Amberliah & The Golden Rose

Amberliah and the Golden Rose...

A somewhat vertically challenged Amber Redshoe lived -  very comfortably I might add -  in a perfectly round, perfectly white cottage   nestled under rolling hills and surrounded by a rambling rose garden, in the quaint heart of Yburtle.  Some say it’s an ordinary village with pretty gardens, I say extraordinary in accordance to the amazing tales told by the village elders, who meet at Opel Gardens every third Tuesday, not two miles from the wonderful and magical Briana Forest.  

They say all kinds of unbelievable and quite bizarre things, I’m sure, should they know I was hiding right under their noses, as they ditch their ancient walking sticks and straighten their usually crooked limbs and sing merry and enchanting songs, while I lay flat on my belly, as still as a Heron and as quiet as a mouse in the red claylike earth under the rose bush, preying the cats haven’t poohed there this week. They not would be so forthcoming with their tales of ‘silver footmen fish’ or  flying children or yellow sweets or giant caterpillars, as they dance around in joyous circles, with yellow rose petals falling about them like confetti. I would tell the others but I wouldn’t risk this slice of magic being made public knowledge for you see I think  somewhere, it all concerns me too, I have to get to my part before I can tell the others. I’m Horace, I’m ten and not so lucky. I live in a wooden-shack with my aunt Peggy, on the very edge of the dark Briana forest, they say, its a magic forest, the kids at my school, the ones not in  my group, but it’s all nonsense , they just see the dark stupendoulsy-tall pine trees that are bunched so tightly together the moss covered floor is littered with long eerie shadows, so nobody goes beyond my shack, with its rickety gate hanging from a single squeaky hinge and its raggedy curtains, sewn together so many times they are a patchwork of over fifty kinds of fabric. Just the dilapidated look of the place keeps them at bay, the other kids. They don’t know what they are missing thankfully, there is magic in there, in that cool gentle place, most defiantly, but not the kind they think of, witches and dark, evil magic.  But I’ll get to that later, first I should introduce you to my friends, my odd and wonderful friends.

I live in a wooden-shack with my aunt Peggy, on the very edge of the dark Briana forest, they say, it's a magic forest, the kids at my school, the ones not in  my group, but it’s all nonsense , they just see the dark stupendoulsy-tall pine trees that are bunched so tightly together the moss covered floor is littered with long eerie shadows, so nobody goes beyond my shack, with its rickety gate hanging from a single squeaky hinge and its raggedy curtains, sewn together so many times they are a patchwork of over fifty kinds of fabric. Just the dilapidated look of the place keeps them at bay, the other kids. They don’t know what they are missing thankfully, there is magic in there, in that cool gentle place, most defiantly, but not the kind they think of, witches and dark, evil magic.  But I’ll get to that later, first I should introduce you to my friends, my odd and wonderful friends.

 

Yburtle Village has hosted the world-renound ‘Yburtle Flower Show’ for the last fifteen years, where the equally infamous and mostly delicious honey pies are baked in their hundreds, each baker, hoping they will be fortunate enough to win the glittering prize – a small golden statue of a wizards staff - from Ambers handsome father the vicar or not so fortunately from his prickly  bee-hived tight-lipped wife Silvia.

Amber is fortunate, she has a petite face, full of freckles, so close and so many,  they almost join up and her striking fire-red hair, she can sit on and often does. Her eyes shine olive green, flecked with gold and are the biggest I have seen, ever! She is ridiculed by 'the other' school kids , all kinds of stuff they shout, the usual ginger-nut, copper-top, rusty-nut, the usual one would expect from those who are quite plainly jealous they don’t poses such a vibrant strawberry shampoo-smelling feature.

Being a tomboy, this just seems to feed Ambers eternal inquisitive and trouble-making mischievous nature. Any opportunity to take on the other children, with slingshots and pebbles, is a most welcome challenge, one that often has us all in mountains of trouble. You will meet us all soon, all six of us.

Her father, Jerald, can often be seen painting the white picket fence that surrounds the rose-filled garden or pruning the biggest yellow rose bush in the entire world, it creeps all over the front of her house like a gargantuan spiders web and is definitely the envy of all of the green-fingered neighbours, who have been seen sneaking into the garden after dark to take cuttings, none of which have bee successful. Shona, the nosey woman from the green-grocers, with unusually large feet,  asked Jerald one day what the secret was, as she was riding by for the forth time, on her Victorian-style bicycle, with her rat-faced poodle in a straw basket on the front. He just tapped his nose and smiled which infuriated her and she  took a wrong turn and cycled head first into the duck pond, scattering disgruntled swans and geese all over the place.

Its secret has never passed the lips of Jerald or any other resident of, mostly because there isn’t one, Amber says, it’s just good soil, fertile. Amber would often sit at the very top of her lacy-looking spire, lodged  on top of the second level of the cottage, slightly crookedly, like the top layer of a lopsided wedding cake and she would breathe in the heavy scent of the roses as wind swept that subtle fragrance through her fairytale tower.

