Take a look at this exclusive mystery story The Silver Bell from author June Winton.
“Hi Lacy, hope you’ve arrived safe ‘n well in Canada. Just to let you know, Jake had his operation yesterday and he seems to be okay apart from feeling a bit dizzy. The doctors say this is normal. Will have to wait a few days to try out the implant. Hope the skiing goes well, love, J xxx”
“Jake’s had his op,” I told Mum.
“Poor little love, fingers crossed it’ll work.”
“Yes, I hope so too.”
It would be like a miracle, I thought to myself, if he could hear again. I quickly typed back a response saying that we were both well and wished Jake all the luck in the world. Next I sent Karina a funny message about the food we ate on the plane, which I knew she would appreciate, and uploaded the photo from my mobile phone. Finally, I sent my friend Annabelle a note saying I hoped all was well with her and the family. I knew she had problems at home as her mum wasn’t coping too well after a family bereavement.
We heard people talking downstairs and realised that Carol and Trevor were awake. Mum and I took it in turns to get washed and dressed, then Carol came upstairs.
“Did you sleep well?” she asked us, looking at me in particular.
“Oh, like a log,” I lied.
Carol looked pleased. “How about you, Debra?”
“Oh yes, it’s so lovely and quiet. We were admiring your garden this morning.”
Carol laughed. “Not that you can see much of it, it’s buried under a foot of snow.”
“Do you think I could have a ski in it?” I asked.
Carol and Mum both laughed.
“I don’t see why not. Don’t see as it would do any harm.”
“Oh thank you! I haven’t used my skis on real snow yet,” I explained.
“Well, you’d better come downstairs and have some breakfast,” Carol replied, “You’ll need some energy.”
“I’ll just get you your present,” I said, rushing back into the bedroom. I handed her three photographs of the family placed in silver frames.
“Why thank you, they can join the others on the stairwell.”
I went back into the bedroom and collected the half-eaten toast and cup of cold tea. Carol laughed.
“Your mum was right, you were out like a light by the time I came back. I noticed you’ve put the photo of John and his family on the dressing table, alongside your silver cross.”
“Yes, I hope that’s okay?”
“It sure is, they look like they belong there next to the photos of Mom and Dad.”
“Mm, that’s what I thought,” I agreed.
We followed Carol down the stairs. She paused half way down by the windowsill, which was covered in framed photographs, looked round and tutted.
“Fallen off again.” She picked something up from the stair carpet and shook her head, then placed a small yellow ribbon onto one of the framed photographs. It saw it was of a girl of about my age.
“Who’s that,” I asked, “one of your daughters?”
“No, that’s Ann, my best friend’s daughter.” Carol carefully rearranged the photos so that they all fitted on the sill. “Come downstairs and I’ll tell you all about it over breakfast.”
We followed her into the kitchen.
“Morning, Trevor,” Mum called out.
Trevor was already sitting at the kitchen table, pouring himself a black coffee.
“Mornin’ all. Please, sit down.” He indicated to some chairs beside him.
I gasped at all the food on the table, which was groaning under the weight of orange juice, cereal, yoghurt, scrambled egg, bacon, toast and pancakes.
“I haven’t forgotten your tea,” said Carol, bringing over two cups and placing them in front of us.
“This looks wonderful, thank you,” Mum said to her.
“Wow!” I agreed.
“That’s how we do things over here,” laughed Trevor. “Have to stave off the cold.”
I didn’t know where to start, so watched what Trevor did. First he took a couple of pancakes, put scrambled egg and some bacon on top, then squeezed the whole lot with maple syrup. I looked at Mum in horror. She gave me a look back which meant ‘don’t you dare say anything’, so I placed a couple of pancakes on my plate and tried out the maple syrup minus the eggs and bacon.
“Mm, this is really tasty,” I remarked.
I noticed Carol watching me with amusement, and noted all she was having was cereal with yoghurt poured over the top. Not too outrageous, I’d seen that done before at Annabel’s house. I noticed Mum sticking with toast, eggs and bacon, which appeared all very nice without syrup.
“Lacy wants to have a ski in the garden,” Carol mentioned.
“I think it’s best if you don’t,” said Mum, “we’re all nicely packed now. You can wait, can’t you?”
“Your Mom’s right,” Trevor agreed. “In a couple hours Judy and Beth’ll be here, and a couple after that you’ll be on the slopes.”
“Okay, I guess so,” I said ungraciously.
“Oh, I still haven’t told you about the photo,” said Carol, swiftly changing the subject. “Ann was – is – my best friend Maria’s daughter. We have a tradition in America – I don’t know if you have it in England, but when somebody goes missing we tie a yellow ribbon somewhere – maybe on a tree or a fence, and when they come home we untie it.”
“So Ann went missing?” I asked, forgetting about the skiing.
Carol seemed reluctant to continue. “Well the truth is, my father always blamed himself.”
I waited patiently while she took a sip of coffee.
“He was working on the early shift one morning and it was heavy snow, a bit like it is here now. Anyhow, he was sitting high up in the signal box – in those days it was all manually operated, and the 5.30 mail train was due to arrive at any minute, when he looked across the street and saw a young woman – who we found out later must’ve been Ann – pulling a heavy suitcase and slipping and sliding in the snow. So he felt sorry for her and he kept the signal on red so as she could catch the train, which she did. And that’s the last anybody’s seen or heard of her in 40 years.”
“Oh no, that’s terrible!” I replied.
“Poor William,” Mum murmured sympathetically.
“My poor friend, too. She’s never been the same since. She blamed her husband for driving Ann away, and he blamed her for spoiling her, so they split up. And of course Dad was always saying he was sorry and wished he’d let the train go, and Maria was always telling him it wasn’t his fault. You’ll probably see Maria before you go home, she’s here a lot. A few years later her brother married my other daughter, Heather, so they’re family. Now, can I get you anything else? Another tea?”
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