The Leaves Are Turning Brown – Chapter 24

After a while we go back to the car and start driving.  It’s getting dark outside, and I’m not entirely sure what day it is, or where, precisely, we are.  We drive on for another few hours, changing roads several times to make sure that no-one can follow us. Eventually we come upon a small hotel outside a village, miles from anywhere. As we pull in I hope there is room for us.  I got as much cash as I could from the petrol station bank machine, just in case Esther has her eyes on more than just the abilities she cravenly desires.

The hotel is quiet and the lights are off in many upstairs windows, but the reception is well lit, and staffed by a middle-aged woman.  She has a stern manner but smiles when she sees us coming in though the door.  Jules looks around while I go through the checking in procedure.  We are fortunate, according to the receptionist, as this is their quiet time of year.  I ask for a nice room and the woman gives me a key.

“Need any help with your bags?” she asks, looking around our feet over the small desk.  I look at her and tell her the main bags are in the car, but everything we need is in our backpacks. She nods and returns to the paper she was reading.  As we start up the stairs she calls back.

“Breakfast is 8 until 9.30, but we like to clear away as soon as possible after 9. Good night.”

The hotel is absolutely dead, as we pass the first floor landing there is no sign of life.  The second floor hallway only has 3 rooms coming off it, and ours is the last, nearest the window looking out in the pitch black world outside. I am worried about Jules; she has been so quiet since we left the house earlier today.  I hope it’s all just the excitement settling in her mind, and the release of fear from our escape. Once we are in the room and settled she rolls over and I hear her gently sobbing, while we lie on the bed in the silence.

I don’t speak, but lean over her and pull the bedcovers up over us, fully dressed and warm, a cocoon of warmth in this dark place. It only takes a few minutes before I fall asleep, but before I doze off I can feel Jules breathing softly, asleep herself.

The next morning I wake early, and watch the sunrise over the distant horizon.  Jules has rolled over in the night and is facing away from me.  I slide out of the bed trying not to disturb her, but this is an old mattress and it pings and wobbles as I move.  I get out and look over to Jules, but she doesn’t stir.  I head into the bathroom and close the door.  Looking in the mirror I see a tired and foggy face, stubble on the neck, hair a mess.  I don’t want to wake Jules, but take a shower as quietly as possible and then dry off.

When I come back into the room, Jules rolls over and looks at me, her eyes bordered by a frown. I smile, trying to alleviate the atmosphere I can feel in the silence.

“It’s too early, too early I tell you.  Come back to bed.”  her voice is clear but slightly muffled by the duvet that partially covers her face.

“I don’t want to miss breakfast, come on, let’s get some food?” I tickle her toes through the thick duvet and she squirms under the covers, hiding her head completely.  Moments later a leg and an arm appear from the bottom of the bed, followed closely by a sideways movement and a small thud, as she lands on the floor.  She looks up at me, smiling, and I reach down to help her up.  She shuffles into the bathroom and I hear the shower start up.

I walk the few steps to the window, and stare out across the countryside. It’s still quite flat here, but there are some rolling hills, undulating off to what I assume is the North.  I try to remember which way the sun rises, but eject the thought from my mind.  I quite like not knowing where we are, even though I have a general idea.  This is the first time in years I’ve been lost but content.

Jules comes out a few minutes later, dressed and dry, apart from her hair, which lies sodden and flat against her head, reducing the overall size of her, making her seem small and fragile.  She looks so cute, until she flicks me with her hair by spinning around on her heels and walking to the door.

I chase after her, wrapping my arms around her waist, and kissing her neck.  Her long, wet hair leaves a mark on my t-shirt.  We walk down the stairs and head into the restaurant, just a few tables ready-set with teacups, saucers and cutlery.  As we walk in the lady from reception looks at us, then the clock, then us.

“It’s 9:25, if you want something hot tell me now, or go without”.  Jules smirks and looks to me, trying not to laugh.

We take a seat and both order some eggs and bacon.  I fetch us coffee and milk, while Jules fills two minute glasses with orange juice.  The restaurant looks out across a small patio and onto a small garden.  There are a few trees but then nothing as far as I can see. The woman come back with eggs, bacon and two rounds of toast.

“Sorry” I say as she puts down the plates, but she just looks at me and walks back to the kitchen.

The food is good, hot and fresh.  We eat in silence, but the edge has gone between us, the atmosphere has cleared, and I feel calm around her again.  Jules is enjoying her breakfast, occasionally looking at me and smiling.

“Shall we stay another night?” I ask, looking out the window as if to direct Julie’s eyes out there to the calming green, blue and grey world.  Jules nods her approval, and looks out the window.

