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Excerpt for Mandy Lamb and the Full Moon (U.S. Edition) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

PRAISE FOR CORINNA TURNER’S BOOKS



LIBERATION was nominated for the Carnegie Medal Award 2016.


I AM MARGARET was one of 2 runners-up for the ‘Teenage and Children’s Fiction’ CALA Award 2016 and LIBERATION won 3rd place for ‘Teen and Young Adult Fiction’ in the CPA 2016 Book Awards.


PRAISE FOR ELFLING

I was instantly drawn in”

EOIN COLFER, author of the Artemis Fowl books


PRAISE FOR MANDY LAMB & THE FULL MOON

I thought Mandy Lamb would just be a fun kid’s story, but it is really deep and exciting! TURNER’s imagination and creativity are simply amazing, and this book takes it to a new level.”

THERESA LINDEN, author of award-winning Battle for His Soul


This highly entertaining fantasy weaves a tale of friendship, trust, & courage that will not only warm your heart but keep you flipping the pages all the way to its unexpected & pulse-pounding climax. I am amazed, yet again, by this author's talent and diversity! Anyone young at heart who enjoys a fun & inspiring animal yarn with a Christian twist is sure to love this unusual story!”

SUSAN PEEK, author of the God’s Forgotten Friends series


CORINNA TURNER takes Urban Fantasy to the countryside with the adventures of a half-sheep girl who is up for befriending anyone—even a werewolf or a vampire! A hilarious twist on familiar tropes that all ages will enjoy.”

ELIZABETH AMY HAJEK, author of The Mermaid and the Unicorn




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MANDY LAMB

AND THE FULL MOON

(US Edition)



CORINNA TURNER



Copyright 2018 Corinna Turner




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Contents


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35


Other Books by Corinna Turner

ELFLING Sneak Peek

DRIVE! Sneak Peek

About the Author

Boring Legal Bit




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US Edition, License Notes

This eBook is licensed for your personal 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’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.




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Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.

Pope Saint Leo the Great





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The boy dropped over the high stone wall and landed lightly on his feet. He remained motionless for a moment, listening, then eased through the shrubbery until he could peep out. Round the front of the house he could just see a woman standing next to a car. He could hear her tapping her nails impatiently on the hood. He had very good hearing.

“Well?” the woman asked, as a man hurried out to join her. “Where is he?”

“There’s a rolled-up blanket in his bed. Didn’t you check last night?”

No, I didn’t check. It’s about his ‘time of the month’, isn’t it? Do you think he chooses the full moon specially, just to wind us up?”

The boy loped across the lawn and let himself in quietly at the back door.

The woman went on, “I’m sick and tired of phoning the police only to have him come strolling back in time for breakfast. Quite frankly, I’ve reached the point where I’d rather not know if he’s taken himself off for a bit. But today? He seemed so keen on the idea of a fresh start!” She heaved a big sigh. “Well, I know he’s missing now. I shall have to phone the police.”

She swung around and started—the boy stood behind her. He had a rucksack on his back and a water-filled plastic bag in his hands with a big black goldfish swimming around inside.

There you are!”

“You haven’t been waiting long, have you?” asked the boy politely.

The woman made an exasperated noise and opened the car door. “Come on, get in, then.”

The boy didn’t move.

“What?”

“You haven’t yelled at me yet.”

The woman shook her head. “Oh no, James, in a few hours when we reach Wales you’ll be someone else’s problem and I shall let them waste their breath. In you get, now.”

The boy shrugged, slipped off the rucksack and stuffed it in the back as she got into the driver’s side. He settled into the passenger seat and put the fish on his lap.

She glanced at him. “Is that everything?”

“It’s all I want.”

“Well, be careful with that fish.”

“I’m always careful with my fish,” said the boy, flatly.

The woman glanced at him again, but stuck the key in the ignition rather than reply.

The man looked through the car window. “Bye, James. The new place sounds nice. Try to make it work, won’t you?”

The boy nodded his dark head sadly. “I’ll try.”




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CHAPTER 1

Mandy stuffed a wad of juicy clover flowers into her mouth and chewed happily. She reached out a hand for more, but the village clock began to chime in the distance.

It couldn’t be that time already!

She released the fistful of flowers she had been about to pluck and tried to care that she was going to be late. It was hard. But she knew Ricky’s dad was a busy man, like most farmers, so she started running, racing across the field, her little tail frisking behind her.

Despite what awaited her at the Fletchers’ farm, she couldn’t feel gloomy on a day like today. Soft, green grass bent under her hoofy toes, and her fleece—still short from shearing—left her cool and comfortable in the late summer sunshine, though it grew long at the bottom, falling to her knees like a thick woolly skirt.

Her wool was also a little itchy, so her more rational side wasn’t sorry that she was on her way to Mr. Fletcher’s. Her more rational side had little chance of winning in a situation like this, though.

She found herself slowing to a walk again.

She probably didn’t even have any lice. This probably wasn’t really necessary. Except...

Except she started her new school tomorrow. Secondary school in the nearby town of Treflan. And she wanted to look really, really clean and...well, sanitary when she met all her classmates-to-be.

Her new school. Mandy’s stomach sank a little, despite the sunshine, and she glanced from her arms—as pale and human as those of any local girl—to her woolly body. How would a half-sheep girl like herself fit in?

She comforted herself by eating the dandelion still clenched in her hoofy fingers and forced herself to run again. She’d be able to see the Fletchers’ farm from the top of the next rise. And Ricky would be there, and he was her best friend in the village. It wouldn’t be so bad.

Then she heard the screaming. Most people would only have heard bleating, not even hearing the fear in it. But to her it sounded like screaming.

She skidded to a halt so fast her little hoof-toes scored the ground. Snatching up a nearby stick as a concession to the fact that she was just a little girl, and a part-sheep girl at that, she ran towards the screaming as fast as she could. Clearing a stone fence in one leap, she found what was—to anyone with one drop of sheep DNA—a scene of utter terror.

Sheep fled wildly in all directions, trying to avoid being trapped in the field corners by the big black dog that sought to catch them.

“House-wolf! House-wolf!” came the panic-stricken bleats. “Run! Run! House-wolf!”

“Sheep! Sheep!” barked the dog, slathering with excitement. “Oh, oh, it’s so exciting. Sheep! Sheep! They smell so good! I’ve gotta catch one! I’ve gotta catch one! Ooh, they smell good...”

