Claimed *Completed*

"I'm already living on borrowed time. When it comes to it, it will be my time to go."

500 years ago Cathy should have died, but she didn't. She was saved by the Devil.

"I agreed to something ... Something that cant have been important then, it seemed too far away.
I'd agreed, after five hundred years, to hand myself over to the Devil, to become his."

Now her time's up, but back in the city where it all started, things are far from over. Cathy finds out that there is more to the Devil than she ever thought. A new boy, a best friend and a deadly enemy, things are about to get complicated...

"No one's that good or bad, it's not that simple, nothing's that black and white. It's more grey."

*Hi, this is my first Movella, so I'd love some feedback and constructive critsism! Thanks :)

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10. Wednesday, 12th January 2012

Wednesday, 12th January 2012

 

 

 

 

 

  I come round groggily and try to sit up. My back hurts from being slumped in a hard wicker chair. Looking around I see I’m sitting in a corner of a small first aid room, consisting of a bed and a small cabinet on the wall. Chrissie’s standing in the corner, looking at one of the many posters plastering the wall, but I can tell she’s not really reading it.

  I groan and press a hand to my forehead. I really need to stop having these flashbacks; they’re not good for me, emotionally or physically.

  Chrissie turns to looks at me; she skips “Are you okay?”, and leans over me, with a no-nonsense look in her eyes, “Okay, spill.”

  Warning bells immediately go off and I know what’s coming next even before she answers, “Spill what?”

  She slams her hands down on the arms my chair, this is a totally new Chrissie, and to be honest, I’m a bit scared.

  “Don’t give me that! You know perfectly well what I’m talking about! I want to know what’s going on! To start with you can drive, which is legally impossible because you should be sixteen in a couple of weeks, then you freak out on me for days and claim it was a nightmare, then you refuse to drive over the Kiay Bridge and you even blacked out on me for a minute.

  “On top of all that you fall down two flights of stairs and receive a blow that should, by all right, have killed you. Now you faint in class when Mr Lawson mentions ‘burning witches’. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this all adds up to something being very wrong.”

  Wow. Seriously, wow. I totally underestimated Chrissie, she’s good. And she’s obviously been holding all this in for a while; I can see the relief on her face for finally saying it.

  I don’t think this is the best time to tell her this though, so instead I sigh and look up into her eyes, hard and determined. A sudden thought occurs to me – why not tell her? I’m sick of keeping it all to myself for all these years, why keep it secret? So, okay, there is what happened with Jane, but this is the 21st century, for God’s sake. How much chance is there I’m going to get burnt as a witch?

  There is still the possibility of dissection and experimentation and all the modern ‘science’, but that would mean they’d have to believe me in the first place. Anyway, I’ll disappear soon, so it won’t matter.

  But, a logical part of my mind reminds me that Chrissie won’t believe me. A less selfish part says that it’d only hurt her to know, but maybe it would hurt her less than not knowing. Ergh.

  As I hold Chrissie’s gaze I can tell she’s actually worried about me – it’s been a long time since anyone’s cared enough to worry. I’ve cut too many people out of my life.

  I sigh and look down, “Okay, my house, tonight – I’ll tell you everything.”

 

*

 

  Chrissie is uncharacteristically silent for the rest of the day. It suits me just fine because I’m lost in thought.

  Thousands of questions are running around my head, some cropping up more than others: what on earth am I going to tell Chrissie? Is it too late to back out? What couldn’t Jess tell me? What is does she know? Why am I having so many flashbacks? What is the Devil doing back in my head? It was defiantly him I heard. And why is Jack still ignoring me?

  Okay, the last question looks stupid next to all the other, more important, ones. It’s bugging me by the amount of times I keep thinking it.

  Even with all the renewed whispers and staring – word has gotten around about my more resent fainting – the day goes far too quickly for my liking. Before I know it Chrissie and I are in the car heading towards my apartment. We’re quiet, but by the time I open the front door Chrissie is almost bursting with anticipation.

  Turning to me she says, “Right, I’ve had to wait all day to find out what’s going on, so now you better get on with it because I can’t wait much longer.” She slides onto a bar stool and I pace the room in front of her.

  After yet more internal struggles, I finally stop and say, “Okay, what I’m going to tell you is going to sound completely mad and unbelievable. I don’t blame you if you don’t believe me, or decide to run as far away from me as possible.”

  “Cathy-“

  I carry on talking through her, “But I need you to promise me something. Whatever I say, you can’t tell anyone. Ever. I haven’t told anyone what I’m going to tell you for a very long time, and last time it didn’t end well.” A shiver goes down my spine.

