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Authors: Titania Woods

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BOOK: Friends Forever
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Her expression grew serious again as she looked back at Twink. ‘But what are we going to do about Mariella? If she tells – oh, Twink, it would be awful! You might even get expelled!'

‘I know,' said Twink softly. The same thought had kept her awake countless times since she had met Stripe. Then she brightened. ‘But Stripe's started flying again. I'm sure he'll be able to go home to his family soon. Then Mariella can say what she likes – if there's no wasp here, she can't prove it!'

‘Maybe he could fly home now, if we helped him,' said Bimi eagerly. She leaned towards the wasp. ‘Stripe, would you like to fly home to your family this morning?'

Stripe's eyes widened. He gulped, and beat his wings without taking off. He looked petrified and excited, both at the same time.

‘Let's give him some practice!' Twink flew across to the bed. Landing lightly on top of it, she clapped her hands. ‘Come on, Stripe, fly to me.'

The wasp took a deep breath. Launching himself in the air, he wobbled across the room in fits and spurts. At the last moment he crashed into Twink, and they fell on to the bed in a tangled heap.

Twink sat up and laughed. ‘Well – almost!'

Bimi jumped on to her mushroom. ‘Now back to me, Stripe!' she called.

Over and over, the wasp flew back and forth between the two fairies. Shaky at first, his flying gradually improved until he hardly wobbled at all.

‘Stripe, that's brilliant!' said Twink. She stooped down to look into his eyes. ‘Would – would you like to fly home now?' A painful lump grew in her throat at the thought. She tried to ignore it. She'd miss Stripe, but she knew he needed to be with his parents.

Stripe looked uncertain. He stared out of the door at the lightening sky and buzzed anxiously to himself.

‘Maybe he needs a bit more practice,' said Bimi. ‘Why don't we come back at break this afternoon and see him off then?'

‘What do you think, Stripe?' asked Twink, stroking his back. ‘Do you want to spend this morning practising? You could even try flying outside for a bit! Then when we come back we can say a proper goodbye to you.'

Stripe flew up into her arms, beating his wings gently against her chin. Twink hugged him in relief. She didn't have to say goodbye to her friend just yet.

‘I think that's a yes,' laughed Bimi. ‘All right, Stripe – you keep practising, and we'll see you off in style this afternoon!'

.

Chapter Seven

At breakfast that morning Twink ate her seed cakes happily, enjoying the crunchy treat for the first time in what seemed like ages. Everything was going to be all right. She and Bimi were friends again – and Stripe was almost ready to return to his family!

Once breakfast was over, Twink rose with the others to queue for the door. ‘Oh, there's Mrs Hover!' cried Bimi. ‘I just want to ask her about some more glitter for my tapestry.'

As Bimi flitted off, Mariella edged over, fluttering her pale green wings innocently. ‘Speaking of projects, Twink, what are you going to do for mine?'

Twink stared at her. ‘
Yours?
'

Mariella widened her eyes. ‘Well, they're due tomorrow. And I
know
that you'll want to help me out with mine – won't you?'

Twink felt her jaw drop. ‘You're mad! I'm not doing your project for you. I haven't even thought about
my
project yet!'

‘Oh, but I thought you were doing that really glimmery project on friendship,' piped up Lola, her eyes shining meanly.

‘Yes, that's right,' said Mariella. ‘You've got
your
project all sorted, but you don't want to help me with mine! I call that selfish.'

‘So do I,' echoed Lola, crossing her thin arms across her chest.

‘And I think selfish people deserve whatever happens to them,' continued Mariella, narrowing her eyes. ‘Especially ones with
secrets.
'

Twink's wings felt hot. ‘I don't care!' she burst out. ‘You can do whatever you like, Mariella. I'm not doing your project for you.'

Mariella gaped at her. ‘
What?
'

Twink gulped, but went on, ‘You heard me. And – and you'd better think twice before you tell anyone about Stripe. You know what they think of tell-tales here!'

She flew off without waiting for a response, but not before she had seen the flash of anger in Mariella's eyes. Oh, wasps, she had really done it now!

Bimi fluttered back over, and the two friends flew out into the trunk together, spiralling upwards towards their Fairy Dust class. In a low voice, Twink told Bimi what had happened.

‘The horrid thing!' exclaimed Bimi. ‘She thinks she can make you do whatever she likes now, doesn't she?'

‘Do you think she'll tell?' asked Twink anxiously. She glanced over her shoulder. Mariella and Lola were flying some way behind the others, whispering with their heads close together.

Bimi thought for a moment, and then shook her blue head. ‘Not yet. I bet you've got her worried about being a tell-tale – she'll want to plan it out really carefully before she says anything, and Stripe will probably be gone by then. It'll be fine, Twink, really!'

