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James wriggled in his seat – he never understood why primary school kids couldn’t just learn to sit on proper-sized chairs so that when they put on shows or invited people in, you didn’t have to squish onto ridiculously tiny seats. It was almost worse than sitting on the floor and James wasn’t even as tall as half the rest of the people in the hall.
He huffed and his Dad shushed him, even though the show hadn’t even started yet and everybody was still talking. He glanced at the doors, looking for Mum. She had rushed home to get Lola’s recorder which she had, of course, completely forgotten this morning.
He was just about to suggest his dad sent a quick text to see where she was, when an all-too-familiar wail came from backstage. He looked at Dad, alarmed. “Isn’t that…?”
“Yeah. I’m sure she’s fine. Probably nerves or something. Mum’ll sort her when she gets back, don’t worry.” Dad smiled weakly, turning in his own seat to look at the doors.
The wailing didn’t stop.
Suddenly, Mum’s head appeared round the curtain at the side of the stage, searching the crowd for James and Dad. James waved to get her attention.
Mum mouthed ‘Come here!’ and James and Dad left their seats, apologising repeatedly as they awkwardly made their way to the front and slipped behind the curtain.
Lola’s wails suddenly seemed muffled and James realised she had been hurried out into the corridor somewhere.
“What’s going on?” asked Dad.
“You tell me,” said Mum slapping something into Dad’s hands.
It was Lola’s new red recorder. In three pieces.
“What on earth?!” Dad turned to James who immediately held his hands in the air.
“That was not me. She was still playing on it when I left for Breakfast Study Club this morning and you know I haven’t been home since ‘cause I’ve been with you.”
Mum shook her head. “I think it was me. I mean, it was fine when I put it in my handbag but when I got here it was like that… I don’t understand.”
“What on earth have you got in there with it that could do this?” asked Dad, inspecting the splintered ends of the recorder. “It’s made of wood for pity’s sake!”
“Nothing!” Mum hissed as they were ushered into the corridor so that the rest of the show could start. “Look – there’s my purse, my keys, a pack of tissues and that’s it. Oh, apart from this – I thought it would make Lola smile if she saw it in the crowd.” Mum pulled Damien out of her bag and thrust him at James who very nearly dropped the elf on the floor in his reluctance to touch it.
“There must be something else,” said Dad, taking the bag and rummaging through it.
James looked down at the elf in his hands and almost yelped when it winked at him.
“It was this elf.” He said, holding it out to Mum, “I’m telling you, it’s evil.”
“Oh James, don’t be ridiculous. I must have trodden on the bag or shut it in the car door or something and not noticed. Poor Lola, she’s never going to forgive me. Come on, let’s go take her home, she’ll never want to join in now.” Mum took the smug little elf back and put it in her bag. “What a disaster.”
James stuffed his hands in his pockets and followed his parents. The elf had winked. He was sure it had. Except it couldn’t have because it was a toy. Just a stupid, stupid toy.