Out Of Bounds

In all honesty, my sister and I had never been close

But one person was going to tear us further apart

His name is Luke Hemmings

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20. 20

When I walk into the dining room I have to stop myself from laughing. Jodie has cheered me up without even realising it. She's sitting at the head of the table and she is trying her best to look regal. Her hands are folded on the table and she sits with her back straight and chest pushed out against her white T shirt. But what is making me mentally laugh is the fact she keeps gesturing upwards with her eyes

"What are you doing?" I sit next to her and she slowly turns like she can't move her neck

"Notice anything different about me?" Her eyes gesture up again and I smile

"Hmmm hair cut?"

"Don't be such a cow! I won beach queen two thousand and sixteen! Like my crown?"

Honestly? It looks like something you could buy for ten dollars. It's a large silver monstrosity and it is glittered with fake gems

"It's, well it's, big! It's sparkly!"

"I know, I feel like the queen. How are you after last night?"

I play with a coaster in front of me

"I'm OK. It was intense -" I trail off as Jodie picks up her phone and starts typing a message. Conversation is over guess. Luke walks in and he's holding a jug of moms homemade lemonade. He puts it in the middle of the table and then sits next to me. Jodie stays seated at the head of the table and takes selfie after selfie. I'm not really one for photos, probably because I could take one thousand of them and only one would turn out good, if I was lucky.

Dad walks in followed by mom and they sit opposite Luke and I. Mom smiles at me and I frown, if this is a conversation about them getting back together I don't want to know! Yes I know many children would love the happy ever after of their parents being together but I don't. They've been spending way too much time together lately, it's not normal. Too much has happened, what about Jennifer? What about Tom?

"So, what is this about?" I look between the both of them, I just want this over with

"Are you alright honey?" Moms voice sounds concerned and it puts me more on edge

"No, I'm apprehensive. Can we please just get to the point?" My knee bobs erratically under the table until Luke discreetly puts his hand over it and this makes me tense. From the corner of my eye I see him smile and I brush my fingers against his

"Oh my god! What the hell!" Jodie's voice shrieks through the horrible silence and Luke manages to move his hand before I jump and my knee bangs off the table

"Ouch, what the F -"

"Girls what the hell are you both doing?"

"Spasm Dad" I wince through my lie and then rub the pain away

"Sorry dad, Tiff just sent me a picture from last night, it's hilarious! It's of Paris booth, The runner up at the beach -"

"Jodie enough of this beach crown party thing. We have more pressing things to discuss"

She sits back in her chair whilst pouting at dad

"Fine. Don't be proud that you have an amazing gene pool which created the most beautiful girl in Sydney" She points at her crown "fact! Oh I don't mean any shade C, you are technically a visitor after all" she gives me her fake smile and I give her a thumbs up. She's hopeless. Hopeless! I watch dad gently nod at mom and she clears her throat and sits forward, commanding our attention. My heart slams against my chest. They are getting back together, aren't they?

"Girls, I don't want any concern because everything is fine. I wasn't going to tell you but after speaking to your father we both decided it was for the best. We shouldn't have lies in this family" I nearly laugh, the irony! But I don't. I let her continue "I've had vertigo for some time now and it didn't cause me too much bother, but then the hearing in my left ear hasn't been too good so I went to my doctor. Last month I had an MRI scan and some further tests and it showed there's a mass on my brain, it's non cancerous but it is bigger than normal and it's beginning to cause me some grief -"

"Mom, are you going to be ok? Are they sure it's not cancer?" Jodie takes the lead in the questions as I can't speak. My ears are ringing and my mouth is dry

"Absolutely sure Jodie. Like I said I don't want you to worry"

"Well are they going to cut it out?"

