Paul stuck his head through the door of the shop. He glistened with droplets of rain.
"November!" he surmised as he stepped in. "What gives?"
"I'm taking a job with Phyliss," I explained as Phyliss handed out glasses of wine to celebrate.
"Day release at college," she explained, "I knew it would make the difference!"
We drank to the future which was now resplendant in pins, needles and patterns and soft draping material. A change from care-plans, upset people who were all sure they had come to the wrong place, and the shifting staff which passed through the hospital who might even be in the right place for the wrong reason.
As we left hand in hand, I realised that even though I hadn't yet told him I was pulling out, we were still together.
"Have you met the hags?" he asked quietly, "They used to run the town. They can't be much older than you..."
"Yes," I confirmed, "I met Hagatha when I was very young, and then again on the boat to Malta way back in the 50's. She told me bold as brass that she was named for Agatha Christie so that later on she could claim the royalties. I was dunbstruck!"
"Dad turned up, took one look, and took me away. Keep away from her, said the whole family is evil."
"Perhaps, she was muttering how I wouldn't last long being only a scapegoat for the tribe. Unpleasant!"
"Did you see her again?"
"I'm not sure, before they took me in, there were other families, bad ones, like the one in Elffast who tied me to a chair facing a window and made me write books... They said their daughter had written them. Or sold them on. Not sure who that was, could have been either hag, Hag-atha or Hag-de-lin. Said they were publishers..."
"Were you always good at writing?"
"Yes from an early age. It became my downfall!"
"Were your family part of the tribe?"
"Not sure... Grandad and Dad worked with them sometiimes. Dad rescued me twice in connexion with the scrapegoat stuff. The last time when I was nearly killed because someone else's kid had to be trepanned. They took me instead. Didn't want their kid to be hurt. I never had a choice. Was told to be grateful for the life I had."
"Is that the diamond mark on your forehead?" He sounded shocked, Dad had raced into the room and pushed all the priests over. Picked me up and left. He was a true Dennis Wheatley hero. There was a blue light in his grey eyes. It was the second time he stopped them making a sacrifice of me. Dad wouldn't speak to Mum for ages after that. He took the bloodied hand drill from out of the priest's hands and threw it at her...
"Possibly! I can't remember it all." I couldn't tell him. It was so long ago. It was before I was six I think. I wasn't sure enough to name them all.
"Did you have any other dealings with the hags?" Paul went on anxiously.... I wondered what connexion he had....
"Unless they were the family that sold me out as the psychic child." I pondered slowly, "That came to an end when I was called for to find a missing royal child... They were kind people and I wanted to help them. I tried to look really hard and I saw my own legs at the back, my red shoe heels and my white socks and nothing else. How could I tell those grieving people that I only saw that?" I wondered if he understood. "I usually got asked to find things not people..."
Dad had stopped all that, he said it wasn't helping me. I had to be normal not different. I wasn't to do anything that other people couldn't do. I became a hidden child. Even the wills were to be taken later on, because some of them were so strange. One even asked people to be evil towards me to gain money. God knows how much they'd have got for trepanning me for no reason.
"How do you know them?" I asked childishly grabbing his hand again.a
"They came to see my friend about their houses. Apparently long ago the family used to own a lot of houses across the country and now they don't own so many. They wanted to know what happened to all of them. And they wanted him to help put that poor woman out of hers and on the street." Tears were in his eyes, "Sometimes they carry on until you give them what they want, it can be an arm or a leg job. And it's no joke! Are you still a scapegoat?"
"Mum more or less threw me out when she returned from finding her estates in Germany. Apparently no-one wanted me, Dad asked. So they let me go... I wonder if that's why they are going hell for leather at that woman, they want her to take the blame for some daft old plot."
He stopped in the street and pulled me close to him. His clothes had the aroma of his aftershave, and his chin bristled against my cheek. His hands were around my waist. Slowly we kissed. The first public kiss. Our friendship had become much more intimate.
"I'd hate anything to happen to you," he said huskily into my ear. "I've seen people come and go, after these public maulings - don't have anymore to do with it..."
We stepped away from each other simultaneously, and holding hands continued to wallk.
"Hey," I said, "Isn't that Tony Cook?"
He looked, and laughed, "Yeah, Hi!"
The guy turned around and waved.
Paul cracked up, and slipping his arm around the top of my leggings wandered away. "Must be a cameo!" he said.