The next morning, I was rudely awoken by Aiden’s elbow in my back.
“Owww…” I muttered sleepily, blindly waving my arm intending to swat him (but it wasn’t noon yet, so I had trouble opening my eyes).
Apparently he dodged because I didn’t hit anything, and planted a small kiss on my forehead, “Sorry, Allie.” He apologised, and seemed to leave the room. I was too tired to object, and he had redeemed himself after all.
I wrapped myself in a cuccoon of duvet and slowly, the thought sank in that I had work tonight and uni the next day, and I had done no concept sketches in a week. Great, Luelue’s going to be impressed. For a blissful little moment, everything was normal and my greatest worry was my lecturer quite fittingly, giving me a lecture.
The events of the previous day leaked back into my mind after a few moments and I groaned into the pillow.
“Hey, wake up darlin’” Aiden laughed, and wafted a cup of tea under my nose. “Somebody has work to do.”
“It depends.” I murmured, opening one eye with a little strain, “Do you have chocolate?”
He set down a packet of caramel digestives on the bedside table… Crafty. Now I had to get up. I took the mug and sat on the bed, curled into a ball of weariness and bad hair. I rolled my eyes when I finally looked at Aiden, he hadn’t bothered to dress properly himself yet, he was wearing black jeans and no shirt and naturally, he showed the fact that he didn’t believe in shoes. “Go and put a shirt on for god’s sake before sis yells at you for being such a man.” I grumbled, although it was only specifically for that reason, Jez never let him hear the end of it, but I didn’t have any preference… honest.
“Yes Ma’am, zombie chief, Ma’am.” He laughed and flung open the wardrobe in search of something clean. I don’t know why we bothered sharing chores, they never got done.
“Cheeky.” I muttered, but smiled at his good mood. I dunked my biscuit in the tea while he wasn’t looking (his turn washing up and he hated it when I did that), and then reached for my sketchbook under the bed. “I had better cough up an idea…”
“You’ll think of something.” He said, and came to sit next to me, now wearing a faded Iron Maiden t-shirt. “Why don’t you let me help?”
“Need a boss for the game…” I said and shook my head, “I’ve used all of the good ones.”
“That’s a question…” He admitted, and gently seized the dog eared book from my hands, flicking through it. “Perhaps you should wake up properly first.”
I sighed and grunted in agreement, reluctantly slipping out of bed, setting down the half empty cup and diving into my own separate wardrobe (I was weird about the condition of my clothes, I owned some awkward-to-store dresses).
My outfit that day consisted of corset top, lace shrug, leather skirt and fishnets, all black and topped off with coffin shaped earrings and a necklace to match. Possibly tactless, but I was too tired to realise. I quickly ran a brush through my black and red streaked hair and didn’t bother beginning the long process of applying all that makeup.
We both entered the living room, finding no signs of life, meaning Jez was probably still asleep, and upon this discovery, Aiden slumped into the sofa, and turned on the TV to the first sci fi channel he could find, startling Kurt (who was asleep next to it) awake to the sound of Star Trek.
He sighed and smiled at the poor creature, “Well it was a daft place to go to sleep!” He protested, and scratched him behind the ear. This seemed to compensate for the rude awakening, and Kurt then proceeded to slope off for some breakfast, which I prepared and then sat down next to Aiden.
“Ignorant bastard shift tonight?” He asked me, rolling his eyes at the adverts.
“No kidding.” I replied.
At least it was normal so far, even if I did have a night of dealing with the general picky public ahead of me. I worked in a coffee shop you see, but I was really not the social kind of person, it just meant that I could pay my third of the rent. The ‘Ignorant bastard shift” as Aiden and Jez always called it (and me when my boss was out of earshot), was the Saturday closing, when pretty much every asshole and his dog came to cause trouble. I couldn’t wait to graduate, honestly.
“Anyway, this boss battle.” I muttered and stared at the wall.
