Tommy had been shouting at her all morning. She wasn’t entirely sure why. Nothing she did or said was ever good enough for him. It was so intense being with him, the demands and the pressure. Lucy used to hate her job. Now it was the place she went for some solace. A few moments of quiet before the noise of home.
The silence had been broken on the way to work that morning when a stone hit her windscreen. She searched through the rain covered glass with her eyes to find the point of impact but there was no mark. A lucky break. “Thank the heavens,” she whispered gratefully to herself. Not much was going right in her life, at least not for the last few years anyway.
Mark, her previous boyfriend, and the man Lucy would quite happily to this day still describe as the love of her life, had dumped her. That happens, she knew that. But it was quite the shock that he did it after she had been by his side through every second of his cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery. He still loved her, of course, he just couldn’t be tied down with a relationship. He was too young. He needed to be free.
She was devastated for months. And in the midst of the devastation, she met Tommy. For a time he was exactly what she needed. Until he started to insert himself into every corner of her life. He’d given up his tenancy and turned up at her door with bags. They now lived together. He forged her signature on some documents and they now had a joint bank account. He was making decisions for her. Telling her what to wear. Expecting her to be home when he expected her to be home. She hated her life but she wasn’t strong enough to tell him to get the hell out.
It was suffocating. She’d never felt restricted like this in her life. And it was getting worse and worse. He was unhinged and she felt the egg shells underfoot every single time he was around. It was no way to live but this was the life she was living. Lucy had never experienced anything like this, had only seen similar relationships like it on TV shows and in leaflets in the GP surgery. But she wasn’t like those women, not really.
Today, she had more of a reprieve from Tommy than normal, instead of going straight home she was on her way to give blood for the first time. She was so excited and nervous and dreading it all at the same time. Lucy felt so hopeless at home. Her flat taken over by a hostile invader. Her heart was still broken by her lousy ex. And her self-esteem was through the floor. She wasn’t sure if this was rock bottom, it felt like how she would expect rock bottom to feel, like sh*t.
Giving blood was something that she had been putting off for almost a decade. Some of it was fear. But like most things in life, she put off to tomorrow things she could get away with not doing today. Life was so awful right now that the idea of someone sticking needles in her seemed like a good idea. If she couldn’t help herself, the least she could do was try to help someone else. If she was honest, Lucy wasn’t completely sure why now seemed like the right time but anything that got her out of the flat for that little bit longer was worth it. Especially if it didn’t sound any alarm bells with Tommy.
She signed in, got her cup of water, filled in the questionnaire, read the literature and waited her turn. Any apprehension she had felt was quickly fading away. The moment was coming closer and finally something was going right in her life. Before the donation, they did some pre-checks to make sure she was fit enough to donate. It turned out she wasn’t. Her iron levels were too low. It shouldn’t have been that big of a deal but with the time she had been having recently, this was a blow she couldn’t quite handle.
Lucy’s eyes began to burn as she fought back the tears. She just had to get through the lobby of this building without breaking into tears. That walk was the longest she had been on for a while. The door seemed further and further away after every step, not closer. Eventually, she was through the door and sitting in her car, punching her steering wheel. How was this her life?
And then it started to rain. She put the car in gear and went on her way. It wasn’t a long drive home but she decided to make it longer. The tears had stopped but she could still feel herself shaking. A nervous energy was building in the pit of her stomach. She desperately wanted to start crying again as a form of release but the tears wouldn’t come when she actually needed them. She pulled up to the junction and waited. Right was home and left was anywhere else. The car in front of her started to move forward and she looked to her right to see if she was clear to follow, so she did.
The whole car shook as it hit the car in front. “For f**k’s sake!” She didn’t understand what had happened. He had been moving, how had this even happened? She looked up and there was PCSO standing right there in her uniform with judging eyes, watching the scene unfold. Turned-out just driving off into the sunset wasn’t an option.
