Girls, Guilty but Somehow Glorious

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Bloomsbury Publishing, London, Berlin and New York

First published in Great Britain in 2007 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

36 Soho Square, London, W1D 3QY

Previously published as
Zoe and Chloe: On the Prowl

Text copyright © Sue Limb 2007

The moral right of the author has been asserted

This electronic edition published in July 2010 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

All rights reserved.

You may not copy, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise

make available this publication (or any part of it) in any form, or by any means

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may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

A CIP catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 978 1 4088 1288 4

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Also by Sue Limb

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Girl, 15: Flirting for England

Girl, 15: Charming But Insane

Girl, (Nearly) 16: Absolute Torture

Girls, Guilty But Somehow Glorious

(Previously published as
Zoe and Chloe: On the Prowl
)

Girls, Muddy, Moody Yet Magnificent

(Previously published as
Zoe and Chloe: Out to Lunch
)

Girls to Total Goddesses

.

.

For Bessie Carter

.

.

1

FRIDAY 1.45 p.m.

Seven days to the earthquake . . .

‘We could always . . . just not go
,
’ I said. We were crossing the schoolyard at change of lessons.

‘Not
go
???’ cried Chloe. ‘Not
GO
? Zoe!’

‘I only thought . . .’ I said, offering her a piece of my chewing gum, ‘we could maybe just kind of ignore it. I mean, stay in and watch the football, or something.’

Zoe scowled. ‘But what about all those poor homeless earthquake victims?’ she demanded. ‘The Earthquake Ball’s not just for fun, it’s to raise money, yeah? Besides, I hate football!
Hate it
!

Hmm. It had been a mistake to mention football. I quite like a spot of footie, myself. I enjoy watching England losing gallantly. I might even paint the St George’s flag on my face, one day. It would hide the spots – especially the massive zit which keeps resurfacing again and again on my chin (I call it Nigel).

But Chloe’s not into football. In fact, she’s not really much into any kind of sport. If you throw her a ball, somehow it tends to hit her on the nose, and if you force her into a pool, she swims like a mad little dog in a panic.

‘OK, not football, sorry,’ I said. ‘But maybe a DVD?’

‘Oh nooooo!’ wailed Chloe. ‘We
can’t
miss the Earthquake Ball! The Ball is gonna be where it’s at! Think of the music! The noise! The headaches! The vomiting! The jealousy! The fights! The broken hearts!’ Her face had a wistful, faraway look. In her imagination, she was already
there.

‘OK, then,’ I said. ‘Yeah, let’s go – I was just being stupid.’ I shrugged amiably. One of us has to be chilled out, and clearly, Chloe could never play that vital role.

‘Yes,’ said Chloe. ‘We’re going. That’s obvious.
Obvious!
But here’s the major prob: who’s going to take us?’

I tossed another piece of gum into my mouth. It’s amazing how quickly it loses its charm. I offered a piece to Chloe.

‘No!’ said Chloe. ‘My brace, remember?’

‘Sorry, sorry,’ I said. Chloe’s brace had been such an epic ordeal. ‘Does it hurt at the moment?’ I asked.

‘No, but I’ve got to have it adjusted in a couple of weeks’ time. I’d rather do maths for the
rest of my life
than have my brace adjusted
for even two minutes
.’

She looked anxious. Maths is one of her very worst ordeals. Or, as she might put it: ‘Maths is two of my very worst ordeals.’

Chloe sighed, and snuggled more deeply into her fleece. Though fresh, the air was also almost freezing. We plunged through the swing doors into the warmth of the corridor.

‘Who in the world is going to take us to the Ball, though?’ said Chloe miserably. ‘If we can’t find a couple of boys to go with, we’ll be social rejects.’

‘What about Fergus and Toby?’ I pondered. ‘They’d probably take us. If we paid them.’

‘Fergus and Toby?’ screeched Chloe in horror. ‘Nothing personal, I mean they’re great guys . . .’ she looked round furtively, to make sure neither Fergus nor Toby had inconveniently appeared. ‘I would rather walk down the high street wearing
only
an old man’s trilby hat than go with either Fergus or Toby.’

‘What’s wrong with them?’ I asked. I quite like Fergus and Toby. They’re in our class and they’re a laugh.

‘Zoe, they’re so immature, they’re practically foetuses!’ whispered Chloe. ‘I mean, Fergus is a microbe!’

‘I think you may be exaggerating just a tad,’ I said, laughing. ‘He perched on my hand to peck up a few crumbs yesterday and he was definitely heavier than the average microbe.’

