The Boy That Hates Books

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Chapter 9: Shadows

Do shadows fascinate you?

Could the shadows of ourselves be other people? Maybe in some alternate universe, the shadows are people and people are shadows?

Or are the shadows we see of people with hearts no longer beating. Or a warning of a stalker, following our every move and tracing our tracks?

Do we live in other peoples shadows? Gone unnoticed. Or do we hide in peoples shadows? Wanting to go unnoticed.

Are all shadows the same? Are some good and some evil?

Are shadows people? Or do people become the shadows.

Are you a shadow?

He is.

A light breeze hit the side of my cheek as my eyelids fluttered open. My alarm clock blinked at me. Silence. I remembered it was Saturday. Relief sent a warm smile to my face as I stood up and made my way towards my mirror. My eyes greeted the clothes that I had worn yesterday, that same green jumper and skinny black jeans. Sighing, I tugged my hair up into a messy ponytail and made my way downstairs, the smell of freshly ground coffee filling my nostrils.

My room was small, but not small enough to bother me. I wasn’t the type of girl that needed a lot. I liked simplicity. Tiled, oak floor and patterned cream walls was enough to satisfy me. As long as I had my books.

“You were home late last night.” The interrogation started as soon as I entered the living room.

My mum was stood, arms crossed and eyebrow arched as she waited for my response.

“I was out with the twins.” I tried to make my way past her and into the kitchen, but she blocked me from entering.

“That’s no excuse.” Her eyes looked tired.

“You didn’t give me a time to come home so I assumed it would be okay.”

“Don’t assume.” She snapped and I flinched, “10pm every night, you know that.”

I took a step back and looked at her for a second, concern shadowing my thoughts.

Despite the unusual amount of make-up she was wearing, she looked the same. Those same tired eyes and that weary stance to her posture. The same dark circles beneath those eyes that were proof of sleepless nights. The same hairstyle, dark locks similar to mine pulled up into a tight bun. And that same guard she had up, making it almost impossible for me to tell what she was feeling, how she was that day.

The same. Mundane. Real.

My mum used to be exactly like me. A dreamer. She used to read every day without fail, up late at night in her room with the light on and her glasses perched at the end of her nose. She would smile to herself as she was reading, and sometimes hum along with the words. Lost in some fantasy of one thousand worlds, her life was a story waiting to be told.

That was, until reality struck.

The day my sister left changed her. My mum had become a stranger. A shadow of the person she used to be. She distanced herself from everything she was close to. She stopped reading and she regularly took days off from work. Her eating habits changed and sleep became an unlikely possibility.

It was as if she had become detached from everything and everyone, leaving me on my own. Because I didn’t just lose a sister that day, I lost my mum too. Although, I can’t blame her for acting the way that she did. Even though Nala was still alive, she had lost a daughter and was grieving her.

The pain of grief was supposed to dull over time, but for my mum it was a permanent scar. She had become broken. That’s why now, she reacted the way that she did.

“Okay,” I softened my voice, “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry isn’t good enough.” She seemed to lose interest in what she was saying for a split second, before returning focus.

“Have you not seen the news lately Kirsten?” her voice seemed frigid with panic.

“The news?” But I already knew.

It was what the twins had told me last night, that runaway boy on the loose. That’s what everyone was getting so worked up about.

“There is a fugitive roaming our streets,” her voice was unsteady, “and even worse, he was and still is a high suspect in a murder case. It’s said that 2 years ago he murdered his dad with his own hands.”

Nausea rolled in my stomach as all kinds of gruesome and disturbing images crept into my mind. Even though I had been told this last night, the twins hadn’t described it in as much detail as my mum was describing it in now.

“His two siblings came home to find their father dead on the kitchen floor. The boy was in bed, hysterical, with blood on his hands. He was mentally disturbed, a psycho, with no explanation for the murder. Both his brother and sister were left distraught. They phoned the police but by the time they got there, he was gone and so were his siblings. It’s said they ran away to start a new life...”

She spoke the words like she’d rehearsed them, and I felt as if I was listening to a news report.

Silence took its toll on us for a few seconds, before disappearing like smoke into air.

“It seems like that’s all people are capable of nowadays. Running away.”

I knew she was thinking of Nala, and I could practically feel the ache in her chest. I decided to change the subject.

“What is his name?” I whispered.

“Trent,” she replied, “his name is Trent and he was 16 years old at the time. No one knew why he did it, and no one can find him now. All we know is he’s here, in the Valley. And he’s hiding somewhere in the shadows.”

A chill made its way down my spine.

“This is why I’m so afraid Kirsten,” tears threatened to touch her cheeks, “I can’t lose you like I lost Nala. It would destroy me.”

Just as I opened my mouth to speak, a loud knock sounded at the door. My mum flinched as I went to answer it, pulling my hand back in the process.

“Let me get it,” she hissed, “you don’t know who it could be.”

“I’m sure it’s no one important-”

“Remember what I told you Kirsten,” she interrupted me, “he is hiding in the shadows. And there may not be many out in this daylight but people like him don’t live in the shadows. They become one.”

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