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17. Crossing

by joydaly 

Posted: 09 December 2016
Word Count: 1102
Summary: YA Psychological mystery/thriller
Related Works: 16. Crossing • 

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‘The most amazing thing has happened at school. I made a friend and even more amazing – she’s a girl. She’s only a friend, but I sort of wish …’
   I’m in the shed talking to William.
   For the past six weekends, I have spent almost every second out here building Meccano and I feel closer to him than I did to Tom; it’s almost like having Sammy back. I know he’s not Sammy, really know it, despite the purple smiley face. I’ve asked him about that again, but when William doesn’t want to answer something he goes away and that’s the end of it. Anyway, provided I stay off the tricky topics, it’s easy time and I can talk to him about anything – anything but Sydney.
Sydney and I have been sitting together every lunch time, when I’m not at soccer.  On Monday afternoons, we go to Singhs’ Takeaway. Sydney buys the chips and I bring out two plastic bottles of water that I’ve packed from home. She’s never said a word about my recycled water bottles, or the too small, too tight t-shirt I wear for PE. At first I thought she was being sensitive, sparing my feelings, pretending she didn’t notice. But that’s not it. She just doesn’t register the water from home, the crap clothes. They’re not important to her.
I haven’t mentioned William to her for obvious reasons, but I’m not sure why I haven’t talked about her to William. But now I’ve started, I can’t stop.
‘Her name’s Sydney. I really like that name. She says it’s old-fashioned.’
William doesn’t say anything, but I can hear him listening.
‘She got up here end of last year too, from the Gold Coast and she’s been having a hard time. You know, fitting in. Her parents moved up for work like we did. Her mum’s a doctor at Medlands and her Dad’s a philosophy lecturer at the University. I’ll bet that’s where she gets it from.’
‘What from?’ he says.
I go to say her amazing ability to make people feel good, make me feel good, but I don’t. ‘Anyway, we met in the cafeteria. It was the first time I’d had lunch money since we got here and after I grabbed my slice of pizza, I sat down with her. I was so nervous I spat pepperoni at her.’
I wait for William’s laugh. He has a great one, sounds like it comes from deep in his belly and rumbles up through his throat, bouncing off the walls of the shed. I wait for a moment longer and realize it’s not coming.
‘Is everything okay?’
Another long silence, and then he speaks.
‘Of course. What does she look like?’
‘She’s so pretty. She only comes up to my shoulder, maybe 5ft 8”. Her hair is chocolate brown, crinkly and she wears it in a knot on top of her head, tied with a bandana. She has a different colour for every day, but I like the toffee one best. It goes with her eyes. They’re like amber and brown swirled together. And when she laughs they look gold. But the best thing about her is,’ and I stop and swallow hard. I never thought I’d be saying this. ‘She makes me laugh, she makes me forget.’
William says nothing.
I hurry on. ‘You do too. Without you, life would be unbearable, but I can’t believe I’ve found someone real.’
‘I’m real.’
‘Yeah, but you know what I mean?’
‘I know what you mean,’ he says and there’s an undertone I can’t pin.
‘So, do I get to meet this amazing girl? Why don’t you bring her to the shed?’
And I stop myself from shaking my head. I don’t know how I know it, I just do. Bringing Sydney here won’t end well.
‘Yeah, sure,’ I say.
William doesn’t answer and I suspect he knows I’m lying.
‘What model today?’ he says and I look along the shelves. Six models are built now, sitting in the places their boxes once were.
I spot a bulldozer on the very bottom shelf in the right-hand corner. That’s it, that’s the next one. I reach for it.
‘No.’ William’s voice is sharp. ‘Not that. Pick the Stationary Steam Engine.’
I find the kit he is talking about. Top shelf, third box along. It looks good. Big blue wheel, pistons, lots of moving parts, but I like the look of the dozer. Dropping to my knees, I tug at it.
‘Don’t,’ says William.
The box doesn’t move and I pull harder. With a wet, ripping sound it comes out and I sit back on my heels as I turn it over. What made it stick? There’s nothing on the bottom. I run my fingers along the shelf – nothing.
‘Put it back,’ orders William.
I ignore him. Why did it stick when there’s nothing sticky? I grab the torch, which now permanently resides here and shine it on the shelf.
‘I’m warning you, Jack. Put it back, NOW.’
The NOW is so loud I drop the torch. ‘What is your problem?’
‘I don’t have one,’ he says. ‘And I don’t think you want one either, so do what I say.’
What the hell? I pick up the torch intending to return the box, but the beam catches some writing on the back wall.
I can’t see what it is and I lean in closer, shoving my head between the shelves to read it.

