Image by Pixabay

“Ruby, come ‘ere would you, I need your help!” she called to me. Rolling out of bed, I padded into the next room where my sister Moon sat in the middle of the floor, surrounded by her graffitiesque artwork. I tried to stretch my short legs over the papers to reach the centre where she had already made a space for me to sit.

She held up a painting carefully, the colours still shining and new in the sunlight.

“There’s something wrong with it,” she said. Her voice was low and her eyes glazed as she stared at the piece. “It’s the signature,” she said thoughtfully.

“What’s wrong with your signature?” I replied sleepily, my blonde curls still stuck to my face.

“It says nothing about me, that’s what’s wrong,” she replied haughtily, as though I should have known this simple fact. “Help me come up with a new one?” she asked excitedly, her blue eyes glistening with hope. I loved that about her, her excitement was infectious. We took two separate pieces of paper and started doodling. They were mainly scribbles, nothing more than my twelve year old self had the capacity for, even then. In silence I watched as she bent over her paper, her tongue poking from the corner of her mouth. She really loved art.

Moon glanced at my paper half-heartedly when her body froze. Her pencil dropped to the floor and she slowly reached for my paper, her eyes never leaving my doodles. I wondered briefly what she was looking at but I was too entranced by her movements to look down at my work. There has always been something captivating in Moon’s movements, they can be both graceful as a cat, and violent as a hurricane, depending on her mood.

She held my sheet up to the light so I could see. There was a large crescent moon with the name “Moon” written in my rough calligraphic slant protruding from the centre.

“That’s it beautiful. You found it,” she murmured reverently. A warmth filled my entire body as her compliment washed over me. Moon was only a year older than me, but her praise felt like a blessing from God, special and something to treasure always. My normally small mouth stretched across my face in a large Cheshire cat grin.

I never forgot that moment, and now that she’s gone, I would give anything to go back to it. To have hugged her and told her I loved her no matter what.

~

Crawling out of my bed, I need to get to college. It’s been six months now since Moon ran away and my heart still aches in the crescent shaped hole that she left there. Wandering down our creaky staircase, Mum and Dad’s whispers reach my senses. Plonking down just outside the kitchen door, their whispers start to form words in my ears.

“…it’s all my fault,” my Mum’s brittle tones ring out.

“It’s not your fault, it’s just who she is. She hated that college and everyone in it. She hated living here. You know that,” my dad replied quietly.

“But maybe if I’d seen how bad things were for her, maybe we could’ve gotten her some help. Now we might never see our baby again,” Mum choked out.

“She’s hardly a baby anymore Lou, she’s eighteen and legally allowed to leave home. Moon is made of tough stuff and we’ll see her again. She’ll be okay, I know she will,” my father replied. “We still have a child to take care of and we can’t break down. For Ruby’s sake,” he continued.

I left the house with a slam of the door so they knew I’d heard them. Anger swept me up in a forceful wave and my Doctor Marten boots smashed solidly into the gravel driveway. Why has Dad given up on her so easily? If they won’t look for her anymore then I will. My thoughts comforted me. I know she’s out there, I’ll find her if it’s the last thing I do.

College is much the same as any other day. I check in and I sit with my group of bland friends. I want to be a screenwriter one day so I’m doing a course on Creative Media. Moon always asked me if she could be in my movies, she always had a flair for the dramatic. Everything about Moon was dramatic, from her bright pink hair to her extreme mood swings. If all my characters were like her, my audience would never stop watching. But in truth, no one could portray her, there’s no way anyone could capture the sheer magnetism she possessed. She made friends easily because people were drawn to her, but just as quickly she would lose them. They loved her for her truthfulness, until it was about them. They loved her for her charm, until it made them look dull. She lived in her own world of colour and paint, everything else was meaningless to her. Nobody liked that, they craved her praise and attention, but she couldn’t give it to them. Except for me. She always said I was hers. I love that in the messy tangle of her mind, she knew for certain that I was important to her, and that never changed, no matter what.

