by Sue Johnson
It was the lemon drops, Ben decided. Everything had been alright until he’d played truant from school. It was Monday morning and he hated maths and science. He’d gone down a narrow street he’d not noticed before. The shop was at the end of it − an old-fashioned sweet shop with windows crammed with jars of magical-looking creations that vibrated with a strange energy.
“I know who you are. You’re Ben and you need lemon drops,” said the old woman behind the counter.
She was dressed in black and looked a bit like a witch. Ben had been about to say that he didn’t want lemon drops, he wanted wine gums, but he felt scared. The old woman’s green eyes were unsettling. He wondered how she knew his name. He fished in his pocket for some money and the old woman put it in a black box by the till that smelled of exotic spices.
“They’ll make you do the right thing,” she said. “They might even change your life and stop you getting into trouble all the time.”
“Sweets can’t do that,” said Ben scornfully, but he was really scared now. How could she know so much about him?
He put a lemon drop into his mouth as he hurried out of the shop, the jangle of the bell and the old woman’s laugh echoing behind him.
“Come on Ben, or you’ll be late for school. It’s Monday morning.”
Ben opened his eyes and sat up. His alarm clock was jangling but it couldn’t be Monday. He’d been to school and left after registration. He knew he had.
“Please be a good boy and go to school,” said his mother. “You know what the headmaster said last week.”
Ben reluctantly got out of bed and put on his clothes. He ate his breakfast and then walked the long way to school, intending to revisit the funny little sweet shop. He went to the right place – but it wasn’t there. There was just a wide alleyway between the houses with a row of dustbins at the bottom. However, the air was full of the scent of lemon drops. Ben felt in his pocket and found the bag of sweets he’d bought from the old woman.
There was a cat watching him from the alleyway. Its emerald green eyes reminded him of the old woman’s. Ben decided that maybe, just for today, he’d go to school.