The days and nights role into one. Time has stood still. Days are spent on the comfort of the small couch in Tug Ghyll, a blanket pulled up to her chin and trashy daytime telly. Nights are spent crying into her pillow so aware of the space were a warm body should be. In between Vanessa spends time with Johnny soothing him while he quietly sobs for his Ma. Timing the trips to the childminder so she won't see Charity and running laps of the village to try and tame the anger and hurt that settled in her chest.
For Charity her days are spent worrying about the pub, Moses, Noah and Sarah and pining for Vanessa. She spends her nights curled around one of Vanessa's old jumpers muffling the screams that leave her lips and whispered promises she makes into the space where her fiancé should be. In between she does full shifts at the pub. She holds Moses as he cries for Vanessa and her attempts to catch her at the childminders have so far been unsuccessful.
Both women replay the awkward conversations of the last few days in their heads. The one small piece of hope that they both cling to. The first civil conversation had come within two days. Moses has been caught up in one of Cain's stupid scams. A stolen car. Her son taken and dumped. Scared and alone. After a bust up with Chas, she had found herself at the door of Tug Ghyll. She hesitates as she wrestles with the idea of letting herself in or knocking. The latter seeming to formal. This was about their son. As she walks through the threshold and into the living room, the sight of Vanessa temporarily stuns her. So much so she doesn't even see Tracy sat on the other end.
Vanessa look's up from her position on the couch as the door clicks shut and is surprised to see Charity stood nervously near the doorway. She looks tired and on the brink of tears and it takes all of Vanessa's will willpower not to jump up and take her in her arms. She notices the surprise on Tracy's face at the bold move from the curly haired blonde and the way her jaw sets ready to defend her.
"So you haven't phoned about Moses?" Charity says quietly.
"Yeah, Johnny's missing him too". Charity feels a wave of anger wash over her at the naivety of Vanesa's words.
"Not that I've been texting you babe…"
"Oh, Well I've not been opening them"
"Oh right, well he got mixed up in one of Cain jobs didn't he. He got taken hostage didn't he" She strangles back the tears as she sees the panic take over Vanessa's features.
"Well did you phone the police?"
"No he's alright now" She interrupts. "But me and Chas have had a massive row".
Vanessa knows she needs to speak to Charity on her own for her to really open up and Tracey wouldn't leave without a fight, her protective instinct taking over in the past few days. She pats her lightly on the arm. Leaning over and quietly asking her to give them a minute. The surprise is written all over the younger woman's face as Vanessa nods towards the stairs. As Tracey rounds the stairs she can't help but dig at her sisters ex.
"Every time I see you lately there's some big drama" She says looking directly at Charity. Making sure she hurts her just as much as she hurt her sister. "I reckon your well out if it V". Charity's eyes cast down the shame of what she is done creeping back through her veins. Vanessa follows the path Tracey takes, anger at her words flooding her senses and the urge to defend her sticking in her throat.
Charity meets Vanessa's eye as she tries to keep her tears at bay.
"I'm sorry I didn't know where else to go"
"Right he is definitely okay"?
"NO" Charity shouts with more anger that she intended. "I mean he's probably traumatized like all my other kids now. Damaged."
No wonder you don't want me anywhere near Johnny he'll only end up the same as the others. Hateful, angry, ungrateful and abandoned. I'll only hurt him in the end, just like his mum. She thinks but what leaves her mouth next takes them both by surprise.
"It's all going wrong babe. I…I can't live without you".
Vanessa feels it too. Her life is spiralling and she can't live without Charity but she can't forgive her not yet.
"Yes you can it's…. It's just knew. Vanessa soothes as Charity makes her way onto the couch, grabbing the blonde's hand. Vanessa is temporarily fixated with the familiar touch of Charity. It's warm and safe and she's missed it so much.
"No, please I don't want it to be like this forever. Please. '' Charity begs as she fights for her fiancé.
"Shhhhh" Vanessa whispers as another plea leaves Charities mouth. "Please" and with that she surges forward. Placing a hand on Vanessa's right cheek. Her mouth hovering over her own. The battle between her head and her heart rages inside of her. Her heart wants to kiss her back, to soothe the worry lines on her forehead and whisper promises on her lips. Her head screams at her not to. You can't forgive her just yet, stay strong, you deserve more than this. It taunts. She pulls away and watches the hurt cover Charity's features like a veil.
Its a few days before they cross paths again. Vanessa has gone back to work and catch up is tiring. Charity was busy comforting Moses, who had woken with nightmares and wet sheets since his ordeal.
Vanessa walks into the pub. The familiar sights and smells bring warmth to her body that sits low in her stomach. She can see the crown of the blondes head as she crouches behind the bar.
