A fair warning.
The silence had become almost like a friend. It was
familiar and calming and no matter what I did, it would always be there. It was
the one constant in my life. No matter how messed up things became, I could
just stop and listen to the absolute nothingness.
I let the silence envelop me as I absorbed what Raith had told me. When Megan had disappeared, I thought the pain would kill me. It was worse than a thousand shards of glass running through my skin. It felt like I was being ripped to shreds from the inside out. There were times when I had considered suicide. It seemed like an end to it all: a release from all the crap in my life. If I died, I’d be with her again, forever. I had never done it though. Even now I’m not sure why. Something just seemed to stop me.
“Why?” I whispered. The word hung between the two of us, forming a link that Raith could either severe or strengthen. He would always be Raith to me. He may have been Tyler in the past but the boy with me right now would only ever be Raith.
“She stayed with him because of me.” Raith said softly. He was staring at the ground now, his fingers fiddling with a shard of glass. “At least that’s what it was at first. She would pretend we were a happy family and I suppose eventually, she believed it. When I grew older and tried to convince her to leave him, she couldn’t understand why. She told me my bruises would heal. She told me he was sorry. She told me it was her fault that he belted her across the face. I suppose it was the drugs that clouded her judgement but I think deep down, she loved the sadistic bastard. Then I got into some trouble and they shipped me off to boarding school where I couldn’t protect her. I couldn’t live my life knowing what he was doing to her. I thought that maybe…if I killed myself…it would be enough to wake her up, to make her snap out of her stupor and realise that she needed help. No one would miss me. No one would remember me. This was the only thing I could do for her so she would never have to suffer at the hands of my step-dad again.”
He was holding the piece of glass so hard that his knuckles had turned white and his hands started quivering.
“Did it work?” I asked quietly.
Raith looked at me and there was something in his eyes that made me dread the answer.
“I’ve only returned to that place once since I died.” He said. His voice had become soft, so soft I had to strain my ears even though I was right next to him.
“And?” I whispered, holding my breath.
“And I never want to go back there ever again.”
I didn’t know how to feel. Raith had willingly given up his life. He had lost something more valuable than I could ever imagine. I felt anger, anger that he had been given a second chance, anger that he was such a coward that he took the easy way out. And yet I couldn’t hate him. I just couldn’t hate the boy for doing what I had often thought about when Megan had first been abducted.
So we sat there, two messed up kids lost in a world that was slowly devouring us. We had shared something unbearably personal that night, trading stories that we had vowed to take to the grave. I didn’t know which one of us fell asleep first but for the first time since I had met him, both of us felt at peace.
I had met Mr. Red on a Wednesday. I remember it as clearly as if it had happened yesterday. It was one of those warm lazy days where you just wanted to walk into the sunset and just keep walking with the wind through your hair and the warm sun on your face.
That afternoon I took a short cut home from school through the backyard of an old shack. My mother warned me never to leave the main road but I was in a horrible mood and I just wanted to get home as soon as possible. Megan was the only one who knew about the short cut but she hadn’t been with me that day. We had had a fight over her getting the lead role in the ballet recital and so I had left school without her.
We had always thought the old shack had been abandoned so it never frightened us to take the short cut. We didn’t do it often and we never went by ourselves. But that day was different. That day changed everything.
I remembered squeezing through the gap in the wooden fence and getting scraped on the arm by a loose nail. I always found it weird that I remembered that detail. I remembered the way the blood dribbled down my elbow ever so slowly, glistening in the sunlight like a polished ruby. I also remembered the way the blob of red spread evenly like red ink on the sleeve of my shirt when I wiped it away.
The shack was a small, run down bungalow that was situated in the middle of a huge block of wild grass. Walking through the grass cut at least ten minutes off the total walk home.
I was half way across the property when a voice stopped me.
“Hello young miss.”
I froze on the spot and turned, the long grass swishing against my shins.
Looking over the fence next door was a thin, red haired man.
“You’re not going to ring the police are you?” I had asked timidly.
“Of course not princess. My name is Mr. Red. What is yours?”
“A pretty name for a pretty girl.”
I was frightened at first but the man had a nice face and warm eyes. That was the day that the friendship between me and Mr. Red began.
Every day I would go to the abandoned shack and talk to him over the fence.
I told him about school, about my friends and most of all, about Megan. I’d tell him how jealous I was that Megan was always picked instead of me. How everyone liked her more than me. How everything was about how great she was, about how she was so brilliant at everything while I was the dumb twin. I told him about our ballet recital and how she got the lead role when I had worked twice as hard. It had never occurred to me that Mr. Red could be anything more than the nice red haired man who lived next to the shack.
I had been the one to invite him to the ballet recital. I wanted him to come and judge for himself who was the better dancer. He always told me that I was a princess: that there couldn’t possibly be someone prettier or better than me. I should have known there was something odd about his fixation with me. At the time I was naïve. I liked that he complimented me so much. I liked that he thought I was so perfect.
I was still fighting with Megan by the time the recital rolled around. My parents bought her new ballet shoes just for the occasion and for a brief moment, I hated her.
It didn’t help that she kept trying to cheer me up. It just made me angrier. She was always the nice one. The sweet, kind, funny one.
Nevertheless, I still had hope. At the end of the recital, the judges would award a trophy to the best ballerina and there was the chance that I could win it.
I remembered the jealousy I felt when I saw her dancing across the stage. I remembered the hate I felt when I stood backstage watching her accept the trophy. I remembered the brilliant smile she gave me and her surprised look when I didn’t return it.
At the end of the recital, when Megan was getting changed, I took her brand new ballet shoes and put them on.
I just wanted to see what it would have felt like if it had been me dancing solo across that stage. I just wanted to see what it would have felt like if I had been the star of the recital.
The shoes were too tight. They pinched my toes and dug into my heels and I started crying because all I wanted was to see what it would be like if I were Megan and everyone loved me.
So I threw the shoes across the stage in anger and left. I forgot that he’d be there. I forgot that I had even invited him. I didn’t realise that he had been watching.
When Megan and I were sitting in the car, she realised that she didn’t have her ballet shoes with her.
"Wait, I need to go get my shoes." She had said.
I didn’t tell her I’d taken them. I didn’t tell her they were on the stage.
