FooFaraw (Part 2) #AtoZChallenge

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FooFaraw; a great fuss or disturbance about something very insignificant.

I turned the handle and opened my bedroom door, feeling a slight prickly of fear. Would it look like I had left it when I was eighteen? Or had my great-aunt Dorothy thrown everything I’d had to leave behind away?

The door creaked loudly then bumped against the wall. I let go of the breathe I’d been holding. My bedroom was just like it was. The walls were a pale blue with nothing on them – Dorothy had banned me from putting anything on them- the curtains were drawn over the small window and the ceiling was covered in spiderwebs.

My childhood bed was made, the desk and chair tidy, the single wardrobe was open and empty and the bookcase held a few kiddie books. It was like the room had given up waiting for my return and just settled into a life of abandonment.

I sat down on the bed, the springs squealing. I had hated it here. Dorothy had never loved me or been kind to me. She had repeatedly told me she should never have taken me in and should have given me to the children’s home. The only reason why she didn’t was because my parents had left her money in their will for her to look after me.

Dorothy had physically, mentally and emotionally abused me. Letting all her angry out for her sister’s – my mum’s- happy life before she had passed away and also the fact that Dorothy now had to take care of me. I had no happy memories here. On my eighteen birthday, I had left and the trust fund my parents had left me opened up a whole new world for me.

I hadn’t wanted to keep in touch with Dorothy but we had sometimes over the years. Later it had been nurses and care home staff writing and phoning me. Till the last day and the news she was finally gone, having left everything to me.

But I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to go back to that life. I was different now, free of all of that. There was nothing here for me. I had taken all I wanted before, so why I had come back here?

Because I had wanted to prove it didn’t matter? That everything she had done and said had only made me stronger? That the past was just that and I had escaped from it?

I didn’t know. It didn’t matter. I was making a fuss over something that meant nothing to me. I wasn’t that child anymore. I was a businessman, a husband, a gentle father, a millionaire.

I got up, closed the door behind me and went downstairs. I took nothing from the house. I closed and locked the front door behind me for the very last time.

I got back into the car. My wife looked at me put I avoided her questioning eyes. We were silent until Alexandra couldn’t take it no more and had to ask; ‘what was in there?’

‘Nothing but dust and spiders,’ I said.

‘So, it wasn’t worth you dragging me out here then?’

I shook my head.

‘I’m hungry, let’s go,’ Alexandra snapped.

‘All right. On the way we’ll drop the keys at the housing agency and let them take care of everything,’ I added.

Starting the sports car’s engine, I took a finally look at the house, a sense of complete freedom ran through me.

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Flames

flame

The flames grew, becoming brighter and warmer. Shepard shivered and huddled closer to the fire. Outside, the rain was really coming down now and the wind was hitting the countryside with force. The old, abandoned farmhouse rattled and creaked around him. Strangely though, he found comfort in all the noise.

Finally, shedding out of his soaking clothes, Shepard hung his things on the drying rack. Despite everything, most of the furniture had survived and the house appeared close enough to his memories. He hated that though as it made everything come into sharper focus.

Sitting in his underpants, he feed the fire some more wood and watched the flames. Even though he tried hard not to think about it, the memories swelled like an incoming sea. How many times had he sit by this fireplace as a boy? Too many.

Shepard shivered again, but not because he was cold. The flood gates had opened and for a few moments he was transported into the past.

Shadows danced across the wall in the farmhouse’s living room. The flames of the fire, the only light source in the room was unable to fight the shadows off. However, nothing seemed to be bothering the little boy and smaller girl who were playing with a hand carved Noah’s Arc set. They laughed as they lined the animals up two by two and made them all enter the big wooden boat.

Then though from the kitchen came sounds of raised voices. The children stopped, falling silent to listen. The voices grew, though they couldn’t make the muffled words out. A thumping as skin connected with skin rang out and the voices stopped.

The girl began to cry. Her older brother held her close but not to comfort her. It was to quieten her sobs, so they would avoid getting beaten too.

Shepard shook his head and brought himself out of his past. Grumbling, the urge to leave again grew, but he fought it away.

‘It’s only an old house,’ he uttered, ‘nothing here now.’

He felt his drying clothes. They were too wet still to put back on. He tossed more wood onto the fire, not caring that the stack was getting low. If needed there were other things he could burn.

