Willow House (First of a Saga)

Cassie Brooks, a girl with a background. No one wants her, no one needs her. So when she joins Willow House, what will the inmates think of their new member?

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15. Fearsome Flames.

 

f anything, I had wanted to avoid this. No one would intervene in this incident and no one was there to stop it. Teresa wound her fingers into my hair in a blink of an eye and yanked down. Hard. My head hit the table and a distorted image of Ash blurred to the surface. I reached out and pushed Teresa’s whole body back into the chair, pulling me with her as I untangled her fingers. I decided to make a run for it. I sped out of the canteen and across the grounds up onto the field. No teachers patrolled up there and it was a place I could play my tactics to my own advantage. Teresa searched the courtyard and I let her see me before I disappeared behind the Technology block. She came scampering round the corner to meet my fist. As quick as I could I grabbed her head and full on kneed her in the face. She clasped her nose and wiped away what looked like a nose bleed. “You spiteful little-” I slapped her. And then realized it was a total mistake. She knocked me over and pinned me to the ground. “This is for Molly.” She hit my cheek and then straightened my face for another shot. “This is for Liam.” She hit it again and I could feel the bruises literally popping out the side of my face. She realigned it once again. “And this.” Teresa hit me once more. “For my sister.” She let me go and I curled over to cradle my face. Blood dripped onto my hands. “Corey? Ok. I can understand Molly, and maybe even Liam, but Corey? What in the name of hell have I done to her? If anything I was the only one who listened to her.” Teresa turned around and grabbed my face in her hand. “Don’t come that shit with me. listened, listened for three years. Three years I listened to her whining. Three years I did nothing about it. Time to pay my debts.” She kicked me in the stomach and I screamed momentarily. I collapsed to my knees and looked up at her with disgust on my face. “She deserves so much better than you. You’re a lie. A lie!” She clenched her fists and then left me. I was alone on the field, with a bloody face and most likely a million more bruises. I had no food in me so at least I wouldn’t be sick. But I think I’d lost a lot of reputation. I hadn’t ever lost a fight once. And yet I just had. I stumbled around and headed back to the canteen as the bell sounded. I came to the table and leaned against it for support, my whole body sore and weak. I reached for my bag strap and hauled it over my shoulder, wincing at the weight. I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry for someone like Liam to come to me and make me better. I made a very slow walk up to drama, and nearly collapsed again on the stairs. Flurries of students barged past, knocking me to and fro. I looked out for Ash, my closest ally and yet found no sign of him. I guessed he was already in drama and any energy I had was diminished again. I finally made it to the classroom and surprise, surprise, I was late. My teacher ignored me and carried on the lesson. I dumped my bag and then dumped my body next to Ash. It wasn’t worth it any more. Everyone was staring at me. I tried not to make eye contact, which was hard in a room of twenty odd people, who were all gawking at you. Ash was doing just the same. ‘What?’ I mimed and he indicated to his cheek, as if to say something about mine. I reached up and remembered the blood and the bruising and the pain from Teresa’s beating. I closed my eyes and laid my head on Ash’s lap. I didn’t care anymore, and I knew people were looking at me, some smirking, some gasping, I knew Ash looked mortified without even having to see his face. And soon enough the teacher realised. “Cassie? Cassie! Miss Brooks wake up. Is my lesson so boring as to put you to sleep?” Now all attention was focused on me. Great. I sat up and Miss noticed my bloody cheek and almost equally bloody, Ash’s lap. “Oh.” I mumbled. Ash nodded to the teacher and got up, grabbing my hand to take me with him. He tugged when I didn’t get up. I slowly came to a standing position and got Ash to lead me out of drama. “No. Don’t want to.” I was tired now. He pushed me out of class then grabbed my shoulders, already sore. “Ow.” I winced and tried feebly to tap his hands away. “Oh Cassie. What am I to do with you?” He pulled me in for a hug and I let my head drop onto his chest and my arms flop helplessly besides myself. He held on tight and soon my whole body weight was being held by him solely. My tears were silent and dripped onto his shirt. His hand caught the back of my head. “Shh... Don’t cry beautiful.” He started to sway slightly. I got my own weight back and stood, with dried blood and tears on my face. “Come on.” He took my hand and tugged slightly. “Let’s get you cleaned up eh? And then we can all see how beautiful you are.”  I let him lead me and my feet shuffled along automatically. Ash was so happy. And I was an emotional wreck.  