‘Fergus is approximately five centimetres high,’ insisted Chloe. ‘And Toby is technically a cream bun. I mean, we’re talking serious lard here.’

‘Harsh,’ I objected. ‘Toby’s cuddly. Not that I want to cuddle him – no, no! I’d rather cuddle your dog.’

‘Zoe,’ said Chloe, putting on her mock headmistress voice, ‘dogs are not allowed at the Earthquake Ball. You cannot go to the Ball with Geraint as your escort. People would talk.’

I laughed, but the problem remained. Why did everything have to be so difficult?

Then – oh God! – the swing doors at the far end of the corridor opened, and somebody walked towards us. Oliver Wyatt! Oliver tall-dark-and-haunted-looking Wyatt! Ashcroft School’s answer to Heathcliff. I instantly forgot all about the Earthquake Ball.

My Heights Wuthered. My heart turned into a caged jaguar. A firework display went off in my chest. Whole flocks of butterflies flew out of my ears.

‘We
can’t
go with anybody from our year,’ Chloe said. She looked thoughtful. She hadn’t noticed Oliver.
Hadn’t noticed.
She was ransacking her bag.

‘Hmmm,’ I said. The god was strolling towards us. He was a mere metre away. I didn’t look at him, of course. I looked at the floor. I knew every detail of his appearance by heart anyway. He didn’t stop. He didn’t speak to us. He was totally unaware of my spotty, sad, nerdy little life.

I noticed a tiny patch of mud on the side of his right shoe. What wouldn’t I give to be that tiny patch of mud! The air stirred up by him swirled around me. There was a faint smell of limes. (His aftershave, obviously: he isn’t a greengrocer.) I inhaled deeply, hoping to capture that divine scent for ever.

‘We have to corner somebody in the sixth form,’ said Chloe. ‘They’ve got to be sixteen or over. I’m too young for a toyboy. Ah, there’s my phone. I thought I’d lost it again.’ She turned to me and frowned. ‘What’s up?’

‘Oliver Wyatt just walked past!’ I whispered. Chloe’s eyes flared excitedly. She turned round. She was just in time to see his back disappearing through some swing doors.

‘God! Sorry I missed the sacred moment!’ She grinned. ‘Did he throw you a contemptuous look of burning passion?’

‘Certainly,’ I informed her. ‘But I’m not quite sure whether it’s me he loves, or Nigel.’ I fingered my chin anxiously. I could feel Nigel lurking there. He’d gone to ground for the past couple of days, but I could sense he was planning to erupt again, possibly on the left-hand side. If one must have a Nobel-prize-winning zit, it at least should be central. For absolute zit perfection, symmetry is essential.

‘Have you seen Jack yet today?’ I asked. Chloe has a major crush on Jack Bennett, this wicked guy who can break-dance on his head – and let’s face it, what else could one possibly ask of a potential husband?

‘I don’t know . . .’ pondered Chloe. ‘I haven’t felt quite the same about him since I saw him peeing in that alley after the Cramp gig.’ Chloe’s so easily put off. She can fall madly for somebody at lunchtime and find them loathsome by nightfall. I wouldn’t be put off if I saw Oliver peeing. I know he’d pee in a divine, stylish way which would turn it almost into an art form.

‘OK,’ I said, reluctantly abandoning thoughts of Oliver, ‘let’s get started.’ We had to find a couple of fit partners for the Ball.

‘Right, then,’ sighed Chloe. ‘Where
do
we start?’ She offered me a piece of chocolate. I accepted. I think it’s good for the brain.

‘We start by drawing up a shortlist.’

The bell rang. My heart sank. It was time for German. I don’t object to Germany or the Germans at all in principle, it’s just that for the first few lessons, when we were starting out, I didn’t pay attention. I am a bit of a dreamer, I admit it.

And when, after a couple of months, I sort of woke up and started to concentrate, it was too late. The rest of the class were deep in the book
Das geheimnisvolle Dorf
and stuff like that and I knew that the moment had passed and I would never, never, be able to speak a word of German apart from one rather special one. I could more easily communicate with Chloe’s dog, Geraint – by barking.

‘OK,’ said Chloe, ‘let’s make the list in German.’

I groaned. ‘God, no!’ I begged. ‘Please, not in German! I just can’t cope with it.’

‘I didn’t mean we were going to make the list in German, Zoe,’ giggled Chloe. ‘I meant we’re going to make the list in
German
!’

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