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The Beginning of Forever

By candacedowdsauthor81 All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Romance

Blurb

Cassie’s life goes from bad to worse. Her mother is a self-absorbed sociopath that cares for none. Cassie grins and bears, that is until her father is diagnosed with Cancer. That’s when things get real. Cassie stands up for herself, she walks out on those who mistreat her, those who use her, but she also must leave those she loves behind to accompany her father on the last journey of his life. While caring for him, Cassie meet’s Tristan. Tristan is a wild one, at least, he was until he met her. He stands by her side through her heartache, he is her rock, her safe place to fall. But after her father, Patrick passes away, she begins harbouring a secret, a secret she keeps to herself.

Chapter 1

The bell rings, and it’s the sweetest sound I could ever hear because that bell means that summer break is here. I gather my belongings, head to the front of the school and wait for my sister, Courtney.

Before she arrives, I can’t help but daydream about my boyfriend Mitchell. He’s twenty-one, tall, and thanks to his Romanian background, dark eyed with an olive complexion.

The only real problem with our relationship is the fact that Mitchell does tend to choose his friends over me, a lot. I hope that he begins to even out his time a little better, but I guess all I can do is sit back, wait and see.

I look toward the locker bays and I see, Courtney, walking in my direction. Courtney is one of the sweetest people I know; she’s genuine, caring and has mousey shoulder length hair, a button nose, and bright blue eyes. The part I love best about her is her sarcasm, a trait we’ve inherited from our father. When she reaches me she comes to a halt.

“Hey, how was your day?” I ask.

“I’m so glad that school is done for the year. I was beginning to go a little mad with the workload. It was just too much,” she says as she adjusts the strap on her backpack.

“Yep, me too. I was beginning to think that I wasn’t going to pass and I stopped caring. Anyway, I already have my dream job and school is just getting in the way of that,” I shrug.

I work at a bookstore in a local shopping centre, which is within walking distance of my home. Being surrounded by books is my bliss. I especially love visiting used bookstores where the smell is overwhelmingly warm and inviting and it makes me feel all fuzzy inside. If it was up to me, I would spend my days piled up on a beanbag with coffee and a blanket reading until my heart’s content.

Everyone I know thinks that I am becoming quite anti-social, but I strongly disagree. Anyway, human contact is way overrated.

“So, do you have any plans for the weekend?” I ask Court.

“No, I have to work tomorrow, so I’m going to stay in for the night. What about you?” she says as we begin to walk home.

I roll my eyes. “Yeah,’ I breathe heavily. “I’m supposed to be going on a double date with Mitchell, Zoe, and Jimmy. I really want to call and cancel, but I really don’t think that Zoe will let me.”

Court shakes her head and laughs. “Nope, there is no way in hell that she will let you chicken out. Besides, you really do need to leave the house a little more often than you do now. Don’t hit me when I say this, but there really is more to life than books, Cassie.”

I refrain from punching her in the arm, but, of course, I don’t agree with her opinion, but I go along with it anyway. It’s just easier this way. “I know you’re right,” I sigh. “So, I guess I’m going out tonight.”

“I guess you are.”

We arrive home fifteen minutes later. Our home isn’t anything special; the main house is more like a two bedroom unit, but fortunately for me, I live in the bungalow out the back near the cheap looking aboveground pool. In the summertime, I generally lay out on the deck reading a book while working on my tan.

Court and I live with our mother, our parents divorced just over three years ago now, and our father’s departure has affected my life in a huge way. Before the divorce, I was a social butterfly. I was always out with friends having fun, causing chaos, but nowadays, I’m only a fraction of the person I once was. How I managed to land a boyfriend, is completely beyond me.

The only time I feel whole is when I am spending time with my dad. The day my father told us he was leaving, I begged him to take me with him. We have always shared a close bond, and the only reason I am here with my mother instead of living with my father is because all of my family told her that a daughter who is in her teens needs to be with the mother.

Trust me when I tell you that I am not thrilled about it, but I knew then that even if it was my choice, we would have had to go to court. That wasn’t something I was emotionally equipped for. I speak to my father a few times a week, but going to see him is a rarity. It’s a seven-hour train ride to where he is living now, and between school and work, finding the time to see him can be tricky.

He lives in a very, very small town a couple of hours outside of Sydney. Not long after leaving my mother, he paid cash for a property and because the town only has seventeen residents, the land was cheap - very cheap. His decision to move there came about when some members of the family berated him in the supermarket one day. I was devastated and so was he. Never did he want to move so far, but my mother’s side of the family and some of his own caused him so much grief that he didn’t see any other choice.

