The Silver Cross

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Chapter Nine

We had history on Tuesday at school and we revised a lot of stuff on the Second World War. I found it really interesting for the first time ever. Then I remembered there was a girl in my class called Carly Richards and I asked her if she had ever looked into her family tree, and explained about Lavender Road being bombed, and the Richards family who had been killed. She looked at me as if I was mad, but said that she would ask her Dad about it later. I didn’t think she would have the same problem as us with Councillor Duncan changing identities as the Richards had been ‘claimed’, but it could still be useful family tree information. Our teacher, Mr Cavanagh, spoke to me at the end of the class.

“Lacy, I’ve looked through your history project and I’m very impressed. Imagine finding out that your Great Grandfather was awarded a Military Cross! You must be thrilled about that, I know I would be.”

“Yes, sir, I only wish we knew what had happened to his medal.”

“Oh, that’s a shame, but they are worth quite a lot of money. Maybe somebody in the family has sold it?”

“I’d never do that. I’d want to keep it and remember what a brave man he was.”

“Well, keep looking; you never know, it may turn up.”

“I hope so,” I replied, resolving that I would do a search on the internet just in case.

“By the way, how’s Annabel doing?” he asked kindly.

“She’s flying back today, and I’ll be seeing her later.”

“Oh, that’s really good news! Please pass on my best wishes,” he replied.

I met up with Karina after school and she asked if I had found out any more about Councillor Duncan’s son. “He would be really old now, wouldn’t he? When did you say Councillor Duncan was born?”

I retrieved the newspaper printout from my school bag. “He was 85 and he died in 1985, so must have been born in 1900.”

“The lucky generation.”

“Sorry?”

“People born in 1900 were too young for the First World War and too old for the Second.”

I laughed. “I suppose that’s why you’re in the top stream and I’m not. I’d never even think of things like that.”

“And even if, say, Councillor Duncan’s son was born in 1940, he’d be over 65 by now and he’d have retired.”

“Okay, Karina, I get the message.” I paused. “But it could be his grandson.”

Karina laughed. “You never give up, do you?”

“Never!” I joked back. “Unwin’s never give up!”

I watched as Karina boarded her bus. I was going to walk to Annabel’s house, which was just round the corner from school.

“Give my love to Annabel!” Karina called out before the bus pulled away.

I walked up Annabel’s front path nervously. For some reason I always felt on edge when I visited her house. I rang her doorbell and to my surprise the door opened straight away, and there stood Crystal, Annabel’s Mum, with a welcoming smile on her face.

“Lacy!” she cried, kissing me on both cheeks, “do come in, Annabel’s waiting for you in the front room.”

“Hi Lacy!” I heard Annabel’s voice call out.

Annabel was sitting in the comfortable recliner chair surrounded by drinks and nibbles. I could see her struggling to get to her feet.

“Stay there,” I said to her, running over and giving her a hug. “It’s so lovely to have you back.” I felt quite tearful, and could see that she was feeling emotional too.

Annabel looked pale and tired, I thought, but her face had lit up when she saw me. Then Crystal appeared pushing a trolley loaded with cakes and sandwiches, like something out of a posh restaurant.

“I hope you’re hungry, Lacy.” My eyes were as wide as saucers.

“I’ll leave you two to chat for a while, and then Stephen and I will come and join you both, if that’s all right?”

Stephen was Annabel’s father and luckily she replied that it would be fine, because I was speechless.

“So are you in a lot of pain?” I asked her, when her mother had disappeared.

Annabel pulled a face. “Only when I laugh. They’ve bandaged me up really tightly.” Annabel showed me the bandage under her top.

“How long have you got to have that on for?”

“About six weeks,” she replied, “I can’t go back to school for the rest of term.”

“I bet you’re really sad about that!” I joked.

“Can you believe it, my Mum’s got me a tutor while I’m off.”

I could easily believe it, but I just said:

“I suppose it’s your exams soon, so it’s just as well. Mr Cavanagh asked after you, by the way.”

She gave me a strange look. I realised that I sounded very grown up all of a sudden.

“Well, tell me about André,” I whispered, “I’ve been dying to know.

She looked very shy all of a sudden.

“Lacy, if it wasn’t for the accident, I had the best holiday of my life, ever. He was so gorgeous, did you see the pictures?”

“I certainly did,” I replied, “along with most of school. The girls were drooling over him. Will you be keeping in touch?”

Annabel smiled. “Yes, I’m sure we will. He’s planning to come to England in the Summer.”

She showed me some more photos of him on her camera. “So what about you?” she asked.

I knew she meant, what was happening between me and Carey, because the last thing she knew he’d asked me out. So changing the subject, I said:

“I’m wearing a haunted cross.”

“Sorry, Lacy, what did you say?”

I pulled out the cross from under my collar and showed her.

“That’s really nice, who gave you it?”

“My Mum as an early birthday present. It’s a long story, but it belonged to my Great Grandfather, and it’s haunted.”

Annabel gave me a really strange look as if she didn’t know whether to laugh or not.

