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Harder Than You Think

Guest Zetti

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Story Title: Harder Than You Think

Type of story: Short/Medium Fiction

Main Characters: Nicole, Angelo, Roman & OC’s

BTTB rating: T/A

Genre: Angst

Does story include spoilers: Nope

Any warnings: SC, Violence, Language, Mental Health issues

Summary: Nicole meets Angelo but she has a past, something that she has never talked about…but will she open to Angelo or is she headed for heartbreak?

Authors Note: Nicole is 18 and doing her HSC and Angelo is 21..running the baitshop...

Chapter One

‘Summer Bay isn’t what I expected’ Roman admitted to Nicole. They had barely moved there, Nicole had needed a fresh start and Summer Bay seemed to be the perfect place for it.

It was quaint and small. Everyone knew everyone else and he liked it like that, it was perfectly simple and small enough for him to be private but friendly with the residents.

‘How do you mean?’ she asked in a quiet voice that didn’t escape Roman’s attention, he was very aware that Nicole was being pretty quiet but after everything that she had been through.

He didn’t expect her to be who she used to be. Hell if he had been through the hell that she had been subjected to then he didn’t think he could be that strong.

‘I thought it was going to be a town where everyone was going to be nosy and spread rumours.’

‘Well that will happen but maybe we haven’t made a big impact on the town like you wanted to’ Nicole said with humour seeping into her voice and laughing at the sarcastic grin that Roman sported.

‘Sarcasm doesn’t suit you’ he drawled as he folded the newspaper that he had been reading and placed it on the table before pushing the chair back and stepping towards the sink with his empty mug.

‘Oh but I do it so well’ Nicole grinned.

He placed it along with the empty dishes on the worktop into the dishwasher and began to clean the worktop by moving the cereal boxes and orange juice cartons and placing them in the empty rubbish bin.

‘Go to school’ he said laughing at her.

Nicole picked up her books and stuffed it in her bag, she had barely started at Summer Bay High and she wasn’t sure if she was going to get on with anyone there, no one seemed to like her but then she did keep herself to herself.

After all, the only person she could depend on was herself, the past had proven that to her, she needed to move on and hopefully in time find a part of herself that wasn’t so damaged and alone.


Angelo hated his life, he was 21 and yet he was still living in a flat, he had his business but he had lost interest, he wanted more for himself, running a bait shop didn’t seem to be what he had expected of his life or even what he wanted.

Looking around the shop, it was quiet but then it had been quiet for a while, he had enough to get by on and he didn’t have to worry so much about bills and things at the moment but he wanted more from his life.

‘You seem off with the fairies’ he heard a voice say.


‘Your mind seems to be elsewhere’

‘Yeah, well not much else to do but think at the moment.’

‘This place is dead’ he noted as he put his hand out.

‘My name is Roman’

‘Angelo’ he said as he took his hand and shook it. ‘So what can I do for you?’

‘Actually its more what you can do for me..’

‘I’m intrigued’ he said as he stood up. ‘I need to lock up; do you mind just waiting outside?’

‘No of course not’ Roman said with a smile as he went onto the beach and waited for Angelo to turn up.

‘I have been asking around and apparently your family have a history of restaurants?’ Roman asked getting straight to the point, there was no point in beating around the bush.

‘Straight to the point’ Angelo noted.

‘No point in making small talk.’ Roman answered.

‘Fair enough’ he said with a smile ‘Yes, my family do own a restaurant, I kind of grew up in the restaurant trade’

‘Well, then you are definitely the right person then’ Roman commented earning a raised eyebrow from Angelo.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I am going to set up a restaurant’ he said as they walked along the beach. ‘And I want you to come on board’

‘In what capacity?’

‘Well, initially I thought you could be a consultant but I think it’s up to you, what role do you want?’

Angelo pondered his question, he had always wanted to make something of himself but he had grown up with restaurants, he wasn’t sure if it was a good idea for him but then again, he didn’t have to commit to a decision right now.

‘Can I sleep on it?’

‘Sure’ Roman said as Angelo smiled.

‘I will let you know soon’


‘So Miss Franklin, did you manage to get the homework task done?’ Mr Copeland asked as the class sat down.

Nicole groaned inwardly, he had set them a task of writing about one of the moments in their lives that they wanted to change if they ever had the chance to.

‘I did, yes’ she replied but clearly emitting a vibe that said she didn’t want to talk about it further.

‘Please tell us’ Mr Copeland replied clearly ignoring her futile attempts to get him to leave her alone.

‘No’ she point blanked refused.

‘Now’ he said not willing to give in.

‘I will not’ she replied setting a glare on his face that he had no choice but to accept, he knew that she had some issues and that forcing it wouldn’t be beneficial, but he wasn’t about to give up on her.

She had something to hide and he knew that it was eating up at her, he could clearly see it but pushing her too far too soon wasn’t going to help.

‘See me after class Nicole’ he conceded and she nodded in response.

She didn’t want to tell him about that moment, it was the one moment that had changed her, she had nothing else in her life that she regretted as much as that moment.

She knew deep down that it wasn’t her fault but there was that niggling voice at the back of her head that had her convinced, it was her fault that she should and could have stopped it.

How was she supposed to get rid of that voice?

Did she want to get rid of that voice?

There was a part of her that wanted to blame herself.

It was easier than dealing with the pain and the emotions that came with it.

Was there a magic wand she could wave and remove all the doubt?

‘So Nicole, what seems to be the problem?’

‘Nothing’ she said when Miles kept her back after the class.

‘Clearly’ he responded in a sarcastic tone.

‘Why did you refuse to talk about it?’ he pressed.

‘Because it’s not something I want everyone to know about’ she replied defiantly but her voice had weakened as she thought about it.

She hadn’t moved on, the façade she put on for the world was pretty solid but it was self-preservation, she needed the time and the space to get her own head around it.

If she couldn’t explain it to herself, how was she supposed to tell someone else?

If only it was that easy and that simple.

If only.


