Authors: Samantha Horne
“That’s the way it’s always been.” He looked at me, and I realised he wasn’t going to expand more on the topic. I’d always presumed a quiet man who didn’t say much would be the perfect guy, but after spending time with Jackson I’ve realised how annoying it is.
“I have some business errands to run, will you be okay having a look around by yourself for an hour?”
“Oh dear. Going round some shops all by myself? However will I cope?” I said sarcastically, before winking at him.
I thought I was actually going to get a smile out of him, when he dashed my hopes and just shook his head as if despairing of my behaviour.
“I’ll meet you back here in an hour. Oh, and ignore any looks or comments you get. Unfortunately we aren’t used to new people in this town, and these guys can be pretty narrow minded. Try not to take any of it personally.”
“I can handle myself, big guy.”
“Meet me back here in an hour.”
“Yes, sir.” I gave him a mock salute, and walked towards what looked to be an estate agent. If I was planning on staying in this strange town, I should probably have a look at the sort of thing I could end up living in.
“Jackson! How are you?”
I stepped in to the store which sold everything from milk, to computers, and smiled at Bella, the shop assistant. She had been a shop assistant here for as long as I could remember, but was also famous for being the local gossip. She was middle aged but had still kept her youthful exuberance, and was well loved among the community. Her dark hair was pulled up in to a tight bun, and she gave me a huge smile as I approached the desk.
“I’m very well, thank you Bella. How are you?”
“Fab, as usual. How can I help you?”
“I’m sure you’ve already heard about our visitor last night?”
Bella looked sheepish for a moment, before smiling again. “Yeah, I know all about her. Will she be staying?”
“I don’t know yet. I need you to do me a favour, though.”
“Pretty much everyone in this town uses this store, and you have a good rapport with your customers. Would it be okay, if you could tell everyone to be nice to Laura? People are bound to be worried, but I won’t tolerate disrespect towards our guest for however long she is here. My men and I are keeping an eye on her, so no-one has any need to be concerned.”
“Absolutely. I’ve heard some people express concerns, but most people are intrigued more than anything else. I’ll make sure it’s clear for everyone, though.”
“Thanks, Bella. Anything I can do for you while I’m here?”
“Well...” Bella stopped talking, looking down at the floor as if wondering what to say.
“Bella? Is everything okay?”
“There’s been word of unrest within the town.”
“Unrest?” Alarm shot through me as I processed Bella’s comment.
“I can’t tell you where the rumours are coming from, because I have no idea. Each day people come in and tell me about things they’ve heard. All I know is that it’s got the people worried, and they are preparing for something to happen.”
“Do you have any more information?”
“No, I’m sorry it’s not much to go on.”
“That’s fine, Bella. If you hear of anything else, please ring me directly and let me know.”
As I left the small shop, I felt like another monkey had been added to my back. We live in a peaceful town, where the community is safe. I won’t let anything change that.
Okay, I know I told Jackson that I could handle myself, but after an hour of continuous comments and scathing looks sent my way, I had to say I was not handling it as well as I thought I would be. My time in the small estate agents had been interesting, and I’d seen a few places that looked good, but the woman in there clearly didn’t want me to buy anything. She gave me the snootiest look and gave a whole new meaning to the word ‘unwelcome.’ I almost wanted to put a deposit down on somewhere just to prove a point to her, but then I realised that would be stupid. I’d only been here five minutes and I needed to make sure I absolutely wanted to stay here before I used the little inheritance I had on buying a place. I had pretty much the same experience in every other shop I went in to; scornful looks, whispered comments to friends whilst blatantly looking at me. Oh, I couldn’t tell exactly what they said, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out they were talking about me. The icing on top of the cake (excuse the pun), was when I went to the bakery to grab a quick sandwich to stop my rumbling belly. The young man in the bakery looked absolutely terrified of me, stumbling over his words and practically throwing the food at me to get me out of the place as quickly as possible. I tried to remember Jackson’s words and not take it too personally, but that was harder than it looked. The most difficult part was not having any idea why these people were reacting so badly to me. Like, did I smell or something? Half of the people looked angry at me and the other half looked absolutely petrified. What made me so different from these people? And why were they so untrusting of strangers?
The only positive aspect of my trip to town had been a run in with Logan. I’d bumped into him as he was stepping out of the bank, and I couldn’t contain the smile that I projected as I finally bumped in to a friendly face.
