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Ghost Academy Part Two by SabineMuir

© SabineMuir

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Previously: Ellie finds she can see ghosts and has joined in with the Summer School classes at the Academy, where her dad is caretaker. Scene: A classroom full of ghosts.

There was nothing much to do in the holidays and apart from Merryn, Ellie didn’t know anybody.
She decided to join the music class.
Harriet waved at her. ‘Come and sit with me.’
Ellie took her place beside her. Harriet’s mobile phone started playing a ring tone of a Katy Perry song.
Everyone turned around to stare at her.
Mrs Fraser, who’d lived in the 19th century, tapped her foot and glared at her. ‘I asked you once before to silence that contraption. Kindly bring it to me.’
‘Sorry,’ Harriet muttered. ‘People who don’t know about me being-err- dead still ring me. It’s mostly people asking if I want a new boiler, or PPI.’
She got up and brought it to Mrs Fraser’s outstretched hand.
Just as she handed her it the phone began to play music again. Mrs Fraser screamed and dropped it. ‘It’s the work of the devil.’ She grimaced, pointing at it.
Harriet shrugged, picked up her phone and placed it on Mrs Fraser’s desk.
They heard someone humming the Katy Perry tune in the corridor.
‘Who played zat jolly tune? Zat was really good.’
A small man bounced in to the classroom like an energetic puppy. He was wearing a splendid 18th century velvet blue frock-coat with golden buttons and plus-fours. He also wore a white wig tied at the back with a matching blue ribbon. He carried a violin in one hand, a bow in the other.
‘Oh children, today we are joined by none other than Mr Mozart,’ Mrs Fraser said, almost buzzing with a mixture of embarrassment and excitement. ‘He’s currently visiting Scotland and has kindly offered to help us with violin practice and composition skills.’
Ellie’s eyes widened. She turned to Harriet. ‘Mozart? THE Mozart?’
‘Dunno who he is,’ said Harriet, chewing gum.
‘Only the best composer EVER! Wait till I tell my dad about this. He’ll never believe me.’
‘A big hand for Mr Mozart,’ Mrs Fraser said.
The children clapped. Mozart took an elaborate bow. A tendril of hair had escaped his wig and dangled in front of his face. He wiggled his nose to move it.
‘Hello childrens, my name is Wolfgang. I will now play you one of my compositions. Zen I will listen to your music.’
He placed the violin under his chin and started playing.
The class fell into a stunned silence. Then, when he stopped playing, they burst into applause. Mrs Fraser dabbed her eyes with a lace handkerchief.
‘Wonderful…. Just wonderful,’ she sniffed.
Wolfgang took another bow. Another strand of hair had broken loose and dangled over his face. He tucked it in and smiled broadly. ‘Sank you, sank you very much.’
Mrs Fraser beamed. ‘Thank you so much, Mr Mozart. This is how it should be done. Now, children. It’s your turn to show him what you can do. Jeffrey, can you play your piece now, please.’
A gangly tall boy stepped forward and started playing, bringing tears to Wolfgang’s eyes for all the wrong reasons. He made his violin screech pitifully.
‘No, Jeffrey, hold it this way.’ Wolfgang showed him and nodded encouragingly as the boy, red-faced with the effort of it, started playing again but failed miserably.
There was a pained expression on Wolfgang’s face as he endured Jeffrey inflicting crimes against music.
‘Never mind, Jeffrey.’ Mrs Fraser said. ‘There are so many other things you are good at.’
‘Yeah, like …..’ Harriet whispered in Ellie’s ear.
Ellie smiled.
Wolfgang turned his attentions to Flora, who had mastered her piece and proudly performed it to Wolfgang delight. ‘Very good, dear child.’
‘Do you often get visiting teachers, you know, like famous ones?’ Ellie asked, eyes wide with excitement.
‘Yeah, we had Einstein last week,’ Harriet said, studying her nails.
‘No way!’ Ellie said, a little more loudly than she’d intended.
Wolfgang looked at Ellie. His piercing blue eyes delved right into hers.
‘So, child. Would you like to show me what you can do?’
Ellie felt her cheeks redden. ‘I… err….I don’t play very well. I haven’t brought a violin and-‘
‘Here, use mine,’ he said, with a smile.
It felt strange for Ellie to be holding one of her dad’s favourite composer’s violin. She gulped.
She played a piece of Vivaldi's Four Seasons she’d learned off by heart.
Wolfgang narrowed his eyes as he listened. ‘I’d say wiz lots of practice you could actually have a future in music.’
Ellie blushed. ‘Thank you, Mr Mozart, Wolfgang, I don’t know what to say.’
He bent closer, so only she could hear him. ‘I see from your colouring cheeks that you are still on the earth plane.’
Ellie was stunned and stared at him. She found her voice. ‘Yes, I am. I just stumbled across this class.’
‘So you are a searcher. I wish you luck in your quest, dear child.’
Then, with an elegant twirl, he turned his attentions on another pupil.
Ellie left the classroom. She ran down the hall. It had often bothered her that she was the only one who could see the ghosts and they didn’t realise she was still alive. Now someone had actually noticed. So, she wasn’t just daydreaming. This was real.
She decided not to tell her dad for the time being. He might start worrying about her and if Mozart was right there might be a special reason for her to be a ‘searcher’, whatever that meant. She didn’t want to be questioned about it just yet. This was her adventure and it actually started to excite her. Ghosts really weren’t that scary and she rather enjoyed having friends in both realms.

