I worried about the boy all night, but when I got back to the beach next morning there was no sign of him. I thought he might have come back and destroyed my castle and drawing, but I was relieved to see that they had only been partly washed away by the tide and wind as usual.
I soon forgot all about him as I went back to rebuilding my sandcastle. As the morning sun climbed higher and the sand got hotter I sat under the shade of my big straw hat and read a bit more of my book. I only had a few chapters to go and wanted to finish it before bedtime so that I could start a new book the next day.
I became so engrossed in my book that I didn’t even hear anybody coming until suddenly a shadow fell across my page. I looked up with a sharp intake of breath as I saw it was the same boy again. I tensed, waiting for him to kick over my sandcastle or say something nasty, when he flopped down on the sand beside me.
“What are ya reading?” he asked.
I was so surprised by his question that I didn’t even think and turned my book around to show him the cover.
“ ‘Gold at Lambing Flat’,” he read out, “What’s that?”
“It’s a story,” I said softly.
“Can I read it with you?”
I was surprised again and just nodded. This boy wasn’t at all like I expected boys to be.
I opened the book and he leaned his head toward mine to see the page better. He got so close that his head pushed my hat back and I could feel his wiry hair tickle my forehead.
“Is that where you’re up to?” he pointed to the page. I nodded and he began reading. “J-James c-c-came to the c-c-cottage door. Mary, where are you he c-called…” I looked at him as he read and saw a big frown of concentration on his forehead. He kept licking his lips as though the moisture would make the words slide out of his mouth easier. I felt a little sorry for him because he didn’t seem to be very good at reading. “… the old man was down in the dry c-c-c-creek bed…” he paused for ages and stared hard at the page. “What’s this word?” he asked. My eyes followed his finger down the page.
“Fossicking,” I said.
He frowned again and his lips moved slowly as if he was trying to get them in the right shape to say the word.
“Fo-ssick-k-king. I wonder what that means.”
“I think it means ‘looking for gold’,” I said, “That’s what the book is about.”
“Oh, cool.” He looked around and picked up my stick and started scratching in the sand. “Do you want to play?”
“Ummm… I don’t know if I’m allowed.” My heart was racing and I looked down the beach again to see where the girls were, but just like yesterday they were a long way off.
“Come on, it’ll be fun. I’ll show you.” He stood up and held out his dirty hand for me. I hesitated and then reached my hand up and he helped me to my feet. His hand felt all rough and I didn’t like the way it was so dirty.
“First of all, we’re spies and we have to make sure nobody catches us. You need a name, so I’m going to call you ‘Blue’,” he said with his lopsided grin. “How old are you, Blue?”
“Good, well I’m ten so that makes me the boss. Quick let’s get behind the bush before anyone sees us.” Shawn grabbed my hand and dragged me behind a banksia tree before pulling me to the ground. “We have to lay low,” he whispered in my ear, “But when I say ‘run’, we have to run to that tree over there, okay?”
I just nodded my head and was wondering why he called me ‘Blue’ when he yelled ‘run’ and took off for the tree. I jumped to my feet and tried to keep up with him but I kept stumbling in the thick sand. I was puffing heavily when I finally joined him at the foot of the tree.
“Good work, Blue,” he said, “We can rest for a bit now because the enemy don’t know we’re here.” We spent the next hour running from tree to tree, and each time I would get hot and puffed and my legs were starting to get really tired. We were resting for a moment in the shade of a big green tree when I heard Catherine’s voice calling.
“Molly… Molly, where are you?”
“I have to go,” I said to Shawn, “That’s my sister.”
“Oh, okay,” he said, “Just be careful you don’t tell anyone you are a spy.” The last I saw was his lopsided grin and then he was bounding away to hide behind another tree.