Their fate had been written in the chimes of St Mary de Haura’s clock.
She’d known, from the moment that she’d seen him standing at the back wall of the church looking up at the mass dial, that they were looking for the same thing.
But she’d also known that he was going to be trouble.
These realisations collide in Sade’s head all at once, filling her skull with screeching I-told-you-so’s. Above her head the pylon, which had been dislodged by the crashed lorry, creaks a sound of upmost terror. It isn’t going to be long before it crashes down on top of the car.
Sade slides out of the front seat and on to the main road. Smoke and petrol fumes catch in her throat. She rests her head down on her hand, her fingers pulling away with fresh blood.
She looks back at Dan, still unconscious, his head rolled on the steering wheel. She kicks herself. Why did she get in this stranger’s car in the first place? Why didn’t she just carry on with the search on her own? It’s her search and her life.
But what about his life, she reminds herself. If he stays in that car, he’ll die.
The wind catches up and the pylon groans under the unbalanced weight. Sade needs to take a breath and clear her head, but her lungs just kept filling up with the cloying scent around her. Oh, and that headache again!
She walks round to the other side of the car. The wheels are clinging to the edge of the road by the skin of their teeth, so the passenger door opens over the cliff. This is not going to be easy.
I could just leave, Sade thinks, I barely even know this guy.
But she can’t forget about that night at the church.
It was the coldest night of the year, so cold that the wind still managed to bite through her thick winter coat, a scarf, and a hat. Sade didn’t have gloves, so her fingers were red and swollen, the air feeling like pinpricks on the exposed skin.
It had started to rain so she scurried under the cover of the fullest tree she could find on that November night. She stood no more than a few centimetres away from a crumbling headstone. The gnarled and twisted branches appeared to curve downwards like the spokes of an umbrella. Eight chimes drifted down from St Mary de Haura’s clock tower, the fresh raindrops swallowing up the echoes.
Normally, Sade was afraid of graveyards, the way the grass reached up around her ankles with curling fingers, the way the rustling of a leaf sounded like footsteps, the way the air seemed thick with some other ghostly breath.
This graveyard was different. The west-facing headstones displayed their mostly rubbed-off faces, the tree trunks seemed hollow, and the grounds were just…empty. No spirits had walked these paths for a very long time. Sade had heard people say that people hardly even called it a graveyard. Those who knew it called it The Mary Garden, and those who didn’t would learn quickly enough that there was nothing eerie about the cowslips or the lungwort, otherwise known as ‘Mary’s Tears’ which seemed quite fitting that night.
She didn’t need a graveyard full of spirits, she just needed one and she knew that this was the place to find her.
Every night for a week Sade had crossed those grounds, choosing one of the four-spoked paths which connected every road in Shoreham to the church, the centrepiece of the whole town. Every night she was rewarded with its emptiness. Except for that night.
That night, under the pear tree, somewhere nearby Sade heard the rustling of leaves, slow and melodic like a dance. Then the rustling stopped and before she could look round there was a sharp pain at the back of her head.
Sade had fallen to the wet ground and all around her was cold. A chill ran up her spine as a bodiless voice whispered close to her ear, you’ll never find it. She’d known then that she was going to die. Sade couldn’t move, her body was locked in its crumpled position on the ground, the blades of grass piercing into her palms, unsoftened by the rain.
She’d looked up in that infinitesimal moment between life and death and saw the man, his back to her, looking up at the church. The only thing visible in the night was his fair hair.
Then she screamed.
The man spun round and for a moment couldn’t detect her. Then, looking slightly above her, his face visibly paled, a simulacrum of the moon’s face. He started towards her, swearing profusely.
“You’re not welcome here,” he shouted.
In a few large strides he was by her side and lifting her to her feet. The chill had disappeared, the only thing that bore any evidence of what had happened was the pounding at the back of her head.
“That wasn’t St Mary,” he said.
“No shit,” she snapped, rubbing the back of her head with stinging fingers.
“So, you’re looking for it too.”
He’d saved her that night. If he hadn’t been there then it wasn’t just the search that would have ended for Sade.
“Stupid conscience,” she mutters, flinging open the passenger door.
Sade feels for Dan’s pulse then, after finding it, slaps him hard across the cheek to wake him up from his inconvenient slumber.
“Get up you idiot! We need to go. Listen to me. Do you want us to die? We’re so close, Dan, we can’t stop now. Get up.”
Under her shaking fingers Dan stirs. His eyes ping open and a sharp breath catches in his throat. He tries to lift his head from the steering wheel but just groans.
Sade locks her fingers around his shoulders. “What’s wrong? Is something broken? Listen, I’m going to help you sit up, but you need to work with me.”
“Just go without me.” Dan’s voice sounds wet.
“No,” she says, already pushing on his shoulders. “You’re coming.”
Slowly, Dan’s neck straightens, revealing a massive bruise forming around his eye. He nods and grits his teeth. “Help me out then.”
Copyright: Laura Davis © 2017, all rights reserved.