The feeling was slightly different this time. By asking about her Mum, Becky had expected to see something through her eyes, just like what had happened with Drew. But it didn’t feel like that this time, and she had no sense of being inside Cathy Webster. But she was approaching their old house, that was obvious. As she entered the familiar hallway, she could hear laughter and squealing coming from upstairs. The scene changed to the staircase, moving fast, two stairs at a time. The bedroom door was thrown open, and she could see her Mum on the bed, naked. She was sitting astride a man. He had grey hair, and was very tanned. He wasn’t her Dad.
Then she turned, running back down the same stairs, almost stumbling. From behind, she heard her Mum’s voice calling out. “Robbie, Robbie. I’m sorry!”
Pulling her hand off the tree, Becky shivered, her teeth chattering. It was all clear to her now. All the arguments. Mum had sat her down one evening, telling her that Dad was moving out, because he had a new girlfriend and didn’t love her anymore. But she had lied. It was her with someone else, not Dad. It had all been because of her, not him. Everything that had happened over those past three years was her fault. Mum was a liar, and not to be trusted.
For a moment, she thought about asking the tree something else. She wanted to know about Charity, and if her father was Thomas Oliphant. But the experience with the tree was draining, and she decided to leave it for another time. Once out in the comparative warmth on the path, she soon felt better. And she had a lot to think about.
Mum was still distracted, talking over her shoulder as she sat at the computer. “Just pizzas tonight, Becks. I have already put them in the oven. I have to try to get this hunting lodge job finished by midnight. The ideas and costings all have to be in by tomorrow morning. Sorry I snapped earlier. I’m really stressed at the moment”. Becky chose to ignore her, refusing to give her the satisfaction of making out everything was OK after her outburst in the car. When dinner was ready, she ate in silence. Once they had both finished, she looked across at her Mum. “I will get the bus to and from school, starting on Monday”. Before she could reply, Becky went upstairs to her room.
Charity was sitting on the floor, next to the bed. She was flicking through a book she had taken down from the unit behind her.
“What does it say in this book, Rebecca?” Becky looked at the spine. It was Jane Eyre. “It’s about a young woman who is a teacher, and an older man. It starts as a sad story, but ends as a love story”. The girl dropped the book and looked up. “I told you about your Mum. You asked the tree, didn’t you?” Becky nodded. Charity spoke again. “And you won’t have to worry about Drew anymore. He’s moved away, gone to live with his Dad. His sister will be alright now. You did well. The tree will be pleased. It will grow even bigger”. Taking the opportunity, Becky adopted a friendly tone, and asked the girl a question. “Was your father called Thomas Oliphant, Charity?” Her reply started with a chuckle, and a flash of the black teeth. “You’ve been snooping around the churchyard. I saw you. You won’t find what you want to know there, believe me, Rebecca”.
Trying another angle, Becky smiled. “What if I asked the tree?”
Suddenly, she was on her back, surprised at the weight of Charity on top of her. The foul breath made her wince, and the look in the girl’s eyes was terrifying. Her voice was like a growl, menacing, and terrible. “You never ask it about me or mine, do you hear me? If you ever do I swear things will get very bad for you, worse than you can ever imagine, Rebeca Webster”.
Before Becky could regain her wits, Charity was gone.
She had to admit that had scared her. Charity had gone from sitting on the floor to knocking her down in the blink of an eye. There was obviously something very bad in her family history that she didn’t want anyone to know, but how serious was the threat about not using the tree to find it out? Becky had a thought, and turned on her i-pad. She started to search about willow trees and ghosts, and found a lot of stuff about tree spirits. It turned out it was one of the oldest supposed superstitions, especially in the British Isles. At one time, some trees were actually worshiped, and had signs and faces carved on them too. But there was nothing specific about weeping willows, and it was mostly about oak trees. Then there was a lot more modern stuff, hugging trees, talking to trees, and dancing around trees. Around the time her Mum was a baby, it had been all the rage with the alternative sort of people.
Then she had another idea. She searched the name Oliphant. When that came back with too many hits, she added ‘Lincolnshire’, for local information. One post was about the mill, the one she had already seen. But she found the Facebook page of a woman called Sara Oliphant. She claimed to be a clairvoyant, and offered Tarot readings, healing crystals, and other mystical stuff. There was a link to a website, so she clicked on it. You could make an appointment to see her, and she only lived four miles away, in the opposite direction to the town road. Becky filled in her contact form, and said she was a school girl doing a project, wondering if Sara was prepared to help her with something. She pressed ‘Send’, then bookmarked the page.
As she put the i-pad down, the familiar smell overwhelmed the room. She felt the breath on her neck, realising Charity was right behind her.
But the voice that started speaking wasn’t Charity’s.