Twelve-year-old Isabel Pritchard lives with mother and her sixteen-year-old brother William. Behind Isabel’s house is a small park and when Isabel finds herself late home from school one afternoon she decides to take a short cut through the park, knowing that her mother has forbidden her. What begins as a small, insignificant decision will ultimately become the start her colossal journey.
During Isabel and William’s adventures they meet some interesting and some rather unsavoury characters which force them to make difficult decisions and face extraordinary challenges in a bid to save their family. It’s a decision that changes their lives as they uncover long-buried family secrets going back five hundred years. Below you’ll find the first chapter of ‘Between the Trees.’
Isabel Pritchard was a regular twelve-year-old girl. She went to school and rather liked it. In the evenings, she did all of her homework, ate all of her dinner (well, most of it) and happily helped out with her chores around the house. On the other hand, her brother, William, was a moody sixteen- year-old who didn’t want to spend any time with his sister. He preferred spending his evenings in his bedroom all by himself and only ventured out when dinner was ready. It was fair to say that Isabel and William didn’t get along. However, one day would change all that. It was a day that would change their lives forever.
On that particular day, Isabel woke at seven o’clock in the morning. She opened her bleary eyes, sat up in bed, stretched out her arms and remembered today was school sports day. Getting dressed, the smell of breakfast floated down the hallway. It smelled good and she realised how hungry she was.
Isabel traipsed into the kitchen and sat at the small breakfast table. William didn’t acknowledge her as he was too busy stuffing his face with pancakes topped with peanut butter.
“Oh, William!” cried Isabel as she scraped butter on her toast.
William, with his mouth full of food, looked up and replied, “Better than your sourdough. Sour-dough. Sums it up perfectly.”
“You’ll die of a heart attack with all the rubbish you eat.”
“Why can’t you just get along?” Mother asked as she stood at the sink pouring her second cup of coffee. “You only have each other so be nice. That’s all I ask of you both.”
Although William spent much of his time alone in his room, he was very intelligent. He began playing chess with his father at three and at eight would drag his mother to the local library and borrow all of the history books. He was fascinated with the world and its origins. While most of his friends played football on a Saturday morning, William preferred to read books on anatomy and medicine as he had aspirations of becoming a doctor after finishing school. He had his life mapped out. He would complete his medical degree at a top university and work in a prominent hospital in London. Isabel, however, wasn’t so sure about her future. She loved animals and thought of becoming a vet. She still had plenty of time to decide. Right now, she just wanted to get through her final year of primary school.
“It’s Daddy’s birthday on Sunday,” whispered Mother. Neither Isabel or William responded. They ate silently as Mother squeezed their hands then began clearing the breakfast dishes.
“Has it been four years already?” Isabel asked. “Yes, four years, my darling,” replied Mother. “I miss him so much, Mum.”
“We all do.” Mother looked over at William, waiting for him to say something. Instead, he swiftly got up, said a quick ‘bye’ and was gone.
Since their father died, Mother had to take a second job to pay the school fees and make the house payments. No longer could they afford to go on holidays during the summer and school holidays didn’t feel the same anymore. The house was empty when Isabel came home from school every afternoon and when William got home he would go straight to his room and stay there for most of the evening. Mother often arrived home after dark and it was up to Isabel and William to do their homework, prepare their dinner and get ready for bed.
When Isabel arrived at school that day, she made her way straight to class as sports day meant there were no lessons all day. The school bell rang and, soon enough, the corridors emptied out as children dashed into their classrooms. Jess was Isabel’s best friend and they sat next to each other every day. “Hey, Isabel, want to come to my house after school on Friday? Mum said you can come for dinner.”
“Sure. I’ll ask Mum to pick me up on her way home from work which means we can watch telly ’til late.”
“And skip our homework,” giggled Jess.
On the way to the sports ground, the girls sat together on the bus and chatted about their upcoming school holidays. They decided to save as much pocket money as they possibly could to spend the lot on sweeties and crisps. Jess and Isabel had been best friends for three years, after Jess’s family moved to London from a small village in Nottingham. It was in the corridor at school when they first met. Jess was lost and couldn’t find her classroom. She walked from door to door, peering into each class, looking for a door labelled ‘Class 3P’. The ‘P’ stood for Mrs Peterson. Isabel was on her way to Class 3P and seeing that Jess was lost, asked if she needed any help. When the girls realised they were in the same class, Isabel showed Jess to their classroom. They sat next to each other that morning and had done ever since.
