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She starts walking, but everywhere she turns, there's something that reminds her. Even the stupid bloody cobbles seem to hold memories – and her feet instinctively fall into the same pattern, retracing the same steps…like they remember too.
She walks quickly past the garage, eyes down. Two options – Dev and Sunita's, obviously, which…
Sophie and Amber.
She turns by the Kabin and keeps walking.
Or, just as obviously, there's Sophie's house. Which…
She stops. A couple of women brush past her, and she half-looks away. She doesn't recognise them though, so it's okay. They don't even acknowledge her, as they chatter past. Sian crosses her arms and takes a couple of steps forward anyway, because she doesn't want to be clocked as some pathetic weirdo who just stands in the middle of Weatherfield, gawping.
Of course, walking forward sends her straight in the direction of Sophie's house and her throat tightens as she remembers – everything (kissing on the couch, tea on the stairs, Sophie's room and "Stay with me tonight" and the end of the whole entire world, wearing a stupid flouncy wedding dress) – and NO again. It jerks through her whole body, not even a negative, but a complete rejection.
She's back to standing for a few moments, frozen. For a second, she has the wildest idea to go back – get on the next bus and tell Hannah that yeah, she saw Sophie, and everything's straightened out now, and they can just go on with their lives and it's all gonna be completely fine from here on out and Sian'll be the best girlfriend ever, promise, no more thinking about lying, cheating scumbags, she swears…
Only – she can't. That feels like running away. Maybe because it is. And whatever it is she feels for Sophie – Sian can't let her chase her off like that. It feels a bit too much like running away to Southport. Well, Sian's not that scared kid anymore, and maybe – maybe Hannah's right, and she needs to show Sophie that, once and for all.
She takes a breath and moves forward, chin up.
Suddenly, there's a familiar voice behind her, calling out, "Sian? Sian? Is that you?"
All her resolve crumbles and she actually considers running for a second, to hell with dignity, but instead she slowly turns around.
Rosie Webster advances on her, navigating the cobbles in pin-sharp high heels. For a desperate moment, Sian wishes for her to fall and hit her head and like, get amnesia or something. "Oh my god, it is you!" Rosie says instead.
"Last I checked, yeah," Sian cracks weakly. Her throat is very dry.
"How are you? Where've you been?" Rosie asks, but just as Sian opens her dust-dry mouth to answer, Rosie catches hold of her shoulders and says, "Never mind – just...stay right where you are! Don't move!"
Rosie goes flying back the way Sian just came, windmilling her way into the Kabin. Sian turns her back, and fumbles in her pocket for her mobile. Her fingers shake as she presses Hannah's number, because she knows what's coming (who is coming) and she suddenly can't believe that she was stupid enough to come here, to put herself through this.
When Hannah picks up on the first ring with a cheery, "Hey babe!" she immediately hisses, "I'm gonna kill you! I can't do this. What am I even doing here? Just - no. I can't."
"Sian - slow down. What's the matter? What's Sophie said?"
"Nothing yet. I haven't met her, but"-
"You haven't even met her, and you're already carrying on like this?" Hannah sounds a bit unimpressed.
"Well what did you expect?" Sian shoots back. She rubs her hand across her forehead. "I can't believe you're making me do this."
"Hey!" The offended tone of Hannah's voice cuts through her panic somewhat. "No-one made you do anything. I don't remember putting you on that bus at gunpoint. I remember us having a discussion and both agreeing that this was the right thing to do. For us. Or have you forgotten?"
"No," Sian says, pacing around. She looks back in the direction Rosie Webster vanished and says, "This is just...really hard for me." The words sound thin and whiny, and they don't communicate at all the way her stomach feels like it's on a spin cycle.
"I know," Hannah says. Even though there's no way she can. "And I'm dead proud of you, Sian. Love you."
There's a sudden commotion and Sophie Webster emerges from the Kabin, followed by Rosie, who keeps pushing her.
"Yeah," Sian says over the rushing in her ears. "I'll - talk to you later." And there aren't words for how angry she is at Sophie in that moment, because there's just no way she can say "I love you" to her girlfriend of almost two years while she's looking straight at the girl who broke her heart.
Who hasn't even noticed her yet.
"All right, all right! I'm here! What is it?" she demands of Rosie. "Whatever it is - it better be quick - Norris'll kill me if he sees" -
She finally looks up "-Sian."
