Truth Teller

Charlotte brushed her shoulder-length, golden blonde hair away from her face, tucking it behind her ear while the sea breeze tried to blow it back. Her heart leapt at the sight of a ship out at sea as it rolled in the swell of the rising tide. Could it be a pirate ship? Why hadn’t she been more vigilant? If they came ashore there would be little chance of escape.
She spotted a smaller boat rowing towards her, heading straight for the beach. Her breath caught in her throat. What should I do? Is there enough time to save my little sister? Beth looked oblivious to the danger, chasing after a feather that blew away in the wind. By the time she reached her sister, they would be in clear view. Maybe I should save myself. At least one of us might survive. No. She couldn’t possibly leave Beth to the mercy of those murderous pirates.
Time ran out. It was now or never. The boat reached the shore, and its dubious occupants began to clamber out.
“Charlotte! Charlotte!”
The loud cry made her jump. She snapped back to reality and spun around.
“Are you daydreaming again?” Her mum let out a frustrated sigh. She placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and steered her in the direction of the car park at the edge of the beach. “Can you help take some of this stuff back to the car, please?” She handed her an armful of bags stuffed with damp, sandy towels. “We’ve still got a lot of things to do before we go home tomorrow, and you haven’t even bought anything for your friends yet. If you get your skates on, you’ll have enough time to pop into the shops across the road.”
Charlotte wrinkled her nose at the thought of their holiday coming to an end, and cringed at the prospect of going back to school the following week. She scooped up her own towel and trudged through the sand, mumbling how unfair it was making her do all the work even though she was only ten. “I notice Beth’s not helping.”
Her dad grinned as she struggled to the car. “We’re going to grab some food. Take-away, nothing but the best for the last day,” he said as she reached him.
“Not McDonald’s again, Dad,” she remarked with a hint of sarcasm, dumping her load on the floor.
“No way! Fish and chips tonight.” He wore his silly grin that never failed to make her smile.
“Whatever!” She smirked. “Mum said I could have a quick look at the gift shops just across the road.”
He put the discarded bags into the car and slammed the boot. He slid his sunglasses up to his receding hairline, slipping his hand into his jeans pocket. “Do you need any money?”
“Nah, it’s okay. Mum gave me some yesterday.”
“Are you going to take Beth with you?”
She folded her arms and shifted her weight to one leg. “Do I have to?” She loved her six-year-old sister to bits, but she was the most annoying person in the whole world. “I’m not going to get much shopping done with Beth tagging along.”
His face brightened with a grin. “I’m only pulling your leg.” He nudged her playfully. “We’ll take Beth with us and meet you back here in ...” He paused to gaze at his watch. “Let’s say, in about fifteen minutes, okay? Don’t go far!”
She sighed with relief. “Okay. See ya later.” She left, fumbling through her pockets to check she still had her money.
Crossing the road, Charlotte admired the pretty seaside town lined with buildings all the way to the top of a hill, overlooking the sea. Interesting old houses displayed colourful shop fronts, and a local market filled any spaces in between. She ambled along the well-worn paving stones, not really paying attention to the task of buying gifts for her friends. With her hands in her pockets, she wandered past stalls that spilled out across the path, packed with beach balls and buckets and spades.
She paused for a moment outside an arcade, drawn by the sounds and flashing lights that filled the air around the neon-lit building. Fighting the urge to spend the last of her money on a teddy-grabbing machine, she continued to trudge up the hill, losing interest in her mission with every step.
Halfway along the road she stopped, stepping into an alley to shelter from the glare of the sun. She leaned her back against the bright-red tiles that decorated the archway. Each one contained a small figure. They reminded her of characters from a fairy tale. She turned to examine them closely, running her fingers over the textured surface. Something about them held a strange attraction.
She gazed into the alley. It led a fair way back, but in the gloom she could see the front of a grubby-looking shop with a large ‘Sale’ sign in the window. She strained her eyes for a better view, and wondered if she should have a look just in case she could pick up something unusual for Mum. After a moment’s thought, she decided she had nothing to lose and wandered a little closer, checking over her shoulder as she went.
Reaching the glazed shop front, Charlotte stood on tiptoes to see over the half-frosted glass that obscured her view of the inside. Despite being taller than most kids her age, the contents of the store remained a mystery. She paused at the door before giving it a shove and peering through the gap. Inside, it looked much smaller than expected, with tall shelves standing against the outer walls, each laden with an assortment of objects that appeared better placed in a junk shop.
