"Come down, Sapphy!" I hear mum call. "If you haven't found it by now, you're not going to!" I sweep my eyes one last time around the attic, giving up on ever finding it, when my eyes fall upon a nondescript wooden box in a corner. My curiosity rises in me, leaving a strange, trickly feeling on my back, like water when you are just stepping out of a warm shower. "Um…just a minute!" I yell back.
I step over a few dusty, musty boxes and crouch down onto the floor next to it, impatiently brushing a few stray cobwebs out of my eyes and hair.
The box is old, and the wood is warped and cracked, as if it once fell into Ingo. It has some indistinct words carved clumsily into the lid that I cannot make out in the darkness of the attic. F…an F and an E, and…that might be an R…but the rest I can't make out. I grab my torch (no electric lights in our attic!) and focus it shakily on the lid.
Yes, I was right, an F, an E, an R, another E, an L, I think…and an I, a T…and an H. Ferelith. Ferelith…where have I heard that word before? It is a name, I think…but who do I know called Ferelith? No one. I scan my eyes around the attic, searching for clues, when I spy an old black and white photo of a young woman with long black hair like mine. Oh yes! I remember now! I can remember; when I was ten, dad unearthing this photo, and saying to me, "You know who this is, Sapphy? It's my auntie; your Great Aunt Ferelith." And then he added, as an afterthought; "I never met her though. She died when she was very young. Only seventeen."
My Great Aunt Ferelith. Did this box belong to her? I try to open it, but the lock has rusted and jammed. The damp wood gives me no help either. I hope that whatever is in it is not damaged…I try to force the lock open, but my pinkie finger gets caught on a sharp edge, and a jagged cut appears down one side, sputtering blood everywhere. Darn.
I grab the nearest piece of fabric I can find, (a scrap of white lace). (Hmm. Hope that was no one's wedding dress!), and absentmindedly I wipe all the residual blood onto it.
Ugh. I'm about to abandon the box altogether when I notice a toolbox, right over in another corner, so I go open that to see if there is anything in there that I could use. I notice a small screw driver, and I lift it out. I take it over to my wooden box, hoping that it will work like I want it to.
I insert the screwdriver the lock and work it around. It jams, and takes a long time to release it again. But I don't give up. I fit it to the bloated lock again and continue to try and force it open.
I don't know how long I spend, trying to get into the box. I don't know how many times mum calls me, and how many times I reply I am busy. In the end, she just gives up.
I don't know why I don't give up working away at Ferelith's box, trying to open it. There is something about that box that has attracted my curiosity now, something that pulls me towards it; like the box…like it wants to be opened. This is stupid of course. Boxes don't want to be opened, they have no feelings! Well, apart from Pandora's box. And this isn't Pandora's box. It's Ferelith's.
Finally, at long last, when I've got pins and needles in both legs and my back aches and my fingers are scratched and stiff, the box opens. It is tin lined, so the papers inside it have not been damaged. I lift them out with slightly shaking fingers. There's a thin, cloth-bound notebook, a sheaf of papers tied up with a black ribbon and a couple of black and white photos.
I focus on the photos first. The first photo is a picture of the girl with black hair: Ferelith. She is small and curvy, and is wearing a simple blouse and a rough looking pair of trousers. I flip the photo over. It says "me, July 1930".
I am surprised at this. She is wearing trousers and it is only 1930. I thought women weren't allowed to wear trousers then. Maybe she was a rebel. My mouth twitches up into a smile. I like that idea.
I squint closer at the picture, and notice that her hair is wet and her eyes are dreamy and faraway.
I abandon the rest of the photos and lift up the note book, flipping open the cover onto the first page.
You cannot take Air into Ingo.
I gasp. Ingo!
My mind abandons all other thought. I have to read on.