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When I got to Ben’s,
there was a note sellotaped to the garage door with my name on it. I ripped it
open.

plz. Gone to check
out the acoustics at the venue for Saturday. We
waited for twenty
minutes, then I tried your mobile, but it was switched off. Call me later. Ben.

Oh poo, I thought. I could
have stayed longer in the square with Josh. I wondered if I should go back
there, but decided it wouldn’t look good. Nesta had drilled into all of us that
it was important not to look too keen when you first meet a boy. I looked at my
watch again. It was a quarter to seven. No way I felt like going home yet.
Nesta’s house was closest, but I couldn’t go there as that’s out of bounds for
a while. I quickly called Lucy’s. No one there, so I tried her mobile. She was
at Nesta’s. Oh, double poo, I thought. I can’t risk the wrath of Dragon Mother
if she finds out. At least TJ wasn’t with them, so I called her. Luckily she
was in, so I made my way over there.

 

I could see that
something was wrong the moment TJ opened the door. She quickly ushered me
upstairs into her bedroom and shut the door.

‘Your mum’s on the
warpath,’ she said. ‘She’s on her way over.’

‘What? Why?’

TJ sat at her desk.
‘Oh, some mix-up. She’s been phoning everywhere. She said you were supposed to
have been at Ben’s. She rang there and his mum said you hadn’t shown up for
rehearsal, so the boys had gone off without you…’

I sank on to her bed.
‘Hell’s bells. I
did
go, but I went to Pond Square first.’ I quickly
filled TJ in on seeing Josh again and how fab it had been. ‘But I don’t believe
it. She’s checking up on me.’

At that moment, we
heard a car drawing up outside. TJ peeked out the window. ‘She’s here. Look, if
you had a drink, you’d better go and clean your teeth. She might smell it.’

‘I only had one and it
tasted like it was mainly coconut.’

‘Breathe on me.’

I quickly breathed on
TJ and we got the giggles as she fell back against the wall and feigned passing
out.

‘Smells slightly of
alcohol,’ she said. ‘You’d better not risk it. Just rub some toothpaste on your
teeth, then I’ll give you some gum.’

I rushed into the
bathroom and did as TJ had advised.

‘Izzie, can you come
down,’ Scary Dad called up the stairs. ‘Your mother’s here.’

I had a quick gargle
with some mouthwash as well for good measure, then combed my hair. TJ was
waiting for me on the landing outside the bathroom. She looked really sorry for
me. ‘It’ll be OK,’ she said. ‘Just tell them what happened.’

‘You don’t know my
mum,’ I said. ‘She’d go ballistic if she knew I’d been hanging out with
strangers.’

‘Izzie.’ This time it
was Mum’s voice and I knew I had no choice but to go down and face the firing
squad.

 

Mum was deep in
conversation with Scary Dad when we got downstairs. TJ and I stood there for
what felt like hours before they acknowledged us. They seemed to have bonded over
shock horror stories about alcohol abuse. I couldn’t believe it. So much for
keeping what happened at Nesta’s private. She’d clearly told him all about it,
and now anyone would think I was a regular drinker, the way they were going on
and the looks they were giving me. Scary Dad works as a hospital consultant and
was telling Mum about his early days when he worked in Accident and Emergency.

‘You’d be surprised
how many teenagers came in, vomit all over them, out of their minds…’

Mum was shaking her
head.‘I know. Terrible, isn’t it?’

I wanted to shout, ‘
But
I’m not one of them
! I’m not
that
stupid,’ but I just stood there
like a lemon instead. TJ’s dad is so intimidating. I just hoped that I hadn’t
got TJ in trouble with him, as he was even looking at
her
suspiciously.

Finally, Mum turned to
me. ‘Ah, there you are. And where do you think you’ve been?’

‘Upstairs with TJ.’

‘You told me that you
had a rehearsal.’

‘I did. But by the
time I got there, the boys had gone.’

‘And why were you late
getting there?’

Talk about an
inquisition, I thought. Why couldn’t she wait until later? TJ and her dad
didn’t need to hear this.

‘I… er, walked there.’

‘Why? Why didn’t you
get the tube?’

‘It was a nice
evening…’

‘So why did it take so
long to walk? You must know how long it takes. You must have known you were
going to be late if you walked. So
why
didn’t you set off in time? And
why didn’t you phone when Ben wasn’t there?’


Mum
…’ I
wished she’d stop. I glanced at TJ and Scary Dad. She looked uncomfortable and
he looked like he was enjoying every minute. ‘You knew I was going to be out
for a while. I didn’t think…’As I said this, Scary Dad and her exchanged weary,
knowing looks. ‘I… I came here instead.’

‘We had an agreement,
young lady. I said I wanted to know exactly where you were at every hour of the
day.’

‘You can always call.
I have my mobile…’

She shook her head.
‘Forget that. For one thing, you can turn it off and for another, I may phone
you, but I still wouldn’t really know where you were. You could tell me
anything. No, from now on, I want the land-line number of where you are so that
I can phone and check.’

TJ was looking at me
with great sympathy. Her dad was looking at me as though I was a criminal. I
wanted to die.

 


Why
couldn’t
you have waited?’ I asked as soon as the car pulled away from TJ’s.‘
Why
did you have to do that in front of everyone?’ I’d felt so humiliated, getting
a public telling-off and I hadn’t even
done
anything.

‘You weren’t where you
said you were going to be,’ said Mum through tight lips.

‘Then please, I’m
asking you from my heart, please, in future, wait until we’re home or at least
on our own before you yell at me. And I don’t even know why you’re so upset.
Don’t you trust me or something?’

