---Chapter 17 - The Beginning of Everything---
As I pushed through the wooden door with the blue linings, I mused over the last time I was here and how different it had been those many years ago. The knot in my stomach suddenly began to wind up tighter and tighter till I felt ready to faint, but I knew if I left now, I would lose them forever and there would be nothing, nothing in the world that I could say that would fix it. And I had to fix it. I had to make amends because for six long years, I have been living my life like a coward and it was time for me to face up to the mess that I had left behind.
I know they probably wouldn’t believe me but they meant everything to me. I’ve always kept tabs on them, and even if they never forgive me, they have to know that I’m so proud of them and that I love them.
If only I could actually say this to them. The truth was I am terrified of my children. The both of them have inherited Robert’s tenacity and strength. They stood on their own two feet and didn’t let anyone else tell them otherwise. They were nothing like me, of that I was grateful.
Maybe the only positive thing I can say about my actions over the past six and a half years was that I at least gave them a fighting chance. They never had to grow up with a coward for a mother.
I glanced down at my watch and knew that at any moment now, they would be walking through those doors. My two children.
I motioned for the waiter and ordered a large glass of white wine, and waited.
The door squeaked open and I looked up.
I had never felt so much pride and adoration till this moment, till the moment I watched as my two beautiful children walked through those doors looking all grown up.
Edan was so tall now and he had Robert’s build when Robert was his age, but his most striking resemblance were his kind and loving eyes; a trait I had always been fond of. Keegan, on the other hand, looked more like me but infinitely more beautiful. She was a few inches shorter than Edan but carried herself in a manner that told everyone in the room that she was the oldest between the two. Her long brown hair swished as she walked and my heart constricted tightly at the sight of them both.
I stood up, my hands shaking pathetically, as I attempted to smile at them. Edan smiled back tentatively but Keegan’s lips pursed into a tight line. It pained me to see her so indifferent towards me but I should have expected this.
“Hi kids,” I said.
“Hi m – hi,” Edan mumbled, taking a seat. Keegan sat down as well but remained silent.
“Do you want anything? I’m paying,” I told them. They both shook their heads in response. Oh, this was so painfully awkward. It shouldn’t be awkward with your own kids, right?
“Well, how are you both? Did you find the restaurant all right?” I persisted in making small talk.
“It was fine, I’m doing fine…”
“Oh for Merlin’s sake! Let’s just get to it, yeah?” Keegan cried out angrily. “We’re here. What do you want?”
I felt my heart break at the venom in her voice but I knew that I deserved every ounce of hatred she had towards me. I messed up. And I was probably never going to earn their forgiveness. I had to face up to this reality.
“Keegan, please!” Edan snapped at his sister.
I placed my hand on Edan’s gently. “It’s okay, Edan. I deserved that.” He still continued to glower at his sister but the anger in her expression remained set in her heart-shaped face, never faltering.
“I… I asked you both to come here because I wanted to tell you something,” I began quietly. “I think you both deserve an explanation as to why I left.” Silence followed and I felt even more nervous than I had before.
“Well, we’re waiting,” Keegan said.
“Okay, right,” I took a deep breath and braced myself. “Your father and I married when we were very young, and the truth was I don’t think I had been ready for a family but I got one anyways. You two were a blessing for your father and I, don’t get me wrong. You saved our marriage but only for a short time. It never fixed our problems.” I looked to Keegan and Edan and continued. “Then you, Keegan, you were going to Hogwarts and you were going to be gone for most of the year then Edan would be next. I panicked. I knew that if it was just going to be your father and me alone in the house, something awful would have happened but I didn’t know that by leaving, I was doing something even worse. I’m truly sorry. I know it’s a pathetic explanation but it’s all I have to give.”
“So you left because I was going to Hogwarts?” Keegan scoffed, her tone disbelieving and laced with hurt that for a brief second, I contemplated taking her into my arms, and cradling her like I had done when she had nightmares as a child.
“No, honey, no of course not,” I quickly amended. “I left because… because I was a coward.”
Keegan began to laugh but there was no humour in her voice. “God, after all this time, this is what you want to tell us? You could’ve just made up some bullocks so at least we could have felt some smidgen of respect for you. But this, this is… well you’re right, pathetic.”
“Keegan, stop it,” Edan growled. “You’re being a bitch.”
