The Valley was dark. The street lights were only dim and some were blacked out and broken. Gwenna looked back at the Hill. That was lit up like a beacon. Sighing Gwenna realized that one of the houses was having a party. That explained the extra lighting. With a chuckle she realised that her parents hadn’t been invited to that party. In the morning her mother would be furious.
Keeping to the shadows Gwenna struggled to find a place to spend the night. The buildings were built close together and there were no alley ways. She wandered for ten more minutes before losing hope of finding a place in the town. She headed towards the living block of the Valley. It was a rundown collection of old houses that were owned by people without the money, or the time to tend these houses.
Near the houses she found a park. It had two swings, one which was hanging on by one chain, a rusted slide, and a broken see-saw. Tired and defeated she sank into the swing. It creaked slightly as she relaxed. It was silent around her, and it gave Gwenna a moment of sought after peace. She tried to push any thoughts of doubt and fear from the back of her mind without success. She needed to find a place to stay this night. She knew it wasn’t safe.
A rustle from behind her startled her. From behind a bush a brown and white terrier swaggered out to meet her. It barked twice to say hello.
“Hello boy. Where did you come from?” Gwenna gave him a pat, and felt for a collar but found none. The dog didn’t look like a stray. Well feed and clean, he had probably run away. Gwenna continued to pat the dog. She had always liked them but had never been allowed to own them. Cats were the pets of the wealthy. Her mother had always said
“Dogs are vulgar.” And in a way they were. Loud, rambunctious, and fond of drooling on the carpet did not make a good combination in houses created to display wealth and style.
“Toby? Where are you boy?” A girl came out of the bush following the same path as the dog, which Gwenna assumed was Toby. She was no older than 13 but was wearing knee high boots over black skinny jeans. Her flaming red top left nothing to the imagination. All of Gwenna’s family, even little Nerena would have had something to say about her choice of clothing. Luckily Gwenna had enough common sense to keep her mouth shut.
Toby barked in excitement and tried to jump his tiny master. The girl gave him an absentminded pat as she eyed up Gwenna who was stubbornly staring at the ground.
“Hello?” She asked slowly. “Who are you?” She took a step towards Gwenna, who involuntarily took a step back.
“Not going to talk eh? We don’t bite around here.” That comment made Gwenna snort and she found herself staring at a pair of hazel eyes which were shocked at the purple ones looking back at her.
“I can see you aren’t around from these parts. That’ll be why you were misinformed.” She pursed her lips like she knew all the wicked rumours that floated around the Hill, about those ‘danger’, ‘foul’ creatures who dared to claim they deserved to live on the Hill. There had been many riots before, but the police, who were paid a large sum to make up for the danger, hosed them all away because they could even get into the foothills. No one had tried in two years.
“Well I’m Jackie, and as you know, this monster is Toby.” Gwenna remained speechless as Jackie eyed her up. She was still making her mind up about this stranger in designer jeans.
“Still not going to talk? Am I not good enough for a Hill girl?” The mention of the Hill snapped Gwenna out of her daze, and into a frenzy of terror
“Don’t send me back! I can’t go back!”
“Can’t, or don’t want too?” She looked at this purple eyed beauty, “Don’t answer that. It’s all relative. I’m guessing you have no where to stay, or you wouldn’t be hanging out in a rundown park.” Gwenna nodded sadly, wondering for the hundredth time that night if it was a mistake running away.
“Oh, don’t look so sad. I won’t send you away. Your family would probably accuse me of kidnapping anyway. Come with me. Mum might take you in. Only God knows how many strays she has taken in, and you’ve strayed just about as far as possible.” Gwenna mumbled her thanks and grabbed her bag. Jackie picked up Toby and led the way to the housing area. Her house was much the same as the rest. Only the door stood out. It was sunshine yellow, and looking at it reminded Gwenna of Bronan. As memories rose to the surface she cringed. Jackie noticed and mistakenly tried to ease her comfort.
“Mum painted it. She always said yellow was the colour of happiness. She got in trouble for it mind but she’s stubborn so it stayed. She was right through. Yellow is the colour of happiness.” Jackie fondly stroked the wooden door.
“She’s wrong. Yellow is the colour of cruelty, prisons and corruption.” Gwenna followed her inside, giving the door a wide berth.
“Mum! I’m home. I found Toby and a stray.” Her voice caught with laughter at her personal joke.
“About time Jackie. Do you ever pay attention to the time? And another stray? How many are there is this God-forsaken town?” A voice carried down to them from the upstairs bedroom.
“I was looking for Toby Ma. I told you that and I promise you that this stray is one of a kind. Trust me.”
“Jacqueline Carter you are making no sense. Where is this stray?” A short, slightly overweight woman came down the stairs looking for a flea ridden dog. What she saw gave her a surprise and Suzanne Carter was not easily surprised.
“ Well at least we won’t have to flea dip you.”