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"One for sorrow

two for joy

three for a girl

four for a boy

five for silver

six for gold

seven for a secret never to be told..."

Children's Nursery Rhyme


***chapter 1***

The trees seemed to be closing in on her. Watching and listening. Aware of her every move. Aware of the shouts still ringing in her ears.

"Mangy Angie! Mangy Angie! Hey, Mangy Angie!"

It felt like she'd been running like this forever. With hot tears stinging her eyes and a stitch in her side and the shouting still inside her head. Only now she was ten she could run faster. Faster, ever faster, with only the steady stomp of her shoes, the quickened rhythm of her breath, the thud of her heartbeat. And the echoing memory of the taunts.

The downwards slope was steep, the pressure of descent pulling painfully on her badly cut knees. But, finally, she reached the clearing, where the breath from the river was friendly and cooling, blowing on her face in gentle greeting and playfully riffling through her hair.

Her shoes squelched noisily through the soft mud, her arms reaching for the branch and the branch stretching out towards her. A final heave, lifting herself upwards, sidling along till she nestled against the trunk. And then, at last, she was safe, away from the world, watching the swarming life of the river bank, listening to the familiar splashes and squeaks, the general rustling and bustling of fish and fowl and small river rodents.

Angie smiled to herself as she saw a soaking wet rat emerge from the long grass and scurry along by the river's edge. Rats didn't bother her. That was where she had the edge on her cousin Josie. Josie was terrified of creepy crawlies and rodents. Especially rats and mice. Angie knew because of the field mouse on the day of her father's funeral.

Angie and Josie's fathers had been brothers, but they had never been close. The day of the funeral was the first time the cousins met.

They stared at each other, a little shy and awkward, and seven years old. Both stunned into silence by the fact they were so amazingly alike it was just like looking into a mirror except...

Angie's hacked blonde curls were tangled and dull while Josie's perfectly cut hair fell neatly on her shoulders. Josie's gaze was bright and dancing but Angie viewed the whole world with a hostile suspicion. Josie looked pretty in the newly bought, black clothing that her mother had dressed her in. Angie's baggy slate grey skirt and top (there wasn't the time and there wasn't the money to buy black, even if he'd been worth crying over, Angie's mother had said) unflatteringly emphasised her pale skin.

Angie had twisted curiously round from the table on hearing their visitors' arrival and, acutely aware of their differences, she scowled now at her cousin, absently rolling her tongue round a loose tooth as she often did when thinking things over.

But Josie took the scowl to mean the grown-ups-are-talking-heaps and she giggled at Angie's daring, showing small, white, even teeth. Then, remembering this was a funeral and people were meant to be miserable, even if she didn't know the person who died and was thoroughly enjoying her unexpected time off school, she tried to turn the giggle into a spluttering cough and look suitably sad.

But it was too late. The giggle/cough reminded the olds she was there and Josie's mother paused from the solemn, polite chit-chat to gently propel her small daughter forward. "We've got a while yet. You two kids may as well go play in the garden."

"And don't you go far and don't you dare get dirty - or else!" Angie's mother lifted a lipstick-stained cigarette from her mouth as she spoke and, without ceremony, hooked Angie up under the shoulder (the little girl sat at the table, finishing off the last remnants of her own concoction, thickly-smeared-jam-and-lumps-of-cheese-on-toast, surveying their newly arrived visitors from over the back of her chair) and almost threw her in the general direction of her cousin.

Josie stepped back automatically, slightly startled. But perhaps Auntie Pam, Angie's Mum, was being rough because she was upset over her husband's death., she thought.

And she had noticed a single tear trickling slowly down Angie's cheek, though Angie tried to hide it. Her warm heart snapped in two. It was all very well for Josie, having the day off school and all, but Angie and Auntie Pam were sad and Josie hated anyone to be sad.

She caught hold of her cousin's hand as, like tiny mountaineers, they carefully negotiated their way down the exceptionally high stone steps that led out to the garden, whispering sympathetically when they had reached the end of the long path and paused by the garden shed, "I wish your Dad hadn't died. My rabbit Harvey died and I cried till I was sick. My Dad found him dead in his hutch and my Mum said he went to a big field in the sky to run and hop with heaps of rabbits."

Angie snatched her hand out of Josie's grasp, suddenly remembering where she was, angry that in a moment of weakness she'd allowed herself to be led when she had made up her mind never to trust anyone again. Not ever. Not ever, ever, ever.

"Who? Your Dad?"

The sarcasm sailed blissfully over Josie's head. "No, silly. Harvey."

"Yeh, well, my Dad didn't cark it in a rabbit hutch."

"Oh, I know that!" Josie said confidently, quite sure of her facts. "My Mum and Dad said he'd been crook a long time and he died in hospital. My Mum and Dad tell me everything," she added proudly.

"Is that right? Well, I bet they didn't tell you this..." Angie looked her square in the face and waited for the reaction. "My Dad died 'cos he put a gun to his head and blew his brains out."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for your reviews. :)

***chapter 2***

“And the room,” Angie continued, grabbing hold of Josie’s arms, her voice rising higher and higher. “The room was covered in blood, and bits of his brain was everywhere, on the walls, on the curtains, on the bed, even behind a picture, I heard Mum saying it on the phone, how the hell did it get behind a picture?”

Josie shook her head, scared, weeping in fear and confusion. How did she know how bits of Uncle David’s brain got behind the picture? She wasn’t there. She didn’t want to be here. And, to think, she’d been stoked when she’d first heard about Angie.

“I’ve got a cousin?”

Josie felt like dancing. Her life was getting more exciting by the minute. She was going to a funeral! Nobody in her class had ever been to a funeral before though Terry Latimer had nearly gone to his great-Nan’s funeral once. His great-Nan had told him when she left hospital it would be to go to Heaven so he mustn’t be sad at her funeral and he told everybody he was going, but then, when she came out, she changed her mind and went to a Home instead so he missed out.

But Josie wasn’t going to miss out. Her Uncle David really was dead. And as she didn’t even know she had an uncle until he died she didn’t mind him dying one bit. She got taken to the biggest department store in town too, where Mum bought her a cool new black jacket (Josie preferred the pink) and a brand new black dress though, after trying on the dress, Josie generously told Mum and the lady in the shop it was okay, they could keep the dress for some poor little girl in a poor country who might need it more than Josie, she’d decided she’d like to have the doll and doll’s pram that she’d seen in the toy section instead.

Mum and the lady in the shop smiled at each other and Mum stooped down low to give Josie a little hug and kiss on the forehead and explained how people had to wear black at funerals, it was just one of those things, but they’d go for lunch to make up for it.

So Josie had been digging her spoon into a huge chunk of glistening strawberry ice cream when her mother told her about Angie.

“She’s seven, the same age as you, and she even has the name Russell like us because her Daddy and your Daddy were brothers. But she probably won’t want to play. Angie and Auntie Pam will be too sad about Uncle David dying.”

“Why didn’t we never see them before?” Josie asked curiously.

“Oh, they lived too far away.”

Unbeknown to Josie, her mother crossed her fingers under the table in a throwback to the superstition of childhood as she smiled into her small daughter’s trusting eyes. It was a white lie. Only a little white lie. For Josie’s sake.

Josie nodded happily, satisfied with the explanation, thoroughly enjoying herself. Her mouth full of the delicious taste of icy strawberry, she broke off some of the wafer to cut river patterns into the strawberry, banana and chocolate ice cream mix as she always loved to do, wondering what Angie’s favourite ice creams were. She couldn’t wait to meet her cousin. But it wasn’t how she thought it was going to be.

