How to Get the Friends You Want (10 page)

BOOK: How to Get the Friends You Want
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I hadn't heard Toby's introduction before but it was really good. He was confident and funny, and he made us look forward to hearing Jess's talk.

Jess was a bit shy to start with, but she soon warmed up.

After she had given us her five facts about the Young Voices competition, she told us about how she first began to love fives at playgroup. I remembered it! She used to build with five bricks
and paint with five colours, everything five.

Jess explained that the picture on the big screen behind us that she had chosen to illustrate her talk was of the five trees in her garden, which were the reason why her house was called Five Trees. She showed us her notebook and read some of her lists.

Toby over-ran a bit on the question-and-answer session because he wanted to take five questions.

Then it was my turn. My legs suddenly turned to jelly. I wasn't worried about the audience; I was worried about Toby and Jess. They had no idea what I was going to say, and I had no idea what they would think of it.

I took a deep breath. ‘Thank you, Jess for a really wonderful talk...'

I went on to say that her talk was just like her. It was clever, and she was clever, because every time she was curious about something she went and found out about it.

It was educational, and so was being around Jess. Not many of us would have known five facts about walruses before her talk, or five facts about yogurt or Jupiter or oak trees.

I said Jess's talk was surprising, and so was she. ‘I bet you weren't expecting to hear a talk like that tonight,' I said. ‘You never know what
to expect with Jess, and that means she's never boring or dull.'

I said Jess's talk was different, and Jess herself was different. I had never met anyone like her. ‘Some people don't like that,' I said. ‘But that's why I'm so happy she's my friend.'

We got a huge round of applause, the best so far, and it wasn't just because our parents were the noisiest, although Dad did forget for a moment that he wasn't at a football match and let out an ear-piercing whistle.

‘You were really good!' Sasha, Tammy and Olivia said when we went back to our seats.

After all the talks were finished, the judges went off to discuss their decision. There was tea and coffee in the entrance hall for the audience and the teams went into a side-room for squash and biscuits.

I didn't know if Jess and Toby would want me to stand with them, but they came straight over to me.

‘That was a lovely vote of thanks,' Jess said. ‘I wanted to say, the fifth fact about friends? They forgive each other.'

I nearly fell down with relief.

‘I didn't know if you would ever forgive me for letting you down like that.'

‘Not you,' Jess said. ‘Me. Can you forgive me?

You explained why you did it and you were right – it would have been easier for us to find a new vote of thanks than for Sasha to find a new Chair.'

I gawped at her.

‘But I really over-reacted,' she said. ‘I got into a state and then I just couldn't seem to stop it. It wasn't really anything to do with you, though. It was... stuff at home.'

So that was why her mum was at the front of the hall and her dad on his own at the back.

‘I wish you had told me,' I said, but I straight away knew she couldn't have done. Mums and dads can be confusing and Jess hates saying anything until she's sure of the facts.

The bell went for us to go back in. This time, the judges were up on the stage. They went through all the talks, saying what they liked about each one. ‘But there can only be one winner and one runner-up going through to the Southwest regional final next month...'

‘And the winner tonight is Sasha Jones and her team, talking about the World of Fashion!'

No surprises there, then. Sasha, Tammy and Olivia went up to get their medals. They stayed on the stage while the runner-up was announced.

‘And the runner-up, from Truro, is Joe Davy and his team, for their talk on Surfing.'

They went up to collect their medals too.

As the winning teams came back down off the stage, the head judge said, ‘This has never happened before in the twelve years that the Young Voices competition has been running, but we feel we really must single out a third team for a special mention.'

That team was us! The judge asked us to stand up in our seats so that everyone could see us. He said we had been excellent and engaging speakers, all three of us; we were obviously the audience's favourite and it was a shame they couldn't place us in the top two, but we hadn't stuck closely enough to the rules of the competition.

‘With a little more attention to detail, particularly making sure you all wear full school uniform and stick to the correct timings, we feel sure you can be a winning team next year.'

The audience gave us another loud round of applause. This time, Dad managed not to whistle.

Sasha, Tammy and Olivia said well done, and I knew they meant it because they were ever so nice. But there was also something just a little bit smug about the way they said it, as if what they really meant was, ‘You're obviously not as good as us, but you tried!'

It got me thinking. Just because Sasha, Tammy and Abina had won everything for as long as anyone could remember – the best parts in school
plays, the first teams in sports, the top marks in tests – that didn't mean that no-one else would ever be able to beat them. With a bit of attention to detail, with a bit of belief that it could happen, there was no reason someone else couldn't come out on top.

Maybe I had been wrong to give up on Dennis's chances in the Polgotherick Pet Parade just because Tammy and Abina had decided to enter. How amazing would it be if plain little Dennis could beat the beautiful Heavenly Honeybun and the perfectly-trained Pookie?

How good would it feel to go up against Sasha, Tammy and Abina, and take home first prize!

Chapter 15
Truffles on Trees and Buzzy Bees

I love being in the car at night, moving through the darkness. I like the steady noise of the engine, the soft lights on the dashboard, the warm air folding round you like a soft feather quilt. I love the way the lights from passing cars sweep across the roof like searchlights and move on.

I especially like being in the car at night when Primrose isn't there, because then you know it will
be peaceful, without any problems and dramas. So I was looking forward to the drive home after the competition.

As we drove through the streets of Truro, Mum, Dad and me talked about the speeches and gave them our own marks out of ten. But as we left the street-lights behind and plunged into the darkness of the open road, I settled back in my seat and dozed.

