The image of the bone curtain plagued Dudu the entire day. Who did that? A curtain of bones? Really? It was too freaky, sorry. She couldn’t tell Sive quickly enough at first break.

“Bones?! Like, human ones?” Sive’s eyes glistened at the goriness of it. He was poking his finger into a packet of Lays chips and shovelling them one by one into his mouth.

“Not human bones, obviously. Smaller ones. Bird bones, maybe. Or maybe they were human. Like a little finger. Oh my gosh!” She leaned against the railing, dramatically. Sive’s eyed widened even more.

“What if he’s a serial killer?”

“Stop freaking me out,” said Sive, chewing slowly now. His fingers had slowed down on the chip packet.

“Or, he collects bones. He digs up graves, and takes out all the bones he likes best. Then–”

“Dudu! I’m trying to eat here.” Sive was now unwrapping a sausage roll from its greasy paper.

“Are you actually going to eat that?”

“Shut up, hey! You can’t come here grossing me out with your murder stories, and then tell me what not to eat!”

Dudu exhaled, sat down on a stair. “Think about it, though,” she mused out loud. “The weird anatomy drawing of the arm, and this beaded curtain made of bones? It’s like something from that sci-fi horror TV show The X-Files.”

“Maybe we should tell one of the teachers,” was Sive’s suggestion. He had crumbs from the chips on his jersey.

“No!” Dudu answered firmly. “No ways. First of all, they wouldn’t believe us. Everyone thinks I am a bigmouth and a drama queen already. And second of all, if someone is going to discover what it is this weirdo is doing, it’s gonna be me.”

Sive didn’t argue. If anything, he believed his friend. If Dudu said she was going to do something, she just did it, finish and klaar.

The bell clanged shrilly. Sive chomped on a final lightly-salted Lays.

“Walk home after school?”

“Ja,” said Dudu. “Later.”

* * * * *

The sky beamed a bright and breezy blue as they made their way through the streets to their part of Roseville. The afternoons were getting golden, longer – summer lingered with all its promises.

Sive dragged a stick along the walls. When it hit the rails it went clang! clang! clang! Dudu sometimes rapped along to the beat. They always made up the most ridiculous rhymes.

Usually, they parted ways at Dudu’s road. From there it was five more minutes for Sive to reach his suburb.

“See you tomorrow,” said Sive, “and no more spying tonight, ?”

But Dudu wasn’t looking at him. She was looking at the driveway of her house, where the new boy was stroking a cat. He was on her property.

She walked over. Sive followed. He’d never met the new kid either and was curious also.

“Hi,” announced Dudu bossily, and with little charm. “I’m Dudu. This is my house,” she declared, pointing with her eyes and a little judder of the head at what she considered ‘her crib’.

“Your parents’ house you mean,” said the boy, not even standing up. He was wearing a peculiar purple tracksuit, something Dudu had never seen in any shop, or any magazine, ever. He said this without a sneer, or any nastiness.

“That’s a burn!” Sive said, impressed. “Dudu, you got served by the new kid on the block!”

“This is Sive,” Dudu said grimly. “He doesn’t live here. Thank goodness.”

The boy looked up at both of them, shielding the sun from his eyes using one hand, while the other continued petting the cat.

“Is that your cat?” Dudu asked.

“No,” said the boy, and continued rubbing it along its back. It responded by head-butting him gently, and meowing.

“It’s cute,” said Sive. Dudu shot him a look.

“What’s your name?” Dudu needed to control the topic.

“Jeremy.” He smiled. He seems very friendly for someone so spooky, thought Dudu. For someone with a bone curtain. A tingle of nerves crawled up her spine as she remembered.

Jeremy was playing with the cat’s paw now, moving it this way and that.

“The kitty is waving at us!” said Sive. Dudu wanted to kick him.

Jeremy moved the paw in and out, making the leg bend, straighten, bend, straighten.

“The cat’s musculature is unique in its ability to absorb shock. This is why cats can jump from such heights and not be injured. There is a mechanism in their joints that is pretty much the most powerful shock absorber known to man.”

As he said this, he demonstrated, holding the cat in a firm, confident manner, extending the leg out, then in. The cat seemed to love it and purred enthusiastically.

“Would you like to come in for a cooldrink?” he asked, very suddenly.

Unprepared for the invitation, Dudu just laughed awkwardly.

“My parents aren’t home. They said I’m allowed.”

“Allowed … what?” Dudu repeated the word carefully.

Sive frowned. He thought Dudu sounded like a police inspector – impatient, and kind of rude.

“Never mind,” said Jeremy, and went back to playing with the cat, his red hair falling in a curtain over his eyes again, blocking all contact.

Dudu glanced at Sive out of the corner of her eye. “Sure. I’ll come in. For a drink, or whatever.” She kept her voice cool. Sive’s eyes widened.

Jeremy paused. With a strange sigh, he let the cat go. It rolled over a few times, mewing, before leaping back onto its legs, and wandering off lazily. The boy got up from the kerb, gave a smile with one side of his mouth, and said through his teeth, “OK, well come on then.”

The air seemed to stand still. No-one moved.

* * *

Tell us what you think: Is Jeremy being polite and friendly, or is there something funny going on?