“You fucking bitch!”
I lunge at my friend but am held back by the arms wrapped around my waist.
“Emilia,” Reuben yells, “Calm down!”
“As if,” I hiss, jabbing an aggressive finger at the woman I want to pummel. “You think you can kiss my boyfriend and get away with it?”
“Oh, please, Emilia,” Sarah laughs patronisingly. “If Reuben has to make out with other girls it’s obviously because he isn’t getting what he needs from you.”
Her words make my blood boil and Reuben, sensing my rage, tightens his hold around my waist.
“You would know all about what a man needs, wouldn’t you, Sarah?” I sneer at her. “I suppose as London’s Number One Slut you’ve has a lot of incentive to do your research!”
Her face flushes red with anger.
“You take that back,” she demands - and now it’s my turn to laugh.
“Nope,” I say, “Sorry, the truth doesn’t give refunds.”
“Can both of you just please stop shouting?” My boyfriend’s voice barely reaches my ears above the thumping music. “You’re going to get us kicked out of the club.”
I turn my attention to him, enraged.
“I can’t believe you kissed her!”
“I didn’t kiss her,” he argues defensively. ”She kissed me. It was an accident, babe.”
“An accident?” Sarah gasps. “That’s not what you said last time.”
“Last time?!” I shriek. “This has happened before?”
“What-? No, of course not.” Reuben’s voice comes out high-pitched and panicked.
“Have you slept with her?” I demand.
He and Sarah both answer in unison and I feel the betrayal sink its poisonous hooks into my heart.
“Babe, look,” Reuben begins in desperation, “I was drunk and it was just the once. It meant nothing. She means nothing. I love yo-”
He is cut off by my hand slapping him hard across the face. Shocked, he gawks at me as I turn on my heel and head for the exit.
My palm burns and so do my eyes but I can’t tell whether it’s the tears or just the alcohol.
When I finally make it out of the bustling nightclub and onto the street, I feel relieved. But my respite doesn’t last long because soon Reuben is by my side, having followed me out.
“Em,” he says, grabbing ahold of my wrist. I try to yank my arm away but he tightens his grip.
“Please, babe,” he continues, “Just let me explain.”
“Let go!” I shove him in the chest with all of my strength and he stumbles back, releasing my wrist.
“You don’t have to walk me home,” I screech at him, earning a few curious glances from people queuing up outside the club. “Because you’re dumped!”
Reuben doesn’t try to stop me this time and just watches as I walk away.
When I arrive home almost an hour later, my father is waiting to ambush me.
“Where the hell have you been, young lady?”
He is standing in the kitchen doorway, hands on his hips, and still wearing his suit from work, which I think is hilarious.
“Out,” I answer whilst shrugging off my jacket. My dad isn’t amused by my smartarse reply.
“It’s two o’clock in the morning, Emilia,” he barks. “Your mother was worried sick. No phone call, no text. She had no idea where you were and I had to come home early from the office to calm her down.”
“Well, that must’ve been a huge inconvenience for you,” I remark snidely. “Although I’m surprised you even bothered. You have never cared about what I get up to before unless it interferes with your precious work.”
“How dare you,” he says, voice deepening with anger. “My work is important. You will never know how much so.”
“Whatever,” I retort, not wanting to listen to the same old spew I have heard a million times before of how important his job is, and turn to trudge up the stairs, but my father isn’t finished.
“We’re not done talking, young lady,” he tells me.
“Yes, we are,” I snap, resisting the urge to use the words fuck off, which would only make this confrontational exchange go one for longer than necessary.
“You’ve been drinking,” he says. It isn’t a question. He can probably smell the vodka from here.
“Yeah,” I say. “So what?”
“Did you travel home alone tonight?” he asks. “Drunk and dressed like that?”
A sudden flood of tears, hot and heavy, threatens to consume me but I manage to hold it back. I won’t give my dad the satisfaction of watching me cry.
“Wow,” I respond with venom. “Talk about sexism.” I glare at him. “It’s the twenty-first century, dad. Women can wear whatever the hell they want!”
“Don’t you dare raise your voice at me,” he bellows, and in my drunken state I can’t help but imagine steam shooting from his ears. Laughter bubbles up inside my chest.
“You think this is funny?” He sounds comically outraged.
“Ugh,” I groan. “I’m tired! Please just leave me alone.”
“Fine,” he seethes. “But your mother and I are going to be having a serious discussion about this tomorrow.”
“I’m not a child,” I yell before stomping up the stairs and slamming my bedroom door shut with more force than necessary.
Kicking off my high-heels, I stumble towards the bed and collapse onto the mattress without bothering to remove my clothes or makeup. Laying there, I stare up at the ceiling and wait for the stabbing pain in my chest to subside, but it only gets worse.
“Don’t cry,” I whisper to myself seconds before rolling onto my stomach, burying my face in the pillow and sobbing myself to sleep.
I am no stranger to hangovers, having had more than my fair share in the last five years, but the one that accompanies me the next morning, however, is by far the worst I have ever experienced because this time it is paired with a broken heart.
I don’t get out of bed, opting to stay in it all day and wallow in my heartache.
