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What am I supposed to dream (When nothing's ever what it seems)
It's too cold to be sitting outside, really, but the living room is crammed full of people and at least half of them are nipping her head. So she sits at one of the tables outside and sips her tea, pulling her jacket tighter around herself. While the silence is welcome, it does allow for thoughts to creep in. The last few weeks have dredged up more of her past than she's comfortable with, and it's led to nothing but heartache for her family. Poor Debs and the kids are homeless, and Noah nearly died all because of some perceived wrongdoing from fifteen years ago. Charity's done plenty wrong in her life that she probably deserves punishment for, but she didn't kill Chris and her kids shouldn't suffer for it.
She's so deep in thought that she doesn't hear anyone approach until it's too late. She turns as rapid footsteps slow, only to come face to face with Joe Tate himself, out jogging. He grins at her and she curls her lip in disgust. As much as she wants to scratch his eyes out for endangering Noah, she knows she's already on thin ice with the police. And her getting thrown in prison will not help anyone right now.
"Lovely morning, isn't it?" he greets her, plucking his earbuds out.
"It was," she says, standing up. "It just took a turn for the worse though, so " She points over her shoulder and turns to head back into the pub, her empty mug dangling from her thumb.
"Bye, Charity." She closes her eyes and shakes her head at how much his voice grates on her. That condescending tone properly sets her on edge. "Oh, and give my regards to Vanessa, won't you?"
Her stomach goes cold and she stops walking. She makes sure her face is the right level of disinterested when she turns back to face him.
"What are you wittering on about now?"
That infuriating smirk of his is back in place. It reminds Charity more and more of his father every time she sees it. Chris always thought he was better than everyone; better than her. He tilts his head, pretending to look confused. "You know Vanessa, right? The little blonde thing that comes and goes from the pub well after closing time?"
"She's not a 'little blonde thi-," The words are out before she can fully temper them. She grinds her back teeth as he preens at getting a reaction out of her so easily. "Just...never mind Vanessa, alright? She's-" The words she intended to say refuse to come out, sticking painfully in her throat. Even to protect Vanessa, she can't bring herself to be unkind about her. "Look, it's nothing. Nothing for you to be concerning yourself with."
"Oh, so she's nothing to you?" Joe asks, nodding and she has to press her lips together to keep from correcting him. "Yes, I thought she must just be a passing distraction. Not really your type, is she?"
"What would you know about my type?" she spits, aware she shouldn't even be entertaining this conversation.
"Well, she's hardly going to be able to keep you in the kind of luxury you enjoy, is she?" Joe sneers. "Not if that common as muck accent is anything to go by."
Charity's rage becomes a living, breathing thing, clawing at the inside of her chest. She fights to keep her breathing under control, knowing that he wants her to react to his words.
"Just...just leave Vanessa alone. She's got nothing to do with any of this." She shakes her head. "Nobody does. Not even me. But if you insist on this mad revenge plan, you focus on me, right?"
"Oh, but Charity, I am." He moves closer to her, dipping his head. "It's so much more interesting to watch you watch the people you care about suffer. As much as you can care about anyone, of course." He tilts his head. "And I'm beginning to think that little Vanessa might just be one of those people."
"She's not," Charity insists, forcing the words past the lump in her throat. "She's...she's just a bit of fun. That's all."
"You've kept her around for a while, for someone who's 'just a bit of fun'," Joe says, lifting an eyebrow. "Of course, I assume she's amazing in bed." He pauses, his lips twitching. "She's had a lot of practice at sticking her hand up a cow."
She can't help it, instinct takes over and she pounces on a response she knows will affect him. "So had your auntie, but she still wasn't all that great at it."
His brow creases, smile faltering slightly. "Don't be ridiculous," he scoffs, but she can see she's thrown him. She grins.
"Oh, I'm being deadly serious. Your precious aunt Zoe was smitten with me. Couldn't get enough of me, to tell you the truth." His jaw is working; he's now the one struggling not to rise to the bait. "Didn't tell you that, did she?"
She hadn't been sure if he knew, but now she knows he didn't. Saint Zoe must've opted to paint herself in a good light, and clearly that doesn't include the part about falling for the painted strumpet.
"You're lying," he says, shaking his head. But he's on the back foot and she presses her advantage.
"I think we both know I'm not," Charity says, with a grin. "She begged me to leave your dad and run away with her. So whatever she's told you about how much she loved him and how important family is to her, just remember, she'd have stabbed him in the back in a second if I'd said yes."
"She'd never have touched you." He looks down his nose at her. "She saw you for the common little slapper you are."
"Call me whatever names you want to, Joey," Charity says, throwing her arms out and beckoning with her hands. "I've heard 'em all. Called myself worse, probably." She advances on him, digging a finger into his chest. "But I can assure you that no matter what she says nowadays, Zoe Tate was in love with me. So, everything you've heard from her, just remember it's coming from a woman who got dumped in favour of her brother. A brother she hated by the way. So, you think on that."
His face is blotchy and red. He looks like a petulant child and if they weren't in the middle of the street, Charity might be worried that he'd hit her. But Bob's pottering around outside the cafe, and Rhona's walking up the street holding Leo's hand. She leans forward, looking up at him, all traces of her smile now gone.
"Vanessa might not have a posh accent or a big bank account," she says, letting her eyes burn into his for a moment. "But she's worth a thousand of your auntie. And a million of your dad."
He straightens and clears his throat. "If that's the case, then she'll soon tire of you." He bends his neck so that his mouth is near her ear. "Let's hope nothing...unfortunate happens to her in the meantime."
He walks backwards a few steps, letting his words sink in, before turning and jogging off, leaving Charity with a growing unease in her stomach.
She turns at the unexpected voice to find Rhona looking at her in concern. "Yeah," she says, with a nod, her eyes drifting back to Joe's retreating figure. "Yeah, fine."
Rhona, thankfully, doesn't push for more and keeps walking. Charity manages a smile and a wave at Leo, but her face falls when he turns away. She told Joe that Vanessa meant nothing to her.
Now she's going to have to make that a reality.
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