It's 3pm; only fifteen minutes to go before home time and Mr. Powers, our science teacher, is still going on with the lesson. I switched off about half an hour ago. There are about twenty six of us at the desks in the classroom and it's almost home time. My desk is next to a big window. Outside, the window I can see trees and further on a football oval. I stare out of the window and picture myself kicking a ball around on the oval at football practice tonight.
My twin sister Sonya gives me a grin from across the room. She knows I've tuned out.
"H2O, Nicholas Stanton, H2O!"
"Er.... What?" I struggle to come out of my daydream. Everyone laughs.
"H2O. What does it stand for?" asks Mr. Powers.
"H2O? er..." I steal a sideways glance at Sonya. She is mouthing the word, water.
Mr. Powers isn't impressed. "And I suppose you can tell me what the letters H2O stand for?"
I look at him blankly.
"I thought as much," he says. "Perhaps for homework, you can write me a page about H2O."
I groan. Tonight I've got football training, but Mr. Powers doesn't care about that!
"I want it handed in first thing tomorrow morning," he tells me.
I walk home with Sonya kicking stones along the footpath. I was really looking forward to football training. "Stupid H2O, stupid Mr. Powers!" I mutter angrily under my breath.
"Don't worry, Nick," says Sonya, "I'll help you."
I continue to kick the stones along the footpath until we go into our front drive. We close the front gate behind us and head into the house. I go straight into my bedroom and get my books out. I've resigned myself to the fact that tonight I'll miss footy training.
"What are you writing about?" my younger brother, Andrew puts his head in the door.
"Yeah--water, you idiot!"
"Oh, sure. I knew that!" But he didn't. He's only eight years old. How could he?
"I know something you don't know," he begins.
Sonya comes into my room and says, "Ok, Nick, let's begin. Go away, Andrew," she glares at him.
"But I know a secret!"
"Go away," she repeats.
"Ok, Ok, I'm going!"
At this point, Mum comes into the room.
"Hurry up; you'll be late for football practice, Nicholas."
"I can't go," I mumble. "Too much homework."
Mum raises an eyebrow. "You don't usually have homework on football training nights.'
"Yeah, well, tonight is different,' I mumble.
"It's really hard," Sonya says quickly. "I'm going to help him."
Mum nods. "I'll leave you to it then. Come on Andrew, let your brother do his homework."
Andrew follows her reluctantly out the door.
"H2O is the formula for water," Sonya explains. "It means that two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom combine to make a water molecule."
"Just as well you were listening," I tell her.
"That's the only thing I really heard. When he started going on about water conservation, I tuned out."
"That's the part I was listening to." I tell her.
Eventually, we put a page of work together that Mr. Powers is likely to be happy with.
"Although, I don't think anything would make Mr. Powers happy," Sonya says. "He's such a bad tempered old man!"
"Yeah, I know what you mean. He always seems to be in a bad mood. He never smiles."
"And when you ask him something, he nearly bites your head off," adds Sonya. "He expects you to know everything. I don't think the other teachers really like him either. He never seems to talk to anyone at assembly; he doesn't sit near any of them."
"He's weird, that's for sure," I agree.
It's too late to join my friends at football training, so I decide to watch TV. Andrew is sitting in the living room playing with the remote, just flicking channels around.
"I know something you don't!' he says.
"You've already said that."
"Yeah, but you still don't know what I know. Don't you want to know?"
"I know where we are going for the holidays. I heard Mum and Dad talking." The holidays are two weeks away.
"Not telling!" Andrew has an incredible knack of finding things out. He's
also got a really incredible way of getting money out of people!
"Forget it," I tell him. "You're not getting my pocket money!"
"Suit yourself," he replies.
But I want to know really. I hate not knowing. Especially since I'm twelve
years old and my eight-year-old brother knows something I don't! So I grab one of his arms and pin it behind his back.
"Ok, so tell me!"
"Ow, you're hurting me! I'm gonna tell--Mum!" he yells.
Mum comes in the room, takes one look and shouts, "Let your brother go, Nicholas, you big bully!"
"Yeah, you big bully," echoes Andrew as I release him.
"If you keep fighting like that," says Mum, "you won't be going anywhere for the holidays!"
So it's true, we really are going somewhere for the holidays. I'm about to hassle Mum, but she interrupts me with, "don't ask, Nicholas, nothing is definite yet."
Andrew smirks at me. We didn't know it then, but this holiday would turn out to be the most incredible thing that has ever happened to any of us.
When I return to school next day, Mr. Powers seems happy enough with my assignment. He just gives it a quick glance and shoves it under some papers on his desk. The last few days, he has been really distracted in class. He sits and fiddles with what looks like a time switch. He sets work for us to do, then takes his switch apart with a screwdriver and puts it back together. He does this lot of times, muttering under his breath.
"Excuse me, Mr. Powers, is that a new experiment we are going to do?" someone asks.
"Get on with your work," Mr. Powers says impatiently.
"Are we going to learn how to make electrical appliances?"
Mr. Powers gives a deep sigh. "Electrical appliances?" he shakes his head. "Next Term," he announces, "We are going to learn about Time and the possibility of time travel."
Time Travel? Yes! Everyone is suddenly excited and begins talking loudly.
"Silence!" roars Mr. Powers. Instantly, the class is silent. We all know better than to make Mr. Powers angry. He is likely to give us instant detention after school.
"At least Time Travel seems a whole lot more interesting than H2O," says Sonya on the way home.
I agree with her. When we get home, I tell my Dad.
"We're going to learn about the possibility of time travel next term; do you believe it is possible?"
"Anything is possible," he replies.
He doesn't really want to talk, he's watching the football on TV so I go and look for Sonya.
"Andrew says he heard Mum and Dad talking about a secret holiday."
"Yeah, I know. He tried to bribe me too!" she laughs.
"I had him pinned down, but just as he was about to tell me, Mum walked in. Doesn't it really bug you when that little pest always seems to find things out before we do?"
Sonya just shrugs. She's not bothered too much.
"We'll find out sooner or later!"
We give up pestering Andrew about the secret holiday destination. We don't have to wait long for Mum and Dad to tell us that we are going to spend two weeks on a houseboat on Lake Eildon, near Mansfield, with our Uncle Dave and Auntie Helen.