Two days later, school started again. A new term. A new year. Allison was now at the top. Well, except for the sixth formers anyway. One more year and she’d be able to go to college, study music, or whatever. Though there was little she didn’t already know about the subject. Maybe something for fun, Media Studies always interested her. But music was fun. With these thoughts running through her head, she only noticed Kate waving at her when she was almost at the bus stop. She shook the wonderings from her mind and smiled, running the last few steps to Kate. A few more pupils waited at the stop, so it wouldn’t be a good idea to throw her arms around Kate and give her a big snog. Instead, she just said, ‘Hi.’ Kate smiled back and raised her eyebrows, ‘Come back for more?’ ‘Shh.’ Allison looked around to see if anyone had heard, and Kate laughed. Allison slapped her arm, ‘Don’t! We had a close call the other night, but Dad’s cool. I don’t want to be spreading rumours that could get back to Mum.’ ‘I know,’ Kate said, ‘I’m sorry. Has your dad said anything?’ ‘Yeah. He’ll keep shtum. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll die before allowing Mum to do anything too drastic.’ ‘Is she really that bad?’ ‘Remember when she went mental when I wanted a guitar?’ Kate nodded. Her mother had said a guitar was a boy’s instrument and that she had no business learning it; it would be better to learn the flute or piano. Her voice when Allison then mentioned wanting an electric guitar was enough to reduce Allison to tears. It wasn’t the denial of permission that affected her—even at the age of ten, Allison knew there were some things she couldn’t have—it was the fact her mother seemed so angry she even wanted one. Her dad had stepped in to defend Allison saying it wouldn’t cost much more than the bike they planned to get for her birthday, and if Allison wanted to learn to play, that was her own business. Her mum seemed to have little belief in Allison’s ability to continue with lessons which would make the purchase a waste of money. Her dad then reminded her that in a few years the bike would need to be replaced anyway, and if Allison kept with the guitar, then it would be a better investment. Throughout the conversation their voices grew louder, and Allison retreated to the other side of the room, crying. Her mother eventually gave in, but the repercussions of that event lasted for over a week, and Allison worried, more than once, that her parents may separate. She didn’t want to feel like that again. ‘Her views on this type of relationship have received some strong words. I simply don’t know what would happen if she finds out. Ideally I’d like never to know, but after school I can move out, and once she has no power over me, I’ll do what I like. Anyway, worked up the courage to tell your mum yet?’ Kate shook her head. ‘She won’t care either way, but I just don’t know what to say.’ ‘Well, hurry up about it will you,’ Allison said in a mock stern voice, ‘I want at least one place I can go where I don’t have to censor myself.’ Kate gave Allison a look as if to say, ‘I know.’ The bus pulled up, and they began to talk about what their lesson would be for the first day. When they arrived at school, that excitement of being in the final year returned, making the community college seem shiny and new, yet old and familiar. But when they reached the double entrance doors, Allison saw Mathew. And her good mood vanished as suddenly as it had come. Her heart pounded in her chest and she missed a step. Kate had also seen him, and took Allison’s arm, standing between her and the entrance. Kate walked Allison off into a different direction. Mathew strolled up to the doors, pushed them open and jumped in front of Allison. He was about Allison’s age and half a foot taller with dark hair extending to his ears. ‘Gooood morning,’ he said, greeting her as an old friend! Allison bowed her head, and looked at the floor, her hair hiding her face. Kate put her other arm around Allison to pull her away from him, but he ripped it away, ‘I said “Gooood morning”.’ He repeated the phrase with the exact intonation as he had before. Allison mumbled, and the boy leaned in. ‘Sorry, I didn’t hear that?’ ‘G’d m’ning,’ Allison said a little louder, still not looking up. ‘Okay, looks like we have some work to do.’ He took her chin and moved her head up to face his. Not his eyes. Anywhere but his eyes! He moved his head to where she looked, and she nearly lost her footing before looking away again. He chased her gaze around until Allison was forced to look straight into his eyes. A shock of frightened breath filled her lungs, and her vision blurred with the onset of tears. Those eyes! ‘Good. Now, I want you to speak up and speak clearly.’ His voice suddenly became calm and dangerous. ‘Good. Morning.’ Allison tried to move, but those eyes held her in his gaze. Deep in those pupils of his lay something utterly evil. Allison did not know what it was, but it strained to be freed; and if it ever escaped, the power of that being would consume the world in its awesome might. Fire and death would drown the human race until nothing remained but this creature standing on a pile of ash and bone. And Mathew stood at its right hand. The softness of a thumb wiping away her tears brought her back to reality. Mathew moved his face closer to hers, and whispered, ‘Now that’s what I’m looking for.’ His lips curled into a half smile and, letting go of her chin, he turned around. Allison fell into Kate’s arms, sobbing. But before she could process the situation, Mathew was thrown to the floor, blood pouring from his nose. Allison uncurled herself from Kate’s embrace and looked up at Mathew’s attacker, a girl with long wavy brown hair silhouetted by the sun shining an inch above her head like a halo.
