The gentle sounds of the water rippling, the fish agitating the surface as they gulped at the little specks of fruit she had been throwing on the surface of the lake, Ivy let out a huge sigh of relief. This was more like it. Peace and quiet. Or was it… No… She froze as she heard approaching footsteps, trying not to let out the frustrated cry that was building within her. There was nowhere to hide here…
She nearly jumped out of her skin as a fishing rod appeared before her. Looking up, she saw a familiar face smiling above her. ‘Figured you might want this,’ Tristan grinned.
The two stood in a companiable silence for a few minutes, watching the fish swim curiously about their lures. ‘I figured you’d be here,’ Tristan said. ‘Mum rang me, told me about the article in The Times. I can’t believe they published your name and photo like that! You should sue. Anyway, I told her that I knew where you’d have gone after seeing something like that. Thought you might like a friendly face.’
Ivy sniffed, her tears threatening to spill over. ‘Thanks, Tristan. I really appreciate it. Never thought a relationship could be this complicated!’
Tristan laughed half-heartedly. ‘It’s not exactly your run of the mill situation!’
Ivy smiled. ‘True that. Hey, how come you got here so quickly? I only saw the article about half an hour ago.’
Straightening himself up, a proud look flitted across Tristan’s face. ‘Well, I wasn’t going to tell you what with your drama and everything, but as you ask – I had an interview at the Science Facility. I got the job!’
‘Oh Tristan, that’s wonderful!’ Ivy dropped her rod and pulled her brother into a hug.
Tristan had graduated a few days previously with honours; he achieved the highest grades in his class and had received full marks in science. Excited by his success, he’d immediately applied to the Science Facility and had been given an entry level graduate position. ‘I’m going to have to get fishing more!’ He twitched his rod, trying to guide the lure over to a fish on the surface. ‘It’s one of the requirements!’
‘We’ll have to restart your lessons! Aw, just like when you were little!’
‘Oh, be quiet! Just as long as you don’t start all the girl talk! Save that for Maria!’
Ivy’s mood clouded over instantly. ‘Yeah, well. I would if she was still talking to me.’
‘For gnomes’ sake, is she still not talking to you? Just go the laundrette tomorrow, you know it’s her laundry day!’
* * *
Ivy walked into the laundrette a little nervously, clutching the bag of laundry close to her. Trying to appear nonchalant, she strolled casually over to a free machine and emptied her bag into it, adding her washing powder and popping in a couple of coins. The machine whirred into life, and she turned around to scan the room for Maria. Her heart leapt and dropped simultanously as she saw her in the corner, stood talking to a man she’d not seen before.
She walked over hesitantly. ‘Maria. Hi.’
Maria jumped, turning to face Ivy. She’d been wondering if she’d turn up here. She flipped her fringe out of her face awkwardly, not entirely sure what to say. Maria didn’t like admitting she was wrong about something, not even to herself.
‘Ivy, hi! I’ve been meaning to call you back, I’ve just been… Y’know, busy.’
‘For the past two weeks?!’ Ivy tried to keep her voice under control.
‘Yes!’ Maria immediately went on the defensive. Sensing the atmosphere, the man quickly turned to the tense Maria.
‘Looks like you two need to talk, right? I’ll go wait in the car.’ To Ivy’s surprise, he dropped a quick kiss on Maria’s lips before heading out to the waiting Speedster parked outside, smiling briefly at Ivy first.
‘Um… Who’s that?’
Maria shifted uncomfortably on the spot. ‘Um. That’s Isidro. He works at the Theatre too. We’ve kind of… He’s my… Er…’
‘Right. I get it.’
‘It’s recent,’ Maria said. ‘We’ve only been… er… together for…’
‘It doesn’t matter,’ Ivy interrupted. ‘I’m… I’m happy for you,’ she said, trying to smile.
‘Thanks!’ Maria grinned back eagerly.
‘So. We need to talk?’
