My frustration got the better of me tonight... this is the result.
Lauren sat at the table in the Queen Vic, thinking back to when Joey had come round earlier today. Why had she pushed him away? Was she trying to finish things with him? No, that wasn't what she wanted but the last few days had been stressful and the last thing she needed now was for him to leave her too.
Her problems had really begun at the beginning of the week. It hadn't been that she was horny, although that was a given with a boyfriend as good looking as hers, it was the fact they couldn't get any alone time. She could go some time without jumping his bones... in fact she'd had to for more time than should be allowed for anyone as early in a relationship as her and Joey were, especially when they'd only just got back together again. But they were supposed to be keeping their relationship quiet even though they were never allowed to be alone together either.
Actually her week had been going wrong even earlier than that. Her mother was quite literally doing her head in. Lauren had tried to do something to make her mother proud, fed up of being a disappointment to her parents all the time. So she'd offered to help out at the salon and did she get any thanks for it. No! All that happened was she found out her mum was lying to her. Again. You'd think she'd have learnt after the debacle at Christmas. This led to another row, obviously. It was all her family seemed able to do today these days. Lauren was disgusted that her mother could disregard her own health so easily. After getting the all clear, having gone through so much to get it and what for? For her to miss another appointment? Lauren just didn't understand it.
So she'd gone to Joey's, hoping to get some alone time there but no, Kat came home, spoiling the moment. They'd met Poppy and Fats at the pub and it had been nice to be out together but it was really difficult not to kiss him in front of everyone and screw the consequences. So they'd taken a bit of a risk and had sneaked into the ladies toilets. It was a moment of insanity obviously. Until Poppy walked in and Joey had to hide. Another moment ruined and it was this that pushed them over the edge. Lauren had begun to think it would be much easier if everyone just knew.
Nicking Poppy's keys and going to her house had been a calculated risk but it was a chance to be alone and to finally get to be closer with Joey again. He was as into it as she'd been. She hadn't had to encourage him that much. Then just about the worst thing ever happened and grandma Dot walked in. Of all the people to see them together, it had to be her. At least she hadn't realised who Joey was. Not then anyway.
That moment of realisation hadn't occurred till the following evening. Now that was a real moment of joy for both the family and Lauren in particular. After getting grief from her parents all day she'd been dreading the family meal at the pub. She knew it was going to be a disaster right from the off. She hadn't been wrong. It had started well, her dad had managed to ensure Joey wasn't around but of course he'd come into the bar for a drink and had ended up being hauled over to where everyone else sat. Then grandma Dot recognised him and everything went to hell from there.
Lauren had felt everyone's eyes on her, judging her. It was car crash telly but much more painful. She'd just wanted someone to have her back; support her at a time when she really needed it. Couldn't they see how much she needed them? But no, there was no one. Not her parents, not even Joey. And it had really hurt. So Lauren had done the only thing she could. She'd run; back to their house, away from the prying eyes and gossipers. And when her family had come home, her mum and dad could barely look at her, let alone talk to her. She was so confused, she wasn't sure what she'd done wrong, she thought they supported her and Joey. Had she missed the memo that announced the fact they'd changed their mind?
Today hadn't started any better and she was beginning to wonder if each day was going to get progressively worse. She didn't even have a hangover to blur the edges of the pain she was feeling. She couldn't even speak to Joey because she couldn't get past the fact that he hadn't been there for her the night before. She'd just wanted to hide from everyone but even that didn't go to plan. When Joey came round she thought everything would be okay and now she wished she'd listened to him when he'd told her not to answer the incessant banging on the front door. But she was Lauren Branning and she knew best. So she went to it... and found her grandma there, waiting to preach to her. At first Lauren had been misled into thinking she was about to apologise but then she realised that wasn't the case. Her grandma's words just made her feel even worse. It made her feel dirty and it was too much for her to deal with.
So here she was; sitting in the one place that would provide her true friend; the one thing that would help her escape. Booze. The only problem was she could feel everyone staring at her and it wasn't as relaxing as she'd hope it would be. Just a few minutes ago, that Kirsty woman tried to speak to her about it, 'being nice' was the way she'd put it. Of course Lauren didn't believe her; she wasn't going to fall for that trick. Then her parents walked in and she could see the disappointment on both their faces. How many more times was she going to be the child that let them down? She felt so alone. All her friends apparently weren't as good friends as she'd thought they were. Was this what her future held for her? Would it always be her on her own?
Lauren sighed and took another swig from her glass. Her head was spinning and it wasn't just from the alcohol. She leant forward and rested her head on the arms, trying to gain some calm from the emotions that were bubbling within her.
"I thought I'd find you here..."
She felt him sit down beside her and she wished it offered her the comfort he intended it to. It just made her feel even more the centre of attention. You could almost hear a pin drop in the room as he sat down. "Didn't want to hide away any more..." she told him softly. She stifled the automatic moan as his fingers ran through her hair. She was tempted to lift her head off her arms but she couldn't, she wasn't sure she could meet their faces.
