‘Mum, can I use the computer?’
‘Oh, not now, Val, I’ve just woken up. Come and join me for a bit.’
Valorie perched on the end of her mum’s bed. It was Saturday. The whole family usually had a lie-in on Saturdays. While she felt a little guilty for waking her mum up, she knew she had to snaffle the computer before her dad went off to play games on it, as he always did.
‘How are you feeling?’ Valorie asked.
‘Oh, not too bad, sweetie,’ she replied, sitting up in bed. Bit tired. Could probably do with a few more hours in bed. Don’t wake your Dad, eh?’
‘OK. Are you two on speaking terms again now?’
Mrs Morse laughed. ‘Yeah, we’re much better, thanks. He’s secretive person sometimes, but we do love each other after all.’
‘Are you glad you got married?’
‘Every day. So, got any plans?’
‘Just need to use the computer.’
Mrs Morse slithered back into the folds of her duvet. ‘What for?’
‘Emailing some friends,’ Valorie lied.
‘OK, go ahead then. See you in a bit.’
Valorie left her parents snuggled up in bed, and went to her dad’s computer. She switched it on, put her hand over the speaker as the logon sound boomed out.
Valorie typed in ‘Francophile namesakes’.
She waited for it to load. She logged into Thoughts.
Two more people had asked to join the group. She let them. Then, she waded through the hate messages – and finally found one that intrigued her.
I am a Wizarding person living in your area (checked the group info!). I have three powers, and one of them is technopathy. I have the ability to ‘speak’ to any computer (as long as we’re introduced first, because computers are naturally distrusting). I think I can fix it so that the computer blocks all Mortals attempting to access the group. Maybe we can talk about it sometime?
Valorie checked who had sent the comment. He called himself ‘Cakeordeath100’. His profile page was blank, but this was still excellent news.
She leapt off the computer and did a little dance, swaying from side to side, then jumping around, punching the air. This could mean an end to their problems with O’Hanlon.
Valorie turned off the computer. This was so fantastic. She felt so elated, jubilant, overjoyed…
Valorie concentrated, pulling herself out of her body. The room became a void. She whirled ecstatically, dipping and spinning through the air. She even had another crack at picking something up. Valorie did wobble and crash to the floor again, but it was OK. Nothing could spoil her mood now.
Valorie sprinted downstairs. Maybe she’d go for a bike ride. It had been ages since her last bike ride. Her old red bicycle was sitting in the garage, rusting up. She’d take it out for a spin today.
Sliding past the kitchen, she spied a pile of greasy pots. What the hell? Valorie rolled up her sleeves and washed up.
‘Good grief,’ Mr Morse said, coming downstairs. ‘You’re a bit proactive this morning. Has Mr Faulkner got swine flu or something?’
‘Hi, Dad,’ Valorie said cheerfully. ‘How are you this morning?’
‘Tired. I think the bags under my eyes are getting bigger. They’re getting to be the size of those little beanie bags you used to juggle with.’
‘No they’re not Dad, you look fine.’
‘Are you sure?’ Mr Morse said.
‘Yeah I’m sure. So, I’m in a good mood. Any jobs I can do for you today?’
Her father thought. ‘That’s nice of you, Val. Yeah, you could help me wash the car, hoover the seats, get rid of all the sweetie wrappers, you know. Is that OK?’
‘Sure. Do you want a cup of tea?’
‘I’d love one,’ he said, looking pleasantly surprised.
The two had a brief friendly chat over breakfast, and then, just as they were finishing, Valorie’s mobile phone vibrated.
She checked it. It was Charley, asking to meet her by the canal later. Unusual request – Charley never asked to meet Valorie anywhere other than his own house.
‘Do you mind if I go for a walk by the canal later, Dad?’
‘What, by yourself?’
‘Is that OK?’
Mr Morse smiled. ‘It’s good to see you out getting some exercise, Val. It’s a nice change. We’ll do the car first; you can have your walk afterwards. I’ll go and get dressed.’
Valorie watched her dad toddle up the stairs, and then replied to Charley’s text. She texted ‘Can be at the canal by two, is that OK?’ Charley replied in the affirmative.
Valorie found both Charley and Eddie about halfway down the canal stretch. Valorie was slightly damp after a spontaneous sponge-fight with her dad, and she hadn’t brushed her hair, but they didn’t seem to mind.
