When the light broke through the tiny spaces either side of my drawn curtains, I mentally ticked off yet another night of interrupted sleep. My hands clutched at the empty space that had once been occupied by someone whose image was now painful to conjure in my mind. I sort of hated him for that.
The days had melted into each other, unsure if it was a workday. A quick glance at my phone screen confirmed that it was in fact, Saturday. I sighed, falling back into the mess of bedding I'd fought against during the night. I hoped the sleep I was ready to claw back into would be dreamless, somewhere I could escape him. But my mother had other ideas.
I groaned, attempting to bundle myself further into bed. Weight dipped the mattress, her hand resting on my duvet covered shoulder.
"Bo, come on. You promised me."
Her tone was soft, but the sentiment strained. She was tired of me being holed up in my room, and I was tired of being there. On my own. I'd committed myself to at least one whole day of being clean and fully dressed.
"I brought you some tea."
I peeked out from my hiding place, discovering there was in fact a steaming mug on my cluttered bedside table. I needed to tidy up.
I sat up, taking the rumpled covers with me. My mum remained like a paperweight, curbing my effort of pulling the duvet up and over my head. She knew my intentions were leaning towards burying myself and my problems.
"You should get up, it's a bit cold, but the sun's out."
"And do what?" I snapped.
Her smile fractured with my unprovoked reply. I felt a pang of guilt as soon as the unkind words had left my lips. But she was my mum, she understood that despite the progress made, even something small could hit a raw nerve and we'd be spiralling back to days when I wouldn't want to leave the four walls of my bedroom.
"I thought we could go shopping, or to that café in the park that you liked when you were little. Or if you don't want to do that, we could take a drive and go for a walk somewhere."
She was trying, desperately. But what use was a walk going to do? The fissure cracking my will was only getting deeper.
"I don't know what to do."
My mum's smile was hopeful.
"Well, you don't have to decide now, have some breakfast and we'll..."
"No," I shook my head, tears brimming. "Mum, I don't know what to do."
Understanding crashed down as I was taken in her arms. It was the same sort of hug I'd received after grazing my knees from falling off the roundabout in the park when I was six. The same comfort when she petted my hair. Although, now I would have preferred the hurt of a scraped knee in place of what I was presently feeling. I would take a round in the boxing ring if it could knock out the hopeless feeling nestled in my stomach.
"Oh, Bo," She sadly cooed.
"I miss him."
"And that's ok. You don't have to forget about Harry."
She hushed me as I broke down into ugly sobs. I was probably ruining the shoulder of her blouse; jamming my nose into the crook of her neck so I didn't have to face my responsibilities, or the fact that the only proper love life I'd ever had was a train-wreck. I couldn't have stopped it if I tried, there were factors out of my control. Harry and I had both stumbled from the devastation with equally gruesome wounds.
"You're going to put yourself back together again. You don't have to do it on your own though; your friends and I will help you find the pieces. This hurt won't last forever, Bo."
I wanted to be callous, unfeeling, hard-hearted; just so I didn't have to wake to another day of pathetic moping.
"I still think about your dad every day."
Her words weren't laden with sadness, and it gave me some far-off hope that I could get through this. My mum had overcome it.
"Come on, let's go out and eat some cake," she suggested with a squeeze.
My friends had visited me that night, camping out in my living room to play card games and eat sugary treats that probably exceeded 2 days' worth of guideline calorie intake. It was also the first night in what felt like weeks that sleep wasn't a chore, rather a desirable state that provided my body with real rest. I'd nodded off with my friends still quietly chatting, a soothing murmur that proved invaluable into lulling myself into believing I wasn't alone.
Monday reared its unwelcomed head much too early for my liking; back at the shop and back to the sickly feeling of unwanted sympathy from others.
Dan had fussed around me for little under a week at work. His intentions were pure but the constant stream of questions concerning my wellbeing was beginning to sound like a broken record.
"Do you want me to get that for you?"
I politely declined his offer, dragging a chair from the staffroom into the stockroom. Dan stood back as I clambered up, the soles of my shoes on the cushioned seat, fingers wriggling a box out from the top shelf. I was ordering, sorting and dusting my way through a clear-out, as much for my hypothetical cleansing as it was for the maintenance of the shop's stock.
I soon came to find that the box I'd eased out weighed considerably more than I'd previously thought. There was no time to brace for impact. My shoulder took the hit, the cardboard corner jabbing into me and triggering my descent to the floor. My backside met the ground first just before my left elbow jutted out to prevent my head from bouncing off the shelving behind me.
