Out-take #2: Vanguard Newborn, Chapters 1-2
As I mooted some time ago, here are the opening chapters of VN which have been dumped. I reckon that yeah, it is total crap and not very readable. So, if you decide to give a go… good luck.
© Copyright 2011, David Noblet. This material may not be used, altered, or reproduced without the express written permission of the author.
Something felt hard against me. I was lying down, but I wasn’t sure where. As my mind began to become more aware, I realized I felt numb all over. Trying to straighten my legs, first the left, then the right I still felt nothing. Lying there for a moment I listened to the rustling of something that sounded like trees blowing. I must be outside. Faintly, maybe somewhere in the distance I heard a car passing. Or maybe it was a truck. I carefully opened my eyes.
It was night. There were no stars, and I could see the orange tinted clouds slowly move above me. I moved my eyes left and right. I was lying in the street, on the wet pavement. Something was making a strange noise nearby. Regular, high pitched. I rolled onto my side and saw a bag a few yards away. The noise was coming from there I decided. Crawling towards it I finally got to within reach. I dragged the bag towards me and emptied onto the ground. The noise was coming from a cell phone. For a moment I just stared at it unsure what to do. Eventually, I figured that I should answer it. But my head was numb too. My brain couldn’t concentrate on anything. The noise stopped and the light on the phone vanished. I turned it over in my hands. A black cell phone.
My attention wandered to my surroundings. I was next to a wrought iron fence in a street with what looked like big dark buildings on one side. Trees or shrubs grew behind the fence. A sweet smell got my attention. I sniffed the air around me. People away off in the distance walked across the street. There were a few of them, but I couldn’t tell. They vanished behind something. I froze there, on all fours trying to think what that smell was. But the answer never came. I got distracted again.
The cell phone in my hand starting making that noise again. I half jumped out of my skin. It was lit up too. Tentatively I put it to my ear. Nothing. I stared at it again. Something connected in my head. Oh yeah, I thought as I slid it open.
“Dee, I’m home,” A soft voice said. I wasn’t sure what to do. “Are you doing anything tomorrow?” The voice asked.
I sniffed. That smell again. It was close, very close. I sniffed and realized it must be like on me. I sniffed my free hand. Yup. That’s it. I inhaled deeply. I felt my lungs expand, refreshingly intoxicating.
“Dee? You there?”
About to speak I stopped and examined my hand. It was a dark red. Blood? Who’s blood? I dropped the phone and fell onto my backside. I wasn’t sure but tiny fragments seemed to be coming back to me. Something, or someone, white rushing at me. I had turned as it hit me. Something red and black, in my face. I wasn’t really sure. Then there was nothing. I felt where it had hit me on the side of my neck. My fingers felt something gooey and sticky. I looked at me fingertips. They were reddish brown. The same smell too. The phone was still lit up.
Reaching for it again I struggled to get a grip on it. Finally, I managed to get a hold of it. I knew something was wrong. With me.
Mustering my concentration I looked at the phone and spoke.
“Help me,” was all I could muster though my almost non-existent voice. “Help me,” I repeated. I was in no state to join a debating society, but I was sure I needed help.
Dropping the phone again I struggled to get to my feet. I was pretty wobbly, worse that a drunk really. I had managed to get about twenty yards up the street and was not too sure where I was headed. I think the movement up further by street lights were pulling me that way, just like a moth. I was barely able to stand up – never mind fly.
A dark blurry object appeared to be getting closer. I hesitated in my stagger up the street as I groaned something, trying to get its attention. But then it disappeared into the darkness to the side. Having stopped moving, my swaying got worse until I toppled over. It didn’t hurt when I hit the ground, but the sound was pretty odd. It did seem like a hard fall. Maybe my luck was in and I wasn’t hurt. I listened to some voices. They must be up by the lights again. I leveraged myself up onto my hands and knees again, looking up to where the people had been. I was just starting to straighten out my legs and let go of the ground when there was somebody running towards me.
Fuck! I thought to myself, They’re gonna do something to me. Shit! I didn’t bother standing up. Something in my head warned me that the best defensive position to take was to get to the ground and try to just curl up. I was going to do that. They were way too quick for me though. No sooner had I flopped back down than one of them grabbed me and started yelling back up the street. Others arrived. They dragged me to the side of the street and let me lie there for a moment. Before I knew it, I was bundled into a car. In my groggy state I slouched in the backseat. I looked through my eyes woozily at them. The people looked familiar somehow.
“We’ll take care of you Dee,” one of them said.
I tried to get the attention of the big guy crammed in next to me. All I did was topple onto him. He gently pushed me back upright, this time keeping a hand firmly on my arm. A girl on the other side leaned in front of me and took a close look at my neck. Her concerned face turned to shock. Her mouth went wide in horror.
“Hurry Stephen! She’s been attacked.”
The guy driving looked in his mirror, back at the little paled-faced girl who was staring at my neck.
“We can see she’s been bloody attacked ‘Liz,” he replied impatiently.
“I mean, Dee has been attacked. By one of us!”
“We’ll be at ours in a minute!” the guy called Stephen shouted back. From my vantage point I could see and hear that he was now a bit shaken.
“Coming up to the gates now.” He furtively glanced in the mirror, the car engine turned off and suddenly Elizabeth and the guy next to me were out the car, lifting me out.
