_ we will be here when you fall _
Chapter One - A letter is an unannounced visit, the postman the agent of rude surprises.
It was sunny when Coraline woke up. So naturally, by the time she'd donned her hideous grey uniform, skipped down the stairs and sung "FEED ME!" at the top of her lungs to her sighing mother, the air outside was pulsing with thunder and rain.
"Today is going to be hideous." her mother moaned as she lifted a couple of eggs onto a plate for Coraline. Coraline was about to say something about how she liked thunderstorms, but was interrupted when her father walked in.
"FEED M-" he mumbled his thanks through the piece of toast that had been shoved into his mouth. "Hey, kiddo." he added to Coraline, ruffling his daughter's blue hair.
"Dad~" she protested, "I just fixed that."
"Why, is there some boy at school you're trying to impress?"
"Coraline," began Mom with an mysterious smile, "I hope you wear your raincoat today. Because if you catch a cold, I'll probably have to ban you from going to Chicago."
"What?" Coraline's head jerked up. "Chicago?" she looked at her dad. "Am I missing something here?" He smiled at her.
"All this time you were telling us how much you hated maths." he chuckled.
"This came in the mail for you today." Mom said, holding an envelope out to her. She took it and examined it. It had a generic looking school crest on it. "You, my Coraline Jones, have been invited to represent your school in a national maths competition in Chicago." her mother smiled proudly at her from across the table.
"We're so proud of you, kiddo." her Dad said, standing and heading in the direction of the study.
"But I'm terrible at maths..." Coraline murmured to herself, looking at the envelope.
Mom glanced at the clock and gasped. "Quick!" she cried, "If you don't get out the door soon you're going to miss your bus!" Coraline slipped the letter into her bag which she swung over her shoulder. At the door her mother shoved her raincoat, hat and gloves into her hands before kissing her quickly on the cheek.
"Bye Mom." she said, pulling on the coat.
"Go on, scram." was the affectionate reply. "Your ride's here."
The door shut behind Coraline as she pulled on her gloves. She turned around to confront a grotesque creature with a skull helmet and a hunchback. He lifted his visor.
"You're wearing your raincoat today." he remarked with his customary head-tilt.
"It's raining, genius." she pushed past him, making her way down the front steps.
"Well, I guess. It's just I haven't seen you wear it since... well, a long time." In the two years since Coraline had moved here Wybie hadn't changed that much, except for maybe that his voice had broken and he'd grown an inch or two.
While in the month or so following the incident with the door, they'd been thick as thieves- exploring and adventuring together nearly everyday- since school had begun they'd grown apart. Though they shared almost all of their classes, Wybie was in what you might call a 'nerdy' circle of friends, compared to Coraline's more 'cool' crowd. As a result of this, the only time they really spent together now was the journey to and from school.
"So, um, you want a ride to the bus or not? Only it's pretty muddy..." Wybie followed Coraline down the path, wheeling his bike beside him.
"You're not afraid of a little mud are you, Wybourne?" she teased him.
"No. But you know how Mrs. Ross is about it..." he said, getting onto his bike with a shrug.
"Point." she sighed. She stopped walking and got on behind him, standing on the two footholds attached to the back wheel. She wound her arms around his neck.
"All set?" he asked over his shoulder, and she mumbled an "Uhuh" as he got the engine started.
Though she'd never admit it to anyone, Coraline loved riding on the bike with Wybie. It was the wind in her hair; the complete lack of suspension making every bump in the road a jump. Once they'd got to the bus-stop he made a big deal of locking the bike up with some contraption that looked like he'd built it himself. Which he probably had.
"You act as if someone would want to steal it." she said, smirking.
"Ha, ha." he replied sarcastically, straightening up again. Well at least, as straight as he ever was. The rickety old bus pulled in and they climbed aboard.
"Hey Coraline, over here!" called a girl from the back of the bus, waving.
"Abbey!" she sang and skipped over to sit by her red-headed friend. Wybie stood alone for a moment looking a little lost and disappointed, before sliding in beside someone else, a withdrawn boy with long, blonde hair.
"Hey, Lester." his greeting was drowned out by a clap of thunder. He sat back and sighed, giving up and looking out the window. Today is going to be horrible...
Cat sat at the bus stop watching the bus pull away. Wybie smiled. But then when he blinked, the bus stop was empty. He sat back again in his seat, wondering if he hadn't just imagined it.