Punching that boy had been immensely satisfying. Cat hated to be so violent, but the hold he had over Allison and the way he affected her was horrifying to see. Mathew looked up from the ground, wiping the blood from his nose and laughed. ‘Was wondering when you’d turn up.’ He pushed himself to his feet and walked over to Cat. She looked him in the eyes and held his gaze. ‘Try better next time.’ He walked off as if nothing happened and Cat was left with Allison and Kate. ‘Are you alright?’ Cat asked Allison, who had buried her head in Kate’s neck. She looked at Cat as if she wasn’t real. After what she had to put up with from him, it wouldn’t be a surprise that she’d meet any saviour with disbelief. Allison remained speechless, so Kate answered for her. ‘She will be. Mathew can be a bit … harsh at times. Sorry, but, who are you?’ ‘My name is Catíra. People tend to call me Cat.’ ‘Well … it’s … nice to meet you.’ Allison let go of Kate and wiped her eyes. Still breathing deeply, she seemed to regain a little composure and extended her hand. ‘H-hello,’ she croaked, ‘My name’s Allison, A-Allison Sands.’ Cat took her hand and Allison visibly looked better. She even smiled. ‘So,’ Kate said, clearly trying to make conversation, ‘You’re new?’ ‘Yes,’ Cat replied as they walked towards class, ‘I arrived down here a couple of days ago. Used to live in a gorgeous place called Elen, but my Father had me come down here on business reasons.’ Kate did most of the talking as the three of them proceeded to their classes; Allison was still shaken by her encounter with Mathew. If a mere schoolyard bully, especially one with Mathew’s background, could have such a hold over her, it was worrying if she could be up to the challenge ahead. That needed to be fixed. Throughout the lesson though, Allison appeared to brighten up. And by the next class, it was as if she had never met Mathew. When Allison queued up at the back of the classroom to get a Bunsen burner, Cat leaned in to Kate. ‘Is this common? Her encounters with this boy?’ Kate nodded. She looked over to where Allison stood in the queue for the burners, a longing in her eyes, ‘She’s a wonderful human being. She doesn’t deserve the likes of him or her…’ Kate quickly shut her mouth, but the shape of the word ‘Mother’ had already formed on her lips. ‘Have you told anyone about him?’ Kate shrugged. ‘He’s one of the best students in the school and is never in trouble. He never tortures her in front of anyone, so there’s no witnesses. He’s never even hit her, so there’s no bruises. No one’s going to believe us.’ ‘You’ve got to try,’ Cat urged her, ‘If it works, and she sees other people are on her side, it’ll make her stronger.’ ‘I’m on her side.’ Kate’s voice sounded a little hurt. ‘Yes, but you’re her…’ Cat swallowed the word she was about to say. She shouldn’t know about that. ‘…friend. If anyone has her support, it’ll be you.’ Kate looked down at her desk, then moved her eyes to look into Cat’s. ‘And you?’ Cat slowly nodded. When Allison came back with a Bunsen burner, she plugged it in and sat down with no sign she noticed the understanding in the other girls’ eyes. How Allison would cope without Kate was impossible to tell. The concept of soulmates did not exist outside of human fantasy, but Allison and Kate’s relationship came close. They were only sixteen, yet their love was obvious to anyone. And not in a teen romance form. Many teens would argue their own relationship is real, when it’s merely hormone overload, but in this case it truly was. Fate had bound them together, and would rip them apart.
