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The Amberley Egg (1) Rewrite 2008

by  Issy

Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2008
Word Count: 1628
Summary: This is a book I have being trying to get to grips with for 14 years! Some wwers kindly commented a couple of years ago (thank you Leila) and am uploading the amended first chapter, as am pleased to say, am now getting into it! Any comments gratefully received.

The Amberley Egg

Chapter One

The storm blew all night, wailing against Darina’s bedroom window, tearing and pulling at the old house as if the weather were an angry child striking at a parent. Darina slipped out of bed, clutching the shaking furniture and grasping the curtains. She peered out.

For a moment the wind held motionless, as if catching its breath. Above the trees at the bottom of the back garden, were rings of light, like exploding fireworks frozen in the sky. Then the wind started up again and the rings levelled into a straight line, which spun suddenly towards the house. Darina step back, momentarily fearful that lightning was about to strike, but the light turned and circled the house so quickly that if indeed there had been rings they had become part of a hoop of brightness.

The wind sounded different, like a voice. It was calling out a name: Oooweee. Oooweee. It had an insistence that made Darina’s muscles tense. She listened, closing her eyes against light that blazed through her eyelids. She didn’t know whose name it was.

The wind quietened. She opened her eyes. The hoop unrolled itself and in a line of light dropped back down behind the trees, and the house creaked back to its right position.

Darina rubbed her eyes. Ringed lightning, she thought. Clever. How did they manage that? It would be for the film they were shooting, but she had not thought her mother and stepfather capable of such an unusual special effect.

She looked out at moonlight calmly shining across the garden. The lawn had been given over to the filming and set out with small roofed houses in make-believe village street, which was the background for a children’s film. The walls and roofs were strewn across the grass like the broken toys of a spoilt brat.

There would be tantrums from her mother at the damage, thought Darina. Damage cost money. Strange that they hadn’t said they were filming in the night, but then, when did they ever tell her anything?

Strange also that the garden looked empty. The filming must be going on the other side of the trees. The grounds of the old house were huge.

Darina climbed back to her still-warm bed. The floorboard outside her room rasped as if some unseen foot stepped on it. Darina turned over. She was getting used to the noises the house made. There was more creaking and groaning than usual tonight, but that would have been because of the storm.

The old house gently creaked its normal creak as Darina fell asleep.

The sun shone through her window when she awoke. The curtains were open.

“Darina, come down here!” Her mother was yelling from below. Darina climbed slowly out of bed. She took her time to pull on jeans, t-shirt and trainers. No need to hurry. It wouldn’t make any difference.

“Darina, come down this instant. Get Toby out of the way.”

Darina splashed water over her face from the wash-hand stand near her window. She remembered an odd dream where the house had lurched and the furniture slipped across the floor. Her eyes felt gritty as if sand had got into them. She splashed more water.


She went to the top of the stairs, and held out her arm. The top of the stairs was a great place to practice for her future celebrity status. She decided to try her Shakespeare.

“Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo!” she called, dramatically. Her voice echoed back to her. It would be better with a long dress, or drape, so she could make a more vibrant gesture.

Down below her mother, Andreanna Catmole-Whittaker, was trying to manoeuvre a huge sheet of MDF, crudely painted with trees and cottages, out through the front door. Her face was red, and her temper, never very stable, would make her lash out at everyone.

A hollering came from the front room.

Her mother looked up.

“Darina, this is no time for your ridiculous over imagination. Go and look after your brother.”

Darina’s stepfather, Neville Whittaker, tall, fair, and handsome, bounced out of the room on the right of the downstairs hall.

“He’s grabbed the camera,” he cried, like a peevish child. “Get him out, Andrea, right out of this house, right away, or something valuable is going to get broken and then the filming will be delayed.”

“For God’s sake, Neville, do I have to do everything? Give me a hand with this,” yelled Darina’s mother. “Have you forgotten we have a schedule?”

“What have I just been saying…?"


