There is no way I can fight him. I am completely helpless. Kane is massive and I am only a petit woman. His hands feel light hot weights around my neck and it is already hard to breathe.
I shake my head. How can he do this to me? He loves me, or maybe he used to love me.
“Kane, please. I’m sorry. Please…don’t.” I beg and Kane squeezes my neck tight. I instantly claw at his hands wildly.
“I told you to shut up.” He grunts and I continue to struggle. He has me pined so my attempts are useless. “I loved you, I would have done anything for you. But I have no choice. You were going to leave me,” Kane squeezes even tighter and I scream again for help. There is a small foot bridge near here, not many people use it but maybe today I could be blessed with just a little bit of luck.
“Help! Somebody help me!” I cry as loud as I can. “Please!” I whimper the last because Kane tightens his grip again, cutting off my windpipe. I scream again, one last time. I use up all the breath I have left.
“We could have been happy.” Kane roars and shakes me by the neck. With every time my head hits the ground I bite my tongue and taste blood in my mouth. I whimper and continue to tear at his hands, tying to remove them from my neck. Black spots start to block out my vision until I can’t see Kane’s twisted face anymore.
I can’t draw in any air, I feel like I am under water again. Then suddenly I am, I am pulled back to when I am nine and we have just crashed the car. I can’t breathe, and the car door won’t open. The window won’t smash under the weight of my feet because I can’t get enough force behind it. I give up trying to break the window and look over at my mum. Her blonde hair is floating around her face and she is motionless. I reach out for her and shake her shoulder. Mum moves with each slow shake but doesn’t wake. I start to panic even more now because the water around her head is turning red with her blood. Slowly more and more of the water turns red.
Suddenly my door is ripped open. I look to my right and see my dad reaching to pull me out of the car. I am being dragged out but I can’t focus on much because the burning in my chest is unbearable. I need to breathe but I know I can’t otherwise I will breathe in water. The water starts to feel like Kane’s hands around my neck.
I can slowly start to feel myself fade, everything around me gets blurry. I can’t see my dad anymore, though I know he is still there because I can feel him pulling me to the surface. Through the murky water above me I see something. It is a light. The light. Am I dying? No, it is the moonlight. Everything suddenly turns black again.
I am floating in nothingness, I feel nothing either. I don’t have the need to breathe anymore because there is no burning in my chest of hands around my neck. I have either died or Kane has stopped strangling me. I have doubts about the later, even in my dead state. The look on his face was horrific. His eyes cold, and his lips paused in a tight line.
Unexpectedly there is pressure on my chest. It isn’t crushing me but it is sending tingles through my lungs.
Boom, boom, boom, boom…
The there is blissful air filling my lungs. I am breathing. This pattern repeats over and over and in those moments I don’t think I have experienced anything like it. The all-embracing feeling of liberation. The feeling is even better than when I emerge from holding my breath under water. I know that I have yet again been given another chance at life.
Slowly I start to hear voices. Just one voice actually, but two words over and over, ‘come on’. At first the voice is unfocused and distant, easy to ignore.
“Come on, wake up.” The deep voice tells me. “Wake up, sweetheart.” The voice is frantic now. I realise that this person is really worried about me. It isn’t Kane, his voice is far too harsh to be this unknown person. At first I thought it might be my dad, but I would have recognised it in an instant. No, this voice is unfamiliar to me but they are extremely worried about me, so I do as they say. I grasp onto the steady, ‘boom, boom’ on my chest and pull myself up and out of the dark abyss.
Cool, fresh air rushes down my windpipes and fills my lungs, bringing me to life. I blink a few times to clear my vision. When I come to completely the world around me is just as it was before everything went black. I am lying on the wet ground with twigs scratching my exposed skin and wet, decaying leaves sticking to me. The afternoon sun colours the sky a pretty orange. There is a man leaning over me with a silver lining around him from the sun, but I don’t focus on him just yet. I look around me, searching for Kane. Did he run off? He wouldn’t have just stopped strangling me, though it would be nice to know he still had some sense.
I am shocked to see him lying on the ground, unmoving. He has to weigh over 90 kilograms, mostly muscle, and this stranger took him down. I focus really hard, which proves to be a struggle, on his chest and finally see that it is slowly moving up and down. I feel dizzy and faint, and I would probably faint if I were standing.
Finally, I turn my attention to the stranger by my side.
The young man inclines his head to where Kane is lying. “He is alive. I only knocked him out. You are going to be okay…hey, no, stay awake.” He lightly slaps my cheek lightly a few times. But I can’t open my eyes that feel like led. “Sweetheart, stay with me…” this is the last thing I hear.