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Chapter Two

‘Looks intense’ Nicole heard a voice say as she sat on the beach looking at her book, reading the words but not taking it in or even understanding what the plot was all about.

She looked up and saw a female looking at her. ‘Just thinking’

‘Sorry, am being rude, my name is Indi’

‘Nicole’ she said smiling genuinely at her and gestured the space next to her. ‘Sit down if you want’

‘Don’t mind if I do’ Indi replied with a genuine smile on her face, for the first time in what seemed to be a very long time Nicole felt like someone wanted her to talk to her. It didn’t make her feel as alone as she usually felt.

Nicole didn’t know what to say to her so Indi asked. ‘Whats the book called?’

‘Harvesting the Heart’

‘By Jodi Picoult?’

Nicole nodded as Indi smiled ‘I haven’t had the chance to read that book but I do like her books’

‘Really?’ Nicole asked surprised.

‘Yes, I actually adore the way she writes’

‘Same, which is your favourite of hers?’

‘At the moment its Change Of Heart but I do love My Sisters Keeper’

Nicole beamed at her. It was nice to be able to have an adult conversation instead of being treated like a child.

‘I am off to the surf club’ Indi said as she stood up and shook the sand off from her jeans. ‘You want to come with?’

Nicole would have normally refused but she felt different today and so she nodded ‘If you don’t think I would be imposing?’

‘No of course not’ she said as she smiled at Nicole who stood up and grabbed her bag, stuffing the book in there and walked side by side with Indi.

‘So just a heads up’ Indi said as they approached the surf club. ‘I have a brother who is…let’s just say not completely with it’

Nicole giggled at Indi ‘Oh trust me, I have met plenty of people like that, I am sure I can handle your brother’

Indi smiled, she liked Nicole already, it was nice to meet someone who was down to earth, what you see is what you get. She watched as she introduced herself to Dex, Ruby and April.

Nicole had been pretty quiet in the first week back in year 12 which in turn led Indi to be curious, she looked like a nice person and she hadn’t disappointed. Indi thought herself a good judge of character & Nicole didn't fail to impress her, even Dex liked her and for a social misfit, that had to be saying something.

'So how about we all do a study group?' Indi asked

Dex frowned. 'How's that meant to work? Different year groups'

'Stop overanalysing Dex' Indi chastised.

'How about we just form one and work out the details later?' Nicole suggested

'Sounds good to me' Indi replied and the others agreed.


Angelo watched as people ran on the beach, surfed & generally had fun. He envied them.

It must be perfect to be able have fun without worrying about everything. He didn't doubt that everyone had things on their mind but they seemed so carefree.

He wished he could be like that. It would be so ideal & help him stop thinking so much.

Roman sat next to him. "You called?"

"Yes. I want to be a partner. "

Roman grinned. "Perfect. Equal partners it is"

"Hold on. So what kind of restaurant is it going to be?"

His response shocked Angelo but only because he never expected it. "Indian"

"Have you had any experience in Indian food?" Angelo asked tentatively

He shook his head "I know someone who does though"

Angelo smiled. "Sorry, it's just a big step."

"A very big step but we can do it."

"We need to celebrate"

Angelo agreed & Roman suggested "Why don't you come down & have dinner with us?"


"Nicole my daughter & me obviously"

"Okay, why not. Tonight?"

"A good a night as any"

"See you later then"


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Chapter Three

Nicole left the surf club later on that evening and she made her way home, she didn’t like walking home when it was dark so she made sure that she had enough time to get home while there was daylight.

She was glad that Indi had befriended her, and she really liked spending time with Ruby, April pretty much kept herself to herself but then Nicole did the same thing so she wasn’t put out by that fact.

She reached her house and let herself in; she could smell the food, Spaghetti Bolognese. She breathed in the smell and sighed happily.

She loved her fathers cooking, and it was simply fantastic, good wholesome food, the kind that always made her feel better.

She knew that she needed it, especially since she could feel her depression creeping up on her, she had spent so damn long hurting over it and she didn’t want to drag those feeling up, but she knew that it was unavoidable.

Life hurts & it was cruel, so incredibly cruel, but she had to cope with it, she had no other choice, she needed to be able to move on but that didn’t seem feasible.

Maybe she could find some inner peace with it all or maybe not?

Who knows?

She had always craved a family and maybe one day she would have her own, but for now being with her family and loving her father was enough.

After everything it wasn’t enough for her to just have her father, she wanted someone to hold her, to tell her everything was going to be okay but she had lost that trust, she had nothing left to give, how could she be strong when she had nothing left?

She had been robbed of her trust, her sanity and she found it incredibly hard to trust people, she couldn’t even tell her own father about that night, that night when everything changed.

It had been 6 months and while she had dealt with it in her own mind, she still felt the pain and misery that had been inflicted onto her.


‘Yeah. I am just gonna have a shower and get into something a bit more comfortable’

‘Well we have a guest coming later’

‘Who?’ she asked

‘Angelo Rosetta’

Nicole frowned as she entered the kitchen ‘Am I meant to know who that is?’

‘My new business partner’ Roman supplied as she looked at him curiously. ‘For the restaurant’ he added when Nicole looked at him with a blank expression.

‘Oh right, I get it now. Can I bail?’ she asked

Roman sighed. ‘Why?’ but he already knew the answer, she was so subdued all the time, it had been a while since she had willingly participated in any social gatherings, and he didn’t want to push her but it had been 6 months, there had to be a line drawn, she couldn’t carry on like this.

‘I am just tired; it’s been a long day and I do have a lot of homework to do’

‘Nicole, I never ask you to do this but he is expecting you there, just one dinner’ he said gently

‘I will not leave you alone with him, if that is what you are worried about’

She sighed, ‘You promise?’ allowing her father to see just how vulnerable she was and then smiled weakly as he nodded sincerely with his eyes signalling his agreement, Nicole knew he wasn’t lying to her, he never lied to her.

‘Okay, so how can I help?’

‘Go and relax, I have it under control’ Roman said with a smile as Nicole nodded and headed to her room.

