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I sat in my Defender parked down the road to Marley’s house, waiting for her to come out. As I lit a cigarette I couldn’t help taking in how nice the house was. Definitely looked like something an Alden would live in. Still, it’s 6:30 AM and I haven’t really slept due to the chick from last night, whose name I’ve already forgotten and will probably never remember. So who am I to start admiring fucking houses at this time?
The front door opened and a girl came out. I couldn’t really see her properly because of the distance between us but shit, she looks frail. She has leggings and an over-sized jumper on and her hair still looks damp. I wasn’t expecting the Alden girl to look so vacant, so unwell. She got in her car and I gave it a few seconds before starting up the Defender and following her down the road. I wasn’t driving long before I saw her turn into a residential estate that looked like where elderly people lived. She parked outside a small bungalow and sat there for a few moments. I couldn’t see properly but from her rear view mirror her head was bowed and in her hands.
Was she crying?
I don’t know why but I felt this ache inside me to get out the car and go and wrap my arms around her.
“Jesus, Jax. Pull yourself together,” I said to myself, shaking my head, hands still on the steering wheel.
She got out of the car and made her way up to the front door before unlocking it and letting herself in. I waited a few minutes before getting out and walking up towards the bungalow. I figured walking past it would be a safer option than going up and peering in.
As I walked past I could see into the living room. There was an elderly man sat in his chair beaming up at the girl smiling and chatting away to him. This girl did not have the same expression and body language as the one who left the house this morning.
I walked back to the Defender, took out a pack and lit another cigarette before making my way back to the bungalow and walking up the side passage. As I got round the back I looked in the first window to see any signs of Marley. There wasn’t any. I took my chance and made my way to the bottom of the garden where I could disguise myself in the overgrown hedgerow. I timed it right because no sooner had I hidden myself, Marley had come out the back door with the elderly man. She helped him sit on the garden bench and made sure he was comfortable before starting to top up his bird feeder.
I can’t get over the fact that through the smiles and false pretenses, this girl is really fucking broken inside and I want to know why.
“Yes, I’ll see you on Monday Thomas ... No I won’t forget the books, don’t worry.” I closed the door making sure I locked it on my way out. I was thankful for the short shift today. Thomas is lovely to care for, but attempting to be that happy is draining all the little energy I have left.
I started walking towards my car and my phone started ringing. Olivia!
“Don’t worry, be happy, cause every little thing is gunna be alright.”
“If I had a pound for every time you sang that I wouldn’t have to work in care anymore, Olivia.” I laughed down the phone. “What’s up?”
“Well first of, HAPPY MOTHER FRICKEN BIRTHDAY! And secondly, can you please hurry up and get home so you can let me in. I’m cold in my car.”
“Wait, you’re here? I thought you were still in Nottingham!”
“Marley, when have I ever in the last 20 years missed your birthday?” Olivia said.
“I can’t believe you’re here.” A shred of happiness filled the emptiness inside me. “I’ll be home in 20 minutes.”
“Brilliant, hurry your cute butt up.”
“I’m guessing Robert isn’t there?” I muttered.
“If you mean your DAD, no he’s not.”
“Okay, I’m leaving now I won’t be too long.”
“Hope you’ve got your dancing shoes because we are going drinking tonight!” Olivia squealed down the phone. I reached my car and unlocked it, before noticing the Defender parked up the road. I could have sworn that was the same car behind me this morning. I brushed it off.
“Libby, last time we went out drinking you were sick in your own hair and asking me if I had met Harry Potter.”
“Harry Potter is amazing. I will ask everyone if they’ve met him.”
“You know he’s a fictional character right?”
“I don’t care, he’s amazing.”
“Okay.” I smiled to myself. “Where are we going? Please don’t take me to Vodka Revolution.”
“Oh honey, we aren’t going there. I’m taking you to Republic.”
“Republic?! Will we get in there?” I said shocked.
“Of course we will. Now hurry up, I’m freezing my ass off.” With that, she hung up.
So, it’s her birthday today and she’s going out. This is a perfect set up. I can bring Aiden with me to keep her friend occupied. I watched as she drove off before getting my phone out and dialing Vinny.
“Jax, what have you got for me?”
“She’s weak dad, for sure. I don’t know why but something is going on there. She doesn’t look like she’d be any use to us.” He didn’t say anything.