“No, Edan, I will not stop it,” she snapped irritably. “I’m sorry but I can’t help how I feel just as you couldn’t help abandoning your children because you got a little bit scared. I’m leaving. Edan, are you coming?”
He looked from his sister to me, and with a defeated sigh, he got up. “Yeah, fine.”
I couldn’t let them leave, not like this. I needed them to understand why after all these years I finally came back…
“I’m dying,” I blurted out.
Both of them stopped in their tracks, frozen, and for the longest minute, they just stood there while I stared on, not knowing anymore how to be a mother to them. I have lost that right six and a half long years ago.
Keegan reacted first. She turned towards me, tears streaming down her face. “No! You can’t do this! You can’t come back into my life and then expect me to give a toss about you! You have no right to do this to me!”
She then reached into her pocket and threw something onto the floor. “Here, you should have that back.”
And she ran out.
I looked to Edan and he just shook his head, going after his sister.
I went to pick up the discarded object and when I saw what it was, my heart shattered into a million pieces. And I deserved every jagged edge, every searing pain… because I abandoned them and now I’ve truly lost them.
“Fuckity fuck, fuck!” I screamed. This is a shit day. This is rubbish. This is… what’s another word for utterly miserable, completely fucking ridiculous and unbearably painful?
I hate her! I hate her… how dare she come back and say all those things to me!
How dare she tell me she’s dying?
No, she’s not!
It’s just some morbid, twisted lie to get Edan and me back into her life.
Yes, that’s it.
I whirled around and found Miranda staring back at me. Her eyes were bloodshot and she looked like she hadn’t slept in days. All thoughts of my mother disappeared and I rushed over to my best friend. “Miranda, what happened?”
As soon as I reached her, she practically collapsed in my arms. I held her tightly while she began to sob into my shoulder, her body convulsing with every sniffle.
It seemed that it was a shit day for everyone.
“Miranda, please, talk to me,” I murmured into her hair.
She sniffled and pushed away from me, while pulling her hair back from her face.
“Elbie broke up with me.”
WHAT IN THE…
“But… when? What? Why?” I stammered out, knowing I was probably not doing the ‘best friend’ role too well but I just couldn’t wrap my head around this new turn of events.
“Two nights ago, I think, I don’t really know what day it is anymore,” she laughed weakly. “Can we go inside, Keegs? It’s freezing.”
I nodded and quickly ushered her towards the house. I pulled her into the lounge and sat her down on the sofa while I told her I’d go make her a nice cup of hot cocoa. I did make her a nice cup of hot cocoa but I also sent two letters to Penny and Lucy demanding their presence immediately.
As I stirred the marshmallows around the mug, I relished a little in the fact that there was something else to deal with aside from my own fucked up life. Of course, I never wanted this to happen. Elbie and Miranda were the perfect couple and for them to break up made me lose hope in all relationships, but I found a tiny sliver of solace in the distraction. It was easier to deal with this than my mother right now.
I walked back into my lounge and placed the warm mug into Miranda’s hands. She looked up at me with a grateful smile but it didn’t reach her eyes. She looked destroyed, completely and utterly not herself, and it terrified me.
I needed to talk to Elbie and slap some bloody sense into that idiot.
But I knew I had to stay here with Miranda. At least till she felt a little bit better.
“Do you want to talk about it?” I asked her cautiously. She shook her head. Okay, well now what? “Okay well… er…”
There was a crack and someone barged into our house from the garden. It was Penny, followed by Lucy. The two of them looked at Miranda in horror and quickly rushed over to her side, pulling her into a big hug. Lucy grabbed my arm and I fell forward into the group hug, and we all stayed like this for a little while.
As I looked on at my friends, I realised how utterly screwed up we all were, that the events of the past few months have drained us from who we once were. Lucy was broken, her confidence, that glimmer of the bubbly Lucy was gone. Miranda looked defeated as well, her body weak and skeletal, and I knew without even having to ask that she had lost a lot of weight in the past two days. I was more than a little fucked up too, but I am repressing things so I’m just not going to think about that right now; let’s just say I wasn’t exactly rainbows and sunshine. Penny was probably the sanest one of us all, and that was saying something considering she’s dating Percy bloody Weasley.
“What do we do?” I asked to the room. “With everything.”
