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A Pale Shadow

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Because even the smallest of words can be the ones to hurt you or save you.

Natsuki Takaya

 

“Look, I just want to talk to Amy, okay? I… I… I know she’s up there, I saw her just walk in. It’s really important that I see her right now!” Sonya stated, desperately trying to reason with and get through to Brandon who was blocking her entrance to the elevator.

“Do you have an appointment?” Brandon asked.

“What? An appoint- Since when do you need an appointment to go to the Penthouse?” Sonya said, laughing in disbelief before realising that Brandon was serious.

“Is this… this about what happened the other day, isn’t it?” Sonya asked.

“It’s not personal, Mrs Rebecchi.” Brandon replied, the tone in his voice increasing as he smiled at Sonya who looked at him as though she was ready to punch him in the face.“I just can’t let you go up unless you’ve been authorised. Maybe you should try calling her?”

“Oh, well, thank you for the advice, Brandon. Thank you so much.”

“I do trust you have her number.” Brandon asked smugly.

“Goodbye, Brandon.” Sonya responded sharply and bitterly as she turned around to face him.

Sonya stormed out of Lassiters and stood just outside the foyer, looking back inside the building at where Brandon was standing and took multiple deep breaths in an attempt to calm herself down. As she stood there, she took out her phone and scrolled through her contacts, humming and harring about whether or not to call Amy and arrange for them to meet up. It was the simplest solution but one she struggled to make and as she slowly walked into the complex and towards Harold’s she put the phone away, sitting down at one of the outside tables and placing her head in her hands out and letting out a sigh in frustration.

“I thought you could use this.” Dipi called out, placing a cup of tea in front of Sonya.

“Oh, Thank you.” Sonya replied softly, smiling up at her.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah. It’s just… I’m… I was trying to… It was… GOD!” Sonya screamed, slamming her hands on the table in frustration.

“BLOODY BRANDON!”

“You too?” Dipi asked.

“God! He’s so annoying.”

“You want to talk about it?”

“No. It’s alright. I’m… I’ll just wait here for Amy.”

“Okay. Well, you know where I am if you change your mind.” Dipi replied as Sonya gently nodded her head and smiled as Dipi walked away from her and into Harold’s.

Sonya tried to calm herself down, placing one teaspoon after another of sugar in her cup of tea, in an attempt to distract herself from everything that was going through her mind. She’d been nervous for hours. Everything that she was going to say to Amy, how she was going to deal with the situation if it got out of control, it was already stressing her out and Brandon halting her attempts to get to the Penthouse after spending houses getting herself into the right head space just put her off talking to Amy altogether. It was as though her confidence was gone and now she couldn’t think about anything except how bad everything was and all her previous concerns were now front and centre again.

Jimmy hadn’t said it outright but she knew she was one of the people close to Amy that he held responsible for what happened to her. She was one of the people who didn’t realise what was going on or how much she was struggling. That was why he came to her – because it was her fault as well. What made it worse was that Amy was just one person in a long list of people whose struggling and suffering she had failed to recognise. She had forgotten all about Josh and the anniversary of his death. If Terese hadn’t needed someone to talk to she wouldn’t have even noticed that something was wrong, despite how obvious it was once she was found out about the situation. The same thing happened with Mark. She didn’t even realise he was still struggling with his father's death or everything that happened with Tyler.

Their problems as bad as they were just didn’t seem to register and apart from Jarrod, Nell and Steph it was as though no one else existed, as though they were slowly becoming strangers. They just weren’t a priority for her and since so many of them already had people in their lives who could help them, they didn’t need her so she didn’t need to worry about them anymore. She could focus on herself for once and stop worrying about everyone else and she was now realising how much of a mistake it was to think that way. Thinking about Amy, made her realise that she didn’t only fail to see what was happening but assumed that because she had people who could help her that it was enough. Now it was becoming clearer that those people were the ones making things worse for her and she sat back and let them hurt Amy when she could have helped her through it.

The more she thought about it, the more she realised that the problem was also Amy and the fact that she just never expected her to need help or that she could have ever been in that bad of a place to need it or that she was someone to worry about because she always had someone there to help her. It reminded her of how much Amy had helped her after Jarrod’s accident. She was so supportive and helpful and it dawned on her that at a certain point, she started to see Amy as being indestructible. As though there wasn’t anything she couldn’t cope with and that whatever happened to her, she was going to be alright because she was a survivor. That was how she saw what happened with Leo. She’s overheard Steph talking about Leo being Paul’s son and that Amy was upset but whenever she saw her, she seemed fine so there was no reason to worry. Because of this, she now realised she’d ignored what could have been obvious signs that Amy was on a downward spiral.

