Author: Sophie1989 PM
Set June 2010: Ronnie runs away from Walford to her brother's house only to find her 20 year old niece there. Ronnie is reluctant to go back to Walford and face her demons, but Jessica escorts her, not realizing she'll be facing some demons of her own...Rated: Fiction T - English - Family/Hurt/Comfort - Ronnie M. & Tanya B. - Chapters: 37 - Words: 93,868 - Reviews: 152 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 9 - Updated: 08-09-12 - Published: 06-10-09 - id: 5126622
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Jessica stood frozen to the spot in the kitchen, continuing to look down at the two women on the floor before her, both of whom she'd never imagined she'd ever see in the current state they were in at that very moment in time. Her Auntie Ronnie had been the epitome of impassiveness for as long as Jessica could remember, and her Grandma…well, her Grandma had been much the same to everyone except her own Granddaughter and her son. Never ever one for talking about how she really felt deep down, or digging up memories of the past. As Jessica continued to think further about it all, it was a surprise to her that her Aunt and Grandmother really were rather similar.
To strangers, both women were difficult to get to know, due to a difficulty they had letting people into their lives with ease. For family it could be just as challenging, if they were happy for you in one way or another you definitely knew about it, and both women would be eager with ongoing declarations of love and support. But on rare occasions something would get to them, something that drew a dark cloud over themselves and anybody who dared to cross them. Neither would expose the reason behind whatever it was that had tugged them into the darkness and both would become quiet, distant, and often moody if something wrong was said to them. And nine times out of ten, the loved ones around them were the ones who suffered. There were of course a million memories that Jessica could pluck out of her mind that featured her Aunt in one of her dark moods, because they were most of the memories that she had of Ronnie during her childhood. But of her Grandmother, Jessica could only pick one particular memory, presumably because Glenda kept her dark times away from the light of her Granddaughter:
Jessica opened her bleary eyes and brought a fist up to rub them slowly as she adjusted to the light seeping through the gap of her curtains and into her bedroom. She glanced from her pink flowered curtains, past the posters of S Club 7, Steps, and The Spice Girls, and over to the digital clock that made a low humming noise. 06:30 - Sat 08 Jul. Her eyes moved across from the small clock over to her bedroom door where her blue eyes focused on a small teddy with a toy flower in its paws, that lay on the floor. A smile grew on the eleven year old's face and she sat up quickly, her heart beating fast with excitement. For those few premature moments after waking she'd completely forgotten that her Grandmother was staying at her house for a couple of days whilst the plumbing was being fixed at her flat. She loved her Grandmother to pieces. She was the most stable woman in her life. Her mother had left home when Jessica had been just a baby, but the youngster didn't pine for the woman, after all she'd never really known a time when she'd been around. But Jessica had seen her Grandmother at least once a week for as long as she could remember. She usually went to Glenda's on a Saturday morning whilst Drew went to work, stayed for lunch, then would wait for her father to meet them in the afternoon before they went home. But this weekend was different, her Grandmother was staying at their's all weekend.
Jessica's little feet landed on the floor with a thud and she scurried to her bedroom door, stooping to pick the small teddy up before yanking the door open, the hinges making a small squeaking noise as they always had done. She waited in the doorway, holding her breath and straining her ears for any sign of movement from her Grandmother. On hearing low voices from the floor below, Jessica took to the stairs with excitement, the small teddy bear that her Grandmother had bought her the previous day still clutched in her right hand.
There was this smile her Grandmother always had when she saw her Granddaughter, as though there was nobody in the world who meant more to her than Jessica, as though the little girl was the light of her world. They had always got on so well, Jessica having always found an ally in Glenda when needing to beg her Daddy for something. Her Grandmother was always one for merely saying "Oh Andrew, let her have some sweets just this once." when all three Mitchell's knew full well there would always be the next time, and the time after that. Jessica often gathered herself in her Grandmother's arms, squeezing the woman's small waist tightly, speaking with honest innocence "Daddy never lets me have as many sweeties when I'm not with you" which Glenda always swiftly followed with "Well Jessica, that's because I'm your Gran, and it's my job to let you have lots and lots of sweeties" then the two would snuggle up on the sofa watching whatever Disney video Jessica wanted to watch, while they both shared sweeties and drank cups of tea. Yep, Saturday was definitely Jessica's favourite day of the week, and her Grandmother was definitely her favourite female in the whole world.
