Part 5

“Jamie, you are a very special person. To have survived all that and remained sane is astounding,” I took her hand in both of mine, “Despite what others have tried to make you believe , you are not an animal or worthless. You are wonderful, funny, beautiful, sensitive and above all you deserve a happy life.”

 

“But I’m a monster I...I’ve Killed!” she sobbed.

“Only by accident or to survive, you didn’t mean to hurt anyone. You may or may not have killed your father but I don’t think you are to blame for what happened.”

 S he shrank back away trying to hide herself. I gently gripped her chin and turned her face towards me.

 

“You are not a monster!” I said and then gave her a kiss, “Come back to the world with me. It will be difficult but I will be there with you every step of the way.”

“No I … I can’t,” she said softly, “they’ll lock me in a cage!”

“They won’t,” I said gently, “For one I wouldn’t let anyone even try. For another they don’t lock up people.”

“I’m not a person I’m an animal!”

“It’s the same thing, no  matter how much people would like to think we are different we are all animals. Sometimes smarter than others sometimes just as stupid and driven by our nature. And some of the worst, most animal like of us are not the hybrids, but the pures that hound them and call them less than human. They are wild beasts driven by their fear of something different. You may be different but you are more human than any of those people and I would chose you over them any day.”

 

 She looked at me with tears in her eyes and then grabbed me in a fierce hug nearly knocking me down . There were no words after that. We cleared up and retired to the cave for the night. We kissed and held each not needing to say anything.

 

 When I woke I found Jamie had already got up and gone out. When I looked around the cave I found some simple deliberate letters written in the ash es of the dead fire. “LAKE” it said.

 

 I got up , dressed and headed out. The sun was just setting and it was like a fire in the sky, casting long shadows throughout the forest. I picked my way down to the lake to find Jamie perched on a rock watching the water. I took a seat next to her and we sat there in silence for a while just watching the patterns on the water as the setting sun played across the gently rippling surface. The calm water was now and then disturbed by fish or other wildlife.

 

“I’ve decided,” Jamie said suddenly without turning to look.

 I waited , not wanting to rush her. She turned and looked at me, “I’ve decided to come back with you.”

 

 I gently put my arm around her, “I won’t lie to you, there will probably be times you ’ll regret this decision. I'll be there with you though and together we'll find a way through this.”

 

 She leaned her head against my shoulder, put her arm around me. We watched the sun  vanish beyond the horizon and the stars come out. Later we prepared a meal of fish, my last can of beans, and berries. While we took care of those basics my mind worked on the problem of getting Jamie back to civilisation. The local area didn't seem hugely anti-MORFS but even so, someone with such an extreme change as Jamie would likely incite a certain amount of fear. She would need a disguise, if only for her own mental well being. She would not want to be seen in the beginning, it would take a while before she was comfortable with strangers seeing her form.

 

 So how best to go about this, maybe going by stages would be the best approach. Step one, get Jamie back to the village. Maybe to the campsite initially, it was close to the forest and I could pitch my tent there away from prying eyes. Then from there I could work on disguising Jamie's more unique characteristics so we could get closer to civilization, maybe stay at the hotel for a short while. Taking Jamie straight to the City would probably overload her with too many people around. She was not used to seeing more than a couple at the time and maybe a short time in the village with its relatively small population would help her acclimatise a bit. It was also familiar to her from her childhood so that might help.

 

“What are you thinking about?” she asked as I idly stirred the beans not really looking at them.

“I was just thinking about the best way to take you back to civilisation,” I said.

“It's a nuisance trying to get something like me back there isn't it. It might be easier if I just stayed,” she said unhappily already feeling like she didn't want to go through with her decision.

“Well you know what they say nothing worth doing is ever easy.”

She smiled a little, I dished up the beans and we ate our meal.

“I think the best course of action is to go to the  campsite on the edge of the forest. I can set up my tent on the outskirts then you can nip in quickly while no-one is looking.”

 

“Okay,” she looked uncertain, “What if someone sees me?”

“Well  let’s see, I’ll set the tent up late and then when it gets dark you can sneak out of the forest. You should be fairly safe, then after that you can stay in the tent till I get you a disguise.”

 

 We finished our meal and then played some cards. After Jamie won three times she suggested a walk. She lead me confidently through the forest which I could barely see at all. She would pull me out of the way of unseen branches or roots which just looked like  everything else around, that is pitch black, even with my eyes adapted to the dark. Jamie herself was a hint of a dark shape where the occasional gleam of light off her armour showed her presence. She moved as silent and sure as a ghost. If she hadn't been clutching my arm I would have thought her a figment of an over-active imagination.

 
“How can you see so well in this pitch black. Do you have  some really good night vision or something?” I asked her.

“Not vision as such, I sort of feel all the living things,  they give off a luminous glow all around me. The trees or the bugs and beasties in the ground, they all shine,” she replied.

 

 Eventually we reached some open ground where the moon and  the stars gave enough light to see and I was no longer in constant danger of injuring myself on unseen obstacles. It gave me a chance to appreciate her a little. She seemed so at home here in the forest at least at this moment. I wondered if I was making a big mistake bringing her back to the big bad world with me. Still I remembered how lonely she was and knew that despite the pain and culture shock this move would bring her I had made the right choice.

 

 We went swimming together . I noticed that Jamie rarely went out further than standing depth, I wondered if her armour made her too heavy to float. I got cold quite quickly, lacking her amazing armour but it was nice to be out under the stars like that. Afterwards we sat in front of the fire drying off and keeping each other warm. We went to bed early knowing that if the plan was to succeed we needed to be at the campsite early enough not to raise too many suspicions but late enough so that we could pass through the forest undetected. We decided to go separately, I would set off first to get to the campsite in good time and set up the tent. Jamie would follow later when the forest was dark enough to hide her and would meet me at the campsite.

