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Lilli and Her Shadow
By Pat Dudgeon, Laura Dudgeon
Fremantle PressCopyright © 2010 Pat Dudgeon and Laura Dudgeon
All rights reserved.
'There won't be any mangoes like this where you're going, Lilli girl!' said Lilli's grandmother. She slurped her mango noisily and the yellow juices ran down her chin. Lilli thought other people might think her Nan was disgusting, the slobbery way that she ate mangoes, pulling them straight from the trees, tearing the green skin off with her teeth, and biting into the rich sweet insides. But Lilli liked eating them that way too. Biting into the skin gave the mango a wild tang and the juices spurting everywhere was great fun. This was just one of the many things she would long for when her family moved to the city.
'I'll really miss you, Nan!' sighed Lilli. 'I wish we didn't have to go.'
She loved talking and laughing with Nan, sitting together on the old blanket under the big mango tree with the dogs.
'Don't look so sad,' Nan replied. 'You can ring me every day and visit me on the school holidays too!'
Lilli knew that was true, but it just wouldn't be the same.
'Come on,' said Nan, getting up stiffly. 'We'd better get you home. Your mother will be going mad, finishing all that packing on her own.'
Nan passed Lilli the washer she kept specially for mango clean ups. Lilli wiped her face and looked around Nan's beautiful garden one last time.
'We'll call in at your Uncle Bernie's house on the way,' Nan said. 'He wants to say goodbye to you and so do your cousins.'
Lilli felt even sadder. She came from a big family and she would miss every one of them when she was living in the city.
I'll be so lonely, she thought miserably.
Uncle Bernie was a great artist and as usual he was sitting on the front verandah painting when they arrived. Some of the paintings were about his country, some of them were just for fun, and others were things he had seen in his dreams.
'Oh that's wonderful!' Lilli cried when she saw his latest one.
It was full of mango trees with bright golden fruit and red shrubs with rainbow birds perched in them.
'Thank you, bub,' Uncle Bernie smiled.
'That tree looks just like the one at Nan's place!' Lilli said. 'But what's that hidden in the shadows under the tree, Unc?'
Uncle Bernie chuckled. 'That's a little creature who visited me in my dreams, bub. He's a dingo cat and he lives inside that mango tree. I've painted him just for you. When you move to the city, he's going to take care of you!'
Lilli felt excited. A dingo cat, she thought in wonder, a little creature to look after me in the city. Maybe I won't be so lonely after all!CHAPTER 2
Lilli tearfully kissed Nan goodbye then went to her room to pack all her things into the small suitcase her mum had given her.
'What are you doing Lilli Pilli?' Fatty Phil demanded, as he barged right in. 'Aw, you're not crying are you?'
Lilli spun around angrily. 'Don't call me Lilli Pilli!'
Just because her brother was excited about moving to the city, he expected her to be too.
'I have to pack my stuff,' she snapped crossly. 'Now go away!'
'How about I call you Grumpy Pilli?' he joked.
Lilli threw a pink teddy at him.
Fatty ducked, then darted out the door yelling, 'Dad said to tell you dinner's ready, Grumpy Pilli!'
Lilli felt so mad she almost chased after him, but then something quick and shadowy flitted across her desk.
What was that? she wondered. She looked again, but there was nothing there.
'Lilli!' her Dad called. 'Come and have dinner. It's our last meal before we hit the Big Smoke, so it's yummy fish and chips.'
Lilli loved fish and chips but she felt too upset to eat much. Fatty Phil didn't mind — he gobbled down her dinner too. After dinner Lilli finished packing then turned out the light and went to bed early. She was nearly asleep when she heard a scrabbling sound under her desk. Lilli sat up. A pair of small glowing green eyes blinked at her in the half-light. The creature, which was darker than the shadows in the room, climbed onto her desk and sniffed the air. Then it slipped over to her dressing table and looked at itself in the big mirror. It was such a strange thing to do, Lilli almost laughed.
