Middle Grade (age 10 – 12)
“Get ready Anya. You’re on in a minute.” Mr Gully turned and gave me a thumbs up.
I had more than butterflies in my stomach. There was a whole flock of birds twisting and diving inside me. I was sweating and my hands were shaking.
In a minute I’d have to walk on stage. I only had to move around the stage pretending to sell roses and sing. SING! In front of the whole of my year. What was I thinking? Doing it during rehearsals at lunchtime was ok. But this was the dress rehearsal before we did the proper shows next week. And all of Year 8 were being made to sit and watch us doing Oliver. I felt sick.
Henry was saying, “I thought it was a dream.”
“Go.” Mr Gully waved his arm frantically without taking his eyes off the stage.
I stepped on the stage, carrying the basket of plastic roses in one hand and lifting the long skirt of my dress in the other. They’d said I should take the dress home to make it shorter but I liked it long. It was like being in one of those old black and white films that Mum likes, where the women wear long dresses and the men have hats.
It didn’t seem a good idea right now though. I was having to balance the basket and keep the skirt off the floor and my legs were shaking so much it was hard to walk straight.
When I opened my mouth to sing, my foot caught in the dress.
Everything went into slow motion as I tripped and fell forward. I dropped the basket of roses all over the stage. And instead of saying, “Who will buy my sweet red roses?” I gargled and squealed and fell into Charlie. We crashed to the floor.
There was silence. All I could hear was my heart beating. Then everyone went wild and the kids started cheering and whistling and whooping.
I stood up as quick as I could. The noise was booming in my ears and my cheeks were burning. The teachers were telling the kids to be quiet, but as I ran off stage, the whoops turned to chants.“Tit-ty! Tit-ty!”
“Anya, wait,” Mr Gully called, but I ignored him and ran down the corridor into the empty classroom.
I grabbed my bag and ran to the loos. Tears were fighting to escape and the second I locked the cubicle door they burst out. As I sat there bawling, there were voices outside. The sobs stuck in my throat. I sat up and roughly wiped my eyes. The door to the loos opened with a thud against the wall.
“Are you in there, Anya?” It was Madison. Madison and her friend Ivy were in the play too. I hated them. They thought they were better than everyone and acted like celebs.
I tucked myself into a ball on the loo-seat and held my breath.
“Nah, she’s not here. Let’s go and tell Sir she’s gone.” Ivy started to giggle. “Did you see her face-plant the stage? What an idiot. That’s her out of the play.”
“They should let you do it. Your voice is much better than hers.”
The door closed and they were gone, but I didn’t move. That proved it. They all hated me. And it was all Mr Gully’s fault. And Seren’s. If I’d never found her none of this would’ve happened and I wouldn’t be sitting on the loo in this stupid dress, crying.
If only I hadn’t made that stupid wish. Mum always says ‘Be careful what you wish for’, but it wasn’t a big wish, nothing like winning the lottery or flying to the moon. More the kind of wish you make when you feel miserable.
Dad had seen a house he really liked. It was in a tiny street with no streetlights, no shop, nothing. Just houses and fields. My Dad loves looking at the sky with his telescope. He said this house would be perfect for stargazing. When Mum saw it, she got really excited about the garden, saying fairies definitely lived there. And just like that, we all moved to a new house in the middle of nowhere, away from the home I’d always lived in, away from my friends and away from my old school. There was one good thing. A massive treehouse at the bottom of the garden. But before I even had a chance to test it out, Auntie decided it was going to be her new house. Now, instead of living in the house with us like before, she lived at the bottom of our garden.
So I had to go to a new school after term had already started. And if that wasn’t bad enough, some of the teachers made a fuss of me, saying things like, “Class, this is Anya, please make her welcome,” and everyone stared at me. Then something even worse happened.
Even though Mum had told them my name was Anya when I started at school, Miss Summer, the science teacher, read out my full name during register: Titania Small. As soon as she said it my throat closed over and I squeaked, “Anya. Yes, Miss.”
