• Prologue

    My psychiatrist says that writing about what happened will help me get over it... He doesn't know what happened. He sits there and nods as I make s**t up for an hour every week. It's getting to me. Some of the details are slipping out. I can't help it.

    Don't get me wrong; I don't need a psychiatrist. I Don't. I know I don't. Really. But other idiots say I do. Yes... British legal system I'm looking at you here. Damn...a Court Appointed Psychiatrist. When did I sink that low? ********.

    OK...where do I start? The real story or the one I'm spewing to Bob, yes my psychiatrist is named Bob...and what? Well... I guess it's going to have to be the real one. The real one. Every time I think of it I still can't believe that it's the real one. I don't want it to be. It hurts too much.

    Chapter One

    "Right corner pocket"
    "Miss, miss, miss, mi-" I didn't and flipped Josh off for the plain awful tactics he used to try to put me off.
    "Alright," I laughed "that's a tenner or the next round, you can choose."
    "Uck... Tenner." He said handing it over "It's probably cheaper."
    "Shame... you should have gone for the next round," laughed Phoebe, who had been watching intently from the stool opposite the pool table. "I'm done; Mikey and Sam said they're going, so that would have only left you and Alex."
    I smiled. "Nah, I'm outta here too. You coming?" I ask them.
    "Might as well," shrugged Josh "Pheobs?"
    "Yeah, not much point staying alone."
    I walked around the pool table to pick up my coat, a long leather trench, from where it had fallen on the floor. The floor itself was black stone but no one really had any idea what it was. I had a feeling that it was made out of some sort of marble but I can't ever be sure. Phoebe says that it's too rough for marble but she hasn't been able to come up with better explanation yet. The walls were bare brick, no widows, well you wouldn't in a basement, would you? And Joe had draped tapestries over parts of the walls creating a cosy and warm feeling. It was nice, comforting.

    Joe's tavern was a small, little know establishment, that was for all of us a home away from home. It was Soft; it safe from the harshness of the life outside. It was a place that you either knew about or you didn't, everyone there had some story or other, but you just didn't ask. Warmly lit, it seemed to have a life force of its own, always there to take the pain away, no questions asked, it just soothed you.

    I shrugged the coat on and felt it settle around my shoulders, I closed my eyes and breathed deeply letting the smell of Joe's and leather and brick and beer fill me, like a pearl diver takes a lungful of air just before he goes down into the depths of the ocean. It took me back to a different time and place, with different people.

    "Hey? You good?" It was Mikey. I opened my eyes and said
    "Yeah. All good. No worries" Mikey looked at me, he didn't believe me, his deep blue eyes always seemed to know when I was lying. Mikey stood at about the same hight as I did at 5"11' but my spiky hair made me seem taller his dark hair curled around his eyes and he was constantly pushing it behind his ear, most of it just fell back to where it was before. Sam came to stand next to us,
    "We all set to go?" she asked. Thank god for her. Sam could disperse any tension in any situation with one sentence and a look.
    "Yeah. All good" I repeated.
    We left, walking up the steps that led back to life, each step bringing us closer to the noisy, chocking city.

    It was dark when we got out. I look at my watch, 23:34 it read, late then. I hadn't realised the time, I shoved my hands deep into my pockets as we walked out of the back street Joe's was situated in. I looked around into the surrounding darkness. On either side of us, high buildings rose into the night. Built way back in the day when the architecture of each individual building was important. The people who built these places cared about what they were doing. They didn't just pour huge concrete structures like today. I shook my head and kept walking. No one talked much, it was too cold. January at night in the coldest winter for 30 years. Yeah, way to cold for idle chit chat.

    Suddenly, we heard a crash and I strangled cry, then shouting, then running, then nothing. I ran in the direction of the sound, without thinking. I barely noticed the others running after me.

    This would be a good time to tell you that I do a lot, hell, most things, on impulse. Something that has got me in to more than my fair share of s**t in the past. So I didn't really know what I was doing when I ran into that ally. Yeah...that's my story and I'm sticking to it. If I had known what the consequences were going to be, I might not have run down there. But who knows, I might still have. I'm self destructive like that. Suicide is for cowards, but purposely getting someone else to kick the s**t out of you, that I have no problem with. I do it quite a lot myself. Not that I can't fight, I can. But sometimes you just need to feel someone beat you near to death, even if you could beat them.

