Rock Bottom

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Rock Bottom Page 9

by Josephine Traynor

  I try to look into the store to see how many people are inside before I actually enter. I don’t try to hide my disappointment when there’s a man standing at the register.

  “Madelyn working tonight?”

  The man’s gaze rakes the length of my body and then back up to my eyes before lifting his finger to indicate where she is. And I thought I was a man of few words. I walk past one aisle and head in the direction of the great finger point. I round the corner and burst out laughing. She’s standing armed with two toilet brushes, the same yellow rubber gloves as mine and her shirt pulled up over her mouth and nose exposing her stomach. Oh God. I see a small amount of exposed tattoo of script writing, I’m just too far away to read what it says. I don’t care what it says, chicks with tattoos do things to my head. Or should I say heads? Oh hell no. This living wet dream just gets better. Grandma sunbaking naked. Banana vomit. Rotten teeth. Don’t you dare get a hard on now! My run of horrid thoughts is interrupted by her muffled voice.

  “What did you do with the body?”

  I can’t help when another laugh bubbles out, and I know I’m safe having thought of the mole of my first-grade teacher’s top lip. I keep my eyes trained on hers as she shakes her head free of her shirt and I don’t dare take a peek for the tattoo as it falls back into place. “There was no body, just remnants of my own. I’m sorry you had to see that.” I reach out and bring her in for a hug. It seems natural. It seems right. “Thank you for the care package. That was very thoughtful.” Her vanilla scent wasn’t lost on me. She smells like cupcakes. What else wasn’t lost on me was the fact that she wasn’t hugging me back. Definitely gay.

  “You’re welcome,” she said as she turns to replace the brushes and remove the gloves. “All sorted? Good to see you used the bleach.” She looks at my jeans, and I notice she lingers on the crotch area.

  “So what time do you get out of here? I was hoping we could try again.”

  She turns her head to look over her shoulder at me. “How about we get you out of the house? There’s a quiet place we can go for a burger and beer if you are up to it?” Do I dare venture into society? She must have sensed my hesitation.

  “You want to go out and be seen in public? With me?”

  “It’s super private,” she said as she took my hand. “I promise. No one will even know we are there.”

  The gentleness in how she took my hand and her voice was almost hypnotic. I take comfort in the small smile she gives me and for the first time in a week, I finally felt like I was in the right place. I take a leap of faith and say, “Sure. That would be great.” And I really do hope it is. I swallow and push the words out. “I was actually hoping for some help. If you can of course. I need help setting up the phone. It’s a bit beyond my capabilities.”

  Madelyn turns and holds out her hand. “Phone please.” She holds the phone for about ninety seconds and then hands it back to me. “The card was around the wrong way.”

  Thanking Madelyn as she hands me the phone, I send off a text to David to touch base in the hope that he’s been trying to call me with some good news. David and Sean’s numbers are emblazoned on my brain. I had gone to typing their numbers in each time I dialled, trying to get a sense of satisfaction as I pressed each button. Within minutes, David replied with a curtly worded question of why I haven’t been replying or answering my phone. I apologised to Madelyn for playing with the phone, I wanted to find out answers about Sean and my money, not how my phone broke.

  “Fuck this,” I whisper to the phone before putting it in my pocket. I look up at Madelyn and say, “I’m ready when you are.”

  Chapter Thirteen


  “Normally I’d get changed, but I’m hungry, and you look like you’re on laundry day too,” I say and then silently want the world to swallow me up when he looks down at his clothes and refuses to make eye contact with me. I give my head a little shake and direct him into the booth. “Take a seat and I’ll go place our order. Don’t worry, it’s the slow night.” He seems caught between wanting to take in all his surroundings and wanting to hide in the shadows. I deliberately placed us in the corner so I could block this area off and give him the freedom along with privacy he’s probably been craving. There’s something very sexy about his disheveled look. His shirt looks like it’s been worn for three days and he needs a good shower and shave, he works the homeless look well. I feel bad for thinking it, but compared to him, I don’t look so bad in my jeans and a tight black sweater that I threw on over my work shirt. I don’t know what compelled me to put my hand over his and asked if he wanted to go out. I’ve been avoiding all things media related to him. Stories come on the radio and I turn it off. People start talking about him, I subtly change the subject or excuse myself. I don’t need the tainted views to skew my opinion of him. The second the words were out of my mouth, I instantly regretted it, but I didn’t want to let him go. “Hope you like burgers?” I take a few steps and turn back to him as he’s pulling his new phone out of his pocket. “You do like burgers don’t you?”

  The only response I get is a quick nod while his attention is focused on his phone. I know this kind of behaviour all too well. I try not to let it rattle me and try to dismiss it as he’s in an unfamiliar place.

  The drone of the television blares over the music playing in the other corner of the bar. It’s not too bad for this hour, but I wish more people would come here. I return with a beer in each hand to see him scribbling furiously into a notepad while he has his phone to his ear. With each step, I can hear that I should be walking the other way from his heated discussion.

