Page 1, Cathy\'s friend Alex\'s erratic behaviour eventually leads to her confessing she has been gifted with special abilities. She flees to her Uncle Ronan and the unknown Cailin leaving Cathy in hysterics over her disappearing. She is lying to her mother but it doesn\'t take long before she finds out and tells of her trips to the forest with Ronan watching him work his magic. It leads to many advenures for the friends...
I don\'t know whether this will get finished any time soon sorry.
Such things don’t happen in small towns. It is quiet and safe and comfortable- you know everyone, and will do small favours for that middle aged man, because he’s a friend of your family. The shopkeepers greet you by name, even though you last saw them around two weeks ago. You walk the old woman’s Yorkshire terrier around the familiar streets, while stopping for small talk with friendly neighbours. Your parents recognise people you mention, without even asking for their last names. Everything is cosy and full of routine. There are no secrets, no gossip, and no rumours. That was true until it happened.
Alex disappeared. I chose that word, because it fits better than any other does. She didn’t go missing. That doesn’t sound right. Alex simply vanished into thin air, leaving no trace. She had no reason to run away, and she knew the place like the back of her hand so getting lost was out of the question. She was too clever to get kidnapped, and who would kidnap her anyway? Such things don’t happen to girls like my friend Lexi. Such things don’t happen in small towns- though in saying that people don’t vanish in places like this either. So what happened to Alex? I’m going to tell you the full story, leaving out not even the smallest detail. Prepare yourselves.
It was a cold day, and the ground was crunching beneath our feet. The air was cool against my skin, and the strong gusty wind whipped my hair across my face. The trees swayed back and forth, and the brown leaves scattered and strewn across the forest floor were dancing in the breeze. It started to rain lightly, pleasantly even, and it was then I heard a groan of protest beside me interrupting the peace.
“Is the entire world just totally against my today Cathy? There’s only so much I can take,” complained Alex, smoothing down her hair before putting up her hood.
“Lexi you are so vain. And I don’t understand why you bother straightening your hair if you know you’re going to complain when it’s wrecked” I sighed.
“Well I like my hair straight. Not all of us look nice with curls you know Cath” she retorted eyeing my dark brown curls with envy. I pushed them back smiling smugly as I then twisted a long lock around with my finger.
“This officially proves today is going to be bad” she went on, “not only do I suck at maths, which means I’ll totally fail the test, but now I can’t even look good while sucking”
I laughed. It was so like Lexi- she always made me laugh when she was ranting. She was just unintentionally funny while being serious.
“Come on we’ll be late” I sighed “and I think Mr.Garner will be chuffed you actually came to class, so he’s getting enough out of you today”
“True, he can’t expect me to pass, even if I do show up. And anyway from the big fit I put on to get out of the last test” she smiled at the memory, “he’ll understand I’m saving my educational talent for drama”
We fell into hysterical giggles and then started running through the trees towards the building in the distance.
“Today class we’ll be doing something a little different” a male voice was saying as I entered the classroom. It was going to be a long lesson. I sat down and listened uninterestedly.
Eventually the bell rang bringing the room to life. Chairs scraped against the floor, and everyone rushed towards the door, still packing away their things as they went. I shoved my notebook into my bag, along with my pencil case and a few pieces of homework. Yawning, I got to my feet and made my way over to the door. As soon as I escaped the classroom, I had Alex on my arm in full pout mode. It was quite entertaining.
“I know I did that question from the homework right, it was so unfair, he wouldn’t even explain how it was wrong. He doesn’t know everything, though he’s so full of himself he actually thinks so” she gabbled on to me.
“And you know you’re right because...?” I queried.
“Because my naïve little Cathy, it was abnormally hard so I used a calculator, and that lump of metal knows more than he does I can tell you that now”
I half smiled as I sighed.
“I couldn’t tell him it was right though could I, because he’d want to know why I was so sure it was”
“And you’d be stuck then” I laughed.
“Exactly” she said joining in with my laughter.
“So how was the test? I’m guessing terrible, terrible, and oh terrible” I smirked.
“I tried looking at this guy’s answers, but he was really careful that they were hidden. It was like he had expected me to cheat” she gave a look of mock horror, which I returned.
“No really! That’s terrible because you’d never do that” I replied sarcastically.
She finally came out of her pout mode, and she started talking to me about going over hers for a sleepover on the weekend. We happily planned this on the way home, where we took a shortcut through the field. She swung her school bag over her shoulder, and started skipping swinging her arms and smiling. I stared at her.
“What are you seven?” I asked. She laughed and carried on. I shook my head and tried to ignore her, but I couldn’t for long. I eventually found myself joining in. We carried this on until we got to her house. She was in a good mood.
We went up the winding garden path, avoiding the cracks as we did when we were young. It brought back such memories every time we did it. I recalled her and myself with little ponytails bobbing up and down, as we carefully tried not to step on a single crack, beaming with pride at our new game. I quickly brought myself back to reality, and followed her inside, dumping my school bag on the foot of the stairs right next to hers.
