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       Black Wood, p.3

           Jayde Scott
 
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  “Boo!” Sam jumped from behind the open kitchen door, pinching her side.

  Emily shrieked. “Why do you always have to do that? You know how much I hate it!”

  Sam laughed and shrugged. “It’s fun. You’re home early. Where’s Dad?”

  “He’s at work. I’m home ‘cause school finishes at three, dummy.”

  “Why’re you whispering?” Sam asked, opening a can of soda.

  Emily snatched the can out of his hand. “Cause I don’t want the neighbours to hear us.”

  “Yeah, whatever. I called Mum at work.” Sam walked into the kitchen with Emily following, and opened another can from the fridge, then took a big swig.

  Emily slapped her forehead. “You did what? Please tell me you’re joking.”

  “No, I’m not. I called to tell her I’d be spending the night at a friend’s house just in case, you know,” Sam said. “Now, come on. Got to show you something.”

  “What?” Emily asked, wide-eyed. Could he know? Had he rummaged in her things?

  “I’ve found a way to get me back to London.” Sam grabbed her hand and pulled her up the stairs to her room. “Here, put this on.”

  Emily looked down on a pair of rusty wires connected to an old and dusty TV antenna. “Did you get those from the TV downstairs?”

  “Nope.” Sam winked. “The one in the kitchen. And I put it together myself. Not bad, huh? This is going to help us communicate with the aliens.”

  “Sam, that’s—” Emily hesitated, not sure how to put it “—rubbish.”

  Her brother placed the wires on her head. “I tried to get in touch with them all morning, but they haven’t replied yet. Maybe they want to hear a girl’s voice.”

  Was he serious? Emily scowled. “It wasn’t the aliens.”

  Sam removed the headpiece from her head and heaved a sigh. “Okay, what did you do?”

  “Why would you think I had something to do with it?” Emily said.

  Staring at her, Sam poked a finger in her chest. “Because you keep saying it wasn’t the aliens. There’s no one else left to blame.”

  Emily pursed her lips. Should she tell him straight-away even though he most certainly wouldn’t believe her? Sooner or later she had to anyway. Someone who believed in aliens would surely believe in magic diaries.

  “Okay, I’ll tell you, but you must promise not to tell anyone. If Mum or Dad finds out, I’ll be in a lot of trouble,” Emily whispered.

  “As if I would.” Sam sniggered. “I’m in as much trouble as you are. Actually, I’m in more trouble. You know how they always blame me.”

  Emily nodded. “Cause you always get in trouble.”

  “Come on, tell me what you did,” Sam prompted.

  Emily inhaled deeply before replying. “I didn’t do anything. Well, at least not on purpose. You see, I got this diary from Aurelie.”

  Sam held up a hand. “Wait! Who’s Aurelie?”

  “Our next-door neighbour. She drives me home from school, but she’s strange and has a weird nephew. She said the diary was magic and that every wish I wrote down would come true.”

  Sam laughed. “What a load of rubbish. You don’t actually believe that.”

  “That’s what I thought at first.” Emily raised her eyebrows. “But when I opened it last night, I felt really weird. This voice was talking in my head, telling me what to do. So I wrote down I wished you were here, and see what happened?”

  “And you really think that has something to do with the diary?” He looked disappointed.

  Emily plopped down on a chair. “Do you have any other idea? And please don’t say aliens again.”

  “They’re still my best bet but you could have a point too. Maybe it was the diary, and maybe not. Let’s try and find out. Show it to me.”

  “Okay.” Emily walked to the bed to pull out the book from under the pillow. She lifted the sheets and gasped. The diary wasn’t there. “It’s not here. Where is it?”

  Sam walked up behind her. “Are you talking about that ugly, old book?”

  Emily glared at him. “What did you do with it?”

  “Nothing. No reason to yell at me. I put it in here. See?” Sam opened a drawer and retrieved the black box. “How was I supposed to nap with that thing under my head?”

  “How many times did I tell you not to rummage through my things? You always take something and don’t return it.” Emily snatched the box out of his hands and pulled out the diary. “Did you read it?”

