Dream World: Book 1
~ Debbie ~
Ten minutes, just ten more minutes that was all I would give my mother before ringing home again.
Perched on the edge of the wall, holding on tightly to the strap of my bag I watch the passing traffic. A single droplet of water makes its way down my face, stopping at my chin, before dripping onto my hands, staring briefly at it before turning my attention back to the road. Searching for my mother’s green hatchback, wishing I was buckled up in the car.
I sighed, wishing she would hurry up. My hair dripping and the chill of the air causes me to shudder; regretting not drying it as Wendy had suggested. She of course washed her hair after our swimming session.
I had been trying for days to talk to my mother about the changes to my body, or the lack of them. Other girls were sprouting these enormous breasts. Where were mine? It was enough to make me scream.
The road was busy because it was Saturday and the market was on. Cars whizzed past, I watched them, praying my mother would come alone, and that neither Greg nor Sally had tagged along. They always wanted her attention. I rarely got time to speak to her alone. A double decker passes; watching it until it disappears. I would have been home by now, if I had been allowed to catch the bus.
Another bus passes by, a single decker this time; the children at the back of the bus waved to me as I noticed the number. If mum hadn’t of insisted on picking me up, it was the one I would have caught. She had stood there, hands on her hips, blue eyes sparkling, telling me you maybe thirteen, but you’re not old enough to ride a bus on your own.
She was not serious was she? It was a waste of time arguing with her. Once she gave me that look, I had no choice in the matter.
I couldn’t blame Wendy for leaving me alone, since she had to go visit her grandparents. She had talked her parents into allowing her to go swimming on the understanding that they would pick her up afterwards. Of course, she agreed. My parents were the same, and since my grandad died, we visited our nan every two weeks.
Steve reminded me that we needed to visit her as often as we could, we had no idea how long she would be with us. When my grandad died, I should have spent more time with him. Steve was right about that. For a brother, he could be so sweet, and often teased me about boys. There was only one boy who captured my heart. I only had to hear his name, or see his face and would melt into a puddle on the floor. Joshua Lawson, he was a gorgeous talented young man. He may live in my dreams, but he was real to me.
Biting my lip hard, pushing him out of my mind; I should be concentrating on watching for Mums car. She was taking forever to get here, where was she? Come on Mum.
Four lanes made up the one way system. It was a road I did not like crossing, as it was one of the busiest. Some people did not know what a red light meant, and using the zebra crossing, you did so at you own risk.
My backside felt numb from the cold bricks, and standing seemed like the only way to get my legs to stop shaking. I wrapped my arms around my body to keep warm, inhaling the chlorine in my hair and the fumes from the cars. Wishing I had washed it.
Dropping my bag to the pavement, between my feet, I wrung my hair again; the water drips onto the concrete and creates wet droplets around my feet. Staring at them, as my body shudders again. I am so cold, bored and ready to go home. She should be here by now. Where are you Mum? I was searching for our car, jumping from one foot to the other.
There is still no sign of her. I sat down again, and shuffle on the cold brick wall, wishing Wendy had not left me.
Five more minutes pass.
“Come on, Mum, “ I mutter to myself, craning my neck to check down the road for her again. It’s not like mum to be this late. I roll my eyes, chuckling to myself, as mum hates it when I do that.
More cars pass; one caught my eye, a blue van, weaving across each lane, causing cars to honk their horns. I could not believe the way he was driving. Watching until it turns left at the end of the road and disappears from my view.
This is so unlike my mother, being this late, I am debating whether or not to ring home, but that meant leaving the meeting point and going back into the swimming pools entrance where the phone is. Deciding to wait a little bit longer, I start counting red cars because I am bored. It is a game my family often play on long journeys, but no fun on your own. This was beyond the joke, where was she? Standing, people stare at me as I continue to watch the traffic when I notice another blue van. Realising it’s the same the blue van. It switches lanes again, and then again. The driver was all over the place. Taking my eyes from the van, I spot my mother approaching. Seeing her face light up as she spots me, she does not wav. I am more than ready to go home now.
