Nanowrimo 2011: Of Places I Don’t Know – Chapter 17

Aiden did not come back that night. His clothes were still in the shed the next day. Echo phoned Sophia, asking if she had seen him, to no avail. Echo feared the worst – that Mick had gotten him, had captured him, and htat he was being held somewhere. Echo resorted to the only thing she knew could help. She phoned her mother, and returned to Stony Oaks, leaving a note with Aiden’s clothes in the shed in case he returned while she was gone.

 

The train ride toDorsetwas the longest journey of Echo’s life. Without Aiden, the spark seemed to be sucked out of life, there was nothing left, no point to anything until she found him. The train was bleak, the whole two and a half hour train journey Echo spent staring out the window but not seeing anything at all. She wished she could be happier about going back to Stony Oaks, but under the circumstances, how could she be? She wished that she had left at the beginning, that she’d never had come to London, so Aiden would never have embraced Apsu, leaving him open to threat, to Mick. He was her fault too, Mick’s problem, or so she thought, was with her father, for killing his Alpha, for not letting Storm become one of them.

 

As Storm entered her mind, her mood softened slightly. If it was possible for anything good to come out of this, it would be seeing Storm again. Echo and her brother had been close, they were only a few years apart in age, and had always been both friends and siblings. They spoke on the phone sometimes, or on the computer, Storm was good with computers, but it wasn’t the same, not as it had been before she had left. 

 

If there was no hope, if even her father, if the whole Community could not find Aiden, then Echo had decided she was going to stay. She was going to re-start her Zagmi training, and find him by whatever means possible. Without him, staying at University, staying inLondon, would be intolerable for her. She sat, not moving, for the entire two hours, waiting, numbed, for a time when she would be back to how she was, knowing it would not happen while Aiden, not knowing where he was.

 

Echo almost didn’t notice when the train pulled into her station, she was so lost in her mind. Slowly, she stood up, eyes still glazed over from staring out the window for so long, picked up her bag, and made her way to the doors. She got to the barriers before she remembered she needed her train ticket to leave the station, and rifled through her bag without looking, trying to find it. Once she left, she sat at the bus stop nearby, waiting for the bus that would take her close enough to walk to Stony Oaks. Her family did her a car, or rather, her mother had a car, but Echo had told her she would make her own way to their house. She wanted as much time as possible to be spent wrapped up in thoughts of Aiden. She felt, somehow, that if she thought of him constantly, they would stay connected, and he would know she was trying to find him.

 

Her bus arrived and she got on, taking a seat near the front and putting her bag on the floor. It wasn’t far to Stony Oaks, and Echo’s numbness was slowly turning into nerves. As it did, she tried to push them out, the numbness being preferable, but she could not. She was not even entirely sure what sdhe was nervous about. Not finding Aiden, not getting the help she needed in Stony Oaks, not wanting to leave. She was finding it hard to make sense of much, and decided instead to focus on the here and now, her surroundings, the movement of the bus, and the amount of time left until she was close to home. Doing this, sitting with her nerves, made the bus ride seem faster, and before long she found herself off the bus, two villages over from Stony Oaks. She walked, slowly, with tiny steps, towards the village that only a few months ago she could not wait to get back to. Now though, Stony Oaks was the heart for her of all things Apsu, and Apsu just seemed to mean trouble now days.. She longed for Lu life she had been enjoying, with classes and Kalico and Sophia and Dan and hazelnut lattes. But that life was never hers, really, she thought. That was a borrowed life, borrowed from books and television and from her own fantasies. Her life was Apsu. Her life was Stony Oaks. And her life was Aiden.

 

Crossing the villages, she saw ahead the sign that said she was entering thevillageofStony Oaks. Despite her numbness, and despite her anxiety, a sense of being home washed over her, felling safe within her fears. She was the narrow twisting roads, the ancient red brick buildings, the thatched roofs and the large open fields. She saw the village hall up ahead, used for gatherings of Apsu holidays, and as she rounded the corner next to the hall, she saw her house. The Zagmi house, the most well known house in the village. It was so different here to how she remembered it, and yet exactly the same. It was like she had been gone for ten years, and like she had never left.

