(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


17. Chapter 17 ~ Zoe

I don’t believe Ryan when he says Raven can talk, what sane person would? Raven June is a mystery, but not that much of a mystery. I’ve known Raven for longer than he has, I know how long it takes to get used to the way she interacts with the world. It’s odd, but not so odd that there’s a clearly secrets about. I still remember when we first met, the very same day they moved to town.

“Zoe, come on, it’s not safe enough conditions today for sailing.” my dad told me, calling me away from the water.

“What about surfing? Or canoeing? Or kayaking? Or-?”

“Not today sweetheart.” He cut me off, “Besides, Ms Alma’s house to help her with her yearly clearout, remember?”

“Okay…”I grumbled. I didn’t show it, but I couldn’t help but think about Rhiannon. Where was she? Why wasn’t she here with me? I took my father's hand and let him lead me forwards, walking along the coastline towards the reconverted barnhouse. We turned the corner, and the house appeared in the distance.

“We’ll use the back entrance Zoe, she’s already got some bin bags for us to carry.” My dad instructed, guiding me along.

As we rounded the corner to her back patio I noticed them, stood beside a car, getting their bags out. One man, around the age of forty-five, with brown and grey hair, locking up the car, and two girls. One of them, the taller one, had long waves of brown hair which were so thick they barely budged when a breeze hit them, and she stood with stiff, closed posture. She noticed me staring, and almost glared back at me, her gaze squinted as she sharply turned to put her back to me. The shorter one had thinner black hair, which bobbed up and down as she looked at the scene around her, taking it all in, smiling. As she went to lift her suitcase out of the boot, her foot dug into the gravel, and she made to trip. I quickly stepped over and stopped her from falling, handing her back the suitcase which she’d dropped. She looked at me for a moment, her eyes wide and shocked, as if she’d never seen another living person before.

“Hi, I’m Zoe, what’s your name?” I smiled nevertheless, holding out my hand. She stook a small step back, as if she was threatened by the gesture, but she also stared at my fingers, as if they intrigued her.

“Sorry, she won’t answer you, she can’t,” the man walked up behind her, “She’s got selective mutism. I’m Mr Quentin, that’s Mapelli, and this is Raven. I recently adopted them.”

“It’s nice to meet you Mr Quentin,” I beamed up at him, “You too Raven.” I didn’t bother addressing Mapelli, it was clear she didn’t want to be spoken to.

“You too Zoe,” he grinned back at me, “Here, have a mint.” He reached into his pocket and handed one over to me. I thanked him and ran back to my dad, but before I went inside to see Ms Alma, I looked back at the three of them, as if I still wasn’t fully satisfied.

After that day I rarely ever saw Raven or Mapelli. They stayed inside from dawn till’ dusk, Mr Quentin did all the shopping and socialising. Mr Quentin was the face of the household, he made it seem almost normal...almost. Occasionally I’d walk by and see the sisters on their patio, or spot them through a window, but I never got any closer than that. Just the look Mapelli gave me if I ever tried was enough to keep me away for months. The biggest shock, I think, was when Mr Quentin left Pur Lowen. None of us saw it coming. He’d really become a part of the village. Then one day he got up and left, as if he’d been here for a few days. He left the house to Mapelli and drove off, he hasn’t been back since. His departure also forced the sisters to move out of the house more, but that still didn’t make them engage with the village, they were like shadows in the streets. They always stuck together, almost never separating. It was a rare sight to see one of them alone. I did once though, about a year ago, the day I got my tattoo.

“Thanks Mr Dean,” I smiled, looking at my new tattoo in the mirror, “I love it.”

“It suits you,” he nodded, “But if your dad asks remember I had nothing to do with this.” I laughed and agreed, shaking my head. It was all very well joking, but my stomach churned at the storm awaiting me when I got home. I left the store and began walking back home, so engaged at the image of the dinghy on the waves that I was completely unaware of my surroundings, and I ended up walking straight into her, Raven.

“Oh, I’m so sorry- here, let me help you.” I stammered, getting down onto my knees to pick up the groceries that had spilled out over the pavement. She also knelt down, tidying away, not saying a word of course. Her hands shook as she worked, moving quickly, clearly she couldn’t wait to get as far away from me as possible. We both reached for the milk at the same time, and our hands brushed past each other. I continued on normally regardless, but Raven flinched and her hand jolted backwards, as if she’d expected my touch to burn her. I got up and walked away, just as confused as she was.

I learnt that day that Raven June fears the word. Whether it be due to her difficult childhood, or the paranoia that was installed in her aftewards, was unclear, but anyone could see she was constantly afraid. It almost made me pity her.

So, whether or not Raven June has some big secret, I cannot deny that there is something off about her and her sister. I also know that Ryan won’t stop until he’s got some answers, it will torment him for weeks. Of course I have to help, and the best way to do that is to right to the source of all this confusion.

I quickly rush along the beach to the boathouse, picking up a small pile of flyers and running off again, in the direction of Ryan’s house. When I get there, however, I run straight past it, jogging right up to the door of their neighbours. I ring the doorbell before I have a chance to change my mind, clenching the thin pieces of paper like they’ll spawn legs and run away if I don’t. I hear footsteps from inside approaching the door, and a second or so it swings open, and Mapelli stands before me, her eyes as unwelcoming and inquisitive as ever. I take a deep breath and force a smile onto my face.

“Hi there, sorry to bother you, I’m just going around handing out these flyers for the sailing club.” I half-lie, handing one over to her. For a moment or two her eyes divert off mine and onto the paper, and I use this opportunity to look over her shoulder at the inside of the house.

It’s just a normal house.

A table for eating, a kitchen for cooking, a washing machine for laundry, a bookshelf for reading. Six dirty plates are piled high next to the sink, a bundle of clothes lie in a pile on the floor...it’s perfectly ordinary.

Mapelli looks back up at me and I dart my eyes back onto her, smiling.

“Well, I hope you consider popping down sometime soon,” I conclude my little performance, “Bye for now.”

I walk back past Ryan’s house, heading back home. It was just an ordinary house. I mean, of course it was...why did I ever think it wouldn’t be? I can’t believe I let some messed up memories and Ryan’s babbling ever convince me that there was something strange in there. I unlock the door and walk inside, resting down onto the sofa. In the corner of my eye I notice the dirty dishes piled up in the kitchen and, in desperate need of a distraction, I get up and begin to work my way through them. There aren’t many, only three plates, one for me, one for my mum, and one for my dad. I’m scrubbing away at the third plate when it hits me.

There are three plates here, because three people live here.

But there were six plates at the June household, when really there should only have been two.

Ryan was right, the June sisters do have a secret.

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