If Trouble Was Money

Numb – Gary Clark Jr.

Life was good for Daniel.

He was in the zone.

The beat was hitting just right, there was just the right amount of alcohol in his system to enjoy himself, without losing control and the girl in front of him was smoking hot.

One of his boys, a charming Scouser with a cockney accent came up to him and passed him another beer, as they continued to dance.

Daniel grinned at his friend and as the chorus swelled up, they both yelled in unison.

Beautiful, Beautiful Is Boring!
Beautiful, Beautiful Is Boring!
Beautiful, Beautiful Is Boring!
Beautiful, Beautiful Is Boring
!

Then the band, a dark edgy pair of female punk rockers, known as BONES UK, shredded their guitars and both men banged their heads away, lost in the musical moment.

Just as the music peaked, Daniel’s phone rang and he could feel it vibrate away inside his coat.

Frowning, he pulled it out and stared at the screen.

“Ahhhhh bollocks!!” cursed Daniel as he realised who it was and in an instant was sobered up.

“Harry, mate! I got to go bruv. I’m sorry man. It’s Abby.” apologised Daniel, as he pulled Harry close.

“What?! Did you say Abby? Ah sorry bruv. Yeah I get it. Go!” yelled Harry over the din of the concert.

Daniel gave his mate a hug. “I’ll catch you soon yeah? Fill you in on the tea soon bruv.”

“No worries man. You mind if I chirps your peng ting though?”

Daniel laughed and cuffed Harry around the head. “Tosser! Yeah go for it, ya numpty.”

Harry grinned at Daniel’s consent and immediately forgot his best mate, as he focused his attention on the girl who Daniel was hitting on for the entirety of the concert.

As Daniel started to make his way through a raucous crowd, he looked down at his hand and realised that Harry had stolen the beer from his hand and was now offering to the attractive blonde.

Laughing to himself, Daniel grabbed his coat from the check out chick at the front desk and made his way back out into London.

At a tall, lean, 185 centimetres tall, with dark ebony skin and a magnetic smile, Daniel Abara’s model looks were only accentuated by his grey tweed coat and tortoiseshell glasses that made him look younger. He was the iconic British upper class schoolboy. Confident, polite, always up for a good time and impeccably dressed for any shenanigans, illegal or otherwise.

Women and men would stare at him, as he walked down the street, entranced by his natural cocky swagger. Daniel Abara was truly on top of the world.

Except for this one girl.

Hunching himself into his coat to protect himself from the iconic English weather, Daniel pulled out his phone and rang back Abby.

“Abby? Hi! Where are you?” asked Daniel urgently.

“Oh Danny, I’m a mess right now. Please help me. I’m at St. James Square. Please hurry.”

Looking down at his dress shoes, Daniel swore inwardly and began to break into a jog. Replying back to Abby calmly over the phone, Daniel said “OK Abby. Hang on. I’ll be there in a jiffy.”

From the Wigmore Hall to St. James Square, was a solid mile, in the direction of the Thames. As his feet pounded the pavement, Daniel wondered to himself, how many times it was now, that Abby would call him up in the middle of a night and ask for help.

Probably a solid dozen by now thought Daniel as he ran down New Bond St, ignoring the horns that blared at him angrily from behind.

Why I keep helping this chick is beyond me. Before he could query his own statement further, he saw the picturesque garden of St. James Square.

Running through the gate, Daniel scanned the small garden anxiously, before his brown eyes settled on a lonely girl, her long legs up to her chin, her pale arms around herself, as she rocked silently on the bench.

“Abby…” whispered Daniel as he moved towards her. This situation looked different to the previous rescues. There was something haunted in the way how one of his oldest friends moved.

Keeping his hands in front of him, Daniel moved slowly towards Abby, concern suffusing his handsome dark features.

Up close, Abigail Robinson was your definition of a stunning attractive British blonde. Svelte, elegant, refined and almost too good looking. No matter the angle, Abigail presented flawlessness and seduction. Full lips, a straight nose, large blue eyes and a strong, sharp pair of eyebrows. A slender body that had enough curves to draw attention, without sacrificing fashion appeal.

When she smiled, dimples graced her cheeks that would stop traffic. But it was when she was crying, Abby’s true magnetism shone through. Her big blue eyes would hold your attention and melt everything away, until only her problems existed in the world.

It was her melancholy that made her an overnight sensation.

Abigail was one of England’s most in-demand It girls, gracing both magazine covers and nightclubs with equal abandon. Her star was rising and it seemed to Daniel, that his friend of 10 years was soon going to outgrow him.

To see her here, all alone, without an entourage to look after her was something extremely bizarre. Especially with the way how Abigail was dressed, a golden low-cut shimmering dress that shone under the amber lights of London.

