Mirrors

Mirrors

A Chapter by avoria

Driftwood

Chapter Seven

Mirrors


Sam threw the door shut behind him, keeping the rain outside. He was already drenched and he’d only had to run across the road to his apartment door. Relieving himself of his satchel, he threw it down to one side and started shrugging off his coat, pleased to see soft light from the living room fall across the hallway floor: he always liked coming home to Georgia.


Hey, love,” he greeted warmly as he came into the room. She was reading something, curled up on the sofa with a novel clasped between her hands and a steaming cup of tea on the table beside her.


She looked up as he approached, offering her cheek as he bent to kiss her. “Mmm, hi. Kettle's just boiled if you want one. Good day?”


Sam went through to the kitchen, opening the fridge and then staring blankly into it for a couple of minutes. Had it been a good day? He couldn't rightly say. All he could really remember was that he had made some sort of breakthrough with Clare. Clare, who had remained silent the entire time his car on the way home, except for offering a direction here or there so that he could find her house.


He noted, with some interest, that it would have been a long walk to the college and back every day. She could have quite easily caught the bus or, dare he mention, ask her parents for a lift: yet she chose to walk, even in the pouring rain.


Then again, he thought, maybe she didn't actually have that much of a choice in the matter.


In the car, she had seemed just as nervous as he'd felt. He shouldn't be nervous, he knew " he had no reason to be. But more and more, as the days went on, Drew's words kept echoing around in his mind.


Careful Sam … Don’t go caring too much.”


It took a few minutes for Sam to realise he hadn't re-boiled the kettle. Flicking the switch he wandered back to the living room, damp hair beginning to dribble down the back of his neck. He gave an involuntary shiver.


Georgia still hadn't really looked at him. He took a seat, watching carefully, and noticed that her eyes weren't moving. She was staring at the page in front of her, but she wasn't reading. Out in the kitchen, the kettle boiled, its sound drifting through the empty flat. He cleared is throat: she still didn't look up.


George?” he addressed quietly. It was always the tone he used when he knew something was bothering her.


With a small sigh she closed her book, sliding it onto the table beside her tea. Then she sat up, looking at him. Sam waited for her response.


Your dad rang today.”


He felt his gaze grow cold, a tepid stare looking out on the world instead. "How nice of him," he bit out, getting to his feet again.


Georgia bit her lip and stood up, following him out to the kitchen where he yanked open one of the cupboards and slammed a mug down on the kitchen counter. His father being in touch was the last thing he needed to hear about.


He said he wanted to - ”


I really have no interest in what he had to say.”


With his back to Georgia he couldn't see her reaction, but he imaged she wasn't too pleased. He lifted the kettle to pour water into his mug, missed and sloshed some over the kitchen counter, where it ran and started dribbling off the edge. Swearing under his breath he moved to wipe it away with a cloth they always kept by the sink.


Sam.” Georgia's tone was frank, tired, as though they had had this conversation a hundred times before. Sam felt himself tense; was it really anything to do with her, at the end of the day, what happened between him and his family? Then he scolded himself inwardly: she was family, too.


Still, sensing he was in the wrong, that only served to fuel his anger.


I don't want to talk about it,” he said flatly, dropping his teabag into the bin.


You can't pretend like he doesn't exist. He's still your " ”


"If you're going to tell me he's still my father then you can just ... not." It wasn't quite as punchy as he'd intended, but she didn't deserve him snapping too much at her: she didn't deserve the anger meant for his father.


Georgia raised an eyebrow, folding her arms and taking her classic ‘you’ve annoyed me’ pose. “You’ve been hanging round those kids too long,” she snapped. “You’re getting as childish as they are.”


Hey,” he said defensively, turning and pointing the teaspoon in her direction. “Those ‘kids’ have got more on their plate than you could even imagine. Leave them alone.”


I’m just trying to get you to deal with this, Sam.” Georgia came up to him, unfolding her arms and reaching for his hand. “It’s not going to just go away.”


He sighed, turning away from her. He didn’t want a thing to do with the man who called himself his father. All the scheming, selfish b*****d knew was money and sex.


It’s already gone,” Sam answered, moving past Georgia to replace the milk in the fridge. “He walked out of my life when he walked out on Mum. I don’t want his money or his excuses; he treated me like crap when I was a kid, anyway. In all honesty I should have seen it coming.”


He couldn’t understand why Georgia was standing up for the man so much. It wasn’t like they’d had much to say to each other whenever they’d met. Holidays and birthdays were the only times the family had managed to really get together, and though Georgia had fit in very well with all of them, his dad had always kept to the periphery. In fact once, one memorable Christmas, Mark had taken him aside and murmured darkly if Sam was sure Georgia was really worth having a girlfriend, because she looked more like a w***e than a partner.


