The Silent Angels~ Book 1: Casey and Alicia. Chapters 1 & 2. Book 2: Under the surface (Diary entries)

for front cover silent angels 4

 

The Silent Angels will be a novel in two parts; Book 1 and Book 2

In Book 1, the reader will see the story unfold from Casey’s viewpoint, and the viewpoint of Alicia. The ghost girl.

In Book 2, the reader will, if they choose, read the story as it happened through the eyes of the other characters in the book. I want to include this second Book for two reasons:

Firstly, writing all their diary entries throughout the story helped me, as the author, to ‘get into their heads’ and therefore bring their characters to life more vividly and realistically in Book 1.

Secondly, I want the reader to realise that every story has multiple angles for everyone involved and it’s therefore never a good idea to believe only one side of a story. Also, we all hide things about ourselves because we fear being judged, yet we judge others based on only a handful of facts when there may be hundreds of reasons for someone’s behaviour. I want the readers to ask themselves: What would happen in our close relationships if we were all much more honest about how we feel and the things we do? 

This is how I intend to set the novel out:

BOOK 1

Chapter 1~ Saturday 2nd August

Alicia

I have longed for the night. I can hide with my comfort blanket of darkness engulfing me. No one will come in and disturb me. I have many hours of peace ahead. I sprawl out on the orange mattress on the balcony and brave the crisp wind, my face gazing up at the indigo ink blot sky, watching the swirls of the clouds blink, blink, blink and then sleep, blotting out the mischievous twinkle of the stars. The smoke from my cigarette twirls and dances like a fluid ballerina up and up to meet the sky, changing colour like a chameleon from silver-white, to pale blue, to black. When it’s finished, I let my eyes droop until I dream of faces that merge and expand, their features elongating and shrivelling, then winding around and looping through each other, hooking on to coiling snake-like entities that shimmer and slide past my vision.

I awake and find my fingers exploring the hoods of my eyes, yet again, pushing my eyeballs down until I see lightening bolts of white that illuminate my brain like flaming comets.  What am I searching for? The once delicate tissue films of skin underneath my eyes feel scaly and dry. I try to resist picking at their brittleness but as I trace the rough texture with my fingertip, I feel exhilarated as they touch my skin. I know that if I can scrape them off with my nails I will feel clean again, pure, the horror and ugliness will wash away down the plughole. I will stand there at the sink, my tears merging with the feeble trickle of tap water as I scrub my nails with the green lotion. My hot tears always sting my eyes. The delicate exposed flesh that I have gauged burns. I scream. Trembling, I clutch the sides of the sink, the dark outline of the mirror on the wall looming in front of me. There is a thick, weave cloth draped across it. I know why it’s there, but I can’t remember who put it there. I can lift it, I can tear it down, but I don’t want to. The face that I see reflected in it will consume me. It will be so terrifying to look at that I will wish I had slid my whole body down the plughole, clinging to the remnants of my flesh, lost forever in the nothingness of death.

Instead, I sit up and hug my knees tightly to my chest. I shiver as I untie my indian shawl from around the wrought iron of the balcony, wrapping it tightly around my shoulders. I roll a cigarette, noticing how low my supply is getting. My ration has been spent for the month but I can’t get through the rest of the night without just  one last smoke to calm my nerves. The night is silent. I hear a welcome nothing, not even the faint coo of the owl that sometimes lulls me to sleep. I stare out across the gardens. The outlines of the wild unkempt trees and bushes are only recognisable by subtle nocturnal tones and shapes that sway gently in the breeze.

Then I hear something.

My heart jolts as I turn to look into my room. There’s something in there. Again, a shuffling noise and what sounds like breathing. I prepare myself to stand up, adrenalin seeping into my veins. Someone laughs. A soft giggle that fades into a long contented sigh. Murmuring. A different voice. Then anger fights the adrenalin as I realise someone has let themselves in to my room, my haven, the one place that I can call my own. I don’t know much about this place I live in, I don’t remember one face from another, but I know that it’s my space and no one else is allowed in it. I am on my feet now, entering my room to face them.

”Who’s there?”

Silence. Only my footsteps as I trace the perimeter of the room with my eyes. Nothing and no one.

I don’t know if these noises are spirits of the dead in this macabre building or ghosts still alive in my head.

 Casey’s Story~ Arrival

I should have been happy. But I wasn’t happy. In fact I was quietly flipping out. It had started as a hollow feeling that sometimes sneaks up on me when my gut is screaming that there’s something wrong. Then as the day had progressed, I couldn’t shake it off and it had turned into anxiety, making my heart trip out every so often and my head feel like it was floating. I glanced up at the girl driving, the back of her head towering above her driver’s seat, her electric blue and purple dreadlocks bathed in late afternoon sun light. Annabelle. Lee’s house mate and as he was forever trying to convince me, ‘just friend’. Of course, squashed up next to Lee in the back of her shiny black SUV heading out of London, I did not want to dwell on this lingering fear. Not after the previous two months of trying to persuade Mum to finally throw away the metaphorical diaper she was still trying to make me wear and the constant rows with Dad in the relentless effort to chill him the heck out. He would never realise I was no longer his little girl.

I hadn’t seen Lee in so long, and I had forgotten how excruciatingly dull my life could be when I was stuck at home and he was at Uni. I wasn’t about to let some stuck up Goth-bitch called Annabelle swipe all my joy and stuff it into her scarf laden, fringed leather death bag she carried everywhere with her. This was my time. Our time. She had already managed to plant her festering seed of poison in the once innocent, carefree bed of our relationship by constantly thinking up new ways to wind me up, knowing full well that I lived four hours away from their cosy little set-up in London and that she knew more about Lee’s every day life than I ever could. When Chloe had moved in, I saw her one night in Lee’s room, walking around in there as though she owned it. Of course, I didn’t know it was Chloe at that point, just saw red at the random girl. You see, we keep Skype on all the time so we can talk and fall asleep together. Some may say it’s vomtastic, but I would strongly disagree. That’s how I saw her in there. Chloe. Of course, I confronted Lee about the mystery girl, accusing him of infidelity and being a complete asshole. Those were the polite things. He couldn’t believe that I was having a go at him and not even giving him a chance to explain. That’s me, though. As far as I was concerned, he knew who that girl was and must have been sleeping with her to let her roam around in his room like that. Turned out it was Chloe, simply going in his room to find her glasses she had left there while they had been talking the evening before. Annabelle had told her that Lee wouldn’t mind. Annabelle knew Lee so well, obviously. She also knew that he had Skype on and that I would see her in there and freak out. There’s just one reason I do not like Annabelle. The other reason is because she is clearly in love with him. I wished she would be a bit more dignified about it and try and hide it just a little bit.

I could feel Lee’s thigh radiating delicious electric warmth through my summer jeans and I could smell his fresh ‘after’ shower skin scent which comforted me as Annabelle’s horrifying erratic driving threw him against me relentlessly in the back seat. His hand was clutching my shoulder ready to pull me into him at just the right second before he squished me against the side door. I didn’t mind his body being thrown into mine at all, but Lee being Lee didn’t want the side pockets of the SUV to break my ribs. Lost in the simultaneous revving and screeching of brakes, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers blaring out of the stereo, was Joel’s voice, cursing Annabelle and her obviously distorted sense of immortality. He was lounged out in the front passenger seat, his baggy jeans hanging down beyond his converse boots, Lennon sun glasses pushed up into his thick tussle of blonde hair, looking chilled out as usual despite yelling at Annabelle every 30 seconds. I had met Joel a few times as he was seeing Lee’s sister Lisa, and we had hung out together back home. He was a funny guy who didn’t take life too seriously and didn’t let his friends wallow in any self- pitying shit. I didn’t know whether that was through a genuine concern for the welfare of his best friends or a case of not wanting to deal with other people’s misery. I suspected the latter as Lisa had told me that Joel was a cool guy but not that great to talk to, about serious stuff. I found it weird that he wanted to be with us on this trip as the atmosphere since leaving London had been heavy to say the least. As far as I was concerned, it was all because of  her and the dick fit she had had packing all our stuff. We were taking too much, and couldn’t me and Lee double up with our bags and look, the food boxes aren’t sealed properly and are gonna ruin the upholstery. She made me feel like I was intruding on their party, either looking through me or glaring at me. Nothing in between. It made me really pissed that a) she was the only one who had a car and therefore had the power to decide our destiny of death at any point before arriving at our destination, b) she was monopolizing the mood by playing one hell of a boring album over and over again on her stereo, and one which no one else liked judging by Joel’s (futile) attempts to eject it and c) she kept glancing in the front mirror, or whatever the correct name for it is, and checking out Lee. My boyfriend Lee. I tried to sneer at her but she seemed not to notice anything else going on around her. Including the fact that we were hurtling down country lanes at that point, almost overturning into ditches and hedgerows alongside us.

”Anna, my balls are on fire, man!” blurted Joel in the front seat. He then leaned right across towards her, despite the rest of us being thrown the opposite way, grabbed the steering wheel attempting to turn it, but resulting in a pile of groping hands and as Annabelle stuck her ground and revved up, lurching the SUV and almost stalling it.

”Joeeeeeeeeeeel Mackie!” she wailed and suddenly we were at a stand- still and silence pervaded. Well, except the stupid Chili Peppers singing about ‘Californication’. I bloody hate that song.

Lee started laughing and mumbled something about Joel being a dickweed. Joel ejected the CD and launched it behind him. It hit Simon on the side of the head and he cursed before winding the window right down and hurling it out into the field. ”At least it settled in a final location!” He mocked the Californication lyrics as it arched into the corn field haze, one last glint on its shiny edge before it disappeared forever.

”You’re both twats,” Annabelle ranted. ”Joel, get out and Simon… you owe me a CD. Unless you feel like going and fetching it?” She twisted round in her seat and glared at Simon, her dark eyes wide with determination, her purple mascara catching the sunlight, making her look demonic. Maybe she was. I was certainly starting to think so.

Joel remained seated, laughing. He was doing one of those silent laughs that you can’t hear but his shoulders were shaking and occasionally he snorted, unable to contain it. Simon sat back and stared up at the roof , biting the skin around his fingers defiantly. He hadn’t spoken at all during the journey or this morning. All I had seen was the back of his head as he stared out of the window and his skinny frame curled up against the door. He was wearing a dirty white t-shirt with The Sisters of Mercy written across the back, tour dates listed down his back on a gothic church window background. I had caught glimpses of his profile as he sat there and smoked, occasionally sighing and nodding unconvincingly when Lee had asked him if he was ok. He had recently been in quite a serious car accident and was still nervous of travelling.

Annabelle made us all jolt by bringing her bracelet clad fist down on the beeper and pushing Joel by his shoulder so hard that he thumped against the side door and a hollow sound of his head contacting glass was heard. Lee was snorting with laughter by then and I couldn’t help it either. Annabelle looked at us through the mirror and glared right at me. Lee didn’t notice, he was leaning over to Simon and trying to flick his ear. Simon put his hand up and told Lee where to go in a ‘making love’ kind of way. He looked at me and smiled, then turned away and resumed his foetal position. Lee winked at me and Annabelle started the engine.

No one spoke for ages. Annabelle drove, slightly slower than before, while Lee kept whispering in my ear and telling me stuff about his friends, like how Simon was always serious and a touch morbid and that Annabelle and him (Simon) had a love-hate relationship. Today they were all about the hate, clearly.

Joel started rustling around in his backpack that was down by his feet, throwing out all sorts of crap before he found what he was looking for. Grinning mischievously he held up a torturous lime green CD case and triumphantly started flicking through it.

”So what’ll it be, my Indie dudes?’ he waggled the open case and the CD compartments flopped around. ”Oooo the choice…could it be, The Inspiral Carpets? The Stone Roses? Happy Mondays? Oh please say yes to Dinosaur Jnr! Or maybe you’all prefer something a little more quirky…….The Charlatans!”

Simon tutted, stuck his forefingers in his ears and shouted ”Jesus no. Quirky, my ass!” and Lee whispered to me, ”90s Indie every time. Just humour him.”

Annabelle rudely gestured him one of her black nail-polished fingers as he inserted a CD in the player. Joel’s head started bopping as the first track began and he sang along:

A girl consumed by fire
We all know her desire
From the plans that she has made
I have her on a promise
Immerse me in your splendour
All the plans that i have made. YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEH!!! *

We trundled deeper into the countryside, the sun making its descent down, tickling the tips of the trees and casting shadows across the fields. Birds flocked and dispersed off in different directions like flecks of black ink spreading across ancient yellowing paper. Peace seemed to settle around us as we all sat in silence, Annabelle sitting statue-like at the wheel, sucking on a very thin roll-up that wafted into my nasal passage almost like it was seeking me out to torture me. The setting sun was spilling an orange glow through the driver’s window, catching the metallic engravings in her bracelets which glowed like tiny lasers. Joel had his knees hooked up on the dashboard, slumped down in the deep passenger seat, a light hum escaping his lips as his blonde mop of bedraggled hair nodded in time to the music. Simon’s face was still turned away, his skinny frame pressed against the door, his cheek resting on his bony knee that was exposed through ripped grey jeans. He was smoking, the aroma that sneaked in through the slightly open window joined Annabelle’s haze, giving me crazy cravings.

Lee didn’t like that I smoked, but he knew he couldn’t stop me. He worried about my health. That was Lee, though, worrying about everyone. I looked up at him and smiled. His shoulder length black hair was tucked behind his ears so I could see his whole face. I had never seen such a handsome guy. But it wasn’t just his slightly slanted brown eyes and freckles that danced on his skin. It wasn’t only his straight nose that led me to stare longingly at his full lips that he had an endearing habit of pressing together and then pouting out when he was in deep thought. It was as if his kindness and compassion for the human race and all living creatures exuded forth and his whole being could be read through his features. I didn’t know where this divinity came from and I often found myself in awe of how he could happily and without a single thought, put everyone else’s needs before his own. I couldn’t. I often wondered whether that’s why fate had thrown us together in our bordering-on obsession with each other. He didn’t have a bad bone fragment in his body. I was his darker half.

I couldn’t wait to get there and have a drink and a cigarette, even though I was thoroughly enjoying my close proximity to Lee as we hurtled further and further into rural remoteness, closer and closer to the abandoned building.

”What time does Chlo finish work?” Lee asked no-one in particular. Simon shrugged his shoulders and Joel twisted round, grinning and then sticking his bottom lip out at me. I had to laugh just because his reaction was totally bizarre. Annabelle stirred out of her comatose state and lighting another cigarette said,

”9:30. I’m going to fetch her from the boutique. You coming with me, or…?”

Rather than wonder what Chloe was doing at work until that late, my mind went straight to that last sentence. You coming with me or……..what was she on? I felt myself stiffen and I squeezed Lee’s hand a bit too tight. He flinched and I felt terrible, almost as if my inflicting a nano second of pain on him would make him leave with her later after all. Her dark eyes were fixed on him through that mirror and she waited.

”Not. He’s not actually.”

Had I said that out loud? I side-glanced at Lee and deduced that yes, I had. He was looking at me sideways as well, a slight smirk up- turning his lip, but not wanting to smile too widely as he wasn’t sure how Annabelle was about to react. He kept looking at her and back to me as if waiting to see who would strike the next blow.

”Excuse me?”

Black eyes right on me. I thought she was going to stop the car and get out to deck me, such a glare she propelled out of her banshee eyes towards me. My heart was pumping but I was enjoying it. I’ve never been scared of confrontation. I actually enjoy putting people in their place.

Silence.

Simon coughed and I heard him light another cigarette.

I could have said a lot of things right then, and none of them kind, but instead I bit my lip and fought the urge to get into a passionate blue with her. She deserved it and I wouldn’t normally have let anyone who made me feel like shit get away with it, but Lee was there beside me and I didn’t want to drown him in a pool of crap in the middle of us bitching. I was on to her though and she knew it. She glanced at me in the mirror, glared and looked away, a smug smirk somehow making her eyes look even more manic. She was actually very striking but because of her constant grimacing, her face never actually looked beautiful.

Her driving got more aggressive I’m sure of it. She wrestled with the gears for a second and said something derogatory under her breath before almost shouting, ”Lee? Are you coming with me or not?”

”Anna…..” I sensed he felt awkward as his voice was tense and unnatural. ”Let me stay here and sort out the stuff. I can’t just leave Case on the first evening.”

Relief. Lee pulled me closer to him and I melted in. He kissed me tenderly on the forehead and rested his chin on the top of my head. I think he was staring outside at the darkening sky, trying to avoid looking in the mirror and catching her eye.

‘’Well, someone has to. I’m not a frickin’ taxi service, you know.’’

No one spoke again. Joel kept having weird outbursts of lyric crazy which I think he did to antagonize Annabelle because he would go in with a loud death metal-like roar, leaning over to almost touch her cheek with his nose before letting rip. Death metal vocals did not go at all with the droning of this indie music, whatever it was, but I enjoyed watching her seethe. Her fingers were tap, tap, tapping on the steering wheel and I could feel her disdain.

”Jo, why don’t you just play some death metal instead of trying to transform this utter shite you always listen to?” Simon piped up. ”First it was the worm that lives up Mike Patton’s arse ‘entertaining’ us with his bollocks about California, and now it’s the eternal stoners whining about the fact that they have destroyed all their brain cells. Put some decent shit on or shut it the fuck down, please.”

‘Who’s Mike Patton when he’s at home?’ asked Joel casually, he obviously had no intention of changing the CD.

‘The lead singer of Faith No More. Only the best vocalist in the history of vocalists. ‘ said Simon, suddenly becoming more animated. ‘But I don’t suppose for a single fucking second that you would know what good vocals sound like, so…’

I had no idea what Simon had just said, but I agreed with the main point. The music had been utter crap on this journey. I was glad I had brought my MP3 and Dock. I made a mental note to listen to some Faith No More as well to see what Simon’s fuss was about. If he liked The Sisters of Mercy then his taste in music was good enough for me.

It reeked of cigarettes, anger and bitterness in that car as we slowed down to approach the entrance of the building. The dirt track had so far been lined with trees, hiding their inner world within the cloak of the dusk clouds. Simon must have realised where he was and suddenly sat up and directed Annabelle through the open gate, gravel chattering as it flew into the mud guards of the SUV. We crawled down a narrower track and soon a dark shape could be seen in the distance. It was a huge building.

Annabelle drove slowly for a minute or so and then parked up and stopped the engine. We all piled out into the cool darkness, our shoes scratching on the gravel as we looked around blindly, trying to see something, anything. She was there, towering above me, what was she, 6ft? She leaned on the roof of the SUV her arms crossed and chin on her hands, staring out into the distant dark.

‘’Anna are you ok?’’ Lee asked gently. She turned her head and smiled. It was so fake.

‘’Yep. Just tired. Shall we just go in?’’

Lee nodded and touched her shoulder trying to reassure her I guess.

”Where’s the torch, Jo?” Simon asked as he turned and opened the door again, rummaging around on the floor of the car, getting more and more irritated. ”You did put it in didn’t you?”

Joel’s round face was just visible and he looked at Simon alarmed. We all looked at Joel, or what little we could discern of his face as he stood there. Suddenly, a blinding light shot across our faces and Joel giggled, making the beam dance all around us, darting onto Annabelle’s blue dreadlocks, Lee’s freckled nose and then onto Simon’s scowling face.

”Give it here you asswipe,” Simon said as he swiped it out of Joel’s hand. ”You are such a tool. Can’t you just do something without being a peenars?’

Lee sniggered and cuddled me in the dark. Annabelle had already started walking so Simon shone the torchlight straight ahead of us. As we approached the front door, Simon directed the beam upwards and across, giving us a panorama of the building that we would be spending the next week in. To describe it as awesome would not have done it justice. I stared up at it, its Victorian splendour towering over us.

”Welcome to Crowbray School for Girls,” whispered Simon, slowly swiping the torchlight across the arched windows. ”One of the most haunted buildings in rural Essex.”

~*~

I felt literally sick with excitement when Simon said ‘haunted’. Lee hadn’t told me much about this little venture, only that he was doing Simon a favour and that I would love it, sleeping in a massive old derelict mansion for a week or two. Too right I would love it. I think ‘love it’ is an understatement.

I have always been fascinated by the abandoned, tumbling down and forgotten. Even more so, the paranormal. You know ghosts, spirits and everything supernatural.  Maybe it’s how I feel about myself. Being an only child I have always felt unloved and misunderstood, as if I should be something majestic and strong like a house is for people, but I can’t be because my foundations are all cracked and likely to snap if walked over. Lee says that’s why I seem aloof. It’s self -protection. Maybe I am also protecting other people from falling through my floor and lying broken and left for dead in the depths of my cold interior.

I still live with my parents in a remote hamlet in the middle of nowhere. There’s really only me and Chester, my Labrador for company most of the time as Mum and Dad are never home. Dad is the only Doctor for miles around and Mum feels obliged, as a model ‘wifey’, to trail along behind him like a lost puppy working in his surgery and generally wiping his ass for him. Lee says they are great parents, but he only sees them at their best, when he’s home for holidays and they run around like headless chickens trying to make everything right for us. If only they knew. They have no idea that we are together and I think it’s safe to say, would have triple aneurysms each if they found out that Lee sleeps up in my attic room bed with me most nights he’s back in Lincolnshire. I’m 18 for crying out loud.

The worst thing about all this is that they have got it into their dumb ass heads that Lee is with Annabelle. Yes. My best bud, Stella, thinks it’s the best way, but I think it’s horrendous. At least it gets them off my back I suppose. That started because Lee brought her to his house one Christmas because she had problems and couldn’t stay home. She stuck to him like a river leach and it made me want to hurl in her face and box her ears. Not in that order. But of course I didn’t because I needed to prove to Lee that I’m as mature as his friends and that I can take it. To be honest I don’t think he even realised how she was behaving or that I was freaking out. And what do you know, he hasn’t got the faintest notion that Annabelle is acutely and obsessively in love with him. I can see it all and that’s why I’ve still got this sinking feeling in my gut right now. I had it this morning when Annabelle was packing her SUV with all our sleeping bags and food supplies. It was the way she scowled at me and hurled my stuff into the back. It was the way she carefully placed Lee’s bags. Lovingly.

We approached the big thick wooden door of Crowbray School for Girls. Simon couldn’t get the locks open for ages and was cursing it out, but Lee managed to do it somehow. We then trudged back to the car and took all our things into the old place. It took several trips but Lee insisted that he carry all the heavy gear. Simon didn’t bother to get anything, he just waltzed in with the torch and disappeared leaving us in near pitch dark outside to grope around blindly. Lee’s torch was in one of the bags but we couldn’t see to get it out! Annabelle shouted him back but he mumbled something about leaving his stuff for him to bring in because he had all his filming equipment as well. Lee brought it all in though, which left me standing inside the grand entrance, trying to focus, bumping into things to get round to where Annabelle and Simon’s voices were coming from. I couldn’t see much, just breathed in the aroma of derelict that I had grown to like, the earthy mouldy stench that hangs in the air, reminding you that Nature is coming to slowly engulf the bricks and mortar and ease it to the ground. When I reached the room they were standing in the centre surrounded by dull grey light. As I crept inside, it just opened out before me like a giant majestic flower. Simon was running his torch across the walls and up at the ceiling, saying ‘Wow’ over and over again. Annabelle was standing there, hands on hips, black clothes almost camouflaging her completely. I could hear her bracelets clanking when she moved her hands to point to something, telling Simon to point the torch up there and over here.

The walls were at least twenty foot high, with what looked to be shiny silver wallpaper that was hanging off like limp skin in various places around the room. Simon pointed the torch to the front to show me the windows. It was fully dark outside but I could make out the faint shine on the glass and the bright torch light reflecting back in and as I looked up I realised the window were ceiling to floor, with thick, lush velvet curtains cascading down and spilling across the carpet. Some were tied back, but some had been forgotten, standing as still as time. There was a soft hint of a lavender smell which seemed vaguely familiar to me somehow. As I approached the others, it wafted away as Annabelle’s scent hit me. A heady combination of cigarette smoke, Patchouli oil and honey. I hate Patchouli.

Lee came up behind me and scared the crap out of me, grabbing my waist and lifting me slightly. He is way taller than me so he can do these annoying things easily. I yelped like a moron, but he squeezed me from behind, his long arms wrapped around me and kissed my head. He can also rest his chin on my head, which he does a lot. Annabelle turned away and Simon carried on with his torch, shining it around and then directly into our faces. I laughed.

‘Si, is there electricity?’ Lee asked, snuggling into me. I felt warmer and instantly safe. I hated being on my own with Annabelle and Simon because I didn’t know them. I always feel awkward when I meet new people, but with Lee’s friends it’s triple weird. It’s too much pressure to be liked.

‘Well, there are renovations being done at the side of the building, so the owner said there’ll be electric in the kitchen. The construction guys have to use the kettle and stuff. But I don’t think the rest of this place has been hooked up to the grid for about 20 years or so. Why, are you freeeeeeeeeaked?’

Simon put the torch under his chin and pulled a long face. I could see veins and bones I’m sure. He smiled for the first time ever. I hadn’t really looked at Simon’s face much as his black hair was always swept over his eyes, but I saw now that he was really good looking. He had lovely deep green eyes and full lips, with a ring through the bottom one and a stud just shining out below the lip. What I liked most was that he was wearing a little bit of black eye liner. Lee wouldn’t be able to pull that shit off in a million years, even though he had offered plenty to experiment for me. Lee had no piercings, no tattoos, nothing. I wondered where Simon’s tats were, cos he was sure to have some.

Lee laughed, which snapped me back into reality. That’s when we noticed what was illuminated above Simon. I just saw the outline of it and grabbed his arm, directing the torch so it shone right up the middle of it. It was an ornate, beautiful crystal chandelier, but not your average over –the- top- one. This was three tiered with hundreds of black spirals and cream crystals cascading down like a fountain. It was falling from a height so tall that the torch light just faded out before it reached the ceiling.

”Can I fit that in my bag?” Annabelle joked. Simon laughed and I couldn’t help but feel the wrath. What was found in abandoned places, stayed in abandoned places. That was the first rule of URBEX:  ”take only pictures, leave only footprints…”

”That’s really disrespectful of the URBEX culture.” I stated. Simon looked at me, puzzled. Annabelle looked down at me and shrugged her shoulders.

”Of the what culture?” she mocked, smiling slyly as if to say, you are talking shit girl.

”URBEX. Urban Exploration.” I explained, standing my ground. ”There are thousands of communities all over the world. It’s about respecting old places, you know. These things belong in history and belonged to someone once. That’s all. Rant over.”

I had just wanted to make a point. Get one over on her.

Annabelle sighed and turned away.

‘Where’s Jo, anyway’? She suddenly asked, staring intently at Lee, puzzled, totally negating my conversation.

‘I have no idea. Maybe he’s gone to check the kitchen out. He had some boxes of beers the last time I saw him and I told him where it was.’ Lee said, grabbing my hand. ‘Come on let’s go check the place out and get our things sorted.’

~*~

Lee led the way to the kitchen. He said he had found it easily. It was along a dark corridor to the left of the entrance and was bathed in bright light. We filed in and stood there taking in the gigantic oak wooden table that stretched the whole length of the room with its worn down, warped benches. I was about to say ‘The kitchen out of The Shining,’ but Simon beat me to it. Ok, it wasn’t as big as that, but it was a similar vibe with lots of metallic cupboards running around the outside with islands in the middle, obviously having been used for preparing a multitude of foods.

It was spotlessly clean. I had expected us to have to scrub the place down before we prepared food, but clearly it had been done recently. I wouldn’t have liked to have tackled that vastness of work surface anyway. All the boxes of food, sleeping bags (Lee’s double one which I couldn’t wait to snuggle with him in) and alcohol were stacked up, mostly precariously, and Lee ran forward and caught a crate of Heineken before it decided to take a nose dive.

