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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2. Chapter Two

I first saw Mark in the local Co-op on the corner. I was with Melissa, and the minute we saw him we got the giggles. As he served us, we fiddled with our hair. Anything he said we broke down laughing at. I feel kind of sorry for him now- he looked so confused.

After a bit of investigating, Melissa found out his shift times. Every Saturday and Sunday was the time to go to the Co-op and stare at the hot worker.

Before long, Mark, Melissa and I were great friends and we even began to see Mark outside his shift times. Mark and Melissa even went out for a while, but it didn’t last.

Mark and Marcus were great friends, even though Mark was in the year below. They spent loads of time together and were like best friends, if boys really have ‘best friends’.

I can only imagine what Mark is feeling now.

Ringing the doorbell of his flat, I brush the tears away and try to look strong.

I ring the bell a few more times, but no-one answers, so I test the door and find it’s open. This surprises me- Mark is always so careful.

Stepping into the hall, I grimace at the mess. Clothes, packets and bottles are everywhere. He must be bad. Ever since Mark has moved in here, he’s taken living alone very seriously. Mess cleared up, doors locked at night, lights on when he’s out. He always says he wants to be nothing like his parents.

That’s another thing Mark and Marcus have in common- their parents have abandoned them.

“Mark,” I call, peering around the bedroom door. Nope, not in there.

When I go back into the hall, I step on a pile of clothes and towels. A squelch sounds from beneath it.

“Ew Mark, this is disgusting…”

I see him then. Slouched in a chair opposite the TV. A box lies open at his feet. From it I can hear the buzz of flies. Surrounding the box are cans and bottles.

All empty.

Cursing, I weave through the mess.

“Mark. Mark! God’s sake Mark, what have you done…”

I kick some bottles out of the way and open the curtains. The light covers everything in a pale haze.

Mark stirs in his chair.

“Mark! Mark wake up, you idiot!”

He sits up, leans his head on his shoulder and groans.

“Mark! Wake up! Don’t make me slap you!”

He moves, but doesn’t open his eyes.

“I will, seriously!” I move over to shadow his body.” Or I’ll pour some water over your head. Isn’t that what you’re meant to do to unconscious alcoholics?”

Lifting his head, Mark stretches.

“Good afternoon to you too,” he mutters.

“Mark! What were you thinking, drinking yourself silly?”

“My head…”

“Where did you get it all anyway? You’re not even old enough to buy it!”

“Amazing what a couple of compliments can get you. You should try it sometime.”

“You’re the most stupid person I know! Imagine how Melissa’s family are feeling at the moment! About a million times worse than you! And yet you don’t see them drinking away their worries, do you? DO YOU?”

He groans. “It was… necessary.”

“No it wasn’t! I’m sad, but what am I doing? Making sure everyone else is okay! Not locking myself up like the selfish… git that you are!”

“Ouch,” Mark says with sarcasm.

“Don’t turn into your parents!”

The second I say it, I regret it. But Mark’s too hungover to really care.

“Too far, Sara. Too far.” Mark heaves himself to his feet.

“I’m sorry.”

“Should be.”

“I’m just glad you haven’t like… run away.”

“Funny way to show relief.”

He turns to look out of the window and tears fill my eyes. A sob escapes my mouth and he turns towards me.

“Oh, Sara.”

He walks over and hugs me. Normally I would be thinking very hard if someone as hot as Mark was hugging me, but at the moment I don’t care. After a minute, I push him away.

“You stink.”

“I know.”

“You’re house is a mess.”

“I know.”

“We’re going to get rid of the drink.”

“I… What!?”

 

Ten minutes later I’m tidying up the living room and Mark’s in the shower. After a lot of swearing and moaning, I managed to get mark to pour every last bottle down the sink.

“But it cost me a bomb!”

“Shouldn’t have bought it in the first place.”

When we had watched the final drops slip down the plug hole, Mark turned to me and gave me another hug.

“Thank you for caring about me,” he muttered into my shoulder,” you’d be the only one.”

I let him hug me, but then I pushed him away.

“Go have a shower, smelly.”

“Ooh. I’m offended.”

“Just go, okay?”

“Keep your bra on!”

He turned to go, but then turned back.

“We’ll talk afterwards, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Mark left the room, and just as I thought I needed to give him another cuddle, I heard him shout down the hall.

“I’m locking the door, so don’t bother trying to peek.”

“In your dreams,” I called back.