Jessica reached the bottom of the staircase, skidding slightly as her socks reached the laminate flooring at the foot of the stairs, but she steadied herself, swung around the banister and ran in the direction of the kitchen that stood at the back of the house. Out of breath, she slowed her pace as she reached the closed kitchen door, and raising her left hand up to the door handle, she heard her father's voice:
DREW: Well, have you thought about sending her a card, Mum? I mean even though she's twenty six, she's never too old for a birthday card.
GLENDA: You don't think I've already sent her a card? I've sent her a birthday card every year since I left and I've heard nothing back from her. Nothing!
Jessica paused, having never heard her Grandmother snap at her father before. She'd certainly never heard her Grandmother sounding so upset. For a fleeting moment the eleven year old hesitated, afraid of what sort of state her Grandmother would look in, but then curiosity got the better of her. Who were they talking about?
GLENDA: He'll have turned her by now, you know he will have.
DREW: Come on, you know we don't talk about him anymore, Mum.
GLENDA: I'm right though, you know I am. I bet she hasn't spared a single thought about me since I left. Probably best too. Probably best she doesn't remember a thing about me.
DREW: I'm sure that's not true.
GLENDA: God, I should've taken her with me when I had the chance…With a small frown, the little girl opened the door and as she stepped into the warm kitchen, the two adults within the room turned to look at her. Jessica's eyes sucked in the scene before her. The kettle was still steaming, but the cups on the kitchen table were full of tea so Jessica knew they can't have long been poured. The smell of toast seeped into her nostrils but she couldn't spy any on the table so she presumed her father had forgotten he had some in the toaster. Her father stood with his arms crossed, leant against the work surface with the toaster in question sat behind him. At the table, with her watery eyes immersed within the blotchy puffy outer layer of her face, sat her Grandmother, a woman she'd been so sure never cried over anything, especially so early in the morning. Yet here she was, and with a loud sniff Glenda brought a soggy looking tissue up to her nose.
JESSICA: Grandma? Are you okay?
Jessica slowly began to make her way over to her Grandmother, worried to find that the woman didn't give her the warm smile she usually did. In fact, as the young girl approached her, Glenda straightened her back, wiping back the tears quickly and clearing her throat followed by a large sniff:
GLENDA: I'm fine. Honest.
Jessica began lifting her arms towards the woman but instead of welcoming her Granddaughter onto her lap for a little cuddle, Glenda quickly stood up, smoothed down her dressing gown, and walked out of the room without another glance. Jessica stood on the spot, hardly breathing, hardly able to believe what had just happened. Her Grandmother had never walked away from her before, and the sight of the woman's back disappearing out of the room upset Jessica. A large warm hand could be felt resting on her shoulder, and the voice of her father followed it:
DREW: Jessie, your Gran's just having a difficult morning. Today…well today is a day that makes her very sad.
Jessica took a seat at the table as her father motioned her to do so, and she continued to stare at the door of the kitchen that her Grandmother had just walked out of. This was the first time in a while that Jessica felt sad. Sad for her Grandmother, sad for herself and sad for their Saturday which she presumed wouldn't quite be the fun day it usually was when she and Glenda were together.
JESSICA: Why? What is it about today?
Jessica heard her father pause his motions during which he'd been spreading peanut butter over a slice of toast for her. She heard him let out a long sigh, and even though she was young she wasn't stupid, she could tell he was thinking hard about his response. Jessica turned to look at her father who walked over to the kitchen table she was sat out and placed the plate of toast in front of her, keeping his voice low, though whether this was because he didn't want his mother to hear Jessica wasn't sure:
DREW: Many years ago Grandma lost someone who was very special to her, someone who she loved very, very much and today would be this person's birthday.
