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Excerpt for The Magic Book Series, Book 4: Mystery of the Missing Book by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Mystery of the Missing Book

Published by Elsa Bridger

Copyright 2015 Elsa Bridger,

Smashwords Edition

Copyright illustrations and cover image by Margaret Alford, 2015

All rights reserved

The author, Elsa Bridger, and illustrator, Margaret Alford, assert their moral rights under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author and illustrators of this work.

This ebook is licenced for your enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Also available in pint, at most good bookshops and online retailers

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

Dedicated to Joan Bridger and Pearl Bartlettbundy, with much love.

Thank you, to my family, friends and readers, for your unwavering support and encouragement. Finishing this book took me a little longer than usual but I hope you find it was worth the wait.

Thank you, also, to Sophie and Felicity’s ‘besties’ who have been my inspiration for the characters that join them in this adventure. I wish you all happiness and success as you journey on through your separate secondary schools - you will always have a special place in our hearts.


Contents

Torn Apart

Hearing Voices

More to Redster than Meets the Eye

Riddle Me This

Operation ‘Distraction’!

Fun and Games

Five Heads are Better than Two

Things That Go ‘Neigh’ in the Night

Let the Paperchase Begin!

Showground Showdown

Fishing for Clues

Moonlit Swim

Home Turf for Smokey

Facing Down the Past

Redster Reaches New Heights

Cornered!

Mortal Hero

Flying High

Hopes and Dreams

Sample Chapter:

Discover Other Titles

About the Author

A Note from Elsa

Connect with Me


Joining Sophie, Felicity and their Magic Book

for the first time?

If so, a quick catch up on what’s happened so far might be useful, so here goes:

In ‘Saving the Fairies of Serenia’, twin sisters, Sophie and Felicity, happened across what appeared to be an old notebook at their school. They soon discovered that it isn’t just ‘any old notebook’ - it’s magic!

I’ll not spoil the plots for you by telling you any more - other than to say, that using an equally special Pen that lives in its spine The Magic Book has been vital in helping fairies and merpeople already!

As you can imagine, the sisters have become very attached to their Book. Only, sometimes, have you ever noticed that even with the best intentions to take the greatest of care with something, you might put it down, and it gets left behind, somewhere? Sophie and Felicity are no exception and, unfortunately, they are just about to have a very nasty shock!





Torn Apart!


“I can’t believe you could’ve been so stupid!” Felicity snapped at Sophie; short thick puffs of dragon-breath in the cold air added drama to her fury.

“It wasn’t my fault!” Sophie retaliated, kicking a frozen tussock of grass, sending a spray of ice crystals into the air as they made their way across the field to check on their pony, Redster. She pushed her tightly balled hands deeper into the warmth of her coat pockets.

“So whose fault was it then, that The Book got left here at the stables yesterday? You had it last,” Felicity accused.

“You were carrying the bag we keep it in when we left here, Felicity. How was I to know it was empty?”

“Girls, will you please cut it out!” their mother, Mrs Bridger, scolded, as she zipped her car keys into her coat pocket before scrambling over the frost-encrusted metal gate to catch them up.

“Because you hadn’t put The Book back into it? Duh!” Felicity spat back, seemingly oblivious to her mother’s request.

“Girls - didn’t you just hear me tell you to cut it out?” Mrs Bridger was fast losing her cool.

Sophie grabbed a sleeve of Felicity’s thick winter coat and wrenched her round to face her. “Well, I’m sorry - Okay?! You happy now?” Sophie bellowed- pushing her face right up to Felicity’s.

“GET OFF ME!” Felicity shoved Sophie hard in the chest with her free hand, before twisting her other arm from her grip.

“ENOUGH!” Mrs Bridger yelled, putting herself between the two of them and held them apart by the backs of their coats. “If you think you’re getting that book back - either of you - you’ve both got another think coming! Not when you behave like this! I’m beginning to wish I’d left the pair of you at home.” Releasing her hold, she walked on ahead, trying to ignore the fact that they were still sniping at each other under their breath.

