As I mentioned yesterday, I’m currently in the middle of publishing a new serialised, young adult fantasy story! “Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five” is being released in six instalments, and the first TWO PARTS are OUT NOW! So, I’ve decided to share some of this story with you.
Over the next few days, I will be publishing the first “Sapphire Smyth” instalment a chapter at a time – right here on my blog! This started yesterday, and you can find that post here – PROLOGUE. Today, the story continues, and you will find ‘Chapter One’ from Part One of “Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five” below. I do hope you enjoy the story, and I’d love it if we could chat more in the comments.
Eighteen years later…
Exhausted, Sapphire peered over her shoulder to make sure nobody was around to see her. Once she knew it was safe, she dropped her bag over the stony park wall and clambered after it. She needed shelter, and she knew where she could find it. Moving fast, Sapphire collected her bag and hung its straps on her shoulders. As she traipsed further into the park, her feet sank deep into the mud. Sapphire hadn’t considered where she was going when she had put her pumps on in a hurry. It was fair to say that Sapphire hadn’t really considered much at all—including the weather.
Although Sapphire knew every inch of Greyflower Gardens, it was so different at night. Most of the trees didn’t have their leaves yet, and their branches threw creepy shadows beneath the moonlight. Despite being a little anxious, Sapphire couldn’t think of another place to go. She didn’t have a home anymore. It was dark and cold, and she needed to find some way to escape the downpour. All the same, in her home village of Toyn, there probably wasn’t a spookier place to go than Greyflower Gardens.
While she made her way to the path, Sapphire admired the lake as it came into view. Everywhere was so still, which was a little creepy. Sapphire stopped when she reached a bench, not far from where she wanted to be. She was soaked enough already, and her coppery hair dangled in limp strands across her face. Being in the rain for a little longer wouldn’t make any difference. Sapphire’s jeans clung to her legs and they had turned a much darker blue from being so wet. In fact, everything Sapphire was wearing was sodden, other than the black top that was hiding under her grey quilted jacket.
None of that mattered. Finally, Sapphire had a chance to gather her thoughts. Being alone in the dark had its advantages. So far, it had been a weird day, and not at all what she had expected. But before Sapphire had a chance to reflect on it more, a strange whirring distracted her. A friendly voice spoke over the unusual sound.
‘Knew you’d come here.’
‘Shit! Ben! Where did you…?’ Before she could sit on the bench, Sapphire spun to face the person who had crept up behind her. Ben’s unexpected appearance had startled her, and she tried to catch her breath.
‘Nice night for a walk,’ Ben grumbled in a gravelly tone. ‘In the rain. I mean…who wouldn’t want to take a walk in the park? At night… In the rain. Right?’
Sapphire lowered her head and twitched her shoulders. ‘Where else can I go?’
When Ben stepped closer, Sapphire saw how drenched he was too. Raindrops clung to his neatly trimmed beard as if trying to save themselves. Worse still, his dark hair was floppy, which he wouldn’t be happy about. Ben’s distinctive olive-green overcoat dragged through puddles as he approached Sapphire. His pale grey shirt and black jeans were as saturated as the rest of him.
Ben Whitworth was Sapphire’s closest friend. She couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t known him. Throughout Sapphire’s childhood, Ben’s family had lived next door to her. Even though Ben was a couple of years older than she was, they had mostly gone to the same schools. Ben was always there when Sapphire needed to chat, too. Nonetheless, that didn’t explain how he knew where to find her. Yet there he was, standing in the rain.
As always, Ben was spinning the yoyo that he carried with him everywhere. Sapphire often thought Ben was a bit old for a toy, but he was extremely fond of it. Who was she to argue? What baffled Sapphire more was that Ben seemed to have owned that same yoyo for years. The yoyo’s shell was made from wood, and there was a distinguishing black cog-like design on each of its surfaces.
‘You need to go home, Saff,’ said Ben, when he sat on the soggy bench. ‘People are worried.’
‘Worried?’ Sapphire sensed her brow creasing. ‘They’re worried? They told me to leave.’
When Sapphire sat beside him, Ben turned to face her. ‘They are worried. They might not show it, but—’
‘They only care about the money!’
A look of confusion raced across Ben’s face. ‘I almost forgot,’ he said, changing the subject and reaching inside his coat. ‘Your birthday. Here… I got you something.’
When Ben pulled a crumpled sweet packet from his coat, Sapphire grinned. Blackcurrant liquorice. Ben had brought her blackcurrant liquorice. Sapphire took the packet from him and noticed a small scrappy piece of paper that was taped to it. After straightening out the packet, she could decipher the message written on the paper.