Mrs.Daniels was in the kitchen doing the washing up. Her pale blue blouse was rolled up at the sleeves, and an apron was tied around her dark blue jeans. She was a lovely woman and a brilliant mum to Lexi though prone to overreacting. She had the same colour hair as her, though a little lighter. It was a natural light brown, and she wore it up in a bun, with loose strands falling onto her face. Her smile was wide, showing her perfect white teeth, and it made crinkles at the corners of her deep brown eyes. She wore a lot of make up the same everyday including her favourite pink lipstick, and not forgetting her precious musky vanilla scented perfume.
“Okay girls?” she asked smiling over her shoulder, eyeing Alex’s now returned pout.
“Fine mum just brilliant” said Lexi sarcastically, “my hair almost got wet, Mr.Garner gave me a twenty five percent on the test and marked my homework incorrectly, my shoes are soaked and muddy because we took the shortcut and I may snap into depression at any moment...yeah so pretty great really”
“Lexi darling do something useful and put your life in a book. At least then I can get it published so everyone can realise how whiney you are” her mum shook her head.
“Yeah ‘The Tragic Life of Lexi’ could be a bestseller one day” I chuckled.
“Doing anything this weekend girls?” Mrs.Daniels said, turning back to the dishes.
“Yeah Cathy’s sleeping over like you agreed remember?”
“I don’t remember agreeing to that,” she said aware of her daughter’s trick, “though if you want to stay Cathy” she turned to me “you’re welcome to”
“Of course” I replied enthusiastically “But I’d better get going now mum wants me home early today because I was so late yesterday”
I made my way over to the front door, but before I could open it, Lexi ran over jumped on my back and gave me a big hug.
“See you Cathy!”
“Get off Lexi!” I laughed, “See you tomorrow”
I went home, humming to myself along the way. My house was on the street next to Alex’s, so it never took me long. I skipped all the way to the end of her street, before realising how ridiculous I must look. See what happens when you are around Alex, I thought to myself, everything she does rubs off on you. I shook my head at myself laughing, and turned around the corner into my street. As soon as I got to my house I chucked off my shoes, threw my bag on the floor, and ran upstairs to my bedroom.
I flopped onto my bed, before turning over to put on my stereo. I sat on the end of my bed, drawing in my notebook, but I didn’t have the artistic skills Alex possessed. I could sit for hours watching creations flow from her brain, to her hand, to the pen and then appear smoothly on the paper. It was like magic. Why couldn’t that rub off on me? Instead, I was beginning to find myself smoothing down my hair like she did plus the skipping. Oh and the little pout and funny tone of voice she has when she’s annoyed. I didn’t know why Alex would worry about her hair. She looked very pretty anyway. She had light brown eyes, with a slight golden yellow tinge to them sometimes, framed with long dark eyelashes. They were big round and innocent very misleading. Her skin changed according to the weather, lightly tanned in the summer and prettily pale in the winter. It made the slight plaster pink flush in her cheeks more noticeable. Her hair was short but the most gorgeous colour, a light brown like her eyes, and it shone in the light. Her smile lit up these features like the sun on a cloudy day.
I had thick dark brown curls past my shoulders hanging around my face. I was pale with blue eyes, and longer eyelashes than Lexi. However, I accepted she was prettier than I was. I didn’t feel the need to compete with her. I didn’t care how I looked anyway. Alex seemed to think I was prettier than she was, though I was sure it was an act. She said she especially envied my hair, though that is probably my best feature anyway. I sighed, getting up from my bed, and going over to my desk. I got my homework book opened it up and began.
I woke up quite suddenly, not realising how late it was. I’d fallen asleep at my desk. I slipped on my jeans with a green top and a cardigan packed my bag and went down for breakfast. My mother was in the kitchen.
“You’re up late today Cathy,” she noted, “grab a piece of toast before you go with Alex”
“Thanks mum,” I said grabbing two.
My mum was like a prettier version of me. Her eyes were blue green with black eyelashes and her hair was darker and much straighter than mine. She didn’t wear make up but then again she didn’t need to. She looked very young for her age. I loved to see the smug smile appear on her face when she was mistaken for my sister. She was easy to talk with and understanding. She was more like a sister than a mum. I could tell her everything and never get any mum-like nagging in return. Alex envied me especially for this because her mum nagged about the slightest thing. I was proud of my mum.
I made my way over to Alex’s house after giving my mum a quick hug. I went up the winding path doing our little game by not stepping on the cracks. It was childish but fun. I knocked on the door and a rough looking Alex answered.
“Hey Cathy” she said casually. It contrasted to her appearance.
Her hair was straightened but looked though she hadn’t bothered to do it thoroughly and make sure that it was immaculate. She hadn’t slyly put on natural make up so the teachers wouldn’t notice. She was fresh faced, though the saying seemed out of place because of the faint dark circles under her eyes. You’d think from the way I put it, that she’d just over slept. But Alex was always a vision of perfection, so even the slightest thing was twice as bad as it seemed.
“You look like you haven’t slept at all” I accused, as we did our little ritual down the steps.
“Well you came early,” she said.
I stopped abruptly. “Alex I’m late today” I pointed out.
“Really” she said, not paying attention at all. She seemed in another world altogether.
