She walked up the drive, but went round to the back of the house, by way of
the kitchen. Through the window she saw her mother standing in front of the sink.
When Donna came in, she glanced across, no doubt curious of her daughter’s
‘Feel any better now Donna?’
Her mother put the back of her hand to Donna’s cheek. ‘Cold isn’t it? Hope you
haven’t caught a chill out there.’
‘Don’t worry, this coat is lovely and warm.’
‘You know, you ought to try to pull yourself together now. I know you’ve had
a horrid time these past few weeks, but it’s time to make the effort to get yourself
well again. Don’t forget, you’ve got so much going for you. You’re young, still the
most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen, and I’m not just saying that because you’re my
daughter. You could have any boy you wanted, achieve almost anything if you put
your mind to it. There’s no reason to throw it all away on account of one horrible
man.’ Her mother looked at her admiringly, with the glint of a tear in her eye.
‘You’ve been blessed with a gift from God, love. Use that advantage to help you.
Blake may have broken your heart, but there’ll be a hundred more waiting in the
wings to take his place – believe me.’
‘Mum, don’t keep harping on about stuff. I’ve heard that so many times, and
I’m sick to death of hearing it.’ She took off her coat, hurriedly throwing it over a
‘But if you do go back to work, your male colleagues especially, and some of
the women too, will flock round you, wanting to help all they can. It’ll be a piece of
cake.’ She smiled, ignoring her daughter’s last remark.
‘I don’t think so. Because I’m not sure I can go back. I don’t want them
whispering about me behind my back, and laughing at me. I’ll feel like walking out.’
Donna’s mother lifted her chin up. ‘You mustn’t let yourself think like that.
It’ll only tarnish your life even further, if you allow it to. You’re just the same inside
as you were before.’
She moved away from her mum, certain she wasn’t the same person as before.
And never would be again. ‘Mum, I don’t need a lecture. I’ll cope, all right. I’m
going to my room now.’
‘Of course darling. I’ll come up a little later to see how you are.’
‘Mum - I’m a big girl now.’ Donna spoke slightly sarcastically, which her
mother didn’t seem to notice.
She was so tired after everything that had gone on. It felt comfortable in the
room where she’d lived for all but one of her twenty-two years. She lay back on her
single bed, knowing she’d still miss not having Blake around. Best not think about
what had happened at the end to spoil their beautiful relationship - better to
remember the good times.
She was in fact devastated that it had gone wrong, as at one stage she’d been
certain he was the one she’d spend the rest of her life with. Would she eventually
find happiness elsewhere? She didn’t know nor care at present. But in the meantime,
what would she do on her own?
Of course at home she was safe, and did have some feelings for her parents,
despite what they’d done to her. Yet after only one day with them, they were already
driving her mad. They irritated her, with their constant mollycoddling; and their
incessant references about her looks, and how this would allow her to do whatever
she wanted. Donna hated this. Didn’t they realise what mattered was the person you
really were inside? After all looks didn’t last forever.
To Donna, staying with her parents indefinitely was not an option. Eventually
she had to stand on her own two feet, because the way her mother’s mind was
working, the pressure to return to a modelling career would soon be relentless, and
be difficult to cope with. If she couldn’t return to her present job, she was adamant
eventually her future would only lie in a career in Mathematics in some shape or
Dropping off to sleep that night, she dreamt of her attacker and what he’d done
to her; waking up wringing wet with sweat, thoughts of him raping her, still clear in
her mind. In her dream she remembered crying out for help but as before no one
Suddenly she sat up in bed, her nightdress sticking to her, soaked with
perspiration. Was there nothing she could do to rid herself of these demons? It
frightened her even to go to sleep. She faced an unbearable life, it seemed, whether
awake or asleep.
The following week she made an appointment to see her doctor again, in the
hope he could give her some advice. And decided not to tell her parents as she didn’t
want them to worry or be too involved in her life.
In the end, it was rather a pointless experience. Although sympathetic, he didn’t
offer anything new. Suggested, once again, seeing another counsellor in an effort to
cope with her return to work. He was about as good as her parents, and left her
feeling she was on her own in this.
When she agreed to go back to work in a week’s time, the doctor gave her a
prescription and a note for her employers saying she was fit to return to work but
with restrictions. He also gave her a week’s supply of tablets to help her anxiety
while she was at work. If they were anything like her other tablets, she didn’t think
they’d help, but she didn’t tell the doctor this.
She returned home half an hour later, and was met by her mother in the hall.
‘Donna, David Wallace phoned. He wanted to know how you are. I said you’d phone
‘Oh no, I don’t want to speak to him.’
‘Well, that’s up to you. I’m only passing on the message.’
