|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.40(d)|
|Age Range:||6 - 10 Years|
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To the Lighthouse
By Cristy Burne, Amanda Burnett
Fremantle PressCopyright © 2017 Cristy Burne
All rights reserved.
Isaac stepped off the boat. The island was waiting for him, he could feel it. At the other end of the long jetty, there was white sand to sprint across, sandpaper cliffs to explore, massive fig trees just waiting to be climbed.
'Stay close,' warned Mum. 'You don't want to fall in.'
Isaac looked around. The jetty was wide enough to race monster trucks. One side was bounded by a tumbling wall of giant boulders. The other was roped off at least three metres from the edge. The only way he could possibly fall in was if he took a running leap.
Yeah right, Mum, he thought.
'Okay Mum,' he said out loud.
Seagulls soared and waves lapped and people laughed as they whizzed by on their bicycles. He couldn't wait to start adventuring, but first he had to manage Mum. Convincing her to even come to the island had taken him ages.
School holidays usually meant Isaac was shipped off to vacation care while Mum went to work. These holidays, he'd planted the idea of a winter getaway. She'd studied the website for ages.
'Peace, quiet, fresh air and a good book. It does sound perfect,' she'd said. Then she'd looked at Isaac and frowned.
'I'll be fine,' Isaac had promised. 'Seriously, Mum, you can relax all you like.'
Mum had wrung her hands. She wrung her hands a lot.
'We can play cards, and ride our bikes, and bake cakes ...' Isaac hesitated.
Mum hated baking.
'I just worry that something might happen,' she'd said.
Isaac had nodded. Something might happen. An awesome holiday might happen.
'I'll be fine,' he promised.
'You'll make sensible decisions?' Mum asked.
'Super-sensible,' Isaac had assured her.
So here he was, sensibly standing in the middle of a jetty the size of a small nation, trying not to fall off or jump in. He scanned for kids his age, but only saw littlies, running and screaming and drooling. There was no one interesting. No one to hang out with and explore with.
And then he saw the girl.
She was climbing on the wall of boulders. Racing across them. If Mum saw, she'd have a heart attack. The girl had long, bronzed hair, and although it was winter, she was wearing just a T-shirt with shorts, the khaki sort, with lots of pockets. Isaac checked his own clothes. He was trussed up in so many layers he could hardly bend his arms to scratch his nose. Mum had smiled and called that a sensible decision. It didn't feel so sensible now.
The girl saw Isaac staring and made a horrible face at him. Isaac made his own face back. She grinned right at him.
'Isaac,' said Mum. 'Keep an eye out for our bikes.'
High above them loads of bicycles were lined across the ferry's deck in a twist of colourful metal. There weren't many cars on the island, so almost everyone rode bikes. Up on deck, a man with sticking-up hair was rolling bikes down a narrow ramp and onto the jetty. Isaac's bike was up there. Somewhere. It was a blue mountain bike with an all-black helmet and chunky pedals. He'd never done actual mountain biking, because Mum thought actual mountain biking was dangerous, but since there were no actual mountains on the island he might be okay. There were loads of hills and trails. He couldn't wait.
The next bike down the ramp wasn't a mountain bike. It was a white BMX, with pegs out the sides for doing tricks.
The bronze-haired girl in the khaki shorts jumped down from the boulders. She thanked the crewman, grabbed the BMX in her strong, brown hands and rode away down the jetty. Alone. With her helmet dangling on her handlebars.
'There's your bike,' Mum said, pointing to the sticking- up hair guy, high above them on the deck.
Isaac watched the girl. Was she really alone? Where were her parents?
Then he spotted a tall man in jeans and a red jacket. He seemed to be calling out to the girl, but Isaac couldn't hear what he was saying. Neither could the girl, because she didn't stop and she didn't turn around. The man's words were swept into the salty wind, where only seagulls would hear them. Isaac watched as the man swung a bag onto his back, then heaved a wriggling toddler into the seat on the front of his bike. A kindy kid streaked past him on a balance bike.
