The town was quaint, small and quiet. Everyone knew everyone, which she supposed made the days easier to pass. The people were used to one another, each and every one of them part of a daily routine in one way or another. Bly hadn’t changed in the eighteen years she’d lived there. She supposed that now, laying on her back in the middle of a field at the edge of town and watching the clouds slowly float by, she was grateful for the quiet. It allowed her time to think, often about what she would do once she made it out of Bly.
She still had Owen, still had Hannah. Although she knew they had some grand plan to run off to Paris after graduation so Owen could start his training as a cook, making fancy things that she couldn’t pronounce half the time. Hannah would probably study for a teaching degree, maybe come back to England for a bit, just until Owen finished his training.
Comparing her friends’ plans to her own was never a good idea because she knew nothing of what she wanted. All she knew was that she loved flowers and dogs, and that she preferred their company over that of a person’s.
A heavy sigh escaped her before she forced herself to get up out of the soft grass. She examined the field after she stood upright, taking in all the life that seemed to radiate in just the little area. She inhaled for a few moments, then exhaled, and she knew that if any person were to be watching her then, she would’ve seemed like a madwoman. No one else in Bly had understood her love of plants, not really anyway. And the only person that might’ve understood a hint of what she rambled on about was several hundred meters underground with lungs filled with coal and all sorts of other things that made her too angry to think about. The simpler times had gone, and although it was good to be reminded of them every now and then, she shrugged the memories away in favor of grabbing her coat off the large rock that sat a bit off center in the middle of the field, and started on her way back home.
Every once in a while, as she trudged home, she’d stop to look at flowers. Some were hardly flowers, far too small to be considered anything other than a weed, but she insisted they were beautiful all the same.
As she neared the town center, which just consisted of a few shops and an old, hunkered down and rusted tractor placed off to the side of the road that hadn’t worked for ages, she’d seen Owen tossing a rugby ball with Peter Quint in the middle of the street. She also noticed that Hannah was sitting off to the side, on the curb, talking with Rebecca Jessel. Her and Rebecca had gotten along well enough, it was Peter that was the thorn in her side. As he was in everyone else’s.
“Aye! Look what the cat dragged in!” Peter called while he threw the ball and while she was stalking up behind Owen.
“Go eat your own shite, Peter!” Their banter was playful for the most part, but she couldn’t say she wouldn’t be absolutely thrilled if Peter had decided to get some sense knocked into him.
“Jamie!” Owen scolded, the ball still in his hand, knowing all too well that Peter would throw it even if he weren’t paying attention.
“He started it,” she huffed and kicked at a rock near her feet.
“Eighteen years and you’re still at each other’s throats, will it ever end?” Hannah sighed and massaged her temples.
“I’m surprised our heads haven’t exploded being around those two every day,” Rebecca added, which caused a huff from Peter and a laugh from everyone else.
“Owen,” Jamie nodded her head towards him and held out her hands, signaling for him to toss her the ball.
“Ladies, watch out!” She’d warned, as the two girls that sat on the curb were closest to Peter, and while Jamie knew her arm, it’s been years since she’d actually thrown.
Hannah and Rebecca stayed where they were for the most part, trusting Jamie to not throw too wildly and mostly trusting Peter to catch it if it had taken an unexpected curve.
Jamie reared her right arm back and chucked the ball as hard as she could toward Peter. Honestly, she’d forgotten how hard she could throw and it made her arm ache a bit, but seeing the look of shock and worry mixed on Peter’s face as the ball sped toward him was worth it. He held his hands up, able to just barely block the ball from hitting him square in the chest. It knocked to the ground with a thud and rolled over to Hannah, who, along with Rebecca, was trying to contain her laughter. Owen couldn’t help himself and burst out laughing, which caused Hannah and Rebecca to let out their own laughter.
Jamie held her signature smirk as Peter’s eyes rose from where he was staring at the ball to her, and she could tell that behind his shit eating grin, his blood was boiling.
“I’ll get you back for that one!” He groaned and gently took the ball from Hannah, who had held it out for him.
