ORIGINAL FICTION - Number Two in a series of ten
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


Next day, Nic waited all morning for Holly to arrive. She sat on the garden wall while Sam circled around the road on his bike endlessly.
“Can’t you go away? Do you have to haunt my every moment.?”
Sam ignored his sisters question. “If you’re going to go off and play with Holly you have to take me with you. Mum said so. She said she doesn’t want you going off on your own without me.”
“I won’t be on my own if I’m with Holly, will I? Anyway, why would I wait around for Holly?” Nic turned on her discman, and the two remained in the lane, purposefully ignoring each other.
Lunch time came and Mrs. Reynolds called Sam and Nic inside. She was a teacher, but she had to find a new job at a school in the area before the end of the summer. It was difficult to get anything done with the children hanging around all the time. Somehow her own children were so much more distracting than other people’s. She gave them sandwiches, which they ate in front of Neighbours. She ate her own lunch, and then sighing, moved towards the window again.
“Your new friend’s here again Nicola,” she said.
“Oh!” Nic jumped up swiftly, pushing her plate away. “I’m going out now.” she was half way towards the door.
“I’m going too,”added Sam, following with as much speed. To his surprise Nic raised no objections.
Mrs Reynolds breathed a sigh of relief. “If you’re going to be away all afternoon, I’ll get some job applications done. Just be careful if you go near the sea, don’t go on the cliffs, and Nicola! Look after your brother.”
Nic pulled a face, but all she said was; “OK, and mum, can I invite Holly to have dinner with us?”
“I suppose so, but only if her parents say it’s all right. And it won’t be till later, around six, I’ve a lot to do.”
Nic and Sam were already running out to greet Holly, who was again kicking the football.
“Hi,” she said.
“So you’ve decided to arrive at last, have you?” Nic toned her enthusiasm down.
Holly shrugged. “I didn’t think you were expecting me. I had lots of things to do this morning. I’m here now though. Are you ready to go?”
“Are we ready to go where?” Nic called after Holly, who was already skipping down the lane.
“It’s a secret. You’ll see when we get there,” Holly said mysteriously.
Sam was scuffling to pick his BMX up from the position it had fallen in, and then he
careered zig-zagging down the lane ahead of them both, ringing his bell triumphantly, then letting go of the handlebars just to show he could. Holly ran after him, apparently trying to race the bike.
“Mad. They’re both mad,” Nic muttered, before she started running to catch up.
They were at the other side of the village green before Nic did catch them. Sam was letting Holly ride his bike around and around a tree while they waited.
“Wait,” Nic said, trying to jog the last few metres with some dignity. “How long are we going to be? All afternoon? Because I’ve forgotten to bring my phone with me.”
Holly looked curious. “You have a phone? Really? I didn’t think children were allowed to have them.”
Nic was surprised. “But doesn’t anyone at your school have one? No? Weird! I’m so glad I don’t live in the countryside.”
“We do now,” Sam reminded her. Nic ignored him.
Holly was still puzzled. “But is anyone important going to ring you this afternoon?”
Sam laughed. “Nobody ever rings her!” he scoffed.
“They do! They might!” Nic glared at him.
“Oh well, would you like to go back for the phone? We’ll wait.” Holly was soothing.
Nic shook her head. Once again it was very hot and she didn’t like the idea of going all the way back up the hill and then back down again, just so that she had something to pose with. She had particular reasons for making Holly her friend, but all the same, she felt cross. Some people called Nic bossy, but she knew she was just good at leading people. Somehow this situation seemed to be slipping beyond her control.
“Oh, come on then,” Nic said suddenly. “Lead the way!” She couldn’t stop the sarcasm creeping into her voice.
“You shouldn’t be so mean,” Sam whispered as Holly walked off.
“I’m not mean! She’s just strange. Why won’t she tell us where we’re going?”
Around the next bend in the lane they saw the small village harbour, the sea, and further along a small pebbly beach. Even Nic saw how blue and beautiful it was. She was surprised she hadn’t been excited about living so close to the sea before. She wished she had her friends from London here to show off to.
“You should have said! We could have brought our swimming costumes with us!”
Holly shrugged. “I’ll show you better beaches than this one. Come on. Oh just leave your bike, Sam. It’ll be fine.” She led them up a steep set of steps to the left, hidden between two tall houses, which took them away from the harbour.
Sam tugged at his sister’s t-shirt. “This goes up to the cliffs, I think. Mum said...”
“Don’t be so stupid,” Nic pushed past him only to retrace her steps and drag him on behind her when he stopped dead with a stubborn frown.
“It’s all right, honestly,” Holly called back. “Really safe, the cliff path doesn’t go anywhere near the edge.”

