~~I checked and rechecked the bandage to ensure every inch of inky design was covered. The voices from the kitchen could be heard as I walked towards the narrow staircase. My fingers twitched as I began the descent.
I could hear Noah and Ben now, their boisterous voices rising above the women. A soft smile played on my lips as I imagined the adventures they would be retelling, undoubtedly with some exaggerated details.
I turned to the left at the base of the stairs and entered our small kitchen. Seated around the circular table, that dominated over half of the room, was a variety of people.
Lily, Coral, Ben and Noah sat, each talking between bites of stew I had prepared earlier. Then were the Larkings, Mabel held her three year old son on her knee and to her right sat her oldest boy Peter who was the same age as me.
I smiled at Peter when he looked up, confusion lacing his green eyes. My mother was busy attempting to feed Macy and hadn’t yet noticed my entrance. Now, for the moment of truth.
“Mother why don’t you sit? I’ll feed Macy.” My mother’s head snapped towards me, anger and worry clouding her vision. Her eyes immediately dropped to my left hand and then rose back to meet my gaze.
“Oh Alice darling, so wonderful to see you! Your mother said you weren’t well?” The prying eyes of Mrs Larking cut into me. I smiled, reassuring my mother that I had this under control,
“Well truthfully I was just a tad exhausted, what with this,” I gestured to the bandage on my hand, “And Macy keeping me awake all night, I really just needed a nap.” The older woman’s eyes travelled over me, determined to find a flaw in my story. Thankfully, she returned to feeding young Rion before long.
I walked towards my mother and took Macy from her arms. As I reached out to her, and her short arms reached out to me, my mother spoke,
“No Alice, why don’t you sit, we can’t have you holding this one when your hand is so sore.” It was clear my mother wanted to play along, although she wasn’t yet sure where I was going with this lie.
“Yeah Alice, what happened you anyway?” It was Peter who spoke and his mother shot him a sharp glare. Mrs Larking was very old fashioned, and wasn’t the sort to allow young men to question women so openly.
“Just me being clumsy I’m afraid. I slipped when I was cleaning the bathroom, my hand fell into the sink where I just so happened to have poured half a bottle of bleach.” I laughed lightly to ensure my story came across as unimportant. Thankfully the Larkings smiled and continued to eat their stew.
Lily caught my gaze from the end of the table, her soft eyes swimming with worry. She and Ben were the only two in the house who had inherited my father’s bright red curls. We were an entirely curly family aside my mother. Even Macy was developing the trademark Turner curls.
I smiled brightly at Lily, warning her away from the subject. Then I grabbed a bowl from the counter and got myself some stew.
When everyone had finished eating, said our thank yous I took Macy from my mother, carefully holding her only in my right hand, and headed upstairs to bathe her.
Just as I turned into the bathroom a hand grabbed my shoulder from behind. I turned to scream and saw who my attacker was. Peter stood before me, his height meant I had to crane my neck to look into his eyes,
“He’s coming home tomorrow Alice, he said he’ll meet you in the usual spot.” My heart stopped. My mouth dropped open. This wasn’t supposed to happen. No. The Night of the Moon wasn’t for another two weeks. He wasn’t due back yet.
Peter stared into my eyes, awaiting some form of response. Macy gurgled in my arms, struggling to stay awake.
“Why?” I whispered, unable to form more than one syllable. Peter’s eyes crinkled in confusion,
“Wait, you haven’t heard?” Peter’s voice grew louder in shock. Then his face changed, from soft and confused to regretful. The tall boy began to shake his head, he now the one unable to form words.
“Peter?” Mabel’s voice bellowed from beneath the stairs as Peter turned towards his mother.
“No, wait! Peter what did you mean?” He turned to face me, and then back to the stairs, then Peter shook his head, and ran from me, “Peter! Wait!”
Macy began pulling my hair as I began to chase Peter. He was down the stairs before I had even reached them. There was no way I could follow him further without arousing some suspicion. What had he meant? What hadn’t I heard? Why was the one person I couldn’t lie to returning tomorrow?