Shelby sat at the end of her bed, toying with the zipper of one of many suitcases she’d just finished packing. In a daze, she silently tried to compose herself before her escort arrived to take her to her new living quarters for the next six months. Deep down, she knew it was the best thing she could do. Being in her empty apartment, alone with her thoughts and vivid memories was enough to drive anyone insane.
Sanity. Such a fleeting concept.
Before returning to the Roanoke house the second time, Shelby considered herself at least somewhat capable of maintaining a semblance of mental stability. She had a plan to get Matt back and as long as she had a fighting chance, she wouldn’t give up on their marriage. Now, the only memory she has of him is the horrific sound of his skull cracking and the inhuman noises that presumably came from her own body after his fate was sealed at her hands. Everything after that had been more of a nightmare than every night they were terrorized in that house combined. She’d felt lost in every sense with no idea how she didn’t end up serving life in prison after the undeniable evidence against her. The insanity plea seemed like a crock of shit at first, as she fought to convince her lawyers she wasn’t going to be that person. Yet the truth was, no matter how bad things got with Matt, she loved him deeply and fiercely. She’d never have done what she did in a clear state of mind. It was a crime of passion and her defense was able to successfully prove that to the court based on everything she’d been through. So instead of jail time, Shelby was required to stay with a designated guardian and go to mandatory therapy for six months, then receive a full psych evaluation before being released to live on her own again.
Never in her wildest fever dreams did she imagine being put on a plane to England, placed under the care of the only other person that survived the nightmare: Audrey Tindall.
“Absolutely not”, Shelby hissed at her lawyer when Audrey’s name was suggested as her potential temporary guardian.
Her lawyer, Will, closed his eyes and sighed, “Look, Shelby. I know she’s not your favorite person in the world but the fact is, you have no one else... No immediate family or friends that are alive or stable enough to pass the court’s requirements of guardianship. Her record is clear and, well, she’s the only other person alive that can truly empathize with what you’ve been through.”
Shelby has her head down, two fingers on each temple, trying to ignore this conversation as best she can. “Okay, so let’s say I do agree to stay with that woman. She would never agree to it. Why would she? Yes, we survived together but that doesn’t change the fact that she completely despises my existence.”
Will paused for a beat then said, “Actually, we’ve already spoken to Miss Tindall and she’s agreed to it. Your plane leaves tomorrow morning at 8am. I suggest you wrap your mind around your only shot at living outside windowless rooms for the rest of your young life and start packing.”
Shelby, mouth agape and properly flustered, watched him leave the room and sat in shock for quite some time before willing herself to accept this evil twist of fate.
Audrey paced at the front door of her gorgeous detached home nestled away on the outskirts of London. It had four bedrooms and two garages more than she actually needed, but she’d convinced herself she’d use the space for special projects or guests. It was a big house for one person and every once in a while after a few glasses of wine, she’d admit to her mother on the phone that she was lonely. No matter how unmatched she knew her and Rory were, she missed his presence and deeply grieved his brutal death. She had plenty of friends and colleagues, participated in lavish dinner parties on the weekends and regularly went on holiday with her girlfriends, but at the end of the day, Audrey still came back to this giant home alone. So when she got the unexpected call from Shelby’s lawyer, she was initially perturbed at the notion of babysitting a grown woman, but not altogether put off by at least having another warm body in her otherwise dormant home. It was a confusing concept, Shelby staying with her of all people. They weren’t exactly friends, to say the least. Up until surviving literal and absolute hell together, the two expressed nothing but disdain for one another. After police finally found them passed out from dehydration in the basement, the two hadn’t spoken since that fatal night at Roanoke.
She wouldn’t say she necessarily hated Shelby. She was more so indifferent towards her, considering her preconceived notions about her character. At the end of the day, Audrey needed money. Acting gigs had dried up after she had a full on mental breakdown during an audition shortly after Roanoke, and she’d had trouble getting auditions from then on. So when Will mentioned the hefty stipend that would come with just essentially keeping a grown woman alive for six months, she reluctantly agreed.
Shelby stared out at the misty England sky through the window of her cab. She felt like she was out of her body, floating above the bulky yellow car, watching herself head into an impossibly dreadful situation. She knew deep down that she needed help and that her mental health was in serious need of repair. But Audrey Tindall, really? Of all people to call her guardian she never thought it’d be someone as pretentious and arrogant as her. Audrey treated her like scum that night. She was just trying to congratulate her on her recent marriage after all. Yet, as Shelby racked her brain on the exact verbiage she used, maybe she was being a bit condescending. Matt did always tell her she sometimes didn’t realize the implications of her word choices. Matt. She couldn’t think of him without losing the air in her lungs for a moment. She crossed her arms around herself in a tight hug, pulling her pea coat taut. Six months. She just had to get through six months of living with this woman, checking the boxes of the court-appointed therapy, and then she’d be free to start a new life and hopefully, finally find peace.