“You’re mean, Angie Russell, you’re mean!” she sobbed, trying desperately to break free. Angie was acting like she was mad. Josie gulped back a sob and her eyes widened in sudden realisation.

Josie and her friends had overheard a couple of bigger kids in the playground talking about it. The mad kid who lived in the big old house across the river. One of the boys was telling someone he had a mate who went to the same school as a mad kid who rocked up to school wearing old, smelly clothes that were too big for her. Nobody, but nobody played with the mad kid, and sometimes they chased her because it was fun and because her Mum was probably a witch or something. Mangy Angie, they called her, because of the smelly old clothes.

Mangy Angie. The river they’d passed on the long drive here. The old house. The name. It all made sense. Why hadn’t she thought of it before? Her cousin was Mangy Angie!


It was Angie’s turn to be scared. Josie had suddenly stopped crying like she was too frightened to cry anymore. And Angie knew she was in heaps with her Mum again. Not that she cared. Well, okay, maybe she did care but she didn’t care much. Her Mum didn’t like Angie so Angie didn’t like her Mum. Easy peasy.

Josie made another attempt at bolting and, breathless, Angie released her, watching as she ran like lightning towards the house.

The room was covered in blood and bits of his brain was everywhere, on the walls, on the curtains, on the bed, even behind a picture. How the hell did it get behind a picture?

Angie was shocked to find her hands and legs, even her stomach, all shaking. She had quoted her mother word for word. Everything she’d heard from the top of the stairs, looking through the rails, silent as a ghost, watching and listening again. Except she hadn’t added that at the end of the rhetorical question her mother had twirled the telephone wire round her perfectly-manicured fingers in the way that always irritated Angie and laughed that usual silly, high-pitched laugh in the way that made Angie hate her.


Long before the Russell family moved in to their isolated house, the kitchen and living area had been knocked down to make one large, spacious room. Pam Russell stood at the kitchen sink now, pouring herself a glass of water, only half listening to the murmurs of sympathy over her bereavement. Out of the corner of her eye she suddenly glimpsed through the window a small figure running towards the house and, imagining for a moment that it was Angie, made some excuse about drawing all the curtains out of respect for the dead. It wasn’t Angie. It was the other brat. But she looked so much like Angie that Pam took a kind of perverse pleasure in sweeping her out of sight.

Josie stopped, her bottom lip quivering in fear, astonishment and shock as she saw the look in her Aunt’s eyes. Her small face crumpled as the blinds were deliberately closed on her and for the very first time in her short life she was shut out from love and warmth within.

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  • 3 weeks later...

***chapter 3***

And burning inside Josie too was the guilt. Not the usual twinges of unease like the time once when she’d yelled at Harvey and told him he was the most stupid rabbit in Australia, probably the world, or the delight she’d felt today because her uncle’s death meant she had the day off school. This guilt ran far deeper.

After they’d heard the other kids talking about Mangy Angie, Josie and her three best friends, Laura, Jenny and Ann-Marie, invented the Mangy Angie Game. The four of them would take it in turns to be the mad kid and stride around the schoolyard with arms outstretched and yelling in a scary voice “Mangy Angie is coming to get you!” while the others ran off laughing and screaming.

Josie looked back at Angie, who’d turned six large ceramic plant pots upside-down and was jumping on them as though she didn’t have a care in the world. But, though she couldn’t see her face (Angie was too busy watching her feet, concentrating on the jumps) Josie somehow knew Angie would care if she lagged. Maybe never speak to her again. And for some reason that hurt. She bit her lip, watching. Once the blinds had closed at the window, it was like they’d closed on both of them.


Pam swallowed the water and turned back to her guests. Each of them knew the funeral was a sham and they all would probably have been far happier if David had killed himself years ago but still they went on pretending.

The two Mrs Russells gazed at each other evenly, their smiles paper thin. Denise Russell slid a little closer to her husband. Pam Russell patted her fiery red hair and inwardly gloated, pleased to know she could still have this effect. Not for a single second that she thought she’d ever lost her power over men, but it was gratifying to know she was worrying Denise Russell right now.

From the moment the b***h had walked through the door she had wrinkled her nose like there was a bad smell in the air. Well, okay, there was a smell, the lingering stench of burnt toast, that spoilt little brat Angie having decided to eat whatever she could find again, and the scent of weeds, not a particularly nasty odour but an acquired preference just the same, again courtesy of Angie, who had picked them that morning for her father’s funeral and, not being able to tell the difference between the carefully pruned garden flowers and the weeds that choked out their lives, had, almost without exception, plumped for the garden killers.

No wonder the other kids didn’t want to know her, she was such a bloody drongo, Pam had said, stepping on the pedal of the chrome kitchen bin and impatiently slapping the bunch out of the child’s hands and into it, enjoying the look of dejection on her small daughter’s face. And then she gave a small squeal of fear and disgust as she saw the earwig crawling across the back of her hand, rearing its devil-like antennae as though it had a perfect right to be there. She flicked it hastily to the floor and gave Angie a quick slap across the head for her smirk, crushing the insect underfoot and shuddering as she heard the crack of its back.

If only Angie could have been disposed of so easily. Oh, not dead - even Pam Russell didn’t exactly wish death on her own child - but if only Angie had...well, never existed.

Right from the first, Pam had never felt the bond of motherhood. Angie was a strange little creature. Most kids would have wailed in response to the slap. Angie, dry-eyed, gave her mother a look of contempt and defiance and turned swiftly on her heel before another blow came her way.

Pam felt somehow like her daughter had gained the victory.


It had been scary when Angie yelled at her like that. Josie didn’t know what brains looked like but her cousin said blood and bits of Uncle David’s brain had been everywhere. People said you were brainy if you were good at sums or reading. Maybe large numbers and letters of the alphabet had been scattered all over the room when Uncle David blew them out. Josie imagined a giant number five sliding out from behind a picture of Humpty Dumpty and important people like doctors, teachers and policemen gathered round, all scratching their heads and puzzling over how it had got there.

Feeling somehow like she and Angie belonged together, shut out from the world as they were, and looking so uncannily alike as they did, she began to slowly make her way back to the garden shed, her tears dried out now, both by the shock of her banishment and by the fresh breeze sweeping up from the river that ran at the bottom of the slope leading to Blackrock.

Angie both scared and intrigued her. Even her best friend Laura, who was the most daring person Josie knew, wouldn’t have said and done half the things that her cousin did. It hadn’t been lost on Josie that the plants had been deliberately tumbled out of the pots and trampled on in the jumping game. But the most fascinating thing of all about Angie was that she looked just like Josie. Being an only child, Josie had often wished she had a sister. But someone who looked just like a twin...

If only Angie had all the tangles brushed out of her hair and then cut properly (it looked like Angie had cut it herself) and if she didn’t keep screwing up her eyes and if Auntie Pam bought her some nicer clothes and took her to the dentist’s to sort out the bad and broken teeth that she kept trying to hide by clamping her mouth shut tight...then they’d look exactly the same.

Tentatively, Josie jumped on to one of the ceramic plant pots.

“Dork,” Angie said, but like she didn’t really mean it.

Josie jumped on to the next pot, and they played for a while in companionable silence, creating new rules in unspoken agreement as they went along as easily as if they could read each other’s minds.

But though Angie was well used to solitary play and content not to speak, Josie loved to talk and could never stay quiet for very long.

“You know, we look heaps like each other,” she said chattily. “We might even be twins...”

“Rack off!” Angie viciously spat out, her face suddenly like thunder.

And then, espying a dead field mouse lying in the grass, she decided to add emphasis to her words. Jumping down, she picked it up by its long tail, twirled it round her head and aimed it at her cousin.