‘So are you going to phone him back or what?’
‘Suppose I’ll have to.’ She wondered how he knew she’d moved back in with
her parents. It had to be Blake.
With shaking hands she picked up the phone and dialled David’s number.
Nervously and with hurried words she spoke with him, mentioning her visit to the
doctor, and her proposed return to work the following week. To his credit, despite
what had happened during their previous meeting, he seemed genuinely thrilled and
surprised. He told her he’d prepared a revised rehabilitation programme allowing
her to work a few hours at a time, which was along the lines the doctor had suggested,
and assured her he wouldn’t push her into doing anything until she was ready.
Nevertheless, she still felt uneasy about facing everyone.
Putting the phone down, she breathed out slowly, glad that ordeal was over.
She had to face returning to work at some point, and there she’d face an even bigger
The tablets she took did no more than take the edge off her anxiety, and as the
day approached, the butterflies in her stomach increased steadily. She found it
difficult to sleep and became very agitated, which added to the tense atmosphere at
home. Her father was more sympathetic to Donna’s problems but said very little
when her mother continually alluded to the idea of Donna returning to modelling.
Donna felt like screaming, but instead she sulked and smouldered with anger.
That first week she was due to work from ten until one o’clock on Tuesday and
Thursday. Surely, she could manage that.
The night before was particularly bad, feelings of nausea increased and that in
turn led to panic attacks, highlighting how difficult this would be. She was tossing
and turning for what seemed like an eternity, and in the end decided to get up.
Having visited the bathroom, and taken a tablet to help her get through the day,
she went downstairs to find her father sitting at the breakfast table, a bowl of cereals
in front of him. He looked surprised to see her.
‘You’re up early aren’t you love?’
‘Couldn’t sleep, dad.’ She rubbed her eyes and yawned.
‘Well, that’s understandable. You’ll be all right once you get there. Just get
through today, and you’ll be over the worst,’ he told her, touching her hand across
She sniffed back tears that threatened to come, moving her head back. ‘I don’t
think I can do it, dad.’
He looked concerned. ‘Darling, come on now. Of course you can. At least try
or you’ll never know, will you?’
Donna shook her head. He went over to her, put his hand on her shoulder.
‘Look, listen to me. You have to try to rise above what happened to you. If you
give in to it now, it’ll be twice as hard the next time.’ He was obviously trying to
encourage her, and added, ‘So promise me you’ll give it your best shot.’
She nodded reluctantly.
As previously arranged, when the time came her father got up to give her a lift.
‘Suppose so.’ Her stomach turned over once again.
She looked across at her mother sitting there quietly, smiling sadly at her. ‘Take
care now, Donna, and if you don’t feel well come home. Remember there are plenty
of other jobs out there if this one doesn’t work out.’
‘Oh sure, thanks a bundle, mum, that’s exactly what I don’t want.’ What sort
of incentive was that? Perhaps all the incentive she needed.
She was smartly dressed in a new grey pin-striped suit, and a cream blouse. Her
face, made up delicately, was framed by her shoulder length blond hair. According
to her parents, she looked breath taking, although she felt anything but.
She said goodbye to her mother on the doorstep, before getting into her father’s
blue Ford Mondeo. As they drove off, she turned to see her mother waving.
The journey into work was quiet, save for her father’s small talk, obviously
trying to keep her mind off what was to come. But she wasn’t listening to half he
said, because so much was going round in her head. Then before she knew it, they
were outside the Bluethorn building.
‘Thanks for the lift, dad.’
‘Good luck, and don’t worry. You’ll be OK,’ he said to her reassuringly.
There were tears in her eyes as she turned away from the car, and hoped he
didn’t notice this.
‘Pick you up at one o’clock,’ he shouted before he drove off.
The sun was shining as she walked into the building where she’d worked for
the past eighteen months. She’d been happy here too until the attack. Now as
petrified as on her first day, she entered the lift and pressed the button for the sixth
floor. She was in the lift on her own, waiting anxiously for it to reach its destination.
As soon as the lift opened, she saw Vanessa the receptionist, who’d known
Donna since she’d started with the company.
‘Hallo Donna!’ she exclaimed all smiles. ‘How brilliant to see you back.’
Donna felt colour coming to her cheeks. ‘Would you phone David Wallace, tell
him I’m here?’
‘Of course. Won’t keep you a moment.’
Vanessa picked up the phone, and dialled through to David. Donna meanwhile,
stood awkwardly in front of Vanessa’s desk, legs turning to jelly. The extra tablet
she’d taken that morning didn’t appear to be working, so she took deep breaths in an
effort to calm herself down.