 

 I worried about the plan but it seemed the most sensible thing to do. I made sure I had some way of ensuring Jamie could identify  my tent so she could sneak in. We turned in for the night, both nervous about what tomorrow would bring.

 

 We woke up far too early, well for us anyway, it was maybe early afternoon. Jamie pulled a fairly battered looking little backpack from somewhere, perhaps her original backpack from when she first came here . She stuffed a few precious belongings into it including Pinky bear, then she rolled up the new sleeping bag I had left her last time I was there. She nodded that she was ready to go when the time came. I gave her a hug and promised to see her soon and then I set off alone.

 

 I made good time back to the village having made the walk a couple of times I knew it reasonably well and could shave some time off my previous trips. By early evening I made it to the  campsite. I paid for a spot, my previous rental period having expired, then made my way to the closest point I could get to the forest setting up as far away from the other tents as possible. I made a fire and then sat to wait for Jamie. The anticipation was killing me, I made some tea to pass the time. Several cups later it was getting quite late and I was worried. I was just wondering if maybe she had decided to stay in the cave when there was a rustle in the bushes at the edge of the forest. I could make out two black eyes watching me from the foliage. I looked about for anyone paying attention but the few people still up were busy tending their fires or some such so I waved to Jamie to come over. She was like a dark flash her shiny black armour glinting as she shot across the gap from the forest and into the tent. I extinguished the fire and then went in to join her.

 

 She hugged me fiercely when I got inside obviously pleased to see me. I was just as relieved to see her again and hugged her back. We soon settled down in our sleeping bags to rest . We didn't turn on any lamps or light wary of her shape casting peculiar shadows on the material of the tent. Both of us were worn out from the emotional trials of the day and lack of sleep we got the previous night so we were out for the count quickly.

 

 The morning sun woke me, it's one thing about tents they transmit the light quite effectively . I find that this makes it difficult to sleep in the day time. Jamie was still dead to the world, I wondered if her plating meant she was less susceptible to the light. I shook her gently she snorted, rolled over and then went back to sleep.

 

“Jamie ... Jamie,”  I gave her another shake and tried again, “Jamie!”

 

She opened her eyes slightly, “What is it,” she said sleepily.

“I'm going to go out and try  to find you a suitable disguise. Don't leave the tent, if anyone gets nosy pull the sleeping bag over you and pretend to be asleep.”

 

 She nodded slightly closed her eyes and began snoring  gently. I guess her nocturnal habits made it hard for her to be up at this time.

 

 I headed out, zipping up the tent flap tightly behind me. I stopped by the shower block and had a quick clean up and then made my way into the village. It was a small place with very few shops but it did have some places that sold generic clothing as well as outfits that  catered more to the hiker end of the market. I picked up a long raincoat and a stretchy tracksuit. I grabbed a wide brimmed hat, a scarf, some woolen gloves, some hiking socks, a pair of white trainers, and then a pair of sunglasses. She would look a little like Claude Raynes in the Invisible Man but it was the best I could do. I booked a double room at the hotel I stayed in before, then took my purchases back to the campsite. Jamie had woken up in my absence and nearly skewered me with her tail when I came back.

 

“Where did you go?!” she said frantically, “I woke up and you were gone!”

“I'm sorry I woke you to tell you  I’m going out, I guess you were still half asleep,” I said comforting her.

 

“I was scared you'd left me here and that I'd be found and locked away.”

“Shush now, it's alright I was just getting you a disguise,” her body was shaking with fear and anguish. She was so far outside her comfort zone she was on the edge of panic. After a while I calmed her and showed her my purchases explaining the next step as she tried them on. I looked away to spare her embarrassment as she changed her battered shorts for the tracksuit. I had been very close to her with her wearing nothing but those small shorts and she showed no trace of embarrassed but  now the thought of taking them off in front of me made her nervous and embarrassed. It was a very human reaction that felt very endearing. Once she had changed into the tracksuit with her tail sticking out the back I helped her into the coat which covered her tail nicely. It gave her a slightly humpbacked look but nothing too bad. Most of the stuff fitted pretty well, I had deliberately gone for things that were more or less one size fits all. The shoes were a little loose but the thick hiking socks compensated.

 

Soon she was all kitted out and looking a bit strange but definitely not like a hybrid.

“How do I look,” asked Jamie nervously fidgeting with her scarf.

“You look fine,” I said taking her hand to stop her pulling at her disguise, “ Everything will be okay you'll see.”

 

I packed up our stuff and then gently led Jamie outside, she was very twitchy standing out in the open. I quickly packed up the tent took Jamie's hand leading her into the village.

 I deposited the tent, sleeping bags, and any other camping kit in my car then took the rest of our things with us. As we approached the village Jamie got more and more nervous, she went from holding my hand to clinging to me  and shaking gently. I put my arm around her to reassure her and rubbed her shoulder to calm her as best I could.

 

 We made our way into the village Jamie clinging to me her body jolting every time she saw someone coming our way. I walked her into the town and over to the hotel. Most people simply ignored us, we got a few funny looks but nothing hostile. I already had my key to the room so I took Jamie straight through the lobby and up the stairs to our room. I opened the door and took her inside, putting up the “do not disturb” sign  outside before I forgot and then locked the door behind us. The room was a fairly nice hotel room with a large bed, small desk, an armchair, and a reasonably sized TV, a small bathroom branched off from the main room near the door. I gave the room a quick check to make sure no one could see in and then returned to the still shaking Jamie.

 

 I gave her a hug , removed her hat and scarf and then gave her a kiss.

 

“You were very brave, I'm proud of you,” I told her holding her close to still her shakes.

