work, Natasha, Billy, Rachael, Jamie and I had ordered a Chinese takeaway. It was so happy I didn’t have to go home straight away and sort out all the inevitable mess Abby and her party had caused at the house. I wasn’t ready to deal with all that yet, The Folly Inn was becoming a sanctuary to me. I had met Jamie on Friday evening. He was Natasha’s brother and had taken me in just as everyone else had at the pub, with smiles and chatter. Like most people anyway, Dylan’s welcome still remained to be seen. We all sat in the bar area and Billy shouted a drink for all of us, as we tried to make a dent in the masses of food we’d wanted, thinking we could finish it all.

     “There is so much food!” Said Natasha, leaning back rubbing her stomach as though she were full already.

     “Well I’m not letting anything go to waste,” said Jamie, shoving Natasha out of the way as he delved into a heaped pile of special fried rice.

     “Have you listened to that CD I gave you yet Bill?” said Natasha.

     “Not yet mate, I keep starting it but then get called away for things,” he replied. Billy lived upstairs at the pub, I’d learned, not that that had improved his appearance rate during service.

     “Like what?” said Rachael in a disbelieving tone.

     “Erm like running a pub?”

     “Don’t you mean running your xbox?” said Jamie, through mouthfuls.

     We all laughed as Billy tried not to fall prey to the mocking and stand his ground.

     “What kinda music do you like Beth?” It was Natasha.

     I always hated these questions. Music was such an emotive subject that their reaction could go either way.

     “Well, I like a lot of rocky stuff, bit of metal here and there,” I thought this was playing it safe.

     “Yes another metaller! Win!” said Billy, clearly pleased.

     “For God’s sake Bill, and you Beth. How on earth can you like that stuff? It’s just all screaming and loud noises,” complained Jamie.

     “As opposed to not hearing a single word some smack head rapper is saying? And at least the musicians I like play all their own instruments, Natasha,” he said seeing Natasha’s face. She stuck her tongue out at him.

     “Whatever Bill, you have crap taste in music,” finished Jamie.

     “Do you play anything?” said Rachael, redirecting the conversation at me.

     “I play some guitar, but not so much nowadays,” I was going to leave it there, but they all looked at me expectantly. “I broke my wrist about a year ago. It’s never really been the same. I just get frustrated when I try to play.”

     “Bummer,” said Billy.

     Playing guitar was like a private escape for me. Some people wrote, others drew, but for me it was strumming a few chords that made everything seem insignificant. Their questions had just been polite little conversation starters, but I hoped that the fact I played wouldn’t come to define me for them. The broken wrist story was a complete curve ball. I hadn’t broken anything, I just never wanted anyone to encroach on the private thoughts and feelings I exorcised through playing my guitar, I was so fiercely protective of it. 

     How rock and roll am I? I thought to myself sarcastically. 

     “You?” I asked Rachael with a slight smile.

     “Oh. I teach piano to under sevens…” she started and there was no stopping her.

     We carried on talking about music and films pretty much all evening and it felt brilliant. I felt like part of something, I felt like how I imagined I would feel with my course friends at University. I just don’t know what it was about The Folly Inn, but it gave me an enormous sense of stability, like I didn’t need to worry about anything because I was safe, on the right path. The irony was never lost on me that something which causes so much annoyance and hatred in some people, having a job, was the one thing keeping me going at University. Nothing had changed at the house. I still felt miserable and out of place, in spite of Ryan’s kindness.

 

     The drive was so full of beaten up student cars that I had to park over the road. Walking up to the front door, my heart just sank, bitterly disappointed that the party was still raging. I could hear pumping music and the voices of what sounded like thousands of people coming from inside. Even though every part of me dreaded going inside, and was annoyed at the fact that I’d had such a nice evening, only for it to be ruined now; I decided to put on a brave face, and join the party for a while. I didn’t want to alienate myself too much. 

     I didn’t recognize anyone; no less could I recognize the house, the state it was in. Beer cans crunched under every step I took, and I could see wet patches on the wall paper where people had spilt drinks. No one acknowledged me, but then I doubt some of them would recognize their own mothers, the state they were in. Raucous laughter exploded from the living room and I rushed in, hoping to find Abby. There was a bunch of five guys all clapping and laughing as a girl in the centre of their circle hurled vomit into our sofa. There was a beer keg, empty I assumed, as the girl shouted:

     “WOOOO! Keg master!!”

