Authors: Rachael Wing
For Mum and for Hannah.
Thank you Grandma and Grandmum for boosting sales, Matticus for enthusiasm, and to the rest of the family and my friends for their support.
(Thanks to you for buying this book! Enjoy!)
Oh, and ta for the muffin joke, Canty. A crab walks into a bar â¦
“Well, if it isn't Little Miss Hockersâ¦”
At the sound of that voice I jumped out of my skin, and skilfully fell (well, actually it was more of a severe nose dive that sent me lurching head first) into the carrot crate. Trying to ignore the pain, and desperately trying to recover what little dignity I had left, I sat up. A little too quickly. My head collided with a spectacular elegance and poise into the shelf above, at which point I could have sworn I would never be able to think again. All other thoughts leaked out of the gaping crater now in my skull, leaving one resounding syllable that Mum would kill me for thinking, let alone crying out in agony.
It was at this point that I collapsed to the ground, clutching my head and groaning in what could have been a perfect damsel-in-distress-type way, if I hadn't sounded so much like a wounded walrus. Over my moans, I could just hear a throaty chuckle as Jonah bent down beside me and took my hands in his, away from what was left of my battered head and into bliss. His grip was soothing and strong, and I instantly melted inside; my usual reaction to his skin touching mine.
“Woah â I know I'm a god, Hockers, but there's really no need to faint at my feet; people are staringâ¦”
I opened my eyes slowly, as if stirring attractively from some incredibly painful dream, and even though my vision was hazy, Jonah was the most beautiful, blurry thing I'd ever seen in my life. But then I remembered that he hadn't called or texted once since
night, and his perfect (but evil) face came sharply into focus. That manly, strong jaw and gorgeous mouth, and the lip ring (hmm, lip ring); the black mop of hair, all tousled like he'd fallen out of bed; those long, thick lashes that I could never get, even with the most expensive mascara known to girlkind, and, of course, those most deadly addictive, brightly green, gold-flecked eyes that a fifteen-year-old girl could get completely lost in.
When in that moment, so it came to pass,
Holly waked, and straight away loved an ass.
Damn right he was an ass, but those eyes just took every last breath out of my body â every single time.
“I've broken my brain!” I grumbled, as I faintly realized that those eyes obviously whisked away my common sense as well as my vital necessities for life. He chuckled again â that yummy chuckle that made my heart shiver like it had suddenly been caught in a draught â and let go of my hands to examine my head. His hands on my head had me thinking that I was going to pass out all over again.
“Nope, nothing broken, no brain leaking out; you're still in one piece. You'll live to save the world another day, Comic Book Kid.”
If you ask around in my town for a “Holly Hockers: a fourth-year girl, medium height, medium build, darkish hair and stupid laugh, who likes to hang out at Ozzie's after school and can always be found with her iPod, jamming away to The Faeries, at any time day or night”, I'm pretty sure that even with that detailed description, not one person would know to point me out. The crazy thing is that if you ask the first teenager you see on the high street where you can find the “Comic Book Kid”, it will be me they'll take you straight to.
Almost every kid who goes to Cathen Comp knows about Ozzie's Ice Cream Parlour. It's sacrilege not to. I don't know how everyone else found out about it, but I've been going there since I was tiny, pretty much since it was open. Mum and Dad used to take me for a treat at the end of the week, if I'd been a “good girl” â “A sundae on a Sunday!” she'd say, and I'd giggle myself stupid â but that was before Dad starting working a lot, and Mum started writing, and our sundae Sundays became fewer and fewer. So because it's only around the corner, I would go there by myself. Ozzie knew me and my parents by this time, and he and his wife, Nerin, took me into the parlour when my mum couldn't. I would taste delicious spoonfuls of his new inventions, and tell him if it should be his special â there was always a different special each week. That still goes on now; sometimes the old ones are repeated, but Ozzie still comes up with crazy new concoctions too, and all of us Cathen kids love them.
When I was at the parlour, to pass the time between spoonfuls, I would draw. Ozzie would always have a paper and crayons ready. There was this painting that he had, just the one, of a black woman walking through a whirling circle of multicoloured water towards the sun, the calm sea in front of her, her hair flying back in the breeze. It was so beautiful; I would stare for ages until I couldn't remember what I was looking at.
One day a couple of years ago, I turned up, took my usual space at the gleaming silver serving bar and saw that my favourite picture wasn't there. Ozzie said he had taken it upstairs to his flat above the shop, because it didn't seem right in the parlour any more, and joked that maybe I should paint something to fill its space.
So I did. Only I thought about it, thought about what I would want to look at if I were a teenage kid waiting for ice cream, and a comic strip seemed ideal. And so H'y Girl was born (yes, H'y Girl was me, I wasn't overly imaginative with names back then) â a SuperGirl who liked eating ice cream and fighting crime (obviously not at the same time, she's not THAT super). I showed it to Ozzie, who LOVED it, and we printed it up big and stuck it in the water woman's place and it pretty much instantly became a hit.