The sight of such a big, snarling dog made most of Mandy want to turn and run away bleating “house-wolf” as well.

“Maaandy! Maaandy, run!” bleated the nearest sheep as they fled past her. “House-wolf, Maaandy. Run!”

She resisted the temptation to take this advice and dashed forward. Even as she did so, the dog bore down on a tiny little lamb that had fallen over itself in its haste to flee.

“No!” gasped Mandy, but she was far too far away.

The dog leaped…

“GET AWAAAY FROM MY LAAAMB!” A very small ewe flew into the dog at full speed, knocking it to the ground before its jaws could close around the lamb. “GET AWAAAY! GET AWAAAY!”

“Acorn!” gasped Mandy, still running flat out.

“GET BAAACK!” bleated the little ewe, standing between the dog and the lamb, which was finally getting back to its tiny hooves. “STAAAY BAAACK OR I’LL HURT YOU!”

The dog rolled onto its feet, snarling in embarrassment, and immediately stepped forward. The little ewe charged again, head down, and rammed into the dog as hard as she could. Unfortunately, she was so small that with such a short run up, although she halted the dog, she bounced off without doing any damage.

The dog laughed, tongue lolling. Acorn backed up, stamping threateningly, as the lamb huddled against her hind legs, too young to dream of running anywhere without her mother.

Are you joking?” barked the dog. “You’re so tiny! But not as tiny as her. Umm, I just want to get her in my mouth and shake. Go on, get out of my way…” The dog surged forward.

Acorn leaped to meet it, head down, but it barreled into her, carrying her to the ground in a frenzy of snapping teeth. Mandy heard a crack of breaking bone and smelled blood, as the ewe’s squeal of agony cut through the cacophony of bleating.

DROP HER!” Mandy used human words the dog should understand. “Bad dog. LET GO!”

Too intent on its victim, the dog didn’t listen, but by that time Mandy was there. She swung the stick and brought it slamming into the dog, which was knocked off the mother sheep with a shocked yelp. But the dog leaped straight back up, attention still fixed on Acorn, who struggled to rise and protect her lamb, bleating terribly as her weight fell on her foreleg.

“LEAVE HER!” Mandy stepped in between as the dog sprang.

The dog stopped mid-lunge and stared at her over a long length of excitedly flailing tongue and a lot of very sharp teeth.

What do you mean, leave her?” it barked. “I’ve never smelled anything so exciting in my life; never tasted anything so good! And the way they run! I’ve just gotta chase them!” Its head lowering, it tried to edge around Mandy, who moved sideways to stop it. “And I caught one,” it panted, tail lashing from side to side in big, proud strokes. “I caught that one. It’s mine! And the tiny one! Mine!”

No, she’s not yours! Aaand you’re aaa very baaad dog. Good dogs don’t chaaase sheep.” She bleated that, since it was a rather more complicated idea to try to get across.

Who are you to say what good dogs do?” growled the dog indignantly, attention on her now. “You smell good too...” It began to slink forward, menace in every pawfall. “Perhaps I’ll catch you.”

Her sheepy nature would’ve had her halfway across the field screaming at the top of her voice, but her human side took hold of her sheepy nature and sat on it. Those particular sheepy instincts would not save her friend and her little lamb.

She stamped her foot much as Acorn had done and tossed her head just as threateningly. Then, since her two-legged self had never actually been all that good at head butting things, she brandished the stick at the dog. It made a satisfying swiping noise in the air just in front of the dog’s nose. “If you come aaanywhere near me, I will clout you agaaain. Even haaarder!”

The dog realized—belatedly—that it was no longer in control of the situation. “But...but,” it yapped plaintively, “you can’t do that! You’re just a big lamb. Wait...” It sniffed the air with increasing confusion. “A little girl? No...you’re bleating—must be a lamb, but—wait...a...a... What are you?”

I’m aaa haaalf-sheep girl, aaas it haaappens,” bleated Mandy, acutely conscious of poor Acorn, who’d now collapsed in the grass, panting in pain, but knowing she needed to deal with the dog before anything else. “But aaas far aaas you’re concerned I’m aaa girl, aaand you’ll treat me aaas such! So whaaat do you do when I say, ‘bad dog’?” She spoke those two words in a very stern voice.

The dog had absolutely no desire to upset little girls. As a Labrador, one of its goals in life was to please as many little girls as it possibly could. Mandy’s tone and human speech overruled any lingering concerns as to what she was. It dropped to its belly and whined for forgiveness.

“Do you know whaaat haaappens to dogs thaaat chaaase sheep in this vaaalley?”

The Labrador whined that it did not.

“They don’t get aaany treats for aaa whole week aaand if they still chaaase sheep, they get shot!” Mandy put the end of the stick to her shoulder like a shotgun and mimed firing at the dog.

The Labrador stared at her in horror. “No treats? For a whole week? That’s…how long is that? That sounds…sounds like a very, very long time...”

“Quite. So you’d better not do this aaagain. Your maaaster will hear aaabout this aaas it is, aaand I’m sure one week without treats is enough to laaast you a lifetime.”

The Labrador agreed, whimpering pitifully.

“Now, go straaaight home aaand don’t go waaandering without your maaaster aaagain!”

The Labrador leaped up and streaked across the field. The sheep fled again as it came near.

“Ooh...sheep...” The dog veered slightly towards them.

“No treats!” threatened Mandy, shaking the stick.

The dog ran off home.

Mandy immediately crouched beside the young mother, who now lay shaking in pain. “Lie still,” she bleated softly, “Lie still, Aaacorn.”

“Maaandy? My laaamb, oh, my laaamb.” Acorn made another frantic attempt to get up. “The house-wolf will eat my laaamb, Maaandy…”

“It’s aaall right, Aaacorn,” bleated Mandy. “It’s okaaay, I drove the house-wolf aaaway. Leaf is saaafe.”

Acorn had grown up at Mandy’s house two years earlier, after Mr. Fletcher sent the tiny premature lamb down there in a last-ditch attempt to save her life. Fortunately, it had been the Easter holidays and Mandy had been able to give her new friend almost round-the-clock care, eventually nursing her to full health.

When the lambing season had ended this year, everyone assumed undersized Acorn wasn’t going to have a lamb. Mr. Fletcher put her in with last year’s lambs for the summer (she was still only about their size, for all Mandy’s care), hoping she would have a lamb the following year. Everyone, from Mandy, to Mr. Fletcher, to Acorn herself, had been astonished when Mandy had popped in to see her friend one morning a few weeks ago, only to find her busily licking a teeny-weeny little lamb, perfectly formed for all its small size.

