We'll Always Remember
Author's Notes:Well here we are at the start of what I'm affectionately calling my "summer masterpiece." Possibly, by the end, I will have different sentiments. But whatever…this is what stops me going sane over the summer. And for the first time I decided to share it with you guys. So…you know the drill…read, hopefully enjoy…and let me know what you think, what you would like to see improved, what you would like to see happen. I've got it planned up to a certain point, but after that we're going on my gut feelings when I start each chapter!! Don't forget to e-mail me with anything (about this story or not!) on email@example.com. Finally, I owe one person the biggest thanks. Brooke, you're a star girl!! Complete star. Thanks for all the ideas, the support, for reading this through before I post…and just for being brilliant! And for sitting there at ridiculous hours in the morning just so I could "discuss" my ideas (you insomniac! Not that I'm complaining) I owe you big time.
Disclaimer:I borrowed them. They will be returned in pristine condition, when the end arrives. Till then…they're here to act out the products of my imagination. Please don't sue…pretty please!
Characters:John Carter/Abby Lockhart…with a bit of Susan Lewis definitely planned, and I'm sure that others will creep in at some point in the near future.
Rating:I'm gonna go with PG-13, although at the moment it's probably only PG. Like I said, I have plans for this story…
Spoilers:Nothing after "The Letter"/"On The Beach". Forget all about the events of "Lockdown"/the whole of series 9.
Summary:the tale of a friendship progressing into something much more, told through a series of pivotal moments charting discoveries about each other, their relationship...and love.
Chapter 1: Whenever You Call
A clap of thunder crashes through the silence, making its presence well and truly felt. I can only watch as the mug shatters into tiny pieces as it hits the floor, illuminated by the eerie blue flash as the lightening cuts, unasked, through the night sky.
Damn the stupid thunderstorm. I mean, it's not as if anyone actually enjoys this particular weather phenomenon, is it?
I don't think there's a single redundant light in this apartment right now. Ridiculous insecurities. Although I've got to admit, the knowledge that there are candles in the middle drawer is somewhat reassuring. Just in case. I've learnt from experience that you can never be too…
Argh. Bloody thunder, making me jumpy. It could at least give me a prior warning before it makes an appearance…I mean, it's not that much to ask. Just a simple "prepare yourself" and I'd be fine. But nooo, weather wouldn't be that polite.
Hhmm. I think the living room is a safer bet. Nothing breakable in here…well, nothing that I can get my hands on anyway.
Why is the foetal position considered comforting throughout your life? I mean…whenever someone's scared, anxious, worried…it's a pretty safe bet that you'll find them curled up, knees pulled up to their chest, arms wrapped round knees…generally staring at something they want to do but can't…or need to do but won't.
Okay, I admit it. I'm guilty of that right now. The object I'm staring at? The phone. The person I want to call? Dr Carter. Dr John Carter…chief resident. But more than that he's just John. John Carter…my friend, my confidant I guess.
I can't call Susan…we've not been friends for that long, I'm not quite ready to reveal this much to her. I can't call Eric either…he may be the obvious choice, but he's somewhere in Saudi Arabia so…bang goes that plan.
But John…he'd understand. He knows the extent of my family…problems. He's witnessed the affect it can have first-hand. And…I don't know. I guess he's just got the kind of personality that makes you feel safe.
Yeah. I'll call John.
Christ. I'm such a wreck. My hands are shaking so much it makes dialling the numbers pretty difficult.
'John Carter speaking…' Oh crap. I've woken him up…brilliant.
'John? It's Abby' Christ. I sound like a wreck too. Nice going, Abby.
'Uhh hey…something wrong?' he asks, the sleepiness disappearing from his voice.
'No…no. Why would anything be wrong?'
'Well it is…a quarter to twelve Abby. You're not prone to making midnight calls, in my experience at least'
'Do you think thunderstorms are scary?' Well, I'm hardly gonna just admit to it straight out am I?
'Not particularly…Do you?'
'Not in the slightest…' Sure. That tone of voice will convince him Abby.
