Our frozen wings, p.1
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       Our Frozen Wings, p.1

           Becky Wicks
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Our Frozen Wings


  Our Frozen Wings

  Becky Wicks

  ~~~

  Copyright © Becky Wicks 2014

  The right of Becky Wicks to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

  Becky Wicks has no responsibility for the information provided by any author websites whose address you obtain from this book (‘author websites’). The inclusion of author website addresses in this book does not constitute an endorsement by or association with us of such sites or the content, products, advertising or other materials presented on such sites.

  This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

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  Cover design by Paper and Sage Design

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Before He Was Famous

  Before He Was Gone

  1

  It wasn’t like regular butterflies, Ella thought, watching Oscar turn from distant shapes into the boy she loved as he walked towards her in the snow, smiling. Regular butterflies were the sign of a sudden realization, a sudden flash in time that marked the start of all your words and emotions and actions being said and done for someone else. With Ella, there had been no such moment.

  Ella’s love for Oscar was advanced, she liked to think. It was more like a fleet of caterpillars moving slowly but surely through her world. Each little caterpillar carried on its back a secret, traveling back and forth between her and Oscar; strong, silent and consistent until one day, the caterpillars simply grew wings.

  ‘How’s it going Tomato?’ Oscar grinned, reaching her and leaning in to kiss her cheek as she turned her head sideways, the way she had done ever since she’d seen Audrey Hepburn do the same in Breakfast at Tiffanys. He pulled her close, then nuzzled her hair with his cold nose. She grinned. Ella’s butterflies were born from years of love and trust. And when they fluttered fast in her tummy at the sight and feel of Oscar, they were not like everybody else's.

  ‘Quit calling me that, I’ve told you,’ she replied, pretending to be annoyed. Oscar had called her Tomato for as long as she could remember. At first it was because he couldn’t pronounce her last name, D’Amato. But now that they were eighteen, almost nineteen, he did it to annoy her.

  ‘Can’t. Specially when your cheeks are so red,’ he said, pulling away from her and grabbing both sides of her wooly hat, so the whole thing came down over her eyes. She pushed against his coat, laughing.

  ‘It’s freezing!’ she said, pushing the hat back up and then stepping forwards, slipping her arms inside his parka. Her teeth were chattering. ‘Let’s go, you’re late!’

  Oscar squeezed her tightly. ‘Fine, but you know I hate these things. I’m only doing it for you.’

  'And this is why I love you.'

  They walked together down the street in the lamplight, huddled against the cold. With his girlfriend wrapped around him in her black winter coat it must have been hard to see where Oscar stopped and Ella started, which he couldn’t help but think was probably the way it had always been, at least in the eyes of their friends.

  ‘I wouldn't ask you,' she told him with a sigh, 'but the music in my bedroom was so much louder last night Oscar, seriously, I slept for like, four hours total.’

  ‘Really?’

  ‘Really. It’s weird. Mom woke up again last night, too. I heard her. But I don’t know if it’s just my room that’s haunted or…’

  ‘Ella,’ Oscar stopped, looking down at her with the glinting green eyes she’d known practically her whole life. ‘You don’t seriously still think your house is haunted?’

  She gazed up at him, frowning and ducking away from his hands as he went to pull her hat down again. ‘How else would you explain the music?’ she asked. ‘You’ve heard it!’

  Oscar narrowed his eyes, catching her wrist as she went to bat him away again. He stepped forwards, ran his hands over her hat and through her soft, snowflake-covered curls, which were now getting damper by the minute. The truth was, he had heard it. He’d heard and seen all sorts of strange things lately, but there was no way he was blowing things out of proportion.

  It was almost January and in Skagway, the town they grew up in a hundred miles north of Juneau in Alaska, it was pretty much always dark. Nine out of ten people got freaked out over nothing in these conditions and as much as he loved her, Oscar also knew Ella had always been afraid of the dark. It started when her dad left, when she was seven, and there was no one left to chase the monsters out from under her bed.

  ‘You don’t think this freak show is going to solve the problem though, do you?’ he said, taking her gloved hand in his and leading her on down the street. ‘I mean, last time he didn’t even look at you the whole night!’

  Ella sighed. ‘He’s not a freak show. And it’s worth a shot, Oscar. He has different messages for different people every time. Maybe someone’s trying to get in touch! Besides, what else were you going to do tonight?’

  They reached the bus station and Oscar pushed her gently against the flier-covered wall in the glow of an orange streetlamp, leaning into her with his knee between her legs. She shivered again, and this time not because of the cold. ‘I had a few ideas,’ he whispered, tracing a stray snowflake down her cheek. His fingers pushed at her scarf and rested on the key she wore on a silver chain around her neck. He'd found it in the shrubs in a neighbor's yard and given it to her on her tenth birthday.

  Ella giggled and shivered at the same time. She was just about to lean into his kiss when the number 43 shone its headlights into their eyes, making them spring apart like they had when Oscar’s mom had first caught them making out in his bedroom, and shrieked like she'd seen a ghost.

