(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


5. Chapter 5 ~ Raven

Mapelli doesn’t like heading out to the market, she prefers to stay indoors all day in the safety of the house. All anyone has to do is look at her to realise this, she’s tense and rushed when she walks through the stalls, snatching up supplies and chucking money in the pots, refusing to even make eye-contact with anybody we pass. We never stop to look at the handmade jewelry or home-baked treats, it’s essentials only, then we run off back home and I’m trapped inside for yet another week.

That’s why market day is the best day of the week for me. It’s my Friday on a Sunday, the one day I look forward to all week, my light at the end of a dark and bleak tunnel. I spend hours and hours sat in the bay window looking out at the shadows through the mesh curtain, picturing myself outside with everyone else, whilst knowing deep down that will never be more than a fantasy. To actually step outside, to breathe in real air, to feel real wind against my cheek, to see real life around me...real happiness. For a while, I can trick myself into thinking I’m a part of it.

Right now Mapelli is searching the bakery stall for a decent loaf of bread, frantically picking them up, throwing them down, and moving on to the next. I stand behind her patiently, holding my hands behind my back as I watch her do her work. I keep my head down, avoiding eye contact. I can feel people’s stares on me, I thought I’d be used to it by now, but six years on and still people think I’m some sort of freak- well, I suppose in a way I am...but it’s not like I can help that. People look at me like they’re confused, or curious? Like they’re trying to make sense of me, to understand me. It’s a look that almost makes me feel...violated. I draw my eyes off Mapelli and tilt my head to look around, acting as though I don’t notice the stares. A glint of light stings my eye, and I notice a handcrafted jewelry stand behind me to my right. I turn back to Mapelli, but she’s still shopping, filling a bag with bread rolls. Cautiously, I step back, moving to face the stand. The lady working it seems just as surprised as I feel, but I keep my chin high and start to look at the jewelry. Tenderly, I lift up a silver necklace, resting it in my palm as I examine the pendant on the end. It’s some sort of abstract scribble, a sterling silve doodle on the end of a chain. The ends of it are surprisingly jagged and dig into my hand like the sharp end of a stone, if I clenched my fist they may even cut me. Carefully, I place it back down again, and look around for something a bit more...dainty. I notice a broach, in the shape of a rose, hand-painted a light pink colour, full of little details like uneven petals and a gradient of shades. I can’t afford it, but I still pick it up to admire it. I stare at it for a good few minutes before finally waking up and realising that what I am doing is pointless. I sigh, placing it back down again, and turning back around to rejoin Mapelli.

...But she’s not there.

Mapelli is gone, the bread stall is deserted. She probably moved along and assumed I was following her, to desperate to get the shopping over with to look over her shoulder before she ran off. She can’t have gone far I suppose- after all, it’s not a very big market...she’s got to be around somewhere, and she’ll notice I’m missing soon enough, then she’ll come to find me. I just have to stay calm and look for her...everything will turn out okay in the end. Trying to act natural so people don’t notice me, I walk along at a gradual pace, looking around me as I do so. People still stare of course, even more than usual, I’m never really seen outside the house without Mapelli, and they’re just as uncomfortable with it as I am. I look up to the sky and take a few deep breaths.

I can do this.

I’m seventeen.

I don’t need Mapelli.

All I need to do is stay calm and-

Before I can finish my thought I’ve hit the ground, walking into something cool and black and falling backwards.

As I register what has just happened I hear voices around me, and I feel a hand grasp at my wrist, heaving me upwards and back onto my feet.

“Oh, I’m sorry...uh- here, let me help you up.” I recognise the speaker as the boy who lives with Ms Alma, the freckled one with the bright blue eyes. I brush myself off and stand tall, what should I do now? He seems to want to help me, but all I want to do is get away. Get away and go back to Mapelli. She may be uptight, controlling, and extremely dull at times, but at least she keeps me safe, safe from everyone who might want to hurt me. With my heart pounding and my head spinning I make my decision, rushing off away from him as quickly as my feet will carry me, he’s speaking to me as I do so but I don’t care, I’m not listening anyway.

I run and run and run all the way out of the market and over to the beach. Resting against the stone wall, breathing deeply as I catch my breath. I swing my legs over and sit there with my head in my hands. Now I understand why Mapelli is so keen to get back home on market day. People are everywhere, people who don’t understand, who won’t understand, and who never will, and for that reason, they are people who can’t understand, and therefore, can’t know what it is that confuses them. All I want is to be back in my bay window, staring out at the world as if it’s a painting in a gallery, acting as an observer of humanity, not a part of it.

I feel a presence next to me as someone sits beside me on the wall. I look up, expecting to see Mapelli, but instead, it’s him, the boy nextdoor. Before I can run off again, he speaks.

“Hey, I’m really sorry about what happened with the wetsuit- are you okay?” There’s genuine concern in his voice...it’s confusing, almost as confusing as why he would ask me and question when he’s probably found out by now that I don’t open my mouth...well, at least not when the sun is up. I rub my index finger against my lips as a hint, and he realises his mistake. “Oh, right...sorry, I, uh, I forgot.” He looks down, I think he might even be embarrassed, “Hey!” He jumps up again, coming up with an idea, “Can you text instead? I read somewhere that some mutes can text even if they can’t talk.” The answer is yes, I can text, but should I tell him that? Isn’t it better that I lie and he just leaves me alone? I cave in, and nod, getting out my mobile to show him my number. He enters it into his, and begins to type.

07123456789: Hey, so, um, sorry about earlier.

I text back ‘that’s okay’, not sure of what else I could have sent.

07123456789: Your name’s Raven, right? My Grandma and my friend told me.

Instead of replying, I just nod. I watch him as he adds me to his contacts.

Me: What’s your name?

I decide to follow his lead, after all, 07123456789 isn’t exactly a good contact name.

07123456789: People call me Ryan nowadays.

Me: Nowadays?

Ryan: I was christened Rhiannon.

I look up, and see it. He’s transgender.

Me: That’s cool.

Ryan: Most people find it a little hard to get around, it’s okay if it daunts you a bit.

Me: No, really, I’m fine with it. We’re not defined by how we’re born.

Ryan: No...

Ryan: We’re not.

I smile, but he doesn’t notice, his eyes are still on his phone screen. I turn around a gasp. Mapelli is stood behind me, glaring at my phone. I try to send her a message with my eyes, an apology even, though I’m not sure why- surely there’s nothing wrong with this? This is harmless. Mapelli doesn’t see it that way though, her face it tight and firm, and all her eyes tell me is to go with her back to the house.

“Oh, hello.” Ryan too notices her standing there, and misjudges her mood. Mapelli doesn’t even glance at him, she keeps her eyes fixed on me. I sigh, putting my phone back in my pocket and taking her hand. I don’t look back at Ryan as we walk off, partially because I know it would annoy Mapelli, partially because I know it would upset me.

Because, just for a moment, I felt normal.

Just for a moment, I felt like I belonged.

We’re about half way home when I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket, and with Mapelli ahead of me and not looking back, I subtly get it out.

Ryan: It was nice to meet you Raven, my friend Zoe is dragging me out surfing this summer, do you want to join in? I promise it’ll be more fun than it sounds.

I do want to join in, very badly...but I know I can’t. Every year I watch everyone head out and have fun on the open waves, whilst I stay locked indoors. Mapelli would never let me leave the house to go surfing, she needs me in her sights at all times, or else she worries and gets all irritable and horrid. I can’t go, no matter how much I want to.

Me: Sorry, I don’t think I can.

I grin when I read his reply.

Ryan: Then I guess we’ll stick to texting for now, but the offer’s open all summer if you change your mind.

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