I walk through the house to my bungalow, once I’m in the door, I drop my bag on the floor, grab a Coke out of the mini fridge and take a seat on the comfy reading chair in the corner of the room. I swear I would never need to leave this room if I didn’t have to. I have my TV, DVD player, fridge, and private bathroom. I could happily live away from the world until I had read every last book in here.

A few weeks ago, my mother went on a road trip with a carload of her girlfriends leaving Courtney and me to fend for ourselves. I knew that my father was in town that weekend so I invited him over for dinner. I was going to cook for us, but my dad had a great surprise for me. He turned one of my walls into one gigantic bookshelf.

I take my phone out of my pocket and check the time, 4:10pm. Mitchell told me that he would pick me up at 5:30pm. I figure that I can read for half an hour, then jump in the shower to get ready for dinner. I walk over to the bookshelf, pick out a book to read, then return to my comfy sofa and begin.

I become so engrossed in the novel that I forget about the time. It isn’t until I need another soda that I notice it’s a quarter past five. ‘Shit,’ I say under my breath. Mitchell will be here in a few minutes, and I haven’t even showered yet, let alone picked something to wear.

Quickly, I hurry into the shower, wash, dry and put my makeup on in record time. I then find a small white Billabong summer dress, a pair of wedges, and all I need to do now is find matching earrings and I’m good to go.

As I place the book I’m in the middle of reading into my handbag, I see Mitchell come through the bungalow door. “Hey, baby,” I say as I walk over to him, throw my arms around his neck and I plant a kiss on him.

I don’t see Mitchell as much as I would like to, so when I do see him, I keep him close. Although at times I do feel as if I’m an afterthought to him.

I turn him around and push him so that he is sitting on the edge of the bed. I climb up, straddle him between my legs and take his face in my hands and kiss him passionately. After coming up for air, I say to him, “Since you wouldn’t let me cancel our plans with Zoe tonight, we’d better get going. You know what she’s like when we’re late.” I straighten up and smile at him.

He looks me in the eyes. “I really should have let you cancel. I could stay here all night with you,” he whispers as he leans in and kisses me again.

“You tell me that every time we make plans,” I laugh.

I let him stand and when he does, he kisses me again. It takes everything I have in me not to push him back down on the bed. We haven’t actually had sex yet, but I know it can’t be too far away now. I’m not sure which one of us is more scared to push it that step further, me or Mitchell.

“Okay, babe. I’ll just text Mum now and tell her that Court is home.” I take my phone off charge and I see that I still have it on silent. I must have forgotten to turn it up after school.

When I look at the screen, I see that there are four missed calls ̶ all from Zoe. I dial her number and when she answers, I can hear that she’s crying. “Zoe, what’s the matter?” I ask, feeling scared all of a sudden. Zoe is not one to cry unless the situation’s bad.

At first, she struggles to get any words out, but eventually she does. “It’s-it’s…” I hear her sob while trying to talk. “It’s Jimmy, some idiot smashed into the side of his car.”

Immediately, I feel the blood drain from my face. “Oh god Zoe, where are you?”

“Monash hospital-Clayton.”

“We’ll meet you there. And Zoe-”

“Yeah?”

“I love you.”

“Thanks, Cassie. I love you, too, and I’ll see you soon,” she sniffs.

I look over to Mitchell and I can see the worry that is written across his features. “What is it, Cass? What happened?” he asks.

I drop down on the edge of my bed, still looking at the screen of my phone. “Jimmy was in a car accident. From the sounds of things, the other car smashed into the driver’s side.” I raise my head and look at him.

His mouth is open with shock, “Shit.”

“Yeah, shit. We have to go. Now!” I tell him.

“Of course, we do. Let’s go.” He opens the door while I get my handbag. Before leaving I walked over to the main house and find Courtney watching television in the living room.

“Have a good night,” she calls out before I have a chance to say anything to her.

I take a seat beside her, taking her hand in mine. “Court, Zoe just called. Jimmy’s been in a car accident. We’re heading over to the hospital now. I’ll call you and let you know how he is. I won’t know anything more until I get there.” I squeeze her hand between my own.

Courtney love’s Jimmy. He’s always been like a brother to her, he’s always been the one to take care of her if anyone ever tried to mess with her.

