Authors: Summer Waters
THE MAGIC CHARM
For Antonia MacPhee – My Dolphin Girl
ut at sea thirty dolphins waited anxiously for their leader to arrive. Some of them whispered together in low whistles and clicks. Others stayed silent, scanning the horizon with bright eyes. One little dolphin couldn’t keep still. He rolled in the water, butting his sister with his silver head, calling for her to play with him.
“Mum,” squeaked Dream crossly. “Bubbles is annoying me.”
“Hush now,” their mother clicked back. “Your father’s coming.”
Bubbles stopped teasing his big sister.
“I see him,” he whistled, his tail smacking the
water excitedly. “Can I go and meet him, Mum?”
“No, darling. You must wait here with everyone else.”
Bubbles bobbed in the water, clicking impatiently, until the large dolphin with a striking yellow blaze along his side drew nearer, then he too fell silent. Spirit, the large dolphin, halted a tail’s length in front of the pod and slowly bowed his magnificent head.
“Our search is over,” he announced. “At last we have found a new Silver Dolphin.”
An excited whistle rippled from the pod through the water.
“Our new Silver Dolphin is young,” Spirit continued. “She has much to learn, but she is a very special child and I know she will serve us well. Be kind to her. Help her to fulfil her tasks and in return she will help us.”
“When will we meet her?” squeaked Bubbles, the words bursting from his mouth before he could stop them.
“Soon,” he whistled. “Very soon.”
hat are Lauren and Becky doing?”
Antonia Lee and her best friend Sophie Hastings were walking across the school field of Sandy Bay Primary after a game of rounders when Antonia suddenly changed direction.
“Oh, that’s mean! They’re teasing a frog.” Antonia broke into a run shouting, “Leave it alone. That’s cruel.”
Lauren laughed and continued poking the frog with her rounders bat, cheering each time the frog jumped forward.
Angrily Antonia squatted down and scooped the frog into her hands.
“That’s Lauren’s frog,” said Becky, stepping towards her. “She’s teaching it to jump.”
“You’re cruel,” said Antonia hotly. “How would you like to be poked with a rounders bat?”
“Eeewww, that’s gross! She’s touching it.” Lauren backed away. “Come on, Becky. Game over.”
Antonia cradled the frog in her hands. Its lumpy brown body quivered with fright and its eyes bulged with uncertainty.
“I’m going to put him in the school pond,” she told Sophie. “Will you come with me?”
Sophie sighed. “You like all animals, don’t you, even the ugly ones?”
“Not all animals,” Antonia grinned cheekily. “People are animals too, but I don’t like Lauren and Becky.”
“Becky’s all right when you get to know her,” said Sophie unexpectedly. “She comes to one of Dad’s art classes.”
Sophie’s father was an artist who ran classes from his studio. When she wasn’t busy daydreaming Sophie helped him out, setting up easels and handing round paintbrushes.
“Please will you come to the pond with me?” Antonia changed the subject, not wanting to argue.
“Of course I’ll come.”
“We’ll have to be quick. We’ve got afternoon assembly next because a visitor’s coming in to tell us who won the poster competition.”
Carefully Antonia carried the frog to the pond and left it on the water’s edge in the shade of some
reeds. When she and Sophie returned to class, 5B were changing out of their PE kits and back into school uniform. Miss Brown frowned.
“Where have you two been? Don’t tell me, you stopped to have a chat. Hurry up, girls, or you’ll make us all late.”
Antonia changed quickly, trying not to be the last to line up at the door. When everyone was ready Miss Brown led the class along to the hall. As Antonia filed in, she stared curiously at the woman sitting next to their head teacher. The visitor had a faraway look on her face as if she was thinking about something special.
“She looks like a sea witch,” whispered Sophie dramatically. “Oh, poo! There’s no room to sit together.”
The visitor had wild brown hair and seaweed-green clothes, but Antonia thought her
face was too kind to belong to a witch. She stifled a giggle as Sophie, pulling faces, reluctantly started a new line. When the whole school was assembled the woman stood up, smiling broadly so that her green eyes disappeared into her wrinkled face.
“Good afternoon, children. My name is Claudia Neal and I’m responsible for arranging the poster competition you’ve all entered. The competition was held to launch Sea Watch. It’s a local charity involved in marine conservation and animal rescue, and I’m hoping that some of you might volunteer to help with it. There are many things to do at Sea Watch and lots of injured birds and animals to look after. I’d be thrilled if some of you could come along. But right now I’m going to tell you the winners of the competition.”
An excited buzz filled the hall. Antonia grinned across at Sophie, sitting a whole line away from
her. She was sure Sophie had won. She was a fantastic artist and had painted an amazing picture of dolphins leaping in the bay. Antonia had drawn dolphins too, but her picture didn’t look anywhere near as good as Sophie’s. Especially after she’d covered it with facts about pollution and how harmful it was to sea life.
“The standard of entries was very high and there are two runners-up: Joe Piper in 3T and Eleanor Jacobs in 6D.”
Antonia clapped loudly as Joe and Eleanor made their way to the front of the hall to collect their prizes–illustrated books about the sea–but all the time her eyes were on Sophie. She had to be the winner. She just had to be.
“And the winner, chosen not just for her super picture of dolphins, but for all the interesting facts she included as well, is Antonia Lee in 5B.”
At first Antonia didn’t register that she’d won. She was too busy staring at Sophie, who looked like she’d been knocked over the head with a bucket full of fish. Antonia tried to catch her friend’s eye, but Sophie didn’t look in her direction.