I kept my eyes on my desk hoping no-one would notice, but she made it worse by going on.
“What a lovely name. Class, which planet has a moon called Titania?”
I could have died. The thing is, I wasn’t even named after the moon, even though it’s the kind of thing my Dad would like I suppose. It’s the name of the Fairy Queen and as you’ve probably guessed, my Mum’s seriously into fairies.
“Come on. You did this in Year 7 and you can’t have forgotten already. It’s Saturn,” Miss Summer went on.
And while she was speaking, some boys started whispering. When I looked up, I could see the whisper being passed from one kid to the next. They started grinning and glancing at me. I’d had this at my old school so I knew what was coming. Except, when the teacher carried on, reading out the rest of the names and doing the class, I thought maybe they’d forgotten about it. I even got talking to the girl next to me and was thinking this school might just be better.
Then the bell rang and as I walked out, trying to work out from my timetable where to go next, I heard it.
“Tit-ty. Tit-ty.” Some boys were leaning against the wall of the corridor, chanting and laughing.
I tried to ignore them and kept walking, but I felt sick. Really sick like I was going to throw up right there in the corridor. I hurried to my next class and tried not to cry.
Why couldn’t my Mum have given me a normal name like hers or Dad’s - they were just Bella and Steve. Normal names like everyone else. I bet they never got picked on at school, so how could they be so mean and give me a name that everyone laughed at. Especially boys. My day had been ruined and I was totally miserable.
When I got home, Mum was in the kitchen with mud up her arms and was holding her hands in the air like you see doctors do just before an operation.
“Hello, Sweetie, did you have a nice day?”
“Kind of.” I made some juice and drank it down, keeping my back to Mum so she didn’t ask more questions. But when I turned she’d gone anyway. Typical. She cared more about her plants than about me. I made another drink and went outside.
Mum was kneeling on the grass, talking to the plants while she patted their roots in the mud. She always talked to them. She said they liked it. When I was little I did it too. I told the daisies about school and the roses about the seaside. I don’t do that anymore of course. I’m not like my Mum. Now, I talk to Justin. My cat.
Everyone says Justin’s ugly, but I think he’s beautiful. He’s black and white with a wonky mouth and squishy nose and he miaows all the time like he’s talking to me. I used to want a baby brother called Justin but when I was five, Mum and Dad got me a kitten instead. I think a cat’s better than a brother. Holly, who went to my primary school, had a little brother and he was horrible to her all the time and made her cry. Justin doesn’t do that. He lies on my bed and goes for walks with me, and he listens to everything I tell him. Not like Mum and Dad. They pretend to listen and say things like ‘That’s nice.’ Once when Mum was doing her listening not listening thing, I said “And the sky turned green and frogs fell out,” and do you know what she said? “Did it? That’s nice, Sweetie.”
“Hello, Snowflake.” Dad always called me that because of my white hair. “How was school?”
“OK.” Justin rubbed against my legs. I picked him up and nuzzled my face in his fur.
“Have you made any friends?”
I kept my face tucked against Justin, listening to him purr. Mum and Dad would be upset if I told them about the boys and would go see the head-teacher. That would make it a trillion times worse so I just said, “Not yet.”
Dad kissed the top of my head. “You will. And what are you up to?” he asked Mum.
“Just planting some lavender. I want to make some lavender bags next summer, so I need lots more plants in the garden. How was your day?”
Dad rubbed his face. “Oh you know, a normal day on the buses. I think I’m getting too old for all this driving.”
Mum sat back on her heels and used her little finger to hook a wavy brown hair out of her eye. “You’re not old, silly.”
Dad looked up at the sky and sighed. “Too old to be an astronaut.”
“And I’m too old to be a ballerina.” Mum got up and stretched like a cat. “But that’s not the same as being properly old. Maybe you should do something different. You could go back to college or something.”
I looked away when she kissed him. They were always kissing. It was so embarrassing.
“I only know how to drive buses. What else could I do?”