     “Where is Abby?” I said angrily at the guy nearest to me, pulling his arm.

     “I dunno man, upstairs maybe?” He dozily replied.

     “Listen fella, tell me where Abby is, or I’m holding you responsible for this mess, and believe me, you do not want that.”

     “Oh erm,” he seemed to sober up, “She’s in her room,” I stormed off, “But she didn’t want to be disturbed though!” He shouted after me.

     Disturbed? I couldn’t care less if Abby didn’t want to be disturbed. This was completely out of control.

     “ABBY!” I screamed rushing into her room. Luckily, whatever her and her conquest had been doing was over when I got there. She looked round at me and smiled.

     “Yes housemate?” She said belligerently.

     “Have you seen the state of the house Abby? What were you thinking? You could have us all arrested for this, not to mentioned kicked out of this RENTED house Abby. Yes rented, that means we don’t own this place, it’s someone else’s, we can’t destroy it.”

     “Oh chill out would you? I might’ve guessed as soon as you got back you’d cast a black cloud over all the fun,” she moaned.

     “You know what? I was more than happy to come in here tonight and humour you all. To have a laugh with you guys. But this isn’t a laugh Abby. This is you completely out of bounds. Is this how you want to live your life?” I said.

     “Oh for God’s sake, Bethany, it’s a party, would you just loosen up. And how about you just stop thinking that your version of ‘right’ is the same as everyone else’s,” I was taken aback by that, almost philosophical comment. The guy decided then was a good point to leave, but he palmed something off to Abby as he left.

     “So you’re doing drugs now too?!?”

     “Bethany. Go away.”

     “I will not go away Abby! Why are you being so stupid?” I was fuming. I’d seen friends from home fall at the feet of drugs and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. But I wasn’t feeling sympathetic. “You know what Abby? I don’t like you; I think you’re selfish, rude and obnoxious. But I thought even you had more sense.”

     “Go AWAY!!!!!” She shouted, so loud I was sure everyone heard.

     I marched out of the room and down the stairs, grabbing my phone out of my pocket and dialed the police.

     “LISTEN UP! This party is over everyone!” I shouted from atop the living room table.

     No one seemed to listen.

     “If all of you don’t leave right now, so help me God, I will ring the police and report every single one of you for criminal damage. Now GET OUT!” I screamed, almost jumping up and down like a crazed woman. Everyone looked round at me, curling their lips and raising eyebrows in disgust at my intrusion.

     “This party sucked anyway,” a tallish boy said as he walked out the door. 

     “Happy birthday!” One girl squealed at me as she was dragged out by her friends. I cocked an eyebrow. It would seem Abby didn’t even know half of the people here. Great.

     They all followed suit and within two minutes the place was empty. Everything looked wrecked. I’ve dealt with the people, you can deal with this mess, I thought and solemnly walked upstairs.

     “Out,” I said to the couple kissing on my bed. They jumped at my voice; they were so unaware of everything around them. They hurried past and I slammed the door behind me.

     Undressing and taking my makeup off, a sudden but intense sadness came over me. I didn’t understand how things could be so good and so bad at the same time. I felt like a failure and a success and I didn’t know how I could live with those to opposites in my head. I was worn out. Slumping down under the covers, I started to weep again. I was being so stupid, letting everything get on top of me. I was usually so good at letting things pass. Abby had just really wound me up. But I just had to keep telling myself that it didn’t matter what she or anyone else thought. I was happy, even though I definitely did not look the picture of happiness right now. I pulled all the cushions around me, I’d gone a bit mad with scatter cushion purchases, lit some candles and tried to take in the calm, safe, homey atmosphere. It dawned on me that the house was silent and I became painfully aware of my sobs being heard. I switched my TV on to disguise myself, and only then noticed I had a voicemail message on my phone.