Sophie strode purposefully over to the wooden mounting block that their father had made. Her throat began to constrict with tension as it became clear that The Book was no longer there. “I sat here just before we left yesterday… it should be here,” she mumbled, chewing her nails on one hand anxiously, the other running over the top of the block’s steps, as if to check it hadn’t somehow turned invisible.

“Well I’m going to climb the tree; I don’t see why I should help you look!” barked Felicity.

“Don’t start again!” Mrs Bridger warned, her voice muffled from being inside the barn, preparing the horses’ breakfasts. “Redster, back up - I don’t need you taking the lid off the feed bin and helping yourself. Smokey! Stop biting Red’s bottom! I’ve got yours here; go into your own stable and then you can have it. Looks like I’ll have to split the both of you up as well. Honestly, between you two and my children, I’m going to need a lie down in darkened room to regain my sanity when I get home!”

Felicity had stomped off, through the little homemade metal gate that separated the yard from the small orchard behind the barn. It now hung at an angle by only its top hook hinge after Felicity had angrily thrown it open. It swayed agitatedly, like it was already exhausted by the tension in the air.

Sophie, now on her knees, scrabbled around the steps, hoping to find that The Book had just got pushed off the back, into the crisp, brown leaf litter that had collected behind it.

A sudden ear-piercing scream, coming from Felicity, had Sophie up like a shot and running with her mother round behind the barn. Images flashed through their minds of Felicity lying on the ground clutching a broken leg, having fallen from the horse chestnut tree they liked to climb.

“What is it?” their mother called out anxiously.

“The Book…!” gasped Sophie. She stood stock still as she absorbed what she was seeing, with total horror!

Felicity was holding up what was once their wonderful Magic Book. Only one piece of paper remained, having been torn from its bindings by the look of the ragged edge on one of its longer sides. Its discoloured, warped page, frozen rigid.

“Well, at least I haven’t got to worry about you arguing over The Book again,” their mother said curtly, more to herself than to her daughters.

“Mum!” shrieked Sophie, before bursting into tears.

“Oh come on, I can buy you another one.” She’d softened her voice a little.

Felicity, meanwhile, was balancing on one foot and moving the other from side to side in a sweeping movement, skimming over the long, scrubby grass around where she stood. Half bent, she peered down, intently following the sweep of her foot with her eyes. “I was hoping The Pen would be here too, but it’s gone…” she began to sob too. “We’re never going to find it in all this grass, and I can’t even ask The Book for help to find it, when all we’ve got is this!” She held up the one remaining, slowly thawing page between thumb and forefinger, as if to rub in the sorry state of what was left of their Book.

“I’m so sorry Felicity, I really am…” appealed Sophie, trying to comfort her through tears of her own. Mindful of her mother’s presence, Felicity just shot Sophie one of her deep scowls but managed, with great effort, to bite back what she really wanted to say.

“Come on, you two. Let’s go into the caravan and I can make us a hot chocolate while we think about where we can buy you a replacement.”

“You can’t,” muttered Felicity.

“What was that, Felicity?” Mrs Bridger asked, stepping closer to hear her.

“Nothing,” Felicity said.




Hearing Voices


Mrs Bridger put a guiding arm around the slumped shoulders of each child and gently steered them towards their old caravan. With its travelling days over, it stood nestled close against the end of the wooden barn, offering a place of shelter from the elements. Mrs Bridger squeezed passed the girls who were wriggling out of their boots just inside the narrow doorway. She carefully relocated a sagging cardboard box, which threatened to spill its contents of bbq utensils and paper plates, onto the caravan’s long, faded green cushioned seats as she lifted it.

Sophie and Felicity jostled for best position on them. Both girls then twisted themselves round, almost simultaneously, and doodled, lazily, in the condensation that had formed on the windows - avoiding conversation.

An uncomfortable silence settled in the small space until the kettle’s whistle sounded, shrill and loud. It was as if it was marking the end of a silence held out of respect for the demise of their beloved Magic Book.

“Oh no!” exclaimed Sophie, suddenly rushing back to the caravan door.

“Careful Sophie!” Mrs Bridger scolded, swiftly holding up the mugs of hot chocolate in her hand as Sophie brushed past underneath them.

“The gate must have been left open - Redster’s loose behind the barn!” Sophie shouted back over her shoulder as she ran outside. Felicity, quick to follow Sophie, was already cramming her feet back into her boots.

