Authors: Jacqueline Wilson
I had sudden memories of a little fairy-tale book I’d had. “Are you into fairy tales?” I said.
I intended it as an insult, but he took me seriously. “I don’t mind them, actually. Some. My dad gave me a copy of
, seeing as we’re in Wales.”
He could well have been speaking Welsh for all the sense he was making.
“It’s old Welsh fairy stuff. Dead romantic in parts. I’ll lend you the book if you like.”
“I don’t think it sounds my sort of thing.”
“So what is your sort of thing, eh? What do you like reading? What’s that little black book you’ve always got with you?”
I was surprised. He must have been watching me carefully. I usually kept my book hidden in my jacket pocket. “That’s just my little sketchbook.”
“Let’s have a look, then,” he said, patting my pocket.
“Go on, don’t be shy.”
“I’m not the slightest bit shy. It’s
“What sort of thing do you sketch? Castles?”
“Not mountains either.”
“God, you aren’t half nosy.”
He wrinkled his snub nose at me cheerfully.
I gave in. “I don’t sketch. I draw. Stylized pictures. Cartoons.”
“Oh, great. I love that sort of stuff. Do you ever do comic strips? I love Calvin and Hobbes. And Asterix, I’ve got all those books. Look, I’ve even got Snowy on my socks.” He hitched up his jeans and straightened his socks, which were all bunched up in his Woolworth’s trainers.
“Very cute,” I said.
He grinned. “OK, OK. I know my clothes aren’t exactly hip.”
He was dead right there. If I was home I’d be terrified of being seen talking to him. But he was kind of fun in a silly lollopy way, as persistent as a puppy. He didn’t even seem to mind my being so snappy with him. I wouldn’t normally have been anywhere near as sharp. It was just I was getting seriously bothered about my stupid family.
family were all down in the grounds, peering knowledgeably at little heaps of stones. One of his sisters looked up and spotted us. “Hey, Dan! Come on down, we need your castle book!”
All the other little marigolds waved and shouted.
“I’d better get cracking. They won’t stop now they’ve started,” said Dan. “You coming?”
I followed him down. Dad and Anna and Eggs weren’t anywhere. Maybe I’d have to join up with the marigolds. I was getting so desperate that it began to seem an attractive idea.
But guess who I came across strolling round outside the castle walls. Dad and Anna and Eggs. They didn’t look the slightest bit concerned.
“Hi, Ellie,” said Dad. “Hey, have you made a friend? Great.”
Dan grinned. I glared.
“Where have you been?” I demanded.
“Well, we were showing Eggs the way medieval people went to the loo in the castle—and then he needed to go himself so we had to trail right over to the toilets. Oh, poor Ellie, were you getting worried?”
“No, of course not,” I said sulkily.
“See you around . . . Ellie,” said Dan.
I did see him around a few times after that. Mostly with the marigolds. And Eggs. One day we joined up for a picnic. It even drizzled that day so we ate damp sandwiches and soggy sausages and mushy crisps. No one else seemed to find this depressing. Dan was especially good at keeping all the little ones amused. Eggs
him. I got sick of all this clowning around and went and sat on a wet rock and drew.
I was doodling away when a shadow fell across my page. I snapped my book shut.
“Let me see,” said Dan.
“Meanie. Go on, special favor. Seeing as it’s the last day of the hols.”
“I can’t stick this dump.”
“You’re mad. It’s fantastic. And anyway, who wants to go back home? School on Monday. Yuck yuck yuck. I wonder what it’ll be like—in Year Nine.”
“You’re not going to be in Year Nine,” I said. I’d found out that Dan was only
. Not even a teenager yet.
“Yes, I am.”
“Rubbish. You’ll be in Year Eight. With the other little boys.”
going to be in Year Nine. Honest.” Dan looked unusually embarrassed. “I’ve been put up a year, right?”
“Oh, God. Because you’re so brainy?”
“You’ve got it.”
“Trust you! I should have sussed you out for a right swot.”
“You ought to be pleased you’re going out with a boy of megabrainpower,” said Dan.
“We’re not going
“I wish we could.”
“I like you, Ellie,” he said seriously. “Will you be my girlfriend?”
“No! Of course not. You’re just a baby.”
“Don’t you fancy having a toy-boy?”
“Can’t I see you sometimes?”
“You’re nuts, Dan. You live in Manchester, I live in London, right?”
“Can we write to each other, then?”
He nagged on until I gave in and scribbled my address on a page torn from my sketchbook. He’s probably lost it already, knowing Dan. Not that I
to know him. He won’t bother writing even if he’s still got the address. And even if he does I don’t think I’ll reply. There’s no point. I mean, he’s just this irritating little kid. I suppose he’s OK in small doses. But he’s not exactly boyfriend material.
