DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To scotangelina[at]yahoo.com
I never got over those blue eyes (I see them everywhere)
In the end, she sends the rest of them on ahead, telling them Cain will bring her to the court. She knows they mean well but there's just too much noise and speaking over each other and she can't hear herself think. When they're gone, she sits at the kitchen table with her head in her hands, trying to get her heart to slow down.
"You know, you could give her a phone. I'm sure she'd-"
"Cain." She lifts her head and glares at him. "I said you could stay because you're usually quite good at keeping your gob shut. I'm not phoning her."
She's barely spoken to Vanessa for the past couple of months. Pushed her away like she does everything good in her life. There's only so much a person can take and Charity gave her so much more than that before she finally walked away. Booze fuelled shouting matches and recriminations finally gave way to the silence of being alone. Again. And she can't blame Vanessa one bit. She stayed longer than she should have, tried harder than anyone ever has. But Charity ruined all of it.
And now the trial date is here, Johnny's birthday, she thinks idly. And she's going to have to go to court without the person who made her believe she could even do any of this.
"Look, we really should be heading off now...so if you're gonna pho-"
She stands up, snatching her blazer off the back of the couch as she marches to the door. She pauses and looks over at him, still stood in the kitchen like a great, glowering statue.
"Well? Get a move on, then."
She pointedly doesn't look in the direction of Vanessa's house when they pull out of the pub car park.
The closer they get to the court, the harder it becomes to breathe. It feels like there's a rock in her chest that's getting heavier and bigger and pushing all of the air out of her, leaving no room for her to bring any back in. The drive is silent, which she's thankful for. Normally that'd be a given with Cain, but he's become annoyingly sensitive lately. They have Moira to thank for that, presumably. Charity rolls her eyes. The power of love or whatever.
Cain pulls into a parking space at the side of the court house and switches the engine off.
He looks over at her, lifting his eyebrows. "Ready?"
"No." She sighs. "But we better head in anyway."
They walk around to the front of the building, Cain's hand on her elbow, as if he's worried she'll make a break for it. She tries to swallow but her throat is dry and her chest now uncomfortably heavy. She makes the mistake of glancing around at the people outside the door and that's when she sees him.
Their eyes meet and her stomach lurches painfully. Those eyes of his always had the power to terrify her. Blue as ice and just as cold. She fights the urge to look away from his gaze. She's not the one on trial here, not this time. She shouldn't feel like a stupid little girl, dirty and grubby and worthless. He has no power over her now. And yet she can't stop the familiar panic washing over her at the things he'll say about her, the things he knows she's done, that he made her do.
She stops walking and he looks away, heading into the court with his solicitor. Cain turns to look at her.
"You okay?" He touches her arm.
Don't ever say you're okay if you're not.
She conjures up a smile from somewhere, it feels tight and wrong on her lips but she nods. "I'm fine." She nods to the door. "You go on. I just…I just need a minute to myself, yeah?"
Cain frowns and she thinks he might fight her on this, make her go in with him. But he nods. "I'll wait for you inside. Tell the rest of them you're just coming." He goes to walk away, but hesitates. "Call her, Charity. It's not too late." He gives her a half smile. "Nobody knows that better than me."
"Yeah, I don't need relationship advice from Cain Dingle, thank you very much." She shoves at him. "Go on."
She watches him enter the big old building and presses her lips together, trying to quell the panic she feels rising every time she thinks about facing Bails in that courtroom. She walks away a little distance and sits on a low wall, inhaling shaky breaths through her nose and blowing them out slowly. Her hand closes around the phone on her pocket and she squeezes it hard, clenching her teeth.
Is it weakness that makes her want to hear Vanessa's voice right now? Does it prove what she believed about herself all along? That she's not strong or brave at all, not unless she has Vanessa by her side telling her so?
She takes the phone out and scrolls to Vanessa's number. She's done that a lot over the past few months but never actually made the call. And maybe that's her weakness. Not being able to ask for what she wants. What she needs. Letting herself drift along in pain and knowing how to fix it and doing nothing to heal herself.
Her thumb hovers over the call button as she wars with years of self-preservation and self-reliance. Where she was the only constant in her own life, terrifying as that sounds. But, actually, Vanessa was there at the start of this whole thing. Actually, it's mostly Vanessa's fault that she's even here today, having to go through all this. And probably for nothing an'all. The least she can do is speak to her for a few minutes.
She closes her eyes and makes the call, lifting the phone to her ear. The space between the rings stretches out infinitely as she waits and tells herself not to hang up after every ring. Not just yet. Vanessa could be upstairs with Johnny, getting him ready for the day. She might be at work already, arguing with Pearl. It's not like she's sat at home, waiting for Charity to-
Charity's eyes immediately fill up at the warmth and familiarity of Vanessa's voice. She swallows hard and looks up at the sky, pressing her lips together and willing the tears away.
"Hey." It's barely a word, but it's the first sound she can get her throat to make, a cracked and broken thing.
There's a gap where neither of them speak. Charity supposes Vanessa's waiting for her to say why she's calling, but she can't get the words out to tell her that she's sorry and that she was wrong and that she misses her and wishes things were different.
She hears Vanessa inhale before she speaks again. "Big day, eh?"
Charity nods and then rolls her eyes at herself. "Yeah."
