CHAPTER 3: An Angel and a Witch, and Shocks.
insistent had the last part of the message been that Hugh was up well before his father to do something about it. He was not a naturally devious or dishonest boy, but he knew that there would be no other way to stop taking his medication other than by some sort of delusion. Donald was convinced the pills were essential to his son’s sanity and would resist all suggestions that they be discontinued. Therefore it was quite essential that he still appear to be taking them.
Particularly since his mother had died, Hugh had become quite handy in the kitchen, and icing was something he was good at. With a bit of experimentation he managed to produce some pills which looked exactly like the originals, but made of icing which he coloured to match perfectly. Keeping one specimen of each of the originals in a tin in a far corner of his sock drawer, just to be on the safe side, he flushed the rest down the toilet. The exact number of pills which were still supposed to be in their normal containers were then replaced by his fakes.
After that he quickly whipped up a batch of cupcakes to provide an excuse for all the activity.
‘How thoughtful of you!’ his father enthused when he came through to breakfast. ‘Those should provide a great welcome to our guests.’ Hugh almost felt guilty.
The hated meds had more of a hold over his system than he had realised. His ‘imagination’ was nowhere nearly yet in full working order, but he was still aware of many, as if seen through the corner of his eye. With a great deal of effort, he managed to avoid trying to look at them at all. This was really hard, because each new distraction made him want to stare in that direction.
He worked at it so hard during school, by concentrating furiously on the lessons, that he actually earned praise in Maths and History, neither of which he normally excelled in to say the least. Both the fat ‘Numbo Jumbo’ and scrawny ‘Date Line’ (as they were nicknamed) were clearly as astonished as he was.
During the breaks he kept well out of sight of everyone, and when it came to the end of school he took no chances but headed straight for his escape route. On this occasion he made a rather a bad job of his parachute-landing fall, which did his clothing no good. It was a bit wasted, anyway, because the Brian gang were waiting at the bus stop, but he kept out of sight and then dashed past them just as the bus was about to pull off.
He was filled with dread again when he reached home, and the first words he heard as he let himself in the front door warranted that feeling completely. It was a girl’s voice, with a slightly whiny and complaining quality and sounding thoroughly bad-tempered, coming to him clearly from the direction of the sitting-room. ’… want to go to Granny’s now. I need to change and freshen up. I don’t ****-well see why we have to meet this stupid **** retard before that.’
The voice of a woman replied. This was a pleasant one, and he liked it immediately. ‘Please don’t use that language. You know I hate it. And please don’t call him that.’
’Why **** not? He is one. I mean, just look at that **** picture of him over there. Just like all the others I’ve seen. A complete **** village idiot.’
At that moment Donald came from the direction of the kitchen, holding a tray of tea and coffee things, and spotted Hugh in the hallway. ‘Ah, you’re home, Hugh,’ - stating the obvious is customary on such occasions - ‘come and meet Raine and Tyrentia.’
Suddenly conscious of the fact that he had a considerably rumpled appearance following his climb, leap-and-roll, and dash for the bus, Hugh shambled into the sitting room. Mother and daughter stared at him, and he stared back. Both had long, strikingly black hair. Both had extremely fair complexions – in the case of Tyrentia, startlingly white. Both, surprisingly, had blue eyes. Tyrentia’s were of a particularly vivid shade.
The most noticeable thing about them, though, was the difference in expressions. Raine’s was sweet, serene and humorous. Tyrentia’s looked exactly as disagreeable as she had sounded.
Raine smiled and rose from her chair saying, ‘Hello, Hugh; how nice to meet you at last,’ and came over to give him a hug. The boy wasn’t sure how to respond, but ended up by dropping his bag on his foot and mumbling, ‘Dja do.’
Tyrentia didn’t get up. She gave Hugh the sort of look one would normally reserve for rotten fish, and said, ‘Hello. Right; now we’ve met. Can we ****-well go to Granny’s, now?’
Her mother frowned at her, resumed her seat, and then said to Hugh, ‘Tell me about yourself. What are your favourite sports?’
Hugh was looking at the tea things, and the sight reminded him. ‘Cupcakes!’ he blurted.
Donald glared at him and jumped in with, ‘Oh yes, Hugh baked some cupcakes for us this morning. Let me fetch them.’
’Oh, for ****’s sake! It cooks! Look, I’m just going for a walk in the **** garden.’ Ignoring her mother’s protests, Tyrentia let herself out.
Perhaps deliberately, Donald seemed to be bringing the cupcakes back via a trip round the block, judging from the time he took. Left alone with Raine, Hugh had a moment of panic. He was torn between the resentment he had been building up ever since his father had told him about her, and the instant good impression she had created.