She had a shower and got into jeans and a dress. She didn’t want to go too casual but she didn’t want to be so formal either.

She had to admit to herself, that she was enjoying the initial getting ready. She murmured to herself

‘Getting ready is half the fun’ and she smiled to herself, the first genuine warm feeling that she had felt in what felt like a long time.


‘Come in’ Nicole said brightly as she let Angelo in. ‘Dad’s just getting changed, he’ll be down in a moment’ she said quietly berating him for leaving her alone with him when he specifically promised that he wouldn’t.

‘Not a problem’ he handed her a bottle of wine and smiled ‘Its nice to meet you’


‘Sorry, lost track of time’ Roman apologised as he came down the stairs and entered the lounge room.

‘Its alright, just getting to know your daughter’ Angelo replied as Nicole took his coat and gestured towards the sofa.

‘Why don’t you get comfortable and I will get some glasses’ Nicole said as she hung Angelo’s coat up.

‘Sounds like a plan’

A while later…

Angelo was getting more and more wound up at Roman, it was getting to be seriously intense, Nicole was pretty quiet he noticed and Roman didn’t seem to want to strike up a conversation, it was meant to be a celebration.

‘Is the silence meant to be fun?’ he asked

‘Sorry, I am not really in the mood.’ Nicole replied honestly.

‘That’s fine, maybe we should call it a night?’ he suggested and the three of them agreed.

few moments later they all went their separate ways. Nicole ended up in her room, thinking how weird that meal was and how she just wanted to forget it.

Angelo didn’t know how to take that meal but he put it to one side and decided not to dwell on it, he didn’t think It would last, there was obviously tension and the atmosphere was fraught but tomorrow was a new day, and a new beginning.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Chapter Four

‘So everything is finalised then?’ Angelo asked Roman as they had spent a lot of time building up the restaurant and making it ready for the launch that was set to happen the following night.

It had been about 2 months and they had managed to get a lease on the old diner and convert into a restaurant.

The decorating and painting had taken a bit longer than they had anticipated but with support from the community, they had managed to complete it ahead of schedule.

‘Yes, everything is done’ Roman said with a smile as he patted Angelo on the back. ‘We’ve done well’

Angelo returned his smile and asked ‘Is Nicole going to be at the launch?’

Roman shook his head. ‘She doesn’t want to come. I think she’s got a lot of studying to do to catch up’

Angelo wasn’t convinced in the slightest but he didn’t say anything to Roman but then again, he didn’t need to, it was clear that Angelo was put out.

Roman knew Nicole needed time to get used to Angelo but he couldn’t explain the reason Nicole was being so cold and distant because he knew that is the way that Angelo perceived the situation.


‘Yes, you know what it is like, a new town, new school, loads of work to do’

‘Of course’ Angelo said but he was surprised that she wasn’t coming, what teenager wouldn’t drop all her schoolwork to have some fun? He didn’t get the logic behind Nicole’s reasoning.

‘Well it’s a shame, she would have enjoyed it’

Roman nodded and agreed ‘She would enjoy it as well’

‘How about instead of her coming tomorrow, you both join me tonight for a good luck meal? To hope that the launch goes well?’

‘I will have to ask her’ Roman said but he was going to make sure that Nicole turned up, she couldn’t keep on alienating everyone, it wasn’t fair on Angelo who had turned out to be a decent guy and a good friend of his.

‘Sure, even if she doesn’t come, come down, I will cook’

‘Is that safe?’ came Roman’s joking response

‘Ha-ha’ Angelo said ‘Mock if you will, but you will love my pasta’

‘No food poisoning?’ he quipped

‘Oh ye of little faith’ as he rolled his eyes and walked to his car which was opposite to Roman’s

Roman laughed ‘Okay, I will see you tonight’ as he locked up the restaurant and made his way towards the car park.


‘You want me to bring anything?’ he said to Angelo as he got to his car.

‘No…just yourself and Nicole’


‘Hold on’ Roman added as Angelo looked at him ‘what time?’


‘See you then’


Oh but I have so much work to do’ Nicole whined as Roman relayed Angelo’s offer to her when he got home from the restaurant.

‘Stop whining, you spend all your time working, you can spend a bit of time having some fun, it will not kill you!’

Nicole huffed and ran up the stairs, slamming her door and curled up on her bed, she didn’t want to go out, she was more than content staying indoors and not focusing on the outside world.

She sat up and rolled up her sleeve, she fingered the scar on her arm. It had been there for 3 months, it had been a full 3 months since she cut.

She had thrown herself into school and she hadnt found the need to cut, though lately everything seemed to be changing.

‘Nicole! You better be ready for 7. It isn’t up for debate’ Roman said before he walked down the stairs leaving tears to pool in Nicole’s eyes, she couldn’t go, she wasn’t ready to be out in the real world.

Later on…

‘So tell me about yourself Nicole’ Angelo asked as they sat down to eat some food together.

‘I am not that interesting to be honest’ she replied as she ate her first bite of the pasta.

‘Oh I am sure that isn’t true’ Angelo said smiling at her but it grated on Nicole’s nerves. She didn’t like the look on his face. She was suddenly aware of her father looking at her as if he was saying not to rock the boat.

‘What do you want to know?’ she asked.

‘Favourite colour?’

‘Blue’ Nicole said ‘It represents the sea and the rain, I love watching the rain patter against the window, and I love listening to it’

She looked up at Angelo’s face expecting to see confusion and disgust but she was surprised to see that he was smiling and seemed genuinely interested in what she had to say but she was still wary, she had to protect herself.

‘Ah interesting, what about your favourite food?’

Nicole managed a faint smile ‘Shouldn’t you have asked that before you invited us over?’

Roman laughed, and the atmosphere eased slightly as Angelo responded ‘I knew I would be able to make anything seem delicious to you’

‘Cocky’ she said.

‘Not cocky per se … just confident’

Nicole arched her eyebrows and looked at him ‘Confident? You sure?’