‘I love this kitchen!’ Annabelle declared, walking around the table and inspecting the wall units around the edge. ‘How comes it’s so sparkling clean?’

‘Because………..I just cleaned it,’ smirked Joel, throwing a filthy looking cloth at her. She recoiled, letting out a yelp as she brushed it onto the floor.

‘That’s gross.’ She said screwing her face up. ‘Anyway you never clean anything, you turd.’

We all sat round the table, pushing our supplies down to the end to make room. There were boxes stacked up on the floor too. The one nearest me had some weird stuff inside like organic beetroot soup, couscous, weirdly shaped phallic vegetables and bananas. Who the hell ate that stuff I didn’t know. Mine and Lee’s box was full of dried vegetarian soya, pasta, jars of tomato and basil sauce, chilli and curry powders. We had plenty of fruit and veggies but they were already in the fridge because my thoughtful boyfriend said he had sorted those out.

I was opposite Joel who had taken a bottle of red wine out of a box on the floor under the table. He grinned at me and winked. I tried to see Lee’s reaction in my peripheral vision, but couldn’t. Annabelle was smiling at Lee and I looked at her, smiled back at her and nudged my head into Lee’s chest.

Simon produced a bottle of Guiness and plonked it down hard on the table. He sat down, opened it and took a very long gulp, gasping as he lowered it back down with a thud.

‘Oh sweet Jesus I needed that!’ he exclaimed and threw his head back stretching his skinny arms up in the air and punching something invisible with his fists.

‘Wine glasses for Christ’s sake!’ shouted Joel, clamping his hands around his head in desperation. ‘Oh Ball sacks!’

Lee stood up.

‘Calm down, you drama queen, I’ll find some.’ He laughed, ‘ I’m pretty sure this place has been used lately. Those work men seem to be a dab hand at cleaning so let’s see….how many do we need?’

I decided on wine and Annabelle did too. Lee found four glasses and washed them out. There were even dish cloths in the drawers so he wiped them around too. Everyone was just sat there watching him. I knew someone was going to pipe up. It was Simon.

‘Dez. You absolute fucking girl. Come here and let me ravish you, I love it when you get all domesticated on me.’

Lee grinned and flicked a finger at Simon.

‘That’s something you should know about Casey, my darling.’ Laughed Joel. ‘Dez and Si have got a proper little bromance going on. Thought you should know because these gay boys won’t bother  telling you at all soon.’

I looked up at Lee who was standing at the table in the process of giving out the glasses. He puckered up at Si and Si stuck his tongue out and waggled it around, pretending to twiddle his nipples. Everyone laughed. It was funny.

‘So, when were you planning on telling me about this?’ I asked Lee, pouring myself a full glass of wine from the bottle that Joel had offered me across the table.

‘Well, after we get married and have lots of babies I guess,’ Lee said sitting down next to me and hugging me. ‘You don’t mind do you?’

I laughed and shook my head. The next thing I knew, Lee’s lips were on mine and he was kissing me passionately. And he hadn’t even had a drink yet. I heard someone go ‘Get a room, there must be hundreds to choose from.’ and when we came up for air, Simon and Joel were sat there, bottle and glass in hand, toasting us.

Annabelle wasn’t in the kitchen with us.

~*~

‘Where’s Anna?’

Lee scanned the corners of the kitchen. She wasn’t there. Simon shrugged his shoulders and Joel was lost in swigging a huge mouthful of wine.

‘We were too busy enjoying ourselves watching you two,’ admitted Simon. ‘I didn’t see her leave. Maybe she just went to the lav. I’m sure she’s fine, man.’

Joel’s face was red. He was grinning insanely.

‘Good wine eh, Case?’ he thrust his glass towards me. I was just about to chink it when he pulled it away and necked the lot, reaching for the bottle. ‘Hey, Dez, where’s your drink you pussy willow?’

Lee’s not a big drinker. It’s something I could never understand about him. Drinking is good and relaxing. I don’t know what I’d do without my Dad’s wine cellar. I have seen him tipsy but never drunk, even on New Year’s Eves back home when he’s had house parties, he’s the one who’s holding girls’ hair back while they hurl into the back of the toilet bowls. He has told me, and he said he would only ever tell me once, that drinking is bad and smoking is bad, but he would never forbid me from doing those things. He just had to put it out there. He doesn’t like me drunk and he hates the smell of my baccy-breath. Oh shit. I needed a cigarette.

I really needed a smoke. I noticed that Simon hadn’t smoked since we’d been in the kitchen. I was dying to ask him why but I was unsure of what Lee would say. Joel would only be smoking when he’d had a lot more to drink, and had a secret stash that he claimed he only dipped into when drinking. That made him a smoker too because Joel was always at the bottle.

‘Casey love.’  Joel was sipping his next glass of wine. ‘First off, tell Dez that he needs to get some drink down him and get this spook-fest party started. Secondly, do you want a fag as much as I do right now?’

I could’ve kissed him.

I stood up, feeling a little bit warm around the cheeks and not really bothered what ‘Dez’ would say. That was something I needed to rectify.

‘Why the fuck do they call you Dez, anyway?’ I said. My voice sounded echoey around the kitchen suddenly.

Simon started laughing.

‘Oh, sweetheart.’ (looking at Lee) ‘Haven’t you told her?’

Lee shook his head and poured himself some wine. Smiling at me, resigned.

‘Oh, well, you see Simon, darling, I don’t actually know why. You never told me, did you?’

Simon started laughing, his shiny black hair dropping over his eyes again. He pushed it aside and I saw his gorgeous green eyes sparkling. My heart skipped. It was the wine, definitely the wine.

He pointed at Joel who was doing that silent laughter thing again.

‘Jo. Over to you.’

Joel couldn’t talk. I was standing there above them like a dork, waiting for some bizarre answer to a question I had actually forgotten. I looked at him and started laughing. He looked at me and his shoulders started shaking even more, his eyes disappeared as his hilarity caved his face right in. Lee started laughing and Simon was pointing, his mouth open, laughter being sucked in and out again.

‘Ok.’ I managed to say. ‘I’m going to have a cigarette. Where can we smoke?’

Simon stood up and walked around the table towards me, taking his tobacco out of his pocket at the same time.

‘We’re not allowed to smoke inside here.’ He was still on the edge of laughing. ‘Apparently there are some potentially flammable materials in the building and so it’s out in the cold night air for us. I was putting it off, but you’ve twisted my arm Case. Let’s go. Joel? Dez?’

He was laughing again as I followed him outside. I couldn’t help it, forgive me. I was looking at his ripped jeans and how they fitted him perfectly, the black t-shirt he was wearing with The Smiths written across the back, his scent which was of a musky spice. I was window shopping with no intent to buy.

We all congregated, Dez included, outside in the cold summer air. British summers are never warm enough to stand outside in t-shirts, but we had alcohol in our blood so it didn’t seem as bad. Lee cuddled me again and I felt warm and nice. My roll-up was heavenly and I felt chilled out, happy.

They told me why Lee was called Dez. Apparently it’s an ‘Urban Slang’ thing of Joel’s. He actually reads this dictionary on line and uses this slang. ‘Derek’ is a boy or guy who is very attractive to the opposite sex! I wanted to know how my Lee had got that name, under what circumstances, but I was afraid to ask to be honest. I know all about Lee’s exes and wanted to keep that convo between us.

Joel was hilarious, telling us about this girl in his class who had been writing him love letters in code that he couldn’t decipher, and didn’t want to. He had been replying just using random symbols that she used all jumbled up, not knowing what the hell they meant but she clearly did know because she was continuing with the saga. Lee was like, be careful, you could hurt her, but Joel was too busy taking the piss to listen. I must admit it was funny.

Suddenly, there were car headlights right in our faces. Joel started screaming, ‘Oh shit my bastard eyes, my mubberflucking eyes!’ and we just shielded ourselves with our arms.

Car doors swung open. A girl’s voice that I didn’t know shouted out,

‘Hey guys! How are you all? Are you settled in?’

‘Hey there Chlo!’ shouted Simon and Joel. Joel’s voice sounding a little more shrill and sarcastic.

Lee said, ‘Oh crap, that’s where Anna went, to pick her up. I totally forgot.’

~*~

Chloe was one of those smiley people, the ones who just have that amazing glow about them. They exude it without even trying. She floated up to us and hugged the three guys, hanging on a bit longer to Lee. Oh sorry, Dez the girl magnet. I hoped this wasn’t going to be another one of his friends to freak myself out over. One Annabitch was plenty, thanks for the offer.

I had met her before, when I spent a weekend in London, but she had subtly persuaded Annabelle to stay home with her and watch DVDs the night we hit the town. I think she knew I was stressing about the situation. She must have been very sensitive to have felt my vibe and sussed it out. I made a pact with myself to try my hardest to be nice to Chloe.

She was suddenly hugging me, which made me stiffen. I am not used to that kind of affection with strangers. Lee is different of course, I am sickeningly close to him in every way and I would crawl inside him if I could. She smelt sweet like daisies and vanilla. She said hi to me in my ear and when she stood back to look at me she was still holding my shoulders and smiling.

‘It’s so nice to meet you properly. I’ve been looking forward to the meeting the girl who has stolen mon ami’s heart away. You’ve no idea what a mush head he’s turned into.’

Chloe was pretty. I was almost jealous as she wore no makeup at all, yet looked amazing. Her pale green almond eyes shone and she had flawless olive skin with a pink featherlike tinge. Her hair was mousy blonde and straight, down to her waist and she had plaited the sides, which framed her face. She was like a medieval princess. Her lace shawl fell off her shoulder and revealed her white blouse, one of those that you find in ethnic shops in Camden Market. She pulled it back and shuddered, the evening air chilling her skinny frame.

‘Let’s go in,’ said Lee. ‘Are you guys staying out here for another one?’

I said no but Simon and Joel nodded, Annabelle joining them with her already lit cigarette.

We went inside, Lee turning left to the kitchen and the bright light. Chloe looked around and sat down at the table, taking it all in. Lee asked her if she was ok.

‘This is an amazing place,’ she said, gazing around. ‘It’s got a real history, hasn’t it? Has Si found out anything about it, I mean I need to know what I’m up against.’

I looked at Lee, puzzled. We sat down and Lee put his hand over hers across the table.

‘Chlo, it’s ok,’ he said ‘Whatever happens, I’ll be here for you. If it gets too much I’m sure Belle will take you back. Really though, you are usually fine after a few days. Remember when you moved into our house? You felt overwhelmed for a day or two and then you got used to it.’

Chloe smiled and nodded. She turned to me and looked right into my eyes, like she was delving into my soul.

‘Casey, I don’t know you at all yet, but Lee tells me you are into Wicca, is that right?’

‘Yes…but I don’t really practice it as much as I should I guess.’ I felt a bit ashamed as if I was being judged by a supreme Goddess.

‘That’s ok, neither do I. Life gets in the way, doesn’t it?’ she was still smiling. Like an angel in fact.

‘Chloe’s a HSP. That means Highly Sensitive Person,’ said Lee, sounding not at all as if he was speaking in a foreign language to me. That’s how it felt, maybe because I was still a bit squiffy from the wine.

‘Yes. Basically I find it hard to function around people because I absorb all their energy, whether it’s joyful or sad or whatever. This means I have to spend a lot of time on my own. It drains me completely and I’m prone to depression unless I control how I deal with it all. I am always meditating and trying to find ways of protecting myself. Also, the reason Lee is reassuring me is that I am sensitive to spirit activity. I can feel them all around me and they often seek me out. I know it sounds crazy and slightly fucked up, but it is what it is. Nuts, right?’

‘So, is that why you’re drawn to Wicca?’ I asked, fascinated and insanely jealous. ‘I mean, if you are sensitive and empathic, your connection with the Earth must be strong too.’

Chloe looked at Lee and back at me again. ‘Oh mon dieu!’ She grinned widely. ‘Lee, give me a beer. I think I’ve found a kindred spirit!’

I asked Chloe heaps of questions and we talked about Wicca and Paganism, She noticed that I was wearing my Pentagram and she showed me hers. She had one but hers was a Triquetra, like a silver knot that represented the Goddess, which I also had at home. We discussed a lot of themes around Paganism and Witchcraft and what we practice. Chloe had got a set of Runes from her Grandmother that she used to guide her and also she told me extensively about Candle magic and Herbology. I made her promise to show me and teach me all she knew. Her mother, who was French, used to be a member of a Coven in France before she moved to England, which fascinated me as well. I had wondered why she kept slipping French into everything she said. I thought she was being pretentious but it turned out that French was in fact her mother tongue, so I let her off.

Lee was sitting there listening and cuddling me. He kept topping up my wine glass and Chloe was on her third beer when the others trouped in.

‘You guys have been ages out there.’ Lee said, ‘Did you explore the grounds?’

‘Nope, we just spent the last hour smoking our guts out and slagging y’all off,’ laughed Joel and plopped down next to Chloe. Annabelle perched next to Lee on his other side and I instinctively looked under the bench to make sure she hadn’t got her jangly hands on Lee’s leg or anything. I felt distinctly drunk and in need of another cigarette.

Simon came and sat next to me and I felt my body tingle. I was trapped between two highly sexy guys. Chloe was smiling at me (for a change) and I think she sensed how I felt. She winked. Don’t ask me how I knew that, but I just did somehow. Then more bottles of beer were being opened and cork screws in wine bottles popping. Chloe asked where the toilets were and I realised I hadn’t been since we got there.

‘We used the hedge,’ said Simon, raising his eyebrows at Chloe. ‘But I think I saw a wash room next to the chandelier room. Do you want me to show you?’

They both went to the door and I jumped up. Chloe let Simon go first and grabbed my hand. An hour before that would have really freaked me out, but I felt nice. Chloe was nice. I don’t usually ever like people who are nice.

I didn’t ever lust after androgynous emo guys either, but I had started that tonight too. I blame it on the wine. Damn those fermented grapes.

Chloe was really gripping my hand. I wanted to be like Lee and do the reassurance thing, but that wasn’t in my repertoire. I kept remembering what she had told me about her being able to sense and see spirits and I thought, Jesus, the girl must be fighting them off in here right now. It was dark, pitch dark. I could sense we were in the hallway and the grand staircase was at the side of us. Suddenly, Simon broke the silence.

‘Bollocks, I left the torch.’

‘It doesn’t matter, Si.’ Chloe whispered. ‘Just keep walking. I can see a doorway straight ahead. That must be that huge room with the chandelier. It’s ok, I- Oh my God!’

Chloe was pointing straight out in front of her. I followed her finger, but all I could see was darkness.

‘Chlo, what it is?’ asked Si, ‘Don’t make us shit ourselves!’

‘I saw a figure standing there. It was like a woman. Just there, staring at us. Then she turned and walked down there.’

Chloe pointed at 11 o’clock. I couldn’t see anything.

‘Shall we go back?’ I asked, not knowing how to deal with this. I was freaking out but didn’t want to go batshit crazy. Once I went, I really went and didn’t want to look like a complete squealer on the first night.

‘No, it’s ok guys. Let’s just go. It’s fine now. Nothing there.’

We all walked together, I suddenly needed to pee more than ever. Simon went in front and Chloe and I locked arms. We found a door just down from the Chandelier room and Simon pushed the door that creaked loudly as it opened on its tired hinges. I saw a row of toilet cubicles and made a dash for it, my bladder ready to burst. It stank a bit but I didn’t care at that point. Chloe went in the next cubicle and asked if I was ok. I started laughing and she did too. Simon’s mocking voice echoed in the darkness.

‘I’ll just be waiting here then.’

We were trying to wash our hands in the dark, when we heard voices outside the door. The others were there. I immediately felt lighter as if they had broken a dark spell, and Chloe and I joined them. They had piles of sleeping bags and blankets in their arms and suggested camping down in the chandelier room for the night. It had a carpet at least. I took hold of the pile that Lee had and he went to get more stuff. We bumped into each other as we walked, the mountain of bedding blocking my vision. Simon’s torch beam helped us drop the stuff near some sofas which seemed as good a place as any. I had hoped me and Lee could have found a room of our own, but realistically I was exhausted and had drunk too much. I needed to lie down.

Lee came back with his torch and some drinks just in case anyone wanted more and some water. I certainly did. It was weird but cool as we all tried to arrange our bedding so we didn’t have smelly feet near anyone’s face or too cramped up that we could elbow someone in the eyeball during the night. It was almost midnight. We were all absolutely bushed.

‘Is everyone here?’ whispered Simon. I couldn’t tell where he was in relation to us, but not next to us, that I knew and was glad of. There was a chorus of dull mumbles and groans as we all settled down. Our sleeping bag was just right, not too tight but tight enough that I could feel all of Lee’s body entwined with mine. His arms were round me and I just let out a sigh of contentment as my head found his chest and I started to float off. It was so quiet all of a sudden. The building was silent and there was no outside noise. We were out in the sticks, completely isolated.

‘Did you lock the front door, Si?’ Annabelle asked, her voice sounding hollow in the vast room. I snapped back into consciousness as I realised she was near us. I extended my foot out to my side. No one there. I knew Chloe was near me but she had her space near the long sofa as she explained she needed. I reached my arm across to Lee’s side and felt something soft. ‘Ouch.’ Annabelle laughed, clearly thinking Lee had touched her.

I lay there in the dark, annoyed, listening to Lee breathing. He was asleep, but he kept pressing his lips into my hair as if to reassure himself that I was there. I don’t know how long I was awake, but there was shuffling and turning going on in Annabelle’s sleeping bag and she obviously couldn’t sleep. Then an arm flopped onto me, causing Lee to stir. She was trying to hug him!

I wanted to get up and move away from her, but it was hard to find the zip. Lee woke up.

‘Case, what’s up babes?’ he mumbled.

‘I’m trying to get out,’ I said. ‘I need to move!’

Shuffling around the room, I was waking the others up.

We managed to climb out and Lee kept asking me what was wrong. Then, Annabelle spoke.

‘Where are you going, Lee? Please don’t go. Stay here, please stay.’

I couldn’t see his reaction, but I felt him bend down next to her.

‘Why? The others are all in here. Come on Belle, try and get some sleep. Me and Case are going to find somewhere else to sleep. I’ll talk to you in the morning.’

He picked up our sleeping bag and water bottles and whispered for me to follow him. We tiptoed out of the chandelier room and it was freezing cold in the hall. He told me to shield my eyes and clicked the torch on. It was on feint beam so it didn’t blind us. He walked ahead of me, our bare feet smacking against the marble floors. We trudged past the washroom, Lee looking for doors on either side leading to rooms that might be carpeted so we could kip down in peace. The doors were all locked. By the time we got to the end of that corridor, our eyes had grown more accustomed to the dark. That was when we saw the outdoor corridor beyond a glass door. The moon seemed to be bathing the glass panelling in its glow, inviting us to walk down it. Lee grabbed my hand and pushed the glass door. It opened out and we were bathed in the moonlight. There was another smaller building attached at the end, so I nudged him to walk on, feeling awake now and up for exploring. The glass on each side seemed to be straining to keep the overgrown foliage and bushes from breaking in. It was like an underwater aquarium, but in a forest. I could hear the distant hoot of an owl. It was eerily beautiful.

‘Let’s sleep in here.’ I whispered and Lee turned and smiled at me. That divine smile that radiates love that I have never seen in anyone else.

‘Maybe another night. I need somewhere soft tonight.’

We kept walking, marvelling at the view that sometimes exposed itself in random areas where foliage wasn’t as dense. The grounds surrounding the mansion were awesome, clearly overgrown and hiding secrets that I promised myself I would reveal.

At the end of the corridor was another identical door with glass panelling. It opened easily and straight in front of us was a steep stone staircase. Lee made sure I was ok to go up and we went, spiralling up and round until we got to a dark landing. Directly to our left was a room that seemed to be light. Lee bent his head round the doorframe and beckoned me in. It was an awesome room. It had an old rug on the floor, and the whole of the front of it was a huge patio door that stood open proudly, letting the moonlight shine in. The walls were a lovely matted green with an old fashioned sink on the left, surrounded by a pastel blue that had started peeling. Beyond the patio door was a wrought iron balcony with art nouveau style swirls and buds blossoming within its frame.

‘let’s sleep here.’ Lee said, peering out into the view of the gardens. ‘This is awesome.’

We set up the sleeping bag and snuggled down, making sure our water was in reach. Lee’s heart was beating fast as I sunk into him and I kissed his chest and hugged him close. He pulled his arms away from me and lifted off his t shirt, kissing my neck and lips, softly at first and then with passion. I forgot everything right there and then and let myself evaporate into the erotic state that was Lee and I. Every single time the same yet deliciously different. Afterwards, we fell asleep, pressed against each other, not knowing where my limbs finished and his limbs began.

‘Casey, Case…Babes, wake up.’

I tried to open my eyes but they felt glued shut, my head was spinning. I eased myself up on my elbows and looked at Lee. He was facing the other way, propped up on his knees.

‘What the fu…..’ I managed to say, not understanding why he had prized himself out of our little warm cocoon, and was asking me to look out the open door.

‘I saw a girl out there, on the balcony, I swear!’ he had his hand over his mouth as if he was going to vomit.

I turned completely round to look outside. I saw nothing. The only weird thing was that I could smell cigarette smoke. Fresh smoke, not the shit that burns your nasal passage out like stale Sunday pubs used to before the smoking ban.

There was an orange blanket down on the floor of the balcony that didn’t seem to belong to the mould ridden room we were in. It looked new, clean. There was also a cream coloured gypsy scarf with red and black roses on it, tied to one of the railings. That had not been there when we came in the room. I told Lee. He swore again that he had seen a girl, kneeling down on the balcony, looking in at him.

When I asked him if he could remember anything else, he said yes. She had been smoking.

We stared at each other for what seemed like ages. I didn’t feel scared, probably because I hadn’t actually seen anything. Lee did look scared though. I asked him what he wanted to do. He lay back down and stretched his arms behind his head, staring at the ceiling.

‘What time do you think it is?’ I asked him, hating the silence.

He reached into his jeans pocket for his mobile phone and at that second, it started ringing. He sat up again and said hello to Annabelle. I knew it was her because he called her Belle.

He didn’t talk much. I could hear that she was crying down the phone. His face was a picture of stern, I couldn’t make out whether he was pissed off or concerned. He said ‘Ok, Ok I’m coming.’

He hung up.

‘I’m sorry Case. She’s upset. I’m going back to the Chandelier room. Please come with me, I don’t want to leave you here on your own. I’ll just talk to her for five minutes and then we can camp out in a corner away from everyone and get some kip. Ok?’

I reached over and kissed him, I couldn’t be angry at him when he was so caring. He hugged me tight and said we could sleep here tomorrow night again, if I wanted, and we started dressing and gathering our stuff.

When we got back into the chandelier room, there was a little bit of light coming in. It was about 4am. I went and chose a spot in the corner and got back into the warm sleeping bag. I could hear Annabelle sobbing and Lee trying to console her. How messed up to call a guy who’s obviously with his girlfriend having some private time. How fucking lame. I peered over the edge of the sleeping bag and saw Chloe asleep all curled up in her pink blankets and Joel with his mouth open and arms splayed out like an angel in the sleeping bag instead of the snow. I could just hear his snoring above Annabelle’s whining.

Simon wasn’t there. I imagined going to find him. Maybe he was having a ciggy out the front or maybe he was asleep all alone in another room. I hoped he was ok.

Lee came back then and crawled into the sleeping bag, snuggling up again. It wasn’t long before I was asleep and dreaming, the sound of Annabelle’s fragmented sobs still echoing around the dawn soaked room. I did wake up for a brief, confused few seconds, a sound of gentle bells jangling and dancing near me. I opened my eye, squinting as a dull ache washed over my consciousness. The dark shadows beyond the door were waiting for the dawn to dispel them, and in the soft contrasting light, I swear I saw a girl standing there, motionless, staring down at Lee and I as we slept.

~*~

Chapter 2~Sunday 3rd August

Alicia

I don’t like it when they come in and make me lay down. They tell me to relax, but how can I when they talk in a foreign language to me, and they stare down at me with those intense, concerned eyes. I notice eyes, everyone’s eyes. I can see right into their souls despite the overuse of the cliché. The problem here is, they tell me I have to eat my breakfast before they come in, so even though I have been awake all night, I can’t sleep until they have finished with me. My breakfast is a single pink pill that I drink down with the trickle of water that’s left in my jug from yesterday. It sticks in my throat sometimes and if there’s no water in my jug, I have to hope that it rained in the night. On my balcony, I have a row of old buckets that I collect rainwater in as I need to water my herbs and plants daily. Water is scarce but if I let my herbs die, my Craft will also die. My last connection to my mother, wherever she is now.

So I drink rainwater. We are told it’s not safe because of the increase in acid rain falling during the nights, but I have so many meds force-fed me that what’s some contaminated rain? I must be a walking toxic laboratory. I try, every day, to balance my life out when I am feeling positive like after my Art Therapy sessions. But it takes so much of my energy. I will myself to try. My Wiccan practices keep me emerged in the Olde Ways, our days of living by Natural Law now long gone. Because Natural resources like water have ceased to be something we take for granted, the rain has the ability to burn holes in our skin and fruits and vegetables are only being cultivated in the few places where soil has not been stripped of nutrients, people have started to look to the Ancient Paths in order to survive.

I want to be one of those people. If everyone around me wants to survive on chemically enhanced pills and toxic, brain numbing medication, that’s their problem. My Mum taught me how to really live. She has instilled in me the Ancient Secrets. I just wish they wouldn’t probe and tear at me. Why can’t they just leave me to live in peace? I am plagued by daymares as well as nightmares. I am a recluse with only my cat Morgan for company. I can’t look at myself in the mirror without having the burning desire to rip my flesh away. I feel dirty. I feel ugly. I feel evil. I wish that evil on people. I curse them. When I am Alicia, I am content but after they place that green plastic cup down next to my bed, when the one with too much blush on her cheeks lifts that cup with her claw-like fingers and rotates it slowly, then faster, round and round, I get electric blood coursing through my veins. The black pebble-like pill from in her sweaty palm comes first, then the lumps of white crystalized chemical that taste like sugar between her fingertips probe my lips apart as she shoves them in. It tastes nice. But things that taste nice are always bad for you.

Then I slept.

I woke up at 8am. I had not been asleep long, but I had started that soul retching dream that takes me over like a sick puppeteer, pulling on invisible strings to make me walk, stiffly and zombie-like, to the sink to check out my reflection in the mirror…..but I woke up with a jolt, seemingly from nowhere. I sat up and tried to focus, my eyes feeling like the lids had been stitched together by the macabre fingers of my Puppet Master. I shakily lifted my fingertips and touched the lids, gritting my teeth to try and stop the overwhelming urge to gauge. Smooth. Silky smooth. Today was a good day.

I washed as best I could, the water supply in the shower room reduced to a trickle, just like in my sink. I needed to find that sofa, but venturing out to the main house made me feel physically sick inside. The other girls would be up and doing their chores by now, meds rounds having finished.

Ever since I had sat on that sofa the day I arrived here, it had been my salvation. Back then it was slightly off-white, with a few smeary darker patches where drinks had been spilled on it, but the thing I was drawn to was the pattern on it. Emanating out from one corner, like creeping wild ivy reaching for freedom, was the most beautiful, delicately drawn blossoms I had ever seen. On closer look I saw that it had been done using coloured biro pens. In between each flower was a written word, or in some spaces there was a full sentence. My favourite was:

‘Come back to flow like giant daisy mirrors in Winter storms.’

