Raven: The Raven Saga Part I

After the inexplicable disappearance of Lilly Taylor's parents, she has no choice but to move to Canada where she unravels some frightening yet intriguing family secrets...
Her whole life had been based on a lie. Lilly had grown up in a loveless home with a father who she had barely ever seen and a mother who was... well, not very motherly.
After they mysteriously disappear without a trace, Lilly is sent to Canada where she finds a whole new way of life. A life filled with love and people who care for her. But that's not all she discovers, Lilly also finds out that she isn't who, or what, she thinks she is.
Lilly has a very special ability and it's just a matter of time before her true self starts to shine. And when it does, her life will never be the same again.
Raven is a fantasy novel for children and young adults set in the beautiful province of British Columbia.

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3. Chapter three

CHAPTER THREE My parents' disappearance continued to be a complete mystery. The police had told me that even though they had followed several lines of enquiry and spoken to countless people; they had come up without a single clue to go on. Not one person had seen them. I was the only one that had seen them that day. Well, I had seen her. I hadn't actually seen my father. I had just assumed he was there. I rarely saw him anyway, I rarely even heard him. Every now and then I would hear her speak to him but I never heard him reply. It had been a hot and humid summer and, unusual for England at that time of year, it had lasted for quite a few weeks. Naturally, there had been a hose pipe ban as happened every time the sun shone for more than a week there. I had only been aware of it because my teachers were keen to teach us all about current environmental issues. Not that I noticed the ban. We didn't have a garden, we didn't even have any plants. Our home was a bare flat in London where I had lived all my life – all thirteen years of it. I can't say I was happy, nor can I say I was particularly unhappy because I wouldn't have known the true meaning of either word. I was very much a loner with no friends until December came along. Luckily, the majority of kids at school were pleasant enough to us but we didn't feel like we belonged with any of them so we simply avoided contact. Of course there were a few that taunted us every now and again, but we took little notice. They seemed to taunt a lot of people at school, having silly nicknames for everyone - apart from December. The kids were amused enough by her name not to bother making up another. Mine was Mellow Yellow – probably because I was so quiet and wore a lot of yellow. Not by choice though. The few clothes that I owned were bought by my mother and for some reason they were all yellow, not even a nice shade of yellow. All were second-hand clothes and none fitted me properly, but I certainly couldn't complain even if I hated them all. Like I said, my parents and I didn't really talk. December and I preferred being in our own little world, alone with our thoughts or curled up with a sneaky book under the large chestnut tree in the playground. At school, we blended into the background. We were courteous to most people and most of them were courteous to us. Yet if you asked anyone about me, even my name, I doubted very much that any of the kids would know. At least that was the case until my parents mysteriously vanished from the face of the earth. Then everyone seemed to know my name. Everyone knew I was Lilly Taylor. Word had spread rapidly as I walked through the school gates a few days later. Out of habit, December had waited hidden behind the walls for my arrival. She needn't have, of course. She hugged me tightly but didn't say a word. Somehow she just knew how I felt. Shame the other kids didn't have a clue. Fingers pointed, people whispered and stared at me. Not a single other person approached me. Had it not been for December, I would have felt even more alone than I had ever felt before. I could easily have cried on her shoulder but the tears did not come. As much as I wished they would, they wouldn't come, perhaps because I had never really had much of a relationship with either parent. I never felt loved. I never even felt liked. But they were my family. The closest people to me at that time of my life, other than December, were the kind neighbours who had offered to take care of me until my parents were found. Or, in the event that they did not return, until plans were made for me to travel across the world to stay with my grandfather in Canada. A grandfather I knew nothing about. December would be crushed. I was her only friend and she needed me as much as I needed her. I would hate to have to leave her, but deep down I knew that it was likely. Rather than put me into temporary foster care, Social Services had agreed that my staying with the sisters was the best thing for me. Familiarity, they said, would be better than handing me over to complete strangers. Dorothy and June were spinsters. They had never married but had been happy enough living together their entire lives. They were good and