“…Elspeth, I know you are worried about your granddaughter. You need to calm down though. She is making a quick recovery and will be just fine.” I hear a voice say calmly. I don’t know who it is though but they are talking to my gran. Elspeth is her first name. Gran, my gran is here. I can see her whenever I want, or whenever I can open my eyes.
“But look at her. She has a bandage on her head and bruises all over her. Where is Kane? How will he pay for this?” I hear my gran’s worried voice. It shakes a little but it is my gran. I need to see her. She will make all of this better. Gran will keep me safe. I fight against the groggy feeling in my head and open my eyes. My eyes feel dry and so does my mouth. I swallow then cough; it feels like I have swallowed sand. This gets gran and the other ladies attention. The lady, a nurse, hurries over to my side and hands me a plastic cut of water. I slowly grab for it. Testing what parts hurt and what parts don’t. My left arm is fine. I sip at the water and watch gran. She looks a little pale and worried but still healthy. I am worried about what this will do to her stress levels and her health. I give her the best smile that I can in attempt to calm her down. I sip more water.
“I…I’m okay,” I clear my throat and sip more water. “Gran. My head is a bit sore though.” I say and the nurse injects something into one of the few clear tubs connected me. I pull a face when I spot the on with blood in it. How much blood did I loose? I wonder than a rush of other questions I need answered.
“I have just given you some more morphine, Arielle. You have been in the hospital for three days. I am sure you have many questions but unfortunately I am quite busy.” She gives me an apologetic look. “I am glad to see you awake.” She nods to gran and starts to leave. At the door she stops and looks over at us. “Someone will be in shortly to check your vitals and let you know when you are well enough to leave.” then she is gone and I am alone with gran. I sip more water then turn to gran. I can’t feel the morphine yet so the pain in my lower body is strong and my throat is sore when I swallow.
“What’s happened to me? You said I have a bandage on my head…did I hit my head? Where is Kane? Is he conscious?” I blurt out, voice raspy and weak. Gran smiles at me and takes a seat next to my bed and grabs hold of my hand with her soft ones.
“Arielle, my dear. You hit you head and lots a lot of blood.” She nods to my legs. The left one is covered but my right one is in a full cast. I gasp. “Your leg is broken and very badly bruised, your hip is very badly bruised too. Kane must have…slapped you because there is a bruise in the shape of a hand on your cheek and you have two stiches on your cheek bone, and six at the back of your head.” It seems hard for gran to get each word out, like she doesn’t want me to know about it. “Can you remember anything dear?” she asks and I nod slightly.
“I remember everything, I think.” I tell her and finish my water. I start to feel numb and tingly, and the pain is more bearable now. “I think the morphine is working, gran.” I let her know and we fall quiet until an older male doctor comes in to check on me. He introduces himself as Scott.
He checks the monitors silently and writes on his clipboard. Gran and I watch him curiously.
“What’s the verdict, doctor? Can she leave today?” Gran asks the man and he turns to face us. He slowly looks up from this clipboard and gives me a big smile, as though I am a child.
“Arielle, you seem to be recovering nicely. Your vitals are fine and you have colour back in your face.” he refers to his clipboard again. “It says here you took quite a bump to the head. How is your memory?”
I shrug. “It is fine. I remember what happened if that’s what you mean.” I tell the man and he gives me a nod. He mumbles something as he writes. I wait.
“Well, that’s perfect. Now I don’t want to let you out just yet. I will keep you here for a few more days just to make sure everything is in order.” Dr Scott tells me and places a hand lightly on my shoulder. “The police have been waiting to talk to you, so I will send them in a little later, but for now I need you to rest. Alright, Arielle?” I nod in response. He gives us both a smile then leaves.
It is silent for a few moments before gran speaks.
“What happened down at the lake, dear?” I look over at her, not wanting to talk about it right now but I take in her old frame and her eyes wide with worry. I can’t keep the truth from her. The wondering and waiting is probably eating at her. I suck in a breath and tell her everything from when I said the words that got me here right up to when I blacked out. The only thing that didn’t make sense is how I got here. I can’t remember who found me. I guess I blacked out before I could find out. Gran asked me if I knew who found me but something in her tone told me that she knew. I didn’t get to ask though because she ordered me to rest while she left and run a few errands, though I’m not sure what she would be buying at this time of night. Outside it is dark and I can’t see any sign of sun.
It didn’t take long for me to fall into a deep slumber. I must be worn out from almost dying, or did I die? Things got weird there for a moment. When I dream it is of clear blue eyes. They are looking at me with worry clear in them. They are eyes of an older man, with smile crinkles and dark circles from lack of sleep. I know I have seen them before because the sight of them sparks a feeling of recognition in my mind. I have seen these eyes before but I don’t know when.
