[A Working Title]
Marianne Clements had worked at Pine Woods for fifteen years, though she had been a Counsellor for more years than she cared to remember. On this particular day, she sat at her cherry wood desk, reading case files as the late afternoon sun filtered through the picture windows of her office.
Her next appointment was in fifteen minutes, it was this file that currently lay open in front of her. She must have been engrossed as a cup of coffee sits cooling, untouched on the desk beside her.
As she reads, Marianne ponders on the remarkable details of the story. A specialist in domestic violence and abuse, she is well used to dealing with the oftentimes cruel punishments a man can inflict on a woman. Long ago she had stopped questioning why women would put up with this sort of abuse for years, lying to family and friends about just where the bruises had come from this time.
This was only the second time in all those years however, that Marianne had come across a case where the situation was reversed. It was the woman this time that had kicked her husband down the stairs, punched, ridiculed and chastised if her food was not on the table at just the time she wanted it.
A faint click from the intercom on her desk interrupted her thoughts. It was her receptionist Hayley announcing the arrival of her next appointment. Straightening the files, Marianne asked Hayley to show her patient in.
Elizabeth had been looking forward to tonight for what seemed like weeks, but which was in fact only three days. Her teenage excitement was sparked by being asked on a date by the cutest boy in her class.
Tommy wasn’t one of those sporty types, who seemed to have an endless supply of girls chasing him around the halls. No, Tommy was more a book type; he was on the chess club too and was only saved from being labelled a nerd by his peers because of his angelic good looks. It’s true that he could probably have had his choice of girls, but Tommy had no time for bubble brained girls who giggled on the side lines of football and basketball matches.
Fortunately for Elizabeth she was far from bubble brained herself. Although she was no grade A student, she frequently scored highest in her English Lit class; she roamed the halls with a book in her arms at all times, and not just textbooks, or those on the reading list. Elizabeth loved to immerse herself in many and varied exotic tales of fiction. Her imagination needed constant feeding, high school and the immature girls in her class held no fascination for Elizabeth.
It was three days earlier, whilst reading her latest find, a dark novel by what would come to be one of her favourite authors, that Tommy had approached her. She’d been sitting alone at a table in the canteen, paying more attention to the words on the opened page than she was in eating her sandwiches, which is why Tommy had to cough three times before she even looked up.
From where he was sitting at his table, Tommy spotted Elizabeth as she walked into the room. He’d noticed her around before, but she always had her head in a book and as such he had never had a conversation with her.
Today was no different either, walking head down, hair hanging in her face she almost walked into the people in the back of the lunch line. Fortunately they saw her and edged out of the way in time. He watched as she made her way to an empty table, seemingly without looking where she was going, then she was sat with her back to him and he went back to finishing his own lunch.
The bell rang out sounding the end of lunch hour. He’d been about to walk to his next class when he spotted Elizabeth still sat hunched over her book. It seemed that she had not heard the bell, if she had, she showed no signs of moving.
Walking over to her table, he stood to one side of her and coughed politely. There was no response, so he tried again. The third cough was a little louder and this she heard.
The face that looked up at Tommy showed surprise, the kind of look he imagined she’d have if woken suddenly, not knowing where she was.
She indicated by means of something half mumbled that he could take a seat at the table, looking more confused than surprised when he started to laugh.
“The lunch bell has already gone.” He said to her. Not what he’d expected his first words to her to be, but an opener none the less. “Can I walk you to your next class?”
Seeming a little more alert now, she nodded as she stood up and gathered her things. “My name’s Elizabeth” she said, in return she got his name. They had an interesting conversation about the book she was reading, he’d read it the year before and recommended other books by the same author that he thought she’d like.
Pausing in front of a door she indicated that this was her stop. As she pulled the door shut behind her, he decided he would have to find an excuse to talk to her again. He would have probably stood there like an idiot for an hour if not for a teacher walking past at that moment.
That day had started out relatively normal for Elizabeth. She hated Tuesday mornings. Her last class before lunch was gym; there was nothing she hated more than gym class. It wasn’t really the exercise she objected to either. Having to listen to all the latest gossip from the other girls is what she couldn’t stand. Who was dating who, what clothes were in or out and nine million other trivial things they cared to fill their days with.
It wasn’t that Elizabeth felt left out, she certainly wasn’t picked on by the other girls, they long ago realised that she was more into books than boys. They left her to herself in the main, unusually so for teenage girls, but then she was a handy person to have to talk to if you were a bit stuck on a homework question.
She left the chatter of the changing rooms behind and walked to the canteen, head buried in her book. It was a particularly good novel she was reading, she’d been almost unable to put it down, barring of course the annoying lessons that got in the way.