Banking sharply, they landed with a running skip on the ledge of their Fairy Dust classroom. Twink let out a breath. She hoped with all her heart that Bimi was right.

As the day went on and nothing happened, Twink's spirits lifted. She threw an excited glance at Bimi as they sat in their Creature Kindness class. Afternoon break was next! In just a few minutes, they'd be skimming down to the stump to say goodbye to Stripe.

‘So . . . ah . . . that's how you calm down an angry ant,' mumbled Mr Woodleaf at the front of the branch. On the mushroom table, a large black ant lay on its back sniffing a daisy, looking the very picture of bliss.

‘What if you don't have a daisy, sir?' called Pix.

Before Mr Woodleaf could respond, the magpie's call echoed through the school, signalling the end of class. Breaktime! Twink jumped up with the other fairies, grabbing her things.

‘Bluebell blossoms!' cried Mr Woodleaf over the bustle. ‘Or – or sometimes orange leaf will work –'

Suddenly the fairies stopped, their eyes widening. ‘What's that?' said Sooze.

The magpie's usual long call had changed to a series of short, piping bursts that rang through the school. Twink's fingers tightened on her petal bag. What was going on?

.

.

Mr Woodleaf let out a yelp and raked his fingers through his hair. ‘We're being summoned to the Great Branch! Come on, girls, quickly – there must be some sort of emergency.'

With subdued whispers, the Daffodil Branch fairies flew into the trunk. Twink felt cold as she spiralled downwards.

Swooping into the Great Branch, she and Bimi flew to their usual seats at the Daffodil Branch table. Miss Shimmery stood waiting for the school to sit down. Behind her, all the year heads sat in a stony-faced row. Twink gulped at the sight of them.

‘Don't worry!' whispered Bimi, squeezing Twink's hand.

Twink glanced at Mariella. The pointed-faced fairy gazed coolly back at her. Twink looked away again, her heart pounding hard.

When the Great Branch was full of silent, expectant fairies, Miss Shimmery lifted into the air and hovered before them. ‘Students of Glitterwings,' she announced. ‘I have a very distressing matter to discuss. I received an anonymous note this morning.'

Twink sat frozen to her mushroom. The twinkle that usually hid deep in the HeadFairy's eyes was nowhere to be seen.

‘Normally I would ignore an anonymous note,' said Miss Shimmery. ‘They're a tool for cowards. But the news contained in this one is most disturbing if it is true, and I cannot disregard it.'

Miss Shimmery pulled out a crumpled pink petal and unfolded it. ‘
Dear Miss Shimmery. We think you should know that a Glitterwings student has hidden an injured wasp in the old stump behind the school, and that she goes to see it every day,'
she read out.

.

.

The school sat utterly still. Not a single wing flickered as the fairies stared at Miss Shimmery, horror written on their faces.

Twink swallowed hard.

The HeadFairy slowly refolded the note. ‘You see why I cannot ignore this,' she said. ‘Naturally, myself and all the year heads immediately went to the old stump. We didn't find a wasp –'

Twink let out a breath. Stripe must have been practising outside, like she had told him.

‘– but we did find evidence that someone has been keeping
something
there, and performing healing spells on it.' A gasp rippled through the school.

Miss Shimmery's face was more serious than Twink had ever seen it. ‘Now, I'm certain that the student who has done this thinks she's performing a good deed, but she doesn't realise the danger she's in. Wasps are treacherous creatures. If one of you is still hiding it, I must ask you to step forward immediately.'

Nobody moved. The fairies glanced uneasily at each other, wondering who among them was harbouring a wasp.

Twink could feel her friends staring at her in alarm. She looked down at the mossy table, her cheeks hot.

‘Twink,' whispered Pix. ‘That wasp we heard in Dance class – you didn't . . .' She trailed off.

On the platform, Miss Shimmery tapped her wings together. ‘I would rather not resort to using magic to find out the truth,' she said firmly. ‘That is not how we do things at Glitterwings.'

Twink trembled on her mushroom. She knew she had to confess, but how could she? Her parents would be horrified! And what if Stripe wasn't ready to fly home yet – what would happen to him?

‘I will not ask again,' said Miss Shimmery.

Twink's heart felt like it was being gripped by a giant fist. Slowly, her legs shaking, she rose to her feet.

‘Yes, Twink?' said Miss Shimmery gravely.

Twink's throat felt like dust. ‘I . . .'

‘A wasp!' screamed someone. Twink whirled to face the windows. There was Stripe, scrabbling in a panic at the glass! Then a robin swooped closely behind him, its beak open . . . and Stripe vanished from view.

.

Chapter Eight

‘Stripe!' shouted Twink. She flew for the window without thinking, wrenching it open and flinging herself outside. Stripe clung to a nearby branch, his sides heaving. The bird was poised above him, just about to strike.

