Authors: Jacqueline Wilson
1. Stephanie Dummler and Year Nine Venus (1995), Coombe Girls School.
2. Becky Heather and Year Nine Chestnut and Beech (1995), the Green School for Girls.
3. Jane Ingles and the pupils of Hillside School.
4. Claire Drury and the pupils of Failsworth School—especially Jackelyn and Rachel.
5. Sarah Greenacre and the pupils of the Stoke High School.
6. De Reading and the pupils of St. Benedict School.
7. Angela Derby.
8. Becki Hillman.
9. To all the other schools who made me so welcome in 1995 and 1996.
nine major resolutions
1. Stay best friends with Magda and Nadine.
2. Draw every day—and come top in art.
3. Try not to come bottom in all other subjects!
4. Go on a diet and STICK to it. (No more Magnum ice creams, sob sob.)
5. Do something with my hair. Anything. Grow it. Or cut it right off. Dye it???
6. Get some sort of paid work the minute I’m fourteen so I can . . .
7. Buy some decent clothes.
8. Go clubbing.
9. GET A BOYFRIEND!
he first day back at school. I’m walking because I missed the bus.
a good start. Year Nine. I wonder what it’ll be like.
Number nine, number nine, number nine . . .
It’s on that classic Beatles White Album, the crazy mixed-up bit at the end. I’ve always felt close to John Lennon even though he died before I was born. I like him because he did all those crazy little drawings and he wore granny glasses and he was funny and he always just did his own thing. I do crazy little drawings and I wear granny glasses and my friends think I’m funny. I don’t get the opportunity to do my own thing, though.
It’s half past eight. If I was doing my own thing right now I’d be back in bed, curled up, fast asleep. John Lennon had lie-ins, didn’t he, when he and Yoko stayed in bed all day. They even gave interviews to journalists in bed. Cool.
So, if I could do my own thing I’d sleep till midday. Then breakfast. Hot chocolate and doughnuts. I’d listen to music and fool around in my sketchbook. Maybe watch a video. Then I’d eat again. I’d send out for a pizza. Though maybe I should stick to salads. I guess it would be easy to put on weight lying around in bed all day. I don’t want to end up looking like a beached whale.
I’ll have a green salad. And green grapes. And what’s a green drink? There’s that liqueur I sipped round at Magda’s, crème de menthe. I can’t say I was that thrilled. It was a bit like drinking toothpaste. Forget the drink.
I’ll phone Magda, though, and Nadine, and we’ll have a long natter. And then . . .
Well, it’ll be the evening now, so I’ll have a bath and wash my hair and change into . . . What should I wear in bed? Not my own teddy-bear nightie. Much too babyish. But I don’t fancy one of those slinky satin numbers. I know, I’ll wear a long white gown with embroidered roses all colors of the rainbow, and I’ll put a big flash ring on every finger and lie flat in my bed like Frida Kahlo. She’s another one of my heroes, this amazing Mexican artist with extraordinary eyebrows and earrings and flowers in her hair.
OK, there I am, back in bed and looking beautiful. Then I hear the door opening. Footsteps. It’s my boyfriend coming to see me. . . .
The only trouble is I haven’t
a boyfriend. Well, I haven’t got a Frida Kahlo outfit or a bedside phone or my own television and video and my bed sags because my little brother, Eggs, uses it as a trampoline whenever I’m not around. I could put up with all these deprivations. I’d just like a boyfriend. Please.
Just as I’m thinking this a beautiful blond boy with big brown eyes comes sauntering round a car parked partly on the pavement. He steps to one side to get out of my way, only I’ve stepped the same way. He steps to the other side. So do I! We look like we’re doing a crazy kind of two-step.
“Oh. Whoops. S-sorry!” I stammer. I feel my face flooding scarlet.
He stays cool, one eyebrow slightly raised. He doesn’t say anything but he smiles at me.
He smiles at me!
Then he walks neatly past while I dither, still in a daze.
I look back over my shoulder. He’s looking back at me. He really is. Maybe . . . maybe he likes me. No, that’s mad. Why should this really incredible guy who must be at least eighteen think anything of a stupid schoolgirl who can’t even walk past him properly?
He’s not looking up. He’s looking down. He’s looking at my legs! Oh, God, maybe my skirt really
too short. I turned it up myself last night. Anna said she’d shorten it for me, but I knew she’d only turn it up a centimeter or so. I wanted my skirt really short. Only I’m not that great at sewing. The hem went a bit bunchy. When I tried the skirt back on there suddenly seemed a very large amount of chubby pink leg on show.