“I was outside that house since 6 AM and even Robert’s car wasn’t there. Where is he? Is he part of this?” I asked, not even knowing what ‘this’ is.
“Don’t concern yourself with that son, just focus on the girl. She’s the one we want,” Vinny said sternly.
“Okay, well I’ve watched her all morning and I think I have a plan.”
I must have been staring at myself in the mirror for nearly five minutes. The girl looking back at me looked nothing like the girl I’d been seeing for the past two years.
“Now do you see what a bit of makeup and hairspray can do for you?” Olivia smirked at me with an eyebrow raised. I stuck my tongue out at her before looking back to the mirror.
My thick auburn hair fell in waves over my shoulders, effortlessly, like we hadn’t spent half an hour trying to tame it. I was glad I’d taken the time with my eye makeup too, using dark green liner to frame my eyes instead of black. I couldn’t help but notice my eyes became more emerald and flecked with gold from doing this, just like mum used to do with hers. If only she could see me now.
“You look like Rosa, Marley.” Olivia smiled. I smiled back.
Christ, we need to leave before Robert comes home. He doesn’t need to see a reminder of mum and I don’t want to think about what he’ll do to me when we’re next alone. I pulled on my jacket over the little black dress Olivia had lent me.
“Come on, let’s get out of here.”
“Marley, it’s not even 8 o clock yet,” Olivia exclaimed, still trying to stick her lashes on.
“I know but I just want to leave before Robert comes back.” The words left my mouth before I’d even realised I had said them. Olivia turned to face me.
“What’s going on Marley?”
I sighed and sat on the edge of the bed. “Nothing.”
“Come on Marley, I know things have been tough between you and your dad since your mum died, but lately you act as if you’re either avoiding him or you’re afraid of him. Maybe both if I’m honest with you.”
I looked at Olivia. Could I really tell her everything? All the cigarette burns, all the bruises? How I never sleep and when I do all I can see is mum’s face and dad screaming at me that it was my entire fault? The only reason I agreed to wear her dress is because it has long sleeves that cover my arms and its knee length.
“Things are just a bit tense lately between us and it was the anniversary of mum’s death not long ago. I just don’t want to get in his way, that’s all.” I could tell she wasn’t buying any of it, but thankfully she let it go.
“Okay, if you say so.” Olivia turned back around and finished her eye lashes. “So who’s going to get hit on first tonight?” Just like that, she was back to being care free and changing the mood. I had a feeling tonight would be interesting.
We stumbled up the queue to get into Republic, still giggling by the time the bouncers checked our ID’s, winked at us and let us in. Olivia had just taken me to a bar that served shots in test tubes and smoke coming out of some of the cocktails.
“This is some Harry Potter Hogwarts kind of shit!” Olivia collapsed about laughing as the barman chuckled at her. It’s true it was!
Back to the present, and Republic was amazing as you walked in. There were fairy lights hung over massive mirrors and a circled bar in the middle of the room which lead of to three different doorways to different dance rooms. We headed straight to the bar in the middle of the room as "First Time" by M22 played and ordered some drinks. As Olivia chatted to the barman, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and relish in this feeling, just for a second. It was probably just the alcohol coursing through my veins but I actually felt happy; and happy wasn’t an emotion I was used to lately.
My eyes fluttered open as Olivia nudging me brought me back to the present.
“You okay you lightweight?” she laughed.
“I’m more than alright.” I grinned back at her, sipping my drink. I had no idea what it was but it tasted good. The barman placed two shots in front of us before winking at Olivia.
“These are on the house,” he said and walked off. Olivia giggled.
“How in the hell do you manage to do that?” I asked her.
“It’s a natural talent.” She laughed. “Come on, on 3.”
I rolled my eyes and picked up my shot glass.
“1... 2... 3!” Olivia shouted. I downed the shot and felt the burn of the alcohol running down the back of my throat as I coughed. I could hear Olivia laughing.
I gained my composure and opened my eyes, only to look across the bar and find two looking back at me. I did a double take and casually looked behind me to see if he was looking at someone else, but as I turned back he was still looking at me, but this time he was smiling. Clearly I didn’t look behind me as casual as I thought I did.
I smiled back, but not before Olivia grabbed my arm and started pulling me away.
“Come on. I need to dance!”
