“Nothing happened.” I said, eyebrows raised with bite for a bit of a verbal fight if this is what she wanted. “Nothing happened.” I repeated not wanting to spell it out that this ‘None of her business, nothing happened’ thing was how we’d got into this got out of the car and stomped off in a huff business in the first place.
“Look at you.”
“I Know. Durh. It was raining.”
“But you’re soaked through. Did you fall in a horse trough.”
“I fell over. In a ditch. It was full of water. Hardly surprising it was raining. Not very pleasant.”
Dad is on the phone. He is out of this. Not his problem Not a problem of his creation. He could have been phoning the police – letting them know I’d been found. I think he was, I had half an ear on this conversation.
“Aren’t you glad to see me? I might have been run over? Or kidnapped? Or worse?!”
“We were going to call the police.”
I knew from her lack of response that they had.
“You weren’t on t he road. You weren’t on the bus. I saw you get on the bus.”
“Not enough money. I left my bag in the car or hadn’t you noticed.”
“You always have that bag with you.”
“Not enough money.’ I said once more then repeated it ‘Not enough money.”
“I came looking for you.”
“Sure you did. I walked three miles along the A69 but you failed to picked me up – plenty tried but it wasn’t you.”
“I drove the road a dozen times.”
I had to get off the road. Man in white van pulling up to rescue damsel in distress … says his wife had suggested he wenet back. The wife? No sign of the wife. I wouldn’t have trusted the pair of them if they’d pulled up anyway. Never get into a car with a stranger you’ve always told me and thank god I didn’t. I might have been home hours before and then I would never had the most amazing experience of my life … “
This suggested too much and I wished I could back track, but it was too late. Her face said it all. She wanted to know more. I was not going to reveal all, of course so I had to come up with some plausible lie.
“Being alone. The sense that I was at last on my own …”
This did it.
“ I took a short cut, cross-country. Made right mess of my jacket pushing through the brambles.”
“Oh to hell with your school jacket.”
This from Mum was a double surprise a) swearing b) condoning the abuse of an expensive school jacket for the even more expense school that I’d been attending since YEAR 7.
We hug. At last we hug. Dad finishes his call and we hug. Helen hears the huggy sounds and gets away from the TV to join in. A good moment. A family moment. They’re be more of this i was sure. And mum cries. But dad doesn’t and neither does Helen. This wasn’t a super-flu fix, a big bond. It was acknowledgement of the break away that was imminent. Hay hay, I was getting ready to quit the nest.
“I’ll run you a bath.” Said Mum by way of an apology. Mum’s cure all – a bath. For some it is a cup of tea and a Wispa bar, for others it is taking the dog … or having a say over what you watch on TV.
For an evening’s escaped you may think that was enough but can you believe there was more to come.
“Can’t a girl have a comforting hug and soak on her own these days?’
There was a tap at the window – right next to the bath. This face appeared, squished against the glass, as comical as Mr Bean and just a s ridiculous. It was Freya, Herschn’s sister – the mad one, the thin one … I freaked. Who wouldn’t. Naked in a bath, up to the chin in Radox bubbles then a face presses itself against the bathroom window. I suppose I would have had it been Herschn. How Freya had climbed up there I don’t know, or tracked me to this room – was it my sent, were there more of them around the garden? It was a sash window that took some effort to release. Freya clambered in. You’d expect someone doing this to step over the bath but she got in it. AS if it was the bath she was interested in and not me. She giggled at the bubbles and sighed at the warmth of the water. I drew my feet up to my chest, partly to cover my boobs, and to protect myself. I wasn’t used to sharing a bath.
“Lovely,’ she said, in the waterspritey, fruity, wet way of theirs. A bit Gaelic or Welsh, I don’t know which.
“Is this where you sleep?” She asked.
“No. This is a bath. My bath. I’m getting washed. I’d prefer to be on my own. What do you want?”
Freya looked puzzled by this question. She understood the question but appeared to have forgotten her mission. Then she reached into her bag (not in he bath, covered in bubbles), and took out my Casio Scientific Calculator
I had the tap end. I never liked the tap end, control of the hot water or not, you can’t relax with the taps in your back and its hard to behave in a responsible fashion when it is you who gets the benefit of any hot water that is released.
Freya had no desire to leave. I guess she had followed Herschn here. Where was he? Looking through the window?
I got out of the bath.
