Chapter Two

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by June Vernau

Chapter Three
Winged Attack

   "She's got it, mum! She's got my box!"
   "Shush, you're at the breakfast table." Tom's mum tried to silence him.
   "I want it back. I want to put my model in it!"
   "I'm only borrowing it," said Jayne. "He can have it when I find another. I'll buy one today."
   "Jayne, I think you should have asked Tom first."
   "Did you all sleep well?" Mrs. Butters came over to their table.
   "Yes," said Derek. "Must have been all that fresh air on the beach."
   "What would you like for your breakfasts? We've got a vegetarian choice."
   "I'd like vegetarian," said Jayne.
   "Mum, it's not fair," Tom moaned.
   "Shush." Jayne's mum looked at the menu.
   "I'll have a full breakfast, please. Tom what do you want?"
   "I don't know." Tom sulked.
   . "I'll have everything please," said Derek. "Bacon, egg, mushrooms, tomatoes, sausages. Just pile it on my plate. I'll have Tom's breakfast if he doesn't want it."
   "Tom, you've got to decide," said his mum.
   "Just cereal?"
   "Well, you can eat some toast."
   Tom sank back into his chair.
   "Is that all right, Mrs. Butters?" Jayne's mum asked.
   "Yes, he can have all the cereal he can eat. He'll need lots of energy food if he's going on the beach again."
   "We're going to have a sandcastle competition," said Derek.
   "When Jayne's given me my box back," Tom grumbled.
   "Tom, stop going on about that box," said his mum.
   "Who wants a box?" asked Mrs. Butters. "I've got lots of boxes."
   "You can have a television box," said Tom.
   "Well, you can if that's what you want," said Mrs. Butters.
   "No, I think Jayne is looking for something a lot smaller," said her mum. "Is that right Jayne? I don't know what she's putting in it. Probably shells from the beach."
   Jayne nodded.
   "Well, I'm sure I can find something to suit," said Mrs. Butters. "I'll have a look after breakfast. Now I'd better get cooking."
   Tom was watching television in the lounge, after breakfast. Jayne wanted to avoid him. She crept past the open doorway.
   "Is this the right size?"
   Jayne turned to see Mrs. Butters standing in the hallway, holding a small black velvet box. "You're welcome to have it if it's of any use to you. It's very pretty but I've got nothing to put in it." Mrs. Butters handed Jayne the box.
   "Thank you," said Jayne. "I think it's just about the right size." She lifted the lid to look inside.
   "It's silk lined," said Mrs. Butters. "I think it's made for jewellery or something precious. I called it a treasure box. I'm glad someone can use it. I've got nothing to put in it at the moment."
   "It's lovely," said Jayne. "I'll try it now. Thank you Mr. Butters." Jayne ran up stairs to the bedroom.
   She reached under the bed to pull out her rucksack. Then carefully took out the cardboard box and eased the egg from its hiding place. She rested it gently in the silk lining of the velvet box. It fitted snugly, glittering turquoise against black silk.
   She stroked the smooth shell. It felt like an egg, but she told herself it wasn't a real egg. It was too bright and heavy. It had to be an ornament or toy. It couldn't possibly be a Phoenix egg. The Phoenix story wasn't true, anyway.
   "Jayne, mum says I can have my box back!" Tom ran into the bedroom. "What's that?"
   "Nothing," said Jayne.
   "Let me see," said Tom, grabbing for the box.
   "Stop it!" Jayne shouted. "You'll break it!"
   "It's an egg!" said Tom. " Where did you find it?"
   "It's nothing to do with you," said Jayne.
   "You're not supposed to take birds' eggs," said Tom. "It's against the law."
   "It's not a real egg," said Jayne. "And if you must know, I didn't take it. I found it."
   "Finder's not keepers!" shouted Tom.
   "Stop shouting," said Jayne. "It's not your business."
   "Tom, Jayne, are you ready?" Their mum was at the door.
   "Mum, Jayne's got an egg," said Tom.
   "Tom, will you please stop fussing and get ready. Jayne, what's he talking about?"
   "Nothing. It's not a real egg," said Jayne, glaring at Tom.