    I ran, but some part of me knew what I was going to find. The alley was dark and dank. I had the passing thought that this ally had had more than its fair share of vomit, urine and god knows what else. It was damp under foot and my footfalls rang and echoed around me.

    A dumpster sat half empty, its contents littered though most of the passage. I stopped dead about 4 metres away from the crumpled wreck lying, bleeding on the ground. She was lying with her back to me and her face to the wall, her trench coat, just like mine was covered in what I guessed was blood but could have been anything!

    The others came up behind me, I didn't see them, I just saw her. I didn't hear them; I didn't hear, see, smell anything apart from her. Even over the smell of the ally I could smell her, like petals and sweet fruit. I walked slowly over to her and turned her over with my foot. I think I let out a choked sound like a whimper and a growl and a sigh all in one. I blocked out the masses of feeling that rushed at me and punched me through the chest. God, why did it have to be her. Her face was pale against the shadows of the ally, almost luminescent. I bent over her and check her pulse, still there...damn. This was going to complicate things. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, ********! I rubbed my hand across my mouth, I could leave her, I could... s**t. I opened my eyes and hauled her over my shoulder. This was going to complicate things. She had a dangerous kind of weight. One could easily write her off as being skinny and weak. They'd be wrong. She had the build of a gymnast. Thin she may be, but she was not weak. I shrugged and settled her weight on my shoulder, turned on my heel and walked straight down the alley. Things were now complicated.

    I got to the end of the ally and thought for the first time about what I was doing. My apartment was only fifteen minuets away but, did I want her there? Joe's was just round the corner but she was bleeding and needed medical attention. Hospital was out the question. I hate them. Anyway I could patch her up or if I couldn't I knew someone who could. I decided that, sadly, my apartment was going to have to be the best place for her. I could still leave her. I could. I could... except I couldn't, something deep inside me refused to let be just abandon her. I sighed and took off in the direction of my apartment. Sticking to the back streets, I couldn't very well walk down new street with her like this. It would look way to off. I was in my own little world trying to figure what to do with her when Josh ran in fount of my and yell straight into my face, "Alex!" I blinked and looked at him he stood about half a head shorter than myself, his hair was the complete opposite to Mikey's was cut short at the sides but left longer at the top giving him a Mohawk-ish quality. He had more or less the same colour hair as I did, but mine was a shade darker. Had he been calling me? I'd forgotten that they were still with me. Damn, I didn't need this. "Later" I said and side stepped around him and kept walking. It had already taken me ten minutes and I was only half way to my apartment. She was slowing me down, that added to the fact that I was having to take all the back streets, I was getting tired. Mikey, Sam, Josh and Phoebe kept following me.

    My building came into view. I lived below a second hand book store, a small building, with a green door and border around the window. Above the window was peeling gold writing it was Latin... I can't read Latin. The owner of the store was a woman in her forties, Celia. She lived in the apartment above the store. I staggered down the five steps that took be to my front door and somehow managed to get it open without dropping my increasingly heavy load. Inside I placed her on the sofa and looked down at her. She was paler than she had been which put her in the "looking like a freaking ghost" category. I pulled out my phone and dialled.
    "Yeah, look I know its getting late but I've got something here you might want to see" I said
    "Cant it wait till morning?"
    "No, look, man, just get you ******** arse over here, and bring your medic s**t"
    "...what have you done, Alex?"
    "Just come.... Please"
    "....s**t. Is it that bad?"
    "yeah. I think it might be." I sighed and put the phone down. The lights came on. ********... I'd forgotten about them...again. I looked up. Phoebe and Sam were standing by the door still, Phoebe looked scared, no, worse, terrified. Sam had her arm round her but was looking at me like she truly, for the first time, didn't know what to say. Mikey was standing by the light switch, Josh was just standing there. None of them moved, talked, I don't think they breathed. I closed my eyes and realised what this must look like to them. They had just seen me run into a dark ally, find a half dead girl, check she was still alive, then haul her over my shoulder and carry her back here without a word. Ah... s**t. I ran my hand though my hair and down my face rubbing my eyes.

