Part 8 (and links to all other parts)
Here’s part 9 of Merle’s story. You can find links for all the other parts above. Merles has just arrived at Lucia’s house to talk to her about what happened the previous day.
“Coming, mum!” Merle heard Lu’s voice. She was upstairs. Probably playing with dolls, he reasoned. She came downstairs head buried in a Nintendo DS. She looked up when she reached the door, eyes opening slightly wider as she saw Merle. Merle hoped Mrs Bennett hadn’t noticed it.
“Hi Merle,” she said lightly.
“Merle here wanted to speak to you, Lucia.” If Mrs Bennett was using Lu’s Sunday name, then she suspected something. “I asked him if you two had been up to anything.”
“What did he say?” Lu said. Merle didn’t think this was a good answer. Neither, it seemed, did Mrs Bennett.
“Never mind what he said.” She managed to point at Merle without uncrossing her arms. “Same question to you, young lady: what have you two been up to?”
Merle held his breath, while trying to look casual, at ease. He couldn’t look at Lu.
“Nothing mum. I’ve not seen Merle for a couple of weeks,” she said. To Merle her voice sounded even, calm, composed. He risked a look at her and was relieved to see that she had made a much better job of the deceit than he had. Her mum’s arms were still crossed: they were not in the clear yet.
“No time-travel, then?”
“No. I promised I would always tell you if I did,” Her face was still a picture of innocence, “and I didn’t.”
“But I wouldn’t remember if you had, would I?”
“No, you wouldn’t mum. I said I’d tell you, and I will, but I haven’t.”
“Okay then,” Mrs Bennett said, and let her gaze linger on Merle for another few seconds. “Not too long, Merle. Lu has her
homework to finish.” She ran a hand over her daughter’s head and smiled at her as she went back into the living room, leaving Merle and Lu alone in the hall.
Merle watched Mrs Bennett close the living room door before speaking.
“You want to talk here or in your room?”
“We can go in the kitchen.” Lu closed the front door and led Merle through the house into the kitchen, where she slid out one of the chairs around the table and sat down. Merle pulled the chair out opposite and sat down.
“Do you remember last night?” Merle was confident that Lu’s parents were blissfully unaware of Merle calling for their daughter last night; he would be answering more difficult questions now if they had been, but for them, he hadn’t called for Lu; he hadn’t need to. But he wanted to know how much Lu remembered of the previous night. He was still unclear the extent of her powers.
“Yes,” Lu said.
“All of it?” Merle made a face.
“Oh,” said Merle, leaning forward so his forehead rested on the table.
“How far do you think we went back?”
“Maybe two hours?” Merle said without lifting his head.
“Yes!” Lu slapped her palm onto the table, and Merle lifted his head.
“That’s a new record,” said Lu, smiling.
“Nice.” He tried to sound pleased. It seemed like something he should be pleased about. After all, Lu was his friend and people like her were hard to come by. “Real nice. Do you parents know you can go back that far?”
“I don’t think so. The most we’ve ever done together is,” she said, glancing up at the ceiling, her lips moving silently as she calculated, “an hour. Maybe just under.”
One part left to come. That’s next week…