“I was so scared of all those people!” she said quietly.

 We hadn't passed that many  people, maybe 5 but I guess of late that was more than Jamie would see at any one time.

 

“It's alright we are safe inside , no-one can see us. Come on why don't we get you ready for bed. You're probably a bit tired after your ordeal. We can watch some TV in bed or something if you'd like to take your mind off it.”

 

 She looked at me considering  my proposition, “I've not seen TV since I was normal.”

 

“Well  you’ve got plenty to catch up on then, I got you some pyjamas to wear in bed if you'd like to, I know your armour means you don't really need to wear clothes but I thought you might feel more comfortable with them on.”

 

 She nodded gently, I got out the pyjamas and handed them to her  and she padded off determinedly into the bathroom to change. I put on my own sleep wear and located the remote for the TV while I waited for Jamie to come back. She reappeared a short while later looking very cute in teddy bear pyjamas clutching her beloved Pinky bear.

 

 She regarded the bed suspiciously for a few moments as if it was some sort of trap. She poked it a few times experimentally then she climbed in and sat there bouncing slightly  to feel the springs of the mattress. I slipped into bed next to her and she cuddled up against me.

 

“You really were terribly scared out there weren't you?” I asked. She nodded. “You're a brave person to face your fear like that.”

She nodded to the TV, “Can we watch cartoons?”

“Sure  whatever you like,” I guess she hadn't seen any TV in her years in the forest so her preferred shows were what she remembered from when she was young.

 

 I searched through the channels managing to find one with cartoons for her to watch. She settled down watching the antics of the animated animals with a smile on her face though she didn't last long before she dozed off. It had been a hard day for her so I wasn't surprised. I gently pulled the covers over  us, switched off the telly and then tried to get some rest myself. I was very proud of her for taking this first step, if I had been in her position I'm not sure I would have managed it.

 

 I woke reasonably early so  I got up and had a shower. When I came back I found Jamie upright in bed watching cartoons.

 

“I've finished with the bathroom if you want to take a shower,” I said forgetting that she normally used a lake to wash in.

 She seemed to consider this for a second then jump ed out of bed and went over to the bathroom with an inquisitive look on her face. I wondered if I should show her how it worked but a short while later there was the sound of running water so she seemed to have figured that out. I reminded myself to be careful to let her learn things herself and not belittle her achievements in any way as she was a tough and resourceful young woman. If I did everything for her she might grow to be resentful or possibly dependant on me and I didn't want either of those.

 

 During the night I'd had an idea for how I could improve her disguise a little, it would mean going out and I wasn't sure if she was ready for that so soon. I got dressed and waited for her to finish her shower. A short while later she padded out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel , her hair now lacking the few twigs she always seemed to have in the forest. I handed her a brush from my bag of bits I had bought her.

 

“Here you go. I'm going to go out to get some more bits and bobs, do you want to stay here?” I asked.

She took the brush and began running it through her hair, “I'll stay,” she said.

 

“OK I'll leave the sign on the door so no one will bother you but just in case if you lock the door behind me no one can come in. I'll knock on the door when I get back then you can check the  peephole on the door and if it isn't me you can just pretend to be asleep or something,” I said.

 

“What's a  peephole

 

“Here I'll show you. You see this little thing here, it lets you see who is outside the door if you put your eye up to it. That way you can see if you want to let the person in or not.”

“I don't need that I can tell who's  outside the door anyway. Don't be too long or I'll get worried.”

 

“I'll be as quick as I can.”

 I headed out and heard the lock engage behind me. I headed over to the local shops and went into the  chemists. They had more or less what I was looking for a variety of make-up. I got some odd looks for my rag tag assortment of different items but the cashier didn't say anything. I headed back to the hotel via a bakery where I picked up a few pastries for breakfast. I knocked on the door and after a short wait Jamie let me back it.

 

“I got you some breakfast, I didn't know what you'd like so I got a selection of things,” I said handing her the bag.

 She delicately picked up a fruit pastry and began to eat it with much relish, I had one of the more generic Danish pastries. She sat back on the bed to watch her cartoons I took a seat in the small  armchair and watched her. She finished her pastry and sat watching the TV for a bit before she noticed me watching her.

 

“What?” she asked, “Do I have some crumbs on my face?”

“No,” I said, “I just like watching you.”

 She smiled and hid her face a little as if embarrassed but  still pleased. While she was in a good mood I figured it was time to try coaxing her outside again.

 

“I got some things so we can go out and take a walk,” I said.

She stared at me suddenly still, “What things.”

“Here let me show you,” I grabbed the bag of make-up I had gotten. I showed her the skin coloured foundation I had gotten her and various paints and pigments that would mask her armour.

 She looked a little doubtful so I offered to apply some of the stuff so we could see how well it worked . Then if she was happy we could take a walk in the sunshine. She still didn't seem convinced but allowed me to try applying the make-up.

 

 Her armour not being skin made it tough for the make-up to spread properly , it didn't adhere quite right. After some experimentation with the various kinds I had purchased I found a cream that covered her black armour properly. It took a while to apply it, I was no expert and there was a lot of area to cover but by the time I was done Jamie looked much more normal. You could still make out the plates if you were close enough but I had done my best to obscure them as much as possible. As a result you couldn't really tell from any reasonable distance, it did look like she had quite heavy make-up on but you couldn't see her normal skin colour.

 

 I had made sure that Jamie couldn't see herself till I was done and once I was happy with my work I led her by the hand into the bathroom. Her expression was one of pure shock, she stared at her  now more normal looking face with her mouth and eyes wide open.

 

 She tried to say something but it took several  attempts to get the words out, “I look like a real girl,” she said.

 

I gently put my arms around her, “You are a real girl sweetie, I just made you look less different. So how about that walk?”

