Mary was very different to her sister Martha. Tall and graceful, she glided rather than moved. And she had a smile that lit up the room.
‘Where’ve you been?’ Martha said, sounding a little grumpy about the question.
Mary didn’t reply, she just laid down her drawing pad and charcoal sticks and threw Normal a stunning smile. Normal nearly fell off his chair, her smile was so overpowering.
‘I’d better be going,’ he muttered, his mouth still full of pie.
‘Ooh!’ Martha looked at her watch, it was covered in flour and she had to brush it clean. ‘You better had,’ she said, ‘the headmaster is about to give his welcome assembly in the hall.’
Mary threw Normal another smile as she held the door open for him. Normal shot past her and ran back through the fading light towards the main building. Zenobius was holding out his huge grey hand, pointing back towards the school. Normal nodded and fled. He made it just in time and slipped into the ranks of pupils beside Tiberius.
‘Where’ve you been?’ hissed his friend out of the corner of his mouth.
‘Eating pie and talking to giants,’ Normal said.
The headmaster was a big barrel of a man. He had a large handlebar moustache, and broad nose that looked as if it had been knocked flat a few times.
He pulled himself up to his full height, which wasn’t much, five and half feet perhaps and he eyed the school from his place at the edge of the stage.
‘Guardian Grange,’ he began, ‘is a place of pride. A place you will be proud you attended once you are no longer attending it. If you see what I mean…’ He cleared his throat. ‘It is only given to a few – the opportunity to learn here – and you are that few. Now I know we have a new set of intakes this term. Eight I believe.’
The eyes of the teachers fell on the line of small children in the front row. Four boys and four girls. They blushed various shades of red. All except Tiberius who just grinned happily. The ranks of youngsters behind them took little notice. For one thing they could barely see the eight short creatures at the front and for another they had all been there themselves at various times in the past and were more than happy they were no longer the new intakes.