‘They call me Venus Flytrap,’ the girl with thin green lips said.
She gave a sly grin.
‘Because I can do this trick.’ She blinked, her lashes were dark, long and spiky.
‘I can catch bugs with my eyelids and melt them.’
‘Is that a good thing to do?’
She shrugged. ‘I just do it,’ she said.
‘What – even wasps?’
‘Even… hornets. And grasshoppers.’
Break was over and they were in another oak-panelled classroom, waiting for the next lesson to begin. Suddenly the door flew open and a gust of creamy mist wafted in. But that was all. No teacher. Then footsteps sounded along the corridor, and a woman in a long red velvet cape appeared and, in spite of the clack of her footsteps, seemed to merely hover inside. She stood at the front and studied the new intakes, her nose pushed a little in the air.
‘My name,’ she said, her voice low and husky, ‘is Christina the Astonishing.’
And with a sudden flurry she produced two guinea pigs from nowhere, and placed them on the cluttered desk in front of her. They both had golden spiky hair, and a soft glow around them. Tiberius gave a low whistle.
Miss Astonishing hovered out from behind her desk and patrolled the room for a full minute before saying anything. She looked very serious indeed. Ararnia shivered as she floated past her.
‘What do you know about miracles?’ she asked eventually.
Ambrose knew something so he stuck his hand up and told her.
She nodded, waved her finger at the open door and said huskily, ‘Wiveliscombe.’ The door closed, smoothly and efficiently. All on its own. Ararnia’s jaw dropped open. A fly buzzed near her and she was in danger of swallowing it. Instead Venus blinked and the fly vanished.
Miss Astonishing didn’t reply to Ambrose, but instead waved her finger at the mess on her desk and said, ‘Agglethorpe.’
The books, pens, papers and spiky guinea pigs rose up in the air, collided with one another then hopped about and sorted into separate tidy piles. Even the guinea pigs’ hair looked neater.
‘Wow!’ said Tiberius, then he quickly added, ‘I mean – wow, miss!’
She surveyed the class again with her cold grey eyes.
‘Now there is something very important that I want you all to remember about miracles. Miss Punch, are you listening?’
Petrona was staring out of the window. She looked back suddenly.
‘Oh er… yes Miss, I er… there was an unusual bird out there.’
‘Yes Miss Punch, it’s a Dodo, now concentrate please. This is important. Now, before you learn anything else about miracles, I want you to learn this. Miracles must not be used to impress others or put others down. They are not magic tricks. They are rare happenings which work for the good of others and point back to the source of all miracles.’
She snapped her fingers and the door snapped shut.
‘But… wasn’t that just a magic trick, Miss?’
‘Yes Mr Sky, I was making my point. Getting doors to shut is just a trick. Give people tricks and they just want more tricks. Miracles are about something else entirely. Do you understand?’
The class nodded quickly and obediently. Mostly because they were keen to get on and see some more miracles.