Authors: Jessie Williams
First published in 2013 by Curious Fox,
an imprint of Capstone Global Library Limited,
7 Pilgrim Street, London, EC4V 6LB
Registered company number: 6695582
Text © Hothouse Fiction Ltd 2013
Series created by Hothouse Fiction
The author’s moral rights are hereby asserted.
Cover Illustration by Ksenia Topaz
Illustrations by [email protected]
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
ISBN 978 1 78202 031 8
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
A CIP catalogue for this book is available from the British Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means (including photocopying or storing it in any medium by electronic means and whether or not transiently or incidentally to some other use of this publication) without the written permission of the copyright owner.
ebook created by Hothouse Fiction Ltd
Sammi stared hard at Miss Crawley, following her lips as she talked. She was telling the class about the Victorian times in England. It had been easy enough to understand what she was saying, at first. She’d written notes about
on the whiteboard behind her. Sammi quickly worked out that this was an important part of British history, very different from anything that had ever happened in Afghanistan. It was really interesting. There had been a queen, not a king, for the whole time!
But as the lesson continued, he began to struggle. There were so many words he didn’t know. One word sounded like ‘shimni’. Or maybe it was ‘chimni’? It seemed to be something the Victorians had lots of. Something in their big old houses that had to be cleaned by children. Sammi wracked his brains, trying to work out if he’d ever heard the word before. He didn’t think he had. In fact, he
He looked around at his classmates, wondering if they could offer him some clues. But they were all listening to Miss Crawley, concentrating on what she was saying.
‘Sammi.’ He heard his name, and jumped.
‘Yes, Miss Crawley.’ He looked down at his desk, avoiding her gaze.
Please don’t ask me a question
, he begged silently.
‘I can see you’ve been listening carefully. Perhaps you’d like to go first.’
Go first at what? Sammi felt his face growing hot. He stared at Miss Crawley, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. He had no idea what she was talking about.
The class waited. Sammi thought he heard someone giggle behind him.
They’re laughing at me
, he thought.
Just because I can’t speak English properly yet.
He shrugged and glared at Miss Crawley, hoping she’d choose someone else.
‘We’re describing the life of a
, Sammi,’ Miss Crawley encouraged him. ‘Try to find just one word. Anything at all.’
Sammi stared at the edges of his exercise book, where they were getting a bit curled up and grubby. ‘I not know what is
, miss,’ he muttered eventually.
‘Ah, of course you don’t! I should have realized,’ said Miss Crawley. ‘Let’s help him, shall we, class?’
Sammi felt as though he would die of shame. He was already in a baby class with kids younger than him, now they were all making fun of him – even Miss Crawley! How he wished he was back in Afghanistan. There might be more dangers there, but at least it was where he belonged. Now he was nothing but a refugee in a country he knew nothing about, trying to understand lessons in a language he didn’t speak. He’d only just learned the alphabet!
‘Georgia, perhaps you could stand up and spell it out,’ said Miss Crawley.
Georgia was sitting two desks away. She jumped to her feet. ‘That’s easy,’ she said. ‘C – H – I – M – N – E – Y.’
‘Thank you, Georgia,’ said Miss Crawley. ‘Now, who’s going to explain to Sammi what a chimney is for?’
This was getting worse and worse. Blindly, Sammi got to his feet.
‘Sammi! Where are you going?’ asked Miss Crawley. ‘Please sit down!’
But he wasn’t going to sit down. He wanted to get out of here. He didn’t want to hear any more about Victorians or their houses or their silly
, whatever they were. He wanted to leave it all behind and go somewhere, anywhere away from here. He left his desk and began to rush to the door.
Sammi blundered onwards. He brushed past the last desk, knocking all its books to the floor.
‘Hey!’ cried the boy at the desk.
Sammi paused for an instant. He hadn’t meant to knock the books. He just wanted to get away. He glanced back at the boy. He had freckles and sandy hair, and right now he was looking very cross. Sammi hunted for the right thing to say to him – what did you say when you wanted to apologize? All the words he’d learned in English swirled around like a swarm of bees in his head. One of them pushed itself to the front of his mind and he blurted it out.
‘S... s... stupid!’ he muttered.
