This is THE EVENT where the boy Elissa dreams about actually lives up to one of her dreams and does something strange and unprecedented - this is the start of her adventure. (I'd like to add a musical fanfare of somesort there to add emphasis - I can't so please imagine something exciting is about the happen!)
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Elissa had plain orange hair, the kind of orange that had absolutely nothing going for it. It was not a flame of wondrous shimmering locks or a fantastic pillar-box red, she was no auburn haired temptress, she was plain orange and nothing more.
She was thin and pale with a vivid imagination. Her mind perpetually roamed through many dreams where her uneventful life was full of wonders, magic, love and adventure.
With all this in mind it was hard for anyone to believe or understand what happened to Elissa on a dark winter afternoon, an incident which had rumours rife and which would signal the change of everything about her and her life forever.
Jaret was the most sought after man in college, and to add salt to the pounding, wounded teenage hearts of his adoring fans, he only ever dated girls from outside the college. No girl could resist his startling blue eyes, ruffled unkempt mop of deep brown hair and his roguish charm. Light hearted, popular and sporty, he smiled easily, exhibiting dimples to die for and a flash of beautiful white teeth. So everyone was completely shocked to hear that Jaret had pinned Elissa Brown against the wall in a very passionate manner.
Now, rumours do have a habit of being exaggerated and embellished, so it’s sensible to disregard the wild allegations that he virtually had sex with her in the corridor. However, there had been an altercation where Elissa had been singled out for his attention in a manner that no other girl could ever lay claim to, and it had caused quite a stir.
Though Elissa and Jaret had lived next door to each other all their lives, their paths barely crossed. Indeed Jaret would did know anything about Elissa other than her name and her scars.
J: A ripple has been detected, a change that signals the beginning of it all. She does not know it yet, but we are watching and waiting….
Naturally Elissa, Alex and Dora, had to meet after the event to analyse it in minute detail.
The meeting place was Elissa’s little cottage home, which she shared with her grandmother Beatrice.
Upon arriving home, Elissa went straight to the bright little kitchen with bumpy white washed granite walls. At one end, by two wonky steps that lead out into a snug lounge was a bright red, shining Aga set back in its own granite alcove. There was always an array of drying herbs, flowers, fruits and spices festooned about the flue. A half drunk cup of tea sat on the hot plate, keeping warm for Beatrice. She would never waste a thing, so the tea would be left to simmer gently on the Aga until she deigned to retrieve it.
Beatrice was not interested in cooking and left much of it to Elissa. Elissa’s plan this particular afternoon was to make a large pan of beef stew. Their garden had brought forth a mountain of vegetables all at risk of rotting and so Elissa’s first half hour was spent chopping and plopping vegetables into a simmering stock.
The event popped into Elissa’s mind with a jolt. She paused to soak up every second of it, relishing that snapshot of…well what was it? Here her hands stopped peeling, parsnip poised above a mountain of multi-coloured vegetable peelings.
It had been an average lunch hour spent with Dora, Ben and Alex. They had all feasted in their usual picnic style, each contributing a dish of something tasty, except for Ben, who just helped himself to their proffering. There was roasted vegetables with garlic piled on lemon infused couscous with hummus and pita bread. Elissa gorged herself as usual.
As they staggered to their next lessons, there was a sudden whooshing in Elissa’s ears and the feeling that her boring orange hair was sweeping about her as if in a gale. Just as she thought that was probably the most life her dull hairdo had ever had she saw him. His face was so close she could make out each eyelash framing those captivating blue eyes. He stared fiercely as if pleading with her to provide an answer to some tormenting question. She thought for one heart stopping moment that he would actually kiss her and at the same time, lamented eating so much garlic. She blinked once and he was gone, so quick that she couldn’t make out his retreating figure among the thronging students all staring at her. But why?
The back door swung violently open to reveal Beatrice, clad in black gardening gear. In one hand she braced herself with her trusty walking stick, in the other she held trowel and gardening gloves, all encrusted with soil. ‘What are you doing to that parsnip?’ Beatrice asked in her well spoken manner. Looking at her hands Elissa realised that, whilst dwelling on this afternoon, she had gradually whittled the poor vegetable down to naught more than a pencil.
She did not wait to hear Elissa’s reply about the parsnip. Beatrice dumped the gardening items on the side, seized the tea from the Aga and departed from the kitchen, walking stiffly and clonking her cane on everything she passed. Laughing at her antics Elissa shook off the bewildering thoughts of Jaret and reached for another parsnip. From upstairs she could hear the faint rumble as Beatrice ran herself a bath. There was also the muffled voice of the small radio that she carried about the house, forever tuned to Radio 4.