“I don’t know but keep your wishes open. You never know what’s around the corner.” Mum’s long skirt swished as she went inside.
“What do you think?” Dad asked me.
“I know what I think,” Auntie’s voice made me jump.
When I turned, she was standing behind me, blowing on her tea. The smell of mint puckered my nose. Justin sniffed the air, then jumped down and weaved in and out of Auntie’s legs. She always looked weirded out when Justin did that. She moved away, but the smell of mint made him all loved up and he wouldn’t leave her alone. She gently tapped his bum with her bare foot.
“Leave me alone. You’re not having any.”
“What do you think?” Dad asked slowly.
“You’d make a rubbish astronaut that’s what I think. You’d never find your way to the moon. You get lost taking me to the supermarket,” Auntie said.
“I only did that once. I was tired.” Dad smiled at me. “I went the way the bus goes. Your Auntie wasn’t happy.”
“Pah!” Auntie said. “Like I said. You’d make a rubbish astronaut.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Sis. I suppose you could do better.”
“Me? Goodness no. All that floating around in a tin can. Why would I want to do that? I’d rather be climbing mountains in the Andes, swimming with crocodiles in the Amazon and dancing the rumba in Cuba.” Auntie gave Dad what he called 'her evil eye', then walked off down the garden.
Dad rolled his eyes at her and looked at his watch. “She’s off her trolley. Come on. We need to get the telescope ready.”
It was my turn to roll my eyes. Dad was always on his telescope and I was not in the mood to look at the sky. And anyway, it was still daytime.
Dad must’ve seen me pulling a face. He smiled and put his arm around my shoulder. “It’s the Piscids tonight.”
“A meteor shower. Do you want to stay up and watch them with me?” He looked up at the blue sky. “It’s meant to be clear tonight and there’s no moon. Perfect.”
“Anya’s not staying up until midnight. She’s got school tomorrow.” It was like Mum had appeared from nowhere. “Come on. Let’s eat. Kathryn, dinner’s ready.” She called to Auntie.
“I’m not hungry.” Auntie climbed up the steps and disappeared into the treehouse.
Mum shrugged and whispered. “More for us then. Come on before it gets cold.”
Mum had made bread to go with the lasagne and it was still warm. The smell reminded me of when I was little. I liked to stand on a chair watching the dough rose.
When Dad finished, he tore another chunk of bread, spread butter on it, then took a bite. “That was delicious. Thank you.” He put his knife and fork on the plate making sure they were neat, like he always did and leaned forward as crumbs fell onto the table. “It’s not that late.”
“What isn’t?” Mum asked.
“The meteor shower. And it’s only one night. We were never able to see them properly at our old house, but here, we’ll see hundreds of shooting stars. Too many to wish on,” he joked.
Mum piled up the dirty plates. She had a dreamy look on her face. “You can never have too many wishes.”
I passed her my plate. “You always tell me I can only have one when it’s my birthday.”
“Birthdays are different, Sweetie” She had on her thinking face. “I suppose you’re right. You shouldn’t be too greedy. We’ll all have to think of one special wish for tonight.”
“Does that mean you’re both going to watch them with me?” Dad’s brown eyes had sparkles when he was extra happy. “I can’t think of anything better than spending the evening with my two favourite women.”
“What about me?” Auntie appeared at the door.
“And having my favourite sister with us would be the cherry.”
“Hmmph. Your only sister.” She went over to the kettle and tipped hot water in her mug of fresh mint leaves. “And if you think I’m going to stand in the cold watching bits of comet debris burning up in the earth's atmosphere, you’ve got another think coming. Wishes my foot.”
“Where’s your sense of adventure?” Dad teased.
“If I wanted adventure, I’d kayak down the Amazon, not stand in a freezing garden watching falling rock. And make sure you keep the noise down,” She said over her shoulder as she went back out.
Dad nudged me and winked. “We’d better skip the tribal music.”
