Authors: Cathy Cole
“But who is it
?” Rhi repeated, staring at the printed cream invitation.
“How would I know?” Lila said, gazing at her own invitation.
Polly took Rhi and Lila's invitations and compared them. “Same as mine,” she said in disappointment. “No name. No clue. Just . . . this.”
“Relax and enjoy a free night with us at Heartwell Manor,” Rhi read. “Dinner and breakfast included.”
“I went to Heartwell Manor once,” said Polly. “For a party. I didn't stay, though.”
Listening at her locker two doors down, Eve didn't miss the way Polly shuddered. She winced at the memory of kissing Polly's old boyfriend in the Heartwell Manor gardens. Another reason for her friends to hate her.
“Maybe you won it,” she said, looking over as casually as she could.
“All three of us?” Rhi scoffed. She frowned at the looped gold writing on the heavy card. “I never win anything.”
“Me neither,” said Lila, sliding the card into her locker. “It's probably a scam.”
Eve bit her lip. She could do without Lila casting doubt on the sender's motive. Already Rhi and Polly were frowning.
“When is it?” she asked.
“Tonight,” said Polly, studying her invitation more intently as if it would suddenly give up its secrets.
“Did you get one of these?” Lila asked, looking directly at Eve.
Eve shook her head. On that, at least, she was being entirely honest. “You must have entered a competition or something,” she said, filling her bag with the right books for the morning's classes. “Clicked âLike' on Facebook without reading the small print. We've all done it.”
“Oh!” said Rhi, her eyes opening a little wider. “I did click on something recently.”
“Me too,” said Polly. “That must be it!”
Lila took her invitation out of her locker again and reread it. “Maybe,” she said, sounding doubtful.
Just one more push
, Eve thought.
“If you go,” she said, “you have to try the lobster. It's incredibly expensive, but worth every morsel.”
“Dinner is included,” Lila said. She cocked her head thoughtfully. “It doesn't say anything about not including extremely expensive lobster. I've never had lobster.”
“There's a pool and a spa,” Polly said, biting her lip. “One bad experience shouldn't put me off Heartwell Manor, should it? I never even stayed the night. Their beds are supposed to be the softest in the world.”
Eve could tell her friends were wavering.
“You only live once,” she said, putting her bag over her shoulder. “Go and see what it's like. You might never get another opportunity.”
Turning her back on her friends, she headed down the corridor and into the darkening afternoon. If this didn't work, she thought ruefully, she was in for a lonely night.
Heartside Manor was looking particularly lovely in the clear evening light. Eve sat tensely by the fireside in a big blue wing chair, sipping her juice and checking her watch. She'd arranged everything for her friends in connecting suites at the top of the hotel, with views over the gardens. Gifts, food. Everything except the truth. That this was her attempt at apologizing, and getting her girlfriends to like her again.
She heard Lila's voice first, echoing through the tiled foyer beyond the bar. Eve's heart leaped. She knew no one entering the hotel could see the person sitting in this particular chair if they curled their legs up and kept very, very still. She did exactly that.
“Hello, can I help you?”
Eve heard the sound of the invitation being plonked on to the reception desk. “Um, yes, I hope so,” Lila said. “We got these invitations today.”
“We don't know who they're from,” said a second voice.
“We think maybe it's a competition?” said a third voice.
Eve closed her eyes gratefully. Lila, Polly and Rhi had all come. This was going well â so far.
“Of course,” said the receptionist smoothly. “We are expecting you Miss Murray, Miss Nelson, Miss Wills.”
Eve heard Polly's explosion of giggles. She snuggled a little deeper into the wing chair, listening.
“We'll take your bags up right away,” the receptionist continued. “Here are your keys. Have a pleasant stay with us at Heartwell.”
“This isn't a key,” Eve heard Rhi say in surprise as her friends passed the high back of her chair. “It's a credit card.”
“It's a key card,” said Lila. “Haven't you ever seen one before? I am so having lobster tonight.”
Eve waited until the elevator door slid shut with an expensive purr. Then she uncurled her legs, tried to calm her loudly beating heart, picked up the carrier bags she had stowed by her feet and took the elevator to the third floor.
