Chapter Seven - Compensation
Marc’s threats lingered in my mind; constantly cutting into my thoughts and feelings over everything I did or said. I couldn’t even be myself around Ben when Marc was within hearing distance. I’d tried to keep my distance from him but he always seemed to creep up on us, spying from a safe distance.
In the week that Ben had been at the McFarlow’s house we’d not had that much time alone during the day without Mum, Theresa and Jerry being present at some point so when the day came that they all went into the nearest town together it gave us the chance to be alone.
Ben and I were curled up together on the couch in the McFarlow’s living room watching a movie on television with James playing with his toys on the rug in front of us when Marc entered the room with an over exaggerated smile plastered across his face. Unfortunately he’d not gone with Mum or his parents so Ben and I couldn’t becompletelyalone.
Ben gave a brief smile back before returning to the television whereas I glared back at Marc, following his every movement as he made his way to the right side of the couch and took a seat in the free space by my feet. I pulled them up closer to my body and edged closer to Ben, wrapping my arms tighter around his torso. He smiled and kissed the top of my head, holding me closer in return. Marc smirked inwardly to himself beside me and shook his head. He must have found my reaction rather amusing and I dare say he had more plans up his sleeve. He lifted his legs and crossed them at his ankles as the placed them on the foot rest in front of him. He then raised his arms and placed his hands on the scruff of his neck. We remained in silence, the only noise coming from the television and James playing.
I couldn’t concentrate on the movie anymore, not taking in the storyline or bothering to remember the names of new characters that appeared on the screen. Each time Marc moved, whether it was to readjust his position or if he’d laughed at a certain part of the movie, I froze momentarily and watched out for anything he might do or say. He was doing this on purpose. He knew that it was causing a reaction and put me on edge so he continued to proceed as he had.
When the movie ended, Ben sat up to retrieve the remote control – that had fallen on the floor – meaning that I had to move and sit up properly… and move closer to Marc. I threw my legs off the couch and sat up with my back towards Marc as Ben scrambled for the remote on the floor. Once he’d got it, he leant back against the couch, with one arm on the back of the sofa and the other holding the remote pointed at the television. I rested my head on his shoulder and moulded my body against his. My hands lay on my lap and my legs edged closer to his. I noticed Marc smiling to himself beside me, eyes remaining on the television screen and his position unmoving. He then took a deep breath and grimaced.
“Your kid stinks.” He announced. I turned my head to face him, appalled.
“I’m sorry?” I asked him, reluctantly.
“Your kid stinks,” he repeated, he nodded in James’ direction in front of us, “he needs changing.” I sighed and glared at Marc as I began to get up.
“No, Case, I’ll go,” Ben said, placing his hand on my shoulder and sitting me back down. I watched on as he began to stand up and go towards James.
“No, you stay and watch television. I haven’t really been paying attention to it anyway.” I told him. He really didn’t have to do it. I knew that it wasn’t his favourite thing to do – but, then again, who did? – so I didn’t want him to have to suffer.
“Let him do it, Casey,” Marc added beside me, I turned sharp to face him. He smirked unnecessarily and looked me in the eye, “he’s big enough and old enough to change a dirty nappy. After all, it is his son and he’s not seen him in so long. But then again, it would give Ben and I a chance to get to know each other better if you went, right?” the way he spoke to me was in such a patronizing manner that I could have swung for him yet, at the same time, the imposing threat wound around each word uttered from his mouth and scared me. If he was left in the room alone with Ben, clearly away from my ear shot, who knew that he might tell Ben. When I came back everything might be ruined. I panicked and turned back to Ben, forcing a smile.
“Okay,” I told him, “you can do this one.” Ben smiled back, picking James up from the floor and swinging him in his arms. James’ laughter filled the room and the expression pulled on Ben’s face shortly afterwards was a confirmation of the little surprise James had left for his Daddy to sort out. I laughed to myself. I felt sorry for him.
“Come on smelly bum,” he told James, tolerating the stench that protruded from his nether region, “let’s get you changed and cleaned up.” He smiled and left the room with James, blowing a kiss in my direction. I smiled back and waited. I leant against the back of the couch, suddenly realising that Marc was still in the room sat beside me. I folded my arms tight in front of me and kept myself to myself.
Marc heaved out a sigh, stretching his arms behind his head and then resting his left arm on the back of the couch behind me, his right on the arm rest beside him. I kept very still. His arm edged off the back of the couch and he slowly draped it across my shoulders, pulling me in closer towards him. I shrugged it off and moved to the far side of the couch, where Ben had previously been sat. I glanced over in Marc’s direction and caught him sniggering to himself. He was loosely gripping the back of the couch and the arm rest and was facing me completely, slowly moving towards me.
