Ignite Page 17

Twenty eight days I\d been gone, and I\d prepared the speech of my life. It was the kind of speech that would have me on my hands and knees begging Jaxon to take me back. I hadn\ anticipated that I\d rock up to the apartment complex and see a different couple through the apartment window from across the street. Then it was confirmed when I buzzed up to the apartment. They\d been moved in for two and a half weeks, they said, and had no idea who this Jaxon I was asking about was.

I dragged Lexi to a phone booth, and by then I was panting up a storm. When I tried calling his number, it was out of service. When I tried calling my own, it was cut off too. I didn\ want to jump to conclusions, but I was seriously losing my shit at this point.

’’I\m going to call Jaxon\s mom, and you\ e going to ask about him,’’ I told Lexi.

’’Why won\ you talk to her?’’ she retorted, and though she had a point, I couldn\ bring myself to talk to Lucinda at that time. I was too much of a coward. So much uncertainty had run through my mind. What if he told his mom not to give me any information about him because he was angry as hell that I\d walked out and didn\ ever want to see me again? She\d be hopeless information. And how would I explain myself to her? I\d have to reveal how evil I was to him, how badly I treated him - no way, she would hate me forever once she knew.

’’Just do it,’’ I demanded.

Sighing in irritation, Lexi whipped the phone out of my hand and put it to her ear. She looked at me and raised her eyebrows. ’’Well, dial the f*king number then!’’ As I began dialling, she asked, ’’What should I ask her exactly? Why he left the apartment or...?’’

’’Yeah, and where he is, and his phone number too.’’

My heart was pounding fast as hell when I heard the tiny, barely audible voice of Lucinda through the ear piece. ’’Hi, I was wondering if I could talk to Jaxon,’’ said Lexi. ’’I\m just a friend of his from Winthrop. I\ve been gone a little while and came back to his apartment and he\s not living there... Oh, right. Do you know where he is then? No, I didn\ know about that. Do you know the name of the work place? Oh...’’ Her face fell and she looked at me with pressed lips as she listened. ’’Would you happen to have his phone number? Tried calling that too but couldn\ get a hold of him... Okay, no that\s alright. I gotta go. Thank you very much. Bye.’’

The second she hung up, I grabbed her hand and squeezed. ’’Well?’’

’’She said he\s moved away.’’

’’Where?’’

Lexi paused and then sighed, looking away from my eyes. ’’She... She said he\s taken some job overseas. A long term one.’’

I scrunched my eyebrows in confusion. ’’What? Where overseas?’’

’’She said he didn\ want to disclose that information to anyone, so she couldn\ say. But that it was a really good job, and he\s expected to be gone for a long time.’’

’’What\s the job?’’

’’I don\ know. She was being really vague, like she didn\ want to talk about it. He doesn\ have a number either. She said he just wants to focus on his work, but that he\s doing really well and he\s very happy, and that she\d let him know I called. Then she asked for my name and I just told her I had to go.’’ When she saw the look on my face, she brought me in for a hug. ’’I\m sorry, Sara. Maybe you should give her a call too.’’

’’She already told you everything I needed to know,’’ I whispered, closing my eyes as tightly as possible, as if that could prevent the tears from falling.

Just like now, in the car, with my head down and my shoulders slumped. He\s doing really well and he\s very happy. That knowledge was akin to someone taking a hammer to my heart and beating it to shreds. My leaving had given him a good job overseas somewhere, and he was happy. The break-up had been the right thing to do after all. It\d given him purpose to excel in other things in life, and the fact I\d been so miserable and he\d been so happy in that month I\d been gone just confirmed to me how toxic I\d been. It must have hit him like a truck. He would have woken up the next morning and not have heard me bitch and moan about something he\d done wrong. He wouldn\ have had to get up, count to ten to calm his patience down, and then try to thaw the ice that was my personality. God, he\d tried so hard in our relationship. He deserved so much better.