When I woke up they were talking about Dad's lunch with the agony aunts the next day.

‘You don't sound very keen,' Mum said. ‘I would have thought you'd be looking forward to it.'

Dad sighed.

‘I don't know, Jan. It's bad enough doing the conference calls – how am I going to cope face-to-face over lunch? I try really hard but I still seem to keep saying the wrong thing. Let's face it, I'm just a bloke who likes football. I'm a fish out of water with feelings.'

Finally, Dad was having a reality check, after letting himself get carried away by being Agony Aunt of the Year.

‘Maybe you should come clean with them,' suggested Mum. ‘Tell them it's really Mr Kaminski who does the problem page.'

‘If I do that they won't want to be friends any more.'

‘Are they really the best kind of friends for you, if the idea of having lunch with them makes you feel so stressed out?'

Dad didn't say anything for a while. We turned off the main road into the lanes. Now there weren't even any passing cars, just us, gliding through the night like a spaceship moving through space.

‘I can't tell them Mr Kaminski does it because I promised him I wouldn't tell anyone,' Dad said.

‘Then how about just telling them someone else does it for you, and not saying who?'

There was a long silence then, until we slowed down and pulled into our usual parking-place on the top road.

‘I suppose that could work,' goes Dad, switching off the engine. He sounded as keen as a lion with a lettuce.

‘What choice have you got?' Mum said.

‘They're going to hate me,' said Dad.

That night, I lay in bed imagining I was still in the car, with the hum of the engine, and the warm air enveloping me, and the occasional sweep of headlights from other cars driving past.

I smiled, remembering the Young Voices competition, our talk, Jess's fifth fact about friends, the judges' special mention, the audience's loud applause. Then I remembered
the thought I had because of what the judges said – that Sasha, Tammy and Abina might not always be unbeatable, and maybe I'd been too quick to give up on Dennis's chances in the pet parade.

I couldn't see how he was going to win against Heavenly Honeybun and Pookie, but I knew how to get some ideas. I flicked the light on and jotted down my wish.

I want Dennis to win first prize in the Polgotherick Pet Parade.

I slid the paper under my pillow, switched off the light and fell fast asleep.

Normally, I'm the first one up on Saturday mornings but when I woke up someone was already moving around downstairs. I put my dressing gown on and went to investigate.

‘Morning, Peony!' Dad greeted me cheerily as I went into the kitchen. I blinked, but he was still there.

‘S going on, Dad?'

‘I'm going to the five-a-side competition.'

‘What about your lunch with the agony aunts?'

‘It's only five minutes down the road from the sports hall – I'll pop along in the lunchbreak.'

‘But that won't give you very long.'

‘I don't think the agony aunts will want me for very long when they find out I'm a fraud.'

‘Yeah, but...' I flopped down on the rug in front
of the radiator. Dennis hopped over to say hello. ‘Doesn't that mean you're going to have a really hectic day?'

Dad doesn't usually like doing things full-on for a whole day. Mum says he needs at least one good long session of slobbing around to break things up, although he prefers to call it ‘thinking time'.

‘Pigs might fly if truffles grew on trees,' Dad said, handing me a glass of orange juice. I think that means, even people who like a lot of ‘thinking time' will make an extra effort if the rewards are worth it.

‘Have you told your football friends you're going?' I asked.

He shook his head. ‘I thought it would be better to just turn up.'

It seemed to me that there were quite a few reasons why that might not be a good idea but he had made up his mind and I had other things to think about. The pet parade was the next day and I still hadn't any idea how to help Dennis win it.

I racked my brains all the way up to Becky's house and we talked about it all the way from there to the kennels. I pondered as I cleaned out the pens and walked the dogs. I talked to Sam about it.

I still didn't have any good ideas when we went back to Becky's for lunch, and by the time I left her to make the final preparations for her stall, I had given up.

The only thing Dennis had going for him was that he was a happy, healthy rabbit, and that would have to see him through. There was nothing to be done now, except a good grooming session when I got home.

When I walked in, Mum was having an argument with Primrose about not eating breakfast or lunch.

‘I'm not hungry,' Primrose said.

‘You weren't hungry yesterday either,' goes Mum. ‘I know what you're doing, and it's very, very silly.'

‘You would say that. You don't look like a big fat lump of flob.'

Dennis was hiding under his hutch and I didn't blame him. I thought I would let him lie low till things quietened down and brush him in peace later. But we were just getting to the bit when Primrose screams that no-one understands and slams out, when Gran arrived.

‘I've had this great idea for Nash House,' she announced. ‘It's the perfect place for a tea room!'

‘Oh, Gwen,' Mum groaned. ‘Have you forgotten what happened when you turned your last place
into a B and B? Anyway, now you're here, help me talk some sense into your granddaughter. She's determined to starve herself!'

Rat-a-tat! Primrose opened the door to Mr Kaminski.

‘I haf Daphne letters for Dave,' he said. ‘Gwen! I am not knowing you are here.'

‘Mr K, tell my daughter-in-law what a good idea it is for me to have a tea room in Nash House.'

‘But we are haffing boat trips, no?' said Mr Kaminski, in confusion.

We obviously weren't going to get some peace any time soon, so I decided to do Dennis's grooming session anyway. It would be good practice for him keeping calm in the middle of lots of noisy people.

I got the brush and sat down on the rug, and Dennis crept over to me, keeping a low profile like a spy on a secret mission. He slid up onto my lap and I started brushing him. No-one took any notice of us. Different arguments flew in all directions like buzzy bees in a bottle.

BOOK: How to Get the Friends You Want
6.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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