The next few days flew past. You adjusted to life with the raven, between school and rehearsals, you always looked forward to coming home to it.
You opened your eyes lazily in the sunlight. That dream always left you feeling the same way, wanting. Wanting for it to be real so, so bad. You let the fragmented memories wash over you for a while. How many days had you had that exact dream now? And more importantly, why?
It always left you with a sense of a protecting presence. That was a nice feeling.
It was the dream, that irregular dream you couldn’t place. It had come to you again. It was beautiful, but some part of you felt so unnerved by it. You remembered more now than usual, but it was starting to slip away from you the more you thought about it.
Moore had vanished again, but you didn’t worry you knew it would be back. Looks like you’d have to buy more bird mix.
In class you couldn’t concentrate on the work in front of you, your mind kept wandering. Wandering to fragments…
You closed your eyes briefly and memories flashed in your mind
His hold on your waist, the way you were whirled, your laughter, something he whispered in your ear.
A mixture of the dream from last night and the raven swirled around your head.
It was like something out of a fairy tale the way it had entered your little lonely world.
You kept pushing yourself to remember at the end of the day it was just a bird, a creature that deserved to be free.
It would be sad to see it go. You felt stupidly, that you’d almost made a connection. Like it seriously understood you sometimes, when prattled on about your day, when you ranted about Kari and Brian (mostly Kari) to the whispers of the first thing you would do when you left them to make your own way in the world in the middle of the night.
Your mind condescended itself. How childish could you be?
“Get a hold of yourself” you put your head in your hands before picking up your pen.
“Hello? Ground control to Sloane” Janice, or ‘Jan’ as everyone nicknamed her, waved a hand in front of your dazed face. She poked her tongue out at you, biting into her sandwich.
You were sitting outside today, on campus, at the picnic table by the library, finally it was hot and sunny again, so you decided to take advantage of your break.
You had your head propped up by your hand lazily.
“Sorry, I did it again, didn’t I?” You smiled sheepishly at your friend who grinned in return before taking a sip of her drink.
“you’re always day- dreaming, I wonder what about” you knew from her sing-song vice what she was getting at and you rolled your eyes.
Jan was lucky.
She had people around her constantly, she had boys around her constantly, not that you didn’t, you just sucked at conversation- she was good with people, you just weren’t. She’d tried and failed setting you up, she wanted you to join in for once and find someone. Ugh. You knew she was doing it from the good of her heart but sometimes you’d wished she’d just drop it. You weren’t made for people. That’s all.
She ran a hand through her freshly permed hair.
You shrug “I’m just tired, I haven’t been sleeping well” you felt a bit bad you hadn’t told Jan about the raven, she was your best-friend no matter what, but she would probably call you crazy. Anyone in their right mind would call you crazy.
“You’re always tired” Jan pointed out giving you a nudge.
True, you’d been using that excuse a lot lately, but it wasn’t a complete lie. You’d taken to talking to Moore well into the night, sometimes until 2 in the morning. Some nights you felt bluer than others you’d say the things you couldn’t say to anyone else.
“They’ve never welcomed me really” you said that night lying on your back playing with your hair. “It’s stupid I know,” you mulled over the thoughts “ I’m older now, it’s not like I need paternal attention…or guidance…but sometimes it would be nice to have a real mum again but all they do is push me away, sometimes I just feel…worthless. Like I mean nothing”
Sometimes it was nice to have someone to talk to about all sorts of meaningless rubbish, especially if they couldn’t answer back.
“So, did you write the notes for today?” you switched the subject taking a bite into your croissant.
Jan clapped her forehead stopping her chewing “oh shit, what notes”.
She ducked her head, looking at you for help under her dark lashes. Janice was just as useless with homework as you were.
“Guilt tripping me to share my homework that’s new” you chided and you both laughed.
“Life saver” Jan leant in for a quick hug.
You rolled your eyes and ducked your head under the table to find the essay in your bag.
“what would I do-” She cut off talking suddenly.
You noticed her pause and came up again, flicking your hair out of your face “what?”
There was a frightened look on Jan’s face. She was looking past your shoulder.
“There’s a man! A man staring at us!” she hissed, indicating directly behind you. You turned sharply, hair whipping behind you, following her finger.