“Okay,” I said, determined that she didn’t think I was a nutter, “the first day Mum gave it to me, I put it under my pillow and then had a weird dream. In it I saw you and a boy sitting in a restaurant holding hands. And I know you won’t believe me, but when I saw your photos I recognised him from my dream.”

Annabel gave a gasp. “Lacy,” she said quietly, “that really did happen!”

“And that day you had your accident, at exactly the same time I was in Burger Man and I got a sharp pain in my ribs, and then fell on the floor and hit my head.”

“You’re kidding me!”

I could see that I was swaying Annabel to my way of thinking.

“And another thing,” I continued, “I was in Elham Cemetery, researching my history project when Karina said my cross was shining, and we looked down and found my Great Grandfather’s grave!”

“Oh my god, now that’s really spooky.”

“You should have seen Karina, she ran out of the graveyard screaming.”

“Ha, ha, ha!” Annabel started to laugh and was trying her best not to shake her stomach, but she said, “Ouch! Ow, ow, that’s so funny, oh no!”

I started laughing as well, but I didn’t let on that I’d run out screaming too. And I didn’t say that I thought John was still sending me signals and believed he had somehow started her earmuffs flashing, because that would have been too strange and I still couldn’t get my head around it.

Hearing her daughter laugh, Crystal reappeared along with her husband, whose left arm was in a cast.

“It’s good to hear you laugh,” she said to her daughter, “but please be careful.”

“Hello, Lacy,” said Stephen, actually shaking my hand, “it’s lovely to see you again.”

Crystal started handing round the sandwiches, which looked really nice.

“I’m so glad that you’ve all come back home kind of okay,” I said to him. “My Mum saw the news on the telly and told me, and we were both really worried.”

“Well, we certainly got off lightly considering it was a full blown avalanche,” he replied. “And how is your mother?”

I was thrown for a few seconds. Neither of them had ever asked about my Mum before.

“Oh, good thanks. She’s just started a new job in the Library.”

I could see they both looked impressed.

“That’s nice, what is she going to be doing exactly?” asked Crystal.

“Actually, she’s signing for deaf children.”

“That’s a really skilled job,” she replied. I could see I had surprised her.

“So how is school going?” Stephen asked, reaching for a slice of chocolate cake.

“I’ve handed in nearly all my coursework now,” I told him. “I think it’s going okay.” I took a bite of egg and cress sandwich.

“Any thoughts on what you want to do when you leave school?”

“Yes, I’m thinking of joining the police.” There, I’d actually said it. I hadn’t told anybody, not even my Mum.

“What?” Annabel spluttered, in the middle of a Swiss roll.

“Don’t be like that, Annabel,” her father said, “it’s a really worthwhile career, good luck with that.”

“Well, you see I’ve been researching my family tree as part of my history project, and I’ve really enjoyed it,” I explained.

“Ooh, have you uncovered anything exciting?” Crystal asked.

I felt suddenly very proud.

“Yes, I have, actually. My Great Grandfather was awarded a Military Cross during the war.”

“My goodness!” she exclaimed.

“Why, that’s wonderful,” Stephen agreed. “Really, that’s amazing!”

I was starting to enjoy this. I helped myself to another round of sandwiches.

“Have you decided what you’re doing for your birthday?” Annabel asked.

I swallowed a mouthful and said, “Yes, actually Mum has surprised me and booked us a holiday that weekend. And she’s said I can invite two friends, so I was hoping you could come.”

Annabel looked at her mother. “Please, Mummy? It’ll give me something to look forward

to.”

She always called Crystal ‘Mummy’ when she wanted anything.

“I really don’t think you’re well enough.” She looked at Stephen for support.

“Where-abouts are you going?” he asked.

“Gratestone, in Kent,” I replied. “It’s near New Romney.”

“Oh, I know where that is, it’s in the middle of nowhere. So how would you be getting there?”

I hesitated, because I knew they wouldn’t like the answer. “Well, probably on the train and bus.”

“I don’t think you’re up to a long train journey, Belle darling.” I noted Crystal called her daughter ‘Belle’ when it suited her, too.

“I’d have offered to drive,” said Stephen, sounding apologetic, “but I’ve got this cast on for another eight weeks.”

“Mum can drive.” Annabel looked at her mother adoringly. “Please? Remember that’s where Lacy got the earmuffs from?”

Crystal finally crumbled. “All right then, I’ll drive you all down there and back again, as long as you promise me you’ll be careful.”

“Of course, Mum, and I’ll get lots of fresh sea air so it will do me good.”

“That’s settled then,” said Stephen, “Gratestone it is!”

“Thank you!” I replied, genuinely relieved. This was going to be my best birthday ever.

So I had the most amazing evening at Annabel’s home and then, to top it all, Crystal drove me home and was really very kind. Mum was also surprised to see her when she opened the front door but hid it well, I thought.

Later we practised some more sign language. I had already picked up the alphabet and a few phrases, which seemed to please her. Then I messaged Karina on the computer and she said she would be thrilled to come on holiday, too.

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