Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Memento


“Is Lucy asleep?”
“Yes, took nearly three stories tonight. We may have to buy some more books.”
“We’ll need them for the flight.”
“True. Just think in a few more days we will be paddling in the Spanish sea.”
“I know, Sarah’s been boasting about it to all her mates.”
“Well if she thinks she’s going to chase any of those tanned lads she has another thing coming.”
“Ah well she’s still young. I know I had the same dreams when I was her age.”
“You would actually prefer a tanned boy to me?” Dad pulled a look of rejection.
“Of course not darling.” Mum replied with a smirk reaching over for the TV remote and turned it on for the news. A pretty blonde woman wearing a pastel blue suit sat at the news desk, her eyes fixed to the front.
“In other news today Virgin Travel announces that their global flights have been cancelled at Leeds Bradford Airport for the next week due to the discovery of mechanical faults with their Boin67 aircrafts…”
“Oh no.” Both parents sat forward in their seats their faces becoming more anxious with each second.
“A spokesperson for Virgin Travel said the company sends its deepest apologies for any delay and inconvenience to customers booked to travel with them over the next few days but mechanical service must be carried out. Virgin takes its customer safety and service very seriously. For those who are affected he wishes you to call this number, now at the bottom of the screen and also on our website, in order to arrange refunds or re-arrangements to other airports for a later travel date.”
“I don’t believe this.”
“Did you get that number?”
“Yeah, I will give them a ring first thing before work tomorrow. This really is awful.”
“How are we going to tell the children?”
“With a wall between us and earplugs for the screams.” Dad gave a weak laugh running his fingers through his hair.
“Sarah is going to hit the roof.”
“Well it’s not exactly our fault. In a way Virgin are doing a good thing. I would rather fly on a safe and secure plane than one with a fault that could cause severe problems.”
“What are we going to do? Is the holiday cancelled?”
“We can still go to Dorset again. The car is our only means of transport.”
“Perhaps but we promised Sarah we would go abroad this year now she is fourteen.”
“I know love but it’s out of our hands this time.”
“Why don’t we just rearrange to leave at another airport?”
“The nearest one is Blackpool or Manchester. To be honest I think it would cause more hassle. I would prefer to just get our money back and spend it somewhere else.”
“I suppose you’re right. If you contact Virgin I will see if I can get hold of Mrs Jesse at Church Farm and see if she can fit is in for next week.”
“Dorset it is then. So, do you want to tell Sarah or shall I?”
***
“Gutted!” Rachel replied when Sarah told her the devastating news about her holiday the following day at school. The worst news since her parents refused to let her get her ears pierced until she’s sixteen.
“I know it’s so unfair. Now we’re off back to boring Dorset.”
“It is unfair.”
“We’ve been going there since I was five. Lucy may enjoy it all but I will be bored out of my mind. Stuck in an old barn on a rubbish camping bed with big spiders everywhere. Last year one crawled right across my arm whilst I slept.”
“Aw gross!”
“Yeah it was. They don’t even have a cyber café so I won’t be able to go on MSN at all whilst we’re away. Would have if we were going to that nice hotel in Spain. It has everything, cyber café, pool, discos, shops, beaches and restaurants. Mum said she would let me go with her to the Spa. I was going to come back as beautiful as Lopez. Now I won’t go there until next year.”
“No wonder you were so eager to go to Spain.”
“Yeah I was. I wanted to go anywhere else but Dorset again. God must hate me or sumthin.” Sarah groaned with teenage frustration. “Why couldn’t he make the car breakdown as well?”
“I will make sure to bring back sumthin nice for you from Greece.”
“Thanks Rach, all next week I will be wishing for it to be over and come back here.”
“Yeah straight back to school though. Half term’s only a week.”
“Even school is better than going to Dorset again.”
***
“Well troops where shall we visit today?” Dad asked at the table Monday morning his family sat around him although Sarah was already hooked up to her I-pod to blast out reality.
“The weather seems nice enough; I was thinking we could venture into the New Forest so Lucy can see the horses.” Mum suggested with a pleasant smile as she fed Lucy some more milk soaked cereal.
“Boring.” Came the ungrateful tone of Sarah.
“Mrs Jesse told me about a place called Burley there that has nice picnic areas, pubs and shops and even has a horse and cart ride.”
“They have shops Sarah; surely shopping hasn’t become boring to you?”
“They are when you have no money to spend in them.” She replied sourly back to her Dad.
“Ok then how about Mum and I give you a tenner each to keep yourself occupied whilst we take Lucy on a cart ride.”
“Fifteen.”
“Ok but that will be all your holiday money. You won’t get any more.”
“That’s fine by me.”
“Good we have a deal then.”
