Sunday, May 6, 2012
Author: Katherine Amabel
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: The Hourglass Bridge
Di couldn’t decide whether to tiptoe away or start running. Regrettably, being paralyzed with fear made it difficult to do either.
There’s someone in my house! The realization slammed into her again. Locked in a silence pierced only by the ring of her nervous system in her ears, she stared at the miniature, wooden hourglass on the bookshelf. It didn’t look particularly scary, standing on a lace doily next to a bowl of potpourri, but those things had been there five seconds ago.
The hourglass hadn’t.
Coby? She grasped at a desperate hope as the last, silvery grains of sand trickled through the rough, glass shell. No. Her brother was upstairs, doing his absolute best not to get ready for school, while she was alone with a potential robber, axe murderer or raving lunatic for company. Or maybe even all three.
She pressed herself against the wall to cover her back, throwing panicked glances up the hall in both directions. The skin on her right arm prickled, where, only an inch away, the wall ended for the world’s creakiest stairs. If she went up to check on her brother, she’d cut off any means of escape. But if she tried searching for the intruder, she couldn’t move anywhere without leaving the rest of the house open for them to sneak around.
The hourglass stood directly opposite the stairway, but it was too ancient and unpolished to provide any decent reflection up the stairs. In other words, her life potentially depended on a bottle of window cleaner.
Di locked her eyes on the hallway phone. And something crashed to the floor above her.
Coby! She dived around the corner, without considering who she’d meet or how she might defend herself, and found Coby on the landing with his hands raised in surrender.
“Before you go mental,” he said as a cricket ball rolled out behind him, “that vase was ugly anyway.”
“Uh-huh.” Di couldn’t even process his words. “Where did this come from?” She jerked a thumb over her shoulder.
“What?” Coby craned his neck to see beyond her. She turned to follow his gaze. The hourglass was gone.
“That’s impossible.” Di groped across the doily and checked behind the bookshelf; on the floor; and even in the gap between the shelves and the grandfather clock. “There was an hourglass right here – a little tiny one. I swear.”
“Ooookay…” Coby raised his eyebrows. “Forget the vase, you’re mental already,” he added, kicking the ball into his room and disappearing after it.
Ignore him, said a voice in her head. Sure he’d caught her creeping through the house with a butcher’s knife two weeks ago, looking for what turned out to be nothing more than a mouse in the pantry, but that didn’t make her crazy and neither did this. No, she was just seeing things after last nights’ study cut into her scheduled seven and a quarter hours’ sleep. Di yawned and checked her watch – and the sight woke her faster than being drenched in a bucket of ice water. How could it be that late already? Ironing Coby’s shirt had stuffed up her routine a bit, but by this much? The bus would be there any minute.
Di rushed upstairs to the apocalyptic mess Coby called his room. His scruffy brown hair, stained uniform and grubby trainers were like camouflage amidst the chaos.
“Who lost my schoolbag?” he whined, kicking aside piles of dirty laundry and untouched textbooks.
“No-one. Can you hurry up? Mum and Dad already left for work and I don’t want to get in trouble if you miss the bus.”
Coby muttered something, probably rude, but at least he wasn’t making last minute fridge raids or playing living-room obstacle football. And if he complained again about face washing and teeth cleaning and other things fifteen-year-old boys say are a waste of time, she might just disown him altogether.
Like that’s ever going to happen. Di sighed. Despite Coby’s persistent belief that she must have been adopted, they were, to their mutual annoyance, twins. So for as long as they were stuck with each other, she might as well help him find his bag.
“Fine. I’m ready,” Di said. “I’ll search too.”
“Right.” Coby finger-combed his hair as he dashed out, but he still looked like he’d been mugged. By a cyclone.
You’re welcome. I was running on time until… you. Di grabbed her own bag from her room and hurried back downstairs, silently composing the lecture she would never have the heart to deliver. When she reached the landing, she checked the grandfather clock and froze.
From the glass case, two solemn figures were watching her.
Di spun around, searching for the source of the reflection. The stairs were empty. Gripping the banister in case her legs gave way, she started to turn back again. Every incremental movement was stiff enough to make her neck creak but she didn’t have the courage to go any faster. Eventually her gaze reached the base of the clock. She raised her head.
“Found it!” Coby thundered downstairs, slinging his backpack over his shoulder while Di tried not to faint with shock.
“It was in the bathroom,” Coby said, pushing past her to the front door. She didn’t move.
“You coming?” He paused. Di looked at the clock and saw nothing but her own wide, brown eyes staring back at her.
Tired. Plain, sane and tired, she told herself. She brushed the creases from her uniform, ran a hand over her ponytail to ensure there wasn’t a hair out of place, and followed Coby outside.
The bus passed their stop just as Di locked the front door. Coby was in no hurry for school but he couldn’t resist a race as the bus dragged itself up the hill. Di chased after him, dying of embarrassment; with her overstuffed schoolbag bouncing on her back, she felt like a giant, uncoordinated turtle.
At least it won’t make me any less cool, she reasoned as she caught up and climbed on board. Coby headed straight for the back seat, leaving Di, with her rank on the social ladder of about five rungs underground, to that most fiercely coveted of spots: smack-bang behind the driver. Waiting for her as always was her slightly freckly, slightly lanky, best-friend-ever, Josh.
“Since when do you have to run to get here on time?” He gaped at her as she joined him. “What happened, did every watch in the world stop working?”
“Coby was taking forever,” Di said distantly, still thinking of the faces in the clock.
“You okay though? You seem stressed.”
“I’m just tired.”
“Were you up all night reading again?”
“Maybe,” Di admitted. Josh feigned disappointment.
“You need a life,” he teased. He was joking, but the honesty in his hazel eyes hit a painful nerve.
Di turned away, fiddling with her neatly trimmed nails to avoid his gaze. Josh was right; her life was about as exciting as leftover Brussels sprouts.
“Maybe you… you could… come out sometime,” he said quietly. Di jerked her head up and saw, to her astonishment, a hint of colour creeping up from his cheeks to the roots of his dusty blonde hair. He met her eye, went completely red and turned to the rain streaked window, suddenly fascinated by the semi-detached houses and soggy, Welsh countryside sliding by.
“I mean… I know the library’s all the rage,” he mumbled, “but I thought we could—”
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