Even she was baffled at just how they managed to grow in such abundance, so far from the ground. Her Mother Silvia wasn’t a keen gardener, in fact she wasn’t green fingered at all but the garden seemed to miraculously take care of itself. Giving Silvia sufficient cause to waft her knife-resembling, pointy nose about the air in rejoice, as everyone admired it.

Tuplipton Primary school was a ten-minute walk away from that fairy-tale house. Most mornings Amber would sneak into the kitchen, steal a handful of treacle tarts to later share with her ‘other’s’ and stuff them into her worn satchel and all over her books, which were constantly smudged with splotches of treacle and honey or other sickly-sweet substances, which infuriated the teachers, one of whom was her Mother Silvia. She would check her slingshot was tucked in her satchel, the most important item and a few pebbles and set off to call for Ronnie.

Eolxom House was just awesome; there is no other way to describe it. The lane leading to it  shadowed by a tall wooden fence so long it was impossible to reach the house in time, so Amber would wait, half way, under an enormous willow tree, which they aptly named ‘The Crier’ because of its sad wilting branches and droplets of water which would sprinkle & soak them, even on the hottest of days.

Ronnie was always late, probably because they could no longer afford a maid, probably because her mum was so busy being sad and weeping, she didn’t notice Ruby at all. Ronnie as a result always seemed to be half dressed, odd socks or none at all, buttons fastened haphazardly, her hair, a backcombed golden sun-kissed bees-nest, scraped into a messy ponytail with scraggy ends falling over frail shoulders. And yet she still managed to look beautiful.

Amber would be tapping an impatient foot while Ronnie idled her way up the lane, no sense of time. While Amber, seemed to be regulating steam, coming from small her ears. They would meet with a nod of heads, conduct a lose mandatory hug and continue hand in hand along the lane, as the early morning sunshine released the fragrant honey suckle into the air, Amber chatting excitedly about everything, Ronnie listening in silence, until they approached the mountainous gates painted in black gloss, adorned with wrought iron loops the size of horse hooves. There on the kerb they would usually come across Andrew Honeycomb and me, our butts perched on the kerb, clicking marbles and dreading the shrill of the school bell. Which when it rang, sent chills to your very core. Being a small village each class held only ten students. Our form tutor, a timid ‘Miss

There on the kerb they would usually come across Andrew Honeycomb and me, our butts perched on the kerb, clicking marbles and dreading the shrill of the school bell. Which when it rang its melancholic chimes, sent chills to your very core. Being a small village each class held only ten students. Our form tutor, a timid ‘Miss Timble’, was a neat mousy-haired woman who wore a perfectly-pressed, buttoned to the top blouse, hair in a tight bun, not a strand out of place and wire-framed spectacles perched on a very perfect and dainty nose. She smelled of soap. She was a godsend, we could just have easily have ended up with Silvia, who seemingly had a cane attached to her hand at all times and a squint in her eye as if she was permanently about to sneeze and she didn’t smell of soap, only garlic.

Andrew sat behind Amber, who sat next to Ronnie. He was cheeky, had three older and very rowdy brothers with hair tar-black and lived in a two bed roomed red-brick terrace. His hair was snow-white, his legs short, his eyes short-sighted, and his glasses large and plastic-framed. His eyes almost navy-blue and the nearest to black I have ever seen on a person. Andrew was smart, I mean really smart, could do maths way before I had even picked up my pencil and I am quick. His clothes, too big, hand me downs, although fashionable for a boy two or three sizes bigger, on Andrew, they just looked big baggy and wrong.

I would be the one to send paper airplanes soaring through the air also having finished before the rest of the class. With notes such as:  ‘first one to laugh gets one of Ambers tarts in the face at break.’ Whoever got the note would subsequently be sent to stand outside of the classroom and stare at us through the glass and make faces. There would often be five of us stood outside by lunchtime.

I sat behind Andrew and next to Ruby. She was so pale ‘the others’ called her death. Her hair was gothically elegant, perfectly bobbed, shiny black with a blazing streak of blood-red through the front. Eyes with the luminescence of dark ale, She was cool-looking, as white as a ghost but the very definition of cool. She didn’t have much to say but when she did it was usually witty and sharp and well thought out and everybody listened form our group at least. Then there was Sunny, who sat next to me. Not conventionally pretty but due to such an appealing nature, everyone over looked this fact and she was a sort after commodity, a shy and somewhat delicate sort, with lank hair and dull grey eyes and yet had a certain intrigue. Although scrawny by definition, she ate more then everyone in the group, always grazing and never putting on an ounce. She would eat none stop, even during lessons. Her dog mustard was always at her side, or tethered to a post somewhere nearby.  Mustard was a scruffy-coated dog who wasn’t able to bark and when asked where she got him from, she could never remember.

After school most days we would idle our way to ‘Opal Gardens’ to iron out the days problems, play marbles, swim in the dirty fish-pond, that was alive with bronze and silver fish, or climb the mighty oak trees with thick twisted branches. We were care free and happy and living a pretty ordinary ten-year-old life. Until one Day,  The 1st of January 1979 to be precise, that day would change things for ever.