For the first time in his life Indigo Casson had been properly ill. He had
flu, and instead of getting better, it got worse and turned into infectious
"Mono?" asked his disbelieving classmates. "Or scared stiff?"
Somewhere, at the back of his head, Indigo wondered the same thing. However, it really was mono. He grew very ill indeed, quite quickly. Even at the worst of his illness though, a part of Indigo sighed with relief. A part of him thought, Phew!
At first it was quite exciting for his family,
having Indigo so ill. Anyone who asked any of the Cassons, "How's Indigo?" received a very long answer. A much too long answer, with lots of details most people would rather not know about.
Luckily, this stage did not last very long. Indigo's illness stopped being news and became a fact of life. When people said, "How's Indigo?" his family answered, "Fine," and talked of more interesting things. This was not because they did not care about him, but just that there was nothing new to say. Anyway, compared to how he had been, Indigo was fine. He could walk up and down the stairs again. He could eat. He didn't keep fainting. He was fine.
Meanwhile, Indigo missed a whole term of school and grew extremely tall and thin. He spent a great deal of time by himself. The house was very quiet during the day. Caddy, his elder sister, was away at college. Eight-year-old Rose and Saffron (his adopted sister) were at school. His father and mother, both artists, were busy with their work, his father in London, and his mother in her shed at the end of the garden. It was a peaceful time, but it gave Indigo an odd feeling sometimes. As if, when he was alone, he became invisible. Once he looked in the mirror and grinned at himself and said, "Still there!"
Some days Saffron brought him work home from school. Other times Indigo read books or watched TV. Even so, he had hours and hours, especially at the start of getting better, when all he did was lie stretched out on his bed, dreamily watching the sky. He especially liked the clear days, when airplanes traveled across the blue, unfurling white banners of jet trails behind them. Indigo imagined them, full of people he did not know, journeying to places he had never seen. Even when the planes were too high to see, the jet trail banners listed their journeys across the sky.
Indigo thought that until he had become ill he had been on a journey of his own. Not a plane journey, but still a journey. He had been a traveler through the days and weeks and years of time.
Toward the end, Indigo's journey had become rather an unpleasant trip. Indigo's time of peaceful invisibility was brought to an end by Rose. Rose had a habit of pouncing on the phone at the first ring. One day she pounced, and it was her father, Bill Casson, calling from London. Far away, in his immaculate studio, Bill Casson heard a series of bumps. Bump, bump, bump, and then a thud.
"What on earth is that I can hear?" he asked, and Rose replied, "Indigo."
"Whatever was happening to him? Has he hurt himself?"
"He was just jumping down the stairs."
"Jumping down the stairs?"
"Then he must be better," said Bill.
Later on, when Rose reported this conversation, everyone looked at Indigo. It was true. He was better. Without anyone noticing, without noticing himself, he had got well again. His journey through the days and weeks and years of time was about to start once more. Indigo could hardly remember where he had been going in those far-off, before illness, six-inch-shorter days.
Eve, Indigo's mother, said happily, "You are better, Indigo darling! You will be able to go back to school!"
"Yes," said Indigo, and Rose wailed, "He still looks terrible to me!" and everyone laughed.
Copyright © 2003 by Hilary McKay
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Southern Gothic fantasy with a contemporary flare set in Savannah
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