Faebles Bird Without Wings by Cally Pepper
Scarlett is sixteen. She’s glad to be finishing high school because she feels unpopular and not especially attractive. Following the mysterious disappearance of her father, and then an attempted date-rape by her best friends older brother, Scarlett is confused, friendless and lonely. Then strange things begin to happen. Scarlett discovers a beautiful and mystical world that exists in parallel to the real world, the Fae (Fairy) World, and is happy to escape to this amazing place which is inhabited by some beautiful, friendly and sexy, winged Fae people.
I’m sixteen today. It’s my last exam this morning. Last day in Year 11. Last day of school.
I spot Sasha waiting for me outside the school gates. She’s leaning against the wall, her jet black hair glinting in the morning sun. She’s laughing. She looks amazing. She always looks amazing. Sasha and I have been best friends since the
beginning of high school. She’s more like a sister than a friend.
My insides feel as though they’re turning to liquid as I approach her, omewhere between that warm feeling of familiarity and the harsh dread of the unknown. I take a deep breath and brace myself as she turns to face me.
‘What’s the matter with you, you mad cow?’ Sasha screams into my face, and I catch my breath. ‘You attacked my brother, you put him in hospital. What are you, a freak?’
My stomach tightens and I stare at the floor, hoping my eyes won’t show how much her words hurt, pretending I haven’t noticed the small crowd of interested onlookers beginning to gather.
Let me explain. Jasper is Sasha’s brother; he’s 18 and dropped out of school last year. And just about every girl fancies him. He’s good looking, tall, muscular. No…good looking just doesn’t describe him. He’s damn near perfect. He’s an Adonis. He has dark brown eyes, tanned skin, almost-black hair, which grows in
tight curls, and he wears cut very short. He’s slim and muscular, and you really have to hear his voice – deep and smooth, like melted chocolate. But even forgetting all that, he has a kind of confidence, I suppose arrogance, something you can’t put your finger on that just seems to pull the girls like a magnet. Something that other lads in our school don’t have, they don’t even come close. And the girls in my Year treat Jasper like a god, they giggle when he’s within earshot and flirt like mad if he so much as looks at them. It’s embarrassing to watch them. So when Sasha said Jasper liked me, I admit I was flattered. Boys just don’t seem to fancy me, and I couldn’t believe Jasper would be interested in someone like me. It’s not that I’m ugly or anything, but I wouldn’t say I was that pretty either. I can’t be, because I’ve never had a real boyfriend. Most of the other girls in my class are going out with boys, bragging about sex and stuff, especially Sasha. Sasha always has plenty of boyfriends, and boasts that she lost her virginity at 13, although I know for a fact that isn’t true.
‘I was defending myself,’ I hiss back at Sasha, feeling my face turn pink. ‘He was the one who attacked me. Sasha, can we leave this ‘til after? It’s our last exam today.’ Some of the spectators are sniggering and whispering.
‘Why?’ Sasha sneers, her voice getting loud and raucous. ‘You don’t want anyone to know you’re frigid?’ She laughs nastily and her face screws into something quite mean and ugly. I hear muttering from the expanding crowd. I can tell Sasha’s enjoying the attention. ‘You broke his arm, punched him on the jaw and kicked him in the nuts!’ Her eyes widen with mock-surprise as she looks
round at her audience. Most of the kids in our Year have crowded
round, enjoying the show. ‘You should be locked away!’
‘That’s not how it happened,’ I splutter, feeling out of my depth. I’ve never been good at arguments and Sasha knows it.
‘He only wanted a kiss!’ Sasha says, rolling her eyes at her audience. There’s a roar of laughter.
I decide to say nothing more, push my way through the crowd and towards school. I roughly wipe away the tears that are welling in my eyes.
‘There’s something wrong with you,’ she yells. ‘You’re a
That’s not fair, it’s just not right. She’s supposed to be my best friend. My pace slows as her words filter into my mind. I start to see red, Sasha is just so wrong. She wants to make a scene; well two can play at that game. I spin round and march back, straight at her. Sasha looks a little startled, she visibly shrinks. Some of the girls start to back away.
‘Listen, Sasha,’ I say loudly, looking her straight in the eye. ‘Are you seriously suggesting that I beat up your six-foot brother with my bare hands, in his own home…’ I make an overly-grand gesture towards my own skinny frame. ‘For absolutely no reason at all?’
