The Other Side – Chapter 9 – Picture Box
Izzy heads off into Eastham to get away from the brats singing and piano lessons. A quirky shop with an eccentric old lady and a good looking Grandson peaks her curiosity, but no more so that the phone call with her Mum that is cut short by a storm and events that follow.
Harmony and Melissa stood side by side. They wore identical black tops and dark green tartan skirts. Their heads tilted down, hair in buns and eyes focused on the floor. Siobhan stood behind them, her face expressionless. She nudged them forward. They shuffled two steps.
“Go on, get it over with girls,” Siobhan muttered.
“Do we have to?” Harmony fidgeted with her long sleeves.
Izzy glanced up from her sketch pad and continued shading her drawing and swallowed her last piece of toast.
“The girls have something to say to you.”
Izzy picked up a clear plastic tumbler and took a generous swig of orange juice before putting it back down heavily on the table. “Oh yeah, what’s that?”
“We’re…umm…” The girls looked at each other and like a mirror image they turned to Izzy. “We’re sorry for putting porridge in your slippers.”
Izzy stared speechless. Had they been practising their apology to be in sync? If that wasn’t creepy enough their black eyes were. No emotion. Nothing stirred deep inside their retinas.
Faces were blank. Kids were odd, but these were off the scale weird.
“Yeah, right. Whatever!”
“They have apologised. Let’s leave things at that. Shake on it and be civil.”
Izzy’s pencil dropped from between her fingers. “You can’t be serious? Be civil? They don’t know how!”
“Darling, you are a guest in our house. You have a little over two weeks to stay here. Let’s try and make it drama-free and stay out of each other’s way, shall we?” Siobhan raised an eyebrow but didn’t smile.
“That sounds good to me. Stay out of my way and I’ll stay out of yours.” Izzy picked up her tumbler of orange juice, raised it and took a sip. She hoped that that meant the three of them and not just the brats.
Melissa’s hand lunged forward. “Shake on it.” she gave a lopsided smile and mouthed “bitch.” knocking the tumbler out of Izzy’s hand and spilling the contents of orange juice over the sketch pad.
Izzy’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open. “You stupid idiot. What the hell are you playing at?”
“Oops, I’m sorry, Izzy. I didn’t mean to.” The corners of Melissa’s mouth slowly turned upwards for a brief second. “Is it ruined?”
“The hell you didn’t…you…”
“Hey, hey. What’s going on here?”
Siobhan turned quickly and smiled. She puckered her lips and Michael bent down and kissed her. “Hello my love. The girls have apologised for the porridge. Melissa went to shake hands with Izzy and accidentally knocked the orange juice out of her hand. It spilt all over her beautiful artwork!”
“Oh no. That’s not good.”
“No. I’ll get some kitchen towel and mop it up. Maybe it can be saved?”
Izzy sat there stunned like she had been tasered. Could this be really happening or had she had another stupid dream again and it was really all in her head? It all felt surreal. Had Melissa really wrecked her sketchbook? She looked at the soggy book on the table with its orange tint trickling off its pages onto the black marble table. Yeah, she had!
Siobhan rushed over with kitchen towel and mopped it up quickly off the marble surface then dabbed it on the sketchpad. “I’m sorry darling, can you save it?”
No. It’s wrecked.” Izzy tried carefully to peel the pages apart, but it ripped. “That’s a week’s worth of sketches ruined and my only sketchpad. It was part of my work for my art exam!”
“I know that this is no consolation to the work you have lost honey and I’m sorry it’s been damaged, but I can give you money to buy new sketchpads.”
Izzy let out a deep sigh. “Where am I going to get any sketchpads from around here. We’re in the middle of the country!”
“There’s a quaint little shop in the village that sells mainly pictures and frames, but they do sell artists paints and pencils. Why not go and have a look and you can explore a bit of Eastham.”
“I don’t have much choice do I.” Izzy picked up the book from the table and put it in the bin. It was like deja vu only with her sketchpad and not her slippers. Would there be a third time? There better not be!
Michael reached into his pocket and brought out a twenty-pound note. “Here take this Izzy, it should be enough to get a couple of different size sketchpads for you. If there is anything else you need please ask.” He handed Izzy the money.
“Thank you, dad. I will take a look tomorrow. I planned to do some reading in the library today. I found a great…”
“Oh, I’m afraid you can’t darling. Your dad organised extra tuition for singing and piano lessons for the girls for the next three days. They have a show and an exam soon for their performing arts school.”
“What? But we had plans for the next few days and…”
“Harmony. I will not hear anymore from you or your sister. I organised it after the porridge incident because of your behaviour.”
