09 Shadows in the night

Kate’s pulse was throbbing as she slowly turned behind the shed and saw Rhona, Francis and Gloria. It was all in slow motion. Priscillas mouth was closed thight, her eyes full of hate.

– “I’ll teach you to make me look silly!” she hissed.

It sounded so strange, her mouth moving so slowly, her words dragging out and her voice sounding like a man’s.

Kate was on the ground. Francis and Gloria held her so tight it hurt. Rhonda’s fists hit her eyes, her nose, her cheek. Blood was running from her nose. Her eyes were sore, and a cut beside her right eye started to bleed. Priscilla kicked her in her stomach. She kicked her in her ribbs. It hurt so bad. It seemed like they would never stop. Kate’s eyesight got blurry. For a while, she could see nothing at all.

– “Kate? Are you awake?”

Kate could not talk. She could not move. She could hardly breathe.

– “Is she alive?”

Kate almost hoped at that point that she wasn’t alive. Maybe being dead would be better? No pain, no suffering!

– “She’s breathing!” Rhonda said.

– “Let’s go!”

Kate could hardly feel the tip of Priscilla’s red shoes as she pushed her head sideways.

– “Are you awake?” Priscilla repeated.

Kate moaned and rolled over. Her sight had returned slightly, allthough it was kind of hazy.

– “Now we’re even!” smiled Priscilla.

– “This will teach you not to mess with me ever again!”

It was then she felt the knife that Adam had given her that morning. She stumbled a few steps forward towards Priscilla. The knife opened with a “zing”. Priscilla’s eyes got big. Then Kate threw herself forward towards Priscilla. Her hand shot out. The knife went through Priscilla’s summer dress and into her soft belly. Kate pressed the knife upward behind Priscilla’s ribbs. Priscilla screamed. Her eyes were wild. It all seemed unreal.

Suddenly something strange happened. Priscilla shut her mouth and smiled.

– “Why did you kill me, you filthy murderer?”

She pulled out the knife, but the small switchblade had turned ito a long sword.

– “I will teach you some manners!” shouted Priscilla and plunged the sword into Kate’s chest.

Kate screamed.

Mouse was calling to Kate as she woke up.

– “It’s only a dream,” she called out.

– “You are having a nightmare!”

Kate stopped screaming at once. Even if the rooms the girls were in was locked, they could still talk to each other through the air-vents.

– “Sorry!” she mumbled. She could feel that her clothes were soaked with sweat.

– “It’s okay!” said Mouse.

– “Many of us girls have nightmares. There are many horrible stories here.”

– “Do you have nightmares?”

– “Some times! Maybe I’ll tell you about them some time…”

Kate sniffed.

– ” I have problems sleeping, and when I finally fall asleep, I get nightnares. It’s no fun!”

Mouse went quiet for awhile, then she whispered almost unrecognizable.

“I might be able to help you, but can never tell anyone about it.”

Kate’s eyebrows shot up.

– “You can help me? But how?”

– “I’ll tell you tomorrow! But don’t let anyone else know!”

Mouse went quiet, and Kate laid back down on her bed. She had taken her duvet off, and now her sweat soaked pyjamas felt cold. It was going to be a long time till morning.

– “Time for lockout!”

Mrs. Ross’ voice cut through the air like a sharpened knife. A humming sound was heard for couple of seconds, then all the doors to the girl’s rooms could be opened. Kate got cleaned up and put on some clothes. She hadn’t been handed the clothes she had brought with her yet, so she put on the grey, boring clothes that Carmen had laid out for her before she left. When she came downstairs, she was happy to see that there was room beside Mouse on one of the benches. She sat down and looked sideways at Mouse. Mouse turned towards her and whispered.

– “Later!”

Then she raised her voice.

– “What do you want to eat, Kate? We have bread or cereal!”

Kate looked around to see who was sitting down at breakfast. Christy and Pamela were talking together. Once in a while they would squint over at Kate. Brenda was not there yet, but Lillian and Lizzy were sitting at the end of the table, Lizzy stirring her cereal bowl whilst Lillian was whispering something to her.

– “What cereals do you have?”

Mouse smiled shyly.

– “You can say ‘we’ instead of ‘you’ – you also live here now.”

She pointed to the different containers on the table.