  2

  On the bus, Oscar dug his wallet out of his pocket and rifled through a heap of loose change. A woman who’d run up behind them just in time pushed past them in a hurry to get a seat and before they could even pay, the driver was speeding off down the road again. Oscar tutted, dropped their fares into a plastic tub by the gearshift and motioned for Ella to take a seat.

  He sat down beside her. It was about a twenty-minute ride to Damien Bordeaux’s house. They’d been three times before to his psychic/clairvoyant sessions, which always took place on the second level of the impeccably well-kept old mansion en route to the White Pass. This foggy funnel was the one through which thousands of fortune-seekers had passed during the Klondike Gold Rush back in 1897-98.

  These days, Skagway attracted just as many tourists during cruise season - late May
through early September. These were the months you could barely move through town, the ones Ella and Oscar both loved for the twenty hours of daily sunshine, and loathed for the way they lost their precious summers in wide open spaces to crowds of strangers.

  The passengers would ooh and aah in their droves over the frontier storefronts, marveling at old time cars and vendors in costumes, beckoning them into gift shops where they’d be sure to buy up Alaskan souvenirs they’d never look at, or use, all in the small six-block town center. Ella had seen Damien Bordeaux buying a Moose key ring once. Out of intrigue, and because she’d always been fascinated by the paranormal, she’d followed him round town for an entire hour to see if his psychic powers would pick up on her presence. Then she’d served him coffee.

  Waitressing last summer in one of the tourist cafes, Ella had often seen Damien sitting alone. He always dressed the same, in dark cotton pants and a mustard v-neck sweater, with a navy blue scarf wrapped twice around his thick neck. He was a deep-thinker, she could tell. His fifty-something year old face was red, whatever the weather and he had a habit of running his finger round the foam on his cup and staring at it, without ever licking it off.

  He was so mysterious. Oscar thought he was a fake. But if there was one person who could shed light on the noises and strange goings on in her house, Ella was certain it was Damien Bordeaux.

  The bus stopped two minutes up the road from the mansion and the woman who’d pushed past them to get on, got off just in front of them, shivering instantly and wrapping her arms around herself. Linking arms, Ella and Oscar followed her up the curved driveway, narrowing their eyes against the sleet now threatening to settle like a second thick quilt on a bed of shrubs. They reached the door, which was slightly ajar and the woman from the bus over the threshold, into the chilly hallway.

  Oscar pulled her closer, made a ‘brrr’ sound to emphasize the creepiness of the dark, mahogany filled mansion, and together they climbed the creaky stairs to the second floor. In a vast drawing room adorned with life-sized paintings of bearded men with guns and beagles, people were mumbling, wooden chairs were scraping on the hardwood floor and in front of a roaring fire doing its best to heat the room, Damien Bordeaux was perched on the edge of an old wooden writing desk in his trademark mustard and blue.

  He was nodding at a young guy who looked visibly disturbed. He couldn’t have been much older than twenty. The guy stood there, still in his winter jacket, wracking his bare hands and shaking his head, which was half hidden in a Soccer Alaska baseball cap. As his nervous energy filtered out to meet her, Ella found she was anxious herself. She took off her hat and scanned the room with her eyes.

  Oscar shrugged out of his parka and draped it over the back of a chair. He ran his hands through his dark, shaggy hair, pushed up the sleeves of his shirt and beckoned her to sit next to him at the back of the room. But just as Ella was about to take her seat, a familiar figure at the front caught her eye. She grabbed Oscar’s arm and stood taller on her tiptoes. Was that...?

  ‘Oscar…’ she started in surprise, but as the woman turned her head to the side, revealing not only the familiar profile of her own mother, but the equally familiar profile of Oscar’s father, Damien Bordeaux stood up and motioned for everyone to be quiet and sit down.

  3

  Ella leaned in, cupped Oscars ear. ‘My mom’s here with your dad!’ she whispered, as chairs scraped even more and the sixty or so seats were filled with Skagway’s hopefuls, all pondering the existence of the paranormal. She pointed over the heads of the people in front and Oscar’s green eyes grew wide as he saw them.

  ‘What the hell?’ he whispered back, confusion crossing his face.

  Ella shrugged her shoulders and took off her own coat as Damien started to introduce himself and his work for those who hadn’t been to his sessions before. She knew as well as Oscar did that his dad was a firm non-believer in psychic powers. Had word of Damien Bordeaux’s success stories over the years finally broken them down, like it had so many other people? It wasn’t long ago, to be fair, that Damien had tracked the whereabouts of missing toddler Linzi Cartwright.

  Ella clutched at the key around her neck. She always reached for it when she was nervous.

  Damian had worked with the police to solve the mystery, saying all along that he sensed dogs around the child. The town had been baffled; everyone had a dog in Alaska. They searched each home, eliminating junkyard after playground after frost-frozen pond until they found her tiny, grey body in the bricked up basement of her now imprisoned babysitter. They also found the bones of eight dead huskies, all of whom had been massacred violently with machetes.