Her face drains of color, leaving her complexion as white as a ghost. ‘Shit’ is all she says.

I squeeze her hand lightly in mine, again. “Yeah, that’s what Mitch and I said. Can you tell Rose when she gets home?” I move so that I’m eye to eye with her. “Don’t disturb her while she’s at work, okay?” I ask. I know my mother, she’s a raging bitch at times, especially if you disturb her.

She nods her head and I pull her in for a hug. “Okay. But as soon as you know anything, call me and let me know if Jimmy’s okay?” when I pull away from her, I can see that she’s sad and concerned.

Slipping my arms around, I pull her in for another hug. “Of course, I will. Now, we really have to go.”

“Okay.” She smiles, but it doesn’t reach her eyes.

Mitchell gives Court a hug, then we say goodbye and get in the car, where I take his free hand in mine. It goes without saying that when something like this happens, it reminds you that you should take hold of the ones you love most.

Mitch is normally a very safe driver, but right now, speed isn’t a concern for him and we reach the freeway within moments. The hospital isn’t far now.

As he pulls into the parking lot, I can see that it’s going to take forever to get a spot and my stomach is turning out of frustration while we wait. Soon enough, Mitchell suggests that I hop out and go find Zoe while he continues to look around for a place to put the car. Thankfully, I quickly reach over and kiss him, hop out of the car and begin running toward the emergency department.

When I have entered the doors, I begin frantically searching for Zoe.

Within moments, I find her seated in the corner of the room. She looks utterly alone and utterly devastated. I walk up to her with caution being careful not to shock her. Slowly, her gaze meets mine as I approach and my heart brakes when I see the tears in her eyes.

She stands and I take her in my arms, but the moment she starts to sob, I have to jolt to take on her weight. Slowly I lower her down until she is seated again and I drop into the chair next to hers. I keep my arms around her and try my best to comfort her with words because I’m not sure what else there is I can actually do for her. I feel useless. “Zoe, Hun, what have the doctors told you?” I whisper.

“They,” sniff, “won’t tell me anything because I’m not family.”

I feel the anger swell within me, my muscles tense and I want to scream, but before I can, I feel a hand on my forearm, and I turn to see Mitchell by my side. “Can you take over for a minute? I’m going to go and ask about Jimmy,” I beg.

“No problem.” I stand up while Mitchell quickly moves into my seat and takes Zoe in his arms. I take one look at my friend breaking down in my boyfriend’s embrace and my heart hurts for her.

As I walk up to the triage counter, I try my hardest to calm myself before anyone comes to speak to me. I know for a fact that yelling will get me nowhere fast, I need to keep my anger under wraps so I can get my friend the answers she needs. Soon enough, I spot an older female nurse. When she notices me standing at the counter, she walks over to where I’m standing and I manage to swallow my anger, for now. “Excuse me?” I ask politely.

The nurse has a softness to her, like one of a grandmother who is looking at their grandchild for the first time. “Yes, dear, can I help you?”

Before I say a word, I take in a deep, calming breath, “I hope you can.” I try my best to smile. “My cousin was involved a car accident and he was moved to this hospital. I haven’t been able to make contact with my uncle and aunt, and I’m desperately hoping that you can help me,” I beg.

She nods her head and looks over at the computer screen. “What is the name, dear?”

“It’s, Jimmy VanBuren,” I tell her calmly.

She types on the keyboard for a moment, then says, “Ah, yes, he is here, but he’s in surgery at the moment. I can let you in. If his family members are here at the hospital, they will be in the waiting room that is stationed just outside the operating theatre.”

My chest released the air it had been holding onto. “Thank you so much. If it is okay, I’ll just run over and let my boyfriend know that I’m going in?” I ask hopefully.

“Not a problem, dear. Just call out to me when you come back and I will buzz you through.” She smiles a sympathetic smile and I return the gesture, truly grateful for her help.

I walk back over and see that Mitchell is still trying to comfort Zoe. As I approach, they look up at me. “What did they say?” Zoe asks as she wipes her tears away with the backs of her hands.

I smile down at her. “They told me to go through. I’ll just try to find Mark or Annette and get a quick update.”

Her eyes widen with shock. “How the hell did you do that? They wouldn’t let me through at all?”

“I told them that Jimmy was my cousin,” I simply shrug.

“Fuck, I didn’t even think to just lie. It was so simple,” she shakes her head.

