HOLLY - The loneliest girl in the world
Jayne Sharratt

'Jayne has created an original and wonderful children's story that is exciting yet wisful. A truly delightful novella for kids of all ages'. Sam North

Ist part of a ten part series - our first complete novel on-line
Chapter ONE

“Nicola! Nicola!”
Mrs Reynolds raised her voice to a pitch that rattled the china dancing figures in her neatly arranged display cabinet, but still her daughter did not respond.
“Come here please!”
There was a slamming sound, and stomping feet deliberately crashing onto each stair. Nicola Reynolds was thirteen, and was known as Nic to everyone except her mother and father. She was irritated by her parents almost as much as they were irritated by her.
Mrs Reynolds was stood in the window of the front room with her hands on her hips.
“Who is that?” She was looking out beyond the end of the front garden. There was a small figure, noticeable for red hair escaping from uneven pigtails, kicking a football against the low wall which separated the garden of the house from the pavement. She looked very scruffy.
“How on earth should I know?” Nic was exasperated. She had been sent upstairs to tidy her room, and no sooner had she put her music on at full volume had she been called down again.
“I thought maybe she was a friend of yours?”
“I don’t have any friends here. You made me come here, miles and miles away from anyone I know, in the middle of the summer so I can’t even go to school and meet anyone.”
Mrs. Reynolds ignored this and ploughed on in a determined way. “She must be from one of the nearby houses. Maybe she wants to make friends. She looks about your age. Why don’t you go out and talk to her?”
“She does not look anywhere near my age! Anyway, even if she is, that’s no reason I should be friends with her. If I met someone who’d been born in the Victorian age I wouldn’t make you be friends with them just because of you both being born at the same time.”
“Please Nicola!” There was a weary desperation to Mrs. Reynolds voice, but Nic was not about to give in and stood rooted to the spot. Her mother clamped a hand on her
shoulder, and before she knew what was happening she had been marched through the hall, the front door was opened and she was outside on the doorstep. “You’ve barely left the house since we moved here. It will be nice for you to play out,” she was told.
“I’m thirteen! I don’t play!” Nics dark eyes were burning with indignation, but the front door had already closed. She turned, stared at the girl at the end of her drive, sighed and made her way towards her.
It was a hot day, as all the days had been since Nic and her family had moved to the small village on the coast in Devon. Not one of those days had tempted Nic to look on her new home with anything resembling a smile. It was not strictly true to say she had not left the house. She had spent many hours in the back garden with only her mobile phone and discman for company, attempting to get a suntan. She had been severely hampered in this glamourous pursuit by her mother who insisted on pouring factor thirty sun cream over her, and her eight year old brother Sam who was always either using her as a target for his water pistol, or attempting to train their cat Jenny to leap over her.
Nic’s sunbathing had been brought to a dramatic end two days ago when Sam, attempting to launch the cat on the swing from the top of the climbing frame had caused a terrified and wildly scratching Jenny to land squarely on Nics middle. Leaping to her feet and screaming above the squalls of Jenny, Nic had wrestled her brother to the floor and emptied the contents of a flower pot over his face. She then ran inside, and had been driving her mother to distraction ever since.
Nic had not noticed many other children around the area, and she did not care. She was not shy, but she had made up her mind not to have any friends in this village so far away from the nearest cinema, McDonalds or shopping centre. As she was barely on speaking terms with her parents or her brother the only communication with other people she had had was through the emergency text messages she sent to her friends phones in London, telling them how horrible her new home was (Her father had banned her from using the house telephone after she had broadcast several of her favourite CD albums through the phone to her email friend Craig in Los Angeles last Christmas.) Nic was sure that when her mother and father saw how miserable she was they would be sorry for taking her away from her school and all her friends in London.
The girl did not raise her eyes from the ground and the football she was kicking at. On closer inspection Nic thought she was probably about ten, and not at all like any of her friends. Her hair was falling about her face, and her shorts and t-shirt were extremely grubby. Her bare arms and legs seemed covered in scratches and bruises, as though she had fallen out of a dozen trees. Nic had never met anyone who she could possibly imagine climbing a tree before.
Nic coughed loudly, but the strange girl’s concentration remained unbroken. She frowned.
“Ummm, is that my brothers football?”

