Hundreds of Butterflies. Chapter VIII
Upon seeing me, Ruth ran to me and hugged me tight. "Be careful..." I said, pushing her back slightly, "the baby." Ruth stared at me gobsmacked, as I moved my jacket and there, sitting on my chest in her little blue baby carrier, was Alice. Her niece. "Oh my God! Rebekah you kept her, I'm so happy! She's beautiful!"
Ruth carried my bags into the house while I followed after her with Alice and the pram.
We stood in her living room for a few minutes, Ruth stared at me, a proud smile spread across her face. I stared back nervously. Finally Ruth spoke, "do you want a cup of tea?" I nodded and Ruth turned and went into the kitchen. I perched awkwardly on the arm of the sofa, and gently eased Alice out of her carrier and into my arms. I was still a nervous wreck and quite surprised that I had even made it this far.
A few moments later my sister emerged from the kitchen with two cups of tea and a plate of biscuits on a bright plastic tray. "Are Chocolate Hobnobs still your favourite?" She asked as she placed the tray on the coffee table. "Yep, still my favourite." I smiled, "Do you want to hold your niece so I can have one?"
Ruth laughed "of course!" She exclaimed, gently lifting Alice out of my arms. "Wow Rebekah she's so beautiful!" Exclaimed Ruth with awe, "she has your eyes!"
"Hmmph ffanghw wou." I mumbled, spraying biscuit crumbs.
After fussing over Alice for a while and finishing our tea and biscuits, Ruth looked at me and raised an eyebrow. "So, you being here? I'm guessing Dad wasn't all that supportive of your decision and you need somewhere to stay?"
I nodded "I told Dad that I wanted to keep her and he told me I couldn't, he said that I had to give her up. So this morning I snuck out of the hospital before they arrived with the adoptive parents."
Ruth nodded grimly "well I'd love to say I can't believe he said that but unfortunately I'm not the least bit surprised! I'm just utterly appalled!" She said kindly, walking up beside me and placing an arm around my shoulder. I hated lying to her, but I had no choice, if I told my sister the truth she would try to make me call the police and explain, and I just couldn't let them take my baby away again!
"How did you get to Brighton anyway?" Asked a confused Ruth,
"On the train." I answered, hoping that would be the end of the innocuous questions. It wasn't.
"How did you pay for the ticket?" I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, "well?... Rebekah?"
I pulled a face "I stole Mum's debit card last night when she visited me in hospital." I whispered guiltily, technically the truth, except for the location.
"Rebekah!" Ruth chastised me.
"I know, I know! But I had to! All I had for Alice was one outfit, a couple of nappies and a bottle! I needed to get a pram, a carrier and all the other stuff I needed, plus I needed to get here!"
"I get it!" Ruth frowned "but you stole from your own mother!"
I looked down at my feet "I had no choice." I whispered shamefully. We sat in awkward silence for a few minutes then Ruth spoke...
"So, Alice... You named her Alice." She smiled. "That's beautiful Becka! I can't believe it didn't occur to me to ask her name!" Ruth laughed.
"Well I did kind of surprise you by showing up unannounced."
Ruth nodded, cooing over Alice, whom she had laid on the sofa tickling her feet.
I took a deep breath, "So, time for the one million pound question..." I began
"Yes!" Said Ruth firmly "the answer to the one million pound question is yes, you can stay here."
"I breathed a sigh of relief and smiled, "But won't your girlfriend mind?"
Ruth shook her head, "no don't worry, she's great. I don't think she'll mind, and even if she does, your my sister!"
I smiled. "Thank you so much! I really appreciate this Ruth! If i'd stayed in Crawley they'd-" I began to gush, but Ruth interrupted me.
"There are stipulations!" She said firmly, "your not just going to get a free ride."
I nodded "Of course! I'll get a job and-"
"No" Interrupted Ruth, "Erika and I both work, you don't need to get a job. For the summer all you need to do is be here and take care of Alice. I'll help as much as I can but you'll be alone most days whilst Erika and I are at work."