“Leave me alone, Marc,” I told him, turning quickly to face him, my back against the arm rest, attempting to push him away with my arms outstretched “Ben will be back any minute.”
“I know,” he said, smirking, “that’s what makes it more fun.” I felt his cool breath against my lips as he moved in closer towards me. I closed my eyes.
“Please,” I whispered. I reopened my eyes to find his directly in front of mine. It startled me, “don’t.”
“But I want to. I want to so bad,” he replied, raising his right hand and slowly tracing my jaw line with his index finger. His touch was warm against my skin and I took a long intake of breath. My body was paralysed. As much as I wanted to escape, I couldn’t. He was clever and he knew which buttons he needed to press, using this to his advantage. Although I was in love with Ben, there was something about Marc that denied me of all will to remove myself from this close proximity he had to me. It was as if he had me under a spell or, more like how he’d first described it when Ben first arrived, he had me wrapped around his little finger. I felt my eyes begin to well up.
“Please, Marc,” I breathed, “I love Ben.”
“You do? Oh, I didn’t know that.” He told me, sarcasm wrapped around each word, followed by a small hollowed laugh. He took hold of my left hand, and raised it up to his lips, pressing them delicately against each one of my fingertips. Before I knew it, his left hand was resting on the small of my back and was pulling me closer towards him. Our faces were directing facing each other, a breath apart from one another. My lips trembled as the sweet smell of his breath filled my nostrils.
“How much do you want me to kiss you right now, Casey?” he murmured, releasing my hand and running it through my hair.
“I don’t.” I told him, shaking my head slowly.
“You don’t?” he asked.
“No,” I answered firmly, “I don’t.”
“That’s a shame,” he murmured, stroking his free hand up the length of my back to the nape of my neck. A shiver ran through my spine and my breathing became heavy as his finger tips glided across my skin, “because I was rather hoping you’d say you did.” he leant into me quickly and pressed his lips to mine fiercely. I refused to kiss back and pushed him away, looking him directly in the eye.
“I said no, Marc.” I told him bluntly. He sighed heavily, annoyed with my decision.
“Fine.” He stated, pushing me back into the couch and beginning to stand up.
“Where are you going?” I asked, panicking slightly.
“To find your lover boy,” he replied, turning back to face me, “perhaps it’s time he found out about you and I, eh? I’m sure he’d really appreciate it.”
“No!” I begged, taking hold of his wrists and pulling him back to the couch beside me. He glared at me as I pleaded, “Please don’t. You’ll ruin everything.”
“Well maybe that’s what I want to happen.” He answered back, lifting himself up again. I pulled at him again, cupping my hands against the back of his neck, my thumbs grazing the edge of his jaw line, and pressing my lips against his hard. He was the one to pull away this time, removing my hands from behind his neck and holding them tight to his chest.
“Please, Marc,” I whispered, “I’m begging you. Please don’t tell Ben. He’s been cheated on in the past before and I can’t put him through it all again. He’ll never forgive me and I love him far too much to be able to lose him.” Marc’s jaw tensed slightly, before loosening into a sigh.
“What was that just for, then?” he asked coyly. I shrugged weakly.
“I had to.” I replied, “That was the plan, right? I keep you happy, you keep quiet, and Ben will never know.”
“So that was, what? Compensation?” he asked. His breathing was still heavy but was gradually becoming more relaxed and much calmer.
“I guess you can call it that.” I murmured, looking him directly in the eye. His gaze softened but his expression remained still and in control. He placed his right hand under my chin and lifted it up towards him. I obeyed and let myself get closer to him. When we were, once again, face to face, he tenderly kissed my forehead, cupping my left cheek in his hand. The tip of his nose glided slowly down the bridge of mine and paused as his lips were millimetres apart from my own.
“Kiss me.” He whispered. He leant in and pressed his lips against mine. I remained where I was and didn’t retreat from his kiss. His lips parted from mine, “Properly.” He urged. With a reluctant breath, I closed my eyes and reattached our lips, kissing him urgently. He responded well, pulling me closer towards him and running his free hand from the small of my back and up my spine. Our breathing was haggard and I found myself getting too carried away. As much as I wanted to pull away I couldn’t; mostly for the reason that I was obligated to and also for the small reason that I found myself notwantingto. My heart was hurting and telling me that this was completely wrong but it was alsoyellingat me to continue what I was doing. Marc removed his lips from mine and ran a trail of delicate, yet eager, kisses from my cheek to my jaw line, continuing down my neck to my collar bone. I arched my back as each kiss tingled against my skin.