Daniel walked up to her, unsure if it was really his friend.

“Abby?” asked Daniel in a half whisper.

The girl looked up, tears running down her cheeks, and sobbed in relief.

“Danny! Oh, thank God you’ve come.”

Daniel instinctively took off his coat and wrapped it around her shoulders. Sitting down next to her, he placed his hand across her shoulders and brought her in close.

“Abby, what the hell is going on? What are you doing out here alone?”

Abigail looked at his gentle expression and unable to control herself, burst into tears. Daniel recoiled slightly in shock, before bringing her in even closer, her arms wrapping themselves around his torso.

“It’s alright Abby. It’s OK. I’m here.” whispered Daniel soothingly. He rubbed her back tenderly, confused and concerned as one of his oldest friends continued to cry into his chest.

“What happened Abby?” asked Daniel in between her sobs. But she remained mute. Sighing, Daniel looked around at the desolate park and winced. Pulling out his phone, he called for an Uber before nodding seriously to himself, considering his options as he noted the 4 minute wait.

OK, first thing first. Just like any Abby rescue mission. Let’s look for her kit. thought Daniel, as he looked around for any of Abby’s possessions, as she clung to him desperately.

“Take it easy, darling. Did you bring anything else out here, other than your phone?”

Abby merely shook her head in his chest. “OK. I just called an Uber. We’re going to your place OK?”

Abby violently shook her head.

“OK, OK. We’ll go to mine then.”

Abby nodded silently.

“Christ Abby …you’ve really outdone yourself this time.” as Daniel settled back and continued to rub her back comfortingly.

The shudders started again. Daniel sighed again, in as many minutes.

They stayed together for a few minutes, with only the sounds of the city and her sobs to accompany their lonely comfort. Just as Abby began to relax in his chest, the lights of Daniel’s Uber flashed through the trees of St. James Park. Daniel shook Abby gently, however she refused to move.

Wrapping his arms under her legs, Daniel effortlessly lifted one of Britain’s top models and carried her to the car, where the considerate Uber driver recognised the situation immediately and hopped out to get the back door. Daniel nodded his thanks and placed her down gently in the backseat, before doing up her seatbelt and climbing in himself.

“Sorry bruv, but slight change. Instead of Camden, can we go here instead?” Daniel punched in the new coordinates for his apartment in Greenwich to the app.

“Yeah, all good, guv. She alright?” asked the driver, concerned.

“Yeah, she’ll be OK.” said Daniel curtly, shutting down the conversation.

The ride to his apartment took less time than he anticipated and Daniel left a 5 pound tip for the driver, when he opened the door again, as Daniel carried the wreck of an Abigail Robinson into his apartment complex, where he flashed the security guard with his ID dangling from his mouth.

By now, Abby was almost asleep, her consciousness fading in and out of her emotional state.

The guard raised an eyebrow but buzzed him through, calling the elevator to the 7th floor. Daniel nodded politely in gratitude. The whole night was only going smoothly due to the kindness of strangers.

As Daniel stumbled out of the elevator, his arms burning, he set her down on the floor before swiping open his apartment and holding the door open with a foot, whilst he bought her in, before placing her on his bed.

Wiping the sweat from his brow, Daniel wrapped his blanket over Abigail, before heading into the bathroom to change.

As he shoved his dirty clothes in the laundry, Daniel caught a glimpse of himself in his hallway full length mirror. The tired, stressed Daniel that looked back, was a far cry from the easy going version only an hour earlier, and a lot less impeccably dressed, with tracksuit pants and a worn dark grey shirt with the words of his favourite band, MUSE written across it in block letters.

Shaking his head, Daniel walked into his kitchen and put the kettle on, pleased that at least his apartment was clean. It was large, even by London standards, spacious enough to fit a small home gym, and a walk-in wardrobe. A spare bedroom operated as his study, which was filled with custom military jet models that he had painted and collected over the years.

Glancing at the antique clock that hung on the wall, he sighed at the sight of the hands reaching out to 1am and walked back into his room, to check that Abby was fast asleep.

Grabbing a spare blanket and pillow, and smiling forlornly at his friend, Daniel walked out into his kitchen, switched off the kettle just before it was about to whistle and made a comfortable makeshift bed on his couch.

Flicking on the TV, Daniel settled himself in with a cup of hot chocolate, some digestives and surfed the channels, until he came across a relaxing music channel that only played progressive rock.

In what seemed like only moments later, Daniel woke up, bleary eyed, to feel a weight on his shoulder. Abby had woken up, changed and was now only wearing one of his large T-shirts, another one from his rock collection, a white print of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland. Her bare legs were stretched out next to his, her blue eyes were closed, as her long blonde hair flowed down his chest.