   "Can I have you both down stairs or you won't get to the beach before lunch time."
   "Beach! Sand castles!" Tom rushed out of the bedroom door.
   "Jayne, luv, can you come down stairs now?"
   Her mum was eager to go out. "Derek's waiting in the hall."
   Jayne, pushed the velvet box into her bag, grabbed her jacket from the chair and ran down the stairs. Before she got to the bottom she heard Mrs. Butters' voice in the hallway.
   "Don't drop your trainers there, Sam. I don't want the guests falling over them. You should leave them outside when you've been running on the beach."
   Jayne looked down to see Sam at the front door, unlacing his sandy trainers. "Will do next time," he called out to his mum.
   "Right." Mrs. Butters disappeared into the kitchen.
   Sam saw Jayne on the stairs. "Hello, there. Going anywhere good?"
   "The beach," said Jayne.
   "Well, take your binoculars. There's a strange bird on the beach. Don't know what it is. Too early to be a migrant. Looks Caribbean with all those bright colours. Reds, golds - it's like a Firebird. Anyway, have a good day. I'm off for a shower." He dropped his trainers to the floor and padded down the hall in his socks. "See you later."
   "Come on!" Derek called from the door. "You'll never make a birdwatcher. They'll all have flown home to roost for the night before you get to the beach!"
   "Yeah!" shouted Tom. "Sandcastles!"
   "Hold on! Don't go rushing ahead," said Derek, as they climbed off the tram at the Tower stop. "We'll use the subway."
   "Subway, what's a subway?" asked Tom.
   "The underground tunnel. Easiest way to cross a busy road is to go under it. Follow me," and Derek led them to the subway entrance.
   "It's light!" Tom shouted, running ahead down the hallow tunnel. "Hey, there's an echo. Echo! Echo!"
   "It's quite wide," said Jayne's mum.
   "Did you expect it to be a narrow tunnel under the ground?" Derek laughed. "It's not a rabbit burrow."
   Jayne followed behind. She thought of the trams, cars and horse drawn carriages above her head. It was not as noisy as she'd expected it to be. How had they built it under the road? Did the sea flood down it when the tide was high?
   "Jayne come on." Her mum disturbed her thoughts. "We want to see day light again."
   "Coming!" she ran to catch up, her rucksack bounced on her shoulder. She held it firm, remembering the egg inside.
   "It's dry there!" Derek pointed to a sun-dried patch of sand. "Put the coats down there."
   "And I suppose I stay at base camp while you cavort in the waves," said Jayne's mum.
   "I will give you every opportunity to let the water tickle your toes," said Derek.
   "Don't worry. I'm only joking," said Jayne's mum. " I'd like to finish reading my book. You can all go play." She rested in the coats on the sand.
   Jayne took off her sandals and dropped them near the bags. "Is the tide coming in?" she asked her mum.
   "I wouldn't worry, there's enough beach. If it's coming in you'll have plenty of time to paddle."
   "Jayne!" Tom shouted, as he ran full tilt towards the incoming tide. "Beat you to the sea!"
   Jayne watched as Derek ran after him, his tee shirt lifting with the breeze.
   "Go on, luv." Her mum looked up from her book. "Get your feet wet. Leave you rucksack here."
   "It's okay. I want to put shells in it."
   Jayne felt the warm grains of dry sand between her toes as she began her walk to the shoreline. When she looked one way she could see the North Pier, its barnacled legs deep in the water. On the other side was the Central Pier, and the Big Wheel silhouetted against a bright blue summer sky.
   "That inlet's warm!" shouted Derek, running towards her, his trousers rolled to his knees. "Watch out. Tom's in a splashing mood. You could get wet through. Never seen so many razor shells on a beach.
   Look at these." He knelt down on the sand. "Look castanets. These two are still stuck together." He clicked the shells in his fingers. "Ole! Spain!"
   Jayne laughed and turned to the sea again, leaving Derek playing with the shells. Her feet touched the damp wet sand. It was easier now. She could walk faster. The sand rippled beneath her toes - last night's patterns drawn by a thousand waves.
