I liked Steven, he was a fun guy.
"How come you always get Antonia to help you with the presentation and never anyone else?" Mil asked him, but smiled to show she didn't mind.
"Because Toni is experienced, works with me well and, more importantly, has a Code," he informed her.
"You're still in teacher mode," I told him.
"Yeah, tends to happen."
"What's a Code?" Ewan wondered, pulling me onto his lap and wrapping his arms around my waist.
"It's like your own little magic… creator, if you like. Mine is the clicking, Toni's is the eyes-closed-fist thing." Steven explained, and then added for me, "If you practice a lot, you should be able to do it just by blinking. But you have to know the specifics."
"Can you click without doing magic?"
Steven clicked the fingers of his right hand, then his left, then right again. "Kay, I have someone to introduce to you," he grinned.
"You finally got a girlfriend?" Ewan, Mil and I guessed simultaneously. Axel laughed.
"That I did," he nodded. "Hey, Lily, come here!"
The girl who turned, face beaming with delight, was probably one of the sweetest girls you could meet. I'd met her once before, and then she'd apologised because I'd bumped into her. As if she should have been making sure she wouldn't get in the way of a klutz like me.
Today she had her mouse brown hair in two pigtails tied with white ribbon. She wore a skirt a lot like mine, but blue, and a purple blouse with the sleeves rolled to her elbows.
"Hey," she chirped, hugging him. He kissed her cheek and she blushed.
"These are my friends I was telling you about," Steven gestured to us. "Toni and Ewan. Mil and Ax."
I liked how he mentioned us in our pairs instead of individually.
"Hello," she smiled softly. "Maybe we could go to town or something… sometime," Lily shrugged.
"Actually, that's an amazing idea," Mil grinned. "We haven't been out in ages and this dude," she nudged Axel, "Needs – and I mean needs – to get out of his personal dungeon."
"I don't live in a dungeon," he mumbled, that quick smile flashing across his features for a second.
Matilda swung her legs across him. "You could by some colourful clothes, instead of your emo wardrobe."
"Uh, corrections. You could buy me some colourful clothes instead of the emo wardrobe. And secondly," he gestured pointedly to the blue jeans and orange polo shirt he was wearing.
We laughed. And suddenly my breathing was silently cut off.
Damn it, I thought. Used to this, I tapped Ewan. He took one look at me and excused us from the conversation, escorting me outside. I sat down and closed my eyes.
Usually, the visions were just of random, unneeded and unnecessary crap. This one, however, was slightly different.
It was dark, very dark. I was in a completely empty room. I could hear voices, but not what they were saying. Like when someone knows you're not asleep, but is trying to avoid keeping you awake.
My breath came back in a huge gust and my eyes snapped open. I hated uncontrolled visions. Hated them like hell.
"Are you all right?" Ewan looked worried. "You've gone really pale."
"Um," I swallowed while I thought about my answer. "I, uhh, need a minute to clear my head. Tell them I'm fine."
"Are you sure?"
"Seriously, I'll be in in a sec."
"Kay." He pecked my forehead and went back into the classroom.
I ran my hand through my hair and looked up. And I saw a little girl.
She was really small, can't have been any older than five. She wore denim shorts over bright pink tights with hearts on. Her top was yellow with a pink heart in the centre, and had what looked like a chocolate ice-cream stain down it. It was her hair that caught my eye, though. It was a wild, tangled mess of frizzy curls. Un-brushed and sticking out in all directions. It was held out of her face by a bright red headband.
She waved with her left hand because the thumb of her right one was stuck in her mouth.
I waved back awkwardly. She looked at me and it made me feel kind of uncomfortable. Then, finally, I settled for how I treated the nursery children at my old primary school.
"You look ridiculous," I told her.
She grinned around her thumb. "I yoe."
"What's your name, then?" I asked, smiling automatically.
"Maria? That's a nice name. How old are you?"
She held up three fingers. "I'm cyever." She told me.