Suites 304 and 305 were the best rooms in the hotel. Eve's dad was always recommending them to visiting business associates. Eve herself had once spent a Christmas Eve in Suite 305, watching TV and bickering with Chloe while their parents dined downstairs.
She paused outside Suite 304, her key card in her hand. It was stupid, feeling this nervous. Eve straightened her back.
“Room service,” she said bravely, opening the door and stepping into the pale pink carpeted room.
Rhi, Lila and Polly stared at her, open-mouthed. Polly had already put on her hotel bathrobe.
“What are you doing here, Eve?” said Polly at last. The ties on her robe trailed on the soft pink carpet behind her.
“I'm your host, of course,” Eve said, doing her best to sound light-hearted as she moved into the centre of the spacious room. “Isn't this lovely?” She swung the carrier bags hopefully at her friends. “Goodies for everyone.”
sleepover?” said Rhi, looking confused. “What about the competition?”
“There was no competition,” said Lila scornfully, putting her hands on her hips. “I knew this was too good to be true. Come on, guys. Let's go.”
Eve felt panicky as her friends headed for the door. “No, wait. Wait! I . . . wanted to apologize to you. To all of you. I . . . I. . .”
Friends to kick you in the tush when you misbehave.
She could hear Caitlin in her head, as clear as a bell. This was her last chance to fix things.
“I've been a total idiot and a bad friend and I'm sorry,” she said in a rush. “Please stay. There's an explanation!”
Lila marched back towards Eve. “An
? What is there to explain? You've made all our lives miserable. You tried to steal our boyfriends. I think that's enough
Tears welled up in Eve's eyes. “I've been a bitch. I know I have,” she said in a small voice. “You don't know how difficult it is, being me.”
Lila laughed in amazement. “Now I've heard it all!”
“Quiet, Lila,” said Rhi. She sat down on one of the wide white beds. “Let's give Eve a few moments.”
Hot tears ran down Eve's cheeks. She let them fall. It was a strange feeling, letting herself be vulnerable like this. “One minute everything was great,” she sniffed. “Then Lila came along.”
Lila glared. “I've heard enough of this.”
Eve caught Lila's arm as the dark-haired girl headed towards the door again. “I'm just saying what I felt! I'm not saying I was
to feel that way, OK?” She looked hopelessly at the hostile faces of the three girls around her. “I'm sorry Rhi, for the whole Max business. I'm sorry Polly for the way I treated you.” She swallowed. “And I'm sorry for not making you welcome when you came to Heartside Bay, Lila. I was . . . jealous, I think.”
Eve was surprised to hear herself say it out loud. Jealous. She'd been jealous, all along.
“Jealous?” echoed Lila incredulously. “Of me?”
“Don't kid yourself, Lila,” Eve said with a waspish flash of her usual self. “You're beautiful. And popular. You'd only been in the school for five minutes before all the boys started falling for you. You took Ollie.”
“For all the good it did me,” said Lila sourly.
There was a long silence.
apologized,” said Rhi at last. “We should give it a go.”
Polly shrugged, clearly trying to keep the peace. She waved her arms around the room at the warm blankets folded on the ends of the beds, the basket of hot chocolate and biscuits on the dressing table, the widescreen TV and the huge marble bathroom. “We do have all this to try before the night is out.”
Lila grunted, but sat down on the end of a bed.
“Good!” Eve said, relieved. “Time for presents.”
She gave everyone a swish little carrier bag. “PJs,” she said nervously. “Designer, naturally. I think I got the right sizes.” She hoped the others actually liked what she'd bought them. “I've got us all face masks too. Lovely organic ones. Mummy uses them every week. You wouldn't believe how. . .”
. . .
expensive they are
, she was going to say. Something in Lila's face stopped her. “How nice they are,” she finished a little lamely.
Everyone took their presents silently out of the bags and looked at them.
Eve rushed on.
“Room service! We can order the lobster if you like. I know Lila wants to try it. I'll just order us some lemonade first. They make it with real lemons here â it's gorgeous. Does everyone like lemonade?”