Oh, dear. If only he were five years older! And not all nerdy and nutty. Why can’t he be really cool, with fantastic fair hair and dark brown eyes???
I wonder if I’ll see that blond boy again tomorrow. I slow down, going all dreamy just thinking about him. Then I catch sight of my face in a shop window. I look like I’m brain-dead, eyes glazed, mouth open. And then I see the clock at the back of the shop and it’s gone nine. Gone nine! It can’t be. It
Gone nine, number nine, my first day in Year Nine—and I’m going to be in trouble before I’ve even started.
nine heroes and heroines
1. JOHN LENNON—because he was the best Beatle, a funny artist, and he wanted to give peace a chance.
2. FRIDA KAHLO—because she produced amazing paintings lying flat on her back in terrible pain.
3. ANNE FRANK—because she wrote a wonderful diary hiding in that annex in Amsterdam during the war.
4. Vincent VAN GOGH—because he was such a great artist and went on painting even though he never sold a single canvas.
5. ANNE RICE—because she writes about vampires and has a huge house full of life-size china dolls.
6. MAURICE SENDAK—because his drawings are incredible, especially Where the Wild Things Are.
7. JULIAN CLARY—because he’s so outrageous and I think he’s ever so good-looking.
8. ZOE BALL—because she’s so bubbly and I used to like watching her art program.
9. NICK PARK—because Wallace and Gromit are fantastic!
two best friends
t’s weird walking along the corridor to Mrs. Henderson’s room. We
have to have Mrs. Hockeysticks Henderson as our class tutor in Year Nine. What
it about games teachers? She’s always picked on me right from Year Seven.
“You’re not even running, girl, get a
I developed strategic tactics, suddenly stricken with appalling migraines or agonizing periods at the start of every games lesson, but she soon got wise to me. She made me run six times round the hockey pitch for malingering and blew her poxy whistle at me whenever I tried to slow down.
I can’t stick Mrs. Henderson. I’ve always hated PE. Magda sometimes hangs about with me and acts like she’s useless too. She doesn’t like games either. She hates to get her hair blown about and she won’t try to catch a ball in case she breaks a nail. Yet if she’s forced to participate she can run like the wind, shoot six goals in a row at netball and whack a hockey ball clear across the pitch.
At least Nadine is even more hopeless than me. She looks graceful but when she’s forced to run her arms and legs jerk out at odd angles and she totters along like a broken puppet, her head hanging.
to see Magda and Nadine. I haven’t seen them for weeks. We only got back from that stupid crumbling cottage yesterday. But somehow my feet are going more and more s-l-o-w-l-y as they squeak along the newly polished corridor. They look so hideous, too, regulation brown school shoes, you’ve never seen such rubbish, your actual Clarks clodhoppers, when at any other school girls can wear whatever they want—heels, trainers, Doc Martens . . . Oh, there are these seriously wonderful sexy shoes in Shelleys! OK, they’ve got heels,
heels, but they’re this amazing shiny bronze color. Now bronze is brown. Well, brownish. I begged Anna to let me have them for school but she wouldn’t give in. It’s so unfair. Just because she wears those boring preppy little pumps all the time. She’s one inch taller than Dad and ever so self-conscious about it.
Oh, God. It’s Miss Trumper, the deputy head. She’s even worse than Mrs. Henderson. School’s only started five minutes and she’s already on the warpath. It’s pathetic. Why can’t these old bags get a
“What are you doing lurking in the corridor, Eleanor?”
“Nothing, Miss Trumper.”
“I can see that for myself. Whose class are you in this year?”
“Mrs. Henderson’s,” I say, nodding at the door right in front of me.
“Well, why are you just standing there? You don’t mean to tell me you’ve been sent out the classroom in disgrace
“No! I haven’t even gone in there yet.”
“Well, do so, Eleanor. At once!”
I seize the door handle. I can hear Mrs. Henderson in full flow inside, giving the class an introduction to the 1001 rules that must never be broken in Class Nine Neptune. Oh, yeah—all the years are divided into these pathetic planets: Venus, Mars, Mercury and Neptune. Funny how they never pick Uranus. We’re Neptune and we have this little trident thing on our badges. It’s all so boring. None of us want to be in Neptune anyway. Magda fancies Venus, and Nadine wants to be in Mars because she likes the chocolate bars and I want to be in Mercury because I’ve got a soft spot for the late lamented Freddie. . . .
