TESS – Chapter 3
The next morning Mary awoke as usual, had her breakfast, fed Simba and left for school. She felt lighter somehow, as if she had shrunk in the night. Simba seemed to be looking at her strangely, but she didn’t reply when Mary spoke to her, just miawed in a high voice.
In class Miss Abbott seemed distracted, and Mary noticed that she was red around the eyes. She looked like she had been crying. Mary felt a bit sorry for Miss Abbott for a moment, and vowed not to do any more drawings of her. She couldn’t wait for lunchtime. The fairies hadn’t made an appearance, but she felt they were somewhere near her just the same.
At lunchtime Mary sat with Tess and learnt over their sandwiches and fruit that Tess’s mother had died a year ago of cancer, and Tess’s father had moved to Greenwell two weeks ago to be nearer his job and so that they could “make a fresh start”. She had started to see the fairies a week before Mary and yesterday had been her second party with them. Tess had no brothers or sisters (like Mary) but she did have a dog called Axl and a black and white rabbit called Houdini. Tess had asked her father if Mary could stay overnight sometime, and he had said yes, so Mary decided to ask her parents if it would be OK to stay tomorrow, as it was Saturday and there would be no school on.
Mary also found out that they both loved horses and both wanted to be vets. Tess had lived in the country before, and had owned a horse called Candy as well as a goat called Black Betty. She also discovered that Tess shared her great dislike of Freddie Pilbury. He was a big bully in Sixth Grade who loved to pull the little girls plaits, hide kids glasses and shove new boys’ heads down the toilets. He had freckles and hair that stood on end, and an annoying habit of sniffing all the time in class. They agreed that he deserved a taste of his own medicine if anyone did.
The rest of the day seemed to fly, and Mary found that she was feeling as happy as she had when she first opened the box on her seventh birthday and found a tiny black and white kitten inside. That had been three years ago, and Simba was now as big as Stanley, the little terrier who lived next door.
As soon as she got home she asked her mother if she could stay with Tess.
“Certainly”, said Mrs Wilmott “if it’s all right with your father.” She said she’d met Tess’s father at the shops and felt very sorry for his loss. “Poor little mite,” she said when she mentioned Tess, “without a mother to tuck her in at night and read stories to her. It hardly seems fair.”
Mr Wilmott agreed “I don’t know how he would cope. I know I’d be lost without your mother.” They both smiled at each other and their eyes looked watery.”
“I’ll make a chocolate cake tonight, and you can take it over to them tomorrow,” said Mary’s mum. “I’m sure your little friend doesn’t get much home cooking.”
Mary was so excited she could hardly wait for it to be tomorrow. She scoffed down her spaghetti, followed by jelly and ice cream, changed into her pyjamas and curled up in bed with a book , Simba snuggled in the crook of her arm.
Suddenly she heard a noise, like the tinkling of water over tiny stones. She looked up at her bookcase and there were the fairies. They were sitting on her Harry Potter boxed collection with their legs dangling over the edge, laughing.
“You look as snug as an elf in an envelope” said Thimble.
“Don’t you mean a bug in a rug?” said Mary, laughing.
The fairies laughed again, and little silver sparkles flew from their mouths.
“You humans do have some funny sayings.”
“Miaow, yes, it’s enough to make your whiskers curl.”
Mary sat up suddenly with shock causing Simba to fall on the floor.
“You talk!” said Mary.
“Of course I do silly,” said Simba “I’ve been doing it since I was a kitten. It’s just that you couldn’t understand cat language before.” Simba started licking herself as she often did when she had a fright.
“I’m sorry I made you fall” said Mary apologetically, “it’s just that you gave me such a fright.”
“The feeling’s mutual” said Simba. She gave her fur a final lick and leapt back on the bed. When she had settled back in her favourite position she looked up at the fairies.
“Perhaps you two could announce your arrival at a more civilised hour in future. I’ve had an exhausting day chasing lizards and moths and I’m ready for a long snooze.”
“Of course” said Thistle “please excuse our thoughtlessness. We just wanted to day good night to Mary and tell her we’ll see her tomorrow. Sweet dreams to you both.”
And with a shower of silver sparks they were gone.
Mary had a million questions to ask Simba, but could see that now was not the time. She closed her book, turned out the light, and after making sure Simba was comfortable said goodnight.
“Goodnight Mary” said the cat.