Serial Stories
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Serial Stories

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ROMANCE FICTION SERIES

Can Grace Face up to Telling Beth Some Hard Truths

Follows Ep 6 — After the disastrous incident at Francisco’s party, Lacey takes the opportunity to confide in Grace

I don’t sleep well — how can I? If I’m not having visions of Francisco grabbing at my breasts or slobbering into my mouth with a tongue like a slippery eel, then I’m being hounded at school. Groups of leering boys and sneering girls give their various opinions on what they’ve heard about how willing I was. I keep waking in a cold sweat because I’m choking on the words I want to say in my defence.

By five a.m. I don’t try any more. My duvet is cosy, my pillow is soft, but I can’t find any comfort in either. The one thing from which I would have expected to glean comfort is just as fraught with problems. How do I tell Beth that I want to date Lacey?

Pulling an oversized hoodie over my flannel PJs, I tread quietly downstairs to make some mint tea. Spartacus, my Dad’s cat, is pleased to see me because I put out a dish of his food. He soon pays me back by sitting on my lap, sharing his comforting warmth as I rub his chin, which earns a purr.

The only thing I know for sure, is that I shouldn’t wait til Monday to talk to Beth at school. This information needs delicate handling, we have to meet up. I dislike confrontation, so I want to handle the topic carefully. My fingers itch to send her a text, but she won’t be up as early as this, especially after a party. Because I can’t think about anything else, I write a list of arguments for and against me getting together with her ex. It doesn’t settle my nerves, but it organises my thoughts, making me feel a little more prepared.

When Beth surfaces, she wants to know why I left the party early, but I fob her off. She agrees to come over to my house, and her ignorance gives me a glimmer of hope that no rumours are circulating about me and Francisco. Maybe Lacey’s threat would keep his lips sealed. I wonder how he’s feeling this morning, and my heart flutters like a bird against the cage of my ribs. I squash my feelings down, I’ve had enough practice after all.

“What happened, Grace?” Beth gets right to the point once we are alone in my room.

Spartacus is curled in the middle of my bed, so I sit down gently, not wanting to bounce him awake.

“I felt ill. I didn’t want to spoil your fun, so I went outside for some fresh air.”

“One of the girls said you went off with Francisco,” she says.

I’m not sure my cover story is going to work, plenty of people must have seen Francisco luring me to the garage to look at his car. And anyway, I don’t want to keep it a secret from Beth. It’s too big, it impacts my life. I haven’t had a secret from Beth since we bonded over sour candy and popcorn at our first sleepover.

“I did,” I reply cautiously.

“How was it — how was he?” she gushes, her face so open and excited for me and my stomach drops like a stone.

“His car was lovely … he was not.”

The horrible images swim at me, his avid face looming close as he kissed me. The bitter tang of beer in his mouth makes my pulse race as I experience, all over again, my helplessness to stop him touching me, grabbing my tender flesh in ways I had neither invited nor expected. Water fills my eyes, and my lips wobble as I try to speak.

“He thought I… he said I was his gift. For his birthday. He pushed me onto the back seat. He touched me — ” I draw in a jagged breath, keeping my eyes on my lap.

A tear splashes on my jeans. Before I can say more, Beth grabs my hand.

“Grace, no! He forced himself on you?” Her eyes are wide, horrified.

I can only nod, I’m seeing it all over again, and the combination of fear and helplessness makes me want to throw up.

“Did he… did he actually…?”

“No, I managed to stop him,” I sniff loudly, causing Spartacus to open a big green eye to study me.

“Thank goodness. The creep.”

“I shoved him with my feet, so he fell on the floor, and before he could get up, I ran. I locked him in the garage.”

I feel a little better when I focus on how I escaped. But my body is awash with adrenaline all over again and I’m trembling and biting my lip.

“Well, he wasn’t locked in there all night, I saw him at the party. He was pretty wasted. Maybe got in a fight with one of the boys from the hockey team.” Beth rubs my hand. “What happened to you next?”

“I was outside, feeling sick, wanting to be safely at home.” I remember the moment with clarity; how I wished that I’d been here, under the duvet, reading, like so many other Saturday nights.

“Then I ran into Lacey.” I bite my lip.

“Lacey?” Beth’s surprise is as great as mine had been. “What was he doing at the party?”

Before I can answer, she speaks again.

“Was he stalking me? Do you think he came because he’s heard that I’m with Mark?” She gets up to stand at my window, fiddling with the clasp on my jewellery box.

“He hasn’t been with anyone else since we broke up, has he?”

She looks at me for affirmation and I shake my head dumbly.

“He said there was someone else, when we broke up. Did I ever tell you that?”

“No,” I reply, my voice is no more than a croak.

“Yeah,” she looks away from me, over the back gardens and rooftops. “He said the fault was with him, not me. But they all say that, don’t they?”

I nod mutely. Beth knows I’ve never had a boyfriend, but I watch all the romantic dramas, same as she does. It is classic break up talk, but it’s very real for her — for us. And now I know, from what Lacey said last night, that I was the someone else

“I think he might still be carrying a torch for me,” she sighs, “I need to tread carefully around Lacey.”

And in that moment, I realise that it’s all about Beth. Even in the thick of telling her something horrible has happened to me, that a drunk boy tried to rape me, she’s found a way to weave herself into the narrative.

“He was there to drop his cousin off at the party,” I said.

My friend just rolls her eyes.

“Lacey drove me home in his car,” I finish quietly.

I stroke Spartacus gently, and he wriggles his head so that I can rub him under the chin.

“I don’t want people to know what happened with Francisco,” I tell her.

“Well it wasn’t your fault,” she’s ready to go on the defensive for me, something I appreciate, and fear, in equal measure.

“Absolutely it wasn’t, but I can’t bear to be the topic of discussion. I wish it had never happened, I want to act as if it never happened. I’m confiding in you because you’re my best friend and you need to understand where my head is, but outside of you me and Lacey, the topic is off limits.”

Beth looks a little stunned, I’m not sure I’ve ever been so forceful over something. Maybe this is the new me that I felt sparked into existence last night, the Grace who stands up for herself and fights for what she wants.

“But Lacey knows what happened?”

“Yes, the bare minimum.” I nod and dab my eyes.

“I was in a state when I ran into him, a crying snotty mess, so of course he asked what was wrong and I told him. And then he gave me a lift home.”

Beth is still looking at me questioningly, can she guess there is more about bringing me home, that I haven’t said. How can I tell her about Lacey, her ex, and the way he opened his heart to me last night?

I promised him I would, but I haven’t got the energy for it. Beth clearly still has feelings for him, if only to consider him her property. This would be completely the wrong time to tell her that I was the reason for their break-up.

Suddenly I feel exhausted. All the emotion of the last twelve hours catches up with me, I could pull my duvet over my head and sleep for a week. It must show on my face, because Beth is filled with concern.

“You look pale Grace, why don’t you go back to bed? I’ll see myself out.”

Then Beth gives me a quick squeeze, and I feel tears at the edge of my lashes. I haven’t enough energy to call her back and tackle the subject that really needs discussing. Instead I kick off my shoes and slip under the blanket without disturbing Spartacus, and in moments I’m asleep.

[To be continued]

Don’t miss what Grace does next, get an email when I publish, a new episode every Thursday. Use Wallflower list to read the series so far.

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Posy Churchgate - Writes & Edits Fiction

Freelance writer — erotic, romance, supernatural, chiller, YA * Edits : TantalizingTales*Teaser Tales* Based in UK