Sports day dragged on for Isabel. She competed in the relay and 200-metre races and reluctantly participated in the shotput and discus events. It was a tiring day so she walked home slowly and wondered whether William would already be home. It won’t matter if he is, she thought. He’ll just be in his room anyway and I’ll be on my own again. Realising it was getting late, Isabel decided to cut through Bishops Park to halve the journey time. Mother warned William and Isabel not to cut through the park but it was still daylight and Isabel could see the back of her house from the park entrance so she thought it would be okay and she presumed Mother wouldn’t find out anyway.
Isabel picked up her pace and walked briskly through the big iron gates at the park entrance. Her thoughts had turned to the maths homework she had to finish that evening when, halfway through the park, she noticed a bright light that looked like it was coming from a tree. The closer she walked towards the tree, the brighter the light shone. It was an unusual light, not like the glow of the sun or a brightly lit torch but a myriad of colours: purple, pink, blue, gold. They all seemed to blend into each other creating colours she had never seen before. It looked magical and instantly drew her closer to the tree so she stepped away from the path and began walking towards the tree, completely unaware of any danger she might be getting herself into. The colours were mesmerising and she couldn’t stop and return to the path. She didn’t want to return to the path, she didn’t want to go home, not yet, not until she knew why the tree was glowing. She stood at the base of the tree. Slowly she raised her hands, reached out and felt a warmth coming directly from the trunk. When her hands were almost touching the tree, she stopped. What will happen if I touch this? she thought. Will I die? Will I get sick? Will nothing happen at all? It was all so peculiar and the urge to understand why the tree was so warm overwhelmed her. “Do it,” she whispered. She closed her eyes and suddenly the earth beneath her began to shake. Losing her balance, she felt dizzy and started to scream. All of a sudden, a gust of wind rushed up from under her feet and lifted her up into the air. She was only a few centimetres off the ground, yet she felt like she was flying high in the sky, way above the treetops.
Then suddenly everything stopped. The tree stopped glowing and she felt her feet back firmly on the ground. Everything was quiet again. Opening her eyes, she looked around and everything looked exactly the same. She looked up at the big old oak and wondered what had just happened. She felt frightened and ran away, looking for the path to take her home. Scrambling around, she realised it wasn’t there. The path was gone! She became confused and ran as fast as she could to the big iron gates at the park entrance and when she ran through the gates, she got the shock of her life. Gone were the cars screeching around corners on cemented roads. Instead, horses and wagons clopped up and down the muddy street.
Bewildered, Isabel stared in amazement at the scene before her. Men walked slowly up and down the street in their top hats, black coats and knee-length boots, arm in arm with ladies in their colourful bonnets and big billowing dresses that dragged along the mud on the ground. The sound of everyday life could be heard by market stall owners selling fruit and vegetables at the end of the street. Little girls in old tattered clothes walked up and down the street selling bouquets of flowers from their baskets. “Please, sir, please buy my flowers,” said a young girl to an older gentleman. She was probably the same age as Isabel. The young girl was clearly poor, for she was terribly skinny and her dirty blonde hair was long and knotted.
Isabel slowly peered down at her feet. Instead of the trainers she wore to school that day, her feet were tightly fitted in black boots, tied with laces, partially covered with a frilled petticoat. She was wearing a beige coloured dress with buttons from the waist all the way up to her neck. A crimson shawl was wrapped around her shoulders and she realised her clothes were similar to the very people she was observing.
On the pavement, she noticed a man selling newspapers. He wore an old pair of trousers with holes in the knees, worn shoes and no socks. A dark brown shirt hung over his big belly and his face was old and wrinkled. A pile of newspapers were stacked up against a shop window next to him, held together by pieces of string. The man started yelling, “Chronicle! Queen Victoria visits Great Exhibition.” Unbeknown to Isabel, the year was 1851.
‘I found it entertaining and was intrigued to find out where it would go next – there were a lot of twists I didn’t see coming! I particularly enjoyed the combination of real historical events and people with the magical elements of the plot. Your descriptions of the various times periods and locations were well crafted and really helped to set the scene.’
– Independent Publisher, U.K.
‘This is soooo good! I love that you have described everything so beautifully that I can picture it all around me like I am walking in the street seeing it all through Isabel and William’s eyes. You’ve done an amazing job, congratulations.’
– Jacci, Australia.
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