There was no talking on our way through the forest. She stayed completely silent, not even complaining about the rain that was picking down, and interrupting the silence. I watched Alex carefully. She seemed worried, like there was something she needed to get off her chest.
“Is there something you want to tell me?” I asked in a concerned tone.
She hesitated. “Can you not sleepover tonight? It’s just I don’t really feel well- but there’s always next weekend”
She didn’t look well either. I agreed without question. She seemed deep in thought as we carried on making our way to school. However, as we parted and made our way to our separate classrooms, I couldn’t help but think there was something troubling her- Something that had nothing to do with feeling ill.
I met her outside at the end of school and as soon as I saw her, I felt guilty for what I had thought at the start of the day. Alex did look ill and greeted me only half-heartedly. I wasn’t bombarded with chatter as usual and we hardly talked as I walked her back to her house. It wasn’t exactly uncomfortable but quite odd, as the forest seemed so quiet without her voice.
I waved goodbye to her and started to walk. My heart seemed to beat faster with each step I took building up until it felt like it would burst out of my chest. I instinctively thought when I saw the look on Alex’s face she was hiding something from me. Her perfectly innocent reply had left me feeling completely guilty. I walked home in a daze with the image of her expression still in my head. The weekend was going to be a long one.
“Aren’t you sleeping over Lexi’s house tonight?” said my mother with surprise as I came through the door.
“She felt ill,” I answered while chucking my bag into its usual spot by the stairs.
“Where are you going don’t you want food?” she asked as I started up the stairs.
“I’m not hungry,” I said truthfully not stopping in my tracks.
I got out my notebook and started to draw but then giving up the attempt and scattering meaningless words about the picture before sketching a rain cloud at the top of the page. I looked down at the depressing page before throwing it with as much force as possible at the window. It slid down the glass then fell to the floor in a limp heap along with past lyrics and sketches.
I had a dream that night. I relived the day before, taking in Alex’s expression and her blank eyes staring into space. The paleness in her face seemed more like she was frightened than ill. Her voice showed no emotion- it was a single dead tone. In the morning, I shrugged it off as that familiar feeling of guilt came over me. The rest of the weekend passed in a blur.
Alex answered the door on Monday, and looked disapproving as she saw my expression. I could hardly help it. She wasn’t better, but she didn’t seem ill. Her hair was straightened but in a way that said she hadn’t made much of an effort. She’d put on only the tiniest bit of lip gloss and she hadn’t put together her usual quirky outfit of skinny jeans a slogan tee shirt and accessories. She wore a plain dress top and jeans with an old beige handbag. I recognised it as mine and pointed it out.
“I was in a hurry and found it. Reminds me of old times,” she laughed to herself. There was a hint of something that I couldn’t quite name in her voice.
“Feeling any better Lexi?” I asked.
“Much better yeah” she answered wistfully.
“What?” she demanded.
“You’ve been a bit quiet” I replied honestly.
“I told you I haven’t been my best that’s all Cath,” she said not hesitating in the slightest. I felt embarrassed thinking about what I’d wanted to accuse her of- keeping a secret from me. I could almost imagine the confrontation now.
“Are you coming to Becky’s party?” I asked.
“Not sure...I don’t know if I feel well enough”
“You’ve been talking about nothing else, before even being sure we were invited, you have to come! I mean come on you know I hate parties but you still nagged at me” I said.
“Well sorry!” she retorted loudly, “I thought that the whole point of asking me if I was going was that I would tell you what I wanted to do, not have you tell me!”
“What is up with you Alex?” I asked take aback, “It’s like you have a multiple personality disorder! Maybe all those mental unit jokes were not actually jokes. God knows what you’ll be like tomorrow”
She paused and her eyes softened.
“Yeah God knows what I’ll be like tomorrow... I’m so sorry Cathy honest. I’m just a bit down lately. I’ll try and lighten up. Could you please just ignore me when I start or at least try to sympathize?” she pleaded. Her eyes were full of pain.
“Lexi...Alex you’re my best friend and I’ll try- for you. But are you sure there’s nothing you can tell me” I looked her straight in the eyes.
“I’m sure Cathy there’s nothing I can tell you”
“You mean there’s something to tell but you can’t?” I said not missing the hidden
meaning in her sentence. She said nothing and entered the school which we’d
just reached. But I swear I heard her sigh.
As we walked home, Alex was in a much more pleasant mood. She seemed to have snapped back into her old self. She complained about her hair so much I felt like she was some tragic damsel in distress locked in a tower with a dragon or so guarding her. So everything was normal there. It felt nice having Lexi back to her old self again. I walked home and chatted happily to my mother. She seemed surprised. When Alex was sad it affected me too. That’s friendship for you. At least I can sleep easier tonight I thought to myself, putting on my pyjamas and sliding into bed. But on closing my eyes I remembered;
“I’m sure Cathy there’s nothing I can tell you”
“You mean there’s something to tell but you can’t?”
Yes- she was hiding something. And that’s when I fell into unconsciousness. I had a dream. Alex was alone walking through the dark an expression of hopelessness on her pale face. She was completely alone in every sense. And I couldn’t help her because I didn’t know her secret.
“Hi Alex” I said the next day as she stepped out of her house.
