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Authors: Jacqueline Wilson

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BOOK: The Suitcase Kid
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I DIDN'T DARE
stay off school for a bit because Mum went to see Miss Maynard and they had a Long Talk. I'm not ever going to be able to make out I've got to go to the dentist now even if I get a gum boil and half my fillings fall out. I can't even get a cold or a cough or a tummy upset. Miss Maynard showed Mum my forged sick notes. And then Mum told Dad so I won't even be able to swing things when
I'm at his place. I have to stay at boring old school even though the teachers just shout at me now and Aileen and Fiona whisper secrets and won't play with me properly and I keep coming bottom in all the tests.

I can't even go to the garden for long after school because Mum knows what time I should get back to her place and even though she's not there Katie always tells on me. It's even worse when I'm at Dad's. Carrie comes to meet me off the bus and she looks awful now with her great huge bump and I'm scared people will think she's a proper relative instead of just a stupid stepmother. I just have time to charge down Larkspur Lane, climb over the gate, give Radish one quick sail across the lake and back, maybe let her take a two minute trek in the grassy jungle, and then it's home again home again
jiggetty jig
only I haven't got a home any more and Radish seems to be getting a bit fed up with my pocket.

I wish I could make a real home for her. I tried making her a Japanese bag out of one of Dad's hankies and then I thought about making her a proper little Japanese house but Crystal kept trailing round after me asking what I was doing, and then when I got the big box of kitchen
matches to construct a wooden house Carrie suddenly swooped and snatched them away.

‘I'm sorry, Andy, but I can't let you play with matches.'

‘I'm not going to
play
with them. I'm going to make something with them.'

‘Yes, it's going to be a little house and she's made a tiny screen out of a cigarette packet and a baby tree out of a bit of twig and she's going to make Radish a special frock called a kimona,' Crystal burbled.

‘Shut
up
, Crystal,' I hissed, because it would all get spoilt if everyone knew.

It was spoilt anyway. Carrie still wouldn't let me have the matches. I did try to think of making the house with something else but then Zen trod on the screen after I'd spent ages colouring in little tiny Japanese things all over it. Carrie helped me a bit. In fact she did the drawing part and she had the ideas and Zen kept pestering and eventually he just went
stamp
. Carrie said we could do another screen but I said no thanks. I didn't really want her poking her nose in anyway. I wanted it to be a secret for Radish and me with no-one else involved, not even Crystal.

I tried again when I was at Mum's. I snaffled an old shoe-box and I spent ages getting all the thread off some cotton reels but Katie was poisonous.

‘Oh how sweet. Little Andy Pandy's playing house with her dinky toy rabbit. But I think it's rather a dodgy site. I have a feeling this is an earthquake area. What's that? Did you feel a tremor? Whoops!'

She reached out and Radish and her home went flying. So then I reached out and Katie went flying.

Mum was furious and wouldn't even listen why.

‘I've told you and told you, Andy. You are
not
to hit Katie, no matter what. You
must
stop this disgraceful bullying, especially when Katie's so much smaller than you.'

And as if that wasn't enough, Katie deliberately pulled two buttons off her school blouse. Mum saw and tutted and went to her sewing-box – and then I got into another row because she said I'd mucked up all her thread.

I was in so much trouble that I decided I might just as well stay for ages in the Larkspur Lane garden and miss my bus. Miss two buses,
even three. Katie could blab all she liked to Mum as I'd stopped caring.

‘Do you hear that, Radish?' I said, as we climbed over the gate. ‘We can stay here as long as you like.'

Radish wriggled excitedly in my hand. She could hardly wait till I got her boat unpacked from my satchel. She hopped on board and was soon sailing across the lake, expertly skimming her way through the shoals of orange whales. I let her sail under her own steam, squatting down on the muddy shore and watching her, but after a while it got a bit cold and damp so I found a long twiggy stick and started propelling her round the lake in uncharted territory. Together we discovered Step Creek and Lily Land and for a while we were caught up in the foetid swamps of Waterweed Bog but we escaped at last after Radish heroically hacked her way through with her bare paws and my scrabbling fingernails.

She was a bit tired of sailing after that and we'd both got very wet so we ran round and round the lake to get warm. We were hungry too and looked longingly at the mulberry tree but the berries were long since over. I searched the lining of my satchel and salvaged a few
biscuit crumbs but they weren't much of a feast for Radish and they didn't help my hunger at all.

I don't have a watch but I knew it was teatime. I was really really late now. It was starting to get dark. Mum would be back from work and she'd be so cross. She'd tell the baboon and he'd have another go at me. And Katie would give a smug little smile and then whisper about it half the night. I wouldn't even be able to cry because she'd see.

I leant against the mulberry tree clutching Radish in my fist and had a bit of a cry there. But then as I moved about to stop my face getting scratched my hand holding Radish suddenly slipped under a branch and went into a little hole.

‘Radish? Come back!'

But Radish was running about inside the dark little hole, getting excited. It was just like a secret cave. I tried to peer in but it was getting too dark to see properly. Radish insisted that she could see. She loved the little hole. Only it wasn't a hole to her. She wanted me to help her make it into a proper home. Not a proper permanent home, but a holiday home for her visits to the lake.

‘OK, Radish. We'll make it really cosy for you. We could get some moss for a soft green carpet. And I could stick some shiny leaves together to make matching curtains. And we'll have to see about some sort of light because I can't see in the dark even if you can.'

And at that moment a light went on. Not inside the hole. Outside. In the big house behind me. It made me jump and my hand jerked and then suddenly Radish wasn't there.

‘Radish? Radish, where are you? Come back! Come here!' I said, feeling frantically. And then I felt the drop at the back of the hole. I pushed my arm in as far as it would go. I scrabbled and stretched but it was no use. Radish had fallen out of my reach.