As they carried me somewhere I tried to think what had happened. A dark clothed white person had jumped me as I walked home. But what I remembered didn’t seem right. I could see huge white teeth, like fangs. The lips were pulled back and the face was pulled in what looked like a snarling smile. Huge deep red eyes. I had fallen backwards but before I even hit the ground the thing was on me. Its teeth had bitten me. I was sure that I’d felt those fangs pierce my neck. I could just recall the feel of the warm trickle down my neck as it kept its bite tight, pulling me closer.
I tried to speak to Elizabeth as she carried me into a house but I’m not sure anything they could understand came out. The last thing I remember was bright lights in a hallway and being placed on a bench or a table.
But I did remember things and people from my life. There was my lovely mum, who I now knew that I missed terribly, so much so that in my dream I was worried about her. Somehow, the memories I dreamed reinforced our connection from the distant past as one of the most painful experiences of our lives played out in my head.
It wasn’t with the panic and tears that I experienced those feelings, as I had done for years following that day’s events. When whole days and weeks and months passed in a blur, numb with emotion and listless, afraid to talk or even venture out with friends.
In the dream it was as if the day was here again. As if my parents and I were there for real. Again. Living the terror and shock through uncomprehending horror, trying to find out whatever we could from police, friends and each other. But we had no answers, except more questions and our deepest fears.
The first thing I noticed when I woke up was that it was still dark. I never wake up on a Saturday morning before sunrise. Even in the depths of winter. Still lying down half asleep I eyed the curtains suspiciously, like maybe it was daytime on a really dull day. I decided that, no, it was still night. The orange sulfur street lights always shine in a certain way that threw odd shapes on the bedroom wall. They were there now. So it must be night time still.
Turning out of my bed I tiptoed to the door and opened it a crack and peered out. All the lights upstairs were on and I could make out the murmur of a strange voice from downstairs.
Creeping to the top of the stairs I leaned over the stair railing to see who was there. I couldn’t see round the corner into the small lounge room, and decided to get closer and listen. So I crept down the stairs and sat anxiously a couple of steps from the bottom. The squawky sounds of a police radio came from the lounge, before the volume was turned down.
The police were here about Jason. My brother was three years older than me and it was terrifying not knowing if he was going to come home. Or if he was lying hurt somewhere, waiting for help that would never come.
“We haven’t seen him since three days ago, Friday night, when he set off, with friends to walk Mold Famau.” Dad’s voice was cracking under the stress. Mom evidently in tears, whimpering as dad talked to the police managing to get out a few words before breaking down again.
“Please, oh god, please find him.” My mother pleaded, hoping that the police would do just that.
Then my dream changed. Instead of me sitting on the steps listening what was happening I was outside, watching my brother play soccer with a friend of his. It was a rough and tumble affair, and it was a slight bit of trepidation that I walked home from school past them playing in the road. It was a quiet side street in Liverpool and they were unlikely to get run over.
Still, it didn’t stop me warning them as I approached.
“You’ll get run over you know Jase’.” I called out to them.
Suddenly Jason’s friend had walloped the ball against a brick fence a few feet in front of me. That could have hit me. “You loony!” I shouted at him and chased the ball back across the street lining up a big kick. If I hit the ball right they’d have to beg the neighbor for the ball back. Not an easy task. But I couldn’t catch the ball up, and gave in as it rolled onto the other side of the street.
“Next time … you won’t get that ball back Jase’.” I warned.
In my dream, I’m sure I smiled at the fun we used to have. A wave of happiness flowed through me as slowly Jason’s smiling face looking at me began to dissolve into the blackness of nothingness.
In place of my brown haired mop top haired brother smiling at me, darkness fell over the scene. The street scene dissolved to be replaced by a night time panorama of the river and lights across the Mersey. I was sat on the edge of the dock down on the Mersey. Hearing feet running, my head swung quickly round to face the tanned boy who was wearing a black hoodie and swinging a plastic supermarket bag from one hand. In the other he held a can.
Paul liked to sniff paint. In the bag, I hoped was my fix: illicit vodka he’d stolen from his big brother. In reality he had probably acquired it with his brother a willing supplier. Seeing Paul my heart leapt. I knew it and felt it. But hidden behind my smiling face and look of joy there was a hollowness in which my mind sensed the nothingness that this friendship meant to me.
Six months had passed since my parents separated and my life fell apart. Moving school I found myself on the outside of everything that had previously been central to my very being. The teachers were idiots who could not care less about teaching. The students who turned up for classes bore the hallmarks of urban lower class kids, with bigger issues to deal with. Plus, in class, I was shunted to the back, next to who was probably the biggest loser still attending.
Paul was a loner and clearly a no hoper. Yet, we became friends, our broken families and emotional pain drawing us together like flotsam on a polluted sea. We sought solace in each other, in the drugs and alcohol that we would sniff pop and drink every moment away from our morbid homes. Finding that Paul was not the no hoper others penned him to be I grew closer to him. He had real reasons for being a loner for whom getting an education was not the highest concern or priority.
Like him, I saw that my problems could be dealt with, the pain washed away for a while by the numbing effects of substance abuse. For me it was vodka, or any alcohol for that matter. Paul sniffed – glue and paint mainly. His friends, Melissa and Leslie who we would hang out with would join us in our little sessions usually in Sefton Park or down by the abandoned building near the docks.
