Authors: Georgia Byng
To Marc with love
for his encouragement and support
and for making me laugh
rphan Molly Moon hates living in Hardwick House. For starters, the orphanage is run by hairy-faced Miss Adderstone, who makes Molly clean the toilets with her toothbrush. Mean Hazel Hackersly torments her, and to make matters worse, Molly’s best friend Rocky has just been adopted and is moving to New York City!
But when Molly stumbles upon a mysterious old book on hypnotism, her world is suddenly turned upside down. With a dazzling flash of her bright green eyes, she discovers that she has the amazing power to make people do things—
things. There’s nothing holding Molly back now, and what better place to begin her adventures than in spectacular New York City as a Broadway superstar?
What Molly doesn’t know is that a sinister stranger is following her with dastardly plans of his own….
thousand miles away, four thousand feet up in the sky over the Italian Alps, a plane was doing a loop-the-loop. In its cockpit sat two women, one muscular, the other scrawny. The pilot had a mad glint in her eye and no teeth. Her teeth were swinging below her chin on a string, like a pendant. The strong woman beside her was wearing a T-shirt that had the words YOU BETTER LOVE ITALY OR ELSE written across the front.
As the plane looped the loop again, the muscular one got up and said, “Fancy
una pasta molto, molto bene
“Mmmnnn, yes, but look, Edna, not spicy. I mean it this time, Edna … not too spicy.”
olly Moon looked down at her pink, blotchy legs. It wasn’t the bathwater that was making them mottled like Spam; they were always that color. And so skinny. Maybe one day, like an ugly duckling turning into a swan, her knock-kneed legs might grow into the most beautiful legs in the world. Some hope.
Molly leaned back until her curly brown hair and her ears were under the water. She stared at the fly-specked yellow paint that was peeling off the wall and at the damp patch on the ceiling where strange mushrooms grew. Water filled her ears and the world sounded foggy and far away.
Molly shut her eyes. It was an ordinary November evening, and she was in a shabby bathroom in a
crumbling building called the Hardwick House Orphanage. She imagined flying over it like a bird, looking down at its gray slate roof and its bramble–filled garden. She imagined flying higher until she was looking down on the hillside where Hardwick village lay. Up and up she went until Hardwick House became tiny. She could see the whole of the town of Briersville beyond it. As Molly flew higher and higher, she saw the rest of the country and now the coastline, too, with sea on all sides. Her mind rocketed upward until she was flying in space, looking down at the earth. And there she hovered. Molly liked to fly away from the world in her imagination. It was relaxing. And often, when she was in this state, she’d feel different.
Molly had this special feeling tonight, as if something exciting or strange were about to happen to her. The last time she’d felt special, she’d found a half-eaten packet of candy on the pavement in the village. The time before, she’d got away with watching two hours of evening television instead of one. Molly wondered what surprise would greet her this time. Then she opened her eyes and was back in the bath. She looked at her distorted reflection in the underside of the chrome tap. Oh dear. Surely she wasn’t as ugly as
that? Was that pink lump of dough her face? Was that potato her nose? Were those small green lights her eyes?
Someone was hammering downstairs. That was strange; no one ever mended anything in Hardwick House. Then Molly realized that the hammering was someone banging on the bathroom door. Trouble. Molly shot up and hit her head on the tap. The banging outside was very loud now, and with it came a fierce bark.
“Molly Moon, open this door
If you don’t, I’ll be forced to use a master key.”
Molly could hear keys rattling on a ring. She looked at the level of her bathwater and gasped. It was much too deep and well over the allowed level. She pulled the plug out and wrapped herself in her towel. Just in time. The door swung open. Miss Adderstone was in and darting to the bathtub, her scaly nose wrinkling as she discovered the deep, draining water. She rolled up her polyester sleeve and pushed the plug back in.
“As I suspected,” she hissed. “Intentional flouting of orphanage rules.”
Miss Adderstone’s eyes glinted spitefully as she took a tape measure from her pocket. She pulled the metal strip out and, making excited slurping noises as she
sucked on her loose false teeth, she measured how far Molly’s bath had gone over the red line painted round the sides of the tub. Molly’s teeth chattered. Her knees were now turning
and blotchy, and the palms of her hands began sweating, as they always did whenever she was excited or nervous.
Miss Adderstone shook the tape measure, dried it on Molly’s shirt, then snapped it shut. Molly braced herself to face the wiry spinster, who, with her short gray hair and hairy face, looked more like a Mr. than a Miss.
“Your bath is thirty centimeters deep,” Miss Adderstone announced. “Allowing for the amount that had already been
run out while I was knocking at the door, I calculate that your bath was actually
centimeters deep. You know that baths are only supposed to be
centimeters deep. Your bath was four times that deep, so you have, in effect, used up your next three baths. So, Molly, you are forbidden to have a bath for the next three weeks. As for a punishment …” Miss Adderstone picked up Molly’s toothbrush. Molly’s heart sank. She knew what was coming next.
