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Book Four: Thirty Days, Book 4
 

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Book Four: Thirty Days, Book 4


  THIRTY DAYS

  BOOK FOUR

  Bibi Paterson

  Copyright Bronwyn Paterson 2015

  Kobo Edition

  The right of Bronwyn Paterson to be identified as author of this Work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, copied in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without written permission from the publisher. You must not circulate this book in any format.

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  Find out more about the author and upcoming books online at www.bibipaterson.com or @BibiPaterson.

  JUNE

  'Though she be but little, she is fierce!'

  William Shakespeare,

  A Midsummer Night's Dream

  The First

  Out of the corner of my eye, I watch Taylor as he pulls on the sombre dark grey suit bought especially for the occasion. His expression is pinched and I know today is going to take everything he has to keep it together. Checking my own reflection in the mirror, I smooth the dark fabric over my protruding belly, satisfied that I look presentable before turning to Taylor and holding out his tie.

  Taking it with a grunt of thanks, he pulls the smooth fabric around his neck. But as he attempts to tie it, he becomes more and more frustrated with his inability to makes his hands do what he wants them to do until eventually he pulls it off aggressively and dumps it on the floor in a fit of rage. Wordlessly, I move across the room to pick up the offending item off the floor. I give Taylor a few moments to collect himself, watching as he pushes his fists into his eyes, before moving towards him and pulling his hands down.

  I thought I had seen all of Taylor’s moods in the last month but the grief radiating off him fills the room in a way I didn’t think possible. I let out a soft sigh knowing that today I am going to have to hold Taylor together so the first thing I do is loop the tie around his neck, deftly tying the knot before adjusting his collar and smoothing down the lapels of his jacket while he just stands there in silence. His eyes remain pinched shut as if he is tremendous pain and I find myself thinking that I would do anything to take that agony away.

  “All done,” I murmur softly as I step away. My phone chimes softly alerting me to the fact that the car has arrived for us. “We’d better go,” I say, slipping my fingers through Taylor’s as I tug him out towards the entrance. He lets me lead him like a child until we are finally settled in the black taxi idling opposite the doorway.

  “Shit, Abs. I have no idea how I am going to get through this…” Taylor trails off, searching my eyes as if I have the answer. I stay silent because truthfully, I have no answer. Giving Taylor a weak smile in return, I squeeze his hand reassuringly before settling back and retreating into my own thoughts.

  We hadn’t realised at the time, but Taylor’s father’s sweaty hands when he had approached us at the end of the trial had been a prelude to a massive heart attack that saw him hospitalised that night. It was only when we received a panicked phone call at three in the morning from Stix that we found out what had happened. For two days it was touch and go but then Harold seemed to rally at last giving Taylor the opportunity to tell his father that he forgave him. The threat of losing his father before they could finally put everything behind him had almost been Taylor’s undoing.

  When Harold finally opened his eyes, the relief that filled the room had been palpable but I think we all felt like we had aged a decade in those few days. The next couple of weeks had involved test after test until it was decided that Harold would need to undergo open-heart surgery, something that terrified the life out of everyone. Five days ago Harold went into surgery and never came out, suffering one last catastrophic heart attack on the table. The only saving grace had been that Taylor, Harold and Genevieve had all come to peace with the past and at last it seemed like there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

  As the taxi pulls up outside the crematorium, I feel Taylor’s body tense up beside me. I slide my hand into his, offering a reassuring squeeze as I feel my own heart starting to pound. Never mind the fact that we will be burying Taylor’s father today, the thing that’s really getting to me is the fact that Richard will be showing up at the funeral. Somehow his lawyers managed to convince a judge that it would be perfectly okay for him to attend his father’s funeral, the father that had finally disowned him having accepted the truth about his son. My stomach rolls at the thought that we will have to face Richard and I feel Bean respond to my emotions, her small movements causing ripples across my belly as she struggles to get comfortable.

  Turning to look at Taylor, I can see he has his eyes clenched shut. “It’s going to be okay, Tay,” I murmur softly, knowing that this is about so much more than the loss of a parent. Taylor lets out a deep sigh before dropping my hand and opening the car door. A moment later, he has rounded the car and is at my side, one arm held out as I attempt to heave myself as gracefully as possible from my seated position. Once I’m on my feet we both take another deep breath before heading to the crematorium’s entrance, Taylor’s hand sliding to the small of my back in a gesture of solidarity.

  I have no idea what kind of reception we will get when we arrive. The funeral arrangements have caused all manner of disagreements between Genevieve and Taylor’s mother, Gillian, who initially insisted that Taylor was not welcome to attend. Despite Taylor and his father having made amends, it is still abundantly clear where Gillian’s loyalty lies. But in the end Genevieve put her foot down and Taylor received a call from his mother requesting that he attend his father’s funeral through gritted teeth.