“Don’t panic, you’ll scare him!” Mrs Bridger warned.”

There Redster stood, having somehow got his plump, hairy, skewbald body, pretty much wedged between a pile of logs and the boundary fence. His expression was a mixture of guilt, from being caught in the act, but equally pleased to have found some long grass, it seemed; a substantial tussock of which was hanging, roots and all, from his mouth. He was in no rush to either discard or eat it; it just dangled there, rather comically.

Sophie slowed her approach. “Come here cheeky boy, let me help you; you seem to have something stuck in your teeth,” she giggled at her own joke, momentarily forgetting their Book troubles. Redster wasn’t about to have his prize taken from him, and after unhelpfully turning his head away, proceeded to swing it forward and back with quite some vigour.

“Look Felicity; that’s what he does when he gets hold of mum’s keys! Grass isn’t so satisfyingly noisy though, is it boy?” she chuckled again - just as something flew out of the tussock of grass and landed, almost soundlessly, at Felicity’s feet.

“Sophie, I don’t believe it - it’s The Pen!” Felicity shrieked, pouncing on the familiar object. She gently turned it on her jodhpurs, removing the mud and ice crystals from its gilded surface.

“Oh, Felicity - did you have to do that? You’ve only had them on five minutes!” Mrs Bridger’s rhetorical question came from the caravan doorway, where she’d been overseeing the ‘rescue’.

“Sorry Mum,” Felicity answered sheepishly, but carried on, regardless.

“What a smart boy!” crooned Sophie, ruffling Redster’s long, thick forelock. “Let’s get you out of this pickle shall we?”

Smokey, their mother’s grey horse, whinnied loudly from back in their paddock, as if to agree. Red had started to shuffle his hooves fretfully, as if noticing for the first time quite how much of a squeeze he’d got himself into.

“Why you had to choose this bit of grass, right behind a log pile, when you’re knee deep in the stuff anywhere behind the barn, is beyond me!” Felicity grumbled light-heartedly as she joined Sophie. Her hand found the piece of rope she always kept on her belt when she was at the stables for occasions such as this; by looping it over his neck and holding both ends, she’d fashioned a make-shift halter. She asked him forward with a gentle pull, all the while talking reassuringly to him.

Obediently, Redster allowed Felicity to lead him back towards his paddock; although he couldn’t resist a couple of sneaky snatches of grass along the way! Once reunited with Smokey, and none the worse for his little foraging adventure, Mrs Bridger returned to her yard chores.

Sophie and Felicity jogged back to the caravan, reclaimed their steaming drinks and sat in silence, each deep in thought, hands wrapped tightly around the warm white and blue tin camping mugs.

The remaining page, and now The Pen, also from The Magic Book, sat drying out, side by side on the caravan’s narrow window ledge aided, only slightly, by the weak winter sunshine.

Sophie raised her seemingly empty mug to her lips and tilted her head right back. Gently and rhythmically, she tapped the bottom of the mug with one finger, draining the last thick, reluctant drop of hot chocolate from it. Still looking hopefully into it, she absentmindedly wiped the back of her hand over her mouth, then said with new-found optimism: “As we’ve already found one page - and The Pen - perhaps the rest of The Book isn’t too far away.” She stood up, keen to start the search. Leaving her chocolate-stained mug in the tiny brown washing up bowl, which was nestled snugly in the equally tiny sink, she quickly slid her feet back into her boots and stepped purposefully out the door.

Some forty minutes later, heavy hearted and empty handed, Sophie and Felicity headed back through the small gate to return to the caravan. They almost failed to notice someone was following close behind!

“Redster, no! You’re not getting through again - go on - get back!” Felicity insisted, trying to reverse his very reluctant bulk.

“What’s got in to you today?” Sophie asked, whilst aiding her sister. The fingers she’d placed on his chest disappeared deeper into his abundantly hairy winter coat as he defiantly resisted their urging. “This is very unlike him, he’s usually so good to handle; today it’s like trying to push a car with the brakes still on!”

“Maybe he’s hungry,” Felicity guessed. “The grass can’t be that tasty round here though; most of it has been turned brown with the frosts. I’ll go and put some more hay out.”

