It was buzzing on the bedside table, on silent, but I was fucked if I could figure out how to turn the stupid vibrate off. I didn’t want to see anyone, I didn’t want to talk to anyone and I certainly didn’t want to have to discuss the fucking incident for the hundredth time with Paul Bentham. Paul Bentham, the beady eyed, grey skinned, Crane nosed stuffed shirt who I worked for. He was one of those headmasters who was wheeled in to save the school and so he didn’t excel at being personable. That suited me because I wasn’t a talker and I didn’t want to be micro managed by a suit but shit, since the incident he had been all over me like a rash.
I had always delivered as a PE teacher, always got results, the kids liked me and I didn’t need to report to anyone. Now that had changed, I couldn’t bear the attention and I didn’t want to talk to Paul Bentham again.
I wanted to stay in bed, drink myself stupid, wallow in my own self pity and never ever face another single mother fucker ever again. I was cocooned under my duvet despite the fact that it was midday and I was sure that the whole apartment stunk of my unwashed misery after almost a week holed up alone.
I liked being alone.
The buzzing stopped, I reached out from under the comfort of my duvet and pulled the phone underneath to check it. Oh shit, it was worse that Paul Bentham, worse that the God damn police, it was Janice, the girl who currently thought she was my girlfriend.
We’d been ‘seeing’ each other for about six months and the sex was pretty good but she wasn’t really hitting all the right buttons. She had a phenomenal body, knew how to turn me on, knew how to cook, wow did she know how to cook, and she was there whenever I fancied seeing her but … she was so bloody annoying. It was mostly her laugh, potentially the fact that she over emphasised her words and there was a lot of chatter. Inane, none-sensical, constant chatter. I’m not a talker, I said that, but shit I don’t talk because I like quiet. I’m pretty sure Janine thought I was quiet so she could talk.
I groaned and threw the phone out from under the covers again.
There wasn’t one person I wanted to see.
He left me.
My husband left me.
How dare he leave?
I couldn’t get through half an hour without crying. The crying was not quiet, it was not subtle and it did massively affect my whole facial appearance. I looked like a Puffer Fish.
I had run out of sick leave at work, six months off was all I could get before it started to affect my pay and so I went back. I needed the money now I had to cover the bills all on my own, I needed to face reality and live my life. The problem was my life had crumbled and I wasn’t quite sure what was left. It was like raking through the ashes after a fire to find your precious memories. I was choking on the dust as I searched for something salvageable.
I was back at work as a journalist but I had spent most of my first day hyperventilating in the toilets. I would sit at my desk, stare at the screen and try … really try to write something but before I could focus, Jack’s face would pop into my head, the tears would come and it was all I could do to stop myself from banging my head on the desk.
I sat in the toilet stall breathing deeply to ward off the panic attack that was building.
“Cass?” I heard my colleague Rebecca shout, she knew I was here. If she didn’t before she came in then the heavy breathing and garbled crying would have tipped her off.
“Yesh,” I answered, my words muffled by the misery.
“Let me in,” she said, knocking on the door.
“No, I’m a mesh.” I screeched, “I just need a minute.” The last word came out in a squeak and I struggled to control my emotions.
“You need to go home Cass, you’re not ready for this, you’re not strong enough.” I heard her just outside the door but I couldn’t bring myself to let her in.
I closed my eyes and the misery engulfed me, pulled me in tighter, took hold of me, restricting my every essence like a Boa Constrictor that only tightened as I struggled. I wanted to shout out, I wanted to reach forward and unlock the door, I tried to breath, tried desperately to let air into my lungs. I started to see black spots and my mouth flapped open as I tried to shout for Rebecca, warn her, tell her how much I loved Jack just before I died. I was pathetic, I was a lost cause, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t live, I couldn’t exist and all these people knew it. I hated myself and in this toilet stall my body had finally given up.
The blackness came, I gasped for air but it refused to enter my lungs.
