Chapter Two

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I don’t remember being unconscious. I thought I was having some weird nightmare, where I sank into an alternate world of spinning pictures and swirling colours. And I never found out whether my condition was caused by the infection brought on by the fox’s bite or the cocktail of drugs being pumped into my arm to save me. All I remember of that time is a kaleidoscope of images, whirling around and blurring together. Crumbling brick walls, the fox, screaming faces, snarling teeth, piercing turquoise eyes, endless blackness, and in the background, muffled voices that I couldn’t make out. Later, I realised they must have been those of my mother talking to the doctor and various nurses.

When normality returned, Mum told me that I’d collapsed as I opened the front door, and she’d rushed me to hospital. I was out for two days before surprising the doctors with a sudden recovery. They wanted to keep me in for observation, and tried to get Mum to persuade me to stay, but I was having none of it.

“There’s no need, Mum, honestly. I feel fine.”

I hoped the words coming out of my mouth were true. I felt great, yes, but there was something else, an uneasy feeling that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Still, I pushed it to the back of my mind.

Mum wasn’t so sure. “There might be after effects. You’ve had a traumatic experience, Sophie, not to mention all those drugs.”

“Well they obviously worked. I’ve never felt better.”

“I really think you should take the doctor’s advice and stay a bit longer, love.”

“Not a chance, Mum. Get the discharge papers. I’ve got packing to finish.”

Leaving Brumpton was easy. I had no regrets. Mum had become even more protective of me, since my hospital stay, but I couldn’t let my conscience prevent me from living my dream. She wasn’t able to wave me off at the station. Her scumbag boss wouldn’t give her the day off. So I dragged my cases to the supermarket, to say my goodbyes, and I found her in the chiller aisle. She was busy pricing up the reduced items, and as I watched the sticker gun spewing out the bright red sales labels, I vowed that one day I would take her away from this drudgery. At the sight of me surrounded by all my worldly possessions, she burst into tears, and it took some time to prise out of her farewell bear hug.

It was a long and boring journey. I passed the time staring out of the window imagining what might lie ahead for me, full of excitement that it wouldn’t be long before I’d see Beth again.

Beth and I had grown up together in Brumton. We were, and still are, total opposites. Mother Nature had blessed Beth with a bubbly, vivacious personality at birth, and consequently, she’d much rather party than study, and she hates being alone. Me, I don’t mind my own company, but I’ll admit I need Beth to keep me from becoming a total recluse. That’s why I was so upset when Beth’s dad got a new job, and she told me she was moving to the other end of the country. It was the first time I’d felt truly lonely. Of course, we’d kept in touch by text and email, but it wasn’t the same. I really missed my best friend.

The train pulled into a station. I checked my map, five down, twenty-six to go. I couldn’t get there soon enough.

It had only been weeks since I’d last seen Beth, but it felt like years. My jaw had had to be peeled off the floor when I secured a placement at the same uni. Without it, I would have been stuck serving burgers at the local greasy spoon, or working behind a bar, fending off drunken advances, whilst attending our local graffiti covered dump. I’m so grateful not to have that future. Being the energetic soul that she is, Beth has chosen to study PE. For her, it was the obvious choice. I have never wanted to do anything other than art.

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