Soon enough, Ash had me down at the office, being ‘cleaned up’ by the staff on duty. They messed with my face until it was just a sore cut and bruises and wiped my tears away. I was happy to get out. I walked with Ash to the toilets and made him wait for me whilst I tried my best to readjust my make up to an orderly state. I came out and he took my hand again. He pulled us over to a spare table and sat us down. He left the excuse note on the table. Excusing us out of 4th period. No one was around though, and that made it better. Quieter, more peaceful. Ash held my hand under the table as he shuffled up next to me. I held it, but only lightly. He tightened it every once and a while and then he decided holding my waist was better. I got away from his grip and headed back to drama, using an excuse of; “We need our bags.” That was the easiest way I’d escape his arms. I didn’t want to think about how messed up my love life was, I wanted to go home and genuinely, go to bed. I plodded through the silent court yard and up the stairs, Ash in tow, until we reached drama. The bell rang, on cue, and allowed us to sneakily snatch our bags without a whole commotion made of it.  Final period, English. It was going to be an eventful hour, what with myself being sat next to a flirtatious Ash, in the corner of the classroom, at the back. Urgh. I sat down and waited impatiently for my book to be handed out. I took the liberty of writing the objectives down, as a distraction. Ash sat down with a sigh and copied me, only he could only bother himself with the date and nothing more. He sat back on his chair and created an atmosphere of ‘cool’ around him. I found myself staring. I looked away when he made a coughing noise. I could see a cocky smirk spread across his face. He slowly came to lean on the table. “Cassie, likey?” He winked and looked dead smug with himself. His arm literally touched all of mine, as if we were joined at the skin. I nudged him and he nudged back playfully. I could see where this was going. His leg touched mine. I kicked him, and his eyebrows furrowed when I did. Story writing was the task, and we had to come up with ideas. In pairs. I groaned, but turned to Ash to start our ‘work’. “You know what would make a really good story?” Ash was on the verge of some big declaration I could tell. I raised my eyebrow as an indication to carry on. “You realising just how well matched we are. And then we could re-act our best night so far... And take it... Further.” I sighed. “Not gunna’ give up are yah?” He smiled. “Nope. Better just hurry up and accept it.” I rolled my eyes and he grabbed my leg. “I mean it baby.” His hand sneaked up closer and I grabbed at it to stop him going any further. “Don’t call me that Ash.” He shuffled closer. “Why not?” I pulled a face. “Because I’m not yours.”  That caught him off guard and he clutched the hand that I was using to stop his own hand. “Who?” He was deadly serious. “You know who.” He let go of me and pulled away. “He’s gone Cassie, look to the future. I’m accepting you here after everything you threw back in my face. I’m giving you another chance, one you fucked up last time.” I felt myself stagger back, deeper into the support of the chair. Man I hate his mood swings. I was taken aback, first with his language and then by the fact that his words cut deep. Deeper than he’d intended them to have. I now have more wounds over my badly bandaged heart. Ash makes me feel so guilty. He makes me feel like I should let go of the past, give into him, but then, what am I? A slut? A whore? I didn’t want Liam to think I was like that. Liam. I sighed. Why should I think about him, when he abandoned me like dirt? After zoning out for so long, I felt a dizzy serge as I came back to humanity. Ash was watching me closely, one eye half shut by the raise in his cheek to match his wonky smile. I realized my sigh may have sent him adrift. I shook myself mentally, and noticed the class, hot in discussion with each other. Nevertheless, a completely different subject than that given to do. I made my mouth speak. “Language.” Yes I know, best I could do with a dizzy head. He smirked and looked down at his book. “Yeah, it’s English, what you expect? Spanish?” I’d put Ash in my bad books, but I could help the twitch of a smile appear on my face. But the smile hurt my bruised cheek and soon I was cursing myself for letting one slip. Back at Willow, life avoiding now Molly and Teresa is going to be a challenge. At least now I know their weapons. Molly, a smart mouthed bitch who carries one deadly pen knife, and Teresa? An over protective sister who can punch the hell out of me in seconds. I know I say this a lot, but, Great. The buzz of the bell silenced the chattering pupils momentarily and then the hustle and bustle of the end of the school day roared though the room. People ducked under tables to grab their bags and putting chairs on top of tables, easy access for the cleaners no doubt. I moved in automatic following the crowd. Slung my bag over my shoulder and waited to be released. As Miss dismissed us, table by table, I kicked Ash’s foot for something to do. He gave