She sounds as stunned as Sian feels. Which isn't fair because Sian'd been expecting (dreading) seeing Sophie…so she shouldn't feel this blindsided. But Sophie's eyes are like spotlights and so blue and she feels this awful clench of helpless anger. It almost makes her double over with the pain. A ruptured appendix has nothing on a ruptured heart.
"Sian," Sophie says again, in a softer voice. She takes a step toward her, then stops. "What – what you doing here?"
Sian looks away. Suddenly, she knows that there's no way, no way she can tell Sophie that she's here for her. To talk, or to scream at her, or to heal old wounds. She'd rather die than let Sophie know how big a shadow she's cast on Sian's life.
"It's a free country, isn't it?" she says instead. She means it to sound casual, but the words snap out hostilely. "No reason I can't stop here for a bit, is there?"
"No," Sophie says. She sounds thrown. "That's not – I didn't mean it like…just…"
"I'm just passing through," Sian says. It sounds incredibly stupid to her, but she's rescued from any more awkward questions by the most unlikely of saviours.
Rosie Webster makes an annoyed sound in the back of her throat and says, "Honestly, Sophie, does it matter why she's here? Are you really going to waste your time standing out in the street and giving Sian the fourth degree?"
"The third degree, you mean," Sophie says absently. Her eyes stay locked on Sian's, and Rosie throws up her arms in exasperation. "She is such a lesbian," she says to Sian. "Always focused on the mechanics of things!"
She flicks her hands at them. "Go! Get a cup of coffee…catch up. It's been ages…you two must have loads to talk about."
"D'you want to?" Sophie asks.
She shrugs. "Doesn't matter to me."
Sophie doesn't smile, but her whole face seems to open up. "All right," she says, a bit hesitant. She takes a step backwards, still looking at Sian. "I'll just – I'll go and tell Norris" –
"I'll do it!" Rosie says. She smiles widely at them and shoos them along.
They end up in Roy's Rolls. There are a few people there already, sitting at the small tables, but there's no queue.
"What d'you want?" Sophie asks.
"Just some tea," Sian says, then immediately adds, as Sophie begins to root in her jeans pocket, "But I'll get my own."
"It's all right," Sophie says. "It's only" –
"No thanks. I'll get my own," Sian repeats, because no way is she ever accepting another thing from Sophie Webster – not an apology, not a loan of a hairclip, not even a cup of tea.
So they pay separately and find a table. Sian busies herself with the milk jug. Even though she's not looking up, she can feel Sophie's eyes on her. When she can't use her too-milky tea as an excuse anymore, and eventually puts down her teaspoon, Sophie finally catches her eyes and asks, slowly, carefully, "So…how've you been?"
"Fine," she says, making sure she doesn't blink. "You?"
"Alright," Sophie says, after the briefest pause. "I suppose."
Sian forces herself to take a sip of her tea.
"What…what you doing now?"
"Beauty therapy," Sian says. "Bliss Salon in Salford."
"Yeah?" Sophie asks.
"I'm just a trainee, but" -
"No, that's brilliant," Sophie says, and Sian has to bite her tongue and stare down at her cup to prevent herself from saying something nasty. It's not like she needs or wants Sophie's approval. Only the thought that if she snaps, Sophie will know she's getting to her keeps her voice even and her expression blank.
"D'you like it?" Sophie asks.
Sian shrugs. "S'alright." She makes herself ask, "What about you? You're working in the Kabin now?"
Instead of Corner Shop, with its hot and cold running Amber…remains unsaid. But it's clear from Sophie's careful, hesitant words that she's aware of the subtext.
"Yeah," Sophie says. "It – Rita…she sort of…took me under her wing a while back." She shrugs a bit, self-deprecating. "Said she and Norris needed shaking up. She sort of bullied him into taking me, to be honest."
Sian doesn't say anything. She's not going to tell Sophie that it's brilliant. Because it's not. She feels a weird mix of satisfaction and disappointment at the revelation that Sophie is still wasting her potential.
Sophie turns her mug in between her hands, staring down at it. "Sian," she says, "Why are you here?"
Sian fights the urge to flinch at the question, no matter how gently Sophie asks it.