Five years was a long time, and in that time I\d come so far. Therapy and anger management were just some of the things I\d undergone to change. I\d also taken up meditation, and yoga. At one point I took an art class with Lexi, but I butchered that skill after three classes and never returned. My therapist continued to press me to try more things. Nothing held my interest for long, but I was still at it years later. Lexi and I were currently in cooking class, so our baking skills had dramatically improved and we\d been indulging in many forbidden treats - and eating was a kind of therapy too.

I was lucky, or so Dr Shipton said. I\d caught my problem early on, and the taming of my inner beast was easier than it would have been had I let it sit there and simmer any longer. There were triggers to the anger. Though Lucinda had given me that speech on independency, the only reason it\d sunk in so far was because of witnessing my mother\s hopeless relationship with my devil of a father. She had done nothing for herself, and even after he\d left, she\d depended on me to take care of her addiction. Witnessing that kind of dependency in a figure that was meant to guide me through life had impacted me more than I thought possible.

But she\s dead now. She\s dead. Dead. The word still hadn\ sunk in. My mother wasn\ alive anymore. She\d died horrifically, and had I had a f*king phone I\d have made it to her funeral. I suppressed the guilt because it wasn\ really my fault. The last time I\d contacted her was through a text, letting her know my number had changed. She\d never called me from the time I left home. We were strangers, and always were. I knew nothing of the woman that died. Never did either. Memories reminded me she\d left me to fend for myself.

’’Get a grip of yourself,’’ I mumbled. ’’Get this f*king done and go back home.’’ Back to the familiarity of Lexi and Daniel - that was my present bliss.

I started the car and followed the directions of the GPS. God, Daniel\s car was the se*iest thing I\d ever driven.

What was supposed to be a three hour drive had taken me five, but after that last stop, I got my shit together and rode all the way into town. When I saw the sign of Gosnells, I internally shuddered and then the nostalgia flooded in when I drove past a familiar farm. I couldn\ stop looking around the place. The other farms were gone and replaced by large suburban developments still in the works. There were signs out front of every developing area, and one that said, ’’Maple Springs can be your future home. Low interest rates, buy now!’’

If it hadn\ been for the GPS tracking my whereabouts, I would have been completely lost. Gosnells was on steroids;new streets, so many shops, and so many people. When I drove through the centre of town, I marvelled at one of the major shopping centres. It\d been extended and refurbished;no longer looking like an old derelict warehouse I used to buy groceries from with Lucinda.

F*k, when her name sprang up, I cautiously looked around the streets as if she would sprout out in front of me at any second. I panicked knowing I was in the same vicinity as her. I was not ready to face up to her, and deep inside I knew I never would be.

When I hit my small neighbourhood, I gasped at every townhouse I drove past. Every lawn was manicured and had a bush or a small section of flowers. The townhouses looked the same, but there was something different in the air. I just didn\ know what.

I parked in the parking lot that belonged to the aisle of townhouses ahead of me, one being my old home. I pulled out my phone and dialled the landlord\s number. I told him I\d arrived. Ten minutes later, he rocked up in a van and came out with the key in his hand. Mr Diaz was a cheery, fat little man with rosy cheeks and a grey beard.

’’Sara Nolan, yes?’’ he asked in a thick accent.

’’Yes,’’ I said with a pretend smile, walking with him to my old home.

’’I\m very sorry for your loss, Sara.’’ He cast me a sympathetic look as I took the key from him. ’’Your mother was a very lovely tenant. When I took over from the previous owner, I went around and introduced myself to all the tenants, and she invited me in for tea and biscuits. I\ll never forget how kind she was every time I was in the neighbourhood.’’

I blinked and my smile faltered. What the f*k did he just say? Lovely tenant? Tea and biscuits? ’’Right,’’ was all that escaped me.

’’Very sweet woman. I went to her funeral last week. So many people there. She was very loved.’’

’’Was she?’’ I couldn\ hide the disbelief in my voice as we stopped at the front door of the townhouse. I faced him with wide eyes. ’’Who went to her funeral?’’