Another silence followed, this one was pregnant with a self-pitying sadness that really just did not befit my friends and I—if anything, we were obnoxiously confident. However, as I looked into each and every one of my friends’ faces (maybe aside from Penny because… she’s Penny and she just has her shit together all of the time), I could see that that confidence wasn’t there anymore and if it was, it was buried deep inside of us. Bloody hell, when the hell had life gotten so complicated?
“We stop feeling so bloody sorry for ourselves!” Penny exclaimed, jumping to her feet. “Whatever we have going on in our lives that we can’t control, we have to let it go. The next thing we do is start enjoying the fact that we’re alive and on holiday, and we’re going to enjoy it even if it kills us!”
Miranda looked up sceptically. “What are you planning, Penny?”
“I’m planning on getting drunk,” she said happily. “And you three will too!”
The three of us looked at each other and wondered whether we wanted to subject ourselves to drunken Penny again. Last time she was drunk, ahhem Halloween, she nearly killed me by shoving me down a staircase, albeit not on purpose, but drunken Penny equalled dangerous.
She put her hands on her hip with her Head Girl face on that instilled fear deep in the souls of most of the Hogwarts population. “You three are going to drunk even if I have to shove shots down your throat. Now get up! UP!” We all stood up quickly and for some reason, ended up in a straight line, backs straight and I felt a sudden urge to salute her. “You’re going to go home, shower, put on your sluttiest dress and come back here to Keegan’s. I will provide the alcohol. And then we will go out! Anyone that fails to adhere to these guidelines will be punished.”
How in the world does Penny manage to turn a ‘night out’ into a fucking chore is beside me but the three of us nodded solemnly, and one by one, they apparated out of my house, leaving me alone to my thoughts.
Almost instantaneously, my brain began to betray me, drifting off to a topic that sent a sharp jolt to my system. I didn’t want to think about it. Merlin, I really did not want to think about this tonight.
Maybe Penny was right; maybe we did need a break from all of this ridiculous drama. And I didn’t want to be alone right now—that’s probably how I found myself standing beside my owl, attaching a letter to his leg that was addressed to the last person I thought I’d want to see.
I have been called a lot of things in my lifetime by Keegan Riddell but ‘gay best friend’ was definitely a first.
She linked her arm in mine while we trailed behind a very drunken Penny, Miranda and Lucy. It was an unfortunate circumstance that I now found myself in but with what Keegan had told me earlier, I thought that maybe I should be the gentlemen and make sure these girls don’t get up to too much trouble.
But considering, I was talking about Keegan as well this was more than a likely scenario.
“Oliver, Ollie, Oliver,” Keegan mumbled to me. I looked down at her and couldn’t help noticing the way the light from the nearby lampposts illuminated the curve of her lips as she said my name. I felt an exhilaration course through me, but I stamped it down as hard as I could. This was not the time to get mixed feelings about her.
You were just beginning to gain her trust back, for fuck’s sake, Oliver!
“Can you keep a secret?” she stopped me from walking. My eyes glanced over at the other three girls. They were just being ushered into the club by a rather overzealous bouncer. I figured they’d probably be okay for a few minutes so I turned my attention back to my very inebriated childhood best friend.
“Yes, sure, what’s up?”
She fidgeted with the hem of her rather revealing top. “I saw my mum today.” She paused and then gave a deep body-shuddering sigh. “She’s apparently… well she’s… I think she’s dying.”
Well, fuck… that was not what I was expecting at all!
Mrs. Riddell was dying? Was that why she’s come back after all this fucking time? Oh man, I can’t even imagine what Keegan and Edan were going through right now.
I studied her but she kept her eyes fixated on the hem of her top, still playing with the lacy material. The silence stretched out in front of us and I gave in to impulse as I placed a finger under her chin and forced her to look at me. Her eyes looked imploringly into mine, in a way that I haven’t seen since we were eleven; they said everything I needed to know, that she needed saving but was too bloody proud to say it.
Absentmindedly, my hand began to trail along her jaw and up to stroke the smoothness of her cheek, my mind lost in the feel of her, but then I realised what I was doing once more and snatched my hand back. A flicker of something passed quickly across her face and I wondered if it was disappointment…
No, no, probably not. Keegan would kill me if I tried anything on.
Not that I wanted to or anything. I just… I just wanted to protect her.
“What else did she say?” I asked her quietly.
Keegan shook her head and sighed. “I ran out.”
