Minnie’s parents were worried. They’d just come back from a parents evening with Minnie’s tutor Mr George. It was clear that Minnie’s inwardness and solitary habits, which they’d gradually got used to at home, was manifesting itself rather differently at her new secondary school. Here she’d become mute and withdrawn, and any attempt to draw her into social interactions had met with silent hostility. And it was getting worse.
“Jemima, er, Jasmine seems to be somehow causing disruption in every class she attends, but she’s never seen to be doing anything,” reported Mr George with obvious concern. “It’s like she’s the middle of a – well — a kind of whirlwind, but she’s the still centre of it. Other students seem to trip into each other in the aisle, or science equipment gets knocked off lab tops by elbows, or students who are friends with each other poke or slap each other. Jemima, um, just sits and twitches in her seat, or is a few feet away when a line of kids falls over like dominoes. I find it very puzzling, very worrying indeed. We just can’t put our finger on it.”
A very taciturn Minnie smouldered in her room when confronted by her parents. When they left a little while later an uneasy truce seemed to hold. Her mother later said she knew now what people meant when they said the atmosphere was electric. An hour or so after everyone had gone to bed bangs and crashes were heard downstairs. Her father, armed with a tennis racquet, stealthily entered the kitchen and narrowly missed being hit by a heavy plate falling off the dresser. The kitchen clock fell off the wall and the light – which he’d switched on as he went in – fizzed before exploding. He hastily shut the door and retreated into the hall. After several hair-raising minutes the sound of bumps came to a halt; cautiously peeking in he saw by the light of a torch that the kitchen table had moved and blocked the back door, and the cutlery drawer had emptied itself onto the floor.
There were no more manifestations that night but nobody slept a wink, even though the house was as silent as the grave.
* * * * *
Ms Runciman listened. “The priest we called in to exorcise the kitchen stayed in there for only three minutes. He’d fallen and gashed his head but wouldn’t stay to have it looked at. We had ghost hunters in after that but either they couldn’t get a reading or their machines stopped working. You’re our last hope, Ms Runciman: a friend said poltergeists were linked to young people entering, um, puberty and, um, we wondered …”
Ms Runciman did see Minnie, but it was neither in her certificate-lined office nor in Minnie’s bedroom; instead the two of them went off for a walk on the common. They were gone some time, long enough for Minnie’s parents to consider whether one or both had been abducted. Their return was eventually announced by the sound of excited chatter, the like of which Minnie’s parents realised they hadn’t heard since the last term of primary school. Minnie and Ms Runciman subsequently went for many more walks, and the child everybody once knew re-emerged from her cocoon like a new butterfly.
The poltergeist ceased its visits, replaced by the surprise appearance of Darren, whose family were on holiday from Newcastle. The two went for long walks, Ms Runciman often joining them along the way. When Darren returned to the Northeast the youngsters still kept in contact; and somehow it seemed that Minnie had turned a corner. At home she worked on graphic novels and at school regularly got top marks in English.
Her parents heaved a collective sigh of relief, finally able to pay more attention to Minnie’s older siblings. They didn’t really understand Ms Runciman’s report (which seemed to say very little but with very many long words) — they were just grateful some normality had returned.