Henry could hear the owls hooting urgently and the wind thrashing furiously at his bedroom window. He shuddered, pulling the chequered blanket more tightly around himself; although he couldn’t see Grimthaw and his men through his drizzly bedroom window, he knew that they were on their way.
He stumbled from off his windowsill, feeling cold and frightened and sat down at his computer. With a shaking hand he signed onto instant messaging and found Erin’s name with the mouse cursor.
HenryThwaites: You’re not going to believe this Erin!
There was the usual delay where Erin would stop whatever it was that she was doing in her room (usually reading) and then realise that her computer had been calling out to her.
Pwincess.Erin: Henry, what time is it?
Pwincess.Erin: Believe what?
HenryThwaites: I got a letter and it has Grimthaw’s crest on it, they’re coming tonight!
Pwincess.Erin: That’s ridiculous!
Henry heard a loud clang amidst the roaring storm outside, the noise shot through his body like a lightening bolt.
“Bloody kids!” uncle Bert growled, Henry heard his uncle’s chair scrape across the floor downstairs, as he was awoken from his drunken sleep.
Henry had risen from his computer, pulling his blanket so tightly about himself that he was close to cutting off his circulation. Not a bad idea he had thought. But if anything was to happen to him, he couldn’t think of what might become of Erin.
He wandered slowly to his window and chanced a look outside of it. The clanging was becoming louder and more frequent, each one of them sent shivers down Henry’s spine.
“I’m not ready for this,” Henry swallowed, his wide eyes fixed upon the dark shapes, making their way through the rose bushes in the front garden. He unhooked his navy blue, towelled dressing gown from off his bedroom door and tied it about himself with a long, hard breath. He left his bedroom, placing his feet carefully into his slippers as he went.
Uncle Bert was a mess, his filthy face was lined with sweat and his dark, matted hair hung about his face, thick with grease and the stench of alcohol.
“What the hell are you doing out of bed?” his uncle grunted from his worn, old armchair. His uncle had moved the chair so that it was now positioned in front of the front window and he was looking out onto the garden path with as much alertness as he could muster.
‘The storm woke me up,” Henry replied icily, “I’m going over to see Erin, she’s scared of all the lightening and I….”
“You’re still friends with that Douglas girl?” Bert laughed as he said this. Henry didn’t like it.
“Yes - why wouldn’t I…”
Henry stopped dead. He could hear muttering on the doorstep. Rough and raspy voices arguing, as they attempted to break through the padlock. Henry’s face dropped, as he caught his uncle’s eye.
Without saying anything, uncle Bert rose from his chair and marched into the kitchen in such a manner that he appeared possessed. Henry knew what his uncle was going to do; he was going to get his shotgun from underneath the dresser, beside the kitchen table. If Grimthaw’s men found his uncle, Henry knew that there wasn’t much hope of him surviving, particularly if he was waving a shotgun in their faces.
Henry shot after his uncle, his mind racing, trying to conjure up a plan.
“What are you doing?” Henry cried at his drunken uncle and skidding to a halt on the kitchen floor. Bert had found the shotgun, and with a quivering hand he was attempting to load it.
“Hoodlums! Hoodlums trying to break into my house!” he growled.
“Trust me,” Henry attempted to calm his uncle down, but the squeak in his voice suggested that he was anything but calm, “Trust me, holding up this old thing is not going to scare them away!”
Uncle Bert swore at Henry and pushed him so hard that he fell back hard onto the kitchen floor. “You get upstairs!” he roared.
Henry groaned and jumped straight back onto his feet, without thinking, he picked up the dining room chair and swung it hard at his uncle’s head. A gunshot thundered through the kitchen, and at that same moment the front door was blown from off of its hinges and two, very large shapes entered the house.
Erin and Henry had been friends for so long that she could barely remember a time when he wasn’t part of her life. They had first met in primary school when Erin was only eight. Henry had moved to Tulip Fields primary school to live with his uncle Bert and his aunt Lauren because his parents had died in a tragic accident. Despite the grief that Erin knew Henry must have felt, Henry settled into her school very well and fast became one of the popular boys in her class. The teachers had adored him and the girls were always following him, and it was the same even now that he was in year eleven in the Field’s Secondary school.
She remembered that spring day very well, the day when she had first laid her eyes on Henry. His hair had been short then, and brown and curly. His anxious grey eyes looked like they could have told a thousand stories, and he had wore a slightly more mature look than the rest of the children in her class; he had looked like a boy who had had to grow up very fast in a very short space in time.
Mrs. Brown had sat Henry at Erin’s table with Thomas Irons and Gemma Wilson perched to each side of him.
“Don’t you worry Henry,” Mrs Brown had said, “these three will take good care of you.”
Henry smiled uncomfortably but said nothing, and Mrs Brown, looking at Henry in that way that most adults did when they knew where he had come from, carried on with their English lesson.
Henry hadn’t been very good at creative writing, and it was after Mrs Brown had given the children the task to write up their own adventure story that Erin and Henry had first spoken.
