Old buildings stood looming like giants against a dark backdrop. Curtains were closed but through the slight openings in them light could be seen, and occasionally a shadow passing the window could be seen. Families staying warm inside, sitting beside their fireplaces, while outside, the rain was falling in heavytorrents, and the wind was howling. None of this bothered the lone man walking down the side walk. He had one goal in mind and nothing was going to stop him from accomplishing it. He had to know who the girl in the book store was, he had to know why his dad was so interested in her. Thinking back it, should have made him run in the other direction, but when you live in Diamond, you realise that nothing is normal. Stopping to tie his shoe laces back up, he looked at his watch 11.55pm. It was late, if he wasn't careful he might get caught by the watchers. Carrying on his way Cory began to wonder if he was ever going to see her again. The girl with brown hair and bright pink strips. It had looked like she had a piercing in her nose as well, that in itself was weird. Everybody had ignored her, acted like she wasn't there. But he couldn’t hadn't been able to look away, and when she had picked up a book and read the back, her eyes had crinkled in a laugh and her she had gasped when the store owner snatched the book out of her hands and told her to leave and never come back. He had felt angry for her, and watched as she left. But that wasn't what made him want to look for her. It was the look in her eyes, the shiver that had run down his spine as she looked at him. With his musing, it was a while before Cory noticed the sound, a sort of ticking sound. Watchers! Standing against a wall pressed up as tight as possible in the shadows, he waited for them to pass. It wasn't until the cold and damp wall had made his t-shirt wet, that he let out the breath he had been holding in. Getting his heart rate back under control, Cory set back off again.
2. 00 Am. he was running out of time, people were sure to start noticing his absence soon. By day break he was tired, wet, and cold and had started to give up. The only thing that kept him going was the memory of the meeting. Even though it had only been a passing glance, the idea that it would happen again was like having twenty cups of coffee in the morning. He might have kept going until he hit the walls of Diamond too, had it not been for the large clump of brown hair with bright pink stripes in it that knocked him down.
“I’m sorry. I wasn't watching where I was going. Are you okay?” inquired Cory. Bending down to pick her up off of the floor, he noticed that she was scarily thin and dirty. It wasn't hard to put the pieces together, she was an orphan.
“Oh, um yes I’m okay. I’m very sorry. It won’t happen again.” Tay sounded and looked like she was worried about retribution, more than she was actually apologising. But it didn’t bother him, after all what he had seen in the bookstore was enough to tell him that she wasn't treated well anywhere she went. But the way she flinched from him when he offered to help her up, that did bother him.
“Are you okay? You look like you think I'm about to hit you or something.” He said it in a joking way, but it was a serious question and he was hoping for an actual answer from her. Why isn't she looking at me? Is she really that scared? Then Tay looked at him, but it wasn't a scared, please don’t hurt me look. No it was a touch me and I’ll break your arm, type look. Stumbling back a bit, just out of reach of her arms, he put up his hands in front of him.
“I’m fine.” Although she looked angry the reply was timid and left him thinking that she did. Looking at his watch, Cory set off not looking behind him. He had a feeling she would, and follow she did. They didn’t talk at all on the way, once or twice she stopped and Cory would just stop and wait for her to start walking again. The companies good, even though it’s a bit quiet. At least I’m not on my own anymore. Question is though; how do I get out of here, and what do I do with her? It was two hours later when he realised he didn’t know her name, but at the same time he wasn't sure he wanted to know it either. He wasn't all that sure he should be letting him follow her home really. There was a lot of things he didn’t think he should be doing, but he had questions, and he wanted to some answers. So they kept walking, out of the poorer part of Diamond and into the richer, classier part. The further into this part of Diamond they got, the more she kept stopping. At one stage he thought she was going to turn on her heels and run right out of there, but thankfully she didn’t.
“I’m Tay.” The statement was so sudden and loud in the silence that had just been broken, that it made Cory jump. Turning to look at her he, gave her what he hoped looked like a friendly smile.
