Thursday, 3 March 2016

The Old School Friend

It was so nice to see her again. The café she chose was small. It had dark walls with bright coloured decor hanging on them. She told me about her travels and her job and her new boyfriend. My last year wasn’t as interesting. We had gotten through two teas, one mocha latte and a scone. Standing outside was the awkward bit. There was a hug and some of the usual goodbye chat that you say to an old-friend-that-you-don’t-enjoy-seeing-as-much-as-you-should. “We should definitely make this a weekly thing.”

Window Seats

They had given me the wrong burger. I paid for a large but I received a small so I was pretty pissed off already. I had reserved the window seat so the journey wasn’t a complete disaster. “You know, I always forget to get off at my stop.” She had been sitting across the table umming and ahhing, trying to get my attention for the past half an hour. Yes, I saw the attempts at eye contact. No, I am not one of those people who make friends with strangers to pass the time. The subtle conversation starters had clearly been abandoned, whilst unavoidable and unending commentary of her self hating habits had been opted in.

“I don’t know what it is. I mean you would have thought that after doing this journey a hundred times I would know by now. Actually, there was this one time that I remembered! But, well, I forgot my bags on the train. Imagine that; the one time I remember my stop and I forget my bags.”

This went on for a while. When my eyes drifted from the bags overflowing in the seat beside her to the passing scenes of fields she directed her voice, mid-story, to the lady next to me. “I love to fill my time with reading on trips like this. I love this one. My dog had such problems training until I started using this.” The lady fumbled about in her seat, smiling at necessary points in the narrative and glanced at the people across the aisle for some advice on how to stop the incessant chatter. Eventually she decided that she had the answer wrapped in tin foil. “Um.. would you like half?” She passed over half a cheese and ham sandwich. It was declined with a look of detest as though she was offended by the interruption.

Unsure what to do now, she decided to just eat both halves. The ham had stuck to the bread, which were both sticking to the roof of her mouth revealed by the recognisable smacking sound of saliva coagulating into a paste. Both noises snagged at my sanity till they got off after three more stops. A Dog’s Soul And How To Love It lay on the table.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

An Untitled Novel: Chapter 15: Christmas At Cheltenham

(A few years have passed since the last excerpt I posted and this one - Mallory has moved away to boarding school after a lot of things were exposed about the family. Last excerpt that I will post from the novel. Hope you enjoys the bits I got to share with you.)

The walls in Cheltenham School were thin so Mallory was quite aware of the emptiness in the rooms around her that morning. Most people had gone back for Christmas by this point bar a small few. She and Oliver were the only ones left on the floor so the loitering congregation would probably be confined to the canteen at this time.

Her room arranged itself around her, feeling more exposed than she in her cotton briefs as she sat on the edge of the bed. Her hands were grabbing the sides of her skinny waist, pushing her fingers under her rib cage, and pulling at the skin so the bones created long bulges on the surface of her body. A coral sleeve hung trapped between the wardrobe doors a foot in front of her. Noticing this, she leant forward making an attempt to poke the fabric back inside but it was persistent in its conspicuity. Trying to ignore the material’s frustrating tenacity, the old bed springs announced her movement from the bed. Oliver was sprawled across the bed, turned away from her with the sheet loosely covering him. Mallory felt indifferent to whether she had woken him up or not. She collected a few empty beer bottles that were lying around, screwing her face up from the smell, and put them in the bin.

The clock that hung above the bin on the wall was an antique owned by her grandmother. Her aunt gave it to her after she was late for dinner twice in a row. It was one of those old ones that are horribly loud so Mallory never kept any batteries in it; it was always stuck at twenty past one. She opened the wardrobe, pushing clothes and hangers to the sides then peered down below the clothes, bending over to get a closer look and grabbed some boots and the T shirt that was in the way of the door. Nerves warmed the blood in her veins, keeping her alert, as she sat on the floor getting her boots on. She had been dropping the laces a few times but didn’t change to slip-on’s. Thoughts of the last time she had worn the boots reflected off the corners of her mind. Michael was being taken away by police at the time.

She looked around under the bed, throwing a pair of socks out to get a better look underneath. It was hard to see as room was quite dim. Curtains in schools like this were usually quite thin but Mallory had tucked one of the sides into a crevice in the wall and the pressed the other against the wall with an unplugged lamp. She folded the blue and grey vertically striped curtains over each other where they met in the middle, so that no cracks of light came through from street lamps. Mallory hated any light to come through late at night; it reminded her of lights in the hallway being turned on when her father got home.

