Excerpt: First Bitten
Chapter 1 – The End of Me
“Arggh! Just leave me alone, Eddie! I can’t believe a word that comes out of your mouth! You’re a lying, cheating … scumbag and I don’t ever want to speak to, or see you, ever again, you … you wanker!” I disconnect the call and angrily loft my mobile toward the mass of trees standing tall before me.
Turning sharply, I catch my heel in a crack in the paving. “Shit!” I cry out as I fall backwards, losing my shoe in the process. I land hard my bum. “Oww!”
“You alright?” Carrie gets up from the bench she was sitting on and drunkenly totters over to me. I can tell she’s trying not to laugh, the grin she’s not so gallantly suppressing saying it all.
“No,” I grumble. Tears sting my eyes. I take a deep breath and force them back.
I will not cry. I will not cry.
A giggle escapes Carrie as she plonks herself down on the concrete floor beside me.
I glare at her.
“Sorry, babe.” She throws her arm around my shoulder, hugging me to her. “Eddie is a complete twat. Twat with a capital T. And you, my gorgeous friend, are far too good for him, always have been. You deserve so much better than him.” She twists a lock of my hair around her finger, tugging on it good-naturedly. “You know I’m right. I’ve said this to you a million times before. You’re far too good to waste your life on a … twatting wanker like him.”
Through my misery, I glance sideways at her. “Twatting wanker?”
She grins mischievously, her green eyes sparkling, and I can’t help but laugh. Carrie always manages to make me laugh, even when I’m at my lowest, which is where I am right now, literally.
I lean forward, releasing myself from Carrie’s caring hold and pick my shoe up. “Ahh no, I’ve scuffed the heel!” I groan as I inspect it. “My beautiful, two month old Jimmy Choos and they’re bloody ruined! These were my treat from my bonus.” That dismal feelings seeps back into me.
“Here, let me have a look.” Carrie takes the shoe from my hand and puts it close to her face, examining it. “It’s not that bad,” she says dismissively, handing it back to me. “It’ll glue back down.”
I turn and look at her with disgust. “Glue! I’m not gluing a pair of Jimmy Choos. Bloody hell, Carrie, that’s sacrilegious!” I clutch the shoe to my chest. “Arggh! This is all Eddie’s fault. I bloody hate him, the bastard!”
Well I don’t hate him, yet, but I will very soon, I’m sure of it. I’m just currently stuck in the ‘I should hate him’ phase, but struggling to because I still love him.
Eddie, my lying, cheating, scumbag, arsehole of a boyfriend, or, as I should now say, ex-boyfriend. Eddie, the cheating bastard, whom I’ve wasted three years of my life on.
That all too familiar pain stabs straight into my heart. Tears swell my eyes again. I run my fingers under them to catch the tears before they fall. The last thing I need right now is mascara-stained cheeks.
I found out about Eddie’s extra-curricular activities yesterday morning while we were eating breakfast together. I’d received a text from his slutty new squeeze the night before, but only realised I had a message that morning. Accompanying said text was a very graphic photo of Eddie in a ‘compromising’ position for added effect. Classy, I know. Really I should have learnt my lesson from the last time.
But really it was me who made the mistake when I believed he wouldn’t do it again.
So, after chucking my breakfast at him, coffee included and a few other choice items, I headed to our bedroom, called Carrie and asked her to come and pick me up. I packed my bags, ignoring Eddie’s pathetic pleas for me to stay, while I waited the twenty minutes it took Carrie to drive from her parents’ house in Hackness, where she still lives, to my house in Scarborough.
When she arrived, honking her horn, I rushed out the front door in a flurry of tears, threw my bags in the car boot and didn’t look back, even though I knew Eddie was standing in the doorway watching me leave.
