© Karen Milner
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Society of Seers
‘In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.’ (Oscar Wilde)
The light from the landing bulb crept into Willow's bedroom along with Rob's dark shape. The door closed and darkness returned. Floorboards creaked as he moved nearer. Willow's small fingers tightened around her brooch.
The bed sank as he got under the duvet and she squeezed her eyes shut. He moved her teddy bear and she heard the soft thump as it fell to the floor. The pillow flattened; his warm breath smelt of cigarettes. Willow squashed her back against the wall. He stroked her hair. His fingers moved like a spider down her nightdress. A cold hand pushed inside her underwear.
“Please don’t,” she said. “Please stop.”
His fingers were hurting her. His mouth covered her cries. She turned away, gulping in air. He slobbered over her cheek as his chin scratched against the side of her face.
His sour breath whispered into her ear, “I love you so much, Willow. Do you love me?”
She couldn’t find the words to describe her disgust so instead she held her body rigid and strained her neck and face as far away as possible - the brooch dug deeper into her palm. He pulled her closer. His heartbeat filled her head- suffocating her.
Willow shot upright and fumbled for the bedside lamp. The room was empty. She let out her breath and slowly opened her hand. The brooch's three gold letters were covered in blood. One of the S's in SoS had cut into her palm. She took a tissue and wiped it clean. Just a dream, but no, she was sure it was more. She thought of her adoptive father, Rob, and how he had started to look at her. Even at the age of ten, Willow knew it wasn’t right.
She wrapped some more tissue around her hand before getting out of bed and pinning the brooch to a pink sweatshirt which lay draped over her dressing table chair. Outside the window an orange street light blinked off and the sun peeped over the grey roof of an identical house across the street. She lifted her pillow and read again the note scribbled on the holiday park leaflet.
‘Below is a number you can reach me on day or night. If you ever need help please call me.
She folded the leaflet into her jeans pocket ready for later and sat down at the dressing table, tying her black hair into a ponytail. She wondered again if she’d have the nerve to go through with her plan. Her mother's face flashed into her mind and she licked away a salty tear. She had to be strong, she had to find her mother. Even if it was true - that her mother thought Willow would be better off without her - she still wanted to hear it from her mum and not some social worker. Her thoughts turned to Meredith - she’d only met the golden-eyed woman once, but already Willow was ready to trust the stranger with her life. Yes, Meredith would help her, she was sure of that.
“Today's the big day, Bubdy,” she whispered to her old bear as she climbed back into bed. Although, she’d said the same words to him yesterday and she was still here. “Don’t worry little fella. I’m sure Meredith will look after us.” Even though the thought of running away made her heart beat way too fast, she was sure it was the right thing to do and that Meredith was the person to run to.
* * *
Willow mashed her Weetabix hoping Jan wouldn’t notice that the food was untouched. Jan crunched into a slice of toast and stared at yet another baby book.
“Shall I load the dishwasher?” Willow said, as she picked up her own bowl and moved to the sink.
“Please, and could you do the hoovering after that?” Jan said, without looking up.
Willow first rinsed away her unwanted breakfast before turning her attention to the dinner plates from last night. She glanced out of the kitchen window and saw Rob watering the lawn. He caught her eye and waved. She waved back but inside her heart shuddered. Lately he wanted her to sit on his knee when they were watching television. She didn’t like it and she liked even less the way his hand rested on the top of her leg.
She finished the job as quickly as possible and then dragged the Hoover from the under-stairs cupboard. She remembered her real mum reading Cinderella and she pretended to be the fairy tale character as she searched for dust on the lounge floorboards. Only, instead of a prince, she had Meredith to save her. She went over her plan again while crouching on the floor with the nozzle under the sofa.
Feet came into view, feet with grey socks; Rob’s. She looked up as he turned off the Hoover.
“Morning, sunshine,” he said.
Willow give him a small smile.
“What about you and me do something fun today; like go see a film?”