How many times has this happened and I’ve done nothing about it. wondered Daniel. Sitting up, Daniel heard Abby sleepily moan, as his comforting warmth faded away from her and she also began to wake up.

As Abby stretched, Daniel looked up at his clock again and winced. 3am in the morning. Still, no time like the present to have a deep and meaningful conversation.

Shrugging internally to himself, he put on the kettle again and waited in the kitchen, whilst Abby covered herself with a blanket to keep the chill away.

Pouring out hot chocolates again, Daniel handed one to Abby, who nodded her thanks gratefully.

Sitting at the end of the couch, their legs touching mid way across the leather, Daniel raised a suggestive eyebrow over the lip of his coffee mug.

Abby licked her lips nervously and sighed heavily.

“I fucked up big time Danny and I’m paying the price for it.”

Daniel looked at her concerned. “How did you fuck up Abby? What happened tonight? Where was everyone? I mean, where’s Topher, your manager? He’s always by your side.”

“That’s the thing Danny, Topher is the problem. He … He …” Abby’s tears began to flow as she struggled to get the words out. “He …” Abby began to gag as the memories came flooding back.

Sensing the coming eruption, Daniel reacted quickly, slid his hot chocolate onto the coffee table, grabbed the nearest waste bin with liner and placed it under her mouth, whilst holding her mug with his free hand.

Abby vomited. Desperate, emotional and traumatic dry heaving. Her whole body was convulsing with shame, fear and disgust.

Daniel knew deep down what had happened, but he was too shocked to truly grasp what had happened to his beautiful friend.

Handing her a tissue to wipe her mouth, Daniel got up and grabbed an diffuser, to waft away the smell of bile.

This time though, Daniel sat down next to her and put his arms around her. Her body was still shaking, but it calmed down slightly when he softly stroked her head.

“He raped you didn’t he …” said Daniel with a terrible finality.

Abby nodded. She didn’t have the strength to say it. To say it aloud, would be to acknowledge that everything inside she was feeling was true.

“Oh Abby … I’m so sorry.” whispered Daniel. There was nothing more he could say. He didn’t know what the hell to do.

Normally, when Abby was in trouble, it was literally as simple as picking her up, taking her home, tucking her into bed and sticking around, until they both woke up in the morning and she would rant about her wild night over mugs of hot chocolate and left over sourdough.

Daniel knew then, that there wasn’t going to be any sleep. So he stayed beside the broken British model, softly stroking her hair, and her shoulder, silently trying to inject some strength back into her, as his long time friend clung onto him, despairing and trying to forget, but unable to remove the pain she felt in her heart and in her stomach.

It was around 7am, when Abby finally found the strength to be more herself. She took a ragged breath and tried again. Daniel squeezed her shoulders encouragingly.

“That’s it Abby. There’s only one way through this, girl.” Daniel paused and lifted her chin, so that she could look at his earnest brown eyes. “Tell me what happened and we’ll sort it out together, I promise.”

“I feel so disgusting Danny.” said Abby sadly. “I can still feel him inside of me and I can’t get rid of him. I hate myself so much right now.”

Tears streaked down her cheeks, but this time the convulsions weren’t as strong. She was slowly coming to terms with her trauma.

“I went out alone tonight. It was just Topher and me, going out to Luv, the nightclub. After the week I had, fucking 3 shoots in a row, I just wanted to let loose tonight.”

“I wasn’t thinking straight Danny. I really wasn’t. By the time I got changed, I was already a bit tired. I actually thought about cancelling and staying at home, but Topher insisted … he told me that this was the perfect way to relax.”

“God, I’m so stupid. My whole life, I’ve always let other people tell me what is good for me. Like they know me better than I do. I wasn’t feeling it at all last night. I thought Topher understood that, so about an hour in, I asked him to get me a glass of water.”

“I honestly don’t know what happened after that. I think he roofied me … because the next thing I remember, I’m inside a cab and he’s touching me everywhere and I can’t control my body.”

Abby dry-heaved again as her body relived the sensations. Daniel hugged her tighter, horrified.

Wiping her mouth with a wet tissue, Abby took a ragged breath.

“Next thing I know, I’m in my apartment and he’s lifting my dress and he … he fucking RAPED me Danny.”

Painful sobs wracked Abby’s slim frame and she began to bawl her eyes out in earnest at her confession.

“Oh God … Oh my fucking God … I …think I …”

“No, No, No.” whispered Daniel. “Let’s not go there. I’ve heard enough. It’s OK. We’ll get through this, I promise.”