Maria stared at Ivy. She was so used to being in the limelight, having been the centre of attention for her entire life. She was the one who people talked about, she was the one who caused the scandals, she was the one who’d been working so hard to make a name for herself in the music industry. And yet it was Ivy who was now in all the papers, all the magazines, the name on everyone’s lips, and all she’d done was fall for someone… She didn’t begrudge Ivy her happiness. The logical part of herself knew that it didn’t really matter, that it was just one of those things and she should get over it. But that green-eyed monster had reared its ugly head…
‘I don’t really know what you want me to say, Ivy. You made your choice. Do you know how it made me feel, reading about it out of the blue like that! Imagine if I’d got to work without reading the news, I’d have looked stupid, everyone knowing before I did! I’m supposed to be your best mate, Ivy. You should’ve told me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my boyfriend is waiting for me.’ Maria tossed her hair back and marched away leaving a devastated Ivy behind her, biting back her own tears. Why on earth was she doing this?! For gnomes sake, she needed therapy or something…
* * *
Hearing the quiet sobs, Cassie headed curiously up the spiral staircase, following the sound. Poking her head around Ivy’s bedroom door, she saw her daughter crying her eyes out with her head buried in her arms on her desk. Her heart sank.
Sniffling, Ivy picked her head and looked around at her anxious mother. ‘Oh, Mum. I don’t know what to do!’
‘Oh, come here sweetheart!’ Holding her arms open, Cassie was nearly knocked clean over as Ivy collapsed into her.
‘There there, Ivy. It’ll be okay, you’ll see,’ she soothed, stroking her hair and holding her tight as if she were a child who had fallen off her bicycle for the first time.
‘No it won’t! Everyone’s bitching about me, I can’t go anywhere without getting a load of abuse, my best friend won’t talk to me and Ethan’s in Bridgeport!’ Ivy wailed into her mother’s shoulder, a fresh wave of sobs running through her.
Cassie thought for a few moments as she comforted Ivy. ‘Things would be so much simpler if he was here, wouldn’t it?’
Ivy nodded. ‘But he’s not.’
‘Well, why don’t you go to him? Go to Bridgeport?’
Ivy looked up, stunned. ‘Mum, what? I can’t leave you at time like this!
‘Oh, I’ll be fine love. Your Dad’s here, and Tristan. And it’s not doing me any good having my daughter be miserable as well!’ Cassie smiled sadly at her daughter. Sue had died the previous week.
She’d rung Cassie, telling her that she wasn’t feeling too well. She’d seemed fine when Cassie got there, and the pair had sat watching soap operas on the television drinking coffee and chatting.
Then Sue had collapsed. A brain aneurysm, the medics had said. She’d died instantly. Not that that had softened the blow at all.
‘Love, listen to me. I want you to be happy. You should go and visit Ethan! He clearly means a great deal to you, and you should be with him while all this is going on. He’ll understand what you’re going through.’
‘But Mum -‘
‘Call him,’ Cassie said gently, handing Ivy her phone. Ivy hugged her mother close. ‘Thank you,’ she whispered.
Heading outside, she dialled his number. ‘Hey, Ivy? How’re things?’ Ethan’s cheery voice rang out down the phone; yet more tears welled up in Ivy’s eyes as she realised just how much she’d missed him. ‘Hey,’ she choked out.
‘Ivy? What’s the matter? Is everything alright? Is it your Mum, is it about her friend?’ Ethan asked, immediately concerned. The caring tone in his voice overwhelmed Ivy.
‘Um… Ethan… Would it be okay if I came out to Bridgeport for a little bit?’ she whispered, fingering the hem of her dress nervously; she was suddenly worried that she was being too forward.
‘Of course, Ivy! I’d love it if you would come out here! I was going to suggest that you come for a little while, but I was a bit worried you’d think I was being too forward,’ Ethan laughed. ‘When will you be here?’
Ivy felt her mood start to lift instantly. ‘How does tomorrow morning sound?’