~

When I got home, the house was deadly quiet. My keys rattled in my hand, they were attached to a large collection of keyrings, things my mum and Moon picked up for me wherever they went. My favourite was one that Moon gave to me when I was eight. We were in Burley, in the middle of the New Forest. The village was surrounded in myth about the occult and witches. Moon disappeared into a quirky little shop with a black sign that read “Coven of Witches”, all very wacky in my opinion, but Mum loved occult things. She once said “I love the mystery behind it,” and secretly I always thought Moon was a product of that, a mystery that couldn’t be solved. My sister snuck up behind me, making me squeal in the process. She grabbed my hand and put a small metallic object inside it. When I looked down, there was a keyring of a pearlescent crescent moon. Inside the crescent hung a small ruby droplet. It probably wasn’t a real ruby, but it was beautiful all the same. “It’s something for you to remember me by, just in case…” Moon whispered into my ear secretively. She giggled, as though it were gossip not a cryptic statement. I laughed with her, of course nothing would ever happen to her. Now I think back on it, maybe she was warning me…or preparing me.

I continued into the house still wrapped in my thoughts when my feet crunched on something papery. A large brown envelope was on the floor, it must’ve been pushed through the letter box after Mum left for work. Normally I would’ve left it on the floor for my parents to take care of later, but something about it caught my eye. It was the swirly writing in black ink addressed to me. Recognition hit, wavy and bold, it was just like its owner. Grabbing for the envelope, my blonde curls tangled round my throat, I thought my heart was going to jump out of its crevice. Tearing it open, I pulled out a photograph. It was an image of graffiti on a white brick wall.

A large face, neck and shoulders loomed out of the photo, a mixture of grey shades against a white brick backdrop. The girl’s face was beautiful, her eyes a light blue, not electric blue like Moon’s, a lighter, clearer version. White tears rolled down her cheeks. I’d know those eyes anywhere, even if the face was different. I see them in the mirror every single day.

Around the girl’s neck hung a black chain. From the chain dangled a white crescent moon with a blood red droplet suspended from its point. It was my key chain.

At the bottom of the image was a smaller crescent moon with the word “Moon” scrawled within it. It was our signature and my heart stopped.

London, Clapham. 2017” was scribbled on the back. The words felt like daggers to my soul. Wherever she was, it wasn’t with me.

London? I wondered. Does she want me to find her? The words circled my mind over and over. I picked up my phone and called Mum, she’d know what to do.

“Mum, it’s me. Moon sent us a picture,” my words no more than a whisper.

“What do you mean?” excitement rose in her soft voice.

“I’ve just come in from college and there was an envelope on the floor. Inside is a picture of graffiti signed by her. It’s her art. I know it is, and it’s her handwriting. On the back it says ‘London, Clapham’. We have to go and find her!” My voice was starting to turn manic. Calm yourself Ruby, you’ll find her.

“I’m coming home now. See you in half an hour,” Mum replied, excitement shaking her voice.

That half hour felt longer than a lifetime. The picture didn’t leave my sight. I gazed and gazed until the lines blurred together, ingraining themselves in my mind. My knee bounced impatiently and my chest ached.

What if other people have seen the art? The idea flitted across my mind. I typed “Moon graffiti” into my phone, hopeful that more pictures floated about.

Suddenly I was overwhelmed with images. Article after article popped up on the little screen. One article read “Who is this graffiti artist? They evade security again as they colour in the best protected buildings around the world!” Another article read “May we all have a little Moon inside us as we fight against those that try to oppress us!” beneath it a large photo of the White House. On the white pillars were grey outlines of women in dresses, all slightly different in figure. Each one hung from a blood red noose.

They were simpler than the face in the picture I had, but just as bold. Below each of the female spectres was a crescent signed with her name. It was Moon undoubtedly. The piece was new, the article was only a few hours old, but other images on the search feed glared out.

Another headline pulled me in, “St Peter’s Square desecrated by brutal graffiti artist”. The image below it depicted a white square, bright and startling, walls surrounded it. People milled about, staring at a large piece of art that now lay waste to the beautiful marble floor. It was of a person’s face, half male, half female. Split down the middle and differentiated by bright makeup. A dark hand held a black gun to the face’s temple while a simple rosary hung from the barrel. The opposite side of the face, rainbow coloured gore flew out. Among the colourful blood were symbols depicting genders and homosexuality. Circles and crosses all overlapping in one chaotic explosion. Below the image was her signature, it took my breath away. 

Scrolling further, I found an image of some cracked old steps leading up to an old, stained palace. Black skeletons were sprayed onto them. From the angle of the photo, it looked as though they were lying upon them, all in their dying poses. The headline read: “Stairway to Pretoria Union Buildings, littered with skeletons”.  Her signature lay at the foot of the stairs.

America! Rome! Africa! What the hell is she playing at? If anyone knew it was her, she could get seriously hurt.