It was in that dream, in between consciousness that I saw the truth. Paul had been the lowest point in my life. The very reason I had fallen into hanging with him was my family’s breakdown. I was alone and missed Jason. My parents were alone and blamed each other. In their natural struggle for sanity and hunt for reasons for my brother’s disappearance they had turned upon the other and forgot me.
Paul was my crutch upon which I could bear my burden of loneliness and confusion. At least with him I had someone who cared for me.
Then in a flash my dream of that night on the docks when I’d lost my virginity to Paul in a passion fuelled escape morphed into one of the last days at school. Other kids were whispering, giggling and looking at me. As I walked through the crowds of lunchtime students, it was obvious that I was the topic of their intrigue. Then I saw Jessica, my athletic, blond short haired lesbian shadow approach me as I sat alone in a sheltered alcove.
“Hey Dee, did you hear about that boy at school? The one who’s supposedly dating the prostitute girl?” She asked after a few moments of strained silence.
It was a typical student rumor, the sort of one that I actively detested. And I did not expect Jessica to be spreading such gossip. I just gawked at her, unsure what exactly to say in response.
“Yeah. Some guy who lives in Toxteth – don’t know who – but he… like, has this thing going with some university girl who does… you know. Part-time.”
Her words faded away and the dream went hazy, fading away into swirling colors. Reds, blues, yellows and greens like some psychedelic dream, pulsating as my heart beat from my dream echoed in my mind.
With no pictures and no vision, my dream state changed to one full of spoken words. They weren’t random things said aloud. They were things I had thought, realized from the last few weeks. From the first time I made love with Paul, to finding out it was him that was cheating on me, to what I would say to him, to seeing Elizabeth for the first time and pure joy the possibilities of knowing her held.
Her face emerged from the swirling colors in my otherwise black mind. It was the first time I saw her, looking up at me through the open window of her black SUV as I sat on the bus at the lights. Her face was so perfect, white with her large bright amber eyes staring at me, as I imagined I was at her.
Then she was gone as the bus moved past ahead of her car. In my dream the memory sent a thrall through me. It was the beginning of my recent happiness. Over time we became friends and she gave me the strength to straighten out and dare to put the past behind me. In the absence of a real family of my own, the Chisholm family became my own. In September I would start at college, Elizabeth giving me the confidence to chase my dreams to do better for myself. I had no real idea what I wanted to be but I had been accepted into the Applied Psychology course at John Moore’s. It sounded interesting.
I suppose I’d become a shrink.
Not that long ago mom had had the temerity to urge me to see one. That was when the police had taken me home, having found me passed out from a vodka session with Paul and our friends. Sometime after meeting Elizabeth I told my mom my plans. She was shocked. After all the problems this year, she clearly hadn’t expected a turnaround.
“Have you done enough to get in?” She asked, probably half expecting me to admit my declining marks had wrecked my prospects. I knew better, despite the fact that yes, my marks in math and physics had collapsed. But, anyway, what the hell good would algebra and all those physics equations do for me in the real world?
“’Liz has been helping me. And I did those study sessions with Jessica, remember.” I reminded her. Not that Jessica and I had been studying or anything. “I applied to Liverpool Uni’ and John Moore’s. One of them will take me, I’m sure.”
My mom evidently wasn’t as confident.
“Don’t assume they will Dee Dee.” She said, trying to use that motherly tone and my full name to assert some common sense. This time it was my mom that I felt was out of touch. I had already been accepted into the course. I just hadn’t told her.
My dream began to fade, sort of break up into nothingness. My mom’s face looking keenly at me just faded into little snapshots that no matter how hard I tried to keep them in my head just seemed to drift away, until they were no more.
But another more vivid memory came back. It was like I was there again, right when things had started to go wrong. Again.
I could smell the air, feel the breeze and I saw everything with an extra clarity.
Seeing my friends after school was not something I took lightly. It was an essential part of who I am. Now, Carrie had the look of a lithe sex-hungry young adult, and she does not hesitate to show it. Her clothes were always something to admire. They were definitely not bought from a catalogue. No, Carrie shopped for her clothes in boutiques, the type you find around the Cavern Quarter or along Seel Street. This day, she was wearing ankle boots, short tanned paisley embossed skirt to her mid-thighs and a bright orange blouse showing her wonderful cleavage, pushed higher than was natural by her clever new bra. She beamed into the distance as her light brown hair flared from her back as we left the school gate. On the other hand, Kalinka – an astute girl of Greek origin – was a tanned petite girl whose hair rested in a bob at her shoulders. It was neat and tidy, perfect – all the time. Unusually, she wore a long camouflage patterned skirt with a crochet top. Normally she wore pants with a shirt and kitten heels.
I was never sure precisely what my style was. Today I wore a long black coat with black pants and my ever-present black boots. Perhaps I looked out of my league to any casual observer. But, Carrie and Kalinka knew me better. If any one of us was the leader, it was probably me, the one in the middle. Today, it was my agenda that they were following as we rounded the corner onto Upper Parliament Street.
“Pity what happened to her you know,” Carrie observed. “I’m not sure she deserved that”
Casting a glance around at her I showed my disapproval at her sentiments. Jane was crossing the road looking dejected and alone. “Nah, she had it coming, the bitch.”