Now I’m cleaning the living room, discovering the amazing amount of dust that can build up in just a few days. I can hear the rush of water through the pipes. Thinking about Marcus as I clean the windows brings tears to my eyes, but then I start to wonder. Why wasn’t Mark crying? Sure, he’d drunk a lot, but that can’t stop you from crying. Can it? I’ve tried drinking before, but it tasted so horrible I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

I spend  few more minutes thinking and then Mark comes in. after all this time of knowing him, I’m still taken aback by how hot he is. Checked shirt covers his muscly arms and his skinny jeans cover his thin and long legs. Long brown hair, damp from the shower, is swept across his forehead, almost reaching his eyes.

His eyes. This may sound like such a cliché, but they don’t have a colour. Deep blue, grass green, hair grey. Individual colours, or many at the same time. Sometimes his eyes are like mini rainbows. Every colour describes Mark’s eyes; all you have to do is look.

“Hello?” Mark waves his hand in my face.

“Yeah?”

“I mean, I know I’m fit, but there’s no need to stare. It’s invading my personal space.”

“Shut up.”

Embarrassed that Mark caught me staring at him, I sit down. I don’t want him knowing any of my thoughts or feelings, or anyone else for that matter.

“Sooo….” He says after a minutes pause.

I’m silent. I’m done apologising, I’m done comforting, and I’m done crying.

“How’s his family?”

“Like you’d expect.”

“Vanessa coping?”

“Just about.”

“When did you find out?”

“They had an assembly this morning. I left at break. You?”

Mark’s lips form a thin line. He doesn’t like skiving, or any type of disobedience. I don’t think Mark’s ever been shouted at by a teacher, let alone anything else.

“I watched the news on Saturday morning.”

The proximity of Mark begins to get to me, so I get up and begin to pace the room.

“Why did Marcus have to be kidnapped? He’s never done anything wrong.”

“Sara, there are a lot of bad people out there…”

“I know, I know, but what I mean is- Why Marcus? Out of all the people on this planet, why him? I’m sure he’s never made an enemy in his life.”

“People disappear for different reasons, Sara, and sometimes there’s no reason at all. Marcus was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

I mull this over for a bit, but it still doesn’t feel right.

“No, mark, it’s not that. I mean, it can’t just be that someone vanished off the face of the earth. There would have been some sort of build-up, or maybe an eyewitness. It can’t just be that no-on witnessed anything. No-one has even come up to say that they saw him before he disappeared.

“Sara-“

“It’s just not right. It’s as though Marcus just left the house and then… well… poofed.”

“There are loads of really evil people out there and-“

“Mark! No! Someone had to witness it. Had to. Or else it’s just like Marcus left his house and then… and then he was unwritten. He just simply did not exist anymore.”

The reaction in Mark is immediate. His head snaps up and he begins to search my face for a clue, an answer.

“What made you say that?”

“Nothing. It just… came out”

“Who’s been talking to you? What did they tell you?”

“Mark, no-one has been talking to me. I-“

“Sara, you know something. Tell me. What is it?”

His face is shocked and he sounds panicky, on the verge of anger.

“Mark.” I go over and grab his shoulders. ”I know nothing. What are you talking about?”

He’s silent, just stares into my eyes. He does this a lot, and it makes me extremely uncomfortable. It’s really difficult to hold eye contact with Mark. His eyes are soft yet piercing. He never blinks, and it’s as though he’s looking right into me, seeing everything, missing nothing. It makes me feel so… naked.

After a minute, Mark looks away. ”You’re right. I’m sorry. I’m just being stupid.”

“Mark. What was there to know? Why were you so scared?”

He just looks at me.

“I mean, you were when more scared than when those wasps were chasing you around,”

Mark doesn’t smile.

“I’m sorry. That was lame. So why were you so scared?”

After a pause, Mark gets up.

“What are you doing?”

“It’s not safe to talk here. We’re going out.” He pockets his wallet and grabs his car keys.

Not safe? What does he mean?

“Mark…”

“Come on.”

Stepping over the laundry pile, he heads into the hall. Having no choice, I follow him.

“How’s it not safe?”

Not replying, he locks the door behind us and begins to climb down the stairs.

“Mark! For God’s sake, say something!”

“I can’t. Not here. We’re going out.”

I sigh, exasperated and confused.

“I still don’t get it. What do we need to talk about? Why’s it not safe?” I ask, clambering into the passenger seat.

Mark puts his hand over my mouth.

“Not here, okay? I’ll tell you later.”

“But…”

“Just trust me, alright?”

I sigh, and Mark starts the engine.

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