Category: Time’s Pocketwatch

Time’s Pocketwatch Chapter 2

Chapter One here

Chapter Two

It seemed an impossible thing. Everybody knew that little girls didn’t fall in through second-floor bedroom windows, especially when the window only opened so far as the palm of another little girl’s hand.

But there the girl sat, eyes wide as she shook shards of glass out of her frizzy hair.  The pieces clinked along the wooden floor, spreading everywhere like the first dustings of frost.

Maeve’s mouth dried.  “…are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” the girl said. “Sorry about your window. Don’t worry, I’ll fix it.”

“It’s not my window.”

The girl had the strangest eyes that Maeve had ever seen – one was as black as space, and the other as pale and bright as the moon.

“Are you an alien?” Maeve asked.

“Don’t be stupid, of course I’m not.” The girl stood up, brushing down her summer dress. “Can I hide in your wardrobe?”

Maeve blinked.
The girl seemed to take that as a yes.

Not five seconds later, men’s shouts echoed down the street outside, along with the pounding of footsteps. “Split up! It can’t have got far!”

Maeve wetted her lips, before shuffling forwards towards the window so that she could get a better look. Her heart hammered in her chest.

Had her mum not heard the window break? Had no one seen the girl fall in? Why was no one coming?

“Someone must have seen it,” one of the men said. “Ask around, for god’s sake…”

Glass crunched under Maeve’s feet, but she stayed low, fingers seeking out a safe spot on the ledge. She peeked over the windowsill and down into the street, breathing heavy.

The sky had darkened.

Instead of the daylight Maeve had expected, it was  abruptly night. A dull, smudge of night that only the brightest of the stars managed to pierce, but night nonetheless.

The street was empty except for a flashing police car that hadn’t been there two seconds before. The emergency lights tinted the whole bedroom an eerie blue, just like when they came to tell her mum the news about the accident.

Maeve froze, unease prickling down her spine and settling like a cold stone in the pit of her gut.

None of this made any sense at all! It should have been day, and she’d never heard any cars drive up the street. She never heard the siren wailing! The police car was just there, appearing like the night. It should have been lunch time.

She closed her eyes again.

The sky was still dark when she peeked an eyelid open, and the police car was still there.  Nausea clawed up her throat.

Maeve checked her watch. 1:52am. All wrong.

Her stomach squeezed, all thoughts of the strange girl vanishing.

“Mum – Mum!” she fled for the stairs. “Have you looked outside? Did you hear-“ Maeve stopped short.

Her mother’s face twisted puffy with tears, her nails bitten raw.

A policeman stood at the bottom of the stairs. Sort of old and kind-looking enough, ruddy faced with a beer-belly, notepad in one hand and a wad of used tissues in the other.

They both stared up at her.
Her mum whimpered – a terrible, choked sound like someone had punched her in the throat.

“Is this your daughter, Mrs Millington?” The policeman’s brow furrowed.

“I-yes-that’s Maeve – that’s-where the hell have you been?” Her mother charged up the stairs, crushing her close. Fingers scrabbling into her hair, the other hand clutching at her back. “Don’t ever do that to me again!”

Maeve forgot how to breathe again, head spinning. “I’m sorry?”

Her mother’s fingers tightened in her hair.

“You can’t just run off and disappear like you did, Maeve,” the policeman said. “You had everyone very worried. The city is a dangerous place.”

Run off? Disappear?

“I was in the bedroom,” she said.

Her mum pulled back.  “Do you think I didn’t check the bedroom?” She glanced back at the officer, eyes wild. “We checked the bedroom.”

The officer jotted something down in his notepad.
“Why don’t you tell us what happened, Maeve?”

“There was-“ Maeve stopped, a second time. Bit her lip. “Didn’t you hear the window break?” Her eyes darted between them, but the policeman’s expression didn’t change and her mother only paled again. She looked like she’d spent her whole day crying.

Most of the boxes were ravaged, as if a tornado had blown through the hallway. Not neatly unpacked or placed in the right room at all.

“When was the last time you saw me?” Maeve asked, voice shrinking.

“Maeve, this isn’t the time for one of your games.” Her mother’s breath hitched.

1:56 am.

“Why don’t we all sit down in the kitchen?” the officer said. “Put the kettle on.”

First Chapter of my Children’s Book

“This will be a good opportunity for us, Maeve,” her mother said. “You’ll see. I can feel it, can’t you?”  She wrenched the curtains and the window open, letting in a pale stream of sunlight and a small tornado of dust.

Maeve’s nose wrinkled as she scuffed her shoe along the floor. She kept silent. Arms folded.

“A fresh start,” her mother continued, with an equally stubborn cheeriness. “Elmswell is a good school, much nicer than Brambrooke.”

“I liked Brambrooke,” Maeve said.

“You’ll like it here too – they have a science club.”