‘Leave him alone!' Twink screamed at the robin. She flew at it in a frenzy, shoving its red breast with both hands. The red and brown bird backed away in alarm as the entire school crowded at the windows, gaping at the scene.

‘Sit down!' bellowed Miss Shimmery's voice. ‘Girls! Sit down immediately!'

The robin took off in a flurry of feathers. Twink landed quickly beside the terrified wasp. He was hanging on to the rough bark with all six legs, but as Twink soothed him, he slowly crept into her lap and hid his face.

‘Oh, Stripe,' whispered Twink, stroking him. ‘What happened? Were you practising flying outside?'

‘Twink,' said Miss Shimmery.

Twink looked up. The HeadFairy was hovering in front of her, her rainbow wings glinting in the sunshine.

‘We must talk,' she said.

‘But I
can't
take him back to the wood and just leave him there!' cried Twink. She held Stripe tightly in her arms as she stood in the HeadFairy's office. ‘He's just a baby, and now he's too scared to fly again – anything could happen to him!'

‘I'm sorry, Twink, but he must go back.' Miss Shimmery sat behind a broad mushroom desk, her wings folded behind her back. Drawings of the school in the different seasons hung on the walls around her.

Mrs Lightwing sat to one side, looking grim. ‘Great Mab, girl, what were you thinking? A wasp, of all things!' She shook her sky-blue head.

‘Can't we at least wait until he's not so scared?' begged Twink. Stripe clung to her, his eyes wide.

Miss Shimmery rose from her seat. ‘No, Twink. He must go back now. I'm sure his family will find him.'

But what if they didn't? Twink couldn't speak. She buried her face in Stripe's furry back as tears burned in her eyes.

She felt Miss Shimmery's hand on her shoulder. ‘Twink, I know we must seem very harsh to you. This is for the best, believe me – for Stripe, too, as well as for you and the school.'

Mrs Lightwing nodded firmly. ‘That's right. Fairies and wasps don't mix – never have, never will!'

Twink's heart felt too heavy to fly, but somehow she managed the flight back to the wood, holding Stripe closely as Miss Shimmery and Mrs Lightwing flew on either side of her.

The trees closed around them as they entered the wood. ‘This – this is the place,' choked out Twink finally. She pointed at the fallen log.

‘Very well,' said Miss Shimmery. ‘You may say goodbye now, Twink.'

Gulping back tears, Twink landed on the damp earth and carefully put Stripe down. ‘Oh, Stripe, please be all right!' she said. ‘Try calling out to your family, the way you called out to me.'

Stripe nuzzled against her hand. Twink stroked his head, unable to speak.

‘Now, Twink,' said Miss Shimmery.

Swallowing hard, Twink dropped a quick kiss on Stripe's head. ‘Goodbye,' she whispered. ‘I – I hope I'll see you again someday.'

Swiftly, Twink flew back to her teachers.

‘Come along,' said Miss Shimmery. ‘He'll be all right. Wasps take care of their own.'

Twink longed to look behind her as they flew away, but knew she'd burst into tears if she did. She flew along miserably, hating herself.

As Glitterwings Academy came back into view, Twink couldn't bear it any longer. She stopped, and took a deep breath. ‘I'm sorry, but – but I have to go back. He's only a baby, and he's scared.'

Mrs Lightwing looked thunderous. ‘You'll do nothing of the sort, my girl! Wasps are devious creatures! They –'

A strange expression crossed Miss Shimmery's face. She laid a restraining hand on Mrs Lightwing's arm. ‘Twink . . . do you really care so much for this wasp?'

Twink nodded. ‘He's my friend,' she said in a small voice. ‘I know fairies and wasps were at war once, but – but it doesn't seem to matter. Right now he's scared and confused, and I have to help him.'

‘Extraordinary,' murmured Miss Shimmery. ‘Twink, no fairy has been a friend of a wasp in a thousand years. I don't know what to think. I can't let you return to him if you're in any danger, but –'

Suddenly a loud barking filled the air. The three fairies swung about in surprise as a brown and white terrier bounded across the grass.

Dogs were one of the few creatures who didn't understand that fairies were the helpers of nature. Instead they saw fairies as the most exciting game in the world, and loved to chase them if they could.

The terrier leapt into the air, snapping playfully at them. Distantly, Twink could hear a human calling, ‘Jock? Jock, where are you?'

‘Oh!' cried Miss Shimmery as the dog's teeth nipped one of her wings.

Twink gasped in horror as Miss Shimmery fell to the ground. Without thinking, she plunged into a dive to help the HeadFairy – and then shrieked and darted away as the dog jumped at her, white teeth snapping.

‘Get back, you canine menace!' bellowed Mrs Lightwing, swatting the dog on the nose. It blinked in confusion.