He glanced around and spotted a knitted patchwork blanket draped on the sofa. Getting up, he shuffled across the floor and tugged it off. Wrapping the blanket over his shoulders, he took a deep breath and smelt dust. Pushing the edge of the blanket into his nose, he sniffed the wool, but couldn’t smell anything else.

Shepard saw a flash of his mother. She was sit on the sofa, knitting a blanket which humped over her big belly containing his then unborn sister. Her hair was dark and she was wearing a brown dress and slippers. Her face and arms were covered in old and new bruises. She was humming something as her needles clacked together then she was gone, back into the shadows of the past.

‘Don’t think about,’ Shepard whispered.

He stared hard into the flames, hoping they would burn the memories away.

It was too late though and just like the opening of Pandora’s box everything escaped.

Shepard sucked in a deep breath as imagines, thoughts and feelings tumbled by. Thankfully, he soon arrived at the last memory he had of the farmhouse. He saw himself, a young teenager sat in his mother’s bedroom. She was gone, fled in the night just as she had often threatened under her breath.

He looked out of the window and saw the little cross that marked his sister’s grave in the back garden. She had only been seven. He had dug that small hole himself only a few days ago whilst his sobbing mother had clung to the dirty sheet wrapped body. He had wanted to kill his father then but his mother held him back. Now though, there was nothing stopping him…

Shepard let it all go with a shaky exhale. Just the thought of all that blood again made him feel sick. He reached for his clothes and even though they were damp, he put them on. Gathering his things, he got up and after a few moments of debate tossed the knitted blanket away.

Holding onto the warm of the fire, he walked out of the farmhouse and back into the storm. It was better, he decided, to be out here then inside with all those ghosts.

 

(Inspired by a prompt at; https://scvincent.com/2017/02/09/thursday-photo-prompt-flame-writephoto/)

Homeless Isolation

Sitting on the street corner, she wondered why she had given everything up to come to this country. In the shimming puddles left by the afternoon rain, she could see the refection of younger self dressed as a bride. She was happy in that memory and surround by family and friends. Their voices were all repeating the same things; you’ll be happier living in a better country than this. Your children will have a better life. You can have anything you want over there. It’ll be paradise compared to this hell.

Sighing, she wished she could tell them how wrong they had all been. She pulled her shawl further down her head and tried not to cry. She noticed the shoes walking passed her and decided to concentrate on them. Hardly anyone in this country wore sandals and why would they? It seemed to do nothing but rain here. Dirty trainers and dull fake leather shoes filled her vision.

She eyed her coin bowl, which was simply a discarded plastic salad bowl, there was a handful of coins, but there was more copper then silver or gold. She wondered what she could get with that and the other few handfuls that were wrapped up in her skirt. She couldn’t read or speak this county’s language, so she just pointed to the pictures and handed over the money. Sometimes she got lucky and received a physical representation of the picture or else she would get something else. More often than not, she didn’t get anything but the coins back and a hand gesturing to the door. She would leave and find another place to sit with her coin bowl before her. She couldn’t believe she had fallen so far as to be begging on the streets like the old cripples she had seen back home. Her life should have been the opposite of this.

‘I’ll make you a Princess,’ he had said as they were allowed to talk for the first time after the wedding.

Had they been dancing or had he been walking her somewhere? She couldn’t remember.

Her chest had felt like it had wanted to burst. Here was the man who was going to give her everything she had ever dreamed of and more. How could she not been happier? He was going to help bring her out of third world poverty and into the lap of one of the richest countries.

She snorted to herself, but quickly covered it up by turning it into a sneeze as someone walked passed her. Shaking her head, she decided that if she had known this was how she would end up then she would have found a way out of the marriage. Though that might have placed her in a worse situation. Shaking her head again, she fell into pray and asked her God what he wanted of her and to help her see this lesson through.

Strength

The dull knife shook in her hand. Even though she knew the blade couldn’t do much damage, just holding it give her the strength she needed to leave him.

Posters

The posters were stuck to everything along the street and it was only after the third one that I noticed who was on them. The very ugly face of my high school history teacher, Mr. Creaster, stared back at me, though he looked a lot older then my mind remembered. Putting my heavy shopping bags down, I studied a single poster tacked to the post box.

Yes, it differently was him. That face was too recognisable with his long hooked nose, small black eyes, very wide forehead, forced back straggling grey hair and sneering pale lips. There was almost a Victorian-esque look about him and from my memories; I recalled his manner and personality being very similar to that era of teaching master. In bold red letters above his head was BEWARE PEDO! And underneath, CHILD STAKER AND RAPEST.