‘He’ll be out in a minute,’ Vanessa said staring at her, probably noticing how
nervous and afraid she looked. ‘So how have you been keeping? Been off for a while,
haven’t you? I have to say, the place hasn’t been the same without you.’
‘Really,’ Donna said with an embarrassing smile. How she wished Vanessa
would stop rambling on; it made her feel even more nervous.
At last, David Wallace came bounding towards her, what remained of his
ginger hair flapping all over the place, his face alive with pleasure at seeing her.
‘Donna, you made it.’ He shook hands with her. ‘So glad you’re back. We can’t
afford to be without people of your calibre, you know.’
‘Thanks David, that means a lot to me.’ Trying hard not to feel emotional as
they went through to the cloakroom, she hung up her coat.
The office area was open plan; there were around a dozen people, most of
whom she knew, busy tapping away at their computers as David walked her through.
‘As you can see Donna, nothing much has changed. Everything is more or less
as it was, except for one or two personnel. Business is brisk I might add, as you
would expect. Come on, we thought you might like your old desk back.’
‘Thanks David, that’s very thoughtful of you.’ And they made their way around
As she walked across the office she saw a couple of her old colleagues looking
up to greet her. Her heartbeat increased and she began to feel giddy on noticing the
banner on the far wall ‘WELCOME BACK DONNA’. This little gesture made her
the centre of attention when all she wanted was as little fuss as possible.
She wanted to crawl in a hole somewhere and hide, but that was impossible. A
lot of her work mates shouted hallo and said how nice it was to see her back. Donna
acknowledged them as best as she could. Already she was feeling very much on
show. David gestured for her to go through to his office, just behind where she
normally worked. He closed the door and she sat opposite him.
As he observed her, she began to shake.
‘Right Donna, first of all there are a few formalities we need to go through. If
you’ve got your return to work form, we can then confirm your rehabilitation
programme. Once that’s done, we’ll get onto the sort of work you’ll be doing…’
Donna found it difficult to take everything in. Could barely look at David as he
spoke, and only realised she had to sign something when he pushed it in front of her.
‘Right, if you’re ready, I’ll take you across to Claire, who’s been doing your
job since you’ve been away.’ He stood up, lifted up his arm to guide her out of his
office to where Claire was sitting.
‘Claire, this is Donna,’ he said politely.
‘Ah, new recruit eh,’ Claire joked.
Donna tried to smile. ‘Not exactly.’
‘Claire, if you could just familiarise Donna with what you do. Obviously she
already knows most of it, but there may be one or two things that have changed since
she’s been away.’
‘Of course. Great to see you, Donna. Why don’t you pull up a chair?’ Claire
said shaking her thick auburn hair back. She appeared to be wearing contact lenses,
which made her eyes squint now and again.
Donna found a chair, and watched as Claire guided her through what she was
familiar with already. Claire was friendly enough and didn’t pry, only asking her if
she was feeling better. They talked a little about what had gone on since Donna had
As time passed, Donna began to realise how difficult it would be to get back
into the job, that at one time she’d done almost without thinking. She found it so
hard to concentrate, constantly imagining they were all watching her. With a feeling
of awkwardness, she stumbled on her words when spoken to, and sensed they didn’t
know how to approach her either.
It seemed to be a constant battle to remain at her desk, and on two occasions
she had to go to the toilet to be sick. The morning dragged. Then at eleven-thirty
Claire told her the daily team meeting was scheduled for fifteen minutes time. Donna
didn’t think she could face this and suddenly felt faint.
David Wallace took the meeting as usual. He began by mentioning Donna
straightaway. ‘As you’re all aware, today we welcome Donna back to the team after
a lengthy absence. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say it’s lovely to see you
back, Donna. You’ve been sorely missed, and I know we’ll all give you the support
you need to get back into the swing of things again.’
They clapped for her, and she felt all their eyes on her, but she just couldn’t
find any words to say to them, and instead peered down at the floor humiliated. Her
face was burning and how she stopped herself from leaving the room she didn’t
Finally, when the meeting dispersed, still feeling nauseated, she couldn’t stand
it any longer. Time to get out of this awful place, and without saying anything, she
went to her desk next to Claire’s, picked up her handbag and dashed out. The
cloakroom and toilets were in the same direction, so anyone noticing her wouldn’t
suspect a thing. Putting on her coat, and scanning her pass at the door, she went
towards the lift. Vanessa looked up, and must have seen her distressed face but didn’t
say a word. Once she was in the lift, Donna wasn’t sure how she felt, the initial relief
was soon replaced by a sense of failure. But she couldn't stop herself. Obviously, she
wasn’t in any fit state for work yet.
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