Authors: Isabelle Merlin
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction/Fairy Tales & Folklore Adaptations
The first stories Isabelle Merlin remembers are the traditional fairytales told to her by her French grandmother. Later, she heard family stories, which proved to her that magic and romance and terror don't only appear in fairytales: like the romantic story of the beautiful ancestor who caught the eye of the Sun King, Louis XIV; or the amazing story of the wily ancestor who went from being a poor peasant to a multimillionaire; or the tragic story of the curse of madness and misfortune that pursued other ancestors; or the spooky story of the chain-rattling ghost that haunted the family home deep in the green countryside of France. It's no wonder that she grew up with a head full of stories and a burning desire to become a writer.
Isabelle lives in Australia with her family.
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First published by Random House Australia in 2010
Copyright Â© Isabelle Merlin 2010
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions provisions of the Australian
Copyright Act 1968
), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random House Australia.
Addresses for companies within the Random House Group can be found at
National Library of Australia
Author: Merlin, Isabelle.
Title: Bright Angel/Isabelle Merlin.
ISBN: 978 1 86471 963 5 (pbk.)
Target audience: For secondary school age.
Dewey number: A823.4
Cover and internal illustrations by Kerrie Hess
Cover design by Design Cherry
|About the author|
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|Note to readers|
Anything can happen. Everything can change in an instant. It doesn't matter who you are. You could be the cleverest, bravest, strongest person in the whole world or the most ordinary and humdrum â and still it can come to you. The bolt from the blue, the heaving of supposedly solid earth under your feet, the shark in the summer water, the truck on the wrong side of the road, the maniac in the crowded street. Wrong place at the wrong time. That's what they say. That's what they
It was only because of a last-minute suggestion from Claire that I was there at all, that bright Saturday morning. I'd come in to breakfast with a long face because Jessie, my best friend, had just phoned to say she'd been sick as a dog all night and couldn't come shopping with me as planned.
âWhy don't you come with me, then?' Claire said, crunching on her toast. âHelen won't mind. There'll be heaps of other people there anyway.'
So I agreed, there being not much else to do, at least nothing much I fancied doing on my own. Besides, it might be quite interesting, I thought, as we caught the train into the city and walked through the crowded streets to our destination. I'd never been into one of these places before. And I knew Helen, one of my sister's friends, quite well. She'd been round to our place a few times.
The lift deposited us on the second floor, into a very different world from the noisy street just below. Here was all hush and quietness and peace and beauty. There were several shops of the same kind on this floor, but Helen had said to meet at this one.
She was already inside when we went in. There were quite a few other people in there, browsing and trying things on, but you couldn't miss Helen, with her shining head of blue â black hair. Her mother, three aunts, sister and several female cousins were with her. Helen's family is really big on, well, family. They always go everywhere in a big noisy friendly group. She saw us at once and beckoned us over. âHey, great you could come too, Sylvie,' she said, smiling at me. âSo. What do you think?'
âEr...' I gazed around at the amazing sight. The shop was large and luxurious, with gilded furniture, crystal chandeliers, heavy curtains, floor-length mirrors and soft carpet. And all around it were displayed the most gorgeous wedding dresses you could imagine. Billows of lacy tulle, sleek pearly satin, meringue swirls of bows and frills, glamorous flowing silk with long trains, glittering concoctions of sequins and lace and embroidery, bridesmaids' dresses in a variety of colours, a corner frothing over with veils, long and short. In another, discreet racks of ready-made dresses hanging up in clear plastic covers. A display cabinet gleaming with tiaras and other jewellery. âIt's ... it's pretty cool,' I said lamely.
But Helen wasn't really listening. She was excitedly showing Claire the models she especially liked. And the others, all older than me, also turned their attention back to the task in hand. After a moment or two of listening to their chatter, feeling a bit out of place, I wandered off to have a good look at all the stuff, and the other people there.
It was so interesting, and so strange, too. Girls went into the fitting rooms in ordinary stuff â like T-shirts and jeans â and then came out in amazing dreamy dresses as if some fairy godmother had just tapped them with her wand. Twirling in front of the mirrors or perched on little pedestals, long trains spread out behind them, they looked just like Cinderellas about to go to the ball, stepping out of the unromantic twenty-first century into some magical once-upon-a-time. And all around them were the admiring choruses of relatives and friends, with their âoohs', âaahs' and âwows'. How weird, I thought, how weird it must be to be those brides, to be there not just to dress up in pretty dresses, but to actually be getting ready to get married!
When I was a little kid, I used to dream about weddings. I drew pictures of what my wedding dress might look like. One Christmas, I asked for a bride-Barbie. She was dressed in a flouncy white satin dress and a long veil and high-heeled white shoes with a silver buckle and she had beautiful long hair like Helen, only blonde. I spent ages dressing and undressing her, adding bits of jewellery and tinsel, doing her hair in different styles and setting up a wedding party for her and the only male doll I owned, which was a clown doll. He was much bigger than her and he looked silly in his clown suit but that didn't matter to me because you never really think about the groom at that age, do you? You only see the princess in her pretty dress on her special day.
