Fallow Doe

Found wandering alone the Scottish Highlands as a child, a group of deer her only company, Faren has always felt lost; longing to know her mysterious past but yerning for a future of her dreams.
When Faren turns 16 an adventure finally comes her way; the beautiful Lucere Circus comes to town. Running away from her orphanage with hopes of travel and wonder, Faren gets swept off her feet by the Circus life and the fiery Aidan Fehn. But through the magic lies dark secrets, that would finally reveal Faren's history, but how are the Circus connected? And can they be trusted?
As Faren's life unravels she's left more lost than when she started; can a young deer survive in a world of beasts?

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3. Ragged at the edges,

"Terry!" the younger children chirped, the little blonde one with knotty hair scrambling forward to grab the postman.

"Whoa! Hello there! Where's your twin?"

The little girl named Clover looked up from where her head had been nestled into Terry's jacket, her big leaf-green eyes for what she was named after wide and sweet. "He's been naughty and is gettin' a telling from Miss Clare."

"What did he do-"

"Yonk! I'll take that!" Said Dodger, grabbing the letters from Terry's hand. Collapsing down onto the doorstep Dodger ripped into the first letter, leaving the envelope completely destroyed. The other children immediately surrounded him, staring down at the plumbing letter he had opened. With a wrinkled nose the letter was tossed behind, thankfully landing inside the house.

Clover still clung to the postman like a vine wrapped around a tree, her head once again buried. Terry placed an arm around her as they watched the other children, pushing and shoving, tear into the next envelope.

Each child was dressed in their Sunday best from church, but their ‘best’ was debatable. Each Sunday morning their carers would pick the plainest clothes the children owned, navy blues and blacks, and attempted to tuck in their shirts and rub off the dirt that seemed a permanent stain. But the minute the children stepped from their fussy hands the hair was ruffled, the ties thrown off, and the dirt and muck once again smudged their cheeks and covered their hands. This morning the children appeared worse than normal; like a jungle tribe or forest elves leaves and twigs were poking out of their hair, which was matted and tangled like hair brushes had ceased to exist. Their clothes were torn and ripped, one of the younger boys completely missing a sleeve off his shirt. They looked like explorers abandoned on an island, and the postman couldn’t help but smile at the shear state of them.

Terry pulled a twig from Clover’s hair and held it up in front of the children, “So is it Archie to blame for this?” All the children nodded but before someone could explain Dodger interrupted.

Boring!” The second letter was dismissed and Dodger dropped the rest to the floor, pulling out his treasured game boy from his pocket and running off into the house.

“He’s been glued to that thing since Christmas!” Finella piped up, yanking the bow in her hair which was lodged between two twigs. Her face screwed up as it came loose and she saw the mud that covered it. Wincing, she tossed it behind then continued to try and salvage her dress from the dirt.

“At least he doesn’t stop to look in a mirror every two seconds...” murmured the small curly haired girl with glasses.

“I do not, Annie.” Finella responded sharply.

“Yeah, well not looking like that...” Annie grinned, raising her eyebrows as she looked the eldest girl up and down. Finella dropped the comb she’d been dragging through her fringe and started to vigorously tousle at Annie’s ginger afro. Annie screamed as her curly mop was pulled and tugged and in turn she started to tickle Finella. With one swipe Annie’s glasses were taken and stumbling into the house a chase began. “Where are you? I can’t see! Give them back! Give them back!”

“They’re always like that” Abi sighed, “Finella just can’t take a bloody joke.”

Language, Abigail!” Campbell teased, impersonating the stern Miss Clare.

“Oh, shut up, soup boy.”  The young boy grinned – he loved nothing more than getting under people’s skin. He was only four, but boy did he know what buttons to press. When he first came to the house at the age of one, dropped at the doorstep with a label saying “No name needs no trouble, please care for him”, he was already a mischievous and cheeky boy. In his first night of staying there he managed to bite Finella’s finger, find Abi’s cigarettes and get her in trouble, and steal a Campbell soup, what he would automatically be named after.