She went to see Merryn. She was frustrated that she couldn’t tell her friend about what had happened. Maybe she could see the ghosts too? There was only one way to find out. It would be great if she could see them. That way, they would both have a bit of a story to tell.
‘Would you like to come into school with us tomorrow?’ Ellie asked her.
‘Sure, I’ve got nothing better to do,’ Merryn said.

Chapter Four
Ellie was curious to see if Merryn could see the ghosts as well. She didn’t hold out much hope, because she hadn’t been able to see her sister at the house. She looked at Merryn’s face for any signs.
‘It’s quite creepy with no-one here, don’t you think?’ Merryn wrapped her arms around herself.
Harriet was sitting by the window and waved at Ellie. She pointed at the seat beside her. ‘Hi, Ellie. Why have you brought Merryn today?’
Ellie turned to Merryn. ‘I’m just gonna look through the window to see if my dad’s there.’
‘OK,’ she replied.
Ellie walked over to the window, approached Harriet and whispered: ‘I’m not staying today.’
‘OK.’ Harriet looked over at Merryn and waved at her.
‘She can’t see you,’ Ellie whispered again.
Mr. Dunbar’s class. Taryn had told her he’d been in a car crash a year ago. He was a jolly man with
a great sense of humour, which was often lost on the pupils from an earlier age.
‘Well, young lady, are you going to join us today? If so, please be seated.’
He was holding a piece of chalk in mid-air.
‘I’m just going to the toilet,’ she said, before leaving the room.
‘OK,’ Merryn said, thinking she was speaking to her. ‘I need to go too.’
Mr. Dunbar turned his attention back to his class.
‘Open your books on page fifty-two. Frederic, can you read the first two paragraphs, please.’
They walked out of the classroom. Ellie jumped when she saw Taryn heading towards the classroom in a hurry. She winked at Ellie and turned to her sister, gently touching her hair as she walked past.
Merryn shuddered.
‘This place gives me the creeps. There’s a funny atmosphere in this corridor, don’t you think?’
Ellie said: ‘You don’t know the half of it.’
‘What do you mean?’
Ellie’s cheeks went pink. ‘I just think it’s so quiet during the holidays. You hear things creaking when you walk along the corridor. Especially the old block. My dad and I hear funny noises all the time.’
Ellie felt Merryn wasn’t ready to hear the truth yet. She had half hoped that she could see them too. It would have given her some consolation about Taryn’s death. But this wasn’t the right time to tell her.
‘Do you fancy coming to my house later?’
‘Ok, that’d be nice,’ Ellie said.
They sauntered along the road, picking some wild flowers.
When they got to Merryn’s drive they saw a car pull up.
A tallish boy with dark blond hair got out. He smiled at them.
‘Hi John,’ Merryn called out.
He walked towards them.
‘Hi, Merryn. You OK?’ He turned to face Ellie. ‘Hi.’