  As we slowly make our way down the gravel path, the entrance comes into view and I feel myself stiffening as the sight in front of me. Not only is Gillian standing there greeting the guests, but so is Richard. My blood starts to boil as an unexpected rage courses through my veins. “Don’t make a scene, Abs,” Taylor implores. “You know that’s what he wants.” I nod to let him know that I have heard him but I daren’t open my mouth in case I blurt out all the vile things I am thinking.

  A movement catches my eye and as I sweep my gaze across the front of the utilitarian building, I notice a couple of young uniformed officers standing with their eyes fixed on Richard. I breathe a sigh of relief when I spot the bulge on his ankle; at least the police aren’t taking any chances. As we approach the entrance, I can see Gillian talking earnestly to an older couple. We catch the tail end of the conversation as she implores, “Of course everyone knows that Richard here is innocent. It’s only a matter of time before the police drop these ridiculous charges and he can come home.”

  Gillian has the grace to look somewhat abashed when she sees us approach but she refrains from addressing us, turning instead to another couple that I don’t recognise. Richard, on the other hand, smirks at us with an evil look that chills me to the bone. “Glad you could make it, little bro,” Richard says and I have to resist the urge to shudder at the venom in his voice, his tone directly at odds with his words.

  Ignoring him, Taylor looks around him before asking, “Where’s Stix?”

  “Toilet,” Richard responds. “Seems the stupid girl can’t go five minutes without needing a
pee break.” He lets out a harsh breath and I can’t help but think that maybe the toilet is simply an excuse to get away from her brother. At least I hope that’s all it is.

  “Whatever,” Taylor grunts in return and moves to push past Richard but he is stopped when Richard drives a clenched fist into Taylor’s chest. “You and me, we have unfinished business.”

  Before Taylor has a chance to respond one of the police officers has marched up. “Hands,” he barks. “Step back now, Richard. Otherwise, you will be put straight back into the van, funeral or no funeral.” Richard gives him a slow scowl but does as instructed, lowering his fist to his side and slowly uncurling his fingers.

  “Whatever,” Taylor responds again, though this time with a smirk on his face as he waits for Richard to step aside, which he does after only a couple seconds of hesitation. I find myself holding my breath as we walk past Richard and into the foyer, a reflex that seems to come with the territory of crazy twin brothers.

  The lobby seems dark in contrast to bright sunlight outside so it takes a couple of moments for my eyes to adjust and seek out Nicola. “There she is,” I say, tugging Taylor’s hand towards the corner of the room where I see her standing with Genevieve. I am startled by the look of absolute desolation in Genevieve’s eyes. Even when we visited her a couple of days ago, she had looked tired, like she had aged ten years, but she had still seemed like she was holding it together. Today, though, she appears like she is coming undone. Genevieve’s eyes are rimmed with red and her typically regal posture is stooped as if she is carrying the weight of her grief on her shoulders. Stix doesn’t look much better; in fact her usual willowy frame seems to be progressing towards gaunt as opposed to merely thin.

  Muted words are exchanged as Taylor and I envelop them both in hugs. I try to convey my love and sympathy for them both in that small gesture knowing that words will probably not mean much at the moment. Today, though, my focus is on getting Taylor through this, much in the way he was there for me at Nonna’s funeral.

  “Is there anything I can do, Genevieve?” I murmur softly into her ear.

  “No, darling girl. Just having you here, looking after Taylor, is enough. Thank you though.” Genevieve’s tone is resigned and I can’t help but think how awful it is for a parent to lose a child, no matter how old they are.

  We are interrupted by the signal to take our seats so I give Genevieve and Stix one last hug before letting Taylor tug me towards the entrance of the room where the ceremony in being held. Once inside, I make a move to sit in one of the pews towards the rear of the large space, dropping Taylor’s hand so that he can sit with his sister and grandmother at the front in the family seating. But he refuses to let go and instead drags me down the wide aisle, despite my whispered protestations that I don’t want to upset anyone.

  The tick in Taylor’s jaw pulses. “I need you, Abs. Fuck my mother. Fuck my brother. I don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks about it. You are my family now, Abigail Hudson, and you have as much right to sit up front as anyone else,” he whispers harshly. I refuse to make a scene so I quickly nod my acquiescence and allow him to manoeuvre me into a seat in the second row.

  We sit there in silence, the ever-tightening grip of Taylor’s hand the only indication of how he is feeling, as people file in and take their seats. A moment later Stix slides in beside me and without a word she picks up my other hand sliding her cool fingers through mine. A quick glance across at her tell me she is barely keeping it together, so I give her hand a reassuring squeeze hoping to convey that I am there for her with that simple touch.

  The hum of quiet voices fills the room and when I crane my neck around I am startled to see that every seat is taken and people are lining the walls. It is evident that Harold was well-respected and liked and it cheers me to know that, despite the issues with his own family, he will be remembered with fondness. Because no one should leave this earth without at least one person to mourn them as far as I am concerned, no matter who they are.

