(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


7. Chapter 7 ~ Ryan

I have to say, I was surprised when I heard the doorbell ring, with Raven stood patiently on the other side, waiting for me to let her in. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to get here out of that house. And yet, there she was, stood tall and expressionless, unreadable as ever. The only time I ever feel like I know Raven is when we’re texting, face-to-face she remains a mystery to me, her movements so well-practised they appear to be unnatural. This time is no exception, she walks through the doorway and moves to perch on the edge of the sofa, her hands rested stiffly in her lap, casual, yet controlled...as weird as ever. The relaxed and open text-Raven is gone, hidden somewhere beneath the surface of this Raven, who always seems ready to run for the hills.

I don’t let her see my surprise though, I just smile and sit down beside her, acting as I would with Zoe or another one of my friends back in the city.

“Raven, hey you’re...here.” I grin, trying to mask my confusion. She just nods with a hopeful glint in her eye. I can tell this means a lot to her for some reason, like she’s facing her biggest fear just by sitting here. “Do you want a drink? We’ve got soda, lemonade, tonic water...or I could boil the kettle for you?” She just waves her hand in the air as if to say ‘no, no, I’m fine’. “Well then...what do you want to do?” She gets out her phone and a moment later a feel a buzz in my left pocket.

Raven: I’m not sure, what do you do with your other friends?

“Surf, mainly.” I confess, hinting again at my earlier offer, “But when we’re indoors we just huddle up in front of the television and watch a film.” She texts me a reply.

Raven: That sounds fun, I don’t watch many films.

“Then what do you do in that big house all day?” I ask, surely she must have a hobby? Something that keeps her from dying of boredom…

Raven: I read, I look at the view, I help Mapelli...all sorts of things really.

I smile, Raven’s life sound like one from the early 20th century. I kneel down in front of the dvd player, fiddling around as I put the disc in.

“I suppose you and Mapelli must get bored, living in that house alone.” I turn back to look at her, but she avoids my gaze, shrugging and looking away. I let it go, perhaps it’s a sensitive subject for some reason? Grandma did say she had a difficult childhood. “There, all done.” I stand back up again. “I’ll go run and get some popcorn from the cupboard whilst the adverts are on.” Raven nods and positions herself in front of the screen. It’s hard to tell, she’s always so similar in her movements, but I think she might just be excited.

I rush off into the kitchen, tipping a packet of ready-salted and sweetened popcorn into a large bowl. I’m so fast in my actions that I don’t notice dad behind me, and I end up running right into him.

“Oh, sorry dad.” I quickly apologise.

“It’s okay, what’s with all the popcorn? Are you watching a film with Zoe again?” He asks, sneaking a handful.

“No, with Raven.” I correct him.

“Raven June from next door? I thought she didn’t ever leave that house?”

“Well you thought wrong.” I shrug, leaving him to think whilst I head back over to the living room. “Here, my dad stole some, but there’s still plenty.” I hand the bowl over, sitting down next to her.

The movie begins, and I soon get comfortable. I just sit, watch, and eat. The movie gets about halfway through before I realise something is wrong with Raven. Unable to relax, she sits firmly and stiffly, discomfort spread across her face and throughout her body. Her eyes are squinted, her eyebrows twitching, and her elbows stick to her hips like glue.

“Is something wrong?” I ask her. She shakes her head, but I still don’t believe her. I feel like she’s doing this to please me, rather than herself. She doesn’t seem to be having fun at all. Like a fish trying to climb a tree.

I get up and switch the television off, putting the DVD back in it’s case. Raven turns to look at me as if you say what was that for?’.

“Clearly this isn’t fun for you, come on, I’ll take you out somewhere else.” I tell her, not taking no for an answer. Before she can object I swing my coat on and grab the spare pair of keys, and she gives in and fetches her jacket. Before she steps outside the house, she pauses, staring down at the doormat just inches away from her. “Come on, what are you waiting for?” I hurry her, but still, she remains frozen. I sigh, taking a step forward to hold my hand in hers. “I’ll be with you the whole time,” I assure her, “You have nothing to worry about...okay?” She looks up at me, her eyes staring deep into my soul. The grey mist inside her eye shrinks as her pupil dilates, and her soft skin grasps at my knuckles, as if she’s scared to let go. I see the hurt in her. I see her scars come to light. All the trauma, all the pain, everything. I see the strength and determination inside her battle through, fighting against every single instinct in her body, as her foot steps over out into the real world. It’s only a second, but it feels like an eternity. An eternity of suffering, and of recovery. “There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” I laugh, acting casual, although my heart is still heavy inside my chest. She smiles, taking my wrist, letting me lead her onwards.

I take her down along the coast path, heading to the rocky beach. It’s a bit damp to day, small splashes of rain are carried by the icy wind, so there aren’t many people about. It feels like November in mid-July. Raven doesn’t seem to mind though, her grasp on my wrist is gentle and relaxed, and she sees calm and at ease out by the waves. We come to my favorite spot on the wall, and I stop, swinging my legs over, inviting Raven to do the same.

“You get the best view of the beach from here.” I tell her, giving her a moment to take it all in. The powerful waves, the flapping of sails, the gradient of colours laid out across the ground. “Over there,” I point left, out towards the distance, “Is the boat club. That’s where me and my friend Zoe sail and surf. Do you see those green splodges in the distance? Those are the boat sails.” She looks where I’m pointing, a grin on her face. “And down there,” I point in the other direction, “Is the shallow area, where the water isn’t nearly as deep. That’s where you’ll find all the five year olds having splashing battles, oh! And behind us, to the far right, that’s the best chippy in Pur Lowen, that’s where you go to get your energy up after a long hard day out on the ocean.” Raven follows my finger, gazing out towards the shop. “In fact...you barely touched the popcorn, do you want something a little warmer?” She doesn’t nod, she doesn’t need to, the hungry look in her eye says it all.

I laugh, and we walk on over. I order two large portions of cheesy chips and we tuck in. I feel the warmth from swallowing my snack spread right down to my toes. My body temperature rises after just one mouthful, and it feels amazing. All I have to do is look at Raven to realise she’s feeling exactly the same way, her flushed cheeks and bright eyes tell me everything I need to know. It feels good to see her like this, up close and alive. I’m not standing next to Raven June the rumour, the mysterious stranger who lives with her sister all alone in a big house, I’m standing next to Raven June the human being, the strong woman who overcomes her past of child abuse each and every day, who strives to explore the world and try new things, who has her flaws, but knows deep down that her strengths overcome them all. I’m standing next to Raven June, my friend.

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