“Cass!” Rebecca was shouting, “Cass!” she kept shouting and she started to bang on the door. I heard her, I could no longer see, I heard my heart, I heard it racing, was I dead or dying? The last thing I remembered hearing was Rebecca’s panicked screams, “Heeeelp! Oh someone please help.”
I hadn’t saved much money and I couldn’t pay the rent without a job. I handed my notice in, wrote a letter to Bentham and didn’t look back. I was no longer a PE teacher, three years of university had gone up in smoke and I no longer had a profession. I had fucked every single thing up with one mistake.
I was in the city that I loved, the city that had given me a new life and a new identity. In Manchester I wasn’t one of the Cardwell brothers, I wasn’t one of the motherless wretches who all Tolvey women wanted to mother. No one knew me in Manchester and no one gossiped about me, it was refreshing after my small town upbringing but now I was going to have to leave it all behind.
I had run out of money, I had run out of options.
My big brother Santi was on my case, he’d been threatening to come up to Manchester since the boy died in my care. I hadn’t told him, hadn’t contacted him but when I dumped Janine, she had. She got it in her head that I needed them, she was mistaken in thinking I had any emotional attachments to my family. I was numb, I didn’t have the same feelings as the rest of them and I certainly didn’t want Santi up in Manchester holding my hand.
Certainly not now, not since I’d become a monster.
I wanted to be alone.
The problem was I had no money, the rent was due and I was running out of options.
I woke up lying on the bathroom floor, my head facing the sink unit and various members of staff leaning over me. I felt sticky, I felt hot, so hot and every part of me was throbbing in pain.
“Cass,” Rebecca was leaning over me, “we’ve called Jack.” She said breathlessly, her hand squeezing mine. I couldn’t look at them, I turned my head away, the words just wouldn’t come. That’s when the paramedics entered the bathroom and she let my hand fall from hers. I led on the floor whilst the paramedics asked for my name, speaking to me slowly, asking me questions and I tried to answer but my brain couldn’t tell my voice to work. I heard the words but somehow they didn’t compute.
I was loaded into the ambulance, the lights were flashing and I could see faces staring, judging, shaking their heads with disdain.
I was a fully fledged fruit loop who no longer had a voice. I had lost all my senses and every aspect my mental capacity. I was aware of this but lost the ability to let it bother me.
We made it to the hospital, there was nobody sat there holding my hand. I was placed in a cubical, I vomited, I silently sobbed and they took my blood.
If this wasn’t rock bottom then I had no idea what was.
“Love,” a rotund nurse with a tight, unforgiving uniform said, placing her hand on mine, “we’ve contacted hubby and he’s given mum and dad’s number.” I didn’t have the energy to argue even though she was speaking to me like a child. I didn’t even move my head, keeping my eyes trained on the various fliers pinned up around the room. The one I kept my eyes on was offering help for weak bladders.
“You’ll be fine girl,” she said rubbing my arm gently, I didn’t speak, “at the minute it feels as if the world is over, it feels like you’re down a dark pit and there’s no way out but love, let me promise you that one day you’ll find the light and somehow it’ll all be right.”
I moved my head slowly, even though pain jolted through me as I did and I looked at her seeing sympathy in her tired eyes. She moved her hand to my forehead and held the eye contact, “I’ve been here love, I promise it will get better.” I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t even tell her how nice it felt for her to rub my head.
I didn’t believe a word she said, I didn’t in that moment ever imagine that I would feel one iota of happiness ever ever again.
“Dad’s in hospital,” Santi said when I finally answered the phone, after a text full of swear words and ten missed calls. “He’s had a heart attack.”
“Oh,’” I mumbled, “Um, will he be okay?” My voice sounded strange, it was the first time it had been used in a week or so.
“I don’t know man, it’s serious, he’s on a machine, you need to get down
“Um,” I rubbed my head as my mind desperately tried to think of a reason why I couldn’t do that.
“He’s our dad you idiot, our only fucking parent and he needs you.”
“Okay,” I said defeated, “fine.”
