The Iron in Blood (Chapter 3, page 1 of 15)


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Chapter 3

Rebecca

Monday morning. I had dreaded this day since my accident five days earlier, and its inevitable arrival did nothing to lessen that dread. The cast encasing most of my left leg had started to crumble slightly around the edges, so I wandered around the house shedding Plaster of Paris flakes. Some of them went down the inside of the cast and added to the cacophony of itches and prickles marching up and down the skin of my leg. The cast, despite all its crumbling, felt like it had doubled in weight, but I had been practising with the crutches, and was able to swing myself around without endangering lives, including my own.

I modified my school uniform with a pair of Joe's black track bottoms, and a thick black sock encasing my left foot, and examined the effect in the mirror. White shirt, tie, dark green jumper. I glanced at my face. I looked tired, grumpy and slightly scruffy. Never mind. Dressing up had never really been my thing. I tied my hair back and went to have breakfast.

Mark was already at the table, calmly eating Cheerios with a fork. He was, as usual, dressed way before anyone else, except Mum, who had left for work thirty minutes ago. Mark was the good-looking one in the family, with wheat blonde hair and sky blue eyes, but he didn't care. He lived inside his own head most of the time, preoccupied by his own thoughts. I often wondered what he was thinking, that could keep him so fascinated and so detached from the world around him.

"Why are you eating Cheerios with a fork?" I just had to ask.

"Am I?" Mark looked at the fork, surprised, and then he shrugged. "Seems to work OK." That was a typical Mark conversation. Bizarre, peculiar, and not quite right, but not completely wrong or obviously mad either. Mark walked a fine line sometimes.

"I see those people from across the road are completely gone now. There's even a sold sign stuck to the wall." The sign was new and shiny and looked like it didn't want to be there. The top right hand corner had already detached itself from where it had been tacked to the crumbling brick and was waving slightly at the gusts of wind that teased it.

Mark grunted. "Good riddance."

I raised my eyebrows. "I didn't know that you knew them?"

"I didn't."

I left it at that, and went to pour bran flakes into a bowl. Ten minutes later, and Mark was standing outside waiting for Harry. Harry lived a few blocks away, and the two fourteen year olds had drifted into the habit of walking to school together. I don't know why, they hardly ever seemed to speak to each other. I propped a book that I was reading for the second time open with a tin opener, and ate my breakfast at a leisurely pace. I read loads of books; for me it was a way of escaping the cocoon of unnecessary anxiety my mother wrapped around us. As if any anxiety could ever be considered necessary. But my mother seemed to worry most when you wouldn't think she had a reason to worry. I didn't want to add to all of that by actually having a social life, and I don't much like other people, so it's not a strain to avoid them. Weird, I know, but I like books.

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