One week later I stood beside my bed, slowly placing my things inside my bag. I was finally going home - I felt like I’d been trapped in this hospital for months. Sophia’s jaw dropped as I finished telling her every detail of the time Bruno and I had spent together that afternoon. Narrowing her eyes at me, she grinned. “So you liked it then?” Bruno mused, cradling me in his arms as we both lay on the couch. I laughed softly and dug my elbow into his stomach. My father left my mother and I for another woman when I was seven years old. She was a gorgeous, successful woman, much younger than my mother and I hated her for taking him away from us. I hated him too for doing this to us - I thought he loved me. I thought he loved my mum. I remember the night he left so vividly in my head. Coming downstairs one night to see his bags piled up by the door and my mother in the lounge room crying was the worst thing I’d ever seen. I could never have seen it coming, I thought we were the perfect family. Daddy kissed me on the head before leaving and said, “I’ll see you soon Val.” I hadn’t seen him since then. He never came back. He didn’t call, or make any effort to maintain his relationship with me. He just ..left. ———————-
“Val! You ready?!” Soph called from the door, standing behind a wheelchair. “Your mum’s in the car.”
“Mmm.” I responded quietly, my neck still too stiff for me to turn around and look at her. Everything still hurt. And I was still angry.. At myself mostly, for driving..being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I felt like it was my fault. It didn’t help me knowing someone died because they hit our car.
Bruno had been discharged two days after the accident, the morning after I came out of my …coma. I hadn’t seen him since he went home and I couldn’t help but wonder why. I sort of … missed him. I wanted to see him sitting at my bedside, holding my hand like he’d been doing every minute of the weekend that passed. I didn’t know why I wanted that. Just like I didn’t know why I cared about how I looked, or how I behaved around him. I’d never felt like that before, about anyone, especially someone I had only just met. But there was .. something there. I felt it.
I backed slowly into the wheelchair Soph brought for me, and reached out for her to pass me my bag. I breathed a sigh of relief as she wheeled me out of that room for the last time.
Later that afternoon, I lay in my bed chatting with Sophia about what had been happening on the outside while I was imprisoned. I heard a quiet knock on the door and Kenji stuck his head into my room, his face lighting up as he saw me smiling for the first time since the crash.
“Someone’s here to visit you!” He said, smiling back at me.
He pushed open the door to let Bruno walk into my room. I kept myself from looking up at him, instead keeping my eyes fixed on my hands playing with the bed sheets.
Sophia pulled herself off the bed and made her way out of the room, putting her hand on Bruno’s shoulder as she passed him. We were alone.
“What are you doing here?” I mumbled, my eyes still looking down at my hands. My heart skipped a beat as I felt him sit beside me, curling his legs underneath him.
“Your mum let us in, she said —”
“But you didn’t visit me. Not once since you got out.” I interrupted, confused at the feelings that were taking over.
“You’re mad at me?! I didn’t visit you ‘cause I didn’t wanna intrude.” He explained. “I mean … we only met last week Val. I thought you’d wanna spend more time with your mum. And your best friends.”
“Bruno, I —”
“But don’t think I wasn’t thinking about you. I was. Everyday.” He whispered. I felt his eyes on me, and I began to cry.
Idiot! I screamed at myself in my head as I felt his arms slip gently around my shoulders to hug me. I let myself fall into him, letting my emotions run free.
Some time passed before Bruno spoke again, abruptly breaking our long silence.
“I wrote a song while I was still in hospital.”
I slowly pushed myself out of his lap to look at him, smiling for the first time since he came.
“Can I hear it?” I asked, wiping my cheeks dry.
“How about I come over tomorrow? I’ll bring the guitar, show you then.” He suggested. I happily giggled at the idea of us together, alone.
“I’d like that.” I answered, brushing my long black hair out of my face to reveal a happy smile, my eyes still glassy from the tears.
“I’m in the studio in the morning with the guys, but I’ll be here straight after. I’ll call you.” With that, he moved off the bed to leave, my hand still interlocked with his.