“Right, well you can clean Lucy up and get her dressed and I will start making a nice picnic for us then go and get the directions from Mrs Jesse.” Mum finalised handing over a milk dribbling Lucy to Dad giving Sarah a contented smile.
***
After twenty minutes travelling on the busy roads and seeing nothing out of the window but vast spaces of green shrubs and mauve pink heather ground with the occasional horse forming a dot of variety the family arrived at Burley nestled in the New Forest. Upon entering the village a family of horses passed slow and calm over the road halting the traffic for a full ten minutes. Mum, who sat in the front seat, immediately got out of the car and unbuckled Lucy from her toddler seat to bring her out to see them. Sarah just turned the volume on her I-pod up ten notches as Lucy’s squeals of delight penetrated the car windows. Once the horses had passed and trotted a few metres away from the road into the moor land to graze the traffic resumed and so the family reached the centre of Burley. Following the signs Dad drove into the car park and managed to park in the shade of a big sycamore tree.
“Ok who wants lunch?” Dad hinted getting out of the car and heading to the back.
“Do you want lunch?” Mum asked Lucy tapping her on the nose.
“Yeah lunch. Crispies.”
“Only once you’ve eaten your sandwiches young lady.”
“Would you like some pop Sarah?” Dad’s muffled voice called from the back of the car.
“Yeah.”
“Come and get it then.” There was a low mutter of complaint as she got out of the car her I-pod still firmly locked into her ears and mind. “There you go, which sandwich is yours?” Sarah didn’t answer but grabbed it for herself. “Cheer up; it’s not the end of the world you know.”
“When can I go shopping?”
“After lunch if you’re that eager. Eat first.”
A very brief lunch occurred upon the picnic blanket between Sarah and family. Before long they were giving her money, making sure she must stay within the village centre and keep her mobile on at all times and to come back to the car in an hour. With the lecture complete she skulked off, her I-pod never breaking connection with her brain.
The shops she found didn’t impress her. There were all new age, witches and wizard type shops, mainly for the benefit of tourists if anything else.
Eventually after wandering round she found herself in the Magic Cavern shop staring through the window at all the weird yet oddly cool objects on the shelves and window display. There were packs of Tarot Cards, Angel Cards, Runes, Spell books of any kind, and earrings with fairies, unicorn pendants, charm bracelets, funky fantasy pictures and a rather grand statuette of a blue dragon on the side of a smoke frothing basin. Just as she was about to move on back to the fudge shop which seemed the only thing to appeal to her she caught a glimpse of someone watching her.
He appeared to be her age but there was something, unusual about him, not the fact that his clothes were quite dark a black T-shirt with a silver howling wolf on the front and cropped black jeans with red and black striped socks on black trainers but some part of Sarah felt a twinge of fear as well as growing curiosity. Perhaps it was his very pale skin set against such deep coloured clothing or the way he seemed to be smiling at her which made Sarah blush a little.
She looked away and walked into the store, not to look or buy anything but simple to free herself from this feeling of embarrassment. Once inside she allowed herself to relax by picking a random book off the shelf and flicking through it as if interested. At the middle of the book she found a picture of faeries all dancing in a large circle around a purple fire in a wood that was full of blue bells and other wild flowers. Standing at one side of the dancers was clearly the King and Queen of the faeries. She felt a shudder along her spine.
“Please tell me you don’t believe in this rubbish?” a voice as strong yet delicate as a trickling stream spoke up behind her. She looked around and only just managed to prevent herself from screaming with fright. It was the boy.
“Erm…erm…no…” she managed to reply quickly putting the book back and casting her eyes around the now packed shop looking for an escape route.
“Good, good.” He merely said that almost visible smile returning to his face yet sparks of mischief glistened in his eyes beneath his shoulder length black hair. “My name is Nathaniel but you can just call me Nathan.”
“Erm…Sarah.” Something about his presence so close to her in the cramped shop was making speech difficult yet she felt a sense of thrill excitement swirling together with fear and suspicion in her stomach.
“Come with me, I will show you something that is a lot more fun than this place.” Without even a nod of consent Sarah found herself following him out of the shop her mind enchanted by him with curiosity.
However as they were waiting to cross the road directly outside the shop and its book wide paths they were stopped by another unexpected source.
“Nathaniel. Where do you think you’re going?” the pair of teenagers looked around for the voice, both looking equally worried by the tone of authority. Nathanial quickly caught Sarah by the hand and tugged her back into the shops entranceway.
“Where are you staying?”
“Huh?” Sarah asked completely confused and uncomfortable.
“Please tell me. Then we can meet again.”
“Erm…Church Farm. Why?”
“Right, you know the river?”
“Yeah.” She merely nodded being so overwhelmed with the anxiety in his voice
“Meet me there tomorrow night. Alone.”
