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The Book – Chapter Two

Published March 6, 2014 by Annie Oliver


Well it’s about time you had a little taster of some more of my friend Annie’s book, it being World Book Day and all. You’ve met Scarlett and me, of course in the first chapter but the book isn’t all about us. Oh no, dearies, there’s another girl who is most important to the tale I had to tell and you may not like her very much at first, readers. Yes, when I first met her she was quite the spoilt brat. However, her story is our story too and ’tis how Scarlett deals with her bullying antics that really gives the tale some meat…


Chapter TwoThe Bully.


Jemima Bloom was certain that Scarlett Winter had head lice. Living in Bramble Towers, you caught them from the walls and the toilets. Everyone knew that. It was her public duty to warn everyone, or else there was sure to be an epidemic. She put the finishing touches to her artwork and then stepped back to admire it. It was an artfully drawn skull and crossbones, with the words, ‘NIT INFESTED AREA’ emblazoned across the top. She decided to add some lightening-bolts for extra effect and as she scribbled, she thought of cunning ways to attach it to Scarlett’s back.

“Jem, what on earth are you doing? I’ve got a leg wax at nine and your dad’s off to Mexico with his golf friends. I’ve got so much to do, never mind get you to school and you’re sitting here, scribbling and daydreaming.” Julia Bloom tottered through the door, her auburn hair piled high on her head.

“Mum!” moaned Jemima. “How am I ever supposed to get a career in design if you call it scribbling?”

“CAREER?” boomed a strong, Yorkshire accent as Frank Bloom, her father and the managing director of ‘Blooming Lovely Crisps’ strode forcefully through the door. “What do you want a career for?” He smoothed down a large swatch of hair, which had tilted slightly over one eye with all the striding, leaving a big pink bald patch. Every morning, he carefully and meticulously cultivated the long strand of hair which grew from the side of his left ear, manipulating it, backcombing and faffing with it until it resembled a hairline. Jemima and Julia both averted their eyes, for the comb-over was the thing Not To Be Mentioned. Frank was incredibly proud of his ‘full head of hair.’

Here we go, thought Jemima, rolling her eyes. “Well, maybe not a career, Dad, but I’d like to go to university one day, even if just for the experience.”

“What do you want to go to university for?” he said, his face turning a disgusting puce. “I didn’t get where I am today by reading hoity-toity books and dying my hair funny colours. You’ll be better off marrying well. Look at me and your Mum. Not an exam between us but we’ve got a Jacuzzi in the bathroom and a private box at Grimsfield United. I’ve got a full head of hair and a gold membership to the Golf club. There aren’t many professors at that posh university got that, eh?”

“No, Dad,” said Jemima, her lip twitching with amusement as the comb-over wobbled precariously during the rant.

“Aw look at her,” he said, “she looks like she’s going to cry. Diddums. I tell you what, sweetheart, you want to go to university, go ahead and fill your boots. Go to any university you like.”

“You mean it dad?” said Jemima, hopeful.

“Course I do,” he said, “as long as you ruddy well pay for it yourself! FNARR FNARR!” He laughed, clutching his round belly. Jemima’s heart sank back down again. “Don’t you forget who bankrolls this family,” Frank continued. “The sooner I can get another poor sap to pay for your shoes and handbags the better. Now stop moping about and get ready. I’m off now. Your mum will be in the car, don’t keep her waiting.”

“Yeah I’ll miss you too. Have a great holiday,” she said to his departing bottom. She stuck her tongue out at the door and sighed. There was no point arguing with him. He was a bully. It was his way or no way at all.

She was in mid-straighten, when she stopped, catching sight of an all-too familiar worry in the mirror. There it was again. She was shimmering. She looked closer. It was definitely there, a strange shine to her skin.

“Come on, Jemima!”  her mum bellowed up the stairs.

“Coming,” she replied, stuffing the picture in her school bag. She looked back up into the mirror. It was gone. The face that stared back at her was just a normal, dull, face again. Maybe she was imagining it. She shook her head, grabbed her schoolbag and ran down the stairs.

“Mu-um?” she said in the car.

“What?” said Julia, snappily. “What now, Jemima? I’ve got a hundred things to do for your sister’s wedding so don’t start.”

“Doesn’t matter,” said Jemima, slumping back in the leather seat.

“Well you’ve said it now. Spit it out. Tell me,” Julia barked, while looking as uninterested as possible in the opposite direction.

“It’s just…have you noticed anything funny about me lately?” Jemima nervously twirled a strand of hair around her finger.

