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‘What?’

‘Tell you when I see you,’
I said. ‘Meet me in Ruby in the Dust in half an hour.’

‘Izzie… what are you
up to?’

‘Tell you later.’

 

I raced up to Muswell
Hill and, luckily, the shop I wanted was open, even though it was Sunday. I
went in and headed for the back, where I knew they kept their jewellery
displays. The quicker I get a new stud in, the better, I thought.

I found a perfect one.
It was really pretty, silver with a square glass stone that reflects all the
colours of the rainbow.

I made my purchase
then went to Ruby in the Dust cafe where I headed straight for the ladies. Once
inside, I locked the door and unwrapped my new stud. I know Del said you had to
wait a few weeks, but I have no choice, I thought as I pulled up my T-shirt. Oh
god, I don’t think I can do this, I said to myself, as I looked at the tiny
hole. It was scabbing over already and the area around it looked red and raw. I
poked at the skin. It felt bruised and sore. No pain, no gain, I thought, and I
took a deep breath and pushed the stud through in one quick go. ‘Ow, ow,
OWWW.
. I

There was a knock on
the door. ‘Are you all right in there?’ called a woman with a very loud voice.

‘Yes, fine,’ I said,
sitting on the loo for a moment to catch my breath and dab my eyes, which had
started watering as the stud went through.

‘You going to be
long?’ the voice boomed again.

‘Just a minute.’ I
stood up and quickly wiped my belly button area with some water from the tap,
then opened the door.

The lady outside gave me
a strange look as I came out, so I gave her what I hoped was a reassuring
smile, headed back into the cafe and made for the window seat.

I ordered a large hot
chocolate and leaned back, trying to relax. After a while, I began to wonder if
I’d done the wrong thing by buying the new stud. I hadn’t really thought about
it too much in the heat of the moment -only that Mum wasn’t going to stop me.
I’m not a baby any more, although she treats me like one sometimes. But maybe
I’d gone a bit far by defying her this much. And I also wondered if it was
worth it, as my belly button was stinging like anything.

I began to wish Mum
was more like Dad. He’s really cool. They split up yonks ago and he’s remarried
now, with a little boy. I don’t think Dad would have objected to me getting my
belly button pierced for a minute. He married one of his mature students and
she has
three
earrings in her right ear. She’s pretty cool too.

Just at that moment, I
noticed a boy come in and sit on a sofa to my right. He looks familiar, I
thought, then a rush of heat flooded through me. It was the guy from the park
yesterday, only today he was dressed in jeans and a denim jacket instead of his
black leathers. He didn’t appear to notice me and as he sat waiting to be
served, he started either playing a game or text messaging on his mobile.

A few seconds later,
the woman from the loos came out and sat at the table behind him. The moment
she sat down, her mobile rang. I couldn’t help but turn to look at her when she
answered. She talked
so
loud. You would have thought the person at the
other end was deaf. Maybe she’s talking to an ageing parent or someone, I
thought. But then she finished that call and started another. She
still
talked really loud. The whole cafe could hear what she was saying and she
seemed completely oblivious. The guy from the park turned around, glanced at
her, then over at me. He raised his eyebrows as if to say, ‘Some people.’

For the next ten
minutes, the cafe customers got to know her life story intimately - she was having
chicken for dinner, but cooking fish for Duchess, her cat. She was seeing John,
whoever he was, at the weekend and he had a nasty rash on his ankle, so she
thought he should see a doctor. And on and on and
on
at top volume. A
few people gave her disapproving looks, but she didn’t register them. On one
call, she asked whoever she was talking to to ring her back and gave her
number. I glanced over at Park Boy and I could swear that he was writing it
down. What’s he up to? I wondered. He can’t possibly fancy her, she must be at
least forty. Then at last, at
last
, Loud Lady got up to leave and the
cafe was peaceful again. You could almost hear everyone breathe a sigh of
relief.

From where I was
sitting, I could see the woman exit the cafe, walk a few metres down the road
and stand at a bus stop.

And then her mobile
rang. As she answered it, I noticed that Park Boy was also on his phone.