“Sorry mate, wish I could stay and see how that would play out, but it’s nearin’ supper and I’m ‘fraid I can’t let Mikey starve,” she started to turn on her heels to continue on home, “see you all tomorrow.” She saluted before lightly jogging off, ignoring Owen’s shouting about the instant meals he knew Jamie made regularly for both her and her little brother. He’d always offer to come over and cook for them at least twice a week, but Jamie wouldn’t allow him to, knowing that his mother had needed him more than she had.
She took the long road down to their little faded white house, it wasn’t much, but it was home. Three bedrooms, tiny ones at that, and two bathrooms. It wasn’t much smaller than most houses in Bly, but it was the smallest. Her oldest brother, Denny, and her youngest brother Mikey had shared the room next to hers before Denny had run off with some girl he’d met on a trip into London for a job interview. Now Mikey, only 11 years old with sand-blond hair and deep brown eyes, had a room with two beds all to himself. He tried to avoid the room as much as possible, and Jamie understood why. He’d only been 8 years old when Denny left, and he didn’t understand why his older brother had up and left just as their mother did in the two years prior.
Jamie hopped up the two worn down wooden steps that led to the small porch, barely big enough to fit even a chair on it, and pulled open the screen door. The front door had been wide open, giving a clear view of Mikey sitting on the couch doing his summer homework over the coffee table and watching a rerun of an old cartoon on their small television.
“Oi, little gremlin. What’d I tell you about leavin’ the front door open?” She’d scolded, only partially joking, as soon as she stepped foot in the house.
His head shot up and his pencil dropped from his hand before he ran up to give his sister a hug. He was scrawny, and Jamie felt guilty for that, knowing well enough that she may have to take Owen up on his offer, at least once a week. Mikey’s dark blond hair swept down, barely going over the navy blue frame of his glasses. He was definitely in need of a haircut.
“You said it was fine, long as I was in the living room! Besides, it’s not like anyone is going to steal anything. Or kidnap me. No one ever comes over besides Owen and Hannah, really.”
“You’ve got me there, kiddo,” the brunette looked down with a small smile and ruffled his hair. He wasn’t that much shorter than she was, maybe by a few inches, but she knew he would be hitting a growth spurt soon. She dreaded the day it would come.
“Dad won’t be back ‘til Wednesday,” she spoke while she took her coat off and walked back into the hallway to toss it into her room, “so we’re eatin’ the leftover spaghetti he made Saturday night.”
Mikey was used to leftovers and instant meals, it was really all he’d ever known. Sometimes Owen would cook for them, on special occasions. And when their father was home, he’d either cook or run into the town square to one of the few restaurants and buy them a whole meal, sometimes with soda too. Those nights were the best, and the worst, in Mikey’s opinion. They were together, and they laughed while they ate. They hadn’t needed Denny or their mum with them to be considered a complete family. Dad would tell jokes, and Jamie would play off them. Though the younger boy knew that once he was in bed, all tucked in with his door closed and lights out, that his sister and father would argue. A shouting match. Far too loud for him to sleep through. Sometimes he would keep points in his head, tallies of who was winning the argument. Most of the time, Jamie had won in his mind, but the next morning had always proven his older sister’s loss.
“Mikey?” His sister called, now looking through the refrigerator. “If you don’t want spaghetti I can see if I can drop by Owen’s and grab a plate for ya. Hear he’s cooking chicken parmesan tonight.”
“No, that’s okay. Spaghetti is fine. Owen lives on the other side of Bly.”
“It’s just a twenty minute walk.”
“Jamie, I’m fine with spaghetti,” he reasoned. He adjusted his glasses and picked up the pencil he’d held earlier.
“Alright. Just think you need some meat on those bones, that’s all,” she grabbed a plastic container from the fridge and grabbed two bowls from the cabinet.
“As if you’re much better than I am. You may work out, but if you don’t look skinnier than I do I think I need my eyes checked.”
“You’re such a twat sometimes,” she rolled her eyes and placed one bowl in the microwave.
“But you love me for it,” he grinned cheekily and continued on with his work.
“Suppose I do,” she smiled.
The sun shone through the cracks of the broken blinds in her bedroom, and the morning loomed over the small house. The bottle of scotch she had stolen from the cupboard Thursday night after her father had left sat mockingly upon her bedside table, almost scolding her for even opening it. She hadn’t drank much. Only enough to help her numb the sting in her chest after the shouting match that had occurred between her and her father.
