Today's Reading

His gaze focused on her and Lizzie saw that he recognised her and, a second later, saw equally clearly, that he did not like her. It was a novel experience for her to be disliked. She worked hard to be sweet and appealing. There was no reason to dislike her.

"Hi, Arthur," Johnny said. "This is Lizzie."

"I know," Arthur said.

Arthur Robsart, Lizzie thought, of course. He was not a model but he did do something on TV, not that she ever had time to watch, and he had some impossibly glamorous fiancée who wasn't at the wedding because she was about to make it in Hollywood. He was also Amelia's older brother, or half-brother, she thought—Amelia's family was almost as complicated as hers—which, she supposed, explained his dislike for her. Her heart dropped a little. She'd tried to be nice to Amelia; after all, she was Dudley's oldest friend so she should be Amelia's friend too. But somehow it hadn't worked and evidently Arthur knew that and like some other mean people, thought she should get out of Dudley's life.

Johnny scrambled up from the step and held out his arms unselfconsciously to his brother, asking to be picked up. Arthur's face lightened into a transforming smile.

"Where have you been?" he asked, ruffling Johnny's hair. "Your mum's looking for you."

"I want to get out of this stupid outfit," Johnny grumbled, fretful as any ordinary six-year-old now.

"Come on then." Arthur swung him up onto his shoulders. "Let's go and get changed." He gave Lizzie a cool nod, nothing more. Her heart dropped a little further, which was weird since his dislike mattered not at all. She was seventeen years old and she'd already learned not to care about other people's opinions. She'd also learned not to get entangled with handsome men. Or any men, for that matter; the life lessons she'd already absorbed would probably make even a psychiatrist wince.

As Arthur's footsteps died away, silence washed back into the hall and with it the plaintive echo of the crystal's song. Unwilling but unable to resist, Lizzie moved back towards it. The glass had turned a pale violet colour now. It seemed too beautiful not to touch. And surely something so beautiful couldn't be dangerous.

Her fingertips brushed the surface of the ball. It felt cool and smooth, the drifts of mist within following the movement of her hand. Immediately Lizzie saw a vision of the crystal sitting in the window of a shop in Glastonbury surrounded by a whole variety of other bogus magical items from joss sticks to druids' robes. She could see Amelia exclaiming in delight, pointing it out to Dudley who had his habitual expression of bored amusement plastered across his face. Dudley shrugged:

"It's total rubbish but buy it if you want..."

Lizzie withdrew her hand. Psychometry gave her the ability to pry into other people's lives sometimes but she really didn't want to know what went on between Dudley and Amelia. She absent-mindedly rubbed her fingers over the lines of the stone angel's wings, tracing the intricate carving. It was a beautiful piece, the hands cupping the crystal ball, the head bent. As she touched it, she heard the thrum of the harp again but this time it wasn't sweet and plaintive. There was a cold edge to it like shards of ice that sent a shiver down her spine.

The world exploded suddenly around her. She felt a rush of movement and a blur of colour; she felt a hand in the small of her back, pushing hard, then she was falling, falling. There was a rush of air against her face and the lightness of empty space beneath her. There was fear screaming inside her head. Then, as quickly as they had arrived, the sensations passed. She was lying on the floor and people were buzzing around her like flies.

"What happened?"

"I heard her screaming..."

"Trust Lizzie Kingdom to try and steal the limelight today of all days..."


Lizzie sat up. Her head was woozy as though she had had too much champagne. Pieces of the crystal lay scattered about her in glittering shards, one of which had embedded itself in the palm of her right hand. It stung fiercely. She could hear Amelia in the background, wailing that Lizzie had broken her gazing ball.
...

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