Authors: Nikki McWatters
Tags: #Fiction, #Psychological, #Retail, #Suspense, #Thrillers
There was a hard lump in my throat but I was fairly certain from her voice and the hint of warmth in her eyes that Libby had most definitely not told her mother about my role in this drama.
‘Is Libby home? I noticed she hasn’t been at school for a bit and wondered if she was sick. Is she okay?’
Casey O’Neil looked nervous and her smile melted. She was a good-looking old broad. Maybe a bit hard around the edges. She was one of those ball-breaking career women who always seemed poised and ready to attack a lurking misogynist. She was a book publisher and a successful one. I really hoped that she’d help me get my book published one day. That was a dream I could see withering in front of me as she stepped back and welcomed me into her home.
‘She’s upstairs, in her room,’ the lean fair-headed woman said in a small voice. ‘Do you know where that is? Third on the right.’
Did I know where her bedroom was? Yes. I’d been in there plenty of times. Listening to music. Helping her with her studies. And the last time I was in there of course, I impregnated her. It was a strange question to ask. I think Mrs O’Neil had been drinking. She smelled like stale wine and she had glassy eyes. I just nodded lamely and nervously pulled my hair back into a pony-tail which I secured with the hair tie around my wrist.
I took two steps at a time, my heart pounding so hard I could actually see the pulse beneath my white t-shirt. My breathing was shallow and my face felt numb. I had no idea what I was going to say to Libby? What could I say? This was one improvisation I’d never encountered or considered.
I rapped lightly on the closed door.
‘Come in,’ her little voice called, almost chirpily.
I opened it and stood looking sheepish in the doorway. Libby was sitting on the carpet at the end of her bed, her laptop beside her and a tall half- drunk glass of juice next to it.
‘Oh shit, it’s you,’ she greeted me with a dramatic eye-roll.
My belly felt leaden. It was not exactly the reaction I was hoping for.
‘Nice to see you too, Libby,’ I said sarcastically, stepping forward and closing the door behind me. ‘Are you okay? You haven’t been at school.’
‘Knock it off, Chez. You’re not such a shit-hot actor, you know? And I can see in your eyes that you already know the deal. That’s why you’re here.’
I sighed and sat down on the carpet opposite her, legs crossed. She was wearing purple and black striped leggings and a tight black t-shirt. Her dark bangs fell across her face and she looked younger without all the make-up she often wore. My pretty little goblin girl.
‘Yeah, I know,’ I nodded. ‘I just wanted to come by and let you know that I am totally there for you. Whatever you need me to do or whatever….you haven’t told your folks it was me, have you? Your mum still seemed pretty civil down there just then.’
She had her Facebook page open but shut the screen and looked up at me with those big, green eyes.
‘Chester….if you tell anyone about what happened between us…just…it wasn’t you, okay?’ she sighed.
‘What do you mean it wasn’t me? I worked it out. I have done some biology at school you know and I know about a woman’s cycle and…’
‘Oh…don’t gross me out. Stop it. Just forget it Chester. Completely forget about it. It’s not your problem.’
‘I can handle it, Libby. It won’t be easy. My folks will have a coronary, but I’ll be there for you. This is our problem to tackle together.’ I reached out to touch her knee but she pulled away from me as if I had burned her.
‘Chez!’ she glared at me. ‘Read my lips. Not your problem. Not your baby. Someone else’s problem. Someone else’s baby.’
I felt like I’d been stung. I scanned her face. She couldn’t look me in the eye.
‘I don’t believe you,’ I said and felt my cheeks burning. ‘If it wasn’t me, who was it?’
I was getting angry at that point. How could she have put me through this for the last two weeks and not said something? Rung me to put me out of my misery.
‘Some guy in a band that Abigail and I met at a gig at the Entertainment Centre.’
I stared at her. I may not have been the best actor in the school but I could tell a fake when I saw it and she was faking big-time. But why? It made no sense.
‘We weren’t safe, you and I, Libby. I know that…and there is no way in hell you can be certain that this isn’t my baby. You told me you were on the pill. And I thought you were a virgin and it was our first time together and…’
‘Sometimes the pill doesn’t work and
I was a virgin! But I’m going with the other guy. I’m more certain it was his …you know…his. He’s a musician and well…that’s that.’
