How Hard Can Love Be? (The Spinster Club #2)


by Holly Bourne

One

Don’t be sick on the children… Don’t be sick on the children…

Their little heads bobbed beneath me in the queue to get on the aeroplane. My stomach lurched again and I grabbed it. If I clutched at my guts hard enough, hopefully they’d not empty themselves over the excitable heads of the kids in front.

I couldn’t be certain, but vomming over innocent kiddlywinks could possibly jeopardize my acceptance onto a long-haul flight.

Why had I done that last shot last night? Why, please? Why? WHY!?

The flight attendant in front checked another ticket and beckoned the passenger past. The line crawled forward under the brutal fluorescent lights of the departure lounge. The aeroplane waited outside the floor-to-ceiling window, looking way too small to carry all these people to America. It was white, like the horse a dashing knight would ride to rescue princesses in a fairytale. But I was no princess, and I could rescue myself thank you very much. All I needed was this aeroplane to put an ocean between me and my evil stepmother.

My stomach lurched again as I remembered how I’d said goodbye…

“Look at the state of her,” my stepmother, Penny, said, loud enough for everyone in the security queue to hear. We were at that annoying bit of the airport process where everyone realizes they can’t take any liquids with them so decant all their bottles into see-through plastic bags.

“I am here, you know?” I rolled my eyes because I knew it annoyed her and downed the rest of my water bottle.

She ignored me. “They won’t let her on the plane.”

I looked at Dad desperately for help. He held back a smile.

“Relax, Penny. Think of all the drunken stags they let onto planes to Vegas every day.”

“I’m not drunk!” I protested, causing about ten separate clumps of travellers to stop and stare.

Dad laughed and pulled me into a hug. I clung onto him, nestling into his shoulder, inhaling his smell. It helped with the nausea.

“No, you’re not drunk, are you, poppet? Just hungover. You had quite the leaving do. Though you do smell drunk.” He took a deliberate whiff and pushed me away… “PHEWEE.”

“I showered this morning…”

… Which I had. I’d also just happened to sweat out the previous night’s sambuca shots on the drive to the airport.

Dad pulled me in for another hug. “In that case, come ’ere.”

It would’ve been a tender moment if Penny wasn’t there. But she was obsessed with always being there – like she was terrified if I got one moment alone with Dad, like, ever, that I’d make him realize what a manipulative evil bitch she was. And to be fair, I would certainly give it a go. Of course, Craig was there too – ruining the moment. Because you can’t have a clichéd evil stepmother without the standardized evil stepsibling.

As if on cue, Craig looked me up and down and said, “You smell like your mum.”

How dare he HOW DARE HE howdarehehowdare hehowdareHE? The crimson mist he always evokes in me descended through my hangover. I saw spots, and my foot went out instinctively and kicked him hard in the shin.

He yelped and fell down – totally, totally faking.

Penny and Dad went into utter-defence mode and the usual chaos broke out.

“AMBER. YOU SAY SORRY, YOUNG LADY.”

“CRAIG, ARE YOU OKAY? DON’T CRY.”

“You’re crazy, just like she is,” Craig added from the floor.

Dad held me away from Craig as I launched myself at him again. “Amber, no!”

I strained and struggled against Dad’s arms. Penny stood protectively in front of her son – shooting me her demon glare. Like I was just attacking Craig for no reason. Like she hadn’t just heard what he’d said.

People were looking. Security staff included. Dad made hush noises into my ear, stroking my hair, while I yelled, “You take that back, you take that back!”

“Amber, come on. Calm down. They really won’t let you on the plane…”

I looked around. A uniformed dude was making his way over. Penny clocked him at the same time. I saw the conflict cloud her face – getting me told off versus making a scene… She chose not making a scene.

“Shh,” she said – to both of us.

Craig and I glared at each other, but we both straightened up, and acted casual. The security guard stopped, examined us, then walked back to the little booth he’d come from.

I sighed. I felt so sick. And I’d wanted to say goodbye to Dad – just us two. I threw my empty plastic bottle into the bin provided and didn’t look up.

“You apologize, young lady,” Penny demanded.

I pulled my rucksack straps tighter to readjust my bag – suddenly really angry. With my stupid stepmother. With my stupider stepbrother. With Dad. For not telling Craig off, for never telling Craig off…

“He should apologize too, for what he said!”

“I meant it,” Craig called from behind Penny. And Dad had to stop me lurching at him again.

“You know what? I can’t be arsed with this.” I turned and stormed off into the security queue, knowing they couldn’t follow.

“Amber? AMBER!” Dad called.

I ignored him and kept walking.

“Amber, come on, say goodbye nicely.”

“Goodbye nicely,” I fired back over my shoulder, funnelling into the line, getting my boarding card out ready.

It was the last thing I’d say to him in six weeks.

Don’t be sick on the children. Don’t be sick on the children.

The two girls in front were blissfully unaware of their vomit-related danger. They swapped pink puppy cards while their parents fussed with passports, checking and re-checking they were still in the same pocket.

I was so mad at Dad. I was so mad at Dad ten million per cent of the time. What was so crappy was that airport scene wasn’t even extraordinary. Just the normal everyday occurrence of me versus Craig, me versus Penny…with Dad set on keeping the peace, rather than keeping on the side of his only daughter. I was so exhausted from fighting. I was so exhausted from feeling left out.

I was so exhausted from missing Mum…

The boarding queue inched forward again and everyone moved along, dragging their bags behind them. My tummy churned, complaining about the rubbery duty-free eggs I’d eaten while crying silently in the harsh neon lighting of the airside restaurant.

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