Ellie looked at him and she was struck by how lovely his dark-brown eyes were. They reminded her of velvet.
John gave a broad smile.
‘This is Ellie, she’s just moved here from Dunfermline,’ Merryn said.
John looked at her and gave a broad smile. ‘Hi, nice to meet you.’
‘Same here,’ Ellie said.
‘I hope you’ll like it here. Not much to do, but you’ll get used to it,’ John said.
Ellie tucked her hair behind her ear.
‘I haven’t met many people yet. My dad’s just started working at the Academy. He’s a caretaker,’ Merryn put in.
‘My mum’s a teacher there. It’s a bit of a pain, cos it means I have to behave,’ John grinned.
Ellie smiled.
‘So which year will you be in?’ John asked, tilting his head.
‘I’ll be going in to fourth year. My sister might be in the same classes as you.’
‘That’s nice.’ Ellie beamed.
‘Yeah,’ he said thoughtfully.
He looked at his watch. ‘Right. Gotta go. See you later.’ He smiled again.
‘Yes, bye.’ Ellie gave an awkward little wave as he turned to leave.
When he was out of earshot, Merryn said:’ He’s nice, isn’t he?’
Ellie blushed. ‘Yes, he is. Very.’
‘He’s got a sister as well. She’s a bit different.’
‘In what way?’
‘Well, kinda serious and weird. She’s into the paranormal.’
‘Oh, OK.’ Ellie thought she would have to meet this girl. Maybe she could see the ghosts as well.
‘Their parents divorced last year. They’ve been through a lot.’
‘That’s a shame.’
‘Yes, his dad lives nearby. That was him dropping him off. He spends weekends with him.’
Ellie wondered how it would feel to have your parents live apart. At least you’d still see them. She would never see her own mother.
A couple of days later she met John’s mum. She was in the supermarket with Merryn buying some juice when they bumped into her.
‘Hi Merryn. How are you?’ she said, with a smile. ‘Enjoying the holidays?’
‘Yes, I am, thanks. It’s going too fast, though.’
‘Tell me about it. Another few weeks and it’s back to the grindstone.’ When she laughed,
her eyes crinkled engagingly.
Ellie noticed she had the same colour eyes as her son.
‘This is Ellie, she’ll be starting at our school soon.’
‘Nice to meet you, Ellie. Are you Henry’s daughter?’
‘Yes, he’s the new caretaker.’
‘I met him at school the other day. He was most helpful rearranging the furniture with me.’ She smiled. ‘Ah, here’s Jade.’
A tall thin girl sauntered towards them. She had jet black dyed hair and black eye make up and a sulky expression. ‘They haven’t got any tofu again.’
‘We’ll have to put in an online order soon.’
‘It’s so annoying. I can’t get anything remotely edible here. They are so behind the times,’ she muttered.
‘Jade, this is Ellie. She’ll be starting school with us soon.’ Mrs… gave an embarrassed little smile.
‘Hi.’ Jade lifted her hand limply in mid-air in an indifferent greeting. That was all she was prepared to say and an embarrassed silence followed.
Mrs Clark straightened up and said: ‘Right, let’s go and pick up John from his canoe club. Nice to meet you, Ellie.’
‘Yes, bye bye.’