“My name is Cory. It’s nice to meet you Tay.” Not entirely sure if asking how she got that name would be a good idea, he kept walking. They were almost at his house now. Unsurprisingly all the houses along here looked a lot alike. White, double storied, made from brick, black front door, perfectly trimmed garden, flat roof, and a garage that was never used. It was strange bringing a stranger into the house, mostly because the only people that ever came in were his friends, dad, sister, and neighbours. Digging around in his pockets Cory started to question the quality of this idea. What if she’s a murderer? What if she tries to steal? What am I thinking?! It won’t be anybody’s fault but my own if something happens. But nothing's going to happen, you know her, you can trust her, listen to your heart. Great now I’m talking to myself. Finding his keys he opened the door and let her in. placing his coat on the rack, he held out his hand for hers, and then felt like slapping himself for such a stupid move. Luckily Tay hadn't seemed to notice and if she had, she didn’t say anything so he quickly let his hand drop back to his side and coughed awkwardly. Noticing that she seemed to be more embarrassed then he did so he decided to try and lighten the mood. Then he decided to go and dig his own grave.
“Would you like to call your parents from here? I’m sure they will be worried about you, after all you must have been out all night.” The question was full of concern and spoken gently, but she tensed up like she was waiting to be slapped. Clenching her hands, she turned away and started walking back towards the door. Just before she reached for the handle Cory grabbed hold of her other wrist and spun her around.
“I'm sorry okay. I didn’t mean to be rude or upset you.” He was confused and now had more questions than he could comprehend, he could also feel a rather nasty headache coming on. Pulling her gently he invited her to sit down. Leaving the room quickly, knowing somehow that she would still be there when he got back, he put the kettle on and then went back into the family room. The two were sitting in complete silence when the kettle whistled to gather the attention of the two teens and let them know that it was done. They were both thinking, Cory about the strange girl who was so clearly his soul mate, yet he wasn't sure if he could see himself with her. There was something about her that gave him the shivers, and it scared him. From the stories he had been told by his dad, it was supposed to feel like well…. Butterflies, picnics, happiness. This didn’t feel like that at all, yet she was so very much his other half. Tay though was really worried about what this curious man was thinking by letting her in to his house. It was strange wasn't it? Strangers weren't supposed to be invited in. yet he had been looking for her, and had successfully found her. I wonder what he wants with me. Maybe he knows about me, what if he just wanted to be able to tell his friends that he had seen and talked to the freak. I need to get out of here, but at the same time maybe he can help. Coming back to her senses, she heard the kettle whistling very loudly. Hm I don’t think it’s supposed to do that.
“Cory? Sorry to interrupt but is that metal thing meant to be making that noise?” The question was so quiet and the voice so timid, then it came hitting him like a freight train. She doesn't know what a kettle is. Standing up he walked over and took it off the stove top, pulled out two cups and made some tea. Just as he was turning around a loud rumble resounded throughout the room, he didn’t really think anything about it until he heard the little giggle that came from the family room.
Rubbing the back of his neck Cory poked his head around the kitchen door, to see Tay still sitting on the couch looking right back at him. The look was unnerving, in a way that he wasn't sure what she was thinking, he did though know what he was thinking. Three things actually:
1.He was hungry.
2.He was starting to think that bringing her back here had been a bad idea.
3.If he was going to get some answers then he was going to have to do something because his dad was going to be home with Christie soon.
“Hey would you like something to eat?”
“Um, yes please. Do you have any apples?”
Disappearing back into the kitchen he grabbed an apple, the teas and a fruit and nut bar. Placing everything on a tray he wobbled back out, almost dropping everything when he saw she was no longer on the couch. Looking around quickly he noticed her over by the bookshelf, looking at the books, not touching them just looking. It made him smile to see her look so innocent and curious. It was what everybody when they first came over. Look at the books, see how many we have, what type of books, and whether they've been touched in the last few months. After all anyone who didn’t read, was so obviously beneath them. But not Tay. She really was just curious, it was the same expression from the book shop, happy to have a book in her hands, with a hint of sadness in her eyes. Why is she sad? I thought she liked books. It was after all the reason I brought her in here and not straight out the back, like we do in the summer. Yes but think about it for a while, looking but not touching. Seeing but not- READING! Of course she can't read. Growing up on the streets she wouldn't have been taught. Wait where did that come from? How do I know she grew up on the street? The same way you knew she would still be here, when you went to put on the kettle. SHE. IS. YOUR. SOUL. MATE. Snapping out of his musing, mainly to get away from his shouting, talking back mind. He stepped towards her and looked at the book she was currently trying to make spontaneously combust by staring at it.