Jessica looked from her father's sad face, down to the slice of toast and suddenly felt very sorry for her Grandmother. Well, the reason why the woman seemed so sad made sense. She wanted to see the person she'd lost on that person's birthday, which was fair enough, as birthday's were such a happy occasion. Well, usually. Jessica had to admit there was always one person who looked unhappy at every one of her birthday parties and that was her Auntie Ronnie. The woman who she desperately wished to feel some sort of connection with like she did her Auntie Roxy. Always sat in the corner, staring absent minded into or at a locket that forever hung around her neck, not a smile to be seen, that was her Auntie Ronnie. As Jessica took a huge bite into her toast, her mind reverted back to her Grandmother and she hoped beyond all hope that the woman she loved so dearly would be feeling better by the afternoon.
Jessica watched as the look on her Aunt's face ceased to soften, it was still scrunched up, tears still flowing freely from her cheeks. Most people would've ran out of tears by now, but her Auntie Ronnie wasn't most people. She barely cried at anything. Right now, Jessica could tell that each tear amounted to the years of stress and upset that had been caused without Glenda around. Tears which had piled up over the years and had finally found a release. She watched her father stoop down to the two women, who both sniffled loudly, neither having moved from the position they'd collapsed into minutes earlier.
DREW: Come on, lets go into the sitting room and we'll get some tea on the go.
It was a classic response from Drew, one that he had inherited from his mother. She'd always been one to cure any situation with a cup of tea. Drew reached out a hand and gently took hold of his sister's arm, slowly peeling her from their mother's embrace. As Ronnie reluctantly stood up with his help, he could feel her body trembling, though whether this was due to the uncontrollable crying she'd just undergone or the shock of seeing their mother for the first time in twenty years, Drew couldn't tell. He slowly coaxed his little sister towards the door of the kitchen, though the woman through her tears continued to look back at their mother as though she feared she may never see her again. Drew paused taking a deep breath, it broke his heart to see Ronnie so upset, and he turned to follow her gaze down to their mother. The look on Glenda's tear stained face was that of a woman who was worried she may never see her children again.
DREW: Mum? Come on.
At the sound of his words, Glenda sniffed loudly before slowly lifting her body off the floor. Jessica stepped over to her Grandmother, her heart melting as she took the woman's arm and helped her off the floor. She had no idea what was going to happen now. Now that the initial shock was almost over. Once the two women sat down what would happen then? What would they say? Jessica looked over to her Auntie Ronnie who clung to her brother's arm with her right hand. As Glenda stood up straight and took a deep shaky breath, Ronnie held her left hand out to her mother. Drew looked at his daughter's surprised reaction and he could understand it completely. For as long as Jessica had known her Aunt, Ronnie had been cold, a recluse, refusing affection, refusing to smile or laugh. The past few minutes must have seemed alien to the young woman, who had never imagined her Aunt held the ability to form such affection towards one person. But to Drew, this side of Ronnie wasn't alien to him at all. This was the Ronnie he remembered from when they were children.
Drew gently ran after his baby sister, who cycled in circles with loud giggles around the back garden of the large house in Romford. Roxy pedalled as fast as her feet could manage, as far as possible from her big thirteen year old brother. It had only been a month since the youngster had learnt how to cycle without stabilisers but the little blonde had become a pro thanks to the long warm summer days following her initial attempt at cycling without support. Drew paused and bent over slightly in an attempt to regain his breath.
ROXY: Come on Drew! Come catch me!
DREW: I can't Annie, you're just too fast!
His comment made the five year old's head roll back with heaving laughter, presuming that her big brother was joking, but he really wasn't. The novelty of chasing her around the garden had quickly worn off, and the repetition of the activity mixed with the heat of the afternoon sun had begun to tire him out. All of a sudden a familiar voice called out to them from the patio that stood beside the house and the two children turned to the owner:
GLENDA: Roxanne, why don't you let your brother rest for a moment? He's been chasing you for ages.
Drew looked over at his mother gratefully. The woman sat at a summer table, dressed in a long light yellow dress with a large hat on her head to protect her from the sunshine. Her slender arms lay out over her legs as her hands weaved an immaculate long plait with her eldest daughter's hair. Ronnie sat beside her mother, her back facing the woman as she had her hair plaited, swinging her long legs that had just begun to scrape the ground with the tips of her toes while holding a hand up to her face to protect her eyes from the sun as she looked over at her siblings with a small smile. Drew had never seen a child more content in spending time with her mother than Ronnie. At any given opportunity the young girl always chose to sit or stand by her mother's side and watch what the woman was doing, drinking in every last detail. Whether it be sewing, reading, cooking, cleaning, and Glenda was always pleased to have her daughter by her side, content with listening to the little blonde happily chatting away to her mother. Which is what they'd just been doing whilst Glenda had been plaiting the nine year old's long blonde hair.