“Good.” Santi said, “when are you setting off?”
“Actually,” I said gruffly, “actually I think I’m just gonna come home .. for good.” My announcement was met with resounding silence and I tried to still my breathing so I could hear his response.
“What’s happened up there Des?” Santi asked, his voice seemed pained by my omission.
“I’m done.” I said simply, “Nothing left up here for me.”
He was quiet again, “be good to have you back Des,” he said simply.
We said our goodbyes and I hung up. I sighed and looked around my apartment, there wasn’t much to pack and I didn’t want any of the furniture. Nothing that I owned was something that I couldn’t live without. I packed a few suitcases and stuffed as much as I could in my car.
It was time to go back and accept that my life had fallen apart. It was time to go back to the town that had once been my home.
I admitted defeat and that I hadn’t managed to find happiness. It was time to realise that life wasn’t meant to be peachy for me, as soon as something was going right I would fuck it up and force it be snatched away.
I was on my arse and I needed help.
I was heading back to Tolvey and I couldn’t have felt worse about it.
Tolvey – An insight into the town from ‘Beautiful Imperfection’
Small-town Tolvey is a beautiful idyllic tourist town that boasts scenic seaside views. It is a sleepy, Cornish town full of proud locals who keep the tourists happy with quaint tea rooms and scenic walks. The history of the town is prominent in many features such as the Town Hall that dates back to 18th Century and many of the stone, seafront cottages that boast similar timelines.
Most of the locals have lived in the town their whole lives but are happy to share their tranquil surroundings with newcomers as they pass through.
Clair owns the local hairdressers and has lived in Tolvey her entire life, “this town is like a warm hug, whenever I go on holiday I can’t wait to get back. I love coming home and finding out what’s been going on while I’ve been away. I love that I know most people I pass on the street and that we all look after each other, everyone is like an extended family.”
The people are definitely friendly and welcoming, they keep each others businesses afloat by recommending local restaurants and shops.
Desi owns the local fish and chip shop, “it’s a typical small town, everyone knows everyone else and if I open the shop 5 minutes late there’s always someone at the door waiting to get in. Hours later I’ll have people coming in asking me why I opened five minutes late. No one has a secret in Tolvey.”
The local pubs are plentiful, for a small town there are eight pubs and they are frequented by locals and tourists. They remain busy throughout the week as well as weekends. Many people from surrounding towns will visit Tolvey for the atmosphere of a good night out.
Callain, local bar man, “Tolvey isn’t Vegas and you won’t be out until 4 am but the place has life and the pubs are reasonable. The Cornish like a drink and so do the tourists, so we never struggle for business. I’m born and bred Tolvey but have just got back from travelling so I’ve introduced a more eclectic cocktail menu.”
The town is full of diverse and interesting people who are happy to share their lives with visitors. They are a friendly, close knit community who are entangled within each others lives and work together to keep their town afloat. It is reminiscent of the family orientated environment that people enjoyed fifty years ago where society took the time to know each other and were involved in each others lives.
Gary, local greengrocer, “I moved my family here thirty years ago because I wanted something different for my children than what I had growing up. I gave them an identity amongst this group of people whereas they would have been just another face on the street in the city. This town isn’t just home for me, it’s my slice of heaven. I think being around these people has made me value the small things in life that I didn’t notice before, like camaraderie, kinship and most importantly love.”
Tolvey is a wonderful place to visit if you get the chance. However it isn’t just the views, the heritage and the attractions that make it appealing … it’s definitely the people.
The Benefits of Exercise
By Desi Cardwell
(Main Character from ‘Beautiful Imperfection’) – former PE teacher, gym owner and eventual Personal Trainer to Cassidy.
Exercise benefits the body in so many ways. Not only does it enhance the body’s appearance, it also boosts your self-esteem and hence your outlook on life. It has a magical quality to improve your mood, increase your energy levels and allow you to be more restful when you are relaxed.
