Hey. I haven't been AWOL I assure you. Taking a small break from A Brilliant Mistake, I have too many other stories hounding me to get out. This is a sequel of a story I haven't posted yet but I kinda like it too much not to have at least this first chapter up. It's a draft, so it's lacking description in the most part. But I hope to flesh that out later.

Title is a work in progress, it's not quite right but I think it's on the right track. Let me know if you have any ideas there.

Let me know what you think. :) Cliche. x

The important thing to remember about leaving the past behind is to never look back. No matter how tempting it might be. One stray thought back to the past and a person could find themselves in the deepest, darkest well of emotion, or boarding a long haul train when they had originally been intending to buy milk at the shop twenty paces further down the street.

Nikki knew it all too well. She looked back and now she found herself standing outside the train station of West Hill, her old home town, in the pouring rain with nowhere to go and not even a change of clothes. Not to mention she was due in at work in all of – she checked her watch – forty minutes and here she stood, four hours train ride away.

Thunder rumbled overhead, the rain pounding down on her in an almost painful tattoo. She looked about her; everywhere was so dismal, grey, and gloomy. It looked nothing like home; back there she had left sun. She shivered in the cold, standing here would only make it worse.

But where to go? Home? No, not home. He might be there. Not to mention her parents would be. Her cousin's house was a better bet.

Nikki tugged her coat about her, hurrying around to the side of the station, to where the taxies waited. "Hey," she called through the first taxi's open window at the balding man in a leather jacket. He looked like he'd be more at home on a motorcycle. "You working?"

"Yeah. Hop in. Where to, love?"

"17, East view." She yanked open the door and clambered in stiffly. Wet coats and clothes always made her feel so uncomfortable.

"I know it." He started off before she even had her belt on. She wished she could just sit back and relax, but the closer she had gotten to West Hill the more her stomach felt ready to heave. It didn't feel much like butterflies, snakes perhaps – snakes writhing and sliding.

It was a two minute drive to her cousins. She watched the streets pass her, being here felt like yesterday. Memories were so crystal clear, emotions just below the surface, each cast with an odd orange glow.

Nikki felt like crying, laughing, grinning, punching, and dancing all at once. It was such a mess; she didn't know what to feel. There was a part of her – the homesick part – that was happy to be home, ecstatic even. The other parts, however, were overwhelmed in emotion, feelings that hadn't seemed to have aged a day, emotions and thoughts that had had her running in the first place, three years ago.

Nikki caught sight of her cousin's house then and frowned, putting all other thoughts aside. Somehow, she didn't think her cousins would be saving her this time.

The front room light was on; with no net curtain in the window she could see the painters and decorators painting the walls and fixing new lights inside. A woman, dressed in a crisp, tight suit, was writing on a clipboard while over seeing a "To rent" board being erected in the front garden.

"Er." Nikki licked her lips. What now? "Can you wait for me here? I'll be a minute."

She climbed out of the car. She had no choice but to call home. Not many people she knew would climb out of a car into the pouring rain to make a phone call, but she hoped the noise would mask the raw edge to her voice.

"Hello?" The half asleep, slightly deeper voice of her younger brother answered.

"Oliver? Hey, it's- it's Nikki, are mum and da –"

"Nikki? Fuc... Shi – The hell – You dying or something?"

"What? Can you still speak English? No I'm not – dying?"

"I just thought..." His voice trailed off, suitably embarrassed before it hardened. "I just thought that would be the only thing you would ring home about."

Nikki flushed. She hadn't spoken to anyone in her family for years, not properly at least. She'd hoped Oliver had understood but could see where he was coming from; at least she hoped she could. It would crush her to know he sided with their parents.

"You're right to be mad and I'm sorry, alright? Oliver, did – did Alexis move?"

"Yeah, three weeks ago. Gone up north. Scotland."

Great, he was onto short, sharp sentences. "She didn't say." Even through the roiling, tangled web of feeling that was Nikki right now, she felt the keen, sharp stab to the heart at that realisation.

Oliver snorted, unimpressed. "Not being funny –"

No, you don't say? The venom laced into his words was proof enough that he was being anything but funny.

"—but when was the last time you spoke to her?"

She grimaced. He had a point there. "Okay, easy. I just went to her house to see her."

"You're in town?" Oliver no longer sounded hostile but surprised, even worried.

"Yeah, I was hoping to stay with her tonight." She hadn't been and the lie had her shifting uneasily. "So, mum and dad?"

"They're away. They're doing some Robin Hood tour in the New forest for the weekend." He coughed. "I'd er offer you to stay here only I've a party starting in an hour and already booked the beds and the sofa for my friends for the night – so they don't have to drive, you know?"

