The Blonde Girl

By Lumendea

Chapter One: Curse of the Piper: Clown with a Balloon

Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who, Sarah Jane Adventures or Torchwood.

AN: What if Rose had met the Doctor and aliens much younger and had time to grow up knowing her own potential, how would her life have changed? I'm doing some expansion and revision to this series so if this is your time reading it enjoy and if you're rereading then I hope you like the changes.

….

Rose Marion Tyler was eleven years old, worried and a little scared. Five children from her area of London had gone missing and her best mate Shareen was among them leaving both herself and the area in a state of anxiety. No one seemed to know anything about what happened to them. There one minute and gone the next. Shareen had left no note, all of her clothes were still there and she'd said nothing to make Rose worry the day before. She was just gone. They all were just gone. One girl, Mary, seemed to have vanished right out of her bedroom and she lived only six flats down from Rose and her Mum.

Of course, the police had been around the Powell Estates and the surrounding area but had found nothing. Her mum, Jackie Tyler, was keeping Rose closer to home than ever before and the parents of the Powell Estate had taken to encouraging all the children to stay in groups. Rose knew that her mother and all the others were simply worried, but the notion that Shareen had been taken and she could do nothing made her feel helpless. She hated the feeling and it haunted her nightly as she worried for her friend.

Whispers around the estates suggested that the police believed the kids had run away or gotten into trouble as some kind of youth gang. As the first week vanished with no news, many feared that the police would simply drop the case and declare them all runaways. Rose didn't believe that Shareen would just run away for a moment. Even at eleven years old they knew better than to think they'd be okay on their own. There was a sense of anger and helplessness brewing in the Powell Estates that only added to the bad state of affairs. It made Rose think of a line from one of her Dad's old paperbacks about something being rotten.

Sunday found Rose and her mum in the flat of the Costello family with Jackie sitting beside Shareen's mum Angela and trying to offer what little comfort she could under the current conditions. The tension on the estate was thick and hung heavy over even the youngest children as parents kept them close. Accusations were starting to be exchanged and everyone was growing angry. Tensions between public officials who were suggesting a runaway gang and drug problems and the parents of the missing were reaching a boiling point. Hearing Angela cry to her Mum that Shareen wouldn't just disappear on her family made Rose's stomach tighten painfully. Slipping out of the flat's front room, she escaped into her missing best friend's room.

Everything was still in place despite the police search giving the place a sense that the girl who lived her had just rushed out on her way to school. Rose had been here many times for sleepovers, study sessions or just to hang out while her mum did hair or was at a shop shift. It was familiar, yet lacking the most important thing: Shareen. Her friend's pink duvet was thrown across the bed, a pair of shoes were in the middle of the floor and a drugstore lipstick had rolled off of Shareen's dresser. Rose almost smiled at the sight of it. Shareen had been trying to be more grown up lately.

Sighing softly, Rose sat down on the bed and looked around the room with a sad frown, trying to understand what had happened to her friend. Rose picked up one of Shareen's school folders that were stacked on the edge of the bed and flipped through it but finding nothing she dropped it back on the bed. Then she crossed over to the small vanity that Shareen had set up in the corner in the room. Sitting down, Rose glanced over the little packages of makeup and the photos of cute actors that Shareen had collected that lined the mirror. Rose blinked when she noticed a strange yellow ticket was tucked partway under Shareen's jewellery box. Picking it up, Rose frowned as she read it: Spellman's Museum of the Circus. That didn't fit Shareen at all; she hated clowns and avoided them like the plague. She assumed that the ticket had been left there when her friend emptied her pockets and just hadn't been thrown away yet, but Rose folded it up and slipped it into her pocket anyway. Standing up, Rose gave the room one last look over before rejoining her mother in the living room.

They didn't stay much longer, but Jackie promised to send over some tea, later on, to cheer Angela up. On their way across the council estate, her Mum talked about a recent television show with Rose paying only the slightest bit of attention. They were almost home when Rose saw it. She was on the stairs between levels when the clown crossed the courtyard, carrying a bright red balloon in its hand. Rose blinked in surprise at the odd sight, but then it was gone when her eyes opened.

"Rose," Jackie called. Her mum's voice echoed down the stairs above her. "Come on then."

"Coming Mum." Rose resumed climbing the stairs. She glanced back over her shoulder quickly, trying to figure out how the person had moved so fast, but once she was in the flat, the clown left her mind.

Rose did not think about the clown until she was school two days later. Everyone at Jericho Street Comprehensive was talking about the disappearances and student theories filled the corridors. Many theories were along the same line as the police, a young gang or runaway pacts, but other suggested horrible situations with murders that made Rose cringe. The class clown was suggesting alien abductions to anyone who would listen and even claiming to have seen lights in the sky.

In maths class, Rose sighed in distraction and doodled on the edge of her paper, tracing her friend's name in long curving letters. She looked out the window next to her seat and gasped softly as the same clown dressed in red, blue and yellow walked across the courtyard carrying his red balloon. Rose looked back to her teacher for a moment, trying to decide if she should say something, but then turned back to see nothing in the courtyard. Rubbing her eyes, Rose looked back at the courtyard with an uncertain expression.

"You alright?" a soft voice asked. A foot kicked her shoe gently, jostling her out of her thoughts. Rose turned to look at Sharon Allen, a pretty girl with dark coffee skin and amazing cheekbones. Sharon was watching her with a look of concern. "You're really pale Rose, are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Rose said. She forced a smile that wasn't at all successful.

"Worried about Shareen right?" Sharon asked, her features softening sadly.

"Course," Rose responded with a whisper. She couldn't ignore the cold weight that had settled in her stomach as she looked down at the page in front of her and saw Shareen's name scrawled several times in the margins.

