Trust (Part 17)

Leaving the sea to their left, they began the long walk back across farmland and difficult fences. Fern held Dacian’s hand for most of the way and avoid looking at him. Her thoughts kept circling back to the same thing, I’m betraying Brook. It’s his own fault for leaving me though! Anything could’ve happened…

‘Thanks for…helping me back there,’ Fern said, breaking their ten minute silence.

‘It was nothing,’ Dacian replied, ‘just try to find better cover next time. I know that’s hard, but you really exposed yourself.’

Fern glanced at the muddy ground before looking back at him, ‘You killed the fisherman didn’t you?’

‘I had to. You hadn’t mesmerised or charmed him, so he would have remembered everything when he came too. Perhaps not all the details, but enough. You have to protect yourself.’

‘That’s how he tricked that boy…’ Fern thought aloud.

‘What?’ Dacian questioned.

‘The night we met…I fed off a boy that Brook found in the arcade. I thought he just wanted to touch…Well, I just believed Brook had talked him into it.’

‘I doubt it. He was most likely charmed. Really, you shouldn’t have done that either.’

‘I knew it was wrong,’ Fern gushed, ‘I’m sorry. Was he okay?’

‘Yeah, just. I looked after him then took him and his older brother home.’

‘I won’t do it again.’

There was a pause then Dacian asked, ‘Didn’t your Maker teach you how to charm?’

‘Well…’ Fern trailed off and paused in the middle of an empty sheep field.

Dacian came to a stop too and looked at her, his fingers loosing on her hand.

‘I’ve only been a vampire four days. We practised fighting though,’ she added on as she saw the look appearing on Dacian’s face.

Letting go of her hand, he brought his arms up and buried his fingers in his long black hair. Dacian sighed deeply in exasperation then pressed his hands to his face. He stood statue still as if had become a scarecrow in the field.

Fern nervously took a step back and glanced quickly around. She couldn’t see much as the darkness was really pressing down on the field, but she could hear the sea and birds calling. She tapped Dacian lightly on the arm and whispered his name.

He dropped his hands and grabbed her’s. He fixed a smile on his face and said calmly, ‘I really should get you home then.’

Fern nodded and let him take the led as they set off walking again.  Her thoughts wiggled with questions, but she decided not to voice them as Dacian seemed very displeased. Instead, she listened to the sounds of their shoes and rustle of their clothes. Soon a new fence came into view and Dacian helped her over it.

With her feet firmly in the new field, Fern turned to him and said, ‘I’m getting use to this now.’

Dacian shook his head quickly, but didn’t say anything.

Feeling oddly embarrassed, Fern turned away and the eyed the new field. It was covered by tall green plants though she couldn’t guess if it was corn or wheat.

‘Are you tried of walking yet?’ Dacian cut in with a hint of laughter to his words.

‘I guess,’ Fern muttered.

‘Here. Get on my back.’

She frowned as Dacian crouched down before her.

‘Why?’

He laughed, ‘trust me, Fern. It’ll be easier and faster this way.’

She opened her mouth to recall what Brook had said about her being too heavy, but changed her mind at the last second. Fern put her arms around Dacian’s neck and jumped onto his back. She felt him catching her legs and moving her further up, before standing. She nipped at her lip as feelings swamped her but then Dacian broke into a run and all her thoughts and feelings were swept away.

Fern felt the wind roaring passed her face, arms and legs. For a few seconds, she thought that a tornado had appeared and was whipping them away. Fighting away tears, she looked out and saw that she was still on Dacian’s back and it was definitely him racing the air. She pressed her head back to his shoulder and shut her eyes again. She snatched deep breaths which tasted like salt and soil, whilst she tried to stay calm.

It was only when Dacian began to slow down that she risked looking up again. Peering over his shoulder, she watched a patch of trees and a tall, green, window filled building developing ahead of them. She shifted upwards and looked over his head as she recognised the building. She felt Dacian moving his hands down her legs and grabbing firmer on her bare ankles. His fingers were warm and soft. Fern put her face into his hair and breathed in deeply.

Dacian came to a stop of the woodland edge and knelt down in the mud. He let go of Fern’s ankles and tugged at her tight arms around his neck. It took him a few seconds to convince her to let go and stand up. Getting up himself, he wiped off his jeans and turned to check on her.

Fern shot him a wobble smile, before looking up at the apartment block. She could see no lights in the windows and as she sniffed the air no fresh scent of Brook. Tucking her hair back, she turned to Dacian, who had followed her gaze.

‘This is the place. Are you okay?’ Fern asked.

Dacian nodded, he didn’t even seem out of breath or tried.

‘I don’t think Brook is here,’ she added.

‘Are you all right?’ Dacian spoke, his eyes studying her.

‘Yeah. Just tried and in need of a shower. I’m going to go. Thanks.’

‘You’re welcome. I’ll see you to the door then be off.’

Fern paused, but let him trail behind her as she began walking. Once again, she found it difficult to navigate the woodland ground and grew worried that Dacian would say something about it. However, he didn’t open his mouth till they had reached the front door. Fern walked straight up, aware he had stopped on the path behind her.

‘Did he give you a key?’

Fern stopped at his voice, her arm about to reach out of the door handle. She turned back at him and pulled a face in response, realising he had a point. Still though, she tried the door. It was locked. Sighing, she pressed her head against it and felt the cold glass easing the pain in her temples.

‘Move,’ Dacian growled and pulled at her shoulder.

Fern swung out of the way and put her back to the other door. She watched as Dacian pressed his hand to the lock then pushed up the door. She scrambled up and followed him inside.

‘How did you do that?’

‘It’s a simple trick,’ he replied, ‘I just willed the lock to open.’

Dacian hit the button for the elevator. The doors opened gently and they both got in. Fern hit the number six button, the doors closed and they went up. Fern lent against the green walls and spied on Dacian. He was leaning against the other wall, looking bored. He had put his hands into the pockets of his dirty jeans and rested his left foot on top of his right one.

The elevator came to a stop and the doors opened to reveal the corridor lined with the fake tropical plants and ending with the glass emergency exit door. Fern got out and led the way to the apartment’s door.

‘He didn’t give you a key for this either?’ Dacian asked coldly.

Fern didn’t reply, but watched as he unlocked and pushed the door open. He let her step inside and Fern hurriedly put the lights on above the short hallway and the living/dining room/ kitchen combo. Coming back to the door, she held it open and looked at Dacian as she debated what to say.

‘I should go,’ he said with a flick of his hair.

‘Wouldn’t you like to stay to meet Brook?’ Fern asked quickly.

‘Best I don’t. He wouldn’t want to hear what I’ve got to say.’

‘But, I want too!’

Dacian pursed his lips and eyed her inquisitively. He put his hands on either side of the door frame and his feet rocked on the edge.

Fern urgently thought of something else to say, ‘I don’t want to be alone. Please,’ she blurted.

‘All right. But I’m leaving before he gets back and if he doesn’t then before the dawn.’

