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Authors: Jean Ure

Boys Beware

BOOK: Boys Beware
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For Zahra, and for Tara

Contents

Cover

Title Page

The Beginning

Also by Jean Ure

Copyright

About the Publisher

The Beginning

“I wouldn’t want you having boys up there,” said Mum.

“Boys
?” I shot a sideways glance at Tash, out of the corner of my eye. Tash shot one back at me. We managed – just – to stifle our giggles. “Mum!” I said. “As if we would!”

“As if you would,” said Mum.

“I wouldn’t,” said Ali.

“I’m not worried about you,” said Mum. “I’m worried about those two.”

This time we couldn’t help it. I clapped a hand to my mouth to stifle the squeaks. Tash buried her face in one
of the sofa cushions. The fact is, me and Tash are into boys in a BIG WAY. It is just something that seems to come naturally to us. We look at a boy and we go all gooey, like
oo-er,
mushy peas and soft ice cream, and help, help! I’m going into meltdown! Only if the boy is worth it, of course; we are not indiscriminate! Even at twelve years old, when we were just getting started, we knew better than to go for geeks or cavemen. Mum’s problem was that she didn’t think we were old enough to get started at all.

“We sent you to the Gables expressly to avoid all that!”

Poor Mum. Poor Dad. Did they really think that shutting us up in a nunnery – well, an all-girls’ school, which amounts to the same thing – would keep us safely playing with our dolls till the age of sixteen?
Eighteen,
if Dad had his way. Even older. He’s worse
than Mum! He once told us that he wished we could remain his little girls for ever. Pur-lease! Yuck yuck double yuck.

It is amazing how naïve parents can be. It never seems to occur to them that even at an all-girls’ school there are sometimes men teachers. Some of them quite young and fanciable! Or that girls have brothers. Likewise cousins,
of the male persuasion.
Not to mention a life outside of school.

“It’s all very well you smirking,” said Mum, “but we all know what would happen … The minute my back was turned you’d start having orgies.”

“Orgies!” A series of ecstatic squeaks came bursting out of me. Strange glugging sounds shook the sofa cushion.

“Don’t deny it,” said Mum. “I’ve heard of teenage parties getting out of control. You’d start by inviting a handful of friends and end up with hundreds of total strangers, wrecking the place.”

The sofa cushion erupted. I got as far as, “Mu-u-u-m—” and then collapsed.

“No, I’m sorry,” said Mum. “It really is quite out of the question.”

“But,
Mu-u-u-m—”

“I’d never have a moment’s peace, and nor would Auntie Jay. It’s not fair to ask it of her.”

“We didn’t ask it,” I said. “She
offered.”

“Yes, but she didn’t realise what she’d be taking on. She doesn’t know what it’s like,” said Mum, “having you lot in the house.”

“But we wouldn’t
be
in the house! Not her bit of the house. We’d be upstairs, all hidden away … we’d be quiet as mice! She wouldn’t even know we were there.”

“Yes, and I shudder to think what you’d get up to,” said Mum. “You’re too young, I’d have nightmares. It’s no good, you’re not going to talk me round. I shall have to say no.”

“Mum, you can’t!” Tash suddenly sprang into action, clutching her cushion. “This is your big chance!”

Well! If Tash had decided to enter the fray, I obviously had to support her. Earnestly, I said, “Tash’s right, you can’t let motherhood ruin your career.”

Mum pretended to be amused by this – “It’s not going to ruin my career!” – but I could sense that she was wavering. Yippee! We had struck the right note!

“You’d be mad to miss an opportunity like this,” I said.

“Yes, and we’d be the ones that paid for it,” said Tash. “You’d go round telling people it was our fault.”

“Like, all because of us you had to let your big chance slip away from you.”

“Which is why you’d ended up as an unfulfilled woman – all mean and bitter and twisted.”

Mum said that she would be even more mean and bitter and twisted if she came back home to find we’d given Auntie Jay a nervous breakdown.

I stared at her, reproachfully. “It doesn’t say much for the way you’ve brought us up if that’s how you think we’d behave.”

“Good try,” said Mum. “But the answer is still no!”

She was doing her best to sound like she really meant it. Like that was definitely the last word. End of subject. Finish. But I’d heard Mum on the phone to Auntie Jay and I
knew
how much this job meant to her. Dad is always the one in our family that gets to go away on interesting assignments. Partly this is because he’s a man, and men tend to take it for granted that it’s OK for them to go whizzing off across the globe at a moment’s notice but not OK for women, at
any rate that’s how it seems to me. But mainly, I have to say, it’s because of his work. Dad is not at all a caveman type; he doesn’t expect Mum to stay home washing his socks and ironing his shirts while he’s off gallivanting. He does, however, happen to be an archaeologist (hooray! I’ve remembered how to spell it) and he is very much dedicated to digging things up. Sometimes he digs in this country, but on the whole there is more stuff waiting to be dug up in other parts of the world. Like right now, for instance, he was out in Peru digging up graves. And Mum had been offered a commission to go and join him, to take pictures for a book. Really exciting! Mum is a brilliant photographer, she is wasted just doing pictures of bouncing babies and giant cucumbers for the local paper. We all thought that she deserved a break. We also thought that it would be pretty cool to spend eight whole weeks living on our own …

I might as well admit it, we weren’t just thinking of Mum! Well, me and Tash weren’t. I don’t know what Ali was thinking. Nobody ever knows what Ali is thinking. Stuff goes on inside her head that has absolutely no relationship whatsoever to the things that are going on around her. Like now. She’d been perched on the arm of a chair, chewing her fingernails (a disgusting habit which she ought to have grown out of years ago) when suddenly she stopped chewing and said, “I’m nearly at the end of
The Next Generation.”

It sort of made sense, if you happened to know that she is a massive fan of
Star Trek.
It didn’t actually seem to have anything to do with what we’d been discussing, but that’s Ali for you.

BOOK: Boys Beware
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