Frowning in worry and concern, I glanced over at a cluster of the same poster, which had been strung up all around the trunk of a tree. Different words appeared on some of the others; molester, monster, fiend, danger, paedophile, stay away from our children, mothers beware, have you seen this man? Call the police and report him now!

Picking up my shopping, I hurried down the street, but everywhere I glanced I could see his eyes staring at me and the red words becoming imprinted on the back of my eye lids. Who could have done such a thing and were the posters’ proclamations true? Also, how had they gotten away without being seen? The street looked like a parade had gone by; the posters were stuck to cars, front doors, lampposts, trees, walls, hedges and many others were laying scattered across the pavement and road.

I reached my gate and going to open it, found a poster tied across the metal bars. Mr Creaster leered up at me demanding my late homework. Kicking open the gate, I bolted up the path and to the front door, but there was a poster taped up there too and this time Creaster yelled at me for not knowing the answer to the year Germany had invaded Poland. Dumping the bags, I ripped the poster down and crushing it into a ball, throw it over the gate.

Struggling to catch my breath, I searched for my keys in my handbag and finding them, opened the door with shaking fingers. I rushed in, slammed it behind me and lent back, dragging in deep breaths and trying to stop the storm of memories from descending. It’s over, it doesn’t matter anymore, I told myself then spoke out, ‘you’re an adult now. A PA for crying out loud, you have to deal with domineering men all the time.’

I pushed myself off the door, took off my coat and went halfway down the hallway before realising I had left my handbag and shopping on the front step. Turning and laughing loudly, I opened the door and without looking up, collected my things and brought them in. It was then I noticed the white envelope on the floor. With my hands full, I had no choice but to leave it and come back, however my mind wondered what it could be all the way to the kitchen.

After I had put things away, calmed down and was in the process of making a cup of tea, I went back for the letter. The postman had already been, I had been running late and so taken my post out of his hands on the street. Picking up the envelope, I saw it was blank of both stamp and address, just junk mail then, nothing to worry about. I walked back into the kitchen and almost put it in the bin, instead the kettle had just boiled, so I put it on the work surface and made my drink.

Out of habit, I picked up it up alongside my cup of tea and packet of biscuits and went into the living room, placing them down on the coffee table, I took off my shoes and curled up on the sofa. My hand reached for my tea and then turned to the letter. Opening the cheap envelope, I pulled out a few sheets of folded paper and smoothing then out, saw Mr. Creaster eyeing up my breasts with a large grin on his face.

I screamed and throwing the paper away, covered my face with my hands and rocked back and forth, muttering to myself to calm down, but I just couldn’t stop the rush of feelings and thoughts. I was back there again, in that old fashioned classroom, smelling of chalk and sweat, leaning over my desk and staring at the floor, whilst behind me I could hear heavy panting and felt welt covered fingers slipping under my knickers.

I grabbed a cushion and tried to smother myself into it. Every breath caught in my throat and I was choking on hot tears. Finally, I fought back those memories, locking them back down again and got up. Wiping my face and pulling back my shoulders, I looked out of the window. I could see some posters stuck to a tree trunk, though I couldn’t make out anything on them. Getting up, I went into the kitchen and found a black bin bag and a pair of scissors.

Going to the front door, I put on my coat and wellington boots, before going outside. I checked my garden, but found no posters. I stepped out and took the one off my gate. Then I picked the ones up at my feet and slowly, made my way up the street collecting them all in the bin bag.

So It Is

The teenagers liked to hang out in the entrance to the supermarket and he had often seen them there. Today, though was the first time he had approached them. His old wrist watch said it was half past eleven, but there was a steady stream of people still because it was a Saturday night and this supermarket had twenty-four seven opening hours. Coming out with a light plastic shopping bag dangling from his left hand and his other hand in his deep coat pocket fingering the edges of the business cards inside there, he went up to the group of ten mixed girls and boys.

‘Any of you need a place to stay?’ he asked in his croaky, old man voice, interrupting their boisterous conversations, ‘I’ve a boarding house, not far from here. Got nice bedrooms, hot water, food, drink, whatever you want,’ he said and handed the business cards out.

The chatter died down as a few hands reached out to take them and then whispering broke out, as they studied the cards and questioned what to do.

‘Come whenever you want,’ he added before turning away and leaving.