"Hello" She calls out the sound forcing to Charity to stand from the uncomfortable position. Her presence is a surprise to Charity. Vanessa had not been near the pub since that day and the only interaction since the day at Tug Ghyll had been via text. Strictly about Moses.
"Well out of all the pubs in all the villages and you have to walk into this one" She jokes. The glasses in her hand waving around in patterns.
"I thought we might have been able to have a civil conversation" Vanessa sighs. She had wanted to talk about a rota for the younger boys and maybe Noah, to start the routine of regular contact.
"It was a joke" Charity barks. She knows that what she wanted to say has come out all wrong but her defences have gone up and she's not backing down now.
"Everything's a joke to you isn't it Charity"
"If your just gonna walk in here and attack me"
"Yeah because that's what I do" and with a roll of the eyes and a hand in the air she's gone and for the second time this week she doesn't look back
Charity is watching the clock and counting down the minutes until the end of her shift. Between cleaning up sick and the tension between her and Chas she's ready to go home. The earlier argument with Vanessa is replaying like a silent film in her mind, she takes her mobile out of her pocket and immediately returns it, and she can't save it not this time.
Vanessa had finished her day over an hour ago, but she wasn't quite ready to go back to Tug yet. It just isn't home anymore and she can't stand another night of Tracey putting Charity down. Even if she was in the wrong. The earlier argument plays like a silent film in her mind, she takes her mobile out of her pocket and immediately returns it, and she can't save it not this time. As she leaves the safety of the vets her eyes fall on Noah and Sarah with their regular group of friends. She can see in the way they move their up to something, something either her or Charity would approve. But she's too tired to fight. Too tired to reprimand them for something they may or may not do. She watches them move towards Jacobs fold and the urge to follow them is overwhelming but that's not home anymore. She sighs and makes her way back to Tug a single tear rolling down her cheek.
All she can smell is sick. In her hair, her clothes, under her fingernails. It seems to be in every pore on her body. As she smells her hair, she notices Kim on the end of the bar, as she starts to explain her troubles to the older blonde, the door to the pub swings open, Vanessa following its path. She stands in the far curve of the bar and as Charity swings round to claim Kim's drinks her eyes immediately meet Vanessa's.
"Oh Great!" She whispers to herself. She doesn't want to fight anymore. But by Vanessa's stance and the slightly angry tinge to her features she can see the blonde is in no mood for her sarkey comments.
"Okay Vanessa I've had a really horrible day and whatever I said earlier I didn't mean it" She says in a rush before anything can come out wrong.
"I think you should get home"
"I know I'd love that" She says truthfully, even though there's only ten minutes left of her shift.
"There's kids outside your house and inside and all I reckon. I think Sarah's having a party" The words suddenly registers in Vanessa's mind. "You're House". Not our house where are kids are happy and we have games night on Friday and when we first moved in you took me on every available surface. The memories are so vivid in her mind she doesn't even register Charity storming to the other side of the bar or Chas making her way out of the back.
"Look if I were you, I'd tell Chas and get yourself over their" She stutters out.
"Tell me what?"
"I've got to go problems at home"
They head towards Jacobs Fold the baseline of the music pumping through the air. Vanessa has broken into a small jog in order to keep up with Charity's ever increasing strides. As they get to the front door Charity doesn't recognize any of the faces. The smell of stale beer lingering around the teenagers.
"Hello. How can I help?" A tall smirking boy asks, eyeing Charity up from her heels.
"Who are you?" Charity questions, eyeing up the beer in his hand.
"Jayden. You should come in its freezing outside"
"Oh, thank you Jaden" Her voice dripping with sarcasm as she hears a small laugh leave Vanessa lips.
"You both look a bit old but I think it'll be alright" His eyes rake over Vanessa's body and Charity doesn't know if she wants to deck him or kill him.
"Stop talking" Vanessa pleads a hand making a chopping motion under her chin, knowing that Charity could snap any minute.
"I'm gonna kill her" And with that she pushes through the door into the living room. There's teenagers everywhere and not one of the faces look familiar. There's can and bottles and bowls strewn over every surface most the the contents spilled on the floor. She strides through the house and turns on the lights while simultaneously turning of the music. She looks around a spots Sarah on the couch, sweat on her brow and her hand on her stomach. Before she can stop her she vomits. Vanessa has come to stand next to her and Charity can't quite believe she's still here. Before the feeling crash into her system she throws the party goes out. Even if she had to threaten them with death in the woods.
Noah and Sarah have been sent to bed. Soon after Vanessa had removed her coat and grabbed the bin bags from underneath the sink.
"I'll tidy the rubbish, you take the sick". Charity's words fail her and she quietly fills the bucket. Taking into the living room and scrubbing the carpet.
They work in comfortable silence. Cleaning up the house around them. Charity stands telling Vanessa a story about how she count be a nurse, anything to break the tension. She moves into the kitchen removing her rubber gloves, leaning against the counter.