A feeling of being watched wakes me an unknown time later. A few policemen have entered the room and smile when I wake. I don’t know them, but then again I haven’t lived her permanently for years now. They could have just started working as policemen in this town recently. I know we are still in Clermont because of the picture on the wall of the Main Street over thirty years ago that says ‘our town, Clermont’. The police ask me questions like who did this and why, and what happened exactly. I tell them the story right from when I entered the house to tell Kane we should go for a walk right up to when I passed out, I don’t bother them with telling them about flashbacks of the car accident as a child only that I think I may have died. I ask them if they know who saved me and called the ambulance. They confirm that they have questioned him already and tell me he doesn’t live in town. I am far too tired to ask the mans name so I vow to find out tomorrow and fall asleep right in front of the policemen.
When I wake next wake it is morning and the tubes that were attached to me are now gone. I think I remember waking when they were being taken out but I was under sleep haze. I feel a lot better than yesterday but there is still a pain in my right leg. I head isn’t throbbing any more, so I take that as a good sign. I am alone for the first time while being awake and I try not to let it bother me by humming my favourite song ‘Seven worlds collide by crowded house’ I remember my dad and mum slow dancing to it almost every night in the kitchen. It is a happy song and only reminds me of happy memories. I hum it for an hour before Dr Scott enters the room; he gives me the same smile. I am frustrated again because he is looking at me like I am a young teenager.
“I’m sorry but don’t you have my birthdate on that clipboard of yours?” I ask politely and find that my voice is mostly back to its usual high pitched tone. Dr Scott chuckles and nods his head.
“I know you are twenty, you just look horrified every time I see you.” He steps closer. “You are going to be fine, Arielle. If you have an trauma from what has happened then there are plenty of people to help you get through this and get on with your life.” I hadn’t realised that I was so worried but Dr Scott’s words comfort me and put me at ease. “You have a whole town full of people who love and care about you.” He motions around the room. For the first time I take it all in. I am in a public room; there are flowers and balloons everywhere. I frown.
“I didn’t know there were other people in this room.” I say to myself aloud. Dr Scott shakes his head and I look back into his grey eyes.
“You are the only person in this room. All these flowers are for you. I think you are more popular than you realise, Arielle.” Dr Scott gives me a proper smile now and I smile back. Tears prick my eyes and next thing I know I am crying while I smile like a goof. I didn’t know this many people cared about me. This room is just short of being a sea of colour. I laugh and Dr Scott leaves the room with a wave.
“I can’t believe it.” I whisper. There are roses and different assorts of bunched flowers from peoples home gardens. My favourite though is a small bonsai tree on the bedside table next to me. It is cute, and there is a small ceramic chair at the base of it. I love bonsai trees almost as much as I love the wisteria vine that has been growing on the front porch railing since I was little. It is a sea of lavender and light blue, and absolutely breath taking.
A short while later gran walks in with a book and a Tupperware container filled with something. She smiles at me and places them both on the bedside table.
“How are you feeling, dear?” she asks. Her curly, blond-grey hair is half up half down and she is wearing light blue yard jeans and a cream top with a flower in the centre tucked into them.
“I feel a lot better.”
“Good to hear. You look much better.” She points to my head. “ I see that they took the bandage off your head.” I smile and feel the top of my head with both of my hands, careful not to touch my stiches. “I don’t mean to frighten you dear but they had to shave a small patch of hair to stich up the cut.” Gran tells me and my heart skips a beat.
“What?” I exclaim and lightly touch the band aid that covers the stitches but I can feel a little bit of the shaved patch. It pricks my fingertips. I feel like crying again, but not in a good way. “They shaved my hair.” I murmur. I love my hair! It is the best part of me, in my opinion. I pout and cross my arms. “Why didn’t they just shave it all off?” I say sarcastically. “Shouldn’t they have considered that I might like all of my hair?”
“I don’t think its like organ donating, dear. They don’t have to ask permission.” Gran tells me softly. “I know you love your hair but it will grow back and until then just wear it up.” I take breaths to calm myself. Gran is right, she always is, but they shaved my hair so I think I get bitchy teen rights just this once. After a moment of silence gran gets up fro the seat had been sitting in.
“Where are you going?” I ask.
"There is someone here to see you. He has slept in the waiting room just to see how you are." Gran tells me then leaves only to be replace with a young man that I have never seen before. I frown at him in confusion. I was expecting t to be one of my guy friends from university. Kane was ruled out when gran didn’t have disgust in her voice.