 She nodded slightly raising her hand to touch her face, “Careful,” I cautioned, “you'll rub off your disguise. You really need something a bit more durable than this foundation , maybe something that will set. I'll have to look for something a bit more suitable but for now this will do.”

 

 She followed me out of the bathroom and we sorted out an outfit for her to wear, we still had to cover most of her but this time it was less like the invisible man  layers of covering up. Dressed in a long coat with a high collar and a pair of sunglasses to hide her eyes, Jamie looked quite normal her long blonde hair flowing about her like a brilliant golden wave. She looked hesitantly at me so I smiled and offered her my arm.

 

“It's going to be fine,” I said, she grabbed my arm tightly and I gently led her to the door.

We made our way outside, the corridor and stairs were empty of people and it wasn't until we reached the lobby that we encountered someone.

“Good morning,” the girl on the desk said brightly. Jamie grabbed onto me tighter , fearful of being found out.

 

“Morning,” I replied cheerfully trying not to grimace at Jamie's iron grip crushing my arm.

 The woman smiled at us and then went back to  whatever she was doing. We walked past the desk and out through front door into the morning sunshine. Jamie clung to me like I was a life preserver and she was adrift at sea. If she gripped any tighter I was sure she would do serious damage.

 

“Relax, no one sees anything strange,” I said putting my arm around her.

 She relaxed a little and we walked down the street, I didn't want to go  too far. This was traumatic enough for Jamie and I wanted to take things slow, give her time to get on her feet. I took her to a small park I had seen, it had a pleasant grassy area where kids could play as well as some flower beds and even a small lake with ducks to feed. I took Jamie on a walk round the lake, every time someone passed us she would tense but they would just wish us good day and pass us by with barely a second glance.

 

 I took a seat to  by the lake, Jamie sat by me a bundle of nerves. I stroked her hand to calm her.

 

“Do you want to go back?” I asked, I didn't want to push her too hard.

“Frankie and I came to feed the ducks here,” she said quietly.

“You miss her a lot don't you.”

“Yes.”

“We could try and find her, she might still be  a local here.”

 

Jamie shook her head, “She wouldn't want to see me like this.” Tears rolled down her cheeks cutting furrows into the make-up.

“Hey now, there's no need to get upset. She might surprise you, from what you told me she wasn't scared of you, she saw that you were still her sister. She left you the note and even her favourite toy, I'm sure she'd like to see you again.”

“But that was before I killed Daddy!” she sobbed, “ She must not have known then but by now she'll have realised that I was the one who killed him. She'll hate me.”

 

“There , there, no need to cry, come on let's get you back to the room. It's been too much excitement too soon. We can go watch some cartoons or play some cards. Would you like that.”

 

 She nodded, the tears were wearing away the make -up, leaving dark streaks where her armour showed through.

 

 I gave her a hug and rocked her gently till she calmed down, “OK let's give you a little touch up first.” I got out the little make-up kit I had brought along for just this sort of  emergency and repaired her face. I gave her a reassuring squeeze then took her back to the hotel room.

 

 The cleaning people had been in while we were out so that was one less thing to worry about. I cleaned the make-up off of Jamie's face, the armour made the job pretty easy. I gave her a kiss on the forehead and held her close , she relaxed into my arms and some of the tension she had worked up on the walk bleed out of her.

 

 As w e sat on the bed watching her cartoons she clung to me for comfort and I gently stroked her hair.

 

 After a while cartoons became a bit  too much for me so I read a book on my eCom. Sometime later I realised that she had fallen asleep on my lap. I let her sleep, she'd had a hard day. Maybe taking her to this village, to her childhood home hadn't been a good idea. It was full of painful reminders of her past and perhaps that would inhibit any progress she might make in re-entering society here.

 

 She woke  sometime later stretching her body almost like a cat, except cat’s tails were less terrifying than that when they stretched.

 

She looked around sleepily and said, “I'm hungry.”

 I checked my watch , it was lunch time, “You want to order some room service for lunch?”

 

“Room service?” she asked. I guess she had never come across the concept in her time before living in the forest.

“The hotel can make us food and bring it to the room. There is a menu of things they do over there on the table.”

 She bounced off the bed and grabbed the menu then  laid back down on her stomach, the menu held out in front of her.

 

“Wow there's lots of stuff.”

I pointed out to her which of the items she could have for lunch. She was a little put out that she couldn't have pancakes for lunch but they were only on the breakfast menu. I promised her pancakes for breakfast the next day which made her smile.

 She picked out fish and chips and I chose a steak and ale pie. I ordered the food and when they turned up to deliver Jamie hid in the bathroom. Once the delivery people were gone we ate our lunch with Jamie watching some more of her cartoons.  When we were done with lunch Jamie was getting a little bored with cartoons so we played some cards instead, yet again Jamie beat me hands down. As the day wore on I wondered about taking Jamie out for an evening walk but figured maybe it would be too much for one day, better to take things easy. We played until it started to get late and I ordered us some dinner then found a film on the hotel's movie service that we could watch. It was a fairly old comedy but not something Jamie had seen before. She took to it quite well laughing along while we ate our dinner in bed. As it got later Jamie snuggled up to me and fell asleep before the film had even finished.

 

Come next morning I woke up early, Jamie was still on forest time I guess and not used to waking in the day. I ordered her a stack of pancakes and gently woke her with a kiss. She was overjoyed with her breakfast treat and wolfed down a big stack of pancakes with lemon juice and sugar.

 Riding that high it was easier to get her to agree to a morning walk. She had her shower and then put on her disguise. We wandered the streets of the village taking in the pleasant country air. Jamie was still fairly nervous being out and about but she didn't cling to me quite so hard and was able to relax  more and enjoy being outside.

