Authors: Andie M. Long
JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF MYSELF
by Andie M. Long
For anyone at the end of one journey, about to embark on another.
I wish you health and happiness.
This book wouldn’t be here were it not for the awesomeness of Carrie Jones and friends who supported me through Nanowrimo November 2013 on Facebook, care of the brilliantly named
Completely Unofficial Cheerleading Group.
Thanks also to everyone who ever clicked like or commented on my multiple word count updates that year. It meant a lot. Finally thanks have to be given to my mate Ruth Loizides whose constant nagging for ‘Have you written some more yet? Get on with it, I’m waiting.’ spurred me on to finish more than she could ever know. Love you mate!
To Andi Lauren Maddocks. It’s now over three years since I promised to write you into a book. You have an awesome mother, don’t forget it. (Pay me later Sarah).
As always thank you to my family, friends, bloggers and fellow authors. Special mentions this time to Susan King-Bagshaw and Alison Jill Gaskell who beta read this book for me a long time ago.
As stated before I wrote this book a long time ago and held back on releasing until I felt the time was right. That time is now. Enjoy.
On our wedding day, we jumped from a cliff into the sea, dressed in our wedding finery. The surface sparkled with sunshine, and as we spliced through the water, it splashed into the air. Ocean confetti.
The epitome of us; Will and Amber, together.
The bricks and mortar of our new home cemented our love.
Then the walls closed in.
What happened after? I can liken it to learning to ride a bike again. I wobbled precariously at first, but then my legs steadied and I was off. The breeze exhilarated me and my legs whizzed around like a hamster on a wheel. Of course, then came the burn of the lactic acid and pain invaded my thighs.
Although the more I did it, the easier it became.
‘Oh, my God. You were asleep. You were actually bloody
A weight lifts off me as Will rolls onto his own side of the bed. I yawn. It stretches my face so wide, a tear rolls from my eye.
‘Well, thanks very much.’
I reach for him, but he tenses and moves away. I shuffle closer and move my hand down his body.
‘Yeah, right, dream on. You had your chance and I bored you.’
No, actually you didn’t
. I clamp my lips together to muffle the sound that threatens to escape.
‘Are you laughing?’ Will pounds his fist into the pillow.
It’s easier to feign a snore.
He turns over.
Will is swinging his hips to the Black Eyed Peas,
Boom Boom Pow
, which pounds through my head as I join him in the kitchen. I angle the blind to reduce the flood of sunshine coming through the window and sit at the table. He slams cupboard doors and sloshes cereal into a bowl. A drop of milk spills over the side where I know it’ll stay. He walks over and releases the blind. It snaps open and light lasers my eyes. I leap back, tipping the chair. I think I may retch.
Will looks at me with a narrow, flinty stare. He hands me a glass of water followed by two painkillers. ‘What was that all about then?’
I shrug. Then I mutter under my breath, ‘Maybe now you know how it feels.’
‘What was that? You say something?’
I shake my head from left to right, then wish I hadn’t as I get a shooting pain behind my eye. Holding my head back, I tip the tablets and water down my throat. The cold drink soothes like after-sun lotion on sunburn. I pass him the glass back. ‘Can I have a coffee?’
He sighs, but walks over to the Tassimo and adds a disc. ‘So, I guess it was a good night?’
‘It was alright, nice to let my hair down for a bit.’ I stare at the table and pretend I haven’t noticed his
. We christened this table when we moved in. Now there are boring insurance documents everywhere. I imagine lying on the table, numbers painted on my body in chocolate. He’d probably not notice and ask me what’s for tea. My hand brushes the surface. I push my finger into the grooves made in the walnut, despite my best intentions to keep it pristine. The dints, the scratches and the ink marks from where Will has left the top off his pens taunt me, boring new signs forever to remain.
‘It was a bit sad, them all leaving at once. They got a pen each. A crappy pen after all that time.’
‘You did the best you could with that whip-round at such short notice.’
‘Yes, well, I wouldn’t have made such an effort if I’d known Smithy would spend it on pens.’
‘Maybe they’ll write their next job application out with it? Then it’ll become their lucky pen.’
I sigh. ‘Maybe they’ll take it back and exchange it for tablets and a bottle of cheap vodka.’
He eye rolls. ‘You’re so dramatic.’
My lip trembles with either emotion or lack of food. It’s hard to know which. ‘It’s just that replacing everyone with temps makes me feel like Judas or something. I felt guilty being there last night.’ I get up and collect my coffee. I pick up the carton of milk Will’s left on the side
‘I knew you’d need it so I left it out ready.’