All of a sudden the creature grew so large it was as big as the mirror. Then it turned sideways and it was so thin it looked like a flat sheet of black paper. With a satisfied air, it floated down from the dressing table and slid into Lilli's open suitcase. Lilli watched in astonishment as it folded itself under her clothes. Then two green eyes blinked at her and vanished.
What is it? wondered Lilli.
She was too scared to touch the suitcase, let alone pull everything out. She tugged the blanket over her head and closed her eyes. Maybe I'm dreaming, she thought. Maybe I'm really asleep and this is all a dream.
When Lilli woke the next day she remembered everything that had happened. Bravely she checked her suitcase. It was filled with her clothes and special things, but there was nothing else in there.
I must have imagined it, she thought.
She zipped up her suitcase and carried it out to the car, where her dad squeezed it into the boot.
'The Big Smoke's waiting for us,' he said cheerfully. 'It's time to hit the road!'CHAPTER 3
The new house in the city wasn't as bad as Lilli had imagined it might be. In the back garden there was a huge pepper tree that reminded Lilli of Nan's big mango tree at home. Four young boys were in the garden next door. Instead of helping with the unpacking, Fatty Phil leaned over the side fence and started joking with them.
Who lives on the other side of our house? Lilli wondered. Is it a girl my age?
As Lilli watched, an elderly lady stepped out onto the front porch. When she saw Lilli she smiled and waved. Lilli waved back politely, but she was disappointed. It was going to be harder for her to make friends than Fatty Phil.
'Can I have the room that looks out over the pepper tree?' Lilli asked her mum.
It wasn't a lovely mango tree, but it was big enough to sit under and she knew that whenever she looked at it she would think of Nan.
'Of course you can!' Mum replied.
It took hours to unpack and organise the house, but by the time they were finished, everything looked really nice.
Almost like home, thought Lilli in surprise.
Then her dad came bustling in with dinner. 'We've all been working hard, so I thought we could do with an early tea to celebrate our first night in our new home.'
It was chicken and chips!
'We can't have takeaway every night,' said Mum. 'It's too expensive. Tomorrow night we'll cook.'
Lilli felt much hungrier than she had the night before, so when Fatty Phil greedily eyed her plate, she moved it away. It was a great feed.
After dinner, Lilli vanished into her bedroom to finish off the last bit of tidying up. Unlike Fatty Phil, she liked to have a place for everything and there were still a few special things in her suitcase she needed to put away. She lined up her pink teddy, her jewellery box, her favourite books and some shells she'd collected on a shelf near the window. Then she hung her best dress and two school shirts in her new wardrobe. The suitcase should have been empty, but when she went to close it she saw a black scarf lying in the bottom.
'This isn't mine!' she said out loud as she picked it up. It was soft and silky, almost like fur. It reminded Lilli of something, but she didn't know what. Suddenly the fur twitched.
'Arrgh!' Lilli screamed, dropping it in fright and falling backwards onto her bed.
She watched in horror as the thing grew large and hairy. A pink mouth with razor sharp teeth appeared, then two sparkling green eyes blinked up at her.
'Hello Lilli!' a small voice said.
It was the creature from the night before. It looked like a cross between a cat and a dog, with its long pointed ears and dingo tail.
'What are you? What do you want?' Lilli demanded in fright.
The creature laughed and licked its paw. 'Don't you remember me? I was in your Uncle Bernie's painting! I've come to look after you for a while.'
Lilli didn't know what to think. What if it was something horrible and it was trying to trick her?
'I'll tell Mum and Dad about you!' she warned.
The creature grinned. 'No one can see or hear me except you!'
Then it pressed itself against the pale blue wall and, turning itself the same colour, disappeared completely.
Great, thought Lilli. What do I do now?CHAPTER 4
Lilli ran her hand over the wall where the creature had disappeared. The plaster felt smooth and cool — there was nothing there.
'Where has it gone?' she muttered.
She moved her hand further along the wall and stopped on a spot where the plaster felt warm. A dark furry outline began to appear.
Suddenly the creature shot out of the wall and jumped onto Lilli's bed laughing.
