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Silent, A Tense Encounter (2)

Two Years Ago, Gavin

Too much. Jace, Steve, Aidan howling like a child, and now the girl in the hood shouting at me too. I pretended I needed the toilet and climbed through the window space again, cutting my finger on the nail, conscious of the hoodie screaming more obscenities after me from inside the building.  It was pretty light outside, breezy but muggy. My heart was hammering in my chest.  I tiptoed round the back and climbed over a fence, tearing through hedges and branches on all fours, into a field, my jeans and trainers getting plastered with mud, my hands getting stung by nettles.  The cut finger had begun to bleed a bit.

I continued on, across the field, looking for cover, somewhere to hide. If Steve and Jace got me, that would be it. I decided to make a dash for it by a line of trees. Started running towards another fence, sliding in the mud several times, nearly tripping. Up and over. The other side, and more mud from the rain earlier, but at least I was safe now. Just five more minutes to go, and then Lyme House.  Not long at all. Just concentrate on getting back.  

'Oi, Gavin,' a voice called. 'Oi, oi, oi.' A pair of hands gripped me. Laughing, Jace jumped on my back and spun me around, again and again, piggyback style. 'Gotcha, mate.'

'We went the other way,' Steve said, looking delighted with himself. 'Fooled you.'

'Where do you think you're off to, Gavin?' Jace said, in his semi-posh accent.  

'Lyme House,' I said. One against two. Not a chance of winning.  

'But I haven't given you permission to go yet,' Jace said. 'You need my permission first. Those are the rules.'

Laughing still, he released me and turned to his mate Steve.  He nodded, and Steve jumped on me next, spinning me around in the opposite direction, piggyback style.

'So you broke the rules,' Steve said, in his Scouse accent. 'That calls for some pretty drastic measures. Where're you from, posh boy?'  

'London.'

Steve jumped off and caught me in another so-called friendly lock. 'Got any money on you, posh boy?'

'I left it in my room.'

'Where's that then?'

'Lyme House,' I said before I could stop myself.  Big mistake. I'd dug a trap for myself. The other students had gone to the evening performance at the Grand Theatre. If Jace and Steve insisted on coming back with me for the money, they could still jump me in my room at Lyme House and there would be no one around to help.  I wish I'd got the taxi to the Grand Theatre with Paul and watched the evening concert.

'Lyme House,' Steve said, fixing me with a glazed stare. 'That's when I used to live when I was seven. In the flat that burnt down. I saw an old woman walk through a wall there. She was dressed in black and she had no teeth.'  

'Well, she wouldn't have teeth, would she?' Jace said, laughing. 'She was dead.'

'Yeah, dead. No teeth, dead.'  Steve's stare got even more vacant, almost like he was watching it happen all over again, and he still had me in the lock.

'Lyme House's haunted,' Jace said. 'Everyone knows that. Fancy a walk there, Steve? See what the new layout's like?  See which ghosts are still about?'  

'In a bit, Jace. Search the pockets.'

While Jace went through my pockets, Steve kept me in a lock.  He continued to interrogate me.  'Why's your finger bleeding?'

'I cut it when I climbed through the window.'

'Why did you lie to us?'

'I didn't.'

'You said you were going to the toilet. That was a lie.'

'I wanted to get away from Philippa and Aidan.'

'Why?  I thought you fancied her.'

'She's…'

'Yeah, yeah, yeah. You fancy her but she doesn't fancy you. Her boyfriend's weird. That girl in the hoodie's a bit weird too. Latched on to Jace earlier, but he's not interested in her. Tasha's her name.' Steve released me from the lock. 'Found anything, Jace?'

'Phone. No money,' Jace said. He was about to hand it back to me when Steve snatched it.

'Mind if we keep the phone?'  Steve said.

'It's my phone. I need it.'

'You can afford another one. I bet your parents are loaded.'

'Yeah, but –

'Are you arguing with me, posh boy?'  

'No, I –

'Are you contradicting me? Starting something, hey?'

'No, but –

'Looking for trouble, hey?' he said, voice getting louder. 'Want some?'

'No, I –

'How about me and you sort this out here and now, hey?' Steve went on, aggressively.

'No,' I tried to say. 'I didn't mean –

'Too late,' he said, dancing about on the spot. 'Me and you on the lawn over there.'

'Hey, look,' I said. 'You can have the phone, Steve. Just leave it, okay?'  

'Yeah, leave it now, Steve,' Jace said.  

'Not leaving anything.' He ripped off his t-shirt and placed it on the ground, in the mud. Sheer muscle. Military tattoos everywhere. I didn't stand a chance.

'Oi, Steve,' Jace said. 'That's enough.'

But Steve ignored him. 'You think you're better than everyone else when you're not,' Steve, said, voice trembling with anger.  He pointed to a patch of grass just beyond the tree. 'Come on then.'  He handed my phone to Jace.

Suddenly, Jace looked round and swore. 'Shit, Swayze and his mates are coming. I think they've seen us. Leg it.'  

Steve turned and Jace dived on him, throwing my phone on the ground.  He got Steve in a lock. 'Disappear,' he shouted to me, kicking the phone in my direction.  'Go on, run.'
Exactly what I did. Picked up my phone and ran, sliding through mud, Steve's threats following.

***

Back at Lyme House, I went straight to my room and gulped down a tumbler of water to help combat the sweating.  I was shaking with anger.  Finger throbbing from the cut. I held it under a running tap. I wanted to punch a hole through the window.

Pack.  Get away from here. First train back to London.  I started to search online for travel information.  No trains until tomorrow.  No buses to the main train station in the evenings either.

Tomorrow morning then. I'd go early. Before dawn. I'd get a taxi into town and stay in a public place, to avoid any further encounters with Steve.  By tomorrow afternoon, I'd be back in London.  

Kicking off my trainers, I stretched out on the bed and stared up at the ceiling for ages. My mind was racing, my muscles aching from the run through mud.  My hands stung from the nettles in the field. The cut kept itching. I couldn't help reliving the encounter near the line of trees, wondering what would have happened to me if Jace hadn't intervened.  

I drifted off eventually, and then gentle tapping at the door woke me.

'Hello?  Gavin?  It's me, Lucy.'  A whisper, but I heard it. 'I need to speak to you. If you're in there, could you open up? It's important.'

She continued tapping on my door, whispering my name:

Gavin, Gavin, Gavin.

A tormenting whisper from an unstable girl.

I put the bedclothes over my head.  
Written by Lozzamus
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