Seating herself at an empty table in the canteen, she was determined to finish her book before lunch was over. It would be too much she thought to have to wait until she got home to finish it. After a few minutes she had tuned out the outside world altogether, rapidly becoming more absorbed by the darkening plot.
A cough that had a persistent edge to it startled her, causing her to lose her place in her book, a guy was standing over her; assuming he wanted to sit, she clumsily offered him the seat next to her. Realising she was probably blushing only made her blush more.
She had seen this guy around before, though she wasn’t sure of his name, she’d have to have been pretty stupid not to have noticed him. With his almost black hair and deep brown eyes, he was considered quite hot by the other girls in her class; presumably the only reason he wasn’t engulfed in a swarm of them was that he didn’t play any sports.
This fact made him more appealing to Elizabeth, but she still never dreamed he would take an interest in her. Then he spoke, he told her she had missed the lunch bell, her heart sank a little, he was not interested in her after all. Then he asked if he could walk her too her class, heart missing a beat now, she agreed and by the time she left him standing in the hall she was sure she had to see this guy again.
It was hard to believe that the young woman sat in front of her could be the mother of a three year old girl; she looked barely more than a girl herself. Hair hanging long down her back, in the afternoon sun it looked like gold, it was in fact a dark brown with fading highlights catching the sun and making it gleam.
Her eyes, neither blue nor green looked down at hands clasped in her lap. The overall effect of this pose and her slim build made her look like a child waiting to receive a reprimand, although possibly one not in possession of the details of exactly what they had done wrong.
If it was hard to think of this girl as a mother, it was even harder to reconcile that image with the cold hard facts printed in stark black ink on the pages before her. Amongst the cracked ribs and black eyes and god knew what other unreported incidents, there was one redeeming factor; she had never raised a finger to the child.
From speaking to her husband, Marianne had established this fact and more of the back history on this case. Elizabeth, having been here for three months already was very reluctant to talk about anything at first. It was after an early visit from her daughter that Elizabeth had broken down one day and talked.
It was half five now, Elizabeth was just putting the finishing touches to her makeup, even though Tommy wouldn’t be here for another hour and a half yet. Sitting at her dressing table, several outfits lay around her feet like discarded skins. The outfit she had eventually decided on was hung on the back of her door. Though not one for fashion, Elizabeth knew enough to know she wanted to make a good impression. Since Tuesday, they had spent their lunch hours together, heads bent in excited conversation. To Elizabeth, these conversations were a welcome break from the chatter her fellow classmates indulged in. They talked a lot about the books they read, of which there were more than a few in common. They talked and talked and there never seemed to be enough hours in the day.
Now it was Friday night, their first date and Elizabeth was so excited that she hadn’t eaten a thing all day. Excitement turned to nervousness as she began worrying they would have nothing to talk about. She realised she had hardly stopped talking all week and thought maybe she had put him off.
By quarter past six, she was pacing her room, chewing on the ends of her hair, as she did only when particularly nervous or distracted. He wasn’t coming, she was sure he wasn’t. He hadn’t rung her to cancel, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t coming. No, she rationalised to herself, I’ve scared him away and he just isn’t going to turn up.
By quarter past seven, when he was fifteen minutes late, Elizabeth had quit pacing and was sitting slumped in the chair in her room. Every time a car went past outside, she waited for it to stop but none of them did. By eight pm, Elizabeth was pretty sure he wasn’t about to turn up, but when she heard a car slow to a stop outside, she leapt up from her chair, smoothing down her hair.
Hearing her mothers key turn in the lock made a tear spring up in her eye. She hadn’t made a mistake with the time, he was supposed to be here at seven pm, the film started at eight, so he was picking her up with time for a coffee first. Or that had been the plan.
Closing her bedroom door quietly, Elizabeth sat on the edge of her bed, tears not just round the corner of her eyes, but streaming down her face. She sat there for another two hours before taking off her outfit and using lotion to remove her makeup. She went to bed and cried herself to sleep for the first time since she was nine and her mother had told her off for something or other.
When Elizabeth had finished talking, Marianne gave her a moment to ensure she had said all she had to.
“How did you feel the next morning Elizabeth?” again she paused, allowing her patient to speak. When no answer was forthcoming, Marianne was about to try a different tack when Elizabeth spoke. Her tone was eerily cold, and Elizabeth seemed to be disconnected from herself, staring straight ahead.
“He betrayed me, so I felt betrayed. I should have known then that he would always betray me.” That said, her gaze returned once more to her clasped hands. She didn’t speak another word for the rest of the session.
He hadn’t called all weekend, heartbroken and feeling dumb for it, Elizabeth didn’t even try to call him. On Monday morning, she got up and out of her bed though she didn’t want to. She washed her face and brushed her teeth, never once thinking about Tommy. That was until she went to her wardrobe and saw her outfit from Friday night. She stared at it, maybe hoping it would go away. When it didn’t, she took it from its hanger and threw it in the laundry basket. That done she continued with getting dressed.
