“How long has she been like that Deidre?”
“I don’t know miss, she was like that when I found her.”
Crystal giggled at the shadows. She liked the shadows, they were her friends. She lay on the wooden floor and laughed as the shadows played on the ceiling to amuse her. A small one broke away from the mass and chased a larger one around the chandelier. She liked it in the evenings when the shadows grew long around her, as they were now. At night sometimes it got so dark that she could feel them as they surrounded her. That was her favourite time.
“Could you fetch the Matron for me dear?” Miss Harper asked the small girl standing beside her. Deidre nodded and raced off down the echoing corridors.
Julia Harper had seen a lot of strange things in her lifetime. Most of them while in her current job as headmistress of St. Agnes’ Boarding School for Girls. But this was the first time she had seen one of her pupils rolling around on the wooden floor of the music room and giggling at thin air. Not that Crystal had ever been the most ordinary of girls. That had been obvious since her first day at school, when she burst into tears in the lunchroom for no apparent reason and couldn’t be consoled for over an hour. And then again every day for the next two weeks, always at lunchtime. Julia thought back to those two weeks. Poor thing had probably been stressed. For a lot of the girls it was the first time they had been outside of their family homes without their parents there. There were always a lot of tears for a while, but none of the girls had been as regular with their outbursts as Crystal. It didn’t seem like three years ago.
Crystal ignored Miss Harper, who was standing quietly in the doorway. She was too transfixed by the antics of one particular shadow, the one she called Tristan. Tristan was the one who liked to walk beside her pretending to be her shadow and keeping her company through the day. Except at midday. Usually even he couldn’t play with her then. Especially not in the school’s lunchroom with it’s harsh fluorescent lights. Tristan was currently dancing on the far wall. Crystal had always liked his shape the best. Rose was very tall and thin, Crystal thought she was too thin. Jason was too wide. He looked far too muscular to Crystal. Kath was short and cute. But Tristan was her favourite. He was tall, but not too tall, slender, but not too thin and he could bend and dance better than the other shadows. Not that she disliked the others. She liked them all very much, they had always been there for her. She was proud of having four shadows. Though she didn’t actually have her own shadow, not like everyone else’s. The other girls’ shadows were dull; they just stuck to their feet and followed them around everywhere. But when people weren’t around her shadows would go and play, they only stuck to her feet and followed her around when they wanted to.
Matron arrived with Deidre tagging close behind and Miss Harper explained the situation to her. Matron nodded and stepped into the room, startling Crystal. From the corner of her eye Crystal saw her friends hide in the ordinary shadows the room cast, realising that Tristan couldn’t get to her feet without being noticed. She cursed herself for choosing to lounge in the pool of warm sun that came through the large windows and hoped the intruders didn’t notice.
“Crystal sweetie, what are you doing here?” Matron asked her in as motherly a tone as she could manage. Crystal tried to back out of the sun.
“I was just…um…playing Matron.” She replied quietly.
“All alone?” The large woman enquired of her. Crystal looked up at Matron and then at Miss Harper and one of the younger girls she didn’t recognise. She could still see Tristan on the far wall, trying to work his way over to her.
“Yes miss, I was alone.” She replied. Her mother had warned her not to tell anyone about her friends and to make sure no one saw her without a shadow. She hadn’t known why until she had gotten older and realised that people wouldn’t take it well. Miss Harper stepped forward.
“You seemed to be having fun. Were you watching something funny?” The Headmistress asked her. Crystal shook her head silently. Miss Harper raised an eyebrow.
“All the same I’d like you to stay in the infirmary tonight. I’ve heard you don’t sleep very much. You do look very pale dear.” Matron ordered. Crystal nodded and followed Matron out of the music room. Miss Harper turned to shoo Deidre, who was staring wide-eyed at the older girl as she left.
“It’s not polite to stare like that Deidre, now on you go, back to whatever it is you were doing.”
Crystal sat in the infirmary. It was almost midnight and the shadows were flitting around her in the darkness. Tristan slipped over and wrapped himself around her.
“I’m scared. What if they take me some place where I won’t be able to see you anymore?” She spoke as quietly as she could. Tristan replied by stroking her hair. She smiled, that always comforted her. She lay down and felt them all gather around her, wrapping her in comfort and love. She yawned widely. She was very tired. Kath danced in a few spots of light, easing her.
“I don’t know what I’d do without you all.” She murmured as she drifted to sleep. Matron shut the door quietly. She hurried along to Miss Harper’s office.
“Crystal, this is Mr Benson. He’s just here to talk to you a little.” Matron nodded to the thin balding man who sat in a comfortable looking chair in one of the school offices taking notes on a clipboard. He motioned for her to sit in the one opposite. Crystal shuffled over and sat, eyeing Mr Benson suspiciously.
“It’s alright Crystal, you can tell me anything. I’m just here to listen.”
Mr Benson, Matron and Miss Harper sat in discussion as Crystal played outside. A short phone call later and Crystal’s mother was helping her daughter pack. She had obviously been crying, but Crystal didn’t ask the reason. She just watched the school that had been her home for three years from the back of the car as it shrank into the distance.
“Where are we going?” She asked her mother.
“Home dear, I’m taking you home where you’ll be safe.”
Crystal nodded and said no more, turning to stare out of the car window as her shadows hugged close to her.
I'm not sure if there is more to this yet. There might be a second part. I'll have to wait and find out I guess.