“Hello?” I say as a question. I’m not sure why though. I am trying to place his face but I can’t the stranger stands by the entry with his hands in his pockets.
“Hi.” He says and I just want to wrap myself up in his deep smooth voice. “I don’t know if you would remember me.” he walks to the end of my bed and says nothing more. Could he be a childhood friend that I haven’t seen in years? He doesn’t seem to want to talk much. I have come across children like this while studying at university. I know how to bring them out of their shell; find out what they are interested in and talk to them about it. Though it is different with adults. They are more complicated and are sometimes not out going and closed off because of something that has happened in their life. But really, is it so hard to just be blunt and come right out and say how he knows me? I smile a small smile.
“I’m sorry. I can’t seem to place your face. Where did we meet?” I ask politely. The young man steps around my bed and moves a little closer to me. Before he can say anything something clicks. His eyes. Those bright blue eyes rimmed with dark circles. They are the eyes from my dream. “I dreamed of you.” I say before I can stop myself. A smile plays on his lips, but he tries to conceal it. “I’m sorry, that was a really weird thing to say.” I laugh at myself and rub my eyes.
“It’s alright. I mean, I was the one that found you so I guess you had to remember me in some way.” the man tells me and I gasp. With wide eyes I look him over properly. He has mud stains on the knees of his ratty jeans pared with a well-worn button up shirt, and his face is unshaved and tired looking. His eyes though, I remember them, and his voice I can remember that voice telling me to wake up.
“Oh my gosh.” I breathe. “You saved my life. You…you.” I stop and take a breath. “Thank you. Thank you so much. I can’t tell you how blessed I feel because you saved my life.” I blurt out and my savour looks bash. His gaunt looking cheeks turn a little pink.
“Really it is no problem.” He brushes it off. I shake my head and frown at him.
“Saving someone’s life is no small thing. I owe you my life,” I pause and smile. “And you are a complete stranger to me.” My savour looks a little freaked, like he is about to run for it.
“Really, you don’t owe me anything.” He puts his hands up in front of him and shakes them a little. I try not to think about how weird he is acting.
“What’s your name?” I ask as a change of subject. He looks even more freaked now and starts to back away.
“I don’t see how it would matter. I’m not staying in town. I just wanted to see that you were all right. Um…” I is all the way back at the door now. He pauses for a short moment then turns suddenly and vanishes. I am left with my mouth on the floor and my head spinning. This clearly underweight man has lost more than body fat, he has lost his ability to socialise to societies standards. A part of me is hurting for him and another part needs to help him and repaying him for saving my life has nothing to do with it.
That night I am not drugged up nor extremely tried and for the first time I am scared to be in the hospital at night. I can hear other peoples monitors beeping and their groans as they sleep. I put my fingers in my ears to block out the noises but they are imprinted in my memory and I can’t get them to go away. I groan and hum seven worlds collide again, as loud as I can. I hum it on repeat for what seems like hours before my mind gives in to sleep and I doze off into a restless sleep. I wake often throughout the night and into the morning. Not only could I not get my savour off of my mind, flashbacks of Kane strangling me and kicking me on the ground were running through my mind over and over. Some time around two I wake and can’t get back to sleep. I lie still for a short time then look out the window on the other side of the room. It is dark but the lights out side of the hospital are on and they emit a glow of light. I so badly don’t want to be here. I want to be at my gran’s, in my bed where it is safe and welcoming. Here, in this hospital, I feel as though there are ghost of the people that passed away here. I think about how my parents never even made it here. They never got a second chance but somehow I got two second chances at life. How is that even fair? I would have given up my two chances and given them to my parents without hesitation. Yes, I would miss gran and her house but I love my parents more than anything in the world. I would do anything to have them back.
I cry myself to sleep, feeling alone, scared and confused.
I am discharged that afternoon. Thank the lord. Gran has a doctor help me into the car with the passenger seat push all the way back so my casted leg can fit. I haven’t told gran how happy I really was to get out of there.
I don’t know how long it has been since gran has driven. It’s not that she can’t, her eyes and reflexes are both fine, but it am still worried about her. The doctor told me that it would be a month before I can get the cast off, then I will probably have to be stuck inside for another month until I can be out gardening and feeding the animals again. Gran will have to do the groceries and the cooking for a while. She is too old for this! She can’t look after me, I’m not a child anymore. We start driving and I realise something. We don’t have a wheel chair or even crutches.
“Gran. Just a query. How am I supposed to get around?” I ask and she looks at me quickly then back at the road.