“And Jan too?”
“No love, Jan needs to rest.” He crouched and stroked Willow’s face and she tried her best not to shiver. “I think we need to spend more time together, really get to know each other. Agreed?”
“Good. You can wear that pretty pink dress I bought you.”
She looked into his smiling eyes and saw a dark cinema, his hand moving under her dress. He blinked and the image disappeared.
“I’ve got to nip to the garden centre - get a bit of compost. And then, after lunch, we’ll get off. Okay?”
“Okay,” she said, although it was as far from okay as possible.
Rob went into the kitchen and she heard Jan and him talking. She turned the Hoover back on. Her hand trembled as she aimed at a large ball of dust which held what looked like some of her own dark strands. It disappeared and she wished she too could escape so easily. She checked the edges of the floorboards before finally putting the appliance away and running upstairs. Sitting on her bed, she stared at the angels on her wallpaper. She put her hands together and closed her eyes, whispering the prayer she'd been saying everday for the last five years.
“Please, God. Help me find my mum.”
She opened her eyes and reached for Bubdy. “We have to leave.” She hugged him to her slight frame, pushing her pale face into his soft, brown fur.
She’d begun to trust the images and dreams that sometimes came to her and the one with Rob felt too real to ignore. It wasn’t until she entered the children’s home that she started to have strange dreams and see things in people’s eyes. At first it was just a flicker, a colour, a feeling, but as she grew so did the visions. After the adoption she had tried to explain to Jan; she needed to know if it was normal as none of the kids in the orphanage ever talked about such things. Jan said it was nothing to worry about, she just had an overactive imagination. Willow began to think so too, but then there was Suzie.
When Suzie turned up at school with two black eyes, the teacher told the class that she’d been in a car accident. But every time Suzie's eyes met Willow’s, she saw the truth. Suzie’s mother had beaten her. Willow didn’t say anything – too chicken. That night she dreamt Suzie's mother drove her and her little brother into a dock. She woke up choking as they drowned. She prayed it was just a nightmare but Suzie didn’t come to school again - the funerals were a week later. Sometimes Willow still saw her classmate’s bruised face and shy glance when she closed her eyes.
There was nothing she could do for Suzie, but she could still help herself. She thought again about telling Jan but tell her what? That she’d been having bad dreams about Jan's wonderful husband. And why should Jan, or anyone, believe her? It was after all just a dream - for now.
It seemed like hours before he finally went to the garden centre. Willow put her astronomy book down as she heard his car pull off the short drive. She went back down the stairs, heart hammering. Jan was still sitting in the same place but she was studying a new baby catalogue.
“Would you like a drink?” Willow asked.
“Coffee please. I'll make us both a cheese sarnie in a minute.”
"It's okay, I'll do it."
"Thanks.” Jan turned over a page.
Willow went to the fridge. She knew where everything was – she’d cleaned it yesterday. Jan never did much housework but since she'd become pregnant she needed a lot more rest; her last baby had died before it was born. Jan was tired all the time and went to bed really early. She used to love clothes shopping and going to the hairdresser's but she didn’t even do that anymore. Willow noted the tangles in Jan's once neat blonde bob, maybe she was too tired to even comb her hair.
The kettle boiled and Willow made the drink. Jan took a sip still studying the pictures. Willow cut the sandwiches diagonally, just how Jan liked, and put a plate beside the catalogue. Willow nibbled her own food and looked up at the wall clock – 1pm - Rob could be home soon.
“Is it okay if I go to Jenny’s? I need to finish a project for school and she said she’d help me.” Jan hated helping with homework but she wanted Willow to get top marks. This was Willow's best chance.
Jan looked up and smiled. “I’m sorry, Willow. I haven’t been paying you much attention lately. What with Rob being home and the baby.” She touched her almost flat stomach. “I guess you need to get your homework done.”
It had worked. Now she just needed to get away before Rob got back.
“If you could just give the bathroom a quick clean and then you can get off.”