“Eleanor!” Miss Trumper has paused halfway along the corridor. “Have you gone into a catatonic trance?”
Dear goodness, they think they’re so
“No, Miss Trumper.”
“Then go into your classroom!”
I take a deep breath and turn the handle. In I go. And there’s Mrs. Henderson, sitting on her table swinging her legs. She’s wearing a yucky pleated skirt to show she’s being class tutor, but she’s got bare legs and ankle socks and tennis shoes so she’s all set to bounce off down to the gym when she’s finished giving everyone an earful first lesson.
I get two earfuls. In fact she gets so aerated that my poor ears expand to Dumbo proportions. Stuff like
Just Not Good Enough
I bow my head and act like I’m in the depths of despair just to disconcert her. Under my hair I peer round for Magda and Nadine. Great, they’re right at the back! Magda’s grinning at me. Nadine gives me a little wave. They’ve saved me the seat in between them. And
Mrs. Henderson draws breath and lets me slide off to the back. Magda whispers “Hi, babe,” and Nadine gives me some chewing gum and I settle down and school is started. At least old Henderson didn’t give me a detention for being late the first day!
First days are always so bitty. There’s all the new timetables and notebooks and each and every teacher starts in on their own little lecture about Now You’re in Year Nine. Then at morning break Chrissie shows us all these photos she took in Barbados during the holidays and then Jess has us all in fits telling us about this action holiday she went on where she did this bungee jumping and she keeps trying to demonstrate—so we don’t have a moment’s peace to be just
, Magda-Nadine-and-Ellie, until after lunch.
We saunter off to our special place on the steps that lead down to the Portakabins. It’s where the three of us have always sat for the last two years. But there’s a whole bunch of drippy little new kids hanging around doing handstands up against the wall, skirts tucked into their brand-new regulation ghastly gray school knickers.
“Per-lease,” says Magda. “Can’t you kiddiwinks go and wave your legs somewhere else? It’s just too distracting, dearies.”
They straighten up, giggling foolishly, and then scatter when Magda flaps her hands at them.
“Right,” she says, seating herself carefully. Her skirt is a good six centimeters shorter than mine. She has to position it with extreme accuracy or else
be the one showing off her knickers. Which are definitely
Nadine sits beside her, kicking off her battered school shoes. I can see her black pearl toenail varnish through her tights.
I nudge up beside them, feeling a sudden warm rush of love for both of them.
Nadine’s been my friend ever since nursery school, when we stirred bright green dough in the playhouse and played we were poisoning all the dollies. We stayed staunch friends all through primary school, playing Witches in the playground and Mermaids when we went swimming and Ghosts when we spent the night at each other’s houses. We vowed we would stay best friends forever and ever, just the two of us. But the first year of secondary school we weren’t allowed to sit where we wanted. We had to be in alphabetical order. I found myself sitting next to Magda.
I was a bit scared of Magda at first. Even when she was only eleven she had a proper figure and she arranged her hair in a very sophisticated style and wore a thick coat of mascara so that her eyes looked knowing. She had finely plucked eyebrows that she raised when she took a second look at you.
She hardly spoke to me that first week. Then one time in class I was doodling on the back of my new school notebook, drawing an ultrahip cool-cat Magda. I made her a real pussycat with sharp whiskers and a fluffy tail. I drew me as a little fat mouse, frightened of Magda, all twitchy nose and scrabbly paws. Magda suddenly leant over me to see what I was doing. She worked it out at once. “Hey, Ellie! That’s
” she said.
So I drew some more stuff and she liked that too. We were friends after that. She wanted me to be her
Only of course I had Nadine. And Nadine didn’t like Magda at all at first. But when Magda invited me over to her place one day after school I forced Nadine to come too. I wanted moral support more than anything else. I imagined Magda living this amazing cool independent existence. I couldn’t have been more wrong. She’s got this lovely noisy interfering funny family. Magda’s the baby. Everyone’s pet. She acts like a cute little kid at home. Anyway, she invited Nadine and me up to her bedroom and she gave us both a full makeup job. I loved it. She actually made me look like I had big dark eyes behind my specs and she did this subtle line each side of my face so it looked like I had cheekbones. It was the first time I’d ever worn makeup and I thought it was wonderful. Nadine was a bit sniffy. Magda said it was her turn. She gave Nadine a real gothic look, chalk-white face and truly black lipstick and astonishing outlined eyes. When Nadine saw herself in the mirror she smiled all over her amazing new face and wanted Magda to be her friend too.
So we’ve been this best-friend threesome ever since, right through Years Seven and Eight. Now we’re Year Nine, thirteen—well, Magda’s nearly fourteen, and Nadine is fourteen in December, but I’ve got to wait all the way round till next June.
