Authors: Lyn Gardner
“Is somebody looking after her?” he asked lamely.
“I was just about to go and see,” said Aeysha.
“I'm coming too,” said Georgia.
“Should I wait in case she comes back?”
“I don't think she'll be back,” said Aeysha. “Not today, anyway.”
“OK,” said Jon with some relief. “Auditions over, kids.”
“It was awful,” said Georgia. “But Aeysha was amazing to stand up to Kylie like that. She was awesome.” She blushed. “She made the rest of us look like total cowards. Kylie looked as if she wanted to kill Aeysha but when she realised that she wasn't getting any support from her gang she just stomped out and none of them went after her.”
“I wish I'd been there to see it,” said Olivia.
“Where were you?” asked Georgia.
“Tom got stuck in the horse's head. I had to get Pablo to help me get him out. By the time we did he'd worked himself up into quite a state. He said he was going to die from heatstroke if he stayed in there a minute longer.”
“Where did you get that amazing panto
horse costume?” asked Aeysha curiously. “It looks like a real antique.”
“At an old music hall called Campion's Palace of Varieties. Tom and I found it in Hangman's Alley. We'll take you, if you like.”
Georgia wrinkled her nose. “I don't like it around Hangman's Alley. It's too spooky. I always think I might come face to face with a ghost. In fact, I thought I saw one once, an old woman in an old-fashioned evening dress hobbling down the alley. I didn't stick around to find out where she went.”
“Well, you don't have to come,” said Olivia, smiling to herself. “Finish telling me about Katie. Is she OK?”
Aeysha and Georgia frowned. “We've looked everywhere, but we can't find her. We tried ringing her mobile too. She must be here somewhere because some of her stuff's still in the girls' cloakroom,” said Georgia. “She was so upset when Kylie started singing. I thought she was going to dissolve into a puddle right there on the stage and disappear.”
“I bet she wanted to,” said Olivia. “But Georgia's right, Aeysha, you were brave to tackle Kylie. Do you think we should tell Gran
what happened? I think she'd want to know.”
Aeysha looked uncomfortable. “It would be too much like snitching.”
“Maybe we should just wait and see if it all settles down?” said Georgia. “Now the others have seen Aeysha standing up to Kylie and humiliating her, with any luck they'll be less trouble. Without Kylie as a ringleader I reckon they'll give Katie-baiting a rest.”
“I hope you're right,” said Olivia. “I'm not sure Tom's so right about Katie being a survivor. I think with enough pressure she could break. Let's try and find her.”
Katie sat hunched in the little cupboard in the girls' cloakroom. She rubbed the tears off her cheeks fiercely with the back of her hand and listened hard. Everyone else had long gone home and even Olivia and the others appeared to have given up looking for her. It was ages since she had heard them calling her name and the last thing she remembered was Georgia saying, “Well, maybe she did just go home without her things,” and Olivia replying uncertainly, “Without her coat? Tell you what, I'll text her.”
Katie looked at her tacky pay-as-you-go
mobile that she had on silent. She hadn't had a call or a text for a while. She decided that it must be safe to come out now. She would get her coat and bag and scoot off home and never come back. What was the point? Everybody hated her at the Swan. Nobody had stood up for her in the theatre. Not Georgia and Aeysha, not even Olivia and Tom, who must have been back in the auditorium by then. They had all stayed silent while Kylie Morris had sung that horrible, horrible song about her. They had just let her do it. She was sure they were only looking for her now because they felt guilty.
It just proved to Katie that she would never be accepted as a Swan. It had been a mistake to come back. She should have just gone to the local comp and given up on her dream of performing. Whatever hopes she had had of making a go of things at the school and of being accepted had been crushed by the last few weeks. She should let her dreams wither and perish, quit the dancing and acting and singing and just hunker down to harsh, grey reality. What was the point of trying to keep your dreams alive when other people just stamped all over them?
Katie felt overwhelmed by self-pity. Who
was she to think that she could make a comeback at the Swan? Tomorrow she'd do what her mum did, and just stay in bed. She doubted anyone at the Swan would really miss her. They might not even notice.
