Only 8 months after chapter 1, here’s chapter 2. Enjoy!
‘Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, Kimberley,’ were the words that greeted me this morning. Father was unpacking a huge delivery of books and putting them in piles in the waiting room when I surfaced.
Two things to note from this: use of my full name to denote mild displeasure; and I think he must be reading my diary. So I’m going to have to find a better place to hide it. Will work on that later because HUGE NEWS. I’m going to the castle! Tomorrow! I haven’t been there for years and I haven’t seen granddad since Christmas. Which is mad when you think how close he lives really, at least as the crow flies. Bit harder for us humans to get there, but that’s part of the appeal. Though I’m a bit scared. Kids at school tell stories about weird goings on over there, I used to get teased rotten about granddad. Until Miss Danks put the fear of God in them, threatening to report them.
I was feeling better and I was actually quite excited about the new books and was looking forward to sorting them and putting them out in the shelves. They were second hand ones, see. As well as being better made than new books, they belonged to people long ago, they actually survived the Dark Ages. Some of them have inscriptions, dedications or owners’ names written inside. ‘To Julie, Christmas 1995.’ Sometimes cryptic messages ‘To C. Always remember the library steps. T.’ Once a hand-made card fell out of one, a huge red felt heart on the front and inside the inscription ‘don’t forget you are awesome.’ I even found a suicide note tucked inside an Agatha Christie. ‘If I never wake up, forgive me mum and know how much I love you.’ Sometimes I wonder if she did wake up.
I’m pretty sure the books are sorted before they reach us. I’ve never seen anything forbidden. But I don’t think they look inside the books, so I hold out hope that one day I’ll find a message from the past about what happened. Or a banned book in the wrong dust jacket.
Dad had put all the Harry Potters in one pile, and I wandered over to peek inside the hardbacks. As usual, they had rectangles snipped out from the back covers. I often wonder what’s been removed. What can be so awful that fits in a rectangle no bigger than a matchbox?
I’ve read them all, of course. Everyone has read them all by the age of about 8 or 9. They’re some of the only books from the Dark Ages we can get.
‘I’ve got some news, Kim,’ he said, putting down another pile.
‘I need to go away for a couple of weeks. Down to London.’
‘Yes, not great timing with the school holidays.’
‘What about the shop?’
‘Well Mrs Hopper can’t manage on her own. Her nephew’s going to help out. And some people from the Assembly.’
‘What? People from outside the parish?’
‘Yes. It’s okay. It’s all arranged with the… department in London. Look we’ve got some new cook books!’
Cook books are especially prized, we always get a good price for them. Not that we can make half the things in them, I don’t even know what some of the ingredients are let alone find them in the market. Some people read them like novels. Culinary escapism, dad calls it.
‘Don’t change the subject, dad. What am I going to do?’
‘I think you’ll like this.’
I looked at him doubtfully.
‘No, really. I’ve arranged for you to go and stay with granddad.’
I squealed and danced round him.
‘See, I told you you’d like it.’
‘But why now? I’ve been asking to go the castle for, like, ever. You always say the weather’s wrong, granddad’s ill or the tides are wrong…’
‘Well, he’s fine. And the tides are just right. Tomorrow we can cross just before noon. There’s a very low tide so I have plenty of time to take you across and get back myself in time for the train.’
‘Tomorrow?! I need to pack! I need to tell Miss Danks!’
I don’t have a lot of friends. Miss Danks is my English teacher. This is unbelievably sad, I know, but she’s probably my best friend. I just don’t get on with children my age. Dad says it’s because of not having a mum. Never having known her, I wouldn’t know.
‘Look, Kim. Sit down a moment.’
‘What? Is everything… ok?’
‘Yes, really it is. I need you to do something for me. When you’re in the castle.’
‘Sounds spooky. Have you been reading my Famous Fives, dad?’
‘This is serious. Listen.’
He lowered his voice and looked me in the eye. He never looks me in the eye.
‘I want you to… keep an eye on granddad.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Just… see that he’s okay, and not doing anything silly…’
‘You want me to spy on him?’
‘You’re as bad as the kids at school! Telling tales about granddad being a traitor!’
‘He’s not a traitor.’
‘Why do we never go and see him then?’
‘He does important work. For the Assembly. And the other governments. He needs peace and quiet and space. The castle’s the perfect place for that, and he doesn’t need us disturbing him. And you are going to see him. For two whole weeks.’
‘But be careful what you say. To other people.’
‘Can I tell Miss Danks?’
‘If you must. She’ll be wondering where you are. You go round there often enough.’