I tightened my grip and whispered, “Don’t leave yet.”
“Tomorrow Val. I’ll be back.”
He lifted my hand, and looked at me with his big brown eyes before once again gently pressing it against his warm lips. I sighed as he pulled away to leave, still keeping my grip and pulling him back to me. Caressing my cheek, he lifted my chin, our noses almost touching. I could feel the warmth of his breath brushing over my lips as he moved closer to push his lips gently against mine. I sighed as he pulled away, moving off my bed once again to leave.
“I’ll see you tomorrow Val.” He said softly as he continued to slowly back away, flashing the smile that I loved to see.
He left me lying in my bed, eyes closed as I relived our time together in my head. I opened my eyes as I heard the door fly open, turning my head to see Sophia standing with her hands against the door her eyes widening. She slammed the door shut and let out a squeal of excitement as she jumped on the end of my bed.
“Vaaaaaaaaaal! Bruno left with the biggest smile on his face, girl what did you do to him?!” She demanded.
I laughed at her excitement for me, my heart still beating through my chest.
He knows how to leave me wanting more. Argh.
Sophia poked me, still wanting to know every detail of the time I’d spent with Bruno while he was with me.
“Well…” I began, the thoughts of the past few hours consuming my mind…
“I knew it Val. I knew it!” She said quickly, her excitement getting the better of her. “Isabel knew too, she saw it. Even Kenji..”
“Soph, we —” I tried to interject before she cut me off again.
“Kenji told me about when you two met at the party! He said you had,” she paused to sigh heavily before lowering her voice to a whisper. “Instantchemistry.”
I rolled my eyes at her cries of happiness, I could have sworn she was happier about this than I was.
“I’m seeing him tomorrow.” I told her, unable to keep the smile off my face.
“Ooooh Val!” She shrieked, grabbing my hands. “Oh Val, I’m so happy.”
I laughed softly as Sophia’s voice became nothing more than a noise in my mind, my thoughts trailing off to what tomorrow would bring.
Hearing the voice behind her, the little girl turned around suddenly to see a vivacious, womanly silhouette towering over her. Pushing herself off of her knees, she collapsed into the woman’s arms, feeling her fingers running through her thick black hair.
“Is he coming back?” She whispered, her face buried in the woman’s clothes.
“I don’t know baby, I don’t know..” The woman replied softly as she lowered herself onto the ground, placing the little girl in her lap. They both began to cry.
Slowly lifting her gaze, she noticed someone walking toward them. Walking turned into running. He began to call to them.
“Valeria!” Mama called up the stairs as I rubbed my eyes open. Sophia was lying next to me, her head buried amongst the pillows. Ma opened my bedroom door and walked in as I sat up in my bed, stretching my arms above my head. Last night was the best sleep I’d had in more than a week, there really was nothing like being back in my own bed.
“Honey, I’m leaving in a couple minutes. Are you sure you’ll be okay, just you and Soph?”
My mother was amazing during this whole nightmare. She put her life on hold for me - taking two weeks off work and moving in with us for however long we needed her. I loved her more than anything, but I didn’t want to burden her anymore so I nodded.
“We’ll be fine Ma. I’ll call you.”
She smiled and kissed the top of my head, then looked past me at Sophia fast asleep beside me. She blew a kiss to her and whispered goodbye.
“I think she loves your bed more than her own.” she joked, laughing between her words.
“Well, my bed is bigger than hers.” I paused. “Ma, I bet you anything she was in here while I was cooped up in the hospital.” I responded in all seriousness. Sophia did like my bed better, she was always bloody in it.
Mama nodded her head in agreement, still laughing at my room mate’s snores from underneath my pillows.
“I love you Val. I’ll come and see you soon.” Mama said, her chin resting on my head, her arms wrapped lovingly around me.
“I love you too mama.” I called after her as she closed the door behind her to leave. I slowly got up as I heard her car leave our driveway, shoots of pain blasting through my body with every effort to get up. I lay back down, my head facing Sophia as she slowly opened her eyes and yawned.
“Hungry?” she asked.