The times spent alone skimming stones on the river paid off now. The mouse hit Angie’s target - Josie’s face - perfectly. Except that her cousin, frozen to the spot in terror, already had her mouth wide open in a scream. Josie made a strange gurgling sound as the mouse’s head touched her tongue.

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Okay, I decided to post Chapter 4 (I had the day off today and did quite a bit of work on it). But, judging by the “hits”, I don’t think there are enough ppl interested in reading about Angie so it seems a bit daft to continue. Apologies to the ppl who ARE interested, but, unless the view count increases drastically, I think I may have to abandon this fic. :(

***chapter 4***

“Hey, hey, hey! Hey, hey, hey!”

“Is for horses,” Josie heard Angie say cheekily as she crashed into something soft and dark.

She knew she hadn’t swallowed the mouse. She had seen the mouse on the ground by her feet, where she’d spat, choked and gurgled it to the moment it touched her tongue. She had even accidentally stepped on it, recoiling in horror when she felt its squishy body beneath her shoe. But she had nearly swallowed a mouse! And she might have swallowed some of it, a piece of its ear or...urrgggh!...some of its head or an eye or...

The kind man who had said all the heys when she’d run headlong into his stomach tickled Josie’s chin and tilted her face to his. He smelled of tobacco but somehow Josie didn’t mind. He had sandy hair and a sandy moustache and grey eyes that looked right into Josie’s.

“So you don’t like mice, huh?” he said, smiling. He had a funny smile. It made Josie feel special. Like he wanted to know more about her.

“And spiders,” she said breathlessly, shuddering. “And rats and yuk! Disgusting creepy crawlies!”

The man laughed. “Not like Angie then. Angie isn’t afraid of anything. Are you, pet?” He looked across at the little girl but Angie didn’t return the smile.

“There’s a front door,” she replied coldly.

Josie could only wonder again at her daring and why she was being so rude to the nice, kind man. Maybe she really was mad like the other kids said.

“And the back garden backs on to the river road to Blackrock and as my shop is in Blackrock and I’ve just driven up from there I thought I’d take a short cut,” the man said patiently, ruffling Josie’s hair. “Hmm, not quite as fair as Angie, but you’re both peas in a pod...I reckon you just gotta be cousin Josie?”

“That’s right!” Josie giggled at the peas-in-a-pod expression. It sounded like she and Angie had grown up in one of the plant pots. She looked up, impressed and curious by his correctly guessing her name. “Who are you?”

He's Uncle Jason.” Angie glared at him, sounding like she was describing one of Josie’s disgusting creepy crawlies.

Josie couldn’t hold it back any longer. She’d had enough of Angie’s silly hissy fits.

“No wonder nobody likes you,” she said boldly.

“What?” Angie looked at Josie like she had only just remembered she was there.

“You’re jealous. You’re heaps jealous of everyone, Angie Russell. And you’re jealous of me because I’ve nice clothes and my teeth aren’t bad and my hair isn’t cut all silly like yours!”

There! She’d said it at last. See what Angie made of that. Josie hated blues but Angie had made her say it. She didn’t think her cousin would dare throw any more mice while Uncle Jason was there but she held tightly on to her new friend’s hand just the same.

“Ssshh,” Uncle Jason said, squeezing Josie’s hand. “Angie is very pretty, Josie, just like you.”

But Angie didn’t say anything. She didn’t say anything at all. She just put both hands to her head and smoothed back what was left of her blonde curls and looked at Josie as though Josie’s words had wounded her deeply.


“Jeeeezuz Christ!”

Because she’d heartily disliked her dirt poor Irish grandmother, Pam Russell rarely blasphemed, preferring almost any other method of cussing, but when she really did her block she often found herself reverting to the angry words the late Theresa Frances Murphy would utter in almost every sentence. She snatched the nail scissors out of her small daughter’s hand and spun her round to face the dressing table mirror.

“Look at you! Just look at you, you stupid, stupid girl!”

Pam didn’t know how just long Angie had been there, kneeling on the splay-legged stool, hacking determinedly at her long golden hair when she was meant to be fast asleep. But after Angie had gone up, supposedly to bed and quiet slumbers, she and Jason had had time to eat supper, share a few tinnies and a bottle of wine, and cuddle together in front of the TV, eventually deciding to skip the rest of the movie in favour of an early night. The scene that greeted them however had quickly killed any thoughts of romance.

Other small girls stole into their mother’s bedroom to experiment with make-up and douse themselves in expensive perfumes. Pam Russell’s peculiar little daughter, looking like a thin, pale ghost in a long white nightdress, with lamplight shining on her face and creating a halo effect round her blonde head, preferred to pick up a pair of nail scissors and deliberately hack at her own hair.

Angie gazed back at her reflection. And smiled slowly.

“I like it,” she whispered defiantly, looking down with satisfaction at dozens and dozens of discarded babysoft curls.

Jason laughed. “Kids will be kids, Pammy, love.”

“I like it,” Angie said again. Only more determinedly.

“Chriiisstt, give me strength!”

Pam made to strike her daughter but Jason caught hold of her wrist and Angie seized her chance, ducking under their arms and bolting, pausing only briefly to yell, “I don’t care! I like it, I like it, I like it, and I’m going to keep it like this forever!”

Her bare feet pounded down the hall and a door slammed heavily.

“I’ll kill her!” Pam said.

“No, you won’t.” Jason pulled her down on to the bed and rained kisses on her neck. “You’ll let her calm down. Don’t speak to her about it, you’ll only clash again. Best let me have a word with her first, in the morning, before the funeral, see if I can’t get to the bottom of all this.”

Pam relaxed. Thank God Jason was so good with kids. To begin with, Angie had adored him, but when he began moving his belongings in, the contrary child suddenly decided she didn’t like him after all. Pam had long suspected that her daughter may have inherited her father’s mental illness. But maybe there was hope. If anyone could sort Angie out, Jay could.


Oh, what you can learn from the top of the stairs - if you’re very, very quiet and creep around and Angie was real good at quiet and creeping around.

Mum was on the phone to Uncle Jason. There had always been “uncles” and Uncle Jason was the latest. But he was the first to actually move in. Angie knew she must have a Dad - somewhere - but she had never actually seen him, not even in a photo. When she was very small, she thought perhaps her mother had left him in the shops and forgotten to pick him up again because, once, Pam Russell had left behind a newly purchased pair of shoes and, when they returned to the big store the next day, they’d had to go to Lost Property to collect them.

Though she didn’t really believe it now, Angie still had a vague image of her father, sitting on a Lost Property desk waiting patiently to be collected, kicking his heels and looking very sad. At least, until last week.

Her mother was piling dishes into soapy water at the sink and turned.

“Your Dad died,” she said, as if she’d only just remembered. “The funeral’s next week.”

“My Dad’s never, never coming home?”

Angie stared in shock. It was the end of all her dreams. No matter what happened, with the kids at school calling her names, with Mum not liking her, with Uncle Jason gradually moving all his things into the house, with his shoes, and even his smelly socks tucked into them, left by the chair and his shaving foam on the bathroom shelf and accidentally splashed on the bathroom cabinet mirror, she’d always had a dream that one day her father would come back and everything would be alright.

“What do you think, you little idiot? Your grey skirt and top will have do for the funeral, there isn’t the time and there isn’t the money to buy black, even if he'd been worth crying over.”

And that was that, end of conversation, and Angie knew from bitter experience that her mother would probably only slap her if she asked questions or cried so she hid in the garden shed to sob her heart out and that night crept around to find out more about how he had died.

