A cloudless summer sky lay peacefully over Wilberforce Grammar School.
It was lunch time, and many of the children gathered in the dappled shade of the trees which dotted the school grounds. But not Amy Connors; it was her first day since being transferred from Northampton High, and the unfamiliar layout of the building had caused her to be late to all three of her morning lessons.
For Amy, the sky might as well have been throwing down a torrent of unforgiving raindrops.
Upon reaching the lunch hall she found herself at the back of the queue. Her mind wondered to the other schools she had attended, each of which had accused her of starting a fire.
It didn’t seem fair. She hadn’t meant to set the buildings ablaze. It just seemed to happen, particularly when she was upset or angry.
“Get a move on!” shouted a rather scrawny looking boy, who had joined the queue after her.
Amy slid her yellow tray along the counter and looked at the meals on offer. She was one of the last children to enter the dining hall that day, and all of the most appetising choices had sold out.
With a plate of cold, hard mashed potatoes and a fairly plain looking slice of pizza, she moved on to the desserts.
“Watch this,” whispered the scrawny boy to his friend, as he pulled his tray back along the counter, then slammed it against the trays in front; a chain of collisions knocked Amy’s bland lunch upwards and forced the plate up-side-down and onto the tray ahead.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t-” she uttered as she glanced to her right. She looked up into the agitated glare of a tall, heavy-set boy. Again, she didn’t know his name, but it didn’t matter; she knew what was coming next.
A wide-palmed slap knocked her to the floor. Something inside snapped and a sharp pain raced through her body from head to toe.
Water rained down from the sprinklers to quench the flames that had appeared while her eyes were closed, and everyone charged towards the nearest exit.
At least, that was what she was expecting.
“My dinner! I’ll kill you!” grunted the boy. He balled his fist and swung towards Amy, who instinctively closed her eyes; a few seconds passed, but the impact never came.
The sound of nervous whimpering drew her attention.
She looked up at where the monstrous boy had previously loomed above her, before looking down to see him on his knees, gasping for breath.
“Now, Martin. Is this any way to treat a new kid?” asked another boy, who stood with his finger on the bigger boy’s shoulder.
“Why - can’t - I - move?” wondered Martin, who struggled to get the words out. His body felt like it weighed a ton.
“I’m John,” said the boy with his finger on Martin’s shoulder.
He held out his left hand for Amy to shake, but she stood still, unsure of how to react to the strange sight before her.
John didn’t look very strong at all, and his wavy dark brown hair looked like it hadn’t been brushed for a while.
“How rude of me,” added John as he swapped his hands over.
Martin felt the weight leave his body for a split second and groaned when it returned.
“Amy,” said the girl. She smiled awkwardly while John looked her in the eye.
“Come on, Amy, sit with us,” suggested John, who waved to his two friends, a boy and a girl, who were sat eating at a nearby table.
The girl had a somewhat cold expression and her pale brown hair, which was tied into a bun, only made her look more serious. She held her head in her hands and mumbled, “He’s showing off again.”
“But it was funny,” whispered the boy playfully; his neatly trimmed red hair belied his light-hearted spirit.
Amy approached the table with her new friend, who introduced her to the others.
“Amy, Kay, Kay, Amy, Amy, Marc, Marc, Amy,” said John as quickly as he could.
“John, hand, hand, John!” said Kay.
“What?” uttered John before he felt a stinging slap strike him across his cheek.
“I was just trying to be polite,” explained John. He turned to Amy and said, “Eat with us, no need to be shy.”
“But my dinner’s over there,” said Amy. She looked over at Martin, who tried to stand, but slipped on the spilled mashed potatoes while the other children laughed at him.
“Why don’t you share ours?” suggested John.
Kay shook her head in disapproval, while Marc held his arms around his almost empty plate.
“Come on guys, I’ll make this up to you,” whispered John, hoping Amy wouldn’t hear.
“No, really, I’ll just go round again” she said with a small smile.
John grinned from ear to ear as he pulled a seat away from the table. “I haven’t touched my sundae. Why don’t you have it?”
Amy looked at the half melted scoop of vanilla ice cream. It could hardly be described as a “sundae”, but she was quite hungry and didn’t really fancy going through the queue again.
“Do you think he’s trying to make you jealous?” asked Marc.
“It’s not working,” whispered Kay in an annoyed tone.
“I think it is!” teased Marc.
“Don’t make me hide your bag again!” growled Kay.
“You wouldn’t dare!” said Marc.
