The Little Queen Extract (Not As Long)

Just a short scene from the beginning of Chapter Three that gives a glimpse of Tenley’s character.

By afternoon last night’s clouds had all disappeared, sun rays piercing the leafy canopy to where Tenley stood and was refreshed by the warm, gentle touch. She hadn’t slept. She hadn’t really at all since the murderers came and they hadn’t just taken her mother from her, they’d ‘ransacked’ the house, as the scarred man had put it. They’d taken anything they thought valuable, but mother had never had an attachment to things so it was really just the TV, radio and computers. So they sacked Tenley’s room and took her music box. Tenley didn’t know if it was really valuable or where it came from, but when she was much younger she’d believed that her father had left it for her. She didn’t know anything about him either. They’d taken all of that and now she couldn’t sleep until she had taken all of it back.

Over there were other children playing, laughing, holding hands, falling down. Not long ago Tenley would have given anything to join them, but mother would never allow it. Now she understood why. None of them knew that their lives could be devastated in an instant. None of them were prepared for that, or for the pain that came after. She wondered if the man in the alley understood why all that had happened – she hadn’t known his name. She didn’t care. To her he was just a murderer and now he was gone, but she still couldn’t sleep. Anytime she tried she saw him, them, mother…

Tenley heard a peculiar quacking-whine and turned to see a squirrel had found a little yogurt pot and managed to get its head stuck inside it. She knelt by it and watched the fluffy-tailed rodent thrashing about in the leaves desperately trying to dislodge the plastic cup. On one hand Tenley wished people wouldn’t litter, but on the other she sighed, “it’s your own fault you know. You were greedy, and now you’re stuck.” The squirrel whined again. “Well don’t expect any help from me,” Tenley continued to chide. “I’ve no sympathy at all.”

She stood, turned away, but continued to hear it whine. Tenley recalled how once she’d stuck her head between the banisters and started screaming when she couldn’t pull herself back out. Mother was furious of course and said she would just leave her there to teach her a lesson, and Tenley became terrified that her head would grow and she’d be stuck forever, mother having to come to the staircase every night to feed her meals – which mother would never have done. It was the most scared she had ever been.

The squirrel kept making the most pitiful sounds, so Tenley threw up her arms and turned back. “Fine,” she puffed, “this is pathetic to watch anyway. Hold still.” She knelt again and put a hand on the squirrel, which hadn’t really understood and began to panic, thrashing and scratching and clawing. She shushed it and put her other hand on the cup. “I’m trying to help you, you stupid tree rat,” she explained, then carefully pulled off the yogurt pot.

Of course the fancy tree rat didn’t thank her but immediately scurried up the nearest tree. Still, Tenley’s mouth quirked as for a fleeting moment she felt a little contentment. But it was just a moment.

Another child, a freckled red haired girl, approached. Another one of Titania’s eyes and ears throughout the world, and she would only be here for one reason – they had found the next one. Tenley still had much to do before finally she could rest.

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