It was a hot summer's day. The earth beneath my feet was dry and cracked. I was sketching an elephant which was standing barely a hundred feet away from me. I finished the last details and stood up. It was then I noticed a shape in the corner of my vision. I turned my head slowly and almost screamed. A lion. What was it doing here? It appeared not to notice me: it was sitting on the ground in the shade of a tree, its tail lashing and its tan-coloured chest rising and falling. I wondered if I could get away without catching its attention. I backed slowly away, never taking my eyes off the lion, forgetting there was a tree behind me.
I tripped and fell, barely containing the cry of pain which threatened to escape my lips. The lion saw me. It stood up and began to walk towards me. I was frozen by fear. I couldn't outrun it anyway. I sat there thinking I was about to die, when suddenly a tall, striking boy with dark hair and tanned skin appeared right in front of the lion. I fainted.
When I came to, the guy who had stepped out in front of the lion was crouched before me. He had warm brown eyes which regarded me almost cautiously.
"Where's the lion?" I asked.
"It went away," he said, in a soft voice which somehow reminded me of the feathers in the pillows used years ago from films I had seen at the cinema.
"You're very lucky," I said, pushing myself up into a sitting position. "It could have killed you."
"I made it go away actually."
I snorted. "Er, no you didn't."
"Yes, I did."
"And how did you do that?" I asked, folding my arms and raising an eyebrow.
The boy frowned. "Can you keep a secret?" he asked in a low voice.
I looked around. I couldn't see anybody.
"Um, yes," I replied.
The boy leant forwards to murmur something in my ear. His proximity made me shiver slightly.
"I've got ... supernatural powers."
He leant back and watched me carefully.
I burst into laughter. "You what?"
The boy frowned. "Don't you believe me? I mean, who else could walk up to a lion and make it go away."
"I didn't see it go away, remember? Someone could have come and shot it - I hope they didn't, but they might have done."
"There's no body."
"It could've been carried away," I pointed out.
"There's no blood."
"That's perfectly possible."
The boy seemed exasperated. "Just believe me, okay?"
"Why would I do that?"
The boy looked straight into my eyes, seemingly into my mind. His eyes were a wonderful brown colour. "Because no one else ever has."
"Have you told anyone else? And there's a reason people don't believe you: the supernatural doesn't exist."
"All right." The boy seemed to change tactic. "Think of your favourite colour or animal or anything. Just think a word."
Blue, I thought.
"Blue," the boy said.
"What?!" I yelled, though whispering for some strange reason.
"That's what you were thinking, wasn't it?"
"But ... how do you know?" I spluttered. "How could you possibly know?"
"D'you believe me now?"
"No! This is some joke! You've set this up with my mum or one of my friends."
The boy sighed. "Why am I trying so hard?" he asked himself.
‘It's not a joke,' came a foreign voice in my head - the boy's voice.
"What?! How did that happen? I don't believe this! This can't be real! I must be dreaming."
"Would you like me to pinch you?" the boy asked drily. "Look, just accept it, okay? I know it's a shock but I don't have any friends and it really would be nice if I weren't so lonely all the time."
"You're lonely?" I asked, my caring side instantly getting the better of me.
"But ... telepathic!" I said, going back to being shocked. "I don't believe in people who are telepathic: they're just not real."
"They, um, evidently are."
"But..." I spluttered. I trailed off, unable to come up with any more excuses. Unless I was going crazy, this boy could actually read and respond to thoughts.
"Would you prefer it if I went away?" the boy asked sadly. "I suppose I'd understand if you couldn't take it."
I sighed, defeated. "No," I replied. "I believe you and I ... think I can take it. It's just so weird though."
The boy nodded.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Well, I'd best be off."
Rory stood up.
"Wait. If I believe in some supernatural powers, I don't see why I don't believe there could be more. Which means you probably (somehow) saved my life." I smiled. "Thank you."
Rory smiled too. "You're welcome."
I woke up in a great mood. I loved any sort of dream involving Rory since it made me feel calm and content and like he was with me, though he was so impossibly far away. I jumped out of bed and picked up my school uniform and underwear (which I always left out for the next day) before heading to the bathroom, which I knew would be empty because Marc didn't wake up until at least half an hour after me.
Once washed and dressed, I went downstairs where I found ... cooking bacon and Dad reading the newspaper.
"Salut, Charley," Marc's mum greeted jovially.
"Salut, ... Comment vas-tu?"
