Authors: Liz de Jager
Tags: #Children's Books, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy & Magic, #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Teen & Young Adult, #Love & Romance, #Fantasy, #Sword & Sorcery, #Romance, #Paranormal & Fantasy
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This book is dedicated to
my husband, Mark.
I blame you for all of this.
Thank you for asking
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
‘Stopping by Woods on
a Snowy Evening’
: Rumoured to be the descendants of the original Hansel and Gretel made famous by the Brothers Grimm in their
Kinder- und Hausmärchen
collection from 1812, the family has been in residence in the United Kingdom since the late sixteenth century. It is unclear if the rumours about their heritage are based on fact; no evidence
to prove or disprove the rumour has been found.
More information about the existing family members can be found in Archive Boxes: Blackhart/1875–present.
From an archived report filed in HMDSDI HQ, 1978
Sitting on one of the swings in the park opposite the school, my watch tells me I’m forty minutes early for the start of my schoolday and I wonder how much longer this
assignment will last.
A sixth-form girl walks up to the gates and leaves a single cream rose on the pavement, placing it carefully next to an open photo album. The rose is only one of many offerings that’s been
left since the news broke last night. Teddy bears, photos, candles, flowers. A silent outpouring of grief.
A friend helps the girl stand and they walk through the gates. I watch them move away, leaning into each other, every line of their linked bodies speaking of the shock and horror at another
friend and schoolmate taking her own life.
I sigh wearily and let my hair drop forward. It tickles my cheeks but I don’t shake it back. I’ve not worn my hair long for – I try to think – maybe a year and half now.
Back then I was a different girl, untouched by the really bad things in life. Unaware that crazy things existed. I shudder to think how fearless I was, the risks I took, going out with my friends,
staying out late, dancing till dawn at clubs, kissing boys. How I planned my future in long mad emails to my best friend Karina, who lives in Germany, speculating about when we would get to see one
another again and how we’d be spending our gap year travelling around Europe and Asia. But that was then, and this is now and that girl from long ago is unrecognizable in now-me.
I puff out my breath and focus on the cars pulling up in front of the school, kids saying goodbye to their parents, life going on. Today I’m all about being prey and luring David Gardner
to notice me and talk to me for longer than five minutes, away from his mates and hangers-on. I’ve spent two weeks researching, and my plans are simple but well laid. I know he cuts through
the park on his way to school in the mornings. I know he likes his girls pretty and shy and a bit dreamy – so I’m giving him a shy, arty girl secretly crying out to be noticed.
I dig a tissue out of my pocket and wipe my nose and dab at my eyes, suppressing an inward groan at the acting. I’m not a dishonest person and I’m not good at lying, but if it helps
with the overall story the mark sees, then that’s what I’ll do.
I kick off with one foot, letting the swing move beneath me and I lean far back and stare up at the blue sky, watching the clouds coast by. I like the feeling of being suspended and I float
there quietly for a few minutes, just being. There is a soft noise by my side and the swing next to mine creaks a bit as a weight settles into it.
I sit up with a jerk and stare at the boy sitting next to me. My surprise isn’t feigned. I didn’t hear him walk up. I didn’t see him either. I know it should bother me as my
hearing is good and my sight is excellent but my thoughts are clearly drifting a bit too much. I focus on staying completely in the role here, so I dash my sleeve across my eyes and give him a
‘Hey,’ he says, smiling a wide friendly smile. ‘Are you okay?’
I begin to nod but then shake my head. ‘Not so much. I’ll be fine, though.’ I look over to the school gates. ‘It’s going to be a tough day.’
‘Did you know Chloe?’ he asks, his eyes shifting from me to the front of the school, where more people are leaving flowers and small items, mostly little teddy bears holding hearts.
‘I’m David Gardner, by the way. My friends call me Dave.’
You would never think it, but it’s actually really hard to lie about your own name. I swallow against the constriction in my throat and hold out my hand. ‘Kelley,’ I say,
shaking his hand, blushing wildly. His hand lingers for a moment longer than necessary in mine before he curls his fingers around the chain that suspends the swing. The look he gives me is slow and
hot. Score one to me. ‘I’m new,’ I say, brushing my hair back before continuing. ‘But I had art class with Chloe for about a week before – you know.’ I let my
eyes drift to the scene in front of the school, before looking back at him. ‘We spoke a few times. She seemed a bit quiet, but friendly. I liked her art.’
