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Saturday, 31 May 2014

Margaret's School Chapter 2

Very gradually, the long-awaited Easter holidays arrived, and girls at school had rushed about, handing out chocolate bunnies and chicks, handmade cards and little baskets filled with mini eggs. Portside had been empty for almost two days now, as everybody was out enjoying the spring air and holiday festivities.
Both Margaret and Evangeline were making the most of their time of rest (however much homework they had received beforehand) and planned to see each other before Margaret departed for America the next day. Evangeline knew she would be back in time for Easter, so they’d be able to visit each other then, but it saddened her that she would leave her so suddenly, with nobody but her awful sister to spend time with… So today — their last day together for two whole weeks!— Margaret would visit Evangeline’s house for the very first time.
Evangeline had visited her house before, many times; mostly they spent their time watching films and dressing Margaret’s younger brother up as fairy princesses.
Nervously, Margaret approached the peeling teal paint of the ancient door — her father hovering in the background, sat in his Ford Mondeo — turned the brass handle that was desperately in need of a good oiling, and was face to face with another solid oak door, this time, poppy red. As there was no doorbell, she gave the door a tentative knock as she didn’t want to disturb the paintwork even further. Nobody answered. She drew back her fist and pounded on the door, apparently deciding the paint was crummy enough already, making enough noise to arouse the dead. Still no sign of movement.
A dull creeping sensation crept into her chest despite the comfort of her father behind her. This house must have been built a little before the Victorian era. One of her favourite books was entitled: The Encyclopedia of Ghosts, Spirits, and the Paranormal, and from this book, she had gained the crazy idea that she had been sent back in time to another dimension, to help free a soul from limbo between life and death.
‘Nobody’s there, daddy,’ she called out behind her, looking to him for moral support. ‘I think I must be in another dimension.’
‘Oh, nothing.’
She wheeled back around to face the door as there was a clinking of a chain, and jumped almost two feet in the air when she saw what was waiting for her. A tiny scream escaped her lips and she clamped a hand over her mouth in horror, eyes bulging almost comically.
‘What?’ she yelped, checking all around for danger.
Shakily, she pointed a finger at Evangeline’s chest area. Splatters of blood soaked through the white starchy shirt, standing out against the alabaster in vivid, blazing red puddles. Tiny droplets were also sprayed down her shirt and finished up on her pair of shorts, excluding all areas of skin from its raging crimson.
‘You’re absolutely soaked in blood!’ Margaret cried, aghast, turning heel and backing away to her father in the car, who was equally as perplexed as she was. Fear punctuated each word.
‘Wait,’ Evangeline called after her, laughing, ‘It’s fake blood!’
Slowly she approached her friend. Her eyes were wider than saucers.
‘What? What did you say?’ she said weakly, clutching at the door frame.
‘I said it’s fake, Margaret. Fake blood.’
After waving a final goodbye to her father, Margaret allowed herself to be ushered inside, but still, she appeared stunned at the concept.
‘Why the heck would you do that to me?’
‘I’m so sorry… Honestly, I didn’t mean to frighten you!’
After swaying uneasily on the spot, Margaret came to her conclusion. ‘That’s alright, but you scared the living daylights out of me. May I ask why you’re wearing a shirt covered in fake blood?’
‘Oh, um, it was a Halloween costume I made last year, but I found it laying about in my wardrobe and I decided to wear it. It was the first thing I saw.’
Despite being an eccentric herself, Margaret still found it rather an odd — almost disturbing — thing to do, especially to somebody who was supposed to be her friend. Really, she needed some kind of stylist. Either that, or somebody to lock her up in a padded cell for frightening her like that. Gradually, her heart stopped palpitating and she could breathe.
Somebody’s footsteps echoed down the staircase. A short-stature, stout lady with a kindly face and auburn hair just like Evangeline’s appeared before them. She looked in her late forties but had a twinkling, engaging look in her turquoise eyes.
‘Hello, Margaret. It’s so very nice to meet you. Angie has told me a lot about you!’
