Subject: Shorrocks Revision 1
The path that ran beside the river was deserted, my boot prints in the snow the only evidence of life as I made my way up to the churchyard cemetery. I checked the windows of the old Vicarage, but the curtains were safely closed. As the new girl in town, it wouldn't do my reputation a lot of good to be found haunting the graves of long dead locals in my free time.
My ritual was simple. I picked up a bunch of cheap flowers from a local supermarket, found my favourite grave, and left them there to be utterly crushed by the weight of winter.
The stone angel stoically faced the wrath of the moor, having endured centuries of whatever the weather chose to throw at her. Her features had been erased over the years, as had the details of whoever she watched over. I dropped the roses I had bought and ran my hands over the icy stone, as if its texture might give me some hint as to who was buried there.
The scent of my mother's perfume was the only hint that she had followed me. The woman had always been uncannily silent,.
"Lil," Her voice was wary, "What are you doing here?"
She had committed a litany of low acts in the past few weeks, but for some reason her intrusion on my gravesite visit seemed the most despicable.
"I'm grieving Ali." She flinched slightly at my sudden use of her Christian name but showed no other sign of emotion. "I think you'll find that's what normal people do when someone they love dies. It would be preferable if this was dad's grave, but since you decided to move us here I have to make do with what I can get."
"We all grieve differently, Lilith."
"Running is not grieving."
"I'm not running."
It was a terrible lie and we both knew it. When the police arrived on the afternoon of my seventeenth birthday to tell us the helicopter had crashed on the way back from dad's archaelogical dig our little world imploded. Ali couldn't stand the pain of being around anything that reminded her of him and I couldn't bear to let him go.
She took a tentative step towards me. "I think you should come home."
"I don't have a home anymore. You sold it." I turned away and headed back toward the river.
It had been twenty-one days since we buried my father back in Oxford, three days since we came to Ilkley, and less than twenty-four hours since the crows had started arriving.
Three of the birds were perched on top of the old gable above the front door when I stumbled up the drive. They watched me approach, staying silent but constantly shifting, as uneasy in my company as I was in theirs. A faint light seeped out between the curtains giving the only soft touch to the heavy Victorian stone. These houses had been built to keep wind weather and superstition out, and the living safely in. For the first time since our arrival I was glad of their pure bulk. I gave the crows one last look and went inside, the wind slamming the door behind me.
The kitchen was the one room in the house Ali and I had managed to stake out as our own so far. Gourmet cooking magazines and fashion catalogues were strewn across the bench next to her half empty glass of wine and my school timetable. A framed photo of the three of us taken a couple of years back was propped against one of the cupboard doors and I wondered if that was what had triggered her to come looking for me. I dumped by coat and gloves on one of the chairs and headed for the sanctuary of my room.
The bedroom balcony railing was where the first of the crows had arrived, just on dusk the night before. In the silence of the fog the commotion of wings had startled me. There was barely enough light to make out the bird's black form and the way it perched on the railing, one dark eye trained on my room and the other on the moor. I went downstairs and dug an old torch out from under the sink in the kitchen, but despite my regular checks during the night it never moved or showed any signs that it knew it was being watched. When I woke in the morning the sun was just rising and the crow was gone.
I breathed on the glass until I melted a small patch of frost on the outside, just enough to see through and was met by the same black eye staring straight at me from the railing. The skin at the back of my neck crept slowly in response. The night crow was back and it seemed to be waiting for something.