'Come on, Dad!' the kindy kid yelled, racing ahead. Balance bikes have no brakes, Isaac thought. Mum would've been wailing about the edge and the cracks and be careful of seagull poop. But the man was busy juggling his bike and backpack and small child. He had no time for anything else. And the bronze-haired girl was way ahead.
'And there's mine!' Mum sounded relieved to spot her slightly larger but equally unused bike.
Isaac got his bike and waited while Mum collected hers, and waited while she double-checked that the luggage truck wouldn't forget their bags and that the weather wasn't going to be stormy. Then he waited while she triple-checked that the island wouldn't sink or flood or otherwise be struck by catastrophe. Then, about an hour later, she and Isaac finally wheeled their bikes away, very carefully, down the centre of the jetty. Isaac stared into the lapping water and wanted to jump. Sometimes Mum could be too much.
At last, they stepped off the jetty and onto the island. Isaac breathed deep, just as the bronze-haired girl whizzed past on her BMX. She made an even worse face at Isaac, grinned, then pulled an awesome wheelie, her front wheel spinning in the breeze. She disappeared up the hill and around the corner.
Isaac's stomach tangled into itself. He'd tried wheelies a few times, but they'd never really worked. Perhaps this was the place to learn how. Perhaps this island was the place for loads of new things, like making friends with the bronze-haired girl, for a start. Only, he wasn't sure Mum would agree.
What he needed was a plan.
Later that afternoon, Mum and Isaac settled quietly in their little yellow house. Mum unpacked her case, read up about their gas heater, tucked all the extra blankets onto their beds, and photographed the evacuation instructions, in case the real instructions were stolen/burnt/swept away in a freak tsunami. Then she stood on one foot, and then the other. Isaac sat at the kitchen table, trying to focus on drawing the view. Mum liked it when he drew. She thought it was safe.
She shifted back to her other foot.
'Why don't you read your book?' he suggested helpfully.
'Really?' Mum looked lost.
'Really.' He smiled his most calming smile. She fetched her book and incredibly, finally, actually relaxed, even putting her feet up on the couch. Isaac returned to his drawing, but mostly he was staring out the window at the rippling bay beyond. The sky was blue, the water was bluer. It was time to put his plan into action. He cleared his throat.
'Can I get you a cup of tea?' he asked.
Mum looked up. Her face softened into such a loving smile that Isaac felt almost guilty. 'That'd be great,' she said. 'Thank you.' But then she added 'Will you be alright with the kettle?'
No, Mum. The kettle has a black belt. I won't stand a chance, Isaac thought.
'I'll be careful,' he said.
He filled the kettle, switched it on. He made a big show of finding a mug, and then unearthing a tea bag, then opening the fridge.
'Oh no! Mum, there's no milk.' He pulled his best responsible face. He'd practised it about a million times. 'No worries, I'll just jump on my bike. Ride down to the shops.'
He waited. Mum hesitated. Isaac's heart thumped. He knew she preferred milky tea.
'I'll grab some fresh bread, too,' he added, to sweeten the deal. Tea and toast. How could she resist?
Mum didn't look convinced. 'Are you sure? To the shops? By yourself?'
Isaac nodded. Smiling. Three times.
'You'll be sensible?' Mum asked.
'Super-sensible.' He nodded again for good measure. Then tilted his head like a waiting puppy, in case he'd already done too much nodding. Mum could worry about anything, even nodding. It wasn't really her fault. It was just that Isaac was all Mum had left.
'Well, if you're sure you'll be okay,' she said.
Isaac felt like awarding her a Certificate of Achievement. She was really progressing.
I will be totally excellent, he thought.
Mum checked her watch. 'Make sure you're back in half an hour,' she said.
'Can we make it forty-five minutes?' he asked, still doing his waiting puppy face.
She wrung her hands.
'It might take a while to find the wholegrain bread,' he added.