Margaret greeted her in return rather shyly, and dared herself to meet the woman’s gaze. People have told her so often in the past that it seems like she’s lying when she doesn’t look people in the eye when she’s talking.
The girl never lies. Ever. She can’t lie, just like she can’t easily make eye contact; and not only because she promised her mother she wouldn’t.
Wanting to make the best, most genuine first impression she could on Evangeline’s mother, she gazed deeply into her eyes without blinking even once, not moving her gaze away for a second. It was remarkably hard… And in the end her eyes started to sting, but it was worth it in the end, for Evangeline’s mother seemed to like her.
‘Tell me if you want any snacks. We’re all vegetarian, but we could arrange something different for you, if you want?’
‘No, no, thank you. I’m fine, Ms Basset.’
‘It’s such a shame that Jemima isn’t in at the moment. She seemed eager to meet you.’
Evangeline moaned in the background, but Margaret was far too interested in what the mother was saying to pay her any mind.
‘Really? Why?’
‘To make fun of us, probably,’ Evangeline answered for her rather impatiently, tapping her foot on the tiles. ‘Come on, Margaret. I’ll show you around the house.’
Because her mother could talk for Britain, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and an entire chunk of South Africa, Evangeline found it best to get away while they still could. If not, they’d be there in the hallway for the next three hours. Easy.
Ms Basset seemed sorry to see them go, but soon went back to reading her fantasy novel. A guilty sensation crept into her daughter’s chest. Ignoring it, she led Margaret through to the first parlour.
The room was absolutely engulfed in crimson and held a very strong, musty smell of damp, mold, and ancient books. Moths gathered in corners, cubist paintings jeered on walls, holding eye contact wherever you would go, and there was a heavy atmosphere of decay. Everything was made of rotting velvet and withering mahogany wood, bathing almost everything a red-ish tint. Particles of dust wafted through the air like pollen, but twice as irritating. There was no central heating in this household - something that the guest deemed necessary for modern, comfortable living - but instead, a huge, old fashioned fireplace held centre stage, leading Margaret’s eye away from portraits that sent dread trickling down her spine, and replacing it with a warm, inviting feeling.
Samplers about burning in Hell for being sinful lined the adjacent wall. A lump rose in Margaret’s throat, for it seemed to her that she was a disgusting, abominable evildoer, and had committed almost every sin on the list!
Back into the main hallway, the walls had a bumpy texture and were painted a deep teal colour. Sometimes there would be patches of missing paint, and others a completely different, contrasting colour would be painted on top of the blue, giving one the impression that the person employed to do the painting was a five year-old child rather than a professional. The floor was cold, hard tiles in brick-red and black quadrilaterals (some were not exactly square, Margaret observed) — some tiles were missing, and would probably remain missing for years and years to come.
In the second living room, some absolutely nightmarish paintings were crammed into every nook and cranny; probably the work of some poor, disturbed child in an asylum somewhere. Slightly better than the previous room, this parlour was larger and more homely. No warnings of Hell and eternal torture were present, although, the girl did detect about fifty cobwebs dotted about the place. The curtains were a black, Halloween netting with a spider web design, and cast the world outside a gauzy shade of grey. Christmas decorations were hung up high on the chandelier, far beyond any of the Bassets’ reach, even on a ladder. A huge oak table that looked old enough for Jesus to have eaten his last supper on, was shoved into the corner of the room, and knitting baskets, laundry, towers of books, and a bowl of rancid fruit littered the surface. On the other wall, a dresser held decrepit porcelain and ivory, hand-me-downs from Bassets long ago.
The sheer chaos and confusion of the place made Margaret’s skin crawl with distress. Back at home, everything had its place, and if anything happened to grow legs and hop along out of its place, Margaret would fly into a rage at whoever she blamed for moving it… At this moment, Ms Basset came into the room, bringing the smell of rose hip tea along with her. The girl’s face brightened somewhat at the prospect of tea.