“Hey Cath” she said with a smile. It did not reach her eyes.
“Okay don’t try to hide it,” I said. She knew what I was talking of. She ignored me nevertheless.
“So I’ve decided I am coming to the party,” she told me with little enthusiasm.
“I knew you would Lexi! And you’ll be glad you did” I added “because it’ll be awesome”
Not even the use of her favourite adjective could get her to respond properly. She used small sentences and didn’t show any emotion. She was normally so enthusiastic. But I ignored it as best as I could. I promised I would do that at least seeing, as I couldn’t sympathize. It didn’t seem like I could. It would help if I knew.
“I wish you’d tell me what’s wrong Lexi; I mean I tell you everything, what’s so secret that you have to keep it from me?” I said. It was only when she stopped and I saw her expression that I realised I’d said it out loud.
It was a look of anger, red hot and fuming and her eyes sparkled menacingly, fixed into a vicious piercing glare. The atmosphere seemed to change, and there was something like electric that I couldn’t see, but could feel in the air. It was terrifying, like some wall between us, hot as leaping flames. But Alex’s eyes suddenly softened, before becoming wide with fear at my reaction. The electric vibes faltered, and it was only when I exhaled in a rush that I realised I’d been holding my breath.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about Cathy” she said mechanically.
“Yes you do! You’re hiding something” I defended myself breathlessly.
“I’m not hiding anything you’re jumping to conclusions Cath” she said softly. And that’s when I began to doubt everything. I’d imagined her anger, the electric and the changed atmosphere. I was just being stupid trying to dramatize everything and make a big deal out of it. There was no way that could have happened. That throbbing aching feeling of guilt came over me. We walked up the stairs and parted in the corridor. I didn’t take anything in while in class, though I was aware of the teacher’s voice. I was reliving the moment inside my head. Her expression, one of rage and fury, her eyes glinting in malice and that strange electric current, that seemed to be passing through the air. I so wanted her words to be true- but I couldn’t doubt what I had seen with my own eyes.
As I approached Alex, her eyes looked directly at mine. Hers were soft brown and pleading, and mine were cold and blue, but understanding as I nodded stiffly. We didn’t have to say anything. She didn’t want to talk about it and I wasn’t going to mention it. As necessary as it was that I should know the secret, she was still my friend. And I wasn’t going to do anything to upset her when she was already distressed.
The walk home was a silent one. That simple sentence is true but isn’t enough. It was a cold dead silence and the trees rustling in the wind couldn’t interrupt it. I was cautious not to make any sudden movements, not for any particular reason, but it just seemed wrong. Every time I was about to say something, I swallowed the words and they slid icily down my throat. Alex seemed oblivious to the eerie uncomfortable situation and the battle that was going on in my head. I knew what I had seen but it still didn’t seem to be enough for me to be sure it had happened. I decided to ignore it had ever happened, or rather, it had appeared to happen.
I walked through my front door with a blank mind and expressionless face. My mum didn’t appear to realise as she set my dinner down in front of me. She talked to me as I ate.
“Barbara was talking to me yesterday. She says you haven’t come over for a while now. She was wondering if you’d argued though if you have us mums will stay out of it” she joked as she ate buttered toast.
I froze. “Really? I hadn’t realised. Lexi and I haven’t argued. I guess I’ve been pretty busy” I lied. Well it was half the truth. I hadn’t realised I hadn’t been over and me and Lexi hadn’t argued much.
“I’m glad to hear you two are fine. And I guess you have been busy studying...But you know what I think you should take up” she added her eyes bright “art”
“Why do you say that?” I asked suspiciously.
She flushed a delicate pink and looked down at the floor embarrassed.
“Well I didn’t mean to pry but I was tidying up your room and I found this” she replied passing me my notebook off the kitchen counter.
“Cathy they’re amazing drawings” she insisted ignoring my protest.
“Thanks” I said “but I’m not bothered about drawing”
She sighed. I only just stopped myself from giving her a lecture on pushy mums. I was hardly going to become the next Leonardo DaVinci. I went upstairs taking my notebook with me. I was flattered she liked them though I didn’t think much of them. I didn’t care for drawing whatsoever. I flopped onto my bed and stared at the ceiling. My train of thought wandered. It wasn’t long before it reached Alex. What was she hiding that she couldn’t tell me? Was it something that was happening at home or at school? I shook my head. Even I knew that wasn’t it. I still couldn’t help hoping though, that maybe it was something stupid, and we’d both laugh at it before I hit her on the head. But I had a feeling that it was something dark, something disturbing and so terrible, that when I heard it, I’d regret ever wanting to know.
The weeks passed and Alex’s mood swings became worse. One day she would be almost normal, and the next she’d be cold and distant. It was unsettling watching the change in her appearance day by day. She seemed to be wasting away slowly but noticeably. Her eyes darkened until they were as dark as her pupils were and dark circles appeared under her eyes. Her lips were dry and not as plump and her skin was tired and pale as parchment, with only the slightest tinge of pink to her cheeks which faded as quickly as the rest of the colour she had. Her hair was left in a depressing state for her, straight but waving randomly at the ends. She didn’t speak enough to convince me she was still breathing. Her eyes darted about and she’d open her eyes wide as though in shock at random moments. It was scary
I was walking trough the forest with her when she stopped and turned to me.
