Read Love-Struck Online

Authors: Rachael Wing

Love-Struck (8 page)

Possibly not the best attack, but never mind. Margo always just wants to mix everything up – she loves nothing more than to make trouble for everyone else and then to watch the chips fall. I decided to re-jiggle The Plan.

“Look,” I said, suddenly assertive. “We just need to get through tonight and then regroup. What are you up to tomorrow?”

Wes paused, thinking. “Nothing – I'm not doing anything, but aren't you covering a shift for Ozzie?”


“Yeah, I am. Humph! Right – tomorrow night?”

“My mum's not in – she's at a dinner, so you want to come round here?”

“Perfect!” I grinned. “I'll bring us a supply from Ozzie's and we can fix it, no problems. But back to tonight, are you wearing what we said?”

“You bet.”

The doorbell rang, and my mum shouted up.

“Holly, it's for you!”

I gasped. What if it was Jonah?

“Look, I've got to go,” I whispered. “I'll see you later!”

“Yeah, all right, see—”

“Thanks, Mum!”

I put down the phone and chucked it on to my dresser, then checked my reflection. No make-up. Yikes! At least my hair looked good. And the top really was killer. I didn't even hear the door open.

“Darling, I do rather like your shirt. Very
Project Runway
meets … Goth. Truly a daring number indeed – so unlike your usual, ah,

I turned around to see Margo dressed to kill in the best LBD (Little Black Dress) you have ever seen (think Audrey Hepburn in
Breakfast at Tiffany's
, but short). She looked stunning, as ever. You would think she was going to have high tea in a Parisian black-and-white art movie, not going to see a band. But that's Margo for you – always doing the unexpected.

Like turning up at my house, unexpected and alone.

I could smell a Chanel-covered rat.

“Erm, thanks,” I replied cautiously. “Nice dress. What's up?”

She prowled into the room, over to my dresser, where pictures of Wes and me were stuck inside the rim of my mirror, along with a picture of my mum and dad, and then a picture of Lizzy and me. There were three pictures of Wes and me. One from last summer, where we were sunbathing and decided to put lines across our cheeks in sun cream like we were Native Americans; we're both cross-eyed. Then there's one from his birthday last year where everyone had to dress up as little kids – me in huge denim dungarees with bunches and drawn-on freckles, and Wes dressed up as Dennis the Menace. The last one was the most recent. Mum took it whilst we were just messing around in the back garden a few weeks before, and I'd stepped on some glass down the bottom of the garden (probably a bit that I hadn't managed to pick up after my last party that the folks will never,
know about) and cut my foot. Mum had been taking pictures of Lizzy out in the garden in her sun hat, to send to my aunt. Wes had insisted on carrying me back up to the house, and Mum had just taken the picture: we were both in hysterics, I had my arms wrapped tight around his neck and was looking up at him, grinning like a loon, and our faces were inches apart but he was looking back at me, laughing and staggering like he was going to fall over. I love that picture. It's so happy. Mum put it in black and white, so it's all arty, too. It looks like one of those pictures you find already in the picture frame when you buy it. I look pretty in it – my hair looks all shiny and soft – so I've put it up with the others.

Margo went over and picked it out of the mirror, looking at it as she talked to me.

“Dear Winston is taking Emily to The Venue tonight, is he not?”

“Yeah. So what?”

“Hmm. The two of you usually do this kind of thing together, do you not? But instead Emily is going with my brother?” she drawled, putting the photo back in its place.

“Yeah,” I started defensively. “Because he likes Emily, and I've got Jonah.”

She moved her head to the side on a tilt.

“Jonah?” she asked, as if uninterested. “Jones?”

“Yeah,” I said again, but this time defiantly. “Jonah Jones. I'm meeting him tonight.”

“Are you? Emily is going with Winston, and Jonah with you. And you will all meet up together at some point in the duration of the evening?”

I nodded.

“Now that is interesting,” she cooed, surveying me with her unfathomable eyes.

“And why would that be interesting?”

She was beginning to get to me. There was something in her eyes, a dark twinkling. Then it was gone.

“No reason at all, darling, of course!” She moved to my door, and was just about to leave.

“And darling, don't fret when you bump into Emily and Wes, and she and Jonah are so familiar with one another. They should know each other quite well by now, I expect. After all, they have been texting back and forth all week! Have a lovely evening, Holly, dear.”

How was I expected to have the best night of my life after that?!

Margo left and I sat down heavily on my bed and thought hard.

Emily liked Jonah – she said so in English the other day. Jonah liked Emily, platonically at least, because he offered help to her “anytime” when he picked up her books. They'd been texting. Jonah hadn't texted me. But he had come around to my house, which was better than a text. And he had asked

After looking at the evidence, I came to the conclusion that I was the one who Jonah was meeting at half past seven at the bar, not the long-legged bimbo. And besides, she'd been texting Wes too. So she must like him. And after the gig, she would know that Jonah was interested in me, not her, and so everything would be all right. Margo just couldn't keep herself to herself; she could never just let things lie.

