Flashback: School Concert
"All right, kids, are we all ready?"
The harried primary school teacher cast a quick glance around her, making sure all of her excited students were present. "Sadie? Ross? Where are you?"
"I'm here, Mrs Standish." A small girl with thick white-blond hair stepped forward, holding up her recorder. "I was getting my recorder from Mrs Jenkins' class. I left it there this morning."
"Good - and Ross? Ross, sweetheart, are you with us?" Mrs Standish cast another look around, relief flooding her face as spotted her missing student. "There you are. No, leave your pop behind. You can have a drink afterwards, but everyone out there is waiting to hear you and Sadie play your little song."
Ross looked hesitant, and Sadie offered him a smile, reaching out a hand and gripping his in hers.
"Come on." She said amiably. "My Mum came to watch me tonight. Is yours here?"
"Ma's at grandpa's house." Ross shook his head. "But Dad promised to come."
"Okay, you two, places." Mrs Standish called out at that moment, gesturing to the two nine year olds, and, still gripping Ross's hand, Sadie pulled her companion out onto the small wooden platform which doubled as a stage whenever the school put on a show. The hall was full of parents and family, and Sadie picked her mother and siblings out of the crowd, a big smile on her face. Beside her Ross squirmed, clearly nervous, and Sadie squeezed his hand, then released it, casting a self-important glance across to the side where Mrs Standish was about to announce them.
"Now we have a special duet by two of our recorder club." The teacher offered the visitors a smile. "Sadie Monahue and Ross Clarke from Class Five are going to play Morning Has Broken."
There was a round of applause, and Sadie put her instrument to her lips, her heart pounding in her chest as her performance began. Comforted by his companion's self-possession, Ross soon lost his initial nerves and the song came off without a hitch. As the parents applauded, Sadie hugged her companion impulsively.
"We were really good." She said.
"Better than the kids from Class Three. They squeaked." Ross agreed. "Come on. I want my drink and it's gonna go flat."
"I have some chocolate in my bag if you want to share." Sadie offered. Ross nodded his head.
"Sure." He agreed.
"Well done, you two." Mrs Standish greeted them as they made their way back to the classroom where they had been getting ready to perform. "You did a good job - I'm sure your families were real proud."
"It was fun." Sadie giggled. "Mrs Standish, is it okay if we have chocolate now?"
"Yes. It's about time for the interval, anyway." Mrs Standish nodded. "But don't get it all over your nice clean blouse, all right? I'll want you on stage at the end for the final bow and it wouldn't look good if you were all messy."
"I promise." Sadie nodded.
A fresh voice came from along the corridor and Sadie turned, seeing her mother, with her elder sister Alyssa in tow.
"Mum!" She cried. "Did you hear me play?"
"I heard you." Julie hugged her small daughter tightly. "You were very impressive. All that practicing really paid off."
"Next time maybe I'll play something on the guitar." Sadie suggested. "Only Mrs Standish said there wasn't time and all the other kids had to play stuff too."
"I think that's fair." Julie agreed. "But I was very proud of you tonight, my girl. You're quite a performer."
She cast Ross a smile.
"You too, Ross. Your Dad was most impressed."
Ross blushed red, then disappeared into the classroom. Julie cast her daughter a questioning look.
"He's shy." Sadie explained. "But he plays good."
"I think Sadie has a boyfriend." Alyssa remarked playfully, and Sadie's cheeks pinkened.
"Ross is not my boyfriend!" She protested. "He's just a boy who's my friend, that's all!"
"I saw you holding his hand." Alyssa slipped an arm through her sister's. "Come on, Sadie. He's not just your friend, is he?"
"He is too!" Sadie retorted hotly. "I don't have a boyfriend."
"Girls..." Julie pursed her lips. "Do we have to do this now? I left Mark on his own to grab a drink and I'm not sure that was a wise decision. Aly and I should get back to our seats, and I have to call the babysitter and make sure George hasn't got her hands on anything else she shouldn'tve. For a four year old, that kid sure gets wild ideas, and with Jamie teething as well, I should check up on things."
"Alyssa said Ross was my boyfriend and he isn't." Sadie put her hands on her hips. "It's gross!"
"Why's it gross?" Alyssa demanded, oblivious to her mother's remarks. "Nothing wrong with having a boyfriend."
"Because when you kiss your boyfriend you make all ugly smacking noises and suck his face off and it's icky." Sadie returned. "And I don't want to get all slimy."
Alyssa flushed a deep scarlet at this, and Julie laughed.
"And that's enough for now." She said firmly. "Sadie, you probably ought to go sort out your hair."
She tweaked a pigtail gently. "Your band is starting to come out of this plait. And Aly, let's go find your brother and make sure he hasn't made any mischief."
Alyssa shot her sister a dark look, and Sadie just stuck out her tongue, turning on her heel and heading into the classroom. Julie caught the look, and put a gentle arm around her oldest's shoulders.
"You shouldn't tease her." She murmured. "Sadie's too young to be thinking about boys and all of that yet, and I'd rather she just did things in her own time. She's innocent enough to make friends with the world without thinking of the implications of it just yet...plenty of time for her to grow up."
"I guess so." Alyssa acknowledged. "But she was holding his hand, Mum. And she's done a lot of talking about him recently."
"I think that's probably because she's been excited about this concert." Julie said wisely. "Come on. Sadie will come to those conclusions - if she does - in her own time. But at nine years old, I'm quite happy she's not bothering herself about boyfriends and makeup and all of that yet. Bad enough you're doing it."
She winked, nudging her companion.
"And maybe she had a point."
"Mum!" Alyssa blushed again. "Fine! I won't talk to Sadie about boyfriends again. But sheesh, I do not suck anyone's face off!"
"Your sister's a plain speaking lass, as your father'd say." She observed. "You never know quite what she'll say next - but I am proud that she has the confidence to say them. In this world, that's a big thing."
"What do you mean?" Alyssa looked curious.
"Nothing, I suppose." Julie shrugged. "Call it mother's intuition, or whatever you like. I just get the feeling that our Sadie has a lot more in her than a lot of kids her age, that's all."
She pursed her lips.
"I just hope that somewhere along the line someone lets her shine."
Prologue: Flashback - Sadie's
Chapter One: Los Angeles, 2015
Chapter Two: Enter The Stray
Chapter Three: Flashback - Sadie's Song
Chapter Four: Nerves
Chapter Five: The Dean Stacey Show
Chapter Six: Flashback - School Concert
Chapter Seven: Sandra Bray
Chapter Eight: The Dean Problem
Chapter Nine: Cursed
Chapter Ten: Flashback - Stir
Chapter Eleven: Secrets
Chapter Twelve: Robin Vs Nancy
Chapter Thirteen: In The Line Of Duty
Chapter Fourteen: Flashback - Griefstruck
Chapter Fifteen: Aftermath
Chapter Sixteen: Jewel Consult
Chapter Seventeen: Forever Changed