Below, Miss Shimmery struggled to her feet. One of her wings was torn. ‘Both of you fly back to school – hurry!' she called. ‘Don't worry about me!'

The dog barked happily. Obviously deciding this was some new game, it raced towards Miss Shimmery. In another moment it would trample her!

‘No!' shouted Twink. She flew after it, yanking hard on its white tail. The dog whirled about in surprise. A big doggy grin burst across his face as he saw her.

‘Ruff!' He started chasing his tail as fast as he could.

‘Agh!' screamed Twink, hanging on for dear life. Her pink hair streamed behind her as the dog ran in faster and faster circles. Suddenly it stopped short, catapulting Twink through the air. A flock of midges scattered as she tumbled past.

‘Oof!' Twink collided with Mrs Lightwing, and the two of them crashed to the ground beside Miss Shimmery. Twink rubbed her head, too stunned to fly.

‘Get away! Hurry!' cried Miss Shimmery.

Mrs Lightwing pulled at Twink's arm. ‘Get up, you foolish girl!'

‘Come on!' Twink heard a fairy shout from the direction of the school. ‘A dog's got them!'

Twink's wings felt frozen. The terrier's face filled the sky as it danced about, snapping at the three fairies. It lunged towards Twink, its teeth glinting.

Suddenly a blur of yellow and black sped through the air.

‘Arroooo!' wailed the terrier as the wasp stung it on the nose. It shook its head, trying desperately to rid itself of the invader, but was merely stung again for its efforts. Howling in pain, the dog turned tail and raced back to its owner.

‘Stripe!' breathed Twink. The little wasp landed next to her, humming happily. She hugged him hard. ‘Stripe, you saved us!'

Miss Shimmery and Mrs Lightwing stood staring, their mouths open. Closing them abruptly, they looked at each other in amazement.

Stripe tugged at Twink's arm, pointing upwards. Looking up, Twink saw two adult wasps hovering overhead. ‘Your parents found you!' she cried. ‘Oh, Stripe, that's glimmery!'

All at once Twink saw the other fairies. It looked as if the whole school had sped out to help them, and now they all hovered a little distance away – hundreds of fairies in bright flower-dresses, watching in wonder. Twink caught Bimi's eye, and the two fairies smiled at each other.

.

.

Stripe's parents dipped down until they were buzzing in front of Miss Shimmery. Reaching out a leg, one of them touched her injured wing with concern. Fairy and wasp looked into each other's eyes for a moment.

Miss Shimmery inclined her head. ‘I'll be fine, thank you,' she said. ‘And please thank your son for helping us.'

With a satisfied nod, the two wasps turned to Stripe.

‘Goodbye, Stripe,' Twink whispered. ‘I'll miss you!' Stripe nestled against her. Then Twink opened her arms, and he flew back to join his parents.

The three wasps hovered above for a moment. Stripe's parents dipped their wings to Twink, saying
thank you
with their eyes. And then they were all away, skimming off towards the wood.

Twink stared after them. Miss Shimmery stood beside her, watching as the wasps disappeared from view.

Finally the HeadFairy cleared her throat. ‘Well, Twink . . . I'm not entirely sure what to do with you. I think you must have broken every rule that we have.'

Twink licked dry lips. ‘Will – will I be expelled?

.

.

She held her breath as Miss Shimmery glanced at Mrs Lightwing. For a moment, Twink thought she saw a brief smile play across the HeadFairy's lips. But then it was gone, and Twink knew she must have imagined it.

‘I'm not sure what we'll do yet, Twink.' Miss Shimmery looked towards the wood with a thoughtful frown. ‘I'll have to consider the matter carefully, and discuss it with Mrs Lightwing and your parents.'

Her parents! Twink felt the blood fall from her face.

‘Come on now, girl,' said Mrs Lightwing gruffly. ‘It's time to get back to school.'

That night the first-year fairies clustered about Twink in the Common Branch, clamouring to know everything. Twink told the story as best she could, with Bimi adding bits here and there. When she had finished, there was silence.

‘That's . . . the most amazing story I've ever heard,' said Sooze finally.

Pix nodded earnestly. ‘Twink, I never thought
anyone
could trust a wasp. But you two were really friends, weren't you? We all saw how he saved you.'

‘Well, I'm just glad you didn't listen to us!' exclaimed Sili, fluttering her wings. ‘The poor thing – he might have died if you hadn't helped him.'

Twink smiled with relief. Her friends understood; they didn't hate her after all.

But then her smile faded. She still had no idea what Miss Shimmery would decide. And what on earth would her parents say? They had always taught her that rules were meant to be respected.

Oh, please don't let me be expelled from Glitterwings,
she thought fervently, clenching her fists.
Please!

BOOK: Friends Forever
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