If only I had been able to sleep that night none of this would have happened. You see when I couldn’t sleep I would gaze out the window and that’s when I spotted that the garden gate was open. It was swinging to and fro in the dark misty night, and it seemed to be beckoning me in.
I look at my sister Jenny, fast asleep in the little bed next to mine. “Jenny, Jenny,” I whisper. “Wake up!” But she will not stir; she just groans slightly in her sleep and snuggles further down into her warm bed.
I run back to the window. The gate is creaking in the still dark night – but wait, what is that, a light at the far end of the garden? I just have to find out what it is; I just can’t rest.
Feeling less than brave I creep slowly down the stairs, my nightdress billowing around me, my slippered feet making no noise on the parquet floor. The house is completely dark. What would my parents say if they saw me going out at the dead of night to the garden, dressed only in my nightwear?
I slowly lift the latch on the heavy front door and it creaks open. I wait a few moments, just to make sure that I haven’t woken anyone else, and then I am outside. Thank goodness no-one heard me.
Once outside my feet just seem to fly over the cobbled path towards the light. It is blinding in its intensity and draws me in, draws me on.
I reach the open gate, still swinging gently on its hinges. It seems to be saying ‘Enter, come right in.’ I walk nearer and nearer to the light and, as I approach it, I see that the glow is surrounded by an enormous rainbow bubble, just like the ones Jenny and I used to blow from our little pots of bubble liquid that Mother bought for us, but we had certainly never blown one so big or so beautiful.
Suddenly I stumble but feel a hand guiding me up. “Careful, my child.” A woman is standing there, the hood of her long black cape covering her face. “Careful,” she repeats. “You nearly fell and we can’t have you falling, can we now?” The woman is holding my hand and I feel strange, uncomfortable. I want to go back to my nice warm bed. Who is this woman, and what is she doing in my garden late at night? Deciding I must tell my parents, I turn to go but she will not release me.
“Where are you going?” she asks.
“Back. Back to the house,” I reply.
“Not so fast. We’ve only just met, and we have so much to talk about,” she says. She will not release my hand. “Come sit a while.”
I am scared. I don’t want to sit. I want to go back now. This was such a bad idea. But the light is blinding me now and I can’t see the woman’s face; it is completely hidden by her hood. Maybe if I could see her face I wouldn’t be so scared. “What do you want to talk about?” I ask her.
“Oh you know, this and that.” I try to calm myself, but I am shaking like a leaf. There is nothing I can do to calm my nerves. “Now, Emily,” she starts.
“Oh! How do you know my name?” I ask in surprise.
“Oh, there’s a lot I know about you,” she replies. “For instance, I know that you have not been a very nice girl lately. I know that you stole your sister Jenny’s ballet shoes because you had lost your own. I also know that you have been telling lies about your best friend Miranda, and got her into a lot of trouble. That’s just a few of the things I know. Would you like me to tell you the rest?”
I sink down onto the cold grass. “No, no thank you,” I reply, my head in my hands. I feel my heart racing. How could she know so much about me? I stutter an apology. “I never meant to hurt anyone, or do them harm. It’s just that I had a really important ballet exam, and I couldn’t find my shoes anywhere. Jenny is no good at ballet so it wouldn’t be so important to her, and it meant everything to me.”
“That was very unfair of you,” says the woman. “Jenny wanted to do well in her ballet exam as well. You see that light in the distance, the one in the middle of the big coloured bubble? I want you to walk towards it. You must enter the bubble and be cleansed of all your evil ways.”
I start to cry. I don’t want to walk into the bubble. Why had I come here?
“Now my child, there is no need for that. Just keep on walking. Come on, I’ll lead you there.” She grips my arm once again, pulling me towards the light, and all the while I am sobbing quietly.
I find myself in the middle of the bubble, and there is Jenny. I call to her, “Jenny, Jenny,” but she doesn’t seem to hear me. She is looking for something, and I hear her say, “My shoes, my lovely ballet shoes, where can they be?”
She starts to cry and I run towards her, but the light is hot, beating me back. “Now I can’t enter the competition,” she says. “All that practising, all for nothing . . . ” and she sobs as though her little heart would break, and I feel mine break with her.
Suddenly, with a loud pop, Jenny is gone and, with a whooshing noise, there in the middle of the light stands Miranda. She is talking to someone; I think it is our teacher but I can’t be sure because the light is so much brighter now and I can’t see her face properly. I call out to Miranda, but she doesn’t hear me.
Tears are running down her cheeks as she sobs, “I promise you, I didn’t steal Tom’s pocket money. I wouldn’t do that, Miss.” But the teacher says she doesn’t believe her, and that she will probably be expelled from school. Miranda falls to the floor and I want to run to her, tell her that I didn’t mean to get her into trouble. It was just that I really wanted those sherbet lemons on the top shelf of Mrs Walker’s sweet shop, and Tom’s money just happened to be in his desk and it was my only way of getting those lovely sweets. I know I shouldn’t have blamed Miranda for stealing the money when I had done it myself, but I didn’t think Tom would notice the money was missing. After all he is so spoilt and seems to have loads of money all the time, and I never have any.
Suddenly there is another loud pop, the light goes out and the bubble bursts, throwing me back onto the grass. I see the woman standing there again.
“See? See what you do by your lies and untruths? So much unhappiness all caused by you,” she says.
I am just trying to work out how to defend myself when, from the distance, an even larger rainbow bubble starts hurtling towards me. It stops beside the woman and she steps inside it. In an instant, she is gone and I am alone in the garden.
I run back to the house, my slippered feet carrying me faster than I have ever run before. I hear the garden gate close behind me. I am nearly home, nearly at the house, safe, warm. AND I have learnt my lesson.