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Authors: Jean Ure

Star Crazy Me

BOOK: Star Crazy Me
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STAR CRAZY ME!

Jean Ure

The day Marigold Johnson called me a fat freak was the day I started bunking off school.

That is a fact. It is absolutely one hundred per cent true. But is it a good way to begin? I thought that it was, but now I am not so sure. I mean, in one sense it was what
set things in motion
, as they say, cos if it hadn't
been for me bunking off school – well! Certain things would never have happened. Meeting Mrs P, for one. On the other hand, lots of really significant stuff had gone on in my life before Marigold went and called me a freak. So now I'm feeling a bit confused and don't quite know
how
to begin.

Maybe I should start by explaining about Marigold, and why it was she had it in for me. She still does have it in for me. She's had it in for me ever since Year 7, and we're in Year 9 now. That is what I call bearing a grudge.
With a vengeance
. In other words, she got the hump and has never got over it. It squats there on her shoulder like a big black toad and makes her really mean.

What it was, it was in drama one day when Mrs Hendricks told us to “Partner off, boy and girl.” Quite honestly I didn't think anyone would be falling over themselves to partner me. Not that I have an inferiority complex, or anything; Nan always taught me that it's important to value yourself. But there's no point hiding your head in the sand. I'm not the sort of
girl that boys fight over, and that is just something I have to live with. Me and a few million others. We can't all look like Marigold Johnson, i.e. stick thin with big pouty lips full of Botox, or whatever it is they put into lips to make them puff up. If she hasn't had Botox (or whatever it is) then she's suffering from some kind of birth defect. One which boys, it has to be said, do seem to be attracted to. I guess big pouty lips are good for slurpy kissing.

Anyway. As soon as Mrs Hendricks said “Partner off”, everyone started shuffling about trying to catch the attention of someone they fancied, with me doing my best to fade into the background, which is not easy when you're my size. Even Nan wouldn't have said I was small. Out of the corner of my eye I could see this boy standing just nearby. Well, it was Josh, actually, only I didn't think of him as Josh back then, cos I didn't really know him all that well. He was just a boy who happened to be in my class, so I thought of him as Joshua. Joshua Daniels.

Out of the corner of my other eye I could see Marigold. She was on the move, heading straight past me, straight for… Josh. I guessed that she was out to nab him. See, this was before she started going out with Lance Stapleton, otherwise known as the Thug. The Thug wasn't going out with anyone at that stage, he was too busy charging about in a gang and beating people up. In fact beating people up is still one of his main hobbies, but now he likes to have a girl to watch him do it. I guess it makes him feel important. He and Marigold are dead right for each other. The perfect couple! She wouldn't have suited Josh
at
all
. But I knew she fancied him cos I'd seen her flapping her eyes and doing this weird munching thing with her lips. Any second now…

I could hardly bear to watch. It was like some kind of man-eating spider moving in on its prey.
I'm gonna
get you!

And then, quite suddenly, at the last minute, Josh did this about-turn. “Wanna be partners?” he said.

Who? Who was he talking to? Surely not me?

He was! He was talking to me!
Josh
was talking to
me
.

I didn't jump on him, cos that would have been too demeaning; I think you have to have a
bit
of pride. I said, “Yeah! OK,” making like it was no big deal, whereas in fact I was still practically reeling from the shock. I mean, who in their right senses would prefer me to Marigold??? Not doing myself down, or anything, but I'd been so sure they'd end up together. I bet she had, too! Cos girls like her, they're always sure. They are not prey to doubts like the rest of us.

Anyway, she was left with Barnaby Tibbs, who is a sweet boy but seriously uncool. She hated me for that. I mean,
hated
. She couldn't stand the thought of a boy she fancied actually ignoring her and going for a lesser being – especially when the lesser being was me. “Carmen Bell! That great
jelly
.”

From then on, that was her name for me: the Great Jelly. Or more usually just the Jelly.

“Where's the Jelly?” “Trust the Jelly!”

I guess I could have retaliated by calling her Botox Lips, or asking her if she'd been dropped on her head as a baby, seeing as her brain appeared to have some kind of malfunction, but that would have meant bringing myself down to her level. I wouldn't give her the satisfaction.

Indy used to tell me that I ought to hit back. She got really agitated about it. “Why don't you stick up for yourself?”

I could have done. I can give as good as I get any day of the week! Mum's always said I've got a mouth on me. Indy just couldn't understand it. “People like that shouldn't be allowed to get away with things! She's a horrible person. She's a
bully
.”

I said that she also had the intellectual capacity of a mushy pea, and it would quite simply be beneath me to engage in any sort of conversational exchange. “Who wants to have a slanging match with a pea?”

It just made me feel better if I ignored her. That
way I could at least pretend to myself that I didn't care. If I'd done what Indy wanted and hurled insults, it would be like admitting she'd got to me. I wasn't going to let her!

But I couldn't stop Indy simmering and seething. One day she just, like, boiled over and laid into Marigold big time. Marigold's eyes practically shot out on stalks. I could see she was really taken aback. I was, too! Indy is so tiny, like a little jumping bean, and she's not at all an aggressive sort of person. If anything, she is quite meek. I thought it was incredibly loyal of her, and that I was lucky to have her as a friend, but at the same time I sort of wished she hadn't done it cos it just made Marigold meaner than ever. She sneered down at Indy from her great beanpole height and said, “Naff off, squit face!” And then she made her eyes go crossed and sucked her bottom lip so that her teeth stuck out, and Ashlee Stott, who's like her personal doormat, gave this mad shriek of laughter and started making her teeth stick out, too.