“Melissa. I won’t hear anymore. It has been decided and you could do with some more practice, both of you.”
Izzy pushed the urge of wanting to laugh away, for now. Satisfied with her dad’s reaction she glanced at the little brats. Harmony scowled so hard that she could barely see her black eyes, while Melissa bit her lip and picked at her fingernails.
“It’s a beautiful day. Harmony and Melissa have practice in thirty minutes, darling. Why don’t you have a break from the house and look around the shops.” Siobhan smiled and smoothed down the red silk material that clung tightly to her hips.
“Yes. Maybe you will find something that you can paint or sketch around here that would be suitable for your art exam. There are beautiful parks and woodland walks around here. The girls will be out of your way for a few days, they need to get some practice in.” Michael gave a slight smile and winked.
Izzy grinned at her dad, which faded as she turned to face Siobhan and the bitches.
“Go have a shower and get changed and I will explain what pathways to take. Be quick, I have a meeting in an hour and have to leave in thirty minutes.”
Izzy nodded at her dad and left the kitchen and its awkward atmosphere.
Izzy winced at the sound that came from the library and echoed through the house. High pitched singing if you could call it that and the wrong keys played on the piano. It came to no surprise her dad had given them extra tuition. They needed it. She could play chopsticks better if she was hanging upside down from a tree and blindfolded! She wondered if the tutor had ear protectors! She quickly shut the door behind her.
The sun glared down and Izzy shaded her eyes with her hand. She could already feel the warmth on her bare shoulders. The gravel crunched beneath her trainers until she got to the pavement, which she followed for ten minutes until she came to the blue sign with white writing that said Butterfly Wood. The dirt path was two rulers wide, dry and scattered with a few small twigs. It was a little cooler beneath the branches of the trees. Ferns and bluebells were dotted around in large patches.
It was so beautiful and serene. A perfect place to escape the bitches. Also, an awesome place to sketch. Her art exam consisted of two themes, scenery and water. This place would be perfect to escape to. The earthy smell of the bark drifted upon the Summer breeze. She followed the trail until she came to a wooden sty and climbed over. A faint hum of traffic could be heard nearby.
The dirt path came to an end and she stepped onto the concrete pavement. It felt as if she had gone from one world to another. For a small village from what she could see it seemed quite busy. Eastham looked as if it would be a gardeners paradise with trailing pink and purple flowers from the lamposts. More of them adorned the border of the roundabout, surrounding the huge willow tree in the middle. There were flowers everywhere. Imagine coming here for a holiday and suffering from hay fever, if you didn’t take medication you’d be screwed!! Not that Eastham would be holiday material, from what she had seen on the drive through it didn’t really offer a lot. Pensioners would like it though for its tranquillity and for its picturesque views.
The shops were all closely knitted together a few on the left. A lovely aroma of fried fish and chips wafted towards her from the first shop. What a different kind of greeting after walking through the woods with it’s earthy and scented fragrance. The chip shop aptly named as Fisherman’s Delight beckoned her, but the large queue trailed outside and she didn’t want to wait, she’d call in on the way back.
The window next to it had large plastic jars of boiled sweets lined up. A string of artificial flowers followed the line of the shelf that they sat on. Below it many other sweets in packets in a basket with an array of fake chocolate bars and soft drinks to promote well-known brands.
Trays of freshly baked bread rolls, baguets, croissants sat in the next window and a lady with a plump face and flushed red cheeks smiled at her through the glass as she put two trays of pasties beside each other, the steam still rising off them. Izzy smiled back.
She was so caught up in her own thoughts she almost walked past the next shop. A cold feeling slipped across her shoulders making them shake; she shivered. Izzy felt as if she was being watched. She glanced around but there was no one there. The shiver run down her spine.
“I have her in sight, she’s at a shop,” a male voice replied.
“Good. Watch her and don’t let her out of your sight. Your life depends on it!”
“I understand. You have my oath and my loyalty Priestess”
“Enough talk. Watch and observe her.”
“As you command.”
Izzy glanced around, she could have sworn she heard whispering, but no one was near. Izzy looked in at the window. An array of different frames were displayed on some white ruffled material. The faded sign read ‘The Picture Box. She turned the handle. A bell rang above her head as she pushed open the door, which squeaked like something out of a horror movie. It smelt old and musty.
”Oh hello sweetie, come in, come in,” a white-haired lady called out.
Izzy smiled at the chained specs that sat on the end of her nose. She looked like a librarian.
”Hi. Can I help you at all? Is there anything, in particular, you’re looking for, young lady?”
”Umm…yes. Have you got any pictures to do with water, please? I’m looking for things to draw for an art exam.”
