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Authors: Ava Bloomfield


BOOK: Honest
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Ava Bloomfield


















©Ava Bloomfield 2014. All
rights reserved.


Chapter One


What do you
call a girl with one Dad, no Mum, a dodgy left leg and a dead boyfriend? Ellen.
That was my name, and all of those things were true.

Most people,
if they’ve only got one parent, are always left with the mums, aren’t they?
Well, not me. My mum left when I was ten and it had just been me and Dad since
then. It was the best thing that ever happened to us as far as I was concerned.
Since she left us, Dad took up work at this soggy campsite in Mevagissey
Cornwall in the summers. That was where we’d be living for the next three
months, just like we used to every summer before my accident.

That was three
years ago, and I’d missed the town. We both had. It was our safe haven away
from the memories of mum that were soaked into the wallpaper, the furniture,
even the grass on our lawn back home. She was everywhere at home. Dad couldn’t
seem to find the willpower to paint over the walls and buy new stuff. I
would’ve bulldozed the lot and started again if it were up to me.

I was
seventeen and a lot had changed about me since we were last here, except for my
gimpy leg which never healed, and our beloved mouldy cottage. Neither of those
things ever changed. I doubted Peter’s grave had changed much in three years,
but I hadn’t gone to look yet. Dad never changed, though he looked more
miserable on some days than others. Probably because of mum. I knew he thought
about her

Sometimes I
wished she’d died instead of just running away abroad with her new man. At
least then she’d have a grave for us to visit, and if my leg was up to it I
could have danced all over it.

I really meant
it. I would.

I watched the
moving van grumble away from us down the lane, its windscreen wipers swaying
sadly back and forth. It was the first of July but you’d never know it by the
smeared grey sky and the rain spittle on the wind. I liked it; it cooled down
my aching arms, sore from pushing the wheels of my chair.

Dad stepped
down from the doorstep, the scuff of his boots on the flaky paint making me
wince. He put the break on my wheelchair to stop me rolling back down the steep
incline and put a cold hand on my shoulder. We looked down at the harbour
through the misty drizzle, which matted the hair to our foreheads in clumps. In
the distance the hills were verdant green like I’d remembered, and the waves
crashed against the rocks just as fiercely as they had before, all that time

‘Much better
than Enfield isn’t it, El’? That’s genuine green grass over there on those
hills. I bet you’ve missed seeing all that countryside out your own window,’
said Dad, gazing over the crown of my head. Whenever Dad spoke, his voice
hummed in my eardrums like a trapped moth, making my head ache. I shrugged off
his hand.

‘I’ve missed
loads about this place,’ I said, wiping the space where his hand had been. I
could sense him watching me do it, shaking his big sad head from side to side
as if he’s seen me do it too many times.

My counsellor
at home said that the resentment of my father was all to do with mum leaving.
She didn’t know half of it.

Dad and I had
each other and that was all — there was nobody else. We survived our own way.
If that wasn’t love, then I don’t know love. And besides, counsellors had to
say that, didn’t they? Divorce. Separation. Abandonment. Watch any day time
television show, or read any magazine out there, and you could learn all of
this stuff.

‘Would you
mind letting me in?’ I finally prompted, biting my lip. I stared at the cobbled
ground while Dad took the break off my chair and tugged me up over the
doorstep, manoeuvring me through the tight squeeze. My fingernails clawed the
padded arms of the chair as I hit the old thin door, slamming it against the
wall so hard that the metal knocker almost rattled right off.

I kept my eyes
on the crashing waves in the distance, waiting in silence for Dad to spin me
around. Instead he tipped me back on the wheels and pressed his lips to my ear,
making the downy hairs on my skin prickle up. I held my breath, my dodgy knee
tightening and pulsating as I moved.

‘I’ve got a
surprise for you,’ he whispered, making my heart thud. What now? We’d just moved
in, how could he have a surprise for me right now?

In one swift
movement he swung me about–face, and I stared at the object attached to the old
naked staircase, the wood grey and splintered.

‘Urgh.’ I
groaned. ‘What the hell have you done?’