“Oh, I suppose so, but still, if he had of been a nice guy it wouldn’t have happened.”
Kalinka, on the right of me, put her phone away at last and nudged me. “She put it all out there like a cheap trick. In my mind she has no style – or morals – and got what she had coming.” She piped up, laughing as she peered over her shoulder at Jane, who was stuck in the middle of the road, waiting for a break in the traffic.
“He’s been with heaps of girls. Probably got some STD,” I observed. “If she slept with him she’s going to be at the GUM clinic tomorrow.”
Being the brightest, and by a God-given coincidence, the most beautiful students amongst our high school seniors made us confident. We laughed together, forgetting the travails of poor Jane for now, continuing our way downtown.
Stopping off at a couple of stores on the way was part of my plan. A furniture shop in Bold Street had some marvellous teak stuff in the window. From experience, the lady in there was a real cow, but this time I was only going to window shop so she had no reason to stand over me as a looked at the stuff I dreamed of. Maybe my dad would get the super-sized dresser for me. It was must have.
Our destination was about ten minutes walk away down the slope into the central city. Dodging the buses, mad taxi drivers and noisy street acts, we made it into the pedestrian area and promptly headed toward the clothes shops beyond the market.
An hour later I had what I wanted. A black shift so fine that it was partially see through. It was perfect for my Saturday night out, partying. Luckily my weekly allowance was sufficient to pay for it and leave me change. I suggested a coffee to my friends, each clutching things of their own, and we headed to our favorite café, Coffee Union on Water Street.
Today, the café was half empty, as we liked it, and we took the luck of a fine warmish day to sit outside. The brisk wind didn’t quite reach us, sheltered by the buildings, and we wearily dropped our school bags to the pavement. Spending the next half hour comparing our kit we’d just purchased kept us busy between the lattes and flat whites, and ogling fine specimens of men as they passed on their way home from work.
Trudging back up the hill and climbing the hill that is Hardman Street held no appeal for me. So hugging Carrie and Kalinka and doing the air kiss thing I waved back at them and jumped onto a bus in Lime Street that was heading my way. Once seated, which was a struggle considering this was commuter time, I relaxed and retuned my thoughts to tonight. I had homework to do. Reading some novel by a guy born centuries ago and whose authorship of the subject matter was dubious, to say the least, was an urgent necessity. An exam in three weeks was bound to be centered on the novel.
So, as I gazed out the window at the passing world immersed, me in my own world and them in their own mysterious existence, I undid the black felt scrunchie holding my hair back and flicked my long black mane free. It felt good.
Then my attention was attracted by a girl, maybe my age, in a car alongside the bus. We had stopped at the corner with Hope Street waiting for the lights to turn green. She was looking at me. My first thought as my eyes flickered in her direction was that she was lucky – the car was an expensive black SUV with tinted windows. She sat, staring upward at me with sunglasses in one hand and a strange look on her face. Maybe it was confusion, or shock. I don’t know for sure. As I watched her the bus again began to move forward and the SUV moved too.
She had a white, very pale complexion, amber colored eyes, almost straight black eyebrows and wavy dark brown hair. Her face was the perfection of symmetry with a fine straight nose, defined cheek bones and a deep shade of red on her ample lips. As my head turned slightly to look, her eyes shifted as she glanced right, probably to whoever was driving. Her lips moved, saying something. Then she looked back to me. I may have been mistaken but she seemed to smile. I wasn’t sure, as she looked away again, but that was a smile, I thought.
The bus continued on ahead and the SUV turned into Hope Street. The beautiful girl was out of sight. Inside my heart sank as I realized that she had access to material wealth that I could only dream of. I nervously twisted my scrunchie in my fingers. What was she looking at? I thought, as I checked the aisle ready for my exit. Maybe she just saw me, and thought that I looked good too – just like she was in my mind.
Getting off a few stops later I dashed across Huskisson Street and made my way to our house up toward Faulkner Square. It was an old house that had somehow survived intact during The Blitz. My dad always went on about how his parents had sheltered in the basement, as all around them a flaming hell of shattered houses, churches and shops consumed much of the area. Whatever, such lessons on local history really held nothing of interest for me. It still struck me as odd though, that we had a proper house when everyone else in our part of Canning had Georgian terraced apartments. Not that I was upset or anything. Just that we were blessed by good luck.
After dumping my bags in my bedroom I emptied-out my new top and held it in the mirror. Yeah! That is excellent, I thought to myself as my eyes squinted to closely examine its style. Making sure it was the right thing for my night at Newz Bar was vital. It still held the same attraction as it had in the shop. Carefully I cut off the label and spent a minute reading the note. “Made in London” the embossed cardboard tag claimed. That surprised me. Even the tag was classy.
Mom yelled up the stairs for me to come down for dinner. I could smell it already. Whatever it was sure had my mouth watering. Getting downstairs I immediately sensed something wrong. Dad was quite – none of the usual bouncy greetings and questions. Mom seemed equally odd tonight. She had done the meal and it was obvious she had devoted extra effort into the meal, which was more like a traditional Sunday roast than a Thursday night meal. I didn’t expect it and knew she must be a bit tired from a long day.
“Wow mom! What’s up?”