She asked me if I would come with her because it was dark and she was scared.
I refused and even though my parents offered to go with her, she didn’t want to bother them.
“Please Tegan?” she had begged.
I just glared at her and whispered, “I hate you.”
Those were the last words I ever said to her. I remembered the look on her face as she got out of the car.
“Be quick honey!” My mum had called to her. “Are you sure you’ll be okay?”
Megan just smiled and nodded before disappearing into the night.
We waited for ten minutes before my mum made me get out and look for her. After half an hour, both my parents were searching.
After a few days, the whole city was looking.
They never found her body.
My parents never gave up. Not until two years later when they found Mr. Red in some other state. When he realised he had been caught, he had killed himself and the whereabouts of my sister died along with him.
She wasn’t alive. I knew it. They found a shovel in his basement with her blood on it. When my family found out, they couldn’t handle it.
We moved away and never spoke of it again.
A cool chill woke me up and I sighed, burying myself deeper into my blanket and the comfy warmth it provided.
I lay there for a little longer, my eyes scrunched tight as I willed myself to go back to sleep. I felt so relaxed and it seemed a shame to leave this feeling and return to reality.
However, after lying in a toasty, subdued bliss for a few minutes, I decided that sleep was being especially evasive and I probably should get up and eat something.
Slowly and reluctantly, I opened my eyes.
There was something blurry and green in front of me. I blinked, my eyes sticky and itchy. Slowly my vision cleared and I realised I was staring into someone’s eyes. Green eyes. Raith’s eyes!
“What?” I shrieked, sitting up so fast everything went blurry and I almost fell back down.
“What?” he asked lazily, yawning and rolling onto his back as he stretched his long arms.
“What are you doing on my bed?” I screamed, throwing my arms over my chest protectively. “Wait…what am I doing on my bed? I mean Jess’ bed. I mean…what?” He was on Jess’ bed…with me…next to me…he was lying next to me…what happened?
“You fell asleep and looked pretty uncomfortable so I moved you to the bed.” Raith said indifferently, yawning again and rolling over onto his face.
“But why are you on the bed too?” I asked, my voice going several octaves higher as I stared at his back.
Raith mumbled something but I couldn’t understand the muffled words because he was talking into the doona.
“What?” I shouted in his ear.
“I said, where else am I going to sleep.” He snapped, rolling back over onto his back so he could glare at me.
I was about to argue but decided that I wouldn’t let my good mood be ruined by some douchebag like Raith.
Instead, I rubbed my eyes and looked at Jess’ bright pink clock sitting on her bedside table.
Huh, it was only nine o’clock. Nine o’clock on a…Tuesday morning?
“Oh crap I’m late for school!” I screamed, trying to get out of the bed.
However, as soon as my feet hit the ground, I felt a shock of pain and quickly curled back onto the mattress.
“Why do my feel hurt so much?” I whined.
Raith just watched me with a bored expression as he lay on his side.
“You stepped in a lot of glass last night.” He said flatly.
I was briefly assaulted by flashes of memory. A haunting face, broken glass, blood and a picture.
A picture of Tegan and Megan.
I crossed my legs on the bed and looked at the bandages covering my feet. I can’t believe I didn’t notice them before. They were the wide, white fabric type of bandages that were kept under the sink in the bathroom.
“Did you do that?” I asked, picking at the dressings.
“You would have got an infection if I didn’t.” he replied nonchalantly, sitting up and rubbing his eyes.
I stared at him suspiciously. Did that mean he had been rummaging around my house? That was certainly a troubling thought.
“Besides, you can’t go to school today. Have you seen your face?” Raith suddenly added very seriously.
“That’s not very nice.” I snapped. I knew I was still a little pimply but I survived yesterday didn’t I?
Raith just rolled his eyes and seemed to conjure a mirror out of thin air. I didn’t flinch at the sudden appearance of the inanimate object. I was getting used to Raith’s magic tricks. The other day I even caught him making flowers bloom in the garden with the flick of a finger. Then he made them wilt and die. It unsettled me, knowing that I still had no idea what Raith was capable of.
Once again Raith was watching me with an unreadable expression, holding the mirror towards me.
I hesitated as I took it from him. A small part of me was worried that if I looked at my reflection I’d see the Megan from my dreams staring back. I still remembered what it felt like last night, gazing into her hollow, sunken, accusing eyes as she reached out to pull me into her abyss of despair.
I swallowed hard and forced myself to look at the shiny, smooth surface, ready for whatever was waiting for me there.
Instead, all I saw was plain old Tegan with a bloodied nose and bruised face. I was relieved that the person I saw in the mirror was myself but at the same time, I felt a touch of disappointment. I didn’t understand it but despite the fear and guilt, I still had an uncontrollable yearning to see Megan again.
“You can’t go out looking like that.” Raith said as he peered into the mirror over my shoulder.
“Well what do you want me to do?” I asked, gently prodding the bruises and grimacing. There was a massive purple one the size of an egg on my forehead and a pink one on my left cheek. My nose was red and there was a little bit of blood on my upper lip.
“Just rest for a bit and let it get better. If you show up at school looking like that, everyone will start talking.”
I glanced up at Raith suspiciously. I wondered if he knew that people were already talking about me at school.
I looked at myself again and let out a huff. He was right. I should lie low for a bit. The bruise on my cheek should go away soon and I could cover the one on my forehead if I arranged my bangs properly.
With a tired sigh, I put the mirror down and threw myself backwards back into Jess’ soft pillows.
“Who was that girl?” I asked Raith as I stared at the ceiling and the many posters Jess had stuck up there.
“She’s an old friend.” Raith replied, lying down next to me.
“She didn’t seem to like me so much.”
“She’s like that with people.”
I bit my lip and glanced sideways at Raith.
“Why is she mad at you?” I asked.
Raith didn’t say anything and I frowned.
“She smashed my head against a door. I think I deserve to know.” I said firmly.
Again Raith didn’t say anything and I wondered if he’d ever answer my questions.
“I’m in trouble.” He finally said and I rolled onto my side so I could look at him clearly.
“What kind of trouble?” I asked curiously.
Raith just continued to stare at the ceiling.
“Tegan, it’s not going to help if you know. It would just make everything messier.”
“I think I can decide that for myself.”