Allison and Kate left their final class with Cat by their side. ‘Why don’t you come to practice tonight?’ Kate asked. Allison stared at Kate. How dare she invite someone else to watch her play half written material? Kate looked back to Allison and smiled in her irritating manner that suggested this was a good idea. Which it often would be. ‘That sounds great,’ Cat said. ‘Brilliant,’ Kate grinned, ‘Meet at Ali’s house at six?’ ‘Will do.’ Cat nodded and walked off to her bus. Allison watched Cat walk away and turned to Kate. ‘What did you do that for?’ ‘Because.’ Kate took her hand and gave it a comforting pat. ‘Oh don’t give me that cryptic bull,’ Allison said. ‘She’s nice.’ ‘Yeah,’ said a voice from behind them, ‘but she ain’t here now.’ They turned around and saw Mathew with his nose still bruised, but he showed no signs it hurt. Allison’s head dropped, and Kate put herself in the middle of the two. ‘Looks like your guardian angel has scarpered,’ Mathew said. A need to speak rose up inside Allison, but she suppressed it. It rose again, and she felt sick as if she would vomit out the words, but the need became too much and, as if an invisible force controlled her, she said, ‘That’s a bit rich coming from you.’ Both Kate and Mathew looked at her, wide-eyed. ‘What?’ Mathew looked confused, as if her words didn’t make sense. ‘W-well, I mean … you were the one who r-ran away after getting your nose bloodied.’ Her voice became stronger and she stood up straight with her head held higher, but still avoided his eyes. ‘And now she’s gone … you decide to—’ Mathew lunged for her, cutting off the sentence, and grabbed the back of her neck in a firm, but not painful grip. He pulled her closer to him, pushing Kate out the way. ‘I just know when to quit. You imply cowardliness? Trust me, if she hadn’t been so yellow as to catch me off guard, things would have gone differently. Now, if you ever speak out of turn like that again, you will pay.’ He gave her neck a squeeze, smiling when Allison winced, before walking off to his own bus. Allison rubbed her neck, and Kate put her arm around her shoulder, manoeuvring her onto the coach. They found their seats but sat silent as the bus started up and drove out the car park. Kate still had a look of shock on her face, and as the coach moved onto the main road, she turned to Allison. ‘Well done.’ ‘For what?’ Allison replied, meekness creeping back into her voice, ‘I’ve just made things worse. Now he’ll step it up. He was bad enough as it was. I mean, it wasn’t so bad really. Just taking what he gave, knowing that at the end of this year, I’ll be rid of him. But Katie,’ she turned her head towards Kate, ‘now I’m scared.’ Kate took her in her arms. ‘I think you’re wrong. You rebelled, and now he knows he doesn’t have you in his grasp as tightly as he would like. You need to fight back more.’ Allison leant on Kate’s shoulder and sighed. ‘I can’t.’ ‘Yes. You can. You did it today and you can do it tomorrow.’ Allison remained silent. Kate was right, but now she thought about it, how was she able to speak like that? Now it was over, she needed to hit a brick wall with her bare fist, just to take away the embarrassment caused by talking out of turn.