"No, they are going to try a ten week course of radiotherapy and see if that helps, and my doctor has every bit of confidence it will"

"When does that start?" I find my voice and look at mom. Her face softens as our identical eyes meet and she reaches her hand out for me to hold

"In two weeks, the doctor wants to monitor the tumour first to see how much it grows"

"Well Luke and I can't go to Perth now!" We all look at Jodie, she's close to tears "school starts in four weeks and we are leaving in three! We've paid the deposit on our student flat, I don't even know if we will get it back" student flat? They are living together aren't they. My mom has a tumour, the boy I love is moving in with my sister. I can't take this. I stand up and cover my mouth. If I open my lips I will be sick. I run up to my bedroom and head straight for the en suite. I bend over the toilet and my insides ache as I wrench over and over again. I pull the chain and lean my head against the cool tiles. I can't keep taking knock after knock, hurdle after hurdle. I feel like my life is crumbling in front of me and I'm trying to pick up the pieces but it's no use. I have no control. The door Knocks and I wipe my mouth

"I'll be alright, don't come in here. Just give me a minute"

The door opens and when I see dads kind face my emotions take over as tears assault my cheeks

"Dad" he holds me in his arms and strokes my hair as I cry "is mom really going to be ok?" The silence is deafening so I pull away and look at him frantically "Dad?"

He sits next to me on the floor with his back pressed against the wall

"Carly, you should talk to your mom about this"

"I'm going to but I'm asking you first"

He pulls his knees up to his chest and sighs

"It is non cancerous that is true. But the pressure of the mass is making the vertigo worse, now it's effecting her hearing and she's having numbness in her face. I'm worried Carly I won't lie. Toms never around, there's no way in hell your mother will let Jodie give up university -"

"When did you find out about this dad?"

"When I came here after you went missing" my eyes search his and I'm not happy with this answer

"Liar" I stand up and go and sit on my bed. I hold onto the duvet as vomiting so much has left me light headed and I take a deep breath

"Carly, I -"

"When Dad?"

"A few days before you came here. That's why I pushed you a little Carly, you're stubborn and I knew your heart wasn't in it. What was I meant to do?"

"Oh I don't know dad? Maybe tell me the truth!"

"It wasn't my secret to tell"

Secret? We are calling this a secret? Not telling me Santa didn't exist, that was a secret! This is so much more than that. It's something that has, and will impact our lives more than we know. There's too many thoughts in my head and I squeeze the duvet between my fingers as it feels like the room is swaying and I'm going to fall into the depths of my own thoughts

"Is that why everyone has been pushing me to study here? So I'll be with mom throughout treatment?"

Dad holds my trembling hand and I turn to face him

"Honestly? I think so. Your mother is scared and rightly so. But I think in her head she feels that if you are home it will somehow make this process easy. I told her that you wouldn't be pushed, I know how much you dislike Sydney -"

"It's not that I dislike it, maybe not anymore at least. What I dislike is the fact that this isn't my home and yet everyone has been planning what I should do without even consulting me" I stand up and and look outside the window. The truck sits on the drive and I shake my head. Why did they even get it? To show me what life could be like if I lived here? How I could be spoilt like Jodie and have everything I want like its my given right because mom has money? I know dad put some towards it but maybe he did that so I would have a way to see him if I stayed here "what would you do Dad?"

"That's not my call to sway you on this -"

I sigh and turn to face him

"Please Dad, be honest. What would you do?"

He tidies my bed and then holds a cushion on his lap. His fingers trace over the lace and then he looks up

"I would stay. Coonamble has nothing for you Carly. It's a small town that's holding you back. You should be here. You have friends here"

"I have friends back home!"

"Name one?"

This is infuriating! OK, so my social circle is small but I'm not a loner!

"Denise. She's my friend"

"She's a thirty three year old woman you babysit for! It's not like the friendship you have here with Amy, Jodie or Luke ..."