“You’re too distraught to work up a good lie. I’ll be right back.” I kiss her on the forehead and tell her that everything will be okay.

When I reach the desk, I wave over to the nurse and wait at the door until I see the light on the lock change from red to green. When it does, I walk through and see a myriad of doctors and nurses running around me in every direction. It must be a busy night in the ER department. Confused as to where I need to go, I decide to stop at the nurse’s station and ask a male attendant to point me in the direction of the theatre waiting room as I need to find my family. Graciously, he stands and tells me to follow him, so I do.

He takes me through to the main corridor, “Just follow the red line marked on the ground until you reach the end and turn left, then walk another couple of meters and the waiting room is directly on your right-hand side,” he explains.

After thanking him, I pick up the pace. I don’t run, but I don’t walk either. As I turn the corner, I immediately see Jimmy’s mother, Annette. She looks gaunt and tired and when her gaze shifts from her coffee cup, she spots me. “Cassie my love, how did you get in?” she asks, sounding exhausted.

It was then that I cringed a little hoping I did the right thing by coming back here. “I kind of told the clerk that I was Jimmy’s cousin. I hope you’re not upset, but Zoe is out in the waiting room and she is going out of her mind with worry. I had to do something.”

Annette looks over to the other side of the room and I see Jimmy’s father, Mark. As he comes over to greet me, Annette stops him. “Oh my goodness, I didn’t even think. I feel so horrible. Mark,” He stops and looks to her. “Zoe is out in the waiting room, can you go and get her? The poor dear must be a mess.” Annette seems as if she’s going to cry.

“Not a problem,” he says as he begins to walk out of the room.

“Mark,” I call and he turns to face me. “Mitchell’s also with her. Could you please tell him that I’ll be out in a few minutes?” I ask.

“Nonsense, Mitchell is family. You all are. I’ll be back in a minute, my pet.” Mark smiles, then walks off down the corridor.

Mark has called me, ‘pet’ my entire life. Annette grew up with my father, they were best friends from a young age, so naturally, Jimmy and I have grown up to be like brother and sister. I have a whole extended family that I love just as much as I do my actual blood relatives.

Zoe and I met in primary school and have been glued to one another since. Jimmy took an instant shine to her. They quickly became friends and their relationship has grown and blossomed from there.

Annette takes a seat so I drop down in the chair beside her, turning my body so that I’m facing her and taking her hands in mine. “Annette, do you know what exactly happened?” I ask carefully.

Her face is full of sadness. “One of the officers that were called out to the scene explained that Jimmy wasn’t in the wrong. According to the witness statements, he was actually slowing down for the red light, but as he was doing that, the lights turned green so he began to speed up again. The driver who hit him had run a red.”

“What an idiot,” I say, shaking my head in disbelief. Why is it so hard for people to obey the damn laws?

Annette looks down at her lap. “Yes, well, that idiot died on impact. I hate to be the one to say it, but I don’t feel sorry for him, but I do however feel for his family. A family has now been torn apart by their son, nephew or brother because he was in such a hurry that he ran a red light. But even if he had survived the accident, he would have never survived my wrath.” She shakes her head, clearly distressed.

I lean down so that I can get a proper look at her. “You have every right in the world to feel that way.” I give her a sad yet sympathetic smile. “What are they saying is wrong with Jimmy? Do you know what condition he was in when he was brought in?” I ask sheepishly. I have no idea if she is ready to talk about it, but I also know that Annette is strong enough to tell me if she isn’t ready to push on.

She opens her mouth to answer when Mark walks in the room with Zoe in his arms and Mitchell in tow. Zoe is gripping onto Mark’s free hand while his other is around her waist keeping her upright.

Mitchell immediately comes over to give Annette a kiss on the cheek. “Oh Mitchell, thank you for coming and comforting Zoe. It was very sweet of you,” she attempts a smile. She then turns to Zoe and I can see the regret in her eyes. “Zoe, my girl, I am so sorry that you were out there on your own before Mitchell and Cassie arrived. I wasn’t thinking. I should have checked in, called you, or done something. Please forgive me?” Annette pleads.

Zoe sits down on the other side of Annette. “Don’t be silly, you have a lot on your mind,” she tells her through her tears.

Annette takes her in her arms and pats her head. “So do you my dear girl. Jimmy is your partner. You are probably just as worried as Mark and I are.” They continue to cling to one another.

Zoe pulls her head back and wipes away her tears. “It’s okay. Do you know what condition he was in before he went in for the surgery?” Zoe asks.