‘I’m really sorry about all the mess, Margaret,’ the woman apologised smilingly, ‘I bet your bedroom is spotless compared with this! Well, we tried to tidy up for you, didn’t we, Evangeline?’
Evangeline nodded, somewhat peevishly.
‘This is actually tidy for us!’ she continued with a laugh.
She gave a shiver. ‘I’ve only just realised how cold it is in here, Margaret. Are you alright with this, or should I put the fire on? I know it’s April, but it does get rather cold in here, doesn’t it, Evangeline? Yes... Would you like to come in the kitchen with me, I’ve prepared some tea, and thought it would be nice if you two sit outside in the sunshine to warm up.’
Both girls followed without even replying to the offer, for they both knew that Evangeline’s mother would make them tag along anyway. Inside the kitchen was sunny and pleasant, as it overlooked the garden. Chocolates bought cheaply from pound-stores were everywhere, and Evangeline’s mother showered the girls with them, thrusting the confectionery into their arms and instructing them to sit outside whilst the tea brewed.
Outside to the left, rabbit and guinea pig enclosures were located next to the vegetable patch. As they set foot into the garden, a streak of white whizzed past Margaret’s foot, his pompom tail waggling behind him as he hopped.
‘Sorry, that was Blue,’ Evangeline said in answer to Margaret’s ashen face (she had almost treaded on the poor thing!). ‘We usually let our pets roam free in the garden. Unless we know there is a fox or cat in the neighbourhood, that is…’
Letting her eyes move away from the rabbit and guinea pig hutches, it was the first time that Margaret saw just how big Evangeline’s garden really was. It stretched for meters and meters ahead, most of it wild and overgrown with all kinds of plants; nettles, thorns, different types of long grass… Really, it was a jungle more than anything. Bluebells, daffodils and crocuses gemmed the untamed green velvet carpet like clusters of fresh stars on a grassy sky.
Waltzing down to the furthest end of the plot, Evangeline stooped with her back to Margaret for a few moments, straightened, then came back grinning with a small posy of spring flowers. Not for the first time, the blonde girl felt her heart flutter gently like a butterfly’s wings, perhaps another sign of early adolescence. Trying to keep her hands from trembling, she accepted the flowers with a shy smile. Unlike in the past, a blush did not colour her cheeks, and she kept her head held high with an uncanny confidence.
‘Thank you. Your garden is so beautiful.’
Evangeline laughed mildly. ‘What? No it’s not. It’s a jungle and a dump, and we haven’t been gardening for about five years.’
Now she blushed. ‘Well, it’s more interesting than my garden. My garden is mostly patio, and when I go outside, there’s not even enough room to play. At least in your garden, you have enough room to roll about.’
Aware that she was starting to babble, like she always does whenever she’s nervous or uncomfortable, she stopped talking just in time for Ms Basset to invite them to sit down nearer the house.
Ms Basset bustled out with a silver tray supporting the most beautiful tea set Margaret had ever seen. It was bone white with Wedgwood Old Country roses painted delicately onto all the individual tea cups, saucers, milk jugs, sugar bowls, and of course the ornately decorated teapot itself. The set was reminiscent of an old English country garden from the Victorian days, and was trimmed with glistening, shining 23 carat gold.
‘Evangeline told me you have an eye for pretty things; especially chinaware and teapots,’ Ms Basset commented, laying out the tea tray carefully. ‘So I dug this out of the attic. It was my mother’s treasured set, and she gave it to me when she passed away.’
‘It’s so lovely,’ Margaret said with wide eyes, happy that someone would make so much effort for her arrival.
She sat back and watched quietly as the mother poured out the rose-hip tea into the delicate pieces of porcelain. Then she added two big splashes of milk, three cubes of sugar, and stirred until the liquid turned a milky hazelnut colour. Whilst the girls were waiting for the tea to cool and Evangeline’s mother had retreated back indoors, they talked quietly about nonsensical things, such as their fantasy world made of chocolate, fictional characters, and whom they were going to marry when they grew up.