 

 We were walking along with no particular destination in mind when I felt Jamie pull tighter against me. There was no one else around so I was initially confused as to what had upset her. But then she began leading me along moving with purpose. She turned down a street and then took a side street. I let her lead me along , she obviously had some destination in mind and was intent on getting there. She stopped in front of a nondescript two story house with a walled garden. A large tree sprung up in the garden giving the relatively large area some shade. You could just make out a battered tree house in the branches.

 

“This was my house,” said Jamie in a quiet voice.

I put my arm around her and hugged her tight. She looked up at the old house that obviously held many happy memories and some very sad ones too. She reciprocated the hug and we stood there for a short while holding each other.

Jamie then stood up straighter and turned away from the house looking straight at me.

“Take me away,” she said earnestly.

 I put my arm around her and led her away from the house. Once we were out of the street and away from that place Jamie seemed to perk up a bit , her mood returning to the previously happy one. I decided to try and see if she would take another small step with me.

 

“How about we get some lunch?” I asked.

“But But ...” she stammered.

“Sh , sh, we'll start with something small. We'll get some sandwiches and have a picnic in the park.”

 

 She looked at me worriedly then gave a small nod. I rewarded her bravery with a kiss and a hug. We went to the local shop and got some sandwiches and bits to eat and drink. Jamie was a little nervous about  queuing to pay but luckily there were relatively few people in and none of them paid her any mind. Then bored checkout girl barely even glanced up from her trashy tabloid magazine as she scanned out items and gave us our change.

 

We took our purchases over to the small park we had been to the previous day and sat on a bench to eat our lunch. It was a lovely day and we enjoyed our sandwiches in the sunshine. Jamie ate all but the crusts of her sandwiches which she took to the nearby pond to feed the ducks. There were many ducks keen to get some bread so I contributed some of my sandwiches to the cause. I noticed one of the ducks had a damaged wing, it looked like it had been caught in a lock on a canal or been attacked by something. Most of the feathers had been curled back and exposed bones stuck out of the tattered remains of the wing. Jamie watched the injured duck as it competed with the others for the few bits of bread.

 She got a thoughtful look on her face and reached out  with one of her hands towards the duck. The duck began quacking wildly and flapping it's wings like mad. Most of its brethren took this as a warning and scattered. I watched as the damaged flesh started to crawl back over the exposed bones, sprouting new feathers as it re-grew. Eventually the duck’s damaged wing began to move more normally and the now frantic bird took off flying away in panic. Jamie was obviously getting quite adept at repairing physical damage using her abilities. It was amazing to see her command flesh and bone to reshape like clay.

 

Jamie slumped to the ground looking tired. I slipped an arm around her and helped her back to the bench. It always surprised me how heavy Jamie was, her slim frame was surprisingly dense. I nearly feel down several times helping her to the bench.

“Making the  ducky grow new flesh was hard,” she said looking tired.

 

“Here have some crisps to  get your energy up,” I suggested.

 

 I plied Jamie with food and beverages till she was feeling a little better. She still looked quite worn out so I helped her walk back to the hotel. When we got in the door she didn't even remove most of her disguise , she just collapsed on the bed cuddling Pinky Bear tightly and immediately fell asleep. I read for a bit then watched some TV with the volume off and eventually when it became clear Jamie wasn't going to surface I joined her in bed.

 

I woke in the morning to find Jamie already awake propped up on the pillow looking at me.

“Can we have pancakes again?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said groggily rubbing the sleep from my eyes, “Give me a moment and I'll call in an order for you.”

 She looked thoughtful squeezing Pinky  Bear to her chest, “Can ... Can I do it?” she asked hesitantly.

 

“Yeah if you like,” I said smiling, tickled pink  that she was deciding to do this small step of her own accord, “Do you know what to do?”

 

“I call them and ask for pancakes.” she said.

“Yeah, just press the button marked room service and tell them what you'd like.”

 “ ’Kay,” she said and leaped out of bed like a rocket sending the covers flying in her enthusiasm.

 

 I got out of bed and went to wash my face so I w ouldn't hang over her. I didn't want her thinking that I didn't think she could accomplish this task on her own.

 

“Hello, I'd like pancakes,” she said into the phone, “Two lots ... yes ... Bye.”

She hung up the phone and then crashed onto the bed, I heard the TV switch on and the sound of cartoons fill the room.

 I smiled it seemed the day was off to a good start . After shaving and showering I sat down next to Jamie. She was raptly watching some show about a cartoon bear and his various animal friends getting up to mischief in a forest.

 

“Don't you ever get tired of cartoons?” I asked.

“Why would I get tired of cartoons?” she asked with a look that suggested she didn't know how anyone could get tired of her favourite source of entertainment.

I smiled at her and got out my book while we waited for breakfast to show up. A short while later there was a knock at the door.

 Jamie yelled “Pancakes!” and leaped off the bed right over  me landing on all fours on the floor on the other side then scuttled off into the bathroom shutting the door behind her.

 

 I sat there stunned a bit at her sudden out of sight  dash and during my hesitation the person at the door knocked again. The bathroom door opened slightly and Jamie peered out at me, “Pancakes!” she said insistently.

 

 She watched me till I got up off the bed then shut the door again. Sure enough at the door  there was room service with pancakes. I signed for the food, let them wheel the tray in then thanked them. The moment they were out the door Jamie was out of the bathroom like a shot. She sat down at the small table and was waiting knife and fork at the ready for me to come and eat pancakes with her. They were good today and after our breakfast I decided to capitalise on Jamie's good mood.

 

“How about a walk?” I asked.

“Okay,” she said and headed for the bathroom to put on her disguise.

