2013, may it be your best year yet! And with the Christmas break over, here’s the next instalment of Neve:
The interview with Filbert had been tiring. Then he had insisted she got a taxi. “You’ve heard the news?” She had heard it on the radio. A woman’s body found across the marshes. But the police said the woman had known her attacker, while Neve knew no one in town. Besides, the rain had stopped, she was happy to walk – though the fierce east wind remained to slice through her and she had to dance around puddles. Now all she wanted was to be home, out of the rain-drenched clothes, and snuggled into warm nightwear. On the headphones Sheryl Crow sang of Maybe Angels. Neve jumped the track only to have Highway to Hell belt out. With a shake of her head, she turned it off. She needed to think. She wasn’t losing it, this wasn’t incipient madness. There were such things as angels.
She tried to reason it. So much of the universe still was hidden: missing mass, missing energy; didn’t the superstring theory postulate 26 dimensions? She stopped walking. Where had that come from? She looked around her. Maybe a quantum physicist lived in one of these houses and she’d picked up his thoughts. More likely it would be a student. 26 dimensions? So why shouldn’t there be angels, beings from another dimension banished to here. Asars, as Raesan called them.
But which of the banished angels? The rebellious supporters of Satan, who had wanted to claim God’s throne. Or the seducers of women, banished for teaching the civilising arts. Yet Raesan had said of Atonement. So were the Asars the angels of peace and love. “We didn’t want to be here, this was our punishment,” Raesan had said. To be banished in the form of the ‘mere mucky humans’, how apt for those who’d refused to admire God’s creation. But she’d rather there were no banished angels at all then she’d not have exceptionally keen hearing.
She had just turned off Elm Grove and onto South Loke, five houses short of the bend in the road, when the thud-thud-thud of a chasm-deep drum rattled her bones. What inconsiderate knob of a slob was playing music that loud? And what was it? The drum gave way to an angry-bee sound. It was coming from one of her neighbours. Warren, it had to be, though the drug-drenched dork usually kept to American Rap. Rounding the corner she saw a car parked by his door, low-slung, sporty, orange or yellow, hard to tell beneath the streetlights. Warren’s drug-dealer?
She stopped in mid-stride, not understanding. The house with the car, with the lights ablaze upstairs and down, that wasn’t her neighbour’s house. That was hers.
Her brain vacated her head. She stood, and stared. But she had not left the lights on, she had not! Specially not those in the front bedroom, she didn’t use that room. And she had locked the doors, she had! Locked them and set the alarm. Her solicitor, James Bullock, had insisted she installed it though it was only this past week that she’d made it a habit. Because of the Watcher.
The Watcher! No more watching, but breaking and entering.
She glanced back to the Market Place. She hadn’t a mobile (no one to phone) but there was a phone-box next to the church. Yet before she could move there was Nerys out on the road, her slippered feet slapping the puddles. Neve couldn’t catch what she said, yelling her loudest. Yelling at Neve? Neve held up her hands to beg peace.
“I said to tell your friend to turn that shrigging din down.”
Neve recognised the music now. Trance, from the charts at least a decade ago. But why was it blasting from her front bedroom? And now her front door was opening.
She wanted to turn. To run. She didn’t want to see. Framed by the door, in a pale linen jacket and an orange cravat, his shimmering light making him seem like a saint, stood Raesan.
“You going to park that thing there?” Nerys turned on him. Not sharing the Asaric nature she couldn’t see auras.
“And good evening to you, Lovely Welsh Lady,” he said – just as the music came to a stop. No further track ran. Peace. It felt like the sky had been lifted. Even Nerys looked less harassed though she still was aggressive.
“I asked, when are you going to move that car?”
Closer now, Neve could see that car in all its impossible splendour. Immaculate, as if it had come straight from the showroom. But that model of Triumph Spitfire? She didn’t know much of cars but she know it was old. And the licence plate: SPY101E. She couldn’t fault Raesan on his sense of humour.
“Good Lady,” he addressed Nerys, “you show me the deeds, yeh, where you own the street and I’ll move the car.”
Neve groaned, his sense of humour inappropriate.
“Why you . . . !” Nerys’s mouth opened as wide as her eyes, though no further sound came. She retreated, slippers now squelching, door slammed behind her.
Raesan grinned. He turned back to Neve. “And you ought to come in, yeh. Get out of your wet clothes.”
Speechless, she followed him – into her house where he seemed already at home.
“I felt your distress that day we met, yeh – when you thought me homeless? Nah, no need for sorry, I’d weighed down your head. And I knew you’d have asked had you thought of it, cos I knew you had the spare room.”
She looked up, as if her angel-had eyes could see through the ceiling. “But there’s no bed.”
“Nah, that doesn’t matter. Come see how cosy I’ve made it.”
Why wasn’t she screaming? Why hadn’t she fainted? Why was she just accepting it? This was all so ludicrous. She had alarmed the doors, the windows were locked, yet here he was. How? And she meekly climbed the stairs behind him.
“I thought I might need your assistance,” he said. “But I managed to do it alone.”
The bathroom separated the front bedroom from hers, of that she was glad. She looked into the room. Sounding manic, she laughed. “What’s that?”
Rhetorical, she knew what it was. An igloo tent. And inside it were beanbags. But not with muted plain covers. No, these were the type they sold on the market: bright red fabric printed with paw-prints and dog-bones. Beside it, along with a mammoth box of CDs, was the biggest ghetto-blaster she ever had seen.
“I shan’t be using the lavvy for washing,” he said. “I know it’s what you folks do now but . . .” He shuddered his shoulders. He’d have got on well with her grandma: she’d have no running water within her walls. “So I was wondering, yeh. I notice you’ve a basin and jug on your washstand.”
She wanted to scream yet it stuck in her throat. Every morning, except when away at Carleston, the boarding school, she had stood at the washstand and washed in that washbasin, with water she had fetched from the well. Cold, even in summer.
“I promise I’ll try not to break it. Only you don’t want me dirty and smelly, do you.”
She understood now why a cornered scorpion would sting. She thought she might implode.
“Do you have soap?” she asked in surrender.
He nodded. “And that ‘splash it all over’ stuff.”
“I’ll fetch the basin.”
In her room, she sat on the bed, head low and held in her hands. Apart from sob, what could she do?
“Pretty,” he said and started her clear out of her skin. He had just walked in.
He looked around, though he must have already had a good nose. Like a dog, her grandma would say. “Real brass bed, hey, Lady?” He grinned. She felt herself cower.
“I had to have a new mattress specially made . . . it was my grandmother’s,” she found herself babbling.
She fetched the china basin and jug from the washstand. That stand now seemed empty with only the soap-dish. The matching chamber pot sat beneath it. He nodded towards it. “That would be useful. You don’t want me disturbing you in the night.”
Word filled her head and begged to be spoken but they stayed in her mouth and wouldn’t come out. “I’d better feed you,” she said meekly.
“No hurry. Change those clothes first, yeh. I’ve seen where you put the dirty.”
. _____ .
Next Tuesday (8th January 2013): Flame, Crystal, Silver and Gold