One of the hotel staff said he heard a gunshot and he ran back, but it was too late. David was already dead. Angie’s father had put a gun to his head, Jay, and blown his brains out. The room was covered in blood and bits of his brain was everywhere, on the walls, on the curtains, on the bed, even behind a picture. How the hell did it get behind a picture?

Angie pressed her forehead against the stair rail and watched as her mother twirled the telephone wire round her fingers and laughed at something Uncle Jason said in return.

Silent tears streamed down the little girl’s cheeks. Daddy, Angie’s Daddy - for some reason, it made him feel closer if she thought of him as Daddy - was dead and nobody cared. Nobody in the whole wide world cared but Angie.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Okay, here goes. The next chapter, hope you like it. :)

**chapter 5***

Auntie Denise, Uncle Paul, cousin Josie. Angie had digested the information warily when first told the relatives she’d never heard of before were coming to visit. Good news didn’t come her way often. What was the catch?

“Okay,” she said at last. Neither happy nor sad. Like she’d just been told it was raining in New Zealand or that someone she didn’t know and would never meet had crossed a busy road in bustling Summerhill. Like it made no difference to her whatsoever. Dumb. Best way to play it.

What the **** did you do with a kid who never smiled? Pam raised her eyebrows and sighed impatiently at Jason, who grinned sympathetically.

“So...you looking forward to meeting your rellies, Angie?” He folded his newspaper and made an attempt at conversation.

Angie glanced at her mother. If Mum didn’t realise his effort was solely to impress her and not Angie then she was dumber than Angie was playing right now.

“Dunno,” she shrugged. Like she had more important things on her mind. “I’m going to play out.”

As soon as she left the room however, she jumped down the mountain steps (Angie called them the mountain steps because they were so high, and once she often used to play she could hardly see through a rapidly falling blizzard and had to climb a mountain to the back door until the day Mum saw her staggering round with her eyes closed and told her she was a ******* little idiot).

Then she ran like lightning down to the solitude of the river where, finally, she allowed herself to smile. A smile that lit up her whole face and made her seem like a totally different child. A happy, confident little girl who never knew a moment’s worry.

“Ripppeeerrr!” she yelled in as loud a voice as she could, so that her breath went with it, and her cry seemed to echo down the rolling hills to quaint little picturesque Blackrock and then on to the ugly, sprawling town of Summerhill; and across the sparkling river to distant Summer Bay, where a glint of sunshine was dazzling on some tiny vehicle travelling along its winding coast road, and - who knew? - perhaps she was even heard in faraway Yabbie Creek!

Wowee! She had an auntie! And an uncle - a real uncle, not just another of Mum’s boyfriends like Uncle Jason! And best of all a cousin the same age as Angie! And they were coming tomorrow, for the funeral, and she wasn’t going to be alone anymore and what if they wanted to adopt her and what if Uncle Paul looked like Angie’s Daddy...and...and...

Her heart beating faster than she ever remembered it beating before, she scrambled back to one of the trees that shaded the river and checked behind its strong, wide trunk. Yes, they were still there. The mound of smooth, shiny pebbles that she’d collected, sometimes from the beach and sometimes from this very spot whenever the temperamental river chose to cough them up. There was no reason why they shouldn’t be - nobody else came by this way and birds and other creatures were unlikely to mistake the pebbles for food or use them for homebuilding - but Angie always thought that one day they mightn’t be because...well, you never knew. You never knew anything till it happened.

She picked out three of the biggest, roundest, smoothest pebbles from the hoard, and half ran, half slid through the mud back down to the water’s edge and squinted, concentrating on her target.

Angie sometimes thought of the game as skimming though Splashing Stones was its real name because the idea was trying to get a stone to hit a designated spot in the river before it sank. But Uncle Jason, when he first came into her life and when she still liked him, had taken Angie and her Mum to a picnic on the beach and had shown them how to throw a pebble to make it bounce three times across the waves.

He’d stooped down by Angie, with his breath tickling her neck, to hold her hand and help her throw several more, and he told her it was called skimming and it took years and years of practice to get it just right. Angie had been about to tell him about Splashing Stones and how she often went down to the river but Mum had got bored and interrupted them so she never did. Now she was glad she hadn’t. Skimming was a silly word. She didn’t like it. And Splashing Stones was too special.

Because it was much, much more than just a game. There was kind of magic about the warmth of the sun and the wind lightly blowing through the grass and the swish of the river with its gently rippling surface and, now and again in its shallow waters near the bank, a view, clear as glass, of a school of glittering fish swimming by. Something wonderfully calming. Like...well, nothing could touch. Nothing, nothing, nothing could harm you down by the river. Where you could breathe. Where you were safe. Angie took slow, careful aim, ready to hurl the stone - and swivelled round in sudden terror because it was then...

It was then that she heard and she saw it.

The large black and white bird swooping down from the very tree that guarded her secret collection, loudly flapping its wings and rustling the branches as it did so, in one swift movement seizing some small squealing creature from out of the long grass and soaring into the clouds with its prey.

It must have been there all along. It must have been watching her all along! Angie shivered, staring into the sky, till her eyes stung with tears from the glare of the sunlight and the bright blue of the sky and the whiteness of the clouds, though the lone magpie had long gone. Remembering.

One for sorrow...

That was what Mum had said. That was what Mum had said on the phone the night she told Uncle Jason Angie’s Dad had blown his brains out. Angie had learnt the nursery rhyme at school but she didn’t know it was about her Dad. She’d always thought it was just a counting song till she’d listened at the top of the stairs.

You know, it’s funny, but my Irish grandmother - I’d say God rest her soul except I won’t pretend, I couldn’t stand the stupid woman - said there was a bad omen the day David was born. One for sorrow, as the saying goes. You want to hear the full story?

Yes! Yes, she did. Angie pressed her face so hard against the stair rail that she felt the wetness of her own blood on her forehead.

I’ll tell you...

Yes, yes, you’ve got to! I have to know! Angie was screaming the words inside her head, willing her mother to continue.

Jay, I never told you this before, but David was in jail for murder. He killed his twin brother...

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***chapter 6***

Angie gripped the stair rails with both hands like a transported convict of old peering through bars at a strange new world. Feeling her whole life slipping away. No, it couldn’t be right. Why were they saying such awful things about her father?

Pam Russell chose her words carefully. She had no intention of implicating herself. After all, David was insane. That was all anybody needed to know. There was no reason for Jason or anyone else to know her own part in the story.

David and Adam were identical, but it was Adam who, following in the footsteps of their older brother Paul, excelled at sports, sailed through exams, got the girls. David floundered in both their shadows, prone to stuttering, gawky and shy, preferring to shut himself away with his painting and his poetry books. But there were some social gatherings that even David Russell couldn’t avoid - like his parents’ silver wedding anniversary celebrations.

Which was all to the good. David was the only way to get Paul’s attention and Pam Murphy had never yet lost out when she “set her cap”, as Granny Theresa would say, at a man. Okay, Paul was engaged to be married, to Denise Jennings, but that was a minor hiccup. And, okay, Pam had wangled the invite on the strength of Granny Theresa knowing the Russells from way, way back, but she gritted her teeth and tried to ignore her embarrassment when her grandmother wiggled her loose bottom dentures and declared something was stuck in her tooth.

“W-w-w-why Granny T-T-Theresa?” David asked, struggling as usual to control his stutter, the pain of not being able to make the words flow as freely as he wished etched on his face. “Why n-n-n-not Granny or Gr-gran?”

“Mum’s Mum’s Granny Sylvia, Dad’s Mum’s Granny Theresa. It’s a pet name. We’ve always called her that,” Pam said sweetly. Everyone else in the family regarded it as a pet name. Pam preferred to spit out the name. She watched Granny Theresa sitting like a queen holding court as some party guests chatted to her, and shuddered as she cackled.

