Chapter Seven. Jack
Shut up, shut up, shut up, I thought, frantically searching for my headphones, which I'd lost among the bedclothes after I'd fallen asleep; angry voices from downstairs ran through my ears, making my head spin. I found the headphones at last, and put them in my ears, with hands that had started to shake.
I blasted up the volume on my iPod, and darted down the stairs, Muse's heavy beats clouding my head from the endless stream of insults and swear words that drifted out of the kitchen. Just before I shut the front door behind me, I vaguely heard a bottle smash. I momentarily worried, hoping my parents weren't trying to stab each other, but the most part of me knew there was no point in worrying, or trying to help.
I shivered in the cool morning air, then strolled along the path, now turning down the volume of my music a little to save my eardrums. The streets were quiet. I walked slowly, my eyes on the pavement, thinking of nothing but the words of the song:
"...I'm lost. Crushed. Cold and confused with no guiding light left inside..."
The next thing, I looked up, and I was on the street that led to the courthouse. Of course. There was nobody around, and I was sure Rossie woudn't mind me dropping in. That was if she was still living there. It was Sunday now; three days since I'd last seen her.
Still Rossie, I wanted to see you.
The cat was perched on the wall when I arrived. It looked a bit fatter than it had the last day, when it had been gliding through the tall grass.
"Hi there," I said, pulling out one headphone so that I knew I wasn't talking too loudly. I put a hand up to see if the cat would let me stroke it, but it arched its back and hissed before I could get near.
I edged around the wall and jumped it a bit further away from the cat. I beat my way through the overgrowth, and paused outside the gap in the wall. I had a strange feeling in my stomach. Like I was about to attempt an exam that I knew I had no chance of passing.
But it was Rossie, and I didn't think anything bad could come from seeing her. So I dropped through my knees and crawled straight through the weeds, accidentally inhaling a bit of dandelion, until I was crouched on dusty old floorboards.
I coughed until I thought I was going to be sick, and the noise I was making must have alerted Rossie that I was here, because she burst from inside one of the other rooms, that all-familiar knife twitching in her right hand.
"Rossie, it's me!" I exclaimed.
Horror struck her expression, and for a moment I thought she might come at me with the knife. Did she not recognize me? I panicked internally for a split second, until she bent to the floor and laid down the glittering blade.
"Rossie," I said, stumbling to my feet. "I'm sorry that I-"
She took a step towards me. My heart stopped. She may not have had the blade any more, but I still got the feeling she could take me out bare-handed.
"Rossie, what's wrong?" I asked.
"Get out," she hissed.
I slowly started to shake my head. Usually I did what I was told when in the presence of someone stronger than me. But Rossie changed me.
"Jack," Rossie growled, edging even closer to me. "I'll tell you once more; get out of here and don't ever come back."
"Look, I'm sorry I didn't come back," I stammered. "It's not that easy to creep in and out of this place in broad daylight, and I -"
I was cut off when the fat cat burst his way through the hole in the wall, and bulleted across the hall into the room Rossie had come from.
Rossie leaped towards me, wrapping her arms the whole way around my neck. I thought she was strangling me. She was pulling me. She probably wanted to hide my body somewhere that no one would find it too easily. Maybe she was even going to feed me to the cat.
To be honest, I didn't really care. If Rossie wanted to kill me, Linn didn't want to know me, and my parents barely knew I existed, I would have gladly greeted Death there and then.
Rossie pushed me into the room, which was as bare as the hall, just smaller. I crumpled to the floor, the breath returning to my lungs, my legs like jelly, my stomach heaving.
"Don't say a thing," Rossie hissed as she shut the door and leaned her body against it.
"What... are you doing?" I choked out.
"If Al's people find us, we're dead; me, you and Nibbles." She nodded towards the cat that was preening itself in the corner. "So you could say I'm saving your stupid ass." A smiled gleamed from her face.