Despite an ample wedge of sweet smelling fresh hay, Red refused to leave the gate. He just continued to stare intently over to where he’d pulled up his tussock of grass earlier.

“Why don’t we go round the back from the other end of the barn instead? I’m sure we could squeeze through the yard rails,” Felicity suggested, already heading across the front of the barn, leaving Redster, still rooted to the spot, by the little gate.

“I’m almost ready to go home now girls; collect your things up, please,” their mother’s muffled voice called out from between the bales as she filled the last of the hay nets.

“Like that’s going to take very long!” Felicity griped, as she stomped back into the caravan, forgetting to remove her boots. “Just one lousy piece of paper and The Pen - and that’s probably useless now!” She snatched them up and wheeled round on her heels to exit the caravan.

“How many times do I have to say I’m sorry?” Sophie shouted after her.

Girls - blaming each other isn’t going to get you anywhere!”

“Mum?” Felicity questioned, as her head whipped sharply from side to side, trying to locate the origin of the reprimand. It didn’t sound quite right for her mother’s voice.

“Mum, what?” Sophie asked scowling at Felicity’s back.

If you’d just listen to me, I could’ve told you where you needed to start looking. But you’re always so sure you know best, you don’t stop to ask anyone else,” the disembodied voice added.

“Mum, you’re freaking me out - don’t talk like that, it sounds silly!”

“What are you talking about Felicity?” Sophie snapped. “Come on; let’s go before we get into more trouble. She’ll never let us watch any T.V. today if we annoy her more than we have already!”

Charming! I’ve got a silly voice have I?”

Felicity’s jaw was almost on the ground. “It can’t be… Sophie, did you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“Redster…. is that you?” Felicity asked, hesitantly.

“I’m off; you’ve really lost the plot!” Sophie rolled her eyes as she turned to leave her crazy sister behind.




More to Redster than Meets the Eye


I don’t know why you’re surprised. Didn’t you know The Magic Book allows you to hear animals talk? Well, since you visited the merpeople that is.”

“Sophie, come back!” Felicity yelled. Her gaze dropped down to the one remaining page in her hand. “Well, we can hardly call this a book!”

It’ll still have some magical properties, but it’s pretty weak on its own.”

Sophie rounded the corner of the barn again. “Come on, mum’s leaving.”

“Sophie, I can hear Red talking, and I think he knows where we can find The Book!”

Sadly, I can’t tell you where to find your Magic Book exactly, but I do know who has it, and where you need to start looking. And it’s your friend there,” Redster flicked out his nose in the direction of Felicity’s feet, “she’s helping you hear me at the moment, her abilities are amplifying the page’s magic.”

Felicity felt something bump her calf, and looked down. It was an animal, and there was only one animal she knew that was that fluffy. It can’t be, can it? she whispered to herself. The animal’s green eyes looked up and fixed themselves on hers, with an intensity and intelligence she had only seen once before. But how could it be, when her home is in the ocean…? she puzzled.

Felicity was pretty sure that it wasn’t just any cat - it looked very much like the pet cat fish belonging to Prince William, their merboy friend that they’d met last summer, just off the south east coast of England.

“Is it you, Skipper? What’s happened to your fins? What are you doing here?” Skipper was weaving in and out of Felicity’s legs, purring loudly - obviously very pleased to see her.

“Sophie…Felicity…I’m waiting to go now,” Mrs Bridger’s stern voice called from the yard.

“Just a minute,” Sophie shouted.

“Skipper - is it really you?” Sophie ran forward and scooped Skipper up in her arms to hug her.

Yes, it’s really me!”

“Sophie! Felicity!” their mother called again, the agitation building in her tone was not lost on the girls.

“Talk about bad timing!” groaned Sophie.

A-hem!” interrupted Redster. “I hate to break up the happy reunion, but don’t you have a book to find?”

“You don’t have to shout!” Sophie flinched at the sudden increase in volume. She assumed it must have been because she was holding Skipper, which made a better ‘connection’.

Mrs Bridger rounded the corner, “It seems I do have to shout!”

“I wasn’t talking to you, Mum.” Felicity hastily corrected her.

