“Why does your mum look so..... awful?” The sneering voice came from a girl who had started to pick on Alice. “She’s so thin and got dark rings round her eyes!” It was true; Alice’s mum did look awful. That was because she was ill. The hospital tests had revealed she had a disease and she was being given treatment that left her exhausted and sick.
Alice’s face reddened. She wanted to hit the girl! Last week Alistair had got into a fight with a boy who had been teasing him about his mum. Her best friend Marta could see Alice was really upset and stepped straight in, using Blue Footprints.
“You think you are clever don’t you? Well, none of us think you are, so just leave us alone! Come on Alice, you don’t need her.” Marta turned her back on the girl and led her best friend away round the corner. Out of sight, Alice burst into tears. She was SO hurt and upset by the footprints the girl had cruelly stamped all over her Space.
“I’m just so frightened Marta. What if my mum doesn’t get better?”
“But she will Alice. I’m sure she will,” comforted Marta giving her a hug. Alice just hoped she was right.
After school, Alice wanted to avoid talking to anyone. She wanted to get back to the garden behind the little green door as quickly as she could. In Footprints Mr James had been explaining that everyone had an Avoiding Space. It was where you stood in a situation when you didn’t feel you could have confidence in other people, but you didn’t feel you could have confidence in yourself either.
Alice felt just like that right now. She wasn’t sure she could manage the situation with her mum, and she certainly couldn’t have confidence in her classmates, other than perhaps her very best friend Marta.
She ran through the green door and down the little grassy paths to the shed in the clearing. “This is my Avoiding Space,” she thought to herself as she ran, “where I can be safe.” Yesterday she had taken a very sick plant down to her little shed to try and help it recover. She wanted to see whether her care was making any difference to the plant. She peered into the shed. The sickly plant sat... limp, on the wooden table by the window. She was glad she had put it somewhere safe, out of the cold and wind. But she wished she knew how to make it healthy again. Did it need more water? Could she treat the disease? Would feeding it help? She had no confidence in how to help the plant.
Just then, she heard footsteps. It was Marta. She had followed Alice into the garden to her Avoiding Space. At first Alice was taken aback; how had Marta found her down here? She wasn’t sure she wanted Marta to see her Avoiding Space or her sick plant in the shed. Did she really trust Marta?
“Alice, the gardener said I could find you here! There’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you,” started Marta breathlessly. “Before I met you, my dad and mum split up. It was horrible. I was so upset and frightened. I thought it must be my fault that they didn’t want to be married, to live in each other’s Spaces. What Footprints has helped me realise is that it wasn’t my fault. I tried to make their Spaces happy by using Yellow Footprints but I couldn’t. And now I don’t think you can make your mum better either. I mean, I still think she will get better, just that, well it’s not up to you to make her better.”
Alice started to cry. She opened the door of the shed and showed Marta the sickly plant in the shed.
“I’m so frightened Marta. I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to Mum.”
“But you’d have your dad and Alistair wouldn’t you?” replied her friend. “And you’d also have me” whispered the girl quietly.
The two girls looked at each other. Alice knew she was facing a choice: should she trust Marta’s words to be such a good friend, or should she try to manage the situation on her own? Marta was amazing; she had somehow understood what Alice needed in this situation. Already that day she had used Blue Footprints to protect her and now she had used Yellow Footprints to carefully stand beside her. Marta really was a kind and brave friend; if Alice couldn’t trust her, who could she trust?
Back at school the next day, the girls stayed close together. Marta made sure Alice was included in all the games and activities at break. She got everyone in the class to make Mrs Acorn a Get Well Soon card. She also went with Alice to ask Mrs Fellows, the Head Teacher, if Alice could leave school early to go with her mum to the hospital.
A few weeks later, when she was back in her garden, Alice said to the gardener “I’ll always be glad I let Marta come into my Avoiding Space. Having confidence in her when I lost confidence in everyone else, even myself, has really kept me going. The doctors say my mum is starting to get better; they are really pleased! Do you think that plant might just get well after all?”
The gardener smiled. “I think that it just might be OK.”