Annette looks up at me for a moment, then turns her attention back to Zoe. “I was just about to fill Cassie in when you walked through the door. From what they could tell, his right arm and leg were broken in several places. But they won’t know if there is any internal damage until they are in surgery.”

Zoe takes in a deep breath and while she does that, I say to Annette, “I hope that there isn’t any internal damage.” I look over to Mitch who is standing very quietly on the other side of the room close Mark. “How about we go and get some coffee for everyone?” I suggest.

Mitchell nods his head in recognition. “No problem. I’ll be back soon.”

I hop up. “I’ll come with you,” I tell him. I look over at Annette. “We’ll be right back.”

“Thank you,” she says in a whisper.

As we walk toward the café, I’m awkwardly holding on to Mitchell. I have my arms wrapped tightly around his waist, my head under his chin, holding on to him for dear life.

Just watching Zoe and how distressed she was made me think, ‘what if it were Mitchell lying there?’ I know that I would be beside myself with worry. I don’t think I’d be able to hold my composure as well as she has. I truly admire her strength.

Mitchell must be thinking along the same line because he is holding onto me too.

As we arrive at the café, I stand in place staring at the board. “Should we get them some banana bread to pick at?” Mitchell asks and I give him a stern look. “Just kidding. How many doughnuts should I order?” he laughs.

“That’s better. I think six will be enough.”

“So, that’s your six and I’ll order another four for the rest of us?” he smiles down at me.

I can’t help but laugh. “You’re freaking hilarious,” I say sarcastically.

Even though I’m only a size eight and five foot four, I can easily put away four doughnuts. But because I don’t want to look like a pig in the waiting room, I only order one for myself.

While waiting for our order, I take a seat on Mitchell’s lap and hold him close to me. So close. It was as if I was scared that he could be pulled away from me at a moment’s notice.

As soon as our order is called, we carry the coffees and doughnuts back to the waiting room, where there is a man in scrubs speaking with Mark and Annette.

I come to a halt once I’m in earshot. “He has a pneumothorax or in laymen’s terms, a punctured lung,” the surgeon explains.

Mark speaks up. “What should we expect?”

The doctor shifts his feet under him, then looks up at Mark. “I’m not going to lie to you. He is on the critical list and I can’t promise that he will pull through this,” he says as he lowers his head.

As the surgeon says those last words, I see Annette and Zoe cling to one another, crying. As I stand with my mouth agape, I feel Mitchell’s arms slide over my waist and he pulls me into him.

Suddenly, I look toward Mark and his facial expression scares the shit out of me. It’s like he isn’t with us; it’s as if he is an empty shell. I see him begin to waver on his feet and he grabs at his chest. I drop the bag of doughnuts in my hand and I race toward him. Mitchell notices it also and he reaches Mark before I can. He manages to catch him in his arms before slowly lowering him to the ground. His eyes are still open, but they are open and empty. I scream his name, but the Mark I know, the Mark I grew up with, isn’t there.

The surgeon falls to his knees beside me, he then put his ear to Mark’s mouth. “He’s still breathing, but it is shallow.” The doctor then screams out to the porters, “Get a gurney in here, now!”

Two porters hurry into the waiting area. When they see what’s happening, one of the men ushers us out of the waiting room wanting to give the doctor room to do what must be done.

I watch as doctors and nurses run in and out of the room and a minute later, I watch as they whisk Mark off to another section of the hospital. A nurse then comes over to us letting our group know that we can go back into the surgical waiting room, but before she has a chance to leave, I pounce on her. “Excuse me?”

She stops in her tracks. “Yes, can I help you?”

“Sorry to bother you, but I just want to ask if someone will know to come here and give us an update on Mark?” I ask.

She smiles and nods. “I will be sure to tell them that you are all down here already waiting on another patient’s progress. You’re having a rotten day.” She places her hand on my shoulder.

“Rotten is just the tip of the iceberg. Thank you for your help.”

“It’s no trouble. If you need anything just come and find me. My shift’s just begun so I will be hovering around here for another twelve hours.” She lets go of my shoulder but keeps the smile.

“Thank you. I’d better get back in there.” I point in Annette’s direction.

There’s an eerie silence that hangs in the room as we are all still in a state of shock. Today’s events will exhaust us for days to come, maybe even months. It becomes unclear who we should be worrying about more at this point in time, Jimmy or Mark?