“Are you still rowing?”

“No. Well, not with Felicity, anyway,” Sophie tried to explain, clumsily.

“And where did you come from?” Mrs Bridger enquired of the cat. She stepped closer to admire Skipper. “You’re a pretty little thing, aren’t you?”

Both girls were grateful for the distraction Skipper had created; with any luck their mother would forget to be cross with them for arguing so much today.

“You shouldn’t pick her up though; she might have fleas - or worse still - worms, you don’t know where she’s come from.”

Skipper’s tail whipped angrily. Sophie felt a slight vibration from the cat’s chest against her arms as she growled quietly with annoyance at Mrs Bridger’s accusations!

She’s back in ‘fussing mother’ mode, Sophie groaned inwardly.

“But we do know where she’s been,” smiled Felicity, with a knowing glint in her eye.

“Do you know who she belongs to, then?”

“It’s a bit of a long, boring story; you’re way too busy to hear it,” Sophie cut in, trying to put Mrs Bridger off so they didn’t have to lie; that never felt good.

“Perfect! You can tell me all about it on the way home.”

The sisters made to follow her, with Skipper still in Sophie’s arms.

“Ah - nice try, but I don’t think so; Skipper will have to stay here. She’ll go home when she’s ready.”

“But she doesn’t have a home,” countered Felicity. “Well, she does, but it’s miles and miles away.”

“Either she does, or she doesn’t,” Mrs Bridger stopped and turned to conclude the conversation. “Where does she live? Does it say it on her tag?” She bent forwards to look at the capsule hanging from Skipper’s collar.

“No, but you wouldn’t believe us if we told you,” Sophie answered, trying to shift Skipper’s weight more onto her other arm. It was surprising how heavy a cat could get after just a short while.

“Try me,” Mrs Bridger replied, whilst doubling her efforts to open the capsule.

“She used to live in the sea with the mermaids…” Felicity was saying.

Skipper started fidgeting like mad, and hissed angrily, swiping a paw at Mrs Bridger’s hand.

“Okay, I won’t touch you!” she said to the cat, hastily pulling her hands out the way of the claws. “And you’re just being silly now, Felicity.”

Felicity carried on, regardless, “…we met her last time we were at Eastbourne. I ran into the sea, got out of my depth and it was the merpeople who saved me from drowning! Although, strictly speaking, it was Susie’s fault - she’s a mermaid princess…”

“Stop!” Mrs Bridger interrupted. “You’ve had your fun, but I can’t say I’m really in the mood for playing along with your fantasy game, considering the morning I’ve had with you both already. I need to get back home now; I’ve tons of work to do.”

“Can we take Skipper home with us, just for one day, pl-ease!” begged Felicity, holding her hands up in front of her face, as if to pray.

“No means no,” Mrs Bridger snapped. “She’s not ours to take.”

“We need to find out what Redster wanted to tell us,” Sophie whispered anxiously to Skipper.

I’ll have a word with him,” Skipper promised, starting to fidget. “Go,” was all she said, before she wriggled free, bounding over the tufted grass, disappearing through the boundary hedge.

“See, she’s going home just like I said - and so are we!” Mrs Bridger stated brusquely.

As the girls turned to follow, reluctantly, Felicity leaned in to Sophie and whispered, “I think Red’s trying to say something, but it’s just like static noise in my head now.” She frowned and rubbed her brow - it felt really unpleasant. Glancing towards Redster, she shrugged to mime she couldn’t understand him. He stamped a hoof hard on the ice packed mud and shook his head in frustration, sending his long thick mane dancing like some uncoordinated Mexican wave.

Their mum read it as defiance as she approached the little gate where he stood. “And don’t think you’re going to give me any more trouble Mr, come on - you’re not getting back behind here again!”

Red, realising he wasn’t going to get anyone to understand him now, turned and mooched sulkily towards Smokey, who had settled in the centre of their paddock to eat the hay Felicity had put out earlier. Smokey wasn’t in the mood to share; he flicked both ears flat back and threw his nose out towards Red, warning him to go find his own pile. Red swished his tail, irritated by Smokey’s show of dominance, as he passed by to the furthest pile. Roughly pushing the wedges about, Redster looked very unimpressed with his meal, before standing on it, as if to make sure the ‘daft humans’ were in no doubt about what he thought of it, even without the cat to interpret, as he watched them walk on past.