Smiling, Fern let him in whilst praying her thanks.

Trust (Part 16)

Fern scuttled backwards, her bum scraping the floor and her hands doing most of the work. Panic welled inside her like a spring and everything was yelling at her to run. Her breathing and heartbeat echoed in her ears and the smell of blood soaked into everything. He was coming towards her with slow steps, his hands out patting the air in a calming motion. She felt a scream bubble into her throat, but he was upon her well before she could let it out.

He scooped her off the floor, like a baby animal and pulled her around the corner of the warehouse. Fern’s back hit cold salt worn bricks and she felt his hand press against her mouth. Her ears twitched at the sound of voices and she glanced to the side but couldn’t see anything. Her eyes shot back to the electric blue ones before her and the well sculpted face.

‘I’m not going to harm you, Fern,’ Dacian whispered, ‘what you did just then was very foolish. Where’s your maker?’

He dropped his hand from her mouth and Fern flexed her jaw before answering, ‘how do you know my name?’

Dacian shrugged, ‘I read your mind.’

‘Brook said we couldn’t…’

‘Where is he?’ Dacian cut in.

Fern shook her head and looked down. She noticed Dacian had the same clothes on as she had last since him in; a blue t-shirt advertising the promenade’s crazy golf course , torn stone washed faded jeans and scruffy grey trainers.

‘Did he abandon you?’ Dacian asked with a loud lick of his lips.

Fern shot him a look and punched him with both fists in the chest. It felt like she’d just punched a wall as her knuckles began stinging and her hands cramped up. She heard Dacian’s soft chucking and studied his face.

‘I’ll take that as a no and it doesn’t look like you’re running away,’ Dacian put in.

‘How do you know?’ Fern spit then stopped herself from speaking more questions.

‘You don’t have anything with you nor do you look emotional unstable,’ Dacian answered casually.

He moved and lent on the wall next to her. Fern noticed him hook his fingers into the empty belt loops of his jeans. He was taller than Brook and older too. A small smile lit up her face and a few seconds she forgot about everything else. She angled her body closer to his and discreetly tried to clean her face.

‘You still haven’t answered my question,’ Dacian said after a few moments.

‘We got separated,’ Fern responded, ‘crossing some farmland and fences.’

Dacian nodded.

‘I’m kinda lost to be honest. The smell of blood drew me here,’ she added.

Fern heard him take a deep breath and saw a flash of mystification followed by anger cross his face. Fern turned away and rubbed at her cheeks. She heard the sound of the sea, boats and bells, but no longer voices. She listened harder and caught a few snatches of distant words and car engine.

‘We should go,’ Dacian said and pushed himself off the wall.

‘Will you take me home?’ Fern asked in small voice.

‘Sure….Whereabouts is it?’

‘It’s the large green block of apartments next to this village,’ she whispered.

‘Oh, that place. Fine,’ he answered and began walking away.

‘First though, can you take me to the beach?’ she called after him.

‘No problem.’

Fern rushed up to him and grabbed his arm in both her hands, ‘thanks.’

A little laugh escaped from Dacian and as Fern removed her hands, he took hold of one and led her out of the yard. Fern walked beside him, feeling happier then she had in days. As they left the dock behind them, fresh air brought cleaner scents and the hint of rain. Fern filled her lungs a good number of times and felt better for it. She felt Dacian swinging her hand slightly, but dared not to look up at him. Instead, she focused on the changing scene around them, as they moved from the docks and harbours and towards cliff faces and grassland.

‘Is it much further?’ Fern asked after they had been walking for about twenty minutes.

‘Not much,’ Dacian answered, ‘you can see the sea wall over there.’

Fern looked ahead and could make out the wall in the distance. They walked over and once there, she looked down into the night time waters and watched the waves lapping against the rocks.

‘The tide’s in,’ Dacian pointed out, ‘sorry.’

‘It’s not your fault,’ Fern sighed and relaxed against the wall.

‘Did you live by the ocean?’

‘No. I’ve lived in a city all my life. Manchester if you must know,’ she added.

‘But you enjoy water,’ Dacian seemed to say to himself.

Fern looked shyly up at him, ‘yes, I do.’

Dacian put his arms across the top of the wall and stooped down to her height. Fern watched his back arching unable to help herself.

‘I’ve lived here all my life,’ he said, ‘well, in different areas. But I really like it here.’

Fern nodded, ‘I’m starting to like it here too.’

‘And what about your maker? Brook was it?’

‘I don’t know, I guess he does…don’t you know him?’

Dacian frowned a little and looked out over the sea, ‘No.’

Fern hugged herself and went silent. Though the chill off the sea and the cool breeze weren’t really affecting her, the sudden icy feeling coming off Dacian was. She looked around, wondering where Brook was. She couldn’t see very much, just a couple of houses further down and some streetlights.

‘I should go home now,’ Fern whispered.

‘Of course. I’ll take you there,’ Dacian murmured.

Trust (Part 15)

As they left the apartment, Fern thought about telling Brook about the man she had sensed. However, when she turned around she saw he had pulled the hood of his hoodie up and put his hands into the single deep pocket. He had all ready started walking too, heading around the back of the apartment block. Fern followed in silence.

The side and back of the complex was very much like the front with short grass lawns boarded by trees and low bushes. Fern paused when they were a quarter of the way across the back lawn and looked around. In the distance straight ahead, she could just make out a dirt clearing which was the outline for what would have been another block of apartments. Between them in the grass she could make out two white stringed and wooden pegged rectangles.

‘What are they for?’ she asked Brook’s retreating back.

Fern saw him cast a look over to where she was pointing before replying, ‘outlines for a swimming pool and tennis court.’

‘Oh. Okay,’ she muttered thoughtfully.

‘It was going to be a holiday venue, remember?’ Brook shot over his shoulder.

Fern nodded and hurried to catch up with him. She fell into step behind him and tried to figure out where they were heading too. They reached the edge of the lawn and Brook stepped off into the woodland area which as Fern saw seemed to circle the area. The trees overhead blocked out the rest of the light from the sky and created monstrous shadows onto the ground.

Brook moved with surprising stealth but Fern failed to match his steps. She found herself tripping over roots and small plants. Low twigs snatched at her hair and scrapped her clothes. She stopped and gathered herself, taking in deep breaths of the damp, earthy, tree sap aroma that hung in the air. When she set off, she moved slowly and took the time to take in everything around her.

Stepping out from under the last tree, she saw a narrow line of mud running parallel to a low barbed wired fence. Beyond which was a farmer’s fields. Fern walked over to the fence and looked for Brook. It took her a good few minutes to pick him out across the field. She looked down and wondered how he had gotten over.

Thinking that there must be a stile or something close by, she walked for a few minutes in one direction then came back and tried the other. The fence was continuous. Frowning and feeling worried, she tried to pick Brook’s figure out of the darkness again, but she could no longer see him.