It’s irritating. I really look the youngest now, because I’m still so small and roly-poly with these revoltingly chubby cheeks. I have
for goodness’ sake. I’m used to Magda looking older, especially now she’s highlighted her hair. But Nadine used to look really young for her age with her heart-shaped face and her long black hair tumbling round her shoulders like an Alice in negative. Now she looks . . . different.
“Come on, then, I haven’t seen you both for ages! What have you been up to?” says Magda, but she doesn’t pause for breath. She tells Nadine and me all about her Spanish holiday, and how all these waiters kept waylaying her and this guy at the pool kept picking her up and throwing her in the water and this other much older guy kept trying to buy her drinks at the poolside. . . . This is the standard Magda stuff and I don’t always concentrate because I’m watching Nadine. She doesn’t look as if she’s listening either, bending forward so that her hair hides her face like a black velvet curtain. She’s inking a tattoo on her wrist with a black felt-tip pen, a careful heart with an elaborate inked frill. This is a change for Nadine. Her tattoos are usually skulls or spiders.
“What about you, Nadine?” I say the second Magda shuts up.
about me?” says Nadine. “You mean my hols? I saw you after. Before you went to your cottage. It was hell. Relentlessly cheery. And you had to queue for hours and all the kids had Mickey Mouse ears and there were all these giant cartoon characters
at everyone. It was all so bright. It made my eyes ache.”
“Crawl back to your coffin, Ms. Vampire,” says Magda, laughing. “I bet Natasha loved it.”
Natasha is Nadine’s little sister. Nadine and I have never been able to stand her, but Magda is extraordinary, she actually likes little kids. She’s even fond of Eggs. She’s always going on about how she’d like to have little brothers and sisters herself.
“Natasha ate four ice creams and then was very sick all down her brand-new pink Minnie Mouse T-shirt,” says Nadine. She painstakingly inks a name across her heart.
I lean forward to read it. “Liam?” I say.
Nadine blushes. Nadine
blushes—she doesn’t look as if she’s got enough blood—but now I can see bright pink beneath the fronds of black hair.
“Liam?” says Magda. “I didn’t know you were an Oasis fan.”
Liam,” says Nadine.
Magda looks at me for enlightenment. I shake my head. We both turn back to Nadine.
Liam, then?” Magda asks.
“Oh,” says Nadine. A tiny pause. “He’s my boyfriend.”
We stare at her. “Your
I nearly tip over backward down the steps. Nadine has a boyfriend. I can’t believe it! How come Nadine’s got a boyfriend before me? Before
? Magda has loads of guys fawning all over her—well, so she says—but she doesn’t actually go
with anyone yet.
boyfriend?” says Magda, and she sounds just as shocked as me.
“But you don’t even
boys, Nadine,” I say.
“I like Liam,” says Nadine. “And he isn’t a boy anyway. Not really. He’s seventeen. At college.”
“So where did you meet him?” says Magda, sounding suspicious. “How come you’ve never even mentioned him before?”
“Yes, you didn’t say a thing about this Liam in your letters, Nad,” I say.
I wrote lots of letters to Nadine and Magda when I was cooped up in the cottage. Magda never bothers to write back properly. She just sends postcards with “Love and Kisses, Magda” on the back—which is sweet, but not exactly informative.
Nadine is a much more satisfactory correspondent—several pages in her carefully printed italic script, with little showers of star and moon sequins scattered inside the envelope. But all she wrote about was this weird new band she’s keen on and how she’s trying to teach herself to read the tarot and a whole long moan about her family. Her dad’s forever on at her to work harder even though she’s always in the top three at school. He can’t see why she can’t come top in everything, which is crazy because Amna is always way in front of everyone and she’s got this mega-IQ, like she’s a total genius and no one could ever beat her no matter how hard they tried. Then her mum hates Nadine’s clothes and makeup and hairstyle and wants her to smarten up and wear these chichi clothes and smile like an American cheerleader. And Natasha is just Awfulness in Ankle Socks, acting the Angel Child whenever Mummy and Daddy are around but being the Brat from Hell whenever Nadine is forced to look after her.
there was all the usual stuff but not a single line about a Liam. I can’t help feeling outraged. Nadine and I always tell each other
. “Why didn’t you
me?” I say. My voice cracks, almost as if I’m going to start crying.
“I’ve only just met him,” says Nadine, stretching her arm out to admire her completed love-token tattoo.
“Ah!” says Magda, her eyebrows arching. “So he’s just this guy you’ve seen around, right? Not an