22 - My stint as a psycho cyber-stalker.

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Now.

I did think about what she had said about talking to Tanner. Perhaps a little too much. I explored and replayed a million different scenarios in my head about how it would go down. Each one felt more unnatural than the last, and it was driving me insane.

A week later, my whole family was over for dinner for my birthday, Mum and Dad inclusive. Dad had made more of an effort with her since he learned about how bad things were for us when we were younger, and I think Mum just enjoyed having someone to talk to. She rarely went out and I often wondered whether she felt lonely. We all did, so much so that we even tried to sign her up to some internet dating websites just so she could meet some new people. She wanted nothing to do with it, and didn't speak to any of us for five days when she started receiving email notifications from men on the sites messaging her.

I'd be lying if I said that I didn't wish they would get together again. I love them both and know they still care about each other, but I think there is just too much history there to make it work now. I'll just have to learn to settle for seeing them talking to each other again. It was better than nothing.

It was a full house. My parents were talking in the kitchen while Mum finished the gnocchi she had spent all afternoon making from scratch — a family tradition for every birthday. Hadley was chasing Madden around the house. The pre-game was on the telly and around it sat Landon with Brayden, and Seth with his new girlfriend, Chloe. I knew he was serious about her because he'd never introduced a girlfriend to us before, and it was the best birthday present I could have asked for.

I was growing overwhelmed by how normal the entire scene was. Everything was working together so effortlessly, and it was filling me with uncontrollable dread that something was about to go seriously wrong. This was a bad habit I had fallen into, where I start automatically assuming something terrible is lying in wait around the corner whenever everything was too settled.

That familiar and unnecessary panic was settling in around me now, and I needed a break and some fresh air from the simple functioning of my house.

Everyone else was perfectly occupied so I had no issue slipping out the door and into a chair on our back deck. There was a slight breeze on the air, accentuated by the gentle drizzle falling from the sky. The street light lit up each drop with a brilliant luminescence, like I was staring through a telescope up at the Milky Way. A maniacal flock of cockatoos sat perched in the big Gum next door, squawking away the remaining sunlight.

I thought about what Karen would say if I told her I had started worrying about not having anything real to worry about. I was being ridiculous, and laughed out loud just envisioning the look on her face which I imagine would scream 'Mate, just chill the fuck out!' even if she'd never actually verbalise those specific words. They were definitely more Sadie words than Karen.

"You fucking weirdo, sitting out here in the raining darkness just giggling away to yourself," said Landon, watching me from the doorway. "What are you doing? This is your party, birthday girl, and your house. You should be inside entertaining everyone."

I smiled at him and his brutal honesty. "You all seemed perfectly entertained on your own. And I'm not that weird, Landon."

"Well, I dunno about that. Birthday girl laughing at herself out here on her own, willingly getting drenched in the rain," said Landon.

"It's barely drizzling!" I exclaimed.

He laughed. "I know, mate. But seriously, what's going on? Why are you out here instead of inside? Mamma Mary's gnocchi's almost ready and the game's starting."

"You don't even like footy, Landon. You wouldn't care if it didn't even start at all."

"Maybe so, but I know the rest of you bogans do," he said, laughing again. "And that's not entirely true. I think it's growing on me."

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