“Erm…when?”
“I’ll be waiting.” With another brief smile he walked briskly out of the shop heading across the road.
“Wait!” Sarah called out running after him but halting again at the side due to traffic. “How do you know which farm I’m staying at?”
He stopped and stared over at her, a full smile brightening his face. “I live here. This is my home. I know everywhere.” Again he turned away and ran into the crowds and became invisible. Leaving Sarah with a strange sense of abandonment and the feeling a pair of eyes still lingered on her.
***
The rest of that day returned to its usual boring state but Sarah could not hide the mixed emotions churning inside and visible upon her face. Mum asked if she was feeling well or perhaps home sick but Sarah merely passed it off as deep boredom which due to her attitude before her parents could only assume as the truth.
When they returned back to the barn cottage tea time passed with little conversation other than from between Mum, Dad and Lucy playing with her new toy farm set. Sarah remained upstairs in the bedroom playing her I-pod trying to control her feelings and the nagging part of her that wanted to meet Nathanial that night. The problem was she knew she wouldn’t be able to walk down by the river without Mum or Dad accompanying her and something inside her knew she must go alone.
She didn’t have to wait long to gain the opportunity as just after seven Mrs. Jesse came over and announced that there was going to be a small firework display out at the river banks to celebrate the holiday farm’s tenth birthday and everyone was invited.
“Oh we would love to come but I think the bangs might be a bit too scary for Lucy.” Mum replied putting Lucy’s toy farm animals back into their farmhouse box.
“Can’t I still go?” Sarah interjected from her position on the stairs.
“I’d rather you didn’t go on your own dear.”
“Awww but Mum!”
“How about I go with her love? I can take the camera then and get some nice holiday snaps.” Dad offered as a compromise.
Mum paused to think before turning to Sarah. “Hummm you can go only if your Dad goes with you.”
“Thanks Mum!” Sarah yelled full of excitement rushing forwards and giving her Mum a hug.
“Hey don’t I get one for being a bodyguard?” Dad asked appearing hurt.
“No all you’re going to do is embarrass me.” Sarah answered with a smirk
“Well I’m glad that’s sorted. I will expect to see you both there then. It starts in about half an hour. Bye!” Mrs. Jesses said goodbye in her usual cheery fashion disappearing into the darkness as Dad closed the old split barn doors.
***
Sarah felt a sense of relief when she and Dad arrived at the river bank to a large crowd lining the river gathered around hot jacket potato cookers and tables where coffees and hot chocolates were being poured.
“They really are making it a celebration, fancy a hot chocolate?” Dad asked openly surveying the area but just as he finished the question he caught a glimpse of Sarah already pushing her way ahead. “Stay nearby Sarah, don’t wander off!” He yelled before shaking his head with a sigh.
Sarah wasn’t listening. She was too busy frantically looking everywhere for that boy. She had managed to work her way through to the other end of the crowds and met the opposing dark scenery the other side away from the electric hand held lamps. She stood there for a moment, rubbing her arms to keep warm and looking out across the moonlit river.
“Hello Sarah.”
She jumped inside and managed to turn around quick enough to meet the strangely unnerving smiling face of the boy.
“Erm, hi, erm, how do you know my name?” She asked suspiciously.
“Well your dad did shout it out for everyone to hear and apart from me you’re the only teenager here. Everyone else is adult.”
“Oh, right.” A sheepish smile managed to topple her nerves for a second.
“Plus you did tell me your name in Burley.”
“Did I?”
“Yes you did, now come on; let’s go over here for a bit so we can talk. I’ve been so bored recently with no one my age to chat to.”
“Erm, ok but not too far, otherwise my Dad will get panicky.”
“Of course, I wouldn’t want to worry anyone about your safety.” Nathanial turned and began a slow casual walk forwards, Sarah cautiously followed after one quick glance at the crowds behind and managed to glimpse her Dad talking to another man with a steaming mug in his hands.
They walked for a minute and then found a relatively flat patch of damp grass to sit. Nathanial graciously took off his black jacket and laid it down for Sarah to sit on.
“Thanks.”
“You’re very welcome.” He let out a relaxed almost relieved sigh as both faced out across the river. “Are you enjoying your holiday?”
“Kind of, we were meant to be going to Spain this year but due to Virgin finding problems on their planes we’ve had to come here again.”
“Oh, and what’s wrong with here?”
“Nothing I guess, but we’ve kind of seen everywhere and done everything. We’ve been coming here since I was little and I’m just getting bored of it all now.”
“Hummm. Well I can’t have you being bored in such a fair country. Would you like me to show you something that you most definitely haven’t seen before?”