“Stop pushing her,” Mandy told Leaf firmly, as she pressed up against her mother, seeking reassurance. “You’ll hurt her leg.” The lamb was too young to understand properly, so Mandy moved her around to Acorn’s haunches, since it was her front leg that was broken.

Acorn bleated anxiously, wanting her lamb where she could see her.

It’s okaaay, Aaacorn, she’s right there. She’s saaafe. You protected her really well; you were so braaave. Now, don’t worry about this leg of yours. I think you’re going to be fine. I’ll splint it aaand taaake you to Mr. Fletcher. He’ll be aaable to taaake caaare of thaaat bite properly.”

Mandy’s fingers, with their hard, hoofy coating, put things like sewing that required fine motor control and good grip out of her reach. And that ragged bite was going to need stitches.

She headed to the nearest bush to find small branches for a makeshift splint.

“Maaandy, Maaandy, thaaank you!” Panting, the other sheep gathered around her. “You saaaved us, Maaandy.”

“Oh, you’re welcome,” she bleated. As it happened, her legs felt suspiciously jelly-like. Facing down big house-wolves—that was, dogs—was not her idea of fun at all.

“Aaare you aaall okaaay?” She looked around as she hurried back to where Acorn lay shivering with her lamb huddled against her, still terrified by the never before experienced horror of the dog.

We’re fine, Maaandy, thaaanks to you,” bleated the sheep. “Thaaat dog waaas so slow and clumsy!”

“Faaalling over its paaaws!”

“Couldn’t decide who to chaaase!”

The sheep laughed nervously. She knew and they knew that the dog hadn’t been slow and clumsy enough, but she joined them in making light of the situation.

Silly dog,” she bleated. “It’ll be in trouble now! You won’t need to worry aaabout it aaagain. No treats for aaa week! It’ll be lucky if it gets aaany treats for aaa month, aaafter Mr. Fletcher’s through with its maaaster, but it probably wouldn’t haaave believed me, would it?”

“Silly dog,” bleated the sheep. “Whaaat a silly dog, messing with Maaandy Laaamb!”

Mandy blushed and crouched beside Acorn again. “Mr. Fletcher will set this properly,” she told her gently, though she knew Acorn wouldn’t entirely understand what she meant. “I’m just going to do something to stop it from hurting too much whilst I caaarry you to the faaarm. But it might be aaa bit painful while I do it. Be braaave.”

Acorn did her best while Mandy bound the bleeding leg with big dock leaves, but she still cried out as Mandy fastened the sticks in place with a couple of stretchy bracelets that she’d forgotten to remove before setting off for Mr. Fletcher’s—how lucky that seemed, now!

Mr. Fletcher’s… Bother, she should be there by now. Well, this was an unavoidable delay.

Okaaay, let’s get you to the faaarm.” She hefted her friend up into her arms, eliciting another choked off bleat of pain. “Oh, I’m sorry, Aaacorn! Mr. Fletcher will haaave something to maaake it feel better.”

She set off across the field as fast as she could. Leaf followed closely, beginning to panic again.

I’m taaaking her to Mr. Fletcher,” Mandy told her, though she really was too young to understand. “Mr. Fletcher will sort your mummy’s leg out. Everything will be fine.” She knew she might have to say the last bit again and again until they reached the farmyard. Animals just didn’t remember things the way people did. They’d remember things they knew, or events that had happened to them if something reminded them, but their minds just weren’t…organized…the way humans’ were.

She could feel poor Acorn’s blood soaking into her fleece. Even undersized Acorn was almost more than an eleven-year-old could manage, even one part-sheep herself. All the same… Mandy picked up her hoofy feet and ran.




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CHAPTER 2

The Fletchers’ yard was chock-full of sheep. “Hello, Maaandy!” they chorused, as she approached.

“Hello, Fletcher flock,” she bleated in return, or rather, panted.

“Is it whaaat we fear?” asked the sheep, trembling.

Normally, she would have shivered as well, but she was too worried about Acorn and too out of breath after carrying her all this way. “I’m aaafraid so.”

The sheep passed this information amongst themselves with mournful bleats, then began to shift uneasily as they smelled the blood. Mandy trotted—or tottered, for she could barely hold Acorn by now—quickly through the woolly sea towards where Mr. Fletcher stood beside a deep stone channel filled with foamy water.

The sheep dip. Ugh!

Ah, Mandy,” called Mr. Fletcher, as she approached. “There you are. The sheep are always so much calmer when you’re here, I didn’t want to start until you arrived, but I admit I was about to call your mum and tell her you’d done a runner… Wait up, what’s happened?”

Mandy reached the sheep dip and shot a glum look down the ramp, coming gratefully to a halt. “I haven’t done a runner,” she puffed. “I admit I was grazing a bit on the way, but I just caught a dog chasing sheep in Top Acre field. It’s bitten Acorn and broken her leg.”

One dog?” said Mr. Fletcher sharply, already moving to take the little sheep from the tired little girl.

“Oh, yes, just one. A black Labrador, belongs to that guy who’s moved into Elm Lee cottage from the town.”

“Oh, that dog.” He headed for the barn, carrying Acorn easily. “You sent it packing, then? Any other damage?”

“No, I don’t think it had been at it for long, the others were just freaked out.”

I’ll speak to the man tonight. He’ll have to keep the animal under control.” He laid Acorn down carefully in the straw. “Now, let’s get this little friend of yours fixed up. I’ll fetch the medical kit.” Mr. Fletcher left the barn and disappeared in the direction of the house.

Mandy stroked Acorn soothingly and gathered Leaf into her lap so Acorn could see her but the lamb couldn’t climb all over her.

Right…” Mr. Fletcher reappeared with a small box. “Let’s get that leg numb, she’s obviously in a lot of pain.” He injected some local anesthetic into Acorn’s leg and sat back to wait for it to work. “Is the blood from the bite, or the break? How bad is it, Mandy?”

Well, see what you think.” Mandy tried to keep her tone confident, for Acorn’s sake. “The blood is from the break as well as the bite, the bone’s poking through, but it didn’t dig into the soil and get dirty, and the break looks quite clean, so I think you should be able to fix it up okay.”