She scrambled out from the cupboard and collected her things. Peeping out of the door of the girls' cloakroom to check that the coast was clear, she scurried along the corridor as quiet as a mouse. Alicia's door was open and she could hear her talking to Mrs Gibbs. She paused. Before her panto audition she had vowed to confess to Miss Swan about putting her name on the Zelda audition list. But there was no point now. She wasn't ever coming back to the Swan.
She heard Alicia say, “So these are the Swan pupils that the
production company wants to see?”
“Yes, I just got the email from Poppet. She wants you to ring her to confirm that they are all still available. Their first auditions will be the day after tomorrow.”
Katie couldn't stop listening. Alicia was clearly scanning the list and thinking out loud.
“Aeysha, Georgia, Poppy, Anouska, Betty and Chloe, that's good. A pity about Nicola, she
deserves her chance. I wonder if I can get them to reconsider. Can't say I'm heartbroken they don't want to see Kylie Morris; she's being such a little minx at the moment. Jon said he thought something went down at the panto auditions this afternoon but he didn't seem to know the details.”
Katie was frozen outside the door, but her heart leapt to hear that Kylie wouldn't be getting a shot at Zelda. She knew it was mean, but after what had happened this afternoon she couldn't help but feel satisfied by the news. Kylie would be furious.
Alicia was saying some other names out loud. “Kate Carmichael? Who's she? Oh, there's a note here. They can't find her in Spotlight but they'll see her anyway. I'll tell Poppet when I ring her that she's not one of ours. She must be from some other school and Poppet has put her on our list by mistake.”
Katie's brain was whirling. The
people wanted to see her! Well, it had come too late! She crept past the open door. Fortunately Alicia and Mrs Gibbs were so engrossed in their conversation, they didn't notice her. She heard Alicia ask for Poppet's mobile number and Mrs
Gibbs reel it off for Alicia to scribble down. It was easy to remember, thought Katie; only a couple of digits different from her own number. She crept miserably out through the doors of the Swan and walked slowly down the steps. At the bottom she turned and looked back at the school. Tears ran down her face and she felt as if her heart were breaking.
“Goodbye,” she whispered. “Goodbye forever.”
Georgia and Aeysha sat with the other Swan girls. They had already had their Zelda auditions and were waiting for the rest to finish so they could all set off back to the school together. It had been a very long morning. They saw Chloe leave the audition room and come over to join them. She pulled a face.
“They call that an audition? I didn't even get a chance to read.”
“Me neither,” said Betty. “I can't have been in there more than two minutes. They just looked me up and down and asked me a few questions.”
“Stupid questions, if you ask me,” said Chloe. “They wanted to know, if I was an animal, what animal would I be? I was tempted to say
a very grumpy camel after sitting around here half the morning.”
“They asked me what kind of flower I'd be,” said Aeysha.
“They asked me that too,” said Georgia eagerly. “What did you say?”
“I said I'd be a rambling rose because they're beautiful to look at and smell sweet but have wicked thorns if you get too close.”
Georgia's face dropped. “Oh, Aeysha, that's so clever. I just said a daisy. I bet it was wrong.”
“I don't think there's a wrong or a right answer, Georgie. I think they're just trying to get us to talk so they could get a feel for what we're like.”
“I don't know why they didn't just let us read from the screenplay,” said Anouska.
Aeysha waved an arm. “With all these girls to be seen? They'd be here for weeks if they let us all read for the part today. I guess they want to whittle us down first.”
“I heard somebody say that they saw people all day yesterday and the day before too, and there's another lot this afternoon,” said Nicola. “We don't stand a chance. It's like
an open audition. We might just as well be auditioning for one of those TV reality shows.”
“You know what will happen,” said Betty gloomily. “The usual thing. They'll see hundreds of stage-school girls. Then they'll announce that they can't find anyone suitable and they want somebody completely fresh and untrained and launch a nationwide search in a blaze of publicity. We're wasting our time.”
“Well, somebody's got to be lucky,” said Georgia stubbornly. She hugged herself. Maybe this time it would be her. She just wished she hadn't said daisy. She really wished she'd said what Aeysha had said. She felt so envious of her friend.