An hour later a doctor comes in and informs us that Mark is now stable. He also tells us what we already guessed, that the cause of his collapse was, in fact, a heart attack induced by stress. Annette leaves the room to be by Mark’s side, but she asks us to come and get her when there is news about Jimmy.

Just as I’m about to make my third trip to the café, Jimmy’s surgeon walks in and I come to a halt. “Doctor, how’s Jimmy?” I ask in a rush.

He looks down at his clipboard and then back up at me. “He’s still critical but stable. You may see him, but please don’t stay too long as he needs to rest.” He smiles, but it is a smile that tells me that he himself isn’t sure what will happen next and not to get my hopes up.

I try to return the gesture, but I fail miserably. I can’t even fake a smile at the moment. There is just too much going on and too many lives that are hanging in the balance. “Thank you, Doctor. I’ll go find his mother and let her that she can see him,” I say.

Zoe and Mitchell wait behind while I go to tell Annette the latest on Jimmy’s condition and that she is able to visit him for a short period of time.

When I enter the room, the first thing I see is Mark’s very pale body lying on the bed. I gently place my hand on Annette’s shoulder and she looks up at me. “Cassie, love. Is everything okay?” She wipes the tears away from her eyes.

I smile down at her. “Yes, the surgeon came in and told us that we’re allowed to see Jimmy. He is up in ICU. If you don’t want Mark to be alone, I can go and ask Mitchell to sit with him while I take you up to see Jimmy.” I offer.

She nods her head in agreement. “Yes, please. I don’t want Mark to wake up and see that no one’s here.” She looks back over towards him.

“Okay, I’ll be back in a minute.” I give her a quick hug, then go and ask Mitchell to sit with Mark for a while. As soon as the swap is made, I take Annette’s hand in mine while Zoe threads her arm through my free one. She holds on tight as the elevator takes us to the third floor, then up to the ICU unit. When we reach the unit’s doors, Annette pushes a button on the intercom that is outside of the ward and tells the nurse on the other end that we are here to see Jimmy. As we are buzzed through I hang back, I don’t want to crowd the mother and son.

The moment I see him, I want to go and ask the nurses if they’ve sent us to the right room. The man lying in front of me looks nothing like the Jimmy I grew up with. I honestly don’t recognise him at all. After looking him over, I can see that his right arm and leg are in casts and that he has tubes coming out of his chest draining excess blood away. I look at his once beautiful face, and I just want to cry. It’s swollen and covered with cuts and bruises. He has a long line of sutures running from his right temple down to the side of his chin.

The nurse looking after him explains to us that he has been placed into an induced coma to help him heal. If he was awake at this point in time, he would be in excruciating pain he would no doubt black out from, so it is better that he sleeps. I watch on as Annette and Zoe sit and cry over him, and it takes all of my willpower not to do the same. They need someone to be strong, and I guess that that person is me. After ten minutes the nurse politely asks us to leave as Jimmy’s brain activity is spiking. She explains that he is able to hear us and that he is reacting to our voices and that it can put his body under some stress.

Reluctantly, we say our goodbyes, and on the way out, I walk between them, holding Zoe’s hand in one of mine and Annette’s in the other. When we reach Mark and Mitchell, I feel emotionally exhausted. Annette orders the rest of us to go home and get some rest, but we all know that Zoe isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Mitchell and I only leave the hospital because they promise to call us if there is any change in either of their conditions. When they agree, Mitchell and I reluctantly leave.

As I hop in the car, I turn my phone on and I see that are many missed calls and messages from Courtney and my mother. I call Mum first because if I don’t, there will be hell to pay.

“How’s Jimmy?” she asks. No, hello, nor, are you okay, that my friends, is my mother Rose. When she talks to me in this manner, it always surprises me how the hell my father stayed married to her for so damn long. The bitch must be amazing in bed, it’s the only explanation I can come up with.

“He has a punctured lung and his left arm and leg are broken. I just went to see him up in ICU and I didn’t recognise him whatsoever,” I tell her.

“Shit. What about Mark and Annette?”

“Not good. When the surgeon came in to tell us what was wrong with Jimmy, Mark clutched his chest and collapsed. He had a heart attack and is now asleep on a hospital bed. He has also been admitted.”

“Shit.”

“Yep.”

“I’m going out now. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye.”

She hangs up.

I look over at Mitchell. He knows what she’s like, we don’t even discuss her selfishness anymore. He must know I’m looking at him because he takes my hand in his free one. “So, after all of the shit today, is there anywhere particular you would like to eat?” he asks me.