  A moment later the quiet strains of Bach fill the air and the voices hush as Genevieve and Gillian make their way to the front quickly followed by Richard. The two police officers flank him but as they move to sit on either side of him, I hear Gillian telling them angrily and in no uncertain terms that they are not welcome on the family pew. I watch the indecision flit across their faces; they have obviously been ordered not to let Richard out of their sight but are trying to balance it with the sensitivity of the occasion. A hushed conversation occurs and I pick up the words ‘ankle monitor’ before they make their decision and hesitantly move to the side of the room. Gillian murmurs a couple of words that I can’t decipher in Richard’s ear before patting him reassuringly on the knee and then giving a nod to some unseen person.

  My mind seems to shift into autopilot as the minister steps up and begins to talk about Harold’s life. I watch as Genevieve’s eyes glaze over with unshed tears when he talks about how Harold and his father built their business together and how proud his parents were of his accomplishments. I feel both Taylor and Nicola stiffen beside me when he begins to talk about Harold as the devoted family man. Clearly Gillian has had her hand in this speech and I know just how important image is to her. I let the words wash over me, not really paying much attention. I barely knew Harold and my main reason for being here is to support Taylor, Stix and Genevieve and not to say goodbye to a man who up until a few weeks ago was convinced I was a gold-digging whore. Gillian’s words, not mine.

  I get a sense things are starting to wind down once a couple of hymns have been sung along with a reading of Harold’s favourite poem. When I glance across at Taylor I can see his eyes are bright with unshed tears; Harold might have been a shitty father but he was still Taylor’s dad so my heart breaks for his anguish.

  I have barely paid attention to the coffin at the front of the room piled high with an ostentatious array of flowers but as I look to where everyone’s attention is pointed, I realised that it is now moving slowly on some kind of conveyor belt towards a set of curtains as more Bach plays softly. For a moment, I wonder idly whether crematoriums have set music, a bit like elevator musak, for instances like this. Before I can even finish that thought, I am interrupted by a loud keening sound that fills the room, a sound that makes me think of an injured animal.

  It’s only when Gillian leaps forward towards the coffin, her manicured nails scrabbling on the shiny walnut surface forcing it to stop its journey, that I realise the sound is coming from her. She sobs as she drapes herself across the coffin, calling out for Harold. I realise that this is the first time I have seen any kind of genuine emotion from her that isn’t bitterness or disgust. Despite all her flaws, it would appear that Gillian did actually love her husband.

  Things seem to happen all at once and before I know it a surge of people, including Taylor and Stix, have surrounded Gillian and are trying to convince her to let go. Her screams and sobs of defiance echo through the room and I can’t help but feel a shred of sympathy for the woman. If the position was reversed and it was Taylor in that coffin, I am not sure I would fare any better.

  Eventually, after a flurry of murmurs, Gillian’s death-grip loosens on the wood and her body slides back limply, the fight gone out of her. Arms surround Gillian guiding her back to her seat and I feel the collective sympathy of the room as we take in her tear-stained face, her smudged makeup and her hair in disarray. As the room settles, I scan the seats in front of me, my heart stopping when I realise that Richard is no longer in his seat.

  I look around me wildly as Taylor slides in beside me, Stix having taken a seat next to her mother and I can see Taylor giving me a weird look. But as I sweep the room for a second time it would appear I am not the only one who seems to have noted Richard’s absence. The two young police officers are talking into their radios, their faces drawn and urgent as they call for backup. Taylor, however, is still looking forward to where his father’s coffin is disappearing through the set of red velvet curtains to th
e soundtrack of his mother’s sobs. When he finally turns back to me, he takes in my ashen expression.

  “Abs, what’s the matter? Is Bean…are you okay?” he stutters out, his mind obviously going the worst possible scenario.

  “N…not me,” I stammer, my voice dropping to a whisper as I slowly point to Richard’s empty seat. “Richard…he’s gone.”

  The Second

  “What the hell do you mean you’ve lost my brother?” Taylor roars. I watch as the young police officer, one of the two who were supposed to be guarding Richard, flushes red under Taylor’s scrutiny.

  “Taylor, give the guy a break. It’s not his fault. This is Richard we are talking about.” I try to find the words to calm Taylor down but I think nothing short of Richard in handcuffs is going to do that.

  “Taylor,” says a voice from the entrance of the tiny interview room where we are currently awaiting answers. Our heads whip around simultaneously and I see Detective Stanton walking through, a thick file in her hands and an exhausted look on her face. “Abby,” she says in greeting. “We are doing our best to figure out where Richard is but it appears like he had this escape planned in advance. It wasn’t just an opportunistic gamble.

  “I can’t believe my mother was in on it,” Taylor says shaking his head in disgust.

  “To be honest Taylor, we don’t think she was.” Taylor shakes his head vehemently again, any feelings of sympathy for his mother long gone but he remains silent as the detective continues, “We think he used your mother as a distraction but we don’t think she knew what he was going to do. We have interviewed her at length during the night and we can’t find any evidence that she knew Richard was going to try to escape.”

  “Okay,” I say. “But what about the ankle monitor. I mean, surely, you guys can track him using that…” I trail off as the detective grimaces.

 
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