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Authors: Jean Ure

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BOOK: Star Crazy Me
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Mrs P came into the hall to let me out. Right at the very last moment I got brave and said, “Did you… actually… see the person that attacked you?”

I wasn't really sure I wanted to know the answer, but I knew I had to ask. Mrs P gave a little snort. (But very ladylike.)

“See? How could I see? They smashed the light bulb!”

“So you wouldn't be able to recognise them?”

“My dear girl, if you had been hit over the head by some young thug late at night I doubt you would be able to recognise them, either. All I was able to tell the police was that it was a black thug rather than a white
thug, and I can't really see that is going to be of much help, considering there are countless young thugs of both shades roaming the streets.”

I agreed that there were, and that it simply wasn't safe to be out after dark – well, not if you were as old and fragile as Mrs P – but I went on my way feeling a huge surge of relief. I was sorry it had been a black thug cos of Indy being black and people tending to say “Oh,
them
again,” which is totally unfair when you think of guys like Lance Stapleton, who has to be just about one of
the
biggest thugs of all time. On the other hand, I couldn't help being glad that it wasn't Lance; I would have hated to feel that I was responsible for what had happened.

When I got home I sent a text message to Josh telling him
OK U win
, and that I would see him on Monday. Since he'd got a black eye defending my honour, it seemed the least I could do. And I owed it to Mrs P. And to Nan. It would have broken her heart to think I'd let myself be bullied into giving up on my
ambitions.
Our
ambitions! Nan wanted me to be a star just as much as I did.

I went to bed that night feeling happier and stronger than I had for ages.

Come Monday morning, I wasn't feeling quite so brave. I desperately didn't want to go and face everybody. Not just Marigold and her mob – all the others, as well. Marigold would be her usual jeering, sneering self, but the others might be feeling sorry for me, and that was even worse.

If it hadn't been for a text message from Josh, and a call from Indy before I was even out of bed – “You are coming back today, aren't you?” – I might have chickened out. But how could I, when they'd shown how much they cared? I couldn't let them down!

This is why you need your friends. You know that they'll support you and stand by you, no matter what. They know that you'd do the same for them.

I don't think I'd have survived without Josh and Indy. Marigold started on at me almost the minute I showed up.

“Well, look who it isn't! Have you come to cross your name off the Top Spot list?”

I wanted so much to say something smart and cutting in return, but I couldn't think of a single solitary thing.

“Marigold reckons you won't be going in for it.” Abi Walters, that was. Gloating. “
Will
you?”

Coldly I said, “Why shouldn't I?”

“Oh! No reason. Anyone can enter, I suppose.”

“Why don't you just shut up?” said Indy.

“Why don't you, squit face?”


Pleeeese
, guys! Don't let's get personal,” said Marigold. “She obviously thinks she's going to be another Beth Ditto.”

There was a bit of a silence. I concentrated very hard on unpacking my bag. Then a voice said, “Who's Beth Ditto?”

“She's this big gross singer… weighs
fifteen stone
. Plus she's a lesbian.” Marigold smiled, sweetly. I felt like hitting her. “Guess that's who you're modelling yourself on?”

I said, “I don't model myself on anybody.”

“Really?” said Marigold. “You could have fooled me!”

At that point the door opened and Josh came in. Guess what? Marigold clammed right up. It was like she'd suddenly been struck dumb. She slunk away to her desk and started busily rummaging about inside it, with her head stuck under the lid. She didn't say
another word. But at the end of class, as I was packing stuff back into my bag, Ashlee came up to me and said, “I've seen Beth Ditto… She's cool!”

Ashlee, of all people. One of Marigold's best mates!

Indy squeezed my arm and whispered, “See?”

I didn't ask her what she meant; I knew what she meant. I'd plucked up the courage to come back, and that one remark of Ashlee's had made it all worthwhile. I didn't give a toss any more for Marigold Johnson!

Rather to my surprise, I settled in again at school like I'd never been away. I'd only really missed three days, but what with half term it felt like a lot more. If there was anyone thought I'd bunked off cos of all the stuff with Marigold, they didn't dare to say so. I'm sure lots of them did think it, but it was like Josh had become my minder and they were all scared of making any remarks which might get back to him. Which was fine by me! I liked having a minder.

