FICTION - Number
Two in a series of ten
- The loneliest girl in the world
'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.
Cant you go away? Do you have to haunt my every moment.?
Sam ignored his sisters question. If youre going to go off
and play with Holly you have to take me with you. Mum said so. She said
she doesnt want you going off on your own without me.
I wont be on my own if Im 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 peoples. 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 friends here again Nicola, she said.
Oh! Nic jumped up swiftly, pushing her plate away. Im
going out now. she was half way towards the door.
Im going too,added Sam, following with as much speed.
To his surprise Nic raised no objections.
Mrs Reynolds breathed a sigh of relief. If youre going to
be away all afternoon, Ill get some job applications done. Just
be careful if you go near the sea, dont 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 its all right.
And it wont be till later, around six, Ive a lot to do.
Nic and Sam were already running out to greet Holly, who was again kicking
Hi, she said.
So youve decided to arrive at last, have you? Nic
toned her enthusiasm down.
Holly shrugged. I didnt think you were expecting me. I had
lots of things to do this morning. Im 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.
Its a secret. Youll see when we get there, Holly
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. Theyre 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
Wait, Nic said, trying to jog the last few metres with some
dignity. How long are we going to be? All afternoon? Because Ive
forgotten to bring my phone with me.
Holly looked curious. You have a phone? Really? I didnt
think children were allowed to have them.
Nic was surprised. But doesnt anyone at your school have
one? No? Weird! Im so glad I dont 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? Well wait.
Holly was soothing.
Nic shook her head. Once again it was very hot and she didnt 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 couldnt stop the sarcasm creeping into her voice.
You shouldnt be so mean, Sam whispered as Holly walked
Im not mean! Shes just strange. Why wont she
tell us where were 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 hadnt 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
Holly shrugged. Ill show you better beaches than this one.
Come on. Oh just leave your bike, Sam. Itll 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 sisters t-shirt. This goes up to the cliffs,
I think. Mum said...
Dont 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
Its all right, honestly, Holly called back. Really
safe, the cliff path doesnt go anywhere near the edge.
See? said Nic. And mums not going to know, so
long as you dont 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 theres
a post with white paint? That marks the way the footpath goes.
Nic looked at the open space nervously. Umm...theres 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
You cant 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,
Holly sighed. Dont you know anything? Do you think the farmer
wants his cattle walking off the cliff? This is just meadow land - itll
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.
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
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 theres a mansion inside,
but Dad said it was empty and all the land belongs to this big American
company, only they dont do anything with it.
Theres an old lady who lives in the big house, said
How do you know? The gates looked really rusty.
Holly shrugged. Only half listening, she was looking for something along
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. Its
loose you see. I found it months ago, and I always put it back so no
one will know. Ive 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 its 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. Theres 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 Hollys 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. Im 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 youre 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 didnt seem aware at all that there were
twigs and leaves caught up in her hair. Nic did notice, and reached
to pull them out.
Dont 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 youve 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
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 Im going somewhere I havent
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 wouldnt 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.
Youre 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. Youll
like a beach wont you? And you do say youre 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 didnt look
very easy to climb down, and there were more rusting railings separating
them from the edge.
How do we get down? Sam asked.
Ill show you. The ribbon hasnt 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. Its quite safe, so long as youre
careful, she told them, leading the way again. I think the
tides in, so the beach wont be so big as it sometimes is,
but thats 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, theres another even bigger and better beach. You cant
see it when the tides in, and there isnt a way of getting
to it from up there.
Nic began to plan. Tomorrow Ill wear my swimming costume
under my shorts.
Ill 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 harms 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 didnt
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 hadnt 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 dont see why they shouldnt like her, Sam said
loyally, looking about him.
Dont 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 yahoo.co.uk
read Chapter Three
If you like what you read, say so.
Jayne Sharratt lives in London and works in bookselling
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