Eleven-year-old Astrid thinks she is imagining the quiet boy who appears in her room in the middle of the night and then vanishes as if by magic. Astrid lives in Sweden. She discovers the boy’s name is Tamati and he lives in New Zealand on the other side of the world.
How did he get into her bedroom?
And why does he keep coming back?
Reproduced with permission, from Time Twins, by Sally Astridge and Arne Norlin (Mākaro Press)
I wake up and the ghost boy is sitting on my bed. His weight has pressed the side of the mattress down. Did that happen last time? But surely ghosts don’t weigh anything. They don’t have vital statistics, like height and weight. Once again, I can smell green apples. His soap? Shampoo? Do ghosts wash?
He must have noticed my confusion, because he leans across and brushes a gentle finger down my cheek. It’s as light as a feather, but there’s no mistaking the feel. Then he puts the same finger over my lips. Shhh, says that finger. No shouting or yelling.
He has already turned on my bedside lamp. Perhaps that’s what woke me. I reach for my glasses and shove them on my nose. Now I can see him properly. He doesn’t look at all like a ghost, or someone scary. He has thick black hair and brown eyes, and a nice smile. He’s wearing an ordinary grey sweater, and the collar of the shirt underneath it is ordinary green. He’s about my age, but unlike some of the idiot boys in my class who still play little kids’ games, he looks more mature. He has an air of calmness about him, as though he’s sure of himself and knows what he’s doing.
He doesn’t look at all like a ghost, or someone scary. He has thick black hair and brown eyes, and a nice smile.
‘Don’t be skeered,’ he says again. Skeered?
For heaven’s sake! A ghost whose weight presses down the 30 edge of my mattress and who speaks English (sort of)? Has a British family moved into one of the downstairs apartments without me knowing? Impossible. We know all the families in our block, and nobody’s moved in ages.
And yet, strangely enough, I don’t feel frightened this time. Not for a moment.
‘Are you a …’ I struggle to find the correct word in English, ‘… a ghost?’
He shakes his head, still smiling. ‘No,’ he says. ‘I’m not a ghost. I’m your time twin.’
Time twin. I understand the words separately: time (seconds, hours, days etc), twin (born to the same mother at the same time). But what they mean when hitched together is a mystery.
Time twin. I understand the words separately . . . But what they mean when hitched together is a mystery.
‘What …?’ I say, needing clarification.
‘I’ll explain next time,’ says the boy. ‘I have to go.’
‘Already? But …’
And as I blink he disappears.
Just like that.
Shit, and shit again! (Sorry, Mum.)
I tried so hard to hang on, but it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Like clinging to an ice face so slippery that you just know you won’t find a foothold. Perhaps it’s hard to get a grip because she doesn’t quite trust me, yet. If she thought I was a ghost, she was pretty brave.
Perhaps it’s hard to get a grip because she doesn’t quite trust me, yet. If she thought I was a ghost, she was pretty brave.
Still, it’s disappointing. I feel a bit depressed as I push my bike through the scrub, throw my leg over the bar and pedal towards home. Perhaps I tried too hard.
Dad has picked up Rangi, my eight-year-old brother, and Annie, who is five, after school. They’re playing a jumping game on the front lawn. Weirdly, Rangi has been kind to Annie today and – to give her a chance of winning – has set her jump-off mark way ahead of his own. Rangi’s shirt is flapping like washing on the line, and Annie’s hair has come loose. Rangi looks like me and Dad: he has dark hair and brown eyes, but Annie takes after our mum, with fair hair that Mum plaits each morning.
The smell in the kitchen is yum.
I kiss my mum on her cheek. Dad’s sitting at the table reading the newspaper. It’s delivered each afternoon by a kid who throws it over the front hedge. Even though it’s wrapped in plastic, there are days when it lands in a puddle and you can hardly read it.
My baby brother, Manu, is sitting in his high chair, banging his spoon on the tray. It makes one hell of a racket, so I take it from him and help him get another spoonful of mashed banana. The television’s on as well, and a guy behind a news desk is talking about the Black Caps.
The combination of biking up the hill and the effort of traveling has left me all sweaty. I’ve got time for a shower before dinner if I hurry. Rangi, Annie and I share the family bathroom. Annie and Rangi don’t mind peeing in front of each other, but I prefer to be alone. Mum and Dad have their own shower in their en suite.
Sometimes I just wet my hair to make it look like I’ve showered, but this afternoon I shampoo my hair and soap myself all over. It gives me time to think about the stuff I have learned, just as Jack Reacher says you should.
These are the facts: from a postcard pinned to a board in her bedroom, I know that she lives in Sweden. I know the name of the city, too, but it looks like a tongue-twister to me. The postcard was signed Mamma, so I was probably right in thinking that her mum isn’t at home just now.
These are the facts: from a postcard pinned to a board in her bedroom, I know that she lives in Sweden. I know the name of the city, too, but it looks like a tongue-twister to me.
After I’ve dried myself and dressed, I ask if I can use our computer and I look up Sweden. Wow! It’s on the other side of the world – a big, oblong country to the north of Europe. It’s so far north that the Arctic Circle cuts through the top. I’ll bet they have loads of snow in winter. The city where my time twin lives is to the south, and although it looked quite big when I peeked out her window, it’s a very small dot on the map of Sweden, which suggests it’s only an ordinary sized town, after all.
Best fact of all: I know her name! It’s Astrid. Astrid Rosengren. I say it out loud a couple of times. Astrid. Astrid. It sounds nice. Finally, just before Mum calls us for tea, I google anyone else called Astrid in Sweden. There are millions. I find Astrid Lindgren, who wrote a book called Pippi Longstocking. I wonder if my Astrid was named after her?
by Sally Astridge and Arne Norlin
Published by Makaro Press