’’I don\ know how many, but the church was quite full of people. You might want to speak to the priest at the church. Would you like me to give you his number?’’

’’I have his number, thanks.’’

’’Well, do you need me to help you here with anything in particular? I can call for a skip if you\d like?’’

’’I\ll have a browse around now, and then make arrangements for a skip tomorrow. I don\ want to inconvenience you in anyway.’’

He smiled and gave me a gentle pat on the back. ’’I wouldn\ be inconvenienced in the slightest. You just let me know when you need anything at all, and I\ll be happy to help.’’

’’Thank you.’’

He gave me a nod and began walking off. Then I remembered. ’’Mr Diaz?’’ He stopped and looked at me. ’’Are there any motels nearby?’’ I\d driven past one, but it was on the outskirts of Gosnells.

’’Yes, it\s called the Manor Motel, and it\s about a ten minute drive, just past the grocery store, and onto Roe street;beside the Chinese restaurant with the dragon pictures on the windows.’’

’’Manor Motel, I\ll look that up. Thank you again.’’ I climbed up the two step porch and opened the screen door that wasn\ there when I\d been living here. I watched Mr Diaz until he was out of sight, and then stuck the key in. I hated that I was trembling. This house didn\ stand for anything good. It was my childhood nightmare.

I opened the door and was hit with a vague sandalwood scent. The first thing I noticed was the carpet below my feet, and I thought that was quite odd because it was supposed to be tiles. Then again, upon looking around the living room, I realized everything about this home was different. There were two leather sofas against a wall, a glass coffee table with sandalwood wax cubes prepped beside a wax burner;where the TV had once been had been replaced with a tall and wide bookshelf, and it was packed tightly with books on religion, gardening, and self-help. On the walls were framed photos;one of an ocean and the sun setting, and another of a wooden bridge with a quote that read, Life is a journey.

Had I entered the Twilight Zone? Was this not Joanne Nolan\s home? As I walked throughout the house and into the kitchen, I found old bills on the counter that read her name. Jeez, I\d never seen the kitchen so clean in my life. Aside from accumulating dust and an empty coffee mug in the sink, it was spotless. When I began climbing the staircase, I had to tell myself to breathe and keep the images of him throwing me down them at bay.

Her bedroom was new as well. The queen sized bed was a chestnut brown, as well as the good quality dresser and tallboy. My heart tugged when I saw that her bed\s doona was ruffled and unmade. She hadn\ made her bed the day she died. Yet it was probably something she always did when I took into account how spotless and organized the house was. I left the room and went into mine. I already knew before I walked in that it was probably changed as well, and it was. Everything was gone and replaced with packed boxes. She\d used the space as a storage room. Any sign that a terrified child who often wet her mattress on the floor had lived here was gone.

I suddenly felt overwhelmed by all this change. My legs were wobbly and my eyes stung from exhaustion. None of this made any damn sense. I hurried back down the stairs and collapsed onto the black leather couch, unsure of how to cope with it all.

Pulling out my phone, I dialled the priest\s number. ’’I\m sorry to bother you like this, but just how well did you know my mom?’’

’’I knew her very well.’’

’’But being here, at this house... it\s nothing at all like I remember. Everything... is different.’’ I closed my eyes tightly and shook my head. ’’This doesn\ make any sense. My mother was an alcoholic. This house was in shambles. I don\ ...I just don\ understand. Please make me understand.’’ I must have sounded so pathetic begging a priest I\d never met at a Church I\d never gone in to help me understand my mother - a woman who I was meant to know everything about.

’’Your mother was troubled, but she\d made tremendous progress. There\s a lot I can tell you, but I\ll give you the basics.’’ What he then continued on to explain had left me shocked and unable to speak. Four years ago my mother had joined the Catholic community and sought help for her alcoholism. She was checked into a rehab, funded solely on the generosity of her friends, and though she relapsed a couple times upon leaving, she\d been sober twenty eight months last week. She volunteered at the church, got a job as a cashier in a bookstore, and relied upon the support of the church community to help distract her from her addiction and personal troubles.


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