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Isabel in the Highlands - chapter 1

by  Sazmac

Posted: Friday, July 20, 2007
Word Count: 2121
Summary: Am struggling with this. The characters are real in my head but am having difficulty in getting them on the page. Any suggestions greatfully received

far north

Chapter One – A dream of fish

Isabel flew down the drive, braked slightly, and then pulling the handle bars up, took the bottom step at a jump, landing straight. She slammed on the back brake of her bike. The back wheel locked up and screeched across the slimy green flagstones, leaving a curved black trail. Getting off, she turned and looked critically at the black trail she had made. ‘Could be longer,’ she thought to herself. She set her bike carefully against the wall, and took her full face helmet off hanging it off the handlebars. She stepped back away from the wall and looked expectantly up at the upper right window.

‘Nice skid’, yelled Vin grinning out of the upstairs window, ‘but not as good as my last one’.

‘Mines loads better – more curve on it – you need the curve’ shouted Isabel clattering up the stairs to Vin’s room. ‘And more rubber…are we going then? I have to be back in half an hour’.

‘Dunno’, said Vin, ‘Not sure what’s happening – was just thinking about getting into this new level on radworld and sussing the key holders curse.’

‘C’mon – you promised you would go on the ramp tonight. And it’s the last night before we go. I’ve been practising. And I’ve only got half an hour. We need to go now!’. Isabel could feel herself getting impatient.

Vin grunted, and then threw down the DS. ‘OK s’pose so’, and then breaking into a broad grin, pulled on his shoes. Isabel breathed a sigh of relief. You never knew with Vin what he would do next.

‘Be quiet you two monsters,’ said Vin’s mum peering round the corner muffled by a huge pile of washing, ‘I’ve just put baby to bed. And if you are going out, make sure Matty goes with you – and only for half an hour. Then Isabel will have to go home. You all need an early night ready for tomorrow.’

‘Come on Matty,’ said Vin. ‘Let’s go down the ramp and try these tricks.’

Matty threw him a look and then closed his book. He put on his baseball cap and leapt off the sofa. At 13, he was the eldest and the sensible one.
‘All right, but we need to watch it cos we’re going tomorrow. And we need to be awake tomorrow cos of the plane.’

Tomorrow was the start of the summer holidays. Isabel was going to the far north to stay with her Gran and Grandad. Last week, it had been arranged that Matty and Vin were coming too, to give their Mum a break. Isabel was desperate to get up there, but nervous about her Grandad and Vin. She worried that Vin would do something idiotic and her Grandad would go bonkers. At least Matty was coming too – he was the only one who could make Vin see sense.

They all jumped on their bikes and set off down the stone steps to the main road. Matty was always the quickest and the quiet one, jumping each one with neatness and precision. They other two were always in a competition. As they rounded the bend, Isabel stuck out an elbow. Vin responded with a knee. His wheel caught some green slime and started to slide, the whole bike leaning dangerously towards Isabel’s. ‘Naaarrrghgh you muppet,’ she yelled fighting to keep it upright and keep herself away from the stone wall.

‘Nnnnyyeergggh get out of my way’, Vin yelled, rounding the corner slightly ahead of her. But there was no going back and neither of them could pull the slide back. And then there was a large ‘thwump’ as they both hit the ground.

‘Muppet’ – they yelled at each other for a good few minutes whilst they picked themselves up. Isabel extracted a twig from her spokes and threatened Vin with it.
They checked their limbs gingerly, feeling the bumps and scrapes. Matty came running over and looked at the other two with a resigned sigh.

‘Typical. What a pair of numptys. Can’t even get to the park without creating a nightmare scenario. No wonder mum wants to get rid of you for a week to get some piece and quiet’

‘Just you wait,’ Isabel said ominously, ‘wait till we get to my gran’s and you both will be swimming – I’ll fix you Vin..’

Matty continued, trying to diffuse the redness rising in Vin’s face. He could see Vin was bristling him up for a real torrent at Isabel. ‘I wish I was staying here instead of having to put up with you two lunatics.’

‘You’d just read and play useless games all week and be really really borin,’ said Isabel with a grin. ‘This way you have to do stuff with us – so we can do loads of things that we wouldn’t normally be allowed. ha ha.’

‘That’s what I’m worried about. And even worse if you two have a week long competition to see who can injure each other more. What am I supposed to do?’

The red was fading from Vin now as his thoughts switched to Scotland. ‘So can we really go in a boat?’ he asked sheepishly, taking off his helmet and hanging it off his handlebar. Isabel nodded slowly, ‘my boat if you are really really good.’

‘I’m still gonna do loads of reading and my art project,’ replied Matty, relieved that they had stopped thinking about killing each other. He planned on having as little to do as possible with the terrible twosome, particularly if they were going to spend all week trying to out do each other. But he had a sinking feeling that they had other ideas and he would get embroiled in some ridiculous scheme they had managed to conjure up. As the eldest, he would end up as always having to bail them out, and keep the peace. Nightmare.

‘So about this boat,’ said Vin. ‘Can we go fishing and maybe see a whale?’
Isabel looked at him witheringly, ‘it’s a dinghy, not a cross channel ferry, muppet. We can go out and go fishing, but it won’t be far enough out to see a whale. Though maybe we can persuade Nick to take us in the big boat to look for Minke whales. They are really cute. Or you could swim out – ha! Any way you are both going to have to spend loads of time learning, and I get to tell you what to do ha ha.’

