The Pact by Brenna Darcy by Brenna Darcy - Read Online

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The Pact - Brenna Darcy

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Prologue

SLOWLY THE COFFIN WAS lowered deep into the hands of the unknown. With every inch of its descent her heart shattered into tiny fragments of despair until it was no more than the spoken word of dust. The sweet melody of Celine Dion’s voice masked the sound of Flic’s cry. A breath caught in her throat, as she gulped back yet another sob.

...ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

The finality of the celebrant’s words ripped through her. Of course, she’d heard them spoken at other funerals, but never had they affected her as they did that day.

A gentle tug at her hand indicated the time to move. Clinging to her mother, Sally, and clutching a delicate white rose, Flic made her way to the edge of the dark host now encumbering the white box. Her vision blurred as tears overflowed, slid down her face, and fell to meet freshly dug earth. The smell of the soil invaded her senses. A wave of nausea washed over her, as she struggled to remain standing.

Why? She wanted to scream, knowing no sound would emerge as her body failed to cooperate with her mind. Instead, the silent cry of anguish left her scathed from the inside out.

The flower fell. Flic wished for unicity with its destination, but life was not so kind to grant it. The promise of misery was her future and no begging or pleading could change that. Flic closed her eyes willing them never to open, but knew when they did the purpose of her being would remain void.

Come Flic, Sally coaxed.

Flic moved far enough from the graves edge to wait as others paid their last respects before approaching her to offer condolences. The process was a blur, one face blended with the next, as did the sincerity of their grief.

The family would like to invite you back to their home for refreshments, the celebrant announced.

Panic took hold and she shook her head as her legs gave way. Sinking to the ground Flic welcomed the cool of the grass on her bare skin and through the thin fabric of her dress. She wasn’t ready to leave. She would never be ready to leave.

Flic, we have to go now love. Sally offered her hand. Flic.

"I can’t, please let me stay with her. Please."

Sally nodded.

When the last person left, and Flic was alone, the events of the past few days played like a show reel, equipped with audio, in her mind.

Ellie’s perfect little face smiled up at her as she applied the finishing touches to her makeup.

You look so pretty Mummy.

Not as pretty as you my angel.

The pain of the memory sliced deep. Flic sunk into the grass until she lay curled up in the foetal position.

She had no one to blame but herself. Jason admitted to having a few bourbons, but promised he wouldn’t drink anymore whilst she was out.

Was it too much to want a night off, to go out with the girls? Her selfishness had cost her everything she held dear. Ellie was gone and never coming back.

Flic knew the cemetery workers would return soon. She didn’t have the strength to witness her baby being buried, but couldn’t leave her alone either. Dragging her weary body to a sitting position she looked around hoping to find somewhere, not too far away, to sit and wait out the inevitable. Spotting a weeping willow she invested the remainder of her energy to stand and walk toward it. Exhausted she leaned against its trunk and slid the distance to the ground. The canopy provided a thick enough layer to obscure her view, but not to conceal her presence entirely.

With head resting back and her eyes closed, she pictured Ellie cupping her cheeks between soft, tiny hands, head tilted forward, touching her nose to Flic’s.

How she longed to hold Ellie in her arms, to savour her touch, the smell of her hair, and warmth of her soft skin. She would do anything—give anything—if only it were possible. What would she do without her? Ellie was her life.

The thought of going home without her was unbearable. The home she’d loved now just a house, the shell of a family that once was. Never would she spend another night there, haunted by the memories of a life lived.

The cemetery grew cold and darker as each minute passed. There was nothing Ellie feared more than the dark. Flic had vowed to protect her, but how was she to keep her promise now?

Everything she cherished was lost to her in a few short hours. Jason, the man she’d trusted above all others, betrayed her, and robbed her of the most precious gift he’d ever given, their daughter. He was as good as dead to her. The man she thought he’d become was a figment of her imagination and one who would no longer play a part in her reality.

IT WASN’T UNTIL HE shook her shoulder that Flic realised Jason was beside her. She hadn’t intended to doze off. The setting of the sun saw the night approaching too quickly and Ellie’s fear of the dark was taken as her own.

Flic honey. Come, I’ll take you home. He gave her another shake. Felicity.

Get away from me. The thought of his hands upon her made her shudder. She’d never forgive him for what he’d done. If Ellie had been in her car seat she’d still be alive. If I’d stayed home she’d still be alive too, her conscience screamed. Oh, how she’d forever blame herself just as much if not more than she did Jason. Guilt tore through her, crippling her ability to completely pass the blame.

Flic, please don’t shut me out.

Rage, fury, repulsion, few of the feelings other than grief and guilt she’d experienced over the past four days, threatened to surface like molten rock. Shut you out, she spat, you’re lucky that’s all I’m doing you murderous bastard. I’ll never forgive you for what you’ve done. You want me to come home with you and leave her here in the cold—in the dark—you of all people know she’s afraid of the dark. She shook her head. I won’t leave her.