He knew from the boy’s shocked face that he’d got it wrong. Completely wrong. Instead of apologizing he’d insulted him! But it was too late now. He wrenched open the classroom door and fled through it, then banged it shut, hard, behind him.
The minute Asha bounced through the City Farm gates, she sensed that something was wrong. It was only early in the morning, but there was already a row of gleaming cars in the car park, and one of them had
written on it in bright yellow letters. That could mean only one thing: trouble!
She began to head across the cobbles to the barn, but then she heard voices coming from the garden. She changed direction and tiptoed down towards them. She snuck into the pretty garden with its rows of lush vegetables and tumbling flower beds. There, standing right in the middle of a patch of seedlings, were three stange men and someone she recognized: Derrick Jarvis from the council.
What was he doing here?
Asha thought anxiously.
‘Of course, some of these trees would have to be chopped down,’ she heard Derrick say.
Trees? Chopped down?
Asha couldn’t believe her ears.
She heard the farm gates open again and rushed back to the car park to see who was arriving. Another car was driving in, this time old and battered with colourful stickers in the windows. Asha felt a flood of relief – it was Kerry Barker, the co-ordinator of the Harvest Hope project. She ran over as Kerry’s car door opened.
‘Kerry! Derrick Jarvis is here! I can hear him – he’s in the garden with a group of men, talking about chopping down trees! Did you know they were coming?’
Kerry got out of the car. She shook her head, her black braids swinging to and fro, her dark eyes flashing with anger. ‘No. He should have made an appointment with me. Well, come on, Asha. We’ll soon see what he’s talking about.’
Asha followed as Kerry hurried over towards the garden. ‘Good morning!’ Kerry called in a clear, loud voice.
Two of the men turned round, but Derrick Jarvis ignored her, waving towards the fence with one arm and clutching a sheaf of papers with the other.
Kerry marched on towards them. ‘Excuse me, Derrick, I don’t believe you made an appointment to come to the farm this morning,’ she said. ‘Could you please explain what you’re doing here? And would you mind not trampling all over our lettuces?’
The other men looked down at their feet, and began to step back onto the pathway, muttering apologies. But Derrick Jarvis didn’t look the least bit sorry.
‘Ah, Kerry. These are the contractors from Deluxe Homes. I wouldn’t worry about your lettuces if I were you – they’re going to be replaced by something a lot more valuable before long.’
Asha felt her heart begin to thud painfully in her chest. What did Deluxe Homes have to do with their lovely old farm?
‘I beg your pardon?’ said Kerry.
‘You heard what I said, Kerry. We’re cutting your funding. We can’t go on supporting a tin-pot project like this. It’s sitting on prime building land.’
‘A tin-pot—!’ Kerry’s voice rose in outrage.
‘That’s right,’ Derrick carried on. ‘There could be quality homes on this site, not just a few sorry lettuces. I know you don’t like to hear it, but that’s the truth.’ He turned to the contractors. ‘I expect you’ve seen all you need to see for now?’
The men nodded their agreement, and Derrick led them back to their cars, talking loudly all the way. Asha stood next to Kerry, watching them go. She couldn’t be quite sure, but she thought that Kerry might be shaking.
Asha tried to find something cheerful to say as she and Kerry made their way to the barn, with its higgledy-piggledy roof and ancient wooden beams. Asha’s mind was buzzing with questions, but she waited until Kerry had made herself a strong cup of tea and had flopped down onto the comfy sofa.
‘What did Derrick mean, about cutting the funding?’ she burst out. ‘We’re always fundraising and selling goat’s cheese and jam, and the caf
sells so many cakes and sandwiches and everything. He can’t take that money away from City Farm, can he?’
Kerry sighed. ‘Not directly. But City Farm is on council land, you see. So we have to pay rent to stay here. He’s right that this is prime building land, and that makes it very expensive.’
‘How? What does that mean?’
‘Well, as you know, we’re right in the middle of the city. People like to live in the centre so that they’re close to all the things it offers – their work, shops and restaurants and cinemas and all those things. That makes the land very valuable and the rent very high. Without the funding that the council gives us, we wouldn’t be able to pay it.’
Asha frowned, thinking it over. ‘You mean they give money to us in one way, and then take it away in another?’
‘Exactly,’ said Kerry.