  “So nothing at fucking all? … Well, how can that be? You don’t just drop off the face of the earth? … I’m not the case in point. He-the fuck-is. Find him! I’m going stir fucking crazy. No one to talk to and the tail certainly ain’t happening. The only prospect bats for the other team.” I didn’t mean to drop the beers as sharply as I did bringing the fact that I could hear every word he said and that he thinks I’m gay. His green eyes stare directly into mine after he realises I heard his gaff and quickly looks away. “Yeah … yeah … I do. I do appreciate everything you have done ... I have to go. Yeah … Bye.”

  I take a moment to hold his gaze while I mull over a few of his statements. He’s bored, he’s horny, and he thinks I’m gay. Whatever gave him that impression –– I have no idea, and I’m going to have some fun with that little misconception. When he told me he was straight, I think my heart actually stopped. I needed to have a minute to condense my lustful thoughts and holy shit when he was all up in my space at the kitchen counter, I thought I was going to come just from his presence alone. I don’t know what the hell stopped me but something did, and it was obviously for a reason. “Burgers won’t be too long. Hope you like the beer, it’s the pub’s own brew.”

  The way he runs his hand through his hair makes me want to jump the table and demand he convert me.

  “Sorry for what you overheard. Just a bit of cabin fever. Things weren’t the best when I came here and trying to figure it out is doing my head in,” he says with a huff.

  I nod while having a sip from the frosty glass. “Sure. Things aren’t ideal, but you have to keep plugging away.” I deliberately tilt my hand to slosh some of the beer on my top. I silently count in my head to three before his eyes drop and linger. There you go, Tiger. I shouldn’t take delight in his torture, what else is there to do in this town? I work two jobs to pay for my schooling and the prospects for the romantic kind are limited to the cheating dentist or the unemployed alcoholic sitting at the bar, and even then they are both twenty years my senior. Trent signals

  to me that the burgers are ready and I give him a nod.

  Reece holds the phone out for me and shows me the screen. “There’s two numbers in there. Yours and my next of kin. If something happens to me, I need you to make contact with that person.”

  I couldn’t help but laugh at his seriousness. “What’s going to happen to you? Nothi
ng ever happens out here. People here have either been born and bred here and don’t like out of towners and make no bones about telling people that or they have moved here for the privacy, so they go to a lot of lengths to ensure that. Truly, you’re safe here.”

  I take another sip of my beer, and as luck would have it, another droplet of condensation drips onto my shirt. Reece turns his gaze from my chest to Trent’s direction and sits up straight. “Boyfriend of yours?” Oh, fishing are we? My older brother is a good looking guy. He’s tall, dark and has the whole ‘pissed off publican’ thing going on. It can be intimidating, but I know he’s just protecting his business. “Him? No. We do have a … different kind of relationship. I’ll be right back with our food.” I purposely work my strut as I stroll over to the collection counter and throw my arms around Trent’s neck and lean in close. “Hey big brother, thanks so much for this. My friend is agoraphobic and getting him out to here has been a huge challenge, so can we just make sure we get the space we need?” I know Trent’s staring in his direction as he wipes his hands.

  “He’s not agoraphobic. He’s—” I cut him off.

  “He’s just a friend who needs to lie low for a while. Chill. Thanks for the burgers.” I place a kiss on his cheek for added effect before doing my best runway model walk to the table while telling myself to be brave.

  “Burgers with extra cheese,” I place the plate down in front of Reece while giving linger time before taking my place right in next to him. Lucky he shifted over, or I would have ended up on his lap. The sound of him clearing his throat fills the space while one hand reached for his beer, the other sought to adjust his pants didn’t go unnoticed. Score one for me.

  “So, when was the last time you had a pub meal?” I admire his hands while he places the glass back on the table. “It’s not a trick question. Obviously, it’s been a while.”

  “It has been a while.” He refuses to look at me, so I decide to poke the bear and drop my hand to his thigh. When he gives a little jump and a barely audible groan, I have to stifle my laugh. I can feel the heat seeping through the denim onto my palm and have to stop myself from giving it a squeeze. I realise now at this moment that I’m just torturing myself. He’s used to supermodels. Celebrities. Things with status. He’s only toying with me to pass his time. He’s a visitor to my world with a temporary visa and I’m making him uncomfortable. There is something to be said about bedding an unobtainable, I like to keep my bedroom partner’s secrets. It’s not fun being the talk of the town for whom you are sleeping with. Been on the receiving end of that and I don’t wish to repeat it. I’m happy just making him squirm. My hand starts to move up and down as Reece’s legs start to bounce.

  “We can make this a to-go meal? If being here is making you uncomfortable …”

  “It’s not being here that’s making me uncomfortable,” he groans before pulling his glass to his lips. It’s now me who’s caught staring and feeling my body reacting. He looks so damned sexy making the simplest of movements. “Delicious beer.”

  I move my hand from his thigh over to the plate where I pick up one of the chips and dip it as seductively as I possibly can into the sauce. Who thought playing with food could be so sensual. Peeking from the corner of my eye, he’s honed his glare to my fingers. I slowly bring the chip to my lip, making sure I leave some sauce on my fingers so I can lick it off.

  “We need to make this a to-go meal,” he announces in a strained voice before polishing off his drink.