Words were said. Unkind words. Nothing Jamie hadn’t heard before. Nothing Jamie hadn’t been called before. Yet it still hurt all the same. She knew he’d had one too many beers. Knew he wasn’t in his right mind.
Her eyes darted from where the bottle seemed to hold them and over to her window. Her headache became more apparent when she slowly sat up in her bed, pulling back the covers and reaching out to open the blinds. She opened them slowly, having learned the hard way that everything would be worse if the light filtered in all at once.
Once she had managed the blinds, she stood from her bed carefully and walked over to her small dresser. Her daily wear had mainly consisted of jeans and a band tee, and the Doc Martens one of Denny’s ex-girlfriends had left. It was a miracle they were the same size, really. Jamie hadn’t stopped wearing them since she realized the girl wasn’t coming back for them.
She looked through her jeans, settling on the darker ones with a few rips here and there. They hadn’t come ripped. No, the rips had been made with a pair of scissors. Save for the few tears caused by tricky roots or thorns in the gardens she looked after around town.
She moved to her closet and picked a dark grey Joan Jett t-shirt from its hanger and the oversized bomber jacket she had stolen from Denny years ago. She changed and then moved to put on the Doc Martens that sat by her dresser. Once they were tied, she walked out of her room and to the bathroom, wanting desperately to wash away the scotch’s aftertaste.
After being sure the scotch was gone and that no one would be able to tell anything aside from her barely having gotten sleep the night before, she peeked into Mikey’s room.
Mikey who was sound asleep.
Mikey who she knew stayed up and listened to the argument.
Mikey who had been burdened with a family like theirs.
She sighed heavily before shutting his door again and grabbing a post it note and a pen.
Pop-Tarts are in the pantry. I’ll be ‘round at Owen or Hannah’s. Ring if you need anything. Love you, Twat.
And then she was off. The door was locked and Mikey was safe. That’s all she could’ve asked for in that moment.
The road leading away from their house was long. It wasn’t really a road, but a path made of dirt that held hidden tire tracks from the beaten up truck her dad owned, and then of course the few little creatures that scurried across to try and avoid being run over or stepped on.
Owen’s house was much larger than her own but the rooms and bathrooms were the same, although two of the rooms and one of the bathrooms were upstairs.
Jamie had known Owen almost her entire life, and Mrs. Sharma had told her countless times that there was no need for knocking. She could just walk right in as long as she said hello. It had been five years since Mrs. Sharma had said that. Five years of Jamie still knocking despite being playfully scolded by both Owen and his mum for not using the back door.
She did go around back that day, however. Was met with the bushes she looked after. She watered them, cut them when they needed it. She’d offered to plant some flowers as well, figuring Mrs. Sharma would fancy a brighter scenery when she sat out back. The older woman had kept her from doing anything of the sort. She claimed that her bushes and Owen were all she needed. Jamie knew that wasn’t the reason she had declined, though.
She came face to face with the screen door and knocked on the white frame. The color sort of clashed with the dark blue of the house, but somehow made it feel more homey.
“Come in!” She heard Owen’s voice travel throughout the house.
“Oi! Owen! You can’t just tell someone to come in without looking at who it is first!”
As Jamie pulled open the screen door, she’d seen Mrs. Sharma lightly slap Owen on the shoulder.
“Mum!” Owen tried his best to look offended, or hurt for that matter. “It’s just Jamie. She rang last night.”
Jamie stopped and leaned against the wall that led into the kitchen.
“ “Just Jamie” huh? Is that any way to treat your guests Owen?” Her voice rose in pitch as it did when she was joking, albeit that indicator was mostly saved for her friend group.
Everyone else could have fun guessing.
“Oh! Jamie, dear. It feels like I haven’t seen you in years!” Mrs. Sharma spoke from where she stood by the sink, supported by a cane.
“It was three days ago,” Owen lightly tapped his mother on the shoulder.
Jamie started forward into the kitchen to give Mrs. Sharma a hug, “I’ll come ‘round more often, Mrs. Sharma. Dad has just been working a bit more than usual,” she lied with a tight-lipped, reassuring smile.
The older woman held her tightly, and Jamie couldn’t help but find comfort in it. Mrs. Sharma probably knew she was lying, but she never pressed for further details, and Jamie was grateful for that.