Happy 18th Saffy. Have a great day. Ben x
‘Thank you.’ Sapphire smiled as her fingers fumbled with the packet in the rain. ‘The best present.’
Ben beamed back at Sapphire. ‘I still don’t get why you like those things. But they’re your favourites. So…’
The expression on Ben’s face became serious again. ‘You need to get home.’
Sapphire stuffed the sweets into her jacket pocket. ‘Don’t have a home. If that’s why you’re here… to convince me to go back… then you can go. I’m not going anywhere.’ Defiant, Sapphire stood and wriggled until her bag fell into place against her back.
‘Where you gonna stay?’ asked Ben, as he swivelled on the bench.
Sapphire didn’t answer. Instead, she lifted her arm and pointed to a corner of the park where the ground rose into a small hill. Roots, which belonged to various old trees, sprawled across the top of the slope. Beneath them, there was a hollowed-out passage formed from lumps of stone. The dark passageway ran from one side of the mound to the other. It was creepy, but at least it was dry.
‘No!’ Ben scolded. ‘You’re not staying in there. Go home, Saffy. You have a family that loves you, and a—’
‘They’re not my family. They made that clear.’
Ben lifted to his feet and started to spin his yoyo again. ‘They are. Of course, they are. They’re the people who raised you.’
‘Foster carers,’ sniffed Sapphire, tugging her coat around her. ‘Not my family. Not my parents.’
‘I don’t think that’s fair,’ said Ben, stepping around the bench. ‘Your parents are the people who raise you. They did that. They raised you since you were little. I don’t get what they did wrong.’
Sapphire stepped closer to Ben and sensed water trickling down her cheeks. Being careful not to tug at her nose ring, she rubbed the raindrops from her face with her jacket sleeve. Despite their friendship, it was impossible for Ben to understand what life was like for Sapphire. She knew that. There was no way Ben could ever recognise how she felt. Then again, he wasn’t likely to leave without an explanation.
‘Happy Birthday, Sapphire,’ muttered Sapphire. ‘Here’s your present, Sapphire. It belonged to your dead mother. Oh, and by the way… you need to find somewhere else to live. You’re eighteen now, and we can’t afford to keep you.’
Sapphire thrust her arm forwards so that Ben could see the new item of jewellery that clung to her wrist. Since her foster parents had given it to her that morning, she hadn’t been able to take it off. There didn’t seem to be an obvious reason either. When Sapphire had put the bangle on, it had slipped over her hand with ease. Yet the thin strip of silver wouldn’t budge, as though it had moulded to her skin. What confused Sapphire more was the tiny metal hoop which clung to the bangle. At one time, something must have been attached to it. A part of the bangle had been snapped off.
‘That was your mum’s?’ Ben looked puzzled when he bent down to inspect the piece of jewellery.
Sapphire snatched her arm away. ‘Apparently. And it was my leaving gift too. They gave me this… then politely told me they didn’t want me around. Goes to show you can’t trust anyone. My own dad abandoned me as a baby. Now… turns out my foster parents only wanted me for the money. No money… no Sapphire.’
Ben placed his hand on Sapphire’s shoulder. ‘Then come back with me. Either way… you can’t stay here. Have you even eaten anything?’
‘Got my sweets,’ said Sapphire, pulling back to free her shoulder. ‘They’ll do fine.’
‘You can’t live on blackcurrant liquorice.’
Sapphire offered Ben a slight grin. ‘Blackcurrant liquorice makes me happy. I can live on happiness.’
When Ben moved nearer again, Sapphire turned. She didn’t want his help. She was eighteen and could look after herself. Sapphire didn’t need saving by Ben—or anyone else.
‘Please,’ Ben pleaded. ‘I’m not going anywhere until you agree to come back with me.’
The fact that Ben didn’t understand was making Sapphire angry. Frustration had started to burn inside her chest. Trying to keep calm, she gave Ben a shallow nod. She needed to be alone and Ben’s sympathy wasn’t helping. Clutching at the straps of her bag, Sapphire took a long breath—then ran.
That’s it for today, but I will be back again with Chapter Two. I hope you’re enjoying the story so far. Please feel free to get in touch below.
If you want to grab a copy of this book, it is available on Kindle & Paperback via Amazon. The eBook is also available on Kobo, Nook and Apple Books.
P.S. Here are the links to find the book on Amazon and KOBO…