Chapter Four of Secrets

Written by jrcsalter

Allison spent the next few days in her room. She called Kate as often as she could; sometimes just to listen to her breathing. It was the closest thing to having her there. From what little Allison saw of her mother, she still seemed unable to express any emotion. She barely spoke, and at mealtimes Allison wanted to finish quickly and retreat to the solitude of her room.   The police had asked questions and took statements on the day, and they visited now and then to ask more, following up leads. But so far, they hadn’t named any suspects.   Lizzie had to go back home for a few days, but came back down the day before the funeral. When she arrived, they all sat in the living room, a cup of tea each, and remained silent. Emma left to go to bed at around eight, leaving the two sisters to the silence.   ‘When’s Kate getting back?’ Lizzie said.   Allison almost jumped at the sudden sound, and she took a moment to understand the question. ‘Tomorrow.’   ‘Will she be here in time for the … you know?’   ‘Yeah.’ Allison looked into her cup, still full of cold tea. ‘She got an early flight. Three in the morning. Our time.’   Lizzie didn’t say much else and went to bed soon after. Allison stayed up for a few more hours, her full cup still in her hands. She eventually went to bed, but didn’t sleep until morning. She got woken up by Lizzie knocking on her door. ‘Kate’s here.’   Allison got up and quickly dressed. She walked down the stairs a little faster than she usually had in the past week, but still slowly. Kate stood in the hallway ready to receive Allison. They hugged for about a minute, Allison’s face buried in Kate’s neck.   The rest of the morning seemed to take years to pass. Allison showered and changed; the others did the same. At three o’clock they travelled down to the church. While he never really expressed a religious nature while alive, Daniel had been adamant he wanted a church burial. Despite Allison’s lack of belief, she tolerated his wishes.   She barely noticed the church during the service; her eyes were fixed on her father’s closed coffin. Simply knowing what lay inside no more than ten feet from her, and that she couldn’t go to him and feel his warm hug or hear his soft voice or look into his blue eyes…   Allison’s head dropped, and she felt Kate give her hand a comforting squeeze. Allison squeezed back, but didn’t look up. The Vicar said a few things she didn’t hear, and the mourners sang hymns, but she remained sitting in silence.   Soon, Kate gave her a tug and Allison started as if shaken awake. It took her a few seconds to realise what she had to do, but she surrendered herself to Kate’s lead as the girl pulled her up to Daniel’s coffin. She touched it and an audible sob exploded in her throat. It echoed around the church and, as it came back to her ears, it finally signified his passing. Until now, the event seemed like a surreal dream, but finally she fully understood the truth. He was dead. The thought surprised Allison; she had always circumvented the word, never even saying it out loud.   Allison heard her thoughts in her head, echoing like her sob earlier, and slowly she realised that she had been speaking. She forced down the embarrassment of making her mind known like that and held back her tears. She lifted her head up and spoke to the crowd. ‘My father…’ She swallowed the sob rising up. ‘My father was a great man. But I am not like him. I’ll never be like him. He believed in God, and Heaven, and Jesus. But, while it may be considered blasphemous to say this here, I do not. I just hope … No, I pray I am wrong. After all these years of his life, after what he’s done for all of us, after making our lives richer because of him, he rots in this box for all eternity. Please God, hear me, he deserves his paradise. A-amen.’