 

She approached the front door, looking for her key, before remembering that she did not need one here. No one locked their doors in Stony Oaks, and when they did it was done with magic, not locks. They were far enough out to get away with living their almost completely separate life from the neighbouring Lu without attracting suspicion. Of course, the whole village had a charm case upon it, making it seem unappealing to other people to go there, so as to not attract any attention to itself as an area.  She waved her hand over the door, in case it was locked, and pushed it open, stepping inside like she had never been gone,

 

“Echo? Echo Darling!” Fawn called to her, running down the rickety dark wood stairs, them creaking underfoot. Her mother hugged her, then stood back to get a better look at her daughter, “You’ve gotten all skinny,” She said, poking at her waist, “You need to cook for yourself better, Echo.”

 

Echo smiled and agreed. She was pleased to see her mother, it filled her with a new hope that perhaps everything would work out okay; perhaps she would see Aiden again. She looked at her mother. Her eyes looked tired, like she had been awake anticipating Echo’s arrival home. Her light brown hair was longer than it had been when Echo had left, and b the looks of things, Fawn had appeared to have started wearing olive green eyeliner, although apart from these things, her mother looked exactly the same.

 

Echo made her way up the creaking staircase to her room, or rather, her old room. She pushed the door open just enough to put her bag inside, before going downstairs to join her mother for a cup of tea. Her father was at work, Fawn told her, on a house call, and that he would be back soon, and that Storm should be coming home within the next hour from school. Echo sipped on her tea, answering her mother’s questions about howLondonwas, and living alone, and university, and telling her about how nice it was to see her, even under the circumstances. Echo could not make eye contact with her mother, and instead sat at the old oak table with her head resting in her hands, her brain only skimming through what her mother was saying, shrugging when she was asked if there was anything in particular she wanted tonight for dinner.

 

Echo felt lost. She didn’t know quite what she was doing here, or quite what it would help, but she couldn’t stay inLondon, alone without Aiden. She hoped more than anything her father would know what to do, he was her Zagmi after all, the person any Apsu would turn to with a problem like this. And she trusted he would know what to do, more so than she trusted any other person, any other Zagmi, even.

 

Every now and then, she would try and trick herself into thinking that she was overreacting, that nothing bad had happened to Aiden, that he had just gotten lost, and lost his phone, and that he was back at his house, sleeping, and would call her any moment to let her know he was alright. She kept checking her phone for messages from either him or Sophia, but nothing was ever there. Her mother could tell she was distracted, but still kept trying to have her make conversation, avoiding the only thing Echo could think of, the only reason she was here, back in Stony Oaks, in the first place.

 

What felt like hours later, but in reality was less than half of one, Echo heard the door twist open. Her mother called and said they were in the kitchen, and Echo saw her father appear in the hallway. He had gained a little weight since she had last seen him, but other than that he looked the same. Same tanned skin, same lines round his eyes, same long-ish grey hair, even the string threaded with a silver feather that he always wore round his neck was still there. Echo got up and hugged her father, pleased to see him, and at the security he brought with his presence.

 

“Hello, Echo, my darling!” He exclaimed when he saw her. He knew she was coming home, but the surprise of seeing her there, in the kitchen like she’d never left still caught him off guard. She tried her best to smile, knowing that however pleased she was to see her father, words would still get stuck inside her mouth if she tried to speak.

 

“Don’t worry,” Said Alder, realising how she was feeling and remembering why she had come back, he put his hand on her shoulder, “We’ll find your friend.”

 

Echo felt her eyes filling up with tears, becoming heavier and hotter, stinging in the corners, at the mention of Aiden. She rolled her eyes to face the ceiling in an attempt to stop herself from crying, while trying not to let anyone notice, but as soon as she moved her eyes back down, she felt the hotness of her tears stinging her face. She turned away from her father and wiped her eyes on her sleeve, her gaze stuck firmly on the floor. She was not even entirely sure why she was crying. It was not for the loss of Aiden, that was more panic than tears, but it was something to do with her father’s confidence in finding him that seemed to overwhelm her ability to deal with not having Aiden.

 

Alder sat down at the table, seemingly not noticing, or at the very least not saying anything about, the tears escaping from Echo’s eyes. He walked over to the book shelf in the corner, taking down book after book, and entire collection of Lamadu, that was the whole contents of the bookshelf. He brought the stack of about seven or eight leather bound books back to the table, and sat back down opposite Echo, silently going through the books systematically, trying to find something that would help his daughter.

 

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