Authors: Jacqueline Wilson
‘We do! Gerry’s dying to meet you. I’ve told him so much about you. You could come swimming with us. You love swimming, and it’s such a fantastic pool. Then we could all have Sunday lunch together. Yes, it’ll be great! Hang on just one tick and I’ll phone Gerry—’
So it wasn’t properly arranged. Maybe they hadn’t even discussed it. I could just imagine Mum’s furtive whispering on the phone: ‘
Yes, I know, I’m sorry, darling, I wanted it to be just us too, but I feel so bad about leaving Sylvie again. It’s so sad, she just keeps moping after her childhood sweetheart when anyone can see that isn’t going to get her anywhere
‘No, Mum!’ I said angrily, as if she’d actually said it.
‘Why not?’ Mum said. ‘You’ll like him, I know you will. And you’ll have to meet him
day, won’t you?’
‘Well. I will. If it lasts,’ I said.
Mum had expressed exactly the same doubts but it was mean of me to say it back to her. She didn’t get cross with me or tell me I was acting
like a horrible jealous baby. She kept smiling at me bravely, and patted my shoulder.
‘OK then, pet. Well, I’ll let you get back to sleep. I’ll come and say goodbye when I’m off, right?’
She walked slowly out of my bedroom, waiting for me to snap out of it and say something sweet. I kept quiet. She trailed down the landing to the bathroom – but after five minutes I heard her singing
Knowing Me, Knowing You
, in her bath, even doing a funny voice for the
I put my head under my pillow and tried to blot her out, to blot out Carl and Paul and Miranda, to blot myself out entirely until I was the blackness and the blackness was me.
Mum lifted the pillow an hour later. ‘Anyone hiding in the burrow?’ she whispered, breathing fresh smells of coffee and perfume and toothpaste into my black lair. ‘I’m off, sweetie. I feel terrible leaving you, but I’m still going to do it! I’ve just had a chat with Jules—’
‘She says lunch is around half one, but come round any time.’
‘Oh, for God’s sake, stop being so difficult,’ Mum said. ‘Now, I have to go, I’m late already. Give me a kiss goodbye, eh?’
I sucked in my lips until they disappeared.
Mum burst out laughing. ‘You used to do that when you were cross with me when you were
!’ she said. ‘OK then, don’t kiss me. Love you, babe.’ She patted the duvet above my bottom and then walked to the door.
‘Kiss kiss,’ I mumbled under my pillow.
Then I went back to sleep, down down down, though there was a ringing and a banging, and then a knock-knock-knocking.
‘Sylvie, dear, are you awake?’ Miss Miles was at my door.
‘I’m having a bit of a lie-in,’ I said.
‘Your friend’s downstairs, dear,’ she said.
I jumped right out of bed, tugged on jeans and a T-shirt, and ran barefoot out of my room, past Miss Miles, down the stairs – but it wasn’t Carl.
Miranda was sprawling on our living-room sofa, her boots propped up on the arm.
‘What are you doing here? And get your boots off that sofa, you’re making all dirty marks,’ I said.
certainly got out of bed the wrong side this morning,’ said Miranda, raising her eyebrows. ‘Dear, dear. Shall I make you a cup of coffee? You look as if you need one.’
She swung her legs off the sofa and waltzed off to the kitchen as if it was
‘Would you like a cup of coffee too?’ she asked Miss Miles, who was hovering in the hall.
‘Thank you, dear, but I’ll leave you two girls to have a nice chat together,’ she said, starting back up the stairs to her own room.
I went up the stairs, too. ‘I wish you hadn’t let her in,’ I whispered.
‘Well, I didn’t exactly. She was knocking very hard at the front door so I had to open it. Then she immediately barged straight past me, demanding to talk to you. I just about managed to make her wait in the living room. I had to use my fiercest teacher’s voice too. She’s one formidable young lady. I’m sorry if I’ve made things awkward for you, Sylvie.’
I softened towards her. ‘I’m sorry I moaned, Miss Miles.’
‘Not to worry,’ she said brightly. ‘It’s good to have friends, you know, even very pushy ones.’