“Well, you know that you and that brother of yours are always welcome here. I haven’t seen Mikey in months! Oh, he must be all grown up now.” Mrs. Sharma let her go and once again held her wooden cane.
“He’s getting taller, but not by much. I’m afraid he’ll be hittin’ a growth spurt pretty soon, though.”
“And we know Jamie won’t take a liking to that. Won’t be able to pick on him without standing on her tiptoes or looking up at him,” Owen chimed in from where he gathered a few fruits out of the fridge.
“Hey! I pick on you just fine.”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night, Shorty.”
Owen closed the fridge and Jamie had only rolled her eyes, best not to say her response in front of Owen’s mother. Even if she had said far worse in front of her before.
Mrs. Sharma started on her way back into the living room. She signaled for Jamie and Owen to follow, but gently swatted their hands away when they would try to help her.
“I’ve got to do some things on my own, otherwise I’ll never get around with Owen off in Paris.” She was mostly joking, but the air felt a bit heavy afterward, and Mrs. Sharma only shook her head.
“You two,” she clicked her tongue.
Jamie made certain that Mrs. Sharma was sat down in her recliner comfortably before she and Owen sat on the couch next to it. The young brunette hadn’t taken her shoes off, wanting to be prepared if Mikey needed her or if there was an emergency, so she settled for placing her right foot on her left knee and relaxing into the couch with her arm hanging over the back of it. Owen sat in a similar position, but they both faced toward his mother.
“So, Jamie, dear. Anybody take your fancy lately?” And Mrs. Sharma, bless her soul, leaned forward and rested her chin on her hand, along with the cheekiest smile Jamie had ever seen.
“No,” Jamie couldn’t help but grin, “no one’s really caught my eye.”
“I pity the poor person that does,” Owen shook his head and feigned sadness.
“Love, please smack him any time you’d like. He could do with a good smack on the head.”
“Mum! You’re supposed to be on my side.”
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Sharma. I’ll get back at him later. Embarrass him in front of Hannah,” she winked.
“Don’t you dare,” Owen pointed a finger at her.
“Don’t I dare, what?” The brunette feigned innocence and blocked Owen’s hand from coming around to try and tickle her.
“Sorry mate, not today,” she clicked her tongue.
The two held eye contact, a little game of theirs. A staring competition. Whoever looked away first lost, and nine times out of ten, Jamie won. They held it for quite a while, and Mrs. Sharma was almost worried that time had somehow frozen until the phone in the kitchen rang and Jamie came out of it first.
“I’ll get it, it’s probably Mikey,” she said and stood from the couch, going over to answer the still ringing phone.
“Haha! I won!” Owen shouted in triumph. To which Jamie only rolled her eyes as she answered the phone.
She could hear Mrs. Sharma advocating for her as she gave a greeting to the other person on the line. The voice that had answered back was not what she was expecting. It was soft, filled with slight worry, and a girl’s. But most of all, it was American.
“Hello?” The girl on the other end had asked.
“Yeah, sorry. Not who I was expecting. This is the Sharma’s, yes.”
After that it was as any conversation over the telephone went, with a lot of “mhm’s” and “alright’s”.
“Alright, I’ll tell him. Have a good day,” she put the phone back in its place and turned to where she could see Owen and his mother.
“It was an American, Dani Clayton she said her name was. You were supposed to pick her up a half hour ago. Ring a bell?” Jamie looked to Owen, eyeing him a bit suspiciously. Also wondering why she wasn’t told Bly would be hosting a guest.
Owen looked as if he had seen a ghost.
“Right! For Lord and Lady Wingrave. Crap.” Owen sighed.
“Well, stop your lollygagging and go pick the poor girl up!” His mother jabbed at him with her cane as Owen stood. “Take Jamie with you, too. She doesn’t get out enough.”
“If Mikey calls I’ll ring Hannah. She’ll have no trouble with him. You don’t need to worry dear.”
Jamie nodded and gave her a thankful nod and smile. Mrs. Sharma smiled back before Owen rushed his shorter friend out to the car.
They rode in silence most of the way, Owen trying out new puns every now and then.
“Who is she?” Jamie spoke up, feeling an odd need to learn more about the girl.
“A distant cousin of the Wingraves.”
And Owen left it at that.