    "look..." I started "there's bourbon in the cabinet..."
    "thanks," said Mikey "but were not thirsty"
    "it's not for you." I said
    "Alex... what...what just happened?" it was Sam.
    "umm..." I sat down on the floor just because my legs were about to give in and it looked better than collapsing. "I know her...we, er, we go way back."
    "well, that's a relief" said Mikey his voice dripping with sarcasm "we can all go home then and leave you with the half dead chick."
    "******** off, Mikey." Josh snapped "Alex, talk to us, you gotta tell us what happened. This isn't something a person, even you, would normally do."
    "she..." I sighed. What was I going to tell them? Where do you even start with something like that? Memories, emotions, came at me. God... there was so much blood. I couldn't breathe. I tried to stand up. I failed and fell down hitting my head on the afore mentioned drinks cabinet. Pain...fire...then blackness.
    I felt the warmth of the blood spread under my head. I knew it was her the second she touched my cheek. Her soft skin, so pure, so beautiful, so warm. I opened my eyes but they hurt and everything was fuzzy. I tried to look around, to move my head so I could see her properly.

    I knew she was there but just out of visual reach. My head ached like it had got smashed it by I sledge hammer. Why? Why did it do that? What happened? I looked over and saw her. She took my breath away. She always did. Dressed simply enough in blue jeans and... was that my old t-shirt? Huh...but her eyes. Her eyes. Seas of goddess green, I could live in them...I could die in them. They drew me in. I reached out to her, and tried to tell her I needed her. I did. I just needed her to hold me and tell me it was going to be okay. That it wasn't my fault, even though I knew it was. God, I just needed to put my head in her lap and have her stroke my hair, and hush me. I called out to her but she just smiled at me. I begged her and pleaded, but she just stood up and walked slowly away. I tried to follow her but I couldn't move my legs, or arms to sit up and go after her. I cried out her name, "please....d-don't...I'm sorry, god, please... I'm sorry, I'm so sorry..." but she just walked away and left me, lying there. At that point I knew all I wanted to do was die. It was my fault. I knew she would never forgive me. I called her name again, but she didn't come back. She would never come back. Finally darkness came for me, and I embraced it was open arms. Anything was better than lying there while my heart ripped itself a part, again.

    "-going to be okay?" there was a voice off in the distance shattering the darkness I was hiding in.
    "-doesn't look that healthy." another voice, they both sounded familiar.
    " Alex will be fine, for the most part. You guys might want to give us a bit of space."

    "Who are you anyway?" stupid voices. Why wouldn't they leave me alone. And now they were pulling me out of the sweet darkness. Damn, I was going to make them pay.

    It hurt to wake up. Almost everything was painful in one way or another, everything ached, or stung, or just was just bloody s**t to feel. My head was first on my list, it throbbed like a b***h, making me nauseas, and I could feel blood, sticky, in my hair. I fought passed the sick feeling that was becoming increasingly dominant in my stomach and throat. I realised that my right shoulder ached like I'd been carrying something....oh. All the events of the past evening came back to me in one great tsunami of memories.

    I sat up, an immediately regretted it. I vomited all over my lovely oak flooring. Ah, s**t, that was going to leave a mark if I didn't clean it up right away. I put my head in my hands and rubbed my eyes but it didn't help that much. Taking nice deep breaths I opened my eyes and realised that I wasn't alone. Sam was in front of my holding a glass of water in her left hand; her other one was on my shoulder keeping me from falling over again. I smiled, accepting the glass and sipping from it, washing away the disgusting after taste of beer and vomit. I thanked her and found my voice sounded like I'd been screaming all night.

    "How are you feeling?" she asked. I heard what they were saying but it wasn't really getting through the fog that was still in my head.