Abi swiped at the letters on the doorstep, and giving the other half to her self-assigned sidekick Poppy, began to shuffle through the remaining. Poppy watched as Abi ripped into the envelopes and shook the contents out into her lap, wiping her nose on her jumper every few seconds. Poppy prepared to rip her first letter, but she paused, biting her lips, before carefully and slowly nudging the envelope open without a single tear instead.

“Tewwy!” the youngest called, appearing from the house. Finlay, or Felix as the house liked to call him after the cat food, stood in front of Terry, completely hidden behind a large paper painted in bright colours, resembling a very odd face. He was leaning to the side trying to keep hold of the paper and the house cat, which was kicking about in his arms.

“W-wow!” Terry slightly chuckled, “What a beautiful painting! Is it you?” Felix peered round the side of the paper, a big gummy smile on his sweet face.

“Pecwaso” he said proudly, trying to point at his artwork while still holding the cat.

Picasso” Poppy explained, “He was copying what I did in art last Friday.”

Stumbling forward Felix shoved the painting into Terry’s hands, but as he did so the cat jumped from his arms. “Cat!” He called, immediately running after Marmalade, who was tired of the toddler’s sticky hands constantly stroking her and poking her face.

“He’s going to grow up with a house full of cats, working for Felix cat food. I can just see it!” Terry laughed.

“Or he’ll grow into a cat himself; I’ve seen him drinking from the cat bowl already” Abi smirked, tugging at a knot in her short black hair.

Dylan, the other oldest in the house, flicked his long hair off his face, trying to pretend he hadn’t found Abi funny.

“Dylan? Is that you?” Terry joked, stretching up to see the lanky boy standing at the back in the dark hallway. “How was your maths exam? Last Thursday, right?”

“Fine.” Dylan said, so quietly it has hardly audible.

“Good, good. All that revision helped then?”

“Yeah.”

“Good...good.” Terry sighed; he could tell he wasn’t going to get much more out of him than one word answers.

“What’s this...?” Poppy suddenly said, holding up a shiny lilac letter.

Annie collapsed back down onto the doorstep, her oversized glasses back and slightly wonky on her face. “Oooh what’s that? Looks special don’t it.”

“Shiny!” Clover whispered, unwinding herself from Terry as she stepped toward the letter.

“Give it here!” Abi grabbed the letter, turning it over in her hands. It read ‘Willow’s Children’s home’ on the front in gold, swirly writing. The children leaned in to examine it, eyebrows knitted and confused.

“Pretty” Clover smiled, tracing her hand over it.

“Dodger missed this one. It’s addressed to all of you” Terry beamed.

“Us?” Annie exclaimed. Felix returned beaming, Marmalade in his arms, with a less than happy face. He jumped up onto Poppy’s lap, who pulled him into a cuddle.

“Yes, all of you children...” Finella appeared at the back, frowning at Terry, “...and young adults.”

They all looked up expectantly at Terry, even Dylan shuffled forward to hear. He eyed their faces, grubby and full of mischief – for a second he wondered if Miss Lovage had thought this through.

“It’s a wedding invitation! To Miss Lova-“

“A wedding!” Annie squealed, jumping forwards as Abi began to tear into the letter.

“No, Abi, don’t tear it, it’s special...” Poppy tried to say, but Abi waved her away.

“Miss Lovage’s wedding?” said Finella.

“Yes, it’s –“

“Will I be a bridesmaid?” Clover said wide-eyed.

“No, but you get to wear a pretty dress and –“

“It’s at the church, and we ‘ave to wear our bestest stuff.” Abi read, scanning the letter.

“Oh I’m going to wear my floral dress from Maple’s. With the lace...” Finella said, starting to envision her outfit.

“I can’t wait for my wedding! I’ll have a beautiful, long, white dress, with a puffy skirt...” Poppy mimed out her outfit, “and it’ll spin when I dance!” She closed her eyes at the thought.

“Eurgh, girly stuff” Dodger said as he walked down the corridor, overhearing the conversation.

“You’re invited too, Dodge!” Terry called.

Dodger stopped, looking up from his game boy startled, “I don’t wanna go!”