Sasha’s mouth drops open and her tongue tries to wag, but there’s absolutely nothing she can say. I spin on my heel and march back up the path towards school. At least I’ve shut her up for now. But I know this isn’t the last of it. And the worst part is, what Sasha has accused me of, is actually true. I did beat up her six-foot brother with my bare hands.
I make it as far as the school doors before I hear Sasha scream, ‘You’re a FREAK, Scarlett Moon!’ I pause momentarily to hear her say loudly, ‘As if Jasper
would want to bang her anyway, she’s pig-ugly.’
I cringe and feel a pricking behind my eyes, but carry on walking with my head held high, hoping that by some miracle the whole school hadn’t just heard that.
I finish my exam paper in plenty of time and check it over carefully for stupid mistakes. I turn the answer sheet over and place my pen by the side, lining it up with the edge of the paper. Most of the kids are still scribbling away or sitting with their head resting on their hands, scratching around in their minds for inspiration.
All the desks are carefully lined up so that every student is sitting at a single desk and no two desks are touching. The space between every desk is exactly the same as the width of each desk. The teachers measure the gap with almost exact precision. They have to. I like this; it satisfies my need for things to be exactly right. It’s not that I’m a perfectionist, I’m not. It’s a sort of control thing. If I can control my environment and make it right, then perhaps all the rest of the stuff will start to fall back into place. Start to mend. Maybe even go into reverse and undo all the bad that has happened. It’s something to do with all the shitty things that have happened this year; I can get a bit controlly about things, objects mainly.
I sometimes find myself making up little rules, like ‘if I don’t put the pen exactly in the middle of the desk then I won’t pass the exam’. I carefully place my pen exactly in the middle of the desk. You know, just in case.
But I’m not superstitious or anything, I know that’s just silly. I wouldn’t, for example, kid myself that if I ‘touch wood’ then my dad will come home, because I know, deep down, that it’s not going to happen, he’s never going to come home. I feel a slight panic rising in my throat as I glance around the room looking for some wood to touch. Well I’ve said it now, haven’t I? I lean over and lightly touch the wooden floor with my finger. You know, just in case.
The trouble is, this need for things to be right, it’s going the wrong way, because now I’ve lost my best friend too. But I don’t care. I pick up my pen and start doodling on the top of my question paper. Boxes inside boxes, inside boxes. Boxes with no opening, no way in and no way out.
I glance over at the desk where Sasha’s sitting, towards the front of the hall. She’s still writing. I can see the back of her head, her long, poker-straight black hair cascading down her back with no apparent effort. And yet she will have spent an hour getting her hair that straight before school. I feel lonely, discarded. Another loss. I seem to have lost so much this year, first my dad, then my cat died. And now Sasha’s friendship. It’s like I’m losing parts of my body. An arm perhaps. I glance down at my arm. Maybe not an arm, it’s not like losing an arm. No, every time I lose something, it’s like I’m losing a chunk of my heart. I wonder how many more things I will lose before I run out of heart altogether.
I inhale deeply, breathing in the smell of the school, the polish on the wooden floor, pencils and paper. Strange, surely paper and pencils are odourless? And a sort of bare-feet smell – the exam hall is normally the school gym, converted for exams once a year.
I can’t see through the windows from where I’m sitting, they’re too high. But I can see the sky, and it looks bright and pure and blue. A seagull soars above the rooftops, so high it looks tiny to me sitting below in this huge synthetic room. The gull seems motionless in the sky, gliding on an air current, then suddenly changes direction and swoops away, beyond my line of vision. I blink in the brightness. I feel like a caged bird, waiting to fly out into the world. A bird without wings.
I feel a tightness in my throat. It’s my birthday, but it doesn’t feel like it. I’m sixteen. I thought I might feel more grown up. Sixteen is adult really, isn’t it? I wish I could turn into a real adult right now. Adults don’t seem to have to put up with complicated people. I wonder what happens to evil kids when they become adults. Do they grow into nice people or just find more sophisticated ways of being vile? I try to picture what I might look like when I’m 30. I can’t imagine. Old. I bet Sasha will still be beautiful even when she’s 30. Sasha looks lovely even when she’s not trying. She looked amazing last night.