“Have you noticed any...well change in me Cathy?” she asked.
It was as if she had punched me in the stomach repeatedly.
“Did you just talk to me directly?” I said looking at her deliberately.
“If that’s the answer I guess you have” she smiled weakly. It stabbed at my heart. I couldn’t take it any longer.
“Alex” I hesitated, keeping my fury under control “I’m going to tell you everything. You scare me. You don’t speak at all, you stare into space and you’re a mess. I know you are hiding something, and if you don’t tell me what’s gotten into you, then I don’t think I can stand it any longer. It’s like you aren’t the person I used to know”
That did it. Her eyes blazed and colour came to her cheeks. The wind was suddenly violent whipping her lifeless hair into the air like dancing flames. Her mouth was set. But that’s not what scared me.
It was that strange energy in the air, which seemed to hold on to every atom, licking at it with burning and intense heat. It was there though I couldn’t see it. It danced around me changing the atmosphere. It was the same wall between us as what seemed years ago though it could only have been weeks. I was held in place transfixed, and though my instinct was to run, I couldn’t seem to be able to. I felt paralysed. I looked at her full in the face, one long pleading look that undid it all.
The energy faded, and her eyes changed from a glare into horror. Her lips opened in shock. She looked at my expression closely and ashamedly- I must have looked traumatised.
Then the air went cold and icy- it was such a bitter cold and I felt such sharp painful stabs that seemed to go straight through my heart. Everything disappeared and all I knew was a coldness and loneliness and suffering. It was hopeless trying to fight it, it was eating away at me...then it all came back. Everything was there again and I inhaled and exhaled gulping in the air so surprised I could breathe.
“You’re right I’m a mess,” she whispered before breaking down in tears.
“You have to tell me now Lexi” I said looking at her tear stained face.
“You’re right,” she said, staring back at me “I’m not the same person you used to know, because I’m not even a person anymore...And not only do I scare you but I scare myself”
I didn’t know what to make of it. She’d been suffering and that was obvious. But I couldn’t afford to be considerate- I had to know.
“What do you mean you’re not a person anymore?” I asked slowly.
“Strange things have been happening. You were right from the beginning. I don’t know what’s happening. When I can’t control myself and my emotion...that thing happens” she looked at me and I knew what she meant. I shuddered at the memory. “I don’t want to be like this. It’s just not human. I’m not human”
I was speechless- not in fear but in amazement. But I managed a question.
“What are you?” I said my voice barely a whisper.
“I don’t know,” she said crying once again. They were streaming tears of hopelessness. “Help me,” she croaked clutching me close with her weak hands.
“I don’t know how,” I said uselessly. We didn’t make our way up to the school. Instead, we took a path that leads deep into the forest. We weren’t concerned about our parents. I needed to know so much.
“I’ve been hearing a voice in my head,” Alex explained, “It’s a man and he’s telling me to come to him. I recognise his voice I just can’t put a name or a face to it. All I know is I’m not the only one of my kind. But I didn’t want to hear his voice so I blocked him out. That’s why I don’t know much. I didn’t want to know at the time, I just wanted to ignore it. But I’m going to find him because I can’t ignore it any longer. It’s too dangerous”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I don’t know Cathy. It just seemed wrong. It wasn’t too bad back then though so I didn’t feel the need to” she elaborated. “Could you tell me what it was like when I went out of control?” she asked.
It was obvious she’d been dying to ask.
“It’s like...a hot wall of flames, and I bet you could expand it metres wide. It’s so uncomfortable and you feel so claustrophobic” I described unwillingly “you just want to drop dead there and then”
“It probably affects you more because you’re human,” she said trying to hide her embarrassment and shame from me.
“What did it feel like for you?” I asked. She blushed furiously and ignored my question.
“How can you...even stand to be in my presence when you know...vaguely what I am?” she stammered the words.
“You’re still Alex,” I said incredulously, “nothing has changed”
“How can you even say that Cathy?” she said just as amazed as me, “I’m not human. I’m all wrong I shouldn’t exist!”
I was amazed by the way that she talked about herself. Her tone was disgusted, and surprised at my attitude towards her.
“What do you want me to say?” I asked blankly.
“Oh I don’t know something along the lines of ‘I don’t want to see you again you disgust me’ would be better” she said.
“How is that better?”
“Because it’s believable” she spat.
“Alex I still feel the same way I always have about you don’t make this harder than it needs to be” I sighed “so enough about the bad stuff...anything good about this?”
She grinned faintly though I knew she was dying to show me.
“Well there is some cool stuff but I don’t like to mess around with it,” she said seriously.
“Oh come on”
She laughed and flicked her arm out quickly. I could feel the heat from my place next to her. The sharp burst of invisible energy hit a tree around two metres away. I expected it to rebound but it pierced the trunk and made a hole right the way through it. I stood transfixed. Alex put her hand on the back of my neck. I froze and looked at her wide-eyed.
“Keep still and don’t freak,” she whispered with a smile.
She closed her eyes and concentrated.
