There was an elephant, and then a witch on a broom.
Sunita waved to them as they scudded by and was sure the clouds responded by rolling and swirling as she willed them into different shapes.
Her father found this preoccupation with cumulus and cirrus amusing, but then he found most things amusing, especially children.
As Sunita's mother had died when she had been born she had never known what it was like to have two parents, unlike most of her friends, and sometimes wished that her father would remarry so she could have a mother. Joyce in the corner shop was rather nice, and her father liked Joyce, but she was twice his age and her husband probably wouldn’t have agreed.
Perhaps Sunita could conjure up a beautiful woman in the clouds to come down and fill that empty space there seemed to be in the house when the surgery closed. Dr Ranjit was constantly busy, but always found time for his imaginative daughter. They lived above his surgery so she was never alone when it was open and liked to chat to the patients in the waiting room. Some of the elderly ones told her tales from their childhood, when there were no doctors unless you were wealthy enough to pay for them. One small boy who was seriously ill would not have survived if he had been born then. Sunita was particularly fond of him because he never complained or cried. Every week Simon, always carrying an old, much-loved yellow teddy bear with a pink bowtie, would visit her father for a regular check-up.
One day when he arrived for his appointment he was very tearful. His mother explained that his teddy bear had mysteriously disappeared. Later, when he could not hear, she told Sunita that the toy had to be hidden away because it posed an infection risk. Poor Simon was inconsolable, however much she tried to comfort him. To Sunita it seemed so unfair that the teddy that kept the seriously ill child content had to be the very thing that could kill him. His mother had tried to find another just like it, scouring everywhere from the high street to online retailers. But the bear was unique, custom-made for a great aunt who had passed it down through the family. Small wonder it might have carried a century’s catalogue of infections.
That evening Sunita dejectedly sat in the garden as the sun went down and watched the round, yellow cumulus about to pass over the radiant globe. It was bubble-shaped, so she willed the cloud to take the shape of Simon's teddy bear and a wispy swirl of red cirrus untie itself from the sunset to settle at the bear's neck in the shape of a large pink bow.
Sunita leapt up and clapped her hands with joy. Her father, working in the sun lounge, wondered what had so delighted her and came out to see a large, yellow shape gently floating down from the sky.
Dr Ranjit had seen many things and, though he would not have declared it too loudly to some patients, believed in the multitude of gods that existed in all living things. But this was so remarkable he wondered if his young daughter could be one of those deities. Anyone else, seeing the large yellow bear with the pink bowtie sitting on the lawn by the pots of geraniums, would have suspected it was a trick. But Dr Ranjit knew his daughter. There was not a devious gene in her body.
Just to convince himself that he was not seeing things and the original bear, which should have been well hidden, had not made an unexpected reappearance after a good shampoo, he took it into his surgery and plucked samples from its fur to send away for analysis. When the results came back, they confirmed that there was no trace of any infection which could harm Simon; in fact, it possessed antibacterial properties to prevent it.
Sunita wrapped the bear and put it in a box, which she presented to the young patient the next time he came for his check-up, and handed the proof of its clean bill of health to his mother. From then on the toddler began to grow stronger. Soon Simon only needed to be examined once a month.
Someone dressed like an evil clown had been terrorising the children at Sunita's school as they left the gates, so most parents waited outside for them. Others went home in groups. Jerry, Dr Ranjit's receptionist, usually collected Sunita after locking the waiting room to ensure she did not have to come back alone.
The clown had not harmed anyone, but the police did not want to take the chance he would and had an officer in uniform standing by until everyone had left.
One afternoon Jerry's car was involved in a minor collision on the way to the school, which meant he had to exchange details with the other driver and was delayed. Sunita had forgotten her mobile phone again and he was unable to contact her. By the time he arrived, the school gates were closed so Jerry assumed that Sunita and her friend, Tracey, had decided to return home together.
The walk through a lane to the other side of the estate was almost a mile. Sunita and Tracy were halfway home when the creepy clown wearing make-up straight out of a horror film jumped out in front of them.
He moved menacingly towards the girls.
That was what he wanted to hear and raised his white-gloved hands as though about to attack them.
But Sunita was angry. Any adult who needed to scare schoolchildren was a bully and a coward. He needed to be taught a lesson. In reply, she raised her hands to the sky.
The clouds above churned with stormy malice.
The clown didn’t notice them and found Sunita’s defiance amusing - the girl should have been terrified, not challenging him. The bully felt protected by his vile make up. Knowing he could not be recognised, the clown took out a baseball bat which had been hidden in his baggy jacket.
Tracy was now hysterical. This terror of the school gates had never threatened to harm any of the pupils before, but out here in the deserted lane there was no one to stop him.
The malicious clown raised the weapon to strike Sunita and ensure she never dared confront a bully again.
Then he suddenly stopped and stared.
Behind the girls, silently pounding towards him, was a monstrous clown twice his height and ten times as scary. The giant was surrounded by an unearthly glow and his wide mouth, filled with sharp teeth, wore a scowl that could have curdled milk.
The other clown suddenly felt very small and scared. He dropped the baseball bat and ran off, screeching in terror.
Tracy stopped panicking, wondering what had frightened off their attacker. Before she could turn, the huge clown had dispersed back into the sky. Minutes later, Jerry's car with its buckled fender pulled up beside them just in time to see the clown disappearing into the distance. He phoned the police and gave them the exact location.
The clown was not caught, but never bothered the pupils of Sunita's school again.