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Chapter Three of Gifts

Written by jrcsalter

Allison’s heart plummeted as she saw the woman in the doorway. She looked a few years older than herself, with a slightly plump figure covered by a loose T-shirt and jeans, and nothing on her feet. Her oval face had small grey eyes and a small nose. Short light brown hair fell over her ears, but not enough to cover her long crystal earrings. She spoke in a Californian accent with a tinge of annoyance. ‘Is there any reason you’re beating my bell to within an inch of its life?’   Allison, not to be defeated, looked around the woman into the hall behind. ‘Is Kate in?’   ‘I’m sorry,’ the woman said, annoyance being replaced by slight pity, ‘I don’t know any Kate.’   Allison stepped back, then turned around. She sunk to her knees and, for the second time in a year, cried on that pathway. A few seconds passed before she realised the other woman was hugging her. She put her arms around her and sobbed into the stranger’s shoulder. When her tears subsided a little, the woman helped her up and walked her into the house.   Five minutes later, Allison found herself lying on a comfortable light green sofa with a hot cup of tea in her hands, no longer crying. The living room had changed, indicating the new ownership. Gone was the photo of Kate’s late father and in its place hung a tapestry of a yacht. The nice pink three piece suite Allison liked had been replaced with the sofa she lay on, a winged armchair decorated with pink flowers, and a two-seater blue sofa, obviously bought at a car boot sale or junkyard. Nothing in the room seemed to match, and judging by the age of the woman, she thought it could be her first house, and she had filled it with anything she could get with as little money as possible.   ‘My name’s Holly,’ her host said as she sat down with her tea.   ‘Allison,’ she replied.   ‘So … who’s Kate?’   ‘The girl who lived here before you did.’   ‘You were close?’   Allison nodded. She stared at the corner of the room and began to tell this stranger everything that happened. She left out her powers and destiny though, she wasn’t ready to divulge that to somebody who was kind enough to give her this hospitality, in case she thought she may be insane.   ‘I’m really sorry to hear that,’ Holly said, ‘I wish there was something I could do.’   Allison sipped the last of her tea and had a sudden idea. ‘No! You can’t.’   Before Holly could ask what she meant, Allison was out of the door and sprinting down the road. Amazed she still had the energy, she raced to the other side of the village in a little over two minutes. She came to a halt outside Rob’s house and banged on the door, and within seconds, Rob’s father opened it. Allison looked to the sky. ‘Thank you!’   ‘Allison?’ he said. ‘I’m so glad you’re okay.’   ‘Is Rob in?’   ‘Sorry, he moved in with Chad a couple weeks ago.’   Allison gave an annoyed grunt, then lightened up. ‘Perhaps you can tell me. You don’t know where Kate’s moved to?’   He smiled, and Allison felt the first genuine hope since arriving at Holly’s house. ‘Just a sec.’ He disappeared for a moment and came back with a slip of paper in his hand. He gave it to Allison. ‘Helen came here the day before she moved out and told me to give this to you if ever you turned up. It’s her new address.’   Allison grinned and jumped into his arms. ‘Oh, thank you so much!’   He put her down and they said their goodbyes as Allison began another sprint back to Holly’s house.   Holly stood at the end of her drive looking out for Allison. When she arrived, Holly folded her arms and said, ‘What do you mean “you can’t”?’ Allison laughed and followed her back in the house.