When it was certain Ms Basset wasn’t hanging around, they began to talk in hushed voices about things that would get them into trouble at school. The conversation had quickly turned from future hopes for marriages into sex, a taboo subject in Margaret’s books. Just the word “sex” would send a dusty burst of bright pink shame to her cheeks, and send a feeling of deep fright and despair into the pit of her stomach. Secretly she longed the conversation would turn to something — anything — else, but she kept at it for Evangeline’s amusement.
Sex was what most of the girls at Portside Academy talked of in loud, rowdy voices in the form rooms and corridors. They talked about it shamelessly, proudly, even, but the mere mention of it reduced Margaret to pieces... She was not interested in sex. She was not interested in boys. This difference between her peers and herself was a source of humiliation that she tried so hard to dissociate herself from. And now, trust Evangeline to bring it up…
Instead of growing angry like she felt she would, she simply asked Evangeline to change the subject in a calm, cool hauteur. In a way, she was proud of herself for dealing with it so well. Previously, she would have screamed, cried, and said awful, terrible, out-of-character things on the subject of sex.
After sipping their tea for a while, bouncing about on the trampoline and generally rough-housing and horsing around in the garden, they retreated indoors to play with Evangeline’s Harry Potter figures. The day was spent in a cheerful, carefree manner, with only a few minor disagreements littered throughout. That night, Margaret went home stuffed full of cake, chocolates and tea, and content that she could safely go to America without the fear that Evangeline would lose interest and abandon her later on, when returning.

Margaret’s trip to Florida was spent in a kind of dream. She knew it wouldn’t last forever, but at the same time it came as a shock that the holiday had ended so soon. Whilst in America she had visited the famous theme parks, been on a road trip around Florida from Orlando to Fort Launderdale, Fort Myers, and the Key West islands. Tropical music played on loop around and around her head, and the memories of the sunshine had left a mark on her body; her hair was about two shades a lighter blonde — almost white — and her skin was paler than ever. It was a known fact that Margaret Baron became pastier in summer climates.
On the holiday she had bought a beautiful pink and off-white striped fabric with a chain of roses along each cream stripe. Now, she was wearing the dress she had made with it, complete with petticoat and short-sleeved white blouse.
As their getaway had taken place at the start of the Easter holidays, the girl still had time to enjoy one extra week of holiday. Of course, she had a massive heap of homework to get through, as well as the revision for an upcoming Spanish test, but putting all that aside, she called up Evangeline and told her to come round to play.
Throughout the holiday, apart from the amount of homework and revision she was worrying about, Evangeline had played on her mind a lot. She didn’t know why that girl was always in her head, but the sneaking suspicion that she had died somehow whilst she was away was always in the back of her mind.
Evangeline was much too skinny, and even her parents had started observing the girl from afar. Needless to say, Margaret was worried about her during her trip away. On the outside, the girl could be described as calm and gentle in manner, with a down-to-earth sort of personality — sometimes even stoical — but to Margaret, she was constantly in danger, a threat to herself, and an accident waiting to happen. It was silly, really it was, but Margaret felt terrified for her each and every day, especially on days where she wasn’t around to keep an eye on her.
Sometimes the deeply sad and slightly confused look in Evangeline’s eyes made her come very close to melting, and it hurt to think that one day she could just suddenly vanish like a puff of smoke. This one time, a girl in Margaret’s form, who was a friend from primary school, tricked her into thinking that Evangeline had run away from home and nobody could find her… Truth be told, she was simply absent from school with influenza, but in Margaret’s mind, she was far, far away, either on the Isle of Mann (where Evangeline was born), or kidnapped by her tyrannical father. Nobody could calm her neurotic apprehension for days, and twice she insisted upon her father going out in the car for a scan around Southport, just to see if they could find her. When Evangeline did arrive back in class, she flung herself at her and cried during registration, telling her never to leave again. The stares they got from the other classmates were quite embarrassing.