Hearing these familiar sounds filled Elissa with warm comfort that translated into floppy butterflies flapping languidly about in her stomach.
Upstairs, swathed in a fluffy pink towel, Beatrice sat on the edge of the bath pouring copious amounts of rose bubbles into the water and singing snatches of songs in a warbling manner. Outside the bathroom door a figure stood listening before silently moving along the landing and into Elissa’s bedroom.
Just as she had sliced the last leek and plopped it, Elissa heard the front door open and shut, closely followed by laughter and the rustle of shopping bags. Dora and Alex bustled into the kitchen smelling of frosty air and joy. Immediately they dropped their bags and came jumping around Elissa like frogs at a wedding laughing and hugging her.
‘Oh my goodness,’ beamed Alex, unusually bubbly, ‘something amazing and extraordinary has happened to our Elissa.’ She even had tears in her eyes, though, if asked she would say it was the winter wind.
‘We must make tea!’ squealed Dora, aiming straight for the kettle. Alex picked up the bags and began setting everything out onto the kitchen table.
Dora and Alex had a plan to make money selling posh fairy cakes. Their endeavours were now employed in baking a large batch intended for the next Church fête. They would get people interested before going national and making their millions.
Such plans of sky rocketing aspirations were often dreamt about but rarely made it off the ground. As yet nothing had transpired in the manner that they had hoped. Deep down Elissa knew they would all be eating fairy cakes from now until Christmas.
‘Listen, I say we get the buns in sharpish, I am in desperate need of tea and cake,’ Elissa announced seriously.
‘Too right’ agreed Dora, ‘Jaret grabbing a nerd, outrageous!’ She seized a bag of flour. Alex and Elissa froze momentarily. Dora looked at them both in turn before saying sheepishly, ‘Sorry, I take that back.’ Dora frequently said something rude before she could stop herself. The phrase ‘I take it back’ had become a standard apology.
Dora was an enigmatic person, not technically right for a geeky gang. She was striking and attractive, always dressing in a bright, captivating fashion. Today her ensemble consisted of turquoise welly boots with heels, turquoise mini dress and a matching beret placed at a rakish angle. Her white blonde, tufty hair would make a pixie proud. As was her custom, her pale face was highlighted with a blood red slash of lipstick. As far as nerds go, Dora did not fit the bill. She was cool with long, shapely legs. Many suitors had approached her and been rejected.
‘So,’ Alex suddenly said. She was weighing out soft butter; her deep brown eyes twinkled mischievously.
Elissa suddenly, and for the first time, felt shy in front of her life long friends. Heat inflamed her cheeks. On her alabaster skin blushing blossomed in hot pink blobs, creating a clown like look. ‘So… what…?’ Elissa squeaked, trying to sound nonchalant.
‘You know what!’ chipped in Dora from the sink where she was cracking eggs into a bowl, then she shrieked ‘Jaret!!’ so loudly that Elissa actually believed he heard it next door which made her gut feel full of squirming eels.
‘Shhhh’ she hissed at them both.
‘Well you are sixteen,’ said Dora, hopping off the kitchen work surface. She had sat in a sticky splodge and was mortified to find it smeared all over her favourite frock. Wiping her buttock with the dishcloth as she spoke Dora continued, ‘Isn’t this the age where we all start burgeoning or something?’
Alex and Elissa immediately burst into laughter.
‘Oh you know,’ continued Dora distractedly still trying to get the mark out of her dress. She was unaware there was also butter daubed on the other side of her bottom. ‘Getting all hot and bothered, thinking about sex and hormones and all that.’
Alex chirruped, ‘Oh yes, I woke up on my sixteenth birthday and thought… hmmmm hormones, now there’s an interesting thing.’ She placed the bowl carefully in the large, white sink and handed Dora a piece of kitchen paper.
‘Anyway,’ sighed Dora, then added quietly ‘idiots’ and ‘I take it back’ all in one breath before taking the proffered paper towels. ‘Never mind all that, what about Elissa and Jaret eh?’ She dug her gangly friend playfully in the ribs causing Elissa to hug herself shyly.
‘Honestly though, what was that?! I mean, one minute I am walking to English Lit and the next minute someone grabs both my arms and pins me against the wall and I realise it’s Jaret and he’s staring right into my eyes, and then, he’s gone like the wind, and I am left standing there with everyone staring at me.’