Sam had very nearly punched him then and there: but he didn’t " he couldn’t. Not with his mum and sister still fawning around. So he had ‘politely’ told him where to shove it and had gone back to George’s side, making a point to kiss her passionately in front of his dad.


Now, a few years later, when the strands of the family had unwoven and the real Mark made himself clear, there was nothing more Sam wanted to do with him. In many ways, it was good riddance; he just wished he had done it sooner.


Unfortunately, now the house had a sour air about it that Sam wanted to escape. It clung to the walls and stared out at him accusingly, reminding him that Georgia didn’t deserve his anger.


He was pulling on his coat again when she found him in the hallway, his own tea in her hands and a very sorry expression on her face.


I wish you wouldn’t do this,” she sighed, trying to hand it to him.


He ran his tongue over his lips, slowly shaking his head. “I’m sorry,” he murmured, doing up the buttons. “It’s how I deal with things.”


Georgia frowned thickly. “By running away? No, Sam, that’s not ‘dealing with things’. It’s just running away. And it makes everything worse.”


He looked up, feeling his age against hers, feeling like the lost, lonely virgin she’d found him as when they’d first met. “I won’t be long,” he offered, some kind of olive branch.


It didn’t much appease Georgia, however, who just shrugged and looked away. “Be as long as you like. You’ll be soaked before you’re even five minutes down the road.”


She didn’t wait around to watch him leave this time. He couldn’t really blame her. It was such a habit, now, his leaving when it all got too much, when there was something he didn’t want to talk about, when he didn’t have the words to even fathom saying anything. He would go out, wander around for half an hour or so, spend some time collecting his thoughts, then return and have something like a real conversation. He couldn’t ever skip the thinking part " he had tried, but it never turned out well. Their conversations just turned to shouting matches, and he didn’t like those much, either.


So he walked and he thought and he tried to pretend that the world wasn’t shouting noise in his head. As he pulled the door open, watching the torrents of rain, he hated that it was his dad who had caused this. He never wanted to worry or think about that man again, yet here he was, haunting his own home, trying to form a connection that had never been there.


The rain was already easing. Crisp, golden light could be seen trying to break its way through the clouds that had intimidated the town all day, lining the sky with hues unusually seen in autumn. As Sam walked, his feet splashing in the puddles around him, he breathed in heavily: the smell of rain reminded him of summer, not fast-approaching winter, and he immediately felt more at ease. The rhythmic sound of droplets smacking against the trees and pavements gave him something to walk against and, before long, he found himself lost in his mind, letting his feet carry him on.


He hoped, as he got older, that he would always appreciate walking. It always managed to clear his head and make the rest of the world less dense, managed to remove some of the noise that he picked up going about daily life. He had seen countless sunrises and sunsets, spending his youth seducing the earth rather than the girls around him. He smiled as he remembered, so long ago, the night where he would wander up to the top of his hill at his university, guitar in hand, and strum out some melodic nonsense whilst gazing at the stars.


Imagination had never been his strong point, particularly, but those nights had been some of his favourites; they had reminded him, in a strange way, of everything that he was connected to. Perhaps that’s why he enjoyed walking so much now.


After a while, he found himself in a part of town that he wasn’t too familiar with. He’d come to a park, but much more than just a swings and roundabouts kind of park: it was large, the lawns vast and shining green in the glistening rain, trees lining a half-cut path through the middle of it. It was mostly empty, the rain getting the better of most of the people, but there one or two shadows wandering through, some with dogs, others walking in pairs or on their own.


The play area was empty, its children locked safely up their houses with parents feeding them dinner and making them do their homework. But as Sam walked he noticed a figure moving gently in the breeze on one of the swings, legs still and body facing away from him, looking out at the rest of the town. She was so solitary, so still, her hair only just moving, that he wondered for a moment if she was even real.


Hands in pockets and feet beginning to dampen from the rain-soaked grass, Sam walked apprehensively in her direction.


He knew it was her before he’d reached her. It wasn’t just her hair or her form: it was her entire composure, that mysterious veil that he could never tear his eyes from yet, at the same time, could never afford to lift. Once, he might not have even approached her. But he got the impression now that he was a little more welcome than before.


Without saying a word he released his hands from his pockets and took a seat on the swing beside her, its metal chains cold and cutting into skin. When she looked at him out of the corner of her eye he couldn’t give her his usual, friendly smile. It didn’t feel right.