She nodded, then agreed. There was so much white bread around these days. Sometimes sensible decisions could take a little longer.
'Back soon, Mum,' he said, and he dashed out the door before she remembered they hadn't synchronised their watches.CHAPTER 2
AT THE SHOPS
Isaac rode fast, with the sun on his back and the wind in his face. He felt wild and free, like a galloping eagle or soaring tiger, or something. He dodged pedestrians, weaved between cyclists, kept left when the occasional luggage truck crawled by. It wasn't that Isaac was a reckless criminal when Mum wasn't around. It was just that when Mum wasn't around, he wasn't so worried about Mum's worrying.
He pulled over for a closer look. Mum had warned him about the island's resident marsupials, about their claws and their teeth and their probably rampant disease. This one stared at him, its black eyes serious as it nibbled a ripe fig held in two furry paws. It looked like a teddy bear crossed with a miniature kangaroo.
'See how she keeps her baby safe,' came a girl's voice.
Isaac twisted to see the bronze-haired girl right behind him. She stood with one leg on either side of her BMX, pointing at the quokka. Isaac looked back. From inside its tiny, furry pouch poked a tinier, furry head. Mini-quokka!
The girl dumped her bike on the side of the footpath, then crouched to offer the quokkas more fig.
'Here, Mama Quokka,' she crooned. 'You're doing a great job. Here's a fig for you, and one for your baby. Aren't you a clever girl.'
She wasn't afraid of their claws or teeth or probable rampant disease. She wasn't afraid of wheelies or boulder-hopping or solo cycling. She was the friend Isaac needed for this holiday. And this was his chance.
He started the way he always started when he was at vacation care. 'Would you rather have a face like a monkey, or a butt like a baboon?'
The girl didn't laugh. She didn't even look up. And the quokka ignored the extra figs. It just sat there, nibbling the one it already had. For a second, Isaac thought the girl wasn't going to answer.
Then she looked right at him.
'Face like a monkey,' she said. She wiped at her nose, and he noticed her eyes were red. 'You?' 'Butt like a baboon,' he said.
Her lips twitched, but she didn't smile. 'You like donuts?' she asked. She sniffed, wiping at her eyes this time. 'I feel like donuts.'
Isaac grinned. 'I love donuts.'
They jumped on their bikes and rode the rest of the way to the shops. Together.
Isaac felt a kind of fireworks and lemonade happiness bubbling in his chest. When the girl pulled up outside the bakery, Isaac did too.
She pulled a twenty dollar note from a pocket of her shorts. 'How many?'
'Donuts. How many do you want?'
Isaac did some maths in his head. Mum had counted out ten dollars for milk and bread, but surely there'd be something left over. Would it be enough for a donut? Only one way to find out.
'I gotta get some stuff,' he said. 'But I do want donuts. Can I meet you back here?' His heart was thumping again. Would she wait?
She shrugged. 'Get your stuff later.'
He stared at his toes. 'It's for my mum,' he said. 'She's ...'
'So whatever,' the girl said. 'You go do whatever. I'll be here.'
Isaac tried to catch her eye, but she wouldn't look at him. 'Okay, thanks. See you in a bit?'
She just shrugged.
Isaac cursed all the way to the shop, but he knew Mum would think he was doing the right thing. And he had to keep Mum relaxed and happy. A relaxed and happy Mum was the key to his holiday success.
The island shop was bigger than he'd expected, and it took a while to trawl through the towers of chips and lollies and sunscreen, plus stuffed quokka toys, quokka oven mitts and even quokka fly swats, but eventually Isaac found the milk and bread.
Back outside, he scanned for the girl. Pie-eating families. Map- reading tourists. But no girl. His guts turned, like he'd swallowed a quokka fly swat, laden with wriggling, undead, disease-ridden flies. She'd gone.
She was still there! And she was staring right at him, while he had his wriggling, undead flies expression still written across his face. He plastered over the flies with a smile he hoped covered his nerves, and walked up.