“ The Lion. The witch. And the wardrobe. It’s a good book. Have you ever read it?” Of course she hasn't you idiot! Cory winced and mentally smacked himself. Why am I making such an idiot of myself?
“No I haven’t read it. To be honest I can’t read.” She was staring at him again. It really was unnerving, but he couldn’t stop looking at her eyes. They were blue. No not just blue, but a blue like the sea after a storm. They were beautiful and he felt like he could easily get lost in them. Only he didn’t want to get lost in her eyes, he didn’t want to like them at all. He also didn’t want to feel sorry for her or want to help her. What he wanted was answers and he was going to get them!
“Would you like me to teach you?” GOD DAMNIT!!! Stupid traitorous mouth… why, why would do something like that to me? Well? Oh I see, only answer when you feel like it. He was going to give himself a headache with all the mental smacking that was happening. Looking at her carefully he could see bite marks on her bottom lip, nervous habit most likely. When she didn’t answer he thought that she must think he was an idiot, and he looked away feeling hot from embarrassment. After a few minutes had past, he looked back at her to find her looking at the book in her hand.
“Would you really? But why?” It was so unsure, so scared, he hated himself for thinking that he would use her and get rid of her.
“Yes. I will. Do I really need a reason?” Seeing her nod, he took a couple of minutes took think of an answer before replying.
“Well I think that everyone should know how to read. How else are we going to get a taste of magic? After all reading is a type of magic, don’t you think? We get to travel to new worlds, meet new people, and learn new things. All within the words of a few hundred pages. That’s why. We don’t have long to live in this life and we need to grasp at all the magic we can before we go.” He was quite proud of his answer, after all he truly did believe it. Magic was real. It was just hidden between the bound pages, in amongst the tiny scratches of ink on the pages. One just needed to know how to find it.
“Would you teach me and I will answer any questions that I know you have.” The reply was like music to his ears. Answers! Just what he wanted. All he had to do was teach her how to read. Simple. Telling her to stay where she was, he ran up to his room and got some pens and paper. The first thing to do was to teach her the alphabet. He was going to have to talk his dad around of course, about letting her in the house and all of that but it shouldn't be too hard, after all he was a teacher. If anyone would understand it would be him. This train of thoughts reminded him that his dad would be home soon, that was going to be fun.
“Cory?” jumping he looked around and saw Tay standing at the door, unsure and twirling the bottom of her hair.
“Yes Tay.” He had to be patient, just like with a little child, they wouldn't behave if you got angry or pushed them. He had learnt that from growing up with Christie as his sister. She had been a right pain in the ass as a baby. Always screaming, crying and pooping. It was disgusting.
“There’s someone here. They just walked up the path. Who are they?” The way she asked this, or worded it made him again question the smartness behind this project of his. It occurred to him suddenly that she could be an escaped prisoner. Idiot she’s a scared child who has been hated her entire life by everyone. She was so clearly abandoned by her parents, and is unsure as to how your dad will react to her. Oh I see now you show up. Smiling in what he hoped was a reassuring way, he took her hand and pulled her softly back down stairs.
“It’s okay Tay. It’s only my dad and sister. They won't hurt you.” There reassured. Back in the family room, he set down the pens and paper and set to work. Carefully writing out the alphabet, in a way that Tay could see him, while having unconsciously placing himself in front of her so if she got scared then he was there to help her clam down. When he heard the keys in the lock, he took in a deep breath and held it there until he heard his dad drop his suitcase. Looking up he smiled and casually went back to writing down the 25 letters that made up the numerous words that people read and absorbed.
“Son, who is your friend?” the question was polite, but somewhat strained at the same time. Just like how Tay sounded when she replied.
“Hello sir. I’m Tay.” Ignoring what was happening around me Cory gave her the paper and asked her to re-write it until she ran out of page. Heading back into the kitchen to grab a drink, he turned and looked at his dad. Helping him unpack the bags of shopping, it wasn't easy to ignore that he was watching every move he made but it didn’t matter when he was going to get answers.
