Sylvie Lawn was an ordinary teenager. She had an ordinary life, and ordinary parents. She never met anyone special, until one day…
I did a double, no, a triple take when I saw the boy in the Elizabethan ruff. I was out in Kingston, my favourite place to be, when I saw him. He was dressed like everyone else, other than the ruff. A big frilly one, like Shakespeare’s, on top of his ordinary t shirt.
I almost dropped my hotdog when I saw the girl he was with. She was in a voluminous Victorian dress, and she was making a big deal about dropping an empty plastic bottle on the floor and smiling up at the woman next to her, who nodded approvingly. They were in a big group of children – it looked like a school trip. But no teacher I’ve ever met encourages litter!
Most of the children were almost dressed normally, but some were just… odd. One child was in a dress like one I’d seen in a museum from the 1940s, made of blackout material. Then came a boy in an ‘I heart litter’ t shirt and high heels. Bringing up the rear was a girl in a 1960s flowery mini dress. The woman was in an ABBA jumpsuit, shunting everyone along and checking an old-fashioned pocket watch.
I couldn’t help myself: I had to follow them.
They were going into a sweet shop, emerging a few minutes later with treats. The Tudor boy stuffed a bag of chocolate buttons in his mouth and started going absolutely berserk, while the Victorian girl licked bubble gum ice cream then ostentatiously mimicked vomiting. You’d think this was their first time eating sugar!
After the teacher had calmed everyone down, I accidentally-on-purpose followed them past a busy road. Some of them were holding their noses, like they weren’t used to the stink of petrol.
They stopped on the market square, where I noticed the children were all making notes on clipboards. A pair of twins were muttering, “Pollution, very bad. Food, very unhealthy.”
Next, they went into a big shop. The children tried on clothes until the teacher checked the pocket watch and ushered everyone out.
The 1960s girl stayed behind. She was trying on a long green dress with white flowers. She didn’t notice that the rest of her group had gone, as she was swishing the dress, admiring herself in the mirror.
When she noticed, panic gripped her features. I went up to her to ask if she was ok.
‘Where is the time machine? What if I miss our slot?’ she exclaimed, before clapping her hand over her mouth when she noticed me and realised I had heard her.
“You’re a time traveller?” I said dubiously.
“Erm…no…I ..No!” she stuttered.
“Maybe,” she admitted shyly.
“And you need to find a… time machine,” I said slowly.
“I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone!”
“Never mind that. I’m Sylvie Lawn,” I said. “Pleased to meet you.”
“Oh… it’s just… I didn’t expect you to be so polite. At school, we learned that in the 2020s you all… Oh where are my manners? I’m Magnolia.”
“If you’re really from the future, why did you come here? I saw you around town and you didn’t seem to like the food, or the buses or anything?”
“We came back to learn from humanity’s past mistakes. My teacher, Mrs Hibiscus, always says ‘Those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it.’”
“Erm… what mistakes exactly?”
“Well, fossil fuels. And we are always digging up your rubbish! Our soil is full of tiny bits of plastic, and… Oh, I probably shouldn’t tell you.”
“Why not?” I asked, but Magnolia didn’t reply. My head was starting to spin. Surely this couldn’t be for real!
“If you’re so eco-friendly, why were you all dropping litter?”
“We were just trying to fit in,” she admitted.
“We don’t all do it!” I exclaimed indignantly.
I took a deep breath. “OK, so where’s your time travel thingmajig?”
“In Richmond Park. But it’s well hidden. I need to find my class, but how will we find them in all the crowds?” she wailed.
“Erm…” It wasn’t too easy to find the right words to tell her that her group was not exactly difficult to spot. “No offence, but your clothes are not very… normal. You guys stand out.”
“Really? My teacher thought River wasn’t quite right in that ruff… But the rest of us are dressed right – aren’t we?” Her frown turned into a giggle when she saw my expression, and I dissolved into laughter too.
As we walked towards Richmond Park, I answered Magnolia’s questions, but she wouldn’t answer mine. She was worried about getting the future all muddled up.
At the park, we followed the path that Magnolia seemed to remember. was hanging around the Isabella Plantation looking suspicious.
“That’s where it’s hidden!” Magnolia exclaimed. She was about to run off but hesitated and gave me a tight hug.
“Best Friends Forever?” I whispered.
“BFFs” she smiled back. With a wave she ran off to join her peers and was gone into the flowery bushes.
I will always remember Magnolia, my friend from the future. I am going to do everything I can to make the world greener and better for her.