A tingle of electricity shot down my spin ran down my legs and my arms and onto my face. It leapt inside my stomach, and sparked behind my eyes. I jumped in shock and Alex chuckled.
“Lexi that’s amazing. What else can you do?” I asked in awe.
“I can throw you off your feet, and send you flying at a good couple of miles an hour” she grinned evilly, but the sadness was still there “but I don’t think you’d be happy about it”
“Too true” I murmured.
She touched some leaves hanging down by her shoulder thoughtfully and they began to smoke until they burst into flames. I was so surprised that I stepped backwards and tripped over a tree root. With a wave of her arm and an unnecessary burst of laughter, I was swept back onto my feet.
“Bet that comes in handy,” I said joining in with her laughter.
“You should have seen your face Cath!” she said doubling over.
I hit her with as much force as I could but she didn’t flinch. I looked at her in startled surprise. She didn’t say anything preferring to demonstrate as usual. She flicked a finger and something that resembled a flame leaped up. It was a white blue and she held it to her face without hesitation. I expected her to scream but she held it firmly touching her skin. It didn’t seem to have any affect on her at all. I reached out a hand and put it to the flame. I jumped backwards cursing as I felt the scorching heat.
“That’s unbelievable,” I said as she began setting fire to the leaves again.
“It doesn’t affect me like it does with you, but I’m not invincible” she paused before admitting, “I’ve been experimenting”
She pulled up her top enough for me to see the little marks on her hip. I looked at my finger. I had the same mark, like a little angry red blister.
“I had to put it at the highest temperature I could just to do that to myself. The temperature would probably have you screaming and wishing to die. I can make it cold too” she added “and I can make it hurt really bad, so that you’re begging for mercy, so basically I’m like a torture machine”
“Scary” I said.
She laughed bitterly but then became frozen. Her eyes glazed over and stared into space. Her smile disappeared completely wiped clean off her face. This was all over in around five terrifying seconds.
“Cathy I have to go” she explained rapidly “go back to school, and when people want to know where I went, say I told you I forgot something at home and needed to go back. And I said I’d catch up with you. They’ll be panicking no doubt, but stick to the story”
She turned to leave but I caught her by the shoulder.
“Lexi please don’t leave me” I begged the tears streaming uselessly down my face.
“Cath he’s told me I have to come to him. The person I mentioned. I have to go to him and find out what I am. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be” she pleaded fighting back tears of her own.
“But I can’t carry on without you Alex, I need you”
“You underestimate yourself. I have to go” she said tears spilling over at last and rolling down her cheeks.
I nodded and watched her walk deeper and deeper into the forest until she was just a faint shadowy silhouette in the distance.
As I walked through the forest, my heart ached and it felt as though it had been pulled apart. I know knew what the expression heart broken truly meant. Alex was like a sister to me or at least had been. Her leaving me was just too much for me to bear. I had been suffering enough these past few months watching Alex wither away as the pain took over her. I was sure my heart was broken then but now I didn’t know. Your heart can’t break twice if it’s not repaired first. Maybe mine had been broken from the start and I simply hadn’t felt it until then. I pushed open the doors to the school and walked in mentally putting on my emotionless mask. No one was to know.
The day passed but I wasn’t prepared to walk back out the doors. I walked home slowly. Everything had gone so slow that I felt I had to keep pace. I was dreading what I’d find when I got home. I knew exactly what would meet me in the house but though I knew what to expect it didn’t mean I felt prepared. I counted each step I took to calm myself down. My heart, or as I felt, what was left of it, was thumping in my chest so hard it scared me. I opened the door and walked into the kitchen.
My mother was comforting a sobbing Mrs.Daniels. I walked over trying to disguise my pain and replace it with fake confusion.
“Cathy when was the last time you saw Alex? Did you see her before school?” my mother asked in, what she probably hoped was, a casual voice. It was high and shaking towards the end
“We were going to school, but she said she forgot something, and had to go back. She wasn’t there when school ended, but I assumed she felt ill or something. Why what happened?” I asked, lying through my teeth. Mrs.Daniels sobs grew louder.
“There, there Barbara calm down it’s probably nothing” soothed my mother handing Mrs.Daniels a steaming mug of tea. She took it but threw it to the floor. It smashed, and pieces of china flew everywhere. The tea lightly splattered the pale cream walls.
“I don’t want tea and sympathy! I want my Alex back safe!” she screamed before striding out the kitchen.
“I liked that cup” my mum sighed wistfully, while picking up the mess.
“What’s happened mum?” I asked. It was becoming easier to pretend I didn’t know anything. When adults are in the middle of something serious, they tend to treat you more like a child. It was an advantage.
“Well Cathy honey, I don’t know how to tell you this but Alex is missing. Barbara hasn’t a clue where she is, and she can’t be declared missing until the next twenty four hours, so obviously that’s a bit worrying too. I must admit, though I’m ashamed to say it, I think she’s run away because she hasn’t been herself lately” my mother said her hand on my shoulder the whole time.
The only way to give my mother a believable reaction to this declaration was to let all the pain and misery loose. I let my eyes widen and water and my lip quiver. My mother hugged me tight.