Miss Adderstone glared at Molly with her dull, black eyes. Her face heaved in a monstrous way as her tongue dislodged her teeth and moved them around in her mouth before settling them back down on her gums.
She thrust the toothbrush at Molly.
“This week you will be toilet monitor. I want the toilets spotless, Molly, and this is the brush you’ll be using. And don’t think you can get away with using the toilet brush, because I’ll be watching you.”
Miss Adderstone gave one last, satisfied suck on her teeth and left the room. Molly slumped down onto the side of the tub. So the something that she’d felt was going to happen tonight was simply trouble. She stared at her worn-out toothbrush, hoping that her friend Rocky would let her share his.
As she picked at a loose thread on her balding old towel, she wondered what it would be like to be wrapped up in a fluffy white towel like the ones in TV ads.
Softness is the sign,
Everyone feels fine,
Wash your towels in …
Molly loved ads. They showed how comfortable and happy life could be—filled with friends—friends who were always happy to see Molly when she visited them in her mind.
Wrap yourself in luxury time
Molly was shaken from her towel daydream as the evening assembly bell rang. Molly winced. She was late, as always. Always late, forever in trouble. The other kids called Molly “Accident Zone,” or “Zono,” because she was so clumsy and accident prone. Her other nicknames were “Drono,” since people said Molly’s voice made them want to fall asleep, and “Bog Eyes,” because her eyes were dark green and close together. Only Rocky, her best friend, and some of the younger orphans called her Molly.
Molly put her pajamas on quickly and opened the bathroom door. Across the corridor, which was now being stampeded by children rushing downstairs, Molly saw Rocky’s dark-brown face, framed with black curls, beckoning her to hurry. As she crossed the corridor, two older boys, Roger Fibbin and Gordon Boils, pushed her roughly aside.
“Get out of the way, Zono.”
“Move it, Drono.”
“Quick, Molly!” said Rocky. “We can’t be late again! Adderstone will have a fit…. Mind you, then,” he added, “she might choke on her false teeth.” Molly smiled. Rocky always knew how to cheer her up. He knew her so well.
Both Molly and Rocky had arrived at Hardwick House ten summers ago. A white baby and a black baby.
Molly had been found in a cardboard box on the doorstep, while Rocky had been found in a baby carriage in the parking garage behind Briersville police station.
Miss Adderstone didn’t like children. And of all children, she didn’t like babies most. To her, they were noisy, smelly, squelchy creatures, and the idea of changing a diaper filled her with disgust. So Mrs. Trinklebury, a widow from the town, had been employed to look after Molly and Rocky. And because Mrs. Trinklebury named children after the clothes or the carriers they arrived in—like Moses Wicker, who’d been found in a wicker basket, or Satin Knight, who’d come dressed in a nightie with satin ribbons—Molly and Rocky were given exotic names, too.
Molly’s surname, Moon, had come from “Moon’s Marshmallows,” which had been printed in pink and green on the sides of her cardboard-box cradle. When Mrs. Trinklebury found a lolly stick in the box, she called the baby Lolly Moon. And after Miss Adderstone forbade Lolly as a name, Lolly Moon became Molly Moon.
Rocky’s name came directly from his red baby
carriage. On its hood had been written “The Scarlet Rocker.” Rocky’s deep, husky baby voice, together with his good looks, made Mrs. Trinklebury say that one day he’d be a rock star, singing love songs to the ladies, and so she’d named the baby boy Rocky Scarlet.
Mrs. Trinklebury wasn’t very clever, but her sweet center made up for her simple nature. And it was very lucky that she
taken care of Molly and Rocky when they were little, because with only bitter Miss Adderstone in charge, they might have grown up thinking the whole world was bad and have turned bad themselves. Instead, they were bounced on fat Mrs. Trinklebury’s knee, and they fell asleep to her singing. She made them laugh and wiped their eyes when they cried. And at night, if ever they asked why they had been doorstep babies, she told them that they were orphans because a naughty cuckoo had knocked them out of their nests. Then she’d sung them a mysterious lullaby. It went like this.
“Forgive, little birds, that brown cuckoo
For pushing you out of your nests.
It’s what mamma cuckoo taught it to do—
She taught it that pushing is best.”
If Molly or Rocky ever felt cross with their parents, whoever they were, for abandoning them, Mrs.
Trinklebury’s song would make them feel better.
But Mrs. Trinklebury didn’t live at the orphanage anymore. As soon as Molly and Rocky were out of diapers, she’d been sent away. Now she came back only once a week to help with the cleaning and laundry. And the older children had to take care of the younger ones.