She snapped the words out like it was the end. No further discussion required. I stared at her, feeling putrid. Her eyes were lorikeet green but as cold and matt dry as concrete.
‘That’s bullshit and you know it,’ I said, my voice wavering, exposing my pain. ‘What is it, Libby? Is it that you screwed us both and just decided to go with the cooler dude so that you wouldn’t get teased by your friends for sleeping with Shaggy from Scooby-Doo? Is it just that I’m not cool enough to come out for?’
I stood up, hands on hips, shaking. That was it. I’d called it. She didn’t want to tell her skanky little friends that she’d got it on with Chester McNaughton because I’m not one of the studs around school. I couldn’t compete with some goddamn musician.
‘I’ll demand a DNA test, Libby. And if you are bullshitting me, I will take my responsibility as a parent seriously and I’ll be wanting joint custody.’
What the hell was I saying? You can tell my mother is a lawyer. I didn’t want some kid. I was seventeen. I certainly didn’t want my first-born to be physically connected to this selfish, shallow little rag-doll. I was really hurting and I was thinking horrible things. I was deep down praying that she’d come to her senses and terminate before this got out of control. Maybe she’d miscarriage. Oh shit, that’s horrible, I know.
‘I don’t want to be your enemy, Libby. Please tell me the truth. I want to be a part of this if I’m responsible. This is not all about you. I’ve got feelings too….’
Libby stood up and looked me squarely in the face, her elfish face, twisted with an ugliness I had not thought possible of her.
‘Chester, if you make trouble and breathe a word about our one, quick, unsatisfying fuck, I will tell everyone you raped me. It’s my word against yours. And I’ll win and you’ll go to jail.’
I stared at her. Unable to speak. Unable to move. Unable to think. She continued, her voice full of hatred.
‘It was my daddy’s birthday and I asked Chester McNaughton to come up to my room to help me fix my television. He grabbed me and forced me onto the bed. I cried. I begged him to stop but he called me a prick teaser and said I’d been asking for it….’ She glared at me with eyes of cold malevolence. ‘Abigail will back me up and tell how upset I was the next day….you say one word to anyone and that’s what you’ll be facing. I fucking mean it.’
I felt sick. Really, deep, churning vomit sick. This girl, this small girl in front of me was evil. She was the real deal. There was something wrong about her. Poisonous. Toxic.
‘You are disgusting, Libby O’Neil,’ I said and spat at her feet. ‘I can only hope you are telling the truth that it’s not my baby because I’d demand that it be flushed into the sewer where it belongs because it’s related to YOU!’
She slapped me across the face and I barely felt it. I wanted to punch her in the face, wrap my hands around her little white throat. I would never hit a girl, though. But Libby O’Neil was tempting me to think about it.
Taking a loud breath of air into my lungs, I forced myself to calm down, to level out and I had to just hope karma would eat her alive. I had to believe that. I had no doubt at all that she would follow through on her rancid threat and I can’t deny that it scared me. It terrified me. It was every guy’s worst nightmare. A chick getting revenge by claiming to have been raped. The guys had talked about it and we were all totally aware of the consent thing and there was no way I would be with someone I didn’t trust. That’s what was eating me so bad. I’d trusted Libby. I’d actually been stupid enough to think that what happened between us had meant something.
‘Fuck you very much!’ I said and left the room.
Downstairs Mrs O’Neil asked me if I’d like to stay for dinner. I mumbled something about how much study I had to do and high-tailed it out of there. I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. Like I’d been beaten to a pulp in a boxing ring. I waited until I got home and then I locked myself away and howled like a baby. Oh shit, just like a little baby.
It broke my heart. Really. The tragedy of it was that for the first time in my little girl’s life, I was powerless to protect her. The right thing to do would have been to quickly and efficiently terminate this unfortunate business but apparently I did not have the legal right to force that option on my daughter. It didn’t seem right. I was her mother. Her legal guardian!
At first, she wouldn’t tell us how this happened but I had my suspicions. We let her go with that Abigail girl to a rock and roll concert the previous month and by my calculations that was roughly when it must have happened. There was Tom’s birthday party the next day and I went to pick up Elizabeth from her friend’s house early. It was that Abigail’s fault. Leading my little girl astray. The mother, Sally Proudfoot, had quite the gold-digger reputation. Three husbands and goodness knows how many strays traipsing through her bedroom. All blonde and porcelain and trashy and the daughter hadn’t fallen far from the tree but I knew better than to get between my daughter and her friends. Well, I thought I knew better but now I wish I had intervened.