Let’s hope so,” said Mr. Fletcher, but he’d gone tense after her description. “If it’s too serious you’ll have to...ah, you’ll have to go home and let me take care of it.”

Mandy’s insides churned at that. Please let me be right, she thought. Please let it be not so bad as that…

Okay, we’ll take a look now.” Mr. Fletcher said this last more to Acorn, who was sufficiently eased by the anesthetic to have started stretching to lick her lamb but was clearly in no state to try to understand what the human was saying to her.

Mr. Fletcher carefully eased off the bracelets and unwrapped the leg. He examined the break and the wound for a few moments, slowly relaxing. “You’re right, Mandy. It can be fixed.” He sounded heartily relieved, and Mandy’s chest unknotted for the first time since she’d realized how badly Acorn was hurt.

Mr. Fletcher could fix it. He wasn’t going to send Mandy away and…and shoot poor Acorn. Mandy’s lip trembled, and she felt on the verge of tears—of relief—but she choked them back and concentrated on helping Mr. Fletcher as much as she could.

Soon Mr. Fletcher had cleaned the wound, stitched it up, dressed it, and splinted the leg properly. “There we go, little ewe,” he said to Acorn. “I won’t quite say right as rain, but it’ll mend. It’s a nice dry stall in the stable for you for a week or two, I think.”

Mandy explained this to Acorn, who was too tired to care. “Aaand I’ll bring you some nice fresh graaass every daaay.”

“Thaaat will be nice,” bleated Acorn politely, looking faintly puzzled, as most animals did when Mandy tried to talk to them about the future. “Where is my laaamb?” She looked around yet again…

“There she is,” Mandy told her. “Look, right here. Aaand the house-wolf is gone, so there’s nothing to worry aaabout.”

“Gone. Good…” Acorn was clearly muzzy with shock, still.

Mr. Fletcher picked up the tiny ewe, and Mandy carried the teeny lamb, and they moved the little family to a warm stall in the disused stable.

Come on, Mandy,” said Mr. Fletcher, once he’d set out food and water. “Leave them to rest.”

I’ll come and see you tomorrow, Acorn,” bleated Mandy, but Acorn had put her head down in the straw and fallen straight asleep, so Mandy followed Mr. Fletcher back out into the yard.

Well, now that’s sorted,” Mr. Fletcher waved at the sheep dip, “in you go, then.”

Mandy stared down the ramp. Perhaps she didn’t even have any lice...

Ricky came out of the workshop carrying a hefty long dipping pole. Though only a year older than Mandy—and one hundred percent human—soccer and farming made him strong. “Don’t look so unhappy, Mandy. It’s the new kind of dip, you know.”

Have you smelled it?” She dipped one toe into the cold water.

Ricky shrugged apologetically. “Yeah, but at least it doesn’t burn your eyeballs.”

She shuddered.

“What did you want the medical kit for, Dad?” asked Ricky.

That little ewe Mandy’s friends with got savaged by a dog. But she’ll mend. Come on, Mandy,” said Mr. Fletcher. “Set a good example, straight in with you, now.”

Mandy’s two best sheep friends, Mama Ewe and Sally Ewe, had just made it through the throng to say hello. Belatedly, they noticed the sheep dip and tried to slip back in amongst the flock.

Oh no,” bleated Sally Ewe. “Thaaat’s why the maaaster brought us here!”

Mama and Sally Ewe didn’t belong to Mr. Fletcher. Like Mandy they’d just been brought along for the dipping.

“It’s good for you,” she tried to reassure her friends. “Stops aaall the itching.”

“If it’s so good for you,” bleated Mama Ewe, “why aaare you still staaanding there?”

“Go on, Mandy,” urged Ricky. “You’re not setting a very good example!”

Owwww.” She tiptoed forwards. The water was cold and smelled horrible.

Perhaps she didn’t have any lice. On the other hand, she’d been keen enough to look all clean and nice tomorrow, and now she had Acorn’s blood soaked right into her fleece. Still, that would wash off at home. But…the very idea of one of her classmates seeing something crawling on her... She could imagine it all too clearly. A voice saying, “Miiiiiss, Mandy’s got something crawling in her wool!” and the squealing and sniggering. The very thought was unbearable. She had to go in!

In she went. The reeking water crept upwards. Eventually, she couldn’t touch the bottom anymore, so she took a deep breath and began to swim. Absentmindedly, Mr. Fletcher reached out with the dipping pole.

“No!” she bleated in protest, but it was too late—he dunked her under the stinking water.

Bleugh!” She surfaced, trying to blink the stuff out of her eyes. “Mr. Fletcher!”

“Sorry, Mandy,” he grinned, then whistled to his sheepdogs. “Get them in, girls.”

The dogs streaked around the yard, bunching the sheep together in seconds. One leaped right in among the flock, just behind the sheep nearest to the sheep dip, and snapped at a couple of hocks. The sheep knew perfectly well that these particular dogs weren’t dangerous, but as always, having them that close was too much for their instincts.

“Farm-wolves! Farm-wolves!” bleated Mama and Sally Ewe and the flock in panic, and the next moment it was raining sheep.

Mandy struck out for the far end and scrambled up the ramp, dripping. “Yuck!” She started squeezing out her woolly ringlets. “Eugh! For the record, I really, really prefer shampoo!” Of course, she had to use a very special shampoo that didn’t strip the natural oils out of her fleece—without those, when it rained her fleece would take in water like a big woolly sponge!

“It’s only once a year.” Ricky took a large towel out of a carrier bag. “Here. Mum made me bring this out for you.”

Sally Ewe splish-sploshed her way up the ramp. “Don’t we get one of those?” she bleated.


When most of the sheep in the yard had been through the dipping bath and Mandy was sort of dry and about to leave, Mr. Fletcher appeared to recollect something. “I was going to say, Mandy, don’t you be wandering at night.”

“Why not?”

“There’s been sheep savaged a couple of counties over. Pack of rogue dogs.”

“Dogs hunt by day. And a couple of counties is some distance.”

These ‘uns are hunting by night. And I know it’s some distance, but it’s a nasty case. Lot of sheep been killed. Well, sheep aren’t the end of the world, no offence to your pals.” Mr. Fletcher threw a glance at Mama and Sally Ewe, and the stable. “But it’s not worth you risking any moonlit walks just now. I’ve seen you abroad at night often enough.”

