i_love_freddie: (Freddie)
[personal profile] i_love_freddie
“So you are from London?” Sarah asked casually, as the two of us were washing up in the small kitchen of her little cafe. “It must be quite a change moving down to our little town.”

My heart started to beat faster. Sarah – a large, cheerful lady in her mid-forties – had taken me under her wing a few weeks before, when I had arrived in the cafe with nothing but a single suitcase to my name. Unsure of what to do and with nowhere to go, I had spent hours sitting by the window nursing a mug of hot chocolate... and at closing time she had approached me. She offered me the empty flat above the cafe for a few nights, and in return I helped her out during busy periods, and we had become friends. The living accommodation was basic and she could not afford to pay me much, but it was a new start. A chance to start afresh.

“My life there was very different,” I agreed evasively. That had been an understatement. My job there had been well paid and I had enjoyed the finer things in life. I had been close to my employers and had had a large group of friends, eaten in expensive restaurants, frequented art galleries and spent the weekends drinking and clubbing. I had been happy, or so I thought.

“Do you miss it?” Sarah wasn't a nosy person, but I could tell she was curious about the circumstances that had led to me being jobless and homeless in the middle of the countryside. It was hard; I felt guilty keeping things from her when she had been so kind to me, but I knew her opinion of me would change when she knew what I was running away from.

It still haunted me every night, but I needed to make a new start. My sister, my only living relative, had disowned me, and the people I had thought to be my friends had all disappeared. Why would a near stranger – even a friendly one – react any differently? No, I had to keep my secret and build a new life for myself.

“Sometimes, but things change. It is peaceful here.”

It was a nice little town. People knew each other and always said hello, though I held back from socialising. Sarah often tried to get me to go to the little pub on the corner in the evenings, but it felt too intimidating. Instead I spent a lot of time walking on the nearby beach, which was quiet most of the time. I could settle here, I often thought to myself while walking in the twilight. A new name, a new job, a place to live – surely everyone deserves a second chance?

Perhaps in time I could erase the past mistakes. Perhaps I could be happy again.

That was until I came down to open the cafe early one morning, still half asleep, and found the windows covered in pieces of paper. Unlocking the door, a cold chill spread through me as I saw the dozens of copies of a small newspaper article dated from the year before. The words Evil Bitch had been sprayed in red paint across the front of the door.

Someone had discovered my secret.

The newspaper article told how a twenty-four year old childminder had been charged with child endangerment, after her three year old charge had fallen down the stairs and suffered a broken arm and a head injury. The story went on to explain how she had been having sexual intercourse with her male employer at the time the accident occurred, and was suspected of neglecting the child on several other occasions to be with her lover. She had had her license revoked and received three months in prison.

My photograph was neatly displayed there for all to see. I had since dyed my hair brown and no longer wore make-up, but it was still unmistakably me. The childminder had been me. Young and naïve, I had been flattered by his attentions and allowed it to cloud my judgement – but there were no excuses for my actions. The result had been a badly injured child whom the doctors said had been lucky to escape brain damage, a devastated wife and mother, and a brutal and messy divorce.

I could recall the last words that Jessica – the woman I had regarded as an older sister – had ever said to me: “I will make sure that what you have done to me haunts you for the rest of your life.” I had no doubt that she meant every word. I had ruined her life, why would she not retaliate?

My only hope had been to start over, but how could such a thing ever be obliterated?

With tears leaking from my eyes, I turned around and went back upstairs, where I threw my few belongings into my battered suitcase. There was just enough time to slip out and get to the bus stop before Sarah arrived and saw the posters.

It was time to move on again. Maybe one day I could find the forgiveness I didn't deserve.
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