Read Strung Online

Authors: Bella Costa







Bella Costa






















Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19












"I count him braver, who overcomes his desires, than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self."




There are a million places I would rather be right now.  Months of explosive, agonising, nibbling thoughts and carnal, twisted resistances during the volcanic process which has led me to this moment - have not been enough to prepare me for the epic battle I am about to initiate.

I refer to is the discovery, acknowledgement and acceptance of a very painful reality.  The
?  To abandon the Narcissist who has been the wrathful and demanding God, puppet master and husband, in the centre of my universe, for the last five years.  I know he will put up a fight of galactic proportions.  My challenge will be to survive the fallout and to find myself again, somewhere in the rubble that remains of my shattered existence.

I struggle internally to control the grieving; to channel it.  I resist the urge file it away, to deal with another day.  No.  I
it.  I
the grief, to remind me why this battle is necessary.  I worry though, if it overwhelms me, the result will be more devastating. 

do not get me wrong...  I do not grieve his
, his
or even the realisation that he never loved me - at least not as much as he loved himself. 

Yes, I still cling stubbornly to the hope that he had loved me even a little.
Perhaps this is a part of my own vanity.  As mentioned, this is a process, not an instant realisation.  Please forgive me.  I digress.  My scattered thoughts are yet another symptom of my torn priorities, my need to move on - and my fear of the consequences. 

So where were we? 
Ah, yes; grieving!  No, I am done with all
grieving.  What I grieve now, what I mourn, is the damage done to me.  Knowing that I will never be able to trust or love again.  Knowing that like Robert, my Narcissistic, soon-to-be ex-husband, it will just be me. 


Chapter 1


22nd of March

"Well sweetheart, our time is up."  We both stand and Victoria envelops me in a warm hug, before studying me at arm's length. 

"You'll be fine.  Make an appointment with Maxine for a month from now.  You have my number if there's an emergency - but don't abuse it," she warns kindly.

"Okay."  I whisper and pick up my bag to leave, taking a moment to compose myself.  Victoria is the only person
I allow to witness any display of weakness from me.

I make the short drive to a small middle class suburb, backing onto New Tacoma Cemetery.  The sun is making a rare wintry appearance as I pull the Beast into the shelter's drive.  Turning off the ancient V.W. camper's engine, I spy a small sad face peeking out from an upstairs window and I offer a small encouraging smile.

I glance quickly around a neighbourhood, blissfully ignorant of the shelter hiding in its midst.  Our anonymity is vital.  Narcissists can be vindictive when their partners leave, as I discovered myself, all too painfully.  Besides, people just don’t understand.  Currently, the streets are quiet and damp from melting frost, most of the residents at work or school.  I grab a box from the side of the van and head inside.

"Hey Grace!"  I smile broadly at the shelters live-in housekeeper,
counsellor and my assistant - and friend of sorts.  She runs the small shelter single handed, while I maintain the constant hunt for funding and try staying one-step ahead of the red tape.

"Hey yourself!  Is that from the bakers?  Here let me take it."  I pass the box of baked goods to the
voluptuous African American woman.

"How is the new family settling in?"  I ask quietly.

"Edward and May?  Oh, they’re good.  It's the first time we've had a father and child."

"Women can be abusive and controlling as well you know."  I chide softly.

"I know.  You just don't see it as often."

"Probably because fewer men would actually come forward," I muse.  I hang my coat and follow Grace into the kitchen.

"This is true.  Hey, I got in touch with Grant this morning and he has agreed to take them on as clients, pro-bono.  He'll be over in the morning to see them,” she chatters brightly.

"On a Saturday?  That's good!" 

"Oh, and a Savannah from Donavan's Pass, has rung a few times.  Something about a meeting.”  Grace has disappeared into the pantry.  I pour a mug of coffee from the percolator and wait for her to ease her rotund body back into the room.  Donavan’s Pass must be the place Grant mentioned.  He said someone would phone.

"Did she leave a number?
”  I ask, watching with amusement as Grace almost falls out from the pantry.

"That pantry needs to be made larger!  The number is by the phone.  And
do not tell me my hips need to be smaller.  Looking after this many people, there needs to be more of me to go around!"  She waves a finger at me, pursing her lips while swaying her head from side to side and we both burst out laughing.

She has a fantastic smile.  It lights up the room.  She also has a no-nonsense attitude, perfect for this job.  For the hundredth time I thank fate for sending her to me.  Well...Grant actually.  I
do not know where he found her, but thank goodness, he did.