– “Corn flakes, cheerios, frosties, honey smacks or fruit loops.”

Kate asked for some fruit loops because she had never tried any before. Mouse helped send cereal and milk her way.

– “When Mrs. Barnes is on mornings, she often makes porridge, but she won’t be here till the afternoon,” Mouse informed.

Brenda appeared in the doorway, eyes red and her hair sticking out in all directions. Lillian called for her, and Brenda plodded over towards them. She looked like she was sleep-walking. She dumped herself on a chair and looked over at Mouse and Kate.

– “So, Mouse,” she yawned.

– “You’ve got yoyrself a playmate? Be careful she don’t bite!”

The three girls at the end of the table giggled. Then they turned towards each other and continued whispering amongst themselves.

Kate liked the fruit loops so much she had two bowls of it. Before they left to get ready for school, Mouse whispered to Kate.

– “Meet me by the downstairs toilets after school,” she uttered.

Kate nodded before she left the dining hall, thankful that she seemed to have made at least one friend.

– “What the heck is that?”

Kate had tried to keep herself almost invisible all day. She had even managed to let Brenda’s sarky remarks about her fly without having a tantrum. Lunch had been about the same as breakfast, only difference wass that Carmen had made scrambled eggs, and that went very well with ham. Now, school had finished, and Kate had her secret meeting with Mouse in the toilet on the ground floor. Mouse had taken out a yellow pill that could be parted into four. As Kate ran her fingers on the edges of it, she could feel that it had the shape of a flower with only four petals. She looked investigatingly up at Mouse’s shining face.

– “It is the answer to your dream trouble!” Mouse stated with certainty in her voice.

– “What kind of tablett is it?” Kate asked again.

– “I don’t really know,” admitted Mouse,

– “But it makes you go to sleep in about half an hour, and you won’t dream till just before you wake up. At least, that how it works for me. If you want, I can get you some more, but then it will cost you!”

Kate thougt about it.

– “I want to try it first,” she hesitated.

– “How do you get hold of them?” she asked inquisitively.

Mouse smiled at her.

– “Professional secret,” she joked.

Then she became serious.

– “Don’t tell any of the others that I got it, or they will be all over me. This is only between you and me, okay?”

Kate nodded.

– “But how can I pay you? I have no money!”

Mouse laughed.

– “If you do some chores round the house, you get an allowance that you can use for sweets on a Saturday or if you’re saving up for something. If you voluntare do do some washing or some other job that needs doing, you will make money that you can pay me. We will set a price when we know how much you will earn a week.”

Kate thought about it. If the tablett worked, it would be nice to be able to afford to have some tabletts and some sweets. She had never been used to weets, but the few times she had had some, it was like an explosion of taste in her mouth. But getting sleep at night was more important.

– “I don’t have any money now,” she told Mouse sadly.

– “That’s okay!” Mouse smiled.

– “This one is free! Just try it out and see if it works as good for you as it does for me…”

Kate nodded, smiled, and whispered a “thank you”, then put the tablett in her trouser pockett. Mouse looked at her.

– “I will go first! You wait a few minutes before you go back, okay?”

Kate nodded. She obviously had a few things to learn about how to survive in this place.

In the beginning, it was all dark. When the light started breaking through, the room was spinning. A voice could be heard, but it was so far away. Slowly, it came closer and closer.

– “Kate? Can you hear me?”

The voice was talking to her. Slowly, the face of Mrs. Barnes could be recognized through Kate’s squinting eyes.

– “What?”

Mrs. Barnes sniffed.

– “Can you get up for school?”

Kate rolled over.

– “Yeah! Sure! Just give me a second!”

Mrs. Barnes rolled Kate back and examined her.

– “Are you high, youg girl?”

Lillian was leaning to the doorpost in the doorway, but Kate did not notice. Mrs. Barnes was obviously not amused.

– “What have you been taking? Who gave it to you?”

She turned as she heard Lillian giggle in the doorway.

– “Go donwnstairs, young miss! This does not concern you!”

Lillian took off, and Mrs. Barnes looked at Kate again. Her mouth wrinkled up as if she was thinking of what to say next.

– “I think you will probably be out for most of the day,” she whispered, as if to herself.

– “I will catch you later!”