What made it worse was the realisation of how she contributed to that. Elly told her that encouraging Amy to be with Jarrod had put her in a bad place, that she was caught in the middle but she never thought to ask or was even concerned about what that meant for Amy or the harm she must have caused her. She was preoccupied with how hurt she was and more importantly, that Amy let her get hurt. That after everything she’d been through, that one of her closest friends would let her believe she was going to take her husband from her. It hadn’t even registered at the time that Amy might have been in a bad place and despite the fact that she was the one who approach her, she still expected Amy to put her mind at ease and it didn’t happen. It was the only thing she could think about to the point where she never considered what she might’ve done to Amy. She'd only ever thought about Jarrod and how much she had hurt him. 

She started thinking back to her conversation with Sam. She’d told Jimmy she was going to help Amy, that it was going to be a long and difficult road but after he’d left, it dawned on her that she didn’t know how she was going to help her without making things worse for her. Despite what Jimmy had told her, she still didn’t know anything about Amy’s state of mind, what was happening in her life or how bad she was struggling and she felt completely lost. Sam was the only person she could think of that would be able to help her understand the right way to approach the situation but his advice was completely different to what she expected. 

“Why don’t you refer her to me?” Sam said softly. “Talking to someone she doesn’t know, who doesn’t know her might help and if what you say is true that her friends have had a negative influence on her, it might be what she needs. Plus, not everyone is comfortable opening up to the people in their lives.”

Sam was right. Just because she knew Amy didn’t mean she would be able to talk to her or help her and he was the perfect person to do it. However, even knowing that he was ready to help didn’t make the idea of approaching Amy any easier. She still couldn’t figure out what to say and whether or not to bring up Leo or Jimmy’s concerns. It was the only thing she knew about but there was no guarantee that Amy wouldn’t react badly and the fear of turning a bad situation into a potentially destructive one scared her, especially as she knew what being forced to deal with something you aren’t ready to deal with can lead to.

As she sat there, she spotted Amy walking out of the foyer and across the complex in a hurry. She stood up quickly, still holding her teacup and attempted to call out to her but froze before she could do anything. Brandon stopping her in her tracks had shaken her confidence more than she realised and now, she needed time to get herself back into the right headspace before she approached her. As she sat down, she continued to stare off into the distance.

“Sonya?” A voice called out.

“Hello?” Toadie said as he approached her, waving his hand in front of her face to get her attention as she turned to face him.

“Oh, hi.” Sonya said softly.  

“Hi. Are you okay?” Toadie asked, as he sat down next to her.

“Yeah?” Sonya responded, confused at the question.

“You sure?” Toadie asked again, concerned about how distant she appeared to be.

“Yeah.  I was just… I was just thinking.”

“About what?”

“Amy.” Sonya whispered. “Jimmy came to see me earlier, apparently she’s been… she’s been in a really bad place lately, well, for a while now I think and um… he wanted me to talk to her. Convince her to get some help. I, erm… I called Sam and he suggested that I recommend her to go and talk to him... well, for her to see him.”

“Does this have anything to do with Leo?” Toadie inquired as Sonya shook her head in confusion. “Mishti mentioned that Jimmy and Leo had… I don’t know, a falling out or something.”

“Oh, right. Yeah, well, he was pretty angry with Leo. Said that he doesn’t care about Amy or what she’s going through and that he just keeps making everything worse for her.”

“She seemed alright the last time I spoke to her.”

“When was that?” Sonya questioned, leaning forward.

Toadie whispered through gritted teeth. “I, erm… I can’t remember.”

“Jarrod…” Sonya stated, exasperated and rubbing her forehead with her hand.

“Sorry. Why don’t I talk to her? It might be easier coming from me. I… I know Sam. He helped me, I can, you know… make it a bit more personal.”

“Oh, I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Jarrod.”

“It will be fine. Okay? She can’t be that bad. We would’ve noticed if she was.”  

“Maybe that’s the problem.” Sonya whispered under her breath.

“What? What do you mean?” Toadie asked, concerned about Sonya’s sudden detachment from the conversation.

“I didn’t notice. And it’s not just Amy… so many people around me have been hurting lately and I didn’t see the signs that anything was even wrong." Sonya said, softly as her voice started to break up and she begun to cry. "That’s what Jimmy said. That no one noticed. No one... no one cared about her and I don’t want to be… I’m one of those people, Jarrod. We have become those people.” 

“No! We… we are *not* those people, okay?” Toadie said gently, trying to reassure her.

“Jarrod…” Sonya whispered.

