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Authors: Edyth Bulbring

100 Days of April-May

BOOK: 100 Days of April-May
11.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Praise for Edyth Bulbring

A Month with April-May

‘The hectic pace of the dramas and April-May's own largely benign view of them make this a fresh and entertaining novel which reveals that teen trouble is the same the whole world over.'

Julia Eccleshare, Lovereading4kids

‘April-May is a feisty, frustrating, yet irresistible teenager with a unique and very entertaining voice. Readers will enjoy following her account of negotiating a new school and a new family situation, learning the hard way that love and loyalty may not always come in the ways you expect and that ultimately the direction we take in life is our own responsibility.'


‘I devoured the book in one sitting, but it passed the acid test when my teenage daughter was seduced by Bulbring's wit and humour, and was compelled by the sheer excellence of the writing to keep reading.'

The Times (South Africa)

100 Days of April-May

‘Hilarious . . . Edyth Bulbring has proved wildly popular, so much so that her books are part of the syllabus for Grades 8 and 9 at a few schools [in South Africa].'

The Times (South Africa)

‘Devoured in an evening and highly recommended.'

Media Update, South Africa

For Alistair, who was so awesome

The Eighth Story

There are only seven stories in the world, it is said.

You get the tragedy, where it all ends badly for the hero, the comedy, with a happy ending, and then there's the story where you take on a monster. You also have the tale about a voyage, where you leave as one person and return knowing a bit more about yourself, and the quest, where you find something or someone of great value. And then there's the rags-to-riches story, and, finally, the one about rebirth, where the central character finds a new reason for living.

But sometimes the story is a hodgepodge of all seven of these. It is the eighth story.

In my Grade Nine year at Trinity College I got caught up in a muddle of a tale. Tossed into this jumble were three people: a fat boy who ate himself silly because he felt worthless and angry, a kid who told lies because he was scared to face the truth and a useless shrink with a blind dog who couldn't help anyone because he didn't know how to help himself.

And then there was me – April-May February. Fourteen years old going on fifteen – the child of a divorced dad called Fluffy and a mom called Glorette. And my best friend, Melly, the girl who breathed through her mouth. And a golden boy with pale-green eyes called Sebastian, who made me stupid.

Our story could have ended any one of the seven ways that are set down for us. Or it could have had the other ending that goes with the eighth story.

In the beginning we didn't know how things would turn out. It all came down to the choices we made and the different roads we took towards our destiny.

In the end it all happened the way it did because of Melly, Fatty and me.

CROSSWORD CLUE 1 [four down]:

A boring or contemptible person or the foul emission of wind.


The Big Fart

It's all Melly's fault. She's one hundred per cent to blame for landing me with Fatty. If she'd been around it wouldn't have happened. None of it.

It's the first day of my Grade Nine year at Trinity College. I am seated at the back of the classroom with my head buried in a crossword puzzle. The clue for six letters across is:
. I scribble
on the page and look at the seat next to me. It's empty.

My best friend Melly is away this term. She's having an operation on her lungs at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town to make her breathe like a normal person. She left yesterday, panting all over me through her mouth. ‘Please don't mess up while I'm away, April-May. Try to keep your head down and your mouth shut,' Melly said.

I told her that I always keep my mouth shut – she's the one who can't breathe though her nose.

Melly presented me with a bracelet made from a piece of leather and five ceramic beads which read: WWMD
(What Would Melly Do?). She says that if I'm ever in a tricky situation I must look at my wrist, pause, and consider my actions before leaping into boiling water. Melly's only been absent a day and I miss her badly. I feel HOLLOW (six letters).

Around me everyone's talking about their summer vacations. Plett and Umhlanga and Mauritius and Cape Town. And skiing in Austria. No one bothers to ask the bursary kid – that's me – what I did for the holidays, so I don't tell them that I was helping Fluffy with stock management at his travel agency.

Fluffy's my dad and he works at a funeral parlour called Swallows and Sons. He's in charge of the stock – what comes in, how long it stays and when it gets dispatched on its travels.

Controlling the stock takes a bit of juggling. Too much inventory creates space problems. Too little affects the end-of-the-month incentive bonus. And then there's the shelf life to consider. Fluffy says his clients are just like full-cream milk. If you don't keep a beady eye they'll go off and smell funny.