“Funny? No.” Julia fiddled with the radio absent-mindedly and Jemima took a deep breath in. Julia wasn’t the easiest person to have a mother-daughter talk with.

“No…I mean…have you noticed me twinkling or shining at all lately?”

Julia stopped the car, pulling over into a bus stop, much to the fury of a bus driver who was now blocked in. He beeped furiously and waved his hands in the air. “Hold your horses!” screamed Julia. “My car’s worth more than your ruddy bus so I’ve got more right to park here than you!” The bus driver shook his head and Julia turned to face Jemima, eyes small and beady. “Have you been drinking?” she snarled, “without telling me?”

“No, Mum,” sighed Jemima. This was hopeless.

“If you have, I’m very disappointed in you. If you want a drink, you can have a martini, I told you that. Bring your friends round. They can all have a ruddy martini. Just do it in the house love.”

“That’s not very sensible Mum, given that I’m only twelve, and no, I haven’t been drinking.”

“Then what are you blathering on about?” said Julia, swinging out of the bus stop.

“It doesn’t matter, just forget I spoke,” Jemima replied, despondently. They spent the rest of the journey in silence, Jemima’s mood getting fouler the closer they got to school. None of the other people on her select estate went to stinky Grimsfield High. They all went to posh boarding schools and girls colleges, something her dad wouldn’t see fit to spend his precious money on.

They pulled up outside just as Scarlett was arriving in some kind of custard-coloured sad-mobile with those scary old bints, Freda and Edna in tow and a man who looked like he’d come straight out of a Star Trek convention. Jemima grinned, took a deep breath and put her school-face on. She skipped over to Scarlett. “Morning, Mrs Winter,”

Maggie Winter beamed, her whole face lighting up. “It’s Maggie, Jemima,” she said. “I was going to walk Scarlett to the gate but now that you’re here you can walk in together.” Scarlett scowled at Jemima, as did the two old biddies, but Jemima kept a bright smile on her face. “Well done with the science award, Jemima” Maggie said. “Your parents must have been really proud.”At this, the skinny one, Freda, snorted.

“Yes,” said Jemima, a bit more quietly than usual. She turned and looked at Scarlett, taking in everything about what she was wearing for ammunition to use later. “It’s nice to see that Jasmine’s old uniform fits, Scarlett.”

“What do you mean?” Scarlett said, her eyes widening. Jemima stood back, arms folded smugly, having hit the target.

“Didn’t your Mum tell you? My Mum sent a parcel over in the summer with all our old clothes. That uniform used to be my sister’s.” Jemima smiled at Scarlett in a way to indicate that she wouldn’t be hearing the last of this. She had saved this information for a special day. Today was the day.

“Is that right, Mum? All those clothes you got me, they were from…from…”

Maggie suddenly looked very subdued. “Well you love those black jeans, Scarlett.”

Jemima grinned, looking up and down at Scarlett’s curvaceous shape, which was so different to her own flat-chest and skinny frame. “Oh those old things,” she said, “I wasn’t sure if they’d fit.”

“Oh, they didn’t,” said Maggie, “but I added some elastic to the waist and we squeezed you into them, didn’t we Scarlett…Scarlett?” Scarlett was no longer there. She was furiously storming towards the school, her wiry curls flying out behind her in even more of a frizz than usual.

“Don’t worry” said Jemima, patting her bag, which contained the offending artwork, “I’ll catch up with her.” She hurried towards the school gates, but just as she was about to go through them, a bony hand grabbed her shoulder. It was the skinny one, Freda, and she had a grip like a boa constrictor.

“Hold your horses, little madam,” Freda said, squaring her wizened face up to meet Jemima’s. “I’ve got a verucca on my big toe that’s older than you and I’ve dealt with your sort before.” She leaned closer, fresh spit gleaming around the corners of her mouth, slowly flicking a crooked forefinger towards Jemima. “You mark my words girl. Leave her alone or you’ll be sorry.” She wagged the crooked finger, still glaring furiously.

“Ooh, I’m scared,” said Jemima bravely, backing up a little. “What are you gonna do? Gum me to death?”

“Mark my words,” said the crone again, wagging that gnarled finger in front of her face.

Jemima laughed, backing away and running into school. She didn’t stop until she reached the safety of the yard, where she promptly forgot about the old woman, and started putting today’s dastardly plans into action.




