Deirdre stared at the ground; her eyes glistening with unshed tears. She was focussed on indentations pressed into the soft earth. There was a large square impression, as if something immensely heavy had stood there for a while, before being miraculously transported away. In front of this stark shape were the deep footprints of a man, muddled with her own awkward boot prints. She was standing and staring because, for the first time in two years she had little else to do. No alien invasions to confront, no robot assassins, not even sulking in a stinking prison cell to distract her. Two years, she considered wryly, a lifetime away from her home and all that it represented.
Gingerly she stepped into the square indentation. Stooped in the middle, stretched out, she could reach all four sides, an act that bought a sad smile. Patting the damp ground she whispered, “thank you old girl”, then slightly quieter “and thank you Doctor”.
As if reacting on cue Deirdre stood up abruptly and sucked in a deep breath. “Right Doctor,” she announced to no one in particular, “let’s hope you got the Tardis working properly this time, you old fraud.” With that she drew her faded shawl tightly around her shoulders and set off down the hill.
Nothing looked as if it had changed; the hulking shapes of the cattle were solid and familiar, while the village, twinkling in the twilight, still seemed a distant haven from the squat, ugly farmhouse that had been Deirdre’s home for all but the previous two years. If the Doctor had managed to get the Tardis functioning correctly nothing would have changed. Instead of being two years later, the time ship should have returned her a mere two hours after she departed.
“Deeeeiiirdre, dopy Deeeeeiiiirdre…” the slurred taunt hung in the evening air, “Dopy, Deeeeeeiiirdre.” Something else hadn’t changed either. Killian, her father’s farmhand and partner in crime lurched out of the shadows. His pasty white skin blotched with red spots, his breath acidic from an evening at the pub.
“Ooooo Deirdre,” he cooed, “You’re in so much trouble my girl, sooooooo much trouble. You’ve not done your chores and your Pa is home.” He shook his head, leering at her through unfocussed eyes. “Been off chasing yer fairies again have ye? Making your Pa sooooooo angry.”
The drunken scarecrow of a man grinned. Reaching out a clawed hand he dragged rough skin down her soft, flushed cheek. “But, p’raps,” he threatened, “I could have a word with him. Smoooooth things over for you, if you will.” A lecherous grin flashed across his angular face. “Well, if you ‘will’.” Killian took great delight in adding an obscene undertone to the word ‘will’.
A fear and loathing two years old snarled deep inside. But this wasn’t the terrified Deirdre from those years before, nor Killian’s easy victim of two hours ago. This girl had looked into the heart of a black hole. She quashed the twisting fear inside, smiling at her tormenter. Taking hold of his skeletal arm she pressed her nails deep into his flesh. “Killian,” she said strongly, hiding the tremor in her voice, “you are my father’s farm hand, you are staff, you will unhand me now or you will suffer the consequences.”
A pained expression filled his eyes; part fear, part anger and part bewilderment. He stared into the young woman’s face for a lifetime and backed away. He whispered, unsure of himself, “you’ll regret that my girl…” but all the venom had drained away.
“That’s as maybe,” she replied, “but I wouldn’t bet on it.” Turning on her heel she strode off towards home, wrestling with the beast inside.
Shortly the young adventurer stepped back into the sights, smells and sounds of her mother’s kitchen and was instantly aware of the ‘atmosphere’. Her mother, Saoirse, was stood silently shaking at the range, her eyes puffy and raw from recently shed tears. Meanwhile her father was hunched over, cleaning his boots, all blackness and thunder. At the sound of the door his dark eyes bored into her.
“Where have you been?” his snarl morphed by the whiskey, “as if I couldn’t guess. Chasing yer fairies instead of helping your mother around the house. Useless, daydreaming, waste of space. Well did you find ‘em? Did you find ‘the little people?” He forged the phrase into an insult, dripping with sarcasm.
She focussed her green eyes on him, keeping calm in deference to the raging beast inside. “No father. Sorry father,” she intoned, “but you’d never believe what I have seen, where I have been…”
Leaping to his feet he cut her short with a guttural snarl. The red headed farmer stalked towards his daughter swinging a hobnailed boot menacingly. “Don’t you cheek me girl! Cheek me and…” he left the threat hanging. In reply Deirdre wrapped her shaking fingers around the stocky handle of a skillet and raised it in front of her. Meeting her fathers stare with a steely gaze she questioned him, “And what, father?”