“See?” said Nic. “And mum’s not going to know, so long as you don’t tell her!”
They arrived at the top, breathless and hot. It was worth it. They were in a meadow full of mayflowers, buttercups and grass growing almost to waist height. Beyond the meadow to one side there was only sea and sky. Far ahead there were trees.
“Come on!” Holly waded in. “See every now and again there’s a post with white paint? That marks the way the footpath goes.”
Nic looked at the open space nervously. “Umm...there’s no cows in this field, are there?”
“Oh no,” Holly reassured her. “The cows are all in the fields behind your house, way over there.”
“Just so long as they stay their own side of the fence...”Nic muttered.
“You can’t be scared of cows!” Sam laughed. The truth was that neither of them had ever been close to a herd of cows, but as long as there was no danger in sight, Sam felt safe to tease his sister. “Maybe the farmer just keeps this field for his bull,” he added.
Holly sighed. “Don’t you know anything? Do you think the farmer wants his cattle walking off the cliff? This is just meadow land - it’ll be cut for straw at the end of the summer, for making into hay to feed the animals through the winter.”
The line of the footpath could be seen running parallel to the cliffs, and then curving away inland towards a distant wall and just-seen stile. At the point at which the path turned, Holly marched steadfastly on in their original direction without looking back.
Nic chose to make no comment either, and followed in silence.
“Er...Holly? Holly!”
Sam sounded uncertain. He liked Holly a lot but he was also in awe of her. “ I think the path goes that way.” He pointed to his left.
“Do you want to spend your whole holiday so bored you have to torture your cat and your sister just to have fun?”
“Then follow me!” She sounded impatient. It was so unusual for her to sound anything but sunny and happy that they followed her without any more questions.
They came to a low stone wall with rusted park railings set in it. They stretched right to the edge of the cliff in one direction, and as far as the eye could see in the other. Beyond the railings there was a thick tangle of ancient trees, briars and rhododendron.
“This must join up to the railings we saw running along the lane. You know, Sam, where the ruined gate houses were,” Nic said. “Mum said it was called Tempest Park, and there’s a mansion inside, but Dad said it was empty and all the land belongs to this big American company, only they don’t do anything with it.”
“There’s an old lady who lives in the big house,” said Holly.
“How do you know? The gates looked really rusty.”
Holly shrugged. Only half listening, she was looking for something along the length
of the park wall. “By this tree, I think,” she muttered, and began to shake one railing vigorously. She worked it free of the hole it slotted in and drew it up carefully through the top, leaving a tantalising opening through which one small person could squeeze. “It’s loose you see. I found it months ago, and I always put it back so no one will know. I’ve never had anyone to show it to before.”
“There were lots of signs on the gate saying Private Property and Trespassers Beware,” said Nic. “They said there were wild dogs loose in the grounds.”
“There are no wild dogs,” said Holly. “They just say that to scare people. No one in the village will go near, even the postman just leaves things inside the ruined lodge at the top of the drive. But it’s safe really. The old lady just wants to scare away burglars - she just lives on her own and never leaves the house you see. I go in all the time. There’s just miles and miles of overgrown gardens, and steps down to private beaches. Just the best sandy beaches - ace for swimming from and really sheltered. No one will ever know, and it can be our own secret place.”
Holly took a deep breath and waited.
“Wild dogs!” Sam reminded his sister, sure that this would make her turn away and he would have to go with her, without Holly thinking he was scared.
Nic had never been troubled by an imagination, and she had not been born with much of a spirit of adventure. But she knew when she was being challenged, and with Holly’s green eyes never leaving her face her competitive nature won out. There was no way she could turn back in front of the younger girl. “I’m not scared of anything,” she declared, and was the first to go through the gap.
One by one they climbed over the boundary into Tempest Park.
Pushing her way out from the middle of yet another vast and scratchy bush, Nic pulled herself up straight, brushed herself down and shook her hair out. “I suppose I can see why you’re so covered in scratches now,” she said to Holly who was emerging close behind her with Sam. “I only hope these endless sandy beaches of yours are worth it.”
Holly just smiled. She didn’t seem aware at all that there were twigs and leaves caught up in her hair. Nic did notice, and reached to pull them out.
“Don’t you care what you look like?” she asked.
Holly shrugged, “Who will see me?”
“Well we have to look at you!” Nic pointed out.
