I stare bleakly out the window as the rolling green hills of the countryside begin the fade away and blink as we’re greeted with misty buildings and street lights, car sirens and blaring lights for houses that seemed to touch the sky. Flats stood neatly in lines and cold people rubbing gloved hands together and bearing thick coats littered the cracked pavement streets. The darkness of night was masked by the activity. It was like the beautiful white stars dotted in the blackness were simply overlooked, and were replaced by the bustling and pushing of the streets. Replaced by cold people slipping on ice and keeping their heads down, on their way home to a warm fire.
I looked around for trees, feeling dismayed when the only one I could find had a small fence around it, caging it. Back home the fine firrs were delicately decorated with crystal like icicles and spider webs patterned with frozen dew. Thick snow would form ankle deep, or sort of knee deep for me, all over the village. I’d be hearing the quiet grunts of the man sweeping snow to deliver food to our doorstep. But now my ears were deafened by traffic. It was all so bright; I’d never seen a place like this before. I zipped up my jacket, sticking my hands firmly in the pockets and starting to wish I’d brought gloves. My leg was curled around my rucksack like it’d stay there forever. My mother Harriet deeply exhaled seeing we’d be in traffic for a little while longer. Her icy breath billows out in front of her in a visible cloud. She momentarily dropped her hands from the weal and rubbed her hands together before turning back to look at me.
“How’re you finding London so far then?” she asked me with faked excitement. “I heard Christmas is big over here” she added, noticing my lack of enthusiasm. I made the effort to shrug my shoulders, removing one hand from my pocket to grasp my rucksack tightly. “It’s loud” I complained quietly, my voice barely audible above the screeching of the occasion siren and the angry people cursing at each other to drive faster. “And cold”
She faked a wide smile, her face lit up with reds, yellows and shades of blue. The colours of cars and loud flashing billboards advertising useless tatt nobody would ever truly need. “It’s cold everywhere darling because it’s nearly November” she reminded me. “And I know, I do emphasize about your ears but the doctor said they always adjust”
Oh yeah. I forgot to mention I have a rare condition with my ears. It’s so rare they don’t even have a name for it yet, not to brag. It means I can hear far more than the average person. I can hear tiny whispers and the tapping of raindrops houses away. I can hear the almost silent sound of paw steps padding on carpet and I can hear into the muffled people’s angry conversations. I can know more than someone would think about a person before they open their moth. I always know what they’re saying when they whisper in someone’s ear, a worried expression plastered on their faces when their eyes run over me, almost pitiful. I can listen into the kids at the back of the class, their secrets. I can do it all. If I want. I’m not more advanced it’s just the rest are less. It’s not amazing, not spectacular; it’s not something people should envy. It’s just normal. For me anyway.
I’m just new to all these sounds. So many, all attacking me at once. I’d get used to them I suppose. After all I have the time; I’m staying in this place until Christmas. With my uncle John and his friend, he calls him. But there’s a way his brown eyes gleam and how his voice gets softer and I know it’s not just a friend. Someone important is how he views him. I don’t blame him. I’ve never met him before. Sherlock Holmes. I like how the name sounds on my tongue. It’s unusual. But from what I’ve heard it’s usually a girl’s name.
I’m supposed to stay with them in their apartment for a while, until Mum gets back from her job abroad. Which she says might be after Christmas. I love Christmas at home. Fairy lights pattern the quiet streets, illuminating the snow pastel pinks and blues and yellows and greens, and we leave small delicate ice carved symbols and patterns around the great fir trees. I’ve only met John once. I remember before he went to war. He was short, I remember, and his voice was quiet, if a little shaky. It sounded like it was full of fear, but a desire for it, like he was impatient to seek it out. I sigh. It’s not like I wanted to come here, but I had no choice. I’d miss school. But at least I didn’t have to be in education until Mum came back for me.
