Authors: Cathy Cole
Polly ran towards Lila. Max had shoved Ollie backwards and was talking to him, low and fast. The shopping vouchers lay forgotten on the table as the rest of 10Y whispered with excitement and Mr Morrison and Mr Cartwright tried in vain to bring some kind of order.
Eve had been wanting to see Ollie and Lila break up for so long that it took several moments to process that, finally, it had happened for real. A rush of annoyance broke over her. Of all the times to drop this particular bombshell, Lila and Ollie had to do it on her away day? Now the break-up would be all anyone talked about back at school, and Eve's hard work would be forgotten.
Typical. It made Eve want to scream.
Lila pushed Polly away and ran down the stairs, tears streaking her cheeks. Without a backward glance at Eve, Josh hurtled after Lila. Eve was bleakly amused to see him push Ryan out of the way at the top of the stairs.
So much for Josh and me
, she thought despondently.
Eve watched as Max patted Ollie on the shoulder and then left, taking the lift down with Rhi. A fantastic thought suddenly struck Eve and all at once, her spirits rose.
Something good might come out of this after all
, she thought.
She marched up to the sullen-looking Ollie and took his arm.
“Come with me.”
Ollie looked startled, but followed Eve obediently back through the office to the executive lift.
“Not again,” tutted Gloria.
“Last time Gloria. Today, anyway.” Eve was suddenly feeling so cheerful she blew the old secretary a kiss as the lift doors closed.
Ollie looked distractedly around the plush interior as the lift descended. Watching him, Eve folded her arms and leaned against the mirrored back wall of the lift.
“That was bad,” she remarked.
“I know just what you need,” Eve said in her most soothing voice.
“I doubt it.”
Eve wagged a finger at him. “Don't give me a hard time, Ollie. I'm
you. This lift takes us straight to a private door into a side street. We can avoid the gawkers.”
Ollie thawed a little. “Thanks,” he said. “That would be . . . you know. Good.”
Eve had planned this day down to the last detail. This final little treat had been intended for her and Josh, to clinch their romantic deal. But seeing how she'd already messed that one up, Ollie was the next best thing.
, she reminded herself a little gleefully. Finally, maybe this was her chance with Ollie. At last, she could have him to herself. Show him what a good pair they made. By the time she'd finished with Ollie, Lila would be a distant memory.
She checked her reflection in the lift mirrors, and was pleased with what she saw. The sparkle was back in her eyes.
“Where are we going anyway?” said Ollie as they came out of the lift into the shady side street.
“The harbour,” Eve said, flashing him a sideways smile. “We're going for a little sail on Daddy's yacht.”
The thunderclouds on Ollie's brow lifted. “We are?”
Eve ran through the wardrobe she'd taken to the yacht the night before. She had chosen a selection of her favourite clothes to really wow Josh. Something told her that Ollie would like them too.
“I was going to use the yacht this afternoon anyway, so the crew is expecting me,” she said casually. “I want to throw a party on one of the islands off the harbour, but I can't decide which one.” She smiled. “Maybe you can help me decide.”
Ollie's handsome face flushed with excitement. “Seriously? I'd love that. Heading for an island sounds
.” He glanced over his shoulder at the town, his expression darkening briefly. “The further away from Lila I can get, the better.”
Eve couldn't help smiling to herself. She dipped her head so her hair fell flirtatiously over one eye. “Feeling more cheerful now?”
There was a clear spring in Ollie's step as he took the gangway in three quick strides, gazing up at the tall masts and smooth shining deck of the Somerstowns' yacht. The crew appeared from nowhere with two glasses of cold orange juice.
“First-class treatment,” Ollie said with pleasure, swirling his juice around the tall crystal glass.
“Daddy always has the best,” Eve said proudly. “Make yourself comfortable. The crew knows where we're going. I'm just going to change.”
The yacht slipped its moorings and sailed out into the harbour. Eve quickly changed into her favourite white jeans and striped jumper, with her new red sandals from Paris. A grey cashmere scarf around her neck and little gold studs in her ears and she felt a million dollars.