“Morning” Oliver had woken up.

Mallory continued walking around the room. “Oh gosh, you’re up. Don’t worry about leaving early. I’m just about to fit in a quick cup of coffee before I leave. Want one?” She had her hand on the key in the door.

“Like that?”

She looked down, frowning, and then looked back at the open wardrobe. She tried turning the key to the left. Satisfied that it was locked she returned to the wardrobe, looking behind the clothes again and then picking out an off-white, sheer skirt which she tucked her shirt into. While she sat at the end of the bed Oliver reached an arm to her side, tucking in a tuft of her shirt that hung out of the back.

Oliver drifted back off to sleep. Closing the door, Mallory felt her thumb down the line where the wardrobe doors met, feeling any parts that may be ajar. She shuffled from one foot to the other, retying one of her laces, loosening it a bit.
The walls were covered with cream wallpaper, covering the ceiling with cheap decoration put in awkward areas of the room. Mallory always thought about how much her aunt and uncle would have despised the room if they had ever come to see it. They conveniently put her on a direct train to Cheltenham with a driver waiting at the other end for her and her bags. The calendar on the wall showed a pleasant photo of a cottage amidst a span of green hillside but it was a few months behind. Mallory wasn’t a fan of organisation so just picked the photos she liked every now and again. September’s was her favourite. She changed it to December where the 24th was circled in green ink. Michael was written in the middle.

Music was playing from the room below her creating a rhythmic hum that pierced an uncomfortable clarity into the room, severing her body from the room itself. She stood holding onto the handle experimenting with it, locking and unlocking it, feeling as though she was the only moving thing in the space. The things around her were still.

Just as she was opened the door, cream coloured liquid started to seep through the cracks in the wallpaper, evaporating as it came close to her. Smoke filled the spave around her, immersing Oliver and her things in its viscosity. Her breath sped up and she started to whimper like a pup. The liquid filled her lungs. She trying to breathe in but felt no air coming out. She curled up on the floor while the liquid absorbed her sanity and cried.

“Shit. Malls, are you alright?” Oliver ran to her side. “What’s wrong?”

Mallory heard only muffled versions of his speech. The music downstairs grew louder, beating waves through the fluid around her, throbbing through her muscles, and eventually patted her into a calmed state.

Oliver closed the door. The liquid evaporated and Mallory continued to whine.

An Untitled Novel: Chapter 6: The Brownie Confrontation

Miss Greenfield opened the classroom doors that opened up to the playground. A world map was hanging in front of the white board for the lesson she had just taught, with a few of the children still taping their pieces of paper filled with facts onto the country of their choosing. “Edward, you can do that after break time.” A boy with blonde hair had still been writing on his sheet of paper. He pushed his glasses back up to the top of his nose and strolled over to the hangers. Eagerness radiated around him as he got out his packed lunch; his mother had put in a homemade brownie, exposing his taste buds to new flavours, differing away from the standard cheese and pickle sandwich that he usually received.

The rest of the children had already collected their lunches and gone into the playground. “I heard that Ralph went ten feet up last weekend,” Pete said to Michael while they walked to the end of the playground.

Michael scanned the area, looking out for Mallory. “What’s that?”

“He went ten feet right into the air! Well Bobby Brown told me, you see. I said to him that Ralph could only make it four feet without wetting his pants.” Pete laughed, almost stopping in his tracks. Then, with a puzzled look, tapped Michael on the arm. “Hey, don’t you find it funny or something? Come on, can’t you imagine Ralph on his bike heading for the ramp and then falling two feet over, flat on his big nose.” Pete ran circles around Michael with his arms out like he was on a bike, making vroom-ing noises.

Michael smiled when he finally saw Mallory coming out of her classroom. She stood outside for a while until she caught sight of her friends, running over to them as they counted her in to play jump rope with them. Her skirt flew up when she jumped but she didn’t seem to care. Michael thought of the reaction that her friends would have had if she didn’t have tights on and they could see the blue patterns dyed onto her legs. He turned his attention back to Pete, deciding that there was no point thinking about it. “I say he made it ten feet,” said Michael.

“Really? But, but…” protested Pete.

“But then he dropped down so fast that he cried for his mummy, and that is why he can’t show his face today to tell his own story. He told Bobby Brown some line about the dare devil inside him, I’m sure. Probably even told him that his mum won’t let him leave the house now because she is scared for his life.” Michael put on a high pitched voice and clasped his hands together as he knelt down to look like he was praying. “Oh please god, don’t let my poor Ralphy get hurt. He is so dear to me,” he said.