She was sitting on a wooden table with her feet on the seat, chewing on a donut ball. Two seagulls eyed her, their beaks as red as the sugary jam. A quokka nibbled crumbs on the floor.
'Here.' She held out a paper bag to Isaac. 'You want one?'
'Thanks.' Isaac felt the glow of relief and anticipation. He sat next to her on the table, munching crunchy donut mouthfuls.
'So I'm Emmy,' she said, mouth full.
'I'm Isaac,' said Isaac.
'How long you here for?'
'A week,' he said. 'You?'
'Same.' She offered him another donut.
He took it and thanked her, watching people trail in and out with their pies and choc milks and sausage rolls. He couldn't help grinning. This island was the best. Crows hopped and cawed. Little kids scooted up and down while their parents sipped takeaway coffees. And he was sitting with the coolest girl he'd ever met. He tried to think of what to say.
Emmy turned to him. He gulped nervously.
'Would you rather eat twenty donuts in a minute, or have no donuts for a week?' she asked.
Isaac didn't need to think. 'Twenty in a minute.'
She nodded, seeming satisfied. 'Me too.' She pointed to the web of ropes and steel that towered in a bed of sand, next to the bakery. 'Dare us to go right to the top.'
Isaac checked his watch. It wouldn't do to be late, not on his first day. But there was still time. 'Sure,' he said. 'Race ya.'
He shovelled donut into his mouth and ripped across the wooden deck onto the sand. The corrugated rope bit into his hands and swung back and forth, but soon he was perched at the top of the frame, looking across the grass, almost level with the rooftops. Emmy stood next to him, bouncing on the ropes so everything wobbled and swayed.
'Now it's your turn,' she said. Her bronze hair flew about in the breeze.
Emmy fixed him with her brown eyes. The redness from earlier was gone, and now she was even grinning. She raised an eyebrow. 'For a dare.'
Suddenly the ropes felt like jagged rock beneath Isaac's hands. Mum wouldn't consider doing dares a sensible decision. But maybe she wouldn't have to know. 'What sort of dare?'
Emmy leaned in, her face shining with the winter sun. 'We'll take it in turns. I dared us to climb this. So now it's your turn.'
Isaac thought fast.
This was his first taste of freedom. If he was late back to the cottage, Mum'd never trust him again. Worse, she might freak out, call the police and cancel their whole trip.
So it had to be a relatively quick dare. He looked around, fixed his eyes on the bulbous limbs of a Moreton Bay Fig that towered next to the chemist. 'We climb that,' he said.
Emmy stared at him, shaking her head slowly.
Isaac's heart sank.
'Not like that,' she said. 'You have to say "dare us to".'
'Oh. Okay.' He blinked with relief. 'Dare us to climb that tree.'
'You're on,' she grinned. 'Race ya.'
They scrambled down the web of rope, jumped to the cold sand and then scuffled and scrambled across to the tree's swollen roots and into its limbs.
In no time the two of them were high in green branches, dangling their legs over the tourists below and tracing their fingers through the letters and ridges of the tree's knotted bark.
'So now it's my turn,' said Emmy.
Isaac grinned, then remembered the milk and bread. 'Can we make it for this afternoon? I have to drop that stuff at our cottage. My mum's ...'
Emmy waved away his doubt with a flick of her hand. 'Don't worry about it. She'll be right.'
She'll be hysterical, Isaac thought.
'My dad's okay with whatever I do,' said Emmy. 'He knows I can look after myself. He trusts me to do whatever.' She reached into the pocket of her shorts, pulling out a mobile phone. 'See. He even gave me a phone.'
Isaac wondered how ancient he'd have to be before Mum trusted him with a phone. He thought of how Mum would splutter if she could see him now, high in the rustling leaves. Of how hard he'd had to work just to go to the shops for a loaf of bread. 'You're lucky.'
Excerpted from To the Lighthouse by Cristy Burne, Amanda Burnett. Copyright © 2017 Cristy Burne. Excerpted by permission of Fremantle 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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