"Please. I don’t want to lose you too."

He had some nerve. "You lost me the moment you decided to drive drunk with my baby in your car. You should be locked up for what you did."

You think I don’t wish it were me?

Glaring up at him, she watched as his face crumpled around a fresh stream of tears. 

I wish more than anything it were me.

So do I.

Jason’s tears turned to sobs.

You don’t deserve to die, that’d be too kind.

Jason didn’t respond. With his head hung forward, tears spilled. Flic didn’t care. She hoped he hurt. She loathed him. Bitter resentment filled every inch of her body and if it weren’t for the ever-increasing fatigue, she’d give in to her desire to stand up and inflict as much physical pain on him as she felt emotionally.

Flic be rational, you can’t stay here. His voice cut through her thoughts.

"Rational. You want me to be rational. I buried my little girl today. The little girl I carried for nine months and gave birth to. The little girl who brought more happiness to my life in the four short years I shared with her than anyone—and now she’s gone. A sob caught in her throat. She inhaled. The tears continued to flow. I will never hold her in my arms, or hear her voice, or giggle, or watch her grow up. You did this Jason, you killed her—and you expect me to be rational."

I know. I’m sorry. He groaned, as if each word caused the pain to cut deeper. "Please will you forgive me?"

Never, she snarled. We’re over. I will never be with you again. She wanted to hurt him as much as he’d hurt her, but nothing would ever come close.

Through with talking, she stood and turned her back on him. Nothing he could say or do would change her mind. There was no picking up the pieces now they were shattered beyond repair.

Each step an effort, as though wading through thick sludge, Flic walked over to Ellie’s grave. The groundsmen had completed their work. Mercifully she’d slept through. Lowering herself to the moist grass she curled up alongside the mound of dirt caging her daughter’s body.

Mummy is here, Angel, she whispered. I love you so much, my beautiful Ellie.

The memory of Ellie’s voice chimed like silver bells in her mind, I love you too, Mummy.

Chapter One

GOING THROUGH THE DAILY motions of life wasn’t living, but merely existing. The only consolation being that as each day passed Flic drew nearer to reuniting with Ellie. The cruelty of leaving a mother behind when life no longer offered joy and wholeness was like being denied clean air to breathe.

Flic squinted against the glare reflecting off the large mirror hanging on the wall next to her bed. Too early to suffer such an assault on her eyes, she looked to the alarm clock on her bedside table for confirmation. Her eyes adjusted. Ten twenty three. Flic groaned. She slept through her alarm every morning, why should today be any different? What was the point of getting up, with no job to go to, no child or husband waiting, basically no life beyond the misery now consuming her?

In the distance the phone rang. Her mum would answer it, or else the answering machine. She had nothing to talk about with anyone, and no desire to either. On the few occasions she’d picked up the phone, out of habit rather than desire to speak, it became awkward, sympathy evident in the caller’s tone. Tempted to hang up, but too polite Flic would endure the repetition of hearing how sorry they were and such a shame to lose someone so young. As if she wasn’t already aware.

It’s going to take time Flic, her mum told her. People care about you, you can’t blame them for that.

Flic was aware her mum didn’t approve of the lifestyle changes she’d succumbed to over the past eight months. Her disapproval evident from when she’d all but dragged Flic from the cemetery in the early hours of the morning following Ellie’s funeral. Tough love may have been the approach she was aiming for when she accused Flic of being melodramatic. Or, when she told her to stop making a spectacle of herself and start behaving like an adult. The words still stung.

Flic. Her mum knocked on the door before pushing it open. Jason’s on the phone for you.

Tell him, I’m not home. Flic grumbled. No actually better still tell him, I’m dead, and then maybe he’ll leave me alone.

Jason, she’ll have to call you back, she’s not up yet. She raised her eyebrows then turned and walked away, leaving the bedroom door open.

Flic glared, but remained quiet. Perhaps expecting her mum to lie wasn’t fair, but making her sound so pathetic was hardly loyal either.

Although tempted, staying in bed all day wasn’t an option. Flic forced herself to get up. She never felt well rested anymore even after ten hours of sleep each night.

Good morning, do you want some breakfast?

I’m not hungry.

You’ve lost so much weight, Flic, you should eat something. Some toast perhaps.

Flic ignored her mum’s fussing and poured a cup of the coffee she’d obviously brewed earlier.

Although she appreciated having a place to stay, the need for her own space increased. Smothered and claustrophobic was only the tip of the iceberg.

Jason phoned.

So you said. Flic wasn’t in the mood to talk about him. Psychoanalysing every situation, trying to understand both sides, may have helped her mum come to terms with loosing Ellie, but it didn’t work for Flic. Why couldn’t she accept things for what they were? Plain and simple, he was responsible for killing her granddaughter.

