05 November 2009

Curse of the Other World, part five

Chapter Three


It was October, the start of autumn in 2000 and Sarah was sat on a wooden fence overlooking a large playing field on the edge of Coxton. In the distance she could see a group of men and women in fancy costumes constructing a medieval-themed village made of tents and easily-assembled, prefabricated wooden structures. She imaged this was what a film crew would do for a costume drama, only this was on a much lower budget.

Twigs crunched underfoot behind her. She turned and saw Peter trudging down the uneven, and somewhat muddy, dirt track. He was topless, his dark skin looked flawless in the afternoon sun, and carrying an ice cream cone in each hand. He passed one to her when he got close.

'I think we're early,' he said.

'Don't worry about it. Come and enjoy the sun.'

She hopped down off the fence and beckoned for Peter to follow her as she walked into the field.

'The guy in the ice cream truck gave me the funniest look when I asked for “Monkey's Blood”, by the way,' said Peter. 'I assume it was a little joke?'

Sarah shot him a puzzled glance and went back to licking her ice cream.

'It wasn't a joke. He mustn't have been from 'round here.'

'What is it, then? I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you weren't asking for real blood on your ice cream.'

'Good grief, no. It's just raspberry sauce.'

'Then why call it monkey's blood?'

'Because that's what everyone else calls it! You can't expect me to go against the flow with everything.'

A chill breeze blowed as they stepped out from the tree-lined path into the field proper. Sarah shuddered. This time it was Peter's turn to look puzzled.

'You can't be cold, surely?' he asked.

'A little. It's not as warm as it looks, is it?'

'I'm stood here with no shirt on and you ask me if it's cold?'

'Well yes, but you're weird.'

'Okay, you just keep telling yourself that.'

A woman shouted something from further up the field. Sarah turned and saw a short woman in a man's red shirt and blue jeans waving as she hurried toward them.

'Who is that?' asked Peter.

'Sharon Howard,' said Sarah. 'Most people just call her Howard, though. She can be a little odd, but she's okay really.'

'A little odd but okay really?' said Peter, wistfully. 'Where have I heard that before?'

'Hey!' said Sarah, faking hurt feelings. She nudged him in his side to get even. He laughed, and grabbed her around her waist so she could not escape, then started tickling her mercilessly.

'Hey!' she shouted between squeals and bursts of laughter. 'Get off!'

'Do you yield?' he asked. 'Will you apologise for making me drop my ice cream?'

'Yes! Yes, okay!' She could hardly breathe now, she was laughing so hard.

'Well I see somebody's having a good day,' said Howard as she drew close. 'How are you doing? I didn't expect to see you here.'

Peter let go of Sarah, letting her fall to the floor in an undignified heap, and smiled at the newcomer. 'Peter Rowe,' he said, holding out a hand. 'Pleased to meet you.'

Howard took Peter's hand and shook it, introduced herself and turned to Sarah, who was busy brushing grass off herself.

'Long time, no see,' said Sarah. 'How have you been?'

Howard shrugged. 'Keeping busy. Got a job over the summer so this year money shouldn't be as tight. How about you?'

'Pretty much the same,' said Sarah. In truth, she expected it was the same story for most of the old gang. 'So what brings you here?'

'Oh, I'm here with PaganSoc,' said Howard. 'I'm surprised you didn't come down with us.'

Sarah looked over at Peter. He was just stood there, not speaking, probably listening but then again she could never tell.

'I don't really get along with a lot of people in PaganSoc,' she said.

'Oh. Right. Yeah, sorry. I forgot.'

PaganSoc, the university's society for pagan students, had been established for several years by the time Sarah had joined in the first few days of her first university term. As a wide-eyed and naïve Fresher, she had eagerly flocked to join all the clubs and societies where people shared her interests or just seemed cool. After the LGBT, which had turned out to be a crushing disappointment, the pagan society had been her first port of call.

At first, she thought she would fit right in with that group. The people running the pagan stall at the Freshers' Fair were incredibly warm and welcoming. The first few meetings were great fun and she felt right at home. Then the bitchiness started; the rumour mill got into full swing and before she knew it, untruths about some of her friends, and even herself, were circulating and she found herself ostracised by people she thought had been friends. She had left by the end of the second term and never gone back.

'So they're all here, are they?' asked Sarah.

'Not everyone, no. There's been another big falling out, so there's really just three of us going regularly now. It's quite annoying but what can you do?'

Kick out Rebecca and Dawn so they stop spreading rumours about anyone they don't like? thought Sarah. It would certainly help heal some old rifts.

Sarah kept this idea to herself, however. 'So who's here?' she asked instead.

'Rebecca, Edward and Charles. Dawn might be coming along later, but apparently she's got some important meeting with the union society today so she “couldn't possibly come and help set up” our stall.'

'You sound so convinced she's not making up excuses, there,' said Peter. Sarah nudged him in the side again, but could not help smiling.

'No shit, Sherlock,' said Howard. 'To be honest with you, she's a petty little madam who deserves a kick up the backside.'

'Now that, I think we can all agree on,' said Sarah. 'Do you guys fancy getting a drink? Standing around here in the sun is giving me a headache.'

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