She shook her head again, a look of fierce aggression automatically appearing on her face. “Don’t, Oliver. I can’t deal with her shit right now. I don’t want to deal with it!”
I would normally argue. Actually I had the greatest overwhelming feeling that I was going to argue with her about this sooner or later, but tonight, I saw the need for her to forget in her eyes and I conceded. Tonight, we won’t talk about it.
But she better bloody know she can’t run from this forever.
As if sensing my last thought, she nodded solemnly before putting on a wide smile, and pulling me quickly towards the club, and into the black warehouse-sized place.
It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the lighting but when it did the sight before me did not greet me as well it had apparently Keegan since she practically bounced with reignited (intoxicated) euphoria.
Her hand slipped from my forearm down to my hand and she pulled me through the crowd. We found the other three girls dancing joyously in the middle of the club, demanding the attention of every red-blooded male in the vicinity and i wondered how the fuck did I get roped into becoming their ‘gay (overprotective) best friend’.
Bloody hell, this is ridiculous…
“I am not dancing,” I told Keegan pointedly. She pouted at me and put her hands on my hip, trying to force me to move. Unfortunately for her, I was a lot stronger than she was.
“Come on, Wood, just wiggle that sexy bum of yours!” Miranda called, a genuine smile on her face. I’m glad she’s feeling better but there is no bloody way I was going to subject myself to their amusement.
“I am not wiggling anything of the sort,” I growled, standing rooted to the spot. The four girls laughed at me, and for a while I just stood there like a sore thumb (and a bloody idiot), not really sure once more why I was here. But after the awkwardness became unbearable, I decided to go get myself a very large drink.
I pushed my way through the crowd towards the bar. I was in the midst of ordering myself a very alcoholic drink when someone tapped me in the shoulder.
That voice. I recognised it all too well.
“Leila Ferguson,” I smiled as I was enveloped into a tight hug. As she pulled away, my eyes instinctively scanned over her body appreciatively. Her long ebony hair swished by her side, and her body was wrapped tightly in a crimson dress.
Damn, she still looked so good after all this time…
“I never thought I’d see the day you showed your face in a club,” she laughed, sounding surprised. “Merlin knows I tried so hard to get you to come out with me.”
I shrugged, taking a sizeable gulp of my drink. “People change, Leila.”
“Yeah, people do, but you don’t,” she informed me before leaning her body closer to mine. “But I have to say Oliver, you still look as good as the last time we saw each other.”
I could feel the hum of her body so close to mine and damn it if I couldn’t help my own body reacting to her. I mean there was no denying that Leila was beyond fit.
I placed a hand on her waist and leaned forward, closing the short distance between us. “I know,” I whispered in her ear arrogantly. Leila tilted her head back slightly and laughed.
I was about to say something else when a voice made all of my raging male hormones screech to a halt.
“Oliver…” it trailed off.
“Keegan!” I exclaimed loudly, in a completely uncharacteristic way that caused Leila to look at me quite funnily. I gave her a pointed look and she laughed under her breath. Keegan, however, was looking between Leila and me in a way that made me want to explain myself—a feeling, mind you, I was not very accustomed to but Merlin lately, I’ve been thrown off balance so many times by Keegan, I didn’t even know which way was up anymore. “This is Leila. Leila Ferguson. She used to play Chaser for Gryffindor.”
“Leila, as in your ex-girlfriend?” Keegan asked, her voice was not necessarily unfeeling but it… well it was slightly, which irked me.
“Oh yeah, we dated, didn’t we?” I looked to Leila, who laughed once more.
“Something like that,” she rolled her eyes. “It wasn’t as if it was a whole year. Just ten months.”
Ten months? Bloody hell, I didn’t know I could commit to someone for so long.
“Ten months?” Keegan scoffed, an amused expression on her face. “I thought you were incapable of intimacy, Oliver.”
I scowled at her, which caused both Keegan and Leila to chortle loudly at me.
Great, here I was thinking I had to protect Keegan but you know what? Maybe I was the one that needed the bloody protecting instead…
A/N: hey guys!! well... drama... eh? haha. i know it's crazy but it's one of those things where bad things all happen at once. anyway, i hope you like it nevertheless!!! please do leave a comment! it will make my day, night, week, month, year... XD anyway some fred and george is coming up for the next chapter and maybe the new year's party ;) so stay tuned!