Authors: Rachael Wing
I was that shocked that my knees almost gave way. It was too much information to take in in only a few moments. Before I knew it, Mrs Stone had escorted me down the hall, hands on my shoulders â her talons digging in like a great bird of prey â to Wes's room.
“You don't look too well, dear. Maybe you should go home? Tell Winston you're leaving. And while you're leaving things, do leave him alone. He has finally found a young lady who is worthy of his time and efforts â someone at the same level, someone
for him. I hope you understand.”
Then, without another word, Mrs Stone straightened up and walked off down the corridor, leaving me stunned into silence and stuck to the ground, wondering what the hell I should do.
So I just walked in and told Wes I was sick, and that I had to go home. It didn't even look like he was that bothered. All I could see was him looking at her in all her perfection: her beauty, her humour, her wealth.
And then I really did feel sick.
I went home and I cried like I had never cried before. Y'know when you cry, but you're not really sure what you're crying for? It felt like that. I'd never thought that I wasn't good enough to be someone's friend before; it had never crossed my mind. Her voice when she said that phrase: “someone
” â it was like I'd been wrapped in this nice big cloak that was keeping me so warm from the snow, but then suddenly that cloak got stripped away, and I was stood shivering in the freeze, blinking back the icicles and wondering how on earth I was going to live without it.
Mum brought up a cup of tea and tried to get me to tell her what was wrong. She even woke up Dad. But I couldn't put it into words: my mind wouldn't work. I would try to talk, and then I would just hear Emily's laugh in my head, or see her face, and jealousy would explode so violently in the pit of my stomach that the words were blown clean away, leaving only a thick coating of self-loathing. I couldn't even listen to our favourite song. I stuck on a different CD so I didn't have to listen to my own thoughts.
I know, that
You've got a hold around
Nobody else could
Your idle heart
Idle soul, the
The rest of the week was spent with me not saying much, and not doing much. Tuesday I had a bad headache from all the crying and when people talked to me I flinched, so when they asked me what was wrong I just said I had a migraine. All that day I watched Wes and Emily. They were friendly with each other, laughing and joking â and it occurred to me that I had never actually seen them talking, like
talking, like we do. But then I suppose he chooses his friends to talk with and his girls toâ
But I just couldn't help thinking that I must be pretty awful to not be as good as her, someone who can't even hold a conversation. But we hadn't actually had a real conversation for a while, what with all the Emily/Jonah stuff going on â we each had someone to focus on apart from each other.
Stuff with Jonah was going well. He texted me on the Tuesday, but I didn't reply, and when I bumped into him at school on Wednesday I told him I had the mother of all headaches, and he gave me a hug in front of everyone (Jonah doesn't really “do” hugs, whereas I'm a pretty huggy person â I'd hug a fish if it wouldn't, like, die, as soon as you took it out of the water) but I couldn't even get excited about it. The week had lost its rosy glow and I felt a bit out of it.
“Darling, do tell me why you've got a face like a slapped arse â it's
Margo wasn't helping either. She kept on finding little opportunities to talk to me during the week to try to find out why I had lost my mojo, and why I was “a bit out of sorts” with Wes.
He'd been trying to talk to me all week. Well, I say “talk” â all he wanted to do was ask me about Emily. Had she said anything? Was she excited about the weekend? Did I know if she liked Cubical or Hyperbowl better? He asked me round to dinner and a movie-fest on the Wednesday night. The thought of seeing his mum made me want to be ill in the nearest bin, and besides, I couldn't take another few hours of “Emily
” â I'd sooner eat the next-door-neighbour's kamikaze cat than put myself through it. I couldn't summon up the energy to be helpful any more, and I snapped at him on that Wednesday afternoon â saying that I didn't know if she preferred to be kissed with eyes open or not because I'd helped him to get to the point where things could start to happen, and now he had to do just that: make it happen.
“I'm not your relationship guru, Wes! Just grow a pair and
get on with it
I may have been a little bit harsh, but it meant he stopped twittering on about how amazing Emily was.
By Thursday night I was beginning to lose sight of the happiness. I was deliberating whether to drop into the hole where everything is dark and gloomy, with a heavy metal-scremo soundtrack and wearing a lot of black (i.e., to have an “emo day”), when my mum came into my Hall of Pain and Mental Angst (my room) and held out the phone.
“It's for you,” she whispered, smiling mysteriously, and then left the room and shut the door.
“My beautiful Holly, I haven't seen you since Saturday! Nearly a whole week! Are you all right?”
It was Ozzie.
I took a deep breath.
“Thanks, Ozzie, I'm fine! I'm sorry â this week's been so busy I haven't had much timeâ¦”
Busy wallowing and not going anywhere or doing anything. I was beginning to get a bit bored, to be honest.
“Well, I wonder if you would be free this evening? I would need a hand?”
Hmm. He was concerned for me. He needed some help at the shop. He'd always been there for me, so I should be there for him. Also, I hadn't eaten ice cream since Monday because the thought had made my headache return, but I had started to get withdrawal symptoms and I just knew that Ozzie's comforting conversation and iced dairy treats would at least make me feel a teensy bit better.
“Of course,” I said softly, with a smile. “I'll come and help. I'll be down in ten minutes.”
I was down in five. Suddenly my appetite had come back, and I needed to wallow with people rather than by myself before I developed multiple personalities. (The plus side to that was that if I did create a few, maybe one of them would be good enough to be around Wes.)
