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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3. Chapter 3 ~ Ryan

I’ve been back in Pur Lowen for three days now, mostly spending the time getting back into the place. It’s been so long since I was last here, running around the open fields, climbing the old trees, wandering aimlessly around the marketplace… there’s this serene feeling of nothingness that you just can’t seem to find anywhere else. Everything is slower here- more calm, more meaningful, every action has a thought behind it. I’d forgotten how it felt to sit on the stone wall surrounding the small rocky beach, with a ninety-nine in my hand (and on my nose) as I sway my legs back and forth in time to the waves as they smash against the rocks. Sitting there for ten minutes feels like sitting there for ten seconds, and time seems to pass by in a blurr.

I hop down from the wall and onto the stones, throwing my cone in the bin, starting to stroll along in a half-asleep fashion, letting the sound of the sea hypnotise me into believing in heavens and utopias. It’s chilly out today, the wind slaps me in the face everytime I turn my head back to look around me, but somehow, that complements the atmosphere, instead of ruining it. Pur Lowen is a cornish village, it’s not placed on the coast of croatia- it’s not really supposed to be warm and luxurious. It’s a reality. The beach here is full of stones, not sand, and ladies have to wear a hoodie over their bikinis. But, if you can get passed the chilling breeze, rough ground, and icy water, then you can begin to realise just how perfect it can be. Perfect for skipping stones, for surfing, and for simply walking along whilst you stare out at the view.

I continue to stroll along, oblivious to the world around me. I perch on the edge of a nearby rock, resting casually as I breathe in the salty sea air. In the distance I make out the sound of approaching voices, and turn around to see a gaggle of girls in wetsuits rushing towards the exit of the beach with dripping wet surfboards held tightly under their arms. Their drenched hair is organised into clumps of knotted wet strands that stick like glue to each other as they get whipped around, there’s a blonde girl at the front of the group whose face rings a bell for me...and when she turns to look my way I notice her big brown eyes, and realise automatically who it is.

“Zoe?” I walk over, excited at the sight of my old friend, “Zoe Stuarts, is that you?” Zoe was my best friend when I used to come here in the summer, we’d take water-sports lessons together and spend our evenings wasting our parents money on ice creams and fudge, and when I went back to the city during term-time we’d write to one another, I genuinely believed we would never lose touch, but, we did. During the year after my Grandad’s death we drifted apart, writing to each other less and less, and in time I somehow managed to forget her.

“No way… Rhiannon? Sorry! I mean, um...Ryan-right? Hi, uh, sorry ab-about that...erm, hey?” She stammers, dropping her surfboard to hug me. I chuckle, people often get flustered when it comes to how to address me. What they fail to realise is that I’m the same person I was before I came out, but now I can finally look the part.

“Hi,” I smile, “Wow, you’re...taller.” I struggle to think of what to say, it’s been so long, and we’re both so different.

“Yeah...you too.” She nods her head, and awkward silence following her words. She’s definitely changed a fair bit in ten years. She’s grown her hair out, gotten more freckles, and I can’t help notice a small tattoo of a sailing dinghy on her wrist.

“Nice tat,” I gesture to the ink, “Suits you.”

“Thanks,” she blushes a bit, looking down at the image, “I got it on my sixteenth birthday just over a year ago...my mum hates it, but my dad’s cool with it.” I laugh slightly, Zoe’s mum was always so traditional and controlling, whilst Zoe was like her dad, laid-back and obsessed with any sport or activity that happened out on the open waves. “We were just about to go dry off and get some chips,” she gestures to the group of teenagers behind her, “Do you want to tag along?”

“Sure, why not?” I shrug, walking behind the cluster of soaking wet surfers as they head to the locker rooms at the boat club to get changed.

I can’t help but think about the summers I spent here when I was younger, getting dragged out to sailing lessons by Zoe and her father as they tried to teach me how to tie a figure-of-eight knot. Back then me and Zoe would mostly mess around, wobbling the boat back and forth until it capsized and we were submerged into the freezing water, deciding thereafter not to swim back to shore, but instead to start a splashing war, and seeing who could swim once around the boat fastest. Then we’d race back to the boat club, absolutely drenched, to be met with sighs of disappointment from both our mothers, whilst Zoe’s dad stood at the back of the room desperately trying to suppress a laugh.  