Raith suddenly turned in my direction so we were lying face to face.
“Trust me on this. You’re better off not getting involved.” He said quietly.
I closed my eyes and let it go.
“As long as she never comes back…” I began.
“She won’t. And if she does then I’ll be here.” Raith said with confidence.
I wanted to tell him that that wasn’t the point. I couldn’t rely on him for the rest of my life. I hated being so dependent but I knew now was not the time.
My stomach suddenly rumbled and I blushed.
“Hungry?” Raith asked, his eyes boring into my own.
I tried to ignore the quickening of my heartbeat as I stared back at him.
I smiled sheepishly, feeling shy. It felt like something had changed between us and I didn’t know how to act around him anymore.
“Do you have waffles?” Raith got off the bed and stood up, stretching slowly and rubbing his shoulders.
My feet still felt tender as I got up and I hoped that the glass hadn’t cut me too deep. There were no more shards on the ground so I assumed Raith had cleaned it up.
“Where’s the picture?” I asked timidly.
Raith looked at me in surprise.
Then he pointed at the bedside table.
It took me a moment to see the shiny piece of paper sitting amidst all torn pages from magazines and sticks of gum. I approached it slowly and stared at the two figures smiling merrily from a scene so long ago. I still remembered how I felt that summer all those years ago. I could smell the salt in the air and feel the sand between my toes. It filled me with a heavy, fatigued nostalgia.
I picked up the photograph and hesitated before slipping it into my pocket.
I don’t know where it came from or how Babu got a hold of it but this was one of the only pictures I had of Megan and I was going to keep it.
Raith was watching me again, his head tilted to the side as he probably analysed my every move. His intense scrutiny started to make me feel uncomfortable so I changed the subject.
“Come on.” I said quickly, moving past him and opening the door to the hallway. “Let’s go find some waffles.”
Raith liked his waffles with lots of ice cream and maple syrup. So did I. It was freaking me out that I actually had a lot in common with this boy.
I opened the windows in the kitchen to let the nice morning breeze and sunshine into the house. There was a particular smell in the air that left me feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. It was a nice feeling and I wanted to hold onto it for a little longer.
Then I realised that the tub of vanilla ice cream I was holding had started to melt all over the sink.
I quickly put it back into the freezer and brought the two plates of waffles over to the breakfast table where Raith was waiting eagerly with a knife and fork ready in his hands.
I put the plate of food in front of him and sat down opposite him, not saying a word.
“What are you staring at?” Raith demanded as I watched him shovel food into his mouth without taking a breath.
“N-nothing.” I said quickly, looking back at my plate sitting in front of me.
I began to eat, the sickly sweetness bringing a smile to my face. I couldn’t help but keep staring at Raith though.
He was undeniably attractive. Even though I had become used to it, there were times when it still blew me away. Sure, his hair did look a little messy but there was a charm about it that made every strand look like it was in its proper place. It suited his facial structure, complementing his straight nose and high cheekbones. Maybe he’s got some Russian blood in him. That might explain why his hair is so dark when he’s got pale skin.
“Okay, seriously what is your issue?” Raith asked, putting down his knife and fork and staring me down with his sharp eyes.
“Nothing.” I said again, a little more forcefully.
“Then why do you keep looking at me like that?”
“Like you’re some lovesick puppy. It’s disturbing.”
I glared at him and stabbed my food angrily. The clanking, screeching sound of my fork on the porcelain plate made me cringe.
“You’re such a jerk.” I muttered, taking aggressive bites of my waffle.
“That’s more like it.” I heard him grumble and I rolled my eyes.
Looks like things were going to go back to normal.
After breakfast, I took out my make up bag and experimented on my face, trying to figure out how I could cover up my bruises.
“You’re really bad at this.” Raith said as he perched on my bed and watched me apply and then remove and then reapply foundation and concealer to my face.
I gritted my teeth and rested my elbows on my desk as I repositioned my small mirror on top of some large books.
“Shut up.” I snapped, glaring at my reflection and feeling frustrated at my dodgy make up skills.
“You look so patchy. A bit like a giraffe.” Raith mused thoughtfully.
“I do not look like a giraffe!” I snapped. “It’s harder than it looks.”
Then I gave up and we went into the backyard to water the garden.
“You remember how this works right?” I asked as I stood surrounded by rose bushes and daffodils next to Raith who was holding the hose. “You push this lever and- ahhhhh!!!”
I screamed as a torrent of ice cold water exploded all over my face.
“Yea I remember.” Raith said with a laugh, pointing the hose at me again.
“You’re not meant to water me! Aim for the tulips damnit!” I yelled just before another gush of water assaulted my face and left me choking.
Raith just cackled hysterically and pretended to wipe a tear from his eye.
”Quit it!” I screeched as he held up the hose again. “It’s freaking cold!”
When I realised that my words were falling on deaf ears, I turned and ran, narrowly avoiding tripping over a pot plant which was conveniently placed in my way.
Raith laughed evilly and chased after me, waving the hose around like a maniac.
“You should see your face!” he cried as he ran faster, his long legs catching up with me in no time.
“Seriously-” I began, turning around and ending up with a face full of water. “Raith!” I screamed as he cracked up.
I stamped my foot and picked up a pine cone.
“You’re such a douche!” I bellowed, throwing it at his face. It hit him square in the nose and he cursed, spraying me with more water.
“I’m going to freeze to death because of you!” I shouted, shivering as I glared at him.
“It makes your shirt see through too.” Raith said with a crooked grin, still rubbing his nose.
“Ew!” I threw my arms over my chest and hoped that none of the neighbours were watching. “You’re such a pervert!” I yelled as I backed into dry safety of the house.
Stupid Raith and his stupid immaturity. Geez.
I couldn’t stop mumbling angrily to myself as I shivered and dragged my soaking wet body through the lounge and up the stairs into my room.
Once I was sure I was alone and he hadn’t followed me up here, I changed into dry clothes and checked my face in my floor length mirror.
I was just in the middle of picking at one of my pimples when a figure materialised behind me.
“Oh my God!” I shrieked, jumping five feet into the air. It was the girl from before; the one who had attacked me.
“What up hoe?” she asked, approaching me with a smirk her face.