“What are we having for dinner dad?” the question was to let him know we would talk later but not right now. He just hoped that his dad understood it.
“I thought we would have Macaroni cheese, Christie has some good news for you. I suppose you will want Tay to stay?”
“I wonder if telling you she was homeless, would change your attitude?” the reply was cold and calculated but he really needed Tay around. Oh I wonder why that is. Are you finally willing to admit that she is your soul mate? Don’t be silly. She is not mine. Mine is still out there. No she is what my dad and the other council members have been looking for and that means she’s in danger. It was startling to both men to hear the doorbell ring after they had been staring at each other for a while. Trying to see who would break first. In the end they both looked away to find who was at the door. Trying to remember if he had made plans with his friends, and not coming up with anything, he began to wonder what they were doing here. Letting them in and taking their coats, they group settled into find that there was already a girl in the houses.
“Why, hello there. Who have we got here?” The question was said in jest by Cory’s best friend Bennie and he was about to reprimand him, when he heard Tay giggle again. Looking at her in shock he saw that she was smiling and had finished her page of the alphabet.
“I’m Tay. What is your name?” Cory couldn’t believe what he was seeing. She was blushing and smiling and being well… Well, girly. It was shocking to say the least.
“Well Tay it’s absolutely dashing to meet you. I’m Bennie and this here is Milo, Jesse and Kimmie. We’re friends of Cory’s. How'd he find you beautiful?” this flirting was doing his head in and he didn’t much appreciate it. Deciding to put a stop to it, he went over and gathered up Tay’s letters. Placing them to the side, he sat next to her and turned to look in her eyes.
“Alright I've done part of my side of the deal. Now you keep yours. I’ll ask some questions and you have to answer them got it?” the sooner this was done the sooner she could be braver and safe. After all how was ever going to survive Diamond if she was so scared of everyone and everything? Not only that but she would need help. That had to be why she was abandoned. Looking in time to see her nod, he made sure that his dad and sister weren't around. It wouldn't do to have his dad know or start to suspect what he was doing. It would put them all, even his little sister in danger. He was going to have to get her to go to their mums for a while, just until it had all been sorted. It had surprised him when he had found his dad’s hidden room, all those photos of Tay. It was scary. He had wanted to know why they wanted her but couldn’t. There wasn't anything there about it, there was a safe but it was locked onto his dad’s fingerprint.
“First question: When did your parents abandon you?” It wasn't a surprise when the entire room gasped. Cory was a very patient, subtle man, yet he felt he had started to run out of time, his dad knew she was here and that wasn't going to end well for anyone. It took a few minutes before Tay even started breathing again, after he had finished speaking. It took another couple of minutes for her to look up and then a minute again for her to answer.
“My parents left me when I was four.” The answer was plain with no detail and was sharp. It didn’t surprise him, but by now she would have figured out that he was only teaching her to get answers to his questions. Cory had no doubt that she’d leave after this was over, and that bothered him. He had come to the conclusion that, the reason why she made him feel strange was that she wasn't his soul mate. But that didn’t stop him from figuring out that she was so clearly Benni’s. Quickly thinking about the order of his questions and where he wanted this to go, he asked the next question.
“Why did your parents leave you?” he could tell the questions were making her sad and even scared, but his need to know things was blinding him to not only her feelings but the looks of anger he was getting from the others in the room.
“No. Tay don’t answer that. What the hell is wrong with you Cory?” looking at Bennie in surprise, he found looks of anger and pure shock on their faces. Why didn’t they understand? He was only helping her. To make her feel safe, she had to first trust people with her secrets. Not everyone in Diamond was going to hate her after all. She just had to believe that.
“Nothing’s wrong with me Benni, I’m just asking her some questions.”
“It’s okay. I don’t mind.” She took a deep breath and tried to find a way to begin the answer. She wasn't really okay with it, but he had taught her the alphabet and given her food and drink. He scared her though and it was with that thought that she carried on.
