“What’s that?” Marty asked, eyeing the bottle with surprise.
“What do you think it is? It’s ice cream!”
“I meant whose is it?” Marty asked.
“That’s the favour,” I told him. “I want you to test it for me.”
“Test it for what, exactly?”
“Everything you can think of,” I said, rolling the vial across the table towards him.
Dangling the cigarette between his lips, Marty flicked the bottle back across the table at me. “Test it at your own labs.”
“I would if I could, but I can’t,” I told him.
“I just can’t, okay,” my voice starting to sound scared.
Marty sensed my fear and picked up the bottle. He eyed the blank label which ran down one side of it where the patient’s name should have been written.
“What’s going on, Sophie?” Marty asked, crushing the cigarette out in the ashtray with his finger and thumb.
“I don’t know,” was my honest reply.
How can I tell him about what’s happened tonight? About what I’ve seen and from where that blood sample came from? Who that sample came from!
Marty rolled the bottle between his fingers. “I’m sorry, Sophie, but I’m not…”
“I’ll let you see Archie,” I cut in, hating the desperation in my voice. “You can have him at weekends. He’d love to see you – his daddy.”
Marty gripped the specimen bottle in his fist and stared at me. He didn’t speak.
“I could bring him over on a Friday night and pick him up…”
“How do I know you’ll keep your word?”
“I promise, Marty. Test that blood for me and I’ll…”
“Okay! Okay!” Marty said. “I’ll do it.”
“It has to be done straight away,” I explained. “I need those results like yesterday.”
Marty looked at the bottle, then back at me. “What’s so important about this blood?”
“That’s what I’m hoping you will find out,” I said.
As if knowing that he wasn’t going to get any answers from me, Marty stood, crossed the kitchen, and placed the sample into the fridge. I got up from my seat, and turning around, he jumped to find me standing right behind him.
Before he knew what was happening, I had leant forward and planted a gentle kiss on his mouth.
Touching his lips with the tips of his fingers he looked at me and said, “What was that for?”
“It’s to say thank you.”
“Very cosy,” someone said from the opposite side of the kitchen.
Both of us turned to see a female, wrapped in a fluffy blue bathrobe standing in the doorway. She had auburn hair that hung about her shoulders and brilliant green eyes – just like mine.
Had he replaced me?
Marty leapt away from me as if I were about to bite at any moment and said, “Jenny, it’s not what you think!”
“You pig!” Jenny screeched and stormed from the doorway.
“Jenny! Jenny!” Marty shouted at her.
The sound of her feet rumbled like thunder as she marched back upstairs. Marty looked back at me and snapped, “See the trouble you’ve caused!”
“Sorry,” I said, biting my lip to hide a smile.
Shaking his head, Marty went to the foot of the stairs. “Jenny, my love – it’s just Sophie, my ex…”
Crash! The bedroom door slammed shut.
I followed Marty to the foot of the stairs.
“What do you want now?” he groaned.
“Your sofa,” I smiled.
“What are you talking about?” Marty asked, starting off up the stairs.
“To sleep on. I can’t go home just yet.”
“No!” Marty shouted without even looking back at me. “No way!”
“Just for tonight, Marty. I’ll be gone first thing in the morning. I promise.”
Then, from the darkness of the landing, I heard his voice, tired and exasperated. “Do whatever you want, Sophie. You always did!”
Stepping away from the bottom of the stairs, I went into the living room, which we had once both shared. Stretching out on the sofa, I listened to the muffled sounds of Marty and Jenny arguing from above.
“Whoops!” I smiled as I drifted off to sleep.
That had been six weeks ago, and now I was on the run.
To be honest, I didn’t know whether hooking up with Sophie again was a good move or not, but I couldn’t think of anyone else – I didn’t know anyone else. The last time I had seen her, she looked shit-scared of me, and although I hadn’t thought of Sophie for some time, whenever I did, that memory of her peering over the top of her bed sheet at me and screaming wasn’t a nice one.
What about the letters I had sent her?
After leaving her that night, I had written several times but Sophie had never answered. Why not?
Because in her eyes I was a monster- a freak –
that’s what she had called me. And what would Kiera think if she knew who I was looking up?
