Waist length blonde hair spread beneath her as she lay on her bed staring at the ceiling through blue eyes. Her red lips formed a smile as she thought, yet again, about tonight. Made only yesterday by both of them, it was a rash decision, but they believed now to be the right time. And today to be the right day. Today was Allison’s sixteenth birthday. She inherited the largest room after Lizzie, her older sister, moved out, and in the year since, she had furnished it to her liking. Her bed lay beneath a double window bordered by dark blue curtains, with one window open slightly to let in a little fresh air. To the right of her, next to the open door, a set of bookshelves hung on the wall filled with books and DVDs. To her left, her desk held a computer and printer, and next to that a small portable television sat on a cabinet containing a DVD player and a PlayStation. On a wardrobe embedded into the wall opposite her, and decorated with a large Lord of the Rings poster, was propped an electric guitar. Light blue walls surrounded the room wearing a couple more posters, and she looked at one to take her mind off the waiting. To her annoyance, the clock by the computer read only eight o’clock; still half an hour to go. She sprung off her bed and, again, attempted to occupy her mind by pacing the room. She turned on the television; and turned it off again a couple of minutes later. She turned the radio on, but didn’t hear it. She strolled around the room for a few more moments, wringing her hands or cupping them over her mouth and nose to test if her breath was okay. For the tenth time that evening, she pulled open the wardrobe and admired herself in the full length mirror nailed to the inside of the door. Was she gorgeous enough? The question was redundant, but she couldn’t help asking it. Her white blouse hugged her thin figure and her long black skirt made her appear taller than the five foot three she was. She wore only plain stud earrings with a small diamond in each, but no other jewellery. As she peered into her face and wondered whether she should have put more make-up on, her father, Daniel, shouted from the bottom of the stairs. ‘Allison, we’re going now,’ he said. One more look at herself. Everything was good enough, so she headed out her door and down the stairs two at a time. She reached the bottom and saw her father, a middle aged man with salt and pepper hair cut short. His round face beamed at her as she threw her arms around him. They held each other for a few seconds, and when they let go he stroked her hair with his three fingered left hand. One of Allison’s earliest memories was of asking him what happened, but all he said was that he lost it in an industrial accident. He accompanied the story with a light remark about always following the safety instructions. Daniel opened the door and Allison glanced at her mother, Emma. She wasn’t much taller than Allison, but she still dominated the small hallway. Her eyes showed no warmth towards her daughter, and as she put on her coat she kissed Allison on her cheek and said goodbye; though the display contained no affection. Emma walked out the door and strolled ahead of Daniel towards the car. ‘Have a good night,’ her father said as he shrugged into his coat, ‘Be good. I don’t want to come back and find your mates have trashed the place, okay?’ ‘I’ll tell Chad to calm down then,’ Allison chuckled, ‘Nah, I’m only having one person around.’ Daniel peered at her through squinted eyes, ‘Only one? It isn’t Rob is it?’ Allison grinned, ‘Can’t say.’ She pushed him towards the open door, ‘Now go, Mum’s gonna get annoyed.’ ‘Okay okay. Just … be careful.’ ‘Yes, Daddy.’ Allison rolled her eyes and closed the door.