“How about that sleepy, crazy monster that takes the shape of my girlfriend every morning?” He suggested, a quite conspicuous grin on his face.
I half-heartedly swatted him but somehow, and I wasn’t surprised, we ended up on each other’s lips… Just as Jez shuffled in in her jeans, tank top and bunny slippers.
“Ugh…” She said with a shake of her head. “If I had a penny for every time I’d walked in on this!” She smiled though as I sat up and attempted to cover a violent blush with my hair, (perhaps the makeup would have been a good idea after all) and she went to prepare toast.
I gave it a minute, and then followed her, motioning for Aiden to stay where he was. He knew by now that when girl talk was the issue, he had best keep his distance.
“So.” I said, digging in the cupboard for my personal supply of chocolate flavoured cereal, “How’re you feeling?”
“Pretty shit to be honest with you.” She replied, matter-of-factly as always. “God, I can’t stop thinking about it, it’s invading my mind.” She added, and slammed the jam jar on the counter so hard I thought it might shatter.
Somehow, I got the feeling that she wasn’t talking about Liam’s funeral. I found myself contemplating telling her about the letter, but resolved that it would probably make things worse.
“Sorry.” She murmured and sighed, “I think I need to get out of here before I break something.”
I gave her a hug, which seemed to do only the tiniest bit of good, and abandoned my breakfast plans. “Want to go for a walk then?” I offered, “But… you’re going to have to lose the bunny slippers first.”
She smiled faintly, staring down at said bunny slippers for a moment, she nodded, and then pointed out uselessly, “But not the god damn park.”
About half an hour later, after I had thrown on my makeup, boots and coat, tossed a vague excuse in Aiden’s direction and Jez had indeed swapped the slippers for a shabby pair of trainers, we set out on an aimless wander through the street.
“I’m mad.” Jez declared after a few minutes of silence.
I felt inclined to reply with words that were not mine, but belonged to the Hatteress, we’re all mad here, you’ll fit right in… But instead I kept my tactless trap shut and decided on: “Why do you say that?”
“Because my fucking dreams are sending me letters.” She growled, “I must be mad.”
My heart stopped and so did my feet, and that was a mistake because the uneasy look on Jez’s face changed to one of horror which she was trying to cover with her cool mask. However, with the events of the previous day, that mask had been cracked and crumbling and hardly held in place anymore.
“Not you too…” I whispered, not even wanting to say it aloud.
“Bloody Hatteress doesn’t know when the hell to leave us alone.” Jez said bitterly, her hands curling into fists. “She doesn’t get it, we don’t need them anymore.”
“Well apparently they need us.” I replied, twirling one of my red streaks around my finger, which was a stupid habit I had when I was nervous. Jez knew this, and I saw her shoulders relax a little and the anger on her face change again, but this time to concern. She awkwardly put her hands on my shoulders, acting the brave big sister, and make me look at her.
“They can’t make us go back.” She assured me, although I don’t think either of us believed her.
We had left them in a state of security. No Queen to dictate, no battle to be won… We had slain the beast that had terrorized them, what more could they want?
What more could they want? That question spun around my head for what seemed like an age, and honestly, I wish I had never asked it.
A peculiar flat birdsong sounded from a distance away. It didn’t quite sink in properly for a moment, but I knew I should be alarmed.
And then we caught sight of it. A large black bird sitting in the tree above us, looming like an omen.
Jez looked at me, wide eyed, and then back at the bird. Before I could even try to convince myself we would be fine, and this was all just a creepy coincidence, Jez yelled, uncaring for the many people in the crowded street, “Run!”
We did indeed run. We ran like all hell was chasing us, and to be honest, it possibly was. It depended on what your idea of hell was.
We pushed, shoved, and stumbled our way down the street, and I made the fatal mistake of looking back to catch a glimpse of the raven… at the same time as Jez. God damn it, it was a good thing neither of us drove, our attention spans sucked.
We went hurtling forwards into the window of an old curiosity shop. Without breaking the glass.
“In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”