“You look like you’ve been pulled through a hedge backwards!” Sam mimicked his mothers repeated complaint cleverly, and first Nic and then Holly fell about laughing. Sam grinned and allowed his sister to brush the leaves from his head too without much complaint.
They were stood in a hollow, and the remains of a stone laid path lined by rocks was just visible beneath the undergrowth.
“It is a lost garden, you see, not just a wood.” Holly explained. “A lot of the paths
and things are really hard to find. It took me ages exploring to find my way around.”
“So how do we find our way?” Nic asked.
“Ah...” Holly was looking especially mysterious and pleased with herself. She led
them around a tree, and pointed to where several different coloured ribbons were tied to one of the lower branches, leading off in different directions.
“I did it so I could find my way back at first. But now I can find my way wherever I want to go. See I always carry some ribbon in my pocket, so I just make a new path if I’m going somewhere I haven’t been before.”
“Very clever,” Nic found herself wishing she could think up such good ideas.
“The red one goes to the beach,” Holly offered.
“Nic...” Sam was pulling at her t-shirt insistently. She paused. She wouldn’t admit it, but she felt nervous too. Looking around her, she shivered. The woods were cold, damp and eerily quiet. There was the odd chirp of a bird, but all other sound was deadened by the depth of the trees. The sky was just a rare glimpse of blue, far above, beyond the Monkey Puzzles and Oaks. Used to London, she felt uncomfortable so far away from other humans. While she pretended she would rather have left Sam at home, she was glad of his company.
“You’re sure that leads to the beach?”
“Of course,” Holly replied, and began to weave her way through the woods, wherever the red line led her.
Nic pushed Sam in front of her, and followed too. “You’ll like a beach won’t you? And you do say you’re bored and want an adventure all the time,” she told him.
It seemed a long time before they saw the sea through the last trees. The cliffs here were not sheer inclines, but they also didn’t look very easy to climb down, and there were more rusting railings separating them from the edge.
“How do we get down?” Sam asked.
“I’ll show you. The ribbon hasn’t run out yet,” said Holly, taking them further along the cliff. After a while they came to a set of stone steps which clung to the cliff, and took them down in a zig-zag pattern. “It’s quite safe, so long as you’re careful,” she told them, leading the way again. “I think the tide’s in, so the beach won’t be so big as it sometimes is, but that’s ok.”
At the bottom they threw themselves down exhausted and found Holly was right, there was only a narrow strip of yellow sand, but it didn't matter because they had it all to themselves, and the sea was clear, gently lapping, inviting. They seemed to be in a small cove cut off at each side by rocks which jutted out into the waters.
Nodding towards the rocks on her left, Holly said; “At the other side, there’s another even bigger and better beach. You can’t see it when the tide’s in, and there isn’t a way of getting to it from up there.”
Nic began to plan. “Tomorrow I’ll wear my swimming costume under my shorts.
I’ll bring my discman, and my sunglasses, and a picnic lunch too, that way we can get here early and the tide will be out then...”
Sam had forgotten what his sister sounded like when she was happy and enthusiastic. He started taking his trainers and socks off, and splashed about in the shallows. When he splashed Nic she tried to ignore him at first, but soon she was bored of just admiring the water, so after she had made sure her sandals were out of harm’s way, she joined him in the sea. Each determined to get the other as wet as possible, they noticed little else. Once Sam mentioned their mum, and what she would say when she saw them wet and bedraggled, but Nic said she didn’t care, so Sam decided not to bother either. The great thing about being younger was that he always had someone to blame. Nic was, after all, supposed to look after him. Finally they sat down together in the sand.
“Do you really want to make mum mad?” Sam asked.
“Of course,” She almost sounded friendly. “I want mum and dad to really wish we hadn’t moved here.”
They both sat a while thinking . Sam was frowning, but he knew it was best not to argue with Nic once she got an idea into her head.
“How do you think Mum and Dad are going to like Holly?” Nic asked. She was grinning to herself.
“I don’t see why they shouldn’t like her,” Sam said loyally, looking about him.
“Don’t you think she might be a very bad influence?”
Sam looked confused. “Where is Holly?” he asked.
Nic jumped up. “Holly?” she called out.
“Holly where are you?”
Brother and sister scanned the whole beach, the sea, the jagged rocks and the cliff path. Holly was nowhere to be seen.
© Jayne Sharratt 2001

jaynesharrat at

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Jayne Sharratt lives in London and works in bookselling

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