Finally! Allison tried to resist the huge grin forming, but her lips reluctantly curled into a smile anyway. She let out a sudden high-pitched giggle, but clapped her hands over her mouth on hearing herself make that horrible girly sound. The grin vanished from her face. ‘Don’t ever do that again, Alli,’ she muttered through her hands. She took a deep breath and shook the excitement away as she made her way to the wooden drinks cabinet in the dining room. She opened the chipped doors, worn away from years of use, and picked out a bottle of wine. Allison turned the bottle in her hands, running the embossed lettering of the label through her shaking fingers. The name of the drink was a bunch of French words she didn’t understand, and the label described it as having a floral aroma and fruity flavour, perfect with beef. She didn’t like beef and she could guarantee the only ‘aroma’ she would get was wine. And wine was nice. She picked up two glasses and made her way to the living room. She flopped onto the pink sofa and opened the bottle. It couldn’t be a fine wine, she thought, it only had a normal bottle cap. Good wine needed a corkscrew to open, but her father had never been a connoisseur anyway. She poured herself a glass and tasted it. She shrugged. Wine. Tucking her feet beneath her, Allison stared at the antique style clock on the fake mantelpiece. It said twenty-five past eight. Two more minutes ticked by, but they seemed to last so long, she thought the clock was slow. She jumped up and ran to the curtains, pulling them back to search the street. All she saw was the cul-de-sac she lived in populated only by a man walking a dog, and a car pulling into a driveway. She sighed and went back to sit down, watching the second hand tick away. Ten minutes and half a glass of wine later, a knock sounded from the door. Allison’s insides fluttered. ‘Yesss,’ she said under her breath. She took one last glance at herself in the reflection of the television screen, and with wobbly legs she stood up to make her way to the front door. The frosted glass in the door showed a vague humanoid shape, and another smile forced its way to her lips. She took one last breath and grasped the door handle. As she opened the door, she fought the stupid grin that refused to leave. In the doorway stood Kate. Medium length dark blonde hair hung loose about her shoulders, and she wore a long white fur-lined coat, open to show a red top and black trousers. ‘Hello.’ Allison leant on the doorframe in what she hoped was a casual manner. Kate smiled at Allison, a row of perfect white teeth and the twinkle of excitement in her eyes. Allison waited for a moment until she could not control herself any more, and she grabbed Kate’s top, pulling her across the threshold. Kate let out an ‘Oop’ of surprise, but did not resist as Allison pulled her against the wall and planted a kiss on her lips. They parted for a second, eyes closed, but Kate, not content with the one, leant in for more. When they stopped, Kate remained close. ‘Happy birthday,’ she said. Allison closed the door with one hand, her other arm still around Kate’s waist, and backed into the living room.
Allison spent the next two hours curled up in Kate’s arms watching some film she couldn’t remember. She had been too busy staring at Kate’s hand and her perfectly polished nails, or running her fingers through Kate’s wonderful straight hair. As the credits rolled, with an empty bottle of wine sat on the coffee table, Allison nudged Kate. ‘Well. That was good,’ Kate said, yawning, ‘What I saw of it anyway.’ ‘You didn’t fall asleep?’ ‘Maybe.’ Kate’s eyes moved to the empty glasses. ‘I blame it on the wine.’ ‘I hope you’re awake now.’ Allison turned to face Kate. ‘Because the best bit’s still to come.’ Allison pushed Kate upright and stood up off the sofa while pulling Kate with her. Kate stood with a small amount of visible effort, and Allison guided her upstairs. She knew Kate felt her excited nervousness through their clutched hands, in much the same way as she knew how Kate felt. The near telepathic connection she shared with the other girl almost made her giggle with delight. They entered Allison’s bedroom and Kate backed into it without taking her eyes off Allison. Allison jumped into her arms and they kissed again. When they parted Kate held out a small, neatly wrapped present. ‘Happy birthday.’ Allison smiled and took the gift, looking into Kate’s deep blue eyes. ‘Thank you.’ ‘I thought that, because it’s your sixteenth and all…’ Kate shrugged. ‘It’s nothing really.’ ‘It’s everything. It’s from you.’ Carefully unwrapping the pink foil, Allison discovered a blue box within and opened it. Inside, on blue silk, lay an oval shaped golden locket with a flowing motif embossed on the surface. She lifted the necklace out, putting the box on her bed, and prised the locket apart. On one side Kate’s name was engraved, and on the other she had placed a photograph of herself. Allison recognised it as the one she herself took two months ago. Kate was kneeling down in the local park wearing a red dress and Allison had captured the exact moment where her smile made her forget everything. It was July, and the Sun shone down on the park reflected off a metallic slide behind Kate, adding a touch of lens flare and a halo atop Kate’s dark blonde hair. And even though the photo was too small to see, she knew on her chin was Kate’s ‘battle wound’. Allison laughed as she remembered how Kate had tried to protect Allison from a swinging rope in Gym class, but instead it whipped Kate’s forehead. She was so surprised, she staggered backwards and knocked Allison over. They both fell down in a heap, and Kate bore the brunt of the attack. As she reminisced about their time together, Kate brought her back to the surrounding room. ‘I know it’s cheesy.’ Kate looked away. ‘It’s clichéd and a million other bad things…’ ‘I don’t care.’ Allison laughed, closing the locket and fastening it around her neck. ‘It’s lovely.’ Allison pulled Kate’s head to face her and planted a gentle kiss on her lips. With one last smile she fell on to her bed, pulling Kate with her.
