Love Like Crazy

Chapter 1 - Hayley

Leaving was easy.

Coming home was going to sting.

Contemplating the future, I sat on the futon in my studio apartment in London. Ha, who was I kidding? It was a glorified one-room bedsit with a tiny en suite—it had sounded so glamorous, exactly like the producer promised.

I wasn’t going to be the next Taylor Swift, as I’d loudly proclaimed when I left home.

I was going to be the next vagrant…homeless and hungry.

My phone rang, jolting me out of my reverie. I glanced down at the screen, with a small flutter of hope that my previously ignored messages had finally been acknowledged and my music career would be back on track.

Iris’s number flashed up instead.

I let out a deep sigh. 

My mother was the last person I wanted to speak to right now. I hadn’t told her that the hotshot producer had taken all my money and left me high and dry in the big city. I hadn’t told her what a total and complete fool I’d been. Naïve to the end, trusting in the person who pledged fame and fortune, when all he could offer was a few open-mic nights frequented by half a dozen people who were more interested in watching the sports which were being broadcast on the big screen.

She’d be one of the first people to point the finger with an I-told-you-so cackle, despite telling me to go follow my dreams in the first place.

Watching as the phone went to voicemail I relaxed, hoping she’d leave a message and then I could call her back at my leisure. Or at least when I’d worked out what the hell I was going to do.

As I waited for the notification to ping, I put the kettle on. A cup of tea would help. I opened the refrigerator and surveyed the meagre contents: half a tin of baked beans, some cheese that was on the turn, and two crusts of bread. Black tea it was, then. I sloshed the water into a mug, wondering why Iris hadn’t left a message. The phone rang a second time, then cut off. A couple of minutes later it rang again.

Hope kicked in as I wondered if it wasn’t Iris who was trying to get hold of me but the producer.

When we’d first started working together, he led me to believe it was merely the start—he had other scouts and record-company agents coming along to gigs, but they never materialised. There was always an excuse as to why the person didn’t turn up, a last-minute meeting, illness, another band they had to see instead. The alarm bells should have started ringing then but being as green as I was meant I believed every word he said.

Every. Damn. Word.

Then he simply stopped returning my calls and messages. After a few days, his mobile number came up as no longer in use and his emails bounced back. I even tried calling the office he used, only to be told the person using the room had moved out and cancelled the contract. The website he’d set up returned an error page, showing ‘no longer found’ and there was no trace of him on social media.

I’d been fleeced big time.

A small seed of optimism grew inside me as I grabbed the phone from the kitchen counter. Maybe my luck was about to turn around. I checked the recent numbers, to see nothing but my mother’s name, and my heart sank.

No spectacular career for me.

The phone rang again, making me jump. Iris obviously wanted something, and I couldn’t really ignore her any longer. At least it would give my tea a chance to cool down.

“Mum,” I answered, steeling myself for whatever was to come from the other end.

All I could hear were snuffles and coughs. Oh God, she’d gone ahead with her threat of getting a puppy—one you could put in a handbag. I rolled my eyes at the thought of Fluffles or Puffles running through the house. My father would hate it.

“Mum? Can you hear me?” I tried again.

“Hayley? Is that you?”

Who else were you expecting, Mother? You called me.

“Yes, it’s me. What’s up?” I suddenly realised the snuffles and coughs weren’t coming from a Teacup Pomeranian, but from my mother. I gripped the handle of the mug and sat down again. Something told me I’d need to.

“It’s your father…” she mumbled.

A cold hand gripped my heart. 

Dad. 

What had happened to him? 

Was he sick? In hospital? Or worse, dead? 

My throat constricted as I worked my way through the awful possibilities that could have transpired.

“Is he okay?” There was a crack in my voice as I asked the question.

“No, he’s lost his mind.” There was an edge in Iris’s tone, which made me think he wasn’t sick.

“Then, what?”

“Hayley, he’s left me!” Iris’s words were slurring, and I wanted her to repeat what she’d said, so I could be sure of what she was telling me.

“What do you mean ‘left you’?”

“He’s shacked up with someone two years older than you. Two years, Hayley. She could be your sister,” screeched Iris.

That came across loud and clear. 

The cold feeling spread into my bones as I took a moment to process the words. Dad had left? I knew my parents’ relationship had its issues—I wasn’t blind, but for him to take off like that was completely out of the blue. I had always been closer to Iris than to him, so we hadn’t spoken since I’d headed off to London, his disapproval of my choice of career apparent. Confused, as we had parted on bad terms, I didn’t know how I should be feeling.

“Can you come home, Hayley? Please?”

Or at least I think that’s what Iris said, as it was hard to distinguish the mispronounced words which probably stemmed from her consuming a bottle of wine. Or two.

Despite everything, I worried what might happen if I didn’t come home. Two bottles could turn into three or four, then turn into hospital, or worse. I didn’t need to lose two parents on the same day.

With less than a hundred pounds in my bank account and time running out to find a job to pay next month’s rent, I had a decision to make. 

To stay or to go home to Bartondale. I was desperate to do anything but return to the place I’d grown up in and outgrown.

Saving my mother was the lesser of the evils. And, whether I liked it or not, I finally had a valid excuse for my humble return.

As the girl who was taking care of my mother, I could save some respect.

“I’ll be home tomorrow,” I whispered, unsure whether Iris even heard me.

After I hung up, I spent the evening packing up my few remaining belongings into two bags. I’d ended up selling a lot of pieces of clothing on the Internet to help pay my rent, so there wasn’t much left. The designer gear I’d coveted when I’d first arrived in London had soon been replaced by fast fashion items—cheap, but throwaway. Given my current situation, I’d be holding on to all of them. My battered guitar case stood proudly by the front door, housing my precious Gibson J-200 acoustic electric guitar. It had been a twenty-first birthday present from my parents, around the time I’d decided I wanted to try music as my career. If I’d had the heart to sell it, I could have stayed here longer, but I couldn’t bring myself to part with it.

Once I’d finished, I collapsed on the futon, knowing it was my last night there. The next thing was to book my train home. I fired up the app and looked at the options, baulking at the price of them. There was a cheap one later in the afternoon, which would have to do as my finances wouldn’t stretch to any of the others. I’d be home around seven the next evening.

Apprehension flooded through me.

I was going back to Bartondale.

Before I went to sleep, I messaged Iris, letting her know my plans. Her reply was a collection of emojis. At least it proved she was still alive.