Rock Bottom

Home > Other > Rock Bottom > Page 11
Rock Bottom Page 11

by Josephine Traynor

  I wash out my breakfast bowl and leave it in the sink to dry before I get myself ready for school. I’m loading my stuff into the car. When I start to feel slightly bad for not responding. I pull out my phone as I click on my seatbelt.

  I’m off to class today, I can bring over a late lunch when I get back, and we can talk more then if U R interested.

  I put my phone down in the centre console and before the ignition even kicks over, it’s buzzing to tell me a new message has arrived. I put the car in neutral and retrieve my phone.

  Yes. Just come over when you are free. You don’t happen to be going past anywhere that sells cardboard and some stationary supplies?

  It’s an uneventful day at the university where I turn in a paper and sit through three lectures on politics, ethics and creative writing. I swing past the art shop by two and pick up the basics of what Reece needed. I stocked up on the art supplies that Reece listed in his message and cringed when I picked up lunch. This meal alone wiped out more than half of my grocery budget for the week. I’d made a stop at the bigger supermarket and stocked up on noodles to get me through to payday. I feel bad for not buying from my boss, but when they are selling double for pretty much half the price, I have to, or I won’t be able to eat. It’s that simple. I could go to Trent, but my pride is too strong to let that happen. He’s having a hard enough time to pay for the pub without having a mouth to feed too. Paying for the car to be fixed put a serious dent in my savings. I’ve been hungry before, and I’m sure this won’t be the last time.

  Two quick knocks on Reece’s door was enough to release the butterflies in my stomach. Why am I nervous? Nothing’s going to happen. I can be a friend. That’s what I can offer. I’m pretty sure he’s keen for me, but nothing’s going to happen. The door opens, and I know I’m a lost cause. I take in the fine specimen before me. Oh God, I desperately want something to happen.

  Chapter Eighteen


  I was starting to think she might have changed her mind but shortly after three, I heard two quick taps on the door. I smooth my sweaty palms over my jeans and open the door. She’s wearing a simple dress with chucks, her hair is loose and down. She looks divine. Oh God, I want to kiss her.

  I push the door back and step aside, “Welcome. How’s your day been?” And before I know what I’m doing, I’m leaning forward trying to give her a kiss. It’s like an out of body experience. I can see myself from above. The Reece below reaches his arm out to take hold of her hip and leans forward to give her a kiss on the cheek. Everything starts to move in slow motion. Madelyn turns her head to look at where my hand is placed, but just as I’m finding for her cheek, her head swings my way, and I land my kiss on the side of her mouth.

  We both stand there, frozen like statues. Time seems to speed up again, and we are both pulling away just as awkwardly.

  “Shit, sorry. That wasn’t how I envisaged our first kiss,” I say before I can even shut my mouth and keep my thoughts private. Madelyn won’t look me in the eye and thrusts paper supplies to my empty arms and pushes past me. At least she didn’t turn around and walk out the door. I use my foot to close the front door and put the stationary down in the front room.

  “So where do you want to eat?” she calls, and I join her in the kitchen.

  “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to eat being all awkward. I was trying to kiss you on the cheek, and I don’t know. You moved, I moved. I kinda got where I thought was friendly, but almost took it to where I really wanna go.” Jesus. I never get nervous. Why do I feel like I have to explain myself? I dig into my confidence stores and again, feel like I’m hovering above when I just blurt out what I really want to say. “You get me twisted in knots, Madelyn. I’ve never had that before. I feel like I’m … I don’t even know what I’m feeling. I know that I say stupid things in front of you, and I don’t mean to. I like you, and I want to get to know you.” I watch her as she nods. She still won’t look me in the eye. “Madelyn?” Finally, she raises her head and looks me in the eye.

  “You make me nervous too. You make me feel things that I have trouble holding down. I wish … I wish that kiss was a proper kiss.”

