Amelia was playing in the woods at the bottom of the garden, trying to forget how much she hated England, when she heard voices coming towards her.
"Give it back!"
"No, I won't."
Amelia went closer and peered round a tree. She saw a boy and a girl running through the woods. The boy held a jam jar above his head and the girl was stretching to reach it.
Amelia stepped out from around the tree. "What are you doing?"
They stopped and looked at her. The boy still held the jam jar up and the girl pulled at his arm. "She's keeping ladybirds in a jam jar," the boy said. "It's cruel."
"They're mine." The girl gave an insistent pull and Amelia took advantage of her height to reach up, take the jam jar and look inside. There were hundreds of ladybirds in there. Most of them were red, but some were yellow and a few were orange.
"I think we should let them go," she said, watching them crawl up the side of the jar and flutter their wings, only to hit the lid.
The boy smiled. She returned it when she passed the jar back to him, then turned to glare at the girl while he took the lid off. The girl shrugged, but they both watched the ladybirds as they found freedom. "Look at them fly," the girl said, amazed.
"They look happier now." Amelia was pleased that she could help.
The girl smiled at her and by the time all the ladybirds had flown away home, Amelia had made two friends in Leadworth.
Rory had been the first person she told. Amelia thought that he would believe her more easily than Melody would. He'd nodded at everything and asked questions, then put on her dad's blazer when she held it out. Now she had her Raggedy Doctor, all she had to do was explain to Melody, but at least she had Rory to back her up.
"He flies around in a blue box that has a swimming pool in the library and he saves the world from aliens."
Melody frowned. "And he looks like Rory?"
"Not really." The Doctor hadn't been as neat and nor did his jacket have the sleeves rolled up so many times that there was more roll than sleeve. "It doesn't matter, it's just pretend. Rory's the Doctor, I'm helping him and you can be the alien."
Melody thought about that before saying anything. Amelia hoped she wouldn't complain and want to be something else. But she didn't. "What sort of alien?" she asked.
Amelia shrugged. "Any sort you like." The Doctor hadn't really talked about those much, so she didn't know what type of aliens he usually fought. She hadn't seen any aliens herself.
Melody grinned. "Then I'll be a slimy alien." She ran a hand down Amelia's arm and Amelia made a face, pretending Melody had left a slimy trail on her sleeve. "You'll have to catch me before I slime anyone else!" She pushed Amelia over and ran off. Amelia laughed as Rory helped her up and they chased after Melody. This was going to be her new favourite game.
Mels pulled off the wrapping paper, not caring about what else she ripped. When she picked up the jumper she held it up and made a face at it. "Where did you get this?"
"I made it," Amelia said proudly. Her mother had been teaching her to knit while it was cold and dark outside. She'd wanted to make something for her friends for Christmas and she'd been excited about knitting jumpers with pictures on the front. It had taken over a year to make all three, but now they had matching ones.
Rory had by now pulled his out, hardly ripping the paper at all, and was looking at it curiously. Mels stared at the picture on hers and tilted her head to either side while Amelia waited. Finally Mels spoke. "I give up. What is it?"
Amelia sighed. "It's a Christmas tree."
"It's a very good Christmas tree," Rory said. "Thank you. No one except my mum's ever knitted me a jumper before."
Amelia beamed. Trust Rory to say the right thing. Mels never did. She wasn't like other people.
"It looks like a green blob with tentacles," Mels said.
Amelia's face fell. She knew she wasn't that good yet, but it wasn't that bad.
"Then it would be perfect for when we're playing Raggedy Doctor," Rory said.
Mels shrugged but Amelia no longer cared what she thought. Given Rory's lack of enthusiasm for their old game recently, she had thought he was getting bored of it. So she nearly knocked him over as she hugged him and forgot Mels' opinion of her knitting.
"I can't believe you've never done this," Amy said, sitting on a branch above Rory and Mels' heads and swinging her legs.
Mels shrugged. "Never thought of it."
Mels was odd sometimes. "Everyone knows how to climb a tree."
"We'll teach you," Rory suggested. "I'll give you a boost." He leaned down, his hands out for her to step into.
"Are you sure it's safe?" Mels asked, looking down at his hands, then up at the tree.
Amy frowned. "Since when did you care about safe? Anyway, if you break something Rory'll look after you. It'll be good practise for when he's a nurse."
"I won't let you fall," Rory promised.
"The tree might not like it," Mels said, but stepped onto his hands anyway. With her hand on his shoulder, him helped lift her so she could get up to the branch beside Amy. Rory followed the traditional way and straddled the branch opposite.
"Isn't it great up here?" Amy said.
Mels made a face and pulled a leafy twig out from her hair. "If you like bark."
"You can see further than when you're on the ground," Rory pointed out.
Mels cautiously looked around, hanging onto the branch with one hand and smiled at what she saw. "See you later." She dropped down and ran off.
Rory shrugged at Amy's questioning look. "At least she'll climb a tree again."
Amy had to be satisfied with that.
"Rory!" Amy could run faster than Rory now and she caught up with him at the front door. "Rory, I get it." She hadn't needed Rory or Mels to tell her the real reason he had never looked at another girl. Even if she had needed Mels to point it out and Rory to tell her he wasn't gay. She just hadn't thought about it like that before now.
Rory didn't say anything or take his hand off the door handle. He wouldn't even look at her. "Let's go out," Amy said.
"That's what I'm doing."
She smiled at his misunderstanding. "No, I mean us. As a couple."
Now he turned to her, doing his best not to look hurt, but she knew him too well to be fooled. "You said that was impossible."
She shook her head. "That was because I thought you were gay. All this time I couldn't think about you as anything other than a friend."
"And now?" He was starting to look interested at least.
"You're my best friend. And I meant it when I said you were gorgeous."
He dropped his head, but now it was to hide his blush.
Amy giggled. "Oh, come on. It'll be fun. Just the two of us doing date-like things."
"All right." He looked up at her now, his expression sceptical, but amused.
She smiled and he returned it. Then she leaned forward and kissed him, partly to see what he would do and partly because she wanted to know what kissing Rory was like. It was brief, but he kissed back and Amy definitely wanted to do more of that.
"Friday," he said after. "Now I've got to go or I'll be late." He rushed out and left her to watch him walk down the path. Once he was out of sight she shut the door and went back upstairs to ask Mels how she'd known.