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Authors: Jacqueline Wilson

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BOOK: Girls in Love
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My dream is still so real it’s as if I know him, as if we went for that walk together and were in each other’s arms down by the river.

He’s getting nearer, wearing a blue denim shirt today. It looks great with his coloring. He’s looking straight ahead. Is he looking at me? Looking
for
me? What if he dreamt about me too? What if he somehow dreamt the very same dream?

I walk on and he walks on too. I can see his features now, his brown eyes, his straight nose, his sweet mouth, he’s smiling, he’s smiling at me. I shall smile too, a deeply significant smile to show that we share a secret . . .

“Hi,” he says, a few paces away.

Hi! To
me
? Is he really talking to me? He
can’t
be. My head swivels to see if there’s someone standing behind me. No one. It’s me. Oh, God, I feel such an idiot. I try to say hi back but my throat is a sandy Sahara, so dry it comes out as a croak. Then he’s past, he’s walking on, I’ve lost it, I’ve lost my chance. He must think me a complete fool, only capable of frog-talk.

I am late for school again. Mrs. Henderson gives me a detention. Another one. Two in two days. Mrs. Henderson suggests that I seem to be going for some sort of record.

“Not a wise move, Eleanor,” she adds threateningly.

I don’t know what to do. I’m not fussed about old Hockeysticks Henderson. It’s me. I think I’m really going mad. Because now I’m in school and I’m breathing in the familiar smell of rubber trainers and canteen chip fat and Body Shop scent and Clearasil, my dream is fading fast. I was starting to
believe
the dream was real, that the blond boy and I were really involved.

I’ve got to stop this fast. I’ve got to tell Nadine and Magda that I made it all up.

But I still don’t get a word in edgeways, not even at lunchtime on our steps. Nadine goes on about Liam, Liam, Liam. She’s inked a whole series of love-hearts all the way up her arm. She’ll give herself blood poisoning if she’s not careful. It’s as if she’s dyed her brain with his name too, because he’s all she can talk about. Not that
they
seem to talk at all. He’s barely said anything to her so far. They just skive off and snog, basically. Which is a little
too
basic, if you ask me.

“Well, I didn’t ask you,” Nadine snaps.

Magda says that Greg does too much talking, he never stops. He showed her how to work out the maths homework although she already knew perfectly well how to do it. And then he started giving her tips on science into the bargain.

“How about a few tips on human biology?” Magda suggested on their way home.

But he was too thick to take up her offer. He might be dead brainy but he’s brain-dead when it come to physical relationships, obviously.

“It’s not necessarily obvious,” Magda retorts. “I’ve just got to give him time. Redheads are
known
for their tempestuous natures.”

“You’re ever so picky about Liam and Greg,” says Nadine. “What’s bugging you, eh, Ellie?”

“Nothing’s bugging me.”

“You’re not feeling just the teeniest bit left out?” says Nadine.

“Certainly not!”

“Well, she’s probably fed up because her Dan is so far away and she can’t see him,” says Magda.

“If he even exists,” says Nadine, staring at me very intently.

I feel my heart pounding underneath my blouse. Nadine knows me so well. I hate the way her green eyes are gleaming.

“Oh, yes, he’s a figment of my imagination,” I say, staring at them both. I pause. Then I feel in my skirt pocket and produce my crumpled letter. “A figment of my imagination who somehow miraculously has managed to write to me,” I say, flashing the letter in their faces.

I cover up most of the words but I show them the important part:
Love from Dan.

nine dreams

1. THE BEST DREAM: The blond boy and me down by the river.

2. THE SADDEST DREAM: I see my mum in a crowd and I struggle to catch up with her and I can’t so I shout and scream but she doesn’t hear, she just walks on until I can’t see her anymore.

3. THE SILLIEST DREAM: Magda and Nadine and I are still thirteen but back in nursery school and we have to make little dough people and mine won’t go right, it keeps going back into a lumpy little ball.

4. THE MOST EMBARRASSING DREAM: I’m walking to the bus stop with lots of Anderson boys around me and they’re all sniggering and when I look down I see that my skirt has ridden up to my waist and I’m showing all of my knickers.

5. THE STRANGEST DREAM: I’m flying, but only just, skimming up and down the staircase, not quite clearing the steps so that I keep scuffing my shoes.

6. THE MOST TERRIFYING DREAM: There are robbers and they’re in the house and they’re going to kill me and I can hear them coming, and then just as they get to me I wake up and I run into Dad and Anna’s room but I haven’t REALLY woken up and the robbers are in Dad’s bed and they leap out at me.