Coffee in hand, I head into the small office tucked under the stairs.  Grace has left a
note on the ink blotter and I settle down to make the call.  The number goes to voice mail and I leave a brief message.  I have heard mention of a wealthy Donavan family, but don’t recall the details.  Firing up Google, I search for information on them.  There is not a lot to find. 

Donavan's Pass has its own website.  A family owned
campsite in the mountains, right on the Northern edge of the Boulder River Wilderness in Snohomish County, approximately one hour and forty-five minutes drive from Seattle main, according to the directions.  It operates entirely as a charitable summer camp, for underprivileged kids and kids with disabilities.  I browse through the normal list of activities, climate and accessibility.  There is also a section on local hiking trails, fauna and flora and a little write up on White Horse Mountain and Three Fingers peaks. 

I try another
website, which contains much of the same.  I finally find a small piece in the Heraldnet.  It describes a serious car accident, not far from Donavan's Pass.  Apparently, Mark Saunders was killed in the accident, leaving his wife - one of the proprietors of Donavan's Pass and sister of the two Donavan boys – alive, but severely injured.  I check the date of the small article.  Three months ago. 

There are a few older articles about C.J. Donavan, one of the brothers.  He appears to have had a reputation as a bad boy and
lady’s man, but the most recent of those articles, was a couple of years ago and all the images have been removed. 
Holy Cow!  Who has the power to remove every photo of themselves from the net?

I wonder if Savannah is the Donavan sister.  She could be anyone
, I realise - the camp manager, even wife of one of the Donavan boys.  My research is inconclusive.  All I know, is the Donavan family consists of two brothers and a sister, who is now a widow.  I drain my coffee and dial the number for the shelter's accountant.  I need to check on the finances.  The line is engaged. 

I rub my temples, feeling the usual tension headache starting to build.  My afternoons
, following therapy, are always like this.  Today is worse than most and I torture myself by replaying my most uncomfortable session yet.




"Acacia, it's time to cut your sessions down to once a month."

My throat constricts painfully and I try to control the panic, swelling darkly in my mind.  I knew I could not stay in therapy forever, but like much of my emotional baggage, I have ignored it, so I am now
completely unprepared.

"So soon?"  My question barely escapes.

"Acacia, you've been seeing me every fortnight for what, three years?  You've made a lot of progress, and mostly by yourself," she says kindly.

...  Um...  No.  I don't think so.  I mean, I don't know if I have, if I can...I'm not ready," I stutter, shaking my head.  I sound pathetic, I know but, the panic is winning, I am losing and what's new?  I stare down at my trembling fingers, noting the pale band of indented skin, still visible, like a painful scar, where my wedding ring used to sit.

"Acacia, look at me.  You're barely recognisable, compared to the broken woman I met three years ago."
  I can hear the silent 'but' hanging in the air between us.  "I've seen the confidence you display when soliciting funds to keep the shelter running.  I am not even going to go into how much guts and determination it takes to start a shelter from scratch; all that red tape and legal stuff...but you have done it, and successfully too.  I honestly believe the only work we have left, is on that wall you've built around you," she asserts.

I groan inwardly.  I am the queen of Analysis Paralysis - I know all this stuff
, but I am just not ready to make that step and inwardly I resent her for trying to take my security blanket away from me.

"You need to work on establishing close relationships, trusting people again, taking a few personal risks," she suggests with a tilt of her elegant head.
  I stare blankly at a spot on the carpet, as I try to formulate a response.

"You are right of course; you always are."  I talk slowly, measuring my words.  My heart is still pounding painfully in my chest and I suck air deeply into my lungs
in a futile attempt to control it.  "The thing is...yes I
interact with people, I
be assertive."  My voice has climbed an octave.  "As long as I don't have to talk about me, sell me or do it for me - as long as I am doing, whatever I'm doing, on behalf of someone else, like the shelter.  This is more than just being unable trust people," I shrug in frustration.  I can feel the familiar burning of tears welling up in the back of my eyes. “I’m sorry.  I’m rambling.”

"Acacia, what you have just described, is that wall.  It is what keeps your interactions impersonal.  Until you start stepping out of your comfort zone and forcing yourself, one small step at a time, to let people in and get to know you - not who you represent - but
, that wall will continue to stunt your ability to develop, grow, love and be loved, and that would be such a shame.  You have so much to offer and there is so much you deserve to be given."

