HISTORY’S A MYSTERY ONCE MORE
Read the First Chapter
Coolongawong, where the four friends lived, is a little town in mid-western New South Wales, close to the Wollendidgee National Park. Not many people had heard of the town though a few did know about the park.
The summer holidays had flown by for the four friends, even though the school break had seemed to stretch ahead endlessly at the start. Jack, Will, Livvy and Grace arranged to meet down by the river as soon as they were all back in town. They had something important to discuss.
“G’day, mate,” said Jack as he slumped down in the soft, green grass on the bank, in the shade of a big gum tree.
“G’day yourself,” answered Will, his best mate. “How was your trip?”
“Pretty good. How were your hols here?”
“Yeah, not bad. I spent some time learning the saxophone.”
Jack was not that surprised. He had learned over the years that his mate, Will, was up for anything. He was super bright and an excellent musician already. Will had not left town these holidays. His mother, Cathy Anderson, worked for the local council in the library and she had not been able to get time off except for one week over Christmas. Usually when this happened, Will stayed with his grandparents in Canberra. However, this year they had gone on a cruise and he was not invited to join them. He didn’t mind. They were getting old and were not terribly interested in the things he liked to do.
So he had been happy on his own in Coolongawong. His mum had given him a saxophone for Christmas, along with a DVD to teach him the basics and he had spent a great deal of time learning to play it. He could already read music and play the guitar and the keyboard, so it had not been all that hard. Not for him, anyway. What would have been hard work for most kids was just fun to Will. He was a talented singer as well, and was in the school choir. Not surprisingly, he had won the lead role in the annual school production for the past two years.
But Will was not at all bigheaded. That was why everyone in his class liked him. He didn’t show-off that he was brainy. And he definitely was not a nerd, for although he was in the choir, he played footy and cricket too. He was also quick with one-liners and practical jokes that kept the class laughing. Mr Mac, their teacher, liked him a lot too.
Will had hung out with another of the four friends, Grace Stevens, over the holidays because she had also stayed in town. Her parents ran the local deli so they were busy for long hours nearly every day. The two friends had been swimming at the river often and Grace’s two younger brothers, Jason and David, had been there too. They were twins and were two years younger than Grace. She had the job of looking after them. Will had noticed right after Christmas that Grace was not her usual bubbly self and this concerned him. He had known her since Kinder and liked her very much. So one day near the end of the holidays, while the younger boys were in the water, he decided to suss things out.
“What’s up, Grace?”
“Oh, nothing,” she answered. But as much as she tried to stop them, tears began falling, wetting her cheeks. Taking a big breath and brushing them away, she continued, “I guess I have been feeling down lately.”
“Yeah, I can tell that.” Will waited quietly. If she wanted to, Grace would tell him what was wrong in her own good time.
Grace was silent for a few moments, staring out over the water. Half her attention was on her brothers who were swimming and half was on her problem. She decided to tell Will. Maybe he could help her somehow. She took another big breath and said, “It’s Mum and Dad. They are fighting a fair bit and things are really uptight at home. I just don’t know what to do about it.”
“Do you know what they’re fighting about?”
“Ah, it’s mostly about money, I think. Since the nearby supermarket opened, I don’t think the deli is making enough money.”
Will nodded but didn’t say anything. He had no easy answers for her. So he just sat there beside her. After a while, Grace did seem a little calmer. Perhaps just talking about it had helped. So he decided to tell her how it had been for him when his parents had split up.
“I was only seven when Dad left home. It was awful. All I remember is lots of shouting and Mum crying a lot. I hope that doesn’t happen to your mum and dad.”
Grace winced and fresh tears appeared on her cheeks.
After a while, she answered. “Me too. I’m scared, Will. I don’t want them to split up. I love both of them and I just want our family to stay together. But I don’t know what to do to help.”
“I don’t think you can do anything, Grace. I think it’s up to them to work it out.”
Grace nodded and continued staring out over the water for a bit.
“Thanks for listening, Will.”
Grace didn’t know whether it was good or bad that Will had gone through a similar problem to what her family was facing now. She desperately hoped that her parents would not end up separated or divorced.
The other two of the four friends had been away for the holidays. Jack had gone with his mum and dad and his younger sister, Emily, on another driving holiday. They owned a caravan and pulled it behind a four-wheel drive Toyota truck. Jack’s dad, Bob Wilson, worked in construction, so he needed a truck like this. They had been south this time, way down into Victoria and had been hiking around a national park at Wilson’s Promontory, called ‘The Prom’ by the locals. Jack and Emily had been hiking ever since they could remember and they both loved it. They had also visited Phillip Island while they were down there and had stayed up late in the freezing cold (even though it was January and supposed to be hot) to watch fairy penguins waddle ashore.