"Sarah's a teenager, this is what teenagers do" Vanessa says matter of factly.
"Yeah I know" And Charity feels the familiar feeling of guilt in her chest. She probably shouldn't have got as angry as she did but Sarah heart is a precious gift and she can't believe she's been so stupid.
"You know your gonna have to let go a little, Debbie will understand".
"See you're the sensible one, see what happens when you go away"
"I should head home" fear is rising in Vanessa chest as goes to grab her coat. It's not the kind of fear you get when you're scared of someone. It the fear of knowing that if there together for too long they'll fall back into bed and nothing will have changed. They'll just plod along like they've always done.
"Really? Look I know this is a weird time to be feeling it but I'm really happy that you're here". Charity has moved to stand directly in front of Ness the tears are pooling in her eyes as she looks at her fiancé she can see the tears shimmering in the light, making the light blue of her eyes darker round the edges.
"I don't know what to say to that"
"You don't have to say anything, just stay for a bit and I'm sorry about earlier it all just came out wrong"
"You should go check on her" As she casts her eyes downward.
"Please Ness" Charity begs.
"I don't think so"
"I'll open the winders" Charity says with a coy smile
"It's not that" And for the first time in a week Vanessa returns with a small smile. "Nothings actually changed has it?"
"Don't be too hard on her yeah?" Vanessa grabs her coat and places her hand on the door and she's gone. Charity stares at the door and quietly cries into the room. She had been so close to having Vanessa stay and pouring her heart out hadn't been enough. She had looked back though just before she vanished into the night and her ring was still firmly placed on her finger. Hope. Hope that everything would work out in the end. The thought of such makes her cry even more.
Back in the present Vanesa snaps herself out of her thoughts. Looking at the calendar on the wall at Tug Ghyll, Wednesday 20th November 2019. It had been over a week since she left and in that time Johnny had not seen his Ma and Moses had not seen her and suddenly guilt over takes her. It's not their fault. It's not their fault that Charity scams, schemes and lies but then sees how protective she is over all her kids and her grandkids and the love comes flooding back in waves. She toys with the ring on her left hand and sighs. She grabs her coat off of the rack and heads over to Jacobs Fold.
Charity has been up for hours, her mind loud in the quiet of the house. She's getting Moses ready for school, buckling up is shoes as Sarah takes the bins out. As she leads Moses upstairs to clean his teeth her eyes fall on the calendar on the fridge. Wednesday 20th November 2019. It has been over a week since Vanessa left and the words still cut through her like a knife. At that time her life had fallen apart layer by layer and the only glimmer of hope was the small diamond that was still in residence on Vanessa's left hand.
Finally the house was empty and she could finally scrub the house from top to bottom. The smell of sick still lingered in the air and the crumbs of last night where buried deep into the rug. She's been wrestling with the vacuum for half an hour, when she hears a small tap on the door. She sighs, opening the door to reveal her tiny, blonde rocket women.
"Yeah sorry I'm a bit dirty" She says looking herself over.
"And not in a good way" Vanessa shakes her head as she realises the tone of her words. The flirty banter with Charity had always been a pillar of their relationship but now's not the time.
"Yeah well what you're seeing here is a woman who's been beaten by a rebellious vacuum bag and I hate to ask but you don't know where the new bin liners are do you?" Vanessa brushes past her and heads towards the sink and Charity watches in awe as she opens the cupboard and they're magically there, even though she had the contents of said cupboard strewn across the floor.
"Err I just thought I best call and see how madam's hangover is" She says busying herself on locating the bin bags.
"She keeps nipping out for fresh air and looked a bit green"
Vanesa watches as she wrestles with the vacuum. The conversation being ignored. She can see the frustration in the blonde's brow as she pulls and pushes the machine.
"You just need to click that down…."
"It won't will it" Charity interrupts her voice dripping with frustration.
"Shall I?" The smaller blonde's offers and Charity mutters a "Thank you in response.
She shuffles past Charity. Careful not to touch her. At one point she would have grabbed Charity by the hips, kissing her protests away as she took her place in front of the cleaner. But now any sort of contact seems too familiar for what they are now.
"I really miss you" Charity virtually screams as Vanessa tries to soothe the worries of her parenting away.
"Right well I best get on you know". And she's gone again just like the first time.
Charity looks at the clock. 1 O'clock. She knows exactly where Vanessa will be. In the cafe enjoying her last few boys before the boys, Johnny needs picking up from nursery. She grabs her bag and makes her way over there. If Vanessa wants her to fight for her, then that's what she's going to get. She pushes the door open and the warmth hits her and there, the corner, is a vision of shocking pink, cradling a coffee cup in both hands.