me a weird look, he hissed over at me. “Silence your foot.” I reframed from kicking him, even though one last time would be hysterical. I hadn’t even heard Miss and had to follow Ash’s lead. Molly’s foot protruded from her chair, tripping me over as I passed. She messed with one of her locks of blue hair. “Cassie! My foot!” I pulled a sarcastic grin as I flashed my face over my shoulder and headed out the room with Ash. “Do I have permission to strangle her till she can no longer pollute this earth with her breath?” I gave him the boss-eyed look. Lord. She only tripped me up. “What? She’s done enough shit to you Cassie, bitch deserves it.” Well, he was right about that. As we headed back to ‘home’ if you could really call it that, Ash side tracked me to a tiny newsagents. It was tucked away on the way home, along the road. It had a white face, a lot like the care home, but its paint was peeling away. The door’s frame slanted from use and the handle rusted by rain. It didn’t look like it was worth the time. Ash pushed through the door casually, as if he’d done it a million times, but then, I supposed he had. Change jingled in his pocket and the high pitched clink reminded me of the ring the bell in the inside of the door made as we entered. I gingerly shut the door behind me as Ash paraded on up to the counter. I looked around the dark room, only lit by the crooked window on the right of the door. The dark wood frames made the room more cramped and seem wet as if it was always in a stage of drying from heavy rain. But the pleasant smell of confectionary gave a sense of safety in the dark. I made out the many jars of brightly coloured bonbons and sweets, jellies and chocolate. An old frayed looking man appeared from a side door, wearing a dirty apron. His first appearance made me haunch my shoulders up closer but then he smiled, and the friendly chap shined through. I found myself shy for one of the rarest moments in my life. “Ash! My son, long time since I saw your face, you devil!” He laid his hands on the glass counter. Ash slapped the money in front of him. “Pound of Jellies Drake please!” Ash’s cheery tone made me tip toe closer to the counter, but still I hid in the darkness. Was it because of my face? I don’t think so. I heard Drake (I suppose that’s his name) whisper to Ash as if wanting me not to hear, yet I really did. “Who’s your friend?” Ash looked down, all confidence lost. His face must have given it away because Drake looks up to me with knowing eyes and then back down to Ash. “Rough day darling?” I realised he was talking to me, and even in the darkened shadows I hid in; he must have seen my face. I touched the sore spot and grimaced as pain erupted over my skin. “Isn’t it always sir?” He pulled a smile. “Here.” He reached into a jar and bagged a handful of fizzy worms, before tossing them over the counter. “On the house.” Ash smiled through his sweets. “Aww! How sweet?” He snatched them up. “Not if I eat them first!” He dodged Drake’s fast arms and bumped into me on his escape route. I took my treats back and slapped his hand. “My sweets, greedy face.” He pulled me in for a hug (in front of Drake!) but then I realised he was only after an excuse to delve into my bag of fizzy worms. I almost let my relief show. Drake chuckled deeply. “Get on. Out of here you two!” Oh great, again, Drake thinks we’re an ‘item’. I dragged my heavy body out of the crooked little shop and was grateful for the sweets. I yanked one from the bag and ate it whole. The sour fizz made me giggle with pleasure. I felt Ash’s hand brush mine and I decided to keep on walking. Stuffing multiple worms in my mouth at a time. Soon my hand was grasping at an empty bag. And my throat was gagging for water. Hmp. I whipped around hoping to surprise an unsuspecting Ash, but instead met a lonely path and an instant headache. I forgot my own problems and searched around for Ash. But he was nowhere to be seen. I stepped on a little further, taking little steps. Searching around me constantly, but still no sign of Ash. There were the houses to my right and only... The woods. To my left. The woods, is that where he’s gone? But I see no reason for him to up and ditch me like that. Kidnapped? Oh honestly. Have I heard myself lately? But people don’t just go missing off the streets! I held my upper arm with my hand and pulled it in closer to my chest. As sort of, self hug. My face sore, my head pounding and my heart thumping out of beat. I had a tendency to expect the worse in situations like this. Hands on my shoulders. “Noooo!”  I felt myself tighten up and my heart beat even faster. I heard laughter behind me and placed it to a face immediately. I swung round. “Ash!” My fists clenched at my sides, a definite frown on my face. I crossed my arms. “You should’ve seen your face! HAHA! Oh my... What you think it was Cassie? The bogey man?” I pouted like a spoilt little girl as he tried to take me in for a hug, I shrugged him off. He wiped his eyes as if he was trying to exaggerate how funny it was. “Pfft.” I started walking off, but I kept checking he was following behind. His hands in his trouser pockets, looking cool as per usual.  