"Yeah." Another pause. "I've been thinking about you. You know...how you're doing."
Of course she has. She's a nice person. It doesn't mean anything. "Yeah?"
"Are you okay?"
Don't ever say you're okay if you're not.
"I...uh…" She should just say yes. She's not Vanessa's problem anymore. She can't put all this back on her now. But she can't lie, so she avoids the question. "I'm thinking of doing a runner, truth be told." She closes her eyes and imagines she's in Vanessa's living room, it's just the two of them and the words come easier. "I saw him. Bails. Just now. And he...he looked at me like I was...like I was nothing."
"You are not nothing, Charity." Vanessa's voice is firm and unwavering. "He's putting up a front, trying to intimidate you, that's all. He's scared of you now. You've got all the power because you're telling the truth about him. Exposing him for the slimy excuse for a man he is."
"But what if it's not enough?" Charity whispers. "What if I tell the truth and they don't believe me and he walks away? What then, Ness?" She covers her mouth with her hand, trying to stop all of her biggest fears from escaping.
"Then we find some other way to get him," Vanessa says, not missing a beat. "We find other people he's hurt, other things he's done. But they will believe you, Charity. They will, I promise."
"I'm just not sure I can face him in there. Looking at me like that for days...weeks." She sighs. "Hence the appeal of doing a runner."
"You're not really thinking about leaving though, are you?" Vanessa asks, and Charity can hear that worried tone creep in at the edges of her voice, like it does whenever Charity's about to do something with the potential to wreck her life.
She blows out a laugh and shakes her head. "Couldn't even if I wanted to. No car. Cain drove me down and I'm not sure he'd be too happy with me nicking his Beamer."
"My car's round the back."
Charity spins around at the voice coming from behind her to see Vanessa stood there, dressed in a dark blue dress with her pink blazer over the top, all very sensible. Dressed for court. Charity's heart starts to speed up. Vanessa's here, for her.
Putting her phone in her pocket, Vanessa moves towards her. "I'll take you anywhere you want to go. Or I'll give you the keys and you can go wherever you like." She takes a few steps closer, reaching out and ending the call on Charity's phone, placing it in her pocket and taking Charity's hand, squeezing it. "But you can do this, Charity. You can put him away, make him pay for the hell he put you through." Vanessa's eyes are shining with tears and determination and belief and the weight in Charity's chest starts to lift as she continues to speak. "It won't be enough, it won't give you back what he took, but it means he didn't get away with it. It means people know what he is, what he did. And that's something, yeah?"
Charity nods. "You came."
She regrets the words as soon as she says them because they seem to remind Vanessa of their current situation and she lets go of her hand and takes a step back, hands coming to play with the strap of her handbag.
"I...I had to come. I told you I was in for the duration, yeah?" She smiles at tilts her head. "I was planning to sit up the back, out of the way." Her chin quivers and Charity wants to rip her own heart out for making it do that. "But I...I wanted to be here. For you." She laughs softly. "Even if you didn't know I was. I mean, I know you've got your family with you, but-"
"But I want you with me," Charity whispers.
Vanessa looks up at her and nods. "I'm here."
The weight in her chest has almost completely gone. "I've missed you," she whispers, and before Vanessa can respond, she rushes on. "And I know I was a total cow to you and I'm so sorry for all of that and I...I wish…" She squeezes her eyes closed. "I wish things were different. That I was different."
"I don't wish you were different." She opens her eyes to find Vanessa looking at her with a soft smile. She tilts her head in thought. "Yeah, okay, maybe sometimes I wish you went about things differently. But you?" She takes that step closer again and points at Charity, touching the end of her chin gently with her forefinger. "You're amazing. And I wouldn't change you for the world."
Vanessa takes her hand again, shaking her head. "Listen, we can talk later, yeah? But I think it's time we go inside." She lifts an eyebrow. "Unless you're still thinking of making a run for it."
Charity sighs. "And where would that get us? Me and you doing a Thelma and Louise off Bempton Cliffs?" She rolls her eyes. "Might as well just do this, eh?"
Nodding, Vanessa threads their fingers together and tightens her hold. "You can do it. I've got faith in you."
Charity starts to walk, her hand secure in Vanessa's. "Well, always were a bit daft, weren't you?" Vanessa nudges her gently as they walk. She keeps her eyes forward as she speaks again. "I'm quite liking this sexy librarian look you've got going, by the way."
"Charity." Vanessa's voice is warm and amused underneath the warning tone.
"I'm just saying!"
The doors to the court burst open and Cain storms out, his brows low and gathered until he catches sight of the pair of them. His eyes drop to their joined hands and he smirks. Charity narrows her eyes at him as they draw nearer, coming to a halt just at the steps.
"Not a word, you."
"No flamin' time for words, is there?" he says, pointing back over his shoulder. "They're calling the case now."
"Right, well, I'm coming, aren't I?"
"I'll go and let them know." She catches the smile on his face just before he turns around and heads back in.
She feels a squeeze to her hand and she turns to find Vanessa smiling at her. "Are you okay?"
Don't ever say you're okay if you're not.
Charity thinks about her response, wanting to be honest. She looks down at their fingers, intertwined and reassuring, and then back up into Vanessa's eyes, blue and calm as the sea on a clear day. She smiles and nods.
"I am now, yeah."
Return to Emmerdale Fiction
Return to Main Page