Typical. No ‘good morning’ or ‘how was your sleep’, she was always hungry.Always.
I smiled as Sophia opened her mouth to speak.
“Waffles?” I suggested before she could say anything.
“Read my mind. You’re too good Val.” She acknowledged, crawling out of bed to make her way to the kitchen.
I glanced at the clock on the wall of the lounge, eagerly waiting for Bruno to walk through my front door. 12.51pm. Any minute.. Sophia had left hours before, leaving me to have my ‘space’ with him. At that moment, I felt my phone vibrate violently against my leg. It was Bruno.
“Bruno,” I laughed into the phone, still unable to contain my excitement.
“Val, we’re still in the studio, we got something good here!” He paused, hearing my heavy sighs of disappointment from the other end. “I’ll be there in a couple hours, promise. Can you wait for me?” He quickly added.
Promise. Ugh. Where had I heard that before. I thought, getting more annoyed by the second. I listened to the music being played, and the shouts of happiness coming from the other guys in the background before answering.
“Well, I can’t really go anywhere anyway, can I? I guess I’ll have to.”
“Thanks beautiful,” he breathed quietly into the phone. “I will be there.”
And with that he hung up, leaving the dial tone ringing softly in my ear.
Beautiful? I hadn’t been called that for a long time. By someone who wasn’t my mother, or my friends. I really hoped there was something special about him. I wanted something special. Lowering my head back onto the couch, I closed my eyes and waited.
I opened my eyes to hear knocks on my front door. I sat up and looked back at the clock again. 1.45pm.
“Val!” Bruno’s voice called from behind the door.
“It’s open!” I called back. It took a lot for me to get up; I was still in too much pain to move properly.
Bruno stuck his head through the door and grinned. Closing the door behind him, he made his way to the couch where I was waiting for him and slowly wrapped his arms around me, his warm breath tickling my neck.
“I have to show you this.” He whispered into my ear. Kissing me on the cheek, he pulled away and shuffled over to the baby grand piano in the corner of the lounge room. Slowly opening the lid, he let his hands run gently over the keys, his eyes examining every part of my favourite instrument.
”This piano… is beautiful.” he said into the air, his passion for music shining through. My eyes were fixated on his hands, gliding across the keys as he began to sing.
Hands over my head, thinking what else could go wrong?
Would’ve stayed in bed, how can a day be so long?
Never believed that things happen for a reason
But how this turned out, you moved all my doubts, I believe
That for you I’ll do it all over again
Do it all over again
All I went through, led me to you
So I’d do it all over again
Oh who ever thought a day gone so wrong
Could turn out so lovely
Yeah I’m so glad I found you
Even though the day went so wrong
I wouldn’t change a thing
My eyes began to well up with tears - but this time I cried happy tears. The week and a half that had just passed had been the most emotional time I’ve ever had to go through. I was still so fragile, but this was the first time I criedhappy tears since the accident. No one had ever done this for me before, and it amazed me at why he would write this.. For me. I managed a smile as he finished singing and turned to look at me.
“You wrote that …” I struggled to speak, overwhelmed at the what I’d just heard.
“For you.” He finished my sentence, a sparkle in his eyes as he said it.
I was finally getting what I wanted. Something special..
“I hated it!” I said, imitating the voice he made after he heard me playing his guitar.
“Ha. Alright, alright..” He shot back in mock disappointment. I looked up at him and winked. He began to run his hands gently over the cuts that remained from the crash, soothing the pain that still dominated my body. “How you feeling anyway?” he whispered into my hair.
“Perfect. I feel … perfect.” I whispered back, tipping my head back again to look at him, a satisfied smile coming over my face. I hadn’t felt this happy in weeks, and I hadn’t felt this way about anyone in … a long time; this was bliss. He bent his head down to touch mine and kissed me again for the millionth time that afternoon. Pulling away reluctantly, I stared into his big brown eyes. They were so beautiful. I began to examine every part of his angelic face, unable to believe that right now he was mine. I reached up to his face to run my fingers through his thick black hair.
