Author: Robert James
Genre: YA Contemporary
Title: Choices (Formerly Losing Robbie)
I stare at them both, the blade and the phone, trying to decide which to choose.
Two years ago, I’d never even have considered having to make a choice like this. Back then, I was a baby. I was in primary school, I had lots of friends, and I thought that my stepsister could solve any problem ever. I really want to give her one more chance to solve this one.
I take a deep breath, and pick up the phone. I put my hand on the right key to speed-dial her... Then change my mind. I put the phone down, pick up the blade carefully and lift it to my shoulder.
Then I chicken out and put that down.
Back to the phone. Just as I'm about to call her, I think about what Joanna said and lose my nerve. I throw the phone onto my bed, and pick up the blade once more.
I can't focus properly on either of them, so I keep this going for the next five minutes or so. Blade, phone, blade, phone. The repetition has a calming effect on me and I nearly walk away from them both. I know that's not the answer, though. The sensible thing to do is to phone Rachel and talk. But I’ve tried that twice already, and each time, I’m not brave enough to ask her the question I need to.
I’ve chosen the blade three times before. Every time, it’s worked. Just one little cut, and I’ll concentrate on the rush I get when I feel the pain, and not on Joanna’s smug face, taunting voice and stupid red hair. It’s so tempting, but I’m getting worried that the more often I choose it, the less of a choice it becomes. Could I give up now, even if I wanted to?
For a moment, I decide that I can. I throw the razor blade down on my desk, and taking a deep breath, I pick up the phone one more time. Finally, I press the button to call Rachel. She answers, and my words flood out.
"Rachel? It's Lauren. I really need to talk to someone. I think... I mean, I need... Can you come home? Please?"
I gasp the words out, nearly in tears as I finally ask her. I want to confront her face to face. For her to tell me it's not true.
But at the other end there's silence. Nothing. And then she laughs.
"Hey sweetie! Sorry, didn't hear a word of that. Robbie grabbed my phone!"
I hear the two of them messing about and it's clear she has much better things to do than come and talk to me about stuff that happened years ago. There's a bunch of giggles before she carries on speaking.
"Was it important, babes, or just phoning for a chat?" she questions me.
For only the third time in the eight years I've known her, I lie to her.
"Just a chat," I try to keep my voice light. "I'll let you get back to Robbie. Have fun!"
I think she thanks me, but I can barely hear her. Bursting into tears, I slam my head into the pillow. After sobbing for a few minutes, I get up and pick up the razor blade.
I place it against my shoulder and smile to myself. I look in the mirror and see the silver touch my pale skin. This time, there's no hesitation. This time, I push it in and draw it down, ever so slowly, wincing as I form a thin red line to go with the three pink scars already there. I smile to myself as the pain which is becoming increasingly familiar takes over my thoughts. For a few moments, I know that I'll forget about being Bingirl, Princess Pizza Face, or any of the other names people call me. The pain will be all I can focus on, and I will be happier than I've been all day.
Looking at my phone, and at the blade, which is now silver and red thanks to my blood, I don't know why it was such a difficult choice.
I love my stepsisters – I really do. And Lauren is my favourite. She's sweet, she's clever, and she looks at me as if I'm a goddess – she definitely has good taste in role models! She's just becoming so, so clingy. This is the third time she's phoned me over the past couple of weeks when I was out, and every time she just wants a chat. Still, I'll make sure I make some time for her over the weekend, just in case it's something important.
Looking out of the window of the Black Lion, I see a red-haired girl who looks a few years younger than me walking past. For a moment, I think I recognise her face. I tense up involuntarily, and Robbie raises his eyebrows at my sudden movement.
“You alright, cariad?” he asks me. He takes my hand, and I manage to pull myself together. Of course the girl isn't who I thought she was. Lydia has been dead three years.
“I'm fine,” I say to him, although I feel sure he can hear my heart beating loudly enough to know this isn't true. For an awful moment, I thought she'd somehow come back from the dead. I had visions of her walking in and telling everyone what had happened.
Once, this happened to me all of the time. The summer after she died, I practically stayed at home for six weeks because I convinced myself I'd seen her whenever a redhead passed me in the street. None of those looked anywhere near as similar to Lydia as this girl did, and that resemblance absolutely terrifies me. Because if there was a way that Lydia could tell everyone how we caused her death, I know that there's no possible chance that Oxford would want me.
I know I’m being stupid. I turn away from the window, and hold Robbie close. He kisses me, and for a few minutes, all other thoughts vanish from my mind as our hands roam across each other’s bodies. Then he whispers into my ear, “Maybe we should go somewhere more private? Looks like we’ve got an audience.”
For a moment, I can’t work out what he’s saying. He gently turns my head in the direction of the window, and across the street, I see the redhead again. She’s walking in the opposite direction this time, but she’s looking straight at me. She looks even more like Lydia than I thought originally, and a shiver runs down my spine. Turning, she walks away, and I stare after her, wondering who – or what – she is.