A Bracelet Made of Brass

In the beginning she hadn’t thought she would matter, but she had been wrong.

Chapter One

There was a comfort in the sounds of the street: the baker’s cart rattling as it’s wheels were forcibly pushed over cobbles; windows being opened and closed by maids busying themselves with dusting; the never-ending trotting of shoed feet against stone and grit. There was comfort in the smells, too – most of all in that of fresh manure, because it meant there would probably be something to kindle a fire and keep warm by, once the chill of night arrived.

There was no loneliness during the day, either; there was always some other dweller to play with or possibly even scheme with. The cleverest of the children would gather the others around them and make a plan on how to get the fattest loaf of bread off the baker’s cart, or half a dozen apples from the stand outside the grocery, and everyone would lay in breathless wait until the sign was given for the go-ahead. They had managed it once or twice, but – and it wasn’t often they were brazen enough to attempt to steal – usually they were caught and it would mean beatings for the older children and a night spent alone in someone’s attic or cellar for the younger ones; and of course there had been that one time when they lost Ilke and never found him again.

But as night came, slinking around corners like the wisest street cat, sleekest of the sleek, blackest of the black, the thoughts would be the loudest of any noise that could be heard, and the children, crowding together in well-hidden chambers beneath stairs, behind trash-cans, would wonder why they had been left behind. Most of them had never known their mother or father, and would stare in wonder whenever a non-dwelling child would walk down the street with their hands in their parents’ – what would it feel like to be so content in the simplicity of their love? Why was no one reaching out their hands to them, opening their arms to hold them? And an ache would begin in their hearts, and most of them wouldn’t get much sleep.

She was different. She didn’t realize that she was, but she had always been very different from the others. That was the real reason why she huddled together alone under the bench outside the pottery shop, and not what Jesley had told her: that she smelled too bad, that she stank up anyone who came near her and that’s why they wouldn’t play with her. She had figured as much when she once scrubbed herself from top to bottom with the leaves of a foaming tree and Jesley declared that it had only made matters worse.

She was different because she didn’t care that she was constantly rejected, banished to the shaded part of the park when the others lounged on the grass in the sun. She didn’t care because she liked the shaded part of the park; she liked sleeping alone, not catching the flees that Markosh was always attracting, or having to listen to Brimble snore. She did okay on her own, because of the dream that sustained her.

It had been created on one of those Days of Adventure, when they were trying to get their hands on a pie sitting in Mrs. Deneves window and Jesley had decided to use her as a distraction, thus including her last-minute into the plan. Everyone had complained, but it had quickly been settled that she would only get a small piece of the pie since she took the smallest risk and then everyone happily shut up about it. She had thought they were being stupid – she was supposed to stand in the middle of the street and scream “Dragon!”, how was that not taking a big risk? She would probably get a good spanking for telling lies as it was; but she didn’t dare pipe up against Jesley, and so she took her part of the mission in stride, stepping into the street as planned, drawing a big gulp of breath.

It was what instigated it all, that big gulp of breath – the start of her journey, something as simple as drawing in air. She would wonder if any other air would have led to a different outcome. But that would be later. This was the day when Ilke disappeared, and when she, for the first time, set foot in the attic of 3321 Horacles Road.


~ by mescribe on August 6, 2010.

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