There was no-one.
“What are you talking about?” You turned back to her with a smile and bobbed eyebrow “I don’t see anyone”.
“I swear there was a creepy guy stand like five meters away from us!” Jan’s eyes widened.
You pointed out that there were loads on guys on campus. It could have been anyone on their break.
“He looked too old to be a student” she shivered.
The warm air seemed to chill all of a sudden. There was a strong gust of wind that made you pull your jacket around you tighter.
You tried to relax her, Jan was known for being paranoid with things like this. “Well, a teacher then, what did he look like?”
“I don’t know, really tall, blond hair, dark clothes” you wrinkled your nose. You didn’t understand why she was so unnerved when he sounded so usual.
Jan jumped at the sound of a bird flapping its wings. You looked up to see the dark bird flutter out of a nearby tree and away.
You were about to say ‘that could be anybody Jan’ when she said something that made a shiver run down your spine:
“Sloane, he was staring right at you”
You played it off as a trick of the mind, she’d seen somebody passing by that happened to look over that was all.
She hadn’t eaten either which would explain her irrationality. Hunger could make you do funny things.
When break was over, she insisted you walk with her and other friends to class “just in case”. You’d never seen her so ruffled before. You didn’t bother dwelling on it for the rest of the day.
The walk home was lonely and miserable without being able to listen to music. It had started to spit again. Looks like you were in for a damp summer this year.
You felt a warm tingling sensation pass momentarily over you. Weird.
Across the street you noticed a two people, a man and a woman, you couldn’t see what they looked like properly but they were sprinting oddly down the street, holding hands. Huh. What was with everyone today.
When you got to the front door you groaned, remembering it was Brian and Kari’s anniversary tonight. Something you were exclusively excluded from. Again. But you were grateful for a whole evening of peace. Thankfully, they’d be gone all evening. You didn’t have any work to do so you could relax for once.
You turn the key in the door. You’d barely made it in five paces when Brian entered the living room struggling with his tie “you’re late!”.
Late? How could you be late? Surely, they weren’t going out already, at half past three?
You looked at him confused “I don’t-”
“Just tell your aunt you’re home” he grumbled patiently still struggling with the tie.
Kari was already dressed and looked as if she was ready to leave. She was pacing the kitchen up and down when you entered- still puzzled.
“There you are!” she sighed heavily seeing you walk in, clearly irritated “where have you been- we’ve been waiting on you for hours!”
“But I just left college half an hour ago!” you argued. What was with them tonight?
“Don’t lie to me, Sloane, you’ve clearly been with your friends on the one night we specifically ask you to be home on time!”
“I’m always home on time” you threw up your hands. What the fuck?
How could you possibly be late? You noticed the grandfather clock in the hall chiming. You paced over to it to prove your point.
“Eight o’clock!” you cried in disbelief “it can’t be eight o’clock!”
Kari put her hands on her hips dismissively.
“You know very well what time it is, young lady, don’t play the fool with me- have you been drinking?”
You were dazed and confused. Where had five whole hours gone?
You felt your head, you had come over very faint.
“actually, I just- I don’t feel well” you breathed feeling as if the wind had been knocked out of you. You leant against the kitchen top for support.
“17 years old and wasted after school” Kari mumbled, fussing over her hair on the mirror above the wine rack. “And don’t think you can wriggle out of the chores tonight to nurse a hangover either! You;ll have to cook for yourself tonight, no take-aways”
You were barely listening “I won’t forget” you said meekly still trying to figure out the supposed time loss.
Nursing- whatever this was- was exactly what you felt like doing. Your head was swimming you wanted to drown out her high voice.
She half- heartedly listed the things that needed to be done, the food available in the fridge.
“-and I’ve asked Mrs. White next door to look out for you tonight so no funny business, parties-”
Seriously? Old Mrs. White, what were you 8?
“I’m not a child, Kari” you said through clenched teeth.
“Don’t use that tone with me madam” she raised her eyebrows . “You’ve pushed my buttons enough tonight” she picked up her handbag and frowned at you “maybe we need a talk when we get back, about growing up for one” .
Growing up? You couldn’t believe the nerve of her.