Freda was rattled. That girl was so flaming fierce and the finger-wagging hadn’t even touched her – not even a single boil or weeping scab had sprouted. In another situation Freda would have said she showed a lot of promise for a young ‘un, but it wasn’t just that. Any fool who knew what they were talking about could see that the girl had a shine about her. Oh, she had taken on a glow, alright. Not so much as you would see if you didn’t know what you were looking for but a definite shimmer.

Freda walked back to the car solemnly, remembering an old nursery rhyme that the kids used to chant, back in the day. It couldn’t be… could it? She shook her head and tried to push the thought away but it wouldn’t budge. If what she thought was right, there was a whole load of trouble ahead, and that meant she’d better get her best girdle ironed, because there was nothing like a good girdle for firing you up for battle.


Scarlett and the Soul Thief – first chapter.

Published February 16, 2014 by Annie Oliver

Well I thought I’d give you all a taster of what Annie has conjured up. This is her first chapter and I don’t mind it at all. Even the folks at youwriteon quite liked it, naming it the CHILDRENS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2011. Mind, she’d be nothing without her old Aunty Freda…

Chapter One.

The top of Bramble Towers blotted Scarlett’s window-view, cutting through the skies a like a grey shark fin. Dismal. She was about to turn back and think about attempting her homework when…

“…You stringy little ferret! I’ll pox you, my lad! Come back here!” floated through the air.  The towers shook with a tremor that sounded just like a wheeled shopping bag, narrowly missing a small head.  Freda, Scarlett thought, with glee, craning her neck to get a good view. Freda and Edna Crabbefoot lived next door.  They were family, of sorts.  Her Mum called them the ‘Aunties’ and never seemed to question their presence, yet they looked at least one-hundred-and-two, and talked of no other sisters but each other. Scarlett stuck her head as far as she could out of the eighteenth floor window. Her raven curls brushed against the condensation on the windowsill.

“I’ll fettle you, my lad,” Freda was saying.

Fettling was bad.

Freda had once fettled a lady who would not stop talking during bingo. The lady had, according to legend, woken up the next day with a case of weeping warts and incurable halitosis. Freda had also fettled the building’s caretaker when he would not fix her leaky tap. After the fettling, a large green toad had camped out on the caretaker’s doorstep, croaking and blinking at Scarlett with bulging eyes each time she walked past. A few days later, the caretaker had returned, fitting Freda and Edna a whole new set of taps, and a walk-in shower.

The grey blocks of concrete that characterised Bramble Towers appeared to quiver amid the damp mist which cloaked the buildings. Freda’s red anorak blazed like a bunch of poppies amongst the dull surroundings, matching her face. She was furious, gripping her shopping bag with white-knuckled glee, her index finger twitching like mad. Scarlett stifled a giggle. They called it the ‘Freda Finger,’ because if she wagged that crooked forefinger at you, something bad would likely come your way.

“I’ll skin your gizzards boy!” Freda screeched. Scarlett leaned even further out of the window, craning her neck.

Tall and skinny, Freda leaned over the boy with a nose that could etch glass, and a pair of eyes which were constantly on the roam for anything or anyone trying to sneak past her. She was just about to unleash the finger when she stopped and sniffed the air, her chin jutting skyward as she cast her gaze up to the eighteenth floor. Scarlett whipped her head back inside, just in the nick of time. She quickly jumped down from the window, praying that Freda hadn’t seen her.

“Come onand get your dinner, Scarlett.” Edna shouted. Now, she was nothing like her sister, being warm and chubby, with at least six chins and five ankles. She shook her head despairingly, her chins wobbling in a flurry of blancmange as Scarlett entered the kitchen. “Come on,” Edna said through a mouthful of fried egg.  Edna ate a lot, which was why she always smelled a bit like cooking oil. A bit of yolk dribbled down her cheek, landing in her third chin and disappearing. She put a plate in front of Scarlett. Scarlett shook her head and pushed it away.

Edna lowered her voice, “come on, lovey. If you carry on like like you’ll end up mal-flourished.” She wolfed down another huge mouthful of sandwich, more runny yolk escaping into her folds of neck flesh.

Scarlett stifled a laugh. “Did you mean malnourished, Edna?”

“That’s exactly what I said,” said Edna, looking all disgruntled, “mal-couraged.”

“Shut up and put your good teeth in, you daft old bat,” said Freda, barging into the flat, “you’ve egg on your chins…and you,” she pointed her crooked finger at Scarlett, “cheer yourself up. You’ll turn the milk sour with that miserable face. What’s the matter now?” Scarlett knew she was up against it. The last time Freda had shown anything like sympathy was the time that she had swabbed Scarlett with a nettle to take her mind off a bee sting, but Freda was the barometer. If she could pass the Freda test then her Mum would keep her off school.