    "I'm… Ok. Kinda sketchy around the edges, I'll… Survive." I answered, god I never said 'er' so many times between sentence, I had the uncomfortable feeling that things were going to get really loud in a minuet, especially if I dint answer the painfully obvious question that was about to explode from Mikey's lips. "Ok," I said taking a deep breath, "look, she, er-"
    "we know who she is, Mr Dr man over there has explained who she is...and what she did..." Mikey trailed off.
    "Look, Alex," Josh tried to pick up where Mikey had left off "We know who and what, but I think what Mikey is trying to ask is… like… you know, just, why did you bring her back here?" that got though.

    "What choice did I have?" Plenty I knew. I could have left her for one. Why didn't I leave her? It could have been so much simpler if I'd just left her. A little voice in my head told me that I knew that I couldn't have just left her, I wanted answers. I hated her. I didn't want to talk to her, or see her still breathing for that matter, but I wanted answers. Why had she done it? How could she have done it? Why was she here?

    I sighed and looked over at her unconscious form sprawled over my couch. Just like old times, eh? Muttered the voice in my head. Shut up, I the more dominant side of my mind said as I pushed that damned awful thought as far away from my consciousness as possible. She was positioned on her right side, presumably her less injured side. Her ebony hair was matted in places with dried blood. Even so, a few strands fell across her face giving it the impression of being hidden behind a dark veil. Yeah, that was pretty much how I remembered her; she was always hiding behind some veil, masking any emotions that she thought would make her vulnerable so that you never could tell what she was thinking. Looking more at her face I could see that Chris, or Mr. Dr man as Mikey had referred to him, had fixed her up pretty well. Butterfly stitches adorned a lot of her jaw line, brow and cheek bone. Her left eye was bruised and swollen and her bottom lip was split. But still... she was beautiful, her skin was luminescent and-. I cut off that train of thought and looked away from her sleeping body feeling sick. God, how could I think of her like that after everything she was responsible for.

    "Alex?" I heard my name and looked round to see Chris kneeling next to me looking all Dr. like. I frowned. Doctory like? That didn't sound like me at all.
    "Alex?" he repeated "hey, can you look at me a sec?" he took hold of my chin lightly and turned my face directly towards him, than using a penlight looked into my eyes. " Okay, can you tell me what day it is?" he asked. I chuckled to myself, 'Doctory' like. That was funny.
    "Er, yeah."
    "Go on" he prompted
    "Er, Tues..Wed.. er..." What was the question again? God my head hurt.
    "She's concussed" he said turning to the others "she needs rest".
    Yeah rest, that sounded good.

    Josh slung my arm over his shoulder and pulled me to my feet. I swayed dangerously, my head swimming. I closed my eyes and took deep breaths; my stomach threatening to evacuate whatever was left in it. I groaned, and started towards my bed room. It wasn't a long walk, but it felt like it took an age to reach the faded and chipped paint of my bedroom door. Yeah, I know I need to redecorate but I don't want to lose any of the old worldly character of the place. You can't find many buildings in the middle of the city that look like they belong in a little town these days. even so, I keep telling myself that a lick of paint won't ruin it completely.

    I was thankful that Josh had a lot of my weight; I don't think that my legs could have managed the walk by themselves. They were weak from carrying her back here, not to mention the fact that I'd been up since 5:30 this morning and it was now past one and the fact that I'd managed to down four pints of Bombardier within a not too great time span. What a day.

    "Thanks." I said as I half sat, half fell, onto the divan. I lay back and tried to get comfortable, but nausea forbade me from moving too much. I didn't bother getting undressed or under the quilt. The room was warm enough. I was vaguely aware that someone flicked the lights off. I heard them moving about in what passed to be my living room. A few steps over here, and then a few steps over there. I heard Mikey go in the kitchen and fill the kettle. I knew it was him because he was wearing patent leather shoes with the heel that sounded like he was wearing some chicks sling backs. I smiled absent-mindedly. It felt nice to have people in my apartment again. I had missed it. It was only now that I was realising how much. If it hadn't been for the fact that I'd just managed to knock myself unconscious on my cabinet I probably wouldn't have been able to fall asleep at all. As it was, sleep came of its own accord even though my mind was still a torrent of white water thoughts about what I had done this evening, and what can of worms I had just reopened.