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