“Be nice you two. She’s a troubled soul.” Mum got up and put the plates in the sink. “She could do with some magic in her life.”
Mum made me go to bed early. She said they’d wake me at midnight, but I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t know what to wish for. To go back to my old school, my old house, to have my old friends back?
Win the lottery. That’s what I could wish for, then we could all go on a safari. I’ve always wanted to do that. Go to Africa and sleep in one of those camps you see on the telly and get up early and see the lions and elephants. And if I won the lottery, Dad could stop being a bus-driver and we could go on holiday all the time. Except I was too young to buy a ticket and Mum and Dad didn’t do things like that, so what was the point?
Or I could wish for brown hair. Not my strange hair that’s so white I look bald. I could be a time-traveller and skip my teens and be a famous singer. But if I was going to do that I’d better wish for dancing feet, because all singers can dance and I’m rubbish. I mean, really rubbish, like trip people up and fall over type of rubbish.
I must’ve fallen asleep thinking about it because next thing I knew, Dad was shaking my shoulder and telling me to wake up. I opened one eye. His face was right over me and he had his head torch on and a mad grin. He looked freaky.
“They’ve started. Come on.”
I’d kept my clothes on so all I had to do was get out of bed and go to the garden. Mum was waiting for me and wrapped a fleecy blanket around my shoulders. It was so cold and quiet. No cars, no voices, no nothing. It was so quiet that I nearly jumped out of my slippers when an owl hooted.
“Go over there with your Dad and I’ll make some hot chocolate.”
Dad was easy to spot with his torch. It looked like he had a tiny lighthouse on his head. When I got to him, he turned it off and pointed at the sky. “You don’t need a telescope, you can see them easily,” he whispered. “Look over there.”
I sat in one of the deckchairs and wrapped the blanket right round me so only my eyes were showing. When I looked up, all I could see were stars and the usual constellations like The Plough and Cassiopeia and Andromeda. I knew the names because I had one of those planet lamps when I was little. I would lie next to Dad in the dark while he told me stories about the different constellations shining on my ceiling. I thought they were magical, but now they just looked like patterns of light in the sky or as Auntie would say “Just balls of gas held together by gravity.” Auntie has this way of seeing the world that sucks the magic from it.
We could hear Mum walking down the garden. The tiny silver bells on her purple slippers were tinkling and getting louder as she got closer.
Dad looked over. “Sshh. You’ll wake Kathryn.”
“Sorry,” she whispered back. “Here’s your drinks.”
Mum sat in the deckchair next to me and sipped her hot chocolate. “Have you got your wish ready?”
“Not yet. What are you wishing for, Mum?”
She turned her head, but kept looking at the sky. “It won’t come true if I tell you.”
“Look. Over there!” Dad said excitedly.
“There’s nothing there.” I blew on my drink and kept staring at the sky. Then I saw one. And another. “Over there, Dad. And there.” It was like the minute I saw one shooting star I could see them everywhere. Dad was right; it was amazing.
“Choose your shooting star and make a wish,” Mum whispered.
“Look at that one, Dad,” I said as loud as I could without waking Auntie.
It was loads brighter and bigger than the others and was soaring across the sky. As I watched it, I whispered, “I wish I had my own wishing star who could help me make friends.”
It was another rubbish day at school. Everyone had heard about class yesterday and they were all calling me Titty. I'd kept my head down all morning and at lunchtime, hid in the library. It was like everyone was having fun at school except me and I wanted to cry. Not that I showed it. That would just make things worse. I learned that one in my old school when one of the boys tripped me up on purpose in the corridor. I went flying and hit my head on the wall. Everyone laughed and without meaning to, I started crying. And do you know what everyone did? They laughed even louder, and started calling me ‘Cry Baby, Titty.’ Kids are horrible. Full stop. If I was a head teacher, I’d make sure the bad kids were shipped off to space. Forever.
