Chapter One, Page One
Of course Sophie was going to be late. She was always late, coming down the stairs five minutes before it was time to leave with her hair in a mess and her school bag dangling over her arm, books spilling out every time she tripped on one of the many things that had been left around on the stairs. But she did not like being yelled out, even though she should have been used to it by then.
“Sophie, get down here right now!” That was the morning cry of her parents, and she knew that just setting her alarm fifteen minutes earlier would have solved the whole problem.
“I’m coming!” she called back, as usual. She sounded as bored as only a teenager getting ready for school could. Though fourteen-year-old Sophie Flood didn’t mind having to go to school, mornings weren’t her thing and she would much rather it started a little later. Her mood was not improved by reaching the bottom of the stairs and seeing that her younger sister – an eleven-year-old brain box – was already sitting there, her uniform impeccable and her bag neatly by her feet.
“You’re going to make me late for morning science club,” said Ella, looking very disapproving.
“Well, sorry,” replied Sophie sarcastically. “You shouldn’t be so jolly clever then, should you?” Her mother wouldn’t like the tone of voice, but at least she couldn’t complain about the language: they both knew that a normal older sister would have sworn at that point, but she was far from normal. In fact, young Miss Flood was so very unusual that she seemed to attract strange happenings like a magnet.
Seconds later came another of the mandatory questions. “Sophie, what are you doing after school today?” Her mother came out of the kitchen with her arms full of packed lunches, drink bottles and more shoes than you would imagine was humanly possible.
“I’ve got music practice,” Sophie replied. She wondered why it was that, five weeks into the term, her parents still didn’t know what activities she had signed herself up for. “Until half four. Then I’m going to meet up with the deputy head, who can’t make it any earlier because he’s in a meeting, to discuss the possibility of holding a creative writing club in the library after school. You know he’s into English and all that.”
The shouting was a little unnecessary, or so thought the elder of the two girls, since the Flood family always did make it to school on time. Mrs Flood was able to rush to her staff meeting, Ella could dash off to the science labs with all of the other over-eager eleven-year-olds, and Sophie could wander over to the music rooms, sit down in front of the old piano and tinker vaguely with the old keys. How she wished that she could play the piano! But it was closed to her – her future lay in the triumphant, joyful strings of a fiddle or the high, breath notes of a flute that soared above the trumpets and cellos of the local youth orchestra.
The morning seemed to take forever to pass, but as usual the final lesson flew by. Perhaps it was the recent change to a later lunchtime, so that the afternoon held only one period, but Sophie felt certain that something as different about those final classes.