Riddle Me This


As Mrs Bridger manoeuvred her car out of the field gateway to drive home, Felicity slipped a wellie boot and sock off, and rubbed her numb toes vigorously, trying to warm them up. “Can we come back up later today?”

“I wasn’t planning on it, Felicity. Granny was going to be checking them this afternoon.”

“Please mum - you’re always saying we should get more fresh air...” she bargained, hopefully.

“Yes, that’s true - but I’ve got dinner to prepare, beds to make up. Speaking of which, you need to tidy your room before all your friends arrive for the sleepover tonight.”

“I’d forgotten about that!” Felicity exclaimed, pulling her sock back on and making to get out of the car as soon as it stopped outside their house. She hopped, wellie in hand, towards the front door.

“Mind you don’t put that foot down - you’ve got your white school socks on…too late!” groaned Mrs Bridger.

“Oops!” grinned Felicity, sheepishly.

Mrs Bridger held her nose closed as she crossed their bedroom to push open wide their window. “Oh! it stinks of wet, smelly socks in here! I hope your friends don’t have sensitive noses! Felicity, you make a start tidying in here, Sophie, you can help make the beds up in the spare room - I can’t stay in here a second longer!”

Felicity slumped onto her bed the minute she’d left the room, feeling utterly defeated, oblivious to the offending odour. She frowned at the redundant shoulder bag that remained in the middle of the room. It feels so light when it’s empty, how did I not notice The Book wasn’t in it yesterday? she wondered. Reaching out for the shoulder strap, she pulled it towards her. The bag tipped, flopped open and a perfectly round stone fell out.

She leaned forwards to retrieve it. With the bag in one hand and the stone in the other, she examined the cold, hard rock. For some regrettable reason, she then lifted it up and sniffed it - Phew! That’s where the smell’s coming from. Where did Sophie find it? She turned her head away, wrinkling her nose with disdain. It explains why I didn’t think the bag was empty, it weighs about the same. I don’t know why Sophie wanted to keep it; there’s nothing special about it, Felicity’s internal dialogue continued. She let it fall from her open palm, onto the floor. The foul-smelling object rolled away under her sister’s bed, into the shadows. Good. That would have made the bag smell awful if it’d stayed in there much longer. And Sophie can get the blame for the terrible whiff in here when mum finds it!

She folded her legs up onto the bed and sighed, as she ran her fingers over the bag she’d placed in her lap. In the absence of anyone else, she spoke quietly to it. “The question is: when are we going to get a chance to speak to Redster again, with Abi, Alex and Izzy due here any minute?” As she lifted her gaze to the page lying lifeless on their window sill, a sudden bright glint shone from the surface of The Pen next to it, making her wince and look away. “Did you just move?” she whispered to the object. Just as she was about to look away… there! “It moved, it definitely moved! Sophie!” she called out.

Jumping up, she snatched up The Pen and paper. Sweeping a forearm across the small, white plastic table at the foot of her bed, she cleared a spot for them.

“What did you say?” Sophie appeared at the door.

“The Pen just moved!” Felicity exclaimed.

“Really?” Sophie knelt at the table next to her sister, staring at The Pen expectantly, not wanting to miss the slightest movement. “Try writing a question on the page.”

Felicity picked up The Pen tenderly, and wrote a question; “We’re so sorry we lost your Magic Book, can you help us find it?” She then placed The Pen back down, next to the paper.

“It’s trying to move, but it’s as if it’s too weak,” Felicity said, sadly.

“Perhaps try to help it by holding it upright over the page?” Sophie suggested.

As Felicity did so, The Pen’s nib crawled, painfully slowly, across the page.

The ink didn’t seem to be coming out properly and the resulting answer was almost illegible. After the effort of writing The Pen slumped, motionless, into Felicity’s supporting hand.

A lump had lodged itself in Felicity’s throat as she fought against her rising emotions of despair. She scanned the lines, trying to make out what they said. “It’s just a jumble of words!” she snapped, frustrated and disappointed again.