Cat jumped down from the tree outside to allow them some privacy. She drifted down, her long brown hair swimming around her, and hit the floor without a sound. She felt sorry for Allison now she knew how Fate would administer her suffering. It was always the same. Straight for the loved ones. She tried to tell herself it was for the greater good, but it didn’t help. She would have a word with Fate; though it would achieve nothing—how could she argue with those who had even God’s destiny on their books?—but she needed to do something. She stood on the small bridge, listening to the gentle trickle of the stream beneath her, a slight breeze crossing her face. She could tell Allison everything, but even devout believers had problems trusting her word, and Allison was far from a regular church goer. Perhaps Daniel would back her up; he was her father after all. She should believe him. Or she’d smile and nod politely while thinking she should start planning his nursing home. Then, there was the ultimate solution. Prove it to her. Show Allison the true might of God. Which she would then dismiss as a dream or hallucination. Cat marvelled at how humans rationalised what they refused to believe. Still, she had to try. The aroma of burning tobacco interrupted her thoughts, and she was back on the bridge outside the Sands residence. Trails of smoke drifted past her eyes, and a deep voice spoke in a language not uttered on Earth in centuries. ‘So, what d’ya think?’ She heard the smacking of his lips as he took a puff of his cigar; it would have to be the biggest he could get. She would have said he was compensating for something if she were the kind of girl to make jokes like that. Instead, she told him her thoughts. When she had finished, she turned around and beheld a tall lanky man who appeared to be in his thirties; except his eyes, which held his thousands of years experience. He wore a creased and discoloured white shirt covered with a buffalo hide jacket. His jeans, also off colour and ripped in places, held a holster, now empty of the weapon it once carried. Tall spurred boots showed his long travels by their cracked and dust-covered leather. To complete his appearance, he topped his head with a brown Stetson, just as worn down as the rest of his attire. ‘I can tell her what she is, what she is destined to do,’ Cat said, ‘but … I try to intervene and she will not receive the Gift.’ ‘You can tell her what she is?’ he said with a small laugh, ‘Bloody hell, we’ll be waiting till Judgement Day.’ He looked around and puffed on his cigar. Cat closed her eyes, then looked at him, her head tilted in a fed-up position. ‘And I’ll be waiting until then for you to stop mocking me. And besides, it didn’t take that long.’ ‘It took six months.’ ‘Okay,’ Cat shrugged. ‘I’ll admit it was a bit longer than we intended, but I hate giving out bad news.’ ‘At least Mary didn’t shoot the messenger.’ ‘No.’ Cat looked back up to Allison’s window. ‘But Daniel might. Anyway,’ she turned back to the cowboy, ‘you’re not here to take jabs at my confidence are you?’ ‘No.’ His tone became business like. ‘’Tis Naomi.’ ‘What’s she done this time?’ Cat said, annoyed. ‘I agree, she’s been an annoyance at times; getting Luke in a little trouble; setting the country up for a Jerry attack; and, lest we forget, that business in Niflheim? Still need to sort that shit out. But I think she’s set her sights a little higher now. She’s stolen the Key.’ ‘No,’ Cat said slowly, shaking her head in disbelief, ‘Naomi does not want power.’ ‘Well, looks like she’s had a change of motivation. She stole the Key last night and has disappeared, probably, in my opinion, to meet up with…’ ‘You’re not about to say who I think you’re going to say are you?’ ‘Damn straight.’ He took long drag of his cigar as if to emphasise his point. ‘The Key in the hands of a demon. I can’t think of anything more…’ He put his hand up to stop her, cigar almost half finished. He appeared to be listening for something. A slight rustle reached Cat’s ears, and he turned his back to her, a knife suddenly in his hand. Before he moved to attack, he faded into a wave of black smoke. As the fog cleared, Cat saw a silhouette. Though her face was shadowed, she still recognised the witch for the brief moment she stood there. The black shape eyed Cat for a moment, then blurred into the darkness. She cursed her inability to stop Naomi and took flight to warn the others.