Dad trails off and I fold my arms as I look back at the truck. My eyes follow the street and soon I look at Luke's house. I don't even know if we are friends. Maybe we aren't? Maybe it's too late for that. But we aren't anything more and we won't be. If I stay he still leaves. If I go home he still leaves. He's starting a new adventure in Perth. Without me. Instead he will be with Jodie and with distance between us, I will fade in his mind and I will become nothing but a memory. Someone who he met over summer. I feel the tears in my eyes and I abruptly wipe them away

"Things would be different if I would have moved back here about five months ago" I don't realise I'm talking out loud and I wipe the tears away again. Maybe if Luke and I had met before he saw Jodie he would have chosen me. We would be happy right now and we would be together

"What does that mean?" Dad gently pulls my arm but I shake my head as I make it clear I don't want to talk anymore. I'm done with talking

"Can I come in?" We both look up as mom puts her head around the door

"Of course you can mom"

She softly walks into the bedroom and sits on the stool by the mirror at the end of my bed. She nervously plays with her watch and smiles shyly at me and dad

"I said not to worry I'm going to be ok Carly"

"Really? You're going to be ok? You won't be able to work whilst having treatment, you'll be stuck in this big house alone whilst Tom does whatever he does. He's not even here now, did he know you was telling us today?"

"He's busy getting everything ready for next term, it's important to him -"

"Mom this should be important to him! You should be important to him but most of all we should be important to him because we are family! And we need to stay together as a family through this"

"What are you saying sweetie?" I look at mom and then at my dad. His eyes tell me everything. He's ready to let me go

"I'm saying, if you'll have me, can I stay here whilst we get you better?"

"Really? Carly, is that what you want? Don't let what's happened to me force you into something you don't want to do -"

"I want to. I'm not saying it will be easy, and it's not something I'm totally happy about, although Tom and I have put our differences aside we are different people who don't really know each other, but dad was right. When he said that we have to let things go. I'm not angry anymore mom. I forgive you. But most of all I love you and I'm not going anywhere"

She stands up and I can feel her tears on my shoulder. I hold her tightly and when I look at dad he nods his head. Letting me know that the decision I've made is the right one, regardless of whether I believe it yet or not. I nod back at him and even though we don't speak, we all appreciate that right now, We have each other

***********

I throw my suitcase onto the back of the truck and wipe my hands against my ripped jeans. I throw my hair into a loose ponytail and lean against the door as I wait for Dad. I play with the keys in my hand but look up as Luke walks down the drive

"Hey Mr Hemmings"

"Hey yourself. So you're staying?"

I look at the house and sigh

"I guess I am"

"When will you be back?"

"I don't know? Wednesday at the latest. I'm going to pack up my things and spend a few days with Dad and Jennifer. Mom has a hospital appointment Thursday so I said I would come back for that" I open up my bag and hand Luke the concert tickets "You might want to take Jodie. I don't know if she likes the band? Or could you see if anyone wants to buy them? I owe Cal the money for his ticket"

"Ok"

"Ok"

"I don't want you to go" he leans against the door and there's only a small space between us. I look down at my converse and scuff the sole against the hot pavement

"Me going for a few days means after that I will be in Sydney for the foreseeable future. At least when you come back on half terms or for the holidays I'll be here"

"Is that meant to be some sort of consolation?"

"It's all we have Luke"

"Ready to go kiddo?" Dad walks towards us and Luke puts the tickets into his pocket

"Ready Dad" Luke and dad shake hands and then insultingly give my truck a look over but I know she will get me home safely. I start the engine and wave at mom and Jodie who are stood on the porch. I'm following dad down as he cant leave his car here and I need to get back somehow. I declined the offer of plane tickets, it's not the way I arrived here and it's not the way I want to come back, When I come back here for however long. I wind down the window and dad hits my bumper with the palm of his hand letting me know we are good to go. Luke turns his back to mom and Jodie and puts one hand on the door

"Just come back as soon as you can. I'll be waiting"

"I'll always be waiting Luke, until I have no choice but to let you go"

He closes his eyes and then steps away from the truck. I slowly reverse out and take one last look at him before I leave.

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