We were almost back at Willow when I saw it. Smoke escaping the open windows of a small cottage house. A woman clutching her husband’s hand on the path outside, firemen bracing the flames, soot staining their faces. I had no time to prepare myself, the memories flooded back. The fire, the cries, the death. As if acting upon memory I felt myself dump my bag and run towards the cottage. Arms leapt at me from either side, but it seemed like I was in slow motion, they couldn’t reach me, not now. I heard something I thought was Ash’s voice calling my name, but then the sound changed, it changed in my head. It changed into the cries of my mother and father, locked in the bedroom. Then, as I wiped tears from my now burning face, it changed again. The cries of a little girl. “Mommy! Daddy! Please Mommy!” I pulled the tie from my shirt, loosening the knot, then pulling the front of my now stained shirt up to my face, covering my nose and mouth. The smoke was intoxicating, but I couldn’t help but put myself where the girl was. Unaware of where her parents were, no idea if they would survive, no idea if she too would make it out alive. I tripped up multiple times as I tried to scale the burning stair case, I didn’t even take the time to look at the burning rubble below me. I slipped and hit my elbow, add that to the list of pains and aches. But I couldn’t feel any of those now, only the adrenaline pumping through my heated body and the memories that made me plough on to the little girl’s bedroom. I saw the light protruding under the door, and I heard the rattle of the door knob being twisted and shoved from the other side. I also heard the same cry I made. “I-I love you mommy!” Her sobs racking her ribcage, the smoke choking her. I could picture it, I could remember it. But this little one would not break free on her own and run to the burning remains of her loved ones, she would not be connected with their murder. No. I slammed into the door with my shoulder. “Step back!” I slammed it again. I saw the wood break at the hinges and I slammed into it again. It was jarred. “Shit.” I mumbled under my breath. I looked around and dropped my shirt from my mouth the pick up a chunky piece of wood. I slammed that into the jarred area and sure enough the door snapped in on itself. I dropped the wood as the smoke began to fill my lungs. The little girl was cowered near the open window, gasping for air; she clung to a small teddy, almost black from the soot. She coughed and it was just as I remembered the painful racking of my body as I had tried to get the smoke from my lungs. So young. So unfair. I ran up to her and took a breath from the open window myself before sweeping her up in my arms. I had to grapple with myself a couple of times, my weak body unable to support her the first time round. I scrambled over the ruins of the door and out onto the stair case. Dead end. The stairs had been engulfed by flames; I felt them lick up alongside me, as if tasting me. “Is there another way out?” The little girl coughed and I pulled her dressing gown that she was wearing up over her face like mine. She nodded and pointed to the landing. I followed her hand and found another set of stairs at the other end of the first floor.  I took to the stairs two at a time and found myself in an open kitchen. The little girl was crying, her tears leaving clean marks where the black had covered her face. I noticed the door in the corner and ran out through that way. I was so relieved that they hadn’t locked this door. As soon as we were out into the fresh air, smoke following our footsteps, I felt my knees buckling under me, but I made them carry on, to the girl’s parents. Their faces lit by the sight of their daughter again. I wiped fiercely at my own tears. I never got this. I never had the chance to see the look on my parents faces as I was brought out alive. I gently passed the girl over to the woman who took her in her arms. I saw the man look up at me and whisper a thank you. His eyes wet with fresh tears. “Never leave her alone. Cherish her. Make her know love.” I walked away, and as I felt myself fall, choking on smoke, burning from the flames, I was caught by Ash. His arms wrapped around my feeble body, holding me from the ground. “Cassie! Cassie, no!” His words seemed to grow fainter as I let my eyelids droop. “No Cassie! Please no!” I felt his rough hands clasp my face. Oh no, he isn’t going to kiss me is he? I managed to make my eyes open and tried to get up on my feet. Paramedics came to tend to me as the firemen battled the flames. The smouldering remains of the cottage looked too familiar. Anyone could mistake that little home, to the full sized house I had. I had. I felt my pulse course through my skull. The pain finally registering. My elbow sore, my bruised face, now radiating heat from the flames.  

 

((If some sort of weird computer interanl shiz comes on the reading page, I cannot locate it even if i go to edit and whatever, I appologize for the annoyance, hope your enjoying Willow Hous

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