"I thought I might find you here, Wednesday afternoon, stuff on your mind, latte extra shot" She says confidently striding towards the table. The confidence slowly ebbs away as she sees her tear stained face.
"You'll make someone a lovely stalker" I wish it was me you were stalking she thinks.
"Sorry. One burst vacuum bag and I'm doing the blurting out thing, freak you right out" and secretly Vanessa loves it because she's the only person Charity has ever let in.
"No you didn't me just…"
"Bailed before it got too intense I get it" She really does. She knows where this morning could have led. An outpouring of feelings, kisses would turn into an afternoon in bed. Everything forgiven but not quite forgotten.
"You don't make things easy do yam" A shy smile playing on her lips.
"If you mean I won't give up without a fight then no! Not when I'm fighting for the most important thing in my life"
"Wow! This is possibly the closest thing to being real I've seen in a while" She knows it's cruel but she wants to see just how much Charity is willing to fight. For her, for the kids, for them.
"Well that the problem you always see the real me"
"Vanessa! You're the only one I can talk to and laugh with and hurt…." "Your right their". Vanessa's interruption just spares her on more. She dives into the seat opposite her.
"And snog for hours on end in the pub, when everyone's gone to bed. Babe I love you so much because what we got is real and yeah real means that I screw up and act like a plank but I swear to you now if you give me another chance I will try, I'll change, I'll be good but please?"
At some point during her speech she had grabbed Vanessa's hand, her thumb playing with her engagement ring. She could see the pain in her eyes as she spoke, the striking blue colour dimming as tears flooded in. She has seen the small smile creep onto her lips as she promised to be good, she had caught the way her eyes kept drifting to the place where Charities hand brushed against warm skin. Charity finally has the feeling she's won, when suddenly Vanessa shakes her head in tiny motions. Charity with draws her hand, the smaller blonde immediately missing the contact. Charity runs her tongue around the back of her teeth, forces herself to smile and then she's up and out of the cafe leaving Vanessa to sob quietly.
Vanessa had sat there for hours. Mulling over Charity's words. Yes she hated lying but everything she loved about Charity far outweighed that. She was protective, caring, funny, snarky, moody as hell but she was everything. She wanted to come home. To keep building this fairy tale. Her texts Tracey asking her to pick up Johnny. She grabs her coat and her bag as she walks the short walk to Jacobs fold.
The door is slightly ajar when she get there, Noah and Sarah will just be home from school.
"I could hear voices" She says as Sarah and Danny push past her.
She follows Charity into the kitchen, her green marigolds and tea towel flung over her shoulder.
"Fancy joining me in a toast to my stupidity?" Vanessa stares at her as she produces a bottle of prosecco from underneath the counter.
Vanessa takes a deep breath as she starts her monologue.
"You know what I hate the most? Always having to be the sensible one"
"Okay" Charity is shocked by the blonde's admission. A tiny glimmer of hope settling in her chest.
"I know you rip people off and you do pathetic scams but then I see you like this all protective over Sarah and its all part of why I love you" It comes out slightly angrier than she intended. But it's infuriating how much you can love someone who has lied as much as Charity.
"You love me" The shock is overwhelming. To hear Vanessa say those three words after everything she has done is a surprise to her. Know was has ever loved her like this. Has only ever loved her when they want something.
"But I hate you lying to me"
"You've just said you love me" Vanessa knows that's the only thing Charity has properly heard. She brings her finger tops up to her lips as she continues.
"Alright, listen we won't work if you keep doing things behind my back and I can't be with you if I can't trust you. Now all I ask, all I've ever asked is that your honest, Whatever it is, I just want to know" Because she doesn't want to change Charity. She knows the scams will come and go but anything could have happened and she would never have known. Their kids put in danger.
"I get that I do, alright, look, I promise I will never lie to you again I swear" She dares to step forward grabbing both of Vanessa hands in her own. She's shaking and Charity gently draws patterns on the top of her hand.
"Babe we belong together, always. So" She dares to hope that that's enough to bring her fiancé and her son home. It feels like an eternity before Vanessa answers, just before she resigns herself to Vanessa telling her it's over again, a smirk graces her face.
"You've still got hoover dust on your nose"
Charities smile is the biggest Vanessa has ever seen "Oh Babe" she whispers as their lips crash together. It's short and sweet but says everything that has been left unsaid. We're coming home, were back together, let's take on the world. Charity schools her up the small body in her arms. Clinging to her like she needs her to breathe, to live.
"Does this mean you're coming home?"
"Were coming home tonight but first, take me to bed Charity".
And just like that Jacobs Fold feels like home again. The light is back on and the shell has been consumed with love and warmth. And soon the house will be filled with laughter and the hustle and bustle of daily life. But right now it's silent except for the whispered I love you on the way to their bed.