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Above and Below, chap 3

by  kmerignac

Posted: Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Word Count: 1093
Summary: Here's the next installment...

Jo and Shaun felt nervous as they approached the house, but when they saw that their mum’s car wasn’t yet in the drive they both felt their spirits lift - they might still get a lecture, but at least they weren’t going to be caught in the act.
Jo took her wet shoes off and made her way up the stairs. She wondered if Shaun was going to tell them what had happened and decided he probably wouldn’t. One of the unspoken rules of the house was that Shaun look after her when they were alone, so if they happened to find out that she’d been in danger she knew he’d get an earful too. She knew it was unfair, but she was also pretty sure she could work this to her advantage.
Dorfmann had been pruning when they returned; she'd felt his eyes on her back as she'd waded by, river water dripping from her clothes, but she didn’t think he’d say anything either. He was quiet on the whole and kept himself to himself, and that suited her just fine. She didn’t like him much. He looked a bit like how she imagined a vampire to be - tall with dark hair receding at the temples, a horrid gaunt face with narrow features. He gave her the creeps. But having worked the estate forever, there could never have been any question of replacing him.
She walked into the bathroom and quickly got undressed. It wasn’t exactly a hot day, despite the presence of the sun, and the wind had taken all of the warmth out of her wet body during the trek home; it was a relief to peel the wet clothes from her skin. When she turned the hot water on damp steam began to fill the room, caressing her with its warmth. She stepped into the shower and stood under the flow, closing her eyes and tipping her head back to let the warmth hammer down onto her face, relishing in the feel of her muscles gently loosening in the heat. Then there was a knock on the door and she heard Shaun’s voice drift in from the corridor.
'Mum just phoned. She said she'll be back in about half an hour.'
Jo opened her eyes and wiped the water off her face with her hands.
'Okay!’ she shouted, then stepped out of the shower and wrapped herself in a towel. She picked up her things and padded down the carpeted corridor to her bedroom, warm water dripping from her hair and down her back. She was pushing her wet clothes into the back of her cupboard, making a mental note to put them in the machine herself before going to bed, when Shaun poked his head around the door.
'Can we keep this to ourselves?' he said.
Jo looked up, surprised.
'Fine by me.’
He disappeared again, and she smiled to herself. She took a large jumper and a pair of jeans out of the cupboard and pulled them on, then pulled a brush through her wet hair and glanced at her reflection in the mirror. Then she turned, walked to the bed and lay down.
There’d been no one on the bridge with her, she’d have seen them. But she had been pushed in; she'd felt the pressure on her back. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. There was absolutely no sense in what she was thinking. But then, was there any sense in the fact that she’d heard people singing too?
And how had she been able to stay under water for so long? She wasn't sure how long exactly, but at least three or four minutes, and although she wasn't a bad swimmer she certainly wasn't champion material.
She'd felt safe though, until Shaun interfered. In a kind of trance… induced no doubt by a lack of oxygen to the brain, because she'd heard of things like that happening. Yes, maybe that’s what it was. That would certainly explain why she’d seen what she had… just some sort of hallucination… a figment of her delirious imagination… what other explanation was there for seeing a blooming hole in the riverbed? Well not a hole exactly, more like a window. A kind of window.
She pushed herself up onto her elbows and opened her eyes. Maybe it was just a mirror. Discarded, and forgotten. No age spots, and the reflection perfect, so it would have to have been thrown in recently, but maybe that’s what it was. So what she’d seen in it would just have been a reflection. That would make sense. Because there’d been trees, just like those surrounding the river, standing tall and proud, and the sky had been the same bright blue and dotted with wisps of fluffy cloud. She’d seen small birds flitting in and out of the branches of the trees… and all that could well have been a reflection. If there hadn’t been those other things too. An ornate bridge in white wood that she'd never seen before, delicate and majestic, arching over the water, and a far cry from her father’s makeshift affair. And the banks she’d seen were smooth and green whereas the river she’d fallen into had muddy banks full of weeds and wild flowers.
Then, of course, there were the faces. Seven or eight of them, crowding on the river’s lush banks and staring down at her. Faces of people she'd never seen before.
Jo chewed at her lip. She was beginning to feel a bit sick. No matter how she looked at it, how much she turned the thing over in her mind, she always came back to the same ridiculous conclusion: what she’d seen wasn’t a mirror. It couldn’t possibly have been. What she’d seen could only have been one of two things. Either a hallucination, produced by lack of oxygen or something, or a window. A kind of window. Looking out over some other garden. Some other place. She smiled. A window to another land… just how crazy did that sound?
She sat up and kicked her feet over the side of the bed and down onto the floor. The sound of tires on the gravel filtered in through the window and she glanced outside, catching a glimpse of the roof of her mum’s blue car just before it disappeared out of sight: there was no way she’d be able to get away today, but she would tomorrow. She’d make sure of that.
Curiosity had got the better of her.