I think talking to him might help, Flic. You could try to work through your differences. She paused, obviously trying to gauge how far to push the topic.

"How many times do I have to tell you? I’m not interested. You talk to him if you’re so concerned."

Okay, okay. She held her hands up as if surrendering. It saddens me to watch the people I love fall apart, as the two of you have.

"What makes me really sad is that bastard killed my daughter and I’m never going to be with her again. Flic tipped the remainder of her coffee into the sink and dropped her mug noisily on top of her mum’s breakfast dishes. I’m going back to bed, I don’t have to put up with this shit."

Flic, I’m sorry. I hate seeing you waste your life like this.

You’re right Mum, you shouldn’t have to. I’ve been thinking that a change of scenery would do me good.

Flic was surprised when her mum smiled.

A holiday is a fabulous idea.

Not a holiday, something more permanent.

Her smile faded. Denial won’t help, Flic.

Maybe it would, although she doubted it. Anything would be better than being under constant surveillance, though.

The conversation was over for the time being. She didn’t need to explain her choices to anyone. Despite her mother being wonderful in so many ways, there came a time when living with your parents was no longer tolerable, and their expiry date had well and truly passed.

The security and comfort of living with her mum was like a hideout, both a blessing and a curse. Those she cared about knew where she was, but never called or dropped by to visit. She preferred it that way. Sally’s home acted as a barrier between her and real life, but more importantly she felt safe from Jason. Her mum may not have approved of Flic avoiding him, and voiced her opinion frequently, but she did try her best to protect Flic from his abuse.

He didn’t take a hint, his obsession with her beyond ridiculous, and enough to convince her of the threat he possessed. His alcohol addiction, as it’d been when they first dated, stimulated bouts of violence and verbal abuse.

Taking out her computer, Flic began searching destinations within four hours of Perth city. Margaret River, a place she’d known and loved made for an easy decision. All she needed was a plan, something realistic to work toward. For too long she’d been wasting away in her mother’s spare bedroom, feeling sorry for herself. She wasn’t proud of her behaviour, but hadn’t known what to do about it, until now.

As a teenager she loved the beach and only stopped surfing because Jason preferred the pub to anything else. Over the years he’d become more social and she managed to drag him away from the bar, but the coast was never of any importance to him.

In order to rediscover herself, and leave the constant painful reminders behind Flic knew there was no better place than Margaret River. Returning to an area that held no memories of Jason, or them as a couple, was exactly where she wanted to be.

Being peak season Flic had no doubt she’d be able to get a job working in one of the many restaurants or cafés in town. She wasn’t fussy and would take whatever she could get. The chance to start afresh was exactly what she needed, and there was nothing to stop her from leaving as soon as the weekend.

She couldn’t wait for a time when she didn’t have to look over her shoulder to ensure Jason wasn’t lurking. To socialise with people who weren’t afraid to have a conversation for fear of saying the wrong thing. The popular holiday town, close to the beach, had the laid back atmosphere she was looking for.

A tiny spark of hope had Flic excited. She was making the right decision.

HAVING A SMALL CAR made packing an easy task, as she only had room for essentials. Flic didn’t need much, and as soon as she was settled in a place of her own she’d organise a removalist to transport the rest of her belongings.

Look Flic, you don’t have to rush this, it hasn’t even been a year.

Mum, you’re the one who’s constantly nagging me to re-join the living. Flic unzipped a suitcase and placed clothes neatly inside.

"I know you think this is for the best, but have you given any thought to how it might affect—

Affect who? Jason? Flic stopped mid fold and let her favourite jacket slip to the floor. How many times do I have to tell you, I’m never going back to Jason. The sooner you realise that the better. I don’t love him. She picked up the jacket, and stuffed it in the case without bothering to refold it. If you care about him so much, you marry him.

The excitement she’d been feeling vanished. The more time she spent with her mum, the less they got along. If for no other reason she wanted to move out to salvage the relationship they once shared. Her plan to leave on the weekend now seemed too far off, the following day a more appealing option.

I have no interest in fighting with you, Flic, I love you and want you to be happy.

Good, then stop trying to tell me what’s best for my life. I have to do this my own way.

She nodded her head, and, although Flic recognised it as forced, she smiled. Fair enough. I’m sorry. I don’t want to lose you. You of all people should understand what it’s like to lose someone they care about. She crossed the room and embraced Flic in an awkward hug.

A commotion outside interrupted the moment. Flic didn’t need to see him to know that Jason was responsible for causing the ruckus.

Oh for Christ sake, why won’t he take a hint? Fed up with Jason’s persistence, she stepped away from her mum, as he bashed on the front door, and yelled to ensure he was heard. I’m going to tell him to get lost and then I’m coming back in here to finish packing. I’m leaving tomorrow morning.