"Are you alright?"
Dan careened around the corner to watch and eventually aid in picking me up from the dusty floor. Luckily the box seemed to be made of stronger stuff, the lid firmly pressed down; it survived with only minor injuries in the form of dents. The same couldn't be said for me. No blood, but probably bruised. I was fed up with crying. Even if this hurt was a different kind to the one I'd been riddled with since Harry had walked away, I couldn't bring myself to brim over. The worry that I was condemned to a life void of emotion was probably something to fret about, but I just couldn't be bothered anymore.
"No harm," I shrugged off Dan's analytical scrutiny.
"You fell pretty hard, Bo."
I'd already dragged my box over to a temporary sorting station; "bin", "keep", "ask manager" were the piles I was adding to.
"I've had worse."
"You need someone permanently around to catch you," he lightly joked, fingering through a stack of vinyl.
I cringed at his statement, innocent enough, but the romantic connotations it was summoning had my stomach churning in disgust. I wasn't helpless.
"I've fallen on my arse plenty of times. I don't need anyone to save me."
It was physically and metaphorically true.
"I know that. You're strong, but everyone needs to be looked after once in a while."
"My mum and my friends are taking care of me."
I continued to sort, picking out a Cher CD that looked like it hadn't seen daylight in about twenty years. I stuck it in the "bin" pile before my sense of guilt could pressure me into committing a bias act of treason to nudge it into "keep".
"So I'm not your friend anymore?"
His solemn expression had me abandon my work and turn to him.
"Dan, of course you're my friend," I willed to convince him. "Don't take offence, I just...I feel a bit weird around boys at the moment."
It was the truth. The whole male species was now even more mysterious to me. Dan shifted to lean against the wall, his arms folded tight across his chest.
"We're not all like him, " he bit back rather quickly.
I was unmoving for a short time, taking advantage of the complacent moment to dig deep into what he was saying. No, another boy could never come close to what Harry was, or how I envisioned him. And no, another boy would never hurt me like he had. I wouldn't give them the chance.
I didn't protect Harry with a cutting reply; what was the use of arguing about something that had come to its end.
My hand found Dan's, prying it out from its locked position under his arm.
"Come and help me."
My small smile baffled not only Dan, but myself.
I'd swiped the envelope from the office, my mind running on empty and forcing myself to go through motions my hands found a challenge. I was all fingers and thumbs, sealing the sticky strip down on the back and fumbling for a pen. However, I didn't get a chance to scribe the name of the receiver on the front.
"Do you want a lift home?"
It was a passing comment, but I had a feeling the question had been agonised over in Dan's mind. His voice had startled me, ineptly dropping what I was carrying. We fumbled together, collecting the items.
"Oh, that's mine."
I cursed myself for the recognisable tremble in my words, reaching for the envelope in Dan's hand. When it was safely back in my possession I tucked it into my bag.
"How about that lift?" he smiled.
I followed Dan in standing, straightening my back to stand taller.
"No, it's alright thanks, I'm stopping off somewhere beforehand. There's something I need to do."
He nodded, collecting his coat before joining me at the door. His fingers closed around the handle but didn't make the effort to turn it. I followed the line of his arm, up to his shoulder and then to the bottom lip that was being chewed between his teeth.
"Do you want me to drop you off? It's no trouble."
"Honestly, I kinda just want to go alone."
"Fair enough," he replied shortly.
The door was held open for me as Dan called his goodbyes over his shoulder. I was grudgingly met with wind that lashed at the open the coat I was struggling to zip up.
"Would it be alright for tomorrow?"
The enquiry had escaped my lips in a frenzy of whipping hair. Once I'd attended to the situation by tugging my hood up, Dan was full on grinning.
Harry's street seemed unwelcoming now. The excitement I once felt at seeing his face had me running on most days. But now it was an unhurried pace because he didn't want me here. I'd thought about charging up to his door so many times, demanding that he not be such a fool and to let us have the chance to love each other.
His dad was the root of the problem, the blight that had corrupted Harry's mind into believing there was only one outcome. Harry thought of his genetics like a poison, seeping into who he was and infecting him with rage and the incapability of holding back. It deeply saddened me because I knew the patience he possessed, a tolerance that we were steadily building upon. Perhaps he'd got that from his mother.
Laughter ripped me from the memories Harry had planted. I flattened myself to a sheltered wall leading down to a line of wheelie bins stationed outside peoples' back garden gates. My cheeks streaked tears as Hayley and Tom came away from where I presumed they'd dropped by at Harry's.