I took her point. Miss Miles didn’t seem to have many friends at all.
I went to the loo and washed my face and cleaned my teeth and brushed my hair, so that I looked marginally better when I went downstairs again.
Miranda had a mug of coffee waiting for me on the kitchen table.
‘Has your granny gone upstairs?’ she asked.
‘Who? She’s not my grandma, she’s our lodger.’
‘Oh, yes, the
!’ said Miranda, as if it was the most eccentric thing to have, like a pet llama in the living room.
‘What do you want?’ I said coldly.
‘Well, let’s hope the granny-lodger stays upstairs, because I’ve got an eye-bulging tale to tell.’
‘You and your stories,’ I said. ‘Maybe I’ve heard enough of them.’
‘Why are you being so
to me?’ said Miranda. She put down her own cup of coffee and threw her arms round my neck. ‘You’re meant to be
to me. You’re my best friend!’
‘Yes, I thought we
best friends, but then you cleared off when we were all playing that stupid game of Hide and Seek and left me all alone in Kew Gardens!’
‘Oh, Sylvie, you poor little diddums, did you get fwightened?’
‘Yes, I was frightened!’ I said, shaking her off. ‘It was horrible and I couldn’t find any of you and the gates were about to close. How could you just walk out on me and leave me there?’
‘I thought that was what you
so that you and Carl could cosy up together. I thought you’d fixed it all up with Paul. That’s what
said, I swear. You mean that was all a dirty great lie?’
‘Well. Not exactly. He
talk about us pairing up.
were the one who insisted we all hide separately.’
‘Yeah, yeah, well, that’s me, baby. I like to fly solo,’ said Miranda, striking a pose and tossing her hair, sending herself up. ‘Not that it really worked out that way. I did hope I might just catch your Carl and indulge in a teeny bit of hanky-panky in the shrubbery, but no such luck. I couldn’t find him. I hung around for
. You weren’t the only one, chum. Then Paul found me and he was in a really weird state, all fired up and telling me how much he fancied
me. He actually said he
me, truly. No one’s ever said the l-word to me before so I thought, OK, we’ll go with the flow on this one. I thought you must have caught up with Carl by this stage so I was happy to head off with Paul. And wait till you hear what happened!’
‘You said you thought they had a fight?’ I said quickly.
‘What? Oh, Paul and Carl. Well, something happened, but Paul just clammed up and wouldn’t say. What did Carl say then?’
‘He wouldn’t say anything either.’
‘Boys! They can be so
at times, especially your Carl, if you don’t mind me saying so.
, Paul was absolutely all over me, saying such sweet stuff. He can be really romantic when he puts his mind to it. Yes, I know, it doesn’t seem likely but I swear it’s true. He offered to walk me all the way home from the station, and I said I had taxi money, but he wouldn’t hear of me going in a taxi on my own. So he came home too. Mum and Dad were out at some boring dinner party, and Minna, our au pair, was holed up in her bedroom, crying on the phone to her boyfriend back home, so I asked Paul down into the den and … well, we did it!’
‘Oh yeah, like I believe you.’
‘I’m not Patty and Alison and all that gang. I know you like to kid people you do all sorts of stuff.’
‘I don’t kid you, Sylvie. I swear to you, we did it. Well. Sort of.’
to do it. We lay on the sofa and snogged for a while. It’s all a bit hazy because we had quite a lot to drink, and for the first time ever it all started to
something. I wanted him to do it and he kept mumbling that he’d be careful—’
‘Yes, all right, I know, I’ve had all the safe-sex lectures too, but somehow in the heat of the moment I didn’t really care. But then the moment got
heated, if you see what I mean.’
I looked at her blankly.
Miranda sighed impatiently. ‘It was all over before he could quite get started. I didn’t realize at first. I wondered why he didn’t get
with it. It was all a bit embarrassing, actually. I didn’t mind too much – in fact I kind of sobered up and decided it was maybe just as well. I was a bit scared it might hurt, and I decided I could
of count it anyway. But Paul got angry, punching the arm of the sofa and swearing.’