“We’ll find her Cathy, don’t worry” she promised. I couldn’t get rid of the guilt of lying to them, and the memory of Mrs.Daniels’ tearful face made it much worse. The pain of it all took over and I let my tears fall.
The word nightmare doesn’t come close to describing what I dreamt that night. I wouldn’t call it a nightmare at all. All I could see was Alex’s face in the forest, fighting back tears so as not to hurt me even more. I didn’t care what she was. Alex was Alex to me no matter what. She had hurt me enough by leaving me, after trusting me with her secret. Still, I knew she didn’t want to go- she just had to.
The next day, I came downstairs to find my mother on the phone.
“Barbara why didn’t you say?” she was saying, “Yes...So it’s all okay...right goodbye”
She put down the phone and turned around. She hadn’t noticed I’d entered the room while she had been talking.
“Oh Cathy you gave me a fright!” she laughed ruffling my dark curls.
“What’s happened mum?” I asked curiously.
“Well it turns out Alex has been arguing with Barbara” she shook her head “you should have heard her ‘I’m sorry Anne I didn’t like to say’...well Lexi has run away, and she’s with an uncle from her father’s side of the family, but only for the holidays. Her father is fine with it, and her mother accepts her decision. I’m sorry Cath but she’s not coming back. She might visit occasionally, but that’s all I can tell you”
“Oh” I paused, “well as long as Lexi’s okay, then I’m fine with it”
“Oh darling” my mother exclaimed tearfully, hugging me tight “we’ll all miss her so much but I’m glad you’re willing to accept it”
“Mum” I protested with tears of my own. It was going to be a long day.
Mum spent most of her time on the phone or cleaning, while I lay on my bed upstairs. I was deep in thought. How had Alex made everything turn out so perfectly? Where was she? What was she? I shouldn’t have to be thinking about such serious things at my age. It was all too much.
I got out my notebook. Flipping through my sketches and song lyrics, I realised that most of my life had consisted of her. I couldn’t do anything without her. I just wasn’t me anymore. What was I supposed to do now she had gone? Looking out my window into the rapidly darkening sky, I knew that wherever Lexi was, she felt exactly the same way.
My senses came over me and I fell asleep, crying as I did so. It wasn’t enough knowing that she was in pain too. I didn’t just want her back again, I actually needed her. They’re two very different things.
I didn’t have much of a dream that night. I was walking through a forest when I came to a metal gate, like the sort you see around dangerous building sights. I opened it and walked in. All there was behind it was a large field, which could maybe pass as a meadow, but for some strange reason I felt scared as I entered. I could find no meaning to the dream.
The next day I went to school. I had to pretend everything was all right but it was so frustrating. I realised that Alex must have felt the same, while trying to protect her secret. It was a lonely feeling, and it was the first time I had ever experienced it. I let my hair fall onto my face like I always did when I was upset. It was like a curtain hiding me from view of everyone. I hugged myself tight as if to stop myself from falling apart. It felt like it could happen at any second.
I couldn’t help but look around for Alex when I came out from school. Instead, Yvonne Richards an annoying girl from my class met me.
“So I heard Alex has gone,” she said in her nasally tone, as I walked past “your on your own now aren’t you? Well I guess she was okay, but you can do better”
“Jealousy doesn’t get you anywhere Richards. Though you couldn’t have picked anyone more worth it than Lexi” I exploded squaring up to her. I was surprised at myself I was usually so quiet and timid.
“Cool it West” she said, and the use of my last name angered me more “I didn’t expect this, you know. Everyone was aware that she worshipped you. She never said a bad word against you. I didn’t realise you felt the same about her. But she’s gone now so you’ll be hanging with me”
“In your dreams. What made you so sure it would turn out the way you wanted? Me friend with you? When have I ever showed any liking towards you” I asked. But I was amazed by her little speech. I felt I was the tag along friend, and Alex was so much better than I was. The way Yvonne had put it; everyone thought it the other way around.
“Well I never realised she was so important to you. She wasn’t good enough for you. You need someone in your league. Lexi was always so clingy” she shook her head in pity “but I’m not like that. You’ve obviously been manipulated by her”
“I was right- you are dreaming. Wake up and look again Richards. Everything isn’t so pretty in reality is it? Get lost, you’ve got to be having a laugh” I spat.
“Your loss” she sniffed, running her fingers through her short greasy black hair. She strode off, but it was obvious she was disappointed. I walked in fast steps until I was in the comforting shade of the forest. I fought against the tears that threatened to appear. I won, but only just. I passed the lane that Alex and I had taken before she told me everything. I just wished she’d have stayed for a while before going. At least then, I could’ve spent some time with her while I knew the secret. But now she’d gone to find out what she was. And I’d probably never find out if she’d completed her mission. It was a disturbing thought.
My mother was so kind when I arrived home, that I almost cried. She gave me a big hug as soon as I stepped through the door.
“How are you honey? Was school okay?” she asked as she released me. I nodded weakly and she gave a strained smile in return.