“Yeah, I do take the odd moonlit walk. I’ll make sure I’m with someone until we hear they’ve caught those dogs, though.”

Good, good.” Mr. Fletcher turned back to the dipping bath and his sheepdogs. “Keep ‘em coming, girls,” he roared. “Ricky, a bit livelier with that dipping pole, eh? I want to gather the next lot in before lunch.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” said Mandy. Ricky had been going to the secondary school for a year already.

“See ya,” said Ricky distractedly, busy shoving sheep under the water. But as Mandy turned away he added, “Everyone will think you’re dead cool, you know.”

“Huh, hope so.”

Putting her head over the stable door, she could hear Acorn’s breathing, deep and slow, and that of little Leaf, the same. They were both sleeping. Better not to disturb them.

She trotted away, leaping and shaking herself every few steps as she tried to rid her wool of both water and smell. Hopefully her mum had remembered to get that extra bottle of her special shampoo. There was no way she’d be de-smelled by tomorrow, however many bottles of shampoo she got through, but if she could achieve de-smelled as far as the human nose was concerned, that would be enough.




-><-+-><-




CHAPTER 3

Once out of sight of the Fletcher farm, Mandy turned off the path that led down to the village and the English side of the valley. Leaping over a stile, she headed briskly up the Welsh side of the valley to the high wild country that ran for many miles beyond.

School tomorrow. The sun blazed in the sky and the craggy slopes held few distractions as she crossed them. Treflan Secondary School was going to be so very different from the tiny village school. Instead of five people in the entire school, she might have twenty-five just in her class! It would be nice to make more friends...but would they like her? Would they think she was a freak? Well, she was a bit of a freak, perhaps, a half-sheep, half-human girl—well, strictly speaking over 95% human—but it didn’t really matter. Not to her or her family or the village. She was just herself, Mandy Barbara Lamb. Would her classmates see that?

Sighing, she tried to stop chewing one hoofy finger. A visit to her oldest friend was called for. Vincent was definitely her oldest friend, in every sense of the word. He was also her secret friend. There were two excellent, sharp, pointy reasons why she’d never introduced him to Ricky. Or to anyone else, for that matter.

Vincent?” she called as she approached the cave, since she’d always suspected it was best not to sneak up on a vampire, not that one could, really. “Vincent?”

“Mandy, Mandy, come in,” said a gloomy voice.

She went in.

The easy-going vampire shared his cave with a colony of bats and had hung a canopy ceiling across his small living area and rather larger library to collect any little...deposits. She assumed he took it down and washed it now and then. At least, she hoped he did.

Clad in his usual assortment of old-fashioned and shabby clothing, the vampire was reclining in his curtained bed nook carved into the rock. If he could only have done something about the midnight black hair, then his white skin and red eyes would have allowed him to pass as a human albino.

Almost.

“How are you?” she asked him.

He watched her entrance with a melancholy smile and waved a drooping hand. “I was just composing my epitaph.”

“Oh, is it a good one?”

For a creature who could not die—and who had been unable to die for a very long time—composing something to have written on one’s gravestone was the equivalent of fantasizing about winning the lottery, and cause for no concern whatsoever. In fact, Vincent had several notebooks full of his epitaphs. Most of them were so witty she couldn’t read many at a time without straining her ribs laughing, but one or two were so sad they made her cry.

As she stepped further into the cave, a breeze rustled her ringlets and Vincent stopped looking all droopy and mournful at once. He clapped a hand to his nose and sprang out of the bed nook with the sort of extraordinary speed that made her hope they always, always remained friends. “Dipping day!”

She’d been so busy worrying about starting school she hadn’t thought about her friend’s ultra-sensitive nose. “Oww, sorry! I’ll go...”

Vincent gingerly unclenched his nose and drew in a couple of cautious breaths. “No, no.” He flapped a restraining hand. “Mandy is unhappy, Mandy must stay. The smell won’t kill me,” he chuckled.

There was no keeping anything from Vincent. He could hear if your heart was working harder than normal—from across the room—and, well... If a sheep’s nose made a human’s nose look next thing to useless, and a dog’s nose made a sheep’s nose look next thing to useless, well, Vincent’s nose made a dog’s nose look next thing to useless. He always knew exactly how she was feeling.

Vincent seized his battered old armchair as though it weighed no more than a loaf of bread, carried it to the front of the cave where the most fresh air was to be found, and sprang up onto a boulder by the cave mouth, inviting her to take the seat with a wave of his hand.

“No, no,” she protested. “I’ll take the boulder today; you don’t want your chair to smell of sheep dip for the next twelve months, do you?”

She blinked and found Vincent seated in the armchair.

“Much as I am loathe to be ungentlemanly.” He made an apologetic gesture towards the boulder.

Jumping up, she seated herself on the rock. Shame it wasn’t late enough in the day for there to be deep shadows, and there wasn’t so much as a cloud in the sky, otherwise they could have sat outside and spared Vincent’s nose. But Vincent had a little problem with sunlight that went by the name of instant third-degree burns.

“Mandy, Mandy,” said Vincent. “So what is wrong?”

She wasn’t sure how to explain. She didn’t want Vincent to think she was a cowardy-custard.

“Starting school tomorrow?” hazarded the vampire.

“Ummhmm.” She nibbled at some oats from her pocket.

“And...?”

“Well... I’m afraid I might not...fit in.”

Vincent sat up slightly and gave her a very direct, searching look from under his eyebrows. Since he had some very bushy jet-black eyebrows in a snow-white face set over blood red eyes, she always found that a direct look from Vincent took some ignoring.

“If anyone so much as thinks about bullying you, just let me know.”

Trust Vincent to go for the jugular of the matter.

“That’s very nice of you.” She laughed slightly. “But I think it might be overkill.”

Perhaps literally. When a bat had first introduced her to Vincent, years ago, she’d somehow been under the impression that he couldn’t exsanguinate humans, which is to say, drain all the blood from them. After a while, she learned that actually he could, he just chose not to. But she still wasn’t sure if he ever made exceptions to that self-imposed rule—though she suspected not.

No one can change what they are,” Vincent would often say. “The only thing they can change is what they do. It is our choices that make us who we are.”

“Getting you involved would be a bit like smashing a house to catch a mouse, if you see what I mean!” she went on.