Then, in trying to re-start the conversation, Raine stuttered slightly, and Hugh suddenly realised that she was as nervous and unsure about the situation as he was. His heart went out to her, and he gave her a smile. ‘No, cupcakes aren’t a sport of mine, and not a hobby, either,’ he said. ‘Just something I’ve learnt to do if I want decent ones.’
That broke the ice completely for both of them. In a matter of minutes he found himself chatting to her as he hadn’t chatted to anyone except his father for ages. He could see it wasn’t an act with her; she was genuinely interested in everything he had to say. When he suddenly found himself blurting out, ‘I’m glad Dad has met you,’ he really meant it.
Her face lit up. ‘That’s sweet of you to say so. I hope you’ll make some allowances for Tye; you see she’s been very … she’s been terribly badly …’ At that moment, Donald finally returned with the cakes so Raine went to call her daughter in to tea.
‘She’s completely lovely, and she’s utterly horrible,’ Hugh muttered to his father, who burst out laughing.
Raine unstintingly praised his cakes, and Tyrentia, brought back under great protest, ate four in quick succession, which Hugh supposed was as much praise as was ever likely to come from her. ‘Can we go, now?’ she asked as soon as she had drained her cup.
Raine shook her head and said, ‘There’s no hurry,’ whereupon the girl scowled and flounced back out into the garden.
Hugh went to his room and changed out of school uniform, and when he returned to the sitting room his father said pointedly, ‘We have quite a lot to talk about; why don’t you go and join Tyrentia for a while?’ It struck him as being a better idea to pay a visit to a snake pit, but he obediently went outside. He was hoping to find a part of the garden free of bad-tempered girls, but she spotted him from where she was seated on a swing-seat and beckoned at him in a demanding sort of way.
‘Look, you,’ she began (he was sure it was a ‘you’ and not a ‘Hugh’) ‘it seems as if we are going to be stuck with your stupid father and my mother hitching up, so the way it is ****-well going to be is that you just ****-well keep out of my **** way, and I’ll keep out of yours. Can that find its way into your **** sick little brain?’
Any number of insulting replies rushed up in his mind based on pointing out that she was way out of line, but they all got in the way of one another, tripped up, and fell in a heap. What came out was, ‘Um.’
She gave him a contemptuous look and then her attention went to a group of butterflies on a daisy bush across the lawn. He glanced in that direction to see a Shiner playing with them. The little shimmery shape darted in and out, whirling in an utterly entrancing manner. Then the butterflies went in separate directions, and the Shiner flitted across to a shrub where she (he was sure it was a ‘she’) perched and looked across at them.
With a shock as if a bucket of icy water had been dashed over him, Hugh realised that Tyrentia’s eyes had followed the Shiner, and that she was also looking straight at her.
‘You … you can see her!’ he blurted.
Tyrentia registered shock. Quickly, she recovered herself. ‘Oh how ****-well marvellous!’ she sneered. ‘Of all the people also to have the Sight, it turns out that the **** loony does! Thrillsville!’
The Shiner seemed to become aware that the two humans were noticing her, and abruptly blinked out. ‘Great,’ Tyrentia said unreasonably, ‘so now you’ve ****-well chased her away.’
Hugh took a deep breath. ‘I think we have a lot to talk about,’ he began, ‘and for your part I would like you to stop appearing so utterly stupid, and start substituting those meaningless words you keep interjecting with something a little more imaginative and intelligent.’ He was quite proud of that speech, and the look of utter surprise it produced was gratifying.
‘Well, **** me!’ she exclaimed. ‘It has a **** brain!’
Hugh shook his head in mock sorrow. ‘You’re not even trying,’ he said. ‘How about, “Well, how remarkable! It is displaying some signs of cerebral activity!” instead?’
Involuntarily, Tyrentia gave a giggle, and then looked surprised at herself. ‘How come your father says you’re so nutty that you have to be on **** drugs all the time?’ she said in a rather nasty tone to make up for the lapse.
‘I must say, I tend to agree with that word applied to the meds,’ Hugh said ruefully. ‘It’s a long story.’
Tyrentia patted the swing seat next to her. She had lost her normal scowl. ‘Sit,’ she commanded. ‘Tell.’
‘I’ve always been able to see the little people,’ Hugh began, ‘but when I was younger they appeared more clearly. I think my Mom - whose name was actually Fae, which means “fairy” of course - could also see them a bit, because she always seemed to understand. Even then, though, she and Dad would argue about it and he would say I was getting too old to be imagining things. Particularly not anything like fairies! Then, after she died, Dad started getting really worried about it. The trouble was that I’ve always wanted to watch them more than I’ve wanted to do other stuff.’