“We’re not.” Toadie stated adamantly, as he reached for Sonya's hand and held it. “After everything that we’ve been through… Amy might be hurting but this… it is not on us! This is not our fault! Okay?”

“Okay.” Sonya said under her breath.  

“I’m going to go and talk to Amy and…”

“I don’t think you should do that, Jarrod…”

“…and I’m going to make sure she sees that we are worried about her and we want to help her.” Toadie said before reaching over the table and kissing Sonya on the forehead.

“Go home and I’ll meet you there when I’m done. Okay? Bye.”

“Wait…  Jarrod...” Sonya called out as Toadie ran off.

 

-•- 

 

Toadie walked down the street towards Amy. He wanted to get to her as quick as he could and sort out the situation before Sonya felt the need to get involved. But the longer he walked, the more his nerves started to get the better of him and he grew concerned about what he was going to say. He hadn’t discussed that with Sonya or even thought it through before saying he would handle it and running off. It now dawned on him the closer that he got to Amy that he didn’t know what he was walking into. As he approached the yard, he stood at the gate for several minutes before realising he was making a mistake and shouldn’t be there, at least not yet.

“Hey.” Amy called out, catching Toadie’s attention as he tried to get away unseen.

Toadie stood there looking at her uncomfortably, taking a deep breath before staring at the ground to regain his composure, realising it was too late and that he was going to have to talk to her whether he was ready or not.

“Hi.” Toadie responded, smiling awkwardly at Amy before looking around the yard to avoid eye contact.

“How you been?” Amy asked.  

“Oh, you know… pretty good, I guess. Things have been, erm… Things with Sonya that is, they’ve been really good. Actually, it’s been great. It feels like I finally have my… I have my life back.” Toadie said, cheerfully. 

“Well, that’s great.” Amy replied, smiling.

“Yeah, it is and you know, I wouldn’t have even gotten to where I am today if it wasn’t for Sam. You know Sam, right?

“Um…”

“He’s Sonya’s friend and a psychologist. Helped me so much, you know. Just having someone there, someone I could talk to, who didn’t know me or judge me who just wanted to help.”

“I’m really pleased to hear that.”

“Have you ever considered getting counselling?” Toadie asked, bluntly.

“Me?” Amy replied, her joy at seeing Toadie so happy slowly started to fade away.

“Yeah. I just… I just thought, you know with everything that happened with, erm…” Toadie took a deep breath as he tried to collect his thoughts and remember what Amy had been through.  

“Nick! Everything that happened with Nick and your father and Leo and that whole mess that you might need someone to talk to. You know, to help you get through your problems.”

“Oh… I… No. No. I mean, it wasn’t that bad.” Amy whispered, shaking her head.

“You think?” Toadie laughed as Amy looked at him stunned. “Sorry. I’m sorry. I... I... I didn’t mean…”

“No, that’s okay…” Amy said, smiling awkwardly.

“I just meant that it’s kind of noticeable.”

“Sorry? What is?”

“Well, that you’ve been struggling.” Toadie said, softly. “I would have said something earlier but with everything that’s happened… look, here is Sam’s number. Just consider it, you know giving him a call. He might be able to help.”

“Look, I’m… I’m fine, really and what happened with Nick, that was like 7 months ago.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I know that but these things don’t really go away, do they? They stay with you… for a long time and I mean, I should know.” Toadie whispered, turning his head to avoid eye contact with Amy, trying to make sure she didn't see him slowly losing his composure.

“Right. Yeah.” Amy replied.

“It would also just really mean a lot to me… I wouldn’t feel like I abandoned you.” Toadie said sadly.

“You… no, you didn’t.” Amy stated, trying to reassure him.

“Yeah but, it kind of feels that way. It’s entirely your choice but…”

“Well, I mean, look I can give him a call. It can’t hurt, right? What’s the worst thing that can happen?”

“Very true. Well, I’d best be getting back to Sonya now.” Toadie said as he started to walk towards the gate.

“Okay. Bye.”  Amy called out as Toadie turned back to wave her before leaving.

As Toadie walked away, it dawned on him just how much of a mistake it was to have not been prepared and while it didn’t go as badly as it could have, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he said or did something he shouldn’t have and all because he wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. He saw the way Sonya was struggling, that she was blaming herself for not helping Amy earlier and he knew that if he didn’t do something, she would end up inserting herself into Amy’s life. Whether it be to ease her own guilt or because she was concerned, it would have ended badly and there was no telling what it would lead to and he couldn't sit back and watch her put herself through something like this again.