Sarah looked into his eyes that sparkled and glistened like the river in the moonlight. A large bang and sparkle appeared in the sky with an almighty making her jump. The fireworks had begun. Nathanial appeared unsurprised. “Is it very far from here?”
“No, only a minute walk away, just round that corner into the field. I promise I will have you back before your Dad notices. We have time whilst everyone’s watching the fireworks.”
Sarah looked into the crowds again, now merely a mass of blackness with the odd outlines figure of light as people continued to mill about after food or drink, their heads all turned to the sky. “Erm ok, but we must be quick. Otherwise I will be grounded when we get back.”
Nathanial got up and helped Sarah also to her feet before leading her by the hand further into the darkness beyond the crowds, following the shadowy frame of the tall hedge and soon arrived at the entrance
“Wait here a moment. I will be right back.” Nathanial let her go and strode into the coal black field out of sight. The feeling of being watching swiftly returned over Sarah making her feel uncomfortable. There was a rustle of grass in the black distance and slowly Nathanial’s form reappeared with something concealed in his hands. “Now, you must promise not to scream when I show you this.”
“It’s not a spider is it? I hate spiders.”
Nathanial bellowed a laugh rich and deep. “No, no, it’s not a spider. Something much better. You ready?” Sarah nodded her arms wrapped close around herself. Nathanial slowly opened up his closed hands, a flicker of light stirred inside making Sarah give a quiet gasp of surprise until his hands revealed what was inside.
On what seemed to be a large oak leaf laid a ting creature that glowed like a candle. Its light flickered with each movement. Sarah had no doubt what it was but she still couldn’t believe it.
“Is it real?”
“As real as me and you. Would you like to hold her?”
“Hold it? Her? So it really is…”
Nathanial laughed again. “Of course it is, don’t you know anything about faeries? They’re all girls, the men look like mini moths.”
“Sounds like you know a lot of about them.”
“I guess you could say I study them. Would you like to hold her?”
Something broke the atmosphere around them. “Nathanial. You know the rules by which we live. Let the girl go. Leave her be.” It was the same voice they had both heard in Burley and like before it seemed to have no source except all around them.
“Parents, mine are as bad if not worse than yours. I best take you back to the party.” Clearly more hurried Nathanial walked swiftly away, concealing the tiny figure in his hands once more as he lead Sarah back towards the light of the crowds. “You must not breathe a word of this to anyone Sarah. This is something you must keep secret.”
“Of course Nathan, no one would believe me anyway.”
His mouth grinned brimming with mischief. “That is the wonder of myths and legends, their beautiful lies that conceal such truths. Please, take her as a gift from me to you to make your holiday a bit more enjoyable.”
“Keep her? I can’t! I don’t know how to look after a faerie? I mean what on earth do they eat?”
Her clear confusion and panic at such a proposal made Nathanial laugh. “Don’t worry Sarah; I won’t let you really keep her. No faerie should be kept as a pet. We managed to stop that happening centuries ago. No, I will let you keep her image, as a necklace perhaps?” He opened his hands from one dangled a thin gold chain which bore a very faerie like pendant. It looked like the exact mirror image of the real one.
“Wow, it’s beautiful.”
“Yes, they are such pretty creatures. Here, let me put it on.” He unclasped the link and draped it over her head and upon her neck then fastened it shut again.
“Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Now, what do you think to coming again next year? We could be bored together then.” He gave a pleasant smirk riddled with mischief waiting to happen.
“Sarah! Sarah! Where are you?” Her Dad’s voice came booming out over the crowds.
“Erm…” She replied looking worriedly into the mass of people waiting for him to come charging over and be embarrassing.
“Promise me you will Sarah. I can show you so much more if you do.”
“Erm…ok. I will, depends on parents of course.”
“Perfect. I will look forward to our next meeting.”
“Sarah! Sarah! Oh there you are. What did I tell you about wandering too far.”
“Dad I wasn’t I was just…” Sarah turned away again but Nathanial was no longer there. She searched the darkness for his shape and thought she spotted him disappearing back around the field entrance.
“You were just nothing Sarah, come on back over here where I can keep an eye on you. It’s too dangerous to let you go wandering into the dark; you don’t know who you might run into. Come on.” With a gentle tug on her shoulder Sarah followed her Dad, one hand already fiddling with the tiny gold figure captured upon the chain.
Just before she was swallowed by the crowd she took one final glance back, her promise still repeating itself in her mind. Just at the end of her vision into the darkness she thought she made out three figures, two taller than the other who stood between them. All were finely gowned; a few sparkles came from around their necks and hands depicting possible jewels. Although their faces appeared blurred the smaller figure in the middle bore the one unmistakable smile that Sarah will never forget. And within the space of a single blink those shadowy figures had vanished. Leaving Sarah with a great sense of excitement and a new found hope for her half term holidays.

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