The Zodiac Veils - The Thirteenth Sign

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Eleanor - Chapter 1

Soft music played from somewhere, nothing she recognised, she couldn't even figure out a tune but the melody was angelic. The notes twisted around each other creating a harmonious sound which seemed to flow, almost alive and so bewitching. She could see a face before her, a myriad of colours shining off the pale skin. She couldn’t quite make out the features except for a wide slightly crooked grin. As she reached out for the figure it suddenly vanished.

'Eleanor'

Blue light rippled around her dancing off the air throwing rainbows of colour all around. The same crooked grin flashed to her right, then her left but before she could take in the full sight of the smile it vanished. Holding out her hands she could see the colours illuminating her own pale skin. What seemed like small birds soared above her, glimmers of silver flashing off their bodies. She watched as they flew up and over each other, sleek shining bodies airborne and free. Just as she was taking in the measure of her surroundings, the calm and serenity the music changed. Sinister off key notes bended the melody, a haunting essence rippled and undulated diluting the beautiful tune and the blue light turned dark. She thought of the way when she dipped her paint brush into water and it seemed to bleed, changing the colour gradually. The light blue was changing, morphing, and a dark force began pushing her down, the small birds came closer, but they weren’t birds, she couldn't quite tell what they were, glossy black feathers illuminating a dark and heavy light, no not light for there was no light now it seemed that the dark drew all the light out of the air. The creatures circled around her but where their heads should be, sat twisted human-esque faces, bright eyes glared down at her with ominous curiosity. Their cries, eerie and twisted. Evil honking noises sounding like the traffic of the city, the winged beasts closed in on her. The breath in her lungs was being pushed out from the sheer force of the darkness. She could feel herself gasping, trying to catch even the smallest of breaths, the human birds circling her head waiting for her, sharp talons out stretched ready to tear at her skin, inches away....

'Eleanor, where are you'

She sat bolt upright, gasping for air, beads of sweat covered her forehead and her heart pounded. She felt as-though she'd ran a marathon. Her eyes adjusting to the late afternoon light drifting in through her window, she'd fallen asleep still fully clothed on top of her bed and the piles of clothes that lay atop it, She'd only lay down for five minutes.

'Eleanor' came the voice now near screaming

'For god sake mother, I'm here' Eleanor was used to this question, she must of heard it countless times.

She sat on her bed in her small room looking around, still breathing heavily. She mentally compared her room to that of the ones she had seen in teen movies where the bedrooms were the size of sports hall with en-suites and walk in closets. Eleanor had her single bed in the corner with her desk an easel and the door taking up the other three corners. The walls were a pale blue she had picked out when she was six and a grey carpet which could never be seen for the layer of clothes, sketch books, trainers and general rubbish. She wasn't the neatest person but that's how she liked it. Organised chaos. No matter how much she tried arguing with her mother, she knew where everything was, it looked like a bomb sight but she only had to put her hand out to find what she needed.

Her mother stuck her head round the door. 'I've just stopped home for 5 then I'm off to Bellagio’s'

Her mother worked two jobs. During the day as a receptionist for a local swimming pool and then straight off to the restaurant in the evenings. Her mother had worked these two jobs for as long as she could remember popping between the two to make sure Eleanor was ok. But Eleanor was used to this, coming home from school, fixing a tuna sandwich doing her homework whilst waiting for her mother to dash in then back out. It had always been just her and her mother in the small apartment and she liked it that way. The Yellow sofa, the tall white walls and high ceilings filled with brightly coloured pictures and paintings. It was home.

They lived in their small apartment on a back street in the city all Eleanor’s life. It wasn't much of an apartment just one of the old Victorian houses split into two flats, one on the ground floor and Eleanor and her mother’s on the first. It was just the two of them, she didn't remember her father. Her mother kept a small box under her bed which she would take out from time to time and had never let Eleanor see what was inside but when she was younger Eleanor's curiosity had gotten the better of her and she looked inside the box. A few old letters, a faded hospital bracelet with words that could no longer be read, a small pair of baby bootees and a photograph of a smiling young woman in the arms of a spectacled man. Her mother’s bright hair was instinctively recognisable but she had no idea who that man was. She couldn't see any of her own face in the shape of his eyes or chin. Being inquisitive she had occasionally asked about her father, she was interested and who wouldn't be but it had set her mother off. Like some memory she had tried to forget, the resurfacing of distant heart aches. She had just held Eleanor and told her it was a long time ago and her father was gone. She never quite knew what it was about the mention of her father that caused such a reaction. She'd always assumed he'd left when she was little, before she was even born, maybe he was a jerk and didn't want a kid, maybe he was dead, but that was the past. Growing up, school sports days, Christmas plays it had always just been her mother in the crowd. It didn't bother her, she was more bothered for her mother’s sake. It would have been nice for her to have someone else but that's just the way it is, she had always seemed enough for her mum. She had to admit guiltily she did like having her mum all to herself. For her mums sake though she had urged her to go dating, she had set her up with an online dating profile, but when she showed her mum, and that she'd even had a few responses she flipped.