I spun around and tried to make a run for the door but the girl moved faster than lightning. She got to the door before me and threw herself in front of my only escape route.
“You should stay away from Raith.” She said, giving me a ferocious grin.
“W-what are you talking about?” I gasped, frozen on the spot as I stared at her in horror. She was wearing the same blue dress as yesterday but her smile was even more malicious. Oh sweet Lord why was she here again?
“W-what do you want?” I stuttered.
“Listen kid, I just want to chat.” The blonde girl replied. She crossed her slim arms and leaned back on the door in a casual manner, picking at one of her finger nails flippantly.
“Who are you?” I demanded, trying not to sound so freaked out.
The girl played with her finger nails a bit more before deciding to reply.
“My name is Morgue and I’m a friend of Raith’s.” She looked up at me with a challenge in her stare. “I saw you two down there.” She made a gesture in the general direction of the backyard and I swallowed nervously.
“And?” I asked, unable to hold her gaze for long. Instead, I looked at the tips of her short blonde hair. If I was going to be completely honest, this Morgue girl scared me. Especially with a name like Morgue. Yeesh.
“And it seems like you two are quite friendly with each other. I’m quite surprised. You don’t look like his type.”
My eyes widened but this time when I met her eyes, I managed to stare back.
“And?” I repeated a little aggressively.
Morgue’s eyes narrowed.
“And I just wanted to warn you not to get too close.” She said through gritted teeth, her temper rising.
“What I do is none of your business.” I snapped, sounding a lot more confident than I felt.
“Just how well do you know Raith?” Morgue asked smugly.
I hesitated and Morgue smiled in satisfaction, her bright red lips revealing pearly white teeth.
“Well enough.” I replied.
“So you know what he is?” she demanded.
“So then you also know that even though he treats you well, he’s not all good. He’s no angel.”
She waited for my reaction and I bit my lip nervously. I had no idea what this girl was trying to say. If she wanted to tell me something then why doesn’t she just say it?
“Look, I trust Raith okay? So nothing you say is going to-”
“Has he told you what he’s running from?” Morgue suddenly cut in, raising an eyebrow.
I tried to keep a straight face but I was panicking on the inside.
Running from? What is she talking about?
“Oh? He hasn’t?” Morgue asked patronizingly. “Then I bet he hasn’t told you what he’s done either.”
I couldn’t help it. My overwhelming curiosity outweighed my need to stay calm and in control.
“What happened?” I asked her, sounding way to eager for my own liking.
Morgue just smirked.
“Ask him yourself. I’d just be careful if I were you. That boy is dangerous.” She suddenly disappeared and I stood frozen for a few more seconds, my brain still processing what had happened.
Then my body sprang into action and I bolted through the unguarded door without a moment’s hesitation.
I leapt down the stairs two at the time, barely avoiding a near fatal fall as I tripped on the first step and had to cling to the handrail to stop myself tumbling down. I managed to conquer the rest of the staircase and once at the bottom, ran to the back door and pulled it open so hard it smashed into the adjacent wall.
I cringed as I heard something crack but that was the least of my worries.
Oh dear Lord I hope that scary woman never comes back.
The sunlight was blinding as I stood in the doorway facing the garden, trying to get my pulse to stop racing.
I could see Raith standing right where I had left him, swinging the hose around in circles and whistling some catchy annoying song.
I swallowed nervously and gathered up my courage before slowly walking towards him.
My determination seemed to strengthen at each step I took and soon enough my shaky fear was replaced with unshakable resolve.
“What’s wrong?” Raith asked when I was standing a metre away with a frown on my face.
“I need answers.” I said clearly, keeping it short and sharp.
Raith’s expression immediately darkened and he dropped the hose on the floor.
“She came back.” He said. It was a statement, not a question but I still nodded.
“Raith, tell me what is going on.” I demanded, putting my hands on my hips and giving him my best don’t-give-me-any-crap look.
“I told you not to worry.” Raith snapped, looking equally as annoyed.
I think my mouth fell open in shock.
Not to worry? Not to worry?
“How can I not worry?” I cried. “Morgue…she said that you were running from something.”
“Then it’s my problem isn’t it?” Raith yelled. “It’s none of your business!”
I wanted to hit him. I wanted to punch him in the face for being so freaking stubborn. I was speechless.
With a withering look, I spun on my heel and walked away, my temper barely in check.
Seriously, what was his effing problem? Why the hell was he being so difficult? I’ve gone through so much crap because of him and he still won’t tell me what’s going on? Un-freaking-believable!
He didn’t follow me. I was glad. I was just so angry. My face felt really hot like I had a fever and there was a pounding in my temples.
The door to the house was still open but I felt supreme satisfaction slamming it shut once I was inside. Then I stomped back up the stairs all the way to my room and once again slammed the door as hard as I could.
I wasn’t scared of Morgue anymore. I didn’t even care that she was trying to turn me against Raith. How could I trust the guy if he wouldn’t tell me anything? What was so important that he had to keep it a secret? Who was I going to tell anyway? It’s not like anyone would believe me anyway.
I charged across my room, kicked aside some clothes on the floor and sat myself down on my wheelie chair.
I couldn’t keep the pout of my face. Geez, I wasn’t asking a lot from Raith. I don’t care if he thinks he’s protecting me or something. He hasn’t exactly done a good job of that so far. Maybe if I knew what was going on then I’d be more prepared for whatever happened next.
I sulked and spun myself around in my chair, my temper rising and rising until I felt like I was going to scream.
It was frustrating feeling so helpless all the time. Why couldn’t he understand that?
I spun around and around and around, letting the world become a blurred mess of colours and shapes and senseless, whimsical objects that meant nothing to me. It all meant nothing to me.
A sudden pang in my stomach made me slam my foot on the ground and stop my spinning. It didn’t stop my head from going round and round and I scrunched my eyes shut, waiting for the sensation to be over.
The waffles in my stomach felt like they were having some massive, booze filled party and I curled up on the chair feeling unwell.
Through my nauseating discomfort, my eyes were drawn to the big black bag sitting on my bed. I wonder what Raith kept in there.
The soles of my feet prickled as I stood up and walked across my room towards it.
I knew it was wrong to do what I was about to do. I knew that if Raith caught me, I’d be dead. I knew that I was betraying the trust that Raith had so sparingly bestowed upon me. However, I also knew that if I didn’t find some answers soon, I was going to have a mental breakdown.
