Read Sugar and Spice Online

Authors: Jean Ure

Sugar and Spice

“Ruth! Time to get up.”

Time to get up. Get yourself dressed. I’m not telling you again!
Every morning, same old thing.

“Did you hear me? Ruth?”

Yes, I did! I heard you.

“I’d like some kind of response, please!”

And then she’ll go,
I hope you haven’t gone back to sleep?

“I hope you haven’t gone back to sleep?”

Get up, get dressed. How many more times?

Why doesn’t she just give it a rest?

“Do I have to shout myself hoarse? Get yourself up this instant!” Mum suddenly appeared like a tornado at the bedroom door. “And get your sisters up, as well. For goodness’ sake! It’s gone seven o’clock.”

Boo hoo! So what?

“Do you want to be late for school? Because you will be!”

Don’t care if I am. Sooner be late than get there early.

“All this big talk,” said Mum. “Going to be a
Going to pass
You’ll be lucky to get a job in Tesco’s if you don’t shift yourself and make a bit of an effort!”

Mum had no idea. She didn’t know what it was like. She didn’t know how much I hated it. Hated, hated, HATED it!

“Ruth, I’m warning you.” Mum marched across to the window and yanked back the curtains. I could tell she was in a mood. “I can’t take much more of this! I’m running out of patience.”

So why couldn’t she just go away and leave me alone? I burrowed further down the bed, wrapping myself up in the duvet. I was safe in the duvet. In bed, in the bedroom. At home. I’d have liked to stay there for
always. Never go out again anywhere, ever. And specially not to

“I mean it,” said Mum. “I can’t be doing with this battle every morning. I’ve got your dad to see to, I’ve got your brother to see to…now, come along! Shift yourself! I don’t have all day.” And with one tug she hauled the duvet right off me.

I squealed in protest, curling myself up into a tight little ball and clinging to the pillow with both hands. “Mum,

“Enough,” said Mum. “Just get yourself up. And don’t forget your sisters!”

were still asleep. They’d sleep through an earthquake, those two. All snuggled up together, Kez
with her thumb in her mouth, Lisa on her back, blowing bubbles. Ah! Bless. Like a pair of little angels.
I don’t think.
Actually, I suppose, they’re not too bad, as sisters go.

They can sometimes be quite sweet, like when Kez climbs on to your lap for a cuddle, or Lisa does her show-off dancing, very solemn, with her fingers splayed out and her face all scrunched up with the effort she’s putting into it. She’s really cute when she does her dancing!

Other times, though, they can be a total pain. This is because Mum lets them get away with just about everything. Dad too. He’s even worse!
Spare the rod and spoil the child
is what one of my nans says. I know you’re not allowed to beat your children these days (Nan was beaten with a
when she was young) but I do think Mum and Dad ought to exercise a little bit more discipline. I try to, but it’s a losing battle. They just cheek me or go running off to Dad.

“Dad! Ruth’s being mean!”

Then I’m the one who gets the blame, cos I’m twelve years old and they’re only little, except I don’t
personally think nine is as little as all that. I’m sure I wouldn’t have been rude to my older sister when I was nine. If I’d had an older sister. I certainly wouldn’t have helped myself to her things without asking, which is what Lisa is always doing and which drives me completely
Kezzy is only six, so maybe there is a bit of an excuse for her. Maybe.

Anyway, I wasn’t wasting my breath pleading with them. I just got hold of the pillows and yanked. That got their attention! Kez blinked at me like a baby owl. Lisa started wailing.

“Get up!” I said, and kicked the bed. Unlike Mum, I don’t stand for any nonsense. You have to be firm. “Go on! Get up!”

“Don’t want to get up,” grumbled Lisa. “Haven’t finished sleeping.”

“Can’t help that,” I said. “You have to go to school.” When I was nine, I loved going to school. I couldn’t get there fast enough. “Who’ve you got this term?” I said.

Lisa sniffed and said, “Mrs Henson.”

I felt this great well of envy. Lisa didn’t know how
lucky she was! Mrs Henson was just the best teacher I ever had.
The best.
When I told Mrs Henson I wanted to be a doctor she didn’t laugh or say that I’d better not set my sights too high. She said, “Well, and why not? I’m sure that would be possible, if you work hard enough.” She made you feel like you could do anything you wanted. You could be a doctor or a teacher. You could even be Prime Minister!

“Mrs Henson is just so lovely,” I said.

Lisa said she wasn’t lovely. “She tells me off.”

“In that case, you’re obviously doing something wrong,” I said.

“I’m not doing anything wrong. She just picks on me!”

“Mrs Henson doesn’t
on people,” I said. I felt quite cross with my stupid little sister. Fancy having a wonderful teacher like Mrs Henson and not appreciating her! If I still had Mrs Henson, Mum wouldn’t have to bawl and bellow at me every morning. I’d be out of bed like a shot! “You just get dressed,” I said. “And stop whining!”

I dragged on my school clothes, which I hated almost as much as I hated school.
Black skirt, grey jumper.
Ugh! It made me feel miserable before I even got there. I’d always looked forward to having a school uniform as I thought it would be something to be, like, proud of, but nobody could be proud of going to
Parkfield High. (Or Krapfilled High, as some of the boys called it. I know it sounds rather rude, but I think it’s more suited than Parkfield since there isn’t any park and there isn’t any field and it’s absolutely
Which is why I hated it.)

Lisa was now complaining that she couldn’t find her knickers and Kez had gone and put her top on inside out, so I had to stop and grovel on the floor, all covered in shoes and socks and toys and books and dirty spoons and empty pots.

I found the missing knickers, which Lisa then screamed she couldn’t wear on account of someone having gone and trodden on them and left a muddy footprint; so we had a bit of an argument about that, with me telling her that no one was going to see them, and her saying that they might, and me saying how? – I mean,
“Boys peek when you go
upstairs,” she said, which meant in the end we had to get out a clean pair, by which time Kez had not only got her top on inside out but had put both feet down the same leg of her trousers and couldn’t work out what to do about it. Honestly! My sisters! Was it any wonder I was always late for school? Not that I cared. Nobody ever noticed, anyway.

In the kitchen, Mum was putting on her make-up, filling lunch boxes, getting breakfast, dressing Sammy. Sammy is my little brother. He’s four years old and is even more spoilt than Kez and Lisa. This is because he’s a
There is a lot of sexism going on in my family.

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