‘She’s nice,’ Ellie remarked.
‘Yes, she’s OK. Not as strict as some of the other teachers. Really cool.’
‘I see what you mean about Jade being a bit … different.’
‘Yeah, she’s really changed lately. Must be her parents’ break-up, don’t know. She seems to have lost her sparkle.’
‘It can’t have been easy for them all.’ Ellie moved forward in the queue.
‘No. She doesn’t want to see her dad since he cheated on her mum. Apparently he’s having a baby with his new wife. That must be hard for them. I think John’s accepted it, but not Jade.’
‘Oh well… It seems we’ve all got problems at home.’ Ellie shrugged.
‘Yes, in one way or another, but life’s too short to argue with your family. I still regret falling out with my sister about something stupid as a new pair of shoes.’ Tears welled in her eyes.
‘Oh, are you OK?’ Ellie touched her arm.
Merryn sniffed. ‘Yes, it just gets me at times. Some days I wake up and it hits me when I realise she’s not there anymore. I miss her so much.’
They walked through the village in silence, both lost in their own thoughts. The air was heavy with the intense heat, which was unusual for Deeside. It induced a sleepy kind of laziness, as if life was going on at a reduced speed. They walked past the park, which was buzzing with people claiming a bit of space to spread themselves out to catch some sun.
They took the path towards the river, where wildflowers and weeds wrestled for space. A welcome breeze lifted the air around them. They clambered down the rocks towards the rippling water.
‘Here’s a nice spot.’ Merryn took out a beach towel out of her rucksack and spread it out.
Ellie looked at the river. ‘It’s so lovely here. So pleased we moved here.’
‘Why did your dad and you decide to move from the town?’
Ellie gave her a fleeting glance. ‘Oh, that’s a long story. Family stuff.’ She shrugged. ‘I’ll tell you some day.’ Pulling off her top, revealing her swimming costume, she said: ‘Right, are we going for a swim or not?’
‘OK.’ Merryn took off her clothes too and they carefully negotiated the rocks and stones to reach the water.
‘Jeeee! The water’s freezing!’ Ellie called out. ‘My legs are turning blue.’
Merryn laughed and splashed her.
‘No!!!’ Ellie laughed as she tried to get away from her. She lost her balance and fell into the water.
She went under and came up spluttering. ‘I’ll get you for this.’ She splashed Merryn, who laughed it off. She dived in and started swimming. ‘It’s not so bad once you’re in.’
Ellie had to agree. The sun was warming her body. They swam across the river, resisting the pull of the current. They reached a big boulder and sat on it.
‘This is brilliant. It’s like we’re on holiday somewhere.’ Ellie smiled.
Someone waved from across the river.
‘It’s John.’ Merryn waved back.
John dived in and swam towards them. ‘Hi girls. Fancy meeting you here.’
Ellie felt self-conscious in her swimsuit and wrapped her arms about her.
‘Hi, John.’ She’d forgotten her sunglasses, so shaded her eyes with her hand.
‘The water’s lovely, isn’t it?’
‘Yes, once you get used to it.’ Ellie smiled.
‘Let’s have a race back,’ Merryn suggested.
They swam back and forth, laughing and playing and they had a great time.
They dived under water to see who could hold their breath the longest.
Ellie held her nose and went under the water, only to come face to face with a large salmon. She let go of her nose, spluttered and shot out of the water with a scream.
‘It’s a monster!’ she yelled. She started swimming back to the shore and caught her foot on the sharp edge of a stone. ‘Ouch!’
‘What’s wrong?’ John called out. He caught up with her. Merryn followed.
‘I… saw a huge fish face and then I caught my foot trying to get out.’
John took her arm, put it over his shoulder and lifted her out of the water.
‘My hero,’ she said, with a nervous giggle, trying to hide her embarrassment.
Blood dripped onto the stones. John put her down on the grass verge.
‘That’s a nasty gash.’
She looked at her foot. ‘Oh,’ she uttered, going white as a sheet.
‘You OK?’ Merryn’s concerned face came closer.
‘I … don’t like blood… feel sick.’ Ellie closed her eyes.
‘Put your head between your legs,’ John said. He took a bandage from his bag and tied it around her foot.
‘Do you always carry bandages around with you?’ she said weakly.
‘I’ve done first aid in my canoe course.’ John shrugged. ‘I just happened to still have a bandage in my bag. Glad it came in useful.’
‘You’re so good in an emergency,’ Merryn remarked, with admiration.

