Authors: Melody James
Other books in the
Signs of Love
First published in Great Britain in 2013 by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd
A CBS COMPANY
Copyright © HotHouse Fiction Limited 2013
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.
The right of Melody James to be identified as the author and illustrator of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs
and Patents Act, 1988.
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
222 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8HB
Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney
Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
eBook ISBN 978-0-85707-329-7
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
With thanks to Kate Cary
The mall is heaving. TK Maxx is maxed out; Monsoon is flooded. I’m in Mizz-tique with Treacle and Savannah. Thumping music vibrates through the soles of my shoes. Light
pools on clothes-rail islands. Shop assistants hover in the shadows.
‘Gemma!’ Treacle tugs my arm, shouting over the noise. ‘What about this one?’
Blue taffeta swishes past my face as she swings a ball gown towards me. It’s so ruffled she could hide a dozen cats in the skirt.
‘You’re going to a prom not a carnival,’ I yell back. Term ends in two weeks and, with exams over, everyone’s obsessing over the school prom.
‘But will Jeff like it?’ Treacle bellows.
I study the ruffles. ‘He could get lost trying to reach you.’
‘Look, Gem!’ Savannah’s zigzagging between the clothes racks towards us. She’s waving a slick, pink, sequined dress. It looks like it’s just been peeled off an
‘Marcus will need shades just to look at you,’ I tell her.
Savannah’s perfect ivory brow creases in puzzlement. ‘So?’
I suddenly realize how negative I sound. What’s wrong with dazzling her boyfriend? And why shouldn’t Jeff have to wade through a sea of taffeta?
I wonder if I’m jealous. After all, they have prom dates and I don’t.
Treacle reaches past me and lifts Savannah’s dress closer to the light. It shimmers. ‘It’s gorgeous!’
Savannah’s still frowning. ‘Perhaps it
too red carpet,’ she muses.
‘No.’ I lift my chin. ‘It’s fabulous.’
I wonder what it would look like on
. My imagination grabs me and soars. Suddenly I’m at the prom, as glamorous as a film star in Savannah’s wow-dress. My arm’s
hooked through Sam’s. He glances at me and smiles. ‘You look beautiful, Gemma.’
I snap out of my fantasy.
Sam won’t ask me out.
Sam works on the school webzine with me. He’s a Year Ten and he’s gorgeous. The rest of the Year Tens on the webzine hardly notice I exist. Year Nines are mostly invisible to Year
Tens. But Sam is always really nice to me. On the school trip to Paris last term, he kept getting a strange moony look. I actually thought he was going to ask me out.
But I was wrong.
The moony look was for Cindy, our webzine editor. Cindy made it perfectly clear that Sam belonged to her. On our last night in Paris, she showed me a gorgeous bracelet Sam had bought her.
I guessed they were dating. Why else would he give her jewellery?
I’ve been steering clear of him ever since. There’s no way I can compete with Cindy’s sleek blonde hair and creamy complexion. I’m all freckles and curly hair.
She’s queen. I’m the court jester.
Treacle taps my shoulder. ‘Look, Gem.’ She points across the shop to where Sally’s hauling Ryan towards a rack of dresses. He’s complaining loudly over the music.
‘You said we were going to check out video games!’ he shouts.
‘I need your opinion.’ Sally parks him in front of a rail of billowing silk.
?’ Ryan stares at Sally like she’s lost her mind. ‘What do you think I am? Your
‘You owe me!’ Sally yells. ‘
kept you sane in the Channel Tunnel?’
‘OK.’ Ryan crumbles under her hard-sell tactics. On the trip to Paris, Ryan’s claustrophobia nearly choked him in the Chunnel. Sally distracted him with every juicy piece of
gossip she knew (that’s a
of juice) and he had no time to think about explosions or flooding or being trapped a mile underwater.
Sally spots us and sashays over. ‘Are you looking for prom dresses too?’
Savannah holds up her pink sequin sheath while Treacle waves her sea of blue ruffles. Sally points at Treacle’s choice. ‘Risky,’ she says decisively. She turns her finger
towards Savannah’s flashy number and nods approvingly. ‘Riskier.’