A quick chorus of It’s a Small World told her that Evangeline was at the door. Dancing her way down two flights of stairs, she flung open the door to see Evangeline standing there with a massive bag of chocolates.
‘Hello, did you enjoy your holiday?’ Evangeline asked mildly. She had never been abroad before.
‘Yes, I did, thank you for asking,’ said Margaret, her eyes trained fixedly on the confectionery in the girl’s hands. Her stomach growled, and if Evangeline hadn’t stepped in soon enough, she probably would have started to drool, as well.
‘Oh, this is for you, from mum, Jemima and myself,’ Evangeline said, noticing the hungry look in her eyes. Of course her mother would normally oblige any of Evangeline’s friends with the gift of chocolate — tradition is tradition of course, and anybody who went to their house too often would put on a fair bit of weight! — however, it wasn’t like Jemima to have anything to do with her sibling’s friends, so there was also a small fragment of suspicion in her eyes.
‘Thank you,’ she said excitedly, tearing at the plastic bag with her fingernails.
Mrs Baron stepped into the hall with Margaret’s baby brother in her arms. ‘Why don’t you come inside, Evangeline?’
Evangeline hesitated visibly. ‘Wait a second… My mother will be arriving soon…’ Anybody could see she was hiding a grin.
‘Why are we—’ Margaret began, but she stopped mid-sentence, her mouth hanging open in a dopey, sentimental smile, and hands clasped to her chest in girlish excitement.
‘There’s someone here who wants to meet you!’ Ms Basset called out loud enough for the whole road to hear as she cycled down into the driveway. Inside the basket of her bicycle was a small bundle of white fluff, wriggling and writhing to break free.
The wicker basket held a small poodle puppy with its paws up against the basket, its tongue hanging out of its mouth like a big pink slice of ham. His big brown eyes were lively and sparkling with mischievous excitement; the blue sky above reflected into them like twin glistening mirrors. When the woman jumped down off her bike and joined them with the puppy in her arms, Margaret let out a squeal.
‘He’s so beautiful, Evangeline! What an adorable puppy!’
‘He’s called Theo. We got him a couple of days ago whilst you were away,’ Evangeline’s mother said, petting his tiny head. ‘Would you like to hold him?’
‘Yes, please,’ she said happily, reaching out her arms.
Theo licked at her face and struggled to get back to Ms Basset. Suddenly his nose twitched, and turning around, everyone could see why. Indy had trotted into view; about two times the size of Theo, and twice as furry. He rose on his hind legs to get a better view of the puppy, and threw back his head to emit a chilling howl that sent a shudder through Margaret, and caused her baby brother to start bawling. Instead of being frightened, the little puppy started jumping about to be released, yapping relentlessly and wagging his tale furiously.
When he was let down to explore, he went to Indy with his tail between his legs and cautiously sniffed at Indy’s nose. Indy sniffed back, tentatively of course, then deciding he wasn’t exactly fond of the pup, his legs danced backwards on the polished wood flooring until he was hidden behind Margaret’s legs. A low growl escaped his throat.
‘Oh, Indy, don’t be scared of the little puppy-wuppy!’ Margaret cooed in her soppy, sentimental voice, bending down to tickle him behind his ears. It was custom for her to use baby talk whenever she was speaking to her dogs.
After deciding it would be futile to keep on provoking the two canines to become best buddies, Ms Basset scooped the poodle up into her arms and plonked him back into the basket. She mounted her bike, told Evangeline rather wanly not to be naughty, and cycled off into the distance.
‘What an adorable puppy!’ Margaret parroted again, gazing off to where the woman had vanished. ‘Shame that Indy didn’t really seem to like him. They could have been good friends.’
‘Or boyfriends,’ Evangeline added.
Margaret thought that a rather strange thing to say, seeing as it was about dogs, but she obliged her friend anyway with a dopey nod of her head.