'Shit!' I draw in a sharp intake of breath and release it as an expletive as the entire apartment is plunged into darkness.
'I just…the lights, went out…' I manage to say as I search for the flashlight I know I hid around here somewhere…
'Are you okay?'
'I'm…no, not really' It's happening again. The whole darkness thing…it's just like a repeat of last time, except I'm alone. 'Can you…I mean, if it's not…'
'I'll be right there'
He understands. I knew he would…
57 minutes. That's how long the stupid storm has lasted. And the last…17 minutes of that has been in darkness. I don't trust myself near candles, let alone the matches to light the candles…so the flashlight has to do.
Maybe it's getting further away…that rumble seemed quieter than the rest…Because that was the thunder. Which means that noise must have been…the door. John. He's here.
Door. Where's the door? Ah, over there…
'Abby? Abby what's wrong?'
'I just…' I'm gonna cry, if I look at him much longer. He looks so concerned… so worried. It's weird. I'm meant to be the one who's strong, but his just being here is making me crumble. I gesture aimlessly, walking across the room, leaning against the wall.
Shit. Thunder…my legs can't take much more of this. They're gonna give way…and as I sink down to the floor, he walks over, having obviously put two and two together and come up with four. And it's the foetal position again…its as if it's the answer to everyone's problems. If only it was that simple. I feel him sit down next to me, linking his hand with mine, squeezing gently.
I guess I made the right choice.
'Abby? What's wrong…tell me'
It's happening all over again…I wish the memories would go away, I really do…but I know they'll haunt me my whole life, no matter how hard I try to forget. Every time there's a thunderstorm, it's like I'm instantly transported back to that moment…I still remember it, like it was yesterday.
'Don't leave! Mom, please don't leave' thirteen-year-old Abby pleaded as her mom headed, determined, for the front door…yet again. Abby ran after her, grabbing hold of her hand in a vain attempt to stop her path of destruction.
'Let go Abby!' Maggie screamed, yanking her hand from her daughter's grip.
'No! You're not going. You're not leaving us again!' Abby yelled, furiously. Eric's screams filled the silence – after all, you couldn't expect a five-year-old to understand what was going on. 'I'm going to look after my brother' she announced, voice loaded with sarcasm. 'Don't you dare leave mom, I mean it.' She began her ascent up the stairs, and heard the resounding slam of the front door, as Maggie left. Banging her head against the wall, Abby cursed under her breath.
'Abby, Abby…Abbbby!' her brother's cries again filled her ears.
'I'm coming Eric, I'm coming!' she called. Eric had long ago stopped calling for his mommy when he woke up in the night – he'd learnt that Abby was the one who always came. 'Come here baby' she whispered, flicking on the light and holding out her arms to her brother. He flew into her arms and she held his trembling body tightly as a clap of thunder tore through the silence.
'Where's mommy?' he asked through the tears streaming down his face. Abby crouched down, wiping them away gently, ruffling his hair slightly.
'Mommy's gone out for a bit' she whispered, rubbing his arms gently.
'When's she coming back?' his voice quivered as he looked into Abby's eyes. Not getting an answer, he pressed her further. 'Is she coming back?'
'Oh baby…I don't know. I don't know…' she whispered, holding him close as the lightening brought a bluish tinge to the sky momentarily. 'Sshh…you want to come and sleep in my room tonight?' she asked softly. Receiving a nod from the little boy, she lifted him up, carrying him through to her room. A sad smile crossed her face as she watched him crawl into her bed – her little brother who didn't know what it was like to grow up with a mom who loved him. She climbed into bed, wrapping her arms round Eric as she pulled the comforter around them.
'Why doesn't mommy love us Abby?' his voice trembling slightly on the word love. Abby bit her lip, kissing his forehead as she felt tears spring to her eyes. Just as she opened her mouth to respond, everything went black.
Eric screamed, because more than anything, the darkness terrified him. Ever since Maggie left them for the first time, he'd refused to go to sleep without a nightlight. And with every scream Abby's heart broke that little bit more. Because she loved him more than anything, but she didn't know what to do to help him.