‘Brook?’ she called in small voice.

Cleaning her throat she tried again then waited for his response.

Nothing but a gentle breeze answered.

Pulling a face, she looked at the barbed wire and found that were large enough gaps between the twist metal knots for her to place her hands in. Gritting her teeth, she did just that then carefully placed her feet on the bottom wire. The whole thing shook under her weight, but it did hold her. She stepped up again, trying to keep her balance. She swung her leg over and moved her hands at the same time.

Laughing, she climbed over the fence and began walking across the empty field. When she reached the other side and another fence, she had thought Brook would be waiting for her. He was nowhere in sight. Panic filled her empty stomach and Fern turned around madly as she shouted his name over and over again.

She grabbed the fence and felt the bite of sharp metal in her palms. Springing back, she stumbled and fell to the ground. Shaking and crying, Fern licked at her left palm and tasted the warmth of her blood. She wrapped her lips to the punctures and sucked. Blood filled her mouth and she hummed happily. Before she knew it, she had done the same with her right hand and both wounds had healed over.

Fern got up, wiped the dirt from her jeans and tried to figure out which way to go. She climbed over the fence, feeling her senses heighted. Her nose picked up the scent of blood and she let that be her guide. She crossed the rest of the farmer’s fields and found herself on a single road. Following that lead her to more farmland, but the growing scent of blood called still. She walked on, losing all other thoughts and senses, only paying attention to the sweet, salty tang that wafted on the breeze.

Somehow and she had no idea how she had gotten there, Fern found herself entering a fishing yard. Slipping through the gate, she stood and listened to gentle sea waves lapping against the dock walls and boats. Mixed in were male voices, faint music from a radio and the chiming of bells. The air was heavy with fish, death and salt. Staying against the gate, Fern sniffed and tried to pick up the trail of blood.

It had gotten so faint, she realised that she could hardly detect it. She went to the side of one of the small warehouses and peered in. Shadows of two fisherman moving crates were displayed on the wall. Fern listened for a few moments then moved on, she circled around the other warehouses till at the last one, she picked up the blood again.

Aware that there men inside, she stepped in and moved along the wall. Right at the back was an office like room and inside three men were talking, one of whom had a bandaged up hand. Fern sighed and licked her lips. She felt the urge to dive right in and sink her teeth into the man. Her other instincts held her back and knowing the man would leave soon, she walked out of the warehouse and found some shadows close by to hide in.

Luckily, he was the first to come out and he was alone. Without even thinking about it, Fern begin to make childlike sobbing sounds. The man turned, his attention caught. Fern still crying stepped further back along the warehouse, covering herself in more shadows. She saw the man walking over and looking around.

‘Hello? Is anyone there?’ his rough voice called out.

Fern let out a louder longer sob.

‘Hello? It’s okay. Come out. I won’t hurt you…’

He moved closer, the shadows swallowing him as he approached Fern, who had gone silent. When he was close enough, she reached out her arms and dragged him into a hug. He tried to scream and fight her off, but Fern suffocated his face in her shoulder and buried her teeth into his neck. She sliced through salty damp skin and hot delicious blood filled her mouth. She swallowed and greedily began gulping more down.

She felt the man struggling useless against her. His hands were slapping and punching her upper body, his feet kicking out at her legs and his head trying to wiggle out of her shoulder. She could hear his muffled cries alongside his racing heartbeat as well. She bite down harder and sucked faster, fearfully aware that someone was bound to hear them.

Fern’s eyes darted up and looked over the man’s shoulder. She watched for any movements and listened hard for voices but everything remind in the background. She felt the man weakening as his struggle against her seemed to slow down. She however kept going, the blood feeling her making her feel powerful and satisfied. The man slumped in her arms and Fern had to take all of his body weight.

She could hear his heart slowing down too and felt drawn to making it stop. Her instincts spiked and she was suddenly aware of someone coming from behind her. Before she could let the man go, that someone forced themselves between them, tearing them apart. Fern tumbled to the floor, the cold sea air bringing her fully awake. She hit the hard ground and pain jarred through her back. Looking up, blood dripping her chin, Fern fully believed it was Brook standing with the man in his arms, finishing him off.

However, when he dropped the body and turned to face her, Fern saw he clearly wasn’t Brook.

Trust (Part 14)

Fern lay awake and picked out patterns on the ceiling. It was close to sunrise, she could feel the temperature rising and the traffic becoming loudly. The back out blinds with black curtains over them, refused to let any light into the large master bedroom. Her eyes were getting use to things faster and though she still couldn’t see all the way through the darkness, Fern was comfortable enough.

She rolled over and studied the sleeping form of Brook. He looked so much younger and carefree. She had never noticed before, nor she realised had she asked how old he was in both human and vampire age. Maybe that would have been a good question to ask before all of this had happened, she scolded herself.

Shutting her eyes she tried to sleep, but her mind was too awake. Fern took a few deep breaths then began to picture a field full of sheep. Slowly, she added a wooden fence and a gate, thinking about them in great detail. Next, a sheep jumping over that gate and flying towards freedom. She counted eighty sheep before she gave up and got out of the bed.

The floor felt nicely warm under her bare feet and she guessed as she went quietly into the living room that there must be under floor heating. She turned on a lamp and sent the cover of darkness away. She went to the bookcase, twice glancing at the bedroom door on her way. Scanning the shelves, she saw a mixture of fiction and non-fiction books. None of the titles seemed familiar to her, until she saw Dickens’ Great Expectations. She slide it out a little, just so she’d spot it more easily if she had to come back for it. Looking at the other books, she spotted a few more she recognised; Wuthering Heights, The Hound Of The Baskervilles, Little Women and The Secret Garden. The last one, she took it off to the shelf and went over to the long deep sofa next to the lamp.

The book had been read a number of times and was showing its age. Fern opened it and saw a scrawl of handwriting across the back of the front cover. She lent in and whispered the words to herself, ‘For my darling son, Jay, may your magic rekindle. Mother.’ Her eyes darted up to the photo of Brook and the young man as questions circled her mind. She shook them away and pulled a woollen blanket that was draped across the back of the sofa on top of her. Fern turned to the first page and began reading.

When her eyes began to feel heavy and sleep was tugging at her, she closed the book and pressed her head into a cushion. As she slipped into a doze, she thought she stood get up and go to bed. She’d be warmer and safer with Brook. Sleep won the battle through and she dreamed that she was lost in a never ending garden looking for someone or something.

The sound of her name drew her back from the heavy sleep, she felt a hand moving her hair and lips kissing her forehead. She struggled to open her eyes, but was glad when she did because Brook was standing over her. She eased herself up, Brook helping with a hand on her arm.

‘Are you okay?’ he asked.

Fern nodded and wiped the sleep from her eyes and face.

‘I thought…Don’t do that again!’ Brook suddenly snapped, his grab on her arm tightening.

Fern came fully awake and scolded up at him, ‘I’m not a child, let me go.’

