Bonus Chapter: Charlie

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A while back, I wrote a bonus chapter of this book for a feature, and I thought it might be time to share it with those of you who didn't get a chance to read it...hope you like it!


What the hell am I doing here?

That thought swirled around and around in my brain as I glanced my eyes around the room, drinking in the slow descent of what promised to be a very legendary house party. As I looked at everyone I could see in turn, I quickly realised that they were all faces I barely recognised—sending me back to another time in my life. One where I spent most of my time at parties with people I didn't know.

I clutched the bottle of beer tightly between my fingers, recalling how it didn't matter back then because I would always manage to find a way to get myself so wasted that I didn't care. I thought the screwed up, off-my-face version of Charlie was a whole heap of fun.

Now I could see that he was just another fuck up with no future ahead of him.

I wasn't sure why I had allowed myself to get talked into this night, but the more that time passed, the more I regretted it. The home belonged to one of my old school friends, someone that I bumped into randomly a few days ago. At the time, I thought it would be good to reconnect with some of my old crowd, the ones I knew before everything went wrong, but since I'd been here, I hadn't actually managed to see a single one of them.

I sighed deeply to myself, making the smart decision that this one drink would be my only one. After I finished it I would make my way back home, where I could reflect in peace about the prospect that I had finally reached that grand old age where I was too old to party—where it wasn't as much fun anymore. I'd probably gotten there much quicker than everyone else because of my past, but they would eventually catch up to me and see that this lifestyle was pointless.

It was time to move on, to start thinking about settling down and really carving out a future for myself. Everything else was futile...pointless.

I hadn't done bad, considering. As soon as I discovered that Olivia—my much older girlfriend who had been integral in setting me down the wrong path in life—was cheating on me, my crappy life crashed around me leaving me with only two choices.

Did I take the easy way out and carry on down the shitty route that I was currently travelling down, or did I really put in some effort and clean myself up, to try and achieve something more? After all, I had been filled with a whole heap of potential and promise not that long ago—everyone told me that!

Sticking to the difficult option was not a simple one. In fact, I almost went back on it more than once, but now that I'd seen the light at the end of the tunnel, and I'd dragged myself through it, I could see how worthwhile that journey had been.

The only problem was I'd been left with some quite serious baggage. I didn't like to let anyone in too close anymore, and I'd purposely made decisions to help me with that. I started up my own graphic design business, which after a slightly rocky start was actually starting to do well. It was great to have something so intense to throw myself into, but it isolated me too. It kept me locked in my office, in solitary confinement, while I completed very intricate, time-consuming jobs. It gave me a whole heap of my own company, and no headspace to think.

At one time, that had been perfect, but as time went on I started to realise just how lonely that was, and now I wanted more. I wanted to meet someone, to start a future with her, to get over the trust issues that Olivia had left me with.

But I was utterly terrified to take that first step.

Maybe that was why I'd agreed to come here, maybe I was hoping that it would help lead me back into socialising in a normal way, rather than what I was used to.

Sighing dejectedly, I slowly made my way towards the kitchen to chuck my bottle away. There was an intense disappointment crushing down on my insides, hurting me because tonight hadn't gone the way that I wanted it to. I allowed it to consume me for a few seconds, knowing that I needed to really feel it before I could brush it to one side. I had gotten into plenty of trouble in my life by trying to ignore all of my issues, so I was perfectly aware that this was the only way...


As I stepped into the kitchen, my eyes instantly fixated on the lone girl gripping tightly onto what I knew was a bottle of very strong whiskey. I stared in fascination as she poured three glasses of the stuff, wondering how the hell someone so petite and waifish would be able to handle something like that.

Maybe she didn't know what it was, maybe she was just about to make the hugest mistake of her life—one that would lead her to throw up all over someone's home, completely humiliating herself.

Warn her! I tried to tell myself, by my racing heart and my bone dry mouth was too scared to speak out. Tell her, she needs to know.

"Strong choice," I eventually managed to blurt out, in a nervy-sounding voice that I was certain would put her off me forever.

But as she span around, and our eyes connected, a burst of electricity bolted right through me, so powerfully that it almost knocked me backwards. I smiled—or at least, I tried to—while I soaked every inch of her in. That sleek auburn hair, her pale, almost translucent skin, the body language that seemed to scream 'fear'. But what drew me in most of all were her eyes. They were a deep, ocean-like blue—a colour that I had never seen before—and they were windows to her soul, and what I could see in there was a reflection of myself. That deep, intense sadness, that hollow, empty feeling, that sensation of being lost.

I knew in that moment that I had found a kindred soul, one that needed me, one that I would do just about anything for.

This is the one, I decided as she finally forced our eye contact to break. The one that will change me forever. Maybe I was being naive, maybe not, I wasn't sure—but for the first time in my life I was willing to find out...

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