Malcolm Laurel had been the love of my life. We’d been dating since the age of seventeen and had maintained a healthy long distance relationship throughout our University careers. For five years I had thought we’d been the most suited couple I’d ever known or seen and could easily have seen myself spending the rest of my life with him.
However, Malcolm had, had other ideas. Throughout University, whilst being miserable that my access to Malcolm was limited and scheduled to just one weekend at the end of each month, I had been honourable in our relationship, remaining monogamous to him and only him. There had been plenty of times that I’d been hit on by guys in clubs and bars but I’d stuck to my guns and never strayed away. Malcolm, on the other hand, had slept with over one hundred girls over the three years we were distanced with me none the wiser.
It wasn’t until we had both graduated and moved in together that I’d started to notice the difference in the man I was living with full time and the man I’d seen once a month for the past three years. It wasn’t until my twenty-second birthday that I discovered Malcolm’s dishonesty and secret sex-life. I had come home from a shopping trip with Karen and Damian – two friends I’d met at University and had grown exceptional close to – when I’d found them. He really had no shame; they were in our bed, of all places! And it hadn’t just been her, either. There had been at least thirty other women in our bed since we’d started living together and, the worst part; he’d felt not the slightest bit guilty whatsoever. To be truthful, he’d told me he’d never really loved me and that I bored him and wasn’t much to brag about in bed either.
That was the first time I’d ever hit anybody; right in his jaw. There was a fair amount of blood from a split lip but he just laughed through the pain that he attempted to mask and mocked my patheticness, stating that no one in their right mind would ever love me.
Three months later, after balling out enough tears to provide enough water for a small African village at my parents’ house, I was moving boxes into Flat 3B in my new London home, deep in the heart of the West End, where I planned on a new beginning to a new me. It was a little pricey, but with a little help from inheritance money from my late Grandmother, I’d be able to manage. The rent was decent for the area and, if I got into too much trouble, my parents had agreed to help out as best they could. Gone was the sad little girl that doted on her deceitful boyfriend and here was, brand new out of the packaging, the Hannah that I’d always wanted to be: strong-minded, independent and confident.
“What have you got in here, Hannah?” Dad moaned, as he dragged a large suitcase through the front door, face bright red and beads of sweat dripping down his brow, “it weighs a flipping ton!”
“It’s just clothes, Dad, and that’s not even all of them! There’s another case in the car.” I replied, smirking as he rolled his eyes. I knew exactly what was going through his head: ‘Why do girls need so many bloody clothes?’ This track had been on repeat for as long as I could remember, but it was one the things that I loved about Dad and would miss when he was eventually taken away from me. Dad had always been a light hearted soul for as long as I’d known him and he’d always taken life in his stride, whilst complaining about anything that could be complained about as jovial as possible. He wasn’t someone who would stress over things to the point that it would take over his life completely but he did have his concerns for the expected worry-makers, such as bills, finances and commitments. When Malcolm had hurt me like he did, he was number one on Dad’s hit list and, quote, if he ever crossed his path he’d be a dead man. He’d never been the slightest bit violent in all his life but he would do anything for his children.
“I really wish you’d have let us view the place with you before you signed for it,” Mum complained, as she the scanned the main living area, “there’s so much work that needs to be done in here, look at that crack on the far wall! For all you know, it could have been caused by damp and then you’ll be in trouble.” Mum, on the other hand, was a major worrier, in comparison to Dad, and always managed to find little things to nit-pick at and find its imperfections. Having opted to be a stay-at-home Mum all of her life, she’d always had the pressure of raising two rebellious girls whilst holding the responsibility for the upkeep of the house. Neither of her children had made her job easy, but she’d managed it with a firm hand and stern words. Despite her sometimes hard exterior, Mum was a big softy at heart and the harshness would melt away in an instant when provided with a loving hug, a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates. I couldn’t complain, really. My parents were probably the best parents you could possibly find and I loved them both dearly.
“I’m in an apartment building. There are two other storeys of flats below me and three above. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t caused by damp.” I retaliated. However, I couldn’t say I wasn’t entirely concerned with the amount of work that the place needed. All it needed in most places was a lick of paint and a little T.L.C but it was the shabby-chic look of the place that I’d fallen in love with: the bear red brick walls on the walls that divided the inside from the out, the solid wood floors throughout the main body of the flat and the cast iron, radiators that were installed in each main living area. Yes, this apartment was truly perfect for me and, with a little home comforts, I knew that it would start feeling more like a home before I knew it.
“Hmm, I give it two weeks before you’re ringing your Dad asking him to come take a look at something or, worse, having to get someone in to fix something that’s faulty.” She continued. Her worry was mostly for my safety and security, which was only expected, but I was an adult now and could handle any nasty surprises; after living in student digs for three years, I was pretty sure I could handle anything that was thrown at me.