Last night. Sasha had arranged for us to go out, as a pre-birthday treat for me. I didn’t want to celebrate my birthday this year. Not without Dad. So I agreed to go out the evening before.
I was excited and scared, and it took me hours to get ready. I finally decided to wear my new pink blouse and a short skirt. It’d been a warm day so I went barelegged and put on my new pink wedge sandals. I knew I looked nice, but wasn’t sure if it was nice enough. I’m skinny and would like to be more curvy. It makes me self-conscious. Boyish. And there was nothing I could do about my red hair. And face. There’s nothing actually wrong with my face, and thankfully I haven’t got too many freckles yet this summer. But next to Sasha I always feel ordinary. I did wonder if the skirt was a little too short. No makeup, just some lip-gloss.
I’d arranged to meet Sasha and her ‘boyfriend-of-themoment’, Ben, and of course Jasper, at the Multiplex. I arrived too early so I collected my ticket and bought myself a large Coke. We were going to see Superteen, a spoof film about some teenage superhero. Not my choice. The others were late. As soon as Jasper entered the foyer a group of girls started to giggle flirtatiously and call out, ‘Jasper, Jasper.‘ He ignored them and sauntered towards me, ahead of Sasha and Ben. He looked fantastic in black Versace jeans and an Armani top, and a trendy pair of leather ankle trainers. He had a way of walking that somehow told you he knew he was being watched. Not exactly a swagger, but close. The girls who had been drooling over him must have wondered what he was doing with such an ordinary girl.
He grabbed my hand and led me into the cinema, straight up towards the back, without saying a word. I felt in awe, he was so confident, sure of himself. I was excited, Jasper was out with me. He chose me.My bubble wobbled when he took my Coke out of the armrest and drank it down in one go. Which I thought was a bit cheeky. I frowned at him and he winked back at me and did a sort of clicking noise with his tongue that wound me up a bit. I started to feel a little bit irritable. He’d hardly said a word to me.
During the film Jasper laughed out loud at all the appropriate bits, and made the occasional comment towards the screen. I stole a glance at him once or twice. He really is good looking, there’s no doubt about it. His dark liquid eyes with thick black eyelashes curling up over his tanned skin. Even the tiny chickenpox scar near his eye. And yet the pock-mark doesn’t detract from his looks, if anything it makes him more appealing. A sort of vulnerability.
After the film ended I stood up to leave but Jasper pulled me back down into my seat. ‘Not so fast, Babe,’ he said and kissed me on the mouth. I hadn’t been expecting it and he somehow managed to get me off-centre and bang teeth. I pulled away, a bit embarrassed. What a disappointment. He winked and did that clicking noise again. I hurried to catch up with Sasha and Ben.
Once outside we all walked back towards Sasha and Jasper’s house. Jasper walked slightly ahead of me and I had to keep doing little half-runs to keep up with him. And then he started talking on the way home, boasting mainly, about himself, and how he’d taught his dog to hunt rabbits. He didn’t shut up. He said the ‘F’ word a lot. I think he thought he was impressing me. But he could’ve seen from my face that I wasn’t interested. I’ve seen his dog when I slept over at Sasha’s and it looks vicious. Sasha makes it sleep in the shed when Jasper’s away because she hates it. And he went on about how he’d got a car and a motorbike and how he’d been driving his dad’s car since he was ten, I half wondered how a ten-year-old boy could see over the bonnet of a car but frankly I couldn’t be bothered asking. I just wanted to go home.
When we got back to their house, Sasha invited me in for a cold drink and I agreed; I’d been feeling thirsty ever since Jasper drank my Coke in the cinema. The house was empty; their dad must have been out. Sasha’s mum died when she was a baby so she lives with her dad and Jasper. And they’re away a lot on business, so Sasha often asks me to sleepover. She’s not allowed to have friends over when her dad’s home. I don’t think he’s very nice. Sasha always seems glad when they’re away, we order pizza and lie in her double bed watching adult films until really late, replaying the naughty bits.