 Some painting and dressing up later we were out enjoying the fresh air. Jamie held onto my arm as we walked but she wasn't clinging to me  as if someone was going to drag her off and she didn't get scared at every person that came past us. I think she even smiled at a few that wished us good morning. We walked down to the forest and along some of the paths, it was interesting to see Jamie react to this the place she had spent so many years hunting and surviving in. Now she was taking a stroll enjoying the view.

 

As the day wore on we started to get hungry again and I convinced Jamie to try a pub lunch. We would sit outside so she wouldn't feel too boxed in. Some of Jamie's previous skittishness returned as we approached the pub and I had to reassure her that everything would be alright. We selected a table and then picked the food we wanted. I went in to order leaving a nervous Jamie sat waiting at the table.

There was a bit of queue this being a nice sunny day so I had to wait a while before ordering food and getting drinks. When I got back outside the look of relief on Jamie's face was palpable.

“Sorry about that, it's a bit busy in there,” I said handing her an orange drink.

“I was worried, some people tried to talk to me, I got nervous,” Jamie said sipping her drink, “It ’s so busy here!”

 

 I looked around , there were about 6 people in the beer garden. I guess Jamie still wasn’t used to groups of people, “It's not too bad, it's worse inside.”

 

 Jamie shuddered, “I used to not worry about this many people  being near me, now it makes me want to run away.”

 

I took her hand and massaged her palm, “You've spent a long time conditioned to hide and flee from anyone. It'll take some time to unlearn that and see that groups of people are not a problem. You're making good progress though. This time last week you would have been hiding in that tree right now, yet today you ordered pancakes all by yourself and now are sitting here in the beer garden enjoying the sunshine.”

 She smiled at me and sipped some more of her drink.  As we waited the garden gradually filled up with tourists and the odd local. Jamie's rather odd attire drew some looks but we were left in peace. Our meal arrived sometime later and the rushed off her feet waitress didn't bat an eyelid at Jamie just slapped our plates and cutlery down then raced off to get the next set of plates.

 
Jamie had gone for fish and chips, while I had a nice lasagna. We ate in silence enjoying our meals. Once we were finished I suggested to Jamie  that a walk round the park with an ice cream would be in order. She gleefully concurred and we left for the park, pausing to purchase two cones at the nearby ice cream vendor. We wandered round the park enjoying our ice cream then once we were done retired to our hotel room. It had been a pretty busy day and the two of us needed a bit of a rest. We finished off the day playing cards and watching the TV, both of us feeling full enough from lunch not to bother with dinner.

 I managed to convince Jamie to watch something other than cartoons that evening and we watched a drama about a detective solving a murder. Jamie got a little worried when they showed the murder itself but it wasn't too gory so she was OK after that. She lay next to me clutching Pinky Bear her attention  rapt on the screen up until the final reveal as the detective showed how it was all done. After that we decided to turn in feeling a bit tired.

 

I woke up to find Jamie leaning over me, “Pancakes?” she asked.

I chuckled and said, “No I think I better not.”

“You don't want some pancakes?” she said looking confused.

“You can have too much of a good thing you know. If you want pancakes go right ahead I'll just have some corn flakes.”

“OK, I really like pancakes.”

“I noticed, you're just making up for all the missed breakfasts,” I said with a grin.

She paused and looked thoughtful, I worried I had brought back unhappy memories of all the breakfasts she had missed with her family but her face brightened again, “In that case I'll need to have extra pancakes to catch up.”

I laughed with her at that and she went over to the phone to order up some pancakes. I levered myself off the bed and got myself dressed.

 As it turned out she had only ordered one lot of pancakes and a bowl of cornflakes for me . We ate our breakfast then went out for another walk.

 

We wandered the streets for a while then made our way through a park. We sat on a park bench watching the ducks.

“Do you miss the forest?” I asked her.

“It was simpler there, just me but it was lonely,” she replied and snuggled closer, “ All the people scare me.”

 

“I know I push you, often way outside your comfort zone, but it's only because I love you.”

She kissed me and smiled.

“How about we try something a bit more daring tonight?”

“Like what?”

“Well how about we have a meal in the pub,” she looked unsure so I tempered it a little, “They have reasonably self contained booths we could sit in. We wouldn't be out in the open.”

She straightened and nodded, “I'll try.”

 I gave her a kiss as a reward, “That's my brave girl. I think you'll like it in there, one of the  desserts is pancakes.”

 

Her face lit up with a big smile and she cuddled up to me again.

 We watched the little ducks swim about for a while then we went off to get some sandwiches for lunch. Our usual spot near the duck pond had been taken by a young mother and her very enthusiastic child who w as feeding the ducks with some stale bread. We went to the other side of the pond to watch. The little tot seemed to do a pretty good job of covering himself with bread with his extravagant throwing technique. Only some of it actually went to the ducks but he seemed to be having fun which was the main thing.

 

We ate our sandwiches then made our way out towards the lake to enjoy the sunset. It was magical and we sat there watching the sun over the water. On the way back Jamie's tension level began to rise as we got closer to the pub. This was a big step for her being inside confined with a fair number of people.

“We don't have to do this if you're not ready yet,” I said to her gently.

“No I can do it,” she said then added, “Just hold my hand.”

I gripped her hand in mine and stroked her palm to reassure her, she was being so brave it made me very proud of her.

 I led her into the pub past the groups of people and into a secluded booth. The pub lights were fairly dim offering a little  more camouflage, still wearing dark glasses would raise eyebrows so Jamie reluctantly took them off. I kept a good grip on her hand and calmed her as we went through the menu. She selected a steak and kidney pie and I chose sausages and mash. I left Jamie briefly as I went to get the drinks and place our order. I stood in a place where she could see me and I could see her which reassured us both.