‘Hello Valorie,’ Charley said, leaning against the bench Eddie was sitting on. ‘Did you get any sleep?’
‘Yeah, I did,’ she replied. ‘So, is anything the matter?’
‘I just wanted to talk about, you know, things,’ Charley said, ‘and the house didn’t seem a suitable venue. There’s no telling when certain poncey Government Officials will invite themselves in.
‘Good news, by the way,’ Charley beamed. ‘I’ve bought a computer.’
Valorie grinned. ‘Have you used it yet?’
‘Oh well. Any other news?’
‘Yes,’ Eddie said, leaning forward to address her properly. ‘As well as your people on Thoughts.com, I’ve managed to persuade three of my friends to support our cause.’
‘That’s good. Are they all Wizards?’
‘Two of them are. I’m sure you’ll get a chance to meet them sometime in the not-too-distant future.’
Valorie was excited. It would be a thrill to bring so many Wizards together. She’d never seen more than two in the same place. If only the Mortals were more understanding… if only Wizards felt free to share who they were with the world, without fear of maltreatment.
‘Once we’ve found enough Wizards,’ Valorie asked slowly, ‘what do we do then?’
‘I would have thought it was obvious,’ Charley said. ‘We’re going to rally against the Governments Wizard Watch List.’
Charley thought. ‘Probably something along the lines of petitioning, lengthy legal battles… you know, the usual.’
‘But we’re Wizards!’ Valorie moaned. ‘Why can’t we just kick some Mortal butt?’
Charley snorted with laughter. Eddie sniggered.
‘You want us to ‘kick some Mortal butt’? We’re trying to convince them what nice people we are – I don’t think butt kicking is an option.’
Valorie had to agree. ‘It would have been nice to maybe give O’Hanlon a boot up the bum.’
Charley took on a faraway expression. ‘Yes.’
‘Today we’re going to work on your teleportation,’ Charley yelled across to Valorie.
The three of them were standing at opposite ends of the canal. Valorie was on one side, a length of rope tied around her waist. The rope stretched across the canal to Charley and Eddie’s side. They held the other end of the rope in their hands.
‘Now, when you teleport, try and aim towards this side of the canal bank. We will help a little by pulling this end of the rope.’
‘So that’s what the rope is for?’ Valorie yelled back.
‘Yes, with the added bonus that if you don’t teleport far enough and land in the canal, we can easily drag you out again.’
‘That’s reassuring,’ Valorie bellowed.
‘OK, count down from three, and then teleport. Can you do that?’
‘I don’t know, what do you think?’ Valorie yelled, gesturing towards the rope.
‘Count down now!’
Valorie felt the rope go taut, and then began to count aloud, staring across at Charley.
‘THREE, TWO, ONE -’
Valorie clenched her muscles, concentrating hard. She exploded outwards, felt herself rushing forward – too far forward. She shrieked and tried to stop.
Her body ground to a halt, and came crashing down on the edge of the railing at the other side of the bank.
Eddie and Charley squawked and pulled on the rope. Valorie lost her balance and fell off the railing, landing on the ground at Charley’s feet.
‘That was close,’ Eddie gasped, breathing heavily in and out.
Valorie’s face was within inches of Charley’s open-toed sandals. She stood up.
‘Urgh.’ She leaned over, trying to feel normal again. She glanced up at Charley. ‘How’d I do?’
‘Not bad,’ Charley said. He too was struggling to breathe normally. ‘You can’t expect perfection first time, but, Good God, that was dangerous.’
Charley thought for a few minutes. ‘You’ve done well,’ he said after a bit. ‘I think we’ll walk along to that bit where the railing’s been torn out.’
They doubled back to the bridge – Valorie cross over to her side – and then walked along to find the spot Charley was talking about.
‘Try it now.’
‘THREE, TWO, ONE -’
Valorie exploded. Again, she felt like she was rushing forwards far too fast. She tried to brake in midair, and only just caught the edge of the bank. Charley and Eddie pulled her over the edge to safety.
‘Better,’ Charley said. ‘Much better.’
‘I could do with something to eat,’ Eddie said.
‘So could I, if I’m honest,’ Charley said. ‘So, back to my place, is it?’