Well...” Vincent spread his fingers wide. “...the offer stands. I somehow doubt you’ll need it. I’m not saying no one will ever bully you in any way, because a secondary school is quite large and you are rather...eye-catching. So I suggest you don’t get up false expectations. But you’ll handle it yourself, without needing any help from me. Undoubtedly. Deo volente,” he added. God willing. Which would have undermined what he’d said rather more if he didn’t say it about virtually everything.

She clicked her fingers together nervously. It was scary to hear that she would probably be bullied at some time or other and yet, in a way, Vincent’s honesty was reassuring. Everyone else she’d spoken to had just said, “It’ll be fine.” Vincent was kind of saying that as well, but it was easier to believe it when he faced the facts.

Feeling more cheerful, she gave an oat to a bat that hung briefly from her ringlets and told Vincent about how she’d sent the Labrador packing, though not quickly enough for poor Acorn.

As soon as you arrived, you saw it off. So I stand by what I said.” Vincent smiled around his fangs. “The bullies don’t stand a chance.”

Blushing, she changed the subject. “Can I hear the epitaph, then?”

“It’s not quite finished,” said Vincent modestly. “Let’s do something else.”

She eyed a rosebush by the cave entrance and licked her lips.

“Chess?” said Vincent hastily.




-><-+-><-




CHAPTER 4

Mandy woke up the next morning to find bright sunshine streaming through her open curtains once more. She had to admit, her fleece felt much less itchy—and she’d managed to get it de-smelled to the human nose. She smiled happily.

“Are you up, Mandy?” Her mum opened the door and looked in, her straight auburn hair already neatly bound up in a bun.

“Yes, Mum.”

When her mum had gone, she got out of bed and went to the window, her shiny black toes tapping on the floorboards. A bunch of wild flowers lay on the window ledge. A bunch of very tasty wild flowers. She picked them up. They were tied with a couple of strands of jet black hair. There was no message. They were the message. Good luck at her new school. Left by a friend who did not like sunlight. She bit off the nearest bloom and chewed happily, looking out the window at the blue sky outside.

It was going to be a nice day.

She turned back to her dresser and picked up her brand new school tie. All Ricky had talked about over the summer was how she would soon be at school with him again, but she wasn’t going to be in his class. Would he really want to hang out with a girl almost two years younger than him? And...a girl like her?

She stared into the mirror, putting the tie down again. How was she going to fit in at school?

Her woolly coat certainly looked very clean and white. She wriggled her bare feet on the floorboards and stared doubtfully at her hands. She’d been to Treflan many times, but she’d always worn a long coat and gloves. So people wouldn’t stare. She’d even worn shoes, which she hated. If she rose on her hoofy toes to trot along, they tended to fall off. She’d worn a hat too, to hide her woolly ringlets.

Mandy inspected these ringlets in the mirror and clipped a couple back with some sparkly butterfly clips. But they still looked like woolly ringlets. Not hair.

She wouldn’t be wearing the disguise to school. She was glad to be rid of it at last. Left to herself, she liked fancy belts, pretty necklaces, and nice hair things with which to tame her ringlets. Her dad fitted magnetic clasps to everything for her, since her hoofy fingers made fiddly things, well, fiddly. Sometimes she’d watch him doing it, trying to imagine what it would be like to have normal human fingers like his, so agile and…what was that special word…dexterous. His fingers were so dexterous.

Mostly she didn’t give it a second thought, though. Her hoofy fingers were perfect for scrambling up rocky slopes, and there were plenty of those around. Mandy’s parents had given up trying to keep her in sight at a much earlier age than they’d have liked. Ovine talents for escapology combined with human wits had created a miniature version of Houdini with instincts that demanded racing through wide open vistas and scaling steep hills.

Well, at least she’s got that flighty sheep instinct that makes her run from danger,” Mrs. Lamb would sigh (perhaps a little optimistically).

And she hears it coming.” Mr. Lamb would nod. “Her ears are so good.”

“And her nose,” Reverend Green would agree. “Nothing sneaks up on her.”

And she’s so fast,” Mr. Fletcher would point out. “I don’t think much harm will befall her.”

So Mandy had grown up as free as any lamb in the valley, if not freer, since her human parents, unable to keep up, found themselves obliged to resign themselves to letting her roam or else go crazy with worry. By the time Mandy grew old enough to consider her parents’ feelings, everyone was so used to her freedom such consideration was unnecessary—and thus un-thought of.

Oblivious as ever to all the past stress her early independence had caused her poor parents, Mandy adjusted her sparkly butterfly clips and sighed. She wouldn’t need much else for school. No fancy belts and pretty necklaces today, and the rest of her wardrobe simply consisted of leg warmers and fingerless gloves. After all, she had her very own woolly coat that kept her warm in all weathers and Ricky’s dad trimmed it neatly for her each summer, when it began to get too hot. Except her “skirt”, which she’d been growing for years.

“Mandy, you won’t have time for breakfast...” called her mum.

Mandy picked up the tie again, gripping it carefully with fingers that did move much like normal fingers but which were made clumsy by their hard hoofy coating. Holding tightly, she knotted the tie with very large, controlled movements, fumbled a bit when it came to tightening it, and finally looked in the mirror. Satisfied, she bounded out of her room and clattered down the stairs.

In the kitchen, Mrs. Lamb was feeding baby Georgie, who was a normal, wool-free baby, just like Mandy’s little twin brothers. Mr. and Mrs. Lamb weren’t slow learners, and after Mandy had turned out so much woollier than Dr Martin and Dr Ivan expected, they hadn’t given the scientists another chance—despite all the protestations that this time it would go right, this time the result would be a 100% normal human who would be able to have unlimited organ transplants from sheep…a huge break-through for mankind… Etcetera. Etcetera.

Mandy found it all very hard to follow and had a feeling her parents did too. She also had a feeling they’d come around—belatedly—to Reverend Green’s opinion that playing God was not a good idea. They often said they’d never change a thing about her, though, which she had to admit was nice to hear.

Mandy spotted half a cauliflower waiting in her place, next to a bowl of cereal. She dived for the cauliflower.

Cereal first,” said Mrs. Lamb, without looking up from feeding baby Georgie.

Mandy sighed and picked up her spoon. She gobbled cereal as fast as she could, her eyes on the vegetable.

When a car pulled up outside, she tore her eyes from the cauliflower and ran to the window. “Mr. Fletcher’s here already!”

She turned back to the table, reaching... Her cauliflower was gone. Wallace and Drake sat in their places, giving her identical looks of innocence.