“C-c-cold?” David asked, immediately concerned.

Pam bit back a sarcastic comment. “I’d really like another drink,” she said loftily, holding out her empty glass, deliberately catching Paul Russell’s eye, unperturbed by the fact that Denise was giving her daggers.

“Of c-c-course. S-sorry.”

Jeez, David was like a little lap dog. So eager to please, flattered that for once a girl was giving him attention. What a bloody dag! But, hey, he was a stepping stone to Paul. Pam couldn’t help a tiny, self-satisfied smile.

She’d almost forgotten about Granny Theresa sitting close by until she suddenly caught hold of Pam’s wrist.

“What?” Pam looked down with distaste at the woman’s dirty fingernails.

When Pam and the taxi had arrived to collect her grandmother, Granny Theresa, despite the fact that all the elderly residents of the sheltered accommodation were provided each day with a choice of hot meals, proudly informed her that she had spent that arvo “peelin’ spuds” to prepare a stew for tomorrow. Everyone thought it was wonderful that she still enjoyed cooking and, in spite of being almost crippled by arthritis, kept herself active on good days. Pam preferred to think she was a stupid, senile old woman.

And Granny Theresa had that wild look in her eyes again. Always a sign she was about to tell one of her mad rambling tales.

“‘Twas a bad omen the very day the boys were born, so it was.” Theresa Murphy had never lost her broad Irish accent even after all these years of living in Oz.

“What was?” Pam sighed impatiently, looking round for Paul. Damn. She’d only turned her back for a minute. Denise certainly had her claws in.

Granny Theresa had always been one for superstitions and Pam was paying scant attention as the old lady began muttering the rhyme.

“One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told..it would do you well to listen.”

“Of course I’m lis...”

“Would you have me for an eejit, girl? God Almighty, and aren’t you busy making eyes at a fella who’s already taken now?”

Pam cringed. Anyone could have overheard.

“Okay. Tell me,” she said. Anything to get away.

“Oh, I’ll tell ye. No doubt you’ll not take my advice. But I’ll tell ye. It bodes ill for you to be with a Russell boy.” She lowered her voice to almost a whisper, her grip on her grand-daughter's wrist tightening. “The day the two babbies were born there was a magpie flew into the house. A terrible, terrible omen, for it will always bring unnatural death. One for sorrow, so. But more than this. I see a black aura around you tonight. Pamela, you MUST take heed or your death will be unnatural too. Truly, I wish I didn’t know these things, but the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter will always be cursed with the gift.”


Pam hadn’t thought about the scene in years. Strangely, not even when she heard that David had killed Adam. Granny Theresa was always making her predictions; sometimes she struck lucky and some came true, most didn’t. But suddenly the memories flooded back.

Suddenly she could feel again the grip of her grandmother’s hand, almost see the red marks that had been left on her wrist. Suddenly she was back at the party, scoffing at the warning, noticing Adam laughing and surrounded as usual by friends as she looked impatiently round for Paul. Back there so vividly that she could hear the voices, the beat of the music thudding with her heart, the clinking of ice cubes as David carried a glass towards her; she could smell the cigarette smoke, feel the heat of the crowded room, the need for some air.

“David killed his twin brother?” Jason repeated the words in shock.

“He was always jealous of his twin. I guess he just...snapped. Unnatural death. Like Granny Theresa said.”

“She saw it?”

“No. At least, not the way you mean. The old hag’d carked it herself by then. No, she said a magpie flew in the day the twins were born and there’s an old superstition. One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy...”

Out of the corner of her eye, Pam thought she saw a shadow at the top of the stairs. Angie. Jeez, there never was such a bloody kid for sneaking round. Pamela, you MUST take heed or your death will be unnatural too. With trembling hands, she reached for a cigarette, ice cold shivers running down her spine.

“Pam? You okay? You still there?”

“Yeh. I was just thinking. I think my kid might be even madder than her father was...”

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for your nice reviews. :)

***chapter 7***

Angie hadn’t heard the final, damning part of her mother’s conversation. Unaware she’d already been seen, she staggered quietly towards her bedroom. Touched the wetness of her forehead and looked down in dreamlike surprise at the blood that stained her fingertips. Her father was a murderer. She was the daughter of a killer. Her father blew his brains out. The counting song had been all about him.

Breathing rapid, shallow breaths, she closed the door softly, leaving smeared prints of red blood. There was still the nightly ritual to follow. Even more so, now she knew she couldn’t trust anyone. Knew what monsters the night could hide, what whispers could filter through darkness.

She crept to the wardrobe and flung the doors open suddenly, to catch the monsters out. But nothing was there except a half-filled rack of well-worn clothes, swinging slightly with their unexpected breeze. She checked the room methodically, as she checked it every night.

Pulled back the bedclothes so swiftly that three small dolls, a plastic recorder, toy spider, small beaded handbag, four hairslides, two ping-pong bats and a ping-pong ball (Angie’s possessions being few she liked to keep them hidden together) all slipped further down the pillow as though in a silently dignified but united protest.

She checked under the bed, where two or three clouds of grey fluff rose and danced in time with her breaths. Behind the dresser, pressed against the wall, where none but the tiniest insect would have found the space to hide. Through the window where, even now, the monster could be waiting outside, grinning up at her in the moonlight.

Inside the bedroom cupboard, crammed full of the old and unused household furniture that Angie often used as alternative toys: an old, paint-splashed chair; a table lamp without its wiring; a no-longer-used China tea set; an outdated, unworkable television; a two-legged kitchen stool; boxes of books and ornaments, forgotten clutter and nicknacks, all squashed tightly together in a place where nothing but shadows would have found freedom enough to move.

When every inch of the room had been thoroughly searched, and all the while with wary glances on the door that didn’t lock, she finally dragged the old, paint-splashed wooden chair from its pitiful home and placed it under the round brass handle. And at last let out the long breath she’d held back for so long. Let the tears for Angie’s Daddy roll down her face so quickly that some trickled into her mouth and left their salty taste on her tongue. It was safe. For now. But the monster would only be biding his time. And something had to be done. Soon.


Pam Russell dabbed her eyes as was expected of the grieving widow.

The funeral attendant and driver of the car that was to follow the hearse to the church, having ignored the harshness of the doorbell in favour of two gentle raps on the door, and blissfully unaware that the three people he addressed were acting out a charade, spoke in tones befitting his profession. With polite respect for the dear departed, now waiting in stony silence in a sleek mahogany, red-satin-lined coffin, and with the low-voiced reassurance and empathy he kept for the recently bereaved.

“I’ll get the kids, can’t think where Jay’s got to.”

Pam sounded suitably confused and wondered why she felt she had to keep up the act, with Paul and Denise who weren’t fooled, and with a stranger who probably had his mind on the big footie game on Saturday anyway.

Jeez. All this bloody fuss! And for what? Who the hell cared that David was dead?

The worst thing she had ever done in her life was believe her friends. It never happened first time. They said. But it could and it did.

All it took was a few minutes anger when through the glass doors where she stood with David she saw them picking up the keys at the reception desk. Just because she wanted to prove to Denise Jennings she could get any man she wanted, when she wanted, to prove to Denise and Paul that they weren’t the only ones who could book an overnight room in a swanky hotel while silver wedding celebrations went on in its luxury function room.

It was all over in no time. Feeling unexpectedly cheap and dirty, the fuzziness of the drink beginning to wear off, Pam showered, picked up her things and made the excuse she had to see Granny Theresa home so couldn’t stay the night after all. David had served his purpose. Maybe, next time, she’d have a better chance of getting Paul’s attention by pretending to be interested in Adam. She’d work on it. But then the sickness began. Every single wretched day. And barely two months later the doctor told her it wasn’t a bug...