It was such a disgusting thing to do; Indy is really sensitive about her teeth. I felt so bad for her! I think some of the others did, too, but they weren't going to say anything. Marigold is one of those people, nobody really
likes
her, apart from the creep Ashlee, but everyone wants to stay on the right side of her. I told Indy that in future we would both of us ignore her.

“If she thinks she's getting to you, it'll just make her worse.”

My theory was that if we took no notice she'd grow bored and start on someone else. Only she didn't, cos of this great vengeance thing and bearing grudges. She went on calling me Jelly, and after a bit other people started calling me Jelly as well. I don't think most of them did it to be mean; it was just a name that had caught on. Marigold was the one that was mean. Mean as maggots, and dripping poison.

Even Josh had a go at her one day. There was a group of us arrived early for a double period of art. We were sitting around in the studio, waiting for the rest
of the class to show up, and Marigold was holding court, the way she did, mouthing off about this game show that had been on TV the night before where some poor girl had been made fun of and reduced to tears by the woman that was hosting it. I'd seen the show and I'd felt really sorry for the girl, but Marigold was, like,
She got what she deserved
.

“Should have had a bag over her head!”

Ashlee sniggered and said, “Should have had a bag over her whole body.”

“Yeah, right! Talk about a sack of potatoes. I mean, for God's sake, what did she expect?”

“Probably expected to be treated like a human being,” I said.

“It's television,
dummy
. It's a
game
show. Anyone looks that grotesque is asking for it.”

I said, “What have looks got to do with it? It's not supposed to be about looks, it's supposed to be about personality.”

“Yeah, well…” Marigold gave a little smirk. Really
irritating
. “You would say that, wouldn't you?”

That was when Josh entered the fray. I didn't think he'd even been listening. Mostly the boys kept out of it when Marigold was doing her spouting. They probably reckoned it was girl stuff and didn't want to be involved. Can't say I blame them. But Josh was in earshot and I guess he just couldn't resist. Without even looking up, he muttered, “Talk about having sawdust where your brains ought to be.”

Marigold spun round like she'd been shot. Indy giggled, and Marigold went bright red. It was such a good moment! But after that she was more vengeful than ever. The idea of a
boy
having a go at her – well, I don't think it had ever happened before. Boys always fancied her like crazy. Now she had it in for Josh as well as me and Indy, but it was me she had it in for most. I didn't care! Her spiteful remarks just went right over my head.

So, that is all about Marigold and how she came to hate me. I think now it's probably time to move on. I'll
fast forward to the start of the summer term – last summer term, when we were in Year 8. Always, in July, our school has a Charity Fun Day, when we do things that are supposed to be fun to raise money for good causes. I say
supposed
to be fun cos sometimes they just aren't. Like in Year 7 when we had this massive tug-of-war and I got chosen to be the anchor person for our class. Not one of the boys:
me
. Needless to say, it was Marigold's idea. She said, “Shut up, Jelly! It's for charity.” Indy, trying to make me feel better, said that at least it showed we weren't sexist, but it was still quite humiliating.

I wasn't particularly looking forward to this year's event, wondering somewhat glumly what new fun things the committee would be dreaming up, but then when the notice went on the board… yay! I couldn't believe it! We were going to have a talent contest!!! And not one of the boring sort that teachers normally go for, where people get up and recite endless lines of poetry or play bits of tuneless tinkly stuff on the piano
and everyone is, like,
Yawn, how much longer is this going
on?
This time it was to be a
pop
contest.

TOP SPOT, for all you aspiring pop stars out
there!

Indy saw it first and rushed to find me, squeaking excitedly. “Carm, Carm, come and look!”

My first thought was that it would only be for seniors, but it didn't say that it was.

“It's for everyone,” said Indy. “See? Says there… they'll be asking for names…” She peered closer. Indy is quite short-sighted, and won't always wear her glasses. “…
in a week or two
. Says anyone can enter, but you have to be serious. You're serious!”

I was.
I am!
I have wanted to be a pop star ever since I can remember – well, a rock star, actually, as I have this really BIG voice. Nan used to say, “That girl is star crazy!”

I was so excited. I stayed awake all night, wondering
what to sing, wondering what to wear. Indy was excited, too; excited for
me
. She is so loyal! She said we should go into town on Saturday and choose an outfit. She said it was important I should get it settled well in advance. “Cos you know with new clothes you have to wear them for a bit. Just at home! Not outdoors. Don't want to get them dirty, or anything. But you gotta make sure they're comfortable.”

She was right! I asked Mum if it would be OK for me to go clothes shopping. Mum said yes, no problem. I knew she would! She's funny like that. When I was desperate, and I mean
desperate
, to have a guitar, she told me that it was “just a phase” I was going through and it would be a sheer waste of money (which meant I had to wait for Christmas, which at that point was ten whole months away). When I begged her for an iPod she screamed at me that she was a single mum. “I'm doing the best I can!” I never did get the iPod. Like with DVDs or CDs she tells me to go and borrow them from the library: “I'm not made of money!” But
clothes… clothes are a different matter.

Looking good is very important to Mum; I guess because she works in a beauty parlour. She herself is thin as a pin, the reason being that she picks at her food and smokes like a chimney, which I have tried but found it to be so totally and utterly disgusting that it nearly made me sick. Besides, it smells. Mum smells. Stale cigarette smoke wafts all about her, but she doesn't care just so long as she is
thin
. Having a daughter who is anything but thin is a cross that Mum has to bear. It is very hard on her. I think sometimes she despairs, though she does her best to be optimistic. She lives in hope that the next new skirt/top/pair of trousers I buy will miraculously transform me from a jelly to a stick insect.

BOOK: Star Crazy Me
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