She cursed as the car slipped on ice and I tightly gripped my bag, my knuckles going white and squeezed my eyes shut. The car juddered to a halt all of a sudden and I dared to open my eyes. A man had stopped our car…somehow. He was tall, looming above me. He looked…interesting. I tried to block out my mother’s words of hurried thanks and apologies at the same time, which was a challenge, and focused on his face. All my senses are slightly heightened but it’s mostly my ears. My eyes flicker over him. His eyes are interesting if a little confusing. A soft stormy green mostly, yet with sharp flecks of gold and outlined in brown. He had pale skin and a dark mass of curly hair. His face was complemented with high cheek bones and he wore a black jacket with a turned up collar. He gave them a small smile. I blinked at him.
He interested me somewhat. I recognized a certain look on him I hadn’t seen in many people. His voice was deep and sudden. “Hello” he greeted us. Mum looked quite shocked but quickly recollected herself, hurrying to get out of the car and trying to at the same time not slip on the black ice which lay waiting for us on the road. I swallowed and grabbed my rucksack tightly, carrying it outside with me. It was even colder out of the car.
“Sherlock?” a man I recognized as John came hurrying out. He was still short, only a little taller than I was and I was only thirteen. He had short dirty blondeish hair and was wearing a thick green coat and black gloves. He himself was also pale but that might have been added by the falling snow. He brushed snowflakes out of his hair and looked up at the man who stopped our car. So he was Sherlock. Cool. “Mm?” Sherlock looked around at him, watching him let out a shaky breath. “Don’t just run in front of cars!” he whined, his brown eyes looking concerned. Sherlock brushed snow off his shoulders. “I’m fine, go back inside” he replied steadily. He sighed and brushed the snow off his shoes before heading back in.
“This way” he invited them, his hands neatly folded behind his back. “Let’s get out of the snow. He turned around on one foot and shuffled his shoes on the mat outside and opened the door after they’d done the same. I removed my bag from under my shirt and looked around. We were in a hallway. It was then I felt the warmth rush to me and I let out a small sigh of pleasure.
“Oh dear don’t leave the door open” I heard a woman’s voice from a few apartments up. “Who’s that?” I asked. Sherlock gave me a strange look. “What?” he asked, narrowing his eyes. “I said don’t leave the door open!” the woman repeated, now audible to the others. Sherlock hissed in surprise and quickly slammed the door shut, probably louder than he intended. A middle aged small woman came hurrying down the stairs with a cup of tea in one hand and other holding up her dress so she wouldn’t fall.
“Sorry Mrs Hudson” Sherlock apologized. The woman shook her head with a kindly smile and led them upstairs. They followed, trailing mud and snowflakes. “You must stop worrying John dear” she coaxed him as they opened the door to the apartment. If Sherlock heard he pretended not to and just walked in. I sighed in wonder as I gazed around their apartment. It was large for a start although seemed a little cramped with all the miscellaneous stuff strewn about everywhere. There were in the dozens of crates of books in piles or just scattered over the table and floor.
I was going to say something but then decided against it. “Harry!” John sat up from a comfortable looking chair and hugged my mother tightly. She hugged back and they smiled at each other when they drew apart. “Good to see you” she replied warmly. Everyone picked their way in and out of mounds of books to sit down while Mrs Hudson put the kettle on. I saw John whisper in Mums ear if I could talk. She made eye contact with me and nodded. “Yes I can talk” I said quietly, making him jump. His expression was a little confused but he left it.
“So, who is this?” asked Sherlock gently, gazing directly at me. It didn’t look away as our eyes locked. I still held on tightly to my bag. All eyes were on me now. I swallowed as Mrs Hudson served everyone tea. I noted Johns had no sugar. I pick up stuff like this. I shuffled my feet. “I’m Peter, John’s nephew” I replied. Sherlock raised his eyebrows. “Ohhh so you’re him, well, welcome” he said kindly. I gave him a small smile and nodded. I wondered if I should say hello to John, feeling a little awkward. “Where’s Mary and little Emma?” asked Mum, sipping at her tea. Warm steam rose from the cup.