Elizabeth was fifteen. Fifteen! Need I point out that that is below the age of consent in this country? And that, my friends, means that the male person responsible for this pregnancy, was technically guilty of statutory rape. I wasn’t going to get all militant but the law was the law. I knew my daughter was only a few months shy of turning sixteen and she was a very mature and intelligent girl who was capable of making her own choices but this was too big for any teenager to call on their own.
We’d talked about choices and consequences. Well, I’d talked about choices and consequences. Tom kept out of it. He just burrowed himself into his office like a mole in denial. It was women’s business and he expected me to deal with it. Sort it out. I think he was actually still in shock and unable to process much at all. Elizabeth was acting like her father. Totally taciturn. She had recoiled into her little shell and was refusing to come out or to discuss this openly.
‘I’m pregnant,’ she’d announced in the office at school, in front of the counsellor and the Principal.
Just like that. I’m pregnant. No further explanation.
She conceded that there had been sex. So, lo and behold, all that confirmed was that this was not an Immaculate Conception. But she didn’t even have a steady boyfriend. Never had one. She was more of a tom-boy. She had friends who were boys. Like Chester McNaughton. To be honest that was something that crossed my mind. Only briefly. He was here for Tom’s birthday but he was more like a cousin or buddy with Elizabeth and I knew she found him a bit ‘nerdy’ to use her own word. When he turned up last week to visit her, I could see in his face that he was just a concerned friend.
Tom told me to be careful who I tell, because it was still early days and frankly she was only very tiny and the pregnancy might not be viable. It might not hold. She was nearly nine weeks gone and that put her out of the running for the so-called abortion pill which in my opinion would have been the most sensible and easiest way out of this mess. But she could still terminate up to twelve weeks without much fuss and until that time I was not giving up hope that she’d become more reasonable and think of her future.
So, yes, we didn’t want to be broadcasting this to the whole world. I certainly hadn’t told my parents or anyone at work but I decided that morning to pay that hideous Sally Proudfoot a visit to see if she could shed any light on the situation. Her daughter, Abigail, knew Elizabeth so very well. They would have no secrets between them. Abigail might have told her mother who the responsible boy is and if he was a boy from school, I was going to tear him apart and make sure he got publicly flogged, expelled and his parents financially ruined.
I just hoped it wasn’t a teacher. That was really one of my first thoughts too, because I knew Elizabeth was completely disinterested in the boys at school. She even complained about Chester, who in my opinion was a very nice young man.
But this whole business has brought up the ‘affair’. Thirteen years ago, when Elizabeth was still a toddler, Tom had a brief fling with a student. She was nineteen at the time and it ripped me to pieces. A grown man with a teenage girl. It made me ill and set me up with a lifetime of anxiety. Lacerated my self-esteem. I’ve never gotten over it and Tom and I have never ever been close again. It ruined us.
The sickening temptation of virginal, fresh youth. Every time I hear another story in the newspaper about a teacher having a sexual relationship with a student, I shrivel inside. I just prayed that it wasn’t a teacher who had done this to my little girl. There was that kerfuffle with the drama teacher a year or so ago. Libby said he’d touched her breast and made a sexual innuendo. Later she said she’d just misread it and took the accusation back but what if she’d been telling the truth. Where there’s smoke…you know how it goes.
The Proudfoot house is one of those horrid McMansion jobs. All rendered brick and no class. A catalogue suburban palace. I pulled up in the driveway and looked at the crooked mailbox, smeared with white paint. It looked like a certain someone must have banged her new Jag while reversing. Probably drunk.
The house had a pink door. Need I say more? I pressed the bell and heard it tinkle tackily inside the house. Within minutes, the door opened to reveal Sally. Sally Proudfoot. Where do I begin? She’s tall. Well-built with tennis ball tits and a top lip that looks like someone used a bicycle pump on it. Her eyes were unlined and she sported very obvious blue-hued contact lenses. The blonde hair was powder puff and mono-toned pale cream. Her teeth were like something from Hollywood and her voice, oh heavens, her voice, it was what a poodle would sound like if it was human.