I decided to skip the bus and walk home. I was never ever going on that stupid bus with those kids. Even if there were rain and snow and hurricanes at the same time I still wouldn’t get the school bus. Not that I could tell Mum and Dad. They’d only worry and Mum would change her work so she could pick me up. Anyway, even though it was a bit hot and my bag was heavy, walking home meant I could see what was around here.
When we moved here, I thought we were in the middle of nowhere, but walking home, I found an estate a bit like where we used to live. There were 56 houses (I counted them) and kids in gardens and a park with a field and swings and stuff. And there was this lane at the end of the estate next to a field with horses.
Mum would have had a meltdown if she knew I was going down a lane on my own, but it looked like a shortcut. Plus, the lane was empty. It was just me, the horses and the birds singing in the trees. I could smell a bonfire and see smoke coming from somewhere. Down one side, was a hedge with brambles full of fat blackberries. I loved blackberry crumble. Perhaps Mum would let me make one to have after dinner. That would cheer Auntie up. Puddings were her favourite thing; after herb teas.
I sang as I went from bush to bush picking berries and putting them in my lunchbox. This was better than school.
Just as I was reaching up for some really juicy ones, I heard a noise. Like a groan. I let go and stood still. My heart was beating louder than a drum. I looked up and down the lane. There was only me. Maybe I’d imagined it or maybe it had come from one of the houses. Maybe someone had fallen down and needed help. Then it happened again. It was louder and coming from by my feet. I stepped away, my legs ready to run away.
The noise stopped. Nothing moved. What if it was an injured animal that needed help? I could take it home and care for it it until it was better. Mum and Dad wouldn’t mind. Justin might I suppose, but I’d just keep it in my room, so Justin couldn’t get it.
The moaning was softer. I stayed back, but crouched down. I couldn’t see anything, so pulled my sleeves over my hands and pulled the brambles apart. I still couldn’t see anything at first, just weeds and branches. I picked up a stick and poked it inside the hedge. It touched something and right at the same time, there was a loud, “Ow!”
I dropped the stick and fell back. That was not a bird or a small animal. It was a …
I fumbled for the stick then slowly poked the brambles apart. There, staring right back at me was a girl. With the shortest, pinkest hair. As pink as the pinkest flamingo you’ve ever seen. Except that she wasn’t standing on one leg. She was sitting in a ball with her arms tucked around her legs.
“Are you stuck?” I couldn’t stop staring. How did she get in there? There wasn’t even a hole to crawl through.
She lifted her face and looked at me. And that was even freakier than her pink hair. She had eyes that were so dark they were like a blue-black colour and there were freckles of gold that looked like they were dancing. It was like looking into the sky at night and seeing those tiny stars that are trillions of miles away. She smiled and it was as if a light switched on in her face.
“You found me. I knew you would. Now if you would be so kind as to help me.”
I didn’t have a clue who she was or why she was speaking like I knew her. And why was she talking like that? She sounded like an old woman from old-fashioned days. Even her voice was as shaky as my gran’s.
“Who are you? How did you get in there?” I asked.
“You made a request and as I was considering the options, I fell.”
“I didn’t request…” I was starting to sound like her. “I mean, ask, anything.”
I looked up. There was just the sky with clouds. No trees. Nothing. Maybe she’d banged her head and was confused. “What do you mean, fell? Fell from where?”
She frowned at me like I was being stupid. “There of course.” She looked up. “Before I knew what was occurring or was able to regain control, I had landed and found myself trapped within this strange wilderness. I think I may have become lost.”
I wished Dad were here. He would find her funny. He liked stories and used to tell me ones when I was little, like the time he said he’d built a rocket in the garden and flew it into space while I was sleeping. And I believed him!
The girl’s dark eyes fixed on my blue ones. “I would forever be at your service if you would see it in your heart to help me.”
I looked at the thick brambles and didn’t know what to do. There was no-one else around to help, not even a dog-walker. If Mum would let me have a phone I could’ve called her, but I didn’t, so I’d have to run home. Then I’d have to explain school and the bus and everything and then I’d be in trouble and the girl would have to stay in the hedge forever.