   The sea and sky stretched before her - a wide horizon. She could see Tom leaping and bounding along the shoreline, jumping the waves. Teasing them. Waiting until the last minute then diving back before they caught his ankles. He was waving his long-sleeved top in the air above his head and splashing wildly.
   A lone seagull called. Jayne looked up as it flew above her head. She was almost at the water's edge now and could hear the waves. She watched one mount to a pinnacle then tip over like a great roller coaster racing to the shore, the surge turning to a million tiny ripples to lap and bubble round seashells and children's toes.
   "Jayne! Jayne!" Suddenly Tom was running towards her, shouting and waving. "Watch out! Get down!"
   Jayne looked up at the fiery-winged shape above her.
   "Watch out, it's flying low!" Tom shouted. "Get down!"
   She threw herself to the sand, her rucksack falling from her shoulder as the bird swooped over her head.
   "It's coming back!" Tom shouted.
   Jayne could see the bird flying back, its shadow chasing across the water. It dived towards her bag, its red and gold wings flapping in Jayne's face. "Dad!" Tom shouted. "Dad!"
   Jayne rolled over towards the waves. The bird tugged on the bag strap, pecking and clawing.
   "Jayne!" Derek was running towards the thief. "Ya! Ya!" he shouted, waving his arms in the air. "Get off!"
   The bird pulled harder, lifting the bag from the sand. "Put it down!" Tom joined in the chase. "Ya! Ya!" At once the huge wings lifted. The bird began to rise, the bag in its claws.
   "Put it down! Hey! Hey!" Jayne's mum raced to the shoreline.
   Jayne watched as the bird rose into the sky, the bag dangling and swaying. Wings flapping, the bird started to climb higher above their heads.
   "Derek!" Jayne's mum shouted. "It's flying off!"
   "Ya! Ya!" Tom shouted louder. The bird began to circle, turning back towards the shore. The heavy bag lurched.
   "It's falling!" shouted Derek. "It's lost its grip!" The burden slipped from the captive claws.
   "Yeah! Yeah!" shouted Tom as the rucksack splashed into the sea.
   "It's in the sea!" shouted Jayne's mum.
   Jayne watched the rucksack bobbing on the incoming waves.
   "It'll come in on the tide," said Derek, still waving his arms about to ward off the disappointed bird, which circled high above their heads. "Just wait a few minutes and it will be on the shore."
   "Are, are you alright?" Jayne felt her mum's arms round her shoulders. "Come on, I'll get you back up the beach. Tom, get the bag when it comes back in." As her mum led her away Jayne could hear Tom shrieking and shouting as he dived at the incoming waves.
   "Well, that was some experience," said Derek, as he walked back up the beach carrying the wet rucksack. "I think it's flown off now. Must have been the colour of the rucksack. Very strange behaviour." He set the bag on the sand. "One wet bag."
   "The vulture from out of nowhere!" Tom came hurtling across the dry sand.
   "Tom, watch where you're kicking that sand," said Jayne's mum.
   "Never seen colours like that!" said Derek. "Reds and oranges. It was like a Bird of Paradise."
   "It's a fiery vulture," said Tom. "Come to haunt Jayne."
   "Tom, don't. It was frightening enough for Jayne." His mum was not amused.
   "Come on, clown," said Derek, grabbing Tom's arm. "I think it's time to escape to the Tower."
   "We can't pay to go in again, today," said Jayne's mum.
   "It's all right," said Derek. "I've got some free, complimentary tickets. Mrs. Butters gave them to me this morning. Said she wouldn't have time to go herself."
   "What about food? I'm hungry," said Tom.
   "We can get something in the Tower," said Derek.
   "Come on, it's time to see the Tower Circus."
   "Good idea," said Jayne's mum. "Come on, luv." She took Jayne's arm. "We'll give that bird time to fly home."
   Jayne clutched her bag tightly. The egg, was it still in one piece? She lifted the lid of the velvet box. The egg sparkled brightly in the sunshine. It wasn't damaged. She looked up. There was no sign of the fiery-winged bird, only white clouds in a summer blue sky.
   But she had a feeling that it would be back.