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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4. Chapter 4 ~ Zoe

“Wow, that was incredible- you were great Zoe!” Clarissa pats me on the back as we run out from the waves, dripping wet with the salty, freezing water.

“We were lucky with the wind today, that definitely helped.” I pant, taking a moment to catch my breath. I’ve been surfing since I was eleven, but that doesn’t mean that it still astounds me each time. The rush and the atmosphere that being out on the waves creates never seems to cease to shock me, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

“You’re way too modest.” Ellie rolls her eyes, jogging up behind us. I just shake my head, too tired to argue. Surfing is fun and all, but it really takes it out of you.

“Same time next week?” Kelsie checks.

“You know it.” I confirm, unable to stop myself from smiling. Over the summer surfing becomes a regular exercise, each year I gather a group of girls from the boat club, amateurs and professionals, and we all hit the waves, every single friday morning.

I bend over and shake my head, trying to dry it off a bit so it doesn’t drip and run down my back. When I flick it back up again I get Ellie with a few sharp droplets, but she just laughs it off and tugs at my strands as payback. I tuck my board under my arm and walk along the rocks, making my way towards the boat club...and a well-needed warm shower.

“Zoe?” I hear someone call my name, and I look around to try and see who it is. It’s clear none of the other girls spoke, they’re too busy shivering to get a word out. “Zoe Stuarts, is that you?” I recognise the voice...somewhere at the back of my mind a bell is ringing. Then my eyes finally find the speaker, and I finally understand what’s going on.

It’s Rhiannon…

...Or should I say, Ryan?

The same bright blue eyes, the same random freckles, the same untidy brown hair, now cut short. Ryan Vince. Running towards me in the same clumsy jog as when he was ten years old.

“No way… Rhiannon? Sorry! I mean, um...Ryan-right? Hi, uh, sorry ab-about that...erm, hey?”  I stammer, unsure of how to react. It’s been so long- seven years…

“Hi,” he reaches me, his cheeks red and flushed, “Wow, you’re...taller.”

Taller?

What does that mean? Of course I’m taller, I’m seventeen, and the last time he saw me I was ten. If I wasn’t taller then something would most certainly be very wrong.

“Yeah...you too.” I nod, trying to ignore the lucid awkwardness between us.

“Nice tat,” he gestures to my wrist, “Suits you.”

“Thanks, I got it on my sixteenth birthday just over a year ago...my mum hates it, but my dad’s cool with it.” I stare down at the image of the dinghy on a wave, sailing was what got me into watersports, and the tattoo is sort of a reminder to the first time I got out in a boat and realised that I preferred the sea to the land. I look back up at Ryan, and smile, it feels good to be at his side again, even if it is a little awkward. “We were just about to go dry off and get some chips, do you want to tag along?” I offer, trying to include him. I’d like to catch up a bit, and I can’t do that if he wanders off again.

“Sure, why not?” He accepts, walking alongside us as we head in the direction of the boat club.

Once I’m safely through the doors and into the lockers I relax, finally able to breathe again. I spend a few seconds simply stood with my back against the door, pausing as I let it all sink in, desperate to not let it get the better of me. It’s not Ryan’s fault that I’m so overwhelmed, in fact he has very little to do with it. It’s just that Ryan being back here makes me think about the incident ten years ago that drove him away.

“Look beyond Zoe.”

Those are the words I remember my uncle muttering to me almost every single day before he passed, mum and dad thought he was losing his marbles...and so did I, I think I still do, Uncle Stephen was so absent, and he always spoke in riddles that made sense to only him. He was a madman...a madman who died. Nothing more, nothing less.

“Zoe, stop moping around in that corner!” Kelsie calls out to me. I stand up tall and walk over, getting myself dry with a towel and chucking on my top and jeans. The hairdryer is broken and has very little power to it, so my hair's still damp in places, but I don’t really care, I like the feeling of the saltwater on my strands.

The girls and I re-group with Ryan and wander over to the nearest chip shop. I smother mine in cornish cheddar, and watch hungrily as it melts over them, turning into a gooey, cheesy, blob. When I look at Ryan’s portion all I see is salt and pepper, he never did understand the joy of hot chips and melted cheddar, which is something I find very odd. Everything to be is a sensation, whether it be surfing, sailing, or scoffing cheesy chips, and I fail to find any sensation inside plain old salt and vinegar. We head out front and rest against the wall, mindlessly watching the world go by. I can’t help but look up at Ryan, why didn’t he come back sooner? What really kept him from returning to this village? His Grandma seemed to move on after a couple of years, so could he really have needed ten? He seems happy here, all calm and at ease, surely he must have missed this.

“Bet you don’t get a view like this in the city.” I joke, gently shoving him. It’s the most casual way I can tell him what I’m really thinking.

“No...but you do get a better wifi signal.” He pokes me in the arm, laughing. I laugh too, hiding my discomfort.

