The Boy With the Golden Eyes
by London Lampy
Dana and Jane spent the rest of the evening standing by the window that looked out into the yard in the hopes of catching sight of Jack. If he was out of the building he'd have to come back in that way, that was assuming he was going to come back at all, Jane didn't even want to think what things would be like for them in the orphanage if he didn't. When Dana had tried asking Sister Oakley about her brother's whereabouts the nun had replied that it wasn't her place to ask questions, and Dana's response to this had earned her a ruler over the knuckles. They were still staring glumly out at the rain, which had now turned from torrential to just very heavy, when the bell rang to warn them that lights out was imminent.
"We need to go." Dana sighed, taking Jane's hand. "We have to hope he's back by the morning."
As the two of them trudged slowly toward their dorm Jane was grateful for Dana's hand in hers, knowing that despite their differences her sister was here beside her gave her some much needed comfort. She heard footsteps coming up behind them but didn't turn around until a hand fell onto her shoulder.
"Jane, I was disappointed not to have a visit from you tonight." Father Frederick said, fixing her with his bright eyes.
"I...I'm sorry...it's raining." She stammered. "I didn't want to get wet." His fingers were digging into her flesh.
"Don't be silly, you only have to cross the yard to get to my study, all you'd get is a little damp, and you'd soon dry off in front of my heater."
"Sorry Father." She looked down at her feet. "I'll come tomorrow."
"Father Frederick." Dana said frowning. "Where's Jack? He's been missing all afternoon."
The priest glanced over at the dark haired girl, blinking as if he had only just noticed her. "You're concerned about your brother?" He looked at Jane again, who nodded. "Then it is a shame that you didn't come to my study, I could have helped you locate him, sadly it's much too late in the day now." His eyes were locked onto Jane's again, and she felt rooted to the spot. "You need to be getting along to bed."
"But do you know where he is?" Dana persisted.
"I may be able to track him down, if Jane promises me that she won't disappoint me by withholding her visits again."
"I won't, I promise." She breathed, glad that he might be able to find Jack for her.
"Good girl." He suddenly grinned. "You know how much you brighten up my day."
"Oh dear." Sister Mackintosh sighed, looking out of the cab window. "It's awfully late, perhaps we shouldn't have stayed at the shop for dinner after all."
The rain was slowing the traffic down, a cart ahead of them had overturned on the slick cobbles and blocked the street for nearly half an hour while it was being righted and its horse was seen to, although now the way was clear again their speed was no faster than a slow walking pace. When they finally arrived outside the orphanage Sister Mackintosh quickly unlocked the wicket gate and they hurried across the yard as fast as the young nun could move in her long, bulky habit. Once inside the main building she looked around, the corridors were mostly dark, only a few small night light had been left burning here and there.
"Oh dear." She said again, wringing her hands. "It's after lights out, you'd better get to bed, and I'd better go and explain to Mother Hardigan why we're back so late." In the dim light she looked no older than Dana, and rather scared as well.
"Will she hit you over the knuckles with a ruler?" Jack couldn't resist asking.
"I hope not." She replied seriously.
Jack made his way to the dorm with care, wishing he Exit's ability to see in the dark, or even Exit with him to help him find the way. Once in the dorm he moved as quietly as he could, heading for his bed amid a chorus of snores from all around. He knelt down between his bed and the one beside the wall, he couldn't see much but he could just about make out the contours of Exit's face, and he looked to be sleeping. Jack briefly considered leaving him alone, but he just couldn't resist leaning down and kissing him softly on the lips, and he knew he'd woken the smaller boy up when he felt his kiss being returned.
"Where have you been?" Exit asked in a sleepy mumble against his lips.
"Working." Jack sat back on his heels. "Sister Mackintosh took me out at lunch time. I was stacking book shelves all afternoon." He reached out and stroked Exit's soft hair. "Didn't they tell you where I was?"
"No, I tried asking, but Sister Oakley told me it was none of my business."
"Stupid bitch." Jack muttered.
