Strange Journey - Chapter One

Eve couldn't believe she had been given a project like this. This was something she had only ever dreamed of, mostly when the electricity had run out on her meter and she had to eat cold baked beans straight from the tin. Money had always been an issue, even back when she had been a young girl.

On the day of her fourth birthday there had been a terrible accident. The exact details of what had happened were blurry now, more than twenty years later, but the fear still remained, haunting her in her dreams. In the darkness of her nightmares she could still hear the screech of metal on metal, the smell of burning rubber, and, perhaps worst of all, the high-pitched screams of her father as the metal fence post pinned him to the front seat of the car.

Her mother had died almost instantly, thrown clear from the wreck her skull had smashed on impact with the black tarmac road. Eve could still remember the point of the fence post, centimeters from her face, dripping with her father's blood. She remembered looking at the black puddle it formed on the back seat in horror as she realized it for what it was. Daddy's blood! She could still smell the acrid smoke from the burning petrol as sparking wires torn loose by the crash ignited the shattered engine. Could feel the pinpricks of pain from the cuts she had sustained when the windscreen shattered inwards. She remembered the horror of having to climb past her whimpering father to get through the gaping hole at the front of the car. Seeing the fear in his eyes, pleading for her help. She had left him, too young to do anything but look for her Mummy because she was scared. She remembered curling up next to her mother's lifeless body in the middle of the road, holding her limp, bloody hand and then the nothingness had claimed her.

She remained catatonic until her after seventh birthday. Never moving or eating, just staring blankly into space. She had to be fed through a tube connected directly to her stomach. Another tube, her catheter, dealt with the waste. Physiotherapists worked the muscles in her arms and legs daily so they did not waste away. Her room was frequented by psychologists and doctors fascinated with her strange condition. Nothing they tried could bring her out of this state of unconsciousness. There was nothing physically wrong with her, no brain damage to explain why she was this way.

And then one day she had returned. Her eyes had focused for the first time in years on a young nurse going through the daily routine of changing her catheter, checking for bedsores as she went. As a strangled gargle forced it's way through her dry, cracked lips, the nurse had almost fainted with shock. Alarm bells sounded calling the duty doctor to her private room, who, in such a state of frenzied excitement, had spilled an entire cup of black coffee down his pristine white jacket.

It had taken four years to adjust Eve back to normal life. Although almost eight years old when she had awoken, she had still had the mind of a four year old child. She had been extremely disturbed by flashbacks of the accident and had to have extensive counseling, on top of all the schooling she had missed. She had to adjust to living with a specially selected foster family in the first few years because, although she had an aunt who was willing to look after her, the authorities had felt she was still too traumatized to go back to leading a normal life. Her foster mother had been specially trained to deal with children who had extreme difficulties like those that Eve had.

Eventually, Eve had ended up with her aunt, who had engaged the help of several solicitors and had fought endlessly in court for custody.

Whenever Eve thought of her aunt she couldn't help but smile. Twenty years older than her mother, she had been an old lady when Eve had come into her care. Those had been happy days, filled with laughter, in spite of the difficulties. When Eve awoke screaming from her nightmares, Aunty May had comforted her. When Eve came home crying, bullied by mindless children because of her scars, Aunty May had made her smile.

It was her time with her Aunt that had brought her to metalworking. Aunty May had loved jewellery of all kinds, but most of all she had loved her rings. She wore rings of all kinds; there was never an unadorned finger on Aunty May's hands. Eve would watch the diamonds flash and sparkle as Aunty May dusted and cleaned.

Even when arthritis crippled her hands, Aunty May wore her most favorite rings on a chain around her neck.

Her death had been a difficult time. Eve had cried for weeks, unable to believe that, at just thirteen years old, she had nobody left to turn to. All her family was gone, taken from her so cruelly. Her parents, her Aunty May, still a sprightly old woman, to cancer. Who would look after her and keep her safe? To make matters worse, her Aunt had left a great deal of debt behind, meaning many of the rings which she had left to her niece had to be auctioned off, leaving Eve with only a few mementos to remember her Aunt by.

It was these rings that had inspired Eve to go into metalwork. After five years of moving from foster home to foster home, she escaped to college with a scholarship, determined to make a life for herself.

Coming home from the early shift at the components factory at which she had managed to find a temporary position at during the summer. Wearily she climbed the stairs, her footsteps echoing round the bare walls. She paused at her front door, wondering why she did it all. Today had been near impossible, the air conditioning had packed in again leaving her workspace not much unlike an oven. She was hot and sweaty and unbelievably tired.

Opening the door with her key, she shoved the door open with her shoulder.

"Bloody door! Bloody work! Bloody life," she stomped through to her tiny living space, throwing her bag down on the threadbare sofa.

Reaching for a beer from her clapped out refrigerator and slumping down, with the old sofa protesting loudly, she examined her calloused hands.