Then in slow motion the look of horror is etched on her face. She looks from me back to the road as I noticed that the blue van has switched lanes again. This time right into my mother’s path, she has no time to react. I hear tyres squeal as my mother slams on her brakes, but there is nothing she can do, and rear-ends the van. I can’t look; I don’t want to, I crumble to the floor, my heart racing. Lying on the cold concrete floor, covering my eyes with my hands, I curled up in a foetal position, hearing metal crunching on metal, as screams fill the air. It is only then, I realise that it is me who is screaming. I remain in a heap on the pavement and prise one eye open, not wanting to see. It’s as if time has stood still; the sound of sirens fills the air. I open my other eye; watching people rush to the scene. I feel a hand help me up asking me if I am okay, if I am hurt. Shaking my head, staring at the two mangled vehicles, one of which was my mother’s. This can’t be real. I’m daydreaming.
As I watch the scene unfold not being able to find but a whisper of a voice and gasping for breath. I stare at my mother as she is slumped over the steering wheel. There is broken glass shattered everywhere on the ground.
Emergency vehicles approach the scene; the man releases me; sobbing so hard my chest aches. I swallow attempting to make my feet move forward; a police officer walks towards me, and starts to talk, seeing her lips move, but not hearing the words that tumble from them.
Watching the scene unfold as they pull my mother from her car and lay her on a stretcher. The whole time the police officer was speaking to me, I mumble that she’s my mum as I watch them cover her with a sheet, screaming no. She can’t be dead, she can’t. They are wrong, they have to help her, pulling away from the officer she holds me back.
I scream her name over and over.
“She’s gone, love; she’s gone,” the police officer says as she holds me to her, and I sob uncontrollably.
Three days later, the death of my mother does not feel real. A constant flash of the accident plays out in my mind. It’s all my fault she’s dead. I know it is, no matter what my family tell me. I am to blame.
If I had not needed a lift home that day, my mother would still be alive. Refusing to leave my room, hiding in my bed underneath the covers. My eyes red from crying, my nails chewed. I should shower, but that meant leaving the safety of my bed. I don’t want to see them, any of them. Knowing they all blame me. I know that everyone blames me; maybe even wishing that I had died instead. I blame myself for the accident.
I’ve not eaten since my father brought me home from the hospital. I can’t eat. My mouth feels dry, my stomach rumbled, but I cannot fill it. I do not deserve food.
Even my best friend, Wendy cannot entice me out of my room. Did they not understand my mother was dead, nothing would be the same again.
If I had ridden the bus home; she would still be alive. Sally being so young to lose mum is lost. And I know that Greg being only ten years old is not old enough to understand. What have I done!
Angry does not come close to how I feel. Throwing back my duvet and standing as fresh tears replace the old ones, and mingle with snot. I wipe them on the arm of my pyjamas and storm across the room. I am angry with myself, the driver, and at my mother. As my anger explodes, I take it out on every poster on my wall, destroying them in seconds.
Sitting among the debris of paper, crying as more tears trickle down my reddened cheeks. It’s not Joshua’s fault, it’s mine. Scooping the pieces up, laying them on the bed. The posters beyond repair, I fall back on the bed with a fist full of Joshua Lawson. He is and always will be my favourite character from the show on TV, Victor. I like down and look up at the only poster of him, which survived, the one on my ceiling. His face stares down at me, smiling I close my eyes.
Joshua take one-step towards me and pulls me into a hug and whispers in my ear.
“It will be okay, I will be here for you, always. It’s not your fault, remember that.”
~ Debbie ~
It had only been a week since my word crumbled. Of course, I was taking the death of my mother hard. Witnessing something like that will do that to you. I could care less how I looked and smelt. Wearing the same pyjamas all week.
My shirt hung on the back of the door, taunting me. Everyone left me alone, which suited me just fine. I did not want to see anyone. Not even my best friend, Wendy. She tried so many times to entice me out of this room, to take me away from my thoughts. She meant well, but if I wanted to stay in my room and wallow, I would.
I did my best to avoid the family, believing they all blamed me. They were right to. It was my fault. She’s dead because of me.
The bluetac on the wall, a constant reminder of where my cherished posters once were, now they were ruined, gone. Just like my mother. I never even had the chance to say goodbye to her. Closing my eyes, the accident replayed in my head, tears streamed down my face, as I attempted to push it out. Losing the battle, my body ached from crying so hard. The pain of losing her would never leave me.