Drew took the opportunity to walk over to the patio and grabbed his glass of juice that had sat on the tabletop, much to his baby sister's disgust. Roxy stepped over the new bike that her father had bought her for her birthday a few months back and threw it to the ground angrily. Her bottom lip stuck out and she'd furrowed her brow as she stared over at her mother with a face like thunder whilst her brother took a seat at the garden table.
ROXY: Drew! You said you'd chase me!GLENDA: He has been chasing you! He just needs a little rest and a drink of juice.
Drew looked from his baby sister, to his mother who had a hopeless look on her face as she spoke sternly to the youngest Mitchell, before he looked back over at Roxy. The little girl was a terror for tantrums, and rarely stopped until she got her own way, or at least until their father had got home from work. That was when she became truly happy again. Mostly because Archie treated her like a princess. She got whatever she wanted, she was never told she was wrong, and she often got her own way - much to Glenda's dismay.
ROXY: You've ruined everything! You're the worst Mummy in the world! I hate you!
Drew looked back over to his mother and couldn't help feeling sorry for her. She received nothing but spiteful, verbal abuse from the little girl, who was supposed to be her baby, her lovely innocent baby. But instead the five year old was a sheer Daddy's girl, replicating the disappointment her father always had in Glenda, always yelling at her and whining about how unfair life was while her father wasn't around. He could tell by the look on his mother's face that the woman had become adjusted to the abuse from the little blonde and Drew had recently realised that instead of yelling back or walking away Glenda would just focus her attention on her two other children, Drew and Ronnie. The woman looked away from her youngest and drew her eyes back round to her eldest daughter, sighing before speaking in a quiet tone to prove that she wasn't even going to stoop to the level that Roxy was at:
GLENDA: There we go Veronica, darling. All finished.
Drew watched his younger sister turn on the chair and bring her hand back to feel the length of the plait, a large grin growing on her face when she realised the brilliant job their mother had done. The many days of the school summer holiday spent out in the sunshine had brought the freckles out around the top of Ronnie's nose and cheeks, and an identical smile grew on Glenda's face as her favourite daughter spoke in awe and appreciation of the time her mother had spent on her hair.
RONNIE: Mum it's perfect! Thank you!
The relaxed smile on their mother's face was a refreshing change to the usual harrowed look that the woman often wore and Drew watched with a smile as his younger sister threw her arms around their mother's neck and gave her a huge hug in thanks for the creative handiwork plaiting her hair. He knew that keeping Ronnie happy was often Glenda's main aim, mostly due to their similarities both visually and by personality too, and that seeing the girl happy made their mother happy, at least on the outside anyway. Drew watched as the nine year old clambered onto Glenda's lap and their mother tenderly wrapped her arms around the girl's little waist as Ronnie reached out to grab her colouring book and colouring pens.
RONNIE: I think I'll draw a picture of us.
GLENDA: Who? You and me?
RONNIE: And Drew and Roxy.
Drew watched his mother peer over her daughter's shoulder as Ronnie leaned close to the plain paper, focusing intently on the pen she held in her hand as she began to draw a meticulous face, which was closely followed by a long flowing yellow dress. Glenda let out an obvious gasp and pointed at the drawing, to which Ronnie giggled slightly:
GLENDA: Who's that beautiful lady then?
RONNIE: You of course! See, because of the yellow dress.
GLENDA: Oh, of course.
