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Authors: Cath Crowley

A Little Wanting Song

BOOK: A Little Wanting Song
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To Nancy and Joe Davis, and to Jessie and Tom Crowley—
My beautiful grandparents

Contents

Title Page

Dedication

Chapter 1 -
Charlie

Chapter 2 -
Rose

Chapter 3 -
Charlie

Chapter 4 -
Rose

Chapter 5 -
Charlie

Chapter 6 -
Rose

Chapter 7 -
Charlie

Chapter 8 -
Rose

Chapter 9 -
Charlie

Chapter 10 -
Rose

Chapter 11 -
Charlie

Chapter 12 -
Rose

Chapter 13 -
Charlie

Chapter 14 -
Rose

Chapter 15 -
Charlie

Chapter 16 -
Rose

Chapter 17 -
Charlie

Chapter 18 -
Rose

Chapter 19 -
Charlie

Chapter 20 -
Rose

Chapter 21 -
Charlie

Chapter 22 -
Rose

Chapter 23 -
Charlie

Chapter 24 -
Rose

Chapter 25 -
Charlie

Chapter 26 -
Rose

Chapter 27 -
Charlie

Chapter 28 -
Rose

Chapter 29 -
Charlie

Chapter 30 -
Rose

Chapter 31 -
Charlie

Chapter 32 -
Rose

Chapter 33 -
Charlie

Chapter 34 -
Rose

Chapter 35 -
Charlie

Chapter 36 -
Rose

Chapter 37 -
Charlie

Chapter 38 -
Rose

Chapter 39 -
Charlie

Chapter 40 -
Charlie

Chapter 41 -
Rose

Chapter 42 -
Charlie

Chapter 43 -
Charlie

Chapter 44 -
Charlie

Chapter 45 -
Rose

Chapter 46 -
Charlie

Chapter 47 -
Rose

Chapter 48 -
Charlie

Chapter 49 -
Rose

Chapter 50 -
Charlie

Chapter 51 -
Charlie

Chapter 52 -
Rose

Chapter 53 -
Charlie

Chapter 54 -
Rose

Chapter 55 -
Charlie

Chapter 56 -
Rose

Chapter 57 -
Charlie

Chapter 58 -
Rose

Chapter 59 -
Charlie

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Copyright

Dad and I leave town in the early dark. It’s the second Sunday of the holidays, and we pack up the old blue car with enough clothes for summer and hit the road. It’s so early he’s wiping hills of sand piled in the corners of his eyes. I wipe a few tears from mine. Tears don’t pile, though. They grip and cling and slide in salty trails that I taste till the edge of the city. It’s our first Christmas in the country since Gran died.

At six o’clock the sun rises and lights the car from the outside. Blinds us almost. Dad squints through his glasses at the road, but me? I close my eyes. I like things better when I listen. Everything in the world’s got a voice; most people don’t hear hard enough is all. Sunrise sounds like slow chords dripping from my guitar this morning. Sad chords, in B-flat.

“Open your eyes, Charlie love,” Mum whispers. “You’ll miss out on the day.” Not a lot to miss out on, really. My days have been sort of shaky lately. Like a voice running out of breath. Like a hand playing the blues. Like a girl losing her bikini top in the pool at Jeremy Magden’s final party for Year 10 last week, if we’re getting specific. Mum says look on the bright side. Okay. I guess I was only half naked.

The thing that really kills is that the party started so well. I was talking and making jokes and the words were rolling easily, and I thought: I’ve done it. I’ve found that thing, whatever that thing is, that most people have but I don’t.

“Check out Alex checking you out,” Dahlia said, and we laughed. I felt good because it sounded like she wasn’t mad anymore. And a guy was finally looking at me, not straight through to the other side. There was this beat under my skin, a little disco weaving through me. That’s how it is when I’m alone and playing the guitar, but that’s never how it is in a crowd.

Only, that day it was. I had the first line of a new song in my head. A song about a guy and a party and a smile. The words were in my mouth and the tune was in my blood, and it felt so loud I thought: If Alex kisses me, he’ll hear it singing through my skin.

And I wanted him to hear. Because he grinned electricity through my bones, when most days I play solo and acoustic. Because Dahlia’s new friends might like me if I had something other than music to talk about during Louise Spatula’s post-party analysis.

“You look good. The sunglasses are working. You can do this,” Dahlia told me. And I really thought I could. I was confident. I was ready.

“Just remember,” Louise said, “a blow-up doll could get Alex.”

I was stuffed. “Thanks. I won’t keep that in mind.” But I did keep it in mind. If things went badly, Louise would make sure everyone knew it and I’d be a step below plastic for the rest of my high school life. Dahlia took Louise inside so I wouldn’t have an audience, but she did it too late. My disco disappeared. I walked across to Alex, humming a song I called “Fuck” because that was the only word in it.

The chorus was moving through my head and I was so busy humming I didn’t see the football game. I walked straight through the middle. David Amar threw the ball; Joseph Ryan sprinted to get it and collected me on the way. I ran in front of him for a couple of seconds, and then I ducked and rolled into the pool. Unexpected, sure. But not entirely uncool.