“A leeavs tiarl of

Of reimans me

after departing, my

Hoof flloow on

with mnay hndas,

And don’t be sintatrg! in solw”


“Shall I try asking it to write it again?” Sophie offered.

“Go on then, it’s worth a try.” Felicity held the motionless Pen out to her sister. It felt heavier than usual, like a person when you try to lift them while they’re sleeping - a dead weight. She sucked her breath in quickly at the shocking thought that it might have…. died!

“What?” Sophie asked, concerned.

“N-nothing,” Felicity stammered, then coughed, “Just something stuck in my throat.” She stretched her neck up and stroked it, for extra effect. There wasn’t any point putting that idea into Sophie’s head; they needed to try and stay positive.

Sophie asked The Pen for help, but this time it remained completely unresponsive.

The girls jumped as their mother marched into the room, “Come on ladies, we’ve got to make enough space in here for three more girls! Sophie, I had asked you to make a start, they’re going to be here in under an hour!”

“Sorry mum…”

“Hmm, you seem to be saying that a lot just lately, ” Mrs Bridger said, reaching down to add the one remaining Magic Book page to the rubbish bag she was carrying.

“No!” chorused the girls loudly, making a lunge to rescue it.

“You can’t keep everything!” Mrs Bridger reasoned, whilst trying to read what was on the page. It’s part of my homework!” Felicity was quick to reply.

“Well, I don’t think you’ll get a good mark, it doesn’t make any sense!” she said, turning the page upside down, as if this would make it legible.

“Ahh…that’s what it looks like - but really it’s in code, like they used to do in the war!” Felicity said, warming to her excuse.

“So this is part of your World War 2 project, then?”

“Y-yes, that’s it, I mean, yes, it is!” Sophie stammered, less easy with the lie.

Mrs Bridger looked from one girl to the other with suspicion for a few long seconds. Sophie could feel her cheeks start to redden under her scrutiny.

“Impressed and surprised as I am with your keenness to start a piece of homework, we do need to clear up, girls. I’ll put this away somewhere safe for now; I fancy having a go at cracking the code myself later.” With that, she promptly turned heel and strode out of their room.

“We’ve got to see where she puts it!” Felicity hissed. “I’ve got a feeling you were on to something when you said it was code.”

Trying to follow her quietly didn’t work. “I’m not doing all the tidying; get back in there and start doing your share.” Mrs Bridger’s scowl was enough to send the girls backtracking - fast!

“If we get this done quickly, Felicity, and make a good job of it, she might give it back to us before our friends arrive.”

“We’d better get a move on then!” Felicity answered, already scooping up the avalanche of clothes that had fallen from the end of her bed sometime during the night, and headed for the wash basket.

Just a few minutes later, the doorbell strained to be heard over the hum of the vacuum cleaner. As Mrs Bridger unlocked the glazed front door, she could see a distorted image of someone, who could only be Izzy, next to her mother, frantically jumping up and down outside.

“Sorry, I hope it’s all right to come now; we’re a bit early. Izzy was just so excited, she couldn’t wait any longer!” her mother asked.

Mrs Bridger swiftly side-stepped as Felicity whisked her friend in, and upstairs.

“Yes, no problem. Would you like to come in for a drink?”

“That’s very kind of you, but I have her sister, Rebecca, in the car; she’s going to spend the afternoon with her friend, Lauren, so I’d better dash.” She leant into the porch to call up to her daughter; “Izzy, you be good for Mrs Bridger now, won’t you?”

A muffled reply could be heard in between giggles. “Oh dear, I do hope she goes to sleep for you tonight, they do seem very excited.”

Rebecca had run over from their car; “Mum, her bag!”

“Thank you, Becky. I tell you, she’d leave her head behind if it was possible! Ah, looks like your other house guests are arriving, I’ll see you tomorrow.” She waved a goodbye as she backtracked to her car, acknowledging Alex’s mother, dropping off another friend,Abi, and her own daughter, Alex, as they passed each other on the driveway.

Mrs Bridger beckoned them in. “Go on up and make yourselves at home, girls.”

“Good luck!” Alex’s mum called back over her shoulder, as she ran back to her car.


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