Chapter 24

As I drove towards Siobhan's house my nervousness and uncertainty increased. Despite all that I had seen in the last hour or so, a part of me still wondered whether I was to blame for the wall which seemed to have been built between the two of us. Had something I'd done offended her? Had I missed or forgotten something crucial? Should I have called yesterday or just swallowed my pride and gone round to see her the day before? Would she even let me in the house when I turned up today? I couldn't believe that in less than half a week all that we had managed to build together through months of intimate closeness seemed to have been destroyed. I hoped and prayed that when I knocked on the door it would be answered by my Siobhan  -  the girl that I loved, remembered and missed desperately. The girl who had saved my sanity. The one and only person who had always been there for me since Mum and Dad had died.

Siobhan's house wasn't far from mine and it didn't take me long to get there. The roads were quiet. I hadn't been expecting to come across much traffic, but I hardly saw any. I could only have passed another five or six cars during the entire journey.

I turned into her road and pulled up outside her house. For a couple of minutes I did nothing but just sit there and try and compose myself and get my thoughts together. All of the fear and concern I felt for the rest of the people around me paled into insignificance alongside my desperate fears and concerns for Siobhan. Whatever it was that was happening in Thatcham, I knew that I could deal with it with a thousand times more strength and determination if the woman I loved was standing by my side again.

It was no good. I didn't matter how hard I tried, I couldn't stop myself trembling and shaking with nervous anticipation. I stared at Siobhan's house and anxiously watched for even the slightest sign of movement. I had hoped that she might come out to see me when she saw the car but no, there was nothing. My tension was increasing with every second. All that I wanted to do was hold her tight again, but I couldn't bring myself to take that first step forward. The fear of being rejected by her was too much to even begin to think about.

Two or three long and painfully drawn-out minutes went by before I decided that I couldn't wait any longer. I took a long, deep breath and then got out of the car and walked up the short garden path to the front door. I closed my eyes and rang the bell. I peered through the small frosted glass window, hopeful of seeing some movement inside the house and quickly moved out of the way when I saw that someone was coming.

Siobhan yanked the door open and stood and glared at me. She looked bad. Her clothes were creased and worn. She wasn't wearing any make-up and her usually perfect hair was knotted and tangled.

'Siobhan, I...' I began.

She slammed the door shut in my face.

Stunned at first, I shook my head with disbelief. Then, more out of anger than for any other reason, I began to pound my fist against the door again and again and again.

'Siobhan!' I yelled, loud enough for the entire street to hear. 'Let me in! Just open the fucking door and let me talk to you!'

I peered in through the small window again. I could see her waiting in the shadows of the hallway. That was a good sign. At least she was considering coming back and talking to me. If she hadn't wanted to know she would surely have gone further into the house. As it was she was still just a few feet away.

'Come on,' I begged. 'Please Siobhan, just stop and tell me why you're acting like this. If it's something I've done then at least have the decency to tell me what it is. I'm worried about you...' I glanced back over my shoulder self-consciously and wondered if anyone else in the road had heard me shouting. Not that it really seemed to matter  -  shouts, screams and arguments were par for the course today.

'You don't care about me,' a muffled voice suddenly grunted from inside the building.

'Yes I do,' I insisted, relieved that she had finally spoken. 'Of course I do. I love you for God's sake. What makes you think that I don't care?'

I braced myself for her response. I had asked a question that I didn't really want to hear the answer to.

There was another long and painful silence. I squinted through the window again and saw that she had moved a little closer to the door. I quickly moved back out of the way, hoping that she hadn't seen me staring. To my relief I then heard the latch click. The door slowly opened inwards.

'Thanks,' I gasped, my heart racing. 'I can't tell you how worried about you I've been. I was starting to think that...'

My words were wasted. Siobhan obviously didn't have any interest in what I had to say. Rather than listen she just turned her back and walked towards the living room. I followed but kept a cautious distance between us. The building was cold (I could see through the kitchen that the back door was open) and untidy. The carpets were covered with discarded food, clothes and belongings. She'd never been particularly house proud, but I'd never seen the place like this before. Siobhan stumbled and tripped across the littered living room floor and dropped heavily into the nearest seat. I waited by the door, unsure if I was welcome. When she didn't react I took a few hesitant steps forward.

'I missed you,' I said, simply and honestly.

She just stared into space.

'Are you okay?' I asked when she didn't respond. What a fucking stupid question  -  of course she wasn't okay.

She mumbled something, but I couldn't make out what it was she'd said.

'Pardon?'

'Leave me alone,' she said, this time a little louder.

'What?' I sighed with tears welling up in my eyes.

'I said leave me alone,' she repeated again.

'But why? Christ, what is it I'm supposed to have done...?'

'I don't want you here. I don't need you anymore. I don't want to see you again.'

Her vicious words were spoken without emotion in a dull, low and cold tone. Her voice was monotonous and lifeless and it seemed to be a struggle for her just to open her mouth and speak.

'But after everything we've been though...?' I pleaded. 'You can't just turn your back on me without any reason. Have you got any idea how much you mean to me?'

'Just go.' 'What's the fucking matter with you?!'

'Nothing.'

'What's happened, Siobhan?'

'Go.'

Her orders were ruthless and final. There wasn't even the slightest hint of remorse in her brutal words.

'Okay,' I said quietly with tears of frustration now rolling freely down my face. 'If that's what you want...'

I turned and slowly walked back towards the door, feeling that I should turn around and try and reason with her again but knowing that it would be pointless while she was in this desperate state.

I stood in the hallway for a second before relenting and allowing myself to turn back. The woman I loved  -  the perfect creature to whom I had been ready to dedicate my life and soul  -  sat motionless, slumped forward in her chair with her head hanging down heavily. She stared at the floor just in front of her feet.

I cleared my throat and wiped my eyes.

'I'll come back soon,' I said, doing my level best to sound strong and composed but failing miserably.

Siobhan grunted something unintelligible but still didn't look up.

I tripped and stumbled through the house and stepped back out into the cold autumn air. I made sure that the latch had dropped and the door was secure before walking back towards my car.

In the same way that I had found it necessary to try and compose myself before I'd seen Siobhan, I now needed to stop and steady my shattered nerves again. Seeing her in such a desperate state had torn me apart, and the lack of any explanation made her condition all the more difficult to accept. I gave up trying to work things out. There was little to be gained from searching aimlessly for ways to try and rationalise the completely irrational.

My options were becoming increasingly limited. I could go back to my empty house or I could try another friend. Clare was next on the list. I had no idea where Rob had gone earlier and so she seemed like the best person to try. With her elderly mother still away and her bastard ex-husband providing no support whatsoever, I knew that she too would have few people to turn to.

The temperature seemed to have plummeted in the short time I had been with Siobhan. I zipped up my jacket and looked around. The world was still. Nothing moved. An overwhelming silence had descended everywhere. There was a definite and unexpected air of finality and resignation in the air.

Before I drove away I allowed myself one last long look at Siobhan's house, hoping that I would see her. Just a moment of movement would be enough. Just to know that she still cared enough to drag herself out of her seat to see me would have made all the difference to my mood and resolve. But there was nothing.

I made a silent promise to myself to get back to her as soon as I could. As soon as I had found someone who could make sense of the madness of this morning I would drive straight back to the house and make her talk to me. I'd do whatever I had to. If I ended up knocking her out cold and dragging her back to my car then I would. There was no way I was going to leave her. I couldn't stand the thought of leaving her alone but I knew that for now I didn't have a choice.

Fighting hard to keep my concentration, I drove towards Clare's house.

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