It was a thin excuse and she knew it, but she played along. Somewhere, she felt the betrayal – deep down under layers of emotion – a tenth of what Oliver had felt and so perhaps she owed him that. Owed him enough to play along, to turn a blind eye to his lie, and think he'd never shut her out like she did him.

"That's okay. I was going to The Inn, anyhow. But thanks for thinking to offer if you could."

Oliver paused. Even his breathing stopped for a few beats. "Yeah, no, that's fine. 'corse I would. I have to go, er, a few people have arrived and yeah, see ya."

"Okay, bye Ol—" The phone beeped in her ear. "—iver." she finished, her voice a whisper barely loud enough to her own ear.

"Hey, love, I'm on the clock here." The taxi driver called out the open door to her.

"Oh, sorry. Can we go to the Inn please?" She flashed him her best smile, not that it probably worked too well with her looking like a drowned rat.


It was only on the other side of the town centre. Another two minute car ride but added with the previous journey and a seven minutes of hell phone call and she ended up owing him a little shy of a tenner.

Barely three minutes later had she found herself staring glumly at the counter. "And that's your cheapest room?"

"Yes, we have extra costs for last minute bookings. It covers the extra cleaning work, and tea and coffee supplies. "

"Well, what if I don't mind a dirty room or don't want any tea or coffee?"

The young woman shook her head. "I'm sorry, I can't deduct from the cost; it would be my job."

"No, that's fine." She seemed to be saying that a lot today. "Can you reserve a room for me? That one. I have to go borrow some money off of a friend."

"Yes. For a little while, I suppose. Say an hour or two?"

"Perfect." Nikki flashed her a smile she didn't feel and hurried to the front doors, trying to look as though she knew where she was going.

Who the hell could she borrow money from? Oliver? Not bloody likely. There was a reason he still lived with their parents. At eighteen, he was still a full-time student.

Her parents were away, so they were also out of the question. She supposed she could ring them, but perhaps that was a little too cheeky. She could imagine how that would go: `Hi, can you put fifty into my account through the wonders of modern technology so I can book into the Inn – yeah The Inn, the one in West Hill – but don't worry, I'll be on a train again tomorrow back to my new home and you won't see me again for another handful of years. I boarded the train by mistake you see and, now that I have my head screwed on straight, I'm heading right back off.'

Yeah, that wasn't going to cut it. How did anyone afford a room this close to London anyway? A night was more than a week's rent for her flat back home.

Unless she was willing to ring Alexis, which she wasn't, part of her was still smarting and a greater part of her was terrified that she might discover her cousin had changed her number as well as her address, there was only one place left to go.

Her heart plummeted and yet leapt, her stomach soured and yet a billion wings threatened to take flight. She would have thought her brain would be racing with a million and one thoughts but it was static noise, empty of any defining thought and, somehow, that was worse. The walk to the flat, and her last, lonely hope, was longer than it ought to have been, but she was by no means dawdling. She'd walked these streets, this exact route a hundred times, it felt like she had just yesterday in fact. When she rounded the corner to his street however, her feet began to drag. No-one seemed to have particularly liked seeing her, or hearing from her. Not Oliver, and she now suspected that, had she not moved, Alexis wouldn't either. Would he? Boarding the train this afternoon, he had been the only one she'd suspected a negative reaction from. Surely this was suicidal?

She listened to the heel of her boots click against his garden path, counting the steps until almost definite hell. She hadn't quite decided if it would be an icy or fiery reception that she found on the other side of the door, with him it was hard to tell one way or the other.

Nikki knocked and waited with bated breath. Waited while thoughts raced through her mind, thoughts that very nearly had her turning and sprinting down the street. It had been three years, what if he was married now? Would she be able to cope with that? But then, no doubt if he had married he'd have moved. She looked a state, she must do with the amount of water tipped on her head, and she hadn't looked all that great when she had set out mid-afternoon for milk. Would he sneer at her? No, he wasn't a sneering sort of person, well at least he hadn't been, and everyone changed. How was he different after three years? Would he even be the same guy she had known?

This had been a very bad idea. She should just leg it and hop onto the next train home, only if she couldn't afford a room for the night, who was to say she could afford a night train at the last minute.

She turned out she didn't have time to act on any half formed decision to run. The door had opened a short few seconds later and she froze looking at the man she had been seeking.

She'd hoped fervently that she would never see him again and wished just as strongly that he would come and find her. He had been the reason she had left, in part, three years ago. He'd been so many things to her at some point or another.

Her best-friend.

Her boyfriend.

Her fiancé.

"Nicole." His voice, the first time she had heard it in just under two and a half years, sounded older, deeper and perhaps colder; though she hoped it was her imagination or surprise, she knew she was fooling herself. He blinked down at her, brown eyes wide.

Yes, he had been many things to her in the past.


But he remained only her step-brother now, in the present.