He went home, taking the fastest route and hurrying against the howling wind and stinging rain. Arriving, he unlocked the door and left it that way. He put the light on in the hallway and the one in the living room, before taking off his coat and boots. He took the bag into the kitchen and spilled out the contents on to the old butcher’s kitchen table. There was a packet of biscuits, a small carton of milk and a loaf of bread. He put these away and went to sit in the living room, watching TV and getting warm again.

The doorbell ring an hour or so later, starting him out of a doze. Getting up, he answered it and found two teenage girls and a boy on his doorsteps, each clutching his cards, looking wet and frozen.

‘Come in, come in,’ he said brightly and stepped aside from them, ‘take your coats and shoes off there, please,’ he asked and they did so, ‘come into the living room and get warm.’

He headed back in and sat on the sofa. Nervously, they come into the room and glanced around with worried, darting eyes.

‘Please, make yourself at home. Perhaps, I should go and make some tea?’

Without waiting, he got up and went into the kitchen. He left the doors open so he could hear them talking, but if they ever said a word he didn’t hear it. When the tea was made, he came back in with it and a plate of biscuits. He had to encourage them to eat and drink. After they had done so, they seemed a bit more relaxed and he suggested showing them around his house.

The tour didn’t take long and he invited them to choose their own bedrooms and get some rest. He went back downstairs, watched some more TV and listened for their movements to become still. Then he went into his own bedroom, which was next to the living room, due to his bad knees and back he claimed, and from a locked bottom draw took out a rag and a bottle half-full of clear liquid.

Slowly, he went up the stairs with these items and gently opened the door to all the bedrooms of which there was six. He found that the girls had decided to share a double bed in room one and the boy had taken the other double bed in room six. It couldn’t have worked out better for him!

Going into the girls’ room, he unscrewed the cap on the bottle, held the rag to it and so wet it. Then he pressed it to each girl’s sleeping face for a good few minutes. Screwing the lid back on, he left the bottle and rag on the bedside table and throwing back the duvet, slapped the first girl in the face. She didn’t even stir. Smiling, he scooped her up out the bed, no longer the frail old man he was pretending to be, and carried her out of the room. He took her downstairs, along the hallway, into the kitchen and then in the cellar.

He placed her inside one of the special holding cages he had made and went back for the other girl. She turned out to be heavier, but he still managed to carry her and put her in the other cell next to her friend. A part of him wished he didn’t have to take them both, but things had been so slow lately. He went back into the kitchen, collected a bin back and carefully placed all the things they had left in the bedroom and hallway inside, also he remembered to pick up the bottle and rag. He placed them inside the cellar too, before turning off the light and locking the door.

He went to bed and in the morning, lied to the young man about the girls and showed him the front door. Laughing, he went down into the cellar and found the girls staring up at him with tear stained faces.

Break

She wanted me to break it, but I just couldn’t bring myself to swing the hammer. In my mind, I could see the mirror shattering and glass spilling forth. The carpet would sparkle with piercing shards and the wooden frame would stand empty, like a gaping eye socket looking blindly upon the room.

‘Go on, Conner, do it!’ Annabel shouted from behind me and for a few seconds I saw her reflected alongside me. She laughed, the sound of a breaking vase mingled with her.

My tight grip loosened on the handle and the hammer fell to my side. My reflection copied me and turned away as I did so. She was dancing around, her movements ungraceful, and singing out of tune with the 12 Stones song that pounded from the tiny speaker system. Under her feet porcelain, glass and wood cracked. She kicked away a sofa cushion and spun around almost tripping on a snapped shelf half. She looked like a demented pixie, high on something that had taken control of her body.

‘Endless days are haunting me!’ she screamed, ‘Open eyes and I can’t sleep. I need this now to rescue me!’

Annabel dropped her hands, they tangled in the black lacy trim of her mini skirted dress. I released the hammer and stumbled over to her as she started to fall. I grabbed her, but she slipped from my arms and landed on the floor. Laughing, she sprawled out. I stared at her feeling numb with shock. Her coal tights were ripped in multiple places, her red platform shoes were sprinkled with detritus, whilst her Goth dress, which happened to be one of my favourites because it was black and patterned with red flocked skulls, vines and roses, had a covering of grey dust and white paint flacks.

She sat up, put her arms back so she could rest on them and crossed her legs. Her chest was heaving with laughter and deep breathing. I became transfixed by the moving tops of her breasts. She blew a dishevelled curl of her dark red hair away then turned to me.

‘Lay here,’ Annabel said silky, whilst patting a spot next to her.