‘Yes’ he said simply daring her to argue with him but she smiled at him and turned her attention back to the food.

Angelo couldn’t put his finger on it but she was being defensive and he could tell that she was hiding something, he wondered exactly what it was but he wasn’t going to push it.

She was his business partners daughter and he wasn’t going to cross the line between friendship and a potential relationship…

He couldn’t deny he liked her, her wavy blonder eyes, her eyes, the way her lips pouted as she ate her food, he looked at his own plate and started to eat.

He didn’t want to be caught looking at her but she was so feminine and he loved that look on her.

He had also seen something in her eyes, a weakness, something was troubling her and he wanted to know what, but again he wasn’t going to there, it wasn’t his place and he had intention of ruining his business with Roman before it had even started.

Nicole had caught him studying her face and it unnerved her, no other guy had investigated her with the same scrutiny that he had and it scared her.

She had learnt to be wary of people she didn’t know, and even the fact that she knew Angelo didn’t seem to help, it actually made everything worse. She looked at her arm and she knew that she was teetering on the edge of her control and she wasn’t sure she could rein in her temptation.


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Author’s Note: All the text that is in italics is Nicole’s own thoughts & actions

Warning: Contains imagery that may affect some readers.

Chapter Five

‘Is she okay?’ Angelo asked as they prepared to set the restaurant up for the launch which was set to take place in a few hours.

‘Nicole you mean?’ Roman said as Angelo nodded in his direction.

‘She’s not feeling too good’



Angelo looked at Roman as he began directing the staff to take their place for a trial run of how he expected them to behave when the restaurant opened

Angelo couldn’t put his finger on it but he was concerned about Nicole, there was so much happening in terms of the restaurant and dealing with finding a better place to live.

‘Earth to Angelo…’

Angelo shook himself out of his illusion. ‘Sorry, what is it?’

‘Phone call’ his head waiter held out the phone ‘She wanted Mr Harris but he specifically said not to be disturbed so she asked for you’


He shrugged in response and Angelo accepted it. ‘Hello’

‘Angelo, is my Dad there?’

He frowned, Nicole didn’t sound good at all. ‘Not at the moment’

Nicole groaned and lifted her body up off the floor and slid onto the couch. ‘Can you get him?’ she croaked

‘Yes I can, what’s wrong?’ he asked as he strolled along towards the office, where Roman had ventured not much earlier.

‘I just need to talk to my father’

Angelo sighed ‘Are you okay?’

‘My dad please’ Nicole said as she put her defenses up. She didn’t know Angelo that well and she had no intention of telling him that she was struggling.

Angelo walked into the office and Roman wasn’t there. ‘Hold on, I cant seem to find him’

Nicole breathed in and exhaled. She needed her father, he was the only one who would be able to help her focus and get herself away from that track of mind.

‘Well where is he?’ she enquired trying to keep her voice steady as possible.

‘I am not sure. I will find him and then get him to ring you’

‘Thanks’ came Nicole’s response and the next thing Angelo heard was the dial tone.


I can’t stop myself moving towards it, my senses are dulled; I can’t feel, see, hear or taste anything as I crouch down and sit against the wall.

The shard is a few centimetres away and it takes all my energy to pick it up. I let it lay in the palm of my hand. I shake but all my focus is on the glass in my hands, I want to curl my hand up and let it hurt me, let it make me feel guilty.

Maybe if I feel guilt, I can feel something other than worthlessness and fear of losing everyone I care about if I haven’t already.

I hurt all the time. It isn’t something I can get away from, it pierces my heart, it kills all the self-esteem I have if I have any left and I can’t stop letting it hurt me.

I can hear silence, I so need someone to help me.

I cant sit here and let this hurt me but I can’t see another way, what else can I do?

I close my hands around it and force my eyes to look at my hands as I feel the shard penetrate my skin, but instead of pain, I feel relief.

Immense relief.

So much pain is finally seeping out of my body, I can finally just for a second, feel something other than shame and guilt for that night, for the first time in a long time, I feel better, I feel as if I am coping.

The feeling doesn’t last, I can feel my euphoria from losing the negative feelings, close up on me again and I feel so guilty that I had to resort to cutting myself just so I can feel better even if it’s for a few minuscule seconds.

I open my hands and my shaking hands cause the shard to fall on the floor and it shatters into small pieces symbolizing how broken I feel inside, it hurts so much.

I need someone to help me. I need help.

I want help.

I need help

I can’t carry on like this.

The blood carries on flowing out of the cut, it is so deep and yet I cant turn my eyes away from it, it should hurt, I shouldn’t want to do this so why do I?

Why can’t I stop? Am I that weak?


‘Nicole called earlier’ Angelo mentioned as they finished cleaning up after a successful launch.

‘Oh, why?’

‘She didn’t say, she just wanted to talk to you but no one had any idea where you were’

Roman frowned and dialed Nicole’s number.


‘Nicole. Sorry I missed you before, you okay?’

Nicole started to shake as she remembered what she had done to herself, how she had let herself cut and how she was a shadow of her former self.

‘Not really’ she admitted.

‘The same as before? Roman asked dreading her response.

‘I relapsed’

Roman wanted to be there to hold her & to tell her it was all going to be okay. ‘I will be home soon. I promise’

Angelo looked concerned as Roman hung up the phone. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘Long story, are you still okay to lock up?’

‘Yes, I am. I will see you tomorrow?’

Roman nodded not really in the conversation as such, Angelo knew that something was wrong, it wasn’t hard to work but he knew he had to tread carefully; otherwise more damage would be done.


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Chapter 6

Nearly 4 months had passed, since Nicole had relapsed and she had made so many steps forwards and back again.

‘It was never going to be simple’ her father told her when she came back from a counselling session.

‘I know. I just wish I didn’t feel so pathetic’

‘Hey! I have told you so many times, you aren’t pathetic’ he said gathering her into a hug and smiling at her as she sniffed and wrapped her arms around him.

‘I feel it’ she honestly said with a faint smile on her face.

