Chapter Twenty-Three

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She hung her head, an aura of sadness consuming her. "What mum?" I asked, my heart starting to race with fear. This was going somewhere, I could tell, and I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to like it.

"His sister rang me a few years back—you were in the midst of everything then, it was such a difficult time." I remembered all of it, how sick I'd been, how horrible I'd felt all the time, and for the first time in a very long time I actually felt lucky. I was fine now, which was a miracle by anyone's standards. Sure, I didn't always feel a hundred percent, but it was nothing compared to what life was like for me back then. "I didn't tell you at the time, it didn't feel right too." She sucked in air, looking like she desperately needed to calm herself down.

"What is it?" There was a warning edge to my tone. This was going to be bad, and I needed the plaster to be ripped off quickly.

"He...he killed himself."

"Oh shit." I blurted out, slapping my hand across my mouth. I'd half expected her to end with something like that, but having it confirmed was almost too much to bear.

"I just...I worry that you...you might..." She started to sob hysterically, crying really hard and guilt washed over me once more.

She thought she was going to lose me that way too. I'd made her believe that. I'd made the burden already resting on top of her heavier, and I felt horrible for that.

Daphne was right, I really was a selfish person.

I raced to her side and wrapped my arms around her. "Mum, I'm sorry I didn't..." My cheeks were wet now too. "I'm not..." I couldn't find the words to say it aloud. "I won't, I promise."

She clutched onto me, and we both wept for the man that had torn our family to shreds, without even meaning to.

At least mum had moved on from that, at least she had her new family now. I didn't even know my dad, and somehow he'd affected me the most. I couldn't believe what an impact a ghost could have on me.

"Did he...did he know about me?" I couldn't help but ask. I wondered if my sickness had affected him, or if it would have changed his mind.

"I'm sorry Lara, he didn't. Until Joyce contacted me, I hadn't known where he was for years." She looked at me for a few seconds. "Let me go and get you the photograph I have of him."

As she left the room I started to think that maybe mum was right to worry. Maybe depression was in my genes, my blood. Maybe that was why I was such a mess.

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That thought worried me more than anything else over the next few days, until I decided that the only way I would become like the man I shared my DNA with, would be if I let it happen. If I ploughed on forwards, if I worked through it all, I would be fine. I'd been doing okay so far, sure things had been difficult, but I knew that things couldn't possibly get to that point unless I allowed that to occur.

I couldn't let that happen. And I would carry my dad's picture with me at all times to remind me of that. I couldn't stop staring at him. I looked so much like him, it was unbelievable. Looking at him now, it was obvious that I must have taken after him because I didn't really look anything like my mum. The same dark hair, sad eyes, cheekbone structure...But that would be all I shared with him. I felt bad that he'd been so depressed that he'd taken his own life, it saddened me greatly, but I knew that would never be me. I was stronger than that.

And I also finally felt ready to tackle my real life.

But as I broached the subject of me leaving with my mum, she completely shut me down.

"No." She immediately shook her head. "Not yet, you can't. You aren't ready. You need us."

I tried not to fume at that—she was the one who had sparked the desire to leave with all of her worry, and now she didn't want me to go? But I forced myself to keep it inside. I could see now how scared she was to lose me, and she hadn't seen any progress within me to suggest that I would be okay. She didn't understand the shift in my head, and I hadn't given her long enough to view the evidence of that.

What I needed to make her understand was that I needed to get back to my life to make any progress. Sitting here was nothing more than a time-out from reality, one that I really didn't need any more. It had been a good break for me, one that had changed everything, but now I needed to go and work on what I'd learned. There were a lot of people that I needed to make things up to, and I felt ready to get started on that.

"Mum," I tried kindly, grabbing her hands in mine. "I need to go. I need to get back to my real life..."

"What life?" She snapped back, her hurt shining through. "You have no job, no responsibilities. You need to be around people while you recover. Carter and I have paid your rent for the next few months for your apartment, just to keep your stuff safe, but you need to be here, with us. You can't be alone." She was practically pleading with me, and I could feel my resolve starting to waver, but I forced myself to stay strong.

"Mum, I'm okay now. I need to start sorting myself out."

"No, you aren't, you're a mess." A single tear flicked from her eye and rolled slowly down her cheek. "I won't hear another word on it. Not for the time being anyway."

After that, I tried to stay for her sake, I really did, but it wasn't doing me any good. Something dramatic had shifted inside of me, and I needed to be free to explore that. I couldn't sit here in these four walls, going nuts, and I couldn't see how I was going to make my mum understand.

I didn't want to do anything rash, but she was leaving me with no choice. I needed to get away from all of them, I had to get back to myself, and God damn it I was a grown ass woman. If I wanted to go home, then I would.

So I did something truly shocking and awful, feeling horribly guilty the entire time, but also knowing that I was doing the right thing—and that in the end everyone else would see that.

At least, I seriously hoped they would...

I snuck off in the middle of the night, caught the bus home, leaving only a note behind.

'To mum and Carter,

I'm sorry for leaving in this way, but I don't know what else to do. I need to stand on my own two feet – and I know you don't think I'm ready for that but I am.

Please trust me. This is the right thing for me to do, I hope that you'll see that eventually.

Lara xxx'

I knew mum would flip—of course she would—but I needed to do what was right for me. I hoped that she would see that I was different now, that the therapy had impacted on me in a positive way. I knew for a fact that if she didn't see it now, then she would eventually.

I just needed to prove myself. 

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