“Well, hey Miss Laura!” He waved at me, before pulling me in to a bone crushing hug which surprised me considering I’d only met the guy yesterday. Although a handsome man, I had no thoughts but friendly thoughts towards Logan - in fact the feelings I had towards him were almost fatherly, as strange as that sounded.
“Hey Logan!” I said, as he placed me back on my feet in front of him.
“You deciding to hang around here for a little while then?”
“I think so. I wanted a fresh start, and this seems like the perfect place. No-one knows me here, and it really is a beautiful town.”
“That it is. My mate always said that the beauty of this place was worth waking up for every morning.”
His face suddenly turned so sad, that I was taken aback, until the oddness of his words intrigued me.
“Oh,” he stiffened and was suddenly back to his normal self. “I mean, my wife.”
“You have a wife? What’s her name?”
“Well, I had a wife. Her name was Eva. She’d have loved you; she always said she wanted more visitors to the town. Said it was a damn shame to be hiding such beauty from the world. I always laughed at her, saying she was silly for thinking this place was beautiful when she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.” The wistful look on his face made me smile, but saddened me at the same time.
“What happened to her, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“She passed away.”
“Oh god, I’m so sorry.” I reached out to touch his arm in what I hoped was a comforting gesture. Logan seemed like one of those guys who had a constant optimism about them, and it made me sad that he had been through such heartache.
“Ah, it was a long time ago. Bastard drunk driver ran her car off the road. She probably would have been okay, but the whole thing exploded when the car hit a tree.” Jesus, it was worse than I thought.
I pulled him towards me for another hug, and he squeezed me once before pulling away and looking at me with a small smile on his face.
“Eva was the most positive person I ever met. After she died I spent so many months in my own bubble of grief that I didn’t even know what was going on around me. Once I got my head out of my arse I realised how disappointed she would have been with me. I made it my mission to be as optimistic as possible, and try and share that with other people. If you need anything at all you just let me know, okay? I’m pretty much at the pub most of the time, I’m a bit old to be out much anymore. Eva loved people, and she never did understand the narrow-mindedness of some of the people around here, so if you need anything just say the word.”
I smiled and felt saddened at the thought I’d never be able to meet the woman who had stolen Logan’s heart. He seemed like a wonderful man, and I was sure she had been the same. Sometimes you need to get to know someone for a while before you understand them, or even like them. I found it difficult to explain but there was just something about Logan that made me feel at ease and safe. I had no idea if I was using him to fill the dad-shaped hole in my life, but somehow I didn’t think that was true. He just seemed to be one of those warm characters that people gravitate to, and I just knew in my heart that we would end up being the best of friends. It certainly made me feel better to have an ally in this town, and my eagerness to stay was increasing each hour I spent there. After ten minutes more of general chit chat, Logan excused himself to get back to the pub and I walked away with his phone number in my hand; promising to call him if I ever needed anything.
I was sitting outside on a bench, enjoying the sunshine with a million questions running through my head, when a shadow fell across me, and I looked up to see Isaac standing over me with a scowl on his face. Maybe that grumpy scowl ran in the family?
“So, Jackson just let you wander around town all by yourself?”
“I’ve been old enough to walk around alone for a while now, Mum.” I joked, before standing up so he didn’t tower over me quite so much.
“Why do the people around here react so badly when they see me?”
“Well, that’s what I don’t understand! How am I different? Just because I wasn’t born and raised in this weird town?”
He rubbed the back of his neck with his hand and looked around him, clearly uncomfortable with the conversation.
“Look, just listen to whatever Jackson tells you to do and you’ll be okay. It will just take a while for people to trust you, but once they do you’ll be fine.”
I raised my arms in exasperation, and struggled not to punch him square in the face.
“I haven’t even given anyone reason not to trust me!”
“But you haven’t given anyone a reason
trust you, either.”
I spluttered as I tried to think of some argument, and cursed myself silently when my vocabulary seemed to disappear and it was only noises that came out.
“Once people trust you, you’ll see the place differently. I promise you we’re not that bad.” He gave me the same mock salute I gave Jackson earlier, before disappearing in to the crowd that had formed around us whilst we were arguing. Everyone quickly dispersed, as something suddenly caught my eye through the trees on the right. I looked closer and got sudden chills when I saw a pair of pale yellow eyes, staring at me through the woods. I blinked, and the eyes disappeared. I stared harder, trying to find where the creepy pair of eyes went but all I could see now were dense trees. Deciding I must have been going mad from the stress of the previous few days, I grabbed my bag and headed off to meet Jackson.
