Read Falling Fast Online

Authors: Sophie McKenzie

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #General

Falling Fast

 

Also by Sophie McKenzie

GIRL, MISSING

SISTER, MISSING

BLOOD TIES

BLOOD RANSOM

SIX STEPS TO A GIRL

THREE

S
A CROWD

THE ONE AND ONLY

THE MEDUSA PROJECT
1:
THE SET
-
UP

THE MEDUSA PROJECT
2:
THE HOSTAGE

THE MEDUSA PROJECT WORLD BOOK DAY SPECIAL
:
THE THIEF

THE MEDUSA PROJECT
3:
THE RESCUE

THE MEDUSA PROJECT
4:
HUNTED

THE MEDUSA PROJECT
5:
DOUBLE-CROSS

THE MEDUSA PROJECT
6:
HIT SQUAD

 

First published in Great Britain in 2012 by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd,
A CBS COMPANY.

Copyright © 2012 Sophie McKenzie

This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.

The right of Sophie McKenzie to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Design and Patents
Act, 1988.

Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
1
st
Floor, 222 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8HB

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN: 978-0-85707-099-9
eBook ISBN: 978-0-85707-100-2

Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon CR0 4YY

www.simonandschuster.co.uk
www.sophiemckenziebooks.com

 

To Eoin, who knows.

 

CONTENTS

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

Pages From Burning Bright

 
1

I stared out of the minibus window. It was raining and the pavements were a glistening grey. The houses and sky above were a softer, paler grey.

Grey. Dull. Boring. Like me. Like my life.

Maybe today would change everything.

Maybe.

Emmi peered past me. ‘I think we’re nearly there,’ she said. ‘So, River . . . you decided yet if you’re gonna try for it?’

I swallowed. ‘It’ meant Juliet in
Romeo and Juliet
. We were on our way to auditions at St Cletus’s – a local boys’ secondary school that had invited Year 10s
and 11s from our girls’ school to try out for the female parts in the play.

Juliet was the main girl’s part, of course. But that wasn’t why I wanted it.

I looked out of the window again. The rain was falling harder now. I could hear it drumming on the minibus roof even over the excitable chatter inside. There were about fifteen of us, mostly
girls doing drama GCSE with Ms Yates or in her after-school drama group. For everyone else, I was sure, the auditions were just a laugh.

But not to me. I wanted to be Juliet in the play, because I wanted to be Juliet in real life.

I wanted to be in love. To be loved.

I was just sixteen and I’d never met a boy I really liked. I mean, I’d met a few I quite fancied and more than a few who were fun to chat to. But I’d never felt what you could
possibly describe as love. I spent a lot of time imagining it, though. Imagining what he would look like. Tall and square-jawed, I thought. With deep, soft brown eyes that would melt me with their
gaze, and dark, wavy hair curling onto his neck. He wouldn’t be able to take his eyes off me. We’d move towards each other like magnets. Then we would talk and talk, discovering all the
things we had in common, sharing our hopes and fears and dreams. And then, finally, we would kiss. A slow, deep, romantic . . .

‘Hel-lo, River.’ Emmi’s amused voice broke through my thoughts. ‘Are you going to audition for Juliet or not?’

I glanced at Emmi’s heart-shaped, dimpled face. My best friend had a sharp prettiness – all sparkling dark eyes and dramatically-long, shiny hair. Unlike me, she was relaxed and
confident. She was the obvious choice for Juliet.

But I knew she was the wrong one.

Whoever played Juliet had to at least be able to imagine what it would be like to really fall in love with someone else. I was pretty sure Emmi was no more able to do that than she was to stop
flirting with every guy she met.

‘Don’t see why not,’ I shrugged, trying to look unbothered about the whole audition process. ‘I mean, if you’re going for a speaking part, you might as well try for
all of them. Not that I really care who I end up playing.’

Emmi grinned. ‘Yeah, right, Riv.’

I shrugged again and went back to the window. My face burned. Trust Emmi to have seen right through me.

The minibus was pulling into a huge, mostly empty car park. Directly in front stood a large concrete school block. It looked deserted. I checked the time on my phone. Four p.m.

‘Guess all the boys have gone home,’ Emmi said. She sounded disappointed.

‘Good.’ I stood up and joined the queue to get off the minibus. ‘The last thing we need is an audience.’

Emmi laughed. ‘Isn’t an audience exactly what we’re here for?’

We got off the minibus and milled awkwardly in the car park. The rain had lightened to a soft drizzle. The absolute worst kind of weather for my hair, which gets all frizzy at the first sign of
moisture.

A tall, very thin man with a high forehead and slicked back dark hair came striding towards us. A boy in the St Cletus school uniform of black trousers, white shirt and black-and-green striped
tie trotted awkwardly beside him.

Ms Yates smiled nervously. ‘That’s Mr Nichols, the head of drama,’ she said.

‘Hello there,’ the man boomed. For such a thin person, his voice was surprisingly deep. ‘I’m Mr Nichols. Welcome to St Cletus’s.’ He beamed round at us all,
casting a particularly warm smile at Ms Yates. ‘Now let’s get you in out of the rain.’ He flung his arms out to indicate the boy beside him. ‘If anyone needs the bathroom,
James Molloy here will show you to the Ladies.’