When they got to the house, they heard laughter coming from the living room.
‘That sounds like my mum,’ John said.
Ellie leaned on John as she hobbled into the house, followed by Merryn.
‘Ellie! What happened?’ Her dad jumped up from his seat. John’s mum rose to her feet, too.
‘She came face to face with a huge salmon and freaked out.’ Merryn explained.
The colour had come back to Ellie’s cheeks. ‘So would you have. It was horrible. So ugly and it was about to bite me. I stumbled over a rock and caught my foot. But John was amazing and did first aid on me.’ She turned to him. ‘Thank you so much.’
‘It’s all right. Good to get some practice in.’ He smiled at her.
‘Thank you, John. Just as well you were there,’ Ellie’s dad shook his hand. He turned to Ellie. ‘Maybe you should wear some old trainers next time you go swimming,’
‘You won’t get me back in there. No way! Those fish are monstrous.’
They laughed.
‘Right, I’d better get back now. Thanks for the lend of your tools, Henry. It’s much appreciated.’ Sarah made a move towards the door.
‘Any time. See you at school.’
‘OK, bye for now. Come on, John. I’ll take you home.’

‘John’s nice, isn’t he?’ Her dad said later on.
‘Yes, he is. Really helpful.’ Ellie buried her face in her book, she didn’t want her dad to see the colour creep into her cheeks.
‘Sarah asked us round for dinner on Sunday, to thank me for lending her some of my tools. That OK with you?’
Ellie smiled. ‘Yes, great.’
She was looking forward to see John again. It felt good to have made two friends before she even started school. That’s not counting her ghosty friends.
Her dad put on a Mozart CD, which again made her wonder if it had all been real or in her imagination.
Surely it wasn’t possible to meet a composer who had been dead for over 200 years?

The meal
‘Would you like some more chicken, Henry?’ Sarah asked.
‘Yes, please. This is delicious.’
There was an audible hmph from Jade’s direction.
‘How long have you been a vegan, Jade?’ Ellie’s dad asked.
Jade sat hunched over her plate and picked at her vegetables. ‘About a year. I’ve been a veggie since I was ten, though.’

‘Mum, are you sure there’s no butter on these?’
‘No, Jade. Just your soya spread’, her mum said brightly.

‘How’s your foot, Ellie?’ Sarah asked.
‘It’s much better thanks, Mrs Clark.
‘You can call me Sarah. We’re not at school yet.’
‘Ok,’ Ellie said, with a smile.
‘I used to call her Mrs Mum at school,’ Jade said.
'That's funny.' Ellie smiled at her.
'Yeah.' Jade gave her a ghost of a smile, then turned her attention back to her food.

‘The dishwasher’s on the blink. It’s been making funny noises.’ Sarah Made a funny face.
‘Oh, I could fix it for you. Or at least try to fix it.’ Henry peered at the machine.
‘Could you? Thanks, that would be great. I was gonna call in an engineer. I think the warranty’s run out.’
‘Well, it’s the least I can do, after that lovely meal.’ Henry grinned.
‘The meal was to say thank you for helping me.’
They both laughed.
‘I’ll be round with my tool bag tomorrow, if that suits you.’
‘Yes, lovely. Thank you, Henry.’
‘Shall we all go for a walk after this? Sarah suggested. ‘The weather’s so lovely.’
Jade rolled her eyes. ‘No, thanks. I’m going to catch up with my blog.’
Ellie grimaced. ‘Not sure if my foot’s up to a long walk.’
John said: ‘We could just sit in the garden, if you like. I’ll keep you company.’
Henry looked at Sarah and said: ‘Oh well, it’s just you and me then.’