I’ve heard that name before – where? I stare at it trying to recall, but it’s a blank.
‘Who’s Cecilia?’ I say to William.
There’s no answer, just a cold empty spot in my mind where William usually sits.
I switch off the torch and put the bulldozer back on the shelf, I don’t feel like playing anymore.  
It isn’t until I’m trying to fall asleep that I remember where I’ve seen that name. One of the tenant’s kids was called Cecilia. So why was William so desperate for me not to see Cecilia was here ‘44? Did she dig up the vellum too? Did she and William play? With what though? The shelves were full of unopened meccano, so she didn’t build any models. Were they friends?
   I can’t get it straight in my mind and decide to tell Sydney about it at school tomorrow... if I can. We’ve been friends for sixty-four days, sixty-five tomorrow, but I’ve never mentioned William – or Sammy. Can I tell her about Cecilia without revealing them? That is my last thought before sleep captures me.

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Comments by other Members

andinadia at 12:18 on 11 December 2016  Report this post
I like the growing tension with William, as we wait for Jack to find the strength to bring Sydney to the shed.

I think if you want to show time pasing, Joy, it would be more useful to insert a scene with Sydney, or some other strand of the story, before returning to the shed again. (ie between the previous and this chapter) Otherwise when I start this chapter I'm just thinking 'Why is this new scene with William not part of the previous chapter? What's the value in having several weeks passing between the two chapters?'

At the risk of giving you a major shock, what do you think about developing Sydney's story more? Show us what is going on in her life, what she's interested in, her own family etc. That would help to give the novel more breadth and would also help with the time frames. I'd rather learn things like '‘She got up here end of last year too, from the Gold Coast and she’s been having a hard time. You know, fitting in. Her parents moved up for work like we did. Her mum’s a doctor at Medlands and her Dad’s a philosophy lecturer at the University. I’ll bet that’s where she gets it from.’ from conversations and scenes between Jack and Sydney. Otherwise it feels like Sydney's narrative function is pretty much just to goad William. I think the novel will benefit from giving Jack's relationship with Sydney as much time and space as his relationship with William. And that in turn will lead to the development (even if indirect for the most part) of the relationship between William and Sydney. This can be a great emotional triangle. Thinking about this a bit more, it could be interesting almost to suggest some kind of equivalence between Jack/Tom (Tom represents an earlier perhaps pre-teen stage of Jack's life), William/Sammy (not sure how that works, mind!), and Sydney/Cecilia.

Can you elaborate more on the types of meccano models? I'd like to get a bit more of a sense of Jack's obsessions (shared with William) with the technical details of these models.

This is good: 'There’s no answer, just a cold empty spot in my mind where William usually sits.'

I'm wondering just how far William's 'knowledge' extends. I remember thinking something similar in the previous chapter. If William knows everything that's in Jack's head, does he not already know the answer when he asks ‘What does she look like?’

What has happened to Jack's dad? Are they all gradually getting to grips with the new house, doing it up, making it theirs? (Apart from not being able to deal with the smell of course.) Isn't one of Jack's characteristics to be good with his hands? Wouldn't he be helping his dad with some DIY? Maybe they could both be trying to trace the source of the smell? Maybe other slightly weird things happen to the fabric of the house? (Mould, damp, draughts, etc)

joydaly at 20:42 on 11 December 2016  Report this post
Hi Andy,

Like the way you think!! Will add this to my "Andy Book" and go through the comments in detail.

The house is an extension of the shed, so I could probably do more in terms of creating atmosphere there. Thanks for that.

And as always, thanks so much for your time, Andy.


andinadia at 11:23 on 13 December 2016  Report this post
Joy, it's just struck me.... it would be really interesting if Jack's relationship with Sydney was a bit less 'easy'. I mean, he's meant to be slightly introverted, slightly immature... it would make much more sense if it was Sydney that approaches him at that first meeting, not the other way around. You could paint a lovely picture through their conversation, of Jack being slightly awkward and Sydney being the outgoing one. This would also fit with the bigger picture in which he seems to have been in his new school for several weeks now, with no mention of any new friends.

It would also be an interesting dimension to his relationship with William, in that he might find it easier to talk to William about his growing feelings for Sydney simply because William is just a disembodied voice!

Whaddya think?

joydaly at 19:48 on 13 December 2016  Report this post
I like that idea Andy,

As the relationship develops, Sydney is most definitely the dominant of the pair, with Jack sometimes, almost resentfully going along for the ride, so Sydney initiating contact would work well in that context.

Thanks Andy :)


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