Rain fell between them for a while, splashing in the already watery mud at their feet. After half a minute or so, she kicked against the ground and moved back forth through the air. He watched her, carefully, mouth dry and hair dripping water into his tiring eyes.


If I didn’t know better,” she spoke against the creaking of her swing, “I’d say you were following me.”


There was humour hovering below the surface of her voice, an animal scared to come up for air. Sam braced his own feet against the ground, kicking off and feeling cold droplets splash against his cheeks. He refrained from jokingly answering ‘I am’; that didn’t feel right, either.


Instead he said, “It’s raining.”


Ten out of ten for observational skills, Mr. Logan.” Clare was echoing the joke they’d shared earlier that day, and he smiled. The joke they’d shared when he had been her teacher, so much her teacher … Was he still? The boundaries were still in place, but was that all he was? Did that mean he shouldn’t be here, now, talking to her? It probably did. He should probably get up and walk away, metaphorically and literally. Leave her to deal with whatever s**t was on her plate because that’s what most people did. There were a lot more ‘probably’s in those thoughts than he cared to deal with, however, and instead he just kept swinging, eventually coming to a stop with Clare.


He let himself look at her, properly. She was soaked, too. Her hair, now obstinate strings of maroon, clung to her face as though terrified to leave, her clothes looking as though he could wring them out. But still around was that quietness, as though he was looking at the subject of a photograph.


I thought you didn’t like walking in the rain,” he said, mostly for something to say.


Clare lifted her arm, pointing towards the wooden fence that ran the perimeter of the park. A young brown Labrador was sniffing vehemently at a clump of grass, looking very excited and not giving a damn about the weather.


He needed a walk.” And I needed to think, Sam heard on the end of that sentence, but that might have been his own head. “Besides. I don’t mind the rain when it’s light.”


As they lapsed into silence the sun started to push its way through the clouds again, the rain lessening and strange shadows moving slowly across the park.


What about you, then?” Clare asked quietly, keeping her eyes steadily on the dog. “What brings you out here?”


Sam cleared his throat, wondering what he could say. So far, all he’d succeeded with with Clare was the odd conversation here or there, usually on a specific topic, where he commented away and she occasionally said something, before she became embarrassed and excused herself for whatever reason. That was just the way it went. It was strange to think of them having something more ‘normal’.


I needed a walk, too,” he said blandly, because it was the truth. He didn’t want to give away too much, particularly, and neither did he want to be reminded of the reason why he was out here.


No, really?” She was smiling, but her sarcasm was still there.


Quiet, you. It helps me to think. Sometimes it’s the only way I can clear my head.” This seemed to surprise her. She sat up, turning a little and looking at him questioningly. “What? Because I’m a teacher I can’t have stray thoughts?”


Her eyes narrowed a bit as she surveyed him and he was under the distinct impression he was being ‘figured out’. He swallowed.


It’s not that,” she replied, shaking her head. “It’s just strange that you would tell me.”


I haven’t told you anything.”


She met his gaze and was silent for a moment, her eyes flickering. Then, “Not with your mouth, no.”


He should have kept on walking, he realised with some deliberation. Whether or not he’d suspected it was her, whether or not her quietness had drawn him in (again), he should have kept putting one foot in front of the other, made it through the park, turned around and gone home. Home to his girlfriend, home the woman he loved. Home to the woman he wanted to marry one day. But he didn’t. Because he had sensed, some way, some how, that she was lonely again, that she was pining for something she couldn’t have. Because he didn’t want her to be by herself. What was wrong with him?


Clare’s gaze had dropped to the floor, where she was kicking at the squelchy dirt with her shoe. “Why are you following me, Sam?”


The use of his name almost stunned him. Even at their weekly Tuesdays she barely used it " she barely addressed him at all, really. He was just one of the writing group. And now, in a question without humour, she may as well have punched him in the solar plexus.


His tongue moved around his mouth attempting to form words, but they wouldn’t come out. It was like sculpting with the wrong tools, writing in a language he didn’t understand.


Why aren’t you at home with your girlfriend?”


She looked up again as she spoke, a wry smile on her face but sadness drowning in her eyes.


Sam frowned. “How did you " ”


The school’s full of gossip.” The smile grew a little. “Nothing is sacred.”


He wasn’t quite sure what to say in response to that so he sat back a little on the swing, diffusing some of the tension mounting between them. “I don’t actually live with her, you know,” he said off-handedly. “She lives with a friend of hers.”


Clare frowned, moving on the swing again. “Why?”


Do you know, I’m not really sure. She’s older than I am, so she was there while I was at university and doing my teacher training. I guess … I always imagined moving in with her when I got a job. We just haven’t really got round to it yet.”