As it was a beautiful, sunny day with not a cloud in the sky, the pair drifted through the French windows and out into the garden to enjoy the early May sunshine. Birds hummed and tweeted in the trees, pigeons cooed softly, and bees made faint buzzing noises; all adding to the gentle laziness of the day. In the background, the faint purring of a lawn-mower could be heard, and the smell of freshly mown grass drifted over from the west. With the sky a deep ultramarine and the ground a lush, slightly dewy green, trimmed into perfection by the gardeners, the two found themselves drawn to the shade of the huge red parasol hung above the table. Under the parasol it was refreshingly cool and cast everything under its shade a slightly crimson tint.
Today, both girls were wearing white. Naturally (it was summer) Evangeline would wear this colour for an entire six months, but it came as a small surprise to see Margaret clad from head to toe in alabaster. With her golden blond hair and wide blue eyes, she looked like an angel, Evangeline found; but under the shade of the umbrella, her clothes were cast a soft, gentle shade of pink that matched the sheen of her lips.
Those lips stretched into an endearing smile that almost made Evangeline choke on the tea she was drinking. ‘So, did you notice that I dressed similar to you today? I really missed you a lot whilst in America, you know.’
‘Yes, it really suits you,’ the red-haired girl replied without a second thought, her mind already elsewhere, and her eyes glued to the tea set that Margaret had prepared. It was a Japanese set complete with a scene of cherry blossoms by the mountains, forests and river. Really it was only Margaret that enjoyed drinking tea (the only reason Evangeline prepared it at her house was to please her friend) but she had already downed two tea cups full without even realising it. Somewhat, she seemed distracted.
‘What is the matter?’ Margaret asked, sensing that something was amiss.
The thought that Evangeline had found another friend she liked better whilst Margaret was away filled her mind. A blinding jealousy seared through her chest. It flared in front of her eyes in blazing red strokes. Her mind went completely blank with rage. So, the girl thought, her conscience raging in a bloodcurdling scream, I can never leave her again.
Evangeline didn’t say anything, just carefully watched Margaret’s vacant face in slight alarm. It was although she was having a kind of seizure that made her go completely frozen, she remembered thinking at the time.
Without warning, Margaret’s stiffened hand upset her own tea cup. Scalding hot, blistering Earl Grey tea splattered across her hand like the furious red of blood. She flung herself to her feet and shrieked, almost although she were letting the angry voice from within escape outward. The peace was disrupted. Birds flew into the distant trees for safety and the bees decided that the roses in another, preferably further away garden, would be sweeter.
More citrus-tasting liquid trickled out of the shattered cup until it had drenched the bodice and skirt of Margaret’s dress a miserable, stained, off-white colour, not unlike the shade of ancient library books. When the steady stream was quenched, small, dangerously hot droplets dripped down onto her milky bare legs; raw red spots now covered the smooth texture of her thighs.
Extreme. That was the only word that sprung to Evangeline’s mind when she thought of Margaret on that day. If she had any common sense, she would have realised that Margaret on That Day would be exactly like Margaret on any old bad day, Monday to Sunday, holidays included.
The screaming girl covered in tea and tea leaves jumped up and down waving her arms, half in blind rage, half in searing pain. Her crumpled face was as scarlet as the parasol. Tears poured from the corners of her scrunched up eyes. Snot dripped from her nose and into her wide-open mouth. It was unlike anything Evangeline had seen before, except for the times when she was a very young toddler and her father was having a temper tantrum over money with her mother.
Margaret was like a baby. A big, extremely hurt baby. When did she get so ugly?
After the tears had stopped about five minutes later, Margaret stopped jumping about and screaming, and simply sat back down in her chair with a stunned expression. She picked up her tea cup carefully, so as not to cut her fingers on the broken porcelain, and placed them on her tea-flooded saucer. When everything was back in order — except for the fact that the front of her dress was soaking wet and she had some rather painful burns — the girl began to smile again, as cheerfully and contentedly as the summer’s day before it was disrupted. It was although those painful five minutes had never happened…
Taking a deep breath to steel herself, Evangeline announced, quieter than ever, that Margaret should get her mother to check her burns; they looked rather serious. But Margaret refused. The two didn’t really say much after that.