Jasper and Ben grabbed some beer from the fridge and Sasha poured out something fizzy and lime green and handed it to me. It tasted okay, sweet and fruity, and I drank it fast, the sugar rush making me feel light-headed. I decided to make my excuses and leave after I’d finished it. I was feeling fuzzyheaded and sleepy but the next thing Sasha and Ben seemed to have disappeared. I remember thinking I’d better get home to bed; perhaps I was starting with a cold. I felt so strange. I stood to leave, but felt Jasper place his hand on my arm. ‘Where you going, Babe? The night is young.’ Then he did that annoying clicking with his tongue again.
I’ve never had a real boyfriend, sometimes I feel unattractive, childish. And I’m not sure about sex. I know all the facts, who does what and stuff. But don’t really understand why. And I was pretty sure I didn’t want to find out last night with Jasper.
‘Another?’ Jasper had said. His lips curled into a smile as he had handed me some more bright-green liquid.
My thoughts are brought back into the exam hall with a jolt as I hear the exam moderator woman shouting out ‘FIFTEEN MINUTES.’ I glance sideways at the boy sitting at the desk next to me. Luke. He smiles. I feel a flush coming to my cheeks and I quickly look down at my answer paper.
Luke sits next to me in Maths; it’s the only subject where Sasha and I are in different sets. He’s always been nice to me, if a little quiet. I feel myself relax, the tension of the morning starting to unwind with his small gesture of friendship. I glance back at him but he’s busy reading through his answer paper. One or two kids have started to fidget; most of the class have finished now and are looking around the room, trying to have conversations with their eyes only.
I drift back into my own thoughts and Sasha’s cruel words from this morning are suddenly being replayed over and over in my head. She called me ‘frigid’. Half my school Year would have heard that. Some of the kids in the exam room seem to be staring at me. I can feel their eyes on me. I feel prickles at the back of my nose and hope that I’m not going to cry. I blink quickly and then close my eyes tight, rub my face with my hands. Maybe I really am frigid. Perhaps there is something wrong with me. After all I’m sixteen now. I’m even older than Sasha; she’s not sixteen ‘til next week. And she’s had loads more experience than me. Well Sasha’s had more experience than most of the girls in our class actually.
I keep my eyes tight shut, wishing I was somewhere else. Anywhere. It’s dark inside my head and I want to disappear into the gloomy shadows of my mind. What’s the matter with me? I clench my stomach as I see a flashback from last night, like an action-replay. With Jasper, on the settee, I can remember everything so very clearly. ‘No, Jasper,’ I had said as he leaned over me on the sofa. I pushed my forearm firmly against his chest, but he was too strong for me. I felt I was suffocating. The sweet green drink had made me feel woozy, everything sounded muffled.
‘Playing hard to get?’ he breathed into my face, laughing, sneering. He had started to undo the buttons on my blouse. I pulled away, but he tugged harder at the fabric and I heard a slight rip.
‘Stop it, Jasper, I mean it, this isn’t funny.’ I pleaded with him.
His face was so close to mine that he looked distorted. His mouth pressed together in a fine line. ‘Nobody says no to me,’ he said, his lip curling nastily. And I realised it was probably true.
I leaned forward to get off the settee but his hand clamped onto my arm like a vice. He yanked me back down. I lost balance and fell awkwardly. ‘Ow!’ I yelled as my head bounced off the back of the sofa, and tried to prise his fingers from my arm, he was hurting me.
His eyes were jet black and angry; he ran his tongue over his lips. ‘Don’t play games with me, Babe,’ he said. I started to feel scared. His face came towards me and his mouth clamped over mine. I gagged as he stuck his tongue in my mouth. I could smell beer and stale cigarette smoke on his breath. I tried to push him away, feeling sick, but he was holding me down and I couldn’t move. He was surprisingly strong. As he came up for air I could feel his hand sneaking under the fabric of my blouse. He was laughing now and it sounded nasty. Creepy. It chilled me to the bone.
I pushed at him, managed to release my arm and move away, tried to stand up, but my legs didn’t feel quite real. Jasper grabbed my arm again and it hurt. ‘Please stop, Jasper.’ I tried to keep my voice from shaking but the fact is I have never been so frightened in my life. My eyes searched for the door, his hold tightened even more, and his face flashed with something sinister. It was as if he was crazy, he was breathing heavily and his face was flushed. One hand was holding me down whilst the other was groping awkwardly beneath my skirt. Then his eyes locked onto mine, his face was no longer pretending to smile – all that was left was a malignant leer.