Despite her fear, Lilli laughed too. Then she blurted out. 'You're just like a shadow. One minute you're there, the next you're gone, and you can change shape and colour too.'
Shadow stretched happily across Lilli's pillow. 'Shadow boy — that's what Nan calls me,' he said. 'You can call me Shadow, too, if you like.'
'My Nan?' said Lilli.
'Of course your Nan,' said Shadow.
He really must be the dingo cat, thought Lilli.
'It's still light outside,' said Shadow. 'Let's play in the tree house.'
Lilli looked out at the gigantic pepper tree. Shadow was right, there was a cubby hidden away in the leafy branches, and running down one side of the tree was a narrow wooden ladder.
Why didn't I notice that before? thought Lilli in surprise.
As Lilli climbed the tree, Shadow streaked past saying, 'Let's play hide and seek!'
He disappeared into the tree trunk and Lilli heard a muffled, 'Guess where I am?'
'How am I supposed to do that?' groaned Lilli, but Shadow just giggled.
Then she remembered what she had done with the wall. She climbed a bit higher and pressed her hand to the trunk, moving it over the rough bark until she found a warm spot. 'Found you!' she cried.
Shadow popped out all black and furry and gave her a hug. It felt like she was hugging a warm black teddy bear. They sat together in the tree house talking.
'I have to go to school tomorrow,' sighed Lilli. 'I won't know anyone there and the other girls might not like me.'
She felt miserable just thinking about it.
'I'll come with you,' Shadow said. 'I'll make myself as small as a guinea pig and sit in your backpack.'
'Then I can come and say hello to you at lunch and recess,' said Lilli, delighted.
Starting at a new school didn't seem so bad now, not with a friend like Shadow.CHAPTER 5
Baymarra Primary was only three blocks away from Lilli's new house. The boys next door — Mike, Jason, Tim and Spencer — walked with her and Fatty Phil. They seemed okay and her brother got on pretty well with them, especially Jason, who was the same age. Lilli hoped it wouldn't be long before she made some new friends too.
Lilli liked her new teacher Mrs Jones. She was nice and friendly and really interested to hear about the small town Lilli had come from. There were thirty children in the class, and about half of them were girls, so Lilli hoped that at least one of them might like her.
Before recess Mrs Jones gave the students free time to do something that interested them, like drawing, writing a story or reading a book. Lilli chose a book, and carried it to the large table at the back of the classroom. But as soon as she sat down a girl came up and said, 'That's my favourite book.'
Lilli didn't want to get into a fight on her first day, so she stood up to put the book back. But the other girl smiled and said, 'I'm Alice. Don't you want to read it with me?'
Lilli realised that the girl was being nice to her, not mean.
'I'm Lilli. Do you like stories?'
Alice nodded. 'I love them. But I'm not very good at reading,' she added in a whisper, 'that's why I like doing it with someone else.'
Lilli sat with Alice and together they read the book.
'Do you want to have lunch with me?' Alice asked.
Lilli nodded. She liked Alice. She couldn't believe she had made a friend so quickly on her first day at school.
Lilli hadn't forgotten about Shadow, though. When Alice went to get a drink at the water fountain, Lilli opened her backpack and said hello to Shadow. 'Are you okay?' she asked.
'Of course I'm okay!' Shadow said. 'I like Alice too!'
Lilli gasped. 'How did you know I'd made a friend?'
'I sneaked into the wall of the classroom and watched you,' he grinned.
'Lilli,' Alice called suddenly, 'the bell's ringing. It's time to go back inside.'
'I'll see you at the end of the day,' said Lilli to Shadow. 'And no more sneaking!'
'Who were you talking to?' Alice asked, as they walked back to their classroom.
Lilli shook her head. 'No one.'
Alice looked disappointed. 'If I tell you a secret will you promise not to tell anyone?'
'I only started at this school last year. When I first came here I didn't know anyone, so I used to bring my favourite teddy bear. I hid him in my backpack and talked to him at lunchtime. Does that sound weird?'
