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Authors: Jacqueline Wilson

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BOOK: The Suitcase Kid
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Starlight, star bright

First little star I see tonight

Wish that I may, wish that I might

Have the first wish that I wish tonight
.

‘I wish that I can find Radish and work out a way of reaching her so that I can have her back, please, please,
please
.'

THERE AREN'T ANY
buses in the middle of the night. Larkspur Lane is a long bus ride away. I wasn't sure how long it would take me to walk. I'd never been out that late at night before. Certainly not by myself. The stars and the street lights stopped it being too dark, but it was still pretty scary. It was cold and strange and all the streets seemed so empty, and yet whenever a car went by or a man
walked past I shrank away from them.

I tried to think of poor little Radish stuck down the tree – but I couldn't stop thinking about poor little
me
too. I remembered all the things Mum and Dad had said about strangers and when a man slowed down when he saw me and said ‘What's up, dear? Why are you out all on your own at this time?' I shot past and went flying off down the street. He called after me and then started running too.

I ran faster, heart thudding, feet pounding, dodging down an alley and round someone's garden and down another passage and out into another road and then another, running and running and running – and when at last I stopped, spread-eagled against a wall with a great tearing stitch in my side the man was nowhere to be seen.

He might have been a kind man trying to look after me. He might have been a monster ready to make off with me. There was no way of telling.

I didn't even know where I was any more. I stared round at the dark unfamiliar buildings in panic. I could try going back along the alley but the man might be waiting . . .

I started shaking and shivering. My cheeks
got a bit wet. My hand seemed horribly empty – but then I tucked my thumb inside my fist and tried to kid myself it was Radish and it helped just a little bit. I ran on down the road and when I turned the corner I was at the shops. I knew how to get back to Mum's place in less than five minutes. But I couldn't go back. Katie would be still lying awake, and how she'd sneer if I came creeping back so soon. And Radish was still down the tree, so lost and lonely and frightened. I thought of her tiny heart beating violently under her soft fur and my face screwed up in pain.

‘I'm coming, Radish,' I whispered. I stared up at the stars. ‘You've
got
to make my wish come true.'

So I set off walking. I walked and walked and walked. I walked until I was so tired I started to wonder if I was dreaming. Everything seemed so strange and silvery in the starlight and every so often my head would nod and I'd stumble and start. I kept expecting to blink my eyes and find myself tucked up in bed at Mum's, but it didn't happen. So I just walked some more, my head down, shoulders hunched, feet going
left right left right left right
.

I missed my way several times but then I'd
suddenly recognize a shop or a house and I'd know I was back on course again. But then I found myself in streets I was certain I'd never seen before. I walked on and yet it was all new and different and I realized I was lost again. I tried going back but I kept getting to corners and not knowing whether to take the left turn or the right. So in the end I kept on walking anyway, and after a while I stopped thinking about finding the way. I just looked up at the stars and whispered Radish's name and walked on and on and on.

Then I suddenly recognized a house at the end of a road, with gables and a curly iron gate and a caravan parked in the front drive. It was Aileen's house and she went on her holidays in that caravan and we'd swung on that gate together and she was probably asleep in her bedroom under the gables right this minute.

‘Aileen's house?' I whispered. Then I'd somehow missed Larkspur Lane altogether. I'd bypassed the school. I was back in my own old territory, the other side of the school. The part of the town where I never went any more. If this was Aileen's house then I knew what was down the road and round the corner.

I stood still, shivering. No. I had to go to
Larkspur Lane and find Radish. I couldn't waste time going anywhere else. But I had to. My feet started walking and I couldn't stop them.

I went past Aileen's house. Past all the other houses in the road with their neat privet hedges and their pointed roofs making a zig-zag pattern against the starry sky. I got to the corner. I stood still again, holding my thumb. Then I started walking, very very slowly.

I could see it in the starlight. A cottage at the end of the road. I could only see in black and white but it was easy to paint in the colours. A white cottage with a grey slate roof and a black chimney and a bright butter-yellow front door. There were yellow roses and honeysuckle growing up a lattice round the door and the leaded windows, and lots of other flowers growing in the big garden. And in the middle of the garden was the old twisted tree with the big branches bent almost to the ground, and at the tip of each twig grew big bunches of black mulberries . . .

No, no mulberries. The berries had long ago withered on the tree. No roses, just tangled thorny branches. No sweet-smelling honeysuckle, just leathery stems trailing untidily. But it was still Mulberry Cottage. I was back. I was home.

‘
ANDY? ANDY DARLING,
is that you?' Mum's at the door, smiling at me. ‘Come in, sugar-lump, I've got tea all ready on the table.'

‘Yes, come on, Andy, Mum's made a lovely mulberry pie and my mouth's watering,' Dad calls.

‘Dad?' I step inside, shaking my head. ‘Dad, what are you doing here?'

‘He got off work early, didn't you, darling,' says Mum.

‘But what are
we
doing here?' I say, dazed.