     Hi honey. I suppose you must be at work or partying! It was Sharon. I hadn’t had the heart to tell her how much I hated University. Better to just let her believe I was ok than have to let her in on all my private woes; I’m really sorry that I have to say this on your voicemail sweetie, I was hoping to speak to you but I think you should know sooner rather than later…my heart sank…Look Bethany, I’ve had to move us again. I’m sorry. I should’ve told you straight away but I didn’t want to interrupt all your fun! It’s all done. I’ve emailed you some pictures with the new address and phone number. We haven’t moved far my dear, just to the next village. It’s a lot smaller but hopefully I’ll be able to make ends meet for longer here. I’m sorry Beth, give me a call whenever you can.

     That pretty much destroyed any chance I had of getting a decent, tear free, nights sleep. 

 

     Abby must have still been in bed when I left the house on Sunday morning, and Sarah and Ryan were nowhere to be seen. I looked terrible. My eyes were the definition of puffiness and no amount of cold dashes or moisturizer had made a difference. I covered up as much as I could but I was in a desolate mood and didn’t care. Sharon’s news last night had absolutely knocked the stuffing out of me. Ever since I could remember, my Mum and I had always been on the move. It had got better over the past five years after we’d had a huge argument about it. I couldn’t stand moving schools all the time, so I dug my heels in and refused to leave the High School I was at. I had important GCSE and A Level years coming up, and I had made a really genuinely good set of friends. It was almost as if I was the parent, making sure my education and social skills weren’t being too messed up. Still, it meant I had to get two buses and a train in everyday, but I think it made Sharon realise the toll constantly relocating was having on me. We always seemed to move to stupid, remote places too, and it was all I could hope for to end up in a town someday. With her landscaping job, it made more sense for us to be in towns, that was where the majority of her clients and suppliers were, but she insisted we stay out in the sticks. I guess she just liked the quiet privacy. Moving to Oxford had been a bit of a culture shock to me, but a welcome one. I was glad to be somewhere that I could see the infrastructure of, rather than not getting post for days on end and being utterly stranded whenever it snowed.

     I couldn’t believe she’d moved again. I felt like the carpet had been pulled from underneath my feet. Now if I wanted to go home, I didn’t even know where that was! I wouldn’t recognize any of the rooms, any of the surroundings; I was so angry with her, I purposely didn’t look at the email she’d sent. It was as if she had gone behind my back and craftily moved before I could complain. It didn’t help that she didn’t know how out of place I felt at University, but I sure as hell wasn’t telling her now. She’d obviously moved on without me in her life, so why should she know about how rubbish mine had turned out to be. God, I was angry. Angry at her, angry at University, angry at Abby and angry that Dylan Sawyer would not give my mind a rest. I was so nervous about seeing him, which I continually told myself was ridiculous, but now I wasn’t at my best, and the nervousness had sort of mutated into bitterness. Why hadn’t we met yet? Why hadn’t he apologised? Why was it that every time I thought about him, a twinge of pain tugged in the pit of my stomach and a tingling fluttered in my fingertips?

     Pulling into the car park my mood had not improved. I still looked a mess and I could see customers already queuing outside the pub. Billy had said Sundays were busy, but I got the feeling we we’re going to be run into the ground by impatient, demanding diners today. What I was going to say to Dylan didn’t matter anymore, not that I even knew what I would say. This shift was going to be about survival, getting my head down and just getting on with it. 

     Breathe.

 

     “There’s about twelve people outside already,” I said as I arrived, noticing that everyone was there, including a girl I’d not met yet, “Is that normal?”

     “Mmm, people think if they get here early, they’ll get in early,” replied Natasha.

     “Right listen up!” It was Billy; he clapped his hands and motioned everyone around. “It’s beef, lamb and turkey today as usual. Prices have gone up so expect a bit of annoyance. The Fullers is off and there are no rice puddings, but other than that everything is in check. They’re short staffed in the kitchen guys, so let’s just bear with them ok?”

     “Who’s in there?” said Rachael.

     “Pablo, Alex and Naz.”

     Everyone let out a groan. 

     Great I thought, just great. Today was going to be one of those days. I was glad I had worked a good four shifts already and felt more comfortable with the till. As a guest banged on the door, I knew I was going to be thankful for my quick learning.

     “Tash you’re on sage; Violet on lilac; Jamie on magenta; Beth I think you can manage with caramel until Dylan arrives and then he can help you out….” I didn’t even hear the rest of Billy’s plan. 