“Then I guess it’s just a matter of priorities.” I throw away my rubbish, “Well...priorities and holidays.” He chuckles at my joke, and I smile. Ryan is enjoying being back here, maybe he’ll come back again next year? Maybe things will go back to the way they were? I turn to look at him, building up the courage to finally ask him my burning question...“Are you going to come back again next year?”

He grimaces uncomfortably, biting his lip. I don’t think he wanted me to ask him that.

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

“Yeah, but, do you think you will?” I don’t know why I interrupt him, I just do. I can’t let him avoid the question, I need to know.

There’s a long pause between us, and I feel guilt creep up on me for asking in the first place. Things were going so well, we were catching up, chatting, just like old times- and then I went and ruined it with my stupid curiosity and insecurities.

“I don’t know. I love being back here, I really do- but, well, things have changed, haven’t they? I mean without my Grandad…” He trails off, looking down at the ground. I know he’s being honest with me, which is all I could ever ask for, but I still feel a little disappointed. What did he expect? That he’d come back after ten years to find everything the same?

“You’re not the only one who lost someone that night.” I don’t mean to sound so cold, but the words just sort of escape my mouth. An image of my uncle once again flashes through my thoughts, his empty eyes, his shaking hand...he was thirty-nine, but acted like he was sixty.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have mentioned it.” He apologises, his voice humble and hesitant.

“No, it’s okay.” I assure him, putting on a brave face, “I mean it was ten years ago, the village has, well, it’s moved on.” I have to nod as I speak to convince myself what I’m saying is true, which works. I certainly believe me.

...I don’t think Ryan does though.

He leans in and hugs me, letting me rest against him, rubbing his hands against my back. I lift my chin up on his shoulder, enjoying this brief pause and comfort. It’s almost as if he never left. We pull apart but he’s no longer looking at me, his eyes are squinted as they stare out at something else. I follow their gaze and realise that he’s staring at Mapelli and Raven June, the two sisters who live near his Grandma.

“I know, it’s weird how they interact with everyone,” I sigh, “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?” He asks.

“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.” I reply, looking at them as they surf their way through the crowd.

I still remember the day they arrived. Nobody had lived in that house since the incident, which was only four years ago at the time. Prior to that it had been home to Ms Richards, the town Librarian, who sadly passed away that night too. People used to say she haunted her old house, and that those who stepped past the threshold would be forever cursed. It became the haunted house of the village. Nobody really dared live inside it. Then the two sisters arrived and bought it, and they got to work changing it around. Making the front garden face away from the village, and towards the fields, selling a fair amount of the old furniture, and re-painting the flakey walls. Once inside, they didn’t leave for an entire week, people began to think the story was true and Ms Richards had got them both, but then, one day, they were seen about the farmers market. Since then, they’ve been the real ghosts of the village. Wandering around silently, not engaging with anyone, finding friendship only in each other.

“It does seem that way, doesn’t it?” Ryan agrees with me, “Like she makes all the decisions, and even though Raven doesn’t like them, she goes along with it anyway.” I’m getting a little tired of the conversation, I’d rather talk about something else. So all I manage in response is a little hum.

“Oh!” I burst out, trying to change the topic, “You haven’t looked around the market yet, have you? Come on, I’ll show you, there’s tons more stalls than there used to be…” Before he can say no I grab his arm and pull him along after me, rushing off towards the stalls.

The first one we come to is a baking stall, coating in sugar-iced cupcakes and rich sponges. Just the sight of it makes my mouth water, and I can’t help but spend three pounds on an almond cookie.

“You’re hopeless…” Ryan shakes his head, laughing at my lack of self-control. I just poke him in the arm and scoff down the rest of my cookie, smugly wiping my mouth afterwards. I notice a stand with some handy surfing equipment a meter or so away.

“Do you mind if I just go and look over there for a sec?” I ask, though we both know I’ll do it whatever his answer. He nods, and I drag him over.

The stand is full of pretty good stuff, not just for surfing, but for other watersports too. I pick up a new rash-vest, as my old one is pretty much in tatters, and I’m ready to leave when I notice Ryan staring at something. It’s a short-legged wetsuit on sale, good material, bargain price.

“You should get it.” I tell him.

“Where would I use it?”

“Um...have you forgotten where you are?” I raise my eyebrows, “There’s so much you can do out on those waves, trust me.”

“Okay.” He decides, “But if I get it, you have to teach me how to sail and surf again, I’m a bit rusty.”

“Deal.” I grin, it’s hardly a great sacrifice. It will be fun to teach Ryan all the old tricks again, he could even join me and my girls when we go surfing. He’s turns around and holds the wetsuit out, examining it. Unfortunately he doesn’t look at what he’s doing, and someone walks straight into it, falling on their face.

“Oh, I’m sorry...uh- here, let me help you up,” Ryan pulls the wetsuit off the figure, and gives them a hand. It’s Raven. She just looks flustered and brushes the dirt of her clothes, not making eye-contact with anyone. “Hey I’m really sorry, is there anything I can do to-?” Ryan doesn’t make it to the end of his question before Raven runs off out of the market.

“Well...that was weird.” I remark, not sure quite what else to say.

“Yeah, it was.”

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