She found Ollie gazing off the prow of the yacht, the wind blowing his thick blond hair into peaks. He looked sad.
“Are you OK?” Eve asked.
Ollie shrugged. “Not great,” he said honestly.
“Give yourself time,” Eve said, laying her hand on his sleeve.
“Lila and I were over a long time ago,” Ollie confessed with a sigh. “We both want different things, you know? I just wasn't brave enough to make the break.” He looked even sadder. “And I've had this feeling for a while now that she likes someone else anyway.”
I bet she wants to get her claws into Josh,
Eve thought. How neat and perfect that would be. It would probably all work out really nicely for Lila. She was one of those girls who always came up smelling of roses.
“You're better off without her,” she said fiercely.
“I guess.” Ollie flushed and fiddled with his glass. “And if I'm honest, I've kind of . . . liked someone else for a while too.”
Eve felt a little thrill in the pit of her stomach. Had Ollie preferred her to Lila all along?
“And . . . do you think this person likes you too?” she asked, feeling a little breathless.
“I feel really bad even talking about this,” he said with a sheepish laugh. “I mean, Lila and I only broke up about ten minutes ago! But . . . I think she might. What should I do?”
I mustn't rush this
, Eve thought exultantly. “The heart knows what it wants,” she said, and she squeezed Ollie's arm lightly.
Ollie's smile lit up his handsome face. “You're right. You're always right, Eve, aren't you?”
Eve imagined Ollie's face cradled in her hands. His lips pressed against hers. “I don't know about that,” she said lightly. “But I do my best.”
The islands were coming into view. Eve leaned on Ollie's shoulder and pointed at one of the smaller ones, a green triangle with high cliffs at the back and a wide sandy shoreline. “That's the one I want for the party,” she said into his ear. “Shall we check it out?”
Ollie was like an excited schoolboy as the yacht moored at the little jetty that jutted out from the island. He rushed ashore with a whoop.
“This is awesome!” he gasped. “I've always wanted to visit one of these islands, and now here we are! We have the whole place to ourselves! A party here would be incredible, Eve. How many people are you going to invite?”
“About fifty.” Eve pointed at a patch of level, grassy ground, feeling excited as she imagined how everything would look. “I thought we could have the marquee there, and flares all along the shore. The dance floor will be on the beach, and we'll have a fire pit and live music and a Caribbean theme.”
Ollie looked like he couldn't believe his ears. “It's going to be
incredible if you do all that.”
Eve bathed in the warmth of Ollie's admiration. She checked over the island one more time. Yes, she thought. It would do very nicely.
As the sun began to dip below the clouds, they headed back to Heartside Bay. The air was cool, but not unbearable, so Eve and Ollie stayed up on deck watching the waves.
“I really needed this,” said Ollie, gazing towards the pinprick lights of Heartside Bay's harbour. “My head is feeling so much clearer. Thanks for dragging me along.”
He surprised Eve with a hug. Eve wrapped her arms around Ollie's back and returned the pressure, nestling her head against his neck.
“Ollie?” she said into his shirt.
“How come we never got together?”
Ollie stiffened. “I don't know,” he said.
Eve snuggled a bit closer. They fitted together so well. “We would have made the perfect couple,” she said softly.
The orange glow of the sky was all around them.
“I guess the timing was never right,” Ollie said slowly.
They pulled apart and stared at each other.
“And now would be completely the wrong time, of course,” Eve said, gazing at him. “You only just broke up with Lila.”
“Yes.” Ollie's eyes were wide, fixed on Eve's mouth. His arms tightened round her. “Now would be a really . . . bad . . . time. . .”
Eve opened her mouth at the pressure of Ollie's lips. She pulled him close, feeling his short blond hair between her fingers. It felt triumphant and exciting, to be kissing Ollie. The only thing missing was Lila to witness her victory.
Some part of Eve detached itself. Suddenly she felt as if she was watching herself on a screen. She kissed Ollie a bit harder, trying to enjoy the kiss. Where was the spark? If she couldn't find it with Ollie the school heart throb â the boy of her dreams â then how was she ever going to find it? It was so disappointing, she could cry.