     Dylan and I were going to be working together.

     I hadn’t anticipated this! I didn’t know how that was going to work! I hadn’t gone through that possibility in my head! I hadn’t even thought about what I was going to say to him! The anxiety mixed with dread was a vicious cocktail.

     “…let the carnage begin!” Finished Billy, but I was still too winded to care. 

     “You alright,” someone said, touching me caringly on the arm.

     “Yeah. Fine,” I said suddenly back in the room.

     “I’m Violet, don’t think we’ve met,” the girl said offering me her hand. I shook it and introduced myself. “Look like you’ve seen a ghost,” she said and I laughed it off.  

     The first three hours of the day were absolutely manic. By half past twelve there wasn’t a single table or chair to spare in the whole building and Billy had a waiting list on the go. I found out that we did table service on a Sunday too, full table service, which meant going up to people and taking their entire order, whilst making sure everyone else was ok. Taking a payment was the worst bit. If a table wanted to split the bill onto two cards, it would take forever to process and by that time, people had finished eating, wanted desserts or were moaning. I didn’t understand how people could be so impatient! It was clear that I wasn’t standing idly around ignoring the fact that they had empty plates and glasses in front of them – I was just busy with someone else!

     “People are just so impatient!” I’d said to Natasha in the brief moment we were at the dresser together.

     “Tell me about it. It’s a good job Michael is running today; otherwise we’d be getting food to tables as well.”

     I hadn’t even thought about that, although it was obvious that the food was arriving somehow. Now I knew how much Billy must have been pleased to see me that Saturday morning just last week. 

     I was making good tips, my money belt was very heavy with pound coins, but I could feel myself shaking under the stress to keep it going. I knew that if I faltered for one second; took my eye off the ball for a moment, it would be game over. There would be no coming back. It just wasn’t letting up. As soon as I’d re-laid a table, there were people there, and the bar area was still full of a constant stream of hungry people. I had barely noticed the time passing until I was scraping plates at the pot wash and Naz announced he was going on his break. I’d thought it was early for a break, but then I glanced out of the open kitchen door, out of the gates to the yard and looked across the car park. 

     There he was. Dylan Sawyer, walking towards me with a strong, commanding stride. My heart beat furiously and I found myself holding my breath. He walked in through the kitchen doors, nodding to Pablo and Alex, and I couldn’t look away. I felt a twinge of pain in my body as the memory flooded back. Then he looked at me, snapping his head sharply at me as he walked through to the restaurant. 

     Breathe.

     He was looking at me, his eyes literally boring into me, his facial expression hostile, and then just carried on walking. 

     No nod, no greeting, nothing. To a girl he’d never met, but who was clearly a new colleague.  

     I was so taken aback. He was so rude and unfriendly and I didn’t deserve that, especially after how much he’d frightened me last week. 

     “Jeeesus!” said Pablo, “What did you say to Dylan?”

     “Nothing. Not a word. I’ve never met him.”

     He exhaled sharply, raising his eyebrows at me and shaking his head. “Good luck then.”

     I could not believe what had just happened. He had looked at me like I was gross, like I was something really wrong and vile. After the past couple of days, I really was not in the mood to be treated like dirt. I pushed any emotion out of my head and left the kitchen to check over the tables in caramel.

     Don’t let him get to you. He doesn’t know you. You don’t know him, I was trying to console myself. I had to just forget what had happened the first time I saw him. It was obviously just me being irrational and flighty. It was all in my head. It had to be. He was just another person. Then I saw Dylan taking an order. Without having even spoken to me about what was happening in our section, he had just dived straight in. It hurt that he must’ve known we were both on caramel together but decided to bypass any conversation with me and botch on through. Whenever I had been working with anyone else, it had been about communication; making sure we didn’t hassle or double order tables, that sort of thing, as well as work out how the tips were going to be shared. And there he was heavy handedly taking control. I felt suddenly very insecure and victimized. The girls and Billy had warned me about him before, but I didn’t realise he would be this way. It was like I didn’t exist and the whole foolishness of my overanalyzing mind, imagining that the pain I had felt when I’d met him was something deliberate; was coming to fruition. I suppose somehow I had thought, despite what people had said, I would be different; I was reaping the fantasy I’d sown.  

