(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


15. Chapter 15 ~ Ryan

“You disappeared,” I sigh, leaning against the balcony, “One second you were outside surfing, having fun, and the next you were gone, it was like you’d died.” Raven gets out her phone, sending me a response.

Raven: I’m sorry.

“No you not,” I tell her, “I can see it in your eyes.” She bows her head, looking away from me. I realise that I was snapping, and shake my head, already feeling dizzy from the conversation. “I didn’t mean to snap, it’s just- well, I looked for you, and you must have noticed...why didn’t you open up to me the way you normally do?” She doesn’t turn around to look at me again, but her shoulders do relax. A moment later, my phone vibrates in my hand.

Raven: You wouldn’t understand.

“I’d probably understand more than you’d think.” I step forward, resting my hand gently on her right shoulder, “Was it the surfing? Was it all too much for you? Was it overwhelming?” Raven doesn’t reply, I can see her phone safely tucked away in her pocket. “Look, I can understand if it was,” I continue to talk to her, not giving up easily, “When I came out as transgender, at first I felt amazing, so proud, like I’d accomplished something incredible...but a couple of days later, on the first Monday back after the holidays, I woke up and all I felt was scared. I wasn’t sure how people would react to me, the real me. What if they reacted badly? What if people didn’t accept Ryan the way they accepted Rhiannon? My point is, it took time for me to get used to showing the world who I really was, I even took sick days, so I understand if that’s how you felt too. If you needed space, if you need space, then that’s okay. Just know that one day you’ll wake up and think ‘screw all the haters’, and you’ll love yourself for who you are, and once people see that fire inside you, they’ll be forced to give up, because nothing any of them could say could ever truly hurt you ever again.” I don’t have to wait long for a reply.

Raven: You were scared of what people thought of you?

I have to suppress a laugh, the answer is so obvious.

“Of course, we all are.” I remind her. Finally, Raven turns around to look at me, the corners of her eyes brimming with tears. I can’t read her expression, I don’t know whether she wants to hug me or slap me.

But she doesn’t do either.

Instead, she turns and runs, leaving me again.

For a moment I just stand there, stunned, exhausted from all the running back and forth that we seem to be doing. One moment she wants to try new things and break free, the next she’s hiding away again. It takes me a while to draw my eyes away from the dark pink-tinted sky, to return to the real world, but eventually I do, walking slowly back to the festival.

“Hey,” Zoe runs up behind me, “Thanks for leaving me like that. Also, why did I just see Raven June running through here wearing my garland?” Her eyes are squinted as she judges me, unimpressed.

“I don’t know, it just sorta happened...I-I saw her in the distance and I, I ran over to her.” I mumble, my tone apologetic.

“I thought you were giving her some space?” Zoe reminds me, sighing.

“I know, I know,” I bite my lip, grimacing, “I just couldn’t help myself.” Zoe looks at me for a second, as if she’s staring right into my soul. Then she relaxed her posture and rolls her eyes, forgiving me quickly.

“Well, what happened? Did she explain why she’d been so closed off for the past few weeks?” I smile, glad that I no longer have Zoe’s disappointment weighing me down as well as my own.

“No, she had it in her head that I wouldn’t understand.” I tell her, “When I tried to reach out to her more she ran away again.”

“Well that certainly sounds like her,” Zoe nods, “Come on, let’s get something to eat.” I can tell she’s trying to distract me, but I’m more than happy to let her.

We walk over to the first food truck we spot, and buy a couple of burgers, sitting down and tucking in. The sun is even lower in the sky now, and it’s getting colder, the wind whips my face harshly, and Zoe’s hair is uncontrollable, flying around everywhere as the breeze carries it up to the sky. I don’t let the cold air ruin my mood though, I dig in to the succulent local beef, enjoying every mouthful. Zoe, however, keeps on staring out across the fields, her eyes tired and her expression conflicted.

“Okay, what’s wrong?” I sigh, unable to deal with a second mystery in my life. Zoe shakes her head, staring down at the grass.

“It’s nothing.” She mumbles, “Don’t worry.”

“Come on, something’s bothering you. You can talk to me you know, don’t you trust me?” I try to get her to open up.

“If course I trust you Ryan,” she smiled, placing her hand on top of mine, “But it’s silly.”

“Tell me.” I lean in closer, not letting her drop the subject. Zoe leans back, muttering something under her breath that I can’t quite hear, and at last giving in.

“It’s just...this place, Pur Lowen, it’s so special to me. I love this festival, and, well, what if I’m not here next year?” She begins to talk, still not making eye contact with me.
“What do you mean?”

“I mean, well, I’m moving away for university, into a city environment. I’m only five weeks away from turning eighteen and- and I just don’t know if I’m ready to move away. What if the city changes me? What if I forget this place? What if I never come back here? Haven’t you noticed how most of the people in this village are retired? I want to be lawyer Ryan, there isn’t a firm in Pur Lowen. What if my future draws me away from here? I can’t imagine forgetting the open waves or the crispy chips or the starry evenings, but-but what if I do?”

“That won’t happen-”

“But what if it does?” She interrupts me, “How can you be sure that it won’t?” I think for a moment, knowing I’ll have to be careful with my reply.

“I left,” I remind her, “I came back. It took me ten years but I did it. You could be gone for thirty years, but you’ll never forget this village, you’ll come back too. Trust me.” I see Zoe’s lips curve upwards, and I know that I have won.

“Thanks Ryan.”

“Anytime, you know I’ll-” I am cut off with a jolt, as I feel a finger poke into my right shoulder. I turn around sharply, and gasp when I see who it is. Raven. She came back. She smiles at me, and I smile back, feeling an odd sense of satisfaction with her near me. Raven shifts her gaze of me and onto Zoe, removing the garland to hand it back over, but Zoe stops her, brushing her hands away.

“Keep it.” She tells her, “Look, Ryan, if you two want to go off somewhere I don’t mind.”

“Are you sure?” I check, a minute ago Zoe was on the verge of tearing up.

“Yeah.” She promises me, squeezing my hand. I turn to Raven who tugs my arm gently, I get up from my seat, and leave Zoe to watch the final few minutes of the sunset alone.

Raven and I walk all the way back to the balcony in complete silence, but for some reason it doesn’t feel eery or wrong, it feels good, it feels right. The silence isn’t empty tonight, it’s alive with energy. We walk right up to the edge, resting against the railing. The sun is barely in the sky at all now, it’s just a thin pink line along the horizon, lighting up the dark navy sky.

“It’s beautiful.” I murmur, letting it soothe me and calm me down.

“Yes, it is.”

So mesmerized by the magenta clouds and blinding stars, I don’t even notice Raven turn and walk away.I stand there for a good few minutes, lost in my own emotions. In fact, it’s only ten minutes later, when I’m walking back over to Zoe, when it hits me.

“Yes, it is.”

Raven spoke to me.

Raven can speak.

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