There stood Mike. My eternal tormentor.
He stood in a far more positive stance than his normal fists-up-attitude. Even so, my lips quivered, and my fingernails tightened around the handle of the umbrella.
“Mike- Mr. Drake…?” My voice caught in my throat and I could speak no more. All of my body, and my blood, seemed to freeze up at that moment. There was nothing that I could do but stare, running my eyes over the figure that I had learnt to hate my entire life. He didn’t appear so…ferocious now that his best friend was gone.
He even seemed willing to be friendly to me.
“Bella, I’m sorry about our Peter, but well, I guess you’re not.”
“Mr. Drake, I am… I…” I panicked once again.
My thoughts flicked back to the days of pain, when my little boy would be crying at the noise and at why his mummy had dark marks on her face. I had kept a brave face for Steven, but alone I had burst into bitter tears, shedding out my pain, ready to face another day.
I had every right to want to run away from the man who had shoved a knife into my already tender heart.
“Bella, can I come in? I don’t mind if you say ‘no’, but the weather is horrendous out there.
Wordless, I stepped aside and watched Mike detach his muddy boots. Leaning across me with a polite smile, he pushed the door to and locked it.
I stood still; I could say nothing but would never impede on my hospitality, as that man had always forced himself in for my entire life, determined with hurting me. Perhaps it was just habit, but he was radiating something that would not make me reject him.
“Do you feel safe?” Mike winked at my stunned expression. And then he asked:
“No.” Finally, I shook out of my reverie, and tiptoed to sit on the sofa near him, “I’m a coffee woman. Always.”
“You should try tea some. It’ll calm your nerves more than the caffeinated coffee does.”
I shrugged. Mike remained standing where he was, his leathers gleaming, but, after a minute of an awkward, nervous silence, I realised that he was staring at me.
“What do you want?”
Mike started, shocked at the way I had addressed him.
He probably has no recollection of being rude.
“I was just…looking…at you.”
“At me?” I snapped, “So, why are you here now? No doubt you probably think that it was I who caused my husband’s death.”
“Well-” He started to speak, but I would have none of it.
“I didn’t do it indirectly either. Despite what you had always thought during your ‘honorable crusades’, Peter Howard left me; I didn’t cheat, I didn’t ‘break his heart’- all that happened was that we grew apart! I will be bullied no longer.”
Michael stared at me.
“Wow,” there was uncommon warmth in his voice, “Bella, I never knew you were so…feisty. Look, I’m sorry-”
“You’re sorry?! You put me in hospital several times, and might have scarred my only child, and you’re sorry? I should have stood up to you long ago, but I didn’t want to cause Peter any more trouble. I still… I still loved him. Do you know how horrible that is, to love a person who will never love you back?”
I turned to face him, shocked. It was, of course, a rhetorical question, but Mike’s answer was unexpected too.
“My wife had an affair and she left me. We spent ages sorting out the divorce. I always loved her, and I think that I took all my fury out on you. I shouldn’t have punished you, but I know that I don’t love my ex anymore. I realised that…”
But he stopped. He didn’t know how to phrase what he felt inside, and I wasn’t going to be the one to poke and prod it out.