‘Radish!' I screamed.

And then the door opened and there was a dark figure in the garden and I had to tear my arm out of the tree and run for it.

‘
WHERE ON EARTH
have you
been
?' Mum shouted.

I was too choked up to answer properly.

‘I was just . . . playing,' I mumbled.

‘Playing!' said Mum, and she smacked me hard across the face.

We both gasped. She's never hit me before. Then I burst into tears. And Mum did too.

‘Oh Andy,' she said, and she was suddenly hugging me tight. ‘I'm sorry. I was just so
worried and I've been phoning everyone. I phoned Miss Maynard, and I had to phone your father and he blames me for going out to work and yet if he'd pay his share of the bills then I wouldn't have to and— Oh darling, never mind all that. All that matters is you're safe.'

‘But Radish isn't,' I said, and I started really howling. I'd held it in while waiting for the first bus and then on the journey and then on the second bus and then on the walk back to Mum's place but now the full awfulness washed over me like a giant wave.

‘I've lost Radish,' I sobbed, and I buried my head in Mum's shoulder so I could shut out all the other faces round me. Graham looked sympathetic and Paula patted my shoulder but Katie had her eyebrows raised in mock amazement and the baboon looked impatient.

‘For goodness sake, is that why she's so late? Because she's lost her little toy?' he said, sighing.

‘She's
not
a toy, she's a mascot,' I shouted.

‘Hey hey! No need to take that tone. Look, your poor mum's been worried sick. You're two hours late home, young lady. It's just not good enough.'

‘Yes, I know, Bill, but Radish is very special to Andy,' said Mum, still holding me close.

‘All the same, it seems a bit daft to have the whole family going demented because she's lost a little rabbit that isn't even real.'

‘She
is
real to me!'

‘Come on now, Andy, calm down. You really are being a bit of a baby, you know,' said Mum. She said it quietly but the others could still hear. I pulled away from her. ‘Andy? Now don't be like that. Look, maybe Radish isn't lost for ever. When did you last see her? Did she drop out of your pocket on the way home?'

‘She fell down inside a tree,' I whispered, thinking of poor little Radish tumbling backwards down that dark hole.

‘Which tree?' said Mum, but I couldn't tell her because I'd get into more trouble for going into someone else's garden. Oh how could I have run off like that and left my Radish down in the depths of the mulberry tree? And she wasn't the only thing I'd abandoned in my hurry to save my own skin.

‘I've lost your lovely little boat too, Graham,' I said crying harder.

‘Never mind. Look, I can easily make you another,' Graham said gruffly.

‘But there can't ever be another Radish,' I said, sobbing.

‘Of course there can,' said the baboon. ‘I'll get you a new one in the morning. They sell them in the toy shop down the road. Katie had some of those Sylvanian family things when she was little.'

The ‘little' stung, but I was so overwhelmed with misery and guilt I hardly cared.

‘I don't want a new Sylvanian family. I want
Radish
.'

Radish hadn't died. She hadn't stopped being. She was still there, alone in the dark tree, probably hurt, certainly very lonely and scared. She'd be wondering where on earth I was, why I wasn't coming to rescue her . . .

‘I've got to go back,' I said desperately. ‘I can't reach her, but I could call down to her, try to comfort her—'

‘Don't be so silly, darling,' said Mum. ‘You're certainly not going out again. You're going to have some tea and a nice hot bath and then you're going straight to bed.'

There was no arguing with her. There
was
a lot of arguing going on, but that was between Mum and Dad, because Dad came round to see if I was safe and then started up all the old
rows. My hand kept reaching out for Radish and then clenching in despair.

It was even worse when I went to bed. I couldn't remember ever going to sleep without Radish. She always tucked into my hand and I put my finger in between her dear little ears and rubbed her soft furry forehead until I went to sleep. So now of course I couldn't possibly sleep. I lay awake for hour after hour. Mum crept in to see me and gave me a special kiss and tucked me up while Katie made vomit noises from the next bed, but it didn't help. I heard Graham go to bed. Then Paula. Then Mum and the baboon. Soon the whole household was asleep except me. And Katie. She started.

‘Down a tree, is she, Andy Pandy? In with all the bugs and spiders, eh? You get lots of creepy crawlies inside trees. And maybe some bird's fallen down the hole too and died and your little Radish is lying on its
corpse
. Yeah, all the maggots are going
wiggle wiggle wiggle
all over her and she won't even be able to cry for help because rabbits don't talk. She's just opening her little mouth and screaming silently, wondering why you don't come.'

‘I
am
coming,' I said. I got out of bed and started pulling on my clothes.

‘What are you doing, you dope?' Katie whispered.

‘What do you
think
I'm doing? I'm going to comfort Radish,' I said, pulling on a jumper.

‘But it's after midnight. You can't go
out
.'

‘Just watch.'

‘But your mum—'

‘I don't care. She won't know. And if you tell her I'll . . . I'll tell you're such a scared baby you won't even lie down properly to go to sleep. And I know why and I'll tell everyone – if you tell on me. Understand?'

She understood all right. She still looked worried.

‘Andy, you are just kidding, aren't you? You can't really go out in the middle of the night. Look, those things I said about Radish, I was just making them up to annoy you, they're not true.'

‘They could be,' I said, and I put on my coat and wound a scarf round my neck.

‘But it's so dark outside,' said Katie.

She was wrong about that. When I'd crept down the stairs and out the front door I looked up and saw there was a big round moon and
hundreds of stars shining in the sky. I saw the Pole star shining brighter than all the others. I threw back my head, staring at it until my eyes watered, and I whispered the wishing song.

BOOK: The Suitcase Kid
7.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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