Ruby Nox was a normal (ish) teenager, before she moved back to her home town while her father was on a mysterious mission somewhere abroad. In Slake, Ruby makes some mysterious friends and is suddenly immersed in an odd and amazing world of magical blood and mythical creatures Which her mother neglected to tell her about...
A voice distorted by feedback crackled through a speaker above me. I shook my head to wake myself up properly from my doze, dislodging the iPod headphones from my ears. The music was silenced as I switched it off and tucked it into my bag, the train driver announcing the train’s arrival at Old Town Station.
Really imaginative name, I thought scathingly as I slung the strap of my messenger bag across my shoulder and stood up. If I had had any choice I would have been miles away from there in London. As it was, I didn’t.
My father had sent me to stay with my mother in her hometown, Slake. I had been born there and lived there until I was five, but my father moved to the Big Smoke because it was more convenient for his job - London being the hub of the country, where I had spent the last ten years of my life growing up. The same job had taken him abroad for a few months, leaving me to stay with my mother in the house where I used to live, and she still did. While I travelled up to the (barely) city of Slake he was flying overhead to somewhere that he “couldn’t disclose”. I thought he was probably worried that I would get on a plane and follow him if he told me, not that it was too important.
I scowled unattractively as I tried to stay upright on the swaying carriage floor by clutching a pole. It was his fault that I had to come to this small city which nobody had ever heard of. I had seen my mother on visits, of course, so this wasn’t the first time that I would see her since we left. Still, that didn’t mean I was looking forward to this.
I reached up for my small case on the luggage rack, but it was heavier than I anticipated. Also to lift it down I had let go of the pole, and I almost dropped the case as the train juddered to a halt in the station with an ear-splitting whine of brakes. Instead I managed to turn round and hit somebody with the hard edge of the case as I attempted to get a proper grip on it.
I wasn’t in the best of moods but I still had manners, so I grumbled a “Sorry” as I got it the right way round and picked it up by the handle. I should have expected something like that to happen because I undeniably dropped or knocked over pretty much everything I touched. Maybe that would explain for my lack of friends in London. I eyed the victim as I adjusted the strap on my shoulder to free my long chestnut hair which had been caught in it. It was a skinny man in a black tailored suit, so tall that I had to tilt my head back a little to see his face. A blow from a case as heavy as mine should have knocked him backwards or at least winded him, but his composure wasn’t affected at all. I studied him curiously. He had black hair that fell around his face in a way which wasn’t the current style but still seemed effortlessly elegant for a businessman. He had the skin colour of a fading tan and his features seemed chiselled, especially his sharp angular cheekbones. He smiled to acknowledge my apology, and I wanted to step back at the sight of his gleaming teeth. The smile was polite but there was a hidden menace behind it. I glanced away from it and caught his eyes. They were a mesmerising golden brown and their image remained, burned into my retinas, even after the mysterious stranger had disappeared from sight. I didn't know then that we would soon meet again.
I realised that the stragglers had just left, and struggled with my bags onto the platform before the automated doors hissed shut. I saw my mother stood by a large shiny car on the other side of a chain link fence, in the station car park, and forgot quickly about the man on the train. She wasn’t hard to miss - she had dyed her brown hair a shade of red so bright that it was almost neon. She stood out like a beacon amongst the suited men weaving through the cars to the taxi rank. Their expressions were torn between disapproval at my mother and appreciation of the hulking glossy vehicle she was stood beside. My dad must have been sending her money, because there was no way my mother’s little art gallery could generate enough cash for a car like that. I didn’t even know what make it was, let alone the model. I was the opposite of a car enthusiast. I had a deep mistrust of vehicles of any kind, which had made the train journey uncomfortable.
But probably not as uncomfortable as the next journey was going to be.