Pete and Michael burst into laughter, and then sat by the wall to eat their lunch. Michael only had half a sandwich because he had given the other half to Mallory. He had to make their lunch that morning while his father slept on the sofa. Mallory had already finished her half on the other side of the playground. She looked over at her friends’ lunches, while she pushed each of her fingers through the cling film that she was holding on to.

Pete was still chatting away to Michael, with crumbs falling out of his mouth, onto his jumper. His palms began to sweat and his head throbbed. He walked over to Edward, who was eating his brownie by himself on the swings. Michael shoved him off.

“Ouch! What was that for?” Edward was lying on the ground with wood chips indenting themselves into him.

Michael grabbed the brownie from him and turned around to leave. He looked over and Mallory was jumping in the rope again. No one seemed to see him take the brownie except Pete, who was currently running towards him.

“Michael, what are you doing?” asked Pete.

“Hey, give that back!” Edward was up now, running towards Michael. He pushed him but Michael was much larger than Edward so his force was not enough to make him lose his balance.

“Just go away,” Michael said to Edward. “Come on, Pete. Let’s go back and sit down.”

“Is that Ed’s? Mike, give it back.” Pete stopped in front of Michael.

Edward lashed out at Michael, pushing him into Pete this time. Michael pressed his lips together until the edges splintered into the ruptures during the formation of cooled molten rock. He punched Edward in his jaw, flinging one of his baby teeth out across the gravel. The playground hushed to a hum of children’s laughter.

“Back to class, kids,” Miss Greenfield announced to the children.

Michael ran over to Mallory and pushed the brownie into her coat pocket. She grinned, but he ignored her and walked back to his classroom.

An Untitled Novel: Chapter 4: Mr Bond's Quick Escape

Strawberry laces spiralled into fossilised shapes in trays where Mallory stood. Using a finger, she traced over their outlines on the glass that separated her chapped lips from sucking at the crystal flavours. Michael, further down the road, moved gradually towards her, treading his feet along the pavement, with one foot dragging behind. His satchel hung over the shoulder where the morning’s auburn rays highlighted the cracks in the corner that peeled as his nails ardently picked at the first layer of material, until it looked like crusting blood revealing a wound.

“Mallory. Come over here,” he said only a few feet short from the pharmacy. He put a few coins in her palm that glued themselves with the sweat in her fist. “You want some of those sweets right?”

She nodded with watery eyes. Her oversized cardigan hung over one shoulder as young girls’ school uniforms usually do. Michael stroked a bruise on her shoulder and pulled her cardigan up to cover it. Michael opened the door for a mother pushing her pram out of the pharmacy. He kept his arm in the doorway, stopping Mallory from entering until she buttoned up her cardigan.

“There’s only enough for three laces, so choose one for Pete too, ok?” Michael said to Mallory.

Mallory grinned and went straight to the counter where the sweets spiralled on the counter near the window. Blue laces hung lazily over the edge, abandoned by school children running for the school bus. He watched her pick two red ones and a blue for himself. He and Pete would play for red and blue teams to compete for who could suck the lace up the fastest. It was currently a draw but they had one more day till the end of the school week to decide who would choose the movie to watch at the cinema.

Michael went to the back of the pharmacy where the toiletries were kept. Mr Travis had been stocking more and more everyday items since the local business owners had left town. The store room door next to Michael was open with Mr Travis inside, putting some pills into a bottle. He was in his mid-thirties wearing grey suit trousers with a pinstriped shirt. The room had rows of wooden shelves attached to work benches with different supplies on each one. Michael noticed the sweat patches that stained his armpits as he untucked his shirt. He put the bottle of pills onto the shelf in front of him and wiped the palms of his hands on his trousers, leaving white dust clinging to the grains in the material. Michael could hear Mallory humming from the cash desk. “I’ll be right there,” he called over towards her. Mr Travis walked towards the door, forcing Michael to run over to the shaving cream, picking one up in a hurry. He pretended to compare prices with another as Mr Travis walked past him, taking no notice of a young boy’s peculiar interest with such an item.