She ate breakfast in silence; this went unnoticed by her mother, who was busy reading the morning paper over her coffee. When it was time to leave, Elizabeth did so, her mother barely looking up from her paper. As she passed the hall table, Elizabeth picked up her books. Amongst them was the novel she had started last week, she had not finished reading it.
On the bus, Elizabeth rode at the back staring out of the window, her book lay forgotten on the seat beside her, where it remained after she had climbed off the bus outside her school.
The bus pulled up at its usual time, fifteen minutes before registration. Elizabeth had her head down as she walked toward the steps that led up to the main entrance. A group of girls were standing heads together in the middle of the steps, causing Elizabeth to have to move around them. Doing so, she was now turned towards the benches where kids could eat their lunch on a warm day.
In the centre bench sat Tommy, she was a little too far away to see his face, but she could see the girl very clearly. The girl in question appeared to be one of the bubble brained lot who usually hung round the basketball team. She was seated next to Tommy, turned towards him with one arm on his shoulder. The hand of the other arm was wrapped around Tommy’s own in his lap.
Elizabeth didn’t need to see anymore, she ran back down the steps and away from the school. She didn’t know where she was going; she just knew she couldn’t stay rooted to the spot one second longer.
He’d arrived early, choosing to sit on a bench where he would see Elizabeth when she arrived for her morning classes. He hadn’t dared call her this weekend, for fear of breaking into tears when he heard her voice. He’d not been there five minutes when Melissa approached the bench.
She was his next door neighbour; unfortunately she was also one of those annoying cookie cutter girls that walked the halls leaving a wake of giggles behind them. She’d been there on Friday night when the ambulance came. Had called over the next day with a casserole her mother had cooked.
He hadn’t wanted to talk to her then; he certainly didn’t now, trying as he was to stay his tears. She drew near to him and sitting down on the bench beside him, proceeded to throw her arm around his neck in a bear hug whilst patting him on the back. He paid little notice to the words of sympathy she surely must be uttering, hoping only that she would give up and go away. She didn’t though, now she was holding his hand with her free arm, she’d stopped talking, Tommy had to assume either she had paused for breath, or she had just asked him a question.
Before he had a chance to speak though, she had launched into another torrent of chatter and he zoned out once more, hoping it was not long until Elizabeth arrived and rescued him.
She stopped running only when she was as far away from the school as her aching legs and burning lungs would carry her. Bent double, hands on her lower legs, she gradually caught her breath. Far from calm though, she turned this way and that wondering where exactly she had been running to.
She was standing at the mid point of the high street; if she continued down a little and then turned left she would come to the library. Right now, the prospect of sitting in the large reading room, away from people and noise seemed like an awfully good idea.
Half an hour later, sat at an unoccupied table, her thoughts had drifted back to Friday night. This morning when she had awoken, she had felt a little foolish for her tears. She’d been sure she would see Tommy this morning and he would offer a perfectly reasonable explanation for his not showing up for their date.
She had not expected to see him sitting with another girls arm around him. She had not expected herself to react as she did. As she sat in the relative solitude of the library, her thoughts wandered like this for some time. When eventually she left, it was later than she expected. She had missed the bus by twenty minutes, so walked home alone, book bag swinging from her hand.
Even though she arrived home much later than usual, the house was still dark and empty when Elizabeth climbed the steps that led up the front lawn. Knowing it would be a while still before her mother came home, she stopped in the kitchen long enough to make a sandwich and grab a glass of juice. She was on her way up to her room, plate balanced when the phone began to ring. Setting down the plate, she ran up the last few steps and turned to the table in the upstairs hall where the phone sat trilling loudly.
Thinking it was probably her mother, calling to check that she had made herself some food she was caught quite unawares when Tommy’s voice answered her hello.
When Elizabeth hadn’t turned up at school that morning his day had taken a turn for the worse. Now not only was he in the last place he wanted to be, but he was also forced to endure the company of the last person he wanted to be with. Melissa meant well he was sure; he had just really wanted to see Elizabeth and tell her what had happened on Friday night.
After two hours of Melissa’s company however, he decided to call it a day and go on home. Instead of going home though he’d gone for a walk, and found himself out at the lake where he and his dad had fished all summer. He stayed there for hours, sitting on the edge of the old pier looking out at the water.
When the afternoon light had begun to fade, he realised he’d still not spoken to Elizabeth. As much as he didn’t want to go back to the house and face his mother and her two sisters fussing around her, he was desperate to speak to Elizabeth; partly so he could tell her what had happened, partly because she must have been pretty damn annoyed he hadn’t turned up on Friday.
Guilt outweighing his grief momentarily, he jogged the rest of the way home.