 

There were also some other words scrawled on top that didn’t seem to be written by the same calligraphic hand. They said ‘Gossoon-Anabiosis’

I had no idea what these words meant, but a few days later I was due to have the computer brought into the annex so I could do some internet surfing. I typed them in and it took me to a site that listed old words that had once been in use. These words, to my surprise, meant ‘boy servant-return to life after death’.

I found a word to write on the sofa, something that would describe me, which was ‘Rhyparographer’. Meaning an artist who has sorrowful subjects, I wrote it and surrounded it with a simple image of a rose. I went back the night after, found this, newly written in childish letters:

‘Sitooterie’

It means Gazebo. I had seen one in the grounds, overgrown, waiting for Nature to take it back into her embrace. I searched it out immediately and that was when I saw the little boy. He was wearing grey shorts and a beige waistcoat, sitting with one leg draped over the wooden slats. He smiled at me, waved, and faded away.

Ever since then I have spoken to the ghosts of the grounds, mainly through messages carved in the rotting wood of the gazebo, the torn fabric of the white sofa or the whispers I hear in the air. But who are these older ones? The one with blue hair who sleeps closely crushed against the white flesh of her boy?

Maybe I will brave the visit tomorrow. I am not ready for these new intruders.

 

~*~

 

9:30pm. Half an hour before I have to turn off my lamp.

I have been over to the house. I chose dinnertime because that’s when we all have our proper meal, the only meal of the day that involves actual food. I wasn’t hungry, as usual, so I let Morgan eat what she wanted of it.

Lights were on in the kitchen, so I decided to approach the house round the back door, the old servants’ door. I let myself out of the annex and trudged through the wild grass, the sun getting ready to sink behind the trees, casting long shadows that looked like the Slender man looming in front of my path. Birds were getting ready to sleep, their songs soft and slow. I reached the door and climbed up the back stairs, glancing out of the side windows as I went, the gardens and grounds becoming smaller as I climbed, the sun still reaching out to me above the treetops. I stepped onto the landing that lead to the ballroom and the second floor bedrooms. I could hear the sounds of dinnertime travelling round the corners, every so often someone would giggle and then laughter took over. Smells of chicken filled my nose but I wasn’t tempted to follow them. Eating dinner with ten other girls? No thanks. I prefered the tranquility of my annex room, sitting on my mattress on the balcony, Morgan asleep beside me.

To the right of me was the corridor that lead to the old games room. For some reason, I knew that the sofa would be in there. Maybe they had removed it because it was ready to be thrown out? The door was wide open and I saw it immediately, pushed against the adjacent wall, its cushions strewn about the floor, some propped up against its leathery body. I put them back on the sofa and flopped down, sinking into its cool comfort. I examined the surface, all the intricate flowers and pattern work that had built up over time, some overlapping, but the whole effect like exceptionally beautiful mould. The words were almost illegible to anyone who didn’t understand the history, the word play, and the communication between the past and the present. My fingers trailed over its surface.

That’s when I saw it. A new sentence:

‘The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.’

I didn’t write that. I don’t think my ghost friends did, at least the ones I know are here. Did one of the girls who also live here? It sounded like something I had read before, but I couldn’t place where. It really resonated with me because I am living in an unfree world. The question is, how can I make my existence into an act of rebellion when I don’t even know what I’m rebelling against? I wrote something next to it to show my solidarity and appreciation of a feeling so close to my heart:

 

“Then love knew it was called love.

And when I lifted my eyes to your name,

suddenly your heart showed me my way”  (Pablo Neruda)

Who are you?

 

I stayed there until the room snuggled into darkness and quiet lay down her blanket over the house, then I crept out and retraced my steps back to the annex, looking out for any familiar ghost figures running around through the foliage as I tiptoed through the garden. I know they play hide and seek there. I often hear them giggling when I am curled up on the balcony. Of course I can never see them from there as the wilderness garden has taken them under her protective wing. The prospect of having some new spirits to talk to, maybe some my own age, had lit up a flame inside me and I opened the door to the annex with a spring to my step and new hope in my heart. I took the stairs two at a time but stopped suddenly at the top of the stairs, hands gripping the banister, heart starting to thud painfully. There were voices coming from my room again. Laughter. Music. Glass against glass. I stepped fearfully towards the door and peered inside. Two girls were sitting cross legged, their faces illuminated by three candles, their dancing flames positioned on the floor. There was a bottle of red wine in the middle and two full glasses beside it ready to be drunk. They were hunched over something, one of the girls had blue hair loosely tied up in a bun and had a thin cigarette lightly gripped between her fingers. The other girl looked straight up at me and froze. She had small eyes that squinted as if she didn’t believe what she was seeing. The blue haired girl looked at her and then looked up at me, her cigarette poised just in front of her mouth. The smoke swirled around and contorted her features. Silence.

I had forgotten to breathe. My legs threatened to buckle from underneath me so I slipped into the shadows of the corridor, hand over my mouth to mask the sound of my breathing. The candle light still danced on the wooden floorboards but no sound could be heard inside. I crouched in the dark for a while, and soon I saw the candle light had diminished. I stood up and walked into my room, expecting to see them still there, stunned in the middle of the floor. No one.

Morgan sidled up to me and wound her body around my legs. In the light of the moon I could make out something on the floor. I bent down and put my fingers out to touch it. They were little rectangular ceramic tiles, some piled on top of others. I lifted one nearer to my face to examine it and saw that it was a Rune. I had seen these in a book my Mum gave me, but I had never really read up on it. That’s what I have been doing by the light of my lamp.

‘Runes were first used over 1500 years ago by the East Goths, and later appeared throughout England and Scandinavia. As Christianity took hold, the use of runic alphabets in divination became reviled as a pagan practice. The word “rune” itself comes from an early Anglo-Saxon word meaning “secret” or “mystery”, and they remain an enigma to the world at large. Runes were initially most popular among Wiccans and modern pagans, but have enjoyed unprecedented mainstream adoption in the past 30 years.’

They are interesting, the little designs carved into the surface that mean so much. You can do readings and depending on how they are positioned, like Tarot Cards, those meanings become more complex. Two of them together can change the meaning of both of them as separate entities. Three or four, or even more all placed  together can go so deep that you will find out things about yourself that you never knew.

I mean, these girls, whoever they are, were using this means of divination here, in my room. Who are they? Who are the boys that they were with? I need to find out. I will choose 2 Runes to leave here for them, and if tonight, they come and visit my room again, they will find them.

I am going to put Naudiz and Fehu down on the floor. Then I will try and sleep.

Naudiz will convey my grief, my confusion and my confinement in this place I don’t understand. This room that holds me inside its pseudo safe cloak, this haze of blackness that I find myself swimming in night after night. Fehu will help to transfer my psychic energies out to them. I want to connect. I want them to know I am here, silently screaming in their ears. Maybe someone can help me. They can feed me pills and dope my brain, they can make me want to rip my face open with my bare hands, but they can’t stop me screaming out. I have a voice. It’s not always a sound you can hear, but it’s a voice. It’s a psychic passageway down which you can walk, to enter my world. Maybe they will want to. I will find a way. I will find it.

I will try and go back to the sofa tomorrow and hopefully I will have an answer.

~*~

 

Casey’s Story~ In their Sights

Someone sniggered. Then there was some extremely loud snorting. It kept coming back like a boomerang inside my head, pricking painfully at my eyeballs and bashing at my temples. My mouth felt like I had been force fed sand paper in the night and probably smelt like something had crawled in there and croaked it. I hated being hung over and Joel clearly wasn’t suffering like I was which made me feel ten times more irritated. He was talking to Lisa on the phone, god knows how he had the head to carry out a conversation let alone make dumb jokes. Lee started to stretch inside the sleeping bag and our limbs were all entwined. Our flesh was all clammy and it felt like we were being ripped apart as he struggled to unzip the bag.

‘Dez, Casey!’ he bellowed. I groaned and tried to pull Lee’s arms back into the warm cocoon.

‘What d’ya want with us?’ Lee goaned, his eyes still closed as he groped around for my hands. We started weakly wrestling under the cover, the seams making little ripping noises as I tried to kiss him and he tried to tickle me.

‘Si wants to talk to us. He reckons he’s found something cool.’

Lee groaned again. I sighed. I didn’t want to get out of the bag in front of all of them looking like a scrag with my hair all over the place and my makeup splayed all over my face as it usually was. I never could be arsed to take it off before going to bed and last night had been no exception.

‘Where are we showering?’ I whispered to Lee under the cover. He pulled the bag over his head and ducked down to me, grinning, his full lips smiling and his long black hair pushed down over his eyes by the static of the polyester material.

‘I think there are some cubicles in that washroom you went to with Chlo,’ he said. ‘I’ll get out and you can wrap yourself in the sleeping bag and go in that direction. I’ll find the shower stuff and meet you there, ok?’

Reluctantly I agreed. Lee kissed me, making me wonder for the millionth time how come he never had dog breath in the morning, and I felt cold air sweep in and around my legs as he clambered out of the bag. I eased myself up and stuck my head out the top to look around at the carnage of the hung-over bodies, but there was only Joel there, splayed out with his arm behind his head, bare torso bathed in sunlight, wearing very loud pyjama bottoms with offensive, multi-coloured shapes on them that made me want to gauge my eyes out. He stopped texting on his phone and threw it on a pile of clothes next to him on the floor.

‘Hey,’ I tried to say, my throat all dry and croaked up. ‘How are you?’

Joel spun round, clearly way too fast as I saw he grimaced, his head probably dislodged itself from his brain momentarily. His blonde mop was sticking up in all directions across his head. It was so long at the front that it was almost covering his nose and he lifted his head up and blew on his fringe to give himself a path of vision.

‘Oh Case, you’re conscious. How’s the head?’

‘Thumping like a bastard.’ I told him, fishing around for my water and gulping its entire contents down, dribbling in the process and wiping it before he noticed. ‘Where’s everyone else?’

Joel sat up and pulled a t-shirt over his head, clenching his teeth with the effort of it all. He stretched his arms up and back over his head in a strange contorted yogic motion and yawned loudly.

‘Chlo is making us all breakfast, Annabelle is cleaning the freakin shower room, Si is….I don’t know where, and I’m here.’ He said, lethargically gathering up his blankets. ‘Si came in about half hour ago and said he’s got something cool to show us, dunno what.’

I looked around. Sunlight had bathed the room in yellow. There were a few cream coloured sofas pushed up against the windows and some old bashed up looking tables dotted around that didn’t seem to fit the rest of the décor. Annabelle’s sleeping bag had been folded up with an ethnic tie-dye sheet on top of it and apart from that, the room was sparse. I managed to locate my mobile under the pile of spare blankets at the bottom of our bed. The time was 11:47.

Lee then appeared at the doorway waving my vanity case and beckoning. Joel was laden down with his sleeping stuff and started walking towards the door, a pillow thudding as it dropped at his feet. He didn’t pick it up, just murmured ‘fuck it’ and kicked it as he went. Lee stepped aside at the doorway, laughing as Joel pushed his way past, dropping a few other things on the floor and just walking off, leaving them there.

I checked I wasn’t completely naked and stood up, my body coming out in goose bumps as the cold air kissed it. I scooped everything up and ran to Lee, jumping over Joel’s abandoned blankets. Lee grabbed everything, pushed the vanity into my hands, placing my flip flops on the right and left so I could just slip my feet into them without fumbling and threw some towels over my shoulder. We both laughed as we realised how choreographed the moves were.

‘Go, go go!’ he teased as he playfully pushed me from behind. I flapped to the wash room and almost bumped into Annabelle as she was leaving with a bucketful of cleaning products. We looked at each other and I noticed that she had already done her full gothic eye make up and lipstick. That struck me as a bit odd, cleaning a shower room in a full face of makeup. She smiled a little bit, straining to look me in the eye and so I moved aside to avoid her. Lee said something and I turned. Then she was hugging him, her arms round his neck, the cleaning products almost toppling out of the bucket clamped in her hands behind his head.

‘Morning Bella,’ he said, his voice muffled in the folds of her grey t-shirt. ‘How are you?’

She let him go, smoothed her clothes down, lifted the bucket and pointed at it.

‘Obsessively cleaning, so feeling good, I guess.’ She shrugged as if to say, that’s me, that’s what makes me happy.

‘Well, the place was a bit on the gross side.’ Lee stated, trying to make her feel better, again. ‘Anyways, we’ll just take a shower and be in the kitchen for a coffee and some toast. See you there?’

Annabelle glanced at me and pushed past into Lee. She shouted something but I didn’t hear what.

‘She said that Chloe has made us all a big slap up fry up.’ My stomach decided to rumble in celebration.

The cubicles were too small for both of us to get washed properly in, but we had a little bit of fun time before the water started to run cold. Lee dried me and helped me find my clean clothes. I just put on some leggings and a Paramore t-shirt, I was too hungry to go and find any other clothes from the big ruck sack we had brought. Lee looked so cute with his dripping hair that had got so long since I last saw him. I got splashes of water on me as he kept swooping in to kiss me and making my face all wet as well. Lee dressed in jeans and t-shirt as well and we arranged our toiletries by the sink, claiming one out of the other eight stretching along the wall. It looked like Annabelle had cleaned every single one of them.

We took the clothes and wet towels and hung them over some chairs in the kitchen. The room was bustling and warm and Chloe was the epitome of an Earth Mother as she skipped between stoves, bacon and eggs sizzling in several pans on one stove and mushrooms and some unrecognisable mush cooking away on another.

‘Morning guys!’ she smiled, her long hair swishing around in a high pony tail. ‘I’ve got veggie breckies going on here, and normal fry up on here for Simon and Joel who are going to do the rest for themselves. Sit, sit, sit. Here’s some coffee!’

Annabelle was already sitting. She was hunched over her plate, fork in hand, pushing her eggs around the plate not seeming to be eating any of it. Lee sat down next to her and nudged her with his shoulder. She looked up and with what looked like a whole lot of effort, smiled, lifting a miniscule piece of bacon to her lips and nibbling it.

I sat next to Lee and grabbed the huge jug of black coffee. I poured one each for us and offered Chloe one but she said she didn’t drink that kind of coffee. Then suddenly we both had a plate of steaming hot something in front of us. I could see eggs and mushrooms but the other concoction was unrecognisable. It looked gloopy and limp but I had learned from my own experimental cooking that you shouldn’t make a judgement until the tasting.

‘Mmmm thanks Chlo,’ Lee said, a grin not unlike The Joker spreading on his face. He loved food and anything that hadn’t previously been an animal could very possibly have been devoured in less than a minute if he wasn’t so polite and good mannered.  I stared down at it and leaned in to Lee who had already stuffed a forkful into his mouth. ‘What is that?’ I asked, pointing my fork towards it as if it was going to attack me, trying not to speak too loudly so Chloe would hear.

But she did.

‘Casey. This is my famous vegan delight that my Grandmama used to make me.’ She said, plonking herself down next to me with a piled up plate of her own.

‘It’s a mixture of vegetables like courgettes, tomatoes, peppers and onions with tofu. A bit like a casserole. Try it, you’ll love it. Lee always has some when I cook it.’

Lee had very nearly finished already. Simon and Joel breezed in followed by a waft of tobacco that made me involuntarily inhale in an effort to chase any hit I could get before I ventured outside later. I piled some casserole onto my fork and gingerly tasted it. It was utterly gorgeous. I stuck my thumb up at Chloe and demolished the whole thing.

Simon and Joel had sat down opposite and were shovelling bacon and eggs into their mouths like it was the last meal on earth. I missed the taste of bacon and it really smelt nice, but despite the odd craving, like for a millisecond, I didn’t miss meat. I should’ve guessed Chloe would be a vegan.

The coffee flowed and I started to feel more human. Annabelle filled up her mug and slipped out quietly, no one seeming to notice except me. Lee stacked our plates and of course, Joel jibed him again when he took them to one of the many sinks and said he would wash them up later.

Simon wanted to talk to us.

I tried to check him out without making it too obvious. He looked rather dishevelled this morning compared to the night before, but just as sexy. His hair was still swept sideways across his eyes, but it wasn’t as flat and styled as before. He was wearing a little bit of liner which looked smudged as if he hadn’t taken it off, just like me really. He was wearing a plain black t-shirt with cut off sleeves and I was surprised to see he had quite muscular arms considering his skinny frame.

‘I found something that you guys are gonna love.’ He explained, his eyes creasing up in a grin as he started tapping his fingers on the table in excitement. He was wearing a thin black band ring around his little finger. ‘And this means no more smoking outside. Come on, I’ll show you.’

Joel had gone with lightning speed out that door at the mention of smoking, leaving his ketchup smeared plate and greasy cutlery strewn everywhere. Simon smiled at me as I stood up, letting his eyes run up and down as he checked me out. I felt myself go crimson as my cheeks heated up. I looked away, afraid of what might transpire if we carried on. Lee hadn’t noticed.

~*~

‘Did you manage to get some decent shut eye?’ Lee asked Simon as we headed out the kitchen. Chloe was still hovering around in the kitchen, wiping the table down and taking the abandoned plates to the sink. She mouthed to me that she would be there in a minute, and I followed the guys out into the entrance hall. Simon told Lee how he had had some more of his nightmares and had dragged one of the sofas into a room beyond the Chandelier room for some quiet because Joel had been snoring and Annabelle had been crying. He had asked her what was wrong and she had told him nothing, just Michael texting her and being a dick. She had then told him to leave her alone. Nice.

‘I saw a door across the other side of the room and just grabbed a sofa. It was heavy as hell but I managed it.’ He told us. ‘I couldn’t see a thing in there but I noticed immediately how freezing cold it was. I was like, what the hell, and thought about going back to the Chandelier room, but then I noticed why it was Antarctic!’

We had walked past the open door of the Chandelier room and turned left down a narrow passageway that only one of us could fit down at a time. It smelled damp and all I could see was Lee’s silhouetted head bobbing high in front of me. The wall covering crumbled slightly as I dragged my hands against it, leaving a powdery residue on the ends of my fingertips. Then I saw Lee’s hair explode into a halo of light as we walked into a long, narrow room. Simon had walked on ahead and Lee reached back to grab my hand as we all gathered inside. Joel approached behind me and Chloe’s gentle voice was heard, saying something about Michael not being able to touch her anymore. Annabelle was with her and a strange mix of smells hit my nose; patchouli and Jasmine with a strong undertone of tobacco.

As I said, it was a long, narrow room with an exceptionally high ceiling. The walls must have once been covered with a dark purple antique looking paper, but this had peeled off in most places, some of its yellowing strips lying around on the dusty deep red carpet. The feature that we were all fixated on was the window. I say the as in only one, because it wasn’t necessary to have any more than that. It covered the whole of the opposite wall, making me feel like a tiny miniature doll in a very large dolls house.

Simon was gazing towards the open view and out beyond. We could see the intensity of wilderness that used to be the gardens trying to push its way into the structure almost as if it wanted revenge; wanting to attack the man- made bricks and mortar that had flattened its growth all those years ago when the Victorians had first started building. I imagined the branches and their leaves finally curling themselves around the window frames and sliding under the carpet, consuming it all and bringing it down, Nature taking back what had been given so freely.

Then, with a gasp, I realised that there were branches inside the room.

‘There is absolutely no glass left,’ Simon explained, his hands pushed deep into his grey jeans pockets, balancing on one bandy leg so he could stick his other leg through the space that once held the glass. He kicked some of the branches with his Doc Marten boot and laughed. ‘How cool is this?’

We all edged up to the space and touched the leaves and branches as if we didn’t believe what Simon was saying. There was a gap through which Joel was leaning too far forward and Lee grabbed his arm.

‘Look through here guys!’ Joel pointed and stepped back to let us look. Lee went first, still holding on to my hand from behind. I heard him say ‘Wow’ and he stepped back, smiling, his eyes shining as the sunlight caught them through the gap in the trees. A cool summer breeze rustled the foliage and as it swayed in front of me, it created my own little windows of space to see out. I held on tight to Lee and leaned my head out, heights never having bothered me much. The view was amazing.

We were on a floor of the building that stood above most of the trees that were standing majestically around the grounds. This puzzled me for a second as we hadn’t climbed any stairs, having not explored at all yet, except for the annex tower. Then I remembered Lee telling me that it was on a hill, so maybe the side here dipped down into a valley. In that case there had to be levels of rooms built underground at some point. I deduced that we must be looking out over the right side of the building, the East facing. In the distance there was a thick wooded area and as I leaned a little more and felt the grip on my hand tighten, I turned my head left and right to take in the panorama. It was all densely grown over, only a few patches of grass could be seen down there. A small clearing had been made for a porter cabin, which I guess belonged to the work men, but aside from that, it could have been totally untouched by human hands. Wild, free and fierce. It was like being on a balcony; a very large balcony with no railings. We all took it in turns to peek through and then we walked along the length of the room, seeing if there were any other natural windows where we would be able to sit and admire the view. The area where Simon had chosen seemed to be the thinnest in leaves with the best view of the outside world and there he had put the sofa.

He was lazed along its length, cheekily grinning as he puffed on a cigarette. I hadn’t even smelled it. Then I realised that was what he meant when he said no more smoking outside.

‘Come and look at this fascinating item.’

He jumped up and stood with one hand on the arm of the sofa and beckoned us all to gather round. We all looked at each other in bewilderment at this description of a dirty, stained old sofa and Lee smirked at Joel and Annabelle. Chloe was right next to me looking happy, her wide blue eyes framed with dark globules of thick mascara that kind of looked really cool, like her eyelashes had got beads on them.

‘Yeh, Si, totally awesome!’ Joel piped up sarcastically, lighting a cigarette and blowing out hard in the direction of Simon’s hair.

‘It looks like several families of small creatures have been using it as a lav.’ Sniggered Annabelle who I noted again, was standing on the other side of Lee. Closely. ‘Or squatters have. Or all the above!’

I laughed along with them all. Simon stood there, a smug look on his face. He began pacing around the sofa, one hand caressing his chin as though deep in thought.

‘Is that mould as well?’ Lee asked, pointing. ‘And you slept on that?’

A fragrant breeze whispered through the leaves and a branch tapped lightly on the side of the rotting window frame somewhere.

‘My ever-appreciative buddies for life. Trust me. Look a little closer.’

Annabelle snorted in disgust and shook her head. Lee started moving towards it, dragging me with him. Chloe came too.

So I looked closer. I saw something really cool. The so-called mould was not mould. It was intricately woven patterns drawn with what seemed to be biro pen. It began underneath a cushion at the end and spread, flowing like flowers on a trellis, up the back of the sofa and down in the opposite direction across the seating cushions. There were a few colours, but it was beautifully subtle. Black, blue, green and the odd splashing of red that made it look like it was flecked with blood. There were so many designs; spider webs, flowers, thorns, spirals, leaves, and waves. Then I noticed that inside the patterns, words had been written, words that belonged to sentences, some groups of sentences making poems.

Lee had let go of my hand and was kneeling down, softly letting his hand glide over the area. He was reading, his neck bending this way and that so that he could follow the sentences that sometimes spiralled round or travelled right across the cushions.

‘You shouldn’t have sat on that, let alone slept on it.’ Lee said, shaking his head in awe. ‘It’s a work of art. Have you read any of the stuff on there?’

‘Yes, I have actually, Dezmondo.’ Simon answered, the smug way his lips curled up at the edges making me want to kiss them. ‘FYI it doesn’t come off at all, not even a slight smudgification. And I have added something of my own for the occasion.’

We were all there now, leaning over and trying to suss out what Simon had written. I didn’t want to get too close because they were all almost cheek to cheek. I wasn’t that familiar with them yet. I was silently chuckling at Simon’s penchant for making up new words of his own. Smudgification. I did that a lot too.

‘Got it!’ exclaimed Annabelle pointing a black finger nail at an area near the cushion. She was smiling but there was a grimace there as if she had smelled something rank hiding in the cracks of the cushions.

Lee started reading.

‘The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.’

We all stood there in silence.

‘By Albert Camus.’  Chloe stated, pronouncing it in a real French accent. It sounded like ‘Elbear Camoo’. She smiled at Simon victoriously.

‘I didn’t know you read Camus, Chlo,’ Simon looked at her, a puzzled, but admiring  look on his face. ‘Are you in concurrence with him, then?’

Chloe smiled back and folded her arms across her chest.

‘I read a lot of things, Si.’ She informed him. ‘I love French philosophy, mainly because of my roots, but also because I’m interested in Semiotics. I started reading Barthes because being a Wiccan, signs and symbols are important to me. ‘

‘And there’s Ferdinand de Saussure, the Swiss Linguist,’ Simon continued, pacing again. ‘Have you read a lot about linguistics? I suppose with you being bi-lingual, it’s fascinating.’

I looked up at Lee and shrugged my shoulders. I was interested in Philosophy, well more accurately I was interested in the idea of reading philosophy, but had never had the real chance to get into anything. It was the same with poetry. Even though I had studied Literature A Level, I had been more in love with the idea of loving poetry than I was in actually reading it. I felt inferior as I stood there, all the talk about Semiotics reiterating the fact that I knew not a lot. It made me feel a bit stupid, as if I had this vision of the type of person I wanted to be and had tried to convince myself I was that person to seem cool. Like when I used to sit in the corridor at college with ‘War and Peace’ open on my lap, not actually being arsed to read it, rather listening to rock music through hidden ear phones, just so that people would see me reading it. At least Lee wasn’t joining in, even though I knew he did read obscure books. Joel had walked off and was standing looking out through our window of leaves.

‘We can never be free, anyway.’ Annabelle stated, perching her long body on the arm of the sofa. ‘Being born into any society, anywhere in the world and in any period of time, renders us slaves even though we may not even recognize ourselves as such. Do we question why we do things? Like, why we get married? Why we go to work? Yes, we might sit around and go, oh I hate work, why do I do this shit job, but we don’t question the deeper reason we do it. We follow our parents who followed their parents. It’s like an unspoken set of rules. We all follow them. We can’t avoid them, so we’ll never be truly free.’

I hated to think it, but she was absolutely right. I had often thought about why my parents did things, why people never question anything. They just go through life following everyone else.

‘We are essentially tribal.’ Lee said, walking to the back of the sofa to examine what was there. ‘We need to feel that we are not alone in our beliefs, so we prefer safety in numbers. A psychologist called Roy Baumeister talks about this. He argues that a lack of belonging would have a long term negative impact on mood and health, and those who do not meet their belonging needs may suffer from behavioural and psychological issues. Look at us lot, for example. We all hang out and live together because we feel safe. We have common grounds and beliefs. We make choices based on our basic needs every second of our lives.’

‘I don’t think we are that ignorant that we don’t question things.’ Chloe continued. ‘Some of us don’t eat meat because we question the death and butchery that comes with the meat industry. Some people choose not to get married but live with someone until they are old and grey instead. What does freedom mean anyway? Having the means and opportunities to be able to do what you want to. Some people work hard to achieve it and eventually manage it. ‘

Annabelle looked thoughtful for a while. ‘Yes, but what I’m saying is that we make choices subconsciously based on options that society has planted seeds for. We wear clothes because it’s not socially acceptable to walk around naked. Not eating meat is a choice, but we have to eat something. Chloe, you eat vegetables and stuff that society has made acceptable and accessible to buy in large corporate supermarket chains. True freedom would be going into the forest and foraging for your own food.’

Joel started laughing.

‘She has been known to do that actually, Anna.’ He said going up to Chloe and putting his arm round her. ‘When her Mum came and we went for a bike ride over to the Heath, remember? She brought back some weeds and stuff in her bag and reckoned they were good for brewing. I love our little hippie girl.’

Chloe smiled. ‘It was Chamomile, t’es con.’