Ollie pulled back.
“Sorry,” he said sheepishly. “Got a bit carried away there, didn't we?”
Eve felt the tears rising. “Don't worry about it,” she said as casually as she could manage.
Ollie stared at the deck. “Right,” he said at last, glancing awkwardly at her. “Well, like I said. Thanks for everything.”
Everything except the kiss
, Eve thought, feeling bleak.
The yacht bumped gently against its moorings in the harbour. Ollie held out his hand. “See you,” he said.
Eve shook Ollie's hand, every part of her dying with humiliation. “Sure,” she said, smiling bravely. “See you.”
Eve didn't know how she got through the rest of the week. Her usual confidence was a little tattered at the edges. Lila and Ollie were avoiding both her and each other. Josh had caught Eve's eye a couple of times on Thursday, but hurried away before Eve could talk to him. Eve wondered bitterly if he had kissed Lila yet.
Her cheeks burned with humiliation every time she thought about her kiss with Ollie. The way Ollie had pulled back. That horrible, awkward goodbye. She wasn't bad at kissing. Neither was Ollie. So why hadn't it worked? Eve shuddered. The memory wouldn't leave her alone.
The only way out of the misery was to find a fresh focus, Eve decided. It was time to get her party underway.
She threw herself wholeheartedly into the planning. Straight after school on Thursday, she headed for her favourite stationery shop and selected some beautiful thick invitation cards in a bright Caribbean blue.
I'll print them in gold
, she decided,
and put them into matching envelopes filled with sparkling sand.
Feeling happier now that she had one decision under her belt, she hurried home to draw up a list of guests. Wriggling out of her school uniform, she threw her clothes haphazardly into the laundry bin and took a long, hot shower. Then she snuggled into her favourite cashmere pyjamas and hopped into her big white quilted bed, threw on some reggae music to get her in the mood, and started to draw up her ultimate guest list. There would have to be a mix, she decided. Not just kids from school, but other friends as well.
in Heartside Bay would know about Eve Somerstown's latest incredible party. She'd be the talk of the town.
Eve spent Friday in a pleasant daze, compiling playlists of the perfect music and imagining the best way to serve drinks and nibbles on a beach. They would use banana leaves as plates. Eco-friendly and imaginative. Her mouth watered at the thought of the gorgeous Caribbean food she would serve to her guests. The only problem she could foresee was the tiny matter of pinning down a suitable boy to take.
Why did boys have to ruin everything?
When the bell rang for the end of class on Friday, Eve remained at her desk, staring at her extensive to-do list. She had chosen three weeks on Saturday as the date for her party. It would be a rush to get everything done, but she liked it that way. It gave her less time to think about other stuff.
Her phone buzzed in her pocket. She tugged it out.
Hi Evie. Come to the office after school?
Eve hadn't seen much of her dad since the away day; it had felt as if he was permanently in meetings, or travelling. She hadn't even had a chance to ask him what he had thought of all the hard work she'd done to make the away day a success. It was frustrating, given that she'd done it all for him to begin with.
I hope nothing's wrong
, she thought, pocketing her phone and breaking into a gentle jog towards the doors.
Daddy's been acting so stressed lately.
Eve reached Somerstown Developments a little out of breath, and took the normal lift to the top floor. The office was busy as usual. Eve gave everyone a brief glance, checking for stressed faces, bad news. Everyone seemed calm, even cheerful. But Eve still felt anxious.
“Daddy wanted to see me, Gloria,” she told her father's secretary without preamble.
Gloria rustled through a pile of papers by her telephone. “Did he now? Well, I'm afraid you've missed him.”
Eve was in no mood for this. “That's ridiculous,” she snapped. “He told me
to come to the office after school. Why wouldn't he be here to meet me?”
Gloria nodded behind Eve. “I believe he wanted you to meet Caitlin.”
Eve swung round.
“Hello,” said the beautiful dark-haired girl behind her. She smiled, revealing a set of perfect white teeth. “You must be Eve.”
Eve felt flustered. “Where's Dad?” she blurted. “Who are you?”
“Manners,” muttered Gloria behind her desk.
