It was after school at Halloween that the weird things began to happen. It had been one of those dull boring days at the end of October, and our classroom lights had been on all day. The room was hot and stuffy, making me feel sleepy, and the windows had steamed up. I rubbed a round patch on the cold glass, looked out, and in the fading light saw a spooky mist creeping across the fields and into the playground. It would be a brilliant night to be out knocking on neighbours’ doors and shouting trick or treat.
When the bell went for the end of lessons, my friends were pushing and shoving each other in the cloakroom, struggling into their anoraks and eager to be off home. I hung back, watching them as they hurried into the yard. They were calling to each other and I should have been with them, joining in the fun. Why couldn’t things stay the same? Now I had to wait for my stepbrother Thomas and take him home. He was always late coming out of class. I hung about in the playground, keeping well away from the mums, and a few dads, who were huddled together in twos and threes, waiting to collect the little ones. Feeling really fed up, I kicked stones across the yard and the door to the infants’ classroom opened. The parents rushed forward and I saw Thomas pushing between their damp coats with a big grin on his small, bird-like face. He ran towards me, his raincoat slipping off his skinny shoulders, his shoe bag bumping on the floor behind him, and he shouted, ‘I’m going to make a lantern, Alice.’
He sounded very excited, and he waved a piece of coloured paper under my nose. I grabbed hold of him and buttoned up his coat. Then bending down to fasten his flapping shoelaces, he did his usual trick of snatching at one of my plaits and giving it a playful tug. ‘Stop it. Stand still, won’t you. How can I tie your laces if you keep wriggling about?’ I scolded.
He looked at me, puzzled about me being cross. But it wasn’t his fault that I felt angry. It was because I was scared my stepmother might have found out what I’d done. If I took Thomas home, she’d be sure to be waiting for me, ready to pounce. I needed to keep out of her way for as long as I could.