Now, though, it was different, and at nearly seventeen I did think about the groom and wonder about how you got to know that someone was really, really right for you so that you'd be prepared to stand in front of all those people and say I want to be that guy's lawful wedded wife, or whatever they say. I mean, I'd had lots of crushes on people, and I'd gone out with a few guys. I'd had a sort of serious boyfriend last year, Alan, only he got too serious, if you know what I mean, and I just wasn't ready. But anyway I'd never really met anyone I could even imagine wanting to be with for ages, let alone marry. Anyway, I was far too young. But then so was Helen. She was the same age as Claire, twenty-two, and Claire is certainly not thinking of getting married. At least, not as far as I know! She was going to be one of Helen's bridesmaids though. And she'd already got her bridesmaid's dress: a gorgeous green and white silk halter-neck dress patterned with flowers and worn with pale-green high-heeled shoes and a romantic, lacy sort of big-brimmed white hat. It looked awesome on Claire.
Mum thinks it's weird that young people today should want a big traditional wedding with all the trimmings. She'd say that in her day young people would have thought it really old-fashioned and uncool. You can tell from her and Dad's wedding photo. There they are, both of them with lots of bushy hair and horrible early 1980s outfits, getting married in a park in New Orleans, which is where Dad comes from, originally. He's a Cajun â they're French-speaking people who settled in Louisiana ages ago. He's really proud of it but he doesn't want to go back to live there. Australia's his home now.
I miss them, sometimes. But we talk on the phone fairly often and there are emails too. They come down as often as they can, when they can get away from their demanding jobs in a remote community in Central Australia. They've been there over a year now. I couldn't live there â there's no high school, and correspondence school would suck big time. And no way was I going to boarding school. Anyway, it's nice living with Claire â most of the time. Occasionally she tries to put on the bossy big sister act and tell me how to run my life, but mostly she's pretty cool and I like being around her. We get on. We used to fight a bit as kids but not any more.
I wandered back over to Helen and her entourage. Things were moving. The salesgirl was bringing out the dresses for Helen to try. The meringue first. It was probably the most extravagant creation in the whole shop, a really full-on thing, with metres of frothy white stuff and bows and lace. On anyone but Helen it might have looked silly. She, however, looked gorgeous. The dress looked like it had been made for her. Everyone oohed and aahed, including me. Everyone gave advice, not including me. Helen tried on the next dress, and the next. And the next. Each one looked good. How could you decide? Helen certainly couldn't. Neither could the others. More dresses were brought out. I began to feel tired and fed-up. There were just so many wedding dresses you could look at without them blending into each other.
I think I was the first to see him. And only because I was the only one not concentrating on the decision-making. He hesitated in the doorway. A good-looking young guy, blond, wearing a blue Adidas jacket. I had a nagging feeling I'd seen him before somewhere, sometime, but couldn't place him. His pale blue gaze searched the happy, chattering female crowds. He must be someone's brother or son or fiancÃ© I thought, coming to find out why things were taking so long. He looked intimidated. Even a bit scared. No wonder, I thought. A lot of guys might feel overwhelmed in a place like this, filled with flocks of women.
Helen was just coming out of the fitting-room, in the latest dress. Pearl and silver silk, with a low back. Simple and beautiful. I saw him look at her. I saw something in his face change. And at that moment, I remembered where I'd seen him. He'd come round to our place once, about a year ago. With Helen. She'd gone out with him for a while, before she met her current boyfriend, the one she was going to marry.
I couldn't remember his name, but I remembered how he used to look at her, as though he could eat her alive. It had made me feel weird back then. It made me feel weird now. I was about to call out to Helen, but I was too late. She must have seen him approaching in the mirror. She went pale, gave a little cry, and stumbled off the pedestal where she was posing. Her mother and sister, busy around her, turned. Helen's mother said, low and nervous, âFor God's sake â what do
The young guy walked right up to Helen. He said, âWhy have you done this to me?' and then he put a hand in his jacket, and then â suddenly â quite suddenly and stupidly and surreally â
there was a gun in his hand.
A heavy-looking black handgun, the sort you see in gangster movies. Someone screamed and everyone in the shop turned towards the sound and then he shouted, âLook what she's made me do,' and, grabbing Helen round the waist so that she was held in front of him like a shield, he forced her up onto the pedestal with him. In the frozen silence I distinctly heard the click as he cocked the gun â I saw him lift it to her head, right against her temple â and then â and then he raised the gun higher â I saw his finger on the trigger â I saw him about to squeeze it â and then, then...