I opened the door, and there â sat comfortably at the bar â was Wes. He was chatting to Ozzie across the counter, and when Ozzie waved me over from the door and he turned to see who it was, he looked equally surprised, smiled, but didn't do his usual wave. He didn't know how to act around me. I suddenly felt a pang of guilt. Who cared if his monster mother didn't think that I was good enough? He didn't even like her! He chose me to be his friend, and why should it matter if she didn't approve? And as for Emily â hmm. I still didn't like her. Well, I wasn't going to think about Emily just yet.
I made my way over to the bar and sat down next to Wes.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, smiling.
“I was about to ask you the same thing!” Wes declared, and smiled wider, as I wasn't scowling or shouting or being, y'know, my nasty self.
“I'm supposed to be covering a shift for Ozzie.” I turned to Ozzie and smiled.
Wes paused suspiciously. “Me too.”
We both looked at Ozzie for an explanation, and to our surprise he burst out laughing.
“Kids!” he cried, laughing. “Ah-ha, crazy kids, Ozzie fools you!”
When he had calmed down, he made things clear.
“I want to surprise you, see?”
We looked at each other, confused. We did not see.
“You know that the Midsummer Rave you are going to this weekend, for it you must have, to get right close to the bands, a ticket?”
“What?!” Wes and I shouted at the same time.
“I didn't know that!” I turned to Wes. “Oh my God, I don't believe it! Did you know?”
Wes shook his head. “No, I didn't, I just presumed you showed up and saw everything. Damn!”
I was so angry that I hadn't checked if you needed a pass for the pit. Now we wouldn't get to the bar and we wouldn't be able to be right up close, all in the action; we'd have to sit with all the lame people who didn't want to dance or, y'know, have
We sat in a shocked silence for a few seconds, as Ozzie pulled out an envelope from under the counter. We both looked up at his happy, chuckling face.
“I did not think that you were, how you say, â
in the know
', so I thought Uncle Ozzie would helpâ¦”
He said it with a shrug, pulling two tickets out of the envelope.
He handed us one each.
“For you, the superheroes, yes?”
We both squealed like girls and jumped on Ozzie, saying thank you about a million times until we both went hoarse with the happiness.
The happiness spilled into Friday. My mojo was back and working, so I could even manage to smile to Emily and hold back the instinct to bite and scratch her (funnily enough, very much like the kamikaze cat next door) which I thought was a bonus. And Jonah had texted me early Friday morning:
Time Sent: 7.17am
SENDER: The Fittest One
Mornin hockerz â 2nites the
nite! Call u l8r, hv a gr8
I was really happy about it, but the thing was â¦ I had this feeling. A nag at the back of my mind. Jonah was gorgeous, no doubt, and I'd wanted him for ages. But now he was there, it was kind of â¦ all right. He was texting me, I wasn't texting him. He was chasing me a bit, not the other way around. I didn't know! It was just kind of weird. I thought it would be great to have someone texting me â and he had been texting me all week â but it wasn't all that amazing. And his texts weren't all that interesting: “Wt r u up 2?” or “Im bord, wt u up 2?” or “Maths sux. Thinkin of u. Wt r u up 2?” But still, Jonah Jones, gorgeous, godly boy â texting me? It could only be epic times!
School ended with a huge buzz. All the kids flew out in a dizzy mess about the music over the weekend, and who was going with who, and who would get with who, and what would generally happen. The buzz was infectious and lifted my mood that extra notch, which helped me to tolerate Wes on the phone on the way home; I assured him for the third time that I would be wearing my superhero top to the gig too, so that he wouldn't look stupid on his own. I got in and decided to have a bath and have a bit of a girly beauty sesh, so I cranked up the volume and locked myself in the bathroom for about two and a half hours of me-time. I came out at about quarter past six, ready to get ready, strutting into my room and singing along to my iPod.
I suppose you're just a bit fit, really
My mum would say that you're, lovely
That makes me just a bit, lucky
'Cause I'm the one who takes you out,
'Cause I'm the boy you care about
'Cause I'm the guy who's your cup of tea
And you're the only girl who's right for me!
Well, it's less of a singing-song, and more of a shouty, jumpy-up-and-downy, wake-up-your-baby-sister-if-she's-sleeping song, if I'm honest.
“Holly, will you shut off that racket!” Mum cried as she rushed into my room, all dressed up except for her make-up. “You'll wake up Lizzy!”
Just as she barged in, the phone rang. I turned down my music so it was just a low blip of guitar and drums, and picked it up. I'd put it next to my bed just in case Jonah rang the home phone, so he wouldn't have to talk to my crazy sister if she managed to pick up the phone somehow (happens more often than you would think) or worse, my crazy mum. I took a deep breath.
“Hello?” I asked, dropping my voice so it sounded a bit sexy. Ish.
“Hi, it's Emma Bradbury, the babysitter?” she declared in peachy tones that were laced with confusion. “Who's that?”
“Oh, erm, hi Emma!” I said, my voice at my normal register. “Sorry, it's Holly! I was just, er, coughing! Anyway, here's Mum!”
I passed on the phone to her.
“Oh, hi Emma! How are you? â¦ Good, good, so what time will youâ¦ Oh â right.”
I looked up at her tone. It wasn't good. Mum frowned.
“Well, I suppose broken arms heal! All gymnasts have accidents! â¦ Well, get better soon!”
She put down the phone, and I knew what she was going to ask me before she even opened her mouth. Dad had the weekend off (Friday to Sunday) so they had decided to go out into the city to see a show, and then have a lazy start to the morning and a quiet weekend with me gone. It had been planned for ages because Dad doesn't get much time off, and I knew they had been really looking forward to it.
Mum gave me That Look. The look parents give you when they want you to do something for them. She opened her mouth but I cut her off desperately.
“Can't you ask anyone else?” I pleaded. “Is there no one else who will babysit?!”