Gemma Bristow, writer


Crowded around tables in the lunchroom, the students described their plans for the summer. Finally it was Anna's turn. She was the new girl, of course; the others weren't that interested.

'So - what about you?'

'I'm visiting my aunt,' Anna said.

Compared with horseback riding or playing the Xbox, this didn't, admittedly, sound all that interesting.

'What does your aunt do?' That was Zoe, who was keen to know people's careers. By the look on her immaculately made-up face, she wasn't expecting much.

'Oh,' Anna said airily, lifting her shoulders high for maximum effect. 'She's been called a magician.'

'What, on stage?'

'Or d'you mean she's a Wiccan?'

'She gave the Civil War,' said Anna, 'a whole different ending.'

They looked puzzled, but she had their attention. They were listening.

'She waved her magic wand, and turned the war into a stalemate. Neither side could win. The South ended up as a separate country, guarded by border fences. Even now, there's still slavery there. There's no Internet or anything to let people talk to the rest of the world. All they do is farm. The country's shrinking. America puts pressure on it. They have to sell land to keep going. Sometimes people run away. But the ones in charge won't change anything. Not until something happens to make them.'

'Is that true?' asked Luis, scrunching his eyebrows as he decided whether to believe her.

'You could go there tomorrow if you wanted.'

'That didn't happen.' Zoe's lip pushed out. 'And no one could make it happen, anyway.'

'She's made weirder things happen than that,' Anna said. 'She made horses disappear, to see what the world would be like if there'd never been any horses — pretty different, as it turned out. Once she made everyone be awake at night instead of in the daytime. She even turned the moon orange. And she's made people do all kind of crazy things.'

'Like what?'

'Become heroes, give up everything for love, save the world…'.

'You're making it up. Magicians can't do that.'

'I said she'd been called a magician, not that she was one.' Anna let her voice, which she'd dropped like a movie narrator, return to its normal tone. She laughed. 'She's a writer. Get it?'

'A wr— . Oh. OK.'

'That's cool,' Luis decided. 'A writer, that's cool. I never met a writer.'

'Some of her stuff's in the library.'

'Where does she live?' Zoe scented glamour. 'New York, Paris, someplace like that? In a big house with rooms everywhere?'

'No,' Anna laughed. 'In an apartment in Green Bay. With my uncle.'

'Is he a writer too?'

'No. He's a police officer.' She grinned. 'But a queen has his allergy to shellfish, a trickster has his smile and a knight has his heart.'

Published in Guardian Angel Kids.