Kiss the Darkness blog series – Chapter 2

October 7, 2019 tracy No comments exist

     Part One


Going down the stairs on crutches was a lot easier than going up. Thankfully, they weren’t too steep.

Tallulah didn’t ask any more questions about the crash, probably sensing the wall of frost when she got near the subject. At the bottom of the stairs I followed as she turned right, doubling back around them, then through a doorway underneath. I’d completely lost my sense of direction. We went through a hallway that eventually came out into a huge kitchen.

The room was full of a delicious smell of cooking; reminding me that it had been ages since I’d eaten. Gerty was stirring a large pot on an old fashioned stove. “Don’t go far, girls, supper won’t be long.”

“Like there’s anywhere to go, Mum,” Tallulah said, rolling her eyes.

We walked right through the kitchen, past the battered rectangular pine table in the middle, to a door that opened to the outside.

Tallulah went straight on, but I paused. The biting chill mixed with the fresh air hitting my nostrils made it tingle. It smelled of earth and leaves and faintly of a bonfire somewhere. It literally smelled of autumn here.  Everything was different, particularly after the warmth of California, but it felt good to be outside. The daylight lightened something inside me after the oppressive darkness of the house. The sky was dismally grey but oddly comforting.

“It’ll be dark soon,” Tallulah said. “So we’d better hurry up.”

There were several old buildings off to the left but I headed in the direction of the little round house. I sensed Tallulah’s zero attention span and didn’t want to waste valuable time on looking at anything else. She seemed oblivious to me steering her there.

It was tricky terrain on my crutches. The path meandered, almost overgrown through what had once been manicured lawns. Now they were more like shrubland that made me stumble a couple of times.

          Tallulah walked on regardless. “So, Mum said you’re starting school on Monday?”

“I think so,” I said.

“What made you come to this God-awful place? You live in California, don’t you?”

I wanted to just say: I did. But that would have sparked off a whole other line of questioning that would probably end up in car crash territory and I didn’t want to talk about that, ever. “Mom and Dad are just busy with stuff, you know? They thought me and Aunt Sarah could get to know each other for a while.”

Tallulah studied my face, not sure whether to believe me. It was a stretch, but, in all honesty, I didn’t care if she believed me or not, so long as she didn’t ask me any more questions.

We got to the little round house and, this close up, I could see it was almost derelict. Tallulah’s phone rang and she livened up immediately. I was forgotten to whatever drama was in her life. Recounting some story and gesturing with her spare hand, she walked off.

I was glad of the solitude; for some reason I wanted to be in this place alone. I didn’t know why, all I knew was that it made me feel an overwhelming sense of sadness. Not in a grief type way, but in the way of the deep nostalgia a person got when they went back to somewhere they’d loved and not seen in a very long time. It was the strangest feeling.

I pulled away the planks obscuring the little white carved door. The arch- shaped holes had once been filled with glass that had long since broken. It was tricky negotiating the rubble with crutches, so I leaned them against the wall outside and hopped in on one foot. I steadied myself by holding pieces of fallen wood that had once been part of the roof.

Inside, I realized that it wasn’t circular at all but an octagon, with a seat and a window almost up to the ceiling on every side. Many of the seats had rotted and much of the white paint gone, but I could imagine the hanging baskets and pots, now disintegrating on the floor, in their former glory. The pastel-colored flowers would have looked stunning against the white. A stone angel perched on top of a pedestal sat in the middle of it all.

I turned a slow circle, hopping on my good leg. It must have been a heavenly place once. A place of peace, full of floral scent and warmth from the many little windows filling it with shards of light. How I would have loved to see it then. I couldn’t understand why my aunt had let it fall into such disrepair. In its heyday, surely she would have enjoyed a place like this.

My leg ached, so I sat on the only window seat that hadn’t caved in. The paint had almost all flaked off, but it was sturdy enough to hold me. The wind rustled in the trees and a bird squawked somewhere. How peaceful it was, deathly quiet.

Night was coming and it was getting dark. The wind had finally dropped, meaning the air didn’t have quite so much bite. Graying clouds were obscuring the light and a white mist was slowly descending over the trees of the garden. Birds and small creatures seemed to be waking up and calling to their friends. Maybe they were warning them about me sitting there amongst them all.

I’m not sure how long I sat there for, but when Tallulah came back it was almost dark. I stood and she was clearly glad I’d had enough. Gerty’s call for supper meant she was completely off the hook having showed me very little.

I didn’t care. She wittered on about something, but I wasn’t listening.  I grabbed my crutches from outside and headed back towards the gray old house. It didn’t look nearly as imposing from the back—even with the black windows peering down like soulless eyes. I had a strange feeling of elation. I’d made a real discovery. No one wanted the little house, so I would claim it as mine.