“I don’t feel well,” Scarlett said, in her best sick voice. “My stomach hurts and I’ve got a headache.”

“Hmmm,” said Freda, putting a hand on Scarlett’s head, “you do feel clammy.” She looked deep into Scarlett’s eyes, “and you don’t look right. Open your mouth” she ordered. Scarlett opened wide. “I knew it!” said Freda, “it’s the worst case of trying-to-skive-school-tomorrow-itis I’ve ever seen.” She gave Scarlett a look that said she’d better not argue. Scarlett sighed. Freda was right. It was only a few weeks into term, but already Scarlett had been tripped over, prodded, had her phone flushed down the toilet, and wore her dinner. She had also cut about five pieces of gum out of her hair. However, the words were definitely the worst. Whoever made that rhyme about sticks and stones had never met Jemima Bloom, the most evil child to ever step into the gates of Grimsfield comp. Just lately, Scarlett had been hallucinating omen-style soundtracks every time the girl entered a classroom.

Freda narrowed her eyes, but her voice softened a little, “come on now, lovey. We’ve talked about this before. You know what I really think of school. Load of rot! Complete rubbish! I could teach you more in an hour than you’d learn in a year there, and I’m talking proper lessons that will actually be useful in life.”

During the summer, Scarlett had enjoyed many of Freda’s lessons, being forced to indulge in the art of Glaring and the skill of Haggling. Just lately, she had even begun to develop proficiency in one of Freda’s favourite talents, Finger Pointing with Malice. Aside from that, the two of them had spent many hours adding to Freda’s bulging home remedies book, hunting down wild plants and rare spices for Freda’s strange recipes and cures. “However,” Freda continued, “according to your mother, this here school thing is important and so you have to go.”

“But, Freda…”

“No ‘buts’ Missy,” said Freda, “do what you’re told, or else! No more running off and no more skipping lessons, do you hear?” She wagged her finger at Scarlett, her eyes glinting. Scarlett ignored the pointed finger. Being a friend of Freda, she enjoyed immunity from its curses.  Freda glared, her eyes shining into Scarlett’s. “Stop the smirking, madam. Just because I don’t have my own teeth doesn’t mean I can’t bite. I’ve told you before. You let me go down to your school and I’ll sort that little madam out and all her so-called friends.” Scarlett could just imagine the kids faces at school when Freda turned up, wearing her plastic rain hat and checked apron, finger waggling and giving them all what-for.

Her Mum walked into the kitchen, shaking out her white-blonde hair. “I heard that and the answer is no. No time off,” she said sternly, “you can sleep in a bit later tomorrow, though, Scarlett. Martin’s giving you a lift.”

“No way, Mum” said Scarlett. “I’m not travelling with it.”

“Come on, Scarlett.” Maggie gave her a look. “He’s alright, you know.”

“Alright for keeping you out of disaster, you mean,” said Scarlett, laughing. Maggie needed a butler, not a boyfriend, given that she found it impossible to function in everyday life. She floated about the world like a leaf in the wind, forgetting to pay bills and getting distracted by the colour of a flower when she should have been picking Scarlett up from school.

Maggie laughed and rolled her eyes, “look at me Scarlett,” she said. “I’m getting no younger, he’s got a good job and a car, and he’s kind…”

“…and his trousers have fallen out with his shoes,” said Freda, looking up from the Grimsfield Herald with a macabre smile.

Edna choked on a bit of bread and began to guffaw loudly, “true that is, sister!” she said, as Freda slapped her on the back.

“…and he spends long periods of time in an imaginary world inhabited by other geeks who all cast spells on each other over the internet,” said Scarlett, giggling.

