Light that had previously been encompassed within her sight was slowly fading. The darkness that was gradually falling into her line of vision was both captivating and terrifying. It ebbed and stretched in the back of her mind and she stumbled blindly along in the corridor, her gentle footsteps scarcely making any noise, her face displaying an expression of depression and gloom. As the darkness began to expand, parts of it broke off, as if the whole metaphorical thing had been shattered like a mirror. Bad luck. These tiny shards began to form one large blanket of darkness, washing over her like a wave.
She was so, so tired. Tired of life, tired of prejudice, tired of everyone's delusions of how perfect and easy her life was, tired of him and his excuses. Physically exhausted by dreams plagued by vicious and mortifying visions, ideas and ridiculous schemes whirring away in her head.
Everything was such a mess. It had all been perfect what, three weeks ago? But one thing, one tiny little insignificant thing that shouldn't have affected her (had she listened to her brain rather than her damn emotional subconscious, setting her up for heartbreak) did, and everything began to spiral and burn from then onwards. She had been told she acted like a 'young teenage girl' when she was around him, and that she appeared to be distracted by his mere presence. She had originally denied, passionately at that, these seemingly false claims, but once she was left alone to her jumbled up thoughts, she began to start reconsidering. On basis, it was pretty much true; her character had altered since she met him. But, wasn't it in a good way? She was giving relationships another chance, she had become more willing, more trusting. She was more compassionate, and she had finally got to the point where she could be happy again, but then she had been knocked over like a set of bowling pins.
All that he had said were lies. All of it. How had she been so naive and foolish to believe that he would be any different to Charlie? Any different to any other man? They're all the same, none of them actually care how you feel or care about how much they hurt you.
But, maybe it was unfair to say those kinds of things about him. He really was sorry, she recognized that the moment he had admitted to her what was really going on, and he really was being sincere in his apology. So why was she refusing to speak, to even acknowledge him? She didn't know quite why. Maybe it was because she was stubborn, and she wanted to prove her point by hurting him, but maybe she was just afraid that if she did speak to him again, her heart would melt and she would fall head over heels in love all over again.
The way he had looked at her, even before all the confusion and deceit, she hardly knew what he was trying to insinuate. But he kept staring at her with wide eyes, like he hardly believed she existed. Of course, she did, but he looked at her like a cured blind man would if he was seeing for the first time. Thos eyes, deep and enthralling, the way that she used to feel smothered every time they glanced in her direction.
Outside, the sky was a glaring, deep cobalt blue. There were hints of grey and black clouds, like they were warning of a storm. A few, but not many, stars were scattered.
Tripping forwards, she held her hand firmly against her forehead, a rough and raging headache glooming in her mind. She felt like someone had shot her directly through the skull, the pain was almost unbearable. Her vision blurred wildly, insanely, and she felt a huge sense of sick dizziness pass over her. She clutched at the handle of a random door in the corridor, trying to support her weight. Her skin flushed bright white and she felt so weak, like all the life was slowly being sucked and pulled from her body.
Pressing down on the handle, she accidentally pushed the door open and fell slightly in the room. And, by some luck of God, she had picked his room. Fan bloody tastic. She hadn't fallen on the floor exactly, but her body was hovering slightly by her just hanging on the handle. From the corner of her eyes, she saw a figure stalk over to her, and before she could get up and run away, she felt herself being slowly and gently lifted up onto her feet, so she was standing up straight, but still leaning slightly on the door. A pair of eyes, those beautiful eyes, connected with hers and it took all of her strength and will power to keep breathing. Two concerned hands grasped her face and brought her bowing head up.
'Karen, are you okay? You look a bit…pale,' Rob murmured quietly, allowing Karen to place a hand on his shoulder to support her. The close body contact worried her, and she remembered exactly why she was mad at him. Detaching herself from his grip, she went to leave, tottering onwards down the corridor, quite daintily.
'I'm fine. I just felt a bit dizzy,' she explained reasonably, walking as normally as possible. A strong, firm hand gripped her waist and she spun back around, 'Let go of me Rob, that's entirely inappropriate.'
