Warnings: Abuse (emotional, physical, sexual), miscarriage, prostitution, swearing
Disclaimer: Clearly don't own any of the Waterloo Road characters, or the basic premise.
Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times,
if one only remembers to turn on the light
They say your life flashes before your eyes when you nearly die.
Rachel always thought that meant you'd see all your best bits, friends, family, achievements, a sort of celebration of the life you've lived.
However as the burning bricks hit her, and the world faded to black, it quickly became clear that that wasn't the case.
Amanda had liked school, to begin with. Primary school had been wonderful, when she was still too young to understand the problems her parents were having, and her sister was still a baby.
Even at secondary school she enjoyed being there, but now for different reasons. School was a place to escape to, a blessed seven hours a day when she didn't have to be at home, didn't have to hide upstairs with Melissa as her parents screamed at each other in the kitchen. While at school she could pretend everything was fine, that she was just like every other kid.
Her mother and father had never been particularly supportive parents, but they had kept her and Mel clothed and fed, looked after them when they were sick, however reluctantly. They had done most of the things parents were meant to do, and Amanda was grateful, they definitely could have been worse. She guessed she loved them because of it, they were still her Mum and Dad, she had to love them.
It all changed three weeks after her sixteenth birthday. Amanda was upstairs, in Mel's bedroom, keeping her sister distracted as her parents argued downstairs. When she heard a scream and a thud, followed by the front door slamming. After making sure Mel was settled with her book she quietly made her way down the stairs, wanting to find out what was going on.
Her mother was sat against one of the cabinets, knees pulled up to her chest and sobbing openly, one hand clutching her quickly reddening cheek.
"Mum?" Amanda asked cautiously. "Are you okay?
She didn't reply, but froze momentarily, then stood up and stared at her daughter, her face suddenly angry.
"Okay?" She repeated mockingly."What the fuck do you think? I have to put up with your bloody father day in and day out. But I can't leave him, I'd have nothing." She stepped closer, shouting in Amanda's face. "I haven't got a job, I'd lose the house." She paused and laughed maniacally. "So I have to put up with it, deal with the shitty life I've got."
Amanda thought it was over, as her mother turned away from her, but out of nowhere she seemed to snap, and spin back around, slapping Amanda straight across the face, so hard Amanda staggered back.
"It's all your fault." Her mum spat. "If I hadn't got pregnant with you, I'd never have had to marry him."
Amanda tried to convince herself it was a one off, but after that day it seemed her mother had found a way to relieve pent up stress and anger. She couldn't hit her husband, but her daughter, that was all too easy. Amanda wouldn't have stood for it if it wasn't for Melissa, her beautiful little sister, only nine years old and blissfully unaware. For her, Amanda kept up appearances, she kept going to school, and kept coming home, covering the bruises as best she could.
But as the weeks of pretending turned to months it got harder to keep hiding the truth. Her friends and teachers started asking questions, wondering why she was so often late and distracted. Rose, her best friend, pointed out the bruises on her arms once, Amanda lied saying she fallen off her bike. After that Amanda started avoiding Rose, and everybody else as well.
Eventually, only a month and a half before she turned seventeen, Amanda was called to the Headteacher's office. They didn't believe her excuses about the injuries, had already called in a social worker. They kept asking and asking, pushing her for the truth. Until finally she told them what was going on at home, everything.
The social worker said he would help them, get her and Mel out of this terrible situation. He said everything would be okay. Amanda knew she shouldn't have believed him, everybody lies.
She was all for it until she found out they were going to split her and Mel up. Apparently she was too old, so would be put in some juvenile group home, while Mel was put in emergency foster care. While she was glad that her sister would be safe, Amanda wasn't going to be shoved into some home with strangers, and they couldn't make her. Like they said, she was too old, it was her choice.