"So you came back to the scene of the crime?" he said and she could hear the laughter in his voice.
"Joey, don't." She whispered. She turned her head so she could see his face, "You didn't hear grandma Dot. It was her at the door this morning. She made me feel this small." She said, holding her finger and thumb a tiny distance apart. "This isn't just me being a drama queen, Joe. I hate this. I hate how this is making me feel. Why is my being as happy as you make me so wrong?"
"It's not wrong..." he whispered, a frown appearing on his face as he heard the desolation in her voice.
"You saw them last night, Joe. Our family were judging us; laughing at us. Morgan thinks we're disgusting and I didn't hear anyone standing up for us. I thought mum and dad were alright with this but they obviously aren't. Why is it so wrong for us to be in love with each other?"
His hand brushed down her back and then he was pulling her towards him, "Come here..." he said gently.
"We can't, Joey... not here." She reminded him.
"Babe, they're never going to accept us if we continue to hide it. If we act like we're ashamed of being together, how are they ever going to think any differently?"
He had a point. She knew that but she still couldn't move. "Just how busy is the bar anyway?" she asked him, unable to look for herself.
His eyes flickered to the area behind her, "Not that busy," he said but she was sure it was a lie.
"Liar..." she whispered, a smile on her face.
"We're not completely on our own, babe." He said.
He shook his head, "Alice is okay with it. She says that if we're happy then it isn't wrong and she's happy for us."
"She is?" She couldn't help the tears that flooded her eyes.
Joey couldn't take it any longer, he needed to do something. "I came here to rescue you." He said, his arm wrapping around her waist and using his upper body strength, he pulled her towards him. The sound in the bar rose fractionally just to fall to a quieter hum seconds later.
"Who do I need rescuing from?" she asked as she rolled her eyes.
"Yourself." He said. Focusing his eyes entirely on just her, his hand reached for her face, pushing her hair behind her ear. He saw her eyes close but when his finger ran softly down her cheek they opened again and he saw tears pooling in them. "Please don't cry, babe..." he whispered to her.
"I'm sorry." She breathed.
"Do you have any idea how much I want to kiss you now?" he said, aware that most of the patrons of the bar could probable hear every word he was saying to her and not really caring. Lauren shook her head, the tears running freely now.
"We can't Joe."
"Why not? There's nothing wrong with this, is there? You believe that, right?" She bit her lip and for a second he was worried she was going to disagree but eventually she nodded. "Me and you are together forever, babe. You just need to remember that." His hand pulled her head forward and before she put up a reasonable protest his lips were on hers. Both his hands cupped her face and for a second it was easy to forget the onlookers and just get lost in the moment with her gorgeous boyfriend.
"Guys, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to stop. This is a family pub." It was Alfie who interrupted them and Lauren sagged against Joey, embarrassment overwhelming her. This emotion was quickly overwritten by anger and she turned to the pub landlord.
"Are you barring us from being here, Alfie?" She asked, fire in her eyes as she stared him down.
Lauren's eyes scanned the bar, seeing some of her friends sitting across the room, watching them. Once more she realised how much she'd over-estimated the way her friends valued her friendship. She'd been there for all of them over the time she'd known them. She'd never judged any of them for things they'd done but they were all too quick to jump on the band wagon as it rolled on by. "So, I guess that means there's going to be a public embargo on any displays of affection for all your customers, right? And the staff as well, of course."
"Yeah, I thought not." Lauren said bitterly. She lifted her glass and downed the rest of her drink before turning to Joey and seeing the admiration on his face. She grabbed his hand in hers and got to her feet. The large quantity of vodka chose that moment to kick in and detracted slightly from the stand she'd just taken. Joey's hand pressed against her back, steadying her and offering her comfort and support all with one touch as he got to his feet beside her. Standing tall, with her head held high, Lauren turned her head slowly to look at all the occupants of the room before coming back to rest on Alfie, "Let's go, Joe. Maybe we'll find somewhere where we won't be ostracised by all our friends and family." Tears fell down her face once more. "It's doesn't say much about a place when two people who love each but just have the misfortune to be members of the same family are treated like the local pariahs. You'd think we were criminals or something." She looked at Joey, a soft smile on her face as she stared into his eyes, "I'm ready for you to rescue me now..." she whispered to him.
He smiled broadly at her and then lifted her into his arms, knowing there was little chance of her being able to walk out of the pub with any dignity. He kissed her gently on the forehead, "Every time, babe." He told her softly then carried her out into the square.
So what do you think? I'm actually quite glad that Lauren stood up for herself but I had to let Joey swoop in like a knight in shining armour. I'd have been a much happier girl if this had been what I'd seen tonight...