Chapter One


The owl, hidden in the crook of the tree limb, hunted. An expectant hush fell over the forest. Nothing moved, except one small field mouse trying to merge with the shadows cast by the dappled moonlight shining on the forest floor. He sat up and sniffed the air, his whiskers twitching in the stillness. He scurried under leaves and over twigs until he came to the oak tree which had stood in place for over one hundred years. As he hugged close to the bark, he saw a sliver of light, which beckoned from cracks in a wooden door in the tree. Sniffing, he approached, slipped inside one of the cracks, and was swallowed by the light just as a silent wing swooped past the door.
 
Emma Fisher’s eyes were riveted on the second hand of the wall clock as it crawled forward. Squirming in her seat at Brookside Public School, she mut-tered, “C’mon. C’mon. Kyle’s waiting.” The bell rang. She jumped up, grabbed her backpack, and bolted from the classroom. Running down the hall, and out the school’s front door, she stopped on the landing of the stairs leading to the sidewalk and grabbed the railing. Gasping for breath, she scanned the area below just as she heard the bar of the front door click open. Her heart leapt into her throat as she turned, smiling, to face the door. Her face fell. It wasn’t Kyle. It was Shawna and her group of friends. Shawna saw Emma and her eyes hardened as her mouth turned up in a sly grin.


“Look who it is girls?” she sneered. “Our favourite nerd.”


The other girls snickered. Emma checked out the group surrounding Shawna and her eyes widened in surprise. Cally, who was her best friend, was with them and laughing at her, just like the others. Her stomach cramped up as she turned her eyes back to Shawna.


“Waiting for Kyle are you?” she sneered. “As if,” she laughed. Twirling her hair, she looked Emma up and down. “I mean, look at you. What are they... freckles?” she said, pointing at Emma. “So appropriate. And that fit! Totally savage.” Everyone snickered. 


Emma blushed and lowered her eyes. Her heart sank. Shawna was right. Kyle couldn’t like her. Just because he asked her for help on his math homework, didn’t mean he liked her. He was older and the star of the bas-ketball team, while she was only a nobody. She wasn’t about to let Shawna know she was hurt, so she lifted her head and turned her back on the girls.


“There you are,” said another voice from behind her. 


Emma turned to find her older brother, Oliver, coming toward her.
“I’ve been looking all over for you. C’mon. We need to get home.”


He grabbed her hand and pulled her down the stairs. Shawna laughed and the group of girls ran down the steps pushing Emma as they passed.