He had known her for a long time, far beyond his fame but they had started to run in different circles. The more famous he became, the further away she became and before he knew it, he didn't know her at all. She became a memory and soon forgotten by him. Randomly she'd be brought up when he ran into an old friend from East Sheen and then she'd be gone just as quickly. He had a wife and children, he had a respectable career now. She was supposedly still using and had a son of her own but had never settled down.
He needed a new dog sitter, his past one had taken advantage of her access to him and now was fired. Charlotte had gone to film another movie, their son was with his mom and now he was leaving to film as well. It was one of the rare occasions their careers had intersected and he needed someone to take care of his dogs. He called the place he had got the first one, they had been apologetic after she had started stealing from him and he understood it wasn't their fault. They promised they had a great sitter that had great reviews and had been doing it for at least two years for upscale clients with no issues. He agreed to try her out for a week, he'd leave at the end of the week and if he was satisfied he'd keep her.
He had just got out of the shower and dressed when he heard his bell ring. He dried his hair off once more and headed down the stairs, glancing through the peephole. He saw the back of a female head but the shirt of the dog sitting agency. He opened the door and she turned to face him, a smile on her face. It quickly dropped recognizing him and he stared at her. The ghost that had been in and out of his life for years was now standing in the flesh in front of him.
"Annabel?" he asked and he saw her mentally attempt to recover.
"Tom, hi, I didn't realize it was you," she said, glancing at the clipboard in her hand and then back at him. "It had a woman's name on the chart," she said and he nodded.
"It's under my wife's name," he said.
"Ah, that makes sense," she said and he stared at her a moment longer then stepped back.
"Come in," he said and she smiled at him as she passed, he shut the door. "This is insane," he said, crossing his arms and staring at her. His dogs sniffed her eagerly and she smiled at them, crouching down. They licked her face and wagged their tails profusely. "Well you got their approval I think," he said and she laughed.
"I think the treats in my pockets have something to do with it," she said. Tom introduced her to each of the dogs and then offered her a drink. They walked into his kitchen and she took a seat at the table.
"This is crazy, how are you?" he asked. The last he heard of her she was destitute and still hooked on drugs.
"Really good, been doing this for a few years and loving it," she said and he leaned against the counter as he waited for the water to warm.
"Christ, how long has it been?" he asked and she sighed, pausing to think.
"At least ten years if not more," she said and he nodded, staring at her. The memories of the last night he saw her was rushing back to him, the feelings returning to him and he shook his head slowly.
"I can't believe you're here," he said and she smiled. "I thought I'd never see you again when you walked out on me," he said and she sighed, clearly she had hoped it wouldn't be brought up.
"Yeah, I know, though I wouldn't have to face the embarrassment," she said and he quickly shook his head.
"Are you kidding me? You're part of the reason I cleaned myself up, a big part," he said and she looked up at him.
"Really?" she asked, petting his dog as he came over, sitting beside her.
"Fuck yeah, your words echoed in my brain for days after and I realized how right you were," he said and moved to pour the water into mugs as it boiled. He brought the tea over and set hers down, pushing the sugar with milk in front of her. "You were the one light at the end of the tunnel, the hand that I held when the chaos reigned and when you let go, leaving me behind, fuck," he said shaking his head.
"Shit, I didn't realize I had that much impact," she said and he smiled. He admired her, she had gone through hell and back. With him and without him. She still was gorgeous, there wasn't that stunning beauty about her but there was a quiet beauty about her. An unassuming beauty that stood out even more and he found the same feelings for hers stirring again. They had been through drug addiction together, through the darkest days of their lives together and she had been part of his saving grace. He had never had the chance to thank her. He leaned in and rested his hand on hers, she looked at him.
"Thank you," he said and she laughed, shaking her head.
"Don't thank me, it was a selfish move," she said and he sighed.
"Whatever it was, to begin with, you are part of the reason I have all this," he said, waving his hand around and she looked at it.
"You do seem to have done better for yourself," she said and he smiled. "I've seen a few of your films, it seems to be what you were made for, Tommy," she said and he felt his heart soften at her using his nickname. He remembered the nights of her using it, the nights they would be wrapped up in each other and nothing else mattered.
"How are you though? Seriously? Last I heard you were still using," he said, glancing at her arms and she smiled.
"Clean and sober for three years," she said. "My son had a lot to do with it," she said.
"You do have a son, I had heard that a few years back but wasn't sure," he said and she nodded.
"Elouan," she said.
"Elouan, that's unusual," he said and she nodded.
"It's French for light, his dad is French," she said and he smiled. "That's what he was to me, a light when all others had gone out," she said.
"I'm glad to hear it, that you had someone to be a light for you," he said and she laughed, nodding.
"It was a struggle but he was worth every moment of pain coming clean," she said. "Do you have kids?" she asked.
"Two," he said and she smiled.
"I figured you must be a dad by now, you were always good with kids," she said and he nodded. "Love them, drive you crazy but they're amazing little creatures," he said.
"Absolutely," she replied and looked at the dog seated at her side, petting him still. "So, what did you need me to do?" she asked, looking back to Tom.
"I'm going to be gone for a few months and my wife will be gone for two, she'll be back before I am. I just need you to walk them, give them a bit of company and obviously feed them," he said.
"That sounds easy enough," she said. They went through the usual procedure of dog sitting and then she finished her tea, standing. "It's been great catching up and I'm really glad to see I've had a positive impact on someone," she said and he shook her hand but pulled her in for a hug.
"I'm glad to see you're doing better than I was told," he said and hugged her tightly, she returned the hug. They parted and for a moment stood awkwardly before she grabbed her clipboard.
"So I will see you at the end of the week," she said and gave the dog a final loving pat before walking towards the front door, Tom followed her.
"Annabel," he said and she paused, looking at him. "I missed you all those years, getting clean without you wasn't easy," he said and she smiled. It was a sad smile.
"But you did it, I always knew you could Tommy," she said and opened the door, leaving. He sighed and shut the door, shaking his head. She was still as beautiful as she had always been and that feeling of attachment had returned the moment he had seen her. He had planned on marrying her when he got clean, she had pushed him to get clean and he had vowed he'd repay her by marrying her, giving her his last name. Then she had ghosted him, disappeared without another word and eventually, he moved on, found new love. Had he been given the chance, had he run into her before now, he knew he would've given that girl his entire world and anything else she needed.