Cat pressed her finger on the doorbell. This was a bad idea. She should have met with Allison at the village hall. Why did she agree to meet— ‘Hi,’ she said as Daniel opened the door. ‘What are you doing here?’ Daniel said in a whisper, closing the door behind him. Cat closed her eyes, then opened them again and sighed. ‘I’m here because she has a right to know what she is.’ ‘I’ve told you, I’m handling it.’ ‘You’ve had sixteen years. What have you told her?’ Daniel’s head drooped. ‘Exactly. I’m here to gain her trust. And I don’t have sixteen years to do so.’ ‘Okay, okay. Just … let me handle this. Please?’ Cat nodded. ‘I will. But if I feel you are stalling, then I’ll do it.’ Daniel’s mouth tightened and he opened the door again. ‘Allison, friend of yours here.’ Allison came rushing down the stairs, with Kate following at a steadier pace. Dinner passed pleasantly enough. Emma rarely said a word, but Daniel feigned interest in Allison’s new friend, and kept the conversations flowing. Of course he couldn’t say anything at the dinner table, not with Emma, or even Kate, around. After the meal, Cat, Daniel, Allison, and Kate sat in the living room, while Emma had retreated to the conservatory where Cat saw her sewing floral patterns into a piece of blue cloth. ‘What’s your mother doing?’ Cat asked. Allison looked to the conservatory and then back again. ‘Oh, she’s just putting the finishing touches on her dress for Allen and Ellie’s wedding. Speaking of which, you need to see my dress.’ And before Cat could say anything, Allison dashed upstairs and the thudding sound of her moving about in her room came through the ceiling. Seconds later she came back holding a cream coloured dress. She held it against herself to show it off, a huge smile on her face. She looked to Kate, who beamed up at her, the affection in her eyes obvious. Cat looked to Daniel, and he looked back with a helpless expression. After Allison showed off her dress, she and Kate went upstairs to grab her equipment. ‘You know what’s going to happen, don’t you?’ Cat said to Daniel when the girls were out of earshot. Daniel nodded, ‘She’s going to have a hard enough time when Emma finds out. And when that happens, I’ll find it difficult to stay.’ He sighed. ‘Our marriage has been virtually non existent for years, and that would tip me over the edge.’ Cat hesitated, ‘Maybe … that’s for the best?’ Daniel whipped his head around, shocked, ‘What I mean is … you’d then be able to leave Emma, and take Allison with you.’ Daniel gave a bitter laugh. ‘You know that’s not how it works. Whatever happens, I won’t be there to stop it.’
Cat accompanied Allison and Kate to the village hall. Daniel was right. If even she couldn’t divert Fate, what would he be able to do? She had underestimated a parent’s love before; now she knew he would literally go to Hell and back for his daughter. And nothing could stop him from trying. Daniel’s fate was also clear to her now. Even with all her power, she felt so helpless. They were the first ones there and Allison began to set up the equipment. ‘Rob’s dad owns this hall,’ she said while extending a microphone stand. ‘He lets us use it for free as long as we keep it nice and tidy. It’s much easier to use than a cramped living room. I know from experience, trying to dance in a small space can give you a serious headache.’ A few minutes later, a boy came in with a bass guitar strapped to his back. He was short, not much taller than Cat, but he still seemed to fill the room with his presence. ‘Good evening, everyone,’ he said in a loud voice. ‘Hi,’ Allison said, ‘this is Cat. Cat, this is Rob.’ Rob looked over to Cat. ‘Woo hoo. Another groupie.’ ‘Rob!’ Allison shot him an exasperated look. He laughed and set his guitar down against a wall, ‘Nice to meet you anyway.’ His appearance paralleled that of many rock stars; his long straggly hair was tied back with a piece of string, and his black T-shirt and blue jeans had a particularly worn look about them. Despite his clothes and slightly offset eyes, he still appeared oddly attractive. ‘I’ve written your part for “Memory”,’ Allison said to Rob as she handed him a piece of paper with a series of hand written chords on it. Rob browsed it quickly, acting out the motions with his left hand before picking his guitar up and gently strumming away. Allison joined in a few seconds later with her part synching with Rob’s beat while waiting for the third member to turn up. After about ten more minutes, Chad appeared. A tall man, slightly older than the other two, shook Cat’s hand after being introduced by Allison. ‘Hello,’ he said once before setting up his drums. ‘Don’t worry,’ Allison whispered to Cat, ‘It’s nothing against you. He doesn’t talk much to anybody. Bangin’ drummer though.’ She looked at Cat and laughed. Cat smiled with her, but when Chad picked up his sticks, Cat understood. The sticks glided around the set, beats emanated from the skins at a speed that seemed counterintuitive to his movements. After Allison took a few minutes to explain the structure of the song to the other two, they began to perform it. Kate sat down on a chair to watch, twirling her hair, and Cat sat next to her. Allison danced around the room, her waist length hair flying around her, and she held the guitar in positions where it must have been nearly impossible to play. Yet she never missed a note. More than a musician, she was a performer. A few songs later, Cat began to see the variety of the band. Each member contributed songs and all had a chance at singing. Even the monosyllabic Chad whose effort turned out to be a surprisingly angry song. By the time they finished, it was almost eleven. Allison said goodbye to all the others—with a longing glance at Kate as she walked from the hall—leaving just her and Cat in the room. She picked up her guitar and notes and turned off the light as they left. After locking the door, they walked down the road to her house. They walked in silence for a moment. After the chattiness Allison had displayed all evening, this was odd. ‘Allison,’ Cat said. ‘Mmm?’ Allison answered without turning her head. ‘I need to talk to you about something.’ ‘Yes?’ ‘It’s … well … complicated, but you need to understand.’ ‘Okay,’ Allison said in a mildly curious tone. ‘There’s things you need to know about me. Things you may find hard to believe. And there’s things you need to know about yourself. Things you may find even harder to believe.’ ‘Okay,’ Allison said again, a more sceptical tone. ‘I knew who you were before we met today, and there’s a reason you felt an instant connection to me. I am a Seraph. You would know me as … an angel.’ Allison’s eyes widened. ‘I have been sent here to guide you and protect you. Fate has seen fit to gift you with powers few mortals have held, but in order for that to happen…’ Cat stopped and sighed at the blank look on Allison’s face. ‘Are you understanding me?’ Allison nodded slowly. ‘Yeah. Perfectly. You’re nuts.’ She turned and walked away. Cat ran up to her and grabbed her arm, turning her around. ‘You need to hear this,’ Cat pleaded. ‘I don’t need to hear anything from someone with such delusions of grandeur. An angel? Come on.’ She pulled her arm from Cat’s grasp. ‘If you’re going to pretend you’re something you’re not, at least try something more believable.’ ‘Fine I’ll prove it to you.’ ‘How? By making some bold claim that cherry picks facts to confirm the existence of God? Don’t bother. I’ve heard it all before.’ Cat shook her head. ‘I won’t.’ Cat closed her eyes. Slowly, light peeked through the strands of her hair, illuminating the dark street. She grew taller, until she filled the road, and her form changed into that of an older woman, a crown perched on her head, and her shoulders covered by a cloak pinned together with a symbol of a long lost civilisation. Six massive wings unfurled behind her back, coated in pure white feathers. And her dress turned to silver, flowing to the floor by Allison’s feet. In one hand she held a rod, topped with twelve spheres, and in her other, she held a sword that seemed to be made of solid flame. Her voice boomed through the ground, felt rather than heard. ‘Now, do you believe me?’ Allison’s mouth dropped open. She turned and ran back to her house.
Allison slammed her bedroom door shut. ‘What the hell was that?’ ‘That was an image of my former self.’ Allison whipped around and saw Cat sitting on the end of the bed. ‘One of my former selves anyway.’ ‘Get out of my house.’ Allison walked over to Cat and dragged her off the bed towards the door. ‘Ask your father,’ Cat said as Allison threw her out. ‘Why? What! No. Just leave will you?’ ‘I can’t. You have been chosen by the Fates themselves.’ ‘I make my own fate.’ Cat sighed. ‘To an extent that is true, but there are things you cannot control. You are Tarimai, immortal. The Fates have made it so. You have been called upon to fight the darkness for Heaven. The fate of the Twelve Worlds and beyond is at stake. You cannot deny your calling.’ ‘Yes I bloody well can.’ Allison slammed the door in Cat’s face. Allison went to bed, but she found it difficult to sleep. The idea of any form of deity was absurd in itself. The idea that she was to fight for him was beyond preposterous. But Cat turned into some giant woman. That happened. Or had it? If David Copperfield could make the Statue of Liberty disappear, then surely someone could make an illusion such as that. The image looked ghostly, as if it had been projected. It had looked real enough though, and they hadn’t mastered the art of fully three dimensional holographic projections yet. As far as she was aware anyway. The military were always up to something new; it wouldn’t be a surprise if they had already done that as a more effective form of camouflage or decoy. But why would anyone do that? Sure, Cat could just be nuts. But to use that kind of technology to trick her like that? Why? Perhaps she was rich and could afford such equipment for a mere prank. Allison finally fell asleep, and when she woke up, the night seemed like a mere dream.