Well, not this time.

I chucked on another CD and put on my make-up, dancing around the room and singing into my hairbrush. Tonight was going to be just that little bit awesome, I was going to dance like crazy and no one was going to ruin it!

I walked, because it was a perfect summer night, warm without being sticky. The moon was out already, with the sunset starting to take place, so the air seemed sort of magical. As I strolled along, I got the feeling that anything could happen – Mum would have said it was a night when pixies come out and play: a night for romance and mischief.

I got to The Venue a few minutes early, and walked up to the queue already forming outside. Teenagers from Cathen and surrounding villages and towns were in the queue; I knew a few who like the music scene around here and who I bump into frequently at gigs I go to. I love The Venue building. It's big and black, with posters all over the walls where windows should be – posters of all the bands that have played there, posters from the Midsummer Raves before this one, and on the door was a massive poster advertising this year's MSR, with a list of all the bands playing down the right-hand side. Halfway down in big black letters was “THE FAERIES”. I felt a thrill of excitement down my spine. Next week they would be on this stage! In seven days I would be, like, metres away from Robin. My heroes close enough to touch! The thought was like a blaze of fire running through me, making me feel indestructible and red hot. THE VENUE was written in thin silver letters above the door, tarnished like they had never been looked after.

The thing about The Venue, though, isn't the look. It isn't the posters, or the impressive list of names on the outside, or the friendly, rock-star-dressed staff – it's the atmosphere. The Venue just sort of calls you in: it just feels alive. On band nights the bass calls to you from deep inside, like the heartbeat of some giant melodic monster sleeping on the pavement. You can feel it as you walk past: its heartbeat calling yours to come and dance and rave and just beat in time with it. It really does take your breath away. Coming here is like a drug that leaves you on an unbeatable high, so I make a point of coming here and overdosing at least once a week.

I arrived at the front of the queue, waiting where I said I would meet Wes. No one was allowed in yet, so the doormen weren't busy. Well, I say doormen – more like door boys.

The taller of the two spoke into his radio.

OI TK! You plonker –
oui, c'est Remi!
– ask Len if we can let 'em in yet, over.”

Remi is the only person in Cathen who talks like that. A sweet French accent from his mother, and then a harsh British one following it, from his friends – he's so strange, but awesome. I've been friends with the twins pretty much for ever, because we used to play together when we were tiny and we all grew up in the same town, went to the same primary school and then to the same secondary school, and are now in the same form.

We're all into the same kind of music so we used to come to The Venue together a lot. Then their band (The Mechanicals) picked up and they started playing here, I used to come and watch. They're pretty good, and they play with some of the other local acts, which is fun. They took part in the Cathen Battle of The Bands last year and won, so they're doing pretty well! And because they play here, they managed to swipe themselves jobs!

It's so not fair; it's like the dream place to work for your average Cathen teenager. OK, so the twins are the doormen, they wipe up spillages, they clean the whole place afterwards, but still – they work at The Venue! It's skivvy work but it's more than worth it. The reason everyone wants to work here is because it means that they get free tickets to
(yes, even MSR) and they get to go
and – this is the best part – they MEET THE BANDS. That's right – in a week's time, they would meet The Faeries! I would clean up a thousand spillages if it meant I could meet them. Remi and Arno are so lucky!

But it's also a perk having them as your friends – it means that you can jump the queue a bit, and you get a heads up on what tickets are coming on sale. So it's pretty good to have friends in the business.

“Hey, boys!” I called over the metal fence. “How's tricks?”

Both blond-headed boys turned around, grinned and walked over to me.

“Not bad, Comic Book Kid, not bad at all,” Remi replied, looking me up and down. “You've scrubbed up a bit, haven't you? You're not offending my eyes as much tonight as you usually do!”

“Yeah, what's the occasion?” asked Arno. “You don't have to get dressed up to see us, you know that.”

I laughed and smiled. “Tonight's no ordinary night, gentlemen,” I proclaimed. “I have to look a little bit kick-ass.”

“Mission accomplished!” Arno said with a cheeky wink. “So who's the bloke?”

“Must be a blind date,” Remi stage-whispered, whilst still looking at me. “Else if he knew what she looked like, why would he come out with Hockers?”

Arno laughed. “Maybe it's got something to do with her knoc—”

,” I interrupted, leaning on the gate and trying to look serious. “It's neither a blind date nor anything to do with my,
, looks. We've got common interests.”

“Each other's tonsils?” supplied Remi.

“Jumping around in the dark, surrounded by lots of other people?” guessed Arno.

“No!” I couldn't stop myself from laughing this time. These boys just don't let you take things seriously. “
, blates!”

They looked disappointed.

Arno's radio crackled and he turned around to answer it.

“So,” Remi smiled, running a hand through his hair, trying to be light and offhand. “Is Margo coming tonight?”