Anna didn’t say anything but I knew what she was thinking.
Dad was more direct: “For God’s sake, Ellie, that skirt barely covers your knickers!”
“Honestly!” I said, sighing. “I thought you tried to be hip, Dad. Everyone wears their skirts this length.”
It’s true. Magda’s skirt is even shorter. But her legs are long and lightly tanned. She’s always moaning about her legs, saying she hates the way the muscle sticks out at the back. She used to do ballet and tap, and she still does jazz dancing. She moans but she doesn’t mean it. She shows her legs off every chance she gets.
Nadine’s skirts are short too. Her legs are never brown. They’re either black when she’s wearing her opaque tights or white when she has to go to school. Nadine can’t stand getting suntanned. She’s a very gothic girl with a vampire complexion. She’s very willowy as well as white. Short skirts look so much better with slender legs.
It’s depressing when your two best friends in all the world are much thinner than you are. It’s even more depressing when your stepmother is thinner too. With positively model girl looks. Anna is only twenty-seven and she looks younger. When we go out together people think we’re sisters. Only we don’t look a bit alike. She’s so skinny and striking. I’m little and lumpy.
I’m not exactly
. Not really. It doesn’t help having such a round face. Well, I’m round all over. My tummy’s round and my bum is round. Even my stupid
are round. Still, my chest is round too. Magda has to resort to a Wonder Bra to get a proper cleavage and Nadine is utterly flat.
I don’t mind my top. I just wish there was much less of my bottom. Oh, God, what must I look like from the back view? No wonder he’s staring.
I scuttle round the corner, feeling such a fool. My legs have gone so wobbly it’s hard to walk.
look as if they’re blushing too. Look at them, pink as hams. Who am I kidding? Of course I’m fat. The waistband on my indecently short skirt is uncomfortably tight. I’ve got fatter this summer, I just know I have. Especially these last three terrible weeks at the cottage.
It’s so unfair. Everyone else goes off on these really glamorous jaunts abroad. Magda went to Spain. Nadine went to America.
went to our damp dreary cottage in Wales. And it rained and it rained and it rained. I got so bored sitting around playing infantile games of Snap and Old Maid with Eggs and watching fuzzy telly on the black-and-white portable and tramping through a sea of mud in my wellies that I just ate all the time.
Three meals a day, and at least thirty-three snacks. Mars bars and jelly beans and popcorn and tortilla chips and salt and vinegar crisps and Magnum ice creams. Gobble gobble gobble, it’s no wonder that I wobble. Yuck, my knees are actually wobbling as I walk.
I hate walking. I don’t see the point of going for a walk, lumbering along in this great big loop just to get back to where you’ve come from. We always do so much walking in Wales.
Dad and Anna always stride ahead. Little Eggs leaps about like a loony. I slouch behind them, mud sucking at my wellies, and I think to myself: This is
??? Why have a holiday cottage in Wales, of all places? Why can’t we have a holiday villa in Spain or a holiday apartment in New York? Magda and Nadine are so
. OK, Magda was on a package tour and they stayed in a high-rise hotel and Nadine was only in Orlando doing a Disney, but I bet they both had brilliant sunshine every day.
In our little bit of Wales it’s always the rainy season. Black clouds are a permanent fixture, like the mountains. It even rains
the cottage because Dad thinks he can fix the roof slates himself and he always makes a total botch of it. We have buckets and bowls and saucepans scattered all over upstairs, and day and night there’s this drip-tinkle-splosh symphony.
I got so utterly fed up and depressed that when we paid the usual visit to this boring old ruined castle I felt like casting myself off the battlements. I leaned against the stone wall at the top, my heart still banging away like crazy from the awful climb, and wondered what it would be like to leap over into thin air. Would anyone seriously care if I ended up going splat on the cobblestones below? Dad and Anna had a firm grip on Eggs but they didn’t make a grab at me, even when I leaned right over, my head dangling.
They actually wandered off hand in hand with him, mumbling about baileys and boiling oil. They are overdoing the involved-parent act. I doubt if Eggs can spell
yet so he’s certainly not at the serious project stage. Dad never did all this stuff with me when I was little. He always seemed to be working or busy. When we went on holiday he went off sketching. But I didn’t care. I had Mum. Then.
Thinking about Mum made me feel worse. People don’t expect me to remember her still. They’re mad. I can remember so much about her—heaps and heaps of stuff. The games we used to play with my Barbie dolls and the songs we’d sing and how she let me put on her makeup and try on all her jewelry and her pink silk petticoat and her high heels.