“Now guys, play nice!” insisted John. He looked over at Amy, who brushed aside her copper blonde hair before she soothed her temper with his ice cream.
John stood between his friends and asked, “Well, what do you think?”
“I think you wouldn’t have stood a chance without that ice cream,” whispered Marc.
Kay shovelled a fork full of mushy peas into her mouth. If she’d said what she was thinking, she would have ended up with a detention the next day.
The following morning during break time Amy approached John, Kay and Marc, who were sat under the drooping foliage of a weeping willow tree.
Amy looked around at the other trees, beneath which large groups of the other children clamoured for shade.
“If you want a spot under our tree, you’ve earned it,” admitted Kay with a pout.
“Why do the other kids stay away from you?” asked Amy, innocently.
“Marc saw the whole thing,” said John, changing the subject.
“Like slow motion. There was a spark when Rob bumped your tray into Martin’s,” explained Marc.
“I must have blinked and missed it,” said Kay, sceptically.
“I know, I hope I didn’t hurt him,” sighed Amy.
“Eh, he likes beating up the year sevens. I’ve been waiting for an excuse to put him in his place,” said John with a laugh, “but to answer your question, the other kids think we’re weird. Marc has super speed, Kay makes portals and I can make things heavier or lighter.”
Amy thought for a moment. Could she believe such a crazy statement from three people she’d known for less than a day? “Is that why you stepped in? Because you think we have super powers?”
“Well, not really. I just saw a chance to make Martin look silly and impress you at the same time,” said John.
“Yeah, I didn’t tell the others about the sparks until after you’d gone home,” explained Marc.
“Oh, so you know about the fires,” said Amy, shyly.
“You mean at the other schools? That was you?” cheered Kay.
Amy didn’t like the look of Kay’s smile. “I’m sorry, this was a mistake,” she said, glumly.
John jumped to his feet, ran ahead of his new friend and said, “I’m not letting you out there on your own.”
“I’m not stupid! You think I’m going to join your little gang just because you say you’ve got powers to make me trust you? Forget it!”
John knew he had to choose his next words quickly and carefully. “Give us ten seconds to prove it. Hold my hands,” he suggested while holding his palms upwards at waist height.
“Fine,” said Amy, who looked even more annoyed.
John gripped her soft hands gently and said, “Now jump as high as you can.”
Amy paused for a moment. If they were planning to make a fool out of her, they’d be doing this out in the open.
After bending her knees a little, Amy kicked away from the ground, expecting to reach a height of barely a few inches; instead she found herself lifting several feet into the branches.
If John hadn’t kept hold of her she would have ended up tangled in the boughs of the tree.
Finding herself looking down at John, and with her feet above and behind her head at a steep angle, she let out an excited squeal while floating back down to the ground.
After landing gently on her front, Amy found herself laughing. For the first time in over a year she was truly happy.
“Believe us now?” asked Marc.
John helped Amy to her feet, before she nodded and quietly uttered “Yep.”
“Good, because we’ve got one question,” said Kay.
“It’s about the fires at the other schools, isn’t it?” asked Amy, nervously.
“Don’t worry, it won’t happen here,” promised John.
Kay rolled her eyes; she knew he wouldn’t be able to fulfil that vow, but she had to know the answer.
“When’s your birthday?” asked Marc, Kay and John in unison.
“That was scary. Next Wednesday, but-”
“Ha, you’re still the oldest,” said Marc with his hand on Kay’s shoulder.
Kay glared back at him, prompting Marc to back away slowly.
“Mine’s on Saturday, Marc’s is on Monday and Kay’s was yesterday,” explained John.
“Really?” asked Amy.
Kay and Marc nodded.
“And we’re trying to find out what happed fourteen years ago,” explained John.
“Welcome to the team, Amy,” said Kay, holding her hand out.
Amy shook her hand. She had more questions than she could keep track of, but she was interrupted by the sound of a loud bell.
“See you at lunch?” asked John.
Without thinking about it, Amy said “Yes!”
See you in an hour,” suggested Marc as he left the shade of the tree with Kay and John.
As the rest of the children streamed into the open doors, Amy stood still for a moment.
The summer holiday would start at the end of the day; she’d been waiting for it impatiently for the last three months, but now she didn’t want it to come at all if it meant being away from her new friends for six weeks.
Without hesitation she ran to catch up with the others.
Knowing that she wasn’t alone was both reassuring and calming; she vowed to make the most of the next few hours.
A detention for being late to the next lesson was not an option!