Allison sat on her sofa, watching the guests eat, drink and share stories. She saw the buffet table; only a small selection of sandwiches, sausage rolls, chips, dips, and cakes littered the table. Nothing too extravagant, Emma and Lizzie tried not to spend too much time on the food. She didn’t care much for eating so it was not the food that drew her gaze, but the photo in the middle of it. Her eyes kept drawing back to the image despite the intensified feelings she had when she saw it. She dragged her eyes away for the hundredth time and observed the guests again. Her uncle, Daniel’s brother, stood talking to someone she didn’t know, a short girl with brown hair cropped just above her ears. Long earrings dangled to her shoulders and waved around her neck when she moved her glass of gin and tonic to her mouth.   Her grandfather​—​again, Daniel’s side​—​sat in the armchair in the corner, his nobbled walking stick leant against the wall next to him, and he grasped a glass of scotch, barely touched, in his hand.   Another few people Allison didn’t know, as well as some members of Emma’s side of the family, stood or sat around. Someone laughed behind her, and she honed in on the conversation. ‘Yeah, that was a great film. Saw it first when I was a kid, ‘bout ten or eleven.’   ‘Ten!’ said another voice. ‘Blimey, your parents were evil, no wonder you turned out like you have.’   ‘Piss off, I found the Muppets scarier than that.’   ‘What, even the head turning scene?’ ‘Of course. Seriously there’s something about puppets and dummies that just chills me.’ More laughter assaulted her. She stood up and left the room, disgusted.   She flopped down on her bed, the cheery noises continuing to permeate the walls and floor. How could they be so happy? She held her pillows over her ears to drown out the voices, but it did nothing, so she lay there staring up at the ceiling.   A few minutes later, a knock sounded at the door. ‘Come in,’ Allison said without taking her eyes off the stippled plasterwork overhead.   She heard the noise of downstairs increase and the sound of a few people entering her room while seeing a texture of dark shapes from the corner of her eye.   ‘Allison?’ said a voice. She looked up and saw the woman she noticed downstairs speaking to her uncle. Sitting up she took in the two men behind her. One was short, had dark hair and stood with his hands clasped behind his back. The other, marked by his more casual appearance with black jeans and T-shirt, was taller and had a star shaped scar in his left cheek; he leant against the door looking at the floor as if it had insulted him.   ‘Who are you?’ Allison didn’t care if she sounded rude or not.   The girl answered. ‘We’re friends of your father’s, my name is Tara, this,’ she gestured to the shorter of the men, ‘is Malcolm, and,’ another gesture to the other man, ‘Alex. We need to talk.’   ‘Make it quick.’   Tara sighed. ‘When we were at school, we had this group. It was a foolish and childish thing that nearly got us killed on many an occasion. I’m surprised we’re still alive.’ She paused. ‘Well, most of us, anyway. We considered ourselves investigators, and we specialised in the unexplained or weird. Eventually, something happened that made us realise it was possibly too much for us. And we bear the responsibility today with the consequences of our actions leading to these events.’   ‘Tara,’ Malcolm butted in, ‘we don’t have time, she’s probably already on her way. Allison.’ He sat on the edge of her bed and looked her in the eyes. ‘We need to know, was there anything, anything, Daniel said before he died?’   ‘You come into my house,’ Allison said, her voice a little louder than she would normally have it, ‘complete strangers, and ask what Dad said to me?’   She looked at the others. ‘You haven’t even asked how I feel!’   ‘Alli,’ Tara began.   Allison pointed at her. ‘You don’t get to call me that!’   ‘Sorry, but we need to know. You can be angry at us later. The day before the wedding, he asked us to meet him. He had some important information and that we needed to “get the gang back together”. Your father wasn’t stupid, if he had information, he would’ve passed it to the person he trusted the most. From what he told us, you’re the person he would tell it to. Please. What did he say?’   ‘If I tell you, will you leave me alone?’   Tara nodded.   ‘Fine. The woman said a bunch of things about what Dad did to a guy called John, they didn’t elaborate, then she said a load of stuff in another language. It was a prophecy or something about a thing called the Rebel. They seemed to think it was me. Then there was something about somebody not being an emissary and that it was a ruse; though she didn’t think so. Then she shot him and took off. I had a few words with him he said something about keeping her away from Calnis and that the emissary lives and is the firstborn of John. Now go!’   The strangers shared a look. Alex even forgot to hate the carpet as realisation crept into his face.   ‘It’s true then,’ Malcolm said.   ‘How can it?’ Tara said with confusion. ‘We did that glowy spell thing. It was negative.’   Malcolm shrugged. ‘Must have hidden him somehow. We need to look back into it. If it is true, when he reveals himself they’ll try again.’   ‘No, they won’t.’ They all looked at Alex, and Allison felt his deep voice more than heard it. ‘She’ll make Him do it.’   ‘But even so,’ Tara said, ‘Calnis has never been infiltrated since the War.’   ‘The Guardians are dead,’ Malcolm said. ‘There’s nothing to stop anyone from entering. And none of that put them off from trying before. With Him on their side, they’ll be sure to succeed.’   ‘The Guardians are still there though. Also, Atharron’s put many failsafes in place, and no one can take all three at once.’   ‘No, but one is enough and if anyone would, it, it’d be—’ He broke off, staring at Tara whose eyes widened in terror. ‘What is it?’   ‘She’s coming,’ Tara whispered.   ‘Shit!’ Malcolm became agitated. ‘We gotta go.’ Alex jumped for the door handle, but it refused to move. He pulled it and shook it, but it wouldn’t budge.   ‘The window!’ Tara shouted and jumped towards it. Allison dodged out the way as Tara threw the window open. She stood on Allison’s bed ready to jump out when the air in the room began to form black mist. It swirled around and condensed into the shape of a young girl, her face remaining shadowed. The others scrambled for the window but dissolved into the air. The girl remained for a second before dissipating too, leaving behind the dark evanescence.