He was also worried about himself. He was scared. Sonya had told him that he was a fixer, that he took on people’s problems and how destructive it was for both himself and those around him and he didn’t want to end up back in that situation. It was just easier to say what needed to be said and convince Amy to get help and then remove himself from the situation altogether. It was the only thing that seemed to work. The only thing that stopped him from self-destructing again. The likelihood of that happening again were slim but it was still possible and didn’t want to risk it. He didn’t want to risk getting too close and if he wasn’t able to detach himself completely, he knew what could happen. That behaviour had almost cost him everything, in more ways than one and he didn’t want it to ever happen again.

As he continued walking, he started to think about what he said to Sonya, reminding her that if Amy was really as bad as Jimmy suggested that they would have noticed and it hit him, even when he was talking to her he couldn’t tell whether or not she was okay. She seemed fine and was acting the way she always did but he couldn’t make out if that was real or if it was the only thing he could see. She wasn’t the only person either, everyone around him always seemed okay so he didn’t question if they were alright or wanted to talk about anything because he just couldn’t tell anymore. He barely recognised that Sonya and Mark were struggling with the anniversary of Caitlyn’s death, it was something that needed to be spelled out to him and if that was how it was with Sonya, then the same thing could have happened with Amy.

He didn’t want to admit it but he hadn’t given Amy much consideration at all. They'd been friends for years. She was there for him and supported him with Willow and losing her again and then all of a sudden, she was gone and he didn’t even realise it. She went from being a big part of his life to not being a part of it at all and it was as though nothing had changed for him and he didn’t even realise it until now. It wasn’t as though Amy was forgettable or that his life was any different with or without her in it but he just didn’t care enough to pay attention to her absence.   

That was the point: He didn’t care anymore about anything or anyone. He tried to for so long but it was as though he just forgot how to do it. He’d been that way for months and it was as though no one outside of Sonya, Nell and Steph even mattered to him anymore and at times, it felt like he wasn’t concerned about them either and he didn’t know how to handle feeling that way. He went from caring and worrying about every person in his life to not even bothering to check on anyone no matter what state they were in and he was struggling to cope with the reality of the situation which was that he got to the point where he didn’t know how to care about another person without destroying himself in the process.

For a long time, it was as though he was just a walking corpse, someone who was barely alive, someone whose only means of survival was to bury his feelings so deep that he couldn’t feel them anymore and who had no idea how to look after himself without behaving in a way that would have destroyed him. Focusing on other people and their struggles and pain was all that he knew but now, it was something that was associated with everything he lost and he couldn’t go back there. Even with Sam’s help and having Sonya by his side he was scared he would slip back into old habits and he didn’t want Sonya to have to worry about that happening again so it was easier to just not care about anyone. But, by doing this, it also made him realise how fake his behaviour had become or over the top to the point where there was nothing genuine about the way he was acting. That’s what happened with Amy. It was obvious to himself and probably her too that he was overdoing the concern for her wellbeing and it was dawning on him how much worse he might have made everything for her.  

As Toadie turned into Ramsay Street, he stopped, noticing Sonya leaning against the letterbox. He knew things with Amy hadn’t gone the way he was hoping but he didn’t know how to tell Sonya that without making things worse for both them and Amy. He was also nervous about what he would do if Sonya started to ask questions about why it didn’t go well or what happened. They had worked through so much but he wasn’t ready to open up about everything, not yet. He still needed time before he was able to do that. As he stood there watching her, he took a deep breath and then slowly walking towards her.

“Hi.” Toadie called out, catching Sonya’s attention.

“Hey. Hi. How did it go?” Sonya asked.

“Oh…” Toadie took a deep breath as Sonya looked him concerned, bitting her lip.

“It went really well.”

“Really?” Sonya’s voice increased as she took a step back in surprise.

“Yeah. I mean, it… you know, it… it surprised me but she took it really well. But, I erm… I think she realised we were worried about her and she understood so… Yeah, she agreed to get some help.”

“That’s…” Sonya looked at Toadie confused before smiling and breathing a sigh of relief. “That’s really good. I thought for sure it might’ve ended badly.”  

“No. All good.”

“That’s Good.”

“Listen, um… I need to make a call it’s um… to do with work. So, I’ll join you inside in a minute.” Toadie said, smiling nervously.

“Okay.” Sonya replied.

Sonya turned around and started to walk towards the house as Toadie stood there watching and waiting for her to be out of sight before taking out of his phone and searching through the contacts before making a call. Closing his eyes and taking multiple deep breaths as the phone rang.

“Hi, Sam. It’s Jarrod… Ah, Toadie. Can you call me back as soon as you get this message? it’s really important. I think I just made a big mistake.” Toadie responded sadly, as he ended the call and leaned against the letterbox and put his head in his hands.