Brook let her snatch her arm back, noticing the book on the floor as he did so. He tapped it with his bare toes then picked it up.

‘What do you think had happened?’ Fern cut in.

Brook ignored her and looked at the front cover of The Secret Garden before opening it.

Fern, having wrestled off the blanket stood up and felt a small ache in her back and legs. She went to take the book back, but then decided against it. Her stomach growled and she pressed her hands over it and looked down.

Brook closed the book and moving as quickly as he had lit the candles the previous night, put the book into its place on the shelf then came back again. He glared at Fern, making sure she saw the full anger across his face before he stormed back into the bedroom. The door slammed shut behind him and Fern could feel it vibrating across the floor.

‘What’s wrong with you?’ she shouted, ‘it’s just a book!’

Dragging in a deep breath, she sat on the edge of the sofa then got up and went to the door. Pulling back the curtains and putting up the blinds, she unlocked the door and went out on to the balcony. The cooling sea air wrapped itself around her and the hum of traffic remained her that she wasn’t truly alone. Looking up, she saw a new night sky with the pin pricks of stars just coming through and a crescent moon. She put her arms on the iron rail and lent on it, looking out.

She suddenly realised that she was smelling the air like a hunting dog. Her nose and tongue were full of the salty ocean and beach. She could smell the earth too and the trees, the sour notes of pollutions and warmth of food. Her stomach growled louder and the idea that she was searching for blood dawned on her.

Fern knew it was out there under the rest of the smells. She just couldn’t pick it out. She shut her eyes and put all of her concentration into it. She thought about what people smelled like and tried to direct herself to the nearest person. In a flash she saw something; a man standing by a broken down car. She opened her eyes, rocked back on her feet and almost climbed over the railings.

‘What are you doing?’ Brook’s rough smoker’s voice called out.

Fern turned, guilt colouring her face and stepping down from the railing, ‘just getting some fresh air…’

Brook shot her a look and lit up. He cupped the match and cig together then flicked the match away and stuck the cig in his mouth. He inhaled, small wisps of smoke escaping around him.

Fern turned back and listened to him puff out the smoke before walking over to her.

‘You should get dressed. We’ll have to go out,’ Brook stated.

Fern stopped herself from growling at him and hurried inside before regrettable things spilled from her mouth.

Trust (Part 13)

Fern stood just in front the door, letting her eyes get use to the darkness. She picked up the shape of Brook’s body as his hand scanned across the wall. She heard a small click then lights glowed on above her head. She glanced up at them and saw that she was stood in a short hallway. A row of coat hooks hung from the wall under which was a small shoe rank and beside them a large blue umbrella holder.

The front door swung shut and locked behind her. Fern eyed it over her shoulder then followed Brook into a large living/dining room and kitchen. The walls, floors and furniture were all in neutral colours and looked like a show room with its lack of personal effects. Fern stepped onto the rug in the middle of the living room and watched Brook going over the floor to ceiling windows. With a slight turn of her head, Fern looked out over a family sized table, breakfast bar and small kitchen.

She noticed that four doors led off the wall behind her and guessed they were bedrooms and a bathroom. Fern sniffed and smelt nothing but a faint wave of cleaner liquid, wood vanish and Brook’s earth scent. She turned back and looked at the wall to the left of her. There was a large real fire place, all ready set up with pile of logs. To the left of that was a bookcase which contained, DVDs, CDS and two framed photographs. On the other side of the fire place was a flat screen TV, DVD player and music system.

Aware that Brook had now opened the door and concertinaed the windows together, Fern moved towards the photographs slowly. She glanced at him and watched him step on to the balcony and into the night. She could hear the sea and sigh of cars going by. The tips of her shoes hit the wall and she looked up at the shelf.

The first photo showed Brook and a young man sitting with their arms wrapped around each other and grinning madly. The second photo showed a large family and Fern almost reached out to take down but stopped herself. She looked closely at the image and picked out the same young man next to what had to be his mother and father. The others close to him had to be brothers and sisters, maybe cousins. Then there were two sets of grandparents, aunts and uncles, more cousins and two dogs.

‘Come out here,’ Brook called.

Fern whipped her head around and saw him, leaning back inside. She nodded and hurried to join him outside. A gentle sea breeze hit here, but not feeling it’s chill, she carried on walking out and went to the balcony rail. There she lend over and looked down. She saw the front garden, the rough woodland before it and the village. To her left, highlight in the darkness by streetlamps was the dual carriageway and bridge. To her right was the seaside town, the beach and the sea.

‘Told you then view was better,’ Brook whispered.

He stood behind her and gathered her to a hug. Fern melt in his arms and felt the brush of his lips against her neck. Brook planted small kisses from her shoulder to her jawline. Fern sighed and lent back into him, she shut her eyes and focused on the sensation. When Brook stopped, he brushed her cheek with his nose then kissed her forehead.

‘Still want that shower?’ he asked huskily.

Fern came back from her small daydream and turned her head to look up at him, ‘yes. What about you?’

‘Perhaps,’ Brook slowly replied, ‘I’ll show you were it is.’

He led her back inside the apartment and to the last door. He opened it and easily located the light switch. Spotlights along the ceiling lit up a cream and pale blue bathroom. There was large deep white tub, a separate glass shower, twin sinks and the toilet. Brook walked Fern in then turned, glanced around for something then left.

Fern almost called him back, but a quick look at the towel rack stopped her and she realised what he was doing. She stepped up to the bathtub instead and looked into it, debating if to use or just have a shower. Deciding showering would be easier and faster, she went over to the large glass doors and opened them.

‘Here,’ Brook’s voice called from behind her.

She glanced over her shoulder and watched him place three or four towels over one of the sinks.

‘Thanks. Do you have soap?’

Brook frowned then began rummaging in the under sink cupboard.

Fern started the shower up and let the cold water go hot whilst she took her clothes off. Abandoning her things, she got in and gasped loudly as the warm water rushed over her. In the background she heard Brook asking what was wrong. Forgetting to reply, she stepped further into the waterfall downpour where she could hardly hear anything else.

The door opened, letting in a waft of cold air and forcing Fern to open her eyes. Brook had joined her, holding two plastic bottles in one hand. He dumped them into a wire basket at the back of the shower then came to join her. Fern turned to him and held her hands out so they could hug. Fern pressed her naked body in his and put her head onto his shoulder.

‘I brought you some soap. Do need help washing?’ Brook whispered, his words almost lost over the roaring shower.

Fern giggled and pushed herself off him, ‘I should be fine, thanks. Though you can do my back if you want?’ She turned, grab the bottle that said shower gel on it and handed it to him.

Fern turned around, catching the slight shake of his head and large grin on his face.

Trust (Part 12)

She felt him wrap his arms around her and Fern pressed her face to his shoulder. The ends of his hair ticked her forehead, but she ignored it and breathed in his smell of sweat and tobacco. Brook rubbed back and mused into her hair.