Amanda stayed on friends' sofas for the next few weeks, moving every couple of days, and going to school even less frequently. It was at one mate's house that she met Tony. He was older, almost twenty four, confident and said she was beautiful. Amanda was instantly enamoured. No-one had treated her so well in as long as she could remember, he opened doors for her, bought her gifts and after only a couple of weeks, told her he loved her.
She moved in with Tony on her seventeenth birthday, and to begin with it was everything she could ever had dreamed of, it was so perfect that Amanda didn't notice as things started to go downhill. It wasn't like with her parents, he didn't shout or scream, he was always calm, but Tony knew how to manipulate her so well she wouldn't even notice. In just a few words he could make her hate herself, apologise for something she hadn't done, and beg for his forgiveness when it was him in the wrong.
It didn't take long for him to completely cut her off from all her friends, she stopped going to school altogether, and rarely left his flat. He brought her everything she thought she needed. He said she should relax more, so they started drinking and he persuaded her to start smoking pot, saying it would help her get a new perspective.
One night, when Tony had some friends over, Amanda ended up off her face, she hadn't realized that for every drink the guys were having she was drinking three. Everything was blurry as she perched on Tony's knee, barely listening to what he and his friends were talking about, at least until he turned her head towards him and gave her a firm kiss.
"Babe." He whispered in her ear. "You know I love you, don't you?"
"I love you." Amanda replied, slurring.
"Prove it to me." He kissed her again, more forcefully this time.
"But they're here." She said, looking round at the three men sat watching them intently.
"Ignore them." Tony said, kissing up the side of her neck, one hand sliding up her thigh. "Pretend it's just you and me, love."
So she did, because Tony knew what was best, he loved her and wanted to protect her. He knew what was best for her.
He was on top of her, his hands up her skirt when he stopped and smiled sweetly.
"Will you do something for me?" He asked.
"Of course." She pressed herself up against him, trying to get him to keep touching her.
"Well, you know James is my best friend." He said, nodding towards the man sat in the middle of the sofa. "Can you show him how much you love me?" He asked, moving off of her and pulling them both to their feet. The room span as he turned her and walked her over to the sofa.
"You'd do it if you really loved me." He said when she hesitated.
Amanda was confused. The music was pounding in her ears, and she was swaying so much she thought she would fall. But looking back at Tony, she saw he looked so happy, as he waved her forward, he looked proud.
She liked making Tony happy, so she sat down next to James and leaned towards him, preparing herself to kiss him and then move away. However the second her lips touched his, he grabbed her by the waist and pulled her over him, so she was straddling his lap. Then he held her to him, one hand behind her neck, the other pulling her hand down towards his crotch.
When Amanda awoke the next morning, sprawled on the sofa in the now empty room, she couldn't really remember what had happened. She was just getting flashes; lots of vodka shots, a spliff, her and Tony, and ... her and someone else
"Tony." She called as she stumbled towards the bedroom. He was spread-eagled in the centre of the bed, the sheet tangled around his waist, she shook him awake quickly. She had to know what had gone on.
"Tony. What happened last night?" She asked, the second his eyes fixed on her.
"Relax babe." He said, pulling her down to sit next to him on the bed. "I'm not mad at you for going so far with James, you were doing me a favour remember. It was a good night, the best." He reached over and grabbed something off the night stand. "In fact, James was so pleased he left something for you."
Amanda took what he offered her, five crisp twenty pound notes.
She felt sick.
More moments from the night before were coming back to her. She could remember her and James on the couch, her hand in his jeans, grasping him tightly as the other men jeered and laughed. He'd called her a whore, and he was right, that's exactly what she was.
Amanda leapt off the bed, desperate to get away from Tony, from this place and what she was becoming, what she had become.
Tony was quicker, he followed and trapped her against the wall, an arm either side of her head, his body only inches from hers.
"Come on Mandy." He crooned. "This is easy money."
"It's sick." She spat back.
"It's not. You're gorgeous, why not let other people appreciate that too."
