The Clockmaker's Daughter

Oriana is the clockmaker's daughter and a thief. One fateful night she gets caught, and the consequences of this lead her on an old fashioned quest to another kingdom to find her mother who she thought dead.

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1. Chapter 1

The coffee shop was almost empty with tacky music audible over the sound of the baristas’ conversation. In a bag under the girl’s arm were a laptop and several books. She placed her usual order and sat down in an armchair near the window. The glow of the laptop illuminated her face with cold light as the new employee placed her drink on the table in front of her. She thanked him without looking up and continued to tap at the keyboard. She wrote.

............

 

The blade at my neck was cold, for some reason that was the only thing I could concentrate on. That and the rain dripping down my back. I squirmed under the grasp of my captor. I wasn’t used to being the prey and I didn’t like it. “Hold still.” A low, calm voice muttered. “If the police hear you we’re both dead.”

Reluctantly, I forced my breathing to quieten.

 

We stood in the dark side street and watched as the police strode past in their dark brown jackets, their swords clinking against their legs. For the first time my heart was pounding against my chest, if we were found... The footsteps faded into nothing and I spat at his feet. “Watch it, or it’s more than just a robbery that’s going to take place.” I growled in my posh little voice.

“Oh yeah? How are you going to rob me?” He asked. I could hear the laughter in his voice. I tutted at his stupidity as he relaxed his grasp on me slightly. I pulled myself round to face him. “You haven’t done this before, have you?” This time I could see his bewildered frown. “Well, it’s obvious. You made quite a few mistakes. The first of which was me.”

My knee hit his groin and his hands shot back in alarm. Then, I grabbed him by the shoulders, wrapped my leg around his and pulled it from under him. He fell with a thud, smacking the ground hard and I put my foot on his chest. His breathing was heavy and my leg moved up and down with the expansion of his lungs. “See, big mistake.” I kicked him in the face and he lolled into unconsciousness.  I took the bag of gold and jewels that was lying on the ground a couple of inches from his fingers. Smiling, I walked down the gloomy street into the darkness.

 

I was proud, too proud. Behind me was the sound of footsteps. A thrill of fear sprung up my spine and I turned suddenly down an alley. The gas lamp at the end was the only dim light that cast my shadow long and thin down the backstreet. Still the footsteps followed me. There was no point in running away so I faced him. The man from earlier. He had followed me. Clearly I hadn’t knocked him out as I thought I had. I rolled my eyes. “What do you want?” I asked impatiently, eyeing the scarf that covered his mouth. “That’s mine.” He growled, pointing at the bag in my hand.

“Mine first.”
“Liar. Give it back.”

“Or what?”

“Or I’ll turn you in.”

I looked him straight in the eyes. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“Why d’you think that?”

“You wear that stupid scarf. Only a coward covers his face.”
“Only a fool doesn’t, Oriana.”

 

I stopped smiling. My name. How dare he say my name, how dare he know who I am? “You know me.” I said with pursed lips. “Who are you?”

“Think Ori. Think.”

“Flynn?” He pulled the scarf down to reveal a face that I knew all too well. I scowled at him. “In the name of the Gods, why on earth are you out here? Shouldn’t you be finger painting or something?”

He laughed at me. “I’m not stupid.”
“Really? You do a very good impression of it.”

“I actually turn up to school.”

I rolled my eyes at him and began to walk away. “Bye Flynn.” I muttered.

“Ori!” He shouted. I stopped dead.

“What?” I hissed.

“Nothing.”

 

“Over here.” A voice I didn’t recognise came from underneath the gas lamp. The brown jacket stood out like a rose in ash. Blood ran like ice. “Run.” I breathed, my voice snagging in my throat.

He didn’t need telling twice.

 

We sprinted in the opposite direction, while the officer gained on us. I couldn’t be caught; it would be the death of my Father, the worry it would cause him. But I wasn’t sure that I could keep running for much longer, my chest hurt with every inhalation, my legs were aching and my lungs burnt. A hand clasped around my wrist pulling me backwards.

I had the jewels in my pocket and was out after curfew. I could only imagine the horror of what my sentence would hold. The hand twisted my arm behind my back. “Hello pretty.” The officer leered in my ear. “What have we been up to now?” Another four men in uniform clattered around the corner. “Jared, what you got there?” A tall man with very small eyes asked with a sneer.

