She didn't answer straight away. She tilted her head to get a better look at me, and as she did that I felt a single strand of her long hair slip quickly across the side of my tongue, leaving my mouth at the corner. 'I'm Annabelle,' she said.
Her name was Annabelle.
The girl with the red hair and a face flecked in hundreds of freckles is called Annabelle. Try and remember that if you can. Hold on to it through everything else that happens in life, through all the things that might make you want to forget -- keep it safe somewhere.
I stood up. The dressing on my knee was now a dirty brown. I started to say we were playing hide-and-seek, that she could play too if she wanted. But she interrupted. She spoke calmly, not sounding angry or upset. And what she said was, 'You're not welcome here any more, Matthew.'
She didn't look at me, she drew herself onto her hands and knees and focused on the small pile of loose earth -- patting it neat again, making it perfect. 'This is my daddy's caravan park. I live here, and you're not welcome. Go home.'
She was upright in an instant, moving towards me with her chest puffed out, like a small animal trying to look bigger. She said it again, 'Get lost, I told you. You're not welcome.'
A seagull laughed mockingly, and Annabelle shouted, 'You've ruined everything.'
It was too late to explain. By the time I reached the footpath, she was kneeling on the ground again, the little yellow doll's coat held to her face.
The other children were shouting out, calling to be found. But I didn't look for them. Past the shower blocks, past the shop, cutting through the park -- I ran as fast as I could, my flip-flops slapping on the hot tarmac. I didn't let myself stop, I didn't even let myself slow down until I was close enough to our caravan to see Mum sitting out on the deckchair. She was wearing her straw sun hat, and looking out to the sea. She smiled and waved at me, but I knew I was still in her bad books. We'd sort of fallen out a few days before. It's stupid because it was only really me who got hurt, and the scabs were nearly healed now, but my parents sometimes find it hard to let stuff go.
Mum in particular, she holds grudges.
I guess I do too.
I'll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name's Simon. I think you're going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he'll be dead. And he was never the same after that.
When we arrived at Ocean Cove Holiday Park -- bored from the journey, and desperate to explore -- we were told it was okay for us to go anywhere in the site, but were forbidden from going to the beach by ourselves because of how steep and uneven the path is. And because you have to go onto the main road for a bit to get to the top of it. Our parents were the kind to worry about that sort of thing -- about steep paths and main roads. I decided to go to the beach anyway. I often did things that I wasn't allowed to do, and my brother would follow. If I hadn't decided to name this part of my story "the girl and her doll" then I could have named it, "the shock of the fall and the blood on my knee" because that was important too.
There was the shock of the fall and the blood on my knee. I've never been good with pain. This is something I hate about myself. I'm a total wimp. By the time Simon caught up with me, at the twist in the path where exposed roots snare unsuspecting ankles -- I was wailing like a baby.
He looked so worried it was almost funny. He had a big round face, which was forever smiling and made me think of the moon. But suddenly he looked so fucking worried.
This is what Simon did. He collected me in his arms and carried me step-by-step back up the cliff path, and the quarter of a mile or so to our caravan. He did that for me.
I think a couple of adults tried to help, but the thing you need to know about Simon is that he was a bit different from most people you might meet. He went to a special school where they were taught basic stuff like not talking to strangers, so whenever he felt unsure of himself or panicked, he would retreat to these lessons to feel safe. That's the way he worked.
Excerpted from Where the Moon Isn't by Nathan Filer. Copyright © 2013 by Nathan Filer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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