The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end, but curiosity urged her forward. She stepped inside. An old-fashioned till perched in the centre of a small counter at the far end of the shop. Behind it hung a set of drab curtains with tiny pinholes, allowing slivers of light to seep through. The whole place had an air of gloom and smelt musty and damp.
“Hello. Are you open?” Charlotte called out.
When no one responded, she browsed the shelves, discovering some odd, hand-carved figures, similar to the characters on the decorated tiles around the archway outside. She picked up one that resembled a garden gnome and turned the carving around, searching for a price label. Nothing. That’s not much help. She placed the grotesque figure back down.
A bright flash caught her eye when she turned to leave. She stared at a small bookcase resting against the back wall beside the counter. A gentle glow of green light illuminated the shelves, tempting her to venture further and take a closer look. She crept through the aisle and bent down to examine a small, glass snow dome nestled amongst a variety of clay pots. It looked out of place with the other articles displayed in the shop.
She reached out and touched the surface with the tips of her fingers. The cool surface tingled, a strange yet alluring sensation. With a quick check over her shoulder, she picked it up and tipped it upside down. She cupped the delicate item in the palm of her hand and held it close to her face. No snow.
Inside the crystal orb, a tiny globe like a miniature planet revolved in slow motion, casting eerie shadows against the dreary walls. “It’s beautiful,” she whispered.
“Yes, it is beautiful,” a gruff voice sounded.
She spun around and stumbled back a step. Behind the counter stood a large figure wrapped in a gray cloak, similar to the drab curtains that hung behind him. From what she could see of him in the gloom, his scruffy, charcoal hair hung down to his shoulders. Dark eyes peered out below bushy eyebrows, making his thin face look gaunt and pasty. She shuddered. He gave her the creeps, popping up from out of nowhere and staring at her as though he had never seen a customer before.
“I am sorry if I surprised you. I did not mean to make you feel uncomfortable,” he said, as if reading her mind. “You are very welcome here.”
She put down the small ornament and walked along scanning the contents of the shelves, picking through the strange collection of knickknacks. The entire time, she sensed the old man’s stare following her. She considered leaving, yet the eerie glow from the snow dome kept drawing her gaze back to the bookcase. The temptation from its hypnotic light got the better of her, and she walked back to pick it up again. “How much is this?”
A broad smile lit up the man’s face. “Take it, child. I have no use for it in my shop.”
Her eyes widened. “What, for nothing? I must give you something for it. I’ve got money, you know.”
The old man shrugged. “Well, if you are that keen on striking a deal with me.” He raised one of his bushy eyebrows. “All I will ask is for you to take great care of such a beautiful item. Promise me you will be good and always tell the truth.”
“I always tell the truth anyway. I hate liars!” she declared, a little puzzled by such a strange request. “Is that it? Is that all you want?”
He bellowed with laughter.
She placed one hand on her hip. “What’s so funny, then?”
“I am sorry.” He leaned closer across the counter. His weather-beaten face creased with concern. “Telling the truth is not always an easy thing to do, especially when you find yourself in trouble.” His expression lightened. “I am Goffer, the shop keeper, and if I am not mistaken, you will find yourself in trouble if you do not hurry. Time is getting on.”
Charlotte glanced at her watch. “You’re right!” She rushed to the door in a fluster, but stopped before leaving. “Thank you! Thanks a lot. That was really nice of you.”
Goffer stood motionless, barely visible in the shadows. “I would not be so quick to thank me just yet.”

Synopsis
Charlotte brushed her shoulder-length, golden blonde hair away from her face, tucking it behind her ear while the sea breeze tried to blow it back. Her heart leapt at the sight of a ship out at sea as it rolled in the swell of the rising tide. Could it be a pirate ship? Why hadn’t she been more vigilant? If they came ashore there would be little chance of escape. She spotted a smaller boat rowing towards her, heading straight for the beach. Her breath caught in her throat. What should I do? Is there enough time to save my little sister? Beth looked oblivious to the danger, chasing after a feather that blew away in the wind. By the time she reached her sister, they would be in clear view. Maybe I should save myself. At least one of us might survive. No. She couldn’t possibly leave Beth to the mercy of those murderous pirates.
I live in the UK in the county of Hertfordshire where I write whenever I find the time. I was a moderator of an online children’s writer critique group and help mentor other writers.