  “There’s nothing in there.”

  “So, you did,” Emily said.

  “You didn’t write anything.” Sam grabbed the diary and opened it. “It’s blank.”

  “Let me see.” Emily rose on her toes to peek over her brother’s shoulder. “That’s not possible. I told you I wrote in it last night. I swear I wrote about three pages.”

  “I believe you.” Sam’s finger traced the edge of the book. “Maybe it disappears once the wish is fulfilled. Come on, grab a pen and start writing.”

  “I don’t know what.” Emily suddenly felt shy.

  “Why don’t you just write down you wish me back home?”

  She snatched the diary from him. “Good idea. Worth a shot.”

  Dear Diary,

  I wish Sam to return to our house in London.

  Yours,

  Emily

  With Sam towering over her, she finished writing the last word and looked up. Sam hovered in the same spot, his eyes wide with anticipation.

  “You’re still here?”

  Sam peered around him. “I am. Maybe it happens while we’re sleeping. Let’s take an afternoon nap.” Sam climbed into the bed and pulled the covers around him. Emily snuggled next to him. It wasn’t long before they fell asleep, the excitement of the day draining their last energy resources.

  A thunderous bang on the door jolted her awake.

  Chapter 5

  “No closed doors, Emily.” Her father banged on the wood. “It’s dinner time.”

  Throwing the covers off, Emily jumped, ready to bolt for the door. “No, Dad! Wait!”

  But it was too late. The latch clicked and the door swung open. Her father took a step forward, then waited, his hand still clutching the doorknob as he cocked his head, hesitating. His eyes scanned the room before they fixed on her. “Were you asleep?”

  Emily moved slowly toward the door. “Uh, no, Dad, I wasn’t.” Her legs where shaking, her hands felt clammy and cold as she rubbed her upper arms. She needed to get him out of the room before Sam woke up.

  Her father continued to look at her. “I just went to see Aurelie. She told me apparently I agreed to let you stay on your own after school. Is that true?”

  “I'm sorry, Dad. I couldn’t focus on my homework with Clifford bugging me all the time and Aurelie trying to get me to drink her tea that tastes like dog poop. Mum would have understood,” Emily said, hoping he wouldn’t make a big fuss. She knew her father felt bad every time she mentioned her mother would act differently. Sam taught her that trick.

  Like on cue, the expression on his face softened. “Of course, I don’t mind. You're old enough. But next time let me know beforehand. I don’t like you being on your own in this huge house, or lying to Aurelie, for that matter.”

  Emily nodded as she rubbed her sweaty palms against her jeans. “Sure, Dad. I’ll remember. See you later.”

  He was almost out the door, just one tiny step, when he spun around, and Emily’s heart almost dropped in her chest. Her father stomped toward the bed. She whimpered. Now he’d see Sam and they’d both be in serious trouble.

  “How many times do I have to tell you no food or drinks in your room?” He furrowed his eyebrows as he picked up the glasses from the bedside table.

  Emily dared a quick glance toward the raised bedcover. “Sorry. I won’t do it again.”

  “What did you need two glasses for? We already have a stack in the sink.” Her father shook his head. “Never mind. Let’s have dinner. I bet you’re starved
.”

  Emily breathed out, relieved, as they retreated down the hall. She’d check on Sam later, as soon as her father locked himself in his study. And she had no doubt her father would return to his work as usual.

  As soon as dinner finished, Emily went back to her room and closed the door behind her. The bed sheets were still in disarray. She pulled them aside. Sam wasn’t there. She scanned the room. Where had he gone? She shook her head. Probably searching for new ways to be a nuisance.

  “Sam? Dad’s gone. You can come out now.” She stopped to listen but no answer.

  She looked in the bathroom and underneath her bed. She opened the wardrobe door but saw only neatly arranged clothes. Sitting down on the bed, she sighed. Sam was nowhere in sight. Did the diary really work?

  One last attempt, and then she’d believe it. “Sam! Are you still here?” She kept her voice down. When she received no answer, she knew he was gone.