Allison stood staring at the fading mist. What the hell was going on? First Cat, then that bitch in the cloak, and now this. And what did she have to do with it? Her dad seemed to know something, but he was gone. Her only choice was to speak with Cat. Could it really be possible she was an angel? Of course not. Perhaps she was deluded, but that doesn’t always mean there’s not some truth to the fantasy.   Now she thought about it though, she hadn’t seen Cat in almost two weeks. It seemed she had bugged her every day, multiple times, about her ‘destiny’, but then she stopped. Had she given up? And where would Allison find her? She was never at school anymore, and they had never exchanged phone numbers or addresses.   But then she remembered. And as the thought rushed into her head, she turned and opened her door, running through the hall and down the stairs. She searched the crowd of guests for the one she wanted. Pushing through two middle aged women she didn’t know, she found him. He was talking with Lizzie, but he cut off when Allison interrupted. ‘Uncle Peter, I need to talk with you.’   Her uncle looked at Lizzie with an apologetic face. ‘Umm, give me a sec.’   ‘No. Now.’ His eyebrows rose at her rudeness. He had often disapproved of such acts, and would not stand for it during the times he looked after her when she was younger.   ‘It’s okay,’ Lizzie said. ‘I was going to get another drink anyway.’   Lizzie walked off and Uncle Peter turned to Allison. ‘I know this time is hard for you, but you can still show some manners young lady.’   ‘Who was that woman you were speaking with earlier? The short one with the big earrings.’   ‘Tara Peters. Why?’   ‘What do you know of her and my dad?’   ‘Just that they were friends when they were at school. Them and three others used to hang out all the time.’   ‘You were told about the conversation Dad had with … the woman who…’   Uncle Peter nodded. ‘If you’re asking me if I understood it, I’m afraid I can’t help you. Your father kept a lot of secrets, and it seemed like that was the culmination of one of them. The only thing I can tell you though, is that from the descriptions I have been told, I believe she was one of the three others I mentioned. Shortly after I moved out of your grandmother’s house, she disappeared. Not sure where. Not sure why. I wouldn’t have thought she’d harm one of her best friends like that though. That was almost as shocking as losing Daniel.’   She was his friend. Even more reason to hurt the bitch.