The bag was partially open. I could see the corner of the white envelope sticking out. With trembling fingers, I picked it up and opened it.
There was nothing inside except some pictures.
Holding my breath, I slipped the first photograph out and immediately dropped it, my fingers curling back like the piece of paper had burned me.
She was beautiful. The girl in the picture was absolutely beautiful.
The picture had landed at my feet and I reached down to reluctantly pick it up. It felt old and grainy against my fingertips and I held it away from me, almost too scared to look at it again. I don’t know why but I had the feeling that I was doing a terrible thing by looking at this photo. It didn’t feel like I was invading Raith’s privacy. It felt worse. It felt like I was intruding in a world that I didn’t belong in.
Who was this girl?
The picture was slightly faded; the colours washed out and dull. Nevertheless, I could still see every detail, every pixel sharp and clear.
She was sitting on what looked like an old wooden bench in a park, a cigarette in one hand while the other rested neatly in her lap. The photo was taken sometime in autumn. There were leaves everywhere, flooding the photo with rich and vibrant reds, oranges, yellows and browns. She sat in the middle of the storm of colours, a lone figure dressed in black skinny jeans, black high heeled boots and a well fitted, black singlet which revealed a slender but amazing figure.
She looked to be in her late teens or early twenties with light, flawless skin and pale pink lips. She had long black hair which cascaded down her shoulders in loose curls, all the way down her to waist like some soft ebony waterfall. Her eyes were enormous and brown, similar to my own, only hers were surrounded by long lashes and heavy eyeliner which contrasted with her smooth porcelain skin and gave her kind of a punk rock image.
There was something mischievous about her, an air of mystery and danger that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Her smile was secretive and her eyes hinted at the promise of the unknown.
Is this what Morgue meant when she said I wasn’t Raith’s type?
My eyes were drawn to the corner of the picture where the name ‘Scara’ was scribbled in feminine handwriting.
How many times had I heard Raith whisper that name is his sleep? Had he been dreaming of this girl? Had he tried to cry out to her in his dreams?
I couldn’t look at it anymore.
I hastily put the photo back in the envelope and pulled out the next one.
This one was narrower than the former and on closer inspection, it seemed to be a photostrip from one of those photobooths you find in malls or arcades.
This time Raith was in the pictures too. In the first one, he was sitting with his arm around the same girl and they were both smiling at each other. In the next one, they were both making faces at the camera. In the one below that, they were both laughing at something and in the final shot, Raith was kissing the girl on the cheek
I put this photo back too and looked to see if there was anything else in the envelope.
There were no more pictures but I felt my heartbeat come to a staggering halt when I saw the small metal object sitting at the bottom of the envelope.
It was the ring that Raith used to wear on a chain around his neck until recently.
I quickly pulled out the first picture and found what I was looking for. There was no mistaking that the same ring was on Scara’s index finger.
It had been her ring. That’s why he had wanted it back to much.
I started to shake and had to put my hands over my mouth to stop the scream in my throat. It felt like the air had been ripped from my lungs.
He had done it all for her. It had all been for her.
But who the hell was Scara? And who was she to Raith?
I left the house after that.
I didn’t see Raith when I came downstairs and I was relieved. There were too many emotions I had to sort through right now and at the moment, I had to do it alone.
I opened the front door slowly and squinted at the bright sunlight that flooded my vision. I didn’t know where I wanted to go but I just knew that I had to get out.
I slipped on my comfy pink Volleys and walked quietly down the street, feeling strangely subdued after my discovery.
The morning had been full of sunshine but as the sun rose higher in the sky, the clouds appeared and scattered themselves across the heavens.
The shade made everything seem more sombre and serious, bathing the street in a pale blue tinge.
There was very little life as I walked. I suppose everyone was still at school or work. Even then, I barely heard a bird tweet or a moth flap its wings. The day was unusually still and silent.
My feet took me down the sidewalk and my mind wandered, focussing on the houses and trees and fences and hedges and anything else that I happened to see in my dazed state. It all seemed so surreal and fake, like props on a set. It made me realise that I barely knew the people on my street. These houses could be inhabited, just here for show and decoration. For all I knew, they were merely cardboard cut outs that were so flimsy that even the slightest breeze would knock them down.
Eventually the concrete gave way to a dirt path and I walked through the dust and long grass until I saw the cracked ceramic tiles of the old abandoned train station.
The air was so still here that for a second I didn’t want to disturb the peace. I think it was only in small towns like Fishbowl that you can really find this type of quiet. It was a place that was truly void of sound and I found comfort in that.
The tiles cracked and crumbled into the dirt as I tredded over towards one of the rotting wooden benches. There were patches of grass growing between most of the chipped slates of ceramic and it gave the old shelter a melancholy kind of feel.
It suited my mood and I felt my muscles relax as I sat down and leaned back against the wooden chair.
As I stared out across the rusty railway tracks and the wild, barley fields beyond, I felt like an idiot.
I knew deep down that Raith was hiding something from me so why did I get so angry when Morgue confronted me about it?
I suppose I just wanted to pretend that everything was okay. We had been getting along so well in the past few days that I didn’t want to let that go.
Has he told you what he’s running from?
I bet he hasn’t told you what he’s done either.
That boy is dangerous
My fingers curled under the planks of wood on the seat and I felt a splinter pinch the tip of my index finger.
Raith would never hurt me. He’s already had numerous opportunities to kill me if he really wanted me dead. After all, he’s seen me at my most vulnerable.
That still didn’t mean that I was safe. There’s no way I could forget that there are other supernatural freaks out there. I’ve been caught up in this whole supernatural rollercoaster just by being associated with Raith.
I sighed and ran a hand through my hair.
Why was everything so messed up?
I shifted so I was lying down on the bench and staring at the clouds floating across the blue sky. They were all such funny shapes and it made me smile.
I could see a lamb and a pig and something that looked a bit like a snake with ears or a monkey with its arms and legs cut off.
I lay on that bench for hours, staring into the sky as my thoughts went in circles. The clouds were constantly shifting and changing but I didn’t even feel a breeze.
Nothing stirred in this place of peace and silence. Nothing disturbed my dreamings or thoughts.