‘Did you just call me an idiot again?’ Joel asked, jabbing her in the ribs and making her squeal.

‘Yep,’ she giggled. ‘Imbecile!’

‘Well, Joel has managed to diffuse another potentially exciting debate by being a knobhead.’ Simon said sitting down on the sofa and rolling a cigarette. ‘So on that note, I suggest that you all think of something of your own, deep and meaningful, to write on our new piece of interactive art. Meanwhile, we’ve got to start discussing my project. All my notes are in my bag. Shall we have a smoke and then go and make coffee and sit in the kitchen? I can spread out my storyboard on the table.’

Everyone agreed. Only Joel made a bored face and grinned at me. I had been hoping that we would all be going to explore the building and grounds, seeing as we hadn’t done that at all yet. I realised, to my disappointment that these guys were not so much into exploring abandoned buildings, instead they were here just to get the filming done. I knew Lee would explore with me, so I decided for now just to join in with the others. I was interested in seeing what film Simon wanted to work on. We had a few smokes all round and then piled back into the kitchen. Chloe started making coffee while we huddled around the table, Simon unrolling a huge poster size sheet and getting some pots and bowls to hold down the ends so it was flat.

‘Right, before I talk you all through the first scene, let me tell you the general premise of the film.’ He said, weaving his fingers together and leaning his elbows on the table. ‘Have any of you seen The Story of The Eye, by George Bataille?’

~*~

We were watching something incredibly bizarre. Simon had got it on his I pad, because only Chloe and Lee knew what The Story of the Eye was.

Annabelle had her normal default look of disgust on her face. Joel had a smile on  that very soon was going to develop into a sick joke, as we watched a baby being born, shown right there, the viewer getting a complete eye-full of everything. It made me feel a bit uncomfortable, as I was starting to dread what ideas Simon had for a film based on this. Lee had his arm draped round my shoulder and I wondered what he was thinking, and more importantly how come he knew about this film! Nudity, people dressed in very dodgy looking leather outfits, women kissing, sex. I definitely did not know this side of my boyfriend.

Thankfully it was only the trailer so it was over soon enough. I actually liked it. It was stylish and poetic, despite the very shocking suggestions regarding the themes.

Annabelle shifted and stood up.

‘I need a cigarette after that,’ she announced. ‘I’ll be on the balcony.’

‘Well, I thought that was cool,’ I said, hoping to prove to everyone that I was open minded and appreciated arty stuff. ‘You didn’t tell me you had seen this.’ I smiled up at Lee so as not to sound accusing.

‘I’ve only seen the trailer.’ He sat back on the bench. ‘Si showed me it a few days ago and ran his idea by me. Chloe, you’ve read the book, haven’t you, you saucy cow.’

Chloe stuck her tongue out at Lee playfully.

‘A French Classic.’ She said proudly. ‘It’s all about teenage sexuality. Shocking, but I think Bataille was trying to shock. There’s a huge stigma attached to sexual experimentation and you, sorry us Brits just don’t talk about it. It’s like a taboo. It shouldn’t be though. It’s a natural and expressive desire. Why try and repress it?’

Simon was just staring at her.

‘Chloe!’ He said, a huge grin spreading across his face. ‘How come that all this time I’ve known you, we’ve never discussed anything like this. I thought you were all about cosmic spells and potions and world peace and love. Not about the rawness and macabre of the human state. I’m impressed.’

Chloe blushed and looked away. I didn’t know whether she was generally the bashful type, which judging by what she had just revealed I doubted, or whether she had a thing about Simon. I didn’t blame her one little bit. I think I did, truth be told. The intensity and depth of his thinking was very attractive to me and these hidden depths surely went down a lot further than I knew about at that moment. He was edgy and dark, a bit like me, but I felt he could teach me a lot. I would enjoy sinking down, down, down with him, back to a pure state of not giving a shit, of being an animal, of expressing the indescribable.

‘Chloe is all those things.’ Lee said, reaching across and grabbing her petit hand. She was wearing lots of very thin silver bands on each finger, some resting above the knuckles. She also had a large red stone that shimmered in the light which turned loosely on her finger as Lee lifted her hand to kiss it.

‘Everything is about balance.’ she smiled as Lee let go of her hand. ‘So, Si, tell us what you intend to make us do in this film of yours.’

Annabelle came back in and we were all gathered. Lee was on my left,  Annabelle on Lee’s left, Chloe opposite next to Simon and then Joel was perched on the right of me, busy rolling up cigarettes for later. Simon had given us all our choice of alcoholic beverage and I had a beer in front of me, fresh out of the fridge. I wished we could be ‘on the balcony’ as we had started calling it, so I could have a smoke as well as a beer. Simon cleared his throat and began.

We all leant over the storyboard, like a coven of witches at the cauldron. All the sketches were upside down for me, Lee and Joel but Simon continued regardless.

‘So, the general premise for the film is that it has to be half an hour in length.’ He looked at each of us in turn, almost as if he was checking we were paying attention. I tried not to hold his attention too long, but a small, naughty part of me craved it. ‘The brief is to make a film that represents the concept that art isn’t always pleasant or nice to look at. I chose Bataille as an example of this, as Chloe rightly said, his work is shocking and aims to get taboo subjects talked about. Of course, I’m not a plagiarist, so we’re not going to be doing anything remotely sexual, so don’t worry.’ He laughed and glanced at me. I smirked back and he carried on talking. I stared at his lips that were enticingly pierced with a gold ring. I wondered how it felt when you kissed him.

I tried to keep up with what was being said. Joel interrupted him a few times, saying that it would be hard to do this, that and the other and Lee also put a few of his views forward. The two girls remained silent. Chloe was focused on what was being said as she kept nodding in agreement. Annabelle was staring at the storyboard, occasionally looking down at her mobile phone and texting someone. I was starting to get bored when I heard my name mentioned.

‘Casey?’

They were all looking me, Chloe and Lee were smiling and Joel was nudging me.

‘Sorry, what?’ I said, feeling a bit embarrassed, which wasn’t a normal emotion for me to feel.

‘I just said, would you mind doing a bit of an explore before it gets dark, just to see what we’ve got here as far as the three scenes are concerned?’ Simon was jotting notes down in a pad, his writing spiky like spiders’ legs.

‘Yes, of course!’ I agreed, a little too enthusiastically. I had no idea what I was looking for. I made a mental note to ask Lee later on as I didn’t want to admit I had switched off when the plot and storyline was being discussed.

‘Great, thanks for that. Dez, obviously you are going with her, right? We don’t know what state this place is in as far as rotten floors and stairs so look after each other. Chlo, can you please help me with ideas for the props we’ll need and then me, Dez and Jo can start making them. Anna? Would you mind taking us back to town tomorrow when we’ve decided what we’ll need to make cos I haven’t got materials or tools. Yep? Cheers.’

Lee tugged on my hand and gestured for me to follow him. We went into the Chandelier room and collected our things. I suggested we take everything over to the annex room as that’s where we both wanted to sleep. We needed to sort that before it got dark and I wanted some time alone. We were laden down with a rucksack each, clothes, towels and day bags, but it was manageable in one trip. It was 3pm and I was feeling tired, the night before starting to catch up with me.

The afternoon light gave the glass corridor a surreal glow and I noticed details about it that had been clothed in darkness the night before. The nicest feature was the floor,  which was made of hundreds of multi-coloured tiles making a lovely mosaic design that travelled the whole length of the corridor, carrying on into the entrance of the annex where the steps began. Lee stopped at the stairs and pointed in front of him. I peered round him and saw an archway leading to what looked like a conservatory area. Being as bright as it was through the arch, it must have been exposed to the elements in some way. We decided to have a look later.

‘Stay here and I’ll go and dump these bags down and come and get yours.’ Lee offered, being the Gentleman as always. I took no notice and started ascending, but regretted it as my legs were killing me. I was determined to prove I could cope and made it to the top of the stairs, panting. The landing was bathed in sunlight coming from the glass windows to my right. They were designed in a long panel with art nouveau style lead patterns surrounding the pains at regular intervals reminding me of stained glass in churches. Lee appeared and looked surprised that I had made it up. He took all the bags and bundled them into the room we would sleep in.

‘Those windows are friggin awesome!’ he said as he wrapped his arms around me. We stood there looking out at the view, which again, was mostly trees that were tentatively plotting their way in to the annex tower just like their allies on the outside of the main building. Then I noticed that there was a corridor straight ahead of us as well, some doors open and a few closed, about six doors in all. Lee kissed my head and we walked into our new holiday suite.

The room looked much the same as it had done the night before, except to me it was shabbier now as the sunlight was exposing it in all its derelict glory. The sink was there surrounded by the peeling blue paint, the balcony still boasting the intricate spirals and flowers of the wrought iron railings. It had once been a very luxurious bedroom, but I loved it exactly how it was now, worn and wise, hiding its history like a secretive lover.

Lee spread our sleeping bag over the rug that had been very soft the night before, against all odds considering how old it must have been. We also had a yellow blanket and an old double duvet with hideous blue hearts dotted all over it, which was a spare, just in case we were cold. I doubted we would be. Two pillows were set out, but Lee usually ended up sleeping on both of them and me with my special Lee pillow. His chest.

‘Did you bring our wash stuff?’ I asked him, realising as I said it, that we probably didn’t have a toilet or shower in this annex.

He shook his head. ‘Sorry, babes, I’ll go and get it all now, unless there’s a working toilet and sink in here somewhere? What does my sweet think? Shall we go and look?’ I slapped him playfully for calling me ‘my sweet’ and we went to explore.

We tried the first two doors in the corridor but they were locked. Opening the first door that was ajar, we walked into a small kitchen area, darkened by the old broken blinds that had been pulled half way down the window. It smelled vaguely of old bread. The cupboard doors were a weird shade of pink, almost salmon pink, some of them were cracked and fell off their rusted hinges as we tried opening them. There was a thick layer of dust on the surfaces and in the corner, near a cooking hob, was a group of pots, with sugar coffee and tea written on the sides. Lee dared me to look inside but there was nothing left, only a few blackened coffee granules in the bottom, probably stuck there now and forever. There was an old fridge and a small round table squashed in the corner, covered by one of those plastic table cloths that had a cool 70s pattern on it, large ellipses in blues and purples overlapping each other in blinding confusion.

We left the kitchen, thinking it was a shame that the electricity had been cut off years back. It would have been cute to make breakfasts in there, just the two of us, taking our coffee and eggs onto the balcony and sitting on the orange blanket, picnic style.

We then opened the next door to see a toilet that looked as though Annabelle had just that second cleaned it. I looked at Lee in disbelief and he frowned, trying to think it through and find a rational explanation. There wasn’t one.

‘Maybe the construction guys have been working over here too and they’ve been keeping it sparkling.’ Lee suggested. It flushed fine. There wasn’t a sink, but we had one in the room so I hope that worked.

The only remaining open door was a storage space. It had two sections, like a walk-in wardrobe except it was only deep enough for one person to stand in. The top shelf had some old boxes with roses and other floral patterns on and taking them down I was disappointed to find they were empty. There were some old rusty coat hangers, a small clock with the hands missing, a red sandal, a small wooden box with chess pieces in, and a larger box, locked. I checked the upper shelf for any other trinkets but there was nothing I could see. The bottom shelf was empty except for more coat hangers, wooden this time and an old hat that looked like it should be in a Theatre costume department. A faded pink curtain, with a damp stain across it, hung from a steel pole. I pulled it aside and it revealed a small wooden chest but that too was locked.

‘I want to find the keys!’ I said to Lee, feeling like a child in a toy shop. Lee was tall and had pulled something rectangular out from the corner on the shelf above me. Whatever it was, it was smothered in cob webs. He blew on it and then I saw what it was. A pack of Tarot Cards.

‘Hey…wow!’ I said almost snatching them out his hand. He swapped them into his other hand and elevated them above his head, smiling down at me condescendingly. I tried to jump at them but he tickled me with his free hand and made me scream. I hated being tickled, but loved it at the same time. He ran out of the cupboard and into the room, getting under the sleeping bag and hiding. I then saw one of the cards slipping out from under the bag. Lee was sniggering. As I looked closer, I noticed which one it was. The Lovers.

the lovers tarot card

~*~

We spent a few hours alone in our private room, delighting in the fact that when I had closed the door there had been a key in it, which did lock despite having to bang it with the end of the torch to make it turn.

We were lying in the sleeping bag, the light just beginning to fade, when Lee’s phone buzzed somewhere underneath the piles of clothes. It was Simon. Lee said we had been exploring and had found some interesting places and he looked at me slyly when he said it. Interesting places indeed.

I looked at my phone and was quite shocked to see it was 6 o’clock. My stomach was making somersaults and needed food. Lee offered to go and make our dinner, so we got dressed and made sure we had everything we needed for the evening ahead; torch, phones, valuables. Even though we had a key, I didn’t trust that we’d be able to unlock it again on our return, so we just took all our money and things we didn’t want to lose in my little shoulder bag.

As we were going down the stairs, Lee’s phone rang again. He stopped half way down to answer it and his face went from chilled out, loved up Lee, to stressed out, shocked Lee. He started kicking the wall with his shoe and I heard him go ‘Yes. Ok. I’ll be there. But are you sure there’s no one else? Well, it’s a lot difficult actually, as I told you yesterday. I know. I spoke to her. Yes, she did. Ok. See you tomorrow. Bye.’

He looked down at his shoes and pushed his hand through his hair. He looked well pissed off. I had a feeling I was going to be even more pissed off any second.

‘I have to go to work, every night this week from 7pm til 12, starting from tomorrow.’ He said. ‘It’s Matt, I knew he would back out. Ken has asked Sue, she can’t cover because she’s on holiday in Sain and Kev can’t cos he’s got flu. That leaves me. Again. Fuck. Simon’s gonna freak.’

Simon? Simon’s gonna freak? How about Casey? She might just be a little bit cross as well. Shit me. I would have to stay here on my own, with people I didn’t know, for 7 hours out of each day, and he didn’t think I would have a problem with that?

‘Screw Simon. What about me?’ I heard my mouth say, involuntarily.

Lee sighed. We were still standing on the stairs like dorks.

‘Casey, please don’t,’ he pleaded. ‘I know this is shit for you as well, but the whole point in us being here is for Si’s film. It’s only a few hours a night and I’ll be back and we can sleep together in our room and it’ll be awesome. I’ve got to persuade Bella to take me back to town and bring me here every evening, which is gonna suck for her as well. Help me out here, please.’

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I screamed at the wall as if Lee was no longer there, ‘But we are supposed to be spending these two weeks together!’

Lee had sat down on the step. Part of me wanted to go and hug him, but the other half, my angry half, felt betrayed, as if he was only concerned about them. He spent all his life with them. It was always about them.

‘I’ll come with you then,’ I suggested, suddenly lifted as I realised how cool the solution was. ‘I can sit at the bar ‘til you finish your shift, then we can come back here together.’

Lee said nothing. He wasn’t even listening.

‘Lee.’

I waited for what seemed like ages. Lee then got up and turned, not looking me in the eye, just flatly addressing me.

‘Are you coming? I’m hungry. I’ll cook and talk to Si and Bella. ‘

I followed him, against all my instincts. I felt like sitting in the dark room alone, smoking and fuming, but I was ravenous.

We walked in silence, Lee tried to take my hand twice, but I ignored it. I wanted to  make a point and my point would be, no one treats Casey like shit.

We walked into the kitchen and everyone seemed to be busy cooking their own dinners. Annabelle was stirring something at the end cooker, Joel was crouched down at the next one with the oven door down, poking something that had way too much smoke bellowing from it. Simon was already at the table eating what looked like Lasagne, flicking through a magazine while he chewed. Then I saw Chloe, over the other side of the kitchen loading vegetables into a huge industrial blender. She glanced over at me and smiled.

‘Alright there, Dezmondo?’ asked Simon as Lee went to get some stuff out of the fridge. ‘Had a pleasant afternoon?’

He looked up at me and gave me a weird look, something like, yeh I know what you were up to and although it’s cool, I’m fucking green about it.

‘I need to talk to you, man,’ Lee said, his head almost inside the freezer compartment. ‘Something’s come up.’

Simon let his fork fall to his plate. I sat on the edge of the bench opposite him, not knowing what to do. As angry as I was with Lee, I felt mean leaving him to prepare the food and talk to Simon.

‘Do you want me to do that while you guys talk?’ I offered, grabbing the bag of vegetables that we had put under the table.

Lee closed the freezer and shook his head. ‘Go and have a cigarette if you like, I’ll text you when dinner’s ready.’

I took that as a cue to go. Lee obviously didn’t want me around putting my angry ore in when Simon was due to freak out as well any second. I gave Lee the bag and he mouthed ‘Sorry’ as he took it, followed by ‘Love you’. I managed a weak smile and shouted to Joel.

‘Joel. Cigarette break. Now.’

He followed me like a puppy, the waft of burnt food did too. ‘Fucking burnt my pizza, didn’t I?’ he moaned. I found myself laughing at that as we zigzagged our way blindly  to the balcony, the light fading fast, cigarettes already poised between our lips to be lit as soon as we set foot in there.

~*~

Joel ranted on a bit about his pizza and then I started telling him what had just happened to Lee. Joel was sitting on the floor with his back propped up against the sofa. I was curled up in the corner of it, on my fifth cigarette.

‘So, Si is defo in the ballistic stage right about now, I guess,’ Joel said as though this was an amazing pearl of wisdom that would just sweep the problem magically away.

‘Yes, Joel.’ I said, trying not to sound irritated by his obviousness. ‘Don’t you think it’s a pile of shit that he’s gonna be in London every evening when I’m here?’

Joel blew blue smoke up into the air. It swirled and dispersed as the breeze tripped it up. ‘Well, not really. I mean it’s not like he’s not ever gonna be here, is it? Before you know it, he’ll be back. You can hang out with me, it’ll be fun.’

I wanted to say, that wasn’t the point, but I decided against it. Joel just didn’t get it.

‘So, what’s Simon’s film about?’ I asked him. I figured that he wouldn’t be all like, what do you mean, weren’t you listening to the guru of film makers? Shame on you my girl. To the gallows with you!

Joel sighed and stretched his arms up, yawning loudly.

‘Do you know what, Case?’ he answered, seemingly quite serious for Joel. ‘I have not got a single fucking snippet or interest or inkling what in the name of feck it is about because I wasn’t listening. So strike me dead with a turnip.’

We both started laughing. I couldn’t stop. Joel was snorting and I just couldn’t breathe. Joel started doing his silent laughter again because no sound was coming out from him, but the sofa was shaking. I tried to compose myself but I couldn’t.

Lee texted me to tell me dinner was ready and that he had replaced Joel’s charred pizza with another one and that was also ready.

‘Hey, Dezman, you beauty!’ Joel shouted, jumping up and adjusting his trousers in the dark. I could see his outline, but not much else.

‘It’s dark!’ I announced, getting to my feet and trying to get my bearings.

‘The door’s that way.’ Said Joel. It was too dark to see if he was pointing or not. I’m sure he was though, the dick.

‘As I said, it’s dark!’ I laughed and pushed him. ‘Come on, let’s go. I can see the door frame over that way.’

We made it to the kitchen. It was quiet. Lee was the only one there, sitting at the table, two steaming dinners of quorn, tomato sauce, peppers and spaghetti in front of him, smelling divine. Joel’s normal coloured pizza was there too and Joel tucked in, thanking Lee with his mouth full, making appreciative groaning noises as he pulled the cheese laden slice apart with his teeth.

‘How did it go?’ I asked, wondering why Simon wasn’t still here. It must have gone pretty badly.

‘Si stormed off as soon as I told him.’ Lee said flatly. ‘I knew he’d do that. He’s not feeling good at the moment as it is and he was depending on me to help him. He said his film needs to be shot mostly during the evening for the correct lighting, and that’s when I won’t be here. So, yeh. It didn’t go well.’

Joel didn’t comment.  He was all focused on the pizza.

We ate in silence for a while. Then Chloe came in and put her hand on Lee’s shoulder, sitting down next to Joel.

‘Hey sweets,’ she said to Lee. ‘Si will calm down. I’ve just had a word with him and explained that really, it’s just a matter of you two working out a new schedule, like during the day you can do all the prep and script work and then we can help Si film bits in the evening. It’s no biggie.’

‘And he actually said ‘it’s no biggie’?’ asked Lee, smiling at Chloe.

The atmosphere lightened a little. I sniggered. Lee nudged me and laughed. Joel was trying to extract a massive length of stretched cheese from between his side teeth.

‘No, but he’s gone for a walk. When he gets back he says we’ll all have a beer and chill out, sort it out in the morning. You know, I think he’s still suffering a lot from PTSD. What do you reckon? He’s just so angry all the time!’

Lee agreed with whatever PTSD meant. Joel sat back and rubbed his belly.

‘Greedy twat.’ Said Lee and threw a napkin at him.

‘Did you talk to Annabelle?’ I asked, not really wanting to know, but somehow having to satisfy my morbid curiosity.

‘Yes, she’s cool with it.’ Lee sighed, sounding relieved. ‘In fact she said she was glad for the chance to get away from here for a few hours every evening. She wants to spend some time at the house on her own, I didn’t ask why.’

My heart stopped and then started beating again. For some reason, I felt like that meant something ominous for me and Lee, but my reasoning couldn’t answer my gut reaction quick enough to make me feel better. She would drive Lee to work, leaving here at about 5pm, go to the house, stay there until about 11:30, go and pick him up at 12 and drive him back here? Suspicious was the name of that game.

‘As long as Michael doesn’t get invited to stay there with her!’ Chloe suddenly exclaimed, putting her hands to her face in despair. She was so expressive with her hands, almost like a character from one of those black and white movies that had to rely on gestures to relay meaning instead of words. ‘That would be horrible. She was saying this morning how much safer she feels being here with us. You don’t think she’s changed her mind do you?’

‘Whatever Anna decides to do is her own funeral Chlo, ‘ said Joel, shaking his head as if her behaviour exasperated him beyond comprehension. ‘We’ve all tried to help her, but she just does what she likes regardless of our advice.’

Annabelle chose to walk in as Joel was finishing his sentence. He didn’t seem bothered by it at all.

‘Whose advice might that be, then, Mr Sympathy?’ she asked plonking her bottle of Guiness down on the table. ‘I don’t recall ever confiding in you. Oh, wait. I did once and if I remember rightly, you dismissed my problem entirely. You’re a fucking clown, Mackie.’

Chloe put her head in her hands again and got up to get a bottle of water from the fridge.

‘Ok, you two, please let’s not start again. There’s been enough conflict this evening already. Fin.’

Annabelle sat and drank her Guiness in silence. I looked around at the group of friends, minus Simon, and realised I was right about something. Friends were too much trouble. I often sat alone in my attic room feeling lost and alone, wishing I had a big group of close mates to hang out with, but this proved that the reality was far from romantic. The closer you got to people, the more you realised they were out for themselves and when push came to shove, the only person you could really rely on was yourself. Even the good people like Lee were unreliable. He was so busy trying to please everyone that in the end, he pleased no one, most of all himself. Chloe was the same. She didn’t seem to see the faults in anyone, always trying to be peace maker extraordinaire. She spent her time feeling overwhelmed and stressed at the slightest disagreement or argument. I wanted to get to know her better, to have someone here when Lee had gone with Annabelle, someone who would say, Casey, it’s fine, there’s nothing going on between them. Lee loves you. But somehow I doubted that I would ever be able to discuss my fears with her. She was too loyal to both of them, especially Lee. Joel was clearly someone who avoided difficult situations, preferring to joke around and make light of everything. Simon was someone who I had felt I could bond with, if I could reach that far into his world. But he had this barrier, a huge solid concrete wall that I doubted I would ever be able to crash through. Despite being surrounded by people, I suddenly felt really alone.

~*~

Lee and Simon went to the Chandelier room when he came back in. It happened that, just as I started to feel the emptiness of the situation, everyone got up and dispersed, leaving me sitting there. Chloe was clearing up again while brewing some tea in an old fashioned teapot. Annabelle had slipped out after her phone started ringing, and Joel had announced that he was going to find somewhere where he could kip down on his own for the rest of the time here.

Chloe spoke, sounding tired.

‘Hey Case, are you ok?’ she asked gently. ‘You seem really quiet. Has something happened?’

I wanted to blurt it all out but felt cagey after what I had been thinking about earlier. Casey brought her brew to the table and offered me one. It was green as she poured it. I asked what it was.

‘Camomile tea for my nerves. I need it to help me sleep.’ She said, sipping it. ‘Try it. It doesn’t taste great, but believe me, it really works.’

It did taste quite foul, but I could have done with a good night’s sleep so kept swallowing, almost choking a few times while trying not to let my taste buds experience too much of it. It was like hot liquid daisies. Not that I had ever eaten daisies, but you know.

‘So, how do you feel about Lee having to go to work?’

Boom. There it was. She was psychic.

‘To be honest, Chloe, I am fuming about it. ‘ I said, coming dangerously to the point of hysterical no return. ‘I’ve missed him so much and just wanted to have some fun together. Now, it’s like his job is more important.’ My heart was thumping uncomfortably in my chest. I needed more than tea to calm these wired nerves.

Chloe was silent. I could sense her looking at the top of my bowed head.  I didn’t do silences very well, usually fighting inside my head to fill them with words. Any words. I considered myself socially inept.

When I didn’t carry on ranting, she spoke.

‘It’s totally understandable, really. I mean, I would feel the same. The thing is that when stuff like this happens, and there’s really nothing you can do to change it, there’s not really any point in getting angry. What does that change? It’s better to just accept it and enjoy the time Lee is here with you. Believe me, spending time with you this summer is all he has been talking about for months. I could tell by his face just now. He’s gutted, absolutely bummed. I wouldn’t lie to you Case. That guy’s world revolves around you.’

I wanted to burst into tears, I won’t lie.

We sat there for what seemed like ages, me trying to fight back tears, Chloe sipping on her tea. I wondered if she knew that it wasn’t the only reason I was churned up inside? I mean it did sound crap when I said it out loud. It wasn’t as if he had broken up with me or even that I wasn’t going to see him for days on end.

‘And also, as far as Annabelle is concerned, there is nothing going on between them, I can tell you that for nothing. So, stop worrying and enjoy this summer. We’re going to have a blast. You and me, we are going to explore every single inch of this amazing building and if we are lucky, which I’m sure we will be, we might even get to see some spirits. They are all around us. It’s up to us to find out of any of them need help, you know, to pass into the light. So, first thing’s first. Show me the amazing place you and Lee found today.’

~*~

I lead Chloe through the glass corridor. She kept stopping to touch the glass, pressing her finger tips softly against the mould coloured panes. Some of the glass had been smashed, letting leaves and sometimes a lone flower poke its head through, almost as if Nature was reaching out to us, saying look, I’m still here. I’m beautiful; the phoenix flower emerging from the ashes of the dusty brick work.

My mind was still chasing Chloe’s last words to me about Lee and Annabelle. I wanted to believe her. I almost allowed myself to as I got lost in Chloe’s warm cloud of positivity. I had been bottling up all my rage for months and months, not having anyone to really talk to about it, at least no one who really understood the emotional strains of a long distance relationship. Her carefree vibes seemed to be bouncing round the glass of the outdoor aquarium, dragging the sun out from behind its hide and seek cloud, bathing us in its healing rays. I felt light and almost ready to skip to the annex room. Maybe I had been paranoid about Annabelle. Maybe I needed to be grateful for what I had instead of wasting time worrying about something that would happen if it was fated to, whether I stressed about it or not. That’s hard to do when it involves the only person you have ever loved; the one person who gets you. The one person who seems to care. The one person who had the power to drag the protective tower he had made just for, crumbling to the ground along with my life.