Oh, he's
sweet. Margo isn't right for him because she's way too mean and he's just so nice, but it doesn't stop him being completely head-over-heels gaga for her. She's like this goddess to him, and when she's around no one else gets a look in. The sad thing is she knows that he wants her, and she uses it to her advantage. Talk about manipulative, jeez! I thought back to my room, Wes telling me that she had told his mother, then her trying to mess up my head about Jonah – the thought of her made me bristle.

“Hmm, I think so.” I nodded coolly, but Remi didn't seem to sense the tone, and rambled on enthusiastically.

“Because she texted me before, asking if I could put Emily on the list, so I did, and then I texted her back asking if she was coming, and if she wanted putting on the list, and that I hoped that she was coming – but she didn't text back.”

Oh, poor naïve Remi!

I wanted to tell him that he was wasting his time on Margo because she was just using him for tickets, but I didn't have the heart.

“I wouldn't wait for her, Remi,” I smiled pointedly.

“Oh I won't,” he said unconvincingly. “It's just that I need to be here to let her in when she gets here, because she says that it's always nice to see me. And her smile is so amazing, and she's so happy when I let her in for free that—”

He paused mid-sentence. I raised my eyebrows, hoping he got the subtext.

Remi continued quickly, “I'll go inside soon anyway, because The Dandys are on first and I don't want to miss their set…”

Of course he didn't get the subtext. Boys never get the subtext.

His voice trailed off because he saw Wes turn the corner, accompanied by the longest pair of legs I've ever seen, and the shortest pair of shorts. Maybe I should have briefed Emily on gig wear before we came.

Arno turned around.

Mon frère
, we can start—”

The words turned to mush in his mouth as Emily and Wes approached. Wes looked like he was telling a story, and Emily was listening intently, and when he told the punchline she giggled, and leant on his shoulder. I couldn't help a twinge of anger above my stomach. She'd been texting Jonah.

, that girl's hot!”

“You can both shut your mouths now!” I hissed, and the Mortimer twins instantly closed them.

!” Wes shouted. All the boys in our year do that to Arno – they think they're being witty. “And Remster, my favourite front man. How's it going?”

“Hey, you guys!” Emily exclaimed as she walked up, greeting the boys. They nodded in reply. I smiled at Wes, who grinned and winked back. Emily's sea-coloured eyes fell on mine. “Hey, Hols, how's it going? I've just been hearing some stories about you!”

I could feel my cheeks burn a little. Why was he talking about me? He should be getting to know

“Oh yeah?” I said, trying to smile but just ending up with some sort of grimace, glaring at Wes. “Nothing too gruesome, I hope…!”

“Hey, Rem, it's time to let people in now,” Arno said, still staring at Emily.

“Yeah, let people in…” Remi echoed, also still looking at Emily. Then it clicked. “OH, let people
, right, yeah! Come on then, Hols, Wes-man and Emileg – I mean, Emily!”

We went around the side and scootched into the entrance, the angry glares of the people at the front of the queue digging into our backs as we did so. The familiar scent of the place set me at ease straight away, the dark walls and wooden floor swallowing me up and making me part of it. The place had serious vibes. We went straight past the locker room through to the narrow stairs, and as I climbed them I could almost hear the footsteps of the legends that had taken those stairs before me. Before I knew it, I had pushed open the black double doors and stepped into the room.

It was like a church, but with a much lower ceiling and no pews: a long rectangle that led up to the altar (the altar obviously being the stage). The same rule applied to both places, too: you came here to worship. To the left, the bar was gleaming – lit up on the inside with dark red lights, the bar boys from the sixth form mooching around, waiting to be asked to serve. The doors were on the back of the room, where the wall curved “for acoustics” I was told. This curved back wall was covered in graffiti: bright and bold letters spelled out “The Venue Presents”, outlines in glow paint, and then hundreds of signatures of bands underneath. I wasn't lying – this was the magical place of legends and heroes alike.

And I only lived ten minutes away.

There was already a lot of activity going on: roadies were carrying equipment around the stage, microphones had been placed, people were walking across the floor to the bar and going through doors to fetch things; some people were also stood down in the pit next to the stage. A metal fence that came up to just under my shoulder separated the pit from the stage, so that the bands couldn't get mauled by over-excited fans. The norm for me was to get to the front with Wes, to “the cage”, as we called it, and hang on to it for dear life for the night. It's the best place to be because it's right in front of the bands. You do get crushed, because there's a surging crowd behind you and they are squishing you into a metal pole, but it's worth it. Sometimes I think I'm a bit of a music junkie, and I need to feel the music and have it blasting in my ears to feel secure, but Wes says he feels the same, so at least I'm not alone. It's why we love gigging it so much – the atmosphere and the feeling you get, and sharing it with someone – it's unreal. The only thing that could be better than being right at the front of the stage is being right there in the middle of it all; standing on the stage as they play around me. That's my dream.

I looked at my watch and it was coming up to half seven. I didn't know if Jonah would be on time – I doubted he would be, so I reckoned I had time to go to the loos and check on my make-up and stuff. I turned around to see Wes explaining The Venue Presents wall to Emily, who was watching him talk with a small, satisfied smile on her face. See?

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