It’s that time of week again, when bloggers across the web post their response to Rachael Ritchey’s Blog Battle. This week, the prompt is ‘coconut’, and I had grand dreams and a wisp of a story about being at the beach, with the song ‘She’s Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts’ floating around in my head. However, a snot monster has also taken up residence in my head, leaving me down for the count when it comes to anything imaginative, so the story has come to nothing as yet. But I didn’t want to let another week go by without at least trying to participate, so here’s a passage from my latest book, Hills And Valleys, which in some ways is similar to what I was trying to come up with.
The story so far: Our heroine, Alma, after a tragedy in the otherworld of Ambeth, has come to her grandmother’s house in Wales for the summer, hoping to recuperate and forget all about Ambeth. But Ambeth, it seems, has not forgotten about her, a display at her local library holding an unwelcome surprise…
She shook her head, running her finger across the row of plastic-covered book spines, scanning the titles. Selecting a couple that looked interesting, she tucked them under her arm and moved around to the other side of the shelf, squinting a little in the bright sunlight coming through the long glass window. There wasn’t much there – just some large print books and a selection of encyclopaedias. Oh, well. As she wandered across to the other shelves, her attention was caught by a display on a concertina-style board in the middle of the room. The heading announced ‘150 years of Entertainment’, while underneath in smaller letters it read ‘Courtesy of the Historical Society.’ Intrigued, she stopped to have a look.
Black and white photographs and old concert programs were pinned on the board, along with informative captions typed on small pieces of paper. Alma tilted her head to read the faded playbills, amused by the variety of shows on offer. She was particularly taken by a poster for a visiting circus complete with elephant and the accompanying photo of the animal on the beach with a crowd gathered around, the castle looming high in the background. She moved along to a set of street scenes, amazed to see how similar the town looked then to how it was now. The shingled beach was the same, too, though fashions had changed in the intervening years. Alma shook her head, wondering how anyone could swim in knee-length knickerbockers and a long-sleeved top. On the beach were vendors and sideshows, young men trying to knock coconuts off precarious looking stands and young women lined up for beauty contests, smiling, their eyes creased against the bright sun. There were also photos of the old theatre, the stage hung with velvet curtains, women in corseted gowns and men in striped blazers caught mid-song – Alma could almost hear their voices coming through the years. Walking around to the other side of the board, Alma was taken by a series of photographs showing dances held at the Town Hall. She admired the dresses, the men in their suits. Then she blinked, feeling as though she were going to black out.
For there, smiling in black and white, was Gwenene. The photo showed her arm in arm with a dark-haired man, looking into the camera. Her dark hair was pinned up and she was dressed in a knee-length beaded dress, but nonetheless it was her. Alma would never forget her beautiful face, or the way the Dark Elder had threatened her in the Great Hall. Her vision blurred and she started to shake. Rubbing her eyes, she leaned in to read the small paper tag under the picture. ‘Prof. Llewellyn Davies and friend at the Christmas Social, 1927’ the legend read. Alma gasped. So this was the professor – Caleb had been right about Gwenene as well. Her eyes filled with tears. She dashed them away, studying the picture. Davies was smiling widely, looking at Gwenene as though he couldn’t believe his luck. Alma felt sick. No matter where she turned, no matter what she did, it seemed Ambeth was calling her. First her father, now this. Swallowing hard, she shook so much that she dropped the books tucked under her arm, the thud as they hit the floor jolting her back to reality. As she gathered them up, she looked around and saw the librarian looking at her disapprovingly. She mouthed ‘Sorry,’ before putting them carefully on a nearby table. Then, on legs that were barely holding her upright, she left the library and its photos behind, her mind frantic with the shock of what she had just seen.
And, th-th-th that’s all for now, folks! Thanks for reading x