Fifteen pairs of eyes swivelled to look at James Molloy.

He had sandy-coloured hair and a squishy, comfortable face. Underneath the flush of embarrassment creeping up his cheeks, I could see he looked nice. Nice, as in open and friendly.

You can’t fall in love with nice.

Mr Nichols strode off towards the school building, indicating – with another exaggerated arm movement – that we should follow.

We all scuttled after him.

James Molloy had – surprise, surprise – gravitated almost immediately to Emmi’s side.

‘Hi,’ he said hopefully, then blushed.

Emmi flashed him a big smile. ‘Hi,’ she purred. ‘I’m Emmi.’

I giggled.

James Molloy gulped. He looked as if he was desperately trying to think of something to say.

We reached the large wooden door that Mr Nichols had just walked through. James held it open to let Emmi past, then dived after her, ahead of me.

‘We’re going to the sixth form common room,’ he said. ‘The auditions’ll be in there.’

Emmi glanced over her shoulder and cocked an eyebrow at him. ‘Will boys be watching?’ she said in a silky voice.

She was really turning it on, but I could tell it was all for effect. Emmi liked to know that she could have any boy she wanted, but I’d never seen her bothered about any of them. Any
other girl would have been labelled a slag, but Emmi somehow got away with it.

Poor James Molloy’s face was now the colour of a tomato.

‘Er . . . no,’ he stammered. ‘That is, not until the second round. Mr Nichols asked for people with main parts to stay after school to read with some of the girls when
he’s heard you all.’

‘Ah . . .’ Emmi said knowingly.

God, that meant having to do bits of the play with boys later. I glanced at Emmi. How come she wasn’t in the slightest bit nervous about that?

‘So the boys’ parts are already cast?’ Grace asked timidly.

Grace is my other really good friend. She’s completely different from Emmi: shy and quiet . . . and she’s been going out with the same guy for, like, forever.

James nodded, then led us along a series of chilly, rather rundown corridors, into a common room, complete with a pool table, a row of lockers and some bright red sofas.

‘Please take off your coats and make yourselves comfortable.’ Mr Nichols’ booming voice resonated around its bare walls

‘Sixth form common room,’ James announced unnecessarily, staring at a patch of skin a few centimetres to the left of Emmi’s nose.

Emmi nodded vaguely and wandered across the room. I turned to James.

‘What part are you playing?’ I said.

‘Mercutio.’ He blushed. ‘Romeo’s best friend. Which is cool, because the guy playing Romeo
is
my best friend.’

His eyes drifted sideways to where Emmi was self-consciously twisting her long hair in her hand. I watched his gaze flickering over Emmi’s tall, slim body. She always seemed to manage to
have her skirt a few centimetres higher than everyone else. She also wore her sweater tighter and her blouse unbuttoned further. When she walked she wiggled her bum and flashed off legs that went
up to her armpits.

My heart sank. No way was I getting the part of Juliet instead of her. Not unless the guy playing Romeo was really short and Mr Nichols was practically blind.

I knew I should have been pleased for Emmi, but I wanted this so badly and I didn’t stand a chance.

‘Emmi’s my best friend,’ I said confidingly.

James Molloy looked down at me. For a second I saw myself through his eyes: I was short. I was dumpy. I was –
God
, I was like him. Squishy and comfortable.

At that point two other girls skittered over in fits of giggles and asked James to show them where the toilets were.

They all disappeared and I went to find Emmi and Grace.

‘I’m so nervous,’ Grace squeaked.

‘For God’s sake, Grace,’ Emmi drawled. ‘All you’re doing is reciting a short poem. The worst that can happen is you’ll end up a townsperson of
Verona.’

Grace looked a little deflated. I don’t think Emmi means it, but sometimes she can sound a bit harsh. After all, Grace was mostly here to support me and Emmi. Sure, she was doing drama
GCSE, but performing wasn’t really her thing.

I smiled at her. ‘You’ll be fine,’ I said. ‘You look really pretty.’

Grace smiled gratefully back at me. ‘You look lovely too, Riv I wish I had a figure like yours.’ She sighed, then ran her fingers through her soft, strawberry blonde waves.
‘And your hair really works the way you’ve got it tied back like that. You’re so lucky it’s so thick.’

Yeah, right.
She was just being polite. Did I mention I have horrible frizzy hair and as for my body . . . well, maybe I’d look okay if I could lose half a stone . . . but however
hard I tried, the weight never came off.

‘Er . . . thanks, Grace.’

Emmi yawned. ‘I don’t know what you’re getting anxious about,’ she said to Grace. ‘It’ll be over soon, then you can phone Darren and tell him all about
it.’

‘Darren said he didn’t like the idea of me being in a play at a boys’ school,’ Grace said.

Emmi rolled her eyes. ‘Well, that’s his problem, isn’t it?’

I squeezed Grace’s hand sympathetically, but the truth was I had no idea what Grace saw in Darren. He was geeky and spotty – while Grace was sweetly pretty, with her wide blue eyes
and perfect skin. Plus, I was pretty sure he didn’t have a passionate bone in his body. Mind you, looking at Grace’s pale, anxious face, I wasn’t sure she did either.

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