Stormy Seas

Ben and Katie.
Katie and Ben.
But then there was Alex.

Katie lives her life in mental turmoil after her best friend moves to the other side of the world. After living with an alternative, she suddenly realises that she can't continue lying to herself. But just on the very day she finishes with Alex, Ben turns up. And it's all down hill from there, but is love enough to conquer all?

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4. Australia.

“Ben?” I manage, as I stare at the ghost standing right in front of me. Only, he’s real. He’s really stood a mere foot away from me.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” He laughs in his sexy Australian accent. He’s walking towards me and before I can catch my breath, he catches me in his arms. In his big strong arms. “How you doin’ kid?”

“I’m fine.” I smile, and let out a small laugh. “Wow, this is a surprise.” I stutter, stunned. “What are you doing here?” 

He takes me by the arm and leads me over to a small table while he talks, and I recognise the woman sat on one of the plushy black chairs. His mum! “We came back last week but we’re only staying for a while. Death in the family, that sorta thing.” His smile drops slightly on one side, but he perks up again smiling and saying, “Come sit with us, I’ll buy you a drink.”

I can’t say no (and I won’t lie, I don’t want to), so I nod, smile and take a seat as Ben disappears over to the bar.

“Oh wow, Katie, is that really you? My God, you look so lovely!” June says, with a gasp, “You’ve turned into such a beautiful young lady.” She smiles and touches my hand, hers has aged along with the rest of her, but not drastically. Just a few extra lines here and there. She still has her shoulder length auburn hair, light blue eyes, just like Bens, and her smile is just as I remember, only with a few more lines as the years have treated her.

“You look fantastic Mrs Harris, I love your dress!” I know it’s from River Island before she even tells me that’s where she got it from, it was the ridiculously over-priced one I’d seen out shopping with Liz. Though it is rather beautiful.

“Thank you love. Though it was actually bought for the funeral. My brother passed away last week, car accident, awfully tragic.” She looks sad for a moment and takes a drink from her wine glass. She hasn’t taken to the Australian accent as much as Ben has. She still has a twang of good old Manchester in there.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I say, touching her hand as it rests on the table, “How long are you staying over here?”

She smiles with a hint of sadness in her eyes, “Ben and I will be staying for a week or so, Howard needed to go this afternoon, business.” She rolls her eyes and drinks again. 

I look up and watch as Ben walks back over, carrying a rather large wine glass and a pint of lager.

He places the glass in front of me and says, “Hope white wine’s alright for you?”

“Of course, thank you.” I smile at him, and feel an intense heat rise up in me as our eyes meet for a few seconds before he sits himself in the chair beside me.

“So I guess you two have a lot of catching up to do, hm? When was the last time you spoke any how?” His mother smiles and looks at Ben almost as if to prompt him into start a conversation with me or something.

Ben laughs beside me awkwardly before looking at me to figure it out. A crease in his brow appears as he smiles trying to remember. Then his face drops and mine does too, almost in sync with one another.

“The last time we spoke was the day before we left for Australia.” 

I feel a flush of heat to my cheeks as I remember the letter. I never read it. It’s still unopened after ten years.

“A long time then, wow.” She sighs a little, and drinks the last drop of wine before standing to her feet. “It was lovely seeing you again Kate, but I feel I must leave you two to talk, besides, I’m getting a headache from the alcohol.” She laughs and fumbles through her bag for her phone as Ben stands up. 

“Mum, you don’t have to leave.” He says almost hushed.

“No dear, I must.” He puts her hand on his shoulder and then walks out of the large glass doors, phone to her ear and I hear her order a taxi.

I watch as Ben stands awkwardly, watching as his mother leaves. He sits back down beside me and takes a swig of his beer.

“I’m sorry, she thinks we have unresolved issues that need talking out or something.” He lets out a single laugh before drinking again.

I can’t tell if he’s nervous, or embarrassed, or wishing he’d left when June did.