Rhi put her PJs gently down on the bed. “Eve, stop trying so hard,” she said.
Eve rubbed her temples. Her hands were trembling. “Sorry.”
How many times can one person say sorry in an evening?
she wondered a little hopelessly.
“I want to have a massive bubble bath,” said Polly, disappearing into the bathroom. A moment later there was a squeal. “There are TWO bathtubs in here! OMG, and I think they're Jacuzzis!”
Lila's eyes brightened. “Let's get our swimming costumes on. Everyone brought them for the spa, right? We can share the tubs.”
“All of us?” said Rhi in surprise.
Polly put her head round the bathroom door. “They're big enough for four people in each,” she said, giggling. “Come on!”
Everyone started taking off their clothes and rummaging through their bags for swimming costumes. When a startled-looking room-service waiter appeared at the door with two large jugs of chilled lemonade five minutes later, a half-dressed Rhi shrieked and ducked behind the bed.
“Oh man,” Lila sighed, relaxing at last into the steaming bubbles of the Jacuzzi she was sharing with Rhi. “That poor guy's face.”
face?” Rhi objected. “I've never turned so red in my life!”
Everyone roared with laughter. Eve dipped her head back into the bubbles, feeling the water massaging her head. She felt all her nerves and anxieties about the evening swirling away, light as the scented bath foam they were using. Everything was going to be all right.
“Thanks for doing this, Eve,” said Polly as Eve came up again for air.
“Any time,” Eve smiled.
They made the Jacuzzi last as long as they could, before Rhi started complaining of wrinkly fingers. Then, dressed in their cosy new PJs with their Heartwell Manor dressing gowns over the top, the girls sat down in a comfortable circle on the floor to have the most delicious room-service lobster picnic in the world.
The face packs were next, followed by assorted bottles of nail polish for some experimental manicures. Rhi found some decent music on a radio station and Polly made hot chocolate for everyone to drink.
“Not bad, Eve,” said Lila, lolling back against the bed to admire her black and white yin-yang nails. “Not bad at all.”
There was a knock on the door. Eve padded over to see who it was.
“Caitlin!” she shrieked in delight.
Caitlin was swathed in an expensive-looking shearling jacket, dark trousers and heeled ankle boots. “Hi babes,” she smiled, peering over Eve's shoulder into the room. “I just thought I'd come by and see how you were getting on.”
Eve hugged her impulsively. “It's turned into the most brilliant evening. Come and meet everyone. Everyone, this is Caitlin. Caitlin, this is Lila, Rhi and Polly.”
“I feel a bit underdressed,” said Lila, looking down at her PJs.
“Given the choice,” said Caitlin, throwing down her shearling on the bed, “I would wear PJs
day. A silk polka-dot pair. So chic. What are we doing?”
“Oh, can you stay?” said Eve in delight. Could this evening get any better?
“We're about to play truth or dare,” Polly giggled. “Do you want to join us?”
“Oh darlings, I'd shock you terribly,” said Caitlin with a careless shrug.
“We're not that easy to shock,” said Lila, rising to the challenge.
Caitlin settled down on the floor between Eve and Lila. “Fine,” she said with a glint in her eye. “Truth.”
“Have you ever stolen anything?” Lila asked, grinning.
Caitlin thought. “I stole a Lamborghini once, for about five minutes,” she said. “I almost drove it into the swimming pool.”
“No!” Lila gasped. “Seriously?”
“It was at a party,” Caitlin giggled. “I would have taken the Rolls-Royce, only I couldn't reach the pedals.”
“Your turn, Lila,” Rhi said. “Truth or dare?”
“Truth,” said Lila.
“Would you take Ollie back if he asked you?”
“I wouldn't touch Ollie again if you paid me,” Lila said at once. “I'm through with boys. They are so much
“I know what you mean,” Rhi agreed with feeling.
“Girl power all the way!” laughed Polly.
“From now on,” Lila declared, “I'm going to have fun.”
“You haven't done one yet, Eve,” said Rhi. “Truth or dare?”