Abby nodded slowly. “Thank you Danny. God … you’ve always been here for me, but I’ve treated you like shit. I’m so sorry. Oh my God, I didn’t even ask you what you were doing before you came for me … I’m the worst. I’m so sorry Danny. I really am. I’m such a fucking toxic mess …”

“Oh for the love of God, it’s OK Abby.” smiled Daniel ironically. “An abandoned Bones concert is skint to what you went through tonight. Come on, we got to get you cleaned up. You want something to eat?”

Abby nodded vigorously. “Please.”

“OK, well, jump into the bathroom and take a hot shower. Trust me, it’ll make you feel a lot better. I’ll get some bacon, eggs and toast going out here.”

For the first time, since the fateful phone call, Abby could stand on her own. Daniel nodded approvingly at her, proud. “That’s it. You got this, girl. Brekkie will be waiting for you when you come out”

As the sounds of the shower running and the crackle of bacon mixed together, Daniel looked over at his stereo and put on a slow song: Sway as sung by Anita Kelsey.

Laying out two plates and piling a generous serving of eggs and waiting for the shower to stop, before toasting the bread, Daniel poured out two glasses of orange juice and smiled at Abby, who came out, rubbing her long blonde hair with a towel, still dressed the same way.

“Thank you Danny.” said Abby gratefully as she sat cross legged on the kitchen chair.

Daniel nodded silently as he leaned back on the kitchen counter, drinking his orange juice thoughtfully.

Abby ate gratefully, the food slowly restoring some sanity to her fractured mind. A question suddenly burned in her mind and she looked at Daniel with a slight panic, as a realisation struck her.

“Can I ask you something Danny?” queried Abby with a hint of trepidation in her voice.

“Yeah, course you can, what is it?” replied Daniel.

“This is going to sound really dumb, but I just realised that whenever I’ve needed you, you’ve always dropped everything for me. Can I ask why?”

Daniel felt his breath catch, as he beheld the girl who he had fallen for a long time ago, but could never quite articulate how he truly felt.

He looked away from her blue eyes, unable to really express himself.

“You know why Abby. I think you’ve always known. But I guess the timing was never quite right between us.”

Abby looked away from Daniel. “I’m sorry, Daniel. I truly am. But I don’t see you that way …”

Daniel took a deep breath. “I know Abby. I’ve known that for a long time too. I’ve gotten over you in a lot of ways, but not enough to stop helping you when you need it. We’ve been friends for a long time, and that hasn’t changed.”

“I’m a toxic mess Danny. You don’t need me in your life. You need a woman who got her shit together. I mean look at me … I honestly don’t deserve any better. I ..”

“Hey!” interrupted Daniel. “You didn’t deserve what happened to you last night. What Topher did to you was fucked. And I sure as shit, ain’t gonna let him get away with it. Who knows who else he’s done this to? No, Abby, we’re going to get that bastard. You definitely did not deserve what happened.”

Daniel moved closer to Abby, holding her hands.

“What happened to you Abby? You’ve changed so much over the years. You’re not the same girl I remembered when we first met. Do you remember what happened?”

“I kicked your bully in the head.”

“That’s fucking right. You stood up for me, when I was being bullied at school. No one else did that for me. What happened to that feisty, hellraiser? You need to be that girl again.”

Abby looked away from Daniel’s brown eyes and stared at their entwined hands.

“I’m not sure I can be that girl again Danny. I don’t even know if she still exists.”

“You got to find her again Abby. Because at least that girl knew what she wanted to do with her life. The one before me … she’s on a bad track and it doesn’t look like she knows how to get off.”

Abby sighed heavily. “I know Danny. I know.”

She looked up at Daniel, transfixing him with her blue, melancholy eyes again. Every time, Daniel always fell for them. They were too mesmerising to ignore, too deep to not fall for and far too expressive to dismiss.

“But seriously, Danny. Thank you. I don’t know where I’ll be without you.” Abby squeezed his hands and kissed him gently on the cheek.

“Any time.” said Daniel with a smile.

Author’s Note

It’s been a while since I last wrote something and I can already sense the rust when I was writing this story. It’s a bit meandering in places and arguably, I’m not too happy with the conclusion.

This is a shame, because I actually had a really strong idea on where this was headed, but then my holiday came and put everything on hiatus and thus I lost track of the pulse.

I was inspired to write this, because I’ve been recently thinking about my new lifestyle and how much easier it is for me to be supporting friend, than what I used to be. Whether its a new-found confidence or better perception into people, I’m a bit more abuzz with the ability to comfort and reassure people that things will be alright.

Anyway, whilst I wasn’t super happy with this one, even bad drafts get published on this blog, so hope it wasn’t to terrible to read!

Until the next one

~ Damocles.

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