Shattered

Shattered (verb): to break something into pieces, to damage as by breaking or crushing to impair or destroy, to be broken into fragments.
Hollie loved words, she had ever since she could remember. It was something many found irritating. Until she met Jack.

Jack’s world suddenly comes crashing down with a knock at the door and a ghost from the past he tried to keep hidden returns to haunt him.
Hollie doesn’t know what to believe and where to turn. Will the ghosts shatter their perfect life or will it make them stronger?

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11. Eleven

    “What’s this all about?” I question, sitting in front of the tea left for me. I watch Jack watching me closely, his haunted and skinny eyes following my every move, while Sam is watching him. This situation is all kinds of fucked up and I don’t know how to process it anymore, so I keep my eyes on the tea in front of me.

    “Jack came over and wanted to speak with us. He hasn’t told me why,” Sam says. I make a point of holding my cup in one hand and Sam’s hand in the other. Jack’s haunted eyes haunt me and make me feel uncomfortable. I know it’s a side effect of everything he must have been through with the interviews, prison, trial and now integrating himself back into society and free life after a year, but after everything I’ve been through because of it? He makes me uncomfortable. I still haven’t myself processed what I believe and what happened between him and me, let alone have the confidence in talking to him about it yet.

    “I wanted to just… explain I think,” Jack says. “To be honest, I’m not completely sure or certain on what I want to say, but I think a clear air between us needs to happen, whatever happens next between our friendships if that makes sense.” I roll my eyes in response. Why now? Why does he want to give us the truth now? He’s had over a year, since it happened, to tell us the truth. He could have come home the night after and told me the truth. He could have told me as soon as he came out of the police station the first time, he could have written me a letter, or told me during the trial. He could have told me any of those days in between that, but he chose not to. He chose to try and convince everyone who would listen that his way was what happened, that she was an absolute witch and a liar out to destroy his career and degree. He decided to lie, cover up and be an absolute victim. He chose the cowardice and liars way out and not face it head on.

    “Okay, so we’re listening,” Sam says. I sigh internally and glance over at Sam, giving him a response that I’m not happy about this. But he shoots me down with a stern look he might give a child or something.

    “I wanted to come and tell you how this all happened, why this all happened,” Jack says and without thinking I scoff. “Is something funny Hollie?”

    “Why now, Jack? Why now? You have had every single day since it happened to tell me, Sam, he police, the jury the truth. Instead you tried to convince everyone that she was a liar, and then changed your story twice, or was it three times? You lied, Jack, whatever really happened that night, you lied to everyone. So, why now? And why us? We’ve moved on from you and your lies,” I say, rather harshly if I have to admit, but even so. “You ruined our lives. I still, still, get called out walking down the street for being the girl who was engaged to the guy accused of rape. I still get mocked, still get people thinking I was in on it. I don’t think you realise, still, the extent of what you’ve done to us, to the people around you.”

    Jack closes his eyes, and I watch him compose himself by finishing his tea off before he locks his gaze back onto me. “But that is why I’m here, Hollie. I want to explain something to you. That night… everything is still such a blur. I don’t know what happened, she doesn’t know what happened for certain. The DNA says one thing, but we say something else. Whether she thinks one thing happened and I think another, no one knows. Not me, not her, we only know something did happen. That is why I’m here, because no one knows. There was not enough evidence to say if I did it or not.”

    “So what you’re telling you think you’re guilty now?” I scoff, drinking my drink and hiding my anxiety for the truth behind my demeanour. I don’t want to be this hostile. I don’t hate Jack at all, I don’t like him anymore, I lost all the love and respect I have ever had for him, but something about this entire thing still gives me absolute fright and an agonising prickling anxiety that wells up inside and turns into anger and spite. He still cheated on me, and he is still everything I thought he wasn’t.