  I purse my lips and nod my head. “So do I, but I didn’t want to assume. When I kiss you, it’ll be done right, and it will be because you want to kiss me.” I have to stop and ask myself What are you doing? I never ask, I just take. Madelyn is a series of firsts for me. The phone number, the wanting to get to know rather than adding her to my list of women. She has something about her that I want to get to know. “You obviously know a bit of my story, how about we get to know each other better while we eat lunch?”

  “So, question number one,” I start after placing her plate before her on the dining table. I told Madelyn to sit down while I served up. “How old are you?”

  Madelyn pops a forkful of food into her mouth and feigns a horrified look. “Geez, if your next question is about my weight, I am outta here.” I snicker as I load up my fork. “I’m twenty-four.”

  “I’m twenty-seven,” I say with my mouthful. “Your turn.”

  “I don’t know what to ask you. I mean, when I’m not here, I can think of a hundred questions I want to ask you, but here and now …”

  “Stage fright. At least I know now you’ve been thinking of me … that is to ask questions.” I watch her twirl her fork in her fingers as she gives a little nod. “Well, you can ask your questions when you think of them. I have all the time in the world.”

  She stops twirling her fork and looks up at me. “Do you?”

  “Is that your question?”

  “Not originally, but I’ll use it now and is that your question?” she smiles as she takes a bite.

  “I don’t know. Is that your question?”

  I laugh at her banter. “You said you were studying, is it law? You have this arguing thing down pat.” She doesn’t hide her smirk, and I make no effort to hide mine. “How long is a piece of string?” I notice the fork goes straight up as if that’s a question, but I quickly add in, “I don’t know how long I’m here for. Truly, I don’t.”

  “So what’s your plan then?”

  I scoop a forkful into my mouth and ponder the question. Madelyn puts her fork down and steeples her hands while her elbows rest on the edge of the table. Shit. She’s not moving on 'til I give her something.

  “Haven’t quite figured that out yet. Still finding my feet here. This is all so new to me. Part of me hates it, but part of me loves it too. It’s difficult to explain.”

  “You’ve avoided the question.”

  “No, I haven’t. I’ve said I haven’t figured it out yet.” I shovel more food into my mouth trying to signal that I’m done with that question.

  “First love?”

  “Music.” I’m not surprised by my answer. “Yours?” and I almost don’t hear her answer. “You’re a writer? What do you write?”

  “I wrote my first story when I was six. It was full of lies about my family. Pure escapism,” she says with a laugh devoid of humour. “Is music still your love?”

  Hmm, how did she manage to ask the question I’ve been asking myself over and over the last few days. “I think so, I mean. I’ve kinda been focused on other things but yes, I’m in a bit of a block phase and just waiting to get past it.”

  “So what’s with all the cardboard, coloured pens and tape you had me buy? Is that for your music?”

  “That’s just something I’m working on, hoping it will get and keep me focused,” I say as I reach my fork across the table and take some from her plate. I’m a bit surprised when she intercepts her fork with mine.

  “What are you working on and I might share my food with you.”

  “Moving and being here, I’m sure as much as this place is out of the way, you have heard of me and my situation. He’s not my lover. I know just as much of the situation of Sean leaving as you do. All I know is that I’m here. And by being here, it’s shown me a lot about myself. A lot of things
I don’t like. I don’t like this helpless feeling, I was actually going to write a list of ten things I should know how to do by now. Operate dishwasher – check.”

  Madelyn wipes the corner of her mouth with her hand before taking another bite. “You’re not helpless, you’ve just never had to do them. What else is on your list?”

  I raise a finger to stop her. “I think it’s my turn to ask a question.”

  Madelyn leans back in her chair and crosses her arms and says with a mouthful. “Okay then. The floor is yours.”

  “How long have you been here? I mean in this town?”

  It’s my turn to wait for her to finish her mouthful. I think she’s going to tell me when she gets up and walks over to the cupboard and returns with two glasses of water. I wait patiently for her to answer after a long sip.