Carrie and I have been best friends for fifteen years. The first time I met her was on introductory day at our old senior school, Scarborough High, and I just knew I’d know her my whole life. She was all fiery red curly hair and braces, but as confident as hell. Smart, vivacious and sassy, she takes no shit, unlike me. She’s all the parts I’m missing, my other half really and that’s when I knew I’d met my soul mate. Carrie is always there for me, no matter what, and vice-versa.
Both my parents were killed in a road accident when I was sixteen, a drunk driver overtaking them on a country road with an upcoming bend, an oncoming car; there were no survivors.
I fell apart and Carrie put me back together. Legally an adult, I had absolutely no clue how to take care of myself, let alone do things adults have to take care of. That’s when Carrie’s family became mine. Her parents, Angie and Tom, stepped in and sorted everything for me. They took me into their huge home and spoilt me like I was one of their own, which now, nine years later, I still am.
Carrie’s been on hand with Kleenex and Ben and Jerry’s for all my boyfriend disasters, well mainly Eddie the boyfriend disaster from hell. She sat patiently with me yesterday while I cried the whole day and night away. Then, when I woke up this morning feeling very angry, Carrie suggested we should get dressed up and go out to the only pub in Hackness tonight, The Grange, and get drunk.
I was completely on board with the idea – anything to numb the pain – but then the pain was still there when they were calling last orders at the bar and I didn’t want to wait the forty minutes it would take for the taxi to arrive, so we decided to walk home, which we’ve done hundreds of times before. It takes about half an hour and, to be honest, it’s not the nicest of walks, even in the daylight. It’s all country roads and forests but it’s also as safe as houses around here. The last time there was a crime here was – well never.
All I wanted to do was get home as fast as possible and continue on drinking myself into oblivion, well, just until I passed out. And I was well on my way to achieving that goal until I, for some ungodly reason, made the fatal error of answering Eddie’s call. And here I am, right back to square one. I’ve let Eddie and his lies into my head again. This is what happens when I drink; I lose all common sense. Or is it just when it comes to Eddie that I lose my common sense?
I drop my heavy head into my hands. “I’m such an idiot, Care.”
“No you’re not. Eddie’s the idiot.” She rubs a soothing hand on my back. I glance up at her. “He just doesn’t seem to realise when he’s got a great thing,” she affirms. “The guy’s a loser. L-O-S-E-R.” She spells the word out for dramatic effect, putting her thumb and forefinger into the L shape and resting it against her forehead.
Yep, she’s definitely drunk – she’d never do that sober. I giggle through my haze of tears and make a mental note to remind her of that in the morning so I can take the piss.
“You were the best thing that ever happened to him,” she adds sincerely, taking hold of my hand and patting it with her other. “He’ll know this soon enough when you’re not there taking care of him anymore.”
I stare into the black dense forest before me. “Mmm … ”
She grabs hold of my shoulder, forcing me round to look at her. “Alex, please tell me you’re not actually considering going back to him. You know he’ll do it again.”
“No I’m not,” I say, sounding way too defensive.
“Alex … ” She arches her eyebrow at me in that knowing way she does. She knows me better than anyone.
“No,” I repeat, my voice quieter now, “I’m not going back. I promise. But it’s hard. I can’t just stop loving him in a day. We’ve been together for three years. We have a home together. Okay, so it’s his house and the mortgage is still in his name, but we have other stuff together, like … like … CDs and DVDs … and well, other stuff.”
“I know it’s hard, Alex, but Eddie didn’t care about the last three years when he was messing around behind your back. Just keep reminding yourself of what he’s done to you, twice, now. It’ll get easier, babe, I promise, and you know I’m here for you, no matter what. I’ve always got your back.”
“I know.” I look gratefully at her. “Ditto.”
“Anyway, I was thinking we should get my dad to sack him,” she says out of the blue, very nonchalantly.
Eddie works for Tom. He’s a sales manager at Tom’s car dealership in Scarborough. Tom has ten altogether across the region. That’s how I met Eddie. It was at the dealership’s annual Christmas party three years ago. He was so handsome, smart and funny, and I was hooked from the word go. Little did I know.