1962 and the world suddenly belonged to teenagers, with The Beatles, mini skirts and the power of teenage spending. But it hadn’t moved on fast enough yet to approve of unmarried teenage Mums. The Russells spent a small fortune on the wedding. And left a small fortune to their three sons when a tragic car crash killed them both outright.

Whether coincidence or not - the ominous magpie apparently normally only forecast at birth according to Granny Theresa - but two people connected with the Russell twins had died unnatural deaths. One for sorrow and Pam’s aura had been black, she reminded her granddaughter, her beady eyes gloating, or so Pam thought, and, to Pam’s delight, dead herself before the year ended.

1963 and Pam had everything she wanted: an expensive house in the exclusive suburb of Blackrock and enough money not to have to work. And everything she didn’t want: a husband she couldn’t stand, who was so desperate to be loved by her that he forgave her two affairs before Angie was six months old and - worse! - she was lumbered with his kid!

Pam was no longer naive. There was the Pill these days. And no rellies to interfere or disapprove, her oldies, after Granny Theresa’s death, having decided to up sticks and move to Ireland. Hurting David became a beautiful game. Sweet revenge for landing her with Angie. But when Adam, recently split up with his girlfriend and feeling down, returned her kisses, it was the sweetest revenge of all.

Pam took great delight in telling David that night. Mocking everything about him, comparing him with Adam, watching him crumple with so much pain in his eyes. But even she hadn’t expected him to drive straight to Adam’s and kill him.

There was nothing to connect Pam. David refused to talk and, their exclusive home in Blackrock being so isolated, no one had seen Adam arrive or depart. The defence built a case on the doctors’ diagnosis of a severe personality disorder. But the jury was swayed by the handsome and flamboyant prosecution lawyer, who argued David Russell had always been eaten up by jealousy and resentment. Paul and Denise had their suspicions, but, as always, Josie came first. Terrified that their longed-for and much-loved baby daughter might be tainted by her uncle’s brutal crime, they cut all ties.

David asked Pam not to tell Angie he was in prison. Pam laughed out loud when she read his letter. She had no intention of telling Angie anyway. No intention of ever seeing David again. David may have been behind bars, but she had her freedom back. Unfortunately, the inevitable day of his release finally dawned but David himself had solved that for everyone with his suicide. In fact, the only fly in the ointment was Angie herself.

Resembling David so much that Pam had always taken great satisfaction in dressing her in old, dowdy clothes and treating her roughly. Pam couldn’t figure kids out and didn’t want to. Angie was a stupid bloody creature. Hacking at her own hair. Deciding to take an irrational and sudden dislike to her mother’s boyfriend, who’d always been incredibly patient with her. Maybe Angie really was mad, she thought, glaring briefly at the upturned plant pots and ruined plants as, to her relief, she saw Jason.

“Jayce! Jay!”

Josie felt her hand slip from Uncle Jason’s grasp as she heard Auntie Pam shouting. It had been the strangest day of the little girl’s life. She had never met a kid as...well, as weird as Angie before. A kid who threw dead mice and talked about a Dad blowing his brains out. Who looked like a mirror image of herself, even if she did spit the dummy over Josie’s suggestion they might be twins.

Uncle Jason and Auntie Pam were busy talking. Josie caught an odd word here and there, but she wasn’t really listening. Something to do with Angie and Uncle Jason was shrugging and saying, “Well, I tried to talk to her, love, but...” And Auntie Pam was glaring at the trampled plants like Angie was going to be in heaps later.

Okay, Josie had already been the one to make up and Angie had turned on her again. It should have been Angie’s turn. Josie could almost hear her best mate Laura calling her a sook. But she hated to be on bad terms with anyone, especially someone who’d just had her Dad die and whose Mum had almost flung her out the door. She turned to her cousin.

“Make friends, make friends, don’t forget to kiss your boyfriends!” Josie breathlessly chanted the familiar pact that she and her mates always made after some blue or other.

It was more a question than a compromise. The only thing Josie knew for certain about Angie was that she never knew how Angie was going to react next.

What bloody boyfriends? Angie looked grim. Wondering if she could really trust Josie. She seemed such a bub. Said such stupid things. She rolled her tongue round a loose tooth for a while before answering.

“If we make friends, you have to swear you’ll keep a secret.”

“No worries!” Josie smiled happily. Secrets with friends were nice. Like which boy in class you liked best or how much choccie you had hidden in your desk to eat during lessons.

“And you’ll never, ever, ever tell anyone?”

“‘Course not!” Josie said. But a little more uncertainly. Angie had the same scary look like when she’d asked her how bits of Uncle David’s brains got behind the picture.

“‘Cos if you ever, ever tell anyone, you’ll die a horrible death. You’ll probably be killed by a mad magpie or something. One for sorrow. So you gotta swear you’ll help and you’ll never, ever tell anyone.”

“Ye-eh.” Josie didn’t like the way the conversation had turned. She wanted to cry but didn’t dare.

“Swear!” Angie demanded.

“Swear,” Josie gulped.

“Okay,” Angie said at last, nodding. “We have to kill Uncle Jason.”


AUTHOR’S NOTE: I don't know if funeral attendants go knocking on doors to collect people. :unsure: I did a Google search on funeral etiquette but it was too morbid reading all that stuff trying to find out. I guess we’ll just have to imagine that was the way things were done in 1970 Blackrock! :rolleyes:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Phew! I managed another chapter! :) Hope it wasn’t too rushed but I want to round this one off soon so I can concentrate on Sally Called. It’s definitely the last chapter until after I move house tho as tomorrow will be my last chance to be online for a while.

***chapter 8***

Paul Russell gently placed his hand on his little daughter’s shoulder as she climbed into the car with Angie and exchanged a puzzled glance with his wife when Josie barely acknowledged her father’s tender gesture of reassurance. Given Angie’s background, Paul and Denise had serious reservations about allowing the girls to get to know each other at all, but Josie and Angie seemed to have struck up a strong friendship. The two kids had been firmly linking arms ever since they came in out of the garden and Josie had insisted, almost tearfully, that she had to travel to the funeral in the main car with Angie, Pam and Jason.

Denise could only shrug back in answer to Paul’s silent question. Josie had always been a generous and sunny-natured little girl and made friends very easily. No doubt she wanted to stay with Angie to console her. But it was baffling that both kids seemed to constantly feel the need to keep staring up at the sky. Maybe they expected to see David floating up to Heaven or something. God only knew what went on in kids’ minds.


Josie finally chanced taking her gaze off the sky. One for sorrow, Angie had said. They had managed to terrorise each other with the magpie story and had been keeping a lookout ever since.

“How’re we going to kill Uncle Jason?” She whispered. The car was like a taxi and they were sitting facing Auntie Pam and Uncle Jason.

Angie rolled her eyes. How the hell did she know how they were going to kill Uncle Jason? She was seven-year-old kid, not a highly trained killer. She hadn’t figured it out for herself yet. But she was working on it. She might have to arrange to meet a crim and buy a gun or put Mum’s clothes on to go in disguise down to the drug store and steal some poison.

“Ssshhh!” She angrily pinched Josie’s arm, just under the elbow where it hurt the most, making her cousin gasp with the pain.

Uncle Jason turned from chatting with Auntie Pam to reach forward to Josie and run his fingers lightly down her arm.

“It’s alright, sweetheart," he said. "Don’t be upset. Uncle David is safe in Heaven now.”