 

 Poor Jamie was the picture of worry , she was grasping her hands together nervously glancing at all the tables rapidly looking away if anyone looked like they might look at her. She shot me a series of increasingly pleading glances to come back. Luckily the bar was not too busy and the young brunette barmaid took my order with a smile. I made my way back to Jamie with some drinks and then gently put my arm around her as she shivered with nerves.

 

 She calmed down a bit now that I was there and gradually began to enjoy herself a little. She began watching  other people as she had done for years but now she was not hiding in a bush, she was sitting in a comfy booth with a fizzy orange drink. She watched the couples and the families the naked interest in her face plain for anyone to see.

 

Eventually our food arrived and she had something else to occupy her attentions. She consumed her pie with gusto and was licking the bowl in a very unladylike manner before I was even half way done with my sausage and mash.

 

 She caught sight of me smirking at her as she picked her plate up and began licking it off  too.

 

“What?” she asked.

“Nothing, you're just so adorable,” I said with a grin.

She grinned and went back to licking her plate. She finished then begged one of my sausages. She didn't have to beg very hard I'll admit.

 Once the main course was done most of Jamie's nerves were gone  and she was having a good time. I got her dessert order, pancakes naturally, and also got us another drink. Jamie went back to watching people, focusing on couples. It seemed she focused on what men and women did together.

 

The pancakes, when they arrived, were of the more American variety which confused Jamie initially.

“These aren't pancakes,” she said to me indignantly when they arrived.

“They're American style ones , thicker and slightly different recipe. They're nice though, you might like them if you try them.”

 

She suspiciously took a small part of one. Then a small mouthful, then she began wolfing them down, and before you could blink they were all gone.

“I like pancakes,” she said with a satisfied smile.

 I finished my  dessert of treacle sponge and then ordered us coffee. We then sat there just enjoying the evening, everything was going so well.

 

Suddenly Jamie said, “I need to go to the toilet.”

“The pub has one , they are over there, you can see the ladies sign,” she nodded and got up, “Will you be alright?” I asked and she nodded again.

 

She made her way carefully across the room and disappeared into the ladies. I sipped my coffee waiting for her to come back. It was my turn to experience nerves wondering if she was OK and if she would be found out or panic.

 After what seemed like an age she reappeared. She was making her way across the room towards me  when a bloke sitting at one of the tables along the route suddenly stood up without looking pushing his chair back as she was crossing behind and catching one of her feet.

 

 Jamie went tumbling to the ground  and there was a tearing noise, I guess she caught her clothing on the chair or something as she fell.

 

“Oh I'm sorry my dear. How clumsy of me,” the man said, and reached down to help her up, he suddenly straightened , stared at her and then shouted, “YOU!!!”

 

 I realised the man was none other than Gavin , one of the three people keen on capturing Jamie. Sitting with him was Old Bob and Henry as well as an unruly set of four other blokes that looked like they were straight out of a film about football hooligans. Jamie's top had torn revealing her armoured midriff her tail had also come loose revealing her nature.

 

 She leaped to her feet and tried to cover herself up. I jumped up and tried to make my way over  to her but the commotion was attracting onlookers who were blocking my way.

 

“It's the monster! All along it was mocking us!” cried Old Bob.

“What is going on! We'll have no fighting in here!” said the barmaid coming over from where she was collecting glasses putting herself between them and Jamie . Then she got a good look at Jamie and went white as a sheet dropping her glasses with a smash. She looked about to say something but couldn't seem to get the words out.

 

“You filthy freak!” shouted Gavin pushing the shocked looking barmaid out of the way sending her tumbling to the floor. He took the chair behind him and swung it at Jamie.

I tried to get near but there were people everywhere.

 Jamie cried out and the chair just bounced off her armour . She pushed Gavin out of the way and made a break for the door. Gavin and Co. went after her, Henry pausing to grab a large bag . I tried to go after them but people were clogging every path, as a result I was quite a bit behind them.

 

I saw the men had chased her along the road, I got outside just in time to see them throw some sort of rope capture thing at her. It flew at her and wrapped around her legs knocking her to the ground.

“Got it!” cried Gavin in triumph.

Jamie was trying to crawl away using her hands to pull her along while she kicked at the rope gripping her legs.

“You!” Gavin shouted at old Bob, “Hold this!”

 He tossed some sort of gun grip thing  from which he had launched the rope to Bob who gripped it gingerly like it might explode or bite him.

 

 Gavin ran  to Jamie, “You little freak! Bet ya thought you were pretty funny tricking us out in the woods! Now well we'll see who has the last laugh!”

 

He grabbed her by the feet and dragged her back towards him then flipped her over onto her back.

I dashed up prepared to shoulder Gavin to the ground but was sent tumbling as his friend Henry tackled me. Henry pinned me to the ground, I fought to get free but he had the better position.

“Hold her!” shouted Gavin and the mob of thugs ran over and held her down. The four of them  were holding the squirming Jamie and stopping her from escaping.

 

“You stupid animal!” Gavin shouted at Jamie reaching into the bag and pulling out a  baseball bat, “You ugly monster, you should wear a paper bag over that twisted face of yours!”

 

I struggled to get free but Henry was using his whole body weight to hold me down.

 As  Gavin swung the bat at Jamie with full force, I cried out “JAMIE!” The bat hit her and shattered like matchsticks on her armour. Gavin looked at the remains of the bat with a mixture of horror and disgust on his face. He threw the damaged bat to the ground and went at Jamie with his fists scoring several hits to her mid section. That seemed to do no good so he worked his way up to her face where she had less armouring.

