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Di stopped, dead. The room was an apocalyptic mess. Her twin brother’s rats’-nest hair, scruffy uniform and muddy trainers were like camouflage amidst the chaos.
“Who took my school bag?” he whined, picking his way between piles of dirty laundry and untouched textbooks.
“Not this again, Coby.” Di checked her watch. “Will you hurry up? Mum and Dad already left for work and the bus’ll be here in a sec’.”
Coby muttered something, probably rude, but at least he wasn’t making last-minute fridge raids or playing hallway football. And if Di heard one more complaint about his morning being ruined by face-washing and teeth-cleaning and other things fifteen-year-old boys say are a waste of time, she might just snap and make him organize himself.
Like that’s ever going to happen. Di sighed. “I’ll help you look.”
“Right.” Coby dashed past her.
The hallway was empty.
Di turned back to the hourglass. Something about it drew her in. She stepped forward again.
“Got it!” Coby thundered down the stairs, slinging his bag onto his back.
“Finally.” Di forgot all about her find as she threw a last, panicked glance at the hallway clock.
From its glass case, two solemn figures were watching her.
Di spun on the spot, searching for the source of the reflection. Of course there was nothing… there was no one else home.
Coby pushed past her to the front door. Di didn’t move.
“You coming?” He paused.
Di looked back at the clock. The faces had gone.
Or they were never actually there, Di thought her way back to safe, planned normality. She eyed the hallway mirror, ensuring that her long, brown hair was immaculately pulled back and her uniform crease-free, then she followed Coby outside.
The bus passed their stop just as Di locked the front door. Coby was in no hurry for school but he couldn’t resist a race as the bus dragged itself up the hill. Di chased after him, dying of embarrassment; with her overstuffed schoolbag bouncing on her back, she felt like a giant, uncoordinated turtle.
At least it won’t make me any less cool, Di thought as she caught up and climbed on board.
“Since when do you have to run to get here on time?” her best friend, Josh, gaped at her. He had known her long enough to understand – sometimes too well – that Di’s life was ruled by the clock and by her homework. Lateness wasn’t something she tolerated.
“Coby was taking forever,” she said, still thinking of the faces in the clock.
“You OK though? You seem stressed.”
“I’m just tired.”
“Were you up all night reading again?”
“Maybe,” Di admitted. Josh feigned disappointment.
“You need a life,” he teased. He was joking, but the honesty in his hazel eyes hit a painful nerve.
Di turned away, fiddling with her neatly trimmed nails to avoid his gaze. Josh was right; her life was about as exciting as leftover Brussels sprouts.
“Maybe you… you could… come out sometime,” he said quietly.