After school, Kieran and I are on the train. I sit close beside him and his hand rests on my thigh.
He leans his head closer to mine. “Jayden is picking us up at the station.”
I frown as I turn my head to him. “Why?”
He looks hopeless, when he says, “We need to talk about something.”
I laugh mockingly. “What do we need to discuss with him?” The last time I set my eyes on Jayden was the night after we came back from the aquarium.
“I do not want to say too much. I promised Jayden we will discuss it together, and it does involve all three of us.”
I tilt my head onto his shoulder, he feels safe. I watch the world pass by outside, on the other side of the train window. It is a beautiful sunny day and I am looking forward to a summer holiday filled with joyously long, warm days.
When the train pulls into Drogheda station, he scoops his bag up and swings it onto his shoulder. He takes my bag in his one hand and then hand in hand, we step off the train and walk along the platform toward the ticket office.
Before we walk out through the door to where I can see Jayden waiting for us impatiently, Kieran turns to me and he pleads softly, “I love you, Heather. What I am going to suggest later on today, will perhaps make you think I do not, but please remember you are the one for me, and I believe we will make it. I cannot wait for this curse to be broken and for the moment when I hear you say I am the one you want to spend the rest of your life with.”
I squeeze his hand, and as always, I want to tell him it is obvious I would choose him, but I know I am not allowed to let those words escape from my lips. To say those words could possibly be my death sentence. I know loving Kieran will be so easy, and it would be great to contemplate a future with him.
I feel uncomfortable when we walk down the steps toward Jayden. His eyes fix on me and he watches me intently.
Kieran greets Jayden stiffly, and Jayden nods his head in return while his eyes are still riveted on me.
Jayden says to me, “I thought we could discuss this at Tara.”
I shake my head vehemently. “No.” Quickly I add, “It is too far to drive all the way there now, and my mom will be worried if I am not at home when she gets there.”
For some unknown and unidentified reason, I do not want to go to Tara with Jayden and Kieran. The thing they want to discuss with me seems serious and I do not want to spoil the memory of the night Jayden took me there.
Kieran suggests, “Let’s just go to the park.”
I ask, “Why can’t we just go to my house?”
“I do not want us to talk about it in a closed space. The shadows are multiplying by the day, and when we discuss this I would prefer they could not hear us too clearly.”
Baffled, I get into Jayden’s car after Kieran opens the door for me. Automatically I move across to the other side of the seat, and Kieran gets in next to me.
In silence, we drive down the road toward the park and when we get there, Jayden parks his car in the parking area in front of the kid’s play area.
We walk to the large open space of the park and dead centre in the middle Jayden stops and sits down on the grass.
I sit down and when my leg touches Jayden’s I bring my knees up to my chest instead and I wrap my arms around my legs nervously.
Kieran sits down next to me. I have a strange feeling of déjà-vu that I have sat between them many times before.
Kieran glances around us, but the shadows are huddled together in a large, tightly packed circle around the outskirts of the park. I can feel the anticipated eagerness radiating from the dark gloom that has become my everyday illusion.
Kieran looks at me, when he says softly, excitedly, “I have found a way to break the curse, and once it is broken we can.” His eyes move to Jayden and then back to me again. “Carry on with our lives as normal. We can stop always having to anticipate tragedy only because we have fallen in love.”
I have a sudden deep sense of unease and I glance at Jayden, who is just sitting there defeated.
Kieran continues, “I think the reason why the shadows have become so brazen is because Heather, you have never before come so close to your birthday.”
He smiles encouragingly when I catch my breath. “What do you mean I have never come so close to my birthday?”
Kieran glances nervously toward Jayden. Jayden says gruffly, “You have never made it past sixteen.”
Kieran tries to lighten the mood by saying, “Not so long ago, being older than sixteen and not yet betrothed meant you were doomed to being a spinster.”
I hug my legs closer to my chest and I start to sway backward and forwards. Kieran reaches for me, but I shrug away from his hand.
Kieran looks hurt when he continues slowly, “So I think we should perform the ritual a week before your birthday.”
Softly I exclaim, “But that means you want to do it next week. I am supposed to visit my dad this weekend.”
“And that will work out perfectly because your mom will think you are with your dad, while your dad thinks you are with your mom.”
“I cannot do that. I am going to see my dad and then I am spending my birthday with my mom.”
“When are you going to your dad’s?”
“Friday evening, but I am staying the whole week. School closes for holidays this coming Friday—you know that already.” I look at Kieran puzzled.
“For it to work, we have to do it on the summer solstice, which is the twenty-first, so next week Tuesday.” Worriedly he looks at me. “Is that okay? You do understand when this curse is broken, we can be together without any shadows lurking around every corner.”
Disgruntled Jayden demands suddenly and I jump in my skin. “Tell her the whole story, Kieran.”
“Not now, Jayden.”
“Yes! Now Kieran.”
Kieran gives Jayden a murderous look and then he turns to face me. “This has to be your decision whether you want to do it or not, and I do not want you to feel as if I am forcing you into it.”
Jayden pushes himself up off the ground in a hurry and I see the muscle in his jaw twitching persistently. He walks away from us at high-speed and it is as if he cannot contain his anger. I have never seen him this way before.
Kieran turns to me and he touches his hand on my leg. I look back at him questioningly as he suggests, “This weekend we should go on a guided tour of Newgrange so we can see what it looks like.”
I nod my head resignedly.
He stands up and pulls me up with me. He holds his arm around my waist and before we reach the parking area, he says softly, “Heather, I will always keep you safe. Please don’t be afraid.”
I smile up at him sadly.
When we get to the car, Jayden is sitting behind the steering wheel, brooding. The Script is blaring loudly, the base reverberating through my spine. As soon as Kieran and I get into the car, Jayden starts the car and he drives me home. Nobody says a word, and even if one of us wanted to say something, we would not be able to because the music is too loud.