The old woman put her hand to her mouth and thought for several seconds. ”I might have one or two things, sweetie, let me go and have a look in the back a minute. Go sit down and help yourself to one of those,” she pointed to a large jar of lollies on the counter. ”I’ll be back in two shakes.”
“Thank you. I hope it’s no trouble.”
”No, not at all, sweetie. I’ll get some pictures to show you in a jiffy.”
Within a few minutes, the old lady came back, several prints in her hand. ”I knew I had some somewhere,” she passed them to Izzy.
”Are they the sort of things you were looking for, sweetie?” she asked peering over dark blue spectacles.
”Yes, they are. Thank you. I particularly like this one,” she said pointing at the largest print of all.
”Oh, yes that’s the lake … beautiful isn’t it?”
”Yes. Is it near here?
”Yes, sweetie, but it’s not safe.”
”Well because …” The bell rang.
”Hey Nan! You okay there,” said a male voice.
”I’m fine. I have a customer.”
”Sorry,” he walked around the corner almost bumping into his Nan.
Izzy looked up and smiled. The boy looked at least six foot tall, he towered above them both. He stared at her but did not smile back. His black fringe almost hid his eyes and Izzy couldn’t make out his expression.
”Sorry, what were you saying about the lake?”
”Oh yes, it’s out of bounds. It’s not safe.”
”Why?” Izzy glanced over at the Grandson, who rolled his eyes.
“They have to do some maintenance work, something to do with the lake.” He shrugged.
“Nan it’s time for your meds.”
“Phoenix, let me serve the young lady first!”
“Sorry Nan, but I can take over now. Go rest and do what you have to do.”
“Thank you, Phoenix. Look after our customer. We don’t get many young ones anymore.”
“I will Nan. Don’t you worry.” He smiled as she shuffled into a room hidden beneath a velvet burgundy curtain.
“What are you looking for exactly? Maybe I can help?”
“I’m looking for places with water…its a theme for my art exam. I’m looking for ideas to draw.”
“Oh okay maybe this will inspire you, the lake, but it’s off bounds because it sometimes rises and the banks get flooded, so it’s off-limits to everyone.”
Phoenix handed her a glossy colourful pic of the lake.
“Oh, that’s a shame I would have loved to have gone there to draw. But surely it would have dried out these Summer months?”
“Yeah. Had some bad weather lately the ground is soaking wet and the lake’s water height is rising, so best to stay away.”
“Oh okay…well I guess as you’re local you would know.”
“Yeah, been like this for a long time. It happens every few years. That’s what my Nan says.”
“Gottcha!” Izzy smiled.
Phoenix’s face remained expressionless. “Can I help you with anything else? It’s almost time to close.”
“Oh yeah, sure. Sorry. Do you have any canvas frames in ten by eight, please? At least two of them?”
“Yeah. Hang on and I’ll get them for you.” He disappeared underneath the burgundy curtain for two minutes and reappeared.
Awesome. I’m also looking for sketch pads in a ten by eight and a sixteen by sixteen if you have them?”
“Yeah got them. Is that all?”
“Thank you. Yes.”
“Thanks that’s nineteen pounds and seventy-five pence, please.”
Phoenix put them in a large carrier bag. “Thank you for shopping with Picture Box.”
“It’s okay. Nice to meet you.” Izzy could feel the blood rushing to her cheeks.
He nodded and watched her and shut the door behind her, turning the ‘Open’ sign to ‘Closed’.
Izzy watched him. Good looks. Mysterious. Moody. Intriguing. Her type. Not his. Total fail.
She looked at the shop and smiled at its green flakey paint and it’s faded business logo. It felt so out of time and yet it belonged. Her smile faded quickly as the hair on her neck stood up and goosebumps covered her arms like a rash.
“Moonwatch. It’s your turn until dusk. You are the watchers.” said a deep male voice. It carried across the realm.
She could hear whispers again, only the tone but not the words. It must be the light breeze in the trees. Her goosebumps disappeared.
Fisherman’s Delight summoned her with its freshly cooked fish, she could smell the batter, but it was almost six o’ clock she better get back to the witches house. Izzy let herself in. Siobhan was busy in the kitchen cooking. Dad was reading the paper in his chair.
“Oh hello, darling. Did you get everything?”
“Yes, thanks. I just need to catch up on some drawing the next few days.”
“Well, Harmony and Melissa have some extra practice for the next two. Their tutor wasn’t best pleased with them today!” Michael shook his paper. “How was your day? Did you get what you wanted?”
