Drumshee series Cora Harrison, Children's Author Dragonfly books

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Chapter One

GorgeousIt was just another boring day in Sixth Class.

Imagine a monster!’ Zara reads aloud from one of those English workbooks which are supposed to teach you how to use your imagination. ‘Now name your monster.

‘That’s easy,’ she whispers in my ear. ‘I’ll call my monster, Mr Thomas. That’s a good name for a monster, isn’t it?’

‘Shh..’ I say, but I can’t help laughing. Mr Thomas is our Sixth Class teacher. He’s so seriously weird that no one takes any notice of him. The boys all give him a hard time and the girls ignore him, unless he interrupts us too often. And then someone, usually Zara, cheeks him. ‘Now, young ladies,’ he always says and we all crease up.

‘Zara and Fern, stop talking,’ says Mr Thomas raising his head from the pile of books that he is marking.

‘Just discussing work, Sir,’ says Zara airily

‘Well, keep your voices down, then.’ says Mr Thomas.

Describe your monster,’ goes on Zara making no effort to lower her voice. ‘Let me see. Very ugly. Always shouting! Very, very stupid! Comes from another planet.’

I giggle. I usually giggle when Zara and I sit together. Zara is just so funny and she couldn’t care less about any teacher.

Making friends with Zara is the first thing that I can remember in my life. Most kids remember things from the time that they are about three, but my first memory is being four and a half and going to school for the first time with my mum. I kept crying and then when we got into the infants class the teacher, nice motherly old Mrs Collins, said:

‘Sit down next to Zara, Fern. She’s quite at home. Zara, you look after Fern.’

So I sat down on the little baby chair just beside Zara and she gave me half of her plasticine and I gave her one of my sweets and from then on we were friends.

It was fun that year in the infants. Zara and I did everything together – except that I never had the courage to cheek Mrs Collins the way that she did. Zara was so funny, though, - even then I never could stop giggling and that got me into trouble, too.

Nowadays we seem to giggle even more and so do the other girls.

So there is the usual noise going on in the Sixth Class classroom this morning when the door opens and in comes Mrs Morgan. Instant silence! Mrs Morgan is quite nice really, but everyone is a bit afraid of her. I suppose it’s because she’s the headmistress of the school.

‘Could I just have a word with all the girls in your class, Mr Thomas,’ she says in that sickening sort of voice that teachers always use to each other – pretending that they never call each other by their first names.

‘Yes, yes, Mrs Morgan,’ stammers Mr Thomas.

All the girls stand up. There were only eight of us in Sixth Class.

‘What’s up?’ whispers Jessica.

Everyone looks a bit worried except Ann. Ann looks smug. That must be it. She has had her father and mother up to school again to complain about Zara bullying her. Actually, Zara doesn’t bully Ann at all; she just despises her. And Zara is so popular that it means that everyone else in the class despises Ann as well. Ann is always whining to her parents about it.

‘I’m not saying that you must be friends,’ says Mrs Morgan after lecturing us for about twenty minutes. ‘What I am saying is: leave Ann alone. Don’t tease her; don’t insult her. Just leave her alone. Now it’s time for mid-morning-break so go straight out to the playground, all of you. Ann, just wait a moment, please. I want a word with you.’

‘Great,’ says Zara as soon as we escaped to the playground. ‘You heard what Mrs Morgan said, girls. Just leave Ann alone. No one is to speak to her.’

‘That’s a bit mean,’ says Jessica.

Zara puts her hands together, just like she is a saint or something and bows.

‘I know,’ she says sadly. ‘But I’m a good girl. I always do what the headmistress says.’

I – sort-of - agree with Jessica. It is a bit mean to leave out Ann all the time, but I can’t help laughing at the way that Zara puts her hands together and keeps touching her hands to her forehead and bowing towards Mrs Morgan. It’s a good job that Mrs Morgan has her back turned.

‘It won’t work anyway,’ continues Jessica. ‘Ann will still complain to her parents and we’ll still get into trouble.’

So, no surprise when a week later Mrs Morgan comes to the door again and goes through the little performance of asking Mr Thomas if she could speak to all the girls.

‘Wonder what she would do if he said "No’," whispers Zara as we obediently get to our feet and file out of the classroom and into Mrs Morgan’s study.

She’s looking quite smiley-faced, though, and she takes a letter off her desk.

‘This is exciting, girls,’ she says - she almost sounds human! ‘You know that an English film company is in this area to make a film of a book called ‘The Rose’. They are going to film it at Castletown House.’