‘Oh, you’ve got a Scrabble board. Do you play?’ Ellie asked.
‘Mum made us play since we learnt to read. It’s a good way to learn new words.’
They played a fun game, enjoying their time together.

Mrs Fraser’s voice boomed over the classroom noise. ‘Harriet, I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again. Do not bring that contraption into the classroom. Hand it over at once.’
‘How can you endure that insufferable noise?’ Her eyebrows knitted together in a deep frown.
‘Sorry, Mrs Fraser.’
Later on, Ellie asked her: ‘So where is home for you now that you’ve erm…. Passed over?
‘I’m staying in a house with my gran. We are waiting for all the other to pass over, eventually. Until then, she’s got guardianship over me. She doesn’t let me do anything.’
‘Will you get older or stay the same?’
‘I don’t know. I haven’t been told that yet. When I go to the next level I’ll find out these things.’
‘The next level?’
‘Yes, when your soul progresses you go to the next level. It can take a few months or it can take years. It all depends on how you’ve lived your life.’
‘With my luck I’ll be stuck here forever and going to school till I’m forty, stuck with Mrs Fraser banging on about my mobile.’ Harriet gave a deep sigh. ‘I’m doomed.’
At break-time they piled into the playground. Taryn appeared at their side. ‘Hi, girls. You OK?’
‘Yes, fine. Just bored with school. Do you fancy an adventure?’
Taryn stepped back. ‘What sort of adventure?’
‘Let’s skip the next class and do something fun.’
‘Like what?’ Ellie asked.
‘Dunno, go to the shops or something. Hang out on the green.’
Taryn looked worried. ‘But we’ll get into trouble.’
‘It’s Mr Snodgrass next. He won’t even notice we’re not there.’
‘OK then.’ There was a reluctant note in Taryn’s voice.
‘School’s not that important to us now. We’re only here to kill time till we go to the next level.’
‘But we’ll lose soul points. That’s going to set us back.’
‘Who cares. Look are you with us or not?’
‘OK, then.’
They went to the supermarket. They looked at the fruit and vegetables.
‘Nice strawberries. I miss eating those,’ Taryn said wistfully.
Harriet arranged some oranges, pears and apricots to resemble a face. ‘That’s better.’
‘Hey, what are you doing with the fruit?’ An angry faced shop assistant came bustling over to Ellie.
Ellie forgot that she wouldn’t be able to see Harriet and Taryn.
‘Sorry, I just-’. The shop assistant said: ‘We’re short-staffed as it is, don’t need the likes of you bored teenagers coming in to mess things up.’ She re-arranged the fruit and walked away briskly.
‘Whoops. Never thought of that. Sorry Ellie,’ Harriet said.
Ellie smiled. ‘It’s fine. Let’s get some crisps and stuff and have a picnic on the green.’
Harriet and Taryn stared at her. ‘What is it?’
‘We don’t eat. So no picnic for us,’ Taryn said.
‘Oh. I never knew. I thought you still….’
‘No, we can’t,’ Taryn cut in.
‘Oh, that’s a shame. Do you miss it?’
‘Yes, I do,’ Harriet said. ‘I’d love to be able to eat a cheeseburger.’
‘Sorry,’ Ellie said, putting the crisps back. ‘I’ll just get some water.’
They sauntered over to the green.
‘Look, there’s Bruno. Why is he sitting on his own?’ Taryn said.
‘He hasn’t changed a bit.’ Harriet turned to face Taryn. ‘I saw him upset my friend Lucy that other day.’
Taryn bristled. ‘You’d think that he’d learnt his lesson at the library last week.’
‘Let’s play a little trick on him,’ Harriet said, with a chuckle.
‘I’ll sit over there, just in case.’ Ellie broke away from them and sat down a few metres away from Bruno.
Harriet and Taryn sat down beside him.
Harriet took a long strand of grass and tickled his ear with it. Bruno brushed it away and laughed, looking round to see who was doing it. When he didn’t see anybody he twisted his body round further to look at the other side. His face changed to one of surprise. Then Harriet tickled his other ear. Bruno shot upright and brushed at his ear. ‘What the hell!’ he shouted.
Taryn undid the laces on his trainers and he tripped over as he started to run. He fell into a heap on the grass.
Ellie couldn’t help but giggle. Bruno glared at her. ‘What you looking at?’
‘Nothing. I just -,’
There was a furious look on his face.
His friends turned up carrying ice creams.
‘What you doing, Bruno? We saw you doing some sort of weird dance before you tripped.’
‘It was a wasp, I think.’ He looked embarrassed.
‘We were gonna sign you up for Strictly Come Dancing,’ one of his pals said, before bursting out laughing again. ‘Here’s your ice cream.’
Ellie snorted, then tried to straighten her face when Bruno threw a menacing look in her direction again. He muttered: ‘I’m watching you.’
Ellie got up and walked away briskly. Harriet and Taryn caught up with her.
‘Let’s go to the playpark. That guy is horrible. He gives me the chills.’
‘Yes, he’s nasty,’ Taryn agreed.
‘Never mind, we’ve just made him look silly in front of his friends.’ Harriet smiled. ‘That was so worth it.’
They played on the swings and Harriet pushed them in turn.
‘Thanks for the push, Ellie. We can’t do this by ourselves.’