Oh.”


We will though.” He gave a fond smile. “She spends enough time at my place, anyway.”


When he glanced up she was inspecting the nails on her hand and he felt, very strongly, that she wasn’t saying what she wanted. Perhaps it was wise, he thought, to let her thoughts stay in her head; after all, who was she to chat freely about his relationship regarding Georgia with? Just a student, he thought to himself severely. Just a student. Just someone who relies on a figure of authority for help when she needs it. Does she need help?


Clare lowered her hand to her lap. “I feel weird when you look at me like that.”


Sam blinked, startled. “Like what?” he found himself asking.


Like you don’t know what or who you’re looking at. Like you can’t figure me out.” Her gaze was almost crystal in the light from the cloudy sun and it shone with wisdom far beyond her years. “I’m not some puzzle you’ve got to put back together. I’m just a girl. Like skin and bones, like you.”


No, you’re more than that " everyone is.”


She laughed humourlessly, the sound jaded. As he watched her, it was like seeing something snap within her and he was almost sorry he’d said anything. “I’m not more than that and you’re stupid if you think I am. Everything here is just matter. Just … stuff, waiting to decay and die.” Her eyes on him suddenly became fierce, their green flashing in the light. “You’re nice to me. I don’t know why, but you are. Maybe it’s because of the night we first met, I don’t know. But just … don’t. Don’t bother. I’m not worth it. There’s no point.” The green became blurred as tears filled her eyes and Sam had to resist the urge to hold out a hand to her. He’d never seen her cry, though he suspected her of it occasionally, and watching it unfold before him now " watching, as she fought so hard with it " was almost too much to bear. His training hadn’t prepared him for this, had it?


He shifted in the swing, the hard plastic making him very uncomfortable. “What happened to you, Clare?” he asked quietly as she snivelled, wiping her face with her hands.


She looked up sharply. Then she closed her eyes, sighing, hiding her face in her hands once more. “God. I’m such a … I’m so pathetic.”


No, you’re not. You’re just struggling.”


It’s been six months,” she said pitifully, shoulders slumping. “You’d think we’d have started to move on by now. Get used to it. But we haven’t. It’s still the same as it always f*****g was.”


She was shaking. Her hands, in the cold air, still damp from her tears, were trembling in her lap. He couldn’t really take it any more. He reached out " only to have her to shy away, to look up in horror, like it was the first time she realised he was there. Like he had just broken some kind of unwritten code. He withdrew his hand, feeling sick.


Clare slid off the swing, avoiding his gaze as pulled a lead out from her jacket pocket. He stood too, wondering if there was anything he could say that wouldn’t sound … well, like he was trying to make excuses. ‘I’m sorry, I just want to help you’ probably wouldn’t have gone down so well just then. Oh god … what if she thought … ?


The idea almost made his own hands tremble; what if his caring, his want to just help her through whatever it was that was affecting her, really was out of line? Unwelcome, even? What if she thinks I’m ‘looking’ for something from her … ? He could barely fathom the thought. He played back, quickly in his mind, all the times they’d been together, all the times they’d chatted and talked, all the times she’d began to open up. And he put a hand to his mouth, refusing to believe she took it any other way than was the truth.


He had to make amends. He had to set things straight. What if she spun the story, told someone? It could easily be done and he’d heard many a tale where teachers had been fired, never to teach again, because of some accusation that may or may not have been true. Oh god, he’d barely even started and he was already going to get fired.


Clare, I - ”


Stop it,” she said, and never before had he heard her so fierce. He stopped dead, just a few paces away from her. “Stop talking to me, stop seeing me. Stop treating me like I’m something special, all right?”


Panic rose within him. Was this really happening?


Leave me alone.”


And with that she walked off, lead in hand, dog running frantically towards her as soon as he spotted her. Up above the rain started again, its pitter-patter falling gently on the soft, autumn grass. To a passer-by the scene looked almost normal: a young woman collecting a dog in a park, a man " her older brother, perhaps " watching her from where he stood in the pouring the rain. But as he turned and walked away in silence, face set in cold stone and eyes wary as wild animal, they might have wondered what had transpired between the two, what conversation their clandestine meeting had held.


Never would they have guessed, however, why tears formed in the young woman’s eyes as she watched him go. It might, after all, have only been the rain.



© 2010 avoria


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Added on March 28, 2010
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Author

avoria
avoria

United Kingdom



About
I've been an amateur writer for more than ten years. When I was fifteen I discovered fanfiction and, in my time writing it, explored my own creative writing style and and branched out significantly. S.. more..

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