“It suits me if he spends all his time on the internet,” said Maggie, wrapping her slender fingers around a mug of Freda’s nettle tea.  She lowered her voice “It wouldn’t do to have anyone get too close, Scarlett.” She nodded around the room at Freda and Edna. They all hushed and held their breath and looked at Scarlett with excitement and anticipation. Scarlett knew they were waiting for her to ask the question that had been unspoken for years. She nodded and looked away from their questioning gazes, clearing her throat and blinking away the idea that Freda and Edna were anything but normal aunties. Freda grimaced with disappointment at Edna as if to say ‘that’s that, then’ and then they all went back to slurping and munching – although Edna was looking at her tomatoes with a lot more suspicion – until…

“Good evening, fellow aliens,” Martin said in a robotic voice, peeping his head around the flat door. Without knocking. This infuriated Scarlett in a way that normal verbs, like ‘exasperated’ or ‘incensed’ could not adequately describe. He sat down at the table, clearing himself a space amongst the clutter – the likes of magazines, crystals, snowglobes and books – that Maggie liked to hoard on every surface. Edna gave him a smiling grimace and plonked a plate of dinner in front of him. As Martin picked up his cutlery, Scarlett waited.

He brandished his fork at her. “May the fork be with you,” he said, nudging Scarlett, “eh? Scarlett? Eh?”

“And also with you,” said Scarlett dully, clanging her fork against his. My life, she thought, is actually tragic.

“Big day today,” said Martin, wiping the steam off his black-rimmed glasses, which Scarlett was sure had clear glass in them.

“Not really,” said Scarlett, “it was the same as always. I sat learning irrelevant stuff while people I don’t like threw things at me and buried stuff in my hair.”

Martin looked at her blankly. “Oh, school!” he said, “noooo, I’m not talking about that. Today is the day I got my badge.” He brandished a small badge in Scarlett’s face, which was blatantly a ‘school prefect’ badge, except someone had super-glued ‘Level 7 Mage’ over the word ‘prefect. “What do you think?’ said Martin, “eh? Scarlett?” He beamed proudly. “No-one has ever got this far on MERP before. Level seven wizard…who would have thought?” He proudly pinned it onto his checked polo shirt which was, as usual, snugly tucked into his navy trousers.

Freda snorted and spat a bit of nettle tea out. “Never thought much of wizards,” she muttered, “but I have to say you’ve got the look of one.”

“What was that, Freda?” said Martin.

“Oh, MERP,” said Scarlett, quickly changing the subject, “the game.” MERP was an acronym for the online game Magic Enchantment Role Play. When he wasn’t playing MERP, Martin loved to talk about MERP more than anything. He probably dreamed about MERP too.

“What do you think then, Scarlett?” said Martin, still looking slightly quizzically at Freda. “One more level and I’ll be a sorcerer. Amazing isn’t it?”

“I truly am lost for words,” said Scarlett, dryly. Freda chuckled and Maggie gave them both a warning glare.

“Yes I’m going to upload all my new spells today,” he said proudly, “and edit my online world. There’s so much to do, it’s going to take me ages, so I’m sorry, Maggie, I can’t do dinner tomorrow night. Can we put off until the weekend? I’ll call and change the table.”

Maggie waved her hand dismissively, but Scarlett could tell she was more than a bit huffed. “Fish fingers for dinner again then Scarlett.” She laughed, although there was a trace of the furious Freda about her smile.

“Unless,” said Scarlett, hopefully, “you don’t take me to school tomorrow. That’ll give you at least an hour head start.”

Martin’s face briefly lit up until Freda swiftly batted him around the head with the Herald.  “Not likely,” she said, pointing to the front page.

Maggie leaned over and grabbed the Grimsfield Herald from Freda. “Ooh, more girls gone missing,” she said. “That’s awful.”

“Another three,” said Freda, and her and Edna exchanged a look. The kind of look they gave each other when they were trying to sneak out to bingo without old Mrs Robson from flat 10B finding out and tagging along with them, because Freda believed the old lady to be cursed where bingo was concerned.

“I’ll be fine,” said Scarlett. “There’ll be lots of other kids walking to school. I’m hardly going to get kidnapped, am I? Not at that time of day.”

“No, ducky, you’re not walking,” said Freda . “I’ve got a bad feeling about these disappearances, so we’ll all come with you. I need to go into town anyway. My big toe’s been throbbing like mad so I’m going to pop into the bingo hall. It always throbs when I’m due a big win.”

“Fine,” said Scarlett, knowing when she was beaten. She slipped into her room, and sat in the cool and cluttered silence for a while, praying that she could slip into school unnoticed tomorrow. Or that Martin had traded in his bright yellow camper van ‘Bessie’ for something much less embarrassing since she had seen him the day before.

As she emerged, Martin held up a bumper sticker. It read “IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU’RE TOO CLOSE TO A LEVEL SEVEN WIZARD!”

“The perfect shade of yellow to match Bessie!” he said. “Eh? Scarlett? Eh?”

Truly, truly tragic, thought Scarlett.