The driver of the van took her from me. I will never forgive him.
Trying to think happy thoughts and that meant Joshua. He always wore a constant smile. Staring at him, wanting to know what made him so damn happy. Of course, he was stuck in that pose. All he had to do was hold me in his arms and the pain melted away. Loving him was so easy. I often imagined him here in this room, with his arms wrapped around me. If I closed my eyes, I could see him clearly. Run to him, throw myself in his arms and have him hold me.
It was harder to imagine mum, without the accident appearing. Helping me deal with my guilt and loss was the image of Joshua holding me; until the image left.
Two knocks on my door, told me someone had finally come for me, but I buried myself deeper in my cave, unable to stop the tears from flowing. The voice asked if she could come in, I ignored the question, knowing my nan would enter regardless.
Hearing her cross the room and sit beside me, she removed the duvet from me and wiped the tears from my cheeks, which just made me cry more. I sat up and wiped my tears along the arm of my pyjamas. I knew I looked a mess; my eyes were red from crying.
“Debbie, honey,” my nan began, pulling me into a hug. “Come on, please. You’ll make me cry again. Your mother would’ve hated that.”
“I…” I stuttered. Knowing she was right. Yet it did not stop them from falling, dripping onto my pyjama leg and expanding into large wet droplets.
“I know, honey. I do.” My nan, Sophie took my hand. Tears in her eyes, making my own continue to flow. “You know your mother loved you, right?”
Nodding, I knew she did. She told me all the time; now she never would be able to again.
“Do you think she would have wanted you stuck in here all alone?”
I remained silent, trying my best to stop the tears from falling.
“Debbie, sweetheart, it will get better. When your grandad died, I went to pieces. Your mother was my rock, she helped me through it.” She released me from the hug, and stared at me. “I can still hear her telling me how he would be cross for me sitting in the same clothes and crying for days.”
“Nan, it’s my fault,” I mumbled. “She’s dead because of me.”
“Oh honey,” she said, pulling me into her arms again. “It wasn’t your fault. How can you even think that?”
“She was coming to pick me up and…”
“Oh honey, never think it was your fault.”
Tears spilled down onto my nan’s shoulder. I wished I could believe her.
Twenty minutes later, my nan released me from the warmth and safety of her embrace. She stood, and left me to dress. Wiping the tears from my face, needing to shower, but was unsure if I had time. They could wait. Walking to my bathroom, switching the shower on, I placed a hand under the running water, checking the temperature.
I stood beneath the flowing water, washing away the guilt, hoping it would disappear down the plughole with the dirty water. Rinsing the last of the soap from my hair, I switched the shower off and wrapped a large towel around my body. Hair wrapped in a second towel, I made my way back into my room.
They were waiting for me, but I needed to dry my hair.
“Your hair was wet that day too.” Joshua reminds me.
He was right, it was. I knew then, I could not leave until every last strand was dry. The only way was to blow dry it.
Once dry, brushing my hair until it was as smooth as I could make it, then putting it up in a ponytail. Dressing, I wanted to believe my nan, but still it felt as it was my fault.
Buttoning my white silk blouse, I reached for the door handle, opening it to find my father standing there on the landing, red eyed. I flew into his arms; he held me and laid his chin on my head. I felt his body heave as sobs came deep within him. How stupid had I been, we were all hurting, I was not alone in this. We all lost her.
We arrived at the church. Family and friends occupied every seat. I sat between my father and nan, sobbing silently throughout the service. My nan squeezed my hand. I did not want to think of her body in the coffin. When would this be over? Yet, we could not leave, not until the guests had given their condolences to my father, and the family. It was too much for me to bear. Steve slid across the pew and placed his hand on mine. It reminded me once again how selfish I had been. Laying my head on his shoulder, wondering who arranged everything.
After the funeral we walked to the wake, which was being held in the back of a pub. Why? They never came here, did they? I had no idea, but still we were here now, in this small room, filled with family and friends who had come to pay their final respects to my mother.
They all ate, joked and talked about what a lovely kind person my mum was. Yes she was all those things, the anger boiling up inside me with them and myself.