“A girl. You know her?” My gaoler replied.

The tall man took a step closer and peered at me. “Yes. Oriana, the clockmaker’s daughter.”

I spat at him.

..................

 

The girl looked up from her laptop and out of the window of the Café. Outside, the world was manic. Cars honking, Mothers shoving pushchairs into the road and teenagers smoking at the corner. “Excuse me?” Somebody asked. She turned around to see the new employee nervously grinning behind her. Her expression didn’t change, but her heart both stopped and beat faster at the same time. “Yes?” She asked, a little coolly.

The young man glanced at her. “I just thought… I’m on a break and you seem really familiar. I just wondered if know you?”

“No.” Her reply was too quick, almost cutting into him. She closed the laptop and thrust it into her bag. “Nice to meet you.” She smiled and walked out onto the high street. Having skimmed it with her eyes she then decided to go home, as far away from the Café as possible.

 

The house was deserted, as she had hoped it would be. The girl wanted to concentrate. Get away from the reality that enclosed her, drawing away the oxygen she desperately needed, leaving her gaping for breath. No matter how much she tried, however, words would not come. She had made several cups of tea, but no inspiration could be drawn from the dregs that clung to the bottom of empty mugs. She was forced to root about the large kitchen, which was still littered with boxes meant for the garage, in the hope of finding something constructed of calories, carbs and fats. It didn’t take her long.

 

Over the last six months she had lost weight, she now had a flat stomach, thin arms and no chance of back fat. She had worked hard to look that way, it had been her project before she turned back to writing, but she was prepared to throw everything away now.

 

Because of that.

 

“Come on, tell me what to do.” She muttered to herself, looking to the empty armchair for advice and waiting for the answer. Changing perspective, she replied as her character. “What do you want to do?”

“I want to go back.”
“Well, you can’t do that; that would be giving in.”

“I don’t care.”
“Yes you do.”

“Look, I want to go back!” She snapped back, taking on the persona of yet another one of her characters. The character sighed in exasperation. “You can’t do that. It’s stupid. He’ll only see you again and work it out.”

“But what if…”
“No, there is no what if.”

She paused the one player production she was staging and said, “Fine, I won’t.”

 

She ate a crisp. And another, and another and another… until there were none left.

 

The front door opened so she threw the tub behind the chair and opened a book from her bag at a random page. “Anyone home?” Her Mother called from the hallway.

“In here.” The girl answered, kicking off her shoes.

“You taking a break?” Her mother was a short woman with blue eyes and greying hair that met her shoulders. The girl nodded and remained silent. “I’m amazed you’re down here instead of your room, it’s got a window seat and everything- just like you wanted.”

“I haven’t got cushions for it yet.”

“How’s the article going?”

“Great.” She lied.

“Can I read it later?”

“Yeah, of course. So how was your lunch?”

“Oh, lovely. Millie sends love.”

The girl tuned out as her Mother described the lunch. Her mind was elsewhere, drifting back through unwanted memory that made her feel both happiness and anger. “So, have you eaten? Because your Father and I were thinking of going to the new place on the beach.”
“No, but I’m not very hungry.”

“Nonsense.” As she left the room, she sighed. “I wish you hadn’t done that to your hair.”

.....................

 

I lay on the floor, legs sprawling out; hands tied above my head while my lip bled and I blinked into consciousness. The cell was small with no widows, no light to tell me whether it was day or night. My fingers twitched and caressed the rough floor as I tried to find something to help me stand. I had to retrieve some dignity. I knew it would be bad, being arrested and accused of theft, but I hadn’t expected the cruelty of the police to be so severe. I hadn’t expected… that. The agony that had ripped through my body with every blow hadn’t eased. The cuts on my knuckles had started to scab over, but they began to crack as I grasped at the wall. It stung. I pulled myself up. Stood. Stood with my shoulders back, spine straight and gazed defiantly into the darkness, hoping that my swollen, black eyes would adjust.

 

In the cell next to me I could hear screams. Another woman crying out in anguish, pleading for mercy, begging for an escape. I wondered if I had sounded like that. If that pitiful sob of submission had echoed through the prison while I whimpered through the pain. The guards’ laughter overpowered the other’s sounds and soon the closing of the door and their footsteps in the other direction left her in dense silence. “Can you hear me?” I asked as loudly as I dared. A loud rasping cry answered and I felt my way to the other side of the chamber. “I’m here. Here. I was arrested for being out after curfew. What about you?”