  “Of course, I promise, I won’t tell anyone.” Chrissie is unusually sombre, sensing the seriousness in my voice.

  “Oh, could you do something else for me?” Chrissie nods. “Please don’t run out of the door screaming. I don’t think my nerves could take it, they’re running thin as it is.”

  She looks at me strangely, but promises anyway, “I won’t run away screaming.”

  “You don’t know what you’re agreeing to,” I mutter. I start pacing again because I have to keep moving. Where to start? That’s the big problem.

  I don’t realise that I said it out loud until Chrissie answers, “The start usually works best.”

  “Hmm... the start.” I take a deep breath and launch into the story, “The start would have to be five hundred years ago. I lied about not living in Toritos before, but when I did it wasn’t anything like it is today. I lived in the slums of the city with my mother, sister and step-father.” I pause. Chrissie looks confused, but nods encouragingly and I continue.

  “I was a really horrible person Chrissie; too self-absorbed to notice anyone around me, too self-pitying to care. I was locked in my own little world, constantly thinking no-ones life could possibly be any worse than mine. I saw children crying, homeless, sick, on the verge of death – but did I care? No, I was just annoyed at them for making a fuss about their life when they could do something about it.

  “I was about to commit suicide,” – I hear Chrissie suck in a breath – “I wondered why they didn’t just end their miserable existence. But they valued life more than me. Everyday I’d wake up and curse the fact I was still alive, but other people, they’d count their blessings that they’d lasted the night. I should have been killed that night, the person I was deserved to die. The Devil should have left me.” I shake my head; I’m getting ahead of myself.

  “I was going to jump off the Kiay Bridge, but at the last minute I changed my mind.”

  “Why did you change your mind?” I look up, Chrissie had left me to talk this long, but curiosity has got the better of her.

  “My sister, Elizabeth. I was the one that always looked after her; if I wasn’t there I doubted she would even get fed. She was the only person I really cared about, I couldn’t just leave her.” Chrissie accepts this and I carry on.

  “In the end it turned out it wasn’t up to me. I’d just changed my mind when I was pushed,” I hear Chrissie’s intake of breath again, “I heard a laugh then, from whoever pushed me, but I never did find out until I heard the same laugh yesterday, when I was pushed again, but this time down the stairs.”

  Chrissie jumps up, “What?! Are you sure? Why haven’t you told anyone? The police? MI5?”

  “Chrissie,” I adopt a calming voice, “this was five hundred years old, remember?”

 Chrissie sits back down, looking like a balloon that has just been deflated. “Oh, yeah.” Then she looks up quickly, “But if you got pushed off the bridge, how come you’re still here? No, scrap that, if this all happened five hundred years ago, that makes you five hundred years old? You don’t look it.”

  I feel a smile tugging at the corner of my mouth, “I’m getting there.” Chrissie starts to say something else, but I hold a hand up to stop her, “I’ll tell you everything, then you can ask questions.

  “I should have drowned, just like I should have died yesterday. But I didn’t. When I was about to hit the water, it was like,” I struggle to find the words, “like everything stopped and then I heard this voice... and this face...” I shudder again, “I call him the Devil, but whether he is really a devil or not, I don’t know. He told me he could save my life and, in short, give me another five hundred years of life. But there was more to it than that, after five hundred years I would have to give myself up to him.”

  “But... you said this all happened five hundred years ago? That means...” I nod. “Oh God.”

  I nod again, “I didn’t think about it then, it was five hundred years away, would you?” By the look on Chrissie’s face I’m assuming she would. I sigh, “Well, I didn’t. I was about to die, but I wasn’t ready, the Devil knew that and took advantage of it.”

  “Why didn’t he just wait until you were dead and then take you down to hell, or wherever?”

  I shrug, “I don’t know, I don’t think it’s the biblical devil, the Devil’s just a name I give him.”

  Chrissie considers this, “So, you don’t know what he is?”

  “No.”Chrissie frowns, after a few seconds I continue, “Maybe he’s not that evil, I mean, I didn’t die that night, but in a way I did, at least the horrible part of my mind did and it brought out the better person in me. So in a way I’m glad the Devil found me that night. I’m a better person now, I appreciate life more and I’ve learnt to care for and help others; that not everything is about me.”

  Actually I’ve never thought of the Devil like that before – it’s just been ingrained in me that he’s evil. End of. But in a strange way what I just said makes sense; he set me free.