Twenty minutes later and I honestly thought my feet were going to fall off. I don’t know how Olivia has the energy to keep going. All the dancing had made the alcohol rush to my head. I needed a breather.
“Libby, I’m going to get some fresh air,” I shouted over the music.
“Okay!” she shouted, still moving her body to the rhythm.
I made my way off the dance floor and over towards the exit to the smoking area, only to collide with another person. I stumbled back trying to regain my balance whilst realising the front of my dress was now completely soaked.
“I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”
“It’s fine, don’t worry.”
“It’s completely my fault; I wasn’t looking where I was going. Are you sure you’re alright?”
As I tried to finish wiping away the last of the dampness on my dress I looked up to answer.
“Yes, for the second time, I’m – ”
My breath caught in my throat a little as I realised it was the guy who had been looking at me from across the bar.
“I’m fine.” I managed to mumble. Our eyes locked as he smiled at me and the only thing running through my mind at that moment was how attractive this guy was and how much I wanted to kiss him. I’d never seen anybody with such amber eyes and the way his curled hair was tied back just made my hand itch to run my fingers through it. I realised I was probably acting like a total nut job staring at this guy right now. It seems it had the same thought because he chuckled before speaking to me.
“Hi,” he said in an Irish accent smiling.
I smiled back. “Hi.”
He signaled to my dress. “I’m really sorry about that, can I buy you a drink?”
I honestly did not have to think twice before answering. “Sure. I’m Marley by the way.”
His smile radiated across my entire body. “Nice to meet you Marley, I’m Jax.”
I must have been standing at the bar with Jax for over half an hour now just chatting effortlessly. He told me he was 25 and had worked for his dad’s business in trading since he left school, and how he was lucky enough to be able to travel the world because of it. I was so jealous.
“You’re incredibly lucky, Jax. I’d love to be able to do that.”
“Then why don’t you?” Jax asked me whilst taking a swig of his beer.
I laughed. “I’m not really in the best position to be going anywhere.”
“Well, I work as a carer, which doesn’t pay an awful lot, and I pretty much do everything for my dad since my mum died.” Jax put his beer down and gazed at me. Why the fuck did I just tell him all of that.
“Sorry, I don’t know why I just blurted all of that out to you. I don’t even know you.” I looked down at my feet, mentally kicking myself for even saying that, when I felt a rough hand tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear. It gave me goosebumps.
“You don’t have to apologise Marley, life can be shit I get that.” Jax smiled at me.
“Thanks,” I mumbled.
“Do you wanna get out of here? There’s a really decent coffee shop down the street.”
“I’d love to.” Coffee sounds like heaven right now.
“Wait, I forgot about Olivia.” My eyes scanned the club trying to find her.
“Is she the one with curly hair dancing with Aiden?”
“Who’s Aiden?” Jax pointed at Olivia grinding up on fair haired guy.
I rolled my eyes. “Yes, that’s Olivia. She’ll be fine, we can go.”
It’s 2 AM and I’m walking down the road with a guy I’ve never met before, talking about life and the universe and I cannot for the life of me remember being this happy. I can’t help but think this is the type of life mum would have wanted me to have; a normal life going out and meeting new people.
“You okay green eyes?” Jax asked smirking at me.
“I’ve never been better.” I smiled at him.
We walked further up the road until we reached the entrance to a small alleyway. I was just about to ask Jax what coffee shop he was taking me to, when he reached for my hand and turned me to face him.
Christ was he was so beautiful. I wanted to untie his chestnut hair and wind my fingers through it. He reached up to my face and placed a hand on my cheek. If I leant any closer our lips would be touching.
“You’re so beautiful, Marley,” be muttered softly, his cool breath hitting my lips. My heart pretty much stopped.
“Thank you,” I stuttered, completely in awe of this man in front of me.
“You’re really not like other girls.” I blushed as he looked into my eyes. He held my gaze for a second before stepping back. “That’s why I’m sorry for this.”
Before I could ask what he was talking about, I felt a sharp pain in my neck. Someone caught me as my legs began to buckle and I watched Jax dialing someone on his phone.
“Don’t worry, this is just routine. You’re going to be okay Marley,” a deep Irish voice said from above me. I tried to look up to see the person holding me, but my eyes failed me. I was so tired. Instead I let the darkness envelope me.
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