Willow scraped her chair back wanting to get the job done.
“Sit,” said Jan. “Don’t waste your food.”
She took another bite and chewed it quickly, swallowing it down with a gulp of water. She shoved the rest in her mouth and took her plate to the dishwasher. Opening the cupboard under the sink, she got the bleach and headed out of the kitchen.
“Oh wait a minute. Rob mentioned something about taking you to the pictures this afternoon.”
Willow stopped, her back turned to Jan and her mouth still crammed with food. Lowering her head, she spat the remains of the sandwich into her hand and turned around. Her cheeks burned and she was sure her face was as pink as the cherry blossom that swirled around the rear lawn. Thankfully, Jan was again glued to the catalogue.
“Bu-but I need to get my project done, it has to be in tomorrow.”
“Not to worry. I’m sure the two of you can watch a film another time. After all, it’s another four weeks before Rob goes back to the rigs.”
“So I can go?”
“If you really want to.” She yawned.
“Thanks,” Willow said, edging towards the bin and dropping the chewed food in. She looked over Jan's shoulder at the white babygro that her finger rested on. “Get blue, you’re having a boy.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Just a feeling.”
“Umm, you and your feelings. I think I’ll get white to be on the safe side.”
Willow headed upstairs and sprayed bleach around the bathroom. She turned on taps, flushed the toilet and scrubbed away at the already clean sink. When she thought she’d done enough, she went back to her room and got Bubdy and the folder with her finished school project in. She ran down the stairs leaving Bubdy and the project on the hall table while she took the bleach back.
“Could you just take my plate and cup?” Jan said.
Willow stuck them in the dishwasher and headed for escape.
“Make sure you’re back by six and take a coat. It looks like rain.”
Willow had her hand on the front door handle when a car pulled up. She stepped back. Through the frosted glass she saw Rob get out. He reached into the car taking a big bag of something - compost. He walked towards the front door and she held her breath but he didn’t come in. The side gate creaked, he was heading around the back.
Willow tip-toed back to the door and slipped out, gently closing it behind her. The wooden gate at the side of the house banged closed and she gripped Bubdy and the folder tighter but there was no sign of Rob. The air was heavy and the sky grey but she didn’t bother going back for her coat. She looked down at her trainers as she walked to the end of the drive.
Instead of turning right, towards Jenny’s, she turned left and headed for town. She wasn’t supposed to go off the street and when she reached the end, fat drops of warm rain hit her head. She looked back, half expecting to see Rob running after her but the street was empty. The houses all had cars in their drives but there was no sign of life, although the faint smell of roasting meat clung to the air. She thought of her coat and Jan but then she touched her brooch and the dark dream flashed into her head. She turned away and ran around the corner to the phone box.
Inside the glass phone box, rain drummed against the windows making it hard for Willow to think. She fumbled in her pockets and found change and the leaflet. Placing Bubdy and the folder on a shelf, she picked up the receiver and dialled the telephone number under Meredith’s note.
“Hello,” a woman’s voice said after four rings.
Willow’s hand paused over the coin slot but then she pushed a twenty pence piece in. “Is that Meredith?”
“You need help?”
“Yes.” Willow’s fingers found her brooch.
“Can you get to the bus station?”
She looked down the main road towards town. She’d walked the mile or so to the shops with Jan many times and, on the way, she’d passed the bus station.
“Yes.” The pips went and she pushed another coin in.
“Go straight there and find platform one. Look for a black bus; it’ll say Brampton Hall along its side. Get on the bus and wait for me.”
“Okay.” Willow looked at the black leaflet which also had Brampton Hall in gold letters at the top.
“Don’t talk or make eye contact with anyone. Go straight to the bus. Okay?”
“Okay,” she said again, before putting the receiver down and snatching Bubdy and the project. “This is it, we’re really going.” She opened the door, shoved the leaflet back in her pocket and ran.