Leaning on the wall, closing my eyes, unable to look at any of them. I was sick of the looks of sympathy and the whispering. Opening my eyes, listening to them, were they talking about me? I had to get away from them; I’d had enough, pulling on my coat I made my way outside. The cold air slapped me in the face, but not hard enough, I deserved the pain. Taking two steps towards the busy road, not thinking.
“Debbie, don’t do it,” Joshua’s voice said, causing me to stop.
Turning towards the pub, sighing, I should go back in, but could not. Instead, deciding to go home.
The first droplet of rain hit my face, stinging. Even with the pain, I did not care as my feet hit the tarmac with such a force my legs ached. Moving forward, my eyes filled with tears as the rain belted around me, soaking me to the skin. Somehow, I arrived in town; how I ended up there I had no idea. Walking towards the site of the accident, my head pulled me back, but my feet urged me forward. It was then I saw them, the flowers from so many people. Some who knew her, many who did not, yet they cared enough to lay flowers. Crouching down I read each message. One made my heart stop. Holding it in my trembling fingers my teeth were on edge as I tore it to pieces.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” a female voice questioned me.
I stood, the pieces floating to the ground, landing in a muddy puddle, the black ink, merging into one big mass as I spun around.
“Doing,” I spat.
“Yes. That’s disrespectful,” the woman began, staring at me. “A woman died here a little under two weeks ago.”
“I know!” I said, through gritted teeth.
The woman studied me, her eyebrows raised.
“She was my mother,” I sobbed, turning and sitting beside the flowers. “And he left her this…” I indicated to the remaining pieces of paper. “...saying he was sorry.”
“He did?” the woman asked.
“Yes, he did. How dare he?” I said, pulling the heads of the flowers.
“Ah. Maybe he’s sorry. It was an accident after all.”
“An accident,” I bellowed. “He was drunk and swerved into her lane.”
“Yes, he was.” The woman nodded, placing her hand on my shoulder. “He should not have been driving, but he is sorry.”
I looked up at her, and shrugged her hand off.
“You’re his mother aren’t you?”
The woman nodded, I saw tears in her eyes.
“Why was he driving?”
“I don’t know, but I do know this, his life is ruined too. He has to live with the fact he killed your mother.”
I nodded again. “Yes he does, but…”
“It doesn’t excuse it, I know, and I’m ashamed of his behaviour, but he will have to live with this for the rest of his life.” She paused and sighed. “Some may say he was lucky for surviving, but he doesn’t think so, he wishes he died too.”
“You don’t think that really, do you?”
“Yes,” I snapped. I did. At least I thought I did. “No, I don’t know what I think. All I know is he killed the most important person in my life. You tell him that. Tell him he ruined my life too.”
The woman stood silent watching me, the rain still falling upon us.
“Debbie,” I heard my brother’s voice call.
I turned; he ran towards me. I saw the look of worry on his face and suddenly felt ashamed for running off.
“There you are! Dad’s going crazy, because you disappeared.”
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t…” I mumbled as he held me.
“Take her home,” the woman said. “Tell your father my son is sorry, and so am I.”
Steve led me towards his car.
“Was she?” he asked.
I nodded, as I climbed inside and buckled up.
Steve drove us home, where our immediate family now were.
Opening the door, my father pulled me inside and held me. He later ranted about the worry I had caused. I apologised and excused myself, racing up the stairs to the safety of my room. Throwing myself down on the bed, I closed my eyes, seconds later; Joshua’s warm arms engulfed me.
“It’s going to be okay, Debbie, please don’t cry. No more tears.” He wipes them away as I look up into those brown eyes and allow a flicker of a smile to appear on my lips.
“I will try,” I promise him.
~ Mark ~
Loud music played, the band N & N stood centre stage, the crowd went wild. I knew all the words to the songs, but never sang them. The crowds sang along, knowing all the lyrics, thousands of them in unison. Turning from the stage, I walked back to their dressing room, knocking shoulders with my cousin. We stared into one another’s eyes, for a brief moment.
“Sorry, Mark didn’t see you there,” he said.
“Of course you didn’t,” I muttered reaching my parent’s dressing room. He may be my cousin, but how I wished he would go butter up his own parents.
In his arms
~ Debbie ~
Three weeks had passed since my mother’s funeral. Family and friends called less often. My nan checked in on us once a week. No matter how much I am told by my family and friends, I still blamed myself.