The sun began to set. It made the sky bleed purple and pink and turned the clouds as gold as the barely fields below them. The trees became black silhouettes against the smear of vivid colours that blended and ran together like watercolours on a blank canvas.
I knew I had to go home. Everyone would be worried about me and they probably had a million questions they wanted answered.
I pulled myself into a sitting position but I couldn’t bring myself to stand up.
Would it really be that bad if I stayed here forever in the waning light? Would they really blame me for wishing to stay in a place that made me feel so safe?
I heard the sound of rustling and I jumped as a large paper bag floated down in front of me. It hovered in front of my nose long enough for me to smell tomato sauce before dropping into my lap with a crunch.
“Another peace offering.” I heard Raith say from behind me.
His voice broke the spell of silence and I was brought back to reality.
I sighed and waited as he came and sat next to me.
“I thought you might be hungry so I went and bought some cheeseburgers.” Raith said as he watched me rip open the bag and pull out two big wrapped burgers and a large fries.
I unwrapped one of the burgers and looked at the melted cheese and beef. It sure smelt good.
I glanced sideways and saw that Raith was still watching me with a serious look on his face.
“I’m not angry anymore.” I said when I started to get uncomfortable with his staring.
I picked up the burger and took a big bite, my mouth watering.
“After all, you know the way to my heart.” I said jokingly, indicating the burger.
Raith shrugged and reached over to take a burger for himself and a hand full of fries.
“Well you know the way to mine too.” He said as he started eating the chips.
For a second I thought of Scara but realised that it was probably something much simpler.
“Is it lemon meringue tart?” I asked thoughtfully.
“Tiramisu coffee cake.”
We both smiled at each other and it felt a little like old times. There was a tension though, like we were avoiding something. It wasn’t awkward but there seemed to be some sort of static in the air that kept me slightly on edge.
We finished eating our fast food in silence and once I had scrunched up the paper bag and wrappers, Raith seemed to pull a cheesecake out of nowhere.
He handed me a slice on a napkin and I took it meekly, my mouth watering at the sight of the creamy white dessert.
“Seriously Raith, I swear I’ve gained so much weight from eating cake with you.” I said as I took an enormous bite.
“You look perfectly fine to me.” Raith replied nonchalantly.
I blushed and hoped he didn’t see. I knew Raith meant nothing by it but I still felt funny hearing him compliment me. I couldn’t help but feel nervous around him again. My palms were feeling sweaty and my breathing sounded so embarrassingly loud, like I was hyperventilating or something.
I shifted uncomfortably and suddenly the taste of sweet cream cheese made me feel sick.
“What’s wrong?” Raith asked as I held my stomach and squeezed my eyes shut.
I shook my head, not daring to open my mouth just in case chewed up bits of cake and burger came out.
He sounded worried and it made my stomach twist even more. Why was he being so nice to me? Why was he even here, sitting so close to me in my one place of sanctuary and solace?
Memories from the last few days flashed before my eyes and I felt another sharp pang in the pit of my gut. I remembered walking around the mall with Raith tailing after me, getting me discounts every time I complained about being poor. I remembered when he made those giggling girls take a picture of us, and eating hamburgers and sundaes while arguing over stupid, insignificant things that don’t even matter. Most of all, I remembered the times we spent together up in my room eating desserts while watching the world go by from my open window.
Damnit Raith. I knew I shouldn’t get so attached to him and I shouldn’t expect anything from him either. When this is all over, Raith will leave forever and I will be happy.
I won’t miss him. I can’t. I have to feel nothing because he can’t stay. I needed to stop deluding myself and get back to reality. He doesn’t belong here and he doesn’t want to stay either, not when he’s got someone like Scara waiting for him somewhere.
The thought of Scara was sobering and it made my strange nausea pass momentarily.
I sat stiffly for a little longer, concentrating on my deep breathing and the feeling of the cold air on my skin.
Then I opened my eyes and was taken aback at how pink the light had become.
Because of the sunset, the sky was morphing from colours of red, orange, pink and fuchsia to a deep dark blue.
As corny as it sounded, it was really pretty. The clouds looked like little buds of cotton candy floating serenely above the world. I thought how funny it would be to fly up and take a bite out of one of them. Would they taste as sweet as they looked? And was I an idiot for thinking about something so random?
I could hear crickets singing somewhere in the distance and the sound put my troubling thoughts at ease. It felt like summer again; long warm nights and the scent of flowers in the air.
I wished things could stay like this forever but forever was a very long time.
“Do you feel better now?” Raith asked in concern.
I don’t know what brought on that strange fit of sickness but it seemed to be over for now.
“Yea. I’m good.” I said, looking down at my lap where I had left the remaining piece of cheesecake. It took me a second to realise it was gone.
What the flip?
“Raith, did you eat my cheesecake?” I demanded, turning to the boy next to me with a shocked expression.
“Well you were feeling sick…and complaining about being fat.” He said somewhat guiltily, not meeting my eyes.
“You jerk! That was my slice! You basically ate a whole cheesecake you ass!” I bellowed.
“Stop yelling!” he yelled back at me.
“Because look at the fireflies!”
In the waning light which bathed everything in a pretty peach tint, I saw little bulbs of light appear from across the grassy plain.
My breath caught in my chest and my temper subsided, giving way to wonder.
“They’re so pretty.” I said softly.
“Glad that shut you up.” Raith mumbled.
I had never seen fireflies in real life and the sight shocked me. It was almost magical. They fluttered everywhere; little balls of glowing gold that danced in the dry grass and barley. They scattered across the field like stars across the sky, clusters of light in the coming dusk.
“What are fireflies doing here?” I voiced out loud, my notes from biology running through my head. “This isn’t a marshy, swampy area.”
“I think there’s a creek down there somewhere.” Raith commented, sounding acutely impartial as he stared down at his feet.
I ignored his obvious lack of interest and just enjoyed the sight for a bit longer.
The number of fireflies seemed to increase with the darkening sky and soon enough the whole field was glowing brightly with minuscule bugs. They moved so fast they looked like candles flickering in the night. It made me want to grab a giant net and run around trying to catch them all.
I must have been day dreaming for a while because an unexpected gust of wind suddenly made me aware that I was really, really cold.