7. THE MOST BABYISH DREAM: I’m in a cot and someone is rocking me and it’s lovely but the cot’s very small so my head is pressing hard against the top and my legs are poking right through the slats and hanging in midair.

8. THE DAMPEST DREAM: I’m in a ship sailing up and down and the water is sparkling so I dive off the side and start swimming and the water is so warm and so wet. (I used to have this dream when I was about Eggs’s age. Sometimes with disastrous consequences.)

9. THE MOST FREQUENTLY RECURRING DREAM: I’m very late for school and I can’t find my uniform and I can’t get my bag packed properly and I miss the bus and I’m in serious trouble when I eventually get to school. This happens enough in real life, so it feels very unfair that I have to dream it too!

five alive

(but only just, and all dying of embarrassment and boredom!)

T
here’s no way I can ever tell the truth now. So I’m stuck. Treading in treacle, Super Glued into silence.

I write back to Dan. Mostly because I need him to write back to me again so I can show off his letter to Nadine and Magda. Which is so mean.

He writes back. And I write back. And he writes back. And so it goes on. They’re just silly letters. He goes on about school and stuff and things he’s reading and he tells a lot of corny old jokes. He puts “Love from Dan” at the end each time, but they’re not
love
letters.

Dad says we’re like Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, and sniggers. They are dead poets. I mutter something ultraunpoetical along the lines that I wish Dad was dead too. Dad hears and gets narked and says I’ve completely lost my sense of humor. Anna surprisingly takes my side. She says Dad’s crass and insensitive and she’s sick of it, so goodness knows how Ellie feels. Both Dad and I blink at her a bit. She doesn’t usually rush to my defense. I think maybe she and Dad have had a row. I heard a lot of angry whispers last night after Anna got back from her evening class. I don’t know what’s going on with them. I don’t know what’s going on with
me
.

I haven’t even seen the dream Dan again. I caught the bus for a bit because Mrs. Henderson was giving me so many detentions it was getting like I’d be stuck at school for a full twenty-four hours. But I chance walking today. I even hang around a second on the street where we met. Longer than a second, actually. More like fifteen minutes. And I still don’t get to see him.
And
I get another detention.

It’s quite companionable, actually, because Nadine is doing a detention too. It’s just the two of us. Mrs. Henderson makes us write out
lines,
would you believe? I had to write out:
I MUST PULL MYSELF TOGETHER AND TRY TO BE ON TIME.

I write it one hundred times. I don’t feel pulled together. I feel as if I’m flying apart. And I tried to be on time to see Dream Dan. I couldn’t try any harder if I wrote it out one million times.

Nadine’s line is shorter than mine so even though she writes in an elaborate twirly way she still gets finished first. One hundred times:
I MUST NOT BE INSOLANT
.

She came to school with this amazing love bite on her neck, a big blotch that looked impressively purple on her white skin.

“For God’s sake, your Liam must have a mouth like a vacuum cleaner,” said Magda.

“Well, Nadine’s always had a thing about vampires,” I said, trying to sound funny and flippant.

I couldn’t stop staring at Nadine’s love bite. When we were little we used to experiment, sucking on each other’s arms to see what it felt like. When we got older we agreed love bites were
gross
. And yet now Nadine had one right at the front of her neck so that it wasn’t even hidden by her hair. I tried not to think of Liam doing it to her but I couldn’t help it. It made me feel so weird. I couldn’t work out which I felt most, disgusted or envious.

Mrs. Henderson’s feelings were more straightforward. “I think you need to go to the medical cupboard for a sticky plaster, Nadine,” she said coldly. “I don’t want to look at that stupid mark on your neck. Surely you realize how silly it is to let someone do that to you. It’s not exactly treating you with respect, is it? Let alone risking serious infection.”

Nadine scowled. “Bet you’re just jealous,” she muttered.

Not quietly enough. She got her detention too.

Mrs. Henderson leaves us to finish our lines while she goes off to supervise a hockey practice.

“Well, I’ve done my stupid lines so I don’t see why I can’t go now,” says Nadine, fidgeting.

“She said we had to wait till she came back.”

“It’s ridiculous. She’s got no right to comment on what I do out of school hours,” says Nadine, fingering the plaster covering her bite.

“What on earth did your mum and dad say when they saw it?

“Don’t be mad! I wound this scarf right round my neck, right? I tell you, if they found out about Liam they’d go seriously bananas.”

“Nadine?”

“What?” She doesn’t bother to look up. She gets a magazine out of her schoolbag and starts flipping through the pages.