The sound of the front door hitting the stop as it opened broke the silence of the house. The doorway let in morning light that was otherwise blocked by still drawn curtains. Allison’s parents walked into the house and hung their coats on a rack by the door. Daniel listened, but heard nothing. He spoke to his wife, ‘They must still be asleep. Emma, could you put the kettle on while I wake them up?’ Emma muttered her compliance, and Daniel ascended the staircase. He reached his daughter’s room and knocked. There was no response, so he opened the door a crack and saw one lump in the bed. He pushed the door fully open and walked over to Allison’s bed, failing to notice the two sets of clothes on the floor. As he drew closer, he saw Allison’s head; and a fraction of a second later another came into view lying on her shoulder. He looked from one to the other and had decided to leave the room quietly when Allison stirred and opened her eyes. She let out a whispered gasp. The movement woke Kate up; she wished Allison a good morning and took a glance at Daniel before closing her eyes again. A second later, her eyes shot open as she realised the situation. ‘Morning,’ Daniel said in a fake cheery voice. ‘Uh, morning?’ Allison said, still a little unsure what was happening. ‘Nice night?’ ‘Uh, yeah, we watched a DVD, drank some wine, I got a prezzie,’ she pointed to the locket still around her neck, ‘and then we…’ ‘I don’t need details.’ ‘Course not.’ The forced conversation faded into an uncomfortable silence, broken only by the ticking of Allison’s alarm clock. Daniel jumped when Emma shouted up from downstairs. ‘Tea’s ready.’ ‘Uhhh, I better go.’ ‘Yeah,’ Allison said, sounding unsure of herself. ‘So … uh … yeah … uh,’ and with more disconnected words, Daniel dreamily parted from the room.
‘Not the way I’d have told him,’ Kate said as the door closed, ‘Still, he seemed okay with it. At least you don’t have to keep us a secret any … Alli?’ She looked at Allison. She was staring unblinkingly into the opposite wall, her face pale. ‘Alli?’ Allison turned slowly towards Kate and whispered, ‘That could have been my mother.’ ‘But it wasn’t.’ Kate gently squeezed Allison’s shoulder ‘No. But it could’ve been.’ Allison rushed out of bed and began to get dressed. ‘We were stupid enough to be asleep when they got back.’ ‘It wasn’t Emma,’ Kate said, slowly rising from bed as well. She embraced her half-dressed girlfriend, who felt tense and almost jumped at the touch. ‘We had a lucky escape. But you know what they say: shoulda, woulda, coulda. You can’t dwell on what-ifs. The fact is, your dad is fine with it and he knows what Emma’s like.’ She kissed Allison before reassuring her one more time. ‘He’s not going to tell her.’ Allison loosened up and reciprocated the affection.