“When a baby is born, there is some sort of collected excitement for what and when the baby’s pendant will come. Most adults, can tell this way who the soul mate is. The baby will sleep for their first night and when they wake up in the morning it’s just there. The longest anyone has gone is two days. But nobody can tell for certain how long a person must wait to get their pendant. I waited four years, and still have not got mine. They call me the lonely.” After finishing she had tears running down her cheeks, and Bennie moved over to sit next to her. He placed a comforting arm around her shoulders and smiled at her.
“It’ll be okay Tay, I’m sure you’ll still find someone that will love you.” She looked unsure when he said that, but it was true he was sure of it.
“Yeah after all what about our ancestors? Surely they didn’t have to rely on necklaces to find the person that loved them.” Kimmie was looking at the floor when speaking but her words made Tay feel better, that coupled with Bennie’s arm around her and the others smiling at her.
“What’s your next question then?” she sounded much braver now and that was good, it made him smile, before he realised that it wasn't safe for them to know anything. He certainly didn’t want his friends dragged into this. It was bad enough his dad was involved, making him and his sister as well. Now his dad knew that he had met her and was helping her, it put both of them in to a rather sticky situation. His dad because telling the council that she was here, would mean turning in his son and Cory was doing this on the belief that his dad would choose him over the council. It was sticky for Cory for the same reasons. He could get into a lot of trouble for this and his sister could end up being punished for it. He would no doubt get arrested for this, but he had to help her. If not for anything else but that she was the possible soul mate of his lifelong best friend. It would hurt him a lot. Even if he isn't hers, if she can have a soul mate that is, it would hurt a lot. So he was going to help her and then he was going to make sure they ended up together happy and together forever. He wasn't going to die for them, don’t be silly, he did have his own soul mate to worry about as well you know.
“Right. How have you survived this long?” Great this was going just the way he wanted. Five minutes later he woke up with an aching jaw and blood running out of his mouth. Well that went very well. Which one of them punched me though? Which one do you think it was genius? Was it the one whose soul mate you just upset, or the three that have no connections to her what-so-ever? Work it out! Sitting up he reached for his jaw. Feeling the blood, he was surprised when a hand with a tissue in it was in front of him. Glancing up he saw that it was Tay. She didn’t look happy, then again none of them did. He could also see Benni glaring at him from where he was being restrained by Milo, this only proved to confirm and strengthen his reserve to save her. But now he was doubting his plan to keep it from them. He would have no other choice if he wanted to keep from being knocked out by a furious Benni.
“Are you alright son? That was quite a hit just then.” He was smiling, but there was concern in his eyes. It wasn't hard to notice how he had placed himself between him and Tay. It was then that he noticed Christie peeking out from behind the door that he realised this really wasn't the best place to talk.
“Yeah dad I'm fine. We were just about to head out to the park, when I said something stupid. I totally deserved it.” The lie was terrible, but he hoped his friends would play along, that they would understand the importance of them being quiet. He also hoped that his dad would believe the lie, even just enough to let it go.
“Well, just be careful next time okay?” It wasn't hard to see that his dad didn't believe him, but at least his friends had kept quiet. He could see that they were curious and wanted to know why he had just lied to his own dad. They were going to have to wait just a little while longer, he had counted on their curiosity getting the better of them.