  I realise what I’ve just thought and snap myself out of it. I’ve never thought of him as good - since when have I thought that? Only since I’ve started having these flashbacks, I remember with a shudder.

  I look up and see Chrissie is still watching me. I want to try and explain it to her, but I can’t seem to make up my mind about any one thing anymore; the Devil’s good, the Devil’s bad; I’m glad he saved me, I wish he hadn’t; I’m waiting for the years to end, I’m dreading the end. Sometimes I don’t even know myself anymore. I used to be dead set on what I wanted; I’d rely on my instincts, but now my instincts have gone on holiday and left me wondering who on earth I’m turning into.

  How I’m meant to explain all this to Chrissie I don’t know.

  I try to explain the part I’m more certain about. “A lot of memories I don’t want to keep, I try to forget them, but others I treasure because they remind me of everything I’ve been through. I think when it comes to it’ll be ready to die this time. But I don’t know if it’s as simple as dying, even though I wish it was.”

  There’s a long silence while we both think about what I said. Chrissie suddenly interrupts it, “When is he coming?”

  I hesitate, I don’t know whether to tell her or not, I don’t want to worry her by telling her the truth. I settle for a white lie; “I don’t know exactly.”

  There is another long pause, “So, this is all for real then?” I was wondering when she’d say something like that.  I motion for Chrissie to follow me and I stop in front of my room.

  “The store cupboard?” she says, confused, “What have you got hidden in there?”

  I roll my eyes and open the door. Chrissie steps in ahead of me and I follow, closing the door behind me.

  Chrissie gazes around her and says, in an awed whisper, “So, not a store cupboard then.”

  “No, it’s more of a memory room.”

  “Wow.” I follow her eyes. I have Picasso’s and Rembrandt’s up on the walls, originals from the Bronte sisters and Shakespeare, books dedicated to me under various names. Trinkets from inventers and sculptures and, of course, the dress I can’t bare to part with.   Chrissie got it about right; wow just about sums it up.

  Naturally she goes straight for the dress, “Oh, it’s gorgeous! I love it! Look at the detail in it; it looks like something you’d find at a masked ball. Did you wear a lot of them?”

  “Yeah, sure.” I grin, “I had loads of dresses like them, but this one’s my favourite, so I kept it.” I pick up a mask on the table beside the dress and hand it to Chrissie, “I had this made to go with it.”

  Chrissie marvels at it for a minute and then says, “So you’ve met Picasso?”

  “Uh-huh. Good painter but he was a bit strange. I met him when he was painting the ‘Weeping Woman’, I really like that painting, it’s my favourite. ”

  Chrissie stares at me a bit longer and I realise how well she’s taken all this. She’s made good on her promise not to run away screaming. I turn to the bookshelf and run my finger along the worn spines. I’d always loved books, anything that can take me off into a life that’s not my own.

  “You must have had an amazing five hundred years.”

  I look at Chrissie with one eyebrow raised, “You think?”

  “Well you’ve met all these people all over the world, seen so many things and I’ve just been stuck in this stupid city my whole life, no offense to Toritos.”

  This is exactly what I mean, people thinking my life’s so great. It’s really not. “Chrissie, how many people have you seen die?”

  The question throws her and she frowns, wondering where I’m going with this. “None, but-”

  “I lost count after the first hundred years.” Chrissie’s mouth opens, but nothing comes out. “Everyone one I cared about – they all died. All those people and all the others that I’ve met are all on my conscience. I’m still here long after I should have died, but yet there are people out there that died so much younger than they should have done. Sometimes it’s just too much.” I blink tears away, but not before Chrissie notices them.

  “Oh, damn, I’m so sorry. I just...”

  “No, thank you Chrissie; you’ve been great about all this, better than I could have asked you to be.”

  Chrissie grins, “Yeah, it’s all really weird, but I’m used to weird with you around.” She takes me by the arm and leads me back through to the open plan living room.

  I sink into a chair and look out of the window to see the icy night has already settled over the city like a blanket.

  “What happened last time you told someone? You said it didn’t end well.” Chrissie’s sitting on a sofa opposite me with her knees pulled up to her chest.

  “You know when I fainted in class today?” she nods, “Can you remember what Mr Lawson was talking about?”

  “Err...” She has to think about it for a minute, “Oh right, something about burning witches. There was a witch who survived a burning in, like 1560.”

  I raise my eyebrows and point to myself.

  Chrissie’s eyes widen, “Wow, no wonder you fainted, is that what happened when you told someone – they thought you were a witch?”