The car in front pulled around the corner and she followed. The guy seemed nice. In fact he seemed more concerned with her wellbeing than with his car, which had suffered only minor damage anyway. Unfortunately, even though the damage was small, it was quite an expensive sports car and the cost of fixing the damage was probably more than her fifteen year old vehicle was worth.
He introduced himself as James and unfortunately, he had been on his way to sell his car. She was astounded by how unbothered he appeared knowing that Tommy would have launched into the sky at this point in a dramatic plume of smoke leaving a patch of scorched earth where he had stood.
James kep smiling at her as they exchanged details on the PCSO’s notepad. Lucy took a quick picture of his car and the paper notes so they didn’t have to be written out a second time. James stepped away slightly while he took a phone call. He got very animated which was in contrast to the cool calm character that had emerged after his very pricey car had been bashed by an emotionally unstable female driver in her rust bucket.
As he walked back to Lucy and the officer, he ended his call with a hushed and hurried “I love you.” He seemed to look a little embarrassed as he said it when he looked up and saw her staring at him. There was a little more chit-chat, the PCSO checking that both parties were okay to go and then that was that. Road incident done.
He drove off a few cars in front of her in traffic, soon turning down a near side street, remembering the address he had given, she realised how close to home he was when she hit him. It felt like she was passing her bad luck onto someone else. Which was a good thing because it meant her sh**ty day was over but bad because she didn’t like to think she was causing anyone else harm or pain.
The traffic was awful, so she was getting her way when it came to delaying her homecoming but not in as peaceful a way as she had hoped. But it wasn’t over. Right before her eyes, for no reason, a crack appeared on her windscreen and started to grow. If she hadn’t been driving she would have taken her phone out to capture it. Seems that innocent hit from the stone earlier wasn’t so innocent. It was almost beautiful the way the crack crept slowly and uniformly across the screen, if it wasn’t for the fact that she had just been in a car accident and more repair costs were the last thing she needed.
That was it, that was the last straw. She turned into a nearby street and started slamming her fists into the steering wheel, screaming into the safe space of her car on this quiet road. She placed her crossed arms onto the wheel and defeated, lay her head onto her arms. Maybe she could just stay here forever. She could quietly waste away and no one would probably notice. She was almost sure that Tommy would be happier without her, since she seemed to ruin his day just by breathing.
Knock,knock. The last thing she needed was some nosey do-gooder checking if she was alright because she wasn’t and that was not the answer people actually wanted to hear. To her surprise it was James. She rolled down the window as quickly as she could while also trying to compose herself and wipe away the few tears that had escaped from her eyes.
“Hi, I was just walking to the shop and saw your car turn down here. Have you got some damage from the bump?”
“Oh no, no, I was just having a mini-breakdown.” As soon as she said it, she regretted it. He might think she was unstable before the crash and think she was just crazy in general.
He smiled which calmed her a little bit. “I just live round the corner, do you want to come over for a cup of tea?”
“Don’t you need to run that past your girlfriend first? I know my boyfriend wouldn’t like me inviting strange men home.”
He looked at her confused. “I don’t have a girlfriend, why do you think that?”
She explained that it was because he had told someone he loved them on the phone and he explained that that person was his mother, who he was temporarily living with. This James person was a stranger but he made her feel at ease and seemed to be lifting the general uncertainty that she had felt everyday for the last few years. Her mother had told her, her teachers had told her and she knew you don’t just wander off with a stranger but this stranger seemed worth trusting, if only a little.
So she said, “hop in. We can drive there.” He said no. “Don’t get me wrong but I’d rather not get in a car with you.” It could have been insulting but instead she let out what felt like the biggest laugh she’d ever had. He was taken aback by how enthusiastically she reacted, maybe it was down to the crash, a nervous laughter, a stress reliever. She got out of her car and walked to the house of the stranger named James whose very fancy car she had just possibly ruined. She took a last look at her car before it was out of sight. That crack on the windscreen seemed a little smaller.
xx woeful writes xx