'You didn't seem to mind last time,' he muttered under his breath. He carried on, more loudly this time, 'Karen, you really should come in and sit down for a bit.'
'I. Am. Fine,' she said dryly, yanking her wrist free. He sighed out and rolled his eyes at her; she acted so strong all the time, why could she never really be vulnerable in front of anyone?
'Well, if you're okay, can we talk? I've been trying to speak to you for days, but it's like you don't want to listen.'
'I really would like to get home,' she mumbled, protesting.
He leant, almost casually against the lockers, shrouding her uncomfortably with his shadow, 'This won't take long. I just want to know why you've been avoiding me.' He leaned out a hand and gently lifted her chin with one of his fingers, offering her a small, half-smile.
She smiled at his touch, it was so comforting. But she couldn't let her anger at him evaporate like this, she had to keep him at arms length or risk getting hurt again, 'Actually Rob, now isn't the greatest time,' she said loudly, not able to hear herself over the buzzing and fuzzy noise in her ears. She could see his lips moving, but, for the life of her, she couldn't hear what he was saying; so she just stared blankly.
'Karen!' he shouted loudly, his loud voice bursting through the sound blockade, 'You don't look well. Do you want me to take you to the hospital?' he asked kindly, trying not to let his desperate concern invade his tone. She swiftly shook her head, 'No, I'm fine, just a bit stressed. I've got so many issues to deal with it's just getting on top of me a bit,' she explained almost conversationally. He gripped her hand suddenly as she lost balance, swaying to the left, almost toppling to the floor.
'Well then, let's get one of these issues dealt with, shall we?' he whispered lightly into her ear, his lips brushing slightly against her skin. Goosebumps ran up and down her arms, and she felt another, bigger, headache coming on. She walked down the corridor, trying to keep the site manager at a safe distance from which she would not be able to succumb to his charms and turn around and kiss him.
'Karen, can we please talk?' Rob asked, almost begging, already pleading slightly. He pulled her around to face him, and brought his head down a few centimetres to her level. He gazed into her eyes, the soft shades of brown and green calming her like herbal tea and aspirin would.
A few reckless, ridiculous tears slipped from her eyes, but they were not given the chance or opportunity to slide down her cheeks as he wiped them away, clutching her into a secure embrace he knew she needed. She finally let go of all of her pride and stubbornness and grabbed him, head lying against his chest, her arms wrapped around his form, like he was a security blanket. He was her security blanket.
When half his shirt was stained black with her running mascara, she pulled away embarrassedly, realizing what she had just done, and she started to quickly tap down the hallway, avoiding eye contact with him. He began running after her, as her movements became slower and increasingly wobbly.
'Karen, stop running away. Just stop. You've got lots of people you can talk to about everything; it's all going to be fine.'
She stopped two metres away from him, her eyes glistening, 'Rob, I can't do it anymore,' she choked out, finding it increasingly harder to breathe, 'I can't cope anymore. I can't cope. I feel so horrible, like I'm going to col…'she stuttered out. She was caught in a whirlwind of pain and confusion and all she could feel was the blanket of darkness covering her, pressing down on her and succumbed to it, falling to the ground, second by second, the world twirling on around her. All she could do was fall, like a rag doll.
Before she hit the floor, with what would've been an extreme force, Rob ran forwards to her and caught her in his arms. He pulled her inwards and leant down and kissed her gently on the forehead. He knelt on the floor of the hallway, Karen, poor beautiful Karen in his arms.
Slowly, as not to hurt her, he rose and carried her limp, unobtrusive body to his office. He didn't care if she hated him; he was going to look after her until she was okay. His Karen was fading away in the midst of this school, the strong-willed one being replaced by a model that just couldn't put up with all the crap happening anymore. He didn't blame her one single bit; he often wondered how she had never had a nervous breakdown before. She kept her emotions so concealed but now they were out, she could break down all she liked. He didn't mind, he would be here, she would be okay.
