“Amber?” the lady repeated, looking between him and me. “Your daughter, Amber?” she asked, a smile tugging at her lips. My father nodded, his eyes not leaving mine. I felt like a deer trapped in the headlights of an oncoming car, and all I could do was brace myself for the impact. “Well, it’s great to meet you at last. I’ve heard so much about you from Stephen and Johnny that I feel like I already know you,” the lady chirped, smiling warmly at me. I tried to smile back and pretend that everything was fine, that I wasn’t about to pass out any second, that I wasn’t about five seconds from screaming the house down.
“You too, Ruby,” I replied quietly, dragging my eyes away from him.
“What are you doing here, Amber?” my father asked, raising his eyebrows and smiling a half smile. The sound of his voice sent chills down my spine as I tried desperately not to remember my childhood. I had nightmares about his voice, his eyes, the way he stood so straight, and how his fists were always clenched, just like they were now.
“I….. I came with Johnny. He’s…. he’s getting changed,” I stuttered. Immediately I was mentally scolding myself because I was stuttering. His old rules were coming back, stand tall, speak clearly, no mumbling.
Ruby smiled. “Well, it’s great that you’re here. Would you like to stay for dinner? I think we’re getting a takeout because there’s not much food in. We weren’t due back until later tonight, but Matt’s been ill all weekend so we came back early,” Ruby explained as she kissed the baby’s head softly. She seemed really nice, too nice for this abusive asshole. I shook my head, I couldn’t speak again. My hands were shaking so I clasped them together tightly, trying to remain in control and not slump into a pile on the floor and sob. “You sure? It’s no trouble. We’d love to have you stay for dinner, wouldn’t we, Stephen?” she continued, smiling at him, completely oblivious that I was living my worst nightmare right now. He nodded, his gaze travelling the length of my body, making me go cold.
“I’m sure, thanks,” I said quietly, my voice breaking at the end.
The little boy started crying again. Ruby’s eyes went wide as she looked at Stephen. “I’ll just give him some medicine and put him down for a sleep,” she said, heading over to a cupboard pulling out a medicine bottle and spoon.
My father walked a couple of steps towards me and I shrank back against the door, my breathing coming out in shallow gasps. I thumbed my phone open and dialled Johnny – he was the closest person, if I could just call him and somehow tell him to get the hell downstairs, then we could leave.
“How have you been, Amber? I’ve been trying to see you for years but your brother wouldn’t let me,” he stated, sneering on the word brother.
He’d been trying to see me and Jake didn’t tell me? Why the hell wouldn’t he tell me something like that? Knowing Jake, he probably thought he was protecting me. I looked at Johnny’s mother for help; she was putting the medicine bottle back now.
“I’ve been fine, thank you,” I answered. I glanced down at my phone, it was still trying to connect, Johnny wasn’t answering. Damn it!
“I’ll just put Matt to bed, then I’ll be back and make some coffee or something,” Ruby suggested, smiling kindly at me.
“OK, love,” my father replied, his eyes not leaving mine.
I gulped; I couldn’t be here with him on my own! “Can I come with you?” I asked desperately. Ruby looked at me a little shocked. “I’d like to see Matt’s room, if that’s OK,” I lied quickly. There was no way I was staying in here with him.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Amber. Matt’s not well. You can see his room another time,” my father interjected before Ruby could answer.
Ruby smiled. “I’ll be right back.” She headed out of the room with the little boy clinging around her neck.
I stepped to the side and almost ran out of the room after her. Just as I passed him, he grabbed my wrist, yanking me to a stop, almost making me fall. I felt the scream trying to rip itself out of my throat but I swallowed it back down, I couldn’t show him how much power he had over me.
“You look beautiful, Amber. Just like your mother when she was your age. You always were a f**king peach,” he purred, licking his lips as he trailed his hand across my cheek.
I brought my knee up and kneed him as hard as I could in the groin, yanking my arm from his hold and streaking for the hallway as fast as my legs could carry me. I had no idea where I should go though. I came here in Johnny’s car so I didn’t want to just run out of the house with nowhere to go. So instead, I ran up the stairs, streaking down the hallway until I spotted a door with an ‘Enter at your own risk’ hazard sign hanging on it. That one had to be Johnny’s. I didn’t bother knocking as I burst through the door, slamming it behind me and bursting into hysterical sobs as I leant against it.