That evening at the bed and breakfast was a lovely night, with the drinks flowing and the most amazing food on the table. Jackson and Ethan had both stayed for dinner, and I was pleasantly surprised to find Jackson making an effort to get to know me. He spent the evening asking me questions about myself and how I’d wound up here. I skimmed over most of the details and just told him that I’d had a bit of drama and wanted a fresh start. Annabelle tried to stay up as long as possible but ended up falling asleep at the table, with Noah picking her up as if she were made of porcelain and carrying her upstairs. I talked for a little longer with Jasmine, learning more about the town and their little family, before deciding to take a walk, to gather my thoughts and explore my new surroundings. The night was still young so the sun was shining, and the air was fresh as I grabbed my boots and set off through the back garden. I’d already decided I was going to stay there, and find somewhere to live, because it offered everything I had been looking for. I couldn’t deny the place had a strange feel to it, and call me a nosy bitch but I was dying to discover its secrets. I wanted to know why the locals hated strangers, and why the police force or ‘enforcers’ as they called themselves, all shared a tattoo and did regular patrols of the area. Coming to Wolves Creek - I still giggle when I hear the name - had been an experience I had never expected, and as a firm believer in fate, I knew I had to just go with it and see what happened. I’d rather grab the chance with both hands, than sit somewhere wondering ‘what if?’ As I walked further in to the woods, I came across a beautiful stream, surrounded by flowers with a strong current flowing through it. The whole place just screamed magic, and I smiled as I became surrounded by the beauty of it. The peace and serenity I felt was exactly what I needed, and I felt a slight pang that I no longer had anyone to share this with. Who needs a man though, huh? Coming to a place like this was exactly what I needed to feel empowered, and embrace my newfound independence.
I decided to take a closer look at the lake, when I heard a child’s scream from right behind me. Turning quickly, I cried out as I saw a tiny body rolling down a small hill and falling straight in to the waters of the stream.
I looked on in horror at the fast moving current, and my heart stopped as she didn’t resurface. Without another thought, I threw my bag down and dived in to the waters, the ice cold hitting me with enough force to take my breath away. I came to the surface and fought against the strong current, terrified as it started to push me down stream. I threw my arms out and managed to grab on to a large branch descending in to the water from the stream’s edge, as I coughed and tried to get my breath back. I looked around desperately to find some indication of where Anabelle had fallen, when I see a tiny hand across the other side of the stream, flailing in the water as Anabelle clearly fought desperately to get to the surface. With no good ideas springing to mind, I had no choice but to dive through the water as I used strength I didn’t even know I had to propel me through the water. The current pulled me under a couple of times, but I managed to pull myself back up and felt a huge relief as I grabbed on to Annabelle’s tiny body, and pulled her to the surface. The current seemed to be getting more violent, and my only thought was making sure that I got Anabelle out of this alive and well. The thought of any harm coming to this precious child made me feel physically sick, but I knew I needed to stay strong enough to get her out of there. My heart dropped as I pulled her out of the water to find she was unconscious, and I pulled us both to the edge of the stream, trying to grab on to anything I could to make it easier. I felt myself getting weaker, and my arms were shaking as the strength started to leave my body. I fought with everything I had and eventually managed to land us both awkwardly on a large rock near the edge of the stream. It was slippery from the water, but I got us both stable and pushed Anabelle up on to the side, trying to be as gentle as possible, before I heaved myself up. I wanted to collapse from how weak I felt, but I used the adrenaline to keep me fighting, as I carried Anabelle’s tiny, lifeless body to a flatter area at the top of the hill. I laid her down, already administering CPR before I had her settled properly. As I performed compressions on her tiny chest, I felt like my heart was going to burst as the panic started to build, and I thanked god that I decided to attend the first aid classes that they offered in school when I was younger. I cried out as she suddenly started to choke on water while she regained consciousness, and I sat her up gently as she spat and threw up water, coughing and crying all at the same time. She threw her tiny arms around my neck, and sobbed in to my shoulder as I stroked her back and tried to calm her down at the same time as trying to stop my heart from beating right out of my chest. I could barely breathe as the panic belatedly hit full force, and I worried I was going to have a heart attack and terrify the poor child even more.