I’ve been working on my debut novel, What happened to Princess? and I can’t wait for all of you to read it! I used to post a chapter of it every week, and some of you may have read it when I first started blogging. I’ve changed it a bit and decided to share the first chapter with all of my awesome followers and readers. It’s set in Scotland, but keep in mind that Boxweather is a fictional place, so don’t go searching it up, you won’t find anything.
I hope you all enjoy it, it’s also copyrighted so please respect my work and don’t copy! Let me know what you think of it!
Some say Boxweather is full of evil and criminals.
Some like to think that Boxweather is cursed.
But to me, Boxweather is home and always has been.
If you came here to visit, you wouldn’t think it was cursed.
But if you lived here for months and years, you would notice that the birds don’t sing and the winds don’t whisper, they claw at you.
You would notice that unlike neighbouring villages, our streets are grey and eerie. You wouldn’t see the turning of skipping ropes or hear the giggles and shrieks of children.
Everyone stays in their homes. Locks their windows and doors. Keeps themselves to themselves.
If they’re still here it’s either because they’ve been living here for decades and are too elderly to pack everything up and move, or it’s because they’re adults with no children and have no reason to flee.
It’s that girl’s fault. The one who died here fifteen years ago. They call her princess.
It’s quiet and haunting, yes.
But here the air is fresh and cool, and the skies are clear, and the fields are a kaleidoscope of bright green and yellow hues. The houses here are crooked like the ones in story books. The trees give good fruit, and the seas give good fish.
This is Boxweather. The cursed land. Welcome to my home.
My name is Scarlett Cliff.
My murder story got published in the Daily Boxweather last year. I’m almost famous. If you’ve forgotten who I am, that’s alright, I forgive you.
I’m eleven years old and I’ve lived in Boxweather all my life. My grandparents moved here long ago, in Boxweather’s brighter years.
Ma tells me about the old Boxweather sometimes.
There’s something about how Ma tells stories that makes my eyes widen in awe or my body shiver and shudder or my hands prop up my chin as I close my eyes and listen in wonder.
I guess that’s where I get my awesome story writing skills from.
Grandma says that when Ma tells stories, she exaggerates and gets trapped in a world where she cannot differentiate between fact and fiction.
However, I assure you, this story is one hundred percent true.
When my father was younger, Boxweather used to have harvest festivals twice a year. There would be fresh fruit and salads and spicy soups and the whole village would be smiling and laughing and cooking. The children would go hunting around in the rockpools by the seaside and dip apples in caramel and get their faces painted.
Although I enjoy being alone most of the time, I often wonder how life in Boxweather would be with more children. It’s no fun playing hopscotch and hide ‘n’ seek by yourself with no one to sing rhymes with you, skip and dance and help you build damns in the woodland streams.
Father told me that when he was growing up, friends kept him busy and happy, and they all got along. Which doesn’t sound like Boxweather at all.
I used to have a friend when I was about six or seven, her name was Summer-violet Vole and she had long red hair, like me, which her mother would tie in two thick plaits that ran down each shoulder.
I remember the day she left.
My father had got me a recycled plastic slide, one in the shape of a giant tube that snaked and turned. He fixed one end at the window of my bedroom so all day I could run up the stairs, into my room and slide down into our huge backyard.
Summer and I were pushing our soft toys down it before skidding after them and collapsing in a fit of giggles on the grass.
I spotted her father, Mr Vole talking in hushed voices with mine, then he plodded over to us, put a hand over Summer’s arm and yanked her away. I cried for her, but she never came back. No one ever told me what happened that day, but I heard them muttering ‘princess’ over and over.
By princess, they mean the girl who died at the Boxweather harvest festival fifteen years ago.
They call her princess because that’s what her mother used to call her.
They say she was cursed, and she was dangerous. They say she’s alive and roaming, kidnapping the children of Boxweather with her hunters they call hounds.
It’s nonsense, of course. That’s what father says. But I’ve seen him peering out of the windows anxiously every night and that makes me afraid that it might be true.
