A short story by Colin Devonshire – read more on Medium.com @colindevonshire
“Okay gang, it’s three AM, time to go!” Janice shouted as she turned off the overloud hip-hop racket.
“Great party, thanks,” waved the cheeky guest, Janice couldn’t place her.
“Glad you enjoyed it.”
“Who is that girl?” asked Podge Roberts.
“I’m not sure, I think her mum is a new member?”
“I guess we’ll soon find out. A good long sleep, and then our all-nighter for Beltane. Great idea we all enjoyed it, and our parents thought it was a clever plan too. A double win,” Podge said.
Podge had fallen for Janice the first moment they met at last year’s Yule Solstice function. He could never let her know of his feelings. He never would. Also, he could not speak of his Pagan faith to his father.
“Do you know my mum and dad are fighting?”
“I heard my parents talking, it’s not our business.”
“It is, actually. My mum believes in your mum and dad. My dad, on the other hand…” he let the words drift to silence.
“Hey, it’s up to them.” She raised her hands and carried on, “No need for you to help me tidy up. Get off to bed, your mum and dad will start fretting.”
“It’s okay, they won’t mind. Well, she won’t.”
“Look over here, mum’s best wine glasses,” pointed Janice.
She fumed at their friend’s cheek as she flicked at the cut crystal. It rang.
“Everyone had been given plastic beakers, I suppose plastic is not good enough for them or the wine they bought,” she brightened.
“Let me wash the glasses?”
Podge was not his real name, most people had forgotten his Christian name if they ever knew it. Podge was podgy, if you are kind. He was grossly overweight if not. His cute cheeks wobbled when he laughed. He only allowed Janice to see him laugh.
“Go on, get off.” Janice shoved him to the door as she bundled a bin liner to the waste bins outside.
“Tidy at last,” she said as she flopped onto the sofa.
“Wakey, wakey, rise and shine,” said Janice’s mum as she pulled back the curtains then the duvet.
She bent and kissed her daughter’s cheek as the morning sun cheered the room.
“Did you sleep well?”
The teenager nodded, “But I had another of those lifelike dreams. Not scary, but it feels as if I’m actually there.”
“The consultant warned that may happen, now he has upped the dose.”
“The people in the dreams are so real. It’s as if I go to school with them, I understand their problems, their childish loves, their pets and even if they’ve done their homework.”
“Let me change your bag, and clean you up, then you can do some schoolwork,” said her mum.
Her mother’s skills matched any nurse in the care of her daughter.
“Mum, are Wiccas witches?”
“The term is Wiccans, and no we are not witches in a storybook way. We believe in nature. Think of it like that.”
“Why do you and dad follow the faith?”
“Is this part of your schoolwork?”
“No, I have been reading on the net.”
Janice’s mum lowered the bed, turning handles and then holding her daughter upright, she slid her across to her wheelchair.
“You know I can’t feel anything. Why do you ask every day?”
“I hope one day you will feel again.”
“You haven’t answered my question?”
“Why do we follow the Wiccan faith?”
“Let’s say more traditional religions let us down.”
“My prayers and your fathers were not answered.”
“So the Pagan faith helped you?”
“Let’s say we are hoping for more. Now breakfast, then school work.”
Janice was wheeled to the dining room. The tv was switched to the BBC news channel and Janice was presented with a protein drink. She tipped her head forward and sucked on a straw, savouring its milky freshness. She used her mouth with the straw to change the tv’s channel while her mum was in the kitchen.
“School time,” her mum called cheerily as she marched to her daughter’s chair. Off went the tv and Janice was rolled to the family computer. Her straw was swapped for a stiffer plastic implement.
“English language, to start?”
“Yeah, I’ve got to finish reading ‘Monsters of Men’, there are a thousand questions to answer too.”
“I’m not sure that’s suitable?” said her mum.
“It’s not up to you, it’s the course I’m given.”
“Maybe, but the book is all about war, is it not?”
“Mum, it is set in the future. The story concerns a war to end all wars.”
“We don’t believe in war.”
“Mum, there are wars all over the world, whether or not you like it.”
“Not in my perfect world. Do the maths lesson first, while I read about that story.”
“Okay,” said a puzzled Janice.
The maths bored her, an hour later she started slumping sideways, head on her shoulder she mumbled as the plastic tool slipped from her mouth and silently bounced on the carpet. She slept unseen by her mum.
“Oh, hi Podge,” she waved. “Did you get in trouble for being late?”
“Nah, my mum barely noticed me. She was preparing for dad’s choir practice.”
“How does she balance both religions?”
“I guess she takes the best of both?”
“And your dad?”
“He finds it difficult. He has no time outside of running the choir. He refuses to talk to her about it. I think that’s why he drinks so much these days?”
“Hey, Janice wake up. Is that arithmetic so tough?” said her mum.
“Oh, hi mum, I must have dropped off.”
Her mother knelt, picked up the computer tool and placed it on the desk.
With her hands on Janice’s thighs she said, “Enough work, I think we need to talk.”
“Sure mum, what is it?”
“You’ve told me about your dreams, I’ve heard you mumbling names and a few details. Your dad and I have never told you why you’re in that chair?”
“You told me there was an accident when I was little.”
“Yes, there was. But there is more. You were born fit and healthy. A perfect child for the perfect couple. At least that’s what people believed. Your dad and I were regular churchgoers. I had already given up my career to be a full-time mum, little did we know I’d have to. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every moment of caring for you. However, your dad changed.”
“He needed to blame someone I guess. He blamed God.”
“He was so depressed and feeling defeated, we gave up on the church.”
“But, it was just an accident?”
“Yes, but not that simple. You were in your pushchair, off we went to do some shopping, we were crossing the main road at the zebra crossing, the little green man said, ‘walk’. We started across. Just two steps onto the road.” She wiped her eyes.
“A car didn’t stop, he crashed into us, should I say into you, he went straight over you, taking the chair from my hands.”
“So, an accident. Don’t tell me dad blamed you?”
“Oh no, dear. He blamed the driver. Another reason for us to turn our backs on the church.”
“Why? I don’t understand?”
“The driver was drunk. He was the choirmaster, Mr Roberts.”
“That’s why I wanted to talk to you. How do you know Podge Roberts?”
“From my dreams.”
Days passed weeks turned to months, Janice’s dreams turned darker. Her father became aggressive towards the choirmaster, their arguments violent.
“You are nothing but a drunk,” he shouted.
“And you are the husband of a witch. Haha, The Triple Goddess with her Horned God!” Mr Roberts screamed back.
“Janice, wake up,” her mum shook her, “Are you okay? You are soaked in sweat.”
She pushed open the windows. Fresh air and sunshine cheered the groggy girl.
“You gave me a turn, I think we’ll forget school today. Let me put away the laundry then I’ll fetch breakfast,” said her mum.
The freshly pressed clothes placed gently on Janice’s bed as her mum opened the wardrobe doors.
A glass breaking scream shattered the morning peace. Janice’s mum fell back against the wall, rigid with fear. The hanger bar snapped as an overweight boy fell forwards a belt tight around his throat.
The dull thump forced Janice to turn her neck in time to see the body of Podge tip forward and spill from the cabinet. Then he bounced head first on the carpet. His shy smile faced Janice.