"But what about us?" She questioned, she didn't get it, they loved each other. How could he accept the idea of her, doing that, with someone else?
"I am thinking about us babe." Tony stroked one of her cheeks lovingly. "You could make what, a thousand pounds a week. I'm only thinking of our future. We can save up, get a bigger place, have a life together."
A future with Tony, everything Amanda wanted, but not like this.
"I can't." She said, close to tears.
"Of course you can, you have to." Tony replied, a sharper edge to his voice now. "For me, because you love me." He pulled her into his embrace. "I only want what's best for you Mandy, you know that. You know this is the right thing to do."
He held her in silence for a few moments, letting his words sink in.
"It's not like there's anyone else to love you." He added, before letting her go and leaving the room.
She nearly ran for it, but there was that sliver of doubt, nagging at the back of her mind, what it he was right? It was a lot of money, and they could still be a couple, it would just be a job. Was it really such an awful thing to do?
Tony cared for her, he'd loved her since the day they'd met, that's what he had said. He wanted what was best, and had given her so much, surely it wouldn't be so terrible to do this for him, for their future.
It wouldn't be so bad.
They would be happy.
Amanda told him she'd do it for them. Tony was so happy he picked her up and whirled her round the kitchen, then took her out for a fancy meal, they even had a bottle of champagne. It all showed Amanda that she'd made the right decision, it would all work out for the best.
But when they got back to the flat there was someone waiting, she hadn't met him before. Tony introduced him as Dave, he was balding and in his mid-forties. Reluctantly she followed them both inside.
She hadn't thought Tony would want her to start so soon, all the stuff with James had only been the night before.
"You've got to start somewhere." Tony whispered when she asked him about it. "Now go on, for me."
He led her into the bedroom where Dave have already taken off his shirt, and was looking at her hungrily.
"You've got a good one here Tony." Dave said, winking at her. "She a virgin?"
"You couldn't afford her if she was." Tony replied quickly. "Nah, she's a pro." He said. "Amanda will show you a good time."
"Come here then sweetheart." Dave said to her as Tony shut the door, leaving the two of them alone.
Hesitantly Amanda walked towards him, she thought she was going to throw up.
She fixed images of Tony smiling, saying he was proud of her, that he loved her, in her mind as she let Dave touch her. It was for her and Tony's future, she internally chanted as he thrust into her.
When he had finished Amanda curled up on the bed and wept, trying not to listen as he paid Tony, but a few phrases slipped through the haze, 'frigid little bitch' and 'she'll do better next time'.
She heard the front door of the flat slam shut before Tony came into the room.
"You did well love." He said, sitting down next to her and wiping away her tears with his thumb. "But maybe try and be a bit more responsive next time, yeah."
She couldn't reply, just continued to sob until he gave up and left her alone again. She didn't know how she could have thought this was a good idea, that anything about this was okay. But it was too late, and she disgusted herself, she was a filthy whore, she'd done it once, and she was going to have to do it again.
Telling Tony she didn't want to didn't help. He'd whisper sweet nothings, 'it'll get better' he'd say, 'you'll learn to enjoy it'. But it was just more lies, it never changed, just one person after another using her body, and then discarding her as is she were rubbish.
It didn't take long for Tony to stop pretending, only a couple of months, after she'd got settled, and all pretence was dropped. She now only saw him every Thursday when he came to pick up her weekly earnings. He wasn't her boyfriend, never really had been, he was just her pimp, organising a steady stream of men for her to sell herself to.
She wasn't allowed to leave the flat alone, and how could she, the only clothes he'd left her with barely covered anything. The only time she went out was with Tess, one of Tony's other more trusted employees, to drum up more business.
She hated her life, and what she was doing with it, but there was nothing she could do, she had given up hope. If she was lucky when Tony came round he would bring a couple of bottles of vodka, a handful of pills, something she could use to take the edge off, help her struggle through the week.
She had no chance, this was what she was.