‘You are not bossing me about’ said Vin, ‘no way, not in a million years!’, his eyes screwing up and starting to colour up red again. For once, Matty was in agreement with his younger brother. ‘Me neither. I’ll read a book and suss it all out anyway…’

‘One of us has to be captain, and that has to be me’, said Isabel sticking her chin out in a determined way. ‘You don’t have a clue about it so I will have to be Captain. Of course, you will learn, and then hopefully we can go off somewhere. There are these awesome Islands, with seals, and little beaches. And we can have fires and camp. And fish. And..’
‘Yeah but that sounds tame. And any way - how will we cook?’ said Vin, focussing on one of his most important assets, rubbing his tummy.
‘We can cook on a fire – fish or something?’ said Matty. ‘I bet I can catch a Pollack.’
‘A Pollack for a pillock’, giggled Isabel. ‘A pillock for a Pollack..’, and then she felt bad.
‘Sorry Matty – just came out. We need a big old Pollack to cook.’

‘I’m going to catch a rabbit and roast it,’ said Vin suddenly, his eyes narrowing.
‘How are you going to kill it and skin it?,’ asked Isabel, eyes wide open and with a slight shudder.
‘Got my new knife, and will make a trap for it. Easy peasy. Saw it on the telly on Ray Mears,’ grinned Vin.
‘We could eat sea kale, picked from the shore’, added Matty knowledgeably, ‘It grows everywhere apparently and is a good source of vitamins.’
‘Bleah - yuk,’ Isabel pulled a face. ‘Like cabbage, we could just take instant mash.’
‘Scurvy – we will get scurvy like pirates unless we eat greens’ said Matty.
‘Not for a few days you goody two shoes. We can just eat chocolate, really’ said Isabel. She looked across at Vin who had dug his new knife out of his pocket and was looking at it in a very peculiar way.

‘We will be stranded on an Island and no-one will know where we are. It will be months while they search. We have to survive on our wits, and I will kill rabbits.’ said Vin determinedly, off in Vin land.

‘We will have a mobile you dork’ said Matty witheringly to his younger brother. ‘ they can get a fix on our location and the coast guard will get us.’
‘it will get wet and we will have to survive’, said Vin, turning away, ‘my new Leatherman will save us. I will save us.’

Isabel started to look alarmed. Vin sometimes got a bit scary when he got one of his things in his head. He could be quite weird sometimes. Matty usually managed to calm him down. But this time Matty didn’t say anything to Vin.

He turned to Isabel and said, ‘I’ll make sure we don’t get stranded, and I can fish. C’mon Vin, lets jump the ramp.’

Isabel watched as they pedalled away over towards the ramp. She could fish too and make a fire. Now, she kept these things quiet from her classmates. She invented things sometimes, like pretending she had been shopping or listening to music. She sighed and paused over her bike, half pedalling, standing on the pedals, balancing. At least the boys had known her forever and didn’t grass on her. They even laughed at her attempts to be girly, and told her to get normal. But importantly, they listened to her adventures and came along too. But they hadn’t sailed and that was going to be difficult. They wouldn’t like being told what to do. Vin was so unpredictable and Matty always in a dream. To sail, they needed to get with it and do what they were told.

Isabel hoped her Grandad was going to be really strict at first, then she wouldn’t have to boss them about. Then they would learn and she could relax. She did hope that Vin wasn’t going to be all weird about killing things, as she tried hard to not be squeamish, but sometimes it showed when fishing.

She pedalled furiously towards the ramp, chin set down, focussed. She took off and pulled the handle bars up, pulled them round and twisted the other way. She fixed her eyes on a spot and pushed downwards, bending her arms and legs as she landed, then almost missing her pedal, recovered enough to accelerate away.

‘Nice’, said Matty.
‘Not bad for a girl’, said Vin with a grin.

They headed for their homes, the boys riding with her to her gate and she waving them off. She put her bike in the shed, and hung up her helmet.

Her Dad was there with a big hug. ‘I’ve checked all your clothes and packed you a pack lunch’, he said, ‘for my big girl who’s going away’. Isabel suddenly felt as though there were eels in her stomach. ‘You will be good, wont you?’ he went on. She clung to him.

‘Now then. I know you will be sensible-ish and you can always text me. We will be up in a week when your Mum and I finish work. We will go and climb if you like. We could go bouldering. What ever you fancy.’

‘Ace’, said Isabel, wishing her voice wouldn’t wobble in that annoying way. ‘Can we go to the Inaccessible Pinnacle?’ she said finally in a whisper.
‘Blimey Isabel. You better use the time to get fit then. And I better get my act together and get training.’
He smiled and put her down.
‘Right monkey, bed now. Big day tomorrow. Your mum will come up and give you a kiss later, and she is taking all three of you to the airport. I’d better go and write out some tags for you – ha’.

Isabel smiled at his joke. Typical – bit of a baby joke she thought. But she was glad he was there. She headed up the stairs and crashed into her bed. She was asleep and dreaming of fish before her Mum came back.