~

I rarely went online so it was no surprise that I had missed all of the online conversation about it. People here, there and everywhere were looking for her. Most supported her work, but some wanted her dead, threatening her with evil, cruel remarks. When I saw those, tears forced themselves down my cheeks, soldiers marching down my face. Hurting Moon was unthinkable.

Scrolling past those quickly, I noticed people from all round the globe were posting pictures of her work. Some I could tell weren’t hers. Likely some artists trying to feed off her fame, much like when she was here I suppose. But I have been staring at my sister’s paintings from her first, I know the motions she uses, the intricacy of her lines, the way she smudges shades with her bare fingers. And most of all, I know that her signature is always perfect, not a curve out of place. Others would think it was a stencil, but I knew different.

After I created it she spent three whole days copying it, over and over and over, on every surface she could until it was so far ingrained into her brain, she could draw it perfectly in her sleep. She copied it until her fingers were bruised, then kept copying, that was the kind of person she was.

Mum walked in through the front door and came straight over to me. “Let me see the photo Ruby,” she demanded. I handed the picture to her hesitantly.

“Mum there’s more. Much, much more.” I said timidly. She looked at me, her eyes wide, waiting for me to speak. No words could describe adequately, so I showed her my phone and the search results.

Her pretty blue eyes glued to the screen. Her fingers scrolled down continuously, clicking on different pages here and there at another scandalous headline. Suddenly, the phone dropped from her fingers like air through a sift. Her face went pale as though life had fled her and she collapsed on the comfy green sofa behind us.

“Mum, are you okay?” I asked hesitantly before sitting down beside her.

“I’m okay my little jewel.” She replied softly before taking my hand. For a few moments we sat in silence. I picked up my phone and scrolled through the countless images of my sister’s paintings. They were everywhere, all round the globe. Turkey, China, Spain, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Switzerland, Germany, London, Russia. The locations flashed before my eyes. “How did she get to all of these places?” I murmured.

“You know Moon, she probably made some friends that helped her along the way,” Mum replied sombrely.

We said no more, but late into the night I sat listening as my Mum’s tears soaked Dad’s chest. They voiced everything I felt.

What if she gets hurt? What if she does something stupid like hurt herself? What if the police catch her? What if anyone were to find out we knew who she was? What if someone else catches her and hurts her? What if…what if…what if…what if…what if.

My head fell into my hands as the questions circled around my mind over and over, until finally I passed out on the stairs.

~

In the last two weeks no one has spoken about the pictures. Nor did I tell anyone else. Every single day I checked the internet for pictures and news about her whereabouts. Every day I found another haunting image staring at me through the phone. They screamed, ‘SHE’S NEVER COMING BACK!’

The door swung open and I found another brown envelope lying on the floor. Clambering for it, I pulled out another image. This time it was the image of an ornate bird cage. Inside the metallic bars a full moon hovered, white and bright against black brick. Behind the cage, a grey cliff rose up with the silhouette of a silver wolf perched upon it. The titanium creature howled down towards the moon, almost falling over the cliff edge.

The photo slipped from my shaking hands.

Understanding sunk like a stone in my stomach. She was the moon and the wolf was the freedom she could never reach whilst she was stuck here. Social expectation might not be as pretty as the ornate cage but it did the same job. I have to let her go.

When Mum got home, I showed her the photo, the sadness nothing more than a dull ache in my chest. She sighed softly and closed her eyes, for a moment it seemed as though she were praying. Suddenly her mouth pursed and she whispered, “She has a wild heart, and you should never try to tame a wild thing. No matter how much we miss her, she’s living in her world now.” Her eyes opened and she wrapped her warm arms around me.

~

Every few months, a new photo arrives. I’m sure Moon is just telling us she’s safe and that she hasn’t forgotten me. And that is enough.

For now, it is enough.

 

Lauren Noding

Lauren Noding

Lauren Victoria Noding was born and raised in London, but spent eight years living in the coastal county of Dorset. She has been a carer for most of her life, helping her mother with a debilitating mental illness. She has written for two online magazines, ‘The Jupital Newspaper’ and ‘Writing Times’. Meanwhile, she runs her own blog ‘A Writers Desires’ to share her love of YA/Fantasy literature. Now working in book publicity, she relishes sharing great novels with the world. Lauren can often be found making dreamcatchers, writing her first fantasy novel and cuddling her pet corn-snake, aptly named Salazar Slytherin.

Twitter LinkedIn