‘Case?’

Chloe was standing at the doors at the end of the corridor, her hands on her hips, her blonde hair shimmering in a sprinkling of sun dust. She was wearing a floor length cream gypsy skirt that sparkled when the sun hit the embroidered sequins. I couldn’t see her feet, it was that long. I wondered if she had made it herself, being a Fashion student. I thought about my own boring outfit, black leggings and my Paramore t-shirt. I should have got changed into something nicer, more imaginative. I made my own clothes.  It was something I had always been proud of, people coming up to me at College asking me where I got that dress from, and being able to state I made it myself or how I got ideas for my various t-shirt designs. Being different to everyone else was something like a mantra I lived by and I had let it slip lately. I was with art students, film students and a fashion student. I felt a bit weird again as if I shouldn’t be there. As if Lee would be better off with Annabelle. After all, she was stunning with her cat-like eyes, full lips, amazing dread locks and cool style. She looked good even dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans, somehow exuding a potent look at me vibe without even trying. She was as tall as Lee as well, not like me, a short- ass dwarf.

I tried to smile as Chloe put her arm out towards me. She clamped me gently in a side hug, her flowery perfume wafting around me, making me feel instantly better. Are all French people this affectionate? I wondered, still feeling a bit uncomfortable with such physical closeness. Lee was the only one who I felt good pressed up against. My parents were quite affectionate with each other, but I had never felt the need for motherly cuddles or to sit on my Dad’s lap like some girls. I guess it had followed me through to my teens as I still didn’t need to feel anyone close to me like that. Only Lee. Even with boyfriends before him, I was never the one who craved to display my feelings in public or in private, holding hands or cuddling up. Hugging my girl buddies? Unheard of. Stella would piss herself laughing.

‘Case, are you sure you’re alright, ma cherie?’

I looked into her green eyes and I saw genuine concern. I couldn’t hold her gaze for long as I felt ashamed all of a sudden. Shame was not an emotion I was used to and I didn’t like how vulnerable it made me feel. I had always been the one who stepped over emotion and sometimes even stamped on it under foot. I was used to being in control, at least around other people. I would even go as far as to argue against what I truly believed in, just to be seen as the queen of conflict. No one could penetrate my hard exterior. Or so I thought.

I smiled and edged away from Chloe’s hug. I needed to regain my posture and get a grip. I walked up the stairs first and gestured towards the windows that Lee and I had stood and admired not long before. How things had changed since then, my mood seeming positively ecstatic then compared to the doom I felt now.

‘Wow, belles fenetres!’ Chloe exclaimed in delight, again running her finger tips across the coloured glass panels and over the lead that swirled and spiralled in art nouveau clusters. ‘Such beautiful windows eh?’

I had understood what she said, but agreed. They really were gorgeous.

I walked into the bedroom and felt a welcoming gust of summer air coming in from the open balcony doors. A tiny bird landed on the iron balcony railing, its head searching frantically for any sign of crumbs there, but seeing none, opened its wings and flew.

Our bedding was still strewn on the floor and I knelt down and straightened it out, kicking some of my spare clothes underneath the mound. Chloe hadn’t noticed. She was walking around the edge of the room, seemingly examining the walls, occasionally dragging her long fingers across the peeling paint work.

She saw me watching her, stopped walking and started giggling.

Oh mon Dieu, you must be asking yourself what the heck I’m doing! No, I haven’t got some weird fetish about touching everything in sight, it’s just that I can sense the history of a place by touching walls and things.’

There was a word for this, but in my eagerness to impress her with my knowledge of parapsychology and mystical subjects, I couldn’t think of it. Clairvoyant was when someone has the ability to gain information about an object, person, location or physical event by using senses other than the five we all use. But there was a term for someone who could touch objects and see the life of the person who owned it.

‘I am a kind of amateur Psychometrist,’  Chloe explained. ‘Have you seen ‘Rose Red’, that Stephen King film where that group of Psychics investigate the haunted house?’

‘Yep’ I admitted, even though it was one of those films that you don’t admit to having loved, ‘It was a cheesy film, but had some good ideas. There was a woman who could touch things…what did they call her….oh yes, a ‘touch know’!

We laughed. Chloe walked out to the balcony and stood in the doorway, putting her flip flopped foot onto the wooden slats to check it wasn’t about to cave in, taking her down to the thick hedgerows below.

‘It’s cool, isn’t it?’ I said, walking up behind her. ‘So, have you ‘seen’ anything yet, you know, as far as the history of the building? I didn’t get chance to ask you if you had seen that girl again, the one you saw when we went to the loo together yesterday.’

Chloe was leaning on the railings, her long neck stretched down as her head went from side to side,  scanning the area below the balcony. It made me feel dizzy looking down there.

‘Well, I didn’t sense anything else last night, but then I was so knackered, I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow.’ She explained. ‘But…..’

She twirled round and faced me, an excited look on her face. It was then I noticed the scarf tied to one of the vertical iron railings. I had totally forgotten about that, the night before when Lee had woken me up to tell me he had seen a girl on the balcony, he had been there.

Had it been there when we had returned to the annex earlier on? I didn’t recall it, but surely I would have seen it? One of us would have.

Chloe had stopped short of telling me something and was staring at me again. I walked onto the balcony, that wasn’t really wide enough for two people, Chloe stepping aside as I strode up to the railings and picked up the bottom of the scarf to examine it.

‘What’s that?’ I heard Chloe ask as I spread it out in my fingers. It was heavy fabric, expensive, good quality fabric. It was old, some of the weave had thinned in places, but it was still wearable. It was antique cream coloured with quite large roses embroidered on it, red petals sewn onto black petals. It was lovely. Along the bottom of the folds were hand sewn tassels of shiny cream, silky as they draped over my fingers. I untied it and let Chloe look at it.

‘We noticed it here last night but I’m sure it wasn’t here earlier on,’ I said, trying to get my head around it.

‘This is exquisite,’ she mused as she let her fingers trail over the intricate embroidery. ‘My Grandmamma had one like this. I remember my Mama wearing it.’

Her face was very serious. She lifted her head and her eyes gazed out towards the horizon. I gathered she was doing her touch-know again. I watched her, fascinated.

The sun went behind a cloud and my arms came up in small goose pimps. Chloe’s eyes travelled back to the shawl and her eyes closed for a few seconds. When she opened them, her body convulsed slightly as though she’d had an electric shock, her arms and hands jolting. A faint gasp escaped from her lips. She put out her hand and gripped my shoulder, overbalancing slightly.

‘Oh Jesus, I’m sorry Case. Merde……….that was bizarre. Everything went dark and I could taste this horrible bitterness on my tongue. Then all I could see were my eyes, but they were red and blood shot. I thought I was going to throw up. Can we go in?’

She tied the shawl back onto the railing and stood there for a few seconds before walking back in, as if still trying to figure out what had happened. The sun had not come back out and it was noticeably chilly.

I tried to close the balcony doors but they made a pained moaning noise when I pulled them, a metallic scraping noise setting my teeth on edge. I decided to leave them.

Chloe was sitting on the floor, her long thin arms wrapped around her knees. She asked me for a cigarette.

‘I didn’t know you smoked!’ I laughed as I took my tobacco out and started rolling one each.

‘I don’t normally, but after that I need one. Sometimes I have the odd one, just to relax after something like that.’

I sat down opposite her, cross legged, and lit the cigarettes, handing one to her. She said merci and took a long drag.

‘So, tell me what you’ve seen so far,’ I said, wanting to know everything, ‘Or if you want, we can talk about what just happened. ‘

Chloe had her chin resting on her knee and seemed spent. She kept taking drags of the rollie, exhaling the blue smoke slowly as if relishing the relaxation it provided, every time, her eyes closing more, her lids looking heavier and heavier.

After a while, she spoke.

‘Ok. First of all, I get tired really easily, especially when I am zoned into the Psychometrics, so please excuse me if I slur my words.’ She smiled. ‘Last night, apart from listening to Anna crying herself senseless again, before I dropped off for real, I heard bells. Not church bells, not that loud or deep, but like cow bells or something. Then I dreamed of a girl. It’s hard to explain, but she wasn’t like a ghost…not dressed in old fashioned clothes or whatnot like they usually are. I have seen lots of spirits, Case, but this one was…..Je ne sais pas….different.’

‘So what was she dressed like?’ I asked, not really knowing what the hell to say.

Chloe thought about it before speaking. Then laughed unexpectedly.

‘You know, like Steampunk?’ she said, shaking her head as if she didn’t believe what her own mouth was saying.

That was when my phone rang. Lee’s name was flashing. Chloe gestured me to answer it.

‘Lover!’ he said in that playful, sexy voice he knows I can’t resist, ‘Where art thou?’

I told him I was in the annex with Chloe. He said he was still with Simon trying to get some schedule figured out. He was checking on me, just to see if I was ok. We spoke for a while about what they had sorted out so far and I told him Chloe had been doing some Psychometry. He didn’t seem surprised and didn’t ask me what it was so I assumed they had already discussed all of her talents. Before we hung up after promising to meet for a snack later, I asked him about the shawl.

‘Oh man, I’d forgotten all about that!’ he said, ‘Do you know what? I really don’t think it was there earlier. I would have had a closer look at it. Jesus, that’s weird. Maybe it was there…I really don’t know. What about that girl I saw as well? Oh God, that really put the shitters up me. I wanted to tell Chloe but haven’t had a chance. Tell her what I saw and that we can spend some time in there with her later, see if she can sense anything.’

I told Chloe that Lee had seen a girl on the balcony. She asked me what she had looked like, but I couldn’t tell her as I had been dead to the world when Lee had claimed he saw her. Chloe stood up and made a three hundred and sixty degree turn, her hand stretched out as she went, her long skirt bellowing out to expose her graceful legs. I guessed she was casting a protective circle, which is done in Wiccan rituals for protection against evil and demonic entities.

‘Casey, do you want to see my Runes?’ she asked me, delving into her shoulder bag and pulling out a bulging draw string bag in pale velvet.

Clearly that was the end of the conversation about the ghost girl, then.

I was genuinely interested in Runes, so I didn’t mind. I had had a set years back, but my Mum, in her knowledge of all things esoteric, had labelled them as ‘evil’ and ‘satanic’ toys that were not to be used in her house. I didn’t talk to her for weeks after that, but that was nothing compared to when she tried to ban me from wearing my Pentagram. Oh the fuss and bother over the again ‘satanic’ symbol I was parading. What was I thinking? There was enough evil in the world, without spreading it even more. Spreading evil? The woman is insane, she’s a fucking mentalist. I printed loads of information off the internet and I remember this passage that I specifically memorised to piss her off. I also carry it around in my wallet:

‘To most modern Pagans, the pentagram symbolizes the elements of earth, air, fire, water, and spirit, as well as the directions East, South, West, North, and Within.  The continuous line that forms the star speaks to the interconnectedness of all things Divine and Earthly, and reminds us to strive toward balance with all we encounter.  The circle that frequently appears around the pentagram is symbolic of unity, wholeness, the quest for Divine Knowledge, and the never-ending cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

It is by drawing on the elements represented by the pentagram while within a sacred circle that those who practice the art of focused intention known as Witchcraft (or simply “the Craft”) seek to alter their internal and external realities.  Those who follow the Wiccan tradition believe that the Craft is governed by the Threefold Law, which states that any energy set forth, be it with good or harmful intentions, will be multiplied three times over and returned to the caster.  This encourages most Wiccans to use the Craft only for spiritual growth and healing, and discourages its use in the harming of anyone or anything, including the interference with another’s free will.’

 

Chloe had spread them out on the wooden floor so they looked like they were an intricate design of a mosaic, the symbols staring up at us, lines kicking and pointing, as if desperate to reveal their hidden wisdom.

I went to sit next to her, rolling another cigarette. As I crouched down, ready to learn more, I noticed a bag that Lee had brought earlier, standing upright with a long object that looked like a bottle, protruding against the fabric. I reached for it and unbuckled the flap and yes, there it was; the bottle of red that I had put in there and forgotten about. And two glasses.

‘Yay!’ I shrieked. ‘Chloe?’

Chloe nodded enthusiastically and grabbed one of the glasses, holding it up as the thick nectar swirled out of the bottle neck and into the glass. I filled mine up and then rooted around in the bottom of the bag, remembering that I had put some candles in there as well. It was getting dark now. I had been all set for a romantic encounter with Lee, but that was ok. I would grab some more wine for us later. I also got my dock out of the side pocket and put on some music. The room didn’t seem as spooky with Hayley Williams singing out and loud.

‘Now, let’s see.’ Chloe announced, taking a delicate swig of wine, her little finger sticking up elegantly. ‘ May be this girl we’ve seen will talk to us through these.’

I lit the candles and hoped they wouldn’t fall over onto the wooden floor. I made a mental note to get some plates from the kitchen to stand them on as I didn’t want to be worrying about that later on when I was snuggled up here with my boy.

‘Can you do readings for people who aren’t here at the time?’ I asked her, whispering now as the candles were projecting an eerie light across the room and the air from outside seemed thick as if it was going to start with thunder and lightning at any moment.

Chloe sat up, sipped some more wine and breathed in deeply.

‘Yes, at least I’m going to try!’ she said, laughing. I laughed too as we were like two little girls hiding away, up to mischief, even though Chloe must have been twenty, the same age as Lee. I was the one that felt like a baby.

Suddenly, the candles flickered and one of them almost went out completely, diminishing the light in the room for a few seconds until its wick flared up again and light swam around the walls. Chloe looked up towards the door and at that second, I heard the chinkling sound of bells. I felt Chloe’s hand grope for mine as my eyes strained to get accustomed to what they thought I was seeing in the doorway. Within the rectangular black of the hallway beyond that open door, was a shape; the shape of a figure, standing there, silent and still. I focussed, in slow motion and so beyond frightened that I couldn’t look away as the dreamlike state created by the candles and wine blurred reality like a silk veil falling over our heads. I heard Chloe gasp. The face of a girl was illuminated momentarily by the candle light, her hair colour melted into the darkness behind her, leaving some black strands wildly falling over her face, tufts and knots like the tiniest of dreadlocks. Her dark, make- up smudged eyes swam with fear and disbelief.  Then she disappeared, but she didn’t fade. She darted, as quickly as she had manifested, out of sight behind the frame of the door. The last vision of her was a brush of white skirt that licked the shadows on the landing. As the fabric bellowed out, it revealed her bare ankle and around it was tied a thin string of delicate silver bells. Then, with a soft tinkle, that too was gone, leaving behind silence in the emptiness of the pitch black.

‘Chlo……….what the fuck was that?’ I stammered, clambering up onto my feet but not knowing why I needed to do that. My legs were weak and I felt them give out.

Chloe still had hold of my arm and I had dragged her half up as well. She looked shocked, but not scared at all.

‘I think that was your girl.’ She said, bending down and picking up her glass, necking the remainder. ‘Shall we look out there? I don’t know, maybe it was a squatter. Oh shit, it could be, Case. What shall we do?’

She looked more scared by the thought of a squatter appearing to us, than I demonic looking ghost girl. I tried to calm my racing heart by telling myself she was used to seeing stuff like that. Nothing to freak out over…

Then there was a loud noise on the stairs, shoes shuffling. I wanted to run but there was nowhere to run to. Then, relief flooded over me as I heard Lee’s voice.

‘Helloooooo! Belles femmeses?!’

We looked at each other and laughed, not because it was a moment of hilarity, just because it was such a relief. Both of us were standing with one hand on our knee, bowed down with wine glasses in our other hands. Lee walked in and stopped abruptly as he saw our weird stances, a puzzled look on his face.

‘Hey, what’s up? Why the giggling? And more importantly, why are you both hunched over like old biddies?’

‘Hello, idiotic person who doesn’t understand how to greet people en francais!’ Chloe shook her head in friendly exasperation. ‘Femmeses? What the hell?’

We straightened up and Chloe stretched her arms out, groaning.

‘We just saw someone,’ I said, going up to him and letting him wrap his arms around me. He smelt of cigarette smoke that wasn’t my Amber Leaf, and beer. It must have been from Simon. He was warm and comforting.

‘Who’s someone?’ he asked, I could hear his voice booming out as I had my ear to his chest. ‘Is there someone else here? I saw someone last night too, Chlo!’

Chloe had poured herself another glass of wine and offered the bottle to me. I broke away from Lee’s embrace only just enough to examine the remainder and take a swig straight from it.

‘It was really weird and eerie because no sooner had I woken Case up and told her, than she had disappeared totally. The girl, not Casey. ’ he grinned, having added that bit on the end for comical effect.

We laughed nervously. I drunk the rest of the wine down and thought about having a cigarette, but not wanting to leave Lee.

‘Do you think there are squatters here?’ Chloe asked him, sitting back down on the floor.

Lee must have brushed his hand through his hair, which he often did when he got asked a question, because his hand left the small of my back and I felt really cold all of a sudden.

‘Si said there aren’t. Apparently he asked the owner because he didn’t want any of us to be approached by junkies or whatever while we are staying here overnight, understandably. The builders have had strict instructions to report any dodgy people hanging around, so I assume the coast is clear. Besides, how could a girl have climbed up onto that balcony and then disappeared so fast?’

Chloe was biting her lip on one side, looking thoughtful. It was freezing in that room by then and the candles were burning down fast. Chloe suggested we go and talk to the others and ask them if they had seen anyone else around. We concurred and I switched off the Dock and stuffed it in the bag while Lee took the empty bottle and glasses. He had a torch light on his mobile and switched it on as Chloe snuffed out the candles, whispering softly,

She would rather light candles than curse the darkness and her glow has warmed the world.

~*~

After we had dumped the bottle and glasses in the kitchen, we went to the sofa room to see if the others were there. It was just approaching 8pm.The building was cold and Lee gave me his jumper to put on as weirdly, he wasn’t cold at all. We walked in and Simon was sitting on the floor propped up against the sofa, rolling a cigarette, talking loudly about some ancient philosophical ideal that was still relevant to us in the twenty first century.  The candle light emphasized all his facial features, making them softer and sweeter than they really were. When he saw us, he smiled briefly and looked away, still talking, then a few seconds later, stealing a sideways glance at me again when he thought I wasn’t looking. I felt myself melt again as I sat down on the floor, Lee beside me, holding me tightly against him. I felt myself imagine what it would be like to sit close to Simon like that.

Annabelle’s serious face was also illuminated by the candles that they had lit at regular intervals around the room, making it feel like a guitar sing song round a camp fire. She was sitting curled up on the sofa wearing a chunky black and grey striped jumper that was much too big for her, the sleeves covering her hands showing only the lit end of a cigarette. Joel was sitting with his leg up on the other side of the sofa, a beanie hat covering his wild hair. He was texting on his phone, every so often snorting with laughter when another message came through, obviously not remotely interested in what Simon was saying.

The wind was whistling in through the exposed windows and making the candles flicker, creepily. I was glad we were all together. There was safety in numbers sometimes. Not often, but sometimes.

‘Hi guys.’ Simon said, taking a drag of his rollie. ‘Long time no. What’s up with my dudes?’

I glanced sideways at Chloe who had sat down next to me. She looked like she was going to speak up, but changed her mind and pretended to examine her nails.

‘I think there might be someone else here with us in the building.’ Lee stated, hugging me tighter. ‘I’ve seen a girl and so has Chlo and Case.’

‘Oh yes, so have I!’ Joel piped up. ‘She’s 6ft with dreadlocks and tattoos in places that she won’t show us.’

Annabelle threw a lighter at Joel. ‘Yes, it’s me! I’ve got nothing better to do than go around pretending to be a fucking ghost!’ she said, trying not to laugh, ‘And for your info, buddy, you will never see my tattoos, even if  hell freezes over and I grow a penis, so quit going on about it.’

I wonder if Lee has seen them.

I focussed on the conversation. Lee continued.

‘Me and Case are sleeping in the annex which is off this main building towards the back.’ He said. I wished he wouldn’t tell everyone any more information, in case they decided to prank us or pay a visit at some inopportune moment. He carried on, ‘Last night, I saw her. She was on the balcony staring at me. When I woke Case up she had gone. Then the girls looked freaked out when I went to find them just, saying they saw a girl standing in the doorway. I mean, surely this isn’t good. Si, what do you reckon?’

Simon was looking at us shaking his head as if we were bat shit crazy. Lee looked back at him as if to say, believe it, we’re not on the moon shine.

‘Are you serious?’ he said asked, frowning, his eyes widening, ‘ I mean, all three of you saw the same girl?’

We all nodded. ‘We’re not a hundred per cent sure it’s the same girl, but we’ve all seen someone.’ Chloe clarified, her body seeming to stiffen as she continued  staring into the darkness.

‘Ok, man. Listen. Don’t sleep in there, ok? Find somewhere else, stick to the main building. I’ll give Ray a call in the morning and ask him if he knows anything. Weird as fuck that.’  Simon was looking at me, biting his bottom lip with his front teeth, puzzled.

Joel stood up, laughing.

‘Ok then, seriousness over. I’m going to get some plonk for our consumption. Beers? Wine?’

We all gave our orders and Joel clicked on his torch and headed off to the kitchen.

‘So, tomorrow we’re going to start filming.’ Simon explained. ‘We’ve got a good enough idea of what we want to achieve before Dez and Anna leave at 5pm. Casey, Dez told me you haven’t had chance to explore everywhere yet. Could you do it tomorrow morning, please?’

I smiled and nodded. He smiled back and glanced at Lee, but Lee was talking to Chloe. He looked back at me, not smiling but conveying something with his eyes. It took me a while to work out what it was, but as I was sitting there listening to them discuss the filming, I realised what it was.

Desire.

But not only his desire for me. He acknowledged my desire for him too.

Joel came with the drinks and the atmosphere slowly turned from fear and eeriness into one of light heartedness and fun. We talked about what we wanted to do in the future and of course, the classic debate about whether we should choose a job for the money, the satisfaction or the good of the people.

I already knew what Lee wanted to do. He was studying Fine Art but was also doing an Art Therapy module next year and so had been spending the previous few months studying for his basic Counselling Skills certificate. We had discussed this subject at length between us and although I admired him for doing that kind of work, I wanted to hit the big time, I wanted to be a designer, earn a lot of money from my creative streak. Lee wasn’t bothered by money, he was driven by helping people. I thought maybe Simon would agree with me on this, he seemed ambitious and driven, so I asked him.

‘So, Si. What do you want to do with your life?’ I smiled at him, the wine really starting to break down my inhibitions.

He had already told everyone, obviously because they were all close friends, but for me, he explained again.

‘I want to make films. I want to challenge the way society thinks. I want to revolutionize the way we are spoon fed information by the media. I want to be able to highlight conspiracy theories and have them proved. I want to take our government down and all the minions who serve it. That’s what.’

Joel snorted.

Simon turned to him before I could answer him. I had sort of thought of what to respond with, trying to make him see that I wasn’t just some eighteen year old naïve country girl who was only just out of Sixth Form. I lived in the real world. I knew about Conspiracy theories, thank God for Lee telling me about so many of them. I was vaguely aware that Lee would probably wonder what the hell I was playing at being all extroverted with his mates, but I was already in the tipsy zone. It’s a dangerous place to be.

Suddenly, in my wine haze, I was aware that someone was shouting. This wasn’t the fun and laughs that we had all shared not five minutes earlier when Joel had taken the piss out of Annabelle saying she would end up being a graphic designer for ‘Your Hidden Tattoos are Shite’ magazine and when Simon had made us all laugh saying dumb words like when Lee grows up he’s going to ‘counsellorize’ people and make them ‘subject to art therapeeization’.

Simon was angry at Joel. Joel was slouched on the sofa, smoking and drinking more or less at the same time, pointing a finger at Simon, the one that was holding the cigarette. He was waiting to shout back.

‘Man, all you ever do is sit on your fucking lazy backside and criticise everyone around you. Fuck you, man. Just because your parents are sliding around in liquid gold and can fund all your habits, you think that you can swan around, back chatting tutors, charming the girls and generally being a jumped up prick. Well, my friend, let me tell you that your fucking days are numbered!’

Simon got to his feet, pulled a jacket off the floor where he had been sitting and grabbing his tobacco, stormed off into the blackness. We heard a door slam and then there was quiet. No sound except my breathing and the wind rustling the leaves. Somewhere in the distance I could hear an owl, but none of those sounds were as loud as the silence that pervaded the sofa room.

Everyone looked at each other. Annabelle turned to Joel and asked him what he had said to make Simon blow up like that.

‘Christ sakes man!’ Joel blurted. ‘All I said was that he didn’t need to get a Degree to do that, anyone could do it.’

‘I think Simon’s still really suffering after the accident, Joel,’ said Lee, trying to diffuse the situation as he usually did in a crisis. ‘You need to think about what you say to him. He feels guilty about the crash as if it’s his fault. This whole film project thing is really eating away at him as well, he feels bad for dragging us all out here when we should be on holiday, kicking back and chilling. Just quit the insensitive jokes for a while, hey?’

Chloe looked sad. I guessed that her oversensitivity was overwhelming her. I thought about hugging her, she looked so crushed. I realised I must be drunk if I was seriously contemplating such a move. Lee got up and went over to her. I noticed Annabelle’s look of envy as he got down next to her and put his arm round her shoulder. Even I was a bit jealous but that was probably the wine talking. Annabelle then looked at me and smiled. She lifted a cigarette to her lips and squinted her eyes so as not to let the smoke sting. Then she said something that really freaked me out.

‘You see? It’s not only you he loves.’

Suddenly I wanted out of that room. I got up and grabbed the torch that was lying on the floor surrounded by empty tins and bottles, treading on some other tins as I flailed to get out. I ran towards where I thought the door should be and clicked on the torch. The door to the chandelier room was slightly ajar and I pushed myself in and ran across the huge expanse of carpet. I stopped at the far end of the room, my face almost pressed flat against the cold glass of one of the windows. My head was spinning as I closed my eyes, my body seeming to detach itself from my head and slip down towards the floor. That was when I felt hands lifting me up and arms slip round my waist. I was being pulled somewhere. Then I felt myself being lowered in the darkness and then my body hit something soft. A sofa. My legs were being pulled and then they were stretched out, another soft feeling on my body as what felt like a blanket was draped over me. I opened my eyes and there was Simon’s face, looking at me and smiling. Maybe I was hallucinating?

‘Stay here for a bit, Case.’ he whispered, touching my cheek. His hand was cold. ‘I need someone to talk to.’

I sat up, suddenly feeling a bit more sober. We were in the chandelier room. It was pitch black except for the moon light, but I couldn’t see him very well.

‘I’m here, sitting on the floor,’ he whispered. ‘I was lying here until you came bounding in. I thought you needed to lie here more than I did!’

‘Thanks’ I replied weakly. ‘I think I just had way too much wine. Annabelle said something that freaked me out and I just had to get out.’

Simon laughed.

‘What has Anna said, now?’ he asked, shifting his position on the floor. ‘She’s harmless, honestly. She comes across as being a queen bitch, but really, she’s a pussy cat.’

‘Oh nothing I guess. Just that I was sure she inferred that Lee loves Chloe.’

Simon chuckled again.

‘Yes, of course Lee loves Chloe. Lee loves everyone. That’s Lee. But he doesn’t love love her. Come on. He’ s only got eyes and a heart for you, girl. I don’t blame him either.’

Had he just admitted it? Had he said it into the darkness? To my face, but not to my face?

‘What do you mean, you don’t blame him?’

I was really pushing it now, my heart beating like crazy. It was as though I had a demon voice saying things that my heart didn’t have the guts to say.