“Stay for dinner?” I asked, my fingers still playing with his curls.
He laughed softly and kissed me again. I could get used to this.. I was loving every second.
“Valeria!” The voice continued to get louder and louder, as the silhouette moved closer to them. Just as the light was about to reveal this person to the little girl and her mother, they faded. Into thin air. The little girl’s cries grew louder, turning into screams of inconsolable distress.”Come back…” She whispered into the thin night air once again.
I opened my eyes to see that night had already fallen. How long had I been asleep? The warmth of Bruno’s arms wrapped around me was so comforting, I didn’t want to move at all. The careful rise and fall of his chest was so relaxing, slowly rocking me back to sleep with every breath. I lifted my head to look over the top of the couch, to see a dim light coming from the kitchen, the sounds of clashing pots and pans the only noise in the house. Sophia slowly creeped into the lounge and leant over us both.
“Valeria… I’m cooking! Bruno, get your ass up and help her to the table!” She spoke loudly, waking Bruno up from his sleep. I laughed and pushed her away playfully, pushing myself out of Bruno’s lap. He touched my hand softly, prompting me to turn around and look at him.
“You were kind of crying again in your sleep. Or something. Val, you sure you’re okay?” He said, a look of concern on his face.
I sighed, remembering the recurring dreams that had been haunting me for weeks.
Why… I thought to myself, struggling to hold back the tears that came every time I thought about it.
“We’ll talk later.” I responded quietly as I pulled myself toward the edge of the couch to get up.
After dinner, Bruno and Soph stood at the sink, Bruno humming the song he had written for me earlier.
“What you singing?” Soph asked as Bruno put away the last of the dishes.
“I’ll let Val fill you in on that.” He said, looking back at me as I sat at the table, my legs resting on one of the chairs. “I gotta get going, big day for us tomorrow.”
“Us? What?” I called from the table.
“Not us as in you and me. Us as in The Smeezingtons!” He responded happily.
“The… Smeezi—” I began to question out loud.
“Yes Val,” he paused to smile at me. “The Smeezingtons. Phil, Ari and me. Thats what we call ourselves.”
I laughed at the name they’d come up with for their production team, it was … original, to say the least.
“Nice um.. name.” Sophia laughed as she finished up, slapping Bruno’s back with the towel she’d been using to dry the dishes. She took the words right out of my mouth.
“We thought so too.” He said, taking no notice of the sarcasm Soph put into her voice.
“So Bruno, what are The Smeezingtons up to tomorrow?” I teased, still laughing at him.
“The Smeezingtons…” he began, pausing and grinning at us, keeping us in suspense. “have a meeting with the A&R executive at Motown Records!” he almost squealed in excitement.
“You’re what?! Shut up…” I screamed in disbelief. I had no idea he was so close to getting his foot in the door. Bruno picked up his jacket off the the table and slipped it on, then walked to me and put his baby soft hands on my face.
“Don’t get too ahead of yourself babe. We’re trying not to get our hopes up.”
“We’re confident. But not over confident. This is a big deal Val, and we don’t wanna screw it up.” He explained, bending his body towards my face once again, and kissing me lightly. “I’ll call you tomorrow. Let you know how it goes.”
And with that, he turned on his heel and started walking toward the door.
“You better!” I called after him.
He turned and nodded before opening the door.
“Bye Soph!” He shouted.
“Byeeee!” She yelled back, waving after him. She jumped to sit on the kitchen bench, staring at me, raising her eyebrows when she caught my eye.
“That was cute.”
I rolled my eyes at her again, pushing myself slowly out of my chair. Sophia moved to help me walk, but I was determined to stay independent. I loved my friends, but I wasn’t gonna start depending on them.
“Soph it’s okay, I wanna do this on my own.”
I noticed my phone on the kitchen bench vibrate and slowly limped over to check it. Baby steps Val, baby steps. I kept reminding myself as I struggled to walk. Sophia watched my every move as I stretched my arm to reach my phone. My heart skipped a beat as I read the text message Bruno had sent me.
