The Time-Keepers

When Sara is told that her best friend's adopted brother has disappeared, her world is turned upside down when she learns the truth. Sara's world will never be the same...

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5. Chapter Five

A few days later, I’m still in shock.
Dad is home.
He’s here.
With me and Mum
We’re a family again.
I take the rest of the week off school. Mark visits, and so do Melissa’s family. Dad coming home is a welcome relief for us all- mourning is exhausting. Dad is devastated at the loss of Marcus, although he never met him. He takes out Joseph, goes shopping for Vanessa, takes Chrissie and Darren to the park and buys Melissa her favourite band’s new album.
 It takes Dad several nights to completely tell his story. He’d been in South America on a business trip. They had had to go out to a town by the coast, and the easiest way to get there was by plane. Dad said it was beautiful, flying across the Amazon rainforest. The trees were emerald green, the forest still apart from the birds disturbed by the plane’s engines. He said that in those moments he felt almost as happy as when he married Mum, or when I was born.
“Nothing can top that,” he said.
During his flight, the plane malfunctioned. Problem with the engine, he said, although to this day he’s not sure. The plane went plummeting to the floor, spiralling though the canopy of the rainforest onto the floor. When it hit, dad knew he had to get out, quickly. He didn’t think about anyone else, he just got out and away.
That’s Dad’s biggest regret.
He heard the explosion a minute after he had escaped.
In that moment, for the first time in his life, Dad prayed. He prayed that everyone in that fiery wreck was already dead.
It too several hours for the reality of his situation to sink in. during that time, Dad sat by a stream. He didn’t think. He just sat.
Dad continued the story the next night.
“Eventually, the reality took hold of me. I was in the rainforest, completely alone, with no food or shelter, and a broken arm. I needed help.
“I followed the stream down, in the remote hope of finding a tribe or someone to help me. I had a cut on my head that was bleeding rapidly and a broken, although I believe I got off lightly.
“I had been wondering for two days before I found someone. I was exhausted and starving, and it was obvious to the people pretty quickly that that I wasn’t a danger to them. They helped me fed me, fixed my arm. I lived with them for many years, always looking for a way to get back to you.
“Finally, after almost giving up hope, I found one. I got a logger to take me back to his village, and from there I went to the town that I was meant to reach years earlier. The people there took some persuading, but after some DNA tests, they knew it was me. Immediately, they sent me back here. To you.”
I want to believe him, of course I do. I’ve spent much of my life dreaming of this moment. However, the story doesn’t add up. Tribes aren’t known for being friendly to strangers. How did he survive that long in the wilderness? He should be dead.
He’s also a Time-keeper.
Could he have disappeared? Is that possible?
Three days after Dad finished his story, Mum goes out to visit Vanessa, so it’s just me and Dad. I decide that it’s the time to tell him.
“Dad. I know.”
“About what, Sara?”
“Time-keeping.”
Dad stops washing the dishes and turns to face me.”
“Who told you?”
“Mark.”
His face hardens.
“No Dad, don’t blame him. I needed to know. It was my time.”
“He’s changed your life.”
“My life was already changed, Dad. I just didn’t know it.”
He sighs. “You okay?”
“I suppose so… now, anyway.”
He nods.
“Just quite a lot of information to take in at once, I guess.”
Dad turns and continues to wash up. I take a plate and begin to dry it. Have I upset him? Not already? Well done, Sara, he’s only been back a few days. You didn’t need to tell him, you were coping fine yourself.
But the truth is I’m not coping fine. I need someone to talk about it with, help make sense of it all.
“I’m sorry.”
“For what?”
“Not telling you before.”
“Dad, I was too young…”
“You should have heard it from me.”
“No. It’s fine. I know now.”
Dad looks unconvinced, but he nods. “Fine.”
We continue in a comfortable silence.
“I didn’t really get stranded in the Amazon.”
“I thought that.”
“I disappeared.”
I almost drop the plate. “You WHAT?!”
“Part of history must have been changed. My history. I was unwritten.”
I pause to take this in. “Then how are you here?”
Dad frowns. “History must have been changed back. But why…?”
Dad lapses into deep thought. Then he smiles. “Doesn’t matter really, does it? I’m here now.”
I smile. He’s right. He’s here and that’s all that matters.
I go over and hug him. He wraps his arms around me and we just stand. Tears begin to well in my eyes.  I don’t care about the proximity- it’s Dad, and he’s back.
“I’ve missed you,” I whisper.
“I’ve missed you too.”
When we break apart, I rub my tears away. I notice that he does the same.
“Couple of wimps, aren’t we?” he says.
“Completely.”
Once we've finished our chores Dad turns to face me, a cheeky smile on his face.
“So, who’s this Mark?”
I roll my eyes.
“Come on, I’ve not forgotten how to be a dad after this long.”
“He’s no one Dad.”
“Oh come on, tell me all the juicy gossip.”
I laugh. We've got a lot of catching up to do.