I couldn't seem to drag myself out of the selfish, consuming bubble I was taking up residence in. I'd have said hello if they weren't holding hands. I'd have asked them how they were if Hayley wasn't smiling up at Tom like he was her whole world. I'd have been happy for them if they didn't remind me of what I'd lost.
I wondered if Harry felt the same gut-wrenching jealousy. If it were me, I wouldn't have opened the door to them, and that realisation confirmed just how bitter I'd become; miserable at someone else's happiness. What an awful person.
With quivering hands I wiped away the evidence of any feeling. My boots set a strong stride, emerging from the pitiful hiding place to embark on the route to Harry's flat. It felt like moments before I was stood on the step in which I'd cried myself into a bawling stupor. My mum had picked me up and I'd never seen her in such bewilderment; her daughter barely able to breath from the oppression of cries.
But I was settled now in the acceptance of what had occurred here. My hand rose to knock on its own accord, but my mind thought better of it. What on earth would I even say? One looked at him and I'd be floored, any progress made would be torn down to the girl that could scarcely stand. No.
I dug into my bag, recovering what I sought after. The inside of my cheek was gnawed as I weighed up the option of leaving the white surface completely blank. But I didn't. Leaning against his front door, I scrawled Harry's name over the envelope. I was in brief solace at the formation of letters until judgement told me to get a move on.
I gave the envelope one last harrowing thought before jamming it through the letterbox. It merited so much more care than I had given. As soon as I confirmed its safe arrival to the entry mat the other side of the door, I broke into a run down the steps; too cowardly to see if Harry was home.
I mindlessly watched as the digits on the display flicked from 12:59 to 01:00. My body ached for my bed, but I knew slumber would never give itself so easily to me. I had had countless agitated nights at my mum's for the past couple of weeks, so I wasn't going to fool myself into thinking it would be any different now I was home.
Sofa cushions tumbled to the carpet as I wriggled from my wedged position on the seating. My feet as well as my enthusiasm for life in general, dragged to the TV set to switch off the repeated programme on selling houses. I swiped my dry lips before heading to the hall and nearly cracking my head on the wall. I cursed the bloody take-away leaflets that were littered across the laminate by the front door, stooping to gather them up before I could slip again.
My elbow nudged at the kitchen light switch, burning my retinas with uncomfortable brightness. I gathered the pizza pamphlets into a pile to fold down smaller as my foot rested on the pedal of the bin. But my interest was soon spiked with an anomaly tucked between what I assumed was all rubbish. A small, white envelope; its texture dissimilar from the other glossed advertisements. My name was scrawled in black ink over the front, the writer rushed, but still somewhat elegant. The sender had been at my doorstep.
I chucked everything else away, settling my concern on the small item addressed to me. I ran my finger under the seal, prying the envelope open. There was no message inside, nothing to reveal the identity of the cryptic sender, and there was no need. I tipped it, the contents catching on the ripped paper before spilling into my open palm. A silver chain with a paper plane pendent.
Heat pooled in my chest and I felt like I was splitting in two. My palm contracted, the sharp lines of the necklace bit into my skin, imprinting her so I wouldn't forget. But how could I? She couldn't bear to keep it so instead chose to hammer it into me and authenticate the end of whatever we had.
It was painful by the time I loosened my stiff fingers. The chain was pelted at the adjacent kitchen cupboard. It hit the floor as I cradled my head in my hands. Hot tears rushed as my body crumpled to the ground.
It was a fucking nightmare. She was cutting off the diminishing connections I zealously clung onto. I was being abhorrently selfish, a trait that left a nasty taste in my mouth. I knew it was cruel, merciless to wish for someone to remain loving you when you abandoned them because of your own perilous conflictions.
The contradictions barrelling around my head were causing bile to rise in my throat. It wasn't her fault that I was fucked up. I had no right to demand her love, not anymore. But I'd never needed it as much as I did now.
By the time I'd reached my bedroom, a lamp and three glasses lay broken, irreparably strewn across the floor. I'd come to my senses before I could cave in the TV, the living room door hadn't been so lucky. Another swing of vodka was thrown back, burning a path down my throat to warm the cold depths I'd descended into.
I placed the bottle on my bedside table, ready for when I wanted to forget again. My clothes pooled in a mangled heap on the floor before I climbed into bed. I imagined her meshing her fingers into my hair, speaking softly to me, encouraging me to find some tranquillity. That's all I wanted, just her.