Lunch tomorrow? I’ll take you out after the meeting. X
I almost jumped as I felt breathing on my shoulder.
“Shit Soph! Don’t sneak up on me like that!” I sneered as she peered over my shoulder to read Bruno’s text, flinging my arm behind me to hit her. She giggled and hugged me tight.
“He wants to see you tomorrow?! Aww Val!” She exclaimed as she let go of me and turned to sit back on the kitchen bench.
At that moment, the doorbell rang. Sophia turned around to run to the door, but I stopped her. I wanted to walk to the door myself to test my strength, to see if I could walk the length of our house. I felt like I could do it. With every step I took toward the door, I started to gain more confidence - this was the most I had moved in two weeks. I slowly placed my hand on the doorknob, a wave of relief coming over me as I realised I had walked properly to the other side of the house, by myself.
I froze as I saw who stood in front of me. My heart dropped and my eyes widened at the sight of the last person I’d ever expect to see at my doorstep. Not in a million years. My eyes once again quickly began to fill up with tears.
So to see the man that had abandoned us, on my doorstep was a … shock, to say the least.
“What are you doing here.” I said coldly, my eyes glued to the ground. I couldn’t look at him.
“Valeria, look at you. You’re beautiful, you’re so —”
“Answer my question. Why are you here?”
There was a pause as he raised him arm to rest on my shoulder. I flinched and stepped back. I didn’t want him touching me.
“I had to see you. I miss my daughter.” He said quietly. “I heard you were in an accident and I —”
“You miss me?! I haven’t see you for thirteen fucking years!” I almost yelled at him, banging my fist against the door in frustration.
“Just go. Please.” I muttered, my voice filled with anger. I kept my gaze locked on my feet.
Before turning to leave, he reached out to give me a piece of paper with his number on it.
“If you change your mind.. I’d really like to get to know my daughter again.” And with that, he turned around and walked to his car.
Nice car… I thought to myself. That Mercedes was beautiful. What had he been doing all these years? When he left us, he had next to nothing.
“Good to see you’re getting what you wanted.” I whispered under my breath, an incredible amount of sarcasm filling me. He left us, and for what? Expensive cars, a trophy wife?
I flung the door shut, my eyes still overflowing with tears of anger.. confusion .. and frustration. I didn’t know what to feel. I turned around to lean my back on the door and let myself fall to the ground, scrunching up the piece of paper he had left in my hand. Sophia appeared from behind the kitchen wall, questions circling her eyes.
“Who was that Val? What happened?” She whispered as she knelt down beside me, her long arms wrapping themselves around my body to comfort me.
“That bastard!” Sophia cried as she stuck a spoon into the tub of ice cream we were sharing between us on her bedroom floor. “Who the fuck does he think he is?! He can’t just come back here like this…”
I sighed heavily and lay myself onto the carpet, listening to her rant on about our late night visitor.
“He left you! And your mum! The two most amazing people in the world, and now he wants you back?!” She continued to yell, shoving the spoonful of ice cream into her mouth.
“If he ever comes back here, I swear Val..” She muttered quietly, slamming her fist on the floor. “Forget him. I’m going to bed.” She said suddenly, getting up and throwing herself onto her bed.
I slowly picked myself up off the floor and stood at her bedside.
“I don’t care Soph. I got everything right here.” I said with a smile, reminding myself of what I was blessed enough to have. I couldn’t have cared less. I had everything I wanted; I had the house, the friends, the best mum in the world.. And now Bruno. Everything was perfect, and I wasn’t going to let someone like that waltz in and ruin it all. He wasn’t my father. He chose not to be that person when he left.
“Damn straight baby.” She winked at me and curled up under her blankets.
Just as I was about to close her door, she called after me.
“Val? If I don’t see you tomorrow.. Good luck with your lover!” She laughed wildly as I slammed the door, laughing at her all the way down the hall to my room.