“Oh, Ben–” I murmured. Marc froze and I suddenly registered what I’d just said, opening my eyes wide in shock. I saw Marc’s frustrated expression as he slowly moved away from me, removing his arms and pushing me back to the couch, “I’m sorry.” I whispered. He didn’t respond. He sat back to his previous seat and placed his arm on the arm rest with his chin resting on his clenched fist and his other hand gripping his knee. I curled up on the sofa, hugging my legs and looked in the direction of the television; that had been talking to itself the whole time. The living room door opened abruptly, making me jump. When Ben’s sweet, smiling face appeared from behind it my heart sank. I felt really bad for what had just happened but was relieved that he hadn’t walked in on us; it had all fallen into place quite perfectly, actually.
“I put James down for a nap, he was looking tired.” He said, making his way back to the couch and sitting in the middle beside me. He pulled me into his arms and kissed my forehead. I wrapped my arms around him and nestled into his chest. Marc heaved himself off the couch at that point and dashed out of the room in a hurry, slamming the door behind him. I watched on knowing that this was hard for him. He really liked me, after all, and he knew that he couldn’t have me completely to himself without Ben always being a part of it. A second slam from the front door soon echoed the first.
“What’s the matter with him?” Ben asked, startled.
“He was saying earlier that he wasn’t feeling too well. Maybe he’s gone to walk it off.” I lied. The rev of an engine came from outside and the screech of tires soon followed. Marc had made a bolt and left the premises, “or he’s going todriveit off?” I questioned myself. I sighed, shrugging, and I held onto Ben tighter and made myself comfy on his chest, as it bobbed up and down gently as he breathed. I smiled as he began to play with my hair.
“Well, I hope he feels better soon.” He simply said. He took a loose hold of my chin and lifted it up so that I was facing him. I smiled up at him as he leant down to kiss me. I kissed him back but it felt all wrong. It shouldn’t have, but it had. I felt guilty for what Marc and I had just done, literally behind his back, and wished that it had never happened, “now that Marc is gone – and your Mum and the McFarlow’s won’t be back for a while – how about we spend somequalityalone time together?” I smiled and kissed him again.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I sighed, light heartedly, sitting up and stretching my arms above my head, causing my hair to cascade down my back, “I don’t know if I’m in the mood to–” I was cut off midsentence as Ben scooped me up into his arms and planted a kiss onto my lips. I cupped my hands around his cheeks and smiled as he carried me across the room and to the hallway. As he bound up the stairs, eager giggles and laughter escaping both of our lips, I couldn’t help feeling extremely guilty and dirty following what had happened previously, but I loved Ben and at least it was him and not Marc this time
Chapter 8 - Babbling Brook
After the incident between Marc and I in the living room, I’d tried to stay well away from him as much as I could. Marc had made it a lot easier though and was staying away too; when I was with Ben that was. He was still holding a grudge after I’d accidentally called him Ben but was still keen. Although he stayed away when I was with Ben, he still stole kisses from me on the occasional times when he was alone in a corridor with me or if I was alone in the garden and he’d followed me out; he was very good at finding moments – if notmakingthem – where he could get what he wanted from me without anybody seeing; especially Ben, though he would Marc would like that so that he would have a better chance of having me all for himself. I had no choice but to receive and respond to each occasion, else he would tell Ben everything.
Despite that, the last week had gone quick and Ben, James and I had been almost inseparable. Ben had shown he’d missed us both by rarely leaving our sights and always telling us that he loved us with all his heart. We’d also had plenty of time, just the two of us, to show how much we’d missed and loved each other, much to Marc’s displeasure.
The weather had remained as beautiful and glorious as it had been since Mum and I had arrived in June – a miraculous Scottish summer – and we were all taking advantage of the Sun whilst it was within our reach. Teresa had insisted we explore what Mother Nature had to offer us and make use of the weather by taking a walk through the fields surrounding the cottage: Teresa, Jerry, Mum, Ben, James, I… and Marc.
Although it must have been just under half a mile, the walk seemed to drag with Marc so close to me. I could feel his eyes staring into the back of my head as he walked a couple feet behind Ben and me. I knew what he wanted and it made me feel uncomfortable, and Ben noticed:
“What’s worrying you, Casey?” he asked, concerned. He moved his hand into my free hand – with James on my right hip, with my arm wrapped securely around him – and squeezed it tight. I snapped my gaze to him and smiled back warily.
“Nothing,” I lied, “nothing’s wrong. My feet are hurting, that’s all.” I still couldn’t find the courage to tell Ben about Marc… about Marc and me… about what Marc and I nearly did… and had been doing behind his back since he’d arrived…
“Your feet hurt?” a voice from behind us spoke, making me jump. The sheer sound of his voice sent shivers down my spine, “surely you’d be used to all the walking with all the shopping you girls do, eh Ben?”