“Come on. We should go back before your sister freaks out.” Raith said as I rubbed my arms hoping the friction would warm me up.
“Yea. I bet they’re all really worried about me.” I replied absentmindedly, more concerned about how unbelievably freezing I felt.
“What will you tell them?”
I knew Raith was talking about my face and what Morgue had done to me but to be honest, I had no idea.
“I don’t think they’ll believe me if I said I tripped, right?” I asked sheepishly as I stretched out my stiff limbs and stood up.
“Well you are pretty clumsy.” Raith replied, also standing up.
I wanted to smack him but I knew that was impossible. Instead I just gave him an annoyed look and threw the scrunched up paper bag at his face. I missed by a fair metre but I think the effort should count for something.
“Let’s just go.” I muttered.
I said a mental goodbye to the fireflies before turning on my heel and treading back over the dilapidated remains of the train station.
The crumbly concrete and dry wooden benches looked a little spooky at night and I kept getting goose bumps every time a long piece of grass grazed against by shins. It felt a little like thin fingernails running along my skin and it freaked me out every time.
It was even worse walking down the dusty, overgrown path back to the concrete sidewalk of the main street.
“Scared?” Raith suddenly whispered in my ear huskily, his warm breath sending shivers down my spine.
I flinched and jumped away from him.
“No.” I said aggressively, peering at him through the gloom.
In the dark I could only see the outline of his face and the tip of his nose. I had to admit it was a little creepy.
Much to my relief, we made it to the main stretch of road and, once under the comforting artificial light of the streetlamps, I decided to continue our conversation about what to tell my friends and family about my encounter with Morgue.
“We could always just say your ex did it.” Raith mused, kicking loose gravel on the road.
“Are you serious? Cory would get in so much trouble. There’s no way I could do that to him.” I replied, my eyes glued to the tarmac beneath my feet.
The streets were pretty empty and deserted tonight so Raith and I decided to walk in the middle of the road. It was brighter than walking on the footpath because of the faint glow from the streetlights above.
“What about someone trying to rob you?” Raith suggested.
“That could work.” I said slowly. The street looked so foreign in the dark. I could barely recognize where we were. The shadows seemed to hide everything and for a second I thought I saw something move far to the right.
“And then you can say that they beat you up because you had no money but you didn’t see their face and you don’t want to report it.” Raith continued, oblivious to my increasing nervousness.
My eyes were flickering everywhere now. I swear I saw someone hiding behind that mailbox on the left. Or maybe it was just a cat. Maybe.
I shook my head, hoping I was just being paranoid. I suppose I’d be okay since Raith was with me…except he seemed completely oblivious to my growing unease.
I started chewing my lip, once again feeling goose bumps run up and down my arms.
The shadows seemed to grow all around me and suddenly it was like I was a child again, hiding under my blanket because I was afraid of the dark.
Was there really someone hiding somewhere in the pitch black night?
I heard the whisper of a noise behind me and I tensed up, my nerves standing on end.
Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Footsteps on the gravel. Light footsteps. Slow and steady coming up behind me.
I glanced over my shoulder, my breathing quick and tight as my eyes peered into the darkness.
I couldn’t see anything but I could hear it.
I stopped walking and just like in the movies, the crunching noise ceased as well. I stood absolutely still, my ears straining for the faintest sound.
Raith, who had stopped a new paces in front of me, turned back to say something but I put a finger to my lips to signal him to shut up.
The silence was almost deafening and after a minute, I decided to start walking again.
Crunch, crunch, crunch.
It began almost instantly, a steady and rhythmic match to my own footsteps.
Whoever was out here was definitely following me but it didn’t sound like they were behind me anymore.
Raith finally seemed to catch on that something wasn’t right because he moved a little closer to my side.
“Can you see what it is?” I whispered to him, shivering and wrapping my arms protectively around myself.
Before Raith could even answer, something yellow and blue leaped out at me and I screamed so loud I almost shredded my lungs.
“God damnit Morgue!” Raith yelled as the blonde girl burst into cacking laughter and bounced around us in a wide circle.
I almost fell to my knees in fright. It actually felt as if my heart had stopped. I felt my chest just to double check that I still had a pulse. She literally almost gave me a freaking heart attack!
“What do you want?” Raith snapped at Morgue once she was done with her sadistic laughing. I just glared at her as she pranced about in her floaty blue dress and sneakers, her short blonde hair wisping around her narrow face as she guffawed merrily. Her teeth looked absolutely sharp and frightening in the moonlight.
“I just wanted to join your little duo.” Morgue said with a drawling voice, suddenly latching onto Raith’s arm and smiling mischievously.
“Go away.” Raith said shortly.
“That’s no way to treat an old friend!”
“You’re not my friend.”
Morgue and Raith started bickering and I basically raced to get in front and away from them. Morgue really annoyed me. It was like she was either threatening me or clinging to Raith like some needy girlfriend.
It wasn’t that I was jealous or anything. I just really didn’t like the girl.
“Geez Raith! Why do you always look so miserable when you see me?” Morgue whined with an ugly pouting face.
“Because I am fucking miserable when I see you!”
Good grief. They were basically shouting at each other at the top of their lungs in the middle of suburbia. Are they insane? I thought Reapers were meant to be ace at keeping low profiles.
At this rate, the whole of Fishbowl is going to know that I’m associated with these two lunatics who feel the need to yell to each other as if they were on opposite ends of the country.
Embarrassment was only a shadow of the mortification I felt when a surly old lady peeked at us from behind the curtains of her little cottage house with her eyes set to Stun and Kill mode.
‘Sorry’ I mouthed, trying to look apologetic but only earning myself the full force of her death ray gaze.
I shuddered, vowing to never underestimate the glowering powers of little old ladies ever again.
I just wanted to get home ASAP.
As I picked up my pace, it seemed that the rain clouds from earlier today had decided to let loose their bounty of water because I was suddenly feeling droplets on my face.
I prayed it wouldn’t rain until I was safely indoors but just as I saw my house at the end of the road, water started flooding down on us like we were trapped under some massive waterfall or something.
Great. Just great.
I basically ran the next few blocks towards my house while Morgue and Raith started kicking puddles at each other, both soaked to the bone but not caring one bit.
