Ellis comes off his motorbike.
I woke up early morning and lay in bed thinking of the previous night, remembering how close I came to making love with the girl from Crewe. Although I remembered being attracted to her the first time I saw her, I was not pleased with how my relationship with her now seemed out of my control. It was as if she had some power over me, attracting me to her even though I knew I was in love with Gloria. I thought of Gloria and how this should have been the first day of our engagement. I reflected on the way I jumped to conclusions about the soldier instead of discussing my fears with her.
There was a strong smell of damp charred wood in the room, interrupting my thoughts. My window was partly open and I thought the smell was drifting in from outside. I got out of bed surprised to see that my hands were filthy. My clothes were draped on a chair and they looked as if I had been rolling about in the cold remains of a bonfire. It was a mystery and I sat trying to work out how I got in such a state. I remembered leaving Rosie's house the night before and riding straight home. I could not think of an explanation and thought it may come to me later, but as the day went on I forgot about it.
Early evening, although I arranged to meet Rosie, I decided to call round to Gloria's house with her birthday present, hoping to get a chance to make up with her. Her sister Evelyn opened the door and seemed to take pleasure in telling me Gloria had gone out.
"What, do you think she has a date or something?" I asked.
"Dunno, maybe, she spent a lot of time getting ready and my sister's a very popular girl you know. She could have a different date every night of the week if she wanted to." Evelyn bit on her bottom lip and rubbed the corner of her left eye as if removing a piece of grit. "Do you want to come in for a brew?"
"No, I'm meeting someone."
Evelyn gave a laugh. "What, have you got a date or something?"
"No, just meeting a mate for a couple of drinks."
"I'll get my coat and come with you then."
"No, no you can't, I've got to go and pick him up."
"Him, or do you mean her? Still, it's none of my business, is it?" She suddenly turned and hurried to her school bag in the hall. She rummaged about and then took out an invitation card. "Guess what, me and Gloria might be going to London." She walked back across and showed me the invitation. "She's been invited to Simon's engagement and she's asked me to go with her." I glanced at the invitation before passing it back to her, but Evelyn just flicked it over towards her bag. "Great eh?" She said while taking a slight interest in the wrapped present under my arm.
"Terrific," I said.
"I bet he's not even getting engaged. Just messing about to get us down there, one of his army mates fancies me you know."
I gave a sigh of disappointment, unintentionally letting her know that she was getting to me. "Look I'm going to have to go." I gave her the parcel. "It's for her birthday."
"Right, a bit late isn't it?" She looked over to the motorcycle before dropping the parcel inside the hall. "Can you give me a ride on your bike again?"
"Not now, I haven't really got time."
"Yeah, I'm sure your mate will be annoyed if you're not bang on time, won't she?"
She reached over to kiss me, but I moved away. "Are you sure you don't want to come in for a brew?" She grinned and walked inside, but left the door open.
I looked at her deliberate provocative walk for a moment before I turned and walked off. I wondered if the engagement were just a story like Evelyn had said. Maybe Gloria knew the truth that the engagement was a lie, maybe she was thinking of going out with the soldier again anyway, but what worried me most was that someone might have told her of my amorous escapade with the girl at Carver's Hollow.
I rode off feeling depressed, thinking how stupid I was to have split up with the girl I was so much in love with and I knew that our problems were all of my making. Suddenly thoughts of Rosie were thrust into my mind again; thoughts that she might be able to cheer me up, and I set off for her house, my love for Gloria somehow blocked.
I pulled up at Rosie's house and was startled to see the windows boarded up. The door was open and I walked into the charred, smoke damaged house. There was a burnt-out settee and two burnt chairs in the blackened living room. Three upturned milk crates had been pushed into the remains of the sofa, an obvious seat for the local children's secret smoking room. The shape of the room resembled Rosie's, but this could not be Rosie's house because the fire had obviously happened a few weeks before. I suddenly thought about my spoilt clothing, but it made no sense, why would I call here after I left Rosie's house? Even if I did, why did I have no recollection of it? My thoughts were disturbed as someone called down the passage.
"Who's in there? What are you doing?"
I saw an old man peering down the passage. "Oh sorry," I said and I walked outside. "I thought this was my friend's house, but I must have made a mistake. What happened here anyway?"
"Tragic, tragic." the man replied. "Nearly two weeks ago now, the house caught fire and both perished. Tragic." He set off back towards his house next door, muttering to himself. "Bloody council, should nail up the door properly. Kids in and out of there all the time, and there was even some youngsters on a motorbike last night; they stopped and went in there. Don't know why they can't find somewhere better to do their courting."
I thought it was obviously the wrong house or even the wrong street, but I had been almost sure Rosie lived there and I had no idea where else to look. It was starting to get dark and I suddenly felt a chill as a shiver ran through me. Thoughts began to enter my mind as if planted there by an outside force; thoughts of the dark-haired girl who I knew as Rosie, over at Carver's Hollow, swimming, laughing and calling out my name. I felt an urge to go to the pool and I had a strong feeling Rosie would be there.
I was travelling fast as I approached the driveway leading to the swimming pool and was just about to start slowing down to take the turn when a squirrel darted out in front of me. The squirrel froze, in my path. I swerved to miss the creature but clipped the kerb and the motorcycle flipped over. I flew through the air, landed on the footpath and all went black.
Rosie's spirit left the squirrel and the frightened creature scampered off in panic. She hovered over Ellis. "Huh, still alive." The motorcycle was still running, but it soon stopped through the fuel failing to reach the carburettor. Rosie looked over. "Petrol, that'll do for him. If I can just get it out of the tank." She noticed the headlights of an approaching car. "Go away, go away," she screamed.
The car pulled up beside the motorcycle. A police sergeant got out and hurried over to Ellis. "Call in for an ambulance," he shouted.
"Damn you," Rosie called.
"You say something?"
"I'm on the radio," his constable called.
"Well when you've finished, move that motorbike away; there's a strong smell of petrol."