Every morning on her walk to school, Millicent Mewdle would peek over high fences and peer into private gardens. Often, and always without warning, she would press her face against Mrs Johnson’s front window just for the fun of giving her a fright. Her eyes would twinkle wicked as she ran away laughing. At school she would roll her eyes with disdain as her teacher ordered the class to take their seats.
If another child irritated her, as so many of them did, she would stare with deathly defiance at the offending face until the quivering child had little choice but to look away or face uncertain consequences.
Should the canteen serve up a distasteful dish, Millicent would screw her eyes small as pinheads, forcing even the most stoic dinner lady shiver. Her notoriously nasty gaze was indiscriminate and could be turned on any subject at any time.
Just this morning she had shot a cautionary glance at a swooping blackbird. The feathered pest rushed by so closely it had made her sticky black hair twitch and her temper flare. So, she was surprised to see the same bird waiting at the playground gatepost as she made her way home at the end of the school day.
She was surprised at how it followed her as she flicked a devilish look at the Mummy’s and Daddy’s happily waiting to collect the happy children funnelling out from the classrooms. Nobody ever waited for Millicent.
She continued her trail home alone, or so she thought until she noticed the same nuisance blackbird shadowing her as she turned the corner into Stanford Street. She tried to lose it with a sidestep into the alleyway on Barton Lane , and again when she ducked under the bike shed on the far side of the Holton Estate. But as she stepped out onto the open scrubland of Gallows View the blackbird reappeared. The hairs on her neck prickled but she shook off the sensation as she quickened her step. It was the first time she had ever felt eager to reach home.
The blackbird squawked and wailed overhead, following her more determinedly than ever. Millicent picked up her pace and started to run. As she reached the path at the bottom of the scrubland she noticed that the sound of the bird had quietened, overtaken by the rasping of her breath which was now heavy in her chest. She paused, confused. The air was damp and still.
She narrowed her eyes and glared at the putty coloured sky above her. She searched and searched but could no longer see the blackbird. Just then, she heard a rustling in the tree over her left shoulder, it’s tentacle-like branches swaying in eerie anticipation.
Millicent opened her beady eyes wider than ever as she saw the blackbird whoosh out from its hidden spot on the highest branch. Quicker than a blink, the blackbird pecked out her eyeballs and Millicent Mewdle never stared her menacing stare again.
by Vanessa Matthews