Ilona, Maya and Khalu are five-year-old triplets. There’s an accident in the playground and shortly afterwards both parents and Khalu are involved in a fatal car crash.
As Ilona and Maya experience foster homes, the reliability of Ilona as narrator becomes questionable. Could Maya be Ilona’s imaginary friend?
Bad things happen – disappearance of cat, shed fire, house fire. Ilona’s moved to another foster home and Maya stays behind.
Things improve for Ilona. She leaves school, gets a job and buys a flat, but when she falls for a boy, Maya returns. Trouble starts again. Perhaps Maya’s not imaginary after all?
Extract from Novel
Maya and me don’t want to leave the swings but Mummy’s still talking so we follow you to the slide.
‘Come on,’ you shout, already half-way up the ladder.
‘Maya doesn’t want to.’ I’m leaning against one of the metal poles, while Maya has wrapped her legs around another pole. She’s hauling herself up like a monkey.
You glare down at us. I wait for Maya to untangle her legs, then we climb the ladder. As we reach the top you’re standing, holding the bars either side. We guess what you’re going to do before you do it. As we step onto the metal platform you begin to jump. The platform creaks. It bounces up and down and I fall to my knees. Behind me, Maya’s still upright.
‘Don’t,’ I say.
‘Don’t,’ you mimic, jumping even harder. The platform complains noisily as rusty nuts and bolts stretch to their limits. It’s going to collapse. Puke rises in my throat.
‘What’s the matter,’ you say, ‘gonna be sick?’
I swallow and look down at the ground. Everything’s blurry. I squeeze my eyes tightly closed. ‘Stop it Khalu.’ Did I say that or was it Maya? My ears are humming. There’s a rush of air, like something or someone brushes past me. A scream, a thud and the whole world tremors. Everything goes quiet.
I open my eyes to peer over the edge of the platform. It’s like Sleeping Beauty when the bad fairy casts a spell. Everyone’s frozen. You’re lying below us on a worn patch of grass. You’re not moving.
Suddenly someone shouts. Mummy’s running towards the slide. ‘Oh no, oh no.’ Reaching you, she skids to a halt on her knees. She strokes your forehead and lifts your hand. You’re limp, like Raggedy Doll. I look at Maya. A smile plays around her lips as she holds out her hand to pull me up.
‘Is she dead?’ I whisper.
‘No,’ says Maya, ‘don’t be silly.’
Maya puts her arm around me and we watch from above. A lady runs to the phone box outside the park to dial 999. Before long, two men in blue shirts whisk you and Mummy away. The ambulance drives out of the park and the siren fades.
When you and Mummy don’t come home, Mrs Wilson takes us to our house and puts us to bed. ‘Your sister will be fine,’ she says, ‘don’t you go worrying now.’
We don’t have a story that night. We don’t even ask to see the doll.
‘Did we make it happen?’ I say to Maya.
‘No, Khalu just fell, ‘says Maya. ‘Go to sleep.’ But when I close my eyes I can see Maya launching herself at you.