    “What I am telling you is that having been through what I’ve been through and been through what happened a million times over in the space of a year, that I cannot be sure what happened. We all know that something happened. But whether I could not gain consent from her or not? What the details mean are a haze. I do not know for sure, no. I could be guilty, I could be completely innocent. But right now, the evidence is not enough for anyone to be sure,” Jack says and I look at Sam with my eyes as wide as they can physically open. This is insane. One minute he is in prison preaching about how she was a liar and he was completely and totally innocent, that she wanted it and that was the absolute truth. And now he’s saying he cannot remember what really happened?

    “How did you reach that conclusion, Jack? Because in prison when we visited you, and especially during the trial, you were one hundred percent convinced you were innocent and that she had wanted it,” Sam says exactly what I wanted to say.

    “I realise that. But I was going through a lot… a lot of mental issues whilst in there, and while it was happening to me, I was blinded by the selfish want of being innocent. But the longer I was in there, the longer I had to think about the truth and try and recall what happened,” Jack says, and if I am completely honest with myself, the way he is telling us this sounds completely honest and I am beginning to believe him. And that is something I never thought I would admit to myself. “I just… I cannot remember what happened, and it’s only come to light the more and more I try to remember. Trust me, if I did… if I was what they call me, well then I would want myself put away for good. That is something I never, ever would let myself be.”

    Sam gives me a quick glance and I know that he is doubting Jack’s words; the same as I am. Somehow some of this is unbelievable, especially after hearing what he spouted in both prison and during the trial. But what I can’t quite understand is why now; why come up with this ‘I am a victim too’ speech now, after he has been legally found not guilty and able to go about the rest of his life, nearly as if this didn’t happen? I mean, he will never lose it, it will be on his record for a long, long time now and finding himself a foundation placement will be hard for him. But he still gets to be legally acquitted of any crime towards her. So why wouldn’t he just own it, per se, and get on with his life, trying hard to move on from it? I’d like to think that’s what I would do.

    “Why are you telling us this now, Jack? After everything, why now?” I ask. His eyes fall on me and I can see the pain inside them, the pain of the guilt weighing heavy on him. I know he is telling us the truth; that he can’t fully remember what happened and he isn’t sure whether that makes him guilty or innocent. In a weird and probably sadistic way, I feel sorry for him. Whether he is guilty or innocent, he is now a hollow shell of who he used to be, and whether that is his fault or not, through what he’s been through, he will never be the same. He will now have to work double time to make himself anywhere near who he used to be before all of this. He’s lost everything and then managed to scrape his career back off the floor, barely.

    “Because after everything I put the both of you through, everything you told me you two have been through… because of me, because of the stupid decision I made, I at least owe some truth to you. I can see now, that I was ill, the experience sent me… well, it sent my mind into illness, and now I’m out, now it’s somewhat over, I can think straight and can give you this. I know it probably won’t bring either of you any joy, or comfort, and it certainly won’t make anything better, but I just thought I should give you the explanation,” Jack says and all I can do in response is nod. I want him out of my life, even the possibility that he could have done this was always enough for me, but now? Well now he’s admitting he could have done it and he’s not sure.

    “I think… I think this conversation is over now, don’t you Jack?” Sam sighs, still looking at me. He stands from the table. I remain seated while Jack stands up and looks between Sam and I, confused.

    “Okay, well…” Jack stammers as his gaze flickers between Sam and me. I look around me to Sam and I slowly stand from the table, looking down at the table so I don’t have to maintain anymore eye contact with him.

    “Thank you for dropping by, Jack. I…I hope it all works out,” Sam says very diplomatically. I keep my eyes down and step back towards Sam, feeling the burning of Jack’s gaze still on me. I remember when we visited him in prison he promised me he would win me back when he could prove he was innocent and out of prison. I wonder if he remembers that, or whether he forgets it and has given up all together. He seems pretty surprised at my unwillingness to discuss anything with him right now, and I’m surprised that he didn’t see this coming. But then that is Jack all over right now isn’t it? The man you think you know just surprises everyone in the worst way thinkable. And then throws everyone into turmoil and ruins people’s lives with his lies and hysteria.

    “I… I’m sorry, Hollie, okay? I never meant it to turn out like this!” Jack says before turning around and being shown out of the door.

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