Brian looked itching to get away and eventually practically pulled Kari out the door, not after warning you away from using the tv or anything electrical. “I’ve counted it all” he said sternly. Brian didn’t trusted you either.
“Bye then” you said softly watching them leave through the window, laughing at something probably dull.
You observed the car pull away and down the street for the second time this week.
You were left to your own devices. Again.
You whipped the curtains together to stop that nosey cow from next door peering in.
With a huff, you sat on the loveseat with your feet tucked under you for a few minutes in the glow of the soft living room lamp. You wondered idly if all parents were like Kari and Brian.
Five hours? Sure, you stopped to tie your shoelace one or twice but five whole hours. You shook your head.
Even for a summer evening it was pitch black outside. You were certain it was bright even in the rain when you walked home. What the hell?
You ignored the list of chores Kari had set out for you to do, if she was going to treat you like a child, then a child you shall be, children didn’t do laundry “they watch TV and break rules” you said aloud finishing your own thoughts.
You decided to check on Moore first, who you’d completely forgotten about. Then TV. Maybe ice-cream if there was any. You didn’t fancy reheating a soup dish from previous nights.
On your way up the stairs you shook your head at the grandfather clock.
“Hi, I’m back” you peered into your room and watched where you put your foot in case you stepped on the bird. You turned the lamp on checking your room.
“Moore? You can come downstairs now if you like, only for a couple of hours though”
You peeked in the scarf nest “hellooo?”. Empty. Unsual.
The bird had probably left and hadn’t come back yet, it never normally stayed out at night for very long.
“Oh well, just me then” you said to nobody in particular. You weren’t in a talking mood anyway . TV didn’t feel that promising now.
You rested on your bed. Now that you had free time you didn’t know what to do with it.
You could do some sketching maybe. Where did you put your pencils last?
You hunted around your room for the usual places, in your pencil pot, on the shelves. Ah! You remembered! You yanked your beside table draw open to triumphantly find your sketching pencils- and a little red book.
The book the bird brought me.
All ideas of sketching vanished from your mind. You brushed the pencils aside in your drawer and picked the book up. You stared at it in your hands. There was a sudden desire to read it. It was only thin copy, right? You might as well try it out. You had time to kill.
You shut the drawer forgetting about the pencils and propped your head on a pillow, lying on your front. You opened the first page and began reading intently.
“Once upon a time there was a beautiful young girl whose wicked step-mother treated her cruelly and kept her hidden away at home to clean the house,”
‘That rings a bell’, you thought with a smirk
“The young girl was practically her slave. But what no-one knew was that the king of the goblins had fallen in love with the girl, and he had given her certain powers”
You raised your eyebrows.
You ran your finger under the lines, muttering along the words on the pages aloud
“So one night when her stepmother had been particularly cruel to her, and the girl could stand her life no more, she called on the goblins for help: ‘say your right words and we will take you to the goblin city – and you will be free’ they said to her. So, on that very midnight, the girl cried through tears “I wish the goblins would come and take me away- right now”
A clap of thunder outside interrupted your murmuring but you shook your head pushing on .
This was getting strange and disturbing what kind of fairy-tale is this? Not for children surely.
When the first chapter was through you settled more comfortably on your bed against the headboard, you read on in your head.
You read the whole thing from cover to cover before ten o’clock. There was a persistent need to finish this book. You didn’t even realise you were reading at one point, you were so into it as if you were watching the scenes unfold from afar.
When you’d finished you sat thoughtfully for a while. What kind of twisted tale was that? What an emotional roller coaster that was to get through!
Yet, it all sounded so familiar, like it reminded you of something. You couldn’t think what though. You touched the bangle on your wrist instinctively.
Still, it was a good read. You’d have to tell the bird.
But the bird still wasn’t back.
You yawned widely. Maybe sleep was better than forcing yourself awake.
Turning the lamp off you left the book lying by you on the bed. It was freezing up here now, so you decide to sleep in your jeans, shirt and even your jacket, blanket over you. You didn’t even bother removing your trainers.
It didn’t take long for you to fall asleep, hugging the pillows to your chest.
“Here you are” the voice by your ear made you jump.
You turned “it’s you!” you immediately fell against him, hugging him.
