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The International Writers Magazine: YA Fiction

Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Hammer & Tong
ISBN-13: 978-1511994224
edition: ASIN: B0128O1WXY
YA fiction -

Based on a tragic real-life event, Marikka flees from an arson attack on her home to the sea, where she meets Starfish boy – a runaway working for Jackson, a scarred man hiding a sinister secret from the world. Meanwhile her real father searches for her with the aide of Anya, ‘the girl who can read objects’. Why is Jackson feeding the wild fish in the sea, what is he hiding? He doesn't like girls who ask awkward questions.
Long after my tears dried, my heart stayed with Marikka, Starfish Boy and the strange girl who reads objects.’ CT

'A great page turner. I liked the relationship between the two main characters and the atmosphere too.'
Johanna Darmendrail - Paris

You will smile, you will gasp with shock, and you will struggle to read the words through your tears.
Gemma Williams -

The Background
This story is based on a terrible real event - a stepfather who owes a fortune to the taxman comes home and burns his house down with his family still in it - he burns the stables with the horses and dogs too. Everything. He doesn't care about human life - just that the taxman gets nothing. He might justify it by saying ‘why should my kids suffer being poor’ - but he didn't ask those kids if they wanted to live - he just burned.

What if Marikka - the daughter, escapes?  What if she runs, knowing she will be blamed for the arson attack - too scared to stick around and be put into care. She already had been put into care once by a mother who didn't want her around whilst she looked for a new husband. Marikka has no living father - he died in a car crash - she is alone.

Although the novel is set in Lincolnshire where the crime was perpetuated - I began to write the second draft in Anglet in France and then Vigo in Spain. It was a long drive across the north of Spain to get there but I was glad I made it across.

I arrived ill having caught a viral infection in a swimming pool in Leon. Very ill in fact, but as I recovered I found the perfect café to write in and somehow began Marikka's story all over again. A pretty, but bored Argentinean waitress was snatching up pages as I wrote (by hand) and offering tips on what should happen next. She had most definite views about Marikka and she personally introduced me to her friend Anya - who later on became the girl who reads objects. Anya was also from Argentina and had been forced to tell fortunes by her Roma father from the age of four - and I confess I made nothing up about her or how she escaped, her story was quite harrowing enough.  She eventually found her way to Spain where she now paints water colours. One day I might return to Anya's story, but this was Marikka's story and I became quite protective of her.

Fleeing the fire she ends up at the beach - the rather desolate Lincolnshire beach (Recently cited by the Sunday Times as the best beach on the East Coast) not far from where I live and yes - they really do bomb it from time to time. This is where the North Sea gas comes in from wells deep out at sea. If you scan the horizon these days it is choked with wind turbines, as the one thing you know about living here is that the wind blows all the time. I like living here - watching the ships go by on their way around the world. We have dramatic skies from time to time as compensation for a cooler temperature.

Mika - the crazy boy who crashes his car came out of nowhere, but I think perhaps that some of my nephew Dom is here, from when he was fourteen and always getting into trouble one way or another.  Jackson, the fire scarred weirdo who is hiding in the dunes stems from memory too, a man who lived in Woodhall Spa near my school St Hughs, and terrified us all with his bomb scarred face and strange army trench coat. He may have been entirely harmless - but we made up terrible stories about him all the time and when he disappeared, stealing the Latin master's car, we knew he was the evil mastermind we all thought he was.

I guess a writer stores things up and you never know when they will be put to good use. This is my first story set in my native Lincolnshire and I have moved the geography around a little and changed a few names. But there really are abandoned air force bases and although millions of caravans sprawl on the dunes in places now - I have fond memories of my sister and I, and Kandy the dog, picking the blueberries (smoky blue salt encrusted blackberries) whilst watching the beach being bombed. Just because a red flag was flying we weren't going to retreat.

Events in a story depend upon the unexpected. Marikka's dead father has been looking for her for years - the victim of a terrible lie to stop Marikka running away. It is his story as much as hers as he arrives to identify her body and discovers she is missing. This is definitely the beach where it all happened. That's real enough - it's just outside my window. All the characters live and breathe out here. Marikka especially - the girl with the red hair and brilliant smile that hid so much pain.  The girl who fled the fire and began to live again.

