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The Face in the Window
Chapter One ~ The Boy in the Window
My name is Hazel Fennel, and I used to be ordinary. That changed when my father got a new job and moved the family to a sleepy, little town in the Welsh valleys.
Our new house was large and roomy with the first real garden we had ever had. The lawn stretched down to a small stream overhung with willow and...er...hazel. And yeah... I've had all the jokes about being nuts. I've also had to put up with some stick because ‘Hazel is a girl's name'. Mam was overjoyed that there was a herb garden, although my brother Ash was not best pleased about the bees; he's allergic.
The first night I lay in my new bedroom surrounded by boxes, with the window open, allowing a gentle breeze to brush over my hot skin. I listened to the sounds of the birds in the lilac tree outside the window. The air was filled with the sweet scent of the lilac blooms; I was more content than I had ever been.
The town was a very small one and, although it had its own primary school, the secondary school was in the next town, a few miles away. There was a school bus that stopped at the main bus terminal--a shed and a notice board. It was situated on the outskirts of town, near the main road. The other side of town ended in a stile over a fence and beyond that field after field.
The route from our house to the bus stop led through the single shopping street and along a shady avenue of larger houses. Right at the end of the street, just across from the bus stop, was the largest house of all. It was set back from the road and was huge, imposing, and grey. The long, well-kept lawn was shaded by trees, and a gravel drive meandered along the side from the front gate, which was set into a high grey wall, as if the occupants were trying to shut the world out...or themselves in.
As the house sat on a slight rise, it was possible to see it clearly from the road, and in particular, it was possible to see someone standing in the window.
The first time I saw him I thought I was seeing things. The light was slanting through a gap in the buildings opposite and glinting off the glass. For a moment as I looked up, and don't ask me why I did--I just did, I saw a figure in the window right at the top of the house under the eaves.
I don't know what it was about the figure that stirred me but there was just something... I blinked and it was gone. I almost missed the bus to school as I stood there staring at the now empty window.
Of course, I fitted in at the new school about as well as I had in the previous one, that is to say not at all. Although my brothers, Rowan and Ash (seeing a pattern here?) were immediately accepted in and acted as if they'd been there all along. There were only fifteen pupils in the sixth form and they avoided me like a plague.
The only thing that got me through the days was the prospect of seeing that mysterious face in the window every day. I have to admit I became somewhat obsessed, and I was incredibly disappointed when he wasn't there. Not that I knew it was a ‘he' of course, but in my mind he was; he had to be to fit into my fantasies. Once, when I was alone, I got up the courage to wave at him, but there was no response. He had to have seen me. He was looking straight at me. I was surprised by how much it hurt.
I began to wonder why whoever it was wasn't in school. The more I watched, the more I was sure that it was someone young, and I was able to make out some features, like the pale, delicate face that was often obscured by long, pale hair.
I became more and more obsessed. It became almost a superstitious requirement to glance up at the window every time I passed it. I would pause and wave but he never waved back. Occasionally that made me angry--as if he was too good to wave at the likes of me--but it was brief and it passed. The focus of my attention was too perfect to be capable of that kind of behaviour.
One day I was hanging around the bus stop after school. My face at the window wasn't there and I was kind of lurking in the hope he would suddenly appear. A car raced around the corner from the direction of the road and skidded to a halt in front of the gate to ‘his' house. It was a compact red convertible, not new but seriously nice. I recognised it in that I had seen it hanging around the school gates sometimes when I was heading for the bus.
A boy I also recognised slightly from school leaped out without opening the door and swung the gate open to allow the car to slide through. When it was through, he closed and fastened the gate then followed the car up the drive.
I lost interest in the car because, at the sound of the gate, the boy had appeared in the window. That day he was wearing a pink t-shirt with a loose white shirt. Hmm... Maybe he wasn't a boy after all then. I was disappointed at that but not enough to lose interest altogether.
I was so wrapped up in staring at the window that at first I missed the mocking voice that carried to me across the road. It was a moment before I realised who it was and who they were talking to.
"Ace, get your lazy fucking arse down here right now! I told you I've lost my key. We've been searching everywhere and Nick's pissed so hurry up and open the door. And don't even think of pretending you can't hear me. Open the fucking door you freak."
The rant continued for a few moments, until the figure vanished from the window. A few minutes later the boy I recognised disappeared inside the house. I didn't see the other boy, the one who had been driving. Presumably he had gone into the house through the garage. I didn't care. It wasn't him I was interested in.
I found that my heart was beating furiously. My face at the window had a name... Ace. Strange name. It didn't give much away. Clearly it was a nickname and could have been applied to a boy or a girl. But it was a name. I was a step closer to...to what? What was I going to do? Walk up to the door, knock, and ask for Ace? Well...maybe...shit. Pull yourself together Haze; you've got a touch of the sun there.
One thing I knew for sure: no matter who Ace might be, they had absolutely no idea who I was and clearly had very little interest in finding out. With a sigh I turned and walked away.
That evening I lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling and thinking about Ace. I kept thinking of the name as if it was a treasured secret. I felt...different for knowing it. I had strained my imagination more than once imagining who the figure might be, what they were like, and now I had a frame to hang my daydreams on: Ace, who had a brother who went to my school.
So why didn't Ace go to school there too? From what I could remember, the boy I had seen was younger than me, in Ash's class or Rowan's. So it was quite possible that Ace was my age or even a little older. Maybe he'd already left. Was he at college or university: maybe he was home for the holidays? Universities broke up before schools. Yes, that must be it. He must be at uni. This opened up a whole different avenue for my daydreams: which university, what subjects...?
I remember that evening. I remember it really well. It was the last time I had those daydreams; the last time I laid on my bed and wondered.
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