“Brambrooke had a science club, and all my friends.” She stroked Sophie’s letter in her pocket like a secret token, trailing along behind her mother as she continued opening windows and inspecting their new home for a second time. All of their suitcases and boxes were crowded into the dingy hallway. They piled as high as Maeve herself, making it impossible to shut the door. They didn’t even have that many bags!

“You’ll make new friends,” her mother said.

“I don’t want new friends. I want Sophie.”

Her mother sighed and shot her a tired look, as if Maeve was the one being unreasonable about everything. “You could at least try and like it here. Sophie can come and visit, it’s not as if you can’t keep in touch.”

There were a million other complaints and small insults Maeve could have pointed out about the situation – not just that her mother ripped her away from everyone she knew and loved, and dumped them here instead. In the city. Where the garden was a sad-looking strip of grass and a collection of rubbery potted plants. Where smoke and clouds blotted out the sky, making the stars difficult to see.   Where the houses squashed together and a car-load of suitcases ate the entire hallway of its space.

“It’s not the same,” she muttered. Her mother had already bustled off to the other room.

“Why don’t you go and pick a bedroom?” her mother called. “That will be nice, won’t it?”

The bedrooms were only a tiny bit better than the hallway.

Maeve picked the room with the best window, dumping a box by the door to claim it.

The curtains would have to go. They were a musty green-brown colour, like the scum on a pond.

She struggled to shove open a window herself, wobbling on the thin ledge so she could reach the latch. She bashed her elbow, but managed to get it open to the length of her palm before it got stuck.

Her new and amazing view included the strip of grass at the front of the house, the pavement, and an old woman staring back from another bedroom window across the street, directly opposite. Maeve’s lips pinched.

“We can still make it home before they sell the house, if we go now!” she said. She sprinted back downstairs to the hallway, where her mum hauled boxes into the kitchen, and tugged on her sleeve.  “Hurry!”

The neighbours could probably see straight in through her bedroom window, just like she could see into theirs. Horrible.

“Maeve, you’re being ridiculous. Help me unpack the bags.”

“It’s not fair.” It was Maeve’s life too, didn’t she get a vote?

“This will be good for us,” her mum said.

“Good for you, you mean.” Maeve’s eyes narrowed and she threw her last ammunition for getting rid of this madness. “Dad wouldn’t make me move here.”

Her mother dropped one of the dinner plates, face turning the colour of porridge.
Maeve dropped her hand back to her side like she’d been burnt. The silence clogged up her lungs, along with the blotchy redness at the corner of her mum’s eyes.

Maeve swallowed, staring down at her favourite trainers.  One sharp white piece of the dinner plate nudged up against her foot. The guilt squirmed in her belly.
Her mother’s shoulders hunched away from her, fingers squeezing the bridge of her nose. Forehead scrunched tight.

“…I’ll get my stuff out of the hall,” Maeve said.

It had been two weeks since the funeral. It had been twenty two days since everything was absolutely perfect.

Maeve heaved her flowery suitcase up the stairs and into the room.
Next came her box of encyclopaedias, and her junior’s telescope – though she doubted she’d have much use for that now. Sweat beaded the back of her neck, and she grimaced, clicking  out her fingers where they’d cramped, clutched stiff around the cardboard.

None of her things looked right anymore. Her model solar system was completely ruined, smushed and crushed in the journey. Pluto looked like a soggy grape.  

Her throat locked tight, and the clattering of knives and forks in the kitchen had gone quiet too. It wasn’t quiet like it had been back home. Back home, it was quiet because the traffic didn’t go past often, and the only noise came from the small creatures scurrying about hunting.

Her father had been hit by a speeding car, coming home from work, or so her mum told her. People hadn’t let her see the body because it was apparently all mangled and gross, and so not something that ten year old girls should be looking at.

She would have liked to see him.

Back home they’d had a big garden too, unlike here, and she’d grown her own strawberries and runner beans. Lots of flowers as well – Primroses, Marigolds, Lavender and even Daffodils.   Maybe she could still do that here too. Even if it wasn’t the same. She could get Snapdragons, her mum liked those…

Maeve tried to remember how to breathe.  It should have been easy, she’d had lots of practice and knew all the theory for it. Maybe the city’s pollution was already rotting her lungs.

She pressed her fingers to her eyes for ten seconds, hard enough that colours popped behind the closed lids.  Her hands shook. How stupid.

The kitchen drawers and cupboards slammed downstairs, as her mum resumed her mission with a fresh frenzy.

Maeve sat down on the bed.

“Andromeda, Antlia, Aquila, Auriga, Bootes, Caelum…” she named constellations until she felt okay again. Small.  She got all the way to naming the stars of Orion.  Exhaled deep through her teeth and opened her eyes.

That was when the other girl fell in through the new bedroom window.