I shook my head and instead looked around the room. It had become unrecognizable due to the destruction we had caused, but I could still remember how it had looked before the house had been left in the state we had found it when we’d broken in.

‘Do you think your grandparents would have wanted this?’ I asked her, waving my hand about the room and trying to encourage her to come back to some sense.

Annabel shrugged and in a definite voice spoke back, ‘who cares? They are dead and my aunt wants to rip this place apart and sell it. None of it matters any more, Conner.’

‘Still, that doesn’t justify what we’ve just done!’

‘Why should I justify what my aunt’s doing? Isn’t this the same thing?’ she yelled and struggled up from the floor. Her palm caught on something and a red line streaked across her skin. Moaning, she inspected her hand, but it was only a scratch.

‘No, it’s not,’ I said in a low voice, though because of the loud music and her distraction she didn’t hear me.

She went to the mirror and picked up the hammer. Heaving it in both hands, she threw it and was rewarded by the smashing glass.

‘Yeah!’ she cried out, jumping up down with her fists in the air.

Fragments of glass lay at her feet, reflecting the ceiling above and flashes of her. The rest of the glass still clung to the frame, shaking and rattling together as if in fright. Annabel’s shoes stomped on a large portion, which sent a spider’s cobweb of lines across the surface. I grabbed her arms, pinning them and ending her bouncing.

‘Stop! Stop!’ I shouted and shook her.

I felt her body tense and gear up. She spit on my face and twisted out of my hands.

‘You are just like them! Get out! I don’t want to ever see you again!’

I wiped my face and stared at her. Annabel was physically shaking with grieve and anger. Her finger was pointing at the door which led out into the hallway and the front door. Her hair fell in madness around her and there was hate in her eyes.

‘Fine,’ I replied, ‘I didn’t want to be your boyfriend anyway. I just did it out of pity and because everyone said you were good in bed.’

I went towards the door, debris crunching under my boots and then something heavy struck across my back. I paused, dizziness and sickness suddenly hitting me. I tried to turn to see what it was, but instead my body bent over and I gasped for breath. I felt the air whoosh cold around me and something collided into me again. I sank to my knees, the floor rose to meet me, blackness bloomed in my vision and I faded out.

Once

 

Lennox wrapped his arms around Devan and went to kiss her. She turned away quickly and his lips brushed against hair instead of her mouth. He wanted to shake her, to demand she allow the kiss. Instead, he tried to remain in control and pressed his head against her’s. Devan felt stiff and cold against him, so he began rubbing her arms and shoulders. She resisted the will to act and continued to stare out of the window.

Darkness and glimpses of old brick wall filled Devan’s vision as the train pulled away from the station. Vibrations shot up around them and it caused the carriages to jostle about. The high pitched squeal of rusty metal on metal shocked the air before mixing with the rest of the train noises and echoes. Lennox pressed a hand against the safety guard to help steady them, but Devan seemed unaware of this.

He tried to kiss her again, but found only air. Devan had repositioned herself in the window and was concentrating so hard on the outside view as if she was expecting something to happen. Lennox could only wrap his arms around her again and try to keep them both up right. The urge to yell at her was growling in the back of his throat. Instead he placed his head again next to her’s and allowed his brown hair to mix with her lighter shade.

A voice rang out further down the carriageway, the words unhearable, until it came closer, ‘tickets please!’ Footsteps followed alongside the rustling of clothes. Other voices waved in and out beside shuffling and grating sounds. Money and tickets changed hands, then people settled back into their own blissful unawareness of each other.

Standing in the doorway and the joint of the carriages, Lennox could see the ticket man and some of the other passengers. He drew the tickets out as the man approached, who was still calling out his request. As he held out the tickets, Lennox gave Devan’s turning head a kiss. She paused, stunned, then fixed her large damp eyes on the man before them. He was wearing the classic train conductor’s uniform and seemed uninterested in anything but the tickets. He hole punched them and handed them back to Lennox.

Devan bit her bottom lip and almost cried out to the man’s retreating back. She felt Lennox’s hands on her cheeks, forcing her head up. She wanted to fight him, to shove him away and run after the conductor, begging him to stop the train and let her off. The pressure on her cheeks grew painful and her eyes turned back to Lennox’s. For a second she could see the anger in his dark blue eyes. Then it was gone and the softness she had once been in love with returned.

