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Authors: Tricia Bennett

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BOOK: The Trouble with Polly Brown
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Her rickety iron bed with its thin sheet and blanket looked so inviting as it beckoned her toward it, and in that moment she desired deep sleep above all other creature comforts. “It's now much too late to write Aazi a letter,” she muttered under her breath. “Never mind. Who knows? Maybe I'll have some time at school tomorrow. Yes, I will stay inside at break time and find an empty classroom. That way I can privately pour out all that is on my heart without any fear of Gailey Gobbstopper or one of the others getting their grubby little mitts on it, for I fear they would most likely destroy it or, worse, use it to make even more fun of me,” she murmured.

Polly declined to use the bathroom that evening, even though she knew it was of the utmost importance to brush her teeth. The urgent need to collapse took preeminence, and so she slowly shuffled like a shackled prisoner across the bedroom floor as she headed toward her bed. That night Polly never even bothered to get out of her daytime clothes and into her thin, worn-out pajamas, so extreme was her exhaustion.

After peeling back the bedclothes, she dropped like a lifeless corpse onto the bed, her face instantaneously buried as she hit the thin pillow like a dead man. Finally she came up for breath and to grab hold of Langdon, her beloved blue elephant. Sniffing, she moved Cecil, her giraffe, over to one side. “Sorry old chap, but it looks as though you're still required to guard my pajamas for a little while yet,” she whispered as her thoughts went back to her last will and testament, which she had written while kneeling in the freezing snow on the mountainside. Just thinking back to that episode had Polly instantly sitting bolt upright in the bed as though she had just been plugged into a million volts of electricity. She hastily attempted to switch on the bedside lamp, and in doing so a large number of books crashed to the floor.

“Oh no!” She gulped suddenly, feeling both anxious and afraid that the commotion would most certainly have woken up some of the girls, and that meant only one thing. Without further adieu, Polly threw herself back under the bedclothes, as if by doing this it would prevent the inevitable vitriolic barrage of abuse that would now rain down from actually hurting her. She plugged her ears with her fingers, for she knew for sure that the next few minutes would have all the girls hurling every imaginable insult in her direction. As she cowered under the bedclothes like a wounded animal, she could only pray that their rage and fury would miraculously subside and so not turn into a physical beating for her.

“Shut up and go to sleep, you stupid fat toad, or I'll give you a hard smack in the kisser,” came the loud, irate voice of one of the older girls whose bed was farther down the room and near the door.

“Yeah, shut your gob and turn off that bloomin' light before I get out of bed to come over and punch your lights out, you stupid little toe rag,” another angry voice threatened.

“She'll get more than a fat lip if I am forced to get involved,” another voice boomed across the room in her direction.

Polly ignored the wild and unkind threats as she came up from under the bedclothes and began to frantically but quietly rummage through the locker drawer in search of her precious gold book.

“Phew! For one awful moment I thought it had been stolen,” she whispered before gently closing the drawer and turning off the light to once again settle back down under her thin blanket.

“Sorry, everyone. Have a good night.”

“You'll soon be sorry, yer little guttersnipe, if yer don't shut yer mouth and let us get some shut eye,” snarled another voice in the dark that Polly instantly recognized as being that of Gailey Gobbstopper.

As Polly lay on her back with her hands tucked behind her head, staring into the darkness, she struggled to accept the horrid truth that she was, as usual, wide-awake and therefore in for another grueling night of sleeplessness. “Oh no, I really can't do this any longer,” she unhappily groaned.

Suddenly and therefore most unexpectedly, she felt the strange, tingly sensation return, only this time it was stronger than ever as wave after wave rolled over her tired body, systematically caressing each and every aching joint. Polly had no way of truly understanding what was happening to her, but nothing really needed any sort of reasonable explanation, for in all sincerity she was way beyond all that! After all, it was more than enough that she be consumed with such overpowering and wonderful feelings that in no time at all had her filled to capacity with the most wholesome, inexplicable gratitude.

Polly soon found herself struggling to remain awake, for her eyelids became heavier and heavier, as though they were supernaturally forced to surrender to sleep. No sooner had her top and lower lids met to momentarily fuse together than she felt the gentle touch of a hand tenderly run the whole length of her brow, taking with it all her anxious thoughts and feelings that haphazardly and insidiously raced around her mind day and night without fail. Then all tormenting thoughts were powerfully swept away, causing Polly to enter into the deepest state of relaxation.

“Hmm…I must be in heaven,” she muttered under her breath. Then like the patient about to go under the knife who surrenders willingly or unwillingly to the power of the anesthesia, she likewise went into a seemingly comatose state of mind, and all too soon she found herself right back in Piadora.

Polly immediately let out a small giggle as she observed dear sweet Stanley Horlicks, the old school caretaker, who having hopped his way through the final chalk square, stood tall and proud as he was proclaimed to indeed be the winner of the hopscotch finale.

He really is having the time of his life! It is so wonderful to see him so spontaneously free and happy after years struggling with that awfully horrid back pain
, she cheerfully thought. Moments later she then watched on as dear Stanley received his prize, which turned out to be a disgracefully enormous knickerbocker glory ice cream that was smothered in thick, gooey hopscotch sauce and generously topped with crumbly flakes of chocolate. “Ooh, he's so lucky,” she whispered, licking her lips as she imagined dear Stanley handing her a spoon before telling her to dig in.

She had so little time to respond before she suddenly felt the warm, soft sand beneath her feet as she raced as hard as she could after her dear young friend Aazi. She could hear him burst into fits of laughter as he then playfully pulled her to the ground, taking the wind out of her sails as she fell backward onto the silky smooth sand, which very quickly had her struggling to regain her breath. Aazi then disappeared as quickly as he had appeared.