Mr Travis walked over to Mallory, who was waiting in front of the cash register. She peered inside the open paper bag of sweets with a grin. She closed it in a hurry when the shadow of Mr Travis darkened the treasure in her hands as he walked past her. With a self-assuring sigh, Michael paced backwards towards the store room door. He had seen Roger Moore back up like this in The Man With The Golden Gun when he was trying to sneak into a hotel. He and Pete managed to sneak into a screening at the cinema last Friday. Bond had needed to get closer to the enemy to get more information about the golden gun. Michael thought about the necessity of his actions. Bond was a hero. He imagined himself in a black suit too, sneaking into a lair to help the town. A pimpled movie attendant had caught them while they were immersed in the dilemma Bond had got himself into. With an egotistical authority he had lectured Michael and Pete out of the cinema before they could see whether Bond made it in there without getting caught.

Michael kept an eye on Mr Travis serving Mallory as he reached his fingers out. They clinched on the handle’s cold metal as he wished he had seen the rest of the movie. He didn’t close the door completely, so as to let some light in. This allowed him to see his way to the second row, which was where Mr Travis had been working. Bottles of pills and first aid supplies filled the shelves in this row. Dust lingered in the air but he forced back a cough as it pressed on his throat. He turned on a lamp at the end of the work bench. Opened bottles of pills were strewn across the bench. Piles of powder lay on the table with empty capsules beside them. Michael was careful not to touch these and carried on looking for some burn ointment, but with little time started to panic. He came across the bottle Mr Travis had just put down. He picked up this yellow bottle from the shelf with the name co-codamol written in small lettering. He recognised the name, as he often saw his father take a few of these when he got home from work but they were locked away with his mother’s medicine. He opened the bottle but it was full of opened capsules. They had nothing in them so he put it back and picked up the one next to it. It had the same name typed onto a sticker on it. He opened up one of the capsules to check it was full. White powder dispersed out into a cloud, slowly gravitating to the table. He proceeded to shake out a few pills into his palm and ran back to the door.

He put one eye against the crack where he could see Mr Travis dealing with a lady. She wore a short, chiffon dress that chafed the back of her thighs in time with her movements. Michael was about to push the door when he realised that he had not put the bottle back onto the shelf. He rushed back to do this, tapping the top of one of the piles off with his shaky hands. He could hear Mr Travis’ husky voice converse with the customer’s precocious laugh. Michael did not peer out of the door but casually walked out, meeting Mallory outside of the shop. He believed that would be what Bond would have done.

Michael looked back inside from outside of the pharmacy. Mr Travis was looking around the room, quite disinterested in the lady’s conversation. Mr Travis had inherited the pharmacy from his father a couple of years ago when he came back from London to take care of his mother. Before he had come back he always wore smart suits, even when shopping for groceries, as though he knew he belonged to a world of humans with an exclusivity that their small town could not have. Word had gone round the town about his venture’s to London, majority of which from his mother’s boasting. They steadily changed into hushed whispers about his failed performances in the West End. He had been on track to take over the pharmacy until he finished his pharmacist degree. The very same day he packed some clothes and a book, A View From A Bridge, into a suitcase while his father was at work. His mother had taken him to the station and spoke often about her son, the actor. She had planned to see him play Othello in London when her husband caught pneumonia. Since his death she no longer spoke about visiting London.

“Where were you?” she asked him while sucking on one of the scarlet laces.

“Don’t be so nosy. You know the kids at school don’t like it either,” Michael replied.

“I’m not nosy!” She crossed her arms with a screwed up expression, as she usually did when Michael kept things from her.

“Listen, let’s just get going or we’ll be late for Pete. Did you get him a lace?” he said. Mallory shoved the bag of sweets against his chest, looking away from him as they walked back home. “Don’t be like that, Malls. I’m sorry, ok. Look what I got you.” He opened his palm showing her his plunder. Mallory looked at them curiously with a hand ready to take one but hesitated. She took one and clasped it between her fingers, as Michael put the rest in his pocket.

“Aren’t these for Mummy?”

“Mr Travis said you could have one too. It’ll make you feel better. The purple splotches will go quicker with this,” he said reassuringly.

She thought for a minute then asked him whether she was ill in the same way that her mother was too. The pebbled path that they walked along was doused with the smell of petrol as cars went by. His reassuring reply came out as nauseating as the stench around them. They turned into an alleyway between the gardens of people’s houses where shards of broken bottles lined the pavestones. A mobile of coloured gems hung outside one of the house’s windows, illuminating the pebbles of glass with a prism of fractured colours. The children walked beside the flares of light like Hansel and Gretel following their moonlit path home to their father. After enough time convincing her, she swallowed the pill dry. It stuck to the sides of her throat as it slowly went down, leaving her clutching at her neck.

“Michael, it’s stuck!” she screamed at him in a panic.

