(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


22. Chapter 22 ~ Raven

I knew as we walked up to that attic that Ryan wouldn’t face any trouble from Dex. I’ve known Dex for years and years, he likes everybody, and Ryan’s one of the most likeable people I know...I was sure they’d get along just fine. Queenie on the other hand, was a different matter altogether. Queenie’s even worse than Mapelli when it comes to not trusting people, sometimes she looks at me like I’m the enemy. She’s also a lot worse at entertaining herself than Dex is, and so she uses arguments as entertainment, constantly looking for any excuse to yell or shout. If anybody was going to try and force me and Ryan apart, it was her.

So, as I see her emerging from the shadows, I clutch onto Ryan’s hand, refusing to be separated from him. I wait until they’ve shook hands, and give Ryan a few seconds to register what his eyes are telling him, before I finally introduce them.

“Ryan, meet Queenie.”

For a few seconds there’s only silence, as we all wait for either Ryan or Queenie to make the next move. They just stand, maintaining eye contact with one another, trying to figure out what to do or say next. Then, Queenie straightens her back, and gestures outwards towards the open door.

“How about we take this conversation downstairs?” She suggests, “It’s terribly dismal up in this attic and I doubt that’s helping with the atmosphere.”

“That sounds good to me.” Mapelli backs her up, giving me a gentle push towards the door.

Still holding Ryan’s hand, we head back down the stairs and into the kitchen. Mapelli gets to work making a pot of tea, and Dex munches on some biscuits. I have to admit, Queenie was right, it is a lot brighter down here, and that does actually help. We all sit around the table, waiting patiently as the tea brews, wondering what on earth is going to happen now. I focus on the feeling of Ryan’s palm in mine, I won’t let go, I refuse to.

“So, Ryan, you and Raven are you…?” Queenie begins her questioning.

“Are we what?”

“You know, dating. Are you two seeing each other?” She clarifies, creasing her brow.

“Oh,” Ryan realises, sitting back in his chair, a little taken aback by the personal nature of the question, “Well, yes, I suppose so.”

“You suppose so’?”

“We are.” He decides, nodding firmly, “I mean, we’ve kissed so…”

“We’re dating.” I step in, coming to Ryan’s aid. “We’re, um, we’re in love.” He looks at me after I say it, grinning, his cheeks turning a deep red colour.

“I see.” Queenie sighs, staring down at the table for a moment as she thinks. “And Ryan you’re not at all bothered by the fact that your girlfriend has fangs?”

“Well, it’s obviously a little odd...but I actually quite like it, it’s a little quirk, you know.” Ryan tries to figure out the best way to answer her question, not wanting to sound dishonest or untrustworthy.

“And my scales, would you call that ‘a little quirk’?” Queenie raises her eyebrows, obviously not satisfied with his response.

“Queenie...that’s hardly relevant.” Dex defends us, trying to help.

“It is, we’re trying to figure out if Ryan can be trusted with our secrets.” Queenie argues, scowling.

“I thought this was about Ryan and Raven.” Dex shakes his head, muttering something else inaudible under his breath.

“It’s about both.” Queenie decides, her tone firm and final, “Now, if Ryan would be so kind as to answer my question…”

“Yes.” Ryan replies at last, looking her dead in the eye.

“Yes what?”

“Yes, I would call your scales ‘a little quirk’.” Ryan says, clearly telling the truth, “You know what else is ‘a little quirk’, that fact that I’m a boy in the body of a girl. I was born in the wrong body, if you want my opinion, that makes me a misfit to. And if that’s the case, why shouldn’t I be welcomed into your small community.”

“Why you little-”

“Oh be quiet!” Queenie cuts Mapelli off, “I’m trying to think here.” We’re all silent for a moment or two as Queenie decides how she wants to react. I can tell a part of her is angry like Mapelli, but there’s something else in her expression too.

“I’m going to tell you something Ryan, a secret, something I probably shouldn’t share with you. But you must understand that if I tell you this, everything changes. You will be part of this community, maybe not as a full-on misfit like the rest of us, but you will commit to defending us, to helping us. Do you understand?”


“Good. Am I right to presume then that you want me to tell you this secret?” Queenie continues with her plan.


“Alright, I shall start from the beginning.” Queenie nods, shifting in her position, “The truth is misfits are rare, really rare. The reason we’re like this is because of some unique random genetic mutation, and those sort of mutations don’t happen very often. There was  a man, called Richard Quentin, whose wife was giving birth to a misfit. The only problem was this child’s deformity was in their lungs, and they couldn’t breathe correctly outside of the womb, so they moment they were born, they suffocated. His wife, Francesca, also died in the childbirth, leaving him with nothing. So, he went on a holiday to clear his head, he came here, to Pur Lowen, somewhere quiet and peaceful. It was here that he met me. I also came here following a disaster, to hide out, knowing that if I was ever seen my life would change forever. Together we hatched a plan, he bought this house for me to live in secretly, and he got to work finding other misfits. He heard about two sisters with selective mutism who always refused adoption and foster-care, and he got curious, that was how he found Mapelli and Raven. Strange hate-crimes and random emotional acts made headlines a few years back, and when he went to check that out he found Dex. Then, when Mapelli turned eighteen, Mr Quentin decided he had finally moved on from the death of his wife and child, and that being around us only reminded him of it. So we let him go, and took on his mission for him. We keep an eye out, there are probably others out there waiting to be found, but as of yet we’ve had no luck. That’s our secret Ryan, we’re a home for misfits, for the people too strange for society.”

I look to Ryan, wondering how he’ll react. He looks down at the floor, running over the story again and again in his head. Then he looks up, biting his lip.

“Have you- well, ever tried to, I don’t know, work with your problems?” He mumbles, unable to put a simple sentence together.

“What? What are you trying to say?” Mapelli intrudes, her voice harsh and sharp.

“You know...take you and Raven for example, have you ever tried to speak in the day?” He rephrases. As soon as I hear the words come out of his mouth my stomach churns, Mapelli is not going to like that at all.

“What? You stupid boy! We can’t speak in the day in case we’re seen, it’s always been that way.” Mapelli reminds him, snapping.

“But what if you can, and you just haven’t tried hard enough?” Ryan pleads, trying to make her understand his point, “When I first began to feel more masculine, I thought it was best to suppress it, to fight it, but once I accepted it things started getting better. Maybe, just maybe, your misfits aren’t that different to other issues people may have. Take ordinary selective mutism for example, most people with that believe they can’t speak, but once they try and keep on trying, they realise they can, they just need a bit of help.”

“Are you saying that you think we might be able to get rid of our misfits if we tried and helped each other out?” Dex checks, hope creeping into his voice.

“Well...not exactly, I mean Queenie’s always going to have scales. But why can’t she feel beautiful in her own skin? People with low self-esteem probably feel like they’ve got scales too and they overcome those feelings eventually, so why can’t Queenie?”

“Are you saying that you want to help us Ryan? Do you want to help us overcome our misfits?” I ask.

“Yes,” he confirms, absolutely certain, “I do.”

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