But it was not over, for as Polly let out a small gasp, she suddenly felt the sweet, warm breath of her beloved brother Thomas brush across her face as though he were playfully kissing her on the cheek. “Thomas, is that really you?” she joyfully whispered.

“Who else could it be?” he mischievously replied as he then excitedly produced another painting that he had been hiding behind his back. “You haven't been to this place yet,” he animatedly informed her as he waved the freshly painted picture in front of her face. “It is so utterly breathtaking that I was left with no choice but to paint it for you, my dear sister,” he beamed. Then another huge smile lit up his face further as, still pointing at his picture, he showed her a cool and sparkling brook meandering its way through a lush and fertile valley.

As Polly stared at his painting feeling awestruck by its beauty, she considered that the scene looked so strangely real that it might well jump right out from the canvas.

“But I must go now, for not a moment passes that does not have me feeling the urge to get out my brush and palette to start another painting. Oh, Polly, can you believe it? I have seen so much incredible beauty here in Piadora that I feel utterly compelled to continue painting forever and ever if necessary. And what's more, I have the distinct feeling that even if I were to be granted a further million years to paint all I have so far seen, it would be nothing but a mere drop in the ocean. Therefore it would in no way be long enough,” he said with a lighthearted laugh as he planted another warm kiss on her cheek before giving her a spontaneous but much needed hug.

“My dear sister, please know that I love you so very, very much, and every time my paint brush touches the canvas, I paint for you,” he said as he tenderly took hold of her hand to give it one final and very tight brotherly squeeze before vanishing into thin air.

As Polly continued to lie motionless in her bed while being utterly mesmerized by the moment, she became aware of a couple of cold, wet tears trickling unchecked down her face, but as she did not wish to move a muscle, she declined to brush them away, preferring to allow them to continue merrily strolling down her cheeks before disappearing beneath her chin to then disperse.

No sooner had Thomas disappeared than she found herself overwhelmed by the deliciously hazy aroma of jasmine and sweet honeysuckle, which had her immediately believing she was back in one of Piadora's many indescribably delightful gardens. Moments later she found herself sitting under the shade of a magnificently majestic Hoolie Koolie tree, momentarily lost in the sweetest, inescapable communion with her close friend Hodgekiss. More puzzling still was that every unspoken communication between them found Polly experiencing the keenest, deepest sense of unimaginable joy that pervaded every cell and corpuscle within her body and so had every hair follicle on the surface of her skin standing to attention.

Polly lay in the bed completely motionless, for she feared if she moved a muscle or had even the slightest nervous twitch, all these new and intensely profound feelings would instantly leave, never to return. She therefore prayed with all her heart and might that this utterly intoxicating, heavenly experience would continue to abide as long as possible, if not forever.

Eventually she took another deep gasp as she made her way up some wide steps and opened the huge but now very familiar door that led directly into the Princesses School of Training. An abundance of fresh tears rolled freely down her face as once again she found herself standing outside Mrs. O'Brien's classroom peering through the window. Polly watched on as her beloved and saintly teacher rolled out the pastry, at the same time keeping her girls amused with a number of humorous, if not slightly questionable, stories regarding her childhood days back in County Cork, Ireland. Polly turned her attention to the large stove and could clearly see chopped-up apples bubbling away in a copper-based pan, and she knew without a shadow of doubt that appletude pie was once again on the menu.

“Dear, sweet Mrs. O'Brien, oh how I miss you so very much,” she quietly moaned.

As Polly continued to watch, she could smell the delicious, sweet pastry wafting in front of her nose, and instantly her mouth began to water, causing her empty stomach to rumble like a waste disposal. Polly wanted more than anything to open the classroom door and enter, but something held her back. Perhaps it was the knowledge that if she were to place even one foot into the room, well then, she would never again want to leave. As Polly deep down knew that this could not be, she courageously chose to content herself by just watching, her nose glued to the window in the same manner as when she passed her favorite tea room in the High Street back home.

“Hmm…lovely jubbly,” she whispered as her eyes began feasting on the number of freshly baked apple pies that, after leaving the hot oven, sat cooling on a table as they waited for the eager girls to dust them over with fine icing sugar.

“Girls, girls, remember that just as we sprinkle these pies generously with sugar, so we must endeavor to consistently sprinkle the lives of all around us with the sweetest and kindest acts of warmth and generosity,” Mrs. O'Brien loudly commented as she purposely leaned over shoulder after shoulder in order to make sure the girls were following her instructions to the letter.

As Polly listened to her teacher's heartwarming and most compelling advice, she suddenly felt the same invisible hand that earlier on had wiped her brow now gently plunge into the core of her being, and like a specialist surgeon, those hands tenderly took hold of her heart.

Polly held in her breath and listened intently to the hypnotic beat of her heart as something unimaginably precious was delicately placed into its very center. She thought she could hear a faint whisper in her ear, and it seemed to repeat over and over, “Never be afraid, for I hold you always in the palm of my hand.” Bizarre as all this might seem, even hearing those simple words helped her to lay all fear to rest.

Added to this was the harsh fact that every waking moment of her life had found her constantly struggling to fight off a subversive and hideously foul morass of pure evil that desired to drag her down into its thick and choking abyss, so surely what was taking place in this small space in time must come from the other end of the hemisphere, perhaps beyond infinity itself! One thing was certain, and this was that the whole unimaginably overwhelming experience seemed far beyond any words of description and therefore way beyond the scope of the human mind with its rational grasp of all things considered tangible and therefore real. Whatever it was, it clearly stood firmly on the side of good, as all fear was immediately vanquished, and she found herself revived with fresh hope that sought to exchange her ever-grieving heart for a deep and timeless abiding joy.

BOOK: The Trouble with Polly Brown
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