“Well, well looks like somebody missed me” he smirked placing a cool gloved hand on the crown of your head which slipped to lightly grasp your shoulder. For some reason you could never think of the words to say to him. The right words.
You never questioned what this significant scene meant not that he’d be able to tell you anyway he was only a figment after all.
You didn’t question how the tall man knew you’d missed him, but then it was your subconscious speaking to you, you reminded yourself, so of course he’d know, whoever he was, clearly you’d picked him up in your memories somewhere along the line, you certainly didn’t recognise him now, and you still didn’t know his name but maybe you’d invent that later.
“Shall we?” He held out his arm for you to take.
From leaning your head slightly on his shoulder, you grinned, knowing what was coming.
The room burst into action between your blinks, it was the colour of ice and champagne décor to match. There seemed to suddenly be people everywhere -well, you thought they were people, they looked like people but maybe they weren’t, maybe they were whatever he was. You couldn’t quite believe he was human somehow, something in his gaze or in the fluidity of his movements.
You could never see their faces, initially the masks were a little unsettling but by now they seemed to feel comfortingly familiar. Strange how you seemed to pick up every detail, usually dreams were foggy and unclear, nothing ever made complete sense but this one you had down to a tee, everything was always crystal clear.
You looked down at yourself and smiled at the dress you were wearing again, its familiarity to you made it feel like an old family heirloom. You playfully swished the puffy material in your hands and released it, admiringly.
You looked back at him, kitted-out in his usual attire; long blue jacket, poet’s shirt and that hair. He was looking at you thoughtfully with a kind expression.
The mystery man automatically takes your right hand holding it at an angle, his free arm supported under yours to hold you in by the waist.
It was like an old film, the way the scenes changed so fast as if it were skipping, you were moving motion to motion quickly but then most dreams were this way weren’t they?
Gracefully you both twirled around the dance floor -everyone melting away it seemed. Even the sweet music muffled. You didn’t know how but somehow you always knew the right steps, you never tripped- not once.
You focused on how you were feeling now in this scene, everything felt so real, you’d pinched your own arm a couple of times in the past and sometimes give his shoulder a squeeze, you just couldn’t understand. You squeezed it a little now, , earning a cheeky grin from him.
He whisks you around faster than usual, taking you by surprise, and you let out a string of giggles, so thrilled. How you’d miss this. He seemed to enjoy your reaction, delighted he could make you so happy.
“Do you enjoy my visits, my love?” he suddenly said out of the blue.
Your attention snapped back and you wrinkled your nose at that with a puzzled smile. It wasn’t in his usual script. You decided played along with your subconscious anyway.
“Of course” you say boldly, what was the point in being shy after all, it wasn’t real. Still, a blush starts at the base of your throat and you keep your eyes focused on the scenes behind his ear so you don’t have to look him directly in the eye. You could feel him inching closer, but you pretend not to notice.
He twirled you and when you came back around he was closer still eye contact never breaking. You could feel his breath by your ear. Your spine tingled.
“Would you like to stay like this, forever?” his voice was always so silky soft but the way he said the last word was enough to put you on edge. You had been dancing for a while- you usually wake up before you can finish, why was tonight different?
“You still haven’t told me your name” you reminded him, changing the subject and willing yourself to focus anywhere but his eyes. How striking they were. Things seemed a little blurred now, you must be close to waking up.
“I can’t now” The tall man faltered with such kindness and pity in his eyes as if you should understand why he couldn’t, “but I will soon, but you have to accept me first”.
The dancing had begun to slow and soon the pair of you were stood still in an embrace waiting for you to say something. It seemed to be on the tip of your tongue but you couldn’t think of anything so you just said “I don’t understand”.
The mystery man seemed to falter but pushed on “you could live every day like this”.
You dithered in your confusion “I- I don’t know what to do” you didn’t like disappointing him; of course you wanted to stay in this beautiful dream, but that’s all it was.
He smiled sadly, as if reading your thoughts. The tall man drew back and you wanted to yell in frustration that he was leaving already when you wanted to know more. You physically felt a force pull him away from you.
“Wait!” you pleaded holding out your arm to grab him.
“All you have to do is accept” he said sadly watching from afar- your confusion. He repeated the words over and over and then when you felt yourself leaving said one more strange word that you didn’t understand.