Cruelty is a cycle. Once inflicted, it spreads.
Her name is Lana. She wasn’t dealt the easiest cards in life. She wasn’t dealt the hardest. She has an illness, but she doesn’t let it rule her. The first time she laid eyes on her best friend’s twin brother, she fell in love at first sight. It didn’t last very long. He was a hateful boy who made her miserable. The happiest day of her life was when he moved away to London six years ago.
His name is Robert. He breaks the ones who love him. He’s always liked to play games with Lana, see how far he could push her. He once thrived on her pain, but no more. Now she’s coming to London to live with his sister for the summer and this time he plans on being her friend instead of her tormentor. But Lana is scarred by his past bullying. She doesn’t trust him, nor does she have any reason to.
When the two find themselves living under the same roof, they call a truce. This summer will change both of their lives, as they put their history aside and learn one another from scratch.
When fear takes over, we use cruelty as a mask. Robert and Lana’s story will see their masks slip away as the love they felt on the inside shows its true face.
We leave my bags in the hallway and go into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. That's when my heart practically stops beating, because standing by the counter, taking a bite out of a sandwich, is Robert.
The last time I saw him was two years ago, and that was only from far away when I'd looked out the window and seen him visiting with his mum. I've built him up in my head so much over the years that he almost doesn't seem real. The bruises beneath his eyes from the “husband bashing” he took are almost healed, and his dark brown hair looks a mess. He's wearing a rumpled black dress shirt, a loosened silver tie, and grey pants. He is dishevelled but beautiful, looking like he just got home after a night out.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Sasha asks, annoyed. She knows how Robert's presence might make me feel uneasy, so she's clearly pissed off that he's decided to let himself into her house (not to mention helped himself to a sandwich).
Despite all of the times I imagined seeing Robert again, and how I thought I would be confident and breezy in the face of his arrogant stare, I find myself reverting back into my tortoise shell. My cheeks blaze red as I let my eyes drop to the floor, just as his deep brown gaze locks in on me. There's a calculating look in his eyes, like he's figuring out some new and creative form of torture. Only now that he's an adult, his abuse will probably be ten times more elaborate.
“Well, look who it is,” he declares. “Tampon all grown up.” He grins and dusts some breadcrumbs from his hands, eyes travelling over my body in a strange way. His brow furrows a little then as he takes his time lingering over my face.
“Tampon” is one of the cruder names he thought up for me over the years. “Ginger minge” and “Fanta pants” were close seconds.
“Call her that one more time and you’re dead. I told you Lana was coming today,” Sasha informs him coolly. “You're not supposed to be here.”
I glance up just as Robert drags his gaze away from me to look at his sister. He grins with teeth. “Yeah, about that — you know how Kara moved into the penthouse a few days ago?” he asks.
Sasha nods impatiently and gestures for him to continue.
“Well, we had a fight, decided to break up, and now she's locked me out of the apartment. This was the closest place I could think to go.”
Kara is Robert's long-term, on again/off again girlfriend. I take it they were having one of their “off” periods while Robert was with the married woman. Although you never know with him. Sasha's told me all about Kara and how she and Robert have this intense, drama-fuelled relationship. They're always getting into fights and cheating on one another, then enjoying passionate reunions. I don't get why people can't just fall in love and be happy with one another these days.
“What the fuck, Rob? It's your apartment, not hers. If the two of you had a fight, then it should be you kicking her out.” She pauses to run a hand through her short hair, making the ends go all spiky. “I don't need to be dealing with this right now.”
Robert puts on what I have come to think of over the years as his “puppy dog face,” which always seems to win Sasha over.
“I would have kicked her out, but she was acting like a hysterical nut, throwing shit all over the place. I decided it was better to leave before she tried boiling my bunny. Oh, please, Sash, just let me stay here for a few nights.” He puts his palms together in a begging gesture.
Sasha smirks at the “bunny boiler” comment. “What about the place in Finsbury Park — can't you go and stay there?”
“Nope. Dad's got the builders in. They're installing new pipes or something.” Robert crosses his arms over his chest, a very faint smug gleam in his eye. You wouldn't recognise it if you weren't used to studying him, like I am. He knows she's about two seconds away from giving in.
~About the Author~
L.H. Cosway has a BA in English Literature and Greek and Roman Civilisation, and an MA in Postcolonial Literature. She lives in Dublin city. Her inspiration to write comes from music. Her favourite things in life include writing stories, vintage clothing, dark cabaret music, food, musical comedy, and of course, books.
Website - http://www.lhcosway.com/
Goodreads - http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5622223.L_H_Cosway
Twitter - https://twitter.com/LHCosway
Twitter - https://twitter.com/LHCosway