Kate was almost cross-eyed as she hit the empty air with her hand.

– “I’ll be along in a minute,” she said, continuing waving her hand without plan or purpose.

Mrs. Barnes tucked her in, then got up and left the room. As soon as the door slid closed, Kate was snoring noisily.

– “Well, sleeping beauty! Do you want some dinner today?”

Kate opened her eyes. Mrs. Ross was leaning over her.

– “Dinner?” she mumbled.

– “What happened to breakfast… and lunch?”

Mrs. Ross gave a big sigh, then she helped Kate up.

– “How are you feeling? You have slept all through school today. Are you ill, or have you taken something?”

Mrs. Ross had a very stern look, but Kate did not let herself scare easily.

– “I don’t know why I’m so tired… honestly! I just feel terrible!”

What she had said was partly true. She knew why she was so tired, but she also felt terrible. She got up, walked down to the dining hall, and consumed some meatloaf that Mrs. Barnes had prepared before she went home. There was also mashed potatoes and garden peas. Kate ate a little bit, but she was unable to taste anything. Carmen was there, and she tried to converse with Kate, but Kate just said she wasn’t feeling very well, so Carmen let her alone. As soon as the meal was over, Kate stumbled back into bed, and soon she was asleep once again .

The next morning, Kate felt a bit better. As soon as the doors were unlocked, she grabbed a towel and some shower soap and went downstairs to get a shower. The warm water felt lovely, and she looked up towards the shower head. The water ran over her face and down her thin, childlike body. She felt she could stay there for ever, but knew she had to try and make it to school today.

Suddenly, somebody grabbed both her arms. Lillian and Lizzy was holding her tight, and Brenda was standing in front of her.

– “What… what do you want?” Kate almost whispered.

They pulled her out of the shower and held her tightly on the cold cement floor.

– “I wanna know where you got the dope, smarty pants,” Brenda said, grabbing Kate’s chin.

– “I don’t know what you’re taking about,” wheezed Kate.

– “I was sick!”

Brenda sniffed, stroke her own chin, then grabbed Kate again.

– “It must be catchy, cause I feel sick every time I see you.”

Brenda got a hold around Kate’s throat.

– “You will tell me where you got it from, or I will make your life a living hell! Do you understand?”

Kate tried to nod, but that was hard to do when Brenda was holding her throat. Brenda hit her in the stumach, and Kate made a gurgeling sound.

– “Where did you get it?” Brenda asked.

Kate tried to talk, but found it difficult to breathe.

– “How can she talk if she can’t breathe?” asked Lizzy.

Brenda looked at Lizzy with a piercing look. Then she let go of Kate’s troat. Kate breathed deeply and heavily.

– “I told you…” she started.

Brenda knocked Kate in the stumach again and winded her. Someone was coming down the stairs, and Lillian and Lizzy let go. The left as quietly as they had come, leaving Kate on the cold, wet and slippery floor, trying not to cry. Mrs. Barnes appeared in the doorway.

– “Heavens, child! What are you doing on the floor? Are you okay?”

Kate got up slowly and reached for her towel.

“I… I… I must have fainted, miss!”

Mrs. Barnes seemed to soften up a bit.

“Is that so? Well, if you don’t feel well today either, I will allow you to go to bed.”

Kate managed a smile.

“That’s okay,” she said.

“It will be boring to be in bed all day. I’ll come to school if I can take a break once in a while… if I need to, that is.”

Mrs. Branes looked closely at Kate, measuring her up and down.

– “You seem okay now,” she mumbled.

– “Okay, young lady! You’ve got yourself a deal!”

Kate finished her shower, then went upstairs to get dressed. She decided to stay away from Mouse for a little while, or else Brenda might suspect that she was the one who had given her sleeping tabletts.

The day had seemed so long. Kate had problems concentrating on the school lessons, and at dinner time, she almost fell asleep on top of her plate with spaghetti and meatballs. Allthough her tastebuds seemed to be working again, she felt too tired to enjoy anything at all. When the night came, she went easily to sleep. When morning came again, she finally felt back to normal – whatever that might be. Kate didn’t know what to do, but she had asked Mrs. Barnes if there were any chores she could do so she could save up some money for sweets at the week-end. Mrs. Barnes had welcomed the incentive, and every Saturday, Kate was supposed to wash the floors on the ground floor. She was also allowed to do dishes one day a week .

