Chapter One

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One more sleep. One more day at school. Then the whole of the summer holidays to keep an eye on Mum.

Toby lifted the glass to her lips, and she sipped weakly.

“Thanks love.”

“Are you going to be too hot under the duvet?” He wiped his brow. This heatwave had been going on for days.

“I’ll be fine.”

Toby perched on the edge of the bed. If he made sure everything was quiet and peaceful, if nothing unexpected happened,

Mum would be able to rest. Then maybe she’d get better. There was a chance, right?

The floorboards creaked in the attic above, and his mum flinched. “It keeps doing that today.”

“The windows are open, remember?” said Toby. “It’s probably that.”

He turned to close the curtains. Light spilled from the room onto their patio below with its rickety bench and plant pots full of weeds. At the bottom of the garden, the hedge loomed out of the darkness. It was high and thick to keep people out from what lay beyond. On the other side, a lamp flickered in the building.

Toby drew in a sharp breath.

A girl stood at the distant window, her long golden hair illuminated in the light from the lamp. That was strange. Surely all the workers would have gone home by now? Despite the hot July evening, a chill crept through Toby’s bones. This could not be happening. Not again.

He forced himself to look away. Above, the night sky was clear. Behind him, his mum’s breathing was shallow and laboured, her frail body almost swallowed by the plump pillows.

It was no use, he couldn’t resist. His gaze strayed to the window as if the girl was a magnet. She was staring right at him.

A memory scratched at the back of Toby’s mind and images swam into his vision. A woman … a woman at the window … No! He had pushed her out of his thoughts for so long. He would not remember her now.

“Toby?” his mum whispered from the bed.

He yanked the curtains closed.

“Is everything OK?”

“Fine!” Toby flicked off the light and hurried out of the room before his mum could ask more.