In the spot where the silhouette had vanished into thin air, appeared a tall, slender woman. Dressed in sky high heels and a beautiful blue sundress, she played with her blonde hair in front of the little girl and her mother. The smug look on her heavily made up face was enough to turn their cries of sadness into cries of intense anger. As the little girl’s mother began to scream, the blonde’s smiles turned into laughter. Her evil laughs echoed in the little girl’s ears, prompting the tears to fall faster, and her cries to grow louder. The woman took big strides toward the two and bent down to face the little girl. She leant over and whispered into her ear..
“I win, Valeria. I win.”
And with that, she pushed herself up and walked away into the distance, her cries of laughter fading with every step..
The warm rays of morning sunlight touched my face as I rubbed my eyes open. Reaching out to my bedside table, I grabbed my phone to check my messages. One message from mum read:
Val, call me when you get this. Love mum.
I rolled my eyes and buried myself under the blankets. The second message was what made me smile.
Good morning beautiful. I’ll pick you up around 1 x
I hadn’t woken up to a message like that in so long. He made me feel so special, so confident. I missed feeling like that, it was great.
Sitting up in bed, I dialled my mothers number.
“Val? Morning honey.”
“Morning mama,” I yawned into the phone. “What’s up?”
“Sophia messaged me last night. Your father’s back?” Her voice cracked as she said that word … father.
“Mmm. Yeah. I don’t think he’ll be back though. I hope not.” I said, remembering the events from last night.
“You okay baby?”
“I’m fine, Ma.” I answered back with a smile.
“Just making sure Val. I gotta get back to work,” she paused to sigh. “But call me if he shows up again.” She suggested.
“Mmm. Love you Ma.” I whispered, still smiling.
As one o’clock fast approached, I sat on my bed, staring into my wardrobe. I was so excited to get out of the house, it was the first time I’d left since I got home from the hospital and I wanted to have the perfect afternoon. As I pulled on some black skinny jeans, and threw on a baggy white t shirt and a gold pendant, I heard a car horn sounding from down below. Running to the window, I moved past the curtains and onto the balcony to see Bruno, sitting on the bonnet of his car, waving at me. His smile made my heart soar, and I couldn’t wait for our time together. I bit my lip and waved back before running back inside, grabbing my bag on my way out. Before stepping out the front door, I stood in front of the mirror adjusting every part of my outfit to perfection. I breathed a sigh of happiness, ready to forget the night before as I stepped out the door. Bruno jumped off his car at the sight of me, opening the door and directing me inside. I laughed and slowly walked down the stairs to make my way toward him.
Grabbing my waist and pulling my body toward his, he smiled as he leant in.
“Hi,” he said quietly, before gently touching his soft lips to mine. As he pulled away, a man standing at the corner of the block caught my eye. His eyes met mine as he walked slowly to his black Mercedes. My body froze and I became stiff in Bruno’s arms. Bruno moved my hair out of my face and touched my cheek with the back of his hand.
“Val? Are you okay?” He questioned as he whipped his head around to follow my gaze. Why is he here again..
I quickly snapped out of my startled state and forced a smile. Nodding my head, I gave him a peck on the lips before moving to sit in the car.
One week later
I stood beside my bed, slowly placing my things inside my bag. I was finally going home - I felt like I’d been trapped in this hospital for months.
Sophia’s jaw dropped as I finished telling her every detail of the time Bruno and I had spent together that afternoon. Narrowing her eyes at me, she grinned.
“So you liked it then?” Bruno mused, cradling me in his arms as we both lay on the couch. I laughed softly and dug my elbow into his stomach.
My father left my mother and I for another woman when I was seven years old. She was a gorgeous, successful woman, much younger than my mother and I hated her for taking him away from us. I hated him too for doing this to us - I thought he loved me. I thought he loved my mum. I remember the night he left so vividly in my head. Coming downstairs one night to see his bags piled up by the door and my mother in the lounge room crying was the worst thing I’d ever seen. I could never have seen it coming, I thought we were the perfect family. Daddy kissed me on the head before leaving and said, “I’ll see you soon Val.” I hadn’t seen him since then. He never came back. He didn’t call, or make any effort to maintain his relationship with me. He just ..left.