Fifteen minutes or so later, Zoe and her friends emerge from the lockers, their damp hair tied up in high ponytails, and we all walk straight over to the beach-front fish and chip shop. We quickly buy our chip portions, Zoe orders cheese with hers, but I stick with plain old salt, pepper, and vinegar. Then we all go and stand outside the chip bar, resting our backs against the walls, staring out across the sea-front. There’s something about watching people have fun along the coast, with the sea crashing against the rocks in the background, with a portion of chips in my hands that makes me feel just...right. Like this is how it should be, every single day, this is what life should be like 99.9% of the time, this is correct, this is right.

“Bet you don’t get a view like this in the city.” Zoe says lightheartedly, giving me a gentle and playful shove. I laugh, shaking my head.

“No...but you do get a better wifi signal.” I joke back at her, prodding her in the arm with my chip fork.

“Then I guess it’s just a matter or priorities.” Zoe shrugs, chucking her empty polystyrene plate in the bin and leaning back. “Well...priorities and holidays.” I laugh (again), finishing up my portion. Zoe shifts in her position to look me in the eye, suddenly turning serious. “Are you going to come back again next year?”

“I’ve only just arrived, I’m not really thinking about next year yet-”

“Yeah, but, do you think you will?” She cuts me off before I can finish. I sigh, thinking carefully about my answer. I suppose next year I’ll be eighteen, so it really will be my choice, not my parents, and I would like to come back...but then again, things are different. Grandma’s house seems bigger without Grandad in it, and it’s been ten years, who knows what else might have happened in that time to deter me from coming back year after year like I used to? Clearly Zoe wants me to, she’s probably got this insane idea that things are going to go back to how they were.

“I don’t know.” I reply honestly, “I love being back here, I really do- but, well, things have changed, haven’t they? I mean without my Grandad…” I trail off, not knowing how to finish my sentence.

“You’re not the only one who lost someone that night.” Zoe reminds me, pain and grief flashing across her face for a brief moment. I bow my head, slightly ashamed that I made the mistake of bringing it up. My Grandad and Zoe’s uncle both passed away the same evening, inside the same building... it was a disaster unlike any other Pur Lowen had seen before, and my parents seemed unable to return to this village thereafter, that is, until now.

“I’m sorry,” I apologise, “I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”

“No, it’s okay. I mean it was ten years ago, the village has, well, it’s moved on.” She nods herself through her sentence, wiping the skin around the corner of her eye. I lean in and hug her, rubbing my warm hands across her back. She’s still a bit cold from the surfing. I rest my chin on her shoulder, and my eyes look dead ahead, focusing on the first thing they see...and it’s something I recognise, or rather, someone.

The girl next door, with the older woman, walking through the stalls. Raven I think her name was...yeah, that was it, and the older woman was her sister- Mapelli. Mapelli seems to almost drag Raven along through the market, rushing through to purchase the essentials, skipping past the craft stools. I notice how Raven’s eyes linger on the handcrafted jewelry as she passes it, whilst Mapelli appears to be focused on one thing: buying a good quality loaf of bread.

Zoe pulls out of our hug and notices my eyes staring at the two sisters, my confused gaze catching her attention.

“I know, it’s weird how they interact with everyone,” She bites her lip, “The older one, Mapelli, always seems to alert and cold, whilst that Raven girl seems so curious and open, and yet, so afraid.”

“How long have they lived here?” I ask her.

“Just over six years, but they’ve never really gotten involved with the village. I swear the only time they step outside their house is when they need to do their weekly grocery shop, or when they need to top-up on supplies. They’ve never come to a single fair or village event, and it’s not like they haven’t been invited to any, they choose to be alone, or at least Mapelli does and Raven doesn’t argue.” Zoe explains, keeping her voice down.

“It does seem that way, doesn’t it?” I sigh, “Like she makes all the decisions, and even though Raven doesn’t like them, she goes along with it anyway.”

“Mm.” Zoe hums in agreement. “Oh! You haven’t looked around the market yet, have you?” She bounces up, changing the topic of conversation, “Come on, I’ll show you, there’s tons more stalls than there used to be…” I let her pull me off towards the market, smiling, glad to be back.

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