A tear rolled over her cheek. “I have been stuck in this bush an age and I think I may need to use the facilities.”
“The what?” I suddenly realised she meant the toilet. My gran used to say the facilities. Mum said it was because she was too embarrassed to say toilet. I had no choice. I had to help.
I emptied my bag on the floor. Books, pencil case, lip gloss, lunchbox, hairband, chocolate wrapper, drink. While I stood staring at the stuff on the floor wondering how any of it would be of any use, I remembered something. I opened the secret pocket in my bag. Dad was obsessed with multi-tools. This one had a screwdriver, pliers, the tiniest saw in the world and a bottle opener. And it had scissors.
The scissors were so small you could cut a mouse’s toenails with them, but I had no choice. I snipped and sawed the small brambles and used my feet to stamp down the bigger ones. The brambles were really prickly and it felt like I’d been cutting and stamping and tugging for ages, but I did it. I made a hole big enough. I put my hand in slowly like you do with a stranger’s dog.
“Grab my hand and I’ll pull you out,” I said. “OK?”
She lifted her hand and stared at it like it was an alien, then she wriggled her long, thin fingers and started giggling.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“I’ve always wanted fingers. They are so pretty and so very clever. I cannot wait to lacquer them. Could you help me?”
“What? Oh, you mean nail varnish. Maybe. We’ll see.” She was confusing me. She was acting like she knew me, but I didn’t have a clue who she was and now she was acting all weird about having hands. I reached towards her. “Grab my hand.”
As she touched me, I let out a shriek. Her hand was seriously hot and it was hard to hold on. Not only that, but she was as heavy as a hippo and pulling her was harder then the time I helped Mum and Dad get a dead tree out of the garden. I took a deep breath and pulled really, really hard. The girl shot out and fell on top of me. She was giggling again but I could hardly breathe.
“Get off,” I groaned, pushing her.
I got up and tried getting the dirt off my uniform. How was I going to explain this to Mum? The girl was sitting on the path looking at her arms and hands. She patted her hair and touched her face all over.
“If you’re ok, I’d better get home. My Mum and Dad will worry.”
The girl looked up and smiled. “You are very kind. Thank you.”
I stuffed everything in my bag and rushed off, looking back to see if she was following. But she had gone.
By the time I got back, it was raining. Mum and Dad were in the garden under the gazebo painting an old table and chairs Mum had found. Mum was in her rainbow dungarees and she had purple paint in her hair. When they heard me, Mum dropped the brush on the grass and rushed over.
“Where have you been? We’ve been so worried.” She sounded cross and tearful.
My heart was thumping.
Dad pulled me so tight against his chest I could smell his lime body-spray.
“Thank the cosmos you’re alright. What happened? Are you ok?” he asked.
I pulled back so I could breathe. “Sorry I’m late. I found a…” I imagined telling them what had happened, but it would sound too weird to be true and they’d start worrying that I was up to stuff and making up stories, so I told them a sort of truth. “...a bird. It was stuck in a bramble bush. And I couldn’t leave it there so I used your multi-tool Dad and cut the bush.” I held out my arms to show him the cuts and scratches.
Dad looked proud and Mum hugged me. “Where is it now?” she asked.
“It flew away.” That bit was almost true as well.
“I’m pleased you saved it, Sweetie, but please don’t do that to me again. I was so scared when you didn’t come home.”
“If I had a …” I didn’t get to finish saying ‘if I had a phone I could let you know’, because Auntie was stomping up the garden shouting, “Where is she? Where’s the girl?”
“It’s OK, Sis. Anya’s back safe and sound.”
Auntie stopped right in front of me. “Not her. The other one. Where is she?”
Mum put her arm around me. “For goodness sake, Kathryn. There is no other girl. You must’ve fallen asleep and been dreaming. It’s just Anya.” Mum was speaking really softly, but I could feel her body get stiff like she was cross. “How about we go inside and get some dinner? It’s getting cold out here.”