Their lips meet as Lennox dropped his head and she failed to stop him. The kiss felt pleasant and sent a tingle through her. His lips were soft and gentle against her’s. His fingers swept into her hair, keeping her head still and letting the kiss deepen. Devan felt like she could melt against his lips. Pressing hard, she felt his tongue nudging at the corner of her mouth. A surge of desire rose between her legs and she opened her mouth to let him in.

At once, her hands were wrapped around his shoulders, her hands pressed to the sides of his head and her fingers pushing into his hair. She felt her back bang against the safety guard and her legs parting as Lennox eased his knee between them. They tongues twisted around each other’s, over lapping and greedily rubbing against, in a dancing search for more. She felt Lennox repositioning his hands. His right became a buffer against her head and the panel, whilst the left slid down her side and came to rest on her hip.

Devan moaned into his mouth, as the kiss started to come down. Lennox flicked his tongue against her’s and gently pulled out. As their lips parted, he caught her’s twice more in quick kisses. She let her hands rest on his shoulders and put her head back, capturing his right hand in place. She wished they were somewhere private so that they could carry on, at least that way they wouldn’t have to talk. Or else if they did, she wouldn’t have to reply. Instead, the words she had been holding back for so long tumbled out of her wet mouth, ‘I don’t want to go.’

‘It’ll be okay. I promised, didn’t I?’ Lennox replied in a low voice. He brought his hand up that had been on her hip and stroked her cheek.

Devan sobbed and a shudder, which wasn’t caused by the train’s motion, went through her. She willed herself not to cry and tried to concentrate on Lennox’s brushing fingers and the damp patch in-between her thighs. It was too late and she knew it. The opportunity to escape had eluded her again. The idea that she was trapped forever filled her thoughts. She gave into the tears, letting them gush over her cheeks. She buried her head in his shoulder. Wanting him and hating him at the same time.

Lennox pulled her into a tight hug. He rubbed her back and hair, whilst whispering calming words. He could feel her shaking under him and strongly grabbing him. He planted kisses along her exposed neck, seeking to comfort her in any way possible. Though, a part of him was growing angry. A voice in his head snarled at her to shut up. Why was she making a scene? Did she think acting like this was going to force him to give in?

Letting her go, he yanked her head up towards his. She gasped and grabbed at his hands, her fingernails trying to find a way between his skin and her’s. Staring into her eyes, he pressed the back of her head against the panel. He gritted his teeth together and only let his lips peel back enough to hiss the words, ‘stop crying.’

Devan swallowed and tried to stop her panting breath and tears. However, they still crowded her eyes and streamed down her face. She removed her hands, dropping them behind her and against the cold metal part of the safety guard. A coil of fear twisted inside of her. The thought that they were in public and he couldn’t do anything played at the edge of her mind. However, she knew that wasn’t true and he was more than capable of striking out and hiding it from questioning eyes.

‘Stop,’ he demanded.

She sniffed, then held her breath. The pain of his fingers in her face tried to get more out of her. His eyes were also daring her to carry on or up it a notch. She took a few deep breaths and threw all the emotions away. She imagined become frozen and nothing getting through to her. Badly, she wanted to rip his hands off and scream for help. She would beg to be taken away from him and returned back home. How many times had she wanted to do that though and then suddenly caught herself?

Lennox’s fingers started to slip from her. Silently, he was fighting himself. He understood it was wrong, but he just wanted her. He knew that once she had wanted him just as badly too, but now it seemed like she was fighting against him. He had urges to control that and stop her from walking away. Didn’t she understand what would happen to his world if she did that? He didn’t know what he’d do with himself, he only knew that he had to stop it coming to that and that meant he couldn’t let her go.

‘I want to sit down,’ Devan muttered as she wiped her face.

He nodded and took her to the empty seats which they had stood behind. She stepped to the far one and sank down against the rough seat cover. She rested her head against the frame of the train and tried to stop sniffing. Lennox had sit down after her, his eyes darting around the other passengers, but they hadn’t noticed the outburst. He settled into the seat, brushed his hair back and then watched her closely.

Devan wiped her face again, this time using the sleeves of her coat. She then shut her eyes and tried to normalise her breathing. Unexpectedly, she felt Lennox’s fingers touch her wrist. Warmth spread over her skin and before she could stop, her eyes had opened and gone straight to his. She read the sadness and apologetic look instantly. She sniffed and felt hot tears building up.