  For a while she just sat on the edge of her bed, thinking, pangs of worry washing over her. Hopefully, he arrived safely.

  “Dad, do you mind if I call Mum?” Emily shouted down the hall so her father would hear from his study.

  “Go on,” he yelled back.

  The phone rang once, twice. Pick up, pick up. Emily’s heart pumped in her chest. Maybe no one was home. Finally, she heard her mother’s voice on the other end of the line.

  “Hi, Mummy.”

  “Emily, darling, I was about to call Dad and you. How are you? How’s school?”

  Emily sighed. Those were the same things her mother said whenever she called. “We’re fine, Mum. Is Sam there? Can I talk to him?”

  “He just arrived about half an hour ago. He was supposed to spend the night at his friend’s house, but his mother cancelled. Wait, let me get him for you.” Emily heard shuffling and then her mother call, “Sam! Phone. It’s your sister!”

  He was there! Relief flooded over her. Sam got home okay, and she wished she were there with him. More than ever before she missed her friends and her old room. Sniffing, she held the receiver away from her ear until she heard her brother’s voice.

  “It worked!” Sam whispered. His voice went up a notch.

  “I can’t believe it,” Emily said. “Now you can visit all the time.”

  “Oh, Em! I have a list of things you just have to get me. A new Playstation. Maybe a scooter. And a bike. You’re my favourite sister in the whole wide world!”

  Emily pouted. “I’m your only sister, dummy. ’Till now you always said I was a pain.”

  “That’s not true. Just one wish. Please! Besides, you owe me for not telling Mum and Dad.”

  “Maybe. I’ll think about it. Have to go.” After finishing the conversation with Sam, Emily hung up and walked to the kitchen. Of course she’d get him something after letting him beg a little.

  Her father stirred in a pot. Whatever was in there, smelled a bit burned. “How’re Mum and Sam?” Beads of sweat gathered above his brows.

  Emily peeked inside the pot and pulled a face at the huge brown chunks swimming in a red gooey sauce. Not baked beans and sausage again. Why couldn’t he just cook something else for a change? “They’re fine, Dad. I hoped you’d want to talk to Mum.”

  Her father looked away. “Don’t think your mum would have wanted to talk to me.”

  “You didn’t even try.”

  “Guess what? I just had an amazing idea. Maybe Mum and Sam could come over for Christmas instead of us going back to London. What do you say?”

  Emily’s jaw dropped. That’s exactly what she had been hoping for. What a great diary. “Marvellous idea.” Emily smiled. “I wish they could come sooner, though.”

  Her father filled two plates with baked beans and placed them on the table. “Me too, but I don’t think your mum would agree. You know how busy she is in her new job.”

  Emily slumped in her chair and took a mouthful of baked beans. How could she forget that? Since losing weight and getting that job her mother seemed like a different person. All bubbly and smiling and always busy.

  ***

  Later that night, Emily overheard her father talking on the phone. She hid behind the stairs, holding in her breath.

  “You have to do what?” Her father paused, his back turned to her. “How could I possibly organize it before Monday, Maryanne? It’s Friday and the school’s closed for the weekend. Can’t you give me more time?” He hesitated, his fingers drumming on a coffee table. “No, no, I understand perfectly. I guess you have no other choice. Yes, I’ll see what I can do. One p.m. Goodbye.”

  Now what? Emily turned the corner and patted her father's arm. “Is everything all right, Dad?”

  “All’s fine. Don’t worry.” With the corners of his mouth raised, he looked as though he tried to smile, but Emily knew better.

  “Was that Mum on the phone?” Emily persisted.

  “Yep.” He turned on his heels and walked away.

  Emily hurried after him. “Well, what did she say?”

  He stopped and breathed in deeply before he turned to look at her. “She needs to go on a business trip to Switzerland and can’t find anyone to take care of Sam, so he’ll have to stay with us until she’s back.”

  “That’s awesome.” Her brother would be here soon. She couldn’t wait. “When’s he coming?”