‘I don’t think your
recent behaviour has left that open for discussion, Izzie.’

‘But I haven’t
done
anything. It’s not fair.’

‘You don’t think,
Izzie.’ Mum turned to look at me. ‘I’m your mother and I don’t know where you
are any more. Or who you’re hanging out with.’

‘Well, I’ve been
upstairs in my room for the last two days. You haven’t had to look far. And you
do
know who I hang out with TJ, Lucy, Nesta. Same as always.’

‘Well, where were you
tonight before Ben’s.’

‘I told you, walking
to his house.’

‘And what were you
doing as you walked?’

‘Nothing.’

‘So why do you smell
so strongly of toothpaste? Don’t think I don’t know all the tricks, Izzie.’

‘TJ gave me a stick of
gum, that’s all.’

We drove a bit further
in silence, then she piped up again. ‘So who’s the boy you were in the park
with on Sunday?’

That shut me up for a
moment. ‘What boy?’

Mum hesitated for a
moment. ‘Mrs Peters next door said she saw you with a boy on Sunday in Primrose
Hill park, on the night you were supposed to be corning straight home from your
dad’s.’

‘I… I don’t remember,’
I said. ‘Maybe I bumped into one of the boys from the band. I don’t remember.
And anyway, can’t I even talk to people I know now?’

Mum saying Mrs Peters
had seen me threw me for a moment. I didn’t remember seeing her around when I
was with Josh. The park was empty and she’s not someone who’s easy to miss as
she’s about eighteen stone. I decided to zip it. At least she hadn’t seen me
this evening, drinking and snogging.

‘And what happened to
you and Ben?’ she asked. ‘I thought you liked him.’

‘I do,’ I said. ‘We’re
mates.’ Why was she going on about this? I wondered. I hadn’t told her that Ben
and I had finished, but then I’d never told her that we were going out. It
wasn’t like we were engaged to be married or anything. It was way more casual.
But how did she know we weren’t having a relationship any more? Maybe she’s
more tuned into my life than I realised.

‘So who’s this boy in
the park?’

She clearly wasn’t
going to let it go. ‘Nobody.’

‘What’s his name?’

‘Josh.’

‘What school does he
go to?’

‘I
don’t know!

‘Don’t raise your
voice, Isobel. Where did you meet him?’

‘Oh, just around.’

‘And where does he
live?’

‘Dunno. I’m only just
getting to know him.’

‘Well, I’d like to
meet him. Invite him over to the house.’

‘Whadt!’

‘You heard me. I like
to know who you’re spending time with.’

‘But
Mum
,
it’s not like that. He’s not like my boyfriend. I
can’t
invite him
over. I hardly even
know
him.’ This was appalling. Imagine me inviting
Josh back and her giving him the third degree! She must be out of her mind. It
was so unfair. She was ruining everything before it even got started.

‘Bring him over one
night at the weekend.’

‘I
can’t
,
Mum.’

‘Why not? If he’s a
friend, surely he must know you have parents.’

‘Yes, but…
no
.
Oh, you don’t understand.’ She didn’t. I could
never
in a million
squillion years invite the coolest boy I’d ever met back to meet my dragon of a
mother. Especially as we hadn’t even been on a date. He’d run a mile if I asked
him.

‘If you don’t bring
him back, I don’t want you to see him.’

‘But you never met Ben
in the early days.’

‘Yes, but I knew who
he was and I know he goes to the same school as Lucy’s brothers. And I know
where he lives as I’ve dropped you off there a few times.’ Then she smiled. ‘I
really think that you’re making a fuss about nothing, Izzie. It’s no big deal.
Just invite him back for half an hour or so. I promise I’ll be very nice to
him. I just want to meet him, that’s all.’

Sometimes life really
sucks, I thought, as we drove on. No big deal? Maybe not if you’re living in
Jane Austens times, but it is if you live in North London in the twenty-first
century.

 

Song
for Nagging Mothers

You’re
So Rotten

 

You’re always telling me to do
things like you do.

You’re always saying my room looks
like a zoo.

Well, I don’t care. So there.

You’re always telling me that you
don’t like my mood.

You’re always complaining that my
friends are rude.

Well, I don’t care. So there.

 

I really hate you, yes I do.

I really hate you, yes I do.

Do I really hate you?

Yes I do.

 

You never listen to the things I
gotta say.

Whenever I need you, you turn and
walk away.

Well, I don’t care. So there.

I’m so angry, yes I am.

I’m so angry, yes I am.

Am I really angry? You bet I
stinking am.

So there. I don’t care.

 

I really hate you, yes I do.

I really hate you, yes I do.

Do I really hate you?

Yes I do.

 

 

 

 

C h a p t e r
 
9

War

 

Contents
-
Prev
/
Next

 

I don’t believe it. I
really
don’t believe it! Mum has read my diary!

It was obvious as soon
as I got back to my bedroom and went to get it out. It had been moved from its
place in my underwear drawer. I always kept it under the Calvin Klein pants
that my stepsiter Amelia gave me. They’re a size too big, so I never wear them.
Now the diary was under a white T-shirt and I’d never have put it there. How
could
she? I thought, as I grabbed it and stormed downstairs.

Mum was sitting in the
living room, having a drink with Angus. I could tell that they’d been talking
about me by the way they suddenly went silent and looked guilty when I burst
in. I stood by Mum’s chair and pointed at my diary.

‘Mrs Peter never was
in the park, was she?’

BOOK: Cathy Hopkins - [Mates, Dates 06]
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