  ‘Why are they here, Tomato?’ Oscar whispered to her then, as though she might have suddenly come up with an answer. Ella shrugged and shook her head.

  ‘It’s just my mom and your dad. Maybe they’re having an affair,’ she told him, making him snort in disgust. The idea was preposterous; they both knew it. For a start, the town was far too small. But she did remember something.

  A few nights ago, Ella had come out of her bedroom to find her mom standing in the hallway looking straight at her door. Before she’d had the chance to open her mouth, her mom had sighed, nodded in her direction and turned around again, looking weary. Neither of them had brought it up the next morning. She’d thought it best not to. Her mom was busy, worked late all the time and believed in ghosts about as much as Oscar’s dad. Or so she’d thought. Maybe she was here because she'd changed her mind.

  Ella felt a chill behind her as a breeze from the open door downstairs blew up the staircase. The weather channel had predicted heavy snow and the wind always picked up beforehand. Sometimes, it was so windy that Skagway residents had to stay inside for up to two weeks at a time.

  Last time this had started, the two of them had bunkered down in Oscar’s house. It had been a Thursday night she remembered, after a supper of cheese toasties. They’d huddled, bare limbs entwined on his bed under a mound of woolen blankets and duvets. The wind had howled like a pack of werewolves outside the window, threatening to drown out the playlist on his laptop. She’d grabbed his face in two hands, pressed herself wholly against his nakedness. Sometimes she thought, even when their bodies were joined, she could never get as close to Oscar as she wanted to.

  ‘If we never come out of here,’ she told him, between kisses to his nose, ‘if the wind never stops and the snow comes and buries this house, I want you to know you’ve always made me so happy.’

  The sincerity in her eyes, on her flushed face had made Oscar laugh. ‘Such a dramatic Tomato,’ he’d chuckled, bringing his mouth to hers and sucking softly at the corner of her lower lip. He’d languished in the sheen of sweat building up between them, kissed her throat in the light of his computer screen and secretly wished for the winds to carry on blowing forever.

  After the gales that kept them within their walls, Skagway residents celebrated calmer days with horseshoe games, using toilet seats. They’d also been known to bowl with frozen turkeys in the streets – a tradition Oscar had excelled at last year before the ice on the turkey had melted and one foot had snapped off during a particularly zealous throw. Ella had almost been sick with revulsion.

  Alaskan winter days were dark in so many ways. But like the Northern Lights they’d often watched blaze across the sky, heads together, gloved fingers entwined, sipping hot chocolate all the while from their perch on the White Pass, everything seemed to glow as they fell in love, over and over again.

  4

  Damien was talking to someone in the fourth row. Oscar stood up to shut the door against the chill, just as a small girl of no more than five appeared on the threshold and held her hand out to stop him. ‘I’m coming in,’ she said, looking up at him and Oscar frowned as she stepped forward in her snow-covered red coat. She must have been playing downstairs in the cold.

  ‘Where’s your mommy?’ he whispered, leaning down to her. She was holding a Woody the Cowboy Toy Story doll. The girl held out a
finger to the crowds and then placed her pinkie to her lips before skipping over to sit next to a red-haired lady in the middle of the third row. She left a trail of tiny puddles where her boots had been.

  As Ella and Oscar watched, Damien looked up briefly, straightened his back and held his chin in the air as though he was listening. Slowly, he walked around the chairs until he reached the end of the third row. The little girl giggled.

  ‘Someone’s daughter seems incredibly playful,’ Damien said, folding his arms across his mustard sweater and resting them on his slight paunch. The redhead seemed to freeze rigid in her chair. ‘She’s four, maybe five,’ Damien continued, directing his gaze at her as the little girl spun her Woody doll around by the string of his hat above her head. ‘Would you know this girl, ma’am?’

  From her place at the back, Ella could see the woman’s shoulders shaking. Oscar shot her a look but she ignored him, fixated now on Damien, who appeared to be listening to the air yet again. ‘Red snow boots,’ he said. ‘I’m seeing she passed away quite quickly, but she’s still got all the things that made her happy, does that make sense?’

  Still the woman trembled but as she nodded, Oscar made a grab for Ella’s hand. At the front, his dad and Ella’s mom had turned around to see the redhead’s reaction, their faces pale. Some people in the room were crying. An elderly lady dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief.

  ‘Ella. Did you see her?’ Oscar said, his low voice choked.

  Stunned, Ella nodded. ‘I still see her,’ she said, her eyes never leaving the Woody doll still flying through the air.

  Oscar stood up again and made to wave at his dad, but his dad had turned the other way to watch Damien, who was now walking back to the front of the room. He was approaching the elderly lady now, talking about a man; her husband who’d died of a pain in his neck.

  ‘He was a pain in the neck,’ she croaked, and the room erupted in a nervous laughter. ‘But I loved the old fool,’ she added, and Ella’s heart broke a little. All these people, she thought, all looking for signs from their loved ones. Who knew how many had never even got to say goodbye?

 
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