Within the hour, Allison and Holly stood at the door of Kate’s new house. Allison pressed the doorbell, but not as fierce this time, and waited for the door to open. When it did, for a second she thought she saw Kate. She stopped herself from embracing her as she realised the truth. The woman was older and had darker hair, but other than that, Helen looked very similar to her daughter.   ‘Allison?’ Kate’s mother said, with a mixture of shock and joy.   ‘Helen,’ Allison said, relief coming over her. ‘Please tell me Kate’s here.’   And within the space of a second, all Allison’s hopes vanished as Helen hung her head, saying, ‘You better come in.’   Helen said nothing as she made some tea and sat the girls in the living room. She took a sip and began. ‘Minutes after you left, Kate came back, soaked through and crying. I’ve never seen her cry before, she was always a strong girl. I said I was sorry, but she didn’t hear me, and she went to her room. I didn’t see her again until a few days later when she had to go to school, but she didn’t talk to me. She didn’t even say bye.   ‘It carried on like this until the day of her last exam. I had tried to find you on the internet, thinking it might cheer her up a bit. But when I told Kate, she slapped me. It wasn’t just an insult. It was meant to hurt. And it did. I stumbled back and she began screaming at me saying it was too late to do something now and that I should have tried to stop Emma from taking you. I stood there and took it.’ Helen paused for a second, ‘She was right, I shouldn’t have let Emma do that to you, Allison. I’m really sorry. I tried to apologise to Kate, but she wouldn’t have it. She packed a bag and walked out the door.   ‘I haven’t seen her for seven months.’   That was it. The last hope of ever finding her. Gone. Allison shook with rage, the walls of the building reverberating alongside her. Lightbulbs flickered on and off. Helen’s ornaments fell from her shelves. Allison screamed, and the teacups cracked, the windows shattered, and the television blew. She ran from the house and jumped down the stairs leading to the front door in one leap. Running through the streets, she reached the centre of Exeter and looked at every face she saw. Every time she found a girl of Kate’s build, she pounced on her and pushed them away from annoyance, sometimes knocking them to the floor. She entered the main shopping centre, people crowded everywhere, and saw a dark blonde girl on the balcony on the top floor. Instinctively, she jumped to the second floor landing beside the girl. Again, she nearly threw the woman from the balcony in animalistic frustration. Half an hour after she left Helen’s house, Holly had caught up with her. She attempted to pull Allison away from the people she accosted, but every time Allison escaped her grasp with an inhuman strength. She shouted her name, and Allison looked around. Her pause was enough for Holly to get a hold of her. ‘She’s not here, Allison!’   ‘SHE HAS TO BE!’ Allison spat in her face.   ‘I’m sorry. Please, accept it! She’s gone.’   ‘No, she can’t be! KATE! KA-AATE!’ She began to sob while screaming and Holly held her close.   ‘She’s not here,’ Holly said softly. Allison buried her head in Holly’s neck as the frightened spectators gave them room.

Later that night, Allison sat at Holly’s, calmed by a cup of Earl Grey. ‘I am free,’ she told Holly. ‘I am free now and I still don’t have her. I thought if I got away from that sick woman, I’d be happy, we’d be together.’   ‘I’m really sorry,’ Holly said. ‘I’m not sure what I can do except give you a room here while you get yourself together. I know I’ve only just met you, and frankly, you terrified me earlier, but I don’t think I could deny a roof over your head.’   ‘Thanks,’ Allison said, trying her best to smile.   ‘On one condition though.’   ‘What’s that?’   ‘You tell me what the hell happened at Helen’s.’   ‘An “uncontrolled emotional reflex”. It shouldn’t have happened, but I let my defences down.’ She looked at Holly who gave her a questioning look, ‘You’ll know it as telekinesis. It used to happen quite a bit at Emma’s. I’ve learned to control it … mostly.’ Allison floated her cup towards Holly. The other girl flinched but remained still as Allison flew it twice around her head and back to her hands. ‘Like so.’   Holly remained silent for a few seconds, before saying, ‘Nice.’

Allison fell asleep only a few minutes after going to bed. Her legs felt all the running she did throughout the day, and her sore throat made her regret screaming through town. In the morning, she felt refreshed and opened the curtains to a sun high in the sky. Holly had obviously let her sleep until the middle of the day. A clock hung over the head of her bed, she looked at it proving her right, and suddenly had a thought.   She remembered Luke saying something about seeing the future. So sitting on her bed, she thought she would try it. She didn’t know where to start though. Closing her eyes, she blanked out any thoughts to see what might be there. A few minutes went by and she saw nothing. She then tried a different tactic. Thinking about what she may do in the near future, she imagined herself going downstairs and saying hello to Holly who would make her a cup of tea. She would accidentally put sugar in it, but Allison wouldn’t say anything. They’d then go to Rob’s house and meet up with him and Chad. They would begin playing again. Allison would get a few gigs at local pubs and clubs. Then she would see a sword stuck into a wood panelled floor lit from above by a solitary spotlight, the rest of the space in blackness. Cracks emanated from the wound in the floor, and the blade reflected the light back in spectrums. No, not reflected, refracted. The blade was transparent save for three filaments of wood, iron, and silver that ran the centre from hilt to tip.   She got no further. As hard as she tried, that was all she could see. No sign of Kate. Nothing. What did that mean? Would they ever see each other again? She would have thought about it for hours, but Holly knocked on the door, ‘Are you awake yet?’   Allison stopped her meditation and answered. ‘Yeah, I’ll just have a shower and I’ll be down in a sec.’   The shower was fantastic. It was the first one she had in months and she felt so different half an hour later. She didn’t even realise how blonde her hair was until she saw the difference afterwards. She got back to her room and put on some clothes that Holly lent her. They were a bit too big for her, but better than the dirty rags she had worn for the last few weeks.   She went downstairs to have a cup of tea which was, indeed, sweetened.