Audrey peered out her window as she heard the cab pull into her gravel cul-de-sac driveway. Annoyed at her sweaty palms, she wiped them on her dress and opened the front door to greet her new guest with a civil amount of hospitality. After all, she was stuck with her for at least half a year, so she decided to try and make it as painless as possible.
Shelby hauled her suitcases out of the trunk of the cab, refusing help from the driver as she tipped him and waved him off to leave. She was so sick of people coddling her. She could see Audrey approaching her from her peripheral but ignored her advancement. She didn’t need help, certainly not hers.
“You know, I have a butler that could take all of that up for you. No need to strain yourself”, Audrey said with a hint of sarcasm in her tone.
Shelby closed her eyes to gain her composure, breathed out a sigh and hissed, “I’m perfectly capable of getting it myself, thanks.”
Audrey scoffed, “Alright, whatever you say G.I. Jane. Your room will be the first on the left up the stairs. I’ll be in the kitchen preparing dinner. Fetch me if you need anything, I guess.”
Shelby murmured something sarcastic and Audrey rolled her eyes and headed back into the house. “What an ungrateful bitch”, she thought to herself. This was going to be absolutely dreadful and she didn’t have enough wine stocked in the cellar to manage it. She made a mental note to order a double batch next month to put up with her new, intolerable housemate.
A couple of hours later, after Shelby had settled into her room and changed into her yoga attire, she padded into the kitchen to fill up her water bottle. There she found Audrey sitting on a bar stool at the kitchen counter, flipping through a Vogue magazine whilst an in-house chef prepared a gourmet meal.
Shelby rolled her eyes at the sight and avoided eye contact with Audrey as she made her way to the refrigerator to access the built-in water filter.
Audrey immediately noticed her presence and would hate to admit how she fully examined Shelby’s tight-fitting workout clothes, from the skin-tight black pants to the light green crop top falling off her milky shoulder. Audrey has never defined her sexuality and found it sexist to do so. She took pride in being able to admire the attractiveness of the human form, regardless of gender. Yet she quickly brushed off the visual she just indulged in and made eye contact with the tall blonde.
“Don’t worry, all of this is fully organic, grass-fed and humane so you can save your activist speech”, Audrey spouted with impunity.
Shelby glared a hole through Audrey for several seconds before she declared, “I’m actually headed to a barre class downtown...just waiting for my cab and I’ll be out of your hair.” She only made eye contact with Audrey briefly before looking over to the chef and thanking him for his efforts.
Audrey rolled her eyes and took a sip of her Cabernet Sauvignon, “Fine. Suit yourself.”
Shelby breathed a heavy exhale and blurted out, “Let me make myself clear. You do not have to do anything for me. I can take care of myself and I don’t need you catering to me. Pretend I’m not here. I know you’re not jazzed about me being here and guess what? I’d rather be anywhere else but under your roof. So let’s just call a spade a spade. l stay in my lane and you stay in yours and this can be as painless as possible, got it?”
Audrey stared back at her, eyebrows raised, wine up to her lips coupled with a smirk, “Well okay then, cap’n. Whatever you say.”
Shelby gave her one last glare before declaring, “My ride’s here. Do you have a spare key or should I sneak up the the vines to my room?”
Audrey rolled her eyes, reached into her pocket and slid a silver key across the kitchen island. “Don’t lose it because you’re terribly mistaken if you think I’m making another spare. The alarm code is 0310.”
Shelby snatched the key and with a short “thanks”, waltzed out the front door, yoga mat tightly under her arm.
Later that night, Shelby opened the front door to a series of low-pitched beeps. She forgot about the alarm and went into panic mode to find the box and enter the code Audrey gave her. After finally finding it and punching in the code, she breathed out a sigh of relief that she didn’t wake her housemate, and headed to the fridge in search of fuel for her grumbling stomach.
As she approached the refrigerator she noticed a handwritten note and plucked it from the magnet holding it in place.
There’s leftovers on the top shelf - AGAIN the ingredients are fully organic and grass-fed, so don’t have a fit. Eat them or not, I couldn’t care less.
I’ve also placed clean towels in your bathroom if you’re inclined to shower after your filthy yoga session.
I’ll be leaving for an audition around 7 in the morning so if you need anything call for Jasper the butler.
Shelby couldn’t help the smirk that formed at the edge of her mouth as she crinkled the note and tossed it in the trash. As much as she’d decided Audrey was a heartless, selfish bitch, she secretly appreciated the sentiment of the note. As she popped the leftovers into the microwave, she slowly plucked the note out of the bin and re-read it with a chuckle in her throat.
As she thumbed the crinkled piece of paper in her hand, the optimistic part of herself thought maybe the next six months wouldn’t be so bad after all. Yet at the same time, the wounded, damaged part of Shelby Miller conceded to keep her guard up around the enigma that was Audrey Tindall for as long as she possibly could in the interest of self preservation.