The Sick Rose

The Sick Rose by Erin Kelly

Book: The Sick Rose by Erin Kelly Read Free Book Online
Authors: Erin Kelly
made him feel drugged with relief.
    ‘Hello, baby!’ said Natalie. ‘When are you going to come down and see me?’
    ‘Soon, when I’m properly settled.’
    ‘I can’t bear to think of you going through all that on your own, living in the middle of nowhere. I should never have left you behind with those people, I blame myself . . .’
    ‘Don’t be silly,’ said Paul. ‘I’m fine here, I’m making friends. What’s wrong with your mobile?’
    ‘It got nicked out of the van when I went back to Grays Reach.’
    ‘Mum! You went back there! What the bloody hell for?’
    ‘I had to, to the dentist to get my filling mended. I can’t get an NHS dentist down here yet, although they’d have to if I was pregnant and I’d get all my treatment for free.’
    ‘Are you mad? Carl could have seen you, or anything!’
    ‘It’s OK, Troy was with me.’ Paul suppressed a snort. ‘The little fuckers took my handbag, my purse, a hundred quid’s worth of fertility drugs and . . .’ Her voice faltered. ‘They took that picture of you and me and your dad the day you were born. It was the only copy.’
    Paul knew the photograph she meant, an overexposed snapshot of the new family in the hospital ward that she kept in a little leather frame. He hadn’t known she still carried it around; the knowledge made him feel warm, like a cuddle, until he heard that his mother was crying. Troy took the receiver.
    ‘Sorry, Paul,’ he said. ‘She’s been really cut up about that photo. She’s missing you a lot and . . . she reckons that losing it was like losing your dad all over again.’ He said it without resentment or jealousy. ‘I’m going to go and look after her now, we’ll call you soon.’ Paul gave Troy his new number; it was repeated back to him twice, no questions asked.
    ‘Well, I’d better get back to your mum. Take care,’ he said. The more Paul thought about Troy, the more he came to view him as a kind of saint. No way would he be able to tolerate being a substitute for the real love of someone’s life.

Chapter 12
    April 1989
    Twenty-three nights, nineteen of them together. For the first time it wasn’t enough to lie there, be beautiful and receive pleasure. Adam demanded reciprocal worship.
    ‘I recognised you as soon as I saw you,’ he said, his hands pinning hers to the bed. ‘We’re two of a kind, you and me. Do you know how rare that is? Sometimes it frightens me.’
    ‘Me too,’ she whispered into his mouth.
    ‘I like it,’ he said, gripping her wrists so tightly that she cried out. ‘Scary’s good. It reminds me I’m alive.’
    The most ridiculous things about him turned her on. The sound of his ring as he set it down on the glass of her bedside table. The way his pelvis seemed made to tessellate with hers. Sometimes she looked down at her breast expecting to see a pulsating cartoon loveheart that she would have to catch and stuff back into her ribcage.
    Adam liked the fact that no one in his world knew about her and no one in her world knew about him.
    ‘When I’m with you no one else exists,’ he said.
    ‘It’s a shame that feeling can’t last forever,’ said Louisa.
    ‘Can’t it?’
    ‘Real life has to intrude at some stage. You’ll meet my parents, I’ll meet the band.’
    ‘I won’t meet your parents,’ he said with a vehemence that surprised her. ‘I don’t do family.’
    ‘Well, at least I’ll get to know the band, I hope.’
    ‘I just hate to burst the bubble. This bit. Like we’re the only man and woman on the planet. Hey, do you know what that means? If I’m Adam, that must make you Eve.’
    ‘ God , that’s cheesy. You can do better than that.’
    ‘Why? I like it. That’s going to be my new name for you: Eve.’
    ‘I bet you say that to all the girls.’
    ‘You are all the girls.’
    Three afternoons and two nights a week he rehearsed. On those nights he did not come to her. If he could, he called, late, to say goodnight. He didn’t have a telephone at

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