Chapter One: Cerys and the Crystal

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  A/N: If you're not familiar with South Wales and local (Western Valley) slang, then check the glossary at the end of each chapter! ;)

 

            Padding softly down the landing in her socks, Cerys tried to make as little noise as possible. A board creaked under her feet, and she froze.

                 There was something different about the house; it was all too quiet, probably because Tom, the cause of most of the chaos, was sleeping. That wasn't all though. There was a distinct smell of peppermint in the air, and that was impossible. No one liked peppermint. Well. Not any more. It upset mam too much to have mints in the house - she hadn't been able to stop tearing up at the smell since her dad, Cerys and Tom's beloved Bamp, had died.

                 Without going into her brother's room, Cerys knew that there was someone else in there with him. She could hear her mam and dad downstairs, getting ready to drive her off to her Nan's for the week even though she'd had the chicken pox already, and there wasn't anyone else around.

                   Very slowly, she peeked around the door. There was Tom in his Cars pyjamas, covered in angry red spots and dosed up with Calpol. He was sleeping with his thumb in his mouth, curled up on top of the duvet and twitching as he dreamed. The bed sagged under the weight of someone else. Cerys's eyes grew round and wide. The smell of peppermint and roll-your-own tobacco was strong, and unmistakeable. An old, strong hand reached out across the covers, the arm encased in a coarse burgundy sleeve, and stroked Tom's hair until he relaxed, his dreams becoming more peaceful.

"You ready, love?" Mam called up the stairs, and Cerys jumped out of her skin.

"Coming mam!" Her voice was higher than usual, and she thought her chest was about to burst like a balloon. She swung back around to the bedroom door, but there was no one in the room except Tom, and the only scent lingering on the air was Calamine lotion.

Shaken, she bounded down the stairs two at a time.

                 Cerys was unusually quiet that night as she snuggled down under the duvet in her Nan and Bamp's spare room, listening to the wind blowing a gale outside. Bamp had passed away three years ago, but Cerys could still remember him - a tall, strong man in his seventies, with a firm grip and a warm smile. Her Nan was a larger woman, permenantly floury from baking endless amounts of scones. When she tucked Cerys up, Cerys caught the familiar whiff of her handmade lavender sachets clinging to her flowery blouse.

Nan sat down in the chair beside the bed, and looked at Cerys in an odd way. "Love, has someone been nasty to you in school?"

Cerys shook her head. "No, Nan."

"You would tell me if you were upset about anything, wouldn't you?"

Cerys nodded. She was very small for her age, and looked more like seven than nine. Her spindly legs were good for running, and she loved playing sports at school. But, today, she hadn't seemed quite herself.

Her Nan reached out and felt her forehead. "You're not warm," she muttered. "You've been awful quiet today. Are you sure you're alright, my little love?"

"Nan," Cerys whispered, turning big brown eyes on her grandmother, "D'you believe in ghosts?"

Her Nan sucked in her breath. "Why d'you ask that, presh?"

Cerys's tiny heart-shaped face puckered into a frown. "I thought I saw Bamp today," she whispered, concentrating on picking at a stray pink thread on the duvet cover. "He was in Tom's room on the end of the bed. Tom was sleeping."

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