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       Tempests, p.4

           Michael Carter
 
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Her face brightened a little, “Even at school I remember you doodling spaceships and monsters and stuff. Anyway, I had to tell you cos- cos I want you to help me. I’ve worked it out, Brad, and it should happen again tomorrow night. Zero hour. Don’t let them take me again, Brad, I’m sick of it. Please don’t let them take me again.”

  “No, Sarah. No.” said Bradley, shaking his head. “A-ha, whatever you want me to do, whatever it is, I’ll do it.” Then he gulped, saliva and fear, and squeezed her hand gently. “ Okay? Sarah, I’ll help you, even if it means taking your place, I’ll help you.” He held her close and she snuggled into his chest. He kissed the top of her head.

  “No worries.” he said quietly.

  Afterwards they’d decided to catch up on all the years they had lost and they caught a bus into Durham where they waited for twenty minutes to see the re-released “Lady And The Tramp”. They sat in the middle, not at the front where the sore eyes and the cricked necks lived, and not at the back where young lovers used the opportunity for other things aside from culture.

  They watched the film right through with no shared words, just smiling and sympathetic glances. To his surprise Bradley really enjoyed the charming mix of jazz music, sentimentality and drooping poochy eyes and he felt very complete and relieved when Sarah cried at the end – this time for someone other than herself. Walt Disney had weaved his magic yet again, and that young couple, unsure of their immediate future, bonded together far more securely and emotionally than if they had spent their time in the back row. Besides, there would be plenty of time for that later.

  “Mum’ll have gone to bed by now.” said Sarah, as they emerged from the foyer of the Odeon. “Louisa’ll be asleep too.” Bradley had bits of popcorn and crisp lingering on his chest, and Sarah brushed them off. “You’re my tramp.” she said. “Come home with me. I want to be with you.”

  Bradley had to work hard to keep his expression under control.

  “Are you sure?” he said. “We’ve only just met- Well, sort of.”

  Her smile was both seductive, and sure.

  “We’ve only just met, Brad, but I’ve loved you for ten years.” His smile exploded on his face, so that his teeth showed through; rarely had he smiled that broadly and genuinely. His breath caught in his throat, and he was about to say something to the same effect, when Sarah took his hand, shushed him – essentially, it was don’t spoil the moment by saying anything Bradley- and led him off to the bus station.

 

  >

  That night – the last before it would happen again – was the best in both their young lives. They were careful, cautious, fumbling, but it was gentle rather than rough, tender rather than coarse; an adolescence of worry, envy, self-pity, bitterness at others, it was all shaken off with the sweat, condensed by passion, dissipated in the moment. Bradley wasn’t a freak, after all. Everything was pretty much the same shape it should be and in the right place, and everything worked in the way it was supposed to. They were forgotten for a time, they didn’t matter, didn’t exist. Not that night, anyway.

  Each of them being as considerate and caring as the other, they did get some sleep that night and Sarah awoke just after dawn, feeling the most refreshed she had been for several weeks. Carefully she nudged Bradley awake and they quietly discussed their plans.

  It was arranged that Bradley should leave before Sarah’s Mum and sister woke up, and they could meet up again in the afternoon. Before then Sarah would explain to her mother that she’d been out last night on a date and announce who the lucky lad was – Mrs. Tempest might remember the name – and that she had invited him to spend the night at the house.

  “It might get a bit-“ she chuckled, “embarrassing if Mum sees you leave this morning, so we’ll stick to what we said, okay.”

  “Fine.” said Bradley,“I love you, Sarah. Really, I do.” He was going to consider saying more, telling her how fantastic last night was, how it was the best night in his life, but he thought he’d bumble it so he stayed quiet. He was learning. Instead, simply, they parted with a kiss, and Sarah closed the door behind him.

  >

  As pre-arranged they met at five’o’clock in the same place as before; outside Thorleys. From there they went back to Sarah’s house and chatted for several hours about the old days, back in Junior School; the time when Michael Johnson had dropped his alphabet sweets all over the yard got the biggest laugh.

  As the time wore on however, and the clocks’ hands kept on turning, Bradley noticed that Sarah was, quite understandably, getting more anxious. Back in Class Four, on Monday mornings all the kids had to write a diary piece about what they’d done that weekend and then read it out to the rest of the class. Bradley noticed that Sarah always chewed the skin around her nails as it neared her turn; it often left her with scars. She was doing it now.

