"He can't have gone far," Mal reasoned, standing to meet an anxious Aurora. Diaval watched his friend's face fill with concern and smirked before putting on a serious face and standing too.
"We'll go look for him. You two take the back again, and I'll go out on to the road, just in case."
Mal and Aurora glanced at each other and nodded, turning to head to the back of the house. Diaval smiled after his friend; he loved that she already seemed so comfortable here and wanted her to get to know her neighbours. Maybe they could break her ice queen persona even more and then she wouldn't only have him to turn to.
Mal and Aurora began to search the bushes at the back of the house. Aurora was calling for Phillip, and each time her voice got higher and more upset. Mal cast a concerned look at her when the girl stopped shouting.
"We'll find him." She said awkwardly, wondering if she should pat the girl on the back or something. She wasn't comfortable in emotional situations.
"Where could he have gone? I told him never to go on the road or in other gardens... Stephen is going to kill me." Her blue eyes filled with tears and Mal jolted towards her to give her a hug. "What if he's lost and alone?" Aurora whimpered before Mal could get close enough.
"Let's go in to the house. We'll call your father and tell him; maybe the police?" Mal said, shoving her hands in to her pockets instead of hugging the girl. Aurora nodded and they headed back in to the house. Diaval was no where to be seen. Mal poured a glass of water for Aurora and got her to sit in a chair before grabbing the landline. "Do you know your father's number?"
"He's... he's not my father."
"Sorry... do you know Stephen's number?"
"I," Aurora hiccuped, "yes-"
Mal shushed her. Aurora stared up at her with wide eyes.
"Do you hear that?" Mal asked. Aurora listened but heard nothing.
Mal frowned and put down the phone. She tiptoed across the floor, listening intently. Aurora watched the woman, with her agile and fluid movement, and tried to hear what she had. Then, suddenly, Mal had disappeared and the sound of her racing upstairs brought Aurora to her feet. What was going on?
There was a loud squeal and the sound of feet racing. Then Phillip appeared at the bottom of the stairs and ran straight in to Aurora, nearly knocking her over. Mal followed quickly behind, holding a book in her hand.
"Phillip, oh Phillip you're okay! Thank goodness." Aurora was checking him over and smiling so happily, that she didn't notice the anger in Mal's face start to fade. When she looked up, it was to see a mildly disgruntled face. "Oh thank you Mal, thank you." She hugged the little boy tighter as Mal's face softened again. "What on earth were you doing, wandering in to Miss Mal's house without permission?" She scolded the little boy.
"I was colouring."
Aurora glanced up warily at Mal, who held up the book, letting it spill open to the pages covered in pen marks. She was frowning.
"Oh.... oh Mal I am so sorry." Aurora said, her eyes wide and upset. "Phillip how could you? That wasn't yours to colour in!" She glared at the little boy.
"I was bored!" The boy complained.
"I don't care if you were bored! That was very naughty! Apologise to Miss Mal now!" Aurora said sternly and Mal would have snorted at the girl's furious face if she hadn't also been angry. The book was one of her favourites and was well loved but in great condition.
"I sorry Miss Mal." Phillip said.
"And we'll replace your book out of Phillip's pocket money." Aurora promised. Phillip started crying but she just glared at him. "Don't cry to me young man! You have been told about this before."
"You don't have to. I can find another."
"No, please." Aurora held out her hand for the book, and Mal handed it over. "Jane Eyre?"
"Have you read it?"
"Not yet; I've got it on my list though." Aurora smiled. "I'll replace this, I promise. I'm so sorry."
"Kids will be kids huh?" Diaval said from where he was leaning against the door frame. Both Mal and Aurora jumped.
"How long have you been there?"
"Long enough to know that I need to make friends with Phillip; anyone else that touched that book would have been burned in the fires of hell by now."
Mal scowled at her friend while Aurora giggled pleasantly. Phillip looked scared, but had stopped crying some time ago.
"Hungry Ra!" Phillip said.
"Oh, the barbecue!" Aurora said, grabbing Phillip's hand and scurrying towards the exit. "Thank you Mal, sorry about the book." She still had it clasped in her hand. "Please, come to the barbecue, if you're free... I mean if you want. Both of you. Some of the other neighbours are coming."
"We'd love to!" Diaval said before Mal could refuse. She glared at him again, but seeing Aurora's smile, she relented.
"Maybe." She shrugged.
"Please do!" Aurora said. "I'll see you there." With that she hurried Phillip out of the door and down the driveway. Diaval watched them go before turning to Mal with an evil glint in his eye.
"NO." Mal said.
"But you heard her. She wants you there."
"Diaval, I don't know what game you're playing but-"
"Come on Mal. I want to indulge in a quaint country barbecue. Besides, I bet Rory would be upset if you didn't go." Mal swore at him and stomped upstairs to change; her clothes were covered in bits of garden. "Wear something nice Mal! Got to make a good impression on the neighbours!" Diaval teased before settling in to a chair and chuckling to himself.