1. The first step is beginning, make that decision to start exercising and make a change to your body.
The exercise needs to be diverse in order to hold your interest, keep you motivated and ensure that as many muscles as possible are flexed. A mixture of aerobic and weights is preferred in order to burn as much fat as possible whilst toning these areas and replacing fat with muscle.
2. In order to see a change you must eat healthily, all the exercise in the world cannot cancel out a bad diet. It’s true you are what you eat.
3. Once the regular exercise begins there will be a number of changes, you may see an increase in appetite and energy levels. Ensure only fresh, healthy food is consumed and utilise the energy levels to organise other areas of your life.
4. Once the exercise becomes habitual you will start to see physical changes in your body, these changes will increase self esteem and also lift your mood. They will also inspire you to continue.
5. After each work out hormones within the body will increase - testosterone for men and oestrogen for women. These hormones will flow around the body and increase the potency of the male/ female sexuality, therefore increasing confidence and self-assurance.
6. Exercise will cause endorphins to flow throughout the body that are produced by the central nervous system and pituitary gland. These provide a type of euphoria that enhances your mood.
In summary when the body is exercising there are known improvements in physical appearance, energy levels, confidence, happiness and these positive changes will lead to an improved outlook on life.
Interview with the Edwards’
(Characters from ‘Beautiful Imperfection’
Angela - Cassidy’s Mum
Gary – Cassidy’s Dad
Callain – Cassidy’s younger brother)
How difficult was it when Cassidy first came home?
Gary – It was pretty tough, we were desperate for her to be well and recover but we didn’t want to push her too much.
Angela – It was like having a moody teenager back in the house, one slamming doors, ignoring my advice and smoking in her bedroom
Callain – They should be thankful it was just her and not all four of us kids
What were your first impressions of Desi?
Angela – Well of course we’ve known the family for years but out of him, his brother and his father he was definitely the quiet one. So quiet in fact he seemed moody really. Perhaps the most affected by his mother leaving.
Gary – Of course he seemed like a nice enough chap, never did anyone any harm and Cassidy seemed to like him which was good enough for me.
Callain – I thought he was far too hot to be a decent guy.
How do you think that Cassidy coped being back in Tolvey?
Callain (laughs) – Completely stifled, you can’t even fart in this town without it getting back to your parents.
Gary – I think she struggled at first, felt like she’d failed having to return to us but ultimately I think she realised that being back with us was helping her get better. You can’t beat being back with your old parents.
Angela – Terribly! She hated being home with us and couldn’t hide her sneers no matter how hard she tried but once she got some independence back at her grandma’s cottage things definitely improved.
Were you surprised that Desi and Cassidy were so drawn to each other?
Callain – I wasn’t surprised, two broken hearts pulling together, it’s as old as time that story. Like Beauty and the Beast.
Gary – I hoped she would spend more time alone before falling into another relationship but I think it helped her get better so much sooner.
Angela – I was not surprised, Cassidy has always had a habit of backing the underdog.
What are your hopes for Cassidy’s future?
Gary – I hope she’ll be happy.
Angela – I want her to find peace in whatever decisions she makes and I want her to have a good, healthy, stable relationship so she never has her heart broken again.
Callain – I hope she buys her own house so I can have Gran’s cottage
About The Author
Hayley Oakes is a loving wife and doting mother. She loves being a mum and is a proud smother to a perfect four year old girl. She works full time as well as writing and loves her job. She adores her work friends who keep her sane, support her writing with vigour and are her biggest fans. She loves ‘the 100’, ‘the Goldbergs’, reading LOTS and is constantly concocting stories in her head!!
I have been writing stories from a very young age, my very first tool was an electronic typewriter than my Dad saved from being thrown away at work when I was ten. I tapped away on that for hours and hours.
I have always told stories and written stories and my favourite ones are the ones that people have told me. I collect people’s lives in my head, storing the most interesting and wacky anecdotes that I utilise without even realising.
I also collect mannerisms and when I’m with someone for long periods of time I start copying their facial expressions and habits. It’s a curse but I am a natural mimic.