The Mailbox along the Road
Author: Kalzie Swift

Chapter 8
Laughing About Old Times


Annabel clenched her fist to her mouth, trying to hold onto the sobs threatening to burst out of her. She was stronger than this, she had to be. She softly opened the door and slipped in, hoping not to disturb Cameron she crossed the carpeted floor agilely with the grace of a young deer, aiming for the bathroom. She squeezed her eyes shut as she realised she couldn't hold on much longer, she stopped in front of the door in time for a loud sob to escape her. The sound made her feel weak, almost as if she could collapse and curl up on the ground to die but she wouldn't. Cameron jumped at the noise, his sleep disturb. His eyes blinked open as he saw a hunched over version of Annabel, tears streaming down her face like a canal. Realising something was wrong he shifted off the couch and rushed over to her, wrapping Annabel into his arms, protecting her from everything he could. He stroked her hair lightly, she felt so delicate like this – a way he'd never seen her before, even when Rankin insulted her. For a minute the two of them just stood there, Annabel crying into Cameron's shoulder as he held her close to him. Finally after Annabel's racking sobs had died down he whispered against her hair.

“What's wrong, Annie?” not many people called Annabel 'Annie' but Cameron felt it was right at the moment. Annabel was silent for a few more seconds, trying to make up some story in her head to tell him but not being able to think of a good one she used the first thing in her head.

“I'm scared Cameron, I'm scared,” her voice was broken, uneven. She couldn't tell him the whole truth but what did he already know? What did Rankin already know? Annabel visible froze, her game could be over already.

“Scared of what?” he asked, confusion leaking into his tone, “you can tell me, you know you can.” He pulled Annabel to arm's length to look her properly in the eyes. Annabel tried to advert it, brushing her hair away from her eyes.

“I don't want to hurt you,” what she said was true. She didn't want to drag Cameron into the horrid world she was in. Annabel needed Cameron for money, not for protection.

“What do you mean?” Cameron laughed slightly as if she was joking but Annabel gave him a cold hard stare.

“You can never understand, never,” she shook her head, “please, I just have some problems back home. My mum's... not well. Can you leave? I'm sorry I'm being so rude but I need time alone.” Cameron looked at Annabel closely but finding out nothing he gave up and kissed her lightly on the check.

“I'll see you some other time then Annie,” Cameron said disappointed with his efforts. He left the apartment and waited for the elevator leaving Annabel to collapse on the couch as the fear of what she'd done and what was going to happen washed over her.

Cameron left the apartment block in a worse mood then he'd arrived, what had happened to Annabel? Something must have happened down at reception, he stopped and looked back over his shoulder wondering if he should go and ask the woman at the desk but deciding not to he carried on, shoving his hands deep into his pockets trying to embrace more than the cool English air. What if Rankin was right? What if she was trying to hide something? What if she was... Rebecca Conley. He clenched his fists in his pockets and bit his teeth together, Rankin was right. He thought over their conversation in his head, he was no detective but the things he'd picked up from Rankin could help him. 'Scared', 'never understand' and 'don't want to hurt you' he shook his head and sped up, his feet hammering the pavement.

“Cameron? Cameron Roberts?” an astonished voice asked him, he stopped and looked up to see a familiar face looking at him, “it's been years, what's up?” Then he realised it was Mark, Mark from school. He grinned as the memory of their years together flooded back in the boarding school. How had they drifted apart again?

“Struggling on, Mark, struggling on, you?” Mark tapped his foot lightly on the ground and laughed lightly to the ground as if sharing a joke, this was classic Mark. Everything for him was like him own personal stand-up comedian show, he'd missed that.

“Oh you know, the same as always. Waiting for the day someone realises what an awesome guitarist I am and take me into their band,” he joked, Mark didn't play the guitar apart from the air guitar, “actually things are great. Yeah, settling down and stuff, speaking off settling down, seen little Rankling lately?” 'Rankling' was Mark's nickname much to Rankin's disappointment, an insult to do with his height or lack of it.

“Rankin? Um, yeah I think he's fine,” he didn't want Mark to know he actually lived with Rankin know, he'd never really liked him, “I'm not sure he's still in London.” Cameron was one of the worst liars but Mark still fell for it easily.

“Glad you ditched him, he was pretty weird. Well anyway,” he looked Cameron up and down obviously interested with his choice of wear, “come from work or something?”

“Or something,” Cameron replied nervously, thinking up some story to tell then explaining everything to him.

“What do you work as now? Followed your dreams, I guess?” Mark clasped his hands together in front of him and rocked forward on his feet.

“Actually I'm a lawyer now,” he knew that Mark wouldn't be impressed, he never gave a damn about the law. Then again, neither did Rankin and he was involved enough.

“A lawyer? Interesting, I guess we're all cut down on the end. I was just employed as a policeman, I would never have thought of it before,” he checked his watch gingerly although he knew the time already, “I'm not at work for another couple of hours, want to catch up at yours? I'm beginning to wonder where a lawyer will actually live,”

“I'm not sure that's a great idea,” Cameron laughed lightly trying to pass it off as a joke but failing dramatically as Mark laughed at him rather than with him. He knew Rankin would be at home and there was no denying it was all going to kick off again.

“Why not, embarrassed about where you are? Come on, I won't care as long as you've got a couch, a TV and a packet of crisps I'm happy,” Cameron knew he wasn't going to win, Mark would get his way in the end he always did back at school. He fumbled with is mobile in his pocket and took it out, glancing causally at the light-up screen as he typed a quick message.

Get dressed

    • C

It was all he could do, he smiled at Mark and slipped the mobile back into his pocket. They weren't too far away from his house, the calculated the quickest route in his head then pointed Mark in the right direction. The two of them set-off along the street Mark had just come, laughing about old times and planning meetings that probably would never happen when he saw Rankin sitting in the living room.


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