She was eighteen and a half when she missed her first period, she put it down to stress, and not eating enough, but deep down she knew what it really signified. Instead she focussed on trying something, anything to get out of this place. She couldn't believe it had been eighteen months since she had made the stupid decision to move in with Tony, the love of her life.
She started hiding money away, a couple of quid at a time, finding places Tony would never think to look, behind the fridge, in an empty tampon box, not that she'd needed any recently.
It wasn't until three months had passed that she accepted she was pregnant, her abdomen was feeling firmer, she was getting weird cravings and being sick. She didn't know what to do, but maybe this was it, her way out. If she told Tony about the baby, he'd have to let her go. She could leave and just be a mum, she would love baby like no-one had ever loved her.
But she'd wait, she decided, a couple more months and she would have loads more money saved, her and her baby could get a good start. They would be happy. She could live this way for another two months. What she had to do hadn't got easier, but she found it easier to shut it out, she could cope, for the baby.
However only three weeks later he found out. Tony had come by to pick up the money like normal, and she had been wearing a tight top, ready for her next client.
"Is that?" He asked, pointing at her stomach. He'd noticed it, the slight bump protruding from her abdomen, barely there, but just noticeable.
"You've got yourself fucking pregnant!" He screamed at her.
"It was an accident Tony." She tried to explain.
He always made sure all her clients knew to use a condom, didn't want his little money-maker catching anything did he. But she knew condoms weren't infallible, if she really thought about it was probably inevitable.
"I'll just go." She continued. "Leave and have the baby, you'll never see me again." She promised.
"Leave?" He laughed. "You're not going anywhere, you may have got yourself into this mess, but I damn well will get you out of it."
"Tony." She pleaded. "I won't tell..."
He wasn't listening to her.
Tony just pushed her further into the flat and then quickly punched her in the stomach, knocking her to the floor before swiftly kicking her in the side.
He left her lying there in agony, but paused at the door. "Same time next week." He said calmly before leaving the flat.
The bleeding started a couple of hours later. She sat under the shower, the hot water doing little to dull the pain, crying as her last hopes drained away with the dark red water.
But hours later, when the bleeding finally stopped, she changed her mind.
This was it, the straw that broke the camel's back. She was going to get out of here, for her baby. The baby she would never feel kick, would never hold or get to kiss goodnight. For the baby, that despite these things, she would always love. For her baby she would leave this place. Get a fresh start anywhere that wasn't here.
As soon as the pain had lessened enough so she could stand, she did so, before she had a chance to change her mind. She gathered some clothes, the money she had hidden and hobbled to the flat's front door. It was six in the morning so she knew it was unlikely Tony would have anyone watching the building, pimps and prostitutes rarely did anything during these hours.
Slowly she made it to the station, glancing behind her at every turn, and bought herself a ticket to London, the biggest city possible. Somewhere she could lose herself, never to be found again, her fresh start.
The journey was agonising, she was still in an immense amount of pain, she knew she needed to see a doctor, but the idea of staying there, in the same city as Tony had revolted her. If she'd gone to the hospital there, he could have found her, taken her back.
Eventually they reached London, but as she was walking through Paddington Station she felt herself collapse. She could hear people shouting around her, and then, as she drifted in and out of consciousness, sirens.
When she woke in the hospital bed the first thing they asked her was her name, and she didn't know what to say.
She hadn't felt like Amanda in a very long time. Amanda had been the innocent schoolgirl who had loved her parents. But it had also been what they had called her. All those men who had used her, moaning her name as they came.
She didn't know where it had come from, but it felt right.
"Rachel." She said.
Rachel Mason awoke in a hospital bed for the second time in her life, but this time she knew exactly who she was, and she was proud. She was Headteacher of Waterloo Road, and they had accepted her, even when they had found out about her past, about Amanda. As her eyes swept across the room, and she saw Eddie asleep in a chair only a few feet away, Rachel knew.
This time she liked who she was.