He nudged me
with his elbow. ‘Oh come on, flower! Imagine how easy your life is going to be
this summer, eh? No more going upstairs on your bum when your knee gets too
bad. I’ll miss carrying you up too, but a dad’s got to give his little flower
some independence, hasn’t he? Eh?’

He dropped the
handles of my chair and let me fall back onto solid ground with a loud
then stood at the foot of the stairs with his hands on his hips, admiring the
new addition.

‘A stair lift?
Old people use stair lifts, for Christ’s sake,’ I said, loathing the very idea
of hoisting myself into that stained old seat. ‘Some old thing probably peed
herself while sitting in it. The seat’s all yellowing.’ I rested my chin on my
fist, staring at the long white track leading to the dark hollow of the landing
beyond the stairs.

In the blurred
foreground of my vision, I saw Dad’s shoulders sag.

‘I don’t know
how you could be so ungrateful,’ he said, his voice sombre. I clucked my tongue
and rolled up beside him to get a better look at it.

‘It’s just
embarrassing,’ I said, softening my voice a little. ‘At least without it nobody
would know there was a problem. I could hardly bring a friend ‘round here with
that thing in the way for everyone to see.’

I felt dad’s
eyes on me. ‘What, you don’t think the wheelchair gives away the fact you have
a problem?’

I batted him
in the waist with my fist. A smile sprang up on his face as he dodged a second
blow, and all at once he grabbed my hand and gave it a firm squeeze. I pulled
myself free finger by finger from his tight grip, but I could tell his fleeting
sadness had passed. It never took him long.

‘The move has
made it worse, but you watch. I’ll probably only need my stick most of the time
I’m here,’ I said, rocking back and forth in my chair.

It had been
years, and yet I still couldn’t stand being confined to this thing, especially
when the scene of my accident was just down the hill from our house, right
there in the sea. I tried not to let it mock me, though I could hear the waves
clearly with the front door still open. That same place in the sea was also
Peter’s death site, and that gave me some comfort. He was near.

I felt him on
every crash of the water against the sea wall, every long suck of the wind over
the roof, like a big deep breath. I hadn’t heard those sounds in three years,
but it was good to be back. Good to be back near Peter.

‘I doubt that,
flower,’ said Dad, pocketing his hands. ‘Not with all those hills. You’ll want
to save your strength. Anyway, with me gone during the day I’d rather not take
risks. You’ll use your chair and you’ll use this brilliant piece of equipment
I’ve bought you.’ He smiled, slapping the ugly seat of the stair lift.

I wrinkled my
nose. ‘Where did you get it anyway? I never saw it in the moving truck.’

Dad winked and
folded his arms, clearly dead chuffed with himself. ‘After I got you settled
into that little café so me and the moving blokes could get started, I spotted
it outside a charity shop. I thought,
that’s what my little girl needs
How much do you reckon I got for it, eh? Go on, guess.’ He bit his lip,
stifling a smile. He loved his stupid games.

‘A fiver would
be a rip off,’ I said, hoping to wipe the silly look off his face. It didn’t
work. He shook his head, his thin grey ponytail swaying as he did it.

‘Fifteen quid
I bought that for.
.’ He nodded eagerly, looking between me and
the stair lift. ‘You should see how much they go for brand new. The bloke in
the shop even helped us set it up. Took a bit of sweat and an hour or so, but
what with it coming from one of the other cottages it fit just fine.’

I said, glancing at my watch. It was half past six, nowhere near dark, and yet
I was exhausted already. Sitting down all day, staring out the café window at
those rolling waves and the merging dark clouds had just about sucked the life
out of me. I ran a finger underneath each eye, picking up flecks of dead

‘You look
tired, petal,’ said dad. ‘Shall we get your bed all made up? I’ve got your nice
new duvet upstairs, still in its plastic. You could have a nap while I get the
kitchen stuff unboxed. We’ll never eat without all that sorted will we, eh?’ he
prodded my arm with his finger, bending over to get level with me.

I couldn’t
stand the way he did that, treating me like I was still ten years old. Most
girls found it sweet when their dad’s spoiled them, but I didn’t. It was bad
enough that people made me feel like a useless cripple — even though I
walk — without him making me feel like a child.