She stops and looks at us. We all nod. We know all about it. Kevin, whose father is the film editor, is in our class. He’s only staying in Ireland for three months while his father is working on the film. We’ve all been nagging him to get us in as ‘extras’ but he always just shrugs his shoulders and says it’s nothing to do with him.

‘’The young actress who was playing the part of the younger sister of the heroine has unfortunately developed pneumonia and the film company has decided to look for a local child to play this part. It’s a small part and they don’t want to hold up production of the film any longer.’

‘What!’ says Zara. ‘One of us!’

‘Well, listen to what the producer writes,’ says Mrs Morgan. ‘I’m looking for a girl of about twelve years of age. Colouring and looks don’t matter as long as the girl herself has personality. It is not a big part but she will appear in what we feel will be one of the big hit films of the year. With your permission, I would like to interview for about half an hour all the girls in that age group. I should also like to take a few snapshots of them just to get an idea of how they will look to the camera,’

Well, what do you think?’ asks Mrs Morgan. She looks as excited as if she is going to be in a film herself. ‘It’s a wonderful book,’ she adds. ’It’s been one of my favourites for years.’

Zara makes a funny face when Mrs Morgan is not looking. I know her so well I can just hear her saying: ‘that’ll be a boring book’, but at the same time she looks as excited as everyone else.

‘They’ll be bound to choose you, Zara,’ I say as we walk back down the corridor to the secretary’s office to collect the letters to our parents, explaining about the film.

‘Probably be Emma,’ says Zara in an ‘I-couldn’t-care-less’ sort of voice. ‘She looks like a younger sister.’

Emma blushes a bit. She’s small for her age and she seems very young. I once saw a Barbie doll peeping out of her school bag. Eleven and still playing with Barbie dolls! She’s a very good runner, and so is Katie so they mostly hang around with each other and with Jessica. The most important gang in the class though is Zara, me, Heather and Michelle. Sometimes I wish that Jessica was in our gang, too – I like her – but she and Zara argue a lot. Zara is my best friend and that makes me quite important in the class.

‘Or Jessica,’ adds Zara now. She doesn’t mean it, though. I know that.

‘I’m too fat,’ says Jessica. ‘What do you say, you guys, could I lose a stone by this day next week?’

Everyone laughs at that – except Ann who just tosses her head and looks smug. She’s quite slim.

It might be Ann, I think, but I don’t dare say it aloud. She’s very pretty, really, with lovely eyes and hair. And Mrs Morgan might tip off the film producer to pick Ann as she had been having a hard time with the other girls. Zara sees me look at Ann and she knows what I’m thinking.

‘Of course!’ says Zara lifting up her left hand and letting it dangle limply while she smacks it with her right hand. ‘Why didn’t I think of it? It’ll be ‘you-know-who’, the girl we’re not allowed to say anything to. Look at that sulky pout, girls, you can just see her on the big screen, can’t you.’

‘Shut up, Zara,’ shouts Ann going crimson with rage.

‘Did I speak to her?’ Zara appeals to the rest of us. ‘I was looking straight at Fern, wasn’t I, Fern?’

I can’t help laughing. Zara looks so innocent and hurt. She’s a real actress. The film producer is bound to choose her. She’s gorgeous-looking, too. And she has gorgeous clothes. She’s just got a new cropped-top and a pair of skin-tight jeans and when she wears it, she looks as if she’s in a girl pop band. That makes me think of something.

‘Will we be allowed to wear our own clothes?’ I ask.

‘I should hope so,’ says Zara. ‘We can’t be wearing ghastly school uniform when the film producer comes. That would be too, too sad for words. Heather, you go back and ask Mrs Morgan.’

Heather flies off and we wait outside the classroom door.

‘What’ll you wear, Fern?’ asks Zara.

‘I don’t know really, I suppose it depends on what the film is about,’ I say. ‘We should have asked Mrs Morgan more about the book. Perhaps it will be in the library.’

But Heather was coming back down the corridor shaking her head.

‘No way,’ she says. ‘She got quite ratty. "Definitely school uniform!" She hopes we’re not going to get silly about all this.’

‘Silly!’ says Zara. ‘Us!’ And we all burst into the Sixth Class classroom giggling madly.

‘Maths books out, young ladies,’ booms Mr Thomas. ‘No talking, now. Heads down to work.’

Zara’s head is down. But she’s not working. She’s sketching clothes in her jotter – real gorgeous outfits. I wonder what she is going do. Perhaps her school uniform will have an accident the day before – and then she’ll have to wear her own clothes to school next Wednesday.


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