Absolution
Author:Amanda Dick

Fight or flight?

 

She desperately wanted to disappear, but she could already hear Callum and Jack talking in the hallway. In a moment or two, it would be too late.

 

Fine. It’s no big deal. I can do this.

 

She laced her hands over her abdomen and waited, still trying to convince herself.

 

“So, how was your first day at work?” she heard Callum ask. “Monty can be a bit of a tough nut, but from what I’ve heard, he’s fair.”

 

“Yeah, he’s tough. And I’m still waiting on my final medical clearance, so it was just light stuff today, but it’s a job and I’m grateful. I’ll take whatever I can get – not like I can afford to be picky.”

 

Good. He sounds happy. That’ll help.

 

Her heart pounded so violently, she could feel every beat reverberate inside her chest.

 

“Sounds like you deserve a beer, then.”

 

“You read my mind. Where’s Ally?”

 

“Living room.”

 

Jack appeared in the doorway, smiling and relaxed. The exact opposite of how she was feeling. She smiled up at him from her place on the floor, but her face felt like clay.

 

“Hey,” he said, seemingly oblivious. “I’m not interrupting am I?”

 

“Hi. No, it’s okay.”

 

Which was a complete lie, but she found herself saying it anyway. She wanted to say something else - ask him how his day went, somehow distract him from what was happening, but the words just weren’t there.

 

“We’re almost done here,” Callum said, walking past him to kneel on the floor at her feet. “Grab yourself a beer from the fridge – sounds like you’ve earned it.”

 

“I won’t argue with that.”

 

Ally focused her attention on Callum, afraid to look at Jack. He must be able to feel this – the mood change, the strange shift in the air? Thankfully, he headed for the kitchen, giving her the opportunity to breathe again.

 

Callum had her right leg in his hands, pushing her knee up towards her stomach slowly. Their eyes met for a moment, and with a brief nod of his head, he tried to reassure her. Her emotions were so near the surface, she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

 

She became aware of Jack standing in the kitchen doorway, watching them. Callum glanced over at him briefly, and the silence in the room became even more uncomfortable. She wanted someone to ease the tension, but she knew it couldn’t be her. She was too busy concentrating on breathing to try anything as complicated as speaking.

 

What was he thinking? Was he just going to stand there and watch? Her skin tingled at the thought. Never had she had a stronger urge to get up and get the hell out.

 

Callum repeated the same movement a couple of times, and then switched to her left leg. Jack walked over to the armchair nearest him and sat down.

 

“So this is what the yoga mat is for?” he asked.

 

She stubbornly refused to look at him, but she saw him take a sip from his beer bottle out of the corner of her eye. Callum waited for her to answer him, but she couldn’t.

 

“Three times a week, twenty minute sessions,” he said instead, her voice of reason, her knight in shining armour.

 

Her hand formed into a fist and she consciously moved it upwards until it was sitting under her ribs. The pressure on her abdomen wasn’t enough. She needed to feel it there. It was important. It made her feel less vulnerable. She was grasping at straws and she knew it, but it was all she had right now.

 

“So what is it you’re doing, exactly?” Jack asked.

 

Hell no!

 

“I think we’re probably about done here, aren’t we?” she said, unable to keep the anxiety out of her voice.

 

Game over.

 

She pushed herself up onto her elbows as Callum laid her leg down on the mat again, sitting back on his heels.

 

“I’ll go get a beer and take it outside,” he said, standing up. “I think you guys need to talk.”

 

Smooth. Thanks, traitor.

 

She glared at him as he left the room, directing all her frustrations at him, even though she knew it wasn’t his fault. Right now, she felt so lost, she barely recognised her own living room.

 

She pushed herself upright and sat there, staring at her hands clasped tightly together in her lap, wondering how she was going to explain this. Then Jack was sitting on the floor beside her, reaching over to rest his hand on hers.

 

“What’s wrong?” he asked softly.

 

She stared at his hand on top of hers. Two weeks ago, she was holding his hand in the hospital, begging him to wake up. Now here he was, wanting to talk, and she had no idea what to say.

 

“Hey, talk to me,” he murmured.

 

Couldn’t he see? She was sitting on the floor wearing lycra exercise pants that should be tight and curve-hugging, but instead were loose-fitting and shapeless. He had just watched Callum throwing her legs around like they weren’t even attached to her body anymore. Couldn’t he see?