Read Reasons to Leave (Reasons #1) Online

Authors: Lisa J. Hobman

Tags: #Highlands, #Scotland, #Love and loss, #contemporary romance, #second chance

Reasons to Leave (Reasons #1) (2 page)

BOOK: Reasons to Leave (Reasons #1)
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She kissed his nose. “You’ve just got pre-results blues, that’s all. One day, you’ll be a doctor without a doubt.” She leaned her forehead on his. “Your mum and dad must be so proud of you. I know I am. And you’re the best role model for Dillon.”

Jason nodded but his eyes were filled with sadness. “Thanks. I just get a bit tired of having to be the
best
at everything. There’s no room for error. Failure is not an option.” He spoke as if quoting someone. “It wears me down, Stevie.”  His jaw clenched.

“Well, you shouldn’t be so bloody talented then, eh?” she teased.

He dropped his gaze again. “That’s just it though…the more I do well, the more people
expect
from me. It’s getting ridiculous.”

Worried about his current train of thought, she crawled into his lap and looked into his eyes. “What’s brought all this on?” She stroked his cheek lovingly.

He gazed up at her, tenderly tucking her hair behind her ears. “Oh nothing…just ignore me. You’re probably right about the pre-result nerves.” He pulled her down and kissed her until she melted into him once again and forgot what they had been discussing. And then he whispered her favourite words, his mantra. “Hmm, Stevie…
my
soul mate
.”

She smoothed her hands down his chest to his tight stomach and his muscles flinched beneath her touch. “I could always…help you take your mind off things…if you’d let me try.”

He lifted her and placed her beside him. His eyes were pleading a message, but she couldn’t quite read it. “Stevie…not here…not yet. It’s not that I don’t want you…and I do love you…but…can we wait? Please?”

Once again, he had rebuffed her advances and she felt foolish. But she smiled and nodded, tucking herself into his side as she turned her attention back to the DVD on the screen.

 

****

 

Leavers’ Ball Night

 

Stevie smoothed the dress down over her curves and added a little more gloss to her lips. It was ten minutes past the time Jason was supposed to pick her up. He was
never
late. She paced the hallway, getting more and more annoyed as the minutes ticked by.

“Have you tried his mobile?” Dana asked as Stevie became increasingly upset.

She narrowed her eyes and put her hands on her hips. “Oooh, do you know I never thought of that!” she snapped, immediately regretting her harsh tone. She sighed heavily. “Sorry, Mum…there was no need for that… It’s just
so
not like him. I don’t get it.”

Thankfully, Dana didn’t get upset easily. “Well, what did his mum say?”

“Nothing. She wasn’t in. No one was in. Dillon has no idea either. Jason wasn’t home when he got back from school.” She chewed on a painted nail. Her other hand clung to the silver coloured heart shaped pendant around her neck that Jason had made for her in his metal work class. He had engraved her favourite words on the reverse.
My soul mate
.

Dana stopped her daughter in her tracks and pulled her hand away from her mouth. “Keep doing that and we’ll have to redo your nails, sweetie. He’ll
be
here. Please try to stop worrying.”

An hour later—and after several phone calls aiming to discover the whereabouts of her boyfriend—the mystery was no nearer to being solved. Dana was doing her best to comfort her daughter, who was distraught with worry.

The house phone rang and Stevie leapt to grab it. “Jason?” she gasped into the phone, desperately hoping she was right.

“Stevie? No love… It’s Shirley.” Jason’s mother sounded like she was crying. Stevie lowered herself to the sofa, dreading what she was about to hear.

“Shirley, what’s going on? Where’s Jason? I’m really worried.” Her words came out in a rush.

“Sweetheart…he’s…he’s
gone
…Jason’s gone.”

Her heart plummeted like a stone in a deep pond and her skin became cold and clammy as dread washed over her. “What? What do you mean he’s gone? Gone where?” Suddenly Shirley’s words hit her and something resembling a sob and a scream left her body. “
No!

Dana flung an arm around her daughter as the phone slipped out of her hands.

With a rapid movement Dana caught the falling handset and fumbling a little with her daughter encircled in one arm, she manoeuvred the phone to her ear. “Shirley? Oh my God, Shirley, what’s happened?”

Stevie was light headed and faint. The room spun and echoed. She felt as though she was disappearing, receding down a long tunnel as the room retreated from view. Her mum shouted her name before everything went black.

 

****

 

The light hurt Stevie’s eyes as she slowly fluttered her eyelids open to find Dana hovering over her. “She’s coming round, Shirley.”

“Oh, Stevie, sweetheart, you gave us a fright,” Shirley said as she stroked her hand. Stevie pulled herself upright and couldn’t quite understand why Jason’s mother was

a) in her living room and

b) not hysterical at the news that her son was somehow…
dead
.

Thinking the thought again made her lip quiver, her heart ache, and her stomach roll.

“I’m going to throw up,” she informed the two wide-eyed women before she retched. Luckily, her stomach was empty thanks to her lack of appetite that evening and the dry heaves turned to sobs once again.

“Stevie…don’t cry, darling. Listen to what Shirley has to say, okay?” She nodded, looking from one woman to the other and feeling very confused.

Shirley inhaled and squeezed her hand. “You’ve misunderstood me, darling. I’m pretty sure Jason is fine. I’m so sorry for scaring you. It wasn’t my intention. I was just shocked. I mean, I’m sure he’s alive…he…he just…
left
.”