"Then" continued Ruth "In September you'll go to college, I'm not sure how but we'll figure something out, and you'll ge some qualifications."
I nodded enthusiastically, "I'll get L.E.A and probably some help with childcare, a grant or something, i'll do my A Levels part time and take care of Alice the rest of the time! And while I'm here i'll pull my weight!" I babbled excitedly.
"What about after your A Levels?" Asked Ruth "how will you get a degree? Wouldn't it be better to do something more vocational?"
"I've researched it all!" I answered enthusiastically "I could get a degree part time at college, or I could put my student loan towards childcare, people with kids go to university all the time! i know it'd be tough, but I can make it work!"
"Hmmm..." Ruth murmured "People with kids who go to university are usually adults with husbands or wives who can help out, but like I said i'll help as much as I can. We'll figure something out."
I nodded, I was so grateful for what my sister was doing for me that I actually started to relax. That was until my sister said:
"There is one more stipulation Rebekah, you have to call mum and dad, to let them know your safe."
"What?!" I exclaimed, stunned.
"When I left home I burned all my bridges behind me, and not having my parent's in my life is hard. I miss them, no matter how much they've hurt me, I just don't want you to go through the same things I had to!"
"But I won't." I smiled "I have you!"
Ruth smiled, "Still. And I know what mum and dad are like, but they're still your parents. And they don't deserve to loose both of their daughters and their granddaughter!"
I frowned, "don't they? they pushed me away remember? And they didn't even want their granddaughter!"
"I know, I know! But if when you call them they just brush you off, at least you'll have taken the high road!"
I began to panic, I should have guessed my sister would make me call home! "The house phone's in the kitchen." Ruth said, gesturing toward the doorway.
"You know what..." I began slowly, desperately trying to come up with a reason not to call.
"Is there a payphone anywhere nearby?"
Ruth frowned "down the road why?"
"I just don't want them to know your number, I don't want them ringing or turning up, trying to wreck things. I'll call them from a payphone, just to let them know that I'm safe and that's all. For now anyway."
Ruth looked confused "alright, it's just at the end of the road to the left."
So leaving Alice with Ruth I wandered down the street. The sun was shining and I walked slowly, breathing in deeply and wondering how the hell I was going to get out of this. After a significant amount of time had passed I returned to the house. I told my sister that I had rang my parents and been told that I was going to fail. That I wouldn't be able to raise a child alone and that when I finally came to my sense's and was ready to put Alice up for adoption I would be allowed to return home, and not before.
To which Ruth nodded gravely and asked: "What did mum say?"
"He wouldn't let me talk to her." I lied.
Ruth gave me a hug. "Well, I'll show you the spare room, from now on to be known as your room!" She smiled.
Later that afternoon, after I had unpacked mine and Alice's things into our new room. Set up Alice's pram as a temporary cot in the corner, and fed, changed and put her down for a nap. Ruth and I were watching T.V when we heard a key turn in the lock. Ruth jumped up excitedly from the sofa grinning like a child. "Becky that's Erika!" She exclaimed, "you'll love her I promise!"
I smiled, but for some reason nervous butterflies began to flutter in my stomach.
The door closed, and Erika's voice called from the hallway "Ruthie, I sold the last of those old designs finally!"
"Oh Erik that's great!" Answered my sister jogging excitedly up to the hall doorway. She had an excitable energy about her that I had never seen in her when she lived at home.
"Erika hun, I have a surprise for you!" She chirped.
"You're Pregnant?" Erika joked, with mock excitement.
"Not quite..." Laughed Ruth, as Erika stepped into the doorway, and saw me sat on the couch. Ruth smiled, "Erika this is..."
"Your sister!" exclaimed Erika smiling, "wow hi! Rebekah right?"
I nodded and stood up, holding out my hand.
"Don't be silly! You're basically family!" Erika laughed, pushing my hand out of the way and grabbing me in a tight bear hug. I laughed and hugged her back.