‘Well…will ice cream help?’

Nicole laughed and moved away from him feeling a bit better but the counselling session was still weighing heavily on her mind but then it always did. She didn’t expect anything to change or at least not to change anytime soon.

‘Actually can we go out and get something to eat?’

‘Of course, the restaurant?’

Nicole looked at him as he looked back at her with a sheepish grin on his face.


‘Well, it will be free’

She laughed out loud and smiled at him. ‘Its fine, I need to get out of the house’

Roman smiled. ‘Let me grab my coat and we can go’


Angelo had a shock when he saw Roman & Nicole enter the restaurant; he had just finished their lunch service and was just about to leave the restaurant for a break.

‘I wasn’t expecting you’ Angelo said honestly as he met Nicole’s eyes, he had to concede; despite being 18 she looked much older for her years. He loved how her blonde hair accentuated her features, she looked so radiant and she proffered the natural look he noticed.

‘Nicole wanted some food and so I suggested here’

‘Because it’s free’ he guessed as Nicole nodded. He was very aware of her, he hated to admit it but he hated not having her around, she had refused his offer of a job claiming that she had to focus on her studies.

‘Well the kitchen closed about 10 minutes ago, but I am sure I can rustle something up’

Nicole nodded ‘I don’t want to put you out though’

‘You’re not, I do cook anyways and on top of that I haven’t eaten myself either’

‘Haven’t you?’

‘Nope, nothing at all’

Roman interrupted the conversation ‘Join us then’

Nicole agreed.

‘Sure, will do, just find a table and I will be back soon’

‘So how is school?’ Angelo asked when he returned with the food that he had made for them.

‘Actually its boring at the moment, but I have the grades that I need in order to get into my course at uni so yeah in one way its okay.’

‘Which course? He asked conversationally

Nicole felt strangely at ease talking to Angelo, he wasn’t pushing her to reveal anything, she had actually found that she wanted to talk to him.

She wanted him to know who she really was, that she was struggling but she wasn’t going to open up about that, she wasn’t ready.

‘Fashion Design.’

‘So you want your own fashion line?’

‘Clothing line’ Nicole supplied and nodded as her phone beeped; she glanced at it and was surprised to see who it was.

Roman looked at her ‘Who is it?’

‘Do you remember Theo?’

‘Oh yes, why?’

‘He is in town.’

Roman blinked. ‘Really?’

‘Yes, he’s actually outside..’

Nicole began typing a text and smiled. Angelo liked seeing her face light up but he had to admit that he wished he was the person that was making her smile.

Damn since when did I feel like that?

‘Angelo?’ he heard Nicole ask

‘Sorry, what?’

‘Do you mind if I go and meet Theo?’

Angelo wanted to protest but he didn’t fancy having to explain why especially when he didn’t really understand it himself, he nodded ‘Of course, it was nice to see you’

‘Well maybe you will be seeing more of me’ she said as she picked her bag up and put her phone in her pocket.

‘How do you mean?’ he asked as Roman cleared the table and walked towards the kitchen leaving them alone for the first time that day.

‘Well, I realise that this might sounds cheeky but maybe I could take you up on the job offer?’

Angelo had to admit he was surprised, he had never expected Nicole to ask him that but he merely smiled and responded with ‘Of course, I will talk to your Dad and work something out’

‘Thank you’ she beamed and sauntered out of the restaurant. She walked out of the double doors and turned right, She saw Theo leaning against the wall, he was taller than she remembered, she remembered his dazzling deep rich green eyes and how when she first met him, she thought he was an arrogant jerk.

He had managed to break her barriers down and get her to open up to him, he had surpassed her expectations, after that night, she lost her trust in the world.

Everything seemed and still did seem to be so cold and dark, it was hard for her to restore some of her self worth, but even now, she was still fiercely aware of how much pain she felt and how she wasn’t who she was back then.

She put on a mask for the world, she had to otherwise there was not a hope in hell of her being able to heal and move on.

Cutting into her skin helped, it was her way of being able to relieve some of the pain in her head.

‘Nicole.’ Theo said as he straightened up. Nicole couldn’t help but noticed how masculine he looked, he hadn’t changed much but he looked good.

Wow. He looks so good.

Too good.

‘Theo, it is good to see you’

‘Same, I didn’t even realise you were staying in Summer Bay’

Nicole smiled as they walked towards the beach, she focused on the water, the tide coming in and out and then she said ‘So how did you know that I was staying here?’

‘I enrolled at Summer Bay High, and I saw your name on a file on the desk. Of course I didn’t know if it was definitely you so I thought I might as well find out’

‘Well, I am glad that you did’ Nicole said honestly, she did miss her old life, her home, her old room but she had to leave.

There was no way she would have been able to stay there, not with everything that had happened.

That part of her life was gone with only a few reminders but she wouldn’t be able to rid herself of those reminders, they were always going to be there.

‘So Nic..why did you leave without saying goodbye?’

‘It is a long story’

‘Oh come on…that isn’t going to work with me. We’ve been through too much together for that’ he said as he stopped and tilted her chin so that their eyes connected.

‘You know I still love you….that never stopped, no one ever came close to you’

Nicole closed her eyes & breathed in before opening them and stepping away from Theo slightly

‘I don’t think you want to know what happened’

‘Try me, I am not easily shocked remember?’

‘Okay’ she agreed because deep down she had never lost her trust in Theo, he had never caused her harm and she truly believed that he wouldn’t either, and on some level, she still loved him too.

If she was being honest with herself, she knew that she really did need to talk someone that knew her, that got her, and that wasn’t hopefully she amended going to judge her.

They found a secluded area of the beach and sat down. ‘Okay, do you remember Kelsey’s party?’

‘Which one?’

‘The fancy dress one?’

‘Yes middle of August time you mean?’


‘What about it?’

Nicole inhaled and Theo took her hand in his but said nothing, he didn’t need to, she knew that he would understand and that despite it all, that she could trust him.

