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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1. One

Hollie

2 days before

 

Shattered: to break something into pieces, to damage as by breaking or crushing. To impair or destroy, to be broken into fragments.

    Having a favourite word is a strange thing: most people will ask you for your favourite colour, favourite TV show, song, book… but never a favourite word. My favourite word is shatter simply because it’s one of those words that basically has one definition but can mean a multitude of things within that definition. It can also be used to describe feelings. I like words that can be versatile. I just like words I suppose. Everyone hated me for that, always coming up with words and reading when I should be listening to history lessons at school. I’d frequently sneak my books into class behind my textbooks. I was never interested in crap like religious studies or history, it was always English and when it wasn’t that, I wasn’t interested. So out came my books. I’d read through my mum and dad’s entire library by the age of twelve. And it was one of those posh libraries you’d see in mansions. They thought I was crazy, and I probably was. That was what they would always call me for constantly talking about words, poems, stories, ignoring my classes yet still coming out with good results across the board.

    Until Jack came along. I was bumbling along, ignoring the crap I got at school, bumbling along at college ignoring everyone, applying to university and getting in without hesitation, and that’s when Jack came in and gate crashed a different university’s party and we locked eyes with each other. He became my partner in crime and now my boyfriend. He’s the only person who didn’t call me an idiot, who didn’t think it’s weird that I have a favourite word, that I wanted to do a degree in creative writing and English. My parents always hated the idea of me “wasting my life” on a degree in the arts, they didn’t want to finance me through university if it wasn’t for something that was going to get me a job at the end. So as soon as I slapped them with the paperwork that said it would be my name on the student debts and agreed I would never give them a phone call when I run out of money, they dropped me off at the door and not heard from them since really. It was Jack, and it will always be him.

    “What you doing?” Jack says, peering over my shoulder as he sets the tea down on the table.

    “Finishing up another post. Quit reading!” I throw my hands over the screen with a smile on my face.

    “All right, so-rry!” he rolls his eyes and sits opposite me at the table. “This the one for the degree or not?”

    “Technically, no, but they’ll look at it and consider it as part of the mark, if that makes sense,” I say.

    “What’s it on?”

    “I’ve started writing about well, I guess about my history, why I’m here, how, that kinda crap,” I say and he nods. “Haven’t you got your exams to revise for before your shift?”

    “Oh yeah, I do, but I’m taking a break,” he says with a smug nod and sips his coffee.

    “You graduate medicine students with your not having to worry about simple things like dissertations!” I joke.

    “You normal student with your not having to worry about shift work, being a doctor and having lives in your hands!” he retorts and we laugh. The weird thing about being with Jack is that while I’m sitting here panicking about my dissertation and being only twenty years old? He’s already done his first degree and is now in his fourth and final year of medical school. He’s seven years older than me, and it doesn’t feel like it. He’s already done this once, he did his degree in biology and then decided to become a doctor. He didn’t even leave Southampton the entire time.

    “What shift is it?” I ask.

    “Seven till seven, in geriatrics,” Jack says. “My palliative care rotation.”

    “Fair enough,” I say, wondering why he does it to himself. “Meanwhile I’ll probably be pulling an all nighter to get this shite done.”

    “Oh, I miss those days. Working on a dissertation,” he says with a laugh.

    “Oh you got your foundation years to go yet, you’ll suffer with that!” I joke.

    “Very funny,” he jokes and grabs his things ready to go for his shift. “By the way, be ready for when I finish tonight.”

    “Ready for what?” I ask, looking up from my laptop.

    “I’ve booked us a table at the Cowherds, for around seven-thirty,” he says with a hint of cheek in his eyes. I furrow my brows. “It’s the pub…”

    “I know what the Cowherds is, Jack, I’m not stupid. But why are we going there… straight after you finish?” I ask.

    “Because I felt like taking you out, and my bursary came in today, and my wages from the bank shifts I did,” he says.

    “Fair enough, I’ll be ready,” I roll my eyes and feign a sigh. He strides over to me after he pops his badge on his trousers and kisses my forehead.

    “I’ll see you later,” he says. I kiss him back and smile.

    “Have fun!” I call as he leaves the flat and get back to my own dilemma of my dissertation.

 

    “So, what brought all this on then?” I ask, putting the pudding spoon down and staring at him. Luckily, he got changed out of his work clothes before we came out.

    “Well, I don’t know, I just felt like bringing my girlfriend out for dinner, is that a crime?” Jack jokes. I furrow my eyes at him.

    “You fancied bringing me out when you have another twelve hour shift tomorrow, when you could have done this on Friday when you have the day off?” I question. “I know you, Jack Barker, and I know you’re up to something. You’d rather have come home and slept in between shifts, so you are up to something!”