One or two people actually came up to me and said they were glad I was still going in for the contest. They
said things like, “You don't want to let
her
put you off.” (Meaning Marigold.) A girl called Julianna that I'd hardly ever spoken to before said, “You ought to have a go! Why shouldn't you?”

Ashlee said, “Yes, why shouldn't she? It takes all sorts.”

I wasn't quite sure whether she was being sarcastic or supportive. One minute she seemed to be on my side, the next she was back being Marigold's doormat. It was hard to tell. Anyway, I didn't really care any more. Josh and Indy were there, and they were my friends, and that was all that mattered.

Every now and again I went to see Mrs P, just for an hour. This meant I had to tell Mum. I didn't tell her that I'd bunked off school – I wasn't about to commit harakiri, or whatever it is they call it when people plunge swords into themselves. I just said vaguely that I'd “been singing” and Mrs P had heard me.

“And now she's coaching me, Mum! She used to be an
opera
singer. She used to be famous! She's got all
these pictures of herself, all dressed up, and all these programmes with her name in. She said I had a good voice and she'd like to be my teacher and—”

“Hang about, hang about!” said Mum. “How much is all this going to cost?”

I said proudly that it wasn't going to cost anything. “She's doing it cos she thinks that one day I'll be a big star and she'll be known as my teacher. If she lives that long. I hope she does! But she's very old. Older than Nan.”

“And you say she's
coaching
you?”

“Yes! She's teaching me all about scales and breathing and voice production.”

“But what is she coaching you
for
?” said Mum.

“For the talent contest!”

Mum looked confused. “What talent contest?”

“At school. On Charity Fun Day! We're having a talent contest and I'm going to sing this song that I've wrote with Josh.”

“Written,” said Mum.

“Whatever! It's called
Star Crazy Me
and—”

“You're going in for a
talent
contest? With Josh?”

“No. Just me. Josh is too shy!”

“Certainly not something which could ever be said about you,” agreed Mum. “You've always been a show-off! Even as a toddler. Your nan used to encourage you something rotten. God, it used to embarrass me!”

I said, “Why? Cos I was bad?”

“No, because your nan was shameless! She even used to get you standing up in front of total strangers. Even waiting at the check-out in Tesco…
Come on, give
us a bit of a song
! Some of the looks we got, I can't tell you.”

I didn't remember that. I could see that it must have been embarrassing; I felt quite embarrassed myself.

“Well, anyway, never mind now,” said Mum. “What's more to the point, how many tickets can you get?”

I said, “You want
tickets
?”

“Well, of course I do,” said Mum. “What do you
think? I'd like a couple, if you can… one for me, one for Maureen. I'm always telling her about you. My daughter with the big voice… She likes your kind of music.”

I couldn't believe it! Maureen is the owner of the beauty salon where Mum works. I never thought Mum talked about me at
all
.

“Mind, it's a pity about Josh,” she said. “It would have been nice to have the two of you.”

I wondered if she was only saying it because Josh looked good and I didn't. I told her again that he was too shy. It's true! He is bold in all kinds of ways, like defending me against Marigold and standing up to Lance Stapleton. There aren't many boys I know would do that. Lance is not only a vicious thug, he is
hulking
. I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of him! But I can stand up on stage in front of an audience, no problem. I am a bit of a show-off, I suppose. Josh is quite a modest sort of person. The idea of appearing on stage just totally makes him squirm.

After what Mum said, I did have another go at him.
I said, “
Pleeeeze
, Josh!
Pleeeeze
do it with me!” But he wouldn't budge.

He said, “You're the performer. What d'you need me for? All those lessons you're having… you're practically a professional!”

“But we're a team,” I said. “It's our song I'm singing! How can I sing it without you?” And then I pulled a really mean stunt. “I s'pose what it is,” I said, “you're ashamed of being seen with me.”

He told me later that I was lucky we were still talking.

“For that,” he said, “I am
certainly
not getting up on stage. But I'll lay down a track for you, if you like.”

“Oh, Josh,
would
you?” I flew at him and hugged him. “That is such a brilliant idea! Why didn't we think of it before?”

“We didn't think of it,” said Josh. “I thought of it. And I might've thought of it sooner if you hadn't gone flouncing about like some great prima donna, having hysterics all over the place.”

