A golden light flowed out, when the bag tipped over. When the book fell out with a slap on the floor, the front cover flew open. Finny jumped back startled by what he saw. Rearing, a white unicorn pawed at an empty page. It landed with a snort and turned magnificent midnight blue eyes on Finny.
“Franklin George Joidean?” The unicorn’s upper lip quivered. Nostrils flared.
“How?” The empty hallway resounded with Finny’s whisper.
Stretching on powerful haunches, the creature pawed the air. It snickered, but offered no further explanation. The book snapped closed, and bright golden writing that had been warm cooled.
“Are you still here?” Mr. Jansen, with effort, pushed a broom toward Finny. “You better get going. I saw Joe waiting outside.”
After one last sad look around, Finny picked up his pack. With the book returned inside, he pulled the strap onto his shoulder. Raskee followed close behind when Finny pushed through the outside door.
Joe Trapper, Finny’s best friend, sat on a bench waiting. Since the first day their parents had let them walk home from school, the two had made a pact to always wait for one another.
“What took you so long?” Joe closed the comic he’d been reading.
Without saying anything, Finny pulled out the book Mrs. Sanders had given him.
“Misty’s Magical Shed.” Joe took the book and opened the front cover. Again the unicorn reared.
With a snort it pawed first with its right hoof, then its left.
“What kind of horse is that? All those speckles on the rump, I’ve never seen one like that before,” Joe said.
“What speckles?” Finny looked at the front of the book. The unicorn was pure white with a blue sheen.
“Those spots.” Joe pointed. The unicorn faded. An appaloosa took its place.
Finny grabbed the book back and closed it. He tucked it into his backpack. Once more he was thinking about the summer ahead. Joe got to go off to camp. “I’m going home,” Finny said, even though his friend’s response bothered him.
“Wait for me,” Joe called, but Finny ignored him.
“Have a good summer, Finny,” Joe puffed. Unable to catch up, he gave in and turned down his driveway.
Raskee let out a low growl and tugged on Finny’s pant leg.
“I know,’ he said, but it would do no good to go after Joe now. Maybe when he came back, if he came back, Finny could mend things with his friend.
At the front door of his house Finny couldn’t bring himself to turn the knob and open the door. He stood listening to a soft wind that rustled through the leaves of the maple tree near his bedroom window. It whispered goodbye. Finally he took a deep breath, turned the knob, opened the door and went inside.
“Finny? Is that you?” Mama called from somewhere in the back. He knew she’d be working at her computer, concentrating on the charts and graphs she’d take to work tomorrow.
Studies of the oceans and their inhabitants always made Finny think of Mama. Her skin had a quality that glistened even in the dim light of her desk lamp, that made ber blond hair and blue eyes sparkle. If he didn’t know she worked hard all day, he would have bet she spent all her time in their swimming pool. But then that’s what his friends said about him too. “Yes,” he answered.
“Your father’ll be here anytime. You better go make sure you have everything. Put Raskee in his carry case. He needs to get used to it before you take him on the plane.”
Finny reached out, but the cat eluded him. The book bounced from his bag onto the floor. The front cover fell open, exposing the unicorn. It pawed the air. You don’t know who she is, do you?