‘Course you did.’
‘It’s not your fault.’
left it out.’
‘That’s not what I mean.’
I note he is wearing the same Saturday uniform, an old t-shirt with holes and worn jeans.
When did this routine kick in?
‘So did Olly come round?’
He looks at me like a radiographer assessing a disease.
It was years ago now, can’t you forget it?
‘Nah, Alfie was grizzly. Sam wanted him to stay.’
I stifle yet another yawn. ‘What are we doing today?’
‘B&Q for laminate.’
I groan. ‘You are joking aren’t you? I want some fuuuunnn.’
‘I want to get the spare room sorted. You, my lovely lady, are on “move the junk” duty.’
‘Thought I’d failed that last night by falling asleep?’
Will raises an eyebrow at me. ‘You’re just so funny.’
I touch his arm. ‘It’s such a lovely day. Let’s go up to the coast, it’s only an hour. We can walk along the beach and I can clear my head.’ The right side of my temple throbs and I place my fingers on it and rub.
‘I want to get this done. It’s time we got it cleared, ready for—’
‘I’m gonna go back to bed.’ I walk away.
I get down under the covers and shut my eyes. Thoughts of the evening before surface.
I’d been in the loo redoing my lippy during the most boring leaving-do known to man. When I came out, the seats were empty, with no sign of my colleagues.
I looked around, scanning the room, the entrance. Unable to spot anyone familiar I moved to check out the bar. The queues were five deep. Sweat ran down my back and I was grateful I’d chosen to wear a loose fitting tunic top. I manoeuvred my way nearer the bar and then stood on my tiptoes, trying to peer at the front.
‘Do you want me to get you a drink?’ said a husky voice to my right.
I looked at him. Taller than me, perhaps five-foot-ten? He ran his fingers through his short, spiky light brown hair. I wondered if it was immovable. There was an uneven line to his nose. He smiled at me; blue eyes crinkled and turned his face into a world of happy. I looked at the lips that had formed the words; top lip narrow, bottom lip full.
I should go. But I can’t go home now. I need to watch for my colleagues.
‘Sorry. Yes. Red wine, please,’ I shouted back and tried to hand over a fiver.
‘No, keep it. It’s on me,’ he said, shaking his head from side to side and pointing to his chest in case I couldn’t hear him. As he passed me the glass, he tilted his head towards me and whispered, ‘Lucky, lucky wine getting to slide down the throat of such a gorgeous woman.’
I should have insulted him for such a crass comment, or shown him the platinum band that tethers me to Will. However, last night it brought to mind bindweed, pretty to look at but potentially suffocating. So I’d taken a sip of the wine, run my tongue around my lips, closed my eyes and gone ‘mmmm’.
When I reopened them, I’d watched his breath hitch. I laughed and walked away.
I didn’t find my colleagues.
The last of what I remember: a darkened corner of the club, my hand stroking spiky strands, kissing until my mouth felt swollen. Like a sparkler holding on until I was too near to the heat, then letting go.
Will walks into the room. I startle, touching my throat. ‘God, you made me jump.’
He places a fresh coffee at the side of the bed and then sits beside me. His fingers push my long auburn fringe behind my ear, and then drop to pat the duvet cover. ‘Is this it for the day then?’
‘Why don’t you join me? I’m sober now.’
‘Can’t. Things to do.’
I sit up and lean against the headboard, counting my breaths until the threatening tears recede. ‘Well, if we aren’t going to the beach, I may as well go back to sleep.’
‘What about tidying the spare room?’
‘I’ll do it later. There’s no mad rush is there?’
‘Well actually, that’s something I want to talk to you about...’
My phone beeps, indicating a message. I glance around. My handbag is at the side of the doorway. Will gazes at me with his serious face so I ignore it and listen.
‘You know how you’re twenty-nine now?’
‘I’m hardly going to forget my age. I’m twenty-nine, not seventy-nine.’ The hairs on my neck stand up as I’m not sure I like where this conversation may be headed. I run my hands through my hair. My scalp is tender to the touch.
‘And I’m thirty-one...’
‘I’m really tired, Will.’
He ignores me. ‘So I think we should try for a baby.’
I cross my arms over my chest. ‘Are you fucking kidding me? You realise how you make a baby don’t you?’
‘You fell asleep on me.’
‘Is this about Olly, or us? Are we competing again?’
I see a flicker of something on Will’s face, but within a second it’s gone.
‘No. I think it’s time.’
I pull my knees up to my chest and wrap my arms around them, hugging them towards me. ‘Look, I can’t do this right now, my head’s killing. Can we talk later, please?’