A group of kids appeared and started playing on the swings. A little boy took Harriet by surprise as he jumped onto her knees. ‘Oops…’ she said, as she slid from under him.
A little girl of five had observed this and giggled. Her mum was standing talking to her friend.
They went onto the merry-go-round. The little girl followed them and smiled at Taryn.
‘You can see me?’ she said, in surprise.
‘Yes, I can,’ said the girl. ‘What’s your name?’
‘That’s nice. Will you come on the slide with me?’
Her mother looked alarmed. ‘I think her invisible friend is back,’ she said to her friend.
Taryn and the little girl enjoyed playing together.
‘That’s quite normal at her age. Our Gary had an invisible friend for years. Then it stopped just like that when he turned six.’
They went back to school.
‘Where have you been, Ellie? I was looking for you.’ Her dad met her in the doorway.
‘Sorry dad, I went to the shops with - ’ she stopped herself just in time.
‘Well, in future tell me where you’re going. I’ve been looking all over for you,’ he grumbled.
‘I said I’d pop round to Sarah’s to fix the dishwasher.’ He looked at his watch. ‘I’m already late.’
She felt a bit guilty. Had she been so pre-occupied with her friends that she’d forgotten to tell him where she was going?
When they turned up at Sarah’s house they noticed the pile of logs in the drive.
Carefully negotiating the driveway, Henry parked his car.
Sarah came out to greet them, looking flustered.
‘Can you believe these people? Dumping this practically on my doorstep?’ She spread her arms wide.
‘Don’t worry, we’ll help you move it, won’t we, Ellie?’
‘Sure,’ Ellie said.
‘John should be home soon, so he’ll help. Let’s have a cup of tea while we wait for him.’
Sarah motioned for them to come into the house. ‘You can sample my carrot cake and scones.’
‘Sounds good to me,’ Henry smiled.
Ellie was pleased that John would be home soon. She’d enjoyed spending time with him lately.
She was sure she saw his face light up when he saw her.
‘Hi Ellie, how are you?’ He dumped his sports bag and stood awkwardly as he gazed into her eyes.
‘Fine, thanks.
‘Ah, there you are, John.’ Sarah wiped her hands on a towel. ‘We’re just gonna move these logs in a minute. We were waiting for you to help. Do you want some cake?’
‘Is it vegan?’ he said seriously, mocking his sister.
Sarah smiled. ‘Don’t you start. Your sister’s made a vegan version, but it’s not looking too good. She’s off in a sulk.’