  “I’ve been here for three years. I’m not studying law. I moved out here to help my brother, you saw him at the bar, the publican?” Brother. Oh, thank God. My jealousy dies down, and is almost instantly replaced with nervousness. Family. I don’t do relationships longer than it takes me to come, so to think about someone more than that has been a leap. Meeting family is taking me right off the reservation. “I took a year to get my head straight and sort out what I wanted to do with my life. To do that, I needed a job. I helped him out with shifts at the bar, but the hours got to me in the end. Hours at the store are easy and work into my school schedule.”

  “What are you studying?”

  She shakes her head. “Uh-uh. My turn to ask the question. I want to know of the things on your list.”

  “I haven’t really thought of many, but the dishwasher and that was all your guidance. Learn to drive is another thing.” I half expected her to laugh at me, but she just sat and nodded.

  “Well I can help with that, that’s not an issue. I have some time now if you want to get started?”

  I quietly place my fork on the edge of my plate and continue to stare at her. “Why are you so helpful?”

  She shrugs her shoulders and takes another sip of her water. “You might not know it to look at me, I too needed help a while back to start out. I know what it’s like to feel helpless. Jesus, I know what it’s like to be broke. Like, proper broke, not a cent to my name and have to rely on others to help. You, my friend, are in the position now of do you put your ego aside and take the help or do you push it away and continue to struggle? All it takes is a few things to build your confidence and then you’ll be able to keep plugging away at your list. So what else? Dishwasher –– check. Driving – have to get your provisional licence, and we can get started on that. What’s next?”

  “What happened to you?” I instantly regret asking so boldly when her breath hitches and she has to catch the fork she’s dropped. “Sorry, didn’t mean to be that direct.”

  “No, no it’s okay. I got screwed over. The only way I saw to get through it was to leave. My brother was here, so I came to him. He had the same conversation with me. The ‘what do you want to do with your life from here?’ The ‘yes this has happened to you, but you can’t let it define you’ talk. I had to come up with a game plan. So, it’s only decent if I can help you with yours. Even if it’s just talking about it. So, what’s your plan?”

  “Umm, get the paper on the walls so I can start on my music.” Before I even have the words out of my mouth, she’s leaning over the table to take my plate. “But what I really want to do is learn to drive.”

  I was so caught up in the conversation, it didn’t even feel like I’d eaten, but my plate was empty as Madelyn reached over and took it away from me. Draining the last of the water from the glass, I follow her into the kitchen.

  Madelyn hands me her car key, “Well, let’s go driving then.”

  Chapter Nineteen


  I haven’t sweated or panicked this much in a long time. Wiping my hands on my jeans once again before taking hold of the steering wheel. Despite this car being worth maybe two hundred pounds five years ago, I’m still hyper-aware that this is someone else’s mode of transport, and I don’t want to break it. I might have looked up on Pinterest the best suggestions for driving a manual car, but pictures are all nice 'til you have to actually do it.

  “She’s a tough ol’ girl. Whatever you throw at her, I’m sure she can handle it.” Madelyn encouraged, despite detecting a hint of uncertainty in her tone. “Check your mirrors and when you are ready. First gear, slowly on the accelerator and then slowly let out the clutch.”

  “Why couldn’t you have an auto?” I check the mirrors again and lower my left foot 'til the pedal is all the way in. I take one hand off the wheel and shift the gear into first. I was about to say ‘you know that it’s going to bunny hop’ but the action beats me to it. We both laugh at the jolts before Madelyn tells me to put the clutch back in.

  “Hope you have insurance. Whiplash much,” she laughed. “Try again.” We make it about three car lengths before we are both bent over laughing tears, and I have to put my foot on the brake and slip the gear into neutral. I know all the terms, it’s just the combining of all things.

  “Oh God. I haven’t laughed like this in such a long time.” I wipe my eyes and let out another belly laugh.

  “Just about everyone does it and if they say they haven’t, they are lying. Better to get it out of your system,” she laughed. “Okay. Again.”