"Bien, merci. Et toi ? »
« Tres bien merci. »
« Why so happy ? » Dad asked, in English, though in a thick French accent.
"Brilliant night sleep," I replied.
Just then, Marc walked in, looking sleepy. I stifled a giggle at the fact he was still in his bedclothes.
"Morning Marc," I said.
"Morning Charley. Why are you not grouchy?"
I stuck my tongue out at him. "I can be not grouchy when I want to be."
"You must like it a lot then," he said.
I ignored him and poured myself out some cereal. "So, looking forward to school today? What was it you had on Mondays? Double English?"
"Shut up," he said mildly. Even so, his mother made a tutting sound.
"Don't talk to your sister like that," she reprimanded him in French. Over the past year, I had learnt a lot of French and now understood almost everything my family were saying. I wondered how fast Rory would pick it up, being psychic. Marc's parents must think in French. My thoughts returned to Rory and lingered there.
"Hey, dreamer, you've spilt your breakfast on the table," Marc said, chuckling.
I blinked and came back to the room. I looked down and saw that I had indeed let some cereal drop on the table. I tore off a square of kitchen roll from the roll in the middle of the table and mopped it up.
"What were you thinking about anyway?" Marc said, still grinning. "You looked like you were imagining yourself with a hot date or something."
I snorted. "I don't need a hot date. I have..." I froze. Had I just been about to tell Marc and my parents about Rory? I loved him to bits but ... people took a while to get used to him. I remembered my mum's initial reaction to him and imagined it on a larger scale. No, Rory was going to stay a secret until I felt I could really trust my family.
"You have who?" Marc asked curiously.
"Oh no one. You know girls: they like to fantasise about one guy who isn't actually theirs and then they get lost in the dream and start thinking it's reality."
"I don't know actually."
"Oh well, I'm like that."
"So who do you fantasise about?"
"You can't just ask!"
"Why not? You know about me and Zoey."
"This is embarrassing: you might tell someone."
"And how is a guy in South Africa going to find out? Anyway, I won't tell."
"I don't care," I said, blushing.
"Fine." He rolled his eyes and went back to eating his breakfast.
After I'd brushed my teeth and Marc had put his uniform on, we headed out the front door, calling goodbye to Marc's mum and Dad.
Seven hours later, I was walking home from school with Marie. I was staying around her house for tea. As we reached the house, I felt something in my trouser pockets. Curious, I reached inside and pulled out my turquoise. How had that got there? And more importantly, why hadn't I noticed it until now? Quickly, I stuffed it back in my trousers so that Marie wouldn't see. She was my best friend, but she had a way of being too inquisitive. If she new I had a gem stone in my pocket, she'd start asking awkward questions, wanting to hold it and so on. It was best if she didn't know.
I suddenly got a phone call from Marc's mum. Marie and I stopped walking so I could answer it.
"Hello?" I said, wondering why she would ring me.
"Charley! C'est Marc! Il n'est pas retournée!" I almost couldn't understand the panic-accelerated French that rushed into my ear.
"Wait! Wait! Slow down! Marc hasn't come back?"
"No! 'E hasn't said anything about going round friends' houses and 'e's usually so good about these things. Oh what can 'ave 'appened?"
I suddenly had a theory. What if our birthstones had been activated again? In that case, I would be teleported any second now.
"Mum, I'm not sure. Maybe he has a detention - we can't use phones in school."
"Oh... I didn't think he got detentions," she said.
"Well, he does. Right, I'm going to be at Marie's, to remind you. I'll see you later."
"Bye, Charley. See you later."
I put down the phone. What was I going to do?
Marie was looking at me strangely - I hadn't started walking again.
I didn't want to miss out on a mission a second time! But what could I do? Disappear at Marie's house?
"Marie, I have to go somewhere. I can't tell you where or what I'm going to be doing but please don't hate me. In fact, I'll show you how I'm going so you can tell people what's happened. The same has happened to Marc, okay?"
Marie took a while to process my English but finally she nodded uncertainly, brow furrowed.
I took out my turquoise and closed my eyes. I felt air swirl around me and change.
I opened my eyes to find myself upon a mountaintop. It was a glorious day in this world. I put my turquoise around my neck (it was tied to a piece of string) so that I would be visible. I was excited. My first adventure with my fellow descendants of the Atlanteans! I hoped Rory wouldn't worry too much when I didn't contact him...