The rain was heavier and it pushed into her eyes and mouth. She clutched Bubdy tight against her soaked sweatshirt and slowed as she got to a road. She remembered to look both ways but there were no cars. She ran across and past a row of closed shops. A man in a rain coat hurried towards her. The stranger’s eyes found Willow’s. She thought of Meredith’s words and looked down, running faster until she'd passed him.
Not far now, she told herself. Two cars went by spraying more water on the pavement and her heart quickened but neither of them were red, like Rob’s. Her legs ached but she dare not stop. Her breath was coming in shallow spurts when she finally spotted a few big red buses but there was no black one. Engines hummed as she crossed the concrete parking area and went into the shelter of the glass building. An old man sat on a plastic chair holding an unlit cigarette, his eyes staring at the muddy, tiled floor. The wind howled as she searched the platform numbers trying her best not to look at the smattering of people that waited by them. Six, Four, Two; but she couldn’t find number one. She spun around and saw a black mini- bus parked at the other side. It had the gold Brampton Hall lettering. Rushing over to it, she glanced up and saw Platform 1 before stepping on.
The driver, an old man with a peaked cap and pale blue eyes, nodded his head towards her and her fingers relaxed their hold on Bubdy and the project.
“I’m looking for Meredith,” she said.
“M’ Lady will be here soon.” His hand gestured to the empty seats.
Willow stepped up and squelched her way to the back. ‘M’lady,’ she thought. ‘Does that mean Meredith’s royalty, a queen even?’ Although she could easily believe it, she couldn’t understand why a queen would be handing out leaflets in a shopping centre. The engine vibrated under her feet as she plumped down on the soft, velvety covers and looked out of the tinted windows. Rain hammered against them. The noise reminded her of Rob hosing the house windows. She wiped a droplet off her nose. “Safe now,” she said, as she put Bubdy and the folder down next to her. Another bus parked alongside, blocking her view.
The old man got out of the driving seat and pulled a towel from a high shelf.
“Would you like to dry yourself off a wee bit with this, young missy?” He held it out and Willow walked down the bus and took it. He pointed to a drinks machine where the first row of seats should be. “Fancy a hot chocolate?”
His crooked back bent even more as he put a paper cup in the machine. Willow started to really take in her surroundings; the inside was different from her school bus - more luxurious. Some of the seats had tables between them which reminded her of a train. Curtains hung from the windows and the floor had spotlights, just like an airport runway.
The old man handed Willow the drink as a phone started ringing. Smiling, he took out a mobile from his jacket pocket and answered it.
“Hello,” he said brightly, as he made his way back to the driver’s seat.
Willow wondered if he was talking to Meredith as she walked back to her seat with the towel around her shoulders and sat down. “She’ll be here soon. I promise, Bubdy.”
The bus darkened and the rain battered down even harder. The noise was so loud that she could no longer hear the man speaking. She pulled down a tray table, attached to the chair in front, and put her drink on it. A flat screen TV was sunk into the back of the seat. This was one cool bus. She was looking for a remote when someone wearing a black cloak leapt through the open door and rushed down the aisle towards her. Willow held her breath until she saw the golden eyes and long hair underneath the hood.
“Willow, you made it. Are you all right?” The bus was already reversing out of its parking space as Meredith took Willow’s hands in hers and sat next to her.
“Was the dream getting worse?”
Willow had never told Meredith, or anyone, about the dream but she was not surprised she knew about it. “You saw it through my eyes?” she said.
“Yes. Has he touched you?” Her face seemed to get paler.
“Thank God,” she said, closing her eyes for a second. “You were right to leave.” She pulled Willow to her and the scent of pine enveloped her and the image of tall trees entered her mind. Meredith smoothed down her damp ponytail before speaking again. “Willow, I have some important questions to ask you. Can you do your best to answer them honestly?”
“Yes,” she said, sitting back; now free of Meredith’s embrace.
“That woman you were shopping with.”
“Yes. She isn’t your real mother, is she?”