"Jane and Dana are worried about you too, they came and found me in the classroom to see if I knew where you were." Exit added.
"Yeah, they would be, I guess if the nuns wouldn't tell you where I was they weren't about to tell them either. I'll find them first thing and let them know I'm still alive." He dipped his head down and kissed him again. "I've got a present for you." He murmured into his ear. "Here." Jack pulled the bag of chocolate toffees out of his pocket and handed them to Exit. "The bookshop owner gave them to me to give to you."
"Huh?" The other boy replied, peering into the bag.
"He asked if I wanted them, when I told him I didn't like chocolate he asked me if I had a girlfriend I wanted to give them to, so I told him I had a boyfriend and he said you could have them with his blessings, whatever that means."
"Nank'oo." Exit said, his mouth full of toffee.
"Do you want to go up to the attic tonight?" Jack asked, resting his hand on Exit's thigh and stroking it with his fingertips.
"'eff." This sounded enough like "yes" to make Jack assume it was an affirmative answer.
"Have they checked on us once or twice yet?"
"'unce." He took this to mean once.
"All right, I'll get into bed and we'll leave as soon as is safe after the second check."
"...and I'm so very sorry Mother, it was just that the rain was awfully heavy, I never meant for us to return so late."
Mother Hardigan watched the young nun squirm, waiting for her to run out of steam. "Sister Mackintosh, I would hardly expect you to go out in such weather. You and the boy have returned to us safely and no harm has been done. I shall however be reimbursing Mr Lustrum the amount of your cab fare, and I will deduct that from your personal allowance."
"Thank you Mother." Sister Mackintosh said, the relief clear in her voice. "And I really am very sor..." Before she could start another round of apologies someone interrupted her by knocking on the office door.
"Would you get that on your way out?" Mother Hardigan requested, glad of the excuse to be rid of the young woman. She had assumed that she and the tall country boy hadn't returned on time due to the rain storm, although any later and she may have started to grow concerned. The elderly Sister Oakley, who normally wasn't one for gossip, had mentioned in passing that Sister Mackintosh had told her that she thought Jack a very nice boy, and Mother Hardigan herself had noticed the young nun's eyes straying to him during morning prayers in the chapel. She hadn't been at all surprised that Jack had been chosen as the one to accompany her to the bookshop, but even so she felt it unlikely that Sister Mackintosh would act on her attraction, she couldn't imagine the shy young woman breaking her vows and running off with the boy, but stranger things had happened. She watched her opening the door and when she saw who her visitor was Mother Hardigan felt a twinge of annoyance at seeing Father Frederick pushing past Sister Mackintosh to enter the room, but as always her severe face betrayed no emotion.
"The weather gods are certainly busy tonight." The priest commented, sitting himself down opposite her without being invited.
"Hello Father." She greeted him. "To what do I owe your company this late?"
"I visited with Elodie this afternoon, she asked me to ask you if you would reconsider taking her back. She's still very frail and she wants a secure place to come to once she has been discharged from hospital."
"And she shall have one." Mother Hardigan replied, fighting to keep any hint of smugness out of her voice. "We have secured her a position as a below stairs maid in the household of a respectable and wealthy family in Ville."
The priest stared at her. "But that's on the East Island." He said after a moment.
"Yes. The governors and I felt that a fresh start far away from Parnell would be the best course of action. Away from her past...and away from whoever was responsible for her pregnancy in the first place." She stared directly into his eyes. "It's only a shame that we don't know who the one responsible was, and we can't do the same to him." She planned to visit Elodie herself before the girl left for her new life, and she was going to get the truth out of the her, nothing more than a signed confession would do. Once she had that she would be able to approach both the governors and the bishop. She would see the priest punished for what she knew he had done to Elodie, but she wasn't about to play her hand now, not when she didn't yet have her ace, no matter how tempting it was, but she did have one card she could put down tonight. "I have the girl's medical report." She picked up a file from the desktop and pretended to peruse it. "It makes for rather grim reading I'm afraid, in particular the part that details exactly how the doctors think that the "procedure" was performed. Whoever operated on her was along way from being a trained doctor, the doctor at the hospital used the phrase "backstreet butcher". When you read it you can't help but think about the fear and pain she must have gone through, all because some boy couldn't keep his urges under control." She passed the file over to Father Frederick, and felt a small sense of triumph as she noticed how his hand trembled as he took it.