Trust was rare for her and yet now she felt so much better for being able to talk to him, just letting it all out. Granted she told her counsellor and it helped for a while but then she seemed to droop back into a depressed state.

However Theo always had a connection with her. Maybe it was worth revisiting? Only time would be able to tell that.


Back in the restaurant…

‘Who is Theo?’ Angelo asked as nonchantly as he could manage.

Roman saw straight through him. ‘He’s her ex’

‘Oh right’

‘If you like her, tell her, but don’t mess her around’

Angelo smiled ‘That obvious?’

‘To me yeah, but to her no..’

‘I doubt she’d look at me like that anyways’

‘I am not getting involved but Theo has always had a soft spot for her, so if you want a chance, go for it.’


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  • 2 weeks later...

Warning: Contains sexual content and mild use of language.

Chapter 7


9 months ago:

Nicole loved to party, it was the best time of her holidays; she could have fun and not worry about the time or getting home.

She spotted loads of people dancing away and she smiled to herself as she found herself walking towards him and dancing the night away.

She was vaguely aware of being passed drinks and drinking them without a care in the world.

She knew that someone was watching her but she was too drunk to actually care, which should have set off alarm bells in her head but it did not, it just made her even more determined to be hammered.

She could see things start to get a bit blurry and people kept slipping in and out of focus.

She moved towards the wall and slumped against it. She could see someone looking at her and walking towards her.

‘Come on’ he said roughly

‘Leave me alone’ Nicole responded as her throat felt dry and sickly.

‘Come on’

‘No!’ she harshly said causing other partygoers to look at them

Putting his hands up, ‘Fine, whatever’

She stumbled away from him and managed to get her phone from her bag, she dialled her dad but he did not answer.

She then tried ringing for a taxi but she knew that they would not take her if she were this out of it.

‘Damn’ she muttered as she fumbled around with her purse and shoved her phone back in.

She was going to have to walk it back; maybe the fresh air would do her good.

She walked through the streets, which seemed to be empty and then she found the alleyway that would take her to behind her house.

The alleyway was long and she could not see if there was anyone there but she was cold, tired so she did not think anything of it and walked through it.

She heard rustling come from behind her but she didn’t make anything of it at the time, she was sure that the alcohol was just getting to her

‘I am never drinking that much vodka again..’

The next thing Nicole knew, she was being pushed up against the wall and spun around so that she was facing the male that was stood in front of her.

‘Don’t scream.’ He warned her as she froze out of shock.

‘What do you want?’ she croaked as moments passed in infinite silence.

He looked her up and down and raised his eyebrows in a suggestive motion ‘You’

‘I’m late to see my boyfriend’ she said in the hope that he would move away from her and let her past, but deep down she knew that he would never let her go.

‘Yeah and I was born yesterday’ he mocked

She saw his cold blue eyes and she was instantly feeling much more sober than she had been.

‘Get off me’ she said quietly but with venom coming out of her tone.

‘No.’ he put his hands on her thigh and creeped his hand up her skirt.

‘No!’ she screamed but he clamped one over her mouth and threatened her.

‘I have a knife and I will use it’

She didn’t move, she didn’t know what to do. He pushed her legs apart and moved his hand away from her mouth.

‘Don’t speak, don’t even move’

Nicole closed her eyes, she just didn’t want to do anything apart from cry but she was too scared to even do that.

She heard him whisper into her ear but she wasn’t listening, she blocked everything out and just focused on her thoughts.

I deserve this, if I didn’t get so drunk then I wouldn’t be in this position, why the f*ck did I drink so much? This is my entirely my fault.

He trailed his fingers up her thigh and she flinched but he didn’t care, he forced her to back up against the wall and unzipped himself.

She could not look at him as she shook out of fear, and she bit back the stabbing pain she felt as he thrust himself into her forcefully, he didn’t stop until he roared out his pleasure into her neck, incidentally it left a mark on her neck.

She did not realise at the time, but it was going to become a mark that would never be erased from her life.

‘Tell anyone, and I will find you. Princess’

She flinched when he kissed her and then watched as he zipped himself up and walked away from her as if nothing had even happened.

She found herself crumpled up on the floor sobbing her heart out. She was barely aware of the fact that he had taken her virginity, the one thing that she never wanted to lose yet.

End of Flashback


Theo was vaguely aware of how much Nicole was shaking and he pulled her so tight, he hated how she had gone through that experience alone and that he was not there to help her.

He wanted to be there to help her. He resolved to be there from now on to help her in every way possible, he was not going to desert her now, not when she needed him more than ever

‘Did you report it?’ he asked once she had calmed down and laid her head on his shoulder.

‘No’ she said simply not feeling strong enough to carry on and Theo hugged her closer.

‘Why not?’ he asked after a few moments of silence, breaking into Nicole’s thoughts as she consciously rubbed her arm and felt like the scar was burning into her, she knew she needed to release the pain somehow but she didn’t want to go through the shame and guilt that she always felt.

‘I was ashamed’



‘Hey..’ he consoled her

‘You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.’

Nicole looked at him, she thought she was going see pity pouring of his eyes but all she saw was kindness.

She didn’t think about she was doing but she moved her lips closer to him and captured his lips. It started off as gentle and slowly got more passionate before Nicole pulled away.

She looked at Theo and said ‘Sorry I shouldn’t have’

‘Don’t apologise, I didn’t mind, I actually wanted you to’

‘I cant get into a relationship’ she said making her position clear.

‘We dotn have to be in a relationship. You can just talk to me when you need me.’ he said as he tried to compromise with her.

‘Are you sure that is enough for you?’

‘Of course it is’ he replied as he gripped hold of her hand and smiled at her.

Unbeknownst to them both as Theo hugged Nicole closer to him, Angelo had seen them kissing and slowly began walking away from them both, while his heart was breaking, he really believed that he had lost Nicole, not that he had any sort of relationship to begin with.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Chapter Eight

2 months later

A typical morning dawned, the birds were out, the surfers came onto the beach and enjoyed the waves, not everyone was enjoying the day but it had been 2 months since Nicole had revealed all to Theo.