With his other hand he reached up, put it on her cheek and pulled her head down to his. Placing their foreheads together, he kissed the tip of her nose and whispered, ‘I love you…I’m sorry…’ before kissing her lips. He tasted the salt from her tears and hated himself even more. Easing off he give her space to say something, but she didn’t speak. Instead, she put her head to his chest, draped her arms around him and shut her eyes once more.

Death of a Butterfly

Purple Butterflies - butterflies Wallpaper

I enter the cemetery holding the jar tightly to my chest. The large gate swings shut as I slowly walk up the path. Bring my protecting wards around, I mutter Latin words under my breath. The cemetery is quiet, but that doesn’t mean it’s empty, the Dead are always here.

Stepping off the path, I feel the loss of its security. The grass wet with morning dew, soaks through my trainers. I weave through the rows of headstones, listening to the birds singing in the weeping trees and trying to ignore the almost faded voices calling out to me.

At a row of new graves, I find a white headstone with his name on it. His plain stone seems lost in a sea of bigger ones which are adorned with flowers and ornaments. I balance the jar on top of the grave and slowly unscrew the lid. I’ve come here to show him the results of his teaching. I speak to him softly in my head, telling him the things we all say to the departed and I let my heart whisper what I cannot say. I set the jar down and watch the small, dark purple butterflies flutter out for their first flight.   Watching them disappear, I recall the first time we meet.

*

I walked through the woods, listening to the soft movements of nature on the ground and the trees. It was early spring and the air was shaking with an eagerness to burst into life. I stepped into a field and saw him kneeing by a bench, chasing something with his fingers. Seeing him alone, I crossed the field and went to sit on the other side of the bench.

He looked up at me and I saw the faded outline of a bruise on his cheek. His face was puzzled and there was a slight fear in the corners of his eyes. He couldn’t have been much older than myself, thirteen and on the cusp of teenage-hood.

‘Hi, what do you have there?’ I asked, nodding my head at his cupped hands.

‘You wouldn’t like it,’ he mumbled.

‘How do you know?’

Slowly, he opened his hands and I saw a spider resting in his palm.

‘Aren’t you scared?’ he inquired after a few seconds, ‘I thought all girls were scared of spiders.’

‘Well, not me,’ I replied.

He set the spider free and we watched it crawl under the bench.

‘I’m Becky,’ I told him.

‘Louie,’ he answered.

‘What do you have there?’ I pointed to the two jars at his feet.

He looked down as if they had just appeared beside him almost the rubbish. The jars were the same size and had paper lids punctured with holes.

‘A frog,’ he said slowly, picking up the first jar and letting me see the small brown frog floating in some dirty water.

‘What’re you going to do with him?’ I probed.

‘Take him home and put him in a tank.’

‘Why?’

He shrugged, ‘I like watching them…..My granddad taught me…..’

I frowned and put my defences up. I had a feeling Louis’s granddad was no longer here and I wasn’t in the mood to be haunted by restless spirits wanting to pass messages on.

‘He was a bug collector and he liked studying them. He built a special room in the attic.’

‘Well….that’s nice….I should get home,’ I said quickly and jumped off the bench.

‘Me too,’ he breathed.

‘Bye then.’

I smiled and walked away before the pressure of ghost voices broke through. As I headed for home, I had a strange thought. Louie was unlucky to have lost his granddad as he’d been protecting him.

*

Over that summer, Louie and I found a strange friendship in each other. He, like me, was an outcast, someone the other children thought too weird. So, we found delight and security in each other’s company and Louie taught me about his world.

He was sat by the small pond with a homemade fishing rod and a large hat on his head.

‘Hi, Louie,’ I called and ran to his side, ‘have you caught anything?’

He turned his head away and didn’t reply.

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked, kneeling down beside him.

‘Nothing. Go away.’

I sat back and watched the water ripple in the middle of the pond. He started sniffing. I glanced and saw his face. There was another large purple and yellow bruise under his right eye and across his cheek.

‘What happened to your face?’ I gasped, ‘Did you fall down the stairs again?’

‘Yes….do you want to see my fish now?’

From a small wicker basket beside him, he drew out a large jar, which was half filled with water and had small stones and pond weed at the bottom.

‘He’s a tiddler,’ Louie said proudly, holding the jar up to the light.

I saw a small fish darting around inside, the sun just bouncing off his scales.

‘He’s very nice, but Louie you have to start being more careful!’

Louie placed the jar back, ‘I’ll try,’ he sighed as he reeled in his line, where a dead worm dangled at the end of a small hook.

‘Do you want to come to my house?’ he said swiftly, ‘I can show you my collection!’