The voice from the other side of the wall answered her with a shaky voice. “I didn’t realise. I didn’t know…”
“Didn’t know what?”

“Didn’t know he was an officer.”

I didn’t hear the girl again.

........................

 

The ‘new beach place’ was called The Sandcastle: a rustic bar on the beachfront where the walls were covered in shells and the floor was unnecessarily sandy. They family sat together at a table which faced the sea. They ordered wine and sipped it in silence until the girl’s father started moaning about his day at work. Terry had made a mistake with the finance and now he, Alan, was getting the blame. “I mean it’s not my fault, but apparently I should have managed him better because he’s in my department. But really! Is that my job? To make sure he can add up? I didn’t hire him. That was Elaine. God she’s stupid.”

“You’re just saying that because she’s a woman.” The girl said. Her mother kicked her under the table. “No, I’m not.” Alan said with the familiar threatening glint of anger emerging from his eyes.

“If it was Wayne, or Alwin, or Steve, or Gary it would be I’m sure he had his reasons for hiring him, you just don’t like the fact that Elaine is your boss.” She took a sip of wine, refusing to look at him, refusing to let any emotion enter her voice. She sounded bored. That’s how you could tell that she cared. “Look, you’re a ‘freelance writer’. You don’t really have to work with anyone do you? And you’re more of a Terry anyway.”

He didn’t know her. He couldn’t spot the warning signs: she looked at him, she smiled and she stood up. Knocked the glass over so that it smashed into sharp shards on the sandy floor. “Oops.” Then she walked away.

 

“Alan! Did you really have to say that to her?” The girl’s mother asked as a waiter gathered up the broken glass in a grey dustpan and brush. “It’s true. We can’t have her living in the clouds for her whole life. She won’t be able to pay bills, file taxes, do anything. You’ve indulged her for far too long with these fantasies of being a writer, has she really got anywhere? She just writes about things she sees- that’s hardly news.”
“She doesn’t want to be a journalist.”
“Well that’s the only somewhat stable career she can have.”

The waiter backed away thinking to himself that the couple surely couldn’t think a lot of him if they didn’t believe in their own daughter. By the time he reached the dustbin he hated humanity and so later that night he quit his job and decided to follow his dream of becoming a professional scuba diver. He had a wholesome life and died at the age of ninety three surrounded by his family and his tortoise. “She can do what she loves.” The woman sighed and looked out to the sea dramatically.

“That’s not practical.”
“I had to give up what I loved! Why should she!?” She snapped her head back, her face was contorted in rage and tears threatened to spill over the edge of her tepid blue eyes. She steadied herself, and then followed her daughter until they both became blurry dots on the prom. Alan enjoyed the rest of the evening in peace and quiet.

 

The girl thrust open the front door and stormed into her room. The tennis ball was lying in the middle of the floor as if waiting for her. The ghost had followed her, she decided, picked the ball up and threw it at the wall. Apparently she shouldn’t take her anger out on herself. That’s what the internet had said. She caught the ball and threw it again. She shouldn’t break her shaving razors apart and plunge the blade into her susceptible flesh. And again. Apparently that wasn’t right. And again. “It’s him.” She whispered to herself. She caught the ball. “Which him?” She replied. “I don’t know, both? Dad just… He just doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t know what it’s like to have something you love. Something you just have to do, that you can’t live without.”
“You can’t live without writing?”

“No.” Her eyes flicked to the pink box with the musical ballerina that seemed to spin for eternity.

“Oh no you don’t. What about the other him?”

“Him. He shouldn’t mean anything. It’s been years.”
“And yet.”
“And yet.”
There was a tap on the door which immediately opened to reveal her mother. “He doesn’t mean it.” She said in her most motherly tone of voice that never did anything to reassure her. “But you do bring it on yourself.” She concluded as the girl knew she would.

“Yeah, okay.” She replied, sat down on her bed and grabbed her laptop.

Hours passed and letters that jumped into words ran off of her fingers in an eager attempt to form sentence after sentence until the pages were full.

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