“Ben, I’m sorry for what happened,” I start, looking straight at him. My bravery comes as quite a shock and I feel it start to melt away into nerves, “I didn’t-“

“No, no don’t.” Ben says waving his hand and frowning. “I know we didn’t leave it on a good note, but we were really young, we didn’t know what we wanted or what was right to say in that sort of situation. Don’t worry, I don’t hold a grudge.” He laughs and I feel a little disheartened. My stomach sinks a little. “But while we’re on that subject,” He raises an eyebrow as he pauses, my stomach clenched so tight I might just hurl, “That letter. Did you read it?”

I pause, not sure what the right answer is. Is he hoping that I did?

“No.” I say in a small voice, looking down at the table. “I couldn’t.”

He sighs in relief and smiles. “Ok, fancy a dance?” And just like that, we’re back.

***

He walks me out of the bar and down the street that he used to know so well. Back when fake ID’s were the best thing ever and almost flawless enough to get you into any club on the strip. Though not the strip clubs, funnily enough.

We talk as we walk, about the old times. When my ID wasn’t good enough to get me into Lava, and Ben and Alex managed with no problem.

“I came back out as soon as I realised!” He laughs defensively as I recall the events.

“Yeah, which was like, half an hour later! You left me on the pavement! I was crying and everything, and you boys were inside having the time of your life!” I joke, laughing and watching as he laughs too.

God I’ve missed this.

“Hey, at least I remembered.” He looks at me raising his eyebrows and I laugh at the memory of Alex getting so lost in the crowd that he had no clue we were outside the club.

I stumble in my heels as we stop outside Lava. And the laughter stops.

Ben turns to me with a serious look on his face. The music from the club is loud and though it’s muffled, I can hear the bass hitting the walls and the sound of people inside, shouting and singing. The street is almost empty, around us only a few bouncers and the odd drunkard walks.

“You and Alex,” He starts as my heart races, “What was that all about?”

His question is so vague I almost don’t know what he means. But then I remember the rose, and the numerous times he saved me over Alex. Every time.

“You left.” I shrug defensively, keeping our eyes connected. “I didn’t realise that you,” I struggle to say it and feel stupid for wanting to say it, so I ask instead, “that you had feelings for me?”

He’s silent and he looks away, only looking back when he speaks.

“You weren’t lying when you said you didn’t read the letter then.” He smiles. “Of course I had feelings for you, look at you. You’re beautiful and funny and we always had a laugh and you just,” he pauses as my heart pounds in my ears, “I thought the world of you Katie.”

“So what happened? You had the option to stay and you still went. You know I never wanted you to go.”

His eyes look sad as he finds the words to say, my heart explodes in my chest as it takes him forever to say them.

“It sounds pathetic but you have to remember we were kids, right?” He smiles sadly and he touches my arm, “Do you remember Georgia Reed’s party? About a week before I left?” I nod as I remember vaguely. I say vaguely not because it was so long ago, just because I was drunk that night. So very drunk. Underage drinking was all the range, mind you. “Do you remember how we all played spin the bottle? And you had to kiss Alex?”

I let out a small laugh, but I don’t find it funny. I just feel overwhelmed with nerves. But Ben smiles, “I knew he liked you Kate, he told me so many times, and it’s obvious that you fancied him. I never stood a chance. But watching you two kissing like that, having it shoved in my face was just,” he pauses, his face crumpling at the memory.

I remember that night, but I remember Ben kissing Georgia, and that I felt a pang of jealousy then.

“But you kissed someone that night too,” I frown, “you can’t tell me that you left because of that?”

“I can because it’s true,” he laughs, “I told you it was silly. You didn’t read the letter so I wouldn’t expect you to understand.” His face falls into a sad expression and he turns as we continue walking. “Can I take you somewhere?” He asks, watching the floor as he walks.

I pause as I follow beside him, “Ok.”

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