Was Kiera the jealous type? Sure she was. She hadn’t liked Eloisa hanging around me much. But I was doing this for Kiera. I just wanted to find out what had happened to the world while we had been dead. That’s all I wanted from Sophie. It wasn’t like I had feelings for her anymore. That was a part of my life that had been pushed – pushed right away.
The last time I knew Sophie, she had been living with her parents and had been studying music. She played the piano, and played well.
Maybe she was some famous pianist now…or maybe not? What did she now do in this world that had been pushed?
I raced through the air, soaring above the clouds so as not to be seen from the ground. The evening was turning out to be a cold one, but at least the rain had stopped. Circling above the town of Ripper Falls, which was on the western and most southern tip of England, I shrugged my shoulders so my wings rolled back, and I dropped through the night sky like a stone. Beneath me I could see Sophie’s parents’ house and I wondered if she still lived there with them. The house was set away from the rest of the town on a remote piece of farmland that her father had inherited from his grandfather, if I remembered rightly. The farm was surrounded by fields and in one of them I spied a scarecrow.
Landing in the field just feet away from it, my wings disappeared into my back and I crossed the rain-sodden earth towards the scarecrow that lent over to one side. Its face was a cloth sack that had been stuffed with straw, making it look way too big for the rest of its body. It stood in a crucified position, and as I approached it, several crows that perched on its outstretched arms squawked at me. I shooed them away with a flap of my hands. Being stripped to the waist, I couldn’t very well go strolling up to Sophie’s parents’ house half-naked and ask if I could speak with their daughter. The scarecrow had been dressed in a long, black raincoat, so I took it and put it on. It was filthy dirty and torn in several places. I looked at myself in the long, dark coat and knew that either way, stripped to the waist or wearing this flasher’s mack, I looked like a pervert. But it would have to do. Pulling the coat tight about me, I headed through the dark towards the house which sat in the distance.
A spiral of smoke curled up from the chimney, and I could see the orange glow of light through the windows. As I drew near, a dog started to bark wildly from within the house. There was a stone wall and a white wooden gate set into it. It wailed on rusty hinges as I pushed it open and the dog’s barking became wilder. As I approached the front door, I hadn’t even had a chance to knock when it flew open and a shotgun was thrust into my face.
I recognised the man at once to be Sophie’s father. He looked older than I had remembered him. His eyes were circled with grey smudges and he looked as if he hadn’t slept in weeks. What was left of his hair was white and it stuck up all over the place, as if he had gone mad with a tub of hair gel.
“Whoa, old man!” I said, raising my arms in the air to show him that I wasn’t any threat.
“Take it easy – don’t get so excited!”
Ignoring me, Sophie’s father shoved the end of the gun under my chin. God, what had been his name? I couldn’t remember now.
“Who are you?” he asked me, and I could sense his fear. I glanced at his finger and I could see that it was pulling on the trigger.
“I’m a friend of Sophie’s,” I told him, and tried to smile.
“Bullshit!” he hissed, and a black Alsatian came tearing into the hall behind him. The dog barked at me, its jaws ferocious-looking.
“Quiet, Archie!” Sophie’s father roared.
The dog snarled at me and raced around its master’s legs, its tail flicking to and fro. Once the dog had quieted down, Sophie’s father looked down the barrel of the shotgun at me and said, “Sophie doesn’t have any friends.”
“I went to college with her,” I tried to explain, my hands still raised.
Eyeing me with suspicion, he said, “Oh yeah, what college was that?”
How the fuck should I know? I wanted to say, and even though I was already dead I didn’t fancy a face full of shot. “What was it called?” I said thoughtfully.
“What did she study?” he came back at me.
“Music,” I said confidently, knowing this to be true.
“Liar!” he roared. “You’ve come for her, just like the others.” There was a flash of white light along with a booming sound as I flew backwards through the air.
I lay on my back in his overgrown garden and my chest felt hot, like a burning poker had been rammed between my ribs. Then, there was another booming noise as Sophie’s father slammed the front door shut. I opened my eyes and stared up into the night sky. The stars seemed to spin above me and I groaned in pain. I placed my hands to the gunshot wound and could feel a ragged hole in my chest.
“The son of a bitch shot me,” I coughed, as blood rushed up my throat and into my mouth.