Beth had become depressed again, even more so this time. Robert had left again. The last two days of the week blurred together, all just becoming one mix of something Beth didn’t really remember. She knew that everyone in her life was becoming worried. She’d stopped eating and wasn’t sleeping at night.
When Saturday had come, Beth wanted to do things to distract herself, but just didn’t have the energy or drive to even get off the sofa. Jack was spending the night at his friend’s house, but Beth hadn’t even answered any of Alex or Catalin’s many phone calls and texts. She didn’t want to talk to anyone. She just wanted to be left alone.
“Beth, get your backside off that sofa right now,” her dad commanded as he entered the house from work. “You were there when I left and I can’t imagine you’ve moved at all.”
She sat up but didn’t stand.
“Beth, go and tidy up the garden. Prune all the bushes and trees, deadhead the flowers, rake the leaves, and take as long as you want but get it done,” he said, without asking if she wanted to do it. He went upstairs to get changed.
Beth got up reluctantly and headed out to the garden, putting on a thin coat. She got to work after pulling on a pair of gloves. After a while, the sun began to droop in the sky. It was starting to get late, maybe five o’clock.
“Beth, your father and I are going out!” her mother called from the back door. Beth mumbled something in reply. “We won’t be back until tomorrow morning.”
Beth didn’t know where her parents were going, nor did she care overly much. She heard the car start around the front and drive away. As silence began to settle, she heard a rustle in the trees.
“Beth?” said a voice. Beth paid no attention to it. She’d been hearing that voice in her head so much over the past two weeks, why would it be real now? “Beth?” asked the voice again.
Beth turned to the source. Robert was sat on one of the branches of the apple tree. She carried on with what she was doing. She’d been seeing Robert everywhere, especially since Wednesday.
“Giving me the silent treatment?” he asked.
“You’re not really here. You’re always here, but you never are,” she said quietly.
Then there were arms circling her waist. They felt so real. She pulled out of those arms and turned around, looking at the not-Robert. She leant against the rake. The hurt look on the not-Robert’s face seemed genuine.
“I’m really here, gattino, honestly,” he said gently.
Beth reached out to touch him uncertainly. But when her fingers felt the leather of his jacket, she knew he was real. She launched herself at him, throwing her arms around his neck.
“Ti sono mancata, dolcezza?” he whispered in her ear, sending a familiar shiver through her.
“You do know I don’t speak Italian, right?” she whispered, trying to retain her hysterics.
“Did you miss me, sweetness?” he translated.
“Yes,” she breathed. “Yes, I missed you.”
She wanted to stay in his arms forever. She felt safest in the danger that radiated from him. But she stepped back. And slapped him as hard as she could.
“Well, I guess I deserved that,” he mumbled. Her hand hadn’t made any mark on his skin and Beth wondered if it had even hurt him.