“Yeah. I did thanks, dad. I found an awesome place to draw too…”
Her voice trailed off as her phone vibrated and the words ‘When the demons call, face your fears, don’t taste your tears, don’t fall, don’t fall’ sang loudly from her phone. Mum calling showed on the screen.
“Sorry gotta take this.” Izzy’s heart pounded as she power-walked out of the room.
“Hey pumpkin! How’s my girl? I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch the weather has been crap. Bad storms, no signal.”
“I’m okay, few ups n downs but I think I got it covered. I miss you. How’s it going? Have you had the funeral yet?”
“Umm no, funeral in a few more days. What’s been happening? Is your dad okay with you? Is the witch from the East okay?”
“A couple of dramas with the little bitches. Big bitch seems okay for now. Dad is fine, but I think him and I need to chat.”
“Oh, what’s happened? And yes you do, but all three of us need to sit down and chat pumpkin. I need to explain some things to you. Anyway, how’s the artwork going. Have you got good weather there to sketch outside?
“A few dramas that’s all…stupid pranks off the little bitches. What do we need to talk about Mum? Okay apart from a weeks work being destroyed by H and M and I have to start again. I’m gutted but dad gave me money and I bought new sketchpads and canvases. Yeah weather okay so far…hot though!”
“That’s good, no rain there yet then?”
“No, so warm here. I think I’m getting a tan!” Izzy laughed.
“That’s good, be strange to see my ginger nut with a tan!”
Giggles crossed each other down the phone.
“There’s a cute boy that works at a shop called the Picture Box, it sells art stuff and drawings.”
“Oh really! Is he a metalhead?”
“I dunno, he looks like he’s into my type of music. Black hair and black clothes, the goth or emo type of look. He doesn’t talk too much, only shop work.”
“Give it time pumpkin. Sorry going off this subject a minute but I think we have a big storm brewing and prob be with you in the next few days. It sounds as if it’s almost gonna be like a tropical one that they have over in the USA…destructive. Stay in…don’t go out, no matter what…Okay! Promise me, Izzy.”
“I will…and I promise. How bad are the storms by you?”
“So far okay, manageable, but we are expecting some really bad crap in a day or two, so if I don’t contact you, you will know why. If I haven’t been in touch in five days, tell dad.”
“Because he will…” Crackle, crackle. The line went dead and the irritating tone sound came on the phone. Click. Nothing.
Izzy stared at her phone. The screensaver of her and her mum dressed up last Hallows Eve came on the screen. Her mum as a Maleficent and her as a Sugar skull. Happy times.
“Foods ready” Siobhan called.
Izzy walked back in the kitchen. Her phone had been on seventy-eight percent and it was now five percent.
“Yeah, it was Mum. She got cut off, but said a bad storm was coming this way!”
Michael shot her a look. “Oh really…when?”
“Mum said in a few days.”
He nodded and rustled his pages of the paper as he glanced through them and glanced at the clock on the lounge wall. His phone bleeped. He read the screen. “Sorry! Work calls. I’ll be in the study. Goodnight. I love you.” He kissed Izzy on top of her head and then kissed Siobhan on her cheek and hugged her.
Siobhan’s brows furrowed as she watched him leave.
“I’ll make your food now, it’s still cooking but it’s on low.”
A few minutes later and Siobhan put a plate of spaghetti bolognese on the table.
Izzy tucked in. It was the first thing she had had since the orange juice incident.
“Do you want a hand cleaning up?” Izzy asked as she finished another mouthful.
“No. It’s okay. You eat and then go and do what you want to do. I’m fine. Thank you.”
“Okay, thank you and the meal was lovely.”
Siobhan gave a weak smile and nodded and continued with the dishes.
Izzy walked up the second lots of stairs and a child’s small wet footprints could be clearly seen on each step. She followed them until she came to her room. A small puddle of water seeped underneath her door. She opened it slowly and followed the footsteps to her window. It was shut.
She tried to open it but it was stuck tight. She looked onto the garden. The Fountain lit up and she thought she saw a child in a white nightie run across the grass and disappear behind the stone waterfall. The window flew open and she gasped.
Izzy rubbed her eyes. It was strangely getting dark, but not quite black outside. She blinked a few times and focused. It looked the same. It must be the light playing tricks.
A loud clash of thunder and several lightning bolts lit up not only her dad’s garden but the three neighbours on either side. The bedroom window slammed shut and Izzy jumped and put her hand to her chest and breathed deeply. “Oh for…” Thunder roared above the house, drowning out her word. “….sake.” she finished. Her heart thumped inside her chest and she struggled to catch her breath. She looked down and the water had gone…no footprints…only a doll by her feet, soaking wet.