Lilli laughed. 'That's not weird at all.' Shadow was much stranger than a teddy!
Lilli felt light-hearted when she sat down for the afternoon's lessons. Alice was going to be a very understanding friend.CHAPTER 6
The Problem with Nan
That night Lilli rang Nan for the first time.
'Guess what Nan, Uncle Bernie gave me a dingo cat called Shadow and he's my friend. He says he knows you.'
'Oh that's wonderful!' said Nan. 'I certainly know Shadow. I'm glad he arrived safely.'
'And I made a friend at school today, her name is Alice.'
Nan chuckled. 'I'm so happy to hear you're doing well. I was worried about you, but now I see I didn't have to worry at all.'
'I was worried about me too, Nan,' Lilli said, 'but this place is okay. I'd still rather be home with you though.'
'We can look forward to the school holidays. I'll save you some mangoes.'
At first Lilli rang Nan a lot, but as time went on she became so busy with Shadow and Alice and school that she didn't call as often. She knew Nan didn't mind. She was always cheerful when Lilli rang and was very happy that she was enjoying her life in the city.
But one afternoon after school her mum said, 'Lilli, I have some bad news. Your grandmother isn't feeling very well. Do you think you could give her a ring tonight?'
Lilli felt guilty. It had been more than a month since she last rang.
'There's nothing wrong with me but old age,' Nan said, when Lilli spoke to her on the phone, but her voice sounded weak and wobbly.
Lilli wished that old age was just like a little wart that you could put medicine on and make it go away, but she knew it wasn't.
What can I do? she wondered that night as she lay on her bed. How can I help Nan?
Just then Shadow popped out of the wall where he had been hiding. It was his favourite place, but Lilli didn't feel like hunting for him tonight. She felt too worried about Nan.
'What's wrong?' he asked, sliding onto the end of her bed.
'Nan's not well,' said Lilli.
Shadow's furry face fell.
'Are you happy here, Lilli?' he asked after a little while.
Lilli thought for a moment then said, 'I didn't think I would be, but I am. I'm looking forward to the holidays though, so I can see the rest of my family again, especially Nan.'
'I think it's time I went home,' said Shadow. 'Then I can look after Nan for you. And besides, I miss my mango tree.'CHAPTER 7
Lilli rang Nan the next morning. 'Guess what, Nan? Shadow is coming home.'
'Oh no Lilli,' said Nan. 'I want him to stay in the city and look after you.'
'He doesn't need to look after me anymore, Nan. I'm all right now, I really am. Shadow needs to look after you. He said it's his job.'
'He said that?' Nan asked in surprise.
'Yes, he did. But I don't know how to send him back.'
'Oh it's not too hard,' said Nan. Her voice sounded stronger now, almost excited. 'When it's dark you'll need to light a fire, make sure the wind is blowing towards home. Shadow can come back on the fire smoke. You must talk to your parents, explain the situation to them and they'll help you do it safely.'
'But will they believe me when I tell them about Shadow?'
'Of course they will! When your mother was a little girl he looked after her too.'
Shadow must be really old, thought Lilli.
That evening Mum and Dad were only too glad to help.
'Can you test the wind, Dad?' asked Lilli. 'Nan said it has to be blowing towards home.'
'Sure can,' he said.
'Here's some dry kindling,' said her mum. 'But I really think it's you who needs to do the sending Lilli, because it's you he is attached to. We'll help you, but you should light the fire, and you must send him home.'
When everything was ready, and Dad was standing by with the hose to keep an eye on things, Lilli hugged Shadow one last time. 'I'll really miss you!' she said.
'I'll never forget you Lilli,' said Shadow. 'And when you come home on the holidays you can visit me in the mango tree.'
'You'll take care of Nan for me, won't you?'
'Of course! Now, help me ride the smoke, Lilli!'
Excerpted from Lilli and Her Shadow by Pat Dudgeon, Laura Dudgeon. Copyright © 2010 Pat Dudgeon and Laura Dudgeon. Excerpted by permission of Fremantle Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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