Drew laughed, watching as his mother shot him a wicked grin and a little wink before returning her focus back on the picture her daughter was drawing for her. As Ronnie began to draw the next figure, Drew couldn't help but realise just how perfect this day had been. Their father, the dark cloud of the family, had been away since five the previous morning. He'd been expected back yesterday evening, but had called just as Roxy had been put to bed, claiming that he would be at the office until late so might as well stay over in the part of Essex he was currently at. Glenda hadn't minded too much, relieved to be spending the evening and following day away from him. Drew wasn't an idiot, he knew his parents didn't get along. It wasn't as though they were shouting 24/7, or as though they bickered every minute of the day, but there was always a frostiness in the air whenever he was around. As though neither knew what to say to each other. As though the love that they must've once had for each other had been sucked out of both of them and disapparated into nothingness. Both Drew and Glenda knew the real reason why he was away and had decided not to come home. Archie Mitchell was renowned for the amount of women he had cheated on his wife with. Drew had heard all the rumours from his friends from school who had heard it from their parents. Glenda had heard all the rumours from the other mothers who stood near her at the school gates when she went to drop off or pick up her girls. Drew had confronted his mother about it a year ago and only until recently had she admitted to him that the rumours were true, but that she chose to just get on with her life, to get on with bringing her children up because it was the right thing to do. Drew looked at the smile on his mother's face in admiration, that the woman chose to just get on with her life and make the most of the happy times in her life, like the times she spent with her children.
GLENDA: Let me guess who this is.
Ronnie put the lid on her pen and held the piece of paper up towards her mother, revealing the drawing of a slightly smaller person holding hands with the drawing of Glenda. Drew already knew the answer before anybody hazarded a guess as to who the new addition was. This was how Ronnie always drew her pictures. First of Glenda, presumably because Glenda was the most important person in her life, then she would draw herself to stand beside her mother, because the two of them together was so important to the nine year old.
GLENDA: This beautiful girl must be you.
A huge smile grew on Ronnie's face as her mother guessed correctly, and the girl placed the piece of paper down before picking her glass of juice up, taking several big slurps, then letting out a big gasp of air. Drew continued to smile at his sister's and mother's interaction. Today had been such a great day. The third week of the summer holidays and the seventh week of brilliant hot summer sunshine. Today Glenda and the children had walked into town to the local library, picked out a book each to take home and read, had walked to the shops to pick up some groceries and had an ice cream each, then walked home. No sooner had they got home the kids had jumped into the garden to make the most of the sun - Drew had climbed his favourite tree, Roxy had got her bicycle out to ride around the garden, and Ronnie started to read her new book before flitting in and out of the kitchen to help her mother prepare the lunch. The best thing about hot summer days was the amazing spread Glenda usually made to eat on the summer table outside on the paved area by the kitchen. Plenty of salad which she insisted her children ate (to which they grudgingly obliged), cold ham and slices of bread with butter, and a bag of crisps each. They'd spent the whole afternoon, since they'd come home from town, in the back garden, Glenda reading her book at the table whilst sipping cool orange juice, Ronnie following suit, both taking moments to look up and watch as Roxy insisted Drew chase her. They'd all seemed so relaxed without the worry or pressure of Archie returning home until later that evening. In the past it hadn't been unusual for the father of the family to be away for three or four days at a time due to 'work commitments'.
RONNIE: Next I'm going to draw Drew.
ROXY: What about Daddy? You can't leave Daddy out.
Drew watched Ronnie and Glenda hesitate as Roxy appeared at the table and spoke up. It wasn't often that Ronnie drew pictures that included Archie. Drew wasn't sure if this was because Ronnie didn't particularly like their father, that she was scared of him, that she hated the way he treated their mother, or because he wasn't really a main thought in her mind. He looked over to the five year old, who looked up at her sister and mother with a frown on her face. A frown that soon changed to a huge grin, and with her change in expression, Drew quickly looked over to his mother as a voice slithered from just outside the kitchen door.
ARCHIE: Yeah Veronica, you can't leave your own Daddy out.
Roxy gave a little screech of delight as she sprang away from the table, giggling giddily as she ran into her fathers arms and held him tight as the man lifted her up and swung her around in a big cuddle. Drew watched the colour drain from his mother's face as the woman chose not to turn around, but instead cleared her throat and straighten her back in the chair, as Ronnie remained on her lap. The nine year old's smile had also dropped, sensing her mother's discomfort at the new arrival. This was a common scene, but still not one that Drew ever became accustomed too. The delight his baby sister felt with the arrival of their father, yet the fear and unhappiness of their mother, followed by the sadness and uncertainty of his other sister. As Archie placed Roxy gently on the ground the five year old began recalling the days activities as Glenda continued to stare intently at the picture that Ronnie had been drawing:
ROXY: Daddy, we went to the library and I got a book, then we bought ice cream! I had a big chocolate ice cream but I couldn't finish it because it was too cold so I gave it to Drew.