“Okay dad. Well we’ll be going now.” Using hand gestures, he shooed his friends out of the house, down the path and out on to the walkway. He walked in front with Milo behind him and Kimmie, Jesse, behind him and Benni and Tay behind them. The others didn’t question him, which he was thankful for. The silence gave him time to think. Think about what, and how he was going to tell them. What he was going to say if they didn't believe him. By the time they had gotten to the park, he was all ready to turn around and tell them it was mistake, because he was certain that they weren't going to believe a single thing he said. Risking a glance behind him, the look on Tay’s face was that of absolute wonder. Thinking about it Cory couldn’t really see why she was so enthralled, but then again he wasn't her, was he? He had seen the park, the streets, and the houses growing up. It had once been a place of mystery and adventure, but as he had grown up, it had lost all sense of wonder and that utopian feeling it had once had. But it had never not once had it ever lost its beauty. The roses still bloomed, the lavender still attracted those little buzzy bees. The sunflowers still stood tall and proud facing towards the sun in all there bright, yellow glory. It was exactly like a fairy tale. Only there weren't any fairies cos the nasty little buggers had sharp teeth and liked biting things and people. Oh and pray to heaven if those nasty pieces of work caught a lock of your hair, they would pull and pull until it finally ripped out a good sized chunk from your scalp. Blimey did it hurt. That is why the wall was made out of bright reflector, materials. Things like silver or mirrors. Those things worked wonders when trying to chase of fairies. If Cory was honest with himself he would have been glad to see her so happy, taking in the things of beauty that she wouldn't have ever been able to see before, what with living in the allies down in the nasty part of Diamond and all. It did make him glad, that he had chosen the park, but when he remembered Milo’s past experiences in this particular park, he chose to change direction and go to the centre of Diamond. Right where the bluebells sung, the waterfall from outside the wall ran into a small pond, where in the winter season it became a place that represented heaven. The most beautiful place in all of Range, there was no doubt of that. It was why our ancestors built here. Not in any other city could you get a more peaceful, tranquil sight. It was an hour later when they finally reached The Centre. Tay had asked repeatedly if they could stop and let her look around. It had made them all laugh when she found something they were all used to make her awe or gasp in wonder or shock. They had all answered her questions to the best of their ability. It was during her rapid fire of questions that they all simultaneously came to the same conclusion. They had taken for granted what she would have given anything to have for even just one day.
“I don't mean to be rude or anything. But I don't suppose anyone has any water on them?” for the last ten minutes it had been silent, so the break in that silence was very shocking to them. Turning to look at her, they all mentally slapped themselves. She had starved and not drunken anything for only she knows how long. As a group, they were going to have to be a lot more careful and make sure they stopped and made her eat and drink. She was going to have to stay somewhere they could all easily get to, somewhere she wouldn't be in danger, yet where everyone knew they could be so as not to raise suspicion. Noticing a café on the other side of the road, Benni made to head over, with Tay in tow. The sudden image of Tay being kicked out of the bookstore popped into his head. Then the realisation that he had no idea who was working with his dad or the council on this matter. This is for her protection. At the risk of sounding mean I have to say no.
“Stop! She can’t go over there.” Reaching out to pull her back, he dragged her over to a bench.
“Stay here. We'll come back with some food and drinks” he didn't give her the chance to reply before he turned and crossed the road, with Benni and Milo following him. It wasn't hard for the girls to see Benni’s hands bunched into fists again. Cory was going to be in a lot of pain before the day was through.
“Why did Cory-“
Listening to the twins speak was like playing a game, a game Tay would never get tired of playing. The way she smiled and laughed, made them all happy. None more than the twins who all their lives had been told of for doing that, and no-one ever knowing which one of them was which. It hurt to know that nobody cared enough to get to know them as two people rather than one. Tay wasn't like that. It amused her to no end watching the twins speak, she knew- how though was a surprise, which twin was which.
“When Cory first saw me, we were in the bookstore and the owner was mean and told me to leave and never come back. He got angry about it. I think he might think the same thing will happen here, and to be honest I don’t him and Milo would be able to stop Benni from punching the owner of this café.”
“You are right.” There it was again, that smile and laugh. It really did go to show just how lonely and unhappy she had been before them.
“Can I ask you something?” they were really going to have to do something about how shy and nervous she got when she wanted to ask a question. Hopefully she would one day get over her shyness and quietness. At least around them anyway, it wasn't known just when exactly they had decided to help her, but they had. Looking at each other the twins decided to try something to get Tay to feel braver around them. They did have a sneaking suspicion as to what she was going to ask, and if she did then they could make her ask again to someone else.
“Of course you can.” It was said at the same time by the twins and that was simply amazing to Tay. Something new and wonderful. It was strange though, how they had let her speak so much, so much so that she thought maybe it was okay for her to speak a little more often. Today had been a bit too much for her and she was starting to feel tired and just a little bit sick.
“Why does Benni keep getting angry like that?” The twins had no idea how to answer this without scaring her and making life hard for Benni. So instead they did what they had thought up.
“Sorry Tay but you're going to have to ask Benni that.”