honest and they were trustworthy. I couldn't really have stayed with December even if I had wanted to. She didn't have the best relationship with her aunt. What her wealthy aunt gave to December in financial security, she lacked in love. She was as lonely as I was and her aunt would never have allowed her to take me home with her. Later that afternoon, I had rushed out of the school gates and looked up at the window to see if my mother had come back. She wasn't there, of course. No vision in white. As I stood there, it occurred to me that for the very first time in my life I could do anything I wanted. Anything in the world. But I had no idea what to do. I looked around and watched many of the other kids laughing and joking. Some kicked around a football, others sat on the wall sneakily smoking cigarettes, while some of the younger ones were collected by their loving parents. December sadly waved goodbye from her chauffeur-driven car. Instead of heading 'home', I gingerly walked in the opposite direction, looking back over my shoulder afraid that someone might swoop down and pull me back. Yet for the first time ever I felt no pull to return to that place. If it wasn't for Dorothy and June, I would probably have just carried on walking, but deep down I knew I couldn't hurt them like that. Especially when they had shown  nothing but kindness to me. So I turned around and headed back up those stairs. The ones I had walked up a million times before. Yet this time, I entered the apartment across the hall from my parents' place. As I unlocked the door, the most delicious smell of home cooking invaded my every pore and the sounds of laughter came from the living room. I followed the sounds and instead of finding the sisters, I found the television switched on. I sat down and watched for a few minutes, laughing at the silly man who pranced around like a complete idiot getting himself stuck in silly situations. Watching until it finished, I discovered that he was called Mr Bean. It was then that I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for doing something I was never permitted to do. I peered over my shoulder guiltily before getting up and walking into the kitchen. “Oh hello, dear. You're just in time for dinner. Come in. Don't just hover by the door. I hope you had a good day at school. I've made us a Shepherd's Pie. I hope you like that,” said Dorothy as she gently pushed her white blonde curls behind her ears before spooning the food onto a plate for me. I had no idea what a Shepherd's Pie was, but I nodded enthusiastically nonetheless. It was easily the most delicious meal I had ever had. At home, everything came straight from a tin. Tinned spaghetti, tinned beans, tinned peas, tinned mince, tinned potatoes, tinned soup, and so on. And most of it was given to me cold. Stone cold. I only knew it was all tinned food because of the time I had sneaked in when she wasn't looking and had opened the cupboards to find a lifetime's supply of the stuff. I had never been allowed to spend any length of time in our kitchen, other than to quickly eat, so I had no idea how to prepare food. I guess back then I had assumed that everybody ate that kind of stuff. “Did this come out of a tin, Dorothy?” I asked. “Oh my dear!” she said, “Of course not. We cook everything fresh in this house. Did your mother never prepare you a home cooked meal?” I shook my head and told her about the kinds of things I had eaten and she looked shocked, as did June. “I take it that means she never taught you to how to cook?” I shook my head again and told them I wasn't allowed in the kitchen other than to quickly eat. “Well, while you're staying with us, we'll just have to change that, won't we? We'll show you everything you need to know. But first, eat up and enjoy dear. We'll start to teach the basics tomorrow after school,” Dorothy smiled kindly as she patted my hand. As I enjoyed those wonderful mashed potatoes with the tasty meat beneath, I felt another pang of guilt. Guilt that my parents had vanished and there I was, stuffing myself like some sort of famished orphan. But then, perhaps that's what I had become. An orphan. And I was hungry. Very hungry. That evening, the guilt continued to consume me. So much so that I felt the need to do something about it. Something drastic. And there was only one thing that I could do. I secretly borrowed a pair of scissors from the kitchen and sneaked into the bathroom. After locking the door, I stood looking at my reflection in the mirror and before I could talk myself out of it, I took those scissors to my hair and hacked it all off. As I stared at myself, I wished for that guilt to disappear. It didn't. I needed to do more. Searching through the sisters' belongings in the cupboard, I came across a box with a picture of a woman with the same coloured hair as Dorothy. Without giving it a second thought, I opened the box, emptied the contents on the floor and sat on the bath mat as I read everything on the leaflet inside the box. As instructed, I mixed the contents of the bottles together and began covering my hair with the cream. The strong odour made my eyes water as I slowly began to bleach out the black