“You’re doing so well Cath, but you know Alex wouldn’t have wanted you to mope. She wasn’t the only girl at school was she? There have got to be some who you can make friends with”
Thinking of Yvonne, I answered coldly “There are no decent girls at all. I’d rather be on my own than with some of that lot. Some things never change like Lexi being the only person I want to be friends with”
“I understand. You were always fine on your own anyway” she said, giving me a small smile, before going into the kitchen. I sighed to myself and went to my room.
You should try being optimistic when everything’s so pessimistic. I couldn’t think of a single positive thought, as I lay on my bedroom floor, staring at the ceiling. All I could come up with was, maybe Alex would come home. At least then I could take out all my emotions on someone, and let it all out. I’d give her a good slap across the face for leaving me, seeing as it couldn’t hurt her anymore, and then a big hug. I could just imagine her sarcastic remark. I missed her so much. Picturing her in my head still couldn’t do anything. The vision of perfection I remembered only made me even surer she’d never existed. The Lexi I recalled was something straight out of a fairytale- too good to be true. Without her I felt empty.
The next day at school was agony. The teacher’s voice seemed even further away than usual. I couldn’t stop my mind from straying from the worksheet in front of me. As much as I tried all I thought about was Alex. She’d have been in the middle of a math test right now, and she’d have moaned to me all the way home. Coming out of school I gave a hopeless glance over at the doors. There wasn’t a brown eyed short haired girl with a pink pout. In Alex’s place was Becky, the girl whose party Alex had decided to go to. The thought twisted my stomach. She looked over at me before approaching. I hoped she’d pass me but she came right up. She had long blonde hair and a fringe, with big brown bambi eyes. She wasn’t exactly pretty but she was interesting. There was more to her personality than her looks. She was really nice and if someone hated her it was jealousy. But of course no one was as jealous of her as they were of Alex. She was a bit too nice and it and it can become boring. But Alex could have a fiery temper so it was obvious why she was more envied. She was just more interesting.
“Hi Cathy” she smiled.
“Hey Beck” I answered tonelessly.
“So I guessed you weren’t coming to my party after all, but I just needed to check” she went on.
“How did you know I wasn’t coming anymore?”
“Well with Alex gone” my stomach twisted even tighter, “I realised you’d be too...well you know”
I was touched by her consideration.
“Yeah well...sorry I can’t come I’m glad you understand”
“No problem” she smiled again. She really was a nice girl. I turned to leave but she called me again.
“Why don’t you just visit Lexi? I mean, she’s staying with an uncle right?” she suggested. I hesitated.
“She’s not really is she?” Becky said, understanding “oh well it’s none of my business anyway”
“Thanks Becky” I said giving a small smile, which she returned. But I wasn’t thanking her for the obvious reasons. She had given me an idea. It was so simple I felt like such an idiot for not thinking of it before. Why not simply go find Alex? But there were admittedly some complications. Firstly where was she? But most of all, I couldn’t interrupt her in the middle of her mission- for all I knew, she might not be close to completing it. Ashamedly, I was angry at her. Was it really, truly necessary to keep me so in the dark? It wasn’t like there was any reason not to tell me. Well, I couldn’t think of any. I’d always been positive that Lexi told me everything. But that was when I was unaware of the world behind the one I thought I lived in. Now, anything seemed possible.
When I arrived home, my mother was in the kitchen with Mrs.Daniels. It was like a stab in the stomach, as I recalled a recent scene that was quite similar. Mrs.Daniels was not crying though she did look upset.
“Barbara if she was threatening to do this then surely you were expecting it” my mother was saying.
“How was I supposed to know they weren’t empty threats?” Mrs.Daniels said.
“Oh come on now this is Alex we’re talking about”
“Oh Anne I don’t even know my own daughter, I’m such a terrible mother” she said and finally started crying. She seemed to be crying more for the sake of her own image than her loss of Alex. Maybe Alex was right. Her mother wasn’t who I thought she was.
“I understand if she wants to live with her uncle for a while to get over things, and I’m fine with it as she is going to visit, but I just miss her so much”
“It’s only natural for you to miss her, but don’t think for one second you’re a bad mother Barbara because you’re not” my mother said. I was proud of her; she was so great at giving advice and reassuring. It was probably the only thing that convinced me she was a mother and not my sister, apart from working and worrying about bills. I couldn’t listen to any more; it was too painful, so I turned to go quietly upstairs.
“Where does this uncle of hers live anyway?” my mother enquired, which stopped me in my tracks.
“Well actually it’s quite a bit away from here. But you know where we used to live? Well you can imagine how shocked I was when her uncle bought it off us. I thought at first he was being kind but he really needed the place...weird isn’t it? It’s an okay house not that big, but I think he’s got a one little daughter, so it was perfect apparently” Mrs.Daniels replied.
That was enough for me. I ran upstairs as quietly as I could manage and rushed into my room. I lay on my bed panting as I thought. It didn’t exactly help the situation now that I knew the address. Lexi could have easily been lying when she said she was with her uncle. She could be anywhere by now- Alex was such a master with lying, she could have you doubt gravity in less than a second. It was possible that she actually was with her uncle, but then again if I went and she wasn’t there, it would’ve been completely pointless. Well, you don’t know until you try. And that was exactly what I was going to do.
It was going to take a lot of planning. But I was set and determined. All I needed was the right moment a
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