Upon leaving Biology, Simon received a text from Sasha asking him to meet her in the library, and when he got there he found she had emptied the shelves of books on local history, and was skimming through enthusiastically. She was not alone at the table in the corner; there were two others with her, a boy and a girl. Both sported long, blonde hair, the girl’s slightly darker, the lad’s incredibly fair and much thicker. Both were immensely good looking, and Simon’s heart leapt when he saw the girl sitting next to Sasha, half reading “Hallington then and now”.
Both were well known to Simon, the girl was Kirsten Banks, she had been a close friend of Simon’s since his fourth year, and the lad was her boyfriend, Justin Spacey. The two had been going out for about half a year now, which caused (in the nicest sense) a great annoyance for Simon, as he had begun to feel more than attached to his long time friend shortly before Justin had arrived on the scene and swept her off her feet. Whilst Simon had figured the loss would be easy to get over, as he had seen her as a friend for so long, he had instead found that he was feeling more and more for her as the days, weeks, and months of Kirsten and Justin’s relationship increased, whilst he was left to wave from the sideline wishing he’d made a move on her sooner.
Whilst he’d told no one his true feelings before, once Simon had found the pain was more than something that could be got over with a good night’s sleep, he had taken the liberty of admitting it to Matt and Sasha. Sasha and Matt (but mostly Sasha) had done everything they could to cheer him up, but he couldn’t help suspecting that one of them (most likely Matt, Simon had concluded almost immediately, who had a mouth bigger than the tunnel’s in Taylor’s pass) had let it slip to Kirsten, as a few days after Simon had admitted it to the other two, she had begun being incredibly nice to him (even more so than she usually was ), and whilst this was a reassuring sign for Simon, it sometimes made him feel a little awkward around her, particularly when Justin was there.
Simon faked a grin as he sat down with his friends, and asked Sasha what they were doing here.
“Reading up on local history,” Sasha explained, removing her head from “The untold stories of Upper and Little Hallington” “I’m hoping we’ll find some clues as to maybe what killed the man in the woods”
“Any luck?” Simon asked, guessing the answer almost immediately.
Sasha shook her head, sadly “There’s one mention that there used to be wolves in the woods,” she said, pointing to “Johnson’s Wood – A history” on the top of the pile, “but none have been seen since the eighteen-hundreds, and there’s a couple of ranger posts dotted throughout the woods keeping an eye on things, and they’ve reported no sightings in over a hundred years, it’s a little farfetched to think there’s any still there”
“I’ll have a word with my uncle later;” Kirsten said suddenly “he’ll let you know what he thinks did it”
“Your uncle... what... is he...oh” it took Simon a moment to fill in the gap, Charlie Neil was Kirsten’s uncle, her mother’s brother, and evidently from this he was leading the forensics investigation.
“The body’s getting brought in tonight,” Kirsten explained “he’s got the vet from down the road working with him, to try and work out if it really is an animal or not”
“My dad seemed pretty sure” Simon noted.
“Well, we’ll find out I guess,” Kirsten said “I’m going down to the hospital at about eight o clock, anyone fancy coming?”
“Yes!” said Sasha, without hesitation.
Kirsten grinned “I knew you would,” she turned to Simon “You coming Si?”
“Sure,” said Simon, thinking more of spending time with Kirsten than solving the mystery of the creature in the woods, and wondering if Justin was going too.
Simon looked up at Justin as that thought crossed his mind, saw him sitting there, shoulder length blonde hair shining as the weak sunlight hit it, a confident smile on his face, his muscular arm hanging gently around Kirsten’s neck, he was everything and everywhere Simon longed to be, and he struggled to hold back a glare as he looked at the two of them.
He hated Justin, but had always been unable to justify feeling so. In the first few days of their relationship, after he’d finished punching walls and his own head, Simon had spent a lot of time trying to dig up dirt on Kirsten’s new found item.
The search had been in vain. Justin had no history of violence, law breaking, or even detentions (in six years Simon had been in three times as many as Justin, most of which were Matt’s fault). Justin could control his drink; he was kind, funny, popular, handsome, and seemed great at everything he did. In fact, he appeared to have no negative qualities at all, and this made Simon feel even worse. If Kirsten was going to push him aside, she could have at least done so for someone who was easy to hate, but as it stood, Simon couldn’t think ill of the man he loathed without feeling a sting of guilt himself.
All the time, there was this nagging wonder of what would have happened if he’d got to Kirsten first. He remembered speaking his mind to Sasha about this, and she’d assured him that there was every chance for him and Kirsten one day, but she was obviously not going to say anything whilst she was with Justin. When Simon had displayed intent to ask her if this was true, Sasha had warned him not to say anything to Kirsten under any circumstances, particularly with the possibility that she knew anyway floating in the air.
“Don’t make things awkward between the two of you,” she had warned him “don’t put your friendship in jeopardy”
Simon ran that risk every time he saw her.
“Listen Kirst,” said Justin suddenly “I’ve gotta get going, lesson in five minutes”
“Okay,” Kirsten said “I’ll walk up with you”
Simon sighed inside as she stood up and flung her bag over her shoulder, then looked to her friends “Are you two gonna stay here?”
Simon looked up at Sasha for confirmation, and Sasha, possibly guessing what was on Simon’s mind, said “No no, we’ll probably head up to Joe’s for some chips”
She definitely knew Simon needed his mind taken off killing Justin, Scrumpy Joe’s was the cafe up the road from the school, and a favourite hangout place for the group since they had entered sixth form and been permitted to leave the school grounds during lunch time.
“Okay,” Kirsten nodded “I’ll meet you up there afterwards then”
She stroked Simon’s shoulder tenderly for a second, the hurried off after her boyfriend. Simon savoured the memory for a moment, then felt Sasha’s hand touch the place where Kirsten’s had been, reassuringly. Simon looked up at her and smiled to show he was okay, and Sasha grinned back. They both knew what was on Simon’s mind, but there was no need to talk. Sasha had been the best friend anyone could have asked for since Kirsten had met Justin, but there was little more she could do now, except for simply being there for him. Simon knew Sasha knew how he felt, she had admitted feelings for Kirsten shortly before Justin arrived on the scene, and whilst Simon guessed they had not been as strong as his, as she seemed perfectly over them now, it was nice to know he was not the only one to be left behind.
“Come on then,” Sasha laughed, turning to the pile of books that still lay on the table “let’s get these back on the shelves and then we’ll get going”
Simon grinned and stood up, before grasping half the pile and returning it to the shelf labelled LOCAL HISTORY.
As he sorted them into alphabetical order, wondering if “A brief and unabridged story of Taylor’s pass” should go under “A” or “T” his thoughts were temporarily taken from Kirsten and Justin. He was convinced that it was an animal attack in the woods, but the animal that made the attack was not mentioned in a library-full of local history books.
And so he was left wondering, this creature wasn’t in any of those books, so what book was it in? Or could it be that it was not in any book, anywhere, at all?