I toss the crossword puzzle aside and stand up as the teacher arrives. He introduces himself as Dr Gainsborough and then shouts, ‘Sit!'

The class sits and so does a dog. It's a golden retriever and it parks itself under the desk at Dr Gainsborough's feet. He says, ‘Good girl!', and tells us that he is our homeroom teacher for the year. He also doubles as the Life Orientation teacher and the school psychologist. The Shrink. The person who deals with the crazy kids.

Dr Gainsborough then points to the dog at his feet. ‘This is Emily,' he tells us.

Emily pricks up her ears and thumps her tail on the floor when she hears her name. Emily, it turns out, is blind. Dr Gainsborough hadn't known it when he picked her from a litter of seven SPCA puppies two years earlier. But when he discovered her visually challenged status it was too late to give her back – she was family. He pats Emily on the top of her head to reassure her of their kinship.

Dr Gainsborough takes out the register and calls our names. He soon gets to me, and I stand. ‘So, this is you,' he says, as though recalling a fond memory. I tell him it is and he says, ‘Fascinating. I've heard a lot about you.' He says this with a kindly glint in his eyes.

I've got a strange sort of celebrity status at Trinity College. I'm the girl who almost got expelled last year for attaching her tie to the school clock tower. And whose antics caused two pupils to nearly kill themselves by falling off the school roof, one of whom was my own dear Melly.

The other roof casualty was Sebastian, a boy with lime-green eyes who stole away from Trinity College soon after the incident, taking with him a slice of my cardiac muscle tissue.

I sit down and Dr Gainsborough comes to the end of the register. ‘Ericca Ntona,' he says and looks up.

No one responds.

He tries again: ‘Ericca Ntona.'

Dr Gainsborough is making an absent mark on the register when there's a knock at the door and the school secretary pokes her head into the classroom. ‘So sorry to disturb,' she says. She's got a new kid with her. He arrived late and got a bit lost. She stands back from the doorway and the new kid walks into the room.

Walks is an understatement. He lumbers in, pulling his large body behind him. He is the biggest kid I have ever seen. He is about ten feet tall and ten feet wide with a face as dark and heavy as one of our famous Jozi summer thunderclouds. I can't take my eyes off this supersized kid.

There's a rude whistle from the middle of the room and Emily gives a little yelp. Whispers shoot across the room like sniper fire: ‘lardass', ‘jelly-belly', ‘Buddha-butt', ‘gross'. The mean kids toss words around the room like a bunch of delegates at a Crossword Puzzle Convention trying to determine the solution for
Obese insult
. They settle on a name: FATTY (five across). That's what he'll be called from now on. It is decided.

‘This is Ericca Ntona,' the secretary says to Dr Gainsborough. ‘The new bursary kid.'

Dr Gainsborough frowns at the secretary, looks down at his register and then up at Fatty. ‘Ericca?' he says. ‘It's Eric, surely?' He strokes the tips of his white goatee and peers uncertainly at Fatty through his pebble spectacles.

Fatty glowers and Dr Gainsborough swallows hard. ‘Of course it's Ericca. And why not,' he says.

There are more sniggers from my classmates. ‘Fatty, Fatty, Fatty,' they whisper.

I put my head down as the heat creeps up my neck. I know about dumb names. I'm April-May February. The calendar girl. But compared to Ericca Ntona, I got off lightly.

Dr Gainsborough looks around the classroom for a spare desk. I squeeze my thumbs in my fists until I hear the knuckles crack.
Not me
not me
, I beg the gods.
not me

Dr Gainsborough points to the back of the classroom. At me. Fatty is going to be my new desk-mate for the term.

Come back
, I yell inside my head. I'm getting landed with the fat boy with a mad-bad face and a girl's name.

Fatty barrels his way past the desks and throws his satchel down on the floor. Then he dumps himself into the chair next to me. As he settles, he lifts the desk two feet off the ground with his knees. I make myself as small as possible as he spreads his meaty arms across the desk.

Dr Gainsborough says that our lesson today will take the form of a short essay: ‘My Family and Me'. He wants to know who we are. Get to know us, as it were. As he says this he reaches down under his desk and scratches Emily's ear.

I remember how weird I felt at the beginning of last year, coming to Trinity College on a bursary and not having any friends. I recall how Melly wheezed all over me within the first five minutes as she claimed me as her soul mate.