X – X – X
In the end, it took Karen approximately sixteen minutes to awaken from her stress-induced slumber. Groggily, feeling rather sick, she flickered open her eyes, staring around at her surroundings, not really taking in anything about the room whatsoever. She was lying on a long, brown leather sofa, and her head was carefully propped up on some small amount of pillows. Her forehead was very cold, whereas the rest of her body felt like it was one fire, and she soon realized it was because someone was holding an icepack to her forehead, attempting to keep her body temperature down slightly. Karen tried to think of who it could be. Glancing at a clock on the all, the time read half past eight in the evening; who would still be here? And then she remembered, just as Rob murmured,
'Hello sleepyhead. Don't scare me like that again, eh? I'm not at supple as I used to be, I might not reach you next time,'
Karen rubbed her eyes, praying that she was just dreaming or imagining his voice. That would be disconcerting anyway, she reasoned inside her head. Shuffling slightly, the icepack still being pressed on her head with a small amount of pressure upon it, she moved cautiously from her current stance so that she was sat up, her back leaning against the back of the sofa. Karen looked to her left and saw him, just sitting there. She had expected him to look smug, but the only emotion he was showing was one of extreme anxiety,
'You really worried me there Karen,' he muttered again, removing the ice from her forehead and taking her hands in his own. She was too exhausted to bother struggling against him. Instead, she just leaned towards him, resting her head on his shoulder. He took advantage of this situation and put a soothing and reassuring arm around her waist.
Breathing was a lot easier now. Before, it had felt like someone was throttling her, like cotton wool was stuffed down her throat, sucking the air from within her lungs and blocking her airways so the oxygen was slowly being starved from her body.
Cherishing this new ability, she took several greedy breaths before whispering quietly to him, 'I feel so stupid Rob. I shouldn't be this susceptible to pressure. I don't think I can do this anymore.'
He stared intently at her, 'Karen, you can do anything. Don't let little things get in your way,' He also stole a heavy breath, 'I'm so sorry. This is all my fault. If I had told you everything straight at the beginning then…' he trailed off, shaking his head at his own incompetence.
Smiling, she shook her head as well, 'No, it's mine. You've been trying to talk to me and I've been ignoring because I was…well, I was…scared.'
'Why were you scared?' he asked seriously, hugging her closer to him, her feet being lifted off the floor. She gazed sadly at him, brushed a strand of hair behind her ear and, unexpectedly, refused to say anything, shaking her head. He whispered reassuring things into her ear for a few minutes, comforting her as she found the courage to continue,
'I was scared that if I started speaking to you again, I would just fall for you all over again.'
He chuckled, 'Why is that a bad thing?'
She snorted, before replying, 'How is it a good thing? You're married, so nothing could ever happen, and I can't just put myself through that for nothing,' she said expressively and hopelessly.
'Karen, Naomi left yesterday. I tried to tell you?'
'Well, I kicked her out.'
'Why?' Karen asked, horrified at his actions. As much as she disliked Naomi, she couldn't think of Rob ever doing anything like that to anyone, no matter what they had done.
Rob pulled Karen onto his lap, both hands hugging her waist. He whispered slowly in her ear, 'I guess it was because I couldn't cope either.'
It was at that precise moment that Karen realized Rob wasn't as hard and tough as he liked to make out he was. They both had their troubles and problems, but at least now they had each other again, both there when the other one couldn't quite deal with everything.
The clock now read ten to nine, and it was beginning to get really rather dark outside,
'I've got to walk home!' Karen suddenly exclaimed in frustration, slapping a hand against her forehead, annoyed at the sheer rate of her own stupidity. She went to leave, feeling quite re-energized, but before she could take a step, two firm hands grabbed her waist and yanked her back down onto the sofa, where she landed in a kind of heap.
'Karen, you're not going anywhere,' he said reasonably, concern on his face, 'I'm not going to let you go until you've rested, let alone walk five miles.'
