When I was seven something rather odd happened to me. One moment I was me, running across a deserted beach and the next I wasn't. At the time I couldn't describe what had happened to me. I was suddenly tiny, running on all fours, and then I reared up and became myself again. A small girl with coppery hair in plaits.
And try as I might, I couldn't understand what had happened. Until one fateful day two years later…
I was walking back from school by myself, happy because I'd got a gold star for drawing. I climbed a style into a field, where I saw a girl riding a horse.
I saw riders quite often, but something about this girl was different. To start with, she was riding bareback and without a bridle, just clinging to the horse's mane and being thrown up and down as they cantered across the field.
Secondly, the horse was pure shimmering white, contrasting with the girl's dark hair and clothes. Its hooves were pale golden and glittered like the sun on water. The girl was small, only a year or so older than me, and not wearing any shoes.
That's when I saw it. A shimmering blur of white, a gleam above the horse's head. I didn't get a good look until they neared me and slowed to a trot. It was a horn. A pearly spiral horn, coming out of the horse's forehead.
It was a unicorn. An actual, real unicorn. I had never been much of a pink-fairy-unicorn sort of a girl, and besides, I was too old for all that now. I was nine and a half, after all. I blinked in shock, but there was no mistaking it. It was a unicorn.
As I stood and watched as the horse slowed and halted, and the girl leaned forwards over its neck to pat it. Then she swung a leg over and dropped to the ground beside me. She was about eleven, and small with long dark hair that hung across her face like black silk curtains.
"You're Harriet" she said. No hello, or nice to meet you, or an introduction, just being told my own name.
"I know." I said.
"Richard wants to talk to you" the girl said.
"Richard Scott. He's a teacher at Milton High. You know, the big girls school?" She said. Her long dark hair hung loose across her face, like a pair of velvet curtains.
"Yes. But why does he want to talk to me?" I wondered.
"Wait and see!"
"But where is he?" I said, starting to get annoyed "Why should I go? Who are you anyway?"
"I'm Emmalina!" the dark-haired girl announced. "He's working. And you're coming because I said so."
And with that she grabbed my wrist and led me off across the field. Emmalina paused only to look at the unicorn, and a silent conversation seemed to pass between them. Then we were off again.
She led me through another field, across a mud track and then down a path to the cliff tops. We followed the quiet road along the cliffs for some way, then turned down several other streets before coming to the gates of Milton-on-Sea High School.
There were still some students, teenage girls in the blue uniform that Emmalina wore, hanging around by the gate. Emmalina calmly led me through the car park, then up some steps to the reception.
Here, a tall young woman with short dark hair and black clothes was talking to the receptionist. She looked up as we approached.
"Emmalina" she said, "You'll be wanting Richard, won't you? I'll get him for you" She went off to find him, and Emmalina gestured to a seat. I sat down awkwardly, while she stood chatting to the receptionist. It was the leather sort of chair where the back and arms are one curved piece, and not very comfortable.
The Reception had green ridged carpet and several doors which may have led to offices. One door was up a few steps, which seemed to lead to a long corridor.
The main door opened again and a man came in. He was tall with spiky hair, and wore a checked shirt and black trousers.
"Hi." he said, "You must be Harriet."
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