“It’s hasn’t been five minutes and you are already worrying. I have it all under control. Some is picking up the wheelchair. There are precooked meals in the freezer from almost everyone in town. All you have to do is relax and get better.” Gran tells me as she drives through town. People wave at us because they recognise the old white Mazda ute. Usually when we drive this car it is to cart all of gran’s flowers and produce into town for the Sunday markets.
I am constantly telling her she needs to make a business out of selling her flowers because they are beautiful and a real hit at the markets. We always sell out. Gran isn’t great with numbers though. I had to help her with the bills because that was always Granddad’s job up until he died.
“But what about the work to be done around the yard? I have to redo things because Joe and his friend don’t do it properly.” I say, hearing how frantic I sound as I continue to talk.
“They do a good enough job. You are just a bit of a perfectionist, dear.” I pout and look out the window. I’m hardly a perfectionist, I just like to do things right the first time.
“I’ve only ever kept the farm up to granddad standards. I do things the way he taught me.” I say lightly. I know that gran is strong but I always tread lightly when it comes to granddad. Apart from the loud engine the car is silent.
When gran speaks next her voice is even softer than mine. “I know, dear. Your grandfather would be proud. Though you don’t have to worry about those young men. I hired someone else.” Gran tells me and I frown, looking over at her. When did she have the change of heart? I think she had a soft spot for the boys even though they weren’t exactly respectable.
“Who did you hire?” I ask. I wish I had the chance to suss this new person out before she hired them.
“Ryan.” She says and I look at her for more.
“Ryan who?” I ask. I don’t think I know anyone with that name, well not anyone at the appropriate age. There is a two year old with the name Ryan and maybe a school boy.
“Ryan Scott.” She says and I have a feeling that she has more that she should be telling me.
“Have I met him before?” I ask.
“Yes, just recently in fact.” She is concentrating intently on the road. Gran is acting oddly ad I’m not sure I like it.
“What aren’t you telling me?” I ask, a little annoyed now. Gran takes a moment. She tells me and I lose it. I am so annoyed that I don’t even know were to start with my thoughts let alone words. How could she? This is just unbelievably injudicious.
“I’m sorry…you what?” I exclaim. “Gran, we don’t even know him.” my voice comes out squeaky and high. Gran drives a little slower.
“He saved your life Arielle…”
“I know and I thanked him profusely for that, but he just freaked out. He is still a total stranger, so we shouldn’t let him stay in our house. He could be crazy.” I throw my hands up a little.
“Arielle,” A person passing us beeps his horn and gran waves to him. “You were a total stranger to him and he saved your life, now this is a way to repay him. Ryan has nothing, now at least he has a roof over his head.” Gran takes a left turn out of town. “I have become very good at telling if people are good or bad in my years. I have spoken to Ryan and he is as good as they come.” Gran tells me then changes her tone to a stern one. “This is my house, I can choose who live there. Ryan is staying with us until he get’s on his feet and is healthy. I have told him that he can stay in the tool shed; he has already cleaned most of it out. I was thinking that you could help make it a bit more homie. Ryan will eat meals with us and I will pay him to do work around the yard.” Stern was never a good look for her; I guess it runs in the family. I have always had to find creative way to keep the children I teach in line because I can’t get mad at them.
“What about Joe and… his friend?” I ask, fully aware that I just told gran I thought they have a terrible work ethic.
“They crush my wisteria flowers with their bikes, arrive high from weed, and you just said I was paying them for practically nothing.” I sigh and reflect for a moment. Ryan, despite him being a total stranger, seams nice and quiet. He is also weak so if he wanted to hurt gran and I, we could take him. I’m kidding, but he does look sickly. Maybe it is a good idea for him to stay with us. Maybe he hasn’t had a place to stay in a while.
I turn back to the car and look over at gran.
“Alright. Yes, I think it is best that he stay with us. He does look really unhealthy, maybe this is what he needs.” I muse and gran smiles pleased.
“I knew you would come around. You have a reasonable head on your shoulders. It’s your stubbornness that I worry about, though.” Gran tells me and I laugh. The car is silent again and I look out the window at the green, grassy fields. I want to take in this carefree moment, before I have to deal with men in suits telling me court dates and how much it will cost to sue…Kane. I don’t want to have to deal with all that but it is inevitable, so for now I take in how the afternoon sun, lights up the hilly fields. It looks incandescent. How the sunlight shines through the evergreen trees and gives everything a fairy-tale-to-good-to-be-true kind of look. This is one of the reasons I love this town. The landscape is beautiful, especially in spring when the flowers bloom and everything is vibrant with colour.