"It's hard.”  I whimper, holding back a sob.

"I know.  I also know that right now, you are beating yourself up inside.  You're thinking that building this wall is some kind of personality flaw or failure," she states knowingly.

I nod slowly, in guilty agreement.  She knows me too well.  Victoria shifts forward and takes my hands, waiting for me to meet her gaze before speaking.  "Building that wall, Acacia, was a natural and very necessary thing to do.  You were vulnerable and needed it.  It was a band-aid, to protect you while you gave yourself a chance to heal.  It is time to take the band-aid off now.

"Underneath, is nothing more than a fear of rejection and being used.  Yes, your fear is a scar.  You survived.  It's your badge of honour.  Wear it with pride and know that it will fade over time – but only if
allow it to."

"I'm not sure I know how to do this," I sniff, and feel an escaped tear burn its way down my cheek.

"Okay, imagine a phobia of..." she waves a hand, looking at the ceiling for inspiration.  "...Dogs.  If you slowly introduce yourself to dogs; surrounding yourself with pictures of nice ones for a few days, until you no longer break out in sweat.  Then move onto watching a puppy play group from an adjoining room, then from the same room and so on..."

"I get it," I sigh.  "Face the fear."

"Exactly!  A little at a time.  Take the first step.  You will encounter a nasty dog occasionally.  Just consider that he might be nasty because he has his own underlying issues.  But remember, for every nasty dog, there are hundreds of loving, caring mutts who are willing to accept you for who you are and like, possibly even love, you for it."  Victoria pushes the tissue box on the table a little closer to me and I help myself to a couple.

"Get a social life girl!  Not the charity circuit you're in now, but a personal one,"
she orders.

I nod unconvincingly.  I thought I had done well over the last three years, at 'de-cluttering' my inner self.  I have slowly tidied up, repacked and organised, the lightweight hand luggage of my latest misadventures through life - but that one suitcase remains untouched.  The largest and heaviest one.  The messiest one.  The one hidden deepest inside of me.  I have dealt with my issues in true Acacia style.  I have de-cluttered - but solved nothing.

How are things at the shelter?"  She asks, leaning back.

"Good.  Grant has found a site up near Darrington.  It's isolated in the mountains and supposed to be perfect for kids," I sniff again; relieved we are not talking about me anymore.

"Good!  Talking about your handsome Legal Beagle, Grant has been in touch with me this week.  I believe the Public Prosecution have reopened the case against Robert."

I shrink internally at the mention of my ex-husband.  "I believe so.  I hope this time they find the true extent of his craziness.  Perhaps then I can finally clear my own name."  I smile weakly. 

Victoria nods her head thoughtfully, her perfectly structured, platinum bob swaying with the action.  "When last did you walk past a handsome man and take a second look?"  Her eyes twinkle with mischief.

What the hell?  Just sneak it in there, Victoria!
I shrug, turning my head to the window, hoping my long auburn hair will hide my face enough, for my flush to go unnoticed.

"Well that's progress.  Tell me about him."  I can hear the smile in her voice. 

"It was nothing really," I stammer. 

"Go on," she prods.

"Well, it was at the Teen Drug Rehab, fundraiser last night."  My mind drifts back last night.




The Masquerade Ball occupies the very large and well-appointed lobby, of a glass and steel behemoth, in the central business district of Seattle.  I sip quietly from a crystal flute, taking in the transformation from lobby to ballroom.  A big band, is striking out the opening notes of a lively Frank Sinatra tune on a podium, in front of a dance floor where a couple is already making use of the open space.  Close to two hundred of Seattle's immaculately dressed elite, mingle in the cavernous room, served by a small army of white coated waiting staff. 

I watch distracted, as a handful of Jokers and Mime Artists mingle and amuse the guests.  I have tucked myself into the shadows, between a towering indoor plant and a banquet table fit for Arab Royalty.  I am not in the best of moods and do not really feel much like socialising.  Surrounded by the opulence, I am feeling even plainer than usual.  My recycled floor length, black evening gown has become my standard attire for these types of functions
, and it is feeling over-worn.  While every woman in the room appears to have spent hours at a salon before the event, I have just pulled a brush through my hair and slipped on some lip-gloss.  I try to reason that I cannot afford a day at a salon and I don't have time, but I know I could easily have made more effort and the money is there if I need it.  It is a typical case of self-ambush, I suppose. 
Well at least I am not in denial!

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