‘I’ll take you to my place. You’re still changing and we need to get sorted out,’ Brook whispered into her hair.

Fern thought about questioning him, but didn’t have the energy to voice her words.

Brook let her go, slipped on his t-shirt and came back for her. They went through the hole into the main chamber and to the loose bricks beside the door. Brook removed the bricks and helped Fern out of the mausoleum.

Night covered them with a soft blanket likeness. Fern breathed in deeply, smelling night time flowers, light rain and wet grass. In the distance, she was also aware of the ocean. She stood there taking it all in whilst Brook rebuilt the sinking wall and tried to hide it from inquisitive eyes. He held out his hand to her when he was done and led her out of the cemetery.

‘What about you things?’ Fern asked as they walked down an empty road.

‘It’ll be fine. It’s important to have a few places you can go to ground in. It’s just a habit you pick up,’ Brook stated.

‘And this place of your’s? Is it a house?’

‘It’s a top floor apartment. You’ll see when we get there,’ Brook responded.

They walked in silence the rest of the way and Fern enjoyed the warm breeze on her face and the tickle of tiny rain spots on her skin. She didn’t pay much attention to where they were going only that Brook seemed in a hurry. They past old terrace house lined streets, a rough park, closed shops and a hotel.

Finally, Fern recognized the dual carriageway. Brook led her up a flight of steps and they stood on a bridge overlooking the area. Fern quickly realised that this wasn’t the bridge they had walked across last night. That one was ahead of them and the seaside town it was connected to was sprawled out further up to the right of them. A few lonely cars drove on the carriageway, their headlights blinding and engines loud.

‘Are we going back to the beach?’ Fern asked, hoping Brook didn’t notice the small wobble in her words.

‘Not that beach,’ came a guarded reply.

‘Then where?’ she called to him as he moved off the bridge.

‘Further up. Away from the tourists and to a little village,’ Brook answered back.

Letting out a soft sigh, Fern trailed after him. They walked through a patch of scrub land and a farm, before entering the village. The place was more set back from the sea and looked like it hardly saw any tourists, beside from the lost ones.

Walking down a single road, Fern noticed a small church and graveyard to her left on a raised hill. Cottages, surrounded by large flowering gardens seemed to bear down on them. They passed a pub- The Fisherman’s Purse, a post office and a little shop. Large plant pots lingered on the street then they were at brown-red bricked circle with a small fountain tinkling away.

Brook came to a stop and Fern did too. She looked around the little circle of houses. Rising above the roof tops but still some distance away was a dark green sixed floor stack of apartments. It looked completely out of place and as if a crane had removed it from the seaside town and just dumped it in the middle of the countryside.

‘That’s where you live?’ Fern said a low voice.

‘Yeah. I’ll tell you about as we walk,’ he added shooting a look over his shoulder.

Fern looked too, but couldn’t see anything. The village seemed abandoned, there was no sign of any people and it was quiet. Fern hurried to catch up to Brook who had all ready started walking.

‘Originally, the plan was to have a number of these places and rent them out to holiday makers. Like they do aboard. The people could have the sea view and not be far from anywhere whilst at the same time feeling like they lived here,’ Brook explained.

‘But it didn’t work,’ Fern guessed.

‘Yep. The locals weren’t happy, but they needed the income. So they built this first one as a test. It didn’t work out. People couldn’t really offered it and they actually wanted to be on the beach’s doorstep. So, they had to sell the place off to some rich people and they rent the six apartments out to their family and friends as get away spaces.’

‘And how did you end up with the top one?’ Fern broke in.

They had arrived before a patch of woodland which led to a lush grass lawn and the entrance gate to the apartments. Brook once more took the lead and held back a few of the lower tree branches as they struggled through. They popped out on to the lawn and walked up to the gate. The green building didn’t seemed welcoming and Fern got an odd sense that it wanted to be left alone. Shaking her head she turned back to Brook and waited for an answer.

He had pulled out a key from his pocket and was slotting it into a hidden key hole in the gate.

‘So?’ Fern pressed.

‘It was accidently,’ Brook replied and he pushed open the gate.

Fern followed him and he locked it behind them before going up to the silent building.

‘Looks like we’ve got the place to ourselves. Little unexpected at this time of year,’ Brook pointed out. He seemed to put the same key in the door and opened the door.

Fern sniffed loudly before walking through, the hallway smelt too clean. Almost, she decided, hospital sterilized. She heard the door closing behind her and stepped towards the elevator and staircase as there was nowhere else to go in the hallway.

‘So how did you end up here?’ Fern repeated.

Brook called the elevator and lopped his fingers into the belt hooks of his jeans. He shook his hair out of his face and Fern realised that he wasn’t going to tell her. She breathed out deeply and rubbed her head, deciding that right now it didn’t matter and she just wanted a shower.

The elevator door binged open and they got on. Brook hit the number six button, the doors shut and they went up. Fern glanced at the super clean green painted walls and felt the shuddering under her feet. The elevator juddered to a stop and the door opened. Fern peered out and saw a balcony like space before her.

Fake tropical plants ran along the walls and up to a glass door with an exist sign above it. Fern walked down the dark green tiled and painted hallway, passing a dark brown door on her right and stopping at the glass door. Outside was an actual balcony with a cluster of fallen over fake potted flowers. She could see it ran down to her right and there was a wooden table and four chairs further along.

Brook hummed behind her and she heard the door clicking open.

‘The view’s better this way,’ he said.

Fern turned, walked back to him and followed him side the dark apartment.

Trust (Part 11)

Having gotten dressed and feeling like she could have done with a shower and some clean clothes, Fern helped Brook create a space on the mausoleum floor. Brook, just wearing jeans, moved the candle on top of wide ledge amongst some unlit white ones. They put the airbed, the bedding and the camp bed to the far corner, where Fern saw a large metal trunk.

‘What’s in there?’ she asked.

‘Some more supplies,’ Brook answered.

‘I was thinking…now that everything is kind of over…Couldn’t we find a house to stay in?’

‘Can’t live without your girly necessities?’ Brook shot back.

Fern humped, ‘we both could do with a wash and some clean clothes.’

Brook shrugged, ‘We’ll go by mine tomorrow then. But right now, we need to stay here.’

‘Why?’ Fern asked as she finished piling the bedding up.

‘That man from the arcade is still creeping me out,’ Brook stated.

‘He didn’t do anything. I guess he could’ve gone to the police though,’ Fern pondered.

‘I don’t think he really saw anything…It was just…’

‘What?’

‘There something off about him.’

Fern frowned as they walked into the middle of the stone room. She fully remembered the brief conversation she had with Dacian and didn’t feel anything odd about him. The idea she should admit this to Brook gnawed at her, but she put it aside.

‘You can’t read minds can you?’ she cut in.

‘Sort of,’ Brook replied slowly, ‘you can pick things up from humans’ minds. But we can’t read each others. It’s not like telepathy though, it’s more like you guess what the human is going to do. Sometimes when you fed you can hear them, but that’s all down to connections.’

