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The tarantula didn’t even survive the afternoon. Grandma took one look and ordered that it should return to the rescue centre.
‘But Grandma,’ said Tilly, ‘Cutie Pie was my favourite pet, EVER!’
I can’t say I was sorry. Dad offered to make it vanish in the disappearing cabinet, but Grandma looked at him over her glasses and told him not to be silly.
Now, Tilly’s on the landing, humming. I haven’t said anything about the shoes, or the giant soft toy hanging over my bed. I haven’t said anything about the chilli powder in my cereal, or the garlic in my sock drawer and I even kept quiet when she volunteered me for Mum and Dad’s magic trick on Saturday night.
I’m currently wondering what to do with my sheets. They’re covered in dried glue. It’s set hard and clear and although I could peel it off, it would take all day. I could tell Grandma about it, but then things’ll get complicated so I’m hoping that if I ignore her, Tilly will just give up. The door to my room crashes open. Tilly stands in the doorway, her brows pinched down across her forehead. ‘So – have you changed your mind?’ she barks.
I wrench the sheets back over the bed. They stick out like boards, but I pretend everything’s normal.
‘No,’ I say. ‘I absolutely won’t.’
‘Ok,’ says Tilly. ‘That’s fine.’ She swings on her heel to leave and then stops, one foot on the landing. ‘To-om,’ she says, her voice turning to sugar. ‘Is it true that at Fieldcraft you have to get up at 3am, and go on a five-mile run?’
I think back. ‘I don’t remember going on a five-mile run.’
Tilly tilts her head. ‘What about clothes? Do you wear horrid yellow boots? And bobble hats, even in the summer?’
I shake my head.
Tilly comes back into the room. She picks up my last Planet Whirl lollipop from the bedside table and tugs at the cellophane wrapping. ‘What about Mr Worthy? Is he nice or does he run in and out of the tents dressed in a Frankenstein mask scaring everyone – and is there really a giant insect that eats soft toys living in the woods?’
I grab the lolly out of her hand, just before she manages to lick it. ‘Tilly – what are you on about?’
‘Nothing. Just something Jacob told Milly. You didn’t bother to tell me about it.’
‘That’s because it’s not true.’
‘Doesn’t matter that it’s not true. You didn’t tell me. You don’t love me enough.’
She pulls a long theatrical sniff and sits down on my floor to play with the Woodland Friends.
I stand blinking at her back. I’m speechless. Utterly speechless.
I stand outside in the model village, breathing deeply and wondering what to do about Tilly. I’m not sure I can stand having her things in my bedroom for much longer. I might have to leave home, move in with Eric.
I think about yesterday. His shoes, all that water. And then I think about where we were when the meteorite fell. By a campfire, with a kettle – full of water.
I stare down the hill towards the crazy golf. A man shoots a ball into the sea, and another backwards into the model village.
But Eric can’t have powers. He hasn’t got the meteorite - Grandma’s got it.
And I race back towards the house.
Grandma’s making raspberry jam. There’s a cloud of sweet steam racing out of the door and the radio’s on full blast in the kitchen.
‘Grandma,’ I say. ‘Have you got Jacob and Eric’s meteorite, safe?’
Grandma wipes her hands on her apron and reaches for the drawer in the kitchen table. ‘Yes dear. Here it is.’
She hands it to me. It’s heavier than mine, but smaller. Glittery, like the rock under the castle.
I run my fingers over the surface. There is nothing to mark this meteorite from the thousands that people have collected across the country, except, that I know that, because we’re in Bywater–by-sea, it’s hiding something.
‘Grandma – do you think it’s possible that someone could have powers without actually having possession of the meteorite?’
Grandma stirs the jam. A wave of bubbles race over the surface. ‘I don’t know – I suppose it must be – I hadn’t thought. As far as I’m aware, Miss Darling, the green-fingered lady, has her green fingers all the time.’ She looks up at me. ‘You’re worried about Jacob aren’t you?’
‘Test it,’ she says. ‘See if you can shrink something. Something that won’t do any harm.’
‘Why don’t you?’ I ask.
‘Me!’ Grandma flaps her apron at me. ‘I’ve not done it for years – but you – I bet you’ve shrunk something recently.’
I look away. The blush races over my face. ‘Can I try with the meteorite first?’ I ask, my voice staying as neutral as possible.
Grandma shrugs and I race back up the stairs to get it. Tilly’s gone from my room and I wrench open my sock drawer. It still smells of garlic, but there’s no meteorite. I pull out all the socks. I search through my pants, my t-shirts, my jeans. It’s gone.
