People stopped their bobbing to shoot me disgusted glares as I pushed past them roughly. Father's was so outraged that I cringed away from it and dropped my gaze straight to the floor. All that he cared about now was reputation, money and more reputation. I remember the days when he would happily play with Maria and me outside on the lawn in the fresh morning sunshine. Catch with a cricket ball, races to the trees and back or whatever else we could think up with our young imaginations. In the forest he would stomp around with heavy footsteps over the crinkled leaves of autumn, shouting in a deep booming while we crouched behind tree trunks or under bushes, hiding from the towering giant. Mother would nearly always be sat on the patio, a leather bound novel in hand, occasionally pressing her fingers to her lips to cover her giggles caused by our silliness. She was the most beautiful lady in all the area from my eyes and from father's eyes too. My sister was almost an exact mirror image of her, though mother's face had been perfectly symmetrical and her delicate cheekbones were a little more prominent under her ivory skin. She would often be the subject of many townspeople's conversations for her writing and her looks. Now, not a word about her could slip my mouth or anyone else's without father going absolutely berserk. Her death absorbed all the happiness from his body, leaving the empty, almost soulless shell that he is today behind.

Father, Maria and I had been out all afternoon in the paddock, trying to get to grips with the complicated act of horse-back riding. Mine had thrown me off all of four times in the space of an hour before I had finally given in and dragged it back to the stables. Somehow, it seemed to me as if it was swinging its silky, ebony tail in a triumphant fashion - making my scowl larger and more frustrated looking. For the rest of the afternoon I had watched in envy as Maria rose and fell as smoothly as she danced. She could have been a royal princess, easily, no effort needed. Unlike me, who would probably need several hundred grammar, manners and dancing lessons until I was ready for show.

As we trekked back up to the gardens a scream burst from the windows and doors - a scream so loud that the swaying birds that lined the trees screeched in harmony and exploded out into a threatening cloud of black and white feathers. Under the horrendously high pitch of the noise, all three of us recognised a tone of mother's musical voice. As soon as we did so, father dropped his riding gloves and sprinted at an unimaginable speed through the long grasses and bobbing wildflowers. I followed as fast as I could but my little legs were nowhere near long enough to avoid all the obstacles and therefore, I fell many times on my way up the gentle slope. At this point, my body was already throbbing with pain. When I finally got into the manor, I followed the screams of horror up to the exact spot where my sister would be dragged years later. Flames licked their way around the bolted door to the great hall and spat out a couple of metres down the hallway too, so that it was humanly impossible to get inside. The thick smoke stung my eyes and made burning tears spill over the rims. Scorching coughs ripped out from my chest and up my throat creating a pain so fierce that I almost screamed myself. Under my father's strict orders, my nursery maid Millie grabbed my waist and dragged me back the way I had come. It was then that I did scream - as any child would when being dragged away from their mother. My screams were ignored by her and everyone that she passed, as were my pathetic struggles, until we escaped out into the open, fresh air. Millie dropped my onto the floor, her face blackened with soot and her breathing rough and oddly forced sounding. She kept glancing back at the corridor she had brought me down with a fearful expression full of mournful sadness. As much as I usually loved my maid, at that moment I felt that there was no one on earth that I despised more. This time I was the one to ignore her shouts as I ran down the steps, taking them two at a time, sprinting to the lower terrace when I reached the bottom. To me the action felt like a sort of revenge towards her, from taking me away from where I needed to be!

There were only three ways into the hall where the fire raged. The door where father, Maria and the house servants stood, screaming hopelessly at the swirling fire, and the two double glass doors that led onto the upper terrace - where I was heading now. My riding boot caught on the uneven gravel, sending me flying through the air for several seconds until I landed face flat on the stone slabs around the fountain. As I touched my tingling fingertips to my cheek I felt dampness. Smooth, wet liquid with small chunks of grit mixed in that only increased the sharp, ripping pain when I touched the wound. When I pulled away my hand and forced myself to look down, all I saw was red - the only colour I didn't want in my vision. The sight of it made me gag and my head spin around and around, this was not helped by the strong smell of salt and rust that had just made itself known to my senses. Usually, I fainted at the sight of blood, and not even always my own! However, now I had a reason more important than any to scramble back to my feet and carry on running. I could think of no oppositions to it. Still, my vision was unfocused and blurred as I staggered along to the final set of steps on the terrace, but I wasn't going to let that stop me now. Nothing could stop me now - not when my mother's perfect life was endangered. I leapt up the carved steps and almost fell through the glass panes of the doors when I reached the top. Instead of seeing flames flickering inside or my mother hammering against the glass, all I could see was thick black smoke. It was totally opaque, with no way of seeing anything else through it. Although I couldn't see her, another deafening screech that echoed through the air informed me that somehow, she was still alive amidst all the horror and the mayhem.

The Locket - Short StoryWhere stories live. Discover now