Allison sat in the passenger seat of Holly’s car as they drove to Rob and Chad’s flat. The car, like Holly’s furnishings, was a cheap one from the early nineties and the air conditioning no longer worked, so Allison had wound the window down to let in a little cool air.   ‘Why are you doing this?’ Allison said, brushing a strand of hair from her face. ‘Helping me, I mean. You’ve been so nice, but you don’t really know me.’   Holly shrugged. ‘You looked like you could use a hand. I couldn’t leave you crying on my driveway. Aside from anything else you’d make the place look untidy.’ Holly smiled as if she thought the joke may have been offensive and wanted to indicate it wasn’t meant to be taken that way. ‘Anyway, I don’t like to see people suffer if I can help them. Thought I might be able to do something for you. Even if it was just a cuppa.’   ‘You’ve done a lot more than that. Thank you.’   Holly took her eyes from the road for a second to smile at Allison.   Half an hour later, they arrived at their destination, and when the door opened, Rob stood there. A memory of a time when things had been much happier for her. A time when she still had her father, she still had Kate, and she still had an illusion of free will. Rob opened his mouth to say something, but words didn’t come. Instead, he stepped outside and hugged Allison, almost smothering her.   ‘Nice to see you too,’ Allison said when she could breathe. She looked him up and down. ‘You’ve cut your hair.’ Though shorter than it was, Rob’s hair still hung loose to his shoulders.   ‘Yeah, felt like a change. Come in, I’ll get Chad to make a cuppa.’   ‘He’s here too?’ Allison pushed past Rob and ran through the house. She found Chad sitting on a sofa in the living room reading a magazine. Unlike Rob, he hadn’t changed at all. His hair remained short and light brown, and small rimless glasses covered his grey eyes. His loose white T-shirt and baggy jeans accentuated his lanky frame as he stood up and towered over her by almost a foot. He smiled as she entered. ‘Tea?’   Allison laughed. ‘Just as polysyllabic as usual, aren’t you?’   ‘Yup … Tea?’   She laughed again. ‘Yes. Please.’ She walked back to the entrance to find Holly talking rapidly with Rob. ‘I see you two have introduced yourselves.’ ‘Yeah,’ Rob said. ‘Holly’s just told me how you two met. Rather dramatic I think.’ His face lost some of his excitement. ‘Sorry about not being able to find Kate. She left all of a sudden and hasn’t been back. She hasn’t even contacted us. We figured she may have been trying to find you. Chad and I put the band on hiatus. There’s no way we could replace your voice. Anyway … psychic powers, huh?’   ‘Kinda.’   ‘Cool.’   They spent the rest of the day reminiscing about old times and recent events. Not much had gone on with the boys besides moving out, and Chad quitting his job as a chef. Eventually, Rob led them upstairs where he showed Allison a makeshift studio. Chad’s drums sat at the back, a microphone and two guitar stands stood at the front. On one stand was Rob’s bass guitar and on the other was a lead.   ‘One more thing,’ Rob said. ‘I took up lead while you were out and bought me an appropriate guitar. Since Emma got rid of yours, I thought you might like it. Think of it as a late birthday and Christmas present.’   ‘What?’ Allison said.   ‘Don’t try to weasel out of it. It’s yours.’   ‘But—’   ‘Pick it up and play, woman!’   Allison grinned and kissed him on the cheek. She hooked the strap around her neck, plugged in the amp and strummed the first few chords of ‘Memory of Lightning’.   ‘You remember it,’ Rob said.   ‘Of course I remember it, I wrote it! Now shut up and play that bass. Chad, get to the intro. Holly, watch and enjoy.’   Chad gave her a mock salute and sat behind the drums. He smashed a symbol and followed it by a drumroll, while Allison got to work slowly bringing her melody into play, and Rob began his riff.   It was like she hadn’t been away. She still missed Kate, but for the first time in almost eight months, she enjoyed herself. The music swallowed her and all her troubles. After ‘Memory’, they played another one, and another. Then Allison introduced them to her new song she wrote at Emma’s.

