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Authors: Lauren Crossley

Always and Forever

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Always & Forever

By Lauren Crossley

 

Always & Forever

Copyright
© 2014 Lauren Crossley

All
Rights Reserved. This book may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in
any printed or electronic form without permission from the author. Please do not
participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the
author’s rights. All characters and storylines are the property of the author
and your support and respect is appreciated.

The
characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to
real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Cover
photo © istockphoto.com

 

 

I want to want to
thank everyone who is about to start

reading this book.
You have always been my motivation and I wrote this

for you. I hope you
enjoy it.

Chapter One

This is exactly what I needed. The water is so hot, it
burns my skin as it gently laps against my body. The music coming from my
earphones is helping me to relax and I close my eyes and enjoy the beautiful
melody of Yiruma’s ‘River Flows in You.’ I don’t normally listen to music
whilst I’m in the bath but earlier tonight I was craving peace and solitude
like never before.

Whenever I listen to this piece of music I somehow manage
to find the freedom I so ardently desire. My imagination allows me to leave
this house; it transports me to another time and place, an unidentifiable
location where I don’t have to think about him, a place where he doesn’t exist.

I shake my head forcefully; I don't want to think about him
right now, all I want is to forget him. I shut my eyes and try to rid myself of
the tension that I feel, once again I attempt to immerse myself in the music
that’s playing through my earphones. Unfortunately, it proves to be harder than
I thought. I’m unable to rid my mind of the unwanted anxiety I feel creeping up
inside of me and I’m acutely aware of the reason for my struggle. Knowing that
he’ll soon be home is enough to unsettle me for the rest of the night.

 I’ve been begging my mum to get a lock for the
bathroom door since I was thirteen, at least then I’d have some privacy.
Unfortunately, that decision has never been hers.

I’m suddenly startled by the sound of the front door
slamming downstairs. I groan inwardly, knowing the meaning of that noise. It
means he’s home.

I decide to give myself a few more minutes before I get out
and go downstairs. I know I’m just delaying the inevitable but I need to
mentally prepare myself for another evening with him. I’ve just stepped out of the
bath and wrapping a towel around myself when I hear his big, booming voice yell
at me from downstairs.

“Bethany, I’m home! Come on down when you’re ready.”

I sigh irritably; the sound of his voice actually makes my
skin crawl.

“I’m in the bathroom, Dad. I’ll be out in a second.” I
reply quickly, knowing that it’s best to not keep him waiting.

It’s as though I’m two different people. There’s the real
me, the one I keep hidden and then there’s the other version of myself, the one
my father believes to be real. Over the years I’ve become an expert at playing
the role of my fraudulent self, sometimes I lose track of who I’m supposed to
be.

“Hurry up, Bethany! I have some good news to tell you.”

I jump when I hear his voice from the other side of the
bathroom door. I didn’t even hear him make his way upstairs. If he opens that
door I really will scream. He gives me no space or privacy whatsoever and it’s
enough to drive a sane person crazy. Not that I’m an expert on sanity.

“I’m coming, Dad. I’ll be two minutes, why don’t you go
downstairs and see mum?” 

“Ok, sweetheart, don’t be long.”

I breathe a sigh of relief when I hear his footsteps
descend down the stairs. I still can’t believe how gullible he is when it comes
to my lying. Does he really believe that I have any interest in anything he has
to say? I’ve hated him for years and for some reason he’s too stupid to realise
it.

I hastily pull on a T-shirt and some jogging bottoms before
making my own way downstairs, raking my fingers through my hair and willing
myself to play along with this façade until I can make my excuses and go to
bed.

I need to lock the real me away now. I have to become
everything that he wants me to be and embody everything that he expects of me.

I try to avoid any time alone with him as much as I can. I
frequently go to bed at ten o’clock and lie awake for hours, tossing and
turning because I’m nowhere near tired. Going to bed so early is a small luxury
for me because it means that I can escape from his watchful eyes and his
constant presence. I savour the time that I spend awake in my room because as
much as I hate insomnia, I hate my father more.