So I began to draw one every few months, and when I met my best friend, Wes (and the Adventures of H'y Girl and Lameboy started), I'd do one every few weeks, and Ozzie would display them proudly, not just on one wall, but all of them. People would say: “Ozzie, the cartoons are so cool, who did them?” and he'd reply by pointing at me and saying, “Our very own comic book kid!”, and so it stuck. In Cathen Town I am just the Comic Book Kid, and nothing more.
Jonah Jones, however, is a god.
“C'mon, let me help you upâ¦”
Once again his amazing hands picked me up and helped me to my feet. I drew it out as long as possible to keep him close. I know I sound a bit full on but seriously, that's how gorgeous he was â I wanted him close all the time, especially since he kissed me at the last gigâ¦
I got to my feet gingerly and touched my head. It was banging like a church bell too early on a Sunday morning but I smiled anyway, just because Jonah was smiling at me. I looked down at the mess I had made of the carrot box and apple shelf and felt a pink rush to my cheeks. I wish I didn't blush so much.
“Sorry for making a mess,” I apologized. “I'm not usually so â¦ clumsy! Do you want me to help clear it up?”
His eyes flicked over the damage my head had done.
“Nah, don't worry, it'll give me something to do later. This place gets deader than a morgue later on, and if I have nothing to do, the old dears make me mop.”
He nodded over to the two grannies with matching blue rinses at the tills. They were tutting and whispering in my direction. Oh, great, just what I needed â tutting geriatrics on my tail.
“So,” Jonah said, looking straight at me. “What've you been up to? Haven't really seen you since the gigâ¦”
The gig where we had that really,
amazing kiss, I gave you my number and you didn't text or call or anything?!
“â¦yeah, I lost your number and haven't really seen you around.”
So that's why he didn't text.
This glimmer of hope at the end of what seemed like a long, earthy tunnel, made my insides lurch. But I decided to play it cool. I wasn't going to get him by letting him know I'd been sat around, waiting for a text from him to say that he wants me to be his one and only girlfriend and that he thinks I'm the most gorgeous girl in school. No, I had to be the Ice Maiden. Ice Queen. Think mean; aloof.
“Oh, the gig. Yeah. Completely forgot about that! I've been so busy, like, doing homework â” I inwardly cringed “â and baby sitting â” It got worse “â and, errm, just doing some shifts at Ozzie'sâ¦” Oh, my sparkling social life! “â¦to get the money for my MSR ticket.”
That last bit sounded better, like I was some kind of martyr for music. He smiled and my knees went weak. I casually leant against the wall to prop myself up a little, but he didn't seem to notice.
“You're going to Midsummer Rave?” he asked, interested. I nodded. His smile widened. “Me too. My dad got me a ticket for my birthday. I went last year and that was awesome. But it's going to be pretty good this year, you know, with Cubical and The Dandys â¦ and did you hear that at midnightâ”
“The Faeries are doing their set?” I smiled then. Of course I knew that. You won't find a bigger Faeries fan than me. Well, except Wes. I think we almost class as stalkers.
“Oh yeah, I forgot that you're their number one fan,” he smirked. “I suppose you're going with Wes, Sloaney and Crony?”
Margo “Sloaney” Stone (Wes's twin) and her boyfriend, Finn (yes, her “Crony”), are coming with me and Wes to the Rave. We've got a four-man tent and we're sharing it. It's only two nights, so I don't have to put up with her annoying elocution for too long. It's a wonder that Wes has turned out like he has, coming from his family. “Sloaney” doesn't even cover it.
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, we're sharing with them, but don't call them that, they're not
He raised his eyebrows as if to say “Yeah, right!” and carried on. “I don't know where I'm staying yet, but if you're going, maybe I'll see you thereâ¦?”
His eyes were magical. Like they seriously just cast a spell on me. I swear if he asked me to do the mopping for him I would do it in a second â just find me a mop! So of course I said:
“Yeah, definitely! Be there or be square!”
I just shouldn't speak to human beings.
He chuckled, bemused, as if he didn't know what to say. I wasn't surprised; I couldn't think of what to say to that either. No one has said that phrase seriously for about thirty years. This is what those eyes do to me! It was time to make a swift exit.
I leaned away from the wall and flashed him my best smile. “Well, I've got to go! See you later.”
I bent down, picked up my bag from the rubble of carrots and headed for the door.
I turned around slowly.
“Do I get your number then?”
My head exploded once again, this time definitely with pleasure. Pulse racing? Check. Vision swimming? Check. Head pounding? Check, check, check.
So I gave him my number before I passed out, and headed for the door.
“So I guess I'll see you around!” he called after me.
I nodded. “See you at school.”
“Yeah,” he grinned, those green eyes wrinkling at the corners when he smiled. “Be there or be squareâ¦”
I smiled, turned out of the door into the summer heat of the street and let my smile drop into a wince. What was my mind thinking and where did it go?! As I started walking down the street towards Ozzie's, I pulled my phone out of my bag and hit speed dial one.
“Ozzie's. Chocolate. Ice cream. Now.”
“Give me ten minutes and I'm all yours.”
That's why Wes is the best friend I've ever had.