The Sapphire Crystal
The small window at the side of Number One Partridge Way was overgrown with ivy, and although a late summer sun had pushed through the morning mist outside, inside the cupboard Melina could barely see her hands in front of her. She was floating in the air, close to the ceiling with the lightshade hanging down a few inches away from her middle. The cupboard was short from front to back, the same width as the stairs above, and to fit in she had to float on her side, with her knees pulled in towards her chest.
Melina found floating in the air effortless. All she had to do was think about getting away and being very light and she would drift gently up into the air. It was a peculiar sensation, a little unnerving, especially with it being so dark.
The house was very quiet. Every now and then she could hear her mother moving about on the floorboards upstairs. The spare room needed redecorating and her mother had taken time off at the hospital, where she worked as a pharmacist, to make a start on it. The rest of the family were out. Her father had gone to work. He worked in a bank in London and wouldn’t be back until after tea. Lastly there was Joe, her younger brother, who’d gone to a friend’s house for a birthday sleepover. Joe was probably the main reason the house was so quiet, because when he was there, he made most of the noise. Sometimes when he left the house, slamming the door behind him, she thought she could practically hear the house breathe a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that it was to get a break from the chaos and hullabaloo that seemed to surround its youngest occupant. Melina was glad Joe was out. They weren’t supposed to go inside the cupboard, and if he’d seen her going in, he would probably have told on her.
Something brushed her cheek, and she discovered that some of her hair had fallen out of her scrunchie. Her hair was ginger, and almost waist length. It was hanging down below her, giving her away, so she gathered it up and tucked it back into the scrunchie. Her nose began to itch and prickle inside, and she thought she was going to sneeze, but after pinching it for a while, the feeling went away.
As her eyes grew more accustomed to the dark, she saw daylight creeping under the door. The pale lampshade came into view, and then the sloping side wall, which was covered in stripy wallpaper. If she squinted she could just make out the large cardboard box down on the floor where she’d left her trainers. She’d taken them off in case they marked the walls, and then hidden them inside, so that Lisa wouldn’t find them.
Jack knew, the moment he’d thrown the frisbee, that he’d made a mess of it. It veered off at an angle, flying towards the house. It smacked the back wall, narrowly missing the upstairs landing window, dropped down on the lean-to roof, and continued its chaotic journey, clattering across the glass roof before finally falling down inside through a skylight.
Jack breathed a sigh of relief. He’d been lucky. It hadn’t broken anything. But his relief was short lived, as a moment later there was a loud crash, and a large hole appeared in a glass pane at the front.
He ran across the lawn to the door at the far end. The sight inside filled him with dismay. There were plant pots on their sides everywhere he looked, and the dirt from them was scattered across the quarry-tiled floor. Cody, his black Labrador, was in the middle of it all, nosing around for his frisbee, wagging his tail enthusiastically.
There was broken glass on the floor, so Jack grabbed hold of Cody’s collar and dragged him over to the door. Jack was small for his age, but also wiry and strong, and as he pulled the dog towards the door, his lopsided fringe of mousy brown hair kept falling down over
his left eye.
He had just managed to get Cody outside when someone called out to him.
“Jack? Jack! What’s going on?”
He turned to see his aunt steaming across the lawn towards him, her cheeks red and puffed up as if she were about to explode. For a large woman, she was quick on her feet, and she was upon him in no time.
“Did you do that?” shouted Aunt Lori, pointing to the broken pane at the front of
“Eh… no,” said Jack, trying to look and sound as innocent as possible.
“So it had nothing to do with that frisbee I saw you throwing a minute ago,” said Aunt Lori.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Follow me, Jack BURROWS!” she barked, and marched towards the door. The lean-to ran along the back of the house. Knocked together from old wooden window frames, it was part greenhouse, part conservatory, and there was a small seating area with two wicker chairs and a round cast iron table amongst the taller plants at one end.
Aunt Lori frowned as she looked around at the mess inside. “Oh no, not my lemon tree!”
she cried. She picked up a bright green flowerpot at the side of the door and carefully stood
it back onto its base, then looked through the leaves of the small tree it contained. “The lemon’s fallen off,” she exclaimed. “That’s the first one I’ve managed to grow.” She saw it on the floor, and picked it up.
Jack couldn’t see what all the fuss was about, as the lemon was only the size of a large grape, but he didn’t say anything because he knew how fond his aunt was of her plants. She put the tiny lemon on a shelf next to the door, and then made her way over to the hole in the windowpane at the conservatory end of the lean-to.
An oak plant stand was lying on its side in front of the hole, with a dark blue flower-pot
nearby. The pot was cracked in two, and a plant with spectacular white flowers and an
exposed root ball was sitting between the two halves.
She looked up and glared across at him.
“You keep that damn dog out of here in future, do you hear?”
Jack nodded sheepishly.
“Pick up those tomatoes!” she snapped, pointing to a narrow bed at the front with several plants tied to bamboo canes. “At least they won’t go to waste.”
Jack knew he would have to get away before his aunt found him another job to do.
After picking up the last tomato and placing it on the side with the others, he inched his
way over to the door. Then, facing Aunt Lori, who was busy kneeling down scooping the lily into another pot, he started making pincer movements behind his back – a bit like a sock
puppet talking. Right on cue, Cody, who was sitting outside, started barking.