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What questions do you have for the author after reading the opening?
Chapter 1: Unfair Funfair
The bad luck started when Mum took me to a travelling funfair. A funfair – it should have been fun. I’d just recovered from a really nasty cold which had made me feel very sorry for myself, and given me feverish nightmares about messing up the school show because I’d missed SO MANY rehearsals. (OK, I’d missed one, but in the theatre, things move fast, so this was potentially catastrophic.) Anyway, after a lot of bed rest I was feeling better and Mum decided I needed a treat.
“Great!” I said, imagining all the fabulous things Mum might have planned. A trip to Disneyworld? Tickets to Wicked? All the Lego?
And then Mum handed me a flyer for the funfair.
I’m not actually that keen on funfairs. The big wheel is too high, the waltzers are too fast, and the one time I went on the ghost train I was so terrified I was LITERALLY scared stiff. I mean, actually frozen solid. No one could move me. Rigid. Unyielding. Do you get the picture?
“We’ll have a great time, Riley!” Mum said.
“Yay,” I replied, with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, which was basically zero.
But when we got to the fair, there was one thing I wanted to do. The sign outside the little tent read:
Madame Olga Predicts Your Future!
Yes! A fortune teller! That was something I could get on board with. I wanted to know if I was destined to be rich, famous, or if I’d end up becoming an astronaut, explorer and/or appear on the West End stage in a leading and critically acclaimed role… I’m not saying it has to be, but ideally Phantom of the Opera, or any of the big shows, really.
Mum had given me five pounds to spend however I liked, and this felt like a good investment. But as soon as I walked in, I began to have doubts. Sure, there was a crystal ball on the small, round table in the middle of the tent, but Madame Olga herself was wearing a pink tracksuit, chewing gum and playing on her phone. At the very least, I’d expected her to be wearing a mysterious-looking cloak, and not diamanté flip-flops.
“Welcome, chiiiiiiilllld!” she said, looking up.
“Hello, I’m Riley!” I told her. “I’m ten years old and I live in a small house with my mum and sister,” I added, thinking it best she have as many facts about me as possible, because it looked like she would need all the help she could get.
“Cross my palm with silver, chiiiiillllld!” she replied. This was promising because only mystical types refer to you as “chiiiiilllld” in that creepy, slightly weird way… Well, and also witches and evil crones, but what would one of those be doing at a funfair, right? Right?
After a bit of confusion over the fact she had said to “cross her palm with silver” but what she actually meant was, “Give me four quid,” I settled down on the chair opposite and she took my hand, tracing her fingers along the creases in my palm.
“You will live a long life,” she said.
“You will achieve many wonderful things.”
“A young man whom you have not yet met will have a huge impact on you.”
“Let us consult the crystal ball for more clarity!” Madame Olga said.
OK, so this is where it was going to get good. Some sort of vision would appear in the ball, displaying the “wonderful things” I would achieve. Would it show this “young man” who would have a huge impact on me? The last young man to have a huge impact on me was Sidney Smith when I stupidly agreed to be one of the skittles in his game of human skittles…
Madame Olga waved her hands about and blew some dust off her crystal ball.
And it … the dust, it … you see, it … tickled …and…
I mean, I couldn’t help it. You can’t help sneezing, it’s just unfortunate that I had only recently recovered from that cold I already told you about and so I was still quite bunged up – you know, there was a lot of gunk up my nose and … well, there’s no way of saying this that isn’t totally gross, but I sneezed and a load of snot ended up over the table, the crystal ball … and Madame Olga.
Point of interest: a sneeze can travel at a speed of up to one hundred miles per hour. That’s pretty fast and powerful, and I think the fact some snot even reached the back of the tent totally proves that point.
“I’m really sorry,” I said.
“How dare you come in here with a cold?” Madame Olga snapped.
Madame Olga did NOT look very happy as she wiped my snot off her cheek with a tissue, so I thought I would help by rubbing the snot off her crystal ball with the sleeve of my hoodie. How was I supposed to know I would press a bit too hard, the crystal ball would be pushed off its stand, roll off the table, plummet to the ground and EXPLODE into a zillion tiny pieces?
I stared open-mouthed at the shattered glass, then up at Madame Olga. “Ohhhhhhh!” I gasped. “Do you think we could … fix it?”
Madame Olga’s eyes filled with what I can only describe as PURE EVIL. Her mouth contorted into a scowl, her brow furrowed, a snake slithered out from among her hair – I mean, I’m not a hundred per cent about the snake, but I feel like that totally happened, so let’s just say it did. Anyway, this is the important bit because she took a deep breath, and uttered the terrible words,