I just wanted to say thank you for your diaries. I know it meant a lot to you and as such parting with it must have hurt. You’ve told me so many of the stories inside, I couldn’t wait to delve right in and read some more.
I loved your adventures in school. All of them, from sneaking out to see the boys at St Thomas’ to scaring the teachers with the broom and the nightgown. It was so lovely seeing them written down as opposed to just hearing you tell them. You have a gift as a storyteller.
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that it’s appreciated.
Thomas put down his pen and looked at the books. A slim stack of school exercise books, perhaps twelve of them in total, sitting on his bed. “What did she give them to me for?” He asked the empty room. “She knows I hated her stories, I’m sure.”
His phone began to buzz insistently, causing the desk to shake. The display, when he opened it, revealed his mother’s number. He sighed, then hit the green button to take the call. “Thomas? Are you there?”
“Yes. What’s up?”
“Can’t a mother call her son to see how he’s getting on out in the big bad world?” Her tinny voice sounded excited, just as it always did when she was working her way through the formalities before getting to her point. “Just fancied a chat with you, what with you being halfway across the country. Are you making friends?”
Thomas stared out of the window longingly. There was a group of guys kicking a ball around on the green, laughing and joking with each other. It wasn’t really his thing, but he was jealous of the group. All he wanted was some companionship and instead? He got more work. “Yeah, I am. I’m meeting up with some of them later.”
“That’s wonderful! Anyway, I just called to let you know that your Gran’s here! She’s going to be staying a few weeks and it would be lovely if you could get home. Tell you what, I’ll just put her on. Maggie! Maggie!”
“No, Mum, don’t… Urgh.” His mother’s voice became distant as she left him behind in search of the old woman. The last thing he wanted was to speak to the doddery old fart.
“Thomas? Is that you?” Gran’s voice came through loud and clear as she yelled at the phone. “Yes, thank you Phillipa. I’m fine. I’m fine!”
“Hello, Gran.” He looked at his watch, then over at his computer. Tempting Fate should have downloaded by now, but he couldn’t go over there until he’d gotten rid of Gran. The curse of a family out of touch with technology means that hand-me-downs had cords. “How are you? Have you got your hearing aids in?”
“Yes! Come home soon. Now,” here Gran’s voice dropped low as if she were telling a secret, “Have you read the diaries?”
“Yes, actually.” Thomas’ hand began to shake as he lied. “I loved the part about your school adventures, I’ve even said so in my thank you.”
“Pah! I told you about my school adventures so you wouldn’t have to read them. Idiot boy. Read the books! Then come home. And don’t lie to me. I’ll know.” She began to yell again, returning to the odd world of Gran the doddery. “Phillipa! How do I hang up?”
Thomas looked down at the blinking phone, the message CALL ENDED printed across its screen. “How bizarre,” he said.
He plucked the note from the desk, sighing as he did so. He’d really put thought into that lie and it turned out to be useless. His grey eyes scanned the page one last time before he tore it in half. Then again. Once more. The pieces began to fall to the ground, fluttering like autumn leaves.
As the last piece fell, he stopped to consider the call. Gran had sounded far more with it than she’d sounded for years. What the hell was in the diaries?
He would have to find out. He sat down at his desk with the first diary in his hand, fingers itching towards turning on the screen and ignoring the whole phone call. But as always, he fought the urge and began to read.
18th June 1961
If you are reading this, then it’s coming back. The world as you know it is not what it appears. I’m sorry, whoever you are, but even by reading these words… You’re in. I’m sorry. I can only hope that my words in this book will stop these troubles from repeating. If not, at least it will provide you with ammunition in the war to come.
As I said, I’m sorry.
Maggie Morello, Grade III
The Idiot in Tin Foil