Sophie looks up. "I mean – don't get me wrong…I'm glad to see you…" she trails off for a moment before continuing in a low voice, "Just…I wouldn't have thought you'd ever want to see me again."
Got it in one, Sian thinks. But she tips her chin up and says, "It don't matter to me. Not anymore." And, because she can't help herself – because she wants to flaunt this pretence of okayness and have Sophie believe it, she finds herself saying, "I was telling my girlfriend about – all this…you…and suddenly it hit me. It really doesn't matter to me anymore."
"So – what? You came back to – prove it?" Sophie says, slowly.
Sian shrugs. Her face hurts from keeping it locked in a bland expression, trying not to frown.
"All right," Sophie says. And, "All right," again, even lower. "What" – she clears her throat, "What's her name? Your girlfriend," she clarifies unnecessarily.
"Hannah." Sian takes a long, measured sip of her tea. She feels a vicious kind of satisfaction.
Sophie nods, keeps doing it, like she doesn't even realise. "Nice," she says. "Hannah. That's a…nice name."
She chokes back the sarcastic, So glad you like it, Soph, that wants to come out of her mouth. Instead she forces her mouth into a polite, indifferent smile. Like Sophie's just some random stranger.
Sophie looks down and plays with her cup, and suddenly, the door of Roy's Rolls opens again, and Rosie enters, all wide smiles and cleavage. She clicks her way over to them, and pulls up a seat. "So…how's it going?" she asks, like she expects them to immediately announce a reunion. Which would never happen anyway – but definitely not after a twenty minute chat in a cheap café. Rosie might be that easy, but Sian's not.
"Fine," Sophie mutters.
"Has Sophie caught you up on everything?" Rosie asks.
"Yeah," Sophie says, deadpan. "In fifteen minutes, I told Sian everything that happened in the last couple of years. Absolutely everything."
Rosie rolls her eyes. "It's your life we're talking about. You should've had time left over." She leans over and whispers to Sian, "She's not exactly Miss Excitement, you know."
She pushes back in her chair, and stretches out her hands on the table, very deliberately. The glint of the enormous ring on her finger is something Sian can't miss at such close quarters. "But – she's told you all the important things…right?"
"Congratulations," Sian says.
"Thanks." Rosie preens. "His name is Michael, and he's in shipping and he's stinking rich" –
"Not that that matters," Sophie mutters under her breath.
"He proposed six months ago, and it's been mental ever since. I mean – I can't believe how much work there is in planning a wedding."
The word 'wedding' crashes onto the table, and Rosie claps a hand over her mouth, "Ohmygod – I'm sorry! I didn't mean" –
"It's alright," Sian says. To her relief, her voice comes out steady. "It doesn't matter."
"Really?" Rosie says. "You're seriously all right about…" She trails off, but makes a face that perfectly expresses, 'finding out on your wedding day that my sister was cheating on you with a girl you thought of as a friend.'
"It's fine," Sian assures her. Her stomach feels like a rock.
"Oh – in that case, you should come to my wedding! I'm serious!"
"Rosie," Sophie says. "Sian probably don't want to come."
"Why not? It's going to be the wedding of the year. No expense spared. It's gonna be mega-amazing." She smiles at Sian. "I'd love it if you came. You can sit with Sophie – it'll be like old times!"
"I don't think" – Sian begins, because the last thing on earth that she wants is to spend a wedding by Sophie's side.
"It's not like that," Sophie tells Rosie in a low voice.
"Don't be so sensitive – I know you two have a history, but Sian says it's fine."
"Rosie – give it up. Sian really doesn't want to go, all right?"
Except – the only thing that outweighs her desire to not spend one single extra second in Sophie's company is her determination to show Sophie that she doesn't care anymore.
"It doesn't matter to me, Sophie," she says, before turning to Rosie. "I'd love to go – if you want me."
Rosie turns a triumphant smile in Sophie's direction. "There. See – not everyone lives in the past. Sometimes, people move on…and start focusing on the future."
She smirks at Sian, stopping just shy of winking. Sian wants to tell her – as if. A future with Sophie? With the girl who'd strung her along and cheated on her and humiliated her in front of everyone on their wedding day? No chance.
But instead, she finishes her tea, and looks at Sophie's bowed head. It doesn't feel quite like the closure Hannah had in mind…
…it does feel a little bit like victory, though.