It happened again. Star awoke and emerging from the haze she saw a giant spider. Its abdomen as big as a softball, long black legs. Watching her. The panic rose from her feet and head colliding at her heart. She tried to move, nothing. Her body paralysed with terror, her heart beat throbbing, fast. The spider moved, slowly and deliberately as if aware she had seen it. She watched, horrified, unable to even turn her head as it slid out of sight. Star’s body awoke with a jolt and she sprang out of bed running to switch on the light. Violently tearing the sheet and blanket off the bed it began to dawn on her that the spider was not real. This was the 5th time she had seen a spider, but this was the biggest. Yesterday she was telling one of the secretaries about it. “It’s just because you’re tired, I’ve had that happen.” Susan said. Five times though? This was getting too much. Tomorrow at work she would be wiped, eyes blackened from another night of broken sleep. The past two weeks of terrifying spider encounters had set her nerves on end, she began to snap and cry at the drop of a hat. Was she having anxiety attacks? Star had experienced anxiety before but not like this,not in her sleep. Sleep was the sweet relief at the end of a hard day teaching. The time was 5.45am and that number filled her with dread as she pulled the blankets over her body and double checked her alarm. Can’t be late. Outside the winter was bitter and dark. As she pressed her head into her pillow she felt sleep close, her body tingled.
The alarm woke her gently with pan pipes and birds softly chirping. Slowly Star opened her eyes but they burned so she hit snooze and closed them again. Five minutes in heaven is better than one minute in heaven she thought smiling.
Pan pipes, birds. Just put both feet on the floor and move forward. Sound advice from her mother but this morning it was hard, her body felt heavy. She made it to the shower but she couldn’t stand, she sat on the shower floor and prayed. It had been a while since she prayed, but she was desperate. Please God she muttered as the hot water showered her head engulfing her. She imagined the water healing her and all her bad feelings washing down the drain. Black clouds of fear and anxiety circled the drain and as it disappeared down the back hole she felt guilty. Was she simply sending it on to someone else? To the ocean creatures? Suddenly she saw herself, full of anxiety trying to get rid of it. Keep moving Star.
She dragged on any clothes that didn’t need ironing and strangely enough they matched, well almost. A little eccentric but that was ok, music teachers could look a little weird. With a piece of toast in her mouth and her coffee in hand she bustled out the front door. As she turned she saw something flash across the hall. Her heart leapt into her throat and she quickly dragged the door shut. No way was she going back in there stupidly like so many horror movie victims. She ran up the stairs and through the iron fence. Edinburgh was awake and bustling. As the cold air hit her lungs she choked on her toast. Grabbing the cold iron fence she coughed and spluttered being careful not drop her precious coffee.
“You awright hen?” came a Irishmans voice from behind her. She pointed to her back and he obliged hitting her solidly between the shoulders. She spluttered and drank some coffee which burned her tongue. He started to laugh, her still wheezing. His eyes were blue, crystal blue and his hair dark brown.
“Thanks” she said.
“Ach never mind ah go ’round savin’ people awe day.” Star cleared her throat for the last time and smiled. “Well, my job is done here, I’ll be off” As she watched him leave it dawned on her that his accent was Belfast. Such a distinctive twang with drawling elongated vowels. She let him round the corner before she started to follow him. Not “follow” him, he happened to be walking the same way she had to.
As she rounded the corner he was gone. He must live close by she thought. The cobblestone roads were wet, the sky was blue and the sun shining. Star wished the clouds and rain would come back to take the edge off the bitter air. She chastised herself and vowed silently to stop complaining. Edinburgh was cloaked in a fine mist, the beautiful thin townhouses stacked up against each other. As she became present to her surroundings she felt a calm wash over her and took a deep breath of the icy air warming it through her nose. She nearly forgot she had seen someone in her house. Star hated using her mobile phone but this was an emergency.
“Hi darling.” Danika’s voice was sleepy.
“Sorry, I’ve woken you!”
“Yeh, thats ok babe, whats up?”
“Spider again,” she began “big one this time. Then I think I saw someone in my house.” She realised that what she saw was impossible as it seemed to come through the wall and dart into her bedroom.
“It looked like a shadow”
“Its probably just stress babe but if you like I can meet you after work and come over.”
“That would be good.” Star felt relieved. It had been two weeks since she had seen her friend and she needed a night of tea and comfort.
Star’s pace picked up as she realised she was running late for the train.
“Ok see you later baby” said Danika.
“Love you, bye.”
The train station smelt of oil and smoke. A grey man stood with a sign. As she got closer she read “Turn to God”. For a moment she caught his eye, his eyes were deep and dark. She quickly looked up toward the oncoming train. On the train she appeared to be in hyper colour with most people donning the traditional grey/black work attire. Star felt a twinge of self consciousness and quickly moved to empty seat. The seat faced backwards, she couldn’t sit backwards on a train, she had to see where she was going. She wrestled with moving to the opposite and decided if she made the move quickly nobody would really notice and wonder at her strange behaviour. As she settled she rummaged through her bag for her earphones to distract herself from the potential stares of the other passengers. Star had been observed her whole life. She had begun singing at a young age participating in musicals, concerts and singing at weddings with her mother. Her four older sisters thought she was the cutest singing doll they owned making her perform on the kitchen table on occasion. She moved to Scotland so as to relieve herself from the pressure of being talented and peoples expectations. Away from all that she hoped she could be herself, find herself away from prying eyes but it seemed people wouldn’t stop staring. She hit play and Jim Morrison started to croon “Be-fore-you-slip-into–un-con-ciousness” she closed her eyes and felt rumble of the train beneath her.As the train came to a halt she saw him getting up in the next carriage. The Irish boy who stopped her choking to death. She felt suddenly nervous, what would she say? Make a joke? As she stepped off the train he was walking away. She decided to stay her distance to prevent any more awkwardness. He was walking the same way she was! As she rounded the corner she saw him entering the school gate. Oh fantastic probably the new IT teacher, now he’d have a great story to tell the boys. Prince charming saved the weird lassie. He did look like a prince. Tall, strong jaw, black hair and piercing blue eyes. Not a real in bred royal, but a disney prince, handsome with kind eyes. The school was drenched scrambling for the heater remote in her small office. The music office was always full of stuff. Instruments to be serviced sat in large black cases and her desk was overflowing with newsletters, music and receipts. She noticed package on her desk and quickly opened the small pink envelope. “Happy Birthday Frank from Harry.” Star felt sadness well up inside her. It was from her oldest youngest sister who playfully used the spy aliases from childhood. She took a deep breath to contain her emotion and hurried off to the morning meeting.
The staff room was noisier than usual as the teachers settled into their favourite tables. The sound of conversations intertwining Star decided to take a seat on the edge next to the arts department women. They were sweet women, caring and creative. Des motioned form to sit next to her. As a hush came over the staff