Erika looked nothing like I had imagined her, and somehow at the same time exactly like I had. She was tall, statuesque and exotically beautiful with coco coloured skin and deep brown eyes. She had choppy black hair, with a thick stripe of shocking pink running through the left side, framing her face. While the right side was cut short, and tapered on top, like a plume. On anyone else, it would have looked ridiculous, but on Erika somehow it looked great.
Together her and my Joss Stone-esque sister made a very beautiful couple.
While Ruth took Erika into the kitchen and explained what was going on, I sat in the livng room, nervously watching television. After a few minutes Erika and Ruth emerged from the kitchen, Erika sat beside me on the couch and smiled, "welcome to the family!"
"You don't mind?" I asked nervously.
Erika laughed, "are you kidding? No way! Having you and the baby here will be so much fun! And I think you could use a bit of fun don't you?"
I smiled and nodded.
"So." Continued Erika, "Alice can sleep in her pram tonight, then first thing tomorrow we'll go shopping! We'll pick up a cot, some more clothes, blankets, bottles, a sterilizer. All that stuff, and we'll get some stuff for you too! We can get some paint if you like, and re-decorate your room?"
I smiled broadly "Thank you!" I exclaimed gratefully.
"No worries." Erika smiled.
The rest of that night we spent watching movies, eating junk food and cooing over Alice when she woke up to be fed. I had mentioned that I needed more baby formula for Alice and Erika immediately went out in the car and got some. Ruth was right I did love Erika, she was great!
The next day was Tuesday, and the indie clothing boutique my sister owned with Erika was closed Tuesdays and Sundays. So as promised the three of us took Alice into town and did some shopping. Ruth had made me cut up my mother's debit card, which was fine by me, I didn't want to leave a paper trail, and I still had some of the money I had taken out with it left. I didn't tell Ruth or Erika about it, I just left it in my purse, just in case.
Ruth and Erika bought all the other little things for Alice that I needed, and some stuff for me too. I felt bad that they were spending so much money on me, but they both assured me that it was OK. After Ruth and Erika graduated university, Ruth with a degree in Fashion and Business Studies, and Erika with the same plus an NVQ in Accounting and Finance. They had successfully applied for a small business loan and opened up their Clothes boutique, in which Erika worked full time as a manager, selling clothes and dealing with the finances. And Ruth worked three days a week, designing and making the clothes, and selling them in the shop too. Ruth also worked one day a week as an assistant to a textiles tutor at Brighton and Hove College. So they assured me that they could afford to treat me a little.
For the next couple of days everything was great, I set up a cot and mobile in the corner of my room with pink blankets and a little set of draws next to it filled with clothes and nappies. On top I had sat a picture of Alice and I taken my first night at Ruth and Erika's in a fluffy pink frame. I had a double bed at the other side of the room, with lilac bed covers, and a large full length mirror on the wall, around which I had stuck the photos I had brought with me, the picture the Maxwell's had given me of Alice, photos of Claire, Jodie and Pippa, my old school friends. Even some old childhood photos of Ruth and myself on holiday which Ruth had given to me. I was really beginning to feel at home. I was getting on great with Ruth and Erika, who were helping me with Alice and teaching me how to take care of her, from bathing her and making up her bottle, to swaddling her and putting her down with her feet at the bottom of her cot so she couldn't wriggle down under her blanket. Getting up every two hours to feed her was exhausting and just having her in my life was overwhelming. I was still incredibly nervous that the police or my parents would find me. I watched the news closely whenever it was on, and I scanned the covers of every newspaper I passed, inside or outside the house. But so far I had seen nothing anywhere about a kidnapped child or a teenage runaway.
I was beginning to relax, thinking that I might be able to carry on the way I was, live here with my daughter, and raise her. Watch her grow up, get some qualifications without ever having to give Alice up again. Everything was going really well, until just two days later, on Thursday morning...