Once everything was out of the car and the little furniture I’d managed to get my hands on had arrived in the removal truck, I was pretty much set to start placing things where they needed to be and to, basically, restart my life. Even when I’d gone to University, moving out hadn’t been as big or emotional as I’d thought it would be but, somehow, this time was different. I could feel myself getting quite teary as Mum and Dad were getting themselves ready to leave me on my own for the first time. And I really would be on my own. At University, and even when Malcolm and I had moved in together, there had always been someone else there to distract me from the fact that I was away from home and my parents. This time, there would be no one. I didn’t know anyone else in the building and I didn’t have friends down the street to invite over; at a push I could always invite either Karen or Damien round, but that would still require some planning as they both had work commitments and lived a little out of the way.
“Now remember,” Mum began, as she pulled her arms through the sleeves of her faux fur coat – which I hated with a passion, faux fur or not – trying to keep herself composed and not burst into tears, “if you need anything you know we are just a phone call away and we will try to get here as soon as possible.”
“I know.” I murmured in response.
“And if you hear anything from that menace of an ex-boyfriend of yours – or any guy that treats you wrongly – you make sure to let me know about it and I’ll sort it, okay?” Dad added.
“I’m sure that won’t be a problem. I’m a big girl now and I can look after myself.”
“But big girls still need help every now and then.” Mum murmured. I wasn’t quite sure whether she meant it sincerely or sarcastically, either way I felt a pang of nerves in my stomach. What if something did happen or go wrong? I’d be completely on my own. Would I be able to cope?
“Now then, come on Dawn, we’d best be leaving. It’s a long drive back to Devon.” My stomach was now in knots at the sudden realisation of what Dad had just said. My parents would be in Devon, as would my sister – who had been near enough my best friend and rock all of my life – and I would be here, in London, all by myself. Why had I been so ruthless and adventurous to choose London as the place to reinvent myself? Why couldn’t I have done it somewhere closer to them? I knew I should have gone to Bristol, but as soon as I’d booked for the viewing of this place and fallen in love with it, the thought of Bristol had become non-existent. London it was, and here I was. Mum glanced over towards me, her eyes brimming with tears mirroring mine, and rushed over towards me enveloping me into one last farewell embrace. That was when I broke my composure and let my own tears flow freely. I would miss her so much.
“You’ll be alright out here really,” she encouraged, “you’re made of tough stuff.”
“I’ll miss you.” I choked.
“And we’ll miss you too, but you can’t keep holding mine and your Dad’s hands for the rest of your life. It’s time you flew the nest and built your own. You’ll meet so many new people here and make new friends. I dare say you’ll meet some new fancy business man who will love and take care of you. You’ll be fine out here; I can feel it in my bones.” I clung onto Mum tighter, not wanting her to leave, but she wangled her way out and slowly made her way back towards the front door. In return, Dad came over and embraced me, keeping better composure than Mum and I had in our goodbye. He was upset, you could tell, but he never let it be known.
“Good luck, Hannah. Not that you’re going to need it.” He whispered in my ear before releasing me from his hold. I nodded gratefully, wiping away the remains of tear drops from my face and smiled weakly.
As soon as the front door had closed and Mum and Dad were gone, the silence set in. I was alone for the first time in my life and I was scared. Had I made the right choice or had I just made the biggest mistake of my life? Just then, Malcolm’s voice rang in my ears:
‘You’re nothing but a pathetic little girl who seeks the help and attention of anyone and everyone around you. You’ll amount to nothing and you’ll remain weak and pathetic for the rest of your life.’
I refused to let this subconscious thought destroy me. I rushed over to one of the boxes on the dining table and pulled out the docking station I’d been given shortly before I moved out to go to University and sourced my iPod from my handbag. Once plugged in, I hit shuffle and the whole flat was filled with the classic tunes of Bon Jovi, instantly fixing a smile on my face. Through all the boxes and the clutter, I was starting to picture my new life here in Flat 3B and what great memories it was bound to hold for me. All that was needed was a clear up, bubbly and a handful of close friends and it would be perfect.
It hadn’t even registered in my mind that I’d begun singing and dancing away to the songs that played throughout the flat, as it changed from classic rock, to club remixes, to big power ballads and to the pinnacle of, what can only be described as my childhood in a nutshell, the best of cheesy 90s pop. It wasn’t until I heard a knock on the door that I realised the extent of my dancing and volume of my terrible singing. The embarrassment began to set in. This was all I needed, a neighbour – who I had never met before – coming to complain about the noise no more than half an hour of me moving into the building.
Turning the volume down to near enough silence, I quickly rushed to the door, so to get the embarrassment out of the way quicker, and opened the door. It was from this point onwards that my new life would begin.