Caitlin's glossy ebony hair framed her smooth, heart-shaped face set with large, warm chocolate-brown eyes. She looked a little older than Eve, maybe eighteen or so. “Don't worry Gloria,” she said, giving the old secretary a dazzling smile. “There's obviously been a bit of a miscommunication. Eve, I'm Caitlin Matthews. Your father arranged for me to come over this afternoon and meet you.”
Mechanically Eve shook the pale hand extended in her direction. She had no idea what was going on. Her cheeks felt hot.
“I run a party-planning business,” Caitlin continued. “Your dad thought we could have a useful conversation. You're planning something on one of the islands off the coast, right?”
Eve was completely thrown by this strange girl's presence in her father's office. For the first time in her life, she didn't know what to do. “Um,” she said at last, “yes. A party.”
Caitlin's eyes gleamed. “Fantastic idea for a venue,” she said. “I've never organized anything on an island before.”
Eve tried to get a grip on the conversation. “My dad asked you to help me plan my party?”
Caitlin nodded. “Our fathers are in business together. Well,” she amended, flashing another heart stopping smile, “they aren't in business yet, but this afternoon's meeting should fix that. My dad is hoping to invest in Somerstown Developments.”
At last, something was starting to make sense. “And while they talk business, Daddy thought you could help me plan my party?” said Eve.
Caitlin laughed. “Exactly. If you don't mind a little help?”
Part of Eve felt a little outraged that her father thought she needed help. The rest of her felt excited. “I'd like that,” she said, feeling strangely shy. “I'm hoping to hold the party three weeks from tomorrow, and there's loads to do. I've made a start, but you know what it's like.”
“Three weeks?” Caitlin whistled. “We have
of time, don't you worry about that. I bet you've already been making lists.” She linked arms with Eve and grinned at her. “I can tell this one is going to be
There was a warmth about Caitlin that made Eve feel more relaxed than she had in ages. “Great,” she said happily. “So . . . do you want to discuss it now?”
“There's no time like the present,” Caitlin said. “Do you mind if I have one of these, Gloria?”
She picked a mint from the bowl that always sat beside Gloria's computer and waved it enquiringly at the secretary. Eve held her breath. She'd never dared help herself to Gloria's sweets.
“Have as many as you like, dear,” said Gloria cheerfully. “They don't do my figure any good.”
“You have a
figure, Gloria,” said Caitlin, wagging a beautifully manicured finger at the secretary. “Never let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Eve marvelled at the way Caitlin had so effortlessly made the grumpy old secretary smile. She felt a rush of admiration for her unexpected new friend.
“Come on, Eve Somerstown,” said Caitlin through the mint wedged in her cheek. “Let's go and find somewhere cosy to make plans.”
“Take the executive lift if you like, dear,” said Gloria unexpectedly. “It's the quickest way out of the building.”
“Fantastic!” Caitlin clapped her hands with delight. “I've always wanted a ride in an executive lift. Gloria, you are a
Eve tried not to stare at Caitlin's reflection in the lift mirrors as they descended to street level. She was flawless from every angle. Her clothes, her hair, her skin. It was like she had a light glowing inside her. She made Eve feel dull, childlike. The school uniform didn't help.
Down at street level, Caitlin waved her keys haphazardly in various directions until a gleaming red soft-top car started blinking some way up the street.
“I can never remember where I've parked,” she said, striding towards the car.
Caitlin's car was almost as gorgeous as Caitlin.
“Where are we going?” Eve asked, sliding into the passenger seat.
Caitlin patted Eve on the leg, making her jump. “To a great little place I know. Believe me, it's guaranteed to get us in a party mood.”
Eve fiddled with her shirt collar. “Caitlin?” she said. “Do you mind if we stop at my house first? I really want to get out of my school clothes.”
“But that little blazer is adorable,” said Caitlin in surprise. “So chic.”
“I'd really like to change,” Eve said, laughing.
“Whatever you say.”
The little car roared away from the kerb with a squeal. Eve leaned her head against the headrest, feeling the cool air buffeting her face.
She felt suddenly alive with â something. Hope, maybe.