Much to Angelo’s dismay, they had begun to get closer and closer, he didn’t want to come across as jealous so when Theo approached him and Roman about potentially working in the restaurant, he half-heartedly agreed to allow it.

Roman informed Angelo that it would not be for a while because he had to work out his notice in the city but Angelo was not bothered about that, he was just trying not to imagine countless ways that he could decapitate him.

‘So Theo will be starting tomorrow.’ Roman announced at the weekly staff meeting.

Angelo nodded ‘Casey and Xavier, he will be shadowing you two so he can get the hang of it quickly’

Casey and Xavier shared an unreadable look between them that did not go unnoticed by Angelo but he decided not to dwell on it, he was stretched to the limit as it was.

‘Are you sure this is okay with you?’ Roman asked as they closed the restaurant down for the weekend.

‘I wouldn’t have agreed if it wasn’t’ he responded for what must have been the tenth time.

‘I am not blind, it is obvious you resent Theo’

‘I am old enough to get over it’ Angelo said wryly as he walked towards his car.

‘Fine, Nicole invited you over for dinner tomorrow’

Angelo stopped in his tracks; he had never expected that ‘Really?’ he asked mirroring the disbelief that his mind echoed.

‘Yes, she would like you to come, bear in mind she wants to thank you’


‘What do you think?’ Roman asked exasperated by Angelo, which seemed to be a regular occurrence.

‘Ah, fine. I will be there’


‘So he agreed?’ Nicole asked Roman as she sat on the sofa, snuggled up to Theo who had already fallen asleep, or at least that is what Nicole thought.

‘Yes, he will be here tomorrow night’

Nicole beamed and smiled at her father, she wanted the chance to be close to Angelo but at the same time, she was wary of the fact that she did not know what to expect from him especially considering the conversation that they had about 2 months ago.

She was comfortable with Theo, but her counselling had shown her that she was stronger than she gave herself credit for and that maybe in time, she would be able to get even closer to him.

She loved Theo but it wasn’t the same. She knew that with Angelo, there was something there that they could explore and maybe in time it would develop into something.


Roman watched as Angelo took his frustration out on the plates as he slammed them back into the cupboards.

He strode over to him and pulled the plates out of his grasp ‘Go home, everything is done here anyways’

Angelo growled but he walked away, Roman called out to him ‘Whatever the hell is bothering you, and then please fix it before you come back tomorrow. Otherwise we won’t have a business left’

‘Fine’ he gritted out.

‘Good & we’ve got a new recruit joining us Roman put in.

Angelo stopped and turned around. ‘Who?’

Roman shook his head in disdain ‘I told you last week’

‘Who?’ Angelo asked not really wanting to know.

‘Theo’ Roman said waiting for Angelo to glare at him but it never came, instead Angelo grunted.

‘Fine’ he replied indifferently but Roman was not convinced, however at that point Angelo was not in the mood to talk so Roman watched him walk away.

A few moments later, Nicole wandered into the restaurant from the kitchen and enquired ‘Where did Angelo go?’

‘He’s gone home’

Nicole looked shocked ‘Really?’

Roman nodded not wanting to elaborate any further, he had resolved not to get involved with anything that affected Angelo unless he had to, though personally he liked Theo he preferred Angelo.


‘Not long ago’

Nicole turned on her heels and ran off in the direction of the exit causing Roman to stop in shock.

Angelo slumped against his car; it was dark so he was sure that no one would see him. He was tired, he felt lousy and he was not sure he wanted to do the restaurant anymore.

His enthusiasm had waned over the past few weeks and he did not know if he had the energy to get it back to how it should be.


‘Nicole, what is it?’

‘Why did you leave like that?’ she asked as she approached him and stood in front of him. Angelo had to suck in his breath, he hated to admit it but he was falling for her, in fact he was pretty sure he already had.

He didn’t answer at first but he watched as Nicole stood there with a nervous smile on her face, and all he wanted to do was kiss her but he never went anywhere near girls who were in a relationship with someone else even if it did hurt him to admit it to himself.


‘I just needed a change of scenery’

‘Have I done something?’

‘No, why would you think that?’

‘Because you have barely spoken to me’

Angelo sighed; he had hoped she would not have noticed that. He looked at her and saw her light blue eyes, with flecks of green, he had not noticed that before but he liked that about her, she was different from most females that he had dated.

‘I know, I just had things to deal with, it was not a reflection on you’

‘How wasn’t it?’

‘I needed to distance myself’

‘Because?’ Nicole asked not wanting to give up.

‘Because I like you! Damn it, I actually like you’

She stepped back as she felt the blow of his words reverberate around her.

‘& I saw you kiss Theo’


‘It hurt so I had to put some distance between us’

Nicole had no response for once she was actually speechless. She had no idea that Angelo had felt that way about her but it confirmed something that she was scared that might be true.

So she decied to experiment as she moved towards Angelo and kissed him gently on the lips so that he didn’t freak out. He kissed her back with growing passion before they separated but still close to each other.


‘You shouldn’t have done that’

‘I know, I better go, my dad will want me’

Angelo nodded and watched as Nicole walked away but inside he was jumping for joy, she liked him and he was pretty sure that she was going to fall for him sooner or later.


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  • 4 weeks later...

Chapter Nine

Nicole walked down the stairs tentatively, it was about 5am and she couldn’t sleep, she had left Theo to sleep and wandered downstairs.

She didn’t know why she couldn’t sleep, she just felt really wired and awake. She walked into the kitchen barefoot and winced as the coldness of the tiles touched her feet causing her to jump

She saw Roman sat at the table nursing a mug of what she assumed to be coffee.


‘Nicole, why are you awake?’

‘I could ask you the same thing’ she said as she opened the freezer and got out the ice-cream’

Roman didn’t answer just stared at his coffee cup.

‘Want some?’

He shook his head as she got a spoon and joined him at the table. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘Nothing. Just couldn’t sleep.’ He put in but Nicole wasn’t convinced. ‘Yeah right, tell me’

‘Isn’t that supposed to be my line?’

