Fall from India Place Page 24

Ellie narrowed her eyes on me, scrutinizing me. “I hope you’re telling the truth.”

I made a face. “I am.”

“Hannah, I’m your sister and I love you. You have an entire family who loves you. Five years ago you started shutting us out, putting on this front, determined to take care of yourself without our help. You need to stop that. Not just for you but for us. We’re here if you need us, and frankly we need you to need us.”

Feeling guilty, I glanced away from her, staring at my work. “I’m not shutting you out, Els. I promise I’m okay.”

“I don’t believe you,” she replied quietly. “I haven’t forgotten our talks back then. I haven’t forgotten how much you felt for him. Marco is your Adam. You were devastated when he left. I know you’re not okay.”

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say or if it was possible to force words out of the burning, painful ball of tears clogging my throat. At my prolonged silence, Ellie sighed unhappily and promptly left. The fact that she didn’t say good-bye told me she was hurt and annoyed at me.

I went right back to being pissed off at Marco.

I stewed for a while, until my phone rang and jerked me out of my daze. With a sigh, I reached for it, not recognizing the number. Hoping it wasn’t a salesman, not just for my sake but for theirs, I answered.

“Hannah, it’s me.” Marco’s familiar deep voice hit me with the force of a cannonball.

My whole body shuddered away from the phone in shock and I stared at it for a second, fury quickly building in me at his audacity.

I heard him say my name in question.

Putting the phone back to my ear, I snapped, “How did you get this number?”

“From Anisha. I explained we were old friends. I just want to talk. I need a chance to explain.”

Over the past few years I had imagined this moment, and every single time I hung up on him immediately or I walked away. In actuality I found myself hesitating because the reality was that he didn’t sound like the boy I’d once known. It wasn’t easy to describe, but even with me, someone whom he’d considered his best friend, he’d kept a guard up around his words all the time.

There wasn’t a guard up now. I couldn’t say how I knew. I just… felt it.

And it stunned me for a few seconds. A few seconds filled with curiosity and indecision.

But following those seconds were the memories of what I’d been through.


“I don’t want to hear it,” I answered. “I’m over it.”

Before Marco could say another word, I hung up and switched my phone off.

“It looks like I need to get a new number,” I said flippantly, but I wasn’t fooling myself. My hands shook and my heart pounded as I placed the phone back on my table.

Probationary year was often difficult – the days were sometimes stressful and I was busy all the time. For once I was thankful for that over the next few days. I was also thankful for the adult literacy course and for the book group I’d joined that gathered every Wednesday evening at St. Stephen’s Centre. If it kept me active and focused on anything but Marco, it was a godsend.

I had my fourth-year class that afternoon, and they were definitely helping to keep me busy. It would seem that not all of them were happy to be reading the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.

Throughout the period, Jack Ryan, the little pain in the arse that Tabitha Bell had been so upset over, had repeatedly sighed heavily as we read scenes and discussed the play. Five times I’d asked him to sit properly at his desk after he pushed his chair up onto its back legs, balancing it precariously. I had visions of the chair tipping him and his head cracking off the corner of the desk behind him and me being blamed for his stupidity.

He was driving me nuts, but I was doing my best to ignore him and teach.

“Aw come on, man, whit the f**k is this shite?” he grumbled, loud enough for me to hear him.

Before I could reprimand him, Jarrod got there. “Why don’t you shut the f**k up, you whining wee bastard?”

“Jarrod,” I warned.

“What?” Jarrod grimaced at me. “He’s being a dick.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to lower yourself to his level.”

Jack’s chair thudded to the ground. “You calling me a dick, Miss?”

I gave him a lengthy stare in answer. Jarrod relaxed, chuckling in triumph at Jack.

Jack flushed, but fortunately the bell rang before I could receive his sure-to-be-disrespectful retort.

As the kids got up to leave, I called Jarrod over to my desk, something that seemed to be becoming a regular occurrence. He swaggered over to me with his cocky assuredness, grinning at me. “If you’re going to give me a row, don’t bother.”

I raised my eyebrows at him. “Don’t bother because you know you were in the wrong?”

He shrugged. “I just said what you wanted to say.”

That was so terribly true it took everything in me not to give that fact away. “Jarrod, the point is that you’re a bright kid, and a good kid, and you need to learn to stop retaliating against idiots who aren’t worth it. Keep your lips sealed and walk away.”

“From who? Ryan and Mr. Rutherford?” he sneered.

I shrugged this time, and Jarrod smiled as if he knew I agreed with him. I wanted him to rein in that temper of his so guys like Jack Ryan and Rutherford didn’t get the best of him. I said this to him and he stared at the floor thoughtfully.

A few seconds of contemplation passed, and since I didn’t want him to feel like I was coming down on him all the time, I pushed another topic. “Did you look at my notes on your personal essay?”

He nodded.

“Making any progress?”

“I suppose so.”

“As good as it is, I just feel it would have more impact if the reader had insight into your parents and their influence on your relationship with your brother.”

Jarrod’s eyes hardened. “Well, it’s just Mum, me, and the wee man. Dad bolted just after my brother was born.”

Feeling instantly uncomfortable and knowing I couldn’t really say anything helpful since I fortunately didn’t have personal insight into parents who abandoned their children, I offered a lame “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Doesn’t matter.” He shrugged with fake nonchalance.

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