The girl looked up. She looked uncertain, and perhaps a little scared. “I don’t know, I just found it. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to...”
“That’s all right, I don’t care.”
A sudden and surprising smile broke out on the girl’s face, and transformed it. Her nose was covered in freckles, and her eyes were green and gleaming. There was something infectious about the whole effect, and Nic felt herself warming despite herself.
“I know. I saw you and your brother moving in here and I hoped we’d be friends. There aren’t many people round here I can play with. I’m Holly Denver, and I’m twelve, what’s your name?”
Nic found herself replying, taken aback both by the girl’s direct approach and by how young she seemed for her age. Before long the two girls had left the football behind and were walking down the lane towards the village green.
“Have you always lived here?” Nic asked.
“No, only about six months. The people round here are so funny. They still hardly speak to Claudia when she goes into the village shop. I heard my dad say you have to have lived here hundreds of years before they think you belong here.”
“How can anyone live here hundreds of years?”
“Oh.” Holly looked confused for a moment. “I mean your family has to have been here forever,of course. They don’t trust strange people.”
“Who’s Claudia?” Nic liked to ask questions. It wasn’t nosiness, she just liked to have everything clear in her head.
Holly seemed ready enough to talk, confiding brightly. “ Claudia’s my Dad’s girlfriend. She’s Caspar’s mum, he’s my half-brother, but he’s only two, just a baby, so I can’t play with him much. Claudia’s a model, and my dad paints her sometimes. But mostly people just take photos of her in swimming costumes, for catalogues. She says it’s a good thing they do because Dad hasn’t been selling paintings so much recently, not since, since, well, Casper was born. People are really suspicious of us all round here. I heard Mrs Flyte in the Post Office say Claudia walks about the house and garden naked all the time. Of course she doesn’t. People are pretty funny, aren’t they?”
“She said that in front of you?” Nic was surprised, but grateful to take the opportunity to get a word in edge-ways when Holly paused to draw breath.
“Oh, well, people don’t always notice me. Sometimes I don’t want them to. It can be funny, you know, to find things out. I’m pretty small for my age.”
“Where does your mother live?”
“She died.”
“Oh, I’m sorry...” Nic was at a loss for words. She hated feeling awkward, but the younger girls smile did not vanish for long.

Holly shrugged. “I was a baby when that happened. My dad looked after me. Then he met Claudia.”
Nic looked at Holly curiously. She was surprised at how little emotion there seemed to be in her voice. Suddenly Holly jumped up and down on the spot excitedly. “I know, I know, lets buy ice cream from the shop. Then I can show you a secret place I found. No one knows...”
She was interrupted by a shout from the top of the lane. A boy on a bicycle was coasting down the hill towards them.
“Hey,” He shouted. “Nic! Wait for me!”
“Oh no,” Nic muttered.
“Hi Sam, I’m Holly,”
“How did you know...?” Brother and sister spoke almost as one.
“You told me you had a brother called Sam,” said Holly.
“Well, he’s not a brother, really. More of a fiend from hell,” Nic’s eyes narrowed dangerously, and Sam wheeled back half a metre for safety.
“ I like your bicycle,” said Holly. “I haven’t seen one like that before.”
Sam looked at Holly warily. He was used to his sister’s friends. They usually either avoided him as if he was contagious, or they played horrible tricks on him. Last year they had tied him up and tested out Princess Polly’s Makeup set on him. It had taken him hours to scrub off the blueberry blusher and plum shine lipstick. To his surprise he couldn’t see any trace of sarcasm in Holly, and made the decision to trust her. He started to tell her about his BMX, how he had wanted one with blue wheels, but father Christmas had brought him one with yellow wheels.
“I used to have a BMX,” Holly was a little wistful. “It got left out in the rain though, and they haven’t got me another.”
For a moment Sam had a funny feeling that Holly might cry. “You can ride my bike sometimes if you like,” he said impulsively.
“Amazing.” Nic was sarcastic. “It must be love. He screams and cries for mummy if I go near his precious bike, not that I’d want to...”
Sam went red. “Anyway, you have to come home now. Mum said you’re not to go far, because we’re going to have dinner soon. She says you’re not to have ice cream either, if you were going to the shop. I’ll tell if you do.”
Nic rolled her eyes. “That’s so typical. She sends me upstairs, then wants me downstairs. She throws me out the house, and then calls me straight back in.”
Sam shrugged. He began to wheel the bike back up the hill, but he stopped for a moment. “Bye Holly,” He said.
“I’d better go too,” said Nic. “I’m hungry you see, and I’ve no money for ice cream. I wouldn’t bother what anyone says otherwise.”
Holly just grinned. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

“Yeah, whatever,” said Nic, already following her brother. She was sure she hadn’t told Holly anything about her brother before Sam arrived, and yet Holly had greeted him as if she already knew him. ‘She must have been spying on us’ Nic thought. ‘She must have spied on the old lady in the post office too.’ She felt glad she had decided that she didn’t want friends in this horrible place. ‘The sooner I can convince mum and dad to move back home to London, the better,’ she thought. Still, she supposed there had been something very likable about Holly’s straightforward friendliness, and she couldn’t help wondering about the secret she had been about to tell when Sam arrived. Nic remembered what Holly had told her about her family. They sounded like just the kind of people Nic’s respectable parents might be nervous about. A plan began to form in her mind. She thought that maybe she would be glad to see Holly the next day after all.

© Jayne Sharrat 2001
email: jayneasharratt at

Chapter Two continues here

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