Allison restarted school the following week. She hadn’t yet told Kate about what happened at the wake. Kate would believe her without question, but that wasn’t the reason she had kept it from her. Allison still couldn’t figure it out herself. She had spoken with some of her dad’s old friends and they told her a pretty good story they all seemed to believe, and then they disappeared like some kind of magic trick. She tried to forget it many times, but then she reminded herself of her father’s dying words. It all seemed to connect and she wanted answers. Sane, rational answers.   ‘I need to speak to Cat again,’ she said to Kate as they made their way off the bus and walked towards the school grounds.   ‘Sorry?’ Kate said.   ‘Just … nothing really … just something happened at the wake after you’d gone, and she may know what.’   ‘What did happen?’   ‘I’ll tell you when I find out.’   Kate stopped walking and held Allison’s shoulders. ‘What happened?’ she said in a firm voice.   Allison sighed. ‘It’s insane, it’s crazy, it’s … you’re not going to believe me…’   ‘Okay. Stop beating about the bush with clichés and tell me.’   ‘I…’ She stopped, but not from apprehension. Behind Kate stood a figure staring into her eyes; a mane of copper hair dangled down loose about her, illuminated by the bright sun shining through the seemingly infinite strands. No. What was she doing here? After everything that had happened she had forgotten about Linda. And now she stood in front of Allison, a reminder of a wonderfully terrible moment.   Kate followed Allison’s stare and saw Linda. ‘Hello?’ she said. ‘Can I help you?’   ‘No,’ Linda said without breaking eye contact with Allison.   ‘Um, have you two met?’ Kate said, nervously looking from one to the other.   Allison hesitated. ‘W-we met at Alan and Ellie’s wedding.’   ‘Oh.’ Kate turned to Linda and held out her hand. ‘Nice to meet you.’ Linda took it and held a second longer than customary.   ‘You were right Allison, she is gorgeous.’   Kate pulled her hand away, turning on Allison. ‘You told her?’   ‘No. She guessed.’   ‘It’s called gaydar, sweetie,’ Linda said to Kate, ‘look it up. Besides, it’s not difficult to tell, the way you two are acting. I’m surprised you’ve kept it a secret this long.’   ‘So…’ Allison began, trying to find a conversation, ‘what are you doing here?’   ‘Dad’s moved down from Edinburgh. One reason we could go to the wedding.’   Just then, the bell rang, a fantastic excuse to leave. ‘Well, we’ve got to go to classes. See you around.’ Did Kate notice her eagerness to get away? The girl didn’t say anything, but she kept looking at Allison. Was that a sign? Or was she being paranoid?   Allison remained quiet throughout the morning. She couldn’t concentrate on her work, her mind stuck on Linda. She hated what she did. And she hated herself even more for admitting she liked it. But she had no control over her actions. She was intoxicated and Linda was forceful. She couldn’t help herself.   It didn’t make a difference. No matter what she told herself, nothing justified it. And now she was here. She thought it too much of a coincidence. It was plausible, but she couldn’t believe it. What if she told Kate? Kate would be devastated. Would she lose her?   No! The idea that could ever happen was…   The thoughts ran through her head over and over, yet she still came back to the worst case scenario. Why did Linda have to turn up now?   The first lesson finished, and she didn’t share the next two with Kate, so when lunch came she left the class on her own and made to meet her in the usual place. She turned a corner, and standing in the middle of the corridor was Linda, leaning to one side and a hand on her hip. She held her head down and to the side, hair flowing down her face Even in the school uniform of dark blue sweater and knee length black skirt she looked perfect.   Allison stopped walking as soon as she saw her. Linda appeared to have been waiting for her. She moved her head to look at Allison, and began to walk slowly in a perfectly straight line, one foot in front of the other as if walking on a thin beam. Every hip-swinging step bringing her closer made Allison’s heart beat faster. The girl seemed not to notice the surrounding students; as if the only other person in the building was Allison. As Linda reached her, she stopped and looked into her eyes, smiling. Allison couldn’t move. Her perfect green eyes, framed by eyeliner, held her like a magnet. Allison’s breathing became deeper, her body weakened, and it took what little effort she had left to remain standing. After a few seconds of silence, Linda took Allison’s hand and led her to an empty classroom, closing the door behind her.

