It's been three days since she broke up with two hours ago she had been in a perfect bubble, a new house to look forward to, a place they could finally call their own and the knowledge that Charity was her happily ever after. But now she is sat alone at the kitchen table in Tug Ghyll. Her laptop open and cup of tea untouched. Her heart aches and the nausea comes in waves when she thinks about the taller blonde. Tug Ghyll doesn't feel like home since she moved out. The small space is to quiet, to confined. Not like the hustle and bustle of Jacobs Fold. She misses the little things. Chasing the boys upstairs to wrestle them in the bath, listening to Charity tell the boys the most magical bedtime stories and cuddles on the couch when the house finally fell silent. She also missed the things about Charity that have always drove her insane. Licking yoghurt tops, drinking juice from the bottle and doing anything she could so she didn't have to put out the bins. Because you get used to things like that dont you? The little things that make you both just typically you. A team against the world. It's not just her heart that's broken, it's Johnny's as well. He doesn't really understand, probably sees it as one giant sleepover at auntie Traceys. But he constantly asks for "silly" Charity and cries when Vanessa doesn't quite get the voices of his bed time story right.
Every thought of Charity is immediately followed by images of boys, their boys. The boys who had so quickly become family. The boys who had taken Johnny on as one of their brothers. Ryan was a typical older brother. Teasing the younger boys when ever he could and teaching them bad ways but he was kind and loving and had Chairty's sense of humour. Noah is such a shy boy but so bright. He had finally started to trust Vanessa, even telling her that she was the best parent he'd had. He looked after Johnny and Moses, fiercely protective of his younger brothers. Then her little man Moses, the little boy who had stolen her heart. He was her little shadow, always following her around the house wanting to help with even the most mundane tasks. He looked at Vanessa like she had hung the sun, the stars and the moon just for him and if she could she would have done just to see that famous Dingle smile. Her eyes drift to the screensaver on her laptop. A picture of Vanessa, Charity and there brood at Whitby at the beginning of summer. She ghosts her fingertips over Charity's face, tears starting to fall, she whispers in to the empty room. "I love you Charity Dingle, why wasn't I enough? I love you".
She's half way through some files she has brought home from the vets and she cant concentrate. She picks up her phone to text Charity when the reality hits her, their not together anymore. She glances at the clock at debates waking Johnny from his nap. Maybe a trip into town would do them both some good. At least she was less likely to bump into one of the neighbors that way. She can imagine how everybody would stop to stare at her if she walked into the cafe or pub, can already hear the gossip escaping their lips. "Charity messed up again" " She was all ways to good for a Dingle". She stands and deposits her cup in the sink, making her way upstairs to wake Johnny up. She wakes him gently, running fingers through his short blonde hair. Within twenty minutes their wrapped up warm in matching yellow macs. She takes a deep breath and opens the door, standing on the steps of the small cottage. She doesn't understand how life can go on without Charity. How the village and its occupants can go about their daily lives while hers is breaking down around her and she knows things will never be the same again. She turns to lock the door when she hears her little boy scream.
She tries to keep hold of the squirming boys hand but in an instance he's gone. He runs across the village arms open, his yellow hood flapping in the wind like a cape. She sees Charity bend down and catch him before he falls over and she's thankful that the woman knows her son well enough to keep him safe.
She can hear Charity quietly reprimand him for running off. She's never shouted at Johnny, she always quietly explains making sure not to scare him. Her heart breaks as she watches the scene. Johnny is leaning against Charitys side, his fingers playing with soft blonde curls. A habit he had picked up from the first night Charity had stayed over. He had woken up crying in the middle of the night and Charity had gone to see to him. Mindful of the tired mother beside her. Vanessa had found her the next morning on the couch with Johnny on her front, his fist curled tightly around the curls. She comes to stand in front of the pair and meets Charity's eye as she explains to Johnny why they aren't at home. She catches the tear that escapes her, watching her little boy, their little boy,t hink about what Charity has said.
Vanessa breaks when Johnny asks when they can come home. She breaks the silence "Johnny come on were gonna be late". She sees his hands tighten around Charity's coat lapels, notices the way he turns away from her outstretched hand. Charity engulfs his small body, hugging him like it's the last time she will ever hug anybody, never mind her child. As she whispers "I love you" into his hair, she makes eye contact with the small blonde. And Vanessa knows she means her to and the nausea rises into the back of her throat. She feels a small hand in her own,as she turns he hears Charity speak with a whisper.
"Please Ness, Please let me see him. I miss him so much, I miss you both so much and Moses hasn't stopped asking for you both, Please?".
It would be so easy to say yes. To let Charity see him and for Vanessa to see Moses. But she's not quite ready. She knows what it's like to be forgotten about, abandoned by a person who you idolise and she couldn't risk that for Johnny. She couldn't watch as he waited for Charity by the window for her not to show. Just like Frank had done to her. He had already been abandoned by Kirin he didn't need his Ma to do it to. She knows Charity would never hurt him and somewhere in the back of her mind she knows she would never leave him not really. But the risk is just to large, the risk of him losing another parent to big.
She runs her hand through her hair, thinking of how to let Charity down lightly. She looks down at Johnny and knows this is for the best, not forever, just for now.
" I think it's best if you don't, I can't watch him be abandoned again when you find someone else. I can't watch him wait for you every Saturday for you not to turn up. I can't watch his heart be broken over and over again by his Ma". She knows the last word hurts, she sees how Charities jaw slightly tenses at the word. It had been a recent development. Moses was the first to call Vanessa mum, Johnny had soon followed suit, calling Charity mum. Both women had took it in their stride agreeing that its was a natural step in their relationship. A couple of weeks ago the boys had gotten frustrated after the wrong mum had come to help them one too many times. So Charity changed Mum to Ma and even though Moses had not got the hang of it. Johnny used the name constantly and it became their thing, just for Johnny and Charity.
She interrupts the other blonde. Anger over taking the upset and pain.
"I promised Noah and Sarah I would always be there for them. that goes for Ryan and Debbie too, their welcome at Tug anytime. But for our younger sons sake, I think it's best we leave it for a while, yeah?"
She turns and walks towards the car. The tears streaming down her face in a cascade. She can hear Charities quiet sobs behind her and wills herself not to turn around. It would be so easy to forgive Charity and go back to being them but she can't live like that anymore. The lying, sneaking around and the family being put in danger. She puts Johnny into his car seat and lowers herself into the driver's seat. As she closes the door she hears her.
"Please don't take my boy Ness,Please"?
And that's all it takes for her to break.