She pouted childishly, and went to retort, but before the words of protest could fall from her lips, he kissed her. Apart from the fact it was one of the best kisses she had ever experiences, it didn't really need much more explanation.
'Fine then,' she grumbled when they parted, 'But where am I supposed to sleep?'
He beamed at her, 'I know it's nothing five star, but I have a very comfortable sofa right here,' he explained, waving a hand around, motioning towards the couch.
'Thanks Rob. But I have to stay here by myself?' She asked concernedly. He looked at her like she was a small child and asked, putting on a slightly mocking lisp.
'Do you want me to stay with you?'
Ignoring his heavy sarcasm, Karen asked, with a mild sense of urgency, 'Would you mind?'
'Not at all,' was his immediate answer, 'Aiden's old enough to stay at home by himself without burning the lace down for one evening.'
Sighing out in happiness, Karen made herself comfortable in his arms before drifting off, all her problems evaporating in his presence. And it wasn't long after that that he joined her in her sleep, her head lying warmly on his chest, his arms wrapped around her waist lovingly, in a perfect embrace.
X – X – X
'Have any of you lot seen Mrs Fisher?' Janeece asked loudly, running in three inch into the teachers lounge at half past eight the next morning.
Eleanor, Chris, Daniel and Grantly all looked up from their current work, confusion and blank looks being exchanged between the four.
'She was in yesterday and she fine wasn't she?' Miss Chaudry asked reasonably, evidently looking for some juicy reason as to the absence of the headmistress.
Chris glared at Eleanor before turning around to Janeece and asking, 'Did she not ring in or anything?' Janeece shook her head. 'That's not like Karen,' he continued, staring around the staff room looking for confirmation, which he received from Mister Chalke.
Eleanor concentrated, and then a small smirk invaded her lips, a sudden thought popping into her mind, 'Have any of you seen Mister Scotcher this morning?'
The staff glanced around worriedly at one another, everyone having the same idea, and all rather fearful of what the consequences might be for Karen if what they suspected turned out to be true, 'Well, maybe she's with him.' Eleanor suggested smugly. Oh she could get that horrible woman back for what she said about her in her mid-term appraisal.
Janeece shook her head and said, 'Nah, they're not speaking. His wife came back after their date!' she explained excitedly, the same way she did with any gossip.
'Well, erm, maybe someone should call one of them?' Daniel Chalke suggested weakly, expecting to be shouted. Down.
'Already tried that, neither of 'em picked up,' Janeece explained hurriedly. The students would be here in about twenty minutes, and with no headmistress of site manager (small title, huge job) the school would fall into more havoc than normal.
'I'll go check Rob's office,' Chris suggested, jumping to his feet.
Grantly, who had not made any snide or comments yet, said, 'The headmistress is missing. The site manager is missing. This school is full of drug addicts and arsonists. What is the world coming to?' Shaking his head in disbelief, and clicking his tongue in turn, he continued with his paper, ignoring the giggles erupting in the room.
X – X – X
Rob's office door was unlocked as Chris approached. When he discovered this, he gently pushed the door open, fearful of anything or anyone who could be in there. Wasn't Rob the only one who had a key? And he obviously wasn't in there. Unless he spent the night there. The door clicked slightly and swung forward, creaking from the fact that the hinges were extremely rusty. There was not a sound in the room, not that Chris could hear anyway.
Stepping cautiously into the room, Chris flicked on the light, flooding the room in a yellowy tinged light. Glancing around, Chris did not see anything, and was about to leave when he looked to the right and saw it.
Karen was lying down on the sofa, eyes shut tight, and lying behind her was Rob, one arm around her waist, the other holding her hand which was lying next to stomach. They were both fast asleep, their breathing light and gentle. Chris noted that Karen looked physically exhausted, her eyes were tinged with grey and she looked rather pale, but there was a small, satisfied smile on her lips. Neither of them seemed to be in any way aware that someone was watching them. They looked perfectly cosy, snuggled up to one another, like a couple.
Chris smiled broadly. Janeece was going to have a field day on this one.