“No, I’m adopted.” Willow looked out of the window and saw a sign saying Motorway North. “Where are we going?”
“That depends on the answers to my questions. But you’re going to be safe. I swear I won’t let anyone harm you.”
She turned and looked into Meredith’s eyes and saw no lie. “Thank you,” she said, and Meredith put her hand over Willow’s.
The bus branched off the road and onto a motorway. Willow picked up her hot chocolate and sipped it. Meredith stood and opened the overhead locker above the seat; she pulled out some clothes and another towel.
“When you’ve finished your drink, I’d like you to put these dry clothes on and then we’ll chat some more.”
There was a really cool purple sweatshirt with glittery flowers on the front and some jeans that looked identical to the flowery, embroidered ones clinging to Willow's wet legs. Meredith took the empty cup and looked away while Willow dried herself. She removed the brooch and pinned it to the purple top before getting changed and putting the wet clothes, towels and trainers into a plastic bag. The new Nike ones were a perfect fit. “All done,” Willow said.
Meredith turned and smiled, but then her smile disappeared when she saw the brooch. She reached out to touch it and her fingers trembled.
“Are you all right,” Willow said, as Meredith removed her hand and sat back down still staring at the brooch.
She ignored the question and spoke in a quiet rushed tone. “When you first saw me, Willow, you looked into my eyes. What did you see?”
Willow knew the answer but it was more of a feeling than a picture. Jan had gone into a pram shop and Willow had seen a tall woman standing by the fountain in the centre of the shopping arcade. She was facing away from her and wearing a long dress. She reminded her of a medieval queen, like the ones in her history books. But it wasn’t the floaty, lilac dress that caught her eye; it was the woman’s black hair: straight and thick, hanging to her waist like her mother’s. She’d walked up behind her; wondering, hoping, praying that she’d found her. The water splashed and sparkled as the sun shone through the glass ceiling. For a moment she just wanted the world to stand still, so she could pretend it was really her. The woman turned as if sensing her. In her hands were leaflets and as Willow’s eyes lifted and looked into her golden ones, she felt both sad and warm. The stranger’s eyes shone like the sun and her gaze was like a gentle breeze blowing into Willow’s mind.
“Warm, I felt warm,” Willow said. She didn’t know if it was the right or wrong answer as Meredith’s face remained still and her eyes looked past Willow and out of the window. Cars and lorries rushed by, throwing spray onto the glass but Willow had an idea that Meredith wasn’t seeing them.
“Warm,” she repeated. “A warm wind.”
Willow stared at her. “You can read my mind, can’t you?”
“Sometimes I have visions of people’s thoughts and even their futures. You have them too, I think.”
Suzie’s eyes flashed into Willow’s mind and then she was back at that last shopping trip: seeing the fat woman who’d bumped into her on the way to town; her eyes jammed with cakes and then the mother unstrapping her toddler from his pushchair. The boy’s eyes were full of cars, giant toys that raced along the street.
'He’s going to run in the road,' she’d said to the mother.
The woman's face had turned white as she took hold of her son's arm.
'Don’t interfere, Willow,' Jan had snapped, as she smiled and said 'Sorry' to the frowning mother.
“I thought there was something wrong with me,” she said, looking at Meredith as tears tickled her face.
“There’s nothing wrong. You’re one of the lucky ones.” She tilted Willow’s chin up and looked into her eyes as if searching for something she'd lost. “The brooch you wear, Willow; do you know what SoS stands for?”
“No.” Willow’s hand moved to the gold letters.
“It stands for Society of Seers - a special organisation for people like us; people with the gift of foresight.” She opened her cloak and Willow stared at a replica of her brooch pinned to Meredith’s blouse. “Only a seer could have given you such a piece of jewellery. Where did you get it?”
Meredith stared blankly. The black of her pupils seemed to eat the golden colour of her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” Willow said. The gold returned.