Olivia, or Livvy, the name she preferred, was the next to appear beside the river. They said hi and she sat down with the boys to wait for Grace to join them. The boys asked her about her trip to Brisbane.
Livvy had been to Brizzy as she called it, with her family to visit her grandparents. Her dad, Michael Roberts, was an accountant in the nearby larger town of Orange and her mum, Kate, ran Coolongawong’s pre-school. Livvy had an older brother, Matt, and a younger sister, Megan. She loved visiting with her grandparents as they always had interesting things planned for their grandchildren’s visits. This time they had all spent a whole day at Australia Zoo, the one that Steve Irwin had made famous with his crocodiles. Packed with Australian native animals, the zoo included snakes and, of course, crocodiles. Livvy had held a snake and a baby croc in her hands. She was not frightened of things like that. On another day, they had gone to Wet ‘n’ Wild, a fun park full of waterslides and other watery stuff. It had been awesome. Her grandma was also a great cook and was teaching Livvy some of her secrets. Together they had made heaps of sticky treats for the whole family. She had loved her holiday.
As soon as Grace arrived, they stopped talking about their holiday adventures. There was something much more important on everyone’s mind. It was where they were going to go for their first adventures of the year. Back in time.
“I think for our first adventure we should go with Grace’s idea from last year,” Will said to the others.
“What’s that?” asked Jack. He had forgotten over the holidays.
“It was to visit Mozart,” said Grace. “But I think someone else should have a turn first. After all, I chose the Christmas in Africa one.” Grace was still feeling down and was not that interested in anything much, even their adventures.
“What about going to Japan and seeing some samurais?” Jack cut in before anybody else had a chance to say anything.
“That’s okay with me,” chipped in Livvy. “I really don’t care where we go. Everywhere is interesting and we always seem to have fun. Well, almost every time.”
“Except when we nearly fried in the Hindenburg explosion,” said Will with a smile.
“Yeah, I was just thinking about that,” said Livvy. Everyone but Grace laughed.
“I really liked our adventure back in India when we saw the cobra fight the mongoose,” said Jack. “It was awesome, but so was the Terracotta Army in China and burying the pirate treasure with Drake.”
“Yeah, they’re all pretty good,” agreed Will.
These adventures back in time were possible because last year Olivia had learned a closely guarded secret: that Mr Mac’s classroom was a magic one. They had been in Year 5 at Coolongawong Primary School with everyone’s favourite teacher. Mr Mac is a total living legend of a teacher. No joke, he is absolutely the best teacher ever. Every kid in the school wants to be in his class. He makes every lesson interesting and fun and he has an endless supply of wise cracks and jokes to share with his students. But even more exciting than just being in his class, had been the discovery that his classroom was a magic one. Mr Mac knew about the magic, of course, but he had learned years ago that if he told students about it, the magic would stop, so he just had to wait for the occasional students to discover it for themselves.
Livvy’s older brother, Matt, had discovered it and had introduced her to the magic, showing her that she could travel back in time on the day of the new moon each month, visiting places and people famous in history. Matt had let her in on the secret early in the year as he was about to turn thirteen and knew that once he did, he would no longer be able to go back in time. Then Livvy had introduced Grace and, together, the girls had taken Jack and Will on their first adventure. Since then they had been on some totally awesome adventures together.
Now they were looking forward to lots more adventures this year. This was because Mr Mac was to be their teacher again, so they would be in the magic classroom for another whole year. That meant another sixteen or eighteen adventures. (Exactly how many depended on when the new moon fell. If it fell on a weekend or in the holidays, it would be a no-go for that month.) They managed two each month, one at recess and one at lunchtime.
“Okay, Jack,” said Livvy. “Let’s go to Japan first.”
“And then let’s visit Mozart,” said Will, looking at Grace and giving her a smile. “I would really like to meet that guy. Especially since I’ve been learning to play the saxophone in the holidays.”
“Have you?” asked Livvy. Although when she thought about it, she was not the least surprised. Will was amazing. He was talented at just about everything and was easily the brainiest kid in the school.
“Yeah,” he just said.
Jack and Will were both talented singers and musicians, though Will was better. Jack was also in the school choir and both of them could play a mean tune on a guitar.
Everyone seemed happy with the first two planned adventures.
“Well, that’s decided then,” said Livvy. “When is the new moon, does anybody know?”
“It’s the second Tuesday back at school,” said Will. “I looked it up.”
With these important decisions out of the way, the four friends told each other a little more holiday news, before ending the afternoon with a long swim in the river. They were all set and could not wait for their school year to begin.