‘Dad!’ She warned him as her voices raised several octaves signalling her annoyance that caused Roman to smirk slightly.

‘So?’ she prodded as she looked at him when he didn’t say anything to her. Roman looked up from his mug and weakly smiled ‘I’m ill’


‘Just generally ill’ he said but he knew he wasn’t convincing her. He didn’t want to worry her at all, she needed to be happy not worried about

Nicole was far from convinced but she guessed that it was as far as she was going to get for now. She frowned and took a bite. Her father smiled ‘I am going to bed, I have stayed up long enough’

‘Alright Dad, Good night’

He strolled to the door before walking back to her and dropping a kiss on her forehead. ‘Don’t stay up too late, you need to rest’

‘I wont. I promise’ she said as she watched her father disappear from her view and then heard his footsteps fade out as he walked into his room.

She didn’t know what was going on but she wanted to find out, she didn’t like the distance, or the quietness. It made her feel uneasy and scared.

Her father was always the one to reassure her about everything to make her feel like nothing could affect her.

She loved him for that.

A simple smile and hug from her father made her feel as if nothing could ever affect her but his behaviour was beginning to scare her, she didn’t like the way it was getting to her.

It was simple for her and she needed simple after the past few months. She wandered back upstairs, the time had just moved to 6am, and she didn’t want to sleep.

For some reason she was too wired and she couldn’t unwind herself enough to be able to sleep.

She sat up in her bed and wrapped the duvet around her. She looked at her arm. The sleeve obscured the scar that she had, it had begun to fade but on some level, she didn’t want to completely let it go.

At first she couldn’t explain why but she had begun to realise that she wanted a reminder of how once things had got to her and how now it was different.

She could maybe one day in the distant future look at the scar and realise just how strong she had been even if right now, she didn’t feel that strong. Her counsellor had said a sentence to her that stuck in her head.



‘Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a positive step towards you healing’ she thought to herself, at times it did help, it made her feel better for a while and then she reverted back to how she usually felt.

‘There are no shortcuts’ she remembered her counsellor saying to her after a few sessions. ‘You will get stronger but only if you deal with the feelings and move on from it’

‘Can I?’

‘Can you what?’ she asked.

Nicole inhaled and then asked ‘Can I get stronger?’

‘Why do you think you cant?’

She shrugged and fiddled with the edge of the couch. ‘I just feel like I am falling apart and I cant put the pieces back together’

‘How long have you been feeling like that?’

She exhaled the breath that she had been keeping in ‘honestly?’


‘I have no idea. I honestly cant remember a time where everything was simple and I cant remember a time where I actually smiled’

‘So what do you think you need to do?’

‘I don’t know’

‘Think about it…think about something you want, something that you know or wish would happen, something positive.’

Nicole didn’t even have to think about it, she knew what she wanted but there was too much in the way.

‘Don’t tell me yet. Next time. Maybe if you can, focus on making it happen…but do not put pressure on yourself, if it happens, it happens but it doesn’t, there is always next time’

Nicole nodded to display her understanding and stood up. ‘Thanks, see you next time’

‘See you then Nicole, take care’

End of Flashback


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  • 2 weeks later...

Chapter Ten

Angelo watched as Theo walked along the beach holding hands with Nicole. He didn’t get why he couldn’t let her go. She had kissed him but she had also made it clear that she was not going to hurt Theo.

He admired Nicole but he had to admit that he was also falling for her and he didn’t know how to stop it.



Nicole had approached him with Theo behind her. ‘Are you okay?’

‘I am fine’


‘Yes, thanks. And yourself?’

She smiled at him. ‘I am fine thanks. Can I talk to you in private?’

‘Yes’ she said as Theo kissed her goodbye. They walked towards the surf club and found a bench to sit on.

‘So what is it?’ Angelo asked..

‘I have to ask, our kiss.’

‘What about it?’ he asked trying his best to quell the small spark of hope that had appeared in his heart but failing miserably to quash it.

‘Do you regret it?’ she asked completely aware of how hurt and rejected she would feel if he admitted that he did.

‘No. On the contrary, I really want to kiss you again’

Nicole nodded. She sighed ‘I do as well, but..’


She nodded. She had made a lot of realisations over the past few days since her counselling session, she had to do this for herself, she was scared in a way but at the same time, she wanted to be able to be happy for the first time in what seemed to be a long time.

‘So what happens now?’ Angelo asked breaking the silence.

‘I break up with Theo, but I need time to do it. I need to do it gently’

Angelo nodded ‘I think till then, we need to keep our distance, but it doesn’t mean I am not thinking about you, because I am’

‘I know..’ she said as she squeezed his hand. ‘I better go, work beckons, see you there?’


Nicole walked away with a smile on her face, despite the fact that her split was going to hurt her, she had high hopes that Angelo would make her happy, she needed him more than she would actually admit to herself.


Theo watched Nicole on the beach laughing and joking with her friends. He knew that he had someone special in his life but he couldn’t help but feel left out at times, sometimes it felt deliberate but sometimes it was just the way it was.

Nicole was infinitely his at this moment in time but he knew that Angelo wanted to stake his claim on her as well.

The main thing that scared him was the fact that Nicole liked Angelo; maybe she didn’t love him, or at least didn’t love him yet.

However he didn’t like the way it made him feel, he didn’t want to lose her not when he had only just found her again.

He had never admitted it to her but when she had moved away, he went in a mope for months; he had missed her more than he had ever missed anyone in his life and people had always left him.

Nicole spotted Theo sitting down and he seemed to be in deep thought. She was not sure why but it seemed like he was pulling away from her.

She knew that she was in a way pushing him away but she was trying her best not to hurt him as she knew that she couldn’t carry on lying to him.

It was not fair on him or anyone else in her life either; she had too much to lose. She had to focus on herself and the positives in her life and as much as she liked Theo, she didn’t love him not in the way she was falling for Angelo.


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