Stevie dumped Andrea in the Railway Arms and left with Tony. The place was deserted except for the barman and old Charlie.
"If they start in here, you're all banned." Jeff the barman told Andrea.
"Nothing to do with me, Jeff. I'm just waiting for Stevie." Andrea replied. "Can of Export please."
"You can use the juke box for ten minutes, then we want the footie on." Jeff informed her. He must have been using the royal 'we' seeing as Charlie simply didn't care and no one else was in. She was almost asleep an hour later when Tony wandered in with Gaz and Scott.
"Where's Stevie?" She felt the panic rising.
"Bridge and Wheel." Tony told her then ordered a drink.
"Bridge and Wheel? By the river?" Andrea asked in alarm. In days gone by, the Bridge and Wheel was the meeting place of the SBC. "You let him go there on his own?"
"Oh shut it." Tony drawled and sat down, away from Andrea. "Pool Gaz?"
"Why has he gone to the Bridge? Is Lingsy there? Tony! Don't you bloody ignore me you tosser!" Andrea raised her voice and Jeff glared at her.
"Don't talk crap Andrea. It's full of kids these days. He's just gone to check, that's all. He has Billy with him." Tony gave Andrea a dirty look.
"Billy Frost? Er ... OK. Heather?" Andrea asked in confusion.
"Think I saw her outside. Go get her, Andrea. We may as well all stay together until this is sorted." Tony nodded. Andrea thought this was a sensible idea, the only one Tony had ever had in his life. Andrea looked up and down the road but there was no sign of Heather. She tried the toilets and they were empty too. She bumped into Tony in the corridor.
"No sign of her." Andrea shrugged. "She'll ..." Tony pushed Andrea back into the Ladies Toilets and stood against the door. "What the shit are you doing?"
"You owe me. On your knees you slut." Tony started to unbuckle his belt.
"What? Are you bloody mental? You come near me and I'll bite your knob off. Our Stevie with snotter you, you shit!" Andrea backed up against the far wall.
"I don't think so. Anything happens to me and I put that pathetic nerd of yours in hospital. Don't believe me? Try it." Tony grabbed for Andrea's hair but Andrea ducked. He ended up cracking the mirror with his knuckles as he swung for her and missed. Andrea kicked him as hard as she could in the kneecap and he fell into the mirror. She then booted his other knee and ran like hell out of the toilets. The safest place was the bar so she tried to compose herself first. "He's dead, Andrea. Tell him from me, he is dead." Tony pushed her out of the way and went into the bar first. She discovered a cut on her cheek when she felt the blood trickle down so she had to go back into the toilets. Thankfully, Tony didn't follow her. Andrea sat at the bar and watched the door for another two hours and almost burst into tears when Stevie walked in.
"Stevie!" She jumped of the stool. Tony caught her eye and gave her a warning look. "Well?"
"What's up your cheek?" Stevie examined the cut on Andrea's cheek. Tony was still looking at her.
"It's just a scratch. I did it with my bracelet. Does it look bad? It didn't look too bad before. Is it bruising?" Andrea touched her cheek.
"Just a scratch. It's OK." Stevie nodded. "No Lingsy anyway and the SBC kids know nothing either. Half of them wouldn't recognise him because they aren't old enough so that was a waste of sodding time. Pint please Jeff."
"Heather hasn't been in. I think I'll go home, Stevie. I'll get the last bus." Andrea felt like beating the living daylights out of Tony with his own pool cue.
"Stop and have a beer. I'll get you a taxi. You aren't bothered about Tony on the drink are you? You don't have to worry about that shite now." Stevie assured her.
"I'm getting a headache, that's all. I'm tired." Andrea lied. "The bus is in five minutes." She smiled and left the Railway Arms. She knew Stevie would be watching out of the window so she kept her back to it just incase he saw her crying. Tony Collins was going to haunt her forever. He probably wouldn't beat James up just yet because Stevie's warning was still recent and fresh in his mind. He's hang it over Andrea and threaten her with it just to be an arsehole. She managed a wave to Stevie as she got on the bus then watched the windows as it started to rain.
Andrea saw a hunched figure trudging through the rain along the road that lead away from the recycle bins.
"Do you live down there?" Andrea shouted and James looked up and peered through the downpour.
"Andrea! You're home soon. You coming in?" James dragged his jacket over his and Andrea's head and steered her towards his flat. "Sodding rain. I'm bloody soaked." He grumbled, opening the door. The flat had less boxes in it now, hence the trip to the bins.
"Me too. Maybe I should have gone home for dry clothes." Andrea took off her dripping jacket and put it over a chair to dry. Her jeans were cold, heavy and wet and so was the neck of her T-shirt.
"Give me a few minutes and I'll sort you out a shirt or something. You can bung your jeans on the radiator." James ran upstairs to change first. Andrea ended up in a red T-Shirt and a pair of flannel shorts that she had to clutch at the front to keep up.
"Aren't I stunning?" She laughed, shuffling into the sitting room.
"Of course you are." James smiled. "So did everything go alright? I didn't expect to see you tonight to be honest."
