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Authors: Ricki Thomas

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BOOK: Hope's Vengeance
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Dawn gave her some time to control the sobbing, keeping an eye, but not watching, Hope was a private person, and Dawn could sense her embarrassment. Eventually she prompted. “Why did my arranging coffee make you cry?”

A grimace and a fresh crop of tears rolled, soaked immediately into the waiting tissue. “I don’t know. I guess I’m not used to someone being nice to me any more.”

“Okay. Take your time.” Dawn suppressed the maternal urge to hug her client. She waited, patient, for Hope to compose herself. Five minutes passed, the only sounds in the room the rhythmic clock and the uncomfortable sobs.

Eventually they subsided, the chest rising and falling slower as she calmed herself firmly. “I’m so sorry about that. I feel so silly.” She chuckled lightly as she dabbed at her dampened cheeks, wiping her nose, throwing the tattered tissue in the bin and dragging out a fresh one. Dawn smiled, shaking the blonde curls to dismiss the unnecessary apology. They each took a mug from the tray, and Dawn hungrily picked up a biscuit.

“Last week, I saw my parent’s shameful behaviour from a child’s point of view again, instead of with the adult reasoning I’ve attached to it as I’ve grown up. It gave me an opportunity to say goodbye to it.”

Dawn set her drink down, she leaned forward, her expression intense. “Hope! Do you realise how amazing that is, that you could do that, that you could let it go?”

Hope sniggered timidly. “Not amazing, but I’m a little bit proud of myself.”
“And so you should be!” She stirred another sugar into her drink, and sipped again, a second biscuit in hand.
“I don’t know how you can eat all those biscuits and stay so slim! I’m getting fat just looking at them!”

Dawn eyed the skinny frame, bones jutting from underneath the oversized jumper. Hope’s cheekbones were prominent, making her eyes appear huge, and her neck was scrawny. The leggings she favoured were baggy, her knees sharp where they bent. “Do you think you’re fat?”

“I have to watch what I eat, I could do with losing a few pounds.” Hope patted her concave tummy, as Dawn penned a quick note on her pad.

“Last week you told me you moved to Reading. Why Reading?”
“It’s where Mum grew up.”
“Ahh, of course, her parents.” Dawn leant back, her forearms laid on the armrests.

Hope swallowed the mouthful of coffee, shaking her head and waving her hand. “No, they’d moved to the south coast, Brighton, years before. I think Mum thought she had some friends there, or something. Actually, to tell you the truth, I never asked.” She finished the coffee and set the mug down. “I hated Reading. When we were with Dad, we always had a big house, with big gardens to play in, our own rooms, and we lived in villages with playgrounds and greens. We had new clothes, good food, we went to restaurants, days out. Now he was doing all that with Pen, Fred and Felicity, and we were in a tiny, damp shithole in a smelly town with noisy cars right outside the door, and neighbours shouting at their kids and each other. I hated it.

We went to Exeter once a year to stay with them, Dad and Sandra, and Pen and me, we got on like a house on fire, so I always looked forward to the holidays, and Sandra was like Mum used to be, happy, smiley, cooked us dinner, kissed us goodnight. She used to give me six kisses before bed, one on my forehead.” Hope’s finger reiterated her words. “One on each cheek, one on the chin, one on the nose, then one on my lips.”

A light switched off in Hope’s face, a sullen sadness sweeping over her, but no rage, just that odd resigned stance from the week before. It occurred to Dawn that this period of Hope’s life had been so low that she was too tired to have any emotion or anger over it now. “Did you love Sandra? Do you?”

The intense fire returned, burning from the blueness, and Dawn realised she’d surmised the situation too early. The knuckles were white, and the fists clenched, lips curled into a sneer. “Fuck off, did I! I fucking hated her. She stole my Dad. Penelope, Frederick, fucking Felicity. They had my Dad, I had nothing. I had a fucking waster of a mother who drank and smoked away our food money, our clothes money. The fucking house reeked of smoke, choking, it was horrid. She drank vodka from the bottle, all day, every day. You know, I don’t know who it was that fathered Honesty, I’m not sure Mum even knows, she says Sam’s the father, but there was always some new bloke sniffing around, taking her to bed, shagging her noisily so we all had to hold our hands over our ears.”