‘Oh, so I can’t learn how to do that?’ she asked making her disappointment seem real.

‘No. I’m going to teach you have to fight. You need to know how to attack and defend yourself,’ Brook stated.

‘But I’m more powerful then…I was before.’

‘It’s still useful to know about and I can show you how to ward off other vampires.’

Fern shuffled her feet on the floor, feeling hard dust and small stones underneath her. She glanced down then up at Brook, who for the moment seemed districted as he too was looking at the floor. The gap between them was only arm’s length and now the bedding wasn’t scattered around, Fern really felt like she was in tomb.

‘Can’t we go outside for this?’ she asked.

‘No. We can’t risk anyone seeing us,’ Brook cut in, ‘I’ll you show the basics.’

Fern nodded and they spent the next half an hour practising a mix of simple leg and arm movements. It felt more like a warm up before a gym session then actual fighting or as Fern thought about it later, the first steps of boxing. She learned to strike out with one fist then the other, to slide her feet forward and back, also to move quickly to the right and left to avoid on coming attacks.

‘I feel silly,’ she pointed out during their break.

Brook was smoking before the black candle with his back to her. She was sat opposite him, her back to damp stone wall.

‘Who taught you how to fight? I thought we were going to do karate or something,’ Fern continued.

‘I did boxing when I was a kid,’ Brook muttered.

‘That explains it. Maybe we should have a practise fight and see what happens?’

‘Sure, I’ll win though.’

Fern stared at his back and watched him flicking ash away. The room smelt heavily of liquorice. She brought her knees to her chest and fought the urge to go outside down. The idea of being trapped plagued her mind and she didn’t understand how anyone could live like this.

‘You ready?’ Brook called over.

She looked up. He had put the cig and the candle out. Dark grey smoke was curling up to the ceiling. Darkness settled back in, but only for a moment as a number of tiny flames broke out over the other candles. Fern got to her feet staring at them and convinced they hadn’t been light before.

‘I’ll teach you that too,’ Brook spoke with a grin.

‘How did you do that?’ she gasped.

‘Sleight of hand, fast movement and practise, just like a good magician.’

‘It’s useful for other stuff too, though?’

Brook nodded, ‘everything is when you learn it. Anyway…’

Swiftly, he crossed the space between them and locked his arms around Fern’s shoulders. Fern wiggled against him, hands on his chest and tried to escape. Brook though, got her into a headlock and bent her to the floor. She saw him bringing his knee up to her face and a panicked squeal escaped her throat. Instead, Brook neatly tumbled her to the floor and grabbed her hands to soft the blow.

‘That wasn’t fair!’ Fern snapped.

Brook yanked her up and she slammed into him.

‘Why? Because you weren’t ready?’ he asked cheekily as he held her tightly.

‘Yes,’ she cried out feeling slightly winded.

‘That’s going to happen. You’ve got to keen your senses into every little thing. You’ve got to know seconds before a thing happens and act on it then.’

Fern pushed against his chest and Brook let her go. Growling, she paced the floor before coming back to stand before him. Brook flexed his arms and shoulders, remaining casual.

‘Let’s try again,’ Fern demanded.

Brook smiled and stayed still.

Fern approached, her footsteps echoing softly. She got chest to chest with Brook then tried to put him in a headlock. However, he was far faster and had twisted her arm behind her back before she could fasten her arms around him. She cried out at a spike of pain then brought her other hand up and punched Brook in the face.

He let go of her arm, wheeling slightly. Fern both hands fists, rained a few blows on to his chest and stomach. Brook wiggled away from her, darting to the side then around the back of her. Fern twisted, snatching a deep breath before she tried to land another blow on him. Brook caught her hand and brought her arm up into the air alongside his. Fern went for a low punch, gritting her teeth as she did so. Brook twisted his hips away then collided their bodies together.

Fern grunted with pain and effort. She dropped her head and shut her eyes. Her lungs ached and she felt so unfit. Brook let go of her hand and her arm dropped uselessly to her side. Suddenly, she wanted to tell him all about Dacian. She wanted them both to get angry and knock each other senseless. Though as she caught her breath, she realised it would be foolish. Brook had already proven himself right.

Trust (Part 10)

Just outside the seaside town, Brook came to a stop. He let Fern catch her breath then they walked back home in silence. Fern’s mind bubbled with questions, but she found she had neither voice nor the wanting to break the space that had grown between them. The wanting to keep recent events at a distance added to this. By the time they reached the mausoleum, Fern was far too tried to talk anyway.

She took all her clothes off and curled up in the sleeping bag. Vaguely, she was aware of Brook nuzzling into the back of her neck and asking for blood. Sleep claimed her and she dreamt colourful dreams, which involved a lot of running away. A few times she felt on the edge of awaking only to plummet back down into a new dream.

When she actually woke up it was sudden. Flinging the top of the unzipped sleeping bag away, she sat up and looked through the darkness of the room. Her new night vison adjusted and was able to pick things out of the darkness as if a light was on overhead.  She saw Brook curled up on the camping bed. Getting up and draping the sleeping bag around her, she walked over to him.

The stone slabs were cold under her feet, but the blood of Kyle still warmed her.

She touched Brook’s sticking out fringe. Her fingers dropped to his forehead, his cheek. Brook still with his eyes shut, turned his head slightly and brushed her wrist with his lips. He kissed her skin then nipped at it. Fern shut her eyes and rocked on her feet as Brook pierced her skin. She felt a tingle of pain which was quickly covered by Brook’s warm mouth.

Empty thoughts swirled in Fern’s mind. All she could think about was the blood flowing between them. Brook stopped drinking too soon and let go of her. She looked down, wanting to sit beside him then snuggle against him, but the camp bed was too small.

Brook got up and hugged her. Fern felt his naked body rubbing against her’s. He took her back to the air bed as if he had read her mind and they lay down together and snuggled. Fern rubbed her head to his chest, listening to the sound of his breathing and heartbeat.

‘What happened at the arcade?’ she asked gently.

‘Which part?’ Brook asked, ‘you almost killing that boy or-’

‘I killed him?’ Fern cut in, pushing herself upwards.

‘Almost, but I stopped you. Just about…’

Fern rested her head back, ‘I couldn’t stop,’ she spoke into his chest, ‘it was like his blood was the sweetest and most intoxicant drink.’

‘An innocent’s blood will do that. We should’ve been more careful. We shouldn’t have-’

‘What do you mean?’ she questioned as her fingertips made circles across his stomach.

‘Most children’s blood is pure. It’s untainted from alcohol, drugs and stuff. It gets into us faster and we get high of it. That’s what happened to you,’ Brook explained, ‘I need a smoke.’

He eased out from her and walked back to the camp bed. Fern rolled over and watched him searching the floor for his clothes. He came back a few moments later with lighter, cig box and a large black candle. He sat down and the air bed bounced. He lit up whilst Fern played with the end of a pillow where the stitching was coming undone. She wrinkled her nose at the acid ting of smoke and lay back down. She heard the lighter flicking again then Brook lay down next her and she curled up into his side.