‘Come on, Casey. Don’t tell me you don’t know what’s going on. Please be the one person who is willing and gutsy enough to be honest about feelings. No one can hear us, they’re all in the other room. If someone comes through we just keep quiet. Ok? Please. I am so fucking tired of tamed down emotions and everyone’s supressed, blunted passion for life.’

I felt sick, but elated. And very bad.

My mouth wouldn’t work. I wanted to say how I felt, that I wanted to know what it was like to touch him, to have his hands touch me, to kiss him. But also that I was in love with Lee and I could never leave him. But what could we do? Please kiss me once, just to know what it feels like. It’ll be our secret.

But of course, I didn’t. All I mustered up was, ‘But I love Lee.’

Simon didn’t speak for what seemed like hours. I suspected he was angry with me for being just another weak, passionless dork. Then, he switched on the torch and let it stay on the floor so not to blind me.

‘I know that.’ He said with surprising tenderness. ‘I also know the unwritten rule about not falling for your best mate’s girlfriend.’

I could make out his outline now as he pulled his knees up, hugging them to his chest. ‘But the thing is, emotions and feelings don’t follow rules, at least not the ones that our so-called civilised society has created. I know we can’t, Case. I know that. Despite the stuff I go on about, you know, that we are all animals and need to connect with our basic desires and that we all deserve to follow our own pursuit of happiness, I do have some respect for my close friends and I don’t want to mess with that. I guess I just wanted to hear you say that you feel the same about me. That’ll do. For now.’

‘I do. I really do.’

That sounded like such a cop out after that sociological insight into human behaviour that he had just threaded through my brain and pulled on; easing me dangerously nearer to his deadly lair.

I heard him swear under his breath, but wasn’t going to let myself look at him. If I did that, I wouldn’t trust myself to remain on the sofa. I was staring up at the ceiling; well, the direction that I knew the ceiling to be in, trying not to cry. I was so confused.

‘Case, I don’t know how I am going to deal with this, but somehow hearing that has made it more bearable. Stupid, in a way because it would be easier to forget you if you’d just said, Si, don’t be a fucking idiot, you’re my boyfriend’s best mate. Get a grip you asshole.’

I laughed. Why, I don’t know.

‘I’m being honest with you. ‘ I confessed, wanting to say something meaningful while I still had the chance.  ‘I want to do unspeakable things to you, but that’s betrayal. I don’t want to lose Lee, he’s the best thing in my life. He’s my best mate as well as boyfriend. But you…you are something else.’

‘I need to kiss you.’

‘No, Si.’

‘Please.’

‘Si…’

I stood up. I couldn’t be there. It was leading to something that was getting beyond my control. Si stood up too and we were there, face to face, staring into each other’s eyes. I stepped towards him and put my arms around his neck, feeling his warm but bony chest press against mine. I felt his arms go round my waist and squeeze, his lips were painfully close to the bare skin of my neck. I came out in goose pimps and it wasn’t from the cold. He buried his face into my neck and I heard him breathing, shallow and fast. My body felt like a taught electric wire, sizzling and fusing with heat overload.

Then there were voices in the room.

Si broke away from me and cold air rushed in to fill the void between us. He looked at me one more time and smiled before Chloe and Lee came up to us, their torches sending beams of dancing light around the room like disco strobes. Joel followed, talking about what he was going to cook, Chloe laughing at him, saying he never cooked, just heated stuff up, sometimes too much.

Lee grabbed my hand, whispered ‘Where were you?’ and pulled me towards the door and out to the kitchen. Chloe and Joel followed behind, then Annabelle walked out of the shadows, yawning.

‘I’m ravenous!’ she said, pushing Joel out of the way as we entered the kitchen. ‘Let me at that fridgedaire!’

Lee’s head disappeared into our bag of food stuff and Joel and Chloe raided the other freezer in the corner.

As we all started preparing our late night dinners, I couldn’t stop thinking about Simon and that he had said it out loud. He had crossed the line, but I was glad. It was our secret and needed to stay that way.

I didn’t see him for the rest of the night. Part of me, my sensible part, was glad. But that was not the part that was taking me over.

~*~

Lee and I were curled up in our sleeping bag, every possible body part engulfed in the warmth of the covers and each other’s heat. It was dark, only one candle burned faintly in the corner of the room. A chill- out compilation play list floated out from my dock, vibrating around the cold walls and swirling like a harmony cloud before dispersing out of the balcony doors and out into the midnight air.

Lee was breathing heavily but he wasn’t yet asleep. I had learned what his breathing sounded like when he had slipped into that world of dreamscapes and transience. We were used to each other’s little quirks and habits, having been together for almost a year. So much so, that it was almost like we were one person at times. Like then, our bodies perfectly entwined even though we were different shapes and sizes. It was like our minds folded in on each other and therefore our bodies followed. Lee was my first real relationship, even though I had been out with other guys before him, they all were, in hindsight, totally childish, immature and just fulfilling some bizarre transitional teenage need. But sometimes I really did wonder why Lee loved me so much, why he put up with all my bullshit, the way I just spouted crap in his face when I got jealous, never even considering that he may want to defend himself against my accusations. We had fought a few times and it was always about my temper and me being self -absorbed. I didn’t listen to anyone else when I was raging and I couldn’t see that changing any time soon. He was my tonic, my opiate. He calmed me and balanced my fiery headstrong ways. I didn’t know what I did for him. Sometimes I thought I was his project, his guinea pig for his Counselling practice. His case study. He had already helped me in so many ways, from being a spoilt kid to becoming a more thoughtful, tolerant person. Still, I really didn’t have much to offer a relationship except a sense of adventure and a lot of laughs. When I asked him about this, he would laugh, kiss my forehead and say, ‘Case, don’t ask me why I love you. If I could tell you why, it wouldn’t be love. Just go with it. Trust it.’

‘Case?’

Lee was still awake.

‘Can you hear the wind?’

I lifted my head up from on his chest so I could hear the outside world. I had been tuned in to his heartbeat and couldn’t hear much else.

‘Yes, I can.’ I said, sitting up onto my elbows. ‘It sounds like it’s raining as well.’

I found extreme weather conditions relaxing. I loved the sound of a storm outside when I was curled up under the duvet. My bedroom was at the very top of the house I lived in with Mum and Dad, a converted attic room where I was able to look out across the woodland as if the trees were a vast green carpet. I was often kept awake by rain lashing against my windows, and the wind howling like banshees around the eaves. There was nothing to shelter my world up there. I was exposed. I loved it.

Lee had managed to close the balcony doors, which was a good thing as the rain was tap dancing against the rotting wood. The old man’s whistle of the breeze rushing through a hole in the door frame occasionally made us jump, and then laugh as we remembered what it really was.

I laid back down again and pressed myself into Lee’s chest. I wanted to ask so many questions about Simon, Annabelle and Chloe, but I didn’t want to give myself away. I didn’t want Lee to suspect that I had a thing for Simon or that I was going to start hassling him about Annabelle being in love with him for the millionth time since our years relationship began.

As if he read my mind, Lee started the conversation off, his voice slurry and sleepy.

‘Annabelle’s not what you think, you know.’

I felt my eyebrows raise. I let out a deep sigh as if to say, well, what the fuck is she then?

‘Please trust me, Case. She’s going through a really tough time right now. She has told me some stuff and you’re gonna have to trust me on this, but it’s horrific. I want to help her but I haven’t figured out how yet. You can help me.’

‘Me? How?’ I asked, feeling my blood start to race and my face heat up. I willed myself to calm, calm. Don’t get angry. Don’t kick off.

‘By letting me be with her sometimes, just to talk to her. Trust me and her a bit more, please. I can see in your face every time she looks at me or talks to me, you’re pissed off. There is absolutely nothing for you to worry about. I love you. You’re safe in that. I love Bella as well, as a friend. Ok, babe?’

I didn’t know what to say. After a while I said what I thought I had to. I was tired and needed to sleep.

‘Ok. I’ll try. I trust you. I love you.’

~*~

I needed the toilet. I had no idea what time it was, but I had been dreaming of Simon. We had been on a fairground ride, you know, one of those carousels, me riding on the front and him sitting behind me with his arms around me. I looked down at his hands which were clasped together, his skin white with the tautness of the skin as if he was clinging on for sheer life. I could see the black ring glinting in the sun, the one he wore on his little finger. Just underneath, it was leaving a residue of dark green, the copper staining the skin. On his wrist he wore a plain silver bangle with a celtic knot design winding and gliding over its surface like a snake. I hadn’t noticed this in real life. My hands were clamped around the ears of the poor horse we were riding, its mane all shabby and peeling, the gold paint crumbling off with the wear and tear of children’s clumsy fingers. Simon had whispered something in my ear and I had looked out at the audience watching the ride, mothers smiling and waving at their children, again and again as we passed them, becoming  blurred as my eyes gave up on the detail. But there had been someone standing there. He was clearly defined amidst the white haze of streaks and lines. Lee. He was still, hands in his pockets. His face came near as the horse seemed to take on a life of its own, the next time it would touch him. Faster and faster, the horse was galloping off the carousel and into the crowd. Lee’s face was startled. His hand had shot up to defend himself. But it was too late. The horse and its ears plunged into Lee, the nose hooking his body for a second and then plunging the screaming Lee into the air. Then I had woken up, a weird warbling noise escaping from my throat.

I really did need the toilet.

I groped around for the zip and softly started easing it downwards so as not to make a noise. It stuck for a second and then suddenly it was moving, cold air pushing through the side of the sleeping bag. I couldn’t make out where I was as it was pitch black, but seeming to remember we had gone to sleep with our heads towards the balcony doors for some reason. I pushed my leg out and bashed my foot on something hard. The wall. Lee stirred and then I heard a voice say,

‘Case, are you ok?’

I started laughing. He was such a light sleeper.

‘Yes, but my bladder’s bursting!’ I giggled, rolling my body over his and onto the other side. ‘And I can’t see shit!’

I could then hear him groping around for his mobile phone with the torch attachment. He said bollocks and shit a few times before he found it and the little feeble light came on, shining on my white legs that looked so luminous in the dark.

‘I’ll come with you.’ He said, grabbing my hand and expecting me to pull him up. ‘You might get all scared and wee on the floor!’

I slapped him and we filed out onto the landing area. He pushed me to go first and followed me from behind, hands on my waist guiding me down the corridor. We took it in turns to use the toilet, Lee making sure he closed the door on me when he took a leak, but not letting me have any privacy when I was sitting there, my middle finger doing some aerobics as he laughed at me and made a childish noise to imitate my peeing sound.

We crept back towards the room, Lee going first this time. Suddenly, he stopped and put both arms out as if to stop me running forwards.

‘What’s up?’ I asked, already slipping back into the land of nod and feeling irritated.

‘There’s someone in the room.’

My heart jolted. Lee’s body was stiff and upright. I didn’t know what to do as he was in front and I couldn’t see a thing in the dark. Suddenly my senses had sprung to life and I could hear an owl in the distance, the rustling of the leaves outside as the wind teased them, the wind bashing up against the annex walls and the tap, tap of branches as though they were demanding to be let in.

‘Stay here for a sec, Case.’ Lee said and slowly walked towards the open door. It was then that I heard the talking. It was a low whisper and although I couldn’t make out the words, it was like a poem in a foreign language. It rhymed and had patterns of sounds that kept repeating over and over. Like a Buddhist mantra. It was a soft voice, a girl’s voice.

Lee turned to me and I could just make out the white of his eyes. He looked scared. He beckoned and I almost ran to him, clinging to his t-shirt, pressing my face into his back.

We moved to the frame of the door, where Chloe and I had seen the girl earlier in the day and I stopped down under Lee’s arm to see who was inside. Then there was a groaning noise which turned into a choking, coughing noise. Then spluttering as though someone had got something stuck in their throat and was trying to puke it up.

Neither of us knew what to do.

Then, to my horror, I heard a wet, scratching noise like nails ripping through flesh. Then water running, a tap turning, the water hissing violently against the porcelain of the sink. Then the sobbing started. Heavy, choking sobs that burned the air with despair  and seemed to tear through the night like a scalpel blade through silk.

‘Who’s there? What’s happening to you?’ Lee’s familiar voice sounded so bizarre that I almost burst out laughing. ‘Do you need help?’

Then, just as suddenly as it had started, the sobbing and panting stopped.

We didn’t move for ages. Lee clicked on his torch and hesitantly aimed it around the room. I wanted to shut my eyes as I was sure something was going to be there, lurking in the shadows, something I would not want to see.

But it was just how we had left it.

‘Case. This is fucked up. Did you just hear that horrific display of human pain, or did I dream it? What a fucking nightmare. I dunno, do you want to stay here, or go find somewhere else to sleep? I’m too tired to think straight.’

I put my arms out to him and we hugged for a while. I wasn’t sure what we had just witnessed, but I knew that I was almost dead walking. I took his hand and pulled him to our makeshift bed and climbed inside the bag, holding it open for Lee to snuggle down next to me before zipping it up. Lee turned over on his side and I slipped my arms around him, his arms folding over mine and his fingers entwining mine.

‘It’s ok Case, I love you.’ He said as we both sipped into unconsciousness.

~*~

Sunshine. Hot on my face.

I opened my eyes and the glare blinded me. It felt lovely, and I peeled myself away from Lee to sit up and take in the room. My right hip was dead and as soon as I moved, a dark pain shot through it and made my toe twitch. I needed to move. My watch said 8:08am.

The birds were singing, their tunes sometimes loud, as they flew close to the balcony looking for food. Then I realised something strange. The doors were open again.

Lee turned round and kneed me hard on the leg. I jumped in pain and exclaimed he was a tossball and clambered out of bed, my leg buckling underneath me. He apologized and offered to massage it, but I declined. I wanted to get dressed and go shower. I wanted to get outside in the grounds for a change and enjoy the weather. I wanted to forget about what had happened in the night.

‘Why did you open the doors, you baggage?’ he said, laughing at me as I tried to find some clothes to put on, all the clothes I had brought with me sticking out of my rucksack in a ball of creased mess.

‘I didn’t you dickweed..’ I mocked, tying my hair up out of my face. ‘You must have done it. Or maybe it was the ghost!’

Laughing, I threw a t-shirt at him and he put it on, swinging his long legs out and standing up, all in one quick motion.

He did have shorts on too.

‘So, what the heck was that last night?’ he said, a serious look of worry across his brow. ‘It sounded like someone was gauging at themselves. Have you looked in the sink? The choking and coughing……..oh God, that was awful. It was like they were ripping flesh off. It made me feel real queasy but all I wanted to do was help, to stop it.’

I went over to the sink. Nothing. Not even a trace of water.

‘Who opened the doors, Lee?’ I asked. Now that I thought about it, I was getting a bit freaked out.

‘I honestly do not know babe.’ He stood there in the t-shirt. It said ‘Make tea not war.’ across the chest. It was made of hemp.

I got dressed in a purple blouse that was all creased and stupid. I loved it cos my friend Stella had brought it back from Morocco for me one year and it had smelt of Amber resin because she had packed it in the same pocket of her bag by mistake. It had metal lace around the bottom with small metal charms hanging off and a long neck tie that also had bells attached. Bells. Bells.

Stepping onto the balcony there was no scarf. Had Chloe put it back? Yes, I was sure she had. So where was that now? I kept forgetting to check things, like that scarf. What else was there? Oh yes! Chloe wanted me to take her Runes back to her. I needed to stop drinking wine for a day. We all did. I was beginning to think we were all hallucinating.

I turned back to go inside and get the Runes while I remembered and Lee had come up behind me and we collided. He laughed and kissed me.

‘Look, I found these.’

I looked down and in his palm were two Runes.

‘They were under my pillow.’

I laughed and pushed his hand away, going in to find the velvet bag that contained the rest of them. I couldn’t find them anywhere.

‘Lee, honestly now. Where were they, cos I’ve got to take the lot, with the velvet bag. Gimme them please. It’s not funny, they’re Chloe’s.’

‘Case, you adorable numpty. Listen to my face. Listen to what it’s telling you. I found them under my pillow!’

He was serious. But that was so far beyond ridiculous that it had travelled round the circumference of ridiculous and come all the way back round again.

‘No,’ I simply said, laughing. ‘This is not happening.’

There was a knock and Chloe pushed open the main door. More sunshine entered the room with her.

‘Hey guys,’ she smiled. ‘Bonjour….how did you sleep?’

She swept in with her sparkly mini skirt and floral bouquet of loveliness. I looked at Lee and he looked at me. Chloe stopped twirling.

Mes amies, what’s up?’ she asked, looking concerned. ‘I feel something’s not right.’

Lee told her what we had heard in the night and I told her about the balcony doors and the Runes, which Lee was still holding out in his hands as if they had fallen from an alien cocoon and landed on him.

Chloe cupped Lee’s hand from below and gazed at the Runes. One was like it had a cross but the horizontal bar was tilted down a little bit. The other had like a capital F but the two branches were pointing up on a tilt.

Chloe’s face was deadly serious.

‘Mon Dieu.’ She whispered. ‘Do you know what these mean?’

Lee and I shook our heads.

She stared at that them for a few minutes and then sat down, clenching them both in her hand and putting her hand up to her eyes.

‘The first one is called Naudiz.’ She explained. ‘It is a symbol of great oppression and grief, like someone is trapped in a place they haven’t got any means of getting out of. The other one, Fehu, is said to be the ‘sending’ Rune. It’s a channel for transference. In other words, it can act as a psychic link from one person to another, giving or taking strength or psychic power. Either this means someone is trying to help one of us who is in serious pain right now, or it means that someone who is in pain, is trying to use one or all of us to get free of it by feeding off their energies.  If that’s the case,  if someone is draining us, we’re in deep shit, mes amies.’

 little little 2

~*~

BOOK 2

Under the Surface

Lee’s Story.

Diary entry~Saturday 2nd August.

I could see Belle’s sour face glaring at me through the rear view mirror the entire journey from our house to the abandoned building. I told her I needed to spend time with Case and that I wouldn’t be able to come running whenever she needed a shoulder to cry on. She knows I love her and will always be there for her, but sometimes it pisses me off when people like her forget I have a life too.

I could’ve cut the tension with a knife in that car. Si was sat next to me all hunched up staring out the window with a mard on as usual. I tried to talk to him this morning about his project, that it would be ok, we would all make sure he got it done and submitted to Mr. Cooper in two weeks time, on the dot. He spent the whole time smoking out the window leaving the bloody window down, freezing the car out,  but I didn’t mind, it was a good excuse to cuddle up to Case. God I’ve missed her. It’s going to be awesome being with her away from her Mum and Dad and not having to climb up that frickin dead tree every night to be with her.

No one spoke much. Annabelle was obviously pissed off with me. I hate it when she gets like that, it upsets me because I am always the one who she turns to and I have never given her cause to be so bitter about Casey coming. I have explained, Case is cool and she needs to try talking to her instead of thinking of her suspiciously and being childish. I am in a relationship with Case not her, therefore she needs to give us space. I’m still here for her, what more does she want?

Joel was in the front seat trying to get Annabelle’s CDs out of the side pocket so he could hide them. He hates her music and she hates his. There was no compromise going on, they just kept grabbing out at the CDs trying to take charge of the road trip entertainment. That was the only thing going on except me and Casey whispering private little jokes in each other’s ears. I don’t mind The Chili Peppers but Si hates them and so does Joel. It was funny when Joel managed to liberate the Californication CD and chuck it at Si’s head. It’s in a field somewhere now and Anna’s well steamed. We got to listen to Joel’s indie stuff the rest of the way, which didn’t help the atmos between everyone. Not a great start, I hope everyone lightens up a bit. I wished Chloe had come with us but she had to stay late at the Boutique to help her Mum with some back- logged orders. She would have known how to snap everyone out of their wallowing.

I just want to help Si out with this project, get it done and out of the way so we can all chill. It has been tough for him after his accident, not being able to work on anything and withdrawing into himself. I wish he would get some Counselling because I don’t feel I’m ready to take on something as profound as his issues, besides we’re not meant to counsel friends and family. I can see what he needs but he insists that he’s fine. He so isn’t. But, one thing we have been taught on my course is that we can’t work with anyone who doesn’t want to, or doesn’t admit they have issues. Si knows but he is being stubborn so all I can do is wait it out, help him get this done and then start having some fun. Then he might relax a bit and let himself grieve and most importantly, open up to his buddies again.

It has been a tough 6 months for all of us. I just hope we can all enjoy this two weeks of freedom somehow. I hope that Casey enjoys it and that we can spend some quality time together on our own as well as with my guys. I worry that she won’t try and get to know them, she tends to be a bit tentative meeting new people and comes across as being cold, which she so isn’t. I have tried to talk to her about it but she says it takes her time to trust. Fair enough, but I know she will love my mates if she gives them a chance. It’s really important to me that they like her as well.

I am worrying too much about things again as usual. It’s just that Anna’s difficult I mean, when we’re at Uni me and her have a lot of time together and we talk and she seems ok, but as soon as I mention Case she goes all possessive, saying that she won’t see me for days and who will she talk to about her ‘stuff’ etc etc. Simon, well I’m worried about him for good reason and it’s only Chlo who seems concerned about him too. Bless Chlo, she always worries about people as well, me and her are similar in that. At least I can talk to her about stuff inside my head, she gets me and never takes the piss like Si and Joel do, calling me ‘Candy-ass Dez’ and all those numbskull names. There’s nothing wrong with caring. Just that sometimes it gets too much, it takes all my energy and I think, you know what? Sort out your own crap. But of course I can’t say that.

~*~

Sunday August 3rd

I am lying here cuddled up to Casey by the light of a candle. It’s so quiet up here, all I can hear is the distant hoot of an owl and a gentle breeze caressing the walls before it sings its way through the holes in the window frames. Casey’s ‘nocturnal music’ as she calls it, is humming out from somewhere, her eyes are closed but her head is nodding to the whispering beat. Her head is pressed against my chest so it’s a little difficult to write. This is more like a scrawl. We’re all snug under the sleeping bag so I want to write a bit about what has happened since we’ve been here. I just don’t get it some of it.

Yesterday, I swear I saw a girl crouched down on the balcony, looking at me like she had been the one seeing a ghost. I tried to wake Case up to see her too, ‘cos you know how it is when you’re still half asleep. You doubt what your eyes are telling you. By the time I had woken her, the girl had gone, which put the shitters up me totally. I was thinking, if it was a squatter, at least I’d be able to rationalise it and well, talk to her. But, the fact that she just disappeared? Weird. I didn’t let on to Casey how shit scared I was because she keeps saying how much she loves sleeping in the annex. I let it go, until Case and Chlo saw a girl last night. So I’m feeling a bit edgy right now, can’t sleep thinking about her face. I remember her black eyes, but not just like you say, she’s got brown eyes. The whole area around her eyes was sunken in like she hadn’t slept for days and it was like she had smeared her eyes with coal or soot. Creepy and disturbing.

It’s peaceful now. I don’t think she’s around whoever she is. It’s sketchy, but  I am training to be a Counsellor, a therapist, to help people heal. Yeh, she may be a spirit, a ghost or whatever, but if I see her again I’ll try. I’ll try and talk to her. See if I can help her move on. Whatever I can do.

Tomorrow is going to be horrific. I’ve got to go to work. I mean, as if it’s not bad enough that Mick has been treating me like utter shit the last few months, now I have to cover for Steve and Matt. Steve can go swanning off on holiday at the drop of a hat and it’s ok? I will cover even though only a day ago Mick was swearing at me and telling me I’m a useless prick. I haven’t told Casey this. She would be going there right now and giving him a right tongue of it and a punch in the mouth. She suggested coming with me but I can’t subject her to his sexist comments and disgusting attitude. She would probably deck him. She would go on and on about me quitting, I’m sure, but I need this job desperately. Another thing she doesn’t fully comprehend is how much it costs to study in London. I mean I have to pay out for my college fees for Counselling as well as expenses and rent. My loan doesn’t even cover half of it. All because my Dad couldn’t be arsed to fill in the loan application information properly with his fucking pride getting in the way again, just as it does in every aspect of his life. What use was it, him claiming he earns twice as much as he actually does? What, to save face? Now I get a pittance. Cheers pops.

I’m worried about everyone. I know I shouldn’t always be the one worrying. Studying to be a therapist has taught me that above all we should look after ourselves or we can’t help others. I told my tutor during my last supervision that I was finding it hard to turn off from Clients and that I can’t seem to switch off after the end of the day and go home and let it go. I have to learn how to. Chlo says I have to, it’s the first skill that Counsellors have to grasp or they’ll get eaten up by other people’s anxieties and troubles. I have spoken to Chlo’s mum about it as she’s a Psychiatrist. She has given me some meditation exercises to do but up to now, nope. It aint happening.

Annabelle. She’s so messed up about this situation with her parents and Michael. I understand why she can’t talk to them and why she has kept this side of herself hidden from everyone for so long, but she has to do something to put an end to this crap. Her dad seems to have a radar out on her. Every move she makes, he seems to know about. I know one thing, if she goes back to Michael and he tries to touch her in any way that’s not tender one more time, despite me shouting out about being a pacifist, I will rip that bastard’s head off and I am sure Si and Joel will help me. At least she hasn’t cut herself lately. At least two months without that drama. She still hasn’t spoken to Si about what happened between them and that annoys me because he’s clearly still in love with her and hasn’t a clue why she just kicked his ass to the curb and is now ignoring him. She’s feeling guilty and that’s her way of dealing with that. I have told her to talk it through with him but she says she can’t. I don’t want to interfere. She also told me that she wants to go back to the house every evening so she can spend some time with Lou, but of course that’s to stay between me and her. I honestly don’t see the problem with telling everyone else, we’re meant to be close mates for Christ’s sake. It really doesn’t seem so lately.

Joel. Well, I have already tried to talk to him about his attitude, especially towards Simon. He doesn’t seem to get anyone else’s viewpoint. His is about as empathetic as a wet towel. I don’t know what to do or say to make him realise what a dick he is being. He wasn’t like this when I first met him, we used to have a right laugh and he was really kind to people. Now, all he wants to do is get drunk and stoned and spend his Dad’s money. I’ve got a bad feeling about him. He’s brewing something up, I know it.

Si is clearly suffering from PTSD. Chloe has spoken to her Mum about how he reacts to things, like his obsession with human darkness and pain. Yes, he was always a dark soul, but now even more so and with more verve. This film he wants to make is fucking sick and I am an open minded guy! Chlo says his temper is fraying over really small things and before we came out here he would pick on her about things he knows she is sensitive about. He has always been serious and pessimistic about the world, but never insensitive.

Thank fuck I’ve got Clo to talk to, she never changes bless her. So innocent, yet clued up. So easy going yet amazingly complex. So much like me in so many ways. That’s why we can talk all night and never feel like we have to explain ourselves to each other. With Casey, it’s not as easy, not as flowing. It’s more of an effort as she has got so many barriers up to her relationships with people. I have to walk on egg shells sometimes in case she snaps at me or gets offended that we don’t agree wholeheartedly in every aspect of our lives. I have tried to explain that I’m not trying to make conflict, I’m trying to communicate and get to know her better. We can’t agree on every single thing. We get along because in some aspects we challenge each other and that’s how we grow as people. She doesn’t get that, she wants perfection as though I am the only one she needs and therefore we have to be identical twins with different mothers! It stresses me out, but I love her so passionately that I sometimes can’t breathe without her beside me.

