Set in the magical boarding school of St Francis’, Cold Fire centres around a group of teenagers who become involved in the tale of Romeo and Juliet in this contemporary re-telling of the classic story. Meanwhile, four hundred years earlier, a young teacher from Stratford Upon Avon arrives at the school. His name is Will… From the author of The Invisible Hand comes the second book in the spellbinding Shakespeare´s Moon series.
Angela is a student at St Francis´ School. The last time she was out running she thinks she saw the ghost or a vision of William Shakespeare. Now she is confused, about that, her life and emotions. And she is about to see something else…
Angela ran out along her normal route and felt the usual tension in her calves and thighs as her cold body strained to wake up. Her mind was fully awake. Like Kizzie, she´d hardly slept.
She looked down at the hard, dry pebbles on the path. Sometimes there were puddles here, sometimes even puddles filled with tadpoles. Now everything was rather dull, like the sky, although at least it wasn´t raining.
She ran past the ponies in their field, swishing tails and ears against the flies, and wondered, as usual, if she would prefer to change places with them. Did they know they were stuck in a field? Probably. Did they know that if they leapt the low wooden fence and the two strings of electrified wire, they would be free? Probably.
But then she always remembered a day at home, years ago, when she was seven or eight, and a friend of hers had told her to let the canary they had out of the cage and they´d opened the small door and beckoned the creature out, to fly away, to escape (even if it would have only been around the living room). The small, yellow bundle had remained cowering at the back of its perch, in the farthest corner of its cage, shaking with fear.
Angela came out over the gravestones and soft mossy grass of the churchyard and looked up at the hills. Today she could see them in brilliant detail, all the different hues of the leaves and the dark, gnarled shapes of the branches and trunks. She breathed in the greenness and thought: everything is going to be all right today. Perhaps it was only the night? When you woke up in the night everything you´d been thinking of in the dead of night, alone, seemed exaggerated, didn´t it? Your mind made connections that seemed silly when illuminated by daylight.
But what about the man? Go on, Angela – say it: What about William Shakespeare?
Well, of course it wasn´t Shakespeare. It was just some man wandering about the hills, lost. Perhaps the bloke had some kind of mental illness? Perhaps he was someone who dressed like Shakespeare, or people of that time? An actor, like Priya had said. Or maybe those sort of clothes were back in fashion for some people? Whatever it was, he was not someone who had lived and died over four hundred years ago because that sort of thing just didn´t happen. It was impossible.
But, she thought, heading up the steep, winding, woody path towards The Gallops, maybe she would still try to talk to Leana again. It wasn´t just the Shakespeare thing – it was everything. Angela had been feeling strange recently. A lot of things she´d thought she´d liked were now odd to her, childish, even. Her body was changing: her face the most obvious thing to the outside world, but that was just one of her worries. Too many other, odd things. Strange new thoughts. She had started noticing the look in people´s eyes; people looking at her in a different way, with different intentions.
And she trusted Leana. Leana was one of those people who seemed to understand everything. She´d heard the stories about her but instead of scaring her, they only made Leana seem more real to her. Angela didn´t really feel that with anyone else, not anyone older than herself. Miss Bainbridge hardly noticed her, and when she did, she spoke to her like a child. In class she never met the teacher´s eye, for different reasons, face down in a book or face burning with potential shame at having to talk out loud. Her new greatest fear was that she would have to stand up in class and speak and that everyone would stare at her. Whenever she spoke to more than one person these days Angela went to pieces.
She ran along The Gallops and looked down at the bypass and, beyond, the lovely sunlit expanse of the playing fields and the school. It really was a gorgeous spot on mornings like this and Angela was happy she was there. She would have been like this anywhere, she knew, confused and strange. Here she was allowed out to run and people left her alone. At the moment she could control her thoughts, and no-one really knew what she was thinking and that´s how she liked it.
But now, beginning to head downhill, she couldn’t help but think of the man. Say it! Of William Shakespeare.
But she didn´t see him.
She expected him to pop out from behind the tree trunks or be standing in front of her on the narrow, winding dirt path but he never was and she got down to the bypass thinking: That´s it, it´s over. Whatever it was, it was all in my head and that’s it. Finished.
But then she noticed that the cars passing her by were largely silent. There was only the faint hum of wind and some sort of motor, a faint buzzing, like a bulb, as each vehicle passed by.
Closer inspection revealed that each car – they were sleek, creamy, silvery designs, all of them, like small jets – had no drivers. Most of the windows were tinted and opaque but sometimes she caught sight of a person in the backseat and strange lights flickered from their eyes.
A child – a girl – looked out at her, a metal-looking, claw-like hand pressed to the window, and it was only when she´d gone that Angela realised the girl had been completely bald.
Author Bio – James was born on the Wirral, England, in 1973 on a rainy Thursday. He shares his birthday with Bono, Sid Vicious and two even nastier pieces of work, John Wilkes Booth and Mark David Chapman.
His mother was a hairdresser with her own business and his father worked in a local refinery which pours filth into the sky over the Mersey to this day. They married young and James was their first child. He has two younger brothers and a still-expanding family in the area. As an Everton fan he suffered years of Liverpool success throughout the seventies and was thrilled when his father took a job in Singapore and the family moved lock, stock and two smoking barrels to Asia.
He spent five fine years growing up in the city state before returning to the rain, storms, comprehensive schools and desolate beauty of the Scottish east coast. Later years took he and his family to baking hot Muscat, in Oman, and a Syria that has since been bombed off the surface of the planet.
James lives in Madrid, Spain, with his wife and two children.
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