‘He really was all right, wasn’t he?’ Fern pressed.

‘He was breathing steadily when we left,’ Brook stated and balancing the cig between his lips smoothed her hair.

‘Why did you let me…do it?’

Brook took the cig out of his mouth and breathed a cloud of smoke to the ceiling. He thought for a few moments before saying, ‘we have to take every chance that is given to us. No matter who it is or where they are. If you see even a second’s chance to take some blood you do it.’

Fern pulled a face and rubbed the top of her head under his chin, ‘Why?’

Brook growled softly, ‘because that’s how a vampire survives in the twenty-first century. You can’t just go and ravage anyone! We can be seen on cameras and everyone has one now. The internet has been trying to prove our existence for years, but we’ve got to stay hidden.’

Fern open her mouth to question that but the warm smell of liquorice underlined with anise and cloves hit her. She glanced at the candle that Brook had brought with him and saw it alight and close to the air bed. The yellow-orange flame flickered, pooling the black wax around it.

‘What’s with the candle?’ she asked instead.

‘I like it,’ he replied.

Fern sniffed, ‘liquorice?’

Brook turned his head towards the candle as he answered with a ‘yeah.’

Silence dropped in. Fern rubbed his chest and half raised to show she was interested in him explaining further. Brook had shut his eyes, the cig burning to ash against his lips. Fern gently removed it and put it out on the floor. She kissed his lips and waited.

‘We got to be careful,’ Brook whispered.

‘Huh?’ Fern chipped in at his unexpected statement.

‘Did you see that guy following us?’ Brook asked.

Fern thought back and saw electric blue eyes, ‘maybe,’ she mumbled, ‘was he really following us though? I don’t remember.’

‘Actually, I don’t think he did. He came out of the arcade and just stood there.’

‘I think he ran the place or something,’ Fern gushed in, ‘I saw him at the ticket desk when I went to the bathroom.’

Brook looked up at her then sit up. He put his hands to her shoulders and held her in place.

‘Did he say anything to you?’

Fern shook her head.

‘You’re sure?’

‘Why? Do you know him?’

‘I think maybe….no. It doesn’t matter. Look, let’s forget it. Okay? We’ll stay here and I’ll teach you some stuff.’

Fern nodded her head, still not trusting herself to say anything and looked around for her clothes.

Trust (Part 8)

Fern felt Brook making slow circles with his hand over her upper back. Acid burned her throat and mouth, making it hard to breathe and swallow. She was also blinded by tears and knocked back by the smell of undigested food.

‘It’s all right, but come on now,’ Brook was urging her.

She felt him tug on the sleeve of her t-shirt. She couldn’t move.

‘Fern? Come on,’ he spoke louder.

Something banged down in the café and Fern jumped. She looked through the door and saw a huge shadow developing out of the darkness and coming towards her. Panic filtered down to her legs and feet. She moved back into Brook, who grabbed her and turned her. A screaming voice rose up behind them and Fern caught a stream of foul words.

Brook scooped her up, grabbing her behind the legs and at the waist. Fern felt a rush of air on her face which grew as Brook ran down the street with her in his arms. Fern put her arms around his neck and peered over his shoulder. Behind them the café door exploded open and a mountain in a dress stormed out into the night.

‘She’s coming!’ Fern shouted.

Brook hefted her up more and broke into a full run. Fern pressed her forehead to his shoulder, feeling sick in her stomach again. She took in deep breaths and smelt Brook’s cigarette and earthy scent that clung to his t-shirt. Oddly the scent comforted her. The wind whipped around them then died as Brook tumbled to a stop and they both fell to the floor.

Gasping for breath, Fern wiggled her fingers and toes before struggling upwards. Everything seemed to spin before her, there were dancing flashing lights in her vision and old pop music in her ears. She felt her palms scrapping across the road. Rubbing her eyes, she gathered herself before looking for Brook.

He was climbing off the floor after landing face down. His shocking red hair was messed up badly and swept it back as he stood up. He dusted himself off and came over to her. Whispering voice followed him, though they seemed to be questioning each other rather than them. Brook offered Fern his hand and she took it.

‘You’re heavy,’ he said pulling her to her feet.

‘Thanks!’ she snapped and shoved him away.

Dusting herself off, she glanced to her right and saw they were outside of the arcade. Four teenage boys were staring at them from behind a claw machine. They were quietly questioning what had happened amongst themselves. Fern shot them a disgruntled look and stomped over to them. The boys scattered as she got close and dived into the dimness of the arcade.

‘Stop making trouble!’ Brook yelled from behind her.

Fern turned around and slammed into his chest.

‘You started all of this!’ she bawled at him.

Brook grabbed her hands as she went to slap him and swept her off to the side. Fern’s back hit an ancient and broken Fortune Telling machine. The red tatty curtains shook and the Madam Zasha dummy trembled. Fern felt the cold glass and wood press against her back. She stopped struggling against Brook’s grip.

‘Look,’ he hissed, ‘we mustn’t draw attention to ourselves. You have to get use to wearing the mask. Wait here and I’ll get someone.’

He gave her a further shove backwards, let go of her hands and walked off. Fern watched him go, rubbing her sore wrists. She dug in her pockets of a tissue, but found nothing. She wiped her face on her arm then looked to see if she could see a toilet. A blue neon sign directed her to one in the back corner opposite her.

Fern stalked over, ignoring Brook’s command. The red plush carpet was soft under her feet and the air smelt like lemon cleaning spray, sweat and sea salt. Game machines called to her with their theme music and demos. She passed some coin slot machines, a ski simulator, Tomb Raider and House of the Dead III. A roped off area come up on her left, declaring the gambling machines for over twenty-one’s only.

She paused. There was a young man sitting at one of the machines. He had on an old blue t-shirt that advertised the promenade’s crazy golf course. His long black hair was tied back in a neat ponytail and he tutted loudly as he got two bells and a cherry on the machine’s display. He began to turn and Fern hurriedly walked away, but not before he saw her retreating back.

She passed the prize counter and manager’s office, which was plastered with warning posters about stealing, CCTV, the gambling law and no refunds of any kinds. Now in front of the toilet door, she walked in with a quick glance over her shoulder.

There was just one toilet and one sink in the large space that would have fitted about three of each in. Fern locked the door and took in a deep breath of stale urine, rusty pipes and mould. She went to the sink and splashed water on her face and arms. Cupping her hands under the tap, she drank some water and liked the sweet coldness in her throat. She felt better and turned to the hand drier, which didn’t work. Pulling a face, she grabbed some toilet paper and patted herself dry with that inside. She dropped the paper in an over flowing bin and stepped out again.