I take a deep breath in (not out), get out my exam pad and offer Fatty a sheet of paper. He reaches out. His hands are small; his fingers slender with nails as white as toothpaste. ‘My name is April-May February,' I whisper.

Fatty looks at me and glares. He thinks I'm mocking him by making a stupid name joke. He drops his hand and turns away. I try and explain, but it comes out all wrong. It's hard to make clear to someone you've just met that your parents were at odds from the day you were born. That they liked different seasons and couldn't agree on which month to call me. I give up trying to set things straight and get on with my essay.

Fatty gets an asthma pump out of his blazer pocket and sucks on it hard. Then he gets an exam pad from his satchel. And a lunch box. While he writes he guzzles away at its contents: sandwiches like bricks filled with last night's stew.

I write my essay, ignoring the deep breathing and chomping going on next to me. I tell Dr Gainsborough all about my family. There's Fluffy, who is a stock control executive at a travel agency, and his best friend and intimate other, Julia Ho, who is the deputy principal at Trinity College. Then there is Just Sam Ho, Julia's eight-year-old son, who drives me mental most days but is also sort of okay. And last and best there's Melly, my special friend, who is more of a sister to me and who has problems in the respiratory department. That's my family. I stop there.

I doodle a bit on my desk and then I write my last sentences:
I have a birth mother called Glorette. She tells a lot of lies and is having a baby with her new husband, Sarel The Bloodsucker, in six months' time.
Enough said.

Fatty has finished the contents of his lunch box and makes a loud burp. The smell wafts over me. Lamb-stew and onions. Then he shuffles about and lifts a large buttock off the seat.

I know that move. A burp's one thing but there's no ways I'm standing for an almighty blast from the dark recesses of Fatty's large intestine.

I stand up. ‘Don't you dare try and rip one near me, you fat pig,' I scream with the kind of lung capacity that Melly can only dream of. But as soon as the words are out of my mouth I want to shred my tongue and pickle it in shame.

Dr Gainsborough looks up and Emily starts howling. ‘That is enough. Sit down!' His voice trembles with outrage.

I sit down, trying to keep my distance from Fatty, who has bowed his head and wrapped his arms around his chest. He is sucking on his asthma pump like he's never going to see another birthday.

The class hoots with laughter and peers around at Fatty and me as Dr Gainsborough gets up from his desk. ‘Stay!' he commands Emily as he strides to the back of the classroom.

‘I will not tolerate the shouting of insults in my personal space,' Dr Gainsborough barks, arriving in front of my desk and looking down at me with eyes that are no longer kindly. ‘I will not have one student destabilising the emotional autonomy of another. Do you understand?'

I nod. Three nods. Which means I understand. And I feel really bad. About what I said.

Then Dr Gainsborough lifts the lunch box off my desk and frowns at me with eyes that tell me he thinks I'm some trouble-causing guzzler. ‘Eating in class is against the rules.'

I swallow my tongue and wait for Fatty to own up. But he rasps in staccato time with my beating heart and says nothing. And lets me take the rap.

‘Eating in class gets you an afternoon's detention. This afternoon. In my classroom. Straight after school. Do you understand?'

I nod. Four nods. Which means that I understand that Fatty has got me detention. On my first day. And I feel really mad. About what Fatty failed to fess up to.

‘Finished your essay?' Dr Gainsborough asks me.

I give him my essay.

‘Finished your essay?' he asks Fatty.

As Fatty tears the page out of his exam pad and hands it to Dr Gainsborough I catch a glimpse of a part of the line at the top of the page. It says:
I have no mother …

Dr Gainsborough marches back to his desk and I look at my Melly bracelet. What Would Melly Do? My Melly would write the detention off as a little misunderstanding. She would become best friends (second best after me) with this sad, fat, hungry, silent, motherless orphan. She would breathe all over him and say, ‘I can see that we are going to be the best of friends despite your antisocial habits.' That's what Melly would do.

I know Melly's way is the right way. The only way.

But I close my eyes to Melly's bracelet and lean over towards Fatty and say, ‘You got me in trouble, you weasel. I've got detention because of you. So from now on, dude, you just stay out of my way.'

Fatty says nothing, but I can see from the daggers drawn in the black holes of his eyes that he's got the message.

Soccer World Cup Update –

Days to Kick-off: 149

Match of the Day –

Fluffy and Julia Ho

BOOK: 100 Days of April-May
11.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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