I’m doing the edits for Tunnels and as I do I am read exerts… Bits of my writing. So far just doing the edits has made me cry and laugh. How is that possible?
To give you a sneak peak I am going to pop the first chapter below. This is a children’s book for ages 8+ or Grade 3 +. Hope you like it anyway…
Chapter 1 – Time to grow-up.
“Heather!” My mother has both hands on her slight hips and is red in the face. A sure sign that I have done something wrong, but I can’t think of anything.
“Mum?” I ask, worried.
“I’ve just spoken to your brother.” I wrinkle my nose at that. If there’s one person who really annoys me it’s my brother. Hamish senior is older than me and because he’s become a raven everyone listens to him. No one listens to me.
“And?” I ask. I realise I’m being rude but I know where this is going. Mum’s going to bring up my hand-fasting again. I’m only eight, but I am old enough to be considered an adult. I don’t feel like an adult.
Mum is looking at me and I know she can see the frayed edge on my favourite skirt and the dirt on my top. Many times she has told me that I’m a disappointment; not pretty enough, and not dainty enough. I’ve tried to tell her that it doesn’t matter as I will be married. I want to be a Forrger. I want to go topside. I want to see the sun.
I never have. Actually no one has, not here in Mayflower Close. Here we live below the world. Mum says that I ought not to have thoughts about the above ground. She says that it’s wrong, that we belong here as they belong there, but I am sick and tired of the tunnels and the damp air. I want to go and see trees. The Forrgers go up and they bring things back. They tell us about trees and bushed, birds and buildings. Some of the things they bring are so strange that it is as if they were made by fairies.
The last time Richard went up he brought back a small square device that had sung and shown pictures until it had died. We can’t work out why the things die, but I think it has to do with the sun. And that is what I told him.
I’d explained it and he had nodded. Then he took my idea to the elders, who said he was brilliant and given him more credits for food. It had been my idea, but I didn’t get anything.
“That was my idea!” I’d called after him, once he had got his extra food.
He’d come over, all red faced and growling. “You don’t tell no one that. It was my idea.”
“No way,” I said. “Was mine.”
He’d looked at me then and at his pile of food. “What do you want?”
This is what I’d been waiting for. You see I want to be more than Heather, the girl. I want to be a Forrger. So I told him. “Take me up.”
He’d looked at me then as though my head had gone soft. “You’re a girl!” he snorted.
I rolled my eyes. “So?”
“Girls don’t go up. You’re meant to get hand-fasted and then married.” He said all this in a rush and I waited his rant out. Really I don’t care what he thinks. I know I could do a better job than him.
“You told me…”
Richard groaned, but I carried on.
“You told me that the girls up top are like the boys. They have jobs!”
He looked away. “I never should have said,” he mumbled.
“Maybe not,” I said. “But you did and I want to be a Forrger.”
Still he shook his head, but eventually he showed me a tunnel. “Takes you up to Mary King’s Close and from there you can go out.”
“To see the sun?”
“No,” he’d said with a sigh. “We’re different now. The sun can hurt us. You have to stay close to the shadows.”
I nodded and walked back home, remembering the way. For the first time since forever I was smiling when I got home. I was. But now Mum is looking at me with hard eyes and I know what she’s thinking. She wants me to choose a boy.
“The elders want you to settle,” she says. I notice that she is wheezing again. I reach out a hand and take her arm.
“They keep asking me,” she says. Her breath is shallow and I know it means she’s going to have one of her attacks.
This is the main reason I want to go up. I need the medicine, or rather Mum needs the medicine. I steer Mum into our little stone house. It has been chiselled out of the rock and has just two rooms, one downstairs and one upstairs. There is a wooden wall running along the middle and that is where I head. If Mum sits with her back to that wall it is less damp. It isn’t cold, at least not much, but the damp can seep up through the floor, making you feel cold.
“I only want you safe,” Mum wheezes. And I know what she means. If Mum were to die before I was hand-fasted then I would have to become a spinster, and that’s not a good life. Aunt Allok is a spinster and she is hunched and bruised all the time from the taking apart of clothes. The forggers bring stuff from above and any fabric is taken to the spinster house where they tear it apart and make normal clothes from it. Only the spinsters are never able to get extra food because there is always more clothing than needed. I once asked her why they all made the same thing at the same time.
“The factories ask for it,” she said and her voice sounded old, yet she was only in her thirtieth year.
“I don’t know why you all have to make the same thing. It floods the factory and then no one wants to give too many credits for it,” I said, but Aunt Allok had just looked at me as though I was odd and said nothing.
No one really listens to me. But right now I can hear that Mum’s breathing is worse.
“Mum, I’m going to get Hamish,” I say. Mum flutters a hand at me. It looks like a the movements of a small animal caught in a snare. Fear floods me. I don’t say anything else, instead I go to get my brother.