A few minutes later, Margaret’s mouth formed the word ‘Sorry,’ and although Evangeline hadn’t actually heard it, she saw it and nodded in acknowledgement.
‘That’s alright,’ she said softly, ‘but I really think you should at least put some water on your hands and legs. That’s where it looks like it hurt the most.’
‘I’m fine,’ Margaret replied sulkily, like a small child put in the “naughty corner” at school. ‘I’m just sorry for scaring you.’
‘You didn’t scare me,’ Evangeline lied speedily, her heart clenching for a moment when she thought the whole episode would escalate again — really, the shrieking was enough to disturb even the steeliest of nerves! — ‘I just worry that you’ve been hurt.’
‘It does hurt,’ Margaret muttered childishly, although the idea of admitting that the burns hurt was painful itself. ‘But mummy will just shout at me because I’ve frightened a guest…’
‘Never mind,’ she said hurriedly, seeing Margaret’s eyes flood with unshed tears. Carefully she took the delicate yet tenderly raw hand into her own and examined it. Deciding the patient would live, she added: ‘How about we get started on that chocolate I gave you?’
Cheering up slightly at the idea of chocolate — which was, in Margaret’s mind, quintessential for every living, breathing female to stay alive; the fuel of all women, if you like — she tore off the multicoloured foil of the Belgian chocolate and sucked on a rabbit’s creamy ear.

It was a blazing summer. Margaret tossed and turned in her bed, strands of blonde all over her face and fanned out across her pillow. Her silky purple bed sheets were a mess, half off the bed, and half on the bed, and most of her cushions and cuddly toys were carelessly laying about the floor.
As her bedroom was located in the loft conversion in the attic, all the elements could get through; wind, rain, freezing cold, extremely uncomfortable heat, mugginess, annoyingly bright light, and sometimes even snow! Really, Margaret wondered why she had wheedled her way into swapping bedrooms with her parents… It was very unpleasant at the best of times…
The digital alarm clock on her bedside table read 5:38 and daylight was already streaming through the useless pink blinds and filtering out into the attic room. Small and feathered creatures were already revelling in the early morning sunshine, and by the sounds of it, they were having their own little opera show within the nooks and crannies of Margaret’s roof.
However, it was not them that had woken her up. She had sat bolt upright in bed, surrounded by teddy bears, pink monkeys and Hedwig the owl, all of which seemed to loom over her like the shadows from her bad dreams. Night after night, ever since the incident in the garden, nightmares had been a burden on her mind.
Sometimes when she woke up, the nightmares would continue even in her conscious state. This one time she had woken from a dream about a dead Evangeline, and when she lay down about to plunge back into the dreamless again, a voice directed from the walk in wardrobe had spoken to her. She had never heard the man’s voice before, but what he had said had chilled her to the bone: “I’m watching you.” Accompanying that voice was the deafeningly loud ticking of a clock. Margaret had no clock that made a noise, as they drove her crazy, and she couldn’t read analog clocks anyway...
Who he was, or what he was, Margaret had no idea. The next day at school she had told Evangeline of her experience to be assured that Evangeline thought it could be a ghost; her own house had plenty of ghosts. Her mother had appeared hushed when she spoke of the voices that spoke to her after dreams. The only explanation for it, she had said, was that Margaret was still asleep when she heard the voice, and that it was only a dream; dream’s can’t hurt you!
Today was different, thankfully. When she had awoken, nobody’s voice dared to speak to her and only the soothing twittering of birds answered her sleepy moan. Only the fragments of a past dream kept her from falling back to sleep again. It wasn’t a bad dream, but at the same time, it really wasn’t a good dream, either. She couldn’t say it was scary, but she knew it could be classified as disturbing; and as usual, the dream had been about Evangeline.
