Charity didn’t seem to smell so bad that afternoon. Becky thought she might just be getting used to her stink by now.
“You won’t get any sense out of her”. The girl nodded in the direction of the departing bus driver. “She’s on the hook, she is, can’t say nothing. She likes the girls, you see. Likes ’em young as well. Tilly gave her a nice time once, then she got her good. Underage, you see. Now Bridie is as good as finished, and she knows it”. Becky was remembering Sara’s advice not to trust anything Charity said. But she had to confess that sounded about right. Even as young as she was, she knew all too well about women who liked other women, not that it bothered her at all.
She went on the offensive again. “Why did your father take Sara? Why drown her, when she meant you both no harm? And I’m sure you know she was an Oliphant. She was related to you, for God’s sake!” Charity emitted a low chuckle. “God don’t have nothing to do with it, Rebecca. Sara was a wrong Oliphant, she was. She come down from my brother Christian’s side of the family, she did. All those on his side were wrong. They didn’t do the right thing. The only good Oliphants come from Oliver’s side. The others like Sara were hand in glove with the Vospers, and still are. Becky was confused. “But Sara was writing the history, she was going to tell everyone what happened to you and Thomas. And now she’s gone, the last remaining Oliphants are me and my Mum, and we aren’t helping the Vospers”. Charity placed a hand under her chin, and rubbed it. “Maybe you’re not, Rebecca, but what about your Mum?”
Becky didn’t answer that question, she had more of her own. “And what’s this about a curse? What sort of curse? And how does that affect me, in the twenty-first century?” Charity straightened up, and her smile disappeared. “You have Sara’s books. You can read about it in them. And read it soon, for you are in great danger. I’m betting Sara told you not to trust me? But the truth is I am your only hope, young Rebecca. I can only tell so much, the rest you have to discover for yourself. But I can tell you this. Bessie Wright is dead. They found her gone in her bed this morning. Seems she didn’t talk to anyone after your meeting. You were the last one to ever speak to her. Now that just leaves Tilly. And you too”.
Becky wanted to ask her so much more, but the sound of a car approaching made her turn and look.
As she approached the mill on the country road, Cathy Webster could see her daughter outside the door of the house. She appeared to be engaged in an animated conversation with herself. Her mouth was certainly moving, and she was gesticulating too. Perhaps the strain of the move and the new school was finally getting to her. As she drove onto the driveway, and could hear the gravel crunching under the car tyres, Becky suddenly turned. Opening the door, she walked into the house. Aiming the car at the usual parking spot, Cathy jumped as a young girl appeared a few feet in front of it. She just had time to see that she was barefoot, and wearing a filthy cotton smock, a cap on her head, and she was smiling. The girl lifted her right arm, and pointed a finger directly at the front of the car.
The car stopped dead, with a tremendous force, like the impact of hitting a wall at speed. The airbag inside the steering wheel inflated, and billowed into her face. Her head was thrown backwards, and then dropped forward again, connecting with the side window with a dull thud. Cathy took a moment to gather her senses, and was then startled by a scream from outside the car. As she turned, the girl’s face was close to the window, her teeth showed black as she yelled. “Bad Oliphant! I know you, Cathy Oliphant! You’re a bad Oliphant!” And then she was gone.
A chill ran up Cathy’s spine. She knew who the girl was. It was all too much for her to take in, and she fainted.
When her Mum didn’t come inside the house, Becky looked out of the window, and saw her slumped at the wheel. She ran outside, and pulled open the door of the car. “Mum, Mum! Are you alright? What happened?” She could see the airbag debris around the steering wheel, but the car was undamaged, just stopped there. The engine wasn’t running, but the ignition lights were on. It must have stalled. Her daughter’s words made Cathy come round. She quickly made up a story. “I’m alright, love. The airbag just exploded for no reason. It must have been faulty. It just gave me a shock, that’s all. Everything’s, fine, don’t worry, Becks”. Her voice was shaky, and she seemed to be trembling too.
Becky stood near her as she got out of the car. “Can you take that shopping bag off the seat please, Becks? I just got a few bits”. She walked inside, supporting herself against the frame of the front door as she went in. Becky followed her in with the bag. She had turned off the ignition, and brought the car keys in too. Mum looked pale. “I’m a bit shaken up, love. I might just have a lie down for a while. Can you do yourself something to eat? There’s pizza in the freezer, or you could just have beans on toast. Will that be okay?” Becky nodded, and watched as her Mum walked up the stairs like a woman three times her age. Something bad had happened, and Mum wasn’t about to tell her what.
Becky had the beans on toast as suggested, and watched a documentary on TV about sea animals being killed by plastic in the oceans. Two hours later, Mum was walking around upstairs, and she eventually heard her footsteps on the stairs. She seemed to be putting on a cheerful voice, as she appeared in the living room. “Oh, you had something to eat. Good. I’m much better now”. Becky stared at her, open-mouthed.
Her hair had turned pure white.