Fern peered into the manager’s office window and saw an old wizarded man asleep in a vintage red leather desk chair. He had his slippered feet up on the desk, which was scattered with different kinds of papers. She imaged that he had a smoking jacket and a pipe off to the side. Giggling, Fern pressed a hand to her mouth and turned.

‘You want something? Money changed?’

Fern dropped her hand and stared up at the man she had passed on the gambling machine moments ago. The front of his blue t-shirt was just the same as the back and he had on torn stone washed faded jeans with scruffy grey trainers. He was thin, but the right weight for his very tall frame and broad shoulders.

His face drew strangers in straight away and Fern felt a wobble in her stomach at she looked into his large electric blue eyes. Black stubble covered his soft angled lower face and the gap between his straight nose and lush pearl pink lips. His flat cheeks had a slight tint of colour and his black eyebrows were perked up. Fern’s eyes dropped to fix on the floor.

‘No. I’m waiting for a…friend,’ she muttered.

‘Lucky friend,’ he whispered.

Fern shot him a look and found him smiling down at her.

‘I’m Dacian. I sort of work here and the golf course,’ he said plucking at the bottom edge of his top.

Fern nodded, ‘I’m visiting…I should go.’

‘Shame.’

Fern bit her lip, ‘maybe, I’ll see you around?’

‘Sure,’ Dacian stated with a small shrug.

Trying not to look at him again, Fern slipped passed him and hurried over to the broken fortune machine.

Trust (Part 7)

(Continued from Trust Parts1-6. Missed it? Read it here; https://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/tag/trust-novella/)

Sitting under the darken pier and enjoying the feeling of sand between her toes, Fern looked out over the night time sea. The waves were far in the distance, but coming back in strongly. She could hear each individual wave rushing forward on the harsh sand then drawing back again. The sound was calming and she had escaped inside it.

A gentle breeze tossed her dark blonde hair and sweeping fringe backwards. She took a deep breath of salty air and felt her lips go dry. Sand grains scratched against her legs and clung to her jeans. Nothing, she decided, could be better right now.

Subconsciously, she knew Brook was close. In fact, she could smell his cigarette smoke from here. Looking over her shoulder, back towards the start of the pier and a flight of large stone steps, she could clearly make him out. She shut her eyes, not use to them focusing at such a long range.

Turning back to the sea, the image of Brook sitting there smoking danced before her. She drew her knees up and rested her chin on top of them. Her heartbeat drummed alongside the sea waves and her stomach growled with hungry. She wondered how long it had been since she had eaten. Fed, she corrected herself. In a flash, she saw the man they had killed together. Who had he been? She couldn’t help but question.

Shaking it away, she got up, grabbed her pink trainers and walked back to Brook. The sand felt cold and gritty under her. As she approached, Brook stayed sprawled out over the steps, a dying cig between the fingers of his right hand.

‘I’m hungry,’ Fern said coming to a stop before the bottom step and staring at his booted feet.

‘You’ll get use to it,’ Brook’s raspy voice responded, ‘We’ll try and find someone else before sun up. But yeah…’

‘What about normal food?’ Fern suggested.

Brook shrugged, ‘we can eat it, no problem. But it only helps a little and then not at all when you get older. I think that café is still open.’

Fern looked at the buildings across the pavement and road. There was a long row of attached shops, cafes, ice cream shops and B&Bs’. She could hear the faint sounds of music coming from an arcade further to her right.

‘Let’s go,’ she said.

Brook eyed her and with a groan got up the steps. Fern walked past him and went to the pavement edge. Brook came to her side and they walked across together. The café lights shone out of a frosted window and the sign on the door declared it open. Fern pushed the door, stepped in then wished she hadn’t.

The café was tiny and had only four tables with two attached chairs at each against one wall and on the other a counter top and till. Behind which was an open kitchen. The place smelt of gas, grease, burning and bad food. Fern pressed a hand over her mouth and nose. Brook gave her a shove then moved passed her and went to the back table.

Feeling like she had no choice, Fern joined him. Brook tossed her a menu as she sat in the hard plastic seat and tried not to touch the unclean table.

‘I’ve changed my mind…’ Fern muttered.

Brook shrugged again and lent back in the chair. He looked over her shoulder and Fern aware that they were now not alone, picked up the menu. The plastic covered pages were sticky and as she scanned through contained many misspelt words. Nothing seemed to appeal to her.

‘Whatcha ya want? Kitchen’s closing,’ called a loud voice that sounded male but wasn’t.

‘Can I get a coke?’ Brook asked, ‘no ice.’

‘Suppose,’ the voice came back.

Brook kicked Fern under the table, ‘I’ll have one too, please,’ she gasped and went to rub her ankle.

‘Two cokes,’ the voice mumbled.

‘Are you having something?’ Fern whispered, using the menu to hide behind.

‘Nope. I’m good.’

Fern glanced at the menu, ‘how much money do you have?’

‘Where’s yours’?’ Brook shot back.

‘Back at the…with my other stuff or my house…’ Fern trailed. ‘I think…’

‘Here,’ the owner said and heavily put down two murky glasses full of coke.

Fern shyly looked at her. She was a massive woman with a dirty summer dress that looked more like a green tent for six people. Her face and arms were round, red and blotchy as if painted by a child.

‘Can I have-’ Fern started.

‘There’s no hot food, unless you want chips. I got cheese sandwich or tuna. There’s ice cream or chocolate cake, no sundaes,’ she cut in, giving the impression that she really didn’t want Fern to order anything.

‘Chip butty?’ Fern questioned in a small voice.

‘Ya.’

They both watched her waddle off and go into the kitchen. The banging of plates and pans filled the silence. Fern placed the menu down and picked up her coke. She took a few sips and noticed that it wasn’t fizzy. She glanced at Brook, he had slid his coke off to the side and was picking through a small bowl of condiment packets.

‘So what do we do now?’ Fern asked.

‘We find someone else on the way back if we can,’ Brook said simply.

‘What about…?’ Fern flicked her eyes to the owner.

Brook shook his head slowly.

She frowned and Brook with a slight eye roll, mouthed, ‘you don’t mess with people like that.’

‘Maybe we could try the arcade?’

‘Maybe.’

‘Here. I closed now,’ the owner cut in, dumping a plate in front of Fern and walking off.

Fern looked down. The plate had grease smears on it, the bread was mouldy and the chips looked uncooked. She picked some of the green mould off and began nibbling at the food.

Brook scrapped the condiment bowl towards her then began picking out the small packets. Fern watched him slip some sugar and salt into his pocket.

Making a mental note to ask him later, she hurriedly ate the rest of the chip butty and downed her coke. A wave of sickness rolled into her stomach, but she fought it back.

‘You go now,’ the harsh voice called out.

Brook dropped a handful of coins onto the table, which hardly matched the bill and stood up. He grabbed Fern’s arm, yanked her up and dragged her to the door. It banged loudly behind them as Brook pressed Fern to the cold wall. The door locked and the lights went out. Fern pressed a hand to her mouth, turned around and vomited down the wall.