“Too true, Marc… too true.” Ben called back, turning to face him and laughing along. I hadn’t looked directly at Marc since the start of the walk and when I turned my head towards him my heart skipped a beat. His smile was dazzling, so true and genuine, as if he’d transformed into a completely new person. Why did he keep doing this? I was starting to get rather concerned.
“Cheer up, Casey,” he teased, catching up with Ben and me, “you look as if you’ve seen a ghost.” He moved to Ben’s left hand side, the first time since his arrival they’d ever been so close together, and began to chat as if they’d known each other since childhood. It baffled me beyond belief. Why was he doing this to me? Was he testing me? Did hewantto tell Ben about the two of us? Did hewantto destroy mine and Ben’s relationship? Of course he did, that was his plan. He wanted me to be miserable! But why!? Was he jealous?
“We’re here now!” echoed Teresa’s trill of a voice across the field, “mind the brook, Casey!” I was too late to react to her warning. Before I could stop myself, my foot submerged into a foot of water sending shivers up my leg. I squealed at the sudden shock temperature change and leapt backwards, clutching James tightly in both of my arms. He squealed with delight and clapped his hands in front of my face.
“Whoa, are you okay, Case? You’re face has gone clear white.” Ben asked, placing his hand on my shoulder. I shuddered at his touch, so warm and gentle, but took a deep breath in once I’d composed myself.
“Like I said, it’s as if she’s seen a ghost.” Marc commented, popping into view beside Ben, smiling jokily as if he was your typical class joker.
“It was just the shock of the water… it was socold.” I answered, loosening myself up and my grip around James, “I think I should take my shoes off, they’re soaking through; the left one anyway.”
“Well it was your own fault,” Teresa moaned coming up behind us, “I told you to mind where you were walking but you didn’t listen to me, did you?” she brushed between Ben and I and stepped across the brook, hitching up her calf length tweed skirt as she did so. I rolled my eyes at her tone towards me, there was no need for it at all; I’d done nothing to provoke it in the first place. I’d just have to grin and bear it.
We’d been sat in a circle on a red and white checked picnic blanket eating ham and cheese sandwiches, chocolate biscuits, ready salted crisps and orange squash for the past couple hours. Teresa, Jerry and Mum were busy talking between themselves, Ben had James on his lap, playing and laughing with his son, leaving Marc and I sat opposite each other keeping ourselves to ourselves. I tried not to look at him and mostly pretended to be occupied by my phone, flipping through settings and changing them to my liking; just to have them changed back again moments later.
Just as I was changing my ringtone, my phone suddenly began to vibrate in my hands. What had I done? I’d not done anything wrong. I couldn’t have broken it! I looked closely at the writing across the screen:1 new text message. I sighed with relief; I hadn’t broken my phone. I hit the ‘open’ button and took into account the number that had sent the message: It wasn’t a recognized number in my phonebook. I frowned to myself through confusion. I peered up in front of me and looked at Marc. His head was down, looking at his own phone in his hands. Surely not… I reverted back down to my phone and read the text message:
YOU LOOK LOVELY WHEN YOU’RE TRYING TO MAKE YOURSELF LOOK BUSY. ANYONE WOULD ASSUME YOU WERE TRYING TO AVOID ME. AM I RIGHT?
It was obvious it had been Marc who had sent the message. I didn’t know anyone else that would have the motive to talk to me like that. I pondered whether or not I should reply or not and, if I did, how I should reply. I brushed off all of my concerns and began to tap away at my phone keys:
HOW DID YOU GET MY NUMBER, MARC?
Short, simple and straight to the point. I hit ‘send’ and waited for his response. Would he answer truthfully or twist it around? You never knew with Marc, he could manipulate the simplest questions to something completely different.
I peered up towards him and spied at him as his fingers tapped away ferociously, stopping sharply seconds later. His eyes darted up at mine; piercing brown eyes that shone in the sunlight. I moved my own eyes quickly to my phone as it alerted me about a new received text message with a silent vibration:
ARE YOU AVOIDING ME?
Short, simple and straight to the point…
MAYBE I AM. WHAT DOES IT MATTER TO YOU? A COUPLE MONTHS AGO YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN HAPPY WITH ME KEEPING AS FAR AWAY AS POSSIBLE. NOW, ALL OF A SUDDEN, YOU CAN’T STAND TO BE AWAY FROM ME. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?
DO YOU FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE WHEN I’M AROUND?