“Everything’s fine.” Meredith patted Willow’s hand. “One last question and then you can rest as it’s going to be a long drive.”
Willow stared out of the window again. There was less traffic and she could see fields and cows. The tinted glass made everything grey. “You want to know about the last time I saw my mother,” she said, swallowing hard.
Willow rested her forehead against the cold glass. “I look for her every day. Sometimes I just sit watching out of my bedroom window, hoping she’ll walk by.” Her throat tightened.
“Please, Willow. I need to know.”
“I’ll try,” she whispered.
Meredith’s hand stroked the back of Willow’s head and the warmth she felt when she looked in her eyes filled her body. “I was five,” she said, as her mind slipped back to that bright October day. She turned around and gazed into Meredith’s eyes. Hot tears blurred her sight but she let the memory unfold as Meredith watched.
* * *
My mother stopped the car in front of a long driveway which led up to a castle- like building.
“You see that big house at the end of the drive?” she asked.
“The people in there are kind and will look after you until I can come and get you. Okay?”
I should have asked: Why are you leaving me? When are you coming back? But I said nothing, I didn’t even cry.
“I need you to be really brave and really strong,” my mother said. She pulled a white envelope from her pocket. "Give this to the person that opens the door."
I nodded again and took the letter from her. She pinned a gold brooch underneath the black velvet collar of my red coat. “Isn’t it supposed to go on the outside?” I asked.
“Normally yes, but this is a very precious brooch and you must keep it safe. When you get inside the big house find a place to hide it. You must never lose it, Willow.”
Again I nodded.
“I love you, please don’t ever forget that.” Her eyes watered and I felt confused.
She hugged me too tightly and told me to go. I got out of the car and started to walk up the long drive. Red and gold leaves crunched under my black patent shoes.
“Willow,” she shouted.
I turned towards her. She waved my old teddy, Bubdy Bear, out of the car window. I ran back and grabbed him.
“Now go quickly. They will look after you.”
I began again the long trudge up the drive with Bubdy dangling from my hand and the letter from the other. Almost at the top, I turned around. My mother waved and I waved back. I wanted to run down the drive back into her arms but I felt her will , so I turned and carried on. I came to a standstill outside the large entrance. I stood there for a long time staring at the wooden door before reaching up and knocking. I looked back over my shoulder, as my mother drove away. A woman with soft brown eyes, and a kind smile, opened the door and let me in.
* * *
“I stayed in that children’s home for four years, every night praying my mother would come and get me. In the end, I began to believe what the social workers had known all along; she was never coming back.”
Meredith squeezed Willow's hand. “She must have had a good reason to leave you.” She searched Willow's face again. “Your eyes are such an unusual shade. Deep brown with golden flecks, just like Anya’s.”
“You know my mother?”
“Your mother is called Anya?”
“Yes.” Willow grabbed her arm. “You know her?”
“I’m sorry.” She sniffed and turned away but not in time. Willow saw the darkness that took over her eyes again and the shadow that fell across her face.
Anya (11 years previously)
Anya side-stepped the crowd and moved nearer to the shop window. The dress was beautiful; sequins shone like stars on the milky expanse of silk. She tried to visualise herself wearing it, but the image wouldn’t come. Sometimes she wished she was more petite and girly - like her younger sisters. Maybe she could get married in jeans, Zen wouldn’t mind, all he cared about was setting a date. She couldn’t understand the rush and then of course there was the dream, she must deal with that before any vows were taken.
She turned her attention back to the street, she was on duty and needed to concentrate; not that anything ever happened in Keerswick. The day was unseasonably warm but when Anya saw the girl, goose bumps rose like porcupine spikes on her bare arms. Anya untied her fleece from around her waist and put it on. She slowed her pace as the child moved nearer. The rest of the faces on the packed street seemed to merge, leaving only the girl in sharp focus. Her plaits were dark and long and for an instant, Anya caught the ghost of her own youth.