Between them they moved all the logs into the log awning. While Henry fixed the dishwasher John and Ellie went for a walk. The sun was moving behind a cloud, streaking dramatic shadows on the tarmac. They chatted amicably and when they reached the end of the road, they bumped in to Bruno, who took one look at Ellie and, recognising her from the incident on the green, he scowled.
‘Who’s your girlfriend, John?’
At the word ‘girlfriend’, Ellie’s heart skipped a beat. She felt the colour rise in her cheeks.
‘What’s it to you, Bruno?’ John said calmly, meeting his gaze.
Ellie felt pleased that he hadn’t denied the fact that she was his girlfriend.
‘Oh, I’ve seen her around, laughing at me. At the library and on the green.’
‘Err…. I am here you know.’ Ellie put in.
Bruno scowled. ‘Gotta watch out, she’s a right minger.’
John bristled. ‘Take that back.’ He lunged forward.
Ellie held him back by placing her arm on his. ‘He’s not worth it, John.’
Bruno sneered and walked away.
‘I hate him. He’s such an idiot.’ John’s jaws were clenched.
‘Merryn told me he used to bully her sister.’
‘Taryn? Yes, he did. You’d think he’d have learnt his lesson by now. He made that poor girl’s life a misery.’
‘I hope he doesn’t start on me now. All I did was giggle at some silly things he got up to. I couldn’t help myself.’
‘What happened?’
‘It’s hard to explain. I - ’
‘Go on…’
‘The first time I saw Bruno he was in the library and he got into a lot of trouble.
He’d pushed heaps of books of the shelves.’
‘Why would he do that?’
‘The funny thing is, he didn’t. He only got the blame.’
John had a quizzical look on his face. ‘So if he didn’t, who did?’
‘Well,’ Ellie took a deep breath. She was sure she could trust him.
‘You probably won’t believe me, but,’ she hesitated.
His eyes were fixed on hers.
She shook her head. ‘No, you’ll think I’ve lost the plot.’
‘Why? Don’t you trust me?’
‘It’s not that I don’t trust you. I don’t want you to think I’m crazy.’
‘Never. You’re the most sensible girl I’ve ever met,’ he looked at her earnestly. ‘In fact. You’re also the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met.’
‘Oh… I don’t know what to say to that. Thanks, I think.’ She smiled and looked at her shoes.
He lifted her chin till she met his gaze. ‘I really like you, Ellie. Will you go out with me? You know, be my girlfriend?’
His dark brown eyes scanned hers. It was a beautiful moment, frozen in time.
‘Yes, all right.’ Her smile grew wider.
‘I like it when you blush. You’re like a pale rose that turns pinkish.’
He kissed her on the lips.
Ellie felt her heart flutter.

They walked on, hand in hand, each lost in their own thoughts. Ellie still hadn’t told him about the library incident with Bruno. It had paled into insignificance. She didn’t bring it up again.
The next day at school Harriet appeared by her side. ‘So? Is he a good kisser?’
‘What?’ Ellie was taken aback. Her mouth fell open.
‘I saw you snogging John yesterday.’ Harriet grinned.
‘We weren’t snogging.’ Ellie re-adjusted her wristband.
‘As good as.’
‘John’s nice. Good-looking too. I used to have a crush on him.’
‘Hands off, he’s mine now.’ Ellie chuckled.
‘Don’t worry. I’ve got my eye on someone else.’
‘Who? Do I know him?’
‘Elliott Greenshields. He’s such a babe. It’s a pity he wears those old-fashioned clothes and a cravat, but he’s so gorgeous, don’t you think?’
Ellie tilted her head, thought for a moment and said: ‘He is, actually. In a dreamy poet sort of way. ‘
‘Hmm. Yes. He’s really sweet.’
‘So what happened to Elliott? How did he die?’

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