Faces had been blurred so that the people looked like heavily distorted mannequins, but there was no mistaking that waist-length strawberry blonde hair and softly spoken voice. Evangeline had looked older, perhaps around 20, and Margaret was about 21. They had both appeared more curvaceous, voluptuous even, and both were fresh-faced and energetic in their youth. Touchable, smooth, doll-like skin showed all as the water caressed their touching bodies.
The dream had been so horribly vivid that the girl could still feel the heat of the water against her skin. Yet, there was no doubt at all that the girl Margaret was doing The Unmentionable with was Evangeline…
Margaret propped herself up on the pillows and fell into a pensive state. A shameful blush shadowed her cheeks as she ran her fingers across the places she saw Evangeline touch her in the dream. These particular thoughts had never come to her in the daytime as she would sit with her friend in lessons, eat lunch with her in the fields, or play with her in the gardens; but the thought of making love to Evangeline was wretchedly commonplace in the night; in her dreams.
She found it embarrassing and wrong that she could go throughout the day in a completely sweet, platonic kind of state with the girl, but when the sun went down, all she could think and dream of, was of what Margaret loathed the most. Sex. The thought repulsed and confused her in her young age, but the experiences in her dreams were far from what plagued her mind in the day; this provided some source of comfort to acknowledge this (after all, she was twelve — she wasn’t dirty, or a pervert — simply going through the process of puberty), but really, the idea that she could have sex with someone like Evangeline haunted her.
No matter how open-minded Margaret had proved herself to be in matters of gender and love — she would always tell her father off for making remarks about homosexuals that were meant to be humorous, but really weren’t — but now she could tell where to draw the line. At the age she was, the girl had no interest in love and relationships, whether they’re with boys or girls; but now she found herself tossing and turning over the repetitive thought of either a deathly thin, dying-on-her-death-bed Evangeline, or an erotically beautiful, older Evangeline. It was confusing. It was frightening. But it was also life… Margaret kept these not-so-innocent thoughts to herself and told nobody of her secrets. If anybody would find out, she would just die of shame and humiliation. She didn’t even dare write it in her diary the next day.
Turning over and closing her eyes, the blonde decided to ignore what she had just seen and felt, no matter how hard it would be, and just fall back asleep. Besides, there was another two hours before she would be awoken by the sounds of classical music coming from her alarm clock. A lack of sleep would make her very grumpy the next day, and when Margaret is grumpy (rather a rare thing, thankfully) the whole world suffers her wrath. Putting the thoughts of Evangeline behind her, she soon fell into a state of unconsciousness.
About half an hour later, another scene played out in the girl’s dreaming mind. Everything was completely dark. Pitch black. Nothing could be seen, and Margaret was struggling to see her hand in front of her face. Unexpectedly, a pin prick of light came into vision, high up above her head. It got bigger and bigger, gaining Margaret’s complete fixation, until a girl slowly came falling out of the light.
Later, Margaret would realise that the beaming light was actually a hole, like in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Shocked to the point of feeling faint, she rushed towards the falling girl to catch her in her arms, preventing her from a plunge into never ending depths of darkness in the tunnel. The girl had barely came within centimetres of her before exploding into a rainbow of roses within her outstretched arms.
Her mouth hung agape as the English roses slowly floated into her hands and down onto her head, sinking into the surrounding darkness underneath and around her. Instead of Evangeline, she had caught thorny roses in every shade available; pink, yellow, white, red and orange. The concept both stunned her and sent a shiver down her spine. Passing roses shed a huge flurry of petals in all directions, swirling in a violent wind that Margaret couldn’t even feel. Thorns scraped at the skin on her face and hands, sending a shocking red against the deathly white of her aghast profile.
The only words she could manage were ‘Don’t leave me, Evangeline. I’m scared!’ before she broke down into a sobbing heap of hysterics. Soon she would join Evangeline in the murky, inky depths of whatever Hell awaited them, vanishing far below the surface of the ground like a hanging victim plunging below the disappearing platform.

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