“I saw a local map over there by reception, let me take a look.”  Jules looks at me while I remain in my seat.  I watch the glimmer begin around my arms, then stand and walk over to reception.  I focus in and put my mind in the glimmer, walking forwards, stepping around the small magazine table in reception.  I look at the map and see there are a number of walks and trails, dotted lines, emanating out fro the location of the hotel.  I dissolve the glimmer and return to looking at Jules.  She looks at me with a small frown.

“I suppose you think you’re pretty clever, don’t you?” she says, her frown dissipating into a warm smile.  I smile back at her as the waves of euphoria disappear.  I can feel myself wanting to do it again, and again. Each time I return to my body I feel such elation coming over me. It’s like a calming breeze on a hot day, coupled with a lightheadedness.

We book another night with the receptionist and head out from the hotel on a walk that should take us up to a nearby hill.  The lady in the hotel tells us the views can be spectacular from the other side, as we are right at the bottom of the peak district, and it only goes up from here.

Once we are far from the house I project a glimmer ahead of us, while I walk along hand-in-hand with Jules.  I watch the glimmer moving fast ahead of us, up over the rise ahead, and then onwards to the hill.  I move my mind into the glimmer and turn around, looking at the image of me and Jules walking, now far behind.  It’s odd, I don’t think I’ve ever looked at myself before like this.  I seem light, semi-transparent, like I’m not really there.  I look at the solid image of Julie and the ghost walking beside her.  I dissolve the glimmer and return to my body.  I look at my hands an they are as solid as ever.  Jules looks up at me as we walk.  I feel my breath falter as the elation comes over me.

“Having fun are we?” she says accusingly. “Where’d you go?.

I apologise and tell her about the glimmer I just projected up ahead.  She pulls my hand hard and we turn ninety degrees to the left.  I look off to the path and smile, happy to be lead away from the hill I took as a glimmer.  The ground is firm and grassy, and easy to walk over.

She leads me on for at least an hour, over a fence, a stream, a boggy bit, and past a small shack with a roof that bows in the middle, sagging down to the height of the walls.  As the sky turns a deeper blue she stops and turns around, facing me. My hand drops when she lets go, and I feel distant from her, out here in the wilderness.

“I need to tell you something. You need to listen to me, ok?” she stares at me earnestly and I acknowledge she is not joking.  I nod to indicate I’m listening.

“You have this power, ok, that I just can’t understand.  No matter how many times you explain it to me, it just doesn’t sink in.  It’s like you’re talking to me in a different language, but I recognise the individual words.  I just can’t imagine what it’s like, but I understand it must feel extraordinary.  I feel extraordinary just being near you, watching you do it.  The way you found me in that room was amazing.  But, you are starting to worry me, no, more than that. I’ve felt scared with you recently, which I know is ridiculous, given how short a time we’ve known each other.  But there it is, I want to tell you that I’m a little bit scared of you. When you hugged me as a glimmer it was really scary, not just the supernatural of it all, but that it felt like a violation.  I want you to hug me, all the time. I love you hugging me.  But I don’t want you to touch me when you do that thing.  I wanted to tell you back at that house, but there was never a good time.” she pauses, and tilts her head a little to the left, her eyes penetrating into me.  I feel the sharp pang of anxiety rushing through me.  I feel like I’ve tripped on a curb, and it’s thrown the whole world an inch off to the right.  My thoughts collapse in on themselves, running faster, trying to think of what to say, to tell her how sorry I am, that I didn’t realise.  I look at her, just a few metres away.

“I’m, I’m sorry.  Really, I didn’t think….I didn’t think about it, it just happened” my voice comes out weak and croaky, but she hears me and her features relax.

“Good, that’s better. I just wanted you to know there is a line where your, amazing, ability has to stop with me, ok?”

I walk forward in small steps, reach her and put my arms around her waist, keeping eye contact while I pull her close to me.  I lean in to her left ear and whisper another apology.  While I hold her, and she takes me in her arms, I think how that is it, the one warning I need to know that I can’t just do this whenever I want.  I pull back and kiss her lips briefly, then lean back.

“We should get back, it’s getting dark.”  We turn around and walk back the way we came.  I can see a small light from the hotel on the horizon, just a small orange point in the distance to guide us back.

I hold onto Julie’s hand, still feeling remorse for overstepping the line with her.  I think about what I would do without her, whether I would’ve made it this far.  I’d probably be under Esther’s charm, back at the house, giving her everything she wanted.  I look over at Jules. I’m so glad there’s this girl, this woman, who can make me feel like the world is complete and centred, even when I am being chased, hunted.  She makes me feel in tune with the gentle hum of the sky and ground.  I look at her profile as she walks beside me an realise, I love this beautiful woman, with all my heart and soul.