A hand taps my shoulder curtly. I gasp, jumping a mile high. Mum. "What are you still doing up here young lady?" she admonishes. "I've been calling you for hours, and you've missed your tea. It's that late, Conor's already ensconced in his bed! Come down this instant! And wipe that smirk off your face right now!"
I was laughing at the "ensconced in his bed" part.
"Hmph!" she snorts angrily, quickly stepping down the ladder. Scooping Ferelith's papers and pictures back into the box, I gather everything into my arms and follow her down.
"I am really sorry, mum," I sigh softly, cool breath drifting out through my slightly parted lips. "I just… lost track of the time."
Mum purses her own lips at me, then hands me a digestive biscuit on a willow patterned plate and some Ribena in an old blue plastic tumbler I've had since forever . "Well," she says, as I step into my room. "Goodnight, Sapphire."
"G'night, mum." I close the door, flicking on the light switch, and setting down Ferelith's box (thank goodness mum didn't notice it!) on the top of my old wooden dresser. I hear Conor moan in his sleep, somewhere above me.
Stifling a giggle, I kick off my ratty old trainers, black jeans and flower tee shirt, sliding into bed still in my underwear. My long dark hair hangs in front of my eyes like thick curtains. Brushing it impatiently away, I settle back on my pillow, my chin resting gently on the back of my hand.
Ferelith…I can't get her out of my head. Someone else in my family that knows about Ingo in this family besides me, and Conor and dad! If only she wasn't dead! I would love to speak with her, to ask her what happened to her and Aeron, to find out whether she actually died, or simply…went to Ingo?
Well, I know one sure fire way of finding out. I heave the box off my dresser, open the cloth bound book and begin to read.
Monday 17th July 1930
When I woke up this morning, it was such a beautiful day; I just knew I had to be a part of it. The sun streamed through the thin pinkish beige curtains that block out my (rather grimy) window. It might have only been very early in the morning still, but I knew that it was going to be a simply beautiful day.
Holding my nightgown hem up from the floor, I slid from beneath my blankets and tiptoed down the stairs. My head was pounding with a blinding headache. I suppose that's thanks to last night's crying fit.
Really, I don't know what came over me. Don't go thinking I spend my time shrieking at my father in such a way, dear diary, because honestly, I don't. I normally wouldn't dare tell father I hated him, or tell him to shut up.
I don't hate him anyway, at least, not really, it's just he's been drinking so much since mother died, and it makes him rather hard to live with.
Anyway – what was I saying? Oh yes. I was going downstairs. So, when I reached the foot of the stairs, I moved into the kitchen, silently looking at the time on our old mahogany grandfather clock. Five thirty.
That meant that Jem and Henry would have already gone to work (they're both fishermen, and have to be out early to cast the nets), but I wasn't due at work for another two hours. I'm a herring girl, and my job is to remove the guts of the fish that my brother's and all the other men from round here (apart from father and the pub landlord and the butcher) have caught. It is the most tedious, smelly and disgusting job a person could ever do, I am certain of it.
I turned and ran back up the staircase, and straight into my brother's room. I opened the cupboard beside Jem's bed, and began to rifle through the many pairs of roughly hewn grey flannel trousers and linen, sweat stained shirts until I found what it was I was looking for.
A pair of brown trousers Jem grew out of three or four years ago. They finally fit my not very slight frame.
Removing them from the cupboard, I returned to my own room, quickly stepping out of my nightgown and into clean underwear, Jem's old trousers and an old, creamy yellow coloured blouse that used to belong to mother. I added thick socks and my own boots.
Back down the stairs I flew, pausing only to snatch an apple from the crate on the sideboard, before bolting out the door and running outside.
Outside, at last!
Such an early hour meant that I could go and see my bees. They live in their hives up on the moor side, and it is my job to look after them. They used to be mother's duty, but after she died, they became my job. It took a lot of persuading dad to let me keep them I can assure you, but I finally managed to win him round after informing him how much money we could potentially make by selling the honey.
I ate my apple as I walked, enjoying the feeling of the sun beating down upon my uncovered head. I could smell the salt of the sea, the smell of Ingo, but stronger was the smell of the Earth; the soil, the honeysuckle, the heather. I truly am blessed to live in such a beautiful place.
By the time I finally reach the place where my bee's hives rest, I suddenly realised with a jolt of annoyance that I had left the gloves and hat I usually wear whilst tending to the bees back at the cottage.
I glanced up at the sun uneasily, wondering if I had time to dash back to the cottage and grab my things. I eventually decided to make a dash for it, if I ran.
And so I ran, all the way back to the cottage, my feet pounding and slamming on the ground. I stumbled at one point, and nearly fell, but quickly righted myself and continued on my way. When I reached our cottage, I snuck into the shed behind our house, next to the privy, where I gathered up my large, veil like hat, and big, padded gardening gloves. Then I ran all the way back.
But suddenly, I couldn't sum myself up to tend to my bees. It seemed such a mundane task, when the heather was so sweet smelling, and the delicious whiffs of honey rising from the hives was caught on the sea salt breeze. I threw myself down, face, into the grass, inhaling the delectable aromas that flowed through my nostrils.
And that was when I heard it. The voice. Ffffff-er-elittthhhh it called. Ffffff-er-elittthhhhh. I jolted up into a sitting position like an electric current had raced through my body. It called again, Ferelitttthhh, Fffferelith, calling my name over and over.
It made my hackles prickle up and my mind race with fear. I suddenly found cold tears trickling down my cheeks. It hypnotised it, it was beautiful; I just had to answer it…
I rose unsteadily to my feet, beginning to run in the direction of where it was coming from, but where that was I could not tell, and my ankle turned and I fell to the ground, and all the while the voice echoed through my numb mind, that enticing, seductive voice, hissing my name.
I tried to stand up once more, but I could not, and then suddenly there was a sudden lull of calm, and a blast of air, and I heard a voice again.
But it was a different voice. It was harsher, louder, cruder… and somehow, even more magnetising than the first one. FERELITH! It roared. FERELITH! Ferelith, Ferelith, Ferelith, over and over and over, but this time I did not panic, this time I did not fear, I simply sat there, letting it wash over me, knowing that one day I would follow it.
But not now.
And so I just sat there, my eyes closed, bathed in sunlight, until the first voice returned, and I listened to them, roaring, battling, each one desperate to be heard, each one trying, coaxing to get me to follow it.
But I just ignored it. I just sat there and smiled.
At last, at last, the voices stopped. I stood up, and I was calm. I was not scared. I know not whether the voices were limited only in my head, or if others on this hillside could have heard it. I maybe should have worried, but I didn't. I was the epitome of stillness and calm.
Then I walked slowly back down the hill, and into the cottage to get ready for work.
Getting ready for work. How simple and dull it seemed, after my encounter on the hillside! How could I go and spend my days pulling the guts from the bodies of silver fish, when I have done what I have just done? How can I disembowel any creature of Ingo, simply to bring money into my village and home?
But I had to of course, so I changed into a plain grey dress, braiding my hair over the crown of my head, and an old white cloth cap on top of that. All the while my fingers were shaking, and I stabbed my scalp more than once with a hair pin.
And my legs wobbled as I walked out of the front door, and down the path, on by the harbour and straight to the port. It was seven thirty in the morning.
By the time I reached the baskets and the other Herring Girls, the sun was beating down on my back, and it shone into my eyes so I had to screw them up. My friend Emma had arrived and begun her work before, and already I could see the sweat patches blooming like spring flowers from her armpits, already the stench of fish was almost overwhelming, already the blood of the Herrings covered her stumpy fingers.
I knew it was going to be a long day.