Authors: Julie Cohen
Tags: #childhood, #christmas, #chick lit, #humour, #free, #twins, #ice cream, #black sheep, #christmas pageant
Silently on my tights-clad feet, I went round to the back
of the sheep while the choir sang some more. I didn’t want to watch
Candace get to soar up on high in her harness. One of the little
kids, or maybe Mouse, had farted and I wrinkled my nose.
I took the lipstick from my waistband. I’d nicked it
without a real sense of purpose, just because it was there, sitting
on my mother’s vanity. I’d thought about writing ‘BAA’ in big
bloody letters on my forehead before I swung across the stage on a
rope. But the cigarettes and the sunglasses gave me another idea. I
applied the lipstick carefully to my mouth, as I’d seen my mother
do. It tasted waxy as I mashed my lips together to spread it out.
Then I put on Will’s sunglasses, and the dark backstage went pitch
black. All I could see were the children clustered near the
curtain, where the stage lights leaked through.
‘And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in
the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.’ Charlie Munt
lisped on ‘shepherds’. That was our cue. I flipped open the box of
B&Hs, took out a fag and put it carefully between my red lips.
The sheep flocked forward, towards the stage, and I followed last.
As he reached the curtain, I saw shepherd Rock Hamlin glance behind
him. He must have spotted me because his eyes went wide. Then he
nodded, slightly, and I saw him say something before he turned away
and went on stage. It looked like it was ‘Cool.’
Yes. That was it. I was a cool sheep. I paused on the edge
of the stage, to use Jonny Whitehair’s lighter to light the fag. I
drew in, slightly, as I’d seen adults do, but I was careful to hold
the smoke in my mouth so I wouldn’t cough. The last thing I needed
to do was to blow my entrance by looking like a novice.
Then I sauntered onto the stage, red-lipped, wearing
shades, smoking a cigarette. A sheep the likes of which Stoneguard
had never seen before.
In front of me, the assembled grown-ups of Stoneguard were
silhouettes. I heard a gasp. It made me smile. I walked forward, my
spine straight, wiggling my hips in the way I’d seen sexy women do
on television. I sucked on the cigarette and puffed out the smoke.
I wished, briefly, that I knew how to blow smoke rings.
‘Liza Haven!’ screeched Ma Gamble from the wings. ‘You get
off that stage
One by one, the other children realised something was wrong
and their heads swivelled to look at me. I smiled at them, and then
smiled at the audience. A big, cheesy grin.
An ‘I-won’ grin.
I couldn’t see my mother’s face, especially while I was
wearing the sunglasses, but I knew where she was sitting.
Leisurely, I tapped the ash off the end of my cigarette, and walked
to the front of the stage. Past the hippy shepherds and the other
sheep and the Holy Family. I struck a pose, hand on hip, lips
pursed around my fag. I blew out a long stream of smoke, directly
at my mother.
‘Baa,’ I said.
It wasn’t quiet any more. The audience was talking, moving;
I heard someone, somewhere near the back, stifle a laugh. I heard
Ma Gamble still screeching; she was getting closer to me, but I
knew she would have to push past the choir and the Wise Men to get
to me. I had no desire to get caught, so I waved to the audience,
dropped my fag, and bolted for the wings.
I’d nearly got there when I heard the scream.
It wasn’t an outraged scream, and it wasn’t Ma Gamble,
either; it was high-pitched, from a child, and it was quickly
joined by more screams. I whirled around. At first I couldn’t see
anything but smoke, all around the heads of the sheep, and I
wow, did all of that come out of my mouth?
But then I saw the flames. Some of the loose hay on the
floor had caught, and the corner of one of the bales, too.
My cigarette. The sheep were backing away; a little kid
pushed against Stone and he stumbled. Lee clutched baby Muriel to
her chest and retreated behind the manger; her exit path was
blocked by the choir and the Wise Men and now, by Ma Gamble too,
who was striding forward shouting, ‘Fire! Fire! Someone grab the
extinguisher! Children, leave the stage in an orderly fashion!’
I pushed the sunglasses up onto my forehead. Should I run?
Should I stay and try to put out the fire? I took a step towards
it, and then one away, and then I looked out into the audience.
Some parents were storming the stage, some were running for the
exits, some were standing yelling directions to their offspring.
Doris Pinchbeck had a red fire extinguisher in her hand and she was
climbing the steps up to the stage.
The only person in her seat was my mother. She sat, her
lips thin with fury, her hands fisted in her lap, staring at me.
The black sheep who’d ruined her reputation in the village.
I’d be punished for this, for certain. I’d probably be
grounded for the rest of my natural life, and forget about pocket
money. I’d get all the dirty jobs at home and at the factory.
I smiled at my mother, tasting her lipstick on my mouth. I
didn’t care about the punishment. It was worth almost anything not
to be a sheep.
If you liked this story, and would like to know more about
what happened to Liza and Lee when they were grown up, please check
Getting Away With It
‘Wherever there’s trouble, there’s Liza Haven...’
That’s what the villagers of Stoneguard used to say. But
when your identical twin sister’s the local golden girl, sometimes
it’s more fun to be the bad twin.
Now working in LA as a stuntwoman, Liza can be as wild as
she wants. But when she loses her job, and almost her life, she’s
forced to return home.
Only, things have changed in Stoneguard and her sister Lee
has gone, deserting their difficult mother, a flagging family
business and a dangerously attractive boyfriend. What’s more, the
whole village thinks that Liza
Can Liza get away with pretending to be the good twin? Or
is it finally time to discover who she
A hilarious and heartbreaking story about running away and
finding your way home again.
‘A good twin, a bad twin, a hot bloke and an ice-cream
business...what’s not to love?’
I wrote this story as a flashback within the main body of
Getting Away With It
; it’s a memory of the main character,
Liza. I absolutely loved writing it. I laughed like crazy and
wished that I’d had the guts to do something similar in some of the
more misguided amateur dramatics I was in as a girl.
But when the book was finished, it was quite long and I
realised that this flashback wasn’t really necessary to move the
action forward. So I cut it, with much pain. I’m really pleased to
be able to offer it as a standalone read now. And I hope it will
interest you in the book.
All of the characters in this short story appear in the
book as well. Some of them, like Liza’s mother, have changed quite
a bit. Others, like Mouse or Rock or Ma Gamble, are very much the
same twenty years on. And Will Naughton...ah, Will Naughton is a
case all his own.
If you’re interested in geeky things like this,
was originally in the book just before the chapter
Return to Stoneguard
, on page 99 of the paperback
edition. The incidents in this story are referred to in the
Going Round in
Thanks for reading.