‘Angry at himself, I think. Though he didn’t seem to want much to do with me, I must admit. So much for all the sweet-talk! He cleared off. Goodness knows how he got home. I did wonder about phoning him but I didn’t want him to think I was chasing him. Maybe you could get Carl to phone him?’
‘Oh, go on. Look, let’s pop next door and see Carl.’
‘Absolutely not,’ I said.
‘Go on, go on, go on,’ said Miranda. ‘I’m dying to see his Glass Hut.’
‘He certainly won’t take you there,’ I said.
‘How do you know?’ said Miranda.
‘I know Carl,’ I said. ‘And he wants to be on his own right now.’
‘Then he’ll want to see us because we’re his friends,’ said Miranda. ‘Come on.’
‘You can’t just barge in on him.’
‘Why not? He can always tell us to get lost. You’re hopeless, Sylvie, you always make things so complicated. You think things over and over in your head and dither about and end up not doing
. Why won’t you just go for it?’
‘All right,’ I said. ‘Come on then. We’ll go next door.’
IF I’D BEEN
by myself I might have gone the back garden way to see if Carl was in the Glass Hut, but I wasn’t going to do that with Miranda.
I took her out of our house and round to the Johnsons’ front door. I rang the bell. I heard Jules shouting from the back of the house. Nothing happened. Miranda rang the bell again, insistently.
‘Miranda!’ I hissed, grabbing her hand.
Jules opened the door awkwardly, her hands white with dough, as if she was wearing pastry gloves.
‘I’m busy making a pie, and will any of my idle men folk stir themselves to answer the door? No!’ She smiled at us both. ‘Hello, Miranda. I didn’t know you were coming to lunch too.’
‘Neither did I, but thank you very much
for asking me,’ she said, marching in.
‘Well, it’s very kind of you to ask us both, Jules, but really we just popped round for five minutes to see Carl.’
‘Ah. Well. I’m not sure he’s in the mood for visitors,’ said Jules. ‘He’s a bit down at the moment.’
‘Then we’ll cheer him up,’ said Miranda. ‘Is he upstairs?’
She was already bouncing up the stairs, short black net skirt swaying, her fishnet calves taut above her killer boots.
‘Well, maybe she’ll divert him,’ Jules muttered, raising her eyebrows.
‘I’m so sorry,’ I said, and ran after Miranda.
She went flying off in the wrong direction, briefly knocking at the first door she came to and then bursting in without waiting for any response. Jake was stretched out beside his bed wearing his boxer shorts, doing press-ups. He stared boggle-eyed at Miranda, lost all concentration, and crashed onto his chin.
‘Whoops! Wrong guy!’ Miranda giggled.
‘No, no, feel free! Invade my bedroom any time,’ said Jake, rearing his head up like a seal and rubbing his chin. ‘Hi, Miranda. Hi, Sylvie. Give me one second to find my jeans and I’ll be able to stop blushing.’
‘It’s actually Carl we’re chasing,’ said Miranda. ‘But thanks for the open invitation.’ She marched out again.
‘How about you staying, Sylvie?’ said Jake. ‘I’ll serenade you with my guitar.’
‘Er, maybe not,’ I said, and rushed after Miranda.
Carl must have heard us rattling along the corridor. I heard the quick click of his door key. Miranda tried to barge into his room but she couldn’t get the door open.
‘Hey! Carl! It’s Miranda. Miranda and Sylvie. Come on, let us in,’ she said, rattling the door handle impatiently.
Carl said nothing. I wondered if he was standing right the other side of the door. Miranda had the same thought. She went down on her knees and tried to peer through the keyhole, but the key on the other side was blocking her view.
‘Carl, come on. We know you’re in there. Please!’ Miranda started knocking hard on the door. She tapped with both hands, making an insistent drumming beat.
‘Don’t make so much noise!’ I said.
‘That’s the point. He’ll open that door in a minute just to shut me up,’ said Miranda, banging harder.
She underestimated Carl. He stayed silent behind his battered door. Miranda had to give up eventually. She stood there, breathing heavily, shaking her hands in the air.