The accident kept invading my dreams over and over again. Each time I heard the shattering sound of metal causing my heart to break. With tears falling down my face; begging Joshua to hold me in his arms where I knew I would be safe. But it was too late. I saw the image of my mother flash before my eyes. I shut them tight, swallowed and relived it again. My heart raced, as I grasped the duvet in my clenched hand, as tears fell down my cheeks. Switching on the lamp and rolling onto my side I looked at my mother's picture; her eyes staring back at me. All most like a frozen state, her mouth parted in a smile. Oh I what I would do just to see her smile again, to hear her laugh and most of all, just to have her hold me.
Pulling my knees to my chest, I recalled the day it was taken, Steve’s wedding. It was the happiest I had ever seen her. Every photograph she wore that smile. More tears threatened to fall. I lifted the photograph down, held in my hand, feeling her close to me. Was she really looking down on me? Did I believe in such things? Before her death, the answer would have been no, but now, yes I did. I wanted to believe it more than anything. Would she be angry with me for crying? Did she blame me for her death?
Lying back down, with the photo held against my chest, I stared up at the poster of Joshua. Hoping he would make my pain go away. I needed him now more than ever. Oh Joshua. In that moment, I allowed myself to smile, but felt guilty in an instant. I closed my eyes.
“Debbie, we said no more tears. Come on, dry those eyes.”
“I know; I'm sorry,” I reply.
“Now come here.”
Joshua pulls me close to him. I lay my head on his shoulder. Only then do I allow the smile on my lips to reappear.
Opening my eyes, I took a deep breath and sat up. The image of Joshua vanished as I stared at the photo in my hand, biting my lower lip until I tasted blood.
Another tear made its way down my face. Wishing I could turn back time, and ridden the bus home. Or not gone swimming at all. Then she would be alive. I would blame myself for the rest of my life. No matter how many times I was told it was not my fault. Did they not get it, it was.
Wiping the tears away with the sleeve on my pyjamas, promising her this would be the last time I would cry. Placing the photograph back in its place, I lay down staring up at the poster of him on the beach, wearing red shorts, with the sun glistening in the background. In his arms, I always felt safe. When I needed him, he would be here for me.
Closing my eyes, Joshua lay beside me, his arms wrapped around me.
~ Karen ~
I sat in my usual seat with the gang; discussing our last weekend together. We’d had another catwalk show, wearing my latest collection of new clothes. It was now a ritual, and the girls expected it. I of course, was happy to oblige, after all, they were my friends.
Over the years, it had grown from one hour, to a whole day with a catwalk show. I provided snacks, and some weeks they stayed over and watched movies.
“Hey Karen, she’s back,” Stephanie whispered.
I turned my attention to the girl boarding the bus, with her head down. Debbie Conway was a former friend, now we rarely spoke to each other. I could not be friends with her, not now. Now she had Wendy. She did not need or want me, and I did not want her either.
~ Debbie ~
My stomach was in knots with the thought of returning to school. This had not been my idea, but dads. And as always Mondays sucked. I wanted to be with Joshua in the safety of my room. Yet here I was, climbing aboard the bus, as if nothing had happened.
They stared at me as I made my way to my usual seat; Wendy followed and slumped down beside me. She had forgiven me, but remained silent, only a quick hello before we had boarded. I looked at her, but the words I wanted to say were stuck in the back of my throat. She took my hand and squeezed it. It was then; I knew no words were needed.
We arrived at school, it was odd, everything looked the same. The building remained exactly as it had before my mother’s death. Why had I expected it to look different, just because my life had been turned upside down? It made no sense, but that is how I felt, like somehow when I looked out the window, life would have stopped, paused maybe, but no, everything continued to move forward. Even though I was not ready to return dad was right, I had already missed too much. And mum said making good grades in school were important, so I will do my best.
As I took two steps towards the school my first day back began.
The day went slowly, and now I was stuck in this old dull classroom. I did not really mind English, but was not in the mood to listen to Mrs Row read a passage from Oliver Twist. Sighing, ignoring all around me, I turned my attention to the outside world, staring out of the window, focusing on the swaying trees. A tiny blackbird caught my attention; I watched it as it flew across the sky and landed on a nearby tree. My eyes felt extremely heavy, from the lack of sleep. Yawning, unable to stop myself; I rarely slept a whole night, because the image of my mother or the accident invaded my dreams, as they threatened to do so now. I closed my eyes as Mrs Row continued to drone on in the background. I tried to keep my eyes open, and failed miserably.