‘I could help
with all that.’ I insisted. ‘I’ll just go to bed early.’

‘Oh come on
love, I want to see you try that new stair lift. Don’t look like that, please.
I thought you’d be over the moon.’

‘You don’t
bloody understand, do you? Oh for god’s sake. Help me into it then.’ I rolled
my eyes while his face lit up, and he set to steering me as close to the lift
as he could get me.

‘Right, you
put your hand there for leverage, and I’ll hold you by this arm, then if you
haul yourself up by using your good leg on that step, that’s it, that’s it, now
pull your bad leg up gently, gently, that’s it, you’ve got it!’

I breathed
through my nose, biting my tongue, and snatched my arm away from dad when I was
firmly in the seat. The transfer wasn’t difficult, though I could imagine it
would be for someone who had two dead legs. It wasn’t so bad. ‘Cheers dad,’ I
said flatly.

‘You’ll be
able to do that by yourself no problem,’ he said, patting me on the head. ‘Now
what you do is you press that green button on the panel beside you, and away
you should go. Try it.'

I stabbed the
button with my finger and, slowly, the chair began to move. Very slowly. Dad’s
face beamed up at me while the motor whirred and cranked me up, making me flush
red from the neck up.
If you could see me now, Peter. You’d laugh your head

‘There you
are! Look at you go! It’s like one of those little fairground rides I used to
take you on isn’t it, do you remember? Look at that. Haven’t I done well eh?

‘Close the
front door or else people might see.’ I snapped as the chair halted on the
landing. I noticed my stick propped against the banister, all ready and waiting
for me. I heard the door slam shut and dad’s boots on the floorboards as he
paced back, nodding with enthusiasm while I eyed up the stick.

‘Well go on
then, get yourself up. Unless your leg isn’t up to it? I’ll bring the chair.’
He immediately began folding up my wheelchair to bring upstairs, but I rolled
my eyes and held up a hand to stop him.

‘I’ll collapse
on the bed if it’s too much,’ I said, my voice hard. ‘You have no idea how
pathetic I feel right now.’ I grabbed my stick and leaned against it, using it
as a surrogate leg while I swung my good leg out and supported myself enough to
get up.

That hadn’t
been so bad, either. I could get the hang of this, I thought.

I smiled a
little for the first time all day. ‘I think the swelling’s gone down a bit,’ I
said as dad followed me up the stairs. ‘I reckon I’ll be all right.’

He hovered
behind me all the way to my bedroom, the front room of the cottage with the
dusty bay window seat. Three years had passed since I was last in this room,
and yet every crack in the ceiling was as familiar to me as the tread of tyres
were to my palms.

There was the
art deco dressing table with its massive mirror, which I’d always adored, and
there was the double bed with its iron bed post, and the ugly brown carpet left
from the seventies. I had to weave through my boxes to get to the window, but I
shuffled and hobbled my way there, before sitting myself down in the spot I’d
missed most since leaving: the window seat.

I could see
the fishing boats bobbing below our big hill, the murky water swaying them back
and forth. I could even smell the brine of the sea, as if it was soaked into
the wooden frame of the window. That combined with the mesmerising motion of
the boats sent me yawning.

Dad came in
and began unpacking my bed set.

I couldn’t
watch him do it. There was something too personal about him putting his hands
all over my new sheets. He was marking them, spoiling them; giving them his
scent before I could give them mine. Now, even when the bed was empty, they
would always smell like him.

I watched the
people on the harbour below, ducking under their umbrellas as the shower turned
to solid rain. I could see the fisherman on the other side of the quay
hurriedly packing up their boxes and reeling in their rods, desperate to get

Before long I
heard dad’s hand slapping the last cushion in its purple satin case. ‘Ready for
a nap then, flower?’ he asked, his voice shattering my peaceful watch of the
goings on below.

‘Yes,’ I said,
without taking my eyes off the quay. I couldn’t wait to get down there tomorrow
while dad was at work and I was finally all alone. All alone at the place where
Peter died. It was enough to make my hands shake.

 ‘Now go away,
and close the door behind you.’

BOOK: Honest
10.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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