I thought Auntie wasn’t going to move. She didn’t stop staring at me like she was waiting for me to say something, but I didn’t know what to say. What was she talking about? She couldn’t know about the girl in the bush. Could she?
Mum put her hand on my arm. “You’re shivering, Sweetie. Come on, let’s get in the warm.”
Mum had gone to pilates, Dad was out in his shed playing with his telescope and Auntie was in the treehouse. I was all alone. Just me and Justin curled up on the sofa. The telly was on but I wasn’t really watching. I couldn’t stop thinking about the girl. I put my head so close to Justin’s, his ear flickered and tickled my chin.
“I found this strange girl today,” I whispered. “It was like she knew me but I’ve never seen her before. I’m sure she wasn’t at my old school and I don’t think she’s at my new one.” Justin purred. “I hate my new school. I wish I could stay at home everyday with you. Why do I have to go to school anyway?”
“Are you alright, Snowflake? Sorry to leave you on your own.”
I jumped when Dad came in. What if he’d heard me? He sat down next to me.
“Are you watching this?
“Not really,” I shrugged.
“Would you mind if I watch the news? They found some bits of meteor round here today.”
I didn’t know why he was so excited, it was just bits of rock. “Don’t they find them all the time?”
“I guess so, but it’s the first time I’ve heard of any being found round here.”
As I watched the telly with Dad, a woman was holding bits of rock in her hand and was saying how when she was out running she had seen these unusual rocks (they looked like any other rock to me). Then it showed the place where she’d been running and I sat up so quick Justin fell off my lap. I knew where she was. It was near where I’d walked home from school. I could go and find a bit for Dad. He’d love that.
“Sing. Sing. Sing!”
I was frozen on the stage and the audience were shouting. Stamping feet echoed around the hall, so loud my ears were popping. All the lights were pointing at me and making me really hot.
“Sing. Sing. Sing!”
I opened my mouth but nothing came out. I couldn’t sing. Couldn’t speak. Couldn’t even squeak. I’d lost my voice. Completely.
“Sing. Sing. Sing!”
Through the bright lights, I could see a pink glow. It grew brighter and brighter, blocking out everything else. It stretched out and curled like smoke towards me. It wrapped around me, tighter and tighter until I couldn’t breathe.
I screamed and woke up.
Mum was standing in front of the mirror scrunching her hair into a glittery butterfly clip. “I’ve got a lady coming for a massage this morning, Sweetie, so could you be quiet while I’m working?”
“Is it OK if I go out?”
Mum looked surprised. I don’t really go out much. I like being at home. I have Justin and my grall. I haven’t told you about my grall, have I?
My room’s definitely the best thing about our new house. It’s bigger than my old one with faded blue wallpaper. And because the paper’s so old, I’m allowed to do what I want. So I have pictures, photos and posters on three of the walls and on the other wall, Dad helped me paint it white so I can do drawings on it. Spray cans, paint, pens - I can use whatever I feel like. It’s my own graffiti wall - I call it my grall and it’s the best thing ever. It has pictures of magical creatures and positive stuff like ‘You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Mum says things like that help you make good magic happen.
“Where are you going?” Mum checked her watch.
“OK, but take care crossing the roads and be back by 1.30 for lunch.” She looked like she was going to say more but the doorbell rang and Mum rushed to let her client in.
I could hear her chatting while she took the woman to her treatment room then the door closed and it was quiet.
“Do you want to come Justin?” He sat on the floor looking at me. “It’s not far. But you can stay here if you want.”
He flicked the end of his tail, got up and brushed against my legs. That meant he was coming. The day was getting better.
I put a bottle of water, a bit of flapjack and a treat for Justin in my bag and closed the door quietly.
It wasn’t far to the park, but it took a long time to get there. Justin hadn’t been this way before so he kept stopping and sniffing the air.
In the lane, I could hear birds in the hedge. Justin had his ears back, listening. He stopped, his tail waving from side to side.