 

 Gavin slapped Jamie across the face a few times then grabbed her head with one of his hands then pulling a nasty looking knife out of his bag with the other, “Look at this face! This is the face you are going to remember for the rest of your miserable days living in a cage in the zoo, because I'm going to cut your filthy black eyes out! Don't worry though you'll still get to hear the screams of horror of all the kids as they look at your twisted face.”

 

 He made to cut her but she managed to get her arm free from the thugs . It flew up grabbing his arm in her vice-like grip. He struggled against her trying to free his arm. Most of her captors tried to get her to let go but forgot her other limbs in doing so and while they struggled with one of her hands the other hand got loose and shot up grabbing Gavin’s face.

 

“You see how you like it!” she said and then something in the air changed. It was as if a sudden electrical charge filled the air when all the hairs on your body suddenly stand on end.

 

 Gavin let out a shriek and began scrabbling at the hand gripping his face , his eyes wide with horror. Black marks began working their way from where Jamie's fingers touched his face across the surface of his skin. His screams became greater and greater as the marks spread and his skin seemed to twist and flex of its own accord blackening like some sort of rot. The men holding Jamie let go and began backing away, staring in horror at what was happening to their boss. The marks coalesced like crystals forming into one big black sheet on one side of his face gradually inching around his left eye and mouth. His cries became higher and even more tortured as he tried to pry her hand loose. This only made things worse as the black marks spread to his hand. He shook it as if trying to dislodge the marks that rapidly spread solidifying and locking his hand in a claw like shape as if it was cast from some sort of rock. His face and hand seemed to solidify, a black solid shell growing over or replacing his skin. It was exactly like Jamie's armour except not smooth or segmented, instead it was continuous, twisted, and badly formed. With his remaining good hand he tried to bring the knife to bear on her but it did no good.

 

 A gang of people burst out of the pub behind us running down the street. Jamie saw them coming and looked away  as she shoved the screaming Gavin away from her.

 

“They'll never let me go, the normal people just want to hurt me and cage me,” she said and with a final tear filled look at me , she staggered to her feet looking a little weakened but she managed to get upright and scramble off into the night towards the forest.

 

I struggled harder against Henry who was now staring dumbfounded at the mutilated Gavin but still he pinned me down seemingly out of habit.

 The gang of people reached us, at the head of the gang was the barmaid, “Jamie!” she called out but  Jamie was too far away to hear.

 

 I managed to get Henry off me, with a lucky kick to some  tender place. The gang of people grabbed hold of him and surrounded the others, most of whom were still staring dumbly at their boss. Strangely it seemed the people from the bar had all come to rescue Jamie.

 

 I looked at the still screaming Gavin, half the skin on his face had been transformed into a solid hard black plate like Jamie's armour, but it wasn't a neat half and neither was it designed to flex like Jamie's segmented plating. It looked like part of his face had melted into this twisted ugly black plate with his skin twisted and stretched as it merged. As a result his left eye was almost held shut by corrupted eyelids and one side of his mouth was held open in mid scream, his nose twisted  just like where the black plating spread unevenly over his face. His left hand was also encased in a rough black shell locked into a contorted claw held immobile by the black stuff all the way down to the wrist. His hand was basically useless now frozen immovable like some twisted manikin.

 

It was truly horrifying to look at.

“Oh no she ran away!” cried the barmaid. “Damn idiots! You drove Jamie off!” she shouted kicking the still screaming Gavin not seeming to be bothered by his fate.

“How do you know Jamie?” I asked.

She turned to me and shrugged, “She's my sister.”

“You're Frankie?”

“No  one’s called me that in years. I started going by Fran after Jamie ran away. How do you know my sister?”

 

“I fell down in the woods and got hurt pretty badly . She helped me, and I wanted to return the favour so I was trying to encourage her out into the real world. We'd gotten pretty close. I was doing okay till these arseholes screwed things up.”

 

“She ’s a monster!” cried Old Bob.

 

 Without a word Frankie swung a right hook that knocked the old guy out cold in a single punch. He crumpled to the floor and she turned back to me as if nothing had happened, “She was in the forest! All these years and she was so close. If only I'd known. They thought she died you know, my parents that is , when she didn't come back from the doctors and granddad crashed. They had a funeral and everything though they never found a body. I think it did something to my Mum she was never quite the same. Then she came back, changed into a little scorpion girl. I remember seeing her in her old room not knowing who the strange girl was then seeing her backpack and realising it was Jamie, seeing through the armour. Mum and Dad didn't see it though there was a fight and then Jamie ran off. After that Mum had us move, I decided it was so Jamie couldn't find us I was pretty furious, I even left her a message in case she came back. I never knew where she went or if she had survived or not and all this time she was living in the forest.”

 

“She found your message, and your toy Pinky Bear. I think it was one of the few comforts she had through the years,” I said.

“Do you know where she will go?”

“Maybe, she's very good at hiding when she doesn't want to be found. I doubt we'll find her tonight.”

“We've got to get her back, we've got to!”

 I nodded, “It's going to be hard though, we need some way of coaxing her back , convincing her she's not a monster.”

 

“Why on earth does she think that?” said Frankie looking confused.

“Well I guess some of it  has to do with these idiots. I suspect she'll probably feel guilty for that,” I gestured to Gavin who was rocking back and forward wailing. He was bashing his solid hand against the solid plate on his face, it made a vaguely metallic clunk.

 

“Bah , he got what he deserved the stupid bigot,” snorted Frankie

 

“The rest of it is down to years of loneliness and guilt over poisoning your father.”

“Oh ... well maybe we could convince her she's not to blame for that , calm her guilt. Come with me you can tell me everything about how my sister’s been living and I'll tell you about my idea.”

 

 I nodded and followed her off into the night . I was hopeful though, here was Jamie's sister, someone she had longed to be reunited with. If I could just get them back together we might have a chance.

 

 

The entire MORFS  Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/

 


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