The next day is pretty much the same. I only leave my bed to use the bathroom because I’m simply too sad to do anything else except lay in bed a ball my eyes out.
By the third day, I have cried myself dry and am left feeling empty. The only thing that pulls me out of my pit of misery is the curiosity that arises when my mum comes into my room and says, “Emilia, honey, there’s someone here to see you.”
A tiny part of me hopes it’s Reuben but I know that’s highly unlikely. And pathetic. I hate myself for even thinking about him after what he did.
Heading downstairs, I hear voices coming from the kitchen. Upon entering, I see someone who I haven’t seen in months.
“Hello, Emmy,” my little cousin chirps, smiling cheerfully over a large mug of what I presume to be tea.
“Oh,” I say numbly, blinking a few times to remove the sleep from my eyes. “Hey, Sofie. When did you get here?”
“About half an hour ago,” mum answers. She’s busy filling the kettle up with fresh water. “She has come to stay with us for a few days. Isn’t that lovely?”
“Are Uncle David and Aunty Jess here too?”
“Mummy and daddy couldn’t come with me because they’re working,” Sofie says and my mum asks me, “Would you like some tea, honey?”
“Er... yeah, sure,” I mumble, taking a seat beside my cousin at the table.
“How about some toast?” mum continues. “Would you like some toast too? I’ll make you some toast.”
“Okay,” I agree weakly, too tired to reject, and my cousin watches me closely, her forehead creasing with concern.
“Hey,” she says, “Are you okay? You’re looking kind of... unhappy.”
An involuntary bark of laughter escapes my mouth.
"Unhappy is an understatement.”
“Why?” she asks. “What’s wrong?”
“Your cousin just hasn’t been feeling very well lately,” mum tells her, placing a cup of Earl Grey and a plate of buttered brown toast in front of me.
“Why? Are you sick?”
“No,” I reply. “Just tired.” In so many ways.
“Not too tired I hope,” she says “Because you and I are going out to celebrate tonight.”
I almost choke on my toast.
“Excuse me, what?”
“Oh, yes, I forgot to mention,” mum says, “Aunty Jess bought tickets for the two of you to go see that new musical being advertised at the Theatre Fantasia. Isn’t that nice?”
“I hate musicals,” I state and my mother throws me a disapproving look.
“You have been cooped up in this house for the past three days, Emilia,” she scolds. “It will be good for you to get out for a bit.”
“It’ll be fun, Emmy,” Sofie insists. “We’re celebrating.”
She grabs her yellow Kanken backpack from the floor by her feet, zips it open, then pulls out a large white manilla envelope. When she passes it to me I see that it has already been opened and inside it is a typed letter that’s addressed to her. It read;
Dear Miss Llewellyn, Following your audition at The Elite School of Ballet, we are delighted to offer you a place on our scholarship programme...
I stare at the letter, momentarily distracted from my own shitty existence, before looking back up to see my cousin grinning from ear to ear.
“You got in,” I breathe.
“Uh-huh.” She nods, her turquoise coloured eyes so bright they practically shine.
“You got in,” I repeat.
“Yep,” she says.
“Oh my god, Sofie, you got in!”
I launch myself at her, yanking her up from her seat and hugging her so ferociously she erupts into a fit of giggles.
“I’m so proud of you,” I say, squeezing her tightly.
“I was scared to open it,” she admits sheepishly. “I was sure I had been rejected.”
“Oh, as if,” I scoff. “Sofie, you’re the best dancer I’ve ever seen. They would have been crazy to turn you away.”
“Thanks,” she replies, somehow managing to beam even brighter.
My mum watches us with a fond smile, before saying, “That’s settled then. You will both go out tonight and have a nice time.”
“We could just have a nice time inside,” I suggest innocently but Sofie shakes her head.
“The tickets are nonrefundable,” she says. “And they cost a lot.”
“Fine,” I sigh. “Guess I’ll go take a shower then.”
It has been three days since I last bathed and I’m beginning to be able to smell myself, which isn’t a good thing.
“Okay,” Sofie says. “But there’s no rush. The show doesn’t start until seven-thirty-five. Perhaps your dad can drive us there?”
“No,” I grumble, “He’s at work.”
I wasn’t stupid. I knew my dad’s job was important, but using it as an excuse to avoid his family is a cowardly move. He’s always telling me to grow up and take responsibility. Perhaps he should take his own advice and do the same.
Sofie is luckier. Her parents may not be as financially fortunate as mine but at least they are happily married and don’t constantly blame her for everything that goes wrong in their lives.
Upstairs in the bathroom, I can already feel the heavy weight of my depression returning. Looking in the mirror, I cringe. Ugh. I look like how I feel inside; terrible.
No wonder he cheated on me, I think miserably.
Out of old habit, my eyes briefly flicker to the cabinet above the sink.
I force myself into the shower and try to wash away the poisonous thoughts that plague me but no amount of soap can get rid of them. Eventually giving up, I get out and dry off, resolving to do my best to act as if there’s nothing wrong in front of my little cousin.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself, my inner voice chastises me. Tonight’s not about you.