ARCHIE: Did you now…
Despite the heat from the sunshine, Drew felt a chill roll down his spine at his father's cold words. The smile on the man's face was for Roxy's benefit. The five year old usually only responded to facial expressions rather than tone, which was a good job because the tone was a disapproving one, and Drew knew why. Because by Archie's standards the children weren't allowed to have ice creams at all, especially before lunch.
ROXY: Yep. Then we came home and we had lunch and Mummy made me eat salad and I hate salad!
ARCHIE: You do, don't you. Mummy shouldn't have made my little princess eat salad should she.
Drew looked over from his father and sister, over to his mother, who was white as a sheet and continued to look down at the picture that Ronnie had decided to add another drawing to. As far as he was aware, his mother was going to be in trouble the moment he and his sisters went up to bed. She'd disobeyed his rules. She'd given the children unnecessary treats, and considering they were treats using 'his money' because she didn't work, it was twice as bad. To make matters worse, Glenda had forced Roxy to eat something she didn't want to eat. Even if it would make the girl healthy, Archie had always maintained that, as the youngest, Roxy should be able to eat whatever she wanted to, no matter what.
ROXY: No. And now Drew won't chase me around the garden!
ARCHIE: Tell you what princess, why don't you run over to your bike and I'll chase you?
Drew had to hand it to the man, he was the only person in the world who managed to make Roxy's face light up the way it did, and right now the little five year old grinned from ear to ear as she squealed in delight while she quickly raced over to her bicycle in the middle of the garden. Drew held his breath and took a sip of his drink as Archie approached the table, leaning down and placing a forceful kiss on Glenda's cheek. The woman grimaced slightly at the contact, her body frozen in apparent shock as her husband brought his lips to her ear and spoke low.
ARCHIE: You and I are going to have to have a word later.
Drew clenched his fist at his father's words as he watched his mother take a gulp of air, clearly petrified of what the word might be about later that evening. The thirteen year old watched the man step closer to the garden and a little further from the summer table, but Glenda didn't relax and instead followed his tall dark figure with her eyes as her husband turned to her, holding his wrist up to reveal his watch.
ARCHIE: What you still doing out here? Me and the kids will be wanting dinner in an hour.
Archie turned on the spot with a sneering smile, before wandering over to Roxy who was busy trying to balance her bike with her tip toes. As he approached the little girl, giving her a little push to get her going, he looked back over to the table:
ARCHIE: Oh and one more thing Glenda. Try to tidy the house up while you're in there. Honestly, I'm away for just over a day and the place already looks like a bombs hit it.
Drew looked over at his mother who continued to stare at her husband with tears in her eyes. Her face still looked drained of colour and he watched as the woman cleared her throat and made to lift her daughter off her lap.
GLENDA: Come on Veronica, Mummy needs to put the dinner on.
It was the horrible end to the day that the three of them hadn't wanted to see, and as Ronnie eased herself off her mother's lap, she turned, wrapped her arms around the woman's slim waist and gave her a huge hug. The nine year old knew her mother was unsettled, and that the arrival of her father had upset the woman in many ways. Drew watched as his mother stroked back Ronnie's hair with a sad smile, giving a kiss to the top of her head, before the girl reached up, took her mother's hand, and led her slowly to the house, wanting to support her every step of the way.
Jessica stayed by the kettle as she watched her aunt guide her grandmother out of the kitchen with Drew leading the way. She realised it was best that she be the one to make the cups of tea, after all the three adults looked as though they had so much history that they desperately needed to sort out, that the least she could do was hang back for a few minutes. The last thing they needed was a youngster interfering in their quality time together.
The first of many flashbacks me'thinks..
Sorry it's taken me a while to update. Been a very busy bee recently. But I've already begun the next chapter so stay tuned :)