She held her arms out entreating them, ‘I am completely flummoxed by this,’ she was met by a pair of bewildered expressions.
‘So what did it feel like?’ Dora asked eagerly.
Alex snorted rather derisively at this and said, ‘Like Elissa felt anything, we don’t live in a romantic novel you know.’ Alex was always pragmatic and therefore the notion of romance was a completely alien thing to her. Romance for Alex was reading a good detective novel and guessing who the murderer was before the culprit was revealed.
‘Actually, I did feel something,’ Elissa admitted. Both friends were speechless. ‘I felt a sort of tingle, a shudder or … something.’ There had been something ‘electric’ between her and Jaret. She was sure she didn’t imagine it. A sort of sparkly, jittery connection. It was a strange mixture of excitement and something else – surely not fear?!
‘I know this sounds weird,’ said Alex, staring intently at Elissa, her eyes magnified in the thick lenses of her glasses, ‘but you do kind of look different.’ She turned to Dora, ‘Don’t you think?’
Dora launched into an impression of David Attenborough, walking towards Elissa and squinting as if examining a new species. ‘Hmm, this is a particularly rare flower that changes when a sexy man grabs her. She immediately thinks of boys and hormones.’ Through the resounding cackle of laughter, Alex could be heard continuing in her usual dogmatic manner.
‘Seriously, you look more…’ Alex hesitated trying to put her finger on the right word, ‘…attractive,’ she finally managed to say, a little hesitantly.
‘Thanks’ laughed Elissa, ‘so I was a gross before eh?’
‘Yes - I take it back!’ stammered Dora all in one breath. Elissa threw her a look of mock annoyance then turned her attention to the stew. Seizing a tea towel in each hand, she heaved the big pot off the stove and pushed it into the bottom oven of the Aga and closed the door, pushing it too with her foot.
‘You move differently too,’ observed Alex, her magnified eyes scanning Elissa repeatedly up and down like an owl. ‘Sort of graceful, smoother,’ Alex continued to muse. ‘Your eyes seem brighter too; in fact you seem more radiant all round.’ She paused before daring to ask, ‘Are you really… in love?’Elissa stared at them dumbfounded. Dora was now sitting on the worktop by the kitchen sink elegantly licking cake batter off a wooden spoon. Alex returned to the kitchen table to begin licking out the bowl. They finally, after a few arguments about baking techniques and bun flavours, pushed the last tray of batter into the main oven of the Aga.
Elissa remained frozen in her defensive pose staring at the empty space previously occupied by the analytical Alex. ‘Am I in love with him?’ she pondered internally. Notions of being romantically involved with Jaret had plagued her imagination for a long time. She was obsessed with him. If there was any small encounter where their paths crossed she would repeatedly rake over every detail desperately trying to glean something deeper, something which indicated there was a connection between them.
Alex and Dora were still licking their cake mix and occasionally glancing at Elissa who had frozen into a statue, still clutching the tea towel to her chest, her lips uttering silent words. They all knew each other's idiosyncrasies and merely waited patiently for normal activity to resume. After a few minutes they were rewarded with Elissa’s question, ‘I mean, why did he do that?’
‘Perhaps he suddenly felt overwhelmed with desire for you.’ Dora replied flatly, dumping the spoon in the sink. ‘He took one look at the hummus on your face and wanted to lick it off - I doubt it was your appearance that attracted him.’ Alex and Elissa waited. Three, two, one Elissa counted mentally before Dora said, ‘Sorry, I take that back.’
‘Seriously?’ Elissa blurted this out in exasperation.
Dora muttered, ‘Seriously, I am very sorry, I only meant that you aren’t exactly his type, you’re far too unusual and amazing for him, he normally goes for ditsy brainless birds.’
‘Not that Dora, I know exactly what you meant, I mean, seriously, what was it all about?’ Elissa with her head of muddy orange hair, tied messily back with an elastic band stood before the Aga in a pair of old black leggings that were now more a mouldy grey colour and so saggy round her nether regions that she could only wear long tops to cover the ever drooping bum hammock beneath. Elissa firmly believed that even her time honoured friends would have to concede that she was certainly no goddess that demanded to be ravished.
To confirm this, Alex said stoically, ‘No there must be another reason.’ Her dogmatic tone sent Dora and Elissa off into peals of laughter, leaving Alex completely bewildered by what they found so funny. She was unaware she had cake batter on her forehead and some in her fringe.