I look up from the yellowed paper of my leather journal, put my pen down and push my fingers into my ears. Ma is clattering saucepans in the kitchen and father is singing a lullaby in Scottish Gaelic to Archie in the corridor.
My grandmother is sitting in her chair at the window. It’s not the most comfortable chair in the house, it is wicker with a floral cushion that is thin and lumpy. Every few minutes she observes the passers-by and makes loud comments about whatever exciting or silly thing she thinks they are off to do.
I push my hands against the sides of my head. I need to think in peace.
“Oh look!” Grandma exclaims and my thoughts disperse like flies. I look up, annoyed. “There’s Mr Jonathon’s wife again, going for her daily walks. There was a time she used to take me with her, until she started to forget my name and where I lived. She’d forget those legs if they weren’t stuck to her. Oh, the fun we would have back then, contemplating on nature’s beauty…”
“Grandma,” I say calmly. “Mrs Jonathon died two years ago.”
She peered at me through her gold rimmed spectacles and raised her eyebrows. “Nonsense. She’s right there!”
I stare into the soft sunlight. “If you say so Grandma.”
“Aye, I do,” She frowns firmly, then her face relaxes. “Have you drawn anything today?”
“Have I what?”
“Drawn!” Grandma tosses back her silver head and laughs as if I’ve said something terribly funny. “Mo ghaol, I gave you those crayons, you said you’ll draw something for me.”
Wait. Did she just say I was her ‘love’? Grandma often speaks in Scottish Gaelic. I learnt some at school but bunked off lessons after I didn’t really see the point. And anyway, Archie’s Grandma’s favourite, she finds me very ‘difficult’ to talk to. I think she likes Archie because he’s one and a half, so she can rattle away, and he won’t say anything.
“Mo ghaol, my clever lass, have you forgotten?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She laughs again. “Cheeky girl, well, run off then.”
I raise an eyebrow, gather up my pencil case and journal and saunter out of the living room. Father’s rocking Archie on the stairs.
“Everything alright?” He smiles. I get along with father the most – he’s so kind, calm, and understanding.
“Grandma’s getting mixed up again,” I say slowly. “She keeps thinking that she’s bought me crayons and I’m going to draw a picture for her.”
Father bites his lip. He does it when he goes into ‘deep thought’. “Hmm. I think she…never mind. Let her hold Archie for a while, I’ve got to check on something in the attic.”
I scoop up my brother and hand him over to Grandma who’s beaming at me like I’m her sunshine.
“Whenever you’ve finished with that drawing Lilianne, I want to see it!” She exclaims with excitement. I nod with the same enthusiasm.
I catch up with father who’s halfway up the attic stairs clutching a mug of steaming tea. In this sweltering heat, I can’t imagine why anyone would still drink tea. On top of that, tea is horrible and tasteless. Adults are weird.
“Father, who’s Lilianna?”
He pauses and turns around, brown eyes sparkling. “You mean Lilianne?”
“Aye, Lilianne. Grandma called me Lilianne.”
“Huh. She’s just getting mixed up with names.”
“But who is Lilianne?” I say and the stairs to the attic are so steep, I have to grip the banister to prevent myself from falling.
“A girl who used to live here,” Father replies and strokes his beard. “My niece actually.”
“So,” I plunge into silence for a moment, swallowing this piece of valuable information. “I have a cousin?”
“Yup. But she doesn’t live here anymore…she moved away.” He carries on up the stairs. I look at him longingly.
“No, Scarlett, you can’t come up. Don’t do puppy eyes on me. You know you can’t.”
I cross my arms. Father does all his ‘work’ in the attic. No one’s allowed to go up there. I once tried to have a peek when I was younger, and I hit my head on the silver doorknob. Father was furious with me and said I mustn’t ever go up there. Ever.
I wonder what he keeps in there. But I have to stop wondering like that or my thoughts may drive me to going up there without permission. And I do not want to die any time soon. So…I have a cousin called Lilianne. Why haven’t I seen her? I’ve lived with father long enough to know when he’s fibbing or not.
Was she taken by the princess and her hounds?
And that’s the end of the excerpt! If you have any questions or comments, drop them down below along with feedback which is much welcome too!