I pulled a face….houses were worse than people. All that energy absorbed over time meant that voices and images come more clearly into my mind.

‘It’s all right my dad won’t be there,’ Louie concluded. He stood up, smiling and holding his hand out to me.

‘Well…just for a little while,’ I resorted and took his hand…..

Big mistake! I saw a flash of white light and images poured into me, speeding by as if someone had hit the fast forward button. My head pounded with a migraine and things that shouldn’t have made sense appeared to unravel; laying the future bare of me to see.

I snatched my hand back and Louis stared down into his palm.

‘What was that?’ he muttered.

‘Nothing,’ I cried, ‘so your house then?’

I learned the hard way not to tell people once before. It’s not just ghosts that come to me, sometimes the future will come too. And that future is unchangeable. Sometimes, I hate having a gift that lets the dead whisper to me and shows the future fate via one touch.

He walked down the path, which was hidden in the grass and drew a key from under a statue of a Jack Russell dog. He went up to the house and unlocked the door, I felt goosebumps run across my arms and something seemed to warn me against entering.

‘Do you want to come in?’ Louie called, when I didn’t follow.

‘I….’

‘Its’ okay, no one’s here.’

‘Okay, but I have to go home soon.’

I stepped into the tight hallway and he shut the door. There was a room to my left and then a flight of stairs. The hallway was empty, the wallpaper faded and peeling at the top.

‘Follow me,’ he said.

We went upstairs and I threw my protective energy field out in preparation for any arriving ghosts. At the top, Louie turned and went to the farthest door. He opened it and turned on the light. The room was painted a sickly green colour and there was a low bed with a cupboard next to it, a scattering of toys and a scruffy teddy bear sit on the floor.

‘Is this your room?’ I whispered, stepping in behind him.

‘Yes, but I…..don’t really use it. This is my room,’ he said, nodding towards a door he had just opened in the joining wall.

I looked up the steps, but couldn’t see where they led to. He went up and I followed him.

‘Oh, it’s an attic!’ I cried, reaching the last step.

‘My granddad made it. Remember?’ he said, switching on the light.

I stepped into the small room and saw that there was a range of tables and shelves. Two covered windows let in thin trickles of light and dust was dancing close by them.

I felt a shiver run up my spine as I looked up at the shelves and saw a range of dead bugs in glass boxes. On the largest of desks was Louie collection. There were two large tanks and some large jars. I went closer as he drew the jar, which contained the baby fish he had caught, out of the basket.

‘This is my fish tank,’ he said pointing to a tank filled with light grey water. ‘The frog is in there.’

The frog who was sitting on a rock jutting out from the water, give a croak and jumped down with a large plodding noise. Louie giggled and taking the lid off the jar, he lowered it into the water and set the fish free into the tank. We stood and watched the fish swim around in circles.

‘I should go,’ I said softly.

He nodded, ‘Alright, but you have to come again.’

*

  The last time I met the bug boy it was late autumn. Winter was trailing his icy fingers across the air, making his presence felt on still warm skin from the long summer. I knew I had to be there in the woods that day….

It was raining and he was sheltering under some trees. I hurried over to join him, but he moved away when he saw me coming and I paused just under the branches.

‘What happened to your arm?’ I questioned.

He frowned and half raised his arm that was in a sling tied around his neck.

‘Nothing….’

‘And your face! There’s more bruises!’

‘I…fell over… on the street,’ he answered.

‘Really?’ I scowled.

He nodded.

‘Louie….’

‘You’re not going to tell are you, Becky? Oh, please don’t!’

‘But, someone has to do something!’

He shook his head and sniffed, ‘It’ll only cause more trouble….look….I caught a butterfly.’

He lifted up a jar and inside there was a large white butterfly, its wings were tapping against the glass.

‘Oh…’

‘I…have to go now….’ he said and dived out from under the trees.

It happened that night. I woke up with a sudden sense that something was wrong. I immediately thought about Louie and dressed quickly in the pressing darkness. I didn’t think about it as I left and walked to Louie’s……I just knew that I had to go there.

The rain started falling as I reached the house. I listened on the doorstep, but I didn’t hear anything and none of the lights were on. I took the hidden key and let myself in. I knew where he would be; in the attic amongst the smashed bug display boxes. I crept up there, the attic light was on and his small body was crumbled across the floor.

My face became a wash with tears and I went to kneel down beside him. I picked up his cold hand and held it tightly .