‘Is that 07485 95539?’
he asked. That’s definitely Loud Lady’s number, I thought as I watched him,
intrigued as to what he was up to.

I turned to look out
the window at the bus stop where, sure enough, I saw Loud Lady nod her head.

‘Well, this is the
Mobile Phone Police,’ said Park Boy. ‘And it has come to our attention that you
have the
loudest
voice ever recorded on our sound monitors. We’re
going to have to ask you to tone it down or else your phone will be
confiscated.’ Then he put his phone aside.

I burst out laughing
and watched as Loud Lady looked around her in bewilderment. Park boy caught my
eye and laughed too. Excellent, I thought, and I hope he comes over. He seems
like a real laugh. He didn’t come over, though. He just went back to playing on
his phone, so I went back my chocolate and gazed out the window, trying to look
cool. After a few minutes, I decided I probably looked more vacant than cool,
so I decided to write a song about him.

Nesta arrived about
ten minutes later, full of apologies for being late. I glanced over at Park
Boy, but he still had his head down, focused on his phone. Weird, I thought.
Boys
always
look up when Nesta makes an entrance. They can’t help it.
She’s half Italian, half Jamaican and that adds up to Stunning with a capital
S.With her long silky black hair and dark exotic looks, she’s a boy magnet.

As Nesta settled
herself down, the boy
finally
got up. Oh, here we go, I thought, I
knew it. He won’t come over to me, but now he’s seen Nesta, suddenly he’s
interested.

But no, he went
straight out of the door. As he walked past the window, he glanced at me and
winked. I smiled back. He didn’t even glance at Nesta.

 

Dark Rider

 

Whenever I see him, I know it’s right to be
wrong.

I live and breathe him, but I’ve got to be
strong.

Nobody likes him ‘cause he thinks it’s cool
to be bad,

But deep down inside him, I’m sure there’s
good to be had.

I should turn away when he’s riding down the
street,

But a blur of steel and black leather makes
my heart skip a beat.

 

Dark rider, fly my way and thrill me with
your thunder.

Steely strider, I’m just looking for a smile.

Kick it over and accelerate, take me with you
miles and miles.

Right or wrong, what’s going on, I’ve got to
move on.

 

 

 

 

 

C h a p t e r
 
5

Peculiar
Parents

 

Contents
-
Prev
/
Next

 

Mum was in the kitchen
chopping peppers when I got back from Muswell Hill. I took a deep breath and
prepared myself for the inevitable. Just bite the bullet, I told myself. Let
her have her say, look apologetic, then escape to the safety of my room.

‘Izzie…’ Mum began.

Izzie? I thought.
What’s going on? She calls me Isobel when she’s mad. Was everything OK, then? I
was still determined not to speak to her, though, only the requisite, yes, no,
sorry, sorry. But as she went on, I began to feel
really
rotten. In
her own way, I could see that she was trying to be understanding. I don’t get
her at all sometimes. I’d mentally prepared myself for the ‘words’, but she was
being really nice, a total turnaround since this morning.

Maybe this is some new
kind of torture, I thought, as she looked at me with concern. Or maybe she’s
been reading one of those ‘How to deal with your mad teenage daughter’ books.
That’s probably it. I don’t know. Whatever it was, my new mellow mum kind of
threw me. She was all, Are you all right? Did you get some lunch? Is there
anything you want to talk about? You know I have your best interests at heart,
and so on. I felt
awful
. I’d much rather be bawled out, I thought,
because now I feel guilty as hell that I’ve got a new stud in. Hell’s, bells
and poo. Sometimes I just can’t win.

After the ‘words’, she
offered to drive me over to Dad’s, as I’d arranged to have supper there.

‘Er, no thanks, Mum,’
I said. ‘I promised I’d drop in at Ben’s on the way, just for half an hour to
run through some of the songs for the gig next Saturday.’

She rolled her eyes.
‘You’re never in these days, Izzie. Look, call me from your dad’s later, I’ll
come and get you.’