“Yeah it wouldn't be fair to him. But if you ask him, he’s sure to tell you.” The reply intrigued Tay and she filed the information away for later. So there are things that some can’t tell me, but others can. That’s strange. She let it go planning to ask Benni later. Instead she chose to watch a little bird, it was green with yellow around its eyes and a bright blue patch just above the beak. It was so beautiful she just couldn’t help but gasp, the way it glided and landed so close to them. It looked so proud and very smart.
“What type of bird is that?” She sounded so excited and short of breath just from looking at it, the girls were surprised until they too saw the bird.
“Oh that its-“
“A Blue-Fronted Amazon.” If Tay hadn't been so occupied with watching the bird, she would have seen the shared look between the twins and been even more curious at that. But she hadn't and that was what mattered. Hearing the boy’s returning they got up and fast-walked over to them. Once in a group, there was much whispering and pointing going on. Every now and again they would all turn to look at her for a while. While their backs had been turned they hadn’t seen the bird fly from its spot on the floor and fly onto Tay’s shoulder.
“EEKK!!!” the screech came from Tay and it sent shivers down everyone’s spine. Until that is they turned and looked at what was happening. The Blue-Fronted-Amazon had gone from her shoulder to her head and was swinging back and forth, while every now and again stopping to go upside down and looking at her face. Almost like it was checking to see if she was okay. The sight made them all smile and they decided this would be a great place to stay for a while. It didn't really matter where they were, just so long as she felt comfortable, and that they could talk in relative privacy. It shouldn’t be too hard to talk, what with the amount of people walking around.
“So I guess you guys are wondering what happened back at the house. About why I lied to my dad.” The statement was simple enough, but it was true, they all had been thinking that. Even Tay stopped playing with her new friend to listen.
“Well the truth is…” he stopped to wet down his throat. All that planning he had done on his way here, had just gone out the window because he suddenly found that he could not for the life of him speak.
Trying again Cory began to tell them everything. From the hidden room in their supposedly unused garage, to the photos of Tay. The fact that he was scared about his sister being in danger, and that he didn't know who to trust. He told them of the papers with information on her parents and what they were doing now. The videos of her walking the streets, starving, thirsty, cold, and wet.
“I’m sorry Tay, but that’s why I was trying to find you. So I could find out why my dad is so interested in you. Why he has all these papers about you.” He was crying by the end of his explanation. He felt terrible, he was scared, he was confused and most of all he was angry. Angry at his dad, angry at the council and angry at himself for not protecting his sister better. It was with great shock that he felt Tay wrap her arms around him, and start to cry. He looked at the others and they all had the same three looks in their eyes. Determination to protect not only Tay now, but Christie as well. Anger at the Council and Diamond for not doing anything to help her. Fear for what was going to become of their worlds now. Everything they had ever known had changed in the space of a morning. It was with great regret that two hours later they had to leave and head on home. Long after Milo, Jesse, and Kimmie had gone home Benni was still talking to Tay about the bird still resting on her head. It really was cute actually, but we had to be going.
“Tay. We need to be going. Would the two of you just kiss already so we can go?” It was said as a joke, but when Benni’s fist connected with his nose he wondered why he had said anything at all. He should have just grabbed her and walked away.
“Sorry. Sorry. Shouldn't have said that. But in my defence it was A BLEEDING JOKE! Dude lighten up.” This time Tay managed to successfully stop Benni from hitting him, which made him sigh in relief. Benni said goodnight and walked away. It was a shorter walk home, having seen everything and her being tired made it easier to get her home before dark. Before the Watchers came out. It would be bad if they got caught. Very bad. Getting back to the house, was a shock as they saw what seemed to be a party in full swing happening. Crap. Crap on a stick. What am I going to do? Dad’s Council meeting! I completely forgot. If they see Tay we will be in trouble for sure. Maybe I’ll be able to protect Christie. Or you could take her to Benni’s. It’s not like he’s parents are close to the Council, if anything they hate the Council. Grabbing Tay, he turned and walked back down the path, but not before he heard her gasp. Stopping to see what she was looking at, he froze and went stone cold all over. His dad was looking straight at him. Not concerned or scared. Just staring straight at him. Then he raised his glass and walked away. Shaking Cory headed off again, this time not stopping for anything. Because they practically ran to Benni’s they made it there in record time, both out of breath and still shaking from the run in with Mr Leavwick.