I shake my head, tempting as it is, and say, “No, Care, we can’t ask Tom to do that. It’d be wrong to put him in that position.”
“He’d do it for you though.” She nudges my shoulder with hers. “You know he would. He loves you to death.”
I turn and give her a firm look. “I know, and that’s why I won’t ask him … and neither will you.”
She grins wickedly and winks. “No promises.”
“Care … !” I warn.
“Okay, okay.” She rolls her eyes. “Whatever you want. Is twat-face Eddie at work tomorrow?”
I scrunch my nose up in thought. “What day is it?”
“Er … ” she pulls her mobile out of her bag and lights the screen up, checking the date and time, “it’s Saturday now.”
“He’s not back in work till Monday.”
“Okay, well I’ll go round to your house on Monday while he’s at work and pick up the rest of your stuff, if you want? Get you out of there and moved back home properly. Start as you mean to go on.”
“Would you mind?” I look hopefully at her. The last thing I want to do is go back to the house. I’m worried if I do, I might end up never leaving.
“Wouldn’t offer if I did.” She smiles warmly and gets to her feet. “Come on, let’s go home.” She holds her hand out to me.
I take a lingering, woeful glance at my shoe and slip it back on my foot. Eddie the bastard, he’s ruined my life, and now my beautiful shoes.
I take Carrie’s hand and get unsteadily to my feet. I wrap my arm around her waist, resting my head onto her shoulder. “Thanks, Care,” I mumble into her red hair. “I don’t know what I’d do without you. I love you, you know.”
“You’d do fine,” she says, “and I love you too. Now come on, you soppy git, let’s get you home.” She wraps her arm around my shoulder and we start to walk on, supporting each other.
“Ahh shit!” I sigh dramatically, coming to a halt.
“I chucked my phone in there.” I gesture dramatically toward the forest laid out to the side of us. “My whole life is on that phone,” I whine. “I can’t lose it.”
Bloody Eddie. He doesn’t even have to be here and he causes me problems. Maybe it’s the essence of him that’s still lingering over me, continuing to make my life shit.
I walk over to the edge of the pavement, teetering between it and the slope down into woodland.
“Whereabouts did you throw it?” Carrie asks, following me over and standing beside me.
“I dunno.” I shrug. “Around there … somewhere.” I point at the bracken.
Carrie peers forward. “Well, it can’t have landed that far away. You’re not that good a thrower. I remember your weak arm from netball at school.” She nudges me with her shoulder, grinning. “Tell you what, I’ll ring your phone and we’ll follow the sound to it.”
“Good thinking Batman.” I nudge her back.
“Er, more like Catwoman, if you don’t mind,” she says dramatically, sweeping a hand down herself. “Does this body look in any way masculine to you?”
“Shut up and get your bloody phone out, will you.” I laugh.
She smirks and gets her mobile out of her bag again. It takes her a good minute to dial my number, which I know for a fact, she has on speed dial. She really is drunk.
“It’s ringing,” she sings, phone clamped to her ear.
I immediately hear my phone start to blast out Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’. I changed it to that ring tone yesterday. Okay, I know I’m being maudlin, but it’s not every day you find out your boyfriend’s been cheating on you. Well, okay, for me it’s the second time in a year, but that’s not the point.
Carrie pulls the phone away from her ear and leaves it ringing in her hand. Holding hands, we both clumsily make our way down the incline into the woods as we begin our search, following the sound of the music into the trees.
“I can’t see it anywhere,” Carrie says looking around. “Mind, I can hardly see shite-all in here. It’s pitch black!”
I squint into the darkness. She’s right, it is pitch black. Nerves creep over me. I quickly quash them. I need to find my phone.
The ringing stops. It must have diverted to answerphone.
“Ring it again, Care, will you.”
Adele resumes her singing. I can hear it clear over to my right. Breaking away from Carrie, I head that way. The music’s getting louder. I’m getting close. A few more steps and I spot it nestled in a bush, flashing prettily away at me. Not a good thrower, eh, Carrie?