“I’m not really hungry, but I could do with a really strong coffee,” I tell him.

“Okay, how does Café Revo sound?”

“It sounds perfect.”

After arriving at the café, Mitchell asks me to find a table while he orders for us. Within a few minutes, he’s back with my vanilla latte, his latte, and a toasted sandwich. “You really should eat something,” he tells me.

“I’m not hungry, babe. I really thought tonight was never going to end,” I tell him feeling utterly overcome with exhaustion.

“I know what you mean, Hun. I thought we were going to have to camp out at the hospital for the night,” he says taking another bite of his sandwich.

“I really feel for Annette. The stress she must be enduring right now would be overwhelming. Thank you for being with me. If it wasn’t for you, I know I would have cracked under the pressure,” I smile at him. Sure, we have our problems, but it means so much to me having him with me tonight, maybe we have turned a corner. God, I hope so.

Mitch reaches over and takes my hand. “I’m always here for you, Hun. You did an amazing job with everyone tonight. You should be proud of yourself.”

I’m taken aback a little and thank him. After finishing our coffees, Mitchell asks, “Would you like to go for a walk, not far, but I think I just need a little air?”

“That sounds nice.” I take his hand and we walk along the shop fronts and he comes to a stop out the front of a florist.

I look up at him, “I hope you’re not thinking about going in there. You know how I feel about flowers.” I crinkle my brow.

At the beginning of our relationship, he would buy me flowers all of the time. It took me months to get up the courage to tell him what a waste of money I think flowers are. But since then, he buys me practical things like CDs and DVDs, things I do very much appreciate. Sure, he doesn’t do it much these days, but once upon a time, he did. A lot.

He shakes his head. “I know how you feel about flowers, Cassie. I wasn’t going to get them for you.” He smiles, “I was going to have them sent to the hospital.”

Relieved, I say, “That is a really nice idea.” I follow him into the store and help him pick out a bunch to send to Annette via Jimmy’s bed number.

When the bill has been paid, we continue walking down the street hand-in-hand. I love these moments we share, but I want to- no scratch that, I need to know how he truly feels about me. Only an hour ago I watched on as Zoe cried over the man that has her heart. She knows exactly where she stands in her relationship with Jimmy. I want that, and if I can’t, I need to know that. I think I deserve at least that, don’t I?

While we walk down the concrete sidewalk, I open my big mouth and blurt my words, “So, I know what I’m about to ask is random, but where do you think our relationship is going?” I ask. I can feel the butterflies fluttering around in my stomach, I don’t want to be in this position, I don’t deserve to be in this position. I’m not a horrible person, or was I one in a previous life?

“What do you mean?”

“Let’s face it, I love you and I think you love me,” As I say the words, Mitchell pulls us to a halt and looks over at me.

“What do you mean? You don’t think I love you?” he asks, confusion spread across his features.

I take a deep breath in, “I only see you when you remember that I exist. Until tonight, I hadn’t seen you in two weeks, Mitch. I just feel like I’m only here when you have nothing better to do.” I feel a tear escape my left eye and I quickly reach up to wipe it away. I don’t like to show emotion, especially when I’m out in public.

He ducks his head so he can look me in the eye. “Is that how you truly feel?”

I nod my head “Yes, yes it is how I feel. A text a day isn’t what I would call a relationship, would you?”

“I guess not.” He hangs his head. “I had no idea that you felt this way.”

“Really?” I’m a little shocked by his comment. I thought I’d made it quite obvious that I’m not happy. I do love him and to me, that is the hardest part of the nights I’m alone. Most nights I kick myself for waiting around for him. I’m always telling myself that I deserve more, but I guess deep down, I know that I’m not important to anyone.

“Really? I’m so sorry you feel like you’re an afterthought. I’m such an asshole. I promise that I will try harder from this moment on.” He wraps his arms around me and kisses my forehead.

“I hope so because I love you too much to have to let you go.” I do.

He holds me at arm’s length. “Would you really leave me?” he asks, shock again splashes across his features.

“If there isn’t a change soon, then, of course, I’ll have to walk away. I’m not an afterthought. I don’t deserve to be an afterthought.” I simply shrug.

He pulls me back into him, “No, you don’t deserve that at all.”

While in his embrace I hear my phone ring. I take it out of my handbag, look at the screen and see that it is Zoe. “Hello.”