She stamped her foot angrily. “Cauliflower!”

Wallace and Drake carried on looking innocent. Drake looked just a little bit too innocent. She swooped, liberating her cauliflower from her little brother’s lap, picked up her school bag and ran out the back door. Munching as she went, she raced to the garden fence and leaned over.

Mama and Sally Ewe lived next door. “I’m off to school!” She tossed them each a cauliflower floret. “Wish me luck!”

“Good luck, Maaandy,” Mama Ewe bleated back. “Waaatch out for foxes!”

“Aaand house-wolves,” bleated Sally Ewe. Clearly the story of the sheep-worrying had got around.

“I will.”

Mr. Fletcher honked the horn.

“See you laaater!” She ran to the drive where her parents stood waiting.

Her mum hugged her. “Good luck, darling.”

“Have a good day.” Her dad hugged her as well.

“I will.” She tried to cross her hoofy fingers for luck as she scrambled into the car, even though she knew that Reverend Green—and Vincent, for that matter—would have assured her it was superstition and wouldn’t help.

“How’s Acorn?” she asked, pulling the car door shut.

I’ll bring a sheepdog tomorrow, shall I?” Impatiently, Mr. Fletcher stuck the car into gear.

Dad!” protested Ricky. “Acorn’s fine,” he added to Mandy.

Munching her hay when we left,” agreed Mr. Fletcher. “The lamb was suckling. Now, let’s be off.”

And away they went.


Her eyes on the enormous school building, she followed Ricky closely as he led the way across the schoolyard. The whispers came clearly to her excellent ears.

Look at her!”

Look, she’s all woolly!”

“Look at her funny toes!”

She’s got a tail, look, look there...!”

Weird!”

She tried not to listen and followed Ricky to the office, where the secretary gave her a locker number and told Ricky to take her to her year group classroom.

If you get lost,” began Ricky, as she pattered along beside him, “but—you won’t get lost, will you?”

She’d frequently taken delight in telling her friends how sheep had outperformed a whole lot of other animals in maze tests. She eyed the corridors. It did look something like a maze. The reputation of the ovine race was in her hoofy hands. “I won’t get lost.”

“Well, if you do, just look for the cafeteria.” Ricky grinned. “It’s kind of in the middle.”

She tried to look as though she couldn’t imagine herself needing to know this. And memorized it carefully.

Mrs. Jones?” Ricky looked into a classroom. “This is my friend Mandy. Mandy Lamb.”

Ah, Mandy.” Mrs. Jones was a smiley lady who looked no scarier than the village schoolmistress. “I was expecting you. Come in, there’s a desk there for you.” More sternly, she added, “Run along, Ricky Fletcher, or you’ll be late.”

Ricky gave Mandy an encouraging grin and shot off. Nervously, Mandy tip-tapped her way to her new desk, right there in the front row, and sat down quickly. Everyone stared at her.

Mrs. Jones glanced at the clock. “Settle down, everyone,” she said, as the bell rang. “Let us begin. My name is Mrs. Jones and I will be your year group teacher this year. We will have a quarter of an hour in here, your year group classroom, each day before lessons begin. As you can see, this is a science classroom.” She pointed to the life-size skeleton that stood in the corner wearing a name tag: Skelly. “That’s because I’m also the science teacher; in fact, I will see you all here after break for biology. Don’t be late, please.

“Now, I know most of you have come up from Treflan Junior and already know one another, so I won’t make you all stand up and introduce yourself, we don’t really have time, anyway. Just fill in the desk plan so that I can learn your names quickly.

“However, your class does have a couple of new members. Mandy Lamb, who attended her village junior school, and James Lowell, whom I believe has just moved to the area. They are both going to stand up and say a bit about themselves. Now, who’s going to go first?”

Mandy gulped and stared at her desk. Apparently, the new boy didn’t look any more eager, because Mrs. Jones went on, “Alright then, say we do it alphabetically by surname, so...Mandy, that’s you. Up you get and tell us a bit about yourself.”

Mandy stood, clasping her hoofy fingers nervously, as Mrs. Jones began to flick through a pile of internal school mail.

“Hi,” she said, “I’m Mandy. I’m from Worthy Souls. Yeah…” She grinned as the class giggled. “It’s a funny name, isn’t it? Higher Worthy Souls is up the road and Lower Worthy Souls is down the road, so, uh, it could have been worse, and it could have been better...that’s what the vicar always says, anyway.

Um, well, I’m part-sheep ‘cause Dr Martin’s and Dr Ivan’s experiment didn’t go quite right. It’s all to do with DNA, and it was meant to help people, though Reverend Green always says they shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place. It doesn’t really matter, though. I live with my mum and dad and twin brothers Wallace and Drake and baby sister Georgie. My mum’s a baker and my dad’s a hedge-layer and stone fence builder—a very good one, actually. Um...I like running and jumping and green things and interesting things and...hi, anyway...” She trailed off because some of the class were sniggering. Probably time to stop.

Welcome, Mandy,” said Mrs. Jones, looking up from her memos.

Mandy sat down quickly. Phew! Perhaps that would be the worst bit over with!

The girl at the desk next to hers had shoulder length dark hair, drawn back in a braid, and pretty coffee-colored skin. She smiled at Mandy. “I’m Amy,” she whispered.

“Hi.” Mandy smiled shyly.

Amy opened her mouth to say something else, but Mrs. Jones looked in their direction so she closed it again. Mandy didn’t mind. Amy hadn’t laughed at her little talk.

James,” Mrs. Jones said brightly, “up you come, now.”

James had obviously arrived in time to secure a seat at the back of the classroom. He passed Mandy to reach the front of the class, and she found herself shifting away from him in her seat.

She stared at him as he turned to face the class. He had dark hair that tried to fall around his face and the naturally browned skin of someone who spent a lot of time outside. He was no taller than the largest boys in the class, but something about him made him seem rather old for his age. He was good looking in a wild sort of way, but he seemed so distant she couldn’t help doubting it would be she who had the most trouble making friends, after all.

“I’m James Lowell. I’ve just moved here. I’m twelve.” Silence. Everyone waited for him to continue, though a few whispered about the fact that he was a year older than everyone else in the class. He’d spoken his first words easily enough, but now his brows knitted and he seemed to have trouble continuing.

Well, James,” Mrs. Jones cooed encouragingly, still sorting her post. “Why don’t you tell us a bit about your family, eh?”