“Liv! Slow down,” said Tom. “We don't have to run all the way to Campion's.”
Olivia swung round. Tom noticed how pale she was; her skin had a ghostly sheen. There were dark circles under her eyes as if she hadn't been sleeping well.
“I just want to get there. We don't have much time. We have to be back again for afternoon lessons and I promised Gran that we wouldn't be late. Come on. I want to check that
Ella and Arthur are all right.”
Tom sighed. They had checked that Ella and Arthur were all right yesterday and the day before that. They were really grateful to the old people for lending them the fantastic panto horse costume though. When Alicia had seen it, her mouth dropped open with delight and surprise.
“You do realise you've been entrusted with something very precious and you must take real care of it?” she had told Olivia and Tom. They'd nodded, although Tom noted that Olivia hadn't explained the full extent of the treasure house that was Campion's. Alicia had given them money to buy a huge bouquet of flowers for Ella, and had sent them to deliver it with a handwritten invitation to the Swan panto. She had encouraged Olivia and Tom to keep visiting, telling them it was the least they could do. “I'm sure they don't get many visitors. Lots of old people get very lonely.”
But Tom felt that Olivia was overdoing the visiting. She seemed to be obsessed by Campion's. She wanted to spend every spare minute there, walking the high-wire and talking to Ella and Arthur about the theatre and its
history. When she was there, something about her changed. She was dreamier and more distant, as if she was hearing somebody far away talking to her in her head. Tom found it spooky. It was as if she was possessed. If it was up to him, he'd keep away from Campion's, but he felt he had to keep going with Olivia so he could keep an eye on her. He was concerned for his friend.
“Are you sure you're all right, Liv? You look completely exhausted.”
“I'm fine, Tom. I'm just not sleeping so good.” Olivia paused, and then she added, “I have this terrible nightmare almost every night. It's always the same. You know Henley Street, by the bridge?”
“Well, I'm walking there alone and I can hear a clock striking midnight, and when it gets to the last chime, there's a huge explosion like a bomb going off and then the bridge begins to fall down on top of me and I feel I'm going to suffocate, and that's when I always wake up.”
Tom grimaced. “It sounds horrid.”
“It is,” said Olivia. “What do you think it means?” She sounded really anxious.
“It doesn't mean anything,” said Tom. “It's just a dream.” He grinned. “But to be on the safe side maybe you should avoid walking by the Henley Street bridge.”
Ella had shown them the back entrance to Campion's and it was this that they always used. It led straight into the dimly lit auditorium with its shadowy nooks and crannies. Olivia was struck each time by the theatre's shabby, faded beauty. She glanced into one of the mottled mirrors and gasped. Instead of seeing herself and Tom reflected back, she thought she saw an image of two children dressed in the clothes from more than half a century before. She pointed speechlessly at the mirror.
Tom was puzzled. “What? It's only us, Liv. Anyone would think you'd just seen a ghost.” He peered at her suspiciously. “You didn't think you
seen a ghost, did you?”
Olivia shook her head a little too quickly. “Just a trick of the light,” she said casually, but Tom caught the quaver in her voice.
Arthur was alone in the theatre, sweeping the stage. He looked pleased to see the two children.
“Where's Ella?” asked Olivia.
“She's having a little nap,” said Arthur. “She doesn't sleep well.”
“Just like you, Liv,” said Tom jokily.
“Oh, Ella has such terrible dreams,” said Arthur sadly. “She dreams of clocks striking midnight, explosions and bridges fallingâ¦” He would have gone on but Olivia had made a choking sound and Tom's eyes had darkened and a look of horror had crossed his face.
Then they heard a noise behind them. It was Ella. She walked towards them as if she was sleepwalking and stretched out her arms as if to embrace them.
“Lizzie, Davey. You've come back. You've come back to forgive me. At last.” Her tears began to fall, and then she drew back and her mood changed suddenly, just as it had the first time Olivia and Tom met her.
“You're not Lizzie and Davey! You're spies.
sent you, hasn't he? Well,” she drew herself up to her full height, “tell Prince from me that I know all about his tricks and schemes, and he'll never get his hands on Campion's. Never! Campion's will stay the way it has always been â forever!”