It was kind of funny. Till I realized the force of the fall had loosened my bikini top and it was impossible to find in the middle of all the water-bombing that was going on around me.

Swimming along the bottom, I forced my eyes open and searched through legs. I could have done something creative with a couple of chip packets and a leaf at that point, but I had nothing. Absolutely nothing. Except a little voice inside me screaming out for one, just one, normal encounter with a guy. Or at least abnormal with clothes.

I figured my best chance was to move slow and hope no
one noticed. Usually that’s the way it goes for me at parties so it wasn’t like I was asking for a miracle. I raised myself out of the water and walked to where I’d left my towel. Louise was outside by then but I was elevator music behind her and she didn’t notice a thing. I was feeling kind of lucky.

Till I saw a packet of tissues sitting on the chair where my towel had been.
A packet of freaking tissues
. I’m not entirely lacking in optimism, though. I pulled out a couple. My hair dripped and a second later they disappeared in my hands. Turns out “Fuck” is a song for all occasions.

“Oh my God, Charlie, your boobs are hanging out!”

“No shit, Louise,” I said as every boy in Jeremy’s backyard fired up his tracking equipment and locked his eyes onto my chest. “Boobs” is one of those words, like “fire” or “gun” or “free money.” You just have to look.

And Alex looked.

And Jason Taylor let out this squealing laugh and Louise joined in and then so did everyone else. “You should have shown me the bikini in the fitting rooms at the shop,” Louise said as she stretched out on her towel. “I would have told you not to buy it.”

And that was it. I was sucked into the Louise Spatula time machine and spat out into Year 3 where I’m handing over coins to kids because she told them I should pay to be their friend. I remembered Dahlia saying to me in Year 5, “From now on,
they
pay
you.”

Her eyes said the same thing at Jeremy’s party as she handed me a towel. I took my clothes to the bathroom. I
stared in the mirror for a while. I did that thing where you turn and spin back and try to catch yourself by surprise. See you how the world does. How a guy called Alex might. Not spectacular, sure. But not entirely unspectacular.

I got dressed and walked back to the pool thinking, Stuff you all. You’ve seen my skin, big deal. Big fucking deal. Unless you were born wearing designer jeans and T-shirts, someone’s seen yours, too. I planned on saying exactly that, only Louise got in first. “Welcome back, four-eyes.”

It was breathtaking, and in the worst kind of way: it took my breath. Jason pig-laughed again and Dahlia shifted her towel toward Louise. “Your hair’s dripping on me, Charlie,” she said. I told her I was leaving and she told me goodbye. Not see you tomorrow or see you later. Goodbye. A flat, hard endnote.

Dahlia came to my school a few weeks into Year 5 and we clicked. I hadn’t clicked with anyone before her. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because there was never an even number of kids in the class and I was too shy to push into a pair.

Being on my own before Year 4 wasn’t so bad. On the bright side I never had to share my lunch, which was always first-class since my dad’s a chef and he made it every day. But I came back from the summer holidays pretty desperate for a friend.

Dahlia heard me one lunchtime, playing my guitar. I was sitting on the steps near the classroom, doing this cover of a Johnny Cash song Mum had taught me. “How come you’re sitting on your own?” she’d asked.

I said, “Just because.” And switched to a song I knew she knew and she hung around. Dahlia couldn’t play an instrument but she could really belt out a tune.

And she could eat my dad’s chocolate cake faster than anyone I ever saw. “Watch this,” she said that first day. “I can eat and sing at the same time.” She shoved a fist-sized piece of cake into her mouth and sang what I think was Madonna. Kids stared, we were laughing so hard. She didn’t care what they thought of me. “Charlie’s funny,” she said. “And you’re all boring.”

We’d have these sleepovers at my place where we’d turn up the radio and sing ourselves raw. We wouldn’t stop till Dad came in about three. Dahlia would freeze. Superwoman pajamas on, hairbrush microphone in hand, she’d ask, “Any requests, Mr. Duskin?” She took the quiet in our house and smashed it.

Things were great till Louise came onto the scene. The teacher put her next to Dahlia in a class seating plan in Year 9 and things took off from there. Dahlia says she’s nicer than people think, but surveys taken suggest the opposite. Being dead is better than being the enemy of Louise—just ask Andrew Moshdon.

One afternoon on the bus last year Louise said, “Can you move, please, Andrew? I want to sit next to Dahlia.”

“Don’t see your name on the seat.” He turned his face to the window. Kids all around heard. Greg Forego whistled low. Andrew was a dead man.

Next week at the school sports carnival he pissed in the
pool, so the story went. Only he wasn’t anywhere near the water. He sat with me all day at the timer’s desk, laughing at my jokes and lending me his hat. The boys started calling him pisshead and the girls called him pig. Most guys would have gotten away with it, but Andrew was different. Andrew read in the library at lunchtime. He hated football. He was depending on Charlie Duskin to help him.

BOOK: A Little Wanting Song
2.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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