At home Ryan is lifting the wheelchair down the front porch steps. He looks like he is struggling a little, and I wonder how on earth he took down…Kane. Something I see makes me wonder just how much gran had been talking to Ryan. She has a smile on her face that, if possible, makes her look younger. I hide my frown because I do want to make Ryan feel welcome. He saved my life after all. It is as though gran knows Ryan so well that she has developed a soft spot for him.
I allow Ryan to help me get out of the car. Partly because I can’t do it myself and mostly because he insisted and gave me this look that somehow I couldn’t refuse. Maybe I just feel bad for him and also I want him to feel as though I want him here as well as gran. He looks pretty timid and easily scared.
I am surprised when Ryan lifts me out of the car with very little difficulty. Taking his lack of body weight, he shouldn’t be able to lift be at all. He plants me gently on the ground and doesn’t let go of me until I am sitting in the wheelchair.
“Thank you.” I say quietly as he pushes me up to the house. I feel like a total idiot. I can’t even walk into my own house. I notice that there is a makeshift wooden ramp covering half of the front stairs. I look over to gran. “You shouldn’t be lifting heavy things, gran.” I tell her, my voice takes on my teachers’ tone without me realising it. Gran shakes her head at me and walks up the stairs ahead of us.
“I didn’t lift anything dear, Ryan did everything himself.” Gran tells me in a brushed off sort of way. I think she is a little sick of me looking after her, but really she is getting old and I can’t have her lifting heavy things anymore.
I pause and have to remind myself of who Ryan is. For years there has only been gran and myself, now Ryan is staying with us and I can’t get my head around it. I look over my shoulder at him, but only see his forearm. It is slim but there is a lot of muscle there still. “Thank you for that.” I tell him gratefully, because I would rather him do the heavy lifting than gran, even though I know nothing about him.
“You’re welcome.” he tells me and it is silent as he pushes me up the ramp. It is the weirdest feeling but I don’t comment.
To my embarrassment gran leads him into my room. Ryan pushes me up to my bed then steps back. I watch as he studies my room, while gran pulls the covers back on my bed. He gives it a quick look over. Ryan looks different, for a moment he looks relaxed, but when he sees that I am watching him he looks down at floor. I hide my frown at how odd he is and turn my attention to gran. I can’t seem to wrap my head around him. He acts respectful and helps gran but he seems shy or disjointed socially.
“Ryan, do you think you could help Arielle onto the bed…”
“Uh, I…” Ryan stammers, his eyes wide with shock. I have a feeling that he really doesn’t want to touch me so I speak up.
“Gran, I’m fine.” I assure her. “I can get myself onto my bed.” I give her a smile before using my arms and my left leg to lift me out of the wheel chair. I lean forward onto my bed then swivel on my left foot and let myself fall onto my bed. The shock on my body when I hit the bed hurts a little, but I manage to contain it because I can feel them both watching me.
“Well, good then…” gran says and I laugh at her. “Very tricky, my dear.” She laughs with me but Ryan stays detached. He looks a little relived, I think. But he still wears that look of fear or worry and maybe even depression. I wonder what he has been through to make in like that. He looks so gloomy all the time.
“Mrs Ellwood, is there anything you wanted me to do?” Ryan speaks up and I look over at him.
“No, dear. That was all. Thank you very much for your help. I will call you when dinner is ready, if you would like to head over to your place.” Gran tells him, affection in her voice. It was the voice she used with me when my parents first died. Maybe she thinks he will break if she is too hard on him.
“Oh, no. I don’t wish to intrude. You have given me a place to stay. That is more than enough.” Ryan shakes his head and backs up a few steps.
“Don’t be silly. You will join us for dinner. Come up to the house at about six thirty.” She tells him with a final tone. Ryan smiles a little and nods his head once before he leaves my room then the house. I wait until I hear the screen door squeak shut to turn to gran.
“He is weird. Are you sure this is the right thing?” I ask. “We could show him to the motel in town. It is probably far nicer than the tool shed. It wasn’t made for someone to live in.” he would be far more comfortable in a nice comfortable bed at the motel. “What if it rains?”
“Arielle, that is the best built tool shed I have ever seen. Plus Ryan didn’t want to intrude by saying in the house. He actually took a while to crack, he finally agreed to let us accommodate him.” Gran sits on my bed by my casted leg. She places one hand on it and pauses. She looks thoughtfully at my bland cast. “I think he has been through great tragedy. I have been talk to him while you were in hospital. He reluctantly told me that he is from the North East coast, though I’m not sure where exactly. But something bad happened to him, I can tell. It is obvious that he hasn’t eaten a real meal in months.” I wiggle my toes that stick out of the end of my cast. “Arielle, I am telling you this because I know it will help you to trust him a little better. He is honestly and very lovely man. I think you should talk to him and find out for yourself.” Gran tells me and I bite at my lip. I am frustrated but I don’t want to voice it in case gran gets worked up. I sigh.
