Excitement fizzed in Ivy’s veins as she hurried down the hill. It was the last Friday in June and the world was heading to the beach. The promenade shimmered with heat-haze. The ice-cream stand had sold out. Even the seagulls were fat and hot and full of stolen chips, blinking lazily as she passed.

Everyone would be there. It was almost the end of term, and the evening beckoned, full of glittering possibility. Ivy noticed new posters flapping gently in the breeze. She spotted the words ‘Cirque’ and ‘Mystere’ in old-fashioned lettering, a red-striped circus tent, sprinkled in stars. It fitted her mood, made her smile. She breathed deeply, smelling the usual seaside blend of salt, candyfloss and vinegar, with an undercurrent of something sharp and dark she couldn’t name.

Her phone chirruped. It was Zahra. Always so impatient! She tapped out her response without breaking her pace. I’m coming! 2 mins

She rounded the last corner and halted. Every time, it took her breath away: the sea stretching out like shimmering blue silk.

‘I told you! I’m here.’

The person waiting by the statue turned round slowly.

Ivy realised it wasn’t Zahra at all. Instead, she saw…

Tobecontinued…