The most tremendous crash slammed through the silence, sending Eric into a fresh flood of tears as Abby's heartbeat raced. She wanted to call someone – a neighbour, friend…just someone who could be there. But she couldn't move. She physically couldn't move, because she didn't know what she'd find if she did…and she didn't want Eric to know she was scared…
So she did the only thing she knew how to do, and whispered 'we're going to be okay…' over and over again as she held him close, the darkness engulfing them, slowly taking away all ideas of love being a positive thing…
I honestly don't think I've ever seen someone so terrified before. But then again it's not actually terror, it's like some force that's caught hold and won't let go. I can't see fear in her eyes, just bad memories…
'Abby…' I say softly, tilting her chin up so she's looking at me, her tears glistening as they threaten to fall.
'I have to…I have to tell someone' she whispers, gripping onto my hand as if it is her only lifetime. And all I can do is listen, as she paints a picture so vivid I can almost feel what she must have been feeling them. As she describes a situation no two children should ever have to go through…but it amazes me. It amazes me that she's such a…unique, extraordinary person because of what happened. That she's so strong on the outside, when inside there's still this frightened thirteen-year-old who's scared to love because she loved her mom so much and only ended up feeling frightened, alone…and hurt.
'Oh Abby…' I whisper, pulling her close…because I know that the only thing I can offer her right now is comfort. I can't take away the memories of that time of her life, however much I want to.
'I wasn't ready for that responsibility…it wasn't fair. It wasn't fair on Eric, and it wasn't fair on me. I wanted to hate her for it John…I really, really wanted to hate her at that moment, when we were sitting there in the pitch black. But I couldn't…because I loved her too much. Despite everything that she did, I loved her.'
It breaks my heart to hear the raw emotion and the pain in her voice as she looks up at me, biting her lip as she searches for the strength to continue. Drawing her knees up to her chest, she wraps her arms around them…and in my mind it just serves as another reminder of the walls she's built up around herself to keep herself safe from the pain she believes comes from love.
'Eric…he always asked me, "does mommy still love us?" and you know, I couldn't give him an answer. I couldn't even answer that question for myself. When she did eventually come rolling back in' she pauses, her voice catching slightly as she is gripped by the memories. 'He'd run up and start hitting her leg, and yell as loud as his little lungs would let him that he hated her and never wanted to talk to her ever again. He'd run into his room and slam the door.' A hint of bitterness creeps into her voice as she continues. 'Maggie would go up there and use some twisted powers of persuasion in order to win him round…only to turn round two weeks later and break his heart once again'
Right at this moment I feel like hating Maggie as well. It's just another reminder of how much damage one person can do to a life, sometimes indirectly – I know it wasn't Maggie's fault that she behaved like this, and she can't have known the effect it would have on Abby. The fact that Abby was scared of thunderstorms actually seemed quite trivial at first, but now I realise that it was just triggered by all the underlying anger and fear coming to the surface…
She's still talking. Listen, John. This is important.
'…And in a way it hurt because he always called for me if he was having a nightmare or he couldn't get to sleep…I guess with age came knowledge and he grew to realise she couldn't…or wouldn't, care about us.' She's actually crying now, but she's continuing, because she physically can't carry this around with her any longer. 'I was the one he celebrated with, the one he laughed with, cried with…and I was the one who loved him. He used to tell me he felt different to the other kids because he had me looking after him, not his mom'
'You did a great job' I offer softly, wiping the tears from her cheeks gently. She gives me a weak smile, before gripping my hands again as a clap of thunder leaves her breathless.