James’s nostrils flared and his jaw went rigid. Mandy distinctly saw him swallow.

Oh, what’s this? I’ve got a memo about you, James,” said Mrs. Jones. “Carry on, now, just say a bit about your family or something, it doesn’t have to be much.” She ripped open the memo.

James swallowed again. He finally seemed to be on the verge of speaking when Mrs. Jones looked up, her cheery face set and shocked.

“Ah, that’s very good, James. Excellent. You can sit down.”

Somehow Mandy got the impression that for all his difficulty in beginning, James would rather have spoken.

You can sit down, James,” repeated Mrs. Jones when he didn’t move, her voice a little breathy. She glanced at the clock. “In fact, pick up your things, everyone, and I’ll show you where your first lesson will be.”

James went rather reluctantly back to his place for his bag as everyone got to their feet.

Now, what was all that about?




-><-+-><-




CHAPTER 5

The first lesson was English and Mandy enjoyed it. She was a very good reader. Reverend Green, who owned Mama Ewe and Sally Ewe, had what everyone thought was the largest library in the village, while Vincent had what was actually the largest library in the village. On rainy days, she’d never been short of books, or people to help her read them. Nor had she been short of rainy days, growing up on the Welsh-English border.

Amy had asked Mandy to sit next to her, so she had twice as much reason to enjoy the lesson. Afterwards their English teacher showed them to the art classroom and Amy sat with Mandy again. Unfortunately, they ended up with the worst seats of all. Not just in the front row, but right in front of the teacher’s desk! But Mandy didn’t mind—making a friend was more important.

You...Thabo, you...Shauna, you...Max.” Miss Davies pointed as she spoke, consulting the seating plan. “Come and get the paint carts out of the cupboard. The rest of you, sit quietly. I will get the subject,” she added grandly, and whisked away.

Mandy and Amy chatted until Miss Davies came back in. Amy shut up then, but Mandy hardly noticed—she was too busy staring at what Miss Davies was holding.

“Now, we shall be painting this today.” Miss Davies placed “the subject” on her desk just in front of Mandy’s nose. “Now, get your painting things in an orderly manner, please.”

Everyone rushed for the carts of paints and paintbrushes. Mandy got up and followed, but she could hardly take her eyes off the desk.

And the vase of scrumptious flowers.

She fetched some painting things and sat down again, still gazing at the banquet on the desk. She didn’t notice James passing her table until he stopped, sniffing. He looked at her and gave a couple more puzzled sniffs, then shrugged and went on his way to his own table.

A wave of dismay washed the flowers right out of her mind. Was it the sheep-dip? Was it still smellable? But she’d washed and washed and washed her fleece, and every single member of her family had sniffed her wool to check, even baby Georgie, who was too young to lie to make her feel better, and not one of them had smelled a thing! But what else could James be smelling that would make him look at her like that! Ohhhh no.

“Um, Amy,” Mandy whispered. “Can you...smell anything?”

Amy sniffed the air. “Not really. Anything in particular?”

“Um...on my fleece?”

Amy leant a bit closer and sniffed again. “Oh, there is something.”

Mandy’s heart plummeted.

Amy looked thoughtful. “It’s...apple, that’s it. Your fleece smells like apple.”

“My shampoo!” Thank goodness! Perhaps James had just got a strong waft of apple as he passed. Sighing with relief, Mandy jammed the paintbrush into her hoofy fingers and gripped it as tightly as she could.

She’d always been terrible at drawing, and being at secondary school wasn’t miraculously going to change that. Just do your best... the village schoolmistress used to say. So did Reverend Green and Vincent, for that matter. Usually followed by something wise along the lines of, “God’s far more interested in your best than in perfection.”

She pinned the piece of paper down with her free hand and carefully touched the tip of the brush to the page, making a down stroke. A flower stem. She did a couple more, then despite her tight grip, the paintbrush slipped between her shiny fingers. A splodge appeared on the page. Typical.

Getting a good grip on the paintbrush again, she persevered. Some nice long ovals for leaves. Not too bad. She could smell the pollen—her mouth watered. Surely it was almost break time?

Beside her, Amy was painting tiny veins onto her leaves. Mandy paused to stare. “That’s really good!” she whispered.

Amy looked pleased and glanced at Mandy’s. She tried to cover a smile. “That’s really not!” she giggled.

Mandy giggled as well. It really wasn’t!

Miss Davies walked around looking at the pictures, seating plan in hand. She nodded and smiled, and spoke a word of praise here and there, until... “James Lowell! We’re doing true life, not modern art!”

Everyone craned their necks to try to look at James’s picture. Mandy couldn’t see it from where she sat.

Looking slightly startled, James glanced at the boy sitting next to him, then back at his picture, sighing heavily. “It’s not right, then? Sorry, miss, the labels are all worn off the paint tubes and I’m color blind as anything. I was trying to use the right ones.” The dirty look he shot the boy beside him, who was now sniggering fit to burst, showed where he’d been getting his information.

“Are you seriously telling me,” Miss Davies picked up the picture and gestured to it, “that this actually looks right to you?”

Mandy got a look at the picture now. James seemed to have an eye for detail and the lines were nicely drawn. But the colors were completely wrong. The shiny black desk was painted in bright red. He’d painted the green stems orange and the yellow petals green.

James looked from the picture to the flowers. A faint flush stained his cheeks, but his jaw was rigid. “A couple of the petals are a bit wonky, but I’ve got the colors spot on. As far as I can see.”

Miss Davies stared down at him, her lips very thin. “If I find you’re pulling my leg...”

I’m very color blind. Please deal with it. I have to.”

Miss Davies’s lips compressed even further. “Anyone with tubes of paint that are still labeled, swap them for James’s tubes. James, get another piece of paper and start again.”

Miss Davies moved on up the row, towards Mandy. Mandy hastily repositioned her paint brush and drew a line. The desk.

“Haven’t you painted before, Mandy?” Miss Davies looked over Mandy’s shoulder, sounding concerned.

Yes.” Mandy’s cheeks burned. Now the whole class craned to get a look at her awful picture, and it suddenly didn’t seem so funny. “I don’t have painter’s hands,” she muttered. That was what her dad always told her.

Miss Davies glanced at her hoofy fingers. A rather more obvious problem than color blindness. “Ah, of course,” she said delicately. “That’s not so bad, considering.”


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