Stevie took a moment for the words to sink in. Something wasn’t quite right.
This
wasn’t right. “What do you mean he left? He can’t have just left. Where would he go?
Why
would he go?”

Shirley squeezed her hand again. “We have no idea. He just cleared his closet out and took his savings. But he left his mobile phone behind. Wherever he’s gone, he doesn’t want to be contacted.”

Stevie shook her head in disbelief. “There must be some mistake. He wouldn’t do that… It was the Leavers’ Ball… He was supposed to take me… He loves me…and there’s Oxford… He loves me… I don’t…”

Shirley put an arm around her shoulder. “I think perhaps he just needed to get away for a while. He’s been under lots of pressure with the exams and his application to Oxford. I’m sure he’ll come home when he’s had a few days away. Let’s try not to worry, eh?”

Flooded with relief Stevie nodded and inhaled a deep, shaking breath through pursed lips. “Yes…yes you’re probably right. He’ll be back… He
has
been stressed, I do know that…and a little quiet…but I know him and he wouldn’t just leave like that…not for good… He loves me. I
know
he really loves me…”

The two women hugged her and held her hand as her eyes darted back and forth between them. “He loves me. I know he does. He’ll come back.”

 

Chapter One

Ten Years Later

 

Stevie sighed down the line on hearing her friend’s bad news. “You can’t possibly be serious about this, Mollie? You’re due to leave on that stupid Outward Bounds trip next bloody week!
How
can you have broken your ankle?”

“Honestly? I don’t even know. One minute I was upright and the next I was sprawled out, face down on the brushy things with my leg facing one way and my ankle at a weird, jaunty angle.”

She shivered. “Eugh! Mollie I don’t need to
know
the details. I can do without the mental image, thanks. I can’t believe you’re not going to be able to go. It’s all you’ve bloody talked about for months. You and David from P.E…alone together.”

Mollie huffed. “We’d hardly have been
alone
. A coach load of teenagers isn’t what you could, in any way, call conducive to a blossoming romance.”

“Ha!
Blossoming romance
? I’d say it’s still at the
seed in the packet on the shelf at the garden centre
stage at the moment. Let’s not get delusional, Moll.”

“Hey, now that’s just mean. And I can’t help it if he only has eyes for a certain Science teacher with long, auburn hair.”

“David. Does. Not. Fancy.
Me
.”

Mollie laughed out loud. “No, you’re right. He
never
sits there staring all dreamy eyed at you in the staff room. And he
never
makes a beeline for the Science department’s table on training days.
Never
.”

“Oh, shut up. And anyway, the feeling is
not
mutual. You can have him.”

“Well, that
was
my intention when we went up north, but I won’t get the opportunity now.”

“Hmmm, you’re right. It’s clearly not happening now. So…who’s going in your place?”

There was a pregnant pause from the other end of the line. “Ah, well…that’s just the thing, you see…the Headteacher asked me who I thought would be a good replacement and—”

“Oh my God, you didn’t? You wouldn’t
do
that to me.” Silence. “You did, didn’t you? You told Anthony I’d do it, didn’t you?”

“Weeeell…I may have suggested—”

“Mollie Sumner! You cow! I can’t
believe
you’d do this to me. I’m your
best friend
. You know me better than anyone, and you know I hate
anything
to do with the outdoors! How could you?”

“Don’t be mad, babe. Please! He put me under pressure. I couldn’t think of anyone else.”

“He put you under pressure? You’re terrified of the man. That’s all. He only has to look at you and you volunteer for anything. And now he’s going to approach me to go on this bloody trip with David and a bus load of spotty snot bags!”

“That’s what I love about you, your love for the kids you teach.”

“I
love
them when I can go home at the end of the day! When I can drink a bottle of red wine on a weekend and forget them for a while. How would I manage a
whole week
with the blighters? Seriously, Moll, I’m so bloody upset with you right now.”

 

****

 

One Week Later

Day One Of Hell

 

A ten-hour journey north from London with a coach load of fifteen-year-olds was
not
the way Stevie had intended spending the beginning of her week. Or
any
part
of
any
week, for that matter. She cursed Mollie Sumner for her broken ankle.
Honestly, what kind of teacher goes dry slope skiing for the first time a week before an Outward Bounds trip that she had agreed to assist on? Doing such a thing was asking for trouble, tempting fate in the worst possible way
.

Mollie, the Biology teacher, had
always
been clumsy and accident prone—outdoorsy, but clumsy all the same. This latest accident just proved what everyone else already knew—she was a walking disaster. After trying to find reasons to
not
go on the trip, she had drawn a complete blank. A female chaperone was necessary and Anthony, the Headteacher, was
very
persuasive. Although
legally
he wasn’t allowed to say so in
actual words,
she got the distinct impression that it was going to go in her favour when the Head of Science position became free in the autumn, and so she had agreed, albeit very reluctantly.

Her case was crammed with just-in-case items. She had thermals, just in case it was freezing—well Scotland wasn’t known for its tropical temperatures. Insect repellent, just in case there were lots of midges—the rest of the Science department had been teasing her about being feasted upon. A small bottle of Vodka, just in case the stress got too much—although she realised there was little chance of having a sneaky drink, and she was also very much aware that she could lose her job if it was spotted. And so it went on. She thought she had covered pretty much every eventuality, but it didn’t make going any more palatable.

BOOK: Reasons to Leave (Reasons #1)
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