Dirty Bad Wrong

By: Jade West


Chapter One


Lydia



Six Months earlier.



Sicked up onto the pavement of single and homeless at twenty-three years old. I knew I must be hurting, even though I couldn’t feel a thing. Shock, I guess. Shell shock.

My toes tapped against the suitcase wedged under my desk. It wouldn’t quite fit in the footwell, sticking out like a big red beacon for the entire office to see on arrival. LYDIA MARSH IS SINGLE, it screamed, HER LIFE JUST GOT FUCKED. I died a little at the thought. I’ve no time for tea and sympathy; the nosey intrusion of strangers in the guise of friendship. Slaverings of pity laid on thick, pitted eyebrows and there theres. No thank you.

I breathed in the empty room; soaking up the empty desks in the eerie pre-work silence. It was still dark outside, London only just stirring as the faint kiss of dawn teased the skyline.

Single. Homeless. Screwed.

My mobile buzzed in my pocket, but this time I didn’t even reach for it. I’d no need of his bullshit messages, I already knew what they’d say.

Come home, Lyds, please come home. Please don’t leave me.

A twinge of sadness pinched my insides. Home. The home we’d shared, the home in which we’d laughed and fucked and made plans together. The home I’d called ours. But it wasn’t ours, not really. When push came to shove it was all Stuart’s. His name on the mortgage, his furniture in every room, his goddamn history there before mine. It hadn’t seemed a big deal. Why should it? I figured we were in for the long haul, for 2.5 kids and a joint bank account.

I thought Stu would always be there. But no.

One drunken night at a sales conference had put paid to that. I’d been home sleeping while he’d been out fucking. Carly Winters, admin junior. Bottle blonde, with a slightly orange hue and too much mascara. The absolute opposite of me. She looked Barbie-doll fake, plastic and insincere, but I guess he didn’t think so.

I’d never have known, not if he hadn’t been too drunk to put a rubber on it.

Oh my God, Lyds, she’s pregnant! She’s fucking pregnant!

I should’ve lost my temper, lashed out and kneed him where it hurts, but anger was a no-show. I listened to the whole sorry string of apologies without so much as a whimper, no hint of breakdown. No all-consuming rage. Nothing.

Don’t do this, Lydia, don’t block me out! Get angry! Scream, Lyddie, please! Hit me! Anything!

I’d gone to bed. Shut him out and waited for tears to find me. Tears never came, just the itches. Spidery itches, dancing under my scars and begging for the razor blade. It had been years since the calling found me, years since I’d taken a blade to my own skin.

Not again.

Not anymore.

In the early hours, sick of the insomnia, I’d packed a single lowly suitcase while he followed me around, begging and pleading and grovelling for forgiveness. It wasn’t a case of forgiveness. Forgiveness I could manage, after all, all people do stupid things, even the good ones. I’ve known that fact as long as I’ve known my mother… as long as I’ve been old enough to make excuses for her… as long as I’ve been old enough to try and make it all better again.

I could forgive Stuart for his stupid indiscretion but I could never stay. We weren’t blood, not like Mum and me. We weren’t bound by flesh and bone and years of responsibility. Stuart and I were done, just like that. Over.

He’d asked where I was going, like he didn’t know. Work, of course. Keep calm and carry the fuck on; smile through the pain like strong little Lydia always does. Anyway, I had nowhere else to go. Sad but true. One long-term friend from uni in my immediate circle, a couple of acquaintances not worth shit, and my mother back home. I’d have to call on Steph and hope we were still close enough that she’d offer me a sofa until I could get myself straight.

Just stay, Lydia, I’ll move out, I’ll stay on the sofa, anything. Just until you’re settled. Just think about it, Lyddie, you don’t need to do this! I don’t love her!

I turned off my mobile and dumped it in a drawer, then tried again to shove my case out of sight. It was no use. The thing wouldn’t budge, determined to show its big bold face to the world. I gave up and swept the hair back from my eyes, dark, wet strands clinging to my fingers. I was still soaked through from the downpour outside. Cold enough for the chill to break through the numbness, until I was craving my bed at home, the tangle of Stu’s limbs as we snoozed the alarm clock, his sandy hair like a bird’s nest against the pillow.

The hitch in my breath surprised me, the unmistakeable wedge of a lump in my throat. I could hardly recall the sensation, hardly remember the last time I’d cried. I broke for the kitchen on shaky legs, driven by desire to outrace the pain. Maybe I could scald it to nothing with a hot cup of black, burn it away before the itches came back for me. I took out a mug and flicked on the kettle, staring out of the window at the office buildings beyond. My reflection in the glass looked as tired as I felt, sunken eyes peering from sallow sockets. I stepped forward, leaning onto the worktop to check more closely. My eyes appeared even paler than usual, the green of my irises hardly more than a pastel wash, and watery. My eyes were watery.

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