A heaviness emanated from the girl, a heaviness that one so young should not be burdened with. The sun’s rays couldn't warm the chill that crept into Anya. Something about the girl’s dull eyes terrified her and part of her wanted to walk past and forget she had ever seen the child. She bit her lip and forced her eyes to stay on the girl; this is what she’d been trained for; to seek and help people in need, and she had a strong suspicion that this youngster was in desperate need.
Anya was so close now that she could see the blue of the girl's irises as the youngster stared blankly ahead. No sound came from her pale lips but Anya knew she was crying inside. A toy shop window caught the girl's attention and she stopped. Anya moved next to her, taking a sharp breath while also staring at the display of glossy-haired dolls. Sightless eyes glared back and, although Anya would have dearly liked to keep staring at the harmless painted faces, she found herself turning towards the girl. The child looked up and their eyes connected. A second later, sadness consumed Anya. She turned away, and put a steadying hand against the glass. The window reflected the child walking away, seemingly oblivious to the emotion she'd just imparted.
Anya stumbled past the shop and into an alley; her fingers pressed hard against her forehead. Eyes closed, tears streamed down her face while her body slumped against a brick wall. This contact was strong, by far the strongest she’d ever experienced. She began to shake as the child's sorrow turned to fear. The chill that had been growing inside her turned into ice. She couldn’t defend against such powerful emotion, she had to let it in and her breathing became heavy under the onslaught.
Rape wasn't something Anya had experienced but this was how she imagined it to feel except it was her senses that were being invaded, and not her body. Like shards of glass thrust into snow, she was powerless to resist the assault: screams, bangs, crashes, the stench of beer and then the images. She saw his hand reach into a fridge and, as though she stood by the open door, cold air slammed into her face. He pulled out a can as the girl sat holding a doll at the kitchen table. His mouth moved but Anya couldn’t hear the words. His fist came out of nowhere, knocking the child off her chair and the air out of Anya’s lungs. She clutched her stomach, willing the connection to break but the pictures kept forming. The blurred outline of a woman entered her thoughts.
“No,” Anya moaned, as the woman flew at the man and his laughter echoed in her head. He batted his attacker away like she was nothing more than an irritating fly and she landed on her back. White hot pain shot up Anya’s spine. His dark form towered over the fallen woman and Anya could smell the fear seeping from his victim's pores. Again she wanted to break the contact but her mind remained fixed to the vision.
He pulled the woman to her feet and for a second Anya thought it was finished. But then he hurled her with such force that Anya’s own body jolted back against the bricks. She groaned as red flashes danced through the darkness.
The girl whimpered under the table. Upstairs, her young brother woke, warm liquid seeping through his pyjamas. The man was calm - taking his time and, most sickening of all, Anya sensed his pleasure.
A black high heeled boot with a loose sole came into sharp focus - the foot inside still.
Loud sobs escaped the cowering girl as she rocked under the table, clutching the golden-haired doll. Her hiding place was lifted in the air and thrown on its side. The man bent down - his hands finding her neck. He squeezed hard and Anya slid down the wall as her airwaves closed. She forced her eyes open and gasped for breath, removing her own hands from around her throat. Thank God, the contact had broken.
An elderly couple stood in front of her, their brows heavily creased.
“Do you need some help, dear?” asked the woman.
Anya read their concern as she straightened herself, taking her inhaler out of her pocket and using it.
"I'm fine, thanks."
“You looked to be in a bad way,” said the man, leaning against his stick.
She breathed deeply, relaxing as her lungs re-inflated. “Just a bit of cramp.” She rubbed her stomach. “Must be something I’ve eaten.”
“Thanks for stopping,” she said.
“Well as long as you’re all right, dear.” The woman smiled.
Anya smiled back.
The man tipped his hat and the couple moved back into the busy street - linking arms. She fed for a moment on the love in their eyes. There were good people, lots of good people, she must remember that. Her focus returned to the contact. She needed to find the girl and it needed to be soon.