The bird flies over my head and squawks loudly. I watch it continue its journey, as it lands on a low tree branch. Below the tree, I notice a figure leaning against its trunk. Crossing the field towards the tree, my heart races, as I realise who it is.
“Joshua,” I say. “You’re here!”
Joshua nods stepping towards me, and pulls me into his arms.
“Debbie Conway?” A voice said.
I smile at him. He leans towards me, his eyes sparkle. Will he kiss me? I wait for his soft lips to…
“Debbie Conway,” the voice repeated.
I tilt my head, stare up into those eyes; lips apart. I will him to lean in and steal a kiss. He opens his mouth…
“Did you hear me?” he mouths in the voice of Mrs Row.
I narrow my eyes as I frown at him. Then something pulls him away from me; he floats backwards across the field, leaving me standing with my mouth open.
Opening my eyes, and adjusting them to the light flooding in through the large glass window, I sighed, damn it, I thought as the dream faded. The classroom came into focus. Staring straight ahead, I noticed two legs stood before me. Swallowing hard, I adjusted myself and sat up on the plastic seat. My backside numb, quickly wiping the saliva off my chin, looking up into the eyes of my English teacher, Mrs Row.
“Are you with us now?” she asked.
I nodded, hearing someone snigger behind me, but chose to ignore it.
“Debbie, I will not stand for this in my lesson. Now collect your books and move to the front,” she instructed. One day back and they were not going to let anything slide. I felt close to tears, but held them in.
I let out a groan, and pouted; I felt my face redden snatching up my bag and books off the table. I shot Wendy a look as I stood. Why had she not warned me? Now it was obvious, she was reading.
Eyes forward, I moved slowly towards the front of the classroom and slumped down in the only empty seat. Head down, I sighed; waiting for what must come next, the punishment. I waited, holding my breath.
“Look,” Mrs Row begun in a hushed voice. “I know it’s your first day back, and that you are grieving, but you really need to pay attention in class. Read the book, and answer the questions on the board. Please don’t make me have to keep you here after school.”
“Yes, Miss,” I replied, biting my lower lip, ignoring the pain it caused.
Removing the book from the desk, I opened it, and found the passage, trying my best to read the words before me. Yet they danced on the page. I tried hard to concentrate on the words, blinked and tried again. It was just no good; I could not concentrate on anything, except the accident. Right now, I needed Joshua to hold me in his arms.
I continued to stare at the page as the words turned into a black mass, creating a silhouette of him. Blinking, the words dashed back into place. As I removed my pen from the pencil case, I attempted to answer the questions on the board.
Twenty minutes later the bell rang, and the noise level in the classroom rose. All I wanted to do was escape as Mrs Row dismissed us. As I packed my things away, I kept my head down. Leaning towards me, Mrs Row placed her hands on my desk. “Debbie can I have a quick word with you?”
I nodded, and sunk back in my seat as Wendy passed me, raising her eyebrows as she did. As she reached the door, she opened her mouth to speak.
“I won’t keep her long, Wendy,” she said.
The door clicked as it closed. Mrs Row turned to face me, and took the seat beside me.
“Debbie, I’m not going to lecture you. I know it’s only been a few weeks since...since the accident, but you need to focus on your education. Your mother would have wanted that.”
“I’m trying Miss,” I began. “I really am, but I just can’t. You don’t understand. Every time I close my eyes I see...” I left the sentence unsaid.
“I won’t pretend to know how it feels to lose someone,” Mrs Row paused as she handed me a tissue. “I wish I knew the right thing to say, but I don’t.”
“How can she be gone? I keep expecting her to walk through the door.”
“It’s going to get easier; all you can do is take each day as it comes.” Mrs Row said as she stood. “You can talk to your father if you need to, or Wendy, or even me.”
I wiped my eyes, sniffed and headed for the door, still holding the screwed up tissue.
“Debbie, my door is always open,” she said, as I reached the door. I turned and thanked her, but I knew I would not be able to talk to her, my father or even Wendy, not yet.