  Her father shook his head. “You miss your brother, and so do I, but he can’t skip school for such a long time. That was the whole point of him staying behind with your mum. I doubt I’ll be able to organise a school transfer on a Friday afternoon.”

  Emily frowned. “How long will Mum be gone for?”

  Her father sighed. “A few days. Maybe even weeks. She said she doesn’t know. Her boss may offer her something long-term.”

  “You mean, like living in Switzerland?” Her mother wouldn’t move that far away, would she?

  “We don’t know yet.” Her father picked up a newspaper from the coffee table and tucked it under his arm, mumbling under his breath, “I just wish someone could’ve told me a little earlier.”

  "Me too." Emily turned to return to her room when an idea hit her. She knew exactly how she could help. “Hey, don’t worry. You’ll find a way," she called after him. “You’ll be just fine.”

  Chapter 6

  The headmistress Mrs Samuels called an hour later to discuss the field trip on Monday since Emily's father never returned the permission slip. Emily covered the mouthpiece on the telephone in the hall as she listened to her father taking the call from his study.

  Mrs Samuel seemed quite excited at the prospect of another student for her school. “Don’t you worry. I know how hard it is for a single parent to take care of two teens. Why don’t you come to my office on Monday first thing in the morning and we’ll have his records transferred?”

  Emily smiled, pleased to find out the diary had sorted out her father’s problems sooner than expected. She didn’t even mind her father didn’t tell the old lady he wasn’t a single parent.

  “I’ll do that. Thank you ever so much, Mrs Samuels,” she heard her father say on the other end of the line. After he hung up, she dialled their London number to tell Sam the good news but the line was busy.

  ***

  “Well done, sis!” Sam said the following day. “Don’t know what you wrote into that diary but I’m glad to be here without having to hide and eat your soggy cornflakes. Mum’s so not like Dad. She makes me wash up all the time.”

  The room looked like a tornado had just struck. Emily watched him squeeze his things into drawers. What he dropped onto the floor, he kicked into the cupboard, his face scrunched up in concentration as though unpacking challenged his brain.

  “It’d still be nice to have Mum around,” she said.

  “I don’t know, Em. I really didn’t like them fighting all the time. Remember last summer before Mum left?”

  Yeah, she doubted she'd ever forget the shouting and slamming of doors, and calling names when her parents thought no one was listening.
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  Sam stuffed his empty suitcase under the bed when the doorbell rang downstairs. Seconds later heavy footsteps stopped in front of Sam’s room.

  “Come in, Dad!” Sam said before anyone knocked.

  Her father pushed the door open and walked in. “Look who’s here to see you.” He paced to the side to reveal Clifford hiding behind him. When Emily’s eyes focused on the boy, he turned a bright shade of red and looked away.

  “Clifford, this is my son, Sam. He’s just arrived from London. I’m sure you’ll get on just fine.”

  Clifford nodded.

  “Well, then,” her father said. “I’ll be in my study if you need me.” He turned on his heel and left.

  “Who’re you?” Sam asked, his tone harsh. Emily elbowed him in the ribs but he paid her no heed. Clearly, with the diary in mind, he wasn’t keen on visitors.

  “This is Clifford, Aurelie’s nephew,” Emily said before Clifford could answer. “She’s the one I told you gave me the diary.”

  Sam’s face lit up with laughter. “That’s stupid. I’d never give it away.” His expression changed as he realised what he just said. “What’re you doing here? You don’t want it back, do you?”

  Clifford shook his head and pushed a red lock out of his eyes. “No! Aunt Aurelie would never let me. I thought maybe…we could…hang out.”

  Sam chuckled. “Yeah, right. I’ve got loads of friends. I don’t need any more. Besides, we won’t be staying here for long because soon Mum and Dad will hook up again, won’t they? And then we’ll be on our way back to London.”

  Clifford sat down on the floor and scanned the room, his hooded eyes settling on Emily. “You’ll want us to be friends when you hear what I have to tell you.”

  “And what would that be?” Sam asked. “You have another diary for us? I could use one of my own.”

 
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