Angie glared at him and pulled Josie closer to her. Josie distinctly heard her cousin say a swear word under her breath. And she was sure Uncle Jason had heard too though he kept smiling. But Auntie Pam was frowning.

And then suddenly things like swear words didn’t matter anymore.

They both saw it at the same time. Both she and Angie. And they knew. They knew by the way the sky was turning black. They couldn’t tell if the V-shaped formation of birds were magpies or not but they must be.

Josie shivered. Angie had told her it would happen if she didn’t do what she said. She’d die a horrible death, Angie had said. Maybe killed by a mad magpie, Angie had said. But Josie had done what Angie said, kept her arms linked with hers, told everyone she wanted to travel in the same car though she didn't want to do either. So why were the magpies coming for Josie?

But it was Angie who was most afraid. She screamed, flinging off her seat belt and jumping out of her seat, and Uncle Jason tried to catch hold of her, but that only made her scream all the more.

“You’ve got to stop! You’ve got to stop!” The little girl yelled, her fists hammering desperately against the window that separated the passengers from the driver.

Twenty-five years of careful driving and Jimmy Smith was justifiably proud of his almost unblemished record. The kid was hysterical, but they were in the middle of a line of traffic so Jimmy kept his eyes on the road and his hands on the wheel, watching for a safe place to pull over. At least the window with only the tiniest gap separated him and his passengers.

“Stop it, stop it! Make him stop it!”

Suddenly the little girl’s breath was on his back and the hand that had been small enough to reach through the glass panel touched the nape of his neck, making him jump...

The car rocked dangerously. Her screams as loud as Angie’s, Josie could only cling to her seat in wide-eyed terror as their car nose-dived into the hearse and the coffin toppled...

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  • 4 weeks later...

I’m FINALLY back on line! Apologies for the long delay in posting. I’m still getting sorted after moving house and, after over three weeks, I only got internet access back today!

***chapter 9***

(final chapter)


An unassuming hero saved the lives of two small children yesterday then, astonishingly, tried to play down his part in the amazing rescue.

“Anyone would have done the same,” protested sales assistant Colin Nugent, 27, who, despite badly cutting himself, put his hand through a smashed window of the wrecked car and managed to open a door to pull out the terrified youngsters, seven-year-old cousins Angie and Josie Russell, then carry them to safety only minutes before it turned into an inferno. “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

The horrific accident, in popular shopping area Stevenson Parade yesterday afternoon, saw a hearse mount the pavement, a coffin toppled and a car carrying mourners turned into a fireball, killing four and leaving two pedestrians injured.

Tanya McShane, 19, an accounts clerk, witnessed the tragedy from her first floor office window.

“It was awful,” said Tanya, still visibly shaken. “I saw a car smack into the hearse, then the hearse hit the wall and the car skidded on to the grass roundabout. You could tell the hearse driver was dead, his head was at a funny angle like his neck was broken. The coffin was just lying on its side in the road and cars were having to swerve round it. It was chaos. I ran to phone for the ambos and when I looked back the car on the roundabout was in flames with thick black smoke everywhere. Someone told me later there were kids in it. I couldn’t stop crying when they told me that. They must have had angels watching over them to have got out of that car alive.”

“I can never thank Colin enough,” said Josie’s mother, Mrs Denise Russell, who was travelling to the funeral in a car not involved in the accident. “Without him, my beautiful little girl and niece wouldn’t be here today.”

The dead were named as hearse driver Peter Cunningham, 52, mourners Pamela Russell, 25 and Jason Wilson, 34, and their driver, James Smith, 43. Two pedestrians sustained minor injuries.

The crash has tragically left little Angie, who was on her way to attend her father’s funeral, an orphan. Her heartbroken grandparents were believed to be travelling back from their home in Ireland last night.

Police are still investigating the cause of the crash.

Today's Weather: Long, sunny spells. Winds light. Isolated showers in coastal areas.

Lucky Lotto Numbers: 5, 6, 9, 22, 23, 31


“Darling, you shouldn’t be reading about the accident! It’ll upset you! Wherever did you get that paper from?” Horrified, Denise Russell quickly snatched it up.

“Out of there.” Ten-year-old Josie, who’d been lying on the floor with her chin in her hands and the paper spread before her, scrambled up to indicate the cardboard box filled with DIY magazines and battered old paperbacks.

“That’s why it was in there. It’s for the garbo. Where’s Suki?”

Denise’s hair was already standing on end, but she swept it back yet again and looked round for the cat, who, unhappy with the packed tea chests and bags and jumble of furniture, kept disappearing.

“In there, hiding.” Josie again indicated the box. Suki was the reason she’d gone to it in the first place. But now Josie was heaps more interested in the newspaper article and her mother wasn’t about to distract her despite her attempts. “Wow! Was that really how it happened, Mum? With the coffin and everything?”

“Yes.” Denise pursed her lips. Now the inevitable questions would ensue. She could have killed Paul for keeping the old newspaper. They had moved house immediately after the accident and successfully closed all links with Angie. Now they were moving on again, it looked like Paul’s carelessness would re-open everything!

Josie’s memories of that day were hazy. All that she could recall was waking up in a hospital. She had banged her head in the crash, wiping out all memories of the two weeks leading up to the accident, and, for a little while, concerned by her memory loss, doctors feared there could be brain damage. But, aside from being left with what would turn out to be a lifelong necessity for physiotherapy to her neck and right shoulder and a susceptibility to headaches and dizzy spells, she had made a full recovery.

“Wow!” Josie said again, fascinated to know she’d been the star of the story. “What happened to the man who rescued us?”

“He went to live abroad not long afterwards. But he got a certificate for bravery and a five thousand dollar reward.”

“Cool!” Josie had a very strong sense of justice and always liked good deeds to be acknowledged. “What happened to my cousin?”

Oh, God. The very question Denise had been dreading. How the hell was she going to handle this?

“Did Angie go abroad too? To live in Ireland with her Gran and Grandad?” Josie continued innocently, too impatient to wait for an answer and, in that moment, unwittingly providing her mother with the ideal solution.

Denise smiled at her daughter. Angie was still in Australia. Barely a short train ride away last she heard. “Yes, sweetheart. Yes, she did.”

Behind Josie the living-room door had opened and Paul heaved an inward sigh of overwhelming relief as he overheard Josie’s question and his wife’s answer. It was only as he’d tipped some more household rubbish into the skip that he realised he’d forgotten the most important box. It had been a shock to find the three-year-old newspaper, sandwiched as it was, between the August and September1970 editions of HomeBuilder.

The last thing in the world they wanted was for Josie to rediscover she had a cousin and insist they made contact with Angie again. It had been a huge mistake to go to David’s funeral and allow them to meet in the first place. Angie had obviously inherited her father’s madness.

Even if Paul and Denise hadn’t already suspected as much, when they saw how their niece had hacked crazily at her own hair and when they heard from Pam’s own lips how Angie had developed an irrational hatred for her once much loved step-father, the investigation into the crash left them in no doubt. It seemed the kid had jumped out of her seat and distracted the driver. No one ever found out why. Josie remembered nothing and none of the other witnesses could talk.

Angie had caused the deaths of four people. David had murdered his brother and splattered his own brains and blood. Their daughter must always be protected from the terrible insanity that plagued David’s side of the family.

“D’you think maybe we’ll go to Ireland and see Angie one day?” Josie was now asking hopefully.

“Maybe we will one day, Trouble,” Paul lied, and jokingly rapped her head. “Yup, still hollow! Now where’s Suki? I want to throw her in the garbo before the removal van arrives.”

“Da-ad, you wouldn’t dare!”

Josie laughed and scooped Suki out of the box, burying her cheek against her soft glossy black fur. She grinned up at her parents. A little girl who was to grow up secure, to always be loved and protected. All was right with the world.