“What happened to you two?” standing back to let them in, and then leading them into the family room. He’s parents were there but he wasn't too concerned with them reacting badly. If anything they hardly acknowledged them at all.
“Dad…. Had…. A…. Council…. Party…. Tonight….” It was hard to make out what he was saying between the deep breaths. But Benni got the gist of it, and went to make drinks for them. By the time he had finished, Tay and Cory had calmed down enough to talk.
“Right let’s start again, shall we?” smiling at them he prompted one of them to start from the beginning.
“We had just got back to Cory’s place and we could hear a lot of talking and laughing. Turning onto the path way, we could see a lot of people there. I don't know who any of them are, but Cory obviously did because he got scared and grab my arm and started pulling me away.” She left of as an opening for Cory to keep going but he didn’t, the silence from him scared Benni he had after all known Cory since they were little. Gesturing to Tay to keep going he watched his parents, to see if they were listening. They were. This was good, hopefully he could use this to get their permission for Tay and Cory to stay. At the end of Tay’s recounting Cory gave of a visible shudder, he looked at the clock stood up and made to move.
“Where are you going?” It was Benni’s mum who spoke up, standing with her hands on her hips. It was meant to look intimidating but, it just annoyed Cory who had to get home. Even though it was late, he felt certain that he could make it if he ran like before.
“Sorry. But I have to go. I need to get back to Christie, she can’t stay at home on her own, not with all those people around.” Smiling apologetically at Mrs Branish, he moved around her and out the door. After he had left, a slight sniffle could be heard in the far corner. It was then that the occupants of the room noticed a certain young girl was missing, from her spot on the couch. Instead she could be seen hiding in the corner crying.
“Tay? Tay, it’s going to be okay. You’ll see” he was trying to be comforting and Tay knew that but, she couldn’t get past the fact that she had put them all in so much trouble and they had been nothing but kind to her. She was going to have to leave, and never come back. Maybe I can turn myself into the Council or something. They’ll never have to know about Milo, Cory, Jesse, Kimmie or Benni. That’s it I’ll leave tonight.
“How can everything be okay? I've put you all in danger. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” Breaking down again, there was nothing the other three occupants could do except stand and stew. After a while Benni got down and curled in next to her, it didn't take long for her to calm down in his embrace. It also wasn't hard for his parents to notice the look in his eyes when he looked at her or how he instinctively held her tighter when she started whimpering. They left the room as quietly as they could and collected a blanket to place over them. They both new that this girl was the one born without a pendant, but they also knew that their son had found his other half and he would do anything to protect her. They had also realised that by apologising she was also saying goodbye and thank you. They were parents after all, what kind of parents don’t notice that kind of thing? They didn't stay up that night, they went straight to the bedroom and talked. Talked about that no good Mr Leavwick and the corrupt council. About how they were going to help their son and his friends and the girl who had moved into his heart. Just as they were falling asleep, they heard movement down stairs. They had been right Tay was going to try and make a run for it, but they weren't going to let that happen. Removing their bed covers and slipping on their dressing gowns and slippers they crept softly down stairs just in time to see Tay closing the door.
“I hope you are just getting a breath of fresh air, because leaving would not be a good idea.” It took Tay by surprise and when she spun around to face them, there was definitely a look of trapped fear in her eyes. Tay wasn't good at lying, but when she saw the bird from that afternoon she didn't have to.
“I came out to see the bird. I saw it today at the Centre. Jesse and Kimmie said it was a Blue-Fronted-Amazon. I thought it was pretty, and wanted to see it again, I don’t see a lot of pretty birds in the allies down in the poorer parts of Diamond.” There she hadn't lied and she hadn't exactly told the truth either. It was by pure luck that the bird had followed them here. Letting Mrs Branish herd her back towards the door and inside, she had never felt more confused in her life. Why were these people helping her? Why didn't they understand that nothing good was going to come of this? The sooner she was gone from their lives the safer they all would be. Thinking that she was just tired the Branishs missed the look of hurt that crossed her sharp features.