My mother didn’t seem happy. She looked up from the kitchen sink where she was rinsing pots and grimaced. “Nothing love. Do something with that hair, will you.” Her tone was one seemingly of bouncy happiness, like always.
But her eyes betrayed her. As she returned to face the sink her eyes lingered in the direction where dad was sat quite and still on the settee, watching the news. Before she had turned completely away, I noticed a look of serious attitude from her. She was pissed about something.
Pulling out my scrunchie from my back packet, I loosely tied my hair back. Sat at the table I was alone. Dad still watched the news and mom hovered doing something in the kitchen. My eyes flicked from one to the other, trying to figure this out. I sure as hell wasn’t going to sit here and eat by myself.
“Dad, dinner,” I reminded him forcing him to look over at me. He sat up and began to stand up.
“Be there in a mo’ Dee.”
As he made a move for the bathroom, my attention turned to mom. She cast a furious gaze at dad as he exited the lounge. She kept on pottering or whatever she was doing. I’d had enough.
“Come and eat. It’ll get cold, ruin all your work,” I responded. But it was just an opener. “What’s happened mum?”
Now she finally connected with my eyes. She threw the tea towel over to the counter and seemingly exasperated stood there with her hands on her hips. I froze, with my hands midway to scooping up some roast potato. But mom kept quiet and just sighed and smiled to herself. She wiped her hands on the tea towel and came a sat down at the table.
“We’re just having adult problems. It’s nothing serious.” She busied herself with putting food on her plate. Not that she was a big eater or anything. Tonight though, she barely put anything except Brussels sprouts on her plate. One roastie and a scrap of meat was her appetite.
Then dad come back into the room and pulling out the dining chair he seemed happier. Well, at-least he was trying.
“Dad,” I ventured, feeling like a United Nations Peace mission.
So that was how the dinner went on and on. With me in between two stubborn childish parents bent on humoring me and putting on the good graces to keep me happy. Inside I was panicking. My rational brain told me that they were just having one of those short-lived phases that would blow over by the morning, or even by bedtime. I hoped I could go to bed without the sleepless worry caused by their obvious coolness toward each other.
Luckily I was proved right. Shortly before ten my mom knocked on my door and peeked in. She had a beaming smile on her face as looked up from my bedtime reading material, “Pandora”.
She came in and sat next to where I was lying on the bed. Outside my open door dad loitered. Catching his smile, I heaved a sigh of relief at the return of their usual close demeanor. Then he came in too. Now my little room was getting uncomfortably crowded. I closed by book and put it on my bedside table, flicking on the lamp at the same time.
My proceeded to hug me and run her hands over my head, her fingers through my loose hair. I wondered to myself, how could they just change attitudes so quickly? No sooner had the idea entered my mind than I dismissed it. Pointless to dwell on anything hurtful I instantly assessed.
Mom and dad admitted they had been nasty toward each other. I made them promise that they would not do it again. They laughed at that and affirmed their intentions to always be there for me. I suppressed a frown when dad said that and mom did too. I may be an emotional girl, but now, my parents aren’t going to say anything different are they? Anyways, they seemed to have put the crises in relations behind them, thus lifting my heart into a state of contentedness.
After they had eased out my room and I was lying in the dark, I thought wistfully about the man I would marry. I wondered if he would be like my dad. As I drifted to sleep, with a little smile in my cheeks, I hoped so.
Waking in the morning I stayed in bed with my eyes closed desperately trying to recall my dream. Whereas, I didn’t dream on a regular basis and when I did I could not recall the specific details, this dream was different. It was like a high definition dream, as opposed to my old crumby fleeting monochrome snatches that were gone before I realized what they were. I lay there thinking about what I had seen, or experienced, or whatever. I can’t even begin to rationally define the dream.
One moment I was watching a game on television with my dad sat there on the settee next to me. He smiled at me. The next second I was in the crowd where everything and everyone – except me – were colored red. Not just any old red, but blood red. I wasn’t red – I was white.
I looked around and the girl in the SUV was there, standing and smiling next to me. She was white too, holding my hand. Then we were both gone, floating. Not just like levitating in the air, but flying through the air. Looking around I realized that I had long left her behind. She was floating back down to the ground. That was far, far below me. I stretched out my arm to grab her but by then she was gone. Then I lost momentum and I knew in that instant, that I was about to fall. It was in slow motion. I freaked out and let out a yelp as suddenly I fell. My heart literally was in my mouth.
Then in my so real dream that I was dreaming, I woke.
I was unsure if I had really screamed or made any noise. Lying there I could feel my heart still pounding with the fright. Over the next few minutes the palpitations faded and intensity lessened allowing me to concentrate on the dream. I was too weird. I wasn’t sure if it was a good dream or a bad one. It was not a nightmare, but the feelings were certainly not incomparable. After all, how often do you experience falling out of the sky? And the amber eyed girl, I had seen her, but why was she in my dream?
These matters puzzled me as I fruitlessly tried to recreate my dream. Dad. Sports. Crowd. The girl. Floating. Falling. It all had me pondering with no answer in sight.