The trees seemed to be closing in on her. Watching and listening. Aware of her every move. Aware of the shouts still ringing in her ears.

“Mangy Angie! Mangy Angie! Hey, Mangy Angie!”

Angie woke with a start. The sun drifting out of the clouds and shining brightly in through the bedroom window had woken her. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. She had fallen asleep, fully clothed, on top of the bed. Her clothes had creased but her new Mum and Dad wouldn’t mind. They never minded anything Angie did.

It had been a long journey back from their latest holiday and Angie had been too excited to sleep, which was why they had said, even though it was the middle of the day, she should try and take a nap now.

Angie jumped off the bed and looked in the mirror. It was hard to believe that she’d ever been Mangy Angie. She piled her blonde hair high on her head and studied her reflection.

A heart-shaped face. Blue eyes framed by silken lashes. Unblemished skin with a healthy golden tan. Her soft blonde hair shone with golden glints. Her teeth were white and perfect. The bad and broken milk teeth, that she would clamp her mouth tight shut to hide, were long gone. So too were the spots and the old, baggy clothes that had made the other kids cruelly call her mangy.

Her adoptive parents looked after her health. They bought her beautiful clothes. Praised and encouraged her, gave her a love and attention she’d never known. Angie blossomed. No one ever called her names anymore. Especially not boys. Boys. She frowned.

It was three years since the accident.

For a few weeks her grandparents had taken her in, but her grandmother was in a wheelchair and her grandfather asthmatic. They were elderly and found it impossible to cope with a lively and troubled seven-year-old. And Uncle David and Auntie Denise were adamant they wanted nothing to do with their niece. There was no one else. Her grandparents returned to Ireland and Angie was put up for adoption.

And so Angie had come to live with the Dixons (until she grew up and reverted again to Russell, even taking their name) and her whole life changed. But sometimes the past returned to her in dreams, mixing itself so far in with the present that, for a little while, she became Mangy Angie once more.

It was after the dreams that she thought of Josie. Wondered if Josie would ever had to deal with what Angie had dealt with. She hoped not. She seemed such a wuss. You couldn’t be a wuss when things like that happened.

Because who will you tell in the dead of the night when there’s no one to listen?

She had hacked off her hair but it hadn’t worked. He only laughed and said kids would be kids. And he said they were both pretty and ruffled Josie’s hair in exactly the same way, said all the same things that he’d said to Angie. The same little touches. The same smile to make you feel special. She could see that Josie trusted him implicitly. Just like Angie had.

He said Pam would never believe her and Angie knew he was right. Her mother didn’t like her. Thought she would make up any story. And Uncle Jason was in Angie’s house. In Angie’s bedroom. In Angie's bed.

After that she barricaded her bedroom door with the paint-splashed chair. Checked out every inch of her bedroom every night. Listened out for his creeping around. Because she knew he was watching. Watching like the magpie had watched that day down by the river. Silent. Waiting for a chance to swoop again.

Waiting to run his fingers lightly down her arm again and then...

She had kept Josie close, to keep her safe, but then Uncle Jason had run his fingers lightly down Josie’s arm and the magpies had come and suddenly Angie hadn’t been able to cope with the terrible secret on her own any longer...

“Stop it, stop it! Make him stop it!”

Angie swallowed, thinking back. She had escaped with nothing more than cuts and bruises, the bodies of her mother and Uncle Jason cushioning her fall. But she hadn’t meant to make the car crash. She’d only been seven. And so scared.

Tears were for the weak. No point in crying for a mother who never loved her. Or for a cousin she had almost trusted, who seemed like she wanted to be friends, yet who never bothered to see her again after the hospital. Still, in the end it had all been for the best.

You see, Angie had come to realise. People were there to be used and despised. Like people had always used and despised Angie.

She fingered the gold watch - a tenth birthday present from her adoptive parents - and looked round with satisfaction at the expensively decorated room with its luxurious carpet and beautiful furniture. Yes, this would do. Oh, she had such grand plans for the future, of when she grew up. She would make others dance to her tune then. She would make sure she got whatever she wanted and wouldn’t care who got hurt. But, yes, this would do. For now.

One for sorrow

two for joy

three for a girl

four for a boy

five for silver

six for gold

seven for a secret never to be told...

*****THE END*****

Um...did any Angie fans like that? I’m beginning to see why some TV shows don’t like fanfics, I’m totally rewriting Summer Bay’s history!

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  • 5 weeks later...


Josie smiles a gentle, comforting smile. She takes a hand of each and locks her fingers reassuringly in both Dylan’s and Tasha’s. A distant drone captures her attention for a moment and she glances fleetingly upwards, to the many snowy clouds and the faint silver glint of an aeroplane sailing through an isolated pool of blue sky. The day is not perfect, but it has a beauty all of its own, with its scudding clouds and cool, whispering breezes. A day for memories. A day for all those who remember with love to unite in grief.

Few people are gathered here. A man of God. Four men, paid to carry a stranger’s coffin on their shoulders. And then the relatives. A son, wrapped in memories of confusion and guilt. A daughter, tall, pretty and slim, tears dimming her eyes but never falling. A cousin, strong for both their sakes.

All come to say goodbye to someone they never knew.

I didn’t mean it. It was an accident, Angie, a terrible, terrible accident. I was so angry when I pushed you. So much going on in my head. Like I was screaming inside. But I’ve been screaming inside ever since I can remember. Why did you always have to play mind games? Did you never know how much it hurt me? Or did you always know and just not care?

The breeze gathers strength and stirs the river far below the hill. The sun climbs ever higher and the birds, busy with life, noisily chirp and rustle the trees. Noon, and the death knell sounds. The minister’s solitary voice echoes with the history of all time past as a handful of soil hits the coffin with a lonely thud.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...”

You were my Mum, Angie. Why didn’t you ever care about me? I don’t understand, why didn’t you care? Why did you give me away? The survivalists, Mike and Jenny, they brought me up, made me who I am. Can look out for myself, out in the bush, anyplace. And Renee...well, Renee’s got a special place in my heart. Like...well, I don’t know, but I reckon it might be where people keep memories of a mother. I feel I should be crying for you. If it was Renee, I’d be...no, I don’t wanna ever, ever think of it being Renee! But you were my Mum. I should cry for you, shouldn’t I? I’m trying to, Angie, I really am. But I can’t find any tears.

A bee hums drowsily through the wild flowers shaded by the crumbling walls of the old church. Their perfume lingers on the air and seeps through the long blades of rippling grass and down towards the river. A child shouts from somewhere faraway or perhaps it’s the cry of the restless wind.

We met for a funeral. When we were kids. I don’t remember anything about that day though, not even the crash. It must have been so awful for you, losing your Mum, and on your way to your Dad’s funeral too. But when I asked you if it would help to talk about it, when we were grown up and I finally found you, you just laughed and said what it did it matter, if people were dead. Why were you always so cold, Angie? Even with Dylan and Tasha? I hoped we’d be friends. I was stoked when I tracked you down after all those years. We looked so alike we could even have been twins. But I never, ever understood you. I don’t think anyone ever did. What made you so cold?

Shadows fall now, one by one, as a mass of cloud, larger than the rest, half obscures the golden sun. The shadows of those gathered here in memory and the long shadows of the gently shivering trees. The wild flowers shaded by the church’s crumbling walls and the long blades of grass wavering in the restless wind. The church spire with its tapering point and its ancient cross. The shadows of each and every grave that lies this side of the hill where, in time long past, mourners have stood and wept. And all too soon the coffin is overcome by the silence and the darkness. Shadows fall.


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