from my hair. Over an hour later, I stood staring at my reflection, a mountain of long black hair covered the floor by my feet. I inched closer to the mirror and stared into my eyes. Their usual shade of vivid green seemed flat and lifeless. Murky. I wished the guilt would disappear. I wished for tears to come. I wished for the return of my parents. But it was no good. There was no one to make my wishes come true. I crept back into the spare bedroom and pulled out all of my awful yellow clothes. Spreading them on the soft pink carpet, I used the same pair of scissors to cut them and rip them so that they didn't hang loosely from my body any more. Just for a moment, I forgot my circumstances and enjoyed the creativity. What I was left with, however, wasn't what I had intended. They were still a mess, and they were all still yellow. I didn't want to wear yellow any more. I didn't want to be the Mellow Yellow girl. I walked into the living room where Dorothy and June sat glued to the television, and I stopped in the doorway to watch the screen for a few moments. I listened as a middle-aged man talked about a recent spate of mysterious attacks on horses that had taken place within the London area. A minute later, the cat jumped off the sofa and started making a fuss of me. The two women noticed and turned to see what she was so interested in. Dorothy let out a cry when she saw me. June gave me a hug. She just seemed to understand why I had done it. I sat down in between them both on the sofa and told them what I had done to all my clothes. Their look of sadness didn't go unnoticed by me and I felt bad for making them feel that way. As the cat rubbed itself against my bare legs, Dorothy suddenly stood up and smiled with a twinkle in her. “I have an idea,” she said, “come on.” June stood up too and laughed, “Of course.” “We always wondered why your mother dressed you in yellow, dear. It's really not a flattering colour for you at all. I know we're just a couple of old spinsters, but we've still got our clothes from when we were younger. We just might have some things that will fit you. Let's go and have a look,” added June. I followed the sisters into a fourth bedroom, a room without a bed, instead filled with hangers and hangers of clothes. I had never seen so many bright and beautiful things. It wasn't just the colours that were so beautiful to me, it was the feel of the clothes, soft and silky. So unlike the hard and scratchy fabrics I had always worn. However, as much as they tried to give me colourful skirts and blouses, I found myself drawn to black. With my newly-dyed white hair, I told them I just wanted to wear black. Deep down, I felt unworthy somehow of wearing anything else. Eventually they conceded and pulled out everything they had in black. There wasn't much but it was a far cry from Mellow Yellow. That night, the sisters' sewing machine went into overdrive – making all my new clothes to fit my small frame. Walking through the school gates the following day I held my head up high and let them point and stare. There were whispers but there were also wolf whistles from the heartless boys that didn't care for my emotions. But I couldn't care less. Nobody called me Mellow Yellow after that. I was finally just Lilly. “Your hair!” were the first words from December's mouth. “As much as I loved the black hair, I do love the white, although I'm not so keen on the hacked look,” she giggled. December was always good at making me feel better with a well-timed, and much-needed joke. She didn't mention my missing parents or the lack of yellow. She didn't need to. She was just there and that was all that mattered. As the weeks went by without any sign of my parents, true to their word, Dorothy and June began to demonstrate how to cook all kinds of simple recipes. They tried to keep me busy. The police concluded that the blood they had found was my father's, but they neglected to tell me what was in the other vial. However, as they had made no further discoveries, it looked as though the case may well be shelved, unsolved. An X file. I didn't know what to think. A vial of my father's blood? Did that mean he was injured? Or worse? I tried not to let my imagination run wild. From conversations with the Social Services, the authorities and Dorothy and June, I knew I would have to move to Canada. My grandfather telephoned me and told me that all the arrangements had been made. We didn't have much to say to each other. Not just because I didn't know the man, but also because I simply wasn't used to talking on the telephone. In just a few short weeks, I would no longer live in England. A sense of sadness overcame me but still the tears did not come. I was upset that I was leaving my parents behind... wherever they were. But it was the fact that my life had actually improved since they'd disappeared that made me feel guilty. The guilt turned to sadness and the sadness turned to guilt, like an unstoppable swinging pendulum.

 

Raven is available to buy from most online retailers including Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Raven-The-Saga-ebook/dp/B004ZZJ462

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