Nadine used to despise teen mags. She just read weird fanzines about her favorite bands and horror stories. But now she’s reading this problem page as if her life depends on it.

“What’s it feel like? You know—the love bite?”

Nadine shrugs.

“Did you want him to do it?”

“Well, he wants to do a lot
more
.”

“And . . . do you let him?”

Nadine wriggles. “Well,
some
things.” She hesitates. “Look, keep this a secret, right? Don’t even tell Magda.” There’s no one else in the room but she still leans forward and then whispers.

“Nadine!” I say, stunned.

“Well, what’s wrong with that, eh?” says Nadine. “Honestly, Ellie, you’re such a baby.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Everyone does that with their boyfriends.”

“Do they?”

“Well, I take it you don’t do it with Dan.” Nadine looks at me sharply.

I try to imagine such intimacy with both my Dans. I think of doing it with the dream Dan and the blood starts beating in my own neck. Then I think of doing it with the real Dan and I practically crack up laughing.

“What are you grinning about?” says Nadine. “So you
did
fool around with your Dan.”

We’d certainly make fools of ourselves! “Chance would be a fine thing,” I mutter. “We don’t see each other, do we?”

Dan (real, of course) has been nagging me to go and stay with him or invite him down to London. I keep putting him off with elaborate excuses, but it’s getting a bit awkward. The whole situation is so difficult I let out this long sigh.

“Do you really miss him, Ellie?” says Nadine softly. She puts her arm round me, crumpling her magazine.

I snuggle into her, though I feel guilty. “It’s just . . . Oh, I wish I could explain properly, Nad,” I whisper.

“I know,” says Nadine—though she doesn’t. “Look, things are a bit difficult with Liam and me too. We had this sort of row yesterday.”

“Yeah?”

“Because I won’t, you know, go the whole way. I just don’t feel ready to. And the magazines say you shouldn’t do it till you
are
ready—look.” She reaches for the magazine and shows me this letter.

“Bla bla bla, ‘so don’t let your boyfriend do . . .’ Ooh! ‘And if he complains that his tackle . . .’ What’s his
tackle
? Like in
fishing rod
?”

We both get a fit of the giggles.

“No, you nutcase. It’s his . . .
you
know.”

Oh. Yes. Even
I
can work it out now. I carry on reading the letter. “So does your Liam get all narked with you like the guy in the letter?”

“He did yesterday. He said he’d been ever so patient. And didn’t I love him enough. And I said I loved him desperately but I still didn’t feel ready, right? And he said if I wasn’t ready now I never would be, and what was the matter with me, didn’t I want our relationship to develop.” Nadine’s not giggling now, she’s nearly in tears.

“Oh, Nad. He’s acting like a right . . .
tackle
!” I hope she’ll laugh, but a tear drips down her cheek.

“No, I can understand, Ellie. I mean, it’s so frustrating for him—”

“That’s
rubbish
! Look, you don’t have to do anything with him. You’re only thirteen, for goodness’ sake. It’s against the
law
.”

“Yes, but nobody takes any notice of that. And all his other girlfriends have always done it, no bother.”

“There you are! You don’t want to be one of a whole long
line
of stupid girls. Honestly, Nadine, where’s your
brain
?”

“I have often been tempted to ask that question myself,” says Mrs. Henderson, walking through the door.

Nadine shoves her mag under her desk and bends her head so that her hair hides her tearstained face.

Mrs. Henderson approaches. She’s actually looking
concerned
. “What’s up, mmm?” she says, in a different sort of voice altogether. “I know you girls think I come from another planet—but maybe I can still help. What’s the problem?”

Nadine fidgets behind her hair. I look down at my lap.

“Nadine?” says Mrs. Henderson. “Are you upset about a boyfriend, is that it?”

I suppose it’s a reasonably obvious guess, with Nadine’s neck still purple.

Nadine keeps quiet.

“It does help to talk things over, you know,” says Mrs. Henderson. “And no problem is unique. I’m sure I’ve had similar problems myself.”

I immediately get this amazing image in my head of Mrs. Henderson doing this particular thing to Mr. Henderson. I have to bite the sides of my cheeks to stop myself shrieking with laughter. Nadine’s shoulders shake. She’s obviously got the same mental image. Thank God Mrs. Henderson doesn’t twig the trouble.

“Don’t cry, Nadine,” she says gently.

Nadine gives a little gasp.

Mrs. Henderson interprets it as a sob. “Oh, come on, now. Well, I can’t force you to confide in me. But don’t forget, I’m always here. Now. How far have you got with your lines?”