I’ve watched Dave for two weeks now. I know he’s popular and charismatic. He has a wide circle of friends he hangs out with. His grades remain good regardless of how much partying he
does and he’s currently not in any relationship, although there is a group of around six girls who would dearly love to change that. Nothing about him is too remarkable. He’s just
handsome enough to draw the attention of all the girls and just clever enough to get decent grades. He is ordinary in every way, or so it would seem, but I know better.
‘I knew Chloe,’ he says, staring at me. ‘She was a nice girl. Always friendly, up for a laugh. I really liked her. Full of energy and she liked to try out mad things. Like,
this one time we hung out, she decided she was going to do a Banksy on some of the walls in town.’ He laughs at the memory. ‘Good times.’
I recall the photos I’d seen of Chloe before I started school here and I remember what she looked like before she fell in with Dave Gardner. They offered up two very different images of
the same girl. The Chloe I knew was thin, pale, miserable, a bad photocopy of the real vibrant girl her parents tried to hold on to. After they had spoken with the school’s principal for
help, the job got handed to me as my first solo mission.
I draw a breath and smile at Dave. ‘It’s so sad, you know. I wonder what made her . . . ?’ I shake my head and my hair irritates my cheeks. I brush it back. ‘Her parents
must be devastated.’
We exchange sad expressions, but I know he’s looking at me, watching my every move. His hot eyes rake my hair, my face, my hands, my legs. Finally he notices my school bag and portfolio.
‘You draw?’ he asks, nodding his head to the portfolio resting on the grass.
My hand flutters to my face and I nod nervously. ‘But I’m not really any good. Not like Chloe.’ Which is another blatant lie, but he can’t know that.
‘Can I see?’
I reach down and hand the portfolio to him. I stare at my hands, not wanting to see his reaction to the art in my portfolio.
‘These are really cool,’ he says after a few minutes of quiet where the only sound was him paging through the sketchbook. His voice has taken on this weird timbre, making the hair on
my arms stand up. ‘Are you studying art when you go to uni?’
I flush prettily, shake my head and smile. ‘No. I’ll have to do something sensible, like become a doctor or something. My parents’ll never let me do an art degree.’
He taps one of the sketches and I look over. It is one of my favourites. It’s of a girl sitting up in bed, staring at her window. It’s night-time so the sketch is full of dark
shadows but a moon is shining through the glass and you can just see the hint of a monstrous shape outside the window. The girl’s expression is one of curiosity.
Dave looks at me and there is a hunger in his eyes. ‘This is incredible. You’re crazy good.’
I smile lightly and take the portfolio from him. ‘You are being sweet, thanks.’ I hold it in front of myself, like a shield. ‘I have to get going. Start the day for
He stands up and walks with me as far as the gate to the park. ‘Kelley. Some of us meet after school as part of the drama group. There’s a place we use, behind the assembly hall. If
I give you directions, do you want to come and hang out with me?’
‘Today?’ I did not expect this so soon and I bite back the triumphant grin I feel hovering around my mouth.
‘Yeah, why not? Of course, you don’t have to. But it would be nice.’ His smile is full of boyish charm and sweet eagerness, as if my ‘yes’ answer would mean the
world to him. I hold on to that image hard as he leans closer and I try not to gag as the smell of his breath hits me. It smells like rotting vegetation and stagnant water. ‘Say you’ll
For a brief second I feel a compulsion to punch him in the head, but I get a grip on myself and smile a smile that says I’m flattered that he’d even think I’m cool enough to
hang out with him.
‘Okay, it sounds like fun. I’ll see you after school.’ My smile probably looks dazzled and I keep it there as Dave digs out a notebook from his bag and draws a rough outline of
the assembly hall and shows me where the green room is. Of course I know where it is. I’ve prowled the school at all hours and know every single nook and hiding place. I take the piece of
paper and fold it into my bag, keeping my smile a bit stunned.