And then I see the note, she’s pinned it to my football. With a nail.
‘I haf taken yur ston. Shrink stuf or els.’
Pushing aside thoughts of murder, I race back down to the kitchen. ‘Grandma – Tilly’s taken it.’
Grandma stops stirring the jam and pulls it off the stove. ‘Are you sure, Tom? That’s a serious accusation.’
I hand Grandma the note. She reads it twice and laughs. ‘That girl! Really, you have to admire her.’
‘Do you?’ I ask.
‘She’s very clever – very clever.’
‘Oh yes - You mark my words, she’s running a brilliant campaign.’ Grandma crangs down the stove lid.
I think of garlic in my sock drawer. I wouldn’t call it brilliant, more, annoying.
‘I gather your mum’s gone back to look at the hamsters this time.’
‘Well a hamster can’t do any harm – can it?’
Grandma rummages in a cupboard for the jam funnel. ‘They bite,’ she says.
I think about the lethal weapon that Tilly could become. ‘She can’t use the meteorite to do anything – can she?’ I ask. ‘After all, Eric tried mine and it didn’t work’
‘Hmm...’ says Grandma, dragging hot jam jars out of the oven. ‘We won’t know until she tries. Anyway, why don’t you try shrinking something,’ she says. ‘Let’s see if you can do it without the stone. I don’t expect you can.’
I put my middle finger and thumb together and look around the kitchen for something that won’t matter. There’s a packet of Dreamy Squidges lying on the table.
They look tiny inside the O of my fingers.
‘Oh my word,’ says Grandma, dropping a ladle. ‘You can do it without the stone. Oh Tom,’ she says flapping one hand and waving the tiny packet of sweets in the other. ‘What do you think those boys wished for?’
‘Well Eric almost certainly will have wished for world peace, or an end to war – but Jacob? Flying? Sweets? Shrinking? World domination?’
‘Oh dear. Well, you know it doesn’t exactly work the way people expect. I wonder what powers they’ll end up with?’ asks Grandma, sinking to a chair. Her face white.
I think about Eric’s feet. ‘I think Eric has the power of water, wetness, soaking things. I don’t really know how to explain it. He’s gone – soggy. From the kettle of water.’
Grandma raises an eyebrow. ‘I think we can all live with that. Eric’s a lovely boy. But what about Jacob? What terrifying power has he got?’
It’s Field Craft at half past five. Mr Worthy’s teaching Jacob to play the guitar when we arrive. The Field Craft hut stands on its own on the beach. It’s painted hundreds of crazy colours because the last Field Craft leader decided not to invest in paint. Instead, we all brought in pots of leftovers from home. I think the peachy pink might have been a mistake.
I’ve walked with Eric. He’s still shedding water; this time it’s dripping off his hair. ‘Eric,’ I say. Taking him through to the changing rooms. ‘I’ve been talking to Grandma, and we’ve discovered something. Something – worrying.’
Eric pulls his sweatshirt over his head, keeping his hat on. ‘You’ve discovered that the powers work without the meteorite.’
‘Yes, how did you know?’
Eric takes off the hat and a single spurt of water arcs high into the air and sprays the pegs, six feet away.
‘Ooops,’ I say. ‘Is it like that all the time?’
Eric nods. ‘Although, actually, this morning, my bed was altogether drier than yesterday – so perhaps when I’m asleep I don’t leak in quite the same way.’
I think about shrinking Jupiter and nearly causing the end of the world. ‘I’m sorry, Eric – yours is much worse than mine.’
Eric shrugs. ‘I’m sure it’ll have its upside.’ He doesn’t sound very sure, and I follow him through to the hall. I want to tell him about Jacob, but we’re corralled by Mr Worthy, who clears his throat at the end of a long rendition of Michael Finnegan.
‘Boys,’ he says, ‘in preparation for the arrival of the girls, next week, I thought we could do some more feminine activities. This evening it’s pipe cleaner flowers or butterflies for mummy for Christmas; bracelet making, and for anyone who’s feeling a little more ambitious – paper mache dragons.’
Mrs Worthy beams out from the kitchen, where she’s laid out a feast of pale orange squash and misshapen brown biscuits. ‘Fun, fun, fun,’ she says.
I glance over to Jacob, whose face is fixed in a smile. He’s gripping Mr Worthy’s guitar, and I could swear that there’s smoke coming out from behind his fingers.
Or is that steam rising from his head?
Either way. There can be no doubt that the plastic chair supporting his enormous bottom, is melting.
All the questions from chapter one are still open to answer as well.
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