'The day…the day I left…the look on his face, it nearly stopped me from going. Because I knew I was taking away the only thing he'd ever been able to rely on, and that broke my heart. Because we both knew things would never be the same again. I always used to hide the fact that I was scared, because I had to be strong for him…but at that moment I was scared. I knew I was breaking the bond we had…and I was loosing the only person who could make me feel better' I rub her arm gently as she leans against me, exhausted. When she speaks again, her voice is softer, more vulnerable…
'He's the only person I've ever really loved, John…because he was the one person I knew would love me back unconditionally as we both knew the pain that hate could cause…'
That's it. One person has caused all that in two lives…it's just not fair. I haven't been able to see the fairness in life for a while now, but now all I can see is hurt. Hurt caused by loving someone, by hating someone, by illness… and it sometimes gets to the point where I really can't see the point because nothing ever really seems to turn out well.
I sigh, and stand up, holding out my hands to Abby. She takes them and lifts herself up off the floor, giving me a questioning look. 'You look like you need sleep' I explain, and she gives me a grateful smile and nods slightly towards the bedroom door.
'Thank you. I just…thank you' her voice is barely louder than a whisper as we reach the bedroom door, but I know that my just being here gave her the confidence she needed to tell someone that.
'Are you gonna be okay?' I ask, tilting my head slightly. She looks as though she's about to say yes, when there's another clap of thunder and bolt of lightening in quick succession, and she's back in my arms, whispering
'Don't leave John…please don't leave'
'I won't Abby, I won't leave' I promise, pushing open the door and guiding her into the bedroom gently. She nods, and I pull back the covers of her bed, gesturing for her to lie down. As she does, I sit on the edge of her bed, tucking her hair behind her ear. 'Get some sleep. I won't leave you…I'm here, okay?'
She nods, slipping relatively easily into a peaceful slumber…and she looks so innocent, it's hard to believe she's the same person I witnessed tonight. But I know she is…because I'd love to take that fear away, but I know I'll never be able to.
Right now I'll settle for being there for her if she needs me. I'd do anything for her…she means that much to me. I won't ask her to give more, because I know she can't…maybe one day she'll decide she can…
And I'll be waiting.
Funny isn't it, that coffee's the international remedy for tiredness. And how people stare into the murky depths of their cup, desperately searching for answers they know they'll never find in a cup of liquid. Which I suppose, is what I'm doing now. Although I'm not actually searching for answers…just thinking. I would say pondering the meaning of life, although I think I've already decided that…basically lots of hurt and pain.
Reminds me of what Luka said at that sexual harassment seminar…
"You, know, we're all waiting, for what? For fulfillment, love, validation, approval? It's a waste of time. Life is an empty, hollow exercise filled with pain, loss, and grief, and the only thing we can expect to achieve in our lives is our own inevitable death."
The one image that keeps replaying over and over in my mind is that of her face as she was sitting there, playing the memories over and over in her head. It amazes me that she manages to keep such a strong façade up when they must run through her head when she's least expecting it. Maybe she's decided it's better to keep it under wraps…I don't know.
'Hey…' her soft greeting stuns me out of my thoughts, and I stand up, turning to face her. She certainly doesn't look so vulnerable this morning. I guess the façade's back up. Hair swinging in a loose ponytail, jeans and a black shirt complementing the whole in-control thing she's got going.
'How are you feeling?' I ask, stopping in front of her. She gives me a small smile, lifting her hands up in a general gesture.
'You know…better. Thank you. For everything' I nod, and hold out my arms to her. She smiles again, moving to wrap her arms round my waist, resting her head against my chest. My hands move up and down her back gently, her deep, even breaths almost soothing. Eventually she pulls away, leaning up and placing a gentle kiss on my cheek. 'I mean it. Not many people would've hung around…'
'As long as you're okay' there it goes again. The idea that no one can really care for her, or…well, not help her, but support her I guess.
'I am. It just…comes back to haunt me, you know. And other times it's worse than others. Last night was just…one of those nights. But…I just; I don't know…telling someone. It makes it easier to deal with' she smiles, tangling her fingers together as she looks up at me, sincerity reflected in her eyes.
'I…I'm glad you felt you could tell me' I say with a slight shrug, my hands still resting gently on her hips.
'I wouldn't have told anyone but you.'
I guess I was wrong…maybe she hasn't built up that façade again. Not that I'm complaining…