“Gran, he doesn’t like me. I mean, he hates being near me.” I say carefully and wait for gran to react. To my surprise she nods in agreement.
“He does seem to be a little edgy, but just give it time my dear.” Gran reaches up and places her hand on my cheek. I feel like a little girl again, I feel like crying. I could break down right now, totally lose my composure and fall into a deep depression. But whom would that benefit? No one. It wouldn’t help gran or me. It would put so much pressure on gran. And the kids I teach. I am a great teacher and they benefit from my skills as a teacher. Plus, that isn’t me. I’m not the kind of girl to break down. I have lost my two loving parents and I survived, I almost died in the car crash but I survived, and I survived again down at the creek. I can get through this because I have to; it is just that simple.
Gran leaves to start dinner and I am left alone to start getting bored out of my mind like I will be for the next two months.
I manage to get myself into the wheel chair and down the hall to the dinner table two hours later. Ryan is already here, talking to gran. As I roll into the room he stops saying what ever he had been telling gran. I am washed over with disappointment. I mean I don’t expect him to want to talk to me all the time but once in a while would be nice. Give it time. I tell myself. Gran has her back to me plating up or something and when Ryan stops talking I think she realises that I have entered the room. She turns around and smiles at me.
“Oh, my dear, I said I would be in to help you.” Gran says in a disapproving tone. I roll my eyes.
“Gran, I am fine. I can get around the house just fine.” I tell her with a smile. “I appreciate the concern though.” In all truth, I have always like doing things myself and helping others, not the other way around.
“Alright then.” Gran sounds unsure but turns back to the cutting board where she is cutting up a lemon into slices. Lemon with water is always something that gran has done, since I can remember. Turns out that it is actually really good for you. It is something to do with cleansing the liver.
“I do think I will need a nightgown though. It would just be easier to do things…” I say but really mean it would be easier to get dressed and go to the toilet with the nightgown.
I roll myself over to the heavy wooden table and think through my plan of attack. I figure I will just use my non-existent arm muscles to lift myself up onto one of the dinning table chairs. I know gran will be watching m and that it would be easier if I asked for help but I don’t want to feel pathetic. Like that way I did while being wheeled up the ramp into my own house. I place my hands on the armrests and slowly lift myself up. My arms shake a little under the pressure but it doesn’t matter because I can’t lift my casted leg, not even an inch. I lower myself back down and huff.
Ryan places glass cups with blue and yellow flowers painted on them on the table. I catch him glance at me before turning and heading back into the kitchen. I lift my leg with my hands and place it on the chair, and then I lift myself up and onto the chair. I have to lock the wheels in place before I do it though, so the wheelchair doesn’t roll out from underneath me.
It takes a while but finally I am sitting at the table. My arms hurt but still I got onto the chair by myself. That’s something.
Gran says nothing as she places a bowl of vegetarian stir-fry in front of me. We grow everything that she puts in it. Sometimes when gran has free time she makes the pasta from scratch.
I notice that Ryan has the most in his bowl and I can’t figure if gran did that so fatten him up or because she always gave grandpa the most food.
“Dig in.” Gran tells Ryan as she takes her seat. “We grow everything that is in that dish.”
“The beans and carrots are award winning.” I add proudly. Gran loves her produce because she puts so much time into it. Ryan doesn’t look my way.
A few minutes of only the clinking of forks to bowls passes. I look over at gran when Ryan is looking down at his food. He pushes it around a lot but I can tell that he is starved from the huge mouthfuls that he takes. Gran raises her brows at me and flicks her head in his direction. I shake mine silently and look pointedly at her.
Gran silently ‘tsks’ and turns to Ryan. “So what brings you into this small town? Not many people move here.” Ryan looks up at gran and manages a smile.
“I was just passing through.” He offers. I know gran will want more information so I wait patiently.
“Where were you heading?” she asks politely. She doesn’t come off as nosy, just curious. She has every right to be, this man is living with us.
Ryan hesitates. “No where.” he says civilly then shrugs. I shove more food into my mouth so I don’t interrupt.
“So, you were just traveling. That sounds interesting. Where have you been? I have always wanted to travel to the east coast, again.” Gran says with a smile on her face. I think her and granddad got married on the Sunshine Coast.
Ryan looks mildly distressed. I watch him closely because I have an odd feeling about him. “Uh, I haven’t really seen too many sights.” He says and fills his mouth with food. Gran and I share a look. I quietly drum my fingertips on the table top.
