It was when she had been sat down on a tree stump with her head on her knees that Carla began to recover and wonder. The fire had obviously steemed from Jessie's leaving the torch on. She was that kind of person: drilled in plain reality, but forgetful. Or maybe she hadn't even heard Rosie's quiet call.
Carla glanced about her and realised where she was. The trees provided no cover from the fire, though, surely. The fire had been spreading out towards the lawn and the old house, hadn't it?
"I came as quick as I could," said her rescuer, a little hoarsely.
Carla looked up with interest, and there crouching next to her was her own second cousin, Vienna Levander, her sworn enemy. Carla coughed alarmingly.
"No; it's not smoke," she reassured, though she would not say what had really made her cough. It was obvious Vienna had guessed, though she did not press Carla.
"Will the fire spread?" Carla wondered.
"No, there's an old rockery behind your shed," Vienna said. "I found it a week or so ago and cleaned it up a bit..."
Carla smiled. She didn't need to say anything. "Is it likely to spread anywhere?"
"It won't get further than the edge of the old garden. There was a flower patch. I found the bricks of it. The fire won't get past the old flower bed. It's completely brick beneath the soil so there's no fuel for it. It won't even get to the house anyway. It burned the shed and the clearing, and charred the trees up to your edge of the garden, but I fancy that'll be it. It won't even be visible from the site of the old house."
"There was a fire here years ago. That burned the house down."
"Maybe this place is cursed."
Carla shivered for about the fifth time that night. She knew she was afraid of quite a number of things, when it came to the point. Rosetta had been right. You didn't know courage until you knew fear.
"Where are the others?"
"They went to see what they could salvage," Vienna replied. "And now I'm going to take you back to my house and you can spend the rest of the night on the sofa. Or if you're fussed, you can have my bed and I'll sleep on the sofa."
"There's nothing wrong with me," Carla protested. "And I'd rather not sleep on your sofa when I have my own bed a few minutes' cycle away. Anyway, I'm as good as grounded at the moment without all this."
"Then I'll take you to your house. Try to sleep as long as you can. It's Sunday tomorrow."
Vienna found her own and Carla's bikes and together they wheeled the bikes to Carla's house. Vienna had seen that the fire had died down a lot, and Rosetta and Jessica were engaged in pouring sand stolen from David Carter's sandpit last Summer on the few odd sparks.
Carla re-climbed the trellis and waved from her window to her rescuer. It only took her a moment to change into her pyjamas, and after this she climbed into bed. No sooner had she done this when Mrs Carter walked into her room, unannounced.
"Are you alright?" she asked wearily. "I've been having a horrible dream about you and I only just woke up to check on you."
Carla went bright red under her bedclothes.
"I can't sleep," she mumbled.
Mrs Carter tucked the bedclothes in more firmly, closed the window and went back to bed.
Carla was dead tired, but she lay awake hour after hour until her stopwatch made one sleepy beep at about eight minutes past five, when the light was beginning to filter through the curtains.
Carla slept until three in the afternoon when she woke tousled and smelling a little smoky, but otherwise none the worse for her unwelcome midnight adventure.