“You’re late!” Ophelia’s mother had her hands on her hips when she met them at the door. “You’d better have an explanation for this or you’re grounded.”
“Fifteen minutes isn’t late, mum. Fifteen minutes is delayed – especially given your impossible schedule for getting back by bus.”
“It is late! The bus leaves school at twenty five to four and reaches the nearest bus stop at ten to four. It’s a fifteen minute walk from the stop-“
“If it arrives in time. If it doesn’t break down – and you know how often that happens. Why do they put those stupid boneshakers on the school run? If I walk really briskly. Sometimes I don’t want to be out of breath when I get-”
“Don’t interrupt. Your dawdling is the point. I don’t want you out there any longer than needed.”
“Argh!” Ophelia pushed past her mother and stormed towards the kitchen, ignoring her calls to come back.
“Excuse me, Aunt Cass.” She heard Sera say as she went. “We were delayed because one of the year nine boys collapsed in front of is. We worried that it might be the same as Mike and the others have but he’d only fainted. We couldn’t just leave him lying there, could we?”
“Hmm… I guess not,” she said as Ophelia emerged from the kitchen with two packets of crisps and a large bottle of Coke. “And you were going to tell me this when, exactly?”
“Once you stopped yelling and listened to me.” Ophelia tossed one of the packets of crisps to Sera.
“I asked for an explanation.”
“No, you threatened me with grounding if I didn’t have one. Have I ever been late without reason? No! But you still don’t trust me. Anyway, I wasn’t alone. Sera was with me.”
“What’s for tea?” Sera’s eyes looked suspiciously moist and her voice squeaked slightly. Cass gave her a long look and her face softened.
“You should have called,” she said softly. “But I’ll grant you were probably a bit distracted.” She looked back at Sera. “Shepherd’s pie, but it won’t be done for a while.”
“Yum,” Sera said. “Seems like a good time to do our homework then. Come on, Phelia, we’ll do it in your room.”
“Huh?” Ophelia blinked at Sera. Surely she wasn’t going to fuss about homework after what had happened? Sera gave Ophelia’s bag a pointed look and enlightenment dawned. “I’d rather do it after tea.” She didn’t want to seem to give in too easily to Sera’s suggestion in case her mother thought they were up to something.
“You procrastinate worse than Mike sometimes.” Sera picked up her own bag. “I want to do mine. There’s a movie on later than I want to watch.”
“Oh, okay then,” Ophelia said after a moment’s more consideration. She picked up her bag and headed upstairs to her room. She put it down on her bed and opened it.
“Okay, the coast’s clear.” A silvery sphere formed inside her bag and Silver emerged. “Now what’s going on? What the hell was that thing? How did I do that? How did I even know how to do that? And why didn’t anyone else see it?”
“Sera saw us.” Silver flicked a small flame towards Sera. “The Lost ones aren’t tangible to nulls and I was still masking partially at the time… she shouldn’t have been able to.”
“How could anyone miss a thing like that?” Sera asked.
“Apart from the innate human ability not to see things that they don’t want to believe?”
“Yes, quite apart from that.”
“I thought so.” Silver sounded like she was grinning. “Bluntly – lack of talent. This form slips easily into the parts of the world nulls can’t perceive and the Lost Ones exist there anyway, so the vast majority of humans can’t see it.”
Sera narrowed her eyes. “But Ophelia and I can?”
“Yes,” she said. “Ophelia is sensitive – possibly even an active – and the key has attached to her. But you… I don’t read your aura as being sensitive at all â€“ which is a puzzlement in itself since I’d expect you to be. Suffice to say that from your aura, you shouldn’t have been able to see me.”