|If You Go Down to the Woods
Author: PartyFavours PM
Some of the villagers go on a charity fundraiser in Connelton Woods. What could possibly go wrong?Rated: Fiction K - English - Adventure/Drama - Chas D. & Aaron L. - Chapters: 53 - Words: 79,282 - Reviews: 99 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 08-28-12 - Published: 09-02-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7347758
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter Forty Nine
"You want to go where?" Gennie asked again as she leant into the car window. Chas was sat in the passenger seat as Aaron loaded the boot up with bin bags.
"For the last time Gen, I want to go to Hotten" Chas told her sister, exasperated by her lack of comprehension. Her nerves were shot, and she was already regretting her decision to venture out of her bed, never mind into town. But she was determined to keep occupied and get this task done now she'd started it.
"But it's Christmas Eve" Gennie told her.
"I'm well aware of what day it is" Chas told her pointedly.
"Town's gonna be rammed" Gennie continued.
"It'll be fine, I've got to start getting back to normal" Chas replied. "I thought it'd be nice to spend the morning together, but I'm going with or without you" she told her stubbornly.
"No you're not" Aaron interrupted, having come back to the car with the last of the bags and heard his mum's bold statement. "You're going nowhere on your own. So what's it to be?" he asked Gennie.
She sighed and got in the back of the car, worried about how Chas was going to cope in such a frantically busy setting, but also a bit chuffed that it was her she'd asked to accompany her.
When they got into town, Aaron and Gennie unloaded the car, taking the bags straight into the charity shop. The two old ladies running it thought Christmas had come a day early, thanking them profusely and calling Aaron a lovely young man, making him go red.
Aunt and nephew came out of the shop laughing, but when they saw Chas in the front seat of the car, obviously psyching herself up to getting out, they quickly sobered up.
"We should just go home" Gennie said quietly.
Aaron was tempted to agree; town was busy, packed with last minute Christmas shoppers, early sales trawlers, kids in prams, teens hanging out, carol singers and a Salvation Army brass band. He thought his mum was crazy for wanting to do this today. But he couldn't tell her what to do, he had to let her at least try to get back to normality.
"Just take her to a couple of department stores, nowhere too small" he advised Gennie. He was worried about his mum getting knocked and hurt if she was trapped in a small shop with lots of people. "I've got a couple of errands to run anyway, so just give me a call and I'll pick you up when you're done".
Gennie nodded and they watched as Chas finally let herself out of the car. She gave them a sheepish grin, realising they'd been waiting for her.
"Right. You remember what you promised?" he asked his mum as she approached them. She nodded. "See you in a bit then" he said and headed off towards McDonalds for a burger to set him up for the day.
Gennie linked arms with her sister and they started walking towards Rafter's Department Store. "What did you promise?" she asked.
"No lifting, no carrying, no jumping, no breathing…" Chas joked.
Gennie laughed, "it's sweet he cares so much" she said, "he's like your little minder". Chas sighed and Gennie turned to look at her, "what's up? You normally complain that he never speaks to you."
"I know. And I'm not being ungrateful, I love the fact we've got a bit closer. It's just there's no middle ground with him. He was like this after Jackson's accident, not leaving his side, constantly worrying about him. It's not healthy. He should be bothered about himself, not me".
Gennie laughed at the irony, "well that's exactly what you're doing isn't it? Worrying about Aaron instead of thinking about yourself? Just give him a bit of time, it's really rattled him has all this. Now, what we looking for, you never said?"
"Everything" she replied, "I need some more age-appropriate clothes. Less tight, less…tarty".
"Give over," Gennie said, "you're not…"
But Chas didn't let her finish. As they pushed the shop doors open and were hit by a wave of hot air from the department store, she simply said, "S'alright Gen, I know what I am" and walked quickly into the crowd before she could answer.
By the time she caught up with her, she was looking through a rack of half price old lady jumpers.
"Chas…" Gennie started, worried that her sister had lost it.
Chas held up a mustard pullover with a cat embroidered on the front. "What do you think?" she asked seriously, before breaking into a smirk and laughing.
Gennie slapped her lightly on the arm, "that is not funny, I thought you were serious!" she told her off.
Chas carried on laughing, "sorry, it was too good an opportunity to miss. I'm not going off my rocker you know? I'm not going looking for granny clothes, I just want something a bit classier, more demure. Like that dress you and Katie got me".
Gennie acknowledged this with a nod and indicated the escalators with her head, "we'll need to go upstairs for the non-granny clothes then" she said and started towards them.
Half an hour later, Gennie was loaded down with a pile of clothes, all quite plain and basic, but not frumpy. Chas kept trying to help her carry, but Gennie joked she didn't want to face the wrath of Aaron if he found out.
"We've definitely got enough for you to try on now anyway" she told her.
Chas paled instantaneously and shook her head "nope. I'll just buy them, and if they don't fit I'll take them back".
"Don't be silly, the changing room's only there, and there's no queue" she replied, not understanding what the problem was. But Chas refused to follow her, shaking her head faster.
"Chas, I'm not going to carry on with this unless you go in there and try this stuff on" Gennie told her firmly. She walked into the changing rooms, hung all the clothes on the pegs and sat on the bench, waiting for her sister to follow her.
Chas was faced with a dilemma. She really didn't want to get changed in a hot little changing room with two full-length mirrors in it, but she'd just thrown almost every scrap of clothing she owned away – she needed Gennie's help getting some new gear. She reluctantly trudged into the changing room and stood sulking in the middle of the cubicle.