I splashed up my driveway and finally reached my doorstep, dripping wet and shivering as I felt my pockets for my house key.
I felt my heart sink when my patting revealed that my pockets were essentially empty.
I sighed and rested my head on the door, ready to go to sleep right there and then. It turned out that I couldn’t even do that because the moment my forehead touched the polished wood, the door opened and the floor flew exceedingly fast towards my face as I fell forward.
Oh man why was the ground so hard?
“Tegan!” Jess screamed in my ear and I flinched as she pulled me up and continued to yell at me.
“Where have you been? Do you know how worried I was? You didn’t even bring your phone with you!”
My sister looked like she had been in a hurricane. Her hair was frizzy and tangled, her face was sweaty and her eyes were drained and tired. She was still wearing her uniform too.
“Sorry. I went out for a walk.” I said quickly, hoping she wouldn’t make a big deal about it. My nose was really sore from my fall.
Jess pursed her pink, glossy lips and raised a thin eyebrow in disbelief.
“You went for a walk in the rain?” She asked incredulously.
“Well obviously it wasn’t raining when I left.” I retorted, my temper short.
That seemed to be the wrong thing to say because Jess seemed to explode.
“God Tegan, you need to stop relying on other people and take care of yourself!” she bellowed at me, red in the face.
I stared at her, stunned at her outburst. Then the anger kicked in and I couldn’t help myself.
“I can take care of myself thank you very much!” I screamed.
“Well you certainly don’t act like it!” Jess yelled back.
“I don’t need you to act like my mother!”
“Oh my God, why are you so annoying?” Jess stamped her foot so hard it sent up a little cloud of brown dust and she sneezed.
“Because I have a stupid sister like you!” I shrieked before turning on my heel and stomping up the stairs.
“You’re dripping all over the carpet!” Jess shouted irrationally after me.
I didn’t care. I just made sure to slam the door of my room as hard as possible.
Once in the comfort of my room (not that it was much comfort), I sat on the floor and took deep breaths as I tried not to rip up my carpet.
God I hated being lectured. She was wrong too. I can take care of myself perfectly fine. I’d like to see Jess try to get through all the crap I had to put up with lately.
Seriously, why did she have to go off at me like that? Who did she think she was? I don’t scream at her about staying out late at night and messing around with a guy who is at least two years older than her. How dare she think she had the right to lecture me about anything!
I wanted to cry in frustration. Stupid emotional turmoil. Sometimes I think it’d be easier if we were all just emotionless androids and didn’t have to deal with stupid things like feelings. Wouldn’t the world be a much more efficient and simpler place?
Angst, angst, angst. Whatever. I just wanted another slice of cheesecake and a hot shower.
Rolling my shoulders and sighing at the wet patch I had made on the carpet, I stood up and grabbed my pyjamas from where I had flung them over my desk this morning.
Then I treaded my way over to the pristine, white tiled bathroom and stared resignedly at my reflection in the polished mirror.
I was such a sad sight; a skinny, drenched girl with bruises all over my face. The bruises were healing but they still looked horrendous, especially the huge purple and blue one on my forehead. No wonder Jess was so worried.
I sighed and brushed my wet hair back with my hands, beginning to feel overwhelmed.
I dreaded going to school tomorrow. If Sabrina was still spreading rumours then I might just have to kill her and dump her decapitated head into the harbour. I’m sure people would think mobsters did it. It would be a nice way to fix one of my problems. But then again, until I found a good alibi and the proper materials to carry out a homicide, I might as well try to deal with my more immediate issues.
I prodded at my face again.
The bruise on my cheek wasn’t too bad. It was a disgusting yellow colour but make up would fix that. My acne was also getting better. The skin around my nose wasn’t as bumpy and red.
Glad that at least something was going right in my life, I took off my t-shirt only to see Raith suddenly appear behind me in the mirror.
“Oh my God!” I screamed, throwing my hands over my chest even though I was still wearing a bra.
“Oh shit!” Raith cried, his face going red as he stared at me.
“Get out!” I yelled, struggling to cover myself with my shirt while shrill alarm signals went off in my brain.
“Sorry! Sorry! I didn’t know you were-”
“I’m in the bathroom! What did you think I was doing you pervert? Get out! Get out get out get out!” I screamed, the panic almost giving me an aneurism.
Raith disappeared and I let out a blood curling shriek.
What was wrong with people these days?
I left the bathroom fuming.
Sure, I felt better after my nice hot shower, but I was still mad at Raith for invading my privacy.
I swear that when I find that boy, I’m going to shove a pencil through both his eye sockets and scramble his eyeballs so he’ll never see again. No joke.
However, as I approached my room, I heard two voices talking.
“What are you doing, Raith?” I head Morgue ask.
I stopped right outside my door, confused.
“What do you mean?” Raith replied, sounding disgruntled.
“I mean what are you doing with that girl?”
There was a long pause and with each passing second of silence, my heart rate sped up.
Then Raith finally spoke.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He said. He sounded further away so I assumed he was pacing.
“Listen, you can’t hide here forever. You’re putting her in danger just by being near her.”
I put my ear close to the gap between the door and the wall and held my breath.
What were they talking about?
“Look Morgue, I’m dealing with it and I won’t let them hurt her.” Raith said with conviction.
“Are you ignorant or just stupid?” Morgue suddenly shouted. “They know where you are! They know everything. The question is, why haven’t they come to get you yet?”
“Maybe they don’t care.”
“Bullshit. They’re planning something and it’s something big. When they come for you, do you really think they’re gonna let that girl go?”
“They wouldn’t do anything to her. It’s against the rules.”
“And so is telling her about us.”
“Raith she was dead the moment you told her what you are!”
Silence followed her words and my heart started to pound uncontrollably.
I didn’t want to believe it but Morgue’s voice kept echoing in my ears.
She was dead the moment you told her what you are.
I was in big trouble. I had a feeling something like this might happen but to have my suspicions confirmed chilled me to the bones.
This can’t be happening.
They weren’t talking anymore and I wondered whether I should wait before going in just in case they found out I had been eavesdropping.
Then Morgue suddenly appeared beside me and I had to stifle my surprised yell.
“If I were you, I’d run girlie. I’d run far, far away.” She said with a wide smile.
A moment later she was gone and I was left taking shaky breaths.