“Go on. Get your prize.”
The boy sitting next to Antonia practically pushed her to her feet. Self-consciously Antonia stumbled through the rows of seated children to the front of the hall where Claudia was waiting.
“Well done, my dear,” she said, grasping Antonia’s hand. “You obviously care about dolphins and the sea.”
“I do,” said Antonia, her grey-green eyes shining eagerly. “I can see the sea from my bedroom window. There’s a pod of common dolphins that swim in the bay early in the evening. I love watching them.”
“I’ve seen them too.” Claudia gripped Antonia’s hand and stared into her eyes.
Antonia caught her breath. Claudia’s gaze was so intense that for a second it felt like she was tapping into her thoughts. Maybe she
a witch! Then Claudia smiled and letting go of Antonia’s hand she gave her a small box. Antonia opened it and gasped. Inside was a silver dolphin on a delicate chain.
Claudia smiled and said so softly that Antonia struggled to hear her, “Always answer the dolphin’s call.”
Questions lined up at Antonia’s lips, but before she could ask anything Claudia returned to her seat. Mr Cordier, the head teacher, waved Antonia back to her place.
“Well done, everyone,” he said. “And if any of
you are interested in marine conservation, remember that Sea Watch needs volunteers. See me after assembly if you’d like more details.”
Antonia sat down. Had Claudia really just said ‘answer the dolphin’s call’? What could that mean? Antonia stared at Claudia, but she was gazing out of the window as if she’d rather be somewhere else. Antonia decided to ask her mum if she could volunteer. Helping out at Sea Watch sounded like great fun.
Antonia looked at the necklace again. She ran her finger over the dolphin charm. To her surprise the metal was smooth and slippery, just how she imagined a real dolphin would feel. She couldn’t wait to wear it and show Sophie, but she had the strangest feeling that she shouldn’t put it on until she was alone. Assembly seemed to go on for ever, but at last it was over and everyone went back to
their classrooms. It was home time and there was the usual scramble to stack chairs and collect bags and lunchboxes. Several girls crowded round Antonia wanting to see her prize. Antonia was showing them when she noticed Sophie was missing. She looked around and spotted her friend heading out of the classroom door.
Antonia closed the box and ran after Sophie, catching her up in the corridor.
“Going without me?” she joked.
Sophie rolled her eyes. “Hurry up then. You know I help Dad with his four o’clock art class.”
“Sorry, I forgot. Everyone wanted to see my prize. It’s a dolphin necklace. Look!” Excitedly Antonia thrust the box at Sophie.
“Nice,” said Sophie, barely glancing at it.
“Nice?” echoed Antonia. “Is that it?”
“I’ve told you. I’m in a hurry,” Sophie snapped.
“There’s plenty of time. Do you want to try my necklace on?”
Antonia held her breath, suddenly hoping Sophie would refuse. The two girls usually shared everything, but somehow Antonia was reluctant to share her necklace. It was too special.
“No, thanks,” said Sophie. “Shame you didn’t win something bigger, like a trophy. That looks a bit, you know, throwaway.”
Antonia’s cheeks flushed. She didn’t care that her necklace was small; it was still special.
“Aren’t you pleased for me? You’ve got hundreds of trophies for art, but this is the first time I’ve won anything.”
“Well done,” said Sophie, walking faster. “I’m very pleased for you. But your picture wasn’t art.
If it had been…Oh, never mind. Are you coming with me or waiting for your mum?”
Antonia stared at her friend. She thought Sophie would be as excited by her win as she was, but she sounded almost cross about it. Was it because she was surprised that Antonia had won instead of her?
“Well?” asked Sophie impatiently.
Mrs Lee worked in the office at Sandy Bay Primary School. Antonia usually walked home with her friend. But she was dying to tell her mum she’d won the competition, still, she didn’t want to fall out with Sophie.
“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be snappy. The necklace is lovely.” Sophie smiled. “I’ll try it on when I’m not in such a rush. Now are you coming with me or not?”
Relieved, Antonia smiled back. “Of course,” she said, tucking the necklace box in her bag. “What are you waiting for?”
A short while later the girls arrived at Sophie’s house.
“Do you want to come round tomorrow?” asked Sophie, stopping on the drive. “If it’s hot we could go down to the beach.”
“What time? I’ve got my surfing class in the morning.”
“After lunch. Dad’ll have finished his classes by then so he can take us. Say about half one?”
The girls always made sure an adult was with them when they went swimming–Antonia’s parents were quite strict about it.
“Half one’s fine,” agreed Antonia. “See you tomorrow.” She walked to the end of Sophie’s road in the direction of home, but then stopped. She
couldn’t wait a second longer. Now she was on her own she had to try on her dolphin necklace. Antonia shrugged her school bag from her shoulders and, pulling out the box, opened it. Sunlight flashed on the dolphin charm and the dolphin’s silver eye seemed to wink at her. Antonia ran a finger along its streamlined body, wondering again at how life-like it felt. With trembling fingers she lifted the necklace from its bed of silk and pushing her long blonde hair out of the way she fastened it around her neck. The dolphin felt strange against her skin, soft and slippery. Suddenly Antonia had a strong urge to be near the sea. At first she ignored it. She was supposed to go straight home, but as she walked the feeling grew too strong to be ignored. Antonia checked her watch. It was half past three, nearly half an hour before Mum and her little sister Jessica were due
home. What harm could a quick diversion to the beach do?