     Watching him interfere with tables, infused with my hurt was infuriating and I was beginning to take it personally. Something had to be said. I took the next opportunity I could, when he and I were both at the dresser. In any other circumstance I would have just been natural and polite, but this weekend was just not the time to piss me off.

     “By the way, I’m Bethany. I’m on caramel too,” I said, moodily, as I shoved the sauce tray back into the fridge. My heart lunged as he opened his mouth, halting my breathing. I felt completely at his mercy, like one word could make me or break me.

     “Huh?” He said, unhearing.

     “Erm, I’m Bethany; we’re supposed to be wor…”

     “I know who you are. Why would I not know who you are?” he snapped viciously and sarcastically, looking at me in pure resentment.

     “Well it’s just we’ve never met so…”

     “Just because we haven’t met and exchanged trivial greetings doesn’t mean I don’t know who you are. I have looked at the rota since I’ve been back, Bethany,” he retorted, “You telling me your name was just a pointless waste of breath,” he said walking off. “I’m Dylan, but then you knew that anyway.”

     What. The. Hell. 

     I couldn’t feel any smaller than if I’d been atomized. Every nerve in my body tingled with the adrenaline of restraint as I chose not to argue back, but small giveaway tears pricked in my eyes. There was nothing I could do except ignore him because he just wasn’t worth my time if he was going to be so rude. At least, that is what I should’ve done.

     Following him into the kitchen I said: “Hey! You scared the crap out of me the other night.”

     “What?”

     “The other evening when you came by?”

     “I have no idea what you are talking about,” he said walking off.

     I felt like I’d been punched in the face again. Why was I doing this? Over the past week, I had been imaging the moment I would finally talk to Dylan Sawyer and iron out the whole Monday evening pain attack. But I had been far too romantic. I had imagined some kind man, apologetically trying to figure out the problems of a new work colleague. Why had I been so naïve? I had wasted so much time thinking about him, and he hadn’t even noticed me, hadn’t even seen me. Or worse in fact, he had seen me and was now point blank denying it, as if I was something too embarrassing to admit to.

EXPAND.

 

     I was miserable for the five remaining hours of my shift which seemed to drag on endlessly. Dylan didn’t speak a word to me again, he barely even looked at me, and we ended up working completely separate tables, instinctually dividing up caramel into a smaller section each. Whenever I was around, he seemed to disappear. I knew it was just in my mind and I was just being sensitive, but I felt abhorrent, physically repulsive. I took every second more and more to heart and I could not wait to get out of there. The moment the clock chimed eight, I’d counted my money belt and was gone.  

     I got into my car and buried my face in my hands. I would not cry about this. Yes, Dylan had been mean, completely, unreasonably mean, but I had hyped up this whole meeting in my head. I had been so stupid! Of course the pain I felt had nothing to do with Dylan Sawyer, how could it possibly have had anything to do with him? My fantastical mind had just created something in my head to torture and distract me. The man was a complete jerk and I hated him for making me feel this way.

     I could feel the tears welling up behind my eyes, but I would not let them break the surface. My head pounded with stress and I got the feeling this headache would not go away easily. 

     I was about to drive off when I had an idea. Getting out of the car I opened the boot and looked inside. There was a guitar case, a dusty guitar case. It had been a while, but it was exactly what I needed. I grabbed the guitar, locked my car and went to find a quiet spot to strum the pain away, completely unaware of the desolate and intense eyes that followed me. 

MENTION ABOUT THE ‘SPOT’ BY THE RIVER. MAKE IT MORE OF A DESTINATION.

 

     Bethany Lane will save us all one day. She will save you and she will doubtlessly save me. I knew it the moment I saw her on that first autumn Monday night, the scared look in her eyes gazing at me purely, in all my wrath and anger. I also knew we could never be friends, and that it would take every inch of my being to push her away. I had to. As I watched her leave on Sunday evening, marching away furiously with an old guitar case over her shoulder, a terrible guilt washed over me. Why was she here? Why now? And why did she have to look like that?

     I swallowed the pain and cursed the fool who had hired her. I was going to have to force her away.  

 
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