  “Yes, well, I didn’t faint exactly; it was more of a flashback. I’ve been having them quite a lot lately.”

  “So when you said you had a nightmare...”

  “Flashback,” I confirm, “and at the bridge, but the first one was the worst, it took a while to get over.”

  “What was it a flashback of?”

  “The day I should have died.”

  “Oh.” We’re both silent for a while, until Chrissie speaks up again. “If you haven’t been telling anyone about, well, your age I suppose, how come nobody ever gets suspicious that you’re forever sixteen?” This last past is said almost wistfully.

  I shrug, but this is a question I am more comfortable with, “I can’t stay anywhere for long, I keep moving. It used to be easier, but now you need passports, driving licences, birth certificates – all sorts.

  “I have to keep changing my name too because counties have records, so now it’s easiest to stick as close to the truth as possible. I did live in Spain with an ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ and he did die, so I used that as an excuse to get moving again.

  “I tend to just fake birth certificates then get my other ID legally. Although this time the driving licence wasn’t exactly legal, bribes and blackmail have become a speciality of mine.”

  Chrissie’s jaw moves closer to the floor with every word until I’m surprised it’s still attached. She manages to croak out, “How do you get fake ID?”

  I smile, “I have connections. And an agreement with a forgery business.”

  “What sort of agreement?”

  “I keep the police off their backs and I get free ID. I helped them start up the business and left the other guy to run it. He’s learnt not to ask questions.”

  “That’s so cool.”

  “No.”

  “What?” Chrissie hold up her hands, and then, “It’d only be a driving licence, anyway.”

  “Can you drive?” I ask.

  “No...”

  “Well then, there’s the big flaw in your master plan.”

  Chrissie sticks her tongue out at me and then quickly changes the subject, “So, if you have fake ID does that mean you’re not really called Cathy Jenks?”

  “I’m Catherine Mary-Jane Thompson.” I admit.

  “Catherine, Cathy; they’re quite similar.” She raises an eyebrow, “Please don’t tell me all your alibis have been variations of Catherine.”

  I laugh, “No, Cathy’s the closest I’ve come back to Catherine, I’m not that stupid.”

  “Catherine, Catherine...” Chrissie plays around with the name and then says, “Why’d you come back to boring old high school then Catherine?”

  “I wanted to be normal for the last time.” I smile at the use of my real name; I haven’t heard it spoken for a while, but haven’t I always wanted to escape being Catherine?

  “Normal, eh? How’s that working out for you?”

  “Not so well.”

  We both go quiet and I wonder what Chrissie’s thinking. Not for the first time I wish that I was a telepath, not just someone who gets a random gist of something. I bet Chrissie’s mind is nearly as crazy as mine.

  I’m just shoving some potatoes in the oven for a makeshift dinner, when I remember my run-in with Jess and the number she gave me. I repeat our conversation to Chrissie, but she can’t make anymore sense of it than I can. Our minds keep turning in the same circles, even when the conversation turns to Katrina we come back to the same conclusion.

  They know something we don’t.

  Yes, that’s the best we can do. We don’t know what exactly they know, how they know it or how we can find out. I think we should call the number, but Chrissie says I shouldn’t ring yet or I’ll seem a bit too eager. Plus, we still don’t know whether we can trust her or whether she’ll just go running to Katrina, despite what she said.

  By nine o’clock we’ve run out of ideas and have gotten fed up of running around like dogs chasing their tails.

  Chrissie goes grudgingly back home, but promises she’ll be straight back here before school. Probably to eat my food.

  I’m just closing the door when Chrissie turns around and looks at my worried expression. Her expression turns to one of determination, “We’ll stop him, Cathy.”

  “Stop who?”

  She rolls her eyes, “The Devil, of course.”

  I look sceptical, “And how are you going to do that?”

  She shrugs, “We’ll figure it out. We make a good team, you and me. I’m not letting the Devil anywhere near you.”

  I smile sadly, how can we stop the Devil? We can’t is the simple answer to that, it’ll take a while for Chrissie to realise that though. It took me nearly four hundred years before I gave up. All I say is, “We’ll see.”

  “Yes we will.” She smiles broadly so I just sigh and shut the door. “I’m always right.” She calls through the door

    “If you say so.”

  Chrissie hums loudly down the stairs and out of the door on to the street.

  I find myself back on my balcony, where I seem to be spending a lot of time lately. I breathe in the night air, but something makes me freeze. There’s a movement in the shadows on my balcony.

  Someone’s there, someone who has probably just heard everything Chrissie and I have said.

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