“You have to –“

“But...all the squealing girls, and the long ceremony...“

“Aww!” the girls cooed.

“...and flowers...

“Aww!”

“...and kissing!”

Aww!”

Terry chuckled as Dodger screwed up his face in disgust. “There will be cake?”

“Really?” Dodger smiled, suddenly content with attending.

“Is it true love?” Clover said, turning to Terry.

True lurve!” Dodger mimicked.

“Yes, it is” Terry nodded, and the girls squealed in response.

“Yuck” Dodger spat.

“You might fall in love someday, you know” Terry teased.

“No! No, no, never.”

 “Yeah, Dodge, you will. Everyone does!” Finella ruffled his hair and Dodger winced at the thought.

“What about Merida from school? You like her!” Annie joined in.

“Yeah, she’s funny but, I don’t like like her...”

But Annie had already started chanting, and soon Campbell, Abi and Finella had joined in, “Dodger and Merida, sitting in a tree, K I S S I N G!”

“Shut up, shut up!”

“Aw, leave him alone, you meanies!” Terry said. The girls giggled and then leaned in to kiss at his burning cheeks.

“Eurgh, girl lips! Get off!” Dodger squirmed out of their grip and ran off into the house, wiping at his face. He ran up the stairs, nearly knocking over the girl coming down.

“Faren!” Terry smiled up at the girl who appeared in the doorway. “Wondered where you were.”

The girl looked up from beneath her eyelashes, tucking a curl from her hair behind her ear. “I was reading but I just heard all the shouts from down here, wondered what the commotion was.”

“The usual” Poppy smiled.

“You missed all the news,” Abi sneered, “while you were...reading.” She narrowed her eyes at Faren, who ignored Abi’s dig at her.

“News?”

“We’re invited to a wedding!” Annie clapped her hands excitedly. Faren’s face broke out in a smile at the thought; a wedding was exciting news in a village where nothing much happened, other than a choir show or bingo night. Clover squeezed through the children up to Faren, and tugging on her sleeve, they sat down together. Faren started to plait her hair, as Clover adored it when she did that.

“But you better not turn up dressed like a jungle tribe, or else you’ll be kicked out!”

The children laughed, “We won’t, its Archie’s fault. He was playing this soldier game with Dodger and Campbell and mud got thrown at me. Then it all kicked off, but he started it!” Finella explained.

“He always starts it!” Annie scoffed.

“Speaking of the devil...” Terry said as Archie appeared, shame faced and held at his shirt collar by Miss Clare.

“Hello, Terry. They’ve not been covering you in dirt and leaves too, have they?”

“No, no, Alison, I’ve survived. Looks like Archie’s had a good old scrub down!” His wild curly hair was damp and his skin looked pink and raw, but it was his guilty and downtrodden expression that said it all. He looked over at his twin Clover for help, but she just stared back at him, wondering how they were related.

“Oh yes,” Miss Clare smiled, before turning to the other children, “and it’s all of you next!” They all groaned in response, and she shook her head in dismay.

“Alison, exciting news. You’ve all been invited to Miss Lovage’s wedding!”

“Yes! A wedding!” Annie exclaimed, fixing her large glasses straight under Miss Clare’s stare.

“Oh really...you mean, all of us?” Miss Clare said, slightly unsure. She motioned at the children, raising her eyebrows at Terry.

“Yes, she wants them there; she’s invited the whole village.”

“Yes, well it’s just that some people might find them quite...energetic.”

“I’m only the messenger!” Terry said with a crooked smile, holding up his hands.

There was a silence before Annie suddenly said, “Why does she want us there?”

Miss Clare pulled in her lips, not sure what the right thing to say was. No one ever wanted them anywhere; they weren’t invited to the village quiz night at Christmas, nor old Mr Garner’s funeral.

“We couldn’t leave you out now could we?” Terry said softly.

“No but, we’re trouble aren’t we.” Abi sneered, and all the other children looked at the floor, the hiss in her words accusing and harsh. Faren let the plait in Clover’s hair fall loose, running her fingers through it softly to comfort her.