  “You needn’t worry, Sarah.” said Bradley, after the nostalgic conversation had wound down. “I’ll look after you tonight. I won’t leave your side.”

  She smiled at him then guessed that it wasn’t quite enough, so leant across and kissed him, gently and with love.

  “What exactly do we do tonight?” Bradley asked, “You haven’t really said yet? What’s the plan?”

  Sarah blinked her eyes a few times.

  “Right. I know for a fact I won’t be able to sleep tonight, not naturally. I’ll be too scared and worried and...well, you know.”

  Bradley nodded.

  “So”, she continued, “I’ve got four of Mum’s sleeping pills. I’ll take them later. Hopefully they should put me out and then I won’t be worrying all night.”

  “And I just have to watch over you?”

  “Like in ‘Nightmare On Elm Street’, yeah.” She thumbed the VCR and the TV on the table next to her bed. “You can watch a video if you want, or the telly, or read or something. There’s coffee downstairs, too, a sandwich, whatever you want but Brad, promise me, you’ve got to stay awake.”

  “I will. All night.” He rubbed his hand up and down her arm. “Don’t worry. You’ll be safe with me.”

  Sarah raised her eyebrows; “When they come, just make sure you’re not making toast or on the toilet or something.”

  They laughed.

  “Alright?”

  “Yeah, right.” said Bradley. “I’ll check the skies before I go for a whizz.”

  They laughed some more then Sarah smiled at him and said, “Do you remember when the boys toilets flooded and you all had to line up at the teachers bog at breaktime.” and they were back in the old reminiscences.

  At ten’o’clock Sarah downed all four of the sleeping pills, supposedly fast-working ones, the chemist had told her mum. He had been correct for within an hour Sarah had fallen asleep on her bed whilst resting with the light out. Bradley had sat alongside her and talked about what he’d been doing and how he’d been getting on in the past nine years; a gentle lullaby that did the trick perfectly.

  When Bradley had noticed she was asleep he kissed her and told her everything would be fine. Then he went and stood by the window and stared out at the world, covered in light rain and glimmering from the streetlights.

  Within thirty minutes there was a disturbance that sent Bradley rushing back to Sarah’s side. She had uttered a loud murmur in her sleep and after repeating “No!” abruptly a few times, half in sleep, she had jolted up and opened her eyes.

  “You’re okay.” Bradley said immediately, “I’m here. It was just a dream. Everything’s fine.”

  Despite his assurances and the familiarity of her room, she still began to cry and they wrapped their arms around each other.

  “I thought it was happening. I saw their eyes like car headlights beaming down at me, and then I was on the slab again with something strapped to my head.”

  “Its okay. Don’t cry, Sarah. Please, you don’t need to cry.”

  “The other Sarah Jane was there again too, next to me, on a slab and she wasn’t moving. Not struggling or anything; I don’t even k
now if she was breathing. God, it’s frightening, Brad. What can I do?”

  “Just go back to sleep. I’m here. Nothing can get you.”

  “But what if the dreams come back? What then?”

  “Listen, sometimes on a night I put the headphones on in bed and listen to some soothing music or something. I’ve found that I don’t dream when I do that. I think maybe your brain’s already active listening to the sound and so it doesn’t create dreams. You know what I mean. I’m sure you’ve got some headphones somewhere, yeah?”

  Sarah nodded, sniffling and wiping her cheeks dry.

  “And have you got some quiet music? Some jazz piano maybe or, yeah, a relaxation tape, wolves or whales or something. Or you could try the radio; one of the classics stations.”

  “I’ve got a couple of Classical CD’s, and I think there’s an undersea sounds relaxation one downstairs. Mum plays it for Louisa.”

  “Which one d’you fancy then?” asked Bradley.

  “Could you go and get the underwater one from downstairs in the cabinet.”

  “Oh-kay.” said Bradley, and headed for the door.

  “Brad.” called Sarah, before he disappeared through it. “Be quick.”

  He was, and very soon the CD was on the repeat function and, headphones on, Sarah was asleep once more. Bradley was at the window again, trying hard not to watch the skies, but not being able to
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