They cherished these moments, being together, sharing time and Elissa leaned back to feel the warmth of her trusty Aga behind her. The little plops and hisses coming from the pan and the sweet smell of cakes rising soothed her. ‘It’s all so very strange,’ she mused wistfully, already finding herself yielding to the world of daydreams.
Alex had finally polished off the cake batter in the mixing bowl and was meticulously wiping her glasses clean with a soft cloth. She resembled the slightly nerdy know it all in Scooby Doo. She had a brown bob of dense straight hair that reached her chin and skin the colour of rich cocoa and suffered bouts of acne. She wore thick-rimmed glasses and could always to be trusted to give a rational, logical perspective on any given situation.
‘So why did Jaret pin me against the wall?’ Elissa beseeched them again. She so longed for it to be an urge of desire on his part, goodness knows she had imagined it enough.
Both Alex and Dora looked back at her with ominous expressions. ‘What is it?’ Elissa asked urgently. ‘Have you heard something?’
Clearly reluctant to answer, her friends shifted uneasily in their seats before Dora finally muttered, ‘Well we heard some gossip about Jessica. Apparently she’s ‘gunning for you’ over what happened with Jaret.’
Elissa tried to remain calm, ‘I’ve had plenty of abuse off her in the past. I doubt she can do anything worse to me than what she’s done before.’
‘Like the time she stole your underwear at swim class and threw it all over the bus.’ Dora said nodding in a sympathetic manner.
‘Yeah,’ replied Elissa.
‘Or the time she spread the rumour that you had head lice,’ Alex chipped in, in the manner of someone offering helpful advice.
‘Yes,’ Elissa responded her voice hardening in annoyance at such reminders.
‘Oh, what about the time she locked you in the gardening shed at school and poured silage through the window.’ Dora remembered excitedly, as though this were now a competition as to who could identify the worst times Elissa had been bullied by Jessica Albright. ‘You really stank that day – sorry I take that back,’ she added.
‘Alright!’ snapped Elissa, ‘I get it, I am in for a whole lot more crap from the worst bully at college – great.’ Her face fell into a grim expression of woe.
Suddenly the oven timer emitted a burring noise, the cakes were ready. The ensuing hustle and bustle of getting oven gloves, cooling trays and cakes in place distracted them from the discussion.
A little spat erupted between Alex and Dora regarding the decoration of the cakes. As usual, Dora wanted hot pinks, poppy reds and fluorescent yellows whilst Alex wanted a more neutral palette. Whilst they were bickering back and forth, Dora seeming to say ‘I take it back’ incessantly, Elissa once again found herself slipping into a reverie.
She stepped back from her two friends, their ranting voices quietened. Elissa felt a composure mixed with control wash over her.
As Elissa watched her friends in this dreamy manner, she was keenly aware of a strong sense of knowing them inside out. As she stared at them their bodies became transparent. Their outlines were still present, moving about prettifying their collection of buns, but their clothes, skin and muscles had melted away. Within their outlines she could see webs all lit up, some more than others as they transmitted messages to different areas, all the time moulding, interpreting and transforming their personalities and their physicality.
As Elissa tried to work out whether this was real, thoughts of Jaret floated into her consciousness. She saw his inner ‘self’ too, only his was red, with a focus on veins and the blood pumping through those veins, fizzing and popping and….
‘Oh for crying out loud Dora!’ Alex’s shout snapped Elissa back to the present, the kitchen, the smells, the people of her life all startling and clear, causing her to blink rapidly as though a bright torch shone in her eyes. She could no longer see their inner selves; they had vanished, fizzled away, like butter in a hot pan. Alex stood back from the table, a look of disgust across her face and a large bright pink stain down the front of her white jumper as well as a smattering of it across her jeans. Dora was standing opposite her, poised over the mixing bowl with a dripping tube of pink food dye pointed like a gun at Alex. Dora’s face was a mask of amusement mixed with concern as Alex stiffly shuffled to the sink to try washing it off.Conversation reverted back to the hot topic, hotter than the hot pink Dora continued to squirt into the icing mix.
‘Do you think Jaret now has feelings for you?’ she asked beating the silky icing briskly, her beret teetering dangerously over the stained mixture.
Thinking long and hard, Elissa could only reply, ‘I honestly don’t know,’ and she sloped across the kitchen to put the kettle on to make a brew.