Tallulah ate supper with me in the kitchen. Gerty said it saved her cooking again when she got home, but I suspected it was some sort of charm offensive to get me a friend before I started school. They needn’t have bothered. She mainly looked at her phone while we ate, which suited me just fine.

Gerty had said my aunt went to bed very early and had her supper in her room. I thought it very strange. Still, at least I wasn’t expected to be sociable around her. I was used to being a loner.

The food wasn’t half bad; a thick vegetable and indiscernible meat broth and some crusty bread.

“What were you two doing all that time?” Gert said, loading pots into a dishwasher. A mod-con that looked weirdly out of place.

“I was showing Becca the old building at the far side of the gardens,” Tallulah said, not meeting my eyes.

Gerty nodded in understanding. “Oh, the old orangery. Be careful. No one has used that for years. Should be pulled down really.”

“What’s an orangery? I kind of like it. I was thinking of fixing it up … if that’s OK?”

Gerty eyed me suspiciously. “Orangeries were popular in Victorian times for protecting fruit trees in winter; like a greenhouse or conservatory.” She continued to watch me while I ate. “I’ll have a word with Burt. See if he can make it safe for you.”

I smiled. “Thanks.” I was beginning to think her school ma’am exterior concealed a softer center.

A berry pudding followed that reminded me of Mom’s cobbler. Gerty called it a crumble and drowned it in custard. It was sweet and warming.

“I expect you’re tired,” Gerty said, clearing away our dishes.

I was and nodded. With the time difference and travelling, it had been an endless day. It occurred to me then that I hadn’t seen a single TV. For a moment I panicked at being completely cut off. Thankfully, I had data on my phone but I wasn’t sure how long that would last. “Do you have Wi-Fi?” I said, not holding out much hope.

“You must be joking,” Tallulah said, laughing.

Gerty shot her a scathing look. “I explained to your aunt that you would need a computer for your homework. She doesn’t much care for technology, you see. Has no use for it. But once I explained and your mother offered to pay for it, I believe it’s going to be installed on Monday.”

I was relieved and a little sad. I was glad I would have contact with the outside world, but Mom throwing money at something to keep me quiet was nothing new. She hadn’t even told me she’d had that kind of conversation. “Thanks.”

“You need to make a list of what you need. Tallulah will go with you into town tomorrow.”

I nodded. “I have a laptop, but I need to get a British phone.”

“Tomorrow then. And anything you may need for school.”

School. The thought of mixing with new kids filled me with dread. I knew the set-up was different in the UK. They didn’t have high schools. Eighteen year olds like me went to sixth form. The accident had pretty much obliterated my last school year, so I wasn’t sure how I would fit in. I might even have to repeat the year. I’d have to find out when I got there.

“You’ll need some smart clothes. It’s business dress at St Bart’s and they’re pretty anal about it,” Tallulah said.

I needed to buy a lot then. Baggy tops and jeans, mainly in black, had pretty much been my thing. It would take an overhaul for me to pass as remotely presentable. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that exactly. I’d just had no interest in clothes since Pete went. It was my way of grieving.

There were no dress codes at my old school, just cliques that you found yourself in without choosing. Mine was the skaters. Then Pete went and I was soon on my own in the cafeteria. I was just too quiet, too brooding, too morose for anyone to handle being around. I was a walking buzz kill. I wasn’t expecting a new school to be any different.

Suddenly, I felt overwhelmingly tired. I had Saturday and Sunday to ease myself in. Then, hopefully, I’d feel better about the whole thing. “I think I’ll take a shower and go to bed,” I said.

Tallulah laughed and shook her head.

I shot her a look.

“It’ll have to be a bath, I’m afraid,” Gerty said.

I wondered how on earth I’d wash my hair. It was literally the only thing I liked about myself. It was pure white, poker straight and shiny. I had my particular shampoo, and, with a little coconut oil and loads of straightening, I achieved my deathly pale look. It was no mean feat coming from Southern California.

Gerty must have read my thoughts because she went to one of her cupboards and came back with a large gray earthenware jug and plonked it on the table in front of me.

Tallulah watched, finding it all highly amusing. “I’m going,” she said, rising from her seat. “I’ll be back around lunchtime.”

Gerty tutted.

“It’s Saturday, Mum. It’s bad enough I have to baby sit—no offence,” she said, turning her head to me.

I just raised my eyebrows and she carried on regardless.

“So I at least want a lie-in.”

She picked up her bag and Gerty followed her out, “Make sure Burt gives you a lift. It’s too dark to ride your bike. Pick it up tomorrow.” Then, speaking in more hushed tones, she said something about making sure she came back at twelve to give me enough time to get what I needed. Then she was out of range.

Gerty came back and I thanked her for supper. Then, as I stood up, it occurred to me. “Do you stay here at night?” Otherwise I’d be left here with just an old lady in this big, creepy house.

Copyright T Stedman

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