“Calm down, it isn’t stuck. It’s fine. Here have some of this.” He took out a bottle of water from his satchel and handed it to her. “Better?”

She smirked then carried on chewing on her lace.

An Untitled Novel: Chapter 3: Breakfast At The Turners'

“You got home quite late last night.” The Turners were all sat at the breakfast table; mum dishing out some eggs and beans for Pete and leaving his dad to fend for himself.

“Can I get a hold of one of them eggs?” Pete’s dad, Mr Turner, looked disappointingly at the bowl of porridge on his side of the table with his red-rimmed eyes, while his wife took the last fried egg. After thirteen years of married life, Mrs Turner had perfected the art of passive aggression.

“So, last night then,” she said without making eye contact. She carried on feeding Poppy spoonfuls of an orange coloured purée that dribbled down her chin much more often than it stayed in her mouth. Mrs Turner hadn’t really noticed. I think she was far too busy concentrating on not looking at Mr Turner more than giving any thought to the task at hand.

“Oh sorry about that, hun. Graham had to be taken home again,” he finally responded.

“Why do you boys always have to drink so much when you are watching a game, huh?” She turned round to him now leaving the bowl of food in front of Poppy, who took the opportunity to make a mess of things straight away. Pete would be meeting Michael soon to walk to school. On the phone this morning Michael had said he would bring Pete a strawberry lace for the trip. He takes Suzie sometimes to go into town for a few supplies before school, which improve Pete’s mornings a lot too. It seemed a little pointless to Pete at the time, as most of the people who walk to town are getting the bus but Michael and Mallory liked to walk to school. It would have been much easier to get some sweets after school.

“Well the rest of us just had a pint. Graham goes a bit overboard when he gets competitive,” Mr Turner said while he opened up the sports section of The Times over his bowl.

“He is always going bloody overboard!” She whipped her head round to face Pete with guilty eyes. “Pete, don’t even dare repeat that word. Mummies are allowed to say it when daddies have been pain in the…” She mumbled the next few words. “But if I ever hear you use any of them then I will take away that air blaster of yours, ok! And don’t think you can get past me because I hear you with your friends.”

Pete slumped down in his chair, desperately waiting for the clock to reach ten to eight. Dad murmured to himself as he put the newspaper to the side and started to play with his porridge, letting it drip off the spoon then picking it up again over and over, hoping it might turn into eggs and sausages.

“You better not have woken up those kids when you took him in. I’m sure he was bellowing around the house as usual. Michael has a long day at school with Pete today too, you know. If I see Michael or Mallory with even a hint of a bag under their eyes then I am blaming you.”

“Me? What did I do? If anything I should be awarded for my Samaritan-ness, Samaritanism… Samaritan-esque… Listen, I helped out, ok.”

“You did not help out! You probably made things worse taking him back there!” Her voice became louder as she locked eyes with Mr Turner.

“Oh, he’s fine.” Mr Turner said, still facing the table. He tried to change topic with some chatter about what he had read about Crystal Palace’s recent winning streak. Mrs Turner didn’t respond but continued to stare at him until he finished speaking.

“He is not fine, George. How do you think this effects Sarah when every time the doctor visits, he goes out for another night on the town. And don’t you think I don’t know what else he has been taking. I see him around town swallowing them back like sweets. You think it isn’t very much but you don’t see him when you’re at work. I am the one who sees him at the grocery store and the petrol station and going into the pharmacy. You miss it all. God, he is anything but fine. I know you two are friends but Sarah is my friend and I will not stand it if you involve yourself with his behaviour,” she said, almost standing out of her seat.

“They are calming. You know for his health. Probably just herbal stuff anyway. It is stressful looking after Sarah and the kids while working.”

Mrs Turner let out a snort. They both shuffled in their seats as they realised that Pete and Poppy were still in the room.

“Oh god Poppy what have you done!” Mrs Turner finally noticed. Poppy let out a shrill laugh as she tried to clean her up, releasing some of the tension from the room. Even Mr Turner let the corners of his mouth fold up a bit. Pete, uninterested, went to go get his shoes on at the door. He could still hear Mrs Turner’s, now calmer, voice joking around about Mr Turner’s team losing the finals.