She should be making beautiful jewellery with these old hands, not putting together DVD players and mobile phones, she thought angrily. When was she going to get the break she deserved? After four and a half years in college she had become a highly skilled metal smith. Another three years in apprenticeship with a master of metal smiths, in which she had learned to see the beauty, not only in the rings and jewellery she loved to make, but in arms and armour as well.

She couldn't understand why she hadn't been snatched up and given work. It was as if there was a curse hanging over her foiling her every attempt to find gainful employment. Shortly after finishing her apprenticeship, ready to go into work for Chris Topien who had taught her everything she knew, she had fallen down the stairs. Reaching out to save herself, she had sustained bad fractures to both wrists. Put out of action for six months, she had been almost driven mad with worry about losing the strength in her hands. Like a brain surgeon, she would be useless without full use of all her fingers. She had recovered fully, but not before the position went to a more available apprentice.

Then she had been offered a job with a company making custom made swords and helmets for on line customers. Although it was jewellery she wanted to make, she enjoyed time and effort that went into making a functional sword. It had sounded like an interesting job, but unfortunately it had been in America. Having only just established herself in London, she felt loath to up and leave. Also, she had an extreme fear of flying, or, to tell the truth, any form of public transport. She hated not being in control and preferred to get about by bike and, at most, in her little runabout car for longer journeys.

So here she was, stuck working in the job from hell, with no career prospects on the horizon. Sighing, Eve rose and went into her tiny bathroom. Wrinkling her nose at the smell of mildew that seemed to permeate the walls, no matter how much she cleaned it, she twisted the hot tap on. After a great deal of spluttering water came rushing out. Testing its warmth, she grimaced. Perhaps she should boil the kettle a couple of times.

As she was boiling the kettle, the doorbell rang.

"Coming," she yelled.

Peeking through the spy hole, she saw Mrs Bodkins, her annoying elderly landlady.

As wide as she was tall, Mrs Bodkin had to be the world's most interfering person Eve had ever met. In her sixty's she looked like a caring old granny. Nothing was further from the truth.

"What is it Mrs Bodkin," Eve asked as she opened the door. Although the box addressed to Eve was pretty self-explanatory.

"Hello! As you can see I have something that belongs to you. It was delivered a couple of days ago." Mrs Bodkin pursed her lips with a look of distaste.

"I really wish that you would give out your proper address. I can't keep running up all these stairs delivering things willy-nilly for you young lady! I do have arthritis you know. A lady of my condition should not have to run errands for someone as perfectly capable as yourself."

"Thank you Mrs Bodkin, it won't happen again. So sorry about your arthritis." Eve groaned inside, waiting for the lecture she knew was about to come.

"Don't let it happen again. I suppose you'll be wanting this," Mrs Bodkin handed her the package and turned to go. "You know, in my day..."

Hastily, Eve retreated backwards, closing the door just as Mrs Bodkin turned to finish her lecture. Eve had heard it all before, and certainly did not want to hear it again.

"I wonder what this could be," Eve spoke aloud to herself.

The parcel was light, and did not rattle when Eve shook it. She checked the postmark. New Zealand! Who did she know in New Zealand? Ripping off the tape she opened the box.

A manila envelope sat in the box. There was no writing on the outside to explain what it was, so she ripped it open. Two plane tickets fell out along with a hand written note.

"Strange!" Eve said examining the airline tickets. They were booked from Heathrow to Auckland airport. One there, one back. She picked up the note hoping for some explanation.

Dear Eve,

Your dreams can come true. Trust me when I say this is something you have always dreamed of. Hope you like your present.

PJ

Attached to the bottom of the letter was a simple gold band. Looking closer she saw it was engraved with what looked like some kind of writing. She turned it over in her hands, admiring the workmanship of the simple gold ring.

Checking the dates on the tickets, she realized they were for today.

"Oh! Bloody Mrs Bodkins."

Eve could not help but wonder what this PJ had meant about her dreams coming true. Was this some sort of job offer? To make jewellery? There was no contact address or telephone number, it seemed the only way she would find out was to go to New Zealand. Could she do that?

Looking again at the tickets in her hands, she wondered. What did she have here to keep her?

"Nothing, I have nothing here." She was surprised at the anger in her voice. Perhaps it was the hellish day that had made up her mind, or the question of how she was going to pay next months rent, but suddenly and recklessly, Eve decided to go.

Leaving the envelope and its contents on the table she walked into her bedroom. Doubts overwhelmed her as she threw clothes into her backpack. She couldn't fly! What if something happened? What if the plane crashed?

Steeling herself for the inevitable flashback, she was hugely surprised when it didn't come. Maybe she was getting better. After all these years she should be able to deal with relinquishing control to a skilled pilot. Someone who flew every day without problems. For once she had decided to face her fear instead of avoiding it.

Checking the tickets again, Eve realized that she could never make it across London by car in time for the flight.

"Two firsts in one day. London Tube here I come."

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