18th February. Aoife was nine years old, four foot six, weighing just four stone. She was living in an ordinary house with her parents. And that was when the first letter arrived.
"Aoife! There's a letter here for you." Siobhan, her mother, sounded frankly curious. Although her daughter had a penfriend, Alice, they communicated mostly through computers and video conversations, like all young people. Besides, this envelope was odd. It was too white and clean. The sender must have been reasonably rich, but why would they have been writing to Aoife?
"I'm coming!" she replied, running lightly down the stairs, tripping over a pair of shoes on her way. "Who's it from?"
"I don't know; it's addressed to you," replied her mother. "Take it upstairs and open it. I've got friends coming over in a minute." Obediently, the girl ran back to her bedroom, clutching the envelope. She opened it sitting on her bed with her back against the wall.
"Dear Aoife," she read aloud, being at that age when reading inside one's head is much harder. "I daresay you are confused but please do not show this letter to your mother. In future, do not let her even see the envelopes. You must take them from the post each week, before anybody else has seen them."
She paused and sucked her thumb. This was unusual. Tiptoeing across the floor, she shut the steel door so that nobody would hear her reading. "My name is Will. But I don't need to tell you anything else, do I? You know who I am already. Yes. I expect you will say that this is impossible, but it's not, because it's happening."
Aoife dropped the letter. Will. The boy from her dreams. He had started haunting them just two months ago, but now he came almost every night.
He looked about thirteen, so a little bit older than her. His hair was brown and curly, although if one was to pull it straight it would be about four inches long. His eyes were blue and his skin fair. When she had first seen him, Aoife had been surprised that his features were so clear, because that wasn't normal for a dream. Now she was used to it. But this ... this was a step further.
She read on, and, finishing the letter, found that there was an address at the bottom. Carefully she placed her finger on the activating pad of her computer console and waited for it to wake up from the permanent state of hibernation. When the program had loaded, Aoife started to type. About five minutes later she had printed a reply, using the built-in printer.
The paper, of course, was nothing like the letter from Will, because she had only ordinary recycled paper. And the ink was fuzzy, cheap stuff -- the only kind that was available to normal people. But it would do.
Aoife took her rollerskates and headed off for the postbox before her mother saw the letter and asked questions. This had to be done secretly, or she would be in big trouble.