Flic stormed through the house like a mad person on a mission, she intended to create such a scene he’d wish he hadn’t set foot on the property.

When she flung the front door open Jason looked up and smiled. I knew you wouldn’t stay locked in there forever. He stepped back, hands wedged into his pockets, and looked her over like a breeder would a stud horse, then took a step forward.

You come anywhere near me and I’ll call the police.

Jason hesitated, and then stopped.

I came out here to tell you I’m leaving because of you, and as soon as I can file for divorce I will, but until then if you don’t rack off and leave my family alone I’ll take a restraining order out against you and drag your arse through court until you’ve nothing left but the clothes on your back, do you understand?

Jason stared at her in obvious shocked. I just wanted to tell you I love you, and that I’ll change.

"Fuck off, Jason. I don’t love you, so leave me alone." Turning around Flic went back inside, closed the door and locked it. Spying out the peephole, she saw him pause a moment before turning to walk away. That was too easy. Flic waited for the abuse, the throwing of pot plants, or kicking of cars, but it never came.

Her mum was standing in the hallway, the look of disapproval on her face again.

Maybe marriage counselling would’ve been a kinder next step Flic.

Mum, just because you’re a shrink doesn’t mean someone in your profession can fix what’s happened, nor can they erase the past. I’ll never forgive him and I don’t want to talk to anyone about it. I just need to get away from here.

Running away won’t erase the past either, you have to deal with it or it’ll haunt you forever.

"Can’t you be a mother for once and leave the shrink at the office, please. I have faced it. Every morning I wake up without Ellie, I face it. It’ll haunt me forever no matter how many therapists I go to. I want her back, and no one can make that happen. Why can’t you understand?"

Sally drew in a deep breath. She wasn’t going to win this round. All right then, where will you go, what will you do for work?

I’m not sure about the work yet, I’ll clean houses if I have to. Flic paused not wanting to upset her mother. I can’t stay here. I don’t want to deal with him anymore.

Maybe you could get a teaching job in the country. You always wanted to, whilst you were studying.

I’m not going back to teaching. Flic knew she would never be able to face a class full of students when the only child she desired to see was Ellie. She couldn’t stand to watch parents say goodbye every morning, or the student’s faces light up when they arrived to collect them each afternoon. The way they would run into their mother’s arms for the security provided from a hug, so happy to see them at the end of each day.

She couldn’t do it.

How she’d delighted in the surge of immense love for her little girl every day she’d been a mother. Picking her up from kindergarten, she missed the look of pride on Ellie’s face every time she handed over the masterpiece she’d created during their time apart. The smell of fresh poster paint on butcher paper, the sticky feeling of too much glue on her box worked creations. To go back to teaching was yet another reminder she was no longer a mother, that she could no longer offer the security with something as simple as a loving embrace. She’d failed to protect her daughter, and would suffer the consequences for the rest of her life.

Flic went back to her packing.

By ten o’clock she was finished. Not wanting to waste any time she dragged the suitcases and bags into the front entry ready to take out to her car. When stacked together she wondered how they’d fit in her little hatchback. Even folding the seats forward there wasn’t a lot of room.

We can load the car in the morning. It’s too late now, and I’m going to bed.

Okay, goodnight then.

Sally narrowed her eyes, and Flic knew she’d been expecting her to protest. Goodnight.

Waiting five minutes before opening the front door, Flic struggled with the first of the two suitcases. The smaller bags would be easy to carry, but couldn’t be put in the car until the large cases were in place. With the first one left to prop open the flyscreen door, Flic went back for the other. Once outside, with the front door closed, she was able to roll the cases along the path to the driveway. That was the easy part. Manoeuvring them to fit like puzzle pieces in the back of her car was going to be difficult.

Having forgotten to turn the driveway light on, the car was mostly in darkness. For this load she’d make do with the interior lights. Folding the seats forward created a more workable space. Grateful for the lack of light, hiding her less than graceful struggle with the heavy cases, as she heaved them into place.

Stepping back, the satisfaction of managing both cases on her own was evident by the smile on her face. Who needed a man for the heavy jobs? Turning around to fetch the rest of the bags Flic jumped. Jason, you scared me.

Leaning against the wall of the house, he was blocking the path to the front door. How often did he do this? Lurk around in the night waiting for an opportunity to pounce?

Flic, baby, I miss you. Don’t keep doing this, come home with me. His words slurred as he begged.

You’re drunk, Jason, go home. I’m not going anywhere with you.

He reached out with one hand, but didn’t touch her. Aww, don’t be like that.

You seem to forget, I’m capable of making my own decisions. You’re drunk, and in no state to be driving. You wishing another death on your hands? Flic couldn’t stop the venomous outbursts that seemed to arise whenever Jason was involved. The attack she launched on him achieved nothing, but the smell of alcohol and his suggestion to drive infuriated her. The compassion she