I want to talk about her so much but whenever I try with Dad he goes all tense and quiet. He frowns as if he has a headache. He doesn’t want to remember Mum. Well, he’s got Anna now. And they’ve both got Eggs.
I haven’t got anyone. I started to feel so miserable I mooched off by myself. I walked to the other side of the battlements and found a crumbling turret. The entrance was roped off, with a warning. I ducked under the rope and climbed up all these dank steps in the dark. Then I put my foot on a step that wasn’t there and tripped, banging my shin. It wasn’t really that painful but I found I was crying. You can’t really climb when you’re crying, so I sat down and sobbed.
After a while I realized I didn’t have a tissue. My glasses were all wet and my nose was running. I wiped and sniffed as best I could. The stone steps were very cold and the damp spread through my jeans but I still sat there. I suppose I was waiting for Dad to come looking for me. I waited and I waited and I waited. And then I heard footsteps. I sat still, listening. Quick, light footsteps. Too light for Dad. Too quick for me to get out of the way in time. Someone tripped right over me and we both screamed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t have a clue anyone was sitting there!”
“You’re kneeling on me!”
“Sorry, sorry. Here, let me help you up.”
“Careful!” He was hauling so vigorously we both nearly toppled downward.
I struggled free and stood with my back against the damp wall. He stood up too. It was too dark to make out more than a vague shape.
“What were you doing, sitting in the dark? You haven’t hurt yourself, have you?”
“I wasn’t hurt. I might be now. I still feel very squashed.”
“Sorry. I keep saying that, don’t I? Though it
a bit crackers to crouch like that in the dark. Next time you might get a whole troop of Boy Scouts hiking over you. Or a coachload of American tourists trampling you with their trainers. Or . . . Or . . . I’m burbling. It’s difficult making conversation when you can’t see. Let’s go on up to see if it gets any lighter.”
“I don’t think you can. The steps seem to give out.”
“Oh, well. That figures. Let’s go back down, then.”
I hesitated, having a quick wipe of my face with the back of my hand. There wasn’t much point sitting there any longer. Dad and Anna and Eggs had probably forgotten all about me. Gone right back to the cottage. They’d suddenly snap their fingers three days later. “What’s happened to Ellie?” they’d say. And shrug. And forget about me again.
The boy seemed to think I was timid. “I’ll hold your hand if you like. To help you down.”
“I can manage perfectly, thanks,” I said.
Though it was a bit hairy feeling our way down. The steps seemed more slippery, and there wasn’t any handrail. I stumbled once, and he grabbed me. “Careful!”
careful,” I said.
“I bet you there’s an attendant waiting for us at the bottom to nag us rotten about the danger,” he said. “That’s the trouble, though. The minute I see something roped off I have this desperate urge to explore inside. So consequently I’m forever in a fix. Dopey Dan, that’s what my family and friends call me when they’re narked. I’m Daniel. But I’m only called that when they’re really really really going ballistic. It’s plain Dan most of the time.”
He went on like this until we emerged blinking into the daylight. Plain Dan was perfect. He had wild exploding hair and a silly little snub nose that he twitched to hitch his glasses into place.
I blinked through my own smeary specs and focused properly.
“It’s you!” we said simultaneously.
His family had another equally damp and dilapidated holiday cottage about half a mile down the valley from ours. We saw them in the village Spar buying their groceries and they were often in the pub in the evenings too. My dad and his dad sometimes played darts together. Anna and Dan’s mum sat and made strained conversation. They looked like they came from different planets, even though they were both in jeans and jerseys and boots. Anna’s jeans show off her tiny tight bum and her jersey is an Artwork designer sweater and her boots have got buckles and pointy toes. Dan’s mum has a bum much bigger than mine. Her jumpers were all too tight, too, and one of them was actually unraveling. Her boots were serious walking boots caked with mud.
The whole family were serious walkers whatever the weather. We’d see them setting out in a downpour in their orange parkas, and hours later we’d spot these mobile marigolds at the top of a dim distant mountain. There were five children, all earnest and old-fashioned. Dan was the eldest, about my age, a good inch shorter than me even though I’m little. He had a fat guidebook about castles sticking out of his pocket. Typical.
“We made it!” he said, as if we’d just returned from outer space. He tried to jump the rope in triumph but tripped.
“No wonder they call you Dopey Dan,” I mumbled as I skirted the rope.
There was still no sign of Dad and Anna and Eggs. Maybe they really
gone off without me.
“What’s your name?” Dan asked, brushing himself down. “Rapunzel?”
“Well, I found you languishing in a tower, didn’t I?”