I said, “Huh! Well, anyway, I'll tell everyone we wrote the song together. You can't stop me doing that!”

“Wouldn't want to,” said Josh.

“Couldn't even if you did, cos I shall be on stage and I can say whatever I like!”

Josh said, “Honestly, you can be so childish at times,” but I knew that he had really and truly forgiven me and that everything was all right between us.

A week before the contest we learned how the voting was going to be organised. There was going to be a
popular
vote from the audience, with a separate vote from a specially invited panel of experts. The experts were: a man from one of the big music stores in the shopping centre, a man from local radio, and…

TOPAZE
! Omigod, I couldn't believe it, I was just so excited. My all-time favourite female singer! And just about
the
most famous person ever to have gone to our school. Well, the only famous person to have gone to our school unless you count a boy called Gary
Mason that grew up to be some big-time criminal that was all over the TV news just a few years ago. Mostly people didn't talk about him. But they talked about Topaze!

Indy was just as thrilled as I was. She is not quite such a big rock fan as me, but Topaze is like a sort of role model for her.

“Imagine! You'll actually
meet
her,” she said. “You'll talk to her!”

“Dunno 'bout that,” I said. “Person that wins might get to.”

“You'll win,” said Indy.

But I shook my head. I couldn't imagine anyone as beautiful as Topaze ever voting for a big wobbly jelly like me. She'd more likely agree with Marigold that I shouldn't have entered the contest in the first place.

“Carm, you gotta have
confidence
,” said Indy.

I did have confidence – in my voice! Just not in my body. Indy urged me to “Think of Beth Ditto.” I didn't know Indy had ever even heard of Beth Ditto, but she
said she'd seen pictures of her in a magazine.

“She looks
great
! Cos she's not ashamed, you know? She doesn't care, she just gets out there and does her thing, and everybody loves her. Everybody's gonna love you, too. Just get out there and do your thing!”

Mum, of course, was interested in what I was going to wear. “Put it on,” she said. “Let me see!”

I reminded her that I had already shown her. “I showed you when I first got it.”

“So show me again!”

Rather nervously, I presented myself to her. Mum is just so critical when it comes to clothes. She herself has a really good dress sense, and she is one of those people who always says what she thinks, no matter how rude it might be. If she reckoned I looked like a sack of potatoes, she wouldn't hesitate to say so.

“My God, it makes you look like a sack of potatoes!”

I could just hear her. I braced myself. I said, “Well? Is it OK?”

“It's perfect,” said Mum. “Very stylish! But it would be, if it was Josh who chose it. That boy has excellent taste!”

I relaxed a bit when she said that. If Mum approved, it had to be all right. “I'll tell you what,” she said. “Tomorrow afternoon, we'll give you a makeover. Face, nails… the full works. Don't you worry! You're going to be a knockout.”

I glowed when Mum said that. She almost never praises me, so when she does it is doubly precious. By the time she'd finished giving me my makeover next day I hardly recognised myself! Actually, strictly speaking, that is not true. Mum is a professional. She doesn't believe in turning people into what she calls “caricatures” of themselves – just bringing out the best in them. She didn't use much make-up on me as she said my skin was too young to need it and I already had good strong colouring. (I glowed again!) But she styled
my hair, so it wasn't all wild and messy, and she put gorgeous green eye shadow on my eyes, and painted my nails with the purple varnish, and lent me one of her lipsticks, “Deep Ruby”, to use before I went on stage.

“There!” she said. “See what a difference it makes? Now you look like a real rock star!”

Looking like one made me feel like one. The Top Spot contest was due to start at six thirty, so Mum drove me to school in plenty of time.

“The last thing you need is to be in a rush. I don't want you getting all hot and bothered and ruining my hard work!”

I was feeling so secure it didn't even rattle me when I heard that Marigold had taken a poll of Year 7 and “Eighty per cent of people said they're going to vote for her sister!” It was Ashlee who told me, all bright-eyed and challenging. Like,
What have you got to say to
that?
I didn't have anything to say to it. I thought it was stupid. This was a talent contest, not a general election.
How could you know who you were going to vote for until you'd heard them sing?

BOOK: Star Crazy Me
2.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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