Misfits

(Short story)
Rhiannon Turner hasn't been to the Cornish village of Pur Lowen in years, not since her Grandfather died. In that time a lot has changed, and Rhiannon has found himself, and become Ryan.
When Ryan returns to Pur Lowen for the summer holidays he finds himself oddly drawn to Raven June, the beautiful girl next door, who's unsettling past keeps her, and her sister Mapelli, silent most of the time.
But Ryan knows a thing or two about overcoming challenges, and he's determined to reach Raven, despite her selective mutism.
What Ryan doesn't realise is that there's more to Raven and her sister than that which meets the eye...and Raven has a secret

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18. Chapter 18 ~ Ryan

Have you ever had a morning where you just wish you’d never woken up? Where you just lie there in the dark, staring up at the ceiling, wishing you could skip to tomorrow? Right now, I am doing just that. Dread fills me up and consumes me as I think about the day ahead. All the painful memories, all the pity, all the grief… everyone will be a bit less alive today. This exact morning was the one reason I had against coming back here.

It’s the anniversary of my Grandads death.

And Zoe’s uncles, and everyone else's who died in that terrible fire ten years ago.

The entire village will be in silent, subtle morning today- including me.

I will my legs to swing out over the edge of my bed, sitting up, feeling slightly sick. I stare down at the carpet for a second before I stand up, stumbling over to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Every action is somehow harder, each tiny movement requires just a little more effort. Still, I make it to the end of my usual morning routine, chucking on a t shirt and some jeans, before slowly heading downstairs.

I can tell from the looks on everyone's faces that they feel exactly the same way as me. Their worn out eyes and heavy limbs say it all. None of us bother speaking to one another, we just go about our business silently. I make my way over to the cupboard, filling a bowl with cereal and milk, then sitting down to have my meal, eager to make a move as soon as possible. I never like being around people on this day. The energy of the village plummets, even the birds seem to sing quieter. I focus on other things instead, the crunch of my cereal, the warmth of my breath...and before long my bowl is empty, and I can wash up and go.

I don’t walk to far away from the house, but I don’t walk towards the rest of the village. I walk past Raven’s house, into the fields and deep countryside, merging with the trees. I rest my back against a firm trunk and sit down, alone at last. The fire that happened ten years ago was the most tragic thing to ever happen in Pur Lowen, and it’s almost like the village is still in shock. Round here people just call it the incident, or the fire if they’re feeling extra brave. The village hall was where everything happened ten years ago, from ballet classes to support groups. Nobody saw the fire coming, the electrics had seemed to be working perfectly all week, but it still happened. A fire started downstairs that burnt the old wood stairs leading to the upper levels, trapping the neighbourhood watch group who were meeting upstairs in a burning building. The younger, fitter ones managed to escape out of the windows with only a few of them getting injured in the process, but the older ones like Zoe’s uncle, and my Grandad, they, well they couldn’t get out. Most families had a member who was a part of the neighbourhood watch, and more often than not that member was above the age of forty-five...thirty people died that night, thirty people burned to death.

And today, the entire village is in mourning.

I reach into my pocket, digging around and pulling out an old, worn out piece of paper. It’s the letter Grandma sent me, the one that told me he was gone, that he’d died. Written on a typewriter and all. I was only seven at the time, but she didn’t go easy on me, she didn’t want to sugarcoat things. Grandad was gone, and I had to understand that.

My dearest Rhiannon,

I don’t want to have to tell you this, but I know I must. If I leave it to your parents they’ll only tell it all wrong and upset you and me both. The thing is, your Grandad is dead. He died in a tragic fire last Tuesday at the village hall, along with twenty-nine other good and honest people. There’s no point in me lying to you, he died even though he didn’t deserve to. He’s gone Rhiannon, and he’s never coming back. But just because he’s gone doesn’t mean he’s no longer with us. A young lad called Richard Pike whose sixteen was helping out there that evening, and he told your Grandad gave him a hand getting out of the window. Your Grandad probably saved his life. Now I’d like to think that in two years time when Richard leaves for university, or in six or seven years time when he returns with a degree of some kind, I’ll look at him and know deep down that he has your Grandad to thank, your Grandad gave him that life. So yes, Grandad is gone, but Richard is still here, and so are so so many others who have him to thank to some extent. Everything your Grandad achieved in his lifetime is still all around Pur Lowen. He is gone, but he is never, never forgotten.

Yours,

Grandma Alma.

Of course a seven year old version of myself read this and didn’t really understand most of it, but now that I’m older I like reading it over and over again, the true meaning of her words finally hitting me. My Grandad died, but he helped others survive, and I can see his life in theirs. I still smile whenever I see Richard Pike, now twenty-six and engaged, planning to get married next spring. Because I know deep down, just as my Grandma does, that my Grandad gave him that life.

I hear the crunching of a leaf behind my and I turn sharply to look at who it is, it’s Mapelli and Raven, walking hand in hand. They obviously haven’t seen me, or else Mapelli would be glaring, trying to stare me down. I get up, deciding to find somewhere more private than this, but Raven notices me, and smiles...and before I can stop myself, I smile back. Mapelli’s face hardens but Raven still walks over, pulling her phone out of her pocket as she does so. I do the same, ready to talk.

Raven: Hey, what are you doing here?

Me: I just needed to be alone. Do you know what today is?

Raven: Yes...are you okay?

Me: I guess so.

Raven looks up from her screen to examine my expression, trying to figure out if I’m lying or not.

Raven: This is one of my favourite places in Pur Lowen...it’s so quiet.

She tactfully changes the subject, trying to distract me. I let her, glad of the conversation change.

Me: It’s a good place to go when you don’t want other people around.

Raven: About that...would you want to have a picnic with me here this evening? I, well, I want to talk to you about something.

Me: Sure, I’ll be here.

Raven looks up and beams, happy. She quickly hugs me then rushes back to her impatient sister, who quickly drags her off away from me. I sit back down against the trunk, shutting my eyes and relaxing into the moment.

~

The rest of the day went by quickly enough, everyone made it through the dreary tasks they had to do, and we all managed to tactfully not mention the fire, even though we were all thinking about it. I focused on my picnic with Raven instead, playing out how I’d want it to happen over and over again in my mind. I was going to confront her, to talk to her about what happened at the festival. I had to get an explanation, and I was tired of snooping her past, running into dead-end. I was going to get the truth, and I was going to get it in the simplest way possible, by asking.

Tonight, I will find out the truth about Raven June.

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