On Saturday, Dad tells me that we’re going out. We drive to the hills and then walk along the weaving path to the waterfall. The morning light dances though the droplets of water, sparking rainbows in all directions. The rocks are covered in slimy emerald moss and the pool below is a mass of writhing silver snakes.
“It’s beautiful,” I mutter.
Dad nods. “Come on.”
He walks to the cliff edge that surrounds the pool and steps onto the ledge that leads under the waterfall. What is he doing?
“Dad…”
“Follow me. Copy my hand holds and footing.”
“But it’s not safe.”
He turns to face me. “Do you trust me?”
I freeze. Of course I do. It’s just that trust is a strong word, and one that I don’t have in my vocabulary. I’ve learnt that the only person you can trust is yourself.
“I do.”
“Follow me then.” Dad turns around.
I put one foot on the ledge. It’s slippery and so I lean against the wall for support. Is Dad mad? Suicidal? Why is he taking me here?
I carefully follow in Dad’s footsteps, trying not to look down. Of course I do look, and the sight of the sheer drop into the icy pool makes my stomach churn.
 I catch a glint of something and I turn my head to look. It’s a butterfly fluttering around the rainbows bouncing off the cliff walls. I’m so caught up in the beauty of it that I lose my footing.
My hands grip the rock and I let out a squeal. If I fall it’s a ten foot drop into a churning pool of icy water. I’ll be finished.
“Dad!” I call out.
He turns around and his eyes widen. For a second I see panic in his eyes. Then it’s gone and replaced with a calm composure.
“Sara. Remain calm and listen to me carefully,” Dad says slowly.
Calm?! CALM?! I’m hanging off a cliff and he wants me to be calm?! What-
No Sara, I think, do as he says. I take a deep breath.
“Slowly, pull yourself up. Yes. Now slip your feet along the edge. Slowly, Sara. Yes, that’s it. Well done.” Dad grins at me.
“Thanks.”
“No problem. Now let’s hurry, we shouldn’t keep them waiting.” He turns and continues along the ledge.
“Them? Who’s them?”
“You’ll see.”
I sigh. Why will no one ever tell me anything?
We reach the end of the ledge and follow it under the waterfall. The sound of water is deafening, but behind the waterfall is beautiful. Light slips through cracks in the falling water and glides across the opposite wall like lights at a school disco.
The ledge widens out to a platform and stops. There’s nowhere to go now. What is Dad up to? Where are we going? And to meet who?
Dad places both hands against the wall and closes his eyes. I stare at him. What is he doing? Has he gone mad?
Just as I’m about to open my mouth to ask, I hear a crack over the roar of water. Dad steps back from the wall. I watch, stunned, as the wall folds back to reveal an opening. Even after the wall stops moving, I stare at the hole.
“Dad.”
“Yes?”
“Am I going mad?”
“No, Sara, you're not,” Dad replies grimly.
“How-?”
“To open the entrances to the Time-Keeper’s Passages different acts have to be performed. For this one you have to open your mind to the wall.”
“The wall.”
“Inanimate objects can be clever. Keep them on your side.”
I stare at Dad. What is he talking about? I have an urge to run away.
Dad holds out his hand. “Come on. We shouldn’t keep them waiting.”
I hesitate for a moment and then take his hand.
“Dad?”
“Sara?”
“Is this safe?”
Dad smiles. “You're safe as long as you're with me.”
We step onto the darkness.

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