Spoons banging on the counter beat out of rhythm in the background: probably Poppy. Mr Turner always said she would make a great rock and roll star one day but Mrs Turner would usually brush her hair behind her ears, saying that if she became a musician then she certainly would not be one covered in tattoos with bright blue hair. Pete began to think that she wouldn’t like any music when she’s older. He had tried playing her some of his Elvis albums but it always ended in tears or her awkwardly running towards the kitchen; she had only recently started to walk. He thought about Poppy with cerulean streaks intertwining with her ginger hair on a much older version of herself, getting excited at the thought. Maybe then she would be fun to take to town for ice cream. Last time they went to town, Mrs Turner left them at the ice cream truck and within a few minutes she had ruined her Sunday dress with chocolate ice cream and sprinkles. Pete still gets annoyed that he got the scolding for it.

An Untitled Novel: Chapter 1: A Trail Home

Two plaits fell, hugging each ear, dimming the hum of the water as she walked along in her pinafore dress. Her elder brother, Michael, and his friend, Pete, ran past her knocking her schoolbag to the ground. “Go away!” she screamed. They ran ahead laughing and kicking water at each other’s ankles. She screwed her face up into a wrinkled mess as she picked up the collage and put it back into her schoolbag. She straightened the crumpled corner where the word MUM was written in blue glitter. The nametag on her bag was a little worn but you could still make out the name Mallory written in green crayon.

She balanced on the moist pebbles, swinging each leg out as she went from one stone to the other, on the brink of falling with each step. Her eyes wandered down a few feet to the spring water that embraced the specks of coloured rocks around her. She had never seen anything swim there except an occasional frog, lounging near the edge to cool from the summer heat. Michael’s chuckles dulled as the boys went further away from her, becoming replaced by a stirring from the bushes nearby.

A rabbit came through some bushes, further down the stream, which marked the edge of the forest that her parents told her she was not to walk through. Gentle patters accompanied the rabbit’s cautious hops towards the river. Their rhythm increased the closer it got. Even so she stopped dancing along towards it and instead played with the band holding one of her plaits together. Miss Hooper had taught the class about the wild animals near the stream that week. Since then, Mallory was desperate to see red dragonflies. When they were asked to draw their favourite insect, hers spat fire on what she labelled the gross toads. She was frustrated to hear that they were, in fact, not related to real dragons but didn’t lose hope in seeing one that would prove her theories. She remembered Miss Hooper’s exact, disappointing words when she told them that most animals never came out of the forest because they were scared of school children. Mallory had asked her teacher why that was, arguing that children weren’t scary due to littleness but she explained, in her dulcet tones, that children are immense compared to tiny mammals. Unfortunately for Miss Hooper, the rest of the lesson was side tracked by the concept of mammals mixed with knee-shaking impressions of large fairy tale monsters towering over the class room hamster.

Mallory tried to stay as still as possible so as to not reveal her intimidating stature to the rabbit. She thought back to how Michael had measured her to be two inches taller this month. Water flowed towards the rabbit’s gentle mouth. It drank alone. Mallory imagined, in that moment, smaller rabbit children waiting on their mother’s return so she could show them a clear pathway to the stream. She scratched a circular blister on her wrist. Bruises and burns occasionally irritated Mallory’s arms but Michael was usually there to tend to them with ointment before school.

The rabbit shrugged its ears up as it lifted its head just above the water. It looked back to where it had come out from only moments ago, feeling its back paws around in the dirt. Mallory had pulled the band out and was twisting strands of her hair, feeling them tangle between her fingers.

Leaves bumped into one another in a bush a few feet behind the rabbit. Mallory dropped her arm down and grabbed the handle on her book bag with both hands. A breeze swept those loose hairs across her face. With a squint she saw the rabbit look back to the stream and slowly kiss the water, although, when telling her mother later that night, Mallory swore that it hadn’t actually sipped. Without forewarning, a fox leapt out, its legs outstretched behind the rabbit. Streaks of light penetrated their way through cracks between branches, illuminating its fur to be the colour of ember flakes. With one quick swipe it took the rabbit back to the forest. The shrilled cries, the rabbit’s and her own, alerted Michael’s attention back to his sister. “Hey do you want to be late or what?”
“Oo scared of being late! Poor Mikey,” Pete slapped his arm using little energy to hold in his laughter. Mallory wiped the hair back off her face, letting it hang on her shoulder. It had partially protected her eyes from the event. His sister stayed there, ignoring Michael.

She stepped off of the stones and crouched down holding her ankles for a while then wandered down along the side of the stream, pacing slower than before. She hovered close to where the rabbit had been and kneeled down, looking to her side as though it was still there. She placed one hand over the other then dipped them into the stream until the water caressed her palms. Mallory raised them up and touched her lips to the water, sucking at it until her hands were empty.