Dawn needed to calm the situation somehow, she found it difficult to think rationally when the anger was in the room, it was harsh, it hurt, it scared her, no, terrified her. She kept her voice calm, catching the tremor before it left her lips. “Hope, you told me it helped to be the child again. Tell me the story from when you moved to Reading. How old were you?”

Instantly calm, it felt as if the sun was shining in the room, and Dawn gasped lightly, amazed at the transition. How did that happen? “I was seven. Just seven. We moved straight after my birthday. Me, Faith, Charity, none of us knew what was happening, it was all so quick. It was like a rug had been pulled out from under us. We came home from school, the house was empty, Dad and Mum were in a car waiting for us. We thought it was an adventure. Mum had prepared some sandwiches, we ate them in the back while Dad drove, and we thought they’d got back together. We giggled, joked, laughed in the back, while Dad drove and Mum gazed at the fields through the window. We thought it was an adventure.”

The words had tailed off hauntingly, and Dawn needed to prompt them back. “So where were you going then?”

“Reading. The fields stopped and there were lots of houses, the air got thicker, smelly, like I’d never known before. Big buildings, people, cars everywhere, it was horrid, I’d never seen anything like it. Then the car stopped outside a terraced house, it was blackened, the garden was overgrown, and a ‘To Let’ sign waved in the breeze. Stick an ‘I’ in that and that’s exactly the type of shit the house was!” Hope sniggered ironically, then settled once more.

“Mum opened the door, Dad stayed in the car, and then she told us it was our new home. She was smiling like we should be pleased, but fuck off were we! The three of us walked round, taking in the tiny rooms, the tatty furniture. There were three bedrooms. The smallest only had room for a bed and chest of drawers. Charity chose that one. There was only one bed in the next one, Mum said she’d get another but me and Faith would have to share until she could get the money. I still to this day don’t know how our things got over there, but our teddies and clothes were all there, waiting for us.”

Hope breathed deeply, preparing herself, Dawn discreetly checked her watch. Twenty minutes left. “That was the start of the nightmare, walking through the door and hearing the word ‘home’. The next part started straight after. Dad drove away, Mum came in, she got a bottle of vodka and poured a glass out. I was scared, because that was what Sam had always drunk before he was sick, so I started crying. Mum patted me on the head, then she hugged me and said it would be alright. After she’d had about half the bottle she started crying, then she got angry and sent us to bed. We didn’t even have any covers on the bed, and the mattress stank. Faith and I cried ourselves to sleep, but at least we had each other to cuddle.”

Hope ambled to the water cooler. “Things didn’t improve. Soon she was drinking from the morning, getting through a bottle a day. We had no food in the house, so ate as much as we could at school because we had free meals. I always went up for seconds.” A light chuckle. “Probably why I’m so fat now!” Dawn’s face remained stern.

Refreshed, Hope sat again, leaning back in the chair. “We discovered jumble sales, me and my sisters, we’d steal a bit of money from Mum’s purse when she was passed out, and went to jumble sales. Then we had something to wear to school and the teasing stopped, so we began to fit in. We got used to Mum always being drunk, she was always crying, but then her tummy got huge. Charity said she was pregnant, and we didn’t believe her.

Then one night, Mum woke us up, it was two in the morning, she said she had to go to hospital because it was time. An ambulance came, then two policemen, Mum got in the ambulance and they went off. The police said they had to stay until a social worker got there. We were taken to another place, to this woman, big, fat she was. I thought we’d done something wrong again, and we’d lost our Mum now, I was so scared. I loved her, you know, just because she stopped being a nice Mum, I still loved her.”

“You say that in the past tense?”

The raised eyebrows, sardonic expression, and Dawn was silenced. “She was back just in time for Christmas with my new baby sister. I adored Honesty from the word go, her little scrunched up face, jet black hair, tiny fingers and toes, she was beautiful.”

Dawn leaned forward, hands outstretched, pensive. “Can I clarify something here, Hope? You say your Mum was drunk all the time, but then she came home with a baby?”

“That’s the one! Terrible, huh. We didn’t know the significance at the time, but she was lucky Honesty came out okay.” Dawn sighed incredulously as she settled back into the homely chair. “We started to take it in turns to miss school, me and Faith. Mum always told us to go in the morning, but when we did, sometimes we’d come back home and Honesty would be screaming while Mum was asleep, drunk. So we made sure one of us was always on hand for Honesty. Charity refused to help, said her schoolwork was important and she wasn’t going to miss it. We used to fight, me and Charity, because I said Honesty was important too, but she didn’t care.”