John coughed and Sherlock narrowed his eyes and turned away from me, spiking in irritation. “She’s working. Far away. And she took our daughter with her” John explained sadly. He looked down, not meeting anyone’s eyes and Sherlock glared at her defensively. I made a mental note to mention them. “Anyway, can’t stay long, traffic, you know how it is” Mum kissed my forehead and slipped on her coat. “Thanks for tea, now I must be off. Take care Peter” she said softly. I blinked at her sadly. “Bye” I muttered. And she was gone. I saw from the corner of my eye John looking sympathetic. There was a moment’s silence where I didn’t know what to say. Then I just decided to say what I was thinking. “Can I record a program?” I asked. “Hmm?” Jhon asked, turning round. I saw the corners of Sherlock’s mouth poke up slightly. He’d got it. “The sound of snow falling is quieter on the left side of the house which would mean snow is piling up. It’d have to pile up on something, which would be satellite dish which is normally on the left side of the house. Your type of TV can use either Sky or Virgin media. You don’t need the dish to use Virgin but you do for Sky and I know how to use Sky so can I record a program” I didn’t even really need to record it, I just wanted to see what they’d make of me.
“Blimey” I heard Mrs Hudson comment from the kitchen. Sherlock gave me an impressed look. “Oh great we have another Sherlock Holmes in the house” John joked, throwing his hands up in the air. “I just hear things” I murmured, looking away. “Quite. Well shall I show you where you’ll be sleeping” asked Sherlock. Except he didn’t ask. I could tell. I shrugged and followed him. He lead me to a small room with a large window in the centre of the opposite wall, which was beige whilst the others were dark green and had a faint outline of white.
My eyes travelled to the window. Snow lay on the window sill outside and I had a good view of the streets. There weren’t as many people now, just black cabs leaving tire marks in the snow covered road. By now the snowflakes were beginning to thin out and be replaced by rain. I sighed. I preferred snow. Soon it would go from being that magical thing to an underrated slush. That was cool though. All good things must end. Otherwise they wouldn’t be…special-appreciated.
There was a mattress laid out, and a thin sheet. I bit the inside of my mouth while I contemplated this. I’d be cold but I brought warm clothes so maybe that’d balance out. It also didn’t appear to be particularly comfortable, but I’d manage, I appreciated the effort at least. My ears pricked. John was righting. His hands were smaller, as were his fingers, so as the fingers had to go down to the keys faster they were louder. I knew every combination of letters. I knew what they sounded like. Easily recognizable. I still didn’t let go of my bag.
“Why is John righting about you?” I asked quietly, my eyes still fixed on the window. My breath steamed up on the glass and if Sherlock wasn’t right behind me I would have drawn something. I didn’t need to turn around. I heard Sherlock tilt his head. “What’s he righting right now?” he asked, his deep voice heavy with curiously. “He just wrote the word plane and then how you got off it” I said, listening to his fingers tap tap tapping at each key. Each key had its place and each and every key made a different sound. Every word had a different speed.
“Do you want to have a look, you can leave your bag” he invited. I let my fingers run over the glass window and tore my head away, reluctantly leaving my bag. John was sat at the table busily typing away. I noted the way he sat upright. The was his spine was. I’d only seen soldiers with a spine that worked that way. Was he a soldier? His legs were crossed tightly and his eyes never left the screen. Like they’d been trained that way. It was kind of a long shot but- “Where did you fight, John” I asked. The two men both looked up at me in surprise. John let out a groan and then continued to right. I thought he wouldn’t respond but after a few seconds of deafening silence he muttered “Afghanistan”
I wondered over to him, looking over his shoulder at what he was righting. All the small neat print weaved together to create an indecipherable blur of black. I blinked hard and the words and watched them slowly dance along the page into focus.