Savannah grins. ‘Good.’
wearing, Gemma?’ Sally’s question takes me by surprise.
‘I don’t have a date,’ I stammer.
‘Nor do I,’ she tells me. ‘Not yet.’
Was that a sly glance at Ryan? Is she trying to persuade him to ask her out?
Sally starts riffling through a rack of prom dresses. As Ryan watches obediently, I feel Jessica Jupiter stir inside me. Jessica’s my alter ego. I joined the webzine expecting to write
ground-breaking stories. I was going to campaign to keep the bike sheds from being demolished. But Cindy made me the webzine’s horoscope writer. Not even under my own name. She insists I
write under a pseudonym:
It’s a dumb name and a dumb job, but I try and use my powers for good. Thanks to a few lucky predictions, Jessica Jupiter went viral among the students. They hang on her every word. So,
whenever I spot a possible love match, I use Jessica’s astro-advice to steer the love-struck towards their ideal mate. That’s how I helped Treacle score more than a goal on the football
pitch. A few well-chosen words from Jessica helped Jeff see that Treacle was more than just a useful winger. Jessica also nudged Savannah towards Marcus. Savannah has no idea it was me. No one
knows I’m Jessica Jupiter except Treacle and Cindy.
Right now, Jessica’s eyes are flashing with interest.
Time for a little matchmaking.
She’s like a coiled snake inside me, always alert to the scent of romance. This time she
wants to get her fangs into Sally.
Sally and Ryan would make a good match. Ryan’s the class clown, Sally a bubbly gossip. They spark off each other like flints.
I’m already writing Sally’s horoscope in my head.
Star-ling, stop hinting and get to the point. You’re a prize ewe among sheep, but sheep aren’t known for their intelligence. If you’ve set your heart on one of the flock,
you’re going to have to make your feelings absolutely clear. No ifs and definitely no buts.
I feel a stab in my ribs. Treacle’s grabbing my attention with her elbow. ‘Stop planning your Pulitzer Prize and help me try this on.’
Treacle’s been my friend since nursery school; she knows better than anyone when I’ve drifted into my world of words. But writing love advice for Sally won’t win a Pulitzer. I
need to start getting serious journalism published. I managed to sneak an article into the webzine – a piece I wrote about my brother Ben’s cystic fibrosis. But I submitted it
anonymously: it was the only way to make it past Cindy’s Year Nine Censorship Policy. I still have two weeks till the end of term. By then, I’m determined to write something so fabulous
that even Cindy will want to publish it. All I need now is to come up with a killer idea.
Treacle heads for the changing room, the taffeta rustling against her jeans as she drags the dress with her.
‘Wait for me.’ I hurry after her, Savannah hot on my heels.
Inside, two rows of booths line the walls. Treacle and Savannah choose booths either side and disappear behind swishing curtains.
I pace between them like an expectant parent. ‘Is everything OK in there?’
In answer, Treacle opens her curtain.
‘Wow.’ My eyes goggle. The ruffled taffeta makes Treacle’s smooth black hair look glossier than ever and the sky blue gives her a soft princess look. It’s hard to believe
she spends most of her free time thundering up and down a football pitch spraying mud as she slide-tackles whatever she can reach. ‘You look fantastic.’
She steps forward and the taffeta moves around her like a waterfall.
Savannah’s curtain rattles open. She sparkles in pale pink. Her hair cascades over her pale cream shoulders while the dress clings to her like she’s wrapped in fairies’
‘Marcus is going to think he’s in Disneyland,’ I tell her admiringly.
She smiles. ‘What about you, Gem? Are you going to try something on?’
I shrug. ‘What’s the point?’ I might as well wear jeans. With no date, I’ll spend the night holding drinks while couples head for the dance floor.
Self-pity descends, but I shake it off. ‘I’m so proud to have such gorgeous friends.’
Savannah gives me a hug. ‘We’re
gorgeous!’ She spins round and stares at the long mirror. ‘I can’t wait for the prom. We’re going to have such