He took the other end of the MDF. Darina could hear her mother yelling at him as he dropped it down the steps. Their voices faded, but she could hear crying from the room off the hallway. She ran downstairs and through the right hand doorway. Toby was sat on the floor, his face screwed up and wet with tears.

She picked him up and cuddled him, holding his face to her shoulder. It wasn’t his fault. He wouldn’t know an expensive camera from something he was allowed to play with. She gave him his dummy and he chewed angrily, his colour receding. Then she bounced him round the room in her arms, and was rewarded with a gurgle and a tiny smile.

The room was cluttered with the props and costumes that accompanied filmmaking, but Darina had no time for them. They were all tat anyway. She was more interested in the old books that had belonged to the previous owner of the house: sketch books, scrapbooks, designs and plans, a circular map on the wall, but it wasn’t of the world as she knew it. The continents were all wrong.

She paused by the photographs on the mantelpiece. The previous owner, Ambrose Whittaker, Neville’s great-uncle, had been missing for years, and was now presumed legally dead. He looked a lot like Neville: same fair hair, same thin face, but there was something in his eyes that fascinated Darina. They were entirely different to Neville’s. They looked straight out of the photo back at her. She put her head to one side. As a future world famous celebrity, Darina wanted to sum up a person by their eyes, work out what they were thinking. He looked as if he saw many things, not like Neville who couldn’t see what was directly in front of him.

There was something else in Ambrose’s eyes that Darina recognised: anger. She shuddered. For a moment she wondered whether Ambrose really was dead. Twenty years ago he had left a letter with his solicitors to say he was off travelling, and had not been seen nor heard of since. The eyes in the photograph seemed very much alive.

Darina heard the yelling again from the front of the house. She saw the lorry being loaded with scenery.

“I’ll take you out the back, Toby,” she said. “They don’t want either of us, but now you’ve got a big half-sister to look after you.” He gurgled into her shoulder. “Aren’t you glad I came to live with you?” She looked down at his sweet round face, so much paler than her own. Her heart felt as if it would burst with tears, and she cuddled him, swaying gently from side to side.

Andrea shouted as she crunched up the driveway to the front door. Still holding Toby, Darina slipped back into the hall and down the dark passageway to the kitchen.

Marie was in the kitchen, panicking with packets of sandwiches. “They should have a proper bus for the refreshments. They need caterers. They expect me to provide for the whole crew. They cut and cut that budget. Will you please get out my way, Darina, and don’t you start your silly pretence games here.”

Darina shrugged. Even a low budget film can cost horrendous amounts of money. She had heard them arguing about budgets, and it seemed that even using this old place, which Neville had inherited from his legally dead great-uncle, had not helped.

Toby’s baby buggy was by the back door. She grabbed his coat, blanket, bottle, jars of fruit, together with crisps and sandwiches whilst Marie wasn’t looking, and pulling on her anorak, she pushed the buggy out of the back door. She heard a crash and a shouted exclamation as she left.

The garden air felt fresh and peaceful. A robin called out from the bottom of the garden. Ahead of her were steps, covered with weeds, which led down to a huge uncut lawn. The grass was dented with long snake shapes where cables had lain the day before. Some bits of scenery stuck up bizarrely out of the long grass, the red roof of a villager house; the tower of a Cinderella castle.

They had been filming in the garden yesterday, but today they were off somewhere else. Darina knew that because the lorry was being loaded.

She took a deep breath. She would make her grand entrance, down the steps - practice if she became a famous chat show hostess. A good entrance was vital.

She put the brake on the buggy. “You can support me from the wings, Toby,” she told him.

“Oinghhh,” said Toby from behind the dummy.

Darina swept her arm up and descended the steps as though she wore an evening dress with a train. At the bottom she paused, nodded to imaginary audience, and smiled graciously.

She looked across the lawn. Something shone from behind the trees, catching the early morning light. A sudden breeze sent a half-grown apple spinning across the grass. The something glittered. Her breath caught her throat and for a moment, the taste of metal touched her tongue.