 I make my way into the living room; the television is
switched on but silent, the light from the screen flickers in the darkness and
there’s no sign of my parents which means they’re in the dining room. We’re in
the middle of autumn and the low temperature not only exists outside, the
frosty atmosphere in this house has always been enough to leave me with a
permanent chill.

“There’s my girl! What have you been doing with yourself
this evening?” He asks me as I open the door to the dining room. I’m not
surprised to see that he’s already sat at the head of the table, awaiting his
meal.

“Just the usual, I watched a little bit of TV and I was in
the bath when you arrived home. I’m thinking about having an early night, I’m
really tired.” I fake a yawn, hoping to convince him of my fatigue.  It’s
only nine o’clock and I’m far from tired but I really can’t stand to spend the
rest of the night with him.

“But it’s still early. I thought we could stay up a bit
later tonight, seeing as its Friday and you’re not working in the bookstore
tomorrow. You’re forgetting the exciting news I have to tell you.”

I force a smile on my face and remain silent; I’ve learnt
that sometimes it’s better to just say nothing.

“Bethany, could you please set the table for me?” My mum
calls through from the kitchen. I know that she’ll be in there struggling to
get everything ready by herself. I go to help her but I’m stopped by the firm
grip of my father’s hand around my wrist.

“Stay where you are.” He instructs me.

I sit back down and wait for him to release his hold on me.

“I should probably help mum.” I whisper quietly.

“Don’t worry about it, she can manage by herself.” He says
spitefully.

I inwardly cringe at his blatant disrespect and intolerance
of my mum. I’ve never understood his hatred for her and I’ve equally never
understood her endurance for him. She worships the ground he walks on and I
have no idea why. He’s always been her main priority, regardless of how badly
he treats her.

“I’m really not that hungry.” I say, knowing it won’t make
any difference. If he wants me to eat then that’s what I’ll be forced to do.

“If you don’t want what your mum’s prepared for me then she
can easily fix you something else.” He replies.

Just at that moment mum walks in with his food on a tray.
She looks exhausted. Her hair’s a mess from the heat in the kitchen the bags
under her eyes are worse than ever.  Everyday she’s forced to get up at
six o’clock. She usually spends her mornings tidying the house and preparing
his breakfast. She’s more like a slave then a wife.

“Dad, I’m fine. I already ate and mum’s already spent so
long making your meal, it really looks delicious. I’ll sit with you whilst you
eat and then you can tell me your good news.” I smile at him, feeling sick to
my stomach. I saw my mum’s face when he disregarded what she’d made for him and
all of the effort she must have gone to. It’s safe to say that her hard work
has always gone unnoticed and unappreciated by him.

 “Ellen, why don’t you go and make a start on the
washing up?”

Mum pauses, now incredibly embarrassed. She was in the
middle of pulling out a chair, obviously intending on joining us at the table.
My father doesn’t even look at her but I force myself to witness her hurt
expression. I hate to see her treated like this but I know that things would be
much harder for her if I were to jump to her defence. I stopped trying to
protect her a long time ago; in the end it only made things worse. He’d resent
the fact that I’d try to protect her.

“That’s a good idea; it will save me a task in the morning.
I’ve got the dessert prepared if either of you want any.” She gives me a weak smile
before walking away. The look of rejection on her face physically causes me to
hurt.

“Well, seeing as I haven’t even taken my first bite of the
main course yet, I can’t say that a dessert has even crossed my mind.” He says
sarcastically.

I inhale slowly, reminding myself to keep on taking deep
and calming breaths. I ball my hands into fists underneath the table, digging
my fingernails into my palms, hoping that the pain will distract me from the
need to punch him in the face. The overwhelming desire to make him suffer is
becoming stronger and stronger each day. I despise him for the way he treats
her, for the way he’s always treated her.