Nadine hands her page over, her head still bent.

“ ‘I must not be insolant.’ One hundred times. Oh, dear, I really ought to give you another hundred: ‘I must learn to spell.’
In-so-lent,
Nadine. But never mind. Off you go now. And you too, Eleanor.”

I hand in my own page, hoping she won’t count the lines as I’m still only at seventy-something. She scans them quickly, raises an eyebrow, but waves me away.

Nadine and I hold our breath till we’re safely down the corridor, and then we let out great
whoops
of laughter. At least it cheers Nadine up for a bit. But she still can’t seem to see any kind of sense at all.

The next day I have a private word with Magda.

“She’s totally mental,” says Magda.

“I know. But there’s no way I can get through to her,” I say.

“I’ll have a go,” says Magda.

“Well. Do be ever so tactful. And don’t let out that
I
said anything, eh?” I say, but Magda isn’t listening to me.

“Nadine! Come over here! Ellie says you’re going to do it with Liam, you silly cow.”

Practically every girl in the playground looks up and gawps.

“Magda! You and your big mouth!” I say.

“I think it’s you and
your
big mouth, Ellie,” says Nadine. “Thanks a bunch.”

“Hey, don’t be like that,” says Magda, rushing over to her and putting her arm round her neck.

“Get off me, Magda!”

“I just want to talk to you, Nadine.”

“Yeah, but I don’t
want
to talk about it, OK?”

“We’re mates, aren’t we?”

“But this isn’t about you and me and Ellie. It’s just to do with me and Liam. So you keep your nose out of it, OK? And you too, Ellie,” says Nadine, and she stalks off by herself.

“Shall we go after her?” says Magda.

“We’ll be wasting our time,” I say miserably.

I know Nadine too well. She’ll never listen to either of us now. I feel I’ve really blown it. I’ve betrayed Nadine’s confidence—and I haven’t helped her in the slightest.

She barely talks to either of us all day. When school is over she goes rushing off to meet up with Liam, who’s waiting for her by the wall.

“So let’s have a word with him, eh?” says Magda.

“No! You can’t! And Nadine would kill us,” I say.

We don’t get the chance anyway, because Nadine and Liam hurry away. It’s cold, so Liam is wearing this incredible black leather jacket.

“That is a seriously sexy jacket,” Magda says wistfully. “He might be a pig but he sure looks good. Why can’t Greg wear a leather jacket? He’s got this naff zippy thing that is practically an anorak.”

“How’s it going with Greg, anyway?” I ask.

“Well . . . ,” says Magda, and sighs.


He
doesn’t want you to . . . ?”

“Per-lease!” says Magda. “Greg??? No, he’s OK, he’s quite sweet, actually, but all we seem to do is talk homework and hang out at McDonald’s. Ah! Which reminds me. One of Greg’s mates, Adam, is having a party this Saturday. His parents are away for the weekend so they’re planning a serious rave-up. Want to come?”

I stare at her, heart beating fast.

She mistakes my hesitation. “Look, I know you and Dan are an item and the last thing you want is to meet someone new at a party. I mean, you’ve
got
a boyfriend.”

Oh, Magda! If you only knew. A party. I’ve never ever been to a party before. Well, of course I’ve been to
parties
—the little-girly balloons-and-birthday-cake kind. But I’ve never been to a party with
boys
.

“Please come, Ellie. It should be a laugh, if nothing else. Maybe
I’ll
meet a new boyfriend. Greg is OK, but he’s seriously lacking when it comes to street cred. His mates might have more potential.”

I don’t know what to say, what to do. A serious rave-up. No parents. And boys, boys, boys.

It sounds incredible.

It sounds incredibly scary. I think drink. I think drugs. I think bedrooms.

I want to go. Maybe I’ll meet a
real
boyfriend. One of Greg’s mates. Although perhaps they’ll have girls already.

“Are you sure it won’t be just a couple party?” I say.


No,
that’s the point. This Adam is inviting along half of Year Eleven at Anderson, and most of them are totally
un
coupled. They’re desperate for more girls. Greg practically begged me to ask some along. I was thinking—who else shall we ask, eh?”

There doesn’t seem much point in asking Nadine. Magda asks Chrissie, but she’s already going to a party that night. She asks Jess but she says it’s not her kind of thing, thanks. She asks Amna, who says she’d give anything to go but her dad would go bananas.

“Maybe
my
dad won’t let me,” I mumble.

“Rubbish. Your dad seems really cool to me,” says Magda.

BOOK: Girls in Love
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