By the time I had showered, got dressed and grabbed a bowl of cornflakes the dream had all but gone from my thoughts. Mom had left for work on the Pier Head before I had got up. She worked as a manager in a government department. Dad was there to see me off. He could have dropped me at school had I wanted, but he knew that I valued my independence too much to allow for that. Leaving him in the lounge fixing something I headed for the front door. I was excited that today was Friday – an important day in any girl’s week. Opening the door, something popped into my head. I closed the door and edged back into the lounge. My dad was still occupied, fixing a zipper of all things.
“Hey dad,” I waited, clutching my bag, until he looked up at me. “You and mom, everything okay?” I asked quietly. Maybe he would give me the party line. I hoped so. I really didn’t want to know the truth. I just thought that he may be candid with me and tell me what last night had been about.
“Yeah love, just a few things we’re going through. You know… it’s coming up for that time of year.”
Ah. So that was it. It had not entered my mind that it would be an issue. But, it was, of course. Jason. Nothing could be more serious. My eyes dropped to the floor, my own sadness beginning to creep up on me too. “Oh. I gotta go school dad. Love you.” I blurted out, grimacing up at him, trying to make amends for inadvertently raising the issue of my big brother. So I left the house and made my way across the block to Parliament Street and turned toward school. Today I wasn’t in the mood for a façade of happiness, and instead dwelt upon the lovely boy that had been such a part of my life that never felt he had gone. He was still with me. My day to life was no different without him. That made me sadder. I did have a photograph of him at the beach resting in a frame on my dresser, and there were things of his in the cupboard. But I barely paid any attention to those things now. In the days after he died and the awful funeral, I had held that picture for hours, curled up on my bed crying to him. Painful thoughts wracked my body. I missed him terribly, wishing I could find out why he had been attacked and not someone else.
Jason’s killer never was caught. He disappeared in North Wales when he was fifteen and I was twelve. Just five years ago. Shaking my head I tried to force the memories away from my mind. They were still in the background as I strolled though the front gates, a teacher on guard watching for gun-wielding mass murderers lest they attack someone. I threw Miss Conway a forced smile, just like I had given my dad. Continuing on to my first class I spotted Kalinka and waving to her, forgot my problems and skipped over to her.
The rest of the day passed just like any other day. Classes were a total bore. English still focused on Shakespeare and I was convince that the teacher was fed up with the issue of questioning whether or not he really was the sole author of his great works. The teacher was lost to the cause so-to-speak and had quashed such idle sentiment back in first term. Still, as I sat through her droll lesson, my mind did wander off thinking if we had been told the truth about anything.
At lunch we discovered that rain and wind has set-in and we could not go outside without getting soaked. Reluctantly, Carrie and I searched out our regular indoor spot in our form room where no one else would think to bother us during the hour-long break. We had just settled into our chairs and got our sandwiches out when Kalinka toped on the classroom door. Looking around we saw that she was looking through the glass window in the door with a huge smile. I waved her in between a mouthful of asparagus roll.
She was overjoyed and bubbly at something. I was glad for her enthusiasm as it washed away my lingering depression over Jason. Carrie was the first one to speak up – keen to drag whatever it was exciting Kalinka from her.
“You look happy,” she wryly observed. Carrie just tightened her lips and failed to suppress her huge grin. “What is it?”
Hastily swallowing my spectacular roll I watched Kalinka still playing coy. I ventured a possibility by asking “Did that big guy ask you out or something?” The guy I had in mind was indeed a prime example of the male species, and one I would happily surrender to. I doubted, however, that my colorful girlfriend would be after him. He was just too serious a piece of work for her. She preferred the cute guys who she could play with – not those like Anton who probably got what they wanted. Now, for me though, I was sure of one thing –
“Missy Whyte asked Ste’ to go out.”
I almost swallowed my tongue as I heard her say it. I looked over at Carrie. She mirrored my shock at this news. Ste’ was a gay guy and it was unheard for any girl to want to go out with him, and vice versa. “Ste’? Jackson?” I checked back with Kalinka.
She nodded, a joyous laughter coming from her finally. Now the floodgates were going to open. Soon she was grinning away madly. Hardly pausing for breath she proceeded to update us both on the soap opera that was Missy’s life. By the time the end of lunch bell sounded it was as though Kalinka had just got started. We grabbed our books and bags heading for our next class. I was sure that with no escaping her, Kalinka would soon apprise us of everything else she had omitted. I drew a long breath in resignation as I deliberately lagged behind her as we left made our way along the corridor.
The rest of the day carried-on much in the same manner. Lessons became a welcome break away from Kalinka’s sordid bemusement over whatever Ste’ and Missy would be doing, and had done. Nothing was out of the question. Carrie for her part seemed as amused as she was.
Walking home I decided not to venture downtown. It was still raining and the wind off the Mersey was getting icy. Wrapped up in my faux fur jacket, nice and warm, the last thing I wanted was to get wet and cold. I left Carrie and Kalinka to continue straight on down to the city. Passing by the newly built house a block away from my home I dawdled to admire its luxury and decadence. The property took up a whole block that had been wasteland since the war. Where once, about twenty terraced houses lined-up, now just once glorious Gothic mansion stood, protected by eight foot high brick walls and a massive wrought iron gate with golden edging. Huge evergreen trees could be seen dotted around the garden. A couple of cars sat parked in the shingle driveway. I hesitated as I surveyed the three storey house and the cars. My attention was drawn to one of the vehicles.
It was a black SUV. With tinted windows.
