I'd been with the Admin and Liaison Department (ALD) for nearly two months when the news hit my screen.
To be honest, I almost missed it. Not because I wasn't concentrating - although I have to admit, ALD is the most boring department in the whole of ATC. (That's Above the Clouds, fairy godmother headquarters.) I'd been put here after what happened with Robyn's dad when he trapped me in a jam jar. My wing still wasn't back to normal since it had gotten crushed in the jar. But I was healing and couldn't wait to get back to doing real assignments again.
In the meantime, my job was to cross-reference fairy god- mothers with their departments and match them up with their clients. I could do it standing on one wing - provided it wasn't my bad one. So I hardly even thought about what I was doing. Punching in names, numbers, and departments didn't take a lot of concentration.
Which might be why I almost missed it when it came up on the screen. It wasn't one of my jobs to assign, so I couldn't see the details. But I saw enough:
JENNY FISHER. FGEAGLE5197. SRB.
SRB? No! I must be mistaken. I shut the page on my screen and walked across the office to the Clients file. I tried to saunter as casually as I could so no one would have any idea what I was doing. Interfering with an assign- ment from another department is strictly against Fairy God- mother Code. If I was caught doing it, I'd be in terrible trouble.
Luckily no one looked up.They rarely did. ALD is generally quite a serious bunch.There's a reason why the fairies here aren't out on normal assignments. Sometimes it's injury-related, like it was for me. Others are here because they're not up to par for any of the "live" assignments. Both of which helped give ALD the nickname Angry, Lonely, and Demoralized.
I grabbed the file of clients' records and looked up Jenny Fisher. I checked all the details from my screen against the ones in the file. It was definitely her. Philippa's mom. I went cold. Why was she getting a fairy from SRB?
I glanced around to make sure no one was watching what I was doing.Then I jotted down all the details of the assignment on the back of my hand, carefully replaced the file, shut down my computer - and ran out of the office as quickly as I could.
"Are we almost there?" I asked for the twenty-fifth time.
Dad gave me the same response he'd given me twenty-four times already. "Almost!" he said, smiling at me in the rearview mirror and giving Mom a nudge in case she hadn't noticed his funny reply.
I sighed and got back to reading my book.
But then I noticed something outside the win- dow. "Wait!" I sat up a bit straighter. "I recognize this road." I leaned forward and looked through the front windshield. "It's the woods!" I said. "We are almost there!"
"I told you we were," Dad replied.
"To be fair, you also said we were almost there when we hadn't quite reached the end of our street," Mom added.
But we were this time. We were on the out- skirts of Ravenleigh. I felt a jiggle of excitement go through me. We were nearly at Robyn's house!
Robyn and I had met a few months ago when Mom, Dad, and I rented her family's former cot- tage for vacation. We'd kept in touch ever since, and she was one of my best friends now. The other one was Daisy. Daisy had been my fairy godsister (which is like a fairy godmother, only one that's the same age as you).
Robyn and I had had a rocky start - especially after her dad trapped Daisy in a jam jar and tried to cut off her wings. But once everything had settled down, he'd completely changed. He was like a dif- ferent man and had ended up becoming friends with my parents. So well, in fact, that he'd asked if we'd like to come back to visit over winter break. They'd booked us into the same house we stayed in last time - their old home!
Unlike my other friend, Charlotte, whom I'd lost touch with since she moved away, Robyn and I had kept in touch since that week, e-mailing and texting each other virtually every day for the last three months.
We drove up the gravelly driveway as it was starting to get dark. It was only four o'clock, but the evening was closing in around us already.
"Can I go over to Robyn's?" I asked, swinging the car door open the second Dad turned the engine off.
"I was thinking we might at least make it through the front door first," Dad replied over his shoulder as he helped Mom out of the car, twirling her around and around.
"But I haven't seen her for ages!" I said, vaguely wondering what it would be like to have parents who could go longer than an hour or two without breaking into a dance.
"Let's get in and unpack first," Mom said, letting go of Dad's hands and opening the trunk. "Then you can run over to tell her we're here."
"Great!" I grabbed my bag and ran to the door. Minutes later, I'd squashed a week's worth of clothes into drawers, flung a bundle of books and magazines on the bed, and shoved my suitcase underneath.
"See you later," I called as I closed the door behind me and ran to Robyn's.
Robyn and I sat in her room above the bookshop her dad owns and caught up on all our news.
Liz Kessler is the author of three novels about Philippa Fisher as well as the NEW YORK TIMES best-selling Emily Windsnap series. She lives in Manchester, England.