What happened next is a bit of a blur, I remember bouncing off the cushion as I was shoved backwards. I was gripped by panic and I screamed even though I knew there was nobody to hear. He leaned over me, pinning me down with his weight. My flesh crawled as I felt his fingers touch me and I held my breath with revulsion. I pushed at him with my wrists but his free arm grabbed me so hard I cried out.
I tried to disconnect my thoughts from what was happening. ‘Stop,’ I whispered, more to myself as I knew it was futile. ‘I don’t want this, let me go.‘ I let the tears flow down my face; my breaths were coming in sobs. I knew that if I tried to move again, his grip would tighten, I knew it would be so easy for him to really hurt me. I felt I was choking, my body clamped down by his legs, he was heavy, I tried to scream again but there was no sound, my voice had gone. I realised that I was defenceless to stop him. I heard him unzip his flies and I closed my eyes.
But it was as though something suddenly snapped in my head. Like a rage, a fury. How dare he think he can just take what he wanted. Something seemed to happen, I felt a prickling in my fingertips and then an acute pain in my shoulders, and then an exploding sensation shot up through my spine and into my arms, driving a surge of hot angry fuel into my veins. The rage surged through my body like a hot ripple of pure power, gathering in intensity, and as the heat locked into tissues, I could feel my muscles firm and strengthen.
As Jasper fumbled I felt an enormous strength. I took a deep breath, formed my hand into a solid fist and whipped my arm upwards, slamming my knuckles hard into his belly. I surprised myself how much force I had been able to muster. ‘Umphwheeze,’ the noise came from him as the air was knocked out of him. The surprise caused him to relax his grip on me, and as he gasped, struggling to put oxygen back into his lungs, I flung my arm back across his face, slapping him hard with the back of my fist. His face whipped round, throwing him backwards. Blood appeared on his cheek where my Claddagh ring had ripped his skin. I was up on my feet immediately and made a dash for the door.
As I felt for the door handle I turned to look at him, still on his knees, his pants hanging half way down his legs. He looked dazed, like he didn’t know what had happened. He struggled to his feet, staggering towards me.
‘You little bitch, you’ll pay for that.’ He lunged at me but I caught his wrist in my hand and twisted it round hard. There was a sickening crunch and he screamed in pain, dropping to his knees and cradling his arm. It was just so easy. I stepped towards him. He looked afraid, his eyes wide and scared.
‘Please don’t hurt me,’ he whimpered. It was so pathetic, I almost wanted to laugh. He had shrunk down to almost nothing, a shrivelled, defenceless little worm. I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t erase the feeling I’d had just moments earlier, when he’d controlled me. Terrified. Powerless. Violated. What he would have done; how he would have just taken what he wanted. Before I could think twice, I stepped forward, jerked my leg upwards hard and there was a satisfying thuck as my foot struck him hard in the groin. He crumpled in pain, dropped to the floor, curling into a ball, his eyes bulging as he struggled to breathe, gasping and retching.
I leaned over him, he probably couldn’t hear but I was going to say it anyway. Loudly. ‘NO means NO!’ I shrieked. And I spun on the heel of my new wedge sandals, opened the door and strode out of the house without looking back.
Cally Pepper has had a varied career working for the NHS, running her own business, working as a volunteer counsellor and she currently works part time as Practice Manager of a doctors’ surgery in Liverpool.
When she is not working at her ‘day job’, she is at home working on her latest creative project which in recent years has usually been writing. However she is equally enthusiastic about anything creative including arts and crafts.
Her career in a medicosocial environment, her interest in people and emotions, and her experience as a qualified counsellor, combined with her creativity has resulted in a stream of ideas for book storylines from fantasy and ‘coming of age’ stories to the psychological thriller that she is currently working on.
Cally has been writing for a number of years, is a member of Southport Writers Circle, and her debut novel, Bird Without Wings, is the first in the ‘Faebles’ trilogy for Young Adults.
Cally lives in Southport in the North West of England with her husband, her two Labrador dogs and her elderly cat.
Website URL: http://www.callypepper.com/
Book Trailer on YouTube: http://youtu.be/nUyAL9gCZ6I
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