Authors: Susannah McFarlane
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction/Action & Adventure/General
It was Monday morning, a school day, but there was no way Emma Jacks could go to school. She needed a planâideally one that would keep her away from school for the whole week.
Could it be a stomach ache? Yes, that might work and actually, now that she thought about it, her stomach was sore. Quite sore. In fact, Emma was almost positive that she would soon need serious medical attention, and possibly hospital treatment. At the very least, her sore stomach would mean
staying home from school and not having to deal with mean girl, Nema.
âCome on Emma, hurry up! We're going to be late,' Emma's mum shouted from down the hallway.
Emma was not confident that her mother would agree with her self-diagnosis. She often didn't, which was irritating, so Emma would have to be clever about how she handled it.
âOkay Mum, I'm coming!' Emma ran down the hall. It would have been way too obvious to lie in bed groaningâit was much better to act as if she was desperate to get to school, only to be struck down with an illness. She bounced into the kitchen and sat down at the table. And then, just as she picked up her spoon, she put her plan into action. She doubled over and moaned loudly.
âWhat's wrong, Em?' asked her mum, only briefly glancing up from the paper. Emma thought her mum should have been paying more attention.
âI don't know ... but all of a sudden ... my stomach really ... hurts,' said Emma in her quiet-but-act-like-you're-really-trying-to-speak-louder voice. She thought the pauses were a particularly good touch.
âIt's probably your appendix,' announced her older brother, Bob. âMum, I don't think we should waste any time with doctors. Let's amputate immediatelyâfrom the neck down. I'll get the bread knife.'
âHilarious, Bob! But Mum, now ... it's really sore and ... I think...' said Emma, in an even quieter voice, as she worked up to announcing her own diagnosis and treatment suggestion that she'd better stay home.
âThis is very strange, Em,' her dad interrupted as he came out of the bathroom next door. (Although it sounded more like âis berry orange stem' because he had a mouth full of toothpaste.)
âWhat?' said everyone but Mum.
âPardon?' said Mum.
âSorry.' He ducked back into the bathroom, rinsed his mouth, came out and tried again. âWell, I was just remembering how we have seen this illness
before. Let me think ... it first struck last year on the first day of school, and then the night of the school concert and also on the day of the gym competition...'
âDad, it's not that sort of illness at all,' said Emma, in a voice that sounded slightly too loud and irritated for someone with severe stomach pain.
Emma's plan was not going quite as well as she'd hoped. Her family knew her too well.
Even though they could be irritating at times, Emma knew she could always rely on her family. They didn't change and they didn't pretend to be anything else but themselves. Dad was always Dad, looking a bit serious but then playing rock music really loud; Mum was always Mum, looking more relaxed and then turning down Dad's music; and Bob was always Bob, if you could get him away from his laptop. Mum, Dad, Bob. M-U-M, spelt exactly the same backwards and forwards, D-A-D the same again and even B-O-B too. Emma thought you could trust people with names like that. Suddenly Emma's thoughts were interrupted by her mum.
âCome on Em,' said Mum, giving her a squeeze. âYou know that tummy will feel just fine once you get to school and if it doesn't, you can go to sick bay. Eat up now. We have to leave in ten minutes. And where did I leave my bag?'
Mum 1âEmma 0. Emma was left at the table, wondering what went wrong. She knew that look in her mum's eyeâit was pointless to continue. She would just have to face up to Nema.
Emma and Nema had been at the same school all their lives and they had even been at the same kindy. They had organised sleepovers and been to all of each other's birthday parties. They weren't
friends, like Emma's friends Hannah and Elle were, but they were
friends. At least that's what Emma had thought. Then near the end of Year Two, things had started to change for
the worse. Nema got bossy, Nema got loud and Nema got mean.
She was sneaky mean,
Tricky meanâthe kind of mean teachers never seem to seeâthe really
Nema had changed and Emma didn't like the new Nema nearly as much. Emma was pretty sure that
was still the same, but Nema blew hot and cold. One minute she was the nice Nema, chatting and laughing with Emma, and the next minute she would look right through her or worse. She would say mean things, talk about Emma behind her back, or make fun of something Emma liked.
Like the time Nema and some other girls were dancing in the classroom at lunchtime. The music they were playing was the latest song by the Pink Shadows and it really made Emma want to dance. Emma and Elle asked if they could join in. But Nema said no.
âYou'll never learn the moves, Emma. You'll just hold us up and we want to perform it in class tomorrow.'
âIt doesn't look that hard,' Emma had replied.
âWell it is, so sorry, you can't,' Nema had said.
âWho made you the boss, Nema?' Emma had asked.
âI did,' Nema had snapped back. âAnd it's my CD. Do you have a problem with that?'
Emma had wanted to say yes, she did have a problem. But with Nema staring her down, she had felt like she was melting away. In fact, every time Emma was about to stand up to Nema, she seemed to melt away.
There was the time in Year Three when Nema stopped everyone playing chasey so they could watch her new gym routine. No one knew why they should but no one knew quite what to say either. Or the time when Nema took down other people's poster projects in the art room so her own project could go in the centre. Again, everyone was so surprised they just let it happen.
So at least it wasn't just Emma. Nema seemed to boss everyone around and everyone seemed to let her get away with it.
Why was that?
Emma thought. And now there was Nema's birthday party to deal with.