“Did anyone know you were having to miss school to look after your sister? I mean, social workers, anyone?” Unchecked, Dawn was visibly shocked at what she was hearing.

“Eventually, yes. Eventually we got a social worker each, and Mum got some help. She still drank then, but only in the evenings.”

“How awful, Hope, what a horrible come down. You must have been so scared.” Dawn checked her watch. “It’s just about time to finish, but I just want to ask a couple of questions, just to get things straight in my head.” She had to see the reactions again, see if Hope’s body language gave anything more away.

“Fire away.” A wide, confident smile.

“Sandra, did you ever forgive her?”

Hope shrugged, indifferent. “She means nothing to me. I don’t believe in adultery, she did it, she wrecked a family, she wrecked our lives. I won’t even let her register on my emotional scale.”

Dawn was perplexed, Hope was laying the blame for the affair firmly at Sandra’s feet, yet when she described her father leaving, the bottle spun in his direction. That would have to be explored some time. “Right. The other thing I noticed was your adverse reaction when I mentioned Sam.”

Hope rolled her eyes. “Did he ever touch me, I know. Dawn, you seem intent on making me a victim of sexual abuse. Stop it. I’m not. No one went there. Okay? Sam never laid a finger on me, nor did my father, nor did anyone. My first boyfriend, Ryan, took my virginity, when I was ready, end of story.”

Dawn grinned. “You got me.”

Hope stood, thanked Dawn, and left.

 

The Staff Room

 

 

The coffee on the table had long since stopped steaming, forgotten. With no clients for the entire morning, Dawn had settled herself into the chair, feet on the table, and engrossed herself in the book she’d found on the shelf. She was looking for something to confirm her suspicions, anything, a clue, a behavioural trait, she had a gut feeling and however much Hope denied it, it still irked her. As if levitating, Pat glided into the room. Dawn swiftly moved her feet from the table. “Don’t do that on my account, dear.”

Dawn smiled, placed the book on the table, open and face down, and stretched, arms wide, long legs outstretched. She yawned, and took the coffee, huffing at its coldness. “Cold coffee, eh?” In an admirably flowing sequence, Pat had filled the kettle, switched it on, collected two mugs, spooned in some coffee and added milk.

Dawn rose, stretching again, this time arms and back, and strolled to the kitchen area, her streetwise strut a complete contrast to her boss’s elegance. She tipped the cold drink away, placing the mug in the sink. “Yes, I forgot all about it.”

Pat’s cotton wool hand patted her shoulder gently, she glanced back at the table. “What are you reading that’s got you so engrossed, dear?” She poured the boiling water into the mugs, stirring, and they each took their coffees to the table.

“Child Sexual Abuse by David Finkelhor. I found it in the bookcase.” Pat raised an eyebrow, waiting for elaboration, which left Dawn feeling even sillier. She sighed. “A client. She denies it. I don’t know why I keep going on about it, she’s getting pissed off with me.” Dawn glanced up, Pat wasn’t one to swear in front of, and she bit her tongue, hoping her boss would let it go. She did. “I don’t know.”

Pat took the mug in her plump hands, letting the warmth redden them further, and cocked her head to the side. Her prim curls were tight against her head, neat, old, and her lips worked gently as she thought. “Repression, maybe?”

Dawn shook her head vigorously. “Don’t believe in it, sorry.”
“For a reason?”
“It’s unproven. Even Freud dismissed his own theory eventually.”

Pat drained her cup, and floated back to the kitchen. “Two thoughts, dear, two thoughts. Firstly, don’t dismiss anything, just because it hasn’t been proven, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just remember, people swore the world was flat once.” Dawn nodded, the reasoning sinking in. “And secondly, Hope will tell you her problems, you’ll get to the bottom of it, just give it time.”

Dawn’s mouth gaped, she stuttered slightly. “How do you know I’m talking about Hope?”

Pat sailed to the door, the air about her remaining untouched, she paused, and opened it wide. “Dawn, she’s all you ever think about nowadays, dear. She’s gotten hold of you, and you’ve let her.” The door closed, and Dawn suddenly felt more alone than ever. She shuddered.

BOOK: Hope's Vengeance
7.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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