'What do you think you are doing' that's all she had said before she grabbed the laptop deleting the profile and it was never mentioned again.

Assuming that her mother didn't want to date she didn't really push the subject again, she did keep her eyes open though for possible matches, the plumber who had fixed the shower, the guy behind the counter at the coffee shop down the road. She knew her mother would never notice them like they noticed her. Looking at her mother, she was attractive for her age, and she did look years younger than she was although the bags under her eyes didn’t help.

'Ok mum, don't work too hard' she said smiling at her.

Her mother’s hair was tied up in a messy bun on top of her head. Her hair was as pale as moonlight not quite white but not quite blond. Eleanor had often tried to mix it with her paints, pale yellows, white, gold’s, but she could never get it quite right. Her own hair, although still pale held more a blond, dull golden colour.

The one thing they did both have was the same shade of green eyes, bright bottle green with flecks of silvery grey. Although her mother’s eyes had begun to show some signs of dark circles from too many late nights which hung beneath them. Even though she bore no signs of grey hair, she could tell her mothers work load was getting on top of her and she just looked constantly tired. She was only 40 and Eleanor thought she should slow down. Small lines had begun appearing above her brows, from her eyes. She laughed at her mother when she had bought into the whole cosmetic creams. She would sit there in an evening, face plastered in cream hoping for the miracle cure millions of other woman not doubt also counted upon. But she liked the time spent together on the sofa faces smelling of honey and oatmeal eating ice cream and watching films.

Eleanor spent many evenings alone while her mother worked, she was usually fine spending her time on homework or with Sebastian but he was away for the summer holidays, and since school had ended she had no homework to fill the hours until she started college in September. She'd spent much of the holidays roaming the streets until dark and the she'd go home, paint, read and watch TV. She loved to walk through the city, the bustle of commuters, crowded tourists and dodging the crazy people. Fast food places, book shops, little restaurants, she felt alive in the buzzing streets. You could never be alone in the city, there was always someone around, always somewhere to go. If the museums where shut there was an art gallery or a coffee shop or a gig in one of the bars or old abandon warehouses. She might have only been 16 but she'd sneaked into a bar or two to watch a band. She tried a drink but the bitter taste of the alcohol didn't agree with her.

Knowing that her mother was working that evening she'd decided to go walking down the by the river. She loved the path the water cut through the Capitol, slicing it down the middle and then meandering through the heart of the city forcing the building to grow up around it. The many bridges which crossed over it, modern steel ones and ancient stone gothic bridges arching over the steely waters where some of her favourite things to draw. At sunset she liked the way the orange light of the evening sun flashed across the waves caused by the passing tourist boats. Water was the one thing she could never quite capture in her paintings, especially the light bouncing off it, but practice makes perfect and she shoved her feet into her now battered converse and began to throw a few tubes of paint into her bag.

'I’m off down the embankment mum' she hollowed down the hall to her mum, who was changing in her room.

'Be home before dark'. A muffled voice called out.

'I always do mum' Eleanor shouted back.

'Eleanor help me I'm stuck' the still muffled and now agitated voice came back

Eleanor climbed off the bed to find her mum stood in the hall sweater over her head arms flailing.

'Stand still' and she untangled her mother. Her blond hair twisted around her golden locket and in turn both her hair and the locket had entwined themselves with the woollen fabric.

'Hold still mum, honestly I don't get why you wear that piece of tat'

The locket hung on a simple golden chain. A small green paste stone was set into the face of the golden metal which bore a wave design on top of which was engraved with the letter T.

'It might be worthless Eleanor but it means the world to me, it was your grandmothers.' She replied in a muffled voice.

Releasing the final strands of hair from the lockets chain she pulled her mother’s jumper down over her head. Her mother’s face was red and flushed but smiling at her.

'Honestly who looks after who, I'll see you later mum'

Eleanor jumped for the first step and something flew from her hair and the communal front door slammed shut. Helena watched it float to the ground in slow, graceful movements. She bent down picking it up and held it between her fingers to examining it. Twisting it between them, she shrugged and placed it onto the bookcase on the landing. She turned to finish getting ready and the small black feather catching the breeze once again drifted the ground.


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