Chapter 30 / Bybrook river
The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the small, honey coloured stone houses of Castle Combe. The lawns that were once emerald green lay parched and yellowing, the use of hosepipes had been banned due to drought. The inhabitants of Castle Combe had retreated into the shade of their cool houses, windows thrown wide in the hope of tempting in a non-existent breeze. In this heat even the trees appeared defeated. Leaves that should be firm and upward tilting drooped, flaccid as old lettuce. The soil wasn’t simply dry, but powdery to the touch.
There were only three people outside. A little girl with chestnut brown hair lay in the shadow of a big tree, her eyes closed and her lips singing an inaudible song. The boy was standing in the river, looking as though he was wondering if he could go even farther in. His smooth, brown umber skin was glistering with sweat.
‘Be careful, Christian,’ I yelled, my head leaning against the trunk of the tree, ‘you don’t know how deep that is!’
‘I can see the bottom from here, Kath,’ Christian yelled back, ‘come check it out.’
I huffed and pushed myself of the ground. a drop of sweat made its way down my back, leaving a trail of temporary coolness in its wake. The grass was dry and sun-warmed under my bare feet. I slowly stepped into the river. The water surged around my skin, rising up my leg on one side, making tiny eddies on the other. Even after just one step I was knee deep, the water drinking away my body heat. I wanted to stand here all day, letting my sweat run with the river, to the sea.
‘See?’ Christian pointed, ‘I can easily walk a bit further. The river isn’t that deep.’
‘Silent waters are always deep,’ I said, ‘and dangerous. The river is like a sleeping cobra. Watch.’
I slowly took another step and the icy water at the bottom hardened my muscles. I sank deeper into the water, until it touched my shoulders. I turned around and looked at Christian. He pressed his lips together and shrugged. He would have gone under without a doubt.
‘You know I can swim, right?’
‘You can go and sit on your butt if you like, but you’re staying right where you are,’ I said as I got out of the water again. The sun kissed my skin and my clothes started to dry almost immediately.
Christian had changed a lot. He was really pissed at me for disappearing for more than a week, but gradually he warmed up again and somehow, he was happy that I was back. I never really though he like have me as a nanny, but at least I must have been doing something right. We had a really great talk a couple of days after my return, in which he told me why he was always so angry and isolated. He was five when his father left and since then, he had never had the guts to trust someone again. But, apparently, that had changed now, because he looked happier than before.
‘Do you know why sharks swim in salt water, Kath?’ Christian asked as he sank down on the shore, his feet dangling in the water.
‘I’m sure you’ll tell me right now.’
‘Because pepper water makes them sneeze,’ he laughed and even his little sister, Carrie, who was still laying under the tree let out a giggle.
‘You are hilarious, Christian,’ I smiled and sat down against the trunk of the tree again. It wasn’t until Julia called my name that I noticed her.
‘Is something wrong?’ I asked, as I got up again and went to meet her.
‘Something on the news,’ she gasped, ‘you asked to let you know if anything weird happened. Don’t worry, you can go. I’ll take the kids from now.’
‘Thanks, Julia,’ I waved goodbye to Christian and Carrie and ran to Betty’s baker, since I didn’t have a television of my own. I guess if it hadn’t been for the heat, there would be a crowd at the bakery, but it was so warm that only the people who really needed to leave the house, did. I pushed the door open and went straight through the shop to the back, were Betty and Oliver were standing in front of the tv, staring at the screen.
‘What happened?’ I asked.
‘The bridge collapsed,’ Oliver answered, nodding at the screen. I peaked at the television. A pedestrian bridge, about 950 tons of concrete and steel, had crashed down on a busy six-lane thoroughfare below. Vehicles were pancaked beneath the rubble and search and rescue teams were still working the debris.
‘It’s all the governments fault! If they checked the bridge when they had to, those people wouldn’t have died!’
A cold chill ran over my spine. If only they knew what was really going on. This incident was not the governments fault. It was the work of much more evil powers: the Dark Lords Death Eaters.