It was another normal day and the family were preparing for the day ahead. Sarah picked up her school bag and called from the kitchen door, "I'm away, Mum, I'll see you later."
"Bye, darling, have a good day."
Sarah's Dad was returning from his night shift and passed his daughter on the drive.
"Take care and watch when you're crossing the road."
Smiling, he saw her walk to the house on the other side of the road.
The summer was long that year and the weather was good enough for Sarah’s mum, Tina, to garden and relax after a long day in the office. She would pick up a book and head to her favourite spot at the back of the drive and sit down to read. Sarah also arrived home about this time and made her way into the house and up to her room.
Everybody in the family was home together and getting ready for the evening meal before Dad left for his night shift.
"I wish the hours were better and we could spend more time on holiday." He would say. Sarah would look up at her Mum and Dad and smile,
"It’s ok. We can go away when you both have time off."
Tina felt a little guilty about having to spend so much time at her work and promised Sarah a special holiday soon. It was a routine the family had been following for a number of years.
One morning a letter arrived to say that Sarah had not been attending her classes at school. Tina couldn’t understand this at all as every morning she watched her daughter and their neighbours' daughter meet to go to school. She called the Headmaster as she thought there must be some mistake. Worried about where Sarah was going she decided to drive to the school, but there wasn't any sign of her or her friend. She returned back to the house and waited patiently. The door opened and, as usual, Sarah shouted, "I'm home Mum."
Trying to find a way to tackle the problem without getting angry, Tina decided to follow Sarah. In the morning she watched the girls leave as usual and, then, when they thought they were out of sight, turn back. "Where are they going?” she thought to herself. Tina made her way to the back of her neighbours’ house where she assumed they were going. Tina tried to look into the house but the curtains were closed.
Tina was worried about Sarah's upcoming exams, as she'd missed so much time at school. She tried to talk to Sarah about it but was told not to worry.
Sarah continued to follow Tina and her friend and eventually found the girls smoking and behaving in a rowdy manner with about another dozen children at the local shopping centre. When she questioned Sarah about this the following day at breakfast her daughter said she'd been at her friends house. It had become impossible to get an honest reply from her. Tina decided to speak to her husband about the truancy letter.
Tina knew it would be too late for Sarah to catch up on her studies for the exams now. She had found out that not only were the girls smoking and using her neighbours house as a hideaway from school but that they were meeting on the beach, lighting campfires and taking magic mushrooms for months. The family were distraught and when they saw their daughter taken to hospital after being poisoned, it was time to confront her neighbours. The parents in both houses had no idea any of this was happening and only found out when the ambulance arrived.
Time and care brought the family back together but it was agreed they should move from the beautiful town where they had lived for so many years. "The future will be easier to live in with the help of a new group of friends." Tina whispered, hugging her precious daughter.