The rest of the day passed very slowly for Rose who felt far too aware of the world around her to sit quietly and absorb the teacher's words. Rose doodled in her notebook, glancing out at the courtyard every so often, both hoping and dreading seeing the clown again. Once the final bell released her and her fellow students, Rose gathered up her things and headed towards the main entrance, her feet dragging in her dark mood. Then she heard a throaty chuckle, nothing like she'd ever heard a student or teacher make. The sound was sinister… somehow she knew that and Rose changed direction just in time to see Sharon entering the loo.

"Sharon?" Rose called out. Her voice quivered with hesitation. "Was that you laughing?"

There was no response and Rose glanced at the main entrance before taking a few steps towards the loo. She called out her question and Sharon's name once again, but there was no answer. After a moment of silent debate, Rose entered the toilet and looked about the small room for Sharon. A bag was lying on the floor with pens and paper spilling out of it. No one answered when Rose called out. Walking forward, Rose pushed open the first of the three toilet stalls, but it was empty. She called for Sharon again as she opened the second stall, but there was again no answer. Rose opened the third and final stall, staring inside at the emptiness where a person should have been.

Her mind stumbled over the issue of how Sharon could have entered right in front of her by the only door and be gone. Her eyes moved to the tiny high window above her head. Sharon would have had to climb onto the sinks to get close to it and there hadn't been enough time for that. Besides, it was locked.

"Sharon?" Rose called out, her voice weak and desperate. Real fear was clawing at her chest, but Rose didn't know what she was afraid of. She just… was.

Suddenly, the throaty laugh came from behind her and Rose turned to see the clown with the white face paint and huge painted smile standing in plain view in the mirror. Only, the reflection made it appear that the clown was standing right behind her. Gasping, Rose spun around to look, but she was alone in the room. She looked back to her mirror, ignoring a shaking hand to see the clown grinning at her.

"What are you?" Rose asked weakly. Her darted between the balloon and the painted face. "Nice trick," she forced out. Rose tried to laugh, but it sounded hollow. "How are you doing that?"

"All I want," the clown told her in a raspy voice, "is to give you a balloon."

The clown's hand that was holding the bright red balloon reached towards her and passed through the surface of the mirror. Eyes widening, Rose almost screamed at the impossible sight. She stumbled back when the balloon came within inches of her face and watched the mirror's surface ripple outwards from his arm.

"That can't be real," Rose shook her head in denial but didn't take her eyes off the clown.

"Just take the balloon," the clown said. Its smile was growing wider by the moment. The temperature in the room seemed too low, too cold and Rose couldn't make her legs move. A frantic voice in her head was shouting at her to run, but she couldn't even breathe. Suddenly, the loo door swung open and Rose's middle-aged history teacher stepped inside. The older woman seemed startled but looked quizzically at Rose.

"Tyler?" she asked, peering that Rose over her glasses. "Shouldn't you be getting home? It's against the rules to loiter."

There was an irritated expression taking over her features that promised trouble if Rose didn't start moving. Somehow it cut through the terror that had been keeping her in place. With a stunned expression, Rose looked back at the mirror, but the clown and balloon were gone. Blinking, she took a breath and nodded to the teacher.

"Yes, of course," Rose said. "Sorry, Ma'am. She bit her bottom lip for a moment and gestured to the fallen bag. "Someone dropped their things," she added in a stronger voice.

"I'll take them to the lost and found," the teacher assured her with a touch of impatience. "Now move along."

Nodding, Rose rushed out of the loo and into the hall which felt huge and far too quiet. It only took her a few moments to escape out the front doors and into the sunlit courtyard. Turning, Rose looked back up at the school with a frightened expression.

"Maybe I'm going mad," Rose whispered to herself, shivering softly despite the warm day.

Rose began to walk to the bus station, glancing around her constantly and wrapped her hand around her bag strap. A group of her fellow students were waiting at the corner for the bus, chatting as if nothing was wrong. Rose joined the group and tried to relax, but then she saw a flash of yellow and red in the corner of her eye. Across the street was a small park and standing there smiling at her was the clown.

"Rose," a voice beside her called. "Rose!"

She turned to see Mickey Smith looking down at her with concern. His mouth was twisted in a frown and he looked almost ready to grab her. He was lived near the Powell Estates with his grandmother and was a few years older than Rose, but she considered him a good friend. Mickey had always been nicer to the younger kids than most of the other boys.

"Sorry Mickey," Rose told him, putting on a smile.

"You alright?" he asked, studying her expression carefully. "Anything wrong?"

"I'm fine," Rose assured him. "Just a bit tired." Seeing that he wasn't convinced, Rose added, "I'm worried about Shareen."

A look of discomfort and understanding passed over Mickey's face and he nodded. Reaching out, he touched her shoulder gently, looking a bit unsure of himself. Then he looked around at the students with them and suddenly frowned as the bus pulled up.

"Hey, has anyone seen Sharon?" he asked loudly, getting everyone's attention.

Most of them ignored him, but a couple of the other teenagers looked around. Rose knew everything in the group from her area, some were nice and others were the sort you avoided. Soft murmurs could be heard as everyone confirmed there was no sign of Sharon.

"She'll probably catch the next bus," one of the other students offered with a shrug. The girl next to him didn't look so confident but stayed quiet.

"We should stay together right now," Mickey informed the others with a frown.

"Just cause you're older-" Michael from three flats down started to say until Rose cut him off.

"No," Rose said sharply. "Mickey's right. We should be looking out for each other until the police find the others." Rose shook her head and slipped her hands into her pockets as they started to shake. "We don't need any more of us vanishing like Shareen."

Everyone fell silent as they boarded the bus, but Rose noted that everyone stood and sat close together during the ride home. It didn't make her feel any better as she wondered if Sharon even could attempt to catch the next bus home.