"Are you? Say something clever then." I'd always been comfortable with little children. It came naturally to me.
"I nyo wock your nyame ith," her cute grin became wider and more childish. "Your nyame ith Anchonyia Pweshyee."
"Say that again," I blinked, and when she started again, I grinned. "No, take your thumb out of your mouth, silly," I reached over and pulled at her wrist.
"I thed: your name is Antonia Presley," she giggled at the shock on my face. "I know all about you."
It was such a childish thing to say, but when said by this girl it freaked me out. For God's sake, she knew my name! That was impossible in itself, never mind a three-year-old turning up in Andelle.
"What do you mean?" the way I asked sounded more like how I would ask someone my age, not a young girl like Maria.
Her grin faded to a small smile and she walked a few steps forwards, stopping directly in front of me. She whispered, "I know all your secrets."
I collected myself enough to seem like this wasn't strange for me. "All of them?" Deliberately making my voice a few pitches higher than usual and making it sound like I didn't believe her, even though I really did.
"All of them," she assured me, and then as if I needed freaking out more, continued, "I know about your boyfriend, I know about your best friend, I know about the rest of your friends. I know about your family, I know about your parents. I know…" and her smile now scared me. It was like when evil children smile on horror films. "I know… you."
I screwed my eyes shut, and when I opened them again a few seconds later, Maria was gone. Getting up and looking quickly down the corridor, I saw her disappear round the corner. In the back of my mind, I knew that she could never have moved that far in so little time. But my mind was on how a strange little girl had ended up in the school.
Steven appeared in the space where Maria had just been.
"You look like you've seen a ghost," he stated, raising an eyebrow. "S'up?"
He chuckled and shook his head. "Come on, I'm not gonna bug you about it. Ewan's worrying about you." He offered me his hand, which I took and he yanked me to my feet.
"Whoa," I staggered, suddenly back in the classroom. He steadied me.
"Hey," Ewan tugged at my arm, smiling. "Are you OK?"
"Fine? Yeah, I know," he laughed. I sat down on the chair next to him. "So… about valentine's day."
Matilda interrupted him. "We're having a triple date." And then she looked a bit sheepish, her face matching everyone else's guilty looks.
I sighed. "Where?" And I already knew the answer.
"Oh, you know… that restaurant… in town…"
"Which restaurant?" I concentrated on staying calm.
They all looked expectantly at Ewan. "Toni… I'm really sorry."
I shook my head, as if by doing so I could eliminate the thought from inside it. "No."
"It wasn't my idea."
"I don't care whose idea it was!" I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth. "We can't go there."
"No. You know how I feel about that place," I sighed. They all looked apologetic and guilty as the bell went. "You know what? Just go without me. I've never liked valentine's day that much anyway."
My next lesson was mind control, my only lesson without any of the others, so I got up and just left them all there, instead of waiting like I normally did. They called after me, but I ignored them, pretending I hadn't heard.
I wasn't even upset. I was just… disappointed, really.
But, I was being stupid. It wasn't like me to be all shirty like this. I would definitely go and apologise after this lesson and just ask nicely if we could please go to a different restaurant.
I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder.
"Oh, Lily, what are you doing here?"
"My next lesson is in the classroom next to yours," she smiled, shrugging. Her accent was close to mine but less… well, less cockney. It was more what Ewan would call 'posh'.
"Oh," I said, stupidly.
"I, uh, just wanted to apologise to you. It was my idea to go to- that restaurant." She admitted unashamedly. "I didn't know how you felt about it. Sorry. And I guess your friends didn't tell me because they didn't want to upset me." Lily looked genuinely sorry, so I forgave her.
"And now you want to know why I don't like the place?" I smiled. She shrugged and told me that I didn't have to. I rolled my eyes. "It's where my dad told my mum he was leaving her. And it's also where the next day she got stabbed and died."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"Doesn't matter." I smiled and shook my head. "So, friends?"
"Friends," she agreed, smiling back. We hugged.