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Elen's Island - sample extract
Try just a taste of Eloise William's beautiful story 'Elen's Island'. Illustration by Gabby Grant.
This short sample is from Chapter 4. Elen woken up for the first time at her grandmother's house, but Gran is nowhere to be seen. The house seems run down. Elen decides to look outside:
She stopped at the front door and wiped the mucky filth from a sign. It said ‘The Lanterns’. There were some lanterns hanging above it which looked as if they were last lit in Victorian times, if ever. Elen imagined them filled with candles beaming happy warmth through sparkling glass. Someone might have loved this house once upon a time.
The view was amazing. Looking at the beach at the end of the lane, she couldn’t help the overwhelming urge to run. Her feet pounded down the path, which seemed much less creepy in daylight, scaring up butterflies from the grasses. They fluttered around her, yellow and white, orange and metallic blue. She kept running, past big purple flowers and daisies still curled into their pink edges in the shade. Past dunes golden with scratching sand. Past trees all bent in one direction from years of wind. She was out of puff but she kept on running across the peach-smooth beach, leaving the first footprints on the creamy surface.
Elen kicked off her shoes, plonked down her bag and ran straight into the water. She ran straight back out again. It was freezing!
Tentatively she put her toes back in. It was like putting them into an ice lolly at first, but as she got used to it the water seemed to warm. Elen imagined it was heating up just for her. Little pieces of seaweed drifted around her feet. A tiny fish darted towards her toe, then sensed danger and backed off.
Elen kept as still as she could and watched the life beneath the water’s surface. A crab waddled past sideways not seeming to notice her at all. A purple jellyfish, cute and small, puff-balled its way towards her, reminding her of the giant jellyfish Nerys had talked about. Elen looked around anxiously for one, but then forgot it again.
People said the sea was blue but now she could see that wasn’t correct. It was gold under the sun and silver at the tip of waves, light green close to her feet, royal blue on the horizon and pale blue closer in. There were white horses where the current was choppy and sparkling sequins of light in patches. Elen wondered if she could do a painting of it for her mum.
Her mum. Elen felt sad again. Partly because her mum and dad had gone on holiday without her and partly because she felt bad she’d been so nasty to them. They seemed to have a lot of problems lately. They argued way into the night. They worked hard every day. Perhaps they deserved a holiday.
Elen looked at Aberglad across the water and wished that she could turn time back. To when she had thrown her mum’s vase. She wondered again why her mum didn’t speak to her grandmother much, but her grandmother wasn’t easy to talk to, so perhaps her mum was right.
She sat down and studied her map. The pen and ink drawing must have taken a while to complete. Her grandmother’s house was clearly marked with an x (although it should really have been marked with a festering compost heap). The beach was called ‘Strumble Sands’. Little dunes were drawn with a shaky hand and curly lines for the sea.
That meant that ‘Seal Point’ was to the west and ‘Blackbeard’s Bay’ to the east at each end of the island. Elen was on the south side and ‘Smugglers’ Rocks’ and the lighthouse were to the north. There was so much to explore.
The far end of the beach slid into the ocean and looked as if that might be where the world actually ended. Elen walked along the edge of the water looking at the patterns her feet were making in the sand. She ran in circles to confuse anybody following her. She hopped on one leg for as long as she could, then balanced on her tiptoes so that the print of her heel disappeared and it looked as if some strange animal had been there. She whooped and hiccupped and phizzled with laughter.
‘Sssssh!’ An angry voice stopped her in her tracks.
Elen looked up to find the boy from the boat yesterday staring scornfully down at her from his perch on a rock.
He pointed at the water. ‘You’re scaring the fish away.’
‘Oh, sorry.’ Elen’s voice came out more than a little nastily. She didn’t like the boy’s tone.
‘What do you want anyway?’ the boy asked.
‘I don’t want anything, thank you very much.’ She resisted adding, ‘Especially from you.’
‘Then what are you doing on my island?’
Elen thought he had the most arrogant, obnoxious face she had ever seen.
‘It’s not your island. It doesn’t belong to anybody. I’ve got just as much right to be here as you. My grandmother lives here.’
The boy laughed. ‘Oh yes. That crazy lady is your grandmother. Well, that explains a lot.’
‘She’s not crazy,’ Elen spat. ‘She’s brilliant. She’s the best grandmother anyone could wish for.’
Although this was a lie, there was no way she was going to allow this stupid boy to insult her family.
‘What’s that?’ Elen had spotted something moving around in the upturned hat next to him.
‘It’s a puffin, obviously,’ the boy said as if he was talking to an eight year old.
‘What’s a puffin?’
Elen thought it was a funny kind of word for a funny kind of animal. It was black and white with a bright red beak and strange, sad-looking eyes. It looked like a cross between a duck and a penguin.
‘Looks like craziness runs in the family,’ he said, reeling his line in and resting the puffin gently in the crook of his arm. ‘I’m going to have to find something else for my dinner. Thanks very much.’
‘Yeah, thanks very much to you as well,’ Elen retorted, though it made no sense. It didn’t really matter because the boy disappeared off the beach down an almost hidden path through the dunes.
What a stupid, idiotic, horrible boy, Elen thought. What an outrageously dull and irritating person. There was no way she could ever be friends with someone as ridiculously horrid as him.
She kicked at the sand and watched the flish-flash of the fish as they returned to safe waters. She wished that she was a fish, swimming merrily with its school of friends. Or perhaps their school was as difficult as her school was. The truth was that however horrible the boy had been it would have been good to have made a new friend here, so far from home.