“I’m sorry; just give me a call if you need anything.” She mumbles
and continues on into the kitchen, closing the door behind her. I start to
wonder whether my mum wishes she could have a lock on the kitchen door like I
do for the bathroom, anything to keep him out.

“So, how have you spent your day, Angel? Done anything
productive with yourself?”

I swallow the bile that rises in my throat when I hear him
refer to me as ‘Angel.’ It’s always been his term of endearment for him but
because it comes from him I absolutely hate it.

“Well, this morning I helped mum with some of the housework
and this afternoon I spent a couple of hours reading.”

“What are you reading?” He asks whilst shovelling a forkful
of food into his mouth.

“Wuthering Heights.”

“That’s excellent, are you enjoying it?”

“It’s a bit of a struggle but I’m getting there.” I lie. I
purposefully chose a book that he would respect; I’ve also read it so I know
that if he decides to quiz me on anything I should be alright in answering his
questions.

“We will read it together sometime.” He grins at me
cheerfully, as though I should bestow my gratitude upon him for making such a
suggestion. In reality, the thought of reading with him makes my stomach churn.

“Maybe.” I reply ambiguously.  

“There’s no maybe about it, Bethany.” He smirks at me,
forcing me to avert my gaze. If he were a normal person then I’d think nothing
of it but I know him too well, I’m able to recognise the underlying threat
behind his smug smile.

“So, what’s the good news that you have to tell me, Dad?”
Another thing I hate is being forced to call him Dad. There’s nothing more
revolting to me than referring to him as such.

“I knew you wouldn’t be able to wait for me to tell you. I
was going to wait until after dinner but I may as well tell you now. I know
that we haven’t been able to have a holiday in quite a few years, mainly
because I’ve been too busy with the bookstore and it couldn’t be helped but
this year I’ve been thinking that we need to get away, we deserve a little
vacation and that’s why I’ve decided to close the bookstore for a couple of
weeks, meaning we’ll be able to go somewhere.” He beams at me from across the
table; he looks so pleased with himself as though this is the greatest gift
he’s ever given me.

“Wow, that’s great. It’s fantastic news! Where are you
thinking of?” I ask him, willing myself to keep up with the pretence and the
agonising façade until I can escape to my bedroom.

“It’s a beautiful caravan site in Scotland and it looks
glorious, Bethany. We’ll be able to go for long walks everyday, scrumptious pub
lunches and no distractions, just the two of us.”

I feel like my heart just stopped. I gape at him in
astonishment, wondering if I heard him correctly. Surely he can’t mean what I
think he does. I continue to observe him munching away on his food without a
care in the world and I know I heard him clearly.

“Do you mean that mum won’t be coming with us?” I ask,
trying to control the trembling in my voice.

“That’s right.” He licks his lips, placing his knife and
fork down onto his empty plate.

“We can’t just leave mum at home by herself.” I say, trying
to reason with him. Maybe I’ll be able to convince him that it’s for the best
if he brings her with us. I know my mum and she’ll hate being alone in the
house, almost as much as I’ll hate being alone with him in a wretched caravan
with him.

“Why not? She wouldn’t want to leave your gran and then
there’s the charity store. At first she may be a little disappointed but in the
long run she’ll realise that it’s for the best if she stays behind.”

I can’t believe he’s using my gran as an excuse for why
mum’s unable to come away with us. For as long as I can remember he’s openly
hated her and to be honest I know the feeling is mutual. She only lives a few
streets away from us and I try to visit her every Saturday with mum. I’d love to
be able to see her more often but once a week is all that my father will allow.

 My gran is the kindest, wisest lady I’ve ever known.
She’s the only person who knows the real me and she’s always understood me in a
way my parents never have. Even as a child I always preferred to spend my time
with her, I loved being at her house and hearing her stories. She’s also the
only one who knows how I really feel about my father. We’re united in our
loathing of him and over the years it’s strengthened our bond. She detests him
for what he’s done to my mum who’s also her one and only daughter.

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