Coraline always sat next to Wybie in maths. He was much better at it than her, and didn't mind it when she copied his answers. However today, first up was English so they sat on opposite sides of the room, according to the customs of elementary school hierarchies.
Coraline stared out of the window with Abbey chattering happily into her ear, not seeming to notice or care whether Coraline was listening or not. At one point she glanced across the room. Wybie was making what looked like a biplane out of paper, sticky tape and a broken pencil. He looked up and smiled when he caught her eye. She smiled back. He bent over it, appearing to be writing on it, then threw it in her direction. It sailed across the room, landing neatly in her lap. "awesome banana slug weather" it read.
"That kid is so weird." Abbey remarked, after reading the note over Coraline's shoulder. Coraline jumped.
"Abbey!" she protested, laughing. "don't read other people's notes!"
"But what if it had been a confession of love?" her friend replied, smirking. "I might have to intervene-"
"It still wouldn't be your business." Coraline sniffed.
"But he's such a loser, Coraline!" Abbey moaned just as the teacher entered the room, which prevented Coraline from replying. They turned to face the front.
"Alright lets open up our Macbeth books to scene one, shall we?" began the teacher Mrs. Ross, who was all spectacles and bug-eyes, as she slammed the door behind her dramatically. "I'm gonna be wanting a two hundred word discussion on the line "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" by the end of the week." there was a collective groan from the class as everyone opened up their books. Coraline started when an envelope fell out of hers.
"What's that?" Abbey whispered curiously.
"Oh … an invitation to a... maths competition..."
"But you suck at maths..." said Abbey bluntly, looking confused.
"I know..." the envelope opened easily, already having been opened once. She pulled out the letter and skimmed through it. It was pretty much what she was expecting; a nice, straight-forward, very official invitation. Which just confused her more. "this is so weird..."
"Hey, look at this!" Abbey had the envelope. Coraline watched her tip something out of it, onto her palm.
A plain black button.
Coraline screamed. All heads turned her way, eyes wide in shock and curiosity.
"Coraline?" Abbey asked, voice shaking as Coraline burst into tears, scrambling to her feet and stumbling out the door, knocking her chair over in the process. The classroom erupted into whispers.
"Abbey!" Mrs. Ross barked, "what the hell happened?"
"Uh, ma'am?" came a voice from the other side or the room. All eyes landed on Wybie and the room fell silent. He gave a weak grin. "Coraline's used to have this...uh... kind of anxiety disorder...phobia...thing...um... She was getting better but-"
"Wybie you can take Coraline to the sick bay." interrupted Mrs. Ross, rolling her eyes. "Make sure she's okay. The rest of you stop gawking and get to work." Wybie nodded and after righting her chair (whilst imperceptibly pocketing the envelope and letter he'd seen her reading a moment before), he slipped out of the room.
"Jonesy?" Coraline was sitting on one of the sick-bay beds trying to stop crying when she heard the whisper from the door.
"W-what d'you w-want W-Wybie?" she asked, wiping her cheeks and glaring at him.
"Teacher sent me. Are you okay?" he asked, slipping inside and sitting next to her on the bed.
"D-do I l-look okay?"
"No need to get angry."
"I'm n-not angry-"
"You always get angry when you're upset. I'm starting to think it's your way of coping with-"
"Wybourne!" she threwa pillow at him, which he only just ducked.
"Okay... sorry... geez..." there was an awkward silence in which Wybie attempted to pat her comfortingly on the shoulder. Having failed to do so, he sat back, hands folded in his lap. "so... what happened exactly?"
"There was a b-b-button in the s-stupid envelope." she said, wiping her nose with her sleeve.
"A button?" he repeated, eyes widening in horror. "but- why?"
"I d-don't know!" she hit him with another pillow. "Because the Beldam is h-holding maths competitions in Chicago now!"
"Wait... maths competitions?" he looked down at the letter, reading it through properly now. He frowned. "You got invited to a maths competition?"
"Yeah. So?" she frowned. His incredulous tone had made her defensive.
"You're not even good at maths." he said, looking mildly hurt. "Why would they invite you?"
"It's just... I've been dux in maths since year sev-"
"Wybie," Coraline growled, rolling her eyes. "Don't you think that's the least of our problems right now?"