  Removing my finger with a pop, I nod. “Good idea.”

  “I’ll let you go and get that sorted out.”

  The simple instruction has me reeling, and I feel like I’m struggling to get a breath. I shake my head to rid it of his comments. It’s not him. This is Reece. It’s not him. This is why I can’t let my head go leaping off into fantasy land. He’ll just end up pissing me off. Of all the sentences to say to me, it had to be that one.

  Chapter Fourteen


  If I have to sit here for another minute, I am going to throw her over the table and force my will on her. Muff diver be damned. Her tits straining against her jumper had all sorts of horny thoughts racing through my brain. I had to shut that shit down fast, so I dove for my phone and dialed David. If anything was going to be a passion killer, it would be talking shop with him. Worked a treat 'til those damned condensation droplets fell to her chest. Couple that with her bodyguard staring in my direction. Lucky bastard copped a sweet kiss that I have been itching for since I first saw her.

  I didn’t realise I was so coiled up until she dropped in right next to me and I nearly blew my load when her hand dropped to my thigh. If the circumstances were different, I would have grabbed her hand and put it to better use. Tonight has been sensory overload. Every movement has me on edge, and it’s all to do with her. Her perfume, the way she looks at me like she doesn’t want a damn thing from me. The way her hair falls on her face and I want to brush it back for her. Took me a while to figure that look out as I haven’t seen it in a long time.

  She’s too close to me, and I need to get this issue between my legs sorted so I ask her to get the meals so we can go. It’s all I could think of ‘cause if I got out of the booth, she would have seen what she had done to me and knowing she’s not interested in it would have been torment I didn’t need. I ask her to get the food to go so I can get some space between us. She doesn’t want a deadbeat like me, but fuck knows I want her. My hard-on is back to a semi and more manageable.

  Blind Freddie would have seen that she had the shits as she stomped back to the table with our food, I look past her and fuck bud at the bar is staring again. “Ready to go when you are,” I say turning to block his full view of me. Next thing the two plates are being shoved into my chest.

  “Well then, your chariot awaits.” My hands shoot out to catch the food as she lets them go. I don’t give him a second glance as I take off after her. I grab hold of her upper arm to slow her down as she rounds her car.

  “Whoa, what’s the spark up your butt?” I ask while throwing in my smile to stand in front of her. That was my fail proof win for the ladies when they didn’t get their way. Throw them one of those and all the bad is forgotten.

  “You might be used to throwing out the orders, but you don’t.” She jabs her finger into my chest. “order,” jab “me,” jab “about. I’m not your fucking PA!” Goddamn she’s sexy when she’s pissed off. Her chest heaving, her voice breathy and a fire bursting out of her.

  “I didn’t boss you around, if you want me to boss you around …” I raise an eyebrow and can’t fight my laugh.

  She spins on her heel and pulls the door open. “Get in the car or I’ll leave you to walk.”

  “Who’s bossy now?”

  She turns the key and slams the door. I didn’t think she was going to do it, but here I am, watching her peel out of the carpark while I hold our soggy chips and cold burgers.

  What the actual fuck?

  Chapter Fifteen


  Those shitty little words. Those were the last words James said to me. James Hollingsworth aka Arsehole. The man who told me he loved me, took my virginity and then told the world about our sexcapades. He’s the sole reason for my anxiety and added to my trust issues. My father and stepmother were good friends with his parents and had decided that we would be paired. I’m surprised they didn’t bargain a dowry to make it official. My fingers curl around the steering wheel, and I let out an angry groan at his memory.

  I finally gave into his insistence to have sex, little did I know he’d taped the whole thing and uploaded it to the net. Not only did he do that, he lied to my face saying he didn’t know how it got there. He waited patiently for me to be ready, he waited for the pill to take effect. The last thing he said to me as he pulled out of me was, “I’ll let you go and get that sorted out.” ‘Get that sorted’ became the tagline for many a meme, slogan on shirts and coffee mugs. News anchors on competing channels even th
ough they could slip it into any kind of story to have a barb at my father.

  James, although he denies it, uploaded all our conversations, both intimate and not. No one else had access to those recordings. The first I heard that there were recordings was when they were being played on the internet. Then the television followed by the radio. I stopped reading the newspapers and pretty much cut myself off from all social media instantly. Those words have haunted me. That one sentence had taken me from a confident young woman to a nervous wreck who could barely get out of bed. He turned me into someone who was afraid of the world. Someone who had to rebuild her self-esteem brick by brick. The more I rebuilt myself, I realised that I gave him so much power and that pissed me off. Everyone has done something they regret in their life. Mine was believing his lies that he loved me. If I’d listened to that little gut feeling, acted on every callous word he said to others, I wouldn’t be the girl with the horrid shadow of shame clouding over her every move.

  Like most people in a relationship with a cheater, I was the last to the conversation. My stepmother told me that I would be lucky to find someone with his upstanding character and that everyone deserves a chance after they slip. Quality parenting there. Not a word about broken trust. That’s why my stepsisters are forever swinging from partner to partner. If they can forgive and forget, I admire that quality. But for me, I’m not going to be made a fool of again, I trust very few people in my world and make no apologies about it.


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