The whole house was burning behind her, flames belching from every window.  Every few seconds something exploded or shattered and the roar of the flames was almost deafening.  Who knew a house could make so much noise when it died?
            She saw headlights coming towards her.  Perhaps it was the farmer from across the way?  She waved.  Too late she saw that it was the same Landrover that had been there before.
            A shot rang out.  Hit the barn wall behind her with a loud smack.  Shot gun.
            Magenta couldn’t believe she was being shot at.   She began to run in a zig-zag fashion.  Deacon running besides her, not understanding, his ears flat, panic in his paws.
            ‘Run, Deacon.  Run!’
            The second shot grazed her shoulder and she stumbled a little, but she darted behind the garden wall and didn’t stop, crouching as she ran as fast as she could to the far end of the garden and then into the ditch.
            ‘Back to the woods, boy.  Back to the woods.’  Deacon needed no encouragement, but he stuck close beside her.
            She glanced back.  A man with a powerful flashlight was moving quickly towards the ditch.
            Who were these people chasing her?
Another shot rang out.  She heard Deacon yelp and turn to bite his back.
            They had shot Deacon!
            She stopped a moment, felt his back. It was sticky with blood, but it was just a graze, he’d live.  She made him get up and together they crawled out of the ditch.
            They were near the stables again.  Luckily her horse had been sold off six months before.  These buildings would be next to burn.
            ‘Can you see her?’  Someone shouted.
            ‘The bitch is out here somewhere, and she’s got the dog.’
            ‘Come on, we have to go.’
            ‘Can’t leave her as a witness.’
            ‘Police will be coming.  Leave her, we’ll get her later.  We’ll ditch the Landrover in Brigstock.’
            ‘We can’t leave her.  She’s a bloody witness.  She saw your vehicle.  She was supposed to be in bed.’
            Marikka froze.  She knew that voice.  It was the voice that haunted her at night, made her life a misery.  None other than her stepfather.  So it had been him in the Landrover.  And she knew he had a sawn-off shotgun.
            ‘We’re leaving.’  The other man repeated, gunning the engine.
            She saw the flashlight retreating.  A trick?  She lay flat in the long grass, holding her breath.
            Distant sirens could be heard.  Yes, he’d want to get away all right.
            ‘I can see you, Marikka.’  His voice was suddenly close.  Too close.  She looked up momentarily.  Saw that he had his shotgun raised.

Deacon suddenly broke away from her.  He’d seen him too.  Silent and deadly, he ran like lightning towards him, launching himself at her stepfather.  The shotgun went off loudly, both barrels.  She heard the dog yelp in agony, heard her stepfather fall backwards into the ditch.
            The others didn’t wait.  They drove off back through the woods, spinning wheels.  They didn’t want to explain anything to the cops.
            Marikka ran forward, keeping to the darkest shadows. 
            Deacon desperately looked up at her, unable to move.  They gun had blasted the two of them as the full weight of a ninety-pound Ridgeback forced the short barrel upwards.  She couldn’t see clearly, but there was a bloody hole where one foreleg had been.  He whined as she bent down to caress his head, tears welling in Marikka’s eyes.
            ‘Brave boy, my brave, brave, brave boy.  Thank you, Deacon.’
            Deacon licked her hand, leaving it covered in blood.  Then his head abruptly flopped.  He was dead.  Her heart practically broke in two.  Tears flowed now and her throat felt constricted.
            Her stepfather lay there inches away.  Half his face blown off.  The flames from the burning house were reflected in his one remaining glassy eye.  His body twitched.  He was not quite yet dead.  But soon would be.  No point in asking why he’d done this. Why he wanted her dead so badly.  Her tears weren’t for him; that was for sure.
            She could see the blue flashing lights on the canal bridge in the distance.  The police and fire engines would be here in a few minutes.  How could she explain this?  Any sensible girl would stay, right?  Face the police, and the consequences.  But any sensible girl didn’t have her firebug record.  Or a crazy mother who’d prefer they locked her up and threw away the key.  She’d blame her for the fire.  She could be really convincing.  Probably say she shot her stepfather too.
            Well, the only man who could admit guilt for the fire was dead now and so was Deacon.  Deacon had saved her life.  She’d never forget what he did for her.  Never.
            She glanced back at the house, burning brightly, the flames spreading to nearby trees.  They’d never get it put out in time to save anything.  That must have been his intention.  Probably an insurance scam.  Maybe they planned to have her burn with it to make it look like an accident.  Maybe that’s why her mother had driven off.  She was supposed to be dead now.  How convenient that would have been for her mother.  She could pretend to cry to a whole new audience about the tragic loss of her teen daughter who had so much promise.  Yeah right. 
            She turned on her heels and walked towards the trees.  No, she would not be talking to the police.  She remembered what those men with her stepfather had said ‘We’ll get her later.’  She wasn’t going back to any foster home or ‘institution’.  She was going to disappear.  Change her name back to Stillwater.  Set herself free so they couldn’t ever find her.
            She had no doubts about running.  She was the type of person who always got blamed for everything.  Her head was filled with the last look Deacon had given her.  He’d trusted her, loved her, died for her.  She felt so sorry.  Her heart heavy.  Poor Deacon.  She wondered how long he’d waited to bite her stepfather.  At least he’d had that one opportunity to get his revenge.

© Sam Hawksmoor 2023

Print Order here + Kindle Edition

Sam Hawksmoor is the award winning author of 'The Repossession of Genie Magee Trilogy', 'The Repercussions of Tomas D', and with Sam North 'Another Place to Die: The Endtime Chronicles' - the Vancouver based Pandemic thriller.
© Photos of Huddlebank the setting of Marikka by Sam Hawksmoor on his iPhone
More fiction from Sam Hawksmoor

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