  I take a deep breath and say a silent prayer. I can do this. I gently put my foot on the accelerator and slowly ease off the clutch. The car takes off smoothly, and we are on our way. The engine starts to get louder, and the whole car starts to shake.

  “Okay, so now, put your foot on the clutch and bring the gear straight down,” Madelyn said.

  If I ever wanted to know what it was like to be on the inside of a vibrator. This car coupled with my driving was it. The footwell sounded like it was going to shake loose. The windows rattled so much I was surprised they were still wound up. The engine is screaming at me to put it out of its misery and either stop or change down to the next gear. “Just straight down. You can do it.” The engine revs more, but none of the dials indicate that there’s a problem. I pull the gear stick, and the engine makes a groaning sound. “Just straight down. If you want to stop. Just ease your foot onto the brake.” I put my foot on the brake, and the car stops complaining and idles. “Again. You have the braking sorted.”

  Several more violent bunny hops leaves Madelyn scrambling to grab onto something, and since the door handle is gone, she’s scraping her hand on the roof. I’m surprised she didn’t put her foot through the floor trying to find her imaginary brakes, but we made it to the end of the street. Madelyn encourages me to drive around the streets as the sun sets lower in the sky.

  “Does anyone actually live in this town? I haven’t seen anyone,” I say as we take another corner. I must have driven the same roads three times over. She had me park at all angles, yelling at me to stop or take a corner abruptly to ‘test my reflexes’ as she claimed. Even had me reverse the length of a street.

  “Most of the people work in Dareton. This is a thieves’ paradise. No one around for an eight-hour period,” she laughed. “You are really getting the hang of this driving business. Well done.”

  I silently congratulate myself. The list of things that I wanted to achieve is slowly growing. They might be tiny things to others, but they are huge confidence boosters to me, and I’m keen to get more done.

  “Which way?”

  “Go right. We can get a meal at Trent’s if you like. We’ve been driving for a few hours now.” She must have sensed my hesitation. “Don’t worry about him. He will be there, but I will tell him to keep his distance if you like.”

  I click the indicator to the right and proceed to bunny hop across the road. I’m just starting to get the hang of it when Madelyn tells me that we’ve missed the turn-off. I find a spot and ease around before spinning the wheel to turn us around. We jolt as the wheel hits the kerb and mounts it. I slam my foot on the b
rake. “Oh shit. Sorry. What do I do? Keep going or go back?”

  Madelyn turns her head and looks at me before shrugging her shoulders. “You decide. You’re the one driving this car. You get to choose.”

  I look at what’s in front of the car. Plenty of space to keep going. I put the car into gear and slowly ease my foot off the clutch. We bounce as the car comes back onto the road, and we move on. I change gears easily and the car picks up pace.

  “Turn right there,” Madelyn says.

  I change down a gear and flick the indicator. I give myself an inward fist pump. I have totally got this. I see the pub up ahead and indicate for the driveway. It’s just on dusk and I look at all the cars parked out the front, and I coast into a spot over by the fence line.

  “Don’t worry. There’s a residence in the back. We can stay there. No one will see you,” Madelyn says as she pats my hand that’s rested on the gear stick. “You’ve done well. Actually. Do you want to drive a bit further around?”

  Have to admit. I feel pretty proud of myself. “Thanks. Thanks for your patience. I’m more confident going forward, but not so much about going backwards.”

  “Just take it slow.” I slowly and loudly pull away from the fence line. “Head down and around there.” Madelyn points to a barn-like shed. The sky is dark, and I’m a little unsure as to why she’s directing me this way. “Just here is fine.” I look around, and there’s nothing but the shed. No cars. “No people back here.”

  I turn the key in the ignition and undo my seatbelt. Madelyn turns in her seat and just as I’m about to open the door, she says, “Don’t.”

  I twist in my seat to look at her. The moonlight seems to be hiding in the shadows, and I can only make out an outline. I reach over and feel along for her hand. I’m relieved when she gives mine a squeeze in reply.


‹ Prev