Delight in the Darkness
Hell. On. Earth.
Hell on Earth!
She could see the flames.
Hell on Earth!
Felt the heat against her skin.
Smell the burning.
Flames engulfed the blackened pan and the thing that was once an egg.
She snapped out of her daydreamed as Thomas flung a damp towel over the ruined breakfast and, in the same movement, threw Helen out of his kitchen.
She stood, still slightly spaced out, as the door was slammed behind her in a torrent of French cursing.
The few words she managed to pick out of the rapid-fire swearing didn't sound complimentary at all!
Three months in Europe, her chance to escape the humdrum life of small-town England, escape the boredom of a twenty-one-year-old with no qualifications, no prospects, no friends or family.
Helen hated her life, always glum, always looking for the next disappointment.
The first day of her twenty-second year, she'd simply packed a bag, her passport, withdrew the little money she'd managed to save and jumped on the next ferry to Calais.
She never even said goodbye to her workmates, didn't bother to collect the naff presents still at the seventh most popular café in the town.
At least she'd escaped that!
She turned glumly, yes, she'd actually managed to swap a job she couldn't actually stand, but for an identical job with staff she couldn't actually understand!
Nice one, well done, congrats on the success of Helen's Great Adventure!
She picked up her rucksack, which Thomas had kindly thrown in the only available puddle on the Rue Louise Michel, and trudged along towards the university, scowling at the young people who were actually enjoying their existence!
Dark. Will. End. The. Light.
Dark will end the light!
White fluttered in her eyes.
Dark will end the light!
Felt the air move against her face as the fluttering slowed.
White fluttered, ceased and fell.
The manuscript slammed down onto the polished desk.
'...bit dark, Will...the end? "Delight"?'
Willow snapped out of her daydream.
'I mean, doesn't say "Head of Dark Entertainment" on my door, does it, Will?
Two white pages fluttered to the floor, somehow saddening Willow.
'Teen Rom/Com, that's what we asked for, bit of flirting, true love, happy, feel good ending? Ring a bell?'
The pages reminded Willow of feathers, fallen from some fantastically sad angel, the end of an epic tale.
This would be her masterpiece, a true labour of love!
'There was no mention of bloody vampires in your original pitch for "Delight", I mean, Will dear, that was so last year!'
Willow felt the glass doors swish closed behind her as she put her manuscript in the bin, checked she'd recovered her laptop from her furious agent's office and strolled off happily, not thinking of the commission she'd just turned her back on, but actually forwards to the beginning of a truly magical existence.
Helen trudged on through the rain. She hated rain.
Hated the sickeningly beautiful rural French countryside, hated the French!
And she was dreadfully hungry, the few Euros in her pockets (saved by hitchhiking instead of taking a train) would hopefully buy her dinner.
Three bloody hours trudging through the wet grass at the side of the road, thumb miserably stuck out each time she heard or saw a car, didn't matter which way they were travelling, she just wanted out of the rain. And food.
She heard the engine, but didn't bother to look up from her muddy boots. No-one ever stopped, not for a gloomy, hungry, soaking wet English girl.
Ok, maybe they just didn't stop for this gloomy, hungry, soaking-wet English girl?
The big bike pulled over. Stopped.
The rider held out a helmet for Helen and patted the pillion seat, rain jumped as the gloved hand hit the leather.
Helen struggled into the wet lid, climbing awkwardly onto the wobbling Triumph as the rider brought the growling machine to life. Helen held on tight as the bike moved off. She hated motorbikes.
The rider skillfully coaxed the bike ever Southwards, pleased to have done a good deed, and enjoying the feel of the grateful pillion close behind.
Helen wished she'd kept walking. Rain pelted the visor, found a way down the back of her upturned collar, so there was now a small, cold river running down her back.
She held on tighter as the rain eased and the speed increased, not out of fear, simply trying to draw a little warmth from the rider's leather-clad back.
Oh Great, she had a wet bum now too! Could this day get any worse?
Willow eased off the throttle and lifted her visor, enjoying the cold rain on her face.
It had been a long but enjoyable ride, passing through the beautiful French countryside, ever Southwards. The Triumph's fuel warning light came on with a stylish orange glow.
'Ok, my gorgeous, I'm hungry, too!' She patted the tank and kept a lookout for a filling station, hopefully one attached to a nice café, where bike and rider could fill up.
Ahead, a rain-soaked hitchhiker, trudging along the verge. Although Willow spoke little French, she could do with the company, and a good deed for the day never hurt her karma!
She pulled over and killed the engine, reaching to the cissy bar for the spare helmet.
The hitchhiker, a young, sullen but pretty redhead, took the lid without even a smile or a thanks (probably the GB plates and no English?)
Willow patted the rear seat, delighting in the spray of raindrops bouncing skywards off the leather.
The girl struggled with the helmet straps, struggled to climb onto the bike, which wobbled precariously, then wrapped her arms so tightly around Willow, she actually made her ribs creak!
Willow smiled to herself as she effortlessly pulled away, enjoying the growl of the bike, the refreshing rain and the free hug!
Could this day get any better?
Twenty minutes later the Triumph pulled into the forecourt, Helen stopped crushing the rider's ribs and unsteadily climbed down off the bike, catching her bootlace on the footpeg and falling flat on her back.
God, she hated motorbikes!
From her prone position, the rider was a silhouette against the afternoon sun. Probably peeing themselves laughing at her. She hated bikers, too.
The silhouette reached up to take the helmet off, dazzling sunlight met long blonde hair, a golden, flowing halo as Willow shook out her locks.
Helen looked up in awe at this beautiful creature, totally mesmerized, she simply lay in the puddle of diesel and rainwater and admired the view.
For the very first time in twenty-one years, Helen was suddenly not that miserable!
Willow tried not to laugh as the redhead went tumbling off her bike, splashing around like a toddler in the puddles, God she looked so cute.
She unbuckled her helmet, shook out her hair and gracefully dismounted.
Standing over the poor soaking girl, Willow smiled down and held out a hand.
Beautiful eyes gazed up at her, damp hair framing a perfect face. Willow remained, hand outstretched, smiling down and admiring the view, content to stay that way forever.
When their hands eventually touched, both girls wondered how the sparks didn't ignite the petrol pumps!
Once they realised they both spoke the same language, that afternoon was spent chatting and eating, Helen had never laughed so much, instantly at ease with each other, night was falling before they knew it.
Reluctant to leave the café, finish the conversation, end the day, Willow asked where Helen was staying.
She was delighted to discover she had no set plans, and readily offered a room in the house she had rented for that month.
A writer's retreat, no phone, miles from anywhere, countryside peace and quiet. Bliss!
And what would make it more blissful was if they were there together.
Helen agreed in a heartbeat, she even enjoyed the ride there.
Willow pulled up outside impressive, very gothic gates. Glimpsed through a copse of trees was an equally impressive and even more gothic house.
Helen giggled as the heavy gates swung inwards, Willow pushing her bike along the driveway.
'Looks like there should be some kind of Satanic cult sacrificing goats in the woods! Spooky or what?'
'Don't be daft, it looks marvelous, such a beautiful old building, it'll be fab!'
Deep within the chateau's grounds, hidden amongst ancient trees, a rather Satanic-looking group of thirteen red-robed locals gathered in a circle around a rather terrified-looking goat.