Allison concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. Her insides were still fluttering, and simply her trousers rubbing against her groin was enough to send her staggering to the other side of the hall. God! She hoped no one noticed the heat flushing to her face. What the hell had Linda done to her? She was amazing!   But no! She wasn’t. She was an evil conniving bitch.   An evil conniving bitch who really knew what she was doing.   She hated that girl. Hated her more than anyone except the cloaked Woman. Yet she had thanked Linda by pulling her head towards her and kissing her perfect mouth.   Damn! How was she supposed to tell this to Kate? Should she tell Kate?   Of course she should. Otherwise Linda would keep doing what she did, and eventually Kate would figure it out and it would tear them apart. Allison staggered to the canteen and gently sat down in a chair. She didn’t bother to get anything to eat; it would probably come back up. She sat alone at the table for a few minutes until Kate arrived with her tray of fish and chips and attempted to make conversation. Allison barely listened, and after a few minutes, she broke Kate off from talking about how Mr. Coles had done something or other in French. ‘I have to tell you something.’ Kate stopped. ‘Sure, honey. What is it?’   ‘I…’ But Allison couldn’t finish. How would she say this? It would kill Kate. Allison held her head in her hands and when she looked up, she saw a redheaded figure coming towards their table. Allison felt herself begin to sob, but pushed it down before Kate saw. Linda sat down next to Allison. ‘Sorry,’ Allison said, summoning up all the strength she could, ‘but we are having a private discussion.’   ‘Oh right,’ Linda said without making a move to get up. ‘Were you about to tell her?’   ‘Tell me what?’ Kate asked with a look of confusion and a hint of betrayal; as if she knew something had gone on.   ‘Just go away and leave me to do this,’ Allison said, her voice rising.   ‘Wow,’ Linda said. ‘I didn’t think you could speak that loud after the amount you screamed earlier. Have you noticed that, Kate? I don’t know how you’ve kept it from her mother if she’s that loud. Even with my hand silencing her, I’m sure the year seven art students had an interesting soundtrack to their lesson.’   ‘What?’ Kate’s betrayed look became more pronounced.   ‘But don’t worry, it was just a one off. Well, not including the time at the wedding. You can have her back now.’   ‘I’m … I’m not sure I want to.’ Kate looked at Allison, and the disappointment in her eyes destroyed Allison more than if she screamed.   ‘Suits me.’   ‘Kate…’ Allison began.   ‘Just leave me alone,’ Kate said, standing up and knocking her chair to the floor.   A few moments of silence followed her departure and Linda turned to Allison. ‘So, that leaves me and thee, sweetie. How about it?’ She reached out for Allison’s waist and Allison slapped her hand away.   ‘You bitch!’ Allison shouted, ignoring the sudden silence running through the canteen. ‘She loved me, and you’ve just destroyed that.’   ‘No, sweetie, you did that yourself. Anyway, let’s make the most of this situation. I’m ready for another round.’   ‘Piss off!’ Allison got up, walking out of the canteen and unaware of the amount of people who witnessed the argument.

Allison wandered around the school field, her mind empty. Other students enjoyed the bright sunshine; probably the last of it before winter. A few strolled about the grounds with friends, laughing; some played football; others sat on the grass reading a textbook, or eating their lunch. It all seemed so normal. Her life had begun to disintegrate, and these people had the nerve to carry on with theirs? It wasn’t right.   She reached the path leading back to the main complex, needing to get away from these insensitive people. She listened to her footsteps on the concrete, and after a few seconds, she heard another set sounding behind her. ‘Well, now. That was a show!’   Her head raged at the voice. She breathed deeper, and turned around, forcing herself not to raise her fist. ‘I don’t have time for this, Mathew!’ she said before she fully realised who stood before her. As soon as she said it, she turned again and began to walk away, her head facing down.   ‘Oh, no no no.’ Mathew said as he raced to catch her up. He caught her arm and Allison tried to pull it free, but his grip went with it and turned her back to face him. ‘Wow, that carrot top must have really pissed you off. Even so, I gotta admire your taste; those freckles, they just make me melt.’   Allison closed her eyes, trying not to hear him. ‘Anyway, this whole thing with the other one doesn’t really surprise me, you two hang out together way more than is natural. Though I’ve got to ask for you people to lay off the hot ones, makes us guys jel—’

Allison struggled to free herself from the tight grip holding her arms behind her. She screamed at the body lying on the floor, trying to pull her arms away for another attack. She couldn’t remember how Mathew ended up motionless on the path and didn’t care; she needed to rip his head off, she needed to grind his face into the concrete, she needed to obliterate every part of his body.   ‘Allison, calm down,’ a strong male voice spoke into her ear. Allison’s struggles died a fraction, but she still ranted at Mathew’s lifeless figure, feeling saliva run down her chin and the sensation of a razor blade in her throat. Her arms went numb, but despite this, she felt agony in her right hand as the sharp pains prevented her from opening her still clenched fist.   ‘Calm down,’ the voice said again, and she recognised it as her PE teacher, a well muscled man with a rugby player’s build. Allison’s attempts to break free became weak, and her shouts fell to a croaked whisper.   ‘Let me at him,’ she sobbed. The teacher’s grip loosened and Allison fell to the floor, staring at Mathew with wide tear filled eyes.

Cover image: by JRCSalter


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