‘Oh, don’t worry,
Mum,’ I said. ‘I’ll get Dad to drop me.’

‘Well, don’t be too
late,’ she called after me as I headed for the door.

 

The boys were already
there when I got to Ben’s house in Highgate. There are four of them in the
band: Ben, who’s the lead vocalist and plays guitar and keyboard, Mark on bass,
Elliot, also on keyboard, and Biff on drums. The band’s called King Noz and
they’ve made quite a name for themselves locally, playing gigs in pubs and
local schools. I’m not officially in the band, but when I started going out
with Ben, I sang a few numbers with them and now I’ve become a regular.

The boys were all out
in the garage, going over some of the songs for Saturday. I say garage, but
it’s really a den/music studio. Ben’s dad works as a sound engineer at the BBC
and he converted the garage into a studio for Ben to rehearse in. It’s totally
brilliant in there. At the beginning of summer, Ben and I went down to the East
End and bought loads of silk suit lining fabric, which we draped all over the
garage, from the ceiling and walls. He put up posters of Krishna, Buddha and
Guru Nanak and we persuaded his dad to collect this old sofa and chair that
we’d spotted on a skip a few streets away. It’s a really funky room now - it
looks like an Arabian tent and it smells eastern as well, because he burns the
joss sticks I got him for his birthday - lavender and amber ones. They smell
fab. Ben gave me a key to the room when we were going out and he hasn’t asked
for it back, which is good of him. He said I could go there if ever I want to
hang out on my own and get away from home. His parents are really cool and
never go in. They’re not daft, because I think if the band rehearsed in the
house, they’d have gone mad with all the din.

Ben adjusted his
glasses and looked up from one of the song sheets. ‘So, Iz, got any new
material?’

‘Almost,’ I said. ‘I’m
cooking a few ideas.’

Ben nodded. ‘Well, let
me have a look when you’ve got something down.’

‘Will do,’ I said and
I kicked my shoes off and lay on the sofa. The boys started jamming, so I
closed my eyes and drifted off. I’ve no regrets about finishing with Ben, I
thought. Everyone said I was mad, as we got on so well, but the excitement had
gone. We’d become mates, that’s all. I wanted something more. Though I think
I’ll probably stay friends with Ben for life. He’s the type of person that’s
really easy to be with - laid back, like nothing ever phases him. Not even me
finishing with him. He was like, Whatever you want, babe.

My thoughts turned to
the boy in the cafe this morning and I felt a shiver of anticipation. I
wondered who he was, what he was into and if I’d bump into him again. It was
weird seeing him twice in just two days. I’m a great believer in fate and I
think that if something’s meant to happen it will. I looked at my watch. It was
only six. Dad lives in a flat near Chalk Farm, behind the shops on Primrose
Hill Road. Maybe I’ll get the tube to Camden then walk through the park over to
Dad’s instead of going up the main road, I thought. See if Park Boy’s around.

At that moment, a
noise to my right distracted me. I opened my eyes to see Biff over at the tap
at the back wall. The others couldn’t see what he was doing, but I could. He
was filling a plastic bag with water. Biff’s a bit of a nutter and likes
nothing better than a water fight. I decided to get out while I was still dry.
Last week, I’d joined in with gusto, hurling water bombs like the best of them,
but… I don’t know. Suddenly, it all seemed a bit childish. I wasn’t in the
mood. I felt restless, so I decided to go off to the park to see if fate had
anything more interesting to offer.

 

On the journey down,
my sense of anticipation grew. I really hoped Park Boy would be there. It was a
lovely summer’s evening and it felt like there was magic in the air. As I walked
from Camden to Primrose Hill, there were loads of people around, standing
outside the pubs, sitting outside cafes. For some reason, it felt really
romantic. I walked up Parkway then right and along and into the park. As I
walked through, there was no sign of him and I couldn’t help feeling
disappointed. Never mind, I told myself, what will be, will be. Anyway, he
might have a girlfriend. All the fanciable boys are usually involved, one way
or another.

BOOK: Cathy Hopkins - [Mates, Dates 06]
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