‘We live here, silly,' says Mum, and she ruffles my hair. ‘What's up, Andy? Don't you feel very well?'

‘No, I feel . . . wonderful. I can't believe it. Was it all a dream then – all that about leaving Mulberry Cottage and you having Bill and Dad having Carrie and . . .?'

‘I think you're still half asleep, pet. Come on, let's have tea, we're all hungry.'

Mum takes my hand and leads me into the living-room. Dad's sitting at the table, smiling at me. There's a big bunch of our own pink roses in a pretty white vase, and there are little fairy cakes with pink icing and white rosettes and the newly-baked mulberry pie, dark wine-red juice bubbling up through a crack in the golden pastry and filling the whole room with the rich fruity smell.

Mum cuts me a huge slice and tops it with vanilla icecream. I bite into hot and cold, crunchy and smooth, sweet and sharp, and close my eyes with the bliss of it.

‘Mmmmm,' I say, and Mum and Dad laugh.

‘Doesn't Radish want some too?' says Mum.

‘Radish?' I say, and there she is, safe and sound, tucked up in my pocket, half asleep too.

Mum lets me fetch a doll's-house saucer and a china thimble and Radish eats and drinks with us.

‘But wait. This is the thimble I swopped with Aileen ages ago,' I say, puzzled.

‘Well, you must have swopped it back again,' says Mum.

‘And maybe you'll get swopping yet again because I've got a little surprise in my pocket for you and your Radish,' says Dad.

‘A present!' I jump up and run to Dad.

‘Oh darling, you do spoil her,' says Mum.

‘I like spoiling both my best girls,' says Dad, and he gives me a present out of one pocket and Mum a present from the other.

Mine is a small square cardboard box and inside is a tiny Radish-size gilt table and chair, and sellotaped safely to the table top is a tiny pink china cup and saucer and plate, delicately edged with a wisp of gold paint. Mum's present is in another cardboard box and it's a proper size pink china teacup and saucer with cherubs flying all round the rim, and a little message in
looping writing at the bottom of the cup. The message says ‘I love you'. Dad says it too. Mum goes as pink as her cup and they give each other a long kiss. Radish and I grin at each other. We are all very pleased with our presents.

We eat up the pie and icecream and every one of the fairy cakes and then we all do the washing-up together, making it a game. Dad keeps flapping the tea towel and I put my fingers on my head to make horns and rush around pretending to be a little bull and Mum makes out we're getting on her nerves but she keeps laughing, and we're still all in a giggly mood when we go back into the living-room, as if it's a special day like Christmas.

We switch on the television and my very favourite film
The Wizard of Oz
is just starting and so Mum and Dad and Radish and I all cuddle up to watch it. I've got my red slippers on and Mum and Dad keep calling me Dorothy and I turn Radish into Toto and make her give little barks. We sing along to all the songs and at the end of the film when Dorothy clicks the heels of her ruby slippers and whispers ‘There's no place like home' I suddenly start crying.

‘What's up, darling?' says Mum.

‘Don't be sad, little sausage,' says Dad.

‘I'm not sad. I'm crying because I'm so happy,' I say, sniffling.

‘You funny old thing,' says Mum, and she pulls me on to her lap for a cuddle.

When the film finishes I climb on to Dad's lap instead and he reads me a story, lots of stories, from all the story books I had when I was little.

‘But they got lost somewhere, I'm sure they did,' I say.

‘Well, we found them again, specially for you,' says Dad, giving me a kiss.

‘You don't mind reading me such babyish stuff, Dad?'

‘You're our baby, aren't you?' says Dad, giving me a tickle. ‘Come on, little babykins, say
cootchy-coo
for your Dad-Dad.'

‘Oh Dad, don't be so daft,' I say, shrieking with laughter.

‘I don't know – tears one minute, a great big fit of the giggles the next. I think it must be bed-time,' says Mum.

‘Oh no,' I say, but I don't argue too much because I don't want to spoil anything and it's easy to be good when I'm so happy. I get in the bath and Radish gets in with me and floats about as merry as a little duck. Then
we both get dry and powdered and into our nighties and then Dad comes and carries me into bed as if I really am a baby. He tucks me up and he tucks Radish up too, and he kisses both our noses which makes me giggle again. Then Mum comes and she tickles us both under the chin and we giggle some more. Then Mum and Dad stand arm in arm at the foot of my bed, chatting softly to each other while Radish and I snuggle up. The bed's so soft and I feel so safe with all my own things round me, my own rabbit pictures on the wall, my own wardrobe, my own toy cupboard, my own bookshelf, my own Radish in my hand, my own Mum and Dad right by my bed, together. I'm so happy I want this moment to last forever but I'm so sleepy too and I can't stop my eyes closing and I know I'm going to sleep and I'm suddenly worried because I know it can't last and that it's going to be very different when I wake up and I try to open my eyes wide but they're so heavy and I have to rest them just for a second and then they won't open again and I'm going to sleep in spite of myself, I'm going to sleep . . .

BOOK: The Suitcase Kid
8.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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