"Right... sorry. And there was a button in the envelope?" he looked at the envelope again.
"...Oh man." he ripped the envelop open.
"There's writing here. On the inside."
Coraline's face paled. "What? What does it say?" she shuffled closer to him, so she could read it over his shoulder. He took a deep breath and read it aloud. "Dear Coraline Jones,"
Dear Coraline Jones.
we Apologise For any inconvienience that this letter may have caused you. The enclosed button was only included to get your attention and we Apologise again if it has caused you any distresse. we are contacting you because we have learned of your relitively recent Triumph over the Beldam of one Pink Palace Apartments and admire your courage and intuision. Before we explain how we know all this, however, you will probably want to know who we are.
"You think?" Coraline remarked weakly. Wybie had frozen and was frowning, reading ahead. "Wybie?"
He jumped. "Sorry."
we are an orginisation of young people like yourself who have all had similar experiences with a Beldam of our own. the difference between us is only that our Orginisation also knows how to Permanently banish a Beldam. (Basically, Kill it.) We exist to save other children by Killing Beldams wherever they infest. We have heard of your own success from our cat, and have come to beleive that you are exactly the kind of resourcefull person that we need in our team. If you are interested in joining us please come to the Maths Competition whose invitation is also enclosed.
We sincerely hope you accept our invitation, and hope you have a nice day.
There was a long pause in which they stared at each other.
"What do you think?" Coraline murmured.
"I don't know Jonesy..." Wybie said uncertainly, "it's all pretty dodgy... whoever it is can't even spell..."
"Should I go, though?"
"I dunno. You're the 'resourcefull' one. You tell me."
"Wybie~" she moaned.
"You want my honest opinion?" he asked, standing up and turning to her. "Throw it away and forget all about it. Ask yourself Jonesey; do you really wanna get caught up in this stuff again? I definitely don't." It didn't seem his words were having the desired effect however, because she was staring at the letter in her hand, biting her lip in thought. "Jonesy are you even listening to me? You can't be seriously thinking about this!"
"It just all fits in so well... Think about it Wybie; she can't be the only Beldam there is, it wouldn't make sense!"
"Has it occurred to you that she might be the one behind this whole thing! That it's all a trap!" he cried, gesturing wildly with his arms. She rolled her eyes.
"Don't be stupid, Wybie, there's no way she could have done this." she held the envelope in front of his face. "Its from an address in Chicago, and besides, she's locked up..." she looked down, frowning. "but she's not dead..."
"Jonesy..." Wybie warned, holding up one skeletal finger. Coraline batted it away.
"You don't have to sleep in the same house as her Wybie!" she snapped. "You're not the one who sometimes still hears her banging against the door at night! You're not the one who had nightmares for a whole year! If there is any chance I can take to make her go away for good, then I'm gonna take it, okay!"
"But you can't even do maths!" He exploded. She fell silent. He regretted his words almost immediately. "Jonsey... sorry... I didn't mean-" she cut him off by grabbing his hands, looking him hard in the eye. There was a gleam in her eye that slightly unsettled him.
"You can do maths." she declared firmly.
"...huh?" his expression was mildly fearful.
She was pacing around the sickbay now, mind evidently ticking over some sort of plan. "uh... Coraline?"
"It's perfect. We'll have a chance to poke around and find out what's going on..." she was mumbling to herself excitedly.
"Wybie." she had him by the shoulders now, nose only a foot or so from her own.
"Tell your grandmother that you're gonna need to miss a few days of school." she gave him a fierce grin. "you're coming with me to Chicago."
A/N: CANDY here~ How are we all? AWESOME! Not much to say here except there you have it; the first chapter of the GREATEST (and possibly only? *hasn't done the research :3 *) Coraline tandem story on the internet! ... or if not, it WILL be! :D Nah, but seriously folks, stick around. This is going to be epic.
Anywho, so the dealio is that I write one chapter, then (my beloved) KnutCase will write the next, then I will write the one after that and so on and so forth until enlightenment. You get the idea yes? Eeeeeeexcellent!
FUN FACT: The idea for this little fic came upon us whilst we were sitting waiting at the bus stop (bus stops do these things to people, have you noticed?) and was originally going to be written by only me, as a gift to Knut. Until, of course, she discovered she liked the idea so much she decided to join in. So, Knut? It's your turn now. Amaze us.
No pressure ;P xx