By pink book
Heidi hated her body.
Not because she had a sticking-out belly, or a flat chest or untameable toenails. Although some of that was true as well. But because bits of it didn’t work as they should. Her body ruled her life.
The allergies were the worst. At first, it was just the ‘atma’, as she used to say when she was little. No contact with dust, which is pretty hard when your dad’s a builder. Pets were out: no cats, no dogs, iguanas and snakes scared the living daylights out of her and fish were just plain boring. No dairy products, so no ice-cream and no chocolate. And no running about in fields or woods in the summer with the other kids. The mixture of pollution and pollen could be lethal. Literally.
As time went on, the list of no-nos got bigger and bigger. As did the list of symptoms: tummy trouble, skin flare-ups, headaches.. . Anything from paint to perfume could trigger off a reaction. People stopped inviting her round to their houses in case she died or something. It got to be pretty lonely pretty quickly.
So, now she was ‘housebound’- a word that made her think of little old ladies in wheelchairs, stuck in their good front rooms, waiting for relatives who n3ever came. She wasn’t that bad, not really.
She had a stereo and loads of books and DVDs and a T.V. Freeview and everything.
But, you can’t talk to a T.V, can you?
Whenever she was down and bored, Heidi picked up her copy of The Borrowers- her favourite book ever since she was seven or eight. She’d got it for Christmas.
She’d seen it in the public library on a trip with school . She’d come home, asking Mum if she could have a library card so she could bring the book home for Dad to read at bedtime. Mum had said ‘no’.
Like a lot of the things Mum did, Heidi could see why she was doing it, but that still didn’t make it fair. Mum went on for a long time about how Heidi must wait ‘til Mummy or Daddy got her her own copy because of the dust that was always on library books. Not to mention the pet panic, Other People’s Germs. Eventually, Heidi gave in.
After one or two tantrums.
Now, Heidi flicked through the book to one of her favourite passages. She never really read it through anymore, just skipped to the best bits. She found the passage where Pod tells Arrietie about her cousin Eggletina, who got caught by the cat because she didn’t believe that the sky was ‘dark brown with cracks in it’. That always made her smile.
Not the bit about Eggletina getting caught, obviously. Death was not funny, even the death of a character in a story. What made her smile was that Pod’s story had a message for real parents. Sort of.
Mary Norton seemed to be saying that ‘protecting’ kids by lying to them, like Eggletina’s parents did, never did any good. The bad things that happened to a child would happen whatever. So, if you were going to tell them stuff, it might as well be the truth. It was safer that way.
Book in hand, Heidi walked to the window and looked out. Her eyes ran along the length of the street , searching for something diverting. She liked to watch other people’s days. Even if she couldn’t join in.
She spotted a boy sauntering along the`curb, a green paperboy’s satchel settled uneasily on one skinny hip. Some of his earlobe-length brown hair stuck up in custard blond needles As a finishing touch, both the needles and the brown bits had been flecked liberally with scarlet dye, As if his scalp had been squirted with chilli sauce
Something about this boy caught Heidi’s attention. He wore a brown hoodie, drainpipe jeans and a pair of fashionably-anonymous-looking white trainers. Fred Perry’s maybe. When he turned one side of his face towards her, walking closer as he went to cross the road, she saw that the features were pinched. Like a little boy’s trying not to cry.