At least I think I sorted things out with Si. He’s my best bud and he knows how tough things are right now for me financially. I promised him I would help him as much as possible while I’m here during the day and he seemed grateful. I saw my old pal back again for a while. I just hope Casey will be ok here on her own. She seems to have bonded with Chloe which is great, but a little bit unexpected. Out of all my friends, I was expecting her to get along with Joel best, not Chlo. She has told me often enough that she doesn’t really get on with girls, especially girly, pretty, hippie ones, (her own words) but they seem pretty solid already. Good, because she has got her shackles up big style when Belle’s around and I wouldn’t like to imagine what could happen if either of them started bitching. They are so alike, they don’t realise! If only Case could get over the ridiculous notion that Belle’s in love with me, they would be inseparable I guarantee that. I know Annabelle is a little hurt about the vibe she’s getting off Case, but again, I am not going to get myself  involved. I don’t want to hear bitching from either of them about either of them. Straight up no. Casey will be fine with Chloe and Simon. He told me not to worry about her while I’m gone and that he’ll look out for her. Maybe it’s exactly what I need, you know, a few hours away from here every evening just to clear my head…..

 

~*~

Joel’s Story.

Diary entry~Saturday August 2nd

Well, skool is officially OUT! I feel good, I’m riding high kinda good.

How better to celebrate the end of 1st year at Uni than partying with my dudes in an abandoned school!? I was well excited when Si told me about it, two whole weeks of it, a bit of filming, (i don’t think Si will spend too much time on it cos it’s a month overdue), some fun and laughter spooking them all with my phantom pranking, and getting trashed. Yep. Then I’ll be back with Lee to Lincolnshire to spend the rest of the hols with Lisa. Perfectomundo!

So we are here, in da house! It’s pretty wrecked, but the others seem to love it. It is actually a mammoth place with creeped out rooms and endless sketchy corridors that I aint going down, dudes. I might be able to ‘persuade’ them to go down and freak them all the hell out!

It was pretty dodgy in the car coming here though. Anna was in a right strop and Casey almost blasted her. I was hoping she would carry through cos Anna was being real bunk. Everyone was ready to heave up cos her driving was insane and Si didn’t speak at all the whole time. I guess he was bummed about having to travel in a car after his accident. Yeh, but the thing is, it wasn’t even his fault, that accident. If I were him I wouldn’t be wasting my energy bumming out on something like that. He’s gone and got himself in serious shit with Cooper as well, not handing in his final project. Well, he spends too much time reading pretentious philosophy books (Camus-shmoo!) and those fucking articles about contemporary film. Get a grip, man and get your own shit sorted out! He needs to stay on his grind, big style. I didn’t have to research anyone else’s films, I just thought of my own and did it. What’s the point of imitation? We are at film school to produce new stuff not copy the old and haggered.

But I love the dude and hope he gets over all this traumatising fast so we can party on. Annabelle also needs to get her shit together and dump Michael’s beater-ass before I rip his head off. Chloe’s onto him as well. I heard her talking to Lee about him this morning, saying that he has threatened to find her and take her home. What a fucking tool. He aint going to seek her out in this place, that’s for sure. She needs to just snap out of it and realise that we are all responsible for our own choices. I want to pulverize the dude and I’m not even joking. The douche bag is pure bait.

I’m glad Casey’s here as well, I like her. I hung out with her when I went to Lincs to see Lisa and that weekend she came to London to see Dez. She seems aloof and all ‘look at me being all elusive’ but when she chills she is a good laugh and can give as much as she gets. Kick ass kid. I reckon she would be a great fellow pranker, so I’m going to try and get her on board. We have to lighten up this mood. If we can’t party then we’ll prank. I’m pretty sure Casey would agree!

Dez seems well stoked to be with Casey. That’s nice to see. He’s a had a shitty time with women, he has. Annabelle seems a bit possessive of him and he’s said stuff to me about it, her being really demanding. She is definitely a high maintenance chick. She doesn’t talk to me as much as she did, but apart from Dez she seems to me to be steering well clear of the male species. That Michael has torn her up the fuckward.

Yeh so let the good times roll. I’ve got all my stuff set up. We’ve dumped all our sleeping bags and blankets in the main lounge room that we’ve called the Ballroom cos it’s huuuge. It must have been dripping at one point in history cos it’s got high ceiling to floor windows with these heavy ass velvet curtains strewn down onto the carpet. I pushed the sofas back and set up ready to get trashed. No TV and no lecky except in the kitchen! Sketchy! But we brought candles and torches, so awesomeness prevails. I got my stereo and speakers set up so we can at least have ‘choones’. I’m sat on my makeshift bed now writing this while they all get some food on the go. I hope we’ve got enough scran for two weeks cos Anna’s the only one with wheels. I’ve got some tins of stuff if we run out, but judging by the boot of the 4×4 we are ok for a least a decade!

LOADS of alcohol too. Get it on….!

*

Oh crap, I feel well wasted.

It was a champion evening it has to be said. As soon as Lee had virtually broken into the place, I was in there with my stuff and seeking out the kitchen to deposit my supplies. And get some wine. Standard. Dez had already taken up most of the fridge with all his and Casey’s bizarre hippie food but I managed to squeeze my beers in there. Well, half of them. Made sure I put my name in BIG felt pen across the top cos no beezy is getting their mits on my stella art.

I sat there and drank. I was parched. the kitchen is mega, I mean HUGE. I expected it to be stripped bare, it’s been empty for a gazillion years. But no. Boom ting amazing.

I called Lisa and chatted to her for a while. She sounded bummed that she couldn’t be here. Only a week or so babe. I just wanna chill my boots this week and have some serious fun. I don’t need her being all demanding.

The others started drinking more or less as soon as they got in. We didn’t even unpack properly. Wacked. I managed to have a little dig at OCD Annabelle. She needed to lighten up after being so huffy in the car. I chucked a filthy rag at her which I guess was cruel given her current issues regarding cleanliness, but come on. We’re in a fabulously fucked up old mansion house and she’s all excited because the kitchen’s clean. I sat opposite the love birds and after flirtatiously winking at her, I offered Casey some vino rouge, which she almost ripped off my hand for. I like her. I don’t know if Dez noticed my little flirt but just testing him haha.

And wtf is Annabelle’s problem with Lee? She was sitting there just smiling at him for NO REASON WHATSOEVER. Is she trying to wind Casey up, or what? I felt like throwing another dirty, dirty cloth at her but couldn’t see one anywhere. Then me and Si started bantering on Dez, which is always fun. He played up to it as usual and Casey was loving it. He actually drank a whole glass of wine! Ease up, munchkin! He made sure he ate Casey’s face almost clean off before he drank it, the slut. Those two are sickening. Annabelle actually walked out and Simon just stared. I don’t know what he was thinking cos he had his poker face afixed firmly. I thought it was grand.

When they came up for air, I thought it apt to point out to her that the wine must be excellentamundo. Her cheeks were all flushed and she started giggling. Simon was staring at her. I mean staring.

We all went a bit flooby then, like we couldn’t stop laughing. I was nearly hyperventilating. Casey was trying to get it out of us why we call Lee Dez. For some reason unbeknown to me, the whole scenario was fucked up, I mean seriously hilarious. I just kept seeing through my squinting eyes, Si with tears cascading down his cheeks and Lee and Casey standing there, peeing themselves. WTF, man, just whatever.

I thought I’d better break up the lust-fest and suggested out for a ciggie, so we all piled out into the heat of the summer air. No, not really. It wasn’t hot, it was fucking bitter. I then had to explain the Dez thing without cracking myself up again. Then I told them about Sarah in class who keeps sending me moronic notes written in code. I mean how primary school playground! I just write back with random symbols and she keeps having orgasms over it and writing more and more bullcrap. Then Annabelle turned up with Chloe. Dez assumed that was where Annabelle had gone, but I saw differently, the way she left the kitchen when him and Case were at it. She was pissed off, man, seriously bummed out. What in the name of shiz is going down here in rural- ville?! :)

Chlo seemed to adopt Casey, but that’s nothing abnormal for her. They disappeared, the three of them and we stayed outside to smoke. I had brought my bottle of vino outside and sipped it (gulped tbh) out the bottle. Annabelle looked seriously stressed out and smoked like, 5 cigs in a row. Si had his head down and only looked up to talk to me. I felt a bit weirded out, I won’t lie. It was all a bit too wacked for me in my wine soaked state. Annabelle started to talk about Casey and Si then looked up. She was saying she was being a stuck up cow and that she had it in for her. Si was like, no she hasn’t and saying she was paranoid. Anna kept giving Si the worst, face slap dagger faces I have ever seen. Simon then proceeded to say stuff about Casey like how cool she was and how lucky Dez was. Annabelle was livid, I could sense her blood boiling in her veins. I was like, what Si? He never talks about the female species like that. I had started thinking he was asexual. Or just totally non sexual. It was all a bit drunk hazy, but the last thing I remember was Si telling Annabelle to grow up and treating people like dog shit. What was that all about?

Anyway we guys had a waz in the hedges and went in then, thank fuckery. Atmosphere? Knife? Cut?

The bright lights sobered me up suddenly and I just felt bladdered. I just grabbed my sleeping stuff and dragged it behind me along the floor to the Chandelier room. It’s probably collected two thousand years worth of dust for me to breathe in but hey ho. I’m bushed. The others are all settling down now so………mmmmmm.

Just noticed that Annabelle has set up camp right next to Dez! What??????? She’s almost on top of the poor dude. Man, he’ll be steamed if he wakes up and finds her there, sleeping bag stalking. Oh well….I’m well comfy here. Time for a nice long kip………………

~*~

Sunday August 3rd

Fucking grade A raging hangover this morning, as can be expected after last night! Dez and Case were still cocooned up and snoring away when I surfaced, and then Si came in and started perving on them. I mean, I couldn’t believe it, man. He was literally gushing on them! It made my stomach turn so I told him what a pervo he was and he snapped out of it, looking really ashamed with a face like a slapped ass. So I got up and went for a ciggy and saw fuckpants Si again who told me he had something cool to show everyone. I thought, oh yeh? What now? Another idea for a gorefest film extravaganza? Prick.

He came into the sofa room, or balcony as they are all calling it now, as I was laid out on said sofa, enjoying a quiet cigarette. I just couldn’t be arsed talking to him, so I didn’t. Simple. I couldn’t be doing with him being all up in my grill so early with his Sartre hat on yet again. I wanted to call him ‘Bowen’ again like I did a few days ago, which really winds the dude up cos he doesn’t know what it means. It means a stinky git, which he is. I don’t care if he showers twice a day or not, he reeks of bullshit hahaha.

Oh yeh, I almost forgot what I saw Bowen do in the kitchen at breaky. He flirted, openly and without remorse, with Casey, in front of Dez. Weasel! I mean I know she’s hot and all that, but dude, that’s Dez’s one and only, love of his life, would die for her, bay! WTAF does he think he’s gaming at? I dunno if Dez saw it, but he didn’t say anything to him, or her. She wasn’t exactly holding back either! Jesus, does anyone have any respect in our group?

As for the sofa, well I nearly wet my pants when he was getting all scrub about it. Anyhow, I guess that’s his look out. A dissed out old sofa? Ok then, dude. Right on.

Another thing is….I could be hanging with my bay Lisa right now instead of wasting my time here, poncing on about philosophy and getting no filming done at all. I thought it was gonna be one continuous grin, you know, all of us having a laugh and just getting stuck in to this project. But no, cos Si, Bowen, has to go and make it all complicated and bookoo, not sticking to the brief that we were given and going all post- modern on us. That’s not what was asked for. Would he listen? Nope. Cos he’s an arrogant arsehole. I was only trying to help his stupid face, but all he gives me is attitude. Probably trying to impress Casey, cos I have never seen him like this before, all authoritative, dismissive and demanding. We have worked together a heap of times on other stuff and got along great, but suddenly, whoosh! Sweeping me down the drain and into the gutter. Fuck him. This car accident bullshit is also beginning to wear thin. It was 2 months ago! Dez and Chloe keep going on and fucking on about it, making excuses for his bunk behaviour. He needs a good blasting, that’s what.

Oh and Dez, Casey and Chloe have seen a ghost! Hahahah! Now, guys. You’ve been smoking too much and you are hallucinating. Probably some weird concoction of Chloe’s made out of that shit she picks out in the fields. Very soon, if things don’t improve, I might have to join them. I was surprised at Bowen’s reaction when they told him, I expected him to piss his skinny pants, but he didn’t. Oh, but I know why! Of course, how very dim of me. Casey was there!

I could get Bowen back with a prank. Show him not to be a hypocrite as well as a pretentious prick. I’ll have to get my film making hat back on because they’re going to get props tomorrow and I’ve got to go with them. Bowen said so, so of course whatever Bowen says, goes in this fucked up game of power. But! I could do something,….put the shitters up him. Nothing too serious, just to shake it up a bit and get the dude to ease up a bit and fucking laugh….

He said some bookoo shit tonight as well about my parents being rich and basically implying that I sponge off them. Yes, mate and so would you if you were given it all on a plate. Just because your parents are financially challenged, don’t take it out on me. Like, I asked for it to be that way! I love the dude, but he needs some serious pay back.

And where did Casey and Si disappear to last night? Yes, they may think I was out of it and bunged up with beer, but, little do they know that I see everything. When we went through the Chandelier room to the kitchen, they were both there, standing opposite each other. Don’t tell me they were comparing shoe sizes! I’ll be watching. I’m not having anyone getting up in my bud Lee’s business. I don’t care who it is. I might behave like a prat and they may think I see everything as one big jest, but they are so, so wrong.

I’m off to sleep. Chloe’s next door so I don’t feel too isolated. Weird shit place! It’s well sketchy. I asked Chloe if I could bunk down with her, but she went all frozen on me and said she needed space. She’s a strange one. One minute up and the next, down. She loves the whole world and everything’s flowers and peace and then suddenly it’s all wrong and dark. And she’s so tetchy. Any little thing sets her off. Oh well, if she gets bummed out she knows where I am.

Goodnight, freaks!

 

Annabelle’s Story.

Diary entry~Saturday 2nd August.

Today I drove Si, Joel, Lee and his girlfriend to the old derelict place that Si found and has dragged us, to make his film. The one that should have been done a month ago. I don’t know why the hell I agreed to this, only that there’s no way until hell freezes over that I am going home to Surrey this summer. Michael and my parents 24/7? I would rather die. And that’s not even a joke.

Of course, Michael has been calling me relentlessly all day, cursing me out and threatening me, if I don’t come ‘home’ he’s going to come here and drag me home. I’m not picking up on his ass any more now. Let’s see him do that when I’m locked up in this remote abandoned wreck in the middle of nowhere and with my guys to protect me. Well, Lee will at least, like he did before when Michael turned up at the house. Chloe would probably go frickin apeshit again and try and batter him with anything within her reach. No, he can’t get to me here and my parents don’t give a shit whether I go there or not. They are in the Dominican Republic again anyway.

So Lee told me this morning about Casey coming with us. Nothing against her, she seems cool, but I just get twitchy when she’s around cos he doesn’t speak to me as much. When I try and talk to him he seems distant. I know he’s in crazy love cos he’s told me over and over and Chlo keeps telling me, but that’s no excuse to ignore everyone else. I just said something back to him like, ‘but please don’t just go off and disappear, I need you too’ and he stared at me for a few seconds, hugged me and said he will be there for me but he wants to spend time with Casey as he hasn’t seen her for months. I just saw red, I mean who else understands? Chloe does but she hates Michael and when I mention his name she turns away like she can’t stand to talk about him. I get why she doesn’t like him but I have my reasons for being with him so she should like, just accept him.

I just find Lee comforting. He is the only guy I can let into my personal space, the only one who I can hug. He makes me feel better, he makes me remember that not all guys hit and not all guys are arseholes.

But Casey’s got him now. For two weeks. I just can’t help being a bit jealous of that.

Him and Casey were all snuggled up in the back seat, he was all smiley and loved up. I could see in his face and the way he had his arm round her that she was all he was thinking about. She was all flushed and pretty, despite her dark Kohl eyes that she had obviously spent a lot of time making up. Just for Lee. He kept whispering in her ear and she was all like giggly and loud, whispering into his shoulder. He kept squeezing her knees and she would laugh even more and bury her head in his chest. I kept looking at them through the rear view mirror, wishing I had that with someone. I’ll never have it with Michael and I don’t want it with him. I hate him right now.

Si wasn’t talking much. He’s still traumatized from the accident and apparently he told Lee that he gets flash backs when he goes in a car. He had the window down and was smoking like a chimney all the way. Poor Si. I just don’t know what to say to him cos he doesn’t talk to me any more. Not one single sentence since that night of regret, (on my part at least) only to ask me if I would be in this film. Lee says I should talk to him about it but I just can’t. Huge. Can. Of. Worms.

Joel was being his usual dickweed self but I gotta love him. He keeps me from going completely bat shit crazy at times. It was nice to have him in the front seat with me taking the piss out of my music and trying to fight me for the CDs I keep in the car. I can’t believe he actually got the Chili Peps out of the CD player and chucked it at Si. Si owes me for that. I know it was an old album but one of my faves. Prick. I might go back one morning and see if I can find it in that field. It’ll be fucked by then probably. Fucked right up.

I don’t know how I’m gonna cope with spending two weeks with the lovebirds. I will try my best not to be a bitch about it, but if Lee doesn’t spend time with us I will have to say something. I don’t know about Casey, she’s young and seems a bit too stuck up for my liking. She never spoke to anyone when she arrived at the house yesterday, just went straight up to Lee’s room and closed the door. Wow. Friendly.

I’ll try and talk to Si as well. I just don’t know how to start the convo. It’s as awkward as arse. He wants me to ‘act’ in the film so we’ll have to talk to each other! Shit. I have to keep reminding myself; Where would I rather be? In Surrey, a prisoner in a cold place called home that could house half of the population of China, being bullied by Michael while my parents swan around in the DR not giving a flying crap about me or anyone else, coming back every fortnight just to shove dirty laundry in the washer and back out again in a few days on their next long haul flight to ignoramus land? Or with my ‘chosen family’, chilling out in a cool abandoned school, getting drunk, partying the nights away and not caring? Yep. Think on it, Anna. Life is ok. Except for the big stain in the back of the SUV. I told them to seal the food boxes properly the dumb asses. Now it’s like a vegetarian gravy bistro in the back. I’m off to get Chloe now, before everyone starts drinking. i really need a drink tonight so I’m not waiting around for Joel to get his act together and come with me. Lee’s staying back her with her, he’s right under the thumb as well. Why does he let people walk all over him?

*

I’m sitting on the grand stairs, looking out into the darkness. The others are getting their bedding sorted out in the chandelier room so I’m letting them settle down before I go in.

I hope tomorrow’s a better day. Casey has been a stuck up little madam, getting at me for saying I wanted to put the chandelier in my bag. FFS. What’s her problem? Getting all up her own about Urbex, or whatever it was. I was just trying to lighten the atmos. I’m glad there’s one room in this place that’s clean, the kitchen. I put heaps of cleaning products in the SUV because I can’t bare the thought of peeing into shit stained toilets or eating off mouldy table surfaces.

So as I suspected, negated by Lee and the others once the drinking started. They clearly FORGOT that I had to go and fetch Chloe, and all started necking drinks. Great, cheers guys. I’m loving my invisible fucking wine. Lee has been all over Casey like a soppy puppy. I’m glad he’s happy, but I can tell she loves having him at her beck and call. Even Joel might as well have been pouring his wine straight down her throat, offering it to her as if she’s Queen of fucking Sheba. Simon couldn’t keep his eyes off her. When Lee kissed her in the kitchen, they were all but salivating. I had to get out. I went for a few ciggies outside and then went to pick up Chloe.

It was nice to talk to her. She’s always so upbeat. She was asking about Casey and I told her the truth as I see it, but typical Chlo, always wanting to see the best in people. No, she was saying, I’m sure she’s lovely. Imagine how you would feel meeting us lot, blah, blah. Ok, whatevs. She’s grating on my nerves. End of.

I was telling Chlo about my OCD and how I think it’s getting worse. She says I need to alter my mindset and try some meditation like she does. I’ve tried that and I just sat there feeling like a douche, thinking about Michael and Lou. Great meditation, not. She asked about Mick and I told her he has been calling me but I’ve given up answering cos he just threatens me. I know it makes her mad and she tries to understand, but she doesn’t know the real reason why I can’t talk to my parents and be honest about him. No one does. Except Lou, but I don’t want to keep hassling her about it because she’s like, please just DUMP his ass. Then she wants to see me, and it’s all complicated now that I have to be here for the filming.

Oh yeh! This. When I was having a cigarette outside with Jo and Si, they were both properly trashed and they were very loose tongued about Casey. I was trying to make them see from my angle how she’s being a bitch, but Simon specially was all sticking up for her and he had this bizarre look on his face the whole time. I have NEVER seen him talk about a girl like that. I am pretty sure he never talked to the others about me like that! Joel was just being Joel, making jokes out of it saying she was a hotbot and silly shit. Idiot boys! They are both clearly lusting after her. Sickening. At least it’ll get Simon off my case hopefully. Then I won’t have to explain anything and it’ll all be forgotten about.

Right, I’m going to set up. I want to sleep near Lee, just in case I have those nightmares again. Having a good bloke next to me seems to keep those violent ones at bay. Let’s hope.

~*~

Sunday August 3rd

So tired. I haven’t slept well at all since I got here, to this pile of stinky bricks that they all seem so fascinated by. It just reeks in every nook and cranny. Totally grossed out.

I’m sitting up against the only patch of wall that’s not being eaten alive by mould and crap knows what insects. I tried to clean this room this morning but it’s far beyond salvation. I tried to find a cleaner one, but no luck. I scrubbed the floor and put all the old furniture and junk outside on the balcony which looked like it was about to cave. Then I tackled the shower room which is two rooms down the corridor from here. Fucking hideous. I will be glad when this two weeks is over and I can go and hibernate in my own room again. My lovely, spotless room!

I bumped into Lee and the wonderful Casey as they were going in for showers. Talk about hostile! What’s wrong with her? What did I ever do to her skinny little ass that warrants such a crabby bitch attitude? Lee would have helped me if she hadn’t have been there and he would’ve let me rant and cry and then made me feel better like he always does. But fucking no. Casey, Casey, Casey.

Si came in as well while I was scrubbing. I think he wanted to talk but I was in no fucking mood, really. I know I should have cleared the air, but I was mid freak out about the amount of germs I was breathing in, my skin was crawling enough as it was without having to relive that night we had together. They say amnesia is a reaction to trauma, well I think that’s what I’ve got about that night. I was also absolutely wankered, which doesn’t help the brain cells either. Thank the hell I was. Don’t get me wrong, I still love him as a mate, it’s just that sleeping with him was so ridiculously dumb on my part. I knew he was in love with me and I needed validation and some kind of ego boost. It didn’t work, though and in the morning I just wanted to slip into a hole and die of total humiliation. Lee told me I broke him. Fuck. I should have talked to him this morning. You dick, Anna.

Then my Mother texted me. Oh joy. Why are you ignoring Michael? I could feel the bitterness and malice radiating out of my phone from her bony, perfectly manicured fingers that had typed those stupid, pathetic words. Yeh, Good morning to you as well you utter bitch. I didn’t answer and about two minutes later 3 missed calls from her. She can go ski cos that baggage isn’t going to manipulate me like that. He has no doubt fed her his normal bullshit about me being frosty and not wanting to spend time with him this summer or go on holiday with him again to Portugal, like we did last summer. Oh I wonder why not, when he decided that seeing as he had paid for it, I should pay him by being his punch bag. Literally. I looked stunning on the beach after that. Yeh. Covered up with a sarong and t-shirt because of the bruises. And then he had the fucking nerve to get at me for embarrassing him!

So mother dear that’s why I am ignoring Michael. And mother dear, the fact that you choose to believe him over your own daughter, just because he runs around in your social circle and you are ‘friends’ with his Mum, makes you ignored as well. I know, I can’t go on like this indefinitely because as soon as Dad finds out (through both of them spouting utter verbal diarrhoea in his face about me) he will be out to get me. Either I will have to go home (home, my arse) or write them all off completely. Then? Goodbye Art Degree. Where will I go? No money, no rent, no house……….

I couldn’t eat breakfast after that. Everyone thinks I’ve got an eating disorder or something because something always cracks off before I’m due to eat and puts me right off eating. It’s stressing me out so much not knowing what’s going to happen to me. I need a light for the end of my tunnel…..smoking and drinking helps to block the darkness out but it doesn’t solve anything. Lee keeps asking me to stop getting so wasted. I can’t help it though, I don’t know what else to do.

Now, he’s all loved up with the Violet Madam, so I can’t even talk to him. I wanted to talk to him so badly at breakfast but he was totally all over her. I left with my coffee and went to smoke myself stupid outside. Chloe came out then and I talked to her about my Mother’s text and how Michael keeps threatening to find me. She reckons I should call the police, but then what? I’ve got no proof cos my bruises have gone. He hasn’t had chance to hit me again because I’ve been living at the Feral House with my tribe. I told her I would wait until this fortnight has gone by, enjoy (try) my time here and see what’s round the corner. I don’t know what else to say. I don’t want her or anyone else to know the extremities of this situation with my parents because it’s just awful. I am so ashamed of where I’m from, the hypocrisy and the fakery of the life I was brought up in. All the money and gifts in the world don’t make up for how my parents have treated me. Like shit. I would rather be an orphan.

And then I was supposed to get excited about a friggin’ sofa with crap scrawled all over it? Jesus how lame? Si was all over this heap of shit, like it was a contemporary work of art genius. Come on! It’s a fucking manky old sofa that squatters have gouged up and smeared up. The actually room is cool I guess, only because it means we don’t have to stand out in the cold in the early hours of insomnia and freeze our tits off. Why are they all getting so buzzed up about this place anyway? I do not get what Casey was on about with that UBERX or whatever it was. Seriously, do people really explore heaps of shit like this as a hobby? WTF, man. Just what the actual fuck. It makes my skin not only crawl, but feel like I need to rip it off me. Infected, venomous, contagious. I needed Lee for reassurance again, but he was all about it, so I decided to try and get into the spirit of the whole juvenile game and found Si’s quote. Wow. How clever of me. Not.

What a pretentious prick he can be, I mean really? Why do we have to write quotes on the sofa? For what? Why, god damn it, why? Then they started lip flapping about philosophy again and I thought my brain was going to implode with boredom. Chloe was weird, I have never seen her like that before, it was almost like she was trying to impress Si. Yes, impress SIMON. Oh yes, I read French philosophy, je suis merveilleux!! Embrasser mon cul! She’s not the only one who can speak French hahahahaha!

I had to put my truepenny’s worth in about freedom. Why quote some dead guy when all you have to do is look around you and examine your own life a little closer ! Hello, you swellheaded prick, we can all be philosophers! We will never be free, even if we live in caves and go back to hunter and gatherer society, still not free. There will always be some social straight jacket to wear, especially for women. Shut the hell up and get on with trying to sort your lives out instead of blabbing about what some ancient goon reckons.

Then the filming. Oh my sweet lord, what the crap is Si trying to achieve? I switched off completely when he started spouting about some French dude. Seriously, again? I get what he’s trying to do, he’s trying to shock and challenge, but doesn’t he get that you don’t have to use sex and violence to do that. There are so many other less obvious ways. But it’s not my film, it’s not my (very very) late end of year project. Mine’s done and handed in thanks. Knock yourself out Si, be my guest, but don’t expect me to get in front of that lens.

During the ‘briefing’ more texts came through from the dragon and Michael, so those kept my mind firmly off all the testosterone in the kitchen and Chloe’s squeaky voice still trying to kiss ass with her knowledge of obscure French films. Michael said he is going to hire some PD to find me. Hahahahaha! You complete tool. Go ahead and try. The thing is, if he does find me, he isn’t going to take me in his arms and say, Darling where have you been, my sweet, my rose petal. Nuh nuh nuh. Fuck I hope he’s not serious.

