"Well, are ye gonna go?" Niall asked front the other end of the line. I could almost see him scratching his head. I'd just told him about having lunch with Sullivan.
"Well, I told him I'd go," I replied, pursing my lips. "It's just, don't you think it's strange as to how he got my number?"
There was silence from the other end.
"Niall?" I asked, suspiciously.
"Did you give him my number the other day when we went on The Chatty man show?"
"He asked for it and he's ye dad and i couldnt say no!" he said quickly, sucking in a deep breath.
" Its alright, Niall. Just next time, would you please ask me first when you want to give my number to anyone?"
"Yes, Jamie. Sorry," he said apologetically. I smiled, touched by how he apologized without me asking for it.
"Thank you.Anyway, when are you and the boys going on?"
"Eh, around 3," he answered. I checked the time-it had just turned noon. Sullivan had texted me earlier, telling me to meet him at 1pm at Melanie's.
"Oh. Well, have you had your lunch?"I asked, tying my hair into a messy ponytail, putting the phone on loudspeaker.
"Not yet," he groaned.
"Aww my poor leprechaun. You must be starving. Aren't they feeding you there?"
"Well, yeah but..."
"You're always hungry," I laughed, picking up my phone after tying my hair. I put on my beige coat and boots-it was a chilly day outside although it was sunny.
"Yeah buddy," he admitted. "You heading out now?"
"Yeah," I said, grabbing my keys and some fare money along with my purse. I'd take a cab there.
"Alright. Be careful. And don't forget to switch on your location services on your phone!" he reminded me.
"It's a safety feature that-"
"I know what it is, Niall. But why?"
"For your safety,"he replied.
"Alright," I replied slowly, as I locked the door.
"Well, I gotta go now. Love you!" he said abruptly.
"Love you too!"
I wrapped the scarf I'd grabbed on the way out and wrapped it firmly around my neck.
Right. Now I needed a cab.
Soon, I was at Melanie's. I craned my neck and spotted Sullivan in the corner, drinking some water. He saw me and waved me over. I warily walked over to him, comforted by the many people around our table-he wouldn't dare try anything.
"You alright?" Sullivan greeted warmly, as he stood up to greet me.
"Yeah," I replied. He leaned in as if he wanted to give me a hug or a kiss on the cheek so I deliberately averted my eyes and sat down in the chair opposite of him.
He cleared his throat and sat down too.
"How have you been doing?"
"I've been alright."
"And Niall and the rest?"
"They're good as well."
"Great," he replied.
"We should order first," he suggested. I picked up the menu and browsed through and discovered that they served pizza here.
"Hi, would you like to order, sir?" a pretty waitress who had come over asked Sullivan.
We told her our order and she hurried away to the kitchen.
I took a sip of my drink when it arrived, wetting my dry mouth.
"I'm sorry this was so last minute, I just felt like I needed to explain myself. My conscience was telling me to," he said softly, looking at me. "I'm not...mentally..."he stuttered, seeming at a loss for words. "I went to visit a psychiatrist soon after you left. When you didn't come back, I was devastated," he told me.
I was in a complete shock. All those years of hurting me, hitting me, abusing me...and now he's indirectly telling me he missed me? I gritted my teeth and drank some more, the horrible memories of my past threatening to escape from the darkest corner of my mind and replay themselves in my head. I forced myself to swallow the foul-tasting bile that was in my throat.
"I felt so guilty. My first instinct told me that you were in danger when you didnt come home that night."
I folded my arms. I thought to myself,"What about those times you abused me? Wasn't I in danger then?"
"I went to your aunt Gertrude's to look for you. The girls have grown so big. You're a good sister. You were smart to protect them from 'him'."
I raised an eyebrow. 'Him'?
He must've understood my confusion because he proceeded to explain himself further.
He breathed deeply. "I suffer from schizophrenia. It's a condition where-"
"I know what it is," I informed him curtly.
He looked up at me and smiled. "You were always a smart girl. My psychiatrist told me that I'm not a danger to society so I don't have to be admitted into mental hospital."
Again, I doubted his words but restrained myself from scoffing.
"I've been visiting a therapist too and he's helping me to control my 'condition'. We're working on it. Whenever 'he' takes over, I black out and can't really remember what I did. Everything seems blurry, unclear. Sometimes, it's just too much," he murmured. He was clenching his fists and if I knew anything, that was never a good sign. Cautiously, I backed away quietly but before I could push out my chair so that could make a quick exit, if necessary , he took a deep breath.
"Those things 'he' did to you. I can never take them back," he whispered, his voice full of regret. I still found it difficult to believe him. If he was capable of treating his step-daughter like an animal, even though it apparently was someone else in his body, lying would just be a formality, something obsolete, something that would be as natural to him as breathing. "What I'm saying is, I'm going to try to make it up to you. I''ll be a better person and a better father to you."
I already have a father.Smith. I thought.
Thankfully, the food finally came. I resisted the urge to make a sarcastic comment on him not drinking anything with alcohol in it. This just...doesn't feel right. It was as if something was amiss. As if this was all just a pretence to get me to trust him.
We ate in silence, I watched a family sitting beside us communicating. They genuinely looked like they were having fun.
I placed my cutlery down on the table, eyeing the metal knife. I realised that I was touching the stab wound through my shirt. It didn't hurt anymore but it would remind me of those dark moments whenever I looked at my abdomen in the mirror when I got dressed.
"I'm sorry, what?" I asked.
"I was wondering if you'd like to watch a movie with me or just spend time together, as father and d-"
"I can't," I answered quickly. "I mean, I promised my friend that I'd help her with something,"I lied, hoping that I sounded convincing enough.
"Oh, that's alright. Maybe another time," he suggested. I gave him a small smile.
I dug into my pocket to pay for my meal but Sullivan reached over to touch my hand. Instinctively, I pulled my hand back before there was any skin contact.
"Please, let me pay for you,"he offered.
"Well, thanks for lunch. I'll be going off now," I told him, standing up.
He stood up too and once again, looked like he wanted to give me a hug. Immediately, I offered my hand for him to shake. I wasn't ready for a hug. Not yet.
"Bye," I murmured, before hurrying out the restaurant.
I felt extremely relieved after I was few feet away from Melanie's.
That is, until a car drove up beside me as I was walking along the pavement and someone grabbed my hand and pulled me into the car.