Daniel was just taking crumpets out from under the grill when Allison came downstairs, followed by Kate. Emma looked up from the kitchen table; she had some boring romance novel in her hand, and mug of tea in front of her. ‘You girls have a good night?’ Allison looked to Kate before answering. ‘Yeah, it was cool.’ Emma nodded and her eyes drifted back to her book. Kate gave an I-told-you-so look to Allison as they sat down opposite Emma, and Daniel served up the crumpets, loading his full of jam. His eyes shifted from the girls to Emma throughout the meal, but neither parent said a word until Kate stood up. ‘I have to go.’ She looked down to Allison. ‘I’ll see you on Monday?’ Allison nodded, a mouthful of crumpet. ‘Bye,’ Kate said to the table. Allison saw her move as if to kiss her, but her eyes widened with fear. Kate realised what she was about to do and disguised the movement by tucking in her chair. Emma carried on with her book once Kate left, and the rest of the meal remained silent. In the evening, Allison sat alone in her room plucking at her guitar. The sounds of the metal strings twanged around the room, magnified by the Marshall amp in the corner. But not too loud. Her mum would have a fit if she could hear it over Pride and Prejudice. Her fingers slid up and down the neck as if part of the instrument, and her other hand picked the strings with a surgeon’s precision. She didn’t need to look at the guitar to play, but how could she not? It truly was a beautiful instrument. It wasn’t in the same league as some of the more expensive models, but the wooden surface glistened with a glossy finish and highlighted the paintwork which faded from a dark oaken brown in the centre to a blackened edge. The neck graduated from black to the same oak colour at the head where she tightened the E string. She strummed the strings and smiled. All tuned up. She began to play. While playing other people’s songs was fun, it was much more satisfying to write original work. And now she played ‘Where Nobody Goes’, a song about where she and Kate would go to be alone together; a place in the library that held the more mature books, classics, and the generally more literary works that few school aged students were interested in. She considered it one of her better works and was proud of the current result. She hummed the lyrics, rather than singing them, as she usually did with the type of song she didn’t want her mother to understand. As she reached the bridge, a knock sounded at the door, and she stopped playing. ‘Can I come in?’ came her father’s voice. Allison relaxed her guitar. ‘Come in.’ Her dad poked his head through the opening as if afraid of what he might walk in on. When satisfied it was safe, he walked in and sat next to her. ‘Finished your new song yet?’ he asked. He’d had always been interested in her talent, but now he seemed too eager for her progress. ‘Almost,’ Allison said, ‘I’ve got the melody down and a decent bass line for Rob. I’ve also got an interesting idea to run past Chad that would really set the song off. Once we play it together, I’m sure it’ll be good.’ ‘Well, let’s hear what you got so far then.’ ‘I don’t know.’ Allison shied away from her father’s gaze. If her dream was to play in front of a massive crowd of people; why then was it so difficult to play in front of him? Perhaps it was the sadness that appeared in his eyes when she played; almost as if he didn’t believe she could make it. ‘Oh, come on. You’re going to have an audience at some point. May as well start with me.’ Allison shrugged and put her concerns aside as she set the guitar back on her knees. She strummed away and after a minute’s intro, she sang. A mezzo-soprano voice escaped her lips in slow operatic notes that contrasted with the rapid beat of the instrument.
Night becomes day A second later It’s taken away That’s what I remember
Crashing through the dark Sparks light the clouds Thor finds his mark That’s what I remember
The Hammer of the Gods The Spear of Zeus A blue fire to smite the damned That Is what I remember.
The song had no chorus—such things made most music feel samey—but each of the three verses were separated by another piece of music that built up and added to the main theme as it progressed. As she finished the last verse, she began the ending. She came back down to the basic theme and culminated in a long rumbling note. Throughout the song, a few notes would have fallen flat, but she made quick corrections as she played. She didn’t think her dad noticed. ‘Fantastic!’ her dad exclaimed, clapping his hands, ‘Can’t wait to see it all put together.’ His enthusiasm made her smile; though she hadn’t failed to see that faraway look in his eyes as she played. He said nothing for almost a minute, but he kept opening his mouth as if trying to say something. Eventually, he sighed heavily and spoke. A little too fast. ‘Do you love her?’ She had waited all day for this moment; and she believed he had waited all day to ask her this. On the surface, this appeared to be what he came up to ask, but the way he said the sentence made her think he still hid something. ‘I … I think so,’ Allison replied, ‘I’ve never felt about anyone the way I feel about her. I really like her and … I … think she likes me as much.’ ‘Well, that’s good!’ he said; but realising his renewed over-enthusiasm, he repeated it in a more subdued tone. ‘That’s good. I’m happy for you. Just need to get Lizzie a decent boyfriend now.’ They both laughed. ‘There’s just that one problem…?’ Allison looked into her father’s eyes and he knew the question she wanted to ask. ‘I won’t tell if you don’t.’