‘And if we can’t pay the rent...’
‘Someone else will. Those contractors will, and they want to knock everything down and build posh houses instead. Derrick knows exactly what he’s doing,’ said Kerry. ‘If he cuts our funding, City Farm would have to close. And so would the Harvest Hope project.’
Asha gasped. She couldn’t quite believe what she was hearing. ‘But... he can’t do that to us!’
‘He can,’ said Kerry, her voice full of sadness and anger. ‘That’s precisely the problem, Asha. He can.’
* * *
Still feeling shocked, Asha headed outside. City Farm, closing! It was completely awful. She looked over towards the goat pen, with its pretty white fencing, and down towards the pond, surrounded by lilies and reeds... City Farm had become her second home, and she loved it with her whole heart. Whatever would she do without it? When she’d first left hospital after a long fight with leukaemia, she’d been so weak and thin. But thanks to the Harvest Hope project here on the farm, she’d slowly built up her strength. Whenever she’d felt really bad, there had always been something lovely to take her mind off it – a new batch of tiny chicks hatching out, or the rabbits chasing each other around their run, or Stanley the pony greeting her with a friendly whinny...
She wandered round to the paddocks, her heart heavy. Curly and Lizzie, the Dartmoor sheep, came running as she approached their gate.
‘Baaa,’ bleated Curly, looking up at Asha with hopeful, greedy eyes.
‘Sorry, girls,’ said Asha, smiling. It always cheered her up to chat to some of the animals. ‘Rory will feed you later – it’s not your dinner time yet!’
She carried on to the next paddock, where the horses and donkey were kept. Stanley the black and white pony was really friendly, and he trotted over to her straightaway. Asha loved him and Swift, the old racehorse – but Dusty the donkey was another matter! As soon as he saw her, he raised his head and started braying grumpily. It was always a terrible racket, and with all the big yellow teeth he showed, Asha never liked to get too close to him.
But Stanley’s ears were pricked eagerly, so Asha decided to take him up to the yard for his daily groom. It was something that Kerry usually did, but Asha knew that Kerry’s day was crammed full of other worries. It would be nice to help her. Besides, it was a big job that would make her forget about everything else, particularly Derrick Jarvis!
She had just brought Stanley in and fetched all the grooming kit when Kerry’s head appeared over the stall door.
‘Oh, thanks, Asha!’ exclaimed Kerry. ‘I don’t know when I would have found time to do the grooming today. I’m up to my ears in everything. But it’s great that you’re keeping busy – it’s the best way. And I’ve got some other news to cheer you up too.’
‘Oh, good!’ exclaimed Asha. ‘I think I need it!’
‘Fortunately, in spite of Derrick Jarvis, life goes on,’ said Kerry. ‘We’ve got someone new coming on the Harvest Hope project. He’s arriving tomorrow and he’ll be coming every weekend for a few months.’
‘Brilliant! Who is it?’ enquired Asha.
‘His name’s Sammi. He’s a refugee from the war in Afghanistan. His uncle came first, some time ago, and now Sammi has come to live here too with his mother and little sister.’
‘What about his dad?’ asked Asha.
‘Well... I’m not sure. Reading between the lines, I think he’s missing.’
But how... ?’
‘People often go missing during wars, Asha,’ said Kerry quietly. ‘He might show up somewhere, of course, but then again, he might not. Sammi and the rest of his family have to get used to life here, and Sammi’s really struggling. He speaks some English but it’s very hard for him to follow everything in class. We don’t even have the same alphabet. Can you imagine how hard it would be to learn maths or science if the teacher was talking in a language you didn’t completely understand?’ Kerry asked. ‘As well as working out the answers you’d have to work really hard just to figure out what the question is!’
Asha shook her head. ‘When my family speak Hindi I can’t keep up. It must be like that all the time for him.’
Kerry started combing Stanley’s mane. ‘We can’t help him learn English any faster – that’ll take time – but we’re hoping that City Farm will help him feel a bit more at home in the UK.’
‘He’ll love it here, I know he will!’ Asha exclaimed. ‘There’s nowhere as welcoming as City Farm.’
Kerry smiled. ‘That’s a lovely thing to say, Asha. Let’s make sure we keep it that way – while we still can.’