When Dragonflies Bite

I’m under no pretence that any of what I’m about to tell you was rational or moral or done with any kind of righteous intention, but my story epitomises the failings of a fickle heart. On my grave I will tell everything and god help you, you’ll listen.

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2. Fag?

I sped along country lanes like they were the autobahn, the dark outside blurring my journey until I could barely remember how I’d travelled from one village to the next. The sky was cloudless, leaving the half crescent moon to cast long, disfigured shadows from the bushes in the verge.

 The clock on the dashboard served as a constant reminder of just how late I was and with every glance in my rear-view mirror I noted how more minutes were being stolen.  The sudden noises from my phone startled me, shattering the silence and disturbing my thoughts. It urged me to retrieve it from my bag in the foot-well but I waited, and finally it connected to the reliable Toyota Bluetooth, flashing up with Alice’s name.

“I’m driving.” I greeted my dearest friend, instantly hearing the bass of the speakers from the lodge and the hum of the partygoers through the hands-free.  Silently I cursed myself, and Joe; the bastard.

“Jen, it’s even crazier than last year. Where the fuck are you?”

“Driving” I repeated, anger building, mostly directed at myself. 

“Well hurry up, you tit.”

“I’m trying.” I raised my voice, and she giggled, clearly tipsy or high.

“Well good, you’re going to be behind on everything if you miss much more.”

“Yeah. Got it, going as fast as I can.” I refrained from starting an argument, knowing I’d regret it if I did.

“Okay, got to go...” and she hung up. Bitch. I thought with no conviction or malice.

My thoughts tormented me as I drove on, questions niggling at my conscious like maggots on a corpse. I tried to think of nothing, but my mind refused to clear so instead I focused on my driving, the satisfying crunch as my tyres conquered the road and the grating of the engine against the gear box as I attempted to round corners in much too high a gear.

I was so distracted by my game I almost missed the entrance of the Kirk Walton hotel. Panicking I over–revved the engine as I changed down to second, causing the little Aygo to jerk forward clumsily.  I took care to be quite as I passed the old gate house. As the drive evened out, making the silhouette of my families hotel visible, I cut my lights so as not to alert anyone to my presence.

Most of the lights on the upper levels were out and only the bar and reception were illuminated on the ground floor. I took the small junction where the drive forked to go round the back of the east wing, down to the staff quarters. The Lodge was visible the minute I rounded the hotel corner, a blaze with activity in the small dip beyond the hotel gardens, about half a mile or so from the paying guests.  

The staff quarters had once been stables when the hotel was a manor house. The lodge the largest of the accommodation, separate to the others which were terraced in an L shape.

 

Connor, my oldest brother, had resided in it every summer since he was old enough to work. He had started the begin of season party 2 years after, which had built in reputation until almost everyone, not just in Semming but Kirkley and the surrounding towns and villages, had heard of it. It was infamous, home of the year’s greatest scandals and the only place to be on this humid English summer night in late June. Connor had passed the honour of hosting onto Isaac, and then, last year, onto me. 

My mood transformed as I saw the mass of bodies in the front of the lodge. I quickly parked in my usual slot, the smell of smoke mixing with an array of cheep aftershaves filling my nostrils as I got closer. I couldn’t reach the Lodge quick enough, longing for that first shot of Tequila to burn my throat and fill my nostrils with intoxicating fumes so that I failed to notice how every face in my home was unfamiliar.

As I got closer Alice was visible through one of the windows ranting at Kane and I prepared myself to be dragged into the lovers’ quarrel. At the front door, I got distracted by the site of vomit in one of the plant pots and made a mental note for my clean up mission tomorrow.

Before I knew it the front door had been forced open straight into my face, forcing me to fly backwards and off the front step. I felt like an age before my backside connected with the gravel. My coccyx instantly bruised.

I lay there, winded, unable to move.

He appeared over me with a small snigger. To start with he just looked like a shadow, black against the lights behind him, curly hair making his head appear disproportionate to the rest of his body. It took me a few seconds to focus by which time he’d offered me his hand.

“Oh, shit, are you alright.” The sentiment was ruined by a chuckle but I took his hand and he tugged me up until our faces were centimetres apart. I inhaled, smelling Fosters mixed with tobacco. Flustered, I stepped back my bum aching so much I couldn’t bear the thought of ever sitting down again.

“No, not really” I replied, finishing brushing myself off to look up into dark eyes. He gave a sympathetic, twitch of the mouth revealing a small dimple on his left cheek. I felt my eyes searching every inch of his face to trigger my memory.

“Fag?” He uttered without a hint of intonation, confusing me until I realised he’d extracted a packet of Benson and Hedges from his person. I looked at the packet incredulously. “For the shock... then we’ll get some vodka in you and you’ll forget anything happened.” He flashed a quick smile at me revealing slightly crooked teeth. I held his gaze as I put the orange tip between my lips and he carefully lit it, as I took a deep, long drag.

That was my first mistake.

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