"Sometimes they give them back at the end of term," he told her comfortingly. "Anyway, you can always do another. Let's go home!"
"It was my best ever," repeated Rose, not moving.
"We can't stay here all night!"
Rose still did not budge.
"Oh, all right!" said Indigo in exasperation. "I'll go and pinch it off the wall for you! Just this once! Never again!"
"No, never again," agreed Rose, cheering up with amazing speed and following as he led the way back into school and along the empty corridors to the scene of the crime.
"This is only because it's your first day!" he told her. "You needn't think I'm doing it every time they stick a picture of yours up on the wall...."
"I shan't do any more pictures," said Rose, pushing open the door of the class-one classroom (luckily empty). "I shan't do anything else, ever. Not at school."
"That's what you think! Where's this picture, then? Is that it?"
"Yes. Do you like it?"
"Mmmm," said Indigo, levering out the thumbtacks. "Not bad. Bit like a banana. There you are. Roll it up! Oy! Wait for me!"
Rose did not wait, but sprinted out of school as fast as she could and was well on her way down the road home before Indigo caught up with her.
"What about in the morning?" he asked as they half jogged and half walked along together. "What'll you tell them if they notice?"
"I could not go back in the morning," said Rose hopefully, but Indigo squashed that idea at once. For a while he walked along frowning, with his hands in his pockets.
"I know," he said suddenly, looking up. "We'll make a copy! They can have that! Easy, especially if Saffron and Caddy help!"
"Saffron won't," said Rose, and Saffron wouldn't.
"You'll never get away with it!" she said after one look at the banana. "No one could copy that! They'll see it's the wrong one straightaway!"
"Course they won't," said Caddy, now eighteen and at college, supposed to be passing a few exams. "Give it here, Rose! I'll do it for you."
Caddy's copy was perfect, down to four thumbtack holes in the corners.
"Just in case anyone catches you with it before you get it up on the classroom wall," she explained. "If I didn't put them in, it would be obvious at once that you were planting a fake. Mind you use the same holes when you pin it up!"
Indigo and Rose looked at her with respect. Caddy could be surprisingly intelligent, considering how many exams she had failed.
Everything went exactly to plan. Indigo and Rose left for school extra early the next morning and pinned the copy of the Banana House in place, and nobody ever spotted the difference.
"You think you are all so clever," said Saffron.
"You could have helped," Rose pointed out. "You didn't want to help."
"No, I didn't," snapped Saffron crossly.
"It doesn't matter anyway," said Rose tranquilly, admiring her picture for the hundredth time through half-closed eyes. "Because I've got it safe now. It just needs framing...a big gold frame..."
"What needs a big gold frame?" asked Eve, coming through the door in time to catch Rose's last words. "Your picture, Rose? Why don't you ask Daddy when he comes home next. He's good at frames. Saffy darling, I came in to ask you to hurry back from school tomorrow. Grandad's coming for the evening."
"Grandad doesn't only like Saffron!" said Rose.
"Of course he doesn't," said Eve.
"I need a big gold frame now, not when Daddy comes home!"
"I might have one in the shed you could use."
"Grandad likes all of us just the same."
"Of course he does," agreed Eve soothingly, and she smiled at Saffron over Rose's head.
Saffron's black mood slipped away and she found herself smiling back, and she said to Rose, "Of course he likes us all just the same."
Copyright © 2001 by Hilary McKay
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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