But, Lou texted me, so I cheered up slightly. We had a bit of a blue yesterday about my being here for two weeks, but I explained why and all was coolios. Then it was all about why we can’t spend time together here. With my mates, here?……I think a no would be the answer to that. I had to try and explain that as well, I said that we are all stressed out about the filming and I need to help out. Bullshit, but the truth is, I’m not ready to face all the issues that being here together would create. Si doesn’t know about us, for a start. I would rather keep this relationship separate from my house mates. For now at least.

But I miss it like crazy, mad and crazy.

I’m taking the guys into London tomorrow,  so we might get chance to be together for a while. Let’s fucking hope so. I need some happiness, even if only for an hour or so.

So later on, I tried to clean the room a bit more and had a shower. I texted Lou and explained what’s going on tomorrow.  So hopefully I can leave the guys and scamper off for a while. We were both well happy.

I had a drink and smoked a bit on my own, just thinking about Simon and how Chloe had been flirting with him big style. I can’t believe that! Then I got to thinking what Lee sees in Casey and it started to do my tree in so I went to find Chloe. She has found a nice room upstairs, where I didn’t think to look. It’s huge, and it’s got a bed (although I wouldn’t lay on it even if someone paid me like, a gazillion quid!) and an old wardrobe. The huge windows are all smashed in so I don’t know what she plans to do if it rains. We sat and talked for a while and she put some nice little beads into my dreads that she had found in some market. I tried to get her to talk about Si but she kept stalling. Sure fire way to prove she does like him!

We went downstairs to get something to eat and I exchanged formalities with Si in there. He did smile, but we just can’t seem to get back to how we were pre-sexfestofnightmareproportions. Joel was on about tattoos and how he wants a new one, get this. He wants a hammer with a nail going into his arm. You dweeb. He started on about mine again but he isn’t going to see them. Ever. Specially as two of them cover up scars from when I used to cut.

Then, good news. Well, not for Lee. He has to go to work every evening as some geezer has let his boss down at the bar. Oh dear. Casey’s face was raged up when they came in and then when Si found out, he went fucking ballistic. Poor Lee. Si stormed out and slammed the door. It very nearly flew off its rusty hinges. Lee then almost begged me for lifts there and back, like it was some hideous monstrosity of a favour. Nuh huh, it’s great! I get to talk to my best bud and get to stay in London while he works. It’s not worth coming back here and then going back out again late at night. So, I get approximately 5 hours with Lou as well……..chuffed!

Not much else happened. Oh yes, except I upset The Violet One. I couldn’t help it. Chloe got upset cos Joel and Si had another barny. Si stormed out (again) and Lee went to comfort Chlo. Casey looked mortified so I just casually said something like You’re not the only one he loves. I don’t know where the hell it came from, but she looked like she was going to trash the place and she couldn’t stand up properly. Then next thing I saw, she was legging it out of the room. I told Lee she had gone to the loo and he carried on talking to Chlo. You are such a bitch Anna! I wonder if Si and her were together out there somewhere? Now, that would make life thoroughly interesting!

Knackered……at least I get to see Lou tomorrow.

~*~

Simon’s Story.

Diary entry~ Saturday August 2nd

I’m so fucking stressed, it feels like my skull is in a vice. Every direction I look in, there’s worry, there’s everyone in my face, expecting this and that of me and I can’t give it, I just fucking can’t. Then the one I do need around won’t even look at me.

I want to get this nightmare over and done, I want to feel ok again. The accident has really stripped me of my normalcy. I can’t sleep, I can’t eat. I can’t laugh. Just flash backs. Noise, screeching. The screaming. I can’t even remember it in pictures, my brain has literally blocked it all out. Too much to bare.

Cooper wants my film piece in two weeks. How the hell am I supposed to do that? I can barely get up in the morning let alone get creative. I know the guys are with me and want to help me but at the end of the day, it’s my piece. I have to get all the shit together, I have to direct it, I have to have the script and the angle. Thank crap that Lee is with me. I don’t know about Joel, he got his done and he’s all in summer holiday mode and just wants to party. Yes, so do I dude, but look at me. I feel like it has taken all my energy just to find the abandoned school. It didn’t even take that much work, I found it online and just called up the owner. Job done. But I feel like my brain has been sliced in two and replaced with poisonous fluid that’s eating me away. Lee says I need to see a Counsellor, but I’m petrified, to tell the truth. I can’t talk to my mates about it so how in the name of fruck will I be able to sit in front of a complete stranger and spill it all out?

I will get over it. I mean it wasn’t even my fault so I don’t know why I feel so guilty. It was the other guy, the one in the truck. He’s still hospitalized as far as I know, but then why can’t I sleep? Why do I feel so angry?

I just need to get this two weeks over. Project handed in. Then I’ll suggest to the guys that we take a week off and just chill. There’s Annabelle as well. It has just gone way beyond too late for me to approach her about what happened between us. She is so fucking cold as if the whole thing never happened. I don’t get her, I have tried to figure her out, but no. She’s being a bitch and I can’t look at her any more let alone talk to her about it. I wish I could stop feeling this way, I don’t want to be in love with her. I don’t know how to stop it. I asked her to be in my film, kind of hoping that if we get to work on it together, she’ll come round and we’ll be ok again. And I would be with her if she changed her mind. Despite my bitterness at her, I want her badly.

That car journey was awful, not just because it took all my strength and willpower to stop myself opening that door and launching my broken body out and into a field, but because the others didn’t help. Annabelle was all stroppy, starting off with being crabby cos of all the food boxes going in her boot. Just because she doesn’t eat, doesn’t mean we’ve all got a disorder going on. Then Joel was antagonizing her trying to get her CDs off her. Come on, man. Leave her alone. She’s obviously got issues going on and doesn’t need your goonface right there. I hope Joel’s not gonna be a complete clown the whole week. He can go ski because some of us have got serious dead lines to meet.

Lee is all loved up, which I don’t begrudge at all, he’s my man. Just that if Casey’s there all the time, he won’t be focussing on film making. I don’t blame him, neither would I if I was with a girl like her. She’s smoke. I mean Jesus, for Annabelle to have an obvious envy going on, she must be something else. I wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of her though, from that almost word-scrap she had with Anna. Way to go Casey! Someone needs to put Anna in her place at times, the cocky cow. (Fucking love her). Good or bad, she’s here and has agreed to help, I’ve got to just keep my eye on the work and not get too involved with the drinking. It’s gonna be hard.

I keep telling myself, I’ve got Lee, I’ve got Joel, I’ve got Chloe. I can talk to them whenever, especially Lee. I will jump right in at the deep end and sink my teeth into this project. Yes, I reckon it’s just what I need right now.

*

We’re all here. Chloe turned up at about 10pm and we were all quite cut by then, so got bunked down in the main lounge by midnight. Dull as!

I’ve been lying here on this mashed up sofa that I dragged through from the Chandelier room as they are all calling it. I found this room by complete accident actually. It’s empty except for my new bed for the night. I got sick of listening to Anna sobbing her heart out in the dark and not answering me when I asked her what was wrong. I thought about just slipping inside her sleeping bag and cuddling her but I had disturbing vision of her slapping me or worse dragging those sharp nails down my cheek (or buttock haha) and running off, screaming into the dark depths of nowhere. Dez and Casey had taken their stuff and disappeared, probably wanted some ‘lone time without us lot listening in. I don’t blame him. I’ve decided she’s literally white hot, Casey. Even more so that Anna, truth be told. Shame that best buds’ girlfriends are totally off limits. I don’t want to demolish my friendship with Lee now, however, I have been getting very strong vibes kindling under the surface from her towards me this evening, which makes it all the more difficult to ignore. She’s really sweet to look at with that weird pale purple Lilac hair right down to her waist and the way it’s just ruffled and ‘fuck it’ styled. Her eyes are pale blue but she wears thick black liner and makes long wings like Cleopatra. I love that look. She had on some awesome jeans, really tight, and purple toe nails poking out from under the hem. Flip flops…hmmm. Just a tie dye blouse, all loose but clinging in all the right places. She gave Annabelle what for about some urban exploring stuff earlier, bad ass. Man, I swear I have to quit perving on her!

Chloe swirled in as usual and embraced everyone with her cosmic love! I don’t really know if her being here is going to help much. I can’t see where I can utilise her. She’ll be all about making some romantic film in the ruins and getting all witchy about it. I must admit swanning around the place stark butt naked would be interesting. I should mention that too her. Haha. But seriously I want this film to be shocking and raw, not oozing peace and butterflies. She seemed to latch onto Casey nicely. I didn’t expect that. I know how she feels though. Ok ‘nuff said.

Yeh so this place. Mr. Drewman, the guy that owns this place, is renovating it into flats I think he said, but the workers won’t be around for another two weeks. I gave him like 50 quid for electric and he made me promise I wouldn’t fuck anything up. I felt like saying, man, have you seen it lately? I think years of neglect have done an awesome job of that already!

This mashed up heap of crap I’m lying on right now has got some very strange patterns on it.

Woah. I just shone the torch on it and it’s like, covered one end with graffiti writing all done in different coloured biro pens, at least I think it’s biro. It doesn’t come off. I thought it was mould at first when I glanced at it, but it’s not mould. It’s pretty cool actually. Here are some things I can make out:

Come back to (something) like great daisy mirrors in winter storms

Gossoon Anabiosis, sitooterie, ‘Rhyparographer’…………..wtf?

There are also loads of spider web patterns, leaves, flowers, (roses mainly) and what look like ancient symbols. Yep, a pentagram. Excellent!

Ok, what can I write?

I’ve just written a quote by Camus. There are so many to choose from so I’ll just keep adding. This one first:

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

If only it were that easy, Albert.

What I LOVE about this room is this. It has got a huuuuge window stretching across the front, the whole wall is a window. The best bit? There’s no glass! So, I am just smoking away like a free bird. There’s a cool breeze coming in and it’s light enough to see the trees and branches curling their way in like they are reaching for me. I can hear an owl as well. Far away somewhere.

I reckon the others will be hanging out here all the time, IF I decide to tell them about it! I could just keep it for myself………..

I can’t sleep again tonight. I saw the crash repeating again and again in front of my blood red eyes. But when I woke up I didn’t remember anything. Just the feelings. The terror.

I’ll sit here til the sun comes up. It’s peaceful. I need that.

~*~

Sunday August 3rd

Against my better judgement I have ended up in a room across the hall from Casey and Dez, in the ‘annex’ as they call it. I can’t hear them and they can’t hear me, (fucking hopefully) which is cool because as obsessed as I am with her right now, I don’t want to hear them having sex. I don’t want to hear how much she loves my best mate. I am burning up inside and I can’t seem to control how I feel about her. It’s against everything I believe in to supress my urges like this, but in this fucked up situation I can’t do anything else. She loves him, she told me. To her, that means everything. I told her that I needed to hear her say that she feels the same about me, and to my shock, she did. I lied. I think I lied. I said I felt better knowing it but now, on my own in here with her so near yet so far, I hate that she said it. I wish I had never met her. She is consuming me and I am losing my mind.

Yes, so I crept in after they came up to bed, tried a few doors but this one seemed stuck, not locked. I pushed it hard and it squeaked but no one stirred in their room, so I switched on my torch and walked in. There’s a bed in here, not too grubby, so I am in my sleeping bag in the dark, just the light of the torch to write.

Things are not going well. I mean, we haven’t even started filming yet and it’s Monday tomorrow. They just want to party and fight and act like dickheads. Even Dez has announced that he’s leaving to go to work evenings, which I went mental about at the time and stormed off on him, I was livid. I thought I could count on my dude to help me out of this mess, but other things take priority. He’s explained why and I think we got it all sorted in the end. I over reacted, but these days I seem to do that all the time. I want to rage at everyone for nothing. God help me when I get something really serious to get pissed about. I might snap necks. What the fuck is going on with me?

The day started ok I guess. I was well keen to show the sofa and the mammoth window to the guys before we got our teeth into this project, but they were being lazy pricks. The only ones who were up and doing stuff were Chloe and Anna, but Anna wasn’t up for talking as usual these days, as I found out when I went into the shower room for a shower, funnily enough, and she was scrubbing like a lunatic. She said good morning and I asked her if she was ok but she gave me a slight smile and turned away. Chloe was cooking breakfast when I went in the kitchen to get a drink and seemed a bit zoned out. Dez and Casey were asleep in the Chanders room, all tucked up and wrapped around each other like creeping ivy. I stood there staring like a moron until Joel woke up and asked me what the fuck I was doing and called me a perv. Stupid dick. He doesn’t understand anything about emotions or jealousy. Money buys him whatever he wants, or should I say, Daddy’s money buys him anything he wants. I went back to the shower room but she was still fucking cleaning. I know she’s got OCD but Jesus, she was cleaning all the sinks and cubicles. Weird. I watched her for a bit and found myself feeling nothing for her. My feelings diminished like a pin prick bursting a balloon. The pin was the feeling of shock as I realised Casey had whitewashed all that I had felt for Anna and left a stark red piercing dagger in the heart instead.

I went back to the sofa for a fag to calm down and Joel was in there, sprawled out on the sofa already smoking, his eyes closed. He was hungover again and I didn’t get much out of him, but told him to tell the others I wanted to talk to them as he peeled himself off the sofa and walked, zombie-like, towards the door. I had a smoke and prepared myself to face the lovers in the kitchen.

Joel was on his way in so I followed his slumped ass in. There was Casey sitting next to Lee, a steaming plate of Chloe’s mashed up hippie swoggle in front of her. She looked frigging gorgeous in her just out of the shower way. Her violet hair was wet and gathered up messily on top of her head, strands of it falling over her eyes and around her lovely neck. Her legs were up, pressed against the table top and she was leaning on Dez, fork dangling between her fingers. She caught my eye and I smiled at her, testing the water a little as I was aware I’d given her a sly, kind of suggestive smile. The fact that Dez was right there didn’t bother me and I knew there and then that I was likely to fuck up big style with him over her. She beamed back at me and that was when I knew. She held the smile longer than was necessary. It became flirty. Very, very suggestive.

Later on in the Balcony room, I showed them all what I’d found. I thought they’d be a bit more enthusiastic but in hind sight they were all hung over. Joel was just saying sarcky shit throughout, Anna was just defaulted and narky. Even Dez was all about the ‘mould’, that was until he realised it was art and then couldn’t be dragged away from it. He even broke away from Casey’s grasp on his hand to look at it more closely. Wow, the Siamese twins do separate.

Chloe surprised the living shit out of me, liking Camus and Bataille. I mean, it’s amazing how two people can live together yet know jack shit about each other. I know that she’s a Wiccan and that she has very intense views on Veganism and the environment. I know that she is as clumsy as fuck because I am always hearing crashing emanating from areas in the house. Chloe has fallen down the stairs, Chloe has smashed a plate, Chloe has fallen up the stairs. To be honest, I have always found her usage of French in English sentences to be really fucking pretentious, even though Dez has told me like a gazillion times that she can’t help it. I find her irritating, too nice, too floaty and naïve, always nauseatingly seeing the good in everything and being over-positive. It’s not real, love. Life is shit. People are shit and the world is dark. Get used to it!

But I must say, I am impressed by her. To read and like Bataille means she does appreciate the bleaker side of humanity and our innate but denied impulses as human beings. And she has read The Eye, which is a major biggie as far as controversial literature is concerned. I forget, she has a French mother and French culture is more open to these atrocities that make up human behaviour and desires. I need to make more of an effort with Chloe. I think I have misjudged her a lot. I reckon she’s going to be very helpful in my filming as she’s got a really good grasp of what I’m trying to do. The others were all freaking out about my references to De Sade and violence, even though I’ve explained to them that I want to make a film that shocks, the violence I want to portray has a reason. Like Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, I want to bring the viewer into the film, to make them feel like they are the ones committing the violence. I want to open up their emotions and reactions to things that have become common place and desensitised by our media. The way that violence is presented in films is generic and people just turn off from it. My film will dig around in the viewer’s psyche and unravel disturbing feelings, because the film will be about the truth of love and how it can be the darkest, most dangerous emotion to feel. I don’t care if they don’t like it. They agreed to help and so Joel needs to shut the hell about how our course is focussing more on the techniques of film making and that I won’t pass the assignment by, what did he say exactly? Oh yes. ‘Sucking up to obscurity and plagiarism just to be arty and pompous.’ What in the holy shit in heaven is that guy on about? Turd.

And at least Chloe cares about how I’m feeling. She came outside to find me after I’d stormed off on Dez. I was sitting on the wooden surround of a mouldy Gazebo that I’d found earlier nestled in an overgrowth of rancid looking weeds. I was so fucked off, having smoked like, ten cigarettes in the space of five minutes. I was so ready to just tell all of them to fuck off out and to film it on my own, using myself as the only actor. (Not a bad idea actually!)

Yes, so she sat next to me and I nearly choked on that weird perfume she wears, it’s like having my nasal passage rammed full of daisies or jasmine. My gran wears that shit. Anyways, she was really nice (as usual) but this time I needed it. She asked me how I was feeling in general and told me what her Mum had said about the after- shocks of trauma. I knew it but it was comforting to hear that I am not completely shrivelled and that it’s a natural reaction to a bad car crash. She suggested some natural sedatives to help me sleep, can’t remember the name now, but she’s going to give me some. They won’t work anyway, nothing does for me except alcohol, but that’s not a great way to go. The others, well except Dez, seem to think that drink solves everything. It doesn’t. It makes everything worse.

She got me to think about Dez’s side of the bargain and how tough he’s got it at the moment. I felt bad after that so I went in to find Dez and we had a buddy to buddy convo about all sorts. He’s so cool, I wish I could be more like him but I haven’t got the patience, the compassion or the empathy that he’s got. He’s going to make an awesome Counsellor one day. Personally, I think that him and Chloe ought to get together cos they are both so gentle and peace loving, wanting the whole world to be happy. Casey isn’t like that, I feel. She’s more like me, self- absorbed, selfish and out for her own pleasure and hedonism in life. I get the feeling that she’s going to get bored with Dezzo some day soon, but that’s not my call. He loves her so much, it’s sickening! Lucky bastard.

Oh yes, I almost forgot about the ‘ghost’ they’ve seen, it’s hilarious! I mean come on. Ghosts do not exist, how can they? Once we die, we chuffing die. End. Nada. Fin. What the hell they’ve seen, I really don’t know. I checked with Drewman and he said it’s free of squatters, so who’s in here? Maybe if I sleep here every night, I’ll see who it is. I wouldn’t put it past Joel to be pranking them all, the loser. I’ll find out one way or another. Another thing I forgot was that I found a new piece of art on the sofa earlier. I don’t know, I’m not 100%, but I don’t think it was there before. It’s new and it smudged a bit when I touched it. Someone wrote it and didn’t tell us all. I need to find out tomorrow.

Casey. Oh fuck man, why can’t I stop seeing her face? I can still feel the soft pressure on my hips from her hips as she hugged me. I was tempted to just force myself on her there and then, but I told myself to keep it under check. Oh my God, the way she folded her body into mine. I wanted to bite her. Consume her like she has been consuming me. It took all my strength to stop myself from pushing her down onto that sofa and ripping her clothes off her body. Why can’t the world be simple? We should all be able to explore our instincts with no regrets. We should live by the philosophy of De Sade. I wanted to whisper in her ear that awesome quote of his:

‘……people who have never dared to look into the depths of their soul, never attempted to know the origin of that desire to unleash the wild beast, or to understand that sex, pain and love are all extreme experiences. Only those who know those frontiers know life; everything else is just passing the time, repeating the same tasks, growing old and dying without ever having discovered what we are doing here.’

I want her to understand this. I want her to agree and admit that she’s a free spirit that doesn’t want to be tied down by the constraints of society and its ‘morals’ that mean nothing. I just want a chance to teach her this. Then she might see that loving Dez to the point of denying herself all the experiences life and sex has to offer is not healthy, not at 18 years old. Dez would go mental if he knew. He doesn’t agree with my views anyways and has told me so to my face. Fair enough, if he wants to go through life with one girl, one road travelled when there are highways, forest paths, city streets and mountain tracks to explore. I get he is possessive about her, so would I be, but if you love something, let it go. We are too young for putting our birds into cages.

Shit, I think someone just got up. There are voices in the hall outside the room. Casey’s laughing. Dez is laughing. Oh man, go to sleep, Si. I know, music, that’s what I need. That will drown it all out…….

~*~

Chloe’s Story

Sunday August 3rd

“Rien ne pese tant que un secret.” ~La Fontaine

I’ve been wondering around by candlelight, looking for a place to make my haven and solitude. I didn’t think I would suffer as much as I am with all these strange and volatile vibes swirling and penetrating my head and body like tidal waves, drowning and suffocating. The others don’t understand how overwhelming it gets sometimes, why would they? They don’t have my gifts, which despite my mama trying to tell me, I still see sometimes as a curse. Lee tries, bless him and I love him all the more for his unconditional love and regard.

This room is the least affected of all the ones I entered last night. This building is rife with life; past, present and future. I can’t distinguish yet, who belongs where, but I hear their voices all around me, some of them screaming, some whispering. Some are laughing, some silently sobbing. I can’t help all of them but I will try my best, once I have slept a while and recharged my batteries; grounded my energies and balanced my emotions. Found Chloe again.

Lee helps me a lot with this, but Casey’s here now so his attentions have gone elsewhere. That’s fine too, I mean I can’t expect to have him to myself all the time, can I? As much as I love him, and as much as I want to keep him close, he’s not mine to dream of in this way.

I can’t stop thinking of that night when he told me, if he hadn’t met Casey that summer, he would be honoured to be my boyfriend. How much did I die with happiness and sadness in equal measure when he spoke those words in his haze of red wine and French Jazz?

But, as he said, you can’t choose who you fall in love with. The head doesn’t decide. The heart does.

il a volé mon coeur!

I’m not a selfish person. I learned this from my mama who always says that you can’t play with destiny. She keeps telling me that, although it may break my heart, I have learned what kind of man I like and she says I will find someone like Lee who loves me, for me. And he will know it as soon as he meets me. I really hope so because he has set the bar real high, mon amour.

It’s so hard though, with him being so tender and caring towards me. Like this evening when I got freaked out when Joel and Si started shouting. He sat with his arm round me and seemed to know exactly what to say to make me feel better. I just wanted to fold myself away in him along with all my fears. I catch myself rejoicing in it, but then I see him being like it with Anna and Casey. Basically he’s like it with everyone, that’s just how Lee is. So warm. A beautiful guy. Casey’s a lucky girl.

Today has been trying on many levels. The building is draining me, the fights between the guys are draining me and so are the constant heart wrenching emotions of not being the one. It’s easier when he’s in London in our house, because he doesn’t display this aura of being in love and all mushy like he does when Casey’s around. It’s so hard to see it. Every time he hugs her or kisses her, it feels like I get kicked in the heart. Last night I slept as far away from them as I could because the thought of such close proximity was torture. l’amour est agonie….

But, I want the best for him and want him to be happy. That’s true love. Not some messed up revenge tactic. That’s why I want to get to know her, be her friend. She’s awesome and it’s not hard work. If I’m honest, I also want to keep the enemy close, not that she is the enemy in that way, but I just want to know what’s going on with them. That’s probably really dangerous and self -destructive and if I told my Mama she would tell me to stop it immediately, but I can’t. At least it stops everyone getting suspicious about my feelings for Lee, it’s like, the best cover up act ever cos who in their right mind would do that?  I’m not afraid of my messed up side, the dark side of the sun. Yin and Yang, black and white. Yin is my dark, passive and feminine side. Yang is my light, active, and masculine side. They all think I’m the Yang. Well, I’m not, as any Wiccan would know. For the sake of Lee, I will supress it. I will not use any kind of magic or wishful meditation. He’s my best friend and that’s more important. His voice and being is my light in the depths of darkness. Sa voix est ma lumière dans l’obscurité de la nuit.

My candles are burning nicely, casting warm shadows around my little sleeping area. It’s a bit chilly because the big window has lost most of its glass, but I’ve got my sleeping bag and blankets. It’s peaceful so my head and soul can breathe. That’s all I need at the end of a day. Space and peace and time to find my centre again, to cast off everyone else’s woes and anxieties that stick to me, pull me down and drown me. I also need to put my ‘devious machivations’ as my mama calls them, out of my mind until tomorrow. There’s an owl somewhere outside. He’s lulling me to sleep. I can hear him when the wind rests.

I think I have managed to impress Si as well, which is a weird turn of events. I mean, I know we’re friends but I irritate him a lot, he gets all short tempered with me when I break things or when I say something that he deems to be ‘hippy dippy’ and he does that mocking peace sign and rolls his eyes at me. I didn’t think we had a lot in common, except an address, but it turns out we do. He likes some of my favourite French philosophers and writers. I think Simon is an interesting guy, a little scary looking, but looks aren’t everything and it’s dangerous to judge people on that premise.  I know he’s got a thing for Anna, so I don’t think he’ll see me beyond his desire for her, but who knows? He’s Lee’s closest friend, Lee knows him well and loves him. He must be a good guy then. Also, focussing on him will take the heat off the way I must be behaving around Lee. I can’t believe no one has noticed! Maybe I’m a good actress, maybe I’m like Lena Duchannes in Beautiful Creatures! Although everyone thinks I am the spit of Serafina Pekkala in The Golden Compass. Maybe because she’s French as well, I don’t know.

In fact, Anna did mention Si a lot this afternoon when I was putting those beads in her hair for her. She was like, ‘Do you think Si’s film is going to work out?’ and ‘It’s nice to see you and Si getting along better these days.’ (like, ‘these days’ has been literally two conversations in the space of the same amount of days. Not even two!)

I felt so sorry for Casey as well, when she found out about Lee having to go to work. She was absolutely gutted, the vibe was radiating in white heat off her. I think it’s a bit extreme to get so freaked out about a few hours away from him, but then again, he is leaving her on her own here. I tried to convince her that Annabelle isn’t in love with Lee, but she doesn’t believe me, I can sense it. If only I could tell her the truth! I can’t break Anna’s confidence, that’s not on. I would never do that to anyone. If Annabelle wants her to know, she can find a way of telling her. It’s not mine, or Lee’s business to tell her.

I’m so drained. I need to sleep. There’s so much going on in this place, what with that weird girl we saw and all the issues everyone’s got. It’s hard for me, being so sensitive, but that’s my gift and I can’t help that. I just need to get more sleep and do some more meditation. At least now I’ve found this (cold) room, I can do it with no interruptions. Then I can help everyone. Starting tomorrow. We’ll get Si’s film started, I’ll have another talk with Anna about Michael and what she’s going to do about her parents. I might suggest she lodge with my mama cos she’s got a spare room. And she loves Anna and wouldn’t want rent or board. Although, that would mean we’d have to find someone else for her room at The Feral. I don’t know. See what tomorrow brings. Maintenant, Je prends de la hauteur…….Now I am breaking away…….

Today I get detached

~*~

I am currently working on Chapter 3

Thank you for reading!

Please leave comments for me~ positive and negative are welcome as well as suggestions.

Don’t forget~ every person has a story under the surface..

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~time will tell~

© Serena Grey and The Silent Angels 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Serena Grey and The Silent Angels with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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2 responses to “The Silent Angels~ Book 1: Casey and Alicia. Chapters 1 & 2. Book 2: Under the surface (Diary entries)

  1. Reblogged this on Into the afterlife…… and commented:

    Here it is! The first 2 chapters of the novel that my aunt is writing about Lee and I. It’s challenging for me as it has meant that I’ve already had to face some home truths…and Lee has been in on the writing too (for his diary entries, and to confirm that he would say and do all the stuff she’s writing hahaha!) Please read, I think it’s ace….too bad she hasn’t written chapter 3 yet!

  2. Pingback: the nomadic angel·

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