“Hey, Cassie.”

“Hi, Hun. What’s going on? Is everyone okay?” I ask.

“Yes, I just wanted to let you know that the doctors just came in to check on Jimmy. They told me that with a lot of rest and rehabilitation, Jimmy will be himself again. They don’t seem to think that there will be any permanent damage.”

“That is wonderful news, Zoe. I am so happy for you.” I let out the breath I’d been holding. “How’s Mark?”

“He’s still the same. He hasn’t woken yet, Cassie. Annette and I keep swapping so that someone is always there with each of them just in case they wake up.”

“I hope that he wakes soon. If you need anything at all, even if it’s just someone to sit with you, don’t hesitate to call.”

“Thanks, Cassie, I will. I’d better go they don’t allow phones in the ICU so I have to get back in there.”

“Okay. Just call me if you need anything. I don’t care if it’s four in the morning, you call me. Okay?” I press because I know that she won’t want to put me out, but she will need to count on someone.

“Okay, I will. Bye, Cassie.”

“Bye, Hun.” I hang up the phone.

“That sounded promising?” Mitchell asks as I slip my phone back into my handbag.

“Yeah, the doctor’s just told her that they think Jimmy will be okay with time,” I smile.

“And what about Mark?”

“He hasn’t woken yet, but hopefully, he will soon.” I shrug. I want to come across as positive, but I have a horrid feeling about Mark. One that makes me feel uneasy.

“I hope so, too. Shall we head back to your house? It’s getting late.”

I glance at my watch. “Shit, I knew it was late, but I didn’t think it was that late. Yeah, let’s head back.” I agree.

***

As I take my keys out of my handbag to unlock the front door, I feel Mitchell’s hands on my hips, his lips brush against my neck and I lean into his touch, needing it more than I realized. While still facing away from him, his hands move over my stomach, but before he can go any further I see headlights pull into the driveway.

“Mum’s home,” I groan.

I stand up straight and slide the key in the lock. As I open the front door, Mum walks up behind us. “Why are you home so late?” she asks as we walk into the living room. I drop into the sofa, and Mitchell takes the seat beside me.

“Umm, we’ve been at the hospital, remember?” Let me tell you now, I don’t have much of a relationship with Rose. The woman cares for no one but herself and she can be cruel at times.

The tubby, short brunette drops down into her chair. “Oh, yeah. The hospital thing. I guess you’d better tell me what’s going on.” She is so fucking blunt. I’ve always wondered how she managed to keep living without a heart to pump her blood.

I decide to give it to her bluntly, with no emotion. The woman is a waste of space. “The doctors see improvement in Jimmy but as far as Mark goes, he hasn’t res-” Courtney then barrels into the room and she comes to a halt in front of us.

“What’s wrong with Mark? Nobody told me there was a problem with Mark! What happened? Why are you worried about him?” her words are rushed; her face petrified.

Mark has always been a somewhat second father to us, and he stepped up even more so when our parents divorced. If something happens to him, Courtney will be devastated. Just looking at her makes me want to let my emotions go, I want to let the tears fall down my cheeks, but I can’t. I need to be strong for her, so I close my eyes for a moment, and take in a deep calming breath. “When the doctor was explaining Jimmy’s injuries to us, Mark had a heart attack. He’s still unconscious, but Zoe and Annette promised to call when he wakes up.” I could already see the tears in her eyes. “I’m sure he’ll be okay Court he’s a tough man, one of the toughest I know.” I reach for her hands and use them to pull her into my embrace.

“I know you’re right, but he is such a kind man. Why does this always happen to the ones who don’t deserve it?” she sobs into my chest.

I shake my head in sympathy, “I don’t know, Court. Hopefully, everything will be okay. But only time will tell.”

***

We sit with one another and talk for a while longer until my eyelids begin to feel heavy. “Okay, I’m going to call it a night.”

I say Goodnight to Court, bypass my mother and kiss Mitch goodbye.

I walk outside and into my bungalow change into my PJ’s, but when I hop into bed, I begin to think about the conversation I had earlier with Mitch, the one concerning the nature of our relationship. But it doesn’t take too long to realize that I shouldn’t be thinking about this right now. Nothing good ever comes from when your brain overthinks things in the dark and the quiet of night

Television, television is my greatest distraction at times like these. I grab the remote off of the bedside table and I flick on the TV and DVD player and pop an episode of Weeds on. It isn’t long before I drift off to sleep.

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