“Do you have family close by?” I can’t help but ask. Ryan looks like he is shaking and he doesn’t look up at me or gran. I can see gran shaking her head at me but I ignore her. Ryan’s cheeks have turned light pink and his jaw is clench. What happened to you? I wonder in my head.
“I’m sorry, but I’d rather not talk about that.” He says in such a soft voice. He…he looks like he is trying not to cry. I have to blink because I am looking at him with wide eyes. I know that face. I know it all too well. Ryan has lost someone close to him. Suddenly things start to make sense. Mostly the way he has been acting and his poor health. He is depressed. Though I’m not sure why he doesn’t seem to like me much.
Gran changes the subject to town events and things that need to be done around the farm. Ryan settles down again and the mood lightens. But I still can’t stop thinking about whom he could have lost. His parents? A sibling? Best friend? A girlfriend?
Ryan is a hard worker. Maybe even more than myself. He works non- stop in the yard all day, right up until dinner. Gran has to bring lunch out to him because he just doesn’t stop. It is nice to take a break, though... kind of.
It has been two days since I arrived home and not only am I bored out of my mind I also couldn’t avoid the dreaded lawyer. I discussed with gran how I want to go about the legal stuff. It too a while but she finally saw where I am coming from.
Gran has made ice teas for the lawyer and myself. They sit on the coffee table in front of us. I grab mine and sip at it to relinquish the dry feeling in my mouth. I don’t like lawyers, they scare me with their suits and big words. I shift position because my hip starts to hurt.
“Now there is just the matter of suing…” gran places her hand on my knee. I look across the coffee table at Steve, the lawyer. Steve Rudd. No relation to Kevin Rudd. I suck in a breath.
“I don’t want to do anything to him. I don’t want him to go to jail. He will be killed in there. No, I’m not making a case against him. I’m not pressing any charges…” I shake my head and swallow back tears. I decided that I couldn’t do that to Kane. I will never forget what he did to me. One day I will forgive him, I know it but for now I need to hate him.
“Ma’am. I have seen cases like this before. I know you are afraid that he will come after you but I can assure you that once he is in jail, which if all goes well will be 20 years to life, you will be safe.” Steve tells me in a controlled and calm voice. I stifle a sigh. That’s not what I want. I lean forward and look Steve Rudd right in the eyes. I am completely serious.
“I’m not scared of him. K…he is just messed up over his sisters’ death. I don’t want him to go to jail. But…I want a restraining order on him, for the rest of my life. I don’t want him anywhere near my gran or me. When I have a family in the future I want him nowhere near them either. He isn’t a bad guy, it was just an unfortunate situation and I am not saying it hasn’t affected me but I have known… Kane since we where kids and the guilt of what he did will be killing him. That is punishment enough. All I want is a restraining order one him, so I never have to see him again.” I tell him and the room is silent. Steve looks to gran but she offers him nothing so he looks back to me. He opens his mouth to say something but then closes it and clenches his jaw. For a few seconds longer he studies me intently then leans back.
“Are you positive?” I nod. “Absolutely positive?” I nod again and smile. “You will have to attest to this in court.” I agree quickly because I have been answering his questions for over an hour now and I surprisingly want to get back to doing nothing.
Steve gets my to read and sigh a few legal papers and gran has to read and sign one as well. When gran thanks him for his time and leads him out of the house I find that I am exhausted. Mentally, not physically.
“You have been very patient, Mr Rudd. Thank you again.” I hear gran tell the lawyer.
“You are very welcome ma’am. Have a lovely day, and I will be in contact with you about the court dates. There is no need to worry. Considering the extent things got too, I don’t see why the judge wouldn’t grant your granddaughter anything she wished.” And with that Steve leaves in his fancy silver BMW car. I feel bad because he will have to have it washed because all the dirt from the driveway. I know that it is weird for me not to want Kane in jail. Most men are sent to jail for abusing woman. I know domestic violence is a massive issue, I did an essay on three years ago. But Kane never hit me before that day down at the creek. He never even hit anyone in high school that I can remember. I know Kane very well so I know this will all be killing him. I know he will be begging anyone that stops him from apologising profusely. He won’t ask for forgiveness from me, he knows he doesn’t deserve that. I may have had a fantasy or two about punching him in the nose and balls but I would never hit anyone, mostly because I never get angry to a point where I feel the need to resort to physical violence.
“Ryan, come inside, dear. Take a break.” Gran calls out. I can’t hear Ryan’s reply but gran tells him to put the wire down. I smile to myself.
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