IT’S NOT YOU BEING AROUND THAT MAKES ME UNCOMFORTABLE, IT’S THE THOUGHT THAT YOU COULD TURN AROUND AND TELL BEN EVERYTHING AT ANY TIME.
DOES IT SCARE YOU?
IT SCARES THE LIVING HELL OUT OF ME. I KEEP MYSELF AWAKE THINKING ABOUT IT EVERY NIGHT.
ARE YOU SURE YOU’RE NOT JUST THINKING OF WAYS TO CHUCK YOUR BOYFRIEND SO THAT YOU CAN GET TOGETHER WITH ME?
I gasped to myself in astonishment and looked directly up at Marc who returned my shocked expression with a smirk and novelty shake of his head. I returned back to my phone hot footed:
DON’T BE RIDICULOUS, MARC. WHAT HAPPENED WAS A MISTAKE AND I’M GLAD THAT IT ENDED WHERE IT DID. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WAS THINKING AT THE TIME OR HOW I COULD EVEN ALLOW MYSELF TO GET SO CARRIED AWAY. AS FOR EVERYTHING ELSE THAT YOU’RE FORCING ME TO DO, THERE’S NO WAY THAT I WOULD BE DOING IT IF YOU WEREN’T BLACKMAILING ME. I LOVE BEN AND THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO THAT WILL CHANGE THAT.
WHAT IF I TOLD YOU HE’S BEEN CHEATING ON YOU?
I stared at that one short sentence spread across the screen. What!? Could this be true? No! Of course not! Ben wouldneverdo anything like that to me… No! Right..? Mind made up, I returned back to my phone:
DON’T LIE TO ME, MARC. BEN WOULD NEVER DO THAT. HE’S A GENTLEMAN – UNLIKE SOME PEOPLE I KNOW.
THERE’RE NO LIES BEHIND MY SHOCK STATEMENT. IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME, ASK HIM YOURSELF.
WHY WOULD I WANT TO ACCUSE HIM OF DOING SOMETHING HE’D NEVER DO IN A MILLION YEARS?
FINE, IF YOU DON’T WANT TO ASK HIM TO HIS FACE, WHY DON’T YOU JUST LOOK AT HIS TEXTS?
BECAUSE HE WOULDN’T DO THAT! HE LOVES ME!
HE LOVES YOU, DOES HE? LOOK, JUST HAVE A LOOK AT HIS TEXT MESSAGES AND I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT HE’S BEEN CHEATING ON YOU. WHY WOULD I LIE TO YOU? I ONLY WANT WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU, CASEY. LIKE I SAID THE OTHER WEEK, AND EVERY TIME I SEE YOU, I REALLY LIKE YOU AND I DON’T WANT TO SEE YOU GET HURT BUT I KNOW THAT HE’S GOING TO HURT YOU WITH HIS LIES SOONER OR LATER. PLEASE JUST LOOK THROUGH HIS MESSAGES. I WOULDN’T BE TELLING YOU THIS IF I DIDN’T THINK IT WAS SERIOUS.
I stared down at the three page message and pondered to myself: is he really telling the truth? Could Benreallybe cheating on me? I began to shake, scared about whether this rumour was actually true or not. Surely it couldn’t be… no! It couldn’t be! He loved me… we loved each other… we had a son together, for crying out loud!
I turned to face Ben beside me as he played hand clapping games with James. He came across just as he always did: honest, joyful and handsome. Surely he couldn’t be stamped by the label ‘cheater’? He looked up towards me and smiled his usual warm, genuine smile. I returned it with a less than genuine response, moving closer towards him and James and snuggling up to him. I linked my arms through his and kissed his shoulder, hugging him tightly.
“I love you.” I told him, resting the side of my face against his shoulder. He looked down to my face and smiled widely, leaning down and kissing me tenderly on the lips.
“I love you too, Casey,” he kissed me again, took in a deep breath and turned back to James, smiling widely, “and I love you lots and lots and lots.” He pulled James up to his chest and hugged him as his cries of laughter filled both of our ears. I smiled from cheek to cheek at the obvious joy our son was experiencing but couldn’t help but glance over at Marc across from us who stared watchfully – protectively – in our direction.
His expression matched that of his eyes: concerned. He watched on as I ignored his pleas to prove him right and reveal Ben to be some sort of malicious person who would cheat on the person he loved.
I wasn’t going to fall for Marc’s tricks to break the two of us up but I couldn’t help wondering whether there he was genuinely telling the truth. What if there was evidence of his cheating affairs with another woman… or man, perhaps?
The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to put my mind at rest and prove that Marc had been lying to me and that there was nothing to worry about because hemustbe lying… hemustbe.