Rob sat in his armchair, a mug of tea in his hands, while the girls sat in his sofa, and Chad stood, leaning against the wall. ‘So what now?’ Rob said, taking a sip of tea. ‘I guess you need a place to stay while you get back on your feet.’   ‘She can stay at mine,’ Holly offered.   Allison looked at her. ‘Really?’   ‘Sure,’ Holly shrugged. ‘I’ve been advertising for a new room mate since my last one left a couple weeks ago. Could definitely use some help with the rent.’   ‘Don’t have a job, though.’   ‘I’m sure you’ll be able to find something. I can afford a month or so of expenses so you’ll have time.’   Allison nodded. ‘Thanks. That sounds great.’   ‘Also,’ Rob said with a look to Chad, ‘we were talking a while back about what would happen if you got back. We really want to make a go of this music business, so if you’re up for it, we can hire some studio time and record a demo disc. Send it out to pubs, clubs, and the like. See if we get any bookings. May have to do some covers though. We’ve got a playlist ready to go that we think we’ll all enjoy. Five covers, along with ‘Memory’, ‘Frustration’, and ‘Tidings’. Could even throw any of your new ones in as well.’   Allison was impressed. ‘Sounds like a plan. I’m kinda feeling left out.’   The next morning, Rob phoned around to book a studio session, and Allison frantically searched for a job. Holly helped by making tea, and using her excellent computer skills to design an attractive CV. Three days went past, and she had no luck. Rob, however, was able to get a cheap booking at a nearby studio. ‘We only have three hours in there,’ he told Allison that night. ‘So we need to be prepared. We know all the stuff, but I suggest we polish it now, instead of realising any problems in the studio.’   Allison agreed, so for the next week, Allison spent her time going to interviews and improving their material, and by the time she got to bed at night, she was exhausted.   In the morning, she awoke with a terrible thought in her head. She rushed through her morning routine, and jumped downstairs to find Holly teaching some kind of card game to Rob. Allison briefly wondered what Rob was doing here this early in the morning, but it didn’t matter. She needed to talk with him anyway. ‘Rob,’ he looked up from his hand of seven cards. Allison didn’t give him time to say anything, ‘We need a name.’ He looked at her confused. ‘A band name!’   Robs eyes widened. ‘Shit. How could we miss that?’   ‘You haven’t got a name?’ Holly said laughing.   ‘We’ve never performed before. Never needed one.’ Rob placed a card down on the table.   ‘Well we better think of one quickly,’ Allison said sitting down between Holly and Rob.   Holly looked at her cards and placed one on the table. ‘How about that?’ She pointed to the name on the card.   ‘What? That’s insane!’ Rob said.   Allison looked at him. ‘I think I like it.’   ‘Not the name, that’s cool. But it cost her nothing to play, and gives her a massive advantage over me.’   Holly smiled and shrugged. ‘Sorry.’ Rob placed his cards down and sighed.   Later that day, Allison made an inventory of all their equipment; lead guitar, bass, drums, mic, cables, stands. Everything was boxed up and ready to go, so Rob drove the four of them out to the studio. The place didn’t look like one from outside. Though Allison didn’t really know what to expect. It seemed like just another building along the terraced street, a white featureless block.   ‘Ready?’ Rob said.   Allison nodded and walked inside. The interior looked like it used to be a house, but the front room had been converted into an office. Pictures lined the walls of bands and performers that presumably had used the studio, though Allison recognised none of them. Papers littered the desk and trays lining the walls. Music played as they entered, again, she didn’t recognise it, but it wouldn’t surprise her if it was from material recorded in the studio. A man sat behind the desk and looked up. ‘Good afternoon.’   Rob introduced them and organised the payment, while Allison went back out to help Chad with the drums.   The basement of the house had been converted to a studio. A soundproof room made up most of the area, and a mixing station stood beside the entrance to it beneath a large thick window into the room.   They entered the soundproof room and set up their equipment. An employee helped them, and showed them where everything was, and soon they were ready to record.

Cover image: by JRCSalter


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