“Why aren’t you writing anything Henry?” Erin had asked.
Henry scrunched up his face, “I haven’t got anything to write about,” he said.
“That’s what’s so great about it!” Erin had beamed; when she had smiled it was clear to see that her two front teeth were unmistakeably absent.
“I’m going to write about a dragon,” Thomas explained proudly.
“You always write about dragons,” snorted Gemma, as she adjusted her blonde pigtails.
“Yes, but dragons are very exciting,” Erin pointed out in Thomas’s defence.
Henry listened unsurely, “What are you writing about?” he asked Erin, as he bit the end of his pencil.
Erin had always remembered how Henry had asked her this question. They’re eyes had met and Erin almost exploded with ideas, most of them involving exciting faraway lands and princesses and warriors, unicorns and other mythical creatures.
It seemed ridiculous now that Erin had taken to Henry just because he had asked her about her work. But Erin had been enthusiastic about books and stories ever since she had been able to talk, so enthusiastic that a lot of the children in her class would get very annoyed with her whenever she expressed her ideas in English.
Henry didn’t get annoyed. In fact, he was always keen to hear what Erin had to say and so they had become friends.
Henry had been at Erin’s house just before all the trouble began, Henry was sixteen and Erin, being one of the younger children in her school year, was only fifteen.
Henry slumped outside Erin’s bedroom with his back against her door and his legs stretched out on the landing floor. He could hear her crying, or sniffing anyway, she would have sooner sewn her mouth together than let Henry hear her wail.
“Erin,” Henry said slowly, “I’m not going to leave you know, so you might as well let me in so we can kiss and make up and get on with our lives.”
Henry reeled as he heard her slam something in her room very loudly. Ooh wrong choice of words, Henry thought regretfully.
Erin’s father, John, immerged from the bathroom with a newspaper and gave Henry the oddest of looks, “Hello Henry,” he said.
Henry sighed, “Hello John, how’s work?”
“Not bad, not bad, can’t get the staff these days though, I’m working with imbeciles.”
“Tell me about it,” Henry shook his head in disapproval.
“Well Mel’s cooking pie if you fancy some Henry, should be ready in about twenty minutes or so.”
Henry grinned, as Erin’s father made his way down the stairs. Pie, that was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Suddenly, the door opened behind him and Henry found himself lying on his back in Erin’s room. Erin quickly sat down at her computer desk and began typing on a word document that was now around three hundred pages long, in a way that suggested that making an apology to her would not be an easy task.
Henry sat up and took in her sweet smelling room. Everything was pink, from her hot pink walls to her shaggy pink dressing gown. Posters of singers and actors blanketed her walls and star shaped, crystal fairy lights glowed from her ceiling. In the corner of her room stood two very large stands, full to the brim with novels and decorated heavily with unicorn stickers, unicorn ornaments and stuffed teddy unicorns, all pure and soft like was.
Henry sat on Erin’s old fashioned, white-framed bed and watched her as she typed away on her computer. She was trying to focus, she had her short, black hair tucked behind her ears like she meant business, and although her bottom lip quivered on the odd occasion, she kept her eyes firmly focused on the computer screen; she looked like she was staring all the way through it.
“Please go away Henry,” Erin said at last, not looking at him.
Henry stopped staring at her, glad that she had spoken.
“Why are you upset Erin?” Henry asked, “You haven’t spoken to me all day. Is this to do with Ph…’
“It has nothing to do with anything!” Erin retorted.
“It doesn’t look like nothing, nothing wouldn’t make you storm out of English crying.”
“I was not crying!”
“You had tears in your eyes, your face was all red like it gets when you’re worried.”
“I was not crying!”
Henry sighed and lay down on her bed, looking at her with his puzzled face. He certainly didn’t understand women. Even Erin, who he had known since he was a little a boy still perplexed him, perhaps more than any other girl he knew.
Phoebe was different, she was confident and much more predictable. He had never thought about dating her previously to today but when she had asked him out, it had felt so right. A real, mature relationship, with kissing and handholding and who knew what else! So what if he had never thought about Phoebe in that way before, if she liked him enough to ask him out then he didn’t see why he should turn her down. Besides, she was popular, tall and blonde and, perhaps the best catch in school? The lads were so envious of him and it was about time he had found himself a girlfriend.
Erin was giving him the death stare.
“Oh Erin, what on earth is up?” Henry groaned, sitting up.
Erin frowned at him, she looked very angry all of a sudden.
“You Henry!” she cried, “You’re what’s up! I’m sick of you coming round here uninvited like you’re part of my family or something! I want you to leave! I want you to leave – right now!”
Henry felt his blood run cold, he felt as though he might stop breathing.
“Erin?” he reached out for her hand but she pushed him firmly away, her face wild, pale and hurt.
Henry left, wordlessly. He heard Mrs Douglas call out to him about a huge piece of pie with his name on it, but he couldn’t bring himself to face them.