Which prompter Freya to do a log roll. Now a log roll in a swimming pool is one thing, but in a bath it is like a carwash. It’s a lateral twist. This is what Freya did, she rolled and twisted her limbs lashing up the bubbles until they topped the bath and began to spill out onto the shag-pile carpet.
I would have told her to stop but it was too fascinating to behold. She twisted like an eel. The knock on the door had her stop in an instance.
“Yes?” I said, immediately sitting down on top of the loo seat to help with the lie I was about to tell.
“I’m on the loo, don’t come in.”
I had to say that otherwise she that is the Mother would have come banging right int. She did that, Mum, especially when she had something important to say, she’d come right in while I was in the bath, her excuse being the cup of tea she had brought me. She’d come right in and sit next to me on the loo seat while I was in the bath.
Not tonight she wasn’t. If she was feeling guilty and wanted to apologise it could wait. It would have to wait. I had a fishperson, water numphy creature in the bath.
“I’ll leave it here then.” She said.
I wondered about that. I went up to the door and listened for her going off. She did go off and there was a mug of tea at the door. I locked it. With my back turned Freya had got out of the bath and got under the shower. She had to have some idea of what she was doing as she managed to get it on. She let out a high pitched call that morphed into a series of descending arpeggios – she was singing! I went over and put my hand over her mouth.
“You’ll have to go now.” I said.
“You can’t stay here.” I added.
She looked rather hurt, but she hadn’t finished with her tricks.
I call it the Cheshire cat, what she did, because it was exactly as in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland.” She put on this cheeky grin then began to vanish from the feet up – legs, dress, jacket, top up the up to her neck until there were only eyes, the top of her nose & her chin – one last giggle and she disappeared. Or rather, turned invisible, as I knew exactly where she was.
O poked her with a finger in what I assumed to be her tummy and she giggled. I did it again and she laughed and I laughed too. I hadn’t noticed the door open.
Mum must have thought I had gone mental, creating this other-worldly giggle that had a built in echo.
Just as well Freya had vanished then, but I knew she was still these of course.
“And biscuits,” said Mum noticing that I\’d picked up the tea and put it by the sink.
“Thanks” I said, not being one to resist at Hobnob when offered.
“You’re going to have to do better than that if you want me to forgive you,” I said.
A bit cruel. But fare in the circumstances don’t you think?
Mum took me literally. She must have had something in the back of her mind. The following night we went to Roberto’s for Pizza then to the Theatre to see something the Royal Shakespeare Company were putting on. This in term, during the week, was unheard of as it was usually ‘practice you piano, do your homework, get an early night, tidy your room … ‘
Yawn, yawn, yawn …
Once she had gown I reached into the shower but Freya was not there.
The bathroom window opened and for a moment I could make her out against the street light and she was gone.
What a day. What a beginning.
But it wasn’t over yet. When I reached for my tea I found there were three translucent balls – like those thing you put in the bath. Bath balls. They did not smell of bath salts though, rather they were quite tasty and rather tempting. I thought they might be liqueurs. Freya had left them, as a present I think.
I put one in my mouth and oh boy – its outer casing quickly melted and this cool shot of something alcoholic and spicy like ginger filled my mouth and once Had swallowed it the same sensation filled my body. So this is what it felt to turn invisible. I should have known this is what they would do as I now, just as Frey had vanished before my eyes I did the same. Except for the towel. Freaky. Not knowing how long it would last I made a dash for my bedroom and bed. It felt very odd pulling on my PCs. I had the light on but it felt like getting dressed in the dark because I couldn’t see my foot or leg. I felt rather empty too – like a glass with nothing in it, if that makes sense.
I would have put something in my diary right then but Helen came to the door and I had to duck under the duvet – I didn’t want her seeing me, or rather not seeing me!
“You okay?” She asked and came and sat by the bed. She put her hand on my shoulder and I touched her fingers from under the duvet to acknowledge her presence.
:Mum’s really, really sorry you know,” She said.
“I know.” I said.
“She shouldn’t have sad all that stuff.”
“Well, she did.”
“What are you going to do?” She asked.
As if things had now changed. I guess they had, but I was still at school. I still lived at home. And I still had a boyfriend. Only now I had these odd new friends.
“Nothing.” I said. I’m going to sleep if you don’t mind.
And so I did, waking in the morning and immediately jumping out of bed to look in the mirror to check that I was there. I was. Phew.