"Watch out for the step." Exit whispered, towing Jack along the hallway by the hand.
"Why can't humans see in the dark?" He muttered back. No matter how much he wanted to go up to the attic he very much disliked being led along like a small child. Whilst the lower, more frequently used levels were kept dimly lit overnight the upper passageways were left in total darkness.
"You have the wrong sort of eyes." Came the amused reply.
Exit suddenly stopped walking and Jack stumbled into him, almost knocking the pair of them to the floor. "I heard something." He said by way of an explanation. "But it's gone now."
"What sort of something?" Jack asked, cocking his head to one side and listening.
"Something like footsteps, maybe."
"All I can hear is the rain." Jack said after a moment.
"Yeah, maybe it was that." The worst of the storm was over now, but rain was still falling persistently outside, drumming on the roof and splashing against the windows. They set off again, moving as fast as they dared along the dark hallways.
"Can you hear better than me too?" Jack quizzed the echoback boy.
"Don't think so...shit...I just heard it again." This time Jack heard it too, it sounded like the slap of bare feet on lino floor. He looked around but could see almost nothing save the window at the end of the corridor that they would be climbing out of. "Can you see anyone?" He asked, hating the sensation of being almost blind.
"No." Jack was aware of Exit moving to look around them.
"Perhaps we should go back." Jack suggested, he was starting to get spooked.
"I'm pretty sure it's coming from behind us, if we go back we'll run straight into whoever, or whatever it is." Exit said, taking Jack's hand again. "I think we have to keep going."
When they reached the end of the corridor Exit unlatched the window and pushed it open, they both stared out at the rain. "Do you think you'll be all right to climb up in this?" He asked Jack.
Jack wrapped his arms around Exit's middle and pressed his body against the smaller one in front of him. "I'll be fine." He replied, hoping he was right.
"I'd better go first." Exit said. Jack released him from his embrace and Exit jumped nimbly onto the window sill, he was balanced there, about to pull himself up onto the ledge above when a noise from behind them made them both turn to look.
"Caught you." A voice from the darkness said.
Jane couldn't sleep, her stomach was knotted with fear over Jack's disappearance and her possible part in it, and she was also upset by her encounter with Father Frederick in the corridor earlier on. He had said he was disappointed in her, in her not going to visit him, and she knew that she should have gone, the poor man had missed her company.
"Dana." She whispered, rolling over to look at her sister in the bed next to hers. She got no response so she tried again, calling out to her as loudly as she dared, but the older girl didn't stir, she was clearly deeply asleep.
Jane considered waking her, but she wasn't sure what she would say to her if she did. They were both worried about Jack, she had nothing new to add to that, and Dana would undoubtedly laugh at her fears over upsetting the priest. A plan came to her as she fretted, Father Frederick had said that he might be able to find out what had happened to Jack, if she went to visit him now she could make up for not doing so earlier and she would perhaps have some good news to tell Dana about their brother come the morning. The priest had told her that he often worked late into the night, that indeed he was often at his most productive then, and she just had to hope that this was one of those nights.
Slipping out of bed she put her shoes on, tying the laces extra tight to make up for the lack of stockings. She then pulled a scratchy sweater over her nightdress and crept out of the dorm, feeling her way along the wall in the semi darkness. She'd show Dana that she wasn't a chicken, that she was just as capable as the older girl. Her heart still thumped with the fear of getting caught though, and when she thought she heard hushed voices coming from the one of the stairwells above she almost turned back, but she kept her nerve and carried on.
She was going to do it, she was going to cheer Father Frederick up, she was going to find out what had happened to Jack, and for once it was going to be Jane who saved the day.
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