I looked up the street, in the direction where my house was, out of sight. Something drew my eyes back to the house and the flash cars. It struck me that I had never seen the people who lived in this huge house. I remembered when nothing was there, but had never paid attention to it being built. For a moment it puzzled my why I had no recollection of that at all. Pulling my furry hood closer around my face with my brightly colored woolen gloves I turned away from the gate and carried-on home. I really had no idea if the girl with amber eyes lived there, though I was absolutely positive that was the same car I’d seen her in. Something inside me thought about her. It felt like I was missing something, something I wasn’t certain was even there.
Making my way up Huskisson Street I spotted mom’s car parked out front. Dad’s was there too. Usually on Friday night mom was late home, due to the fact that she had meetings and work related stuff to do at the end of the week. I always had a sneaking feeling that she just went drinking with her friends. I frowned as I made my way up out steps, checking over my shoulder that it was her car. I should have been happy to have my mom home tonight, but alarm bells were going off inside my head. I was convinced something was very wrong.
Closing the front door and shaking myself out of my wet jacket I knew my premonition had been correct. I could hear mom and dad’s voices yelling, shouting at each other from the other end of the house. I froze, unsure if I should be present. I decided to sneak quietly up to my room. Just as I was rounding the corner by the lounge and stepping onto the stairs my parents emerged from the laundry where they had been hidden, in verbal combat. I stopped on the first step as my mom saw me. I just stared in shock. Dad came barreling after her still making his point. Seeing me he stopped shouting and froze too. He dropped his head and squeezed past mum. Without a word he sat down in the lounge and turned on the television. My eyes went back to my mom. She looked like she had been crying and was a nervous wreck.
“You’re home Dee Dee,” mom whispered in surprise.
I knew it was bad now. My parents never used my full name except when they were serious about something. This argument obviously qualified as serious. I opened my mouth to say something, but nothing came out. My mind was jumbled to the point of being lost for words. I felt my eyes stinging as tears welled-up in them and my vision began to go blurred. I bit my lip and run upstairs before they saw how distraught they had made me.
That was the catalyst for what seemed like a fierce escalation in the argument. Even shut away in my room it was too much to take, so I leaned on the door until it clicked shut. Digging out my Ipod from my school bag, I stuck earpieces in and curled up on my bed trying to ignore the calamity happening downstairs. The music that started playing was my favorite at the moment, System of a Down. After a few seconds of that I had had enough. The angry songs were doing nothing for my state of mind. I flicked the Ipod to something I had recently discovered – fun music, much softer and sweeter. The music overwhelmed the shouting that was still going on down stair, filling the whole house. I listened to the lyrics and began to feel that maybe, just maybe, someone else knew what I was going through. I set the media player to repeat the album and I lost track of how many times or how long I lay there sobbing uncontrollable. My pillow was wet with my tears and sniveling nose, but I had neither the desire nor the energy to get a clean one.
At some point I must have fallen asleep. My mom was shaking me awake. I was dazed and stiff. My headphones were tangles in my hair, which I immediately found irritating as I tried to make sense of my mum.
“Come on downstairs and get dinner.”
“Whoa. What’s going on mum? You and dad –“
“There’s nothing to worry about,” she assured me as she ruffled my hair. It didn’t fool me though, and I started to question her assurance. Mom cut me off, smiling weakly. “Have your dinner and we’ll talk about it, okay.”
With that she ran her hand over my arm and headed out from my bedroom downstairs. I leaned up on one arm trying to gather my wits. I didn’t know what time it was. How long had I been out? The digital radio alarm clock showed that it was ten past seven. My brain struggled to comprehend where roughly three hours had gone.
Getting off the bed I really felt awful. I did not want to go down stairs and face the situation that now existed. My clothes felt like I’d slept in them and I was sure I must have smelt. Sniffing myself, I still wasn’t sure. Grabbing a mohair sweater from my draw and a clean pair of cords I got changed and retied my hair back. Making my way down the stairs every creak in the old wood seemed to echo, heralding my late appearance for dinner. I wiped the last of the dampness from my face. I had resorted to a quick splash of cold water to freshen me before coming down. Looking around the lounge I saw my dad angrily staring at the television. He looked so furious I was afraid to attract his attention. I headed for the kitchen table. A dinner plate was there covered in tin foil. Mom stood leaned against the kitchen counter, clutching a mug of coffee. I could smell the coffee, but not the meal. As I sat down and whipped off the foil a blast of steam flew upwards almost scalding me. I looked at the plate. Leftovers from last night. Fucking great, I angrily thought to myself. Things must be bad if I’m the only one eating last night’s dinner. Nothing to worry about. Sure there wasn’t.
My mom had still not moved from her position. I began to think that this was some truce called just to allow me to get fed. It made me feel even more like shit. The silence probably got to my mum. Either that or she could sense in my rounded shoulders and dropping head that I was on the edge of breaking down. She stepped up behind me and putting an arm around my shoulders dragged a seat closer. She sat with me, silently, seeming to stare at the table.
Picking at my food I tried desperately to avoid crying. I couldn’t bear to glance at my mom sat next to be lest I show my blubbering state. In the end just as I was spearing a tasteless sprout my resolve cracked and tears streamed down my face. Leaning forward I just froze, fork still hanging over the plate. Struggling to control myself I failed miserably and I watched as my tears dropped into my food. Through bleary eyes and weak with panic I looked at my mum. I was too disconsolate to make facial contact with her. Leaning my head toward her I felt her arms fold around me as I collapsed sobbing uncontrollably.