"There was no point in staying in the pub. Heather wasn't going in at that time of night so I got the last bus. I feel sorry for our Stevie, James. Now Tony knows that Stevie's gong to handle everything for him, as he does, he just leaves him to it. He happily wandered off to the Railway Arms while Stevie trailed all the way to the Bridge and Wheel. The tosspot." Andrea said in disgust.
"Did he?" James blinked in surprise. "It's full of kids isn't it?"
"Yes but that's not the point. Poor Stevie. This is doing his head in and it's unfair. It's Tony's crap, not Stevie's. He's even lost his girlfriend through it all. Not that the hag is much of a miss." Andrea heaved a sigh and leant against James.
"Gone far enough eh?" James put his arm round her. "I honestly expected Tony to be more of a man instead of piling all of it onto Stevie."
"Yes well he isn't. I suppose Stevie is partially to blame for taking it all on too." Andrea turned to look at her lovely, kind, boyfriend. "You will keep out of Tony's way, won't you James? I'm not saying you have to hide, and I'm not saying you're a coward or anything like that, I just don't want you near any of that. Not ever." She felt more tears and was surprised she had any left.
"He's threatened you." James said flatly, the muscles bunching under his clenched jaw. "Is that what that cut is on your face?"
"It's OK! James it's OK. I'll ... I'll ... tell Stevie tomorrow, I promise." Andrea said in panic. "I hate him so much, I really do. Why can't he just leave me alone?"
"Arsehole. Don't cry, Andrea." James put both arms round her. "I'll ... " Andrea shook her head and James stroked her hair. "OK. It'll be OK, I know it will." For the rest of the night, it was. It was better than OK, it was beautiful. James certainly showed her what a selfish and immature little shit Tony really was in that department. She went to sleep vowing to stand with James and rip Tont a new arsehole herself.
Andrea woke up alone in James narrow bed the next morning. She found a note on top of her dried clothes telling her that he'd had to go into work for a while and that she'd to help herself to the kitchen. Andrea did so with a permanent smile on her face. Stevie soon spoiled that by phoning her mobile which meant he'd already phoned her flat.
"Where the hell are you? Never mind, it doesn't matter. Someone put Tony's dad's garage door in this morning! Rammed it with a set of steel ladders! His Old Man brained the shite out of him and he ended up round here. I had to drag him into the shed before our Old Man brained him too!"
"I'm sick to death of hearing about him, Stevie. It's you I'm worried about, you. Did Mr. Collins call the coppers?" Andrea began putting her clothes in a bag. She intended to keep James' shorts and T-shirt on forever.
"No. He knows it's to do with Tony." Stevie heaved a sigh. "I've left him in the Railway Arms to settle down a bit. He was still bitching on about that fella of yours."
"W ... what? What did he say about him?" Andrea panicked and ran out of James' flat and towards her own. "Stevie! What did Tony say about him?"
"Just the ranting and raving you'd expect. That's why I left him with Gaz. He needs to come down a notch or two. He's still smarting over being dumped and now this happens." Stevie sounded stressed to hell.
"Are you not with Tony?" Andrea was fighting to dress herself in her own flat, and also fighting against the panic that was threatening to choke her.
"No I'm out looking for bloody Lingsy. I'm in Tescos. Christ how hard can he be to find?"
"I have to go Stevie. You should have stayed with Tony. If anything's happened to James I swear I'm going to the police. I'm deadly serious." Andrea frowned at looked at her phone. flat battery. She wondered how much of that Stevie had got.
Andrea jumped off the bus in town and ran flat out in the direction of the library and thanked god there was only one library in the town. She flung the door open and received a withering glare from a middle aged lady behind a desk.
"I'm very sorry, excuse me." Andrea tried to catch her breath. "I'm looking for James Carling. He works here."
"I know he does, but not today sweetheart, it's his days off." The lady smiled.
"What? Are you sure? He was in this morning." Andrea was confused.
"Yesterday afternoon was his last shift. He'll be back in the day after tomorrow." The woman told her. Andrea thanked her and left the building. What was that all about? She was pretty sure the note had said 'work'.
"Excuse me, can you help me please?" Andrea turned round to see a teenager dressed in jeans and a combat jacket, with a blue and yellow scarf round his neck. "I'm lost." He pushed his glasses closer to his face and squinted at the map in the library window.
"Where do you want to be?" Andrea asked.
"Union Road College for a lecture." The student exhaled noisily. "Am I as far away as that map suggests?"
"I'm afraid so." Andrea said sympathetically. "You need to go to the end of here and head ... shit!" The student lurched forward and knocked Andrea into the wall. "What the hell ... oh no." Tony was standing behind the student with a broken beer bottle in his hand and the back of the teenagers head was bleeding. Tony booted the kid in the ribs and fell as a dead weight against Andrea. "Tony! What the hell are you d ..."
"I told you!" Tony screamed and punched Andrea in the face. "Didn't I? This is your fault! I told you I'd waste him!" The unconscious student got another boot to the ribs and Andrea tried to shield him with her own body. "Not much of a man now is he Andrea?" Tony punched Andrea again.
"Tony ... Tony it isn't ... stop ..." Andrea gurgled a mouth full of blood.
"Stop? You bitch!" Tony screamed. Andrea just blinked in a daze and a glinting object sticking out of her shoulder. Tony no longer had the broken bottle in his hand. "James." She heard a siren wailing, then the blackness swamped over her.
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