When evening came, Kate was physically tired, but could not go to sleep. Thoughts ran through her brain like train locomotives, and she tossed and turned. She tried to whisper to Mouse, but she must have fallen asleep. As soon as she dozed off, she would suddenly pop her eyes open. This continued for a long while, and eventually, the times of shut eye would gradually get longer.

– “Rise and shine, girls!”

Kate woke with a start as Mrs. Ross appeared outside the bedrooms. The buzzer had already sounded, and the girls were free to move about. Kate peered round the corner to see if anyone was out yet. When she had confirmed that no one was out in the hall yet, she turned to Mouse’s room.

– “Mouse!” she wheezed.

Mouse looked at Kate over her duvet. Kate ran over to her.

– “Can you get some more of that stuff?” Kate whispered eagerly.

Mouse knew off course what Kate was on about, and she threw a few nervous glances towards the door. No noe was there.

– “Not till next week,” she whispered.

– “And by the way,” she quickly drew her breath.

– “I think you need to split the tablett up into four pieces. You are small, and you are not used to the tabletts.”

Mouse started waving at Kate.

– “You gotta go before Brenda sees you in here!”

– “Okay!”

Kate went to the door, peered outside, and quickly sneaked back into her own room. Slowly she got her towel, shampoo and soap as well as some clean clothes. Then she went downstairs for a shower. This time, no one came to disturb her. Sha got cleaned up, washed her hair, wrapped her hair up in the towel, and went back upstairs. Brenda saw her came back up to her room, and caught her by the sleeve.

– “Hey, little vermin!”

Kate pulled to get free.

“Let me go!” Kate hissed.

Mrs. Ross came round the corner. She looked at Kate and Brenda.

– “What’s going on?” she said with her stern voice.

– “Nothing!” Brenda uttered and let go of Kate.

– “I was only asking Kate if she needed help with her schoolwork.”

Mrs. Ross puffed.

– “Wonders never cease! School in 15 minutes!”

Mrs. Ross looked suspiciously at Brenda as she passed her in the hall. She did not for one second believe that Brenda wanted to help anybody. Kate went into her room, and Brenda went downstairs. Mrs. Ross remained upstairs for a while. Something was not quite right, but she could not put her finger on it. After letting out a big sigh and shaking her head, Mrs. Ross went downstairs again.

The telly on the wall was quite loud as the girls were watching Gladiators. Some of the girls were cheering loudly, especially when the women gladiators were wrestleling and preforming tasks. Kate quietly sneaked out to go to the toilet. She had been drinking lots of juice, and when you had to go, you had to go. Finishing off in the downstairs wc, she pulled the chain and went to wash her hands. Outside the cubicle, Brenda and Lillian were waiting for her whilst Lizzie was look out by the door.

– “Well, little pip-squeek!” Brenda cracked her knockles.

– “You are going to tell me who gave you drugs!”

Kate bit her lip.

– “What drugs? I don’t know what you mean!”

Brenda smiled crookedly.

– “If Mrs. Barnes say you were on drugs, then you were on drugs. She’s very experienced, and knows if someone’s using. What did you take?”

Kate blew through her nostrils.

– “Get it into you’re thick skull that I was only sick, I wasn’t using anything. I never have…”

Brenda smiled at Lillian.

– “Aw!” she said.

– “Little Kate’s got problems with her memory. Why don’t we help her?”

Lillan nodded and gave a cruel smile. Then both girls grabbed a hold of Kate and pushed her into the cubicle. Then they forced Kates head down into the toilet bowl and pulled the chain. Water was splashing round Kate, and she could not breathe. Then she waas pulled out of the water again.

– “I want a name, pip-squeek!” Brenda called out, smile now completely disappeared.

Kate gasped for air. She was frightened and angry at the same time.

– “I got no name to give you! Let me go!”

Brenda and Lillian forced her dead down the toilet again.  They held her under longer this time, and Kate ran out of air. She tried to break free, but the girls were too strong. She tried to breathe, but all that came into her lungs was water, not air. Kate felt darkness swollow her, and she went limp. The hands let og off her, and Kate fell unconsciously on the floor.

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