‘Stupid! You didn’t even have the sense to hide that you were seeing them after you realised that most other people didn’t? That was something I learnt very early on.’
‘Anyway,’ Hugh continued, ‘my dad sent me to a string of doctors and they said I had all sorts of things with funny letters like ADS and ADD and ADHD, and a related condition of Psychotic Sensory Hallucinations which they say is tied to a sort of epilepsy. They tried lots and lots of meds, and then said there was no option but to use the strong ones which do stop the visions, but which make me confused and dizzy all the time. They finally got me convinced that what I was seeing wasn’t real at all, and that all of it was part of a sickness in my head.’
‘Idiot! Of course they’re real! All you had to do was accept that they are part of the everyday scene and look at them only when you had time and opportunity, like I do. I mean, do you stop to look at every insect or bird you see? Same **** …’ she paused guiltily, and then went on with defiance, ‘What I ****-well mean is, it’s exactly the same **** thing.’
‘That was three words you could have saved breath and time on,’ Hugh observed lightly, and prepared to duck. Tyrentia merely glared at him, and he added, ‘More and more, recently, I started to wonder if it really was a sickness after all, and to think that even if it was one it was better than the drugs. I tried to cut down on them whenever I could get away with it.’
Tyrentia looked him up and down. ‘What’s all this nonsense I heard about you being bullied? Surely that’s crazy? I mean, with the size of you it just can’t be possible.’
‘I do get picked on,’ Hugh admitted ruefully. ‘Ridiculous, isn’t it? The thing is, the meds make me appear slow and stupid. And I feel that way too, actually. I think they also make me so lethargic that I don’t really care enough to resist. I hate anything to do with fighting, anyway. Have you never had something like that happen to you?’
‘A few have tried it,’ snorted Tyrentia. ‘They only do it once, though. I just let myself go into berserk mode until they call it quits. The only way they could stop me would be to knock me out.’ She turned her head to glare at him. ‘You’re pathetic. You really need to get a life. For starters, lose the drugs completely.’
‘I already have, as of this morning,’ Hugh announced, and found himself telling her about the dream and what he had done after that. During his recital, he became distracted by a couple of the Shade people, doing something mysterious at the foot of a tree, and he tailed off. Tyrentia brought him up smartly. ’Don’t do that!’ she snapped. ‘If you can’t keep your wits about you, you’ll be back taking your drugs before you know what hit you. Anyway, what’s this about Rhino Valley?’
Hugh had to explain everything that had happened over the weekend, while she listened without further interruption other than to glare at him again if his attention wandered in any way. ‘Well, that brings it more-or-less up to date,’ Hugh finally finished.
‘Seriously, seriously weird,’ Tyrentia commented. ’Things certainly could be a lot less boring around here than I was afraid of. Do you really mean to tell me that you couldn’t see any signs of the Folk in the whole of the Valley except a few of the ones you call Shades? I call them Blackies. That bee-mind thing is out-of-sight-something-else, and I wonder what that voice egging them on could have been? Then, the messages. That must mean that the … the … fairies,’ – she said this almost defiantly – ‘are trying to talk to you.’
Hugh glanced towards the house. ‘I think we are being goggled at,’ he said drily.
Donald and Raine were standing inside the sitting room window, regarding them both with expressions of the greatest astonishment. Then the two vanished, to reappear at the front door and come towards them. ‘I take it you two are getting along?’ Donald asked, a little doubtfully.
‘We found highly entertaining ways to insult each other,’ Hugh replied, and Tyrentia gave her second little giggle of the day. Her mother looked at her with the sort of expression it usually takes an unexpected jab with something sharp to achieve.
Soon, they all set off for the home of Tyrentia’s grandparents on her mother’s side. It lay a bit further inland up the highway between Durban and the capital city of Pietermaritzburg, and then some distance along a side road lined with trees. They went through electronic security gates, which were normal in these suburbs, to a double-story cottage on the hillside. It had views towards rolling hills so covered in flowering trees and shrubs that neighbouring homes were almost completely hidden.
The couple who greeted them both looked very much like Raine and like one another, and could have been her older brother and sister. Donald introduced them to Hugh as Mr and Mrs Flynn, which struck him as strange. After the greetings were over he whispered to Tyrentia, ‘Why have you and your mom still got that name? What about your father …?’
Her face went into lines of fury. ‘I don’t want to **** talk about it. Ever!’ she raged, and stormed off inside, leaving him to help Donald bring in the suitcases.