    He sighs and pushes his chair back a little, holding his hands up. “All right, all right, you got me. Red handed.” I laugh as he stands up. “I was going to wait until the coffee came, but here you go.” I watch him take something out of his pocket and he stands up.

    “Jack, what are you doing?” I ask and finally clock on when he appears beside me next to the fire place on one knee. “Oh.”

    “Hollie Peters, will you marry me?” Jack asks, a smile on his face.

    Without even a moment, I nod my head and smile. “Of course.” He smirks, putting the ring on my finger and I kiss him. “That’s why we came here tonight then.”

    “I couldn’t wait till Friday, the ring arrived yesterday,” he says and smirks.

    “Oh, so you’ve been planning a while then,” I joke, marvelling the rock on my finger as the coffees arrive.

    “Only a… few months,” he admits. I smile.

    “I love you,” I say and admire the rock. It’s understated and perfect.

    “I love you too. Good that, eh, seeing as we just got engaged!” Jack jokes and I laugh. “And it takes your head away from your damned dissertation for five minutes.”

    I feign a frown. “Hey!” He laughs and I drink my coffee, wondering if life could get any better right now.

 

    I stare at the blog post and reread it for the fifth time this hour:

    The rather random life living with a medical student by Hollie Peters.

    When I first decided to come to university, what I didn’t think about was making friends, socialising nor did I think about love. I never thought love would happen to someone like me: a book worm, a writer and a nerd as I used to be hailed. I just thought I would bumble along like I always do.

    So imagine my surprise when my old flatmates dragged me out in Fresher’s week and a bunch of medicine and nursing students from the other university turn up. Least of all did I expect one of these medicine students to be Jack, the man I now live with and the man I now love. When we were first getting to know each other, I found out that he was studying medicine – in his second year after doing a degree in biology. When I told him I was studying English and Creative Writing at the other university in the city I expected him to laugh and walk out of the bar. He didn’t. In fact, he admired the fact that I was doing arts, something he wouldn’t even know how to start doing.

    Three months and five dates later, we became “official” – an eighteen/nineteen year old being the girlfriend of a twenty-six year old? I was only fresh out of the time of my life where that would be unthinkable, but it didn’t even matter to us, we were in love.

    It was after this point that we both realised that being a traditional couple would be difficult. His schedule of lectures, work, assignments and then his clinical placements became his life while I had around nine to fifteen hours of university work and then I could take on a small part time job in between. Not for Jack, though. He was trying to get his degree and then take on a job which meant people’s lives were dependent on him. Trying to fit in seeing each other was difficult, let alone any dates or nights out.

    Both of us were burnt out by time I’d been on summer holidays for two months and he was still going at his placement, studying for his exams. We managed to move in together at a small flat on the two days off he managed to get from his placement. I was left with the boxes to empty while he studied for his finals. Even coming home after my part time job at a coffee chain was met with trepidation as I wouldn’t know whether he was stressing or not. He knew how hard it was for me, and I just couldn’t imagine what it’s like for him.

 

    Now, finishing my degree three years later, and he about to graduate and enter his foundation years as a junior doctor… life has changed. I have gotten used to the finals stress, I am used to the twelve hour shifts, to the precious two or three hours I get to see him after one long shift leading into the next. I am used to the variety of textbooks and medical terms flooding my flat, I’m used to it all. When I imagined having a life with someone romantically, I imagined being cooped up at home all weekend watching Netflix and eating ice cream from the tub, I imagined long date nights or full day dates. What I didn’t imagine was our precious days off together being taken up by “Hollie, I need you to read this for me!” and then reading some research project on paediatric care or open heart surgery and pretending to understand what everything is. I didn’t imagine our dates to be stolen hours in the evening between shifts of eating dinner and an episode of Eastenders.

But now it’s my life, I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s an adventure, it’s my normal.

    And now I’m engaged to him. My exciting engagement story? Being told at seven in the morning that I had to be ready for seven thirty that evening to go for dinner. I knew it was strange because Jack would never want to go out when he had just finished work and had to be back in less than twelve hours for another shift.

    I got the question popped to me with a ring after pudding at our favourite pub. Romantic? Yes it was. Random? Oh yes it was.

 

    Life being engaged to a medical student? It’s hectic. It’s horrendous, it is stressful and unpredictable. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. Other women may live for their lives to be filled with their partners, never leaving their side. But mine? I live for those stolen moments before he goes to his next shift, I live for those moments in between studying where everything is quiet. I live for the excitement.

    

    I know if Jack read it, he’d smile and tell me how adorable I am. So if I know that’s how he would react, I know it’s perfect. I hit “publish” and smile as my new blog post lights up the page just as a letter comes through the post box. Addressed to Jack, I leave it unopened on the side and sit back at the table knowing I now have to get on with my assignments.

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