“No, not always Abi. You can be lovely sometimes, can’t they Miss?” He looked to her for back up, but she cocked her head to the side, as if agreeing was too hard. “Well, you’re the sweetest kids I know.”

“We’re the only kids you know.” Annie joked half-heartedly.

“And the best!” The children attempted a smile, feeling a little downbeat.

Suddenly Miss Clare clapped her hands, breaking the sombre mood, and began to run off orders. “Abi, Mr Clippard will be here soon, maths, remember?” Abi groaned, “Don’t give me that, get your grades up and then we can talk. Scoot! Give me that invite and clean yourself up, you have ten minutes! Finella, you’re meant to be doing piano practice. Dylan, you need to start on science revision now don’t you? Annie, yours and Campbell’s rooms a pig-sty. Chop to it, both of you. Poppy and Faren, you can help Clover and Felix with Miss Starton cleaning up the play room. And Felix, put than darn cat down she’s had enough of you chasing her round! And Archie, you’re with me. Dishes, now! And all of you, get cleaned up I can’t stand to look at you like that!”

The children disappeared one by one, waving goodbye to the postman. Miss Clare marched Archie to the kitchen, not trusting him to go himself, leaving Terry and Faren alone. Just before she went to help clean the play room she stood up, pulling her hair round to the side as she faced Terry. The morning sunlight outlined her, and she squinted in the bright outdoors, her hazel eyes flickering. She took a deep breath before asking the question she’d been desperate to ask.

“Terry...is there, a letter for me?”

Terry’s eyes widened and he jumped as he remembered the slightly crumpled envelope he’d separated especially and put in his pocket. Drawing it out he placed it proudly in Faren’s hands. “I was so happy when I got handed this this morning. Don’t let anyone else touch it, run upstairs now and read it alone, it’s addressed to you...and you only.”

Faren read the address in the right hand corner over and over; she hadn’t seen that handwriting in so long, it made her chest ache. She wanted to rip it open, but she wanted to savour it too. She felt like crying, but also dancing and cheering for joy. She wanted to run down the hill screaming and waving the letter in the air. She felt so overwhelmed she leaped into Terry’s arms, and he squeezed her tight, rubbing her back as she nestled her head into his shoulder. “Thank you for keeping it separate for me”, she whispered.

“You’re welcome sweetheart; it’s the least you deserve.” They pulled out of the embrace and Terry nodded at her to go and read it. But before she disappeared into the house he called after her, “Faren? You are okay, aren’t you?”

Faren paused a moment, a little unsettled by the question. But she summoned up a smile and nodded in what she hoped would be convincing, before turning and mounting the stairs, clutching the ring hung round her neck.  

 Miss Clare returned, taking in a deep breath, exasperated with the children.

“That was quite impressive, back there, like an army general you were!” Terry teased.

“It’s the only way to get through to them, treat them too nice and they’ll just do as they please.” Miss Clare sighed, rubbing at her forehead, “A day doesn’t go by when they don’t give me a headache.”

“Must admit I couldn’t do it, it’s a talent keeping this house from turning upside down.” Miss Clare smiled, she didn’t often feel appreciated.

“Well, thank you for the post...and thank Miss Lovage for the invite! I hope we don’t cause any trouble.” She frowned, running over the worst situations in her head.

“Relax, it’ll be fine. Without them it’d be no fun.”

“Their idea of fun is different to ours, though.”

“Ah, fun is fun!” Terry grinned. “See you tomorrow morning, Alison. Oh! And here’s a, err, piece of artwork by Felix.” He handed over the painting, and Miss Clare laughed. “A budding artist in the house?” he said, starting to walk away.

“Hardly! He just poured paint on a piece of paper!” she called.

Terry turned arms out wide, “Can’t define art, Alison!”

“Next you’ll be telling me I’m a dancer or something!”

“Never seen you dance!”

“You don’t want to!” she laughed, before they both waved goodbye and Miss Clare went back into the house. Just before she closed the door Terry heard in the distance Miss Clare shout once more, her words carried by the breeze, “Dodger! Can you please unglue yourself from that game, or else your eyes’ll go square!” 

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