A few minutes went by and my tears were beginning to wane, leaving what must have been a reddish dampness to my eyes. Mom wiped my cheeks and gave me a huge smile. My nose was still sniveling as a smiled, happy to have her there in my moment of need. She drew me closer and lightly hugged me. Her warm dry skin felt lovely against mine.
“We will be okay,” she whispered in my ear, as she gently rocked me. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
I held her a bit longer as I contemplated what she has said. I wasn’t sure it resolved anything. Pushing her away slightly I tried to break free. I wanted to look at her answer me.
“Tell me why, mom,” my voice barely asked. I forced another breath inside me, at last getting some strength back. I continued, this time asking what I wanted to know. “What’s happening? Are you and dad okay?”
Now she hesitated in responding. I could tell she was figuring out what to say, or how to put it. I motioned at my dad with my eyes, urging mom to tell me the truth.
“We think it’s best if we have a trial separation. You know, see if we can manage away from each other,” she said, clearly hoping that this was not too much information.
I scowled at her, managing to keep my anger from manifesting itself in my voice. I kept calm and rational.
“When is this happening?”
Now mom took a breath. She stood with her arms crossed. She stepped backward, toward the lounge where dad had been all this time, mute and lonely.
“This weekend. We, you and me, are going to stay in the village. I got a house near Johns.”
This astounded me and my jaw almost hit the floor. Uncle John’s. I gaped at her in horror.
“West Bank? Widnes?” I asked, incredulous that I would be torn from my sophisticated life and thrown into the depths of working class suburbia. “Where’s dad going?”
Sitting on the edge of the lounge chair she shot dad a look. “He’s staying here,” she answered, hopeful that I was taking this way too well. “You’ve been to West Bank. People there know you. You went to school there when you were little.”
“I know mum. That was a lifetime ago. I’ve moved on since then.” The thought of moving back to my childhood home made me cringe. The lines of terraced houses, narrow streets and the nearby industrial estate made for an environment that literally stank. I was sure that the area had one of the highest cancer rates in the country, caused by the nearby chemical plants. I had to try to stop this move away from my life right now, or I’d regret it. “Mom, that place is a hole. I would die there. There’s nothing there.”
My mom had already decided and my opinion was irrelevant. She turned to my dad for support, looking to him for verbal support. That was disconcerting. They had just been having the most vicious row and had decided they couldn’t live together, despite me. Now they were doing a team act. My dad must have been listening even though he hadn’t appeared to show any interest in what mom had been saying. Now, he looked at mom and then to me. He shifted his body around to face me.
“Dee, what your mother says is right. It’s for the best that we split up,” he assured me. I wasn’t convinced. It all seemed unreal, hasty. He must have seen my thoughtfulness and moved to reassure me further. “You can still come around. I don’t want to lose you – you’re everything to me.
I wasn’t even sure what this was all about, never mind how one second they were at each other’s throats and the next everything was decided and presented as a perfectly normal progression. And besides, I wanted my mom and dad to be happy, not torn apart.
Hesitating for a second as I contemplated this whirlwind of change, I got to the heart of the matter. “Is this to do with Jason? You know, what happened?”
Now dad was on his feet. His expression changed like he had been stung. The reassurance that had showed in his face just seconds ago vanished. Panic, fear and something else – maybe pain – covered his face. His posture gave up too, as he looked over to my mum. I realized that she too had turned into a sad shadow of the person I knew.
Dad looked back to me and nodded, as if to himself. “It is. Jason was everything to us. He was our boy… our heart and soul,” he pleaded to me. He was on the verge of, no he was in the middle of something that I could barely comprehend. He had had a part of him torn apart. He was utterly destroyed. “You are all we both have now. But it doesn’t make what happened go away.”
He fell silent, and backed off to sit perched on the settee physically drained.
“We love you Dee. You are the most precious thing left in this world to both of us. We may be apart, but you,” mom came over and took me by both arms, kneeling down in front of me looking intently, smiling at me. “You are the most wonderful gift we could ever have hoped for.”
With that I hugged her. For a long time we just held each other breathing in each other’s pain, and love. After a while I watched my dad rise from the chair and walk over to the kitchen table where we were. He held his arms out. Smiling, with tears in his eyes he wrapped his arms around me and mum.
For a moment it was perfect, like we should be, as a family. Something in the back of my mind tried to tell me that this was about to end, regardless of their love for me and each other.
Everything suddenly went fuzzy, blurry and quickly vanished.
That was when I began to be aware of strange pains. My head didn’t hurt, rather it sort of felt empty, like the ghosts of my memories were echoing around inside. It was like spinning, without the queasiness. Through my extremities a sort of itch, like a low voltage current began to move towards my body. It didn’t hurt at all. But I had an awareness that something was happening and growing, getting stronger, gradually taking over my whole being.
In the nothingness that had consumed me following the disappearance of my memories in my dream the tingle was comforting. It was like I was still dreaming, but of nothing.
© Copyright 2011, David Noblet. This material may not be used, altered, or reproduced without the express written permission of the author.