"God, you don't half look like your Cain when you sulk like that" Gennie laughed.
"He's your Cain too" Chas pointed out.
"Not as much as he's yours" she countered, "you lucky thing. Do you want me to stay and give my opinion, or wait outside?"
"Outside" Chas said quickly.
Gennie stood up and made her way out of the cubicle. "Fine" she said, "but I'm going to be literally outside the curtain, so I'll know if you're trying on or not".
Chas tugged the curtain closed behind her and Gennie laughed at her moodiness. She'd very rarely seen Chas sulk; she usually shouted at someone and then got over it. She heard movement inside the cubicle and was satisfied that Chas was doing as she was told, so she nipped off for five minutes to look at some ridiculously expensive shoes she wanted but could never afford. When she returned, there was silence behind the curtain and Gennie tutted.
"Chas, are you decent?" she asked before pulling back the curtain anyway and slipping inside. When she turned around she saw her sister sat on the bench, half dressed, rocking slightly and rubbing her hand for comfort.
She looked up at Gennie, eyes wet with unshed tears and shook her head as she said "I can't Gen. I'm sorry, I just can't".
Gennie's heart broke for her and she sat beside her on the bench and took her hand. She saw that it was badly marked where Chas had been rubbing it over and over in the same place. "What have you been doing here eh? You're going to end up with a scar if you're not careful" she admonished gently. Chas gave a small snort of laughter. "What?" Gennie asked, not understanding what was funny about the situation.
Chas hesitantly stood up and pulled down the dress that she'd half managed to get on before she'd freaked out with the mirrors and the heat and the claustrophobic nature of the dressing room. She closed her eyes so she didn't have to see Gennie's reaction to the scar that ran down her entire torso.
Charity had told Gennie that she'd seen Chas's wound the night she'd done a runner from the hospital, but she'd obviously downplayed how awful it was. It looked painful and sore and Gennie understood why Aaron, Charity and Cain had been so shaken when they'd returned from the hospital that day. This wasn't what worried Gennie the most though, and neither was the fact that Chas looked like she hadn't eaten a square meal in months, she was so thin. What scared Gennie was the way her sister stood: shoulders sagging, head bowed, eyes closed, looking completely defeated. It was such a far cry from the usual Chastity Dingle stance – head up, shoulders back, boobs out – that it was disturbing.
"No bikinis this year then" Gennie said.
Chas covered herself back up and sat back down "no bikinis ever again" she replied.
"Don't be daft" Gennie said, "it'll heal, scars do. Then you'll barely be able to see it. Is that what all this is about? You throwing all your old clothes out?"
"Kind of" Chas replied quietly, messing around with the sleeve of the dress, not looking up as she spoke.
Gennie became impatient with her, "What, because you don't have the perfect body anymore?" she scoffed, "join the club".
"No, I didn't…"
"No, I understand, you're spitting your dummy out because you don't think all the blokes are gonna give you the eye anymore. Well welcome to my world. I bet that's why you got me to come with you isn't it? 'Gen knows what to wear when you've accepted you're never going to pull ever again'" Gennie huffed.
They sat in silence for a minute, whilst Gennie sulked and Chas tried to put her thoughts in order. Finally, she spoke.
"Do you remember when you first came to the village and met my dad?" she asked.
"Yeah. You hated me" Gennie pointed out not too kindly
"Yeah I did" Chas agreed.
"Ah, cheers" Gennie spat.
"Well it's true. I did hate you. But not because of you, although you were a bit annoying. I hated you because of the way my dad looked at you, like you were summat special, something of worth. He never looked at me like that, not once. When me and Cain were kids, he barely bothered with either of us unless he wanted something. And then when I got older…"
"Chas, you know he adored you" Gennie said, realising that this wasn't just about Chas not pulling anymore.
"You saw how he used to look at me. As soon as I hit twelve and my boobs started to grow, I wasn't an annoying kid anymore I was just another woman to leer at. Not that he ever tried anything – I'm not saying he ever did owt like that. But I'd never been his little girl, he'd never looked at me with reverence like he did you. No one ever has really, ever since I was thirteen, I've been nothing but a stripper in most peoples' eyes. And I'm sick of it Gen. So yeah, I want a change, I want to stop being a tatty old tart and just be normal, as normal as any Dingle can be anyway."
Gennie felt awful that she'd had a go at her now, not realising the depth of the complicated relationship Chas had had with their father. She'd always sensed a bit of jealousy from Chas about how well she and Shadrach got on, but thought Chas mostly disliked her because she was boring. It was news to her that Chas had been a stripper at thirteen, and she wondered how her dad could have let that happen. But then she also knew exactly what Chas meant when she talked about how Shadrach sometimes looked at her, she'd caught him leering at his daughter on more than one occasion, always thought it was strange and wondered why Chas didn't seem bothered by it. But she now realised there was a lot that Chas was bothered about but just didn't let it show.
"Sorry" she said meekly, turning to look at her sister, who was lost in her own thoughts. "I didn't know that's how you felt. But Chas, you're no tatty old tart, you're gorgeous and funny and people like to be around you for way more than what you look like. But I'll help you if that's what you want. And I won't make you try on – let's get you out of this and we'll buy all these then get a cuppa and cake from the café. That sound okay?"
Chas nodded gratefully at her little sister. She changed back into her scruffs and Gennie gathered up all of the clothes and they headed to the till arm in arm, both sisters having reached a new understanding.