“Got it!” I cheer, staggering toward it. I lean down and pluck it out of the prickly bush. I snag my hand on a prickle. “Ouch!” I suck the wound on my hand and get an instant taste of metallic … blood.
“You alright?” Carrie asks concerned, heading toward me.
“Yeah, fine. Just cut my hand on the bush. Nothing serious. Got my phone, though.” I grin, waving it about.
“Good. Now can we get out here?”
“Yep, let’s go.” I make to move and get nowhere. I’m stuck in some soft mud. “Bloody hell,” I grumble, looking down. “My heels are stuck in the mud.”
“You and them feckin’ shoes!” Carrie laughs loudly. It echoes all around. “Here.” She holds her hands out for me to take. “I’ll pull you out.”
I take hold of her hands. She starts to pull me forward while I try to wriggle my shoes free from the sticky mud. I get one free, step forward and suddenly the other comes free. I fall forward onto Carrie.
“Bloody hell!” she chuckles, somehow keeping us both up. I have no clue how she’s managing to stay vertical.
I glance down at my shoes. They’re all covered in mud. “Ahh crap!” I groan, lifting my feet up in turn. “I’ve knackered the heel and covered them in mud in the space of five minutes. I bloody love these shoes as well.” My lips turn down at the corners.
“Really, I would never have guessed,” she skits.
“Piss off,” I mutter in a light-hearted tone, but inside the gloom has clamped itself steadfastly around my heart.
She grins at me in the darkness and links her arm through mine. “We’ll clean them up when we get home.”
“Come on, drama queen. We’ll pray for their salvation on the way home.”
“Ha, ha, funny! You ever thought about becoming a comedi–”
“Wait.” She grips hold of my arm with her fingers. “Did you hear that?”
“What, the sound of my heart breaking for the second time in two days?” I glance down longingly at my ruined shoes.
“No … that.”
I strain to listen. “I can’t hear anything.” Now I think about it, it’s actually eerily silent in here. No rustling leaves, no animal sounds. Nothing.
I start to move, but Carrie stays put, pulling me back to a standstill. “No seriously,” she whispers, “I definitely heard something … it was like, I dunno, like … someone’s chopping wood or something.”
“Shurrup, Carrie, you div,” I say at normal volume, laughing. “Who the hell would be out here at this time chopping … ?” Then I hear it. It’s not loud but Carrie’s wrong, it doesn’t sound like wood being chopped, it sounds more like something’s being sharpened on wood, kind of like when our cat used to run its claws down the doorframe.
“You hear it,” she whispers.
“Yes,” I breathe out. The hairs on the back of my neck prickle. I hear movement behind me. My stomach drops hollow. Swallowing hard, I loosen my arm from Carrie’s grip and we both, very slowly, turn around.
It’s standing about ten feet away. Its yellow eyes are protruding like beacons in the dark night, and they’re fixed onto me.
It’s obvious why it’s here. You would think I would have tried to make a run for it by now or screamed, or done something. I don’t know why I haven’t. All I do know is I can’t seem to tear my eyes away from its penetrating stare. It tilts its head, almost as if contemplating me, chilling me to the bone.
Then I feel Carrie’s hand search for mine. She grabs hold, interlocking our fingers. I can feel her fear almost like it’s pouring out of her skin and sinking straight into mine. A silent communication passes between us, and in the same instant we both turn and run.
I don’t get far.
I’m hit in the back. The air is knocked out of me. I’m going down. I’m pinned to the floor. I can’t move. My face is pressed into the mud. I can’t catch a breath. I’m suffocating. I feel a searing pain tear down my right side. I cry out but no sound comes. I manage to move my head slightly. I get a glimpse of Carrie’s red hair. The pain intensifies. I feel like I’m being ripped open…
The last thing I hear is screaming. An ear-piercing scream. And I can’t tell if it’s coming from Carrie or me.